Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Parental Discovery Vol. 2

Prohibition began in the United States in 1920.  Many people thought it was a good idea since it seemed that alcoholism was becoming an epidemic in America if you listened to the temperance movement.  The problem was that America was founded on the principles of freedom and by taking away the freedom to have a drink, responsibly or not, created a new revolution.  Organized crime took hold in many of the larger cities manufacturing illegal alcohol and fear.  Alcoholism rates among children and females skyrocketed from number that were nonexistent to numbers that are higher than today.  Prohibition was considered to be a colossal failure.  Sometimes our parenting efforts are just like prohibition.  We become overly strict with our children and as a result we raise children that rebel against even the most basic things that we say because we have betrayed their trust by failing to acknowledge the lessons we have taught them in life.

Over parenting often occurs because parents are too afraid of what may happen to their children in the real world.  The first problem with that is that our kids are not our own, they belong to God.  If we are called to be "Salt and Light" then our children should be as well.  It is our responsibility to raise our kids with a cognitive reality of the traps of the world, but more so with an understanding of who God is and the call that He has on their lives.  The other problem is that parents that over parent often struggle with unresolved issues in their past.  Parents that go through unpleasant things as children do not want their child to be hurt so they try to protect them.  I get that.  It makes sense, but we have to make sure that the unpleasant thing that our kids go through isn't their own childhood because we failed to give them the opportunity to grow.  We mustn't project our fears and failures on our children.  So what.  When you were a kid you screwed up, or you were treated unfairly, use that experience to teach your child what not to do don't shield them from reality because you do not want them to get hurt.  Hurt is one of the many feelings that we all must experience in order to grow.  To stop hurt and pain is to teach our children to not appreciate love and joy, and thus retard the growth of our kids.

Over parenting fails to teach basic reasoning skills to our children.  As a parent we are to teach our child to think for themselves.  Just because you are afraid that they may fail does not make it alright to ensure that they do not.  My father used to tell me that he would give me enough rope to hang myself with, and I hung myself more times than I care to admit.  I was still able to learn though.  I didn't die.  I didn't get kidnapped, or drink Jim Jones' Kool-Aid.  I just suffered the failings of my own stupidity and learned (hopefully) not to do it again.

We have, somewhat, direct control of our children for the first 18 years of their life.  Are we going to take advantage of that time and train them in the Word and teach them the application of that Word, or are we going to collect children like they're porcelain dolls only to take them off their shelves to dust them and use them to amuse ourselves?  This is our opportunity to allow our children to be all God as intended them to be.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cry Me A River

I haven't been writing as much because I feel stuck right now.  Like Mr. Burns in The Simpson's I have the writers "Three Stooges Syndrome."  This is a stretch because how can you call yourself a "writer" after six blog posts, but I find that I have so much to write about that I am having a hard time selecting what I am going to write about next.  This time I want to talk about one of my favorite songs, but first let's talk about the artist a little bit.

I am a 35 year old man and I enjoy Justin Timberlake.  That felt good.  I feel like I am at a meeting of JT Anonymous.  Justin Timberlake is just like Justin Bieber only if Bieber could sing and had personality.  JT has killed me on Saturday Night Live.  He has moved into movies and has a couple coming out soon.  He can sing and dance.  He reminds me of Michael Jackson without the weirdness and Bubbles the Monkey.  He has dated multiple celebrities, and has become a sex symbol in his own right (this is not why I am a fan...please follow my thinking for a minute).

So what song is it that I love?  It's Cry Me A River.  Fewer songs have ever been better constructed.  I am not a big fan of falsetto, but it works very well in this song.  So many things are going on in this song that you listen to it and you pick up a new beat, sound, or vocal inflection each time.  Many people know what the song is actually about, but I will recap:

- Boy Meet Girl
- Boy Dates Girl
- Boy Loves Girl
- Girl Cheats on Boy (Allegedly)
- Boy Records One of the Greatest "Oh Yeah" Songs Ever
- Girl's Name is Brittney Spears

Simple huh?  It does make me think what would have been if he had never been cheated on.  Would he have bounced from woman to woman?  Would he release music that was as sexually charged?  Would he actually bring the "sexyback?"  Would I have been able to make that lame joke?

