Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
My first observation: I can't imagine why it is called a "semiformal." The ladies all wore long gowns. My daughter spent an hour having her hair and makeup professionally primped. She wore more jewelry than a NBA rookie. The only thing semiformal about the ball, so far as I could tell, was the motley dress of the knuckle-dragging, greasy-haired, drooling-from-the-mouth boys who were sniffing around my daughter and the other daughters I was there to protect.
I spent most of the evening on "border patrol." You know what I mean. My job was to make sure that, during the slow songs, the young gentlemen's hands remained planted firmly north of the equator. From time to time I would spot some miscreant's paws migrating towards Brazil. A scowl from Pastor Weller usually sent them scurrying north of Panama.
There was also more "boob-hiking" than in a milking parlor. The gals ended each jig with a two-handed readjustment to their bosoms. Judging from the number of strapless dresses I saw, including the one my wife purchased for my daughter, there must be some new law against covering up one's shoulders with fabric. Or perhaps there is some new allergy that causes a skin eruption whenever scapula meets chiffon. For my part, I would have preferred a rash on my daughter's bare shoulders to what's-his-names paws on them.
I mentioned that this was my son's semiformal, too. I must admit that I am strangely conflicted in this regard. For my daughter I was a wall, unmoving, separating her from the hairy horde that pursued her. For my son I was a bridge. "Hey bud, why don't you go and ask Lexi for a dance?" "Sure looks like Amber needs someone to cut a rug with her!" Is this consistent? Is this fair? No to both questions.
It is, however, instructive. Fathers who are privileged to rear both sons and daughters lead a more complicated existence, I think, than those who can focus on one gender or the other. My friend Ben has it easier. He wakes up every day knowing that he must beat back any lad stupid enough to stalk Liz or Paige. I also suspect Jason has an easier time of it than I. His home is nearly an estrogen-fee zone. With Mason and Carter its all about the testosterone.
Me, on the other hand, I walk the line between encouraging my sons to pursue and telling my daughter to resist. It is hypocritical, I know. But that's the way it is in Wellerville.
Did I mention that my daughter has asked me not to chaperone her next dance? Go figure.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
John died this morning. For some reason Laura and I couldn’t sleep so we sat up and dozed on and off in the living room with John. He was sleeping more soundly than usual and suddenly he woke up bright and excited and said, "I’m going home now. It’s awesome. I’m going to be with Jesus." He was so happy about it. Then he fell into a restless sleep and died peacefully several hours later. God is so merciful.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have! longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7,8) Way to go John. I’ll see you in heaven.
Thanks for you prayers....Phil
We are praying for you, Phil and Laura. And, we are rejoicing with John who is able to experience his reward for trusting in Christ. This Christmas, John fully comprehends why the Baby came, why He died, and why He lives again. Merry Christmas, John.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Navy Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt began a hunger strike outside the White House this week to draw attention to what he sees as a violation of his rights and the disenfranchisement of the 80% of military men and women who claim to be Christian.
And while the military has no official policy concerning what it calls "sectarian prayers," evaluators at the chaplaincy center where Klingenschmitt received his training stand by with clipboards in hand to evaluate the prayers of prospective Navy chaplains. Those who pray to "God" are praised while those who pray in the name of Christ are "counseled" - the Navy's euphemistic term for being disciplined.
Lest you think the good lieutenant is a flame-throwing, other-religion-hating evangelist for Jesus understand this: He has also fought for the rights of Jewish sailors to eat kosher meals on board ship and has worked to have Muslim participation in the daily shipboard prayers. Apparently inclusivism only extends to those who don't believe in Jesus.
The second verse of the official Navy hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save," sings:
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
As a child, it always puzzled me that our church sang only the first an third verses of hymns. There was even a joke about "being as lonely as the second verse of a song." Apparently the Navy has decided, if not to cut the second verse from its own hymn, it can at least slash it from the vocabulary of it's spiritual leaders.
What is next?
To read the complete Washington Post story, click here.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
I got up early for a meeting yesterday and found John playing a new computer game a friend had given him. He had been up all night, bent on conquest. His brother had worn out at 3 AM. After I had given him a breathing treatment we had this conversation.
