Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I would never treat a dog like a person . . .

Fourteen years ago, me, my new bride, and her dog, Chelsea, moved in my father's house at his request. We didn't mind - He needed help and we needed the free rent. The only problem is my dad's attitude was a little old school when it came to dogs. We grew up in the boonies and he had no compulsion against carrying out his policy of shooting all strays. Several times I had to go dispose of "the body" after school.

So . . . I was a little apprehensive about leaving Chelsea all day with my dad. Don't misunderstand - I knew he wouldn't hurt her- he was a good man. I just wasn't sure how attentive he would be to her needs. After all she was "just a dog".

A couple of weeks later, I came home early and heard my dad talking to Chelsea through the window. I remained outside and watched as he called her "his baby" and proceeded to prepare both of them a plate of food. (Even though he knew I didn't want to give her table food.) He filled both their plates with white beans and rice and beef roast. He then poured both of them some milk. His in a glass and hers in a bowl. He put her plate on the table next to his, pulled a chair out for her and they both sat there -at the table-and ate while he periodically let her lick his face.

For the next few years, the man who hated dogs became our daily babysitter for Chelsea. Even after we built our house next door, he would call and ask me to open the door so she could go visit. All I had to do was tell Chelsea "Go see paw paw" and she would run to his house.

Yesterday, I held Chelsea for the last time as she entered her final sleep. I've had many dogs and I can honestly say she was by far the smartest dog I've ever encountered. In fact, smart isn't the right word - it goes beyond that. She was exceedingly brilliant and touched the hearts of those around her. Yes, there have been and will be other dogs, but there has never been and will never be another Chelsea.

Every now and then I'd run across someone who'd say in a condescending tone "You treat that dog like it's a person." Instead of getting mad, I always replied "No, I'd never be that cruel."

Dogs give unconditional love, they never let you down, they never betray you, and they would give their life to defend you.

So you see - I would never treat a dog like a person - because they deserve better than that.

Especially Chelsea -- 1993-2008.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

To Mardi Gras or not to Mardi Gras . . .

Much like the "To Halloween or not" question, I believe this is a matter of personal conviction. But am I wrong about that?

To participate in Mardi Gras by way of being a member of a Krewe and riding on a float inherently, in most cases, involves fashioning an idol of a god and printing the image of that god or goddess on doubloons, cups, t-shirts, etc.

Such as Zeus, Dionysus, Bacchus (the Roman god of wine and intoxication - equivalent to Dionysus), Aphrodite, Isis, Thor, etc. Of course, there are Krewes with more innocuous names such as Mona Lisa, Excalibur, Ceasar, Cleopatra, etc.

While these actions may violate the letter of Mosaic Law (namely the 2nd Commandment), they certainly don't violate the intent. I mean, really, are the Krewe members actually worshipping these gods. Of course not. (Although the legalists might think so.) Besides, most of the Krewe members are Catholics - therefore Christians.

For me, I don't attend the night parades as a matter of personal conviction. But occasionally, I don't mind attending a day parade. Especially if the day parade is the children's parade. (Btw, by occasionally, I mean every five years or so.) As a child, I enjoyed them. I remember when I first saw the Budweiser Clydesdales pass by. I didn't think those horses actually existed. I had seen them in movies and thought they were special effects, not real animals.

The important thing to remember about a personal conviction is not to judge others by it. For example, the Bible doesn't say you can't drink. It says "don't be a drunkard." It is my personal conviction not to drink. But I'm careful to tell my non-Christian friends that I don't condemn them for drinking. I only mention to them the verse that says "don't be a drunkard." But in the end, it is their choice to be a drunkard or not.

So if a fellow Christian decides to participate in Mardi Gras, I may share my opinions with them, but I never judge them based on my decision. A pastor at one of my former churches, actually told our youth group that if Jesus comes back and they're at the movies, they will get left behind. I immediately packed up my guitar and began looking for a different church. While it may be a good thing to try and convince our youth of the dangers of certain types of movies, it is never a good thing to pass judgement on them on God's behalf. I'm sure this pastor understands the concept of being judged by the same measure which you judge. I wonder if he could pass his own scrutiny.

It is important to consider how difficult it is to live up to the Law. Thankfully, we don't have to. That's why Jesus was born. But we must also consider how difficult it is, over a lifetime, to live up to our own "Law" which we judge others by.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I Just Don't Get it . . .

Well, it's that time of year and once again I find myself in the minority.

Mardi Gras has begun. Over the next week and a half twelve parades will roll in Houma, shutting down whole sections of town, disrupting traffic all the while providing a tolerable environment for the relaxation of many laws including the one against underage drinking.

