A Little Bit of Heaven In Bordeaux

I didn’t want to let too much time pass before I mentioned the incredible experience I had this weekend.

X-Alt took part this past Saturday in an open house event for the community in Bordeaux at Word of Life Christian Center.  The church had gone all out with marvelous food, inflatable slides for the kids, “fair” fare (snow cones, cotton candy), and music.

Politicians were there (including the local legend Thelma Harper), and there was some speechifying.  There was some not-so-subtle campaigning, and although many in our band probably won’t vote the same way as many present, one had to be struck by the sense of urgency and commitment felt by most present. 

Anyway, that was only a tiny part of the proceedings, and when the music started, it was hard not to be swept up by the spirit present in this very hot and sticky (and windy) outdoor venue.

Susie has her own God Sighting about the event at her place (hurray, Susie’s blogging!)

Our set was not bad (we REALLY miss Mark Mills!), and by the end of the second set, we had hit our stride.  The members of the Nashville “biker church” had showed up, and that coincided with us starting our rock set.  The timing couldn’t have been better. 

You haven’t lived till you’ve won over a crowd of bikers with your version of “Jesus is Just Alright”.

When the church’s praise team did their set, things really started rolling.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this group.  It’s just hard not to get excited when they are singing.

I sometimes forget to thank God for the incredible gift I’ve been given.  I have been given a small view of the width and breadth of the way Christians of all backgrounds worship Christ.  I have been in high churches with great organs and soaring choirs, singing some of the greatest hymns ever written by some of the greatest composers in history.  I’ve seen the quiet, somber worship of those struggling to overcome addictions.  I’ve heard great scriptural teachings, and liturgies that have been spoken for centuries, and heartfelt prayers inspired on the spot.  I’ve worshipped with prisoners who sing, and feel, every word of ‘Amazing Grace’.

Jesus left us with a specific prayer, and He told us that we would one day worship in spirit and in truth, but He pretty much left the ‘how’ open.  He did not tell us to face a certain direction, or say ‘x’ number of prayers per day, or do this or that meditation to reach enlightenment.  He did not dictate rituals that must be performed by His followers.  He did not tell us to make a pilgrimage to a geographic spot, or to sing certain songs, if we sing at all.

Now, we Christians argue over these things;  we have for centuries now.  But, I really feel in my heart that God is pleased, not dismayed, by the almost unlimited ways His children display their love for him.

I only say this because I was struck by one particular moment.  The Sounds of Life sang their wonderfully soulful version of “Trading My Sorrows”.  Several people started an impromptu dance.  Before I knew it, I looked up, and there were 50 or so people doing a variation of the Electric Slide.  Church members, community members who had just walked up when they heard the music, tattooed bikers in full regalia, old and young, some of us west-siders – all of us singing, and dancing and shouting “Yes, Lord!” 

This event was not billed as a worship service, but that’s what it was. 

Surely, this is the stuff of Heaven, no?

I sure hope Ford got some good pictures for the X-alt blog.  Y’all check later, it was really a great day.

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Feel Good Friday Two-fer

My daughter thought this song stunk because all she knew was the Jonas Brothers’ version.  I had to educate her with a little 80’s old school:

After all these years, after all the money spent on thousands of lavish videos, I think that Aha’s Take on Me might still be the single greatest of all time.

Now for a little 80’s silliness.  We get SOOOOO worked up about “issues” that we forget how to laugh with each other.  I know that some might think this video is insensitive, that it laughs AT a certain group of people, but I would disagree.  First, it was a different time.  I think the song describes the situation for many we would now call “undocumented immigrants” at the time, in a humorous manner.  And secondly, this is Phil Collins.  Silly?  Goofy?  Formulaic? 

Of course.

Racist?  Are you kidding me?

But the song is the most fun I’ve ever heard about a “serious” issue.  Say what you want about Collins, but he knows how to write a catchy tune.  Now, whenever I see humorless people at each others’ throats over the immigration issue, I sing this song under my breath. 

Have fun!

I Survived A Japanese Game Show

With all the turmoil in our lives lately, my family has found joy in two diversions recently.  The Joe Cocker translation video, and ABC’s new hyper-silly reality show I Survived a Japanese Game Show.

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s got to be stupid, right?  Certainly the premise is cruel – certainly the show is all about making fun of someone from a different culture?

As someone who has been in more multicultural situations than he ever thought he’d see (and not through some contrived Celebration of Cultures one-time event), I can tell you that this show strikes just the right tone.

It’s silly.  It’s downright bizarre.  It makes fun of all of us.

The show is filled with a kind of joy, a celebration.  There’s the whole “show within a show” aspect (during the Japanese broadcast parts, the quality of the HD actually changes – this is by design).  The Japanese audience most definitely is laughing at the loud but clueless Americans.  We, the American audience, are supposed to be laughing at the very strange entertainment culture of many Japanese.

I have a confession to make: I LOVE Japanese game shows.  Ever since the first time I saw MXC (or Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) on Spike, I have been hooked.  Of course, the funniest part of the show was the American English overdubbing, but there was still something loveable about the crazy underlying Japanese show Takeshi’s Castle.

