08.30.13

Greatguy challenges me to a gentleman’s bet

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:13 pm by Administrator

Won Ho aka “Greatguy” aka “Juan” is so delighted with Chip Kelly and the return of Michael Vick that he has happily agreed to an over/under bet on Eagles’ wins for this season. we set it at 6.5. i can’t believe that Juan has so naively stepped into a trap of his own making. now, i will be spared the prospect of total misery at the imminent collapse of this organization; because when the Eagles go 5-11 this year, i will have this one thing to gloat about.

it’s time for my schedule predictions. keep in mind that i was totally correct two seasons ago on my deflating 8-8 prediction for the Eagles (when everyone was sick with hype over the Philadelphia “dream team”). last season of course, i was overcome with sympathy for Andy Reid and went with my heart, resulting in my most catastrophic overestimation of this frustrating franchise. i will never again allow myself this sort of heartbreak.

this is how the eagles will win their 5 games this season:

1. @ Washington: 13-17 Loss. Never mind RGIII’s decreased load on the ground. Alfred Morris and Roy Helu will simply plow through the Eagles’ 7-woman front. I like Helu to get 70 yards from scrimmage and a TD in this one.

2. San Diego: 21-10 Win. This will be one of the 5 wins. Rivers will give us the game, as he is so often prone to do.

3. Kansas City: 14-24 Loss. KC won’t win this one, so much as the Eagles will prevent them from losing. All the hype about Reid’s return to Philadelphia will simply distract an already undisciplined Eagles’ locker room.

4. @ Denver: 7-38 Loss. Count this one as a major blowout; Chip Kelly will be officially declared “in over his head”.

5. @ New York: 17-21 Loss. It’ll be a winnable game until late in the 4th, when Vick will predictably trash our chances with a bad sack-fumble.

6. @ Tampa Bay: 24-15 Win. We’ll get a 2nd win here, mostly because Freeman will outdo Vick in throwing the game.

7. Dallas: 23-20 Win. This will be our 3rd win of the season, which will make us 3-4 and suddenly raise chatter that we’re “discovering our identity”. Ridiculous chatter mostly. We’ll beat Dallas just because half of the time they will play like they’re the worst team in the league. Thank God for Jerry Jones and his absolute ineptitude as an NFL owner.

8. New York: 14-38 Loss. This will be excruciating. David Wilson will derive most of his best career highlights from this game alone.

9. @ Oakland: 10-7 Win. Believe it or not, we will barely win this game for our 4th. At 4-5, people will hold onto hope, however vain.

10. @ Green Bay: 55-14. Yeah, a bad bad blowout. We’ll set a record for yards relinquished in this game.

11. Washington: 17-21 Loss. Another bad loss that we might have pulled out for a win if Vick knew out to play the game of football.

13. Arizona: 22-13 Win. Our 5th and last win of the season.

14. Detroit: 20-42 Loss. Detroit will be unable to beat anyone this year except for us, the league’s worst team.

15. @ Minnesota: 17-35 Loss. Yes, Adrian Peterson should kill us in this one. It’s predictable. I think Ponder will only need to throw about 20 passes in this entire game.

16. Chicago: 10-40 Loss. I like this one to be ugly, injury-marred, and full of penalties. Some Eagles player will have a sideline meltdown with one of the coaches.

17. @ Dallas: 2-25. I think we’ll score a safety in this game… and that’s all folks!

08.27.13

missile strikes and drones

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm by Administrator

earlier this year i wrote about how syria represents a real challenge to America’s foreign policy. as with egypt and just about any other theoretical Middle Eastern nation in revolt, America doesn’t have a clear interest in the syrian power struggle. on the one hand, you have the Assad family, which props Hezbollah and precipitates social unrest in the entire region. on the other hand, you have various Sunni rebel factions including a very powerful Al Qaeda affiliate, none of which have any interest in peace with Israel, partnership with the United States, or secular rule. the thing that America really wants in the Middle East isn’t so much representative democracy as moderate, secular, and stable authority. and while that’s a possibility for Iran in the next decade, that’s a remote possibility for any Arab nation over the next generation.

