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Friday, December 31, 2010

THE SCARFACE OF LOVE

Another Sample Chapter From My Upcoming Book:  The Chicken Whisperer


 “Say “hello” to my little friend.”…from the movie Scarface

THE SCARFACE OF LOVE

I
 could never intentionally break a man’s nose, but for the right girl, I could stab him with a pencil.

     As you can tell, I’m a movie man.  I mined them for instructions on life and love in my early years.  Although unreliable for wisdom, most told an entertaining story about a villain, a girl in distress, a hero, and violence.

    Living in the country on a farm, I didn’t have cable or a VCR when I was young, I had Saturday morning cartoons via rabbit ears.  My weekly dose of laughter was the only short, hand drawn collection of movies I was allowed to watch as a child.  But rather than trying to rescue a girl, my cartoon friends were always trying to get something to eat (I guess they were hungry).  While cartoons were short on females, they made up for it with tons of violence. 

    Sylvester was trying to eat Tweety but a cage and a grandmother stood in the way.  Bugs Bunny was trying to get a carrot but was chased by a stuttering man with a rifle.  Yogi just wanted a picnic basket but was constantly beaten by a park ranger.  Together they taught me going after what you want might make you a victim of violence, but being funny increases your chances of overcoming the opposition.

     I first experimented with violence as early as first grade when I defended my Christmas candy with a pair of Snoopy scissors.  The first time I used violence to rescue a damsel was when I was in sixth grade and defended the object of my affection with a mechanical pencil.
  
     A girl named Shanie, who’s silky hair tended to make me forget about school and think about shampoo commercials, sat two desks in front of me.  Between us was a bully who was trying to ruin her Clairol career potential.   Rufus had breath that smelled like regurgitated rotten eggs and for some odd reason this foul mouthed boy found pulling her hair amusing. He had no idea she was related to Whitney Houston:  she had a bodyguard.

     Love is like an injection of steroids to the heart.  It leads the white knight into the dark forest, the wounded soldier back to the home front and the lovesick sixth grader to extreme measures of violence.

   I watched him pester her for weeks, maybe even months.  Everyday, like clock work, out of nowhere, he would yank her hair because, just like me, he probably had a crush on her.  With tears in her eyes, she would beg him to stop and of course he would pretend he was clueless about what was happening.  At some point, it occurred to me she was a beauty in distress waiting for a hero.
  
   My weapon of choice was a plastic, red, mechanical pencil loaded with .05mm lead, pumped four times.   My target was the side of his neck where there was a rumor of a pressure point that could paralyze a man instantly.  Honestly, I didn’t even think about that.  I just stuck him as if I was Tony Montana in Scarface taking care of a bad drug deal.

     Two minutes later he was in the bathroom having an inch of lead pulled out of his neck with a pair of tweezers and I was in the hallway grabbing my ankles.  I was asked to explain my stabbing action before my teacher paddled me, so I told her the truth: I did it for love.  Looking back between my legs I saw her wipe tears from her face.  It was a beautiful story.  I’d stab him again, but I’d pump it five times and finish the job.

     Love is the sixth sense that propels us toward the proposition that life will be easier with a little company. Love is the cup of courage that sends us down the aisle with giant valentines, across the desk with pencils, and into the exciting darkness of an other’s hearts. Love is what calls us to the center of other people’s lives, and sometimes to assume the role of gladiator.  We may be wounded.  We may be maimed.  We may be torn.  But sometimes we will know victory and sometimes… the crowds will go wild.

