Smashing Pumpkins

Yeah, there’s a band (or was) with that name, but I’m talking about the real thing.
Friday morning after trick or treating in our neighborhood Thursday night I awoke to find pumpkin shrapnel in my driveway. Seems some teenager had used out concrete as the weapon of choice against someone’s jack-o-lantern.
The mess I cleaned up was nothing compared to what the staff at Universal Studios had to clean up after Friday’s Conan O’Brian show.

Conan had the worlds biggest pumpkin guy on the show and they topped it off by bringing in the monster truck Grave Digger, ostensibly to crush it to get the seeds out. (Evidently, world record pumpkin seeds can bring $500 a piece. Who knew?)
The jump was perfect and the driver and Grave Digger creator, Dennis Anderson, was clearly having a lot of fun as he tramples the remains two more times.
An interesting side note is one of my High School classmates, Charlie Paukin, is also a driver for the Grave Digger team. I remember the modified high roller bike they talk about in his bio. He’s been driving monter trucks for a long time, I can remember the Excalibur truck that he started on being parked behind a house on Harrison Street in my home town back in the mid 80’s. Excalibur, I believe, was the first truck to beat the Ford Big Foot trucks back when they were the biggest name in the business.
HT to Autoblog for the YouTube link

Romans 15-16 – Unity and Greetings

Romans 15:1-7 – Paul speaks of peace and harmony and of bearing with those who are weak, assuming (as most of us would) that we are those “who are strong” (verse 1).
This made me think of Jesus and the disciples. They were knuckleheads, selfish, power hungry and prideful. For about 99% of His time with them, they didn’t understand at all what he was doing. Only at the end, after he arose and just before he left, did they really get it.
Yet Jesus never once threw anyone out for not believing the right things or the right way. He was surrounded by folks who’s faith in him was incomplete or even misguided, yet he called them brothers,welcomed them and brought them along.
We, on the other hand, won’t fellowship with those down the street because they don’t get this doctrine or that. We stay in our little group of (mostly) like minded folks, or worse, we stay out of any group all together. We stand up and leave if things aren’t the way we think they ought to be. How unlike Jesus who was patient with their misunderstanding and did not turn them away.
The splintering of God’s church into hundreds of small like-minded groups has always troubled me. I’m not sure what can be done, but I want to do something. we ought to live out verse 7:

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15:14 – Paul spent 14 chapters challenging the Romans on how they live and ought to live. Yet here in verse 14 he says “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” Too often I stop and the challenge and the rebuke, even if it is only in own mind, resulting in feeling dissatisfied and that folks are not full of goodness.
Romans 16:3-16 – There’s a story behind each of these names of their relationship to Paul and of their walk with the Lord and service to his church. Wouldn’t it be great to know them all?

The (Non) Monotony of the Gospel.

When we “get” the gospel for what it really is — the power to save, the most thrilling news there could be, the declaration that God’s Son died for us and then came back to life! to be the risen Lord and supreme King of the universe, not just the entry fee for heaven but the currency for all of life — we revel in the new creation it unleashes in its wake at every turn. We never get tired of hearing it. It’s the new song that never gets old. “Play it again, play it again!” we will cry.

Jared Wilson warns preachers not to be tempted to drift from proclaiming the gospel, out of fear it will grow old or stale.
I think the same warning applies to regular Joe Christians – don’t think that you ‘got’ the gospel and can take some time to study something else for a few seasons. Don’t think you can leave the gospel lie and look at some ‘other’ aspect of God the father or the Son. And don’t pester your minister to do it either. Rather, look at those other things through the lens of the gospel, for the gospel permeates everything that the father is and does.
When we look at obedience without the gospel we get legalism. When we look at grace without the gospel, we get permissive religion. When we look at service without the gospel, we are simply another charity.
The gospel is what makes Christianity distinct from any other system of beliefs or method of thinking or religious philosophy. Our world, and we ourselves, are fundamentally broken and Jesus fixed it. We were in hot water with our creator, but Jesus has patched things up for for us. Other systems are about finding the way for you to help yourself, the gospel doesn’t even pretend that you can help yourself, it simply steps in and rescues you, no questions asked.
When we approach everything as disciples of Jesus from the stand point that we are flawed, broken and limited and He has done for us what we could never do ourselves, we see everything of God – grace, love, faith, obedience, etc – differently.
His grace is an astounding gift, undeserved.
His love is astounding in it’s depth, determination, lack of conditions, decisiveness and completeness.
Our faith is the only appropriate response, clearly insufficient but yet enough.
Our brokenness is insurmountable, yet utterly vanquished.
Our efforts at obedience are wholly inadequate, but absolutely necessary in view of what we’ve been given.
As Jared says, when we see the gospel, it makes everything new, and continues to do so, as long as we don’t give up on gazing at it.

