Monday, February 27, 2006

A heart in chains

"It is impossible to give freedom to someone whose heart isn't free."

Loy Mershimer

The impossibility of Islamist Iraqi freedom

On the Iraqi sectarian violence

In the words of James H. Joyner:

We owe it to the Iraqi people to do everything we can to help avert a civil war and give their fledgling democracy a chance. Saving them from themselves, however, is both beyond our power and responsibility. If they decide civil war is the only way to settle their longstanding disputes, we must stand aside and let them fight it and then try to salvage a relationship with the eventual victors. While that would be a bitter pill, indeed, after coming so close to achieving the incredibly ambitious vision of the neo-cons, it would nonetheless be preferable to the other alternatives.

Some of my personal thoughts on the attendant nature of freedom and the human person:

  • It is impossible to give freedom to someone whose heart isn’t free.

  • It is impossible to give democracy to a people who will not deserve it.

  • Freedom is a gift of God related to agreement with the nature of God, and responsibility to live Imago Dei.

The problem with Iraqi democracy is a problem with Islamism. Look at the northern, Kurdish controlled aspects of Iraq that have embraced freedom full bore, with all its responsibilities. Now, look at the Islamist sections of Iraq. The distinctions are riveting.

But they only reflect the nature of Islamism itself. How many Islamist democracies are there in the world? How many Islamist countries where external, human freedom is protected and inner, spiritual freedom promoted? Therein is the point reflected.

As one Islamist person put it, in the recent protests, holding a hand drawn sign that said, “Freedom, go to hell.”

That is why we cannot save Islamist Iraqis from themselves. Until they are willing to live in the responsibility of Imago Dei, and respect the image of God in all humans, not just those who reflect Islamist mores, they will not have freedom.

And we can’t give it to them, much as we would like.

God save them from themselves, to Himself.

The larger lesson echoes for all humans, in all the little civil wars that beat in our own chests…


Sunday, February 26, 2006

For all things come from you

A song of praise: grey ocean, blue sky

1 Chronicles 29:10ff

Blessed are you, God of Israel, for ever and ever,
For yours is the greatness, the power,
The glory, the splendor and the majesty,

Everything in heaven and on earth is yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And you are exalted head over all.

Riches and honor come from you
And you rule over all.

In your hand are power and might;
Yours it is to give power and strength to all.

And now we give you thanks, our God,
And praise your glorious Name.

For all things come from you,
And of your own have we given you!



A late happy birthday to an on-time girl

Happy B-Day: You go, girl!

I just received this pic of my sister-in-law Deborah, as she poses following a half-marathon, which she ran on her birthday -- in 26 degree weather, no less. Congratulations, Deborah! I'm impressed.

Of course, as I told her, running a half marathon is nothing compaired to the marathon she runs every day as the mother of three young boys. And, then, I caught myself: "No," I said, "Better make that four boys counting my brother, because you keep him in line, too!" And then honesty took over and I said, "Well, truly...make that four and a half boys, counting ME -- because you straighten me out when you are around me!" :-)

Truly a marathon woman, lol.

It is quite appropriate that she is born in the month of the great Presidents Washington and Lincoln, for she has those leadership skills.

Congrats, Deborah. And belated Happy Birthday!


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Let all the world in every corner sing

Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!
The heavens are not too high, His praise may thither fly,
The earth is not too low, His praise there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!
The church with psalms must shout, no door can keep them out,
But, above all, the heart must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King!

Words: George Herbert, 1633
Tune: High Road

A billion uncounted stars in the Milky Way

The heavens declare the glory…

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard

A billion hiding stars – next door!

Astronomers now say that the diffuse X-ray glow in our galaxy is not generated by hot gas, but rather from star radiation…from stars yet to be counted. It is rather stunning – they estimate roughly a billion stars yet uncounted in our Milky Way galaxy alone!

Impressed yet? You should be. As NASA puts it: “The discovery, if confirmed, [will] have a profound impact on our understanding of the history of our galaxy.” Everything from star-formation and supernova rates to stellar development will have to be re-thought.

