It wasn't even my grade!!

Karen finally finished up this semester of school which means only one more semester to go! For those of you who don't know, Karen is in nursing school, and will graduate in May as an RN. It has been a tough road -- lots of stress, studying, sobbing and other s-words that go along with higher education. However, she has done a fantastic job and she really works hard to do so well. It's different for me, I don't do a very good job of studying, but I have a pretty good memory so I can cram and at least make decent. And for me a B is great, a C is ok.....and as long as I pass everything I am good.....well let me take that back a little...I have to keep at least a 3.0 overall to begin my doctoral work (if I can survive my graduate studies to get there). But Karen, she studies night and day, and works and works so hard to get her grades. And she usually does exceptionally well.

Anyway, I am telling you all this to tell you that the strangest thing has happened in my life since I have been married, and it is magnified in Karen's pursuit of her nursing degree. I am going to be brutally honest here and admit that I am a selfish person. It's not something I am proud of, but many times life can be "all about me." To say that, I also have to say that I am fully aware of this flaw and want to work on it. However, I remember when Karen finished her core college classes and was applying for nursing school, how we prayed that she would get into Northeast (the school she is now in in Rainsville, AL.) She had applied to two schools but Northeast was the better and more established program, which made it much more desireable. And we prayed that if she didn't get in to nursing school God would just make it clear what He would have her do. And I remember when she got her acceptance letter to Northeast how I was so happy for her, and how I felt as though God had just laid out the next step of his plan for Karen...and I remember tears coming to my was the strangest thing.

And then at the end of this past summer's semester Karen had not had such a great experience with tests and was afraid she wasn't going to pass. She was so worried when the grades were posted. We both checked grades together, hoping with all that was within us that she would at least have passed. And I remember when she pulled it up and it had a huge B on her grades, how we rejoiced, and cried together. It was the strangest thing.

That brings me to today. Again Karen and I checked her grades together and this semester she had a bright, beaming and glorious A! And I have never been so proud in all of my life I don't suppose! It was the strangest thing.

Everytime we go through this, I come away feeling overwhelmed at this bond I share with this other person, my wife. I've never felt this way before for anyone. It's so wonderfully strange to me that her defeats are my defeats and her victories are my victories. As I mentioned before, I can be quite selfish, but when we go through these times together, I could not be happier for a person.

Karen WILL graduate in May and become the most wonderful nurse, in part because she sees nursing as a way to show the love of Jesus to people through personal care. I think she is amazing, and I am so proud of her accomplishments up to this point. And I can't wait to see her succeed in the workplace....I kid all the time about all the money she'll make and how I'll retire....but truthfully, I don't care what kind of money she makes (though it will be an added bonus). I just want to see her continue to follow God's calling in her life and serve Him as I know her heart desires!

My point is that I never imagined in a million years that I could feel the way I do about another person. To share life with one other person and to do it all as a team, as partners! Man, I am so thankful that God established marriage as he did. And I am even more thankful that he, in his wonderous knowledge and forsight, made Karen as my partner, my wife!

As I mentioned in my last post, be on the lookout for book information in the near future (this is my way of reminding myself that I really need to do my homework before it is, as they say inproperly in Alabama, everlastin' too late).

I just got done watching a fascinating episode of CSI Miami. I'm not a huge fan of the show and hardly ever watch it. And I wouldn't encourage anyone to watch it either. The acting is so's ridiculous. However tonight I am glad that I chose it over the Dog Show on ESPN. I'll try not to bore you with all the details, so to make a long story short, the investigation of the night for CSI included the murder of a woman who turned out to be 10-12 weeks pregnant. At the moment of discovery of the now deceased fetus, the lead detective, in a most melodramatic tone said "Well one murder just turned into two."

Immediately I thought "now that's interesting. CBS just admitted that a baby is considered a living human being at 10-12 weeks." But the problem is that every day, living human beings at the same age of 10-12 weeks, in the mother's womb, are being brutally murdered and the murderers go unpunished.

To be honest I was going to blog about this issue a while back after watching a debate among the democrat presidential hopefuls. I forget exactly which debate it was, but I do recall the question asked had something to do with a woman's right to choose. Choose what you ask. Choose to murder their unborn baby is the real answer. However, each candidate, when asked their stance on the women's right to choose, (to be read "the woman's freedom to murder")answered by saying something like "I believe in the right to privacy." The most memorable answers were given by one John Edwards and on Hilary Clinton, who both when asked point blank on their stance on abortion, said "I believe in the right to privacy." In other words, I believe that a women should have the ability and the right to murder her own child (who is now, by the admission of the liberal media, namely CBS, a living human being who, when killed by another person, allows that person to be tried for murder) and not have to tell anyone about it. If your needing more clarification, that means that at least John Edwards, Hilary Clinton, and most every other democrat, including one so-called Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani, believe that woman should be allowed to murder her child and go completely unpunished.

For the record, I believe in the right to privacy too! I believe that ever child conceived should have the chance to live life privately!!!

I can't think of one reason, argument, or terribly wonderful characteristic that a candidate can display that could make up for their stance that a woman should be allowed to murder! And listen, my beef isn't with women, it's just that that stance is particular to women, what with women being the only gender capable of carrying a child....but if a candidate stood up and said "I believe in the right to privacy for a man to be able to kill his 2 year old son or daughter" we'd all be outraged! And rightfully so. SO why aren't we more outraged about the fact that democrats, and politicians, and people in general find abortion OK? If there is one single case that has ever been tried where an unborn child and mother were killed and the murderer was tried for two murders, then abortion should be COMPLETELY OUTLAWED!!! It's a no-brainer! Yet, we change our vernacular, cloud the truth with fancy semantics, and killers walk free everyday, while the politicians are tauted as hero's for women's rights! It makes me sick. And while I can think of a whole host of other reasons to never vote for a democrat, that is the tipping-point issue for me.....or for anyone democrat or republican who takes that stance.

OK, so I just had to get that out.

In other news, my blog will be changing in the next couple of days. I have an assignment for a class I am taking where I am to blog about a book I am reading. So I will be using the current blog to complete that assignment. I will give the details of the book with all needed information in the first post of the assignment. For those of you who don't know, I am still in seminary, and I am taking a Jan. workshop to continue that pursuit. The book is good, and is about it could be a potentially interesting blog...or not. Just wanted to give any regular readers the scoop before I get into the assignment!

So, in conclusion....MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Dark turns to light?

As you've probably already heard, there is a new movie coming out this weekend called the Golden Compass based on a trilogy of children's books. Christian groups across the country are up-in-arms about the movie and there are talks about boycotting the movie. Phillip Pullman is the writer of the children's books and is an unashamed, self-described agnostic and atheist. New Line Cinema, the company producing the movie, has claimed to have toned down the apparent atheistic overtones evident throughout the books for the big-screen in order to appeal to a broader market. The argument coming at least from the Catholic camp is that the move is to make money for the production company, but will ultimately lead to unsuspecting parents purchasing the books to find atheism and agnosticism being pushed on their children.

Now that you get the idea, I just want to share a few brief comments. First of all, I do find it a bit unnerving that movies like this, with a disbelief at best and a complete hatred at worst towards God, are making the mainstream. And I think parents especially, but also all movie-goers, should make careful choices when it comes to movies and entertainment in general.

But what I do not get is why when these types of movies come out, so come out the Christian alarm-blowers yelling "STOP THAT MOVIE" or "BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT." Again, I don't like the underlying theme of the movie, but really should I be surprised that this type of entertainment is out there? I am not only NOT surprised, I have come to expect nothing less from Hollywood, the entertainment business, shoot...even politics and the like. I realize that it is often the extremest, God-haters that get the sandwich-sign-wearing-bullhorn-carrying-siren-pulling boycotters out. But where are they when every other weekend a filthy, blood-soaked horror film comes out that is just one sawed-limb short of an R rating that is marketed towards teenagers? Where are they when 50-Cent or Kanye West put out yet another rap album degrading women and promoting all types of materialism and debauchery that is specifically designed to sell to kids between the ages of 8-18? Where are they when Britney Spears.....OK I'll stop there.

Here's my point. At what point do we as Christians (even right-winged fundamentalists kooks) say that the world is only doing what it is and has always done? And at what point do we say that this is what the world always will do! When are we going to understand that the darkness is just that. I think it was C.S. Lewis that said "You'll never scrub this dirty world clean enough to live in it." It's like every time a movie like the Golden Compass comes out, we as Christians come out and say (in Brian Reagan-esque voice) "The dark is being dark! The dark is being dark!" Meanwhile, the darkness turns to us, the ones who are supposed to be the lamp on the lampstand, the city on the hill, laughs, and wanders further away from what is now becoming less of a bright light and much more of a forgettable flicker. Listen, the darkness is going to be dark. The sun has not once said to the night sky (at least within my hearing) "Lighten up! Be more like me. Stop being so dark." Instead, every morning it pops it's head over the horizon, and pushes it's way further into the middle until all of the darkness fades away, and the light encompasses the entire sky. That's what we as Christians are supposed to do. We aren't called to be whistle-blowers, or tattle-tailers. We aren't called to point out how bad the world is getting. Instead we are called to be "the light of the world." We are called to shine bright the light of Jesus such that those wallowing in the depths of sin and darkness see our light, and can't help but be drawn to it. And it is all because we hold our light not in their eyes to blind them, but in front of them, to light there way to Jesus. John 3:17 says that Jesus came not to condemn to world, but to save it. And he wants those of us who have been blessed of God to have seen HIS light and received his gift of salvation to light the paths for others.

