Friday, August 29, 2008

A New Era Begins at Michigan

It was the evening of January 1, 2008 and I was basking in the afterglow of having just been present at one of the Michigan Wolverines greatest football wins of the past decade. After a season of lows and highs, the Maize and Blue sent Coach Lloyd Carr out with a win in his last game over Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators.

Tomorrow a new era begins at the University of Michigan. Rich Rodriguez will coach his first game for the Wolverines and for the first time since 1969, a non "Michigan man" will be at the helm. I, for one, am more excited about this season opener than I have been in years. Much of that can be attributed to the unknowns. Will the offensive line be able to get the job done? Is the quarterback position going to be a liability? How will the freshmen do? Will the defense be as fast and strong and good as predicted?

Though I'm excited, I'm also nervous. This team could be good enough to go to a major bowl OR they could end up with a losing record for the first time in my lifetime. USA Today has a great feature on Coach Rodriguez and the new beginnings in Ann Arbor. Some highlights from Kelly Whiteside's article:
"New coach. New offense. New stadium. New era, beginning Saturday against Utah. What makes these changes so intriguing is Michigan's status as an unrelentingly successful college football icon. One of the most tradition-rich programs, it is the winningest school in major college football history. One of the significant challenges for new coach Rich Rodriguez is the delicate balance between ushering in change and upholding tradition.
"The perception is that everything has changed. I've heard people say that, 'He's trying to change the culture,' and that's not true at all," says Rodriguez, who was hired from West Virginia and became the first head coach outside the Michigan "family" since Bo Schembechler arrived in 1969. "I'm embracing the culture. Are we running a new system as far as plays and maybe some different training methods? Sure."
There is good reason Michigan revels in its past. It's maize-and-blue history is unmatched: 11 national championships and 42 Big Ten titles; legendary coaches such as Schembechler; distinctive winged helmets; the famous fight song, The Victors; and of course the Big House, which will resume its status as the largest stadium in the country, seating 108,000-plus once renovation is complete. This combined with Michigan's academic reputation and relatively police-blotter-free past have created, depending on your point of view, either an aura or an arrogance. "I think tradition is good," senior defensive end Tim Jamison says. "It just needed a little update."
Others say Rodriguez's fiery on-field demeanor is not much different than Schembechler's. Plenty of parallels between 1969, Schembechler's first season, and 2008 have already been drawn. Those first rigorous practices in 1969 have become legend, causing Schembechler to put up a sign — "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions" — over the doors to the practice field. Rodriguez invited members of that team to speak to his squad about that season. Billy Taylor, a halfback on that 1969 team, left impressed. "Rodriguez is a young Bo Schembechler with a Southern accent," Taylor says. "Rodriguez is a Michigan man in heart."
You can read the whole article here. Here's to a solid performance tomorrow afternoon against Utah. Go Blue!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This Year's College Freshmen Class

Each year Beloit College distributes their Mindset List and this year's was just released. The Mindset List gives a glimpse into the worldview of the nation's 18 year olds and the world they grew up in. The complete list for the class of 2012 can be found here, but here are some things that stood out to me:

  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
  • Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
  • Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
  • WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
  • Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  • Students have always been "Rocking the Vote.”
  • Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
  • Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.
  • The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
  • They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
  • Authorities have always been building a wall across the Mexican border.
  • Macaulay Culkin has always been Home Alone.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
  • Soft drink refills have always been free.
  • They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”
  • Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
  • 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
  • Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

    • This list always makes me feel old...

        Wednesday, August 27, 2008

        How Well Do You Know Your Presidents?

        Did you know that 42 men have served as President of the United States of America? You may have known that, but how many of them do you think you can name? Well, now here's your chance. has this quiz in which you have eight minutes to see how many of the U.S. Presidents you know by name.

        I'm a bit of a U.S. history and presidential buff , so I was actually able to name 39 of the 42. Why don't you take a few minutes to take the quiz and let me know how well you did. Good luck!

        After you have taken the quiz you can learn about the answers to the statements below at Presidental Fun Facts:
        • 9 Presidents never went to college and Harvard has the most alum, 5, to serve in office.
        • The most common religious affiliation is Episcopalian.
        • The ethnic background of all Presidents is limited to the following heritages: Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Swiss or German.
        • Only one President was never married and only one was divorced.
        • Eight Presidents died while in office and another six had assassination attempts on their lives.
        • Fourteen Presidents served as Vice-Presidents prior to becoming top dog.

        Saturday, August 23, 2008

        A Simple Way to Honor a Veteran

        It has been said that "freedom is never free" and this is certainly the case. For those of us that have the privilege to be citizens of the United States, we often take for granted the many rights that we possess and fail to recognize those that have put their lives on the line so that we can enjoy these freedoms.

