Thursday, February 17, 2011


Joel Northrup, representing Linn-Mar High School and ranked 5th in the 2011 Iowa State Wrestling tournament in Des Moines, defaulted to his opponent from Cedar Falls in his opening match.

He did this because his opponent was a girl.

There is already plenty of local and national news coverage of this story.  Joel said, concerning his decision:
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy Kerkelman [his opponent] and Megan Black [a second female state qualifier] and their accomplishments. However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith, I do not believe that is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate  that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other High School sports in Iowa.”
Joel, I'm sure, will catch flack for this.  Among the list of adjectives used to describe his decision, stupid and chauvinistic are likely to appear near the top.  But you know what?  It is not stupid to stand up for what you believe.  And honoring women is not chauvinistic.

In fact, the word that comes to my mind when I hear this story is integrity.  I don't often see public examples of integrity, so I feel it is important to point them out when I do.  Some have said that integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.  There is truth in this.  But integrity it also what you do when everyone is looking: when you are asked to put aside the things that no one will ever see (what you believe in) in order to gain something that everyone could see.

No one would have even really noticed if Joel had just gone ahead and wrestled Cassy.  After all, that is what he was there for, it is what folks expected!  And what a show: the first girls to make it to state!  So much well deserved enthusiasm around her accomplishment!  There might have been some gentle ribbing (a still, small voice, perhaps?) for "beating a girl" or, worse yet "losing to a girl".  But I'll bet no one gives any of the guys who go ahead and wrestle the girls any grief .. well, unless they lose of course (chauvinists!) .

But standing up for what you believe is right even when (especially when!) it hurts.  From Psalm 15:4b "He keeps his word, even when it hurts"  Or, if you prefer Seinfeld, "You know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation .. and that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding.  Anybody can just take them."

Joel was hurt by his decision.  Wrestling, you see, is not a sport.  You play sports.  You don't play wrestling.  You wrestle or you don't, there is no play.  Wrestling is hard work and being the best requires extreme dedication.  Did you know that it is not uncommon to lose 4-6lbs in a single wrestling practice?  Have you ever lost that much weight in a single day?  Joel has been doing this for years, even before high school.  You don't endure an entire season of wrestling practice, cut weight, attain a 5th seed ranking at state and then just casually toss aside a shot at the state championship.  No, the decision to default this match resulted from agonizing introspection that concluded: "My physical and emotional sacrifice up to this point and the opportunity to be a state champion do not together outweigh the sacrifice that would be required of my convictions."

That is a decision worthy of respect.

Do you know someone with the guts to actually stand up for what they believe?  Would they do it if it would cause them deep personal pain or cost them fame, money, power, or their life?  And what if no one else would even notice if they didn't?  Do you know someone like that?  A person of integrity?

I do.

Psalm 15, a verse of which I quoted above, ends with the following promise.  It is a promise that I think is appropriate for a champion wrestler like Joel:

Psalm 15:5b "He who does these things shall never be moved."

Monday, January 3, 2011

He's My Son (Remix)

  There is a song that I hear on the radio every so often that I really like.

  It's a great song but .. well, I feel like it just missed an opportunity - and not by much. The song is "He's My Son" by Mark Schultz.

  Now I will admit that I am no musician, so with my sincere apologies to Mark, I have included below his original lyrics and my modifications which begins at <Change of Voice>.  Just to be clear, change of voice here refers to the song's narrator, not it's performer.  If you listen to the song in the background while you read the lyrics I think you will even hear how nicely it all fits together.
I'm down on my knees again tonight
I'm hoping this prayer will turn out right
See there is a boy that needs Your help
I've done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired
I'm sure You can understand
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand
And she tries not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
See, he's not just anyone
He's my son

Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep
I dream of the boy he'd like to be
I try to be strong and see him through
But God who he needs right now is You
Let him grow old
Live life without this fear
What would I be
Living without him here
He's so tired and he's scared
Let him know that You're there

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
See, he's not just anyone
He's my son

<Change of Voice>

Can You hear Me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see Him?
He made everything alright.
If You can hear me
know He took his place somehow.
See, He's not just anyone ..

Can You hear Me?
Can You see Him?
Please believe Him
He's my Son
  And Mark, if you can hear me, I would love some day to hear you perform this remix.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


  I saw the movie Inception the other day.

  I was told, and was hoping, that it would be another Matrix.

  There has got to be a lesson here about bringing high expectations into the movie theater.

  I should have learned this lesson back in high school when I went to see the movie, "Night of the Comet". This movie was released in 1984, presumably to capitalize on Halley's comet which was scheduled to return in 1986.

  The movie centered around the near extinction of the human race after the earth passed through the tail of a comet.  Despite this dark premise, however, I honestly went in to the movie expecting it to be a comedy!

