Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I get the "message"!

I had big plans tonite. In fact, all day long, I've been looking forward to them, kinda like a kid looks forward to Christmas or a Florida Gator looks forward to the end of this football season (Ew. I did NOT mean for that to sound as harsh as it probably did).

In the shower this morning: "Just a few more hours!"
At class this afternoon: "As soon as these speeches end ...!"
In the gym after teaching: "It won't be long now! In fact, do I really NEED to run this next mile?!"

I was going about my day, getting ready for a nite spent ...

... home alone and digging in to Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible. It's a book about prayer (you might remember from a previous post that God's been teaching me a lot about prayer lately, so when my friend Erin recommended another book on the subject, I just had to pick it up. Plus, it was payday. I always like to buy myself a "payday prize," even though it generally means that I can't buy any other prizes until the NEXT payday, but still ...).

Go ahead. Laugh it up. Poke fun at the fact that I was so excited to stay in and read for the evening, but I tell you this: there are exactly two things I would rather do than stay in and read for the evening, and until I get a full-time teaching job, I can't afford to do either, so this evening in was definitely one that I was looking forward to.

But thennnnn ...

... as I headed - happily, hopefully, merrily - home from my last errand of the day, I listened to this voice mail message:

Let me ask you this: could YOU say no to that voice? Yeah. Neither could I. The precious implore of my seven-year-old niece is kryptonite to whatever plans I may have, however super they may be, and have I mentioned that I was SUPER excited to read this book? Didn't matter. In an instant, I was all "Steven Who?" and calling my sister to tell her I'd be by in 20 minutes to pick up Lizzie Gray. After all, you heard the girl! She said she "would like that" if we could "go on a date today," and isn't her wish my command? That's a trick question. Her wish is ABSOLUTELY my command, even if it involves buying a totally tacky Hello Kitty tracksuit that I would've wanted more than anything in the world when I was her age.

Apparently, I'm not the only one with this "problem." I recently came across the blog of Suzanne Barnette, a sweet girl from Mississippi. She once posted how she'd gone to bed, and after she did, her five-year-old (Mary Peyton) "asked her daddy (as usual) to take her 'ridin'' to get her to sleep." Well, turns out, her wish is his command. He took both her and the dog (Delta) out for a midnite ride. Suzanne later wrote that she asked her husband why he agreed to do this, and his response was "that's my baby and she asked me to..."

This story makes me think two things: 1) the Barnettes are good people (with a child named Mary Peyton and a dog named Delta, how could they be BAD?!), and 2) these little girls are loved. A lot. In fact, I can't think of a thing in the world that Lizzie Gray could do to make me love her any less. Well, she could go to the University of Louisville, but that'll never happen. We're raising her better than that.

Because I love Lizzie Gray so much, I was willing to instantly, without a single second thought, rearrange what I'd planned for the nite - a nite I'd REALLY been looking forward to. I did it, because I love to give her things that she "would like."

I realized something then. Even though I didn't get to do the reading I was so excited about, I'd still learned a lesson about prayer. Follow me here. Why did I give Lizzie Gray what she asked for? Because I love her - I absolutely bubble over with delight in this precious child (my FAVORITE of all the seven year olds in the whole wide world), and it delights me to make her happy.

The Bible says that God feels the same way about me - about you, too, if you're His child. He "delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love." He, Who IS love, loves us. The book of Romans affirms that nothing we do - no bad behavior, no bad decisions, not even going to the University of Louisville (are you listening, Savannah?!) - can make Him love us any less.

And because of that great love, He wants to give us good things. Matthew 7:9-11 tells us so:

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your (or, in my case, 'your sister's') children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?"

So then, why don't we have these "good things"? Well, there's a verse for that, too. Simply put: "you do not have, because you do not ask God." Why did Lizzie Gray pre-empt my plans? She called and asked me out. Why did Mary Peyton get to take her midnite ride? Because, as her daddy said, "that's my baby, and she asked me to."