the matter of chemical weapons has cornered the U.S. no one should be of the illusion that the latest events are now freeing the U.S. to do what it’s wanted to do all along (topple Assad). in fact, the U.S. would prefer to do nothing; but now the use of chemical weapons is forcing Obama to back his previous threats against Syria by exercising military action. and the course that his administration is choosing—remotely launched missile strikes—represents the ultimate tragedy of political judgment: a measure that will inflict terror, incur costs in finances and lives, and accomplish nothing to alter the balance of power on the ground.

i struggle to understand how we have come to the point that we simply condone missile and drone attacks as a matter of normalcy. i see the terms “surgical”, “strike”, and “confirmed kill” used by American internet news outlets to describe these attacks. these terms convey the sense that this manner of warfare is somehow more precise and sanitary, more humane even, than the warfare of prior generations. to kids growing up in this culture, it might even seem like a game. after all, we’re gratuitously fed black-and-white footage of buildings or cars detonating beneath joystick cross-hairs. but all the while, real people in other parts of the world are reeling helplessly beneath the skies, wondering when death will fall on them by chance or by accident. children in these nations are growing up in the constant fear of a sudden trauma that one can neither anticipate or hide from.

missile and drone attacks are to me the very definition of terror. they frighten me more than chemical weapons; in their “precision” and their “remoteness”, they represent the specter of boundless assassination and unrestrained power. but even more frightening to me than their style of destruction is their legacy; because one cannot witness such attacks without being inflamed with a great animosity toward the nation that precipitates them. it is one thing to be murdered by a man who confronts you face to face; but it is evil on another level to be murdered by faceless men who need not confirm whom they incinerate from afar.

much of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has been profoundly disappointing to me, but his licensure of drone and missile attacks is beyond disappointing; it is deeply disturbing. because when war can be considered “effective” or “convenient”, then war has become more than war; it has become our lifestyle, and it has made us evil

08.23.13

the difference between us

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:17 pm by Administrator

i think it has taken me years to admit the ways in which i have become like my father. in relation to him, i’ve always felt decidedly young—young, in the manner of malleability, naivety, and emotionality. he was always the stern and severe man, not above holding grudges, steadfastly judgmental of lesser people. but it struck me the other day, as i was arguing with my wife in front of my children, that i argue the way that he does. in fact, i project many of the things that he once did, suggesting that in many ways i do see the world the way that he does. the more i think about it, the less i can deny the fact that in some fundamental ways, we are strikingly similar.

this of course raises the question of greatest significance to me: will my life become like his?

it’s a troublesome question for me for a few main reasons. even if i avoid judgment on matters that are wholly perceptual, i can state certain things about my father’s life that are undeniably true. he is socially isolated. he has no friendships. he is generally intolerant of people’s company. and he is angry about many things in his past.

having talked with my father about these aspects of his life on many occasions, i can fairly say that he has suffered in various important relationships, leading him to distrust people in general. in particular, i think that my father lacked real affection from his parents; and he never found satisfaction in a love relationship. there is within my father a powerful strain of ardent romanticism, which repeated disappointments have twisted into an embittering and impossible idealism. that romanticism runs in his family; and it has made them stubborn, uncompromising, and highly religious. that romanticism runs in me, as well.

i believe that my father sees that the main difference between himself and me is in the manners of our upbringings. my father sees himself as the victim of an abusive home and a corrupt culture. he sees a direct relationship between the pains of his childhood and the inescapable hostility he feels toward people. in contrast, he views me as a child of privilege, one who has not suffered to that degree. because i grew up in a happier context, i have a more forgiving personality. my father believes me to be, among other things, a generally sanguine character with many friends. while he despairs of my failures as a son, he believes me to be a “bigger vessel”—one capable of loving people.

there is no doubt that there is at least an aspect of truth in the way my father differentiates us. but i’ve always believed that my father has underestimated the extent of my personal suffering. it is true that i did not suffer the parental abuse and the travails of poverty that he did in his youth. but for most of my life, i’ve fought through a psychological burden of my own, one framed by overpowering fears, insecurities, and even depression. and these in turn were the result of something innate to my design.

