"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!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scattershooting At 35,000 Feet

Random thoughts from a random dude...
  • George Carlin died this week. I know lots of folks found him funny...but, for some reason, I didn't (with the exception of his diatribe on the differences between football and baseball - that WAS funny!). Maybe his humor was just too intelligent for me. Plus, I can't stand the blatant, derogatory assault on Christians or Christianity. Wonder if he'd like a do-over on some of that...?
  • As I type this some poor guy next to me on the plane is being hit on MERCILESSLY by some lady in her mid-50's. He MIGHT be my age. Thank you, God, for my mp3 player!!!
  • Either of you have any good ideas on how to purge a materialistic mindset from a 7-year old? I've got an idea - I'll expound on it another time. But I'd love to hear yours!
  • "Pac Man" Jones wants to be called his given first name - "Adam." Guess that's his way of starting fresh. Hope that works out for him...but I hope he surrounds himself with some good people, too.
  • Top Three Blizzards of all time: (1)Peanut Butter Cup (2)Oreo (3)Chocolate Xtreme
  • Why pay money to go to a Psychiatrist or other professional counselor? The waitress at Waffle House is significantly less expensive AND will bring you enough coffee to fill the Grand Canyon in the process!
  • I've got the itch to run another marathon...or at least run a half-marathon. Either of you wanna run with me?
  • My 20-year high school reunion is in October. I'd like to go...but it's $88....PER PERSON!!! Guess I'd better start saving up for my 50-year reunion!

Have a blessed day!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Parent's Pride

Coming home from Indiana last week I managed to get on an earlier flight. Unfortunately, that meant I was in a middle seat. Worse than that, it was a seat in between two ladies that outweighed me. Worse than THAT...these two ladies knew each other. Worse than THAT...it was obvious that these two ladies hadn't seen each other in ten years and had A LOT of catching up to do. And what better way to do it than by talking over the dude with the bald spot!

Since it was obvious I wouldn't have room for my laptop I put on my headphones, grabbed my Bible and just opened it. I opened to the first chapter of Luke...so I figured that was where I was supposed to start.

It has been a long since I read anything from the Gospels. I usually spend time in Paul's letters or in one of the Prophet books of the Old Testament...so it was fun to go back to the beginning days of Jesus. And I had forgotten what a truly traumatic yet exciting start Jesus' life had.

It's not uncommon today, sadly, to see unwed expectant mothers. I don't know how common it was 2,000 years ago...but since there was a pretty stiff penalty under Jewish law for such 'activity,' I bet it was pretty low. So for a young lady to be approached by an angel to say, "Guess what - you're pregnant...and the father is the Holy Spirit"...and then to try and convince your family of that...

Well...let's just say I bet there are some mom's and dad's that would have a hard time buying that story.

And then there's Joseph. Imagine Mary dropping that story on him! And he believed it! Of course he also got a visit from an angel as well, but I still can't help but wondering how confident he was in her story.

Of course everyone is familiar with the story of Christmas...so I kinda breezed through that.

Then I came to Luke 2...when Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the Temple. The Holy place - the most important icon in their Jewish faith. The place where God lived. And they encounter two people there that, honestly, brought tears to my eyes as I re-read the account.

I LOVE hearing people praise my boys - whether it be for their soccer skills, their basketball skills, how polite they are, how handsome they are, etc. It brings me great joy to hear other people compliment my children. It's a blessing to them, and a blessing to Robin and I.

So I can scarcely imagine how Joseph and Mary must have felt when a man named Simeon takes the baby Jesus from his mother, holds him in his arms, lifts his eyes to Heaven and says, "God, I've seen what I need to see. I can die now." And then looks at Mary and says, "This is the most important baby ever to be born in Israel."

They then encounter an old lady named Anna. She also grabs the baby from their arms and begins to yell at the top of her lungs to all who would listen, proclaiming the name of the Lord and praising Him for allowing her to see the day when the Savior came on the scene. It doesn't even compare to the first day you take your newborn to church or to a big family function - where everyone is standing around admiring your baby - ooh-ing and ah-ing over this new little blessing in your life.

