Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Glory to the Newborn King

Tonight I had the pleasure to attend a performance at the Covey Arts Center called Utah Valley Symphony: A Family Christmas Concert.  The music of Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations combined with story telling by Kevin Kling was delightful, and it was a great way to kick off the Christmas season.  The conductor even involved the audience in singing some Christmas carols, of which one of my favorites was Hark The Herald Angels Sing:

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

The storyteller stated emphatically that every great story is a love story, and every great story includes other stories.  He then evoked the classic story of The Little Engine That Could in reference to dating.  Well done, and thanks to all involved.  There is another show tomorrow night.  I couldn't recommend this event more highly.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Are Christians Christian?

Must you really love your enemies to be a true disciple of Christ?  In the documentary film Unresolvable? The Kingdom of God on Earth, Mormon filmmaker Brian Hall braves protestors and the Bible Belt to find answers to this question.  With a variety of passionate interlocutors, including Pastor Robert Jeffress, Hall explores the question of what it means to be a Christian.

Hall appeals to the mercy of Christianity while attempting to reason with his fellow citizens of the United States, some of whom see him as a potential enemy.  Besides confronting Jeffress and anti-Mormon protestor Ruben Israel, Hall engages in dialogue with various evangelical preachers.  He also juxtaposes John F. Kennedy's position as a Catholic presidential candidate to Mitt Romney's position as a Mormon presidential candidate.  In what is perhaps the most edifying and enlightening conversation of the entire film, Hall interviews a young lady who defines Christianity according to the parable of the good Samaritan.

The documentary begins with a clip from the Colbert Report and a disclaimer that the filmmaker is just an average Mormon (not one of the people that might be found in the "I'm a Mormon" advertisements).  Throughout the interviews, Hall is sincere about his feelings toward religious rivals and his hatred of their vitriolic speech.  The individuals that Hall interviews are likewise sincere about their feelings toward Mormons and people of other faiths, particularly Muslims.

Unresolvable? The Kingdom of God on Earth provides interesting perspectives on what it means to be a Christian and what it means to love your enemies.  The documentary succeeds in raising these questions, but perhaps more importantly it gives rise to other questions that sooner or later every Christian needs to ask himself or herself, namely, "What thinks Christ of Me?" and "What must I do to become a more Christian Christian?"  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Think to Thank

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!  As I pause to acknowledge the Lord's hand in my life, it is clear that the greatest treasures of life are not the things that moth and rust corrupt or that thieves break through and steal.  The greatest treasures are not the things that money can buy.  Heavenly Father is the source of all blessings, and His greatest gift, that of eternal life, is available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ for all who will repent.

God has sent valiant spirits to earth who have assisted in the preservation of freedom and the renewal of the spirit of thanksgiving, some of whom were recently and rightly honored in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints newsroom blog.  President George Washington's thanksgiving proclamation contains wisdom that saw beyond the years (America the Beautiful), and Lincoln's thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 was a stirring reminder of the goodness of God, as well as a powerful invitation to national unity.  

I am also reminded of St. Luke's account of Jesus' miraculous healing of ten lepers: "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16)

Thanks be to God on this Thanksgiving day, and every day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Greatest Soccer Player of All Time

Who is the greatest soccer player of all time?  There are certainly many candidates, and many different opinions on this matter.  Perhaps the greatest soccer player of all time hasn't even been born yet.  I am no expert on this topic, but I will admit that I have derived much satisfaction from playing, watching and talking about the great sport of soccer.

Before outlining some of my answers to the question posed above, allow me to provide a background to my exposure to the game of soccer.  Soccer was not my first love, but I did play in leagues when I was but a wee lad, and I did enjoy it from a young age.  Not until high school, however, did I understand that soccer actually had enough value to merit the attention of the whole world.  I wasn't planning on playing soccer as a freshman in high school until a young lady who was a couple of years my senior encouraged me to try out.  My best friends (and my brothers, who are also my best friends) were all great soccer players, and we had an excellent coach who had played soccer on the collegiate level.  We were a small school, but we won the state championship four years in a row.  This experience is what first kindled my love for the game.

Then I was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern Italy.  As you may know, soccer in Italy is almost a religion.  We played a soccer, or calcetto, almost every week.  A great way to start a conversation with an Italian person was simply to ask about soccer: "Per quale squadra tifi?" ("Which team do you root for?")  We collected soccer cards and met soccer players.  Needless to say, this only increased my enthusiasm for the game.

In college, my brother and I tried out for the team.  Even though we didn't make the team, we continued to play intramurals and indoor soccer.  We also played in other leagues.  I have played soccer in France and in Israel as well.  One of the most exciting matches I have ever seen was between an Israeli and a Palestinian team.  

There have been many great soccer players, and I couldn't possibly begin to list them all.  There are many great players that I have probably never even heard of.  But that won't stop me from beginning to compile a list of some of my favorite players, with highlights of their football prowess.

Let us begin this list with a player whom many consider to be the greatest soccer player of all time, namely Edison Arantes de Nascimento, also known as Pelé.  His soccer accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but if there is any question as to how well he played (or to the soccer tradition that he engendered... such as Neymar da Silva Santos, Jr. ... check out these skills), perhaps it will suffice to watch some actual footage (no pun intended) of his skills:

1. A brief montage of Pelé highlights
2. Top 20 goals video (#10 is particularly beautiful, as are also #7, #3 and #1)
3. Juggling (I love this old-school video)
4. A longer video (Pelé Part 1, with interviews) ("Football is a gift from God")
5. An animation of Pelé's "best" goal
6. and of course, the bicycle kick (although Ibrahimovic's more recent goal is lovely as well)
7. and this is what Pelé thinks of modern soccer

Amazing.  Pelé was simply an incredible player who transformed the game of soccer.

