An Exegetical Analysis of the 2011 Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost over.  A Christmas Story has disappeared from your television.  That station on your FM dial that’s been playing nothing but Christmas music since early November has gone back to playing your favorites from the 70s, 80s, 90s and today.  All of the decorations are put away, unless of course you live in certain parts of Georgia and Alabama.  In that case you’ve got another 5 or 6 weeks to check that one off the list.

Here’s my exegetical analysis of the holiday season that was.

The Holiday Haircut

I was 12 hours away from home and my hair was starting to make me look like a roadie for Winger circa 1988.  I harmlessly stepped away from the family festivities and wandered in to one of those haircutting places that are especially catered to guys.  This one was called Sport Clips.  If you’ve never been in one it basically looks like the guy that designed your middle school locker room worked his magic on a Fantastic Sams or Great Clips.  The only difference is that there are huge flat screens playing Sportscenter and tons of sports memorabilia from the local teams.  In this case the local teams were the Washington Redskins, Nationals and Bullets/Wizzards.  That is another way of saying that none of the posters hanging on the wall involved anything more recent than 1991.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so down on myself for being an Atlanta sports fan.

I sat in this huge waiting/locker room with a dozen or so other guys and we all alternated between looking at the giant flat screen and the floor.  After about ten minutes my number was called by a woman in a referee shirt.  This is the first problem I had with the alleged just for guys haircutting place.  No respectable man likes referees.  Even guys who are referees don’t care for referees.  Why, then, would we want a referee cutting our hair?  I’m starting to have some doubts about this place but I’ve already committed.  It’s too late to make a run for the door.

On your way to your station you are asked if you want the MVP treatment.  I had no idea what this meant, sort of like when I order at Starbucks.

“And sir, would you like that grande, tall or skinny?”

“Little.”

I told the lady I just wanted a plain, basic haircut.  I think it was called the Junior Varsity or the Mighty Mite or the War Eagle.  Something along those lines.

When you go to your chair Sportscenter is playing for you on your own flat screen.  This idea looks good on paper but is a colossal failure in reality.  The problem is that while you are trying to watch Sportscenter, the referee lady keeps trying to talk to you.  In sports, you know that a referee is doing his job well when you don’t notice him.  The same is true when that referee is trying to cut your hair.  If there’s one thing a guy hates, it’s trying to watch TV while some woman he doesn’t know is talking to him.  I’m beginning to think that the lady that came up with the Sport Clips concept didn’t consult any guys during the planning phase of her idea.

When I was done I went back up front to pay and I couldn’t believe what I heard.

“That’ll be 24.95.”

Apparently, ESPN charges Sport Clips to play Sportscenter in their stores.  The only men who pay this much money for a hair cut are members of Rascal Flatts or Flock of Seagulls.  These may in fact be the same band.  I’ll check on that and get back to you.

This experience has led me to explore the possibility of opening my own chain of barber shops designed especially for men.  I’m calling it Shaky Fritz’s.  Fritz will be a large, older man with no hair, one leg about 12 inches longer than the other and a nervous twitch.  Everyone gets the same haircut, Fritz will probably smoke while administering said haircut and he’ll do all of the talking.  There will also be two or three other gentlemen in the waiting area who haven’t needed a haircut for a good 20 years.  They’re just there.  Everyday. All haircuts will be $5.00.  No television and no referee shirts.

If you know anyone named Fritz, let me know.  No previous experience required.

The Holiday Shopping Experience

For the first time in my life I participated in Black Friday.  I did this to save 50 bucks on a bike we were buying for our oldest kid.  This Black Friday was held on Thanksgiving night at 10:00.  I’m not sure what they call Black Friday when it’s held on a Thursday so I’ll just call this one Pepper Spray Thursday.  The Pepper Spray Thursday I participated in was held at a Wal-Mart.  This is important.  If you walk into a Wal-Mart on a Tuesday afternoon in March at 2:15 about 80% of the customers will be

a.) wearing their pajamas.

b.) talking loudly to themselves.

c.) wanting to fight someone.

d.) All of the above.

You can imagine what Wal-Mart is like at 10:00 on a Thursday night.

My wife and I arrived about 30 minutes early, found the bike we were looking for, stood next to it and waited for the clock to strike 10.  Things were growing increasingly tense and other people were showing up who also wanted bikes for their precious little ones.  One older lady who looked like she probably taught Sunday School at the First Baptist Church called for my attention.

“Sir!  Sir!  Excuse me, sir!”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I just wanted you to know that I planned on getting these bikes here, okay.  I’m just letting you know so you don’t get them.”

How does one respond to that?  Fortunately, she was referring to the pink bike with a banana seat and streamers coming from the handlebars so I just said okay but I’m glad she’s not my Sunday School teacher.

My strategy from this point on was to find the meanest looking people who were interested in the same bike as me and make friends with them.  This way, if things get sideways, I’ll have already developed a relationship with the heavily armed people.  In this case it was a group of women whom I assured that I would help when the time came.  One of these women was waiting on a bike that the Sunday School teachers had moved in such a way that it was impossible for anyone else to reach.  This was a perfect chance for me to strengthen our bond so I told her my plan.

I would lift up a few of the boxes while she secretly pulled one halfway out so that it would be easier for her to make the grab at 10:00.  We carried through with our plan and things were going great right up until the time when a very short and very spunky Wal-Mart associate came from out of nowhere and caught us in the act.  While undoing all of my hard work, she gave us a lecture.

