Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Fatuity...again!

It's been a while since I've done one of these...I hope you enjoy.

Have a great weekend and may God be all over it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm sure glad I don't live in a glass house...

Okay. I promised to get back on the lighter side this week...let's go plummeting in that direction now.

To blog is to bare one's soul. Don't know that to be an original idiom, so I won't take credit just yet. What I do know is when you're a blogger, you probably reveal more about yourself to perfect strangers than maybe you least I'm guilty of that. Reader's of Tony C Today ride that roller coaster called life with me every week. Some weeks are jovial...some more melancholy. Some subjects require a dose of heavy reverence...and some just a sense of humor and a touch of comic timing...or at least a healthy appreciation of sarcasm.

Once again, I'm ripping the shorts down to bare all as I streak through cyberspace to reveal...I love reality television. There. I'm at your mercy.

Dancing with the Stars, The Amazing Race, and Keeping up with the Kardashians are just a few of my vices (I'm really ashamed of that last one and now must also face ridicule from Mrs. Tony C, whom I regularly berate over 'watching such trash' while secretly paying attention myself to see if Khloe is just crazy enough to move to New York on her own. Gasp!).

I'm finally off Survivor since the All-Star episode several years back, but I can get sucked into a marathon of Deadliest Catch or Ice Road Truckers and lose an entire Saturday...and sometimes, I don't even shower those days! Am I crying out for an intervention? Do I desperately need help? Should I sell my collection of The Osbournes DVD's on eBay and just be done with it all?

Then there's Jon and Kate Plus 8...the one show I went kicking and screaming into just so I could spend a little more time with the wife. How in the world could a show be appealing that involves eight little kids running around screaming and crying on camera? Sounds more like birth control to me. But, I watched starting in Season 2, then caught up on Season 1 during reruns. Before I knew it, I found myself truly concerned that Cara and Mady, aka the twins, might be feeling left out with all the attention paid to the sextuplets. I wondered if Joel would come out of his shell and establish himself with his other siblings. I cringed when Kate was hateful and demeaning to Jon...I mean...this is television lady...and nothing says emasculation like a smack down in front of millions of weekly viewers.

At the much anticipated beginning of Season 3, the whole gang goes to the zoo for the day. This is where the show really started losing me. The Gosselins had become quasi-celebrities from the first two seasons and all the promotional efforts of TLC, so their trip to the zoo was actually a behind the scenes tour with VIP treatment. Then only a few episodes later, Kate starts interviewing for a nanny. What?! Yep...a nanny. Slowly the show loses more and more appeal because it's no longer about the struggles of just Jon and Kate raising eight kids. They've started succumbing to the trappings of being famous.

The kicker was in Season 3 when Jon gets free hair transplants from a specialist in Los Angeles. This is reality? I think it's far from it...and at this point, I'm not buying what this reality show is selling. Don't even get me started on their Hawaii trip in Season 4...

Today, things have just broken completely apart for Jon and Kate. He's cheating...she's cheating...he's's all a great big tabloid-ridden mess! Jon and Kate have become Jerry Springer material. Now there's a reality show that should be cancelled. What kind of person watches that Jerry Springer trash? Beats me...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway...Father Jerome Cummings

Eternity. I thinks it's impossible as finite physical beings to grasp the concept. No beginning or end to a single days at all. Beyond my understanding.

I have a friend (I'll qualify that definition in just a second) who probably thinks he knows the meaning of eternity. He's doing 26 years in a federal prison, and he just started last August. That's 26 years at 100% required good behavior time. I'm sure each day seems like an eternity to him.

He deserves the sentence he received because he was involved in some pretty heinous stuff. Things that make your stomach get all knotted up and, as a father, get really, really out of your comfort zone. He was a coach. His crime involved sexual battery...with boys. It also included child pornography. He got what he deserved and maybe not enough.

