Originally written on March 2, 2008. Worth a repost today because I got the chance to sing worship songs in front of the general populace for the first time in several years, and I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed it. With thanks to everyone involved in worship at Connect Rome for putting this “mini choir” together…

I hit a strange point in my Christian life very early on, when I started going to a Vineyard church in graduate school. Every young Christian believes that we’ve going to grow up in the faith forever, and that getting to know God is going to be absolutely wonderful all the time, and is completely mystified when he begins to run into roadblocks and starts to struggle to find people going through the same thing as him, and starts to gradually but surely feel alone – without even God beside him.

And obviously, when I say “he” I really mean “me.”

Many people who know me also know that this was also the time my Usenet geekdom was at its peak; several people know me BECAUSE this was the time of my life when my Usenet geekdom was at its peak. And going through some really sweet stuff over the past month brought back to mind an old rec.music.christian thread about worship music – and the exchange between me and a guy named Michael Straight.

My complaint in that thread boiled down to this:

my question, to all the praise and worship types, and to vineyard types in particular, is this: what is the purpose, the vision, or whatever, of those who write vineyard worship music? obviously, the ultimate purpose is to provide songs to worship the Lord with. but a lot of the songs elicit personal responses…to pick examples that i’m familiar with, “light the fire” really doesn’t strike me as a worship song at all, but a prayer. (in my mind, at least, there is a SIGNIFICANT difference.) the chorus of “his banner over me” has a line about “we can feel the love of God in this place” (that may not be quite right) which, i feel, is lying to God if you don’t feel the love of God in that place. stuff like that. what’s the point of putting lines reflecting human emotions that one may or may not feel into a worship song that’s supposed to glorify God?

i realize those who write worship songs for the vineyard aren’t the only people guilty of this, but vineyard songs are the ones that strike me as having this characteristic most often.

Michael came back with an absolutely gracious response, one of the kindest and sweetest in my long and distinguished history of Usenet bickering, that clobbered me between the eyeballs:

I’m not a Vinyard member, but I went to one of their kinship groups in college and really enjoyed their music. I guess that one could take the attitude that “if I’m not glad to be singing, it’s hypocracy to sing a song that says I am” or whatever the emotion is that the song in question talks about. But I always kind of took those songs as a reminder that, no matter how down I might be about life, at rock bottom I do have something to be happy about and it’s not hypocracy to be legitimately upset at the bad things happening in my life but also taking some time to celebrate and be happy about what God has done.

Its sort of like my attitude about communion. Someone who comes from a tradition that takes communion infrequently asked me once if I refrain from taking communion some Sundays when my heart isn’t right (refering to Paul’s admonition in 1Corinthians). I told her that, yes I have refrained once or twice, but I usually see communion as a time to get right with God, not something I can only participate in after I’ve gotten my life together.

The same goes for worship. There’s an old hymn with the line “You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices.” If you’re not happy, if you’re not feeling good about God’s love, it’s worth some effort to try to be happy and feel good about these things. Sorrow and pain are legitimate emotions to bring to God, but I think sometimes it’s good to make an effort to realize and be glad about who God is and what he’s done for us.

All that is to say that, for me, I took those songs as expressing what I ought to feel, what I’d like to feel, and what I frequently did feel when I let myself think about who God is and how much I owe him and how it’s just right to get excited about him, no matter what’s going on in my life.

I honestly wanted to rip Michael to shreds for that post, because I didn’t like the idea of pretending to be happy when everybody around me was pretending to be happy and all you fakes can just go away now because I’m the guy here who has the REAL problems and the REAL struggles and there’s no way you can tell me that what I’m going through doesn’t deserve a hearing…

…but as I read and re-read Michael’s words, I began to see that he wasn’t talking about any of that. He point-blank said that “sorrow and pain are legitimate emotions to bring to God”, but he was proposing something else as well – that it wasn’t right to DELIBERATELY CHOOSE to remain in those emotions. God is worthy to be praised. God is worthy to be glorified. God is worthy to have me get over my own stupid self if my own stupid self is getting in the way of him doing his thing.

