Alabama Football, Isaac Newton, and Soul Overload

GUEST POST by John Duncan, author of “Sacred Space.” John has a unique style that will allow you to look at the world from an illuminating perspective. You will be mesmerized by how it all ties together in the end. Get John’s book at Austin Brothers Publishing.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night. I dreamed I had just met Nick Saban, head football coach at the University of Alabama. I woke up thinking I was wearing a white Roll Tide football jersey inked with a red number 23. NBA basketball star Michael Jordan wore number twenty three. I played basketball in high school. I wore number 21. I am not an Alabama fan. I cheer for the Texas Longhorns and sometimes the North Carolina Tarheels and Baylor Bears. Mostly, I like Cambridge, a little town in the mountains of North Carolina named Spruce Pine, and all of Texas. Yes, all of Texas and a beach just about anywhere, especially one in Alabama.Nick Saban

Speaking of 21, did you know that the Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov spent three years studying modern languages at the esteemed Trinity College in Cambridge, England? Do you know novelist William Thackeray (1811-1863), author of Vanity Fair, once lived on the ground floor in a room by a staircase, the same staircase where Isaac Newton once lived?  Newton hated farming, struggled to understand the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, called himself a “natural philosopher,” served as an English mathematician and physicist. His uncle recommended him to Trinity College in Cambridge. His uncle served as a preacher, pastor, and parson. Newton studied orbits, constellations, prisms (not prisons), comets, and discovered the law or theory of gravity. He believed in God, wrote religious tracts, and found himself knighted by Queen Anne on April 16, 1705 with a new title, Sir Isaac Newton.

Trinity College in Cambridge houses a picture of Sir Christopher Wren. A library at Trinity is named after Wren. One of Newton’s books on mathematics, an eighth-century copy of The Epistles of St. Paul, and manuscripts of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh are housed in the library. Winnie the Pooh once said, “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

The clock tower depicted in the movie Chariots of Fire points its hands in the courtyard at Trinity. I saw the clock once as the sunlight passed through the clouds on a spring day. I just looked at my Swiss Army watch. I glanced at Facebook. My cell phone just chimed. I have an appointment in one hour. My mother called an hour ago. Tonight snow and sleet fall. The weatherman gave us an official warning. My phone app confirms. Eric Liddell, Scottish Olympic runner and missionary to China once said, “I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul.” Faith is hard. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you.” Liddell also said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. When I run I feel his pleasure.” In spring the Trinity College courtyard clock grabs your attention and the lawn stuns you in shades of green like a golf course. I do not know if Nick Saban plays golf. Time flies like oceans rise.

Nick Saban loves college football. He wins championships. So do the Texas Longhorns. So do the North Carolina Tarheels in basketball. MJ played for the Tarheels. Michael Jordan once talked about missing 9,000 basketball shots and how he made 26 game-winning shots. He is quoted as saying, “I failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” What? MJ played for the Chicago Bulls. He failed to make his ninth grade basketball team. I made mine at LD Bell. I lost a game for my team in the ninth grade by missing two free throws that would have won the game. I failed. Early success does not guarantee future success, nor does early failure mean that you will fail forever any more than early success might mean late failure. MJ is a better basketball player than me. Life is hard. Faith is hard. Jesus saves. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we succeed. Nick Saban once gave an inspirational speech, coach-talk, with these words, “One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient.” Both the failures and successes of life require resiliency.

Life requires resiliency.

I just checked my phone: Obama signs bill. National Grammar Day. Baseball begins. Chance of sleet and snow. ISIS takes city. Apologetics conference. Apology accepted. Apostasy revealed. Look at the grandbaby: beautiful! Watch this twelve year old sing the National Anthem. Youtube this: This baby will only stop crying when she hears Taylor Swift. Al Gore, Nashville jury duty. One easy step to clean ice off your windshield. Ten reasons…ad nauseum. Jesus Calling. Terry Austin at Austin Brothers Publishing. Book promotions. “Gray Mountain” by author John Grisham. Click this. NYPD. CBA. CBS. NFL. MLB. NFL. NBC. WFAA. KVUE. NBA. NRA. CNN. FOX. Chris Tomlin: Love ran red. Watch this! Hear this! See this! Stop this! Do this! Stop drinking sugary drinks! Herbalife. New Life. James Robison. Joshua Harris. Matt Krause. Life Today. Oakridge. Texas Legislature. Dave Ramsey. Financial Peace. Money Matters. Gold’s Gym. Anytime Fitness. Gold’s Gym Express. Expresso. Starbucks. Folger’s. Digital Bible. Calvin Miller. Anne Lamott. Buechner Center. The Most Popular Mascara of 2014. I love my dog. Pic: Purring cat in a basket. The Daytripper. Want to visit Asheville, N.C and see the 22,000 volumes of the Vanderbilt Library at the Biltmore House?

