Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. was 22 years old and in his
third year in the major leagues when he won his first World Series as a member
of the Baltimore Orioles. After the win, believing it would be the first of many,
he was quoted as saying: “I think our World Series has found a home.” It would
be 13 long years before he would return to the playoffs. Even though he played
in more regular season games than any other player in the history of baseball,
he would never play in a World Series game again.
This brings us to Derrick Rose. Allow me to recap. Ever
since that fateful day last April when Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL,
the entire city of Chicago has been breathlessly following his return. A
carefully orchestrated string of videos produced by Rose’s sponsor Adidas
fueled the fire of every Bulls fan, anxiously awaiting the end of the 8-12
month rehabilitation period his doctor promised. Another NBA player named Iman
Shumpert tore his ACL on the same day as Rose, and he returned to games in
early February. Bulls fans figured it would only be a matter of time before
Rose followed suit. We were wrong. February turned to March, and then April. Rose
returned to practice, and although his doctor has said that playing in games is
the next step in the rehab process, still no games. It became apparent that Derrick
wasn’t coming back this season, and most Bulls fans had resigned themselves to it.
And the understandable “common sense” reasoning went
something like this: the Bulls aren’t very good this year. The Heat look
unstoppable. Why risk reinjuring the knee when a return would mean being
humiliated by the defending World Champions and the best basketball player in history
not named Michael Jordan?
Then Monday night happened. Everyone on the planet penciled
the Heat in for a blowout. Two starters in addition to Rose were out, and the
Heat had lost just two games total since February 1st. No one, not
even the players’ mothers, thought they had a chance to win a game in Miami. But
the “next man up” Bulls didn’t get the “Heat in 4” memo and they stunned the
Heat and the world by winning the game, taking a 1-0 series lead. Yes, the
Bulls got blown out Wednesday night, but they took home court advantage away
from the best team in basketball and made it a series to watch.
So what does this mean for Derrick? Does it change anything?
It is true that no one knows what Rose’s reattached ACL
feels like except for Derrick Rose. No one can judge another person’s
experience, and if Rose is hurt, he shouldn’t play. But everything, including
Rose’s own statements, suggests that he is healthy enough to play, but is
holding back because he doesn’t have any interest in putting himself in danger
if it won’t lead to a championship.
And look, the Bulls don’t look good enough to win a
championship this year. But this is what makes sports so much fun. You never
know what will happen. What if the Bulls find a way to win 3 more games and advance
to the next round? What if they make it to the Finals? What if they somehow win
it all without their MVP.
Furthermore, what if Derrick waits till the fall of 2013 and he blows out his
knee in the first game of the season? A devastating injury can happen any time,
at virtually any moment of any game. Rose has the opportunity right now to help his team, and maybe,
just maybe, to be a part of something special. We all hope and expect Derrick
to play for his hometown team for another 10 years, and to amaze us time and time
again. But we don’t know if that will happen. We do know that we have this
So Derrick…seize the day. Not because you’re earning $16 million this
year. Or because everyone else is playing through their pain. But because there
are no promises in the world of sports, or in life. It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. Trusting
that the knee won’t give out. That you won’t crumple to the ground again, like
you did in agonizing fashion last April. But if you’re healthy, it’s worth the
risk. Cause Cal can tell you that you never know when that chance will roll
This one didn't make it into the print edition (it was inadvertently left out, even though it was listed in the Table of Contents) and it's one I'm pretty proud of. If you don't know what Fraggle Rock is, do some YouTubeing. Doozers are the best.
Many of you know that I did a play a few years back where I played Jesus. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I wrote an article about it, and it got published in a journal for pastors called Leadership Journal. Here's the article.
The good folks over at Youthworker Journal have kindly collected most of the articles I've written for them over the past 10 years or so in one convenient location. Peruse and use as you see fit! (I have links to other articles at the bottom left of this blog). And always feel free to share ideas for future articles with me any time. I'll use this space to get the word out when the next article arrives online.
In case you missed it, this essay (pdf here) was published on page 22 of the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, December 19th. Here it is as I submitted it, almost precisely as it appeared. (If you're really bored, you can listen to me read it and extrapolate upon it at my youth group on Sunday). Merry Christmas, everyone!
Fake or real? That was the question. For the first 36 Christmases of my life, it certainly was not the question. The answer was simple. Real. We buy a real tree. I grew up with a real tree, like my parents before me. I come from a long line of Real Tree People. And I wouldn’t have even considered anything else. But this year was different. Over Thanksgiving, my sister had made the case for going fake, and I was starting to be swayed. “I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she told me. “It’s just too much work.” She, like me, has four kids, and Christmas is stressful enough without the added stress of having to think about finding the perfect tree, getting it home, attaching it to the tree stand, keeping it full of water, and waging the never ending and always losing battle against Christmas tree needles.
Needles are the glitter of the Christmas season. Glitter is the bane of my existence. It is Satan’s arts and crafts. You get the glitter out, and all of a sudden glitter is everywhere. And not just on surfaces, but somehow, you always end up with one on your cheek or your forehead. You try to vacuum it up, and it just stays there. You can almost hear it mocking the vacuum. “You suck,” it says. “But not hard enough.” It’s the same way with Christmas tree needles. They have this way of clinging to the carpet as though they’ve been bathed in super glue.
Then you have the very real possibility of the tree’s falling over and destroying your ornaments and spilling water everywhere. To say nothing of the ever-present fire risk posed by putting live electrical wires on a piece of dying wood that is rapidly drying out, inside of your house. When you think about it, there really is no logical reason to keep buying a real tree.
We talked it over with our kids, ages six through twelve, and surprisingly, they were in agreement that we should go fake this year. Children can cling to tradition like 90 year old Baptists so I figured this was the right decision. It was the right decision, and yet…something inside of me was disquieted. It felt like I was betraying…something.
I know this sounds overdramatic, but I felt like a young couple who considers having kids, and then says: you know, we could get a baby. But they’re such a handful. And really expensive. And super messy. So let’s just get a mannequin baby. We can put the mannequin baby in the crib, and pretend to rock it to sleep, and even dress it up! It will be so nice. We’ll still have a baby, just not all the trouble! [Note: a friend sent me this really creepy article from 2008...and I thought I was just being silly].
I know it’s not really the same thing. But that’s how it felt. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. Just like my sister, but in the other direction.
And the more I thought about it, I realized that there was actually something in this about the True Meaning of ChristmasTM. Isn’t that what Christians celebrate at Christmas? That God thought it was worth the mess, and visited the world, beginning as a baby born in a smelly feeding trough? In a small way, I felt some of that with my tree. Sure, it’s trouble and it’s a mess, but it’s worth it.
So I piled the kids in the van, and we drove down the street to where the locals set up their little tree stand, in the parking lot of the liquor store. Because nothing says Christmas like driving to Angelo’s Liquors and buying a Christmas tree.
When the liquor store guy cut the bottom of my tree, I grabbed the tree disc before he could throw it in his bucket. “Smell this,” I said to my daughter. “Smells like Christmas,” she said. Exactly.