And that is from the point of view of science.

But the impact echoes in the heart. Think about this for a moment. Let this sink into your mind: A billion stars hiding in the Milky Way alone. Not to mention the vast reaches of space, those vaunted interstices and strings of galaxies flung across uncharted distance…painted beauty yet unseen, unfathomed.

Now, go one step farther to the confession of Job: “Lord, these are but the outer works of your hands.”

As vast and wonderful as this outer creation in space and time, what does this reflect upon the inner space – the crafted heart and mind and spirit of God’s creatures, made in His image? Have you ever looked into the uncharted reaches of one destined soul, to see the high beauty and calling of God?

If not, what wonders await you!

Let creation call you to praise and introspection. As well it should. There is no speech or language that doesn’t hear the call. Let it echo in you today!

As George Herbert writes, in regard to creation praise: “The heart must bear the longest part.”

Indeed. We must bear our calling. It is our creation intent: Imago Dei. It is our destiny in Him.




Saturday, February 18, 2006

See how the farmer waits

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until he receives the early and latter rain. Likewise, be patient! Establish your heart, for your Lord will come to you...

Prayer: Lord, give me a grower's wisdom, a grower's patience, to wait in your presence for the early and latter rains...and thus enter and share your harvest. Amen.

Study: Orphanages stunt growth

Physical, emotional and intellectual effects of institutional care

In a fascinating and heart-touching study, orphan care researchers discovered that children raised in orphanages face severe limitations in key areas of growth and development.

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Children raised in orphanages are stunted physically, emotionally and intellectually but good foster care can help orphans start to grow again, researchers said on Friday. An experiment in which foster homes were set up in Romania showed that children taken out of the country's notorious orphanages began to grow taller and put on weight, gain intellectually and lose the most marked symptoms of depression and anxiety. The researchers said their findings apply to all children in orphanages, not just in Romania. Their study, however, provided them a unique opportunity to examine the effects of foster care in a place where it had never existed before.

The researchers found startling differences in the effects of home-based care vs. institutional care. The control group foster care children showed increases in IQ at 42 and 54 months, with girls doing especially well in the home environment – responding remarkably well in emotions and intellect.

In physical terms, the researchers found that they could almost predict a calculus of growth in foster care vs. orphanage care: for every three months in an orphanage, the orphan lost one month of physical growth. But get this: When placed in a loving home environment for at least a year and a half, these children recovered lost growth, reaching normal size in terms of height.

I personally have witnessed this…almost miraculous recovery when placed in a home of love – seeing orphans girls small and frail, with hair falling out, yet grow tall and strong and gain glossy, beautiful hair…and radiant smiles.

However, to balance the benefits, the study also showed that foster or home-based care, though measurably better than orphanage care, was not a cure-all for spiritual or emotional damage: Better, yes; panacea, no.

Behavioral problems often did not alleviate as extremely as the physical or intellectual. This is born out in orphan care tracking, but should not be surprising: damage to the soul is not cured as easily as damage to the body.

Brain scans [EEG] showed a diminution in brain and emotional activity – which directly relate to the child’s ability to empathize, to receive and give care. This improved over long-term care in the home, but not as much as hoped. Sometimes foster care fails…

The study has implications for how individuals, governments and NGOs might deal with the crush of AIDS, famine and war orphans.

I have several thoughts, after reading and analyzing this article:

  1. Orphanages are necessary. The orphan problem isn’t going away any time soon, in fact, is getting worse, not better. Great need demands great care, and orphanages stand in this gap of care.

  2. If it is a choice between an orphanage or the streets [and all this means for the death of soul and body] then the comparison should perhaps not stand so clearly between orphanages and foster homes.

  3. No institution can replace a family, but there things orphanages can do to create surrogate family care and moments of love, which the orphan can own – and which God can use to heal them, from inside out. As Charles Zeneah of Tulane University said, "There has never been an institution, even in the West, that has been able to promote normal development, but there are interventions that can make it a more family-like environment.”

