Relevant or Ridiculous? (long post warning)

fun-mirrorAs with many areas in my life these days, High School Musical seems to be the nexus of my latest rant/pet peeve/consternation. 

 

No, I’m not going to complain about the HSM franchise and its ubiquitous appeal to children all the world over.  The issue isn’t even the fact that the related soundtracks somehow made their way onto my iPod—for the kids’sake only. <cough..cough…wink…wink> I’m actually going to give the kids from East High a pass on this one. 

 

My gripe is actually directed towards Christians.  Can’t understand the connection?  Let me explain.

 

A couple nights ago, my wife rented some movies for my children since they will be out of school for Thanksgiving break.  One of these movies was titled “Sunday School Musical”.  As she told me what she had rented, I wondered if it was just coincidence that the title so closely mirrored “High School Musical”.  When she got home with the movies and I looked at the DVD cover, I realized there was no coincidence.  The cover art was designed to look just like the Disney product…only with a slightly different color scheme.  And of course, they changed the word “High” to “Sunday”.  Obviously this would make ALL the difference in the world.  The fact that the tag line for the movie was “They put the ‘Hip’ in Worship” only lessened my expectations further.  Not wanting my own jaded opinion to affect my children’s review of the movie, I kept my mouth shut. 

 

After I came home from work the next day, I asked my daughter if she had watched “Sunday School Musical”.  She had, and she liked it.  When I inquire about her favorite part, she told me that it was a song called “You’re not the boss of me”.

 

Fantastic.  What a wonderful life lesson for my daughter to take from a musical about Sunday school.  Candy-coated anarchy. (Ok, maybe that’s a stretch.  Maybe.)

 

Thankfully, I think she gave the movie about as much consideration as she gives me when I tell her that spending her birthday money on another Barbie is just wasting it—since she has 37 of them already and they all look exactly the same.  Naked with irrevocably damaged hair.  But it did get me thinking.

 

Why do Christians feel that by tweaking something that was successful as secular entertainment, they can somehow make it acceptable for Christian audiences but also relevant to society in general?  “Sunday School Musical” is but one example.  In the local Christian bookstore, I saw a display for Guitar Praise—a video game obviously mimicking the hugely successful Guitar Hero game series.  The look & game play are exactly the same as Guitar Hero, but instead of playing famous rock standards, you play Christian worship songs.  It’s the same—but different.

 

Now before you think that I’m going all “Holier than Thou” on this subject, let me tell you that I own Guitar Hero.  I’m actually fairly good too.  So as a Christian, should I automatically want to play Guitar Praise instead of Guitar Hero?  I hope not. Because I don’t. 

 

In the spirit of brevity (strategically placed after the 514th word of the post), I’ll cite just one more example.  Church signs.

 

Seemingly all the rage in Christianity today is the drive to have the most clever, pithy saying possible on one’s church sign.  I’m sure this started with original sign messages like the good ol’:

 

C-H-C-H .  What’s missing from church?  U-R 

 

Haha!  Clever.  Funny.  Makes me smile.  But from there it’s gone downhill. 

 

Rather than think of original sayings, churches just began taking various marketing campaigns for consumer products and changing a couple words to make them applicable to the church.  Or so they thought. 

 

Topping the list of my personal most hated church signs is:

 

For all you do, this blood’s for you

 

Is that seriously supposed to make a non-believer want to visit that church?  Are they supposed to think “Gee, those Christians sure do have their finger on the pulse of society.  There’s something different about them, and I just HAVE to find out what it is!”

 

I think not.

 

Sadly, if there are Christians like myself that feel these attempts to simply take something the world produced, change a few words, and re-market it as “Christian” come across as lame & ineffective; is it any wonder that many non-Christians claim that the Christian faith requires you to check your brain at the doors of the church? 

 

The way I see it, Jesus came to this earth and brought a message that was different.  His message was strange, yet attractive to unbelievers and it drove the religious leaders batty.  He came to a religious establishment (church) that was consumed with following The Law for their salvation, and he basically told them that The Law was now useless for that purpose.  He didn’t tweak their rules a little and claim to have a “New Way”.  He turned everything they knew completely upside down.  He then called us to follow Him—to be the Light in the Darkness.

 

He didn’t call us to be the “Fun mirror to the world”.  You know, the kind you hold up to something so it can see its reflection…only it’s a reflection that is slightly altered by the funky shape of the mirror.

 

Fun mirrors don’t change anything.  They just make people laugh before they walk away.

 

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Suzy

name-tag            

 

 

Have you ever heard of an idea or an invention and then thought “Why didn’t I come up with that?”    Me too.  Repeatedly.

 

It happened again yesterday.

