1) Yeah... now I'm 39 years old. A year away from the big 4-0. After a morning of preaching, time with family, the re-start of our Home Fellowship group, and bedtime stories for our boys, I was able to spend a few moments at the end of the day wondering where all the years went. Seems like only yesterday mom was trying to convince me that it would be OK for me to stay with Mrs. Murphy, my pre-school teacher at Bream Presbyterian Church. I think back on my life, and I'm grateful. Grateful in that I've been very blessed with a great family, lots of good friends, the opportunity to succeed academically and professionally, and mostly grateful that the Good Lord has seen fit, when I've prayed, to speak back in His own way and time.
My life has been good. What more could a man ask?
2) Woke up bright and early to head out into the sub-zero weather for breakfast with area clergy and Rev. Jesse Jackson. His talk was very interesting. At times he was challenging and at other times he made me feel uncomfortable, but that's the mark of a good speaker. Maybe it was because it so early, but he wasn't bombastic, putting rhymes into a easily digestible sound bytes for listener's ears or media microphones. He was quiet and controlled, measuring his words to try and help provide all those present with a sense of what might be next in terms of long-range strategy, while not inflaming the passion around the troubles we now face as a community.
Mostly, what I heard Rev. Jackson saying is that the day for a plan to deal with America's deteriorating urban core has arrived. I mean its one thing to hear him speak to our declining manufacturing sector and the danger that comes from needing foreign investment to prop up large American banks and Wall Street, and how that's contributing to decline of cities throughout the Midwest. It's another to have read the exact same concerns in my latest issue of Forbes Magazine. That gives the man's message added weight and urgency. Investment in education and infrastructure, in job training and daycare, in small business development and drug treatment would not only go a long way to improving deteriorating cities (like our own), but in the long run would create the kind of economic stimulus that provides lasting results.
Rebuild your sewers and roads, and you have new sewers and roads that can accommodate new growth. Provide second chances for people to get an education, when they might possess the maturity to realize how important it is (as opposed to when they were teens), and the kinds of trained, educated people companies are looking for will exist in your community. Get America's manufacturing sector moving again, and you don't trillions of American dollars and thousands of jobs overseas. Thinking of new ways to encourage creativity, entrepreneurship, and the raising of role models of all colors and creeds (so that kids can say, "I want to be like them someday") is important in a culture where we prize our individuality. Where you can create your own identity. Where you are not defined by your past, but by your future. A negative future will encourage people to define themselves negatively, which is what I fear our culture suffers from en masse, right now. Working democratically to turn this around is crucial in this time and place, and for our children and grand-children.
This is what I got out of Rev. Jackson's speech this morning.
3) Max, my oldest, will be nine later this week. He's so excited he can barely contain himself. We're renting a bowling alley located in a small town (Spencerville) so that 14 of his closest friends can come join in a bowling and pizza party. However, we got him a MP3/Video player as a gift, and I have been given the task of loading it with some music. Our kids aren't all the savvy when it comes to certain aspects of pop culture. While they do know about video games, kids movies, and cartoons, because they don't listen to pop radio (mainly due to content issues... I don't want my kid walking around singing the lyrics to "Sensual Seduction" or "Crazy B***h") they don't really know that much about pop music. So, I get to figure out what's going on this MP3 player, which will open up some worlds that Max has never known before.
I know I'll load on some Christian music (which doesn't suffer from the stigma and lack of quality it did when I was a teen), some 80's music (cause the nut doesn't fall far from the tree), and I'll probably rely on Radio Disney (cause my boy is becoming a tween very quickly) to help me figure out the rest. But this will be his entre' into figuring out what he likes and doesn't like, eventually leading to me dealing with music he'll want to listen to that I'll hate having in my house. Such is the rite of passage of adolescence. I listened to Iron Maiden. Brother Esq listened to the Insane Clown Posse. I'll have to listen to some morally bankrupt, industry developed artist geared to capitalizing on the angst and anger of teens dealing with identity issues. Why couldn't we just hunt lions with our sons in order to let them prover their manhood, like our ancestors? That'd be preferable to some rap star or screaming metal singer talking about doing drugs and sleeping around in slang I can't understand. Fo shizzle.
Until then, though, we get the final say as to what he hears. We'll enjoy that while we can.
4) Speaking of pop music, a woman who had a hit song about not going to rehab, was only able to accept her awards coherently because for the last four weeks, she's been in rehab. What's more, she did as a Brit singing music inspired by the sounds of Motown and Ronnie Specter. Nothing should surprise anyone anymore.
5) Didn't watch the Grammies so I could watch the Cavs play their absolutely worst game of the year. Nobody should lose by 30 to the Nuggets, at home. It was like the entire team had a plane to catch or date to get to. They need a shake-up (hopefully involving a new point guard) soon.
6) For my friends who live in warmer parts of the country, it was negative-1 degrees according to my car thermometer this morning. This followed a weekend where we had snow fall in a thunderstorm marked by 50 mph winds. If you get called with a job offer here in the Midwest, make sure the pay is outstanding. OUTSTANDING!!!!!
7) Once again this year, my wife got me John Grisham's new novel as a birthday present. Later today I'll be knocking off work early to go read it in one sitting (which is my custom). I'm sure now, though, that Brother Esq is a lawyer he'll have a few words about Grisham's accuracy (or lack thereof) when it comes to the legal profession. That's even if he ever reads any more of Grisham's books. Seems that three years of law school and a couple of years working in the Public Defender's office has soured my brother on cop and crime shows because their lack of realism. What a shame it is that he can no longer enjoy "Law and Order". Of course, the few times I watched "Seventh Heaven", which featured a family where the dad was a mainline denominational pastor, I kept thinking "no way that would fly" or "no way that would happen", so I suppose I understand.
8) Have you seen "Parking Wars" on A&E? It is a reality show (I am not making this up) featuring officers who enforce parking laws in metro areas. Basically, its about watching people write parking tickets. I watched it for about five minutes and thought, "who in the world thought this was a good idea?" Pretty soon we'll have reality shows about people who collect tollway tolls or wash windows or drive street sweepers.
Or maybe, about senior pastors of medium size UM churches! Maybe this isn't such a bad trend after all.
9) Don't know if you've heard, but exorcisms are currently making a comeback in Europe. And they are being used in all types and kinds of situations - divorce recovery, drug treatment, treatment of depression... the list goes on and on. Why is this happening, I am not sure, except that after four-hundred years of rationalism, and the advent of post-moderns who don't find spiritual realities to be all that difficult to swallow, that maybe the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. I had a prof last year at Asbury (Steve Seamands) who will tell you that spiritual warfare is very real, and he is well known for being involved in this kind of ministry. Every one of my classmates who had been at Asbury for their MDiv had a story of see or hearing Dr. Seamonds engaged in driving out spirits... and generally there were no skeptics. Coming from such a rationalist/contemplative perspective, this really stretched me (that and Sandy Millar admonishing me speak in tongues at Holy Trinity - Brompton). It'll be interesting to see where this kind of ministry goes in the future.
10) Finally a thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. I appreciate well-wishers both live and digital. Special thanks to my father-in-law who surprised me with a birthday cake (that was cool as cool could be), my folks for coming over (with Bryant) after church for a nice birthday lunch, and especially everything Aimee and boys did to make Dad's birthday a good one. I am a blessed man, indeed.