A Prayer

Oh mystery of Christ. God incarnate. Flesh and blood.

Comes to us today, in the everyday. The ordinary.

Open our eyes that we may see. Open our ears that we may hear. Open our hearts that we may receive.

In the eyes of the elderly. In the smile of a child. In the laughter of a friend.

To see with the eyes of Christ. To hear with the ears of God.

Not far away.

God with us.

Remove the blinders of our selfish desire and shine the light of truth into our hearts and minds. Free our souls.

Liberate us from the shackles and chains of our own doing.

Bestow upon us your grace.

Lead us into the light.

Bless us with your love.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Amen.

 

 

Christ

Sacred and profane. Heaven and hell. Spiritual and physical. Light and darkness.

Somewhere between.

You and I.

First and last.

Most and least.

Where do we fall?

How do we climb?

Out of the abyss and into the light.

Grace and peace.

Love and light.

Comfort and mercy.

Bread and wine.

Body and blood.

God incarnate.

Christ

Among us.

With us.

In us.

Through us. Bless us. Keep us. Love us. Save us.

Amen.

Children of a Lesser God?

Do Christians relegate themselves to ‘children of a lesser god’ status? If so, why?

God, as we understands him/her, in the old and new testaments, is the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the universe. Now let me reiterate. The UNIVERSE. Not just North America, Europe or Antartica. Not just the Milky Way. The Universe. God is the mind of the UNIVERSE!

Then why do we, as Christians, so often minimize her mind, his thoughts, its favor to the 21st century United States of America? Well, I suppose this happens to be the place that some 300 plus million human beings find themselves in this day and age. And 300 million people can’t be wrong, can they?

And that goes for ANY peoples or places.

What make anyone person or people pound their chest and shout, “Me!” or “US!”

Maybe this passage offers a clue…

Mark 35-45  The Message

“35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”

36 “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”

37 “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”

39-40 “Sure,” they said. “Why not?”Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

41-45 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

Why try to squeeze GOD into that small box and behave as though he favors anyone over anyone else? Why some over some other places, persons, or peoples? Navel gazing? Narcissism? Patriotism?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do feel that people often reduce God to their private plaything. That they take her out and play with her when they feel like it. That he answers to their beck and call, and not vice versa.

And God is not just the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the lot of us.

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” NLT

Before God even thought/spoke the universe into existence, Christ WAS. And later, “The word became human and made his home among us.”

The entire concept is mind-blowing. That’s because it is the mind of God. Our teeny tiny, imbecilic brains cannot even pretend to begin to understand God. And so. “The word became human and made his home among us.”

The question remains. Why do we reduce God to a lesser status? Why do we not allow God to be God in all her fullness?

Fear? Stupidity? Lack of understanding? Selfishness? Cultural conditioning?

The answer is, possibly, all of the above and so much more.

And that last word of the previous sentence, more. Why, so often, do we settle for so much less? Why not MORE? More… of God. More… of life. More… of love. If we allowed our desire for God to bring us more, instead of less, would it require something of us? Would it, yes, take us out of our comfort zones? Would it demand something in return?

The answer to all of these questions is, again, possibly yes. God does require something of us. God does take us out of our comfort zones. God DOES ask something in return.

As the old saying goes, God came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

Romans 12:1

“And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” NLT

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” NIV

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” NRSV

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” The Message

The apostle Paul appeals to the church at Rome to respond to God’s love and sacrifice, in Jesus Christ, in this way, to offer our whole person to him. Our whole self. Our total person.

God wants all of us, including our minds. That “mind of the universe” asks our minds of us.

From the Traffic song, “Heaven Is In Your Mind”…

“You ride on the swing in and out of the bars
Capturing moments of life in a jar
Playing with children, acting as stars
Guiding your vision to heaven and heaven is in your mind
Take extra care not to lose what you feel
The apple you’re eating is simple and real
Water the flowers that grow at your heel
Guiding your vision to heaven and heaven is in your mind.”

Grace and peace.

Transformation

Transformation. Just what does transformation entail? I suppose it depends on who or what is performing the transformation on whom.

Here is the short take from Merriam-Webster:

“: a complete or major change in someone’s or something’s appearance, form, etc.”

Rather trite? Maybe, upon first glance, but the “etc.” is what caught my attention as I considered the definition more carefully. Etc. Really?

Etcetera “is a latin expression that means ‘and other things, or and so forth’.” This, according to Wikipedia.

One just as well might say, “and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby…”

Which brings us to the song, Everyday People, by Sly and the Family Stone. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Consider it:

“Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah, yeah

There is a blue one
Who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one
Trying to be a skinny one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha
We got to live together

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same, whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a long hair
That doesn’t like the short hair
For being such a rich one
That will not help the poor one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha
We got to live together

There is a yellow one
That won’t accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one
That won’t accept the white one
Different strokes
For different folks

And so on and so on
And scooby dooby dooby
Oh sha sha
I am everyday people”

We, as individuals and as a society, could be TRANSFORMED if we took the message in this song seriously.

And while we ponder the lyrics of a 60’s pop song, which was the band’s first single to go to number one, let’s stick our toes into the fount of one of the apostle Paul’s charges to the church in Rome.

Romans 12:2

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” New Living Translation

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good and perfect will.” New International Version

Here is the take on Paul’s word from The Message. “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

We’ve gone from Merriam-Webster to Sly and the Family Stone to the apostle Paul. How about that?

