December 16, 2009
I have encountered them before. Several times. And I am always amazed at their audacity. They don't attempt to hide their malicious behavior. In fact, they make sure you notice.
So what did this perpetrator of pestilence do? They pulled out in front of me. Now, don't dismiss this so quickly, let me explain. I'm not talking about when somebody pulls out in front of you in an effort to turn left across the nose of your vehicle. They should not do that, but I think often they don't see you or misjudge your speed. And as long as there is no actual collision you get the privilege of seeing the fear in their eyes as they glimpse you barreling straight at the driver side door.
No, I am talking about when someone pulls out directly in front of you going the same direction you are. Now even that can sometimes be forgiven. There is a massive amount of traffic (think after a football game) and all traffic is moving slowly. They shouldn't go, but they know that real damage is out of the question because everybody is moving so slowly.
And I can even let slide when someone pulls directly in front of me because they see the massive line of automobiles on my heels. They shouldn't go, but it looks like ten more minutes before another suitable break in the traffic.
But, when there are no other cars around, it's a two-lane road, you pull directly in front of me, go one block and then turn (slowing me down not once but twice), all in an effort to save yourself 2.5 seconds...I want to hunt you down like the spawn of Satan you are.
Now, I know there are many horrific, evil things in the world. That it may seem this pales in comparison. But I am convinced that this is where all evil dictators begin. They pull out in front of people and immediately turn and they do it again and again. Because of the lack of consequences they think they are "special" and can do whatever they want. It is a well-known fact (pretty sure I read it on Wikipedia) that this is where both Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein began.
I know it would be wrong to respond to this threat to world peace by smashing the accelerator or following the person to their home where I would then, uh, confront them? I know that it is inappropriate to give the international hand signal for "you're a demon-child for pulling out in front of me". I know I should love, as Jesus would. But if ever there was an exception to the rule, it's this.
November 19, 2009
November 14, 2009
Below are some photos I showed during part of the sermon. My thanks to awkwardfamilyphotos.com for the pics.
October 14, 2009
Our final sermon on common biblical words. If you were not present, you will notice a time when I talk with members of the audience. I am speaking with Lloyd: who is a recovering drug addict, KB: who leads a medical mission to Zambia each summer, Rebecca: who was baptized the week of the sermon, and Duane: who is recovering from an extremely serious motorcycle accident. This may help give you some context.
October 13, 2009
Now I suppose there are things to quarrel with. I am sure in a smaller arena or outdoor setting the sound would have been better. There were a couple of new songs I could have done without and a couple of old ones I wish they would have played (they could simply play the Joshua Tree straight through and I would be happy). And the tickets could have been cheaper (but I am such a cheapskate they would have to be giving them away to suit me, and then I would gripe about the cost of gas to get there).
All that may be true. But it means nothing. In the middle of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" I turned to my wife and told her it was all worth it just for this moment. I jumped up and down to "Elevation", "Vertigo" and "Beautiful Day", was moved by "Stuck in a Moment" and "One", belted out the words to "Mysterious Ways" and rejoiced with "Where The Streets Have No Name". It was a real-life spiritual experience.
U2 did a superb job of mixing their world-concerns with their music. They kept their politics positive, choosing to talk about lives saved and how people could get involved rather than dragging individuals or political parties through the mud.
And there was religion. Whether it was Bono belting "Amazing Grace" or Archbishop Desmond Tutu introducing "One" the undercurrent of God and humanity ran through the show. I mean, has any band written a better or more honest spiritual song than "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"?
Someone might say that it was a spiritual experience, but it was U2 who was worshipped. For some I suppose that is exactly what it was. But I didn't worship Bono, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton and The Edge. No I worshipped the one who put the songs in their hearts.
Included below is a video from the concert (just to get a taste). For those of you who don't really know U2 this will be a poor introduction. Instead, ask me for a CD and I will burn you one with my favorite U2 songs and you can see for yourself. Really. Ask.
October 4, 2009
What is your relationship with time? Now that is a strange question. You may think that I want to delve into the philosophical meaning of time or explore the physics of the space-time continuum. Perhaps dabble in the meta-physical nature of time and wax poetic on whether God is outside of time or chooses to constrain himself by living in the linear. But no. I just want to know what your relationship with time is.
Is time your friend? Are you always running out of time? Do you have too much time on your hands (Styx)? Is time flying too fast?
I have no doubt that our relationship with time reveals so much about how we view ourselves and the world around us. At the end of an average day some of us are left with a feeling that we didn't accomplish enough, while others feel overwhelmed that the things that matter are being pushed aside for all the things that have to be done. I know personally that I went through a long period of feeling torn about time. When I was at work I felt guilty for not giving my family the time they deserve, and then when I was at home I often watched the clock and thought of all the things I needed to be doing for my job.
Being home this week and "accomplishing" nothing has once again shown me my ever-changing relationship with time. I have done very little this week. I mostly stayed home. I played with the kids. I held the baby. I ate. I watched a movie. But I did almost nothing for my job. I did very little to serve anyone else. I didn't do something to bring in some money. I thought about mowing the yard, but didn't. I have felt twinges of guilt. But only twinges. They completely disappear when Savannah looks up at me.
I believe our relationship with time isn't about whether we think we should accomplish more or change priorities. Our relationship with time comes down to how we view ourselves. So much of how we chase time is about others, or filling up something missing in us. But a Godly view of ourselves says that I am worth a little time. I recognize my humanity is a gift from God. The being tired and needing some time off is the way God made me. That accomplishment does not effect love one bit. That time can be useful (like everyone knowing when to gather for dinner), or time can rule me.
