15 Random Thoughts For Your Friday Pleasure

1. Two weekends ago I saw the original Karate Kid. One weekend ago I watched Pretty In Pink with my wife. If you take out Ralph Machio and the karate parts from the Karate Kid and replace them with Molly Ringwald and scenes about fashion designing you have Pretty In Pink. If you watch these two movies at the same time while listening to Pink Floyd, our planet will be sucked into a black hole. Al Gore should do something to protect us from this potential disaster.

2. I need to start watching better movies.

3. I used to wonder why my grandfather seemed to care less and less about professional sports as he grew older. Now that my kids are playing little league and every pro sports franchise in Atlanta is trying to get tax payers to build them a newer building, I think I see why.

4. All the auto correction in the world won’t keep me from misspelling neccesarry. Knowing the language of origin never helps either.

5. The Spelling Bee was on ESPN last night. The following is the greatest moment in Spelling Bee history.

In second place is this little “secret message.”

6. There should be a Celebrity Spelling Bee. I’d like to see Rasheed Wallace in it just for his reaction when he gets a word wrong and has to sit down.

7. My own private research has determined that it is now harder to earn a failing grade in high school than it is to pass.

8. Pastors, here are three terrible ways to start off your sermon.

“I’d like to start off this morning with an interpretive dance to one of my favorite Bob Seger songs.”

“This is my Bible…”

“I got more rhymes than the Bible’s got Psalms.”

9. As a general rule of thumb, if the movie is about a horse, it’s not going to be a very good movie. I don’t mean to be so harsh. Just trying to save you a few bucks.

10. Remember when that airplane disappeared a few months back? How are we still not talking about this? What kind of a world do we live in where an airplane vanishes in the middle of the sky and a few weeks later nobody cares that it still hasn’t been found? I miss the good old days when life was a lot less like an episode of G.I. Joe.

11. People on Facebook should have to pay a $35 fine for writing sentences that begin with, “That awkward moment when…”

12. I feel sorry for the people I see who are still driving around with Obama bumper stickers on their cars. They’re sort of like the guy who got “Vanderbilt Commodores: 2013 BCS Champs” tattooed on his forehead. Some things are just too hard to get rid of, I guess.

13. A few years ago, everyone was making fun of this song.

Now, every song on top 40 radio sounds just like it. Maybe Rebecca Black was really a genius. Well, either that or top 40 radio is just dumb.

14. Anyone who supported Obamacare has no right to be outraged over the VA scandal.

15. If you are a new parent and you are wondering if you need to change your baby’s diaper, just know this. You should have changed it about three minutes ago. Changing your baby’s diaper is always necesserry.

Pain And White Privilege

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It’s one of the most disturbing sounds I’ve ever heard in my life and it came from the end of the hallway in the house where I grew up.

Our hallway was long. Back then it seemed a mile long. I’m sure that if I went back to that old house on Creekwood Drive today, the hallway would look a lot smaller. Everything seems bigger when you’re a kid. The carpet covering the floor was dirty brown. Not by design. The color was the result of years of pet stains, spilled drinks and dirty shoes. It’s funny how you remember the little things. Carpet color. Stains. Sounds.

I heard crying at the end of the hallway. It was coming from my mother’s room. She was sitting on her bed with her back toward me and the phone against her ear. Someone on the other end was calling about an overdue bill. It was a bill that my mother couldn’t pay. All she could do was cry and say, “I can’t pay it.” It was one of those uncontrollable cries. The kind that nobody likes to see. Or hear. Especially from their own mother.

I was worried.

But, somehow, we made it. All I can point to is the grace of God. But a growing number of people in this country would point to something else. They call it white privilege. The only reason why my mother managed to survive with her two kids in tact, some say, was because of our whiteness.

That’s why, for some, any opinion I share regarding race is tainted by my white privilege. As they see it, it’s also what lies beneath my opposition to President Obama, the Affordable Care Act and affirmative action.

