The True Southerner

If you’ve never been to a professional wrestling match with your mother, you’re not a true southerner.

I became a true southerner in the sixth grade.

My sister and I decided that the perfect Mother’s Day gift would be tickets to see Ric Flair wrestle at the Omni in Atlanta, Georgia.  As if that wasn’t good enough, two wrestlers who called themselves The Rock and Roll Express would be giving out free roses to the first few hundred moms who came through the door.

What mother wouldn’t want to spend the one day of the year devoted to her by watching old, flabby men pretend to fight one another?  What mother wouldn’t want a very special rose given to her by two young men wearing tights and mullets?

My mother.

Giving her wrestling tickets for Mother’s Day was sort of like a husband buying his wife a Home Depot gift card for Christmas.

But my mom went anyway, got her rose and saw The Nature Boy Ric Flair get fake beat up by Hands of Stone Ron Garvin.

She never complained.

That was a long time ago.  My mom would only live for about another 15 years after that Mother’s Day.  The Omni wouldn’t even make it that long before being torn down and replaced by Philips Arena.

A lot has changed.

Sort of.

A few years ago a friend invited me to come with him to watch his cousin wrestle.   I quit watching professional wrestling a long time ago but I jumped at the opportunity and brought my two-year-old son along with me.

The matches were in an old building that looked like it used to function as an auto body shop or furniture store.  The wrestling ring seemed to barely fit in the tiny building.  My son was a little scared.

I, on the other hand, felt like a kid again.

The first wrestling match started about 30 minutes late because Dr. Demento and his sidekick, The Masked Mauler, got caught in traffic.

I’m a college graduate with a Masters of Divinity from a prestigious seminary and I am a Southern Baptist pastor but by the time the first match started, all of that went away.  I was in the sixth grade again.  But this time, while I was yelling at wrestlers and pointing at them with one arm, I was holding my two-year-old son with my other arm.

If you’ve never been to a professional wrestling match in an old furniture store and yelled at the professional wrestlers while holding your infant son, you’re not a true southerner.  All that was missing was the Mountain Dew.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, I think it’s this.  If you live in the south and you really love someone, you take them to professional wrestling matches, even if that someone who you love doesn’t like professional wrestling.

So guess what my wife and I will be doing next year for our tenth anniversary.

A Holiday Message to Christians

Project 365: 96/365

There’s something that I hope you will remember over the next few weeks while you prepare for Thanksgiving and shop for Christmas. Read carefully because this is very important. Okay, here it is.

You are not being persecuted.

That cashier with the bubbly personality that sends you off on your way with a, “Happy Turkey Day!” or “Happy Holidays!” is not attacking your faith. Most likely, she doesn’t even realize what she’s saying. When you snap back and correct her with, “I think you mean Thanksgiving Day” you’re probably doing more harm than good. But if you insist on convincing yourself that your rudeness is really a vigilant stand for what is right, please do not bring God into it.

“Have a happy holiday, ma’am.”

“Well, you have a merry Christmas, you socialist pig. My family worships Jesus!”

If this is you, or even close to being you, perhaps you should consider the possibility that instead of being persecuted you are the one doing the persecuting. While you may be doing a fine job of defending Thanksgiving and Christmas you are doing a poor job of representing Christ. And what have you really gained if you beat someone into saying the word Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Instead of fighting over linguistics maybe it would be better to simply be nice to the poor kid that’s been standing behind a cash register for 8 hours dealing with disgruntled shoppers like yourself. I don’t know, maybe you could ask her if she has anything she needs you to pray for. I can guarantee you that this will do her soul much more good than a stern lecture on the history of holidays in America.

Anger is our new national pastime. People are angry about everything.  Most of them will want to take that anger out on Brittany, the minimum wage teenage cashier at Kohl’s that’s been told to say “Happy Holidays.”

Christian, this is your shot to really stand out (Matthew 5:16).  Come on, I know you can do it. If nothing else, just be nice and say, “Thank you.”

And then, on your way home, you can pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who are really being persecuted.

image credit

Googling for Answers

If you go to Google and type in the word cheeseburgers, you’ll probably be directed to the website for Burger King.  If you type in something about the classic 80s film Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo or the possibility of Dusty Rhodes being a serial killer, you will be directed to my blog.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Below are 15 of my favorite phrases that inquiring minds have typed into search engines before being directed to my blog.  I have not changed the phrases in any way and, in an act of service to the community, I have attempted to answer each question.