Transformation.

Aren’t most all of the resolutions that are made, and often unkept, at the beginning of a new year simply attempts at transforming our lives?

We want want to change. We strive to do better. We seek peace, love, happiness, and fulfillment. And much of our seeking and striving is sought in the ways of the world. Some fad. Some  diet. Some trend. But, the path to transformation cannot, permanently, be found in popular culture or the ways of the world.

“I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul”

These are lyrics taken from Radiohead’s hit, ‘Creep’. Ain’t it so?

Jesus taught us, in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33  New King James Version.

God wants us to be transformed far more than we are willing to allow transformation to take place. Transformation involves change. A change of heart. A change of attitude. A change of habits. A change in the way we look at the world. A change in the way we think.

In order to be transformed, we must see ourselves, and the world, through the eyes of Christ.

The apostle Paul was living proof of this. He went from persecuting Christians to becoming a Christian himself. Now THAT is a transformation.

I reiterate his words found in Romans 12:2

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” New Living Translation

Happy New Year!

Grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auburn: These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls

The Crisis by Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the…”

Fill in the blank.

The souls of Auburn men and women were tried, once again, this past Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. You know the result. You also know just how that result came down.

2015 has been a trying season, and that is putting it politely.

There are many positives (defense for one) and negatives (quarterback play for one) to be taken from the, 20-13, loss to the the Georgia Bulldogs. I am not going to expound on those here. If you are even a “summer soldier” or a “sunshine patriot”, you probably have seen or heard the takes on the defeat, ad infinitum.

But this is not 2012 (3-9).

This Auburn team has not quit and it has fought, tooth and nail, in EVERY game it has played, thus far, this season. I have every reason to think that that type of effort will continue in the final two games of the regular season and in the, highly probable, bowl game.

Birmingham in December. There’s the making of a poem in those three words, no?

The leaves, having fallen, are now crushed under foot, and pilgrims tread forth, approaching the Old Gray Lady…

Nah, not today. But MAYBE, if Auburn does play in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.

My! How the mighty have fallen, just like the leaves of autumn here in the Deep South.

But our cause is not hopeless. Gus and company will continue to pour every ounce of their being into preparing this edition of the Auburn Tigers to compete in three more football games. And they will will scour the countryside to recruit young men to join them in this rebuilding effort.

I never, in my wildest nightmares, had any idea that 2015 would become a rebuilding job. But that, my friends, is exactly what this season has become. And I am of the opinion that our coaching staff needs at least two more years to rebuild the Gus Bus.

“Love is patient…” 1 Corinthians 13:4 begins. We, as Auburn fans, are going to have to practice that if we do love our Tigers as we say we do.

Auburn WILL be back. Patience Grasshopper.

Now, let us continue in 1 Corinthians 13:7. “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” This is the attitude that true Auburn fans will have to adopt to see this thing through.

And here, Auburn Family, is some inspiration. It is one of my favorite songs from my favorite band that is out there, playing live today, Gov’t Mule.

Soulshine

When you just can’t find the light
That guides you through your cloudy day
When the stars ain’t shining bright
And it feels like you lost your way
When the candle lights of home
Burn so very far away
Well you got to let your soul shine
Just like my daddy used to say

He used to say soul shine
It’s better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than the rain
Hey now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Shine till the break of day

Grew up thinking that I had it made
Gonna make it on my own
But life can take the strongest man
And make him feel so alone
But now and then I feel a cold wind
Blowing through my aching bones
I think back to what my daddy said
He said, “Boy, it’s darkest before the dawn”

Let your soul shine
Oh, it’s better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain
Yeah now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Shine till the break of day

Sometimes a man can feel this emptiness
Like a woman has robbed him of his very soul
Woman too, God knows, she can feel like this
And when your world seems cold
You got to let your spirit take control

Talking about the soul shine
Better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain
Lord, now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Yeah, shine on and on and on and on

Oh, it’s better than sunshine
Better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain
Yeah, now people don’t mind
We all feel this way sometimes
Got to let your soul shine
Shine till the break of day

Songwriters
WARREN HAYNES

If THAT won’t get you fired up, then your wood’s wet!

Where Do We Go From here?

Auburn is also going to have to have another very strong recruiting class that is loaded with defensive linemen and linebackers.

Also, it appears that dual threat quarterbacks are the best option to make this, now toothless, offense click. Two have committed to the upcoming, 2016, recruiting class. They are Woody Barrett and John Franklin III.

http://www.al.com/auburnfootball/index.ssf/2015/09/tracking_auburns_commits_woody.html

And Franklin:

http://www.al.com/auburnfootball/index.ssf/2015/11/report_former_fsu_quarterback.html

There are some hard decisions Coach Malzahn will have to make in the off-season. They may involve making assistant coaching changes. I don’t know what those decisions will call for, but they, surely, will have to be made.

BUT… before that off-season arrives there are three football games to be played in the 2015 season.

The first game is this Saturday. The opponent is the Idaho Vandals. Their coach is Paul Petrino. Yes, THAT Petrino. He is Bobby’s brother. Auburn will win this game.

The last game will, likely, be played in late December in the aforementioned Birmingham Bowl or in Shreveport, LA in the Camping World Independence Bowl.

There is another game sandwiched between these two games. It is also a “bowl” game.

The Iron Bowl.

That little contest will be played in Jordan-Hare Stadium at 2:30 CT on CBS.

