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Sorry for my absence from blogging recently. We’ve had a few changes around our house that have kept me preoccuppied…
1. We had to deal with termites (see my previous post) in the same week my youngest son was in the hospital.
2. I started a new job as the director for the Elizabeth F. Correll Teen Center. Check us out: www.apositiveplace.net
3. My wife is pregnant and we’ll be having a new addition to the family on January 30th. I’m pulling for a girl this time.
4. Due to the aforementioned pregnancy and termite repairs I am renovating portions of our house… for the third time.
So life has been busy, but in very good ways. I’m constantly amazed at how fast things can change. A month ago I was not able to say any of this. Now I’m just trying to take things slow enough that I don’t miss the next surprise. I hope your week is full of surprises that make you aware of how big and good God is.
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I just saw a new commercial for KFC, you know… the fried-chicken, fast-food restaurant that used to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken. When KFC first introduced its 7 layer bowls (mashed potatoes, corn, chicken, cheese, gravy, one unidentifiable ingredient, and grease) I thought they might be slipping a little. Then I ate one of these bowls and found it quite delicious. But after seeing the latest commercial I’m positive KFC has lost their mind.
This new ad has the current KFC President as the spokesperson. All in all it is a pretty good commercial, until the Pres starts talking. The dude has a British accent! KFC – Kentucky Fried Chicken – luxury eating for rednecks – hallmark restaurant of the South has a British president?! I mean, the only British food I’ve ever tasted had names like mutton and haddock, and it definitely did not taste like chicken. What do the Brits know about fried chicken? I imagine the Colonel is rolling over in his grave. KFC has clearly gone mad. You’re not going to move a lot of chicken with a British spokesperson. The two just don’t go together. First of all, people who eat fried chicken say things like “ain’t” and “skeered.” British people say things like “highly unlikely” and “fearful.” It just doesn’t seem like a good fit to me. Second of all, a British accent generally conveys some sense of class. I’ve never felt more undignified than when I ordered and then ate a 7 layer KFC bowl in public.
If that is not crazy enough, I went to the KFC website (hoping to post the Brit-Pres-Commercial) and landed on the KFC promos page. Here I found more insanity. For instance, KFC is trying to get the Colonel on the US Stamp. I like fried chicken as much as the next Southerner, but I usually reserve my stamps for real American heroes like George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr, and the American Cancer Society. I’m not sure promoting heart attacks and indigestion qualifies you to be put on a stamp. Check out the page and see what you think. While you’re there, make sure to order a KFC Colonel Bobblehead.
And just who decided the world “Colonel” should be pronounced “kernel?”
Oh the insanity.
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This blog was written by my good friend, Jason Harwell. If you like his writing, you’ll love his music. Read him and listen to him over at www.jasonharwell.com
I cut my grass this morning (last neighbor on the street to do so… sorry, neighbors), which always gives me some uninterrupted time to think. Being Good Friday in the Christian faith, I thought a lot about death – my own, of course, since I’m a self-centered American – but also that of Jesus’. I also want to be clear that I am not making an attempt here to tell you how to think, feel, or live. I rarely trust my own opinions, though I do know a few things to be true. Here’s some completely unacademic things I considered while mowing the lawn:
1. The process of crucifixion is an especially heinous way to die. What does this say about a God who would choose to die this way? And what does is say about him that he went through with it? I think he must really hate sin, and he must really have wanted to fix the brokenness. He spared no brutality nor did he spare any part of himself.
2. If I was to truly get what I deserve, my death would surely look like Jesus’. But the power of sin died with him, and if I am to truly believe this, then I am to also believe that I have been forgiven, healed, and restored. So when God looks at me, I am holy and blameless as if I’d never sinned at all. If this is true, why then do I continually strive to wallow in my own guilt, shame, and failure when God himself does not see me so?
3. Society likes a murderer. The crowd chose to set free a killer instead of Jesus. Somewhere in there is a distortion in perception. Would an individual, if given the choice, choose to set free a murderer over someone who had been convicted of nothing? I wouldn’t think so generally. But our weird world is such that when a bunch of us get together and people are all shouting things at each other, killing innocent folks seems like a perfectly legit idea.
4. Jesus let a murderer off the hook. Under the penalty of the law, Barrabus deserved death; if Jesus was truly who we say he is (the son of God), then he could have saved his own skin. Instead, he let a killer go free. He gave him his life back and with that, Jesus gave Barrabus a choice of what to do with it. Jesus didn’t walk around proclaiming his “rightness,” and he didn’t push himself on anyone. Does this square with what we do as a church in America (me included)?
5. Truth is truth. While not brow-beating others to accept, follow, or worship him, Jesus did speak a whole lot of truth. And the thing about truth is that you can love it or hate it, but it does not change. If something is true, it is not subject to popular opinion, data, or persuasive bantering. Like death. Love it or hate it – you’re going to die. And me, too.
