Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Somewhere in Time

There is a great movie titled "Somewhere in Time", starring the ever beautiful Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeves. Rent it sometime and watch it with your spouse. However, this post isn't about that movie.

This weekend I went back to where I was born, raised, and raised hell. It was Memorial Day weekend, and like most American families, we had our big cookout saturday at the home of my sister. I am so proud of my sister. She made a lot of mistakes growing up (choices of boyfriends, husbands, careers, teen pregancy, financial struggles, poor self image) but has really turned her life around in the last decade. Has two great daughters and her husband is a good guy. They just built a nice pool and are doing well economically, so she had the whole family come over and enjoy the day.

Her daughters are in college and all their friends came as well. It was quite humorous when they started drinking lite beer (yuck) and I pulled out my Shiner Bock. They didn't even know what kind of beer it was. They were smoking cigarettes or swisher's, and I pulled out my Punch Primo cigar, lit it up and kicked back like the wise dude I am. When querried about my brand of beer and smoke, I told 'em I'm getting to the age where I don't know if I got minutes or years left, and by god I aint' gonna be caught dead with cheap beer or cigars. They just laughed. And kept laughing even after I drank 'em under the table with Padron Agave Tequila shots. I told 'em I have had more practice so it was kind of unfair.

Anyway, before all of this, I awoke at 6:15 a.m. My great aunt was celebrating her 95th birthday at her church some 20 miles away from where I was staying, at 8:30a.m. with a breakfast (I guess as this age they didn't want to chance doing it at lunch time in case she didn't make it those next few hours of the day). So I got up and left everyone sleeping at the house and took off.

This is where I grew up. My hometown area. Lots of memories. The quietness of the countryside and little east texas towns was striking. Locals cautiously watched me pass with a kind of who-is-that-look and a glancing wave. I was driving a "fur-uhn car" as they call it in their East Texas venacular. Its a Toyota Camry. You don't see much of those around that part of the country. Fords, Chevys and Dodges dot the landscape. Trucks mostly. Old Union yellow dawg democrats still control the mind set of this area, and the lack of ecomonic development and the dying steel mill does much to reinforce this. The slogan "Buy American" carries a whole different meaning here. I don't have the heart to tell them their Fords have over 20% of parts made in Mexico.

I stopped by the graves of my great grandparents, my great uncle, and others. I drove to my grandparents old place just outside of town. They have passed on now, but it is still amazing to me how these sights and sounds and smells can trigger long forgotten memories. I looked over the house and the pasture (which had grown up, as young folks don't tend to keep them up like the older generations did) and then drove backroads I haven't been on in almost 20 years. I had the window down and my left arm hanging out while just driving slowly, taking it all in. The old houses I had forgotten about. Some new ones that were placed here or there over the years. The smell of cows and cut grass met my nose in a familiar, comfortable way. I turned a corner to find four or five horses walking down the road toward me. It was an instant game of chicken. They weren't budging. They just looked at me like "dude, your on our road". They finally stepped aside and let me pass. I stopped by my mom's gravesite. It is always sobering for me. I had no words.

I make it to my aunt's breakfast at 8:15 a.m. and am greeted by people I haven't seen in decades and they still remember my name. Amazing. I know I'm supposed to know them, but time and distance has darkened my memory some. They were here when I grew up. They are still here. They are the earth of this place. They came from it, toiled it, live on it and someday will return to it. I feel like an outsider, mainly due to my own self consciousness. But there is some comfort in the familiar, and it is hard to shake. I felt relaxed. Safe.

I visited, shook some hands, hugged some others, told 'em what a big success I have become away from them and they seem so proud that someone actually moved away and is fairly successful. For them, time is standing still. They do not get out much, being content with what the lord and the land has provided them. The times are tough there, but so are the people.

You can still see the past in the present. It is haunting to me. And my memories linger....somewhere in time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I have absolutely no idea why this thought came to me while watching American Idol. Some lyrics from the song George Michael sang triggered the thought.
Church is a Noun. Christianity is a Verb.

From what I recall of grammer, a Noun is a person, place or thing. It really doesn't do anything. It just is. A Church is a Noun. It a place. Its a group of people if you like the sunday school song version. Its a thing where organized religion keeps itself together. It in and of itself really doesn't do anything.

