Monday, June 30, 2008

Things the world can get together over (or Heaven on Earth part 2.5)

(image: Mail & Guardian Online)

I'm sitting on the couch watching vh1's "Top Songs of the '90s" and we're on number 6, which happens to be Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." Maybe that's important, maybe not...but I digress. Number 2 is U2's "One"; much more fitting and beautiful.

The next show on vh1, though, is 46664, the concert for Nelson Mandela. And I'll admit, I never really had an appreciation for Nelson until I read "The Pursuit of Happyness" by Chris Gardner. Yes, the same Chris Gardner as I got a picture with and posted right here and here. If there's one book that could successfully guide you or me or anyone through life (besides the obvious one), this would definitively be it. It's one of those stories that will give you chills as you read it. Hang on every word, and cherish his story, because it's more than likely a far cry from any story that you will have to live out personally.

And now Chris is one of Wall Street's most successful investment bankers, and a banker with a mission (I just can't find a link to it). He's a guy who'll tell you exactly what he believes, and as such he's one whom you will trust from the outset. And when he credits Nelson Mandela as an outstanding influence in his own life, it's worth another look.

Even if you have no real idea of everything Nelson's been through (unfortunately, mostly speaking to myself), the words "Nelson Mandela" still hold an intrigue and an inspiration hardly rivaled by any others in any language. He lives the idea of Heaven on Earth everyday, constantly trying to improve not only his own life but the lives of everyone around him. The world is in each of our hands each and every day. And if you set out every day to "spread love," you just might be able to change the world (h/t EJ). I'd like to say the world could use thousands more Nelson Mandelas, but that might be dangerous. I don't know if this world could hold that much love at one time.

But if any of us could even approach Nelson-levels of love, the world would certainly be a much better place. A little closer to its perfection, Heaven.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heaven on Earth, Part 2

There's just nothing like holding a guitar in your hands and just letting the music come to your fingertips. In those moments all of your emotions can come out however they want. It's almost uncontrollable, but it's a catharsis, a release. Hours can pass without you knowing it. And in honor of those moments -- the moments when you get a glimpse of Heaven on Earth -- I give you my guitar.

If you notice, there's actually one broken string on my guitar, which is absolutely demoralizing whenever it happens. But it's very fitting in this setting, so bear with me.

Several months ago when I was just beginning my journey with my Athens Church community group, our leader gave us all blank sheets of paper and pens. He told us to draw a picture of our current relationship with God. Seemed like a pretty elementary exercise, but it worked. My picture was of a beat-up acoustic guitar with three broken strings. And since that night I've steadily (read: two steps forward, one step back) worked to restring those broken strings and return the "guitar" to its former working order.

It's an apt analogy the more that I think about it because the guitar had once been shiny and new, invigorating and energizing. And that typifies my continued relationship with God. I've been there before, in the "shiny and new" phase, the phase where you're simply on fire. Exuberant. Overjoyed. When all the strings were tight and the music was playing every day. For no other reason except that you feel so close to the Savior.

But that was many years ago in high school, and the years have loosened and broken a few strings since then. Life has come with its distractions, and I've gotten wrapped up in them far too many times. But in these past few months, months when I have decided to pursue a deeper relationship, it's very reassuring to know that I've been there before. That there's still a foundation under there somewhere. That I can do it, no matter how difficult it seems in each single moment.

So that's where I'm at now: restringing the guitar and trying to play the beautiful music of my life. The key is realizing that I am not the conductor, but He is instead. And he can compose some very, very beautiful music for sure.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Could this week get any worse?

We already had to deal with this earlier in the week and this yesterday, now this. Uga VI, you were certainly a damn good Dawg. This next season's for you, buddy.

Final tallies:
88-27 record (76.5% winning percentage)
52-23 SEC (69.3%)
7-2 bowl games (77.8%)
(h/t Westerdawg)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A dark day...

It's a wretched day for UGA baseball fans. My gameday-pants-at-work ploy didn't work. Gordon Beckham's solo shot in the 8th didn't work. Nothing worked. This one hurts.

At least it gives our football team a chance to fill the void.

Photo courtesy of the AP and

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heaven on Earth, Part 1

This past Sunday at Athens Church, we listened to a message about how close heaven really is. Jeff Henderson, the Campus Director over at sister Buckhead Church, spoke about how heaven is not a reflection of this life as much as it is the perfection of this life. And whenever we experience a closeness to God through his creation -- or anything else for that matter -- it's just a tiny glimpse of what awaits us.

