Saturday, March 31- “Roger…We Can Confirm That!”

     Tomorrow is Confirmation Sunday at my church. What, you may ask, is that? Well…I’ll tell you!
     In my faith tradition, when someone is baptized, a promise is made. If the person being baptized is an infant or a small child, the parents make the promise. If the person being baptized is older, they make their own promise. And what IS that promise? It’s a promise that everything possible will be done to ensure that the person in question is raised to be a man or woman of God. Boom. Simple. No flash. No frills. That’s it. BUT…that can be  VERY difficult promise to fulfill!
      OK, so the promise is made. Then, along about 8th Grade-ish, youth go through Confirmation. They spend time each week, for some pre-determined number of weeks, digging in to what it means to be a Christian. In MY Confirmation class, we learn a bit about Methodist history. Not TOO much – don’t want to put anyone to sleep! But enough to help them understand who we are and from where we came. We also watch a Contemporary Christian (i.e. “rock”) video, paying attention to both what we see and what we hear. We then talk about what the lyrics are trying to say and what the video is trying to say. We also work through a Christian Case Study each week- a true story (with the names changed to protect both the innocent AND the guilty!) about something that happened in ministry. We reads it and then talk it through, considering what happened and what it says about being a Christian.
     Then, at the end of that pre-determined time, the youth in the class are confirmed. They stand before their church, answer the classic questions of faith (which boil down to “do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”) and become full members. And that part of the journey happens…tomorrow! We have 8 young people being confirmed. One of them is also being baptized- one of my favorite things in the whole world! (We ALSO have an infant baptism at the same service! More than 50% of United Methodist churches across the country won’t have ONE baptism or new member this year. We will have 8 confirmands, 7 new members and 2 baptisms – all that AND Communion in a 45-minute service! My older son said, “How are you going to preach at that service?” My reply? “I am writing a haiku!”)
     For my money, if confirmands, new members and baptisms doesn’t light your fire…you’re wood’s ALL wet!! These are EXACTLY the kinds of things the Church is supposed to be doing. We don’t seeking new members just to pad our numbers or “look good”- we seek new members because we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ! I celebrate this awesome next step in the lives of these confirmands, and if they are any example of what the next generation is all about, I say that we are in GOOD hands!!  
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Palms, Passover, Passion

Friday, March 30- Coincidence? I Think NOT!

     I recently got an email from (I know, big whoop…right? I get them every day, because I was stupid enough to buy something from them and am now on their email list until the rapture occurs!!) I normally delete them without even opening them. BUT, this particular one caught my eye. In what I call the “teaser”- the 1st few words of the email that you get BEFORE you open it- it said this, “Etch-A-Sketch Products starting @ $11.99 | Wilson Golf Balls @ $12.95 | Vibe Mini Vac @ $15.99…” Let me say right up front, it was NOT the golf balls OR the mini vac that caught my attention. No! It was, of course, the Etch-A-Sketch!
     The iconic Etch-A-Sketch was born one year ahead of me- in 1960. (YOU do the math!) When I was a kid, we actually had one. (I seem surprised because we were generally NOT on the cutting edge of toy technology! The year before we got the Etch-A-Sketch, we finally joined in on that brand new toy craze sweeping the nation- rocks and twigs! By the way, do YOU remember when Mr. Potato Head was nothing but a box of body parts? You had to use a…ready?…REAL potato! No foolin’!) I thought the Etch-A-Sketch was the greatest thing since the invention of fire. I was HORRIBLE at it – always have been, always will be – but I thought it was awesome. That is, until my brother left it up in the back window of the car on a sweltering July day in the Midwest. It basically turned to pudding! (There is STILL some dispute about who actually left it in the window, but I, for one, am sticking to MY story!)
     The reason I bring up the Etch-A-Sketch is probably apparent by the picture I chose. (And no, that is NOT Dick York, the first Darrin on Bewitched!) Recently, Mitt Romney’s  longtime, trusted aide Eric Fehrnstrom was talking to CNN after Romney’s victory in the Illinois primary. Fehnstrom argued that Romney would have no problem pivoting toward the political center after the primaries, because the general election campaign is “almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.” The Democratic National Committee, along with Romney’s own GOP rivals, immediately jumped on the remark with both feet, saying it proved once and for all that Romney has no true conviction. 
     Now, let me say right up front (or, in this case, 417 words in!) that I am NOT bashing Romney OR his aide. You will seldom if ever find me taking political sides on the site- not my style. Instead, it strikes me that it is NO coincidence that shortly after the “Great Etch-A-Sketch Debacle of ’12”, HAPPENS to be featuring an Etch-A-Sketch. The stinkin’ toy has been around for 52 years, and they SUDDENLY are featuring it?
     The bottom line is this- I get more than a bit turned off by how opportunistic we are as a society. Something happens, and we have NO interest in taking the high ground and responding in a Christian manner. We also have NO compunction about making a buck off of it! Don’t get me wrong- the whole Romney/Etch-A-Sketch thing is silly…AND, in the end, a non-story. But it IS a symptom of a much bigger problem in this country. Where did the Christian values go? And how do we get them back? We get them back…one person at time! Don’t worry about what other do- worry about yourself, and how YOU respond to things. Look back over the last week – the last DAY – and consider your reactions. Have they been loving and forgiving, or have they been sarcastic and mean-spirited? Change how YOU respond, and you change the world around you, a bit at a time!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- “Roger, we can confirm that!”

