Forgiveness is Never Free

This last Sunday we talked about the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant and the very touchy, but incredibly important issue of forgiveness. (Listen here.) In the parable, a king forgives a servant a ridiculous large debt, millions and millions of dollars.   This servant in turn goes out finds somebody that owes him a few thousand dollars, chokes him and throws him in jail.  (no smartalecs, it wasn’t dollars.  I know that this was in Israel in the first century.  Where did you learn to be an obnoxious nitpicker like that?  From me?  Oh, well, um, let’s continue)  The king hears of this and throws the first servant in jail for being ungrateful.

The point that Jesus is making is that since we have been forgiven so much by God, we can only forgive other people.  The debt that we had was so large, to not forgive someone else a smaller debt, would be ungrateful.

As I was getting ready for this sermon, I was finishing up a book called Prodigal God.  Highly, highly recommend it.  The author, Tim Keller, said something that stuck with me and repeated on Sunday–forgiveness is never free.  Someone pays.  If you owe me $100, someone will pay that.  Either you will pay me back or I will eat the loss, paying for it myself.

Similarly, if someone hurts me emotionally, wounds me, someone will pay.  I can choose not to forgive and make them pay for it by the way that I treat them, until they hurt like I hurt.  Or I can forgive them and I’m the one that deals with the hurt and pain.  I choose not to pass it back to them.

If you owe me $100, and I say, no problem, just pay me back $10 a month for 10 months, that’s not forgiveness. That’s a payment plan.  If you hurt me, and I am mean to you, cold to you for a season until I get past it and then “forgive” you, that’s not forgiveness either.  That’s a payment plan.

This is one of the reasons why forgiveness is so hard.  Someone still has to pay.  We are making the decision that we will pay.  I will take the hurt and pain and there will be no payback.  That’s easily described but not easily done.

Circling back to the parable, this is where what Jesus said is so helpful.  If God has forgiven us so great a debt, a debt that Jesus himself paid for us (remember, forgiveness isn’t free), then I just had millions of dollars wiped off my account.  I have lot of money to give back.  You and I are good.  I have experienced so much forgiveness, I cannot help but pass that on.

When I am reminded of the hurt, I don’t think about how I can get them to pay me back.  I’m reminded that I said that I would pay.  Then I’m reminded of the One who paid so much for me.  Then I can pass that forgiveness.

It’s not easy, because it’s not free.  It can become easier when we remember the forgiveness we’ve been given.

Micromanaging: Planning to Fail

September 28, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

It would be well documented that I am not a micro-manager, if I were capable of documenting well.  I would love to suggest to you that this is because I don’t have any control issues.  However, this is not the case.   I do want things done my way.  I’m just not concerned about the how, but more about the results.  I am incapable of regular-managing myself, how would I even begin to micro-manage someone else.  I say all of this to say that is easy for me to blog about the dangers of micro-managing, because I couldn’t do it even if it were virtuous to do so.

I do on the other hand struggle with control when it comes to the big picture.  I want the results to be what I think they should be.  In a sense, I don’t care how you get there, as long as you get right where I want you to get.  Is that macro-managing?  I am not suggesting that this is better or more noble.  It just is what it is. (Is that a helpful phrase? I think not.  Also not helpful, “at the end of the day.”  Stop saying that.)  In fact, I believe that all kinds of control issues are counter-productive for leaders. Leaders have to be able to trust other people to lead.

God has called leaders to prepare or equip other believers for works of service. (Ephesians 4:11-16) This is how the body of Christ will be built up and be strong.  Leaders don’t do the works of service for them.  Leaders don’t tell them exactly how to do it, which is just another way of doing it yourself.  Leaders don’t have minions who do their bidding.  Leaders point the way, prepare the person, and release them to do it.

“But Cloften, what about excellence?  What if they don’t do it right?  What if it’s bad?  What if they fail?  If they fail, I fail.”  I understand, there is a chance, that if you release leadership over a project or ministry to someone else, they may fail.  Keyword: may.  For your consideration: if your job is to prepare people to serve, if your job is to equip people, but instead you micro-manage a minion and/or do it yourself, you have failed.  Keyword: have.

To micromanage someone is to plan to fail.  You have a couple of choices.  You can definitely fail as a leader by doing everything yourself, micro-managing and exhausting your people.  Or you can run the risk of an event or ministry not going as well as it could or maybe “fail.”  Is it failing though?  If you help a leader and train that leader, give the leader experience, trust them, watch them execute and then help them evaluate it afterwards, is it even possible to fail?  Haven’t you already won?  Isn’t developing and leading people the big idea of Christian leadership?

