Thursday, February 26, 2004

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I've been blessed to sit at the feet of some of the finest proclaimers of God's Word in the world. And not one of them has explained the gospel better than my children.

This week, my 7-year-old son, Andrew, perfectly personified Christ's claim that admission to the kingdom of God was predicated on growing young. "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child..." Last Friday, he came home from school complaining of a toothache. The missus took a look and was alarmed to discover what looked like a crack in the back right molar, a permanent tooth that just came in a couple of weeks ago.

She immediately called our dentist, who said he'd be surprised if it was indeed cracked because that rarely happens in someone so young. When he saw Andrew Monday morning, he was surprised all right but for different and more distressing reasons. He said that new permanent tooth was, for lack of a better term, dead and would have to come out, as in Wednesday. Furthermore, he was concerned there could be problems with his other permanent teeth currently beneath the skin. This had nothing to do with poor hygiene; this was about something potentially endemic.

Obviously, the missus and I were very concerned that something significant was wrong with our oldest, maybe something beyond just his gumline. That night, during our nightly reflection time in which we ask the boys what part of the day brought them the most and least joy, Andrew put a face on what Jesus said about children and the kingdom of God. When asked what part of his day brought him the most joy - not the least but the most - our son said, "I felt the most joy when the dentist found out something was wrong with my tooth and that he knew what to do to fix it." His most joyful moment of that day was the discovery that one of his permanent teeth was coming out for good. Andrew takes after me in a lot of ways. I hope in this way I can take after him.

The tooth did indeed come out Wednesday, as did the dentist's discovery that this appears to have been an isolated incident after all. Still, it's a week I won't soon forget. Out of the same precious mouth came both tooth and truth. The former changed Andrew's life; the latter changed mine.

Friday, February 20, 2004

The Chads Aren't the Only Things Dangling

Brenda Gould is showing her udder disdain for political protocol. She's once again been caught registering animals, including cows, to vote in Newmarket, England outside London. Turns out "Henry and Sophie Bull" (cows) aren't really people after all. Nor is "Jake Woofles" (dog).

Somewhere Joe Kennedy is wondering why he didn't think of that.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Giving the Devil His Due

Luke 4:5-7, in which Jesus is being tempted in the wilderness, explains a few things: "The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to (italics mine). So if you worship me, it will all be yours.'"

The enemy, according to this passage, can give what's been given to him - namely the kingdoms of this world and presumably everything therein - to whomever he wants. While it's certainly true that God won't tempt us beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), it also seems clear that Satan will stop at nothing in an attempt to disprove that truth. Everything, whether inherently good or evil, is at the enemy's disposal in his effort to interrupt our communion with the Father.

C.S. Lewis said our problem is not that we don't trust God; it's that we don't trust God alone. Lewis is in good company. Jesus said essentially the same thing in response to Satan's tempting in the desert: "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

It seems significant to me that all three carrots Satan dangled in front of Jesus were either part of his inheritance or inherently good, namely 1) food, 2) the kingdoms of the world (which would eventually be under the sovereignty of Christ anyway), and 3) God's protection from harm.

That's what makes temptation so, well, tempting. The very things with which God has blessed us are often the things used to bring us down. A married man considers intimacy a right instead of a blessing, so he finds it elsewhere if he doesn't find it as often or as exciting as he'd like it at home.

In the temptation of Christ and us, for that matter, I think we see the very nature of God and Satan exposed: Satan takes that which is good and makes it bad; God takes that which is bad and makes it good.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Pee-ness Envy

Sometimes life just isn't fair. See any of the last 114 free agent signings by George Steinbrenner. Or see our bathroom floor. This morning, our 2-year-old daughter, Anna Claire, continued her budding courtship with the potty. After exercising her squatter's rights for a few minutes with nothing to show for it, she stood up, turned around, and proceeded to relieve herself. And she missed. Badly.

