6.29.2009

Lessons in Love from Mark Sanford

Unless you live in a bubble (and sometimes I wish I did), you’ll know that there are two things going on in the world right now. And, only two, judging from national news coverage: Michael Jackson is dead and Mark Sanford wishes he was.

Like the rest of America, I’ve got a penchant for scandal and voyeurism that I make a general effort not to indulge. Still, in a moment of weakness last night, I found myself reading through the exchange of emails released by the government between Sanford and his lover “Maria.” For the most part, reading them was like watching a train wreck, a rubber-necker’s delight: tragic yet titillating.

Having the requisite amount of star-crossed references and drooling over each other’s “glorious” qualities, they were run-of-the-mill as love letters go. (Or, at least as I imagine they go: I also seem to have a penchant for Northern men who aren’t “good with words.” At least the sappy kind). Run of the mill, that is, until I got to this paragraph by Sanford, which I had to re-read a few times to make sure my spiritual side wasn’t taking over and interjecting Bible verses where there was actually some illicit, scandalous phrase:

“I looked to where I often look for advice and counsel, and in I Corinthians 13 it simply says that, 'Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude, Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in the wrong, but rejoices in the right, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things'.

In this regard it is action that goes well beyond the emotion of today or tomorrow and in this light I want to look for ways to show love in helping you to live a better — not more complicated life. I want to help (one of Maria’s sons) with film guys that might help his career, etc.”
Right. So, the guy is quoting Scripture and talking about what true love means to the woman he’s having an illicit affair with while his wife and sons are probably hanging out in the next room talking about what a great guy dad is. The irony is almost too much. Before getting to the end of the paragraph, I had already picked up my first figurative stone and was ready to cast away … when it hit me:

I’ve been rather Sanford-esque in my own life. And, recently.

No, I’m not about to admit to having an affair with an Argentinean named “Maria.” (While I'm known to have a propensity towards ethnic types, I hope, if I were to admit to such an affair, my lover's name would be “Mario” instead.) What I realized is that, to borrow a colloquialism, Sanford, like myself, was unable to see the forest for the trees.

He was determined to show “love” to this woman on another continent, presumably by directing the traits of 1 Corinthians 13 towards her and making her life “better," but while he talked of doing so, he was failing miserably at loving the woman in his own backyard.

Seems awful, right? But how often have I been willing to show “love” to those who aren’t close to me, while acting badger-like to those in my own backyard? For Sanford, I venture that it was easier for him to love “Maria” than his wife, as he had not had to live through the real world ups-and-down with her that magnify flaws and exacerbate tension. It’s easy to point out his hang-ups, think “I would never do something like he did,” and revel in the fact that at least if our lives aren’t perfect we’re not as bad as the next guy, especially when that next guy happens to be a governor. But while the temptation for that was there, I had to ask myself, “What about me?” Have I been guilty of the same thing, if not in practice at least in principle?

It seems I have been, and just this week.

As regular readers know, I spent the last week in Pennsylvania with family at my grandmother’s funeral. I drove up from Alabama with my sister and brother-in-law. (For anyone looking for a great recipe for civil unrest—three people with vastly different personalities spending twenty-eight hours straight in a 10-by-6 compartment is a great one.)

To say the least, my love fountain wasn’t exactly overflowing. And, it surprised me. I’m quick to share care and concern for random people I come into contact with at the grocery store, gym, etc., and I can’t wait to begin sharing in the lives and showing love to the kids in inner city Atlanta. But, stick me in a car with my sister and brother-in-law and suddenly it seems like someone has pulled the plug on my love generator.

I can imagine that’s something how Sanford felt. (Yes, I realize there are deeper issues of marriage, infidelity, etc, but I’m focusing on this one principle). It was easy for him to show “love” towards Maria but not as easy for him to show love towards those at home who likely tested his patience and ruffled his feathers.