  4. Many successful orphanages approach this in non-traditional ways, where the staff lives as family and creates daily moments of integral relation, related to emotional and spiritual wholeness. These models come a lot closer to the intellectual, physical and emotional development of the home. Not all orphanages are created equal! Countless orphans have been touched and healed in orphanages.

  5. It must be confessed that orphanages aren’t perfect, but we aren’t living in a perfect world – we are living in a very broken world, and we have to do our best to make a difference with the tools we have. We have to do our best to lessen evil, even when we can’t make it go away.

  6. And, there is the level of the problem: even if every orphanage was functioning at full capacity, we have still only cared for a fraction of the world problem…we are soon approaching 44 million orphans in our world. If that doesn’t stagger the mind and heart, nothing will.

  7. We need all of our orphanages, and all of Western foster care possible…but we also need something more to meet the vast problem.

All in all, this article really resonates with me because it is an area of deep prayer and concern. As Keith Green said, “This generation of believers is responsible for this generation of souls, all around the world.”

We will answer to Christ for the least of these, for…in our care or non-care of these little ones, we reveal our true care of Him. “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me,” He said.

I think there is something more to be done.

God, grant us vision! Grant us faithfulness…

Friday, February 17, 2006

Be still and know

A Reflection from Anam Cara
A book by John O’Donohue, paraphrased here.

A man set out to explore Africa. He had three or four African people helping him to carry his equipment. But he was in a desperate hurry on his journey through the jungle.

And so they raced onwards for about three days.

At the end of the third day, the Africans sat down and would not move. The man urged them, pleaded with them to get up, telling them of the pressure he was under to reach his destination before a certain date.

They refused to move.

He could not understand this; and after much persuasion, much pleading, much cajoling, they still refused to move. Finally he got one of them to admit the reason.

This African said: ‘We have moved too quickly to reach here; now we need to wait to give our spirits a chance to catch up with us.’

The mystery of ourselves never leaves us alone. Behind our image, below our words, above our thoughts, the silence of another world waits.

A sacred world lives within each of us.

No one else can bring us news of this inner world.

It is a task that belongs to us.

So let us stop awhile to allow ourselves to catch up with us.

Reading on being alone
Mark 6:31-33

“Jesus said to his apostles: ’You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for awhile’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.”

Being still and being quiet is an imperative in the spiritual life of all people no matter who they are, or what they believe. Jesus tells us now that we must come away to some lonely place by ourselves, to come to the quiet and rest awhile. Rest was the seventh essential work of creation. It implies implicit trust and hope in God.

A quiet pause

Reflection on the Quiet
Psalm 131

Come to the Quiet
From ‘Come to the Quiet’ - John Michael Talbot

Lord, my heart is not proud,
Nor are my eyes fixed on things beyond me.
In the quiet, I have stilled my soul
Like a child at rest
On its mother’s knee.
I have stilled my soul within me.
Israel, come and hope in your Lord.
Do not set your eyes on things far beyond you.
Just come to the quiet,
Come and still your soul
Like a child at rest on its daddy’s knee.
Come and still your soul completely.

Reading for those who labor
Mt 11:28-30

Jesus said: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are over burdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

A Blessing

May the Spirit of Jesus guide you and bless you.
May you see in what you do the presence of God.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May you never become lost in the clutter, and the day never burden.
May you find quiet spaces and lonely places to release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement and completeness.
May you be present in what you do.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May the Spirit of Jesus calm, console and renew you.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

The gift of wings

Be like the bird, who
Halting in his flight
On a limb too slight
Feels it give way beneath him,
Yet he sings,
Knowing he has wings!

Victor Hugo

Monday, February 13, 2006

The first valentine

The Legend of St. Valentine

The year is 270 A.D.

The setting is Rome. The context is the oppressive reign of Claudius II. The man is Valentinus, a Christian leader of learning and courage.

Against the Emperor's orders, Valentinus marries a couple in Christian ceremony. He is arrested and taken to prison, where he continues in prayer and faith. His songs and prayers echo against the prison walls...the light of Christ continues to shine.

