New Year, New Hobby

This past Christmas, my wife and I decided to buy a nice camera. The reason was two-fold. One, I’ve often talked about wanting to try my hand at photography in our 25 years of marriage, but never took the initiative to do anything about it. I wouldn’t say it’s a passion of mine, but definitely an interest. I took a couple of photography classes in school, but have long since forgotten what I learned there. Early on in our marriage we bought a small 35mm camera to take pictures of the kids and family outings. However, film and processing could get expensive. Storing all the photos became a pain. We got a low-end digital camera when those became a thing, but after a while it seemed much more convenient to just take pictures on a decent smart phone. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.

The other reason for investing in a nice camera was the number of trips we have scheduled for 2020 with the big one being our first trip to Hawaii later this year! As we get older and are handling our finances better, the reality of traveling to see more parts of the world is taking shape. Two years ago, we went to Vancouver and found so many great photo opportunities. We have all those memories recorded, but have realized that our Samsung Galaxy phone cameras really did not do it justice. So, we’re stepping up a bit.

We have some photographer friends. I follow some photography blogs. And we understood that DSLR cameras were the way to go if you want to take some stellar pictures. We bought a Canon EOS Rebel T6 (found a killer deal on a bundle because the T7 is out now.) Like just about everything else new in my life, I’m starting off slow. I’m the guy that reads the whole manual first, buys the “Beginner’s Guide to…” and the “… for Dummies” books before jumping in. I figure in most cases, more information up front leads to less frustration on the back end.

I played around with the camera a bit the week after Christmas. New Year’s Day we took a trip to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, CA. This would be my first real opportunity to see what this thing could do. I took a bunch of shots and a few of them I’m pretty pleased with. That’s the beauty of digital photography: take as many shots as you like and you can just sort them out and get rid of what you don’t like later. Here are a few of my favorites. These are unedited. I haven’t gotten into the photo editing software yet.

I noticed that most of the photos I see on photography blogs, have some imprint on them. I’m guessing that’s to prevent someone from stealing the photos or whatever. I don’t know how to do that yet. I’m an amateur! I just want to have a space to share my interests and now, some of my experiences captured through a camera lens. Enjoy!

My Slow Journey to The Fast & The Furious

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I love movies! This is not a secret. I also love movie trailers. Being late to a movie is bothersome to me for this reason. Sitting through the trailers, making that first judgment of whether or not I’m going to spend my time and money on an upcoming film is part of the entertainment. So, in 2016 when I saw the trailer for Fate of the Furious, the 8th installment of The Fast & The Furious franchise, it really caught my attention. How in the world did a movie about street racing evolve into this epic movie with a nuclear submarine, heavily armed muscle cars, and The Rock?

As big of a movie fan as I am, I had still never seen one minute of the seven existing Fast & Furious movies. However, this Fate of the Furious trailer had my attention. I needed to see these movies so I could “smell what The Rock was cooking!” I told my son about my new curiosity. As it turned out, he had only seen a couple of the films himself. So, for Christmas he bought me the Blu-ray boxed set of the first seven movies! Oh, it was gonna be on!! We planned to watch through those 7 movies and be ready to see Fate when it was released in theaters. But for one reason or another, life just kept getting in the way and over the next two and a half years, we had seen the first 3 movies.

However, this summer, we finally got things in gear. We’ve been able to take Sunday afternoons after church to watch the remaining 5 movies! (I purchased #8 the week after we finished #7.) Wow! What a ride this movie franchise is! I’m sorry to get on board so late, but so glad I finally did! This series started out as a remake of Point Break, on wheels instead of waves. But, it evolved into a star-studded, action-packed cavalcade of physics-defying, “hold on to your hats and glasses” fun! These are the kind of movies my son and I can really get into and bond over. They’re loud, fast, with car crashing, stuff blowing up, and bodies flying. It’s all overly fantastic and so very impossible, but we didn’t care. We hooted, hollered, and laughed all the way through!

