"I asked for a car; I got a computer."

Looking for a commentary that uses big words and ponders the deeper meanings of various topics? Well...you've come to the wrong place. This blog is all about extolling the greatness of Christ, the joy of marriage, the rollercoaster ride called parenthood, the supremacy of the 1980's...and doing all of it at a fifth grade reading level!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Don't you love it when the students teach the teacher?!?!?!

This past Sunday I taught the 4th grade class at our church. For a variety of reasons (most having to do with the fact that my kids are too busy, and I travel too much), I didn't get the material for my lesson until Saturday evening at 11:00p.m. By that time, I was too tired to review it and come up with any sort of interactive learning opportunity, so I came up with a Plan B...(and no, we didn't play "Hangman" for the entire class period!).

I brought two simple things to class with me: index cards and doughnuts. I asked each person to write down a question about the Bible, God, or any other spiritual subject that had been weighing on their mind - a question they might be embarrased to ask or had just never gotten a straight answer to. In exchange for the index card, you got a doughnut! (I knew this would work on boys - had no clue it would work like a charm on girls as well!!!).

Now...I went to a Christian university and have enough hours to have a 'minor' in Bible, served as a ministry intern for three summers, have taught numerous Bible classes on a variety of topics to 3-year olds through senior adults. I figured I could handle anything a gaggle of goofy 10-year olds could hurl at me.


I held 18 index cards in my hand...and I must admit that as I thumbed through them I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. I got a couple of basic question about who wrote the Bible, how old it was, etc. Those types of questions I was prepared for. What I WASN'T prepared for was questions like:

  • "How do I know if I've been good enough to go to Heaven?"

  • "If God and Jesus were really the same person, then why did Jesus have to pray all the time?"

  • What if Heaven ISN'T real, and we're just wasting our lives?

It was in those few moments of scrolling through those cards that I had a moment of clarity. If I were to get a brand new computer with all the latest software...and I took that new computer home and started typing as fast as my little fingers could move...but got nothing on the monitor or received no sort of response from the CPU...I would say that I had a broken computer. I would take it back and exchange it for a new one.

I think that's what we (the church) have been doing with our kids. For years we pump them full of stories, facts and dogma...and never bother to listen to them. One of the questions I was asked today was, "How do I know when I'm ready to be baptized?" I quickly dove into my Church-of-Christ memory banks and rattled off the "Five Steps To Salvation" (hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized)...and I was feeling like I really accomplished something...UNTIL one of the kids asked me, "So...how do we 'hear' God?" Thus began a simple five-minute conversation about how God talks to us. It was AWESOME - rarely had I taken the time to consider all of the ways that I can "hear" God...but all I had to do was "look at my computer" for the answers.

I'm not child psychologist, children's minister, or academic expert...but I think my children - ALL OF OUR children...have a lot more going on in their head about God than we give them credit for. Instead of dazzling my children with my prowess for Bible knowledge, it's high time I forge an open communication with these young men to ensure they feel comfortable discussing their concerns and fears with me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

How Much???

Rarely does a meal with my children occur that I don’t hear this timeless, immortal question. I have come to expect it…and even find myself disappointed if the mealtime conflict never transpires.

The routine is pretty much the same each time. They’ll mow through any meat and starch on their plate leaving a lonely fruit or vegetable staring back at them.

“Jacob, eat your corn! Noah, eat your green beans! Elijah, eat your broccoli!”

Their bewildered, perplexed and tortured look is accompanied by the same question…

“How much?”

Often times, my answer is “All of it!” This immediately elicits a Brandoesque response (a la “Streetcar Named Desire”). Only instead of “STELLA”…the cry is “DADDY?!?!?!” You would think I had just asked them to give away their X-Box!

I guess I’ve conditioned them to give this response. It dates back to the times when they were learning to eat ‘big boy’ food, and we were practically begging them to eat healthy. In an effort to get them to eat SOMETHING, I allowed them to negotiate.

And years later the negotiation continues. Sometimes Dad is strong – other times, Dad covets peace and quiet…so he gives in.

