Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wrecking Wrepentance

I am a huge fan of the late George Carlin. I realize that some may take issue with this revelation. "How can a 'pastor' like such a foul-mouth?"

How can I not?

It's true, Carlin made profanity an art form all its own. Yet underneath the profane, counter-cultural, social commentator, was an extremely brilliant mind. He had a knack for questioning the things of our culture that no one really stopped to consider or had the courage to ask. His remarks on "Time," in 1978, for example, were quite astute, in my opinion. Remarks like, "I have been standing here 'forever'," were scrutinized. Was it really forever? Exactly how long is forever? "Look, Bill, this guy has been standing here forever!" Carlin made us think about stuff that we needed to think about and didn't.

We have a lot of words and concepts in Christianity that need to be re-examined and scrutinized. Religious fluff that we need to think about. The one that stands out for me today is the very first word Jesus used in the New Testament, "Repent." In the modern church context, the word repent is often delivered with pointed fingers at various democratic, socialist, homosexual, anti-gun and progressive Christianity groups. Rather unfairly, I might add. Like they're so perfect because they vote Republican, carry guns, and watch Joel Osteen. Puh-LEASE!

I was once on a mission trip in the beautiful state of New Hampshire. We went door to door in teams of three conducting surveys and when given the opportunity, sharing the gospel (another word that needs to be time). The other fellow in my group was from rural North Carolina, accent and all. He proceeded to harang a local resident with the word repent. Over and over, he said, "Ma'am, you need to repent. You need to repent of your sins and be born again (another phrase deserving of a revisit...we'll get there)." I vividly recall the look this poor woman was giving him. Between his southern drawl and christianese, he was clearly, "not from around here," in her eyes. I couldn't help but laugh. Well, I tried hard not to. Envision Jeff Foxworthy speaking to Hillary Clinton. It was a comical moment.

You see, most people don't speak christianese. I would also add that most Christians who do speak christianese have no idea what they are saying. Which brings me to why we're here today.

Repent does NOT mean, "Be sorry for your sins (another word that...well you know)." When people scream "repent" to an un-believing, post-Christian culture, they seem to expect people to begin wretching and crying, telling God, "I am so sorry!" This is not repentance...not at all. In fact, emotion, while not evil in and of itself, is not a requirement for genuine repentance.

In the Hebrew language, the word "shoove" is translated as repent or relent in the Old Testament. It is used 1,058 times. It literally means to turn, as in turning AWAY from something and simultaneously turning TO something else. In application, Old Testament repentance consisted of turning away from ones sinful behavior and turning to God and His ways. Repentance that involves tears but no change of behavior is not pure repentance. Feeling bad for having that affair, but not stopping it immediately is not repentance. It is guilt or shame, neither of which come from God. Once again, it is simply a course correction in regards to behavior and habits.

Stop doing _____, and start doing _____. That is repentance in a sentence. God Himself even repents. Joel 2:13 translates it as "relent," but it is the same word. God chooses not to (relents, repents from) doing harm. God, who frankly, could level this planet with a mere thought, doesn't. He turns from harm and turns to pure love that begins and ends with Him.

The New Testament, which was written in Koine Greek hundreds of years after the Old Testament days, uses a different word for repentance, metanoie. Metanoie breaks down to mean a literal changing of the mind. Think about it, Hebrew culture was, and still is, all about behavior.  The Greek culture, on the other hand, was a thinking culture. So much of our Western philosophies and even our politics find their inspiration embedded in the teachings of Socrates, Plato, Sophocles, and so many others. Paul even quotes two philosophers, Aratus & Epimenides, and the comic poet Menader in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus. To change one's mind in this culture was a powerful act indeed.

In summary, the Bible demonstrates genuine repentance as a change of behavior as well as a change of one's mind that leads to a change in behavior. Shouting it at groups of people may not compel them as powerfully as simply modeling what real repentance is. In Joel 2:12-13, there are three statements that can be made about genuine, real, or true, repentance:

1) Repentance involves the whole heart. God appeals to the people of Judah to, "Return to me with all  of your heart." 99% repentant is the same as non-repentant. All in. Whole heart. Later, God says, "rend your heart and not your garments." Early believers would tear (rend) their clothes as an outward demonstration of inward repentance. We still do this today by wearing crosses, bracelets, bumper stickers, and t-shirts with a Christian tone. God is saying, "This does not impress me. I don't want your advertisement. I want your heart. All of it.