Through the first round of viewing I think my favorite was Fast & Furious 6. My least favorite was definitely The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift. I honestly don’t know why they even made that movie, but somehow, they managed to tie it back to the rest of the movies, so it’s worth watching in the grand scheme of things. I’m not going to give a review on the movies. They’re not that serious. I’ll just say, if you enjoy action movies, this series has some of the best stunts, vehicular combat and chase sequences you’ll find on film. And, in the later films, the fight choreography is great as well. The movies are over the top and unbelievable, but I think that’s what movies are for. They should take us places and show us things that exist only in the imagination.

My son and I are all set to see the next installment, a spinoff of sorts, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw this weekend in the theater. And I’m pretty sure we’ll be watching a marathon of these movies again next year when Fast & Furious 9 is released. I know I was slow getting to the party, but now I’m in for the rest of the ride.

A New Season of Blogging

I have entered into a new season in my life of blogging. I recently turned 45 and decided that I am going to start writing more consistently. I realize that I need the creative outlet in my life, and the days of pursuing my passions are getting fewer and fewer. Plus, I was looking for a way to generate some passive income. So, I’ve made a few changes. I had three blogs on WordPress. “Stuff I Think About” is a place that I dump my thoughts on a bunch random stuff from sports to comics, movies to technology, all sprinkled with some of my stories from life. I like having this all in one place so that my children and grandchildren will hopefully revisit it someday to get to know me better through my writing. It’s been a great space for that, but highly inconsistent. I also had two other blogs, “The (High) Blood Sugar Road” is a place to document my journey with diabetes since my diagnosis in 2011. “Puck Pursuit,” I started in 2014 when my family and I began our endeavor into learning and loving the game of hockey. All of these outlets have been nice, but I have ignored them for long periods of time. It’s time for a fresh start.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do. I deleted “The (High) Blood Sugar Road” and “Puck Pursuit.” I figured anyone who was following those blogs probably thought I was dead already. The content that I would normally post on those blogs will now be added to “Stuff I Think About.” I hope to post here 3 times a week. This blog is for me. I’m happy to have others along for the ride, but understand this is literally just a place for the “Stuff I Think About.” I have created a new blog, “The Stray Shepherd.” It is a much more focused blog on sharing my unique view of life and ministry as a pastor. This is the space I promote and am trying to build a following in. We’ll see how it goes. The following is really about accountability to keep me writing consistently. I also hope to get plenty of feedback and spark healthy discussion. We’ll see how it pans out. This is the new season. The 3 became 1, and has now grown into 2! I’m excited! And I hope you are too. Hop on over to “The Stray Shepherd” and join the flock!

The One Where I Was Nearly Stabbed to Death with a Pencil

WARNING: This post contains a tale of horrific personal trauma and you may be prompted to laugh at my pain. Names have been changed to protect somebody. I’m not sure who, but an attempt at protection has been made.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not always been a nice person. Who am I kidding? I’m not always a nice person now. And back in the day, just like now, not being nice got me into my fair share of troubles. One day, in the fifth grade, things escalated quickly, and my life wound up in jeopardy. Or at least I thought it did.

My fifth-grade classroom was arranged in such a way that desks were side by side in long rows across the width of the room.  If you sat in the middle of the row, you would have to pass behind a few students to get out one of the ends. Students would often have to scoot their chairs in to let others by. For some reason, I, one of the tallest and huskiest kids in class, was put in the middle of a row.  This led to a lot of irritation and frustration on my part. I asked frequently to be moved, but never was.

One afternoon, after lunch, something was off with me. I can only explain it now as I was feeling extra “jerky” on that day. One of my classmates (we’ll call her Emerald) got up in the middle of working on an assignment to sharpen her pencil…what seemed like several times. (It was probably twice.) When Emerald came back that last time, asking me to scoot my chair in again, I refused.

“Go around,” I shouted. This caught the attention of the teacher who quickly shushed me. “Go around, I’m sick of scooting in every time you need to do something,” I said in quieter tones this time. Emerald, a 4’3” stumpy little Latino fireplug of a girl, was quickly fed up with my nonsense. She put both hands on my back and attempted to push me forward. I turned around, smacked her hand and said, “Don’t touch me!” That’s when it happened.