His arrest was a complete shock to his friends and peers. A completely likable guy that was always fun to be around, I've interviewed him on the radio a number of times about his basketball program in a small, obscure school in the upper corner of nowhere. He worked hard and was an integral part of the community. The revelation was devastating as everyone tried to marry the crime with the person. We were all shocked at the revolting details as each became available.

Some, no most, of his friends were repelled and disgusted by the betrayal. There was a lot of vicious, threatening language used when the matter was discussed. I tried to find understanding and forgiveness in my own heart for him...but it was very slow in coming. I don't think I'll ever reach the part of understanding, but I try to maintain that I have my own sins to worry about when it comes to offending my Creator.

God sometimes has a peculiar way of convicting us. Yesterday, just out of the blue, my friend's name just popped into my thoughts. I can't explain why, other than God wanted me to think about I did...and I prayed for direction. What do You want me to do? As I turned on SportsCenter last night in my nightly ritual, the lead story was the release of Michael Vick from federal prison. Later in the story, Tony Dungy was quoted as saying he believes Vick deserved forgiveness and a second chance. Compassionate words from a renowned Christian and man of God. I found myself in agreement but with exception. Should he be allowed to return to the position of prominence he enjoyed before his own heinous crimes were discovered? I was conflicted in my own opinion. God could receive glory in the return of Vick to the NFL if Vick stayed true to his testimony of being born again. I concluded that my opinion is...well... completely irrelevant. God's will shall be done.

I don't find coincidence in the thoughts of my friend and the story of Vick being prominent yesterday. Both are infamous in their own way, yet aren't we all in the sight of God? The Bible is very clear all fall short of His glory and that none of us is without sin. I've read and heard much about the difference in severity (or lack of) in our sins, but my understanding is akin to that of the concept of eternity. If sin is sin in God's eye with none being more evil than another...then my own feelings are seriously misplaced when it comes to my friend. He needs God's forgiveness and mercy more than anything else...just like me.

My statement that he got what he deserves stands as true as it did a few paragraphs ago. What he did was vile and wrong, and he should be locked away. But setting things right with society and setting things right with the Almighty have no comparison. The 26 years he will spend for his crimes are justice served. Crime needs to be punished. Dangerous criminals like my friend need to be locked up. Call it a sickness, a pathological disorder or just plain evilness...society has an obligation to protect the innocent from the infringements of sexual predators.

His soul is another matter. As he pays society for his wrongdoing, my friend can make peace with God...and I hope he does. For some of you, that may be hard to swallow. Why should a sex offender who committed such atrocious acts be allowed the reward of heaven? Be careful...that's a very slippery trail to travel...and one we shouldn't even be on in the first place.

I hate what he done with a passion that I don't completely understand. God hates my sins also with a like zeal...I'm just glad He looks past them to still love me. My friend is a whosoever just like me in John 3:16, he can accept the same gift provided by Christ's sacrifice on a cross, and I hope he seeks and ask for that forgiveness.

Today, I felt lead to share these thoughts with you, then find out how to write my friend and let him know that God loves him...and I love him too. Maybe reading this compels you to extend forgiveness to someone that has been long coming. I hope what I'm doing is the true will of God, and I'm going to have faith that it is...besides, I don't want to start eternity by answering to my Creator for not putting my personal feelings aside to follow His commandments and will for my life.

Don't worry, I'll get back to my lighter musings next week...unless I get another tug. May God bless you in a special way today.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Showing God's love is just at your fingertips...

I love you guys...and yes I mean you.

God has blessed me with a loving family, terrific friends and a wonderful church family. He has also blessed me with numerous Christian brothers and sisters that I've never met face to face...people I only know via blogging or as Facebook friends...people like some of you.

A lot of people think the internet is good for nothing but inherent place of evil and evil doers. I beg to differ. I believe the world wide web is bursting with opportunities for God, but as Christians, we have to make that happen...lead the charge. Parents all the time express distress to me about the unknown activities of their teenagers on the internet. My answer to them, without reservation, is to get out there and see what they are doing. Be proactive. Set boundaries and expectations. I blogged about this in December (see I can do anything you can do better...).  Christians should neither shun nor fear the internet, blogs or social networking. Let me give a very personal reason why... 