And there, despite the misery of a Roman prison and the possibility of a death sentence, Valentinus befriends the jailer's daughter, Julia. She is blind and unable to school, a female bit of flotsam and jetsam in a culture that glorified physical perfection. Valentinus makes her acquaintance and values her mind and soul -- he begins to share the freedom of learning with her, and the beauty of her soul responds: a gentle flower opens inside her…where once the prison of culture and disability bound her, a light begins to dawn.

But the sentence of Valentinus would not wait.

On February 14, 270 A.D., he is taken out to face the lions.

But he does not leave her without a gift!

On the eve of his death, Valentinus penned a note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God. The note is delivered to her in the hour of his death, and as she opens it, the new light in her heart is joined to new light for her eyes. She could see. Christ honored the sacrifice of his life by healing the eyesight of this girl for whom he cared...

And so the last day of Valentinus brought his greatest miracle.

And his heart-shaped note? It was signed, "From your Valentine."

So the legend goes, as told in the DVD The First Valentine.

It is true? We only know bits and pieces -- the story has come down in fragments, passed on through the years of the church. The story revolves around Valentinus and Julia, and her eyesight being cured – if on the day of his death, we don’t know. But we do know that he was buried at the Church of Praxedes in Rome, and that a gate was later named after him, Porta Valentini.

One version of the story says that the healing occurred during one of their lessons:

“Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?” Julia said one day. “Yes, He hears each one,” Valentinus replied.

“Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you’ve told me about!”

“God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him,” Valentinus said. “Oh, Valentinus, I do believe,” Julia said intensely. “I do.” She knelt and grasped his hand.

They sat quietly together, each praying. Suddenly a brilliant light lit the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, “Valentinus, I can see! I can see!”

“Praise be to God!” Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.

Whichever version is accurate, the legend itself is a rooted in a man and the love of Christ that burned in his heart…and a girl that received that love in the form of healing, soul and body.

The legend has it that Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree retains that symbolism of enduring love and friendship.

The story is significant, for it resounds with the essence of Christian love -- the truth that true love is self-giving, not self-serving. True love is shown, not in what we receive in relationship, but what we give. True love is known, not in received honor, but in sacrifice that honors.

Therein is the revelation of our soul: how, and what, we give for the other.

Therein is the lesson of St. Valentine!

May it echo in your heart this day, this year!

And may you learn the freedom of self-giving love!

Happy Valentine's Day!


Saturday, February 11, 2006

More things are wrought by prayer

Morte D'Arthur

More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole earth is every way
Bound by golden chains about the feet of God.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, February 10, 2006

An evening prayer of light -- signs and faith

A canticle of light

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he show us his mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
and of the derision of the proud.

A confession

Psalm 130

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than the night-watch for the morning,
more than the night-watch for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;
With him there is plenteous redemption,
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

A Song of Faith

1 Pet. 1:3ff

Blessed be the God and Father
Of our Lord Jesus Christ!

By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope
Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading,
Kept in heaven for you.

Who are being protected by the power of God
Through faith for a salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

You were ransomed from the futile ways of your ancestors
Not with perishable things like silver or gold

But with the precious blood of Christ
Like that of a lamb without spot or stain.

Through him you have confidence in God,
Who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
So that your faith and hope are set on God!

A psalm of praise for the Word

Psalm 147:1-12

How good it is to sing praises to our God!
How pleasant it is to honor him with praise!
The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem;
He gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars
And calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
There is no limit to his wisdom.
The Lord lifts up the lowly,
But casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Make music to our God upon the harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds
And prepares rain for the earth;
He makes grass to grow upon the mountains
And green plants to serve us all.
He provides food for flocks and herds
And for the young ravens when they cry.
He is not impressed by the might of a horse,
He has no pleasure in human strength;
But the Lord has pleasure in those who fear him,
In those who await his gracious favor.

A pleasing sacrifice

Joshua 8:30-35

Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, 'an altar of unhewn stones, on which no iron tool has been used'; and they offered on it burnt-offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed offerings of well-being.