She stabbed me in the back of the arm with her newly sharpened pencil! With cat-like quickness and surgical precision, she stabbed me in the arm and stood back before I ever saw it coming! I stood up! She hit me with another quick strike! OUCH!! I screamed out, called her a name I honestly can’t remember. She was in full on fight or flight mode now. She chose fight! She quickly lashed out two more times. I did the only thing I could think to do at the time, because I was sure she was coming in for the kill. I punched her in the arm, and I started crying. She was able to get another jab in (I should have been bobbing and weaving!) and, I countered with another punch in the arm.

By this time, I was sure I must be bleeding out. I was going to be murdered by this little girl in front of my classmates. And then, Mrs. Tate, who I couldn’t stand as a teacher, finally came to my rescue. She separated us. The rest of the class finally took a collective breath. There I stood with tears running down my face and blood running down my arm. Mrs. Tate told the class to get back to work as she walked me over to the classroom sink to tend to my wounds. The whole time she had to listen to me blubbering about how lead poisoning was a real threat and how I wanted to press charges.  She gave me the “Uh-huh, sure,” treatment while she took care of me. A few bandages later, she patted me on the back and walked me over to my new seat! That was it! No charges filed. No visit to the principal’s office. No phone calls home. Just a bump in the road and we moved on.

Epilogue: A week later, Emerald apologized to me at recess for stabbing me with her pencil. I apologized for being a jerk. We agreed that neither of us needed to talk about it ever again. (Sorry for putting our business out there in the blogiverse, Emerald.) We went on to 6th grade as friends, and I never did have any negative physical effects from lead poisoning.

The Christmas That Changed Everything

Today, since it is a hot day in July, and one of my favorite concepts is “Christmas in July”, I’m going to write about one of my favorite Christmases, the Christmas that changed everything! Christmas time in 1999 was a particularly difficult time as I lost my job in the Lucky warehouse in November of that year. That was a great job for me as it allowed Darcy to stay at home with the kids after Bailey was born and we were able to upgrade apartments to a 3 bedroom after Micah was born. We made the move to the Cottonwood apartments in May of 1998, and it was the best apartment we ever had. It was not only the size, 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms, but it was completely detached like a little house. It had a one-car garage and its own little backyard! It was our first “real” family home to house our new family of five! We loved it, but being so young and working so hard outside the home with the long hours of the warehouse, and Darcy working so hard inside the home trying to keep up with three kids under the age of three, we didn’t really know how nor had the energy to take care of that place the way we do now. The garage was a disaster, the backyard was a mess. But we were happy and we were getting by. Good times!