I have thoroughly wasted time this week. Looking back on the past seven days, it was a glorious and holy time.
September 29, 2009
September 27, 2009
I will spare you the next several hours that mostly involved me freezing and miscounting the number of breaths taken during a contraction. At 6:44 a little girl entered our world. Kinda blue from the cord around her neck, she was immediately squawking and looking around suspiciously. And I love her dearly.
Don't know what else to say. I don't know if adults experience love at first sight, but I have felt it five times. So, without further ado, here is a glimpse of Savannah Faith. (If you click on the picture, it might enlarge.)
September 22, 2009
September 17, 2009
I like the fair, I think. Apparently a lot of people like the fair. It was packed on Monday night when we made our foray onto the midway. And I enjoy seeing lots of different kinds of people all in one place. I like running into people I know, especially those I rarely see. But I don't like crowds or waiting in line.
My kids enjoyed riding a few rides. I'm not so big on it. It may have to do with the knowledge I have of what a fair ride is. I know that last week that ride was is Colorado or New Mexico, was hastily disassembled, driven to Abilene, and hastily set up. Would you ride in an automobile that yesterday was in pieces and is a couple of bolt turns away from being in pieces again? This can't be safe can it? Then there is the rust factor. My brother studied rust in graduate school (what fun that must have been) but from him I have gleaned this knowledge: rust is bad. So when I look at a ride that is covered in it, my trust alarm goes off. And then of course there is the ralph factor. When I was young I went to the fair with my neighbors, the West's. Their son Cody was two years older than me. He convinced me (against my better judgement, which is saying something for a seven-year old) to rider The Spider. Like most fair rides, the basic premise is to go round and round. So we did. At first it was no big deal. Then I was laughing uproariously as the speed increased. Then I knew I was going to be sick. I tried to get it over the side, but Cody took a direct hit. Think it also slung some on the people below us. Cody won me a goldfish to make up for it. Died in a week. This year I only rode rides that required an adult to ride with a child.
There is a lot to see at the fair. Exhibits. Tractors. Homemade pies with ribbons on them. I enjoy the exhibits. It's fun to see what some people are willing to submit, believing they have created a work of art. My kids aren't real big on the exhibits, they prefer the noise and lights of the midway. And besides I am bitter. For a couple of years I tried to become a judge. If anybody can tell a good pie from a great one, it's me. But I was rebuffed. I think I was done in by the "Old Girls Club." That's right, the fair made me a victim of sexual and age discrimination.
But of course there is the food. I have been in love with fair food since my grandparents took me to the fair and bought me some sausage with a piece of white bread folded around it. Oh my! I like to walk past every food vendor looking for the best deal on an eclectic mix of fried foods and roasted meats. And I love topping off an evening at the fair with the deep-fried goodness that is a funnel cake. But alas, this year the funnel cake line was too long. The kids were tired. And we went home.
So, what is the pull of the fair? Greasy food? But you can get that food lots of places. If a barbecue joint started serving funnel cakes, that would be fair food without the admission price. Great rides? On most fair nights it would be cheaper to buy a ticket to Six Flags where you would get rides cemented in the ground that are much more fun and exciting. Exhibits? Maybe years ago when this was the one chance to compete with your neighbors and see the amazing quilt made by Gertrude Mapplethorpe. But now I would much rather play spades on-line than compete against others at growing a big zucchini.
So why go to the fair? Only one reason. It's fun. It's an excuse to be a kid. To stare at the size of the horns on a longhorn. To ride a mechanical bull (yes I have, and boy it hurt). To eat a deep-fried snickers with ice cream without feeling guilty. To wonder how people can make a living as a juggler or a one-man band. To run through the fun house pretending you are in the finale of Grease. It's just fun. Totally lame and completely over-done. But fun. Seems to me I know a lot of people who no longer know how to have fun. They should go to the fair.
September 6, 2009
After the series on Faith, Hope and Love, I decided to look at other Biblical words that we often use, but sometimes their meaning and power slips away.
On a technical note, I am struggling to get the player to appear in the blog. However, if the player is not here you may click on the link to either listen or download the sermon.
August 24, 2009
August 22, 2009
Now the letter I was mailing was not just any piece of mail, it was my tax return. I filed for an extension because this year our taxes were even more confusing than normal. I finally had completed it. So understand, I was at the Post Office to send mail to our government about my taxes.
When I got inside there was a long line. I thought this unusual for a Friday at 1:20. Then I noticed there was only one person helping customers. And the customer he was currently helping had a lot of different types of mail to send. So I waited. After several minutes this customer was done and another stepped forward with the largest box I have ever seen someone attempt to mail. The line crept forward.
Now I noticed that the worker behind the counter wasn't alone. There were two other people behind him. Supervisors. But all they did was stand and watch. (Let me say now that this is not a diatribe against the postal service or its' employees. I know many good people who work for the postal service.) I kept waiting for one or both of them to open a window to speed things up. They never did.
I was in line for fifteen minutes and moved forward only one spot. I found this annoying, but not as much as the person in front of me. An elderly woman turned around, looked me right in the face, and said very loudly, "Well, I guess this is what our health care is going to be like pretty soon." She spoke with a little anger, but mostly resignation. Everyone looked at us. I simply nodded and smiled at her. Then we all went back to waiting.
A few observations:
1. If you know me well, then you know my Libertarian leanings. As my wife said when I relayed this story to her, "That lady had no idea who she was talking to." Yes, she was preaching to the choir.