I didn’t feel very privileged that night when I stood outside of my mother’s room, listening to her cry.

I didn’t feel very privileged the summer after I graduated high school when I walked around the woods contemplating joining the army because there was no way that my family could pay for the school I was accepted to.

My white privilege didn’t seem to help very much when I sat in an accountant’s office every year at that same college, wondering if I would have to drop out. I’m pretty sure that my supposed white privilege isn’t what got me all of those Stafford Loans. And it certainly was not what helped me to pay them off, almost 15 years after I graduated college.

My mother was no different. Her whiteness allowed her to live out her final days in a shared room in a small nursing home. One time I had to call the man in charge of running that nursing home because my mother’s sheets were soaked in who knows what kinds of fluids. Later, when my mother died, my family mourned her death and I preached her funeral, none of us ever thought, “This is really tough but hey, at least we’re white.”

My story is nothing unusual. My life was much easier than most. Much easier. And that’s my point. We all have pain. Every single one of us. Some of that pain is a result of race, some is a result of poverty and some is a result of sickness. Some of our pain comes through no direct fault of our own. Some is the result of our unbridled stupidity. But we all have pain.

And here’s the part that no one likes to talk about as much.

We all have privilege too.

I had the privilege of growing up with a mom who taught me what it means to endure hardships before she was finally set free from hers.

I had the privilege of learning how to laugh when sometimes crying is all that makes sense.

I had the privilege of discovering what it means to work hard, stick to a budget and pay off student loans.

That’s the thing about pain. It has a way of shaping us and preparing us for unique privileges down the road. But not if we allow it to define us. When pain defines us, it becomes our identity and leaves us bitter and angry.

I’ve seen television personalities tell holocaust survivors that it was their white privilege that helped them to get back on their feet. I’ve seen policy makers blame their poor decisions on their own white privilege. None of this, no matter how well-intentioned, ever accomplishes anything other than leaving us with guilt and resentment.

Racism is very real. Before the return of Christ, it will probably never totally go away. But this much is true. It will only get worse if we continue to gripe about the presumed privileges of others while ignoring our own. We would be much better off if we figured out a way to delight in our shared accomplishments while mourning with and fighting for those who are mistreated.

I’ve come a long way since that night in the hallway when I heard my mother cry.

Some say it’s because of white privilege.

I attribute it to God’s grace.

And I think that we would all be much better off if we started modeling that grace toward one another.

Stupid Cattle: An American Parable

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There was a time when the cattle went pretty much wherever they wanted and did as they pleased.

But that was before the farmer took over.

He had 20 acres of beautiful green grass. That’s a lot of land in the city where he came from. Certainly it would be enough to handle a few animals who just sit around waiting to give away their milk or to be turned into hamburgers.

It didn’t take long for the new farmer to realize how foolish he was. Sure, the grass keeps growing but not nearly as fast as the cattle. And as more came along, his 20 acres seemed to shrink.

As the eager farmer saw it, there were two options.

The first option was based merely on common sense. He could buy more land and allow the cattle to have more freedom to roam and eat as they please. While that would be good for them, it wouldn’t be so good for the farmer. He would no longer enjoy the control he had when space was limited to that small parcel of land. Even worse, the cattle would start to realize that they don’t need him quite as much as he likes to be needed.

So he went with the second option. He called it the stupid option. But really, it was quite brilliant.

He called it the stupid option because the entire plan was dependent upon the stupidity of the cattle. If they were ever made aware of or reminded of how great it is in the wide open spaces that surround the farmer’s small piece of land, the whole plan falls to pieces.

He decides to keep some of the cattle. The others have to go. There’s only one question. How should he cut down on the numbers? After careful consideration, he develops a plan to stay in power, keep the numbers of cattle down to a manageable level and have tighter control over the cattle that he does keep. Sure, he could just sell the ones that he didn’t want but that would be inhumane.

