Apologizing To The First Service

We have two services. A lot of churches do. The running joke around is the 1st service is the ‘practice service’ while the second one is the ‘real one.’

I hate that phrase. In most cases – the first one is a bit more raw, more unscripted. More spontaneous. I like this.

But every so often…something happens in the first service and we totally change it for the 2nd. Yesterday was one of those days for me.

Here’s the situation. Before church – I update one of the apps that I use when I preach. No problem, right?

As I get up to teach, I have my message all ready to go and it’s on page 1. I notice that there is this spinning circle on my iPad. I can see my page but everything is locked up on it.

No problem. I’ll just vamped for a bit. Buy me some time…still circling. No movement at all on the iPad.

At this point – it’s not a huge deal. I’ve got a couple of options. I can stop everything and ask the guys in the back to bring up the printed copy of my message that they use for the presentation/slides. I can stop everything and shut down my iPad and restart it. Allow the church to have a joke about Mac products at my expense.

But I do none of these things. Why?

I have no idea.

What do I do? I look up and see my slides and the only thing I can think of is – you are going to have to teach this from memory just looking at my slides. I’m not sure why I think this.

It’s a brain freeze. It was a complete bonehead decision.

It was like I was possessed or something. I start teaching on a point and then remember something I was going to say about the last point. It’s disjointed. I’m speaking and I can’t even follow what I’m saying but for whatever reason – I don’t stop and walk the 25 feet to the back of the auditorium to get my notes!!!!!

I keep looking at my iPad thinking – at any moment, it’s going to unfreeze and I’ll be home free. It’s going to happen. So I keep looking at slides….teaching…looking at iPad.

Just stop and walk back and get your notes!!!

OR not. Just keep teaching.

I end my message. I nail the conclusion. I get the wrap-up right. It’s the only thing I get right.

I pray. I get off the stage. My iPad reboots and starts working.

I kid you not.

After service, Rick comes up to me. “You okay? Have a hard week?”

“The message. The message was that bad you have to ask me if I had a hard week?”

Rick: “Let’s just say…it was…not your best. A bit disjointed.”

Had another friend come up to me…”Grant, you need to take your hand out of your pocket when you teach. Normally, you are so animated and in there but today – you were kinda stoic.”

I’m thinking in my head – That was the least of my problems.

Good news? 2nd service was great. What was the difference?

The framing. The big points were all there for both messages. Those didn’t change. But the framing and the transitions from those points were drastically different.

And next time, I’ll just walk back and grab my notes.

The Grind And Reward of Ministry

I’m finishing up what has been one of the more difficult weeks of I’ve had in ministry in a long time. There will be no details here – too many stories, too many families are in the middle of their own dark chapters.

Suffice it to say…it’s hard. It’s hard to go through the stuff. It’s hard to watch them go through the stuff.

But we pray. We pray for light. Pray for hope. Pray for that whisper from the Spirit that reminds us that He is here. That He is not finished.

It’s hard. And exhausting. It takes a toll. There’s no denying all those things.

But it’s a vivid – and at times harsh – reminder of that this life… it can be cruel, unfair, awful, ugly, and ‘bound to come some trouble’ (thinking of you, Rich Mullins).

I have an incredible aversion to cliché and churchy sayings in general but these moments they move from beyond an annoyance to outright disdain. Yet, I keep coming back to this simplistic song by Rich Mullins…

There’s bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain’t nothing to be afraid of
There’s bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain’t no reason to fear
I know there’s bound to come some trouble to your life
But reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He’s been there before and He knows what it’s like
You’ll find He’s there

Now, People say maybe things will get better
People say maybe it won’t be long
And people say maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow
And it’ll all be gone
Well I only know that maybes just ain’t enough
When you need something to hold on
There’s only one thing that’s clear

I know there’s bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain’t nothing to be afraid of
I know there’s bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain’t no reason to fear
I know there’s bound to come some trouble to your life
Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He’s been there before and He knows what it’s like
You’ll find He’s there

I’m learning He is easier to find with others. His church.

And on somedays…most days…that’s enough.

The 2014-2015 NFL Season Wrap-Up

Overall, this year has to go down as a disappointment for NFL fans except for maybe a small region in upper north-east America.

