Thursday, March 31, 2005

NIT Finals

You heard it here: St. Joes will beat South Carolina for the title!

UPDATE: As usual, my predictive powers leave something to be desired...
SC 60 St. Joes 57.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Almost time for Dodger Baseball!

How are the Dodgers looking this year?

Starting pitching:

The Dodgers added Derek Lowe. Moving across leagues is sometimes problematic. However, he has big game experience and hopefully he will adjust quickly. Penny remains a question mark recovering from his injury. But if he lives up to his billing as a hard thrower with big game experience, a Lowe/Penny 1-2 punch could be great. On the other hand, if Lowe doesn't adjust to the NL fast and Penny's health is hampering him, the Dodger season could be over pretty early.

Perez has ability but certainly tailed off at the end of last season. Weaver also has ability but he sometimes gives up the occasional big inning. Hopefully, both young guys will improve this year.

It isn't clear who is going to get the fifth spot in the rotation.

Looking at what I've just typed doesn't give me a lot of confidence!

Position players:
Choi at 1B - He didn't do much last year. He is certainly a big strong kid
but can he consistently hit? Compared to Green we are losing some hitting here.
Kent at 2B - An upgrade in hitting over Cora last year. But he probably isn't
as good a fielder as Cora.
Izturis at SS - The only guy left from last year's infield, great fielding and modest
hitting.
Valentin at 3B - Don't think he will be putting up numbers like Beltre!
Phillips at C - Almost certainly an improvement over the hitting we didn't
get last year from the catcher's spot!
Werth at LF - Hopefully, he will recover from injury in short order and be back
to full form. One of the pleasant surprises from last year.
Drew at CF - We shall see! He has had injuries but he has ability.
Bradley at RF - Hopefully, the talented young guy will keep his head on and have
a breakout season.

As you can see, only three everyday players are back. The loss of Beltre and Green might make this team struggle for offense.

Bullpen:
The Dodger bullpen looks good except that Gagne's injury could be trouble. Remains to be seen when he will be 100%. Brazoban as setup should be fine. Sanchez and Carrara should be fine for the 6/7th inning. The worry is that the starting pitching will flop and overwork the bullpen.

Prediction:
Should I be a "homer" and say Dodgers win the Division? They have a shot. Bond's injury might slow him down and thus the Giants. Arizona has upgraded from last year's team but I don't think they will jump from last to first. Colorado seems to be a perennial also ran. San Diego has lots of upside and this maybe their breakout year. I'll stick with my Dodgers to win the Division.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

NIT final four

Tonight is the NIT final four. I was 3 out of 4. I had Maryland, Gtown, St. Joes and Memphis. Gtown got beat by South Carolina. I get the feeling that picking the top teams in the NIT is easier than the NCAA because the teams that do well in the NIT are NCAA bubble teams from power conferences. They may feel they have something to prove after being snubbed by the NCAA. I think Maryland is going to cut down the nets at MSG.

As for my NCAA final four, well, didn't do well there. I hate to admit it but I bought into the East Coast ACC bias. I had Wake, Duke and UNC in the final four. What actually happened? Wake got bounced in round two and Duke got beat in round three. UNC remains my favorite to win the whole thing. I had Arizona making the final four but they collapsed against Illinois late in the regional finals. Talk about heart break hotel!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday Reflections on the Stations of the Cross

The first station: Jesus is condemned to die.

In my life, there was a particular moment in time when I said, yes, I want to follow Jesus. It was Good Friday, 1980. I had heard about Jesus and the Cross for years. But for some reason on that night, it seemed to sink in like never before. It was like someone opened the curtain and let the sunlight of God's love in. It wasn't the end of all doubt but it was the beginning of a devotion to Jesus that has sustained me for 25 years and I trust will to the end of my days. It was reflecting on Jesus journey to the Cross that began my journey to follow him.

The second station: Jesus carries his cross.

The wood ... the feeling of splinters in the hands ... even the tiniest slivers hurt. I've know this feeling. And I wonder about Jesus having these in addition to the flogging he had endured. And the heavy weight of the Cross. Unimaginable. The most physically demanding thing I have ever done was complete a race of 26.2 miles. I've done it three times. Toward the end when you feel you have nothing left you reach deep down to find something to keep going on. And what keeps you going is that many months earlier you set the goal before yourself. Jesus endured the Cross because He was doing it to give us life.