2) Repentance involves a humble heart. "With fasting, weeping, and mourning." There may be some emotion involved here. But like in the previous statement, God is not as impressed with outward displays. Fasting, weeping, and mourning all represent humility. It takes a great deal of courage to say to God, "You're right and I'm wrong." It is quite humbling indeed.

3) Repentance reveals God's heart. God then reveals that He is "Slow to anger, abounding in great kindness, and relents (repents) from doing harm.

Many years ago, my family and I lived on campus housing while I attended Bible College. We shared a nice apartment community with other students and their families. We shared yard toys, books, recipes, everything. It was not uncommon for my children to wander within the complex to play. They were always visible and we all sort of watched out for each others' kids.

One day I came home from classes to change for my evening job. I was going to tell the kids goodbye, and I couldn't see my girls, who were barely 2 at the time. My son, the oldest, was 4. He rode up on his bicycle and I asked, "Where are your sisters?" He didn't know. He was 4! Within seconds, I exploded into a panic and began thinking of all the things that may have happened and began yelling for the girls while frantically searching for them. Neighbors heard me and saw the panic on my face and began helping me look. In a few minutes that seemed like, ahem...forever, I heard, "Todd, we found them." They were safe. They had just wandered out of sight.

My first thought was, "I am going to spank them both!" After all, they had scared the daylights out of me AND made me late for work. They were gonna get it, and I was going to see to it that this never happened again.

As I approached my beautiful twin daughters, all I could do was cry and hug them. So what happened to the spanking? Easy. My love for them had far overwhelmed my need to punish them. It was a profound moment of truth for me. I chose not to spank them, and they never wandered off like that again.

That's how God is. He could wipe us out, sure. I would even argue that we have it coming. But He doesn't see it that way. Not at all! His love for us far overwhelms the justice of our punishment.

This universal truth completely befuddles our idea of real repentance.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

National Day of Prayer...Or Politics

I had a very disturbing dream last night. Was it prophetic, or was it because I ate some Goldfish crackers before bed? Frankly, I hope the latter is to blame. Here it is...

We were in a post-apocalyptic world. My family and I somehow survived and were living in a community of other survivors replete with homemade shelters from whatever could be safely scavenged. ISIS was in control, and it was not safe to go anywhere.

The water was poisoned. Food was poisoned. The soil was poisoned. There was literally no way to survive. It was a classic Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario. My hope was in the Lord, but practically speaking, there was no tangible hope in the world I dreamed of. There was nowhere to turn for help. Every second, the potential for capture, death by starvation, or execution existed. This could NOT be happening!

I woke up. I prayed. I hugged my wife as she slept peacefully. I then began to analyze where that dream came from. I am not a hopeless person, I am a "glass-half-full" kinda guy for the most part. Here is what I came up with (disclaimer -- this is NOT a political post. If you MUST render an opinion, keep it civil, please):

  1. As of this week, our two "frontrunner" candidates seem to be Donald Trump, a man who represents the, "Hey, I've got money, so I can do whatever the hell I want," vibe, and Hillary Clinton, who is the focus of not one, but TWO, count 'em, TWO, FBI investigations. What troubles me way more than who the frontrunners are is the nation that cast their votes to make this a reality (assuming our votes somehow DO matter). Not that there was anyone else to choose from in the candidate clown car.
  2. Lately, I am seeing the hashtag, #rejectcapitalism from some young people. I admit I am not entirely sure what this represents, but as a business person and entrepreneur, this platform concerns and confuses me. Philosophically, I believe America is more socialist than capitalist anymore. Don't get me wrong...I like free stuff. Every year I get my FREE Starbucks beverage on my birthday. But it's not really free, is it? I'm not going to wax microeconomics here, but the saying, "There is no free lunch," is unfortunately true whether we like it or not.
It's possible that my subconscious, along with the Goldfish, concocted this dream. I am actually leaning toward that predilection. But what if it was some sort of prophetic apparition? What do I do with it?

