Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Three Sillies

Can you remember the most formative book from your childhood?

Now, some of you might be thinking, “He’s a preacher, so he’s going to say, ‘The Bible’, right?”

C’mon, not every answer is, “Jesus!”

He's also a Pyrat, but not everything's about Rum!

Sometimes it's about beer, or wine, or tequila!

And don't forget the booty!

As a child, my favorite book was a collection of fairy tales. In those stories of distant kingdoms, dark forests, wicked witches and damsels in distress, were lessons for life. In fact, many of the unsanitized versions of the tales of the Brothers Grimm were specifically designed to scare small children into doing right.

Nonetheless, my favorite – and most formative – tale was called “The Three Sillies”.

The story is about a young farmer’s daughter being courted by a gentleman. He arrives at the farmhouse one evening, and the parents send the young woman to the cellar to draw a pitcher of beer.

This time, however, on her trip to the cellar, she notices a large wooden mallet stuck in the rafters above where she is drawing the beer. As the tap flows, her mind begins to wander, and she imagines marrying the gentleman. They have a son, who grows up and one day comes to that very cellar to draw beer. But on that day, the large wooden mallet dislodges itself and falls on the son’s head and kills him. The woman sits down and cries for her “poor dead son”.

Her mother comes in search of her, upon which she recounts the whole imaginary tale, and the mother bursts into tears herself. The father, likewise, ends up with them, crying in the middle of the cellar for his “dead grandson”.

Finally, the gentleman comes in search of his beer. When apprised of the situation, he tells them they are the silliest people he has ever met. He declares he is leaving on a long journey, and will not return to marry the daughter unless he finds three people more silly than they.

Fortunately, he does find three sillier people, and the story has a happy ending. I encourage you to Google “The Three Sillies” to get all the details. I promise, it’ll be worth the effort.

Here are three points I learned from this simple, silly story.

First, crying about “what might be” is never productive. In fact, it often just makes you look silly. The truth is, the future is not in our hands; you can’t 100% predict what might be. For example, you can live a healthy life – eat right, exercise, avoid excesses – but then you get hit by a bus on your way to work. And while that “might happen”, it is sillier to not eat right, exercise and avoid excesses simply for fear of getting hit by a bus!

Second, be proactive. When you see a hammer that could potentially fall on someone’s head (whether real or metaphorical), do something about it. Get a chair or a long stick or whatever it takes and dislodge the problem. Then, the next time you go to draw your beer, you won’t have to worry about something falling on your head. How simple is that?

And third, no matter how silly you are, trust me, there is always someone sillier than you.

For example, in the news this week:
1) President Barack Obama has finally released the official copy of his birth certificate, proving once and for all that he is a natural-born citizen of the United States of America, and putting to rest an issue that has dogged him since the presidential campaign of 2008. The POTUS makes the "silly" list because the truth is, only about 4% of news coverage in recent days has been about his birth certificate, and that mostly from the second biggest “silly” – Donald Trump!

2) Yes, in recent weeks Donald Trump has made an issue of the President’s birth certificate, picking up on an old theme that most had stopped talking about more than a year ago. “The Donald” even announced he had sent a crack team of investigators to Hawaii searching for “the truth”. “And they have already found some pretty disturbing things,” he said, although he wouldn’t elaborate.

But now that the President has released the official document, Trump’s response is (predictably), ‘It is rather amazing that all of the sudden the document surfaces… It should be inspected to ensure its authenticity.’

Of course, in true Trump fashion, he takes full credit for “forcing” the President to release the document, "...something no one else has been able to do."

3) And finally, our third “silly” is 89-year-old Harold Camping, who, through careful examination of the Bible has determined that Judgment Day will occur on May 21, 2011.

(I was going to wait to write about this one, but I was afraid some of you might not be around to read it!)

Obviously then, says Camping, the End of the World will follow five months later, on October 21st.

What’s really amazing about this – besides the fact that he’s got a small army of followers who are fronting money to buy billboards announcing the End of the World – is how he arrived at this date. Bible Scholars, pay close attention now!

