10 Things the Simpsons Taught Me #7 – Have Special Guests On

Simpsons Taught Me
Clockwise from top left: Homer, Marge, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, Bart, Snowball II and Lisa on THE SIMPSONS on FOX. © and ª2000 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED/©2000FOX BROADCASTING CR:FOX

I am pretty sure my fascination with including special guests in a show started with Scooby Doo. I will never forget the episode with The Harlem Globetrotters. Although Scooby Doo only aired with 24 episodes, this is a trend that started in cartoons.

The Simpsons obviously has a lot more episode, currently at 654, but they also have used a lot of special guests to change it up on their program. You can see a complete list here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Simpsons_guest_stars)

The list of people on The Simpsons is filled with everyone from celebrities to scientists, athletes to comedians. I think that I learned a lot about being around different people growing up. My parents and grandparents always had a unique mixture of friends and family. They always worked pretty hard to get us around different people.

I will never forget the time that my Dad had a friend of his take us back to our mom. He was a younger guy who drove a Monte Carlo, he was seemingly pretty normal, except for one really horribly awful habit. He drove laid back in his seat with his bare left foot hanging out the window. He was a really fun guy, but I never could understand that. One other thing that was different for me was that he really liked to build stuff in his apartment, again not strange, but his building materials were old Coors Light cans. That was the interesting part.

My grandfather had a couple interesting friends, but I was intrigued most by his friend Chet Fisher. Chet was one of only a few African Americans in his small town. Chet reminded me of Bo Diddley who was famous to me for singing Sixteen Tons. Chet visited at least once a week to chat and to come in and make some trades. Grandpa traded him for so many different things, a Ruger pistol, many guitars, appliances, and tools. Chet was always a kind and considerate person. He was a local celebrity, but we found out as time went on that his daughter was a pretty famous traveling singer. My grandpa showed me that people are not as different as we sometimes think, and for me growing up in 78% caucasian state this was helpful.

As a young pastor, I met John Brookfield who was an evangelist and strongman. I had him come and speak to our students and we struck up a friendship. Over the following years, I helped produce a lot of different videos to help him teach others how to have amazing hand strength. John was on numerous tv shows including The Today Show, Regis and Kathie Lee, he is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not holder, and has some pretty amazing feats of strength. John had followed his dreams and for a long time. He is the picture of perseverance for me. He is still doing it all these years later.

It is important to have varying, different people in your life. They will help you dream, learn, and sometimes loosen up a little bit to accomplish something you thought you never could.

The Empty Chair

green wooden chair on white surface
Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com

Every day rolls on and the imprint of her has nearly left the chair that she sat in every day. All that is left is a few items around the house that people did not realize reminded me of her. She has been gone seven months now.

I could still smell her perfume in her house, when I last visited. Of course, I miss more than just who she was in the last few visits I made. I miss every moment with her. We all do.

This is what happens when someone spends the majority of their life caring for other people above themselves, they leave a gigantic hole.

sky ditch eye hole
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Like a sinkhole, everyone stands around the edge not to get too close. They all talk about the sting of death and share stories of their loved one.

At least we did her celebration of life with a lot of the very people who she left behind. It was a welcome relief to not have to see an endless line of all the people she ever helped.

She would have had one of those funerals with a thousand people. She touched so many lives, that I am not even sure a church in her small hometown could have housed us. This is how it is for the kind of servants that realized that they were nothing, if the did not serve others.

My grandma poured herself out for others so often. She was often exhausted at the end of a day, after making sure that everyone had what they needed. I am remember her leaning back in her recliner and flopping her feet over to my Grandpa in surrender of the day.

He lovingly would rub her feet and help her to begin the shutdown of a day.

She never claimed to be a perfect person, she had her share of struggles, yet this showed whenever she told stories. She often bestowed grace on other people who I would not have.

Her life impacted so many people and I know she is making people laugh in heaven as I write this. She understood who Jesus is and she knew how much she needed his forgiveness. I can only hope to live up this part of her life, to fully know how much I can’t do this life without a dependence on Jesus.

The Heroic Path and other Manly Books

I always enjoyed a good book on what it means to be a man. Many people have many different interpretations. I have previously only found two books that really navigated manhood in a way to make sense to me.