The third station: Jesus falls the first time.

I found myself thinking of sickness. I found myself thinking of the times I've been sick and unable to do anything. Last October, I was hospitalized for one week and recovered at home for an additional two and half weeks. I felt so helpless. When Jesus falls and is on the ground in pain. He knows our feelings of helplessness.

The fourth station: Jesus meets his mother.

I don't know why but as I mediated on this I found myself thinking of orphans. People with no one to call mom or dad. I have tears in my eyes when I think that for some children, when they hear the words heavenly father they think of their earthly father and they recoil. I picture Jesus and Mary his mother sharing in this moment just a glance but with it is all the years of a mother's love. And now, it is her love that is part of what sustains Jesus on the mission of love to all humanity. For those who have broken homes, I can only say Jesus is there for you.

The fifth station: Simon helps Jesus carry his cross.

In the film, The Passion of the Christ, Gibson speculated on what the interaction with Simon who helped carry the Cross would be like. Initially reluctant but in the end standing in solidarity. Help me to be like a Simon to those God brings to my life. Help me stand with others in their time of need. Help me to be humble enough to accept help when I need it.

The sixth station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

A cup of water for the thirsty. Some food for the hungry. A word to the lonely. Clothes for the cold. Whatever need someone may have, meet it. We are to give to others as unto Jesus. Because Jesus has done it for us and so much more.

The seventh station: Jesus falls the second time.

I found myself thinking of Terri Schiavo dying in Florida. Jesus falls. He is dying. He hasn't died yet but he is dying. Jesus knows this feeling of lingering between life and death. Yet, I wonder about Schiavo ... has Schiavo's soul already been liberated? Is she already dancing in the streets of heaven? I don't know. All I know is that though life is valuable there are things worth dying for. Her death will take on a greater meaning in the days ahead. It will start a conversation about how we care for the helpless. Perhaps, it is time to let her go. But what about others? Jesus has seen death and in the shortest verse in the Bible, it says, Jesus wept. And now, he is dying. Death is sorrowful but death need not be meaningless. Jesus' death is not meaningless. It is for our life.

The eighth station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Though many in the streets called for Jesus crucifixition and cheered his torment. There were others who knew in their hearts that things were not as they appeared. They quietly mourned the death of Jesus but did not leave the scene because they know something life changing and life giving was happening. As Jesus stuggled through the streets he would see their faces and know what was in their hearts. It was his mission and he could see it was already successful in the hearts of those who were there with him, for him, believing in him. How much did this help him continue the journey? We can't know how much our faith means to Jesus.

The ninth station: Jesus falls the third time.

Brokenness. A complete mess. We are that. I am that. And Jesus knows this feeling. And he redeems us. He transforms us. We are now Broken Masterpieces because in His love He has made us new.

The tenth station: Jesus is stripped.

Hell was having a party. But it was just the darkest hour before the dawn of a new day. The great reversal was about to take place. The exchange was about to take place. His death for my sin. The defeat would be the victory to liberate us all.

The eleventh station: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Nailed to the Cross. The sound of hammer and nail. The gasps of pain. Some cheered the hammer strikes while others felt a stab in their hearts and consciences. He didn't deserve this. Two others would share the same fate on the cross. One would demand to be saved from his physical death. The other would acknowledge he deserved his physical death and requests for something he could not earn ... to be remembered by Jesus.

The twelfth station: Jesus dies on the cross.

Lyrics for the hymn "Amazing Love" came to my mind.
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
The thirteenth station: Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Taken down from the cross. Jesus life is totally spent and it was given freely. He had the power to refuse. He did not. How great a love is this? How great a love do I have? Would I freely give and spend my life for the benefit of others? I have the power to refuse and too often do. He has set the example. He has given us life and love so we can give it to others.

