Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday 7s: Nov 29

1) North Knight Invitational in the Books! For the first time since 2000, we won our own tournament. I'm really proud of the effort of our kids. Of course, we made plenty of mistakes and can do a lot of things better, but overall it was a strong effort for the Knights. We had lots of upset wins, our young kids looked strong and we toughed through some difficult matches.

  • We had 5 champions and 1 runner up. Pretty good for a fairly young squad.
  • We had the two MOWs of the tournament: Blatt for the lower weights and Searcy for the upper weights.
  • Our JV kids had eight pool winners.
  • The volunteers were amazing. We cannot do the tournament without lots of help and the parents manned tables, sold concessions and ran a great hospitality room. Thanks to all the people involved.
  • Dan Jystad and Kristy Edwards make an awesome team running the tournament and keeping things moving. No one can peek into Jyro's brain. It's too confusing. He's a mad scientist and I love it.

2) I have been riding my motorcycle the past few days. I went to leave for practice on Friday and my car wouldn't start. I think it's the starter. But I didn't have time to mess with it. So I just got on the Ducati and rode to practice. Fortunately, it hasn't been too cold, though riding at night and to the tournament yesterday at 5:30 wasn't the most comfortable. I guess it could have been worse. The weather is supposed to be wet the next few days. My car still isn't fixed. I may have to bum rides. Too bad this happened during wrestling season and not in the fall when I have so much extra time.

On the bright side, I was in Pisgah, way up Yellow Gap Road on Friday to ride Laurel Mountain Trail. My car started up and brought me home. 40 mins later, it wouldn't start to go to practice. I'm so fortunate I was not stranded in the middle of nowhere. I would have been late for practice and that would have been disastrous. 

3) Thanksgiving was simple and pleasant. No Tangs because Suelee had her baby. We had some sick kiddos that didn't make it. So it was smaller than our gatherings usually are. But it was still a brilliant day. Glad to spend time with my Spartanburg family, the kids are growing up so fast. I'm thankful for the great family that I have and the things we do for each other. 

4) I still don't know why we worry about Syrian refugees when we have things in our country that are more deadly and threatening. The shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood should be labeled as a domestic act of terror. That's the second major tragic shooting in the Springs in the last month. The sad part of the story were the people on social media that cheered this person for his actions. 

5) It's a long read, but I really liked this story on the aftermath of the Charleston shooting in TIME magazine. How do you forgive a murderer? It's a tough question. But the article allowed us a glimpse into the lives of the people who are relatives of the victims. And instead of focusing on the shooter, it allowed us to understand the people who have to deal with the aftermath of the incident. It honors the history of Mother Emmanuel AME church and the victims. And it begins a dialogue on who and how we forgive. 

6) I like to blog about the rides I do and I did get two great ones in this past week. But I want to talk about some friends. Derek Stipe and Travis Johnson rode from Pisgah Forest, NC to the Blue Ridge Parkway up to Pisgah Inn. And back. That's over 34 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing. They were celebrating Travis being cancer free. I wish I could have joined them, but we had the North Knight yesterday. Travis is a great dude-- he's a doctor in town and former missionary to Uganda. He's been battling cancer for a few years now and has made it longer than he supposed to. We're thankful for his service and friendship. Hope I get to do that ride or another one with him soon. Also, Derek is a good dude too. He's just racist. (hehe... inside joke)

7) College Football playoff picture becoming more and more clear. Some thoughts:
  • Glad this miserable season of football is over for Georgia Tech.
  • Richt gone from Georgia? Wow.
  • I'm pulling for Alabama because if they lose this week, Ohio State gets back in and I'm done with that team.
  • Notre Dame is out. Two losses by a combined 4 pts. Gotta win the big games.
  • Anyone playing better than Oklahoma? Maybe Iowa.
  • Top Seven: 1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Oklahoma 4) Michigan St 5) Iowa 6) Stanford 7) Notre Dame