Well, I could launch a social media tirade and be ignored or mocked. That is the popular option. I would blend right in with the other gloom-and-doom morons. You know, the ones who said God "had anointed Ted Cruz to be President." Did God change His mind? 

Or, I could simply choose between Clinton or Trump. You know, the "lesser of two evils" approach? Well...that's not gonna happen. 

Or, I could pray. 

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Instead of berating the political candidates with everyone else, I could bathe them in fervent prayer. What if it worked? What if I prayed for America as a nation to come together in agreement that we value our way of life enough to stick together instead of polarizing and boycotting one another. What if that worked? Yesterday, my wife shopped at Target AND used the bathroom. Guess what happened????

Nothing. The world didn't end. God didn't strike her down. She went about the rest of her day being her usual sweet self.

What if we prayed for everyone we disagree with? What if we found every challenge as an opportunity to love God and love others? What if, instead of boycotting Target, we showered it in prayer, even prayer-walking the aisles? Is it possible that God would hear such prayers and be compelled to move?

Well, is it? 

Look, loved one, this is not a political post. This is a prayer post. Starting with me. I am going to stop participating in the boycotting and flippant remarks. I'm going to stop supporting those who do with a "Like or Share" or a "re-tweet." In fact, I am going to keep my opinions to myself, where they belong. I am going to ask you to consider joining me in this notion of prayer above politics. I want to impact the world I live in in a positive, loving way. I want to reject rejection and show Jesus' true love to a world that needs Him, whether they acknowledge it or not. I know I need Him. I can't fix anything, really, but I can speak to the One who died to fix all of this already. 

It's time to face the hard truth, friend, God loves Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Osama bin Laden, Caitlyn Jenner, Al Sharpton, and even Todd Vick whether you do or not. As the old gospel song says, "When He was on the cross, we were all on His mind." Do we even believe something so radical anymore? Can we? Will our prejudices allow us to? What will we do with this marvelous truth? 

I believe dreams can come true. Honestly, I didn't like my dream last night. If there is a "plan B," I'll take it. A world of hopelessness and death is not what I want. I want my children and someday grandchildren to inherit a world better than that. Now that is a big dream. 

It starts with prayer. Right here, right now. Will you dare? 

The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you will do it at all. 

Pray, loved one. Pray right now. It is very likely our last hope. Maybe, maybe not, but what have really got to lose by praying?

I guess we could trust in politics...since that has worked so well for us.

Friday, April 29, 2016

There Was A Time...A Confession

Sinatra sang that "Youth is wasted on the young." Sometimes it is, sometimes it's not.

Today I read a heartfelt Facebook appeal from my daughter Jenna that she wrote while witnessing a fellow student sharing their faith with another. It was a genuine, heartfelt appeal to all of us who name the name of Jesus simply to love Him and then love others. His way, not our way.

Two things happened to me as I read her appeal:

1) I was so proud that this person who expressed such heartfelt compassion was my daughter. I am proud of all four of my children. No one more than the other. Each of them have their gifts and special qualities. But something else happened here.

2) The Lord spoke to my heart and said, lovingly, not condescendingly, "Remember when you were like that?" I did. I remembered. I was like that. I was just like that. I gave up hours of my youth encouraging others around me. Sometimes I still do, but not nearly as much, and not with the same genuine compassion that Jenna showed today.

When I was in Bible college, Dr. Tom Elliff, a man I respect very much, told of an older gentleman who, with a faraway look in his eyes, reflected on the greatest days of his ministry as a thing of the past. "There was a time..." he said.

Am I that guy now? Is it possible that somehow my usefulness in God's kingdom is over? Have I crossed the threshold of viable faith to "has-been" faith?

God, I hope not.

