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7/31/12

OLYMPIC SOCIALISM

I get all cranked up about the Olympics.  They only come around every four years.  Big world-wide deal.  Great athletes on the World stage.  Some sports I never watch otherwise (team handball is so cool).  You'll never catch me watching Women's Gymnastics on a Saturday afternoon, but, by golly, I'm not missing them in the Olympics.

I saw the thrills.  I saw the spills.  The ecstasy and the tragedy  Pretty cool.  The US girls are amazing.  Three of our competitors' scores are in the top 4 out of everyone in what they call the "overall competition".  It's, apparently, a really big deal to be the "overall champion".  They take the top 24 scores.  Well, apparently, they don't.  No matter how high your scores are, they only allow 2 from any one country.  The Olympic committee's explanation was, "we want to spread the wealth around".  WOW, that sounds like President Obama talking to Joe the Plumber.

So, here's the new Olympic spirit...Work and train and sweat and sacrifice as much as you want, but if you're the 3rd best athlete on your team, you may get bumped to make room for the 25th best score because we want to "spread the wealth around".  The redistribution of wealth.  Karl Marx would be proud.  He's even making it big at the Olympics now.

Oh, the Bible on the subject?  "If a man doesn't work, he doesn't eat".  God's economic structure: Work hard...Enjoy the blessings of your labor...Return 10% (not more for the rich and less for the poor, just 10%.  Some people's 10% will be a lot more than others, but everyone stands equal in the expectation before God)...share with others in need (not because you're mandated to by the government, but because of a heart of compassion and in response to God's blessings).

Or, I guess we could just give everyone medals because they participated.  Don't want to mess with their fragile self-esteems.   Because, we all know, "Everyone's a WINNER!"  Maybe that's coming in 4 years.

7/30/12

MARRIED FOREVER

We celebrated an anniversary recently...32 years.  32 YEARS!  That's a long time.  I've been married longer than I've not been married.   I'm not sure I can remember being single.  It's kind of a blur.  I know I was...but that was 32 years ago!  You can't really expect me to remember things that far back, can you?  Ancient history.

I do vaguely remember that being single (in the 70s) had its challenges and issues.  Everything does.  But, honestly, I don't think the challenges were as great as they are today.  Even being married, I can see it's tough being single today.  With Americans choosing to marry later, with co-habitation being more of an acceptable option to marriage or even an expected precursor to marriage, with ever-changing moral rules and rights, being single, and, somehow, being Christian, have never been tougher.  Couple that with the fact that single adults in American are the fastest-growing demographic, the Church cannot just twiddle its thumbs and say, "Good luck!  Let us know when you get married!".  There must be strategic concierge ministry targeted to the single populace...whether they are single by choice, by necessity or single-again.

I hope 2013 is the year of the SINGLE ADULT at Crosspoint Church.  That we recognize an untapped resource for the Kingdom of God and mine down deep into it.

7/29/12

JURY DUTY

Tomorrow, I have Jury Duty.  Don't you just hate that.  Driving all the way to wherever you have to drive, sitting in a room with a bunch of other people who don't want to be there either.  Then there's always one lady in shorts and a tank top that the judge has to lecture about what's appropriate in society and in his courtroom and about showing respect, which she obviously knows nothing about.  Then there's all the people who don't bother to show up, because they keep calling their names and they never answer, and you wonder if anything ever happens to them and if it doesn't, then why did you drive all this way and sit in this musty old room with a bunch of complainers who don't want to be there either.

Then you pray your name doesn't get called, because if it does you get herded down a hallway and asked a bunch of questions and that takes forever, and you might, heaven forbid, land on a jury.  That could go on for days.

Even if you don't get called, you've blown half a day.  It's stupid.  Totally inconvenient.  I'd bet the farm that they don't even have Jury Duty in Iran or Afghanistan or probably even Mexico.  Cartels would just kill you there.  I'm pretty sure it's much simpler there...and more convenient.  Unless, of course, you're the one charged with the crime.  They probably just cut off some body part or give you 30 years in jail or hang you.  That must be much more convenient for the general populace.