I say all that to say that when I lost my job in November of ‘99 we were devastated. I was more than devastated. I was actually suicidal for a few days. But God is a good and gracious God. In the days and weeks that followed losing my job, he surrounded us with His people that knew how to minister to us and love on us in a way that encouraged us to keep pushing forward rather than fold up and complain about our situation. That December, when it looked like Christmas would be cancelled, one of our good friends, Ed, showed up in a big way. Ed walked with the Lord from pretty much the same time I did. He and I went through the new members class at First Baptist together and got baptized on the same day, July 31, 1994. He is a brother in Christ that I will never forget. On a random December day, we were shocked to hear sirens coming down the long driveway to our house, shocked to see three or four Sheriff’s cars coming toward our house. And even more surprised to see that one of them had Santa Claus in tow. The kids were in such disbelief. Santa Claus (Ed) and his Sherriff deputy elves brought four carloads of gifts. Toys for the kids, groceries for us. So much that it completely filled our living room. We were overwhelmed. (Even writing about it now brings tears to my eyes.) The love and generosity that was poured out on us that day brought us all, especially me, out of a deep dark place. There was such happiness and real joy in our home again. I know our kids didn’t get it. They were just happy to have toys at Christmas. But Darcy and I saw it as so much more. We understood that God saw us. He knew where we were and that we were hurting. He saw our desperation and decided to show us that He could mobilize His church, His chosen set apart people, the saints to be His hands and feet, His mouthpiece to demonstrate His amazing love for us in a very real, very practical way. And it worked. It changed our outlook on life. It helped us to grow in our faith and really unlocked some key doors in our life that were obstacles to our spiritual growth. We had an attitude of gratitude toward God that catapulted us into ministry. That very same time the next year, I was teaching at a Christian school, something I never thought possible. My four years of teaching at that school prepared me to answer God’s call to full-time ministry. And, I believe it started with the unbelievable act of love and kindness shown toward us by Ed at that Christmas time. I could go even further back. If I had not lost my job, which at the time seemed like the very worst thing that could happen to us, turned out to be probably the very best thing as God was orchestrating steps so far down the line, we couldn’t even see them. The other thing that came out of that was that it changed Christmas for us for good. Later in that same Christmas season, when we were visiting all the grandparents and other family, our kids had been so spoiled by the outpouring of gifts from the Sheriffs that everything else kind of paled in comparison. We were so embarrassed by their attitudes that we decided we need to change the way we do Christmas and turn the focus back to the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ. The following Christmas, we brought the number of gifts purchased waaaay down. We started our Christmas morning with a reading of the Christmas story, and a time of prayer and Thanksgiving to God for giving us the greatest gift ever, salvation through Jesus.

Groundhog’s Day, Black History Month, and the Reality of Mortality

This morning during my quiet time, the Lord brought to my heart and mind some memories and reflections that I felt I should put into writing. So, it’s time for my annual/bi-annual (honestly, I can’t remember) blog post. Not that I think anyone reads these, but I’d like my kids and grandkids to have something to look back on when trying to figure out what the heck was going on in their dad/granddad’s head. Today is Groundhog’s Day, and this is a piece of my history and the story of how the reality of mortality was first revealed to me. Hence, the title.

February 2, 1989, I was awakened by my mother, who tearfully told me that my grandfather, her daddy, Vincent A. Orme, had passed away during the night. I knew instantly that this was huge. It was earth-shattering and life changing. I was 14 years old, and I just lost someone significant in my life for the very first time. I know there were other deaths in my first 14 years, but none of those lives were lived very close to mine. Grandpa was my buddy! I remember how, as a little kid, I would sit on his lap as he would whistle to the birds outside, and they would whistle back! I was sure that he knew how to speak “bird,” and he understood everything they were saying. In the summertime, I would ride my bike to my grandparents’ apartment in time to watch “The Price is Right” with my grandpa. I say watch, but really, I watched and he listened. He was legally blind. Diabetes had taken his sight when I was much younger. I loved that even though, he was blind, he never let that keep him from doing things with me. And he could see me! He would call me over close and put his hands on my face, examining my features. He would remark about how I still had baby fat and there was still no hair on my lip. He would lean on my shoulders and tell me how I would be taller than him soon.

And just like that, 28 years ago today, he was gone. I didn’t cry. I knew I should be hurting, but I was just numb. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to feel. The great sadness all around me in my family was so foreign. Gone. I didn’t quite understand. The next few days were just a blur. And then came the “wake.” Talk about confusion. My understanding was that we were going to go see my grandpa and what? Hope he wakes up? Pray for him to wake up? What exactly was the “wake” part of this again?

What really happened, I was not prepared for. I remember walking alone toward Grandpa’s casket. As I stood there looking down at him, I was crushed by a tidal wave of emotions. There he was! But there he wasn’t! It looked just like him. But it wasn’t him! Or was it! At that moment, I just wanted him to be present, to say something funny, or feel my face again, but he couldn’t. Was this death? Was this what was waiting for all of us at some unseen point in our future? Was I going to have to keep feeling this pain over and over? This seemed so permanent and awful! And as the tears streamed down my face and I began to sob, I understood. This was why there were so many tears. This is why death sucks. This is why we all fear it, and on that day, I, too, learned that I feared death most of all.