Great Super Bowl matchup in terms of competitiveness.
NFL finally addressing domestic violence issues.
Draft Day film by Kevin Costner (I’m searching here, looking for anything.)

Uhhhh….let’s see. Anything else?

Ray Rice video
Ray Rice botched investigation/cover-up by NFL Commissioner
Adrian Peterson trial/suspension
Deflate gate
Fake Crowd Noise
Seattle Seahawks giving interviews
Seattle Seahawks not giving interviews
Seattle Seahawks classless end zone celebrations
New England coach, QB, and owner in full defense mode
Multiple players being charged with domestic violence AFTER new Player Conduct Policy
Josh Gordon, Johnny Manziel and the joke that is Cleveland Browns football
NFLPA defending Ray Rick and Adrian Peterson
NFLPA sues NFL for Player Conduct Policy

We could include the little bit of Football Karma that ended the season:
Detroit loses against Dallas by ridiculous call then non-call.
Dallas loses against Green Bay by ridiculous catch then non-catch.
Green Bay loses against Seattle by ridiculous meltdown in 4th quarter.
Seattle loses against New England by ridiculous play call in 4th quarter.

Super Bowl Thoughts
Epic game ruined by the last 20 seconds.

Start with Belicheck NOT calling time-out. If Seattle has a brain and runs the ball, it’s over for New England and we’d be talking about the Patriots ending the game with two time-outs in their pocket.

Next – worst play-call ever in Super Bowl history. Perhaps NFL history. Call play-action, zone-read, run-pass option, fade pass to corner of end zone, dive play off-tackle, or anything other than a straight slant with no play-action. The moment the ball was snapped, it was an easy read and pick. Beast Mode ran into flat, outside WR cut in – there was only one place the ball was going and the corner read it. Stupid call. STUPID.

Next – offsides by Seattle with New England on half-yard line. Make them snap the ball. Chance for safety or fumble. Undisciplined, stupid football here as well.

Next – going after New England on next snap for multiple personal fouls. Net result? New England moves the ball from their half-yard line to the 20 without ever snapping the ball. Game over.

The only consolation I take is that I didn’t have to listen to Seahawk players give us those stupid, “us against the world” interviews. As much as I respect Russell Wilson, his teammates balance out the equation.

New England Cheaters
I have two opinions on this and they may seem at odds with each other.

I do think New England has a culture of cheating. After experiencing the embarrassment of Josh McDaniels in Denver and what he brought to Denver, I can only imagine he learned that from the Patriots. It was McDaniels that got busted for video-taping the practice and walk-thru of an opposing team while he was coach at Denver. That was AFTER Spygate. Bowlen didn’t hesitate – he fired McDaniels as soon as he finished his punishment from NFL. McDaniels ended up back in New England.

It’s not hard to imagine that everything that has been said and surmised about the New England Patriots is true – that Belicheck pushes the boundaries and perhaps beyond them to find any and all competitive advantages. From ball pressure to videotaping, name your poison. Should they be punished for it? Yes. Absolutely.

Does it take away from their achievements since Brady has been their quarterback? If you ask the St. Louis Ram team of 2001, the answer is absolutely yes. Maybe that is true – but the overall effect I imagine is negligible. Almost every coach has said as much – yes, videotaping is cheating. Yes, deflating the footballs gives an advantage. But is it a game-changer that completely explains the dominance and consistency of the Patriots? Probably not.

Denver Fans
The outright dominance of the start of the season only set us all up for the precipice of despair that started with the St. Louis Rams game.

Here are my not-so-random thoughts on Denver:

1. I’m good with letting John Fox go. He consistently came up short in-game management situations and the team was as predictable as the sunrise in big games. I’m good with Elway cleaning house. It’s about Super Bowls or at the least, being in the hunt for Super Bowls. This team was not in the hunt. IT should have been. But it wasn’t.

In the NFL, coaching makes a larger difference than any other professional sport. See New England. Who else has Brady had around him? Talent-wise, I can name 4 other teams that have more talent than New England (Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, and Denver) but none of those teams can compete with the coaching (or cheating) of New England.

