Monday, July 23, 2007

Lard - The Healthy Choice

I can't look at this real poster without laughing. Really.

I remember shopping at the local grocery store when I was growing up, noticing a meat tray with a large white lump, wrapped with cellophane and labelled plainly, "Lard." I always thought it looked pretty disgusting, but frying a couple of eggs in it was pretty good. Lard has been a part of American life for years. I had to explain to my 15-year-old what lard was. He almost got sick. Can't say as I blame him.

Needless to say, this fine smiling family at the left are likely not showing off their pearly whites because of the big hunk of lard they fried up their last 63 meals in. That's just what the Lard Information Council wants you to think. And after working at the Lard Information Council for a few years, maybe you come to believe it too.

I read a letter to the editor in a newspaper last week from a guy who is convinced that the microchip he's heard is going to be put in his license plate (or his drivers license -- I really couldn't understand what he was saying completely) is actually the [Cue dramatic music stab] MARK OF THE BEAST. [Kill music] Eschatological debates aside, how he considered a chip in his license plate to be a 666 on his hand or forehead was really beyond me. But he was convinced.

His letter spoke of giving up driving his truck for riding a horse everywhere, and of placing his license plate in a microwave oven (don't ask me why... microchip, microwave maybe?), and being a danger to any law enforcement officer who tried to pull him over (I'm guessing in his truck, not his horse). He really appeared to be a little light in the common sense department and was overfed on good conspiracy theories.

I wonder about those who jump to believe the worst without information. Many in the church have fallen for strange things like this. All it takes is for TBN to carry a "prophecy" from a televangelist and the gullible in the pews fall for it hook, line and sinker. Anybody else remember the hole drilled into hell and the audible screams which were supposedly heard? What about any of the other theories tossed onto the public consciousness that church folk gobble up? Proctor & Gamble and their "satanic logo"? Madelyn Murray O'Hair threatening religious broadcasting years after her death? Yet too many of the faithful jump to believe without fully investigating what is being said. It's the same feeling I get watching prophecy teachers pick out possible Antichrists and trying the latest bomb in the Middle East to half of a verse in Revelation.

Jesus said, "I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life." (emphasis obviously mine). Why are we so quick to believe what is presented before determining whether or not it is true?

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Friday, July 20, 2007


Free Online Dating

A tip of the ol' ball cap to Reformissionary for the link. The program says that Attention Span was saddled with the PG rating for the use of the words, "pain" (9 times), "dead" (2 times), and "porn" (once). I wonder what Paul's letter to the Romans would be rated...

Oh well, as any movie executive can tell you, PG is better than G because everyone assumes that a G rating constitutes material only for children.

A Lousy Protector

They would have been married for exactly 30 years this week. But that's not the way it turned out. She died about six months ago after a four-year battle with cancer.

During that struggle, he did everything he could for her. He sought out experimental treatments, smarter doctors, more advanced technology and any other option he could think of to take care of his wife and chase this horrid disease away from her for good. But it didn't work. After every operation, after every round of chemotherapy or radiation, the cancer always came back. He couldn't keep it away from her.

With all her heart, the girl wanted to be a cheerleader. In the months preceeding her big move to junior high, she would practice at every opportunity. Mom would help her practice, encourage her, and videotape her so she could learn from her mistakes. She had provided her daughter with dance lessons and gymnastics to help give her the necessary skills to become a cheerleader. But after tryouts were over and the cheerleading squad was chosen, her name wasn't on the list. The girl's heart was broken, and there was nothing her mother could do to lessen the pain. She had given all she could to help her daughter's dream come true, and it wasn't enough. Now, in the fallout of not achieving her dream, Mom still couldn't protect her daughter from the pain.

Like the two true-life examples above, I am also a lousy protector. No matter how I try, I cannot erase pain, nor can I prevent it. And because of that, I often wonder what in the world I'm doing.

My wife is hurting right now. She was deserted by a person she thought was a close friend. Personally, I had been leary of this friendship, but I wasn't going to stand in the way. I thought it would turn out badly, and I warned my wife of what I thought would happen.

I was wrong and right all at once. It didn't happen the way I thought it would, but it doesn't matter now. The friendship is gone. My wife is hurt. I can do nothing about it.

It's the middle of the night as I type this. I can't sleep, knowing that my beloved is in emotional pain and I'm helpless to make her feel any better at all. There have been many times that I have caused her pain personally. Somehow those times are easier for me to take. I can easily blame myself and try to make things right. But this is different. I can't rightfully say that I haven't added to my wife's pain this time out either. In trying to help and in trying to understand, I probably just make things worse. I am a lousy protector.