Both of you reading this may have a range of thoughts on this subject…but before you make fun of me, ridicule me, or instruct me in the fine art of dinner table parenting, allow me to make a correlation.

In the 19th chapter of Matthew there is a wealthy man that comes to Jesus. He comes to Jesus for the very reason that many of us have come to Jesus. He wants something (that's another post for another time). Specifically…

He wants to go to Heaven!

He’s often identified as the “Rich Young Man” or the “Rich Young Ruler”…and many a sermon has been preached, using this ‘poor’ guy as an example, on the dangers of wealth. But there is a lot more to this story. And before Jesus ever got to the point where he asks this man to give it all away, I realize how much he and I have in common.

When he came to Jesus he had what sounded like a simple question. “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” But his question is deeper than that. In other words, Jesus, tell me how to make the cut. Tell me how to pass the class. I don’t want an “A,” I don’t want a “B”…heck, I don’t even really NEED a “C”! I just need to pass.

Jesus, patiently, tells him to keep the commandments…to which the rich man asks, “Which ones?” I mean, surely Jesus didn’t mean ALL of them, did He? Would 70% of them be enough? Would He settle for 60%?

In two words, Jesus…..”HOW MUCH?”

God gave His very best for me – He gave His son. His one and only son. He emptied Heaven – left it vacant and bankrupt in an effort to express His love for me. But instead of straining to give God my all – my very best – I find myself negotiating with the Creator. I spend more time trying to figure out ways that I can shortchange God than I do serving Him. I call out to God, “How much is it going to take?” And when He replies, “All of it!”…well…I, too, become a whining, lukewarm, unsalty “Christian.”

All of it…because He is worthy of that…and then some!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Boo Hoo

To say that I am emotional would be equivalent to saying that Mt. Everest is a hill. In short, I cry…

…a lot!

And it doesn’t take much to get the ol’ water works a-flowin’. Plus, it seems the older I get, the freer I am with purging the tear ducts. I get misty during just about every communion service at church; I get weepy when I pray with my sons; I blubber when just the right song comes on the radio (maybe I’m supposed to be taking hormone pills – I don’t know!)

But NOTHING makes me reach for Kleenex faster than a sad movie. So for your reading pleasure, here is a compilation of ten movies guaranteed to cause friends and family to call the local therapist on my behalf…

10. “Dead Man Walking” – Except for his portrayal of Spicoli in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High,” I could do without Sean Penn. But I loved “Dead Man Walking.” Granted, it has to be one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen – watching a man walk from Death Row to the execution room was excruciating – but it was very well done. It’s impossible to think of yourself feeling sorry for a convicted murderer…but I cried through the last 30 minutes of that movie!

9. “Steel Magnolias” – Yes, it’s a chick flick…but yes, I’ve seen it…SEVERAL times. The scene at the cemetery is priceless, and the emotional roller coaster that Sally Field, Olympia Dukakis, and Shirley MacLaine take you on is perfect. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I watch it any time I come across it on TV…commercials and all!

8. “The Champ” – This is the first movie I remember crying in…and I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old. When Jon Voight dies at the end, and Ricky Schroeder is screaming, “Don’t die, Champ – don’t be dead”…well, I found a lump in my little pre-pubescent throat.

7. “We Are Marshall” – I cry in about six different scenes…the plane crash, the scene with Coach and Nate Ruffin in the locker room, the “funeral end today” scene. It’s a powerful movie. Whenever I need a good emotional release, I queue up Nate Ruffin and the “my shoulder’s fine” scene.

6. “Marley And Me” – The dog dies…enough said!

5. “Godspell” – Okay…I don’t know that this ever was a MOVIE…but I fell in love with this musical when I saw my little brother, Greg, as the lead role of Jesus. For some reason, that performance impacted me…especially the scene at the end when Jesus is being killed. It was like watching my baby brother being killed…to save ME. It’s to the point I can’t even hear a song from the movie without needing a moment.

4. “Hoosiers” – Not really a “sad” movie…but I boo-hoo every time when Ollie hits the free-throw to win the regional final game, and when Hickory wins the championship game at the end.

3. “Old Yeller” – See #6.

