Today was church in the ice day. Tim Lundy was supposed to come to Cabot today and preach, but the weather kept him from being able to come. So what does that mean? It means it’s impromptu sermon time. I decided to take what we were going to talk about at Community Group tonight and turn it into a sermon. It’s from one of this week’s Fellowship Journal readings. We discussed Romans 8:28-39.
Paul is assuring us that the relationship that we have with God is secure. God will finish what he started–those he calls, he justifies and those he justifies, he glorifies. God is the one doing the work, not us. If God is for us, who can be against us? No one can bring a charge against us because God is on our team. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Paul could not be more clear in this passage that our relationship with him is secure and that nothing can separate us from him.
However, we spend so much energy worrying about whether or not our relationship with God is secure. We worry and fret as if our security depends on us. Our security does not depend on us but on God. I was reminded of what our Lauren was like when she was 2. She would run as fast as she could in one direction with reckless abandon until she crashed something full speed. She would then get back up and do the same thing in a different direction.
Needless to say, she caused us a lot of anxiety, especially in parking lots. So any time we were in the parking lot or crossing the street, we would teach her to hold hands. She wasn’t very good at it. She didn’t want to hold hands. She wanted to run. Do you think her safety depended on her ability to hold my hand? No way. I would have a death grip on her arm. There was nothing she could do to separate herself from me in the parking lot. In the same way, there is nothing that we can do to separate ourselves from the love that God has for us.
(p.s., author’s note, one more thing. In this post I am not trying to resolve a centuries old debate. This is just a small excerpt from a sermon today. If you have questions, let me know.)
So here is the setup. We have the top 10 action/adventure heroes and they have been tasked with eliminating the other 9. There is no reasonable or even unreasonable scenario where you could make a movie where this would be the case, so I will not try. Those with superpowers like Superman are not eligible and those with unrealistic technology also will not be considered like Iron Man.
Each will be analyzed for his particular strengths and weaknesses. One strength that each of them has is their uncanny ability to cheat death, so it will seem ridiculous that any of them would ever be eliminated. Also, you will find that qualities such as kindness and commitment to family will be under the “weakness” category. Clearly, this is not a moral assessment. It is only a weakness with respect to things that could be used against you in such a battle royal or your inability to make the hard decision when it counts. If this all seems a little too violent for you, replace the word “killed” or “eliminated” with “tagged by a paintball.”
Batman is not under consideration here. Even though he doesn’t have super powers and his technology isn’t too unreasonable, it just feels like he should be in a different discussion of superheroes. Also, I want to include warriors from previous eras, but it’s too hard to judge. All things being equal, I believe that Maximus would dominate everyone on this list (with the possible exception of #1), but you can’t really compare him to people with sniper rifles and machine guns. For that reason Indiana Jones also does not appear on this list.
One final note, Chuck Norris was going to be asked to participate but was deemed too awesomely destructive. The person who was going to ask him was turned to stone just looking at him. His beard volunteered to participate, but Norris was unwilling to part with the beard for the 30 seconds it would take to eliminate the competition.
Strengths: Ability to make incredible weapons, defenses, gadgets in general with q-tips, peanut butter, and empty jars of baby food. Ability to think quickly in tense situations. Mullet.
Weaknesses: Lacks the killer instinct. Nice guy. Hates guns and violence.
Outcome: After being chased to a remote location, MacGyver finds himself holed up in a bunker. While trying to figure out a way to escape using only a spork, the wheels from a kid’s Big Wheels, and a left over piece of ooey gooey butter cake, John Rambo approaches the scene and destroys the bunker, the entire area, and all neighboring cities with a relentless assault with multiple grenade launchers, rocket launchers and possibly a suitcase nuke. (Wait, that seems more like an episode of MacGruber)
9. B.A. Baracus
Strengths: Ability to build elaborate contraptions. Can drive a van as if it were a racecar. Awesome nickname, attitude and Mohawk.