Love Is Patient – Are You?

Philip at Thinklings posted a brilliant expose on those three words from 1 Corinthins 13 – “Love is patient.” It convicted my heart, seriously. While I have it in me to be patient, it is not my first instinct.
He relates this story:

Once on a railway train an elderly man accidentally broke a minor rule and was subjected to a long, loud tirade from a young train employee. Later a fellow passenger said to the old gentleman, “You should have given that guy a piece of your mind. I sure would have.” But the old man just smiled. “Oh,” he said, “if a man like that can stand himself for all of his life, I surely can stand him for five minutes.”

The old man’s reaction warmed my heart. Then, the Spirit prompted me to see that I identify more with the young guy in the story than the old. I’d be the one demanding justice, and berating the minor offense.
Philip points out that it’s easy to be patient with our loved ones, but we loose it easily with strangers. This past weekend we were at OSU Stadium for a marching band competition. We had good seats near the 50 yard line and an empty row in front of us. A family comes in and sits in front of us, the Dad in front of me. He was a big guy, probably 6′ 4″ or taller and broad shouldered and he completely blocked my view. I expressed my frustration, not-so-under-my-breath, and suggested to my wife that we move. Then they immediately got up to move. Yikes. It turned out that they had found their friends elsewhere, but I was nonetheless seriously convicted and my wife was embarrassed. I tried my best to apologize as they walked away, but I still felt awful.
God says that Love is Patient. I’m not. Frankly, I’ve written about this part of me before, four and a half years ago, and I still have so much to learn from Jesus. Lord, transform my heart that I may show you to the world.
How about you? Would you say that your love is patient?

Romans 14 – Judgement and Ownership

Romans 14:1-4 – I wonder, how would broader Christianity be different if we simply followed verse 1: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
Verse 4 reminds us that we each must stand before God. What we believe is important in the faith, outside of the core of the gospel (yea, I know), we should explain, even try to persuade (while open to being persuaded), but ultimately it’s between the person and God as to whether he stands or not.
But look in verse 4 – who make them able to stand? It doesn’t say that they are able to stand before the Lord, rather that the Lord will make them able to stand.
Romans 14:8 – “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (emphasis mine) Doug gave a great message this week on living by the spirit, framing it in terms of God owning us. (Look for it here, hopefully soon.) This reminds me of that concept, not only in the terms of ownership or even slavery and submission, which are true, but even more so in terms of belonging. We belong to Him that created it all, who is over all and in all. We are His.
Amen and hallelujah.
One could argue that that truth is not the point of the passage, and I guess they’d be right. I’d argue, however, that it’s the point that underscores the truth of the passage. We belong to God, we are His, so we have no standing to judge each other. I often remind my girls, when they want to correct their sisters, that they are not the parent. Here Paul is reminding us, when we want to correct and judge other Christians, that we are not the master. It is not our place to police the fellowship.
Romans 14:13-23 – A case could be made here that Paul is teaching a DIY Christianity. If it’s acceptable to you, it’s acceptable, if it violates your conscience, it’s sin. Certainly, not everything is good or righteous, yet I have a feeling for most of us, we restrict more than God would. Yet, here the Bible teaches us that even though it’s OK for another, it may not be OK for us. It’s hard for us to fathom, isn’t it? We want black and white, dos and don’ts, clear cut and simple.
If we think about it, it makes sense, Even if we see other we respect doing something, if we cannot imagine God accepting it, how can we do it? We should seek understanding from them and provide them with our own convictions, but in the end we both must stand before God.
Such an open ended, even vague, faith is unsettling, but that’s what God has given us. Who are we to argue?

Maybe Restoration Wasn’t What Was Needed

Keith Brenton asks if maybe the good hearted men who began the Restoration Movement (of which my church has it’s roots) didn’t perhaps start off in the wrong direction in the first place.

The whole Restoration exercise has made us church-centered instead of Christ-centered. We preach church instead of Christ. We preach what to do instead of what He has done – and is doing, and would like to do through us, if we’d just let Him. …
I don’t want to be like the church of the first century. Or the eighteenth century. Or the twentieth, or even the twenty-first. I want to be like Jesus.

Amen Keith. I think you nailed it. Rather than the restoration business, perhaps we need to be in the redirection business. Redirecting people to Jesus.