I hope that there is still fire in these bones of mine. Not to raise up the next big ministry, but to just be so in love with Jesus again that I can't contain it. Below is a sample of my reply to what Jenna said:

"My friend and mentor, Pastor Bob Shearer tells a "fish" story of how all the fisherman gathered at the bait and tackle shop, bragging about their lures and gear. They pontificate about how they are going to catch the most fish. Everyone of them boasts of becoming a great angler. There was only one problem: no one ever went fishing. They never left the bait and tackle shop. This is what general Christendom looks like today. We talk about reaching and helping others find their way. Yet we never leave the church, or the campus, or our very homes to share the hope that is within us. Instead, we boycott anyone and everyone who doesn't love our Jesus the same way we do. We wear our "I HeartMy Church" t-shirts and listen to Joel Osteen. We shop at Lifeway or Family Christian while we ignore the people around us. We meet in coffee shops to have Bible studies, and complain when our coffee is too cold. We don't tip or even acknowledge our servers. We leave tracts. We vote for Trump. We go to "faith-based" movies. We hide behind our PCs and devices, telling the world how it needs to be in order to live up to what we want. We are narcissistic, hedonist political windbags. We are resounding brass and clanging symbols. We will have much to answer for when the Lord returns. "

I used the word, "we," a lot, didn't I? Maybe I should have said "I." Let's face it, I am nothing. Without Jesus, that is. Like everyone else, I struggle to understand and live out my faith on a daily basis. I am quick to point out the things that bother me, but slow to look in the mirror. I am inconsistent. I am up, I am down. My breath stinks. My hair is thinning. I live from paycheck to paycheck. I am impatient and judgmental. I hate my clothes. 

And yet, Jesus spoke to me today like I speak to my children when I hold up an old photo and say, "Remember that day?" "You were so adorable." "I was so proud of you that time." I don't do that to say, "And look at you now...barely a shadow of that." No, no, NO! I am celebrating moments of old and looking forward to new ones all at once. Stop being a proud Dad? Forget it!

Back to where we started. No, I am not the long-haired rebel for Jesus I was back then, I am the overweight, balding rebel for Jesus that I am now. The mission hasn't changed. Love God, love others. That is the same privilege we all enjoy as Christians. 

Sometimes I lose my way, but He always finds me.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

What #LivingLikeRick Has Taught Me

My world was shattered on this day last year when I heard of the sudden passing of my dear friend, Rick Stilwell. It's hard to believe it has already been a whole year; the hurt from the loss still feels so fresh. After Rick passed, I made a commitment that I would make a solid effort to #LiveLikeRick. Everyone who knew him understands the basis of this philosophy. I am not going to try and expound on that today. I have covered that ideal elsewhere on the blog. What I want to offer today are some of the lessons that #LivingLikeRick has taught me this year, and how I have tried to honor his memory the best way I can.

1) Genuinely sharing your faith doesn't always require words. One of the things Rick used to say is that if sharing your faith requires a lot of words, then you are doing it wrong. Rick was the same person alone and in the dark as he was in public. I have tried to achieve that standard in my own life this year.

2) Always show up for things. This ideal has not always been my strongest. I am more known in our circle of friends as the guy who doesn't always show up. I want to change that. This past year I have endeavored to show up more. Rick always told me that we don't show up for the sake of showing up. We show up because if we don't, we miss an experience that will never come again.

3) Pour yourself into others, and, when possible, do it over coffee. Over the last year, I have made a very profound effort to invest in others. It is not always possible to meet for coffee, so I have tried to supplement that by using my Social Networking to pour what I can into others. I don't think it is cheating, but I have to admit that the in-person-over-coffee method is far more effective and rewarding. I believe Rick would say, just do it, and let the "how" work itself out.

4) Passion is an investment of time and hard work. I finally read Crush It, this last year. It was a life-changing book for Rick. For me, it was a reminder of what it means to #LiveLikeRick. Love your family, work hard, and work your passion are the three main principles of Crush It. Rick certainly embodied these three precepts. For me, it required some re-thinking of my passions. To make a long story short, I can honestly say that I am happier in my spiritual, personal, and professional life than I have ever been. Getting here was not easy at all. I had to read more, study harder, think deeper, ask tough questions, deal with tougher answers, and face my demons. Is it worth it? You bet. The best part is when a student, church or family member says, "Wow. I never thought about (it) that way before." I smile and wink up at Rick when that happens.

