"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, August 28, 2008

Consistency

Warning: This may sound a wee-bit too thought provoking to come from me...but roll with me on it, please?

Both of you may recall that I like think of myself as an avid runner. I'm not a fast runner; I'm not a pretty runner; and I sure don't have the kind of body that makes people stop and say, "Man, I bet that guys likes to run."

But I do - I love nothing more than to start my morning off with a 4-6 mile jaunt around these concrete-laden trails of McKinney, TX.

So I head out about 5:30 every morning, and though sometimes I change my route up a bit, the first two miles always takes me down the same path. As the summer days pass by the darkness remains a little bit more each day. And with a minimal number of street lights on the first phase of my run it's not always easy to see things that might be lurking in the shadows.

About a month ago as I was running along I saw what appeared to be a tennis ball-sized rock sitting on the side walk. I figured the easiest thing to do would be to step over it...only right when I started to do so, "the rock" jumped as well. Now I run with an mp3 player...so I'm not exactly sure how loud I screamed...but I feel confident that it rivaled Janet Leigh's shower scene effort in "Psycho." After I took a dozen or so steps I stopped, turned around, and went back to investigate my close encounter.

"The rock" turned out to be a toad. At a loss for what to do, I figured the proper thing to do would be to greet the toad with a formal toad greeting. So I did so...then apologized for our near fatal collision and went on my way. That was on a Tuesday. The following morning was a rare, rainy Wednesday morning...but, undaunted, I made my way out the door at around 5:30. At the exact spot in my run where I had my toad encounter on Tuesday I spotted another "rock." As I closed in on the "rock," I noticed, again, that it was a toad.

Now...I can't tell one toad from another...but I felt fairly confident this was the same toad I had met the previous day. This time, without stopping, I gave another toad-friendly greeting and continued on my way.

Next morning...same time, same place...same toad!

And every morning, for the past month, I've encountered the same toad at the same spot.

This morning, as I said 'hello' and 'good-bye' to my amphibious friend...I thought about how awesome it is to see that little guy each morning. I know he's going to be there...I know that I need to run on the left-side of the path instead of the right (he's obviously partial to the right side), and that he doesn't move until after I pass. And I thought about how bummed I would be if he weren't there.

And I wonder what sort of consistency I provide. Am I always the same person my co-workers expect to see? Does my wife know what to expect from me? Am I the same husband she married 16 years ago? Am I the same wall of support I pledged to be when were married? Do my kids feel that they can count on Dad to be the same guy regardless of how his day went, regardless of how tired he is, regardless of how much he dislikes his job, and regardless of how he feels?

And does God know he can find me in the same spot whenever he needs me? When he sends challenges my way does he know that he can count on me? When there is someone to be ministered to, does he feel comfortable that I'll be the person he can rely on?

You know...I don't think I would like the answer to these questions!

Guess I could learn a little more from my new toad friend! Hope he's there tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Potpourri

While relaxing on the couch after putting my kids to bed...the following thoughts wandered aimlessly through my mind, spilled out onto the keyboard, and onto this thing called a blog. I'm feeling a little senile...
  • If you haven't read the book "unChristian," you REALLY need to check that out. Very thought-provoking...and also a good kick to the gut of the average guy who THINKS he knows how a Christian is supposed to act.
  • I found out four of my best buds from high school are all planning on attending our 20-year reunion in October. I wasn't planning on going...but now I'm having second thoughts (despite the $88 ticket price).
  • Ted Kennedy...c'mon...really?!?!?!!
  • I think Academy is my most favorite retail place of all times.
  • Is it just me...or is "A Fistful of Dollars" on AMC practically every week!
  • Tom Petty played at the American Airlines Center tonite. I wasn't there...and that's just not fair.
  • I don't care how many houses John McCain owns...unless, of course, he's planning on giving one of them to me.
  • Some lady at work always refers to me as "The Happy Guy." What a great compliment...now I need to remember to share with her why I'm so happy (trust me - it ain't because of the job!!!).
  • Rico, Noah's classmate, fell asleep in Art class today. How do you fall asleep in Art?!?!?!?!
  • I wish I got to go to Art class!
  • Isn't it time for a little high school football!??!?!

