Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Repost: Would You Let Them Play?

(President Obama was recently quoted by The New Republic saying, “…if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play.” His comments reminded me of a Fire & Hammer post from May 7th, 2012, written shortly after the suicide of former Chargers’ player Junior Seau. Recently Seau’s brain was examined and found to have signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Seau’s family is suing the NFL and helmet maker Riddell.)

How the death of Junior Seau weighs on the mind of a football dad.

I love football but must admit the relationship has become a bit strained lately. Over the last couple of years the news out of the NFL is causing me to rethink my support of the sport, especially with what we have heard the last couple of weeks. Word of bounties and the recent apparent suicide by a high profile former player have me questioning my interest. No, I am not too soft to watch an inherently brutal sport. I have become hesitant when it comes to football because of my oldest son’s dream.

My son dreams of playing in the NFL. As a kindergartener he could not wait to put on a helmet and make his first tackle. After a handful of years in youth football he still has his dream, staying with it though he knows the odds are against him. Each year he looks forward to playing on the next level, moving from one weight class to the next even thinking about what colleges he might want to play for. So it was a difficult decision whether or not to talk with him about the recent death of Junior Seau.

Junior Seau was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We do not know, and most likely will never know, why he killed himself. Yet his death echoes that of former Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest about fourteen months ago. Their deaths add fuel to the discussion over repetitive head trauma and its effects on players in the NFL. And while most NFL players live after their carriers without showing any signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a good number do show other signs of the beatings that are an unavoidable part of football. Knowing this I can’t help but wonder if my son’s dream will leave him with a broken body or even a broken mind.

The news of Seau’s death opened the door for a conversation with my son about the health issues being faced by a number of former NFL players. I did not want to crush his dream but I believe he is now at an age where he can handle this discussion. The odds are against him ever making it to the NFL but if the opportunity does arise I want him to make an informed decision, being aware of the issues surrounding the industry. However for some parents being informed is not good enough.

I have heard fathers say they will not let their sons play football. They have seen enough evidence of the game’s physical toll to warrant their pointing their sons in other directions. On the other end of the spectrum are the parents who push their children into the sport without any concern beyond raising the next pro-bowler. For now I have left the decision in my son’s hands, keeping him informed of what goes on beyond the game. How about you? In light of what we know about repetitive head trauma are you/would you allow your children to play football?

Monday, January 28, 2013

International Prayer: January 28, 2013

In the past we have prayed for solders, doing so in recognition of the sacrifice they make on our behalf. Unfortunately it is all too easy to forget about the sacrifices made by the families who stand with our solders. Parents and siblings; husbands and wives: there are back at home a number of people who serve their country by sacrificing time with their loved ones for the sake of liberty.

Today I read an article posted at NBCNews.com which I will never forget. NBC contributor Bill Briggs tells the stories of some of these family members, their faces shown in the photographs accompanying the article. What do they have in common? Each either attempted suicide or knows a solder’s family where a member attempted suicide.

Last year 349 U.S. solders committed suicide. No one knows how many relatives of solders did the same. Continue in prayer for our solders and remember to pray for their families as they deal with the reality of having a loved one in or recovering from combat.

Pray also for:

Mali – Ten months ago militants took the city of Timbuktu, a part of an offensive against the government of Mali. In response France sent solders to help drive the militants out of the city and to help reestablish their ally. While the French have been successful in helping the government of Mali there is more work to do.

Syria – Violence continues in Syria. Pray for the people, especially the children of Syria who will forever carry the scars of civil war.

U.S.  – There are people who are still trying to repair their homes following super storm Sandy. Living in hotels and in some cases living in tents, they are enduring winter in the northeastern United States without the stability of having a place to call home. Keep them in prayer as they continue to try to rebuild their lives.

Egypt – Two years after the fall of the Egyptian government the nation is facing a new round of deadly protests. The current government, working to maintain control, faces charges of pushing a religious agenda and not defending the rights of all Egyptians. Pray as Egypt continues to wrestle with the course the nation took two years ago.

Families facing adversity and nations trying to overcome division, both need our prayers. Continue to lift those in need before the Lord, making yourself available if He calls for you to respond. Remember your neighbors nearby and those across the seas, each one needing you to lift them up before the Lord.

Monday, January 21, 2013

When God Said, “No”: The 2012 Election

As I write I am also watching as a quarter of a million people take their places for the 2013 Presidential Inauguration. The nation is preparing to look forward to the next four years. As we do so I find myself thinking about last year’s election and of how so many who profess Christ prayed for much different results than what we received.

