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Many people know that being a Minnesota sports fan is difficult–to say the least. Lately, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been the main force in Minnesota sports negativity. To put it bluntly…they suck.

Somewhat recently, the Timberwolves fired former NBA great Kevin McHale and hired David Kahn as president of basketball operations. Since then, Kahn has been fairly transparent, laying out a plan to (slowly) re-establish the Timberwolves as a power in the Western Conference of the NBA. With less than one season under his belt, Kahn has done a pretty good job of shaking things up, but only time will tell how successful he truly is.

Most recently, the Timberwolves traded Brian Cardinal and his $6.75 million contract for Darko Milicic.

At first, many sports fans said this seems like a fairly meaningless trade, whereby the New York Knicks shed about a million dollars in salary (Darko’s contract is about $1 million more than Cardinal’s)–although both contracts expire at the end of the season. Some say Kahn did a favor for his friends in the Knicks’ front office. Others are more optimistic. Personally, I fall into the latter camp.

Cardinal’s and Milicic’s career statistics are practically identical–both are horrible. There are a few key differences, though. First, Darko was seen has having enough potential to be drafted 2nd overall in the 2003 draft, whereas Cardinal was drafted 44th overall in the 2000 draft. Second, Darko is 24 and Cardinal is 32. Third, Darko is 7’0” tall and talented, and Cardinal is (generously) 6’8″ and…let’s just say…a good “effort” guy. Still, though, neither guy has succeeded much in the NBA.

To complicate things, Darko has stated that he plans on going back to Europe to play after this season. Personally, it seems that this is a direct result poor performance that possibly stems from a combination of a lack of support and lack of playing time. If given a proper chance to flourish, he would be dumb if he didn’t continue playing in the top league in the world. Speaking of flourishing, since joining the Timberwolves, Darko has averaged about 5 ppg, 6 rpg, and 2 bpg while (according to his rather blunt coach) playing solid defense. As he continues to get into shape and play more minutes, these stats will almost definitely improve–hopefully enough to boost his confidence and sign w/ the Timberwolves this offseason.

The point is, fans, that this trade cost the Timberwolves practically nothing–and the upside is huge. The Timberwolves got a potential long-term (albeit long shot) starter at center, and only had to pay a little extra money for a few months. Should we get our hopes up? No. But does Darko finally offer us an option at center that can thrive in the triangle offense and play alongside another one of our big guys? Yes. The Timberwolves must be careful about taking playing time away from some of their other young players, but the risk is well worth the possible reward from this trade.

The Timberwolves might not have gained any fans from this trade, but in an age where the NBA is hemorrhaging money and being accused (perhaps rightly) of being crooked or rigged, this trade at least allows the Timberwolves an opportunity to succeed. And maybe then, if finally get some talent and win some games, they’ll have the officials (and the NBA higher-ups) on their side–and possibly win a few games. So, Timberwolves fans (if there are any of you left), don’t get too excited about this trade, but you can finally start to be cautiously hopeful that the Timberwolves will one day regain their NBA glory. Oh wait…

What do you think?

P.S. Thanks for letting me indulge in an explicitly sports-oriented post. Now certain friends of mine might finally read something I write…

When entering seminary (at least Lutheran seminaries), you are paired with a “contextual education” site–or teaching parish. Usually, the students have the opportunity to pick their own site, and are given guidance if they desire. When thinking about my teaching parish, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone a bit, and explore urban ministry. After many conversations and bit of exploring, I ended up at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Minneapolis (off of Glenwood). Let me tell you a bit about Redeemer (forgive me while I gush a bit…).

Since then, Redeemer has been a home for me (and my wife, Kirsten, when she moved in). Redeemer calls itself a “Beacon of Hope” in the city, and it has played that role for me, as well. Redeemer gives me energy–it gives me life. And through Redeemer, God renews my faith each and every Sunday.

One thing about Redeemer that stands out is its diversity. After studying culture and sociology (a bit), I’ve learned that diversity is its own culture–different than simply white, or black, or Asian, or anything else. A group must be very intentional in creating a diverse and welcoming culture, refusing to cease in its welcoming of others. Redeemer is truly diverse, in just about every sense of the word.

One of my favorite things about Redeemer is its worship music, which certainly reflects its diversity. Redeemer primarily used the This Far By Faith hymnal, but often branches out. Whether through the choir, solos, or congregational singing, we sing and play (instrumental) songs from nearly every time period, genre, ethnicity, and musical taste. The songs (almost) always are tied to the Scripture for the day, and the music director makes a special effort to consistently try new things. That said, my love for Redeemer is partially based on two songs that are repeated every week.

Whenever there is a prolonged transition time (often at the tail-end of communion), we break into a somewhat-impromptu version of “Amazing Grace.” I must say…it’s awesome. Growing up in the upper-middle-class white suburbs, I never sang the “Praise God” verse at the end of the song, but I have grown to love it. The other song we sing each Sunday is “Till We Meet Again.” At the closing of every service, we grab hands across the aisle and sing it. When I first joined, I raised my eyes to the beautiful stained glass as we sang. Now, as I sing “Till We Meet Again,” I look each (or most) of my fellow members in the eye, and wish them God’s Peace until the following Sunday.

Thank you for allowing me to indulge my need to gush (or brag, or tell, or witness) about my love of my contextual education site. Is it perfect? No. Do I sometimes feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities there? Yes. But, when I take into account what I’ve written above, and throw in the 10-15 minute sharing of the peace (no joke!!) and a wonderful community of God’s people, I cannot help but give thanks for such a wonderful church.

Funny how a place that I deemed “out of my comfort zone” has now become like a home for me.

As many of you know, I love love. I am lucky to be in love and married to a great woman. I think often, though, about the nature of love. What is it? How do we notice it? Does it last forever? etc… In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and a recent poll I heard on the radio about the “sexiest” songs of all time, I want to talk about love songs. It seems to me that the most popular love songs in music history are about the purest and most ideal pictures of love. I think, though, that the “best” love longs speak to the truth of love, relationships, and humanity.

There is certainly a place for celebrating and proclaiming “I will always love you” and “you are perfect (to me).” However, love songs take a step forward when they can speak to the uncertainty and risk of love, when they recognize and name the occasional irrationality or mystical nature of love, and when they suggest that deep love doesn’t always a great relationship make. At the same time, when a song can honor the truth of love while celebrating it in all of its passion, playfulness and power, then the best love songs rise to the top. Of course, if a song sounds good, it makes it all that much better.

VH1 did a ranking of the “100 Greatest Love Songs” a while back, this is their top 5:

1)Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You”

2) Elvis Presley, “Love Me Tender”

3) Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On”

4) Journey, “Open Arms”

5) Paul McCartney & Wings, “Maybe I’m Amazed”

My personal top-5 list is often changing depending on my current taste in music and new songs that are released (as well as how my views on love change, grow and mature). For now, here it is:

1) Wilco, “You and I”

2) Dave Matthews Band, “Steady As We Go”

3) The Pretenders, “I’ll Stand By You”

4) Journey, “Open Arms”

5) Dave Matthews Band, “You and Me”

It is really tough narrow down my list to just five, and the task of “ranking” songs is inherently difficult. Judging art is always such a struggle–albeit a fun, interesting, and often beautiful process.

I wonder, readers (if you didn’t ditch me after these past few weeks of slacking), what do you look for in a love song? And what are your favorite love songs? No need to rank them if you don’t want. Regardless of which love songs you like, I urge you to continue listening to them, whether as a reflection of feelings you have, have lost, or hope to have again.

Peace and love be with you all.

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