I still feel mildly ashamed for having spent valuable time reading through his emails, but at least I was able to glean a life principle from the philandering governor. First Corinthians 13, isn’t about us just showing love towards those it is easy for us to love, it’s also about loving those in our own backyard (or in my case, front seat) who are usually harder to love.

Another life principle: if I ever have a love affair with that Argentinean named Mario, it will be only carrier pigeons and message-filled bottles for me.

6.20.2009

Pray for Me

Hi y'all,
This a personal request for prayer. Mostly that I don't kill myself in the next 24-hours or end up bald from having pulled out all of my hair. Without indulging my hyperbolic tendencies, I can say I'm more stressed right now than I've been in all my 23 years ... combined.

So, why in the heck am I blogging, you ask? Great question. Darned if I know. Maybe I'm just a sucker for punishment so I'm wasting precious minutes procastinating. Maybe there's something cathartic about getting all down in writing. Or, maybe I just feel like whining. Take your pick.

I've been getting ready to move out of my apartment, packing up 23-years worth of crap (excuse my french, but sometimes there are no other words...actually, there are, but I dont use that kind of language anymore) and trying to figure out how to spread it across four states.

I am making a cross-country move back to California for a month, which I'm driving by myself from Alabama. Some of my things are going to Arkansas, where I'll be stopping to see family, some of it will stay in Birmingham with friends, some will go back to CA with my parents, and some of it will need to go to Atlanta where I'll be working with the urban ministry beginning in August. I was set to leave next Saturday.

All of this was overwhelming enough, until my 92-year-old grandma's funeral was added to the mix. She passed away yesterday to be with Jesus, so now rather than leaving next Saturday, I'm trying to get my apartment packed up and ready for inspection so I can get my $1200 deposit back by ... tomorrow.

Last-minute tickets are so dang expensive so I need to be out of here tomorrow so I can head to Arkansas and drive up to my grandma's funeral in Pennsylvania with my sister on Monday. All of that will save me about $500, but it's also costing me an entire week of packing time .... and my sanity. Part of me wonders if it's worth it, and the other (cheap) side of me knows it is.

So, all of this to say... HELP.

Prayers are awesome. I know they work. And, I need as many as I can get right now. Peace in the midst of the storm, a supernatural burst of energy, 16-extra hours in my day are all good ones.

Thanks to you all.

6.19.2009

Bob Dylan: 'Cause I Believe in Him

I've always thought of Bob Dylan as a drug-addled hippie--not exactly the type you'd think would be a source of spiritual inspiration and encouragement, right? But yesterday I came across the fact that Dylan became a Christian in the late 70's. Of course, there is talk of whether or not his conversion was lasting, etc. That's not for me to judge.

What struck me was his willingness to share his newfound faith after his conversion. He released three gospel albums that are still popular among black gospel artists. (I'm a huge fan of black gospel so I thought this short documentary on the ties between the genre and Dylan was fascinating.) Too, for some time, he refused to perform his secular songs, saying in the trailer of the documentary Inside Bob Dylan's Jesus Years: Busy Being Born ... Again: "The old stuff's not going to save them," meaning, of course, his audience. Ironically, the trailer shows some of that audience walking out of his shows, blasting his gospel repertoire, saying they could have gone to church if they wanted to hear about "that."

I think that was the point for Dylan. He knew that most of his audience would probably never darken the door of a church. He recognized the opportunity he had to reach the un-reached. He used his platform to share what God had done in his life with an audience who recognized him as a poster boy for the rebellious, drug-using, free-loving spirit of their generation, an audience who had heard him paint pictures of a world that was gray, without meaning or hope. All of a sudden he was sharing a concrete vision of a world ruled by God and thought-provoking messages like "You've Gotta Serve Somebody."

It's easy to think of famous figures in an abstract sense, divorced from normal human emotion. But thinking through the courage it took for Dylan to do what he did—proclaim Christ to a generation who knew his "dirt"—inspired me. How many times have I've been timid to share my love for my God with those who know my "dirt" because I thought they would doubt my sincerity? Too many. They did that to Dylan, but he shared the gospel anyway. He faced ridicule and his crowds dwindled, but he must have known this one thing:
But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven. - Matthew 10:33
The Message version reads this way:

Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven.
I like that phrasing because it shows the battle that is taking place when we speak the things of God. We are not just proclaiming Him in a moral and spiritual vacuum. We are doing so in a world that is controlled by all that is the opposite of Him.