i’ve come to the conclusion, albeit gradually and with some uncertainty, that my sufferings have not been so categorically different from those of my father, mainly because the thing that has most contributed to our kind of loneliness isn’t something in our environment but rather something within us. it is this terrible romanticism we both share. it is invariably corrupting. and it is deeply ingrained in the way that we see all things.

like my father, do i not struggle against authority? do i not relentlessly resist the expectations of others? are we not identical in our distaste for obsequiousness, to the point that we refuse even to please those that we love? don’t i, like my father, seek victory, even in small contests or in wars of words? don’t i crave like-minded company, and like him do i not find myself inevitably disappointed by the people i associate with? my father despises religion, even as it intrigues him. do i not also loathe the religious instinct within myself, even as i seek to overcome that pride in the pursuit of what i believe to be (a) God? as my father left the church, am i not constantly endeavoring to convince myself that the church is somehow meaningful to me?

like my father, i am built to desire something pure, something incorruptible. but we are by nature fastidious men; we tire easily of other men’s ambitions, and we suspect the evil in every good-looking thing. it takes herculean effort for men like us to adhere to anyone or anything for very long, because when we sense the falseness of something, we experience it as betrayal. it takes all that we are to adapt to the cultures and ideals of other men. as much as we long to build the greatest art imaginable, we are better at destroying what others have made.

i have long suspected that i would come to this point, when i would understand the inexorable direction of my life. i do not feel that my journey is determined; but i understand that to have a different life from my father’s, i must work at it, to fight with all my heart and strength against the isolation that i constantly tend towards. i see it at work in me always: i love people, and i also despise them. God charges me to forgive, to adapt, to change, and to become incorporated into something greater than my individuality. it rips me apart, this work of God, but it’s my only alternative to the fate of my father.

there is one principal difference between us. it does not lie in our upbringings, or in virtue, or in the quality of our hearts. the difference is that i am still young enough to take hold of this life and change. i do want to believe in others. i do want to love. i do want to admit my wrongs and make them right. i have this hope that i can overcome what i am, that i can find myself at the end of this journey and see that i discovered something more than what i expected to become

08.22.13

reflecting on the resurrection of Christ

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:04 pm by Administrator

if you ask me for my opinion on the greatest single moment in all of biblical history, i’d easily have an answer for you: the day that David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the temple of Jerusalem. that was the day that a cloud came over the temple, as a sign that God had truly taken His place among His people. it’s said that David openly danced in front of the people, shameless in his joy. can anyone blame him? it was easily the greatest day in the history of Israel—never again to be duplicated.

if you ask me for my opinion on the second greatest moment in biblical history, i’d also have an easy answer for you. but the odd thing about it is that the second greatest moment should truly be the single greatest moment. it should be considered the single greatest moment by a long shot. but because of the way the moment unravels, and because of the way that it is described in the scripture, it’s a moment that seems far less glorious and interesting than it ought to appear. that moment, of course, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

why in the world did Jesus Christ reappear to men the way that He did? frankly, i find what He did after the resurrection to be absolutely bizarre. first of all, He only revealed Himself to small groups of people. second, He revealed Himself in such a way that only a few people could testify to His resurrection—and without any real proof to show for it. and third, what troubles me most is that He never publicly demonstrated His resurrected form. this just isn’t consistent with the style and mission of a man who made His ministry public, if not sensational, during His whirlwind three-year tour of signs and miracles. you cannot look at the life of Christ before the crucifixion and call Him a shy man, one whose purpose was best served by anonymity. so why then did He choose to make His resurrection such a whimper of a statement?

the cynic in me says that this was just another in a long line of mind games played by Christ. He tricked and confused people with parables throughout His ministry, as if it were plain fun for Him to mislead people. why should it be surprising then that He crafted His single greatest miracle in such a manner as to baffle and antagonize people?

i’m not going to say that the cynic in me is not without some reason. but obviously i haven’t gotten very far in my walk with God by simply being a cynic. the story begs for more reflection.