Wait, did you think it was about surrounding yourself with people that you could boss around who would ultimately make you look good?  Sorry, my bad.  Yeah, that’s not it.

I’m Right and I Will Not Be Moved

As most people know or are coming to know, I enjoy reading and studying politics.  I keep most of my political opinions and thoughts to myself.  I have been saying more lately, but mostly just general rants about idiocy that spreads over everyone of all political stripes.  I described my current political philosophy to a friend as cynical.  This current philosophy has spanned Republican and Democrat administrations and different Congressional majorities.

Someone asked me based on my cynical comment, if I were a Libertarian.  (I was going to make a legalize marijuana joke here, but it seemed too easy.  Make your own if you like)  While I certainly hold some Libertarian positions, it doesn’t really capture where I am right now.  It doesn’t encapsulate all that is the cranky cynic.  I think what frustrates me more than anything is that it seems that we have lost our ability to have rational, helpful, humble discussions about, well, just about anything.  We all know whose fault that is, don’t we?  That’s right! The other guys.  I can’t stand them either.

Here are a couple of examples of what frustrates me.  A couple of weeks ago, it came out that 1 in 7 people live below the poverty line.  I read a couple of articles (I will not link to them, because you deserve better.  If you want a recommended link, check this out.) on the topic.  One suggested that this new information proved that the Bush tax cuts didn’t work.  The second suggested that this proved that the Obama stimulus plan didn’t work.  Both were riveting, and by riveting, I mean I wish someone would put a rivet through my foot.  I wonder if the poverty news had been good would those same authors have suggested that “Wow, the Bush tax cuts did work” or “Thank goodness for that stimulus package?”  Actually I do not wonder what would have happened.

Similarly, we recently marked the 6 mth anniversary of the Health Care Reform legislation.  Seriously? Are we 14 yr olds in dating relationships that we mark month anniversaries of legislation?  I didn’t have a party. Apparently two columnists did have a party, though one might be better described as a wake.  One article said that it has been so much worse than we could have ever thought.  The other, you guessed it, said that it has gone better than expected.  Would anyone like to wager that both of those articles were written 6 months ago?

(Sudden topic shift) You know, my fear is that this attitude has crept into other areas of our life.  We stake our position, we declare ourselves right, and nothing, NOTHING, will move us off of that position.  I wonder what it would take sometimes to convince us that we are wrong.  How angry and hurt does our spouse have to be before we apologize?  How many times do we have to read what the Bible says before we change?  Is it even possible?

At what point did these political commentators “figure it all out?”  At what point did it no longer matter what happens, it proves them right?  All bad stuff is “their” fault and all good stuff is because of what “we” did.

At what point did we “figure it all out?”  At what point did it no longer matter what the Bible verse says, it proves what I already believe?  At what point in this post did you start thinking, “I know some people that need to read this?”  “They” have some ideas and beliefs that need to change.

My hope, for me (and you as well) is that my heart and mind will always be open.  (I fall short on this often.) What have I missed?  How does God need to change me, soften my heart?  What part of God’s word am I ignoring or minimizing? What part of me is closed off to what God has to say to me? Let’s be open to what God has for us when His Spirit is talking to us, when we are reading the Bible.

You know I’m right.  I always am. (Do I need a JK for stuff like this or have you figured it out by now?  Oh, nevermind.  Sorry.)

Was It Worth It?–Risk and Faith

September 23, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I want to apologize on the front end for how intentionally vague the first part of this post is going to be.  It will be frustrating to some of you.  Some may try to pepper me with private messages asking for more details.  You will get none, don’t even try. “Oh, good grief.  Seriously? You intro something intentionally vague with something intentionally vague?  How about you just get on with it?”  My bad.

I drove 8 hrs on Saturday and arrived at my destination late Saturday night.  I was there to be with a friend who was taking a big risk and doing something pretty cool.  I was there to support him.  Went to sleep that night, got up early the next morning.  3.5 hours later, it was over.  It didn’t work out.  We had brunch and I drove 8 hrs back.  I was possibly going to be there 3 days, but it ended up being about 13 hrs, over half of which I was asleep.  I drove 16 hrs total and I was with my friend for about 6 hrs for something that didn’t work out the way we had hoped.

Here is a popular question from the handful of people that knew what I was doing: Was it worth it?  Was it worth the drive and the effort?  Knowing that was coming, I thought about it on the drive back and this blog post formulated in my head.  I believe that “Was it worth it?” is the wrong question.  You can’t evaluate a risk on the back end.  You take a risk, it doesn’t work out, then you ask if it was worth it.  That’s like asking, “If you had known for certain that it wouldn’t work out, would you still have done it?”  That question barely makes sense if it makes sense at all.  Rarely is it advantageous to do something that you know won’t work.

