Monday, March 28, 2011

There's just no need for that sort of language young man...

I had a serious crack up moment yesterday during church...

Things were kicking at First Free Will Baptist Church in Church Hill, Tennessee yesterday morning! The second service started with a couple of baptisms followed by some very spirited worship music. Sandwiched in between a couple of congregational Praise Team songs, our choir did two numbers that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. God's Spirit was present and very evident...because that's about all that can get a bunch of conservative Baptist up out of their seats and at least acting excited about being at church . For some odd reason, Baptist think all the 'Shout Glory!' moments belong to the Pentecostals. Don't get me wrong, I love the church I attend and the people who go there with all my heart...I just wish we'd collectively get as excited more often about Heaven as much as we do about March Madness. Sometimes we're just too much Joel Osteen and not enough T.D. Jakes.

I say that about the congregation though and not about our pastor. There's definitely some T.D. in him, and we get a glimpse from time to time too. I love my pastor. He's a learned man of God's word, an excellent speaker, a snappy dresser and thankfully my friend. For a couple of years, he was also my radio broadcasting partner for our local high school's football team. Good times. We laughed a lot telling stories back and forth and spent some good quality time in fellowship too.

So, Pastor D is into his sermon and working the charged up, receptive crowd...I'm sure a dream scenario for a preacher.  The sanctuary is still buzzing from a corporate worship high, and he's making witty observations, zinging points of piousness and generally bringing the Word as the supportive interjections and Amen's are flying from the front pew to the crowded back.

Then it happened.

The man went and had the audacity to mention that word in his sermon. You know the one...the 's' the sanctuary! (gasp)

(Cue needle scratching across record sound effect) Congregational lock-up. Silence...then cricket noises. A man sitting close to me actually froze looking  like the horse from Animal House after Flounder fires the pistol loaded with blanks at him.

Did he actually just say sex, teenagers and virginity in the same church?! Oh the humanity...

Don't be mistaken to believe the old school way of thinking doesn't still exist in the Bible Belt. You know what way I'm talking about too...the if we don't talk about it then it really doesn't happen attitude. So if we don't talk about our teenagers having premarital sex...they must not be doing it...I mean...having sex that is. My forward-thinking (don't even try to insert the word liberal here) father-in-law leaned over and said to me- There should have been 'Amens' all over this church.   

You better believe there should have been enthusiastic Amen's coming from the fired up congregation! Pastor D made an excellent point to the young people in attendance about the virtues of abstinence, purity and the sanctity of marriage. Come on people!

But the guy who should have been actually shouting preach it brother! the loudest was...the man with three daughters...sitting right next to his father-in-law! Who was sitting right next to his teenager sitting next to her boyfriend. (sigh) I have no excuse. I froze in the moment that proverbial deer in the oncoming headlights. My reserved Methodist roots too closely connected and even related to my current denominational standing. May the Spirit please forgive me for being a wet blanket on such a smoking hot service...

The uneasiness lingered just briefly, and Pastor D had everyone reeled back in from their temporary lapse of  flabbergast. Sure. He's been there before in sermons and knew exactly what to do. I'm pretty sure the tactic is actually taught at seminary schools...when in a Baptist church...just start talking about food!

I just love being a times I'm really quite good at it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You say tomato...I say let's eat!

We just screamed past the Vernal Equinox...and already I'm thinking about tomatoes.

Spring has sprung and brought a wave of nice weather here in the Southeast. I watched my unacclimated neighbors whom hail from the North busy about their yards planting flowers and such this weekend. For the record, that's about as nice as you'll ever hear a sentence around these parts that contains a reference to both people from the North and the word hail/hell...which is homophonic to us. But that's a different post all together.

Alas, the indigenous know better! Digging a hole and sticking in a begonia can only mean one thing in'll be buying another begonia in May. Despite the lunatic rantings of native Al Gore, Southerners know the reality of the Calendar Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. I blogged about the progressive indicators a few years back (with a sly reference to hooters...I mean..hoot owls), and the trust we hold for the Farmers' Almanac. Southerners don't put a lot of stock into that prognosticating rodent above the Mason-Dixon line either. The idolatry of an overgrown squirrel is just odd to us. The only good that's ever come from a groundhog is the fact they are the major reason grandma needed a 6.5 quart slow-cooker. Pudgy varmints. But...I'm way off subject!

