Feb 24, 2011

"Wrap It In Maroon and White"...Thank You Jack

I woke up this morning and started my usual routine of sorting through early morning "tweets".  Immediately I found several posts referring to legendary broadcaster Jack Cristil announcing his immediate retirement at the end of Mississippi State's basketball game on Saturday.  Like most of Bulldog Nation, I was immediately stricken with a great sense of grief as I began to picture the future of Mississippi State sports without the voice of Cristil.  When legendary Georgia broadcaster Larry Munson announced his retirement, many of us in Bulldog Nation began to see the light at the end of the tunnel for our own beloved Cristil.  It was apparent from listening to him on the drive home or watching him on the weekly coach's show that his 85 years on this earth were beginning to show.  For many it was like watching a beloved family member age and knowing that your time with them was limited.  None of us wanted to face the reality of Bulldog life without Jack.

Everyone who has spent anytime as a member of Bulldog Nation has many fond memories of Jack.  I can remember going to football games with my dad and his friend Billy Jean Nation.  Billy Jean would bring a radio with him to the game so that he could listen to Cristil's play-by-play.  He would tell us some of the funny quotes that Jack would give.  Cristil was never shy in showing his love for the Dawgs and his opinion when a call didn't go State's way.  However, he was also regarded in the broadcasting world as one of the least-biased announcers in the SEC.  He was always good about giving praise and recognition to opponents when it was deserved.  (That was probably because he suffered through 58 years of Bulldog sports when most of it wasn't very good.)  All State fans have funny memories of hearing Cristil mispronouncing names of the opponents or interjecting his opinion on the bad calls or no-calls by referees.  Jack would give us the "Sonic Drive of the Game" that many times would include his disgust at MSU's inability to do anything worthwhile. 

I grew up in New Hope, Mississippi from 1968-1990.  During the 70's and 80's there were no super television contracts that broadcast every SEC football and basketball game.  Since TV was limited and MSU was usually not very good, I had the privilege of seeing Bulldog sports through the eyes and voice of Jack Cristil.  I remember and still treasure the 1980 call of MSU's win over #1 Alabama.  I love Cristil's call as Scott Westerfield's kicks went through the uprights against Kentucky and Ole Miss.  I remember Cristil's excitement as Wayne Madkin hit C.J. Sirmones in the 1999 Egg Bowl.  One of my favorite parts about going to MSU games was listening to the post-game show as they broadcast the highlight calls of the game.  Jack Cristil is MSU sports.

Through 42 years of being a passionate MSU fan, Jack Cristil has been the one constant.  Jim Ellis is a close second.  In my life as a MSU fan, we have had 7 different football coaches and 7 different basketball coaches.  Most of my 42 years have seen as many or more losses as wins.  One thing that kept me passionate and listening was hearing Jack Cristil say "Good afternoon from beautiful Scott Field at historic Davis Wade Stadium."  Like every other MSU fan I love to hear Jack's classic line at the end of a win - "Wrap It in Maroon and White!"  This beloved phrase has now become a tag-line for all State fans.  When the game is about over you can see fans turn to one another and say "Wrap It!"  I have to admit that as I drove in to work today and listened as the Rick and Bubba show played the clip of Jack announcing his retirement last night that a tear welled up in my eye.  The Saturday drive home will never be the same.

Bravo Jack Cristil.  Thanks for making me a more passionate MSU fan because of your love for the Dawgs.  Your 58 years of serving Bulldog football and 54 years of serving Bulldog basketball are an example to all of us of the power of longevity and excellence.  I echo many in the Bulldog Nation that will be praying for you as you face the immediate health challenges.  You will always have a special place in the heart of thousands of Bulldog fans.  I lift up my cowbell for you.

Some great sound clips of Jack's classic calls can be found here on Sixpackspeak.com' website.  Enjoy them.

Feb 16, 2011

On Being A Dad

The last few weeks I have been preaching on topics related to family and marriage.  I really enjoy the process of trying to equip God's people to be better parents and spouses.  Maybe it's because of my 12+ years in student ministry.  During that time, I had the opportunity to see some really great and godly parents who modeled Jesus for their kids.  I also saw a large dose of parents that were practically disengaged altogether from the spiritual discipling of their children. 

On January 20th, Alison and I welcomed our fourth son, Joshua Lee, into our home.  Needless to say, the last four weeks have been quite a ride.  Sleep is sporadic.  I've consumed an inordinate amount of coffee lately.  However, I know God has provided a tremendous blessing.  I can't think of a better word in the English language than "Dad".  I often forget the blessing of that name when it has been called out 2,678 times over the course of the day.  Oftentimes, it is accompanied by a complaint about one of the other "stooges" in the house.  Scripture says "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth."  (Psalm 127:4)  God has placed within my charge four men who have the potential to change the world for the glory and gospel of Jesus Christ.  Right now, I would just like to get them to put their clothes IN the clothes basket or stop peeing on the side of the toilet.  It's hard to see gospel potential when you are staring at a yellow ooze on the floor.

