Changing Gears...

Hey friends, thanks for bearing with my March Madness obsession for the last few days! This is just a warning that, since tomorrow marks the beginning of National Poetry Month, the sports talk is going to give way to something a little more sophisticated (although Steph Curry's basketball playing was pretty sophisticated, if you ask me!).

This is just the buffer post. I hear a too-sudden change of topics can cause blogsplosion.



My Wildcats missed their last-second three and walked away with a 57-59 loss to #1 seed Kansas, putting four number ones in the Final Four for the first time in NCAA history.

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
And you know a player is brilliant when you shake your head and say, "Boy, he was cold this game..." and he's made 25 points. Poor Steph. The good news is that Steph is only a sophomore, and has two more years to take Davidson to the big time.

They played their butts off, but couldn't shake Kansas' brutal triple-team defense of Curry in the last few seconds. Their crack shooter couldn't take his last, game-saving three. It was a heartbreaker.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

"The pressure is all on the Jayhawks," said the coach of the last Cinderella to reach the Final Four, George Mason's Jim Larranaga. "If it is close, look out. There will be no fear factor for Davidson, and I am sure Kansas would have preferred Wisconsin. No one likes to play the role of Goliath."


Kansas would never have looked twice at a single Davidson Wildcat, yet somehow this ragtag collection has beaten the champions of the Big East and Big Ten in successive games to reach this stage. Sunday, the Big 12 champions must beat them to reach the Final Four.

And no excuse would be good enough in defeat.

In that hallway by the Kansas locker room, someone asked Self whether a victory Sunday would produce more joy or relief.

"I would say joy," he responded. "Yeah, I'd say joy."


"And probably a little relief."

--Pat Ford, ESPN.com

This is exactly the issue for Kansas: regardless of the outcome of this game, they are angling to become the most despised #1 in the Final Four. If they win, they'll have the dubious honor of defeating the nationally-beloved Davidson and America's roundball sweetheart, Stephen Curry. If they lose, it will be a humiliating defeat to one of just a handful of double-digit seeded teams ever to ascend to these heights. Kansas is in a no-win situation, despite being the (pretty reluctant, it seems) pick of all the commentators I've seen today.

What I want to see today is for Davidson's persistence to pay off. Ideally, they'll stay close to Kansas through the first half, wear them out with patient passing and shot selection, and then let their shooters loose in the second half.

The dramatic music has started on CBS. They're calling it "Davidson vs. Goliath." Here we go.

Thoughts on the Texas-Memphis Game At the Half

I hate matchups like this. Memphis is huge -- tall, burly guys whose sheer size has kept Texas in the cold. For six straight plays Texas drove for the basket, couldn't get off the ground, and turned the ball over to Memphis for six unanswered baskets.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A smaller team like Texas ought to focus on quickness and outside shooting to take down these behemoths, but they haven't shown a lot of speed or passing skill in the first half. One of the CBS commentators analyzed the problem in the first few plays, and marveled that they weren't driving in (potentially drawing a foul -- inevitable when driving against a big team -- in the process) and then kicking the ball out for a long two or a three-pointer. They were getting annihilated! But just a few fake drives and long shots, and they're back from their 11-point deficit.

They've got 20 minutes to redeem themselves.


The Big Time

Folks, Davidson is such a great team that they made last night's game (against apparently overrated #3 seed Wisconsin) look boring. Although I did see Stephen Curry miss two three-pointers in a row -- one very badly -- before sinking the next few with his signature panache. He's the kind of player who makes me think I could grab a basketball and land gorgeous, high-arcing 25-footers with no trouble at all.

One thing I've noticed during this year's tournament -- it's really amazing how little of a game you have to watch in order to figure out how well matched the teams are. Defensive aggressiveness and offensive rebounds are the two things I tend to pick up in the first few possessions I see (wow, that's a lot of double letters). For instance, toward the end of last Sunday's Western conference quarterfinal between Western Kentucky and San Diego, Western set up a series of defensive traps that basically shut down the USD offense; they did the same against Drake last week and attempted it, unsuccessfully, alas, against UCLA. You would only have to watch 5 or 10 minutes to see if the strategy was effective against the other team's skill.