That she would attempt to stand and deliver isn't so surprising. For two years, she's watched her two older brothers do the exact same thing, including the part about missing badly. As a matter of fact, I didn't actually witness the wetness. I got the news secondhand from the missus because I was helping one of the older boys clean up his own miss/mess in the other bathroom.

As our society grows increasingly homogenized, even across gender lines, isn't it okay that the two sexes do some things differently? Not all messes can be cleaned with Lysol and a sponge.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

No Joke

Despite my concerted efforts to portray myself as a good guy, I remain in an epic (and daily) struggle to remain pure in what I watch and how I surf. This article in Time Magazine tells me all I need to know about the destructive effects of allowing what some consider harmless into my being.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Spare A-Rod, Spoil the Child

Presidents' Day means different things to different people. For my 7-year-old Andrew, it means the disappointment of having a day off from school. (Remember those innocent days of youth when you actually wanted to go to school? Me neither.) For me, it means the DMV is closed and, thus, a rare day in which I remember to get my tags renewed goes by the boards. For Alex Rodriguez, it's a chance to pay tribute to those Presidents he appreciates most: President Andrew Jackson, whose face graces the $20 bill; President Ulysses S. Grant, who's not only on the 50 but also commanded Union forces in the Civil War (A-Rod has a thing for unions); and, finally, "Hundred Dollar Ben," Benjamin Franklin, founder and president of the American Philosophical Society, the motto of which is "promoting useful knowledge." The most useful knowledge to Alex Rodriguez is that the Texas Rangers relentlessly stink while the New York Yankees have been serious Series contenders for nearly a decade, winning four world titles in that time. Which is the principal reason why the reigning American League MVP and Gold Glove winner was willing to move 2000 miles to the north (to New York) and 30 feet to the right (from shortstop to third) to facilitate his trade from Big D to the Big Apple. As usual, the Rangers are left with the worm.

Meanwhile, my 5-year-old baseball fanatic, Nicholas, doesn't understand all the fuss. Sure, he's disappointed to see his closet full of A-Rod wardrobe rendered obsolete; but he already has a plan: "At least he's going to play with Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi. Now I can root for the Yankees when they're not playing the Rangers." Say hello to a child of free agency. He doesn't really root for teams; his allegiance is pledged to the players.

Well, I say that's bad for the future of the sport, and baseball has no one to blame but itself. I liked it better when Benjamin Franklin was President.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Golf 101

If you want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at an earlier age.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Dallas Maverick

Larry James is liberal. He's so liberal with the gifts God has given him, in fact, that his North Dallas neighborhood couldn't hold him. His upward mobility took him to the inner city where he's anything but conservative with his compassion. Read on...

Naked Truth

Emblazoned on the official seal of Harvard University is the Latin word veritas, which means "truth." Perhaps exustio femina, Latin for "smokin' hot babes," was already taken when the school was founded in 1636.

University officials this week issued their imprimatur to a student group preparing to publish a periodical celebrating sex, complete with graphic photos and maybe a crossword puzzle, I don't know. Crimson is an a propos school color; Harvard's forefathers must be turning that shade in their graves right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Maybe She Thought It Was Breakfast History Month

From the Unintentional Comedy File, a woman in Brownwood, Texas is being taken to task for a Black History Month exhibit in which she displays, among other things, figurines of those great African-American heroes, Aunt Jemima and Little Black Sambo. She's gonna be in real trouble when they see her wax statue of Uncle Tom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Sow What?

Two thoughts from opposite ends of the septic tank...

I was reminded this morning of this pithy prose from a Scottish political reformer named Samuel Smiles (whose name itself has pith):

Sow a thought, reap an act;
sow an act, reap a habit;
sow a habit; reap a character;
sow a character; reap a destiny.

I can attest to the accuracy of that adage, both positively and otherwise.

Meanwhile, I was sorry to see Hayseed Dixie, a Country/Western band inspired by AC/DC, get shut out at the Grammys. I thought for sure their tender ballad, "Keepin' Your Poop in a Jar," had the goods to take home Song of the Year. And special thanks to Highland Church praise team member and occasional song leader Val Durrington for turning me on to these guys.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Six Feet Under, Over, and Out

At times I wonder, is my blog really contributing to the betterment of society? Then I get something to eat and think of my next humorous post, which to many of you will also be my first humorous post.

