Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Richard Dawkins and a Baptist Preacher Walk into a Bar

Somebody asked me recently what I would say to Richard Dawkins (the scientist-writer guy, not the dead, former host of Family Feud).  I didn't have an answer at the time.  Maybe I still don't.  But here's what I'm thinking.

Let's say I meet Mr. Dawkins in a bar.  This would be difficult as I don't visit many bars these days.  But let's just say.  Unless he brought it up, I don't think I'd say anything to him about faith.  He's a smart guy.  His mind is made up.  He knows the gospel.  He might have thought about it more than I have.  Who knows?  The best thing I can do for Richard Dawkins is pray for him.  It's not like I'm going to persuade him.  And even if I did persuade him, it wouldn't mean much.  It would just be us reasoning together and I would have somehow won with the super-power rhetorical skills I got when that radioactive copy of Aristotle's Omnibus fell on my head in college.  Dawkins would still have to square things up with God.
Suppose someone has a photograph of the earth at the time of the flood (Noah's ark and all that), taken by one of L. Ron Hubbard's space aliens.  And, this photograph has been scientifically authenticated.  Don't ask me how all this comes to pass.  But just suppose.  I guess that would make it ok to accept that there was a global flood.  But then, that's not faith.  Seeing isn't believing.  Believing is believing.  Hebrews 11:1 nicely defines faith.

I read some of the message boards and how people throw down on this whole age of the earth thing.  They get nasty about it.  So let's say someone proves beyond any doubt that the earth is five thousand, four hundred, and sixty-two years old.  Ok…so what?  That doesn't change a thing about what I'm going to do tomorrow, and it has very little bearing on what goes on in eternity.  If such a thing were proven, it would remove the need for faith about the age of the earth.  For the record, I don't claim to know how old the earth is, though I am pretty sure God made dinosaurs because He knew we'd need petroleum products for our cars.
If we could explain some of these things, what would we need faith for?

I understand faith in Christ is a foolish proposition.  It says so in the book (I Corinthians 1:23).  The Apostle Paul wrote that if he were wrong, he'd be the most miserable person out there (I Corinthians 15:13-19).  But Paul had faith.  The big delusion among a lot of people is that they have to see something to believe it.  That's existentialism, if you're interested in such things.
The problem with proving things is that somewhere it always boils down to faith.  I'm sitting in a chair right now.  I can see it and feel it.  My wife says she can smell it.  But I have faith that it will support my weight.  I trust the chair and it's not because I know that much about physics.  I don't know if that makes any sense. Sometimes faith doesn't make sense.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Six Things I Learned During the Blackout

Thursday night, about six-o'clock, the power goes out.  This coincides nicely with our first taste of winter.  Despite the hyperbole proffered, whenever the weather changes, by the local STORM TRACKER TEAM!!!!!, it wasn't that bad.  We had maybe two inches of snow, winds in excess of 35 miles per hour (which moved our STORM TRACKER TEAM into conniption-level blizzard warnings), and the temperature dropped from the mid-forties to the mid-teens in a 24-hour period.  But hey, it's December.  It's going to snow.

Ok, where was I?  It snowed, it got dark, and the power went out, all at once.  In the back of my mind was something about a Mayan end of the world.  And one more thing, the kidlets had just finished finals and this was their first evening of Christmas break.  Emotions were already high.  I had planned on some Cordon blue, twice-bakes with bacon and blue-cheese, and probably a simple salad.  Such was not to be.
After about two minutes, candles were sputtering and cries came out to go to grandma's house.  Being the horse's rear end that I am, I managed to pull off a 30-minute wait to see if said power might return. It did not.  During this time they noticed how slowly the hands on the clock turned.  I told the girls that if this were the 1820s it would be about bedtime anyway and that they should go play with string or make a quilt or something.  That's when we went to grandma's and had pizza.

After the pizza and some zany-whacky cable television, I opted to return home.  The doggies would be scared and cold and someone needed to watch the house. Alternate motive:  I wanted to go home.  After much worrisome banter I bid my farewells and braved the storm!
Long story short, the power was off for eighteen hours and some change.  I survived.  Here are six things I learned:

Lesson #1:  Social anthropologist could write a good paper on how a society spends its technology on what it values.  In our case one might list transportation, communication, and making coffee.  My grandparents used to have a phrase about how they were going to, 'put on a pot of coffee'.  It was quaint, but what did it mean?  My grandmother grew up in a house with a wood stove.  Let's think about that.  What would it take to make a pot of coffee on a wood stove?  All I can say to this is that at 5:30am, when I woke in the pitch-black cold house (had somewhere to be at 7:30), it was a triumph of fortitude to find the camping percolator, fill it with water and coffee, and get it to boil on a single-burner portable unit.  And it took forever.  And it was delicious.  But by 6am I had already expended more calories on that pot of coffee than I usually spend by noon on a regular techno-day. 
Lesson #2:  A messy house is not conducive towards emergency situations.  For example, where can I set the hurricane lantern in a house with no clear counters?  Hmmmm…. Good question - not only is it a fire hazard but it also adds to the level of aggravation.  Really, only the kitchen was messy and my bedside table always has books and crap on it.  But still.

Lesson #3:  Speaking of aggravation - I have a good number of things to use for when the power goes out, or whatever.  But I store them out of the way.  It makes sense until you need them.  Then, finding them and remembering where they are adds to the aggravation level.  So, after locating the sleeping bag, the camp stove, the lanterns, and etc… and after walking the dogs in the greatest blizzard known to mankind, I was ready to have some serious night-nights.  The best news was that I always have a flashlight handy and they are loaded with crisp batteries.  That helped.
Lesson #5:  I have a freakin' awesome sleeping bag.  During the night, the temperature in the house dropped from 64 to 41 Fahrenheit.  That made me happy about the insulation in the home because by morning it was fifteen degrees outside.  But during the evening I got hot inside the bag.  I had to unzip it part way and stick my arms out to help cool down.  It's a High-Peak with Hi-Fiber Technology.  Hubba hubba.