5) As a husband and father, my number one job is to pursue my family. Fundamentalist "head of the house" Bible thumpers may take issue with me on this point, but hear me out. The Bible is a love story about a perfect God pursuing fallen man. To say I love my family is one thing, and it is a very true thing. To really love them is to pursue them. How? It's all about the little things. Spending time, sharing a meal, having a conversation, sending a text message or Facebook post, are all but a few ways to do this. This is an area where I have admittedly not been the best, but I am trying, and I will keep trying, no matter what.

6) Quot homines, tot sententiae. In Latin, this means, "So many men, so many opinions." Rick looked at the individual as a "story." As each of us share our collective stories, we make a bigger and better story. This Latin expression reflects the opposite of that. Sabres are rattling everywhere as people or groups of people seek to be "right." Rick would argue that it is better to talk things out and foster connection and understanding than to simply be right. Conversations are so crucial to #LivingLikeRick. Conversations lead to connections which lead to understanding and appreciation. As a pastor and a teacher, this has been difficult. It is easier for me to preach to or lecture to you about what it is and what it isn't. To be quiet and listen to what others have to say bridges a very large gap that exists between people.

How has #LivingLikeRick impacted your life? Feel free to share!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bookends of Loss and Letting Go: My 2013 Perspective

The New Year represents new beginnings, new possibilities, and second chances. For the first ten days of 2013, this was the case for me. On January 11, all of that changed with the news that my dear friend of 30 years, Rick Stilwell, passed away very suddenly. Out of the ashes of this terrible loss arose a #LiveLikeRick movement, encouraging people to love their families, work hard, work your passion, and "Crush It." The loss of my friend was devastating, but it has inspired me to live better, love deeper, laugh harder, learn diligently, and leave the world better than I found it.

Some other major highlights of 2013 included the graduation of my twin daughters from high school, and their matriculation to out of town Universities. My return to full time ministry and teaching were also high points. Reconciliation and reconnecting with precious friends, a move, and growing deeper in love with my wife every day were also some great moments of 2013.

As the holiday season approached, there were some incredible reunions with lifelong pals and the ability to take Laura to see The Nutcracker as well as our annual Christmas Party at Midlands Tech. Our church had a beautiful candlelight service and "Thankful Christmas Dinner." We also added an amazing Youth Minister to our staff and ministry is both exciting and challenging as always.

As I was frantically creating spreadsheets, grading papers, and entering final grades on December 17, I received word that Pastor Don Davis, my pastor since 1983, had entered into the glorious presence of the Lord. Amid the busyness of the week, I barely had time to process this great personal loss. Today, I have some quiet time, and I would like to pay proper tribute to my pastor and friend.

I am pretty well on record as to how much of an influence Rick Stilwell had in my coming to know Jesus on April 11, 1983. Two weeks later, I was baptized by Pastor Davis. I was a little nervous about going under the water, and Pastor Don was reassuring and comforting as always. During my actual baptism, my feet came up from under me and I got scared. Immediately I felt Pastor Don's arm grab and hold me tight as he brought me up out of the water. That was the moment I knew he was and forever would be my pastor. I knew that anytime my feet slipped from underneath me, he would be there to catch me. He lived up to that ideal for thirty years for me. I had never had a pastor before Don, and I count myself as truly blessed to have had him.

Over the years, Pastor Don was there for me more times than I can count. It would take a lot of words to recount each time. Suffice it to say that for the eleven years that he was my pastor, he was a part of every significant moment of my life, the good ones and the not-so-good ones.

At the age of sixteen, I went on a visit with Pastor Don. He offered me a ride home, but asked me if I could go on this visit with him first. It was there, that night, in the home of Rick and Janelle Green, that the Lord issued the clarion call to ministry on my life. I shared that with Pastor Don and he rejoiced and from then on, sort of took me under his wing and mentored me. I didn't always heed his advice, and I would later apologize to him for this.

Years later, I had the privilege of serving with Pastor Don on the Executive Ministry Team of the Lexington Baptist Association. Being a pastor made me realize how much of an influence Pastor Don had on everything I do. He told me on more than one occasion that he was very proud of me. To hear those words from such a man as he was no small honor.

