Musings, Nits, and Praises: January 2007

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

For Anyone Who Hates Duke Men's Basketball as much as I Do

On the ESPN message boards this morning, I came across the following parody of Dick Vitale praising Duke's victory last night against Clemson--a win that was replete with some apparent home-cooking for the Blue Devils. Thanks to lloydjack (his ESPN user name) for a good laugh:

Hey hoops fans, D1ckie V here with some thoughts on tonight's unbelievable action! It was another classic finish at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Ah, how many does that make it? There have been so many nail biter finishes that Maalox should invest in a courtside advertisement, right there between those classy State Farm and Verizon boards!

But getting back to the game, I was so impressed by the play on both sides. Clemson's players really showed a lot of heart, especially the kid - whatever his name is - who hit that trifecta to tie it with seconds to play. I was sure we were heading to OT city, but, once again, the Dukies surprised us.

And it all started with, guess who, Coach Michael Krzyzewski. Did you notice what he did? Right after McRoberts delivered that perfect bounce pass to the Clemson player, and right after that three hit nothing but nylon, he had the presence of mind to walk to the scorer's table and tell them how much time to add to the clock. He stated his case like the professional that he is, and, presto - chango, the old stadium clock was right back to 4.4. That's what you call situational awareness, baby! It's taking clock management to the next level! And the really amazing thing was how this proved to be exactly how much time the Dukies needed for their winning shot! I mean, it was right down to the tenth of a second! What prescience, what precision, what presence of mind! He's the three P man, baby! That's what you call basketball IQ, my friends! The man is a flat-out genius, a true legend of the game! Ah, why can't I be more like Coach K? It's just not fair baby!

And what an incredible finish it was! The whole sequence brought back memories of that 1972 Olympics gold medal game! You know, where Team USA thought we had it in the bag? That is until the officials realized the Ruskies deserved additional time on the clock. Then it was heartbreak hotel, just like it was for the Tigers tonight! Both games just show the great competitive spirit that is the hallmark of basketball!

Now I know a lot of people are complaining that too much time was put back on the clock. And, sure, it might have taken longer than .6 seconds for a player to catch a pass, set, square up, release the shot, and have the rock travel twenty feet through the air in an upward arc. But I?m here to tell you, it is a moot point, baby! Why? Because officials are human beings, and they make mistakes. It's all part of the game, my friends. And, really, was that decision any worse than the missed goal-tend when the game hero, Mr. McClure, swiped a Clemson shot off the rack? Of course not! Was it any worse than the multiple missed push-offs by Mr. Paulus? No way!

Yes, my friends, the human element is part of what makes this game so great. It's second only to passion. And speaking of which, did you see the way the Dukies celebrated with such class and composure after that game winner? Did you notice what a classy human mass they assembled there on the court? Did you see how high Coach K jumped with his artificial hip? Did you see his fist pumping? That's what you call a passion to win, my friends. I only hope those Virginia Tech players watched this game so that they will know how to celebrate with class in the future.

Ah, is there any reason why I love this game so?!!

Faith of Faith-Part II (not quite yet)

Ok, so I said I would further develop my Faith of Faith installment on Sunday or Monday. Today is Tuesday, and I'm no closer to having the energy to craft something moderately eloquent than I was the past two days--grading research papers has drastically attenuated my thinking this week. I promise I will muster the brain power to write a conclusion to last week's entry. But until then, I invite you to check out the entry entitled "Christian Evidences" from January 15th on Mike Cope's blog:

*I couldn't get blogger's "insert link" to work properly. Go figure. It's always such a reliable blog program.

The Faith of Faith

What I'm going to address in this thread I've been mulling over for some time, but this evening after reading Mike Cope's blog ( concerning Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation, an atheistic challenge to Christianity, I decided I'd finally make an effort to share my recent musings.

