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My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

(This essay was originally published in issue 3 of The Mockingbird. All issues and subscriptions, including issue 4 which ships tomorrow, are available available here).

“We can permit ourselves to be more romantic than the romanticists and more humanistic than the humanists. But we must be more precise.” —Karl Barth, “The Christian’s Place in Society”

image courtesy of Lutheran Satire

Every recess for eight years, I was picked last on the team for two-hand-touch football. The turning point came in the ninth grade, when recess was replaced by study hall.

But, before that, there was another turning point I had blundered right past: the opportunity…

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“We All Need Someone Who Knows Our Mistakes and Loves Us Anyway”

“We All Need Someone Who Knows Our Mistakes and Loves Us Anyway”

That quote comes from Steve Hartman’s wonderful (and brief) cbsnews.com article from last week about a Gainesville, Texas basketball team that follows here in its entirety. But the quote also can certainly be applied to Lady Rose’s “intervention” on behalf of her new father-in-law (Lord Sinderby) on this week’s Downton Abbey Season 5 Finale – a finale that heaps grace upon grace in scene after scene, redeeming perhaps DA’s worst season with it’s best season finale. (Storyline spoilers ahead) During the weekend-long wedding festivities celebrating the union of Lord Sinderby’s (Jewish) son and (Anglican) Lady Rose, Sinderby repeatedly makes clear…

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Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

Darn You ESPN!….and Get Thee Behind Me Disney!

I’m struggling a lot with these two true, inspiring, triumph of the human spirit distance runner stories that Disney and her sports arm (ESPN) have perpetrated upon us this week as paradoxical bookends to the low anthropology/high Christology that I have come to love about Ash Wednesday. This past weekend, ESPN master human interest storyteller, Tom Rinaldi, narrated one of his best sports mini-docs with the story of Kayla Montgomery, who won three North Carolina high school distance running state championships in 2014, despite running without being able to feel her legs! (Yeah, the story is as good as it…

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But Wait, Doesn’t the Law Work?

But Wait, Doesn’t the Law Work?

On the January 13th episode of his “The B.S. Report” podcast, Bill Simmons interviewed essayist Chuck Klosterman on a number of subjects, from popular films to college football to the love life of Leonardo DiCaprio. One of the things they talked about was, in a roundabout way, something that ministers of the gospel talk about (and are asked about) all the time: “Can the law work?” Actually, the way we ministers usually hear it is, “Wait, but the law actually seems to work!” Now, Simmons and Klosterman didn’t talk about “the law” as such, or in those terms, but make…

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From The Atlantic: America’s Existential Crisis, as Illustrated by Super Bowl Ads

You really shouldn’t miss Sophie Gilbert’s thoughts over at The Atlantic on this year’s Super Bowl ads. She quite perceptively demonstrates how these commercials seem to be, more than ever, playing on our nationwide anxiety. She writes,

America, judging by the Super Bowl XLIX advertisements, is suffering through the kind of existential crisis that only God’s iPhone, Marshawn Lynch’s Skittles, and a car with an erection can heal. America is hangry. America can’t sleep. America is very, very worried about getting old and irrelevant and physically stuck on the couch shouting at a football game while other, younger countries are going to super-cool Pac Man parties and flipping tires over for no discernible reason and seducing elderly wives in leopard-print camisoles. America might think this identity breakdown can be solved by buying a Chevy Colorado, which is focus group-proven to make people more attractive than, say, a simple Prius, but America is wrong. The hurt is on the inside. No truck-shaped penis extension can fix it.

She concludes,

[R]emember that, deep down, unless they face off against a wolf for you, they’re only cars/beers/extreme workouts. They aren’t love.

Gilbert reminds us that though these marketable goods might promise to make us “more human” (as Reebok would put it), closing the gap between our actual selves and our desired selves, they are powerless to bestow anything. So deep is the universal identity-crisis that we might just need a divine rescue.

Read the whole thing here.