Bringing this home, are we able to come back from events that happen to us in our own lives?  Many of us allow a single event to define our life in perpetuity.  Whether it is abuse, rejection, death, or failure we wear our past like death shrouds.  My Mom told me about how elephants are staked at an early age.  The elephant will stay in that one place staked to the Earth even when the elephant is full size and can, with little effort, dislodge the stake.  People that lived during The Great Depression would save money and live extraordinarily frugal (not that frugality is bad) even when they could afford basic things to increase their quality of life because they lived with the fear of poverty.

Christianity doesn't protect us from the crummy things people do.  Christianity "merely" gives us the hope to know there is One that will deliver us from the hurts that are inflicted on us.  The choice is yours though.  Do you want to walk around wounded so everyone can be mesmerized by the figurative "Purple Heart" you wear, or do you want to show yourself as a recipient of a grace transfusion?  Our hurts only bring God glory when we can move past the hurt and into a place where we can use our pain for ministry.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bad Word

No I am not talking about the words that may or may not come out of my mouth when I may of may not cut myself with a knife at the cafe.  I am disgusted when people take words and pervert them to mean something for which it was not intended.  The worst example of this is the word "tolerance."

Tolerance is used by every group that does not identify itself as Christian to explain why we should accept them.  I have a difficult time with this because a "tolerant" person can deal drugs, engage in homosexuality, commit terrorist acts, and champion abortion, but an intolerant person will attempt to tell people about Jesus and identify sinful behavior.  Being tolerant should be a two way street.  It does not mean that I agree with you, but it does mean that I accept you believe something different and I do not look down on you for it.

Truthfully some of this was brought on us by other people that identify themselves as Christians.  The media allows this to be perpetuated.  For every good thing Christians do,the media reports every possible blip no matter how unfounded it may be.  Think about this...for every racist fool, there are multiple Christians that stand for equality.  For every sexist pig, there are Christians ready to show them that God created us all without prejudice.  For every heretic ready to burn a book, there are Christians prepared to teach people how to read and understand.

What I can't tolerate however, is sin.  Most of all my own.  Read this:

Matthew 7:4-5 (New International Version)

4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

 Too many of us are ready to react to these people that commit various sins without first doing the work to remove sin from our own lives.  If you are reading this and you follow this up with a trip to a pornographic website and then complain about what all the homosexuals are doing you are a hypocrite.  Don't get mad at me.  I didn't say you were a hypocrite, Jesus did.  The church will never become The Church until we are so disgusted with our sinful tendencies that our hearts break and we repent of our hideous behavior.

We should tolerate each other, but when we tolerate ourselves that is when apathy can set in.  The moment we tolerate ourselves is the moment we acknowledge that we have nothing else to work on.  Dying to self is a conscious action.  I think of this as daily murdering myself.  Meaning that not only am I dying to self, but I am do so with malice of forethought.

The next time you hear any version of the word tolerate, stop and think about what you are tolerating.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The State of Entertainment Vol. 1

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  Weather is going to cool off soon (Right? It is going to cool off soon), football is back, I can start fixing chili, and the beginning of the new television season.  I love checking out all of the new shows and seeing which ones I will watch and which ones I have predetermined will stink.  Lets take a look at some of the new shows.

THE EVENT (I would have done the backwards E thing, but my computer doesn't write in mirror)  I am watching this show mainly because it is being billed as the next Lost.  I didn't watch Lost and now I feel lost when people talk about the smoke monster.  I feel like I missed out on an entire collection of cultural references because I didn't watch Lost and this bothers me.  This is the exact same way I feel about the career of Justin Bieber, only in reverse.

