MLB Playoff Predictions Round 4

We all did pretty well in the last round, successfully predicting this World Series matchup. That means no change in the leaderboard:

Jason: 9-4

Sunny: 8-5

Joshua: 7-6

So for this round, we’re taking bets on winner, length of series, and MVP. This gives the Series a little more juice for us.

Sunny is taking the Dodgers in five with Mookie winning Series MVP.

I’m going with the Dodgers in six — the Rays pitching is really, really good — and for MVP, I’ll go with Kershaw, who should have two starts in a six game series.

Joshua says this one goes the full seven games, with the Dodgers winning. His MVP pick is Corey Seager.

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Supernatural Paper?

Saw this at CostCo yesterday.

A shopping cooler made with “supernatural paper.”

To quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

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MLB Playoff Predictions Round 3

After the first two rounds, here are our prediction standings:

Jason, 8-4

Sunny, 7-5

Joshua, 6-6

With only a couple of series left, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty.

Rays vs. Astros: We’re all taking the Rays. Of course, it’d be the most 2020 thing ever for the Astros to win it all, given how much they are basically universally reviled after their buzzer / trash can cheating scandal.

Braves vs. Dodgers: We’re also taking the Dodgers, which is fine by me because it puts me one step closer to locking up this thing.

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The Social Dilemma

If you have a Netflix subscription, you really need to go watch The Social Dilemma, a documentary on the ways in which social media manipulates us.

The “dilemma” is multi-faceted. Advertisers vie for our attention across our myriad social media platforms while programmers continuously revise their algorithms to make their product ever more addictive. Higher social media use correlates with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and overall life satisfaction. And yet, we continue to scroll our lives away.

The documentary is comprised of interviews from a host of former social media executives and programmers, spilling insider information about the more nefarious aspects of social media design. I found it to be informative and enlightening, and, yes, a little frightening. I’d recommend it for everyone, but especially teens and their parents.

If you want to read more, visit the website here.

Posted in Culture, Social Issues | 2 Comments

MLB Playoff Predictions Round 2

Based on our first round predictions, here are the “standings” so far:

  1. Jason and Joshua, 5-3
  2. Sunny, 4-4

So Round Two predictions are as follows:

Astros vs. A’s: We’re all taking the A’s. Just can’t see the sub-.500 Astros winning another series.

Yankees vs. Rays: Sunny and Jason take the Rays while Joshua is picking the Yankees. I think this Yankee team is a lot better than most people seem to realize. And they’re relatively healthy right now. I like the upset pick, but I’m sticking with the Rays and their dominant pitching staff.

Braves vs. Marlins: Joshua takes the Marlins; Sunny and Jason are choosing the Braves. As much as I like his Yankees pick, I have no idea what Joshua is thinking on this one. I expect the Braves to roll.

Dodgers vs. Padres: We’re all taking the Dodgers.

Can’t wait for the second round to start today!

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MLB Playoff Predictions

Sunny and Joshua and I are making our playoff predictions for this crazy MLB postseason. Here we go:

Astros vs. Twins: We all picked the Twins

White Sox vs. A’s: Joshua, White Sox; Sunny and Jason, A’s

Jays vs. Rays: We all picked the Rays

Yankees vs. Indians: Sunny, Indians; Joshua and Jason, Yankees

Brewers vs. Dodgers: We all picked the Dodgers

Cardinals vs. Padres: Sunny, Cardinals; Joshua and Jason, Padres (but of course, we hope we’re wrong)

Braves vs. Reds: Sunny, Braves; Joshua and Jason, Reds

Marlins vs. Cubs: Joshua, Marlins; Jason and Sunny, Cubs

Even though this postseason is going to be super weird, I’m looking forward to it.

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First Varsity Meet

Today was a big day for Jackson as he ran his first varsity cross country meet. He ran three miles today, which is a big deal because typically JV runs are only two miles in length. But he did a great job, finishing in 23:20. Obviously we’re excited because this is a new PR for him, but I’m glad he now has this as a baseline for moving forward. Super proud of this guy and all the hard work he’s been putting in this fall.

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eBook on Cancel Culture

One of the more disturbing trends we’ve seen of late is the rise of what has been labeled our “cancel culture.” It’s a manipulation tool utilized by both the right and the left to suppress free speech. Anyone who dissents from the herd mentality is immediately “cancelled” — shamed and vilified, typically on social media. It’s the byproduct of our inability to disagree these days and it explains some of what we’re seeing in the uglier demonstrations on the streets in our country right now.

If you’re interested in a good assessment of this from a Christian perspective, I highly recommend this free eBook from Summit Ministries entitled “Twenty Things to Say and Do to Fight the Cancel Culture.” It’s simultaneously enlightening and heartbreaking.

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Another PR

Another PR (“personal record”) for this kid today: he ran two miles in 14:11 to finish in sixth place in today’s meet! I love how all of his hard work is producing results. Such great life lessons when your kids participate in sports. Keep up the good work, Jackson!

Posted in Family, Kids, Sports | 2 Comments

Politics: The Ideology of Idolatry

I’m convinced that the great idolatry for many of us is our deep commitment to our political ideology.

The past few months have been difficult for all of us. I’ve taken to saying things like, “We’re all playing hurt,” and “Be gracious to one another,” because I truly believe that no one is at her best right now. And I continue to affirm that with all the pastoral care in my heart. I believe the last few months have been difficult for everyone.

