Saturday, December 18, 2004
The Good Life
I am living the good life.

I spent the last weekend talking nerdy baseball with a gaggle of like-minded nerdy baseball writers.

I arrived home Monday to a surprise birthday party.

A pretty girl baked me an orange-Guinness-chocolate cake and wrote me a birthday poem.

Finals are over.

For the next six weeks, my only obligation is a part-time job.

Life is good now.

posted by Peter at 1:53 PM
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Baseball meetings
Ruz has been good to enough to consolidate all of the All-Baseball perspectives from the Winter Meetings in one spot. Best of all, Ken made a movie of our experiences for the sake of posterity. It requires Flash, so go watch it.

Some personal highlights of the weekend for me:

Chatting it up with Dodger beatwriter Steve Hensen of the LA Times regarding the chance of Adrian Beltre staying with the Dodgers or going to Seattle. He filled me with much good hope that has finally been realized.

Introducing myself and handing my business card to Ken Rosenthal of the Sporting News. he's much smaller than his byline suggests.

posted by Peter at 1:39 PM
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Saturday, December 11, 2004
Winter Meetings Day #1
And then it hits me. I am in Anaheim, standing two feet from uber-agent Scott Boras, listening to his comprehensive plan to save the world from steroids. How did I get here?

But really, much of the afternoon was spent absorbing such surreal, this-does-not-happen-everyday vignettes. I am just a bug on a wall here at the 2004 Baseball Winter Meetings.

There I am standing in the lobby of the Marriott and immediately to my left is Lou Piniella engaged in conversation. I have to double take because I am not used to seeing Sweet Lou dressed in khakis and an untucked, short-sleeve button-down shirt.

(read more...)

posted by Peter at 3:10 AM
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Thursday, December 09, 2004
"You rang?"
Yesterday was the final meeting for my Vocation of Ministry class. I am about to wrap up the final paragraphs of the last paper for that class regarding my commitments to a vision of ministry.

Seeing as how I was flogged nearly unconcious by the theme of "calling" in that class, I found this tidbit from Pete Grieg (Mr. 24-7) especially prescient.

Just read this from the 850 Words of Relevant newsletter from this week:
Anyone who says that it is easy to follow Jesus is a liar. He Himself said that the way is narrow. But nothing we forgo in the cause of Christ—wealth, popularity, kudos, not even our very lives—can come anywhere close to the return. The way of discipleship—of covenant commitment and sacrificial worship—is costly and hard.

I was giving a friend a lift in my car one time, and we got to talking about life. "I don't know what God's calling me to do," he confessed, and asked me to pray about what it might be.

"Why?" I asked. "I already know what Jesus wants you to do!"

"You do?" he gasped with ill-concealed excitement. "So, what is it? What's my call?"

I paused, enjoying the suspense. Drums rolled. String quartets tuned up. My friend held his breath …

"Your call," I said slowly, "is to be a worship leader …"

He looked pleased, really pleased, so I continued: "… but not necessarily with a guitar in your hand."

"Okayyy," he murmured.

"Your call is to befriend that funny little lady at the end of your street …"

He seemed less pleased with this prospect.

"Your call is to feed the hungry and to spend yourself on behalf of the poor …"

By now he was looking distinctly troubled.

"… and to offer hospitality to strangers who just turn up in town needing a place to crash."


"And it's to fast."

He was starting to look furious.

"And it's to pray so long and hard that you run out of words and tears."

There was no going back: "Your call," I continued, "is to preach the good news of Jesus to every person who will listen and a few who won't. Your call is to go somewhere, anywhere, wherever, whenever, for Jesus, and never stop. Your call is to love people no one else loves and to forgive them when they treat you like dirt—or worse. Do your job to the very best of your ability without grumbling about your boss or whining about your colleagues. Your call is to pray for the sick, and when they are healed, to dance all night. And when they aren't, to weep with them and love them even more."
I glanced across at him and was relieved to see that his expression was beginning to mellow.

"Your call is to honor your parents, pray for your leaders, study the Scriptures and attend plenty of parties. Be a peacemaker in every situation: when the fight breaks out on the bus home late at night and when the gossip starts to circulate at church. Your call is to pick up litter in the street when no one else is looking, to wipe the toilet seat, to pull the gum off from under the desk. It's to get to meetings early to put out the chairs."

By now he was smiling.

