Sunday, October 27, 2013

Confessions Of A Preacher's Wife's Kid

From today's Times and News-Star

October is Pastor Appreciation Month or Clergy Appreciation Month, a warm bit of recognition that’s often overshadowed by Halloween, college football, Columbus Day, the changing leaves, and sin.

(Sin gets around. October’s not big enough to hold it. It’s sort of similar to a good running back: you can’t stop it; you can only hope to contain it. That’s why we don’t have a Sin Appreciation Month!)

If we can take time out from eating candy and checking the injury report of our favorite team, it might be nice to high-five the pastor, send him a card, make him a casserole or even buy his dinner. Pastors, you know, are people too. Like game officials and tightrope walkers, we expect them to start perfect – and get better.

True, you don’t want to be TOO nice to them or they’ll start taking Sundays off, too. (It’s fun to joke around with the preacher. Sunday is not the only day they work. Some have to work Wednesday evenings, too.)

We see the preacher on Sundays but we don’t see him visiting the sick and the shut-in, or helping pull a drunk out of a ditch on Friday night, or preparing for a funeral on what was going to be his day off, or sitting for an hour listening to somebody pour out their heart, somebody who’d asked the preacher earlier in the week, “Hey, mind if I stop by for five minutes?” Five minutes often turn into 10, and then into an hour, and then the preacher heads home to another cold supper.

Which brings this to mind, something from a sort-of-devotion I wrote back at the first of this month:

Having seen the everyday life of a preacher from the inside out – as a preacher’s son – I vote for “pastor” as one of the hardest jobs in the world.

I have not witnessed fishing the Alaskan shoreline in November or taming a lion or working in the ticket office of the Jacksonville Jaguars, so maybe those are harder. “Pastoring” has got to be in the Top 10, though. Got to be. And not just because you work weekends.

Yet it’s a funny thing: a pastor who is married doesn’t even have the hardest job in his own home. That honor goes to Pastor’s Wife, who for my money (less 10 percent for tithe) has The Hardest Job in the World.

Just my opinion.

Who do you think listens to the pastor after the pastor has listened to everyone else all day? Who is the pastor’s counselor and friend, come hell or more hell? Who is keeping the home fires burning while the pastor is either putting fires out or trying to get good fires going?

Who is judged, be it right or wrong, by what her kids and husband do or don’t do? Who gets sideswiped by gossip that has nothing to do with her and everything to do with how somebody thinks her husband should be handling church business? Who inherits, at the end of the day, a tired, often confused, often perplexed pastor?

Who was chosen, in a godly marriage, to help shepherd the shepherd? Whose hand rocks the cradle, and the pulpit?

Thank you to the preacher’s wife, yours and mine, who gets little of the glory when things go right and more than her share of the blame when something is “wrong” in the church. Bless them for how they encourage and nurture and inspire and even correct. Without them, we would be much less than we are. So would our pastors.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Celebrate To Win, Not To Place Or Show

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

Another way ESPN has changed the world:

Choreographed, and sometimes forced, celebration.


I have not watched “The Price is Right” since I had the mumps and missed school when I was 8. (What a bittersweet week THAT was.) If a lady from Tacoma cries when she wins the Grand Prize Showcase, I respect that. I’ve got to believe she really needed the washer and dryer and the trip to Tahiti.

But if she starts crying for joy, then reaches behind her, grabs a bucket of Gatorade and douses Bob Barker/Drew Carey, my gut tells me she’s not sincere.

Picture Charles Nelson Reilly getting an answer right and then, “overcome with excitement,” diving from the top corner of the Hollywood Squares onto the stage and into either a wash tub or the arms of Rose Marie.

No good. Too planned.

So maybe this is a little scary to share because maybe it means I am getting as old as Mt. Rushmore, but all these football and baseball celebrations and gyrations in games that aren’t for the Big Enchilada seem overwrought with “look at me!” instead of “look at what our team did!”


Baseball now has wild card, one-game playoffs. Tampa Bay won a one-game playoff to advance to the next series and their star pitcher pulled out Silly String and stringed everyone. That is a bit premature as this sort of one-game playoff is not quite like 1951 and Thomson hitting The Shot Heard ’Round the World to decide who goes to the World Series. Besides, four games later, Tampa was out of the race. That’s a lot of wasted Silly String.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were tearing jerseys off each other after beating Atlanta in a best-of-five series last week, but that only advanced them to the League Championship Series. And then there will be the World Series. In other words, the Dodgers still had EIGHT MORE GAMES TO WIN to become world champions.  