It amazes me how, 28 years later, God is still using that experience to shape me and help me through some difficult situations. I think about Grandpa every time I check my blood sugar. He reminds me that Diabetes is not a game, but a harbinger of death if I am not disciplined to take care of my body. As a pastor, I have a responsibility to be present with families in the pit of grief as they, too, lose loved ones in various circumstances. In those moments, the time of counsel, the service preparations, the funerals and burials, I stand firm. God’s grace is sufficient and His strength is plenty to get me through. But with every hymn sung, every casket closed and lowered into the earth, there is a part of me that is 14 years old again in the small chapel of an Inglewood, CA mortuary. There I stand, sobbing at the reality of mortality and the pain that it brings. Then I am reminded that my Lord, the same Jesus who wept outside of Lazarus’ tomb, has given me a great hope in the promise of eternal life. I am reminded that Jesus defeated death on my behalf and the pain of an earthly death is just momentary for those that have surrendered to His will. For me, and others that know Him, the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church ring true, time and time again.

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

‘O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’”

 – 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Working It Out

I just recently returned from a wonderful 2-week vacation, feeling refreshed and refueled. With that, I have a renewed sense of purpose in my ministry and  self-discipline. I was pleasantly surprised upon my return by one of my church members. We went to lunch together, and he told me that he really struggled with the last sermon I preached before I left. The theme of the sermon was how we respond to the hard claims of Jesus with a challenge to give 100% of yourself to Christ. He felt as if I was personally challenging him, and was very uncomfortable with it. What he did while I was gone was what both shocked me and gave me such great joy. He listened to the sermon again and then spent 6 hours searching the Scriptures for answers! He came to the conclusion that my sermon and my challenge were founded in Scripture. What brought me such joy was not hearing that I was right, but hearing that one of my flock was deeply challenged! As I work to improve as a preacher, one of my goals is to faithfully confront the header with the truth of the Word and to challenge them toward transformation. Then to hear that he didn’t just write me a nasty note, didn’t just walk away from the church, or complain to others about my meddling preaching. He went to the Word of God and confirmed it for himself! I want everyone at CrossPointe to have the same attitude and to know that at least one does shows me that we are moving and growing in the right direction.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”-  Philippians 2:12

Lessons From a 6-Year Old Warrior Princess

I like to think of myself as a lifetime learner. I learn from people and experiences every day. One of the things I’ve learned over my years is that sometimes the lessons come from some unexpected sources. Recently, I re-learned some lessons, which I tend to forget, from a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel named Shay. Shay went home to be with the Lord on February 13, 2014 at the age of 6 after a year-long battle with pediatric brain cancer. This past weekend, I had the privilege and honor of officiating her memorial service. It was a day that I will not soon forget.

Shay

The weeks leading up to the service were filled with hours of reflection on this little girl’s life, particularly the last year of it. Shay was and is a powerful, influential force that brought and will continue to bring people from all walks of life together. She has a rallying cry (“Shay Strong!) and a foundation in her name. Shay has increased the awareness of pediatric brain cancer and a lot of money will be raised on her behalf for efforts to find a cure.

I have only met Shay a few times in her 6 short years, but even in death, she made some key lessons stick in my heart. I thought I would take some time in this blog to document them.

Lesson 1. God is God and I am not. Of course I knew this already, but as I saw this little girl physically deteriorate before my eyes, I realized I was helpless. There was nothing I could do to make her well. I could only cry out to the One who created her, gave her life purpose, and numbered her days. Ultimately, Shay is His and nobody else’s. God has a plan and I am to be ever watchful for how I fit into it.

Lesson 2. Every minute of every day is a gift. Not one of them should be taken for granted. Life as we know it can be changed or brought to an end in the blink of an eye. Every day is to be lived to the fullest for the glory of God. I embrace life because it is precious.

Lesson 3. The people you love need to hear it and see it from you. This little girl loved and was loved tremendously. It wasn’t just in word, but in deed also. I know that she knew it throughout her life until she drew her last breath. Love will bring comfort through pain, hope through despair, courage in the face of fear, laughter through sadness, strength through weakness, and extreme joy in times of sorrow. I will show love with reckless abandon.