“I wish you people would just leave this stuff alone until 10:00.”

And that’s when my new friend, the convicted felon whom I was trying to assist, responded to the Wal-Mart associate.

“I don’t know what this man was doing.  I tried to tell him to stop.”

Lesson learned.  Next time I go to Pepper Spray Thursday, I’m keeping to myself.  Better yet.  Next time, I’m skipping it all together and waiting for Cyber Monday.

The Holiday Movie

One of our family traditions at Christmas is going to the theatre to see a movie together.  This year our kids wanted to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwreck Island instead of The Muppets.  I still have Post-Traumatic Stress from the Muppet episode when I was a kid where Alice Cooper guest-starred so, fearing he might make a cameo, I was content with Alvin.  This was a mistake.

This movie was basically a bunch of computer generated characters with digitally altered voices singing songs that someone else wrote.  Come to think of it, I think I just described 90% of the 2012 Grammy nominees.

We should have seen The Muppets.

 

 

An Interview with the Farmer

My father and grandfather spent significant portions of their lives on farms.  I, on the other hand, grew up in an area where the only thing that was being grown was under a heat lamp in my neighbor Dwayne’s garage.  Most of us don’t give farming a second thought.  Maybe we don’t believe it but we still act as though the food we eat was made in some back room at your local Wal-Mart.  Come to think of it, that may be the case but you get my point.

 

Recently I had the chance to ask my friend Shane a few questions about farming, why farmers matter and how we can better appreciate the fruits of their labors.

 

Our country is moving further and further away from its agricultural roots.  Should we be concerned? 

 

Yes I think so.  In the U.S., most families (people) are now 3 generations removed from the farm and the average age of the U.S. farmer is 57–and rising, meanwhile the farm population is shrinking (less than 2% of the pop., our numbers are low enough now that “farmer/rancher” is no longer listed as an occupation on the census survey.  We are now part of the other people). As a producer this can be quite scary for several reasons.  Primarily, and I don’t use this in a pejorative way, is fear and ignorance.  Ignorance is simply a lack of education.  Fear, in this context, is really just laziness masked as activism.  As we as a nation get further away from our agricultural roots, we as a people are less educated, or less aware about where our food comes from.  So many people I talk to literally think food comes from the grocery store.  That’s it.  Need more bread or milk?  Go to the store and get it.  The end.  It’s quite sad actually.  And, many of our “leaders” and policy makers think the same way.  That’s why I say it can be quite scary.  So we as farmers and ranchers have to be more proactive in telling our story and simply educating the non farm folks at all levels to the who, what, when, where, why, and how of agriculture.  That’s one of the reasons why each year we have all the area 5th graders come to our farm for Ag Day, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to occasionally blog on this topic.  We have to be the voice of agriculture–not documentary films like “Food Inc.” that while provocative, only tell one side of the story.  Organizations such as Farm Bureau (who do a lot more than sell insurance), U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, and even Mike Rowe on his show “Dirty Jobs” are acting and working to bridge this disconnect between farmers and farming, and to show the general public that the American farmer by large has at heart the best interests of the land, the environment, the animal, and the end user.

 

Why is it important to buy local whenever possible?

 

Well I think it’s certainly good to buy local, or participate in community gardens and food co-ops.  One, you are supporting the local economy and local producers.  Two, you are putting a face to the producer of the product you are eating.  That interaction with the producer can be great.  You can ask them questions about how they grow their product, where they grow it and so on, and really develop a good and positive relationship.  Three, generally speaking, it’s going to be a much fresher product, and taste better.  So yes, farmers markets and such should be supported by the local community.  However, these types of enterprises often appeal to a niche market.  Food and growth experts tell us that global population is rising at such a pace, that farmers will have to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in all the years combined since the inception of farming.  This is a monumental and historic task set before us.  I say all that to say that yes, let’s continue to support locally grown and community gardens etc, but let’s not be naive enough to think that these alone will solve our growing and future food related issues.

 

Many people worship creation and many people seem bent on destroying it.  As a Christian who farms, what do you feel is your responsibility in caring for the land that God has given to you?

 

I love this question.  I believe that much of the answer lies within the question itself.  I am responsible for caring for the tracts of land (and all land in reality) that God has seen fit to entrust us with.  I think as a Christian, I have been given a biblical mandate to watch over and care for the land (Gen. 1:28-30, 1 Cor. 4:2).  This all stems from the recognition that God created and owns everything (Ps. 24:1, Ps. 50:10).  I’m simply a manager of these resources and my goal is to leave it to the next generation better than it was when I received it.  God is glorified even in seemingly simple and insignificant acts such as this.  Dominion and stewardship rightly understood do not mean domination or destruction.  Nor do they necessarily mean “organic” or “green.”  Those are two words that are so loosely thrown around they are void of any significant meaning.  Many well meaning, well intentioned Christians, I think, stumble all over this issue in the name of “Creation Care” or “Christian Ecology.”  Again, these are not bad things.  The problem comes when someone reads say, a Wendell Berry or similar type author book, and then takes that and tries to apply some form of “Gospel centered” environment tag line to it, and before you know it, we have denominations unwittingly writing position papers on the evils of incandescent light bulbs and making resolutions for Christ centered global warming response teams.  Good stewards recognize, again, that we are to manage our temporary possessions to the best of our abilities and teach others to do the same, while at the same time not being intentionally neglectful or harmful to that which is entrusted us.  This discussion is so often framed in an either/or format, when in reality it very often can be an and/both format.  We can drill oil and protect the caribou.  We can spray pesticides on crops and still have safe, clean food.  We can’t let our environmental conscience be guilted into bad laws and policies b/c some folks prefer Prius’s to SUV’s.

