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Victory or Death!

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Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a little scarce around the internets lately. My family and I went to the lake on Saturday. I left home with the sniffles and came home with a full blown summer cold. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I don’t feel like doing much of anything. So I’ve basically been lying around watching tv. But not just any tv–I’ve been watching Lost. Lots and lots of Lost.

Yes, yes…I know I’m late to the game. But to be honest, I’m glad I’ve been able to watch it on DVD. Waiting a week between episodes for six years would have driven me crazy. Patience is not one of my spiritual gifts.

I love the character development on this show and I’ve been amazed at the storytelling ability of the writers. One of my favorite characters is Hurley. Hurley has convinced himself that he is cursed, and much evidence points in the direction of this conviction. Then one day he finds an old, beat-up VW bus on the island. And he defies his circumstances. He faces his fears and finds victory. I hope you enjoy this clip as much as I do:

Our opinions about ourselves and what we are and are not capable of are often self-fulfilling prophecies. When in doubt, believe in the good, the noble, the valiant. And remember that even small victories are still victories. Be like Hurley the conqueror, dude.

Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala

Come thou fount (repost)

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

(The following post is taken directly from a sermon by my friend and pastor Jeff Hogan.)

Many old hymns have stories attached to them. Some are well documented, while others may be modern parables. The story attached to “Come Thy Fount” involves an encounter that took place on a British stagecoach: A woman who had been reading a song book while they travelled began to notice how troubled the other passenger was. Seeking to encourage him, she recited the words to a hymn that was particularly meaningful to her. The man looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”

That man was Robert Robinson. And the latter part of his life was indeed very different than it had been when he originally penned those words in the early 1750’s as a poem to conclude a sermon that he preached.

As a songwriter, I can tell you that you can often observe patterns, struggles and themes in a person’s life through the content of their writing. And if I were to examine Robinson’s life through the lense of this song, I would point to one word – used three times – that really stands out: WANDER.

“Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God”
“Let Thy goodnes, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.”
‘Prone to wander, Lord I feel it – Prone to leave the God I love.”

It’s precisely that gut-level honesty that makes this song stand out. Wandering is a theme everyone can understand, because it can happen at any stage in our connection to God and to Christ:

Before we find Him
While we are looking for Him
After we find Him

Do you think you are moving toward God, or away from Him? Are you willing to believe that God wants you to be close to Him?

I’m not saying that He will tolerate you. I’m saying He welcomes you.

He is delighted to have you come into His presence.

Come as you are. Don’t worry – you don’t have to stay that way. He will change you from the inside out.

No matter how you would “categorize” yourself. If you are wandering, just turn around.

The smoke monster, Don Corleone & return of the Ass Clown

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It seems like I’m on twitter less and less all the time, but then I look at all my tweets for the week and realize that clearly I’m delusional, because I always have way more than enough tweets to do an update. So many, in fact, that most were left on the cutting room floor. Sorry little tweets. You know I love you all. (And yes, they’re still in backwards order, and no I’m not going to change that.)

The best of me (or not) on the twitter this week:

Singing into my hairbrush in honor of @marni71 and @pwilson. http://twitpic.com/1tweyz

@anidolheart I always thought he was saying “Mama said mama saw my mocassin.” Learn something new every day. (in reply to anidolheart Mama se mama sa mama coo sa)

RT @beckfromfrogandtoad: “I’m sorry, Mama, but kissing has been made illegal. It’s not me, it’s the LAW.” – The Baby.

@aldamario Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

@aldamario Who me? Yeah, I’m tons of fun. (Not literally, of course) (in reply to aldamario Happy belated Birthday @VariantVal! I’m following your friend now for reminding me, she looks like fun.)

@weightwhat Yes. It’s cathardic. DOGS CLUCKING! Ah…I feel much better. (in reply to weightwhat @katdish Yes. Yes I do. But then, doesn’t everybody yell out “DOGS CLUCKING!” once in a while?)