By the way, the lead-in to Japanese Game Show is Wipeout, and Americanised version of these type of shows.  It’s a little crueler than the originals, and not done in the same spirit of fun, but we still watch anyway – it’s like a train wreck.

But Japanese Game Show is just so much fun – both because we get to see an (almost) real Japanese game show, Majide (which means “Seriously?”), but we also get to see the reactions of the hapless Americans, who were not told what they would be doing when they signed up for an un-described reality show (why would anyone do that?)

An example of one of the contests on Majide: Big Bug Splat On A Wind Shield  – Contestants in bug suits carrying a goo-filled balloon on a chest-mounted pouch had to jump on a trampoline and accurately place markers on three separate targets on a target area decorated to look like a car windshield.

The audience is screaming and banging drums, and the host is as hammy as David Lee Roth.

The only part of the show I don’t like is the typical reality show cliches: everyone lives in the same house (with a tough mama-san, no less).  Characters give “confessionals” throughout the show (yuck), and a camera follows the contestants backstage.  There seems to be contrived conflict, and that’s many times no fun to watch at all.

All in all, though, it’s good, silly, intra-cultural fun.  My kids absolutely love it.

As far as the uptight folks who are afraid to laugh at our world’s cultural differences (in a non-condescending way, of course), well, they tend to run in pretty homogenous circles themselves, so I pay them no nevermind.  Life is too short to walk around offended, especially for other people (who may not even be offended themselves)

Check the show out next week, or watch it online at ABC’s site: it’ll be more fun than you think!

A Crazy Week – In Other Words, Normal

This will be long, but it HAS been a while.

It has been quite a week.

We managed to over-schedule ourselves again; we have a hard time saying ‘no’, and the things we signed up for, individually, are no big deal.  But together, they just about killed us earlier this week.

Of course, I’m doing the blog-a-thon, and I’ve been scrambling this week to put together enough posts to meet the required 24.

This is VBS week at church.  There are a few ‘big things’ our church’s children’s ministry does throughout the year, and this is one of them.  Lintilla and I have become associated with the 4th and 5th grade kids (we’ll be teaching a new group on Wednesday nights next year), and we volunteered to shepherd these kids through VBS.

This group of kids is incredibly bright, and problematic at the same time.  They are 95% boys.  A good number are ADHD (or at least they act that way), and their age means that normal VBS activities are too childish for them.  So, we adopted a curriculum that takes them out of the normal VBS activities, and involves them in “service” – little mini-missions (More on that later).

So, this past weekend, we had family activities planned (some of them fun!); that meant that household chores had to be put off.  Monday and Tuesday, I worked my butt off getting the house clean, doing the laundry, getting groceries, mowing the lawn.  I knew that starting Wednesday, there would be no time for any of that.  Our days, through Saturday, would be packed morning-to-bedtime.

And then came Wednesday.

After work, Lintilla and I had to meet with her doctor (the urologist this time).  A few weeks earlier, the oncologist had found a “spot” on her kidney.  We weren’t sure what it was, so we kept quiet about it.  But I had a good idea what to expect when the doctor asked me to come in with Lintilla for the consultation.

The doctor took forever to see us (don’t get me started about that), so we were already running late.  She told us that Lintilla had a small tumor – something called Renal Cell Carcinoma.  It wasn’t related to the tumor she had last year.

There is a surgery to remove it, that involves cameras, robotics, and all kinds of high-tech stuff, and it is 93% effective (the tumor does not return).  The doctor does not want to perform the surgery right now (neither do we).  She wants to look at it again in Aug/Sep, and, in her words, “the tumor will tell us what to do.”  If it has grown, we’ll schedule surgery soon thereafter.  If not, we’ll wait till early next year, because she just had another major surgery this past December, and I’d rather not her have to go through two painful Christmases in a row.

Both of us are just a little weary right now.  So, if we can wait, and no harm come of it, we’ll wait.

So, in the middle of the consult, Lintilla notices it’s after 5, and I have to pick up the kids in Bellevue at 5:30, or they’ll get taken back to Camp Renaissance in Dickson and I’ll have to pay a fortune.  So, I rush out to Bellevue, and barely make it in time. (One thing I learned delivering pizzas – driving smart routes is infinitely more useful than driving fast).

The kids are now upset that I can’t feed them – I have to take them directly to VBS at church.  We do get there about 5 minutes before the start of VBS, and wolf down some food the director generously saved for us, then get to the proceedings.

I can’t begin to tell you how awfully the children (all of them, not just mine) behaved.  The first night of VBS, in this curriculum, is supposed to be a time of learning just what service is.  But there are no activities, and I think this was a mistake.  It was simply chaos.  We never really got them under control, and Lintilla at one point lost her temper and yelled at them (fun VBS, huh?)

Then we had to stick around and make sure every kid (in all levels) left with a parent.  We got home at 9 and crashed, exhausted.

Then yesterday, things started to turn.  Work, for me has actually been light this week, so at least I have that going for me.  Lintilla’s boss let her shift some patients around so she could leave early yesterday and today and have unwind time before VBS.

