15 Years and Counting...

Today is an important day in my year. Fifteen years ago this evening, a great influence on my life, Rich Mullins, stepped over the line of time and into eternity. I can't wait to meet him.

Here is an article he wrote Seventeen years ago, when I was Thirteen, but before I was Fifteen, when he died, Fifteen years ago today.


The woman on the television had that smug-uppity look on her face and that grimly condescending tone in her voice when she looked dead on into the camera and at point blank range announced with ridiculous earnest something that was hysterically, ironically true:

"Miracles are for children," she said with her educated, wilted monotone - a delivery you might call deadpan if she was trying to be funny. The funny thing is, she was not.

But she was right - miracles are for children. And the truth that popped out from between those lips that sophistication had soured, seemed to stop short of the heart of its intended target, look back in wonder, and scratch its head at the unflattering set of jaws whose bite it had accidentally escaped. That truth could have been no sweeter or more true if it had been spoken by Christ Himself.

And Christ Himself did say much the same in so many words, especially if we take the idea of miracle at its most exact sense: "the suspension of the laws of nature by divine intervention." Christ preached what He Himself called the "Good News" of the kingdom of God - a kingdom full of miracles. He Himself said that in this Kingdom the poor would know comfort - and even the most debauched hedonists among us know that if comfort is found by anyone, it is a miracle. In this kingdom of miraculous comfort, Christ said that the meek would inherit the earth (quite contrary to the law of survival of the fittest), the hungry would be satisfied (not a popular notion in a consumerist society), the pure would have vision (a threat to a world that thrives on sensationalism) and the peacemakers (not the most heavily armed aggressors) would be esteemed.

The TV lady and Jesus were in complete agreement about miracles being for children. But then the TV woman said that grown-up people, grown up societies, do not need miracles. She said that the grown-up meanings that Jesus meant did not need the theatrical trappings that He dressed them in - those circus costume miracles (those funny, childish gags like the calming of storms, the cleansing of lepers, the raising from the dead). She said we did not need miracles to find Christ or to be part of His kingdom.

Therein is the rub. Christ said that His kingdom - the world where He Himself reigns - is for children. He Himself said that if we don't need a miracle we will most likely have little interest in Him. If we are able to get along joyfully in the grown-up world of supply, demand, survival, aggression, sensations and consumerism, then we'd probably have too low to stoop and too much trimming to do to slip through that needle's eye gateway to Him. If we aren't sick, we don't need a doctor. If we aren't lost, we don't need a leader.

But, if we can admit a need, if we aren't as altogether as we sometimes secretly fear we're not, if we can shed our thick-skinned self-reliance and peel off that thin veneer of satisfaction - then there is a place for us in His kingdom and a fairly fat chance that we can loosen our load and slip on through. If we can find that courage... or that honesty... if we can be needy, helpless, blessed as a child...

O Lord, this is me calling - an adult in an adult world, needing to be a child again in a kingdom for children. O Lord - can you make me that? It will take a miracle.


There in those 7 or 8 paragraphs is the story of my life; hopefully at least the story that is becoming my life. In line with this article, I think of Rich's song Growing Young. Check it out if you get a chance.

NCAA Championship

Kentucky just won the National Championship... and the farewell montage music is straight out of the late 70s. It's like cool jazz meets those old, bad sitcoms we're glad aren't syndicated anymore. If you missed this, please google 'One Shining Moment'. The wrong person clearly got too much creative control, and that person clearly is still spinning vinyl, has shag carpet, and drives a Nova. Watch that montage with that dog-ugly song and tell me otherwise.

...5 minutes later....

OK, so a little more backstory... The song is indeed 'One Shining Moment', by Luther Vandross. Some dude named Doug, a producer with the NCAA Tournament, came up with this idea. No harm intended to Doug, or Luther Vandross, but this song is dog-ugly. Also, Doug died in 2009. Judging from the song, he was likely very very old, and only sentimentality on the part of the other aging producers can even begin to explain this crime of a tournament-ending video segment. It's time to move on, guys. Doug is gone. The song is old. Let it go.

...3 minutes later....

The song is still dog-ugly, but it's starting to get stuck in my head between the replays and laughter. I might just sneak this into the wake-up alarm circuit.

Reflections on Martin/Zimmerman

For my part, I feel a lot of compassion and grief for those directly affected in this case. Each seem, from the available quotes, broken up over the matter and caught up in an unwanted storm of political opportunism. We can say with certainty that Mr. Zimmerman will be charged and will defend himself in court. That those charges have not yet been filed underscores the complicated nature of the case and the need for restraint. If those with the authority to accuse are having such a hard time developing a prosecutable accusation, on what more-informed ground do rallies across the nation levy their accusation?

