No, this was not written by Weird Al. I believe this was written by my weird brother instead. Inspired, I imagine, by a family ski trip, and the constant playing of the Another One Bites the Dust on top 40 radio, the young bard penciled this song parody while in the back of the Suburban on the way home from the slopes. Warning: Do not sing this backward. The technique of backward masking has been used to encourage people to smoke marijuana. Some believe it was in fact this seemingly family-friendly skiing song that resulted in Colorado’s recent legalization of weed. Others point to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High.
At first it seems this piece is a typical doodle turn gift to teacher. But there is a lot of weirdness happening here. I love it. First there’s the art. Front and center is the whatever-the-opposite-of-cross-eyed-is person. Is that me? There is a label there with my name on it. And of course the person is surrounded by food–mostly ice cream, but also bread and cookies. Then there is the cryptic text. At the top it says, “From your fav. est. student ever. Who loves to tell jokes 3x!” Three time . . . what is that a reference to? A triangle? The trinity? Ice cream, bread and cookies? Then it says “You are a pretty cool teacher! (with a heart) ha ha . . .” Seems nice. But does the ha ha mean she’s being sarcastic? Like, yeah right, you’re cool. And finally it reads, “Like the looks to great style.” This is like one of those English phrases that would appear on Japanese milk. Is it an incomplete simile? An imperative statement? It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the piece. But I wonder. What was this past student, now in the healthcare industry I think, trying to tell me. Perhaps I should have left this ominous piece forgotten in the file folder, for I fear it’s enigmatic message may haunt for days, months, years to come. . .
From six years ago. Still a pretty good summary of what I think Christianity ought to be.
When I first started doing these, I asked Don what I should say, what I should talk about. He said, “Say whatever you want, but remember to mention the cross.” I don’t know if I’ve remembered to do that every time or not. So today I want to talk about the cross a bit.
Since its inception, the cross has been an easily identified symbol. Before the cross became a fashion statement for pop stars, even before it was associated with the church, the cross was a familiar symbol, a symbol that was met with shudders and averted eyes.
Simply put, the cross was used by Rome to keep people in line. If you challenged the power that was Rome, you found yourself hung on a tree or post outside of town. You’ve seen the movies and read the books so you know how that went. One of the reasons for hanging you up was so that you would act as a billboard for those traveling through the land. The clear message: Caesar is king. Don’t forget it. Don’t rock the boat.
Who would? Who wants to end up like that. I mean, I hate the mess that the world is in. We’ve badly botched things up. In this country we spend 4.2-billion dollars a year on christian books, 40-billion-dollars annually on our pets (I have 2 cats), 16 hours a week in front of the t.v., and 32 hours a week on the internet. Meanwhile a billion people in this world earn less than a dollar a day; a child dies of starvation every 5 seconds; and right down the street I walk the halls every day with kids who are desperately trying to find peace and purpose in this generally vacuous world.
But take up my cross? Challenge the status quo? End up like Jesus? I mean things aren’t so bad, are they? Where’s my remote? Seriously. There’s no way.
In writing this I looked at what Jesus had to say to his disciples before they shared the passover meal, the one we’re about to share.
In John’s gospel Jesus has a lot to say while in the upper room. At one point he prays this: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are in the world. Protect them. Protect them so that they may be one. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
Put down the remote. We’ve been sent into the world by Jesus, to do the work of Jesus. We have good news to proclaim: “Caesar is not king. Jesus is. His kingdom has come.” We have hungry to feed, poor to care for, prisoners to visit, temples to get thrown out of. And if it means taking up our cross, then let’s do it together.
There’s a fine line sometimes between stupid and amazing. Super Team Family number 8 from 1976, lands squarely in amazing, especially the feature story starring The Challengers of the Unknown. This story and this team harken back to the pulp action heroes, before the days of Superman and super powers. The team is made up of four action men–a wrestling champ, a hunky scientist, a fearless pilot, and a circus acrobat. Any of these jobs could have made my top ten coolest professions when I was a kid. Heck, they still would. As the team is introduced, we see them investigating Sasquatch and the gill-man and such.
