Parent of the South

As a child of the South: born in Georgia and resident of South Caorlina for the last 30+ years, and now a parent in the South, I’ve determined Five values all Southern Parents must instill into their children:

  1. Manners, Manners, Manners
    Above all else, and before all else, you must be polite and show proper respect to all people. This includes proper use (meaning everyone, young and old) of “Ma’am” and “Sir” and continual use of “May I” (even if it’s already yours) and “Thank You” even if you were wronged.

  2. Love of college football
    You must find a team and make them your own. You must love them through thick and thin and you must hate their rivals (I have some ideas of teams you can cheer for, if you need some).

    And most importantly, you must not celebrate special events on fall Saturday’s – especially weddings. No daughter of the South shall ever schedule a wedding between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

  3. Exposure to Beach Music
    You must learn to shag and to make sure your children do as well. And shagging can only be done to Beach Music. While most people are familiar with the Drifters, the Temptations, and the Four Tops, you must also be conversant with groups like Chairman of the Board, the Catalinas, the Embers, and the Tymes.

    If not, how else do you propose to have a Southern wedding?

  4. Wardrobe of seersucker and flip flops
    To not only be Southern, but to also look Southern, your children must have a collection of seersucker suits/dresses and flip flops. Both of these materials breathe the best, which is a necessity in the hot and dirty south.

    There is some leeway here for girls as a good sandal can take the place of flip flops. Should typically be white, or other light color, and be adorned with flowers or fun insects.

    However, please note there are some exceptions to this rule. For guys, no sandals. None. For girls, the following brands are off limits to be considered Southern: Tevas, Birchenstocks, and Crocs – even they make flip flops.

    This should go without saying, but socks with either seersucker or flip flops is explicitly outlawed. In general, socks in the South are optional – even for work.

  5. A few great expressions
    What makes Paula Dean so lovable, besides the butter, are the expressions, and every Southerner must have a few in their staple. They do not need to make sense, but they need to be understood – know what I’m saying? Southern expressions are generally silly, confusing, and grammatically incorrect, when read outside of a Southern conversation – kind of like athletes’ tweets outside of a sporting event. But you must have them.

    Generally, 5-10 will get you through most every situation in life – and you’ll never be at a loss for words.

As you try to raise Southern children, please note, Southern reality tv is not your barometer. You may not use any of the sayings, dress, or tricks shown on Duck Dynasty, Honey Boo Boo, Swamp Loggers, or any other “Southern” reality show to increase your Southern standing. It must be legit and from you, the parent, not some terd on tv.

So – how are you parents of the South doing in raising our next great Southern generation? Any other necessities I missed? Am I wrong on any?

Even if I were, would your Southern hospitality and manners be allowed to tell me?

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A Marriage of Meat

Before we even begin this discourse, let me say this:

“A wife is not a piece of meat”

Now, with that said, let me tell you how making great barbecue is eerily similar to making a great marriage.

A great marriage doesn’t just occur. And neither does mouthwatering barbecue. Most of us understand the effort required to make a marriage flourish, which includes items like planning, hard work, patience, creativity, prayer, and commitment, but you may not realize how the same components are required for mouthwatering barbecue.

Planning
Pulling off a successful cook requires advance planning. There are cook times, ingredients, prep work, equipment, meat, and the serving to consider. You take notes, read books, and ask questions, all in an effort to become a better pittmaster.

Hard Work
Pulling off a successful cook is not easy. And it doesn’t just happen. You can’t just push a button or plug something in and turn out great barbecue. It will make you sweat, wear you out, and drop to you to your knees. But the more you put into making great barbecue, the more you get out. Actually, you get much more out of it.

Patience
“If you’re looking, you ain’t cooking.” The more you look, the longer it takes. And cooking great barbecue takes FOREVER. Upwards of 16 hours, not counting the prep time, rest time, serving time, or pulling time.

And guys, if we’re looking, we ain’t cooking, when it comes to our eyes and our marriage.

