Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seventy Years Ago Today ...

Teddy Ballgame wrapped up what is still the majors' most recent .400 batting average for a season. Went 6-for-8 in a doubleheader in Philadelphia's Shibe Park, Sept. 27, 1941. Finished with a .406 batting average. Just sayin...


Monday, September 26, 2011

We Have a Man on the Scene in ... St. Louis

The St. Louis Cardinals are in a fairly serious pennant race right now, trying to wrangle the wild-card spot from the Braves. All will be decided by Wednesday. Due to the seriousness of the situation, we have not one but TWO men on the scene, seen here with Cardinals outfielder and hitting whiz Lance Berkman. You will notice that Little Teddy Ramsey (or 'Brendan,' as his parents and friends like to call him), pictured with big bro Brad, has his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs shirt on beneath his Cards jersey. Not long after this photo was taken Sunday, Berkman and the Cards and Little Teddy's shirt whupped the Cubs, 3-2. Just sayin...By the way, not sure about Lance, but either of the other two guys will eat at Steak 'N' Shake with you just about any time you are willing to go...


Sunday, September 25, 2011

A certain slant of light: Legends of the Fall

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star)

(Yosemite National Park by Marius Popovici)

Mr. Sun is going to bed a bit earlier these days.

He’s always up to something, even when he’s going down.

Welcome to the first weekend of fall, when the sun’s rays come at us from a southern angle, less directly, and shines brightest on leaves and strolls and football.

Autumn is candlelight. Summer’s a torch.

I am a big torch guy. Usually for me, the best thing about the first weekend of autumn is the promise that summer is just one full-term pregnancy away.


But this summer was humbling. Near heatstroke. Foot blister. Sunburn.

The summertime trifecta.

Weather whizzes say this summer was among the hottest since 1981, when it was more than 100 degrees daily for nearly a month. I know because my shovel and I were helping build the Camden, Ark. bypass. There is not a lot of shade in the road construction game.

I remember thinking, “This is what it’s like to be a camel, only I’m thirsty all the time. My kingdom for a hump!”

Whatever they’re paying camels these days, it ain’t enough.

The difference between that memorable summer and this one was its number of seriously sizzling days. The high ’90s is one thing, but the streak of 105s and 107s we just sweltered through is a different ballgame.

The sun deserves a good rest after that.

So I’m ready for the new slant of light. I’m ready to appreciate autumn for being autumn, ready to appreciate the season, and not just because it’s football season.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that: For some of us, autumn means the colors change all right, from Braves blue and red to Saints black and gold.)

I’m going to try to appreciate autumn more for all these reasons:

Leaves. In general. But also…

The colors of leaves. I miss at this time of year a sweet gum tree I used to have. I knew I was getting older when I got mad if it didn’t really turn on the red-yellow-orange juice by October…

Other people raking leaves – unless a little kid is going to play in them. Then I’ll rake. It’s worth it…

There’s something about an old sweatshirt…

The possibility that I might, just maybe, possibly, have the green thumb guts to plant petunias, some marigolds, a copper plant, or even an ornamental pepper…

The moisture of the morning on your skin, and it’s dew instead of sweat…

The spot on your shirt and it’s crab dip instead of sweat, because autumn is first about the colors but second about the food. Homemade pie. Cider. Tailgate or holiday feast, autumn is the best eating season of the year and it’s not even close…

Halloween. I love a kid dressed as a pumpkin and all you can see is their face poking out under the little hat with the green stem on it…

Hugging, which is the poor man’s snuggling, and Snuggling, which is the next stop for the couple who wish to promote from Advanced Hugging, or “Huggling.” It has been pointed out to me that this is a good and underrated thing, one of the best things under the sun…

So I wish for you some snuggles or even huggles in an old sweatshirt after eating as somebody rakes the leaves around your blooming flowers while you watch football. Or the World Series. Autumnal bliss…

(I left out high-sky golf in your favorite mock turtleneck, but hey, that’s a given.)


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Golden Nuggets from Rome: (10th/Final in a Series)


Romans 12: 11-15
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

What's your spiritual temperature?

Keep your spiritual fervor (13)
Has there ever been a (spiritual) fire in your life, a desire for the things of God?IF you are a follower, we have to get coached up and studied up, have zeal for the Word and the things of the Father... Prov 19:2 "Desire without knowledge is not good—How much more will hasty feet miss the way!"

Are we cold? Lukewarm? HOW DO WE REMAIN HOT?
1. It's a choice, not a feeling. Feelings come and go.

2. Be active in service for Christ and others (Col 2:6 "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him...")

3. Have joy in the waiting, withstanding circumstance in hope (Rom 8:28)

4. Patience through pain


Friday, September 23, 2011

Golden Nuggets from Romans: 9th in a Series

(Notes from Dr. Chris' sermon at FBC Ruston)


Rom 12: 14-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Enemy: in the Bible's definition, it's any people who are hostile toward you.