So without getting into the actual theology behind what's going on in this verse, I'd like to dedicate a few posts to pictures that typify the phrase "Heaven on Earth" to me. Here's my first submission:

This is Mt. Kilimanjaro as seen from a rice paddy about a mile or so from our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania (Kilimanjaro region...obviously). Funny thing, none of us really wanted to go on our rice paddy nature walk, and look how it turns out. Surprise, surprise.

These kids were at the Kili Centre orphanage that we visited. And if I had half as much life in my heart as each of them does, I'd count myself lucky. Heck, I count myself lucky just to have interacted with them. Just look at those smiles.

This candle was the only light in the holding cell of a former slave market in Zanzibar. Sobering to say the least, and awfully symbolic with any Jesus/light in the darkness parallels you might find.

I can't quite put this picture into words. Or explain why I think it fits. But at the moment I snapped it I felt so connected with it all, the sunset, these two girls and the whole of Africa. All of which are beautiful facets of God's creation. And I will always wonder what they are running toward...or from.

There are so many pictures I could pick from the Zanzibar sunset, but I like the effect of this one with the unmanned boats saluting the sunset, awaiting the night and the following sunrise. Even looking at this picture makes my heart skip a beat. Marvelous.

What a beautiful creature. Such a mirror of God himself (see: many places in the Bible), beautiful, powerful, fearsome.

If I had to give this an official title, it would be something along the lines of "The Fingers of God." It reminds me of the circle of life from the Lion King.

So that's what I've got for now. If UGA wins tonight or tomorrow in the College World Series, I'll put money on a picture from that appearing soon. Hope you enjoyed, and let me know what you think!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I think I'm going to outlaw the word "gamer" forever

I swear, if I hear it one more time (or 6,2154 before this game is over, I'm sure) I'm going to [insert gross/angry/ridiculous action here] all over ESPN. These announcers are ruining the game for me. Here's how I think their pregame run-through probably went:

Orel "Bulldog" Hershiser: Looks like it's my dream College World Series! Now, who to root for on national TV without any attempt to hide my bias?

Mike "I wish I still did college football so I could make this kind of verbal love to Tim Tebow too" Patrick: If Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and the rest of our mother company's college football (and basketball, OMG!!11!!!!1!) announcers can do it for Tim Tebow, then I'll do Fresno State the same way.

Orel: Oo, oo, I call dibs on the word "gamer." Every time I use it during the game, you owe me $5!

Mike: Well, fine then. I'll just lavish any and all praise on them while ignoring Georgia all the while. Maybe then Fresno State will pay me for hyping them up and I can pay you back, O.

This is really getting ridiculous. I think ol' Orel's made almost $100 so far. If he doesn't have anything good stats-wise to talk about a Fresno kid, he just talks about how tough he is. Or how he's so athletic. Or how people always counted him out. Or how his coach is the only one who believes him. And Mike will chime in profoundly with something like "That's why they're a Cinderella. Against this nationally seeded UGA team. Boy, I'd take any one of them for my team." [Emphasis added only in font, not in voice]

Poythress just beat a throw to the plate with a tremendous facefirst slide, and all Mike can talk about is how great of an arm the rightfielder has. IT'S FREAKING RICH POYTHRESS THAT HE'S TRYING TO THROW OUT!!!! Rich - bless his heart - had hardly even rounded third, and the hit was a grounder the rightfielder could easily run in on.

And Lyle Allen made an incredible catch, leaping up and crashing into the leftfield wall, and (guess what?!) Mike and Orel were talking about how great the Fresno kids were at hitting balls well to the opposite field.

And when pitcher Trevor Holder took an only-PING!-with-PING!-aluminum bats shot off his shin and still threw to first for the out, you say? No mention of how Trevor came back to get the next two outs easily. They went back to how hard the little freshman shortstop had hit it. Great work.

And against Stanford, if you'd actually listened to Mike and Orel, you would have thought Stanford had two of their guys playing outfield for us. Mike did it several times over consecutive innings, even with the roster sitting right in front of him.

It almost almost (actually not even close) makes me wish for the days of Fox's Sugar Bowl announcing. I still don't know who "Nomar Moreno" is.