Yes, all you rabid fans of Verne and Gary, we will get to do it one more time.

And so, these ARE the times that are, most assuredly, trying our collective souls. But, NO, our cause is NOT hopeless. Three games remain to be played by the Auburn Tigers.

So let’s ALL do our part! And whether you are going to attend these games, watch them on television, or listen to them on the radio, you will get to do it thrice more…

WITH FEELING!!!

Gut (Gus) Check Time

What if I told you, before this season started, that Auburn would, essentially, be without Duke Williams, Jeremy Johnson, and Carl Lawson? That, by and large, is what has occurred to this point in the 2015 campaign. Yes Jeremy, Duke, and Carl have played, but very little.

And what if someone told you that Auburn would play Ole Miss off their feet with a redshirt freshman quarterback, with one leg?

What if you had known that Auburn’s defense, with Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, would be at, or near, the bottom of the league in total yards (14th), passing yards (13th), and rushing yards (12th)?

What would you have thought Auburn’s record would have been, under these circumstances?

Auburn finds itself at 4-4 with a 1-4 record in SEC play. That is where the Tigers stand, and that is the cold, harsh reality here on November 4, 2015.

Who’d a thunk it?

NO ONE.

SO… where does it go from here?

It seems like just the other day Auburn was playing Florida State for the BCS National Championship under first year head coach Gus Malzahn. Consensus Coach of the Year, Gus Malzahn. And offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee was nominated for the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.IMG_1332

Wot hoppened?

Many people picked Auburn to win the SEC West, the SEC Championship, and play in the College Football Playoff.

Whew!

Here is a snippet from Pat Dye’s weekly column which appears on Inside The Auburn Tigers (ITAT).

“I know there were questionable decisions in the Ole Miss game, but I believe they were made based on the knowledge the coaches have about their team and the desire to give their team the best possible chance of winning–even the fourth down call in the second quarter that didn’t work. I have done it myself and I have seen great coaches over the years in close games make decisions that if they work are going to help their teams win, but if they don’t work they are probably going to cost you the game.

You have to be thick-skinned to do it. You can’t make those type of calls if you are scared of the outcome because then you are making a decision for a negative reason rather than doing what you think gives your team the best chance to win.”

It’s not that our coaches can no longer coach or were struck dumb, although many of us feel that way. The brutal circumstances, mentioned above, along with more to come, below, have combined to put the Auburn Tigers in an almost unfathomable position considering what preseason expectations were.

Now here’s some more fodder to mix into the equation.

Auburn has 15 rookies on NFL rosters this season. THAT IS MORE THAN ANYONE IN THE SEC.

Included in that group are Nick Marshall, Reese Dismukes, Robenson Therezie, Cameron Artis-Payne, Sammie Coates, Quan Bray, CJ Uzomah, Gabe Wright, Chris Davis and Corey Grant.

That’s some SERIOUS offensive production and a few defensive talents. Take that, along with the defensive stats cited earlier, and you can truly get a sense of “Wot hoppened”.

If you consider that Auburn could have won any of the games they’ve played in, except for LSU, then think where they could have been without the negative waves that have washed over them like some relentless sea of doom.

Where does that leave us?

“And I never lost a minute of sleepin’ worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been.” All of you are familiar the that John Fogerty penned CCR song.
Or maybe Willie Nelson would be more appropriate. “Whiskey river take my mind, don’t let ‘er mem’ry torture me. Whiskey river don’t run dry, you’re all I’ve got take care of me. I’m drowning in a whiskey river…”
However. Whatever. It is what it is.

So here we stand. The present. A trip to College Station looms large on the horizon.

This game has been a critical one the past two seasons. Two years ago, ah yes, two short years ago Auburn roared into Kyle Field. They defeated Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, and the Texas A&M Aggies and utilized that victory to propel them to an SEC Championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

Last year, you know the story, a huge upset at the hands of the Aggies in Jordan-Hare Stadium was the beginning of a bitter downward spiral that has seen the Tigers go 1-7 in SEC play since that fateful day.

A win, Saturday, could jump start Auburn on a three game winning streak. They could, certainly, beat the free falling Georgia Bulldogs, who have more problems than a math book. And they WILL beat the Idaho Vandals.

That would leave one game remaining on the 2015 schedule.

You know who the opponent is in that one game.

I know who that opponent is in that one game.

We shall not speak of it here today. There is far too much ground to cover in the interim.

Auburn vs. Texas A&M. It’s large, folks. It’s large.IMG_1559_2

The whole nation, yea the whole world, will have its eyes squarely focused on what transpires in Tuscaloosa, AL, Saturday. That is a monster game.

But for those who love and support the men who proudly wear the burnt orange and navy blue of Auburn University, what takes place in the wide open space, north of Houston and east of Austin, Texas, is of paramount importance. Every game now becomes a season in itself.

What will happen out there in Tejas? I don’t know. But, I suspect that this group of Auburn Tigers will be ready to rumble. I suspect that they will be “scratchin’ and clawin’ and fightin’ “, as Coach Pat Dye once said. That’s what they’ve done thus far this season, and I have no reason to think they won’t continue to play with great effort at 6:30 Saturday night.

I’m not going to venture a prediction, in this slot, on the game. But I will say that I think Auburn will give the Aggies all they can handle and more.

And so, if you aren’t making the trip to the Lone Star State on Saturday, then fire up the grill, pour yourself a beverage, and get ready for some great SEC football!