And there, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, alien as well as citizen, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the Ark in front of the Levitical priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterwards he read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.


Prayer: O gracious Lord, God of glory, to you I lift up my heart this night. As the eyes of a maid looks to her mistress, as the eyes of a loyal servant to his master, so I lift up my eyes to you, O Lord, the One enthroned in glory. I look to you until you show me mercy, for with you there is everlasting love! With you there is great forgiveness, therefore you are to be feared, and praised. Forgive my lack this day, for Lord, if you should note transgressions, who should stand? Forgive my foolish ways, where I failed in reaching your commands or living your will, where I failed by omission or commission, by unguided zeal or despairing excuse, by improper action or in slothful inaction, O Gracious Lord, forgive! Grant your light to shine on my heart tonight. Shine the light of your Word into my soul, as surely as the covenant entered Israel’s soul on Mount Ebal, so engraft your word into my heart tonight, and keep me till the morning light, safe in your counsel. May I awaken stronger, purer and word and thought, renewed body, soul and mind to your high calling. May this sleep be to me the sleep of Adam, which brought him highest need; and may I awaken like Eve, to face the wonder of your light, a new day sprung from the Word. This I ask in the name of Jesus, the Christ, my Lord, and through your Holy Spirit. Amen and amen.

The path to destiny

If anyone does my will, s/he will know my doctrine...

Jesus Christ

I bind unto myself today

This is a prayer that tradition attributes to St. Patrick [372-466], an amazing Christian missionary. This prayer is linked with spiritual protection, protection from powers of evil -- consciously placing oneself under Divine authority, spirit, soul and body...and taking that authority as a way of life. Fittingly, it is called, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” a fine title indeed; for one who takes this prayer honestly, as breastplate of heart, will find the fiery darts and swords of less effect. May you take the essence of this prayer into your heart this day, this year!

A prayer of Patrick, son of God

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan River;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic’d tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
The service of the seraphim;
Confessors' faith, apostles' word,
The patriarchs' prayers, the prophets' scrolls;
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken, to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
And restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
All that love me,
Christ in mouth of
Friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord!


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Islam means peace...

But not the kind of peace you're thinking of...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Triumphant Zion, lift thy head

Triumphant Zion, lift thy head

Triumphant Zion, lift thy head
From dust and darkness, and the dead;
Though humbled long, awake at length
And gird thee with the Savior's strength.

Put all thy beateous garments on,
And let thy excellence be known:
Decked in thy robes of righteousness,
The world thy glories shall confess.

No more shall foes unclean invade,
And fill thy hallowed walls with dread:
Nor more shall hell's insulting host,
Their victory and thy sorrows boast.

God, from on high, has heard thy prayer,
His hand thy ruins shall repair:
Nor will thy watchful Monarch cease
To guard thee in eternal peace!

All glorious is the King's daughter

All glorious is the King's daughter as she enters in, her raiment is threaded with gold...

For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of melody!

He found her in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; He encircled her, He cared for her, He kept her as the apple of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided her...

Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.

God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her, just at the break of dawn.

Zion, daughter of the King...lift up thy head! Redemption draweth nigh!


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Post-game thoughts on Super Bowl XL

Way to go Steelers!

Congratulations Pittsburgh, people of Western PA, and true believers everywhere!

Wow. I am so full of adrenaline tonight that I won't be able to sleep for awhile. So, I figure I'll jot down some of my thoughts from the game.

First off, hats off to Seattle. They played a really tough game overall. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead and kept Pittsburgh out of offensive rhythm for most of the game. It's quite amazing that Seattle had a great game plan for the start of the game, executed it [fairly] well, and yet lost by 11 points. A few plays difference and Seattle easily could have won by 11 points...kind of a weird flow to the game. Not a thing of beauty for Pittsburgh, but the Pittsburgh coaching made the adjustments they needed, and the players made individual plays.

I think that's a testament to the pre-game coaching of Seattle: great game plan. And also a testament to the will and adjustments, and especially the defense of Pittsburgh -- the whole team really. Seattle brought their A- game, and Pittsburgh brought their C+ game, and still figured out a way to will.

