Category Archives: Entertainment

Wrigley at 100: The Full Cubs Experience

Yesterday was Wrigley Field’s 100th Birthday celebration. And it was quite a party. There was a lot to celebrate when surveying 100 years of history. Wrigley was built on the former home of a Seminary. It was originally the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League (a competitor to Major League Baseball back in the day.) To distinguish them from the Major League team nearby (The Cubs) they were usually called the Federals or Feds, which eventually became their nickname. Weeghman Park (team owner) was its original name. It cost $250,000 and was completed in 2 months, opening in April of 1914. Weeghman was shrewd. The beautiful setting and success of his team forced MLB to respond by letting him buy the Cubs in 1916 (struggling at the time.) Wrigley played a major role in shaping how MLB came of age, was in the center of several national political scandals that touched even the White House (Tea Pot Dome), and along the way became one of the best places on earth to spend time with friends. History haunts this sacred ground everywhere you look. The greatest living Cubs and Bears legends (yes they played here for 50 years, winning 8 NFL Championships!) were invited to honor this great park. The ceremony concluded with Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks shuffling across the diamond like he had for 19 seasons. Ernie was rightly honored most. One of baseball’s greats who always wanted to “play two” and even requested to be able to live on the grounds while he was playing. But he never got a World Series ring and that’s the other chapter of living the Wrigley experience.

It’s one of my favorite places to be since the late 1970’s when my dad would drive me from Iowa to take in a game. (Sunny every single time he brought me.) Every season brings fresh hope that this will be the year a World Series Championship is won in these hallowed friendly confines. This special day brought gifts and cake (A throwback Federals jersey for the first 30,000 fans and a birthday cupcake for the first 10,000-yes I made sure to get both!). It seemed magical as the Cubs were winning. Samardzija was pitching like an ace. The Cubs were up 5-2 with 2 outs in the 9th and 2 strikes on the batter, when relief pitching collapsed. How many times have I seen that movie? Alas, we were all treated to the full Cubs experience. Boundless hopes, historic atmosphere, great excitement, and soul-crushing disappointment. All in the same day! But it was great to share it with my college friend Lon. Just like always, one of the best places on earth to spend the day with a friend. It’s about so much more than winning and losing. A place with a spiritual heritage of hopes handed down. I park on nearby Seminary Street whenever I can. Here’s to 100 years of Wrigley. May we run out of candles before this place breathes its last…

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The Last Great Cathedral of Hope

Tom Ricketts committed to Wrigley – ESPN

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Tom Ricketts says he’s committed. Here’s hoping he really means it. Wrigley is one of baseball’s last great cathedrals of hope. Part of me laments a shift to a “winning” model. There’s a reason why I’m not a Yankees fan. But I’ve been a Cubs fan since the last time we had a player named DeJesus. I remember 1984, 1989, and 2003. I was there when Wrigley had no lights, hoping a game wouldn’t be called due to darkness. I was there when it was only $20 to give your keys to a shirtless fat guy who promised your car would be the first out! (Now try $60). I was there when bleacher tickets were $4.50 and full of kids and well, yes, shirtless fat guys. I was there to see Dave Kingman, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and the disgraced Sammy Sosa hit game changing or game ending home runs. I was there when Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd Skaff called the games in my earpiece and Jack Brickhouse brought the Cubs into my living room.
And I was there yesterday, for the first time on Opening Day. I found a free spot in a neighborhood many blocks away to park, so I could afford it. I saw ad space in 4 cutouts in the Ivy. Dozens of banner ads were tucked here and there. A cool new electronic scoreboard is integrated into an existing wall. Nice. I thought, “This is different, but it’s still Wrigley.” The view to my right and left told me this was still home. 40,000 of my closest friends there not really expecting a victory. Just glad to have some sacred space to watch a game we love in a beautiful garden of historic baseball delights. As God would have it, I sat next to a really nice young father who was new to Chicagoland and the Wrigley experience. It was fun to talk about the history and point out the lovely features of the friendly confines…
I hear talk of JumboTrons and luxury hotels across the street. Fine. The future must come. But please don’t spoil what is most sacred to every Cubs fan.
I would love for the Cubs to win a World Series. Believe me I would!! But honestly, we’ve all come back year after year after year because the Cubs and Wrigley symbolize something much more important: stories of hope handed down to each generation. I was sitting right there when it happened! I hope we never trade what is best about that for corporate franchise success.