The older we get, though, the harder it is to ask. I think there are two reasons for that. First, we're supposed to be responsible, mature, to fend for ourselves. "We don't need no help from nobody, no how." A stranger on the street asks, "How are you, Ma'am?" "Fine, thanks." Subtext: step away and let me just get in my car. A guy at the grocery store offers, "May I help you with your bags?" "No need. I got it, but thank you for the offer!" We are shamefully self-reliant.

The second reason adults aren't as bold as children about their asking is because we don't believe. We are cynics, seasoned by prayers that weren't answered in the way we wanted them to be. The Bible says that faith the size of a mustard seed is sufficient. Some of us hear that and think "mustard seed? I don't even have faith the size of a split atom."

As a result, we are robbing ourselves of the "good gifts" that our Father in Heaven wants so desperately to give us. It isn't rocket science, Folks. He makes it pretty clear - "we have not because we ask not." I'm not saying this verse is a blank check - remember, He Who knows the beginning from the end, knows that exactly what I think will be best for me could potentially be the very worst.

Still, though I've not made it all the way through Sun Stand Still, I've gotten its core message. I know that it centers on the premise of asking God for big things. It takes its title from the book of Joshua. Moses's successor was leading the Children of Israel against the Amorites. God had promised him the victory, but daylight was running out, making their time to battle small. Instead of giving up, thinking God had lied when He said the Israelites would win, Joshua asked God for the impossible.

"[He] said to the Lord in the presence of Israel, 'O sun, stand still over Gibeon.' .. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since."

Did you catch that? The sun stopped.



Because Joshua asked God to do it.

Not even halfway through the book, I've already started asking God to do big sun-stopping, heart-gripping things. I'm asking Him to do things for me. I'm asking Him to do things for my friends, and I'm asking Him to, please, protect my sweet niece from attending the University of Louisville.

(While I'm posting melt-your-heart clips of my niece's sweet voice mail messages, give a listen to this one. Just be sure that you keep the theme song to "Gidget" in mind as you do. In fact, listen to it first, paying careful attention to these lyrics:

"You're gonna say she's all that you adore,
but stay away, Gidget (Lizzie) is spoken for!
You're gonna find that Lizzie is MINE!")

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Go, Big ... RED?!?

My friend Jason suggested that I add some pictures from Nebraska to the blog. Though he didn't say as much, I'm thinking that his implication was that, maybe, I've been a little too Kentucky-centric of late. Yeah? What else is new? After shouting "YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME" (I got that from my niece - the 3 year old), I mellowed and thought, "Yeah, well. Maybe he's right." It's just that I don't have all that much to say about my trip to Nebraska. Mom, Daddy, and I had a terrific time. The 'horns crushed the 'huskers; Kentucky subsequently gave the Gamecocks their 2nd loss of the season.

Oh, and Adolph Rupp's great niece was our flight attendant on the leg from Minneapolis to Omaha!

That's actually a funny story. For some reason, as she walked the plane from stem to stern, she stopped at my seat and asked, "Where are you from?" "South Carolina," I responded. Given my vagabond upbringing, I always want to ask back, "Is that a trick question?" Feeling polite this time, though, I simply said, "South Carolina; they're (pointing to Mom and Daddy, across the aisle) from Kentucky, though."

"Oh," she said. "My great uncle used to coach in Kentucky."
"Who was your great uncle," Mom asked, playing along.
"Adolph Rupp."
(me, interrupting) "May I please have your autograph? And, perhaps, a lock of your hair?"

But there I go talking about Kentucky again when this is supposed to be an entry about Nebraska. I know, because Jason said so.

So. Nebraska. Nebraska. Nebraska.

I've got it! Though admittedly distracted by other games across the country, I still managed to pick up on some local Lincoln flavor. In a little over 24 hours in the state, I learned that Nebraskans love two things:

1) football
2) the color red

In fact, seeing their love for football and the color red, I was reminded of Kentuckians. We love two things, too.

1) basketball
2) the color blue

Son of a beesting!

I did it again.

