"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rules? You Can't Handle The Rules!

My second blog for The 9s is up today. And yes, for the title I shamelessly ripped-off the famous Jack Nicholson quote.



If you played with other kids growing up, no doubt you engaged in numerous childhood games such as “hide-and-seek”, “red rover”, “tag”, or even baseball or football. Each of these simple games has a set of traditional, straight-forward rules that have been handed down over the years to make the game as fair as possible for everyone.

However, every so often you may have encountered a particular group of friends with some small tweak in the rules that changed the way the game was played. No doubt there were times when the rules were not well understood, which caused confusion and frustration. And of course, there was often a kid who wanted to change the rules or make up his own as the game went along. If that kid didn’t get his way, a temper tantrum usually followed, and sometimes he would take his ball and go home. Those situations never ended well.

As we get older, rules in everyday life become increasingly important because they keep us safe and give us a sense of certainty about how the world works. As adults, we can expect that people will drive on the right side of the road, that the utility company won’t overcharge for service, and that a criminal will get the justice he or she deserves.

In life, just like in baseball, the rules are the rules. They don’t change that much, but if they do, it’s usually with much deliberation, respect for all parties involved, and special consideration for future implications. Rules, in games and in everyday life, are very, very important because they make things as fair as possible for everyone.

So when people start changing the rules to suit their own interests – just like the kid who wants to make up his own game – it makes the game miserable for everyone.

This issue of rules, how important they are, and who gets to make them has been in the news lately after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lastweek pushed through a rule change that eliminated the 60-vote requirement to overturn a filibuster on federal nominations. According to Reid, the change was necessary so that the Senate could get back to legislating instead of bickering across party-lines.

Fair enough. President Obama’s federal nominees have faced an historic level of scrutiny and objection in their nominations. Whether it has all been justified or not is beyond the scope of this blog. But, there is a reason the Senate is known as the deliberative body. As Washington said "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The Senate does not – and should not – operate under the rules of pure democracy where the majority gets the say-so at every turn. Our government is a republic, where representatives are elected as a voice for the people and the rights of minorities are heard and respected, even if they don’t ultimately win.

Like it or not, the filibuster is unique to the Senate and a powerful tool for the minority party in the upper chamber. It should not be discarded as an inconvenience. Should there be less partisan fighting? Absolutely! But removing one side’s ability to make its voice heard is not going to help. We can hope that whichever party with control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term elections does the honorable thing by re-instating this filibuster rule.

Gentlemen, part of being a man and living in organized society is that you have to work with other people. Rules usually make those interactions go more smoothly than they otherwise would, even if we don’t see exactly how or why. Rules are serious and should not be added, removed, or changed in any circumstance without thoughtful, careful, deliberate reflection.

Question:
Do you follow rules in your daily life, even if you find them inconvenient or a hassle? If you have rule-making ability in your home or work, do you make rules that are conscientious and just, or do you suit your own interests?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why I hate Twitter

This is an old blog I wrote way back in the winter of 2007-2008. I was six years younger back then, so I think my writing was a little more raw than it is now. I've also changed some of my thinking about the subject since then, but I still have a love-hate relationship with Twitter - I use it, but I don't feel good about it.

Twitter is  beautiful thing for the easy access to information, but it's frustrating for the seemingly artificial limitations is places on your expression. It's also frustrating because people continually want to argue about politics, philosophy and theology in 140 characters. Just stop it. Aquinas, Aristotle, Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, and all the greatest thinkers of human history wrote books on these subjects, and you think you can boil it down to 140 characters?

So that bothers me. Anyway, take a read and let me know what you think. But I can't promise that I agree with everything I wrote back then.


My Year In Review - What I'm Thankful For

Ever sit around and think about how your life has changed? Some people will say nothing ever changes about their life. On the other hand, some people can say things have changed significantly over 5, 10, or 15 years.

Me? Let me briefly recount the degree to which my life has changed since this time last year.

This time last year...
...I wasn't married...

...I didn't have a baby...

...I was living with my future mother-in-law...

...I didn't have a job...

...I only had one car...

...I had a blackberry for a phone...

...I wasn't coaching basketball...

...I wasn't updating this blog...

...I didn't have a mortgage...

...and...

