For Whom the Bells Toll

I’m fairly alarmed right now.

In The Year From Hell, I contracted Bell’s Palsy. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular illness, it’s basically paralysis of half the face. In my case, I lost any use of, or sensation in: my left eyelid, my left cheek, my left nostril, the left side of my mouth. I also lost all sense of taste.

Eating/ drinking becomes a challenge when your mouth doesn’t close. Even if you use a straw, you still have to tilt your head to one side and let gravity do the work, or whatever you’re drinking ends up in your lap. I had to wear an eyepatch because I couldn’t blink on the left side. Of course, speaking under these conditions becomes a challenge as well.

I had the worst of it for about 3 months. I never completely recovered – to this day I cannot purse my lips well enough to whistle, and when I get tired, my left eye droops, making me look like an idiot, or at least like Sylvester Stallone.

In The Year From Hell, the precursor to the Bell’s Palsy was a severe sinus and ear infection. The doctor theorized that the infection got to my cranial nerve, triggering the palsy.

I’ve been very lucky, because reoccurances are common.

Well, I’ve been quite sick with some kind of very strong head cold the last few days.

Sometime today, I noticed that the tip of my nose is numb. I’m faily alarmed. I ran to the mirror, and everything is still working correctly. I did the “raise both eyebrows” test, the “smile with mouth closed” test; it’s all still working.

But last time, it hit overnight. I just woke up, and my face had stopped functioning. I have no idea how long it took for the paralysis to kick in: I was asleep.

I’ll let you know tomorrow whether I’ve once again become a drooling, drooping, incomprehensible fool. Some of you probably are thinking to yourselves, “How will we notice?” That’s not funny! Well, yes it is, but like I said…

I’m faily alarmed right now.

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Discrimination

Microsoft Word’s spellchecker gives me the little red squiggles for:

Zaphod
Trillian
Lintilla
Slartibartfast

However, there are no “you can’t spell, you dumb dope!” squiggles for:

Gandalf
Aragorn
Galadriel
Frodo

I know geeks. I am one of their High Priests. But I can tell you, the ones in Redmond need to expand their horizons a little.

Let’s Talk About Football in Church!

Katherine Coble is wondering why we have to talk about football in church. Great question! Let me give it a shot, from a lay-preacher point of view. Just from small clues I’ve picked up here and there, I’m guessing that you (Katherine) attend some kind of “high” church. We Methodists haven’t been “high church” in quite a while, so hopefully we won’t be talking past one another. I might also add that I’m only speaking for me, I represent no one.

I think, Kat, that you may be complaining about football banter that is outside of the sermon (probably in the announcements). I’m not too crazy about using this time for good natured ribbing either (leave more time for the SERMON, dude!), but even with that I think it serves a purpose: letting visitors know that the congregants are real human beings with real lives, who don’t go around saying “thee” and “Thou” all the time. But, I could go either way on the subject. I’ll let others speak to that. But I can tell you why I believe referencing football in the middle of a sermon is not only allowable, but a good idea.

One of my favorite “great thinkers” of all time is Ravi Zacharias. I learned from him that there are three levels of philosophical discourse:

1) High-level, theoretical, the kind they talk about in graduate courses in ivy league universities.
2) The Arts and popular culture.
3) “Kitchen Table” talk, or daily life.

According to Zacharias, the most effective way of driving home a point is to argue at level 1, illustrate at level 2, and apply at level 3. Conversations that stay at level 1 may be interesting to eggheads, but you’ll lose the masses quickly. For the Christian, level 1 is theology, and all those “isms” that they talk about in divinity school. Levels 2 and three are extremely important (especially 3), but they need to be grounded in “higher principles” before they are useful. So, I have adopted this three-tiered model in all of my sermons. It is important to note that scripture is used in all three levels.

Now, back to football. In the south, football is very much part of the popular culture. It is perfect for level 2 (illustrating through popular culture). I once preached a sermon based simultaneously on Psalm 116 and The Music City Miracle, and I’m told it went over quite well. It also brought Psalm 116 to life.

We must be able to apply the “high thoughts” and concepts to things we know. Jesus gave the woman at the well the New model for worship: spirit and truth. Art and science. Hearts and Minds. Scriptural discourse becomes quite dry when left by itself. The heart must be stirred as well.

There is no better way to make scripture apply to our daily lives than by illustrating the underlying concept through movies, sports, television – things people know and interact with every day. More importantly, things that stir hearts. Plus, it’s quite easy to slip into having seperate “church life” and “Life life”. Many people only think spiritually in church. Pop culture references help us see God in everything we do and see. I’ve lately been exploring the theological allegories in Charlotte’s Web. It’s not very “churchy”, but God lives beyond the walls of the Sunday Meeting House.

Now, football illustrations would not work with you, because football isn’t your thing. But in the south, a preacher can pretty much connect with 90% of the congregation with a football reference. Movies and television references would work with you most likely. My latest sermon was called “Extreme Makeover, Soul Edition”, on the subject of Sanctification. That one was fun, and it really seemed to connect with women in the congregation.