the romantic in me says that Christ did it this way because He had to. in other words, there was some physical constraint upon His resurrected form that utterly prevented Him from being manifest to people that weren’t believers. the romantic in me believes that Christ always desired to connect with every created man and woman—but sin constrained man from recognizing and relating to God, thus isolating God from His creation.

the problem with that idea is that i don’t really see any expressed wish on Christ’s part to be manifest to the world at large. He does encourage His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit and go out and make disciples of all nations. perhaps it’s implicit that Christ specifically wanted His resurrection to be acknowledged and preached; but it’s not explicit in what He said to his disciples. it’s almost as if He considered His resurrection to be prerequisite to the real miracle (the endowment of God’s spirit) as opposed to being the central miracle in and of itself. in any case, His resurrection certainly became the centerpiece of the gospel preached by the first generation of His disciples, before arguably being supplanted by the Pauline emphasis on Christ’s death and its purpose in atonement.

i think that the truth of Christ’s “subtlety” with regard to His resurrection lies neither in deception nor in necessary constraint. i believe that Christ chose to downplay His resurrection because He aimed to be subservient, even in resurrection, to His primary mission: to reconcile men to God. He viewed His death and resurrection not as proof of God’s sovereignty but rather as the necessary acts to obtain forgiveness for God’s people and to endow them with the Holy Spirit. in other words, Christ’s great ambition was to see God dwell among men again, just as God did on that glorious day that He inhabited His temple in Jerusalem. thus, we see why the Bible, in its literary form and delivery, magnifies the significance of King David’s triumphant day even relative to what ought to be the greater event—a resurrection that proved the reality of life after death.

if there’s something i’ve learned about God from reading the Bible, it’s His exquisite attention to context. God never seeks to outdo Himself; He acts in proportion to Himself at all times. once upon a time, He nearly killed every living thing on this planet. He made a decision after that devastation never to do something like that again—and He hasn’t. once upon a time, God actually dwelt among men, in His holy place. He did it upon invitation; and He did it among a certain people at a very special time. these were the lowest and highest points in human history.

and Christ, in His great measure of creation, saw His life in the context of this history. His interest was not to magnify Himself, to establish Himself as the very pinnacle of creation, but rather to redeem the history and the future of His people. His great miracle, in His mind, was not His restoration to life but rather the resurrection of God’s people—past, present, and future.

08.20.13

My Annual Obligatory and Painful Entry About the Eagles

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:19 pm by Administrator

today, Chip Kelly announced Michael Vick as his starting QB in philly, which finally confirmed to me what i’ve suspected all along. Chip Kelly is a frickin idiot, and his Oregon offense is going to be the laughingstock of the NFL.

i’ve been restraining myself from a tirade all summer, hoping along with every other philly sports writer and fan that we’d finally be able to cut ties with everything broken about andy reid’s prior farce of a “system”. early in training camp, there were optimistic reports that Nick Foles was showing well, while Vick was doing what he usually does—making boneheaded mistakes, missing receivers, and turning over the ball. i was counting Foles’ reps against Vick’s, buying into that undertone of premature confidence from CSN Philly that Kelly was as good as his word, willing to “adapt” to the cards he’d been dealt.

but here we are, at the defining moment of the Eagles’ preseason, and Chip Kelly has chosen a quarterback who fits his system. he’s chosen a quarterback who runs fast and has a nice pop on his throwing motion. he’s chosen a quarterback who has flunked his past two seasons, failed the Eagles in dramatic fashion, and broken the hearts of every fan who dared to be optimistic about the team’s chances last year. i could never forgive Andy Reid for putting Michael Vick at the helm of this team; and i find Chip Kelly’s decision today to be manifestly insulting to the city of Philadelphia. this preseason was not Vick’s audition for the quarterback role; he’s already had two seasons to audition for this role, and he’s proven to lack all the basic instincts and intelligence required of even a second-string quarterback in the NFL.