2. Imagine that instead of the post office, I was at McDonald's. Have you ever waited 35 minutes at Mickey D's? I don't know why the two supervisors made no move to help (perhaps there are regulations that keep them from doing it), but I do know that at McDonald's the manager would have stepped up and opened another register and run it themselves. Why do I know this, because I have seen it. And because McDonald's is a successful business. The reason: they thrive on serving the customer. Any business that routinely treated its' customers like I was treated at the post office would quickly go out of business. But government is not a business. If they do something poorly or without cost-effectiveness they do not go out of business.
3. I don't really like the government handling the mail. I think a business could do it more efficiently and probably cheaper. I certainly don't want the government taking over the computer industry. Can you imagine if you were forced to get your computer from the government instead of Dell or HP? How much would one cost? And how long would you have to wait to get it? Yet, the government continues to worm it's way into taking over. Banks. Automobiles. Health Care.
4. Lately we have seen the yelling and complaining at the town hall meetings. The government seems baffled by this. While I prefer a less heated discussion, I understand the anger. People feel like the government is not listening. That its' taking over. Yes, most people say they want changes in the health care system. That does not mean they want the changes the government is pushing. I want changes. But what I want is the government to get out. Not get farther in. But that option is apparently not on the table.
5. Let's remember the irony in all this. I was at the Post Office to pay the government to mail a letter to the government about my paying the government. Couldn't this all be done a little more simply.
August 9, 2009
August 6, 2009
Was at McDonald's earlier, taking advantage of the McPlayplace since it is 427 degrees here in Abilene. It was pretty much a madhouse. Every mom in Abilene apparently was there with their kids. It was loud. It was kinda messy. It was McDonald's playground in the summer.
All this was to be expected. But I watched a mini-drama while at McDonald's that I found fascinating. While it was very loud, there were a couple of kids screaming at fighter jet takeoff levels. Now, I am a selective hearer, so I blocked them out. Not everyone there apparently possesses this spiritual gift. There were many long looks from moms to see if it was their child, and even longer looks when they realized it wasn't. A couple even said rather loudly something like, "Hey Billy, don't scream like that other kid." An obvious attempt to bring parental action.
Finally, a mom stood up and snapped at a screaming kid who ran by, "Hey stop screaming like that _____ . (name withheld to protect the innocent) The child never even looked over, just kept running. And screaming. Next time by, the mom literally snapped her fingers and told him to stop screaming. There was a brief moment of recognition, then the kid continued on his way, running and screaming.
At the third attempt, I began doing nothing but watching the kid. The mom attempted to make him stop 5 more times. Only once in the five did he even acknowledge her with a look. Never did he actually change behavior. The screaming finally stopped when his grandmother brought ice cream to the table and he sat down to eat.
Now, I am not dogging on parenting styles or saying I am a perfect parent. And I don't mind kids running and screaming at a playground. Had she never even made an attempt to correct his behavior, it wouldn't have bothered me. But basically, this little boy directly disobeyed his mother eight times, and got ice cream.
Now, I know sometimes we all parent in ways that aren't the best. There are times when I am tired or stressed and don't handle things like I should. But I was right behind this woman and her mother. They talked and laughed. The mother mad small talk with another mother she knew. The only stress was everyone else wanting to throttle her kid.
All I can say is it is doing your child a huge disservice to ask for obedience and do nothing when you are blown off. It teaches your child that you are nothing, and that you think of yourself as nothing. It teaches your child that they run the world. It teaches your child that rules and obedience are merely optional. And it teaches your child that they and their behavior are not worth any serious time or effort. Good luck when this one turns 14.
By the way, after the ice cream it was time to leave. Kid didn't want to go. Guess what he did?
July 19, 2009
There was a time when I wasn't so sure. I must admit to having uttered little prayers right before an important pitch or free throw involving my favorite teams. While I disagreed with the players who immediately gave God the credit for their victory (always wondering why he didn't get the blame for a tough loss), I could never say absolutely that God didn't have a hand in it. Now I think I can.
Today, a fifty-nine year old man led the British Open going to the last hole. All Tom Watson needed was a par and he would become the oldest person to ever win a major golf championship. By over ten years!
It was obvious that every spectator at the golf course was pulling for Watson, willing him toward victory. I sat watching with rapt attention a sport I couldn't care less about normally. This was a big deal, history in the making. An eight foot putt for par was all that was left. And...he...missed!
He slumped into a playoff and was quickly finished. Stewart Cink, not Watson, was the champion.
So if God cared a lick about sports, wouldn't Watson's putt have scooted in? There has rarely been a time in sports when a good thing that was this close has slipped away like this. Why didn't God just make it happen?
I think these are the choices we are left with:
1. God hates Tom Watson. God took Watson close to the heights of ecstasy just so he could crush him on the rocks of disappointment. Boy, what must Watson have done to deserve that? And is God really that petty and capricious?
2. God really likes Stewart Cink. He seems like a nice guy. Plus, he's going bald. Otherwise I know nothing about the man. But even if this was all about Cink, couldn't God have helped him out without crushing Watson?
3. God doesn't care about Golf. This is a strong possibility. Perhaps God is only interested in team sports. Prefers Olympic events. Or thinks of Golf as too hoity-toity. Or maybe he's only interested if Tiger is playing.
4. Or most likely, God doesn't care about sports. Doesn't give a rip if your team wins. Isn't helping any professional player more than others. Allows us to make decisions and decide the outcome for much of life, including sporting events. In fact is probably puzzled by how fun and games could become such excruciating events for us.
So, Once and for all can we stop connecting God with sports. Don't say that God is the reason you won (especially when it was definitely pass interference but didn't get called). Don't thank Jesus for your home run (especially when you take steroids). And most of all, can't we all stop believing God cares an iota about sports.