 

On my way home from work I decided to listen to the local talk radio station.  As fate would have it, I tuned in just as they were going to a commercial break.  After the perfunctory mortgage, Realtor, and home improvement commercials, I was informed that I could now give the “perfect gift”.  For a small, monetary fee, I could name a star for a loved one. 

 

That’s right.  Name. A. Star.   BUT WAIT….THERE’S MORE!!

 

Not only will the name be recorded in the National Star Registry (yes, there really is one of those), but they will also receive a beautiful certificate giving them the coordinates of THEIR star!  I’m fairly certain though, that there is actually no guarantee that they will ever be able to SEE their star. 

 

How confusing is this going to be for school children as they learn the constellations?  Not only will they have to learn about Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, The Big Dipper, and Orion…but now they’re also going to have to learn about Billy, Margaret, Xavier, and Craig.

 

At first, I was going to ramble on about the lunacy of being able to charge people for something like this, but then I thought better of it.  Instead, I am going to take this opportunity to applaud the kind of ingenuity & initiative that have made this country great!  Capitalism is alive and well!  In America, where people will obviously pay good money for just about anything, it is vital for ideas like this to continue to give us outlets to spend our copious amounts of discretionary cash.

 

In this spirit of enterprise, I have come up with a couple ideas of my own.  First, I would like to present to you the “Tag a Tree For Me” program.  In this age of environmental consciousness, what could be more gratifying than knowing someone has spent good money to name a random, oxygen producing tree for you?  I will record the name & registry number on a very professional looking Excel spreadsheet—which can be e-mailed to you upon request.  Every 6 or 7 years, I will e-mail you a picture of your tree so that you can see how it’s growing.  At the end of your subscription period, I will send you a paper certificate thanking you for your support and best of all, the certificate will actually be made from the tree you sponsored!  Ahh, the Circle of Life.

 

Along with trees, I am actually working on programs to name and register clouds, rock formations, and gusts of wind.  Stay tuned!

 

As fantastic as those ideas are, I am most proud of the following idea.  The main reason is that it is the easiest and quickest to implement.  Beginning today, I would like to introduce to you the “Pick-a-Post & Name It Initiative”. 

 

For only $10, I will name one of my posts for your loved one.  For less than the price of large supreme pizza (with a coupon…on a Thursday night… between the hours of 7:00pm-10:00pm), the people that are most important to you can have their name immortalized in print.  As a demonstration, I have named this column “Suzy”, after my grandmother…in honor of all the birthday money she has sent me over the years.

 

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words…but have you ever wondered what a thousand words are worth?

 

Roughly $20.

 

That’s why naming a 500 word post is only $10.  It’s simple math.

 

(P.S.—My grandmother got a deal!! This post is over 600 words!)

Candor

I wish our country were run by 4 year olds.  000_chicken02

I mean it! 

It’s not that I think 4 year olds could have averted the current economic crisis (although I’m not sure they could have made it much worse).   I express this sentiment for one reason only.  I love the candor of children.

In this age of political correctness and tolerance, it often feels as if we choose our words so carefully that when we’ve said something, we have to replay it in our mind to see if we’ve actually said what we meant to say.  More often than not, what we want to communicate gets lost in the superfluous wording that is required to dance around a particular topic.

That’s why I love kids.  They call it like it is.  If you have a booger in your nose, they’re gonna tell you.  In the middle of church.  Out loud.  While pointing.  Repeatedly. 

They don’t worry about whether someone will be offended.  They understand that they mean no harm, and they simply trust that everyone else understands and feels the same way.  There’s no such thing as politically correct with them.  There are only facts that need communicated.

Just yesterday, my son gave me another wonderful example of this.  Here’s the scenario:

My sister-in-law took my wife and children to the beach while I went on my trip to Pennsylvania (see previous post).  On this trip, they decided to take in a dinner show at Dixie Stampede.  During the show, my 4 year old son was apparently transfixed by the show itself.  There were horses, sheep, camels, and a multitude of human performers.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t touch his meal.  This was not a shock, but knowing how delicious their food is, I decided to ask him why he didn’t eat it.

Had I asked this question to your average adult, the conversation would have gone something like this:

“Hey pal, how come you didn’t eat your meal?  There’s yummy barbeque chicken, delicious soup, great veggies, and warm bread with soft butter!”

“Well, to be honest with you, I found the show to be so completely engrossing that even though the food looked and smelled delicious, I simply could not turn away from the riveting events in the arena. (Then in a whisper)  And, just between you and me, rotisserie chicken isn’t exactly my favorite.  I’m not saying that it’s not a great choice for most people…it’s just that it’s not MY favorite selection, if you know what I mean.”

Very PC. 