The Golden Compass is just one of the many many movies that have and will continue to come out that will try to deny that God exists, and try to make others believe that as well. And for some, it will work. However, instead of standing outside the theater yelling at people not to go to the movie, and instead of whining and crying about the fact that Hollywood and the entertainment industry is pushing their evil ways onto us the general public, let us as fully devoted Christ followers push back with generosity, love, patience, kindness, humbleness, and self-control and begin to shine our light, the Light of Jesus Christ, in dark places!

In my last post I submitted a list of my favorite Christmas songs this season. It wasn't an exhaustive list by any stretch because there are a ton of great Christmas songs and albums out.

However, there are some really bad Christmas songs out there as well that somehow seem to make there way through the radio waves, into my radio, and usually into my head. So below is my top 10 list of really really bad Christmas songs that you'll want to avoid at all costs this Christmas season

10. Happy Christmas War is Over - John Lenon and Yoko Ono - Man did Yoko ruin a great musician and writer. This song shouldn't even be on a Christmas play list as far as I am concerned...the melody is as dreary as the lyrics, which makes it completely unenjoyable. Thanks John and Yoko for opening wide the proverbial winter window and throwing out the Christmas spirit!

9. Jingle Bells - I tried to find out who sings this but couldn't....but I am talking about a specific version...the one that is really fast all in one breath "jinglebellsjinglebellsjingleallthewayheyohwhatfunitistorideinaonehorseopensleighhey" Hey maybe this year you should ask Santa for some Riddlin'!

8. The Christmas Song - Aaron Neville - Who decided this guy had a good voice? I'm gonna put my issues with the song aside (but really what is up with roasting chestnuts?) to simply say that I've heard geese with better voices.......come to think of it, Aaron sorta sounds like a goose with some major vibrato problems.

7. Little Drummer Boy - Kenny G - because nothing says drumming like a long curly mullet and some smooth brass.

6. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas - do I really need to explain the lunacy of this song?

5. Grown Up Christmas List - I think this one is best known as preformed by Vanessa Williams (and there is a version done by Amy Grant...which explains so much about this song), but regardless of who sings it, this song is not only bad, but I'm pretty well convinced it is one giant melodic lie. I think I can safely classify myself as a grown-up (though still terribly young at heart) and my Christmas list looks nothing like this. And no other grown ups I know have this type of list either. I mean sure we all want peace on earth and to rid the world of poverty...but trust me, singing this song isn't going to accomplish that!!

4. Winter Wonderland/Sleigh Ride - Kenny and Dolly - Before Kenny's face became plastic, but not before the addition of plastic in other parts on one of the duos bodies (I'll let you guess who), this recording is dreadfully sappy....and just plain silly! I can't say I'm a big fan of either one of their music, but put them together and you just get BAD!!

3. Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer - Elmo and Patsy - So when did it become funny for convoluted, alcoholic Grandmothers to be tragically killed in what can only be described as a catastrophic accident? I mean, Grandma needed help way before this happened. And the song paints reindeer in such an unfairly negative light!

2. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - This song is disturbing. I mean it's either about an affair (problem A) or about a child seeing their parents making out and then writing a song about it (problem B). Either way, the song is just as wrong as it is annoying!

1. The Christmas Shoes - Newsong - Why is it that such a cheesy song has the inevitable ability to make me cry. And I'm not talking about a sniffle. I'm talking about boo-hoo, snotty-nose, don't-just-stand-there-and-gawk-bring-me-a-tissue kind of sob! I mean....come on....they wrote this song after they received the same forwarded e-mail that we all received years ago.....stop playing it already so I can enjoy the holidays and stop thinking about that poor child who...sniff...doesn't...sniff sniff...have enough.....sniff sniff for the....sniff sniff....SHOES!

This was a hard list to compress to only 10, so some dis-honorable mentions go to

A)Feed The World - Do They Know its Christmas? by everybody who was anybody in 1985 including Boy George, Sting, Bono (and a string of only-one-name-monichered people). Formally known as BandAid--pun intended I think--this song is just as awful as their haridos!

B)Last Christmas by George Michael (who appears on our list twice. He too was in Bandaid) - This song probably wins the award for most played Christmas song, which baffles me, because it is so horrible!!

So there you have it. The worst Christmas songs you should avoid this Christmas. Consider yourself warned, and remember, only you can prevent bad Christmas songs from being heard.

I gotta admit, I'm pretty pumped. Thanksgiving kinda got me in the holiday spirit, and I'm pretty excited that Christmas time is upon us! This really is my favorite time of the year, despite the increasingly cold weather and short days. I mean give me a long, hot, southern summer day most any time, and you can have your ol cold, grey weather (unless there is snow and large hills involved). But this is the time of year to celebrate, reflect on the year that has gone by while looking towards a new one, be with family, eat, eat, and eat some more! And most importantly it is a time to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God who became flesh and lived on Earth for the sole purpose of bringing about salvation to mankind! Man what an awesome truth! Needless to say this is the hap-happiest time of the year!

So in the holiday---no scratch that--the Christmas spirit, I would like to recommend some holly-jolly Christmas tunes to help jump start and enhance your Christmas cheer. These tunes are guaranteed to lift your spirits, put a smile on your face, and have you singing along....well most of them will anyway! So without further delay, here is my top 10 Christmas tunes in ascending order!

10. Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 - Transiberian Orchestra this is from the Christmas Eve and Other Stories album....great guitar playing!

9. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Mannheim Steamroller - From the Christmas Celebration album. The song is one of the best Christmas songs anyway, and this arrangement is top notch!

8. The 12 Days of Christmas - The Muppets and John Denver - from A Christmas Together - Does it really get any better than Mrs. Piggy singing "5 gold rings". And Beaker is hilarious!This one's a classic for sure!

7. The Song of Christmas - Newsong - From the album "The Christmas Hope" (Not to be confused with "The Christmas Shoes") this song is a really great song, especially for Newsong. Expect some semi-cheesy lyrics...but be not afraid, for the vocals more than make up for them!

6. O Rejoice - This is a Hillsong song...not sure what album, but I got it on a compilation from a music subscription that I.....subscribe to. Man this song is amazing! Great chorus!

5. This is Our God w/ What Child is This - Travis Cotrell - Again I got this on a compilation, but if you can find this individual song it is well worth it. A great worship song with descriptions of God unlike any you've probably used before....but so true!

4. Let It Snow - Michael Buble - Is it me or is this guy a Dean Martin or Old Blue Eyes all rolled into one? Bringing back the old school big band fronted by a larger-than-life personality entertainer, Buble has the smoothest voice ever, and I really dig the big band sound!

3. The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late) - The Chipmunks - Who are the marketing geniuses that came up with the Chipmunks...and that further more decided to record a Christmas song with them? Genius I tell you, GENIUS!

2. O Come O Come Emmanuel - The traditional hymn straight from the hymnal is what I'm referring to here. The message that lies within this song is everything that Christmas is about! Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come!!!

1. Blue Christmas - Now I know what you're thinking, "Really, you gave Elvis the top spot on your list." But indeed my friends I did not. The song Blue Christmas was in fact recorded by Elvis (recall the lady squelching in the background), but for the purposes of my list, I would like to cite a much better version, sung by one....drum role please......PORKY PIG. Oh man this song is a riot! I recall one Christmas morning many years ago when I was still a boy, waking up early early to the Pig singing this song....and I just laughed and laughed. The poor guy has the hardest time spitting it out....but nothing will get you in the Christmas spirit quicker!

So there you have it, run to your local wal-mart of iTunes to grab yourself a whole batch of merry music!

So Maybe I Do Have a Problem

I have known for quite some time now that I am not the most organized person in the world. It's not like it's a great secret. But I think I am getting along in life just fine. Or I did think that until recently.

As a co-worker of mine would say, I obviously have a pilots license.....I pile it here, pile it there. It's just sort of my default way of dealing with most everything, most especially papers.

Let's take my office for example. If someone comes into my office and says, "Hey Matt check out this cool piece of paper that has important information inked on it" then I would take it from them, and if it had any semblance of interest to me, I would look at it and then once done, I would place it in a specific corner on my desk. Now, after looking at this paper, it may never need my attention again. However, my thought most often is "I may want to look at that again" or "I may use that sometime" or if it is an especially important document, I may say to myself "I need to come back to that." And it gets special attention if the paper is some color other than white (oooo.....pretty paper....aaahhhh).

It's the same thing with my drawers (no not my desk drawers). I will look in them for something, and think, "Oh yeah, there is that duct tape that I may need one day" or "Oh yes, there is that dry erase board marker eraser that I might need if I ever teach again with a dry erase board" or "Oh there is my pile of rubber bands that I rarely, if ever, use, but you never know when a pile of rubber bands might come in handy. Better leave those there" or "Oh there is my wig and make up...." wait...did I type that out loud.