"Your call is to make disciples and to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded. And don't forget to minister grace to them when they sin. Which they will. Your mission is to baptize and to cast out evil spirits. Your call is to bind up broken hearts wherever you find them, and you will find them wherever you look. It's to visit prisons. And hospitals. And to …"

"Yeah, yeah," he interrupted good naturedly, trying to shut me up, but I was on a roll—and I knew he couldn't leave, because I was driving the car.

"Your call," I continued resolutely, "is to listen more than you talk and to listen with your eyes as well as your ears."

He was shaking his head in mock despair. I carried on: "It's to do the chores again and again without grumbling. It's to buy ethical coffee and to recycle your bottles. And while you're at it, don't forget to leave anonymous gifts on people's doorsteps."

By now we were both laughing, and I was finally running out of steam: "And when you've done all that," I grinned, jabbing him in the ribs at each syllable, "come back and see me, and we can spend a little time praying about phase two!"

posted by Peter at 10:56 AM
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Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Make the widgets stop
Even if you've never seen Modern Times, surely you've seen the clip of Charlie Chaplin at work in the factory. He stands at the assembly line cranking out widgets. Gradually the conveyer belt speeds up, spins out of control, the Tramp furious fights to keep up. Chaos ensues and everybody gets a good laugh.

I can't think of a better picture of my semester with this week reaching the apex. Except I'm not laughing. Yet. Maybe next week.

So last night, the student life department sponsors a karaoke break time. I'm working like furious on a paper but I get sold on the fact that there's free breakfast. Nothing fuels an all-nighter quite like a greasy plate of breakfast food at 11 pm. Plus, lunch and dinner had been entirely too underwhelming.

For karaoke, I told my pal David I'd go up and do "99 Problems" by Jay-Z if he'd do it with me. Imagine our surprise when it wasn't in the machine. My Plan B was "Get Your Hands Off My Woman" by The Darkness. I would have dedicated it to Creepy Seminary Guy. But no dice. Perhaps I should be familiarizing myself with more seminary approved songs. Like "I Want It That Way." Or "Achy Breaky Heart."

And unfortunately, karaoke sans plethora amounts of alcoholic beverages is more sad display--like a rejected episode of American Idol--than true comic entertainment.

Now back to our regularly scheduled furious paper writing.

posted by Peter at 11:42 AM
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Sunday, December 05, 2004
Brain dump the week before finals
Saturday night was the grand Christmas in Wilmore celebration. At five o'clock all of the town gathered round a large pine tree in downtown. I felt like I was in the scene in Groundhog Day. Awards went out the individuals with the best Christmas light displays in town. There was an elf costume contest for the kiddos. The mayor wore a suit with a ruffled tie and gave the honor of lighting the tree to the electric complany. I'm dead serious.

Afterwards, all the shops through downtown held something of an open house with free hot chocolate or cider with cookies. Several of them hosted live music. A classical guitarist played Christmas tunes at the art gallery. A ska band of college students played outside of the coffee house, while a group made up of a mandolin, violin and acoustic guitar inside.

But none of these was the most amazing thing of the evening. The most amazing thing I saw when we entered the local IGA to pick up some drinks for later in the evening. There to the left of the entrance, in the corner of the frozen foods, we saw this. That's a bluegrass band playing Christmas carols in the frozen foods section. That's a banjo player picking in full view of the ice cream sandwiches. And yes, those are chairs set up so that one and all may sit and soak in this surreal experience.

I have this feeling I live on another planet here in Wilmore.
Last week at VBCC I received a copy of Shorter Christian Prayer, an abbreviated version of the Liturgy of the Hours for ADD souls such as myself. The group at VBCC is attempting to observe the daily hours as a community.

This is rather new to me. The whole concept of "quiet time" isn't foreign at all. It's one of those things that coming from an evangelical background gets drilled into your brain since the days of youth group. It's something I often struggle with but get the most out of when I am established in a routine. I am a creature of habit. An addict of prescription. I thrive in structure. At least, that's what the personality profiles tell me.

Yet, I feel guilty about that. I should be more spontaneous. Routine is too predictable. Too boring. Structure isn't fun. It's the same thing we did yesterday. Why do I feel this way? Because it's not true.