A Lap of The Ring

Even tough I’m a car nut, I’m not usually keen on racing videos like this. Usually the thrill isn’t captured on video. This one, however, is awesome. It’s Michael Vergers’ stunning 6min 48sec lap of the famous Nurburgring, or simply ‘The Ring’, race track in Germany. A lap of The Ring has become the standard for measuring a performance car.
In this video, Michael Vergers completes one of only two sub 7 minute laps of the 12.9 mile track (he did the other one too) in a ‘production vehicle’. In fact, according to Wikipedia, only a handful of race cars have accomplished a sub 7 minute time either.
The track is relatively narrow and quite twisty. Several times at 100+ MPH he jumps the curbing or runs wide nearly into the grass. He hits speeds of 165 MPH and his time is an average of almost 114 MPH.. The position of the camera and the sound of the engine make this one incredible video.
Click full screen, turn up the volume and try not to smile.
HT – Michael Banovsky on Twitter.

Five for Friday

WCBE LogoAn “Occassional Series” here at Inspired by Daniel at Alien Soil, I fire up Media Player on random and post the first 5 songs here.

  1. Candye Kane – Ramblin’ Blues from Fly on the Wall – Lost Tracks From Studio A, Vol. 8
    Nice mellow blues / jazz tune recorded live here in Columbus.
  2. Tammy Wynette – Stand By Your Man from Sleepless in Seattle Soundtrack
    Classic, old school country (the best kind).
  3. Styx – Paradise from Return to Paradise
    Then obligatory new song on a ‘Best Of’ or in this case a Live compilation. True to form, it’s a mediocre song that doesn’t do the band’s history justice. Feels like it was plucked out of the mid-80’s even though the album is from 1997.
  4. Michael W. Smith – [Untitled Hidden track] from The Big Picture
    Short (42 seconds) piano and bass jazzy tune, like something you’d hear from the band on Michael Feldmen’s Whad’ya Know?
  5. Heart – Alone from These Dreams: Heart’s Greatest Hits [1997]
    Classic female rock originally from 1987.

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put it on random and give me yours in the comments.

Two Cat Tales

Trans Am Kitties
Reading this post at the Hemmings Blog about 4 kittens hiding away in a 1984 Trans Am (above) they were bringing to a photo shoot reminded me of the two times I had something similar happen.
The first was back in about 1995 and, ironically, was hiding in a Camaro Z-28 much like that T/A. A coworker in advertantly brought it to work under the hood, traveling a few miles down I-696 to our company in Royal Oak. They managed to coax the kitty out of the Z ad brought it inside. Unfortunately, it got away from them and headed straight for the back of the building where the owner stored his mid 80’s 911 Targa.
Yep, the kitty crawled up inside the Porsche, well up inside, on top of the transmission as best as they could tell.
The owner arrived later that morning and decided he could flush it out. So, he opened the back door and fired up the Porsche. Several revs toward red-line should have done it, but after he shut it down there was the sad cry of a very scared kitty, still tucked up inside that 911.
At lunch a couple guys went to the grocery and brought some cat food back. That did it. The cat came out and one of the guys took it home for his girlfriend.
Story number two involves Cally, shown above. Cally belonged to friends of ours in Missouri who once lived here in Columbus but now live only about 45 miles from Maria’s family in mid-Missouri. We visited them while in MO and they had just gotten 3 kittens as mousers for their 7 acre property. We had a good visit and headed back to her parents.
That night, outside their apartment, were two cats that looked eerily like two of theirs, Cally and Shadow. So, we called, and sure enough, their cats hadn’t been seen since we left. We went out in a snow storm and tried to find them, but we could not.
The next day we were supposed to leave for home, but the snow delayed our return by a day. On the 600 mile trip home, we stopped for gas and fast food as well as at Cracker Barrel for dinner and later, I ran the van through a car wash.
The next morning I went to the garage to go to the post office to get the mail. When I opened the door to the garage, there on the steps was Cally, She had ridden in the van 45 miles back to Maria’s parents apartment, camped out in the van for a day through the snow storm and then rode the 600 miles across MO, IL, IN and OH home, enduring a car wash along the way.
I closed the door and took the other car. Later, I opened the hood and found Cally sitting on top of the engine cover. I grabber her, she clawed me and bit me, at one point hanging by her jaw from my hand. (I later had to get antibiotics and a tetanus shot.) Cally scurried across the garage and crawled up inside my 1960 Thunderbird.
She lived in the garage, under the T’bird for the month of January after which she came inside to stay. She’s still, about 4 years later, pretty skittish and won’t stay in the same room with me.
600 miles in the engine compartment of an Odyssey will do that to ya.

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