Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Closest Brush with Professional Football

Currently I am posting daily on Facebook a series of old photographs under the theme “70 Days to 70.” As I approach my 70th birthday, I’m providing a retrospective on some of the highlights of my life. Most of these are brief comments, but today’s post involves a story that cannot be recorded in the short space available on Facebook. So, I am moving today’s post to my blog.

Beginning as a 6th grader in 1954, I played football for Edgewood Elementary School. The football league was sponsored by the YMCA. Players had to provide their own equipment, practiced everyday after school under the guidance of a coach, and played a series of games against other elementary schools in the southern suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama. At the end of the season, an All-Star game (“the Sun Bowl”) was played on the football field at Shades Valley High School between players chosen by the coaches. All-Stars from the schools to the east played against the All-Stars from the West. I played on the West All-Star team as a 7th and 8th grader.

The photo I have posted on Facebook today (Day 29 in the projected 70 posts) is a football card of Rebel Roy Steiner, who became my uncle when he married my mother’s youngest sister, Doris Richardson, in 1952. My cousin Margaret and I at the age of 9 were included in the wedding party. You can only imagine how a 9-year-old boy would feel to have a professional football player marry into his family.

Years later while I was in high school, I visited Rebel’s mother. Mrs. Steiner pulled out all of the old scrapbooks that she had kept recording Rebel’s career from high school days through his professional football days. It was quite a collection that disclosed a truly all around outstanding athlete. Rebel had been chosen for the all-state team in high school, but not just in football. He had been all-state in football, basketball, and baseball. He went to the University of Alabama and played football for an outstanding team there. He played offensive end with an All-American quarterback; and as I recall, this was around the time in the mid-1940’s when Alabama was a powerhouse football team and played in the Rose Bowl.

Rebel was drafted by the Chicago Bears but was called into military service and could not accept that draft. After two years in the military, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. He played two years (1950-51) in the defensive backfield for Green Bay, the second year in excruciating pain from a knee injury. He intercepted 10 passes in his career, and one of those interceptions was a 94-yard touchdown return. The scrapbook I saw had a large picture from the New York Times showing the entire field and with a white line tracing his runback for the touchdown. I believe that was the NFL record interception return at that time. Because of the injury, Rebel retired from football. A year or so later he married my aunt.

All of this is leading up to my football experiences in 1956. At the beginning of the 1956 YMCA football season, Rebel came to visit me. He brought along the hip pads and pants that he had worn as a Green Bay Packer. He gave them to me to use as my equipment for my eighth-grade football season. I would guess that I probably weighed about 120 pounds at that point, and the equipment was mostly too large; but we made the hip pads work, and my Mom took up the shiny gold Green Bay pants so that they fit enough where I could play in them. Out on the front yard of our house, Rebel gave me a few lessons about the importance of staying low in blocking, etc. I took those back to the team the very next day and gave our lineman the lessons I had learned.

Edgewood School’s football team had a very good year that season, and my year (partially equipped in the Green Bay Packers uniform) was excellent. I was chosen again that year as an all-star to play in the Sun Bowl; and I started as right end on the All-Star team—but I was not destined for stardom.

I mentioned in an earlier Facebook post about my discovery in my 8th-grade math class that I needed eyeglasses. My near-sightedness made it difficult to read items on the chalkboard from a distance. The same impact began to affect my football playing—though it is only in retrospect that I recognized the impact of my near-sightedness. I had an increasingly hard time seeing the football clearly on pass plays, and that issue came to a climax in the All-Star game—the only game we ever played at night.

I started as an end on the All-Star team, and we were playing in a close match against the East All-Stars. Near the end of the second quarter, my team was forced into a fourth-down punting situation. As an end, my job was to go down field and cover the punt. The ball was snapped to the punter, and I went down field to cover the punt. The snap was a bad one, however; and the punter had to scoop the ball up off the ground and tried to evade the opposing rushers. He looked up and spotted me wide open down field, so he heaved the ball in my direction. I stopped and turned toward the ball. I don’t know whether it was my failing eyesight, the night-time game with artificial lighting, or the opposing player who was bearing down on me as the ball approached my outstretched hands, but the football went right through my hands and fell to the ground. An adult on the sidelines hollered out, “You couldn’t catch a ball with a bushel basket!” My coach pulled me from the game and did not put me back in the game during the second half. My All-Star career and my Green Bay Packer pants went down the drain in one flubbed play. I tried to play football the next year at Homewood Junior High School, but a pulled muscle in my back and continuing sight problems kept me from even making the starting team. So ended my football career, touched by the glory of my uncle’s Green Bay Packers uniform and smothered by the agony of defeat. It was a hard year for a 13-year-old, but I was a life-lesson for what I was to become.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Pick the one you like best (or add one of your own):