And I guess my favorite verse of the whole chapter is 2:51. It's right after Joseph and Mary have found an adolescent Jesus after looking for him for THREE DAYS!!! (I would've been tempted to whoop the little man's rear!). Luke says, "His mother treasured all these things in her heart." After all...it was her baby.

So I will try to do what Mary did - treasure these days in my heart. Amidst all the ER visits, the trips to Time Out, the fighting and bickering...I will treasure these days. Because my little boys won't be little boys forever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jesse Lopez

When I was working for ACU I drove to D/FW airport from Abilene on a Sunday morning (you absolutely CAN NOT trust the Abilene airport!). I was flipping through channels on the radio seeking some sort of spiritual encouragement (my Church of Christ upbringing leave me feeling EXTREMELY guilty if I don’t make it to worship on Sunday morning).

I was near the US-281 exit, close to Stephenville, and I picked up a station from Stephenville that was broadcasting the worship service of a local congregation. The pastor was introducing a gentleman named Jesse Lopez. Jesse had just been released from his third stint in prison for a variety of drug-related offenses. While in prison, a member of this congregation (sorry – I don’t remember the name) would visit Jesse and study the Bible with him. Jesse was baptized and began his own ministry within the prison. He was so grateful to this man from the church that he promised upon his release he would come share his story with the congregation.

When Jesse got up to speak it was quite obvious that he was not a frequent public speaker…nor was he extremely educated. But I’m always intrigued by the stories of men who have come to grips with the fact that they were lost…but have now been found (I’m jealous of people like that…but that’s another subject for another day).

As Jesse stumbled through his introduction he shared that he had come to know Christ quite a few years earlier. A gentleman from a different church had visited him in prison, studied the Bible with him, and encouraged him to “get saved.” And so he did. He prayed the sinner’s prayer and instantly felt like he was a new man. After all – he was saved!

But inside, he said, he was still the same man who had merely uttered a few rehearsed words.

When he got out of prison, he went back to his old habits – drugs, stealing, drinking, etc. And it landed him back in prison. It was after this second gentleman came to visit him that Jesse said he figured out what the problem was…and I loved the way he put it:

“There’s a huge, life-altering difference between being SAVED and being SET FREE.” He then went into a 30-minute, tear-laden narration of his life that really spoke to me.

I’ve always – ALWAYS – been a Christian. I’ve been inside a church building on a regular basis since the day I was born. I’ve always felt relative sure of my salvation…but I’ve always felt like those nagging little sins and habits pursue me everywhere I go.

It’s like Jesse Lopez said: “There’s a huge, life-altering difference between being SAVED and being SET FREE.” When your set free, the little things that used to bother you are replaced by the little things that bring glory to God and his Kingdom.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in the book of Jeremiah (chapter 37, I think) about a guy named Ebed-Melech who rescues Jeremiah from an old, dried-up cistern. Ebed-Melech grabs some ropes and gathers up some friends to help rescue Jeremiah. But he did one other “little thing” – he went to a room somewhere in the palace and grabbed some old rags for Jeremiah to put under his arms so he wouldn’t get rope burn.

I don’t know why – but I’ve always thought that was a really, really cool story. I also think it’s so convicting of the way many of us try to live as residents of the Kingdom of God. We take care of the big things quickly….but the “little things” (removing temptation from our lives, giving to those in need, practicing hospitality, praying with others, disciplining our children) receive lesser priority.

I need to pay attention to "little things."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Memorable Father's Day

Father's Day. Yet another Hallmark-inspired holiday brought to you by the fine folks in Corporate America (man, am I turning into a cranky old person or what?!?!?!).