I wonder if they have a copy of Nabokov’s book in the Vanderbilt Library? Nabokov despised academic mediocrities. He more than likely despised the fact that many academics rejected him. He loved lepidoptery, that is, “butterflies.” I love butterflies. He wrote a book entitled The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, a novel that might suggest that our lives are like knights, moved and played on a board like a game of chess. “Is one’s life one’s own,” Oxford scholar John Sutherland (Lives of the Novelists, p. 413) surmises in analyzing Nabokov’s book. “An artist should destroy manuscripts after publication…,” Nabokov once insisted. I should destroy this post on my blog. I should destroy it before publication.

I do not wear Alabama football jerseys. I never have met Nick Saban. I saw Stephen Hawking once in Cambridge gliding in his wheelchair near the Apple Store. He like Newton studied physics, comets, and even black holes. I saw the movie about him: “The Theory of Everything.”

By the way, your brain is on overload. Scientists tell us technology rewires your brain. Having trouble sleeping? Cannot think? Tired? Overcrowded schedule? Nabokov said, “I don’t think that an artist should bother about his audience. His best audience is the person he sees shaving in the morning.” Nabokov was a genius. He might have been crazy. The Greeks called genius “a little spirit,” daimononion, or divine fury. When I shave in the morning, I sometimes feel and look tired. Do you? Overloaded? Worn out? Is your brain on overload? Is your life your own? Does your job own you, or Facebook own you, or your phone own you…or do you own your phone? I think deeply when I shave in the morning. I think about hurling comets, theological concepts, and the interpretation of dreams. What does red on the jersey mean in my dream? Jesus died for your sins. Joseph in the Bible interpreted dreams. Where is Joseph when I need him?

One of St. Paul’s Epistles etched in manuscript form in the Wren Library in Cambridge says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV). Has this blog confused you, sent you on a rabbit chase from a dream about a football jersey to Cambridge where I stared at a clock? I am confused.

So what I am trying to say is this: Time marches. The clock ticks. Slow down. Turn off your technology. Watch a sunrise. Watch the snow fall. Watch a sunset. Talk to your children. Take a vacation to the mountains or the beach, or by all means Cambridge. Create sacred space to rest the body, mind, and soul. Talk to Jesus. Pour out your heart. Unload the overload. Upload the Word. Offload the burdens. Fret not. Fear not. Listen to Jesus. Open your eyes and heart. Look to Christ and clear the overloaded mind and overtaxed soul. “Be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).

Did you see this in the news? Two men in Toronto dug a tunnel and underground chamber near the Rexall Center complex that will host tennis matches for the Pan Am games next summer. When caught, they were deemed no risk to public safety. The two twenty-something men said that they were just having fun. They had admitted that they had dug the tunnel so they would have a place to hang out. Social media went crazy, spun zombie theories, and survivalist conspiracies. Mostly, they wanted a place to hang out. Hang out with Jesus. Do not underestimate the value of doing nothing or just hanging out with Jesus. You do not have to dig a tunnel or build an underground chamber. Find a quiet time and a quiet place. Hang out with Jesus. Yes, talk to Him. Open your heart. Be still. Know God is God. Sacred space creates sacred peace in you.

Sacred space will calm the soul and renew your life in refreshing fashion. Your heart will feel like spring, flowers blooming, bees buzzing, cool mornings with dew on the grass, and alive with wonder. Did I tell you that I do not even own an Alabama football jersey with the number twenty-three? Did I tell you that Jesus went alone to a mountain to pray? Did I tell you to create sacred space? Did I tell you about St. Paul’s manuscripts? Or that St. Paul once said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7 NIV). Peace, Jesus peace, sacred space for simple peace. That’s all. That’s all. That’s all. Hook ‘em horns. Roll Tide. Sweet dreams.


John D. Duncan is a writer from Georgetown, Texas and author of Sacred Space

You can contact him to respond to this blog and for writing, speaking, or preaching at His website is:


1 Comment

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One response to “Alabama Football, Isaac Newton, and Soul Overload

  1. Nice piece. Kinda glad my mind doesn’t go that fast. I just plod along.

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