In meditating on this verse, it occurred to me that the things of God are the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Like Dylan, we can stand up for Christ by proclaiming his message with our words, but when we choose to exhibit these characteristics with our very lives, we are also standing up for Him against world opinions.

When the world is distraught over the economy, we exude peace and joy. Where there is strife and dissension, we are marked by patience and kindness. Where there are harsh dealings and judgment, we speak gentleness. Where there is indulging of the flesh, we show self-control.

Standing up for God isn't just throwing a little "Hallelujah, praise Jesus!" into our conversations every now and again. It's letting Him live through us - in our words and actions. As the apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica:

“Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” - 1 Thessalonians 1:5
In other words, it wasn't just the words they were speaking it was how they were speaking them—with power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction—and how they were living—what kind of men they had proved to be. Standing up for Him is a three-pronged act that involves 1) the words we speak 2) how we speak them and 3) who we are.

I don't know enough of Bob Dylan's life to know whether he fulfilled all three prongs. I hope so. What I do know is that he didn't let his past stop him from sharing his eternal future. The song he wrote entitled "I Believe in You" explains what it meant for Dylan to stand up for Him. He faced some heavy consequences, but he cared more about what God thought of him than what his audience thought of him.

As you read these lyrics, ask yourself, "What is different about my life 'cause I believe in Him'? Has believing changed the words I speak, how I speak them, and who I really am?"

They ask me how I feel
And if my love is real
And how I know I'll make it through
And they, they look at me and frown
They'd like to drive me from this town
They don't want me around'
Cause I believe in you.

They show me to the door
They say don't come back no more'
Cause I don't be like they'd like me to
And I, I walk out on my own
A thousand miles from home
But I don't feel alone'
Cause I believe in you.

I believe in you even through the tears and the laughter
I believe in you even though we be apart
I believe in you even on the morning after
Oh, when the dawn is nearing
Oh, when the night is disappearing
Oh, this feeling is still here in my heart.

Don't let me drift too far
Keep me where you are
Where I will always be renewed
And that which you've given me today
Is worth more than I could pay
And no matter what they say
I believe in you.

I believe in you when winter turn to summer
I believe in you when white turn to black
I believe in you even though I be outnumbered
Oh, though the earth may shake me
Oh, though my friends forsake me
Oh, even that couldn't make me go back.

Don't let me change my heart
Keep me set apart
From all the plans they do pursue
And I, I don't mind the pain
Don't mind the driving rain
I know I will sustain'
Cause I believe in you.
- Bob Dylan

Because I've never been able to wrap my head around what made Dylan popular (I've heard my dog make better noises when I step on his tail), I prefer reading the lyrics, but if you like his sound, here's the video:

6.17.2009

Finding Your Place of Destiny

I want to share something a little different with you today. It’s a podcast of a message called “Finding Your Place of Destiny” by Jentezen Franklin. I’ve listened to it five times (I’m listening again as I type this) since yesterday afternoon. No, I’m not that bored, it’s that good. If you are struggling to determine your next step in life, or especially if you're not and feeling comfortable where you’re at, you need to hear this message. If you have a son or daughter who is in high school or college, please share this with them, as well. Young people need to hear that God has plans - great big, awesome plans - for their lives beyond what they see if they'll just trust Him:

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. (2 Cor. 2:9)

Trust me, I wouldn't suggest you listen to this message unless I felt compelled and thought it could have an eternal impact on your life. I value my time, and I value your time. I know everyone who reads this blog is busy, you come here to spend two or three minutes skimming through my writing. You weren’t preparing to spend 30 minutes listening to a sermon from some guy you’ve never heard of. But if you will spend that half an hour listening to his message, it may change the rest of your life.