Yes, I truly do love homegrown tomatoes. Summer comes closely associated with the divinely inspired combination of white bread, sliced red tomato, mayo and a sprinkle of salt. Kosher if you're fancy. I'd bet a tomato sandwich was one of the first meals Eve presented to Adam after his busy day of naming animals in the Garden of Eden...and men have been stupid for the fairer sex ever since. As a matter of fact, the Bible doesn't actually say an apple came from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (egad!) Could it have actually been a tomato that thrust mankind into the harshness of a brutal world?! That would mean the Garden of Eden was in South America because everyone knows that's where the tomato originated (despite what the Italians say). What's that? Tomatoes don't grow on trees you say?

Then explain this------>

Now I've gone and opened a theological discussion completely off subject! (sigh)

So as tempted as I may be, this old boy knows better than to haul down to the local garden shop and pick up a few Beefmaster or Floramerica plants to get an early jump on growing season. Nope. Here in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6B, we don't stick annuals in the ground a minute before Mother's Day...unless you're wealthy enough to own your own greenhouse. Wow. There's a thought.

Now I know one of the first thing I'm doing after I win the lottery...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Apples nor tomatoes fall far from the tree...I mean vine.

Why my 3-year-old is nicknamed the Crazy Tomato...

* This video has been proudly block by some countries on YouTube.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I ate Lucky Charms for breakfast....does that count?

All of these religious celebrations of late have me really confused...

Today is St. Patrick's Day, an official religious celebration for the Roman Catholic church (among others) honoring the patron saint of Ireland. There will be parades, festivals and general hoopla worldwide to include turning the Chicago River green in recognition of the 4th century bishop. I've read the original celebratory color was blue, but since Saint Patrick was well known to use the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity to the...ahem...slower pagan Irish, green eventually won out. Bet people in Chicago wish it had stayed blue.

So celebrations will be in full bloom today and the Irish beer and whiskey will flow...

But wait. Didn't Lent just start. Is that just a fish thing? I couldn't help but notice McDonald's has the Filet-O-Fish at a special 2 for $3 price starting back on Ash Wednesday. But aren't you suppose to fast on Ash Wednesday? Why would I need 2 fish sandwiches then? Is that even really fish in those things? They always squirt the tartar sauce too far to one side too, and I end up with the stuff all over me, causing me to swear...I mean  fuss...and generally get aggravated and think bad things about some poor smuck working at McDonald's...

Wait! Where was I going with all this? Oh yes, so as I understand it, since St. Patrick's Day falls on Thursday this year, I don't have to worry about Lent or hoping the bishop of the local diocese gives dispensations from the normal Lenten regulations, and I can go about celebrating my 1/16th Irish heart out. Now we're talking! Except...I'm not exactly sure what I just said. Diocese? Dispensations? Wait! Isn't Lent about focusing on Jesus leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Wasn't I suppose to get all that out of my system by Fat Tuesday during Mardi Gra or Festival or Masquerade...aagggghhhh! It's just all too confusing!

I'm sure glad I'm a Protestant. Catholics have it rough this time of year! I'm going to McDonald's for lunch and having a Big Mac. Hope they don't get the sauce too far too one side. It always drips down your hand. Stupid smucks. So aggravating...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Freedom of speech is unfortunately protective of stupidity...

There are a couple of disturbing stories sliding under the radar this week due to the focus on Japan... and rightfully so. The world should collectively be reaching out to the island nation with acts of compassion and vows of action to support whatever they might need to regroup. The devastation is crippling. The images horrifying. Just last night watching replayed news footage of the tsunami making landfall, I realized what we were actually watching was real people dying in captured moments from last week's events.

The 3-year old was sitting in the floor staring up at the television, then suddenly got up without a word and ran back into the hallway to kick a ball and play. I watched her leave and wondered what was going through her innocent, immature mind. Conversations saved for a later date...

