Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fanning the blame . . .

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to find out who is to blame . . .

It is hard to keep up with the news.  We race from crisis to crisis.  Things are moving so fast it hardly gives us time to properly place the blame for our problems and release the scape goat into the desert.  Ferguson, NFL domestic violence, Ukraine, Syria, ISSIS all have exploded since the beginning of summer. There are many more I am sure I have missed. It is not easy to keep up with all that is going on, of all the people to be blamed.

Because, after all, finding someone to blame is the answer to the problems.  

In Ferguson, we almost had it solved, We had reduced it to two blameworthy possibilities.  It was the hate-filled white policeman who was just waiting for an opportunity to shoot a black guy and the white municipal system that supported him and oppressed the African Americans.  Either that or it was the lawless, self-centered young black man who pilfered cigars and attacked a police officer and incited all those African Americans who saw an opportunity to create a distraction and loot and burgle the hard earned property of whites with the blessing of the liberal elite.

That's about as far as we got before we had reached the other side of our short attention span where the next crisis was revealing its enticing, intoxicating opportunity for casting guilt and thus the resolution of another societal problem.

Do not misunderstand.  Focusing on events like Ferguson should be a necessary and ultimately helpful exercise. And painful. Discovering where we went wrong and are going wrong would be invaluable. 

But that is the problem. We don't like to discover where "we"  went wrong.  We work very hard to discover where "they" went wrong.  

Because when we have established that "they" are to blame, our job is done. Let's move on, to the NFL and domestic violence.  Obviously professional athletes are responsible for the millions of instances of domestic violence that have occurred every year since the days of leather helmets and no face guards.  This one seems easy. Mission accomplished.

I am sure millions of victims of domestic violence are relieved.

Doesn't it feel good?

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play? (apologies to John Fogerty)

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It is a September Saturday, so part of my plan for the day is football.  Today I will be watching on television. Even a remote viewing day like today requires certain things from me.  An early check-in on ESPN Gameday (looks cold in Fargo this morning).  A final review of the schedule of other televised games of the day that may be beneficial for scouting. Assuring that all games are set to record, including the Bama game in the event I suffer injury and need to watch later. A run to the store for appropriate snackeration. Choosing the ever important gameday shirt. (Going with the crimson polo with white and black horizontal stripes, circa 2009)  A last minute searching of the soul to finally determine whether I should go to Tuscaloosa anyway and buy a ticket on the street.   I do have a life, so I review my Saturday list of things to do, setting priorities to determine which items must be done and which can be postponed if my game attention requires more than I anticipated.  My preference is to watch remote games alone.  I don't like conversation while the clock is running.

  A couple of Saturdays every year I enjoy watching in person. Needless to say that requires a different, perhaps even more critical routine, considering the heightened responsibilities of a stadium fan. Timing and logistics become even more important, but the basic elements remain. Preparation, food, apparel, contingency preparation, and ultimately execution. And focus. Always focus.

I love being a fan.  It is a great diversion from real life. It is on my thankfulness challenge list.

On the other hand, I won't play a down of football today or ever.  I have not suited up for a single practice this year (or any year for that matter).  I have some decent skills as a fan, if I do say so myself.  But if Coach Saban called my name to get into the game, or even practice, it would be laughable at best, and more likely result in a tragic early end to my life, as well as a setback to the beauty of the game in general.

It is tempting to live my life as a fan.  It sounds good. Encouragement is a wonderful thing.

But someone has to coach. Someone has to practice and play.

There are choices that must be made by individuals, some far in advance, some in a split second, that will determine the success or failure of the effort of everyone involved.  There are hundreds, thousands of hours of practice, sacrifice and preparation which have nothing to do with outward appearances, with snackeration or gameday apparel. That preparation is necessary to maximize the chances for success. It provides a wealth of knowledge based on history, observation and study that the fans will never know, and most would not comprehend, because we have not invested the time and life required.  But even then, success is not guaranteed in the moments of choice.

It is a lonely place, that moment where the critical choice is made. Some moments come after time for study and consultation. Which offense and defenses to run, which players to recruit then ultimately play.  But when gameday comes the choices are different. What plays to run and when?  Whether to go for it on fourth down or kick a field goal?  Whether to throw the ball or eat it? Or break on the ball for a pick or play it safe?  These moments of choice come with relentless speed and frequency without time for or benefit of endless video slow motion replay or the benefit of the opinions of experts perched in recliners all across America. These moments of choice are unforgiving, especially with thousand watching, the results being recorded for all of history.

It is tempting to avoid the moments of choice. Play it safe. Play to the fans.  Do what everyone expects even when preparation suggests taking a chance or doing something different could yield the best results. If you see T. J. Yeldon running your way slow up a little bit and avoid those thundering thigh pads. No one will notice.  Punt.

Fans don't participate in the moments of choice.  We suffer no consequences for what we do. We can indulge in fantasies of facts that do not exist, of a mythical universe created by our own desires and allegiance and prejudice for our team.  Our wisdom comes on Monday. We can be ridiculous and suffer no consequences. In fact, the more ridiculous we are, the more attention we get.

But because we haven't done what it takes to get there, fans never truly play the game. The results would be laughable at best, and tragic at worst.

But someone has to practice and play.  A stadium full of fans will never get it done.

And no, I'm not just talking about football.

But when I do talk about football . . . RTR.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Life is a highway . . . gonna need more leg-room

If you share a journey with the  right companions, the destination does not seem quite so important . . . in fact, you might wish you had chosen the longer, scenic route.

What I mean is, people are important.