You get the idea. I am similar in my thoughts. Someone will come up to me let's say on a Sunday at church (when I am usually the busiest and most stretched for time, patience, and mental capacity) and say "Hey Matt, you know that song you sang three weeks ago, the one that talked about Jesus. Do you remember that?" To which I usually say out loud "Uh.....yeah....uh....can you give me a bit more of a reminder" while I think in my head "What...we sang three weeks ago? There was a three weeks ago. Wonder where did I put my keys. And why is that little 2 year old about to walk up and touch my guitar that costs more than his little life could ever repay!!! Hey there is this person in front of me singing...who is this person.....hey person.....oh song song..uh.....yes we definitely have never sang a song that sounded like fact...that's not music...that's what my cat sounds like when I pull her tail...keys...kid.....mmm song song" Anyway so the person now has stopped singing and is starring at me awaiting my answer to "Remember that one?" Oh yes, OK I DO remember it. "Why yes, I remember that" Other person: "Can I have a copy of that on CD?" Me: "Sure, I have that I can get you a copy, I'll do it tomorrow when I come in and get it to you Wednesday."

Of course, following that conversation I have a thousand other "Heys" "How are yous" and "Can you help mes". Monday comes, and no thought of making a CD has even crept close to the forefront of my mind. Then Wednesday come, Mr. Person comes up all excited "Hey did you make me a copy of that CD?" And in my head I think "CD? Copy? Copying music is illegal. Illegals, now there's something we have a lot of around here in Albertville AL. Alabama.....I live in Alabama....of goodness...CD...CD.....CD...OH YEAH THE CD" and then I have to tuck my head and say "No Mr. Person...I completely forgot about that."

Let's stop right there and just say that I wish I had a dollar for every time I have said "I forgot." I'd be terribly rich.

But alas, my forgetfulness...and my lack of organization has become a bit of a problem in my life. As I continue to add more to my already full schedule of school, work, family, etc. I also need to continually increase my level of organization. The problem is that it just doesn't come naturally. I tend to be more spontaneous in my daily planning (though for the record I do have a system...more on that in a second). I like the freedom to move throughout the day as needed. In ministry, there is an inherent need and expectation of flexibility. And what I lack in organization, I definitely own in flexibility. And I am more and more conscious of the fact that I think differently than a lot of people. I think it has something to do with being left-brained or something. I will never be a rigid person, stuck to a strict schedule, control ed by the calendar. But I do have to do something.

In effort to get a leg up on my organizational skills, I recently attended a one-day Franklin Covey conference. If you've never been to one, you should go. It was really great, and had some wonderful principles to apply not only to work, but also to personal life. I am really working on this organization thing. I don't want things like forgetfulness or planning to hinder my effectiveness in life. I don't want to be held back by the hang up of scatter-brained-ness.

But I need to make two observations that will hopefully prove to be therapeutic at least for me. The first is that it seems that in my recent quest to become more organized, more people have been brave enough to point out to me that I am unorganized (and by brave I mean obnoxiously blunt) as if I didn't already know it. I will, however, take that as a sign that I desperately need to make some changes before this delimma bites me. But people, come on, I don't tell you that you're too fat and you need to get your weight under control, or that you talk to loud on your cell phones when standing in line at the grocery store, or that your breath reeks and you need a breath mint before we all pass out for the putrid smell. I don't point out the obvious shortcomings in your life, because I assume that you, like me, are a self-evaluator and you already know those things. Listen I am the first to wave the banner for truth in love, I am, but COME ON!!!

Secondly, and most selfishly, I just want to say that I am not unorganized because I want to be, because I am incapable, or because I am lazy. Organization just alludes me for whatever reason. It's tough for me. It's hard but I am working at it. I AM WORKING AT IT! But I'd like to think that there is some beauty in the way I am made. That my lack of organization, it free-spiritedness, creates balance in my life, the life of those around me, and in my line of work. If we were all so driven by planning and organization (and please don't hear me devaluing those things, I truly realize their purpose) we would probably miss out a lot on moments of joy, laughter, and spontaneity that keeps life interesting.

My final word is simply this: If you are like me and suffer from the terribly disease of disorganization there is hope. You can work at it and get better. But don't do so to the detriment of your personality. I am convinced that though we need to present ourselves in an excellent manner, God created us artsy, left-brained, creative folks the way we are for a reason. I am also convinced that we may perhaps be a bit under appreciated in our society. Maybe I should say our approach to life is a bit under appreciated...that sounds better. But find joy in how you were created!

And for those of you organized people out there who get frustrated at us less gifted at organization, I would just say to you: Cut us some slack! Maybe that's why you are around us. To help us. And we're to help you!

See how beautiful this could really be!


The Poor Poor Scene

I’m in Birmingham for the night, staying over for a conference tomorrow. For those who don’t know, I go to Birmingham every Monday for Seminary (all day long I might add). So instead of driving all the way back home and then all the way back to B-ham, I just booked a room at the Sheraton for the evening. So now I am blogging….however the only internet connection I could get without spending the entire evening in the lobby would cost me $12 (which, by-the-way it is to be noted that the Hampton Inn gives its patrons free wireless internet access in every room!). So this post, though I am writing it on Monday, will probably not be posted until Wednesday. That aside, I did want to share my experience from tonight.

I had some time after class to wander around Birmingham. So after a pointless twenty minute trip to the mall, I found my way to the nearest Best Buy. While there, I realized something that really bothered me. Allow myself to explain…..myself.

I was walking up and down the music isles at Best Buy as I have done countless times before. You have to understand the obvious fact that I really really enjoy all things music. My preference would be to make/play music, however I also take great pleasure in listening to music, especially something new. I am always trying to find new music with the sole stipulation that it be…well…… good. In the past, I have even gone to a music retailer with a list of 5 or 6 records that I have wanted to purchase. It was always a treat to be able to mark one by one each record off of my list. However, as I walked down the aisles tonight, I realized that I didn’t have a list. I’ll admit I was a bit unprepared, as I had not originally planned this trip to Best Buy, but again, my past experience has proven that even without my trusty music-to-buy list, I’ve been able to find at least one record on the shelves that would catch my attention. Not so tonight, and as that realization dawned, and even deeper and more troubling realization followed. Not only do I not have a list, and not only could I not find a record worth buying at Best Buy, I am not sure that at this very moment there is a single record that has proven to be worthy of my attention.

Well, ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch (and I might add that the previous statement read much more arrogant than I intended). There are good artists still around, and upon further examination, there are a few bands that are still putting out a good product. And I would further have to admit that a good bit of what I am basing this entire blog off of is totally subjective. However, the fact still remains that the current temperature of the music industry is tepid at best. In fact I would dare say that it is near hypothermic! Radio has become irrelevant and utterly annoying. Labels pour loads of money into only those acts that will return loads of money for them, completely disregarding the quality or integrity of the artistic product. And don’t get me started again on the fact that there is such a genre as “Christian” music.

But this blog isn’t just about the pitiful state of the music industry. It is much more about the fact of how deflated I was when I walked away from the music store empty handed yet again (though my wife and I will both be glad to leave that $9.99 plus tax in our bank account!). It is about the fact that not only was I empty handed, but the last few times I did actually by an album, I was disappointed. The last really great record I bought was at least a year ago (by a band called The Edison Glass…be sure to check them out, you’ll be glad you did). It’s about the fact that either the music industry is failing to put out music for a connoisseur like me, or maybe, just maybe, I’ve lost an edge on what is really good music. Maybe the problem lies more in my auditory taste than it does in artistic temperature. I’ll be honest, those bands that normally get rave reviews by critics usually are either to out-their-weird for me, or it is too Americana-boring, or it is Celtic (which isn’t necessarily a problem, I just have a hard time riding down the road with Celtic Women as my driving music). Perhaps as I get a little older my taste is supposed to change, but I still would just prefer good old fashioned catchy pop-rock and roll with artistic integrity and thought-provoking and even only somewhat original lyrics. Is that really too much to ask?

Maybe that is what my role will be one day. Maybe I’ll be the one to fill the void of the oh-so-needed rock-n-roll. Maybe I’ll be the heating pad that warms up ever-so-slightly the sub-zero radio waves. Or maybe you could just tell me a good band that is already doing that so I can get me some new music!

I Saw What I Saw

Just a quick note to let you all know about an amazing music video I just saw today. It's by Sara Groves, and the song is called I Saw What I Saw.

Do yourself a favor and go watch that video asap!

In other news, I found this article that relates to yesterday's post! Be sure to check it out as well!

So I'm struggling a bit here with this whole green thing. Maybe I'm the one who's crazy, but I'm thinking more and more that Global Warming is at worst and hoax, and at best a ploy to make money by the likes of Al "It-looks-like-I-smeared-Vaseline-all-over-my-face" Gore and his whatever organization. Don't get me wrong, I think we should take care of the environment, and we should do what we can to preserve the beauty and functionality of the earth for future generations. However, I also would like to think that I have enough common sense and appreciation for God's creation to make that decision in my own life. And further more, while I realize that mankind can have a significant impact on the environment, I struggle to believe that we can cause a shift in climate. Last time I checked, God was in control of that! So I'd like to just be an individual who has an equal appreciation for what I can and cannot do for the world around me.