So he does everything he can to discourage reproduction among the cattle. He confuses gender lines and terminates those calves, “mistakes,” “bundles of cells” and “unwanted pregnancies” that somehow manage to get past him.

Next, he singles out some of the best cows, the ones who have done the most, proven themselves as hard workers and sacrificed for the good of others. He punishes them. He makes them wait when they need help the most. If they die while waiting, this only helps his ultimate agenda of thinning the herd. The last thing the farmer wants is legitimate heroes and examples of a strong work ethic walking around and spreading their influence. He also manages to convince the rest of the cattle to willingly jump in on this same plan. He does this by promising them the whole prairie while only giving them a few blades of grass.

Finally, the numbers are where the farmer wants them. The small amount of cattle are easily controlled at all times. Just so long as they stay satisfied with the few blades of grass that they are given. Just so long as they remain convinced that they really are being given the world. Just as long as they remain blind, uninformed and apathetic about what it is that is being done to them.

Ignorance, as the old saying goes, is curable. The farmer does not want this cure for his cattle. For his plan to work, the cattle must be more than just ignorant. They must be stupid. This is why it is important for him to control what they know and how they think.

Stupidity is different than ignorance.

Stupidity is always fatal.

An informed man will eventually resist.

A stupid man delights in the tyranny done to him and worships the one who is doing it.

Just as long as he can be convinced that his bondage is freedom and that his oppression is for his own good.

Years from now, people will discuss what it was that finally destroyed the once great United States. Was there a foreign invader? Did a tyrant king take over by force?

The answer will be a simple one.

There was no foreign invader. The tyrant did not take over by force.

He was elected.

By stupid people who would rather be given a few blades of grass than to roam freely in order to get their own.

Any Old Fool Can Wash The Dishes

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A husband needs to ask himself a question at the start of every day.

Am I going to be a real man or just an old fool?

If you care about your wife, you will serve her. And if you want your sons to care about theirs, you will make sure that they see you serving their mother. Being a husband and father means being a leader. But leaders, at least the good ones, don’t sit around on the couch barking orders from on high about someone bringing them another glass of tea.

Real leaders serve.

But it goes deeper than that.

Any old fool can wash the dishes or fold laundry for his wife. It’s what’s happening inside, on the heart level, that separates the men from the old fools.

When the Bible tells husbands to love their wives like Christ loves the church, it’s not giving us some secret man code for a fast track to a better sex life.

The following verse is not in the Bible.

“Washeth thou the dishes for thou wife. You’ll thanketh me for it later. Trust me on this fellas.”

That’s because service that always comes with these sorts of expectations is not love.

Real love is more than just a husband doing a chore for his wife. Real love is a husband serving his wife and being happy about it. Real love, instead of getting up to do the dishes with a moan and a nasty comment, finds joy in sacrificing comfort for the good of another.

Here’s a verse that really is in the Bible.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)

So fellas, remember, any old fool can wash the dishes. Machines can wash dishes. Dogs can wash dishes. But a husband who takes the Bible seriously and who really loves his wife will wash the dishes and be delighted that his wife is taking a nap while he does it.

An old fool will ask himself, “When do I get my nap?” while he scrubs away in alleged service to his wife.

An old fool will always expect something in return for his efforts.

A godly husband, one that looks like Jesus, will consider it an honor to faithfully represent his Master while working for the good of his bride. For him, the joy that comes along with the privilege of being able to serve is all the reward that’s needed. Any thing else is extra.

Each new day brings with it millions of opportunities. For the husband, there are opportunities to be an old fool who just sits on the couch or maybe even washes a few dishes and there are opportunities to be a real man who leads and serves for the good of his family and for the glory of God.

Husbands, each new day the question is put before us. Will we be old fools or will we be men?

The answer can only be found in our hearts.

What’s So Bad About Pinterest?

If you’re like me, you’ve been searching for a place to share recipes, post pictures of your dinner and tell everyone about all of the crafts that can be made with popsicle sticks but without all of the smut, depravity and violence one would find on Pinterest.