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday 7s: Nov 22

1) The big topic of the week is that in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Americans have entered a debate on whether to continue to allow Syrian refugees into the country. I support allowing refugees into the country and here's why:
  • My family and I came to this country as refugees. Mercy loosely translated means pity. We deserved nothing and could offer nothing. But we were still given an opportunity because we were desperate people from a broken land and someone had mercy on us.
  • There's this image. Leaving your country is a last resort. It's not like packing your kids up and going to Disney. The risks are great. But staying behind has greater risks. I'm not a parent but I don't imagine that I would take my children on such a dangerous endeavor unless I had no other options. The family of this boy lost everything when he died. At home, they risked losing even more.
  • The security fears are overstated. Refugees will be better vetted than someone entering the country on a tourism visa. It's a two year process and not everyone who applies for refugee status gets accepted. Plus, you do not necessarily get to choose your country as a refugee. The country selects you. The fact is that in the United States you are more likely to be the victim of a terrorist attack by someone visiting on a tourist visa or homegrown terrorist than by refugees. You're also more likely to be the victim of a domestic attacker in a mass shooting than a terrorist attack committed by foreign radicals. 
  • None of this is to say that we should not be concerned about terrorism. It just seems that refugees are one of our least likely sources of attacks. Despite earlier fears, it seems that all the attackers in the Paris attack were residents of the European Union and not migrants or refugees. I would be more worried about someone on a temporary or tourist visa or an American extremist/nutjob than a refugee.
  • I do understand the fear, though I believe that a lot of the fear is irrational and a lot more fear is rooted in xenophobia and hatred. As a friend wrote on my Facebook wall, he just wants to protect his family, which I respect. But we fear the potential. What we fear might happen is exactly what the people who are leaving are fleeing. Except it is happening. Daily, on a scale we probably cannot imagine. We want to protect ourselves and our love ones from a perceived threat, but if you were in their shoes and the treat was imminent and constant, would you do anything differently than them?
  • My faith tells me we should let in refugees. There are two metaphors that are often used in the church that have long resonated with me. One is that Christ is the bridegroom and the church is his bride. Our faith is like a marriage. The other is that of an orphan. Ephesians 1:5 says that we were "predestined for adoption". Several passages refer to us a children of God-- we have an inheritance. He adopted because we were lost, powerless and pitiful. And he takes us in, clothes us and offers us the keys to his kingdom (Matthew 16:19). I believe that God rescued me as a sinner, let lifted out of the miry pit. He did not put conditions on my salvation. He didn't wait for me to change or get better. Had he, then I'd still be left behind because I could never meet the perfection that he demands. That's Grace-- getting what I don't deserve. Grace is what the refugees deserve.
  • There's an illustration that several people have used about M&M's or peanuts that I don't like. Basically, it goes that if someone gives me 20 M&M's and I knew 2 were poisoned, would I still take them? You know what I would do? Throw them away. Because they're M&M's. You know what I don't throw away? People. Basically, I interpret that illustration to say that it is okay for many people to die because 1 or 2 are bad. If 5 in 10,000 fetuses were to grow up and kill someone or become a drug addict there is no way you would abort all of them because there is potential for some to be bad.
  • Many people have argued that we need to take care of our own poor, homeless and wretched before we take care of others. I love it. I believe we should. I just want to know where all these people have been for years? For a long time all I've heard are that the poor are victims of entitlement and the homeless are lazy bums. We had a chance to expand Medicaid in NC and chose not to and now we all of a sudden care about the poor. Efforts to help the poor and homeless are sometimes decried as socialist. Schools and education are a means to fight poverty but just do an internet search on what NC and many states have done to education funding. I think we should and can help both the needy in our country and those needing refuge from abroad.
  • The Future. Blocking refugees today might make us feel safe, though as stated above, the threats are likely from other places. But those refugees without homes and hope can become future radicals. ISIS wants us to deny refugees because that helps their recruitment. The children who grow up in fear and lost may be tomorrow's extremists. Or they could come here, be educated, assimilate into our society and become tomorrow's doctors, teachers, diplomats, engineers. 
  • The Future II: I fear that history will not judge us well. Will our treatment of migrants and refugees be akin to the 1920s of the Red Scare, Sacco and Vanzetti and the Emergency Quota Act. Perhaps we'll be compared to the America that interned thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. I fear that in the near future, we'll look back at this moment and not see enough moments of courage and clarity but a society that was overcome by and acted on its fears.
2) Many people have stated that they wanted us to help homeless vets before we help foreign refugees. Asheville is criticized by many (and adored by many more) as being a bastion of liberalism (though surrounding areas are pretty conservative). I love the diversity and culture of Asheville. And the beer. And then I ran across this article in the Citizen-Times and made me love Asheville even more. It's not perfect, but people are working in the right direction. Our veterans deserve it. 
And if you want to help the people who are helping our homeless veterans, then here is the link to the ABCCM.