Auburn 2015: Whispering Hope

When I sat down at my computer to do this column, I began the process of doing some last second research to help firm up my ideas. I am THE Eternal Optimist and I can spot a silver lining in a dark cloud quicker than you can say, “Damnit! Another interception!” #!@#*!%!

I was prepared to do the ultimate Realist piece and just get right down to the nitty-gritty of how this Gus Bus ran off in a ditch, and Auburn’s call to AAA to pull her out. It was not a column I was looking forward to putting together. I was going to throw my sunshine pump deep into the woods behind our house and muse upon what I perceived to be the, seemingly, fatal flaws that exist within the 2015 edition of the Auburn Tigers football team.

I was going to re-live bits of the 1975 and 2012 seasons, as bad as I hated to.

The 1975 Tigers opened to much fanfare with another group of Tigers, these from Memphis. Phil Gargis, Mitzi Jackson, Secedrick McIntyre and company were picked to finish near the top of the polls en route to a magical season, Shug Jordan’s last… no dice.

Memphis 31, Auburn 20 (and it wasn’t that close).

Game two… Baylor 10, Auburn 10.

Game three… Tennessee 21, Auburn 17

Game four… Virginia Tech 23, Auburn 17 (and this was a mostly inept gang of Gobblers. No Beamer Ball here.)

Auburn wound up with a 3-6-2 record, that year, and ended Coach Jordan’s tenure on a very sour note.

And the 2012 campaign? My intention was to focus on the Texas A&M debacle as an example of the agony suffered those three short years ago, a 63-21 total embarrassment. A microcosm of the season. My wife and I left that no-contest with 1:51 seconds remaining in the FIRST QUARTER, and Auburn trailing 21-0. And it’s not that it was 21-0. The problem is WE HAD NO HOPE. We were beaten. We knew it. And we, simply, could no longer bear it.

NCAA Football: Rice at Texas A&M

This past Saturday afternoon I was having flashbacks, as I cringed, while watching Auburn being manhandled in Baton Rouge. No, not the residual psychedelic kind of flashbacks from the years of 1973-1975. I was having a much more painful, and much less enjoyable, type.

My mind was swirling with the tattered and broken images of the 1975 and 2012 (3-9, 0-8 in the SEC) Auburn Football seasons. It hurt. It was hellish.

“How can this be?” I thought. I am no coach and I certainly am no expert. I have no earthly idea how one could fix the problems that had beset the 2015 Auburn Tigers, but I had a great many questions. I’m sure most of you had, or are still having, similar questions.

We now fast forward back to me at the computer. Today.

A “twitter” notification appeared to me in the top right hand corner of the screen of our iMac as I prepared to type. It was from our executive editor at Campus Pressbox, Damien Bowman.

“auburn going with Sean White this week. wow.”

I happened to be on the auburn.scout.com site at the time. I had actually begun to read the beginning of notes from Coach Malzahn’s presser this morning. I went back to the master board of topics and found it. Redshirt freshman, Sean White, was to start Saturday.

Now, hear me on this. I have nothing against Jeremy Johnson. I love him as I do all of the Auburn team. I think he is a tremendous talent but, for some reason, that talent has not been in evidence thus far during the 2015 football season. It has been quite the opposite. He and the entire team have, collectively, performed abysmally. And I had begun to lose hope… rapidly.

No “joy in Mudville.” Casey had whiffed, big time, down in Death Valley. And not only that, things had been looking grim since the second half of the Louisville game.

But now… HOPE. Maybe just a glimmer but, nonetheless, HOPE.

Just that one sliver of information changed my perspective on Saturday’s upcoming game vs. Miss State.

Maybe Auburn is righting the ship! HOPEfully they are piecing this thing back together!

Somehow, Auburn had been installed as a 4 point favorite over the Bulldogs. Now, mind you, that only means that the odds-makers had come up with a number to induce betting on BOTH Auburn and Miss State. It doesn’t mean that Vegas thinks Auburn is 4 points better than State. And if the betting goes heavily on the boys from STARK-Vegas then that line will drop to reflect so, and to create more wagering on Auburn. State would then become only a 3 or a 2 point underdog. Or it could have gone all the way to a “pick ’em.”

(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)
(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)
Bird-Vegas had made State anywhere from a 7 to 10 point favorite. I didn’t see how Auburn could contain Dak Prescott, play hard-nosed on BOTH sides of the ball, and triumph in the end. Based on what we had seen so far in the season I could not see Auburn prevailing. I said as much during our current SEC 411 podcast. I picked Mississippi State to win.

How was I to write this, put it in black and white? I would rather have a root canal than to pick against Auburn in my weekly column.

That is no longer an issue because of… HOPE.

Yes! It springs eternal!

Whispering Hope

Soft as the voice of an angel, breathing a lesson unheard.

Hope with a gentle persuasion whispers her comforting word

Wait till the darkness is over, wait till the tempest is gone

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, after the shower is gone.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

If, in the dusk of the twilight, dim be the region afar

Will not the deepening darkness brighten the glimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away?

When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

Hope as an anchor so steadfast, rends the dark veil for the soul

Whither the Master has entered, robbing the grave of its goal

Come then, oh come, glad fruition, come to my sad weary heart

Come, O thou blest hope of glory, never, oh never depart.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

The words from that old hymn now resonated in my heart.

