Jun 26, 2009

Great Thought About the Love of God

Read this from A.W. Tozer today:

"Every time God thinks about you, He thinks about you lovingly. Even if He must chastise you, or allow hardships to come to you, it is love that allows it to come and love that sends it. And we never should be afraid of love, because love casts out fear...The best preservative in the world is the love of God. Some people believe in the security of the saints from theological grounds. They take it from a text somewhere. I believe in the security of the saints because God is love and God always keeps that which He loves. We always keep what we love - always..."

Thank you Lord today for that reminder about your loving thoughts towards me. May I be a conduit of your love to a love starved world.

Jun 24, 2009

A Needed Reminder About the Gospel

From D. Martin Lloyd Jones in "The Kingdom of God"

"How does it come to pass that, with open Bibles before them, men and women should be wrong not so much about certain details with respect to the Gospel, but about the whole thing, about the very essence of the Gospel...it is indeed very surprising that at the end of the twentieth century, men and women should still be all wrong about what the Gospel is; wrong about its foundation, wrong about its central message, wrong about its objective and wrong about the way in which one comes into relationship with it."

Good stuff I needed to hear this day. Help me, Lord, to be faithful and true to the Gospel.

Jun 22, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #5

USA Wins Ryder Cup/Payne Stewart Dies

One of the sports I have learned to really enjoy watching over the last few years is golf. I have always liked to play golf and sometimes would watch an occasional major tournament, but never really followed golf until September 1999. One of the main reasons for that year was I had started to really follow the career of Payne Stewart. Payne had been a great golfer for many years who struggled to win the major tournament. He won the PGA championship in 1989 and the US Open in 1991. However, his win at the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst had tons of drama. He beat out up and coming golfers David Duval and Tiger Woods and won an epic battle against one of my now favorite golfers, Phil Mickelson.

I had never really followed the Ryder Cup until 1999. The Ryder Cup is a golf format held every two years featuring the best gofers in the US against the best golfers in Europe. Prior to the 99 Cup, Europe had dominated for several years. The US entered with some hot golfers - Tiger, Payne Stewart, Duval, Jim Furyk, Davis Love, and Mark O'Mera. Europe had a strong field as well. The US started the competition on Friday with the foursomes and was throughly trounced by Europe, ending Friday down 6 points to 2. (Each team gets a point for a match win, 1/2 point for a tie). In the Saturday competition, the US failed to make ground and ended with a 4 point defecit (10-6). This meant that the European team only had to grind out 4 points in 12 individual matches on Sunday, a seemingly easy feat. However, the US guys came out on fire! They dominated the singles matches, winning the 8 of the first 9 matches. The competition came down to a late match between Jose Maria Olazabal and Justin Leonard. Leonard fought back to come to the 17th hole needing to drain a 45-foot putt to secure 1/2 point and win the Ryder Cup for the US. He drained it and all America went crazy! It was the kind of drama that makes sports so entertaining.

One of the key players in keeping the American hopes alive was Payne Stewart. He jumped and celebrated with his teamates and wrapped up an incredible year for him - US Open and Ryder Cup wins. One month later, Stewart would board a small plane headed to Dallas, TX. On route, the plane lost pressure, killing all inside. The world watched in horror as this plane randomly flew off course and then crashed in a South Dakota field. Payne would be a guy who in his later years on tour would be known as a strong family man and a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Through some friendships with other Christian golfers on tour, Payne had come to a personal faith in Jesus and had an influence on many on the Tour in his life and an even greater impact on the world after his death. Watching those events - the US Open win by Stewart, the Ryder Cup comback (with Stewart), and the subsequent plane accident that took Payne's life - would have a dramatic impact on me and became together one of the most memorable sports moments of my life.

Jun 19, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #6

Pete Rose Breaks Ty Cobb's Hits Record

When I was growing up, Pete Rose was my baseball idol. This was when he was just known as "Charlie Hustle", not as Pete Rose "The Guy Who Bet on Baseball", or "The Guy Who Went to Prison for Tax Fraud", or "The Guy Who Lied About It for Years", or anything else. I agree that now as a much older man with kids of my own, I am very troubled by much of the sad saga of Pete Rose's life. However, all of the character deficiencies do not take away from the fact that, between the lines, Pete Rose was one of the best players of his time and played the game with a passion and a intensity that few have ever shown. Good or bad, Pete was a winner and was consumed with everything he could do to win.