 

Do the big box stores like Wal-Mart help or hurt local farmers like you?

 

They don’t hurt, and if anything they help local producers.  I have a friend who grows pumpkins and he sells them directly to our local Wal-Mart. I have another friend who grew sweet corn and watermelons and sold directly to area grocery stores.  They get paid a premium b/c Wal-Mart knows exactly what there getting, when there getting it, and from whom they are getting it, and it’s not something that is being trucked in from a 1,000 miles away when it’s grown 5 miles away. Wal-Mart and other chains are a business and they care a lot about public image.  If they can put pretty little signs in their produce sections saying these items are grown locally, people eat that stuff up.  Look, Wal-Mart, Cosco, Kroger etc. care about making a profit and protecting their image.  They also swing a huge stick, especially when it comes to peoples purchasing decisions.  If consumers are demanding product A instead of B, what do you think Wal-Mart is going to do?  That is totally acceptable. So, if a local producer can get hooked up with a box store and provide a commodity that people want, the folks at Wal-Mart are smart enough to recognize a good business deal, and that ultimately is good for that producer(s).

 

Floods, droughts and tornadoes probably mean more to you than someone in any other profession and for most farmers I know, no matter how good the weather is, it’s never good enough.  How has farming affected the way you trust in the supremacy of God?

 

Well, it is usually cause for a lot of repenting on my part.  Arguably two of the most important factors to a farmers success are completely out of his control:  weather and markets.  More often than I care to admit, I find myself questioning God on too much rain, not enough rain, rain at the wrong time, too hot, too cold and so on.  What have I done?  I’ve committed a radical form of idolatry.  I’ve put myself in the place of God and I’m telling God that I know better.  I often shutter at my own foolishness.  So yes, this is a profession that can radically effect ones faith, and without a solid grounding and firm belief in the sovereignty of God, well, that person will feel a lot of anxiety and despair.  Farming can take big swings from highs to lows in relative short amounts of time, and ultimately what I hope this does is push me to prayer, praise, humility, and thankfulness during both those bleak looking times and the rewarding times of walking in high cotton.  As per the guys who say it’s never good enough, well I know a lot of those guys, and quite frankly, I don’t really like being around them.  No matter how good things are, or how good a year it was, they somehow manage to only speak doom and gloom.  Those guys are annoying and give farmers a bad name.  Either shut up and move on or get into another profession to complain about.  One thing I rarely hear come from my dad’s lips is complaints.  Some things I do hear pretty often from him are words of thankfulness and blessings and optimism.  Things are going to work out one way or the other.  It may not be the way you wanted, but having a trust in the supremacy of God is ultimate, for without that no one anywhere would farm.

 

Talk to the guy that lives on a quarter of an acre in the suburbs.  Is it important for him to grow something, even if it’s a few tomatoes hanging from his porch? 

 

Sure, yes grow something.  It’s pretty easy to start, fun, rewarding, kids can do it with you, and how many things can a person do whereby they can daily see the fruit of their labors?  That’s one thing I love about farming–you get almost immediate results of your actions, and then you get to constantly tweak and fine tune throughout the year.  The suburbanite can do the same thing on a smaller scale and watch with amazement as nature does what nature does.  Plus, people just need to get their hands and clothes dirty from time to time.  Folks who are afraid to get dirt on their hands, or kids who are afraid to hold a worm–I don’t know what it is, but something is fundamentally wrong with that.

 

How can caring for a garden, large or small, be beneficial to biblical manhood or womanhood?

 

Adam & Eve, the first farmers, started out in a garden, and were placed there to work and take care of the garden.  We’ll they blew it and now I have weeds in my fields 🙂  Caring for a garden, or an animal, or a 57 Chevy for that matter–several things can be going on here.  Perhaps a husband and wife are building a garden wall – working, lifting, shoveling, sweating – and in the course of this they are serving one another and modeling a healthy marriage relationship to their onlooking kids.  Perhaps a dad is showing his son how to plow and chop and dig and weed and instilling in his son an appreciation for a strong work ethic and a faithfulness that tiny seed planted grows into large fruit.  Maybe mom is helping her daughter take care of newborn kittens and modeling to her tender care and lovingkindness for something fragile and dependent, which will serve that daughter later in life when she has her first child that is fragile and dependent on her tender care and lovingkindness.  Or maybe an older man in the community is teaching a younger man who never had a father figure, thru conversation while they work to restore a car, how to be a man who leads, protects, and provides for his family.  Perhaps, thru the simple, ordinary, mundane routine of life, even something as plain as caring for a garden, conversations are happening, relationships are being built, seeds are being planted and roots are delving deep into something that is authentic, lasting, and true.  Something that will help men and women in fulfilling their God ordained roles.  Perhaps.

 

Shane Burchfiel runs a family farm in Tennessee where he grows corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat.  He blogs regularly at Before the Store.

Seven from 2011: Music

At its current rate of regression the music industry will cease to exist by the end of next year.