  To understand why you have to realize that I had learned most of what I knew about this movie from its trailer, and the trailer included the following scene:
  A small group of survivors is shown walking cautiously down the sidewalk of a deserted city block.  The group comes to a crosswalk and looks up to see that the street lights at the intersection are still functioning .. and that the "Don't Walk" sign is lit.

  The group stops on the curb obediently and begins waiting for the light to change.  One girl in the group, however, turns to the others incredulously ..

  "We are the last people on earth!" she shouts, "Why are we stopping at a cross walk"?  She then whirls around defiantly and begins marching across the street.

  At just that moment, a car barrels into the intersection and swerves around the corner, narrowly missing the girl as she jumps back to the curb and to safety.

  You see where this is going?  A dark comedy, right?

  Night of the Comet was a zombie movie.  Blood sucking zombies.

  And the scene from the trailer?  It was the very last scene in the movie.  Boy was I disappointed.

  I wasn't that disappointed with Inception, but it wasn't a Second Matrix.  Of course even the second matrix wasn't a Second Matrix, if you know what I mean.

  But there was one scene in Inception that made me think. (Just one?) It was the scene "on the shores of [his] subconscious," if you recall.  I won't give away any details from the movie, but this scene, and the story surrounding it, made me think because it reminded me of a short story I had heard many years ago.  A story that brought home for me the limits of our humanity and the horror of those limits in the face of eternity.  Perhaps you, too, will think of this story next time you see Inception.

A man finds himself walking down a lonely wooded road.  He sees a figure in a cape leaning on a post along side the road.

"Where am I," asks the man?

"You are dead," replies the figure.  And slowly the truth of this revelation becomes evident to the man as he recalls his life and the circumstances of his death.

"What do I do now," asks the man?

"You may do whatever you like," replies the figure.  Again the truth of what the figure says dawns upon the man and he realizes that he is, in fact, able to do anything he can imagine.

Reveling in his new-found abilities, the man transforms the landscape. He creates and destroys whole cities, continents and even planets. Entire civilizations rise and fall under his command. He finds that he is the master of everything he surveys.

One evening, many years later, the man once again came across the shadowy figure, still standing by the side of the same lonely wooded road.

"I'm curious," says the man, "I have accomplished many things since I first arrived here, even things I once thought impossible.  But now I wonder, is there anything else that I might do?"
"You may do whatever you like," replied the figure.

"Yes," said the man, "I understand that. But I was just wondering if there might be something else?"

"No," replied the figure.

"That's odd," said the man, "I mean, I'm not complaining or anything. I guess I just expected something more from heaven."

"Oh," replied the figure, "now I understand your confusion.  You see, this isn't heaven."

  People often associate hell with fire and brimstone.  But the idea that hell might be doing whatever you want .. forever?  Perhaps it takes a while to sink in, but in the end, that is a truly frightening thought.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 [God] has placed eternity in man's heart, but man cannot understand [it].

Thursday, September 30, 2010


  I have a couple of new heroes this week. My heroes are both 8th grade girls on the Linn-Mar cross country team and both are true champions.

  The first one's name is Madeline. Madeline is pretty easy to find - just wait at the finish line and she will be the first person you see at the end of the race. Madeline wins cross country races like Tiger Woods used to win golf tournaments .. squinting into the rear view mirror to spot the runner up.*  But, as Tiger Woods also demonstrated, being a great athlete does not automatically make you a champion.

  The other girl's name is Annie. I don't know too much about Annie, but what I do know is that as a child she had surgery on her legs to improve her ability to walk. Did you catch that? Her ability to walk. Did I mention that Annie is on the Linn-Mar cross country team?

  At tonight's meet, Madeline was conspicuously absent from the leader board. In fact it wasn't until well after the girls race had finished and the boys race was underway that I actually caught sight of her. But it wasn't Madeline who first caught my attention .. it was Annie.

  I was watching the boys enter into their first straightaway when a figure in the crowd caught my eye. It was Annie, attempting to extract herself from the sweaty, panting mass of humanity and begin her final assault on the finish line. But Annie wasn't alone.

  Tonight Madeline and Annie had run the race together.

  As the two approached the finish line, a small group of girls caught sight of them and ran to the edge of the track cheering. Madeline crossed the finish line alongside Annie .. to a hero's welcome.

  A true champion is someone who, after accomplishing more than one might reasonably expect, still has something left over to give to someone else.  Thanks, girls, for giving me a rare glimpse of what it means to be a true champion.

* Yeah, you caught me exaggerating.  When Madaline looks back over her shoulder she actually sees Stephanie, a 7th grade runner, also from Linn-Mar.  It is Stephanie who has to squint into her rear view mirror to spot the next runner up.

Hi Ho

  Facebook won't let me create or edit notes, so here I am.

  Will this work any better?

  Who knows?