My one and only #FF: Beware the Ass Clown! @redclaydiaries

“you shall have no strange cats before me” ~ @Helenatrandom ‘s google analytics keyword search

@Brian_Russell Well, see…I don’t speak either language. Although for some strange reason I seem to attract others who do. (in reply to Brian_Russell @katdish um, that’s “Klingon” and that’s not what I’m speaking. What I’m talking about is more closely translated in Borg.)

@redclaydiaries Well, of course it is. What’s your point? (in reply to redclaydiaries @katdish It’s always all about you, isn’t it?)

@redclaydiaries Good morning. I got a fever, but as always, it’s for more cowbell.

I suppose it’s too much to ask to expect an actual human being to check my groceries this morning.

@sarahmsalter “Some day, & that day may never come, I may ask you to perform a service for me.” – Don Corleone

@sarahmsalter Have you ever seen The Godfather? (in reply to sarahmsalter @PeterPollock Well, honestly, @katdish has never asked me to do anything for her…)

RT @PeterPollock: New post on FoTTSP: The day I said NO to @Katdish (as requested by @duane_scott) http://su.pr/31qus1

I was recently referred to as “the smoke monster” of twitter by @billycoffey. Still trying to decide if that was a compliment

@PeterPollock Of course, you’ve probably already figured that out by now

@PeterPollock If given the option of listening to me or to @billycoffey, always choose the former.

@PeterPollock Most people who say no to me are utterly disappointed. Or show up missing… (in reply to PeterPollock I said NO to @katdish today. It wasn’t as exhilarating as I expected. Probably because I feared the backlash – and I knew I was lying)

@VariantVal I’m here. Carry on… (in reply to VariantVal I’m boycotting twitter until all the fun ppls come back)

@CandySteele Well thanks. You must be exhausted. (in reply to CandySteele @katdish No, I did it the hard way. It took three clicks instead of one.)

@lainiegallagher I pity the fool who doesn’t enunciate in your class!

I’m back, now I have to leave for carpool duty. 2 more days of freedom….er….school.

@lainiegallagher I think I would be disappointed if you were ever completely satisfied with anything

@duane_scott Oh, you’re not really short and pointless…Oh, wait – you mean your blog post?

@KathleenOverby Oh, cool. It’s been a few years since I read that one. (in reply to KathleenOverby @katdish NO, Beth does. 🙂 You get to live to write a best seller.)

@KathleenOverby Wait. Doesn’t she die an untimely death? (in reply to KathleenOverby @katdish There’s a scene in Little Women where Jo says, “I could have been a great many things.” You and Jo have much in common.)

No red, white & blue for me today. I’m wearing cammo, cuz that’s how I roll.

@KathleenOverby Um…ewh. (in reply to KathleenOverby @katdish oh my. use maggots for bait, you won’t be tempted. :))

Kidding people. Just kidding!

Family fishing trips of my dad trying to bait the hook while my Japanese mom kept eating the bait.

Going to get a fishing license soon. I’m torn. Fishing brings back traumatic childhood memories…

Really wishing we had put a pool in last year. Now I must resort to being nice to people who live in master planned communities w/pools.

Is it a fragrance or a biography? http://twitpic.com/1s85bh

Lots of food samples at Sams today. Suprisingly, no line at the green salad table. Who the heck wants to sample bag salad?

No use crying over spilled Shiner Bock. http://twitpic.com/1s80u1 Echofon

It’s all there in black & white: @billycoffey plays with Barbies: http://bit.ly/aLaUMU

Google Analytics Keyword Searches – A public apology

So, I’ve been here at the new place for awhile and wanted to check how my numbers have been doing since I made the switch. I’ll be honest. I hardly ever check analytics–obviously. Because when I went to check my numbers for the new website I discovered that I never set it up properly, and according to google analytics, I have had 0 visitors thus far. I’m fairly confident that number is not accurate. Stupid technology…

Anyway, my favorite thing to do when I check my blog stats is to check the keyword searches. But since I understand time is a valuable commodity, I wanted to take this opportunity to publically apologize for those who were searching for information on the following topics and ended up on my old blog, Hey Look a Chicken:

  • Topps the Slender Giant
  • 698368919911
  • Can I take toppik hair fibers on the plane?
  • Depravate mom tube
  • Do not look at this chicken
  • Dog stocking stuffers
  • LED pimp hat
  • Longenberger small spoon craigslist
  • Patterns for making a chicken pillow
  • Step mother info chicken dog
  • wicked epic chicken pictures
  • And, of course, as always: Annie K boobs (seriously – what is it with you people?)