New Music

http://www.hillsongunited.com

Zion is the new album by Hillsong United. This album contains the most layered and well-produced music the group has ever created. It meshes with today’s radio sounds, but finds it’s own voice. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

http://pagecxvi.com/#store

This group’s music is new to me, but I love what I hear! Hymns have been reimagined for today in a very artful way. One album has even been remixed by Derrick Webb. It’s so great to hear these amazing lyrics in a fresh way.

http://www.noisetrade.com/joshgarrels/love-war-the-sea-in-between

Also new to me is Josh Garrels. Right now you can get his music for free at the above link. I’m still working my way through his material, but so far I am challenged and inspired. Get it while it’s free. If you can afford it, give him a tip!

Annual Christmas Update

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B1G-er

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Rutgers Joins B1G

An early Christmas present for the BTN (Big Ten Network) arrived yesterday. The Conference with the underreporting name swelled to 14 teams. Rutgers joins Maryland in completing a round of conference realignment fireworks. It’s a coup, allowing the Big Ten access to huge TV markets in an area already tapped for many recruits in the last 20 years. Pundits predicted just a few years ago that the Big East and SEC would swallow up historic conferences like the B1G. But they proved to have staying power. Some say its the consistent balance between academic and athletic excellence. I think it’s a brilliant move that makes this conference a force to be reckoned with for at least another 10-20 years. But about that name… Are they holding out for one more team? The Big 15? The Big Mid-East? The Big North? The Big Ten+Penn State+Nebraska+Maryland+Rutgers? The Conference-Formerly-Known-as-The Big Ten? The Big Conference?
Either way it keeps things interesting for long time fans in the middle of the country.

Tainted Truth: USADA vs Lance Armstrong

Rick Reilly: Armstrong still worth honoring – ESPN.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

This situation with Lance pulls on so many strings I can’t decide what I think about it.

I can say he inspired me massively. I had so much fun watching him win. I shared his “story” as an example of being an overcomer.

I can say what Lance has done for cancer patients seems like a lasting good thing.

I can say I have no faith in the USADA. It’s hypocritical of them to do this. And interesting that they’ve waited so long to do it.

I can say if his vaulting to best-athlete-ever fitness level was drug-induced, then it taints the whole story of It’s Not About the Bike, where he specifically says his cancer experience eliminated the possibility that he would ever consider using performance-enhancing drugs.

I can say if he was angrily attacking and threatening his accusers with lawsuits all along, like Greg LeMond, even though they were correct, then he’s not really a good guy. I mean he decimated LeMond and got him booted out of Trek. LeMond may still be the only American who won the Tour 3 Times legitimately. If Lance is the good guy here, then he should defend it all the way. Somehow the fact that he used the legal system to rigorously defend himself and attack accusers causes me to want him to finish the job.

Lance has spent $5 million fighting this. I guess I don’t understand why he won’t go to arbitration after all. I think if he’s innocent he owes it to all of us who have believed in him and supported him to fight it all the way. He could expose the inequity of the arbitration setup and force the USADA to continue defending their “hearsay” case. The longer that was in the press, the more likely someone would break down if USADA is truly lying or on a witch hunt. If they are the corrupt ones they need to be exposed and dismantled.

For me, the “wear yellow on Friday” thing is tainted even as part of me wants to. I wish he’d chosen a different color for Livestrong. It’s the color of the yellow jersey of the leader/winner of the Tour de France. It’s too bad Livestrong is forever linked with the tainted Tour in that way.