But it occurred to me that the old stereotype of the husband and father being the protector of the family is somewhat off-base. I know that the man trying to keep cancer from his ailing wife and the mother trying to head off her daughter's bitter disappointment are never going to succeed if the cancer is too far along and the daughter just isn't good enough to be a cheerleader. And I've realized that I cannot keep my wife from hurt when she is depending on a friend who isn't dependable.

While I try to do my best to protect my wife and my kids from every possible disappointment and danger, bad things continue to happen. Ah, but it seems that my job isn't necessarily to keep my family safe from all harm. After all, the sinful world is going to bite us all. Instead my job is a bit different.

In all of my studies in Scripture, theology, and the like, I've noticed that the best people still aren't completely protected from harm or from wrong. Noah was laughed at, David was mocked by his own wife, and Paul was beaten more often than a second-place racehorse. Even Jesus was not shielded from harm.

It's the same with us. I noted that Amy (of humble musing fame) posted a nice refutation of Word of Faith theology the other day. I've done my own railings against this false teaching as well. You see, God doesn't keep us from all harm any more than He kept His own Son away from all harm. So is God a lousy protector too?

Perhaps. But only because that's not His emphasis. While He can prevent hardship and pain, He seems to prefer helping us through it. He didn't keep David from the Valley of the Shadow of Death, He walked beside Him so that David would fear no evil. He did not make Paul an instant hit with the Pharisees, He strengthened him in the struggle.

So it's probably not my main function to keep my wife away from all pain. That's good because I'm failing miserably there. But I have an important calling -- to help her through that pain and disappointment, just as the husband was there to comfort his afflicted wife and the mother was there to dry her daughter's tears. That's a tough calling because it doesn't seem like I'm making any progress. It seems like my words of understanding just fall to the ground like cement blocks crushing her toes. But I keep trying, following the example of my heavenly Father.

I am certainly a lousy protector, but I want to be a better comforter.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

All I Need to Know I Learned in t-ball

Yesterday was the end of the season for my daughter. This was her first season of America's Pasttime -- the low-stress variety, or as it is commonly known, t-ball.

I should explain that where we play, t-ball isn't really "t-ball." For us, it's more like Coaches Pitch baseball. Precious little attention is paid to runs or errors. Even outs are a little superfluous at times.

Picture a five-year-old girl with a batting helmet that is one size too big, standing with a bat, trying to hit the spongy white ball tossed toward her by her coach. In truth, at times it becomes more of a test for the coach to hit the kid's bat than for the batter to struggle to make contact with the ball. If after 6 or 12 or 185 pitches the coach is unable to strike the child's bat, then and only then is the tee pulled out to hold the ball while the batter then attempts to hit the now-stationary baseball. And after pointing the child in the right direction and offering an encouraging word or two, the coach then watches the batter swing and miss about half a dozen more times before the ball is accidentally hit onto the field of play. Then everyone yells, "RUN!" and the batter drops the bat and runs -- often to first base, but sometimes it takes a few times to get the batter to the right base. Then the next batter steps in...

It's actually fun for the kids and mostly for the parents as well. There aren't many "little league parents" who think their kid is being scouted by the Dodgers or anything. But it's hard for those of us who had already "graduated" out of t-ball to get used to players who like to leap on the ball and tackle it rather than catch it, pick it up and throw it.

That's why I have a special respect for t-ball coaches. These poor souls are either the sweetest, most patient people on earth, or they are incredibly stupid to sign up for this. At one game, I happened to be walking toward the concession stand as I passed the other team's dugout. I heard the opposing coach actually telling her players, "We don't wear our baseball mitts on our face!" I never would have thought to tell them that, but I don't have the expertise that these coaches have.

But the people I learn the most from are the t-ball players themselves. I watched one day as a player tried to pull a bat through the chain link fence. He tugged and tugged, placing hit foot against the fence to brace himself and get a little more leverage. It still wouldn't move. Then the coach showed him that he had to pull it out from the other side of the fence. The player learned that the bat is bigger at one end than at the other. Sometimes we all miss the obvious stuff.

But these five, six, and seven-year-olds look at the game differently. And who is to say they aren't right?

Here are the top ten lessons I learned this season from t-ball players:

1) You always hit the ball harder and better if you warm up by hitting the ground in front of you with the bat repeatedly before the pitcher pitches. You get bonus points for hitting home plate with the bat as many times as you can also.

2) The pink bat works better. I don't know why. It just does.

3) The ball itself has little to do with the actual game.

4) The best part about playing the infield is that there are all kinds of cool rocks to look at.

5) The best part about playing the outfield is that there is lots of grass to pick and throw in the air.

6) Batting helmets are amazing inventions. You can hit yourself in the helmet with a bat over and over and over again and never feel a thing!

7) When running from one base to another, keep at least one hand on your helmet at all times. If your helmet falls off, you lose.

