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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.

Right now, I’m watching the Comedy Central special, Intimate Moments For a Sensual Evening by Aziz Ansari (of Parks and Recreation and Human Giant fame). Oh, and I’m doing dishes. Aziz is bringing it pretty well, I must say. His style is by no means universally appealing, and it’s dangerously close to his parody comedian “Randy.” Don’t get me wrong, “Randy” is stupid and Aziz is actually quite smart, but their delivery strikes a similar excitedly hurried chord. Anyway, the fact that I’m watching by myself and consciously muffling laughter (although sometimes unsuccessfully) for fear of waking up my wife must mean Aziz is rockin’ it.

The funniest stand-up I’ve watched in a while is Louis C.K.’s Chewed Up. Really funny. Really honest. Brilliant, really. Unfortunately, I’m running out of streaming stand-up comedian options on Netflix, other than three or four different Katt Williams specials. And I think I’ll pass on those.

I am aware of a few live comedy opportunities around the cities, but have yet to take advantage of them. Hopefully I will soon. In the meantime, I’ll keep watching stand-up on TV and the computer. Who are your favorites? Anyone old school or current, and a link would be awesome!

P.S. I have no plans to become a comedian…yet.

I am a recent convert to Team Conan (about two years ago). I didn’t stay up late enough to watch, unless I was out at a bar, and Hulu did not yet exist. I support and respect Conan and the Tonight Show–although the legend of Carson is lost on people my age. His sense of humor just hits me right. Leno is…just…meh. The uncertainty of the future and transition time are growing frustrating and boring. I’m sick of the jokes about Leno, Conan, and NBC–except for some by Jimmy Kimmel.
Basically, I want it all to just get worked out. In the end, my viewing will go wherever Conan goes. I guess that puts me on “Team Conan.” At the same time, though, I find it difficult to advocate for a talk show host, when my time is much better spent advocating for the relief efforts in Haiti or even sharing a laugh, a drink, and a dance with my close friends.
My wife mentioned that she’s glad Conan finally said something about Haiti, rather than constant jokes about himself. I agree, but wonder what responsibility a late-night host has regarding disasters or even social injustice. Is their role to distract and entertain in a world of suffering? Or are they to speak to the realities of humanity? I think it’s somewhere in between. They are, ultimately, jesters and comedians–but cannot turn a blind eye to the horrors of the world. They do, after all, have access to a great audience and have the opportunity/responsibility to use their influence for good. But cannot focus solely on the sad. If comedians can’t tell jokes, then how will we have permission to laugh?

I am late posting today (yes, I’m still counting “today” as Thursday) because friends and I were playing Quelf the board game. It was absolutely ridiculous, but hilarious and fun! We made fools of ourselves and barely cared about the “score” (quite rare for me). Even our friend Shannon played and enjoyed herself…and she hates board games. Anyway, here is a link the the website. Apparently you can play Quelf via Facebook. We played in person and I’m sure it is much more fun. If you’re looking for a great time, and don’t mind humbling yourself in the name of hilarity, try it out! Also…the game somewhat resembles the “Circle of Death” drinking game…and might be even more fun with a drink or two.

We look forward to playing with more and different people. It really is crazy fun!

The tragic events in Haiti are almost beyond comprehension. As you likely know, Haiti has likely lost over 100,000 lives, thousands of buildings, and its sense of security. Most of us are wondering what we can do. First, we must pray for them. Now is not the time to wonder “why?” Now is the time to act. Brian McLaren pointed me (via his blog) to the Bread For the World website that has a list of ways to help, organizations to contact, and prayers for the occasion.

Hopefully, everyone (regardless of race, creed, etc…) can gather together and weather the storm. Although the damage has been done, our reaction to tragedy is paramount to its lasing effects. After some time has passed, people may start to wonder “why?” all this happened–although the comment of a certain politician was incredibly rude, inappropriate, and wrong. This post is not meant to approach the theodicy question, but is a call to action and nudge in (what I think is) the right direction.

Blessings and Peace to all of you, and may God be with the people of Haiti.

Okay, don’t worry. I would never ask you that question. In fact, I would probably be uncomfortable if you asked me that question.

