Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Wedding and The Party

This past Sunday night I had the great pleasure of attending the wedding ceremony of some dear friends, Tyler and Helen. I expect greatness from these two in so many areas. Being such dynamic individuals, I can't wait to see what amazing things result from their union.

There is one thing that stood out to me as particularly meaningful and I think it is worth a deeper look.

The Party...though some call it a "reception" is that thing I want to consider a bit more. I love the fact that the people involved in the lives of Tyler and Helen celebrated the beginning of this marriage. Some of the people had known them their entire lives and some just recently met them, but the fact remained that they were known individually and a party was thrown to celebrate the new aspect of their lives together.

This may seem rather common to a lot of people from different backgrounds. However, I think the evangelicals of the South have failed miserably in showing the world how to throw, attend and enjoy a party. Consider Jesus, our great example, for a bit...

When Jesus wasn't teaching, healing or off by himself in prayer you often found him at a party. He partied with the stuffy religious types and he partied with the lower class people of the day. At some parties he did miracles and at others he really pissed some people off. Prostitutes clung to him...try that at you next party and some even cried on his feet. Despite what all happened at the parties, one thing we know for sure is that Jesus partied! Why else would he admit that people called him a glutton and a drunk?

Imagine for a moment that we back up in time 2000 years and we are at a party and Jesus is in attendance. let's go to that place for a moment...

In my mind some group is playing cheesy versions of various love songs mingled with the occasional Golden Oldie. The lead singer just struggled his way through "Endless Love" with the Bass Guitarist singing the female part in a weak falsetto voice...and sounding nothing like Diana Ross, though they look similar in some ways. The band, being older and more out of shape than they remember being the last time they actually got paid for playing announce that they are taking a 15 minute break. The crowd feels like they are the ones getting a break and they begin talking and visiting or perhaps getting a refill of wine.

Not too long into the break a loud reverberation shrieks over the sound system and it causes a bit of a startle for everyone and they look to the stage. Who is it that has grabbed the lead guitar and has a harmonica brace around his neck...that's right baby...JESUS!
Jesus obviously had enough of the bad music and drab song choices so while the band is on a break he breaks into a slamming rendition of "Proud Mary". Before the crowd can calm down he goes right into a sweet Blues Traveler medley. Some guy down front who has had a little too much wine and is obviously from the Southern part of Judea starts screaming out "FREE BIRD! FREE BIRD!", but Jesus slows the pace down with a different song.

Jesus pulls a dusty piano from out of the shadows and opens it up. People don't know exactly what is about to be played but they know it will be good. Jesus launches into the crowd favorite...the one everyone knows or at least mouths along a half step late as if they know it...Piano Man! By the end of the set, drinks are held in the air, strangers have their arms around one another swaying back and forth and everyone is singing together.

When the last note has been played Jesus stands, bows and then backs up to get a running start for the way he finishes every set he ever plays...stage dive! During the time he is being passed around people are trying to touch the hem of his garment and a few want an autograph. He is finally placed on his feet toward the back of the reception hall and he hugs a few of the disciples and gives some knuckles to some others. Though he had done this kind of thing before (and would do it again) the Disciples didn't think he would really do it when they dared him to do it some 15 minutes ago.

The end result is that the party is rocking, Jesus Christ really is a super star but maybe most important to Jesus is that he has set a small example for his followers...both now and forever...of what it means to celebrate and party.

May His people learn that lesson well because as I recall, one analogy of eternity has a lot to do with a great feast and plenty of partying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Obama Lied...and Continues to Break Promises

It seems that all of the gripes the liberals had against Bush and the GOP are not all that bad now that Barry Obama is in office.

Bush was ridiculed because he "suspended Habeas Corpus" and denied those pitiful souls at Gitmo to be held without a trial. Obama was upset about that too and was especially upset about the expanse of Executive Power under Bush...right up until he became the President. Now it isn't so bad:

Bush was demonized for his stance on warrantless wiretapping. The Dems cried about the gross abuse by the government and how Bush was using the Patriot Act to listen to phone conversations without sufficient enough reason to obtain a subpoena. Obama was against this practice too...right up until he was sworn in. Now it seems like the right thing to do. After all, you never know when you may have to listen in to some of those gun-toting, Bible-carrying, bitter-clingers:

Obama swore during his campaign that an Obama Administration would be completely transparent...not at all like the "secrets" mean old Bush and Cheney had been keeping. After all, the American people have a right to know what is going on in their government. Well, apparently Obama meant to say that the American people had a right to know what was going on in the government before and after his presidency...because what Barry knows and how Barry knows is a really big secret:

Obama was astounded at the amount of "pork spending" that was pushed through congress each year during the budget proposal process. He was so astounded that he was going to put an end to that kind of craziness...except he didn't. In the Spending Bill...uh, I mean, "Stimulus Bill" alone there were 8 ear marks...including "Green Golf Carts", a 36-hole "Disc Golf Course" (think about frisbee golf), and $150 million for "parking improvements" at a little league park in Puerto Rico. Here are more details:
Should you want to read about the 8570 earmarks that total $7.7 Billion found in the Omnibus Bill for 2009 signed by Obama you can do so here: So I guess the "No Pork Projects" promise isn't working out for Obama either.