If things had gone well with my friend, some really cool stuff would’ve happened and I would have regretted it so much if I hadn’t been there.  It didn’t work out so well, so was it worth it?  Absolutely it was.  I risked some sleep, time and gas for a potential payoff for me and my friend.  It didn’t work out.  Would I do it again?  Yes.  Why? Because I still wouldn’t know the outcome.  It might work.  Wouldn’t that be great! Wouldn’t that be fun!  Let’s go see!

Way too often we are consumed with the “what if’s” of failure.  “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll look stupid.”  “Better to not even try.”  If I do nothing, then I know I won’t lose.  Guess what? You will also never win.  I want to make a hard shift here before this sounds too much like a chapter out of a book that an ex-football coach wrote or a mediocre self-help book.

Is there something big that you believe God is calling you to try?  Is there a ministry that he wants you to start?  A relationship he wants you to initiate?  A risk he wants you to take?  Is he asking you to demonstrate some faith and take a risk with him?

My guess is that some of you said yes and you’re scared to death, scared you might fail.  You are plagued with what if questions.  If you are doing risk analysis, let me help you.  The greatest risk that you can take with God is to not step out and do something that he is calling you to do.  It’s actually not risky at all.  You can guarantee that you will be restless and disappointed.

Rarely are there guaranteed outcomes, but I will give you a couple.  Life with God is full of opportunities to step out in faith.  Stepping out in faith is always worth it when you do it with God.

Watching Your Kids Get Hurt

September 14, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

It had been quite the buzz on my daughter Maylee’s Facebook page that she auditioned for a musical last weekend.  She did a great job.  I was so proud of her.  She had never done this before.  She had been in children’s musicals at church (a little different), but had never auditioned for something like this.  To be in musicals and plays is a dream of hers.  She practiced this song all week and went to this children’s theater and belted it out.  I was frying in the sun at a Ft. Smith soccer tourney, but Heidi says that she did great.

Well that was Saturday, and the next couple of days were full of anxious anticipation.  Over 200 kids tried out for about 10 parts, so she knew the chances weren’t great, but she was giddy with anticipation.  We didn’t understand why she had to wait from Saturday to Monday, even though kids were auditioning on Sunday.  We didn’t understand why as soon as those auditions on Sunday were over that the results weren’t up.  We didn’t understand why we didn’t know before we went to school on Monday.  We didn’t understand why when we got picked up from school that the results weren’t posted.  We don’t understand why when it said “by 7 pm” that they waited until 6:45.

I’m not being cute by saying “we,” because both Heidi and I in different places probably hit the refresh button on our computers 100 times each on Sunday night and Monday.  When it wasn’t posted on the internet when I picked Maylee up from school, we drove across town to see if it was posted at the facility.  We really wanted this for her.

Well, at 6:45 it was up, and Maylee had not gotten a part.  I was at home, and the girls were at a soccer practice.  I was tasked with telling Maylee.  It was not easy.  I hated every bit of it.  After I hung up the phone, I almost (?) cried.  I think I can honestly say that I was more hurt than she was.  She bounced back rather quickly.  I didn’t.

She is getting ready to do another audition in the next few weeks (she is trying to keep this one on the down-low.  She went pretty public with the last one. So you will get no details, and don’t ask her.).  She has tremendous courage and is pursuing her dream with conviction.  I know all the right things.  Disappointment is good for kids.  It’s teaching her to work hard. Life isn’t handed to you. Blah blah blah, leave me alone.  When my baby girl hurts, I hurt, often worse.

I thought that if I wrote this post, I would ultimately process through all of this and it would come together with some sort of teachable moment that would make it worth your time to have read this.  Don’t know that I have one.

I just wish that my girls didn’t have to face disappointment.  I wish I could protect them from that, but I can’t.  I can however, walk along side them, love them, praise them, cry with them and be their biggest fans.  I can love them and support them so much that I am as happy as they are when they are happy and as sad when they are sad.

(P.S. Despite rumors to the contrary, I will not be going after the director.  “Great, Cloften, way to ruin the teachable moment.”  Sorry, my bad.)

Online Giving, More Than Just Convenient

September 13, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I talked about money for the first time at the Grove yesterday.  My apt. deck did not get t-p’d and all 4 of my tires are still in tact, so I believe I have survived.  We have an elders meeting tonight, so I will keep you posted.