On Friday, yours truly had to have a heart catheterization. Several recent heart test were saying something might be wrong with Tony C's ticker, and my cardiologist wanted to take a closer look. A heart cath is a scary procedure, so I requested prayer with my church family and a prayer group I've recently joined on Facebook via invitation.

Like I stated, I'm blessed with great family and friends. I received a number of calls, texts, emails and words of encouragement from a lot of them, and I know the one's I didn't hear from who knew about the procedure were bathing me in prayer. On Friday, my wife and parents were with me. My pastor and a youth leader from church were the first to visit me afterwards. Many prayed for me, and I could feel their concerns. I'm very reluctant to say things about health issues, but I've gotten better since beating cancer 5 years ago. I now completely understand the power of God's people to intervene on my behalf with prayer. I have been greatly blessed by each gesture of Christian love shown through this time.

One in particular, however, has stood out to me as a shining example of how internet fellowship is as real and meaningful as the fellowship we have as Christians meeting together on Sundays. I told you I had recently joined a Facebook prayer group by invitation and had been receiving prayer request almost daily. A fellow blogger had pointed me in the direction of this particular prayer group. Most of the Christians in the group live hundreds of miles from me, yet we collectively use the awesome gift of prayer to lift each other up to God.

The fellow blogger, David, writes Fire and Grace, and we exchange blurbs and comments on each other's blogs and on Facebook. David is both a talented writer and deep thinker...and a kindred soul in the humor department. I enjoy his post and always find myself challenged by his muse. Last Thursday, the day before my procedure, David requested prayer because he had lost his job that very afternoon. I noted even in his prayer request, David seemed so upbeat and confident in the fact that God is in control and he would be okay.

The messages of encouragement poured in on Thursday, as I said, and each was a tremendous blessing. Around 8:30, I was chilling on the couch, and my wife was busy preparing for the next day. We were gearing up for 'date night' which, until the season finale Thursday night, revolved around Grey's Anatomy (don't Lula would say). My phone beeped to let me know I had a text message. I opened it to read the following message:

Tony. Lord be with you tomorrow. I'm praying. David

I can't begin to describe the overwhelming feeling of God's love that blanketed me that very instant. Wow! This man had just on this day lost his job in very troubling economic times, and yet he thought enough of a fellow Christian to send me words of encouragement and reassurance. A man I've never met, a man I've never spoken to on the phone...a man that truly understands the love and selflessness of Christ. I believe God was letting me know everything would be okay through David's thoughtfulness.

God is on the internet and His people should be too. I know there are a lot of temptations also on the internet, but those same threats surround us in every day life too. We need to take Satan head on in this fight. By making a connection of fellowship with other Christians around the world, we are better positioned to lift each other up to God in times of trouble, to encourage one another, and even be better equipped with knowledge and understanding...we are stronger for God.

My test results showed no blockage around my heart...but my heart is definitely bigger because of the ordeal. Thank you God for the blessing and may it be returned to my brothers and sisters in You...and Lord...I pray that my brother David finds a great job soon.

Monday, May 11, 2009

If the shoe just need to change feet.

I'm going to rehash some old material for no other reason than it needs to be said again. Many of you are probably familiar with Tom Sullivan's Ten Commandments of Cell Phone Etiquette. For those of you going 'Hey, is cell phone suppose to be two words?' attention...this is for you.

I've added personal commentary because, as you might have deducted, one or more became a sore spot with me just this past weekend, and I'm ranting.

I. Thou shalt not dial/text while driving.

Seriously, people die. California and Boston both have seen recent deadly crashes while transit worker were using cell phones. You're not as good of a driver as you think...and not as quick at texting either. At 60 mph, you are clicking off 88 feet every second. Since you're only a foot or so off the bumper of the guy in front of do the math.