If you don’t feel the words “we can feel the love of God in this place”, then SEEK to feel them. God’s love is worth it.

There is a lot I’ve had to be angry about as 2007 has turned into 2008. Instead of deliberately running away from God, though, as I really was trying to do in my younger self, I have begun to seek out God’s love in less obvious places, in people I wouldn’t ordinarily be in contact with, and focus on God instead of my anger. One of those less obvious places turns into worship with astonishing regularity these days, and it’s really sweet.

And we sang a song on Friday night that I haven’t been able to stop singing all day.

And – wouldn’t you know it – it’s a Vineyard song. And it’s one that plays more like a prayer than as a worship song – not that the difference is that big of a deal anyway.

It’s 14 years late – but thanks, Michael, for bringing the word. I still hear it, and I still need to hear it.

(Permalink for – shock, horror! – a worship video.)

(And, on January 30, 2011, a double bonus permalink for – double shock, double horror! – another worship video.)

Edited on 8 March 2014 to fix linkrot for re-linking on social media.

Bowl Mania (of the crystal football variety)

Text from my friend, Model High School soccer coach/history teacher and Rome, Georgia trivia king James Schroeder, midday yesterday:

so what happens when power is lost in alabama on monday, or even across the south. what would people do about the game? all hell would break loose

My reply:

Prepare yourself for a picture of a bunch of sad Auburn fans in a sports bar, crowded around an iPhone, praying the battery holds out.

It doesn’t look like that’s played out. Everybody has gotten their day off, and all the TV’s are on and getting hyped for a BCS title game.

(Hey, how about a shout-out to the power and telephone utilities? Snow and ice all around the region, and the number of news stories about lost power have been all but nil. 6500 customers in Georgia without power at some point over the course of the day. That’s it. There are a lot more than 6500 houses in Georgia. I’ve been doing advising of students from home while my driveway has been iced in, and relying on my fat DSL pipe and household power that hasn’t even wavered. This has been an unimaginably good day.)

Yes, Mamoo, this is THE game. I love TCU, but these have been the best teams all year; a deserving title tilt.

So how will it play out? Here are some tips, and I feel pretty good about this one, clip and save:

  • The game will be characterized by – get this – DEFENSES early. I mean, Thomas will throw two picks, and Newton will throw one, and there will be a clear shout for a second. You might even see a safety in the first half.
  • The offenses will get going by the second quarter, though, and as has been true all season, when the offenses get going downhill it will be difficult for these defenses to answer.
  • Watch for Chip Kelly to try the early two-point conversion once Oregon gets on the board. I’m trying to figure out how he might do it, though, it’s like Kelly empties his play-book on two-point tries…the only thing I don’t think he’s done is fake a point-after kick and option to the kicker. Maybe he’ll do something like that.
  • Safety, two-point conversion…yeah, I think there will be a weird halftime score. 16-11, say?
  • Nick Fairley will be a jerk. This isn’t much of a prediction, honestly.
  • The game will be uneven. There will even be a somewhat controversial replay towards the end where the Oregon players think the play is done and stop playing – they’ll even fool Auburn into stopping as well, and that’s the point where TCU will start trending on Twitter because the TCU defense would have tackled that son of a gun.
  • Brent Musberger will trend higher, primarily complaining about his overexcited announcing. He will make at least one spectacular gaffe that sends the Twittersphere through the roof. Again, not much of a prediction.
  • I have said all season that Cam Newton has been more Terrelle Pryor than Terrelle Pryor. It will be true again tonight. Key throws AND key runs for first downs, and Auburn will be in command late.
  • Terrelle Pryor doesn’t always win games for Ohio State.
  • Nor will Cam Newton win this one. The player of the game, for Auburn, will be Michael Dyer…and, when Oregon pulls even late, it will be a Dyer run that sets up the gamewinner. Yes, I’m flip-flopping my pick again; hopefully the third time will be the charm. AUBURN 22, OREGON 19.

Enjoy the title game!

I had this written early this afternoon, but between the advising that I was doing and the snow-shoveling I did late, I completely forgot to send this around. Holy cow, that was incredible, wasn’t it? All the way down to the LAST-SECOND game-winning field goal.