Part of me thinks Lance was strong enough to win the Tour (His VO2 Max numbers, tested at age 16 by the University of Texas, are among the highest ever recorded) even without the drugs after he found more of a purpose to live in his fight with cancer.  I wish we’d had a chance to fully know that to be true.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” I’m not free to form a final opinion or to completely set aside the USADA’s ruling because after all this time I still don’t know the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Church Spokesman: No Charges Expected

A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post. The details seem quite fluid in this developing story from the Hammond church. First Baptist Church spokesman Eddie Wilson is quoted in the NWI Times today by reporter Chelsea Sneider Kirk as saying, “the church does not expect there to be charges filed in the incident.” However, Sheriff John Buncich is reported to say that an investigation by his department and the FBI against Schaap is ongoing. Age of consent laws seem to be the issue. As a father of teenagers I’m shocked to learn that an adult who isn’t a public school official can engage in sex with a 16 year old as long as it’s “consensual.” These laws seem antiquated. Knowing what we know today about psychology and living in a culture of extended adolescence, who thinks a 16-17 year old is truly capable of giving consent to her 54 year old pastor? The power ratio in the relationship is heavily skewed. And what scenario exists where it’s legitimate for a 50-something aged person to seek such consent from a 16-17 year old?
I wish no ill on the pastor involved. He should be considered innocent until all evidence is carefully examined. People are often quick to judge religious leaders harshly when there’s even a hint of a problem. And sometimes other religious leaders quickly come to the attack as well. So I want to avoid that.
I will leave it to others to prosecute existing laws, especially in this particular case. But I hope these laws will be reexamined to protect minors better. In Indiana, you can’t be licensed to drive a car until you’re 16.5 and can’t have passengers until you’ve held that license for 6 months. You can’t vote until you’re 18. You can’t drink until you’re 21. So how on earth can you consent to sex with a much older adult at age 16? Next, if others would be involved in arranging for the two to be together in other states, would that not constitute manipulation, reducing the power of the teen to give consent? Separate these questions from this particular case. This kind of scenario, if it were to exist, should be against the law.
I also would not completely rule out that an adult might target a high-visibility leader to lure them into this kind of entanglement. It would be theoretically possible to manipulate both the young girl and the pastor. Of course, that’s no excuse. And there’s no evidence of it here that I’m aware of. But this also would seem to be a form of crime something like human trafficking.
So many potential issues are raised in a case like this. It gives us an opportunity to reflect and learn. Like the case of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11, the biggest issue isn’t really sex. It’s the abuse of power. Somehow current consent laws need to take this into greater consideration. What do you think?

Hammond Baptist dismisses pastor for ‘sin’

Hammond Baptist dismisses pastor for ‘sin’ : Lake.