In 2004, I went through the most difficult time in my life. Many people turned their backs on me. Pastor Don did not. He counseled me. He prayed with me. The last counseling session we had was the most precious memory I have of him. He prayed for me, not as a pastor, but as a father would pray for a son. He wept as he prayed. He loved me so much. He loved everyone so much. We stayed in touch off and on over the years and I always had a special security just knowing he was always there if I needed him.

The last time I saw Pastor Don was at Rick Stilwell's memorial service. I had the chance to talk with him and share how grateful I was for all he had done for me. We also marveled at the number of us who God called into the ministry under his leadership. He told me again how proud he was of all of us and how blessed we were to be together during the formative years of our faith. I saw him tear up again, for only the second time in my life. I gave him a big hug and said goodnight. He looked fantastic as always. That is how I choose to remember him, the way he looked that night, before his health declined.

There are not enough words to pay adequate tribute to this great man of God. He never sought to be great. He never displayed career ambition. He was simply a servant of God who loved the Lord and loved others...deeply. He was one of the last of what I call the "Greatest Generation" of pastors. So many pastors today are career-minded and competitive. They are more interested in greatness than in magnifying Jesus. Pastor Don made much of Jesus. Whether he was in the pulpit, at home, at the gym, at a restaurant, or at a pastors meeting, he embodied the meekness of Christ.

I have no doubt that Pastor Donald Paul Davis is in heaven right now, surrounding the throne of God with all the others who are there because of his ministry.

Today, I live with the reality that Pastor Don is no longer here for me to lean on. I must be the pastor now. I must take what he taught me to my small neck of the woods and wherever the Lord leads me. I must carry on his legacy of loving people into the Kingdom of God by example, and if necessary, by words. Pastor Don gave me many pieces of advice though the years. One that I will cling to is that, "People don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care."

He cared. He cared so very much. So long, for now, my pastor, my mentor, and my friend. I will see you later!

Life Beyond

© Sue Walkinshaw
I feel the warmth upon my face as I enter the land of God's good grace,
Friends and loved ones gone before, waiting here beyond the door.
With open arms they welcome me, amazement in my eyes they see.
They look so well and at their best, beauty beholds them now they rest.

I walk across the grass so green, the greenest grass I've ever seen,
I jump and skip and bounce on air, it's almost like there's nothing there.
A sky of blue, not a cloud in sight, perpetual day no darkest night.
Every flower is in full bloom, undefined colours of every hue.

The streams and rivers crystal clear, no rubbish or decay found here.
The sea is calm and turquoise blue, I long to test it, wouldn't you?
The softest sand beneath my feet, at the waters edge where they both meet.
The warmest waters gently flow, bathing me from head to toe.

A city built of alabaster walls, where translucent light eliminates the halls.
Theatres of music and concerts too, magnificent galleries for all to view.
Amazing sights for me to see, I just wander in, there's no entrance fee.
Libraries stacked with books galore, history, science and many more.

The celestial sun does forever shine, it's a perfect temperature all the time.
Orchards here overflow with fruit, a taste in itself that is quite exquisite.
I'm told it will help my soul to restore, pick what I like, there is plenty more.
This ethereal plain is a pure delight, it's my new home, my God given right.

There is nothing here to cause me fear, the lord protects within his sphere.
An infinity of perfect peace, from the toils of earth I am now released.
I have landed on a higher realm, in perfect harmony to forever dwell.
So believe when I tell you my dear friends, you cannot die, life never ends.

Source: Life Beyond, Spiritual Poem about Death 
Family Friend Poems 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I knew on July 26, 1995 that someday this day would come. This was the day my beautiful daughters were born. First came Jenna. She hardly made a sound. She weighed 5 lbs and had more hair than my Dad. Then came Katie. She weighed in at 2 lbs, 12 oz. She was gray and not breathing when she was born. The staff were all trying to be positive, but I could see their faces and concern. After two of the longest minutes of my life, Katie let out a scream that I believe was heard all the way to God's throne! She announced to the world that she was alive! She has not slowed down since. Jenna was laid back, just taking it all in. They were premature, so they spent some time in the NICU. Jenna stayed two weeks; Katie stayed for a whole month. Their first year was filled with doctor visits, home heart monitors, and very little sleep.