15.  if you know to much about the illuminati will they come to your house

Yes.  But the Illuminati, as everyone knows, is allergic to cats.  If they find out that you have a cat, they’re gone in no time.

14.  where does tommy wildfire rich live

Right next door to Abdullah the Butcher.

13.  free drugs for everyone all the time

Thanks for reading the blog, Ms. Lohan.

12.  dusty rhodes serial killer

You may be on to something.

11.  jason sanders gospel songwritter

Exactly.  Of all the gospel songs I’ve ever written, this one is my favorite.

10.  ireworks, bootleg movies, teddy bears, teddy bears for all my kids

Come again?

9.  how does turbo walk upside down in breakin 2

Red Bull.  But that’s not the point.  The real issue here is how this movie got absolutely zero love from the Oscar folks.  The guy is dancing on the ceiling!  I’ve never seen Pacino or Hanks do that.  There should be an asterisk placed by the name of every 1985 Oscar winner.

8.  what wrestler became a pastor

At the moment, 53% of all former wrestlers are pastors.  Sadly, this man never became one before he died.

7.  dave chappelle illuminati cigarettes

This sounds like a really bad sales pitch.

“If you’re looking for a smooth flavor with a little kick, try new Dave Chappelle Illuminati Cigarettes.”

6.  does leonardo dicaprio like the show little house on the prairie?

If only I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question.  For the last time, the answer is no.  Leo is more of a Punky Brewster fan.

5.  how much anxiety is in a security guard job

Plenty.  You try being authoritative while wearing tight shorts and riding on a Segway scooter.

4.  jason l sanders personal trainer

Again, if only I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was a personal trainer.

3.  associations who use older fat men can get into pro wrestling

Old, fat men as pro wrestlers?  Nonsense!  Never heard of it.

2.  in breakin 2 is turbo an alien?

Do normal people dance on the ceiling?  No.

Do aliens dance on the ceiling?  I’m not sure but probably.

I think I’ve proven my point.

1.  how to notice a serial killer

There’s a three step process to figuring this out.

Step One: Is he quiet, usually keeping to himself?

Step Two: Is he highly intelligent?

Step Three: Did he have anything to do with this commercial?

Keep Googling!

Dream On

Several nights ago I had one of those epic dreams that really messed with me.  When it was all over, the credits at the end informed me that my dream had been written, directed and produced by Quentin Tarantino.  Crazy dream.

In the dream a friend and I were walking around a very nice hotel.  Our expedition led us to a secret room.  Just like everyone else does in dreams, we walked on in.  This was more than a secret room.  It was a dojo.  Some serious kung-fu training had taken place here.  I looked around the room for a while and decided that we should probably leave before someone spotted us.

On our way out we ran in to the master of the dojo.  He looked something like Johnny from the first Karate Kid movie.  This was bad news.  He called two of his students over and all three of the men started to fight us.  They can’t have just anyone strolling through their secret dojo.  We were in trouble.

Just before things started to get bad for us some music started playing.  It could be heard all over the hotel, not just in the dojo.  The master and his two students immediately stopped fighting us and started doing a salsa dance.  Everyone in the hotel was salsa dancing.  Everyone except for us.  We got out as quickly as we could.

The end.

Written, directed and produced by Quentin Tarantino.

Obviously this dream means that God is telling me to start a studio that specializes in teaching kung-fu and salsa dancing to wayward teens.  Oh, and I should probably stay away from hotels that charge more than $39.99 a night.  There’s no room for secret dojos at the Motel 6.

God clearly has and does speak to people through dreams.  He gave Daniel and Joseph dreams that led to the preservation of his people.  He gave Paul a vision that was not even allowed to be spoken of.  Today, missionaries among Muslims pray for God to give dreams to the people they are trying to reach in hopes that this may somehow lead salvation.

But this requires great discernment.  If we’re not careful we may end up confusing last night’s chili with the will of God.

Most of us long for the supernatural.  We want God to speak to us.  We want to do more than simply go through the motions.  That’s why we love books about kids that spend an hour or so in heaven or men that went to hell for 23 minutes.

In a lot of ways this desire for the supernatural is due to a very non-supernatural view of God’s word and prayer.