I don’t believe I found this message by chance, and I don’t believe I feel the burden to share this with you by coincidence. I have listened to probably 20 messages in the past week, and this is the only one that I felt compelled to share. Do I think it was Divinely ordained that I hear this message? Absolutely. Maybe you, too, are divinely ordained to hear this. Please don’t pass up the opportunity.

I have been hearing messages in church since before I was born. Assuming I’d only heard one each week, I’ve heard well over 1200. (I’ve heard far more than that. We had camp-meeting last week and I heard just ten that week alone). Of all those messages I have heard, I have NEVER come across one that has impacted me like this one. If you want to know where I’m at in my life right now, listen to this message. I've listened to it with tears streaming down my face each time.

I had transcribed some of it, so I’m going to include parts of his message interspersed with some of my story below. Come and read through it afterwards, if you care to, but please, PLEASE don’t just read this in lieu of listening to the actual podcast.

Listen now.

No, really.

LISTEN NOW!

The five dynamics of finding your place of destiny, as told by Jentezen Franklin:

1) You must have the ability to hear God. You must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for Him to be able to speak to you. Fortunately, it's simple. All that is required is that you "confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead and thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9). Once you do this, then you will find the words of this old song true, “He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”

As you surrender your life to God, he will begin to speak to you and the Holy Spirit "will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13). Pastor Jentezen explains this verse in a way I had never thought of before. I won't tell you what he says. You've got to listen for yourself.

Franklin doesn’t mention this next verse, but it’s one that has meant so much over the past months as I am seeing my destiny unfold before my eyes:

“And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.” (Isa. 30:21).
When I turned down a position in DC to volunteer with the kiddos in Atlanta instead, it didn’t make a lot of sense to anyone else, but I knew beyond the shadow of the doubt that I had heard a voice behind me leading me where to walk.

2) Not only do you have to hear His voice, you have to believe what you hear. When you hear His word, faith has to grab hold and you have to believe. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” You can’t second-guess God. When God speaks, the enemy will try to talk you out of that Word. The Bible says, "A double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways – let not that man think he shall receive anything from the Lord."

He will confirm what He’s told you. I know this for a fact. I have had confirmation after confirmation on my move to Atlanta to work with Metro Kidz. But it wasn’t like that at first. I had to turn down the job by faith. Then, the confirmation began to come.

Franklin offers this warning that made my blood run cold: it is possible to lose your destiny. You can lose your destiny by being comfortable, refusing to push forward out of your comfort zone. Or, it could be as a result of sin. If you think about it: Adam and Eve touched one thing - the forbidden fruit – and it destroyed their destiny. There is one thing for everyone – could be pornography, drugs, alcohol, even pride. There is one thing that the enemy knows you have a weakness in and he will try his best to tempt you with it and get you bound to it because it can cause you to miss out on your destiny.

I can identify with this firsthand. I know what my “one thing” is, and having laid that down over six months ago, I can clearly see how it was standing in the way of my moving towards my destiny. I’ll never go back.

3) For me, this was the most powerful concept of the five, probably because I recently lived through it. The third key to finding your destiny, is to go through a season of denunciation. This season is about moving out of the “safe” zone into the “faith” zone. (I did a post about venturing outside your comfort zone a few weeks back).

Franklin explains that sometimes, you have to denounce the present blessing to get to the future promise. This is a divine denunciation. It happens when you cry out to God, “My life is yours. Everything I have is yours, and whatever you want me to do I’m willing to do it, even if that means releasing some things. I’ll lay them down so that I might gain your eternal destiny for my life.”

All of the great figures in the Bible (he explains many of them), went through this season. Each of those figures had to take a step down in the flesh to take a step up in the kingdom.