With that in mind, try this clock-eating exercise:

Begin making a clockwise circular motion with your right foot. At the same time, try to draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand.

Years of costly research have revealed that it's humanly impossible to do both, though President Bush - who calls it "the most interestingest thingy since the Clapper" - has allocated 142 gazillion dollars in his new budget to further study this phenomenon in hopes that the Soviets don't figure it out first.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Petering Out

I'm a lot like the apostle Peter. Not in any of the good ways, mind you. Not the "You Are the Christ" Peter. Not the "Drop Everything and Follow Jesus" Peter. Not the "Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church" Peter. No, I'm like the Peter who was so excited about seeing the transfiguration that he himself morphed into Bob the Builder and began making plans to erect mountainside time shares. I'm the Peter who wanted to show Jesus how much faith he had but wound up all wet. And I'm the "Ear Piercing" Peter of Gethsemane, who was too busy wielding to notice Jesus yielding.

In other words, I'm more like a fireworks display than an electrical current. Lots of flash; not much staying power. So when I got a taste of the bipartisan fellowship among the Christian congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. last week...

Let's let that last sentence breathe for a moment...

Okay, so when I saw that camaraderie last week among people who otherwise should be mortal enemies, my first reaction was to announce my candidacy for the first public office I could get my hands on. And after broadcasting golf and raising money for non-profits, what other experience could I possibly need?!

(The idea of me in Washington, by the way, is a concept that should NOT be allowed to breathe, even for a moment. "My fellow Americans, so as not to become a Washington insider, I vow to avoid all sessions of Congress and instead initiate an exhaustive field study on ballpark concessions.")

Thankfully, C-SPAN's cameras were nowhere near to record my political epiphany. Because the more you witnessed what was happening with these public officials, the more it became apparent they weren't as interested in you coming to Washington (though they certainly wouldn't argue with another disciple of Christ in Congress) as they were you taking this spirit of uniting under Jesus outside the Beltway, to your work, church, circle of friends, et al.

Their is pretty simple and based largely on Matthew 18:19: begin gathering in groups of two or three, welcome the promised presence of Christ, and challenge each other to imitate Him in every area of your lives.

Can you believe it? The elected challenging the electorate to holy living? That makes about as much sense as Jesus building his church upon the one guy who said he'd never leave then left at the first opportunity. A guy like Peter. I hope I'm less and more like him every day.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

D.C. Talk

When you want straight talk, conversation that cuts right to the heart of the matter without bias and hidden agenda, where better to find it than our nation's capital? At least for two days anyway.

The fact that there have been 51 National Prayer Breakfasts before this week tells me that this bounty of goodwill and nonpartisan fellowship probably won't last. But I must say I was impressed to learn one-fourth of the United States Senate meets every Wednesday morning for a bipartisan Bible study. That's more significant to me, for example, than seeing dozens of congressional leaders at a prayer breakfast, which is televised and could yield positive PR points in an election year. That weekly Bible study, on the other hand, isn't carried by C-SPAN. And greater love hath no one, as far as I'm concerned, than to get up earlier than normal to participate in something spiritual, especially when no one else knows about it.

I can only hope that a theme like this year's, "Lifting Up Jesus," will inspire our leaders to pledge allegiance first to Christ, then to family, then to country, then to political party if there's anything left at that point. The two-party system is probably here to stay. But how radical would it be to witness representatives from both sides of the aisle eschewing "party loyalty" in favor of asking, "What's best for the country?" then voting according to the answer God reveals to them? Of course, the chances of that happening are as likely as my having breakfast with the President.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Paris, Hilton, In Person!