During the sermon, we (re-)introduced online giving to the Grove Church and our website.  You can check it out here–Online Giving.  At first glance, the use of online-giving just seems to be a trendy gimmick to make giving more convenient, a savvy business plan, if you will.  The more I thought about it this week, the more I became convinced that it is a lot more than just convenient.

Many people struggle with the discipline of giving.  People want to give regularly, but they often forget.  Even if we remember to give, we can’t remember the checkbook.  (Checkbook?  What’s a checkbook?  It’s that bound set of pieces of paper sitting on your record player next to the lava lamp)  People want to tithe based on income rather than when they are attending, but how do you give when you’re not there?  I believe that most people want to honor God with their finances but feel trapped or undisciplined.  This is where online giving can make a huge difference.  Sign up, set up a recurring gift tied to when you get income and boom it’s done.  You can’t forget, so the discipline problem is gone.  Your giving is tied to what you make, so you can give to God first, rather than scraping together what’s left over.

Choose to give.  Choose to give regularly.  Choose to give to God from the first of what you have.  Choose to give based on what and when you make money.  Choose to honor God with your money, and you will receive tremendous blessings from God and you will be partnering with the other people in your church to reach people who desperately need God.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;

then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Proverbs 3:9-10

Grace, Fear and Our “Rights” Guest Post by Brian Hirschy

September 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Brian is a new friend of mine.  He is a cultural photographer that lives in Tibet and a Grover.

Rights, Rights, Rights
As Americans, we are seriously bent on “our rights.”  Having rights, and furthermore actually valuing those rights, has undoubtedly made America into a great nation of freedom.  I am very thankful for my constitutional rights. That being said, in America, does this Pastor have the right to burn the Koran – Absolutely. No doubt about it. As a Christian, however, he certainly does NOT. Christian requirements are different, are they not?
Furthermore, I consistently hear Christians (everywhere) talking about “security” and often even confusing Americana w/ the teachings of the Bible and how we have Government given rights. To this we need to ask the question – who is sovereign over America? Who protects it? Who decides if we as a nation prosper or not? Heck, who even decided to let us exist? Is it God or is it the constitutionally given rights we so value?
We are required to give up so many of our rights as followers of Christ. Our reaction to things like this should not be through the “I’m an American” lens, but rather through the “Im a disciple of Jesus” lens. He never guarantees safety, lack of trouble, or even that we wouldn’t have to interact with people who violently disagree with our faith. We think that because radical Islamic countries burn the Bible almost daily that we have the right to return the favor. We continue to think it’s not FAIR that we don’t ‘overreact’ like many Muslim nations when they do so. We think it’s unfair that because they will overreact, our constitutional rights as American’s have been trampled on.  It’s not fair that they can burn the Bible but we can’t burn the Koran.  Fair sucks – it’s not fair that Jesus had to die for all of us idiots. Our rights, even the ones defended by the Constitution, went out the window when we were redeemed and now we are slaves to righteousness.
Fear is a tricky thing.  Fear comes when we aren’t confident in the Lords promises or our true identity in Him – when we aren’t focused on him. Fear is what is happening in New York right now, sparked by what we believe our ‘rights’ to be. Fear is what is happening in Florida right now. The belief that we must to strike back at radical muslims is only derivative of a lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty and a denial that His promises are true. Everyone in the world paint themselves as tolerant people, but how many of us get on an airplane and see an arabic looking person and the thought runs through our mind, ‘Oh crap! It’s a terrorist” or at least watch the person carefully.
Let me give you another example. Where I live I’m fully allowed to enter the mosque and DEBATE the tenants of Islam, PEACEFULLY and in a civilized manner. No one has tried to cut my face off at a mosque that has more than 300,000 members. I’ve even been able to talk regularly to the imam of the mosques in a Godly manner and he fully realizes that we follow Jesus. Most of us don’t realize that the Koran ACTUALLY teaches that true believers are those who seek the truth and are willing to be peaceful in all things – Muslims, according to the Koran, are supposed to, before anything else, be described as people of peace. Furthermore, the Koran speaks very highly of followers of Jesus and that they are to NOT be persecuted in several different passages.  Yes, their are verses that speak severely towards those who wage war against Islam and that everyone should become a Muslim.  These passages are what cause splits among the Muslim religion, but my point is that we in general are acting out of fear and true ignorance of these verses.
Yet, our churches get really uncomfortable when someone of another faith is among our congregation or even someone who is different that then general makeup of the congregation joins us. We are fearful of this Muslim Community Center – whose written agenda is to promote inter-faith conversation and cultural understanding. We are fearful that, “What if it’s just a safe haven for Muslim extremists?!”   We are fearful that to enter into a conversation about who God is and then who Jesus is with a Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist will only challenge our faith in ways we don’t want to be challenged really – we in effect deny the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and our own.  We so often refuse to even know what the Koran says because we are fearful and not confident that Jesus is who He said He is. Please, please don’t hear a universalist message here – God says that there is NO gospel but the gospel and that those outside of it are outside of Him. However, He also said to love those different than you – even those who make you fearful, persecute you, and are dead set against you.  Love those who blew up the Twin Towers.  Love those who would even want to kill your children. How does this NOT describe how we are to react even to Muslim Extremists.
It’s easy to strip the humanity from a group of people we have never met. Heck, it’s easy to strip humanity from those you even LOVE.  For example, I know their are eskimos somewhere in Alaska, but until I mean one, they will remain what I saw in a book in the 3rd grade. Like I’ve mentioned on my blog, my neighbors are muslim, I have many friends who are Muslim, the guy whose giving me a ride to the airport on Wednesday is a Muslim who knows I’m a Christian and gosh darn it, he still likes me!
We forget the message of Christ was not one of earthly power or where we are on the religious/spiritual food chain. We must remember that these are people that GOD sovereignly choice to create and put on this earth, without asking you, and we are called to love them the best we can with how God only enables us to do. The Word is clear that ANYTHING we do outside of that is sin.
What the dude said
This Pastor has stated, verbally, that he is standing up against the ‘radical sect of Islam’ stating that we will no longer bow our knees to them and no longer live in fear.  What?!  Where’s THAT in the Bible?? How easy is it to insert “We will NO LONGER turn the other cheek! We will no longer bow one on knee!” Seriously, what does the Word say about this? In NO uncertain terms it says this: love them, pray for them, turn the other cheek, give them your tunic (Luke 6). If this pastor hears God’s voice, like Luke says true believers do, he is a SLAVE to these things.  Slave = no rights. As an America, I deeply defend his right to do such a thing, as a Christian I strongly state that the Word says he does not.
Like has mentioned several times before, we by now means can expect people to react Godly who are not redeemed – this includes Americans and Muslim nations alike. We cannot expect non-believers to react with grace because it ONLY comes from the Father. Whether the burning happens or not, grace MUST abound and we must ask God to give us the ability to show that grace to both Radical Muslims as well as a man that is set on burning something he fears.
As you might have gathered, my perspective on living in a largely Muslim community in a communist nation vastly impacts my opinion on these things. But please hear this – the Muslims I know are people that are literally trying to get by in life yet.  Trying to make ends meet.  Are worried about there children… yet we more often than not, in our hearts, tend to group them together (I speak of myself in these things).

