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Well the Iron Bowl is over for the year. Auburn won.  Alabama lost. In dramatic fashion, too.  Make no mistake about it – Auburn played a heckuva second half of football.  They should’ve won the game from that half alone.  Cam Newton is a great football player.  He is the best football player this season.  He should win the Heisman Trophy this year.  If Auburn beats South Carolina and plays for the National Championship, they have the best chance to beat Oregon, assuming Oregon gets there too.

Now that the important stuff is out of the way…

Today the NCAA reinstated Cam Newton after a one day ineligible period.  This stemmed from a violation of amateurism that was a result of Cam’s father, Cecil, soliciting funds in return for Cam’s signature on a letter of intent to Mississippi.  This is established fact.  Cecil Newton has admitted, both to “sources” and now to the NCAA, that he solicited money for the signature of his son.  Auburn suspended him for one day (yesterday), and the NCAA reinstated him today. Here is a part of the statement : ““According to facts of the case agreed upon by Auburn University and the NCAA enforcement staff, the student-athlete’s father and an owner of a scouting service worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football.  NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.”  The NCAA also said: “In determining how a violation impacts a student-athlete’s eligibility, we must consider the young person’s responsibility.  Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement.  From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1.  Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible.”

This is good news for Auburn and good news for Cam Newton.  Barring any new information that is so damning that the SEC and the NCAA must act, Cam Newton will play for Auburn on Saturday in the championship game.

However, this is, unfortunately for  not over for Auburn.  Here is the full statement that the NCAA released today in regards to his eligibility. There is language galore in the statement, as you would expect with any sort of legal document.  This language is for multiple reasons, one being the ability to go back and change your mind at a later date. While it looks good on the Auburn front, the NCAA always lurks in the background, and once they start sniffing and digging, rarely do they not turn up anything.

There are a lot of questions that are raised by the “answer” that was given today. This is all predicated on the established facts that Cecil Newton did in fact solicit money for Cam’s signature, as indicated in the NCAA statement.

1. Why did the NCAA decide not to punish Newton?  The most obvious explanation is their statement that Cam Newton nor Auburn had any knowledge of the activity of his father. But they obviously include the clause about a family member for a reason.  They didn’t just make this up one day.  It’s been there for a long time.

2.  Why did players like AJ Green ($1000 issue), Marcell Dareus ($600-ish issue), Renardo Sidney, Enes Kanter and other players have to sit for their seemingly small issue while Newton a) does not sit and b) is not ruled ineligible? Once again, the most obvious explanation is that he knew nothing of his dad’s actions, and that no money actually exchanged hands.  But this begins a very dangerous road that one can only hope the NCAA puts an end to by changing the rule.  You can’t just have people being able to solicit money for their child’s services, knowing there won’t be any conferences.  Who’s to stop a family from asking for money, taking it, abut then going to another school and not telling the new school they asked for and got money from the old school.  What’s the old school going to say to the NCAA – “We paid for a player but he didn;t come to our school?” Heck no, they’d be committing suicide by saying something.

3. How can the SEC not abide by it’s own bylaw?  According to an SEC bylaws, Section 14.01.3.2 , “If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference (except such aid or assistance as such student-athlete may receive from those persons on whom the student is naturally or legally dependent for support), such student- athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career.”

4.  How can the NCAA not abide by its own bylaws, which, according to NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn, “the solicitation of cash or benefits by a prospective student-athlete or another individual on his or her behalf is not allowed under NCAA rules.”

5. Is this investigation over?  I doubt it, and here’s why.  The NCAA never works this quickly.  It took a year or more (?) for the NCAA to look into textbook-gate at Alabama (I hate using the suffix -gate to describe scandals, but everybody recognizes it, so what the heck…)

My biggest question is this – How did the NCAA suspend its own rule over something that, by rule, makes a player ineligible.  Why did the SEC do the same thing, with even stronger wording.  Go back and read the rule and tell me how Cam Newton can be ruled anything BUT ineligible.  You can argue, legitimately I might add, that the rule is bad.  I don’t think that a player’s (and by extension a school and a conference) season and career ought to be hijacked by a rogue family member, especially one with an axe to grind.  But Cam Newton’s father is anything but a rogue family member.  First, he’s his father, only one degree of separation between he and his son.  Two, he is close to his father.  It’s not like his parents divorced shortly after his birth and he never talks to him.  Three, and most important, he told people that he would be putting his father in charge of his decision on where to go to college after leaving junior college.  When you, the athlete, put your dad in charge, you accept responsibility for his actions.

