Monday, December 26, 2011

Plague of the Gnats

[On December 26, 2011 and January 1, 2012, I'm going to be running my two top viewed posts for 2011. I hope you enjoy these once again--or for the first time.
       Today’s blog I first posted in 2009. Every year this has been the top rated post. ME]

A plague of gnats struck ETCA a week or two ago. Mrs. Munoz would be teaching her second grade class when, suddenly, out of nowhere, a gnat would fly toward her face. Strange. Gnats had never been around the building before.

Next door in her first grade class room, teacher Holly Shultz would find periodic irritation from these pesky insects. Likewise, first graders were constantly swatting the gnats that had begun attacking her classroom.

To the south, in the cafeteria, fifty yards and a courtyard away from the first and second grade classrooms, gnats occasionally made an appearance.

On the other side of the building, administrator Brenda Craig faced an occasional battle with the kamikaze creatures. What’s going on here? ETCA never had a problem with gnats before.

Brenda took the initiative to call the exterminator. “Sorry, Ma’am,” came the reply, “our contract with you does not cover gnats.”

And so the mystery deepened. Where had the gnats come from? What had ETCA done to offend a holy God?

And then it happened. Last week, as her students worked, first grade teacher Holly Shultz was digging through a locker in her classroom when she spied a lunch box. Whose was it? She faintly recalled seeing it before. She opened up the lunch box.

Avalanche! Look out below! All hands on deck! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Attacking Mrs. Shultz was the greatest clouds of gnats ever seen by man. She danced, and hollered, and swatted as if she were awash in a swarm of killer bees.

Students screamed and scattered. At last, order was restored. Enough so that Mrs. Shultz was able to investigate, further, the lunchbox. In so doing, she solved the mystery. The lunchbox had been long forgotten, and then suspected lost. Inside, were just enough remains of—a banana—to allow Mrs. Shultz to deduce that said banana had been the source of attraction for all of the gnats. (My personal opinion is that the insects violating everyone’s personal space were teeny-tiny fruit flies; however, I will hopefully never be able to prove my premise.)

After presumably all items involved were destroyed, order was restored and ETCA has reestablished a sense of order. And the owner of the devious lunchbox? One Timothy Edge.

When contacted by the press, Timothy’s father issued only a one-lined statement, “At least it wasn’t his underwear in the lunchbox.”

Donald Miller

Thanks to Jeff Christian and my friends at Glenwood, I had a chance Wednesday to eat lunch with Donald Miller and approximately thirty or so preachers and community leaders. If you have read my blog, you know that Miller is one of my favorite authors. He has begun a mentoring program for boys that he hopes to partner with churches nationwide in the near future.

Miller grew up without a father, so he knows firsthand the impact that void can have on a young man. Miller reminded us that 94 % of all U. S. prisoners are males. Of these, 85% grew up without the presence of a father.

Miller is serving on a presidential task force investigating this problem. The government’s conclusion—and I know this will be music to the ears of many Tylerites—government is not the solution. The federal government believes churches can do the best job of addressing this challenge. Miller is looking for ten male mentors in every church to spend a few hours a week with targeted young men. I think Miller is on to something, and I hope Shiloh can participate in this process.

Wednesday night Miller spoke at Glenwood. I thought he did a great job. He is hilarious, yet thought provoking. He proposed that the “God-shaped hole” in the human heart is an ill-conceived idea that is not biblical. Rather, he says, even in the garden before the fall, before Eve, Adam did not have his “God-shaped hole” filled by God. Something was still missing from Adam’s life, and she was Eve. I’m not sure I agree, but I am going to think about it.

Having read Miller’s BLUE LIKE JAZZ, SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT, and THROUGH PAINTED DESERTS, I am looking forward to reading his latest work, A MILLION MILES IN A THOUSAND YEARS. I’ve already read the first couple of chapters. Miller made me think and he made me laugh—out loud.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Girl Who Sobbed