“Dad, what’s that noise you’re making with your mouth?”

“It’s called humming, son.”

“What are you humming?”

“A song.”

“What’s a song?”

“Well, it’s a long story but there used to be this thing called music.There were all kinds of different styles.It was great.So great in fact that the best music had a way of sticking around in your head years after you first listened to it.That’s where humming comes from.”

“I’ve never heard of music.What happened to it?”

“Lady Gaga, son.Lady Gaga.”

Below are a few records that might just keep the above conversation from happening for another year or so.

7.Youth is In Our Blood, The Dirty Guv’nahs

The Black Crowes and Kings of Leon had a baby and named it The Dirty Guv’nahs.

6.The Water and the Blood, Sojourn

For my money, Sojourn is the best of all the praise and worship groups.They mix old school, biblically sound lyrics with Americana and the finished product is always well worth your dime.

5.Dying to Live, PRo

This is PRo’s first official release with Reach Records and as you might expect, he blends his brand of southern hip-hop nicely with practical theology.The future is bright for PRo.

4.Young Love, Mat Kearney

When Mat Kearney first came on the scene he was compared to Coldplay.With this album, he’s surpassed them.The album’s final song, Rochester, tells the story of Kearney’s father and caps off another excellent album from Kearney.

3.Bon Iver, Bon Iver

I can understand four words on this album but it’s some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.Here’s a guarantee, if you buy Bon Iver, you’ll look cool at parties because everyone will know that you’re into a band that nobody else has ever heard of before.You get extra credit for pronouncing the name right.The only way that this purchase could go wrong for you is if you play linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens and it’s your week to pick out the pre-game musical selections for the locker room.


By the way, the video linked above may be the weirdest I’ve ever seen. I can’t prove it but I think it was shot using a broken Etch-A-Sketch.

2.Rehab: The Overdose, Lecrae

Lecrae isn’t the best Christian emcee.He’s probably the best emcee period.This is evident in the fact that this album of bonus material from 2010’s Rehab is one of the best records of 2011.

1.PSA vol. 2, PRo

This is PRo’s first unofficial release with Reach Records (they offered it for free through their website and it’s still available for free through Noise Trade).This one has the feel of a cd you’d buy from an artist out of the trunk of his Chevy about 6 months before he hits it big.Put You On comes with references to King of the Hill and The Sixth Sense and is one of many highlights on this album.

Chainsaws, Humility and Going Soft: An Interview with Matt Hughes

Matt Hughes is a nine-time UFC champion and a member of the UFC Hall of Fame.  He’s fond of chainsaws and guns.  He drives tractors.  Matt Hughes is a man’s man.

 

But Matt also professes faith in Jesus Christ, loves his wife and takes the initiative in leading his family.  Again, Matt Hughes is a man’s man.

 

Recently, I had a chance to speak with Matt about his career, manhood and the daily fight against pride.

 

Matt, you’ve experienced a lot of success in the octagon.  How have you managed to stay humble through this?

 

You know, I can’t sit here and tell you that I’m a humble person.  Things do go to your head.  It’s become a lot easier the older I get.  But, you know, seven years ago I wasn’t that old, I was the champion, everything was going good for me and I did keep people around that helped me out.  But I think what really kept me grounded more than anything was the fact that I really liked who I was before I became the world champion.  So after I won the title I actually took my belt and put it under my bed.  I didn’t want to sit and look at it because I knew it was going to change me and I just decided I liked who I was before and I’m going to stay that person.  To be honest, it’s a daily battle not to be a bigger person than you are.

 

So it sounds like your identity is not wrapped up in the belt.  Do you think that makes it easier for you to walk away from the sport when the time comes?  A lot of athletes, things don’t end well for them.  Does finding your identity in Christ make it easier for you when it comes time to hang it up?

 

Definitely.  I don’t want to give it up [competition] because I love to compete.  Christ just puts other things on your heart and you’ve got other identities besides that so I’ve just got to open my eyes and realize what’s the greater good here.

 

But there are other things you’re known for.  Of course there’s your fighting career but then there’s hunting and farming.  A lot of guys are in to these things.  Is there a common link between fighting, hunting and farming and how do they relate to masculinity, something that seems to be going out of style in recent years?

 

Fighting and hunting relate directly.  Farming is a manly duty as well.  Manly people are going out of style.  It seems like as this world gets older and older people get lazier and lazier.  You just don’t see people doing manual labor like we used to.  We’re creating machines to make life easy.  That easy lifestyle has made us lazy and turned us soft.  I’m kind of a man’s man because I use a gun, I use a chainsaw, I split wood, I use knives.  So all those things put me high on the man list.  Even if you don’t use a chainsaw but you own a chainsaw that puts you a couple of points higher on the man list.

 

I hope that doesn’t get you put on a terrorist watch list.

 

I think anybody who knows Matt Hughes knows I’ve got a whole boatload of guns.

 

Matt, you also have a wife and kids.  Talk about that aspect of manhood.

 

The man is the person who should end up making all the decisions.  In the end, it all comes down to the man.  If something fails, it comes down to him, not to somebody else.  I’m very blessed in that I have a good wife who makes very good decisions so I let her make decisions.  I really trust her judgment.  I try to be the man of the house but I do try and let my wife be the woman and make those good decisions she’s known for.