HAWAII FIVE-0  I will be watching this too, but mainly because I am a lemming.  I hate that they are trying to bring back an old show the same way that I hate how one Contemporary Christian musician will release a praise and worship CD, and then 35 others will do the exact same thing with all the same music.  Anytime I see this, whether it is in music, or television it just restores the fact that marketing is more important than inspiration.

NO ORDINARY FAMILY  This is like Heroes meets family melodrama.  So Yes I will be watching this too.

UNDERCOVERS  Another J J Abrams show.  Imagine taking the least entertaining parts of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and combining that with the parts of True Lies that I hated.  Still imagining.  I would watch that for 32 hours straight before I would watch this garbage.  Predictable plots will abound.  At least once a week the wife will save the husband's life which will only occur a maximum of 12 times because it will get canceled by Christmas.  So NO I will not DVR this. 

MY GENERATION  If this show is appealing to you then it is obvious that you are not happy with your life.  Ultimately you will be like everyone on this show.  If given the choice between this and watching Holmes on Homes and Carter Can I would watch the home improvement shows while hoping for the terrorists to attack my television.

LAW & ORDER LOS ANGELES  So let me get this straight.  Instead of the gritty streets of Brooklyn and the swanky abodes of Park Avenue we will get the gritty streets of WATS and the swanky abodes of Beverly Hills.  Hmm...I guess this means that NBC has become the new WB.  We aren't progressing well as a people are we?

OUTLAW  Jimmy Smits should be put into prison for all of the shows he has killed.  This show isn't entirely his fault, but if you watch the commercials for this show you can tell that just before every scene he is having this conversation:

Jimmy:  So the check from the studio cleared right?
Agent:  Let me check.
Director:  Jimmy we need you on set.
Jimmy:  One minute please.
Agent:  It's there Jimmy Baby. Are there supposed to be that many zeros?
Jimmy:  I am ready to perform.

This show is about a conservative Supreme Court Justice that retires after his liberal father dies.  Once he retires he travels the country as a defense attorney to defend the down-trodden and to go to all of the county fairs to determine which funnel cake and corn dog combo gives him the least explosive diarrhea.  One of those things was made up, but all three things are equally ridiculous.  This is a bigger NO than funnel cakes.

BLUE BLOODS:  Tom Selleck (with that Mom is in) plays a cop New York.  So does Donnie Wahlberg.  They are family as is most of the cast.  I was in on this also when I heard the name Tom Selleck as well.  After all he was Magnum, Quigley, and he made Rosie O'Donnell, and her anti-gun rights, look stupid (not like that required anything more than a nothing to make that happen).

So today we have looked at eight shows and what have we learned.  There is nothing new.  NBC sucks.  Jimmy Smits has The Midas Touch only if everything Midas touched was given Hepatitis.  Oh, and my DVR will be full within one week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Parental Discovery Vol. 1

I hate jigsaw puzzles.  People that put together jigsaw puzzles and then talk about how lovely the picture is aggravate me.  If you want a lovely picture just go buy one or take a picture yourself.  Once you have that picture then hang it on the wall, but don't expect me ooh and aah over this 38,000 piece monstrosity that took you the better part of the decade to put together.  I asked a few people why they enjoy putting together puzzles, and ultimately it comes down to the feeling of accomplishment.  I see parenting much the same way.  Sometimes you want the piece to fit the way you think they should but eventually the pieces fit perfectly, often in spite of ourselves.  When people put puzzles together they start with the outside pieces so there will be some order to where the puzzle is going.  This is where I want to start.  What are we teaching our children and what are their foundations?  Let's talk from a practical sense more than a spiritual sense for a moment. 