Enter NBC and "Green Week". So I haven't been home to watch TV until last night. It started with the nightly news (whose obvious goal is just to tick me off) and their special report on something environmental. Pardon me for not knowing what the report was because I was doing the dishes...but I heard enough to know it was about global warming. Well then we started watching The Biggest Loser (did I just type that.....I mean.....I don't personally like the's Karen....and we compromise with our TV watching....leave me alone). At every commercial break they were giving us tips like "recycle" or "plant a tree". Really? Really? We can recycle, or plant trees to help the environment? No way! Then all of their workouts had to be done without they would conserve energy. And to top it all off, they gave the contestants special green shirts with a giant "RECYCLE" symbol on the back.

But that wasn't the worst of it. After I suffer through The Biggest Loser, we then watch Law & Order. Usually a good show, though I rarely agree with their political commentary that is prevalent throughout the show. It was in the middle of a show, that one of the characters is carrying around a pizza box....just walking around with it, when another character shouts out "Hey, you know you need to recycle that pizza box!"

Talk about gratuitous. This whole NBC Green Week mess really gets under my skin. I honestly can't figure it out. Do they really think that they are being oh-so-noble in shoving this down our throats. I find it terribly hard to believe that they are really trying to make a difference. It seems much more likely to me that they are trying to guilt us into changing our lifestyle in such a way that we have to spend money on "Green" items (or heaven forbid on carbon credits!!). In the process, the one pushing this little agenda get rich, but the environment, due to conditions that have been in place since the dawn of man, continues to change, until we realize that "OH the ice caps are now getting bigger.....ICE AGE ICE AGE beware of the ICE AGE" In which case, the tide turns and we now need to do something else to stop ruining the environment.....does this sound familiar. Hey here's an idea NBC, STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT!

Here's my questions. Have I just been listening to Rush Limbaugh a bit to much lately, or is the global warming thing a big-to-do-about-absolutely-nothing? I don't want to call it a scam, but OK....ITS A SCAM! It's just not adding up to me! And listen, I realize that I have every right to turn NBC off, and just not watch it, which is sounding more and more appealing each day, but that's not really my point. My point is that at some time there has to be a voice that is as loud as my liberal TVs voice. My biggest problem is not that NBC is spewing trash about global-shmobal warming. It's that there isn't on TV station that is calling into question the validity of this stuff or that is at least willing to present an alternative. I mean, right or wrong, let's see the potential other side of the equation. Perhaps the Earth is deteriorating. Perhaps it has always been. Or perhaps it is a part of a cycle. We have droughts and we have floods. We have summer and winter. We have bumper crops some years, and some years we get briars. Some days are good, some days are bad. Instead we continue to hear this annoying alarm sound that is apparently intended to send everyone in a panic. I suppose I'll go back to my Utopian world, where media is unbiased, and where action is based on researched fact.

If you have an opinion about this subject, I'd love to hear it!

Character Equity

I probably don't have to restate that I am a Georgia Bulldog fan. Perhaps since I have moved to Alabama I have become even more so. And being a Georgia means an almost automatic distaste....nay.....loathing for the Florida Gators. While that game is last week's news, I heard something on television today that reminded me of the big win we executed over our rivals. You see the big win was thrust even more into the media with a somewhat controversial call (though I would rather classify it as brilliant) that Georgia coach Mark Richt made.

Georgia has not played their best ball in the last few games leading up to what is dubbed "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party". So Coach Richt decided that the team needed to play with some emotion. He told the team that if they didn't get a penalty for excessive celebration after their first score, he would personally be so mad at them that he would make them run on Monday's practice.

Well UGA scored first, and after the touchdown, the entire team cleared the sideline and went to the end zone where they danced, pranced, and subsequently got an excessive celebration penalty. While the call was brilliant and probably had something to do with Georgia winning the game, not everyone was thrilled by the call, least of all Florida and the president of the SEC. So Mark Richt issued a public apology. No fines or such punishment deemed necessary. And no real harm done.

However, today, every football commentator on TV has been asking "Was Coach Richt's call brilliant, or in bad taste." One commentator put it best when he said
"Coach Richt has enough Character Equity built up in college football for that call to have done no damage to his own reputation or the reputation to the Georgia Football program." I thought that was a great testimony to Mark Richt (a professing Christ-follower) and the respect that most people have for him. And it made me hope that people can say the same thing about me....that I have a good amount of Character Equity.

I also used this story last week as an example for my choir. I told them that many times we approach God in the same way the UGA had been approaching football; emotionless, a going-through-of-the motions-for-whatever-reason, a detached weekly to-do, etc. However, our God is to be worship and loved with "all our heart, soul, mind, and strength." Which includes our emotion. Now I'll be the first to say that you can't worship God with emotion only. Just as you can't worship him with intellectual reason only. But when we combine our emotional response (remembering that we approach every other relationship with some form of emotion) with the truth of who God is, his word, and the direction of His Holy Spirit, we have a winning combination for life-altering, mission-breeding worship. Maybe we could all use a dose of "excessive celebration" in our personal, and corporate worship!

Why are we so mean?

I think that perhaps truth-in-love has gone our the window. I think it's been exchanged by either cowardly acceptance, complacency, or faceless and nameless and spineless written comments. I'd like to explain further, but i first feel the need to let you know that I in know way intend for this blog to be a place where I type-preach. However, I feel as though I can only talk about those things that are important and pertinent in my own life. With that I go.

I enjoy reading several blogs in my spare time. One of those blogs is called Out of Ur ( It is a leadership type blog that deals with issues facing the church and church leadership. The topics are usually somewhat controversial, and usually garner a great deal of response. I find it interesting not only to read the actual articles, but also the comments by the readers. However, there is quite a disturbing trend in the majority of the responses. They are most often sarcastic, degrading, and (gasp) just plain mean. And I would venture a guess that the majority of people reading this blog are involved in church ministry, or at least have some connection to church.

Now I can understand that the fact that the internet gives us sort of a liberty to say things that we wouldn't normally say because we don't have to look anybody in the eye, or have any sort of verbal banter with another real live person. And I can imagine that it enboldens us. I would even admit that I feel that way from time to time, and though I have never submitted such a comment, I have spewed such pointed sarcasm on this very blog (which at the moment I feel somewhat pentatent about!). However, I would say it is one thing to be passionate, even angry about something, such that you would write about it on a blog, or for an editorial piece for a newspaper, or whatever. But to maliciously attack another person for their expressed opinions and views is different.

So my question is whatever happened to truth in love. The truth is even we as Christ-followers are going to disagree about issues.....even big issues. But I think if we are to truly follow Jesus, those issues must in no way replace the issue of loving one another. We can debate and disagree without ever attacking someone's character or personality. Even more we can (and even more are commanded to) talk openly, point out faults, correct, guide, and help each other all for the greater good of growing in Christ, without throwing love out the window.

"If we love our Christian brothers and sisters , it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead." "Dear Children, let's not merely say that we love each other, let us show the truth by our actions." 1 John 3:14,18

I think that truth is only truth when it walks hand-in-hand with love. Jesus embodied this in his days on earth. We, as little Christs, must do the same!

A Personal Day

I took a personal day off of school today. I have an event I am leading worship at that would have limited me to only 1 and 1/2 of my 3 classes, so I decided that the 1 and 1/2 hour drive to Birmingham would just not be worth it, especially given the weekend.

We went to Cochran for my Dad's 60th birthday. Hard to believe he's 60. It was really great to be at home, even for a short amount of time. We ate...and ate well I'd say (as we always do)....and the company was especially nice! Home is a relaxing place for me...a place where stress, responsibilities, and concerns seem unable to travel. And time seems to go by much slower at home as well. So a great trip home, followed by a big win by the Georgia Bulldogs made the weekend a positive. And yesterday was a good, yet tiring, day. We had a really great worship services yesterday, and a decent choir rehearsal. But the clincher for the weekend was a 4 hour budget am I still tired from that one.

All in all today was a nice day to have off, catch up, and even get ahead on the week's work. And a good friend of mine always said that tuition covered a couple of skip I am good with that!

Enough rambling now....more later!

So I was watching the nightly news a couple of nights ago, and they were reporting on the wildfires in California. Good old Brian Williams chose to tell us that "about 540,000 people have been evacuated from their California homes. That's just over half-a-million people." Now, I am totally sympathetic to what is going on in Cali. I even have a friend who lives out there who has to deal with the fire issue. And I can understand over-emphasising to get a point across. But come on 500,000 really half-a-million???? You're kidding....really...I had no stinking idea because the logic of second-grade math befuddles me. Thanks for clearing that up! What would I do without you and your crucial commentary! Why, methinks I would be forever lost in an intellectual fog if it weren't for the stellar broadcasting of Numbers 101 that NBC has so delightfully put on the air.

You might as well call us all viewer-wooers, dangle a rattle in front of our faces, feed us creamed spinach baby-food, and change our diapers every half-hour!

