Monday, June 29, 2009

Governor Sanford just became a huge Michael Jackson fan...

I can't stand it any longer!

I've really tried to take the high road on this Michael Jackson issue. I mean after all...the man is dead or so we're being told. I'm very sensitive to exactly what that may or may not mean...him being dead and all...but enough is enough. The media is selling this to be some type of 'once in a lifetime' iconic death, and I'm not buying. In my opinion, the guy is first and foremost someone, who in all likelihood, was a serial pedophile.

I know that's not a very Christ-like view to take, and my faith tells me he will be judged by our Creator and only our Creator. Please forgive me...but to ignore the idiosyncrasies that point to a habitual child molester is just wrong. Pedophiles are loathed in our society and branded the absolute worst of the worst. Yes, Michael Jackson deserves the grace of God just as much as me or anyone else, but let's not make him out to be some type of public hero.

The man (and I use that term loosely) was a terrific musician and entertainer...granted. In my younger days, I danced to more than one Jackson song...including a 45 record of 'ABC' that was probably my first. Stop laughing please. Then came 'Thriller' and a whole new reason to like the child star who had grown up. This is the Michael Jackson I remember...

But in my eyes, Michael Jackson actually died in January 1994 when he paid a $22 million settlement that virtually guaranteed his first accusatory of sexual impropriety wouldn't testify in a criminal proceeding...leaving the LA District Attorney's office without a witness and therefore case. But the accusations didn't stop in 1994 and more came forward in 2003. In a trial that hadn't seen as many debacles and gaffs from a law enforcement agency since the Simpson trial (wait, it's the same L.A. law enforcement agency...d'oh), Jackson was acquitted of all charges...just like O.J.

So it's all too real for me to be lifting the man up on the pop culture pedestal of greatness. I'm sad he's dead. I hope he was right with God...I really do. Just give it a rest people in the media. You threw the guy under the bus when you needed ratings, and now you're using his tragic death to capitalize again. When will WE ever learn and tune you out.

Forget Iran and North Korea. Forget health care reform and even the war in the Middle East. We'll be hearing about Jackson for months...if not longer.

In the 'If you can't beat them...' spirit of things, I just couldn't resist sharing a link to my favorite all-time Michael Jackson reference which was featured on South Park years ago, although it's wrong on a number of levels...with apologies for finding the content so darn funny and not being able to embed the video.

And for the record...I no longer watch South Park or dance to Michael Jackson songs.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anyone have a cougar I can borrow?

My commute to and from work each day

I live in a quite little town of just over 50, 000 people. Each work day, I travel to my office in a neighboring little town which also has just over 50, 000 people and back again at day's end. My 24 mile commute is mostly conducted on a stretch of Interstate I-26, which by the way, actually starts where I get on at Exit 1. I say it starts there and eventually ends in Charleston SC because, quite frankly, the pendulum is far off balance when comparing the two ends...but that's another blog down the road (pardon the pun). I stated... it's Exit 1.

Don't get me wrong. I love my little town nestled in the mountains of East Tennessee. My commute is decorated with breath-taking scenery that people commuting in other parts of the country would love to see...that is...if I could take time to look.

My stretch of I-26 is more akin to a NASCAR race at one of the circuit's super speedway tracks than a leisurely drive through the countryside. It's white-knuckled driving at its finest and not for the timid or faint of heart. Part of that equation is created by the fact that probably half of one city works in the other neighboring city... and vice-versa. Throw in the natural 'banking' on this particular stretch of interstate and you've got a recipe for some of the best amateur racing since Hanna-Barbera's Wacky Races was cancelled in 1969

Several months back, I was very content not to get drawn into the daily suicide run. I would cruise along smoothly at the posted speed limit, listen to my iPod via my car stereo (thanks Mrs. Tony C Today), and reflect on the day to be or the day that was...depending on which way I was traveling. Lines of cars would blaze by at blurring speeds, and I would fight back the competitive person I truly am with a God bless you directed at the aggressive drivers. Being an avid Seinfeld fan, I borrowed Frank Costanza's serenity now ...which was a little to 'New Age' for me... and added a more pious tone.

There was a safety issue holding me back too. The tires on my '99 Mazda Protege were a little worse for the wear...well...actually, they were pretty bald. Several hydroplaning incidents during wet weather had contributed to my throttled back demeanor not to mention a number of impromptu prayers. happened. Rubber only goes so far and mine was passed the point of safe highway travel, so I bought a new set of Goodyear Eagles. The playing field might be changed to near level in my mind and the game had changed.

Now wait a minute. It's not like that first morning I hit the top of the on-ramp at Exit 1 doing 75 mph ready to race. No, it was much more subtle. A guy following right on my bumper trying a 'drop and go' around me to avoid slowing down.

God bless you.

The 'run up, cut over in front of you' move to get around you and the other 4 cars behind you in the left-hand lane.