The SEC Commissioner must answer some very serious questions about this rule and his overlooking of its violation if he is to maintain any credibility.  It’s not like the SEC rule allows any variance.  The rule states that the player is ineligible, and what’s more, cannot participate in that sport at that school, or in ANY sport at ANY SEC school for the rest of their college career.  That is not my interpretation of the rule.  That is the rule.

There are some pretty substantial questions that will be asked in the next few days and, if Auburn wins on Saturday, in the next few weeks leading up to the BCS Championship.

Which all leads to the title of this montage – Why is Mike Slive going to be cheering for South Carolina on Saturday?  First and foremost, a Carolina win guarantees the SEC two teams in the ridiculously ludicrous BCS games.  It’s a no-brainer from a money perspective, although you would not have exposure in the championship game, something Slive has enjoyed for the past four years.  Secondly, an Auburn loss would quiet A LOT of the Cam Newton chatter.  It would get Auburn off the front page of ESPN (bad for good publicity, good for bad publicity), Sports Illustrated,  and all of the other sites that people go to for their information.  It wouldn’t make it go away, but it would make it hide for awhile.  Again, while the SEC rakes in BCS bowl game money times two.

Make no mistake about it, I want the whole thing to go away too.  Eligible or Ineligible, 180K or 0, I want it over with.  Why would an Alabama fan want this to go away, even if it means that Auburn gets to keep all of their wins?  Well, first, Alabama already lost the iron Bowl.  It might make me feel a little better if Auburn forfeited the win later, but not as good as if Alabama would’ve beaten Auburn with their best player on the field.  No, I want this to go away because this is a black eye – yet another one – to the SEC.  The SEC is the most dominant conference in college sports.  It doesn’t make quite as much currently as other conferences, but that is simply a matter of timing, in that two other conferences just re-upped their deals with TV.  The SEC is the power player in major college sports.  Which is why, even though I am an ardent Alabama fan and that I want Auburn to stay down like they were the last couple of years, I don’t want the SEC to suffer.  As I have said on Facebook and other places, I want Auburn to be put on probation, but not from a player’s father, who is a minister, soliciting money.  That makes it bad.  That makes it the worst for me.  Shame on you, Cecil Newton.

And lastly, all of us have secrets.  All of us have things that we would want to shrivel up and die from embarrassment if it were to be made public.  I have plenty of things I’m not proud of, including this uncanny knack to argue with people.  (What can I say? It’s a gift :) If there is no respite from real life, where we can go and have fun with football and have fun talking trash about each other’s teams, yet never wavering in friendship with each other, then I don’t want to be a part of that life.  I have many Auburn friends – my own sister has gone to the dark side – and I live in a town that hates me as much as they hate Florida fans.  At the end of the day, I am a Christ-follower first, a husband second, and WAY on down the line, an Alabama fan.  So have fun with football, just like I do.  Don’t get uptight when someone says something about your team.  Keep in mind that you’ve probably said something about their team too.

I will most likely not comment on anything said, but I do want for you to comment if you want to.  I will only delete your comment if it is grossly rude or inappropriate.  But I welcome your comments and thoughts on the matter, especially alternative theories as to what is going on.

Well, if you haven’t seen it yet, ‘Glee’ has gone religious…  at least for one week.  If you can remember, I wrote a little bit ago here about why I do and don’t like the show ‘Glee.’  I stand by what I have written and stand by what I’m about to write.  (As always, if you would like to share your opinions feel free to comment on the blog.  The only reason I won;t publish it is if you curse and are totally disrespectful).

Grilled Cheesus. Praying for second base. Supporting pluralism.  The natural question is, “Michael, why would you still like the show after this?” Well, I obviously don’t support these types of things, but I still like the show ‘Glee.’  How is that possible? Read on.