Come to think of it...Jury Duty's not so bad.

7/28/12

TWO FUNERALS AND ...

Part of being a Pastor is performing weddings and funerals (marrying and burying).  Got one suit to cover both.  Weddings are cool...mostly.  With those rare exceptions when you know this is a total mistake and probably won't last a year.  But, those are rare.

Funerals can be sad and celebratory all at the same time.  I don't get nervous doing weddings anymore. I don't get nervous doing funerals either.  However, some funerals are the most stressful things I do as a pastor.  Today, I'm performing two funerals.  One easy.  One stressful.  I know I'll be looking into the eyes of three children who's mom died at 43.  Way too young.  Years ago, she checked out on her husband, pretty much checked out on her kids and slowly checked out on life, opting for the comfort she could find in a bottle.  A life wasted.

Three children will look to me for comfort and meaning and help and hope.  I'm stressed.

May I make one suggestion to you?  Someday, you'll be the one laying there.  Your family will look to someone like me for help and hope and comfort.  Help the guy out.  Live a life that matters.  Live a life of meaning.  Live a life with Christ squarely at the center.  Don't waste your life and then leave it to some guy like me to convince everyone that you didn't.  Don't Waste your Life!

7/27/12

HEART ROOM

At this point in my life, fewer and fewer things surprise me.  I've seen a lot.  Not everything, but a lot.  Life has a way of repeating itself.  New packaging.  Same old stuff.  But, every now and then something catches me off guard.  A WOW moment.

How big is your heart?  I'm not shocked that there's room in there for plenty of love for my wife.  Duh!  I picked her.  Not shocked that there's room for all my kids...all four of them.  I suppose if there were 8 of them, the same would be the case.  Then there's the grandchildren.  There's four of them.  Two more are on the way.  Who knows how many are still to come?  But, amazingly (or not) there's plenty of room in my heart for all of them, no matter how many that turns out to be.  They're all my favorites (so far).

Picked my wife (or she picked me...not sure).  All those kids and grandkids have a little bit of me in them.  Suppose that helps to love someone...if they have your genes.  But, what about those that don't have your genes...that you didn't pick...that didn't pick you...that aren't little and cute?  That's right..."in-laws".  You didn't pick them.  Nobody even asked you.  You just got stuck with them.  Showed up at a wedding one day and , WHAM!, you've got a new kid...kinda.  Well, in my case, I've decided there's no "kinda" to it.  No "in-laws".  Just more daughters.  And the amazing part for me is that there's plenty of room in my heart for them.  They're mine.  Just like the other four.  Now there's 7 Allen kids.  No hyphens.  No second tier.  Just a little more room in my heart.  I guess that was somewhat of a surprise for me.  Something I hadn't anticipated.  A surprise.  Who knew?

7/26/12

MILESTONES

On this particular day 32 years ago, a skinny, curly-haired young man got all dressed up in a tux and stood at the end of an aisle waiting for his bride to meet him there.  Fortunately for me, she did.  That's 32 years, 4 kids, 3 new kids-by-marriage, 4 grandkids, 2 soon-to-be grandkids and a lot of pain and joy down the road.

There were times I didn't think we'd make it 2 years, except for the fact that divorce was never an option that got thrown on the table (never).  There were more times that I thought that we'd live "miserably ever after".  There were times when I was pretty sure we should have dated longer, had a longer engagement, gotten more pre-marital counseling, gotten a clue, etc...

There were times I thought she was "messed up".  There were times I knew I was "messed up".  There were times I wondered how it would have been if I had just married __________.  There were times I wished she had married _____________.

There were times I absolutely did not like her...at all.  There were times I'm pretty sure she hated my guts.  I think she may have told me.  Times when I had to bite the end of my tongue off because the only things I could see coming out of my mouth were gasoline that would have taken the already incendiary situation to a whole new level of contempt.  Times when I thought I should put my hands in my pockets to keep from punching her lights out.  (I never would have, but it crossed my mind a time or two)

Times when I was pretty sure she was brain damaged. (maybe from having all those kids)  Times when I was the only one keeping this relationship together.  Times when she was the only one keeping this relationship together.  Times when I am positive that neither of us had any desire to keep this relationship together (and neither did anything to do so).  Those must have been the times God stepped in and hung on for us since neither of us could or would.