no one will conclude that Nick Foles is an exceptional talent. but in philadelphia, if we cannot have victory, then at the very least we will satisfy ourselves with justice. Michael Vick has been forgiven one too many times for his multiple transgressions; and this latest act of grace by Chip Kelly is unwarranted. i want Nick Foles starting at QB because, among other things, Michael Vick needs to be punished for the humiliation he brought upon this team and this city. Michael Vick doesn’t deserve this tenth chance at redemption. he deserves to go home and let this team rebuild around guys who haven’t yet let down the fans.

last year i made the grave error of believing the Eagles to be a Super Bowl team, and i won’t make that mistake this year. there’s no way the Eagles pull out even six wins. their defense is going to suck, and Vick will make this an epic year in the annals of futility. we will be calling for Kelly’s head next year, if for no other reason than that he didn’t have balls to adjust his system to the Eagles (and groom a real quarterback in the process). it seems that every year Philadelphia fans are required to forgive incompetence time and time again, and we’ve simply had enough of it. we’re angry because general management lacks balls and eschews accountability. we’re angry because we want justice, if not a shot at the playoffs. we deserved better than Michael Vick this year; and now we’re left with no choice but to start looking ahead to next year’s NFL draft.

forty

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:10 am by Administrator

has it not all come so easily to you?

you were subjected to their testing; and you prevailed. whatever you applied yourself to, you succeeded at. you learned their language, and you spoke it better than they. they adorned you with distinctions, and they called you their own. and others envied you, because while they strove, struggled, and ultimately failed, all of it came easily to you.

even now, you speak things and they listen. you are so facile with words. people listen, and they believe you. how is it, that you can articulate so perfectly the most elusive of things, things that you do not even understand? this is your gift.

but one thing has never come easily to you. a life of obedience to God—this has always been hard. and it only grows more difficult with time. in the world of men, you ascend as if there is no gravity to anchor you; but in your heart, you languish in a great darkness. you expected it to be simple, to confess fealty to the Lord, to commit your life to Him, and to follow Him forever. you never realized that to please the Lord is the true test of your character. it is work—the hardest daily work imaginable. it requires all of you, and it allows for no reservation or hidden weakness.

for forty years, God groomed his prophets and judges; for forty years, He allowed men to rule. for forty years, He forced his people through wilderness, and in forty years, He wiped out an entire generation of men. for forty years too, He has allowed life to come easily to you, in everything but the one thing that most matters. and now, you realize that nothing of any value has come easily at all. the only worthy thing lies in the most arduous of life’s labors. devotion to God is difficult, if not impossible. it has always been difficult, and it will be difficult until the day that you die.

but to obey is better than cheap words or facile tests of wisdom and bravery. don’t be deceived by the spoiled fruit of your lesser endeavors. indeed, it would a grave error to believe that God’s favor is easily won. once, you believed in a religion of free gifts and foregone conclusions, of inevitable success and easy glories. forty years has beaten that religion out of your bones. you will devote yourself to God, and you will fail. despite your greatest efforts, your nights of wanting, your days of striving, you will fail, again and again and again. the tree will be unyielding; and you will not get what you want. still, you will pursue the Lord, and He will draw you onward, not even permitting you the edge of His robe, the touch of His finger. you will cry out that your body is broken and your lungs are burning for air, and yet He will remain beyond your reach.

and all through it, He will ask you, as He has always asked you, what it is that you truly desire, in your heart of hearts. is your heart for me, He will ask. your words, the words that come so easily to you, will desert you then, and all you will have is your leaden legs, your crying eyes, your pathetic strength in tiny fists balled up with yearning. are you devoted to me, He will ask over His shoulder, and you will long to say the words that matter, but He will not hear them. because the language He understands, the language you have yet to learn, is the language of long-suffering, the language of limitless loyalty—that language of love.

your forty years have all been in vain, but for this one lesson. to be devoted to God is the hardest thing you have ever sought to become. it will never come easily to you. so then, let this labor bend your spine and curl your fingers and set your brow to unrelenting furrows. let this labor crush your body and your mind, until you learn to beg and to pray on your hands and your knees. that is worship, you spoiled child, you foolish son of this fallen age. speak no more, and set yourself to love. only this can be said: that there is still hope for you