For VBS, we took the kids to a nursing home to serve ice cream and cookies and visit.  Y’all – it was such a turnaround, it was just incredible.  To see these kids – the ones who had been totally incorrigible the day before – display a warmth and tenderness toward Alzheimer’s patients, well, it brought a tear to my eye.  I’ve dealt with Alzheimer’s patients before; many times they can’t speak back, but the look in their eyes tells you how they feel.

They were beaming.  Perhaps the presence of the children kindled feelings for their own kids and grandkids.  It was quite a sight to see.

Today, I am somewhat more at peace.  Plugging into that awesome love of God will do that.  Yes, there will be upheaval in the coming months, but we’ve become old pros at living through upheaval.  And we have an incredible network of friends who are eager and willing to help. 

Having a spouse go through cancer surgery is like single parenthood – plus .  You have the short-term pressures of single-parenthood (the household still has to be run), plus a spouse that needs looking after, along with the added worry of navigating our archaic health insurance system.  It can be a lot of worry.

But, Jesus says “Do not worry”, so, dadgummit, I will not worry.  It’s going to be all right.  It’s going to be better than all right.

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.  He will turn our sorrow into dance.  The words of my favorite Psalm are always there to comfort.  Soon, I’ll be dancing a jig.

I do not know, specifically, how we will get through all of this, but I know we will get through it.  I don’t *believe* it, I *know* it.

Lintilla, as usual, has a great attitude about all of this.  She prefers to deal with things by diving into distracting activities, so that’s what we’re doing. (My only regret is that we haven’t had time to sit, absorb, and talk about what all of this means) 

Tonight, we take the VBS kids to cook and serve dinner for the folks at the Ronald McDonald house.  Now that they are getting this service thing down, I have faith that it will go well.  I will have my eyes open, looking for God. 

I also have some stuff going on at work that might be very, very good.  Do I dare summon up the courage to switch departments and start all over again at my age?  We’ll see.

I know, I know.  It would be much better if I posted short, one subject posts every day instead on one giant post every couple of weeks.  What can I say?  I’ve been BUSY.

Jerry Lewis I Ain’t – But Please Help!

Yes, I have lots of news to pass along, and, I’ll be doing that shortly. 

But first, I’d like to ask your help with a project I’m doing at Ugly Betty News.  b5Media, the network to which UBN belongs, is sponsoring a “Blog-a-thon” to raise money for two different charities.  The Entertainment Channel is raising money for The Actors Fund.

The Actors Fund is a nonprofit, national human services organization that helps entertainment and performing arts professionals in theater, film, music, opera, television and dance through a broad spectrum of social, health, employment, and housing programs that address their essential and critical needs.

It’s a good charity, and one I’m proud to be associated with.

My part in this:  I am posting one post per hour for the entire 24 hours. (Thank goodness for timestamped posting).  You can help in one of two ways.  You can send me a guest post – it just has to be at least 2 paragraphs and about Ugly Betty – or donate money to The Actors Fund .  Ideally, $1 per post, but anything you can give would be appreciated.

And make sure to visit Ugly Betty News often today – I’m a little crazier than normal over there.  Have you ever tried what’s essentially a filibuster about a TV show, one that’s in its offseason?  I’ll be reading from the Ugly Betty phone book soon. 🙂

I’m only 1 post short of having the required 24 for the day, so one guest post will put me over the top.  Everyone who guest posts is entered to win $30 (which will buy a couple gallons of gas!)

Thanks for all your help.

Today Is Lintilla’s Birthday!

Today is the 19th anniversary of Lintilla’s 29th birthday.

I got her an iPod Nano, because that’s what she wanted.

She is and always will be the love of my life. 

Stone Is A Good Conductor of Sound

It is obvious that Harding Academy is determined  to have their new athletic fields completed before the start of the school year this fall.  I know this because an army of workmen and machines is busily changing the landscape of the 7.5 acre site, six (sometimes seven) days a week, from 5:30 AM till 5:30 PM!

Instead of blasting, when they need to they are drilling into the almost-entirely rock mountain. (OK, it’s a hill – give me a little latitude here – mountain is more dramatic).  On the surface (literally), the dtrilling is non-disrupting and makes little noise.  The earth movers are far more noisy. 

However, our family room is a converted basement.  It is quite literally built into the mountain.  When I go downstairs, it sounds almost as if the mountain has a heartbeat.  The house constantly (at this level) vibrates ever so slightly in the rhythm of the huge hydraulic drill, and this is not only a nuisance, it’s a little worrisome.

Yet, I’m not TOO worried about foundation problems, because if the workers have revealed anything, it’s that Nine Mile Hill is one mammoth, solid rock with topsoil on it.  There’s no place for my house to sink.  No wonder we have a hard time growing anything.

It’s also the reason we don’t have an in-ground pool.

Hopefully, the heavy construction will be done soon and our neighborhood can get a little quieter.  That is, until our afternoons will be filled with the sounds of children playing various outdoor sports.  That’s a sound I can live with.