Why do I have now have more HOPE in Auburn’s chances under the lights of Jordan-Hare Saturday night?

For one, I have heard there have been some serious “come to Jesus” meetings in the Auburn Athletic Complex, and on the practice fields, this week. I have also heard that if you were a defensive player and sat in defensive coordinator Coach Will Muschamp’s meetings this week, that your young ears have been permanently blistered.

This man is a college head coach. Seriously.

But that happens often in football complexes across the country each and every week.

I also think that, as a result of these meetings and practices, that the AU coaching staff will find 22 players who really want to lay it all on the line Saturday.

Furthermore, I DO think that Sean White will provide the spark that the Tigers have been needing, desperately, in this, still young, 2015 season.

[Ostendorf: Auburn to start Sean White over Jeremy Johnson at QB]

So what does this all mean?

This means that Auburn will start playing AUBURN football at 6:30 PM CDT on Saturday. They will play with promise, passion and precision.

AND…

They will win.

Auburn 31, Miss State 24

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

Auburn vs. LSU; Game. Set. Match.

The only time I’ve ever cried after an Auburn loss came on October 11, 1980. Now I’ve cried tears of joy after an Auburn win, most notably would be January 10, 2011 when the Tigers nipped Oregon, 22-19, on a last second field goal from the foot of Wes Byrum. The other would be following Chris Davis’ 109 yard run on November 30, 2013 in Jordan-Hare Stadium. That was night of the renowned “Kick Six”, as all of you well know.

Auburn punt returner Chris Davis runs back a short field goal attempt for a game-winning touchdown last year against Alabama that became known widely as the “Kick Six.” (USA Today Sports)
Auburn punt returner Chris Davis runs back a short field goal attempt for a game-winning touchdown last year against Alabama that became known widely as the “Kick Six.” (USA Today Sports)
October 11, 1980 was the first time I had the pleasure of listening to to Auburn play LSU in Death Valley at night. I had tuned in to, seemingly, countless LSU games from Tiger Stadium over the years. Most of these games I listened to with my daddy. Some of those were from the back seat of our 1963 Plymouth Fury as we made our way home from, what was then, Cliff Hare Stadium in Auburn.

But on that evening in 1980 I was listening to the Tigers vs. Tigers matchup on my stereo radio from our living room in Burnsville, AL.

I was the pastor of the Shady Grove Baptist Church back then and my Sunday duties, obviously, would not allow me to make the trek the Baton Rouge that Saturday.

Auburn entered the game with a 3-1 record while the Bayou Bengals stood at 3-2.

There were several controversial calls that went against Auburn on that misty evening in the Red Stick, and I was attempting to maintain my religion as my frustration continued to build.

LSU lead, 7-3, at intermission. They maintained their lead, 14-10, after three stanzas.

Both teams scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 21-17 LSU.

James Brooks ran for well over 200 yards that night and I could picture him gashing the other Tigers’ defense.

As the game wore on and time tick, tick, ticked away, LSU had the ball with an opportunity to run out the clock. But they didn’t. Auburn’s defense was savage and they forced a punt with very little time remaining.

James Brooks was back to receive the kick. LSU was mired deep in their own territory. The snap, the kick… BLOCKED! BLOCKED!

Auburn recovered the ball at LSU’s 10 yard line!!!

My hopes soared at the prospect of a victory I could now smell!

On the first play from scrimmage a blue and white clad Auburn receiver was WIDE OPEN in the end zone… DROPPED!

That’ was ok, we had three more downs, and James Brooks at our disposal, and I knew the men from the Plains would get it done.

It was now fourth down. I don’t remember if the quarterback was Joe Sullivan or Charlie Thomas, but whoever it was threw another pass into the end zone and it was… INTERCEPTED! AND it was almost run back for a touchdown.

Game. Set. Match.LSUvAuburn

I could hear the roar of the crowd blaring through the speakers from Death Valley, and now I truly understood that term.

I had been standing and cheering and jumping up and down in our living room; and now I crumpled to my knees, covered my face with my hands… and wept… profusely.

I simply refused to believe what my ears had just heard. NO! NO! NO! It can’t be!

It was.

Final score, LSU 21, Auburn 17.

That was only the beginning of the “Voodoo” my beloved Tigers have been the victim of from that venerable old venue.

I know how the Ole Miss fans felt when Billy Cannon ran that punt back, 89 yards, for a touchdown in 1959 on Halloween night. As an aside, most people don’t know that Ole Miss dominated that game and were stopped on the LSU one yard line as time expired. BRUTAL!

As I stated, just above, Auburn has been victimized or “Voodoo-ized” several times in Tiger Stadium.

In my column’s primer for last year’s game, I recounted the story of my first visit to Tiger Stadium. It was on October 8, 1988, the “Earthquake” game. I’m not going to re-tell that story again and put myself through the hell of that memory. You may if you like. Just click here!

But… I will mention that a drunk, female LSU student got nose to nose with my dear wife, Melodye, that fateful evening and screamed “GO TIGERS!!!!” repeatedly, as our wounds were still fresh and raw. I will also mention that our children, Luke (10) and Leah (5), were with us; and I suspect that had they not been, that the nameless coed might have received a severe, old-fashioned butt-whipping, or at least a tongue-lashing, on that hot and humid night.

Oh! But there’s more!