Lesson #6:  Speaking of freakin' awesome things, hurricane lanterns loaded with kerosene are gold.  They are bright and fun to carry.  I felt like somebody in a cool Dungeon's and Dragon's adventure walking around the house with the lantern swinging in my chilly little hand.  Those shadows put forth the righteous scare and, I dunno, it just felt right.  I read myself to sleep and like an old timey guy, blew it out right before my blistering heat-wave sleeping bag took me to la-la land.
Lesson #6:  Another little aggravation is remembering how things work.  It makes sense.  I do not use the emergency one-burner stove that often.  So yea, take a minute or two to remember how it operates.  But in the dark, when you really just want to push a button and get your George-Jetson cup of coffee?  Again, more aggravation.

Just call me the survivor...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Time for the Birch

"I'm getting the birch," Santa said.

"Oh dear," said Mrs. Clause.
He tapped the cold ash from this meerschaum and lay it on the desk before him.  He looked up and stared at his wife's cherry-hued cheeks and her big blue eyes.  This year he meant it, and it might break her heart.  "Have you seen the reports?" he asked.
The birch had not been used for long ages.  He'd wanted to use it every year since 1963.  That was the first year the naughty stack had been thicker than the nice.  But after the Coca-Cola campaign of the 50s, with the happy, jolly, fat man image being popularized, he knew there'd be PR problems.  And so, this debate became a ritual between him and his wife.  But not now.

"Dear," she began her well rehearsed template, "you don't mean it.  Where's the nice pile?"
"See for yourself."  He had a single manila folder with three pieces of paper in it.  "There's a kid in Wyoming, homeschooled, hardly ever leaves the house.  There's that girl who puts up nice posts on Facebook for the Down's syndrome kids, and… you're in there."  He pushed it across the desk towards her.

She flicked the edge of the folder with her thumb but didn't pick it up.  Could this be true, she wondered.  Had the world gotten that bad?  "How can this be?"
"Do you realize," he began, "I had to buy a new external hard drive just for the porn lists?  Bullying is up twenty-four percent, not minding is worse than the American national debt, and the meanness indexes… Pouting and crying are the least of my worries, but they're just as bad."

She tilted her head at him and saw something different in his eyes than in years past.  "What about coal?  You haven't used coal in forever.  Give them a warning.  Couldn't this be a coal year."
"I haven't used coal because in the western hemisphere I'd be fined by the United Nations for carbon emissions.  In the rest of the world it would be a reward."

She began to cry and he reached out and took one of her hands in his.  "It's not for all of them," he said.  "The real little kids, of course they'll get their presents.  But fourth grade and up is shot.  It's done.  Honey, they need the birch."   He put special emphasis on the word need.
She said nothing but bent and placed a gentle kiss on her husband's bald head, between two liver spots she found most charming.

When she left the office he stood and stretched his back and with a heavy sigh walked to the special equipment room and opened the iron vault where the most powerful of his things were kept.  Most of these relics had not made the songs.  He stepped inside and looked around. 
On one shelf, in a jar of formaldehyde, was the red nose.  He picked it up and swirled it around like he would an olive in a martini.   It yet glowed.  How he missed that little mutant.  Tragic really, he thought, that reindeer only live about twenty years.  He put it back and then saw the hoof-wreath from the others of that original team.  They were thick and grey with age.  Dancer's still had that big chip in his from when he'd broken his ankle and had to be put down.  He'd run the hooves along a line of the original harness and had hung it in the kitchen for a while.  But of course the Mrs. didn't stand for that very long.  I really ought to get rid of some of this junk, he thought, but knew in his heart he was just a sentimental old fool.

"Time for reminiscing later," he said to himself.  He walked to the metal cabinet that hung on the farthest wall opposite the door.  It had been the medicine cabinet from their first house.  He blew dust from the surface of the mirror and looked at himself, checking his teeth for bits of breakfast and thought about shaving.
Then he opened the door and there was the birch.  It looked like a principal's paddle from ages gone by.  It was two feet long and eight inches wide.  One end tapered to a handle.  Holes were drilled at regular intervals along the paddle.

He hefted it in his thick hands and slapped it on one palm.  "It's been too long and a long time coming.  Should have used this years ago.  Things might not have gotten so bad."
In the early morning hours of December 26th of that year, every child above the age of ten woke from a horrible nightmare.  They cried out in their darkened rooms and alarmed parents ran to find them red-faced with tears streaming down their cheeks.  Their rear ends burned and emergency rooms were filled with what looked like a severe rash on their backsides.  In the minds of the children rang the words, "You better be good, for goodness sake."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Seven Gift Ideas for Your Pastor

What does Pastor want for Christmas?  Good question.  Perhaps others might have the same concern.  So, here is a list of seven Christmas gift ideas for your pastor.

1.  Honesty.  They can't all be great sermons.  No one bats 1,000.  I can't think of one occupation where a person always does a great job.  Perhaps this holiday season, while leaving the building, you might say, "Not as good as last week's pastor."  Or a kind, "You've had better," would be fitting.  I can't speak for all preachers, but in a way, such a comment would be a breath of fresh air.
2.  Sincerity.  Don't be all, "Jesus is the reason for the season," and then go into debt buying plastic Chinese crap for the kids.  Jesus doesn't like debt.  I know because I've read the book.  Similarly, don't be all, "It's not X-mas, it's Christmas," and then miss church on Christmas morning to play with the electronics made by slave-wage Indonesians.  I mean, if you're going to spout a platitude, then pitch your tent on the plateau.

3.  A tithe.  A tithe for Christmas is always welcome.  See, what with all the extra expenses and gift-giving, the December and January offerings are always down.  And yet, the expenses for the church remain the same.  In December and January, churches use the same amount of water, electricity, natural gas, and (in some climates) have snow-removal costs.  Technically, this isn't a gift for the pastor, but knowing the bills will be paid for another month somehow makes things better for him.
4.  Homemade cookies and pies.  Nuff said…
5.  Prayer.  Pray that your pastor doesn't snap and say what's really on his mind.  Pray that your pastor doesn't preach from Jeremiah 10:1-5 on Christmas morning in front of all those people who only come to church on that day.  Pray that your pastor remembers 1 Peter 5:2-3.  Anything along these lines will help.
6.  Silence.  Turn off the cell phone.  Put the fear of God into your child before services.  Stop zipping your bible during the invitation.  Go pee after the invitation.  If someone next to you is snoring, nudge him.  Things like that.
7.  Forgiveness.  Remember that time the Pastor spit in your coffee when he thought you weren't looking?  Well, now is the time to forget it.  Ok?  Look, he's just another smelly human.  He's going to mess up and get on people's nerves, just like everyone else.  Let it go already.  Them grudges get heavy anyway.  Not doing yourself any favors by hanging on to ancient history.  So this one's like giving your spouse a Starbuck's gift card.  You know they'll spend some of it on you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Poop Fire, Ned Flanders, and Me

Ezekiel was a prophet during a captivity of Israel. Many of his messages amounted to what we might call 'street theater'.  Sometimes he wouldn't say a thing.  He just did what he was led to do.  Now there's an idea.

