Saturday, March 31, 2007

A cross-cultural experience

Today I went with Rebecca and her family to Vancleave, MS, where they were having their annual Old Time Festival and Mule Pull! It was fun. The grandkids loved the pony rides and petting zoo. We ate a funnel cake and boiled peanuts...two of my favorite country things. The kids also got their faces painted.

The day reminded me of my hometown of Union, SC, where we had annual county fairs like this.

But I'd never heard of a mule pull. The video shows basically what happened. There were all these pairs of mules yoked together, see. And the mule teams would be hooked up to a sled on which huge weights were placed. Each team would drag the sled a short distance, and then more weight was added and the team would try again. Then the distance was measured and another team would be hooked up to the sled and the teams would compete with each other to see what pair of mules did the best job dragging the cart. I was totally confused (as you can tell), but the crowd in the arena seemed to know what was going on!

It was truly a cross-cultural experience. Oh, and on the way to the festival we stopped at this barbecue place called The Shed. I had a pulled pork plate, and was it good! The place looked like its name...if it didn't have a restaurant sign on it, you'd think it was an old tumbled-down store or house. But once we got our food we could see we'd come to the right place!

Rural southern Mississippi is a unique culture. In many ways I prefer it to the non-culture of Orlando. There's a lot less pretension and materialism. Everybody at the mule pull was extremely friendly and you could see that to them, this is community at its best.

T-Ball Tyler

As I write this I'm in Mississippi visiting my daughter Rebecca, son-in-law Scott, and (until my other kids have kids) the greatest of all grandchildren! Today I went to watch Tyler (age 5) practice with her t-ball team. They are called the Little Mermaids. It's 15 little girls ages 5 and 6, and Scott is their coach. Here are a couple of pictures of Tyler in her brand new uniform. See her glove? It's pink and it lights up!

Tyler hit a couple of good grounders. She was also the catcher during the team scrimmage and sustained her first t-ball injury... another kid came up close to her and threw the ball fast right at Tyler without warning. It hit her in the stomach. Grrr! But Tyler bounced back real fast and finished the practice with courage. We celebrated with a Happy Meal.

It was fun watching all those little girls run haphazardly all over the place whenever a ball was hit. One girl ran from second base to home plate without rounding third. Anytime someone hit the ball they just stood there until one of the parents yelled "RUN!! RUN!!" One parent was going nuts yelling over and over, "That's my girl!" as loud as he could. Later Scott said he thought that guy looked like he'd been drinking. So the kids weren't the only thing that was fun to watch!

But, all in all, it was a proud time to be a grandparent.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


The other day I was killing time browsing around in Best Buy. I went to the TV department, and was amazed to realize that people are now scooping up these huge, expensive High Def or plasma or flat-screen TVs that have incredible color, sharpness, and sound. There were a hundred different TVs blaring in the showroom. I have to admit, the quality of picture on these things was unbelievable.

I'm the type person that, if I had more means and less guilt, could very easily buy one of these monster TVs and veg out at home watching programs all the time. I'm an introvert, and I like techie things.

But as I was walking around Best Buy, my attention was drawn away from the TV monitors to the shoppers that were getting talked into buying these things. They were like kids in a candy store. And I felt a sadness sweep over me. The thought that struck me was this: Best Buy (and every other electronics store) is selling vicarious life. The better these TVs get, the more people are just going to retreat from real life, real relationships, real drama, and real issues and problems to vicarious ones.

Why do we need a sharper image of something that (unless it's news or documentaries) is not real in the first place?

Real life cannot possibly match up to the sharpness of picture, the Surroundsound, the color, and the sizzle of a TV show on one of these amazing TVs. Real life is sometimes colorless and boring, real relationships are messy and difficult. We want to escape reality and be entertained with ever-sharper pictures of people who are being paid to enter an unreal world and entertain us.

I walked out of Best Buy thinking that I don't want a vicarious existence. I want to have passion and energy for real life. I want to develop my brain. I want to create my own experiences of life, not just live through one that has been manufactured by a Hollywood screenwriter.

My old-style 27-inch TV is just fine.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A new singer-songwriter I'm enjoying...

Corinne Bailey Rae

Dessert count...

...for Week 6 of my Lent dessert plan: 0!