There - I promise that's all the sourness you'll get from me. I kinda enjoy Father's Day - not because of the gift-giving aspect of it. But more for the "church" experience that comes with every Father's Day. My FAVORITE part is what the kiddos bring you from their class...whether it be a big paper necktie...or a "#1 DAD" medal made out of a paper plate...or an interesting artist's rendition of you by your five-year old - one in which you have hands the size of Dr. J, pencil-thin legs, and wild hair (well...in my case, take out the hands and it's pretty close!). I also used to get a big kick out of a portion of the Father's Day worship service at a congregation Robin and I once attended...where the preacher would have all the dad's in the congregation stand while the rest of the congregation would sing "Rise Up, O Men of God." I would sit there doing the "church giggle" thanking the Lord that I did not, yet, have children.

This year, Father's Day was at its highest point at church. Elijah, my 7-1/2 year old, drew pictures of things that he thought made his dad special (for instance, he drew a picture of Dad's Favorite Food -- "salad." His teacher got a HUGE kick out of that). He also drew a picture of when he was happiest - when he's playing catch with his dad. I will admit that I teared up a bit.

But that's where all the good ended!

Robin and I lost a dear friend over the weekend...but since I have to fly to Indianapolis Monday morning, I was unable to go to the funeral. So Father's Day morning saw me and my three convicts...uh, I mean, three sons...set out for church alone. I eventually got everyone to class then ran off to mine. After class I managed to rustle my oldest two into the Auditorium. I had just finished reading the aforementioned note from Elijah when the pager in my pocket went off. This is the pager that they give you when you have a two-year old that is capable of violence in the nursery.

So I left the older two under the care of some unwary parishoner and dashed off to see what Jacob had done. I had not yet reached the door of the nursery when my olfactory senses kicked in. After I picked myself up off the floor, I peeked around the door to see if there was a problem. The nursery volunteer, a young lady not more than 13 with a bewildered, panicked look on her face, informed me that was not a dead body I smelled. It belonged to my son...and she wasn't changing it!

So I donned a Haz-Mat uniform, wished myself a Happy Father's Day, and did my duty (no pun intended).

After making a trip to the dumpster I made it back to the auditorium for worship. My two oldest were fidgety as usual. When the time for "Children's Church" rolled around, Noah informed me he would not be going. So I bid farewell to Elijah and hovered between consciousness while shifting my attention between a sermon about the recently departed Tim Russert and Noah's drawings of basketball courts. Quite nice, really.

So...it's Father's Day. And where do we go to lunch on Father's Day? If your answer was, "Wherever Daddy wants to go," then you OBVIOUSLY are either not a father yet, OR the man of the house in your family runs a Dictatorship. No...in the Campbell house...if it's Sunday lunch that means one thing, and one thing only....


Who in their right mind would trade the insanity and mayhem of a pizza buffet with arcade games for a quiet Sunday brunch?!?!?!

So after making a trip through the line to fill three plates...THEN making a trip to the drink machine to fill three drinks...THEN making a trip to the salad bar to fill three plates with some semblance of a vegetable...THEN making a trip BACK to the drink machin to refill Jacob's spilt Sprite, I get to make a trip through the line. Man...Canadian Bacon never tasted so good!

I've barely begun my meal when my oldest begins to stir the pot. Elijah, knowing full-well we would be going to Cici's, managed to smuggle a dollar from his bank. When he was done eating, he produced the money from his pocket and proudly walked to the game room. The other two, mouths agape and eyes wide with wonder, both turned to me and yelled in unison, "Where's my dollar??!?!?!" Hoping to AVOID a scene I produced two one-dollar bills from my wallet and sent them on their merry way.

In a matter of five minutes, World War III broke out.

While Jacob is trying to feed quarters into a game that makes the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" look like an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Elijah and Noah are duking it out over who gets to play Ms. Pac Man first. So as I begin the refereeing portion of my job I happen to glance over my shoulder to see a young couple with a baby no more than two months old shooting me the look that says, "And they let YOU be a parent."