If you will, take a minute and read Ezekiel 4:9-15.
I have daydreamed about the Sunday morning when I lay on the floor and just make Ezekiel bread; no sermon - just make the bread and lay there.  That's what Ezekiel did.

By the way, notice the fuel source.  At first the bread was to be baked, '…with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.'  This can mean a couple of things.  To this day, dung is used as a fuel source.  After it's dry it burns slow and fairly hot, giving off very little smoke.  Don't ask me how I know this.  So, no surprise that dung is the fuel.   BUT (no pun intended) this at the least also means the people knew the prophet was using human dung for fuel.  There's an outside chance it has a toe-curling intensive meaning.
Ezekiel goes to bat for the crowd and the Lord lowers the bar.  Cow's dung is ok too.  Thank goodness.  There's got to be some symbolism there, huh?  I wonder what our fuel source might be if a prophet were to give this type of message today.  Imagine bread baked over a pile of porno-filled thumb drives or a stack of divorce-court records. Not that a polite purpose-driven pastor in today's America would ever do such a thing.  Doing so might, gasp, lower the numbers!!

But I digress, sort of.
Remember, Israel was in captivity.  This is one of the darkest times in their Old Testament history.  Can't Ezekiel see the people need encouragement and a happy face on Sunday morning?  How dare he sit there and make bread!  Where's the uplifting message!?  Where's the neck-hugging and joking?  What about the seekers!  Yet, in those dark times, the Lord commanded him to lay there and make poop-fire bread.

Here's where Ned Flanders comes in.  He's an effective caricature of what many people think of as 'that' neighbor of theirs who goes to church all the time.  Popular notions come from somewhere (so do stereotypes, but that's a different blog entry altogether).
Consider Matthew 11:16-19.  Jesus draws attention to the fact that he and John the Baptist were two different individuals, like no-duh, really?!  John stayed by himself, wore weird clothes (the uncle with the really, really wide ties), ate strange food, and didn't touch a drop.  For his efforts people said he had a devil.   Jesus, on the other hand, wore clothes that didn't stand out, went to the parties and often stayed in town.  People called him a fatty and a drunkard.  The wonderful thing is that neither man worried much about all that.

Right about now I'm wondering how many faithful followers are trying to fit into a mold they were never intended to fill.  Like, maybe there are a few Ezekiels out there who won't do the bread thing because it doesn't fit what they think everybody else would have of them?
Thing is, people are going to talk no matter what.  The only thing I control is whether or not they're telling the truth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day before Thanksgiving?

It is foggy this morning.  The trees are drippy.  Visibility is down to a third.  The neighbor just closed his car door.  It's easy to put on a jacket and just be, in the fog.  It helps to be off work.  I don't have to go to town today, and that' a glorious thing.

Back inside, the furnace and the coffee maker do their parts.  I have the house to myself and it is quiet.  It gives me time to write.  Today I'm going to explain a little about why I like Thanksgiving better than Christmas and Easter.  You might not agree.  That's ok.
Jesus never tells us to commemorate the day of His birth.  I'm talking Christmas here.  The apostles never did, nor the early churches.  And if they did, my guess is their commemoration would resemble very little of how we do it.  Greed, coveting, and debt are three things believers are to avoid.  Christ-mass shopping indeed.  If memory serves, we're not supposed to lie to our children either.  Just saying.     

Then there's Easter.
Strange but true party conversation:  the word 'Easter' appears in some Bible translations one time only.  The thing is, the King-James translators didn't want to tork-off the Catholics any more than necessary so they left the word in.  It literally means Passover and Herod didn't want to tork-off the local Jews by killing people on the Passover.  Eggs and bunnies and corn-sugar and chocolate?  I won't bore you with the pagan roots and symbolism inherent in all that.  Look it up.

So, after two slaps on the over-inflated American emotion-driven religious complex I better insert some platitudes.  Yes, one must remember the true purposes for the holidays.  Jesus is the reason for the season.  Easter is about the resurrection.  So on, and so forth…
Here's some scripture:

Matthew 15:8 - This people drawth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  (9) But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Colossians 2:6 - As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: (7) Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.  (8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Thanksgiving Day is not mandated in scripture, unless you're Jewish.  In scripture we are told to be thankful on a daily basis, and not for just one day a year.  Nor are we to be gluttons.  Pray for me because I'm not planning on wearing a belt tomorrow.  The portrayals of Thanksgiving dinners on those zany, whacky, tee-vee shows is also taking a toll.  And the marketing concept of Black Friday is closing in like a shadow that darkens our understanding.  Yet the intent of the holiday remains.  I do not see it as entirely overwhelmed.
The word is not corrupt:  thanksgiving.  It implies grace and an acknowledgement of goodness.  Polite and grateful people still say thanks when done a kindness.  In our country, we have more to be thankful for than the majority of the people on this planet for the majority of the planet's history.  That's saying quite a bit.
I'm thankful this morning for my quiet, foggy day at home.  Tomorrow will bring new blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Darryl and Jill's Geopolitical Conundrum

Darryl made a machine that created world peace.  But, Jill wasn’t impressed so he dismantled it and rebuilt the garage door with the spare parts.