You must think, "Wow, that marriage sucks!".  You'd be wrong.  What I just expressed were a few of the brushstrokes on the canvas of our married life.  But, don't get so close that all you see are individual brushstrokes.  Step back and see the whole picture.  It's beautiful.  It's a 32-year project.  A masterpiece.

Some people just see the brushstrokes.  Every brushstroke on a masterpiece is just that...a brushstroke.  It's nothing by itself.  It's just some paint on a canvas.  Meaningless.  Ugly.  Solitary.  But step back and see how it blends with all the other strokes and everything changes.  Beauty.  That's life.  That's marriage.

Thank you God,...thank you Susan, for every brushstroke...but so much more for the masterpiece of 32 years.  A beautiful, yet, unfinished work.

7/25/12

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Last summer at this time we were praying, cussing and discussing the lack of rainfall.  It was a drought.  Not a year-long drought.  Not a 3-year drought.  Not a Dust Bowl kind of thing.  Just a really dry summer.  So, we prayed and prayed and asked God to make it rain.  We begged.  We pleaded.  We got our water bills (that's when the cussing came in).

Fast Forward:  IT'S RAINING!  Everything is green.  Everything has come back to life.  Rivers are full.  Lakes are full.  Life is good....right?  Nope.  Now, we're complaining, "Will it ever stop raining?"  Seriously?!?!  What's the deal?  What's up with that?

It's all about timing.  Bottom line:  We want what we want when we want it.  We've pretty much forgotten about the drought last year.  Now, the rain is cramping our style.  It's an inconvenience.  We wanted rain, but back when we asked for it.  We're into immediate gratification.  Forget what we asked for last year...that was a whole year ago.  Those prayers were so 2011.  So last year.  "Thanks for the rain.  Wanted it last year, but, hey thanks anyway.  Now stop.  We're still a little ticked off that the rain didn't get here last summer.  Don't compound the problem with rain EVERY DAY.  It's really getting to be a pain".

Relate to that at all?  It's tough to realize that God isn't our giant rabbit's foot in the sky, waiting with baited breath to supply our every request the moment we ask.  But, He does answer.  The problem is that this year's answer may be to last year's prayer.  Since 1,000 years is like a day to the Lord, He's really not late.  We just think so.  Like children...bratty children...we want what we want when we want it.  Maybe, we just need to grow up a little...and say, "Thank you!".

7/24/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Final Edition

26.  When God made the earth, in some places, He was just showing off.  God could have easily made our place of dwelling functional.  But, because of His nature, He exceeded that and showed off His ability as an artist.  The more places I travel in this earth, the more I recognize the majesty of our God and His willingness to show us His great love for us, even in creation.  We are surrounded by unbelievable and inexplainable beauty.  He's a show-off...but a show-off for the sake of His kids.

27.  If your area of greatest temptation is lust, cruises are contraindicated.  Unless, possibly, an Alaskan cruise.

7/23/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 10

24.  Some people can have fun without alcohol.  Some people can have fun with or without alcohol.  Some people can only have fun WITH alcohol.  That's a problem.  This is neither an anti-alcohol nor pro-alcohol comment.  Alcohol is not really a moral issue.  It's like sex or guns or 100 other things.  They aren't the issue.  How they are used is.  If you enjoy a glass of wine, great.  If you believe that fun cannot be had without the presence of alcohol, you have a problem.  If you're popping the top of your first cold one at 7:30am, there may be a problem.  If you order 3 drinks at one time, there may be a problem.  If alcohol has a little place in your day some days, that's one thing.  If your day revolves around alcohol, Houston, we have a problem.

Bottom line, if you can't have a good time without alcohol, you're just not much fun.  You need to get a sense of humor, some real friends, possibly a life.

