Monday, January 24, 2011

Take every opportunity to say "Thanks"

Man years ago, I was not sure I wanted to have kids, so I started praying about it. One morning, we sang “Because He Lives” in church, and there’s a line about holding a new baby. Hearing and singing it seemed like a gentle nudge from God. A few other things like this happened, and I told my wife that yes, I am ready to be a father. Now, 9 yrs into dadhood, I can’t imagine I ever wasn’t sure about this.

Then, a few years ago, I brought my then-3-yr-old daughter into a Mardel store to pick something up. It happened that Gloria Gaither was there to do a book signing. She started talking to my daughter, telling her she was pretty, etc. I smiled, didn’t say much, then we left.

An hour later, I met with some friends, and told them who I had run into at the store. One of them said "You know, Gloria Gaither wrote that song, 'Because He Lives'."

I wanted to kick myself, because I had had a chance to personally thank someone who had been used by God to impact me in a very meaningful way, and I didn’t realize it.




Lesson learned:  If you have a chance to say thanks to someone, take it. You may regret having missed the opportunity later.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Blog

I have decided to create a 2nd blog. This one (middletree.blogspot.com) will be the more spiritually-focused site. For cultural commentary, I now have http://highdefculture.wordpress.com/ Please visit and comment!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Telling my kids about MLK with YouTube

[This is a repost from 2010, altered for clarity]

I have no interest in letting my kids think of January 17th as just a day off from school. To emphasize the importance of what Martin Luther King Jr accomplished, I plan to do this weekend what I did last year: I utilized YouTube. We gathered around the computer, and we viewed 3 short clips.

First up was the "I've Been to the Top of the Mountain" speech from the night before he was killed. In only a little over a minute, he delivers one of the most passionate, inspiring orations you will ever hear:


then, I went to Patty Griffin’s song based on that speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA6Q5-Ap3o8


When we did this last year, I paused the song a couple of times to emphasize the following points:

MLK said in his speech that he knew his life might be cut short (as it was just 24 hours later), but he was satisfied just doing God's will. He was convinced that God had asked him to take on this role, and he readily carried out God's calling, knowing it would be painful.

In the song, Griffin sings directly to God, from MLK's perspective, saying that he is doing it "because You asked me to," and being satisfied with God's acceptance and love, even as this calling has meant hardship, rejection, threats, and hatred for him:

"I see nothing at all
Then I hear your sweet voice
Come and then go
Telling me softly
You love me so"

I explained that this wasn't just about race. It was about how God has a calling for each of us, and in many cases, it's hard. It's much easier to do our own thing, but in the long run, we're better off when we accept God's call and walk in the path that God has laid out for us.

Finally, I showed U2’s “Pride”, which is about MLK. I really like this particular clip, because it features news clips relevant to the topic. The kids had not realized that just a short time ago, blacks couldn't go to school with whites, or that they were treated as second-class citizens:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56mjwycKuXA



There was a time when I would have laughed at the thought of using video clips from the Internet to educate my kids. But though the tools change, teachable moments never do. The moments need to be recognized as they happen, so we can grab the opportunity and make the most of it.

Thank God for YouTube, an imperfect tool which can be, and often is, used by God for His purposes. Thank God for MLK, an imperfect man, used by God. May we all learn these lessons well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Am I So Drawn to The Ticket?

I live in the D/FW area, where we have been blessed/cursed to have had an all-sports station known as The Ticket for 17 years running, which is an eon in radio terms. I avoided listening for the first few years, but got sucked in several years ago when there was no sports talk alternative. There are some other choices now, but like I said, I'm sucked in.

I've listened to sports-talk stations in this and other cities, and none of them compares. There's some undefinable something about this one station that has not been replicated anywhere. For me, it's The Ticket or nothing else.  I'm not alone, either. In the local ratings, The Ticket's numbers leave the competing stations in the dust.

The problem, of course, is that The Ticket, like soda or chocolate, is good for an occasional taste, but is quite addictive.

I've often tried to figure out why I am so drawn to this one station. and I have finally figured it out. It's no secret that this station's unique set of on-air personalities comes across as guys you'd like to know, talking about guy stuff: sports, movies, the assets of female celebrities, even a little bit of politics. Overly controversial issues are avoided. It's guy talk, like you'd engage in in a bar after work.

A big part of the allure is the fact that you think you know the guys. They may very well be putting on an act, but they make it sound like you're in on the conversation. This is not an earth-shaking revelation to anyone who's listened.

But here is what is a new revelation, at least to me: I'm at my best as a man when I have other men in my life. Not just guys hanging out, but men who will speak truth to me, build me up, guide me, and let me do the same for them. Men are made for that kind of community.

The problem is, The Ticket is just enough like that to be a sort of replacement for genuine male influence in my life. Maybe "replacement" isn't the word. Perhaps "counterfeit" is better. When I let the radio personalities fill that place in my life, it's a way of staying safe. I'm keeping them at a safe distance. I don't have to answer their questions, and I don't have to hear their troubles.

I have noticed that I'm at my best when I am part of a men's group at church, or if I have been camping with some men, or even when I coach baseball for a couple of months, and have several of the dads helping out. That's when I function best as a husband, father, and friend. And like candy, the faux fellowship I get from spending too much time listening to The Ticket tastes good at first, but ultimately is unsatisfying.

A lot of people will tell you that The Ticket should be avoided because they sometimes get a little off-color.  But the problem isn't what The Ticket is. The problem is what The Ticket isn't. It isn't a good substitute for the kind of friendships that men need.

How about you? Do you have genuine friendships with people in your life? Do you invite them in? Or do you, like me, tend to keep them in at a safe distance?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: "Slave", by John MacArthur

I recently received Slave, by John MacArthur, from Thomas Nelson for review purposes, and began reading immediately. It's very well-written and clear. It's deep, helpful , and profound. The main point of the book--that we belong to Jesus, not ourselves--is sadly missing from most teachings these days.

Having said that, there are a couple of things that keep me from recommending it wholeheartedly:

1. The gist of the book's message is spelled out nicely in the first two chapters. Everything that follows simply expands on the contents of the beginning. Like a Saturday Night Live skit that was great at 5 minutes, but unfunny when made into a 90-minute movie, Slave stretches a great teaching a bit too thin.

2. The "slave" language is very uncomfortable to me. The author backs up each assertion very well, so I know it's all accurate, but still, the idea of slavery seems like a terrible thing, and I have a hard time getting past that. I'm guessing I'm not the only one. And I am a white guy. I can imagine how an African-American might be even more sensitive to the main point of the book.

If you can get past those two items, though, it's a good book with the right focus.