 

I became a Christian seven years ago, got married seven years ago and right after that watched my baby girl get pulled out of my wife’s stomach.  With those three things, it’s definitely softened me up.

 

In my house, my wife is Old Testament.  She’s strict and lays on the thunder.  I’m New Testament and all about forgiveness.  I’ve really turned into a softy here lately, in the last four or five years.

 

Your second fight against Frank Trigg, in my opinion, was one of the greatest moments in the history of the sport.  Is that kind of drive and determination something that all men have or is it just reserved for elite athletes?

 

It’s very, very hard to get that mental aspect into somebody.  Either you’re born with it or you’re not.  In my sport, I think it’s fifty-fifty.  It’s fifty percent mental and fifty percent physical.  If I can break my opponent mentally, the physical will soon follow.  I’ve always been a strong minded person and I think that’s what won that fight for me was the fact that I wasn’t going to give up where a lot of other people might have.  But I do not know how to coach that into somebody.  You’re either born with it or you’re not.

 

You’ve implied before that you would like to have a chance to coach Georges St. Pierre.  If you had that shot, what different approaches would you take that maybe he’s not already getting?

 

With GSP, I would say he needs no help in the technical aspect of things.  He’s great with his takedowns, his striking and even his submission knowledge has come along quite a bit.  I would love to help him more on the mental side of things.  It would be a simple thing.  I don’t think there’s been one fight that hasn’t gone the distance.  I think GSP has so much talent that he can finish those fights.  I would like to see him go with the mindset that no matter what’s going on I’m going to keep pouring it to my opponent and break him.  That’s the only thing he lacks in being one of the greatest is the fact that he doesn’t finish a whole lot of people.

 

 

 

Thanks to Matt Hughes for taking the time to talk over the phone today.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go out and buy a chainsaw.


Lectures to Myself

I was trying to pull into a gas station but the lady driving out of the gas station had other ideas.  Just as I committed into my turn she shows up in her gigantic car and takes up both the entrance and the exit.  To top it all off she was talking on the phone.  Sometimes when people do this, they will quickly see the error of their ways and give you that awkward wave to let you know that they know they can’t drive.  Not this time.  This woman’s bad driving was unrepentant bad driving.

 

I was furious but I didn’t lash out, not because of my superior self-control skills but because I was afraid that maybe she or one of her close relatives went to my church.

 

“Man, your pastor sure is good at fighting small, middle-aged women!”

 

Eventually the lady went on about her way still talking on her phone and I went on about my way still fuming over the whole ordeal.  I spent the rest of the day analyzing what this woman did wrong.

 

A week or so after this incident a guy was pulling into the same gas station.  As he was making his entrance into the gas station he also happened to be talking on the phone.  There was a car trying to exit the gas station the proper way.  Because the man coming into the gas station was too busy with his phone to be bothered with driving an automobile he came inches from side swiping the poor woman trying to leave the gas station.

 

That man’s actions were irresponsible.

 

That man could’ve gotten someone hurt.

 

That man was me.

 

But for some reason I didn’t spend near as much time in anger over the second traffic injustice as I did the first.  This is because I’m better at pointing out the flaws of others than I am at correcting my own.  I did, for the record, give the awkward wave to the lady I almost hit so that should count for something.

 

These two events reminded me of the importance of what Joe Thorn in his book Note to Self, calls “preaching to myself.”  It’s easy for me to tell my congregation to kill their sin and rely on God’s grace.  But for those sermons to carry any weight I have to preach them and live them out myself.

 

Below, in no particular order, are some of the things I made a practice of preaching to myself in 2011.

 

Jay, when you are caught up in your worries and anxieties you have stopped worshiping and trusting God.  You have replaced grace with human effort.  When you feel worry and anxiety creeping in, begin to focus intently on prayer and worship.  Visualize the Lord Jesus Christ guarding your heart and mind with the peace of God (Philippians 4:4-7).

 

Jay, think of how Jesus has demonstrated his love for you and figure out how you can model that love for your wife today.  What is something that she hates doing?  Find out and do it.  What scares her?  Instead of viewing her fear as a threat to your ability to provide and protect, move towards her fear.  Don’t just talk about serving her and leading her, do it (Ephesians 5:25-33).

 

Jay, never forget the brokenhearted pastor who told you about the time that his wife said that she felt like he was having an affair with the church he was pastoring.  Never put the church before your family.  This may make you a few enemies but that’s okay.  Remember, if you make it your aim to always please the people in your church you can pretty much guarantee that you, your family and your church will all be miserable.  When you’re on vacation, make sure your phone and e-mail take a vacation too.  Guard your meal times with your family vigilantly.  Equip other leaders in your church to help you in this.  Love the church you pastor by loving your wife and kids more than the church you pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

 

Jay, remember to be present and engaged with your kids.  Being there is good and it’s a lot better than not being there.  You know that from personal experience.  But you can still be there and not really be there.  Get on the floor with your boys, wrestle with them and make leaf piles all for the glory of God.  Have fun with them.  Yes, take the primary role of discipline and no, don’t try to be their buddy but remember, they need to see you smiling and having fun (Colossians 3:21).