There...that's enough. Both of you can go back to your lives, now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another First Day of School

I was reminded of the words of that great theologian and philosopher, Meat Loaf, as we trudged off to today's first day of school..."Two outta three ain't bad." Those words echoed through my head as Elijah began his first day of second grade, and Noah started his elementary school career as a Kindergartener. My how time flies!

And my, what an event the first day of school has become!!!

I haven't verified any of this with my mother...but I don't ever recall a "Meet The Teacher" day the week before school. As I recall, you showed up to school, looked at a list posed on the School Office window, and lamented how the fates had treated you as you trudged off to meet this mystery woman. And I don't recall parents banding together to walk their kids to school on the first day. As a matter of fact, I don't remember my parents even walking into school with me except on the first day of Kindergarten!

But this morning, it was a scene from the book of Exodus as every house on our street emptied to shuttle unsuspecting youths to another year of scholastic achievement. Youths dressed in their newest clothes with carefully manicured hair.

Everyone...except the Campbell children.

The night before Robin carefully made a wardrobe selection ideal for the first day of school. For Elijah she chose Khaki shorts and a nice red shirt; for Noah, denim shorts and his Joakim Noah Chicago Bulls jersey. As a weary Elijah wandered downstairs, he saw his attire laid out on the couch and instantly exclaimed, "Aw mom, I don't want to wear NICE clothes to school."

And so it began. A battle of wills - the likes of which had not been seen since Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln in the mid-1860's. In the end, Elijah emerged victorious...though slightly scarred. Though the khaki shorts were still in place, the "NICE" red t-shirt had been replaced by his Chicago Bears Rex Grossman jersey.

So off we went...kinda.

There was one more child who felt neglected about not getting to participate in the day's festivities. So while Elijah and Noah ran off after their friends on their scooters...and Robin, camera in tow, quickly followed behind, I tried to coax my almost-3-year old to come along for the pomp and circumstance. In the end, a piggy-back ride was the only thing that enabled this family experience to continue. A piggy-back ride, might I add, in 85 degree heat/humidity.

Elijah cared very little about mom and dad hanging around to see him off to his first day in class. He quickly went inside his room, settled in at his desk, and instantly went to the task laid before him by his veteran teacher. Meanwhile, I was refereeing the wrestling match between Noah and Jacob while trying to help one of Elijah's classmates find his locker.

Then we were off to Noah's class...and he was pumped. We arrived to find the teacher trying desperately to console a young lady who was not the least bit thrilled about this new experience. We also met Noah's new girlfriend and tablemate Mabrey. Mabrey's parents definitely outdid the Campbell's, leaving her with a picture of the entire family on one side of an index card...and a picture of her kitty cat on the other side. She proudly showed her new friend her card...though I'm not sure if she was showing him because she was proud of it, or if she was taunting Noah by showing him how unprepared HIS parents were.

As we were filing out, I met Rico. Yes...there is a kid in Noah's class named Rico. And yes, he threw me up against a locker and made me give him my milk money (I'm kidding...but Rico might be in that line of work by the time the school year is over!). He LOOKS like a Rico...and he TALKS like a Rico. I told Noah, "Make friends with Rico - you will go far."

So we patted Noah on the head and told him how proud we were of him and headed out the door.

And yes...as the rock of our family...I cried a little.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Movie With A Message

Both of you know that if a movie, song or TV show was made after 1989...then there's a 99.45% chance that I'm not the least bit interested in it.

But there is the occasional exception.

I enjoyed the first "Narnia" movie...but never made it to the theatre to watch the second episode, "Prince Caspian." But I happened to be scanning the movie listings a couple of weeks ago and saw that "Prince Caspian" was on at the dollar theatre (technically, it's $1.25...but saying the 'dollar-twenty-five-cent theatre' sounds a bit silly). So I loaded Noah and Elijah up in the car (two hours, twenty minutes is WAY too long for Jacob to sit still!) and went to the show.

And all I can say is WOW!

The movie is a classic good versus evil struggle with the beautiful Spiritual overtones that C.S. Lewis intended. There are great, epic battle scenes, intense confrontations with former friends, and Godly messages that make one stop and think. And that's what I liked best about the movie - the Christ-centered message. Specifically, one moment in the movie gave me something to ponder.

Early in the movie, as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are trying to find away to cross a deep ravine. Lucy is convinced that she sees Aslan on the other side of the ravine...but the rest of her family doesn't believe her.