...I was changing significantly fewer diapers...zero to be exact.
Of course, I'm so incredibly thankful for all these changes.
I've gotten married to my best friend in the whole world. Together, with God's grace, we've brought a healthy, little baby boy into the world. I got a job doing pro-life work (how great is that?!), which has allowed me to buy a car and a house. My job is flexible enough that it has allowed me to start coaching basketball.

Thankful? Yeah, I'm thankful. Just a little bit.

So, how has your life changed in the past year?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Reasons Why I Hate Drive-Thru's

I hate the drive-thru.

No, really: I HATE the drive-thru. But not for the reasons you may think.
  • I don't hate it for the service - (or lack thereof).
  • I don't hate it for the deliciously unhealthy food most drive-thru restaurants offer.
  • I don't hate the drive-thru because no one spells it right ("thru" vs. "through").
More than any other reason, I really hate the drive-thru for two reasons: 1) because I think it is the epitome of 21st century decadence, 2) because it breeds complacency or laziness.

Boom. There it is. I said it. And now you think I'm a hippie.

But I'm not. The reality is, I've probably spent way more time thinking about this than I should have. And here's what I came up with...

For thousands of years, mankind has had to focus almost his entire being on just staying alive. Except for the very rich, human history has generally been devoted to subsistence living. Only in relatively recent times, i.e., since the industrial revolution, has food production become so mechanized and downright easy. In the western world, scarcity of food is far from being a problem; distribution is the problem.

While many, many millions of humans around the world live in squalor, the truth is that food has by-and-large never been easier to come by on a daily basis.

Don't get me wrong, I am so glad to be living in the world today. The basic necessities of life are so incredibly easy to obtain; clean running water, food, shelter, heat - these things are in greater supply today than ever before in human history. I thank God for hot water every time I step into a shower. Talk about a blessing that is taken for granted by so many people!

The same can be said for the drive-thru.

It is absolutely stunning to ponder the fact that most of us have hot, satisfying nourishment only a few short minutes away, at a cost that adds up to mere pennies on the dollar considering all the work that has gone into making that sandwich, taco, or pizza. But besides the proximity and economies of scale, with the advent of the drive-thru some 50-60 years ago, we don't even have to get out of our cars! Forget for a second that cars, which are a very recent phenomena as well, are in themselves amazing feats of technology and just think about how easily we in the United States can obtain a hot meal.

It should make you feel truly blessed by the Almighty. Yet, I would argue that few people ever pause to consider how lucky they are.

As for me, that feeling of being blessed stirs up the desire to completely reject the drive-thru, park my car, and walk through the front door to order my food. I mean, come on people. At the very least, shouldn't we be expected to walk just a few feet in order to get our food? Besides, a couple extra calories burnt walking into Taco Bell should make up for at least one bite of the 7-layer Burrito I'm about to get, right? If you're so lazy you can't take a 20 second walk, you probably should put down the Big Mac.

If exercise isn't your thing, think about all the gas you waste waiting in line in the drive-thru. Depending on how much you get fast-food, that could really add up. And beyond the cost saving benefits, the drive-thru really isn't all that much faster than walking in. It's the same people preparing the food. They'll get to your order whether you're in your car or not. The only time you save is the ten seconds from your car to the front door and the ten seconds back.

Of course, if you have kids, the time saving thing can turnout to be completely wrong. BUT! Here's the good news: you can turn that daunting trip into the fast food restaurant into a learning opportunity. Going into the restaurant, instead of just sitting in the car, can teach your kids valuable lessons about behaving in public. Gotta teach them sometime, right?

It really isn't all that complicated. No matter which way you slice it, the drive-thru is decadent and the embodiment of laziness. The only question is whether or not you're still going to use it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Are You Doing This Friday Evening?


Tomorrow night, Friday, November 22nd, at 7pm, St. Cecilia Catholic Church (5418 Louisiana Ave) in south St. Louis City will dedicate an altar and a new statue of St. Cecilia.

St. Louis Auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice will celebrate Mass. The seminarians of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary will be in attendance too, as well as many young men considering the priesthood on a "Come and See" weekend.

Fr. Anthony Ochoa, pastor of St. Cecilia's, informs me that there will be some extraordinary music, plenty of pomp and circumstance, and just generally a lot of awe-inspiring Catholicism on display.