So…if you check your analytics, what are some of your faves?

You are very special – just like everyone else

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Last week I attended an awards ceremony held in my daughter’s 3rd grade classroom. She was presented with 3 awards. She actually received more than 3, but the rest of them were secretly tucked away in a manila envelope to be opened at home. Why? Because everyone, regardless of how many awards they earned, was presented with 3 awards during the ceremony. I’m not complaining because my daughter got more than 3 awards. Heck, I’m assuming most kids got more than that. What bugs me about that ceremony is it’s yet another example of the great lengths we are willing to go to in order to insure that we don’t damage a child’s self esteem.

Mary worked very hard this year, never missed a day of school and got straight A’s on her report card.

Johnny received bad conduct marks on a regular basis, rarely turned in his homework and is barely passing.

Is Mary awarded? Of course she is—as she should be. But what of Johnny? If he gets nothing, won’t that damage his self esteem? Let’s make up an award for him so he doesn’t feel left out!

Some of you may argue that perhaps Johnny is acting out because he has a difficult home life. It’s not his fault. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that is true. My question is, when does it begin to be Johnny’s fault? When is the appropriate age to teach kids that there are consequences for your actions?

After some in-depth research (“air quotes”), I present to you some actual awards given out at school award ceremonies this year:

  • The Sponge Bob Award – given to the child that absorbs everything the teacher says.
  • The Milky Way Award – given to the class dreamer
  • The Hot Dog Award – given to the child who can touch their nose to their knees. (Yeah – still a little unclear on that one.)
  • The Snickers Award – given to the class clown
  • The Pluto Award – given to the child who is really small, suffers from an identity crisis and sits in the back of the classroom. (Okay, I may have made that one up…)

Here’s my point. (Yes, I have one.) I do believe that everyone is good at something, but not every kid is good at school, and frankly, some kids just don’t give a crap about school. I know—I was one of those kids. When everyone is rewarded equally, it diminishes the achievements of those who actually deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and sacrifice.

As much as some would like to believe otherwise, we do not live in some utopian fantasy world where everyone is treated fairly and equally. I think the sooner kids learn that, the better off they will be.

Yes…but (Oswald Chambers)

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The following is taken from Oswald Chambers’s daily devotion, My Utmost for His Highest.

“Lord, I will follow Thee; but . . .” Luke 9:61

Supposing God tells you to do something which is an enormous test to your common sense, what are you going to do? Hang back? If you get into the habit of doing a thing in the physical domain, you will do it every time until you break the habit determinedly; and the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will get up to what Jesus Christ wants, and every time you will turn back when it comes to the point, until you abandon resolutely. “Yes, but – supposing I do obey God in this matter, what about . . . ?” “Yes, I will obey God if He will let me use my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.” Jesus Christ demands of the man who trusts Him the same reckless sporting spirit that the natural man exhibits. If a man is going to do anything worth while, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says, and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense. At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad; but bring them to the bar of faith, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God. Trust entirely in God, and when He brings you to the venture, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis, only one out of a crowd is daring enough to bank his faith in the character of God.

Special Barbies

As a sort of celebration for the release of Marcus Goodyear’s new book of poetry (to take a peek yourself, click here ), several bloggers were invited to participate a writing project. There’s also a contest going on over at Tweetspeak Poetry.