The fourteenth station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

The tomb. The great equalizer. Great and small, rich and poor, young and old, we all wind up here. He has gone there too. And on Sunday, he is victorious over sin and death so we can be freed. The gift is there for us to have. But he won't force us to take it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Prof. Kerr on Schiavo

Over at Volokh.com, Prof. Kerr seems to be doing most of the writing on the Schiavo case.

Caveat: I'm not a lawyer.

However, I just feel the need to wonder aloud what is he trying to get at when I read him write this:Hewitt ends his post by giving me an assignment: "Orin should answer the question: Did Congress intend Terri Schiavo to die before a de novo inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her condition was complete?" The truth is, I have no idea. I don't know who Congress is, or who to ask to find out what this Congress person thinks. I don't know what kind of deals were struck and compromises reached behind closed doors that led to the legislation that passed. I have no idea whether the legislators who expressed views on the record as to what they expected the legislation to do were a) accurately reflecting the sense of most legislators; b) merely expressing the intent of a number of legislators; c) only articulating the hope of a few; or d) simply trying to please particular interest groups by stating the law they supported would achieve a particular result even though they knew the law would do no such thing. My point is that it doesn't matter which of these is true. The law is the statute that Congress passed, not the expressed intent of particular legislators or articulated understandings of particular commentators. Emphasis mine.

A body with five bullet holes lays on the ground and nearby a gun with shell casings is found.

I suppose Prof. Kerr would say it is possible that the dead person died of natural causes.

On a Friday, the feeding tube was removed. Over the weekend, legislators flew back to Washington DC to hammer out a law and the President flew back to sign it after midnight. I think we have a pretty good idea what the intent of the law was.

If Kerr's point A and B are true, then Kerr believes the law as written doesn't do what they want it to do and the Federal Courts failure to act is consistent. Then Kerr believes Congress messed up in the writing of the law with insufficient specificity and should just SAY SO.

If Prof. Kerr's point C and D is valid then that means some/most legislators voted just to "look good" to the voters back home. If Kerr believes our legislators are that cynical then again, Kerr should just SAY SO.

If Prof. Kerr thinks that Congress oversteps its boundaries in passing the law, he should just SAY SO.

Instead, we are treated to his speculations of the cynical motivations of the legislators and hypertechnical justifications of why the Federal Courts acted as they did.

On a personal note, I would not want to be in any of the shoes of the people involved in the Schiavo case. It is just too sad to contemplate and that is why I've not blogged about it. My gut feeling is if there is doubt about Mrs. Schiavo's wishes and doubt about her diagnosis then those should be given a hearing. In the end, the result might be the same but at least let's put everything on the table.

UPDATE: I only now though of checking Hewitt's site for a response which is here.

Holy Week: the Stations of the Cross

Ever heard of the Stations of the Cross? Hat tip to HH.

Below is an excerpt about its history:
The most important reason for reviving the practice of making the Stations of the Cross is that it is a powerful way to contemplate, and enter into, the mystery of Jesus' gift of himself to us.  It takes the reflection on the passion out of my head, and makes it an imaginative exercise.  It involves my senses, my experience and my emotions.  To the extent I come to experience the love of Jesus for me, to that extent the gratitude I feel will be deep.  Deep gratitude leads to real generosity and a desire to love as I have been loved.  First, just a note about the history of the stations:

The History:
From the earliest of days, followers of Jesus told the story of his passion, death and resurrection.  When pilgrims came to see Jerusalem, they were anxious to see the sites where Jesus was.  These sites become important holy connections with Jesus.  Eventually, following in the footsteps of the Lord, along the way of the cross, became a part of the pilgrimage visit.  The stations, as we know them today, came about when it was no longer easy or even possible to visit the holy sites.  In the 1500's, villages all over Europe started creating "replicas" of the way of the cross, with small shrines commemorating the places along the route in Jerusalem.  Eventually, these shrines became the set of 14 stations we now know and were placed in almost every Catholic Church in the world.
I plan to click through it as an aid to my meditation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bringing it to the streets

Last Saturday, I went to South Los Angeles to provide a few hours of volunteer service with a religiously based non-profit.

I've blogged about Faith in Christ Ministries here.