     The Chicken Whisperer believed love’s potential for influence is defined by how much we are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the person we care about, how close to their suffering we are willing to crawl, and how determined we are serve them when they are wounded.   Rather than recognition or applause, he encouraged this servant-hood as a means of finding fulfillment.  This means that the mere act of loving someone, separated from how they respond, or even if they respond, should give us joy   We sometimes get confused and believe that true fulfillment comes from love that is reciprocated rather than simply coming from the act of achieving our own personal potential in the relationship and thus pleasing our heavenly Father.  Most of the world’s relational suffering comes from disappointment where love is not reciprocated.  The Chicken Whisperer said that when we love others we are also loving our heavenly Father and His love is reciprocated back to us constantly through His Son and the Cross.    The Cross set the standard for true love, where the Son of God, out of love, dies for sinners, hoping they will repent but not forcing them.  And He dies not only for sinners, but also because his sacrifice pleases God who loves Him and whom He also loves. God’s love for his Son enabled his Son to walk in obedience and love us, just as God’s love for us enables us to walk in obedience and love others.  Sacrificial love in us is enabled by the power of the Cross.   True fulfillment can literally come from simply sacrificially  loving and serving people the best we can out of our love and gratitude for our heavenly Father.   We cannot control others, nor does God, who can, choose to do so.  We can only pray that our pure, selfless, sacrificial love will penetrate the walls of defense that are erected daily by the wounded people we know.   And sacrifice is a bold statement in the daily news of the human heart.  

  
“It is not the critic, who counts, or how the strong man stumbled and fell, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, and spends himself in a worthy cause; and if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that he’ll never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” …Theodore Roosevelt

Shortly after the birth of his first child, our president lost his wife and, on the same day, his mother a few hours later.  The year, 1884.  The day,  February 14th, Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

BASS FISHING BAPTISM


this is an excerpt from my new book The Chicken Whisperer to be published in February

“Either we do not know what part of ourselves to give, or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. So it is those who we live with and love and should know that elude us. But we can still reach out to them, we can love completely without complete understanding.”
                         …..from the movie A River Runs Through It

BASS FISHING BAPTISM

T
here are three paths to manhood- chest hair, a bloody nose, and a big fish.  Sometimes they happen in reverse order, and if you’re really lucky they all happen at the same time.

Me & Nessy!
    Learning to fish was a sacred event in my life.  It has almost changed me as much as my baptism.   Every kid in the world should learn to do something their ancestors had to do to survive.  They need to have an experience in their life that says, “I man.  Man strong.”  Fishing was my invitation into the human race.

     I began my fishing career with a rustic, but efficient, eight-foot cane pole and a three-inch red and white bobber.  With no money I had to use a poor man’s bait---a can of worms I dug up around the calf barn.   Just like anything sacred, fishing requires a sacrifice, and for the most part the worms cooperated, or at least they kept their mouths shut.   I liked this primitive form of bait because it made me feel like Huckleberry Finn, who reminded me of Mark Twain, who reminded me of Colonel Sanders, who reminded me of fried chicken.  I like fried chicken.  When I caught a fish with a worm it made me feel like Captain Ahab harpooning Moby Dick, which made me feel like Rambo spearing a squirrel, which made me feel like a caveman spearing a pterodactyl (a giant flying bird).  I like fried chicken.  When I caught my first fish I knew I was hooked.

     After yanking fish out of the water with a cane pole for a couple of years, I graduated to a Zebco 404, which is barely one step above a Snoopy reel.  (If you’re serious about catching fish never use a Snoopy reel, or a Little Mermaid reel.)  Fishing with a Snoopy reel is like handing a banana to a hungry gorilla and then trying to take it back. 

     Eventually I perfected the art of casting and got bold enough to throw off the training wheels and go after bottom dwelling catfish.   To fish for catfish you have to be prepared to put &*#! on a hook, stare at a pole for thirty minutes, and withstand a heartbeat of 200.   Nothing compares to catching catfish, except eating them with vinegar slaw and hush puppies.  Don’t forget the ketchup.

      Everybody should buy at least one bag of stink bait even if you don’t fish.   The smell of stink bait will make you pray to be sprayed by a skunk.  It will make you appreciate a bath in sewage.  You will do anything to get the stench of stink bait out of your nostrils and off your hands.   Why anything would want to eat stink bait is a tougher question than where do dead pets go.  I think they might use them to make stink bait.

