This is not my big sister's house in Swartz -- but it could be. And they would be proud. (I hope it wasn't Blitzen. I liked Blitzen. We know it wasn't Dasher; if it was Dasher, then he was poorly named.)
(Here are my notes from Sunday from Dr. Chris's sermon, if you trust my note-taking. Sunday night was the Children's Choir Christmas Concert, which rocked out. You know those things are going to be good but they are always better than you'd figured. And if you want a crowd -- and if you want a BAPTIST crowd that will fill up the FRONT pews -- get children up there. Automatic congregation.)
CLOSING THE GAP James 4:8 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
How close are you and God? I Corinthians 1:9 "God, who has called you into fellowship, is faithful..." * We cannot exhaust our relationship with God. We can always draw closer. * He has shown himself to us in his Word; He wants us to show ourselves to Him.
What do we do to draw closer? Rev 3:20 "Behold I stand at the door and knock..." Jesus is a gentleman and won't force himself in... Jer 29:13 "You will seek and find me when you seek me with all your heart..."
1. Have a clarity of purpose * God can't be used or toyed with * Ask what you want from God ... Do you want an intellectual or social relationship, or an intimate relationship with Him
2. Have a commitment to the relationship * An inferior to a superior; He is God and I am not. * You spell love T-I-M-E; meet Him in the Bible and in prayer and in your listening.
3. Cut out the wrong stuff * Clean your outside and inside * We can be morally pure on the outside and a skunk on the inside. A whitewashed tomb has a dead person inside. (ouch...)
John 8:47: "...He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God..." Am I hearing?
We are each in one of three places: Lost Jesus follower, growing in Christ Christian growing apart from Christ
A.W. Tozer said 'closeness' means 'resemblance.' Am I resembling, in any way, the Savior?
Peter Gammons is 64 now, wants a less demanding schedule, and will leave ESPN after 20 years and work with the MLB Network. He played the keyboard for the Boston Globe (it's a play on words!) for 20 years before going to ESPN. Hard to believe Mr. Gammons was less than 30 during Game Six...He's good and I'm happy for him and it hurts me that he's leaving ESPN. ... I just this second remembered that I helped him get in the pressbox at Rosenblatt Stadium one year back during the College World Series. He was a bit lost, looking at me through a window, trying to get in, but that was before they'd remodeled and there was just one door, if I remember right, to get in, and it was WAAAAY around. If there had been a pressbox fire, we'd have all been killed -- which some people might have preferred. (But they wouldn't have been very nice people! And the sportspages would have been thin the next day, except for a tiny "Pressbox Fire Thinks Ranks" story...)
Speaking of good, Oswald Chambers today. Grind it if you want, but it is a tall drink of water, as he usually is. "Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence." O.C. does not mess around.
OK! Remember, it's just two weeks from the best day of the year: Christmas Eve Eve. Has all the anticipation of Christmas and Christmas Eve but without the pressure. It's a beautiful day. Just two weeks!
Eli Herschel Wallach (born December 7, 1915) is 94? I thought he had passed away. I'm sorry. I love Eli Wallach. I am glad he's alive. He might be one of those guys like Red Skelton, who everybody thinks is dead when he's not. (Red Skelton is dead NOW, but for the longest time he wasn't when you thought he was. I mean, HE knew he wasn't, but you didn't. I did, but that's because I liked Red Skelton. I like Eli Wallach too, but I wasn't keeping up with him. This makes no sense. Clint Eastwood is also alive. We all keep up with him so you knew that already. Red Skelton didn't, but that's because he died a while back or he'd have probably known too.)
So...Happy Birthday to Eli Wallach!
Also Happy Birthday to my man Malcolm Butler. I can't tell you how old he is because that would be indiscreet. (40. Malcolm is 40. Or 54 years younger than Eli Wallach.)
Oregon's duck mascot is hoisted above celebrating fans and players, carrying a bunch of red roses, at the end of an NCAA college football game in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009. Oregon beat Oregon State 37-33. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)
WIth one eye, I watched most of this game last night and read with the other. These teams are fun to watch. I am not a post-game guy but I'm glad I watched for five minutes after the game was over. It's HERE. (Go to about the 2:50 mark if you want to skip.) These weren't 'mob' fans; they just haven't been to a Rose Bowl in forever (until now), their season started in poor taste, but Oregon wins the Pac-10 and ... there's more. It's a season-long story. Which made the overhead shots of fans passing a duck and Santa neat. It's a reason to love college football.