(In all seriousness, Jason in no way implied I was being too "blue" in my posts. He did, however, request that I please post some pictures from Nebraska. I was more than happy to oblige. He did, after all, say the magic word - "pictures." I sure appreciate the feedback, Jason, or, as some of my new red-wearin' Nebraska pals might put it, "For readin', I thank you. Thankyouverymuch.")

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Wi" not?

While I'm posting Wildcat-related videos that make me cry no matter how many times I've seen them, why not these two?

For that Rupp Arena feeling, be sure to clap in rhythm to the first, and on the second, shout "LOOOUUUUIIIEEEEE" as soon as Daddy (the man in pants at the top of the key) goes up for the three.

That's how he'd do it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Confessions of a Wildcat

Alright, alright.

I admit it: it isn't normal that this video should make me cry. I shouldn't sit and weep while watching it or clap when I see shots made that I've screened six thousand times.

But I can't help it. This clip gets my big blue blood pumping, prompting tears of pride for the past and anticipation for the future. I think of every Wildcat (except Rob Lock) who's worn the blue in pursuit of perfection. I think of me as a 10 year old living in South Carolina, teaching myself the words to UK's fight song just to feel closer to my Bluegrass roots. I think of how proud I am to be a graduate of the University of Kentucky and how much it would've meant to my Mayme that her granddaughter, once defected from the state, came back - if more for the student tickets than for the Masters in Theatre. I think of how excited I was to hear that my 10 year-old nephew bought his dog a UK neckerchief, and I remember how my heart swelled when his brother, then five, asked a random guy in a Houston Rockets jersey, "Hey. Do you know Chuck Hayes?"

As you can probably tell, Kentuckians take their basketball a little more seriously than most. In fact, the state motto should probably be changed. "United we stand, divided we fall" doesn't mean nearly as much to the Commonwealth common man as something centered on the roundball would. I'm thinking "While we breathe, basketball" or, better yet, "Why we breathe? Basketball."

This video could serve as our commercial in that campaign-for-change:

Yep. It was a good weekend to be a Wildcat. Big Blue Madness, our basketball team's first practice of the season (and the reason that this video piece was put together), typically heralds the proverbial "end" of football season. This year, though, it was only the beginning.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Leslie, do NOT read past this point. Seriously. DO.NOT.)

Speaking of "things that make me cry," how about this picture of our quarterback Mike Hartline? On the weekend when the Big Blue Nation's collective focus typically shifts from the field to the court, the football 'Cats (or maybe it was just Randall Cobb?) shouted, "Hey, y'all. We ain't done yet!" when they pulled out the upset win over #10 South Carolina.

Sadly, I was in Nebraska when it all went down. While the 'huskers in the hotel lobby drowned their sorrowful loss to the Texas Longhorns, I was up in my room, shouting profanities, leaping for joy, and wishing like you cannot imagine that I hadn't left Lexington earlier that morning. I guess it's true what Elizabeth Emerson Hancock wrote at the start of Trespassers Will be Baptized:

"For a true Kentucky girl, it is possible to baptize out the sin but not the Blue."

You got that right, Girl.

GO, CATS! (EDITOR'S NOTE: Camille, do NOT read past this point. Seriously. DO.NOT.) SIC THOSE 'DAWGS this Saturday!!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tuscaloosa: a Football Fan's Dreamland

Oh, Kentucky Wildcat athletic program.

How I love thee. How I have a collage of the last ten UK basketball and football calendars framed and hanging above my bed. How I drove 1700 miles in 3 days to watch you lose - badly - to an under-ranked opponent in the 2010 Elite Eight. How I still consider my autographed Andre Woodson football to be one of the top two Christmas gifts I've ever been given.

And yet ... how I had to laugh when I read this this morning:

Yes. The 3-2 Cats are confident they can beat undefeated Auburn this weekend, and I'm pretty sure my advisor won't make me finish my dissertation before she lets me graduate.

Are they for real? The great state of Alabama is home to two SEC teams, and with all due respect to my beloved 'Cats, I don't think either of them will be beaten this season until they go head to head in November 27th's Iron Bowl.