Reality biblically is where the world and Jesus' teaching meet

Christ's followers are asked to treat people differently than the world suggests we should treat them.

1. Speak Well of the Troublesome v 14
Don't wish evil and harm on your enemy' control your tongue; bless, speak well of them

2. Don't Be Mean Back To Them (17a)
To corrupt others against = evil
(If a doctor says you have rabies, don't make a list of all the people you want to hurry up and bite.)

3. Live in a Way to Protect Your Witness (17b)
Always keep your responses in check

4. Be a Peaceful Person (18)
Some people have mental problems and some people are just evil ... But as far as it depends on me, be peaceful
Mt 5:9 -- "Blessed are the peacemakers..."

5. Do Let God Handle It (19)
Deut 32:35 "It is mine to avenge..."
Our sense of judgment is fallable
No one knows how to get someone's attention like God does

6. Treat Them Kindly (20)
...and it could help bring them to repentance

7. Let Good Overcome In Your Life and In Your World (21)
Bitterness is a source of depression and anxiety; there is no such thing as a peaceful, retalitorial person

* Do the "right" things God instructs so He can be glorified and so you can be at peace


Sunday, September 18, 2011

A-plus because they didn’t pass on us

Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star

Not many people know this because I find it tacky to brag, but I was history student of the year in seventh grade and made an “A” in Spanish as a high school freshman even though I’d never been to Spain.

Just sayin…

But for those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I mowed the yards of both my seventh-grade history teacher and ninth-grade Spanish teacher.

My grades usually lagged in winter; I trace this back to a hatred of raking. But I started strong in the North Louisiana autumns that felt like summer, then rallied in the early spring and right on through Memorial Day and the school year’s final bell.

As the grass rose, so did my scores.

In college, it was a different ballgame. They make you grow up in college, or you basically fail your own self. Shoot yourself in your lazy, refuse-to-be-educated foot. My teachers, who were now deemed “professors,” wouldn’t tell me and my lawnmower where they lived.

They play hardball at the university level.

I tell you, it’s always something.

But this teacher’s pet/yardman has proof that I was a force to be reckoned with in pre-college. If I couldn’t cut it in the classroom, I could cut it on the lawn. You play to your strengths.

Witness my freshman yearbook, signed by “Senora Mullins” in her unmistakable hand, with a squiggly thing above the “n” in senora and everything: “You MUST be OK,” she wrote; “I still like you, even though you’re my neighbor!”

Why she used the capitals and exclamation point is anybody’s guess. Did she not like her previous neighbors? Did she fail their kid? With an “A,” I asked no questions. Just said “gracias” and moved along – even though her “You MUST be OK” line, which translated into street language means “You sort of get on my nerves,” hurt me.

You must be “OK”? Tacos are OK. Mi nombre es Tedro!, or something like that. Muy bueno, babe! Come on! OK is for losers!

Of course, I learned later that, from women, you take your OK’s where you can get them and learn to like it. Just part of my education, none of which would have happened without Mrs. Mullins and her tireless sisterhood of The Classroom Teachers.

They have flooded my mind and always do with the first refreshing chill of September, these women who smelled like hand lotion and hairspray and lunchroom rolls and chalk. You’ve thought of them too, maybe not for long but always for at least a moment. Might as well try not to blink as to try and dodge the autumnal world of a long-ago yesterday. For the length of one daydream, we all go back to school this time of year.

How did they do it? Day after day. Lunch room duty. Ball game. Sponsorship of the Interact Club. Raising three children at home and 150 at school. Yet always, The Teacher suited up.

When you see one this year, give them a nod. A fist bump. Maybe five bucks! Be an encourager. They have a long way to go and deal with short attention spans, and the best ones leave it all on the field. I praise my exhausted teachers who were, for me, a cut above.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life in 'Utopia': See, think, feel

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star)

“Seven Days of Utopia” has been in theaters a week and probably won’t last much longer.

There is no bad language, no nudity (unless you count the cow and horses), no special effects and only one car crash, and that’s just when a guy in a Chevy dodges the naked cow on a rural two-lane, plows through a rancher’s wooden fence and lands in a pasture. (If you’re into symbolism, the driver’s life at this point is one big cow patty.)

The movie uses golf as a backdrop for each of us getting to a place we long to go, “a place where the voice of truth resides…a place of eternal trophies.” But it is no mystical golf movie with fog and knickers like that Matt Damon/Will Smith effort of a few years past which, thank goodness, I’ve blocked. (“The Legend of Bagger Vance.” Just came to me, most unfortunately. “Golf in the Kingdom” was another double bogey.)