Weaknesses: Unwilling/unable to fly unless tranqed. Easily duped into being tranqed when it is obvious he is going to have to fly. Good at shooting guns, but not actually hitting the people that he is shooting. (Lots of ammunition used on A-Team, no bad guys ever injured or killed)
Outcome: While tracking Dirty Harry, Harry is able to slip out of his grasp by, of all things, getting on an airplane. He does not realize that he is being chased by John McClain. In a battle of witty things to say, John McClain trumps B.A.’s “I pity the fool” with quotes from Tombstone. The last thing Baracus hears before he passes is “I’m your huckleberry.”
8. “Dirty” Harry Callahan
Strengths: Anger and general disdain for humanity. Snarl. Love for guns.
Weaknesses: Anger becoming bitterness and uncontrollable range. Maybe just a wee bit obsessive? Don’t tell him I said that. (No seriously, please don’t tell him I said that)
Outcome: Harry never really got into the spirit of the challenge. No one can tell him what to do. All he wants to do is lock up punks. He notices some guys robbing a convenience store near Dirty Harry’s location. Harry is sucked into the trap and takes out each one of the punks with his Smith and Wesson. He never notices that Jack Bauer is one of the hostages. It’s all over for Harry.
7. John McClain
Strengths: Ability to withstand large amounts of pain. Sacrifice his body for the greater good. Intensity balanced with lighthearted look at life.
Weaknesses: Always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Relies too much on luck
Outcome: While he is certainly the people’s choice, there should be little doubt that he lacks the skill and training to take on the higher level secret agents. After taking out B.A. Baracus, McClain unfortunately found himself on a plane hijacked by terrorists. After foiling their plot he gets Seattle only to stumble upon another terrorist plot to poison the world’s Starbucks supply. After successfully putting down the second plot, he runs into Casey Ryback. Ryback could have shot him at any time during the previous 24 hours, but for reasons known only to him, he chooses to battle McClain in fisticuffs. In a long drawn out battle, McClain goes down in what history will soon call the most over the top death scene ever.
6. Casey Ryback
Strengths: Martial arts skills. Creative ways of killing people. Cooking.
Weaknesses: Hmm, shall we say that he is a little hefty?
Outcome: Greatly fatigued by his altercation with John McClain. Ryback stops for a snack. Large meat lovers pizza and a diet coke. Finishing that and just as he is about to order his main course, he is confronted by a man with a gun who appears to be Tom Cruise. However, before he pulls the trigger, the assailant says, “I want you to know who got you.” He rips off the mask and it is Ethan Hunt. As he fires, Ryback says something that no one, I mean no one in the pizza place could understand. Hunt gives that swarmy, creepy smirk that used to be charming and is now just weird.
5. Ethan Hunt
Strengths: Those creepy, look like someone else masks. (I know what you may be thinking. That is unreasonable technology. Maybe, but it is not on the level of say the GI Joe movie and is really not that much of an advantage. I mean, really, what’s the difference between a piece of bubble gum that becomes a bomb and a regular bomb or a mask that makes you look like a senator and like a ski mask?) Good looks. Death-defying stunts. Wide range of abilities to kill you including fisticuffs and all kinds of weapons.
Weaknesses: Something in his personality that makes people close to him want to betray him. His inability to notice that he is being betrayed.
Outcome: In the battle of Napoleon complexes, Ethan Hunt and Jack Bauer are obsessed with each other. Both are quite short-tempered and have little patience for each other. However, it is Hunt’s giant ego that gets the best of him. As part of his spy cover, he adopts the persona of an actor, goes on a talk show and jumps up and down on a couch like a buffoon. Seizing this opportunity, Bauer hides in Hunt’s dressing room and captures him. He tortures him for a while to get information out of him. Bauer doesn’t need any information from him, but tortures him just the same.
4. John Rambo
Strengths: Knowledge of weapons. Knowledge of like huge weapons. Access to steroids and HGH.