I know how gut-wrenching this season can be. I had my season back in April when I layed down a job, a sure paycheck, doing what I had always wanted to do in order to give myself up to His plans . Now, I shudder to think of the direction my life would have taken if, in that moment, I hadn’t had the courage to make heed His call. I’ll warn you of this: when you tell God you’ll go where He wants you to go, you’ll do what He wants you to do, that everything you have is His, be ready for Him to act on your surrender. Don’t expect to say that, mean it, and have things stay the same. It just won’t happen. I’m living proof. And, I praise Him for that everyday.

4) The fourth step in reaching your place of destiny is having the courage to take the step towards it. A lot of folks talk about doing it, but few people have the courage to actually move forward. Most people want the full picture, all the answers, before they move on to the next thing. But if God has to give you every answer to every question you’ll never move any higher, you’ll never grow any further, you’re all you’ll ever be. Remember, you’re not doing it alone. “It’s not by might nor power but by my Spirit saith the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6).

I came to a point where I realized this a few weeks ago. I had been struggling under a burden of inadequacy. Feeling so incapable of doing what I know I’m going to be called to do in Atlanta – sharing hope and love with kids and adults as a full-time ministry. I thought, I’m not that naturally positive, I’m not that loving, I don’t have enough of my Bible memorized. I thought, “I haven’t been through the situations they have, how can I possible identify with them and encourage them?”

And, this is where I may lose some of you, but God spoke to me through two people at church recently. It was the end of service two Sunday’s ago. The man in front of me turned around and said, “I’m supposed to tell you that the Paraclete, The Helper, is coming with you on this journey. He’ll be walking right beside you.” I knew that was confirmation from God, as I had been praying for peace about the situation. Then, a few minutes later, my pastor’s wife came up to me and said “God wants me to tell you something. The Paraclete, the Helper, is coming with you through these next steps of your life.”

As much as I’ve read my Bible and been in church, I had never come across the word Paraclete. That was one way I knew it was God confirming Himself. The wording of both the man and the woman to me was nearly identical. Of course, now I know what the word means having looked it up. Paraclete is a reference to the Holy Spirit, specifically used to imply the meaning of “Helper” when accomplishing a task. Often, the Bible talks of the Holy Spirit as a “Comforter” to the Christian, but in this case, God spoke “Paraclete” to both of those individuals because He wanted me to know he would be my Helper. I wasn’t doing this alone. You can tell me all day long that was a coincidence. I know it was God.

A day or two later, he led me to this passage in II Corinthians 3: 5-6:

Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God. It is He who has qualified us (making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient) as ministers and dispensers of a new convenant of salvation through Christ..." (emphasis added mine).
As I mentioned earlier, when He gives you a word about your destiny, He will confirm what He’s told you. But it may take time. For me, I had to make the choice and move on faith. And, that took courage.

5) I have gone through the first four phases over the last few months. I heard Him. I believe what He told me. I went through the season of denunciation. I had the courage to take the steps forward. And now, I’m preparing to go through step five. This last key isn’t about reaching your destiny; it’s about staying focused on it. You do this by determining to focus on the promise and not the problems during the journey. He explains this in terms of Peter stepping out on the boat to walk on the water towards Jesus. It’s an awesome explanation, unlike any I’d heard before.

As he closes, Franklin captures my heart by reiterating the three words I’ve lived by since my dad began telling them to me 20 years ago: “Dream Big Dreams.” He says it this way: "Dream no small dreams for they stir not the hearts of men. The bigger the dream the more people want to get behind something. Opportunity is a visitor. Don’t assume it will be back again tomorrow. Move while the door is open."

The door opened for me. I’m heading to Atlanta in six weeks. It’s the beginning of my finding my place of destiny, and I pray (really, I do) that everyone who reads this will be spurred into seeking your place of destiny.

6.15.2009

Hello? *Taps Mike* HELLO?

Oh, there you are. All three of you.

As you may have noticed, I'm not too into the blogging thing lately. It's for some pretty heavy reasons - like God's wrecking my world in a really awesome way. I have stories upon stories to tell, and I'll probably share them on this blog some day of how God is moving and working in me and in so many lives around me. As a result, I can't in good conscience sow my time into things that won't have a lasting spiritual effect (i.e. my former bloggey nonsense). There are SO many people capable of writing about politics and random events of life much better than I ever could. That's not my gig. What I long to do is ... well, just keep reading.