In my previous post, I told you that one of the main reasons I like the show is its freshness.  I like the fact that people can make a show that is funny, has good characters, and has something to say about issues in high school. For the most part, the show has stayed away from really controversial issues.  For instances, the writers let the pregnant cheerleader who was the president of the Abstinence club have her baby instead of aborting it.

Unfortunately, the latest episode goes to some places that I wish it didn’t go.  It starts out as the main character makes a grilled cheeses and sees the face of Jesus in his grilled cheese.  Thus, the grilled “cheezus”.  Come on, now… Really?  Pretty sacreligious.  That cheapens the Christian faith, and it would cheapen any faith.  Even if they were mocking Islam or Buddhism, or atheism, I’d say the same thing.  You can have valid arguments against religious faiths without resorting to childish jokes and bad puns.

Secondly, the one who made the grilled cheese that came out looking like Jesus’ face prays to the grilled cheese.  (Idolatry, although I suppose that this is taken from the Catholic/Orthodox tradition of iconography.  What he prays for is unreal.  He prays to the grilled cheese in hopes that he will be able to get to second base with his girlfriend.  Now I don’t care what religious faith you might believe, but this is certainly beyond the bounds of common sense (and decency).  Why would he need to pray for that if it wasn’t wrong?  In other words, just do it, especially if there aren’t any repercussions, morally.  Yet, Finn finds the need to pray for  the ability to commit sexual immorality.

Of course, the whole episode is the same thing.  The writers make the Christians look like fundamentalist whack jobs with no brain to rationally think through tough issues.  The episode glorifies homosexuality and makes political statements galore as if high schoolers can really think through those things with that much poise and thoughtfulness.

But here is why I still like the show.  It is still all of the above, all of the things that first drew me to the show.  But the other reason I watch the show is that it reminds of the need that is still out there to speak truth into people’s messy lives.  It reminds me that people are still out there looking for hope and purpose.  It reminds me of the hurt, pain, and lostness that I too once lived in, not knowing what I was here for or where I was going when it was all over.

It also reminds me of where people are in their lives that don’t know Jesus.  I’m sure some people out there are probably saing about this show (or others like it), “But Michael, why give credance to this nonsense.  This is pure filth. This show celebrates sin. Etc…” My answer is, and will always be, “Umm, yeah, it does.  It is sometimes filthy.  It sometimes does go into places that it shouldn’t. BUT WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?”

Why would you expect anything differently from people who don’t know Jesus?  It’s like expecting a three year old to pick up his room, or a thief not to steal if he isn’t being watched.  They are simply living the life that they are supposed to live, a life that is for themselves.  Unless, Jesus steps in, they will continue to live like that,  unless someone tells them about a life better than the one they think they have, they will continue to live like they do, unknowingly continuing on a path set for destruction. That is why we need to step into people’s lives, meet them where they are, and give them the only hope that will save them.

People need the Lord.

Wow, it’s June already.  I think the last time I wrote anything was March.  Which is probably the last time I even logged into my blog…  I know eveyone is waiting on parasthesias… sorry, “pins and needles” on what  I want to say, so without further adieu.

I am technically now a 3rd year medical student.  I’ve completed all my coursework and gotten my grades ( best semester yet – thank you Jesus!) Unfortunately, I still have this small little thing called Step 1 to deal with.  Quickly, Step 1 is the first step (I know, shocking) of a three part board exam that all doctors must take.  We take Step 1 after our 2nd year, Step 2 after our 3rd year, and Step 3 after our first year of residency, or intern year.  Step 1 covers anything and everything that we should have learned in these past two years – and some things that we might not have learned.  It’s an important part of residency application, and the higher you score, the more “control” you have over where you go and what you do.  Needless to stay, pretty durn important…

I take boards on June 15th.  I would covet your prayers from here on out, especially on June 15th.  After I sleep for about 14 hours, I’ll have 12 days off to relax.  Jen and I will get to go to Birmingham to see my family over Father’s Day weekend, and I’ll also hopefully play a few rounds of golf.  Rotations start June 28th.  Still working on what I’m doing the first month, but I’m leaning towards either Cardiology or Pathology.  I have a vacation month in July and August, then do Anesthesiology, Orthopedic Surgery, Family Practice, my second “unknown” rotation, then I start my core rotations, which are all of the basics – Surgery, Psychiatry (in January, probably going to be busy…) Pediatrics, OB/GYN, then Medicine for two months.  At that point, I’ll take Step 2 of boards, then start 4th year – wow, last year of med school!

