Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two Thoughts on the Lakers

As someone who is neither a Los Angeles Lakers fan nor hater, I rarely find myself with an opinion about them that would be worth sharing...and especially not two. But there are a number of things happening with the Lakers right now that have caught my attention and seem worthy of a few moments of my time.

The first is regarding Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest). Artest has a troubled past in the NBA, culminated by the 'Palace Brawl,' where he went into the crowd to attack and assault a fan who had thrown a beer on him. For the past few years, however, he has been well-behaved and simply strange, rather than dangerous. That is until the other night. In a recent game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Artest dunked over Kevin Durant and was overcome with emotion and passion, began beating his chest in celebration, and then proceeded to elbow James Harden in the head with the kind of force and ferocity normally reserved for the MMA octagon. Harden hit the floor in an instant and was removed from the game with a concussion.

The strangest part of the story, in my opinion, was Artest's response a few days later (after receiving a 7-game suspension). He spoke with the media after practice and portrayed a strange, indecipherable mix of emotions. On the one hand, he was seemingly trying to show some remorse for his actions. He said he had re-watched the play and obviously was too aggressive after his dunk. At the same time, however, he never actually apologized to Harden for this grievous offense. No 'I'm sorry.' No 'I hope he is okay.' No 'I was wrong and won't do it again.' Sports analysts have commented that he seemed contrite, that he was viscerally bothered by what he had done, but I am not convinced. This kind of thing happens all the time. People make it seem like they are sorry by making an emotional and impassioned speech, but they do not actually apologize and are really just inventing excuses for why their actions weren't that bad or weren't their fault. I'm not sure why we can't just own our faults and apologize for our mistakes, without skirting around the issue and trying to justify ourselves.

The second issue of current importance to the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant is in a dogfight with Kevin Durant for this year's NBA scoring title. Durant finished his season last night by scoring 32, while the Lakers still have one game to play tonight. The Lakers have locked up 3rd place in the West, so they are resting most of their starters to get them healthy for the playoffs, but they have not decided whether Kobe will play tonight or not. He would need to score 38 tonight in order to overtake Durant for the lead, so it would take a good game, a lot of effort, and a lot of minutes to get this done, but it is definitely not outside of Kobe's skill-set. He says that the scoring title is not that important to him, but it seems like it must be if he is considering playing even though there is nothing to be gained. So the Lakers and Kobe are in an interesting predicament. I think records are meant to be broken and striving for individual and team statistics is just part of the game, so I wouldn't fault Kobe and the Lakers for going for the scoring title. But it would be unfortunate if Kobe were to get injured tonight in a game that didn't matter. If I were making the decision for him, I'd sit him out tonight and let him rest...but I can understand both sides. I'll be interested to see what the Lakers and Kobe decide, and whether they risk Kobe's health for an individual statistic about which they all claim to not care.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Preparing for Pilgrimage

The Google Map For Our Trip
2700 miles in 10 days. Crazy. Fun. Awesome. Epic.

The week of my road trip has finally arrived! Some of you probably already know of my travel plans, but for those who do not, I thought I would clue you in to what the next 2 weeks will hold for me. My best friend, David, and I have been talking about taking a road trip together for years, so it seemed like now was the perfect time. This pilgrimage is incredibly important to me as it will serve as a marker of the end of one adventure (graduate school) and the beginning of another (having a baby). And I'm so glad to be making this journey with David.

We are leaving Seattle this coming Friday, April 27, and will be gone for about 10 days, arriving home again on Sunday, May 6. Our furthest destination from Seattle will be Moab, Utah, before meandering home through California and Oregon. We will be in Boise, Idaho for about 24 hours, mountain biking and rock climbing with my cousin Nathan, before heading on to Utah. We will spend about a day at Joe's Valley, one of the greatest bouldering spots in North America, and then will head on to Moab. Neither of us have been to this area of the country, so we are eagerly anticipating great weather, epic mountain bike rides on slickrock, amazing desert bouldering, and fantastic views of God's incredible creation, especially within Arches National Park.

After Moab we will begin our long journey home with a brief stop in Salt Lake City and a night's stay in Reno, NV. The next day we will arrive in Bend, Oregon, with prior stops at Larsen National Park and Mt. Shasta in California. We will mountain bike in Bend for a day, followed by a morning of climbing at Smith Rock State Park, before heading home to Seattle. And while David and I are both really looking forward to the mountain biking and climbing we will do in some of the greatest places in the country, we are, strangely, almost more excited about the incredible amount of disc golf we are going to play along the way. There are 16 courses that we have mapped out that are potential places for us to play, and I would guess that we will actually play at least a dozen of them. While I definitely feel a little nervous about leaving my very-pregnant wife at home by herself, this is a trip that I just need to take, and I can't wait.