Creativity
There are only so many ways you can cook a butt. It has to take 12-16 hours to be good and needs smoke to give it great flavor and bark. So to stand out from the crowd, you need to be creative. Creative in your rubs, spices, sauces, and woods. And if you find the right balance, in conjunction with everything else, you may be the one holding the trophy and the big check at the end of the weekend.

Prayer
While prayer is an essential part to a great marriage, you may not consider it a key component to great barbecue. You’d be wrong – way wrong. So many things can go wrong while cooking for 16 hours, many of which you have no control over.

I’ve seen hot, humid weather, where you had a hard time keeping the temps down, change to a monsoon, causing fires to go out, equipment to get soaked, psyche to get crushed, and schedules to get ruined. And if you’re not praying, you have no prayer…

Commitment
The most important piece of any marriage is commitment and the same is true for barbecue. You have a tried and true plan, one you’ve seen work countless times, but even so, when things begin to go awry, the tendency is to change what you know works and try something else.

You give up your plan and toss it aside and you if you have no chance for success. You can’t change what you’re doing because someone else does it differently. You can’t take your schedule and try to cheat it. You can’t “wing it”. You need to be committed to your plan, no matter what.

Also, there is an unwritten rule in barbecue: “You eat what you cook, no matter what”. It doesn’t matter if you burn the meat or if your chances in the creativity department don’t work or if the schedule wasn’t right. You eat what you cook – no questions asked.

The same is true for marriage. When you say “I do”, you say it for better or worse, no matter what. If things get tough, you stick it out. If things don’t go as planned, you stick it out. No matter what.

So, next time you have a craving for barbecue, think of your spouse. And take the time to enjoy both.

Ali is NOT the Greatest

When you’re 17, you don’t pay much attention to anything beyond school, money, and the fairer sex. And when the Olympics cruised through Atlanta the summer of my 17th year, nothing else was on the mind, especially during the Opening Ceremonies.

So when Muhammad Ali was tasked with lighting the Olympic Torch, I thought nothing of it. Because that’s not what 17 years old are worried about.

Fast forward four Olympiads and this time I am watching. And somewhere between David Beckham and the actual lighting of the torch, Ali makes another appearance. This time at the behest of the Brits – for his humanitarian work.

And as I saw Ali the question began to brew – at what point did Ali become the face of America? And what exactly did he do to earn that status? And how did I miss the vote?

And am I okay with that?

And what happens to the past?

Some look at Ali and see a hero, a man who fought the regime and stood up for himself and his race. A man who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. A man who built himself to the highest of highs and captured the hearts of Americans everywhere, black and white.

And some look at Ali and see the humanitarian work he has performed since finishing his boxing career. And others see a tragic figure, slowed now by his mind and Parkinson’s.

And I see those things, for they can’t be missed or ignored. But neither can the remainder of Ali’s past.

You can’t ignore the association with Elijah Muhammad and his radical sect of Islam called the Nation of Islam. If today’s most prominent athlete were to align himself with a radical form of Islam, it would not be lauded, it would be loathed. He would not be celebrated, he would be criticized. And while Ali was criticized for his faith in the 1960’s, it falls far short of the anger he’d face today.

Ali, to his credit, stood up for the black community, especially those in the south. But in actuality, integration was not was he was after. The Nation of Islam taught segregationism, that the races are different, and should not be mixed, just under a different order.

You can’t ignore the defiance of dodging the draft, regardless of your feelings for the war. When your country asks you to go, you go. You may not like it. You may not want to go, but you were asked. And when you’re asked, you respond yes – not no.

And in addition to dodging the draft, his public stance swayed the public opinion of the war, to the tune of those serving being treated with hatred and contempt. It was no longer a civil discourse, but a physical one.

You can’t ignore the infidelity. Ali is currently married to his fourth wife and has nine children: seven to his four wives and two from extra-marital relationships. His third, and potentially fourth wife, were the result of affairs, as were two of his children. And while this has no bearing on his ability to do a job, it doesn’t speak to the image America should be promoting.