I also feel privileged to be a Dad because for many years I didn't think it was going to happen.  In my 20's, I witnessed many of my friends fall in love and get married.  Life didn't seem to hold that in the cards for me.  My dating prospects after college were slim.  I did meet someone special while serving my first church.  We got engaged and planned on being married, but it didn't work out.  I spent several frustrating and disillusioned years pouring into serving the church.  I tried to fill the relational void by being the best youth pastor I could be.  Everyone said that one day I would find the right one, but by age 27, I had honestly begun to doubt completely.  I was ok if God wanted me to be single.  (but not really) 

I moved to the Birmingham area in the fall of 1996 and immediately was captured by a knock-out red-head who happened to be my boss' daughter.  We were married a year later.  I was 29.  Two years after that our first son Nathan was born.  I must admit that in Nathan's first couple of years, I was a pitiful father.  I had no idea what to do with a baby.  I didn't even like being around them.  18 months later, we had our first "surprise" child in Drew.  Having 2 children under the age of 2 was even more daunting.  However, my wife was patient with me and the Lord was gracious. 

In my ministry I have seen firsthand that we have a "dad crisis" in the church.  We have millions of children, especially sons, who are growing up with Dads who felt just as ill-equipped as I did.  Most of us want to be "better dads" than most in the culture.  The current culture has domesticated men some into being more active at home, helping with homework, teaching your son to throw a ball or catch fish.  However, I agree with Robert Lewis that in the areas that are most needed - the spiritual and social engagements of the home - most men are too passive.  We haven't been equipped in how to engage our children in spiritual conversations.  We still blindly think that quantity time is more important that quality time.  I am convinced that the church ministry models of the last 50 years have failed to adequately disciple and challenge men.  We have filled stadiums of men singing praise to God.  However, we haven't taught them how to walk with Christ and how to translate that walk everyday to their children - especially sons. 

Dads, your son needs you to teach him how to throw a baseball.  He also needs you to teach him how to pray to the Father.  Dads, you are the closest thing to the physical representation of Jesus Christ to your sons.  They already hold you as close to deity as any person on the earth.  We must learn to take great care of the arrows that God has entrusted to us.  We may only get one shot of sending them out into the great cosmic battle for God's glory.  We cannot haphazardly aim our arrows to the sky hoping it hits something.  We must take careful aim to insure that our arrows hit their intended target.  The scary truth is that my children and your children will most emulate the form of Christianity modeled by you - their dad.  They will in all likelihood learn from you, good or bad, their spiritual priorities. 

Dads, let's raise our children as spiritual champions.  Let's take up our spiritual sword of God's word and the grace of the Lord Jesus and not cower any longer to fulfilling our calling as spiritual leaders.  Let's be more concerned with their grasp of spiritual truth than we are with how far they hit the baseball.  And in the process, let's teach them to hit the baseball, and shoot the gun, and climb the trail, and cast the line, and all the other things that we have the honor of doing because we are the ones called - DAD.

Feb 3, 2011

Pray for these men: Missions to the glory of God

This afternoon at about 2:15 PM Central Time, four men from Sixth Street Baptist Church left on a journey that will take them to Guinea, West Africa in search of the Kakabe people.  This is the latest installment of a vision that began last summer when several of us starting conversing about the possibility of sending a team to West Africa.  These men are submitting to a radical obedience to Jesus Christ that has had a profound impact on them, their families, and our church.  We are also praying it has a profound gospel effect on the Kakabe people who have never been engaged at any time with the story of Jesus Christ. 

This team is (from left to right) Gary Hines, Myron West, Adam Long, and Eric Miller.  There is nothing overtly spectacular or different about them.  None of them have a seminary degree.  None of them are exceedingly great orators.  (Eric is our youth pastor and loves to preach to kids.)  As a matter of fact, three of them get very nervous about speaking in front of our church about anything.  They are not independently wealthy.  Twelve months ago none of them really had any idea that they would be traveling to a predominately Muslim country to travel into the African rainforest in an attempt to locate and engage of group of people who have never heard of the name Jesus.

These four guys are a testimony to our church that God wants to use all of us to expand his glory and his fame to every corner of our city and every continent on our planet.  They are beginning what we hope will be a partnership between Sixth Street and the International Mission Board of the SBC to send teams several times a year until the Kakabe people embrace the gospel, are discipled, and churches are planted.  It's hard to imagine how a church of 200 people in rural Alabama are going to accomplish this task.  We are in the midst of a city that is experiencing tremendous difficulty economically.  We are a church that is still trying to break out of the rut of mediocrity and apathy.  We are a church who, until the last 14 months, mostly did missions by giving money.  However, we believe that God will give us the Kakabe people for his glory.