What I'm about to say is considered blasphemy around here, but I just don't get it. Why do people spend thousands of dollars, dress up in weird costumes, get drunk, and throw worthless trinkets out of a float. Conversely, why would someone want to stand in the cold while watching drunk people throw worthless trinkets out of a float while the people around them trample each other for a plastic bead. I just don't get it. If I could afford it, I'd leave Louisiana every year during Mardi Gras.

Last year, I was fortunate to be out of town. I went to the C.W.G. conference in Colorado Springs. Instead of waiting Mardi Gras out, I'd be in the Rocky Mountains enjoying the scenery and the snow. Before the conference, I walked around the grounds of the beautiful snow covered landscape of the Broadmoor Resort, taking pictures and enjoying my good fortune. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door of the conference center to the sounds of Mardi Gras music and costumes. They were having a Mardi Gras ball right next to the conference.

In local Christian circles, the inevitable question of "to Mardi Gras or not to Mardi Gras" becomes the topic of conversation. Like Halloween, I believe this is a matter of personal conviction. Which leads me to the topic I really wanted to discuss. More on that tomorrow.

Side note: If your child is in the school band and the school band is marching in a parade, they have to participate or risk a failing grade.

Ten people I'd most like to meet . . .

. . . without mentioning anyone in the Bible. They are a given.

In no particular order (and subject to change):

Winston Churchill
Thomas Jefferson
George Washington
Martin Luther
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Billy Graham
Ronald Reagan
Isaac Newton
Albert Einstein
Edgar Allen Poe

Care to name yours?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

King of Kings . . .

"Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have built great empires. But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love, and even to this day millions will die for him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My thoughts on . . .

One of my heroes - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I am amazed at the continued ignorance by some when it comes to Dr. King. He has, by some, been unfairly lumped in with the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They are not even on the same planet.

Unlike Rev. Jessie Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. King constantly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. And he lived it. Dr. King believed in the words of Jesus: Love your enemies. In one speech, Dr. King said:

"Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command."

"So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, "I love you. I would rather die than hate you." And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us."

Dr. King believed that loving his enemies would eventually bring them to see the ugliness of their hate and change their hearts. He preached that violence was not the answer. That black power and white power would ultimately fail because that kind of thinking failed to recognize the only true power: God's power.

I believe Dr. King was one of the bravest men in history. To walk in the midst of your enemies knowing they would spit on you, throw things at you, threaten to kill you, etc. and stand there and tell them you love them. That's courage. And more importantly, his courage inspired courage in others. At a time when Black America was deciding between the violent militancy of Malcom X and the Christian principle of Love your enemies, Dr. King inspired millions to overcome the easy and natural inclination to hate their enemies. I believe, because of this, he saved tens of thousands of lives.

He didn't advocate revenge, only forgiveness and equal opportunity . He didn't speak against America, he only wanted her to finally fulfill her promise that all men are created equal.

He didn't want white supremacists to die and go to hell, he wanted them to see the error of their hate and find God's love so they too could enter His kingdom.

It seems that throughout history, God has placed certain men at certain times to accomplish things only they could. I believe Martin Luther King was one of those men.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A life lived in God's will . . .

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination.

Implausibility . . .

One thing I hate is implausibility.

Sure I didn't mind when Bo and Luke sailed through the air in the General Lee, tearing up the front end when they landed, only to arrive at their destination a few seconds later with a freshly washed and unscratched car -- I was 9.

But last week I watched the first episode of the Terminator series. Two points:

How can a super android be such a bad shot? and Couches can't stop bullets.

On Lead Characters . . .

Your lead character doesn't have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and he doesn't have to stop speeding bullets with his bare hands, but he darn well better know the difference between right and wrong, and he better be kind to animals, and it sure wouldn't hurt any if he brushed his teeth regularly.

--from How to Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Review Preview . . .

I was recently given the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Athol Dickson's Winter Haven.

It's scheduled for release in April and at the end of March, I will post a review. But don't bother waiting. Just click on the link or go to your favorite book retailer and pre-order a copy right now.

It's a great read and I guarantee you-you will enjoy it. Trust me on this one. This is one of those books I wish I would've written.

And right now it's available at a special price. While you're at it, if you haven't read River Rising, put it in the cart, too.

Sophistication by Association . . .

Inspired by the comments from my last post.

Subjectivity and varying tastes certainly account for most of the "I don't get it" 's in the world. But there are some things that are so obvious there must be another explanation. Thus my theory of sophistication by association. People who don't know what great ____ is so they claim to like certain things as to avoid the implication of being a rube.