(Disclaimer: This all gets rescinded if the Rangers ever make the world series. It would be prayer vigil time.)
July 9, 2009
Since I play with a lot of really nice guys, I think this is a way of being kind. Rather than saying, "wow, what a sorry pass" the person is given credit for the idea which was good. It's a similar vein to "It's the thought that counts." Since I tend to be somewhat sarcastic, I don't ever say "good idea". I'm afraid that it will come out as a snide remark about the person's inability to execute a simple task.
So there is the concept of "good idea". Nice thought, just poor execution. Sadly this is rarely used in other arenas. There are many great ideas out there, but sometimes the execution leaves a little to be desired. So here are a few things to which I wish to say "good idea."
Diet Soft Drinks
Reading for Dummies
Baked Potato Chips
Peanut Butter and Jelly in one jar
Assemble at home furniture
Every Nerf Gun ever made
Spray On Sunscreen
User Names and Passwords
July 1, 2009
June 23, 2009
June 20, 2009
Every time Jackson emerges from his room he seems to be wearing a different outfit. And not one most people would put together. Jackson is a fan of wearing socks that are so long they come up to his thighs. Like something out of an Errol Flynn epic. He matches hats to shoes and wears belts with shorts. Lately, he is growing out his hair. He is five! I never made a suggestion about my hair until eighth grade, when I asked the lady giving me a cut if she could make it look like Don Johnson. (This was the height of Miami Vice. Eventually I owned an outfit that consisted of boat shoes with no socks, teal pants tight-rolled at the bottom, a pink shirt, teal tie slung low, and a faux white linen jacket. My friend Jamal who lived down the street wore a gray suit and pulled off Tubbs to my Crockett. It is the only time besides my wedding and my mothers forced outfits for pictures that I actually coordinated what I wore with another person. For a few months I was stylish, but it was all stolen from a show, so I didn't have style.)
Jackson is especially fond of making up outfits for the occasion. If I have a softball game, he dresses like a baseball player, cleats and all. I once went to church with a grown man who did this. Every week he had a completely different look. He wore a karate outfit one week. On memorial day he wore camouflage from head to toe. He is perhaps the only person over fifteen and not in the armed forces that I have seen successfully pull off wearing a beret. He had style.
My question is "Where did this come from?" It must be genetic, because we certainly haven't taught Jackson this. I am the king of not caring how I look. Sure sometimes I look nice, but it is all an act. Jeans and a tee shirt. That's all I need or want. And while his mother is beautiful, she doesn't really have a style. No, this is something that is purely his. I don't get it or understand it. I worry a little that this will lead to him eventually putting bolts in his earlobes or tattooing the quadratic formula on his forehead. But mostly I like it. People with style make the world better by refusing to be the same. I may not understand wearing a trench coat in June, but the fact that the kid walking down my street earlier today thought it was a good look is enough for me.
So I say, make room for those with style. Don't squash them or try to make them conform. Besides, if we attempt to reel them in, where will all the actors and college professors come from.
(Picture of me in early high school. Proof that I don't have style)
June 17, 2009
I am not a big beach person, but the beaches I have been to are hot. You spend your time doing things like getting in the ocean. Because it's hot. Never seemed like much of a time to read a book to me. All that grit. Plus, it's hot.
Anyway, I recently read these three books. If you are looking for some summer reading (beach or no), here are my thoughts.
Meltdown-Thomas E. Woods Jr. This was a simple and straight-forward look at the causes of the boom-bust cycle in our national economy. If you do not give much thought as to how economies work, you will be blown away by this book. Woods uses the Austrian economic theory (of which I am a big believer) to illuminate our current "recession." The point of the book is that the problem isn't the bust, it is the ways the government interferes with the economy to artificially maintain the boom. Of course since the boom is artificial, there must be an inevitable bust. If you are worried you won't understand the book let me assure you; the book is written in a very accessible manner. I recommend this book highly. (Make sure you get the book by Woods as there are several current books with this title.)
The Blue Parakeet-Scot McKnight. This book attempts to tackle the question of how do we read the Bible. It asks a lot of really good questions, questions we should be asking. Like why do I selectively apply rules in the Bible? Why are some things for then, and some things for all time? His goal is to get us to see that there is method to our madness (and sometimes madness to our method) of looking for answers in the Bible. Yes we all have a method. Anyone who says "I just read the Bible and do what it says" is either naive or lying. In spite of this good premise I found the book lacking. It never went as deep as I wanted. Some of that may be that a lot of this I studied in grad school. But even so, I wished for more. This is a good book, and if you are wanting to gain some new found awareness about how we study the Bible and what we bring to the table when we do, you should read this book. If you are looking for more than that, keep looking.
Twilight-Stephenie Meyer. Yes, I read Twilight. But I have not been assimilated. I do, however, get the appeal. This book (or set of books) should sell like hotcakes with teenagers, especially teenage girls. Not because it is a romance (although it is) but because of how the romance is portrayed. (Warning spoiler alert). The main character, Bella, perceives herself to be an average, if clumsy, teenager. She spends her time reading and taking care of her mother who is somewhat immature. However, her world changes when the most handsome boy in the history of the world falls for her. Doesn't matter that he is a vampire who is at first attracted to her because of her floral smell which makes him want to consume her. So now this remarkable love affair whisks her into the heights of teenage angst and romance. I won't give away any more, but let me just say I tired of the gushing (oh I will never get used to looking at him, my heart skipped a beat), and the uneven writing. However, the moral dilemmas presented are pretty good, and the story is interesting enough to pull you along. If you are looking for great writing, this is not it. But if you need to get your teenager to actually read something this summer, give it a whirl.