I just made that up.  I don’t even know what Darryl looks like and I’m not sure what his relationship with Jill is, other than it’s not where Darryl wants it to be.  I don’t know how old they are.
But this whole writing thing, the creation of stories with characters, calls attention to the concept of motivation.   Darryl created a wonderful and much needed device.  The unstated reason he created the machine was to impress Jill.  Jill didn’t appreciate the effort or the end result.  Darryl became discouraged and wasted the opportunity.
Motivation and discouragement… hmmm.    Is it safe to say our motivations can become, how shall I put this delicately, twisted?  And are we a bit too quick with the criticisms?  Yes, and yes.  Do we even stop to consider that sometimes we’re peeing on someone’s shoes and don’t even realize it?  Darryl wants Jill and Jill wants… well, I don’t know yet.  But whatever it is, it’s small, especially when compared to world peace.
Problem is, the ends do not always justify the means.  That’s pragmatism; git-r-done and self-instant gratification all rolled into one.  What will Darryl try next?  Maybe, he thinks, she wants a great and terrible war machine.  Is he overlooking the fact that Jill doesn’t like his teeth and the way he always smells like bacon and how she will never be attracted to him?  See, that’s called delusion and he’s wasting his talents and life on lesser desires.
I suppose, as a writer, I could contrive something – that invention Darryl is missing.  But then, that would make Jill a very shallow woman.  That would mean she wants the thing Darryl creates more than Darryl.  And if you have to have some thing before someone is interested, that’s materialism at its finest.
The heart wants what the heart wants, and all that.  We see that with both Darryl and Jill.  They are shallow people.

The General wanted some sex.  The autobiographer wanted some classified information.  The President wanted to cover up his malfeasance about things so sinister that if I knew them I would have night terrors.  Meanwhile, the world goes without peace.
I did not make that up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Another day in Gomorrah

So there I was, gazing deep in my belly-button, trying to figure out what I thought of recent developments.  Then I remembered it’s already the middle of November and I haven’t given much time to this here blog.
Here’s a quote from John Adams (one of those founding father guys):
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
There are about a gazajillion other similar quotes by other signers of the Constitution.  No need to comment.  We’re living this right now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sandwich Eater from Heck

True story...

This morning I was in the office, typing away, reviewing a rubric in preparation for the next class.  That part is not true.  Truthfully, I forget what I was working on.  The memory has been sandblasted from my mind.  They say the body has no memory of pain, and I am thankful it is so.

What I remember is that I was involved in the deal, making sure the employer gets his money’s worth.  Making sure the students know how not to fail the next assignment.  Then it goes dark.

He comes in.  He is a coworker.  I share an office with about eighty dozen other people because the college stacks adjuncts together like cordwood.  It saves money and makes room for more sports programs and administrative assessments.  I’ll call him John.

John doesn’t just enter the office.  He’s snuffly and blowing his nose.  I have a vision of Horton hearing a Who.  But, snuffly and nose-blowy?  No problem.  It’s the cold season.  Have some compassion.  I double-down on the fancy book learnin’.  It’s ok.  I stabilize.

John sits.  He blows again.  He uncrinkles a newspaper in front of him on the desk opposite mine.  The wind picks up.  The trees sway a little.  Clouds blacker than Lindsay Lohan's eyebrows form, and then the storm breaks.

From the depths of somewhere, his armpit I think, John pulls out a breakfast sandwich.  And not just any breakfast sandwich, but a breakfast sandwich wrapped in something forged in the paper-mill of hell.  The newspaper before him is like an ant walking on velvet in comparison.  This thing, this brown, sandwich-paper, it’s what Satan uses for toilet paper.

The sandwich reminds me of how my father in law used to wrap Christmas presents:  triple, sometimes quadruple layers of paper and a quarter spool of tape -- crinkle-crackle crinkle-crackle crinkle-crackle crinkle-crackle crinkle-crackle!  It’s like John’s skinning a porcupine over there.  That’s how long it takes.

And it hurts us.  It hurts our ears!  It must stop.  Oh, the tumult in my soul!  I cannot bear it, but I must.  I’m in the middle of an Edgar Allan Poe story and I’ve stopped typing.  But, it’s almost done.  It’s almost good again.  The paper stops screaming and I can breathe.  Until it dawns on me... he’s going to eat in the office.

A snuffly, blowy, newspaper reading co-worker is going to eat a crinkling-paper wrapped breakfast sandwich and he’s sitting next to me.  The smacking ensues and he’s enjoying this sandwich with approving hums and aahs from somewhere deep.  He’s reading that paper and he’s grunting with the cold in his nose and I’ve just seen the obliteration, the utter and complete annihilation, of anything resembling inner peace or calm.

I retreat to the tower of iron will, a place deep in my psyche; my last nerve, the line before froth drips from my mouth; think Danny Torrence in the Shining.  The tower has been in service through the long years.  It’s the inner sanctum where the slimy tendrils of Cthulu horror can reach only so far.  It is not my happy place.  My happy place has been napalmed.  The little blue jonquils and floppy-eared bunny rabbits living in my happy place are crisp and black and smoldering.
The sounds of the smacking and throat-scooting and paper rasping pig (did I just call my coworker a pig?!) sitting next to me has me laying on a cold, wet concrete floor in a fetal position begging for it all to stop.

I log off.  I gather my things.  I go get a cup of coffee in the department lounge.  It is quiet again.  I survive.

Why am I like that?  Don’t know.  Just am.  Will it happen again?  Yes, it will.  Any saving grace or lessons learned?  Maybe…

Consider that we are to love one another:  strangers, fellow pilgrims, enemies, and neighbors, one another as we love ourselves.  Ok fine, I know that.  It’s not always easy, but I know that.  I try.  Some people are hard to love but we try anyway, in spite of ourselves and in spite of them.

Then there’s Christ.  Christ will never eat a sandwich in my ear.  He is perfect.  Loving Christ is different.  I (we?) should never feel obligated to love Christ, like we ‘have to’.  When that happens, it’s not like it should be.  Loving Christ should be a great joy, not a burden.  It is something we should want, not something we have to.  Think about that…

Thursday, October 18, 2012

For Evil to Prosper

From what I have read, and from those I have communicated with via email, the Western (think cowboys & indians & tumbleweeds) is what I'm going to call a cold market.  The Western genre is not selling as widely as, say, vampire teen-lovers, women getting spanked by gazillionaires, or super-brainy detectives chasing serial killing terrorists around the globe.  So, sez I to myself, I need to write me one of them there Westerns.

That's just how I roll.

For Evil to Prosper is now out, exclusively, on Kindle for the first 90 days.  See what I did there, the word exclusively?  Makes you want one don't it?  In January I will make it available for the Nook and other types of ereaders.  That said, if you non-Kindlites send me a box of cookies or something of equal or greater value, plus your email address, I'll send you the file.  It will take some detective work as I'm not about to put my email address out here for the world to see.  You can make a comment to this post and I'll get back with you.