The events that are happening in America right now truly truly tear my heart to pieces. I’ve watched hateful things be spewed all over the place, and more often than not come out of the mouths of Christians. We are allowed to understand what peoples believes are we should not be fearful of them as well.

Even if EVERY SINGLE muslim was an extremist, the Word of God is clear that we are to still not retaliate, still love them, still bless them.

It’s Not Against the Law to Be Stupid. Should It Be?

September 9, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I’ve discovered something.  If I put the word stupid in the title of a blog post, it gets more hits, especially if the implications are that Christians are doing something stupid.  People like that.  I will let you decide for yourself why that it is.  Nonirregardless, I like to give the people what they want.

I was blogging earlier in the week about the 1st Church of the Doofus in Florida that is planning a Quran burning on Saturday.  Read that rant here.  The rant was mostly about the undue, overhyped media attention to this group (which apparently I am not helping by blogging about it twice.  I’m literally inciting dozens) and hate as a evangelistic strategy.

However, talking about this quickly turns to the question of religious liberty.  Is what this group doing protected free speech and the free exercise of the freedom of religion?  As with most political and/or spiritual matters, this is not as easy a point as we would like to make it.  If you think about it (”Wait! What? Think about it.  I’m more inclined to have emotive knee-jerk reactions to things.  If you are going to ask me to think deeply, I’m out.”  No problem, I’m sure there are plenty of cable news shows on right now where at least 3 people are shouting at each other.), there is a slippery slope but it slopes both directions.

Clearly not all religious acts are protected.  The attacks on 9/11 that Pastor Mustachio are “commemorating”  are an example of that.  To them that was a deeply religious act that they committed.  So at least one principle that restricts freedom is if it does someone else physical harm.  Well, it is not hard to imagine that the net result of this act in Florida will result in great physical harm to many people.  Is the threat of a violent retaliation to soldiers, missionaries and relief workers around the world enough? Is their “right” to burn these books worth the deaths of some soldiers that signed up to serve in order to protect those rights?