Lesson 4. Don’t complain. Shay had brain cancer. It progressed quickly. It was a painful process. She went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She spent many days and nights in hospital beds. My wife and I visited her a few times. Seeing her hold her ground while her body waged a war against the cancer made me realize that there is nothing that I’ve been through or will go through that will warrant complaint. In her own voice, on a video recording played at her memorial service, she called us to continue on in the fight against cancer with two thumbs up. Inspiration is not a sufficient enough word for the impact this child’s courage. I heard her loud & clear. I will persevere. I will endure. I will be grateful.

Lesson 5. No matter what it may feel like, we are not alone. Shay’s parents, Greg & Robin, are wonderful people. Sweet, vibrant, and full of life, I’m sure making friends has never been a problem for either of them. But I’m also sure that in a circumstance like theirs over the past year, they could have easily felt like they were on an island all alone. However, God has shown Himself in our design as relational beings. We have been woven into this great tapestry of humanity by family connections that we did not choose, friendship ties that we have cultivated, and the general fellowship of humanity that draws us ever closer in times of adversity. In those tough times, God reminds us that He is near as many step up to be His hands, feet, and mouthpiece. I saw this clearly as I stood before the hundreds gathered to support Greg & Robin at Shay’s memorial service. I know that in this life and the next, I am never alone.

These are the lessons I’ve learned or have been reminded of over this past year by the life and death of Shay Annabelle Tucker. I have a black wristband with “Shay Strong” emblazoned across one side. I will wear it as a reminder and a conversation starter, so that others will also benefit from a few of Shay’s lessons.

God, thank you for the 6 years of Shay’s life and the blessing they have been to the many people she has influenced. Thank you that you have given her eternal rest. Thank you, God, for Shay’s legacy and the lessons you have taught me through her. May you continue to keep the flame of “Shay Strong!” lit, that it would burn brightly in my heart and inspire me to make a difference in the world around me and help me to be grateful for the countless blessings you have poured out on me. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

The One Where I May Have Killed A Dog

In an effort to jump start this blog, here’s a story from my childhood:

When I was 10 years old, I killed a dog. . . I think. Before you judge me, hear me out. It was an accident . . . in a way. I wasn’t involved in a Michael Vick-style dog fighting ring that had me drowning scrawny puppies or beating dogs to death for losing a match. It was self-defense, pure and simple. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t even know if the dog is dead (well, I’m pretty sure he’s dead by now, 29 years later), but I do know that it was never seen again after that day.

It was a Saturday, a beautiful, sunny Saturday. The kind of Saturday that allowed a 10-year old kid to run the neighborhood with friends and make memories. This was the kind of day that invited you to ride a bike or go for a swim. However, it was the middle of the fall in Southern California. So, we played football in the street on days like that. Two-hand touch football. Enough football to get the competitive juices flowing, but not enough to possibly have to visit the E.R. at the end of the day.  By late morning, my chores were done, and I was off down the street to Chad’s house. It took 2-3 minutes to walk up the block to my buddy’s house on the corner. It was the same trip I made every day; my first and only stop on the way to catch the school bus. The trip on that Saturday was a lot more horrifying.

Chad lived 7 large houses down the street. The trip was “business as usual” for 5 of them. Then I heard the growl. It was definitely a dog; definitely a big one; and definitely getting closer.  So, I ran. Not even looking back to see what it was or how fast it was coming, I hit Chad’s backyard fence in full stride. To this day, I still don’t know how I got over it so fast. I turned to look as a huge Doberman Pinscher was turning back to wherever it came from. I took a few deep breaths and went on with my plans.