I was fascinated as a young kid with the "Big Red Machine" of the 70's and their impressive cast of players. I got the chance in 1978 to go to Riverfront Stadium to see a game and watch Pete, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, and Tony Perez play. My 7 yr. old team growing up was "The Big Red Machine" of Columbus, MS, and I did everything I could to emulate my hero Pete. I had more of his baseball cards than any other player. I remembered wanting one every time I opened a pack of cards I had bought from Templeton's Superette just a few blocks from the house. I followed Pete from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to Montreal in that ugly Expos uniform and back to Cincinnati in 1984. Pete was a 17-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year in 1963, NL MVP in 1973, and World Series MVP in 1975. In his career he played all three OF positions, 2nd base, 3rd base, and 1st base. He played all of them with every ounce of energy he could. Pete Rose holds the MLB record for most career at bats (14,053), most games played (3,562), and most career hits (4,256), as well as the NL record for most consecutive games with a hit (44).

The most memorable moment for me though was September 11, 1985 - the day that Pete broke Ty Cobb's career hits mark. Much like Rose, Cobb was a fierce competitor who won at all costs and was not liked much by his peers. On that day in September, Rose was tied with Cobb 4,191 career hits. Considering that by most standards having 200 hits in a year is a great season, that means that someone would have to average 200+ hits a year for 21 consecutive seasons to reach that mark! On that day in September, a much slower, heavier Rose entered the batter's box to face Padres pitcher Eric Show. On his first AB of the night, Rose laced a single into center field. He had done it. My hero had taken down the mighty Cobb. At that time, I was a 17-year old Senior in High School who had just witnessed history. I don't remember if I cried or not, but I remember the pride I felt for Pete. I remember being emotional during the long standing ovation the Reds fans gave him and seeing him cry and hug Pete Jr. on that base.

Later on I would watch my hero fall. Much like David in the OT and many of the epic heros of Greek mythology, Pete would become a victim of his own undoing. He would fall into public disgrace. He would be banned from my favorite sport forever and become ineligible to it's hall of elite players. The greatest hitter who ever lived has no place in the one place he most deserves from his play between the lines. I cannot judge whether Pete deserves the Hall or not. Like most, I know there is no dichotomy between who a person is and what a person does. But on that September night, I witnessed something I will remember for the rest of my life and that's the Pete I choose to celebrate.

Jun 10, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #7

Cal Ripken Breaks Lou Gehrig's Iron Man Streak

I am an avid baseball fan and have been since I was 6 years old. Much of my generation of baseball however is defined by steroid allegations, labor strikes, and cancelled World Series. Baseball in my generation has given us some of the greatest talents to ever play the game - Arod, Jeter, Griffey Jr., Brett, Clemens, and Nolan Ryan. However, one of the greatest has got to be Cal Ripken Jr. Ripken defined baseball for much of this generation. Rookie of the Year, 2-time AL MVP, and 19-time All-Star. He was the face of the Baltimore Oriole franchise in an era marked by free agency and players leaving for higher dollars. He was a sure fielder at shortstop without possessing great defensive skills. He just seemed to always know where the ball would be hit.

Cal will best be remembered as this generation's Iron Man. He broke a record that many believed would be impossible in this baseball generation - the consecutive games played streak of Lou Gehrig. Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees in his career. Ripken's streak began on May 30, 1982, as a rookie. Few had any idea how many games he would play and how much of an impact he would have on the game. On September 6, 1995, much of the world watched as in the middle of the 5th inning, the game became official and Cal had played in 2,131 straight games. 13 years with no visits to the DL, no games sat out to rest. He just wanted to play each and every game. He played through injuries and slumps. He played in the late season games when the Orioles were long out of the postseason picture. He played because he loved to play, just like when we were kids. On September 20, 1998, Ripken quietly ended his own streak at 2,632 games.

Growing up, I wasn't a huge Ripken fan. He didn't play on my favorite team or put up incredible stats. It wasn't until later that I began to appreciate the significance of Ripken on the game. Like most, I was watching an otherwise uneventful game on September 6. It wasn't a huge game with postseason implications. However, it was the opportunity to tell my kids that I saw one of the greatest moments in sports. Thanks Cal for showing us all not only how to play the game, but how to treat it right in the process.

Jun 9, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #8

Duke/Kentucky 1992 NCAA Tournament Regional Final

I had to try and put at least one college basketball moment in my top ten and it's hard to find a moment in college basketball that was more memorable than the 1992 NCAA Regional game between Duke and Kentucky. This was one of those games that any basketball fan knows what he was feeling as he watched it. It featured 2 national powerhouses battling it out. Kentucky was on it's way back from a prolonged period of decline. Duke was trying for it's fifth Final Four in a row. Kentucky had legends like Jamal Mashburn, Travis Ford, and John Pelphrey. Duke had player of the year Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill.