        My friend, Adam, recently wrote about an experience that he and his family had in which they showed a tremendous amount of respect towards a U.S. war veteran. Here's the story...
        "Last week after classes were over, Anne and the kids picked me up at Case and we went out to dinner. As we entered the restaurant, we were guided past a table where a lone old man was sitting eating his dinner. The hostess seated us in the booth next to him.

        As we passed, I noticed his hat sitting on the table, which declared that he was a World War II veteran. I have talked with the kids before about war and soldiers and the nobility of those that protect us by putting themselves in danger. So, when the man was done eating and stood up to leave, I asked him about his service.

        You should have seen his face come alive. He must have been well into his eighties, but as he recounted his time in the South Pacific, his eyes were vibrant and young again. He told the kids about a mission to rescue captive missionaries and school teachers on an island near the Philippines, where intelligence gave his unit the exact time when the prison camp guards met for calisthenics every morning. Figuring the guards would have put their rifles down to exercise, his unit parachuted in and took the whole camp in a matter of minutes without a single casualty on either side.

        He told us too about how he still gets together regularly with the eight other men from his unit still living. We talked about the absolutely unique camaraderie of those who have seen combat together. He said that their wives were always amazed how the men could pick right up with each other even after years and years of separation. I said that maybe that was God's gift to those that put themselves at risk and made it through.

        I made sure to point out to the kids that we could sit there eating pancakes and eggs because men like him put themselves in danger. I also told the kids that while I would be scared if they ever went to war, I would be so proud of their choice to do so. It saddens Anne and I that our kids will grow up in a generation that does not revere soldiers, so we do what we can to teach them that that type of sacrifice deserves our respect.

        As he left, the soldier turned back around and thanked me deeply for asking him about his experiences. It is not something that I usually do, but I am glad that I did."
        This was just a small, tangible way to honor a veteran, but I'm sure anyone who has served our country and may feel forgotten would appreciate a similar gesture.

        Wednesday, August 13, 2008

        China, Human Rights and American Slavery

        With the Beijing Olympics going on right now, the world's stage is in China. Along with the attention given to the well-done opening ceremonies and the dominance of Michael Phelps, is the focus being placed on human rights violations by the Chinese government. President Bush has addressed this and the abuses directed towards Christians in China has been well documented.

        Although it is proper for these abuses in China to get addressed to a watching world, I find that many Americans are quick to forget our country's own sordid history when it comes to human rights violations.

        The harsh reality is that our present position in the world as a wealthy superpower came in large part as a result of human rights violations, namely towards the indigenous peoples of this land we now call the United States, as well as Africans that were forced into slavery. Although we should recognize the culpability of the Chinese government when it comes the treatment of its citizens, we would do well to not forget our own past.

        When it comes to slavery, many nowadays are quick to stereotype those in former slave states as the main culprits during the sad chapter of American history when human beings were treated as chattel. While it is true that plantations in the South were where slaves lived and worked, not all Southerners were involved in the slave trade. And while it is true that there were some in the North that were active abolitionists, some were heavily involved in slavery.

        Thanks to Racilicious I came across a story that shares the inside scoop on a family from the North that was one of the most prominent families involved in the U.S. slave trade. Having never really questioned how her family came to such affluence, Katrina Browne eventually learned the full extent to which her family had been involved as slave traders. Her research led her to contact a number of her relatives who joined her in examining this aspect of their family's history. Browne is also the producer, director, and writer of "Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North", a PBS movie which chronicles her journey of discovery about her family, the DeWolfs. The article mentions how it benefited Browne's family:
        "Even though none of the modern DeWolfs directly inherited any money made during the slave trade, there is a definite sense that their current affluence is a result of their ancestry. The DeWolfs' influence was so far-reaching that President Thomas Jefferson gave them a dispensation to continue trading slaves after it became illegal in 1808. It's hard to ignore that this kind of elite status typically sustains itself for generations; many members of Browne's group, including Browne herself, attended Ivy League schools and lead very affluent lives."
        You can read the article here.

        In contrast to what Katrina Browne learned, I found out a little personal history when it comes to the slave trade and it was surprisingly positive. My hometown of Port Huron, Michigan recently celebrated 150 years of existence. Not only is it a beautiful location on the St. Clair River, it was home to Terry McMillan (author of popular books like "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") and inventor Thomas Edison. It was also one of the last major stops on The Underground Railroad before runaway slaves left the United States and entered into Canada.

        As much as I am ashamed of the mistreatment of African Americans in our country, I can take some pride in knowing that the town I grew up in was a place of refuge and hope for those seeking freedom. Maybe some of that rubbed off on me...