[This is an edited version. I forgot when I originally posted this to credit Alexander Wolff's article in the Dec. 12, 2011 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED for the Pat Summitt story. My bad.]
            In 2008, the University of Tennessee Lady Vols’ basketball team prepared for takeoff on a chartered jet. They were traveling on an SEC road trip.
            Pat Summitt, Tennessee's head coach, took her seat on the first row, as she always did. The flight attendant took the jump seat across from Summit. She began to sob.
            Summit inch forward and asked, “What is it? Tell me, what's the matter?”
            Pat Summitt is the winningest college basketball coach of all time. She has won more college basketball games than John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, and Mike Krzyzewski, her fellow award winner for this year’s Sports Illustrated Sports [Person] of the Year award.
            If you are a woman playing high school or college sports, you owe a great deal to Pat Summit. If you have a daughter who has played sports, you owe a great deal to Pat Summitt. Pat Summitt, as much as anyone else, has made women's athletics popular.
            But Pat Summitt also has a compassionate heart. Not everyone sees this.
            A few years ago, the Lady Vols were playing a game at Louisiana Tech. After the game, when Summitt was leaving the floor, she saw a girl in a wheelchair at the mouth of the coliseum tunnel. Kneeling down beside her, Summitt said, “… You can overcome anything if you work at it.”
            That girl took Summit’s words to heart. She, one day, left that wheelchair. She decided to become an airline attendant. I suppose, among other motives, was the motive to travel, which would make sense for someone wheelchair-bound for so long.
            She did so well as an airline attendant that, when the University Tennessee athletic department requested an attendant for their charter flight, the company they contracted with chose their best–the once wheelchair-bound girl.
            And now, she found herself sitting across from Pat Summitt. She was so overwhelmed; she could not help but begin to sob.
            I think something else Summitt told her that long ago day in the flight attendant’s childhood made an impact upon her. She told her, “Don't let the way you are now define who you will be.”
            In John 21, Jesus invited Peter and the other disciples of Galilee to leave behind, once and for all, their fishing business. They were called to truly follow Jesus and become fishers of men. You cannot encounter the risen Christ and return to business as usual.
The disciples accepted Jesus’ challenge and left behind their old lives. I'm sure these poorly educated men of Galilee had no idea they would change the world forever. I am equally sure Jesus did.
The risen Christ calls each one of us to leave our old lives behind. It is for our best, and He believes in our future.
            I believe that Pat Summitt mouthed the words that Jesus would love to whisper to each one of us, “Don't let the way you are now define who you will be.”
Five Things I Think I Think
(with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Okay, the Cowboys won on Saturday night. I still think if Jerry Jones would fire himself as general manager and hire a good one, I predict that Cowboy fans would one day build a huge statue in his honor—the Cowboys would win enough Super Bowls to inspire that gesture.
2. My first Christmas with a college daughter home for the holidays. So far, I really like it. And it makes me feel mature.
3. Wow. If Newt Gingrich receives the Republican nomination for president, it will sure bring an interesting challenge to conservative Christian voters who believe their president should live a life that reflects family values.
Who to vote for? A man who loves his one and only wife, is faithful to her, and is a good father to his two daughters?
Or a thrice-married man who twice left wives for women with whom he was having affairs—not to mention a man whom his own party forced to resign during the Monica Lewinsky scandal because he was maintaining an affair himself.
            Don’t get me wrong. It’s probably no secret I am a conservative Christian and believe in family values. However, I am wondering if I should offer more grace to those who disagree with me politically.
            It appears to me it is hard to vote for anyone in the political process who is not flawed in some way.
4. I like Christmas falling on Sunday. It is a great evangelistic opportunity in the nation with the fourth largest unchurched population on the planet.
5. Rest in peace Hazel Cross. You were a godly, Proverbs 31 woman.

Monday, December 12, 2011

“I Like Ike”

            General Dwight Eisenhower was named commander of “Operation Torch” in 1942. Under his leadership, the Allied forces attacked the German troops in Africa.
            Ike did not want the job. He wanted to lead men into the field of battle. Nevertheless, he performed well as commander.             
             On Christmas Day, 1942, Eisenhower was informed that President Franklin Roosevelt wished to award him the Medal of Honor for his success.
            Eisenhower was shocked and angered. He sincerely believed that the Medal of Honor should be awarded only to the men who were fighting in the horrific conditions of the Tunisian hills. He considered it an insult that the Army would award a medal to a general “safe in headquarters–or a warm Villa–far to the rear” and away from battle.
            He told the messenger that he had a message for the president, “I don't want it [the Medal of Honor] and if is awarded I won't wear it.” He would not even keep it.
            From this story one can gather why Eisenhower, a man of war, would ultimately become one of most respected and beloved men in the entire world. He had a ready understanding of his role in any endeavor; and he held deep appreciation for the roles of others. However, watch out!
            It is tempting to think that Eisenhower was a man with little regard for his own ability and efforts. What one must understand is that Eisenhower's intense modesty held in check his large ego, which was necessary in order for him to lead the Allied armies. Eisenhower was charged to command generals such as Bernard Montgomery and George Patton—a difficult task to say the least.
            Large egos have never been a disqualifying factor in God's service. In scripture, men like Moses, David, and the Apostle Paul had sizeable egos.
            By in large, they were able to submit those egos to God’s service. Indeed, I would argue that the biblical word “meek” would especially apply to those who have large egos and have placed those large egos under God's control.
            Still, that is easier said than done. Yet, when one succeeds in subjugating his ego, people appreciate it. After all, millions proclaimed, “I like Ike.”