September 16, 1995. My son and I made our second trip to Louisiana to take in an Auburn-LSU clash. This was the night of the famed “Phantom whistle”. Auburn quarterback, Patrick Nix stood, defenseless, in the end zone as he, and many us us sitting in those north end zone stands, heard a whistle. Nix was tackled and LSU was awarded two points for a safety.

Trailing 12-6, Nix threw into that same end zone on the game’s last play. INTERCEPTED!

Game. Set. Match.LSU Auburn Football

Later, Auburn head coach, Terry Bowden said that he outsmarted himself on that last play and ran that slant instead of a fade, which would have almost certainly been completed and Auburn would have emerged victorious.

And even to this day, whenever one of us “outsmarts” ourself, say taking an alternate route or shortcut, which does NOT turn out to be the wise move, we say we “Bowden ’95-ed”.

How about 2005 when OUR Tigers beat the snot out of THEIR Tigers, “physically” (as former Auburn coach, Doug Barfield, used to say when AU whipped their opponent everywhere except on the scoreboard)?

Auburn pounded LSU on October 22 of that year. Kenny Irons ran RAMPANT over THEIR Tigers for well over 200 yards, just as James Brooks had done, 25 years prior. Unfortunately, AU’s highly reliable place-kicker, John Vaughn, was one for six on field goals.

Auburn lost, in the midst of swirling winds in overtime, 20-17, as the final field goal attempt hit the right upright and bounced, harmlessly, to the turf of Death Valley.

Game. Set. Match.

More! Do you want more?

Two years later Auburn travels to Baton Rouge and plays the home team off their feet, as head coach Tommy Tuberville’s teams could do back then.

Auburn scored a TD and led, 24-23, with 3:21 remaining; and for some reason squibbed the ensuing kickoff and LSU set up shop at their own 42 yard line.

They began the march toward the visitors goal line but time was fast running out.

The clock was under 40 seconds, with LSU at the Auburn 22 yard line. They appeared to be setting up for a field goal. BUT Les Miles, inexplicably, eschewed the 39 yard attempt and Matt Flynn lofted a pass in the direction of wideout Demetrius Byrd, who was covered, in the end zone with one tick left on the clock.

Byrd later claimed he never saw the ball but it, somehow, stuck in his arms as he fell to the purple and gold painted grass.

Game. Set. Match.LSU Football

#!%#>(!@ VOODOO!!!!!!!!!

And, FINALLY!

Two years ago, first year head coach, Gus Malzahn, took his 2-0 Tigers into the monsoon ravaged Red Stick. They fell behind, 21-0, in the first half.

LSU’s second touchdown came when Auburn punter, Steven Clark, mishandled a wet ball and the punt was blocked.

How long, oh lord?

But… But… BUT!!! This edition of the Auburn Tigers exhibited great resiliency and played with tremendous effort in the second half. They lost, 35-21, but used that second half intensity as a springboard to win the rest of their games enroute to the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, CA.

So, that brings us to the 2015 square-off between these two teams of Tigers.

What on earth could possibly transpire Saturday AFTERNOON on the Bayou? Yes, it’s a 2:30 CDT kickoff on CBS.

Auburn hasn’t won in Tiger Stadium since 1999. Sixteen LONG years. Motivation, you think?

I almost don’t want to look. Auburn ‘s trips down I-85 to I-65 to I-10 have been plenteously painful.

Les, or More, Miles pulled another rabbit form his hat, this past Saturday, as LSU thwarted Mississippi State, 21-19. The Cowbellers missed a 52 yard filed goal as time expired in Starkville. SIGH.

I don’t know what to make of the 2015 Auburn Tigers. They have looked ragged but right. They’re 2-0!

Obviously, quarterback Jeremy Johnson needs to get his act together, and I think Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee will “coach him up” and get him ready.

I expect that the coaching staff will also utilize their first two games as great teaching tools and the talented Tigers will play well.

Will that be well enough to win? I don’t know. But if this team does not play with the same fire and intensity that the 2013 team did, then I will be sorely surprised.

I think this will be, yet another, of those crazy games from Tiger Stadium. But, again, it will NOT take place at night.

In a turn of fortune, Auburn drives the length of the field and Jeremy Johnson scores on a zone read, from the one yard line, with less than a minute to play. The defense holds on, this time, and the AUBURN Tigers come away with a VERY hard fought victory.

Auburn 24, LSU 21

Let’s Tee It Up!

The wait is almost over. FINALLY! In just over 24 hours we will have some FBS football to feast our eyes upon, sports fans! And for those of us who reside below the Mason-Dixon line, we will have SEC and ACC football as the South Carolina Gamecocks, and their Head Ball Coach, will take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in Charlotte, NC. A nice little bonus game will pit the Vanderbilt Commodores against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

And… AND… TCU’s highly ranked Horned Frogs will pay a visit to the not-yet-frozen state of Minnesota to do battle with their Golden Gophers.

More? Yes! The Michigan Wolverines, now under the leadership of favorite son, Jim Harbaugh, will face the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City, UT.

There are several other games on tap Thursday, such as Duke and Tulane, but the games mentioned above are the nationwide biggies slated for Sept. 3.

September 3rd is also significant to me, for another reason, as Braxton and Edwina LeCroy, along with brother Jerry, welcomed Braxton Jr. to the world on that date in 1952. You good folks have come to know me as “Bird.” I’ll get into the origin of that nickname, that stuck HARD, later… maybe.