08.16.13

depending on god

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:03 pm by Administrator

i look at my thoughts during my day. i look at the thoughts i have when i awaken, and the thoughts that i have when i go to bed. i look at the sum of the things that go through my mind over the course of the day. and it makes me wonder: what is it about my thoughts that proves that i depend on God in everything? does my manner of thinking prove that i rely on God to survive?

my latest reflections on prayer have gotten me thinking about the real dyssynchrony between what i tell God in prayer and what i show in my life. when i pray, i confess to God my absolute jealousy for His favor; my longing to be free of sin; my wish to be a vessel of His desires and plans for His people. but when i live, i live on my own strength. i carry on as anyone else would, judging the value of things as others would. this isn’t to say that i can readily see evil and hatred in my thoughts and actions. but i am worldly, in that i thoroughly understand the culture of my time, i allow it to shape me, and i am deft at interposing myself within society to gain advantage. i am highly functioning, cultured, and respected for my gifts. but in my heart, i am lying to God.

there have been five poignant moments in the last ten years of my life during which God indelibly placed His mark on my life. they were moments of intense humiliation and failure, each building upon the one before, each convincing me more and more deeply of the death that was inherent to my way of thinking. i have steadily and profoundly deepened in my conviction that i truly need God, in His daily saving grace, to sustain my life. everything within me constantly veers toward sin; it takes more than what i am to redirect my life, to restrain me from destroying myself and others. i have realized over this past decade that the salvation of Christ was not simply a one-and-done ticket to heavenly afterlife, sealed by my words of confession. salvation is my daily deliverance from the jaws of death, imminently and constantly necessary in the face of the world’s constant surge toward a collective and absolute rejection of God.

why then is it so frustratingly difficult for me to hold on to this very simple truth? why, when the trials relent, do i settle back into a mode of compromise, placating God through prayer on the one hand, while seeking advantage if not personal glory on the other? indeed i am convinced that God is very real. am i then similarly convinced that God can be deceived? do i believe that i can negotiate His expectations and those of the world, such that i can have everything—His favor, people’s favor, His power, personal power, His wealth, and my own wealth? is my faith simply a hedged bet against all the uncertainty and opportunity that life offers?

this is the battle that faith demands. i cannot serve two masters. i know this, even when i do not acknowledge it. God calls to me to choose my master, and to serve one or the other with all my heart. if i choose to serve Him, then i must remember with all my heart, mind, and strength who He is and who our enemies really are. my moments should be marked by utter devotion, not for the sake of appearing devoted, but for the sake of my salvation, and for the deliverance of myself and my people. the persecution of the principalities is imminent and real; i of all people ought to be able to attest to this, having seen and understood what the great institutions of our time really represent at their core. i will not serve the spirit of this time. i was called to a different purpose, to stand against the logic and wisdom of this world and to embrace something that the world rejects as folly: the singular, divine, and absolutely sufficient lordship of Jesus Christ, the only savior of mankind.

save me God from my twisted and worldly thinking. today, among other days, rescue me from the terror and the destruction of our times. spare me the fate of the world. beyond this, redeem my life; let it be of real value to you and to your kingdom. spur me on toward a godly life, one defined by devotion, that i may enjoy your favor to the fullest, and that your people may prosper on account of my obedience. let me do the good works you’ve planned for me, that when the day of judgment comes, i may stand justified, because i obeyed, and because i lived that sanctified life. let me conform to your way of thinking, that my waking thoughts and my sleeping thoughts may be of you, of your kingdom, of your deliverance in the present, and of your deliverance that is yet to come. my life, every day, hinges on you.

make this prayer not merely a prayer. make it my life. i am a hypocrite and a fool. don’t let me live the rest of my life this way.

08.15.13

why can’t football be like WWE?