Thursday, March 29- Lawn Stars

     Rick, The Old Man, Big Hoss, Chumlee…if you know those names, you  watch The History Channel…or, as they now call it…History! They are the stars of Pawn Stars, the highest rated show on History and one of the highest rated on cable! I must admit- the show is a guilty pleasure of mine! We DVR it and watch it when we have time, buzzing through the commercials in the process. 
     My older son, who has a degree in history, is NOT happy with the proliferation of shows like Pawn Stars on channels like History. Him- “What does THAT have to do with history?” Me- “Well, they DO get some historic pieces brought in for sale!” Him- “That’s a HUGE stretch!” Me- “Fair enough!” 
     I have recently decided that my younger son and I need to start our own reality show. It would probably fit best on the Home and Garden Channel, which means we will NOT be raking in the BIG TV bucks! It will be called Lawn Stars! I have included a picture that will be used in the opening credits. ANY resemblance to any reality show currently making mega-bucks on basic cable is PURELY coincidental! (And if you believe that, I have a bridge in the Great Salt Flats to sell you!) It’s focus will be two-pronged: 1. the lawn needs mowed early and often and 2. my younger son is “in training” to take over the mowing. Sounds AWESOME, doesn’t it? I foresee a HUGE audience for this hard-hitting show! (Perhaps I need to try and sell that bridge…to myself!)
     The winter here in Central Illinois was SO mild and spring came SO early that my lawn has taken off like a rocket! I don’t WEED my lawn. I don’t SEED my lawn. I don’t FEED my lawn. I go way out of my way to ignore it, hoping it will go away. But NO…it just keeps coming back, year after year, growing like…well…WEEDS! I have been cutting grass for nigh on 40+ years- I KNOW how to mow! (Sorry to brag, but when you’ve “got” it…!) But my youngest son does not know how…yet! We recently started the tutorials. I picked the front yard because it is the closest thing our yard has to a nice rectangle. We took turns, I mowed the first revolution, he took the second, and so on. When it was MY turn, he just hung out. But when it was HIS turn, I walked the yard with him, helping him see where he needed to cut and how he needed to cut it. It was a fairly successful 1st attempt!
     As we walked around the yard, pushing the mower, talking and pointing, I thought about what we were actually doing. Yes, we were mowing the lawn. But we were doing so much more than that. We were “training”. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” And, for my money, that is EXACTLY what we, as adults, should be doing- training the next generation to replace us! Sure, I could have mowed the front yard a lot faster by myself. But my goal wasn’t speed and efficiency- it was teaching my son a basic life skill that he will use…forever!
     What have YOU taught someone to do today? This week? Whatever knowledge you have, whatever special skills you have- don’t hoard them. Don’t just keep them to yourself. Share them. Let others benefit from what you’ve learned…AND from the mistakes you’ve made. Train them in the way they should go…and they will not turn from it. If we don’t teach them, how will they learn?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
  Tomorrow- Coincidence? I think NOT!