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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Making God Smile

It's things like the all-Yoppie Bluegrass Gospel Band that make me think that God created us to give Himself a reason to smile......

(click on the video to see it in full, wide-screen Yoppie-Vision)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Perils of Being the Alpha Male

Since my family's recent move and all the trauma surrounding it, I have made up my mind that what this pack of hound dogs needs is a genuine, certifiable Alpha Male. Our move was a wonder of indecision, much of it caused by people deferring to other people's opinions, waiting for someone to decide and a distinct lack of leadership from the top.  My son, God bless him, stepped up and made it all happen, tentatively assuming the alpha male role.  I actually thought he was going to bite someone a couple of times there.

Ah, but now we're settling back into our pre-moving roles and once again the alpha male role is being assumed by a gaggle of nest-builders and diplomats.  The crowd at my house act like they were raised by a pack of therapists. The next person answered a yes/no question with "What do YOU think?" was going to find out what I think. Things were deteriorating rapidly till my granddaughter showed up with her boyfriend who firmly believes he is not AN alpha male, but apparently is convinced he is THE alpha male. Poor thing walked into my back yard and decided to challenge me on my own turf.

I bit him!

I didn't actually chomp his jugular, but things got a bit warm.  We had one of those old fashioned young buck/old buck confrontations in my back yard with the whole in your face, chest bowed out, good eye contact going, fist clenched body language.  The retirees next door gleefully brought their chairs out onto the patio to watch the fun.  I thought for a minute the boy was going to take a swing at me and find out how long his lean, muscular 155 pounds would last against a cranky old dude twice his body mass.  We stood nose to nose for a long time.  I'm glad the moment finally passed for him and he took two steps back to a more respectful distance.  I am, by nature a peaceful man. And I know the neighbors have 911 on speed dial! 

As with most young buck/old buck confrontations, age and sheer bluff won out over youth and energy. We came to an understanding over the issue at hand and we get along fine now.  The issue of who's backyard it is has been settled - at least till I get senile and my kids have that meeting down at the I-Hop to decide what to "do with Dad".

In the aftermath, I find that I may have fallen prey to my own hormones.  I really liked being the alpha dog.  I did. I find myself making decisions without permission, telling people clearly what I want and do not want. I am, of course, prepared to be fair and reasonable, but I'm also just as prepared to argue firmly for my own point and to use the power of leverage to get my way if I think I am right. It's downright liberating!

This move has had an unexpected effect on the men in this estrogen-soaked household. We are building a man cave in the garage complete with pool-table, tool room, dart board and garage band sound equipment. My son, this afternoon said, "I don't care what 'they' say about having space or what ought to go where. This is my space!  She can put her exercise equipment in here somewhere and use it all she wants, but the rest is mine."

Good boy, son!

You make an old dog proud!

Besides, what man cave would be complete without a corner where skinny women in tights come to work out? Hey, bring your friends, girls.  And hand me a root beer while you're up!  

Yep, that's gonna work!

Tom King - Tyler, TX (c) 2009

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Three Things I Can Do to Get to Heaven (That I know how to do)

by Tom King - (c) 2010

Since I was a boy I have been told by an endless string of preachers, camp-meeting speakers, radio and tele-evangelists how to get to heaven.

"Fall on the Rock," they say.

"Lean on Jesus," says another.

"Confess your sins and give your life to the Lord."

"Submit yourself unto the Almighty."

"Take up your cross and follow Him."

The problem with all of those exhortations to salvation is that I could never get a satisfactory explanation as to what any of those things meant.

"Preacher," I asked. "What does it mean to fall on the Rock?"

"It means to take up your cross and follow Him."

"What does that mean?"

"It means to submit yourself to the Almighty."

 "How do you do that?"
"Well you confess your sins and give your life to the Lord."

"And how does that work?"

"Well, you lean on Jesus!"

"I don't know how to do that."

"Well, it's easy. You take up your cross and follow Him."

"I don't have a cross!"

"It isn't a literal cross.  What you do is, you see is, uh, you fall on the Rock."