God bless you!

How about the back and forth lane switcher behind two cars travelling parallel as if to intimidate someone into speeding up or slowing down.


That's was it...I was in the race. After all, I'm a much better driver than 95% of the yahoo's out there, and the Protege still had a little punch left in all 4 cylinders...most of the time. And that funny noise at speeds over 70 mph? Well that's where Michael W. Smith on the old iPod comes in handy. If I can't hear it over W. it really a problem?

Fast forward to a mere week ago (okay, I'll stop with the puns now). I leave work ready for the weekend that was just 24 miles ahead. After clearing the speed traps at the city limits, it was on like Talladega. Just a mile or little more into the jaunt, I looked around to survey the field. I was car number 4 in a line of 9 cars on the inside with a line of 12 riding the right lane...all packed together...all screaming down I-26. A quick glimpse to my immediate right found a Ford Escort Station Wagon circa 1992 running on the emergency spare tire on the right side back driven by a older man in a zen-like state of concentration determined not to lose a spot in line.

God bless you!

Directly behind me was an angry looking man driving a black SUV with a phone in his right hand, a cigarette in his left hand partially out the window... leaving me with the uneasy feeling of wonder to exactly what was steering his vehicle planted on my bumper.

God bless you!

Then it happened. You always hear tragedy seems to occur in slow motion, and to that cliche I can attest because as I watched the tire piece fly up in the air from underneath the vehicle in front of seemed to hang if it were a movie special effect. A quick mental calculation and I knew the gator (as they're known in my neck of the woods) was going to hit my vehicle somewhere up front. I couldn't swerve right or I'd take out Phil Jackson and his gimped Escort. If I slowed down suddenly, I risked being plowed over by the 5 cars in tow or being the catalyst to a potentially very bad wreck. Besides, the Marlboro Man was too consumed in conversation and nicotine to react quick enough.

Please God, don't let it break my windshield...not the windshield!

I watched the tire reach apex and begin the plunge.

Please not the windshield!

It was heading right for the windshield on my side. With a loud slap, the tire half hit the windshield directly in front of me and half slightly off to the left, quickly disappeared...taking my driver's side mirror with it. Poof...gone.

Shake and bake!

The pack never broke stride as we barrelled toward the weekend. My windshield was undamaged, my right side mirror MIA, and my nerves a little rattled...but I never touched the brakes. I've determined my daily commute will require some regular training to make sure I have the intestinal fortitude to endure and prevail...that and I'll have to drive in the right hand lane until my new mirror gets here. I'm painting '00' and 'Mean Machine' on the Protege along with Ricky Bobby under my door window...

Guess I'd better take this off first...

No, on second thoughts, I'd better leave it...and forget the new paint scheme.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reality is a point of view...(WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO)

I jumped over to CNN this morning to catch the latest from Iran. There's a lot of things going on in the country, and Twitter just can't keep up. Some of you have probably already heard about the YouTube video circulating showing a teenage girl named Neda being killed during the protest on Saturday. She has become a rallying cry worldwide for the outrageous reaction by the Iranian government in response to the peaceful protest.

Be warned- the video is very graphic and shows the teenage girl actually dying. I post this for one reason only...people need to see and know this is real and Iranian citizens are risking their lives or actually dying for their right to be heard.

I started by mentioning my visit to the CNN website. As I'm writing this, the number 1 viewed story on CNN is listed as Reality bites for Jon and Kate...

...well, reality isn't too peachy for Neda either.

God please forgive us and be with the people of Iran trying to stand up and be heard.

Friday, June 19, 2009

He rocks in the tree-tops all day long...

I came to Twitter reluctantly. The benefits of 'micro-blogging' my oft drudged daily routine to solicited followers seemed...narcissistic. Maybe there's still truism in that initial feeling, but I'm also sold on the fact that social networking mediums are a powerful force in our world today.

As I write this, the future course of Iran is playing out in the streets of Tehran...history in the making. With the media blackout imposed by the reigning power, news is finding it's way to the rest of the world via Twitter, Facebook and other such mediums. The U.S. State Department requested that Twitter delay a scheduled maintenance outage mid-week so the flow of information would continue. Just typing State Department and Twitter in the same sentence would have been completely incomprehensible to me a few months ago.

For those of you resisting the fad, Twitter is a web-based social networking service that allows users to 'tweet' 140 characters at a time to their followers. According to a recent front page Time magazine article, Twitter is changing the way we look at our world. Some would say it already has...

Most of you know I try to stay on top of the latest trends in internet innovation. My motivation is really quite simple, if it draws the interest of people...Christians need to be there with WWJD bracelets on representing Christ. As I've stated in numerous blog post, the internet is only evil because evil people are there. Evil people who need to know about the love of God...even for them.

