Not so Saint-ly

Let me be the first to admit my ineptitude about sports–both in knowledge of most sports and, most certainly, in skill in any sport. But every now and then, when my son is in for a visit, I catch a blurb here and there from ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. I think he’s big on the Patriots–maybe Tom Brady, in particular; he’s not a fan of undefeated college football teams who failed to put any decent opponents in their schedules, and I’m pretty sure he has some sort of whacky divisions about deceased male movie stars going on right now. That’s about the extent of my Cowherd knowledge except for his unsettling story about the Saints last week. It seems that, even after having been warned by the NFL commissioner, some of the players continued to pay each other off for purposely injuring certain members of the opposing team (i.e.”I’ll pay you a thousand dollars if you hit ________hard enough to have him carried off the field on a stretcher.”)

“After the NFL made its investigation public Friday, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams admitted to running a bounty pool of up to $50,000 during the past three seasons, rewarding players for knocking targeted opponents out of games,” according to ESPN (espn.go.com/new-york/nfl/story/_/id/7660902).

What was disturbing to me as I listened was both that this unconscionable bounty pool existed and the public reaction to this injury for pay. I listened, in disbelief, as I heard fans call in and say “ This kind of thing is nothing new. It’s just part of the sport of professional football,” or “That’s why American’s love pro football; violence is just a part of the excitement of the game,” or “Why do we have to suddenly punish the Saints when we’ve been looking the other way on these kinds of locker room pay-offs for years?”

I know I’m just an empty-nest mom, coming off of twenty-eight years of making sure everyone was playing fair and no one was getting hurt, but give me a break! Am I really living in a country where people, who are smart enough to dial in and talk on a national radio show, see nothing wrong with paying one another to purposefully injure other human beings in order to win a football game?

This has got to be a least a microcosm of the kind of violence that called down the wrath of God in the days of Noah:

“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen.6:11).

A pool of funds, especially designated for distribution among those who physically hurt opposing teammates, is pretty corrupt. The defense of these paid injuries by many fans of the sport shows a national propensity for anesthetization to the black nature of human violence.

The account of Noah was one of the first that I, as a child, heard from the Holy Pages. I remember wondering what kind of violence was occurring in the days of Noah. Were people beating up on each other with their fists or were they using sharp objects to wound and kill each other? And why? Why did people want to hurt each other in Noah’s day? I’m sure it had something to do with personal gain back then, too.

As I grew older and began to teach teens and ladies from the account of Noah, I often wondered how to most practically take lessons from the account of the violence of Noah’s day. After all, most of the women in my Bible classes would never consider hitting anyone, much less seriously injuring or killing anyone. When speaking about violence, I might have mentioned the horrors of abortion or the tragedy of child abuse. Still, for most of us, those examples are from the worlds of women in vastly different circumstances from our own. I know there are exceptions, but most of us, are just not perpetrators of violence.

But here we are. We do live in a country where the guys who play in the NFL make millions. And millions of Americans are enthusiastic fans of the game. I’ll wager (okay, not wager, but venture to say) that many of you readers have little boys who love NFL football and wear somebody’s number on a jersey. It’s a huge national pleasure and that’s okay. But members of an NFL team have admitted operating a bounty pool for the purpose of injuring opponents and the NFL is planning to levy some sanctions? If you ask me, the Saints should have their franchise pulled yesterday and be forced into the annals of once great NFL teams. Football is a sport. Here’s the definition of sport:

An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

Did you get the purpose of a sport? It’s just entertainment. Yet, here we are…raising our kids in a society that very nearly worships at the stadium or in front of ESPN and bows down before the latest and greatest quarterback. It’s difficult for me to fathom that articulate worshippers have been led in the frenzied congregation to the point of verbally excusing and even supporting their icons in pay-per-view for pay-per-violence. But moms, mark it down: We’d better start early to teach our children that sports are merely entertainment forms and all entertainment is optional. We’d better make sure they know that sports are a distant second or third to spiritual activities when scheduling conflicts arise. We’d better let them see us using sports as opportunities to evangelize and to learn the value of fair play rather than sacrificing our values for the win at all costs. We can use the examples that come around each week– from the atrocity of the Saints’ behavior, to the common abuse of steroids, to the ethical issues surrounding recruiting, to the simple lessons of sportsmanship on the Little League field–to teach our kids some very practical lessons about life and godliness, or we can let those issues teach our kids that sports trump the spiritual. But we had better get ready for some dialog with our kids about sports and the relative unimportance of the games, because the devil really wants your kids to worship at the altar of some false god–and the idol of football is about as good to him as any other. I hope your family and mine can have fun at the stadium, the diamond, the court, the field or the rink without spiritual compromise. If we can’t, we should stay away.