June 11, 2009
June 9, 2009
This all seems to miss the point. And we all feel it. So what can we do? I’m not sure. But here are my ideas for what makes a “good worship service.”
1. Since we are worshipping God, maybe He should decide what makes a good worship service. After all, shouldn't a birthday bash be judged by the birthday boy?
2. Take a look around during the service. What does the crowd look like? I don’t mean numbers, but you can make some judgements about a worship service based on the crowd. Do they all look alike? Are they all the same color? Wearing the same style of clothes? If they are, this may not be that great of a worship service. Is there a homeless man sitting next to the president of the local bank? Is there an unwed teenage mom singing alongside an elder’s wife? Are there people of different races, colors and classes and capabilities worshipping together? If the answer to these questions is yes, it’s probably a great worship service.
3. Check out the guy on the corner. You know the one you pass every week as your head from church to your favorite restaurant. Are people from your worship service stopping to talk to him? Offering assistance? Inviting him to lunch? Do I even have to say what kind of answers a “good worship service” should produce?
June 6, 2009
June 3, 2009
June 2, 2009
May 28, 2009
Moral hazard is a term particularly used by economists, although it can be applied to all sorts of situations that are not economic. It has become one of the favorite ideas floating around in my head. I am now seeing it everywhere I look. Let me explain it a little so you can join my insanity.
Imagine I am teaching my children to play Monopoly. As their turns proceed, Madelyn makes some bad choices. She mortgages Boardwalk and Park Place to buy Baltic and St. James Place. Because of the loss of rental income she decides to sell a couple of railroads to get some quick cash rather than sticking with the steady flow of money they produce. Meanwhile, the other kids are methodically building houses on property to increase value. Then Madelyn lands on Pacific Avenue. It’s got three houses. She can’t possibly afford to pay, game over. But wait, as the banker I step in and give her a couple thousand dollars. Think about how this upsets the game (not to mention the other players). I have rewarded risky and stupid behavior. Now Madelyn will expect this every time. So she will continue with the type of thinking that got her in trouble in the first place. Even worse, what if I don’t offer this type of financial help to every player? What if I only give it to those who spend lavishly and without care? Or only to those who own extremely valuable property (Boardwalk and Park Place) but not to those who stayed within their means and bought St. Charles. I have so disrupted the rules of the game that it becomes impossible for anyone to know what they should do.
This happens in real life all the time and it is extremely destructive. It teaches a lack of personal responsibility and rewards idiotic behavior. For instance, you can go try and climb some impossible canyon out in the Mojave Desert. When you get stuck all sorts of rescue personnel are dispatched to save you. This is good, because you live. But it costs the tax payers thousands of dollars. Why should everyone else have to pay for your stupidity? And besides, by not placing the financial responsibility at your feet, we only encourage you to do it again next weekend. The rescued person should have to pay not only for the benefit of society, but for their own long-term growth as well.
This occurs with athletes who have been passed from grade to grade regardless of their academic standing. They come to believe that they are above the normal consequences and therefore responsibilities of life. It happens with children who are allowed to behave in whatever way they see fit, and whose parents seem held hostage by this behavior. Eventually, when a teacher or employer brings severe consequences for such behavior the child is enraged. They thought the rules didn’t apply to them.
And of course it happens financially. If I know you are going to bail me out, then why worry about how well I perform? When people are allowed to commit stupid or risky acts, and then someone else shields them from the consequences, it often creates an environment that only perpetuates that behavior.
The rub for Christians is that we have been shielded from the ultimate consequence of our actions. This is wonderful, yet also creates a moral quandary. Paul asks the Romans “should we keep on sinning so grace will abound?” That’s the moral hazard. Since Christ’s love and forgiveness and grace are offered in place of our sin, then by sinning I get more of God’s grace. Of course Paul’s answer is “certainly not.” We should not continue the behavior even though our experience of God’s grace is a good thing.
So we must wisely meet the dilemmas of our day. We extend God’s grace. But we also recognize that to allow people to continue in risky or stupid or sinful behavior is detrimental to them and everyone around them. It is not grace to pass a kid on to the next grade even though they can’t read. Nor is it Christian to allow people to starve because of a stupid mistake. Wisdom is not easy.
May 26, 2009
10. Farolito- Good Mexican food in with an old style feel. The first Mexican food restaurant I remember eating at was the old Monterrey House in Tyler, TX in the late seventies. Farolito stole their decor.
9. LaPopular- Three words: Dollar Burrito Day.
8. Harold's- There is probably better barbecue in Abilene. But nothing can top their chopped beef sandwich. Everything else may be terrible, but I don't get anything else.
7. Sonic- How could a greasy fast-food place make the list? Simple. Lemon-Berry slush, the official drink of Damon Parker
6. Beehive- When I need chicken-fried steak.
5. Clyde Pizza House- Food is good. Entertainment is amazing. Can go from wonderful to topping the unintentional comedy charts and back in just a few minutes.
4. Szechuan- Don't get me wrong, I love Chinese buffets. But the best cuisine is to be had at this order off the menu joint.
3. Los Arcos- Becoming my favorite Tex-Mex in Abilene. I just wish they were open on Monday evenings.
2. The Homeplace- Amazing way to spend an evening with friends and family. The food is tremendous, the atmosphere wonderful, and on a nice evening there is nothing better than to sit outside after dinner and talk while the kids run around. If the dessert was better, this would probably be number one.
1. Perini Ranch Steakhouse- Only been there three or four times. It's a little bit of a drive, and it's not cheap. But the ranch roasted rib-eye...good gravy we will be eating that in heaven.