Well, now you can breathe easily. Godinterest is here and it promises to be a hit.

Remember, if there’s one thing that Christians are good at, it’s ripping off something popular and adding the word God to it.

Look, I don’t know a lot about Pinterest but when has anyone ever complained about the “subject matter” of Pinterest not being “family friendly”? Am I missing something here? Did Pinterest suddenly become Craigslist overnight? Well, there was that one news story about the two women who were killed while trading gluten-free bread recipes. Wait. No there wasn’t.

Also, I love the guy giving the review here. Any idea who he works for? I’m going to go out on a limb and say, oh I don’t know, Godinterest. I love it when companies give reviews of their own product. It’s sort of like the federal government suing itself or conducting an internal investigation. The whole thing just leaves us all knowing that we’re not getting the full story.

And I like how he calls this an “innovative site” that is the “first of its type.” What’s innovative about changing the first few letters of an already popular website? It’s sort of like calling the guy at the flea market who is selling Air Gordon basketball shoes, “cutting edge.” I also have to disagree on the “first of its type” assessment. Has this guy never heard of Reborn or Lord’s Gym? What about Testamints?

Finally, what exactly does it mean to “capture God’s world in the moment” and how exactly would one do that through a website? Please tell me that this is not their motto.

Godinterest: Capture God’s World In The Moment. Or Just Show Us A Christian Picture Of What You Had For Dinner.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Shortly after, he created man in his image. And those men were themselves creators. Sure, not on the scale of The Creator but they still made things. Great things. They made giant boats. They made temples. They made symphonies, cathedrals and computers.

But somewhere along the way, Christians stopped creating.

Instead, we settled for copying.

And we wonder why we’ve lost our influence in the world.

Editor’s Note: If you need to contact me over the weekend, just leave me a message on my icandoallthingsPhone. I’ll be busy developing my new website – InstaGrace. It’s a cutting edge site where Christians share pictures of Jesus with one another.

Great News About Your Health

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Chances are that you are a bad athlete. No school has ever paid for your tuition so that you would play a sport for them. You’re not in any hall of fame.

But maybe you really are a good athlete. Perhaps even an elite athlete. You can lift more weight than most people. You’re running a lot of miles. Your pants are getting looser.

Those are all good things. But good things tend to come with slippery slopes. This one is no different.

That’s why you should just give up.

Not on your diet, your weight-training or your goal of running a half-marathon. Keep doing them. Enjoy them and the benefits that they bring.

Just stop putting your identity in how well you did in the Work Out of the Day. You are not your athletic ability. You are not your box jumps. You are not your dead lift personal record. You are not defined by your waistline. When we forget those things, we are on the slippery slope. When we place our identity in our ability, we are speeding down that slope to a cliff of well-intentioned self-destruction.

You can always do more.

Your last best accomplishment was not enough.

Those are the hard realities you will have to live with on a daily basis if you allow yourself to believe that you are your athletic ability or the number you see on the scale. And, if you’re not careful, your doing more and trying harder can quickly become your god. Unlike the real God who moves toward his people through his Son (Matthew 1:23; James 4:7-8) this god always keeps his subjects at a distance.

Even still, worship services are held in honor of this god throughout the week at gyms, boxes and on scales.  His sacraments are diet and exercise. There is no grace. There is only guilt.

So listen to Jesus and just quit.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

Jesus doesn’t have a problem with a good diet and exercise. In fact, he likes those things. They are two very good ways to take care of the body that he has given to you. But they only go so far.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)

Your lower blood pressure, smaller waist and nice form on your overhead press are of value to you and others. The Bible says it. But their value is limited, lasting only for this life. And then you die. People with six pack abs and a three and a half hour marathon time still go to hell.