Bottom line? Some hootin’ and hollerin’ will take place at 116 Sundown Way in Acworth, GA on Thursday. But… BUT! That will be small potatoes compared to the noise generated from the Georgia Dome in Hotlanta on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM ET. For it is at that time that the Auburn Tigers will take on the Louisville Cardinals in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic!

Let’s tee it up!

Sixth-ranked by the Associated Press voters, Auburn has been installed as a 10.5 point favorite in another battle between SEC and ACC teams.

Opening games almost always tend to generate a great deal of excitement in their fan bases and rightly so. All of us have waited, quite impatiently, for this day to arrive. And for me, it is a day to reflect back on openers past.

I have had the privilege of attending 30 opening day tilts which involved my Auburn Tigers. My record stands at 24-6 in these games. Hey! That’s an .800 winning percentage. I’ll take it!

Now I would like to provide a brief take on a few of these ‘first game of the season’ brawls.

Auburn vs. Baylor – 1965

My first one and also the first time I had seen Auburn lose at Cliff Hare Stadium. My record at home, prior to this day, was a sterling 5-0. Neither team scored until quarter number four and the Bears struck first. They went up 14-0 and Auburn scored on the last play of the game on a pass from Alex Bowden to Freddie Hyatt. They tacked on a two point conversion to make the final score 14-8, Baylor.

Auburn vs. Southern Mississippi – 1970

My first as a student, an awkward freshman from Lower Alabama. Pat Sullivan began his best statistical season, on the Plains, and the Tigers handled the Golden Eagles, 33-14. Sullivan found Terry Beasley twice for touchdowns that afternoon. The game may not have been the biggest event of the day for me. I went to the late showing of ‘Woodstock’ that night, and the rest, as they say, is history. I found my calling. 😉

Auburn vs. TCU – 1981

This was Pat Dye’s opener as head coach of the Auburn Tigers. The field is now named after him. Ron “BBQ” O’Neal blasted in for two TD’s as the home team disposed of the Visitors from Ft. Worth, TX by a score of 24-16.

Auburn vs. Wake Forest – 1982

A true freshman running back from McAdory High School in McCalla, AL scored on runs of one and 43 yards to lead Auburn to a 28-10 win over the Demon Deacons. His name was Vincent “Bo” Jackson. You know the rest of the story.

Auburn vs. Miami – 1984

Auburn entered the game ranked number one in both polls on that balmy night in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. Miami was the defending national champion. This was an “extra” game dubbed the Kickoff Classic. Jimmy Johnson was the new head coach of the Hurricanes and his quarterback, Bernie Kozar, helped lead his team to a 20-18 “upset” of the Tigers.

Auburn vs. Virginia – 1997

My son, Luke, and I made the trip to Charlottesville, VA for the christening of the 1997 campaign. It was a great road trip and a big win for the visitors. Dameyune Craig and Karsten Bailey were electric, in this Thursday night clash, as they hooked up four times for 151 yards and the Tigers downed the Cavaliers, 28-17.

Auburn vs. Appalachian State – 1999

Tommy Tuberville’s debut as head coach. Auburn had dropped Florida State from it’s schedule and replaced it with the Mountaineers, and this one turned out to be far too close for comfort. Ben Leard had replaced Gabe Gross at quarterback and it took his 33-yard pass to Ronney Daniels with 38 seconds to play to pull out the victory.

Auburn vs. Louisiana Tech – 2009

Another head coaching debut with Gene Chizik at the helm. Derek Dooley was coach of the Bulldog’s at the time and was seen as one of the young “up and comers” in the coaching ranks. Auburn had one of these young “up and comers” as their offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn. It didn’t take long for his team’s record setting offense to get cranked up. Chris Todd hit Terrell “T Zac” Zachary on a 93-yard pass which helped the Tigers secure the win, 37-14, and this was the longest TD pass in Auburn history at the time.

Auburn vs. Washington State – 2013

Malzahn was now the head coach at Auburn and this was his coming out party. It was a very hard fought game but the Tigers managed to hold off the Cougars, and head coach Mike Leach, 31-24. Much to the surprise of the college football world, Auburn went on to, incredibly, win the SEC Championship and play for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, CA.

That brings us to the 2015 opener for the Auburn Tigers…

Auburn vs. Louisville

Folks, I think this one is going to be a real dogfight. Bobby Petrino will bring his Cardinals to the Georgia Dome solely focused on one thing, beating Auburn. His team is not to be underestimated. They will play with great intensity for 60 minutes. Auburn had better be prepared to do the same or they will find themselves on the losing end of this matchup.

This ball game, as is the case in most any, will be won at the line of scrimmage. I like the way Auburn’s D line matches up with Louisville’s O line. Look for Carl Lawson, Dontavius Russell, Montravius Adams and DaVonte Lambert to win this battle of the trenches.

I really like the potential of Auburn’s linebacking corps, as well. Kris Frost, Justin Garrett, Cassanova McKinzy, Tre Williams and JaViere Mitchell should makeup the backbone of a formidable group.

Louisville hasn’t named a starting QB, yet, but I think whoever it is may be running for his life most of the afternoon.

The Cardinal’s defense was very tough last year. They lost seven starters but have three transfers coming in that are very good and will play a big role in solidifying their D.

But I LOVE Auburn’s O line! This group has a chance to be the best since the 2010 group and they were one of the best in school history. And there is quality depth here also.