      However, the best way to catch catfish doesn’t even involve a pole, it involves a milk jug.   There is no greater thrill, no greater risk, and no greater reward than jug fishing.  The giant that would snap the typical line on a fishing pole can be caught with the properly rigged jug.  Just have a plan to handle him when you get him in the boat.  A small revolver will usually do the trick.  Just don’t shoot a hole in your boat. 

      You jug fish by taking your household empty milk jugs and attaching short pieces of nylon string and strong hooks.  You then wait until dark; get in a boat and bait the hooks; place them randomly in the pond; and then row back to shore.  You then set on the pond bank by a fire with a high-powered flashlight, and when you see a jug take off across the water like Jaws, you jump in and chase it down in the boat.   If you ever see the jug go completely under, prepare yourself for a fish the size of a hot water heater.

     I used to escape to the lake as often as possible with my Zebco 33 and my dad’s tackle box. Sometimes I took my bike and sometimes I just walked the two miles.    The day I hooked Nessy I rode my bike.

    Believe it or not, I caught Nessy in January during a winter thaw.   Nessy was nine pounds of large mouth bass (I have the picture to prove it).  I named her Nessy after her smaller cousin the Loch Ness Monster. 

     It was about 60 degrees and I was dressed in high- water Jeans and a thin camo T-shirt.  My hair was so thick it was sometimes referred to as “Eagle’s Nest.” I looked weird, but it was to my advantage.

     After about fifty casts I realized I was wasting my time so I decided to call it quits and started reeling in my lure to head to the house. I was about to yank it out of the water when it was ten feet from the shore but suddenly I saw a huge swirl erupt close to the bank.   A second later I felt the strike.  It was as if I had just hooked an underwater nuclear submarine.   Luckily, I had my drag set for Crappie and my reel responded with whining while releasing string rather than my line snapping in two.  

       I wish I could tell you my reel started smoking and I battled the behemoth for two hours but the truth is, she gave up.   I think she got a glimpse of me from the water and thought, “Dang, this kid looks funny.  He needs a little boost.  I’ll be his trophy.”   I simply pulled her to shore in about ten seconds, reached down, grabbed her by her mouth, and, in the excitement, threw her over my head to ensure she would not flop back into the water.    I turned around and she was gone, nowhere to be found.  At first I thought it was all a hallucination from eating too much left over fermented fruit cake, but then I spotted my beautiful Nessy hanging in the tree like a Christmas ornament.

      I got her out of the tree, tied her to my bike, and rode home like Paul Revere warning the settlers the British were coming.  It was a wonderful celebration, and a decent supper.  I couldn’t afford to get her mounted.  My memory and proof of Nessy is a simple three by five photograph of the girl who made me feel like a man.  She changed my life.

     Fishing was and still is a powerful metaphor in my life when it comes to relationships. 

  • Relationships and fishing both depend on tying a knot, and you’re wasting your time if you don’t do it right.
  • Relationships and fishing both involve getting your hands dirty.  The sacrifice works both ways.
  • Relationships and fishing connect two different species and all good fishermen know a lot about swimming.
  • Relationships and fishing both lead to a kiss when you get a really nice one.  Don’t be afraid to celebrate, even when nobody’s watching.

this is an excerpt from my new book The Chicken Whisperer to be published in February

Friday, December 24, 2010

WHAT IF?

Happy Birthday Jesus... and Adam
As most of you know, I started the infamous Frogcast about two years ago.  I confess I have minimal meteorological training but must also admit I have miraculously been amazingly accurate by using a weird science of facts mixed with childish embellishment.  I refer to myself at the big MF (master forecaster) but have to be careful with the abbreviation.  So it was only natural that in the middle of last month I went public with my promise of a White Christmas.   At the time it appeared foolish to put a hundred free T-shirts on the line if my prediction failed but now eight hours away from snowfall on Christmas Eve, my heart feels anything but foolish.