25.  The older I get, the more adventurous I get.  Who knew?  When we got married, Susan was the adventurous one.  I was the cautious one.  That's the way we had been raised.  Her dad raised her to "Go for it!".  My mom raised me to "Fear it!".  I've spent the last 32 years trying to grow out of that.  It's been difficult.  But, I'm making progress.  To some extent, we've even done a role reversal.  Many times I was the one saying, "Come on" to Susan, rather than vice versa.  As we dreamed of the future, her dreams were about family and home and financial security.  Mine were about hiking the Grand Canyon, riding the MS150 and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Role reversal.  Who knew?

7/21/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 9

22.  I know what I want to look like in my swimsuit.  I'm just not sure how.  Does that really need any further explanation?  I don't think so.

23.  Everything isn't about sex, but everything is about sexuality.  Everything reflects the over-exaggerated consumption with sexuality.  Fashion, advertising, humor, media, music, lifestyle...it all revolves around sexuality.  People's lives and thinking revolve around sexuality and drives their decision-making processes.  Sex is a good thing, a gift from God.  But when a society becomes consumed by one controlling thought process, when one concept and the expression of that controls our thinking and our acting, Satan has a field day.  Modesty and a sense of propriety goes out the window.   Pushing the envelope of what is appropriate and acceptable and God-honoring is discarded in favor of what will draw attention to one's body and/or sexual nature.  That which is made to be enjoyed within the confines of a marriage disintegrates into a personal and commercial from of marketing.  We trade the higher forms of our nature (our spirits) for the lowest form of our nature (the physical).  We're moving down the food chain, not up.  Society is becoming, as the Bible would say it, more carnal.  That, in turn, moves us further and further from God.

Moms, teach your daughters that they need to be accepted more for their minds and their hearts than for the size and visibility of their boobs.

Dads, teach your sons that there is more to be attracted to in a woman than how much skin she shows and how slutty she may present herself.  Teach him to look past the outside and look inside.  That's who she really is.  Look for a confident woman who isn't desperate to grab your attention with her sexuality.  That's a tell-tale sign that there isn't much past that and she's desperate for attention, any way she can get it.  (She probably can't hold a conversation over a 3rd grade level)

7/20/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 8

19. Hot tub and dinner table conversations are the deepest.  Not sure why that is.  The Jews understood that sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that two people could do.  Possibly, because everyone ate out of the same dish.  That's not the case anymore, but both hot tubs and dinner tables lend themselves to extended periods of face-to-face conversation.  You can stare one another down, or you can talk.  Talk is usually better.

20.  Americans have no problem wasting enormous amounts of food.  In a world that is starving, we seem to have no problem taking piggish portions, eating what we like, discarding what we don't, and heading back for more.  We've no embarrassment.  No wonder we've lost our waistlines and our respect in the world simultaneously.

21.  At least 2% of the couples in the world are odd couples.  Don't try to figure it out.  One thing is just not like the other.  The things that go through my mind are, "He must have been a stud when he was 18".  "I wonder if that was an arranged marriage?".  "Childbirth must have taken a real toll on her...and she must have 12 or 15 kids, easy".  You know those couples.  You look at them and just say, "How in the heck did that happen?".  My only problem is, I want to ask.  I'm curious by nature.  I have this insatiable desire to approach one of the partners and just say, "Why?  Please, the suspense is killing me.  Can you let me in on the secret of what happened?"  I wonder if anyone approached Susan?

7/19/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 7

18.  The Church has got to think younger and act younger and more relevant to an MTV generation if it is to survive and be a major player in future culture.  It's considered OLD, ANTIQUATED and OUT OF TOUCH.  Please don't misunderstand me.  I am in no way suggesting that we mess with our message.  I think that's the other mistake the Church has made over the years...  to try to make their message fit in with the culture.  EX: One major denomination just passed a resolution at their annual meeting to condemn the spanking of children.  That's going the opposite direction of what I'm saying.  Our message is our message.  It's not open to scrutiny or revision.  It's not politically correct, nor should it be.