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matthew 18:9).

Wait! I Thought You Just Said A METH LAB…

I was doing one of my favorite things—wrapping presents—in the kitchen last Thursday when I looked out my kitchen window and saw a Madison County Sheriff’s patrol car slow to a stop right in front of my house. Two big fellows with guns and badges got out of the car and approached my kitchen door. I’d already opened the door before they got inside the picket fence as they came up the sidewalk. I plunged headlong into an amazing conversation with them:

“Can I help you?”

“How are you ma’am?”

“Good…How ‘bout you?”

“Pretty good…Listen, we just came out to ask if you’ve got some sort of well pump or something that would make a big spewing kind of sound…”

“Well, no. We don’t have a well and I can’t really think of any sound like that around here. Why?”

“Well, is there anything out here that would let off steam or hiss or…” (at this point, the officer make a big sound)… “PSHHHHHHH!”

“Well, sometimes when I am jogging out on the road, I think my air conditioner is a bit loud, but why? Did someone send you out to see if I have a well pump?”

“Well, actually not a well pump. Actually (pause…pause) somebody reported that you have a meth lab.”

“…Excuse me…but did you say ‘a meth lab?’”

“Yes ma’am. A meth lab.”

“Sir, would you all like to come in my house?”

“Well, really ma’am…she didn’t think it was in your house. She says you are running a meth lab in that little cottage. She pointed straight to that little house in your back yard.”

“The cabin?!! She thinks we’re running a meth lab in the cabin?!”

(See, at this point, the conversation was getting to be very surreal to me. This was starting to seem like something from a bizarre dream, where you wake up and think, “Oh wow! That was weird. Why’d I dream that?”)

“Yes ma’am,” he responded, jerking me back to strange reality.

“Well, then do you want to come in the cabin?”

“Well, ma’am, we can tell this is not going to be a drug bust. In fact, we’re really sorry we scared you. It’s probably a little unnerving when we drive up. I guess the main thing now is…well, we’re kind of concerned about your elderly neighbor back on the street behind you. She’s pretty sure you’re running a meth lab. In fact, she fell in my arms and got all emotional when she realized I was going to come check it out.”

“You mean she cried?”

“Yeah. Do you think you could maybe keep an eye on her—maybe go and check on her and make sure someone’s looking after her. She could have had a stroke or she might need some medical attention. I’m not a doctor, but maybe she needs to go see one. Something’s just not right.”

“Yes. I will see about her. Maybe I can find out if she has kids and if they are checking on her. I’ll try to put her closer neighbors on alert and make sure they keep an eye out. I’ll take her a loaf of bread and check on her myself, too.”

And so the next evening I stopped over to see her on my way to the church holiday party. I had made a batch of chai tea to take her, attached a card with the directions for mixing it along with our contact info, and I was on the porch ringing the bell. I waited…and waited…and at last…the door opened just a crack, a little, stooped grey-haired lady peered out just a bit and I said,

“Hello. I’m your neighbor.”

“Did you say you’re my neighbor?” she said with a hard stare.

“Yes ma’am” I’m the one… you know with the cabin… where the sheriff came out yesterday?”

“Thank the Lord!” she said with a great sigh of relief in her voice. “Thank the Lord they did! Why on earth are you running a meth lab, anyway?”

“Oh Ma’am. I’m NOT running a meth lab. I don’t even know how to run a meth lab and I surely don’t want to market any meth.”

“Well, how do you explain that terrible, awful smell that comes from that cottage down there?”

“Well, I haven’t smelled anything, but what does it smell like?”

“Well, I never smelled anything like it before…It’s a strong and very terrible smell. I mean it’s awwwful! It’s just sickening.”

“Well, I really don’t know what you could be smelling.”

“Well, if you don’t know anything about it, you had better ask your husband!”

“Well my husband isn’t running a meth lab, either. My husband is a good man.”

“Well, he may be a good man, but still…”

“Well, ma’am, I have a good idea. Why don’t you let me walk you out to my car and you can go down to the cabin with me and you can go in and see for yourself.”

“No. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I have a hard time walking and I’m in poor health. I don’t think I want to do that.”

“Well, then, I don’t know how I can make you believe that our cabin is just a little guest house. It’s just extra rooms…you know…for people to come and stay.”

“Well, who’s staying there now?”

“Well, nobody at the moment. It’s just for guests, you know.”

“Oh, well I have extra rooms, too. I know what extra rooms are for.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be going along now, since I’m not convincing you.”

“Yes. That would be very good. I wish you would.”

“Well, here’s some chai and the directions are right on this little card. It’s really good stuff.”

She eyed the jar carefully and said, “No I won’t keep that. You just take that on back with you.”