And I was surrounded by cookies and brownies at the men's conference this weekend!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dangerous Freedom conference

Our church had a conference for men this weekend, called "Dangerous Freedom." I liked it a lot. There were a lot of reminders for me of basic gospel truths. Basic yes, but essential if I'm going to live like a child of God rather than an orphan.

Our speaker, Pete Alwinson, reminded us that if we lose sight of the gospel we can find ourselves living in all sorts of "prisons." That's a message for every Christian, not just men. Thanks to Christ, we are "imprisoned no more" (the phrase imprinted on wrist bands we gave every man at the conference).

I find myself in the prison of shame sometimes. It keeps me from believing that I'm accepted by God. I love one thing Pete said about that. He reminded us that even if we never get any better, it's OK because we're thoroughly loved by God. And then Pete said that it's only the people who know that who get better. A paradox, but it's true.

What prison do you find yourself in at times?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I can't help it...

I must have a disability. My family tells me I'm a loud chewer.

Now, look. I keep my mouth closed - I'm not one of THOSE loud chewers. But whenever I chomp down on things like crackers, chips, croutons, and the like - you know, crunchy things! - my family goes wild telling me how loud I chew! But I can't help it! It must be the way God created my jaw. Maybe my head is so empty it resonates and echoes, I don't know. I even cover my mouth with my hand, and my son still tells me I'm louder than anybody he's ever met - or heard - before.

So what can I do about it? Nothing, I tell you! I'm just chewing.

I think I'll start a new club. Loud Chewers of America (LCA). Would you like to join? Annual dues are $25. I'll send you a newsletter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Try the Onion

You may not know about a really funny (if irreverent) website. It's The Onion: America's Finest News Source. Check it out for a few laughs when you're in a silly mood.

Here's one of the funny headlines from a few weeks ago: "Bush Cuts Off Diplomatic Relations with Congress."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dessert count...

...for Week 5 of my no-dessert Lent plan: 0!

And it was hard to say "no" this week. My daughter-in-law brought in a chocolate cake that was whispering my name the whole week. But I did it!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Jesus stopped

I am preaching this Sunday on the story of Jesus healing the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). I find several statements in this passage very striking.

One is in verse 49, where it says that "Jesus stopped." He was surrounded by a large crowd of people pressing in on him, yet Jesus was aware of this one poor man sitting by the road. So "Jesus stopped" to know him, converse with him, heal him.

Jesus was very close to Jerusalem, where in just a week or so he would give his life as a ransom for many. He was on the most important mission his life -- indeed, of all time. Still, "Jesus stopped" to pay attention to this one man's need.

Jesus Christ was the Creator of the universe. He needed no one and no thing to complete him, because he was (and is) God. He was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent in his divine nature. Still, "Jesus stopped" to have a relationship with a blind beggar.

Jesus knew that some of the admiring people in the crowd would be the very ones who would laugh at and mock him as he hung from the cross. Nevertheless, "Jesus stopped" to care for a sinful human being.

He stops every day for you and me. He's never too busy, never too self-absorbed, never too holy to attend to our needs as we look to him in faith.

Bartimaeus was very bold. As soon as he knew Jesus was passing by, Bartimaeus shouted over and over again, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" He knew that Jesus would stop for him.

Do you? Do you know that "Jesus, ready, stands to save you/Full of pity, joined with power"?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Olive, the Hemingway cat

Our son David and his wife Lindsay are staying with us for a few days. They brought along their cat Olive Oil! She's a lot of fun. The unusual thing about her is that her front paws have two extra digits on them. Polydactyl cats like Olive are also known as Hemingway cats. Ernest Hemingway was once given a cat with six toes by a ship captain, and thereafter he was a lover of polydactyl cats. After Hemingway's death in 1961, his home in Key West was turned into a museum and a home for his cats.

Even though having extra digits is a congenital abnormality, it doesn't seem to bother Olive. She's really fast, so maybe the extra toes are a blessing in disguise.

Hillary's new accent

Check out Hillary Clinton's newly-acquired southern accent. She was addressing an audience yesterday at First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama. Do you think she was fishing for votes??

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dessert count...

...for Week 4 of my no-dessert Lent plan: 1.

We had friends over Thursday night and I had strawberry short cake. Couldn't stop myself. But it wasn't much.

One singer I've never liked...

Bob Dylan.

Despite my roots in '60s folk music, I've never liked him very much. His early songs were done better by other people.

(Another candidate would be Bruce Springsteen. Can't stand him.)