I Have Some Opinions About Stuff

Holy smokes–a lot of stuff happened today.

Let’s start with the United States Navy. Apparently we lost the USS Carl Vinson and its battle group.  No kidding. Read about it by clicking here. The White House didn’t know where it was. Weird, because for several years I could see the Carl Vinson outside my window at home. Now, to be clear, I am sure the Navy knew where the vessels were. I am also sure the ships knew where they were. What is unclear is where the White House thought they were and where they really were. The whole things sounds like the plot to a James Bond movie. Tomorrow Never Dies comes to mind. Salon had the best take on it, calling it “Schrodinger’s U.S. aircraft carrier.’ USS-Carl-Vinson-Honors-Sunken-UK-Navy-Ships

What I am trying to figure out is whether or not it was purposeful. You know, did they actually never intend for it to go to North Korea, but it was a media disinformation bluff? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think so, until I think about it some more and decide no, I don’t want that because that is the kind of thing totalitarian regimes do. I decided that either way, this is not really a good story.

636281013629153981-Unicorn-FrappuccinoStarbucks has wowed the American non-coffee drinking public with yet another goofy drink. Apparently it is called the unicorn frappuccino. It looks like whipped Pepto Bismol. No thanks. I prefer coffee. However, I applaud the marketing folks at Starbucks. You’ve done a great job getting people who don’t like coffee to buy stuff from a coffee shop. Reminds me of some churches that are trying to get people who don’t want to go to church to enjoy church. Takes a lot of pink stuff, sugar, marketing, viral campaigns, and probably isn’t very good for you. But hey, it works.

Georgia-special-election-heads-for-runoff-as-Democrat-falls-shortPeople are making a big deal about a runoff election in Georgia. Apparently Democrats think it is a sign that people are tired of Trump or something. As I have stated often, I’m not POTUS’ biggest fan and have grave misgivings about both his character and abilities, but this is silly talk. The Georgia 6th Congressional District has no bearing whatsoever on national politics for 2018. The electorate–the people who vote in this country–have become firmly Republican. Republicans control all three branches of government, most state houses and most governors’ mansions. The only thing that will help the Dems is for them to alter their uber-progressive message and bring some young leadership in front of the country.

More military news–The United States scrambled military jets in response to Russian bombers in Alaskan airspace. I am pretty sure this kind of thing happens all the time. I mean, I saw Top Gun. The frightening part, to me anyway, is that we know about it. We shouldn’t know about this. Can anybody in the government keep a secret anymore? What worries me most about this one is that it is probably the most important news story of the day, but so many other ‘sensational’ things grabbed the headlines. bill

Fox News finally did the right thing. They fired Bill O’Reilly. I don’t say that as a political move. Sometimes I agreed with the guy, especially early on. I even enjoyed his first book–the one he wrote before he started killing people in the titles. Nevertheless, he was clearly a womanizing abuser of power and privilege. He had to go, and that is no spin.

Another shooter. This time in Fresno, California. Apparently he shouted “Allah akbar” as he shot three people. Last week he killed someone else, for a total of four. he fired 16 rounds. Authorities are saying it was a racially motivated crime and not religious. I seriously doubt that. But that is not what my key opinion is here. The media and the police are calling this a ‘hate crime.’ Can I tell you how much I deplore that label.  Does it matter what his motive was? He killed four people, and tried to kill more. What matters I that he had a motive. If he’d been trying to steal money from them it wouldn’t have mattered. They would still be dead and he would still be guilty. The whole ‘hate crime’ motif is stupid and useless.

 

THE DEBATE AND OTHER RANDOM THINGS

Let me apologize.  This is not a coherent post with one theme.  Instead, it is three unrelated topics that are on my mind this morning.

BINDERS FULL OF GANGBANGING INTERRUPTIONS

THING ONE:  I had a meeting at church last night and as soon as I got home I popped popcorn and clicked my recording of the debate.  My youngest daughter and I watched it with much enthusiasm.  Her interest comes from her recent decision to join the debate club at school.  People keep reporting this morning that President Obama won the debate but I don’t think so.  To me it looked like a tit-for-tat draw scenario.  Each one had good moments but each one also had bad moments.  I think Obama is more likeable, but Romney still seems more coherent.  I think the reason people are saying Obama won is that he so underperformed last time that it was dramatically different than the first debate.  My feeling though, is that the ship had already left the port and that Romney’s dominant performance in the first debate established that this race is going to be squeaky close right down to the hanging chad finish line.

THING TWO:  We can file this one under the “I’m becoming a grumpy old man” but I’ve got to address a problem.  I don’t care what my iPad or the hours of operation say at the grocery store there is NO SUCH THING AS 12AM or 12PM.  It is either 12 noon or 12 midnight.  Period.  End of discussion.  12 is the meridian, and it can’t be ante or post if it is on it!

COFFEE DRINKER?

THING THREE:  Yesterday I dropped by my local Starbucks to buy a gift card for a friend who did me and my church a favor and I saw a man who brought a bird into the coffee shop.  A bird.  It was not caged and it was on his arm, in his coat pocket, and on his shoulder.  The bird was a green parakeet.  In the Starbucks.  Is it Pirate Week and I missed it?  I just can’t believe it.  Who would take a pet bird to get coffee?  Why?  What sort of thought process did that guy go through?  Unbelievable.