To be very clear, I don't know if George Zimmerman is innocent or guilty. I have no idea what happened. Even if I did, I would have a hard time drawing the line between when pulling the trigger in self-defense is and isn't warranted. The standard of reasonable doubt exists because our criminal judicial system is based on an aversion to condemning the innocent. It's not perfect, but we generally make our best effort to meet that very Christian and compassionate standard of judgment. I'm thankful that the matter will be settled in court, because outside its walls, a different standard of judgment is at work. There, all I hear is an instigated crowd chanting in unison for a charge not proven concerning a matter they cannot possibly understand. But that shouldn't strike us as out of place, right? The madness of crowds at the prodding of opportunists is nothing new. Christians, of all people, should understand that pattern, especially this week.

Beautiful Game...

I'm obviously heartbroken for my Texas Rangers. I don't remember any of the comments made after the game -- I just remember Ron Washington's sunken, tired face that mirrored the exhaustion of Ranger players and fans who came to the very crest of achievement and fell away. Twice.

I've spent some time trying to make sense of the whole thing, asking just as much 'what happened' as 'what do we do now?' When the world caves in, it's easy to question the fundamentals of the team - to ask whether there is some central flaw that makes a championship forever just out of reach. To this thought, which I perceive is prevalent among Rangers fans, I urge caution, perspective, and some much-needed time to rest, reflect, and refocus.

Exhibit A: Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves of 1991 & 1992 were the last team to lose back-to-back World Series. No less coincidental, the 1991 series featured a David Freese moment of its own. In Game 6, Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off home run to force Game 7. Like Freese, his home run also came in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Twins went on to win Game 7 on the arm of Jack Morris, who pitched 10 scoreless innings to seal the victory. Heartbreaking for the Braves, right? And that was just their first World Series defeat.

I bring up the Atlanta Braves because they are a great example of resiliency in the face of defeat. Bobby Cox, their soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager, led them to a total of 5 World Series in the 1990s. They won the 1995 series, lost in 1996 to the Yankees, and lost again in 1999, again to the Yankees. So how are the Braves viewed, 15 years removed from their run? At first glance, we might call them baseball's version of the Buffalo Bills, who lost 4 straight Super Bowls right around the time the Braves lost their first two. Yet, we don't see them that way. The Braves are celebrated as a dynasty, partly validated by the series they won, but more defined by their ability to improve themselves while keeping their core together, and somehow managing to complete at the highest levels for 14 consecutive years.

Exhibit B: Free Agents, or lack thereof
I will not labor this point, except to say that the Rangers have 2 free agents this offseason: C.J. Wilson and Mike Gonzalez. Everyone else is on board for at least one more year. Our core is in tact, which frees up Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan to focus entirely on player development and seeking out a few extra pieces that could improve on an already-great team.

Exhibit C: Player Development
The big question mark in this area is how certain players will respond to the adversity they have just faced. Chiefly among these is young Neftali Feliz. He is in the conversation, already, as the best closer in baseball. He didn't have his best performance Thursday night, but in a role that unfairly requires perfection every night, he has proven his worth over the aggregate. Hopefully he understands this, and looks forward to the next big opportunity.

The Rangers have a mix of established veterans who are peaking, and young players who are good and still improving. My favorite example is Derek Holland, our young starter who pitched a lights-out Game 4, allowing 2 hits over 8 1/3 innings. He hasn't always been consistent, but he was dominant in his biggest performance of the season. That should be a great comfort to Rangers fans everywhere. Elvis Andrus is still improving. Nelson Cruz grew into a monster. Ditto for Mike Napoli. Matt Harrison had his best season so far. There's a lot of room to grow with the guys we already have.

In Conclusion
The beauty of baseball is that it is an inherently patient game. The reason the Braves are not likened to the Bills is not because they won a World Series (though that helps). More, baseball just plays out in a way that doesn't lend itself to marginalization. Football is regimented, sharp, and ruthless. It is a game of black and white. It is pitiless. Baseball is a game of second chances. It may hurt now, but we're in league with some great, celebrated stories, and come April 1st, all will be forgotten, and we'll start a new 7-month journey. Hopefully, with a result one pitch better than this beautiful year we've had.

Been Awhile...

Hello patient, faithful readers,

It's been awhile I know, but I think the end of the year should be fairly active. I have a writing concept in mind and I'd love your help. In light of Steve Jobs's death, I started thinking about him in relation to other great American entrepreneurs, and how they would look if I could somehow put them on a level field of comparison. This isn't an effort to name anyone the 'best' -- I think most such lists are born out of arrogance and lethargy. A simple comparison is all I'm after. There are circa 10 weeks left in the year, so I'm thinking 10 entrepreneurs, 1 each week, will do. Then, somewhere near the turn of the year, I'll wrap it up with a synthesis of the series, and hopefully drawing some interesting comparisons.

This is the part where you come in: Obviously I'll make Steve Jobs one of the 10, but who should I use for the other 9? Names like Edison, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Stanford, Buffett, Gates, etc... these all come to mind, but I'm just as interested in 'movers and shakers' who are apparent to many as I am those who are apparent to few. If something comes to mind, or if you want to commit a little time to thinking about it, I'd love to hear your suggestions. Email me at: nathanski@gmail.com

Be sure and let me know soon, as I really need to get going soon to have any chance of finishing by year-end. I'll send out a post this weekend with the final selections.

Thanks! Looking forward to it!