Grab the kids and pack 'em in the car. Tell your friends you'll be late for drinks at the bar. Come to St. Cecilia for a very neat experience.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The News You've Been Waiting For


Last week I told you that some big news was on the way.

Thank you for your patience. Now, the big day has arrived!

*Drum roll*

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Announcement Coming Soon

I will have some big news to share with you sometime very soon.

Don't worry! This blog isn't going anywhere.

But...

Good things are happening for this writer, and I hope you'll join me for the ride.

Re-blog: "The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of People Watching)"

Somehow, in searching the backroads of the internet, I found the blog The Death of Catholicism. Before you judge the name of the blog, you need to go over there and read his explanation. It's actually very insightful.

I don't know the author (but I wish I did!). He seems to have it spot on. And he writes really well, which is always a bonus.

So, I wanted to share a portion of one of his recent posts entitled "The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of People Watching)." I love this piece of writing. Enjoy!
Two days after I got my new iPhone, I was sitting with my wife in the waiting room of her OB, waiting to get a sonogram of our coming-in-January baby (it’s a boy, if you’re wondering). We love our doctor, but when we go to her office where they do their sonos, we always have to wait at least 45 minutes. It kind of sucks, but it provides a perfect opportunity for people-watching. While we were waiting that day, I looked around the room.Nine other people in the room. Nine people on their phones. Four of those were couples on their cells simultaneously.

Perhaps you are like me and get upset by the very mention of a situation like this. I scoffed internally. What a waste.

What to do with glazed-over eyes staring at screens? They do nothing! They tell no story! They express no personhood! All these gloriously different people become a monotonous redundancy when their phones get involved.

And at the OBGyn, the shame of wasting such prime people-watching is exponentially worse. I mean, it’s the scene of the height of human drama! Life and death, teen pregnancies and barren wives, first-time moms and first-time STD carriers, hopes and fears and dreams and anxieties all sitting in the same room, waiting to see what direction their lives will go. But when you have TMZ’s website at your fingertips, the distraction steals the intensity of the moment.

Ugh.

Of course, my self-righteousness and indignation reached the boiling point. I shook my head. I know, I thought. This would be perfect for a blog post.

So I reached for my phone to type a little reminder to myself. I went to my list of reminders and saw a note about an outdoor event at work the next day.

I better check the weather while I’m at it…30 seconds later….ooh look, new MLB Power Rankings on ESPN.com!

And that was it. I was one of them.

I was that guy.
Read the whole thing over at The Death of Catholicism.

And check out the follow-up blog: "The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of Parenting)."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Libertarians vs. the Tea Party. I could've told you so.

I saw this a few weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to posting it:
Most American libertarians do not consider themselves part of the conservative Tea Party movement despite a public perception that the two political groups are linked, according to a national survey released on Tuesday.
Read the rest here.
I could have told you this a long time ago. I even touched on the subject of freedom a little while ago in this post.

The problem with libertarians is that they really are liberal in the truest sense of the word. For hard-core libertarians, freedom is the be-all, end-all answer for everything.

Government? Who needs government? We should be able to do whatever we want! Smoke pot? Sure! If it makes you happy. Have an abortion? The government shouldn't keep you from a "safe" procedure. Start a war in Iraq? Heck no! (But we should definitely punish Syria for using chemical weapons.) In the mind of a true libertarian liberal, nothing should keep an individual from doing what they want - not the government, not the Church, not morality.

This just scratches the surface, and doesn't even get into all the inconsistencies and contradictions of full-on liberalism.

Contrarily, the Tea Party, with all its love of liberty and special focus on fiscal responsibility, still maintains (at least I think hope that it does) that [limited] government is essential, family values are important, and even though freedom, liberty, & independence are to be revered and protected, they are not the ultimate societal values. Freedom is great, but I think most people who identify with the Tea Party will admit that we need government to provide some services (e.g., national defense) and certain values, such as fiscal responsibility, are at least equal in importance to liberty. I think most Tea Partiers would consider themselves pro-life and pro-marriage.

That's just my perception of the Tea Party though, and it could be wrong.

The data shoes libertarians don't identify with the Tea Party, but as much as the Tea Party wants to be "libertarian", they aren't, and shouldn't be. There's a vast difference between "give me libery or give me death" and give me liberty because I don't want anybody to tell me what to do.