The book is about a young man named Jack Schidtt and how he becomes the sheriff of Pergamos.  Pergamos is a fictional town somewhere in the Nebraska territory, though there is some confusion.  It might be in Colorado.  Most people aren't sure since the debate over statehood is not yet settled.  But, the real problem is that a group of men come along and start terrorizing the mostly good people of the town.  Nobody seems to want to do much about this and Jack (who knows a thing or two about what's worth fighting over) has some deciding to do.  It isn't after until Jack's daddy gets shot, right there in the church building, that he decides to go after the men.

And if that description there doesn't make you want to download the book,I don't know what will.  The cover is very cool too.  Look at the cover.  Isn't it cool?  Makes you want to reach for your credit card like a spendthrift slobber-monkey with a treat-button in its cage.  Go ahead.  There's only one way to find out how great this book is.  You know you want to.

Anyways, I'm excited about it.  Another fine cover from Rebecca Swift, another nice formatting job from 52Novels, and thank you Nancy (you know who you are) for helping with the line-editing.

One thing this allows me to do is focus more fully on other projects.  I'd like to get one more book out by the end of the year, but that window is closing fast.  I had no idea the amount of effort it takes to get something like this put together.  As a matter of fact, I have learned a great deal about e-publishing since starting these endeavours earlier in the year.  More on that later.

In the meantime, my family still enjoys electricity and groceries.  So, please buy my book and leave an honest review on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Redeeming the Time

It is hard to appreciate what it means to have the children home, together, for supper until you are old enough to appreciate what it means to have the children home, together, for supper.  How's that for profound?
What with practices and meetings and activities and friends and the natural forces continually and inexorably calling children from home, we should know that one day it will be the exception that we sit and eat a simple meal together.
Some days are already gone.  Cherish those that remain.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Being a pastor is hard.  Most people have no idea.

I’ve preached thirty-one funerals in the past sixteen years.  This included my grandmother’s and my father-in-law’s.  Only one time did I not meet the person in the box before they got there.  In a way that's a blessing.  An acquaintance from work at the time knew I was a preacher, of some sort.  That's how he phrased it, "Aren't you a preacher of some sort?"  When I told him I was he asked if I would do his father’s funeral.

For one winter funeral there was snow on the ground and it was below zero.  A back-hoe broke the ground for the burial.  The family wanted a grave-side service.  I kept it brief and at the end the machine used to lower the coffin into the earth had frozen.  The cemetery workers were short staffed that day and asked if I could help lower the coffin with straps.  I did.  Another time a paramedic asked if I could help move the body into the bag and then onto the gurney.  I did; all for people I knew.

I’ve seriously counseled five couples with troubled marriages.  Three of those couples went ahead and got the divorce.  One of those couples I did the original services for.  For a second couple I did a renewal of the vows ceremony.  Of the other eight marriages I’ve performed, three have ended in divorce.  Good thing I didn't go into counseling.

I’ve been cussed at and have had to walk away from those I’d known for years.  Midnight emergency rooms are always interesting.  There was the father of a church member who had MERSA, gurgling in his oxygen tent, covered with palm-sized boils on his face and arms, me in a medical hazmat suit.  I don’t know if he recognized who I was.  I read him a couple of psalms and prayed.  He died two days later.

Then there are the liars, the alcoholics, the porn-addicted, and the one or two heroin addicts I’ve known and tried to minister to.  Should I tell you of nursing homes and what goes on in them?  I once found a church member in late stage alzheimer’s who had slid out of his wheelchair.  His arms were stuck above the straps and pulled up over his head by the seat belt.  The rest of him was sitting on the floor.  He was moaning loud enough that I heard him from the hall before I entered the room.  I called the aide and together we unbuckled him, sat him back in the chair and washed the slobber from his chin and neck.  The skin on his face and neck was bruised and he had those deep red indentions across his arms from the straps.  That’s how long he’d been there.

Every week people tell me they’ll see me next Sunday and never show.  I guess this one sounds petty.  But over time even small things take a toll.  If nothing else, be nice to your pastor and pray for him.

Early on, towards the end of my “running from God’s call” phase, an older pastor advised me that if I could be satisfied doing anything aside from being a pastor, that I should do that instead.  I was young then.  I did not know what he could be talking about.  Nearly seventeen years later I can say that advice is pretty much true.  Layered into that let me add the following:  being called to pastor a “small” church means you will pretty much be ruined for any other career path on this earth.

Did I not mention I pastor a small church?  When I first started our official role carried just over a dozen names.  Two of them were my wife and I.  We were the youth group.  At high tide we once boasted forty-eight church members.  Today we’re in the thirties.  The world gauges success by these numbers.  This is a non-scriptural reality and staying encouraged can die by it.

Pastoring a small church means leading and caring for a congregation not able to meet your family’s financial needs.  So, following the call, the small church pastor has to juggle things like paying the mortgage and buying electricity with teaching, preaching, praying, making visits, and seeking out those who don’t have a church home.  Sooner or later it is necessary to find another job, “on the side'; all the while telling yourself there is no such thing as a small church.

I know what that is supposed to mean, and I believe it.  But still…

Of course it’s possible to find enjoyable work aside from a pastorate.  But for me, and I imagine thousands of other pastors across the nation, the real passion remains behind the pulpit.  I can’t see spending 50 or 60 hours a week for some corporation or industry while putting the minimum number of hours into the church.  I’ve always tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to make ends meet the other way around.

The job-on-the-side mentality hasn’t been the best for my professional development but it has offered a wonderful perspective about a good number of things; how the world and people work.  I can see how it would be easy for the full-time pastor to get tunnel vision and either forget or never learn a few critical things about people.  I meet lots of new people, mostly the ones who say they’ll visit on Sunday and never show.  I see situations repeated constantly, they’re just dressed different.  It’s a wonderful set of life lessons that a good number of people could profit from knowing.

It’s an interesting club; the small church pastors.  It’s not a career.  I had to learn that.  All the time preaching the need to accept the Word of God as is, I had some eye-beams to lift.  I mean, the conception is that a pastor has about a hundred and fifty church members, a nice car, insurance, a house, livable wage, nice clothes; all provided by the church.  Where’s that guaranteed in the Bible?  It took a few years for the truth to sink in.

You know you are talking to a small church pastor by the way he answers the question:  "What do you do?"  It gets tangled and messy almost from the beginning.  “I’m a pastor, but I also…”  Then they fill in the blank:  janitors, morticians, sheriff’s deputies, salesmen, substitute teachers, computer nerds and office workers, so on, and so forth.