2. “Mr. Holland’s Opus” – Saw this for the first time while riding on an airplane…and I genuinely felt sorry for the large gentleman next to me. I did more sniffling and tear-drying than he had seen in a long time. The scene with all of Mr. Holland’s kids coming back to play at his ‘farewell’ is absolutely beautiful.

1. “E.T.” – If you didn’t cry while watching this movie, you have no soul!

I could rattle off ten more...but I don't have any Kleenex with me at the moment...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

He Deserves My Best

Elijah thinks it’s funny to talk about dates that I had in high school. He is amazed that ANY girl would have gone ANYWHERE with me. Our conversation this past week made me think of this quintessential moment from my past…

It was my senior year in high school…and it appeared as though I was going to successfully navigate four years of high school without going to the Homecoming dance. This didn’t bother me a considerable amount. After all, I had roughly the same social skills of a leper and wasn’t exactly the most coveted dude walking the halls of Southwest High School.

Then one day a friend told me about a girl who needed a date to the dance, and that she had taken a certain interest in me. That rarely happened in my life, so after I verified my friend’s sanity I asked him to continue his story. Her name was Jennifer Schmidt. She was tall, beautiful, and a cheerleader.

And…in a nutshell…WAY OUTTA MY LEAGUE! There was no way I was asking her to go out in public with me. Surely there was a better offer waiting in the wings.

But after some not-so-gentle prodding from a GROUP of friends, I took a walk on the wild side and asked Jennifer to the dance. And she said, “Yes.”

Now…this is where the panic sets in…

…because I had to make this evening PERFECT! I was going to foul up this golden opportunity to be seen with this tall, gorgeous goddess. Everything had to be in order…so I put a plan in motion that consisted of extremes to which I have rarely gone.

I went shopping…by myself…bought slacks, a shirt, a tie and a jacket. Jennifer was not going to the dance with a slovenly-looking dork.

I polished my shoes…repeatedly. You could see my shoes from outer space…and I wanted Jennifer to be able to see OUR reflection in my shoes (how’s that for corny?!?!)

I bought cologne. Polo, to be exact. Jennifer was not going to stand next to a scentless buffoon.

I did sit-ups...lots and lots AND LOTS of sit-ups! On the off-chance that Jennifer hugged me, I was NOT going to let her wrap her arms around a mass of jello.

I sent Jennifer flowers. After all, she needed to know that I was looking forward to the evening.

I got my hair cut; I brushed and flossed my teeth an hour per day, and showered incessantly.

I wanted to be the best possible me I could be.

The evening? Well…it was a disaster…but that’s another note for another time.

Jennifer Schmidt was beautiful…but she wasn’t eternal. She was beautiful, but she wasn’t omnipotent. She was beautiful, but she wasn’t all-knowing. In my eyes, she was a goddess…but she wasn’t GOD. But oh the lengths that I went to in an effort to impress this mortal being.

Tonite, while studying for my class, I read the first two chapters of Genesis. Yes, I’ve read those verses MANY times before and heard the stories talked about in Bible class time and time again. But with that story of Jennifer rattling around inside my head, it gave me a different perspective on this magnanimous event that kicked off human history...

The One who did all that cool stuff and made everything…did that for ME!

And instead of going to great lengths to show Him how special He is to me, I give him a cursory “eh,” shrug my shoulders, and go about my day. I should be turning myself inside out to prove to Him that He is all that I live for…yet so often I treat Him as though He were an inconvenience to my daily routine. I serve Him leftovers, I give Him the used-up stuff, and I offer Him very little.

He deserves better.

No…He deserves the best...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekend Funnies

This weekend was a weekend of celebration. Noah turns 8 on Monday (today)...and in our family, when it's your birthday the entire weekend is dedicated to you. Well you can't go a weekend in our house without some zaniness breaking out...especially when you got three boys that come up with some interesting things to say. For instance...

"Back to you, Brad" - I don't know who Brad is...nor do i know how this little gem got started, but sometime Saturday evening, Noah started throwing out a bunch of sentences by beginning with, "This just in..." So i don't know if he's channeling his inner news reporter or what...but we endured it all weekend. For example, "This just in - Dallas Maverick, Shawn Marion, can't read! Back to you, Brad." Or..."This just in - Darth Vader is really Luke's MOTHER. Back to you, Brad." I could go on...but you get the picture.