Another of my favorite soccer players is Yossi Benayun.  I first saw Yossi play in Israel, his native country.  By the looks of this beautiful goal, he may have learned something from Pelé.  He has an impressive highlight reel as well.  Not to be outdone, watch what Iranian superstars Ali Karimi and Ali Daei can do too

Near the top of my list you will also find Lionel Messi.  If you ignore the "music" on this clip, you can appreciate some beautiful goals.  This guy is incredibly talented.  Watch this fun little collection of highlights, for example.
Next on my list, though not in any particular order, we find the Irishman Mr. George Best.  According to a couple of British friends with whom I play soccer every week, Best is the greatest soccer player of all time.  These friends taught me that his place in soccer history is explained by the saying, "Maradonna good, Pelé better, George Best".  Ever the entertainer, of his career Best said, "I spent 90% of my money on women, drink and fast cars.  The rest I wasted".  Here is a short tribute to this athlete-celebrity and prolific goal scorer.  And be sure to check out this beautiful goal before we move on to the next player.  (Don't forget that Best even has a charitable organization named after him).

No list of great soccer players would be complete without at least mentioning Zinedine Zidane, the French superstar of Algerian descent.  In spite of his unfortunate encounter with Materazzi, Zidane is indisputably a soccer legend with an incredible combination of power and a soft touch on the ball.  This has a lot of the same highlights, but it is a good collection (set to a Coldplay song).  Here is someone's interpretation of his top ten best moves.  This is a spectacular left footed volley.

Ok... Ok.  Let's include the Argentine phenomenon as well.  Diego Maradona certainly developed highly advanced dribbling skills, as this video clearly shows.  You've probably seen this goal, which is one of the best in World Cup history.  Of course, we must forgive him for his mano de Dios goal.

Johann Cruyff was also a great soccer player who embarrassed many defenders.  He is given credit as the originator of the "total football" philosophy.  This is a great goal, and I really like this goal that Cristiano Ronaldo appears to have imitated later on. Well done.

The list could go on and on, including players such as Klinsmann (this is a beauty), Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima (check out these sweet moves), Cristiano Ronaldo (here are few sample goals, and here are some more, and some dribbling skills too), Ronaldinho (the last goal in this highlight video is worth watching), Beckenbauer, Gareth Bale, Stephan El Shaarawy, Eden Hazard, and others.  I would also like to look up some clips of Piola, Shearer, Weah, Jairzinho, Socrates (what a great name for a soccer player), Ian Rush, Jimmy Greaves, Eusebio, Garrincha, Giuseppe Meazza, etc.  Recently I have enjoyed watching Pappis Cisse (here are some goals).  Landon Donovan certainly deserves at least an honorable mention.

As you have probably noticed, I've left out a lot of great defenders and keepers, but this is only the beginning.  Who are your favorite players?  Who would you add to the list?  What are their greatest goals or plays?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Queen of Queen Creek

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:40)

Recently it seems as though political discourse in the United States has been following a downward trajectory.  This is something to mourn.  The good question "What is right?" is too quickly forfeited to the bad question "Who is right?"  As I listen carefully to those who lean toward the opposite side of the political spectrum I am sometimes surprised to discover that, when given a moment to express themselves, these fellow citizens center in on the same basic question, and it is a good question: "What is right?"

Mind you, they aren't just asking "What is legal?"  Like the question "Who is right?", the question "What is legal?" tends to obscure the more important question: "What is right?"  The word "right" could also be substituted with the word "just", as in, "What is just?"  This question, in turn, obviously begs the even more basic question, namely, "What is justice?"  Like these good compatriots, philosophers have been grappling with this question for millennia.  I won't attempt to answer it here.  

But I will share a news report from the world of sports that could serve as an shining beacon to the world of politics.  It is a story that provides an answer to the question "What is justice?" but more importantly it provides an answer to the question, "What is mercy?"  Consider how some boys from the Queen Creek High School football team treated one of their sophomore classmates, a wonderful girl named Chy.  (Special thanks to Professor Paul Seaton who shared this story with my dad, who in turn shared it with me).  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Perfection in Imperfect People

People are not perfect.  Even seemingly perfect people or almost perfect people are not perfect.  Far from it.  I have yet to meet a perfect person.  God, however, is perfect, and has perfect love for all of his children.  He sent his only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ to give himself as a perfect sacrifice for the world. (John 3:16)

Occasionally we glimpse, even in imperfect people, traces of that perfection that is found only in God and in his Son Jesus Christ.  While it would be easy to see the flaws and imperfections in others, particularly those who have preceded us, or those closest to us, or anyone for that matter, it is much wiser to seek for those things that inspire us to become better people, and to learn from them.

Three such people to learn from were C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant and David P. Kimball.  These men were willing to give their lives for the truth that they embraced.  More than that, they demonstrated Christ-like love in the most adverse of circumstances.

Moroni, the last prophet of the Book of Mormon, wrote: "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." (Mormon 9:31)

The more we can see glimpses of perfection in others, the closer we are to perfection: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" (1 Cor. 13:12)  The three brave men who crossed the icy river with precious cargo, C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant and David P. Kimball, were not perfect, but in that moment they reflected the perfect love of God as was best manifested through the gift of his perfect Son, Jesus Christ.