I am typically conflicted internally about such things.  My default political position is pretty libertarian when it comes to such.  On the other hand, that is balanced by a desire that there really should be laws against stupidity (Did I ever tell you that my chemistry teacher my senior year called my friends and me “intellectual snobs?”).  I think such anti-stupid laws would help traffic flows and patterns tremendously.  However, other than me, whom would I trust to be the arbiter of such laws?  Whom would you trust?  Do you trust the government to make those determinations? Or are you more comfortable with unfettered freedom?

Let’s say it a different way, would you be willing to give up some of your freedom in order to potentially spare the lives of innocent people in Muslim countries around the world? Would you trade some of it in order for the name of Jesus to not receive the huge “black eye” that it is going to get?  Or do you believe that that would move the gov’t one step closer to banning the teaching what you believe if some panel declares what you say to be “intolerant” or “incendiary?” I would suggest that the path to the answer is not an easy one.  What say you?

(Read I Corinthians 6, Colossians 2, Galatians 2, I Corinthians 8, if you are interested in reading some passages that talk about our individual freedom and liberty that we have and how to be cautious with it)

Stupidity, Hate and Giving Church a Bad Rep

September 7, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I’m back here at the old computer on a Tuesday morning (feels like a Monday) after a long weekend.  We made a whirlwind trip back to Cabot to pick up some stuff from the house.  Haven’t been on the computer all weekend, shocking I know.

So, I’m catching up on the old news cycle to see what I’ve missed.  Apparently, I have been way out of the loop on something.  There is a “church” that is planning on burning the Quran on Saturday to commemorate (?), honor (?), remember (?) 9/11.  This apparently was announced in July, but just made my radar screen because General Petraeus is warning that it is not a good idea (you think?) and could endanger the troops.

There are so many rants to be had here, I don’t know where to begin or how to get them all in effectively apart from a 3000 word post that only my mom would read.  How about we take some of them popcorn style?

NEWS: Church of 50 people plans to burn Quran.  IN OTHER NEWS: 4 teenagers from Southeast Arkansas plan to tip over cows after talking older brother into buying them cheap beer at convenience store.

This is not intended to be a knock at small churches.  More than half of the churches in America are less than 100 people.  Many people find and worship God there every week.  On the other hand, since when do the actions of 50 people become worldwide headlines?  Groups of 50 people do stupid things all the time.  Can we just agree that we give the lunatic fringe in our society way too much publicity?  I understand outrage.  I’m outraged by this.  But what do you think would happen if we just ignored publicity-starved, attention-hungry stupid people? (That wasn’t popcorn style. My bad.)

“The goal of these and other protests are to give Muslims an opportunity to convert, he (Pastor Terry Jones) said.”

Really?  Really? That’s the goal.  Imagine that committee meeting.  “Guys, what can we do to help Muslims see that they need Jesus?”  “Hmmmm…”  “How about we take the book they take to be most holy, collect a whole bunch of them, and burn them?”  “Yeah, then they’ll see that true forgiveness is found in Jesus.”  “Ok, is it going to be a potluck?”

Now this won’t come as a surprise to most of you, but I am neither a universalist or a pluralist.  (Universalist–believes that ultimately everyone is or will be in good standing before God.  Pluralist–believes that there are multiple paths to God.)  As such, I believe that everyone needs the forgiveness that is offered through Jesus and his sacrifice.  I understand that is controversial in many circles.  It is that belief combined with a love for people that compels me to be a pastor and to tell people about having a relationship with God.

What compels the burning of the Quran?  Does that Pastor’s heart break when he thinks of people separated from God?  Or does it make him angry that people follow another religion?  Why would it make him angry?  Does he think he is better than them?  If Ephesians 2:8-10 is true (hint: I believe it is), then there is nothing special about him that made him worthy of a relationship with God.  There is certainly nothing particularly great in the mind of God that he was born in America that makes him more worthy than another.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the basic premise that all people need Jesus, I would like to think that we could all agree that the best way to communicate that message is with love, compassion and grace.  The same love, compassion, and grace that Jesus modeled when he was here and the same that he showed those that follow him today.

We certainly don’t want to show hatred and contempt to 1 billion Muslims because of the acts of violent extremism that some of their followers showed us any more than we want them to do the same because 50 people in Florida had a bad idea.

Thanks for indulging that.  I feel better now.  Anyone want to go cow tipping?