II. Thou shalt not wear thy headpiece when thou art not on thy phone.

I speak for all of look neither cool nor important. Nothing is more socially awkward than walking up to someone you know in a store, starting a conversation, only to discover the other person is on the phone with someone else and not responding to you. I swear...I'm walking away.

III. Thou shalt not speak louder on thy cell phone than thou would on any other phone.

Hopefully you've figured out by now that the mouthpiece doesn't transmit your voice to the earpiece like a land line phone...but that doesn't require more volume on your part. The microphone works just fine at normal, even whispered, tones. Trust me.

IV. Thou shalt not grow too attached to thy cell phone.

The need for constant communications is a mental disorder waiting for a scientific name and defining diagnosing parameters. The New England Journal of Medicine article can't be far from release.

V. Thou shalt not slam thy cell phone down on a restaurant table just in case it rings.

Answering on the first ring or the third gets you to the same place. Unless your wife is in the 38th week of pregnancy or you're a fireman, leave the cell phone in your pocket or in the holder.

VI. Thou shalt not make the cell phone more important than the company thou art keeping.

Combining this one with the last you really need to be on the phone at the table? Try spending time with your loved ones. They really have important things to say. Also, my time is just as important as yours, so stay off the thing while checking out at Wal-Mart or ordering in the drive-thru at Wendy's...actually, my Frosty is more important than your need to know about Cousin Jamie's new boyfriend.

VII. Thou shalt not leave the cell phone ringing just to show off the "cool" ringtones or refrain from answering for that same reason.

I mean...come on people. Ice Ice Baby died years ago...thankfully...and the theme song to Dukes of Hazard screams things about you that are best left unsaid.

VIII. Thou shalt turn off thy cell phone at funerals, weddings, yoga class, and anywhere it would be unacceptable to bring a screaming child.

Does church even have to be in this list for you to understand it should be? If God isn't important enough for a few uninterrupted hours of one-on-one, you've got way bigger problems than any news that could be delivered via cell call...way bigger.

IX. Thou shalt not have a message intro lasting more than 15 seconds.

Your message may be gut-splitting funny...but only the first time. Anything after that becomes just annoying.

X. Thou shalt never answer your phone while thou art in the bathroom.

TMI is cliche for a reason...think about it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer...please remember.

Almighty God, thank you for the blessing of prayer. The opportunity to directly talk to You, our Creator, our Heavenly Father. My prayer today is one of thanksgiving, but also one of need. We have made our world a mess, and my country continues to turn away from You. Please Father forgive us and give me the strength to reflect Your love and mercy in my daily life so others may come to know and honor You and receive pardon from the sin that surrounds us each day through your grace and mercy. Please lead and guide our country's leaders to bring this country back to the God fearing nation we once were so that You might receive the honor and glory for all that is done, and the United States can once again be a light of hope for a lost and dying world.

Be with President Obama as he leads our nation. May his convictions always reflect You, and may he always seek Your counsel in every decision he makes. Watch over his family and protect them. Be with his advisers and counsel as they mold the laws and policies that govern our nation and ultimately affect our world. My prayer is that each of them also look to You for courage and wisdom. Be with our Congressional leaders and our Justices on the Supreme Court. May every decision made be mindful of Your commandments as established in Your Holy Word.

I pray Father that you will protect our service men and women. Bless them Lord for having the courage to fight and serve so that we can go about living our lives in freedom. Be with the families of those who are deployed abroad. Comfort and protect them in Your loving way.

Thank you for loving me and saving my soul. I'm not and never will be worthy of such amazing love...but I will be thankful to You each and every day. Please forgive me when I fail you and give me clarity to better understand Your will for my life. Father, thank you for my country and the blessings of living in a nation where I can worship and honor You in freedom. I pray for my brothers and sisters that don't have the opportunities to gather freely in Your name and face persecution for their faith in You. Bless and comfort them as only You can Father.