The topic? Barbies. Having played with Barbies myself and now a mom with a daughter of my own who also owned her fair share, I felt it was a topic I could run with. So, here’s my take on Barbies:

Although they’re all stored away in the attic now, my daughter has quite a large collection of Barbies. Do a Google image search of “Barbies” and you will likely find:

Princess Barbies

Doctor Barbies

Mermaid Barbies

High School Musical Barbies

Camp Rock Barbies

Movie Star Barbies

Hannah Montana Barbies

Surfer Barbies

Astronaut Barbies

Heck, there’s even a President Barbie (God help us.)

Each one looking so very special and unique sitting on the shelf in the toy aisle. Each acquisition a “must have” around Christmas and birthdays. Some sing a recorded song, some are dancing ballerinas. Some have a gorgeous Malibu tan, others come equipped with a stethoscope and a clipboard. Still others come bejeweled with lavish earrings and equally lavish evening gowns. A new Barbie takes center stage in the life of a little girl.

But you know what? When all is said and done; when little girls outgrow their love of all things Barbie. All those doctors, movie stars, princesses and presidents look very much the same…

When they’re all piled up lying naked in a box.

Feel free to draw your own analogies…

BINGO!

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A few weeks ago, one of the kids in my carpool shouted out, “BINGO!” This was soon followed by another shout of “BINGO!”. Which was immediately followed by a lecture from the original caller about how a school bus was NOT a car, therefore did not constitute a BINGO.

If you haven’t figured it out, BINGO is a car game wherein you shout BINGO every time you spot a yellow car—sort of like a less violent version of Slug Bug. And do you know what? There aren’t many yellow cars being driven on the streets of my town. White, black, silver, tan, blue? Awash in them–so much so that I don’t even consciously recognize one from the other. Before my introduction to BINGO, a yellow car, while rare, would also blend into the background; just another vehicle in the never-ending sea of traffic.

But a funny thing has happened since that first game of BINGO. I notice yellow cars. I actively seek them out. Spotting a yellow car is a reward unto itself—even when I’m driving alone.

The game of BINGO, in some small way, gave me back the gift of noticing; of awareness. It reminded me how easily I can allow my world to take on a numbing sameness. In order to spot the rare, beautiful or unique, I need to be actively seeking it out.

In the mundane drudgery of life when oftentimes one day looks just like the day before, it’s easy to miss the yellow. I want to be more aware. I want to shout BINGO! each day and bring attention to the good in this world that is so often overlooked.

Now, go find you some BINGO! moments. They’re out there if you take the time to pay attention.

The Obligatory Lost Post (Sort of)

I watched Lost Sunday night. For the first time. Ever.

Watched the special programming leading up to the finale, then the final episode. Watching the ending of this epic story, I felt a sense of regret for having not been a part of this six year phenomenon. And while there is no way I can truly appreciate all the relationships, sub-plots and layers of the show, I’d like to make an observation or two—not so much about the show itself, but more about the reactions from its long time fans.

Twitter was awash in #LOST hashtags Sunday night. Everything from “Beautiful, perfect ending” to “the only thing missing was the Bobby Ewing shower scene” to a simple and frustrated “WTF #Lost?”

Much more conversations ensued the following day: on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and presumably television and radio. Much of it centering around what it all meant: What was real? What did the church scene in the end represent? Where were some of the missing players and what did that mean? In my brief observation, there were as many theories as there were conversations and I got the feeling that many people just wanted some concrete, definitive answers to questions they felt were left unanswered.

It seems to me, to a certain extent, that we’ve become a society of mental couch potatoes. Millions of fans fall in love with a show which is wrapped in layers of mystery and then many cry foul when everything is not neatly explained away in the end.

There’s just something profoundly sad in that.

Our children are no longer taught how to learn, they’re taught how to test. College students understand that advancing their professor’s agenda is the recommended approach to their learning experience. We’re losing the ability to think for ourselves; to fill in the blanks with our own interpretations; our own truths.

I really think it’s okay to draw your own conclusions and to write your own narrative in the end. After all, it’s just a story.