You can’t ignore his treatment of his opponents. To be honest, trash talking is a major component of today’s sporting events. You see it at every level and there is little that can, or will, be done to curb it. But during Ali’s time, very little talking was done between teams or opponents.

But Ali’s talking would not be considered trash, but abuse. He vilified his opponents and made statements they were never able to overcome. He characterized Ernie Terrell and Jim Frazier as Uncle Tom’s, monikers they could never chase. In addition to the Uncle Tom comments, he also berated Frazier with racial and physical insults, including rounds of “Ugly” jokes and calling him a gorilla and white man’s champion. He did the same to George Foreman when he implemented the “Rope-a-Dope” as part of the Rumble in the Jungle.

See 2:25 mark:

And most people consider his brash behavior and personality to be what makes him so great, and he did back it up, but the way he carried himself should not be the example we set for ourselves or the world. And just because Parkinson’s has reduced him to a caricature of himself does not make him a hero or deity – and he needs to quit being treated as such.

He should be remembered for his boxing prowess in the ring and controversy out of it. For together they paint the full picture of “The Greatest” boxer of all time. But to forget the controversy and paint him as the symbol of American sports and culture is to gloss over and stuff aside a large part of his past – and the people he hurt along the way.

I, along with many others, am willing to forgive Ali the sins of his past, but I’m not willing to forget them.

And I’m not willing to have him serve as my ambassador to the rest of the world. To me, he is only the greatest boxer, not the greatest American.

Chick-fil-A May End the World

I have this feeling the world may come to an end next week, more specifically next Wednesday. I don’t have a secret Mayan calendar nor is there a crazy radio host whispering in my ear. But I believe the world will come to an end next Wednesday, August 1st.

Or at least it feels that way reading the news, perusing social media, and hanging out at the water cooler. Why? Because Mike Huckabee dubbed next Wednesday “National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day”.

And having a day focused on celebrating Chick-fil-A is a direct affront to those boycotting Chick-fil-A. And since this debate over Chick-fil-A has two distinct sides, it means we have a divided house. And as Jesus once famously quoted Abraham Lincoln: “Any house divided against itself cannot stand”, which means this house will be destroyed.

And as I sit back and prepare for the wreckage, I am torn. Not about which side to take, but about what this debate says about us – on both sides.

For instance, what does this debate say about the vocal, and sometimes vulgar, opponents of Chick-fil-A? Those are willing to stand up to protect the rights of others, even if they’re not directly impacted. Those who now refuse to partake of Mr. Truett’s establishments? But it’s also the same group who admittedly never eats there anyway, claims the chicken is “shitty”, and resorts to name calling to make their point.

Is this a war worth waging? Is this the hand you want to go all in with? Using slavery, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement as your argument is not helping your cause. It’s making it worse. Not ONE gay person is owned by another person. Every gay person has the right to vote. And every gay person has the right to eat where they want to eat, stay where they want to stay, and buy what they want to buy. Even Chick-fil-A gladly gives you this right.

Regardless of my feelings on gay marriage, everyone has the right to pursue their cause. It just seems this battle, against this opponent, is not worth fighting. It’s like having pocket deuces while your opponent has pocket rockets.

On the other hand, what does this say about those with the newfound expendable income, who have turned a normal Wednesday into must-do experience? What does it say about a group that has been silent for so long to suddenly push back, both with their voices and their wallets? What does it say about me?

I admire our willingness to finally be heard, but we need to ask ourselves the same question we asked our opponents: Is this a war worth raging? Is this the hand we want to go all in with? Is fast food really the best use of our funds, knowing only a percent of a percent actually goes to the charities in question? Wouldn’t we be better off donating the price of #1 combo to a charity that actively tries to prevent gay marriage or council those struggling with homosexuality? And is standing in line for dinner really taking action?

So next Wednesday, the two sides will collide. Collateral damage will be strewn about. But for what gain? If those opposing Chick-fil-A win, will same sex marriage suddenly become law? And if those supporting Chick-fil-A win, will homosexuality suddenly disappear?