I don’t know if God has ever sent me a message through a dream and I know that he’s never given me a vision like the one Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 12:1-3.  But I’m no stranger to the supernatural.  I experience the supernatural every morning.

When I read the Bible, I’m reading words that were breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16). When I pray, the Holy Spirit is hand delivering my words to the Father, “with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).  When I’m in a difficult situation and I don’t know what to do, I ask God for wisdom and one way or another, as he sees fit, he gives it to me (James 1:5).

God can speak to us however he chooses.

But we don’t have to wait for a dream, a vision or the next New York Times bestseller about some lady that died on the operating table and spent the afternoon knitting with Mary, Martha and grandma before coming back to earth.

Because of Jesus, Christians can enjoy the supernatural anytime they want.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Hebrews 10:19-22 (ESV)

The New Patriots

I have a book in my house called Why We Fought: Key People of the Revolutionary War.  A couple of times a week I sit down with my sons and we learn about a different person who helped to form our nation.

We’re only about halfway through but we’ve already covered major players like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  We’ve also learned about men like Crispus Attucks and James Armistead, men who fought bravely and sacrificially but who never had a college named after them.

All of these flawed men, white and black, rich and poor, share a common trait.  They made great sacrifices for the cause of freedom.  They were in the minority.  Most of the people around them were willing to fall in line with tyranny just to avoid conflict.

Not these men.

A couple of hundred years later, I sit on my couch with my sons, not to talk about men who fell in line with everyone else but men who stood up.  Men who refused to accept tyranny as the new norm.  Men who didn’t mind going against popular opinion.

I have no idea what our country will look like by the time my sons grow up and have children of their own.  But when it comes time for them to teach their kids about our nation’s history, maybe they’ll talk about Andrea Fornella Abbott.

In July of 2011 Andrea was going through a security line at the airport when TSA agents pulled her and her teenage daughter to the side for a full body scan and pat down.

Andrea refused.

She didn’t want her or her daughter to be “touched inappropriately” and she didn’t want images of their naked bodies flashing up on a screen.

As you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well with the TSA.  Things got heated between the Abbott ladies and the TSA.  During the confrontation, neither woman made a violent or aggressive move although Andrea does admit that she directed strong language at officers.

Andrea Abbott left the airport that day in handcuffs.

Earlier this week a Tennessee jury sentenced her to one year of probation for “disorderly conduct.”

The prosecuting attorney in the case claimed that Ms. Abbott’s actions held up lines for several minutes and prevented others from going on with their business.  The surveillance video below tells a different story.  In it you will see crowds moving freely and the police, not Andrea Abbott, acting as the aggressors.

At the moment all of our political discussions are centered around the presidential election.  We’re talking about Big Bird, bayonnets and apology tours.  As a nation, we’re probably more divided than we have been in a long time.  Half of the country wants a cell phone and the other half wants a job.  But somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten to consider the good of either of those things if we no longer have freedom.

As I write this, our government has thousands of drones flying around our “beautiful for spacious skies” just to keep an eye on us.  Just to make sure that we stay in line.

This country was founded by men who refused to stay in line.  Men like Thomas Jefferson and James Armistead.

If our country is to continue it will likely require men and women to once again fall out of line.  Men and women like Andrea Abbott.

So far, my son’s favorite historical figure is Patrick Henry.  They like his famous, “Give me liberty or give me death” quote.  And I really enjoyed getting to explain what he meant when he said that.  Sacrifice.  Sacrifice for a cause.

I hope that several years from now my sons sit down to explain American history to their kids.  I’m sure Patrick Henry’s name will come up.  And maybe Andrea Abbott’s will too.  Maybe, just maybe, they’ll talk about her as the one that showed us what it meant to be free again.

All because she wouldn’t stay in line.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  

The Constitution of the United States, Amendment IV

The Economics of Trash Can Basketball

A few evenings ago, when my sons told me that they wanted to play basketball, I immediately thought of all the reasons why we couldn’t play basketball.

We don’t have a goal.

We don’t have a basketball.

It’s football season.

They didn’t care about any of that.  It was already settled in their minds.  We were playing basketball.

While I was constructing our basketball court I thought about all of the things I would need to buy so that we could play real basketball next time.  After all, anything worth doing is worth doing right, right?  Money is no option when it’s for the children.