2700 miles in 10 days. Crazy. Fun. Awesome. Epic.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Books I've Read This Year, Part 1

As a New Year's Resolution I set out to read at least 12 books over the course of 2012. My idea was that they would be 12 books in addition to my reading for graduate school, but I also wasn't too concerned with being legalistic on this goal. Now as we are about 3 months into the year, I thought I would give an update as to what I have been reading, and the books I plan to read over the next quarter of this year.

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

About a year ago I heard about an amazing book called A Game of Thrones that HBO had recently made into a 10-part miniseries. I regrettably watched the TV series prior to reading the book, but over Christmas break I finally found the time to begin the first book in Martin's much-acclaimed series A Song of Ice and Fire. The books are in the fantasy genre, and maintain references to a time when dragons and zombies (the 'white walkers') roamed the earth, but the first installment is primarily medieval in nature and centers around the dangers and betrayal of the struggle for power.

There are five books in the series, and I am hopeful to have finished them all by this time next year. Each one is about 800 pages long, so, while they are a fantastic and quick read, it is still a time-consuming process, especially as I've been trying to finish seminary and now have a baby on the way. Great fiction. Highly recommend.

The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel

This book was assigned in a class on the Sabbath, but was a book I had been wanting to read for quite some time. Heschel is a Jewish rabbi, and his book is THE book on the Sabbath. Everything I had heard and seen said that if you want to read one book on the Sabbath, this is the one to read. And their counsel did not disappoint. This is far from a self-help manual on how to practice Sabbath, but provides a lovely framework for this important biblical and theological concept. A must-read for pastors and anyone serious about living into the rhythm and rest of God.

Shaped by Stories, Marshall Gregory

This was also an assigned book, for my Narrative Hermeneutics class, but was also incredibly powerful. I am not always excited about reading books for class, and sometimes feel disappointed in the books I am forced to read, but Gregory's book was phenomenal. He begins by working the reader through his 2 primary assumptions: 1) that we all encounter stories all day, everyday, everywhere, and 2) that stories maintain great ethical power to shape and transform us. With those assumptions, his basic thesis is that me must learn to be aware of the ways in which we are being shaped for good or ill by the stories we ingest. He also has much wisdom for those of us whose careers are steeped in stories (i.e. pastors). I highly recommend this book. Perhaps my best recommendation for it would come through admitting that I plan on reading it again in the near future...and that doesn't happen very often.

The Wisdom of Each Other, Eugene Peterson

This was a book that I quickly read to see if it would be helpful for a paper I was writing about discernment and wisdom. While it was not very beneficial for my paper, the book definitely maintained a great deal of wisdom and was a fun read, as is with most of Peterson's work. The book is formatted as one side (Peterson's) of a letter-writing-interchange between two friends. While Peterson says at the onset that these letters and the recipient are not actually real, he makes clear that the nature and content of each letter is derived from actual conversations or letters from congregants or friends throughout his life. This book was good, not great.

Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

The fifth book that I have finished in the past 3 months is a biography on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, written by Martin Dugard and Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly. While I am not normally a Fox News guy, my dad loves O'Reilly, had received this book as a Christmas present, and was planning on reading it. So I figured I would read it too. I have always loved history, but rarely taken time to read about the history of our country and world, so it was nice to finally make time for this. The book is arranged as a series of journal entries that begin 13 days prior to Lincoln's assassination and document the end of the Civil War, the assassination plot by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's death, and the hunt for, and execution of, Booth. While O'Reilly is mainly a public speaker and I Know nothing about Martin Dugard or his work, their writing was good and definitely kept me engaged throughout the entirety of the narrative.


Now that I am almost finished with seminary, I will finally have time to start reading some books that I have been wanting or needing to read for a while, including books on pregnancy, giving birth, and being a parent. Here is a quick list of some books I am planning or hoping to read over the next few months:

The Birth Partner, Penny Simkin
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, Penny Simkin
A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin (book 2 in A Song of Ice and Fire)
To Change the World, James Davidson Hunter
The Pastor: A Memoir, Eugene Peterson