Like the people that I ended the week-end with at Rogue Tavern.  Stan and Beth and I and about 150 others gathered and ate, and drank, and laughed and talked and shared  deeper than we expected as Birmingham First United Methodist Church began going Rogue , and will continue to do so every Sunday evening in  September.  We pulled up a couple of more chairs at the tall bar table so that six of us could huddle around a table for four.  The crowd was about twice as large as expected so it took a little longer than usual to get our food.  But that was okay, in fact better than okay, as it gave us an excuse to sit longer and talk more, and laugh, and get to know each other better, whether we entered the place as long time friends or complete strangers.

Or like Charlie, my brand new and only grandson, who drove down from Nashville to visit with his Vestavia grandparents Bob and Patsy.  He brought his mother Kate along.   On Monday and Tuesday nights, after days full of court -induced stress, I drove down and visited in Bob and Patsy's home.  I love to hold Charlie.  The stress just flows out of my body, as if he finds my pressure release valve and turns it wide  open.  And the grace and hospitality in that home so freely shared only added to my transformation back into a normal person.  And Kate, well Kate is simply the daughter I never had, if that is okay with her parents.

Or like my sons Benjamin, who is Charlie's dad, and Vann.   They are simply the best sons in the world.  No, really.    But even better, they are good people.

Or like my office family Shannon and Lenicia,  who make sure I am where I am when I am supposed to be and with whom,  and with what I need, counsel with me and just generally keep me straight .Or like the judges and attorneys, secretaries and clerks with whom I spend most of my life,  the only group who can truly empathize after a crazy week in the law.  

Or like my brothers and sisters, who cannot be fooled nor do they need to be, because they have always known me,  and upon who I know I can depend no matter what happens.

Or like my friends.

One of whom died yesterday.  Ronnie was a lawyer.  That is how I got to know him and that is the reason we spent most of the time together that we did. He was a year younger and a foot taller than me.   We spent hours waiting together. Waiting on judges, waiting on clients, waiting for lunch.  And as we waited we talked.  And laughed. Sometimes we sang.  And played seventies and eighties rock licks on air guitars. We made fun of each other, I of his ugly stork like legs and he of my stubby dachshund legs,  of our personal and social lives, and other more sophisticated things.  We ranted or cried on each other's shoulder about the judge or client or woman that just did us wrong.  We shared  hilarious gut busting irreverence and  deep, spiritual gut wrenching reverence.  We talked of basketball and God, of ZZ Top and politics.  

So the truth is, Ronnie provoked this post. It is much like the kind of road we might go down in our conversations while waiting. Now that I think about it we often talked about the people in our lives that make the journey worthwhile. Okay, we also made fun of them a little, but in a loving way. 

And you are right, Richard, I should mention you in my blog. And all the traveling companions that make this journey a worthwhile and  wonderful, or sometimes simply tolerable adventure.  But the truth is, we are all blessed with too many to name.  But tonight I  will get a good start, not in the blog, but in my prayers. Of thanks.

And I will start with Ronnie.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

What's That Noise?



Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

I have one of those fancy coffee makers that holds the beans in a a small bin until the preset time comes to pass.  It is my alarm clock, this automatic grinding of the beans by the burr grinder.  It would be the most annoying sound ever heard on a sleepy Saturday morning except that the same grinding releases  the aroma that has been trapped inside the tiny pods to race out of the kitchen and down the hall to my bed, insisting that I get up with the same urgency as an overnight snow in Alabama.  But more importantly, the  grinder releases the grinds  into the tiny cascading, steaming waterfall that pulls that perfect flavor out of the ground bean and eventually into the rich dark pool of my mug.

So all of that has already happened this morning.  And I fed the cat.  Seems like that should be enough for the day. But I am awake now. So I might as well write something.

I have been thinking a lot about writing lately.  This is probably the reason I have not actually written anything lately.

There is something significant about the way many of us communicate these days. It is interesting and funny, in a way.  Also troubling and limiting.  It  is  short-hand, coded, and  its meaning  apparent only to those who think like us.  Only an insider will "get it."  Outsiders may be crushed by the irony.

My favorite examples of this comes from the use (or abuse) of the Bible. In conversation, in sermons and speeches, on social media,  you hear the coded messages.  For example:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  
                                                   2nd Chronicles 7:14 

I believe in the truth of this rich and grace-filled promise of God .But here is the de-coded version that some of us intend to communicate:

"If you people, who call yourselves Christian, will admit that you are wrong and start acting like my favored child Bob says,  and seek forgiveness, I will forgive your sin and make your land be the way that Bob says it should be."

If you wear the same jersey and colors as I and  possess the team playbook, you will understand what I mean and shout "Hallelujah."  You will love my labels and covet my bumperstickers.   If you are different than me, you will also understand what I mean, and  get mad, get even, and then just ignore.

What a sad use of a magnificent promise of God.

We use the Constitution and other great writings the same way. And speeches of great orators. We find a remarkable statement of truth designed to move us forward, to advance humanity. We use it and pervert it, causing us to stand still, or perhaps retreat. We are convinced that the author was clearly supporting our way, and indicting the other as evil, or wrong, when truly, the author was attempting to take us, to move us in a different way entirely.  We turn a plowshare into a sword.  How much have we lost?

We are right because all those who agree with us tell us so.

And so we do not think anymore. 

We do not listen anymore. Except to the coded messages.

And anything other than our way is just annoying noise.

But sometimes that noise is a sign of something great brewing. It would be a shame to just stay asleep.  Better get up and see what all the noise is about.  

That's enough writing for the first outing. 
Gotta get up and do something before the game.  RTR

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