To put it concisely, we (Christians) need to admit there's a possibility that we're wrong. Now, before anyone accuses me of promoting relativism or losing my faith, let me make it perfectly clear that I'm not. I believe that God exists, that Christ is the Son of God, and that He was crucified, buried, and resurrected in order to save mankind from sin. However, although I feel like there are valid, defensible reasons for holding those beliefs, I also know that those reasons alone do not prove what I believe is true. My faith isn't a blind, unfounded clutching for meaning, but it's faith just the same. I can't prove the validity of my faith claims in the same way I can prove some empirical matter--say, like that I'm sitting in a chair right now. (Of course, if one wanted to wax philosophically, he could question how I can really know that I'm sitting in a chair, that there's such things as chairs, or whether it's not simply an illusion of my senses. But I digress.)

Now, at this point, someone who is reading this post may be thinking, "But if we admit the possibility that we might be wrong, then we have no defense against secularism/naturalism/Neo-Darwinism/materialism (pick whatever term you like)." I believe admitting the limitations of our understanding leads us to a more compassionate approach to our fellow human beings to whom we're trying to show the light of Christ. As it stands now in Western culture, we seem to hold a very decided "us v. them" mentality, with the "them" being non-believers who are bent on nothing less than undermining Christianity, spitting in the face of God, and genuflecting at the throne of individualism, moral relativity, and nihilism. What a ridiculous overgeneralization! Although there are certainly some atheists who fit such a description, particularly some in academia and the scientific community, it's as woefully eggregious to paint all of them with such a broad stroke as it is to paint all Christians as uber-right-wing wackos that destroy abortion clinics or wish death upon homosexuals. The truth is that atheists (yes, even arrogant, vitriolic ones) ultimately want the same things any human wants--to know the purpose of life. "Ah, Jason, wait just a minute!" you say. "How can anyone look at the universe and not see God's fingerprints all over it?" I suspect the answer to the question is that it's a lot easier than we think. First of all, despite living in post-modern culture, we're still very much awash, particularly in education, in Enlightment-influenced thinking--the only things true in the world are those I can detect/observe/measure empirically. Obviously God doesn't fit into such perameters.

"Yes, Jason, but what about the evidences? The evidences!" As I noted earlier, I don't think our faith is a blind, wild grasping for meaning; there are plenty of things in the world (and the universe) that one can examine and make a reasonable case for God's existence. However, could we please not act as if the evidences we point to are irrefutable proofs of God that only vehement God-haters could deny? Allow me to give a couple of examples of our stock evidences and, in turn, what I believe to be reasonable questions regarding them:

1) Christian: "Something doesn't come from nothing. The universe couldn't have created itself. It's illogical to believe there isn't a Creator."

Non-believer: "Is it any less illogical to assume that an eternal, omnipotent spiritual being living outside of our space and time (And what did He do prior to creating the universe?) created our physical universe?"

2) Christian: "There's design in the universe, and that's evidence of a Designer. Plus, Earth is the only place suitable for life to survive."

Non-believer: "Given the immeasurable size of the universe and the innumerable galaxies within it, is it not possible that one planet would have conditions suitable to life simply by chance?"

I'm not suggesting such "evidences" are feckless, just that we shouldn't assume people that don't arrive at the same conclusions we do are either illogical or God-hating. And, as long as I'm talking about Christian evidences, why do so many Christians expend so much time attempting to refute evolution? First, although there are parts of Neo-Darwinism that beg for support and others that seem next to impossible without a guiding hand (God), to dismiss the concept as implausible seems more than a bit silly. Furthermore, the important issue isn't "how" life came about, but "why"--did God create life or did life arise from natural causes? A popular Christian catchphrase in the U.S. is "Don't try to put God in a box." I agree. So why are some Christians unflinching when it comes to acknowledging that God may have brought life about on our planet through evolution? We're certainly in no position to tell God how to be God. (*** Note--I thoroughly endorse good Christian apologetics, but I believe good Christian apologetics extends much further than looking for scientific proofs of our faith.)

Okay, so if scientic evidences fail to prove faith, where do we turn? Personal testimonials. I admit I find it quite encouraging to hear Christians who weren't raised in Christian families talk about the way becoming a Christian completely changed their lives. In addition, I take comfort when I hear Christians share stories of answered prayers. However, such testimonials stand as "proof" more to the person sharing his/her personal experience than to those who hear them. Yes, there's no denying that becoming Christian changes one's life, but one doesn't have to look hard to find Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. who will speak of how their faith changed their lives. And, as for testimonials of answered prayers, they aren't necessarily even "proof" to fellow Christians. For example, how much confidence in the faithfulness and love of God can someone who, after much prayer, loses a loved one derive from someone else's story of how a prayer for healing was answered?