Source for the Eisenhower story: Eisenhower by Geoffrey Perret

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. Congratulations to Robert Griffin III for winning the Heisman Trophy. Here is a guy: who graduated early, is about to complete his Masters Degree, and if he stays his final year of eligibility at Baylor, will begin law school!
2. I saw last night’s game. How bout them Cowboys! Early in the game, I told some friends, “I’m concerned about Demarco Murray. I don’t remember him ever completing a season at OU. Seems like every year, he got hurt."
            Shortly thereafter—boom! Murray goes down. Fractured ankle… with a high ankle sprain for good measure.
            Needless to say, my friends were not pleased with me.
3. I like the singer Adele.
4. I find myself wanting to watch Meryl Streep’s new movie THE IRON LADY.
5. I have never done anything courageous… except—ride in the front seat while a teenager daughter is learning to drive.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Man of Vision

                  Through the ages, hundreds of engineers died trying to invent a machine that would fly. Orville and Wilbur Wright succeeded. However, the highest aspiration they had for their machine was that it would become a recreational vehicle.
                   When I read that piece of information, I was astonished.
                   The contemporary scientists of the Wrights’ day were in agreement. In the first decade of the twentieth century, American Scientific Magazine disparaged the idea that the airplane could impact everyday life. Shortly thereafter, the United States began to trail other countries in the airplane industry—such as it was in that day.
                   The Wright brothers never saw the implications of their flying machine. Their imaginations failed to help them understand how their aircraft could be used in business and military. Consequently, you have never flown on a “Wright” airplane. But if you have flown on an airplane, quite possibly, you have flown on a Boeing.
                   In the year 1910, William Boeing lived in Seattle, Washington. In that age, he was isolated, both geographically and metaphorically, from the primary locations of aeronautical research along the East Coast.
                   Boeing did not know how to build an airplane. Boeing did not know how to fly an airplane; he had little technical knowledge concerning aeronautical engineering. However, he had the one vital element that was missing from practically any other human being in the Western Hemisphere–he had a vision; Boeing understood and could visualize the potential of the airplane.
                   Boeing could see in his imagination that airplanes could become commercially successful in the transportation of passengers and goods. His problem was that technology had not yet caught up to his vision.
                   Boeing did not just stand around and wait. He invested virtually all of his resources seeking to create the technology that would put his vision into place. He moved to form a company that would find success in this new field of aeronautical transportation.
                   Boeing encountered obstacle after obstacle. One of the first arrived when the United States entered into World War I in 1917. This would be the first war in which airplanes would participate.
                   The U.S. military was looking for planes. Boeing had a new design that he envisioned the U.S. military using, but he had to confront the fact that the military was testing new planes in the state of Florida. That was over 3000 miles away from Boeing's project site in Washington State.
                   The distance was too prohibitive for flying Boeing’s tiny planes. So his team took the planes apart, packed the parts in boxes, and shipped them across the country. They were put back together in Florida, tested, and later used by the military.
                   Technology and income opportunities slowed development in the aeronautics field. Boeing made do by using his airplane factory to make boats and furniture. Nevertheless, he stuck to his long-range plan.
                   Seventeen years after Boeing first dreamed of airplanes, Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight from New York to Paris. Finally, the airline industry saw a boom. Boeing was ready, and he dominated the industry.
                   William Boeing—a man who initially knew nothing about flying or making airplanes—changed the world because he had a vision.
                   Behold the power of vision.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. The NFL announced that Madonna will be the half-time entertainment at the Super Bowl. Nothing says entertainment like a 53-year-old woman singing “Like a Virgin.”
2. LSU vs. Alabama for the National Championship… yawn.
3. Poor OSU. Like the Texas Rangers, you have to ask, will they ever receive this opportunity again?
4. I took my son, Timothy, hunting on government owned land Saturday near Alto, Texas. We did not see a soul in the woods, and only a handful of people on the roads. I was pleasantly surprised, and I want to take him there again.
5. I don’t know about where you live, but at last, here in East Texas, we’re starting to get a little rain—for that I am grateful to God.