Now, let’s contrast this with the actual exchange I had with my son:

“Hey pal, how come you didn’t eat your meal?  There was yummy barbeque chicken, delicious soup, great veggies, and warm bread with soft butter!”

“Dad, it was a whole chicken…and when I turned it around I could see its butt hole.  I’m not gonna eat THAT!”

See?  Candor. 

You can’t argue with that…and even if you could, why would you? 

Come 2012, you can have Palin.  I’m voting for the Preschoolers.

 

Travelog

monkeys3This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with my brothers to Pennsylvania to watch Penn State play Indiana.  This was the first trip that all 3 brothers had taken together, and in my opinion–it was great! 

Rather than boring you with a 2500 word narrative, I’ve decided to give some trip observations in “bullet-point form”.  Happy reading.

  • Driving through the night is a great way to avoid traffic
  • Driving through the night is NOT a great way to avoid fog
  • Contrary to what Dad used to say on family trips, all 3 brothers WERE able to get along for an entire car ride (we only had to tell  Ryan to put his hands on his lap three times–that’s a record)
  • Virginia is way too tall from top to bottom–they should learn something from WEST Virginia
  • Combos are the perfect road trip food
  • It’s virtually impossible to stay awake for more than 2 hours in a row when riding in a car
  • It’s virtually impossible to stay awake for more than 20 minutes in a row when DRIVING a car between the hours of 2:00-4:00am
  • Breakfast at The Waffle Shop in Bellefonte, PA is worth a 10 hour drive
  • Distances in your home town are much shorter than they seemed when you were growing up
  • People in central Pennsylvania love Penn State infinitely more than any other university town I’ve ever seen
  • Bellefonte landmarks seem to be burning down slowly, but surely
  • Believe it or not, my brothers are fun to hang out with
  • My brothers & I do NOT share the same musical taste
  • Taking books on a road trip is pointless…they only serve to help you fall asleep faster
  • Seeing old friends is great…no matter how long it’s been since you saw them last
  • Facebook lets you feel like you know what’s going on with someone…even when you haven’t seen them in 10 years
  • Seth Davis LOVES shopping for Penn State paraphernalia
  • Just because you live somewhere doesn’t mean you’re actually FROM there…right, Ry?
  • Chadd’s body creates a magnetic field of sorts…one that inexplicably attracts drool flung from the jowls of a gigantic mastiff named Hogan
  • Watching Chadd come unglued (but try to maintain composure) when said drool hits him is almost as fun as going to the Penn State football game
  • The human body has the ability to consume much more food than we give it credit for
  • Mandy is a saint for putting up with all the boys in her house
  • A poncho purchased for a mere $0.88 can be the difference between enjoying a football game or wishing horrible fates on all those who remembered to bring their ponchos
  • Penn State football is the reason that Happy Valley is Happy
  • Blue & White looks good on everyone
  • You haven’t watched a football game until you’ve watched YOUR team play in their home stadium (assuming YOUR team is Penn State)
  • Rain & 40 degree weather go perfectly with hot chocolate & a Nittany Lion win
  • Tailgating before AND after a game is definitely the way to go
  • Grandmothers always make the best peanut-butter fudge
  • Travelling south on I-85 near Charlotte between the hours of 5:00-6:00pm is nothing but a staring contest with the sun
  • Conversation is unnecessary on a long drive home

This is not an exhaustive list…and if something worthwhile strikes me, I’ll be certain to write and additional posting to let you know.  In the meantime….WE ARE–PENN STATE!!!

Grandiloquent

headmaster1During a break from resolving urgent telecommunication emergencies at work today, an interesting conversation took place.  Two co-workers and I were discussing whether most authors or poets write with cryptic or metaphorical intent. 

The consensus was that quite often a story or poem is written at face value, and it’s simply people who have much too high an opinion of themselves that ascribe other meaning to the words–and then disseminate this opinion as fact.  It was also determined that this is often employed by teachers or professors to impress naive students who do not know better and will be unlikely to question the authority of the someone in a position of authority.

To test the theory that one can always subjectively determine what a certain passage means to them, I have written a haiku.   While I, the author, know the true meaning behind this selection, I am actually far more interested to know what YOU think it means. 

Green sky rains Cheetos

Covering the ground waist deep,

Envious clouds cry.

 

Celebration

calendarAs I was doing my morning perusal of The Drudge Report, I came across a story that had the following headline….

Paper: Plans for National Holiday Honoring Obama“. 

Of course, everyone had to leave their own comments on the page.  Some were in favor of the holiday because of the significance of America electing its first African-American President.  Others balked based on the fact that he hasn’t accomplished anything yet…including being sworn into office.