This certainly would explain so-called modern art. Now I know art is subjective, but anyone who believes Andy Warhol's Soup can painting is great art and worth millions is suffering from some as yet undefined social dysfunction.

In comparison, I don't get the Mona Lisa. But I can understand why some do. That smile does have an enigmatic quality to it. Probably unintended by the artist, which means it transcends it's intent.

For me, the best example is Monet. Monet is not a great artist. The New Orleans Museum of Art has quite a few Monet's in its collection. But the other impressionists on display are far superior. Not only in technique, but in vision, and content.

So how do I account for Monet's high standing. He's got a great sounding name. Besides, compared to the other impressionists, his name is far easier to pronounce and remember. I think throughout history, the average guy hears the name Monet, sees his paintings in Museums, and "thinks" he's a great artist. And Mr. Average doesn't want to sound dumb at parties, so he tells the woman he's trying to impress "I sho like that Monet. He paints real good." Okay, maybe I went too far. It would sound more like this: "Oh yeah, Monet. He's fantastic." At the same time, Mr. Average is thinking he's only heard that Monet is great and he can only think of that one painting with the lily pads which doesn't seem all that great-I mean it ain't The Last Supper or the Sistine Chapel, but Miss Hottie sure seems impressed. Mission accomplished.

Btw, if you want to see great art - go here: http://www.akiane.com/

If you really want to be impressed, go to her gallery and click on the paintings and read her comments. Also read some of her poetry. Note her age for each painting or poem.

For an example, check out this painting of Jesus and the poem that goes with it that she did when she was 8: http://www.akiane.com/paintings/age_08/age08_02.htm

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Maybe I'm out of touch . . .

. . . at least as far as pop culture goes.

I finally got around to watching 300 and ,well, I don't get it. This movie is mediocre at best. I found the pacing very slow and the action sparse. With that said, millions of people flocked to the theaters to watch it. So it's gotta be me, right?

Maybe so. I didn't like Gladiator either. It was better than 300, but it still didn't match the hype. I also didn't like Russell Crowe's performance. But apparently everyone else did. He actually won an oscar for that wooden performance. Really. An Oscar.

I also don't like Jack Black. He's not funny and he can't act. I also don't like Steve Carell. Same reason. Don't get me wrong. These guys are okay, but they're mediocre at best. I know, I know - they're laughing all the way to the bank. Same thing goes for Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. (disclaimer: when I say "I don't like . . ." I don't mean personally)

Will Ferrell is a little different because I thought he was great on Saturday Night Live and he's definitely talented. But he is not funny on the big screen.

Speaking of Ferrell, I finally saw Elf - Mediocre at best. Yet, it's a huge hit.

So maybe I am out of touch with the world. Hey wait a minute, I kinda like that. In fact, I'm starting to feel good about this. I haven't seen any of the American pie movies,or the Friday movies, or the Saw movies. I don't like anything on MTV. I don't like Jerry Springer, reality shows, rap videos, soap operas, prime time soap operas, and any show with the word "Model" in the title.

Yes, I am starting to feel good about this.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's Bible verse . . .

My favorite Bible verse is John 3:16. In fact, I believe it is the most beautiful piece of literature ever written. The crowning achievement of the English language.

Recently, I came across another bible verse: Jeremiah 29: 11:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Great verse, Right? The problem is - taken in context, this verse does not seem to apply to me. It is speaking to the nation of Israel while in captivity in Babylon. God is promising that after seventy years He will gather those in exile and bring them back to Jerusalem.

When is comes to the Bible - CONTEXT is everything.

Furthermore, the above verse was quoted from the New International Version. Here it is taken from the King James Version:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Doesn't read exactly the same does it. My problem here is the word prosper. Now I'm not saying I'm anti-NIV. I have two of them. I also have a NLT and of course a King James Version.

But the NIV's choice of the word prosper and the fact that many do not consider context is the reason we have such things as prosperity preachers. Besides, what's wrong with "thoughts of peace, and not of evil"?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Soldier Care Package Update . . .

Back in November I decided I wanted to send a Care Package to a soldier for Christmas.I don't know anyone currently serving, so Donna (FLeisher) pointed me to www.anysoldier.com where you can read letters from soldiers and get their individual addresses.

When my co-workers and customers saw what I was doing they wanted to contribute. I have been fortunate to have 21 people entrust me with $410 so far. I have already shipped 12 packages and have enough money to send 4 more.