The whole thing in Galatians 6:8 -- "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" -- really hit home with me this week. While thinkin' on that verse, I realized that only those thing that are of the spirit are eternal. Everything else in this life is "but a vapor."

Think about that.

What we spend 80 percent of our lives doing - the American dream of working our way up the corporate ladder so we can have better houses, better cars, etc - is all "but a vapor." Stops you in your tracks, right? It does me. Investing in things that are going to amount to nothing when I take my last breath is not what God's called us to do. At least, I know for danged sure it's not what He's called me to do.

What God's been pouring into my heart is that our time here is so short, so precious. I'm going to account to God for the time I've spent rambling on about silly things on this blog, talking about things that are neither "true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report" (Phil. 4:8). (Newsflash, Clever S.Logan: God doesn't care if it was "funny at the time.") That's energy I could have put towards sharing the hope and peace that comes only from Him with a troubled world; energy I could have used to show love - the love of Jesus - with people craving to be noticed and loved by someone who truly cares; energy I could have used to share the gospel that will bring sinners down the narrow path of salvation.

Although I'll never get back those hours I've spent on here, it's not too late to change things up. And, I have. Y'all, I've given God the reins to my life. And, it's awesome. Although he's huge, he's the best jockey you'll find. He's directing my life in ways I never dreamed possible. He's given me a burden to share Him - with the big dude on the street corner wearing chains, the lady on the side of the road who had just gotten into an accident, with you on this blog, it doesn't matter. If they've got a soul, they're going to hear about Jesus from me or smell Him on me. I know what you're thinking "smell Him on you?" Sounds weird, I know, but check this out:

"For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which exhales] unto God, [discernable alike] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." - 2 Corinthians 2:15)
It's incredible that God entrusted US, as Christians, with the responsibility of being the fragrance of Christ, of emitting His love, joy, peace, hope, etc. everywhere we go. Makes you want to be sure you're smelling good all the time doesn't it?

I haven't always smelled good. (I still do have this sweating issue, but I digress). As some of you know, I grew up in church. I was the preacher's kid, which meant I was bound and determined to be as rebellious as possible. I lived some rough years, caused my parents a lot of heartache. Then, for awhile, I lived a "good, clean" life for the most part, but it was a life I was living for me. Everything I was sowing - my money, my time, my thought life - was for myself, not for Him. To advance my cause, not His Kingdom.

Things have changed. I sold out. Jesus isn't only my Savior; He's my Lord. I think it's weirding some people out who knew me before. They're not quite sure what to make of this "new" me, and you may not be either. But you know what? I don't care. I care more about what God thinks about me than what any person thinks about me for the first time in my life. As someone who was always concerned (read: borderline obsessed) with having everyone else's approval, it's a breakthrough that came straight from God. Let me tell you, the freedom is incredible.

I want to encourage everyone reading this in this one way - don't be discouraged. Your mind may be running through how far you feel from God, the laundry list of thou-shalt-nots you've committed, the lack of love you've shown to those around you, the lack of commitment and faithfulness to Him, how you've presented your body in every way but as a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God." (Romans 12:1.)

But, I'm living proof God can take what's wrong and make it right. He can restore what's broken with the "glue" that is His grace. All you have to do is surrender. And, when he puts you back together as a new creation, you won't be what you were before. He will have formed you for His purpose - to fulfill Matthew 22:37-40:

"Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

Some of you may not know much about what God wants for your life, so let me share one of my favorite words of encouragement with you:

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." - Jeremiah 29:11
The future I hope for is one in which God is able to use me to love on folks who need His love, share the light of truth with those in darkness, and ignite a passion and fire for Him in a generation of spiritually-starved young people.

He's got the path all planned out. He's my jockey. And, I'm looking forward to the ride.