While the argument seems to focus on issues of whether this holiday is warranted, I feel they are missing the crux of the matter.  The underlying, and truly important question has not been asked.  So due to my commitment to asking the hard questions, I will ask it here.

Question: 

Since Barack Obama is bi-racial, the son of a black father and a white mother, if the national holiday is ever approved….does that mean we only get a half day off of work?

Pandemic

 

fox-duck

 

Apparently I’m going to need to quit attending church for the same reason that I avoid running.

Rabid Foxes.

Fox attacks worshippers at Spartanburg Church

Perhaps there are too many church goers that have taken up running, and word got out in the fox community.  

In principle, I’m in favor of my church’s “Fit For Him” program, but I now worry whether this makes us a prime fox target.  

In an attempt to better ourselves physically, it seems we may have become sitting–or in this case, running–ducks.

Caution

Reason # 416 that I am not a runner

Persistent Threat of Rabid Fox Attackfox-attack

Sounds like I’m just fabricating excuses, doesn’t it?  Read this story…you’ll see that it’s a legitimate issue.

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D948V99O3&show_article=1

So there you have it, on top of the constant threat of torn muscles, compartment syndrome, vehicular negligence, and waking up before the crack of noon…runners now have to be on the lookout for diseased wildlife with a penchant for assailing fitness devotees.

Somehow it just doesn’t seem worth it.

 

Perspective

escher3Well, it’s finally over.  The 2008 election has come and gone.  52.35% of the country is happy.  47.65% of the country is sad.

For the record, the candidate I voted for did not win. 

As absorbing as the entire race has been, what is more interesting to me is the reaction of people after the election results were final.  It seems that those who rabidly supported Obama’s campaign are euphoric because they believe that the “change” will make all their troubles disappear.  Conversely, all those who rabidly opposed Obama (which seems to be much more prevalent than those that actually SUPPORTED McCain) seem to wrapped in a Doom & Gloom Cocoon.

Having voted for the winning candidate in the last two elections, I understand the euphoria.  Having voted for the losing candidate in this election, I understand the dismay.  That being said, it has given me a good chance to step back and attempt to gain some perspective on the situation.

As a Christian, I do my very best to look at politics, and life in general, through the lens of my faith.  Some would consider this a crutch.  To them I would simply submit that no matter what your belief system, you look at everything through the lens of your faith.  If your faith differs from mine, that just means you have a different lens.  Either way, you’re looking through it.

A disturbing trend that I’ve seen in Christians who voice political opinions is that they feel God’s will is being done as long as their candidate is winning.  Are there Christians that supported McCain?  Absolutely.  Are there Christians that supported Obama?  Most definitely.  Does that mean that God has conflicting versions of His will?  Hardly. 

A sentiment  that I’m hearing repeatedly is that we really, really, really need to pray for our nation now that Obama has been elected.  I don’t disagree with that statement.  However, the part that goes unsaid is that we would have really, really, really needed to pray for our nation if McCain had won the election, as well!  Our nation needs prayer.  It always has.  It always will.  That fact has nothing to do with who lives in the White House or what party controls Congress. 

God’s sovereignty will be the same on January 20, 2009 as it was on November 3, 2008…the same as it was the day that He said “Let there be light”.

The one thing that I am striving to avoid is combining sentiments such as “I’m terrified for our country, BUT I’m glad God is still in control”.  It’s been said that faith & fear cannot coexist. If I truly believe God is really in control, fear would seem to be an expression that I don’t actually trust Him.  Sadly, I can look back at many situations in my life where I have outwardly said “God is in control”, but inwardly I was terrified because events didn’t play out like I planned them. 

It seems that I’m most comforted when I can make sense of the events taking place.  At that point, I tell myself that since everything is going just like I planned, it’s obviously blessed by God.  I conveniently disregard what God says in Isaiah.

     “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,”
       declares the LORD.

                   -Isaiah 55:8

If I am only “in God’s will” when it matches my plans, is that really God’s will?  Or is it mine?  I think I know the answer to that…whether I want to admit it or not.

So sure, I’m disappointed that McCain didn’t win.  I don’t like losing at anything–elections included.  However,  I think it’s an especially good chance to step back and really consider where I put my faith.  If I place it in a man, then I have every right to be scared.  If I place it in God, like I’m quick to tell people, then fear has no place. 

I’m not sure whether it’s a sign of God’s sovereignty over the entire situation or not, but I find it interesting that I was still able to get a free donut from Krispy Kreme and a free coffee from Starbucks just for voting.  It didn’t matter who I voted for, I was doubly blessed.  

THAT was obviously God’s will. 

P.S.–(That last sentence was typed with tongue firmly in cheek).