For the record, I was only watching NBC because I was waiting on Wheel of Fortune to come that is quality television!

My experience in Gatlinburg was really great. I had a good time with new friends, and got to experience Gatlinburg as I never had before. Seems there are a ton of little shops right down town that are the magnet for droves of people. We were included in those droves Saturday morning as we took time to stroll through the busy city stores. While there I had a unique experience.

My two favorite (to be read LEAST FAVORITE) stores were called "GodsWorld" and "GodsCorner". Now I want to apologize ahead of time, and say that I will try to make this my last of this type of blog...but man "Christians"....and Christian marketing kills me. I want to be clear here....I believe that people are God's treasure, and that we are to love one another and all....and I try really hard at that....but as my dear Dad would say "There ain't no accountin' for stupid."

What's got me so chapped? Well in both of the stores were just tons of t-shirts all with a Christian theme. But let me give you the full effect. This will be like those associations on the SAT, only worse. What I am going to do is give a company name....a decidedly well known company name, and then I will give an equals sign, and then show you the Christian rip off of that company's logo that has been tactlessly plastered on these shirts. For example Subway = Hisway. Get it. Good. Hold on tight cause here we go.

1. Got Milk? = Got Jesus? (surprisingly years after this marketing campaign is abandoned by Milk it is still apparently novel to Christians who wear t-shirts.
2. Pentium Inside = Jesus Inside
3. Burger King = King of Kings
4. You Tube = You To Be (with "God wants" on top and "saved on the bottom. So the message is God wants YOU TO BE saved....hurling as I type)
5. Deal or No Deal = either Take the Deal (meaning salvation) or Deal or No Deal followed by "Jesus is the only sure bet."
6. Reebox = Reeborn
7. Arm and Hammer = Armed and Ready
8. Sprite = Spirit
9. Ford = Lord
10. Hersey's = He Saves
11. Staples "The Easy Button" = Jesus "It's Just That Easy"
12. Abercrombie and Fitch - Abreadcrumb and Fish (embarrassing)
13. American Idol = Amazing Grace
14. iTune = I Tune Into God
15. Mountain Dew = Meant to Die
16. Yoo-Hoo = You Who (It was YOU WHO Jesus Died for)
17. Crush = Christ ( that's just plain unimaginative!)

And my personal favorite

18. Myspace = "Jesus died for MYSPACE in heaven.

And seriously I am just scratching the surface here! I could go on but I won't. You know I gotta be honest, I am pretty sure that these shirts step dangerously close to breaking the third commandment. Not to mention that whole copyright infringement thing. And pile it on with a whole slab of silliness (borderline stupidity). But the part that really gets me is that these stores are stacked full of these shirts, and probably making good money because there are plenty of people out there who buy these shirts. Now I won't infringe on a persons right to wear whatever they want, free speech and all....and I definitely don't think of myself as the fashion police. It's the marketing above the mentioned, totally ridiculous shirts in the rack of the store that reads "For the BOLD CHRISTIAN"

Oh man!!! I have failed as a Christian because I refuse to wear some hideous garb that screams "I'm an out of touch, unrealistic, squeaky clean christian who thinks that by wearing this shirt, you will see the light and become glorious redeemed, all the while I don't have to say a word, just keep this goofy shirt on with an equally as goofy smile on my face." OK perhaps I am being too harsh...and I really don't mean to degrade, or even further see myself as "too good" for this stuff. I honestly just don't get it....and I think it is doing more harm than good.

My final case in this needless point is the most marketed shirt in both of these shops. It was hung prominently all over; outside, inside, ceiling, floor, counter. I didn't buy anything, but I suspect that if I did the cashier would've said "Did you want to get one of our best selling and most thought-provoking shirts?" What did the shirt have on it? The following (and I am not kidding:) all on the front:

"Dear God,
Why do you allow all those shootings in the school? Signed, A Concerned Christian

Dear Concerned Christian,
I didn't allow all those shootings. They have kicked me out of the schools?
Signed, GOD"

Yes all of that was on the shirt. Yes I did want to buy them all, take them to a trash dump, and then light a bon fire. Yes I did let out an audible groan. Yes I did shave my head, put on my sackcloth and sit on an ash heap and wail! I don't know that I need to point out all that is wrong with this shirt....but if you are wondering let me know....I'll be working on my doctoral dissertation about it!!

Listen, here's my bottom line. I have a great idea for Christians. Let's skip all the hokey (and sometimes heretical) marketing, and start BEING like Jesus. Let's stop plastering Jesus name on our apparel and start plastering the love of Jesus around our communities and work places by meeting needs, being genuine and authentic, and heaven-forbid engage ourselves in conversations that could lead to the gospel being presented (and I don't mean in a canned FAITH outline....I mean in real relationship, friendship conversation. Let's honor God with our lives. Let's do good works so that people will see Jesus in us, and not just on us. Let's get our hands dirty so that people can, by the power of God through Christ Jesus, have their lives cleaned up. And for the love of pete.....get rid of those shirts!

I am in Gatlinburg for the night, leading worship for the "Young Professionals" retreat for a group from Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, TN. We are staying in an amazing 4-story cabin complete with a pool table and ping pong table, plasma screens in nearly every room, and a theater room with a huge projection screen and lounging better-than-movie-theater style chairs. And thankfully wireless connection so I can blog about this joint.

The group won't arrive for another hour or so, so I thought I would also blog about an occurrence from yesterday. I'll start it with a quote from one of the recent episodes of my favorite TV show Hannah Montana (I know I know) At some dramatic moment in the show, where Mile (aka Hannah Montana.....I know I know), she in desperation cries to her brother "Dad said he was disappointed with me" and her brother replies "NOT DISAPPOINTED, WHY COULDN'T HE BE ANGRY OR MAD?." It's true though, having someone be disappointed in you really seems much worse than mad or angry. I can't recall specific times, but I can imagine how I felt when my parents said they were disappointed in me. And they didn't always have to say it, you could just tell.

Well I experienced that sense of disappointment yesterday. I won't go into great detail, as to make the story a bit more interesting, but I decided to try a different "look" for myself yesterday. Nothing drastic, or permanent, just different. Well I attempted this look without giving Karen any forewarning. So when I came home with my new "look" she saw it, and it took a second, but slowly but surely the look of distinct disappointment came across her face. She didn't say it, but I could feel it, so much so that I could feel myself withdrawing, I could feel my arms drawing up, and hugging around me. I could feel my head start to drop, and my eyes began to search the floor. It's amazing how the opinion of someone you love so much, and that loves you means the most, and how their words can cut the deepest, or lift the highest (and again let me stress that she didn't say anything harsh....she didn't say much at all actually.....). Well, after receiving this reaction, I just wanted to completely disassemble the whole new "look". I wanted to undo what I had done. Unfortunately, though as I said before, it wasn't permanent, but also not immediately reversable. And her look was bad enough but when I finally fought through my new-found venerability enough to look back up at her, she had tears in her eyes......nail in the coffin....I dropped my head again, held out my arms and gingerly walked forward for a hug. I know this isn't typical male response....and I wish i was the type of guy who could just say "well I like it, and I don't care what you think....I know you'll love me anyway" but alas this is not who I am.

Well needless to say, after a very brief discussion, I assured Karen that I would not continue with my new "look" any longer than was possible, and I got a really good sense of what she likes, and doesn't like. And the awkwardness was not prolonged.But I did have the unfortunate sense of knowing what it likes for Karen to be disappointed in me. This is new for me in the 2 and 1/2 years of marriage. I've sensed her frustration with me, maybe even a tinge of anger, and those are easily dealt with. You talk it out. You apologize, you make amends. But disappointment is a sharper knife and has potential to leave a slower-healing wound. That's not to say that Karen is still disappointed with me. I think we resolved the issue.....I am certain that today she has not turned the corner and gladly embraced the "look". But I don't think she holds it against me. And if I were to be honest, I think she is valid to feel the way she felt.

One final observation about those closest to us. When forgiveness is offered or received, and problems are worked out, that's when those relationships reach new levels. It is in time of struggle, disagreement, pain, forgiveness, and healing that intimacy is increased. It is true in personal relationships. It is true in our relationship with God. C.S. Lewis said it great in his book The Problem With Pain when he said "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

I Am America and So Can You

The title of the post is the title of Stephen Colbert's new book, which for any of you that are reading and wondering what to get me for Christmas....this would be a great gift!

I want to take a brief moment to discuss a minor political issue. Now I can guess what you're thinking..."oh Matt please don't go off on the fact that Al Gore and his organization won the Nobel Prize this past weekend for combating a global condition THAT DOESN'T EXIST AND IS MERELY A PLOT TO MAKE MONEY". That'll have to be a topic for another day. Today I want to discuss another issue spurned by something I recently watched on TV. Before I officially begin, I want to first admit that I am sorely undereducated when it comes to politics. There are some big-ticket issues that I know about, and I have a firm stance about several issues that I feel I, by virtue of my faith in Christ, automatically believe. But please be fore-warned that correct political jargon will not be exercised in this post!