6. So what about our own deaths? We are certainly good at using the word “sin” to do whatever we want it to, and much like the word “love,” it has lost its effective meaning. Sin is not a list of “Do Nots;” it is more like a condition, a way of being. It’s dying a slow death on the inside without even realizing it. It’s having no way out of the hole our lives are born into. It’s the outcome of the first bad decision being compounded by every other bad decision everyone else has made for the last gazillion years. To say sin is simply using curse words or drinking alcohol excessively is like saying breast cancer is just an illness. Sin is way broader, deeper, and inside our bones than refraining from harsh speech or excessive drinking can fix.
I’ve been dying since the day I was born. No one taught me how to lie, to hurt, or to hate. Those options came standard. I don’t know why deep down I am so angry; by all accounts, my life has been way easier than a lot of folks’. But these things have always been there, and if Jesus is who he says he is, if he truly took all that deep-seeded crap that has always been there and got punished for it… and if I truly am no longer bound to this broken condition… then I pray to see what’s on the other side of his death.
For I am familiar with dying; I’d like to know more about living.
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You can tell a lot about someone by reading their bumper stickers. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a few that really peaked my interest and thought process, so I thought I would share.
1. I was behind a car that had a Kerry/Edwards 2004 campaign bumper sticker. My first thought was: “Now there is a person who is extremely optomistic.” That race is long over and then some, yet this person is still extremely proud to get behind Kerry/Edwards and recruit others’ support. Upon second thought, this driver may be a bit bitter and keeps the bumper sticker on the car as a way of saying to the rest of us, “The last 4 years could have been a lot different.”
2. I got stuck in traffic behind an old truck the other day, so I had a lot of time to study this sticker. It was one of those stickers with the kid who looks like Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes). You know the one – where Calvin is relieving himself on something. Usually he is peeing on Jeff Gordon’s number or Ford or Chevy. He is a very angry child or either he has not been potty trained. I’m not sure how Calvin and his urine became the international symbol for dislike, but despite that he was on this truck. Calvin’s victim this time was simply the word “WORK.” Apparently this person does (or did not) enjoy his work. The interesting thing about this sticker is that someone (presumably) the driver had taken a black marker and colored in the pee stream and the word “WORK.” The only thing left visible is Calvin. So what happened? Did Calvin get dehydrated? Or did this driver begin to enjoy his work enough that he didn’t feel it was appropriate to piss on it anymore? Did he get a new job? Did he get a new boss? Did he lose his job and therefore no longer needs to pee on work? I lie awake at night thinking about this man and his editing of Calvin’s pee sticker.
3. The black sticker with the blue stripe on it. I see this thing all over the place. This sticker is some kind of trademark for law enforcement. Often drivers obtain this sticker by making a donation to some kind of law enforcement agency or union. The mindset is that by displaying this sticker law officers will know that this driver has financially supported them in some way and therefore should not be issued a citation or pulled over, etc, etc. To make a financial contribution to something would imply that you believe in its values; in this case the law. The last time I saw one of these stickers was on a Mustang as it cut me off, while speeding, and then ran a red light – which leads me to believe that many of the people who use these stickers intend on breaking the law and hope that this sticker will somehow get them out of trouble. Ironic isn’t it?
So here is my message to you three drivers (if by some chance you read this):
1. Kerry and Edwards lost. Barrack Obama is our president now. And while he is not a windsurfer, he is a Democrat, so it may be okay for you to bring your politics into present time. You can take your sticker off now.
2. I’m glad you seem to like work now, or at least you’ve got your bladder problem under control. I would appreciate it if you would leave a comment explaining to me what changed in your life (or in Calvin’s life) so that you no longer pee on work. Seriously – I need to catch up on my sleep and your answer could really help me out.
3. Just because you bought a sticker does not make you a police officer. Its a sticker – not a badge or sirens. Please slow down and drive safely. You’re almost as bad as those people who have the Christian fish on their car but still cut me off and then flick me off. You’re sending mixed messages – its confusing.
Now, you may think there is no point to this blog… and you would be right. Feel free to share your favorite bumper stickers and your psychological assessment of the drivers who display them.
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The latest installment of The Writer’s Closet is finally up. It’s a new song called “Come to the Cross.” As always it is totally free to download. You can listen to it and all of the other songs at The Writer’s Closet. Now here’s a blog to give you the backdrop to the song…
The cross is offensive.
I’m speaking of course of the cross on which Jesus died. It is offensive in every way. Simply from a non-christian and non-spiritual perspective it is a torture device of death in the cruelest form. But even from a Christian perspective it has become offensive.