Invariably though, and don’t miss this point:  talk to enough of them and you’ll appreciate it doesn’t matter what else they do, just so long as they get to continue in their pastorate.  That's the calling right there.

Whatever-it-takes, render unto Caesar and then let me do what I was put on earth to do.  There are tired hours each week spent preparing for the leadership and spiritual feeding of the flock the Lord has allowed.  And maybe a thousand times a year he is exhausted from mopping floors or putting in a twelve hour shift on the assembly line or from taking his kids to another practice.  That’s usually when Sister Overwrought calls, wanting to know why he said that one certain thing, that five word sentence in the middle of that forty-minute sermon.  Did he really mean it a certain way? Because, if so, Houston, we have a problem.

The small church pastor will end up questioning why and he will wonder about quitting, just like the time before.  But he never quits, until he absolutely drops because his health has been compromised by stress and overwork and age.  Maybe after his second bypass and that torn rotator cuff, when his vision dims from cataracts and he don’t like to drive at night, maybe then he’ll slow down.  If that’s not passion I don’t know what is.

Such a man can’t help but accumulate life experiences that are not quite normal.  By normal I mean things other people seldom stop to consider, are allowed to see, or think about understanding.  As an adult I’ve had many jobs.  I won't bore you with the list.  Just know that through every one of those jobs I’ve been a Pastor.

Many people hate their jobs and complain as though it’s their bad luck to have one like theirs.  If only, they think, they could move up in the company or go somewhere else, or win the lottery – then things would be better.  Meanwhile they break the speed limit to get to work in the morning, risking their lives and mine for something they hate.

This is the greener taller grass on the other side of the fence, but based on what I’ve seen, most jobs are similar.  Only the tasks and the pay scales differ.   Of course that means on some levels there is a world of difference, but don’t be fooled.  People are people no matter where they work and there are a lot of people whose self absorption doesn’t allow them to like their jobs, just like there are those who think they really do  have it that bad.

The pastor of a small church is just blessed enough to have something he is both called to perform and also loves.  Most times, in spite of himself, and sometimes in spite of others, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mayans and Hobbits and Baptists

Many are worried about the Mayan calendar stopping at the end of 2012.  Please, don't.  When they weren't busy sacrificing humans to the sun and building those neat-o jaggedy pyramids, they somehow figured out when the first installment of The Hobbit films was to be released.  They marked their calendar accordingly.  That's all it is.

And it is that I worry about.  Being the giant Hobbit nerd I am, I've been keeping track of a few things and am greatly troubled by what I have seen.  For example, Legolas was not, I repeat, was not in The Hobbit.  Yet who is going to be in the movie?  His name begins with "Lego" and he has pointy ears.
There may also be an arc of romance included.  Romance of all things!  When I want romance I'll go home, or watch The Notebook, a film I have been saving for such a time in my life when I get a hankering for some anabolic-stacker level romance.  There is no romance in The Hobbit.  Do you see that little dot at the end of the previous sentence?  That is a period, end of the line.  Peter Jackson what are you thinking?
And it's not just the big things I worry over.  Consider when the dwarves escape the Elvin cellar-jails.  They did so packed in barrels floating down a river.  The only member of their party not packed in a barrel was good Mr. Bilbo.  Yet I fear even something so slight as that will be deviated.  I am envisioning some cutesy-tootsie hyperbolic adaptation with holes and big dwarf eyes and noses peeking out of Hollywood hogsheads.
Why mess with the original?  This is the question of the ages.  It applies to cookies as well.  How I long for the days of the simple cookie, pure in an undiluted single flavor.  Chocolate chip cookies are magical, as are peanut-butter, and oatmeal.  The chocolate-craisin-butterscotch-bran cookie loses much in the translation; too busy in intent; the malediction of messing with perfection.
Now, take all these concerns of mine and tilt your head.  When the wind is blowing just right and all else is very still, my worries can be heard on the roaring voice of the great bull mouse from his secret lair somewhere over by the acorn tree.
But here is, I guess, what makes me a Baptist.  I will see The Hobbit films.  And such is the cookie-impoverished state of my existance that I will eat nearly any concoction placed before me.  And I'll like it, by golly!  But I will not compromise on the oft-overlooked idea, yea and verily some might say outdated concept, of doctrine.
Using the trusty KJV, the words 'doctrine' and 'doctrines' appear in fifty-five verses throughout scripture.  Compare this to the fifty-four verses mentioning 'hell'.  As Nigel Tufnel said, "Well, it's one louder, isn't it?"  Indeed it is Nigel, indeed it is.
Basing salvation as a starting line, doctrines are the lane markers.  And no, doctrines don't replace the grace or the love or the compassion Christ has for us or that we are to have for others.  Though an argument could be made that without doctrines things like grace and love and compassion are diluted.  And no, I'm not going into specific doctrines right now.  I'll save those particular eyeball glazing discussions for later because, really, it is the rare person who hangs on long enough to learn specific doctrines.
But do you remember when God gave the instructions to Moses on how to build the tabernacle?   I'm sure it's right on the tip of your brain.  You probably woke up this morning thinking about just that...  Anyway, those instructions were incredibly specific, like down to colors and materials, and lengths and widths and stuff.  And what did Moses do?  He did what he was told and the temple was made according to God's will and not his.  And yeah, I'm sure, it was a pain coming up with all that scarlet fine twined linen.  But if God wants scarlet fine twined linen, who are we to say orange rayon is just as good?  We are not making a movie here and we're not at liberty to clean out the shelves with odds and ends of ingredients.
This is getting a little long so I'll end by giving some homework.  Read Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7.  I'm going to have a lot (a couple of semi-trailer loads at least) to answer for when the time comes, but as a pastor I really want to avoid this being one of them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Big Week Last Week

Three things from last week...

First, this here blog has officially received over 500 hits since I started it.  Discounting my own 329 visits and those 170 spooky eastern european IP addresses, that means somebody somewhere is looking things over.  Whoever you are, thanks.

Secondly, after two months, Punk Smith received its first review on Amazon.  I didn't even have to pay anybody.  Speaking of which, total sales are skyrocketing past the first dozen!  The great majority of self-published ebooks sell less than 100.  My goal is 101 and whatever else happens is gravy.

Thirdly, final edits are being worked out for the upcoming Western saga For Evil to Prosper.  The cover feedback has been sent to the next stage of finalness.  I'm hoping to get that out sometime in the first half of October.