One of the stories I mentioned involves the events in Japan. Apparently, Gilbert Gottfried found the need to poke fun of the situation and tweet a string of very distasteful one-liners. Okay. He's known for his offensive brand of humor, but he's obviously not very bright either (I personally think the two attributes go hand-in-hand).  Gottfried, besides being a washed up comedian, is the voice of the AFLAC duck...let me restate that...was the voice of the AFLAC duck. His employer didn't find the humor being directed at a damaged nation that is, by industry estimates, 25 percent insured with their company. They fired him.

The second story involves another agitating comedian, this one turned demogogue, in Bill Maher. On his show On Real Time, Maher interviewed Congressman Keith Ellison, a muslim from Minnesota, and blasted into him about the Kor'an being a “hate-filled holy book…which is taken very literally by its people.”

Bill O'Reilly (a non-comedic demogogue...well, to a certain degree) called Maher out on the issue last night on his show and said the media was giving Maher a pass because he's a liberal.  O'Reilly claimed when an issue with Islam is sighted by a conservative commentator (i.e Juan Williams of Fox News), they become demonized by the media as intolerant. He also threw in a dig that it also might have been ignored because nobody watches Maher's if that's a relevent point.

So, a liberal agitator is talking bad about Muslims as if he's suddenly Rush Limbaugh, a conservative agitator who also hates Muslims, and is called out by yet another conservative agitator, who hates Muslims too, because he thinks the whole thing is so unfair when compared to Juan Williams, a conservative demogogue, who got into trouble because he's was very clear on the air that he hates Muslims.

Everyone clear?

Of course, all parties involved are standing and spewing their venom-fillled messages while positioned under their First Amendment umbrellas that protects each of them from any censoring repercussions. After all...this is America.

Back to my 3-year old. She will grow up in a loving home. She will develop her own political ideas and principles while living in a conservative environment, guided by Christian values. The importance of both character and education will be stressed to her regularly. She will be taught she is responsible for her words as well as her actions. At some point in the future, she will find her own way out of our home and into the world. She will never be demeaned for thinking independently from me or her mother. She will answer for herself, and only herself,  to God.

I say all that to say this...I would rather any one of my daughters sit and watch the tragedies of life unfold under the guiding, comforting direction of her mother or myself than be subject to the idiotic rantings of political talking heads in the media. Liberal and conservative demogogues alike all have a motive tied to ratings and not enlightenment. To sensationalism and not education. I've blogged before about the dangerous seeds these hypnotist sow.

What troubles me most is the flippant manner in which they throw around the First Amendment to disguise and protect their vile statements. I don't believe our nation's Founding Fathers ever intented for the right of free speech to be protective of indiscriminate, loathesome language aimed carelessly among ourselves. Their focus was on keeping a restrictive government from forming in our new nation. We've twisted and perversed one of our most treasured priviledges into a dichotomy opinion so divisive and polarizing that the resulting political quagmire has incapcitated our ability to effectively govern. To protect and serve the common good.

I'm not a Muslim, and I don't agree with the basis of that religion.   I'm not a liberal, and I don't agree with the basis of that ideology. I'm not a _________, you could finish that with hundreds, maybe thousands, of things. And while I'm completely free to express my opinion on any opposing point of view to my own here, at home or even in some other form of media, I'm still bound by the principles of common courtesy and decency. There is a self-policing community standard that keeps things neat and orderly...civil...but it seems to be somehow breaking down. That scares me. Just as much as the other end of the spectrum called political correctness scares me when it becomes mutated to an extreme.

How do we get back to some ground of normalcy before this all goes too far? I think it starts by at least discounting the Mahers, Limbaughs, Olbermanns and O'Reillys for what they really are...entertainers. Each one has a motive for what they say and that motive is not the common good or making society better. In the most utopian of scenerios, their job is to find that public raw nerve that provokes emotions (justified or not) which generates attention, thus ratings, and draws sponsorship dollars. Their payday.

For the Gottfried's of the world...the comedians, commentators, talking heads and yes, bloggers, who think anything and everything can be said without consequence because this is the United States, and we have rights...think again. You are liable for what you say, and you will be held accountable when you go too far either in a court of law or the court of public opinion. Both end up being costly when catching up to you...just ask the duck.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making fun of people always involves that rubber and glue thing...

I catch a lot of ribbing from my friends because I like the PBS Newshour...

Wait! Before you bail on me, please hear me out. If I can open myself up by exposing personal information from which you can mock me, pay me the courtesy of allowing me to explain my position. I did say please.