But the constant politicization of EVERYTHING in this country has undoubtably made these past few months even more difficult. Of course, we’ve seen this sort of thing happen for years in a fairly predictable cycle. When an active shooter claims the lives of innocent civilians, the whole discussion is quickly co-opted by both the left and the right with the same old tired talking points about gun control and the Second Amendment, often before the victims have even been properly memorialized. The whole thing would be appalling if we weren’t so accustomed to such grandstanding.

And so these past few months, as the call for racial equality has reached a fever pitch and as we continue to manage the realities of daily life amid a pandemic, I suppose it was inevitable that these — like everything else — would eventually be reduced down to red or blue, conservative or liberal.

For a long time, I’ve said that I’m too conservative for my liberal friends and too liberal for my conservative friends. (Which, over time, means my pool of friends has continued to dry up!) And this has been made even more evident as our political polarization increases and becomes ever more bloodthirsty.

Take racial justice, for instance. I happen to believe that black lives matter. I believe people of color have long been burdened with a the kind of plight that is foreign to me. As a white, straight, middle class male, I’ve rarely (if ever) been marginalized in the way that is all too common for many other US citizens. My heart hurts for people of color who have long been speaking out about the racial injustices and daily indignities that are a part of their experience. It is incumbent upon me to listen in this moment, to really listen with generosity and compassion. And while my heart hurts over the circumstances that have perpetuated this discussion over the past few months (Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, etc.), I’m at least grateful that this has seemingly catalyzed us toward more empathetic discussions and, hopefully, meaningful change. I believe peaceful demonstrations and protests can be a part of perpetuating those kinds of conversations. So that’s one side of the ledger for me.

However, I also believe in the sacred dignity afforded to every human life by the Creator God and thus I affirm the ideology that “all lives matter” — despite the objections that this statement typically engenders. I also believe that the Black Lives Matter organization is pretty firmly aligned with the political left and, therefore, I understand the objections of many of my conservative friends who simply cannot baptize BLM’s political ideology even as they seek equitable treatment for people of color. And I also believe that the violent and destructive protests we’ve witnessed over the last few months have eroded any moral high ground in these kinds of discussions. I believe that the non-violence advocated by King a generation ago has been replaced — at least by some — with senseless violence in our streets that only adds to the clamor of the moment.

So I believe that black lives matter but I also affirm the biblical truth that all lives matter. I believe peaceful, non-violent demonstrations can be powerful in times such as this, but I can’t get behind the sort of violent, destructive anarchy that we’ve seen in the streets lately.

Like I said, I’m too conservative for my liberal friends and too liberal for my conservative friends. And I’m 100% sure there’s a sentence or two in those last few paragraphs that you found offensive. And I think that proves my point: I believe the essence of that offense is that we have been convinced that we must hold to our political commitment most tightly.

You can see the same thing with the conversation these last few months regarding masks. The whole discussion has been thoroughly politicized by both sides to the point that I’ve seen the fallout in the local church. In my ministry circles, every church leader I know has adopted a policy asking that all attendees wear masks for all church events until further notice. And in their churches, as well as my own, many members have been dutifully complying with this request — despite the fact that many of them undoubtedly would rather not. (I’ll admit: I’m in this camp. I don’t like wearing a mask any more than anyone else.) But in every church, there is also the vocal opposition of those who are proudly defiant, those who understand all of this masking up as an infringement upon their “rights.” In every church, there are those who say, “Well, as long as you have that mask policy, we won’t be there.” And from there, accusations are easily made on either side of the discussion.

I know of a church in another state where one elder made the statement regarding masks, “I’m so sick and tired of hearing about how wearing a mask is an act of love for others.”

Is this attitude formed by a reading of Romans 14? Or by political ideology? Is this attitude born out of a desire to demonstrate love for neighbor? Or by a fixation of self — MY rights, etc.?

What is the point of this article?

Well, I don’t hold out much hope that this post will move the needle for too many people. I’m sure you’ve already made up your mind about a great deal of this and I respect that. I don’t pretend to be a political scientist so I have no real interest in critiquing your political views, whether they be conservative or liberal. And knowing what I know about human nature, I’m convinced that you’ve probably already written me off anyway because of that offensive thing I said a few paragraphs earlier. We tend to disregard anything someone says whenever we disagree with the slightest iota of their argument. We’ve completely lost the ability to disagree anymore.

So again, what’s the angle? What’s the point?

Here it is: I just wish we understood the Kingdom of God as a viable political ideology. I wish we — I’m speaking to Christians — couldn’t so easily distinguish between what we consider to be “spiritual” and what we consider to be “physical” or “earthly” or however you want to parse it. I wish it wasn’t so easy for us to believe that “spiritual” just deals with some sort of internal reality — like your attitude. I wish we believed it was ALL spiritual, that God’s Word is holistic in scope, not simply reserved for pious platitudes to be recited in Sunday school but that God’s Word has the power to shape every facet of our lives — including our political ideologies.

And knowing that these feeble words are likely unconvincing to many, I suppose I simply write this for myself, as a way of repenting of my own idolatry of ideology when I’ve settled too easily for the kingdoms of man rather than waiting in anticipation of the Kingdom of God to be revealed in its fullness.

And so I amend my earlier statement: I’m convinced that my great idolatry is my deep commitment to my political ideology over the Kingdom of God. I guess that’s really the point of this article.

Lord, have mercy.

Posted in Church, COVID-19, Culture, Disappointment, God, Kingdom Values, Love Others, Ministry, Politics, Race, Sacred / Secular Divide, Social Issues, Theology | 5 Comments