8) If the batter hits it to the outfield, the job of the outfielder is to recruit four or five other kids and race to the ball. Then you jump on the ball. After a two-minute wrestling match for control of the ball, the winner either throws it further into the outfield or runs with the ball to the nearest base and steps on it. (The base, not the ball.)

9) If a batter is having a tough time hitting the ball, it is perfectly acceptable for fielders to lay down on the ground, throw rocks into the outfield, or draw pictures in the infield dirt.

10) A trip to the restroom is always more important than anything else you might be doing on the baseball field.

Oh yeah, and one more:

11) We don't wear our mitts on our faces.

Hey, you never know when that advice will come in handy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Just like that, she was gone

Sandy (not her real name) was driving along a busy two-lane highway. Her eight-month-old daughter was strapped in her car seat in the passenger seat of her Grand Am. Her two-year-old daughter was strapped in her car seat in the back seat, right behind the driver's seat. Sandy was busy talking on her cell phone. When she was finished with the call, Sandy closed her cell phone and leaned down to place it on the console between the two front seats.

When she looked up again at the road, Sandy discovered that she had run off the right side of the pavement and was headed for a ditch lined with utility poles. She jerked the wheel hard to the left. The Grand Am moved back onto the highway, but it didn't stay in the right lane. It fishtailed as Sandy tried desperately to get the car back in the right lane. She had to do it fast. Headed her way in the other lane was an 18-wheeler.

Sandy tried to beat the truck, but the rear of the Grand Am lingered in the left lane too long. The left rear of the car ran right under the back wheels of the semi trailer. The car bounced off a Sunfire before sliding off the left side of the road. The Grand Am stopped with its nose just off the pavement and the rear of the car in a side ditch. Or rather, what was left of the rear of the car.

Sandy's two-year-old daughter was seated in the spot that went under the wheels of the semi. The girl was killed instantly. Both Sandy and the eight-month-old in the front seat were treated and released from the local hospital. But the two-year-old was gone. Just like that.

I was at the scene of the accident. I wasn't a witness. I got there as the ambulances continue to pull up to the area. The scene was a mess. I was kept back away from Sandy and the Grand Am, although there were pieces of Grand Am all around me. The bumper was on one side of the highway and the fender was on the other. One wheel and a chunk of axle littered the roadway, along with a laundry basket, a couple of nondescript toys and the sheels of a baby stroller.

The driver of the Sunfire told me that he had tried to help Sandy, but she was hysterical immediately after the crash. He knew the child was dead, and wasn't sure what he could do. He had his own children in the car with him. They were on their way to put money down on a trailer so they could move. His kids, 8 and 5, were fairly calm seated in the back seat. They had just stopped a few miles up the road to get each of them something to drink. The kids continued to sip from their bottles.

I watched the ambulance crews as they surrounded the Grand Am. I knew the child was dead as well -- one of the state troopers had told me that much. As I watched, I saw an EMT carry a small bundle wrapped in a blue blanket into the back of the ambulance. I knew what I was seeing. Sandy and the baby were also wheeled to the squad truck. The vehicle didn't move for almost ten minutes before leaving for the hospital.

As I was turning away to leave, I had taken only a few steps when I heard a shriek. I wheeled around and saw a lady who looked to be in her late 50s with a look of abject horror on her face. She was walking quickly toward the wreckage of the Grand Am. Suddenly she cried out, "My daughter!" as she neared the policemen standing near the wrecked car. I couldn't hear what the officers said to her, but almost instantly she hit the ground, her voice coming out as an eerie wail that will haunt me for quite some time. She was on her hands and knees, trying to lovingly caress the blanket which, less than 30 minutes earlier, had been lying across the lap of her granddaughter. I couldn't watch any more and turned to go, breathing yet another prayer for this family.

I have spoken twice with a man in Tennessee. His company owns the semi involved in the accident. He told me he is a former state trooper in that state and has seen his share of tragedy, but in his voice I can hear a note of sorrow that he has not felt before. "My trucks have an almost perfect safety record," he told me. "This kind of thing doesn't happen to us." He is grieving in a way that only he understands.

Please pray for Sandy and her family. I know nothing about her circumstances, aside from knowing that she must be feeling something that I wouldn't wish upon the most evil of people.

In all of this, I am reminded of how temporary this life really is. Sandy's two-year-old girl was alive and vital. Then, just like that, she was gone.

"Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life -- here on earth, and eternal life spent with You."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

No Suit of Armor

Pretty cool, huh? Probably not the most comfortable outfit available, but you have to admit it's a head-turner.

No, I don't have one. Really, I don't have much use for one. But it's funny how my five-year-old daughter reminded me of how some people treat their religious works as if they made some sort of inpenitrable barrier.