The project for the day was being organized by a church in North Hollywood. I didn't catch the full name of the church. The North Hollywood church provided the bulk of the food and a handful of musicians. Prior to their arrival at FICM, a few of us from the church I go to were there doing some set-up things and there was a college group from out of state (I think) staying at FICM for a few days to gain an urban experience ready to help in any way possible.

Food was set out on tables on the sidewalk, a banner with the words, "Operation Love" and music from inside the auditorium could be heard outside through the one speaker that was run to the door. In short order, a line of people formed along the block.

After getting food, many went inside to hear the music. One singer shared how she once was addicted to drugs but by the love of God so was freed from it and she danced with joy to the music and sang from the bottom of her heart.
Luke 14:13-50 -- Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”

"You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The next singer was a Rapper. I have to confess I have little fondness for that musical genre. However, he rapped, I hate what God hates and God hates sin and he ran off a list of sins. He then preached our need for God.

The Kingdom of God is bigger than my imagination. God can be proclaimed by the music of Bach and in the music of the streets of 45th and Western. God can be proclaimed by the wise old fatherly looking preacher in a suit and tie and by a young woman healed from a past with drugs who you wouldn't be able to distinguish from anyone else you see in the grocery store.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

Monday, March 21, 2005

We're number 66: the other tournament

In this time of March Madness, this blog will march to the beat of a different drummer and have a few posts about the NIT! To see my thoughts on the NCAA go to my other blog.

But back to the NIT.

The NIT has its Sweet 16 and are now drawing down to the round of 8. Memphis, Texas A&M, TCU, St. Joseph's and Vanderbilt are in with 3 more slots to fill. The game of local interest will be Cal State Fullerton vs. Georgetown. Fullerton is part of the Big West Conference that sent Pacific and Utah State to the Big Dance.

My NIT final four picks: Maryland, Georgetown (though I have to root for Fullerton), Memphis and St. Joseph's.

Look for a final game at MSG between Maryland and St. Joseph's with Gary Williams coach of Maryland cutting down the nets with his team that has gone hot and cold throughout the season. This team beat Duke TWICE so you have to say they are the favorites.

Sweet Home Lord Jesus

For Holy Week, I plan to blog each day little snippets from my Christian experience.

A few weeks back, while at youth group, the band was playing a familiar tune.

At first, I couldn't quite figure it out because a lot of times music has a context. In a symphony hall, you are used to certain music. In a baseball stadium, there are particular songs. And indeed, in church, there are tunes you expect.

So it took me quite awhile before I realized the band was playing, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama!"

We sang only the chorus with the following words (only slightly modifying the original):
Sweet Home Lord Jesus
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Lord Jesus
Lord, I'm coming home to you
I loved it! Makes me think of this Bible passage:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." -- John 14:1-3
The irony of the music of course goes beyond its musical genre. The original lyrics apparently have been debated as to whether they are defending or making a satire of the racial segregation of the South.

The irony is complete: Jesus who used a Samaritan (a despised ethnic group of that era) as an example of love in Luke 10:25-37, the story of the Good Samaritan, would be praised by a song that had its roots in racial tensions of our times.
"For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him." -- Romans 10:12

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Palm Sunday

Some of you may know that today is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of what is known in Christianity as Holy Week.
They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” -- Matthew 21:7-9.
The Gospels in the Bible record that at the beginning of Holy Week, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey to crowds cheering, "Hosanna" and waving Palm branches. The week's events would turn to calls for crucifixion on Good Friday and the miracle of Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In church today, during the Children's Sermon, the speaker handed out rocks to the kids. He then asked them to walk up the aisle toward the exit and then back to the front while asking us in the pews to shout, "Hosanna, save us now." He wanted to re-create the drama of the Palm Sunday journey of Jesus. The cacophony of voices was very moving... we sensed some of the excitement and belief in possibility that the crowd might have felt.

The speaker than called for silence and reminded us that in the Bible, it records not everyone was in favor of Jesus. He then recited the words of Jesus:
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” -- Luke 19:39-40
The speaker than told the kids to keep the rocks and remember Jesus will be proclaimed no matter what and it is our honor to be able to do so.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Save the date: 10/13 to 1/15, 2005, Christian Blogging Convention

Check it out here. HT to Hugh Hewitt.