However, our methods are quite another matter.  And, the problem is, we sometimes fall in love with our methods as much, or sometimes even more, than our message.  The world's picture of the church is a musty-smelling old guy in a musty-smelling old robe standing in a musty-smelling old building reading some musty-sounding old words (lots of thees and thous and hithers) about something that happened ages ago and has absolutely no relevance to them whatsoever.  In other words, waste of a perfectly good Sunday morning.

Answer: Without touching God's message, we must be willing to present that message in relevant, exciting and palpable package.  That means I must recognize that it's not about me.  I'm very comfortable with what we do and how we do it.  But, to reach an MTV generation we must be willing to meet people where they are, answer the questions they are asking, not our own, be louder, be less auditory and more visual, deal with shorter attentions spans, be younger, be authentic, be intentional and be selfless.  The product remains changeless.  The packaging must be ever new.

7/18/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 6

15.  When people find out you're a pastor, some run, some act better, some act worse, and some just don't care.  It's hilarious.  When you say, "I pastor a church", it elicits a guttural response.  It's either based on what people think about Christians or what people think about the church or what people think about God or what they think about their crazy Uncle Larry or just what they expect based on something or absolutely nothing.  Some immediately change their vocabulary (Isn't that wonderful, God bless you, etc....) and others also immediately change their vocabulary (%B$^&N@*^$%JH@!#, etc...).  Some just say "That's nice...Oh, look at the time.  Better run.  Have fun".  Then run, not walk,  to their cabins, and put out their pastor radar to avoid you like the plague.  Some, whether because they don't know what a pastor is or for whatever reason, couldn't care less.  They are the distinct minority.

16.  Lost people seem to have more friends than believers.  Maybe it just seems that way.  I'm not sure.  One example: There was this guy on the boat from Denver.  It was his 50th birthday.  His wife took him on a cruise for his birthday.  (note to Susan)  But, as a surprise, she invited 50 of his friends to meet them there.  They were everywhere on that ship, mostly together in small groups, large groups, excursions.  My point?  If my wife had to make a list of 50 of my friends, she's get stuck after about 12.  Now, 50 of my friends that would want to take a week's vacation and meet us in Ft. Lauderdale and pay for a cruise?  The list just got expeditiously shorter.

OK, maybe I'm not a good example.  Maybe it's not Christians.  Maybe it's just me.  If you're reading this, I'm taking applications for friends that would take a cruise with me.  I'm going for 51.  In your face, birthday boy!!!

17.  I can burn sitting in the shade on a cloudy day.  No further comment needed.

7/17/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 5

13.  In order to be funny, you are expected to be dirty.  Dirty isn't funny, but people think it is.  I like comedy.  I love to laugh and love to make people laugh myself.  I don't check out many comedy shows.  Not that I'm opposed to it...it's just not something I think of.  When onboard ship, the comedians come to you.  Now there are two kinds of shows they do...Family Friendly and Adult Only shows.  Being both a family and adults, we fell into both categories (lucky us!), so we checked out both of them.

Findings: If a person is funny, he's funny...PERIOD.  If he's not, he's not...PERIOD.  Second finding:  The difference between a Family Friendly Show and an Adults Only Show is that the comedian feels compelled to throw in as many curse words in each sentence as possible.  They really don't have to be appropriate, necessary or fit in.  You just throw them in there.  Many times unnecessarily.  Many times inappropriately.  And many times in place of the humor.

It's easier to have a filthy mouth than a sense of humor.  Real humor is a lot more work, but apparently it isn't adult.  Therefore, adulthood = replacing your sense of humor with gutter language.  There must be a lot of out-of-work comedians in our world.

14.  When away from my place of residence, I genuinely enjoy being around lost people.  I'm not sure what that says about me. Maybe it means I really love people like Jesus did, but only if their perfect strangers who live outside my State of residence.  No, there were people at the table next to us from Angleton.  I liked them.  Not sure what it means.  Maybe, I really enjoy lost people when I don't have to go out of my way to make a place in my life and my schedule for them.  I didn't have to hang with all you Christians on the boat.  I had no church members there to call, email or stop by.  There were no, "we really need to get with them" moments.  We didn't have to seek out the heathens.  They sought us out.  And, contrary to popular thought, we actually enjoyed it.  Who knew?