If you follow me on Facebook you know this year has been defined by me rediscovering the natural beauty of our God and His creation.  My travels down Hwy 412 in between coffee shops put me in a position to admire amazing skyscapes several different times.  I posted photos of several of these that I had the pleasure of witnessing and capturing on my I-Phone.  The most amazing event, a dense fog cover at sunrise, I failed to capture.  But let's just say, I saw things this year I can't describe.  More than once I was moved to tears asking the question, "Is this just for me, Father?"

Today, Christmas Eve, I was driving back to Dyersburg under a gray sky watching the clouds growing thicker with the temperature gauge on my truck hovering in the mid thirties when a few pellets of sleet hit my windshield.   The forecast for snow was in my favor.  The miracle looked like it just my happen.  I would like to say I had prayed for snow but I hadn't.  I should have because it would certainly have increased my chances.  But in spite of this I asked myself a question, and then the tears came.  "What if this weather event affecting 14 states is just for me?"   I looked out the window at the beautiful gathering storm and wondered if it could be true.   I must admit that no one gave a White Christmas a chance until four days ago and it will be the first time it has actually snowed on Christmas in almost 100 years.  It just seemed too odd that God would do this just for me.   But what if He did?

What if He came as a child wrapped in swaddling clothes just for me?   What if the Lamb of God was born in Bethlehem where the priest prepared all the firstborn lambs for sacrifices in the temple just for me?   What if this tiny, adorable child subjected his holiness to the horrible wrath of a lost world just for me?  What if God, infinite and omnipotent,  changed his nature, finite and limited, just for me?

What if this child grew up into a man and endured temptation in the dessert just for me?  What if this man led a perfect life just for me?  What if he loved children just so as I kid I would know he loved me?  What if he loved the imperfect just so as a teenager I would know He loved me?   What if he loved the hurting sinner just so as an adult I could know he loves me?   What if his teachings about life and lessons of love were just for me?

What if this child, who grew up into a man, was spit on, beaten to a pulp, publicly mocked, nailed to a cross, speared in his side, and forsaken by God just for me?   What if when he asked God to forgive his tormentors he asked also for my forgiveness?   What if God loved me so much that he sent his very own Son as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of my sins and that by believing this was just for me, I could call him Savior?

A snowstorm across 14 states is a small thing.  Salvation is a precious thing.  He did it for me.  He did it for you.  Want a picture to prove it?  Read the book of Luke.   God's position for us is no longer on trial because when he laid him in that manager and hung him on that cross, one thing became very clear... God will spare no expense when it comes to you and me.    Abraham never had to sacrifice Issac.  God never had to sacrifice his Son either... but He did and the Lamb was willing, love motivated them both.   This Lamb of God; born in Bethlehem; who attracted angels, wisemen, kings, and shepherds; whose blood was shed for the remission of sin; was the greatest gift and sacrifice ever offered.  What if we loved God the way He loves us?   What if that is what it really means to be a Christian?  What if this relationship would give us true peace and joy?  What if?

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


Living Room Preparty
Bag Piper 2nd Time
Dinner by Blackberry Hill Catering
Damon ate too much!

Damon & Heather after the competition!

Jackson Store Employees

Saturday, December 18, 2010

BAG-PIPES, BALLOONS, AND A BABY







“WHERE’S THE BAG PIPE PLAYER!!!,” was the way our Christmas party started. People standing in the cold, dressed in bow-ties and frilly purple skirts, a few people addicted to the security of their cell phones, and then suddenly there arose such a clatter... Dennis, the bag-pipe player, standing in a kilt waving an American flag. This was going to be a fun night.