Weaknesses: Lack of finesse. Intelligence. Vocabulary.
Outcome: After destroying an entire Afghan village for no particular reason, he sets up an arsenal in the ruins that would make him the 5th most well-equipped army in the entire world. Taking a break from surrounding his village with land mines, he shoots himself up again with steroids. This sets him on a steroid rage tantrum that distracts him from what comes next. Bond air drops from a low flying plane. He chooses a parachute that doesn’t work on purpose just to make it interesting. He makes a parachute out of his shirt in part to save his life and in part so he can show off his abs. He eliminates Rambo as he is putting his head through a concrete wall.
3. Jack Bauer
Strengths: Chloe O’Brian’s technical knowledge. The ability to extract any information from anyone anytime. A complete disregard for the rules.
Weaknesses: Is captured an inexplicable number of times. Gets attached to people he barely knows which causes him to surrender way too much.
Outcome: In what can only be considered a breaking of the rules, Bauer has Chloe O’Brian using NSA satellites to track each of the other 9 guys. She is, of course, unable to find or track Jason Bourne, even though on occasion he is sitting in the cubicle next to her. This allows Jack to survive multiple attempts to take him out. However, the now late Ethan Hunt had alerted the Chinese government as to Bauer’s whereabouts. They have Bauer surrounded at a local bus station. He is going to fight his way out until he discovers that the Chinese agents have kidnapped a young boy that he had met for five minutes that morning at a coffee shop. Jack then immediately surrenders. The Chinese government take him back to China where we can only presume he is dead—for the 15th time, a number heretofore only seen amongst villains on daytime soap operas.
2. James Bond (Daniel Craig version)
Strengths: Handsome. Buff. Abs that make every man that watches him cry. Mad spy skillz. Sweet vehicles and gadgets.
Weaknesses: A little too concerned with being handsome, buff and having abs that make every man that watches him cry. Much too public profile.
Outcome: At one point, Bond captures Bauer, because, you know, why not? Rather than eliminating him, he wants to see what it’s like on the other side. He starts monologging and telling Bauer about his sinister plan to take him out and Bourne. He then leaves the room and Bauer escapes and kills all of Bond’s henchmen. Frustrated with himself, he goes to the casino and has a drink (you know what he has). Bourne, wanting this to end with a bang, poisons his drink while simultaneously shooting him and blowing up the casino.
1. Jason Bourne
Strengths: Having minimal long term memories gives him few attachments. Has all the super spy skills—driving, shooting, fighting, breaking into places, being awesome, super stealthy. Cold, calculated, smart.
Weaknesses: He did have a moment of conscience, but he got shot and dumped in the ocean (I think he learned his lesson). Quite obsessed with finding answers to his past.
Outcome: He at one point had every other contestant in his sniper sights except for MacGyver who went down too quickly. He chose not to eliminate everyone himself instead choosing to observe everyone else’s tactics. Also, just for fun he does the whole competition left handed and speaks only Mandarin Chinese.
So here we sit as a family on what people call a snow day. However, considering that there is minimal snow on the ground, we will call it an ice day. We got an automated call at 5:30 this morning that school was cancelled (nice system, keeps me from feeling the need to check every hour in the middle of the night. OCD anyone?). Then, much later, after I got up, I saw an email that the girls’ basketball games had been cancelled for tomorrow. (Even though I am a native Arkansan, I do not understand the cancelling due to weather the day before. But that is a matter for another day.)
Really, what I am concerned about today is that the games were cancelled, regardless of the fact that it is likely the right call. I want to play. I love watching them play basketball. They have an unbelievable intensity on the court. If someone touches a loose ball or, heaven forbid, attempt to take the ball from them, they both get this look on their face that says, “how dare you.” Then like a wild animal they will, in fact, get the ball back. Even Maylee, my girly girl princess, (actually especially Maylee), has this switch inside her that transforms her from the diva strutting during the introductions, to a destructive basketball force that gets every rebound, allows the girl she is guarding to score no points and sets picks that would make a grown man cry.