Christianity, on the other hand, is a verb. A Verb is an Action word. A Verb, according to my dictionary, "expresses an act, occurence or mode of being, that in various languages is inflected for agreement with the subject, for tense, for voice, for mood..." A Verb does something.

And for some reason this struck me: I am a member of a Noun. Not a Verb. If we define ourselves as Christian simply as a result of the fact that we attend or belong/support a Church, then our self definition is incorrect. We are a church member. A church is a noun. It doesn't do anything. It is simply practicing Churchianity.

If I were a member of a verb (that being the hands and feet of Jesus), then I would rightly define myself as a Christian (one who follows Christ) only if I "express an act or mode of being that is inflected for agreement with the subject", the subject being Christ's teachings to love one another, feed my sheep, and whatever you do for the least of these you do unto me.

And I openly admit I fall way short on this. For am I more of a Christian if (1) I am working at the food bank once a week or (2) setting in a pew once a week? Is it motivation for one or the other that separates the issue and defines it more clearly? I suppose an atheist could work at the food bank and not claim to be a christian - BUT - that person would still be doing the work Jesus called us to do. Could I conversly claim to be a Christian and attend church, but never take time to help those less fortunate?

I think at times we (the church) schedule the once-a-year Habitat House or take the youth to the Food Bank just to make ourselves feel good. Yes, it is helping, but there is not intentional consistency. We are intentional about Church attendance, but I can't find that in the teachings of Jesus. We are to be about being intentional toward loving one another,
Yes, Church is a Noun. Christianity is a Verb.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I had to enable moderator mode

Sorry guys and gals, but I had to enable the moderator thingy on this blog due to some idiot who decided to post a comment about making money to get you to click on his site ...
It sucks there are idiots out there like this but then again, its not a perfect world.
So, please continue to comment as before because I will approve all posts - just have to screen out the idiots. ~npp

Monday, May 19, 2008

well sunday didn't go as planned

if you read my really cool and inspiring post from sunday morning, you knew what i was going to talk about. of course, not all things work out. I got to church and had forgotten that there was a guest speaker from the local college talking about college ministry and that it was a sunday school wide thingy... Of course, everyone else in my group knew it, because only 7 people from our group showed up. Anyone think there's a message there somewhere?
So, I didn't want to waste such a brilliant lesson on just 7 folks, so we listened to the boring presentation. I will wait for a larger audience to dazzle with my brilliant intellect and spiritual insights.
however, the day wasn't totally a waste. I went and saw IRON MAN. Took the whole family and it was a pretty good movie. some IRONY however, as Tony Stark upon returning from being held captive says, "I want a cheeseburger. An American Cheeseburger!". Next scence shows someone handing him a Burger King paper bag from which he produces a cheeseburger and commences eating. Irony being that Burger King is a United Kingdom owned company... so he still didn't get an American Cheeseburger. Oh well, I imagine Burger King paid enough $$$ to get that little spot in the movie, they'll call it whatever they need to call it. The IRON MAN CHEESEBURGER complete with action figure. Hey, that sounds pretty good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This mornings time with God

I awoke at at 7:30 this morning to sunshine and 64 degrees. As is my custom, I get up, throw some shorts and a t shirt on, grind some Eight O'Clock coffee beans and brew a pot of java. I get my materials together that I am teaching over and either set at the dining room table or go outside to the patio table.
This morning was a patio table morning.
I am going to talk about what "authentic" worship is as opposed to what we have made it. I am using an article from "Relevant" magazine for info, and also Isaiah where he talks about people "professing with their lips while denying with their lifestyle" and Jesus' reference to this in Matthew.
So I'm reading the bio of Isaiah, about how the prophets (so you see why this interests me) are placed by God but no one listens (sound familiar?). Isaiah, turns out, didn't seek to be a prophet either, but hey, God doesn't always seem to care what one wants to do. So off goes Isaiah, propheting away and no one listening. But generations later, lots of folks are listening. I guess its like an artist whose work isn't appreciated while they are alive and penniless, but sells for millions years after their death. Go figure.
So I am setting there, in my shorts and t shirt, drinking coffee and reading about Isaiha, when a gentle breeze envelopes me, surrounds and comforts me and causes me to feel the presence of God. It was a sustained breeze that searched me out, covered my ever contour and brought me into communion. I closed my eyes and took it all in, thanking God for the moment.
The breeze stopped as it had started. Slowly and completely. I had my time with God, now I'm going to go share it with others. Like Isaiah,they may not listen, but I'm going to speak it anyway. ~npp

Friday, May 16, 2008

What if...

