Weekly Meanderings for Christmas Eve Day

Go Cubs! Story of the year!

After the Cubs won their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, Lukas McKnight found himself on the Murphy’s Bleachers rooftop, part of a small group watching Eddie Vedder play piano and sing Pink Floyd songs at the famous sports bar behind Wrigley Field.

Tracking the Cubs as October turned into early November became an all-consuming pursuit, an alternative universe where you would keep bumping into Bill Murray or John Cusack and have to remind yourself to do things like call home, pay the bills and do your laundry.

McKnight grew up in Chicago’s northern suburbs and got drafted by the Cubs in 2000. Four years later, with his career stalling in the minors, he had evolved into almost a player/coach, paired up as a kind of personal catcher for a young lefty with a great curveball and control issues. That would be Rich Hill, the late bloomer who teamed up with Clayton Kershaw to throw back-to-back shutouts and give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 2-1 lead in that NL Championship Series.

By 2005, Jim Hendry’s front office had seen enough potential to make McKnight an area scout, sending him all over the Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley region and Florida. Theo Epstein’s group would eventually promote McKnight to assistant director of amateur scouting, giving him a seat at the table when the Cubs drafted future World Series heroes Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

An ode to grandparents by Haley Burress:

My maternal grandparents lived in a small town near my hometown, and we visited weekly. I have many fond memories of spending the night at their house, going camping with them, eating pancakes that my grandma made and learning about bluegrass music from my grandpa. My Grandpa Tink is still alive, is in amazing health and is still playing his banjo. He is a staple during my visits home, and my son loves spending time exploring Great-Grandpa Tink’s house for treasures just as I once did. I cherish my relationship with my grandpa and am thankful to have him as a part of my life. Can you recall pleasant memories of your grandparents or other older role models during your childhood? Those intergenerational relationships were important to you growing up and are important for your children as they grow as well.

Grandparents offer a lot more than just free babysitting every once in awhile. Intergenerational relationships between your children and their grandparents provide multiple benefits. Besides the obvious reasons of growing up with strong family bonds and memories, your children can also learn multiple lessons from grandparents about emotional and social intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or the ability to be aware of, control and express emotions, is a trait that your children will be watching and learning throughout their lives. When they spend time with their grandparents, your children will learn how people they trust, besides their parents, express their emotions. If they play a game and see that grandma doesn’t throw a fit when she doesn’t win, your children will learn how to handle disappointment. If they cook dinner with grandpa and hear him talk about how much he appreciates grandma, your children will learn how to love and care for others.

Pure Tim Keller: gentle firmness, a Reformed approach to gospel, and bundled into a respectful conversation.

Oh no, an American coaching soccer, excuse me, football, in England uses some offensive terms:

What goes far beyond the realms of sensible behavior though, is the reaction to [American Bob] Bradley’s comments in his post-game interview following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, where the 58-year-old committed what is apparently a cardinal sin in the English game.

For a brief second, before subsequently correcting himself, Bradley referred to a penalty kick as a “PK,” and called the visit to Middlesbrough a “road game” instead of an “away trip.”

Cue outrage from Britain’s soccer social media dwellers, who apparently have too much time on their hands and should get back to their television sets, currently toting endless reruns of Love Actually and blanket coverage of the ever-popular world darts championship.

According to some, Bradley’s verbiage shows why he is ill-suited to the EPL, is proof that he has failed to adapt and that Swansea’s American owners erred in hiring one of their compatriots.

It is a farce, and one that, in the same year that the United Kingdom decided it didn’t want to be part of a European political collective anymore, reflects poorly on the country.

For a start, let’s state the blindingly obvious by suggesting that sporting lingo has nothing to do with coaching ability. Further, Bradley has also clearly gone out of his way to avoid Americanisms, presumably aware that being from the U.S. could be held against him by British soccer snobs.

The Wall Street Journal found that Bradley has actually used more British-type terms than American ones in his press appearances, apart of regularly saying “zero” instead of “nil” and “game” instead of “match.” Oh no, shame on him.

Then comes the greatest irony of all. Bradley has not once used the term soccer, which apparently constitutes the ultimate evidence that someone is a newbie. Brits continue to make fun of Americans over the term and most have come to believe it was invented over here.

More charities need pots beyond the endzone!

Ezekiel Elliott’s emergence as an impact player has crossed into new territory.

After millions witnessed the creative touchdown celebration by the Dallas Cowboys rookie running back on Sunday night – he hopped into one of the huge red kettles behind the end zones at AT&T Stadium, crouched to disappear and then sprung to applause – online donations to the Salvation Army spiked 61%, according to the charity.

“We don’t normally see spikes like that at random,” Lt. Colonel Ron Busroe, the Salvation Army’s national secretary for community relations and development, told USA TODAY Sports on Monday.

More prayer, more understanding, more peace for the Middle East battles between Shia and Sunni:

The two major powers in the Middle East are Saudi Arabia, an Arab population ruled by a Sunni majority, and Iran, a Persian population ruled by a Shia majority. The Sunni-Shiite split is represented as a religious one. Don’t be fooled. It’s really an economic battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia over who will control the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil passes.

Almost all (85%) of Muslims are Sunnis.

They are the majority in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Shiites are the majority in Iran and Iraq, and have large minority communities in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon and Azerbaijan.

The United States usually allies itself with Sunni-led countries. That’s because 40% of its imported oil passes through the Strait. However, it allied with the Shiites in the Iraq War and the Nuclear Deal with Iran.

Less isolation and suffering alone:

My patient and I both knew he was dying.

Not the long kind of dying that stretches on for months or years. He would die today. Maybe tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the next day. Was there someone I should call? Someone he wanted to see?

Not a one, he told me. No immediate family. No close friends. He had a niece down South, maybe, but they hadn’t spoken in years.

For me, the sadness of his death was surpassed only by the sadness of his solitude. I wondered whether his isolation was a driving force of his premature death, not just an unhappy circumstance.

Every day I see variations at both the beginning and end of life: a young man abandoned by friends as he struggles with opioid addiction; an older woman getting by on tea and toast, living in filth, no longer able to clean her cluttered apartment. In these moments, it seems the only thing worse than suffering a serious illness is suffering it alone.

Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.

About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. Those without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters.

Greg Trotter reports: (I wrote in one of my books about food deserts, and this can spell doom for one!)

Come spring, a new urban farm is expected to take root in Lawndale with a groundbreaking for a $3.5 million year-round facility.

The Farm on Ogden, as it will be called, is a partnership between Lawndale Christian Health Center and Windy City Harvest, Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban farming program that grows more than 100,000 pounds of produce a year in addition to training low-income people of color how to farm.

Like a tomato plant bursting from a pothole, Chicago’s urban farming scene is a tiny hope-filled industry in a tough city, steadily growing as a source of jobs, economic development and food in some of the poorest neighborhoods on the South and West sides. That growth will continue with an assortment of new projects and expansions in 2017.

The Lawndale neighborhood farm, at 3555 W. Ogden Ave., will provide a needed boost to Windy City Harvest, allowing it to double its training capacity and increase overall production, said Angela Mason, associate vice president of the urban farming program.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.