Now all this isn't to say that I can watch the first ten minutes of a game and know beyond a shadow of a doubt who will win. Roundball is a capricious mistress, people. Anybody who's ever smacked his forehead in disbelief at an uncalled mugging or volunteered to lend his glasses to a clearly visually impaired ref can attest to the fact that games are won with 90% sweat and 10% luck.

Besides, when the games are as exciting as tomorrow's Elite Eight matchup between Davidson and the #1 seed Kansas, why watch five minutes when you can watch the whole thing?



Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina. #10 seed in the Midwest Region. Their star player, Stephen Curry, son of former NBA player Dell Curry, has the kind of stats college recruiters break delinquency laws over -- and yet he's playing for some obscure liberal arts school nobody'd heard of until they buried #7 Gonzaga, then #2 Georgetown in their run up to the Sweet Sixteen.

Even my mom, whose bracket is now useful only as a coloring page for my niece, has got to give these guys props. They're a smooth-playing fundamentals team with some flash, courtesy of Curry, whose outside shots are so perfect as to verge on poetic. The kid looks like he had his first shave Sunday afternoon, but with the ball in his hands, the commentators call him a "ruthless assassin." Despite his youth, he's almost unflusterable, and has a good time on the court to boot -- he's incredibly fun to watch.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Oh, AND, Davidson's board of trustees did the student body a huge solid, shelling out ticket money, bus fare, and a hotel room for any student who wants to make the trip to Detroit for Friday's game against #3 Wisconsin. Killer.

Root for 'em! They're the best bet for anybody who loves to cheer for the underdog.


In Other News...

I love March Madness.

That's all.

Worship Music and the Church Calendar

In the last post, my dad lamented the dearth of modern Easter songs in the church. The same could be said of songs for the seasons of the Church in general. This is why my church has done two Advent albums, and why our Worship Arts pastor encourages folks to write music related to the church calendar -- songs for Pentecost, Lent, Advent, Good Friday, Easter, etc.

Our latest recording project, which they're working on right now, is a double album of Isaac Watts hymns with slightly updated lyrics and new music. The first album is congregationally-oriented, with songs suitable for singing in our gatherings; the second comprises contributions from some of our... um... edgier musicians, including one by my dear friends the O'Nans.

Check out the Advent albums and our other music here.


Christ Is Risen! Hallelujah!

See What a Morning
Words and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2003 Kingsway Thankyou Music

See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, "Christ is risen!"
See God's salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, "Where is He laid?"
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It's the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow'r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!


An Idea So Crazy It Just Might Work

This is Australia. Duh.

It also is a cartographic representation of what might be my Spring/Summer (or, Fall/Winter, for you Aussies) activity this year. What a strange turn of events. Christine and I were chatting last night, when I told her about a funny comments-conversation I had with Neil and Craig, in which they jokingly said we ought to start a "bring Laura to Oz" fund, har har har, wouldn't that be cool? Christine, ever practical, replied, "Well, why not?" After a bit of a stunned pause, I thought, "Why not indeed?"

So, it would seem, there are three things that must happen before I could be on my way to Australia for six weeks (apart from finding my doggone passport, of course):

1. Secure a teaching job for the fall.
2. Find a girl who needs a place to live for 3 months (since I would be spending another six or 8 weeks at home in Colorado in addition to the six weeks I'd be in Australia).
3. Get enough fundage to purchase airfare for me from Denver to Sydney/Hobart and back. And back, Christine (who is currently trying to apply for a spouse visa on my behalf, just in case)!!