And what about that tax cut all of us in the middle class were promised? It seems that not only have we not rec'd the tax cut but in fact, one new tax specifically targets people in the middle and lower class.

And as for the tax cut for any family making les than $250k:
Obama says he has 2 years to figure out how to deal with this broken promise...but that isn't what he said during the campaign.

What about the promise that lobbyist would not have a seat at the Obama table? Well, despite his campaign rhetoric about the evils of lobbyist and others who represent special interest groups, it seems that Obama has had a change of heart.

We are less than 3 months into the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama and so many of the issues people believed in have already shattered. Obviously, so many of these broken promises haven't been reported by the mainstream media but that doesn't mean that the proof doesn't exist. I pray that the people who felt disenchanted by the political system and sought anything other than the status quo will wake up and realize that change is not always good and those who promise to be change aren't always honest. If that happens we will only be stuck with Obama for 4 long years.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spots...of all kinds

I try to be on the lookout constantly for blind spots in life. Of course I check my blind spots while driving but I am not talking about those kinds of blind spots. I always try to imagine the areas in my life that need some work, have become unmanageable or in some way requires some attention.

So many areas of life seem to have a default setting and those defaults settings show up when your time, resources or attention is being utilized by other areas of life. The default setting can be really good and without much work or without even giving it much thought you can find yourself in a good place. For example, rest is something that most Americans don't get enough of. People don't sleep the amount the are suppose to and they don't make time for rest, relaxation or recreation. If you doubt that just check out the stress and fatigue related illnesses that seem to be more prevalent in our culture than ever. The default setting for humans is rest. If we avoid the stimulants like coffee and some pills and if we don't pack our schedules full of requirements we will rest more. How long would most of us sleep if we were allowed to get the day started when we awakened on our own...without an alarm clock?

However, the default setting for a lot of things are not good, productive or healthy. For example, exercise isn't really something that people do if left to live life due to their default settings. Exercise requires discipline and to some degree, the ability to do something at an immediate expense that will hopefully produce long term results.

With all of that said, for me to claim that I am looking for blind spots is really absurd. If I could see a specific area of life, I guess it wouldn't be a blind spot, now would it? So what got in my head to cause me to think about blind spots anyway?

This morning I was in the restroom at my office and I happen to look in the mirror on my way out of the restroom. I must have had the perfect angle because I saw something in the back of my head that looked strange. I did a double take to see if I saw what I thought I saw. Upon further review I did in deed see what I thought I saw in the back of my head....SKIN!

That's right! I saw a big patch of skin on the crown of my head. I knew I was thinning but good gracious! I didn't realize how bad it had gotten back there. The other men in my family began to bald from the know, the old receding hair line. Not me though. I still have plenty of hair up front. However, it seems that the hair in the back has begun an exodus that would make the Israelites envious. I feel as though I only have one choice left...kiss all of my hair goodbye. The only thing worse than balding is to be one of those men who seems to pretend he isn't balding. Those guys are dangerously close to the dreaded "comb-over".

So even though the default setting for my 33 year old scalp had not allowed me to know the severe lack of hair I found that I have found a previously blind spot, I am responsible for taking action. It seems that bald spots can help remind me of other blind spots I may have in life...and that alone reveals a whole world of clarity...bald or not.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Running Without Distraction

Last week my oldest son, Elijah, participated in a fun run at his school. He was suppose to run a mile though the parents of his class all knew that many in the class wouldn't make it a full mile. Some of the young students likely don't have what it takes physically to run that far yet. The few that may be able to physically run a mile may quit early simply because their attention spans aren't very long at this point and they may...just like me...get bored with running. Elijah finished 85% of his mile...but I have no idea if he lacked physical maturity required to run that long or if he just got bored. In fact, no one really knows why he didn't complete it because he was distracted.

See, we have always stressed to our sons that they drink water, water is good for them, water is the healthiest drink, drink water instead of colas, etc. At times we have even celebrated and made a big deal about our boys drinking a good bit of water. While we still stand by those things, it may have been good for us to explain to Elijah that there are stipulations. That is to say, sometimes are better than others to drink excessive quanities of water. It goes without saying that during a run is not the time to become enthusiastic about drinking water...or anything else for that matter.

Having never run in a race like this one before, Elijah wasn't expecting people to offer him cups of water. Being the big fan of water and thinking it is incredibly cool that people are standing around with free water for him it only seemed logical to drink water as it was offered to him. Of course I am not inside his head but I can imagine that Elijah became so distracted by the water that he lost focus of the real goal. It seems that the very thing designed to help him reach his goal actually became his focus and it caused him to fall short. As most of you know, too much water before or during a workout leads to cramps and poor performance. Poor Elijah.