Excerpts from convention announcement:
Below you will find some information on the Convention, but please be reminded that things are still being planned and organized. WE PLAN TO HAVE A CHRISTIAN BLOGOSPHERE CONVENTION WEB SITE up in a week or so that will include specific information and the registration cost/process. DO NOT telephone Biola University please. Thanks for your patience.

LOCATION:

Hosted by The Torrey Honors Institute of Biola University, under the direction of Dr. John Mark Reynolds.

DATES:

October 13th (Thursday) through the 15th (Saturday).

Sunday, March 13, 2005

LA Dining: Zeke's Smokehouse

Looking for ribs?

Give Zeke's Smokehouse a shot! My first taste was at a youth group staff meeting and so I filed the name of the place in my mind. Check here and here for reviews in AOL Digital City.

Food:
Delicious Memphis Baby Back Ribs and Kansas City Spare Ribs. Haven't tried yet their Giant Long Horn Beef Ribs. Also, had some Carolina Pulled Pork and Lazy Smoked BBQ Chicken.

Service:
Have had take out from them twice. Service seemed reasonably good. This is not in-store candle-light dining!

Atmosphere:
One can eat in, take out or cater. The in store set-up is pretty typical: smallish, crowded and busy. People are clearly there for the food.

Price:
Full slab of ribs (12 pieces) range from $17.95 to $22.95.

Location(s):
First store -
2209 Honolulu Avenue
Montrose, CA 91020
818-957-7045
Second store -
7100 Santa Monica Bl.
W. Hollywood, CA 90046
323-850-9353

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Stayin' Alive - Win and Advance, UCI 80 UI 67

Its a final. The Anteaters defeat Idaho 80-67. They face Cal State Northridge tomorrow.

Rip 'em Eaters!

To track the goings on in the Big West Tournament go here.

Monday, March 07, 2005

LA Scene: Foxey Lady at the Hard Rock Cafe Universal City Walk

Got to the HRC at 8:20 pm.





At the center of the restaurant is this rotating car, a 1957 Cadillac.





Show time! Foxey Lady is on! Here is Jamie Hendrix (Marija) on guitar.





Here is Noelle Redding (Melissa) on bass





Unfortunately, I didn't get a good photo of Michelle Mitchell (Angie) on the drums hidden behind the drums hidden behind the plexiglas.





And of course, with digital cameras these days, you can sort of do video clips.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Go Bruins! Go Anteaters!

Bruins win 69-61 over OSU to improve to 17-9 overall and 10-7 in conference! Bruins take on the Ducks on Saturday and hopefully will take care of business. The Pac-10 post-season tourney is next week and 1 win there plus a win against the Ducks on Saturday puts them at 19-10 which should be enough but I think 2 wins in the tourney gets them to 20-10 which should make them a lock for the NCAA.

Meanwhile down south on the I-5, my Anteaters beat UCSB 72-63 to improve to 14-12 overall and 7-10 in conference. This win insures the Anteaters a spot in the Big West post-season tournament.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

LA Scene: Jimi Hendrix Tribute Band - Foxey Lady

One of the things about living in LA is the opportunity to see something a little different.

Well, how about an all female Jimi Hendrix Tribute band?

Check out Foxey Lady.

In fact, they have a show coming up this Sunday at 8:30 pm at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal City Walk.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ralph Winter Profiled in Time Magazine

Time magazine recently profiled 25 evangelical Christians. Ralph Winter founded the efforts going on at the United States Center for World Missions where a friend of mine works. She shared with me that the organization is pleased with the additional exposure but emailed me USCWM's response to some unfortunate inaccuracies in Time's article. Check out the corrections to the Time profile here.

In the old days, you would have to contact the publisher and hope they publish an addendum or correction in some subsequent issue of the magazine. With the internet, you can put it up on your web site and send off an email to your supporters referencing that link. I wonder to what degree bloggers may help get out the word about the clarification?

I wonder if the other 24 felt they were accurately quoted?

As of right now, the blogosphere (according to technorati) hasn't picked up the Winter response story yet. To see who is talking about it, click here.