Christine says that I am only responsible for 1 and 2, and that she is taking full responsibility for number 3; to that end, she has even started a Facebook group called "Bring Laura Down Under" to help get the word out! Ha! Don't I have the world's greatest friends? I keep telling you all this but I'm not sure that you get it yet.

Well, check out the Facebook group if you like. Even throw some money Christine's way if you like! And most of all, pray that 1 and 2 would fall into place so that I can go see my dear dear friends in their far-away home!



Do Not Feed the Troll

A troll or flamer is (adapted from this):

1. A name-caller

2. Competitive/argumentative
3. Amoral
4. Vengeful
5. Deceitful
6. Narcissistic
7. Paranoid
8. Blind to his own faults
9. Hypocritical
10. Unable to take responsibility for his words

Proverbs 26: 4-5
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 10:8
The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined.

Proverbs 18:2
A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind.



At long last, triumph!

The Lord has recently been teaching me humility when it comes to my cooking. I've really taken pride in my culinary ability, but after a long period of failures and semi-failures in the kitchen, I've had three in a row that were total successes. Finally! I'm so excited.

First: White bean soup with Swiss Chard. An invention based on the fact that I wanted soup and had homemade chicken stock, canned cannellini beans (white Italian kidney beans), and a giant bunch of organic Swiss chard on hand. It turned out so luscious and satisfying, not to mention gorgeous.

Second: Russian black rye. I was honestly a bit worried about this one when it came out of the oven -- the crust hadn't set the way I hoped it would, and it felt very heavy! But I sliced into it while still warm, and it was so flavorful and delicious, with a perfect, even, dense texture. The recipe is one from an NPR story about a woman's relationship with her Russian husband's family and the delicious food she learned to make. I did make a couple of minor substitutions (cocoa powder instead of unsweetened chocolate) and omissions (shallot, cumin seed), but followed the recipe with some care otherwise -- a bit unusual for me.

Third: Whole wheat crackers. I'm obsessed with crunchy things (particularly crunchy, sour things... which reminds me that I have kosher dills in my fridge... be right back... mmmm). So I was surfing around allrecipes.com for a good cracker recipe, and found these, a basic-but-tweakable cracker to which I added rosemary, garlic, black pepper, and hot Hungarian paprika, and used olive oil instead of vegetable oil. They turned out savory and snackable -- plus the fact that I chose every ingredient that went into them -- no scary hydrogenated oil, no weird, unpronounceable chemicals.

Whew! I was beginning to doubt myself there for a second!


The Best Sermon I've Ever Heard Driscoll Preach

Some of you might know about the latest sermon series at Mars Hill Church, nine sermons in response to the top nine questions on Mark's "Ask Anything" website. Timmy Brister, who is a blog acquaintance, asked a question about the Regulative Principle of Worship, and, through his constant efforts at defending the importance of the question, it rose to number one at the last minute! This week was the last sermon in the series, and so addressed the number one question.

I watched two of the other sermons, and found them to be outstanding (especially the dating one, which I would seriously like my pastor to require for every single man at Sojourn), but this one was exceptional, not just because of the content of the sermon (though that was great!). The last fifteen minutes, I think, are a turning point in Mark's ministry. This past week, during the Acts 29 pastor's conference, both John Piper and C.J. Mahaney sat down with Driscoll, separately, and gave him encouragement and rebuke about some issues with his ministry and his character. Driscoll repented and asked for forgiveness from the pulpit for some of those very issues.

I strongly encourage you to check it out here, and then let me know what you thought.


Bad Movies Made Better

Last night, my lovely friend Kristen and I went to see The Other Boleyn Girl, which promised to be a tepid historical soap opera with great costumes. It lived up to my expectations. I ogled Eric Bana, wished Kristen Scott-Thomas had more screen time, contemplated getting collagen injections in my lips, silently cursed the cinematographer, etc. It had its moments (mostly involving George, the amiable Boleyn brother, and Kristen Scott-Thomas, who never makes a mistake on any screen, ever), but all in all was nothing more than a moderately sordid brocade-bodice-ripper with historically important babies.