You may disagree and not think the cross to be offensive, but if that is the case I ask you to do a little experiment. The next time you find yourself in a situation in which you are surrounded by unbelievers or even in a group of strangers, just try to bring up the cross in casual conversation. Does that make you hesitate a little? Would you expect to be responded to with criticism or ridicule or worse yet… confusion? Would that make you anxious in anyway? Of course it would. The cross is offensive.
As a musician who is a Christian (but not necessarily a “christian musician”), I find the cross offensive. I often fear that if I speak of it to much or rather sing of it too much, it will turn people off. So many people have already made up their minds as to what a “christian” is and I don’t want to be seen in that stereotype. But if I mention the cross, I have no choice. So often I find it easier to keep quiet. Often we all find it easier to keep quiet.
We, the devout in faith, the firm believers of Jesus, would rather keep quiet about the cross. In the name of being found relevant, in the name of ministry, in the desire to win people to Jesus we would rather keep quiet about the cross. It could offend someone.
The cross is offensive.
Yet, when we come to the cross we find the cornerstone of our faith, the key ingredient to our spiritual healing and restoration. On the cross all that is wrong is made right, the old is made new. Second chances are born. Grace is delivered. Mercy is poured out. Without the cross we are utterly hopeless and forever condemned to a life of hell. Without the cross, we are hopeless.
Perhpas we find the cross so offensive because we cannot explain it. It seems overly simple. We are separated from the Holy God because of our dreadful sin – sin we willingly live in each day. Even if we wanted to do better, we’ll never be good enough on our own. So Jesus died on the cross, and now we can be made right with God. Jesus died on the cross and I can have salvation and abundant life and healing. We’re talking about total life transformation here – shouldn’t it be more complicated than that?
We fear speaking up about the cross because someone may ask us, “So how does it work.” Our answer, “It just does,” is not exactly a strong argument on any level. But that is the truth, and that is what makes it so offensive. One reason the church has so much trouble reaching the lost is because in our desire to share the amazing truth of the cross we have felt the need to make it more impressive, more complicated, more astounding. In short, we have felt the need to defend the cross – to explain away its offensiveness. But we have only made it more offensive.
Jesus never asked for us to defend Him… or to understand Him… or to explain Him. He only asks us to bring others to Him. Let Him do the explaining. Let Him do the healing. Let Him do the saving.
We cannot understand it fully. We’ll never be able to explain it with any expertise. All we can do is accept it: Jesus died on the cross and that makes everything right.
Offensive, but true.
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It is the morning after thanksgiving and I am still suffering from a triptopan hangover. One of my favorite parts of the holidays is the slower pace of life – just sitting around, doing nothing particularly important, relaxing, laughing. Its a good time to “waste” time. Here’s a little help for you to “waste” time. As a nerd myself, I found this video to be extremely entertaining. Hope you enjoy – you’ll enjoy it even more with a nerd friend. Happy Thanksgiving!
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Well, it’s holiday season and I feel a little cheated. It seems like in August I started seeing Halloween decorations popping up at stores and on front porches around town. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t walk through Target without being a little creeped out (Target went a little overboard with some of their Halloween accessories, such as the motion activated life-size zombie on aisle 4). There were certain commercials I couldn’t watch either because I’m pretty much a pansy when it comes to the “horror” industry – I’ve never understood the entertainment in watching the gory stuff. Do we really need 18 Saw movies?
I’m not a huge fan of Halloween, but I love fall and especially love Thanksgiving. So as October wound down, I started getting excited about Thanksgiving. I always prefer a positive themed holiday as oppossed to one centered around fear. But like I said, I feel cheated. It seems like commercial America just decided to skip Thanksgiving this year. All of the stores went from Halloween decorations to Christmas decorations. The seasonal aisles went from rubber masks and bags of candy to tinsel and fake trees overnight. I haven’t even seen that Publix commercial with the two Pilgrim salt shakers. What’s the deal? What happened to Thanksgiving?
I think there is a spiritual parallel hear. In times of economic and government doubts, a lot of people are scared (like Halloween). Our nature in a time of fear is to immediately begin thinking of what will “fix” the situation, what will drive the fear away. Often we think of what we don’t have and what we want (like Christmas on the commercial level). So it makes sense that our culture has skipped Thanksgiving – we don’t feel like we have anything to be thankful for. We want the fear to end, and so we turn our attention to a season of wants and pleasant surprises, as oppossed to a season of disappointment and rather unpleasant surprises (I know, I really thought Ron Paul would pull it off this year – I don’t know what happened).
I believe we have it wrong though. I believe the only cure to fear is thankfulness. And, especially in America, we have so much to be thankful for. Even our “worst” is better than most countries’ best. So this season, I encourage you not to skip Thanksgiving. Spend a season being Thankful for what you have. You may just find the fear disappearing.