 

images

My first favorite was To Own a Dragon, by Donald Miller. In this book, he explores what manhood really is in the absence of a father. Many of Donald’s book talk about the father who was in his life, but not very often. His father was around enough to frustrate him, often more than help him. It is a great read, as Miller explores what it means to be a man. I highly recommend it for anyone exploring what it means to be a man nowadays. It helped me make sense of who I am, because I am not always the chop a tree down, fix a car, and grunt at a football game kind of guy.

wildatheart

My second favorite is Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I was recommended to read this by a counselor of mine. I avoided it for many years as it was “too mainstream” for me. Often I avoid books that are son popular, because I never feel like I understand or appreciate the same things as most people. I could not have been more mistaken that to pick up this book on what it means to be a man. Eldredge struggled with many of the same issues that I did. His book was less on not having a father around and more about embracing the man God wanted us to be.

I found both books to be very helpful to me, as I explored what it meant to be a man and trying to be a Christ follower, without becoming some sort of shade of who I am in Him. They shaped me. I really did not believe another book would come along to shape my masculine journey, I was so so wrong.

5e128d1bce73369f15eff06c5a182541

John Sowers has created a masterpiece for masculinity. He never really had a father around after being a small child, never feeling as though his father really cared for him as much as he needed. He did not sulk about it long in the book, but he definitely addressed it, enough that I would have been embarrassed to have his father read it.

He is unabashedly graceful in his depiction of growing up. As a small child, he remembers his father driving off after delivering Christmas one year, and never seeing him as much as he would have liked. Raised by his mother and grandmother, was full of wonderful experiences, but he still knew something was lacking.

Sowers sought other men to shape him in his life, the men he found markedly shaped him into who he is. Sowers is what i would call a “man’s man”. He is a bow hunter, martial arts enthusiast, and makes knifes, but he never made me feel like a weakling for not caring about those things. His words convicted me to look differently at a lot of areas in my life. He challenged to acknowledge the demons present in my life, every day. He challenged me to press forward in my health goals. To become a closer follower of Jesus.

I am not sure why I waited so long to read this, I have been a fan of John Sowers for so long, since he was named president of The Mentoring Project founded by Donald Miller. Working with students in a mentoring capacity has been a passion of mine for a long time. I have felt resolved for a long time about the necessity to be a good man in students’ lives. I have found it to be the most rewarding of all my faith endeavors. Caring for students has and always be my main goal. I am not sure there is much of anything I will ever feel more strongly about.

I appreciate Sowers’ words and the encouragement to keep refining and being there for someone who might grow up to be like him.

Rethinking Christmas – Day 9 – Family Issues

elevation_scan_big

Imagine it. You just ask the woman of your dreams to marry you. A few months later she became pregnant and (in a Maury Povich voice) “You know you are not the father.” I am not sure this is how Joseph imagined his life going, definitely not according to his plans.

I can’t imagine the emotions that went through Joseph’s head. I am sure he felt betrayed, cheated on, and wanted to walk away. He heard his fair share of criticisms about his wife-to-be. He probably punched a few people who took their opinions a little too far. He had to stand up for her, when, at times, he was not sure for himself if she was telling the truth. In fact, I think it was something he struggled with off and on, until Jesus began his work at age thirty. I am sure that Joseph saw flashes of Jesus’ brilliance, at times, but he still had to discipline this child. He had to teach him how to be a carpenter, how to treat people, and how to live life in their city.

I am not aware of too many families that gather together and the holidays bring peace. Oftentimes, it is a gathering of people who struggle to relate on a very deep level. It may be because others members have made choices that they disagree with or it may be a deep level hurt that can almost never be forgiven. Families are messy. You can’t ever really escape your family no matter the miles you put between yourself and them.

I was reminded of this dynamic while watching the The Judge, a recently released movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Downey Jr. plays the son who could never make up for some of the mistakes he made as a teenager. It made me think of the August: Osage County movie with male characters. The truths contained in these movies is that families are difficult to be around. If you think about it, nowhere else in life are we measured up against all that we hoped to be or do. Families can tend to be the scale that we tend to step on, when we have no business stepping on one.

Growing up, we all had these “larger than life” dreams and many of us feel like a failure for never realizing these dreams. I think we all have done this in some way, feeling like we have not measured up to what our family expected of us.

We hate to even visit, as it is a reminder of all the places that we will never visit. Without the distraction of children, visiting family is even more difficult. Conversations become a minefield of not wanting to offend, dredge in the past, or bring up past mistakes. Even if you can avoid all of these topics, just being in a place of your childhood can be difficult, passing by many of the photographs of a younger self who was not so jaded. The fact is, everyone feels this way in some way, especially the people you will be gathering with during this holiday season. We are all making the best of the choices and life circumstances that have happened to us.