3) Paris was home of Victor Hugo. I love the story of Les Miserables, There are so many themes and lessons from the story. Admittedly, I've never read the book. But I've seen the musical several times and I'll show the 1998 version of the movie in class sometimes. This is my favorite scene in the movie, maybe in any movie. It's grace, forgiveness, mercy and hope all rolled into one. Hopeless, Valjean continues lost and desperate. Given a chance, he is a redeemed man.

4) The world lost a bright soul last week. I found out that one of my former students, Brittany Ramsey died. This is the third former student of mine in the past 6 months. Brittany was one who always made you smile. She truly cared for others-- I would see her befriend and say hi to the students that most people walked by. I was helping a little with golf at the time and always had a blast at practice or driving them to a golf match. In all the mess that we create in the world, people need to know that there are others that care for them and have their backs. Thanks for making us laugh and smile, Brittany. Love and peace.

5) The world also gained a new star. My great-niece was born last week. Welcome to the world Eva Waller. You're loved immensely and you always will be.

6) Wrestling opened up on Wednesday with two matches. We beat Mt Heritage and AC Reynolds fairly easily. Good start for my team, we got some good experience for our young guys.

7) Ohio State has fallen both on the scoreboard and as a team. Comments by their stars seemingly show cracks in their unity. I try to teach my wrestlers that how you handle greatness is not as important as how you handle adversity.

Top Seven: 1) Clemson 2) Iowa 3) Alabama 4) Michigan State 5) Oklahoma 6) Notre Dame 7) Baylor

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday 7s: Nov 15

1) Paris. The City of Lights. The city of Voltaire, Rousseau and Hugo. A city I have never been to. I tried to go to France when I was living in London, but the line at the French Embassy for a visa was longer than I wanted to wait. Which is real unfortunate, because I love French culture and food and I did take two years of French with Madame Klein way back in high school.

What happened this weekend of course is unspeakable. I don't know the answers. I hurt because of the human tragedy and because that could have been any of us going out to eat, attending a concert or cheering at a sporting event. Here's what I do know:

  • The threat from radical Islam is real. These people are serious.
  • If we live in and by fear, the terrorists win.
  • I feel bad for my Muslim friends, some of which are truly among the best people I've met.. In many ways, they have it difficult already in this nation and other western countries. This doesn't make it easier. 
  • We need to answer what draws people to radical Islam. It's not just ideology. There is an entire group of people who feel alienated for one reason or another and seems to have found refuge in religion.
  • As I type, France has begun airstrikes on ISIS targets. I wish them the best. I want to take down the bad guys. I worry about collateral damage. Do we perpetuate and raise more terrorism by simply raining bombs on helpless people? Today's children are tomorrow's ______________ [fill in the blank].
  • I think we help determine what goes in that blank.
  • Call me naive or dumb, but I do not believe ISIS can sustain itself. It's message and branding I believe will get tiresome to the masses. I just believe good will overcome. Humanity will win out. There will be a backlash and it will come internally. I just hope it comes sooner than later.
  • I will go to Paris. Soon, I hope. I need to eat outside in a cafe, walk along the Seine, be humbled at Notre Dame, soak in the view from the Eiffel Tower and be introspective at the Louvre. Then there is Normandy, the Riviera, Corsica, and the Alps. And, I still need to see the Tour de France live. Yes, France, I'm coming for you.
2) I did not forget Beirut and Kenya. My heart hurts there too. I don't think there's a media conspiracy to ignore it as some people have alluded. I believe, as one of my friends shared, that we can relate with Paris. There's empathy there. We know Les Miserables, the French Revolution and Dijon Mustard. There's less of a connection with the Lebanon (though it is part of the biblical land of Canaan). Most Americans couldn't tell you Nairobi is a city in, much less the capital, of Kenya. Many more could tell you Paris is in France. For the great majority of Americans, Paris hurts because it feels like a small part of us hurts. The human tragedy of Lebanon and Kenya hurt us, but there's less of an emotional connection.