May 21, 2009
This music became our theme music for the week. It felt like "in the woods adventure music" (which is probably what the music was intended to feel like). We latched onto the soundtrack even though most of us had not seen the movie, and I'm pretty sure no one had read the book. So the day after we returned from Colorado, we gathered to watch the movie, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
(you can listen to a song from the soundtrack while you read the rest, go ahead, it's really good)
Hadn't really thought about it since, until a couple of weeks ago when I started reading Last of the Mohicans. The book is a great adventure novel, with wonderful dialogue, and an extremely interesting philosophical perspective. If you love history, or need to learn a little, the book provides a glimpse at a formative time in U.S. development. There is also a priceless exchange about the desirability of christian virtue. The book is almost worth reading simply for that moment.
The most interesting part of reading the book was that I had already seen the movie. This is a rarity for me as I make a point to read a book before catching the film. However, I saw this movie some fifteen years before reading the novel. Yet it still colored my reading of the book.
I expected the book to be somewhat different, but was blown away by how far afield the movie actually went. As I read the book I kept waiting for a particular character to die a heroic death (he never did) and was utterly surprised by the death of another character who survived the movie. The love interests were even different. Reading the book after seeing the movie had no effect. I went in truly knowing nothing. Or even worse, being completely misled.
Now, a movie that I thought I really liked, I am repulsed by. They shouldn't even be allowed to call the movie "Last of the Mohicans." It should be something like "A Movie Using the Character Names from the Novel Last of the Mohicans."
The point being I liked the movie, until I read the real deal. How often does this happen in life? Growing up my family never really ate steak. A couple of times I had some "steak-like" thing at home. Then I went to Perini Ranch. Holy Cow! (No I mean it, I believe the cows they are serving at Perini Ranch are set apart and unique, and the first time I went there was definitely a religious experience.) We think we've had good chocolate cake, and then discover The Great Wall of Chocolate. Or closer to the heart, I thought I was busy with a lot of responsibility in college. Then I had children. I had no idea! Or we date somebody and think they are pretty great. Then we meet the one, and we immediately wonder what we were thinking.
Now, all this can be skewed to mean the grass is always greener, or don't settle, or there is no contentment. But really that's not the truth. The truth is that we often do settle. We become unwilling to try something new, we stick with the same old routine, and we never experience amazing things right around the corner. Now, we all have our comfort zones. But renting the same movie again and again means that we miss the possibility of something great. Sure, we avoid renting a stinker, but is that really worth it?
We have no idea what we can accomplish, if we would just try something new. Why not try the sushi, try a different kind of book than we typically read, go for it at karaoke, attempt the job our self instead of calling in a repair person, rent a movie we never heard of? Or even better, send in the resume for the job we think we can't possibly get, go back to school, give up our job to be a missionary, or open our hearts to an adopted child. If we would give up the fear of failure, how high could we sore?
I remember when I was young my Dad decided to take our family to a movie. This was unprecedented. I can count the number of movies I've been to with my father on one hand. This is one of two I believe he suggested. So we were really excited. But he was taking us to some movie none of us had ever heard of. I know that I griped about this, maybe others did too. But I was overruled. So we went and watched the movie. Turned out, it wasn't bad. Good plot, good acting, good directing. I enjoyed it so much I have probably seen it twenty times since. It was a little movie called "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
May 18, 2009
May 8, 2009
Spent the week on the Carnival Ecstasy. Would get up (whenever we wanted) and head to a glorious breakfast where I ordered pancakes with sausage and a side of Lucky Charms. Spent the morning by the pool, cavorting with the kids on a huge water slide, and hopping in the hot tub. Then there was the lunch buffet.
In the afternoon we would take a dance lesson, play bingo or trivia (won at trivia, lost at bingo), and even gamble. That's right, I took twenty bucks to gamble. I played blackjack, which I never have before. Walked away after an hour and a half with seventy-one dollars.
(This brings me to an aside: there are certain people you don't want to go on a cruise with. The first is the party pooper-someone who complains about it being too hot by the pool, gripes constantly about the service, spends much of their time in their room watching TV. The second is the moralizer-they constantly point out the drinking, gambling, and old men in Speedos, as if they didn't know this was a cruise, and don't tell them about the twenty dollars you brought for blackjack. Finally, there is the financial analyst-every activity, meal and moment is compared and contrasted with the amount of money spent to determine its' value and a constant judgement is rendered about whether you are getting your money's worth. I'm not saying these aren't good people, or can't be great friends. These are simply the kind of people that could turn a wonderful cruise into a complete drag. So pick your cruise buddies wisely. This is the kind of stuff you think about when ordering the complimentary room service at midnight and eating your fourth dessert of the day.)
In the evenings our kids went to these really cool activities with other kids while we enjoyed an elegant dinner. Our good friends Chuck and Lauren Sparks joined us for many of these meals. The waiter we had was wonderful because he always brought me extra appetizers and a second dessert. Then we would enjoy a show, or karaoke, or live music. By the way, all of my description leaves out most of what we did as I am only trying to paint a picture.
Sounds wonderful right? The only problem was we couldn't get off the boat. Our cruise was to take us to Progresso and Cozumel. But we happened to have cruised during international swine flu week. The height of government fears about this disease occurred right as we were headed into ports in Mexico. So, we were forced to stay on board.
Now, I didn't like this for two reasons. One, my natural distrust of media and government "crisis" talk was going off like a siren. I knew this couldn't be as bad as they were predicting, and sure enough the week we return, swine flu goes from a "crisis" to barley being mentioned. The second and bigger reason was I wanted to go to Progress and Cozumel. I wanted to walk the beach and eat authentic Mexican food. I wanted my kids to have their first visit to a foreign country. I wanted to barter for little trinkets and vanilla. But it was not to be. The cruise line refunded our port fees and any shore excursion you may have purchased. And we sailed out to find sun and good weather in the gulf of Mexico.