Their mission in this story though is based a bit more in reality. Henry Kissinger, on his way to some very important peace talks, is lost in the Bermuda Triangle. President Ford has no choice but to call out The Challengers. They take their sweet new high-tech plane into the triangle while their sexy girl assistant monitors them from their yacht. The team is immediately sucked through the same rift in time and space that caught Kissinger. They crash land on an island that is inhabited by men from a variety of times and places (I noticed there were no women on the island. Hmmm.). There are Vikings, Mongol Huns, ancient Greeks, and soldiers from the 20th century. I think the idea is that over the centuries these guys all got taken through the mysterious rift. What the Vikings and Mongols were doing in the Caribbean I have no idea. Anyway, the Challengers are immediately attacked by the guys who are ridding, get this, triceratops with sonic powers. The Challengers are nearly able to defend themselves, but the dinosaurs use their powers to knock everyone out.
The Challengers wake up in a cell with Kissinger. They are about to be taken before the judge where they will be given the option of agreeing to never leave the island or to accept the death penalty. Wrestling champ Rocky Davis tells the judge, “We choose to escape . . . even if it is against you’re stupid rules!” Sweet. Unfortunately, they are overpowered and thrown back in jail. Fortunately The Challengers aren’t just adequate fighters, the are smart as well. Using the supplies they had hidden in their boot heels and belts they build an electric jail door opener. They then escape to their plane where they put together a device to counter act the triceratops’ sonic powers. In the process they see that their girl has driven the boat through the rift. A plan is devised. One of them makes his way to the boat (not the girl) while the rest, including Kissinger, fight their way to the plane past the paranoid island dwellers.
Cuz you know, when have white American men ever given native peoples anything to worry about.
There are a number of fun fights in this story. The Challengers may not win every fist fight they’re in, but that doesn’t stop them from using their fists when they have to.
Meanwhile, the boat horn is used to simulate the triceratops’ mating call, drawing them into the sea.
Apparently the mating call is a giant fart. Don’t ask why they didn’t all just go to the plane and fly away; these guys are scientists and know what they’re doing. As the fastest swimming dinosaur begins to make sweet love to The Challenger’s boat, the last Challenger is whisked away in the plane.
Yeah. That dinosaur is doing that. To a boat. Sorry.
In the end, the challengers rescue Kissinger, who, as they fly away tries to say something poignant about the island men working together and if only the people of the world could do that, yada yada yada. Meanwhile The Challengers are thinking, yeah then we’d kick the people of the world’s ass just like we did those islanders.
The other story in this book stars The Doom Patrol and is a reprint from 1964. This story also stands firmly on the amazing side of stupid. The Doom Patrol is made up of a metal man, a shrinking/growing woman, a radioactive man, and the chief, a genius in a wheelchair who runs the show. Those are all cool powers, even if the chief is a little overused nowadays.
The Doom Patrol is fighting The Brotherhood of Evil (communists), led my an evil little person. Their plan is to use a ray that grows small things into large things to make war toys into full sized tanks and robot soldiers. Amazing. It’s a cool and corny story.
My problem with team books is they can get too soap-opera-y. That happens a little bit in Doom Patrol. I get it. You tend to develop feelings for people you spend a Iot of time with, but if I wanted a romance comic, I’d read one. However, for the most part, these teams are about kicking butt, and keeping America in control of the world. Two uppercuts to the jaw, up.
Oh boy. This is a doozy. There is a bit here about what we were up to 10 years ago. We got our first mini-van for example. But mostly this is us being stupid on the computer. Or is us remember the highlights of our first 9 episodes? Nope. It’s the first thing I said. Listen at your own risk.
Boy’s State baby! As kids, we mostly spend time with people similar to ourselves–family, friends, people at church. And we eventually, or frighteningly suddenly (I’m looking at you band camp), come to see that there are all kinds of people in the world who are different than us. One of these (less traumatizing (you again band camp)) time was Boy’s State. In this case the surprise was how motivated some of these guys were to get to the top–Governor of Boy’s State. I mean they really worked hard, put organizations in place, wrote and gave speeches. I, on the other hand was happy to chill for the week. It’s possible my local Lion’s Club picked the wrong kid for this.
I was pondering my lack of motivation as a teen, and was reminded of the teen movies I grew up on–Ferris Bueller, Brad from Fast Times, Nick Cage’s character in Valley Girl, the Breakfast Club gang, and especially Joel Goodson (great name) from Risky Business. I don’t suppose we gen-x-ers had any more righteous reason to rebel against the system than the generations before or since. And I suspect my lack of motivation to fight my way to the top of Boy’s State had nothing to do with my disgust at the self indulgent 80s. I didn’t think that deeply in high school. I barely do now. While traveling this thought tunnel, I realized my Pandora was playing the band Fun–the song from them you always hear–catchy and pretty, and I had to turn on some Dead Kennedy’s. Kill the Poor. Much more appropriate for these nostalgic moods.