The Tiger offense should be very, very explosive with Jeremy Johnson at QB and a plethora of skill position players at his disposal.

The wide receivers are talented and deep. They will feature all-star candidate, Duke Williams, along with Ricardo Louis, Melvin Ray, Marcus Davis, Tony Stevens and Stanton Truitt. One guy to pay attention to here is number 4, Jason Smith. The former QB could turn out to be a true weapon for the Tigers in a variety of roles.

Running backs? LOADED! Former Alabama Mr. Football and 5 star recruit, Roc Thomas, appears to be just a nose in front of Peyton Barber and Jovon Robinson. Look for all three to play Saturday. Another guy to watch, here, is true freshman, and also another Alabama Mr. Football, #21 Kerryon Johnson.

Now, you can expect a Petrino coached team to score some points. He is a great game day coach. He will find a way to get his playmakers the ball and they could put up some big numbers. But Auburn defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, should find a way to limit those numbers somewhat.

The numbers that matter most are to be found on the scoreboard. I expect the first half of this one to see a change of leads and very close at the break. I also think that Auburn is more talented and deeper than Louisville and that will tell the tale in the end.

The bottom line…

Auburn 38, Louisville 24

Let’s tee it up!

A Tribute To My Father

My father, daddy to us, was born into a poor family of dirt farmers, in Chilton County, AL, back in 1916. He was the baby of nine children. Being such, he was spoiled by his older sisters, especially Aunt Lorene, who was closest to him in age. She even went off with him to Jacksonville State, in 1937, to “take care” of him.

Daddy played football during his brief time at Jax State. He was a center and back then, much like in the shotgun formation today, the center had to deep snap in the single wing formation. He prided himself on doing it well.

He grew up knowing none of the luxuries his sons enjoy today. He had to get up before dawn, start a fire, milk the cows and, often, fetch corn from the large crib in the yard near the smokehouse and water pump.

And he plowed, and plowed and plowed, the small parcel of land they made a hard living on, in the Isabella community near Maplesville.

Yes, the family DID, indeed, live five miles from the school and the kids had to get there any way they could. They would walk, or if they were lucky, grab a ride on the back of a wagon which was headed that way.

After his one year in Jacksonville, he heard about a co-op program, whereby he could go to school at Auburn, where he would like to study agriculture. He would go to school for a semester and then work the following semester. Under this program he could graduate college and have it paid for, in full, by the time he graduated.

He spoke numerous times of, literally, plowing his way through Auburn. Much of this plowing was done along S. College St. where the KA house and other fraternities stood for many, many years. This was across the street from the buildings where he attended classes.
These classroom buildings were Samford Hall, Comer Hall and Langdon Hall.

Coincidentally, Auburn Stadium, which is now Jordan-Hare Stadium, was built during his sophomore year on the Plains, in 1939.

Daddy met mama while they were both students at Auburn. They were married in 1941, shortly after he graduated. Mama insisted they be married on a Sunday, March 15, so they could attend Auburn First Baptist Church on their wedding day.

He served, stateside, during WW2 in communications. My brother, Jerry LeCroy, was born on August 14, 1945. Daddy was stationed in Miami, at the time, and that day happened to be the day Japan surrendered.

My uncle, Wilfred Weatherly, sent him a telegram stating, “The Japs surrender and Braxton, Jr. is born!” Oddly enough, I was the one later named Braxton, Jr.

My parents moved to Camden, AL in 1948. Daddy was employed by the Farmer’s Home Administration at the time and remained with the FHA until his retirement in the early 70’s.

Daddy was a proud alumnus of of API. The name was not officially changed to Auburn until 1960. He told many tales of the football games he attended which only served to really whet his youngest son’s voracious appetite for all things Auburn. My love for Auburn was already strong before he took me to my first game in 1961. My life was, then, changed forever. Auburn defeated Clemson, 24-14, on homecoming that bright Saturday. And hardly a passing Saturday, in autumns to come, passed without me begging daddy to take me to Auburn.
God bless him, he did this quite a few times over the next several years.

On April 2, 1982, daddy passed away. He was far to young to go at 66 years of age. He died of an extremely rare blood infection called “microbacterium fortuitum” which he, evidently, contracted during open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in September of 1980. He also had an aneurism repaired and a quadruple bypass during that surgery.

He was never the same after that.

We now have a brick, in his honor, placed in the ring just inside the gate in the south end zone, where the Auburn enters, at the completion of the Tiger Walk.

There are countless times I’ve wanted to talk with him about football after a particularly big win involving our Tigers. I’ve even prayed to him and the “huge cloud of witnesses” that must surround Jordan-Hare during a beautiful fall afternoon. And with all due respect to my Alabama friends, I could picture him beaming brightly after the “Kick Six” in November of 2013.

Daddy, it’s a beautiful summer Saturday afternoon here in north Georgia. Two of your great-grandchildren, Max and Lorelei are here with us. I so wish they could share this time with you. You could regale them both with tales of the 1949 Alabama game, a huge 14-13 upset in the rain at Legion Field, or the last game you attended in 1980. That was the only game trip you shared with your grandson, Luke. And I remember your story, that night, of sitting near some twins who were family of one of the Dixie Darlings from Southern Miss. How you thought you were “seeing double”.

I will raise a glass to you tonight, Daddy. It’ll be Makers Mark and not your favorite, Old Forester. But I will smile, hoist the glass, and through my tears give you a resounding “WAR EAGLE”.