Not all the college football news is great. Hofstra on Long Island is saying SEEYA! to its program. Saints receiver Marques Colston played there; so did Wayne Chrebet (below), which is the whole reason I'm mentioning this. We have a little figure of one player in front of our television, and that's Wayne Chrebet. His tiny mug shot is taped to the top corner of the television. He was Casey's favorite player back in the day. Chrebet is a good favorite player to have. Small by NFL standards (5-10) and undrafted, he earned a walk-on opportunity with the Jets, made the team, played 11 seasons, and has more career catches as an undrafted NFL player than all but two others (Rod Smith and Gary Clark) in league history. He wore number 80 and retired in 2006. Now the whole football program at his school has retired.
Tommy Henrich, the oldest living Yankee and the last Yankee to have played with the team in the 1930s, died Tuesday at age 96.
My favorite picture of him is the one from him looking back to see Mickey Owen chasing "strike three" in the '41 World Series. The picture here, from Tom Fitzsimmons of AP, is of Henrich, left, and pitcher Allie Reynolds celebrating a Yankees win in the 1949 Series.
What I didn't know was he was a champion singer -- check the end of this story from the Washington Post. (The lead is buried! If a guy is a champion Barber Shop Quartet singer, you've got to get that high in the story. I appreciate he played for the Yankees and was a stud but...come on!) I love an old ballplayer guy. Tommy Henrich. Hall of Famer? Probably should be. Check his numbers and understand the years he missed during the war, and he's got to be in the Hall of Fame conversation...Probably lost in the shuffle because he played with so many great players.
Tommy Henrich, 96, a clutch-hitting outfielder for the New York Yankees who played on eight American League championship teams during his 11 big league seasons, died Dec. 1 in Dayton, Ohio. The cause of death was not announced.
Mr. Henrich, who was the oldest living former Yankee, joined the team in 1937. Although overshadowed by 10 teammates who were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Mr. Henrich was known as "Old Reliable" for his steady play and his ability to deliver hits when they mattered most.
Besides his contributions on the field, he was considered a model citizen when many ballplayers led rough-and-tumble lives.
"He came pretty close in character and performance to being the ideal Yankee," New York Times columnist Arthur Daley once wrote of Mr. Henrich (pronounced HEN-rick).
He played for two Hall of Fame managers, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel, and his teammates included Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Lefty Gomez and Whitey Ford.
Mr. Henrich spent most of his career in right field, alongside one of baseball's all-time greats, Joe DiMaggio, who once called Mr. Henrich the smartest player in the game.
In 1941, during the 38th game of DiMaggio's unmatched 56-game hitting streak, the Yankee star entered the eighth inning without a base hit. Mr. Henrich, who often batted directly ahead of DiMaggio in the lineup, dropped a bunt against the St. Louis Browns, allowing DiMaggio to come to the plate. DiMaggio lined a solid single to left-centerfield to keep his streak alive.
Seven of Mr. Henrich's Yankee teams won the World Series, and his quick thinking and quick bat led to several of his team's most dramatic victories in the 1940s.
In the ninth inning of the fourth game of the 1941 series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Mr. Henrich appeared to strike out on a play that would have ended the game and tied the series at two victories apiece. But Hugh Casey's sharp-breaking curveball spun away from Dodger catcher Mickey Owen, and Mr. Henrich dashed to first base on the passed ball. The Yankees rallied to win the game and clinched the series the next day.
Mr. Henrich had several crucial hits in the 1947 World Series against Brooklyn and drove in the go-ahead run in the decisive seventh game. In the first game of the 1949 World Series, also against the Dodgers, he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning of a scoreless game and lined a home run over the right field fence off pitcher Don Newcombe, securing a 1-0 victory. The Yankees went on to win the series in five games.
Mr. Henrich had a career batting average of .283, including three seasons at .300 or more, and he led the American League in runs scored in 1948, with 138. He was named to five All Star teams. After he retired in 1950, he tutored DiMaggio's successor in center field, the 19-year-old Mickey Mantle, who had been an erratic minor league shortstop before his Hall of Fame career in the outfield.