 

Jay, focus more on engaging your culture than you do the culture.  Know the people in you church and community.  There aren’t a whole lot of young hipsters in your church or community who are struggling with whether or not they should accept that job with Apple or go on tour as the opening act for Jay Z and Kanye.  Deal with it.  You do have a lot of people in your church and community who are struggling with loosing a business, poor health and how to deal with kids that do the dumb things that kids do.  Remember, engaging the culture doesn’t mean just engaging what you’re in to or what’s cool.  It means moving towards the people in your scope and relating to them for kingdom purposes.  Learn how to talk to hunters (Acts 17:16-34).

 

Jay, when you visit people in the hospital, stop going into the wrong room.  It’s awkward for the family of the patient as they try to figure out who you are and it makes you look dumb when you explain why you just came in a completely random room to pray for a total stranger thinking it was someone else.  You’ve only been a pastor for a little over three years and this has happened twice already.  You’re grown up now.  Get it together, man!

 

Jay, remember to preach to the self-righteous.  This should be easy since you are so self-righteous.  A while back someone told you that there is a broken heart on every pew.  That is a true statement and you must remember that as you prepare and preach.  But seated next to that broken heart there’s a heart that’s been hardened by dead, Jesus-less religion.  Prayerfully and gracefully and boldly confront self-righteous legalism.  It’s probably sending more people to hell in your community than any other sin (Galatians 2:15-21).

 

Jay, make the number one delight and desire of your life Jesus Christ.  This requires a lot of grace.  White-knuckling it wont help.  Most of the things that compete for your delight and desire are not bad things.  But they are not worthy of your worship.  You destroy them and yourself when you act as though they are.  Continually ask the Spirit to shape your heart so that you can see the surpassing value of communion with Christ (Psalm 84:10).

 

 

 

 


Ten from 2011: Books

I read more books in 2011 than any other year of mylife.  I read books that a guy likeme was supposed to like but I ended up hating, I read books that disturbed meand I read books that helped me to understand the gospel a little better.  As usual, many of the books on thislist were written and published long before 2011 but these are ten that Ibenefited from in 2011 and, for one reason or another, would recommend to you in2012. 
This isn’t the kind of book that you take with youto the beach.  I read it overseveral months as I prepared to preach through the book of Ecclesiastes lastyear.  It is a very accessible andpractical read.  If you are apastor you need to preach through Ecclesiastes and you need to use this book.
This book falls into the disturbing category.  Jeannette Walls’ memoir details herchildhood under an alcoholic father, an enabling mother and the wreckage theyleft behind them.  This one is notfor the squeamish. 
Keller is one of those rare authors who is able totake complex concepts and break them down for the common reader.  This book on the Gospel of Mark is noexception.
Here’s another one from the disturbingcategory.  Pat Tillman was an elite defensive back in the NFL and a patriot.  After 9/11 he walked away from the game he loved to defendthe country he loved as an Army Ranger. The friendly fire that killed Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and thepolitical maneuverings that hid the facts regarding his death from his family aren’tnear as disturbing as the image Krakauer paints of Tillman using his dyingwords to affirm that there is no God. This is not a Christian book but it should inspire Christians to taketheir disciple-making mandate more seriously. 
Krakauer is an excellent author and that excellence is on full display in this book.
This was one of the most beneficial books I read in2011.  Altrogge’s theme of findingcontentment in Christ was spot on. This book is short, powerful and much needed.
I got in trouble for reading this book while I wassitting through a jury selection process.  The bailiff told me that if I put it up he wouldn’t take itaway.  It was the 4thgrade all over again.  The trial Iwas waiting on involved a husband and wife who were splitting up and fightingover who gets what.  I wish I hadlet the bailiff take the book up and give it to them.
This book is now required reading for couples Icounsel.  It’s another quick readthat packs a big punch.
Keep your eye on this Spurgeon kid.  If he keeps at it I see big things instore for him.
Spurgeon’s classic is the best pastoral ministriesbook I’ve ever read.  If you are apastor, elder or deacon you are doing massive harm to yourself with every daythat goes by without having read Lectures to My Students. 
You can use this book for bicep curls while you’reaway from your home gym but don’t let the size intimidate you.  This biography reads like a thrillerand reminds us of the importance of taking the gospel seriously with our head,heart and hands.
This is another fast paced historical thriller thatis by far the most entertaining book I’ve ever read.  I hope the movie does it justice.
My friend Marty Duren recommended this to me andI’m glad he did.  He called it agame-changer and he was right. This book forces the reader to wrestle with the possibilities thatgiving the poor family in the community a bunch of Christmas presents everyyear may be doing more harm than good. But this isn’t a book that just talks about what’s wrong.  There are real solutions offered herefor how churches and individuals can engage in strategic generosity.
We question our government for simply throwingmoney at needs and our questions are valid.  But we are no different when we do the same thing with aJesus stamp.  True Christ-honoringgenerosity is thoughtful generosity and this book helps with that.
If you care about helping those in need you mustread this book and talk about it with those who are helping you in your vision.

Ten from 2011: Sports

I’ve always heard it said that sports builds character. 2011 has left many of us wondering exactly what kind of character it is that sports builds. Below are the ten most significant sports stories of 2011 as determined by me. This list includes the excellent, the absurd and the criminal. While no year in sports goes without its share of police blotter, 2012 took it to a level we haven’t seen since Bob Costas interrupted your regularly scheduled NBA game to tell us that Al Cowlings was driving his white Ford Bronco down the interstate with an old friend riding shotgun.

10. Women’s World Cup

Dear WNBA,

If you market women’s professional sports well, the talent is good and the season only lasts for about two weeks every four years, people will watch. Please take note or go away.