As always, this is the point where you, the reader (noun intentionally singular), says “what is the point?” I dunno, to brag on the girls? To make you want to come to one of their games? Stereotypes of genders are real. Sometimes we may not like or appreciate them, but some of them are real. However, in this house we do not let those things define us. My girls may be emotional, they may love pink, and they may even both hate math. On the other hand they play basketball with aggression and passion and intensity. In the same way, your boys may run with the energy of a perpetual motion machine, throw every toy they have, and make guns out of Twizzlers. Let them cry, let them express emotion. Let them be balanced men.
Maybe in 30 years, I will let one of them date one of my daughters.
I have been on a serious post kick lately. Not what cloften reader(s?) expect. So I will tell you this story.
As is typical around our house someone (this time Maylee) was singing. I told her, if we’re going to sing, let’s sing an 80’s classic. (I can make this happen easier now, because she has a CD from Glee which apparently has made some 80’s songs cool again). So then we all start singing “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. I mean all of us, and not just the chorus or 1st verse. 2 verses, the chorus twice. It ended with Lauren and I doing the chorus again in a more country riff. Which then prompted Heidi and Maylee to critique the performance, American Idol style. They both appreciated how we made the song our own. It showed who we were as artists.
I’m hesitant to say that this was a normal occurence in our house, because of the word normal. I can say that it is typical. I’m telling you. If any of you know any reality show producers, I think you could get a relatively funny reality show out of our house. I mean, it would be no Cake Boss, but then again, what is.
Have you ever noticed how much time we spend lamenting things that we have deemed are not “fair”? Why did he get that job? Why does my brother get to stay up later than me? Why do they have more money? Why did this bad thing happen to me? Why are these people getting away with hurting me? “IT’S NOT FAIR!”
I say all of this even as I sit here with a small knot in my stomach myself about something that I wish were different, that will, no matter what, not ever be different.
What an incredible waste of energy it is for us to spend so much time dwelling on what we deem to be not fair. Why did this happen? Who let this happen? Here is what should have happened. We go on and on. We lose sleep. We rant to our friends. We even get theological and bring God into the situation. Did God cause this or did he let it happen? Could he have stopped this? Why didn’t God stop this?
We are not making the situation better. We are not helping ourselves or hurting the people that cause us pain. (Though I have found that passive/agressive sulking really does stick it to people). What then should we do? First, surrender to the reality that life is not fair. In John 16:33, Jesus assured us that in this world we would have trouble. Why then the surprise? Then we should turn from despair and frustration and turn to hope. In Romans 5, Paul encourages to rejoice in sufferings (weird, I know), because they lead us to a hope in God’s love that never disappoints. Everything else can disappoint us, but that hope never will. Move away from your pain and frustration and turn to the love that God gives.
I could spend a lot of time frustrated that I’m not 6′6″ and my basketball career was cut short, but I wouldn’t call that productive or helpful. What is productive and helpful is learning to trust and lean on a God that loves us, especially when life is not fair.
A quick note before we start, I will use my blog and other public forums to praise my girls not call them out, so if there is any parenting post/story that involves something bad happening, it will be vague, nameless and thus perhaps a little confusing.
Anywho, we have recently had to take something of value away from one of our daughters. She has been having some self-control issues, bursts of frustration and lashing out against her sister (people who know us–stop trying to figure out who is who). We told her that she needs to build up a track record of not doing that over a few days and her valuable possession will be returned. For the next 3 days, we have had at least one outburst.
After last night’s outburst, she almost immediately starts crying and beating herself up. “I am so stupid.” How do you keep going at that point? Don’t you have to give in? Well, I will tell you what I did. I sat down with her on the couch and told her how much I loved her. I told her that it was my responsibility to help her. What I want for her more than anything is for her to win.