These men have all left wives and young children to be obedient to God.  They have sold possessions in order to finance the trip.  They have prayed fervently and repeatedly over the last three months.  Now, they are about to step out on a plane and into the spiritual warfare of missions.  Here are some things we are committing to pray about as a church:
  • That the team would be able to physically locate and establish contact with the Kakabe people group.
  • That the team would find favor with the Kakabe tribal elders.
  • For a safe flight to Conakry, Guinea and safe land travel to the Timbo and KanKalabe areas.
  • For the physical and spiritual strength of the team members as they take the gospel to one of the darkest spiritual places on the planet.
  • For the wives and children of the men as they deal with the pain of physical separation and limited communication.
  • That God would remove any communication and language barriers.
  • That God will bind any evil spirits and remove spiritual barriers that have blinded the Kakabe people to the gospel.
  • That God will prepare the way by speaking to the Kakabe people in dreams and visions.
  • That the team would be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and that His presence will flow through them.
  • That the light of Christ will penetrate the darkness of West Africa.
  • That God will break the hearts of the team as well as the entire church over the lostness of the Kakabe.
Till the Kakabe see the glory of Christ!

Feb 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Andrew Scott Haines

10 years ago today, our 2nd born son came into the world.  We've always called Drew our surprise child since the announcement of his arrival was a little bit of a shock.  When we found out we were pregnant, we still had a 8-month old in the house and weren't planning any more for a couple of years.  Drew has been full of surprises and excitement ever since. 

The first sign that life with Drew would not be dull came on the day of his birth.  We checked into the hospital the night before to prepare for his arrival.  As they began to prep Alison to give birth the next morning, it looked like it would be several hours before he arrived.  My mother was in town taking care of Nathan.  We decided that I should go home to get a shower and help my mom get Nathan to his Mother's Day Out program since she didn't know where to go.  On the way to the church to drop off Nathan, I got a call from my wife.  She said in a crying voice "Matt, Hurry!"  I immediately sped to the hospital with my mom in the car behind me wondering why we were going to the hospital instead of the church.  I ran up to the second floor of the hospital to be greeted by nurses putting a gown, hospital mask, hood, and booties on me.  I saw them wheeling my wife into the operating room.  The nurse explained to me that the baby's heart rate had dropped and it appeared that while he was moving, he collapsed on his cord.  They were rushing my wife for an emergency C-section!  A few moments later they came and got me and told me to come see my son.  I walked by my wife who was now under sedation and the doctors working on putting her back together.  That's when I first saw the face of Andrew.

As already stated, life with Drew is never dull.  For the first couple of years, Drew had acid reflux.  He would randomly be looking at you and then he would hiccup and spit up all his formula on you.  We always knew who the nursery workers were in Drew's class at church by the white stains on their shoulders.  We call Drew our carnivore because he loves meat.  I mean loves meat.  He recently ate a 16-ounce sirloin.  I could barely finish it.  He often walks through the house gnawing on a piece of steak or bacon left over.  Drew also loves pictures.  He loves to take pictures and he loves to have his picture taken.  At our Disney trip, he wanted his picture made separate with every character.  We had about 600 pictures and about 200 of them were of him or made by him.

Drew is many times the most headstrong of our kids.  We have had some historic battles of the will with him.  For a while, Drew was obsessive that his clothes always matched.  Battles would be fought each morning about whether his pants and shirt were acceptable.  He also was obsessive about his hair at one time and wouldn't let us cut it.  Eventually it looked like a frayed, industrial-size mop.  Drew once got in a argument with another kid about a video game and the kid hit him in the mouth with a controller.  This resulted in partially knocking his tooth loose.  Eventually, he hit the same tooth on the faucet in the tub so that it stuck out his mouth in a 90-degree angle.  Another evidence of Drew's strong will is that he always has some kind of verbal outburst whenever corrected.  I have told Drew often that what gets him in trouble is usually not his action, but his reaction to us whenever we corrected him. 

At the same time, Drew often shows us some of the most tender moments of love.  He will often come and lay his head on my shoulder.  Every night we have the same routine.  I tuck him in and say a prayer.  As I am walking out Drew will say "I love you" and I will answer "I love you, too."  Then he will say "Goodnight" and I will say "Goodnight."  Every night.  He never goes to sleep without that routine.  He will call me when I am out of town at bedtime because the routine is broken.  Drew has taught Alison and me a lot about patience and love without conditions.  I feel extremely blessed to be his dad.  I am overwhelmed to know that the next 10 years will go by as quick as the last 10.  There will be many more prayers and opportunities to see what God is going to do with Drew next.  All I can say is "Buckle Up".

Happy Birthday Drew!  I love you, I believe in you, and I am proud of you.