That's not the end of the me anyway. As is my custom I have been pondering that whole scenario for the past week and wondering which areas of my life have become out of focus? Has anything in this world that God designed to be of assistance to me actually become my goal instead of God? In short, has anything been offered to me during my race of life that will prevent me from finishing well?

If I were to write about the areas in life that need more clarity, this paragraph would go on for way too long. If I were to consider every single thing that becomes interesting or exciting to me...but in the end isn't good for me at all...well, I don't have that much time. Time only allows me to pray that I will find balance and proper priorities in every aspect of life. I pray the same for you. May we never get so water-logged that we lose the ability to run and finish well.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Catch and Release

There are many, many blessings involved in working a mere 2 miles from my house. The lone negative I can think of is that I rarely get to decompress after work or spend much time alone. Just like every other human, I occasionally need to be alone with my thoughts...or be alone and not require any thoughts.

There are few tasks that can be done with little thought but fishing happens to be on that list. Yesterday morning I had a chance to escape for a bit and do a little fishing. I knew of a new place I wanted to try and it ended up being absolutely gorgeous. More than one time yesterday I found myself standing on the bank and in my head I was living the Alabama version of "Legends of the Fall".

20 minutes had passed and I felt like Tristan when to my surprise I caught an Alabama Trout with my fly rod...OK, a little too much Tristan-like. I actually felt a strong tug on my Zebco bait-caster rod and reel combo. But the point is that my rod was bending like I had hook an alligator. In a minute or so I could see white belly of some fish beneath the water, his tail churning up the mud and swishing the water about with all of his might. Landing this monster on dry ground was imminent and I couldn't wait to see exactly what I had landed. My prize was just beneath the surface of the swells and whirlpools of water. When I finally pulled this thing out of his wet abode I was surprised. This wasn't a bass or crappie as I had anticipated. I caught a pretty large catchfish.

Only having a few minutes to fish yesterday and having some plans for later in the day I knew I wouldn't have time nor the inclination to skin this fish and fillet him. Plus, I am not enthusiastic about eating a scavenger fish caught in a river so I knew immediately that I would let him go. Catch and Release is popular among fishermen...especially when they have no plans of eating what they catch. This catfish started his day off in a rough way but his luck was about to get a bit better. So I stared at him once more and then tossed him back in. He looked at me as if to warn me of messing with him and then in a simple swish of his tail he was gone.

I fished a bit longer and then packed it all in and headed for the house. Once home I told my wife of my fishing adventures and she became excited about what I told her...which, by the way, had nothing to do with my catfish bounty...and she shared with me a section of a book she was finishing. The Same Kind of Difference As Me has really captivated my wife and I can't wait to read it myself. I don't usually discuss, much less blog about books I haven't read but in the case I suppose I can get away with it.

Essentially, and I must say that this is overly simplifying a beautiful story, one guy, who happens to be white, tells another man, who happens to be black, that he wants to be friends with him. Being skeptical, the black man says he will think about it. A week later the black man says he has thought about it and that something really bothers him about white people. He goes on to explain that he understands that white people "catch and release" fish. That practice blows his mind. He then contrasts that style to black people. Black people would never release a fish. In fact, they would take it around and show anyone that would listen or even possibly care their great catch, explains the black man. Then the fish would be cleaned and eaten. He explains that it is weird to him that a white man would put back or throw away the very thing that a black man would take pride in and would use to sustain him. After the analogy, the black simple tells the white man, "If you are lookin for a friend to catch and release I don't want no part. But if you ain't looking to catch and release then I will be your friend forever. Loyal."

That's an awesome story that really touches me. Being the introspective creature that I am I instantly began searching the numerous caverns of my soul for applicable situations in my life. The images of great friends that somehow...accidentally, circumstantially or otherwise...had been released. I recently learned of a friend from high school that took his own life and he came to mind. His name was Brian and his sister is Melissa. I couldn't help but thinking of the ways in which Melissa must feel that she was forced to release him and how much more painful loss is when the releasing aspect of "Catch and Release" isn't by choice.

Catch and Release can be beautiful but releasing is always difficult. Years ago when I witnessed the birth mothers of my adopted siblings handing them over to my family...unknown to them, I saw the beauty and pain of releasing first hand. To know that what we want and what is line up on different sides of life and knowing it is for the best always brings us to an impasse...a place where answers are void of significance and solace is found in hollow words.

What does it all mean and why does it matter anyway? If I can borrow some words from Kenny Rogers and twist them to fit my purposes here I think I can find some fact, it is a huge reason...why this matters. "You have to know when to hold'em. Know when to [release'em]". In this world I think we will one day live out a life of abundance or a life of regret based on how we choose the things we catch and release and the things we catch and keep. Obviously the release part isn't always up to us but in so far as releasing is up to us I want to live well.

May God also grant us all the wisdom and strength we need to treat life very differently from how "white people fish". I wonder if the next catfish I catch will be so lucky as the last one.