There is a great need among Your people Father and many have requested to be remembered in prayer. Please touch and bless each one according to Your perfect will. You know the needs of each as You know the number of hairs on every head. I lift their request up to You and thank You for allowing me to do so. I love You Abba Father and pray these things in the Holy name of Your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ.


Monday, May 4, 2009

To every thing there is a season...

You've got to love Spring. As we wait for Blackberry Winter here in the Appalachian Mountains and the final phases of Winter (see Spring...don't plant flowers until the Hoot Owl hoots), the sights, smells and sounds of Spring are all around.

Lawn work has begun bringing the airs of fresh cut grass. We wake to the songs of migrating birds returning to nest. Greens are a lot deeper and blues are a lot lighter. Wild flowers bloom endlessly in fields. Spring, the reoccurring time in the Northern Hemisphere from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice, is a perpetual metaphor for rebirth, being freshly anew and the unfounded Fountain of Youth. Spring is a time for love, the season of planting, and hunting for junk in yard sales...

What?!?! Yard sales??

Aw yes. The annuals of spring cleaning bring with it the need to unload all of the unnecessary stuff in our lives/garages onto other more deserving souls...the Yard Salers. A unique breed whose lineage in America, according to some, can be traced back as far as the Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans, although the claim is widely in dispute. The Yard Saler (or Yardy) emerges from winter like a hibernating bear restless from being couped up for months and ready to devastate a garbage pile anywhere in their immediate vicinity.

Attracting Yardies is really quite easy...albeit somewhat dangerous. But with a little planning and preparation, a safe yard sale experience to eliminate the jun...sorry... extra, unneeded stuff in your life and put a little cha-ching in your pocket can be accomplished. God bless the free market system in action at the grass roots level.

Start by setting a date, preferably a Saturday, for the event. Next, gather the items to be awarded and begin pricing. If you buy a pre-labeled pricing kit now readily available, be sure to buy an extra one. There are never enough 25 cents stickers in a single kit. Be sure to allot enough time for the pricing step especially if you are working with your spouse. Price debates are sure to ensue between family members and will ultimately resemble something akin to a normal trading day on the New York Stock Exchange. Expect it.

A common error made by most host is spending too much time on organization and presentation. Yardies don't care. Piles are acceptable and inevitable. Milk carton crates categorized by price of items contained are perfect. Easy to transport, Yardies can see contents, and they're reusable from year to year. you're not having another yard sale next Spring. All that's left is a couple of obligatory folding tables. Another word of caution, if you set the tables up in your yard the Friday night before the advertised frenzy, expect early Yardies. Also, working with the garage door open will attract early Yardies. You set it up...they will come and rummage.

Now all you need is a well-timed ad in the local newspaper (day of), a couple of rudimentary signs announcing the location (think high traffic), and maybe a call to your local 'swap shop' radio program if available in your area. Be prepared for an early start. Yardies tend to ignore the advertised sale times. If you plan to start at 8 am, you'd better be ready at first light because yardies are probably already there and waiting. Some have even been known to knock on a darkened house's door until someone was awake and ready to sell.

Another waste of time is planning for proper traffic flow. Once a Yardy spots your sale, all known driving etiquette/laws are out the window. Yardies have been known to create neighborhood traffic jams for hours with no remorse. Hit/bump and run is a common occurrence around frenzies. Chaos is sure to ensue and trying to prevent it would be like trying to control falling leaves from a tree during a windstorm in Autumn...futile.

Just this past weekend, a very good friend trying to get to work came across a yard sale frenzy. The scene she described sounded more like a scene from a rush hour freeway in LA. She was completely blocked from using the street in a residential neighborhood...and nobody cared! There's used clothing to be had woman, who cares about your job or your customers! I would have hated to be the guy waiting for a hair cut when she arrived at the shop...still steaming mad. Just take a little off the top probably took on a whole new meaning.

If you decide to unload some rubbish you've wintered in your garage with the arrival of Spring, just please make sure it's not the same stuff you bought at a yard sale last Spring. I'm mean...really now people...break the cycle of madness. It's not Christmas fruitcake.