Oh well, in the words of the immortal Chad Hume (I just got off the phone with him):
"We don't need the popular vote anyway!"
Agreed. Let's go, Dawgs!

UPDATE: ESPN now has shown an all-Fresno State game highlight video montage after commercial break complete with a priceless scowl from Trevor after a home run, I'm sure. They've also debuted a series of interviews with the Fresno players that they showed before another Fresno at-bat. No sign of UGA as of yet.

UPDATE #2: Suck on that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If this doesn't describe a lot of my feelings in Tanzania...

...then I have no idea what does. From one of my favorite bloggers, Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen fame:

"Note: The digital postcard was made in Keynote (three slides). The video was shot with a tiny Nikon Coolpix. Video is imported as a Quicktime movie. The images of masking tape are set to about 70% opacity in Photoshop (could have been done directly in Keynote as well) and sit atop the video. Recorded with "Record Slideshow" feature (File menu) and exported as a Quicktime movie. Simple. The final slide says "From Oregon with Love" (Oregon Kara Ai) which was the title of a famous TV show in Japan in the '80s."

(major h/t: Presentation Zen)

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Picture courtesy of

This game was breathtaking. Back and forth and back and forth. For starters, Miami is an incredible team. They have power from every spot in the lineup, they have 3 first-round MLB draft picks and they are head and shoulders better than any other team in America. At least that's what I'd heard.

Here's a little stat to ruin the ending (even more than my title): Miami WAS 45-0 this season when leading after 8 innings. Now, you can take that goose egg down. 45-1 sounds much better. The Dawgs did it.

We scored 4 in the top of the ninth, led by the bottom of the order no less. It involved just about everything a baseball fan could ask for (except that the home runs came earlier in the game): a passed ball 3rd strike single, a throwing error, a slap bunt attempt, and an underdDAWG clutching it out in the 9th. And in the rest of the game there were 4 home runs, a 2-strike bunt single, 98-mph fastballs (just from Josh Fields) and dedicated Dawg fans.

Those sure are some damn good Dawgs. So proud right now.

UPDATE: The Red & Black chimes in.
Not all Georgia baseball accolades come on the field. Congrats, Gordon and Josh!
Paul Westerdawg loves him some David "Jerry Bruckheimer" Perno.

My rowdy neighbors

If you've followed me on Twitter then you know that I realized earlier that there was a "gospel/soul/jam band" playing across the street from my apartment. Here's the rest of the story.

I just went on a little run through downtown Atlanta -- by the way, there's some Beerfest going on in that area right now -- and realized that the band across the street is actually a jazz band fronted by one of the members of Butler Street Baptist Church. Which happens to be across the street from me. As I ran by on my way out, I waved and the band members smiled and waved back. I didn't think anything of it.

But on my way back I made sure to cross to their side of the street to wave again. And the bass player waved me over, saying that I should come enjoy some music and a hot dog or two. Not one to turn down free food and/or music, I gladly obliged.

So I hung out for about ten minutes, met the pastor and a few of the other members, who all invited me to come back for tomorrow's 11 am worship service. It was great! They were all smiling and welcoming me. Apparently it's their Men's Month, trying to get everyone in their congregation to celebrate the male leadership in their church and enjoy some good times together. I told them I'd definitely stop by some Sunday -- tomorrow I'm planning on heading to Buckhead Church. And they said they'll be having more gatherings on the lawn for the neighborhood and congregation to join together. I'm already looking forward to it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Minor update

So since the last time we talked -- or since I typed and you (whoever you are) read -- a lot's happened. I've met an Olympic sprinter in the Amsterdam airport (where I also paid $13 for a quarter pounder meal), landed successfully back in the States, dealt with major jet lag, recuperated in Athens and headed to Atlanta.

And in Atlanta I've moved into an apartment that I technically share with three Georgia Tech guys (I'll have to show a picture of the key I have to deal with this summer now), but none of them really live there for any extended period of time. So I've almost got the whole place to myself. And I started my internship with Marsh USA in Buckhead. It's an amazing experience, even only two days into it.

Be patient, I'll have plenty of things to say about Africa in the coming weeks as I sift through my pictures. Patience, my friends. And I'll keep you updated regularly on Marsh happenings -- those that I can talk about at least.

Until then...