Anyways, as fascinating as all this is, I'll try to have something more substantial very soon.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicken is as Chicken does

In the final chapter of Victor Hugo's Histoire d'un Crime (The History of a Crime) is his quote about how, "One can resist an invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas."  Of course he wrote it in French and it sounds much more chic in the original language.   But still, what a concept.
Aside from sitting through the incredibly long and simply not my cup of tea Les' Miserables I am not a Hugo scholar.  I was the guy who thought when the lights came on and the curtain fell after the big battle scene, "Hey, that wasn't so bad." My better half then told me the musical was at intermission.  I still think the title is actually a description of the audience.  But I digress.

I never have understood the whole book burning thing.  Even in pre-internet days it didn't work.  Did you know, for example, that at one time the Roman Catholic Church outlawed possession of the Bible?  What this did was give the stock holders of Gutenberg Inc. a few extra dollars.  It also cost some hundreds of people their lives and so on and so forth.  I hear tell you can now buy a decent bible at Dollar General for less than a value meal.  See, the whole outlawing the Bible thing didn't work out so well.  There are other historic examples further proving Mr. Hugo's maxim.  An idea does not go away simply because of armed resistance and persecution.
Which is why this week was disappointing to me. 

If you haven't heard there's this YouTube video that has something to do with Muslims.  I haven't seen the video but did some fact checking on it.  It was originally posted in June.  And here it is the middle of September and the fanatics in the Middle East are just now getting upset about it?  What are they, on dial-up? 
Come on guys…waiting three months to riot because of a YouTube video is not outrage so much as it demonstrates emotional constipation.  Sounds like they need to give their bowels of faith an enema.  If one didn't know better one might think the video was a scapegoat or a false flag or, daresay, a prop for some larger plan.

But, that's the narrative we're being told:  these are spontaneous demonstrations because of a YouTube video. 
Because I am a good citizen I will believe what I am being told in all of its idiotic simple-Simon, take a very complex situation involving the death of four diplomatic workers in Lybia, the overrunning of a Sinai Peninsula peacekeeping outpost, coordinated attacks on consulates in Egypt, Yemen, et. al., the closing of four (or was it five?) universities due to bomb threats, a young fella up Chicago way arrested for trying to bomb a dance club, a President who hasn't been to a daily security briefing since early September, claims that the State Department had been warned about the attacks for days, and so forth, narrative.  Sure, it's about a YouTube video.

So now Nakoula Bassaley, the maker of the video, is with the police.  That's what is disappointing.  Realizing I am perilously close to political commentary, let me express my disappointment and shut up. 
The First Amendment, the Numero Uno Amendment, the Winner Amendment, The Mega-Millions Intellectual Freedom Lottery Winning Amendment is about, in part, the freedom of speech.  This is the gemstone amendment setting western democracies apart from nearly every other governmental system in the world.  When will someone in a position of authority in the Western World tell Mr. Perpetually Angry Middle-Eastern Man to put on his big-boy keffiyeh and Ms. Perpetually Oppressed Middle-Eastern Woman to put on her big-girl burqa and deal with a few things?

Or better yet, all those edgy comedies on tha tee vee, and all those controversial movies, and all those brave musicians who feel no compunction about trashing Christianity?  We get it already.  It's fun and easy to mock those beliefs.  At this point it's nearing the orange threat cliché level.  But here's an idea, how about you grow a pair already and give the Muslim faith their turn?
have a couple of skits in mind.  Call me.  We'll do lunch.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Everything 2.0

A little Friday fiction:

Everything 2.0
Kip’s Vibe® thrummed in his shoulder pack.  He pushed his bag of chips further down the table and wiped his fingers on his pants.  Then he unsnapped the card-sized canvas flap and pulled the brushed aluminum rectangle from its custom shirt add-on. He flipped it open and read the screen - a subscription message he had been waiting on.  Kip paid ten dollars for this particular advanced notice.  He touched the screen to bring it up.  A blond bikini gal, lime green thong really, smiled, bent forward from the waist and declared, “Satisfaction is guaranteed.  Everything 2.0™ is now available, for a special pre-release cost to our subscribers!”  She puckered her orange lips, and the image zoomed in on her mouth.  Tiny black letters appeared, “If you want Everything™ 2.0, click here.”  Then her lipstick changed colors to bright pink.  The words turned white and the bikini gal vibrated into a corporate logo.
“Gotta get it.” Kip said to himself, the way thirteen year olds do.  He snapped the Vibe® closed and pushed it back into its sleeve. 
Of course, three months earlier he had gotten the Everything™ Initial Release Pack which was, he should have known, not even close to Everything™ Complete, but close enough or at least better than nothing.  He knew from the discussion boards two-point-oh would have updates including third world libraries and new glyphs for previously speech-only languages.  Additionally, two-point-oh would have a universal translation program available for all northern hemisphere languages – so that anything could be turned into English, or whatever.  And, the ad said, all North American birth, death, marriage, divorce, and adoption certificates were included, along with a free month long trial of the bi-daily update service for this datum; not that he’d use it, but still.
Kip did the numbers quick in his head and knew he didn’t have enough.  He’d talk with dad first, mom second as necessary.  His chances were good.  He hadn’t asked for anything in days, and his grades lately were C or better.  But if dad checked the school’s site, it would be harder.  What was it with checking his grades?  Kip only knew a few parents that made it an endeavor to check their kids’ grades.
If dad said no Kip would have to wait three precious days for the custody to change back to mom who, he knew, would make a big deal out of it.  “Why do you need this?” she’d screech just to make it difficult.  Then she’d probably say something about his weight and make him go outside, like there was anything to do outside.  He’d walk around, get all gross, and then have to shower when he got back in.
He had to have Everything 2.0 before Mackey; some kid in Philadelphia and Kip’s greatest Vibe-hood rival.  It was Mackey who first got Everything™ the Pre-Release, and Everything™ Complete days before anyone, including Kip. Thus armed, Mackey produced near complete blog histories and .tif toon libraries from the previous three decades, his hits and Vibe-hood crony-wannabes easily quadrupled in the days he held the edge.  Previous to that, Kip’s counters were well beyond anyone else on the site.  Kip wanted to regain his edge.
“Dad...” Kip yelled, walking towards the kitchen, where his dad worked from a laptop.