Top 10 Loftens’ Most-Used Movie/TV Quotes

September 2, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

I made a run at something similar to this before, but I didn’t like it, not enough to delete it though.  Once it gets posted, it is written into the record.  Anywho, here is a better list, not that anyone cares.  I take that back, my brother will like this.  So this one’s for you, Brad-o.  (Friend him on FB if you like.  He’ll say yes to just about anyone, especially if you’re friends with me)

One of the defining characteristics of being a Loften is making pop culture references and quoting movies or TV shows in casual conversation.  It’s who we are.  It’s what we do.  I’m afraid, however, that we are in a season, where it has taken an ugly turn.  I try not to be judgmental, and I want to be a relatively cool dad.  However, we are starting to get a lot of random quotes around the house from various pre-teen Disney and Nick shows.  Lauren will say something, and I’ll say, “Where does that come from?”  Way too often the answer is Gibby.  Who is Gibby?  Some character from iCarly, which is the “best” of these shows, which is akin to saying “least annoying mosquito.”  Sometimes it’s Fred.  I can see these coming, because of the annoying voice that accompanies it.  If you don’t know who Fred is, I will do a public service by not telling you.

All that said, taking Gibby, Fred, and the cast of Tru Jackson, VP out of it, these are the best and most used references around the Loften home.

10. “Spongebob! This pencil is broken.” — Patrick Star from the TV show Spongebob Squarepants

This is my only shout-out to stuff that my kids watch, mostly (entirely) because this is the only show they watch worth watching.  Patrick is trying to write a poem and borrows pencil and paper from Spongebob.  Patrick is frustrated that the pencil doesn’t work, because it won’t write any words.  To which Spongebob replies that you have to think of the words yourself.  This is a new, but now common, thing to say around the house when you need a comedic break from your homework.  You take a deep sigh, hold up your pencil and declare that it is broken, because it will not write words.  Homework cannot continue until the Spongebob retort is given.

9. “Faboo” — Wakko Warner from the TV show Animaniacs

If you don’t know who the Animaniacs are, I feel bad for you.  Do you remember when cartoons were funny and clever?  Yeah, I know it’s hard, but try.  This was a show in that genre.  Funny for kids, smart and funny for adults.  It was around in the early to mid-90’s.  Pinky and the Brain were birthed out of that show.  Don’t know them either? Pity.  Wakko Warner was a character patterned somewhat after Harpo Marx (BOOM! uber-dated reference), except that Wakko would talk on occasion, with his own vernacular.  He often shortened words.  Faboo was short for fabulous.  That’s how we use it.  We use it so much that it doesn’t even feel like a pop culture reference anymore.  In fact, I may be the only that knows that it is and where it comes from.

8. “John Coctoasten”  –Fletch from the movie Fletch

Fletch is making up a name to try and convince someone that they knew each other from a while back.  He introduces himself as “John.”  “John, who?” “John Coc…toast..en” is what he replies mumbling, hoping she will make her own connection.  I have had to confess at various times that the Loftens are not very good at remembering people’s names.  (Please Grovers, do not assume that I know your name.  Especially if we met on a Sunday.  I don’t remember anything from Sunday morning.  It’s kind of a crazy day for me.)  So it is not unusual for Heidi and I to try and remember someone’s name.  “I think his name was Mike?  Uh, Mike De…Do…uh…”  To which the always helpful, sarcastic spouse (could be either of us) will reply “Coctoasten?”  Did this to someone not a Loften recently.  The awkward pause and stare made it all worth it.

7. “What’s ‘taters, Precious?” — Gollum from the movie Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers

Being from the South, taters is a common word.  It doesn’t feel like slang.  It’s just a much simpler way to say potatoes.  Isn’t two syllables always better than three?  Save energy, man!  Well apparently, Samwyse Gamgee was from the southern part of the Shire, because he says taters as well.  The Yankee, Gollum, not knowing this word responds with “What’s taters, Precious?”  Then Sam responds with, “Po-tay-toes.  Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew.”  Classic.  This must, must be said any time, anyone, anywhere says taters.  It’s not optional.  Sam’s response is optional, but strongly encouraged.