According to an article in HuffPo, Camping claims, “…the Bible contains clues that brook no argument. God tells Noah the world will end in seven days; the Bible also equates a day to 1,000 years. The date of the flood has been set at 4990 B.C., so adding 7,000 years plus one for the missing year "0" produces the year 2011. Translating a biblical reference to a month and day, from the Hebrew calendar to the Gregorian, results in May 21.”

I must have skipped that day in seminary…

Anyway, I believe I have found three people sillier than myself… in just a week!

And with that, I am returning to the farmhouse for that pint of beer!

Gee, I hope that farmer’s daughter is cute!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter and Christmas

Some say Christians don't have a sense of humor.

I disagree. I'm a Christian and I think this clip is hilarious!

(Eddie Izzard, clip from "Dress to Kill")

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Captain Is Constipated!

No, it’s not what you think!

As a rule, the Captain doesn’t talk about bodily functions. That only leads to others chiming in with their grossest stories, and… well, frankly, the Captain has a weak stomach!

Another rule the Captain has is not talking about one’s self in the third person.

Sorry about that.

No, I’m talking about a painful blockage in my Blog. My blogging has slowed down considerably in recent weeks, almost to a mere trickle of re-posted laughs and YouTube clips.

Some of this, I realize, is due to having started a second, more serious-minded, blog (go to The Itinerant Minister).

But the real cause for the mental constipation is an issue I am struggling with silently. As some of you who read this blog know, I was recently offered the opportunity to serve a different church in a different city come June 22nd.

That would be Reidland UMC, for those of you familiar with the geography.

There was no urgent reason for making this move. We are quite happy at our current appointment – the work remains challenging and interesting. In fact, the church is about to open its doors to a start-up Guatemalan congregation! Spanish-language worship! How cool is that?!?

Now I really wish I had studied harder when taking Spanish in high school and college.

And the congregation seems pleased with my ministry and leadership here.

Or, at least they did until the Superintendent called a special meeting of the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC). Now, all we get are sad eyes and, “We’re going to miss you.”

The decision to move was simply a matter of timing. We saw it as an opportunity to return to the Paducah area, to be closer to family at an important time in our lives. Realizing that such an opportunity might not come around again for several more years, we said, “Yes.”

My leaving, by the way, has allowed the Bishop to appoint an African-American pastor in my place. For a congregation trying to minister to a neighborhood that is 92% African-American and 4% Hispanic and Asian, I believe it’s the right thing to do.

I am an itinerant minister. When I was ordained in The United Methodist Church, I agreed to a transient life. We arrive, we minister, we move on. It’s a Pyrat’s life, one I have accepted as my own. The “Banana Winds” is always ready to sail!

With each new voyage, there wells up within me a feeling of anticipation and excitement, looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges. And the congregation I am projected to serve next promises both!

I met with my future SPRC a month ago. And since then, it has been hard to concentrate on the present. I keep telling myself, “Stay focused… at least through Easter.” But I confess, it’s been difficult. I dare say it was almost easier five years ago when we were given less than a month’s notice that we were moving to Memphis!

The struggle for me is to hide the excitement I feel about the new congregation when I’m in the presence of the present congregation. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so for the most part I just avoid the conversation. And I avoid comparisons. I play down the differences when people ask me about my future congregation.

“Oh, there’s only about 100 more members…”
“Aren’t all UM congregations growing older and grayer?”
“Yes, I think there will be a small pay raise…”
“Yes, they have a nice parsonage for us. But we really liked the improvements we’ve made to this one…”

All of it true, but understated.

What I don’t say is, the future congregation is stable, both financially and in terms of membership… and I haven’t experienced a church like that in the past 11 years.

And what I don’t say is, the future congregation is forward-looking. They just invested in a complete renovation of the sound system, and have added a video projector as well as video cameras in the sanctuary. They’ll be looking to me to help lead them into a new era in worship using modern technology and methods, and to somehow connect with the young adults in the community they have identified as missing from their church.