3) I spent the weekend at Pioneer Plunge on the Grace Watershed High School Man's Retreat. It's a weekend of bonding and spending time connecting with and depending on each other. There's no running water, electricity or heat. We slept in uninsulated cabins. I slept in a hammock. Temperatures got into the 20s. 
  • Pioneer Plunge is on the property of Windy Gap, a ministry of Young Life. All the land was sold years ago to Young Life for $1 to use as a ministry to high school and college youth.
  • The main cabin at Plunge burned down last year. Groups like ours are helping rebuild it. We learned to lay block, filled a retaining wall, hewed logs and chopped wood. It was great stuff.
  • The theme was Brotherhood. What does a Christian brotherhood look like? We used the story of the friendship of David and Jonathan as an example. 
  • I'm really thankful for the adult leaders that came and poured their hearts, talents and love into these young men. They set great examples for the boys and inspire me.
  • Since we had no cellular service, I did not get any updates on the tragedies. What a shock to turn on my phone and try to decipher all the information.


4) I did get a ride in. Buck Tanner asked me today if I wanted to ride up Thrift Cove and down Black Mountain with him and his son. Tired from the retreat, I went to get away from the news. I love this route. Thrift was a long climb, but easy since we got to go at Rowan's pace. Black was dry for once and fun to hop down. They called it a day and I went on and finished with Sycamore Cove, a rooty and fun trail that has several small creek crossings towards the end. I'm glad I got a ride in. I needed it.

5) How cool is this: a wrestling match in a football stadium. Over 42,000 people in attendance.

6) Speaking of wrestling, Knights Wrestling had two big events last week:
  • Wednesday was our Boot Camp. We took the kids out to John Rock in Pisgah and ran them up to the top, did some team building and drills and came down for lunch. Good time was had by all and no one fell. Some of my students have never been to Pisgah, so it was great to get to share that with them.
  • Thursday was our intersquad scrimmage. Our Purple-Gold Scrimmage has become a fun tradition. I divide them into teams and they compete in a regular dual. It's the first real experience for some of our kids. We had a close, hard fought scrimmage. Purple won 31-21.

7) I watched zero football yesterday since I was at Pioneer Plunge. Based on that:
  • Georgia Tech's 18 year Bowl Streak (3rd longest in the nation), will come to an end. So many mistakes on Thursday night.
  • Top 7: 1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Oklahoma St 4) Ohio St 5) Notre Dame 6) Oklahoma 7) Iowa

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday 7s: Nov 8

1) One week into wrestling season. We have a great core of kids who really want to be out there and work hard. Practice is fun. These kids work hard. They know what's expected. They care for one another. We're still waiting on our football players, but I expect lots of great things from this squad.

2) More North athletic news: Football team secured their first winning season in 15 years. They are 7-5 with a playoff match at King's Mountain on Friday. That's pretty awesome.

Soccer finished their season with a first round playoff loss at Asheville. A few wrestlers and I made the trip up there to cheer on the squad. Asheville had lots more opportunities to score and seemed to control the ball more than we did. But we played valiant and I'm proud of Wayne Nock and his boys (many of which wrestle).

3) I got to do the talk on the High School side at Grace this morning. I John 5:1-5. It's good stuff. We are born of God. Obedience does not mean love, but our love drives us to obedience. When we are obedient in love, the our burdens of righteousness are removed. God's love overcomes the world.

4) I really like this article by Kareem Abdul Jabbar. It's called Ignorance over Reason and talks about the attacks on education and reason in the contemporary world. We'd rather be wrong than possibly seek truth that contradicts our beliefs. We don't push, nor allow, our kids to reason and come to their own conclusion on important matters. Problem solving is a lost art. A few years ago, I remember reading a story about how researchers found that people don't use the internet to find out truth and answers, especially among political matters. People use the web to find things that affirm what they already believe. It's frustrating and maddening as a teacher to ask why a student believes something and they cannot tell you. Or they tell you false statements. I assign projects where students can choose a world religion and create a presentation. It is shocking how often students who would proclaim to be Christians create projects about Christianity that have historical and other factual errors.

5) Speaking of factual errors, does Ben Carson really believe that the pyramids were Joseph's storehouses? That's crazy. He may be a great neurosurgeon, but he's a terrible student of history. And science for that matter, since archaeology clearly tells us they were tombs.

I do think Politico exaggerated their claims that Carson lied about his West Point offer.