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:28 pm by Administrator

last year, i wrote about my increasing ambivalence toward NFL football. on the one hand, it’s an exciting game because of its fast pace and sheer physicality. on the other hand, it’s an inhumane game for the very same reasons. it’s not just the concussions and their decades of severe after-effects that trouble me. it’s the way that young football players are thrown into games, beaten up, and then cast off like broken parts. in between the lines of every training camp news story are the untold lives of men pining for the big money of their peers, breaking themselves apart to have just a piece of that financial security—and then falling just short of the next cut, with nothing in life to fall back on. there’s deep hollowness and tragedy imbedded in the business of the NFL, because it’s a high stakes game, and because it consumes lives.

it makes me wonder: if the NFL could orchestrate safe, soft-contact games with predetermined outcomes, and the public didn’t know the difference, wouldn’t it be better for all, in the end? if the NFL took care of all of its drafted young men, regardless of their success, simply because they are participants in this beloved game, would the game be worse for it?

it amazes me that pro wrestling of the WWE variety is still so popular. it’s theatrics. it’s bluster and bravado, but the victories are real, and the matchups are nevertheless compelling, and it makes a lot of money for the people involved. pro wrestlers don’t die in that ring; they don’t put their health and future at risk when they play-act for the public. most football fans would be indignant at the idea that NFL football could ever be a choreographed product like pro wrestling. but i question where that indignation comes from. is it because the essence of football lies in its pain, its risk to self, and its punishing treatment of young men who have been groomed for ruthlessness? is it because we the fans are sadists at our core, no different from the spectators of the Roman era who delighted in the public torture and death of disenfranchised men?

there’s sickness in it—in our delight at the hard hits, the heads smacking on turf, the bleeding from limbs, the breaking of ribs. it’s sick not simply because we view it as the essence of the game. it’s sick because we are willing to take some responsibility for what happens to these men, when they stop bouncing back from injury when they fall from glory, when they can’t walk or feed themselves anymore. we pay the ticket price to watch life imperiled, shortened, and broken, one play at a time. when the ball crosses the goal line, we assume that the players are as ecstatic as we are, overwhelmed by the delight of the game. we forget that they’re thinking about life—about staying alive, about making that paycheck, and about making it one more year, on a field that is trying to devour them alive.

the NFL can’t be WWE because we are cruel, and because we sanction cruelty of a kind, and because the game of football captures a certain kind of battle in life that we cannot win. every time a boy loses himself, his career, or his life, we die inside, whether we know it or not. it’s America’s game. it’s the way we make heroism out of ugliness, and it’s the emptiness we are left with, at the end of the game

08.12.13

Is life spiritual? The case for spiritual disciplines

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:11 pm by Administrator

i sometimes have to ask myself if i really believe that my life is spiritual in nature.

on the one hand, it’s very easy for me to say that everything is spiritual. that sort of a statement is almost convenient nowadays. but when it comes down to life’s individual moments, i don’t think that way. if i get sick, i assume that the problem is physical. if i lose sleep because of stress, i assume the problem is psychological. if i muddle through bad moods and poor motivation, i look for work-related or social factors.

and because i don’t really look at my issues and problems as spiritual, i don’t necessarily seek spiritual solutions to my troubles. though i pray as a natural response to personal struggle, i don’t pray consistently or persistently. my expectations regarding the outcome of prayer are vague and indistinct, suggesting to me that prayer largely serves a psychological need for me. it is my way of collecting my thoughts, seeking comfort, and imposing order on troubling uncertainties.

i occasionally see contrasting examples of discipleship, particularly among older Korean believers. my mom for instance invests a lot of time and energy into prayer. while i respect that, i have a hard time understanding that sort of discipline. why do “prayer warriors” pray so ardently? do they believe that their prayers can change God’s mind? do they believe that prayer will accelerate their spiritual transformation?

i feel that the apostle Paul did try to convince his peers that life is fundamentally spiritual. on this foundation, he made a case for “spiritual disciplines”, which he likened to physical disciplines such as exercise. obviously, he stopped short of exalting discipline for the sake of discipline, as Paul had to toe that delicate line between hedonism on one hand and Jewish legalism on the other. but inasmuch as he could advocate for a structured, disciplined life, Paul urged this manner of devotion, for purity and for the proper discernment of God’s will.