So why the goggles for the Beer and Champagne Baths when you still have games to win?

The answer is ESPN. These players grew up watching people celebrate. First it was celebrating a title, but slowly it’s grown into celebrating their time on television. Today’s players are conditioned to perform for television.

When Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, he WALKED OFF THE MOUND. His catcher, Yogi Berra, Berra-hugged him. Sweet.

I watched the 1965 World Series on a DVD recently and when Koufax shut out the Twins in Game 7, he walked off the mound and his teammates hugged him as they hopped toward their dugout. And that was GAME SEVEN!

Thomson and the Giants went crazy in the Polo Grounds in 1951 because they came from four runs down in the final inning to advance to the World Series. Mazeroski’s homer in the 9th won the 1960 World Series and set off a wild celebration at Forbes Field. Nothing scripted. You can watch the replays and still feel authenticity.

Today, with most postseason wins, athletes go overboard. But it’s all they’ve known. TV orchestrates it. With so many sports televised, someone is always celebrating something on sports television. And that’s led to choreographed first-down gyrations in September, end zone dances, Gatorade baths (Make it stop!), and – this is the worst – receivers pretending to whip flags out of their pants, demanding a penalty whenever they don’t catch a pass in tight coverage. Tail wagging dog.

Sports is still the only REAL reality television. Except, sadly, when it’s not.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Condi Rice Vs. Pat Dye

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye are in the news this week. One was named to the newly formed College Football Playoff committee, and the other seems intent on chairing the old-as-time We Often Mistake Gender Organs for Proof of Common Sense committee.

Rice is the former, Dye the latter.

Those already named to the 12-to-20ish-members committee include familiar football names like Barry Alvarez, Pat Haden and Archie Manning. Dye came out of the1980s long enough Monday to tell a Birmingham radio station that Rice was a poor choice to be included because “to understand football,” he said, “you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt” and that “all she knows about football is what somebody told her. Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television.”

Then he spat, hit a woman over the head with a first-down marker, grabbed her by the ponytail and dragged her backward 15 yards.

(Rice would have learned little, by the way, watching Dye’s 5-6 and 5-5-1 teams in ’91 and ’92.)

Rice’s committee will be responsible for selection of the four-team playoff to determine college football’s “true champion.” This begins next year. Of course, this won’t stop the argument of Who’s No. 1. I find this a joy; listening to the arguing and complaining over the old polls I grew up with spoiled me. Now, the argument is that the committee is tainted by a female woman who cannot understand football, which at its best can get fairly complicated but even then is not splitting the atom, much less trying to negotiate and reason with, oh, let’s say, for starters, Russia or Afghanistan.

Some information, then a quick observation:

Since retiring from being four heartbeats away from the United States Presidency, Rice is now a professor in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford, where she was once provost.

Since retiring from coaching football and athletics directering yet remaining one heartbeat away from that Great Athletic Dormitory For Whistle-Wearin’ Guys in the Sky, Dye has been a regular guest on various radio programs like the nationally syndicated “Rick and Bubba Show,” during which he would guesstimate the outcome of that week’s Southeastern Conference games.

“I like Vandy and the points this week, Coach!” Bubba would say.

“Aw, shoot, boy, Vandy couldn’t pull a sick kid off a bicycle,” Dye would retort. “A boy who would pick Vandy to cover would pick Germany in a World War.”

I paraphrase, but you get the picture.

That said, I would be much more comfortable with Dye’s present gig than with Rice’s. I am in no way enamored with the world of big business, politics or administration. And I love me some Pat Dye. I just think that, at present, the old College Football Hall of Famer can’t see the Rice for the long-cultivated chauvinistic weeds. We’re talking reason and brain here, not body type.

Some others on the committee haven’t played either, but they are male, and that seems to carry a lot of weight with Dye, who I once ate ice cream and talked country music with. He loves him some ice cream and some old country. We traded great song titles and hummed bars of this or that. He knows ice cream. And he knows country music.

True, Rice ain’t Bo Jackson. But the ice-cream eatin’, country-music lovin’ Dye’s not Elsie the Cow, either. (A FEMALE, by the way!) Nor is he Hank Sr.

And, thank goodness, he’s not a U.S. diplomat.