What is helping me is these words from Vineyard Central:
The hyper-individualism and narcissism that have taken deep root in America have led to a current notion that the only good prayers are spontaneous, created on the spot and issuing from the unique persona of the one praying. Conversely, there's a pervasive sentiment that to recite the prayers of others is somehow less authentic, less real, and certainly less efficacious. It only takes a moment's reflection to see that both of these views are nonsense. The fact that Jesus memorized and prayed the Psalms, using them extensively in his teaching, should adequately squelch any doubts about the validity and helpfulness of praying 'second-hand' prayers.

The effect of establishing fixed times in the day for centering attention on God is that your life starts to bend around these significant moments. A rhyme and pattern develop to your day, and the recital of meaningful prayers and psalms slowly fills an interior spiritual reservoir which carries you through the craziness of modern life with your head screwed on straight. You become, as the ancient poet says, "a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither."

Alan pointed out these words here. "Your life starts to bend around these significant moments." I love that picture. I love the idea of rhythm. That helps me. I breathe the same as I did yesterday. My heart beats the same as it did an hour ago. May my prayers and meditations become my heartbeat and very breath.

So I'm getting lots of questions about what I'm doing this weekend. Well, as a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association, I'm representing at the annual baseball winter meetings in Anaheim, CA. In a nutshell, it's an opportunity to meet most of the other A-B guys while also witnessing the granddaddy of baseball business events and media circus of the year. In a nutshell, I have no clue what I'm getting myself into.

Alex Belth went last year:
Smack dab in the middle of the hotel lobby is a squared-off bar area that is raised up off the floor by a couple of feet, carpeted and outfitted with tables. The room is populated with up to several hundred men—agents, scouts, front office assistants, kids looking for jobs, and of course, the members of the media. Essentially, it is a big cocktail party. Groups of guys cluster together and chat. It’s the kind of scene where you see a guy pull another guy aside and say, “Step into my office.” The rest of the men stand around nervously, as if they were limo drivers at the airport waiting to pick someone up.

It is an inherently tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. The mood isn’t dour, it’s just forced. After all, this isn’t a social gathering, this is business. The teams are in the business of signing players and making trades; the agents are in the business of selling their clients, and the media’s business is to be up in everybody’s business. As a result, everyone is checking everybody else out. This is amusing. When I first walked in, I was getting the once over too. Some guys shot me suspicious, dark looks, as if to say, “Now who the hell is this?” Others looked at me more openly, with curiosity, as if to say, “Who the hell is that?”

So did Jay Jaffe:
What's a blog-writing outsider like me doing at Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings? That was a question I couldn't adequately answer, not even after Alex Belth and I entered the lobby of the New Orleans Marriott and cut through a swarm of baseball executives, agents and writers in search of the Baseball Prospectus contingent who had encouraged us to come down. Traveling on my own dime, lacking media credentials and anonymous to all but a small handful of people in the room, I shook my head as I surveyed the spectacle. What had I gotten myself into?

The answer turned out to be four days of pure sensory overload, intensive immersion in a realm of the baseball world I had only previously imagined. I watched, talked, argued, networked, laughed, ate, drank, gambled and strolled through the human sewer of degradation that is Bourbon Street. But mostly I just listened to a wide variety of perspectives about the game and the weekend's happenings. I cemented friendships with people who had previously been only names at other nodes of this electronic wonderland. The whole experience left me so giddy I was unable to fall asleep at night no matter how exhausted my body was.

I anticipate a surreal yet exciting four days. Should be a wild time.

It's been one of those weeks where all I want to do is curl into the fetal position and weep uncontrollably. Unfortunately it's like this from now until finals. Outlines. Papers. Group projects. Finals. It's felt like one thing after another all semester and now it seems like a great tidal wave cresting for the final crash. If one I had a surfboard. In little more than a week it will all be over. That's the rumor, anyway.

Check it out. The cult has accepted me. And to think, all it took was paying the membership dues. Ha! (just kidding, Alan)

I absolutely love the season of advent. Redemption. Hope. Anticipation. These are good things. Last year I wrote about Incarnation Day. It rambles around a bit, I know. I'm feeling rather distracted this year by a busy-ness that buzzes like a horde of flies around my head. But despite the distractions, I believe Brother Kyle puts it best when he says Redemption is coming to get us. What an awe-inspiring image. Ready or not, the God-Man is coming to get us. This is an amazingly good thing.

And wow. I didn't realize I was at the center of the blogger universe. Makes me feel all nervous now as I walk across campus. Who has solved my super-duper-secret blogger identity?

posted by Peter at 11:30 PM
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