Stuck in Muncie…

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday, Emily and I were traveling to Muncie to drop the girls off at my parents house as we were headed to Delaware, Ohio for my class at MTSO.

When we were just outside of Alexandria, IN, I received a voicemail from the church office informing me that someone from MTSO had called to let me know that this weekend’s classes had been canceled due to the pending snow storm.

The question was, “what do we do now?” We were about 15 minutes from my parents house…

One option would have been to turn around and return to Lafayette.

The other option was to finish our trip to Muncie and visit family and friends.

As most people know, if the grandparents are planning to see their grandchildren, you can’t call and say, “we’re not coming.” From my experience, that is almost as severe as pulling the plug on ones parents.

So, we made our way to Muncie. We stopped off at my mom’s school. Grandma enjoyed parading her grandkids around the building and in the teacher’s lounge. It was in the teacher’s lounge where I decided I no longer wish to visit my mothers school. Some of my former teachers tried to imply that I was not exactly a “model student”. They implied that I was talkative and always in trouble. Of course, they are getting older and their memories probably just aren’t what they used to be.

Then it was on to my parents house where we found my father up on a ladder fixing gutters before the pending snow storm. It didn’t take him long to get the ladder put away and get inside with the girls.

So, we decided to stay the night and visit.

Emily called some friends and planned an evening out. Greg and Carol invited us to join them for dinner and asked if we would like to go to the Indian restaurant. Emily asked if that would be okay and my response was, “Muncie has an Indian restaurant?”

By the way, the Sitara is awesome! The food was amazing! The service was great…there is a long story that would explain how hard they will try to please their customers with strict dietary guidelines.

At dinner, Greg and Carol also informed us of a new Thai restaurant in downtown Muncie.

I guess when Adam Weber started the whole “Muncie…We’re Trying” campaign he was right. Muncie really is trying!

Of course, overnight the snowstorm made its way across the state and now we are “stuck” in Muncie. Of course, by mid-afternoon I expect the roads will be greatly improved and we’ll be able to consider heading back to Lafayette.

However, a Friday lunch trip to the Heorot will be required…if I can get there!

In reality, we’re not stuck in Muncie. We have numerous friends we can visit. We have some relaxed time to spend with my parents. And, we have the possibility of a trip to the Heorot!

“Skins” Not The Problem

So, maybe you have heard about one of MTV‘s latest programs, “Skins”.  And, then again, maybe you have not…

When word of “Skins” started to hit the rumor mill, outrage and potential protests became the standard response of conservatives, evangelicals, parents groups, and so on. Why?

Well, because “Skins” is a program that, in a way, glorifies teenage promiscuity, experimentation with drugs and alcohol, and disrespect for authority of any kind.

Due to the fact that I had heard so much outrage over this new show, I decided to watch an episode. Truth be told, I was more offended by the poor acting and weak dialogue than any of the actions.

Reporters have said that the show has “crossed the line” in ways that no other program has…in history.

Yet, as I watched, I found that it wasn’t any worse than “Gossip Girl”, “90210”, or any of the crime dramas that air on a nightly basis.

I believe that the drama created prior to the airing of the first episode actually generated more interest in the program (maybe that’s what they were going for). Viewership dropped drastically after the first episode (again, most likely due to the poor acting, poor dialogue, etc).

Do I think it is an appropriate show for teenagers to be watching? No. But, I also believe that most of the programming on MTV is inappropriate for teenagers. I believe there are far more offensive programs airing on MTV than “Skins” (don’t even get me started on “The Real World” or “Jersey Shore” or any of the “reality” programming on any network).

Rob Sheffield, in his Rolling Stone article on the program, put it much better than I ever could:

“…the really shameful exploitation on MTV is the thriving ’16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom’ franchise, which has become a ‘Star Search’ for aspiring knocked-up teenagers. The whole point of ‘Teen Mom’ is to promise the jackpot of celebrity to the underage girl who gets pregnant in the most colorfully sordid circumstances. ‘Teen Mom’ is just sadistic, especially when you consider that the true casualties are the screwed-for-life babies who can’t sign the consent forms. ‘Teen Mom’ victimizes real-life kids and glamorizes their victimization; ‘Skins’ has fictional kids with fictional problems. It’s beyond idiotic not to see which is more ‘offensive’.”

So, those “sounding the alarm” on a program like “Skins” are not entirely wrong. It’s an awful program.

Here’s my suggestion…parents- pay attention to what your kids are watching.  Talk to them about what you allow them and do not allow them to watch. Talk to them about the differences between fiction and nonfiction, reality and what television producers call “reality”.  And, you might want to rethink allowing your kids to have a TV with cable (or computers or cell phones for that matter) in their bedrooms…it’s hard to monitor what goes on behind closed doors. Now, I’m not saying “burn the TV” or “only let your kids watch Christian television or listen to Christian music” (some of that is just as offensive, in slightly different ways). I’m just suggesting that we all think about what we watch and what our children watch. I’m suggesting that we have open dialogues with our families on how we engage with the culture around us.

So, will I be watching “Skins”? Nope. But, not because of the “offensive” content…but because it’s just a bad show.

Practicing Peace in a Violent World

The last few weeks, as I have watched and read the news, I can physically feel my heart begin to sink. With the events that have been taking place in Egypt, Arizona, Russia, and throughout the world, I am often overwhelmed by the amount of violence that seems to surface on an all too regular basis.

And, this is not just something that happens somewhere else…senseless acts of violence occur every single day in your town, your school, your place of employment. While the scale of violence differs, there is violence nonetheless.

And so, when I hear and read the news reports of all of this violence that occurs in our city, our country, and our world, I find myself feeling hopeless and desperately crying out, “What can I do?”

This morning, while doing some devotional reading, I found a bit of encouragement in Romans 12.

Verse 3 says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

When I hear of violence, I tend to lash out in self-righteous judgment. And, I’m pretty sure that just does not help things.

So, for me, the first step is to have a clear understanding of who I am. Generally, when I hear reports of violence, I puff myself up with prideful arrogance…patting myself on the back for not being like “those” people. If I gain a clear understanding of myself, I’ll see that I’m really not as perfect as I like to think that  I am…that I’m really not so different from those who commit heinous acts of violence. Gaining a proper perspective on who I am just might keep me from so quickly lashing out in judgment.

Romans 12:9-21 offers up some wisdom on how we may be able to overcome some of the violence and evil that seems to prevail in this world. It says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I’ve always wondered how we can practice peace in such a violent world.

Romans 12 tells us to “live peaceably with all”. And, it seems that peaceful living is closely associated with love.

The answer to the question of how we can practice peace in a violent world, the answer to the question of what I can do in light of the violence in our world seems to be love…genuine love…love for all…even our enemies.

This love is the kind of love that isn’t just love in theory…this is meant to be love in practice. Feeding and giving drinks to our hungry and thirsty enemies…not seeking revenge…instead, seeking to do good…to all.

The call to love one another…even our enemies…is overwhelming! And, yet, it is central to the message of the Gospel.

I wonder, what would happen if Christians began to take the call to love God and love one another (even our enemies) seriously?

Maybe the violence in this world would begin to decrease and peace and unity might increase. How will you show love today?