After twenty minutes of ear splitting Christmas bag-pipe playing we settled in for a dinner of broccoli casserole, Mexican corn, buttered mashed potatoes, sliced turkey, cornbread dressing, hot rolls, and the infamous bourbon sweet potatoes. With our ears still ringing we observed the fact that our alcohol free party suddenly had a window of opportunity for JP when he returned for eight helpings of the tangy bourbon sweet potatoes. Dinner was topped off with a fresh chocolate pie and a moist strawberry cake. Our stomachs were full and our ears were still ringing.

If you are struggling to understand what it is like to have a bag-pipe player in your living room, go to church, climb in the organ while it is being played, jingle a bunch of hand bells, and you will know what it feels like. Dennis informed us the instrument was designed to be heard over cannons and the firing of rifles on the battlefield of war. I am fairly sure when Jesus returns it will be announced with trumpets… and a bag-pipe.

Earlier, while discussing upcoming party games, Jenny had exclaimed, “Oh great, I like to inhale stuff!” The ensuing helium Christmas Caroling was quite the show but was trumped by who stuffed Santa Claus. Shawn and Squirrel both donned 4XL red jogging suits while we blew up balloons and stuffed them like a Thanksgiving Turkey. We counted the balloons by popping them with a butcher knife until Squirrel said, “That is not a balloon! That’s my leg!” It was getting out of hand.

Dirty Santa turned into a collection of valuables like lottery tickets, hermit crabs, Michael Jackson ornaments, volcano kits, and bowling sets. Our attempt at charades was thwarted by inconsistencies in people holding the bowl containing the slips of paper with the things to act out (nice try Whitney). It almost turned ugly but the Christmas spirit prevailed and laughter returned when someone revealed they loved to make snow Angels… especially in yellow snow. I am still confused about that one.

After everyone had left and with the house still in pleasant disarray, I went to the kitchen and grabbed a piece of left over warm strawberry cake and a cold glass of coke. I sat down in comfy chair by my fake electric fire and started thinking about Christmas.

A baby. God is into small things. He planted the earth with seeds, not big trees, in the beginning (read about it in Genesis 2). For whatever reason our Creator chooses to bring himself to bear through tiny things. He celebrates things like cups of cold water, the widow’s mite, small baskets of food, and mustard seeds. He comes to us in a eight pound child. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Amazing Grace! If only we would give a small amount of our time, a small prayer of gratitude, a small token of our love to a big God who comes to us in small ways.

A woman. God redeems all his creation. When Eve took that fateful first bite of the forbidden fruit, the reputation of women suffered, and has sadly continued to suffer. I cannot help but believe that the delicate, beautiful nature of a woman made her a natural target, not just for Satan… but thankfully for a loving God too. Men had been prophets, men had fought great battles, men had ruled great cities but who found favor in the eyes of God? A woman named Mary who pondered and treasured the dear things of God in her heart. What do we ponder and treasures in our hearts? Through faith we all have God in us too. We too have found favor in the eyes of God. This Good news should transform our thinking and make us all kneel before both the cradle and the Cross.

A man. Mankind was made in God’s image. At a very crucial point in time He revealed himself to us in a format that we would not fear, and almost not notice. He tiptoed into our world, seen by a few wisemen, a shepherd, and a handful of kings. Ironically a host of angels celebrated his birth just as they do the new birth of any child of God. This man named Jesus became a leader, a teacher, a servant, a friend, and a Savior. He was recognized as Lord, yet he washed feet and entertained children. He was God but He was everything a true man was ever meant to be. He was a faithful son, a loving Lord, and sacrificial servant. His obedience not only separated the old testament from the new testament, B.C from A.D, it separates me from my sin and this is why I celebrate Christmas.

During our party we had a serious moment where I said, “Whatever part of me you like, this love I have for you, is all an extension of God’s love for me. God’s love for me enables my love for you. So if you want to thank someone, thank God.” What a gift he gave, His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. He himself said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Amen! Hallejuah! Glory to God in the highest! Peace in my heart and goodwill toward me. (crying)

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