That being said... Best. Audience. Ever. Here's why:

SPOILERS BELOW (Although, this being an "historical" movie, you might know about all this stuff anyway. Mulligan.)


Anne Boleyn, recently married to the recently-annulled Henry VIII, has called her brother and sister to her room after she has miscarried, and, suddenly realizing that her only value to England is reproductive, is in hysterics. Mary (Scarlett Johansson, looking aggrieved-and-sultry instead of just sultry) and George try to console her. Then, scheming to find a new babydaddy outside the marriage bed to keep Henry in the dark, Anne looks meaningfully at her brother. Long pause. Cue dramatic, fraught music.

And then, from the audience, continuously: "Augh! No! Sick! WHAT? No! Don't do it! EW! Are you kidding me? No! That is so wrong! What? Stop! Seriously, stop! Don't! Ugh!"

MARY: May God have mercy on you both!
AUDIENCE: You tell 'em! For reals! That's nasty. AUGH! No! Don't do it! Stop it! Stop!
GEORGE'S WIFE, hiding in the shadows: *cries*
AUDIENCE: Ohhhh, no. Ohhhh, no. She's gonna... that is his wife. Oh, Lord.
ANNE: I can't! I can't!
AUDIENCE: *massive sigh of relief* OhthankGod.

It was awesome. The moral of the story is, if you're going to see a movie that's probably going to be bad, then at least try to get a good crowd.


Guest Blog: My Dad

Hey folks, I thought this was a pretty good one -- my dad's weekly article, published in our hometown paper, from a couple Fridays ago. Enjoy!

How to Get Rid of Your Pastor
by John E. Roberts, Pastor
First Baptist Church, Sterling, CO

Some time back, I heard about a church that had been trying to “get rid” of their pastor. Sadly, this is something that happens a lot in the American church scene. We get unhappy with the pastor or with something the church is doing; and then, instead of doing the biblical thing and prayerfully seeking to work out the differences, we choose up sides. Then, if there are enough votes to dismiss or to make things uncomfortable, out the pastor goes.

It’s tragic, not only because of what it does to that pastor, but because of the broken relationships left behind and the slow-healing wounds caused when the congregation took sides, sides that often remain long after the pastor departs. Frankly, there are simpler ways. If you ever want to get rid of your pastor, instead of looking for votes, try one of these five ideas.

Idea #1 During the Sunday morning message, listen closely and take notes. Look your pastor straight in the eye, and occasionally nod your head and say, "Amen!" Begin to make serious efforts to apply the life lessons you learn from the sermons. In six months, he'll preach himself to death.

Idea #2 Pat your pastor on the back and brag on his good points two or three times a month. Make a bunch of phone calls to your friends and neighbors and tell them all the good things about your pastor. In a little while, so many more people will start coming to your church, you’ll have to hire an associate pastor, and your senior pastor will be free to leave.

Idea #3 Next Sunday, in response to the sermon, go forward to the altar and rededicate your life to Christ. Then make an appointment with the pastor sometime next week. Ask him to give you some job you could do for the church, preferably some lost people you could go visit with a view to winning them to Christ. He'll likely die of heart failure on the spot.

Idea #4 Organize a ministry to call on the shut-ins and elderly members of the church, and encourage the pastor to devote more of his time to prayer and the study of God’s Word. Tell him you’ll take care of the widows if he’ll take care of the preaching. He’ll think the whole congregation has gone completely crazy and start looking for another church immediately.

Idea #5 Get a whole bunch of the church members to unite in earnest intercessory prayer for the pastor, his ministry and his family. Organize prayer meetings in which you pray for the growth of the church and blessing of the pastor. The pastor may become so effective in ministry that some larger church will take him off your hands.

One note of caution, however: if you try one of these methods, you may find that you don’t want to get rid of your pastor after all.