   1.   Too much fertilizer kills grass. Too much brain power kills head hair.

   2.   Hair loss is genetic. Don’t blame me for inheriting so much intelligence.

   3.   I have so little on top of my head because I have too much on my mind.

   4.   There’s so little hair on top of my head because there’s so much inside it.

   5.   You know what kills hair follicles on your head, don’t you? It's caused by too much brain confined in too small a space trying to escape through every little escape valve possible. I see you don’t have that problem!

   6.   Pattern baldness indicates overworked parts of the underlying brain. I see you think a lot about sex!

   7.   Scientists have discovered that bald men think about sex more often than men with lots of hair. Guess what that says about women?

   8.   If Samson’s strength was in his hair, why do you think they shave the heads of military recruits?

   9.   You are aware of the impact that long-term gravity has on you, aren’t you? As you age, gravity pulls the hair from your head down into your nose and ears.

10.   Most people come into this world with little hair. I’m planning to leave this world in the same way.

[Originally posted on Facebook on December 14, 2010.]

Flat-Bible Calvinists and John 3:16 Christians

I find it impossible to interpret the Bible without once in a while having to deal with theological presuppositions. Malachi 1:2c-3 is one of those passages where theological presuppositions matter. I generally try not to pick fights or disparage other points of views, but specific passages sometimes present viewpoints or raise issues that force us to step back and try to take a comprehensive view.
I have used “flat-Bible” to describe the theological supposition that every letter, word, verse, chapter, and book of the Bible is equally valid, accurate, true, and authoritative. In this view no room is allowed for human perspectives, misunderstandings, or short-sightedness on the part of the biblical writers. No room is made for unfolding truth, progression in revelation, or correction of earlier viewpoints by later writers. A flat Bible is all God’s. Human authors were prevented by God from interjecting any personal words, ideas, views, prejudices, or perspectives into their works.
The theological idea of a “flat Bible” is inconsistent with the Bible we now possess. If the initial writings were perfect, the perfection has been lost in the transmission of the biblical text by human hands through the generations. Thousands of textual variations exist from centuries of copying and re-copying biblical manuscripts and from translation of the original concepts into the expressions of multiple languages.
With a flat Bible some method must be found to give equal validity to every idea, concept, statement, or viewpoint found in the Bible. I’ve used “John 3:16 Christians” to heighten the tension between the concept articulated in Malachi that God “hated Esau . . . and his inheritance” with what I think is a more complete, comprehensive, and Christian view that “God so loved the world”—which would include Esau and his descendents.
I have used “Calvinists” to describe those whose reading of the Bible has led them to conclude that Malachi’s views must be harmonized with John 3:16 since both are equally valid. The Calvinist’s views (often summarized by TULIP—Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints) presuppose a flat Bible where Malachi’s words must be given equal weight to Jesus’ words. Somehow they are able to rejoice over Malachi 1:2c-3 without finding any tension in John 3:16. For me the tension is too great to construct dogma from a flat Bible.
In today’s “Thinking Aloud,” I have tried to honor the spirit of Malachi’s words and the elements of truth found in them without absolutizing them. As always, your comments and feedback are welcomed.

[Originally posted on Facebook on November 23, 2009.]

A Christmas Poem: “The Reason for the Season”

The story speaks of longing hearts, 
Of centuries of stops and starts, 
Of hopes denied, of dreams delayed, 
Awaiting Christ and His true aid. 
The story tells of Mary pure, 
Of Joseph just and yet unsure, 
Of “Jesus,” who will save from sin, 
Of “God with us,” the prophets’ end. 

The hills of Bethlehem resound 
As angel choruses abound, 
And shepherds shrink in awful fright 
Before strange visions in the night. 
“The promises indeed are true. 
The good news is announced to you. 
Go, see the child,” the angel bade, 
“The infant in a manger laid.” 