And I finally hit a score exactly right, and I finally hit a second-guess!

Now, nobody’s going to believe me, because I didn’t get the pick out in time. But I swear to you, I had a feeling about this one. I mean, I’m in the midst of ESS EEE SEE country, I finally had to come to the conclusion that I was picking with my heart and I needed to get with my head.

Congratulations to Auburn on their title…

…and congratulations to Uncle Dave and Aunt Alice on their thrilling comeback! Uncle Dave hit SIX straight to finish the competition, Aunt Alice five of six and the three she needed…Matt, sympathies on the run-in but well done early to get your share.

(And only those three finished with a winning record on the pick-em on 19-16…I was next in the table on 17-18!)

Happy New Year to all!

Bowl Mania (of the OMG WHEN DOES THIS SEASON END variety)

The complaint that the bowl season is too long is well-established.

And, to be perfectly honest, when I decided that I was going to blog my bowl pick-’em this season, this is the one element of the system that I didn’t think to take into account.

Why didn’t I have a post in time for the GoDaddy.com Bowl? I could crack the funny that it was because there was a Sun Belt team playing, and to draw any attention to that game would be to draw attention to the fact that I made a big deal about the Sun Belt Conference being the worst Football Bowl Subdivision conference in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and here they’ve gone 2-0 thus far. (And yet MTSU still lost last night – once again demonstrating that downplaying my picks is contributing to my stellar pick-’em record in the closedown.)

Why didn’t I have a post in time for the GoDaddy.com Bowl? Because I’m at work, and when I’m done with work, I’m tired. (And, last night, literally, I watched the GoDaddy.com Bowl from work.)

This is not what I signed on for in bowl season. It’s a holiday diversion, not a diversion that carries past when I’m back doing school work.

As if I need to complain about one more thing that’s totally broken about college football in the new decade, your must-read for the day is Stewart Mandel’s SI.com article about Oregon’s mandatory study halls in the midst of practice for the BCS Championship Game. This is necessary because Oregon has been in school for most of this work. Oregon got their full Christmas break, and then they’re in Glendale practicing while the rest of their mates are in class.

I don’t think this is how the system is supposed to work. Corresponding politicizing will not be done this post, but it is absolutely implied.

But since burying the lede on my picks has worked so well this week, I’m going to continue to practice doing so and see if I can continue to finish strong.

Yeah, those words are a little unsettling, aren’t they? Get your TV on ESPN2 now if you forgot they were playing this thing; the I-AA title games are always good, clean fun. Eastern Washington had more than a little bit of home-field advantage in their bracket and dealt with more than their share of snow; Delaware had a slightly softer half of the bracket. This game is being played in Frisco, Texas (at FC Dallas’ Pizza Hut Park, may God bless corporate sponsorship), so weather shouldn’t be much of an issue here. Both teams are quality but I’m thinking Eastern Washington is a little more battle-tested.

(That’s as definitive a pick as I get.)

Bowl advocates who moan about the extra games in a playoff system, please note: Both these teams to date have only played 14 games. Make it work, dang it.


LSU (10-2) v TEXAS A&M (9-3)
Yeah, yeah, it’s the Cotton Bowl but it’s not being played in the Cotton Bowl, yadda yadda. We’ve already dealt with this. What I want to know is: who ordered the I-AA title game to be competing with the bowl game at JerryWorld at the same time IN THE SAME DANG TV MARKET? The casual fan of course will be watching LSU run riot over an improved but still inferior Texas A&M, but us geeks are not going to be paying a LICK of attention to this game.


I had a thought of trying to get a ticket to this game, honestly. I don’t care if it’s falling down, I love Legion Field; some of my favorite experiences watching soccer have come there. It would be neat to watch a football game there. (Think about that statement for a moment. I’m not kidding, either. I drove to Birmingham to watch the United States punk Guatemala 2-0 in their hardest home match in second-round qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. It was a blast.)

And it wouldn’t be watching Alabama, but watching an ascendant Kentucky team with far and away the best player on the field in Randall Cobb against a reeling and demoralized Pitt program would be classic SEC-denfreude.