While I admire the efforts of both groups, this whole debate feels hollow. It feels like we are putting all our eggs in one basket, a basket that will inevitably break every egg from both sides.

Why don’t we take this energy and focus it towards something more useful, lasting, and important – like abortion.

I can somewhat understand the other side not wanting to fight this battle as it’s already been won. But I don’t understand why my side seems to remain quiet.

Why don’t we rise up and fight abortion with the same fervor we’re fighting gay marriage? Why don’t we support the unborn the way we support Chick-fil-A? Why don’t we get united behind this cause like we are for National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day?

Does our cause need to be better organized? Does it need a prominent champion the way Mike Huckabee has become for Chick-fil-A? Does it need to involve something we’re already attached to, like waffle fries?

Or is the Chick-fil-A cause just convenient?

I wish I knew – and I wish I were doing more myself…

Christianity is a Major League Sport

Moonlight Graham’s wish? To have one at bat in the majors. To wink at the pitcher while he’s in his windup, making him think he know something the pitcher didn’t.

The Christian’s wish? To just once, live the way God intends.

The dream of any young boy is to play ball in the majors. Yet, it’s a dream few ever realize.

Only 1 out of 10 players drafted will ever see the big leagues while only 1 out of 100 will be able to turn baseball into a career.

And because of these percentages, one of the rarest of feats is to go from being an amateur to a major leaguer without ever stepping foot in the minors. Since Major League Baseball instituted the amateur player draft in 1965, only 18 players have ever jumped straight from the draft to the bigs.

18. Let that number sink in. 18.

To give perspective, Clemson has produced 38 major leaguers in that same time frame.

And of those 18 players to go straight to the majors, 15 of them ended up back in the minors at some point in their career. And for most of them it was extended time, just like every other ball player.

Result – in the last 47 years, only three players have played in the majors without any kind of foray through the minors. Three.

Playing in the majors means paying your dues. There is no shortcut. There is no secret.

And no one is special. Not Aaron or Pujols or Gwynn. Or Maddux or Smoltz or Halladay.

And the same is true for Christianity. Just because we become a Christian doesn’t mean we are automatically prepared to be the man God calls us to be.

We still need to go through growth and maturity. We still need to learn more about the faith and about ourselves. We need to grow up in our faith and into our bodies. Just like major leaguers.

There are many days I wish I could be were I need to be. There are many days I wish the snap of a finger or the saying of a prayer would get me there. That I could skip the refinement process and just be full version of who I’m supposed to be.

But that’s not the case. Nor will it ever be.

The disciples needed time with Jesus to learn. And they still screwed it up.

Paul himself spent three years in the minors, getting ready for the calling God had for him (Galatians 1). And even after the three years, there were still doubters.

Peter urges us to grow up in our spiritual faith. (1 Peter 2:2) Paul urges us to not become weary (Galatians 6:9), but to press on to win the prize (Philippians 2:12-14)

So in times when I wish there wasn’t a process or times when I wish I were ready, I’m humbled by the fact that even the pillars of Christianity (Galatians 2) needed practice and preparation.

I’m humbled by the fact that no one is good (Romans 3) and we all must work out our salvation (Philippians 2).

So, if even the best of ball players needs a few years in the minors, who am I to think I can get their overnight.

And what fun would that be anyway?

P.S. – Jesus would’ve been the first to go straight to the majors because he can hit a major league curveball

List of Players who went directly from amateur baseball to the major leagues (18 total):

  • 2010 – Mike Leake – Starting Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds (College)
    Currently in majors, was optioned to AAA in 2011 for two games

  • 2000 – Xavier Nady – Outfielder, San Diego Padres (College)
    Played 1 game then sent to minors. Promoted back to majors in 2003

  • 1995 – Ariel Prieto – Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics (Cuba/Puerto Rico)
    Pitched in 70 total games over 6 years, finishing 15-24 with 4.85 ERA
    Spent portions of nine seasons in minors at end of career