I was talking with some good friends recently about how far we’ve come and how we got here.  It is amazing that two years ago, I hadn’t found out yet about school, and here I am, a third year.  I have had some really hard days (and nights… and mornings) these past two years.  God has graciously sustained me and given me strength and peace and peace in difficult period of time.  But then I thought, “How many people would give anything to be where I am right now?” So try as I might to not complain, I still complain.  It’s still hard, but it’s still what I chose to do and God had planned for me to do.

To all of you who are reading this, most likely you’re a good friend of mine. You have probably seen a Facebook post or read a previous blog post or saw Jen or something and thought, “Where’s Waldo?” Well, I get to re-enter society on June 15th, so hopefully we can reconnect.  Thank you so much for your prayers and your thoughts.  Thank you for thinking about Jen and calling her and asking her to go do things when I haven’t been able to.

And most importantly, praise be to God.  Thank you, Jesus, for dying in my place.  Thank you for, by your death,  buying every good thing in my life, and turning bad things to good in Your will.  You are the greatest of all time.  There is no other God I would rather serve.

Oh, FYI… We take a full-length practice exam tomorrow, so, just like the real thing, I’m taking the night off.  That’s why I’m writing now.  Don;t worry, plenty of studying awaits me tomorrow evening through next Monday.

I watched this clip recently.. take a minute (actually eight minutes) to watch it, and then read the rest of what I have to say.

This is a great reminder to me.  I am quite opinionated.   I like to argue.  I like to be right.  I like to have things “be” a certain way. (Right now, my wife is saying, “Yep.  Yep.  Nailed that one.  Really? That’s all you can say about that?”)  My friends as med school are probably saying the same thing.  I’m alright with that.  I’m alright admitting that I don’t know it all.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t do it enough.  What’s more, I don’t stop short of doing those things so that I don’t have to admit that I did them.  In other words, instead of spending my time apologizing for what I did, perhaps I – wait for it – shouldn’t do them in the first place.

I suppose that’s easier said than done.  But the point of this clip of Driscoll’s sermon is to show us that.  Mark Driscoll’s church is phenomenal, from all that I can read and see.  It is located in one of the most unchurched (and presumably) unbelieving cities in America – Seattle, WA.  So when he preaches this sermon, he is doing it out of a genuine concern for what he sees as a hindrance to people knowing Jesus.  Non-Christians see Christians as proud, Cessationists, un-loving, hypocritical, joyless, methodolatrous, and powerful (or power-seeking).  While I could have bolded every single one of those, I think the ones in bold are the ones that I struggle with way too much.  Especially unloving… not to say that I don’t love.  I love my wife.  She is the love of my life.  I love my church.  I love singing.  I love people, but not the way that Jesus loved people.  He said something that I just can’t get past – “Did you know that people flocked to Jesus in a way they didn’t Pharisees? (read unloving, legalistic Christians) Did you know that people wanted to have dinner with Jesus in a way they didn’t want to have dinner with the Pharisees? That’s because Jesus was loving.  He actually cared about people”

gulp.

Because I’m opinionated, because I like to be right, because I like to argue (my dad was a lawyer, what can I say? It’s a gift…), and because I like to have things a certain way, I have driven people way.  I recently served as the President of the Christian Medical and Dental Association at my medical school.  We did all sorts of things.  We came up with one of the biggest fundraisers and most popular and well-attended events at our school.  We held weekly Bible studies.  We prayed as a group for our school.  But because I spoke out (on this blog, in small groups, etc) people perhaps see me as “that guy,” the guy that is known more for what he is against than what he is for, the guy that is always excited to argue a point.  If you are reading this and this is your opinion (even in the slightest), especially if you are one of my classmates,  I want you to know that I am sorry.  I hope that you know I love you.  I hope you know I genuinely care for you.  I hope that you know that I pray for you.