The movie is based on “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia,” a book by David L. Cook, a “Peak Performance” coach to the San Antonio Spurs during their NBA world championship days, to PGA Tour champs, Olympians, and a continuing star-studded list. He played college golf at Louisiana Tech and today coaches, leads seminars and writes. The sequel to his first book has no release date, but you can hear the first chapter online at didhemaketheputt.com

The movie stars Lucas Black as the “lost” rookie touring pro and Robert Duvall, my favorite actor, as his unlikely mentor. Black played the quarterback in the movie “Friday Night Lights” and spilled from his guts one of my favorite movie lines to his “coach” in the movie, Billy Bob Thornton: “I cain’t get my mind right!”
He can’t in “Utopia” either, until Duvall golf whispers him to the promised land.

Golf is a game of “feel,” a fact to which I can attest. At the 19th hole, I’ve often felt for my wallet, then felt it much lighter than when the round began. Sigh…
But “Utopia” testifies that once the basics of either life or the golf swing are covered, the true and lasting progress and success is inside, is in seeing and in feeling and in trusting.

The movie is an efficient 100 minutes; there is a boy-girl element that’s not in the book, but hey, that’s Hollywood, and hopefully word of that will nudge girls to attend with their boyfriends. There’s also some needless male ego/rivalry.

But true to the short novel, the spotlight is on the golfer and the wise old cowboy played by Duvall, a former PGA player who found his game before he found his grave. The movie is for anyone who has ever played golf, anyone who has ever felt “something” in life might be missing, or anyone who has ever had a father.

The book’s an easy 150 pages. A few things I highlighted in my copy…

“To stay in balance, you have to have control of your emotions. You have to expect the unexpected at all times."

“People say they are going to change, but without accountability, they seldom do.”

“You have to let go of perfect to be an artist.”

"…he taught that giving of self was so crucial in life. It returns like rain to the soul, reviving the parched places.”

“…time to contemplate, time to listen to the learning, is crucial in the change process.”

See you on the tee box.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The wind, the waves, the Redneck Riviera

(art from "Southern Reader" online)

How I define “redneck” is in the same ballpark of how I define pornography: it’s tough to put into words, but I know it when I see it.

Some people are offended by the “R” word but I’m not and I don’t think the true redneck is. True rednecks in my mind sort of wear the label as a badge of honor. They are the “I’ve Been To Pigeon Forge” crowd, the people who have kitchens that smell like Pabst and linoleum and cathead biscuits, the people whose jeans are ripped because they got caught on rebar, not because it’s the style. Their scent is Pledge and motor oil and Old Spice.

The rednecks I’m talking about are of the Jeff Foxworthy variety, the ones who put their new television sets on top of their old television sets. A friend from redneck lineage told me this week that back in the day when their TV practically gave out and was down to getting picture only, Uncle Lester brought over his TV because – talk about a match made in Redneck Heaven! – it would get sound only.

Stack the two and bam! -- Redneck Entertainment Center. Just fry up the bologna sandwiches, adjust the rabbit ears, recline in the duct-taped easy chair and stay tuned for “This Week in NASCAR.” Anybody got an onion?

I am hopeful that the Griswold Family franchise will eventually put out a movie called “Redneck Vacation.” There is a fertile field to plow here. The setting would be your greater Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area, I would hope. The Redneck Riviera.

The French Riviera has resorts like Cap-d’Ail and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, with yachting and real French people. The Redneck Riviera has Shoalwater Condos and parasailing off the fishing dock and a real Cajun who’ll scream “Jellyfish!” just to try to make the guy standing next to him in waist-deep water spill his beer.

My spousal unit wondered for years why many of us call this beckoning stretch of sand the Redneck Riviera. What? All these years, had she missed seeing the wind and waves and tattoos? The unfiltereds and the red lipstick mixed with Coppertone? The vacationing truckers in cut-off blue jeans?

Oh, how blind we can be…

Sometimes, to establish themselves, the redneck gods have to play hardball. So in July, not 20 feet from her little sandy beach chair, my wife watched a senior citizen in Bermuda shorts put a beach towel around his waist, right there by your lapping Orange Beach waves. He had a pair of swim trunks in his hand. Suddenly, one hand went sort of under his towel at his waist area. The Bermuda shorts dropped to his ankles. Hello!

Then he bent and attempted to put on the trunks. The towel slipped a bit. Or maybe the towel cracked. It was supposed to stay up, I guess. It didn’t. Was this a circus act? Were we on Candid Camera?

Suddenly there was a full moon, and not the pretty kind, at 9 a.m. But the (redneck) gentleman just pulled his trunks up and set about enjoying the rest of his day at the beach with his family, who didn’t even look up from reading their Popular Mechanics while he was changing because I suppose they’d seen it all before.


“I understand now,” my wife said.

Hate it took that, but life is filled with hard lessons. And I can’t wait to go back next summer.