Intestines??? - Noah and his friends were upstairs taking turns trying to jump into a large box (this is guaranteed to be the next Summery Olympics event)....when i hear a thud accompanied with a moan of pain. I then heard Noah complaining that he had injured his intestines. The next day, I asked him how his intestines were feeling - he responded that they were fine. I then asked, "Noah, will you point to your intestines?" He gave me a strange, embarrassed look and pointed to what he THOUGHT were his intestines. "No, those are your..." (yeah, you know where I'm going...)

Class - I'm teaching one of the adult Bible classes at church on Sunday morning. This past Sunday Jacob insisted on going to my class instead of the 4-year old class. I asked him why - he said, "Your class is more fun...and I can't get in trouble in your class." I'm sure his father's lecture will send him scurrying back to his class on Sunday (but, in his defense, he did sit very quietly and took lots and lots of notes).

Shot Of The Century - In Noah's basketball game Friday night, time on the clock was winding down. A kid from Noah's team shot the ball. It bounced off the rim and started bouncing towards the sideline. Noah happened to be in the right spot, grabbed it, turned, and fired a desparation heave toward the basket as time expired. The shot hit nothing but net, and fans from both teams let out a collective yell. Noah, whose head is already enormous, puffed up like a rooster in a hen house. And the whole way home I endured questions like, "Is that the most amazing shot you've ever seen?" "Do you think anyone else my age could make a shot like that?" "Could LeBron James make that shot?"

Mini Earl Anthony? - We had a bowling party for Noah on Thursday night. And of all the clowns that showed up for that thing, Jacob (my 5-year old) won! Three cheers for bumpers!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Swing...And A BIG Miss!

Kids are honest...BRUTALLY honest! So if you want an unfiltered, no-holds-barred opinion, just ask one of your children. EVENTUALLY, I'm told, they reach the age where you really have to drag information out of them...but my kids aren't there yet. Case in point, if any of my three knuckleheads are standing over me while I'm seated, I'm guaranteed to receive a comment centering around Rogaine, Bosley, or other hair-restoration product.

My children remind me that my body is in the firm grip of gravity, and that it would be best for me to wear long pants and a sweater when I go to the swimming pool.

I'm not funny. I'm not real athletic. My nostrils are exceptionally large. I yell too much. My car is ugly. I like weird music. And the fact that their mother would lower herself to marry a guy like me is totally lost on them.

You get the idea?

I've been reading a book called "Crazy Love." I've read it over...and over...and over. The author, Francis Chan, had me sold at the Preface. He begins by explaining that he thinks the Church has missed the boat, but he thought it was only him that felt that way. Until, one day, he stood in front of a crowd of 20,000 college students and posed that question to them. Every hand in the arena went up confirming Chan's philosophy.

I love God. I love Jesus. I want to spend eternity in front of the glorious throne of God, worshipping him with every ounce of my being. I want my wife there. I want all three of my boys there. I want my friends, my family, EVERYONE there with me.

And I want people to know I love God. I want them to know that He is the top priority in my life - that every decision I make is centered around Him and His will for me.

Which leads me to a random experiment I conducted a few weeks ago. Elijah (my 10-year old) and I were riding in the car together. I don't know where we were going (it's not important), when I was moved to ask a riveting question:

"Elijah, do you think that Daddy loves God?"

He look puzzled by the fact that I was ask him that. "Yes," he said simply.

Good! My life must be a great testimony to the fact that I love God. So I went to the next question..."How do you know that I love God?"

He didn't answer so quickly this time. "Uh, we go to Church every Sunday," he said. "And we set up the chairs in the church gym after basketball practice."

I sat there silently, hoping that Elijah would have an epiphany that would cause him to recollect those acts of love, charity, and selflessness that I had heaped on the less fortunate.