“I am on your team. I love you. If I let you do anything with no consequences, what would happen?”
“I wouldn’t get better, Dad.”
“I am not punishing you. I just want to help you.”
You want to guess what happened next? That’s right, she started crying again. I hugged her, tucked her in bed and told her good night.
Everything in my heart said, “Just give it back, you mean old bear.” However, I didn’t and it hurt me. You see, I am compelled by God and driven by my love for both my girls. I want them to become beautiful young ladies, inside and about. Sometimes that means I do things that make her (and me) cry, not to hurt her but to help her, not simply to punish, but to love.
How do you discipline a crying girl? I’m not exactly sure, but it hurts.
A couple of years ago my in-laws had their 40th wedding anniversary. All their kids, Heidi and her two brothers, spouses, grandkids, and granddog came in for a week. One of the presents the three children gave their parents was that each of them wrote a letter of praise and thanks to their parents. One night we got together and read them. Heidi had put them together in a nice frame. There was lots of crying.
I bring this up because Heidi’s brother, Rob (Robert, Robbie, R), in his letter referred to himself as the middle child as the “fulcrum of quiet steadiness.” (What is a fulcrum you may ask? Click here. Still don’t get it? It’s nerd talk for being bringing balance and calm) I laughed out loud when I heard this and it has quickly become a part of Loften household vocabulary. What I like to do now is refer to myself as the fulcrum of quiet steadiness. I bring peace and calm to what can sometimes be a powderkeg of emotional drama.
(ATTENTION: Gender stereotyping alert) The women in my life can be quite emotional (that’s not an insult) and sometimes things can get out of hand. What is my role as Dad? Too often Dad’s think that they can solve the problem by bringing even more emotion to the situation. “Well, Cloften, that’s not possible. I’m the logical, rational one. I would never bring more emotional drama.” Really? You don’t get angry and start yelling? Often that is exactly what we do.
We believe that we are helping, but what we are doing is sacrificing long term security and calm for the short term benefit of silence. You come in like a madman in anger telling everyone to “Shut up!!” and you think you’ve achieved your goal if everyone is now quiet. But what have you actually accomplished? Have you helped them deal with whatever the issue was? Have you modeled self-control? Or have you taught them what they knew already–the loudest one wins? You won because you are the loudest.
Being a peacemaker is not the same as being a silence creator. Do the extra work, bring peace, unity, understanding. Help your family see God’s way of dealing with conflict, with love and grace. Be the fulcrum of quiet steadiness.
There are two big questions that consistently come up in our staff lunches at Fellowship Cabot. (I promise that we spend a lot of time talking about serious stuff too) The first is who would win in a battle royal of all the staff at Fellowship Little Rock. Dean Stanberry used to have no contenders. Now with the addition of Mark Henry, at least there is now a good debate to have. (Sorry, I usually try to avoid inside jokes)
The second is who would win if all the tv/movie action heroes went after each other. This is now going to become an overly complicated analysis/blog post. First though, I need your help. Who are the contenders?
Let me set up the ground rules. Here is the scenario. All of the great action heroes (they could be villains as well) are asked to eliminate everyone else. Who is the last one standing?
They cannot have superpowers of any kind. We are talking about regular people. Who would win between Yoda and Superman is for another time.
They also cannot have/use unreasonable technology. James Bond can be in. Iron Man is out. I’m on the fence with Batman whether or not he is in, convince me one way or another.
They need to be iconic. I don’t care about that one character in that one movie that no one has ever heard of, but you and your friends think is awesome.
If you find this annoying, I’m sorry. There is serious stuff on the blog for you. Every now and then, especially on my day off, I am going to indulge my pop culture idiocy. Right now I have 3 major contenders in my mind with a few longshots to make it interesting. Who you got?