I have received 2 Christmas cards and 1 letter from the soldiers expressing their gratitude for my "Small" gesture. (they didn't use the word small)

One said, "I just received a box that you sent me, I wasn't expecting it but it was a great surprise. I want to thank you for caring about us and specially for your prayers that are so much needed in a place like this."

I told my sister about it. She is a cued speech transliterator for Berwick Elementary School. She asked the school if they could make it a school project, which they did. For one week they collected donations. The teachers put up $200 of their own money for the shipping. And some of the kids, 65 I believe made their own Christmas cards with personal notes for the soldiers. All in all, they were able to ship 30 packages.

The soldiers sent a letter with some pictures and answered some of the questions the kids asked in their cards and expressed how much the cards meant to them.

The point is - it's not what we sent, it's that we sent. Everyone wants to be appreciated and few deserve it more than they do.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Speaking of my niece, Brooke . . .

. . . who also happens to be my godchild.

Here she is. Seriously . . . Look close. Really? Then click on the image.

She also happens to be an incredible singer.

I'm boycotting American Idol this year because they told her she didn't sing loud enough. Never mind the fact that she was singing in the Georgia Dome with thousands of people making noise and they didn't give her a microphone. She never even got the chance to go before Simon and the gang.

That's okay. I'm proud of her for having the courage and for being such a great kid. Um . . . adult. She's 17 now.

Here she is singing the National Anthem at age 13.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Proof I'm getting old . . .

My niece, Brooke, took this one while we were hiking in the Smokies.

I hiked all the way to this waterfall just to find out the batteries in my camera were dead. I had plenty, but they were all back in the car. Luckily, Brooke had hers.

Brooke had to take this one, too. Believe it or not. Same reason. Did I mention it was a different hike?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Clearly vague prophecies . . .

I fall for it every time. While flipping through the channels, I'll come across a program where one of the so-called experts on biblical prophecy promises that in the next 60 minutes he'll show me how the bible clearly foretold modern events. They will claim that not only has the bible predicted events that has already recently happened. But, that based on this unblemished record he will show me what the bible clearly states will happen in the immediate future.

"Well," I tell myself, "I've got to watch this." So, like touching a hot stove over and over and over, I watch with anticipation waiting to be marveled at some prophetic revelation that somehow the rest of the world missed.

They show newsreels of war and famine and slick digital reproductions of future wars as they scroll the 800 number where you can order the DVD series, books, and study guides where you can study these prophecies in further detail. The obligatory Hitler reels are always included. I can't blame them for that - he is the embodiment of evil in the modern world.

They even quote a couple of scriptures which Clearly apply to some of the news footage or to some world war I & II videos they have shown.

The problem is that there is nothing CLEAR about them. Nothing short of Cultural and literary acrobatics are required to even hint at a connection between these prophecies and modern events.

Of course they will tell you it is because you haven't spent decades studying the text. Fair enough. But don't tell me how CLEAR they are. Tell me that through decades of study, you have found prophecies hidden in the text, buried beneath thousands of years of symbolism and guarded by multiple language barriers. At least then, I'd give you the benefit of the doubt.

But would God really make prophecy so hard to understand that only a couple of people in history would be able to figure it out?

Personally, I don't buy it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

One Nation, Under God . . .

It is my contention that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The reason the founders didn't spell it out in the constitution in elementary language is because the thought that anyone would misinterpret their meaning seemed ridiculous at the time.

The equating of the word "God" with religion is the most dangerous arrow in the quiver of the "remove Jesus from our government and culture at all costs" crowd. This is an attempt to remake the U.S. as an atheist entity- thereby neutral in the ways of God. But, religion does not equal a belief in God. The constitution is clear on this. Our rights come from God, endowed by our creator. This supposition in the constitution's acknowledgement of the existence of God is not ambiguous in the least. If the constitution is deemed in the public arena to not acknowledge the existence of God, then the authority granting our rights falls from God to man. That is where Hitlers come from. If man is the granter of rights, then man can also take them away. Or alter them to suit his devious pursuits.

The beauty of a Christian nation is that Christ leaves religion up to the individual. That is why the United States is a bastion of religious freedom. Compare that to Muslim countries. But Dayle, aren't you just rewriting history to fit your beliefs. If you think so, consider the following:

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [Patrick Henry, May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Take Two . . .

If you wouldn't mind indulging me one more time . . . After this post, we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Okay, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm proud of this one. Why? Because I'm not a piano player.

What separates piano players (and drummers for that matter) from guitarists is that a piano player has to play two separate things at once: The bass line and the melody. Well, I couldn't do that until after several years of playing a guitar must have instilled in me some musical sense I didn't have before.

This is an oldie I wrote several years ago called Thinking of You.