because i struggle to perceive life as a fundamentally spiritual thing, i struggle to evaluate the economy of my actions and their consequences through a Pauline lens. for me, with regard to praxis, the Christian ideological paradigm is a macro structure, a set of organizing principles. it is a paradigm that can be useful for guiding specific decisions—but only in very specific situations. for instance, if my baby tumbles down the stairs, hits her head, and falls unconscious, i would not search the Bible for the appropriate course of action; i would check her vital signs, call 9-1-1, and panic, in that order. i process the majority of life’s business in this fashion. it is infrequent when i assume that prayer will illuminate something new about an issue that seems manifest through other means.

is this a fatal flaw in my spiritual journey? and do i need to revisit my understanding of the significance of prayer, among other spiritual disciplines? i wonder if my frequent frustrations, occasional depressions, and underlying cravings for personal importance are reflections of repressed spiritual illness, exacerbated by a total lack of spiritual discipline. do i need to take issue with the very specific brand of materially-based rationalism i have absorbed from my cultural milieu? does God require that i consecrate myself by reclaiming my life as something that is thoroughly spiritual? and if all this is true, then how do i come to view my religion as something more practical, basic, and intimate than a grand metanarrative? how do i truly believe, despite all of my assumptions to the contrary, that what i experience from day to day is meant to be transcendent?

how i struggle to juggle all the ideologies and theologies that have been forced on me… i really do not understand how i am to live. i think it insane and idiotic when i hear the stories of Christian families that refuse to bring their sick children to a doctor. and yet i find it sad when i see that the religion of our time is often evidenced by little more than occasional charity and a social affiliation with a Sunday church. i sense that God wishes me to consider Him as a distinct, immediate presence who is very much interested in the minute to minute workings of my mind. but i don’t see Him; i can’t hear Him; i can’t feel Him. He’s left me here to fend for myself, and it’s all i can do to maneuver through all the traffic lights and rules of the world i have inherited. what’s the meaning of prayer? i think i’ll know someday—when prayer is the only way left to me, and when that prayer is undeniably and overwhelmingly answered, in God’s way

08.09.13

the sound

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:56 pm by Administrator

outside my office, a woman is moaning loudly in the hallway. she makes guttural noises. it disrupts the customary background hum that i’m accustomed to, and of course i’m annoyed.

now she erupts into a wordless song with an unfamiliar melody. her voice continues to rise and fall in an odd, unsettling rhythm. it is not a pleasant song. she is singing too loudly to be ignored.

a baby cries out, and she shifts back into the rhythmic moaning. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah. Over and over again. now i’m unable to do any work. i put my head down and close my eyes, hearing this voice echo up and down the hall, wondering if someone is going to open his door and complain.

but no one does. she keeps up the noise, walking down the hallway toward my office. she turns and walks away, the wordless, atonal, guttural sounds following her down another hallway.

the baby cries out again, just briefly. i imagine the baby listening to this terrible attempt at a lullaby. it is oddly mesmerizing, in its own way. there is something hypnotic about this ordinary voice and its brazen attempt at song. i realize that i am not so irritated as i was before. just minutes before, it was a terrible distraction to me. now i am listening to it, and i find it neither pleasant nor unpleasant. i let it be. my thoughts move to other things. to this writing.

nowadays, i have impressions. they’re not even real feelings, that’s how quickly they recede from their imprint. i see now that everything inside is the perfect reflection of everything on the outside. on the outside, there are all these innumerable things that seem to have shape or sound, but they are all moving, flickering, disappearing, and reappearing. i can’t make sense of them, not rationally. but if i listen long enough, i can imagine that there are patterns. i might hear them the way another might hear them. like a child.

on the one hand, it’s ugly. on the other hand, it’s natural, and it’s not so bad. inside too, there are these patterns. i have my seasons. they are guttural sounds. they well up from the root of my being, and even if i do not open my mouth, i am full of their churning, lurching, anguishing melodies. these things aren’t meant for beauty. they are simply the living: the things we are left with when we find ourselves in an empty hallway with a crying baby, or, in my case, with a lonely soul.

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