6) Ride Report: Now that it is dark at 5:30 and I'm in season, my rides will be mostly relegated to the trainer. The weather has been non-cooperative all week with lots of rain. Dan, Derek and I did get out to Dupont today. It was a lot wetter than I was anticipating. But we had a blast. We rode Burnt Mountain backwards. That trail is great both ways and it was nice to get to appreciate the steps from the other angle. Climbed Cedar Rock from the powerlines and had a great descent down Big Rock. Invited some out of towners to ride Micajah and Wilkie with use. It was cool and wet, but we had a blast all day. I was just glad to get out.

7) Slowly the college football field is getting more clear. Don't worry if you're Michigan State, you can still play your way into the playoff if you win out (and some teams lose). TCU may be done, We'll see. I've been picking Clemson #1 for a few weeks now and this week the AP voters agree with me. Here's my 7: 1- Clemson 2- Alabama 3- Oklahoma St 4- Ohio State 5- Notre Dame 6- Baylor 7- Stanford

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday 7s: Nov 1

1) I hate the move to standard time. In 2015, we'd be better off just not switching clocks twice a year. Either leave it year round standard or year round daylight savings. Of course, I prefer daylight savings because I like to do things outside in the afternoon.

2) Knights Wrestling starts tomorrow. We graduated probably the best wrestler in school history in Mitchel Langford. I think we could be a better team though. Lots of talented young kids. Good depth. John Williams is starting to send us some tough kids from the Middle School. There are high expectations for this year's squad.

3)  Yesterday, Shawn Evans and I took advantage of a perfect fall day to hits some great trails in Pisgah. I may be scarce on the bike, so I wanted to make a huge day of it. In all, it was about 30 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. Some highlights:

  • Spencer Gap: They fixed one part that only a few people could clean on the climb. Now the entire trail is ride able for me. Still one of my favorite climbs.
  • Spencer Branch: The old trail  is closed. The new trail leaves some to be desired. It has some nice rock armor, but I miss the Pisgah roots--- too smooth. The bottom is too tight, can't really get a rhythm. Maybe it will grow on me. 
  • Fletcher Creek is always great. Fast and fun and cold when you cross the creeks.
  • Shawn took me up Yellow Gap Trail, new to me. A few wet crossings and a steep push and then a nice, serene climb on singletrack to the intersection of double track. Then fast downhill. Nice to find that trail. 
  • Climbed Yellow Gap Rd to intersection of Laurel Mt.
  • I love Laurel Mt Trail. It's long and challenging without being too hard. There are some parts where you have to dismount. But most of it is rideable. And the woods were so gorgeous, peaceful and alive. It gave me energy. Pisgah is such a special place. 
  • We did not make it to the intersection with Pilot. It started getting cloudy and dark and the temps dropped. I didn't want to get rained on, so I proposed we turn around and ride down Laurel to save some time and to not get wet. Laurel was pretty fun to come down. The leaves made some parts tricky and still had to dismount for some sections, but it was a blast. 
  • Hopefully, I'll get some winter rides in. I love wrestling, but I miss my time on the bike and in the woods.
4) Did not watch the Republican debate last week, so I can't really comment much on moderators or candidates. Might we see a Rubio or Cruz surge? I still think Kasich makes the most sense of the Republican nominees. I feel bad for Bush, he's the kid that no one wants to play with with and pick on their team.

5) Take some time and be mesmerized.

6) Good eats: Local Joint, Fairview. Met Dot Case and Bill Rice there before our playoff volleyball match with AC Reynolds (which unfortunately, we lost). I first stopped here on the way to bike up to Mt Mitchell. The breakfast is excellent; if it were closer, I'd eat there all the time for breakfast. Dinner was great too. The corn chowder Ms Case described as the best she ever had. I had Taco Tuesday and that was excellent. Go eat here.

7) College Football: I can't tell which is worse--- being a Georgia Tech, Georgia or Virginia Tech fan? Lots of mediocrity to be found. The two Techs run the risk of losing two of the longest bowl streaks in the nation. Georgia thought they'd be National Champion contenders. 
  • Like him or love him, Frank Beamer is a legend and he made Virginia Tech relevant. 
  • That's another good opening along with USC, the other USC, Miami.
  • Heang's Top 7: 1- Clemson 2- Ohio State 3- TCU 4- Baylor 5- LSU 6- Michigan St 7- Notre Dame