7/16/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt.4

OK, let's keep the hits rollin"...

10.  ROCK=FUN.  On a cruise, people want to have fun.  The captain can sing old Sinatra songs at dinner and everyone will think that's cool, or funny, or weird...but that's because he has a strange accent and he's old and it's dinner and your dressed up in a fancy restaurant where the waiter puts the napkin in your lap.  But nothing says "FUN" like rock music.  It makes people feel younger.  It says, "We're on vacation!"  Turn up the volume and give me some guitar riffs.  Rock says fun.

11.  When it comes to vacation, there is no recession.  Unemployment may be up.  The dollar may be down.  Interest rates may be at an all-time low.  The Stock market may be tanking.  People may be cutting coupons, cutting back and, even, cutting out, but when it comes to vacation, all the rules change.  You may suggest that these are the wealthy, the upper class.  Not according to my observations.  They are auto mechanics and teachers and carpet mill workers and contractors...the middle class.  But, when it comes to vacation, all bets are off (well, some are on.  There is a casino onboard)  We Americans like to live large in our leisure time.  Some of us worship our worship, some worship our work, but most of us worship our leisure.

12.  People will spend large sums of money on alcohol.  I really think they can put whatever price they want on the stuff, and people will still buy it.  Don't have the opportunity to hang out in many clubs, but did make the Comedy Club several nights.  Those waiters are busy as busy little bees.  OK, here's my hypothesis: Cruiselines break even on the cruise itself.  Where they make their fortunes is in the casino, the gift shop, the excursions, cokes, and above all else, alcohol.  I observed that it was not all that uncommon for people to order 2 or 3 drinks at a time.  Really?  That's like $24 a pop (I read the menu).  Did I tell you about the waiter with about a dozen drinks on his little tray who got bumped and spilled the entire load...right down my back.  Joy.  The pastor smelled like a drunk from 40 feet away.  Spent the whole evening sucking on my shirt. (Just kidding!)

More useless tidbits tomorrow!

7/14/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 3

Here's more insights from cruiseville...

7.  The Church is considered irrelevant.  Want to stick a pin in any conversation you start onboard?  Just wait till they as, "And what do you do?.  Answer: "I pastor a church".  psssssssssssssssssssssss...  That's the sound of all the air going out of the balloon.  (Crickets)  If you're a teacher or lawyer or auto mechanic or indian chief, the conversation continues.  Pastor....(crickets).  Yes, many people aren't sure what to say to pastors.  Some aren't Christ-followers.  But, for most, when the word church gets introduced into the conversation there is an immediate uneasiness.  To the average American, and these are folks who by most statistics consider themselves christians, the church is weird.  The church is strange.  The church doesn't fit their lifestyle.  The church is irrelevant.

8.  Americans are fat.  Ouch!  It's true.  We went on a cruise in the Mediterranean last year.  This year out of Ft. Lauderdale.  Let's face it, Americans are fat.  Some more than others.  Some are in denial.  (that's a really bad combo..fatness and denial)  Our eating habits are poor.  Our exercise regimens are worse.  We are not a very healthy group of people.  If you are reading this, are American and are not fat, please disregard.

9.  Everyone will listen to kicking' music.  Not everyone will withstand mellow musical musings.  Whether it was on the top deck with live music blaring out Classic Rock or in one of the venues with the Black-Eyed Peas and LMFAO blaring some pumping tunes, people of all ages will listen, accept and move to it.  Go mellow and people go away.  I know, you're saying that's a cruise.  Well, it's just a slice of life.  3,000 people just like you and me.  Young and old.  Red and yellow, black and white.  There was a really talented guy in one venue singing with his guitar.  Really talented.  I enjoyed him.  Me and about 12 others.  Whether it's a 60 yr. old reliving their younger days to a Journey tune, or a really young couple singing along as the band blasts out their best version of an Adele tune, loud and moving is where it's at.