Respect has to be the first lesson that we teach our children, but as I see it that this is the lesson that we are  most likely ignore.  Teaching respect takes work.  Respect teaches our children that there is a hierarchy in our society, and how they are to operate within the society.  The greatest disservice that parents do is decide that "I am going to raise my child to be my best friend."  Parents that say this should get 5-10 years in a maximum security facility for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Let's examine this statement.  Parents that actual believe that they are trying to have a best friend relationship with someone 18-40 years their junior may need to reevaluate the other relationships that are in their life (but that is a different blog post).  How can a parent get the kind of things they would get from a best friend when that best friend is a 13 year old that is primarily concerned with themselves?  They can't.  Children need to be taught respect.  I can't tell you how many parents that have problems with their kids say, "I just don't know what happened!"  What happened is you treated your children as your equal, and they were tired of being your equal and decided to try to become superior to you.  It is human nature.  Everyone tries to get ahead, but in a parental relationship if respect is taught and demanded at the beginning then this can be avoided.  You are in charge of your children while they are under your care, but treating them as a best friend is giving the inmates the keys to the asylum.

Respect doesn't mean that we strip them of their personality because respect is mutual.  I have seen parents that raise their kids alike, but the children act completely opposite of each other.  What happened?  Nothing happened it is just that some children have different personalities.  It is not your job as a parent to give them  your personality, but it is your job to teach them respect in a manner that works within the confines of who they are.  Cookie cutter parenting doesn't work.  There are plenty of times that I have to adjust my temperament in order to effectively communicate to my son what he needs to know.  This is part of respecting him so he will be able to learn in the best way possible, and so he has all the advantages that understanding will give him.

So why do I start with respect?  Respect is the one thing that will get them farther in life that anything else (remember I not speaking on a spiritual level, but more of a practical/tangible level).  I meet a lot of people that are unhappy.  They are unhappy because they feel they are owed something.  These are people that know nothing of respect.  People who have had to work very hard (by the way hard work is often a byproduct of respect, specifically self respect) to achieve what they have achieved in life have done so because they have an attitude of respect.  People who have not been taught the lessons of respect are left to believe that they are the single most important person on the planet.  Is that what we want kids to believe?  Every time that I see children dictate to their parents what they think should be done, or given to them and then the parents do it, it makes me want to beat the tar out of them both ( in the spirit of course wink,wink,nudge,nudge).

Parental discovery will be a running topic on this blog from time to time.  As I feel impressed to discuss what I am learning, or even my bad parenting decisions, hopefully we can learn something together.  As for the topic of respect, I will close with this...If you want your children to not advance, and to not succeed, do not teach them please, thank you, sir, or ma'am.  Instead, assuming that you can get them to listen to you long enough, teach them the phrase "Can you pull to the next window to pay for your order?"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Help Me, Help You

Many of us remember this scene in Jerry McGuire.  Tom Cruise's character is hanging on by a thread and trying to get his only client, Rod Tidwell, to understand that he needs help to get his client where he wants to be.  This week I was twice met with an opportunity to help people by helping myself first.  In the interest of full transparency I will poke fun at myself and let all of you know what was going on in my mind.

This week has been the Mountain State Fair here in Western North Carolina.  To help those not in the area, this is an opportunity to see animal life, carnival rides (which may or may not have been properly safety inspected),  local vendors, and eat either heavily smoked or ultra deep-fried foods (both of which are equally able to cause explosive diarrhea).  I know what you are asking, "Why would you ever not go to this slice of Americana that you have given such a glowing recommendation of?"  Yes of course I went.  I went because I did want to deprive my son of the ability to have an annual chance meeting with a "Carnie" (not the same Carnie that set the world on fire in Wilson Phillips), nor did I want him to miss the awesome good marginal bad horrific experience of having a deep-fried Oreo cookie.  So after all of this you are probably wondering how much money one would have to spend to take a family of three on this journey of memory making?  $17.00!  Don't worry I didn't spend $17.00 dollars.  I was thrifty!  A local supermarket, Ingles, gives away free tickets for every five canned food items you bring in.  I decided that since this was a one day only deal that I would make certain to take advantage of this opportunity.  Once I got in the store I had to find the perfect blend of value and reasonably edible canned food item for someone down on their luck.  The cheapest can I found was stewed tomatoes that were 3 for $1.00, but I am sure the Bible says something about man not be able to live on tomatoes alone (that HAS to be right, yeah?....not important since I have become more charismatic I just ignore everything in the Bible that talks about anything but the Holy Spirit, talking in tongues, and exorcism) so I decided that Pork and Beans would be the best blend of protein and profit. (I do not really ignore things in the Bible on purpose, the past remark was said for purposes of ironic humor you know since explanations make everything funnier)