I’ll need a good concrete slab over here.  Nothing elaborate.  Maybe just half the size of a regulation basketball court.  Oh, and if we could get a logo painted on it, that would be great too.  Something like Sanderz Boyz Ballaz.  Keep it simple.

Construction was complete when I moved our outdoor trash can into the yard and put a bucket on top of it.  There was a strong scent of rotten fish with a hint of mustard.  When we started playing I felt like one of Fat Albert’s friends.

For a ball we used one of those balls that you get at Big Don’s Kwick Dollar.  You know, the kind that weighs something like .02 ounces.  It was sort of orange so we had that going for us but there was no way any of us was dribbling it on the grass.  I decided that we should skip the dribbling part and just carry the ball, sort of like what happens in the NBA every night.

When we started playing, something strange happened.

We were having fun.

My oldest son was diving for loose balls like Charles Oakley in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

My three-year-old kept laughing.  Crazy laughing.  No matter what happened.  And he wasn’t wearing a shirt or shoes.  He was our Dennis Rodman, only with more tattoos.

And my wife and I were having a blast.  I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to dunk on someone and now that I have a three-year-old and a trash can for a basketball goal, I finally know.  Trust me, it’s awesome!  You should’ve seen me.

Our basketball game reminded me that something doesn’t have to be regulation size or have flashing lights to be fun.

We do our kids great harm when we act as though good memories and good times have to be bought for 36 monthly payments of $120 with 0.1% financing.  We can blame our politicians all we want, and there’s plenty that should go their way, but we also have to look in the mirror if we want to figure out at least part of the reason why our economy is in the tank.  All the politicians did was jump on an opportunity that the American people gave them.

For a generation or two, parents have been paying their kids off instead of playing with them.  Now the bill is coming due and in a lot of cases, everything those parents bought is broken, including their relationships with their kids.  It turns out that those toys with giant flashing lights are more expensive than we first thought.

Our trash can basketball game didn’t cost a thing but our family got a lot in return.

We were together.

We were doing something.

We were having fun.

Years from now, I want my boys to enjoy good childhood memories.  I’m often tempted to think that this will require a substantial monetary investment.  But in reality their memories aren’t likely to involve any backyard state of the art basketball facility.

Instead, I think that their memories will be about having fun with each other and with what we already had laying around.

Sort of like Fat Albert and his friends.

 

“It seems like God is out to get me.”

Before I ever became a pastor, a mentor gave me some valuable advice.

“Always remember that there’s a broken heart on every pew.”

At first I thought that he was just using preacher talk.  It sounded like one of those phrases pastors tell each other at conferences in between bragging about how many people they baptized.  Broken heart on every pew.  Sure.  Thanks.

And then I became a pastor and realized that there really was a broken heart on every pew.

Some of them are learning how to deal with a mother who is dying of cancer.

Some desperately want to be mothers but no medical procedure has helped them.  They cringe with every baby dedication.

Even more are dealing with the stress and worry that comes with a slow economy.

Many people in these situations say the same thing.  “It seems like God is out to get me.”

The typical church response is to gently grab this person’s hand, give them our best Bless Your Heart Face and say, “No, God isn’t out to get you.”

That couldn’t be more wrong.

It seemed like God was out to get Jonah when he got caught in the middle of a storm while out at sea.  It seemed like God was out to get Jonah while he was fighting for air on an ocean floor.  It seemed like God was out to get Jonah while he was squeezed inside of the belly of a fish.  And it sure seemed like God was out to get Jonah when that fish spewed Jonah out and left him lying on the beach, covered in fish vomit.

It seemed like God was out to get Jonah because he was.  Jonah, in his sin and disobedience, was trying to get away from God.  God wouldn’t allow one of his own to get away.  He was out to get his man.  This is how grace works.  Grace hunts us down and restores us when our sin has convinced us that the bottom of the ocean is the best place for us to be.

I don’t know why a godly couple, a couple that would have made excellent parents, lost their baby halfway through the pregnancy.  I don’t know why my mom died at an early age.  And I don’t know why smart, hard working business owners lose it all.  It’s always dangerous to assume that we know the exact reason why God is doing something or that suffering is always due to some hidden terrible sin in the person’s life (John 9:1-3).

But we can be certain that God is out to get us.  It’s just different than we tend to think.

If you walked around the outside of my house every morning you would hear the following three things.

