Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Midwinter Ice Stones, Greensboro, NC
Midwinter Sunflower Field, Jamestown, NC
Midwinter Golf Course, Summerfield, NC
Midwinter Lake Home, Jamestown, NC
Christina Rossetti wrote the haunting opening lyrics to the poem and subsequent hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” about our Savior’s birth at the turn of the twentieth century:
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone,
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Those lyrics have always struck home with me during the fallow season of harsh winds and freezing temperatures when all nature pauses with the promise of Easter resurrection. There are beautiful images of winter all around us during this season, but I’ve always found it to be a bit melancholy when I’m around areas that represent so much vibrant life during the growing season. The spray blowing off of a fountain in a small park lake slowly encrusts once flourishing grass blades as the temperature drops below freezing. The memory of summer sunflowers stands in stark contrast to the bowed remnants that remain with a fresh covering of frozen snow on snow.
It’s always a bit nostalgic when I’m walking on the fairway of a once lush green golf course and witnessing the dormant tan remnants of Bermuda grasses. And the mood is dark and bleak when you’re standing on the dock of a frozen lake that was recently alive with jet skis and swimmers as a frigid north wind chases waves of snow across the frozen surface.
But the bleak weather remains an excellent time to hunker down inside and catch up on projects left for these cold midwinter days while savoring a hot cup of chocolate.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Judean Wilderness, Qumran, Israel
Mount of Temptation, Jericho, Israel
We hear about and experience the “storms of life” that cycle through all of our lives with challenges and dark times. Those storms are out of our control and in many cases we just need to trust in the protection of our Creator and weather the storm until we emerge safely on the other side. But what about those experiences in the “wilderness of life”, i.e., those menacing places that we willingly wander into and then find ourselves overwhelmed and lost?
These wilderness places can be barren and hopeless with no easy exit signs pointing the way out. We may have arrived there by seeking an easy escape from life. But then once the euphoria wore off, we had wandered even more deeply into the wilderness and found ourselves more lost and disoriented. Or we may have chased the rabbit of fame and fortune into the briar patch and down into the endless rabbit hole of fleeting worldly treasures. Often we witness news accounts of folks that wander off a remote mountain trail and become separated from their hiking group in dense forests. Or we read about an off-roader that becomes disoriented in a remote area. Some of these lost souls are never found until it’s too late. Some by the grace of God are found alive by courageous first responders that are able to bring them back to safety.
The Judean wilderness that Jesus walked into after his baptism in the Jordan River near the Dead Sea is an arid, barren desert country. The flat desert transitions into rolling limestone hills and then into porous mountains marked with sheltering caves. Legend reveals that he found refuge during the forty days he spent fasting and resisting temptations in a cave near Jericho. The location is now covered by a plain monastery on the Mount of Temptation. Once Jesus was victorious over the worldly temptations of self-destruction, he was strengthened and prepared for his three year ministry, death and resurrection.
The forty days of Lent we recognize are a time of reflection and preparation leading up to the celebration of Easter resurrection and the victory over evil and death in this broken world. That understanding gives us the strength and hope that sustains us through the stormy and wilderness times of life. And we are uplifted by the message that Adam Hamilton closes with every Easter service—“The worst thing is never the last thing!” if we do not find our way out to the other side.
Monday, February 1, 2016
Fortune Cookie, Greensboro, NC
My fortune cookie just read "Participation in sports may lead to a lucrative career." The young man in the red Mustang behind me in the Panda Express drive-thru must have also ordered the Orange Chicken and the bags were switched. I just hope the kid isn't getting too depressed reading MY sports fortune!
I guess we've got to be careful about believing everything we read...And not many folks out there can absolutely know the future, but it most certainly belongs to those who believe in it.
For instance, I still believe I can play golf!
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Monday, January 25, 2016
Super Bowl XXIII Souvenirs, Miami, FL
I’m showing my age, but I can go on record as stating that I will have watched all 50 of the NFL Super Bowls! This year’s Super Bowl will be dubbed the “Golden Super Bowl” in recognition of the fifty year anniversary of the event. This will be the first Super Bowl not to use the Roman Numerals to designate the bowl number, as I suspect not too many Romans are left so they just got the “L” out of there.
We watched the Kansas City Chiefs get beaten by the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I on January 15, 1967. The older NFL Packers were widely favored over the upstart AFL champs. The game was blacked out in the KC area, so we watched the images fade in and out via a homemade antenna I installed in our attic. The cost of a 30 second commercial on that first Sunday was $42,000. But then the Chiefs found redemption in Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings three years later in 1970. This game is also known for the NFL Films miking Chiefs Head Coach Hank Stram for the first time in bowl history. I can still hear Hank yelling at quarterback Len Dawson, “C’mon Lenny! Pump it in there, baby! Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!” And a 30 second commercial had almost doubled to $78,000.
Then as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to attend Super Bowl XXIII at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida on January 22, 1989. Myself and a few other work associates were guests of Sports Illustrated for the weekend with hall of fame defensive host “Mean Joe” Green of the Pittsburg Steelers and offensive host Larry Csonka of the Miami Dolphins. Joe Montana, the ultimate football super hero, guaranteed his hall of fame legacy when he huddled his San Francisco 49ers on their 8 yard line with 3:10 left on the clock and down by a score of 13 to 16. He broke the tension by pointing to Canadian comedian John Candy in the stands and then didn’t take “a plane, train or automobile”, but marched 92 yards for the winning touchdown with just 34 seconds left in the game. Jerry Rice was named MVP. Joe Cool won all four of his Super Bowl starts including consecutive wins in ’89 and ‘90. As the youngest member of our group, I caught a lot of grief by winning our Super Bowl pool. So I gathered my windfall the next morning and commandeered a limo to drive all of us back in style to the airport where a business jet flew us home. A 30 second commercial for that game was up to $675,000.
And now I’m living in North Carolina where the Carolina Panthers will take on the Denver Broncos who are the perennial enemies of the KC Chiefs in Super Bowl 50! I’ve gained a lot of yards over the past fifty years and missed a few PAT’s. We’ve experienced a lot of Super Bowl parties and memorable moments in sports with family and friends. Lately, however, I’m quite content to sit in the warm comfort of home to watch the game on a flat screen television and have a calm, relaxing beer with a simple snack. I’ve finally come to realize that no amount of screaming at the inert electronics will make one iota of difference in the outcome of the game—or the outcome of my life. In fact, I now rather enjoy the commercials more than the game these days. And the price of those 30 second commercials has now risen to a cool $5,000,000 so they'd better be as good as the game for that amount!