  • 1994 – Chan Ho Park – Relief Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (South Korea)
    Pitched two games, then sent to AA. Promoted to majors again in 1995
    All-Star selection

  • 1994 – Darren Driefort – Starting Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (College)
    Went 0-5 first season & 48-60 for his career & retired early due to health issues
    Spent portions of three years in minors

  • 1989 – John Olerud – First Base, Toronto Blue Jays (College)
    Recorded over 2,200 hits, 250 homeruns, 1,200 RBI, and batted .295
    2-Time All-Star Selection
    AL Batting Champ

  • 1989 – Jim Abbot – Starting Pitcher, California Angels (College)
    Few solid seasons (18-11, 2.89) & threw no-hitter
    Career record: 87-108, 4.25
    Spent last few years in minors trying to make it back

  • 1986 – Pete Incaviglia – Outfielder, Montreal Expos/Texas Rangers (College)
    Drafted by Expos, but refused to play in minors. Traded to Rangers who granted request
    Trade immdiately after draft necessitated MLB changing the rules to force players be under contract one season before being traded. Now known as Pete Incaviglia Rule
    Best season was rookie season when he hit 30 homeruns
    Career: over 1,000 hits, 200 homeruns, 650 RBI, and batted .246
    Spent portions of last 5 years in minors

  • 1978 – Mike Morgan – Starting Pitcher, Oakland Athletics (High School)
    Made 3 starts before being sent to AAA. Recalled following season
    Sent back down for three seasons

  • 1978 – Bob Horner – Third Base, Atlanta Braves (College)
    Never played in minors
    All-Star Selection, NL Rookie of the Year (over Ozzie Smith), & hit 4 homeruns in one game
    Career: over 1,000 hits, 200 homeruns, 675 RBI, and batted .276

  • 1978 – Tim Conroy – Pitcher, Oakland Athletics (High School)
    Pitched in two games before being sent to minors
    Recalled four years later
    Career record: 18-32, 4.71

  • 1978 – Brian Milner – Catcher, Toronto Blue Jays (High School)
    Played two games as a catcher, then sent to minors
    Never returned to majors

  • 1973 – Dave Winfield – Outfielder, San Diego Padres (College)
    12 Time All-Star, First Ballot Hall of Famer
    Career: 3,110 hits, 465 homeruns, 1,833 RBI, .283
    Only player on list with more than 2 all-star selections
    Only player on list in Hall of Fame
    Highest paid player at one time
    Won World Series with game-winning hit

  • 1973 – Dick Ruthven – Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies (College)
    Spent most of 1975 in minors
    Career record: 123-127, 4.14
    2-Time All-Star

  • 1973 – David Clyde – Starting Pitcher, Texas Rangers (High School)
    Originally agreed to make two major league starts, but pitched effectively enough to remain with the club
    Ended up spending portions of 4 years in the minors, totaling more games there than in the bigs
    Career record: 18-33, 4.63

  • 1973 – Eddie Bane – Pitcher, Minnesota Twins (College)
    Pitched in 44 total games in majors, spent six seasons in minors
    Career record: 7-13, 4.66

  • 1972 – Dave Roberts – Third Base, San Diego (College)
    Sent to minors early in second year
    Spent portions of 10 seasons in majors and five in minors
    Career: over 475 hits, 49 homeruns, 208 RBI, .239

  • 1971 – Pete Broberg – Starting Pitcher, Washington Senators (College)
    Maybe smartest player on list – Dartmouth
    Played two years in majors before being sent down
    Career record: 41-71, 4.56

  • 1971 – Burt Hooten – Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (College)
    Played in three games before being sent down
    Returned following year and never went back to minors
    No-hitter, All-Star Selection, & NLCS MVP
    Career record: 151-136, 3.38
    Best pitcher of list

  • 1971 – Rob Ellis – Outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers (College)
    Played 36 games in majors before being sent down
    Returned three years later, but only played in 28 additional games
    Career: 38 hits, 0 homeruns, 10 RBI, .229

  • 1970 – Steve Dunning
    Played two seasons in majors before being sent to minors
    Played 7 total years in majors & 6 in minors
    Career: 23-41, 4.56
    Probably most famously known as the only pitcher to hit a grand slam (until 2008)

  • 1967 – Mike Adamson – Relief Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles (College)
    Pitched three games in majors before being sent down
    Pitched 11 total games in majors
    Career: 0-4, 7.46

Power versus Bliss

“Knowledge is Power” and “Ignorance is Bliss”

I’ve only believed in one of these two statements. The former.