2. Kubiak is a good hire. As is Philips as the Defensive Coordinator. They are good hires for two major reasons. First, if Manning stays Kubiak can add a zone-blocking scheme to extend Manning’s career AND he will make Manning sit when he’s injured. No more ‘I’ll play through it’ stuff. Second, if Manning goes, Kubiak worked miracles in Houston without a QB and Elway will eventually find him a QB if Brock Osweiler doesn’t work out.

3. I hope Manning comes back under this condition. When he gets bruised up and hurt this year, he sits his rear-end down. Regular season wins mean next to nothing in terms of his legacy. Get healthy for the off-season.

4. It was inexcusable the behavior of Denver fans booing Manning during the Indy playoff game. It was a bad game. Manning looked like a shell of the player he was at the start of the season. I get all of that. But booing the guy that resurrected Bronco football after the train wreck of Josh McDaniels? Denver fans are better than that.

The Survival Of Roger Goodell
He’s managed to tweak two of his strongest owners in the last two weeks – Robert Kraft of New England and Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons. I can’t see the owners removing him from office but he’s completely blown pretty much everything he has touched this season.

And the NFLPA looks worse than him by challenging the Player Conduct Policy. I get they want a voice at the table and they have a beef about guaranteed contracts and media availability but this…fighting a policy that is tougher on domestic violence and crime and drugs?? This is stupid public relations and they seriously need to change their tactics and strategy moving forward. They can’t win on this front. They negotiated away the right to make a conduct policy in the CBA. Now they are suing for the right back??

Ahhh but now we enter the desert land of professional sports…

Movie Review: American Sniper


American Sniper chronicles the life of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), labeled the most deadly American Sniper credited with over 160 confirmed kills during his 4 tours in Iraq. Director Clint Eastwood paints a haunting picture of war and its effects on the home and the brave. He has called this film ‘anti-war’ in tenor. It’s not that simple.

If you are looking for a patriotic defense of the Iraqi war, look no further than the mouth of Chris Kyle himself. “They are savages. I’m over here to protect my guys and protect them from coming over to our land. It’s not just about this sandbox.” Kyle saw his role of protector of soldiers even though that distinction gets cloudy in the movie’s final scenes.

If you are looking for a more subtle anti-war movie than say Born on the Fourth of July, American Sniper may fill that role as well. Eastwood doesn’t hide the casualties of war – physical, emotional, or spiritual. He puts us in the middle of the damage. We experience the loss of friends, the loss of intimacy and the ability to connect with the real world. War is not glorified or romanticized. There is this incredible sense of loss that hangs over the entire movie – all the way through the credits.

You can read the full review on The Reviews.

Movie Review: Lucy

Who wasn’t excited when this movie trailer hit the airwaves? Scarlett Johansson exploring what it means to use up to 100% of our brain capacity? Morgan Freeman using his smooth voice to teach us what it all means? Dealing with the question of what it really means to be human?

Ahhhhh….expectations. They can really kill a movie, can’t they?

Lucy is creatively filmed and it does an outstanding job in the first act of asking all the right questions. What does it mean to be human? What separates us from the animal kingdom? What would happen if we could use more of our brain’s capacity? Has humanity become more focused on ‘getting’ than on ‘being’?

As the movie unfolds, it never returns to these questions.

This is an excerpt from my other blog – The Reviews. Read the rest of the review here

Movie Review: McConkey

The full review appears on The Reviews website.

Red Bull Media House continues to build an impressive library of films. The cinematography is not just top-shelf. It’s approaching a level that nobody else can touch. They get shots that nobody else gets. They get these shots from multiple angles. They get these shots in some kind of Hyper-HD that explodes off the screen and makes you want to ride a snowboard down Everest. It’s insane eye-candy and they seem to never make a mis-step in their storylines either.

The formula is simple yet effective. Take hyper-crazy athletes in search for the ultimate adrenaline rush and make them likable and normal. Somehow make it seem perfectly normal to go skiing with two helicopters, a plane, and 4 cameras in the most beautiful places on earth. Talk about pushing the limits, throw in some killer music and then feed it to the X-games generation.

On one hand, McConkey fits nicely into the Red Bull library. It has all the earmarks – great location, great cinematography, great music, and a plot line that celebrates an incredible athlete whose only purpose in life was to push the limits of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle.

On the other hand, McConkey is a disturbing journey into a world of another kind of addiction – the adrenaline rush.

Read the rest of the review here