Today, I started my J-term class, Mission of the Triune God II. I have already taken Mission I, but the first day of Mission II was still very introductory. It made me think, though, about people’s initial impression of “mission,” “evangelism,” or “evangelization” ? Are you confident that the church is the instrument of God? Or maybe that God is at work in the world and our job is to seek out and join in what God is up to? Or has someone confronted you in a public place and questioned your faith? Or knocked on your door with a pamphlet?

Mission is a passion of mine, but it so often gets a bad rap. I’m anxious to hear people’s thoughts.

I’m working on a more theological post, but today’s post needs to be about the best part of my day–by far. My wife and I don’t have a lot of money. We are not “poor,” per se, but (as of yesterday) were living mostly off of student loans. Not so great for two people. We were beginning to worry some about our finances, but today, my wife got a job! Not only that, but the tuition support from my home church was processed. We are not rich or anything, but it feels so good to not stress over our finances. We still have a financial plan and have to be somewhat frugal, but we’re so blessed to have employment and support from friends, family, and other communities.

Discovering that my home church had sent in a check and we didn’t have to worry anymore nearly brought a tear to mine and my wife’s eyes. It made us realize how truly blessed we are. I apologize if some of this post felt like whining, because I really wanted it to be about rejoicing and realizing our blessings. I know that, as we grow older (and hopefully more financially secure), Kirsten and I will be generous with our gifts, sharing them with others, just as many have shared with us. We give thanks every day, but sometimes have special reason to rejoice. Today is truly one of those days.

First, I’d like to apologize (mostly to myself) for not posting the past two days. One day it was because I was having so much fun. The other day, it was because I was too busy/tired. I’m not writing this blog with a hard deadline, though, but to get back into writing. So I’m not too worried about it.

Anyway…I’ve just finished watching The Simpsons and The Simpsons: 20th Anniversary Special. This week’s episode (the 450th!) was not all that great, although it had a pleasant and heartfelt ending. The special, though, was great. Moreover, it reminded me of how much I love The Simpsons. The Simpsons has rarely been the best show on television at any time, but has been in the top five for nearly all of its 20 year reign (at least in my opinion) and has earned its spot as my all-time favorite show. The Simpsons is funny, smart, edgy (at least it used to be), creative, heartwarming, humble, and honest. The animation allows the show to get away with sex and murder (quite literally). The Simpsons opened doors for shows like Family Guy and South Park, and much like those two shows, The Simpsons has a knack for social criticism–anyone and everyone is a target. I grew up watching The Simpsons, and learned both my sense of humor and social mores from it. My father and I spent many night watching 60 minutes on CBS and then The Simpsons on Fox. Oh, that reminds me. The Simpsons, if I’m not mistaken, was also a pioneer show in mocking itself and its own network. It truly didn’t take itself too seriously.

Besides the infinite lines I quote and the limitless trivia I know from The Simpsons, what is love most about the show is the family. It paints a picture of a family that is mostly dysfunctional, seldom on the same page, and made up of a bunch of “unique” people. However, the Simpson family loves  . While most of the family members bring out unfortunately true characteristics of many Americans (or people, for that matter), in their love for one another, the Simpson family represents the family ideal–a bunch of people, all with their own sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-infuriating shortcomings and nuances that live together and love each other.

I will never stop watching The Simpsons. I learn something new about the characters and about myself each time I watch an episode–no matter how many times I’ve seen it. I wonder, whatever readers are out there, what is your experience with The Simpsons? Were you like many of my friends growing up, and not allowed to watch them? Do you think they’re funny? Stupid? Whatever your thoughts/feelings, I encourage you to brush up on your Simpsons knowledge–first, to be culturally literate, but second, to explore what thoughts (or laughs!!) it will bring out in you. You can try watching this year’s episodes at 8:00 EST on Sunday on FOX, or borrow a DVD from me (I…have Seasons 1-12…all of them that have been released so far). There are also many websites that stream old Simpsons episodes. I recommend just about any episode from seasons 3-5.

Blessings to you and yours. Goodnight. I’ve got to get up and run a bunch of miles tomorrow. “D’oh!”

P.S. If you ever want to come over and watch The Simpsons with me, let me know!! I’ve also got a Simpsons trivia game!

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