"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!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh No They Didn't

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!! It's the season of giving, and a time when the world turns its focus to the birth of our Savior. And I love everything about Christmas - the lights, the food, the shopping, the gifts, the movies, and...most of all...the music! Christmas music is great, and nothing gets me more in the mood for the holiday than hearing "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."

So I logged onto my music service a couple of weeks ago to download some of those timeless Christmas favorites. I love the modern tunes as much as the classics (U2's rendition of "Baby Please Come Home" is probably my favorite). SO as I scrolled through the catalog of available holiday songs, I was stunned by the number of Christmas albums out there. Everyone...

...and I mean EVERYONE...has released a Christmas album!

So I did a little sampling of some of the music out there. Most of it was great...but not all of it is good. SO...here is a friendly little peak at some of the Christmas albums to avoid...

The Beach Boys - Granted, I like the Beach Boys as much as the next person...and their 1964 album with "Little Saint Nick" on it is great. But in 1990, Brian Wilson struck out on his own to release a solo Christmas album. AND THEN, they reunited to do ANOTHER Christmas album in 1998. This trend wreaks of "WE NEED MONEY!" Once is enough, gentlemen. Special acknowledgment goes to Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton, and Johnny Mathis who also released multiple albums.

Billy Idol ("Happy Holidays - A Very Special Christmas Album") - Yes, I'm sure it's special...so gather the family around to hear the punk music pioneer that gave us "Flesh For Fantasy," "Rock The Cradle Of Love," and "Dancing With Myself" (then anthem of 'self love') sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Silent Night."

Barbara Streisand ("Christmas Memories") - REALLY?!?!?!? Wouldn't that be like Alabama getting back together to release a Kwanzaa album?

Elton John - His compilation, entitled "Elton John's Christmas Party" is full of Christmas classics. But the sheer thought of going to an Elton John Christmas Party makes me fear Mistletoe like never before!

The Oak Ridge Boys ("Christmas Cookies") - Giddy up, a oom-pa-pa, oom-pa-pa, NO NO!

Twisted Sister ("A Twisted Christmas") - Their rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful" is awesome, and follows the same chord progression as "We're Not Going To Take It." But from there...eh...

Lynyrd Skynyrd ("Christmas Time Again") - Grab the Jack Daniels bottle and a folding chair and head to the front porch to hear the Southern rockers sing old favorites like "Santa's Messin' With The Kids" and "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin.'"


Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Christmas Movie Ever...?

I'm officially in the Christmas spirit.

I can say that as i finally made time to watch my favorite Christmas movie of all time. Though there are more than a dozen adaptations of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," my favorite is the 1970 musical rendition starring Albert Finney.

Not only does it produce the spookiest specter of Jacob Marley (played by Sir Alec Guiness), but it makes each of the characters more genuine and true-to-life than the others. One's heart goes out to Bob Cratchet and his family as they struggle to make ends meet while searching for a cure for Tiny Tim. It's easy to get the sense that Scrooge's nephew holds a sincere place in his heart for his miserly uncle. And you can feel the fear of each person indebted to Scrooge as he approaches them for payment.

But more than the characters, it's the intensity of the discourse that takes place between Ebenezer Scrooge and his former partner that I enjoy. Marley is explaining to Scrooge why he is wearing a massive chain around his body, and scrooge is obviously baffled that a man who was so wealth in life has succumbed to such a lowly stage in death.

"You were always a good man of business, Jacob," Scrooge says to Marley.

I've watched this movie every Christmas that I can remember. It used to come on every Christmas Eve night, and my brothers and i would watch it together, sing all the songs, and wait anxiously for the scene when Scrooge would wake up in Hell.

But for the first time in 40 years, I LISTENED to Marley's retort to Scrooge: "mankind should be our business Ebenezer!"

I think about all of the time that i spend at work. The amount of time I spend traveling, checking email, answering phone calls, attending meetings, and other various sundry activities that make up a work day...and compare it to the amount of time i spend on 'mankind.' The comparison is shameful.

I know nothing of Charles Dickens as person. I don't know anything about his theology, his views on God, eternity or the like...but i can think of no other movie line that embraces the message that Jesus shared while he was on the earth. Jesus warned that whatever we did to the "least of these" we did also to him. Jesus spent time touching people no one would touch, speaking to people no one acknowledged, and embracing the ones that others shunned. As the old hymn says, He is the "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind." We spend countless hours at work for our respective business...but how much time do we spend on His business?

Mankind should be OUR business..."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Did You Say "Hosea"?

I plopped down in my seat and waited patiently for the fine folks of Iowa to de-ice my plane so I could get the heck out of Dodge (or Des Moines, as the case may be). The Sudoku puzzles in my “American Way” magazine were all completed, and I have the oldest cell phone still in service…so it wasn’t like I could play a game or surf the web. So I nestled into my American Airlines seat, reached into my bag and grabbed my Bible.

It had been a long two weeks away from my home and my family, and I needed some spiritual rejuvenation. So I squeezed my eyes tightly and asked God to help guide my hands to some inspiration from His word. And where did my prayer take me…?