 ***Update***

After writing this blog post, I found another article entitled "The Problem With Libertarians" which you can read here.  Since the article's author writes for Townhall and I am a lowly on-my-own blogger, he sums up the problem much more eloquently than I can. Check out his article

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Hope and Change We Need

 


I saw this bumper sticker on a van at church last Sunday. Couldn't help myself but to take a picture. (the owner wasn't around, so I hope they don't mind.)

It's so poignant and so simple.

Hey! Here's an idea!

Let's restore Jesus Christ as rightful King over our hearts, minds, souls, communities, families, governments, and the whole world.

Now that would be some REAL Hope and Change.

Friday, November 1, 2013

St. Louis: Be Proud, But Let's Get Over Ourselves

Now that the World Series has been over for about a day, we've had time to digest everything that happened and come to grips with reality.

First, let me be clear: I'm as big a St. Louis Cardinals fan as anyone.

I can't tell you all the obscure facts like Michael Wacha's college ERA, or Jon Jay's on-base percentage during the month of June. I don't know, and I don't really care. But I pull for the Cardinals every day and hate it when they lose.

The Cardinal Way
I love the "Cardinal Way", and the tradition of the Cardinals franchise. I'm very proud that the Cardinals call St. Louis home, and furthermore, that St. Louis is part of the great State of Missouri.

Even though the Cardinals lost this Series, with the young arms in their bullpen, the up-and-coming talent in the farm system, and now, the experience of playing in the World Series, there's a good chance they'll be back in short order. We can only hope it's next year.

At the same time, I'm a realist. And I have a few realist observations after this series:
  1. The Cardinals were a good team this year, despite the odds.

    They dominated the regular season in incredibly surprising fashion, yet, even though they won 97 games, I felt like they never quite hit their stride. (Remember the multiple game losing streaks?) Having lost their shortstop, closer, starting ace, two other starting pitchers to injury, one to free agency, plus one closer (Jason Motte), another closer (Mitchell Boggs), and towards the end of the season, another closer (Edward Mujica), there's really no way they should have been playing in October, let alone the World Series. But they made it there. And the players, Mike Matheny, the coaches, and the front office deserve all the credit that comes with what they accomplished.
  2. The World Series was different.

    Kozma's botched double-play in Game 1 of the World Series set the tone for the following games.
    Even through all the adversity, they were in the World Series, and looked fairly impressive getting there. As a fan, you'd expect a team that makes it this far to play like a championship team.  But something happened during the Series, and I don't know exactly how to explain it; I'm not sure anyone does. But I think the botched double-play transfer in Game 1 set the tone for the series, and the mediocrity sadly continued for six games.
  3. I hate to say it, but it was embarrassing.

    I was a little embarrassed for the Cardinals at times during the series. Especially after the botched double-play, the missed infield pop-up, losing 8-1 in the first game of the Series, the multiple times with the bases load, no outs, and no runs scored. It was hard to be a Cardinals fan. But I kept with it; I believed in them because, heck, these are still the Cardiac Cards, the Comeback Cards, the team with the Rally Squirrel. They don't quit. They don't give up. They play hard even if they're down with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. That's the Cardinal Way. They even came back and won Game 2 (albeit with a little help; more on that shortly).
  4. I thought they quit.

    I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but I could tell the body language changed. I didn't think the team was very confident from the beginning, but it definitely got worse. Don't believe me? The bats stayed on the shoulders. Pitchers grooved a pitch, or let a breaking ball hang a little too much. Players got that "deer in the headlights" look. Former NLCS and World Series MVP, David Freese, was the worst. Judging by the look of his body language, he looked like he'd never been there before. Judging by his play, it looked like he shouldn't be. Okay, some of it could be chalked up to "you'll have games like that."

    But six games like that? Perhaps the most telling sign was the story I heard after Game 3 when they won on a strange obstruction call. Apparently, the locker room was silent and the mood was sort of tense. Injured ace Chris Carpenter finally spoke up and said, "Hey fellas, we just won a World Series game!" That's not the same swagger that Boston had.
  5. Boston is a good team.

    We all know this. That's why they won their division. They won the NLCS. That's why they were in the World Series. Good teams do those things, and good teams have swagger. I didn't see swagger from the Cardinals. Boston played with reckless abandon each and every inning. They didn't quit. They didn't mope. They played hard, and they annoyed the crap out of me.