I really, REALLY want to know what marketing genius came up with this name. Or this matchup. You know what? I don’t think even I can mess up this pick; Nevada’s comeback against Boise State demonstrated they are legitimate Top-10 fodder, and I honestly don’t know what Boston College has been doing since Matt Ryan went to the National Football League. NEVADA 45, BOSTON COLLEGE 6.


…will wait for the weekend.

Even if the season has gone on too long, it’s the last weekend of college football. We’ve got to enjoy it.

Bowl Mania (of the conflicted Ohio State alum variety)

A note from Saturday’s massacre: I can’t even second-guess my picks right. And I know the Big Ten isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I can’t imagine anybody (not even Paul Finebaum and the ESS EEE SEE-flunky southern media) seriously contemplated the Big Ten going 0-5 on the day.

I at least had a clue of what I was talking about during the Orange Bowl, except I said that minimally. I suppose my secret should be to undersell my picks.

This comes from the Ohio State fan in me.

The closer we’ve gotten to the Sugar Bowl, the sicker I’ve felt about it. The scandal that will take Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Devier Posey, and Mike Adams and sideline them for the first five games of next season – but WON’T sideline them for the Sugar Bowl, in large part because the Sugar Bowl wanted them to play – is one of those situations where everybody looks absolutely awful, and I feel like a sucker for having put all this effort into talking about bowl games.

This is how conflicted my feelings are:

  • This should be the ultimate nail in the coffin for the bowl system. How can you POSSIBLY argue that these money-grubbing bowl chairmen aren’t playing havoc with the discipline of being a student-athlete when you hear Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan say something like this?

    I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate it…That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution.

    The integrity of the GAME, not the integrity of the INDIVIDUALS. And the game must keep its integrity to keep the business of the Sugar Bowl afloat, the rules that the student-athletes must follow be damned.

  • Terrelle Pryor sold his Gold Pants. I can’t say this with enough emphasis. I can’t count how many times in the 90’s I heard an Ohio State player talk through passion and pain over how badly they wanted to beat Michigan so they could get a pair of those Gold Pants, and how much they’d cherish it if they got a pair. Three times Ohio State in the 90’s Ohio State went into Michigan Week unbeaten; three times they lost the game. I was in Ohio Stadium with Grandpa in 1994 when John Cooper’s team got their first win over Michigan, and I’ve never seen a celebration like it.Terrelle Pryor has three victories over Michigan, and has been as effective against the (admittedly weakened) Wolverines as any Ohio State quarterback since Art Schlichter (as we talk about disgraced Ohio State quarterbacks). By selling one of those charms, he revealed himself to be a mercenary, plain and simple.I won’t talk about Grandpa in this context; I don’t want to be that presumptuous. But I can tell you that move alone has crushed a ton of alumni, and I’m in that group.
  • (And we won’t even talk about the allegations that Pryor has been improperly driving around certain loaner vehicles from certain automobile dealerships a la Maurice Clarett, and at the very least has been stupid about getting traffic tickets while driving other people’s cars around. It’s almost like the guy is TRYING to make himself the most hated athlete in Ohio State history.)
  • And yet.

    When Devier Posey took news of his suspension, this is what his mother said in response:

    The NCAA is amazing…What they give them for rent and stuff is not enough. It’s just not enough. It’s already a financial strain on a family. The whole thing requires money, but they – the NCAA – don’t want to give it to them. The NCAA is saying, ‘Well, if they gave them money, they no longer have amateur status.’ Well, guess what? College football and basketball players are the only amateurs not receiving any money that I see plastered all over the TV and on magazines. They’re not amateurs. Who do they think they’re kidding? The NCAA certainly doesn’t look at them as amateurs. If they did, they wouldn’t be making money off them.

    This is what you’d expect the parent of an aggrieved player who has lost the ability to play half of his senior season to say, and this is the type of venting that those of us alumni tend to take to talk radio and dismiss out of hand. Obviously, the players are being ungrateful. They’re receiving a college education for their trouble. They need to be grateful for the full ride they are receiving.