"Dad, I think I’m anemic again...You probably are John....I want another transfusion.... Are you sure you want one?...I’m not ready to give up...John some things we do in medicine prolong living and some things prolong dying...What do you think I should do?...I wasn’t planning to give you anymore blood, but if you want a transfusion I won’t withhold it from you...Dad, do you have peace with that?...uhuh...Then lets wait...I love you John...I love you dad."
I could barely see the road through tears as I went to my meeting. That evening he told me he’d been praying and didn’t want anymore blood.
A friend at church once comforted me with the words, "We know how to live...what we don’t know is how to die." I doesn’t sound comforting but it gave me permission to feel uncomfortable with all this.
A photographer friend carved out some time and came to our home to take a family picture. We set everything up outside and then my oldest son carried John out to pose with everyone. It was hard not to cry between smiles for the camera. Many people have brought meals over; our freezer is stuffed. If love could be measured in food volume we are smothered.
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,and they will call him Immanuel - which means God with us." (Matthew 1:23) This Christmas will probably be the most memorable in my lifetime. Every year as we approach Christmas we will think of John. Every year we will be reminded of God’s life lesson in 2005...God with us. Comforting us, holding us, guiding us, carrying us. Isn’t God good. Thanks for praying....Phil
What do you give your dying son for Christmas? I can't imagine. Putting myself in Phil's shoes . . . the thought is too staggering. I would want to give my son life, of course. But then that is what Phil and Laura have given to John. Though he is slipping physically, he is strong spiritually because long ago they taught him about the one who holds the key to eternal life.
It is feels a little preposterous showering my children with gifts this year when Johnny would just very much like to live. But then again, life is what he has because he knows the way, the truth and the life - Jesus! And so for him, this will be a Merry Christmas.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
In January, a prosecutor delivered her opening remarks in a murder trial that the media would have ignored had not the defendant been an NFL hall-of-famer. Six months later, O.J. tried on a pair of ill-fitting gloves. Four months after that, Johnny Cochran intoned "if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit," and the jury did just that.
In February, the Dow Jones closed above 4,000 points for the first time. Bolstered by the initial public offerings of Netscape and other internet start-ups, the Dow would later smash the 5,000 point barrier. If you were invested at the time (I wasn’t), you have more than doubled your money in the decade since.
In 1995, a former solider turned hater blew up Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal building killing 168 innocent people, and Christopher Reeves fell off his horse and became the real superman of those disabled by spinal cord injuries.
Of course, my children are too young to remember any of that. Maybe these will connect. 1995 saw the DVD introduced to consumers, the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and the ballyhooed rollout of Microsoft’s Windows ‘95. The DVD is bigger than ever, Cleveland is still rockin’ and rollin’, and Windows ‘95 is as obsolete as every other decade-old computer innovation. Calvin and Hobbs became extinct, too when their last new comic strip ran on December 31, 1995.
Some famous voices were silenced that year. Burl Ives died but his song "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas" lives on. Howard Cosell died nine days after that. Three months later, Zsa Zsa’s sister Eva Gabor passed away. So did Dean Martin.
What about famous births? It’s too early to tell, really, because 1995's progeny will only turn eleven in 2006. Of course, one soon-to-be-famous child named Jonah Benjamin Weller made his entrance into our world.
As I said, a lot can happen in a year of Sundays. I wonder what will happen in this year of fifty-three Sundays? There is much that we cannot control. Most of it, really. The world will spin on. People will die. Others will be born. Tragedies and triumphs persist. But what will occur in this year of Sundays for me? Do I have any control over that?
The answer? Yes and no. Life happens and often I am merely along for the ride. Nevertheless, I can "make the most of every opportunity" as Paul told the Colossian church. I can live every moment for Christ and for His purpose. I can dedicate myself to "connecting with God and with people" every moment of every day. While I can’t choose what happens to me, I can choose what happens by me.
It will be another six years before "bookend Sundays" return. When some preacher puts pen to paper in December 2011, what will he write? Will he write about me? About you? I doubt it. Truth be told, we’re both tiny blips on life’s radar. Still, maybe we can begin writing our own tale. One of hopes and love and devotion to God and each other. And though it may not become famous or be widely retold, we can still make a difference - an eternal difference- in this year’s fifty-three Sundays.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
That is to say, John's body is dying. His spirit is alive and well because he walks with Jesus. Please say a prayer for John today, and for his family. Their faith is solid. They know where John is heading, and they'll be following him there.
