Do They?

One of the saddest comments on the human condition is the famous quote from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: “We will have peace…when they love their children more than they hate us”

My question today is – do they?

What bothers me about the current situation in the Middle East is the “world reaction”. I’ve heard a lot of condemnation of Israel, a lot of talk about “disproportionate response”. But what would the world community have Israel do? Is it reasonable to ask a country to sit idly by while a terrorist group launches hundreds of rockets and mortars across its border killing its civilians? What would we, as American citizens, expect our country’s response to be if a terrorist group was on the border of Mexico doing the same thing to us?

I was talking with a friend about this earlier today and I think he said it really well. If Hamas stopped killing Israelis today, Israel would stop. If Israel stopped today, Hamas won’t stop. Maybe they will for a few days or weeks but not for good. And that’s really the whole root of the problem in the Middle East. Israel would be content to live in peace with its neighbors. But Israel’s neighbors won’t be content until Israel ceases to exist.

So I guess the answer to my question is – no.

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Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys…Because They Suck!

Well, today the Cowboys showed us the most gutless performance that I think I’ve ever seen – and I lived through the Gary Hogeboom/Steve Pelluer controversy. It looked like today’s matchup was the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles vs. BFE High School, if the BFE High School team’s roster was filled by the keystone cops.

There was one highlight to the game. Well, not really to the game but to my game-watching experience.

I was watching the game in my bedroom and it had been on for about 15 minutes. My sweet little 4 year old daughter came in and said that she wanted to watch with me. Now this was a rare treat because neither of my daughters ever want to watch football with me, even when I ask. She crawled up in the bed with me and we watched together. I explained to her how the game was played and she would occasionally ask questions; but mostly she just sat there with me watching pretty intently. About half way through the second quarter she turned to me, took my face in her hands and said: “Daddy! What do we have to do to get them to WIN!? I’m going to jump into that TV and MAKE them win!”

It’s unfortunate for the Cowboys that my little 4 year old daughter couldn’t jump into that TV and give them a hand. She certainly had more fire and heart than anyone playing for the Cowboys today.

Merry Christmas!

Pretty Lights, pretty bows,

Stockings hung all in a row.

Now fulfilled, that Promise long ago

The King of Kings was born in a stable low.

The greatest gift I’ll ever get was born that night

That gift is there for all those who believe.

He left His home in Heaven to die on a tree.

And He made that sacrifice for you and me.

Pretty Lights, pretty bows,

Stockings hung all in a row.

A love so great, a heavy load.

My Savior stumbled up that dusty road.

The greatest gift I’ll ever get died that day

And He died because of me.

He rose again in glory on that blessed Easter morn

And now He lives for you and me.

And now He lives for you and me.

In a time like this, when the past year hasn’t been the greatest for many of us, I hope you and your family are able to take some time and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. On this penultimate Christian holiday we celebrate the night when Light pierced the darkness and God reached out to man and gave us hope. We celebrate the hope of life everlasting and communion with God. We celebrate the hope of the restoration of sinful man to his Creator. We celebrate the birth of Jesus – the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham and the means of our Salvation. I hope that this Christmas you have experienced the hope that the first Christmas brought to the world and I hope that you have received that greatest gift that any of us will ever receive.

What is Mainstream?

There is a ridiculous story on CNN’s political blog (find it here). Basically, a bunch of liberal and gay rights groups are whining because Obama has tapped Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural ceremonies. This is not surprising. What was surprising to me was the craziness contained in the following snippet from the article.

People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is “deeply disappointed” with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is “consistent mainstream American values.

“There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson,” Kolbert said. “The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical.”

It’s like I’m Alice and I’ve gone through the looking glass. It’s like the prank we used to play in middle school where we would say it was “opposite day” and yes meant no and so on. The fact of the matter is that Rick Warren (and James Dobson for that matter) does represent mainstream American values. It is both absurd and misleading to call his ideas radical. And if you need proof of the mainstream-ness of his views on marriage, look at the fact bans on gay marriage have now passed in each of the 30 states in which they’ve been put before voters.

The fact of the matter is that most of the liberal groups that the media gives voice to – and by doing so helps legitimize them and make them seem more representative than they really are – are the ones with the “radical” ideas. They are the ones out of touch with mainstream America. We really need to start calling out the media for allowing these ridiculous groups to have more of a voice than they deserve.

Top 10 Non-Traditional Christmas Songs

The last couple of years my wife has taken to calling me the Grinch during the “holiday” season. My wife loves all holidays. She loves to decorate the house, the yard and in fact anything that will stand still long enough to have some sort of holiday decoration placed on it (this often includes the dog). I too like holidays but, over the years, I have found the tendency of everyone starting the celebration way too early a bit tiresome. I don’t like the fact that I start seeing Christmas stuff right after Halloween. I don’t like the fact that radio stations start playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. My wife and I have several agreements in place to help ensure our domestic tranquility. No Christmas decoration until the day after Thanksgiving is one of them.

