The Blind Side

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“No good deed goes unpunished”;a quote variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, Andrew Mellon, Dorothy Parker, and Clare Booth Luce but also a proverb applied to the lives of Michael Oher and Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy as they intersected in Memphis, Tennessee. Michael Lewis weaves a complex tale in The Blind Side of the melding of lives as the boy from one side of town begins life anew as a part of a family of rich Evangelicals from the opposite side. Michael Oher is a destitute African-American boy, one among thirteen children born to a crack addicted mother who grows up knowing little pertinent information about himself and whose life is on a trajectory to nowhere. Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy are rich (though tenuously at times), white, Christians living at the other end of town who are deeply involved with their children and the private Christian academy at which they are educated. Michael serendipitously becomes involved with the Touhy’s through the nexus of Briarcrest as he is given an opportunity to be educated there. What follows is the story of Michael becoming integrated into the Tuohy’s family, raising the angle of his trajectory considerably.

If this were the whole of the tale one might be tempted to push the book back onto the shelf and continue scanning but Lewis is not simply telling this family’s history. Paralleling the drama of Michael and the Touhys is the story of the rise of the left tackle in the NFL, the one who guards the quarterback’s blind side. It is a position charged with stopping the oncoming linebacker who is bent on the destruction of the team’s offensive core, the quarterback. Because of the speed and agility of the linebackers in professional football, the position requires a rare combination of size, speed, nimbleness of feet, reach and hand size and a very specific center of gravity. Rare qualities that genetics and development would visit upon Michael Oher.

These intertwining stories make for an engaging book. Lewis’s quality of writing satisfies, whether the reader is primarily interested in the human interest tale or the details of an increasingly critical component of the game of football. Though I have little interest in football, the personalities and details as painted by Lewis’s prose kept me attentive to seeing their development in Michael as the story unfolded. Viewing the domestic saga from a set distance also serves the reader well as the motivation of the Tuohy’s to take in Michael and begin the transformation of his life is questioned.

As Michael’s unique qualities are noticed by those outside of the Memphis football world the inevitable issue of money surfaces and it is these future riches that are used to taint the purity of the Tuohy’s charity. They are accused of salvaging Michael for their own enrichment, an accusation that drives Sean and Leigh Anne into action. The reader is cheered and then pummeled by the ups and downs of the ongoing accusation and acquittal battle in which the Tuohy’s and Michael must engage.

Lewis does not shy away from the difficulty of whipping our emotions about with this book. The reader is led to loathe those who would take advantage of Michael, feel compassion for Michael himself, cheer the Tuohy’s and their 99% pure charity, and perhaps most subtly, fear the oncoming linebacker and the gunshot crack of bone beneath a pile of huge, helmeted men. The Blind Side satisfies on all levels.

You might also enjoy The Parable of Michael and the Briarcrest Saints

Is Missional the New ‘Purpose Driven’?

The new issue of Leadership Journal is about to be published and Tim Conder has a probing column  that should be required reading for church leaders and members who have identified their communities as Missional. His assertion that numerous churches that once identified themselves as cell churches, purpose-driven, seeker style, etc. have now self-identified as Missional churches is valid but I think that it can be expanded a bit. These buzzword bodies tend to support their identification with programs or organizational structures; a Missional church is guided by a philosophy. That philosophy is defined by returning to mission as seen in the first century church, to be reproducing communities of disciples.

Many churches are driven by what goes on within their walls. There are programs and activities for the personal enrichment of those inside the battlements with only occasional forays into the world. The Missional church reverses this design and it equips and sends its members out into the world so as to restore the order of the world as God ordained it. In other words, one cannot simply slap the label Missional on top of their member-care programs and have it be so, it is something that has to be believed and lived from the core of one’s being.

All for (the) One

The church at Corinth was reminded that the worship celebration was not just a forum for the Elder or Pastor to hold court, but it was to be a time in which all in the community were to bring their gifts to share for the benefit of all members. The writer says “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Cor 14:26) Offering people community in which their gifts are recognized, valued, and utilized is a far more authentic incarnation of ‘The Church’ than inviting them to a performance in which there is an orchestra pit between the performers and the audience.

How does the Pastor of this community then view their role as the Equipper?