6.08.2009

Daily Dose of Butt-Sniffing

Some of you may have noticed that my post frequency has plummeted in the last week (which, ironically is in direct proportion to my post quality. Sorry about that). I've been in a bit of a funk, having dropped my new cell phone in a cup of water last week. Okay, a bowl of water. Okay, a toilet. I'll spare you the details of whether or not it had been used. (It had.)

Being off my electronic leash for a few days, I now know how my dog, Buddy, feels when I let him loose in the park to wander. (And by wander, I mean "pee on and sniff everything in sight.") He feels cut off from the world and handicapped. He feels helpless and alone. He discovers that his thumbs are good for something besides sending intellectually-stimulating texts like, "Omg, the world's worst boob job is sitting next to me at the pool." (Actual example of text sent last week pre-toilet incident.) ... Or, maybe that's how I feel. Come to think of it, I'm sure how he feels can be summed up in five words: "Oh boy! Park! Squirrels! Butts!"

Of course, Buddy does the requisite amount of butt-sniffing while we're at the park. He's short, so the butt buffet is limited to small dogs and children. It was something I thought I should be mildly embarrassed about until I came across an article citing that America's Cesspool of Progressivism, Berkeley, CA, has commissioned an artist to the tune of $196,000 of taxpayer funds to make three "decorative medallions depicting dogs sniffing, dumping, and humping each other." Here's the least-offensive of the three medallions:

The artist says he's "showing what dogs do at the dog park." This begs the question: if we can see them doing it live for FREE why spend 200 grand to see them do it on a five-inch, yes, five-inch medallion? Of course, it begs the even bigger questions of why Berkeley exists and why I didn't take up medallion-making instead of writing.

On a related tangent, I also came across a brief Politico piece about Mary Matalin slobbering (figuratively) all over Dick Cheney's labs. The piece was titled "How Dogs and Politics Are Alike," so I was disappointed when I didn't find a single reference to butt-sniffing and a correlating picture. I thought a photo of Brian Williams going after Obama's behind might have been nice. He was already on the right level during his bow. That would have made his hero-worship complete.

You know what would make my hero worship of you complete? If you would vote for Buddy! I entered him in a weekly contest that offers cash prizes up to $250 for the picture with the most votes. If enough of you vote, I could buy a new cell phone and re-enter the land of the living, at which point I'll be more connected to the outside world, happier, and blog more. Everybody (mostly me) wins.


It may have been true at one time that a dog was man's best friend, but then they invented cell phones. If I can use one to get the other, so much the better. Help me win, and I promise to use my phone to post pictures of Buddy "doing what dogs do" in the park. Then, maybe I'll submit them to Berkeley. That should be worth at least one or two grand, right?

6.06.2009

"A Very Nice Set of Tatas"

As those who've met me (or spent more than 3 minutes on my blog) know, I'm a nerd. I love black and white television shows and make few colored exceptions. For the PC-minded among you, I do mean colored television, not the, uh, other kind of colored.

Thanks to some great parenting (and the fact that we were the only family in Southern California without cable), I grew up on shows like I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, and Leave It to Beaver: sitcoms made in an era when the new world's cheapest car made by India's Tata motors would have fit in the glove compartment of the Cadillac convertible the Ricardos drove to California.

I'm not alone in my appreciation of the good ol' days of television and particularly Beaver love. It seems Grandpa John has seen an episode or two. He's also heard about the new near-microscopic vehicles and offers this hilarious, spot-on scenario, "from the lost episodes":

Eddie Haskell at the Cleaver front door: 'Ding-dong'.

Mrs. Cleaver: "Why hello, Eddie. Wally's upstairs. He'll be right down. Did you see our two brand new cars in the driveway?"

Eddie: "Why yes, Mrs. Cleaver and I must say that you have a very nice set of Tatas."

I've got nothing to follow that, so go read more from Grandpa John. He's got some funny stuff A good sense of humor runs in his family.

6.05.2009

Democrats = ?

For the answer, watch the video. Bob Hope tellin' it like it is.