These two teams battled it out for 40 minutes and finished tied and needed overtime. The overtime was epic. The two teams exchanged the lead 5 times in the last 31 seconds. With 2.1 seconds Sean Woods makes a shot over Laettner. Duke coach Krzyzewski draws up a play for Laettner that will forever be known as "The Shot." Grant Hill threw the ball into Laettner at the foul line. He took one dribble, faked right, spun left and then threw up a shot that seemed like it hung up for hours. Swish, game over. Thomas Hill's shocked look said it all. So ended an epic game and created probably the most memorable college basketball moment of the last 30 years.

Jun 7, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #9

Buster Douglas Defeats Mike Tyson

I remember when I first heard about an unknown guy named Buster Douglas defeating Mike Tyson. I was in college at MSU and my roommate Sam came in and said, "Did you hear that Mike Tyson got knocked out?" I thought for sure he was egging me on. For those of you who remember Tyson's early career, this guy was a monster. He was the most dominating boxer in the world and on a fast-pace to be the greatest boxer ever. He didn't just beat opponents, he destroyed them. He won 26 of his first 28 wins by knockout. He knocked out 16 guys in the first round! He was so dominant they made a video game out of him that everyone had - Mike Tyson's Punchout.

In February 1990, Tyson went to Japan to fight an unknown guy named Buster Douglas. This fight was such a mismatch that it wasn't even on TV to my recollection. I didn't even know he was fighting. We all assumed Tyson couldn't be beat. However, he was destroyed in the 10th round by Douglas and knocked down and out for the first time in his career. It was the beginning of the end for Tyson's boxing career. It was later revealed how much of Tyson's personal issues (losing his trainer, marriage and divorce to Robin Givens, etc.) could have contributed to his being distracted. However, at the time, this was a monumental upset.

Jun 6, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment - #10

Josh Hamilton's HR Derby Tirade

Ok. This won't make a whole lot of Top 50 moments in the grand scheme of sports, but for me, last year's Home Run Derby performance by Josh Hamilton was one of the greatest individual sports moments I have ever seen. It was made all the more special by the knowledge of what this dude has been through since being the #1 draft pick in 1999. After an accident took him out of baseball for a while, Josh turned to drugs and hanging out with the wrong crowd. It eventually destroyed much of his life and led to a suspension from the one thing that mattered most to him - playing ball. He was chased by his demons for several years until he finally surrendered to Christ in his grandmother's home. He then began his long journey back to the major leagues.

As if Josh's return to baseball wasn't enough of a story of redemption and grace, he began the 2008 season on a tear knocking the cover off the ball. He received an invite to play in the HR derby at Yankee Stadium. After watching several other competitors, Josh strode to the plate, and the fun begins. He began to belt monster shots all over Yankee Stadium. He hit three hr's that were measured over 500 feet! He averaged 453 feet per homer. When the first round ended, Josh had 28 hr's - the highest ever in one round - and the story of grace had another amazing chapter. Josh signed autographs and high-fived teammates between swings and obviously had a great time. Unfortunately, he hit a power outage in the final, losing to Justin Morneau. However, even Morneau had to admit that the night was all about Josh Hamilton. This story of grace, power, redemption, glory, and salvation left all who saw it in awe. So this makes my Top Ten Most Memorable Sports Moments.

Jun 5, 2009

Ten Most Memorable Sports Moments

I was thinking a few weeks ago about how much I love sports and what great moments I have been able to witness in my lifetime. Like a lot of guys, I am an avid sports watcher and usually cannot rest at night until I have had my SportsCenter fix. I have long loved baseball as my primary sports (the reason why a lot of my moments are baseball related). I also have a great affinity for football, golf, college basketball, and others.

Starting tomorrow, I will start posting about the Ten Most Memorable Sports moments I have witnessed. Remember, this is a personal list of the most memorable to me. You will probably not agree with all of this. I did not pick the Top Ten Sports Moments. I didn't try to necessarily include the moments that changed sports. I just compiled a list of the moments that I remember watching or hearing about that fixated my attention. There were lots of moments that didn't make the list and deserve to be mentioned - moments like the HR chase of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1999, Kirk Gibson's World Series HR, The Cal/Stanford play, Doug Flutie's Hail Mary, Montana to Clark "The Catch", NC State winning the NCAA tourney, and much more. These are all great moments that I love to watch, but they didn't have the personal impact to me.

Should be fun and I'd love to hear your interaction.