It's not 'til the end of the movie when Aslan finally makes his appearance in a meeting with Lucy. Lucy tells Aslan about her experience at the ravine.

"I saw you there. But when I told the others I saw you they didn't believe me."
Aslan replies, "So why would that stop you from coming to me."
Lucy's response echoes the same response I have had to God several times in the past. "Uh...I don't know."

How many times have I been convinced that I've witnessed the power of the Almighty, but let someone talk me into chalking it up to 'fate?' How often do I feel God's presence in an opportunity to witness to someone...but I let the opportunity go by because I let logic and reasoning factor into my thinking? How often am I convinced that I see God, but I let others talk me out of it?

Mercifully, Aslan's words to Lucy weren't words of disappointment. Instead, they were the words an ultra-patient father uses while putting his arms around his daughter. The words of a patient teacher, a counselor, a loving, caring dad.

But I'm thankful that God is that patient...but my human mind still finds it impossible to imagine that he could be that patient with me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

...then this video may not be worth any! Elijah, age 3, and Daddy's first (and last) attempt at directing a music video. ENJOY!

video

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Day In The Graveyard

It was the first thing in August, and around our house that means one thing and one thing only.

It's time for the annual Stonebarger family reunion.

The community was called Pleasant Hill. It's a hop, skip, and jump to the east of Durant, OK. Today it's nothing more than pastureland, a couple of houses, an old 50' x 50' metal building, and a rolling cemetery. It's not the ideal conditions for a meal...but it's the perfect place to enjoy fried chicken while visiting with family and passing around family pictures. Because more than half a century ago it was the place my father-in-law, Jesse Stonebarger, called home.

Jesse is one of 17 children - 12 sisters and 5 brothers born to Luther and Suba Stonebarger (no one is quite sure what Suba's 'real' name was - they just always knew her as 'Suba'). They were poor...REAL poor. The house they grew up in had three rooms. They got different (not necessarily NEW) clothes once a year (if they were lucky). They worked hard from the time they could walk to help provide for the family.

Things being the way they were, the Stonebarger's relied on one another. They made up their own games, developed their own language (for instance, a 'jack artman' is a flashlight), and became their own little community. They developed a love and joy of being with each other - a feeling that is evident to this very day.

So a little 105 degree heat on the first Sunday of August does little to keep the Stonebarger's from gathering in the cemetery to celebrate being a family. I enjoy it as well. It may sound odd, but I love cemeteries...because they're full of a million stories. And as you walk amongst the monuments of the Stonebarger family and the other families that once made up this community, one can almost hear the Spirits sitting in a circle of folding chairs recounting the stories of a generation gone by.

*Luther's tombstone sports the same date of birth as our oldest son, Elijah. Luther stories are legendary...including the time that he got mad at one of the family's roosters, took a swing at it with his shotgun, and wound up shooting off two of his own fingers.

*Elijah also has the same birthday as L.T., the oldest Stonebarger brother. He died five years ago sitting in his chair while watching television. L.T. LOVED family events - he was always the first to arrive for Thanksgiving...and was usually the last to leave.

*Next to Luther and Suba is an old, worn headstone - worn to the point that no name or date is visible. In 1943, Luther, Suba and the children were in the fields picking cotton for one of the landowners they worked for. They brought their two-year old twins, Barbara and Irene with them, but set them in the wagon to keep them out of the way. Irene got down out of the wagon and was playing underneath when Luther led the horse forward. She was killed almost instantly.

*Dave was 12 years younger than Jesse - he died two years ago. I baptized him weeks before he succumbed to cancer. I did his eulogy in that same metal building before we buried beside his mom and dad as well.

*"Dude" is on the opposite end of the cemetery. Just like Suba, I'm not real sure of what her real name is...but everyone called her "Dude" for as long as they can remember. She was the firstborn and the one that the other brothers and sisters looked to for inspiration. She died of a heart attack while Robin was in college.

And the stories go on and on. There are numerous headstones with inscriptions such as "Our infant son"; "Born May 15 - Died May 16." One poor family had four tiny monuments with those same inscriptions. How painful it would be to endure the loss of your child.

So it doesn't matter how hot it is the first Sunday of August in 2009. We'll be in the cemetery in Pleasant Hill. We'll eat the same food, reunite with the same family members, and pass around the same pictures. Then I'll wander among the monuments to see what new stories I can find.