    When Jonny Gomes hit that monster home run at Busch in Game 4 and ran around the bases pounding his chest, I realized just how much I disliked the way Boston went about playing. I wanted so badly for the Cardinals pitcher to put one in his ribs the next time he got up to bat. But that's the Red Sox. That's who they are. If a series ever pitted the good guys vs. the "bad guys" this was that series. It was the "Cardinal Way" vs. the "Beard." A group of nice guys vs. a group of scraggly, arrogant, win-at-all-costs guys. Even when the Red Sox were at their worst, and made bonehead plays which literally handed a couple games to the Cardinals, it was because they were going for broke.

    Think about it. Game 2, trying to get an extra out on a play. The throw was bad, but it was aggressive. Game 3, doing everything possible to keep a guy from scoring, even though it was illegal. And you know what, an injured Craig was probably going to be called out had he not been obstructed. In my opinion, both Cardinals wins were gifts. Just as much as, or more than, the Cardinals won those two games, Boston lost them by being too aggressive.
  6. And finally, St. Louis, let's get over ourselves (If you're not mad at me already, this section will surely do it, especially if you're from St. Louis.)

    St. Louis fans, we need to get over ourselves. We have a great team to root for, no doubt about it. But people are starting to, and already do, think we're arrogant. We have the best fans in baseball, but we also have the best fans at reminding everyone else that we're the best fans in baseball. We may have that midwestern charm and all, but we need to stop patting ourselves on the back.

    Permit me to go off on a tangent here, but we're basically a one-horse town when it comes to professional sports. The Blues have some tradition, sure, and a loyal fanbase. But they don't have an elusive title, or an historic name like "Red Wings", "Rangers", or "Bruins." It's also hockey, and no disrespect, but the NHL is not the NFL. And let's not even talk about the hapless Rams. Since 2004, nothing worthwhile has happened in the Edward Jones Dome. So, we hang our hat on the one venerable franchise we have in the Gateway City, the St. Louis Cardinals.

    But, I think we need to take a chill-pill and put things in perspective. We're a great city, but let's look at some others that we're trying to compete with - say, Boston, for example, which has kicked our butt in championship opportunities since 2000. The Patriots beat the Rams in 2001, the Cardinals got swept by Boston in 2004 - ending the 80+ year World Series drought. Then there's this year. And now, Boston has had more World Series titles in 10 years than the Cardinals have in the same time frame. Truth be told: I hate Boston. But I respect the fact that they have good sports teams up there. In all four major sports (they're lucky to have all four), they have a total of nine championships since 2000 - 3 Lombardi trophies ('01, '03, '04), 3 World Series ('04, '07, '13), 2 NBA titles ('08, '10), and one Stanley Cup ('10). (If nothing else, nothing else "Shippin' Up To Boston" is way cooler than "Meet Me In St. Louie", so there's another reason to hate Boston.)

    In St. Louis, we have two World Series wins ('06, '11), and a Super Bowl win in '99.
    The Rams Super Bowl win in '99 was awesome
    It's great that we have had those championships, but even a city like Chicago, which we love to rag on, has had a few NFL championships, six NBA championships, and even a World Series title (albeit the south side) in the midst of a 100+ years of Cubs mediocrity, of which we in St. Louis are so apt to remind them. Those Cubs fans go along with us, and play the pity-game for fun, boo-hooing and whining periodically just for sport. But they know the truth: besides the Arch and A-B, we don't have anything else to brag about.

    Don't Be a Little Brother; Let's Get Over Ourselves

    The gist of my scant World Series analysis and my little tangent is this: I think we're like the annoying little brother to some of these other cities, and they're just like our annoying older brother. They have more going on, more glitz, more glamor, and more championships, mostly in things other than baseball. But we're good at one thing, and we don't let anybody forget it. So, I think ultimately that's why myself and so many around Cardinal Nation are justifiably frustrated after this World Series loss at the hands of "big brother" Boston. Because when the one thing you're good at is trumped by the mean "older brother" who has plenty of other things to brag about, it hurts all the worse. So, St. Louis: be proud of what we have, but let's get over ourselves. We're not quite as great as we think we are.

    Go Cardinals! #12in14