As Christians we believe God hears our prayers. So when believers began to pray about the results of the 2012 election they were counting on God to somehow sway the election results. The chorus calling for prayer and for a Republican win grew louder as November approached, with some questioning the faith of those who refused to pray the way we were told that we should. We were told that because of the president’s stance on certain moral issues there was only one right way to pray and that was to call out against his serving a second term. And yet here I am watching a limo carrying President Obama to his second inauguration. It seems God heard His children’s prayer and decided to say, “No.”

In contemplating God’s response I find myself wondering how with so many calling for one thing, God delivered something else. Could it be that the results of the election were in fact what is best both for the country and for God’s church? I believe the answer must be yes. I believe what was prayed for was the easy path, the path where some Christians thought they would find the least resistance to our duties in the public square. We know that the church is called to teach the gospel, serving as a sort of moral conscious to our nation. Having a president who for the most part agrees with the church on these moral issues would definitely serve to make our task easier. But is that really what Christians needed?

I believe we received the president the church needs, a president whom by his stance on certain issues presents a challenge to the church even as he professes to share the same faith. Perhaps the message from God is that the church cannot rely on one government official to smooth out our path. Perhaps we need to be pushed over the next four years, taking the opportunity to grow in the face of conflict as we learn how to continue as lights on a hill. The work of affecting change in our culture is a difficult one and we must look not to a president but to our Lord to guide us in doing the work. It is those who tell us to pray for anything else that are in fact wrong about the faith.

It is by the power of God’s Spirit that we will see real change. We must call out to Him in prayer, asking for eyes to be opened to truth including the eyes of those who live in the White House. We must also ask for wisdom in how we can stand in support of our president for the next four years without compromising on what is right. God said no to those who prayed against President Obama having a second term. Now we must trust in our Lord, knowing He has us on the best path for His children and for our nation.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NFL Conference Championships 2013

After going .500 last weekend I stand at 6 and 2. Today we have the Conference Championships and I think we are in for two great games.

49ers vs. Falcons – Last weekend the 49ers showed why they are in this year’s playoffs with a great four quarters of football. The Falcons on the other hand played one good half, barely surviving a Seahawks’ rally. I wonder where the Falcons confidence sits coming into today. What they saw during last week’s second half is what they will see all afternoon today. The 49ers get the road win, moving on to the big game.

Ravens vs. Patriots – Could both road teams win today? It is possible. The Ravens will bring enough weapons into today to pull this one off. For it to happen Joe Flacco will need to once again get the Ravens in the end zone just as he did last weekend. The Patriots will score and I do not believe the Ravens can keep up. Patriots win, keeping us from seeing the Harbaugh brothers battle.

Those are my picks. Who do you think will win?

Friday, January 11, 2013

NFL Divisional Playoffs 2013

Last weekend I went 5-0 including the BCS championship game. This week the matchups are a little tougher and I find myself going back of forth on who I think will win.

Ravens vs. Broncos – I think this game will come down to the play of Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco and running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Ravens must keep the Broncos offense off of the field by putting together time consuming drives and they cannot settle for field goals at the end of those drives. I think the Ravens offense is up for this challenge. The Ravens win and Ray Lewis has to wait one more week for retirement.

Packers vs. 49ers – The 49ers will need to be able to run the football to pull this one off. However after two games facing Adrian Peterson I think the Packers defense will be ready, forcing the Niners into the passing game. While Colin Kaepernick has been spectacular it’s hard to pick against Aaron Rodgers in a primetime playoff game. The Packers win in a close game making Saturday a big day for the road teams.

Seahawks vs.  Falcons – I want to pick the Seahawks in this one and had you asked earlier in the day I would have. But as I write this I find myself wavering. The Seahawks have been good on the road but with one of their top defensive players I find myself a little unsure. Having already picked two road teams to win also makes me a little squeamish. Still I think the Seahawks defense will come up big. Give this one to the Seahawks.

Texans vs. Patriots – If this were just about defense I would say go with the Texans. However, as far as I know Tom Brady plans to play and Bill Belichick and his staff will be on the sideline. I think the Patriots take control early and hold on winning by a big margin. The Patriots usually find a way when it comes to the post season and will do so again this weekend. Besides I couldn’t pick all road team wins could I?

That’s who I think will win this weekend. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

International Prayer: January 9, 2013

With the Connecticut school shooting still a fresh wound and with the trial of a man accused in a shooting at a Colorado movie theater, the White House is hosting a two day discussion on how to prevent gun violence. Government may or may not be able to come up with a plan that will work. So while the politicians debate, Christians must remember to pray. No, we will not see a complete end to violence. The goal of our prayers should be to see one or two or even hundreds of hearts changed in hopes that someone who is thinking of hurting others might experience God’s love.