"Catching a fly ball is a pleasure," Mr. Henrich once said. "But knowing what to do with it after you catch it is a business." Thomas David Henrich was born Feb. 20, 1913, in Massillon, Ohio. He threw and batted left-handed and played softball throughout most of his youth.
He compiled three excellent seasons with minor league teams in the Cleveland Indians system, but the Indians made no move to bring Mr. Henrich to their major league club.
In frustration, he wrote to the baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who ruled that Mr. Henrich was free to join another team. The Yankees signed him and put him in the outfield next to DiMaggio.
After his playing career, he coached for several teams and became a noted baseball raconteur and a link to the Yankees' storied past. He often said DiMaggio was the finest all-around ballplayer he had ever seen.
Mr. Henrich missed three years of baseball during World War II while serving in the Coast Guard. He suffered several injuries during his career and had knee surgery in 1940. He married one of the nurses who cared for him, Eileen O'Reilly. She died in March.
Survivors include five children and three grandchildren.
In addition to his baseball talent, Mr. Henrich was an excellent singer and was a member of the 1947 Ohio state champion barbershop quartet
I grew up around blessings counters. If we went more than three church Sundays without singing "Count Your Blessings," some family would threaten to move their membership. These were hard-line thankers.
Farmers would grieve over the weather fates. Coaches would cuss over the fumbles of those farmers' sons. Grandmas would wonder why cows and back yard gardens and daughters-in-laws had dried up.
Life's a veil of tears.
But they were a thankful bunch, and I think that made them kinder. People who sincerely and often say "thank you" are a lot more kind than those who don't. When you know someone has been kind to you even though you don't deserve it, it makes kindness to someone else much easier — but still hard.
Giving thanks is easy. Living thanks is where the rubber meets the road — but it's easier to be thankful when my tire is full than when it's flat.
The now-passed-on pastor Adrian Rogers once used a John Milton quote in a Thanksgiving sermon.
Milton, the blind poet, said that a person with an ungrateful spirit only has one vice. "All of the rest of his vices are virtues compared to ingratitude," Rogers preached. "Every other sin is a virtue compared to the sin of ingratitude."
The lesson I've missed so often is gratitude in the little things.
It sounds so trite and stupid!, but we're to have an "attitude of gratitude," something easier said than done when Aunt Leeta swipes the last of the sweet potato casserole. Or Bubba swipes the last parking place.
Speaking of ... the edge or low spot of the sweet potato casserole where all the brown sugar and a little butter has settled. Are you grateful for that?
Grandmama's scent, of Kool filtereds and flour. The eyes of an old dog. The sound of squirrel feet racing up pine bark.
It's the little things.
You know what I'm grateful for? The memory of that cheap-blender sound, telling me my mother was in the kitchen baking for us. The smell of gravy. A sweet potato sandwich.
Are you grateful for a car that starts? I pound the dash when it doesn't start but I forget to say "thank you" all the other times it does. See how spoiled that is? Or how out of touch with gratitude that is?
I'm glad there's a newspaper. I like holding a newspaper. A simple pleasure. Throwing a newspaper can be fun sometimes. I don't mean throwing it like a paperboy throwing it, into a driveway. I mean reading something that's stupid and throwing it, like you throw stuff at the television when the Saints fumble.
When you are really cold and you're thinking of how you'll soon be warm and finally you get to a warm spot and that first warm blast hits you: I'm thankful for that. For that first chestful of morning air this time of year. For the sounds of children singing. For your favorite time of day. For a friend to give thanks with.
Someone rightly said that it's not easy to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. When the lady runs over your foot with a grocery cart, or they get your order wrong at the drive-thru, or the Saints lose another close game.
Wait ... What? They haven't? They didn't? Well then, to Saints, and saints, thank you.
(COMING SUNDAY: "To afford presents, we might have to go into politics")
(38-17 if you are keeping up with the digits. Saints covered, easily, with one wing and half a halo tied behind their backs.)
So congrats to longsuffering Saints fans everywhere! It really is fun to watch them play. Below is a special commemorative button designed and built by Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club member Bill, a charter member of the Hagen's Heroes chapter. I can't tell you his last name because that would be indiscreet. (Johnson. Bill Johnson.) He is also a Saints fan. He's good people.
And the Saints could well run the table. Surely they'll be favored in each game from here on out, including the one against Dallas, Saturday night, Dec. 19, in the Superdome. (Heads up: that game is scheduled to be on NFL Network only.)