Far to the east in darkest night, 
A star of heaven adds its light 
And guides the Magi in their quest 
To find a king of promise blessed. 
Jerusalem, then Bethlehem, 
The star leads on and comes to him 
Whose humble birth belies a king. 
They worship and bring offering. 

And so we hear of Jesus’ birth, 
Of Son of God who came to earth, 
Of Word who from before all time 
Was chosen to heal humankind. 
The Christmas story has been told. 
Its message is both new and old. 
It beckons all to pause and hear 
The reasons for the season’s cheer. 

© Copyright 1999 Michael Fink 
All rights reserved 
[Originally posted on Facebook on December 25, 2009.]

The Silversmith

I don’t recall the source of this story/illustration. It obviously is an old one, but I am reminded of it each time I read Malachi 3:2-4. 
Some time ago, a few ladies met in a certain city to study the scriptures. While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse: "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver (Malachi 3:3)." 
One lady proposed to visit a silversmith, and report to them on what he said about the subject. She went accordingly, and without telling the object of her errand, begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver. 
After he had fully described it to her, she asked, "But Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?" 
"Oh, yes madam," replied the silversmith; "I must sit with my eyes steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured." 
The lady at once saw the beauty, and comfort too, of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." God sees it needful to put His children into a furnace; His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for us. Our trials do not come at random, and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure. 
Before she left, the lady asked one final question, "When do you know the process is complete?" 
"Why, that is quite simple," replied the silversmith. "When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished." 

[Originally posted on Facebook on April 5, 2010.]

Malachi’s Path of Repentance

Our church, First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, TN, is launching a monthly emphasis today called “Grant to Us Now a Refreshing.” Today’s emphasis is on “Repentance.” Here are my musings of the path to repentance as outlined by Malachi. 

1. God holds supreme authority (1:11,14b) 
2. We fail to respect and honor God’s authority (1:6,12-14a) 
3. We show little concern for God’s favor and grace (1:9) 
4. God loves us but is displeased with our lack of concern (1:2,10) 
5. Disobedience and disinterest have consequences (2:2-3,8-9) 
6. God calls for repentance and obedience (2:1-2) 
7. Levi is a model of God’s expectations (2:5-7) 

[Originally posted on Facebook on February 7, 2010.]

The Conundrum We Face with Government Spending

Here are some statistics cited in the New York Times article that I recently recommended:
  • In 2000, 37% of federal and state government revenue was spent on "safety net" support for Americans. In 2010, that percentage had increased to 66% of government revenue.
  • In 1979, 54% of government "safety net" benefits went to families in the bottom 20% of household income. In 2007, that amount had dropped to 36%. This means that almost 2/3 of government assistance is now going to "middle class" families.
  • In 2010, 48.5% of Americans lived in households that received government benefits.
  • For every $3 in Medicare benefits provided today, only $1 was contributed through Medicare taxes.
  • Since 1980, support for Republican candidates (who generally promise to cut government spending) has increased in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. Support for Democratic cabdidates has increased in states where federal revenue is greater than expenses.
The New York Times article contains interviews with people who want to cut safety net benefits while drawing from those same benefits. It appears to me that either too many Americans think they have "earned" the benefits they receive and that others recipients don't deserve what they are getting, or they hold an unrealistic expectation that "my benefits" won't be affected by budget cuts.

[Originally posted on Facebook on February 12, 2012]

Thoughts on "Class Warfare"

Let's see if I have this straight. It IS "class warfare" to ask the top 10% of Americans who are economically advantaged and control 90% of America's wealth to pay more taxes. It IS NOT "class warfare" to bust unions, cut Social Security, cut Medicare, cut college loans, cut funding for research on global warming, cut funding for education, advance "tort reform" (which makes it more difficult to sue for malpractice), and cut dozens of other programs that especially affect the bottom 50% on the economic scale. Somebody's "platform" shows whose waging war on whom!

[Originally posted on Facebook September 20, 2011]


Oh God, on this day that we have set aside to celebrate the work of our hands, we also celebrate: 
• the time and physical energy we employ in our vocations, 
• the gifts and creative talents that spring from our very beings, 
• the industry that grows from our intelligence honed by education and training, and 
• the opportunities of employment that enables us to enjoy a bountiful life. 

Forgive us when we merely make Labor Day another day of: 
• meaningless observance, 
• purposeless activity, and 
• selfish indulgence. 