I just had breakfast with the President. That's THE President. As in "of the United States." The Chief Strategery Person, himself. Even though roughly 4,000 others were there with us in the International Ballroom of the Washington, D.C. Hilton for the 52nd National Prayer Breakfast, I felt the Commander-in-Chief and I made a "connection" in some small way. Maybe it was the way he looked at me when he said, "Pass the jelly." At least that's what I think he said. He was a table or twelve away from me, though I've been an expert lip reader ever since Jon Gruden became coach of the Oakland *#%&! Raiders. Nonetheless, it was nice of the President to say he'd pick up the check for breakfast and put it in the new budget.

Anyway, there were assorted dignitaries from more than 150 countries, as well as myriad U.S. Congressional leaders, Cabinet members, and a parade of people you'd expect to see at such functions, including James Dobson and the exquisitely-coiffed Cal Thomas (who's hair arrived shortly before he did), who together successfully lobbied to remove Janet Jackson from the program.

Instead, we were led in praise by Twila Paris, who managed to remain fully clothed for most of her performance. There was an awkward moment, however, when new/old Redskins coach Joe Gibbs ripped the lapel off of featured speaker J.C. Watts' suit. Gibbs later apologized, saying he thought Watts' wardrobe was still of the tearaway variety that he wore when he quarterbacked the Oklahoma Sooners to a national championship.

Still, a good time was had by all. And I must say it was encouraging to see our nation's leaders pause from their daily grind of character assassination and reckless spending to unite in a spirit of love, which they're counting on to cover the multitude of their sins.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Eighth Debt-ly Sin?

So the missus - remember, the true independent who's voted both elephant and donkey in past presidential elections - says last night, "Christians always talk about Dubya's spiritual virtues, but what about stewardship? I know we've had 9/11 and the war, but are those the only reasons we have a multi-billion dollar deficit? It doesn't seem like he's being a good steward of the government's money, so why aren't Christians holding him accountable on that issue?"

Drawing from the rich reservoirs of my economic and spiritual acumen, I replied with deep conviction, "Umm..."

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Adam Bomb Strikes Super Bowl Again

Tonight's developments have settled it for me. It's time to repeal the Patriot Act. Or at least that one little-known provision that says no matter how many yards or how many big plays or how many fortuitous calls (or non-calls) they need, the New England Patriots will get every one until the Lombardi Trophy rests safely in their collective clutches.

I have the exact same feeling watching the Pats as I do when the Yankees play postseason baseball, which is deliciously ironic considering how often New Englanders have been on the business end of the Pinstripes' penchant for last-minute miracles. Even when Adam Vinatieri failed to convert either first-half field goal, there was an eerie sense that it would only make a game-winner that much more melodramatic. Done.

No sooner does Carolina march deliberately downfield against the once-impregnable Patriot defense than Panthers' kicker John Kasay - the second most notorious boob of the night behind Janet Jackson's unexpectedly unprotected right breast during the halftime show - inexcusably duck hooks his kickoff out of bounds, allowing a team that needs no help in engineering fantastic finishes the opportunity to set up shop at the 40-yard line with 68 seconds and all three timeouts. Which brings to me to my next tangent. Where are the Patriots' naughty pictures of the football gods? I want an investigation immediately. How else could you explain the breaks this incipient dynasty gets when it needs it most? And to think it all started on a snowy night two years ago when referee Walt Coleman - who could win the race for John Kerry's vacated seat in a landslide if he ever wants to be a senator from Massachusetts - handed down a questionable application of a ridiculous rule in the infamous "Tuck Rule" imbroglio, gift-wrapping an opportunity for New England to beat Oakland in the 2002 divisional playoffs. Had that play been ruled a fumble, as it clearly was, the Patriots aren't sitting on two trophies in the last three years as they are tonight.

It was not a good week for John Kasay. Besides handing the ball and in some ways the game to New England Sunday night, he was respsonsible for yet another PR hit for Christians in the public eye, to wit:

(The following is an excerpt from a column written by the very funny Bill Simmons, a sports/comedy writer for ESPN and Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC who's been keeping a blog this week at the Super Bowl)

"So, we came up with this big plan for Media Day: Jimmy's cousin going to pretend he's one of the players. And with the staggering number of foreign journalists and non-sports fans running around at Media Day, we think it just might work.