Wow. A lot of thoughts swirl through my mind. Then I’m speechless. Then I’m theological. Then I’m sad. Then I’m judge and jury. Then I imagine how his family and the young girl and her family feel and the cycle starts again. Who is Pastor Jack? How do you go from called to preach to sneaking into other states with an underaged girl? (I don’t actually want to know!)
But as I prepare a previously scheduled sermon on the Lectionary passage of 2 Samuel 11, I’m amazed by the timing. I was scheduled to preach the first half of the story last week, but felt led in a different direction at the last minute. (A fairly rare thing for my ministry). But this story reads like a modern parable on David’s sin. And the Sandusky and Philadelphia scandals cry out for this passage to be unpacked. So perhaps the Lord didn’t want me to begin until this bit of news broke.
I don’t know Jack personally, so I have no starting point to judge his case. But if what has been alleged is true, every church and pastor will be somewhat affected. I’ve had my doubts (since the 1980’s) about how Hammond First Baptist has operated. I have to be honest. Yet, I also have often pointed out that they have a homeless shelter and good people do amazing good through several of its ministries. Pastor Jack helped a lot of really good things happen. But he apparently lost his way in a devastating way and is alleged to have taken actions no one can condone. The temptation is to judge harshly and distance oneself from “guys like him” with angry words, maybe even gloating a bit. But these are dark temptations in themselves and would be a mistake. Stone throwing? Nope.
There should be no joy here. There should be much prayer for all involved. Every church should re-examine procedures and policies. Christian leaders should examine their own hearts, seeking to be filled with more of God’s holy love and less of the world.
Penn State. First Baptist Church. Both great institutions with great potential where things that could happen anywhere started to happen a while ago, but an environment of tight control ironically unleashed chaos. Rather than looking down our noses, we should hit our knees and look up to heaven. What changes could be implemented to decrease the likelihood of a leader to stray? Are there helps that could be put in place to help struggling leaders overcome temptation? What safeguards should be revamped to protect innocent children more? How can we cultivate environments where only holy love is shared and where purity of heart wins the day? I’m glad the congregation I serve has always taken child safety seriously. But you can bet we’ll be reviewing all of the above for improvements! Lord, may your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.
Our series on David just became strikingly relevant. I’m sad for the circumstances and pain but thankful I know where to turn to find direction. (Even more glad I was already turning there.) Through it all, God is amazing! Young preachers, take note that the Lectionary can sometimes be amazingly relevant. (Even if sometimes, not!) Take note also that you should listen when the Lord guides you in various directions to override your plan. Take note finally that everything you build under God can go down in flames in an hour if boundaries and safeguards are neglected.

Theo and Jed’s first Cubs trade deadline: Whadddya Think?

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Theo and Jed’s first Cubs trade deadline: Ryan Dempster finally moved, Matt Garza stays | Big League Stew – Yahoo! Sports.

One thing’s for sure. The Cubs won’t be in the playoffs in 2012. Are they making brilliant moves that secure a better moneyball future? Or, did they scramble to look busy since this year was in the tank and they had no idea how to get a great deal done? I’m really hoping for the former and trying hard not to see the latter. Reaction runs from mixed: Yahoo! Sports to mortified: Greenberg
Tuesday’s 1-hit wonder outing didn’t do much to change anyone’s sense of the future.
Part of me wonders if Soto and Dempster could have been enough. They must have seen some promising Vizcaino x-rays!
But at this point I’ll trust the Epstein magic and ride out 2012 with Rizzo-fever. He’s the symbol of a Theo-future that might be…could be…it…

The Dark Knight Rises Review

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The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan’s final installment in the Batman saga. The sign of a great movie is that it leaves people wanting more. It’ll give too much away to go into detail, but the ending is a beginning on more than one level.
“Epic and amazing” were my first thoughts as the credits rolled. The story is big and complex, but not perfect. Anne Hathaway shines as a conflicted bad girl, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt quietly steals the show. There are flaws in the story but none of them linger.
Immersive, disturbing soundtrack, check! Bigger than life characters, check! Bad News that threatens the very fabric of our society, uh-huh. Globe-trotting, time-shifting storyline that leaves you guessing to the end, yep! We long for redemption even though we are brought face-to-face with the brokenness and frailty of humanity and civilization itself. This storyline makes The Amazing SpiderMan or The Avengers seem trite. This movie asks us to confront evil on a biblical-scale. Where can we look for redemption and hope? It shows us our need for a savior even as it chips away at over-simplified visions of the good news. In that way its a good setup for the Good News of the Gospel. Does this Batman story ultimately deliver? Just like real life, you’ll have to decide. Nolan’s unique gift is presenting the problem of evil. It could be debated if his stories resolve adequately.
There’s a lot of violence. No children should see it in my opinion. Very young teens are presented with a relentless hopelessness in this film. Make sure they have a way to talk it through if you let them see it. 15 and up is better.
We suffer, we hope, hopes are dashed, then dashed again. But finally The Dark Knight Rises…
Highly Recommended.

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