In short, I guess what I’m trying to say is that a good preacher sees God in everything, and tries to guide the congregation to see God in everything, too. Because football is so big a part of daily life around here, it’s an obvious choice to accomplish this.

I do feel like I’ve missed the mark on the original question,and I’m sorry for that. But I can only speak of what I know.

Sweet Moment

I wasn’t going to post about this, but Sista Smiff’s wonderful recounting of her own story of Santa doubt and belief has compelled me to share this.

Lintilla and I have been wondering for a while if this is going to be “the year”. By “the year”, I mean, will this Christmas be our first without Santa Claus? All the signs have been there: Zaphod is in 4th grade, and many of his friends have fallen away. He is “Mr Logical”, and we thought last year he would have brought the subject up, but seeing as he did not, we were sure this year he would. Trillian is only 15 months younger than Zaphod, so we’ve always assumed “as Zaphod goes, so goes Trillian”. The kids made a wish list and and gave it to US, and didn’t mention a thing about Santa. There are almost no toys on the wish list (which is kind of sad in it’s own right).

We prepared our speeches, and waited for the inevitable question to come up. But something weird happened: the question DIDN’T come up. We started to get nervous. Here we were, all prepared for that uncomfortable “talk” that would be a precursor to all other other uncomfortable talks, and our kids weren’t cooperating.

So we forced the issue. This past weekend, while watching “The Santa Claus” (which is a perfect movie for this subject, BTW), we slyly asked Zaphod what his friends thought of Santa’s existence. He then proceeded to astound us.

He said that many of his friends don’t believe in Santa anymore. “But”, he said, “God does wonderful and miraculous stuff all the time, and many people don’t believe in Him, either. But we know He exists. So, I believe.”

By the way, he really talks like that, but that’s for another post.

We were speechless. I can’t tell you the pride I felt at that moment. It’s hard to type this now without getting misty-eyed. Logical Zaphod, my son, cut to the heart of the matter and not only gave a well though out answer, he applied philospy. A 10 year old philosopher? Wow.

I know I’m awfully hard on Zaphod, I know Trillian has me wrapped around her little finger, and Zaphod resents it. Parents are always tougher on their firstborn, but that doesn’t make it right. I must try to do better.

Moments like these remind me just what a wonderful son I have. Every now and then, a window opens up and I get a fleeting glimpse of the man my son will grow up to be. I look forward to shaking that man’s hand, taking him out for a beer, looking him in the eye.

And telling him I love him and I’m proud of him.

Snow Big Deal

So, I’ve been waiting for the right moment to post this, but since it’s about Nashville weather, there is no way to predict the “right moment”. With a teeny-tiny chance of snow later in the week, I thought “what the hey”. So, if I’ve got everything right on a technical level, I’m posting my first “song” post to Shoot The Moose, in the form of a podcast.

Earlier this year, I wrote a song about the madness that happens in Nashville every time it snows. I made the song about a generic southern city, because the same things happen in all southern cities that get the occasional snow. “The weatherman”, at least the one in my head, is a composite: the attitude of WSMV’s “panic sisters”, Tim Ross’ face, Davis Nolan’s authoritative way of speaking.

Anyway, here’s the usual caveats. It’s a home studio recording, so you may have to turn up your volume a bit. Yes, I’m slightly off key at the beginning, but give a boy some props, I did play all the instruments. I’ll post the lyrics at the end of this post, but you really need to hear the song to get the humor. To any industry types who know “the perfect artist” to record this one: I’ll be right here, just comment.

So anyway, here it is:

Click here to get your own player.

The Great Southern White-Out

©2006 Slartibartfast’s Alter Ego (Love Never Ending Music)

Style: Up-Tempo Country-Punk

Lyrics:

The weatherman was nervous, sweat rolled down his brow.
It was bad enough to interrupt the Days Of Our Lives
He said folks, this is important, you better listen to me now
The day that we’ve all been dreading, I’m afraid it has arrived.

We’ve got an artic blast coming down from Canada,
And a lot of moisture floatin’ up from the Gulf of Mexico.
Batten down the hatches boys, we’ve got the perfect storm
Everybody, go insane, when I say the word “snow”.

It was almost more than anyone could take.
They closed the schools at the fall of the first flake…

Chorus:

It was the Great Southern White-Out.
The storm of the ages
The paper had a special pullout
It covered seven pages.
The old folks like to tell the tale
When the young folks gather round
Of the great Southern White-Out
That paralyzed this town.

There had been eight hundred accidents by the time an inch had fallen
And abandoned cars were on the side of every major road.
The Yankee Transplants laughed at us, till they’d hit a patch of ice
And redneck boys in four wheel drives offered them a tow.
The gov’nor called the National Guard to defend the milk at Kroger.
It seems a housewife had pulled a gun over the last loaf of bread.
By the time we got four inches, they had closed I-65
And the state homeland security had taken us to red.