Well, I need to tend to some preparations for school tomorrow and then hit the hay. Sometime in the next few days--probably Sunday or Monday--I'll wrap up the thoughts I've begun here, positing two approaches to sharing, though not proving our faith in an empirical sense, with non-Christians that we have to look no further than the Bible itself to find.

The Breakdown

Our Christmas break had been incredibly enjoyable--ten days visiting my family in Hagerstown, MD, dinner with two friends from high school, breakfast with a mentor from high school, two days in Virginia with friends, and even a stop by Duke University to take a picture of me in my Maryland Terrapins sweatshirt pretending to vomit at the sight of a Duke sign. Yes, our holiday had indeed been merry. Then came the breakdown.

Actually, it wasn't really a breakdown. The car didn't stop inexplicably (well, it did stall once, but then I was able to start it again and drive some more); no smoke or flames shot out from under the hood. It was more of a TKO than a KO. As we were nearing Asheville, NC, I noticed the check oil light had come on. Not too concerned, I pulled off at a gas station to check the oil, and I found the car still had plenty. On top of that, the engine temperature gauge had been normal, and the car had been running well. But doubting my automotive know-how (hey, I can pump gas, check oil, add wiper fluid, and change a tire--ok, so there's probably good reason to doubt), my wife called her dad for a second opinion. At the time I was delighted that Dave reaffirmed my assertion that it was probably just a problem with the electronics. When we started driving again, the oil light didn't come back on, and we were back on course to make it home before Dick Clark's 133rd annual Rockin' New Year's Eve. But we didn't get far before the light came back on, so we stopped at a gas station in Asheville. The guy working there checked everything I had checked, and said he didn't know what was causing the light to come on. Since nothing appeared wrong with the car (my wife's Rav 4), we headed off again. This time we didn't drive three blocks before the oil light AND the check engine light came on. We drove back to the gas station, where the attendent called several local auto repair shops, but they had all closed for the holiday. That's when we called Dave a second time. I was less than thrilled at the thought of trying to find a hotel and/or a repair shop, so I was delighted when he said he'd risk driving home (again, the car appeared to be running fine at this point). Janet was reluctant to continue traveling, and apparently she possesses some sort of female automotive intuition because we hadn't gotten far into Tennessee when the car stalled on I-40. To our amazement, though, I managed to start the car on the first try, and we were back on our way. At this point it was abundantly clear something was wrong with the vehicle, though. When I pulled into the Citgo in the metropolis of Hartford, we couldn't help but notice a loud clicking noise coming from the engine. Bad sign.

We managed to get a hold of someone at a nearby auto shop/towing company to come take a look at the car. After he took a look at the car and listened to the engine, he said he'd have to tow it to the shop and that the mechanics would look at it the next day. Ughh. So while many people were enjoying New Year's Eve festivities with friends and family, we were wedged into a tow truck, along with our dog, on the way to a Motel 6 in Newport, TN.

Any hope of getting home soon was dashed the next day when the mechanic at the auto shop told us the car would require some extensive engine repairs. Ah, a splendid start to 2007! Fortunately, Janet's vehicle is covered under a powertrain warranty, so we elected to have a Toyota dealership do the repairs rather than promise our first born to the folks in Hartford. But since it was New Year's Day and no dealerships were open, we had to wait until the next day to have the car towed to a dealership in Knoxville (cue up U2 -- "Everything's crappy on New Year's Day!"). Without any way to get around town (not that Newport is too exciting, but the Smokies are wonderful), we watched college bowl games well into the wee hours of the night--Boise State!

After towing the car to Knoxville on the 2nd and renting a car, we finally resumed our trip home and made it back by early evening. It's now Friday, and we haven't heard anything from the dealership in Knoxville. I'm hoping no news is good news and they're at work repairing the car, but given Sunday and Monday's misadventures, I'm not holding my breath.

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