Today my wife and I were in Pigeon Forge, TN.  We went to the outlet stores to find some clothes for our son (this is the same kid that told me this week that he could "spell" Mississippi with his eyes closed without a hint of irony in his voice my wife and I held our laughter, barely), and much to my surprise we could spend a dollar and get 25% off of any one item.  The dollar went to cancer research, and I think research is great, but I admittedly was more concerned with saving money.  I was shocked that only certain stores were doing the fundraiser.  I asked more than one store "Why they loved cancer?"  Of course I followed this up with a laugh so they wouldn't think I really thought they loved cancer, but one store told me they weren't doing it because they were going out of business.  At first I was mildly offended that companies wouldn't give the discount, but I was more offended by the fact that I really was more concerned with the discount than cancer research.

Seriously, I am a guy that cares about the community a lot but too many times I get in the way.  I want what is "best for me" and I fail to realize that best for me and best for others are two entirely different things.  Spiritual maturity dictates that concern for my own plight should be somewhere between a tertiary concern and an afterthought.

Brothers and sisters our visions for how we are going to reach people have to be in congruity with the way we live our life especially when all the people that know us aren't looking.  Today I am praying for the integrity needed to live the life God wants me to live no matter who is in front me.  I will be looking more purposely to help you and making sure that help me is dwindling from my mindset.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Biggest Fan, Biggest Enemy

How many of us have had to deal with "that" person?  You know who I am talking about.  It's that person that can't stop running their mouth about someone else.  They stand in judgment of all of those that are around them mainly because it is easier to look at others as "losers" because they can't deal with the fact that they ultimately know that they are a "loser."  Most times we view the person as useless and we humor them until their words are used against us.  This is usually when we go into defense mode.  Some of us are "better" at this than others.  Some people take the words to heart and allow them to resonate in our lives.  Others are prone to fight back.  Fighting back is my specialty.  I have often told people that if you come at me with a gun expect me to bring an entire armored division.  When it comes to a war of words I know nothing of equity.  I have been known to immediately go for the jugular and say the most hurtful thing possible (this is the equivalent of the quick knockout).  This is when the biggest fan, biggest enemy quandary occurs.

So who is my biggest fan?  Obviously my biggest fan is me.  I have found it paramount to take a person that already has a self-esteem so low you have to dig beneath the potatoes to find it, and tear them down to their core just so I can feel better about me and get even for the wrong that was inflicted against me.  Luke 6:28 says, "bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you," but our actions are in stark contrast to this statement.  How many of us have blessed those who have done wrong in our eyes?  Our flesh is crying out for vengeance, but while on the cross, Christ called out to the Father to forgive those who committed wrongs against Him.

If I am my biggest fan, then my biggest enemy is the one that I at odds with right?  Yes and no.  In these cases we are also our biggest enemy.  As Christians when we react this way we are at odds with ourselves.  The Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."  When we strike out to defend after an offense we are warring with the flesh to such a degree that we see ourselves as the one that should be elevated, but the Spirit in us only wants to see God elevated (perhaps this is why Pastor Nate brought a series that was about Honor, and then follows it up a month later with the current series Less is More).

Maybe we should look to get to the bottom of these offenses by opening up a conversation with these people about why they say what they say the things that they say.  This gives us the opportunity to minister to these people and handle the issue with love, biblically.  If one phrase I have heard in the last 12 months has impacted me more than this I am not sure what has, but Pastor Nate told us "that we can't expect Romans not to act like Romans."  In other words if we aren't going to teach them, then who is?