People who have been told that they are overweight and who struggle to make it up a flight of stairs can still enjoy the approval of God. That’s because, no matter what we can or cannot bring to the table, God’s enjoyment of us has nothing to do with our spiritual, academic or physical resume. It is solely because of his grace and it can only be realized through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

I’m a big fan of CrossFit. I work out at an excellent CrossFit box with great instructors three or four days a week. I usually lift less weight and finish much slower than anyone else in the room. I look nothing like the guys who compete in the CrossFit games on ESPN.

That would be a problem if who I am was defined by what I can do.

But it’s not a problem. That’s because who I am is defined by the One I belong to.

So the next time you feel like a terrible person because you ate a piece of pizza or because you can’t lift 200 pounds over your head, just remember what Jesus really cares about. He’s glad that you’re taking care of yourself.

But he really delights in the fact that you have put your hope and identity in him.

No matter how bad of an athlete you are.

His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 147:11 (ESV)

 

Everything My Son Will Ever Need To Know About Politics, He Learned On Tuesday

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Everything my son will ever need to know about politics, he learned on Tuesday.

He was in one of those moods where he asks hundreds of questions. Who am I kidding? He’s always in one of those moods. This time, the questions were about politics.

Who was the best president ever?

Who was the best president in your lifetime?

Who was the worst president ever?

Who was the worst president in your lifetime?

I answered every one of those questions with complete honesty and a thorough explanation. If the NSA was listening in on our conversation, they’ll be paying me a visit pretty soon. It’s been nice knowing you. I’ll tell Dinesh D’Souza you said hello.

We were on our way to vote. Well, me. Not him. Kids his age only get to vote in Chicago. This isn’t Chicago.

When we walked in to vote, I saw an old friend and we made small talk. I walked over to get my voting card and met the folks in charge of making sure that people only vote once. Like I said, this isn’t Chicago.

My son stood perfectly still as I cast my votes. He was fascinated by the computer screen and the names I put a big X next to. He was even more fascinated by the names I wrote-in. That’s always been a philosophy of mine. I never vote for someone I know nothing about and I never vote for the lesser of two evils. To put it another way, I vote for a lot of write-in candidates.

My son was a statue. I don’t think that he even blinked. I could overhear the workers commenting on how well-behaved he was. I was proud. When we walked out, a man handed me a sticker. It had a peach on it and said something about me being a Georgia voter. And then the man handed my son the same sticker, even though he didn’t vote. The man said that any kid as well behaved as him deserves a sticker.

On the way out, my son asked me why I wrote in so many names. He wanted to know what would happen if Thomas Jefferson and Gregg Allman really did get elected to public office. I told him that they didn’t have a chance to win but that it’s better to vote for someone who can’t win than it is to vote for someone who will win and do all of the wrong things.

Later that night we went to a party. It was for a friend who was running for office. He’s one of the good guys. The kind with a name that you are proud to put an X by.

The results for his race were coming in slow and the hour was growing late. The kids were sleepy. When we got home, we listened to the radio while we were getting ready for bed. Finally, the news broke.

Our friend won.

My kids cheered.

And then we prayed for our friend.

Everything my son needs to know about politics, he learned on Tuesday.

He learned that sometimes your only option is one that was never given to you in the first place.

He learned that sometimes the good guys really do win in politics.

And he learned that no matter how good or bad the elected official is, whether we like him or oppose him, we pray for him.

Even if he’s from Chicago.

He Didn’t Go Alone

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I like watching bad parenting with my kids. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we get to watch that bad parenting without getting yelled at by the participants for staring.

You probably remember the practical joke from several years ago where someone sent you an e-mail asking you to find your way through a maze on your computer screen. Everything stayed quiet until a picture of some demonic screaming monkey took over your screen. This ended many relationships.

Somewhere along the line some guy (it’s always a guy) got the idea to try this on his kids and put it on the Internet. The kids always fall for it. And they always cry. For mom. But by this time, I’m assuming that mom is already at Child Protective Services filling out forms on her significant other. YouTube never shows that part.