The will to win was there for Pittsburgh. As the game wore on, the hard-hitting style of the Steelers began to take its toll. The look on Seattle's faces said a whole lot: They weren't used to getting hit like this. Three Seattle defensive starters were gone from the game by the second half -- one, S Manuel, as he tried to tackle Hines Ward. Hines took him out on the hit.

Oh, and speaking of getting hit! What about Jerramy Stevens, the guy that called out Jerome Bettis before the game – the guy that Joey Porter called "soft?" Well, it is astounding...but there were four times [that I counted] where Stevens caught the ball and either dropped it or had it knocked out of his hands by a big hit -- a tight end, paid to catch the ball in traffic, he couldn't hold onto the ball. Amazing. Each of these plays was huge, and had a chance to turn the game for Seattle.

And, the one play where Chris Hope laid the leather to Jerramy, the ball popped loose and was called an incomplete pass on the field. But it probably could have been called a fumble. But that doesn't matter now -- just the point still stands: Pittsburgh called out this one player, almost as if by foreknowledge, that he was the one they would need to soften up. And they did. They knocked the shine off of him. If he makes 2 of those 4 catches, Seattle wins the game. Update: I feel badly for him as a person. But maybe it will make him a better man -- no more charges of date rape or false treatment of women.

Note: I was shocked when Holmgren refused to shake Cowher’s hand after the game. A completely classless thing – a big insult in sporting terms, something I thought I’d never see out of Holmgren. Wow. Perhaps a ‘mistake,’ oh well. [UPDATE: Cowher visited Holmgren in the locker room afterward, and Holmgren explained that he wanted to leave the moment to Cowher. If this is true, sorry to malign you, Mike!]

Note: Antwaan Randle El was a difference maker in this game. His WR pass for a touchdown sealed the game, but it was the quiet things he did, the blocks, the returns, the toughness...unheralded, but necessary. ARE ran down Herdon after that INT by Ben...gutsy, team play. Also, by rights ARE should have been knocked out of the game on that punt return in the second quarter. But he came back into the make plays! ARE is the kind of guy without eye-popping stats who just makes a difference in the game, period.

Note: Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible game throwing the ball. He was often confused by Seahawks' coverage, and it showed, badly. Both of his INTs were ill-advised, unforced errors that kept Seattle in the game. His QB rating was 22.9 – easily the worst rated QB ever to win a Super Bowl. It’s a TEAM game after all, lol.

However, that said, even though he had a terrible game throwing the ball, he still make teamwork plays. He ran for a score, he ran for two key first downs, he had instinctual situational awareness. And, check this: He threw a key block on Bouleware that allowed ARE to throw the touchdown to Hines Ward. Take that block away and ARE is tackled or forced to run... So, bottom line: Ben still made some key plays, even though the stats don't show it. He’s got QB instincts that can’t be taught, must be born with…

And, also something most people won't talk about...but I believe was a major key to the game: Seattle is terrible in the hurry-up. Everytime Hasselbeck tried to go to the no-huddle, at the end of the half and end of the game, it really showed. They were confused, they were ill-prepared, they were disjointed in trying audibles and counts. They eventually tried to switch their blocking assignments in no-huddle, and just plain didn't work for them. It caused TERRIBLE clock management for them – took points off the board for them at the end of both halves. I felt this was just inexcusable for a professional football team -- supposedly so good they didn't need the shotgun. Well, the facts showed otherwise: their blocking was exposed in the hurry-up, and they struggled against the rush...many uncalled holds...egregious holds by Seattle line, including "the great" Walter Jones.

