Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

20 04 2008

“Hi, I’m Stewart, I’m an Ivy League Scholar and a Nobel prize winner, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

“Hi, I’m Brenda, I discovered the cure to cancer, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

are you smarter than a fifth grader jeff foxworthy“Hi, I’m the apostle Paul, I survived shipwreck, near-death beatings, I out witted politicians and explained the real meaning of mysterious philosophies, I once killed Christians but then met Christ and changed, but I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.”

It’s one of our favorite programs these days.  Barbara and I howl and laugh and yell at the TV and adore the kids and muse about the questions on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”  We both agree that…

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A Man Named Moose

20 04 2008

He was a big lunk of a dude that I hired early in my days as a radio station programmer.  Though he could haveMoose Mason from the Archies a fiery temper, he was usually just a gentle giant.  A country boy through and through, he didn’t pass through life, he bulldozed through it.

I’m not sure how the moniker “Moose” became attached to him.  It seems to me that I recall mentioning in jest (what other way could you mention such a thing to a guy who could pound you into the ground like a tent spike?) that he reminded me of Moose from the Archie comics.  One thing lead to another, and for years after we all lovingly refered to him by the elkian emblem.

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Dogs Playing Poker

14 02 2008

Sometimes I wonder who the first person was to do something that has now become a part of our culture’s iconoclasm.

Who originally drew the fine American artistic piece, “Dogs Playing Poker”?  Who first melded magic with material and brought to life the original velvet Elvis?  Who is the lyrical genius who first parodied the Christmas classic by singing, “Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg…”?  For that matter, what sensitive soul first intoned that wondrous melody of old, “Do your ears hang low, do they wobble when you walk, can you tie ’em in a bow, can you tie ’em in a knot?”

Yes, my friends, our culture is rich with art, is it not?

So many long not to be anonymous, and yet, years down the road that will be our sad fate.  There can only be a few Lincolns or Bachs or Twains or Cronkites.  The rest of us must suffer the ignominy of history’s dust pile.  But that’s not so bad.

As a pastor, I often encourage my congregation that they do have a legacy to leave…  even if their names are forgotten down the line.  I cannot, off the top of my head, tell you my great-grandmother’s name, but I can tell you that she prayed for me long before I was ever born.  This precious family heirloom of prayer has been handed down, acknowledged, and passed on.  The wonderful thing is, when you touch a life for Christ, you are doing something that will last at least a hundred years.  You are changing a life that will change a life and so on.  Christ gets the glory – it is through Him all great things are done.  But you and I share the glory, an eternal story, that rings on through the halls of eternity.

Be help, hope and healing for someone and leave a legacy that lasts.

Nobody Hates Charlie Brown

6 02 2008

“Good ol’ Charlie Brown.  How I hate him.”

That was the very first commentary on the life of Charlie Brown from the very first Peanuts comic strip.  After that, we continued to read about a wishy-washy, lovable loser who frequently lost his kite in the trees, spent time at Lucy’s psychiatric booth, couldn’t win at baseball, and couldn’t kick the football.  As far as we know, he never won the heart of that little red haired girl.  And despite a good heart and good intentions, he just couldn’t seem to pull the Christmas pageant together on his own.  Oh, and then there was that infamous Christmas tree.

I have a connection with the zig-zag-shirted one.  In elementary school, I snagged the role of the round-headed blockhead by rolling backwards off of my stool after Lucy zinged me with her usual harsh toned advice in auditions.  I’ll admit that I identified with Chuck more than I should have – at times it became easy to resign myself to being the cast-off.

The concept of being a “lovable loser” seems reserved for fiction alone.  After all, how many real life people have you known that people adore despite being a, uh, “loser”?  We love Charlie Brown, though.  He represents pureness and innocence.  He’s polite and kind and never returns a harsh word.  In fact, perhaps one of the finest elements of character we find in good ol’ Charlie Brown is that he isn’t vengeful.  Oh sure, Lucy had his number – but we never see Charlie Brown plotting to demolish her reputation.  In fact, he returns to her for nickle advise time and again.

Could it be that we find this characteristic so endearing because it’s so rare?  We are a society of vengeance fueled, forgiveness lacking, bitterness driven people.  These traits are even more evident in other cultures that we observe around the world.  Few people are satisfied with an eye for an eye…  we prefer an arm or a leg as well.  And even the most cowardly of us find it empowering to be a part of demolishing some one’s reputation.  These are all things that we easily identify as being problematic in others – but let’s face it – few of us are free from these character flaws.  Except good ol’ Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown is the car, and the world is a tree full of birds.  Yet he still seems to find a way to shine.  Maybe that’s something we should think about.  Who is the biggest winner – the one who avenges to the greatest degree? 

As a pastor, I’m keenly aware that despite the lack of gun-play or other violence, so-called Christ-followers are also quite astute at the vengeance game.  We know how to wreck a reputation with smart-bomb accuracy.  Or should I call it “stink-bomb” accuracy?  Of course, this problem extends well beyond the walls of the church.  We would all do well to remember why Charlie Brown is more than just an American icon.  He is beloved because of his high sense of character despite the onslaughts of the world around him.  Lovable loser?  I think not.  I would say he is one of our greatest examples of a winner.

Obama Romney and Hillary Huckabee

24 01 2008

I thought I would move into less controversial ground than my last post proved to be and talk politics instead.  So…

Being born with the last name “Fish”, I feel appropriately entitled to make fun of anyone’s name I want.  Having heard every possible fish joke under the sun, and having gotten countless strange looks at the Red Lobster when they announced, “Fish, party of 2…”, I feel justified in what I’m about to say.  Have you ever seen a presidential election with so many funny names in all your life?  I don’t recall ever hearing as many political name related jokes as I have thus far.  But it could have been better.

Personally, I like the names Obama Romney and Hillary Huckabee.  They’re sure a lot more musical than John Edwards, John McCain, or the driest of all, Ron Paul.  Fred Thompson had to drop out – not due to poor primary performances – but because polls showed that Americans would not abide a president named Fred.  Years ago, Bob Dole couldn’t win because Dole sounds too much like dull.  And while Al Gore could not score a presidential nod, he has indeed done well with the mathematical community who like the fact that his name sounds so much like algorithm.

As far as my own name is concerned, I find I have to spell it for people quite often.  No one really wants to believe that someone could be named after an aquatic critter.  Some like to add an “er” on the end to make it a respectable “Fisher”.  I’ve also gotten mail for someone named “Fisit”.  When I was a boy, I hated my last name.  I couldn’t stand the teasing it brought on.  As an adult I’ve learned to love dealing with all the fishy attempts at humor thrown my way.  But as a budding adolescent, I told my dad I wish that I could change my name because I hated it.  I’ll never forget his response.  He said, “Son, that’s your grandpa’s name.  You’re not ashamed of him are you?”  Suddenly all the cosmos made sense to me.  It was a moment of true insight.  I can’t tell you that I instantly embraced my marlin-esque moniker, but I did begin to grow into it.

I’m also a Christ-follower.  I wish that I’d always done that name honor.  If we claim to walk in the light as He is in the light, then others will grow to love that name as well.  Not everyone will.  But many will begin to experience what it means to be identified with the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us.  If you claim to walk with Jesus, how do you treat your new identity?  Is it a matter of embarrassment or shame?  Do you do it dishonor by failing to love or show mercy?  Those are the questions I ask myself everyday.  I’ve long since grown into being a Fish.  But I’m still trying to fit my way into my greater family name.  I’m still growing into the man Christ is raising me to be.