  • The only problem is: Julie Posey is right. These players aren’t exactly receiving a full ride.

    Posey is, fortunately for him, an Ohio resident, so he doesn’t have out-of-state tuition contributing to the shortfall in his scholarship. The shortfall between Ohio State’s athletic scholarship and the actual cost of attending Ohio State computed by the Department of Education for financial aid purposes is only $3,575 per year. Pryor is still a Pennsylvania resident, and his shortfall is actually greater – $4,802 per year.And the NCAA puts all kinds of limitations on how a student-athlete can earn money to make up for that shortfall. Essentially, the vast majority of that burden goes on the parents. For the student to attend school, that shortfall has to be made up one way or another.At that point in an athlete’s career, how many trophies and championship rings of one sort or another have they collected? How much meaning do they really have? Why wouldn’t a family try to collect some money from those items on the sly?And why won’t the NCAA allow its schools to let their grants-in-aid actually meet the real costs of attending college for students who otherwise would never get the chance, or allow the funds that are supposed to exist to allow students with real financial need to get help to actually be used so players can be honest about their financial needs? This isn’t even a question of “paying players” – it’s about keeping them from having to pay to play at the collegiate level and creating the kind of inequities that lead players to the conclusion that they’re owed more than they’re getting.

I taught several junior-college football players when I worked at Middle Georgia College, before Middle Georgia decided that the character and the finances of the campus was being slowly decimated by football and killed the program. Those are students who have visions of getting their game right, or getting their academics right, or both, before they take a shot at a Division I football program. Even at that level, in a south Georgia town that was close to nothing but ground, the sacrifices the students had to make to pursue the game were ridiculous, and they felt pulled in a million directions. What little I saw of the athletes at Ohio State was so much more stressful.

I get what Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Devier Posey and Mike Adams were thinking. It’s not right. They should not be playing in this football game. But I get it. And it boils down to: If I’m putting in all this work, why is everybody getting rich but me?

The system is desperately, desperately broken. It’s only becoming more obvious the further it goes on. I know what kind of can of worms you open when you say “treat the players like professionals”, and I don’t think you can go there. But I know we can’t stay here either.

And meanwhile, in the real world, the article that I read this morning about trying to save young black men in college convinced me that all of this is a very, very small subset of the real story, and the real fight. If you have a few extra minutes, please read this essay by an English teacher at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston about testifying in a trial about the senseless murder of one of his students, gunned down as he was desperately trying to find a way to make his life better.

Ohio State should win this game (for the record: OHIO STATE 31, ARKANSAS 24). The storyline will be Ohio State’s record against the SEC, whether it goes to 1-9 or to 0-10 in their last 10 attempts. On one level, that matters, and God knows I’m going to be talking about that around the Georgia and Alabama and Auburn and Kentucky and Ole Miss and Mississippi State faithful around my campus. That’s what’s good about college football; that’s why it won’t go away no matter how broken the system gets. How much has this game given us, as a family, a language to communicate in when times have been hard and when other words have been difficult to say? The game is, in the Deep South and in the Midwest and in the Southwest, a fundamental part of our culture. It’s an important culture. We shouldn’t belittle it.

And that’s why, if we find ourselves with a way to work to make this game better – and the educational system this game is within better – we should.

When I think about it, I honestly think I wrote this to motivate myself more as any of you.

Congrats to Matt on his share of the title; best of luck to Uncle Dave and Aunt Alice on the gauntlet of picks that have to fall right for them to claim a share.

Bowl Mania (of the Pretend New Year’s Day variety)

New Year’s Day doesn’t matter this year. It’s just another bowl day.

How little does New Year’s Day matter?

At noon you can watch the TicketCity Bowl on ESPNU. Let’s not even start in on the fact that my satellite package doesn’t carry ESPNU. Let’s simply reflect on the fact that the TicketCity Bowl is played in the Cotton Bowl, in Fair Park, Texas. But the TicketCity Bowl is not a rebranded Cotton Bowl game. The Cotton Bowl Classic still exists. But it’s not played in the Cotton Bowl; it’s played in Cowboys Stadium (referred to in other quarters as JerryWorld). And the Cotton Bowl Classic is not played on New Year’s Day. It’s played on January 7th.