Now we need to decide on a player. Sal has to pretend he's a kicker, since he's barely 5-foot-9. And everyone knows what Adam Vinatieri looks like, given that he's made two of the most memorable kicks in the history of football and all. That leaves Panthers kicker John Kasay. Who the heck knows what John Kasay looks like?...

Over the next 45 minutes, we end up roping in a handful of people, with Sal giving crazy answers like, "I'll let you in on a little secret: I have a metal left foot, the league has no idea," and "I don't care about the game, I'm just here for the strippers." And since we have something already pre-arranged for a beginning and ending with ESPN's NFL set and Trey Wingo, all we need is some sort of interaction with Kasay for a button in the middle, to show this was obviously a prank.

Poor Kasay has his own interview spot in the stands; he's talking to reporters with no idea what's happening on the field. Sal sneaks up there, barges into the pack and screams, "Guys, this man is an impostor! I'm the real John Kasay!"

Initially, Kasay seems fairly amused by the whole thing -- after all, Sal's wearing a different colored jersey, his pants are too small, and he doesn't look anything like him. Then they have this exchange:

Kasay (smiling): "Yeah, yeah, you can tell by his build, he's a real athlete."

Sal: "I'll tell you one thing, I would never wear my socks like that."

For some reason, this sets Kasay off. Why? I don't know. For God's sake, it's Media Day! There were people dressed like superheroes, child reporters, dimwits, bimbos ... this isn't exactly one of those days you mail right to the Pulitzer Committee. But this joke about his socks just rocked Kasay's world. He excuses himself and heads off to find the Panthers PR person. Meanwhile, some big reporter with one of those Penn and Teller ponytails looks like he's ready to fight Sal -- before Kasay bolted, he pushed Sal aside and stood defiantly between them.

Kasay returns with the Panthers PR guy, a redhead who's beyond furious; he's was angrier than the entire group of guests at La Quinta. He bitches us out -- Why? What did we do? -- and demands the tape from Wayne. You really have to know Wayne to know how funny that request was. He's the kind of guy who would have chopped off his own arm and eaten it before giving up a solid comedy piece.

Needless to say, within minutes, we were escorted up the stairs by security. And we're totally confused. Frat talks to the PR guy, who says something about Kasay being a devout born-again Christian and being uncomfortable with the whole thing. I'm not even sure what that means.

"What if we tell him that Jesus told us to do the bit?" Paul offers. We're just miffed and even a little angry, but we don't want to burn any bridges with the NFL, either. We decide to apologize, but we can't get back down to see Kasay before he leaves the premises....

And if the brief commotion inadvertently affected Kasay's preparation for Sunday's game in any way, shape or form ... well, as a diehard Pats fan, I feel just horrible about this whole thing."

The way Christian athletes/entertainers/public figures share their faith in the media is fodder for its own column if not entire blog. And while I'm sure Bill Simmons and the Jimmy Kimmel Live show were the last thing on John Kasay's mind when he kicked Carolina's best chance (to date and maybe ever) to win the World Championship out of bounds, I guarantee you it's the first thing Simmons thought of when the refs threw the flag.

The point is, I'm sick of the Patriots winning but don't have any other reasonable, well, reason for it. They play hard, they don't trash talk, they get breaks but they also make a lot for themselves and take advantage when they don't deserve it. Basically, the exact opposite of the Silver and Black buffoons I can't seem to quit rooting for. So far, the best thing I've come up with to justify my absence of "Patriot-ism" is that the guy on their helmets looks like Teddy Kennedy.

I'll keep looking for legitimate reasons while all of New England orders up another round. But if Walt Coleman ends up in John Kerry's cabinet, I'll make sure Boston's next tea party consists of taking those two Lombardi trophies off the Patriots' mantle and dropping them into Davy Jones' locker.