Now, what spurned this little pseudo-political blog? Well I just happened to catch a fascinating little interview-turned-debate on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I am not really a fan of the show, but I do like The Colbert Report and I just happened to turn over to Comedy Central a half hour early to catch the aforementioned interview. The guest was former President Bush Press Secretary Tony Snow. As with most television media, Jon Stewart has a liberal slant, and an apparent knack for bashing President Bush. Now I gotta pause here and say that I align myself as a conservative. By that I do not mean that I think that the only way you can follow Jesus is to be a Republican, and I don't think that all Christians are Republicans. Furthermore, I don't think that Republicans have it all together, make all the right decisions, or have somehow in their infinite wisdom and unfathomable power hung the moon. No political party is worth that sort of estimation. This, along with other reasons is why I choose to refer to myself as conservative and not Republican. I'd actually much rather not have to pick between two parties, I'd much rather judge by the representative's character and conviction (I know it's a Utopian dream).
I also have to say that I do not think that President Bush is the end-all-be-all. I guess I just don't have any unreal expectations of a leader of the most powerful nation in the world. I think he is a great leader, I think he has made his fair share of great decisions, as well as some bad decisions. I think some of the policies that his administration has put into place have been great, and some have been horrible. I think he has done a fair job of being President given the circumstances of what we have come to know as a Post-911 world. I think that he has the single most important and hardest job in the world, a job which I myself could not do, and he has treated the Presidency with much dignity, vigour, conviction, and (to use his word) resolve as anybody. I would probably even argue that he restored some of the honor that his predecessor destroyed (but then I don't want to go into all that).

So please understand my thoughts of the President are high, but he's not the Savior or anything. But just to be honest, I am some stinking tired of all the left-wing media bashing of President Bush that is crammed down my throat every time I turn on the television or radio. I'm so sick of all of the attacks not just on the President's decision making, but on his personal character. Again, I realize that he hasn't done everything right, but we at least have to admit that he stands by his convictions, and he is doing what he thinks is best for the country in spite of drastic opposition. That takes guts! Soooooo.....enter Tony Snow on the Daily Show. It's something you need to see, perhaps it is on You Tube by now, but Tony Snow is a man who worked closely with the President. So in typical fashion throughout the interview, Jon Stewart jabs at the President, dubbing him a hard head and a failure. However, in as strong of a response as I have ever seen, Snow defends the President calling him a great leader, citing multiple incidents of his leadership, and even calling Stewart's bluff when he cites failures (which were most out-of-context proof-texts). The question I had to ask myself during the interview was "who am I to believe? A guy who gets paid to get on TV and make fun of any Republican bold enough to be thrust into the public eye, or a guy who used to work for the President closely and has nothing to gain from defending the guy?" I gotta be honest, I'm gonna go with the latter!

The problem is that while I feel like Americans have every right in the world to form their own opinion, I feel like most opinion is the opinion because it is popular, spoon fed to us by a terribly biased media (though for the record I think an un-biased media can only exist in my previously mentioned Utopian world!). I can understand disagreeing on issues, things like the War, or educational policies, or on health care. But disagreements amongst our peers at work or church don't lead us to go and publicly humiliate each other. And they shouldn't lead to that in the political world.

OK, so it is about bed-time and I sense that my ramblings are making less and less sense the more I type. Go check out the Daily Show if it is on You Tube (a responsible blogger would have already found it and linked it for you, but alas I am not a responsible blogger.....). It is really fascinating!

More later!

Last Thursday night, Karen and I attended a dinner party at a friend of ours house with a few other couples. The host couple told us that there would be free food as well as a presentation about the cookware being used to cook said food; no prices discussed, just free food and presentation. That was all it took for me to be interested....because I like food, especially of the free variety...and an innocent little dinner party presentation never hurt anybody right?!?!Well the dinner party was a lot of fun. Great food, good conversation, good company, and some really interesting pots, pans, and methods used to cook.

It was a lot of fun.....that is until we got done eating, and the guy doing the presentation asked each of us as couples when he would come to our house to sell us this cookware. Notice he asked when, not if! Now, one would think that a person with even my limited amount of life experience would have seen this coming....but NO.....I was completely blindside, and frankly unhappy about this demand. While I was adequately impressed by this cookware, it has not ever, nor will it anytime soon, be in my priorities or budget to buy some pots. In fact, I can honestly say that I've never used the term cookware until I was introduced to this..............cookware.

So why didn't I just say no to this guy coming to my house. Well first of all he asked us right in front of the host couple...and in some weird way, for me to say no to this guy seemed like it would be rude to them (oh the leads for proper etiquette we make). Not to mention that no reason, excuse, reservation, medical emergency, or flailing tantrum would have kept this guy from making a "follow-up" appointment (to be read as "forceful thrusting of sale down our proverbial throats"). And not only was he coming, but he was coming tomorrow. I got the feeling he wanted to be at my house to greet me when I got home from work (perhaps had he offered to have another free meal I would have considered it). When that didn't work, and a series of other times were not doable, he asked if he could come just before bedtime----JUST BEFORE BEDTIME.....I wouldn't even ask to be at my closest friends house just before bedtime. And this was a guy who wasn't even a close friend.....and steadily easing his way further into "NOT A FRIEND AT ALL" status! So we finally agreed (begrudgingly) that he could come Saturday morning for his "brief" presentation.

Now to really understand the deep emotion that this sales call brought upon Karen and I, you'd have to understand our personal little history of these type things. It all started about a year ago when someone called and offered to test our water for free. As a reward for allowing this free water test, and brief 30 minute presentation, we would be given a complimentary vacation of our choice. FREE VACATION....almost as good as free food. Well, we had no idea what we were in for.....and after 3 agonizing hours of this guy testing our water, cleaning half of our house, including our cookware, exploring the depth of our tap and bottled water, pushing the sale and NOT taking no for an answer, we got a little pamphlet for our free vacation that turned out to cost us $50 (which by the way, does anybody else realize that $50 is not free!??!?!). We never even took the stinking trip (that would be my fault ). The hardest part was not the presentation, it was figuring out how many different ways we can say the words "no", "we're not interested", "not at this time", "no thank you", "no", "you're crazy", or "get out of my house please it is 9:30 pm and you are just a shade past 2 and 1/2 hours over your time limit and while I am sure your product will give us a longer life and a more clean feeling shower as well as give us a warm tingly feeling inside, all we really, really want is our free vacation if you could just hand that over now and show us the amount of smoke you can generate as your tires squeal out of our driveway we would greatly, greatly appreciate it." I mean it is like pulling teeth....and I mean yanking all of the permanent ones with a set of rusty pliers.

So you can imagine that this experience did not leave a good taste in our mouth's about these little house calls. And you can probably imagine our.......what to call no....utter and violent opposition...yes that is this little visit. Karen and I prepared well in advance for the battle that would soon ensue. We practiced our "no's", "no thank you's" and "your crazy's" in the best and most Christ-like possible tone. The one redeeming part of the visit, we would indeed get to see just how much this "cookware" would cost. To spruce it up, we even made a friendly bet on how much one little 1/2 quart cooking pot would cost. I bet $85. She bet $125.

Well it finally came. Go-time. We invited the guy in and had him sit out our table, and after obliging about 2 questions, I politely interrupted our salesmen with a "we're not going to be buying anything today, we don't believe in credit, and we're not interested in throwing a party, we would however love for you to show us the prices of your pots and pans as you head out." Well, after the usual reprehensible sales tactics (which included some doosies like "What would you pay for a riding lawn mower" which I am still trying to see the relation and "what about the health of your kids" that we don't have??) we finally got to the punchline...I mean the bottom line. I'll take our highest bet of $125 and just tell you that it got crushed by a Godzilla-like price of $460 + for a 1/2 quart pot. Even as I type I cannot contain the laughter. And for a whole set (and by a whole set I mean a total of about 5-6 a regular box set from Wal-Mart) a whopping $1889. Notice that there is no decimal point...that's right ONE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND EIGHTY NINE DOLLARS FOR SOME POTS AND PANS. Somewhere I missed in the presentation where these post and pans would actually grow the food themselves, cut and clean it, cook it, serve it, ask if I enjoyed it, then clean itself up all the while whistling the most delightful of tunes. I mean that is ridiculous. I know I know there was a lifetime warranty, and it cooks like no other...but come on you people.

To all those who have bought and love this type of pot and pan, I would like to say I mean no offense. It is just not something I would be willing to "invest" in. However, many probably wouldn't pay the amount of money I would for a good guitar I realize it is all relative!

Our friendly pot saler did say one most thought-provoking sentence at sometime during the presentation. That statement --- "We're all selling something" Food for thought!

The unknowable heart...