Thanks!

Management

9. NBA

After one of the best post seasons since Jordan went away, the NBA decided to take a few steps back with a labor dispute that ate up a few months out of the season. Here’s to hoping that the NBA sticks with this shortened schedule and eliminates a few franchises as well (I’m looking at you New Orleans. And Toronto. And Memphis. Okay, why not. And the Knicks).

8. Lebron and the Heat

One reason why the NBA had such a successful post season last year was because everyone wanted to see a team that threw itself a world championship party before the season started not win that world championship. We got our wish.

7. Ryan Braun

It turns out that the steroid era in baseball may not be over after all. Will anyone ever win a significant single season individual award in Major League Baseball without having a cloud of suspicion as to whether or not he was cheating? This is just one of many reasons why baseball has ceased to be our national pastime.

6. The Cardinals

But it wasn’t all bad for Major League Baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals proved that it’s more fun to wait until the last possible moment to win games and championships. They also proved that the Yankees aren’t the only team that will overpay for your best player after you win it all.

5. Mark Richt

After the Georgia Bulldogs lost their first two games of the season they wanted to run their head coach out of town. After they finished out the rest of the schedule without another loss Georgia fans were scurrying for tickets to the SEC title game. After Georgia started to take their beating from an LSU team that would probably win the NFC East the Georgia fans left early and resumed their favorite pastime – cursing the coaching staff while listening to Corey Smith. Remind me again why I call myself a Georgia fan.

4. Jon Bones Jones

The UFC is the fastest growing sport in the world and its best athlete is a young man named Jon Jones. In 2011 he became a number one contender for the light heavyweight title. On the day that he was scheduled to fight for that title he chased down and beat up a man who was trying to rob a couple. A few hours later he would win the fight he had actually been training for and become the light heavyweight champion. Since that night Jones has easily defended his title twice against two former champions.

The UFC may not be your thing and that’s okay. But if you long to see greatness that hasn’t been seen since the days of Ali, you need to see Jon Jones.

3. NASCAR

The drivers are all mad at each other. One of them is named Wally.
The drivers would like to thank their sponsors.
The drivers are not athletes.
If NASCAR is on a TV anywhere within a 20 mile radius of me, I’m falling asleep.

2. Tebow Time

Tim Tebow makes people stupid.

He makes so called expert analysts look dumb when they try to explain to us that he has nothing to do with the teams success.

His supporters look dumb when they wear his jersey with Jesus written on the back and preach sermons about him on Sundays (Tebow, not Jesus).

Tim Tebow is an incredible athlete who looks and acts different than most other incredible athletes. He’s not fluid and he’s not a jerk. He’s an imperfect player and an imperfect man. It just so happens that imperfect fans like that sort of thing.

1. Penn State

There’s nothing more to say about Penn State.

But we can pray that justice will be served and that the victims will find redemption in Jesus Christ.

I Predict 2012

For centuries now, everyone has had predictions about 2012. Here are my fail safe, non-apocalyptic predictions for the most talked about year that has yet to happen in human history.

Politics

Unless he gets caught wearing a Penn State sweatshirt, Barak Obama will win his re-election bid.

This is not due to the fact that President Obama is doing such a splendid job. Instead, his re-election can be attributed to the fumbling bumbling GOP. It’s sort of like when I was a kid and my grandparents took me to the crusty old dollar store downtown and told me to pick out one toy. Usually there was only one toy that I really wanted but since it was in the $39.95 category and my grandparents were thinking more in the $1.99 category it was quickly ruled out which meant that I became the proud owner of a $0.75 Jackson 5 cardboard poster.

We all thought I was crazy. We all lost a part of our souls.

What the GOP taught us in 2011 was that if you want to be an adulterous jerk to your wife/wives you need to be contrite about it in public while at the same time talking about the moral collapse this country is experiencing and blaming said collapse on the current president. Also, if you could manage to marry your mistress instead of paying her off that would help to. This strategy of pretending to be moral will catapult you to the top of the polls where you’ll have a good shot of beating another GOP candidate who is pretending to be a conservative.

Meanwhile, the only candidate in the GOP that makes any sense is allegedly “unelectable.” Never mind the fact that the people of Texas have elected this “unelectable” candidate to serve as their congressman on many occasions. Judging from the candidates that we are told are electable, I’m beginning to think that being “unelectable” is a compliment.

“Your dress makes you look quite unelectable dear.”

You try that one out first and let me know how it goes.

Sports
The NFL will finally do something to stop the rash of phantom injuries we saw this season. Something has to be done to protect the players. I think Ndamukong Suh is behind this somehow.

The NBA strike has led to a to a shortened schedule that will actually serve the league well. Cutting out nearly three months of the schedule will bring some much needed efficiency to the league and the lack of a consistent off season camp will lead to some pretty bad yet entertaining basketball at the beginning. Maybe for one of the Christmas day opening games we’ll even get a nice little gift like this one.

Major League Baseball however has not been as fortunate as the NBA. Their strike that has been going on since 1999 will continue through 2012.

John Elway will form a secret coup with several members of the media led by ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd and make an attempt on Tim Tebow’s life.

Elway’s motivation will be the fact that Tebow throws perhaps the ugliest ball in NFL history and has still managed to gain a following that Elway didn’t enjoy until the end of his career when a man named Terrell Davis joined his team and won him a couple of Super Bowls.