And, a word about the officiating: Please stop the squeaks from people complaining about the refs! I'll just say this: 1. a push off in the end zone right in front of the ref is just dumb. That ref saw the whole thing, and seemed like he was trying to pull the flag out of his pocked for a whole 30 seconds, lol! 2. the goal line extends to the front of the white line, not the rear: Ben's QB run was a TD b/c the nose of the football broke the front plane while in the air, forward progress. Which reviews clearly showed. Where the ball came down isn’t the point. 3. Seattle was getting away with some [a lot] holding on outside rushes – so when one is called, it shouldn’t be a shocker [Update: in post-game replays, on passing plays there were 14 uncalled holds just on Seattle tackles alone, not counting guards and center]. 4. The penalty called on Hasselbeck for the low block on the return is a specific rule related to INT returns: there can be absolutely no low blocks on the knees on returns -- a rule instituted to save players' careers. It is a good rule and was a good call. I've picked off QBs before, had almost identical returns heading up the sideline, and had them go for my knees on the sideline...almost had a terrible knee injury this way. Also, I've seen too many people injured like this on INT returns. People don't realize, but anyone with a grudge can hit low as soon as a turnover occurs. And, 5. All that said, I still am sympathetic to Seattle fans feeling less-than-happy with officiating. In the words of one announcer, "You'd like the officials to be less a part of the game." True that. But a penalty is a penalty, and if it is called and holds up on review...there should be no crying.

The refs didn't affect this game adversely to the point of changing the outcome, if that's the argument being made. They could have made it a different game, but not changed the ending. Pittsburgh just outhit and out-toughed the Seahawks and made more plays in the second half. And there were a few calls that went Seattle’s way, too [note: that fumble by Stevens that wasn't called, and that block in the back of Roethlisberger on Herndon's INT as Ben tried to make the tackle].

Another thing: Pittsburgh's O-line, featuring Alan Faneca, just played like men. On that 75 yard TD run by Willie Parker, it was the perfectly blocked play. Max Starks crushed Lofa Tatupu, Faneca pulled into the hole and got the LB, Heath Miller sealed down on the DE...and Willie turned on the jets. Great football! And the defense, every single one, played position and assignment football to perfection. It is a joy to see a defense play like this! Wow. They were in place, in scheme and on play almost every play. Hats off! I'd give game balls to everyone on D. [Update: Some people were chirping that Joey Porter had a quiet game, but he played his assignment well...and just how many yards were made running to his side of the field? Hmmm...not many. And when he rushed the QB, he was held almost every time. Post-game replays showed Walter Jones with 6 uncalled holds -- three or four on Joey. And on that crucial INT by Hasselbeck, who caused that INT? That's right. Joey. He stepped back into the passing lane and Hasselbeck tried to throw over him. Oops. INT! Game over.]

And finally, game balls to Pittsburgh's loyal fans!

Really, it is amazing to me how wonderful this is playing out in those hills of Western PA! Anytime my mother wears Pittsburgh Steeler colors to church, look out! There's bound to be divine intervention, lol.

And, this of all days: Her birthday! :-) Happy birthday, mom. Couldn't think of a better present.

And to my friends, true believers and fans...all of you: congratulations! Great game and season.

May it be a sign of victory in your life! Endure the long road of adversity, and hold the trophy in the end…



Friday, February 03, 2006

Flash: Super Bowl XL to threaten environment

I just saw Ditka on ESPN.

It's serious folks! We're facing a national issue, here. Or, should I say, national tissue?

The real news on Sunday is not the game! No,'s far more serious.

Listen to these facts:

Did you realize that most people will wait till halftime to use the restroom on Sunday?

Yep, that's right. Experts estimate that 90 million people will simultaneously flush at halftime.

That's 7 times more water than flows over Niagara Falls every minute.

That's enough water to change the economy of dozens of developing countries.

Think of the environmental implications, please! Think of the infrastructure implications...the stress and strain on otherwise normal and functioning plumbing.

The course is clear. If you care about the world, call your aunts and uncles, call your friends and family, the people that care...and tell them not to flush at halftime! If you care, wait until the game is over to use the restroom!

Or, if you can't hold it that long, at least click on the picture above and watch a video that will make you feel better about it all, lol. And use a toilet tissue that will dissolve four times faster than leading brands!

And above all, have a great game...and cheer for Pittsburgh!


Thursday, February 02, 2006