So as you gather around family in the next few days, keep in mind that Joseph never asked for a pregnant fiance, Jesus never became the carpenter that he hoped he would, and God made a sacrifice few of us would be willing to do, all so that we may be forgiven and demonstrate that to others.

Your family is broken, it always will be, this is why God allowed His son to come and set us free, by setting others free of our expectations and judgements. Set your family free today and know they are who they are, give them to God and know that He will set your heart free to rise above past mistakes and lost dreams.

Connection

connection-map

There is nothing more powerful than seeing two people connect in a new friendship. This past week I had the opportunity to see this happen a few times. It is that time of year again, to begin new mentoring groups. This year, I am facilitating a lunch group with young men during my lunch period and working with four young ladies as mentors for four of my female students after school through a program from N.C. State called Read to Lead.

On Wednesday, I first realized how powerful it is to allow sixth graders to begin thinking about who they are and why they are where they are. This week we talked about the first Habitude, virtually it is talking about looking into the future more than focusing on the past. It was incredible to hear the young men talk about how victories that they had celebrated and then think about what they are doing towards building into their futures. Immediately they were voicing their hopes and dreams to essentially a stranger, but this person would no longer be a stranger. Friendships were formed in the short twenty minutes we were there. It was amazing to see kids who i thought might have not cared much about school to mention the hopes and their dreams. It reminded me to keep stretching them. It will be amazing to see how different the young men will be in eight short weeks.

On Thursday, each of my four female students anxiously awaited the time that they would meet their mentor. This is HUGE, I mean can you even imagine a college student coming and hanging out with you for an hour and a half every week? I think this might be one of the most unique experiences I have ever had in mentoring! The ladies had an excellent time talking about their fears, failures, hopes, and dreams. It was inspiring, as I was able to just facilitate and eavesdrop in on their empowering conversations. It was powerful and just about brought tears to me eyes, a fruition of something that I have wanted to see happening for a long time. Obviously with having an hour and a half, they were able to dive much deeper into the content and really begin to dig away at some of the half-truths that they believe about themselves.

I am so proud of both groups and amazed at the level of vulnerability that they shared with each other. I can’t wait to share what will happen in the coming weeks and see how all of our lives change from being connected and caring for each other at a deeper level.

Do you have this in your life? If not, consider finding someone to take to coffee this week. You may surprised who can be a good friend. It may be a retired neighbor, a person new to town, the cashier that serves you every week at the grocery store, or even an existing acquaintance who you never considered before. Connection is essential to our health as human beings.

CaseCrown and Help One Now

HONtopimage2

Last week I was invited to attend Catalyst with my favorite non-profit, Help One Now. We were headed to Catalyst so that a few of the staff could be in the booth with CaseCrown as they were exhibitors at the event.

I was able to spend a bit of time around the President, David Kim and William Peng who is the Main Designer. I was so impressed with their idea to give back from their business. David tells the story of how he was challenged a little over two years ago to give back. Through some discussion, his company decided to choose a monthly charity and give ten percent to that organization.

They have given to organizations like The Mentoring Project, Splash, The Supply, Inspire, KidWorks, Pencils of Promise, and of course my personal favorite Help One Now.

What I love about this is that it is bringing about a change in the marketplace to give back to others and really making a difference in the world. It was a privilege to spend time with David and William, and see what a difference they are making in the world along with their company.

 

*All purchases for iPad, iPhone, Apple laptops, almost all tablets, Kindle Fire, Samsung phones, and anything else they produce will benefit Help One Now, until October 31, 2013. Please consider buying a few of their cases now for Christmas. 

Shop Here! 

Transitional Housing

thp-image

One of my students in recent years told me about how she is living in transitional housing at a nearby church. I asked her if she liked it and she simply answered “Yes.” As she thought about it, it was nice for her to have other children around, a video game system she could play, and a bag lunch to bring to school. She ate better that day than she ever has before. It was interesting to think how much care and love was put into the little details, even in packing a lunch for her.

A few days before, she shared with the class that she has four sisters and all of them have a different dad, and two of her sisters have a different mom than hers. Before I worked with kids from homes like hers, I always want to work with kids like this. She really has nothing but her family and the clothes on her back. When I walk into work each day, I try to remember that in the midst of all the stressors of teaching, I am walking into a place that needs people like me. I don’t think there is any more rewarding career than to empower children like her to make it through the day. I wish I could do more, but working hard to make sure that she can read, write, learn to work on a team, and know her math, will help her get very far in life.