I have an appetite for information. I will think of a random question and drill down through 5-10 pages of information, just to get the full picture. And what I’ve found is the more I know about a subject, the better I understand it. And the better I understand a subject, the more confident I am in it. And the more confident I am in a subject, the more power and influence I can wield regarding that subject.

The more I know about engineering, the better engineer I can be. The more I know about parenting, the better parent I can be. The more I know about Scripture, the deeper my faith.

This holds true for nearly every subject and situation. Knowledge equals power.

But recent events have begun to make me think otherwise. That maybe this is not a universal truth.

Just this week, I found myself in a situation where I accidentally ran across some information. Important information regarding myself and others close to me.

To me, this information was going to be a source of power. I have facts and those facts need to be discussed.

But as I began to use my knowledge base of facts and information, my confidence and power quickly eroded. Instead of confidence, I felt fear. Instead of power, meekness.

And this made me take a hard look at how much power is gained from knowledge. Does it do me a disservice to actually know more?

In times and situations – yes.

Because knowledge is permanent. And it’s irrevocable.

My memory cannot forget what it has learned, like the eyes cannot toss aside what they have seen.

And following these recent events, I felt regret. Regret over what was seen and learned, knowing it could never be undone.

And in these situations, not knowing – living in a state of bliss and naivety – is certainly better than knowing.

And I found myself wishing I had never gained such knowledge, wishing my eyes could forget what they just saw.

But I saw it. And they’ll never forget.

And sometimes, bliss is so much better than power.

A Neverending Love Story

As a child, each stage of life is tied to a movie. Rather than invest in a new movie, you would cycle through an old one. Over and over. Until the VHS tape was worn.

One such movie from one such stage: The Neverending Story.

I can’t quite nail down the stage of life nor my age, but I do remember the young boy skipping school to read this special book. And I could relate to the young boy as reading made words come alive (not literally, like the movie) And to this day, words, in all formats, still hold a special place with me.

However, other than this young boy, I don’t recall much else about the movie.

Except for two scenes: the scene that made me cry and the scene that made me shout for joy.

The making me cry scene:
A young boy (different from the reader) is riding his horse when they encounter quicksand. The horse begins to drown while the young boy attempts to save him. The boy tries everything in his power to save the horse, but no luck. The horse drowns. The young boy cries. I cry.

The shouting for joy scene:
At the end of the movie, the boy who skipped school gets a chance to ride this giant magic dog/dragon and chase some bullies into trash cans. The world is saved and the boy gets his revenge. I shout for joy.

As I’m living these memories again, the stark contrast between the two scenes causes me to think of the two main parts of the Gospel. The sad and the glad.

The truth of the Gospel brings sadness. For the first time, we realize we’ve screwed up. Made mistakes. And we can’t fix it. And it doesn’t fix itself.

The Gospel causes us to compare ourselves to Christ.

And we’ll never win. We don’t measure up. None of us. Ever.

But the Gospel also brings good news. There is a solution. There is a rescuer. There is a way out.

The Neverending Story doesn’t end with the horse dying. It ends in victory. With the world being rescued. Rights being wronged. And the main character soaring on the wings of Falcor.

Similarly, the Gospel doesn’t end with us feeling inadequate. Or sad. Or a failure.

No, it too ends in victory. With a rescuer. With rights being wronged. And the main character soaring on the wings of eagles.

So the next time you’re watching a random 80’s movie with flying dogs and tragic scenes, remember the Gospel. Remember you are a new creation. And remember you were sought out and rescued.

And that will make you shout for joy!