Hey, I'm get getting rolling.  See you tomorrow.



7/13/12

CRUISE LESSONS, Pt. 2

4.  Modesty is out of style.  Not sure what else needs to be said on that one.  My wife was easy to spot on the ship of 3000.  She's the woman in the one-piece bathing suit.  Now, don't misunderstand me.  I'm not saying that a 2-piece bathing suit is somehow wrong. I suggested it be Susan's goal for our next trip. (and she didn't hit me)  I just think it should take more than 1/4 of a yard of material to make.  I don't want to see EVERYTHING you got.  Some more than others, if you get my drift.

But, this isn't just about women.  I'm not just talking about the weird old dude in the Speedo (mental image....yuck), but seriously, why is it cool to buy a swimsuit that's one size too big in order to show us the top 2 inches of your particular brand of underwear.  The word moron comes to mind.  If your goal is to show us your underwear, why spend $50 on the suit?  Unless, of course, you're being sponsored by both Quicksilver and Fruit of the Loom.

5.  Skin cancer will be up in 20 years.  Considering going into medicine?  Think dermatology.  People actually enjoy frying themselves on the first day of a cruise, and then continue to sit out in the sun.  Yes, I got a little over-baked on the first day.  I had sunscreen on....placed there by my wife...that was supposed to keep me from burning...instead, leaving me fricasseed in an interesting swirly pattern with lines and polka-dots, etc.  They say you get treated for things you did to your skin 20 years ago.  Business should be good.

6.  Cultures will always be different.  America is a melting-pot.  At least, that's what they say.  Yes, there is somewhat of an American culture.  But, more importantly, this American culture is made up of lots of sub-cultures.  Some geographic.  Some ethnic.  Some economic.  Etc., etc....  As much as we all want to say we're all Americans (which we are), we're very culturally diverse.  That's not going to change.  We can fight it or embrace it, but the reality is, as much as we all want to be alike, we're not and we're never going to be.  The culture you grew up in is what you consider NORMAL, and thus every other culture is considered somewhat ABNORMAL by you, consciously or subconsciously.  To deny this is insanity.  But, you can embrace it, enjoy it and observe it.

More tomorrow.  I'm just getting started!

7/12/12

HE'S BACK!

Did you miss me?  I've been gone a while...Cruisin' the Caribbean.  I like cruises.  Don't have to worry about where to stay, where to eat, where to go...it's all taken care of.  Just chill out and enjoy the sights. Plus, cruises are the greatest learning tool for a pastor I know of.  You get to observe a slice of our culture up close and personal for (in this case) eight days straight.  As a guy who spends most of his time in a church office, this is like a crash course in what the world around me is really like.  It's so insightful and helpful to me, I may suggest the church fund the next one under "research funding", but I digress.

So, what did I learn about the culture I live in from my cruise experience.  Well, it's a long list, so I'll share it over the next several days.  Don't miss any exciting episodes.  Here we go...

1.  Marriage has lost it's sacredness.  Lot's of honeymooners on the boat.  Few weren't living together prior to the wedding.  It just made it "official".

2.  Ink is the new norm.  More men (and a large population of women) had tattoos than those who did not.

3.  Women are looking for something, but I'm not sure what.  Lots of people read onboard.  Nothing unique about that.  However, easily 80% of women who were reading something onboard were all reading the same book, Fifty Shades of Gray.  I'm not sure what this says, exactly.  Video pornography is an unbelievable problem for men in our culture.  However, not so much for women.  Men are visually stimulated...women emotionally.  "Mommy Porn", as it has been dubbed, has found a way to make it into the mainstream in the written word.  Before you get all puffed up, let me say the church needs to respond, not by blasting this as a bad thing (that's what we usually do), but by asking "why?", find out what is missing and how the Word of God responds positively to this expression of women's neediness in a God-honoring fashion.

More tomorrow!  See you then.