From my days way back in college, I was a MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour fan. When Robert MacNeil retired in 1995 from the program, I realized an important part of television history went with him. He had anchored or co-anchored PBS news for over 20 years during a time when the vast majority of the country didn't have cable/satellite television, much less 24-hour news stations.

So Jim Lehrer picked up the slack and carried on the PBS news tradition. Liberals put down PBS news for being too corporate and establishment friendly. Conservatives mock the program for being on lowly public television which is so anti-capitalist (psst...aka communist) and bourgeois.

Sidebar: If bourgeois is synonymous with both commonplace and conservative, and conservative is synonymous with traditional and cautious, shouldn't conservatives (like myself) be content with commonplace and classicist? That's always puzzled me. Back to the show...

Most of my peers are die-hard Fox News people. Personally, I'm a philosophical conservative and don't need to be told how to think like a conservative or made to feel guilty for not necessarily agreeing with the Republican Party platform. Strike that. The Republican Party platform isn't the issue with's the Republicans who don't pay attention to their own party's platform and spend and tax like that other category of political philosophy. Elitist...I mean liberals.

Geezzz. I knew this would get off course.

Back to the PBS Newshour. I just don't want my news from a source with on obvious bias...conservative or liberal. While the Newshour has been accused of leaning right, it's just not so obvious to me. The show does a great job of presenting both sides of an issue in my opinion, and while some stories are inherently conservative or liberal by nature, neither are openly demonized. That's refreshing and allows me to sneer, laugh or yell at the program when I feel like it...and not when I'm cued.

Jim Lehrer laid out the reporting guidelines he and MacNeil had used through the years for the program in an interview in 2009 as the show transformed again to its current format. They are:

Do nothing I cannot defend. Cover, write and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story. Assume the viewer is as smart and as caring and as good a person as I am. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.

Assume personal lives are a private matter, until a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories, and clearly label everything. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes, except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.

And, finally, I am not in the entertainment business.

I need no other justifications for viewing.

 For the record, I do wish PBS was solely supported by local communities without tax dollars....I am a conservative after all.


Monday, March 7, 2011

The federal budget is really quite simple...when you think about it.

We all know the federal budget is complex. But come on... if a bunch as diverse (I'm using nice words today) as the United States Congress can figure it all out, I feel pretty good about your average concerned citizen.

Average concerned citizen = most of the way.

While large numbers can have a discombobulating effect on the easily startled person, the federal budget is really no different from your household budget for the most part. Sure, you have to cut and paste a few line tags under the four major categories of:

  • What's coming in
  • What's going out
  • What we have
  • What we owe
Say for example, that line in your home budget for landscaping the front walkway would be exchanged for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, or the home budget line allocated for miscellaneous gifts would be replaced by the Poems in Zoos Project in the federal budget.

No really...that's a federal grant to place more poetry in our nation's zoos at the tune of  $1 million. Apparently our zoo animals are not cultured enough.

So as you can see, your home budget and the federal budget are basically the principle...sort of.

I use the new sophisticated online program to help keep the family finances in order. The program pulls data directly from my 'what's going out' sources and categorizes the expense across my pre-established budget. If I spend too much on, say, eating out at lunch, I get a friendly reminder telling me this once I've exceeded my monthly budget.

Of course in the said example, Mrs. Tony C has been looking for an interface that automatically connects with, so they can send me a far less friendly reminder that I'm obviously lying on my journal entries. Luckily, she hasn't found one to date.

But, back to the budget issue. So, I can even create an neat, easy-to-read pie chart that shows my budget, my actual expenditures (what's going out) and the shortfalls at the press of a button. I looked for an easy-to- read pie chart breaking down the proposed 2011 federal budget, and surprisingly, I just couldn't find one! Apparently...there are some significant differences between the federal budget and our personal home budgets after all. Pie just doesn't come that big!

I did find a helpful interactive 2011 federal budget chart at (of all places) the NY Times (NY Times interactive link). It's worth taking a look at...if your Monday isn't aggravating enough already that is.

Now that I actually think about it... I don't think my personal 'what I have' category could ever sustain  $1 trillion added to the 'what I owe' side. Maybe that was a stupid analogy after all.