“Well, will you at least keep the card so you can call me in case you need something?”

“Well, I’m fine,” she snapped. She took the little card and gingerly held it between the tips of her thumb and forefinger, as if it were a bomb ready to detonate at the least little jiggle. “I don’t need a thing.”

“Do you have children who come to see you often?”

“Oh yes. My son looks in on me every day. He takes good care of me and I am just fine,” she said, with an emphasis on the “I”, as if to intimate that it was I who needed someone to “look in” on me.”

“Well, goodnight then.”

“Good bye.”

And that was my encounter with the woman who blew the whistle. I let out a long wavering breath as I walked to my car in the chill of the harsh December air. Who would have thought my neighbor in this serene little country village would have patently accused me of operating a methamphetamine laboratory? And to quote my philosophical friend, David Lipe, “What in the round world” could be done about it? Not a blessed thing. (And what a great prelude to the jovial festivities of the party. She knew how to put you right in the spirit.)

Lessons from the meth lab:

  1. There are some things that are simply beyond my control. Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul said, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:8). Sometimes, for various reasons, it is just not possible.
  2. Sometimes people have a false sense of security. This woman kept reiterating to me that she was “just fine.” Sometimes, just as she thought she was physically and mentally sound, people think they are spiritually “just fine,” when, in reality, they may be very ill. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Rev.3:17,18).
  3. Sometimes people refuse the very help they need the most. What can you think of that this woman really could use more than caring neighbors who are willing to look in on her and see to her needs? Yet this is the very thing of which she is most afraid. Often, people need the Lord and his people desperately, yet they fear the commitment, the changes and the holiness that will ultimately save their souls.
  4. Often, people make the evidence fit their hypotheses rather than making their hypotheses based on the evidence. I’m quite sure that this woman’s “evidence” was fabricated by some sort of dementia. But, in spiritual matters, we often let our preconceived ideas lead the evidence rather than allowing evidence to lead our ideas.
  5. I can’t ever tell what a day may bring (Proverbs 27:1). I must be ready to face the challenges of life, whatever they may be, head on, with faith, each day.
  6. The Golden Rule never leaves me wondering—how to treat the elderly, how to treat the misguided sheriff, whether or not to contact this woman’s son, etc… It’s universal in its applicability and it’s very easy to figure out its demands. This comes in very handy, especially in situations that are reactive (where you have to give a reasonable response very quickly) rather than pro-active.

So, anyway…what in the round world?

Remember to send your contest entries to: byhcontest@gmail.com. See the 12/8/10 post for details.

Questions and Answers: What about age falsification on Facebook?

Question: Is it wrong for me to allow my child to falsify his age so that he may become a “friend” on facebook at an age slightly earlier than age thirteen?

Response:
Yes. What could be right about falsifying my age to obtain any privilege or opportunity afforded to those who’ve reached a certain age? A decision to do this or even “looking the other way” when your child does this will come back to haunt you. This one seems a no-brainer to me.

Manipulation in Marriage

We all know how to manipulate in marriage. We selfishly attempt to get our way using our tears, our tricks, our lies, our begging, or, if all else fails, the withholding or exchange of our sexual favors. It’s hard not to do it, because it works. As children, we learn that sometimes (maybe not with Mom, but certainly with Aunt Ruthie) crying or pouting really works. We learn that if we catch Dad off guard, he might not listen too well to the question, and he may answer yes without really knowing he said yes. But these tricks are for kids (you silly rabbit) and when we become mature enough for marriage, we must be mature enough for total honesty. Besides, I’d much rather get the petition I’m asking because he loves me than to have my way because I pouted until he gave in or because I tricked my way into it. Ladies, we really don’t want husbands who are weak enough to be manipulated, so why do we often seem to try so hard to wear them down?

You remember the strong man Samson from the period of the judges, don’t you? Even the strong man was weak under the heavy hand of a wife who had mastered the evil art of manipulation. 

And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” (Judges 16:15-17)

She got her way. But was she happy? Well, let’s see. In the next few verses, her husband left her and murdered 30 of her kinsmen, her father picked out a new husband for her, her sister was offered to Samson to be his wife, and Samson burned up the farms of her countrymen who, in turn, burned her up along with her family. Great manipulative success for Mrs. Samson….An overall win, right?

We never win when we manipulate in marriage. Rebekah manipulated Isaac and lost her favored son, and the respect of her husband (Genesis 27). Herodias manipulated Herod and gained her place in history as the one who beheaded the beloved forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-12). We are winners when we reverence our husbands (Eph. 5:33), for it is then that we win the favor of the One who is truly able and willing to make us happy.

Taken largely from “Women of Troubled Times,” by Cindy Colley, Publishing Designs, Huntsville, AL