I was thinking, what if God operated like the government? I know it seems silly, but just what if? I have come up with a few things I think it would be like, and if you'd like to add yours, please join in the fun! (Just keep it light and no political party commentaries please.)

1. God would have sent a committee instead of Jesus.
2. You could not longer send in 10%, but instead would need to fill out complicated forms, although you would receive a tithing credit (not a full refund mind you) if you did improvements to your soul for better insulating against heat.
3. Instead of just 10 commandments that we can't seem to follow anyway, he would create a regulatory agency to oversee christianity and make sure we were in compliance. (or maybe Man already did this in the form of church)
4. Sampson would not be able to kick some major ass with the jaw of an ass as military regulations require a "high and tight" haircut.
5. Jesus would be required to secure a liquor license prior to making and serving alcoholic beverages at any party.
6. Armageddon or The Second Coming would be seen as dangerous to the environment, and a "environmental impact study" would have to be conducted prior to the event.
7. God could no longer feed 5000 people with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread without first securing the proper permits for food handling and prep.
8. Jesus would have set on death row for 10 to 20 years, thereby delaying salvation for countless thousands.
............ ~npp

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Love me like a river does...

If there is a basic underlying theme or pulse to humanity, it would be love, or the lack thereof depending. Nothing inspires humanity more than this. From poetry to literature to film to music to intimacy to passion to compassion, nothing grasps hold of the human heart, soul and mind more than love. It ignites and stirs feelings that words are not adequate to describe, and causes us to respond to its calling in ways we never would otherwise. To reach beyond our mortal selves and touch the soul of another, a lasting legacy of who we are and who we strive to be. Love carries risks. No, love makes it possible for us to take risks.

Love can be awesome and devastating at the same time. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and so with this also comes the negatives of rejections, loss, frustration, guilt, anger, resentment, which plays out through the same venues listed above. But at its core, it is Love that defines us. Love of others, ourselves, our neighbors. The absence of this love can also define us.

Thanks to endlessly restless at endlesslyrestless.blogspot.com for introducing Melody Gardot, a beautiful young lady who has a very sultry voice which stirred me when I watched the video link. It is very passionate. My favorite video with her singing "Love me Like a River Does" is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFjoEl1sk1Q. Very stirring. Very beautiful. Very passionate. So pull up a chair, have a glass of merlot and enjoy!

I think I could actually live a major part of my life off of the philsophy of the words of this song and the words of the video.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

I'm Back Ya'll

I didn't hear "ya'll" much in Boston. Of course you knew that already. Just got back and am relaxing. Ate breakfast in Boston MA this morning, lunch in Atlanta GA., now dinner in Dallas TX.
I really liked Boston. It was my first trip to the east coast and I was a bit apprehensive. But it was all good. The people watching was the best. Little Italian folks buying their produce and fish in the street markets, twalkeeng like dis' here ya know... "when's its gonna be summuah..." and the like.
I did the tourist thing of course, cause why else would you go to Boston anyway? I highly recommend the Freedom Trail which consisted of such historic places like Paul Revere's home, Fuenial Hall and the Union Oyster house where the sparks of independance got started. The Old North Church where the two lanters were hung to warn the red coats were a comin', the USS Constitution tour was awesome ...
my absolute favorite tour was (drum roll please) ... SAMUEL ADAMS BREWERY! yes sir ladies and gents - it was a great tour and lots of free beer. It was an excellent research project if I say so myself. The hops. The barley. The wheat. The explosion of fantastic proportions of beer tantalized my taste buds and quenched a longing for something that would connect me with my country.... Samuel Adams. It was very patriotic! ;)
The Boston Red Sox were playing at Fenway Park but we didn't have a chance to go. Okay, we had a chance but it was in the 30s and we whimped out. It was also raining off and on. Beautiful Bwastun weaduhr. We took a day and drove up to Maine through New Hampshire and back to Boston. Very pretty country up there. Not what I was expecting really. I had heard that the folks in the area were sorta, well, by southern standards - rude. I did not find that to be the case. There were rude folks just like where I live, and nice folks just like where I live...so no biggy. Talked to a fellow that looked like a godfather and had the heavy Italian accent... was interesting.
I'll blog more of my thoughts on this trip later! I'm beat.