I love the artist Seal. One of the reasons I love his music is that he never prints the lyrics to any of his songs on his CDs. When asked why, he said he wanted the songs to mean whatever the listener thought they should mean to them. I think that’s fantastic.

Of course, self interpreted lyrics aren’t always beneficial. I remember when I was in high school and the senior captain for the dance squad choreographed an entire dance routine to Grease’s song “You’re the One that I Want”. Which turned out to be unintentionally hilarious, because when John Travolta sang “I’ve got chills they’re multiplying” she thought he was singing “I’ve got shoes they’re both a-flying!” Again, fantastic!

So, what do you think? Are you okay with the Lost ending, or are you frustrated? Inquiring minds want to know…

Time for Class (by Billy Coffey)

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image courtesy of photobucket.com

Graduation took place here at the college over the weekend. Always a joyous and exciting time for all involved. For me, it means a couple months of relative peace and quiet (both of which are most welcomed). Parents, too, seem ecstatic. Not only have their little ones finally graduated, the weight of having to support them through college has now been thrown off their shoulders with gusto.

But graduation is all about the students. They’re the stars of the show. Four years of late nights and early classes, of endless tests and papers and reading assignments measured in feet rather than pages, is now gone. They’ve proved their worth and endured their hardships. They’re free. The world awaits.

This sort of sentiment was echoed last week by a student so thrilled to just get on with it that she screamed:

“I passed my exam and now I’m getting ready to start looking for a teaching job. I CAN’T WAIT TO START REAL LIFE!!”

I didn’t see this girl. Just heard her. And I likely would have at least tried to get a glimpse to see if I knew her or not, but I didn’t. Couldn’t, actually. I was too paralyzed by laughter to move.

I can’t fault her for saying something like that. Ignorance and youth is a potent combination. Mix them together and you can have all manner of explosions, everything from deeds that really shouldn’t be done to words that elicit guffaws from those older and more experienced. People like that student just don’t know any better. I know this to be true. I was young once. You should’ve heard the things I used to say.

What she’s falling for is the same thing I once did. The same thing we all have done.

She thinks the hard part is over.

It isn’t, of course. For her and the rest of those who stepped upon the stage as students and stepped off as alumni, the real hard part has yet to have happened.

School, the real school, is just starting. And so are the exams.

It’ll start when the teaching job she tries to find isn’t there because of cutbacks and a bad economy. If she’s lucky, she’ll get an aide’s position or substitute. If she’s unlucky, she’ll end up working at the Gap in the mall, making a little over minimum wage with no benefits and school loans to repay.

Another one will come when she gets married and has to learn that love is a complicated thing sometimes. It’s work and it hurts and very often you have no idea at all what you’re doing, yet you feel like you have to anyway.

And kids. Kids are exams of immense pressure and importance. Ones you think you have to not only pass, but ace. But that won’t happen. We all fail those exams from time to time.

Those are just the easy ones, too. Work and love and children are at least tests she’ll be able to somewhat prepare for. She may not know when they’ll be coming, but she may know they will someday.

Most of the other ones are not so accommodating. They’re the pop quizzes of life, the ones you can’t study for and can’t see coming. There will be a lot of those for her, too.

I wouldn’t have told her any of this if I had seen her. Sometimes you have to let someone enjoy the moment, no matter how fleeting that moment may be. And I wouldn’t want to discourage her, either. Because real life truly is exciting and beautiful and wonderful and good despite it all.

She’ll graduate one day, just as we all will. She’ll get her final grade of pass or fail and then step onto the grand stage of this world and step off into the lands of the next.

From now until then, I think, is the greatest exam of all. One that began over the weekend and will continue on until her last breath and God calls, “Pencil down.” It’s a test not of knowledge, but perseverance.

A test to fight the good fight.

To let go and to hang on.

To believe when she doesn’t want to.

And to answer without fail the bell that signals the start of class every day.

 

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at his blog What I Learned Today and follow him on twitter at @BillyCoffey

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