Colin Cowherd will be motivated by the fact that Tim Tebow’s name is not Tony Romo.

The rest of the media will be motivated by the fact that Tim Tebow is a product of homeschooling, has no noticeable drug addictions, professes Christianity and is manly. This is far too much for many in the media to swallow. You can rest assured that if the Denver Bronco’s starting quarterback played every game in his girlfriend’s jeans, pronounced death to America after every touchdown and cursed at babies at halftime, he wouldn’t be nearly as controversial as Tebow.

But do not fear fans. Seeing as how Tim Tebow is the Chuck Norris of the NFL, this assassination attempt will be over before it ever really gets started.

Arts and Entertainment
You’ll hear a new song from Coldplay in 2012. I don’t know what it’ll be called but there will be a part in the middle where it goes, “Whoa, oh, oh oh.” It’s sure to be a hit.

Ryan Reynolds will make a movie with some girl. The plot will center on you wanting the two to be together but at the beginning of the movie, it looks like it just wasn’t meant to be. Oh, but wait! By the end of the movie, it’ll be raining and they’ll meet up at an airport where your cinematic dreams will finally come true with a nice kiss between the two that we thought might never find true love with one another.

Oh, you might say, this movie has already been made.

Exactly, my friend. Exactly.

In 2011 there was a movie named Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, some girl and a bunch of kids. A guy that works in the video library at the Discovery Channel made 75% of this movie and a Swiss art student with one name made the remaining 25%. I had no clue what was going on for the entire film. This is another way of saying that Tree of Life will win an Oscar in 2012.

I know that most of the above predictions have already been covered by the Mayans and their calendar but thanks for indulging me.

Happy New Year!

Or, if you’re the type that likes to shop at Wal-Marts and Krogers, Happy New Years!

Red Wing Boots vs Forever Lazy

In the early 1900s a guy from Minnesota named Charles Beckman started a business named Red Wing Shoes. Charles’ aim was to develop shoes that were tough enough for the harsh working conditions in places like coal mines and farms but also comfortable enough for the men who wore the shoes. Charles Beckman’s primary concern wasn’t comfort or else we’d be talking about Charles Beckman, the guy who invented the bedroom slipper. For Beckman, comfort was a means to an end: getting the job done.

The idea stuck and over a century later guys named Tully and Big Mike are still wearing Red Wing boots to the coalmine/farm/jobsite/Packers game.

Recently the United States of America was introduced to another invention. This one is nothing like Red Wing Boots. It’s called Forever Lazy. Guys named Tully and Big Mike would call their friend T-Mac to come do harm to you if you bought them a Forever Lazy for Christmas.

Unlike Red Wing Shoes, comfort is king at Forever Lazy. Getting the job done? Who said anything about a job? Pass the cheese curls!

In case you haven’t been introduced to Forever Lazy, here’s a frame-by-frame analysis.

0:04 – Our grandfather’s fought other men in jungles halfway around the world. Thanks to Forever Lazy you no longer have to fight with those pesky blankets.

0:30 – Homework? “Okay class, for homework tonight I want you to find a blanket that you can wear and look at a picture book. Oh, and be sure to be way too happy.”

0:40 – If you’re ever invited to “party it up” with friends and when you arrive at the party site everyone is wearing one of these things, leave immediately. Nothing good can happen. Trust me.

0:57 – Dude, just move the TV and a chair next to your refrigerator. You’re already wearing a Forever Lazy so why hold back now. Take the plunge!

1:00 – College is a place of self-expression. It’s where you can finally be you without worrying about other people judging you. But I’m pretty sure that whether you go to “State” like these folks or the progressive Cal Berkley, you’re going to catch a beating for wearing this thing. So whatever you do, just don’t wear it outside.

1:04 – You just had to take it outside.

1:08 – What’s with all of this outdoor activity? How can you be lazy while tailgating? I’m sure the opposing team’s fans would have nothing to say to the group of people wearing their hooded pajamas out to a game. I’m not a gambling man but I’m 100% sure that these are Clemson fans.

1:12 – Okay, they’re cheering so they can’t be Clemson fans. Maybe Bayside High?

1:20 – If you are a reasonably young, able-bodied person who wears pants with hatches “for when duty calls” and you are not a cartoon, you have officially lost the will to live. Find a hospital bed immediately.

Comfort for the sake of comfort is a pathetic thing. Comfort should always motivate us to action.

As believers, we are not immune to adversity. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul assures us of the hope that is ours in the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

But it doesn’t stop there. This isn’t God telling us to climb up on his lap so he can remind us of how great we are and tell us to cheer up. Instead, the comfort we have in him serves purposes greater than our own. He comforts us through adversity, “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction” (1:4).

For many of us, this is the best time of the year. We get to eat a little more, see old friends and family and take a few days off from the regular routine. Oh, and there’s more football games on TV.

But for a lot of people these are miserable times. There’s an empty seat at the table. Perhaps the whole house that was once filled with laughter and the aroma of good food is now quiet and dark. For a growing number of people, stress is high as they think about all of the things they would like to buy for their family but just can’t afford anymore.

Not one of us is immune to hardship. We all know what it’s like to endure loneliness, heartache, doubt and worry. We also know what it’s like to find comfort in the “Father of mercies.”

Maybe more than any other time of year, this is a time for believers to move towards the hurting “with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”