Instead, may this day become: 
• an expression of gratitude for the opportunities and blessings that we enjoy daily, 
• a time of reflection on the unmerited grace represented in each of those opportunities and blessings, 
• an occasion for expressing gratitude to our family and friends who enable us and encourage us in our journey through life, and 
• a dawning of compassionate awareness of the multitudes in our world who lack the education, training, and opportunities that we take for granted and who even lack the physical energy to pursue purposeful goals because of poverty, malnutrition, and oppressive circumstances. 

Lord, with Your having worked the work of grace in our lives, may we become instruments of Your grace. May we today put our hands, our time, our energy, our gifts, our minds, our training, and our opportunities under Your control so that our lives may be abundant, not just in material prosperity, but in wealth of heart, soul, mind, and strength. May we this day love You more, and may we love our neighbors near and far in word and in deed as we love ourselves. 

[Originally posted on my Facebook page September 7, 2009]

Sunday, May 12, 2013


1.   The things we need for faith, life, and godliness (v. 3)

·                     The righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (v. 1)
·                     Precious and great promises (v. 4)
·                    The things that support faith (vv. 5-7)
·                     Confirmation of our call and election (v. 10)

2.   The dangers we face

·                     Lust—worldly corruption from lust (v. 4)
·                     Laziness—becoming ineffective and unfruitful (v. 8)
·                     Laxness—carelessness that is nearsighted, blind, and forgetful of cleansing of past sins (v. 9)

3.   Our ultimate goals

·                     Participating in the divine nature (v. 4)
·                     Entering into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (v. 11)

4.   The means for achieving these goals

·                    Constant reminders (v. 12)
·                    Refreshing our memories (v. 13)
·                    Reflection (v. 15)
·                    Practicing the faith (“do these things”, v. 10)
·                   Attention to the Scriptures (vv. 19-21)

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Possible Breakthrough Interpretation of Paul and the Viper’s Bite in Acts 28

I have just returned from a week of travel with a group of Jewish and Christian scholars following the final stages of Paul’s travel to Rome. Our tour started on Malta, the island on which Paul and his fellow travelers were shipwrecked (Acts 28:1). We traveled by boat to Syracuse (v.12), Rhegium (v.13), and Puteoli (v.13). We then transferred to a motor coach and visited the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns (v. 15) before ending our tour in Rome.

One of the most astonishing experiences on the trip was a demonstration on Malta of a possible explanation of why Paul did not die from the viper’s bite. As you will recall, Paul and all his party survived the shipwreck but arrived on Malta in a cold rain. As a welcome, the Maltese built a fire for them. After gathering a pile of brushwood, Paul was feeding the fire when a poisonous snake hidden in the brush fastened itself to Paul’s hand. Paul shook off the snake into the fire and, to the amazement of all, suffered no consequences from the snakebite. The superstitious among the observers assumed that Paul must have been a god because he did not swell up and die from the poisonous bite.

Our tour guide, Francis (who, by the way, was named after Pope Francis I), gave us a demonstration of a possible solution to the biblical event. He had a wooden box about 12 x 18 inches wide and 12 inches deep. He removed the top of the box and asked one of our fellow travelers, Isaac, to take out what was inside. Isaac peered inside and said there was nothing in the box. Antonio lifted the box, turned it upside down, and a rather amorphous glob that looked like the wood from which the box was made fell out on the pavement and immediately changed colors to look like the pavement. “Watch closely,” Antonio said. He then took a small bundle of sticks and placed the sticks on top of the flattened glob that could hardly be distinguished from the pavement. Almost immediately, the glob assumed the shape of a branch and changed colors again to blend in with its new surroundings. Francis said that this Mediterranean sea creature could very well have taken the shape of a branch, had attached itself to Paul when he picked it up, and was assumed by the observers to have been a viper. When Paul shook it off into the fire, no evidence remained to verify whether it had actually been a viper.

About all I could grasp from Francis’s explanation was that this creature was a protoplasmic organism from a branch associated with the octopus and squid families. Like the octopus, it can change its appearance to match its background but can also change its shape to match its immediate environment. It can assume a flat appearance like its background in the box or on the pavement, but it also can match the color and shape of rocks, branches, or other objects. Francis gave us a technical name for this creature. I think it was something like “impullingyourlegus.” Happy April Fools’ Day! (Feel free to “like” this on Facebook, but please don’t give away the joke.)