On board there appeared to be exactly two reactions to the news that we would not be landing in Mexico. One group of people were upset. The wanted to get off. They felt disappointed. Then they moved on and made the best of it. They enjoyed the great weather and all the amazing food. Visited the midnight buffet, learned to line dance, and generally had a really good time.
The other group was also upset. However, they never got over it. They yelled at the cruise director, almost as if Carnival had intentionally infected Mexico with swine flu simply to ruin their vacation. They constantly mentioned that we should be getting off the boat. And when we ported back in Galveston a few hours early, they got off rather than enjoy the remaining meals and entertainment (which they had already paid for).
A basic principle of life was writ large on that boat, a lesson for which I need constant reminding. We are not in control of many of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we are always in control of how we respond. Swine flu did not ruin any one's vacation. We were not sick, we were safe, and the closest we came to swine was some smothered pork chops and bacon. But many people's vacations were ruined, but only by themselves.
Imagine if I told you that I had planned for you the week described above. Most people I know would say "sign me up". But how many things have to not go perfect to ruin it for us. The only disappointment comes when what we want, and especially what we think we deserve, doesn't come to pass. Then we become selfish, rude and pretty sorry to be around.
But what did I do to deserve any of this. Do I deserve this wonderful family? Did I invent and design and build a cruise ship for myself? What did I do to even merit an extra dessert? Nothing. So I should be thankful, grateful, pleased as punch with what I got. Could the cruise have been better? You bet. But it could have been worse. Rather than being on a cruise enjoying myself, I could have been in a hospital in Mexico watching someone I love die from a mysterious illness.
So this week I sail on in life, a little more tan, a little bit heavier, and a lot more grateful.
May 6, 2009
April 22, 2009
April 20, 2009
Anyway, without giving away the movie, its' theme is guilt and attempts at redemption. After watching the film and then discussing it with my wife, I was reminded of something I wrote several years ago, while I was still in grad school. So here it is.
I attend a Christian university that recently raised over one-hundred million dollars to ensure its future. I preach at a church where many people aren't sure if they will have enough money this month to pay the rent on their rundown apartment. And I feel guilty.
I go to class in a multi-million dollar teaching facility, carrying hundreds of dollars worth of theological textbooks. I teach the high school class at my church, and kids beg me to take them by McDonald's afterwards because there is no dinner waiting at their house. And I feel guilty.
I watch churches spend millions of dollars on buildings that are used less than a fourth of the week. I see kids from my church who live in two bedroom homes that house 8 people. And I feel guilty.
To be honest, this guilt is part of the reason I do what I do. (You can only say no the "Homeless, Please Help, God Bless!" signs so many times.) Eventually, you either stop looking, or you feel guilty enough to hand a couple of bucks out the window. That's me, the guilty one with the hand out his car window, holding up traffic.
Guilt is a highly underrated motivator. Guilt makes people sponsor children in Africa. Guilt gets Dad home from his office in time for dinner. Guilt increases the offering at church. Guilt can get things done.
But in spite of its effectiveness, I praise God it wasn't guilt that prompted Jesus to leave the Father's side, come to earth, and take on flesh. Had it been guilt, not long after his arrival he would have left, with us to fend for ourselves. Guilt can only take you so far. Jesus might have left his home in heaven because he felt guilty that he had it so good while we had it so rough. But it wouldn't have taken long for him to see that we are to blame for so much of the pain and hurt around us. Seeing us as we truly are would have dried up the guilt. A couple of good deeds would have soothed his conscience. Guilt may heal a few sick people and feed a few poor people, but guilt won't take you to the cross.
Compassion lies at the intersection of love and people. Compassion is not about your lack and my wealth. Wealth and lack are only the surface. Compassion is not interested solely in the surface. It is about deeper things. Compassion sees people, not positions. To compassion that's not a homeless man, it is a person. A human being. Created in the very image of God. Loved by the Father. The Son gave his life for just such a person.
Guilt is about me. Compassion is about you. Guilt may give two dollars. Compassion gets out of the car for a conversation. Guilt can't see past the moment at hand. Compassion sees the big picture of a person's life and soul. Guilt desires relief. Compassion desires goodness. Guilt cares about making me feel better. Compassion cares about the ultimate good of the other.
Recently, a woman stole some money from my wife's purse. We have no doubt she took it, but we can't prove it. This has been very difficult for my wife. You see, this lady goes to our church. This lady stole the money at church. And she has stolen from others, we are sure of it. My wife was extremely angry and hurt. Again and again we have helped this woman financially. Then she does this to us. Trust me, we feel no more guilt about this woman's situation. So how do we respond to the woman now? What do we do next time we see her at church? I'm not sure what the perfect answer would be, but I know that guilt will not longer cut it.
This week I looked over and my wife was handing our four month old son to this very same lady. The woman was smiling and cooing at our son. Our son was smiling back. My wife was smiling. Was it the exact right way to handle the situation? I'm not sure. But I am sure of this; at the moment when my wife handed this woman our son, the One who left heaven because of his compassion for us became flesh once again.
April 16, 2009
April 14, 2009
For the first three or four years ER was tremendous. Over time it became very good with moments of greatness. Eventually it settled into routinely good. And, as I mentioned, we have watched the show off and on. As good as it has been, I am no longer particularly attached to it. So why was I so emotional when it ended?