Most good parents protect their young children from things like this. That’s a good thing. It’s one thing to jump out from behind a door and startle your young ones. It’s quite another to give them PTSD. But this doesn’t mean that we should always keep our children from frightening situations.

Any good parent will put his kids in a scary situation.

My son was looking for a ball. He looked everywhere. Or so he told us. “Looked everywhere” for a small boy means that it wasn’t in the refrigerator or under his bed. The male species is notorious for  not being able to find something if finding that something involves moving another something around or looking in more than three places.

My wife and I started feeding him suggestions. Behind the couch. In the shower. Outside, where daddy hides his “special projects” from the government. All of those places turned up empty. There was another suggestion. Upstairs.

This was inconceivable for my son. He wasn’t about to go looking upstairs by himself. So he asked his mom to go with him. She declined. And then he asked me. Like any good Southern Baptist preacher, I told him that I couldn’t because I was eating. I offered to pray with him instead.

So that’s what we did.

Father,

The Bible tells us that Jesus is with us everywhere. That means that there is nowhere we can go where we need to be scared. Please help my son to remember that when he goes upstairs all by himself. Amen.

When I opened my eyes, my son was grinning. He told me to wait a second and he disappeared.

When he came back, he was holding a Nerf machine gun. This particular gun is the size of a Toyota Prius and it shoots 4,639 soft bullets in 20 seconds.

He was ready to go upstairs.

So my son braved the great unknown with a prayer, a grin and his machine gun.

I listened while he was up there. Screaming, stomping and other monstrous sounds were never heard. There was only one sound. The sound of my son’s gun firing. I still don’t know what he was shooting at but If some bad guy really is living upstairs, I’m sure that he’s moved out since that encounter with the grinning young boy and the Nerf machine gun.

My son came back down without his ball. But the trip wasn’t in vain. He came back one step closer to manhood. There was something that had to be done. And that something was scary. It wasn’t something that he really wanted to do.

He went anyway.

With his gun in his hand.

He didn’t go alone. He had a sovereign God going before him.

And he made it back.

Earlier that day I went to a funeral. The man who we were honoring was nearly nine decades older than my son. He fought in World War II under General Patton. One time his granddaughter got him to open up about his time in the war and the patriotism that brought him there. He told her that patriotism was only part of it. The other half of him was filled with fear.

He went anyway.

With his gun in his hand.

But he didn’t go alone. He had a sovereign God going before him.

And he made it back.

The guys that fought in World War II are always praised for their bravery. They’re called the greatest generation. I can’t help but wonder how my generation would handle such a challenge. What about my son’s generation?

I hope that my son never fights in a world war. But I know that he will face many obstacles that are much scarier than a quick walk up a flight of stairs. He will take risks that could cost him his heart. He will make decisions that carry with them the potential of losing it all. He may even go places where he’ll wonder if he will ever make it back.

Through it all, I hope that he remembers me. I don’t mean that in some sort of self-centered way. I just hope that he remembers praying with me one afternoon before he took one of his first dangerous journeys. A solo trek up the stairs.

Parenting isn’t always about protecting our kids from scary situations. Sometimes it’s about teaching them how to move in spite of the fear. That’s why any good parent should put his kids in scary situations. They can be the classrooms where our kids learn life-long lessons about bravery and trust.

When a parent scares his small child with a creepy video, that trust is damaged.

But when a child learns to face down fear after praying with his dad, that trust is strengthened.

And it grows even stronger as he gradually learns about the Father who goes before him and with him into even the scariest situations.

So don’t shelter your kids from every one of their fears. Pray with them. Every now and then, when the moment is right, make them go alone. Just remind them that even when you stay behind, they never really are alone.

Perhaps then, our boys and girls will grow into men and women whose trust in God allows them to stare down their fears with a grin on their lips and a prayer in their hearts.

And, if need be, a Nerf gun in their hands.