And round and round they went. When finally I came to the Lord, I came as a skeptic. Some may find that a dubious way to start your discipleship, but then, my name is Thomas and Jesus has a history with skeptics named Thomas, so I was baptized, took up my cross and went stumbling after Him looking for answers.

I bought a tiny Bible that fit in my pocket. Not a New Testament, but the whole thing. I wanted the full treatment. I read it cover to cover as I walked back and forth to school, in spare moments when I was working at camp and in my dorm room the next year when I worked my way through Christian boarding academy.

In my reading I found three things that God asks me to do publicly:
  1. Be baptized - I'd already done that.
  2. Worship Him in fellowship with fellow Christians on the Sabbath (at a minimum). That's easy to figure out how to do.
  3. Participate in communion services - I did that even in the summer when I worked at camp. My churchs practices the footwashing ordinance as part of communion and because I ran barefoot all the time at camp, the ground-in dirt on my feet used to turn the foot-washing water black. Awkward at times, certainly a test of humility, but simple to do all the same.
God asks me to do these things without promising me they will get me to heaven. They merely publicly acknowledge that I am His man.

I also found in all my study of the Bible, that there were three other things that God asks me to do personally that I actually knew how to do. I was a bit foggy on how to trust God, have faith in Him, lean on Him and all the rest of those things the pastors exhorted me to do. In my reading I found out where they got all those exhortations by the way - they're all in there in some form or other. So, as I studied, I wrote down only the things God asked me to do that I actually know how to do. They are: 

  1. Study: Jesus said to know God was eternal life. How do you know God except by studying his Word and the world that he has made and the way he deals with mankind? Being a rabid and curious reader and habitual student of everything, that wasn't too tough to do.
  2. Pray. A somewhat mechanical process at first, but as you gain experience and become comfortable talking to God, you soon find yourself praying constantly; sharing little things with God on the spot instead of waiting to kneel beside your bed. That was pretty easy too.
  3. Share what you learned from praying and studying. There I hit a snag. My first experience with this requirement was "witnessing", an exercise in tenacity that my church conducted weekly, where you went around to the homes of people you didn't know and asked them to take "literature" from you. It was a painful exercise for shy people like me and really put me off the sharing bit. But as I continued with praying and studying, the Lord placed me in situations and places where I found opportunity to share what I was discovering about God's character as I prayed and studied. So, he not only gave me a way to communicate with Him, I found that He also took care of setting up all the appointments for sharing my experience with others.
The thing I discovered as I carried out God's program for going to heaven was that I began to change. My tastes began to change. My language changed. My responses to people and events were altered. I found that I did not resist the change. I actually quite enjoyed becoming a decent, kind-hearted person. All the talk about being clay in the potter's hands began to make sense to me. I had tried the "grit your teeth and try to be good" routine, but had failed as miserably at being good on my own hook as miserably as St. Paul and Martin Luther did.

The great thing is that God requires very little of us other than to place ourselves in His presence through the three activities above. Do them consistently and you will be changed. You cannot help but become a new man or woman if you do. The golden rule will be written upon your heart as surely as a child will grow up if you feed it regularly.

But what's really cool is that you will become, not a carbon copy of every other Christian, but the absolutely unique and special individual that God made you to be. Satan's idea for establishing order in the world calls for all men to be all alike except for a few privileged folk like himself who run things. God's idea for the new world order on the other hand, calls for all men to be truly themselves, each contributing his or her own special talents and ideas to the mix. We give ourselves to Him 1,2,3 and He gives us back ourselves better than He found us. Satan wants cookie cutter slaves to serve their masters. God wants free individuals, sons and daughters, who run things for themselves and to whom He can give gifts in abundance.

Not only that, but God makes His children free by doing for them what they cannot do themselves - giving them the power to make choices for themselves, unencumbered by a crummy childhood, environmental factors, genetic predisposition or cultural influence. Freed from the power of heredity and environment, we may then choose to do what we really, really want to do and not what some unsupected subconscious influence pushes us into doing against our wishes.
Talk about an Extreme Makeover.  How unbelievably cool is that?

Tyler, TX