After the excruciating wait for his dad to pry the credit card from his wallet and enter the numbers on the site, the download took almost twenty minutes.  “How come I can’t use the fiber lines?” he asked, again.  He spent most of the time pushing his hair out of his eyes and drumming his fingers on the table.
“Because the fiber lines are for work.  The company monitors the traffic on them.”  Kip’s dad regretted not swapping out with his ex.  He knew it was going to be a long week of work but some dumb pride kept him from taking her up on her offer.
“Look,” she had pointed at her calendar.  “I’ll take him next week if you can have him during my seminar.  Otherwise…”
He didn’t let her finish.  “Nope.  The lawyers set the schedule.  Let’s not upset things.”  And now he wanted so bad for Kip to just leave him alone while he continued with the financials; dumb pride.
Kip knew the speech about the fiber lines and hated it.  Cable was so slow.  And then there was the wait for the parental control filter; stupid parental control filter.  It moved through each library analyzing the tags.  Kip’s greatest fear was that one day Mackey, or some other Vibe-hood, would find a way to unlock all the tags.  If that happened, Kip would just quit the site.  His stuff was too sanitized as it was.  No way he could compete with someone posting non-tagged content.
Finally, dad out of the way, Kip dragged a collection of some neo-Manga translations, early South Korean stuff from the 90s, to his site and set up a quick link.  There was a good chance most of the south Asia content was raw; untagged with great potential for anyone patient enough to wade through the links.  He sent an, “I got it,” alert to his own Vibe-hood cronies, including Mackey.
Figuring that was enough for one day Kip opened a different venue on his Vibe®, went to a retro-game site where he waited for someone else interested in maybe some Speed-Pong or Tetris.  When no one showed he got bored and logged out, walked downstairs to find something to eat.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The garden of missed posting targets

So I'm going for the four posts a month thing and I missed my August number.  Ugh!  Here is a stray motivational thought to start September out right:

I garden, some.  This year's new crop is horseradish.  It looks like it is supposed to and I'm impatiently waiting for the first frost to harvest.  We'll see.  Speaking of smelly things, one thing a garden needs every year is fertilizer.  If a person expects to grow they need two things:  some crap dumped on them and the will to work it.  The green thumb has nothing to do with a magic ability to grow things.  Rather, when that fertilizer falls our way we have to handle it because the only thing crap does on the surface is stink.

This is true professionally, personally, and spiritually.

Read Luke 13:6-9.  The last ingredient to growth is mentioned at the end of verse eight.  When the smelly stuff happens all that means is Jesus loves us and He's giving us one more chance to grow.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Reporting from the Front

Several nights ago I overheard daughter number one and my wife speaking in a tone somewhere between a talking to and the convivial, “Get your homework done.”  Sensing something more serious I placed my fatherly self in the situation.  Seems a pair of pants that daughter number one purchased earlier that afternoon no longer looked good in the darkening hours near bedtime.  This is nothing new.  Taking things back to the store is done on a more regular basis than picking up the basement.  I suspect buying something to take back later is built into the plan as a reason to return to the mall.  I cannot prove this.
Being the helpful sort of dad I told daughter number one I thought the pants looked fine.  At worst they were a little tight and that they would stretch after being washed.  Then I got one of those looks, two of them actually.  I had failed to follow my instincts and little did I know the situation had devolved into body-image issues.  I stood there for a moment, the way a butterfly newly pinned to a board stands there for a moment.
One either learns or one does not.  I wanted to say, “Oh, I thought it was something serious.”  But I recognized the terrain as deep girl territory, at least seventy, maybe eighty miles north of the demilitarized zone separating the single male of the house from three of the four significant women in his life (my mom lives 240 miles west).
Occasionally I have to venture to where they two now stood in counsel.  When I do I ride hard and fast, like Gandalf upon Shadowfax, emitting my bolts of dire wisdom against powers I know I cannot contain, only hoping to slow or perhaps turn events to a more favorable outcome.  I mumbled something and left to feed the dogs and give them their last outing before night-nights.
There is much I do not understand.  Approaching body-image issues in detail over a pair of pants that look to fit is like trying to put on gloves with both hands asleep.  Dad’s dress code is this:  modest, clean, and look like your gender.  A streak of color in the hair, Gene Simmons clod-busters, raggedy cut-offs, sans cheeks and the oft-time strategic rips don’t startle me that much.  This is standard battle picking and the policy avoids making such forbidden items all the more alluring.  It’s a two-for I’m particularly proud of.
My age plays into it.  That and the fact I have never been a teen girl in high-school.  The skills of fitting in, of being edgy and stylish, of balancing upon the narrow plank between noticeable but not too noticeable and yet noticeable to that someone you want to be noticed by, are all things best left to the experts.  Night darkened stairs with two dogs underfoot are less risky for me and thus my hasty retreat.
Daughter number one swims about 5,500 yards five times a week.  She has a trainer she visits once a week to help with posture, balance, and core-body strength.  She eats right, gets good grades, and is the only one in the house capable of helping me move furniture.  She has long blond curly hair much like mine was in college.  Her eyes are green and only an occasional zit meanders near her hairline before fading back to the hormonal teen-grease from whence it came.  She has friends.  She lifeguards in the summers, and biased though I am, she is a pretty girl.  And she has body-image issues.  Though I might add not often; but they are there. She is, at times, her own worst critic, as are we all.
Since my girls have been old enough to watch television I have watched it with them, mocking the projections of size-zero stupidity every step of the way, pointing out how their television peers are actually thirty years old.  I shine scalding beams of sarcasm upon the immodest and slatternly creatures depicted and have noted many times how televised and webinized cavorting is really not representative of good decision making.  I have sat with them looking at bridal magazines (yes, young girls dream of the wedding) noting how the coveted dresses are beautiful, but for less than what they cost a couple could put a nice down payment on a home.  I have noted aloud how no one on magazine covers has acne and, every step of the way have reminded them that girls as pretty as they are don’t need too much makeup, if any at all.
In a moment of calculated hyperbole I once advised them to noticeably fart on the first date because any boy who could not handle that was not worth their time.  On and on through the years their mother and I have lifted the curtain to expose the machinery of illusion selling them what they are to look like and how they are to behave.  Yet it feels like a rear guard action against an enemy innumerable and close upon our heals.
Body image issues begone!   You shall not pass!  It would be nice to be able to do that.