Saturday, August 05, 2006


Here I was, age 49, helping the local track club by teaching the shot and discus. Intrigued by the enthusiasm of the kids and having a desire to increase my knowledge, and to improve my coaching, it seemed a logical progression to start throwing. It was fun. The next step was to look into masters track competitions. The website showed an upcoming meet in Cat Spring, TX called the Grunt. It was held at Almosta Ranch owned by Mark Chapman and Cheryl Mellanthin. I called and spoke to Cheryl. I told her that I was a novice and was interested in competing but I was really looking for some advice about throwing. Cheryl assured me, "There'll be plenty of people willing to give their advice."

Driving into Almosta Ranch it was apparent that this was something a bit different than any other competition I'd ever been to. Maybe it was the long gravel drive that led up to house and then a barn and a smaller out-building. After parking the car and noticing the throw venues were in a small pasture Cheryl was in the middle of things holding a clipboard. After we exchanged introductions Cheryl pointed toward the house where the registration fee was being collected. Lining the approach to the front door were tables filled with food. I found one with cakes and pies and deposited my fee—a large batch of double fudge brownies. As far as registration fees go this was the strangest. "Just bring something to eat if you want."

The first event in the competition was the javelin. Never having thrown a javelin before I boldly stepped up and exclaimed, "Does anyone have an 800 gram javelin I could borrow?" A silver haired pony-tailed man with a body builder physique said, "Just a minute." He disappeared into a trailer attached to a pick-up truck with Louisiana plates. A moment later, Vince Breaux reemerged with two javelins. His trailer was full of throwing equipment that he brought with him from Alexandria. Thank goodness for the Louisiana contingent. The food was outstanding due to their contributions. Especially tasty was the boudin offered while we were still throwing. What an energy boost.

What struck me early on was the competition. In the Javelin Bobby Barnes—at the time ranked number three in the world—took pity on me and taught me proper javelin technique. Former Olympic hammer thrower, Tom Gage from Montana, got off some impressive throwers. Jim Gerhardt, a triple jump competitor in the 1952 Olympic Games, was there competing very well in all the throws.

The graciousness of the people is what really stuck out in my mind. This was competition based on the enjoyment of the sport. Everybody encouraged one another. Effort was applauded, not in a patronizing way but in a way that affirmed each competitor according to their abilities.

One of the most courageous performances was by Skip. He had suffered a stroke during the previous year and the right side of his body was useless to him. So Skip threw left-handed. His performances amounted to a mere fraction of when he was healthy but Skip’s efforts were widely admired. He became the symbol of the Grunt. Compete to the best of your ability.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Creativity and Education

What are the most significant memories of your school years ? Take a moment. What comes to mind? What about your schooling was important?

If you took the opening question seriously, I bet standardized test scores were not at the top of your list. But that’s what politicians and others point to as a measurement of success. Those scores have validity, but they also leave much to be concerned about. A standardized multiple choice test just can’t do a good job of measuring creativity–either the students’ or the teachers’.

An article in Chemical & Engineering News draws this conclusion about creativity: “. . . the importance that hiring committees place on the job interview suggests that students should focus on finding an educational path that helps develop creativity, confidence, and scientific skill.”

An article in Prism the journal of American Society for Engineering Education makes the case for creativity: “C. Sidney Burrus, dean of the school of engineering at Rice University, says, ‘The secretary of education in China told me that they are emphasizing creativity and design in engineering because they don't only want to manufacture products designed in the U.S. and Japan.’”

Education requires skill but also creativity. The ability to come to new conclusions demonstrates a degree of ingenuity.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Higher Calling?


Here’s the thing. We want to help people see their everyday, ordinary, routine work in a new light. It’s the high calling of our daily work. People want to know what we mean by a high calling or a higher calling. Can all work possibly be significant or meaningful? We believe it can if it’s dedicated to God. God cares about us individually and collectively. That means God cares about our work.

To read more about this vist Ramblin' Dan

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A friend of mine, Willie T, has an expression he uses often when people ask him about church. Willie T says, “I believe in the Church it’s churches I have trouble with.” Grab a plug of that and chew.

It doesn't take much for Willie to take off on his meaning. The Church is universal. The churches are territorial. Christ’s church is devoted to all God’s people, while churches are more concerned about our kind of people. The church wants to bring together the followers of Christ, the churches are territorial and want to make sure the divisions are clear.

“On Sunday morning when I wake up I get confused about where I should go to church,” Willie is fond of saying. “Should I go to the building with the people who look like me, or think like me? Maybe I should go to the church with the people who look the most different, or think the most different? It gets confusing so I think about the music. Should I go where they sing old hymns that take me back or new music that stirs me to action?”

Why do people go to church? I’m not looking for an ecclesiastical/theological definition, simply the reason people feel the need to attend a Sunday mass or service. Among the reasons are to worship, to praise God, to give thanks, a sense of obligation, guilt or shame. This isn't an exhaustive list merely a representative one.

Here is where things begin to break down for me. Worship is the act of adoration, giving thanks, honoring God, praising God. Are these once a week activities, or should they be an integrated part of daily living?

Willie T makes some interesting points but he rarely offers a solution. What he does say though is that “there are a lot of folks out there who love Jesus but they’re staying home on Sunday.” However true that may be I don't thinks it’s the answer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A friend sent me this link to Chris Rice’s blog. He starts out, “I’m a word guy.” That always intrigues me. The gist of his articles is that Christians just like any other group have a special language. Chris refers to it as “code language.” It started me thinking about my own favorite words or buzz words used in conversation among Christians. And how these words quickly become not only part of the language but cliches.

Impacted is frequently heard in church circles. This word means wedged together or packed in. The fact that it has come to mean being an influence makes me squirm. I often suggest increased fiber in the diet when I hear someone describe how their ministry impacted so many people.

Daily walk is a nice metaphor for our relationship with Christ. I must confess however that expression “my daily walk” is somewhat confusing. I recognize it as a buzzword filled with meaning, but often I’m not sure what the person is really trying to say. Maybe they’re impacted and a daily walk helps their constitution.

Emergent is a truly fascinating word. It’s a more useful description of what is happening in the Church than the term post modernism. I find the word to be hopeful and descriptive of a new reality emerging in the world of the Church.

Path and journey are two words that make some cringe, but I like them. To walk with the Lord we need to follow His path. It is a life long journey.

Enough of the seriousness back to the foolishness.

Grow is gradually losing it place as a buzzword. People who “want to grow in the Lord” have always confused me. I know they mean, “I want to develop my understanding of Jesus,” or “I want to work toward a more fulfilling in a relationship with Christ.” I’m never quite sure of the person’s intent though. I pretty sure they don’t want to be a tumor on the Lord.

Code words can impact us all—even the emergent Church—to grow in the Lord in this post modern world.

Really, though, can anyone live a cliche-free life? We need to pay attention to the way we use language. Tired metaphors can prevent us from thinking too hard and articulating our meaning. Plus there is the added danger of insiders using church language to categorize and label others. Our language can even be a kind of secret password, like the Icthys symbol in the early church. . . It’s just that American Christians are rarely threatened with death like the early Christians were.

Church language has its place, but code word garbage is just cliche. We can all work a little harder to communicate God’s truth in love as clearly as possible.