A few dozen touchdowns and a cold soda later, it was time to head home for dinner. I was only a few steps out the front door when the memory of the Doberman got my legs to start trembling a little. I walked briskly, keeping my head on a swivel. Two houses down the street I caught a glimpse of those pointy ears sticking up from some high grass. I tried to stay quick and quiet as I passed by, never letting those ears out of my sight. They twitched once. They twitched twice and the gig was up! I started to run as he sized me up.  He began to gallop after me with a smooth, even stride. In desperation, with tears starting to stream down my face, I reached down and grab a cantaloupe sized rock from a decorative circle around a neighbor’s tree.  I heaved that stone over my shoulder with hopes of slowing the dogs stride or even better, coaxing him to turn back.

All I heard was a yelp! I looked over my shoulder and saw that dog laying over on its side, motionless. I stopped for a second to see if he would get up. That dog never moved. There was no way I was going to get any closer for a good look at him. I turned and ran the rest of the way home. Sweaty and out of breath, I quickly tried to get my story together, just in case someone came to inquire about the fate of their dog. Nobody ever came.

The next morning, as our car backed out of the driveway on our way to church, I glared down the street looking for the corpse of that dog. It wasn’t there. As a matter of fact it wasn’t anywhere. I don’t know whose dog it was. Nobody ever said a word about it. I was a dog murderer. Or was I?

NFL Week 1 Observations

In an effort to keep me writing more regularly, I have decided to chime in weekly on one of my absolute favorite subjects, NFL Football.  I’ve been watching football religiously for over 30 years. I’ve been losing in fantasy football leagues for over 25 years, and I am by no means an authority or expert on football. I’m just a fan with an opinion making some observations on the little bit of football I get to watch on my really busy Sundays (and now Thursday & Monday nights too.)  So, without further delay, here are some of the observations I made in Week 1.

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– The San Francisco 49ers are playing with a chip on their shoulder. This is a team that knows it should have been the NFC Champion last season, and they are apparently out to prove it. They manhandled the Packers in Lambeau, which is one of the more difficult things to do in the NFL. I believe they are the new “team to beat” in the NFC and my pick to represent the NFC in New Orleans come February.

–          Robert Griffin III is legit. Now, I know it was only one game. I know it was a Saints defense that is still licking the wounds inflicted by Commissioner Roger Goodell this summer. But, RG3’s talent just oozes all over the field. The quarterback position in the NFL is evolving, and guys like RG3 & Carolina’s Cam Newton, with their swift feet and cannon-like arm strength, are valuable links to the future. This guy is going to be fun to watch all season long!

– The Ravens finally have an offensive scheme that lets them take advantage of the weapons they have put together. Joe Flacco is a great quarterback, but the Raven’s offense in the past has been downright horrible at times. Ray Rice has been excellent, but this offense has had potential for so much more. Monday night we saw glimpses of an “Indianapolis-style” no huddle attack that took to the air on the very first play from scrimmage and never looked back. With footballs flying to wide receivers and tight ends aplenty, and measured doses of Ray Rice in between, this offense is looking good. If this aging defense can hold up, the Ravens are sure to go deep in the playoffs again. This time, they’ll have the firepower to match the likes of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

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– Peyton Manning is still a football genius. The neck injury didn’t change that. The Broncos have allowed him to come in and take over. Smart move. Against the number 1 defense from last season, Peyton calmly comes to the line of scrimmage without a huddle, and he studies. Like some sort of football calculator, he spits out right answers time and time again with his play calling. All Denver has to do is keep up with him and his adjustments, which they will get better at as the season goes on. I’m keeping my eye on Denver this season, because I believe they can be scary good and a definite dark-horse in the AFC.

– The position of Long Snapper is much more valuable than I thought. This was made overwhelmingly apparent on Monday Night when my Raiders lost their long snapper to a neck injury in the first half. “Not a big deal,” I thought. Not until you have to punt, and the replacement can do much else other that dribble the ball back to the punter. Three snaps on punts for this guy: two of them are slow ground balls to the punter (who can only shiver in terror at that point), and the third was a nice snap, but they didn’t block anybody up front, so the punt was blocked. These special teams catastrophes, along with some stupid penalties (compulsory for the Raiders over the past two decades) cost them a game that had some otherwise promising performances.

That’s all I’ve got from Week 1. I hope to catch a few more games in Week 2. Until next week, Peace!