Now there is one thing I’m not sorry for.  I am not sorry to say what needs to be said, to hold fast to what  I believe, to say what God would have me to say.  And that’s the difference! The difference is not what we say (per se), but how we say it.  It is the spirit that we say it in.  In other words, the message remains the same, and you shouldn’t be influenced by any yahoo that messes it up.  Mankind is bad.  We can’t fix it alone.  We need help.  Jesus is the only way our deepest need is completed.  The Cross is how He did it.  The Cross is open to all – rich, poor, black, white, old, young, the most religious person ever or the most vile, child-molesting murderer ever.

In the time I have left with my classmates (and all who I know), I want you to know that you need to hear the message.  Please don’t let the shortcomings (proud, overbearing, stuck-up, unloving, insensitive) of the messenger cloud the big idea.  And tell me when I do it.

Well, when I said I would be writing some more, I guess I lied.  The patients that I’ll be treating in the future are better for it, since I have been nose deep in my computer, notes, and books for most of this academic year.

A quick med school update… I’m in the second semester of my second year of the  4-year to-do.  This is the “money semester,” as I call it, in that it is the last time to get grades for “classwork” and because I take boards in June.  June 15th at 9:00 am to be exact.  Eight hours later, I’ll be done (Lord-willing).  For those of you who might not know, Step 1 of the boards is a pretty big deal.  Passing obviously is good, but getting the best score possible is the best way to get into the residency that you want.  I also have a choice to make on whether or not to take just the boards I’m required to take (COMLEX) or to take both the COMLEX and the USMLE (MD students are required to take these).  I don’t know, so just pray for some clarity on that.  In other Med School news, I got a spot in Knoxville for clinical rotations (3rd and 4th year)  This means I don’t have to worry about getting up even earlier to be at the hospital, or getting an apartment to crash somewhere because home is an hour away. I’m excited, and I know Jen is ready for me to be back home for good.

A couple of other random observations…

ROLL TIDE!!!!!  # 13 is finally here!  I seriously doubt Alabama will repeat next year.  Florida will most likely be the greatest obstacle but, as usual, the LSU and Alabama game will determine the representative from the SEC West.

Go Scott Brown!  I’m glad that his election meant that the disastrous bill that is being touted as the only healthcare reform plan that could work will be derailed.  This plan wasn’t good for the country, and hopefully they’ll scrap it and start over.  I don;t know, maybe they’ll even, this is crazy, I know… Have a few doctors write up proposals, have a few nurses write up proposals, etc.  And for the love… would somebody please put an end to lawyers making money off of not doing anything.  Thy neither performed a service or were harmed in anyway by a doctor’s action, but get more than 30% of the “damages…” Ridiculous!

I hope the Cubs don’t suck this year.  Something tells me that  I won’t get to celebrate another championship this October.

I want to go on vacation.

I (still) miss Milo’s in Birmingham.  Fortunately, I can get their tea (albeit in a gallon jug) at Target and Kroger up here…

That’s it for now.  Thanks for reading… I hope y’all are are doing well!  More to come… I promise.

This is one of those must reads.  Not mine, obviously…

http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Blog/post/Hunting-Tiger-Woods.aspx

Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving season (I wish it wasn’t just one day) I want to tell you a few things I am thankful for.  First, I want you to know that, above all, I am thankful to God for everything I have.  As I have said before, everything I have is a gift from God.  All the good in my life is from Him.  All the bad in my life, that is bad or that God turns to good is a gift from Him.  And it is SO little…  I hope this Thanksgiving season, you are thankful for all of the blessings in your life, but also thankful TO someone.

My Lord, Jesus, who died in my place, so that I would become God’s son, adopted, saved from wrath, and used as a vessel to display God’s saving grace.  Thank you Jesus.  I believe, please help my unbelief.