My prayer is that the next time someone speaks ill of me or another person I can react in love, but of course for me to react in love means that I must be girding myself in prayer and The Word.  I should be in Church receiving the Word delivered by one of my pastors.  I need to be seeking opportunities to serve others instead of concerning me about me.  I need to fill myself with things that edify the Spirit within me (music, other instruction, etc...).  In the 80's (you know that far off land that my son calls the olden days) a popular computer term was Garbage In, Garbage Out.  Meaning what you put in is what you will get out.  Investments into yourself will always reap a harvest.  If we sow anger, hate, and revenge guess what we receive?

In truth our biggest fan is The One that created us.  He wants us to succeed on a greater level than we could ever imagine.  Sometimes we have to go through a lot of junk to get to the next level, but utilizing the wisdom that the Lord has for us is the key to move past offense and into service.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nazis Were Bad

What a way to start a blog?  That statement is obvious to everyone that had an opportunity to see any Indiana Jones movie.  I do not make that statement to make light of the atrocities of the Holocaust, but follow me down a rabbit hole for a minute.

The Nazis, and more specifically Adolf Hitler, have ruined three things for the average Joe.  The first thing is the name Adolf.  No one ever names there kid Adolf anymore.  We are more likely to find a resurgence of the name Ethel and Gertie.  The second thing ruined is the tiny mustache.  Michael Jordan tried to bring it back about a year ago, but not even his airness and his truckloads of cool are able to bring this back en vogue.  Lastly, the Nazis destroyed the swastika.  The swastika was used as a symbol by American Indians, Buddhists, and even as far back as Ancient Iran (Persia).  I remember a teacher telling me I couldn't draw swastikas on my book cover when I was in elementary school.  Think about that for a second.  A seven or eight year old white kid walking around school with a book with Swastikas all over it that happen to have a German heritage. Today I would have been water-boarded and put in protective custody while my parents would have been vilified by Nancy Grace.  I didn't get it because I just thought they looked cool, but my teacher explained that bad people used the symbol and killed millions of people.  To this day I am not sure I follow this train of thought.  I didn't go to college, but I am almost certain that Nazis didn't bludgeon Jews to death with Swastikas.  This leads me to my point.  The name Adolf, the tiny mustache, and the swastika were not responsible for the Third Reich, but since they were used by people with evil purposes they have become verboten.  SO...What things in your life have you allowed to be tainted to the point that you feel as though you are no longer free to use it?

Revelation 21:5 (NIV) says, He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."  WOW!  God has given us His word to tell us that He is in the renovation business.  The Lord is anxious to touch those dead areas of our lives and make new fruit grow.  Many of us feel that our relationships are doomed because of a mistake that was made in the past.  Some of us think that because of a sin we committed in our past that we are no longer fit to do His work.  God disagrees.  God already used perfection perfectly on this earth.  God is now using our past imperfection to show what kind of work He can do when we give Him permission to get involved in our lives.

Thinking of that last sentence, permission is always something that we grant, right?  We are either granting permission to God, or by default we are granting permission to Satan.  Our failures are the result of giving Satan permission to meddle in our affairs.  I know what you are saying, "I never gave permission for Satan to mess with me."  Realize friends that our failure to give God license over all areas of our life is all the permission that Satan needs to wreak havoc over every thing we touch.  Think I'm wrong?  Follow this thought.

You go to church every time the doors are open.  Serve others.  Work Hard.  Praise Hard.  Share Jesus with others.  Spend money like there's no tomorrow.  What is going to happen?  You are going to be a bankrupt churchgoer.  Why?  Because you failed to follow God's plan for stewardship in your life.

The work that God is doing today requires that we reclaim the dead areas that Satan has taken from His people and that we give God the permission to dwell in our whole lives.  Satan has no power over you (since Jesus took his power).  So let's name our next male child Adolf, sport the tiny mustache, and proudly display our swastikas...or instead we could just make God the centerpiece of focus.  Yeah, that sounds better.