As they grew, I fell more in love with my daughters each day. Watching them play, listening to them laugh, and cuddling with them were the high points of my life in those days.They were both so much fun! You could tell early on that they would always be close.They did everything together. I have so many stories I could tell about fun times I had with my girls, or "skwirls," as I called them. There were some scares along the way, but I wouldn't trade those days for anything.

This year the girls graduated high school and last weekend they left for college. Separate colleges. It is the first time in their lives they have been apart. Granted they are only about 45 minutes apart, but it is still a milestone for them...and for me. My son Cody is a junior this year; my son Timmy is also in college. But Jenna and Katie are my babies, and now they have officially "flown the nest." 

I am happy for my girls. They have come a long way from the NICU. I could not be more proud. At the same time, I am heartsick. It is a big, cruel world out there. To turn them completely over to the Lord in this way has been a challenge. I have faith that He is with them even as I write, keeping them safe, drawing them into His presence. My prayer is that ALL my children lean on Jesus each and every moment of each and every day. 

This year I decided to do something I have never done before. I have begun writing letters to each of my children for milestones such as this. In the letters, I offer some advice and a piece of my heart. I hope that one day they will treasure them. I also hope that one day this blog will be something my whole family can look back on after I am gone and get a glimpse of who I was. My hope is that they will all see Jesus in me.

For now, I am the father of FOUR college students. ::faints::

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Movie Review: The Three Stooges Movie (2012)

My review of the Three Stooges reboot can be summed up by a play on Curly's famous line, "Yuck, yuck, yuck!" I debated for months whether I would even watch the film. I honestly think it should never have been made. I have been a fan of the Stooges since childhood. My Dad introduced me when I was five. I introduced my own son to the original Stooges. The Three Stooges didn't need a reboot. The classic Stooges have stood the test of time, five US wars, and fifteen US Presidents. The new movie, just as I feared it would, cheapened the legacy of the original Stooges.

Will Sasso stood out for me as giving proper tribute to the original Curly. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sean Hayes as Larry. That is, until the movie started. Hayes' portrayal of Larry Fine was more like a stoner with clown hair. The original Larry was the heart of the Three Stooges. He was the connective balance of the act. When they needed someone to play violin, Larry was the guy. When they needed someone who could play ANYTHING on the piano, they turned to Larry. When they needed someone to fetch the tools from the truck, Larry was on it. Moe and Curly were both very strong characters, and Larry brought the needed balance to the act. No one else could have done it better. Curly was replaced four times. His character, while legendary, was not irreplacable. Joe DeRita and Joe Besser did okay. Shemp was brilliant, of course, but even he was replaceable. When they tried to replace Larry (following his death in 1975) with Emil Sitka, Moe died shortly thereafter.

The new movie started out okay. There was the expected slapstick, which made me laugh out loud. Larry David as a nun didn't hurt the film for me at all. Then it just got weird. Moe (played by Chris Diamontapoulos) ends up on a reality TV show, and the movie just died for me at that point. It was here that I regretted watching the film at all.

Let's face it, there are some legends of Hollywood that will never be duplicated or rebooted. The Three Stooges are at the top of that list for me. They are followed by Johnny Carson, KISS, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Al Pacino's "Scarface (which I just heard is in talks about a possible reboot)." Hollywood, why don't you start pitching new ideas and creating new legends? You don't reboot Pacino; he reboots you. Leave it alone!

As for Moe, Larry, and Curly, the chemistry they created in 1925 has sustained itself for generations. The Farelly brothers took something legendary and cheapened it. This is a movie that I believe wanted to pay tribute to the legends, but if Hollywood had any honor at all, they would have left well enough alone. Maybe a big screen biopic would have been a better idea.

My allegiance is to the original trio, whose legend lives on and will live on. I look forward to watching "Disorder in the Court" with my grandchildren one day. If they ask me about the 2012 Stooges and why we don't watch the movie, I am prepared with my, "Sometimes grown ups make really bad mistakes..." speech.