My wife, Jennifer.  I cannot imagine a better partner in life, a companion and helpmate, with whom I live and love life with.  I love her the best I can, and pray that God gives me the strength and the courage to move deeper into her life and love her “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

My parents, who love me, support me, pray for me, encourage me,  and model as best they know how the love of a father and a mother.  They are not perfect, and yet God uses them powerfully to show me how to raise children in a way that glorifies God.  Thank you, Daddy and Mama.

My sister, who, God love her, is wallowing in sin as an Auburn fan… no seriously… well, okay, maybe not, but anyway.  Jennifer’s persistence and stick-to-it-iveness is inspiring and encouraging,  Keep at it…

My in-laws.  Whoever said that in-laws would be hard to be around have never met Cliff and Deb Meservy.  Gracious, loving, giving, supporting, caring, nurturing, and fun-loving… I hope I am half the in-laws they are.

My church, Fellowship Evangelical Free Church in Knoxville.  A church that loves, honors, cherishes, pursues, engages, and lifts high the name of Jesus.  The Gospel is preached with clarity and grace, and we expect God to do His thing as a result… and He is.

My friends, both near and far.  Our lives are meant to be lived in community, not isolation.  God has blessed me with people who care for me, love me DESPITE who I am (and thankfully not because of who I am).  They call me out when I’m wrong, never tell me I’m right (a good thing, might I add), and give me fun breaks from the real world.  For those of you I don’t see often, I hope the random phone calls saying hey, or the Facebook wall posts, or the e-mails find you missing what once was, but knowing the best is yet to be.  The Lord bless you and keep you.

My school.  I spend more time with schoolwork than I do my wife.  I wish that was different, but unfortunately, that’s the way it is right now.  And Jen will tell you that  I complain a lot about lectures, or not sleeping, or any number of things.  And yet there is NO place I would rather be right now than where I am, doing what I’m doing.  This is a gift from God.  Thank you to Dean Stowers, Associate Deans, our incredible faculty, our support staff (from Financial Aid to our housekeeping staff that keeps our building a place that I am proud to call mine.  Thank you to all of you who put in long hours, hard work, time away from your own family… all so that I can succeed.

My health.  I take it for granted almost everyday.  I hope that the privilege of being entrusted with the care of others will teach me to be thankful, day in and day out, that I can walk, use my hands, and use my mind in a way that serves others.  If you are like me, be thankful that you are healthy.  And take care care of yourself.  Eat right, exercise, and be thankful.  We are all getting older.

Technology.  My dad always reminded my family of what Samuel Morse said, after inventing the telegraph: “What hath God wrought!”  It is amazing to me that God gives us the ability to come with new ways to communicate, more efficient ways to produce, better ways to conserve, and easier ways to live.

Our military.  I owe you gentlemen and ladies a debt of gratitude that I can’t repay, and almost everything I listed here is kept that way by your willingness to put yourself in dangerous situations so that I don’t have to, so that our country will still be a place where we can live lives the way we wish, worship the way God leads, speak what we think ought to be spoken, and change what we think ought to be changed.  I hold y’all in the highest regard, and I want nothing more than that everyone of you comes home safely, and to a country that honors your work and sacrifice.

There are so many more, and that is the point.  This Thursday, enjoy the turkey, and the stuffing, and the cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin pie, and the Sister Schubert’s rolls, and the Lions getting crushed (yet again), and the backyard football games.  But Friday, when you’re up at 4 am to go shopping, be thankful for the opportunity to go and buy stuff that you want.  On Monday, be thankful that you have a job to go to and earn money by providing something for someone else, and that that job enables you to do the things that you want to do when you aren’t working.  Sixty days from now, be thankful for the dreary rain that gives nutrients to the trees that will, like last year, give you beautiful buds in the spring, shade in the summer heat, and those gorgeous fall colors.  When you wake up from a bad dream, be thankful it was just a dream, and not actually real life, real life that someone else might be dealing with.  When you get the clean bill of health from your doctor at your annual physical, be thankful for it.  Be thankful for all the things in your life – they are gifts from God.  And tell Him thank you.  Tell others thank you for what they mean to you and what they do for you.

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