This will be a short post, but I wanted to quickly share something interesting that happened yesterday. I had the opportunity, or maybe I should say misfortune, of going to a ministerial alliance luncheon yesterday. It wasn't all bad, but just seemed a bit pointless to me. The lunch consisted of ministers from all sorts of Christian denominations; Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, etc. As you can imagine, there was quite a variety of beliefs and ministry styles represented at this meeting. I was there to help plan a community wide thanksgiving service. At one point during the meeting, the chairman said a striking statement that I have heard before, but to hear it from a minister struck me as bold and overwhelmingly honest. In regards to benevolence, and helping people in need, he said "It is hard to know the human heart". This was said about trying to identify if a persons needs are legit, or if the person is just looking for money to spend inappropriately. He said "It is hard to know the human heart. It's hard to know my own heart a lot of times. Sometimes I think I'd rather go back to be a paper salesman." I'll overlook the obvious reference to The Office that could be made here, and just say how much I appreciate a minister saying that very statement. It IS hard to know the human heart....nearly impossible to know someone else's, and almost as impossible to know my own. To know what my heart really wants, to know where my deepest heart of heart's allegiance lies, it is the mystery of all mysteries sometimes. But then there are those redeeming moments when you feel the deepest desire of your heart bleed through.

The Bible is right when it says "The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it?"

I recently ran across a web-site that has since become one of my favorites to visit. The site and the tag line is "Where christian music is allowed to get bad reviews." I would encourage you to check it out....though beware, it is pretty sarcastic and pokes a lot of fun at Christian music. It also provides for some of the most thought provoking analysis of "christian" art and music.
I find this site especially interesting as it validates a lot of what I think...selfish I know...but we all identify best with people and things that are most like us. I have to say that I pretty much despise all radio, unless it is talk-radio...but Christian radio is quite possibly the worst. I realize that most Christians who are reading this are now thoroughly disappointed in me right now. But if you really think about what music is (an art form) and how current Christian music compares to not only the world's standard of art, but to the standard of excellent art that spans across history, it is a sad sad picture. And please don't get me started on Christian DJs.....yikes!!

I could go on and on but I'll spare you. I would, however, like to say that this analysis of what we call "Christian" music (which, if you read the title of this blog you'll understand why I have a problem with that term....semantics I know...but still an issue) makes me seriously consider what I do on a weekly basis. While I am securely convinced that musical worship is a God-given, God-honoring method by which we communicate our love, adoration, praise, love and devotion to God, I sometimes think we sacrifice content for our comfort. Consider the lyrics to the top 10 praise songs (and I suspect that your mind immediately goes to Chris Tomlin, as does mine) that you know, or that you may even sing at church. Is there any depth to those lyrics? Is there anything innovative about them? Any great truth communicated? Any affirmation about the character of God (other than he is "awesome")? The truth is that most songs are weak in content, repetitive, uninventive, even (dare-I-say) boring. And the bottom line is that it is just much easier to sing these types of songs. And while it is important to sing songs of joy and praise, sometimes we need to exchange those lyrics with words of confession, words of repentance, words about the intense, deep, hard-to-understand-and-impossible-to-communicate character of God. And can somebody please help me exchange my G-C-D progression for something a bit more complex...anybody?!?!?

I guess all I'm trying to say is that I am learning that art is not always an imperative statement, not always an answer to the question, not an end but a means if I can be so bold as to say that. And good art...God-honoring art cannot be lazy, one dimensional, boring, or easy. Think about great artists (I'm guessing that Chris Tomlin isn't the first person to pop in your mind this time right?!?!). Think about the pain-staking process that Michelangelo went through in painting the Sistine Chapel. Think about the method and the madness of Mozart's, Beethoven's, and Handel's composition, as they would lock themselves away for days, months, sometimes years to compose their great works. Each one not only worked tirelessly in their craft, but poured themselves into their work. If we, as Christians, are going to dabble in the arts, then let us not dabble only, but let us throw ourselves headlong into making something of worth to a God who deserves only the very best that we have to offer. Let us pour ourselves into God-honoring worship through the medium of the arts, no longer sacrificing quality for user-friendliness. And lets once again create that which the culture around us can no longer ignore, that which not only effects the world, but changes it.

Not who I used to be...

Ever taking the time to look back over your life? Ever thought about where you used to be, and then realize where you are now in comparison? When is the last time you just sorta took inventory of your life, looking for those things which need improvement, and taking note of those things that have already been improved?

I hope to be someone who keeps things constantly in perspective. I never want to walk blindly in this life, unaware of who I have been or who I am becoming. It's amazing how different situations and circumstances in life influence and direct that person that we eventually become. Even as I say that "who we become" just seems like such a foreign idea, like trying to touch even the closest of stars. At what point in life do we stop and declare"This is who I've become"? "I am who I was meant to be!" Seems to me like we will, until the day we breathe our last breath on this earth, always be becoming.

Meanwhile, the process continues. And what a process it is. I am finding that the road to who I am becoming, the road to maturity, the road to adulthood, the road to being a good husband, the road to being successful in my work, the road to being a good father (one day a long time from now for those of you who are thinking Karen and I might be expecting....not yet!!!), the road to life lived as Christ intends it is a painful road full of bumps, blowouts, breakdowns, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns!

I think I must be at a significant point in that journey for some reason! And by significant point I mean I am hitting some serious bumps on this stretch of road. I am at a point where who I am becoming is completely different than who I used to be, and who I am now is not who I want to be in the future. Those things that for me used to be so black and white are now being challenged and changed into this fuzzy, unintelligible gray. The areas that I used to feel most confident in, now seem to be my area of greatest weakness. I'm not talking about foundational things. There are things that will never change in my life, and in the foundation of my beliefs. But the more life I live, the more complicated some things seem to get...such that it is hard to find a real place of rest. In younger days, it seemed like there were plenty of times where life was OK, because I had it all figured out....or maybe because I didn't have to have it all figured out yet. Those days are seemingly no more, not in this place of my life.

Yet at the very core of my doubt, disbelief, struggles, and shortcomings, I know....I have to know... that who I am becoming depends on less of what I make of myself. Who I am becoming really depends on how much of myself I am willing to let go. And yet I am so persistent and adamant about doing this myself. I will change. I will try. I will work. I will bend. I will become.

I am weak. I am small. I am shortsighted. I am stubborn. I am torn. And on this stretch of road, I just need to surrender the wheel (yep..that's right.....God has been my copilot...not my pilot....that'd make a good church sign.....hmmmm). I am in desperate need to have Christ-in-me become my Hope of Glory again. I am in deep need to once again abide in Christ, and HIM in me.....for apart from HIM I can do nothing...I was nothing.....apart from HIM, I am becoming nothing.

God, you made all of the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother's womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous, how well I know it!
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the road of everlasting life. Psalm 139:13,16,14,23-24

On Sunday night, I watched a story on MSNBC about a preacher named Carlton Pearson who was a Pentecostal preacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I'll lay my judgement on the Pentecostal style of worship, and their beliefs to the side for now, save the fact that I will say that I believe that there are plenty of Pentecostals, and people from tons of various other denominations that will go to heaven. And there are plenty of Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists and people from other denominations who will not go to heaven.

But I digress. This preacher was on TV talking about his new message that "God gave him" that he is now preaching. The message? Hell isn't a place that we go after we die, apart from God. Hell is a place on earth that we can experience at any time, numerous times even. The moral of this message? We will experience Hell in this life on earth, but when we die, everyone will be united with God in Heaven. God will not send or allow one person to go Hell. Everyone is saved!

Now, I must admit that as I watched this guy talk about this my first thought was "HERESY of all HERESIES"....and to save you from any angst while you read this blog, I still believe that very thought! HERESY it is! But here's what I really don't get! This guy had a huge church in Tulsa....I mean a megachurch that would give upwards of $600,000 a week in "tithes" and "offerings" (and I use those words loosely for this context). Pearson drove a Mercedes Benz, had a huge house in a gated neighborhood, carried clout in evangelical societies, and even had high political connections.

Since preaching new found message, Pearson has lost everything. He lost his church, he lost his fancy car and house, he lost his closest friends and his standing in the evangelical circles. All because he chose to no longer believe there was a hell. Why would a guy who had everything give it up for this radical (and heretical) message? I mean I can understand someone like Joel Osteen watering down the truth and preaching a feel-good, health and wealth, don't-worry-be-happy kind of message for the sake of tickling the collective ears of his superhuge church (not that I in any way think that is right!) But to preach something like this and lose it all......I don't get it. And Pearson's reason......according to the report...was that he couldn't stand the thought that his backsliding grandparents would really go to hell after they died!

As I watched though, I realized that though he gave up his standing presently, I don't think that will be the case very long. I believe his message will catch on. I thought, as I watched this report, of all the people in the world looking for an answer to the pain and hurt they have experienced in life....and to hear someone say "Hey, that's what hell is....but no worries, when you die, no matter what, you will be with God in heaven". I thought of those people who have been burned by church, or who have given up any thought to consequence of action so they can live the way they want, or those people who openly despise God. This is good news for they can live as they please, and still have great reward in Heaven with God. Man?born good not bad after all. Sin? Not an issue! Holiness? Think nothing of it.

All the while the blood of Jesus.....the grace of God......CHEAPENED. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoffer "cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. "All for sin could not atone." Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin."