Anyway–Top 4 Memories from Boy’s State: 1) the cheer-leading camp being held at a nearby dorm the same week and being required to hoot and scream and moan like a caveman every time we saw the girls so everyone would be clear that we liked girls and wanted to do sexy things with them. 2) on a related note, constantly discussing the rumor that there was salt peter (some kind of anti-horny chemical) in the food. 3) marching in rows and columns everywhere we went. It wasn’t so bad as there were lots of dirty call and response chants that we did while marching, many of which I still remember, and 4) Norbert Herbert, a very cool, very funny I guy I hung out with during the week. Norby was Norbert Herbert the 3rd. How’s that for a family with a sense of humor. He made it a good week for me.
I was just reminiscing the other day about the 1970s when it was fashionable to antique things. (Antique is a verb in that sentence.) In particular I was thinking of this very piece which my mother made look old by painting and burning. That’s me as maybe a third grader, riding the horse like a proper English gentleman. I’ve recently acquired this piece as my parents have begun to clean out their basement. I suspect it will find a prominent place in my classroom.
Remember back in the 70’s when you could joke about Rocky Mountain spotted fever? This year I had a colleague come down with the RMSF and was out for several days. Anyway, I’m sure this button comes from the Colorado cousins. I can kind of remember visiting them in Ft. Collins (I think), but mostly in Alamosa. I remember brother Mike and I hanging out one afternoon with Cousin Eric who was maybe five years older than me. He may have been a senior in high school at the time. We went down to the Rio Grande, which was a short walk from their back yard; Eric built a fire, caught a craw dad, wrapped it in foil with catchup, cooked it and ate it; we swam and played in the river; Eric showed us his bow and various arrows, and let us attempt to shoot it; he introduced us to some of his friends at this old cabin/derelict house/hideout kind of place where they kept a huge collection of dirty magazines (ok, that part was a bit awkward). But overall it was a great afternoon in an otherwise typically mundane family vacation. Eric was very cool to his little cousins. Like his sister Lynn from a previous post, Eric is also an artist, sculpting these cool bronzes. You can see some of his stuff here.
This one is from about five years ago. This says pretty well what I think about the need for believers to believe the same thing.
I usually forget to say this: I’m Matt Sears, a deacon here. At Adrian Christian Church we practice open communion. This is the Lord’s table, not ours. So whoever you are, and wherever you’re from, you are welcome. Come eat and drink.
It may be surprising to some of you, but in my experience, high school students have a lot of interests outside of their class work. In some cases their only interests lie outside their class work. And believe it or not, one of the things that students talk about a lot is religion. In the last couple of weeks alone, I have been privy to (that means I have eavesdropped and horned my way into various conversations), I have been privy to discussions about what happens to us when we die, the relative wrongness of homosexuality in comparison to other sins, and how various denominations read certain scriptures differently. None of these discussions were initiated by me (although I did stick my big beak in and contribute my two cents).
One recent student’s comment that has stuck with me was this: “Doctrine is everything.” What this student meant by that, I think, is that believing the right things about all things spiritual, is the most important thing. As I pondered this, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t disagree more. If the church, the millions of brothers and sisters around the world who are celebrating communion or washing each others’ feet, or singing and listening to a sermon instead of doing either of these things, if we are only united by what we believe about the trinity, virgin birth, transubstantiation, predestination, preventient grace, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and a hundred other things that as far as I know, Jesus never took the time to talk about, then we’re done for. If that’s everything, then all is lost.
But, if when we come together for communion, when we remember that we are part of a community of believers, a global community of believers, a community of believers that disagrees about a lot, but can agree that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, and that he is our lord and savior, then that’s something.
Let’s try it.
That Jesus is the Christ
The son of the living God
And he’s my lord and savior
That is something, isn’t it?
But it’s just the start. When we participate in communion this morning, and remember what Christ has done for us, and who we are, and what we’re part of; and when we go out into the world bringing the love of Christ to the lonely, the hurt and the hungry; then that, I believe, is everything.
Yeah, my classroom can get a little unorganized. And sometimes my desk is the worst part of the room. So while some teachers might be offended at such a work, I thought it was nice that one of my students cared enough to try to help out. Granted, as an English teacher, I might have been more impressed if the first draft wasn’t written in caveman, and even more impressed if the student hadn’t used an apostrophe to make test plural. But that might be missing the forest of helpfulness for the trees of basic English usage.