You can learn about John's inspiring journey through his online testimony.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Light a candle,
For the old man who sits staring,
Out a frosty windowpane.
Light a candle,
For the woman who is lonely,
And every Christmas it's the same.
For the children who need more
Than presents can bring,
Light a candle, Light the dark,
Light the world, Light a heart or two.
Light a candle for me, I'll light a candle for you.
Light a candle,
For the homeless and the hungry,
A little shelter from the cold.
Light a candle,
For the broken and forgotten,
May the season warm their souls.
Can we open our hearts to shine through the dark?
And in this special time of year,
May peace on earth surround us here,
And teach us there's a better way to live.
Oh with every flame that burns, we must somehow learn
That love's the greatest gift we ever give.
I was puzzled enough to begin wondering about the significance of candle lighting during the holiday season. I learned that candle lighting has been a religious practice for centuries. Both Jews and Christians use candles in their worship as a symbol of enlightenment and as a symbol of Messiah, the Light of the world. In fact, St. Jerome told Vigilantius that candles weren't merely used to dispel darkness, but to express Christian joy. The advent candles that some Christians light in the weeks preceding Christmas proclaim the coming of that Light as a baby in a drafty back-alley stable.
By dispelling darkness, candles proclaim hope. Maybe that is why Avalon uses this candle metaphor. If we could distill the message of Christmas to one word, that word would be hope. When Michael, Cherrie, Jody and Janna sing of lighting a candle for those who are weary - for those for whom there is little hope - they are expressing a profound truth: real hope, a hope that goes beyond "dolls that can talk and will go for a walk", is found in Jesus Christ.
When you make out your Christmas list this season, don't forget that the greatest gift you can give your loved one, or your co-worker, or anyone else, is the greatest gift that you have received - the gift of Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
The score was close throughout the contest. In the last quarter it was especially nip and tuck. With 6.2 seconds remaining, our team was up by three. The opponents brought the ball in and quickly moved it up the floor. They shot a three and missed. It was then that our assistant coach and several of the fans noticed that the game clock had not been started.
As the shot attempt clanged off the rim and was rebounded by the offense, our coach and fans began to go ape. We were screaming "start the clock!" Another three-pointer was lofted, missed and rebounded. Finally the clock started, but not before one of their players was able to take a third attempt. This one dropped in, tying the game just as time (finally) expired.
Now, if you've ever been to a hotly contested sports event, you can pretty well guess what happened next. Pandemonium. Anger. Sharp words. The officials asked the clock keeper what happened, and he admitted that he forgot to start the clock. I don't doubt him. After all, he's some volunteer, and I'd bet the farm that he had no ill intent, but was just caught up in the game like the rest of us.
In the overtime period, our boys managed to pull out the win by one point. I'm glad. Otherwise we might have seen a real brawl.
The whole scenario made me think about time. Is the clock running on me? Does it ever stop? The Bible tells us that God has ". . .decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer." (Job 14:5, NLT)
The clock is running on me and on you. Let's follow the Apostle Paul's advice and "make the most of every opportunity.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Lew Harris, who founded this great site, asked me to do it maybe seven or eight years ago, and I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.
But again, all things must pass, and my column for E! Online must pass. In a way, it is actually the perfect time for it to pass. Lew, whom I have known forever, was impressed that I knew so many stars at Morton's on Monday nights.
He could not get over it, in fact. So, he said I should write a column about the stars I saw at Morton's and what they had to say.
It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars.
I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie.
But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.
Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.
How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model?
Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.
A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.
To read the rest of this inspiring article by author / actor / journalist Ben Stein, click here.
Friday, December 02, 2005
And, thank you to all my "inspire-ers." Thank you Mike H. Thank you Chad C. Thank you Cindy at the bank. Thank you Tracy, who is doing it the "old fashioned way." I could not do this without all of you!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
All that means that I will soon need a new picture for my profile. And when I am at my "ideal" weight, which has yet to be determined by my physician, I will title my book, "Half the Man I Used to Be."