I am reminded of this verse -

"For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The Big Game

And a big game it was. For those of you who were in a hole on Saturday evening, the Georgia vs. Alabama was a hot one! 4 quarters of ever-so-close play followed by one very quick overtime resulting in a huge Georgia Bulldog win! As I posted before, Karen and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to the game. This was our first experience at Bryant-Denny Stadium, or any other stadium other than Sanford Stadium (or Doak-Campbell Stadium [FSU] back in high school). It was quite an interesting experience to say the least, not only to be in a place with such a football heritage, but to be in the minority, rooting for the opposite (and might I add winning) team. Our seats were on the 20 yard-line on the west end, which basically means that we were surrounded by Alabama fans. There were a few Georgia fans above us, and below us, sprinkled throughout, but we were vastly outnumbered. I'll never forget the guy who sat in front of us. Right after Georgia scored on their first drive of the game, Karen and I politely went crazy, and the guy in front of us turned around with the worst look on his if to say.....well I can't say what the look was as if to say, so use your imagination. All in all the Alabama fans were cordial enough to us, and even congratulated us after the game. However, there are a few observations I'd like to make about Alabama fans in general (*please note that I use in general, so as to identify that these observations aren't applied to every Alabama fan, just the ones we sat around on Saturday).

1. Alabama fans take their football very seriously. They do have a unique history, what with Bear Bryant and what not, but come on, every school (at least SEC school) has a place in football history in some way or another (well maybe not Vanderbilt...). I appreciate their place in that history, but we don't have to go overboard with it.

2. Alabama fans shout "Roll Tide Roll" to every thing. "Sweet Home Alabama" and some other song by the group Alabama (note the connection) are two of the songs that we heard on Saturday accompanied in specific parts by a loud and collective shout of the slightly overused war cry. And by slightly overused I mean utterly obnoxious. If I hear "Roll Tide Roll" one more time I think I'm gonna either throw up or hit somebody.

3. Alabama fans are much like the tide in their fanship. When things are good, they are extremely loud (tide in). When things are bad, you could hear a pin drop (tide...out). Seriously, the first half was deafening. However, after one tiny touchdown run in the first quarter, and everybody seemed to immediately pout. This was probably magnified by the fact that we were the only ones cheering when Georgia did something good. You know that is a really odd feeling, almost like I should have apologized for cheering....but I didn't. And you should have heard it when the winning touchdown was scored...I mean it's like someone just turned the mute on a TV. They were shocked, and Karen and I were watching for a replay to make sure we really did scored. It wasn't until the guy next to me said "Welp, that's the game folks" did I really realize we had won. I mean I thought he caught it, but I wasn't close enough to tell if he was inbounds or what. So anyway, when we did finally discover we won, we jumped up and down and what seemed like an empty stadium (sound wise anyway). It was odd, and I felt kinda I didn't prolong my own celebration. Karen and I both decided that we still feel a little celebration deprived!

4. Alabama fans feel a close connection between themselves and their much that they are on a first name....nay...initial only basis with the guy. The constantly were shouting "Come on JP!" or shouting a bemoaning "John Parker" (for those of you who don't know, the Tide's quarterback's name is John Parker Wilson). Though I know our quarterback's name is Matthew Stafford, you don't hear me yelling "Hey, great job Matty boy!"'s just Stafford in my vocabulary!

5. Alabama fans will never give a coach a break, due in large part to their continued worship of Bear Bryant. If I heard the Bear's name mentioned once, I heard it a thousand times.....followed by something like "he's still spirit" or "he's the best coach that ever breathed a breath of air" or "blah blah blah blah blah".....because I just had to start tuning it out. A great coach he was...but not God! Poor Sabin, he may do some great things there, but if it is short of a National Championship within the next three years, he can forget it. He's gone! They won't be satisfied!

6. Alabama fans are surprisingly least in our section. Save the one ugly look we got, no one threw anything at us, yelled obscenities, or beat us up! This is a good thing! And as I mentioned before we got congratulated by several pouting Alabama fans. Of course there were those who threw things at our players, but I have a feeling those weren't adults!

7. Alabama fans are rather whiny. This may be based on the one guy who sat next to me and said over and over in a nasally cry "Come on BAMA". Hey dude, get a tissue and stop using my sleeve. Everything is gonna be alright I promise.

8. Alabama game traffic is.......what's the word........HORRIBLE!!!! There was an estimated 125, 000 people in and around the game (93,000 ticket holders, 30,000 other lurkers who found joy in sitting outside the stadium......maybe they don't have a house...with air conditioning, and a comfy chair like I do!?!?!) We got in our car at 11:15 (giving 20 minutes for some of the traffic to clear out) and got home at 3:30 a.m. What on any other day is a 2 and 1/2 hour drive took us 4 hours and 15 minutes. Not really interested in doing that again. For the record, I still made it to church at 6:30 a.m. lead 2 services in musical worship, and then crashed on my couch for literally the rest of the day.

9. Alabama is a place where everyone should attend a game at least once. If, for at least, no other reason than to prove or disprove my assessment. It really was a cool place to be! It is a neat stadium, and it is always interesting to see how different teams and fans present their fanfare!

In conclusion, I'd just like to say HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!

...not really sure when it is to be released....if fact it's not really a record...more just recordings. I spent the greater part of the day this past Friday locked in my bedroom with just my computer, my guitar, a couple of microphones, an amp, a bass guitar, some headphones, and a bunch of various and sundry cables, trying to work on some songs. Back in August Clay Wood and I put down some rough tracks of guitar and drums. So I went back and added some lead guitar, bass, and vocals. In a shade over 4 hours I had a rough cut of one song to show. By rough, I mean very rough, but I am pretty excited about where it is headed, and the new ability I have to lay some stuff down, and then lay some other stuff over top of it to hear how it all sounds together (rather than just listening to it all in my head as I have been doing previously!) The next step is to send it back to Clay for any changes in the drums, and let him put the beat down to a steady click. Then he will send it back to me and I'll finish it up.

All that to say that I had a blast on Friday, just working on music. I loved working on the guitar tones, attempting to play bass, and trying to be as creative with the vocals as I could! It was a jolly ol' time I'll say. My one question at the end of the day was "after all this work, what will I ever do with all this stuff?" It's not like I have a band, or places to play. And while I am quite fond of the songs I have, I am not by any means convinced that I have the next big hit. I guess I am sort of left with the question "Are these songs meant just for a creative outlet for me? or is there something in the future that I've yet to come across that will bring clarity to these songs?"

In any case, I fully intend to have another full-day session at Studio-del-Matt and lay some more funky tracks down for everyone's listening pleasure (and by everyone I suppose I mean me, Karen, Clay, and anyone else who comes within earshot of my computer).

No I am not selling tickets (well unless I get an unreasonably high offer), but somehow in my head I could hear the scalpers outside the stadium yelling about the tickets they have to illegally sell. That moral dilemma there is another issue for another day!

This post is to rejoice and lament the fact that I have two tickets to the Alabama vs. Georgia game this weekend.

I rejoice because I get to go the game...and the tickets were free....well to me they were (thanks friend!)
I lament because it is in Tuscaloosa, and I will be rooting for the away team.
I rejoice because I get to go with my wife.
I lament because the game starts at 6:45, and last weeks game was a 4 hour game, starting at 5:45 and people from our town didn't get home until 1:30 a.m. What does that mean for us this week? I'm guessing 2:30 or later!
I rejoice because I am still young enough to stay out all hours of the night.
I lament because I have to be back at church on Sunday at 6:45 a.m. to get ready to lead worship.
I rejoice because it will be tons of fun.
I lament that, though I am no fair-weather fan, I am afraid our dear Bulldogs just don't have it, and will probably not win.
I rejoice because I haven't gotten a single pick right in my College Pick-em's on ESPN and I will hopefully be wrong on this game!
Not to mention that game day will be at this game....of course I have no intention of getting there that early, but at least it is a huge game....probably as big a game as I have ever been to.

Now I just have to pray that I don't get beat up. I'm wondering if Alabama fans would get mad about a person wearing black (you know, so as not to flaunt the UGA colors.)
Methinks I shall wear a Georgia shirt underneath my black shirt in the case that we do win, wherewithin I will let the bulldog colors fly!

In closing, GO DAWGS!!

Master of Suspense

So perhaps they are not that old-timey, but they are definetly before my time. The movies about which I am speaking were made by a certain Alfred Hitchcock. I spent the better half of my evening last night glued to the AMC network watching 2 and 3/4 of Hitchcock's masterpiece's. And masterpieces they are. The movies we watched were "The Rear Window", "The Birds", and "Rope." While I am by no means a film critic, I have to say that these movies were brilliant and had to be before their time, even with the slow-moving plots and less than stellar special effects. Hitchcock truly is the master of suspense, as my wife and I sat hand over eyes, waiting to see what would happen, only to be mostly left to our imaginations as to what really took place.

My favorite of the night was "Rope." The filmography of this movie was tremendous and the plot was so strangely twisted yet so elequantly played out. I sinced that the movie's ultimate goal was to provide social commentary on a Post WWII society, but then again I could be way off. James Stewart, who also starred in "The Rear Window" was phenominal as usual.

If you've never sat down to watch one of Hitchcock's movies, I would highly recommend you do so! You'll be entertained, and if you're like us, a bit spooked! If you're interested, AMC is having a 7 nights of Hitchcock through Saturday night!

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