This brings me to you. If you are not a teacher, is there a teacher in your life that could use some encouragement today? Now by encouragement, I don’t mean gifts or kind words. I mean is there a tangible way that you could show up for that teacher? Please consider it today and follow through. The little things that you do for a teacher impacts the children in your community, especially those that sleep in churches at night. 

Ideas:
Send in used books for their classroom library.
Offer to come and read to their class.
Pay for a student’s field trip.
Bring in some playground equipment, basketballs, soccer balls, etc…

Fixing the World Starts with You

I meet a lot of people who wish the world were much different. They want a world full of people are who are peaceful, obey all the traffic signals, and seek to do good. I know I am the guiltiest of the bunch. I want everyone else to change. I want other people to do so many things.

I recently found out the reason why I want everyone else to change, is because I have to do nothing.

I am so lazy, I just want others to conform to what I am doing. If they change than that means, ultimately, I was right. If they give in, that puts me in the position of being in control.

I am not sure why, for years, that I would need to make everyone else change. I would get so irate at other drivers, yet I would find myself sneaking a text in occasionally. I like to do many things in secret, funny enough the things I do in secret (or anonymously) are the very things I love to judge other people in. I love to judge people’s driving, eating habits, exercise habits, and their relationship issues. Probably because, I really don’t want to deal with my own mess.

So if you read this, and you judge me, you have your first area to work on. Starting with myself will be a game changer and will impact me from this day forward. Will you join me the next time you are tempted towards wanting things different, remember to turn inward and change yourself.
Wrench

 Unless they are a REALLY bad driver, than judge them. 

Breaking the Noise

For some reason, I have been silent often when I needed to say something very direct and specific. I like to hide behind a cheesy smile, snarky comments, and a funny demeanor.

As I reflect on the way home from work, I often consider all the words I have said in a day, and I am normally sad with my choices.

Throughout the day, I wanted to say more positive and encouraging things, but I often will do just the opposite with my lack of words. My silence speaks volumes about my lack of belief in people. My negative words, state even stronger, that people will never change. I often, without meaning to, preach about a Jesus who doesn’t change anything, because I refuse to listen or talk.

I used to believe this partial truth, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I now would add to this “… but be an active listener and hear their stories, their paths awaiting redemption or validation.”

Bring the Noise

So this week, still try to say constructive words, but when you are totally annoyed and being silent, listen for the needs of the talker and how God can help you, help them to find a more peaceful place.

Poser

I was one of those kids who purchased a really cool skateboard in the 80’s. In fact to be exact it was a Santa Cruz board that was designed by Claus Grabke. I could do two tricks on it. I could roll along on it and ride along on the back wheels. I know you are not impressed, either was I. I tried a few other tricks, but I never mastered them. I even tried a half pipe once, I fell, I bled, I never tried again.

I often felt like a poser, I kind of was one. I should have stuck with my Wal-Mart skateboard until I actually learned some tricks. I have a tendency to get the best thing and not even have the time to use it to its potential. Call me materialistic, a gadget guy, or what you want. You are probably right.

I think I am not alone in this idea of feeling like a poser. I have talked to quite a few people who want to embrace a more meaningful story, but they continue to hesitate with excuses.

On paper, I should not feel like a poser, yet I struggle with it. I teach over fifty children a week and I regularly mentor kids as well. Yet, I still come home and feel like a poser. I would like to think it is just the devil talking to me, but I keep coming back to the fact that I have have found my “good”. I struggle to find my “best”. I have a lot of friends who have found their best, taken a risk and are really doing well. I am inspired by them. I want to leap, but I am still developing my dream. I know this, it involves a strong connection between mentoring, pastoring, and education. I love reaching out to kids and families who have needs, it recharges and replenished my heart.

The times I feel least like a poser are when I am sitting down to eat lunch with a small group of our first graders. I sit there with some of the most encouraging people in my building, and we pour our hearts into the kids and listen to their stories. I love it and I can not wait to start our next group in two weeks! I also thoroughly enjoy working with the students that my colleagues and I work with. We have such a great time teaching them basketball and also teaching leadership by example. The kids in the club become the kids in the hall who say, “Hi!” and also come to me when they have good or bad news to share. I love being a part of their life, although at times I really wish and hope for a day when I can reach out to kids and share where my hope is.

I just want to keep plugging a long, and shaking off the poser label, by giving it my best each day. And not listening to you know who.

Will you join with me? Quit listening to the negative and try something new…