My darling princess was doing one of the things she does most (and best), namely pulling out toys to share with us, then leaving them lay all over the house. This time she pulled out pieces of an old Halloween costume. I think one of the boys dressed up as a crusader or a member of The Lord's Army or something like that. So as my wife and I lay in bed, Girlie-girl brings in the breastplate and the small arm shield from the armor set. She laid the breastplate on my wife's chest and handed me the shield and told me to put it on my arm. Well, this big ol' man doesn't fit well into armholes made for small children. I tried to explain this to the Princess, but that was about the time she was ready to move on to the next toy. So I was left to contemplate the armor.

I'll be honest -- nothing much got contemplated. But this morning it hit me.

Do you know someone who places his or her confidence in his or her church membership? What about overconfidence in baptism or in being board president or a Sunday School teacher? I've seen plenty of these people. They always seem to think that they are immune from temptation, or at least from committing any really bad sins. After all, they are the "real" Christians.

These are the people who seem to think that God puts them into a suit of armor. Nothing bad can happen when you're wearing a suit of armor.

The trouble is, God doesn't give us a suit of armor. He gives us a shield. We're not protected from all attacks of temptation no matter what. We're provided a way out of temptation that we have to look for and use.

I know people who have no concern over their own sinfulness. "God will forgive," they say as they go on their merry sinful way. The hypocrisy drips from their chiding of the "real sinners" they see along the way.

Yet when Paul took the Corinthians to task in 1 Corinthians 10, he pointed out that God provides a way out of temptation. He did not say that we will never be tempted. We are given a shield, not a suit of armor. We must be aware of where we are easily tempted. If you are drawn toward Internet porn, you shouldn't be sitting alone with your computer. If you crave the partying lifestyle, you shouldn't be hanging out in bars, even if you think it's a great place to witness.

Temptation will sneak up on us. We must be aware of our situation. We know God will give us the way out -- the shield -- but we must use it. That's always my sticking point. I see the temptation coming. I know I have the shield. I just more-than-occasionally refuse to use it. And I'm betting you're the same way.

Sure, a suit of armor would be easier, but God puts the responsibility on our shoulders. And the shield on our arm.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pulled Back to the Blogosphere

Well after a two+ month hiatus, I'm back to get going again. I've been trying to get back here for a couple of weeks now, but I'll use the tag by Douglas at Crossword Bebop on the Eight Random Facts meme as an excuse to break the cobwebs off the keyboard.

Here are the rules for the meme, which I may or may not follow:
1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves.
3. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random facts about themselves.
4. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged (named and shamed).
5. Go to their blog, leave a comment telling them they're tagged (cut and run).

I'll decide if there's anyone around who still remembers me that I can tag later.

As for the facts, I'll try eight random facts that have to do with my last two+ months away from Attention Span (and the rest of the 'sphere as well).

In the last two months or more:

Uno. I have put in countless extra hours at my third job. Sometime late last year I decided to take a third job that would just entail two Saturdays a month. Well, it's summertime, and it's entailing a lot more than that while others take their vacations.

Dos. The fam and I went on an impromptu vacation. Just got back, actually. It wasn't really impromptu in that we knew we were going on vacation for a week. What was impromtu was the schedule. We left with only the barest plan and no hotel reservations. It was great.

Tres. I saw Weird Al Yankovic in concert. This was part of the aforementioned vacation. I love a good parody, and The Weird One has plenty.

Quatro. I met the governor of Ohio. Actually this is the second Ohio governor I have met. Nice guy, but he appeared to be a politician just like the others. Maybe I'm just too cynical.

Cinco. I have watched thirteen ka-jillion baseball games. Only eleven ka-jillion have been in the last two months. Oldest boy is playing on two teams, plus the school team this past spring. Middle child is on a summer team after playing for the school team in the spring. And yes, the little Princess is playing her first year of t-ball. (I have some thoughts on that whole sport I'll try to dig out soon.)

Seis. I watched yet another edition of the Indianapolis 500 live and in person. Got soaking wet both times the rains hit. Saw Indycars doing 80 mph+ while hydroplaning -- up close!!

Siete. I have lapsed back into my summer doldrums at church. Something about seeing attendance plunge and involvement evaporate for about three months a year tends to make me wonder why I spend the time to prepare a sermon every Sunday. Then I remember that it's not about the multitudes, but about presenting the Word of God to those who show up.

Ocho. I have fallen in love with my wife all over again. We celebrated our 18th anniversary the day after I officiated at another wedding. Her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes catch my attention every time. And spending a week away with her (and the kids) reminds me of how much I love her.

OK, enough of the mushy stuff. I'm tagging you for this meme. That's right, you. Quit looking around. You're up, big stuff. If you're reading this, you can do your own version. So don't wait for a cute little message at your own blog. You don't need it. Get to work. Don't make me send you to your room!!!

And I promise, I'll be posting again... soon.