I say this, having attended the Tide's undoing of the Florida Gators last Saturday. It was my first trip to Tuscaloosa, or "Tucsaloosa," as I prefer to call it, in homage to my favorite Alabaman who once overheard a boy in Burger King refer to the South's supreme doughnut-erie as "Krip-sy Kreme." Like those sugary concoctions, I learned why they refer to it as "sweet home Alabama," for with the possible exception of the Nebraska fans I encountered at the 2007 Cotton Bowl, I have never experienced a friendlier fan base.

There's definitely something to be said for that. Fan behavior can make or break the way I feel about a team. For instance, while not a card-carrying Cornhusker (though I am really looking forward to my first trip to Lincoln next weekend), I still wish Nebraska nothing but the best. Why should an SEC girl care beans about a Big Twelve team? One reason: because of the way they were represented in the stands and on the hotel elevator. On the flip side, were the earth around Cornell to open up tomorrow, swallowing whole the university and all of its self-impressed student body, it wouldn't bother me the eensy-teensiest, ittiest bit. Why? Because of the way those little snot-nosed "super students" acted when the Big Red played my Big Blue in the Sweet Sixteen last March. For one of the tournament's "Cinderella teams," they sure didn't act very ladylike. Instead, they loudly shouted every kind of curse word while throwing things in the bleachers and making comments like "I hope you DIE, DeMarcus Cousins." Pure class, Cornell. And don't you go acting so high and mighty, Maryland fans. You caused a native Kentuckian to cheer for INDIANA (ew!) at the 2001 National Championship. IN.DI.AN.A. My Mayme would roll over in her grave. She raised me better than that.

But that just goes to prove my point. Being a fan isn't based solely on what happens on the field (or the court, as the case may be). In a way, I guess, we're ALL "playing" for our team - representing them the same way we do our families or, for Christians, our faith. If that's the case, then we could all stand to take a page out of Alabama's playbook.

Now that I think of it, that's probably the only way my Cats, no matter how "confident" they are, will ever beat Auburn this weekend.

In addition to the fantastic fans, there were a couple of other trip highlights. For starters, no self-respecting blog entry about Tuscaloosa would be complete without a tip of the hat to Dreamland Bar-B-Que. That's where our visit to town began. Nothing like watching my father, the heart patient, stuff himself with way more ribs than anyone should be allowed to eat in a single setting. I don't even like ribs, to be honest. Still, it seemed a sacrilege to not have a taste of this tradition. Plus, as Ron Burgundy said to Veronica Corningstone, "When in Rome ..."

Secondly, the Alabama campus is incredible. Streets teem with fans covered in Crimson and co-eds bedecked in their go-to-meetin' best. One of my favorite things was strolling through a strip of sorority houses and passing by the president's place (by the way, Mr. President, my parents and I are deeply apologetic for our accidental "visit" during that party with all of those high-end alums) en route to the Quad. This is the place to be. Here, it seems, is where each of Bryant-Denny's 101,000 fans hang out until it's time to fill the nation's fifth-largest college stadium, which, by the way, doesn't happen until extremely close to kick-off. That's just the way the Tide rolls. Plus, to go in too early would be to miss the tailgating and the family-on-family football scrimmages and the band concerts and the day's other games, which are broadcast on each of about sixteen big-screens set up in nearly every tent.

Finally, that stadium. Sweet sassy molassey. That stadium. I have been very blessed to visit several college stadiums, and there are three that are, without a doubt, the best of those that I've been in. My apologies to Commonwealth, but you ain't one of 'em. The Big House (University of Michigan), Neyland Stadium (University of Tennessee), and Bryant-Denny are in a class all their own. And, last Saturday, the Tide's football team proved to be just as singularly sensational. As that favorite Alabaman told me, "[This season], the only team that can really beat Alabama is Alabama." Agreed.

The same could be said of the whole Alabama football experience. Don't worry, Kentucky. I still bleed blue. Why, you handed me two of my greatest sports memories of all of 2010 (basketball Gameday at Rupp Arena and a come from behind, overtime win at the SEC Tournament). It's just that, last weekend, Alabama handed me the third.

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