So now, like my fellow blogging buddy Katdish among others, I'm a Twitterer (?). Katdish just calls us Twitter ho's, but I don't think that's a sanctioned title by Twitter. I'm tweeting about daily task and thoughts, prayer request, good articles or blogs I've read...any number of things each day. I must say it's quite liberating in the fact that I have yet another daily opportunity to witness for God. I receive prayer request daily from people which I add to my daily prayer list...sometimes taking a moment to stop and pray the minute they're received.

At the risk of sounding Pharisee-like, I think it's important for Christians to acknowledge our piousness to the rest of the world. After all, Christ hung on a cross in a public spectacle that changed the world as it had never been changed. I'm not trying to undermine the importance of humility by any means, but people need to know they are loved and cared about by Christ and Christ Followers. If one tweet can show that love and bring another soul to heaven...color me there.

Twitter or Facebook may not be your thing and that's perfectly okay. Just don't avoid them because of the negative stigma we often place on internet based application as Christians. God needs to be all over the world wide web too...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hang we go around again!

Today I complete another circuit around the 45th said trip.

It's so hard to grasp that I'm quickly closing in on half a century of existence. Granted I don't remember a great deal about the first 5 or so years, but my capacity meter still shows a lot of data stored in the old melon-sized hard drive I call a head. The true question would be is the drive over half full or is there still lots of room for more data? I am an older model you know but adequately equipped for upgrades...

If you'd be so kind as to indulge a brief stroll down the proverbial memory lane...let's look specifically at technology in my lifetime.

I graduated high school in 1982 from a school that still used carbon paper to make copies. The brand new Xerox copy machine the school purchased was too expensive (and technical) for teachers to make bulk copies.

The very first computer I used for practical application (and I say that loosely) was an IBM System 36 Model 5360 while in my first year at Vanderbilt University. The class I was taking was Computer Programming...which used Pascal, a structured programming language. The computer weighed over 700 pounds and had to be kept in a temperature controlled room. A dozen terminals were outside the room for student use/abuse.

Upon checking into my first duty station after being commissioned as a US Marine officer, I was issued a Sharp PC-5000 laptop computer... before I was issued my sidearm (which then was the Colt .45). It was part of the 'new Marine Corps' which can easily be translated to 'let's see if we can bog down the normally nimble Marines with bureaucratic red tape requirements too.' The Sharp PC-5000 is not recommended as a hand-to-hand combat weapon...

As the Classified Materials Custodian for my command (a collateral duty that had federal prison consequences attached if you messed up), I was responsible for, among other things, the secure holding and issue of the command's GPS devices...Garmin under guard basically. They were classified as Top Secret issues...

The only ways to communicate with family back home from my duty station in Hawaii was 25 cents a letter or 42 cents a minute on the phone. No email, no instant messaging, no free mobile to mobile or friends in a calling circle, no video conferencing, no fax machines and no text messaging. I'm sure all of the Y-generation readers are now convulsing in complete incomprehension...

I 'rented' my first cell phone in 1992 for business use in my first post-Corps civilian job. A Motorola 'bag phone' was the only option. This was also the phone I used when I began working part-time broadcasting high school sports for a local radio station. Setting up to broadcast then required a table for the phone, power adapter (and source), mixing board and research materials. Today, I can broadcast from the bleachers with just a laptop and headset if necessary... and it sounds 1000% better.

Speaking of radio, commercials were recorded on a tabletop reel-to-reel recorder for sound quality. Messed up? Back up the tape and try again. Went 32 seconds on a 30 second spot (which was timed with a stop watch)? Edit copy, back up and try again. Now, I record my promo's on my home or laptop computer, edit for time through compression, take out any deep breaths by digital edit, make my voice sound a little deeper, and email the spot in an mp3 for airing. A spot can literally be on air within a few minutes of emailing. Wish compression editing worked on waistlines....

Just a very few examples of changes my years have seen in the area of technology. I think most people my age appreciate the devices and medias we have today because we've lived without them. Either that or we stick our heads in the sand and pretend the world is the same as it was when Ronald Reagan was elected President...the first time.

Ahhhh...the good old Reagan years...where did they go...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

But everyone else is parenting that way....

I'm going to follow up my Monday post by staying on the subject of teens and the low expectation our culture places on them. I really think it's important...almost urgent...that we understand, as adults, the seeds we plant or the aspirations we crush with our words and actions. But today, I want to address just parents and look at two areas: home and church.

Parenting a teenager must be one of the most challenging aspects of adult life...I can hear the collective 'amen' from those of you who relate. What I often fail to stop and realize is that it was no different for my parents when I was a teenager...or their parents when they were teenagers...and so on down the family tree.

Wait a minute Tony C, things are much different today than when you were a teen in the 70's.

You think? Technology and media sources may be different, but I don't think teens are actually any different because being a teen is as much about biological changes happening as it is about cognitive changes. Those same changes have been happening to growing young people I'd be willing to bet since Cain and Abel.