        Saturday, August 02, 2008

        A Lesson From Childhood

        I’ve had the opportunity this summer to spend a couple of months in my hometown of Port Huron, Michigan. Not only has it been great to visit with family and see old friends, but I’ve also gotten the chance to show my kids some the areas that were important to me as a kid – the schools that I attended, the homes I lived in, where I played sports, the church I went to. While there can be many good memories that come with revisiting one’s childhood, there are also painful experiences that come along with that. As well, there are people in all of our pasts that we’d rather forget.

        A couple weeks ago I ran into one of those people. I was at the local shopping mall and as I walked through the food court, I saw him sitting there -- Freddy. The Freddy that lived in my neighborhood. The guy that was several years older than us and used to scare us to death. He rode his bicycle throughout our hood looking for young kids to terrorize which caused us to view him as some sort of monster.

        Now as a adult I realize that Freddy was mentally retarded and was simply misunderstood by the neighborhood kids. I don’t ever recall him harming anyone physically or doing anything illegal, but that didn’t stop us from being deathly afraid of him. With our elementary-age minds, Freddy was a mad man that was to be kept away from.

        As I saw him sitting there in the food court at the mall all of these memories from when I was a kid came flooding back to me. It was unmistakably him (although his hair was a little grayer and thinner) and as he quietly sat there sipping on his soda, I didn’t feel fear towards him, but experienced more of a sense of pity. Not for him, but for me.

        Several years ago I participated in a high ropes course as a team building exercise and the instructor said something that I’ll never forget. He explained the difference between perceived fear and actual fear. Perceived fear is when we’re fearful of something or someone that is based more in irrationality than rationality. For instance, walking on a board that is two inches off the ground would be no problem. But walking on that same board ten feet off the ground invokes lots of fear (even when strapped to a harness that would prevent any injury). Our perception causes our fear.

        So I felt pity for myself because my perception of Freddy, which was not based in reality, caused me to be fearful of him. I was scared he would try to hurt me even though he had actually never really tried to harm me. And our collective perceived fear of him by kids in the neighborhood caused him to be an outcast with kids scattered into homes and back alleys every time he came near.

        Unfortunately, my irrational fears didn’t end in my youth. I still get scared in situations that I really don’t need to be afraid. At times I am intimidated to share my faith with others. I can feel inferior to others when asking them for financial support. I even get butterflies when simply introducing myself to someone that I haven’t met before.

        But as a follower of Christ, I realize that I don’t have to live in a state of fear. God’s Word tells me that “perfect love casts out all fear” and when I rest in His love, I can live by faith instead of fear. I can take that leap that I normally wouldn’t take. It’s why when I’m living in the light of God’s love, I can share the gospel with others or invite them to invest in our ministry or simply not run the other way when someone unfamiliar comes my way. In some ways I’ve grown up quite a bit from the child that wouldn’t ride his bike down certain streets for fear that this odd man would try to scare me, but in other ways I haven’t. I still need God’s grace and His Spirit to direct me to live by faith and not by sight…or fear.

        Friday, August 01, 2008

        Life on an Indian Reservation

        Experiencing life on a Native American reservation is something that few Americans ever get the chance to do, but documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, recently provided a window into this world. On his FX television program, 30 Days, Spurlock spent a month on the Navajo reservation where he lived, worked and played as the people that live on the reservation. Spurlock is perhaps best known for his award-winning documentary, Super Size Me, in which he ate nothing but McDonald’s food each meal for a month and documented the whole experience on film for the world to see. (If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. You’ll never view Big Macs or McDonald’s French fries the same).

        His television program follows a similar premise by doing something new for 30 days in order to get a taste of what it is like for individuals that live in that lifestyle or engage in those activities on a regular basis. His time on the rez was certainly impactful for him and the episode does a superb job of focusing on issues that impact reservation life. Topics like spirituality, unemployment, poverty, family, alcoholism, injustice, casinos, language and Native culture all play a prominent role. You can view the episode online, entitled “Life on an Indian Reservation,” by following this link.

        Essentially forgotten by many in the mainstream culture, Native Americans are still coping with the legacy that our forefathers left them and that our government still perpetuates today. The high rates of suicide, alcoholism and poverty are nothing like those in other American communities and the historically weak attempts at missionary work on reservations is well-documented.

        It is why I’m excited about Nations, Campus Crusade for Christ’s outreach to Native American students. We have an increasing number of staff and volunteers that are focused on reaching this segment of students and are seeing God honor their faithfulness. Though Christians have often misrepresented Christ to those on reservations, our staff and students with Nations are seeking to be “salt and light” to those that need to hear about Jesus. Nations embraces and honors First Nations people and recognizes that there is one true Creator who desires to bring restoration to what has been lost by placing his Son Jesus Christ at the center of Native life and culture. May your tribe increase!

        You can visit the website for Nations Movement by clicking here.