1.  Crying.  By that I mean the loud, weeping and gnashing of teeth type of crying.

2.  An adult male voice saying, “Hurry up before I beat you!”

3.  The voices of two toddlers saying something like, “Go quick before he gets us!”

You would then probably be tempted to call 911 and report a case of child abuse.

But if you walked inside of our house, you would have a whole new perspective.  You would see that I had just told my two sons to make up their beds.  And you would find out that they were crying because, get this, they didn’t want to make up their beds.  If you stuck around for a few more minutes you would hear me challenge them to a race.

“Let’s see if you can have your beds made up before I come back in here.  Hurry up before I beat you!”

And then you would see their crying faces quickly transform into looks of determination.

“Hurry, before he gets us!”

It always works out that they win.  I get to hug them and tell them what a good job they did.  Three happy boys.

From the outside, you thought that a father was out to get his sons for all of the wrong reasons.  A better perspective, one from the inside, revealed that you were only partially right.  Yes, the father was out to get his boys but not to harm them.  It was their well-being and fellowship that he was after.

Christian, when it seems like your Heavenly Father is out to get you, he really is.  But you can rest in the fact that he is not seeking your destruction (Romans 8:1).  His Son took that for you.  Instead, it’s your ultimate well-being and fellowship that he’s after, two things that you can’t enjoy while gasping for air at the bottom of the sea (Hebrews 12:1-11; John 17:1-26).

So yes, God is out to get us.

And we shouldn’t want it any other way.

I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.  Jonah 2:6b

Holding Room or Training Facility?

Is your church’s children’s ministry a holding room or a training facility?

In their book Creature of the Word, Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger explain the importance of teaching the gospel to children.

“Some children’s ministries are simply viewed as child care, which is most tragic when we understand the blessed vulnerability of children.  Why would we be content to provide child care while mom and dad, who are far less likely to realize their own weakness, are somewhere else being taught the Christian faith?  No, this is the time to lovingly melt the hearts of children with the good news of Jesus.  With children especially, we must help them see that the goal of the Commandments was much deeper than tweaked behavior.”

Anyone in a church leadership position, not just youth or children’s ministers, needs to consider whether or not they are simply keeping people busy until the next event on the calendar or if they are training them up as disciples.  Creature of the Word is a helpful resource for those who are committed to the latter.

Doctrine of Integrity

The auditorium was packed, mostly with people who didn’t want to be there.

It was spiritual emphasis week at my small Bible college which meant that we were all required to spend pretty much every night that week listening to a guy give lectures about something spiritual.

On the last night of the week the speaker decided to start things off with a little review.  This would prove to be awkward for everyone in attendance.

And it was all my fault.

“What was our main point on Monday night?”

Hands shot up all over the place.

“Yes.  You way in the back, in the brown shirt.”

“Love God.”

“Good.  Very good.  And what about Tuesday night?  Anyone?”

Again, hundreds of eager hands popped up in the air.

“Okay.  You in the red dress.”

“Love others.”

“Excellent!”

Without giving it much thought, I told my friend Derrick that Doctrine of Integrity was the answer to the next question.  It wasn’t.  I just thought it would be funny to tell Derrick that it was.

My heart stopped when he raised his hand and the speaker called on him.

“Yes, you in the orange and blue shirt.”

“Doctrine of Integrity!”

Derrick seemed so proud to have the right answer.

“Excuse me?”

“Doctrine of…”

Derrick knew that he had been had but it was too late.  He was stuck.  He finished his answer with gibberish.

“What was that, son?”

“Forget it.”

It’s amazing that I was allowed to graduate from that school.  It’s even more amazing that Derrick kept being my friend.

A few years later Derrick and I were out with a bunch of friends.  When things started getting crazy, Derrick was the one that drove home with me, away from all of the drama, to watch TV.

When I found out that my mom died, I never asked Derrick to come to my house.  He didn’t let that or a ten hour drive stop him.  I’m glad.

When my firstborn son was about to be born, Derrick was at the hospital almost as fast as me and my wife.  When it was time for delivery, he was in the waiting room.  When the labor dragged on and things started to look bad, Derrick was still in the waiting room.  And he was there for the four minutes that nurses worked to get my newborn son to take his first breath.

My son made it out okay.  And a few years later, my second son came with a little less turbulence.  When they grow up, I hope that they have friends like my friend Derrick.

Friends they can laugh with.

Friends that will call them out when they are wrong.

Friends that are there for them.