COFFEE PLANE CHICKEN

Three completely unrelated thoughts are on my mind right now.

COFFEE

This morning after I piddled with some administrative stuff (the bane of my existence) I decided that I would indulge myself in something I’ve not had the time to do in a while, which is write the sermon while at Starbucks sipping yummy coffee.  This is something that helps me think in terms of people and where they are at in their lives as I write the sermon.  Thursday is sermon writing day, so off I went.  But, alas, there was no place for me to sit!  Every last chair in the coffee house was taken.  That has never happened to me before.  I pondered what can it mean?  I format it in a multiple choice.

A)  The economy is getting better and people have more disposable income to buy designer coffee.
B)  The economy is getting worse and all these people are unemployed and killing time at Starbucks.
C)  Starbucks is doing a lot better as a corporation and reclaiming a larger portion of the market share.
D)  I have an annoying habit of over analyzing random and unrelated events.

Before you write off choice (C) you better read this.

PLANE

It saddened me to hear this morning that Alaska Airlines will no longer be putting Scripture cards in their meals.  I am not going to punish or say I am upset with Alaska for this; after all, no one else has ever done that kind of thing but it does make me sad.  Why?  I do not know, but it is that it is further proof that we are losing something in our culture.  What is it that we are losing?  No, it is not faith in God–the strength of our faith does not hinge on corporations and their actions–what we are losing is anything unique or distinctive.  The prayer cards were one thing that made Alaska Airlines stand out.  Now they will, to me, just be another bland corporation that bends the knee to an angry minority.

CHICKEN

Last night I fried chicken for our small group and I experimented a bit with the recipe, and I’ve come to a conclusion.  The secret to great fried chicken is buttermilk, paprika and a cast iron skillet.  Nothing else really matters.  It doesn’t matter what else happens to the chicken or how much time is involved, if those three elements are present the fried chicken will be great.  Case in point–last night I didn’t have time to soak the chicken in buttermilk for 24 hours, so I just marinated it for about 15 minutes.  That 15 minutes was sufficient for taste buds exploding with joy.

SIPPING COFFEE, THINKING HARD

I had a missing-time experience this morning so I decided to take advantage of it.  No, not an alien abduction kind of missing time, but the other kind of missing-time.  Someone I was supposed to be seeing was suddenly unavailable and I had a hole in my schedule.  I took advantage of this hole and did something I used to do a lot but haven’t done in very long while.  I went to a local coffee bar, ordered my favorite caffeinated beverage (cinnamon dolce latte skinny extra hot), made small talk with the newbie barista—who did a great job, by the way on the drink—and sat at the little bar on the stool and worked in a very non-hurry-up-lets-go way.

It was great.

The first thing I did was finish the last few pages of my Sherlock Holmes novel.  It was nice.  Then I opened my laptop and wrote a whole long section for the sermon I’m preaching in three weeks on marriage.  It is a part of my sermon series on “doubt” and the theme is the doubts many people have today about marriage.  As a side note, I finished that sermon just a few moments ago, will edit it tomorrow and will officially be caught up in the sermonizing category.  For me caught up is three weeks ahead.

Then, I sat and daydreamed about what I would like to see happen in our church and ministry between now and the end of the year.  I used to daydream a lot about ‘how it could be’ but I’ve not lately.  There have been many reasons for this, but I know I need to do it more.  Creativity comes from contemplation.

As I thought I brainstormed such things as church plants in the area, increased presence in the community, how to improve our children’s ministry, and how I might want to tweak my sermonizing.  I also spent some time reflecting upon the Easter weekend.  Attendance on Sunday was very good.  Good Friday was a bust, though.  We had too many doughnuts leftover, but that might be because somehow they were far away from where the people were.

The coffee bar lounge was very crowded.  Almost every seat in the place was filled.  To my left sat a woman, about my age, who kept alternately reading a novel and writing notes in a spiral notebook.  She must be studying, but she looked far too old to be a student, and the book she was reading looked like something you pick up in line at the grocery store.  Maybe she is studying to be a writer? 

To my left were a father and mother with a little boy in between them.  That little boy must have been about 4.  He talked the entire time.  Non-stop.  It was a thing of beauty.  What made me sad was that all his questions were directed toward his father, not his mother.  Daddy answered all of his question with short, one syllable answers.  Daddy was more interested in his USA Today and his cell phone than he was his son.  Have I ever been that guy with my daughters?  Yes.  Lord forgive me. 

Behind me was two different tables filled with middle-aged women.  At both tables the main topic was church.  I got the definite impression it was not a small group or accountability group or a fellowship group.  It was a “these are the things we don’t like about our church” group.  At first I was thankful that these folks were not from my church, but then I realized two things.  First, since the body of Christ is so intrinsically connected, all believers are a part of ‘my church.’  Second, my church people were probably in another coffee place, or perhaps they would be here tomorrow.

These uncomfortable thoughts made me remember why I needed to spend time in the coffee bar more often.  It connects me to reality—to where people really are—foibles, faults, and phobias.  Somewhere in the gossiping church women, the neurotic note taking woman, and the coming adolescent son-father train wreck was where most of us live.  When I preach, these are the kinds of people who are hearing.

I opened my laptop and made some revisions to my sermon.