But who was I kidding? God was using my 10-year old as a human mirror. He was showing me the reflection of my spiritual body...and it looked flabbier and more unsightly than the physical one. It was embarrassing - humiliating. Deuteronomy tells me that, as a Dad, I'm supposed to be telling my kids about God and all that he's done regularly...yet my son thinks my only expression of love for God is a token hour on Sunday - 1/168 of a week.

So like an obese person who looks at themselves in the mirror and confesses, "I gotta change something!"...I make that same declaration.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - read "Crazy Love." Open your heart, mind, and soul to not just the words that Francis Chan writes in his book, but open it to the words that flow from God's HOLY book. It's time for me to KNOW God. I've met Him - He and I have been acquaintances for a long, long time. But I think I've missed something.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Random Top Ten List - Musical Introductions

This past Saturday the Campbell's (with Mother-In-Law in tow) took a field trip to the American Airlines Center to watch the Dirk-less Mavs take on Dwight Howard and the Magic. Our evening got off to a rocky start, and it looked like the Campbell's weren't going to quite make it in time for the starting lineups. This announcement brought about great ire from my oldest; thus confirming the fact that he IS a product of my gene pool...as the starting lineups is just about my most favorite part of a basketball game.

Back in 2006, the great Shawna Lavender (women's basketball coach @ Abilene Christian University) helped me mark an item off my bucket list by letting me be the Public Address announcer for the women's basketball games at ACU. It wasn't done in front of 10,000 screaming fans, but it was still a dream come true to get to do that. And you can ask Robin - I was downright giddy about ensuring that the game started off the right way.

Nothing is more depressing than watching a disinterested dad glumly welcome you to a coliseum and tell you who's playing. It needs to be fun, exciting, interesting...

...and music is the best way to make that happen!

So here, for the viewing pleasure of both folks that read my blog, are the top ten all-time songs for introducing a starting lineup:

10. "Enter Sandman" (Metallica) - The selling point with this song is the gradual crescendo. A single acoustic guitar slowly morphs into an orchestra of drums and distortion...while giving the P.A. guy plenty of time to run through the home team's starting five.

9. "She Sells Sanctuary" (The Cult) - I'm an Ian Astbury fanatic, and this is one of my most favorite songs of all time. So I'm a bit biased on this. But the quiet, serene opening eight bars of this song quickly transition to a rocking melody. The one drawback is that you would probably have to loop the song to get through the entire starting five.

8. "Eminence Front" (The Who) - This is the song the Mavericks use, and it has a groovy synthesizer beat. It goes great with a laser show, and the lyricless introduction lasts forever. Good tune!

7. "Poker Face" (Lady Gaga) - I know, I know...I can't believe I put this on here, either. But you gotta admit...the first 20-30 seconds of that song are downright intoxicating. And, again, it would be a nice laser show compliment.

6. "Turbo Lover" (Judas Priest) - This was the song I originally wanted to use for the ACU starters...but for a variety of reasons I thought better of it. This isn't the hard-driving heavy metal piece one expects from Priest - it has an eclectic/galactic sounding guitar intro combined with some synthesizer. The lyrics start pretty quickly after the intro (and they're not very nice lyrics, either), so once again looping is necessary.

5. "Stranglehold" (Ted Nugent) - When I was a kid, the wrestler Kerry Von Erich would run to the ring with this song playing. The guitar intro is great with some complementing drums shortly thereafter. More not-so-nice lyrics means looping or censoring is necessary.

4. "Welcome To The Jungle" (GNR) - This probably gets over-used...but I don't guess it ever gets old. The familiar guitar riff with a screaming Axl Rose can work a crowd into a frenzy in nothing flat.

3. "Jump" (House Of Pain) - Nothing like three nice Irish rappers to encourage a crowd to begin jumping in unison. It works!

2. "Iron Man" (Black Sabbath) - The sheer evil sound of the guitar and Ozzy's crazy, distorted voice make a great lead in for the home team. Great drums, great sound!

1. "Hell's Bells" (AC/DC) - The San Diego Padres hit a home run (sorry - couldn't help that one) when they began using this song when Trevor Hoffman would enter the game. How many rock'n'roll songs use a bell from a clock tower?!?!?! But what an ominous sound. Definitely the best!