So the bowl game played in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day is not the Cotton Bowl.

That’s how broken New Year’s Day has become.

There are five bowl games of irrelevance, and we shall go through them in order:

TICKETCITY BOWL: NORTHWESTERN 31, TEXAS TECH 6. Pat Fitzgerald wishes his defense played with the intensity he did. Fortunately, Texas Tech is in the process of being thoroughly defanged by Tommy Tuberville.

OUTBACK BOWL: FLORIDA 9, PENN STATE 0. I refuse to make another Urban-Meyer-is-retiring-while-Joe-Paterno-is-staying joke. We’ll simply remember this game as the moment when Florida ceased to be known for offensive schemes and a team full of defensive players told Will Muschamp “We’re ready for you, coach.”

CAPITAL ONE BOWL – ALABAMA 31, MICHIGAN STATE 17. Yes, Michigan State did beat Wisconsin and would like for you to know that they have a legitimate claim to a BCS berth, but Alabama would like for you to know that they exploded for twenty-one points in the first quarter against Auburn, they fully intend to do so again, and you don’t have Cam Newton.

GATOR BOWL – MISSISSIPPI STATE 63, MICHIGAN 55. In Ann Arbor, the departure of the entire defensive coaching staff (and perhaps the head man who hired them, although that’s not the immediate crisis) and the arrival of actual cornerbacks and safeties cannot come soon enough.

FIESTA BOWL – OKLAHOMA 23, UCONN 22. Bully to my cousin Dan and his son for actually being brave enough to pick what will surely be one of the more motivated teams to play this bowl cycle; at a certain point, you hear enough about what you can’t do that you have to go out and do it. Unfortunately, the Huskies have every bit of a track record of fighting valiantly and just falling short as they do of actually finishing the job, and Oklahoma is so overdue for a BCS win that Bob Stoops still has nightmares of Boise State running the statue of liberty.


So, now, the one game that actually feels like New Year’s Day:

WISCONSIN (11-1) v TCU (12-0)
(By the way:  dig the irony that the game that most feels like New Year’s Day is the game that could not have existed in the traditionalist’s era, when this game was stuck in a Big 10-Pac 10 rut.  Not that Wisconsin-Oregon or Wisconsin-Stanford wouldn’t have been an epic encounter, but TCU landing the berth in The Granddaddy Of Them All just feels right, for all that this program has accomplished, and the result is an incredible matchup of Big Ten power against nouveaux-rich moxie.)

I’m feeling eliminated from the competition (my formula for figuring out my chances for winning the game: (1) look at my picks; (2) look at Matt’s remaining picks; (3) see how many games we differ in; (4) see how many games I am behind; (5) tear spreadsheet to a billion tiny pieces).

And the closer I get to this matchup the more I don’t trust my original pick of TCU.

TCU is an outstanding defensive football team – again: going undefeated in Division One Football ($1 to Dan Hawkins) is an incredibly difficult task – but they are NOT the kind of machine that, say, Boise State has shown to be in the past. They CAN be caught out by a good football team, and put under significant pressure. (Corollary: Utah, TCU’s closest Mountain West competition, was not a good football team.)

Wisconsin is an outstanding offensive football team, with something that TCU frankly does not see against Western competition: a physical, punishing rushing game that has depth only rivaled by Nevada’s, and size that puts Nevada to shame. When Wisconsin got their game going, they were not only the class of the Big Ten, they DESTROYED Big Ten defenses.

TCU’s defense is very good, and I don’t see Wisconsin hanging 70 on TCU the way they way they did against Northwestern (and let’s not even mention Indiana). But Wisconsin closed the season strong, and I don’t see TCU being able to generate points at the rate to hang with them as the game pressure becomes real.

So I abdicate my pick for the competition and back the Big Ten, by the score of WISCONSIN 38, TCU 20.

Happy New Year. And, in the words of Pete Abrams, “That’s it; I’m going back to bed.”