Love and Basketball – Trinitarian Style

Love and Basketball – Trinitarian Style

The following comes from friend, fellow Atlanta Hawks fan, and Georgia Tech Anglican Campus Fellowship priest, Collin Setterberg:

There’s something about the game of basketball that elicits thoughts of the divine. The three point shot, the three-point play, the three-man weave, the triple double…you get the point. Tonight I’m watching the Atlanta Hawks live for the first time this season. Like most people who live in Atlanta, I haven’t been super “into” the Hawks; that is, until recently. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the team this year, their unselfish play and beautiful style of basketball. So after lots of…

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Tom Brady Cheats (Death)

Tom Brady Cheats (Death)

[Americans] have a pagan cult of health, of skill, of strength; they temper and refine the precious instrument of will in muscle; and obliged, by their insatiable appetite for dominance, to cultivate all human activities with obsessive energy, they build an athlete’s torso in which to shelter the heart of free man.

-José Enrique Rodo, Ariel (1900)

 

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…

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Grading Yahoo’s “Top 10 All-Time” Super Bowl Commercials

Grading Yahoo’s “Top 10 All-Time” Super Bowl Commercials

Confession, your friendly neighborhood Mockingbird Sports Editor looks forward to the Super Bowl commercials as much as the game (unless the Falcons are playing). The Yahoo folks have weighed in this week on their top 10 all-time favorite Super Bowl commercials.  It’s a nice mix of the hilarious, the sentimental, and the groundbreaking. So here they are with some grades and commentary. (Reminder, these are Yahoo’s top 10, not mine).  I’ll end with a few that I have had in the ever changing list of best Super Bowl commercials in my head.

10. “1984”, Apple (1984) – So Apple had a…

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Aaron Rodgers – “God Doesn’t Care About Football Game Outcomes”

Aaron Rodgers – “God Doesn’t Care About Football Game Outcomes”

Thank you Aaron Rodgers! The Green Bay QB gave a great answer to a question he was asked on his weekly radio show a few days ago during a “mailbag answer” segment. Here’s the exchange:

(Radio Host) Jason Wilde: Melissa says: I always find it a little off-putting when athletes, actors, and anybody says, “This is what God wanted” or “I want to thank God for helping us win today” — anything along those lines when a game or award is won. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the gist. Personally, with all the chaos in the world, I’m not sure…

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Grace in Sports (and Practice): Jacob Jarvis and Ohio St. Football

In preparing a new series we’re offering at my church, I was reminded of this post from a few years ago about Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer. The man experienced a breakdown following his team’s loss to Alabama in 2009, enough to warrant him stepping away from coaching for a year. One recent interview indicated that indeed things have been going much better for him, personally, since coming back to coach at OSU. That he managed to win another National Championship on the other side of such a wake-up call, strikes me as fantastic news. Much better, at least, than hearing it was simply the product of a return to (old) form. His daughter even reports that they now speak on the phone “five times a day.” Which is to say, the support and connection to his family is apparently stronger than ever, and his work has not suffered for it. But best of all was discovering the video below, which displays just how much Urban’s new set of priorities have trickled over into the lives of his players and, especially, Jacob Jarvis and his younger brother. As Jacob wheels onto the field, holding hands with the players on the team, I couldn’t help but think: “Now that’s imputation, which is love.”

Kobe Bryant and Urban Meyer – Two Alpha Males Pass in the Night

Kobe Bryant and Urban Meyer – Two Alpha Males Pass in the Night

Kobe Bryant and Urban Meyer – two guys at the top of their sports professions earlier this century (both leading their teams to multiple championships) – were in the news these past few weeks. Meyer, of course, on Monday night became only the 8th coach in NCAA history with three or more National Championships.  This was certainly the most improbable of the three as his Ohio State Buckeyes (behind a 3rd string QB) manhandled Oregon by 3+ touchdowns. Meanwhile over at Grantland, Brian Phillips wrote a definitive piece on the downward trajectory of NBA icon Kobe Bryant (h/t DZ).

Prior to…

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2014 Sports Superlatives

2014 Sports Superlatives

Here are the (in reverse order) five “sports superlatives” for 2014.  My pledge to you – to try not to be obligatory (think the “anti-ESPY Award” version of sports superlatives, with one self-indulgent exception).  For the most part, this sports year wasn’t marked by numerous, amazing things we’ve never seen before. So, we’ll have to expand our boundaries and categories a tad in order to include the moments, performances, and trends that best put the year in perspective.

5. Most Influential Trend in Sports – The Advent of the MLB “Power Pitcher” –  From MLB.com’s John Schlegel:

It’s no secret pitching has…

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