And the TV tried to warn all of the masses
Stay off the bridges and the overpasses

Chorus:

It was the Great Southern White-Out
A storm to remember
The wooly worms tried to tell us
Way back in September.
The old folks like to tell the tale
When the young folks gather round
Of the great Southern White-Out
That paralyzed this town.

[Guitar Solo]

Slower:

Dad tended to the fire, and I built myself a snowman
We all marveled at the snow just hangin’ on the trees
My sister made snow angels, and momma made hot chocolate
Winter in the southland Can be a sight to see

We enjoyed it while we could, till the next day
The sun came out – and it melted all away…

Chorus

C’est la vie !

So, Thanksgiving went wonderfully (although my version of my mother’s famous roll recipe turned into overcooked little dough-balls), the bird turned out to be the best I ever had (thanks Alton Brown), black Friday was uneventful. Saturday, we head to Opry Mills to look at something at the Corelle store, only to find it’s been closed for some time (we don’t get out much). We got in a good walk though.

Sauturday, I notice a “tickle” in my throat; by Saturday afternoon, my fears were confirmed: I could start to feel the aches all over my body. By Saturday night, the fever hit. The chills were awful; I begged Lintilla to finally put the electric blanket on the bed. Thank God for NyQuil. I slept pretty hard.

Anyway, to the point: I knew I wasn’t fully better Sunday morning. So, I skipped church, and gave my Titans tickets to my Nephew as an early birthday present.

Let me say that again: I gave my Titans tickets away.

Of course, by the time kickoff happens, I feel almost 100%; I feel like I could have gone. Nothing like infecting 67,000 of your closest friends, right?

So, I miss the greatest 4th quarter comeback in Titans/Oilers history. The greatest comeback by a rookie quarterback ever. The game when VY and Pacman turned the corner and started to come of age. The game where Rob Bironas misses an important field goal, only to redeem himself with the game winner.

Oh, I watched it on TV, but it’s not the same. You see, game-for-game, hockey is a better “live” experience than pro football. But when things like this happen, being there at LP field can be glorious. I, along with the 200,000 other people who claim to have been there, witnessed the Music City Miracle live. What I remember most about that moment was that I hugged a policeman. And he hugged me back. I’m telling you, there is nothing like it, being there.

But as they say, C’est la vie ! Sometimes you’re there, sometimes you’re not. At least I didn’t have to fight parking lot traffic. But here’s to the Titans, one Manning down, one to go! I’m going next week, if they have to haul me in on a stretcher.

Many Thanks

So, the boss sent me home early, and I’m here preparing the brine for the turkey. My daughter is psyched about helping me cook. It now officially feels like Thanksgiving. I feel compelled to outwardly express my gratitude to God for the many blessings in my life.

I am most thankful that Jesus Christ stepped out of Timeless Eternity and suffered what should have been my fate. He spun a web, so the Father could see, that said “Some Man”, saving my eternal life – and it took His earthly life.

I am thankful for my parents, who sacrified much to raise my brothers and me, and provided the perfect model of lifelong Love.

I am thankful for my brothers, who share an unspoken bond with me; yet our differences, despite our shared DNA, must give delight to my parents.

I have the deepest gratitude for Lintilla, who has shared my life these past 19 1/2 years. She gives so much to the community, and still is able to be the kind of wife every man dreams of. God, as usual, knew what He was doing: our seperate peculiar quirks made each of us incompatible with anyone, but each other.

I am thankful to the core for Zaphod and Trillian. I have learned more from them than they will ever learn from me. They fill our home with laughter, and joy. There is sadness and concern as well, but the laughter and joy overwhelm everything else.

I am thankful for, and to, Zaphod and Trillian’s birth mother. I hope I am doing a good enough job to make you proud.

I am SO thankful that I am allowed to be part of the incredible things God is doing through X-Alt Rhythm and Praise. Y’all are my best friends in all the world, and we have the special bond that comes from being present when God visibly displays His majesty. We’ve been through the Wars together; we’ve seen some incredible stuff this year. You guys rock!

I am very thankful for the Nashville blogging community for taking me in, or at least putting up with me. As they say, “Fools rush in”, and I’m the biggest Fool of all. I’m thankful Brittney at Nashville is Talking didn’t tell this very peculiar conservative to just go away – but she’s “Stand Up”, and I have utmost respect for her. I am especially thankful for, and to, Katherine Coble, who has, for lack of a better phrase, taken me under her wing. It is tough and scary being the new guy, and having someone who is already “in” watch your back and show you the ropes is invaluable. I will NOT forget.

I am thankful to Belle Meade United Methodist Church, forever. While not yet a member, I lost everything in a house fire. You took me in, clothed me, made sure my family was fed, even collected toys for my kids. Yes, you have hurt me bad this past year, but God turns all things to good, and nothing can break the gratitude I have for your graciousness in my time of need.

I am thankful for my employer. They have given me every opportunity to succeed and hopefully, I have risen to the challenge.

I am thankful that circumstances have allowed this son of a working man to live in a neighborhood I never would have dreamed I belonged.

I am thankful for a full cupboard, a big yard, and all my “stuff”.

I am thankful for my life. Thank you, God.