But I really do love Christmas. It was my favorite holiday as a kid and it still is today. One of my favorite memories of Christmas is my family gathering around the piano and singing Christmas carols together. Music has always been a big part of my life and the music of Christmas is some of the best. Now, I like all Christmas music; traditional carols like “Away in a Manger”, “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World”, pop standards like “White Christmas”, “The Christmas Song” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and even the classical stuff like Handel’s Messiah and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. But today I thought I would give you my top 10 list of non-traditional Christmas songs. Most of these have come out in the last 20 years and are usually performed by rock or pop singers. Anyway, enjoy…

10. “All I want for Christmas is You”, Mariah Carey – The New Yorker said that this song is “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon”. I originally thought it was a cover of an old Motown but it turns out that Carey wrote it. It’s really upbeat (even though the lyrics are of the “please come back” theme) with one of those melodies that you can’t get out of your head. Mariah really shows she can belt one out.

9. “The Last Christmas”, Sixpence None the Richer – This song is sung from the perspective of an expectant mother. As a parent, I think this song perfectly expresses the joyful anticipation of a new member of the family. The song uses sparse instrumentation (with a really cool, ethereal slide guitar line) through most of the verses and choruses and then swells at the bridge. The tag line of the chorus is “it’s the last Christmas without you”. It’s really quite a beautiful song.

8. “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, Band Aid – I remember when this song came out. It really blew me away. The sound of this song was so different than any other Christmas song, really any other song period. It has both a muddy and atmospheric feel to it at the same time. Of course this song was the precurser to the whole Live Aid/Farm Aid/All-the-Other Aids. I still love this tune and still get chills when Bono belts out “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you.”

7. “Last Christmas”, Wham – OK, go ahead and get the gay jokes over with. Now that you’re done, I’ll tell you that this song has a really catchy melody and perfectly captures the feeling of unrequited love during the holiday season. The dorky synth keyboard parts, the digital drums combine to make this the ultimate 80’s Christmas song. Jimmy Eat World did a good cover of this but I still like the Wham version better. And I guess, now that I think about it, that probably makes me gay.

6. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), U2 – This song lets you know that it’s cool right from the beginning. From the opening ringing chord while Bono does his best Elvis impersonation and speaks “It’s Christmas. Baby, please come home.” Then the rest of the band comes in for this rollicking cover of the original Darlene Love version. This is another really upbeat song despite the sad lyrics. The backing vocals are great. Classic U2 and classic Christmas.

5. “Santa Claus”, Harry Connick Jr. – I love the Harry Connick Jr. Christmas album, When My Heart Finds Christmas, but this is my favorite song off of it. It’s a great Dixie-style song (with a little Gospel thrown in for good measure) about a kid who thinks he’s too old to believe in Santa. That is until Santa shows up and lets him ride in his sleigh. This is a very joyful, swinging song that makes you feel like a kid again.

4. “Mary Did You Know?”, Michael English – The Kenny Rogers version is probably more popular today, but I prefer this one.  This song wonders if Mary fully understood the full portent of what she was a part of. I doubt she or anyone fully understood until Easter morning.

3. “Gabriel’s Message”, Sting – The melody and harmony parts of this song have the feel of a classical piece but are set to a ghostly electronic instrumentation. The lyrics recall how Gabriel appeared to Mary to let her know that she had been chosen to carry God’s son.

2. “Wonderful Christmastime”, Paul McCartney – McCartney is probably my favorite singer of all time, so I probably overrate this one. The cheesy and sometimes off-beat synths are nicely offset by the jingle bells in the background. This song has a real joyous feel to it. It makes you feel like you’re at a Christmas party with all your friends and family. 

1. “Breath of Heaven”, Amy Grant – I remember the first time I ever heard this song. I was a young adult and was helping teach the youth choir at our church. Our music minister had decided to do this and had given the solo part (the verses) to a 13 year-old girl named Rebecca. She had one of the sweetest voices (angelic really) I have ever heard and one of the sweetest dispositions of any teenager I have met. I remember watching her sing and thinking “Mary was probably no older than this girl when all of this happened to her. What an awesome burden for such a young, innocent girl.” The lyrics of this song follow Mary’s thoughts during the journey to Bethlehem. We hear her beseech God for the strength to follow through with her part of God’s miracle. The Amy Grant version of this song is the version that comes closest to projecting the emotion that I heard that first time. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.