So what do we expect, as parents, from our teenagers today? listen to everything we say as parents and follow all instructions to the letter.

Hmmmm. That's realistic (eye roll). Well...I can ground you long as you live in...I don't care what other people are doing...jump off a bridge would...don't look at me come back here...

So basically what we are saying to our teens is we, as parents, don't trust they are either motivated, resilient or intelligent enough to breath unless we remind them. How could they even survive if I weren't around to keep them alive?

Not exactly a boosting shot of confidence to a person trying to break from complete adolescent dependents to autonomy. I mean after all, isn't our biological function as parents to prepare our children to successfully live independently? There is a fine balance between trust and control that no amount of James Lehman's Total Transformation can help you find. I'm constantly struggling to let go of my need for control and just accept that my teenager will make mistakes from time to time as she figures out who she is and where she wants to go in life. My job probably needs to be more facilitator and less dictator...which brings me to my second

While growing up, I didn't have a choice about going to church...if mom went...I went. I'm not necessarily implying that's a bad thing, but during my teenage-typical rebellious stage, it was the fodder for a number of forced...shall we say...disagreements on my part. Facts are facts and teenagers are going to find issues to argue about with their parents. Should we let church become a lightning rod?

After reading Do Hard Things and reflecting on my own parent/teenager relationship, I realized I was making my daughter do something that God doesn't force me to do. God gave me free will to accept Him and follow His word...He doesn't force me to do that. Yet, I'm forcing my daughter to attend church when I do even though she accepted Christ on her own. Why?

Control. I want my daughter to go to church because she wants to go to church and worship....not because I force her to go. There are staggering statistics about post-graduation teens who stop attending church, alter their faith, or abandon their beliefs all together. I'm not saying the only reason for the exodus is an exertion of independence from the way mom and dad do things, but I do believe it's a contributing circumstance.

Parenting is a subjective issue, so please don't feel I'm trying to tell you how to do it. Heck...I'm figuring it out as I go. What I am trying to do is challenge you to think about the status quo. Does holding low expectations and thus forcing our will on our teenagers make them better prepared to be adults? To be better Christians? If I may be so bold, I'll answer those questions with a question...

Is the love of God manifested in His giving of free will resulting in His extension of grace and mercy?

Seems like a perfect template to help me be a better parent...

Monday, June 8, 2009

The world might make it after all...

From time to time, I do a little teenager bashing on here. Much of it can be easily justified by something stup...excuse me...ridiculous my own teenager has said or done (I can no longer use the stupid word by decree of Mrs. Tony C). Having a teenage girl coupled with an approaching terrible two's toddler gives me greater understanding of the plight of Job. As a matter of fact, there are days I'd rather sit around and scrape scabs to open wounds than listen to one more lame excuse trying to justify the funky smell emitting from a certain person's room or the lack of appropriate attire that coincides with current weather patterns. UGGGHHHH!

But that's not my direction a matter of fact, I'm going a completely different way...hopefully for good. While on vacation last week, I managed to get in some long overdue casual reading. Oh, I read a lot daily, but keeping up with the world today requires reading or watching or listening to a plethora of daily casual/leisure reading often takes a back seat...or would toilet seat be more accurate. I digress...

One of the books I was determined to work through was Do Hard Things by Alex and Brent Harris. I had heard and read good reviews about the book and the premise that teenagers are tired of the low expectation placed on them as a group from society. Interesting....but I needed more information.

Wow! Starting with the Forward by none other than Chuck Norris, this book grabbed and convicted me. The book is not complex, yet it challenges the core belief in most adults today that teenagers are a lazy bunch looking for the path of least resistance in life. You find yourself quickly on the battlefields of WW II where the fate of the world often was in the hands of 17 or 18 years old on both sides of the fight. There are examples from Biblical times up to present day of teenagers making major impact in the world.

Also, Do Hard Things is a book on faith. The authors proudly testify about the impact Christ has made in their own lives. The book won't keep your teenagers out of trouble. Instead, it challenges both them and you to put God at the center and strive to achieve your fullest potential by...well...doing hard things.

Recent ESPN the Magazine article titled Do Hard Things

I've got to admit, the book has had a profound impact on the way I view and deal with my own teenager. Even though I hold her to high expectations (or so I thought), I still place limits on her ability to make a major impact for God and for herself in the world....and it's not just her. Working with youth at church can often be frustrating and painful, but now I see that I create a lot of the negative feelings I have because my own actions and words project low expectations from the get-go.

Read this book. If you have children, work with youth or if you've ever been a this book! I'm very glad it was suggested to me (thanks Rosie), and I did. Be warned that your toes might get stepped on like mine did...but in the's well worth the self-reflection and renewed faith that everything will be okay when the kids of today get their chance to run things. We should expect that from them.