Pray for the Gospel to touch the lives of those who are troubled in your country. Pray also for:

Australia – Extreme heat and dry weather has contributed to over one hundred fires in this country. Pray for the firefighters and for those who are dealing with property loss.

China – One way to change (or to prevent change) in a culture is to control how information is disseminated. When a newspaper was forced to change an article, shifting the tone from critical of to pro government, protestors spoke up challenging the control their leaders have on the flow of information. Some in China are looking for change as their new leaders begin to govern. Pray for the government of China. Pray also for our brothers and sisters in Christ who in general are not free to publically express their faith.

The United States – Flu season started early and is hitting hard. The city of Boston has declared a public health emergency and with 44 states reporting cases the situation has been declared a national epidemic. Pray for a quick end to this epidemic.

Northern Ireland – In December the decision to no longer fly the British flag over city hall in Belfast lead to protest. Over the last week these protests have turned violent. Pray for the people of Northern Ireland as they deal with a debate over national identity.

Prayer is our opportunity to ask God to change hearts. As we align ourselves with Him in prayer we will see where He wants to change culture and how He can use us to do so. We are called to continue in prayer knowing the prayer of a righteous person accomplishes a lot. Remember your neighbors both those nearby and those across the seas, each one needing you to lift them up before the Lord.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Wildcard Weekend 2013

I am a huge sports fan. If there is a competition, I will watch. I watch ‘Olympic’ sports in non Olympic years. Two guys running down the street, assuming no crime was committed, I’m cheering for the underdog. And if football is on, don’t bother me. So I am looking forward to this weekend’s NFL wildcard playoff games.

I cannot say I see a clear favorite to win this year’s Super Bowl. But I will join other arm chair quarterbacks in offering up my analysis of this weekend’s matchups.

Bengals vs. Texans – While the Texans looked like they were running out of steam towards the end of the season I think they have too much defense for the Bengals. In a close game I think the Texans win with their defense coming up with a big 4th quarter stop.

Vikings vs. Packers – Adrian Peterson has had a monster year, carrying the Vikings to the playoffs and to this rematch of their week 17 game. The Packers will have a tough time trying to contain Peterson. However I think this one will come down to the quarterbacks. And while the league has seen great play from a number of young quarterbacks I think it will be Aaron Rodgers who shines this weekend. I expect Rodgers to bring fireworks to the 4th quarter of this game, leading the Pack to the win.

Colts vs. Ravens – Ray Lewis says he will retire after this playoff run. Will this weekend be the last time we see him in a Ravens’ uniform? The answer is no. Both teams will bring a lot of emotion into this game: the Ravens playing for Lewis, the Colts playing for Coach Chuck Pagano. I think the Ravens’ offense will prevail over the Colts’ defense leading the Ravens (and Ray Lewis) into the next round of the playoffs.

Seahawks vs. Redskins – Two young quarterbacks get to put on a show in perhaps the most even matchup of this wildcard round. I think this one will come down to defense. In a shootout I think the Seahawks’ defense will do just enough to bring home the win in the only road victory of the weekend.

As an added bonus we get the BCS game on Monday with Notre Dame taking on Alabama. Full Disclosure: I always cheer against Notre Dame. Monday will be no different. I think in the end Alabama will wear the championship crown.

Those are my picks for the weekend. Who do you think will win?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

International Prayer: January 2, 2013

Happy New Years to you and yours. I pray 2013 is the year you need. I do not pray for you to have a good year, at least not in the sense of a year where things go smoothly. I pray you will have a year where the ups and downs, the challenges of life help you to grow as a person and to better know the Lord. As we join together in prayer let us remember to pray for:

Attitudes towards women around the world – People across India joined in protest today calling upon the government to act following the death of a 23 year-old woman who died following an assault by a group of men in December. In Pakistan six women and one man were killed for their work in distributing vaccines. This follows the shooting of a teenage girl who spoke publically in support of educating women. Pray for a change in attitudes towards women not just in these countries but around the world.

Connecticut, the United States – For the first time since the shooting which robbed them of their peace the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newtown Connecticut will return to the classroom. A former middle school in a neighboring community has been refurbished for the children allowing them to return to a normal routine. Pray for the children, their families and the staff as they continue the process of healing.

Syria – The U.N. reports over 60,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war. Pray for Syria. Pray for the refugees who have been driven out of the country. Pray for the families being torn apart during the fighting.

We start a new year. Like in the old our neighbors need our prayers. Remember your neighbors both those nearby and those across the seas each one needing you to lift them (and their families) up before the Lord. Enjoy the journey as we walk with the Lord in 2013.