After what seemed like hours I shuttled my kids out of the gameroom, VERY close to the young family's table, and out the door....fighting the whole way, I might add. When we get in the car I announce that all of them have earned a spot in Time Out when we get home. This announcement is met with a chorus of, "It wasn't my fault's" and "You're not fair's," and "We want Mommy to come home's."

We pull into the driveway, and I order everyone upstairs. As I sit down on the couch, I barely manage to get one shoe off when I hear a thud upstairs. Now thuds in the Campbell house are not uncommon. Then I hear crying. Again, crying...DEFINITELY not an uncommon sound in the Campbell house. But then I hear the type of crying that is more than "Ouch." It's the type of crying that says, "Wow, blood is supposed to be INSIDE your body, not outside." And my fears are confirmed when Noah announces, "Daddy, Jacob is bleeding!"

I dash up the stairs to find that Noah has issued quite an understatement. Jacob IS bleeding from the hand...and doing so quite nicely. I ask, "What happened?" Noah gives me the shrug of innocence. But not time to worry about that. I quickly call a neighbor and ask if they can watch the older two while I make yet another trip to the ER.

By the time everyone is in the car EVERYBODY is in tears. Elijah and Noah are upset because they don't want their brother to have to get stitches. And Jacob...well, he's upset because he doesn't want to get stitches either. And Daddy is crying because Daddy was sooo looking forward to watching the US Open's final round.

So off I go to Medical Center of McKinney singing "Happy Father's Day" to myself as I go. I'll spare you the gory details of my visit...but five stitches later I emerge lighter in the wallet and weary in spirit...but glad to have yet another ER visit in the books.

The rest of my Father's Day. Well...I'm just glad it was blood-free!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

So Long, Elli Mae!

2007 came to a sad close for the Campbell's. On the Saturday before New Year's Eve, I made the difficult decision that it was time for Elli Mae to, as the old hymn says, "Have a little talk with Jesus"...and do it face to face.

Old Elli Mae was 14-years old, practically blind, 99.9% deaf, and had reached a point where she was unable to stand up without help. Friday night I went out to the spot in the yard where she was laying and covered her with a towel and some leaves because she couldn't get up. I patted her a little bit and told her she wouldn't have to spend another night like that.

We got Elli Mae shortly after Robin and I moved into our first house. Robin thought she got an incredible deal - paying $50 for our "full-blood" yellow lab. It wasn't long before we realized that some random Shar-Pei had found its way into our Yellow Lab's gene pool. Those first nights were LOUD...with Elli crying and whining in the kitchen where we kept her hemmed in with cardboard boxes and other barricades.

Elli Mae was sweet...but she was on the same intellectual level as Forrest Gump. I could go on about some of her other habits...but I like to keep this blog as G-rated as possible.

Saturday morning I wrapped her up in a towel and took her for a ride in my father-in-law's truck. About halfway to the doctor's office I looked in the rear-view mirror. Incredibly, Elli Mae had managed to sit up and was hanging her head over the side of the truck enjoying the breeze. For a split second, I thought I should turn around and take her back home. But no sooner had the thought entered my mind than she slid her head back down into the bed of the truck.

When I arrived at the doctor's office, I boldly strode in and told the teenage girl that I had a dog that needed to be "put down." She asked, "What's the animal's name?" And I got the first syllable of the name out when the lump in my throat erupted. Geez - what a sap. She smiled, and said I could fill the paper work out later.

Out came the vet. We walked to the back of the truck, and he asked me if I wanted to be there when he gave her the shot. I should've stayed...but I just couldn't. So I walked away while he quietly sent "Big L" on her final journey.

He motioned to me that he was finished, and I walked over to her. He asked me to bring her around back so that he could dispose of her accordingly. I decided to carry her just so that I could hold her one final time...and I bawled like a baby the whole way.

It's AMAZING how attached you can get to something that has no soul. I mourned that entire day for that dog...and I have gone through a half-dozen Kleenex typing this short entry. It's a shame I don't mourn for all the lost people around me who DO have souls...and even sadder that I put forth so little effort to reach out to them.