Am I Taking Crazy Pills?

No. I just have two young children.

I remember the first time I thought I was taking crazy pills.

My daughters were around 3 and 2 and I was home with them by myself, giving my wife a break so that she could go do something relaxing. We were in the upstairs den, which is where all of their toys are, playing and having a good time. One of their favorite toys at the time was a kitchen play set that has a refrigerator, oven, stove (which makes water-boiling or bacon-frying noises if you put a pot or pan on it), and sink in it. Both of them were playing with the kitchen when my youngest daughter came up to me and said that her older sister wouldn’t give her glass of water. So I told my oldest daughter to  give her sister a glass of water. Now keep in mind that all of this is in the realm of make-believe. There is no real water. There are just little plastic cups and a kitchen play set. So my oldest daughter takes a glass, pours some “water” into it from a little plastic pitcher and hands it to my youngest daughter. Problem solved. WRONG! My youngest daughter lets out a wild screeching “Noooooo! I don’t want that water! I want the water from the faucet!” She then turns her plastic cup upside down and violently “pours” the “water” from the pitcher out on the floor. She then goes to the faucet and fills up her glass with the (somehow) superior water. It took me a moment to grasp the absurdity of the situation, but once I did, all I could do was shake my head in confusion.

So, this past weekend my family and I went to Chicago to see my brother-in-law graduate with his Ph.D. We arrived Friday and ended up staying up pretty late. On saturday we spent the morning playing in the snow at a nature preserve (which was heaven to my little Texans), then went back to the hotel to get ready for the graduation ceremony which was early that evening. After the ceremony we had dinner reservations at 8:00 and we stayed at the restaurant until 11:00. So once again we stayed up pretty late. The next morning we got up and went shopping in Geneva which has a typical historic downtown shopping area that draws women like flies. We were going to a movie that afternoon and everyone was getting a little cold so we decided to go back to the hotel to rest a little before the movie. We had around an hour so I told my wife I was going to lay down and try to get in a little nap.

My daughters had both gotten a little bath toy that looked like a snail that afternoon. I was laying on one bed and they were on the other watching a Super Friends DVD on our little portable DVD player (my wife had gone to the vending machine to pay $1.25 for a can of diet coke). I’m starting to doze off when I hear my oldest daughter say, “My snail is a flesh-eating snail.” a few moments later I hear my oldest daughter make a chomping noise and then my youngest daughter say “stop it!”. A few moments later I hear the chomping noise again and then my youngest daughter says, “Dad, M is making her flesh-eating snail bite me on the arm!” And before I could even think about what I was saying I responded, “M. quit making your flesh-eating snail bite your sister on the arm.” As I continued to drift off to sleep I realized that someone had slipped me the crazy pills again.

Big Brother and Your Life

In an interview (see it here – you’ll have to scroll down a bit), Archbishop Charles Chaput says the following: “The logic behind abortion makes all human rights politically contingent.” A clear understanding of the Founders lets us know that they would support his contention because the Founders were all believers in Natural Law. They believed that the rights of life and liberty and all of the other rights they enumerated were given by God, the Creator. Government’s role was to protect those rights. But the state by no means granted these rights. Chaput argues that when the state gets to determine when life begins, all other human rights are then within the state’s power to give or take away. Morality aside do we really want our government to have that power? But there is really no way to put morality aside when it comes to abortion. Abortion on demand (essentially abortion for convenience sake) is the supreme moral failing of our generation. I have a friend that I talk politics with and he argues that for Pro-Lifers to conclusively win the ongoing debate, we have to shift the focus from “women’s” and privacy rights to human rights. Life is a fundamental human right and should not be within the State’s power to take away. Once you shift the argument to a human rights issue most of the pro-choice argument goes away and the only question central to the debate becomes: when does life begin? That question can’t be answered by the government nor is it answered by religion. Many people on both sides of the debate try to frame the beginning of life as a religious belief, but that is not the case. The answer to that question can be found in the our study of biology. Modern science is offering increasing evidence that at the point of conception a separate human life is created. In a time when various groups in our county are clamoring for and demanding a host of invented “rights”, it is time for those of us who believe in American and Western values to fight harder to win the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens regarding the most basic human right. It’s time for our country to realize that the right to life is the foundational right upon which all of our other rights are built upon.

I can’t remember who, but someone said that societies are judged by how they treat their weakest members. How will America, supposedly the most enlightened society in history, be judged? I do know who said the following: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” That was Thomas Jefferson speaking about the biggest moral failing of his generation – slavery. When I compare the evil of slavery with the evil of murdering millions upon millions of innocent babies, I can only pray that God’s justice will sleep a little longer.