6.03.2009

Venturing Outside Your Comfort Zone

*Updated at the foot of the post.*

This post is different than anything I've put up in a while. I've been staying away from long-form writing, knowing most folks (i.e. myself) who browse the blogosphere have the attention spans of a housefly. Indulge me this once, if you will. As a reward, you may be inspired to do something completely ridiculous in the coming weeks. If you do, please come back and let me know so I can applaud your efforts ... or laugh with at you, as the situation warrants.

"We've got to leave everything on the floor. We can't take nothin' home with us."

Those were the words of a Boston Celtic's player (who missed the memo on double negatives in grammar school) during last year's NBA finals. The Celtics did indeed leave it all on the court and went home with the championship. A coincidence? Methinks not.

His advice isn't just relevant to ballerz. Swap out the basketball court with life in general and you've got yourself great words to live by. To have the best shot at success, you've got to put it all out there and hold nothing back. And why not? Like the man says, in the end, you can't take it with you.

For the past few months, I've been putting his advice into action: pursuing new experiences, new relationships, and new opportunities without abandon. Every night, I ask myself, "What did I learn today that I didn't know yesterday? In what ways am I better than I was the day before?" Sounds simple enough, right? It is, but how many of us can truly say we make a conscious effort to grow every single day? I know I didn't for years. It takes a commitment to move beyond your comfort zone. It doesn't come naturally.

Stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone—putting everything out there and leaving it on the floor, if you will—is a crucial part of personal growth. Of late, I have forced myself to do things that make me uncomfortable, nervous, even sick-to-my-stomach because I know in the end, I'll have broadened my life experiences and, at the very least, have a good story to tell.

Just this week, I've done everything from hip-hop dancing in front of a group of black youths to singing karaoke to doing an interview on a nationally-syndicated political radio show. (The radio interview taught me that much like some folks have a face for radio, I have a voice for print.) Those three things may not sound like much to someone else, but I've been painfully self-conscious about my dancing, singing, and public speaking skills (or lack thereof) for years. As a result, these are precisely the types of experiences I choose to pursue.

As a general rule, the value of moving out of your comfort zone probably won't be found in the act itself. (I don't intend to become a break dancer or the next singing sensation. I know. You're disappointed.) The value lies in the fact that you're pushing yourself outside of the box.

While I believe there is an additional benefit that comes from doing those things you dread the most, there can be value in most any new experience, whether it's using a new word, trying a new food, starting a new business, or talking to a stranger in line at Walmart. (Especially if that stranger turns out to be fabulously wealthy, goes home and stumbles across your blog, and overcome by a spirit of generosity, hits the "donate button" ... Oh, sorry, I must have been daydreaming for a minute.) The key is to take yourself off cruise control. Take the time to reflect on what you learned and how you can apply that knowledge to improve your future.

It's an obvious fact, but I'll state it anyway: everyone likes doing what they're already good at, and no one likes looking ridiculous. But it's the people who pursue life without abandon, leaving everything on the floor knowing they can take nothing home, who have no regrets. Having put it all out there, they never have to look back and wonder "What if?" Instead, they wonder "What if I don't?" To these types, the reality that who they are, what they love, what they're good at (and what they're not) may go forever unknown if they don't lay it all out is enough to make living through those first awkward moments of a new experience not just bearable but desirable.

I wonder how many of us have hidden gifts, passions, or purposes left unnoticed and unused because we haven't done the requisite legwork to discover them? How much untapped potential is lying dormant that could radically change our lives and the lives of those around us if we'd only venture beyond our limits and leave it all on the "floor"?

Just something to think about.

UPDATE:

Loyal readers (hi, mom!) know that HotMES and I have had our share of tiffs (jello-wrestling, anyone?), but we’re calling a truce, at least for now. HotMES agrees that life is much more awesome when you’re willing to take chances. She has a carpe diem approach to life which I think puts the “hot” in the “HotMES.” Read her thoughts here. All the cool kids are doing it.