There will be the usual congregational struggles, administrative issues, and staffing problems. And, any time you make changes to the worship service, there will be conflicts. So it won’t be a Cake-Walk.

But I am excited about it and looking forward to June 22nd like it was December 25th!

So there. I said it.

They say confession is good for the soul. Hopefully, it will be good for the Blog as well.

I mean, seriously, I didn’t write a follow-up to my “National Margarita Day” blog. My bad. That recipe I gave you for a margarita – you know, the one with one part lime, two parts triple sec and three parts tequila? You should probably avoid that.

And if you do use the recipe, avoid a second round!

Wow! I think the recipe was written by an AA drop-out.

And what about all the yahoos in the GOP jockeying for position to be the presidential candidate in 2012… Donald Trump is the front-runner? Do you guys really like President Obama that much?

And then there was the news that Glenn Beck got fired from Fox! How funny is that! It wasn’t because he said something bizarre on-air – no, that’s why they hired him in the first place! Despite his “Rally to Restore America” and his shameless pandering to the Tea Party, Beck’s ratings were dropping like a Led Zeppelin.

Now he says he’s going to invent the internet… or something like that. Who cares.

So, now it’s all out there. No more suffering in silence.

So hoist the sails and let’s get the “Banana Winds” under way! It looks like a good day for sailing!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin
born April 16, 1889
One of the Best!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Countdown Begins

There is a little more than a month until the opening of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"!

What? Not what you were expecting???

Yes, Johnny Depp dons the wig and make-up of the gay whimsical Captain Jack Sparrow, as the Black Pearls sails in search of the Fountain of Youth.

Geoffrey Rush, fresh off of an award-winning role in "The King's Speech", will return as Captain Barbossa.

Even Keith Richards will reprise his role as Sparrow's pirate dad, Captain Teague.

Adding to the ensemble for the fourth installment of the POC franchise - and probably the show-stealer - will be Ian McShane, my favorite western bad guy and owner of the Gem Saloon in the HBO western "Deadwood".

Here he will play my favorite pirate bad guy, Blackbeard.

This ought to be good!

And, if the plot's weak and the acting bad, Spanish-born actress Penelope Cruz will provide the eye candy! 

I already have a feeling this will be my favorite of the POC franchise!

Coming to a theater near you on Friday, May 20th... in 3-D... naturally!

Friday, April 1, 2011


Knut, the Polar Bear

December 2006 - March 2011

The flags of the "Banana Winds" are flying low today as we received word of the passing of our beloved Knut.

The following is from the Associated Press wire:

BERLIN – Germany’s celebrity polar bear Knut died from drowning after collapsing due to swelling of his brain and falling into his enclosure's pool, an expert said Friday.

Pathologist Claudia Szentiks said a necropsy of the four-year-old bear who died suddenly two weeks ago showed he was suffering from encephalitis, an irritation and swelling of the brain that was likely brought on by an infection.

She said it was unclear specifically what caused the brain swelling, but that experts had ruled out rabies, botulism and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease.

Szentiks also rejected allegations from animal-rights groups that he was traumatized by living in a zoo environment, saying that there were no indications of any chronic stress.

She added that even if Knut had not drowned after his collapse, he would not have survived the damage from the encephalitis.

Knut died March 19 in front of visitors at Berlin zoo, turning around several times and then falling into the water in his enclosure. Polar bears usually live 15 to 20 years in the wild and even longer in captivity.

Knut, who was born in December 2006 at the zoo, rose to celebrity status as an irresistibly cute, fluffy cub.

Knut was rejected by his mother at birth - along with his twin brother, who only survived a couple of days. He attracted attention when his main caregiver, Thomas Doerflein, camped out at the zoo to give the button-eyed cub his bottle every two hours.

The bear went on to appear on magazine covers, in a film and on mountains of merchandise.

Doerflein, the zookeeper who raised him, died in 2008 of a heart attack.