The book of Hosea.

(No, seriously…there REALLY is a book in the Bible called Hosea! It’s in the Old Testament…and as a card-carrying member of the Church of Christ, we all know that the Old Testament is no longer valid, right?)

In all seriousness, I knew very little about Hosea except for the fact that he was married to a woman named Gomer. In my heart and mind I’m still an eight-year old, so it’s very difficult for me to hear or read the name "Gomer" without thinking of Jim Nabors talking to Sergeant Carter in that amplified drawl of his. Other than that, I had never spent any time with this minor prophet from the Old Testament. But I decided to rely on the wisdom of the Father…so I dove in. And I was blown away by the first two chapters.

For hundreds of years God had been trying to communicate to his people. He tried a variety of means to teach and instruct them. Brought them out of Egypt, endured their grumbling, gave them a promised land, rescued them from a litany of bad guys, and made them a great kingdom of the ancient world. But it wasn't enough to satisfy them. And evidently, by the time the prophet Hosea came on the scene, God had decided it was time for the ultimate in object lessons. Now I don’t know how old Hosea was, but I gotta think he was a younger man…because God told him it was time to for him to find a wife. And best of all, God was even going to tell him precisely where to go to find this new love of his life.

To a prostitute!!??!?!

God told Hosea to go find a local harlot and make her his bride. I don’t know about you, but if I had wandered down to the corner of Rosedale and Hattie in Fort Worth or Harry Hines Blvd in Dallas and chose the future Mrs Campbell from one of those street corners, my parents would have moved and not told me where they had gone. That would be the the absolute last place anyone would go to find that special someone.

Why not have Hosea go to the synagogue? Why not to the most noble family in town? Why not to friends of his family?

Enter the object lesson…

God wanted his newly ordained prophet, the man he was sending to the house of Israel, to understand just how frustrated he had become with his people. And He was comparing the children of God to a hooker. Someone who, for the right price, would fulfill any desire. Someone who would assume any identity without any thoughts of loyalty or commitment. Someone who would be yours for a brief time, and then someone else’s in the span of five minutes.

Not exactly the most complimentary of comparisons…OUCH!

But Hosea did exactly as God instructed. He found a prostitute named Gomer, married her, and treated her like a queen. But she was unable to put her past behind her, so she left Hosea and went back to the streets. Hosea must have been crushed. To give your heart, mind, body and spirit to someone and receive nothing in return would be devastating. But God told Hosea to go after Gomer, to bring her back into his home, and to love her more than he had before.

God hurt for Hosea…because he knew exactly how Hosea felt. God gave his heart, mind, body and spirit to a wayward people. A people with no commitment to any one thing. A people who were blown hither and yond by the wind. But He came to them and said, “I will be your God, and you will be My people.” But they left Him…and He brought them back. They left Him again…and He brought them back. And over and over and over the cycle went. Until He decided that giving His Holy heart, mind, body and spirit wasn’t enough…so he upped the ante with His Son.

And yet so many STILL leave Him…

…but He still wants us…ALL of us…back.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Lesson From Jacob

A couple of weeks ago Elijah and I were working on his science project. We were doing a lot of measuring, so I had been using the tape measure quite a bit. Jacob was obviously fascinated with this brightly colored box that, when you pushed a button, caused this long skinny piece of metal to come flying back at you. So while Elijah and I were putting the finishing touches on his Nobel Prize winning project, Jacob decided to try his hand at the tape measure.

Five minutes into HIS project, I hear the tape measure quickly retract. The next thing I hear is Jacob exclaiming, “OH GREAT! Now I have to go to time out!” And he quickly stood up and stomped off to his customary place of punishment. As he was going to the place of shame, I walked over and found that the tape measure had broken off and gone back inside its casing. It wasn’t his fault as this old tape measure has been in my possession for almost twenty years, and it was worn and frayed.

So I went to go rescue my son and tell him that it wasn’t his fault.

Jacob did something he thought was wrong, and he instantly punished himself. Robin and I joked about how well we have him trained – you screw up, you go to timeout. Three cheers for rigid, drill sergeant parenting!

But I’ve also thought about the fact that I don’t want ANY of my boys to feel that their Daddy’s only job is to punish them. I’ve told all three of them NUMEROUS times, “I don’t like it when y’all get in trouble. It’s no fun spanking your kids.” (okay...maybe just a tiny bit).

But then I’ve also thought about how indicative this is of the relationship God and I have had for most of my life. I screw up, and I instantly start beating myself up or thinking of some way to do some sort of penance to compensate for the way I’ve disappointed Him. It’s a horribly legalistic way to think about it, but deep in the recesses of my mind I still feel like I have to be GOOD ENOUGH…that I have to do enough right stuff in order to earn the love of my Heavenly father.

So I try, with all my being, to let Elijah, Noah and Jacob know that there is nothing they could ever do to make me stop loving them.

Ironically, God has been trying to have that conversation with you and I for years.