6. “Tie on the bed, throw the rope out the window” — Chico Marx from the movie Horse Feathers

Come on guys, everyone knows this quote right?  Right?  No one. Fine.  I am pretty sure no one else in our house has even seen this movie.  However, Marx Brothers movies are quite popular with Loften men.  They are hilarious and well-written, you know just like…basically nothing today (You kids get off my lawn!).  Chico and his brother are trapped in an apartment but they have a rope.  He tells his brother, Harpo to “tie on the bed, throw the rope out the window.”  He doesn’t understand.  Chico repeats this over and over.  Finally, Harpo takes his tie off, puts it on the bed and throws the unattached rope out the window.  See?  High comedy.  So this gets used when someone is giving overly complicated directions and someone else just isn’t understanding.  Someone, well, really just me, will scream “Tie on the bed, throw the rope out the window.”  Similarly…

5. “You stay here and make sure he doesn’t leave” — King of Swamp Castle from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The king is trying to get two idiot guards to watch his son and keep him from leaving his room.  He repeats this over and over again.  The two guards just can’t get it.  It’s a hilarious scene.  Probably top 5 funniest scenes from any movie.  This line gets repeated at our house not when the directions are overly-complicated, but when they are incredibly simple, but just not being heard, understood or followed.  (I know what you must be thinking.  With 2 perfect angels in your house, when could that ever happen?  I know.  It’s rare, but it happens)  When someone, read Cloften, says this to his spouse, exasperation has hit its peak.  This is either met with much needed comedic relief or it turns the focus of frustration to the quoter.  It’s a great quote.  Very funny.  Use with caution.

4. “What about second breakfast?” — Merry from the movie The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring

Lord of the Rings is the only entity that gets two entries.  It is from two different installments, but nonirregardless Lord of the Rings clearly is deep into Loften culture.  Our kids are notorious eaters, always have been.  They like food, all kinds of food, in significant quantities.  It is common for them to want to eat at 9 or 10 am, after they have already had breakfast.  Sometimes they will even say, “what’s for breakfast?”  “Haven’t you already had breakfast?”  This is where the Lord of the Rings quotes take over.  This is essentially the same situation Aragorn finds himself in with the Hobbits.  They reply, “We’ve had one breakfast, yes.  But what about second breakfast?”  Second breakfast is now part of our vocabulary.  We don’t have to have second breakfast every day, but it cannot be ignored, if the need arises.

3. “These pretzels are making me thirsty” — Cosmo Kramer from the TV show Seinfeld

Kramer is hired to have a bit part in a movie and this is his only line.  He practices saying it in front of the gang and everyone critiques it and says it their own way.  Now at the Loften house, if someone says something of the same cadence, for example, “This shirt is making me hot,” someone will, not may, will respond back with “these pretzels are making me thirsty.”  At that point, everyone has to repeat the phrase back with their own inflection.  Last, almost always, read always always, is Mom.  Sometimes she has to rebuked by one of her daughters, “(clearing throat loudly) Mom!”  “Oh, sorry.  These pretzels are making me thirsty.” Again, as with many of these quotes, our girls have never seen this on TV.  It doesn’t matter.  This is what we do.  They play along, no problem.  They love it.  I pity their therapist when they are older.

2. “Other options?” — William Wallace from the movie Braveheart

William Wallace has returned from York to discover that the English have invaded and sent a huge army.  He is trying to rally the nobles where they have this interchange. One of the nobles believes that the English are too many and it is time to consider other options.  To which Wallace replies, “Other options? Don’t you wish at least to lead your men onto the field and barter a better deal with Longshanks before you tuck tail and run?  You are not allowed to utter the words “other options” without doing it in Scottish accent.  Sometimes our Scottish accents devolve into British, Irish, Australian, Italian, Norwegian (?).  It’s the effort that matters here.  If you do forget to at least give the Scottish accent effort, someone must and will point it out.  You then correct yourself.  There are no exceptions.  None.

1. “You serious, Clark?” — Cousin Eddie from the movie Christmas Vacation

Clark Griswold is trying to get the kids excited about Christmas and gives a report that he heard that Santa’s sleigh has been spotted.  To which Cousin Eddie in all seriousness replies, “You serious, Clark?”  Let’s just agree right now, that Cousin Eddie is top 3 funniest minor characters in a movie comedy, ever.  I would just say number one, but I don’t want to just pop off like that. Hmmm. The Black Knight (Holy Grail) ?  Carl Spackler (Caddyshack)?  Nevermind.  The uses for this quote are abundant.  If someone says something serious, if someone says something ridiculous, if someone misspeaks and says something ridiculous, the list is almost endless.  Typically, Heidi or I will add, “Get yourself something, real nice.”  This is another quote from Eddie in another scene.  It is completely out of context, but sometimes you just feel compelled to go on an Eddie quoting streak.  “This here’s a quality item.  If you don’t mind me asking, what’d she set you back?” “She falls down a well, her eyes cross.  Kicked by a mule, they go back.” “Got the girl in the clinic getting cured off the wild turkey.”  “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.” CLOFTEN, wake up!

Sorry, I got into a Cousin Eddie-induced trance.

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