It is not unusual for members of my family, even extended family to get asked the question, “Is he that funny in real life?” I suppose what is meant by that question is that over the top personality that comes across sometimes, is that for real? One thing I would say is that I am typically more reserved and introverted than what people perceive and I am a lot more intense than what people perceive. However, the insanity of ridiculousness is for real. That is how the Loftens roll. It is not just me. We have often contended that if you put cameras in our home, you could get a pretty funny reality show every week. Heidi would never agree to it, though.
Here is an example. This is just a sampling of the texting that my 12 year old daughter, Maylee, and I did this morning (edited for lazy text message spelling):
Maylee: No…..No…….Not the lemons!!!!!!!!!! Why lemons!?!?!?!?!?!?
Dad: Don’t drop the umbrella or I swear the cheetahs will never, ever eat again no matter what number you roll.
M: I can never come back from that!!!!! LOL!!!!!
M: What is that kangaroo doing with that……Aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!! That pickle is going to jump on u unless…..CARROTS!!!!!
M: Gorillas are not safe unless a tiger is wearing a tutu in Austria with peacock singing hymns to an old man playing banjo!!!!
D: So I picked up this ice cube the other day and thought if I see one more watermelon barking like a seal, I will never check the mailbox again.
M: I love you so much!!!! My favorite song is on. That is sign it’s going 2 b a good day!!!!!
D: Nice. I love you 2.
As with most posts, this is the part where you think, “What is the point, Cloften?” Well, first of all, I think that’s funny. Second, it got me thinking this morning that as long as she will text me silly stuff, questions, love notes, I will text her back. I am not too busy, annoyed, cool, whatever. I have no idea how long she will do this. My guess is this window will close some day. I hope not, but teenagerdom is headed our way. As long as I can, I will text her, call her, do whatever I can for her to know that I love her.
Dads (and Moms), don’t be be too busy. Don’t be too annoyed. Take the time. It’s worth it. (If you need help on ridiculous, random things to text, I’m here for you)
As I have mentioned before, we have a unique approach to bullying in our family. (I almost said very unique to be funny, but many of you wouldn’t have noticed. The rest would be thinking, “what an idiot.” Some of you are still thinking, “What’s the deal?” It will all be explained in a future nerd post: My Top 10 Grammar pet peeves) If you have not read the bully post, check it out here. After you read you it, you will not be able to help but shout, “Mesopotamia!”
Anyway, there was a time when Lauren didn’t shout “Mesopotamia!” She handled bullies a different way when she was younger. This is one of my all-time favorite stories.
We were at the McDonalds in O’Fallon, Missouri where we lived at the time. Lauren was about 3 years old. We were in the playplace on Saturday morning with her older sister, Maylee who was 6. Mom was involved in her Saturday morning ritual of garage sale-ing. There were two boys that were probably around 9 that were there also. They were running around, being loud, pretending to shoot guns with their fingers, essentially being boys. Well at one point they have Lauren backed up against the netting around the equipment and they are “shooting” her with their “guns.” You don’t mess with Papa Bear’s Baby Bears, so just as I was about to get up, she gives them a glare and shoves both of them at the same time. They are startled and back away. Well done.
You might think that is the end of the story, but it is not. Later, she is playing in this little cubby hole of sorts that has a steering wheel in it. I can’t see her from where I am. There is a pole in the way. Suddenly a hear a whack and some kid bawling. I get up, fearing the worst and there is one of those 9 year old boys holding his face crying. My 3 year old daughter is still sitting there “driving” and looking at that kid like, “what?” “What happened, Son,” says the Mom. “She hit me,” says the puddin’ boy pointing at my 3 year old daughter. The mom then shoots me a look. I’m thinking, “What do you want me to do? You are the one with the puddin’ boy.” But she is right, I needed to do something. I grabbed Lauren out of there and bought her ice cream and congratulated her.
Is there a point to this story? Yes. As always, don’t mess with the Loften Sisters. They will take you out. Tell your sons.