The last show was well done, but nothing spectacular. The producers brought back several fan favorites, but only for cameos. The show was good, but what I felt went beyond quality television programming.
After contemplating this, it finally hit me. I started watching ER my senior year in college. (Okay, my first senior year in college.) My roommates and I would actually sit down together on Thursday nights and watch. We watched from the very first episode. We watched because two of us actually worked part time in a hospital. We watched together as some sort of roommate commitment.
At the end of that year both my roommates graduated and moved to DFW. I ended up in a house by myself, trying to finish school. It was the beginning of the rest of my life. But I still watched ER.
You know the feeling when you go back home, even as an adult, you feel like a child. I know I had that childish feeling going home even after I got married. I never felt like a real adult until we had children. I remember about six months after my oldest was born, it suddenly dawned on me, "Oh no, I'm an adult." Yes, it had been ten years since I left home for college, since I went out on my own, but in that moment I went from childhood to adulthood.
The same thing happened the other night with ER. The show ended and instantly I felt something change. If you look through my clothes I no longer have any t-shirt I picked up in college. No "Beach Bash '93", or "Search for the Holy Grub". I have long since graduated, and actually managed a Master's Degree. There is nothing left of my college days. Save one thing:ER. It was the last vestige of university life. And now it is gone.
The feeling which overwhelmed me from nowhere the other night was simply this: "Oh no, college is over."
April 1, 2009
Now, that is a little bit of a stretch. Obviously there are Parker women (somebody has to give birth). But just look at the numbers. My paternal grandparents had nine grandchildren. Only one girl. My maternal grandparents had five grandchildren. One girl.
I grew up in a house of four boys (my Father still acts like a twelve year old). Living in a world like that does something to warp your worldview. I remember one night when I was still at home, there was a knock at the door. This was later than we typically had visitors. A couple of us went to answer the door when my mom yelled for us to go away. All four of us, my dad included, were lounging about in our underwear. Not boxers, whitey-tighties. None of us understood what the big deal was.
There are distinct advantages to this kind of world. Hurt feelings are quickly dealt with (usually with some mixed martial arts). There is always someone to mow the yard. Zero spending on beauty supplies (although I did use mousse for awhile in the late eighties, and my cousin Micheal once got a perm).
Admittedly there are drawbacks. The smells (feet, under-arms, bathrooms). The inability to keep food around. The constant using of logic to prove that your feelings are completely ludicrous.
My cousin Michael has three children, two are girls. He is now the only one with more girls than boys. Subtly, we all think something must be wrong with him (the perm probably did something to him). That's how you think, when you grow up in no woman's land.
But, in the end, it is the only world I really know. I have three boys, one girl. She's praying for a sister come September. But history tells us we all know what's coming.
Here is a classic exchange from Seinfeld that fits perfectly.
ELAINE: Why do they call it a wedgie?
GEORGE: Because the underwear is pulled up from the back and ... it wedges in..
JERRY: They also have an atomic wedgie. Now the goal there is to actually get the
waistband on top of the head. Very rare.
ELAINE: Boys are sick.
JERRY: Well what do girls do ?
ELAINE: We just tease some one 'til they develop an eating disorder.
March 26, 2009
The church has to get a handle on sex. We don’t know how to talk about it or deal with it. It can destroy those who keep their failings a secret, and we can destroy those who choose to confess. So what do we do with sex. Here’s a few ideas.
1. Talk about it. If the preacher can’t mention sex in a sermon, how in the world is the church supposed to deal with it in a healthy way? So let’s stop being scared. Mentioning sex at church is not going to make our teenagers jump in the back seats of their cars. As a matter of fact, they might listen for once because the church is willing to be honest and relevant.
2. Keep it in perspective. Perhaps it’s just me, but I have always felt that sexual sin is way worse than any other sin. The only people I have ever seen disfellowshipped were participating in sexual sin. There is a perception (that I think is rampant) that sexual sin is so much worse than any other sin. Because of this, people are afraid to share their temptations or failings. And their sin grows and grows until it consumes them. Then they either leave the church or we give them the boot.
3. Face the truth. This one is the toughest. It’s time we admit that our secrecy about sex is killing us. Tons of men in our churches are addicted to pornography. Some women in our churches use sex as a weapon to get their way with their husbands. Yes, teen pregnancy, date rape, pedophilia, sexual abuse, etc… don’t stop at our front doors. It’s time to pull the covers back, so we can all get better.
March 22, 2009
The concert really did cause me to reflect on aging. Joel is 59, while John turns 62 this week. Yet they both performed with passion and energy. Joel was especially vibrant, resembling a rambunctious teenager as he bounced around the stage. Watching them overwhelmed me with a singular feeling: I hope when I am their age I am still as passionate and energetic about work and life.
In one of M. Scott Peck's books he talks about working with some senior citizens. They were all retired but relatively healthy. The played golf and traveled and such. But they were no longer interested in growing, maturing, learning or changing. I do not want that to happen to me. If I am lucky enough to grow old, I hope I die working on the next sermon or writing a book. I do not want my life to move from purposeful existence to plain existence. I may retire (it would be nice to vacation and travel for a few weeks) but then I hope to take up new adventures that require growing and learning.
Sometimes we are guilty of writing off the wisdom of those who are older. We no longer live in a society that seems very interested in what our elders can teach us. But we also live in a society where many "elders" are not interested in sharing wisdom. They claim to have done their time, raised their kids, and now it is their time. Which means I now am free to be selfish.
If you are older, have tried to learn and grow throughout your life, I want to hear what you have to say. But if all you can teach me is how to fix the slice in my golf game, I've got more important things to do.