Left on the Cutting Room Floor

Each Thursday morning, I drink coffee at Bean Traders with a small collection of imaginative-thinkers as we plan out creative elements for upcoming services. We affectionately refer to ourselves as the CRAP team – CReative Arts Planning team. A little crass, I know … but yet strangely appropriate. Some of our ideas are great. Truly. Some are mediocre – but then lead to other, better ideas. Some are just plain dim-witted. And then some are ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT but not-at-all appropriate for Sunday morning. These are some of my favorite moments.

This morning, our team time ended on one of these moments – brilliant and hilarious, but no hope of ever leaving the Creative Arts Planning team cutting-room-floor.

Picture it. A sermon series that highlights wisdom from women in the bible. The series title would be:

That’s What She Said.

Brilliant, I tell you. Absolutely brilliant. Maybe we could even get Michael Scott to make a guest appearance.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children … unless it’s really, really funny.

Megan, who turns 9 in a month, fancies herself as quite the teacher. The other day, she wrote out a math quiz for me to take with simple addition and subtraction problems. Not wanting our teaching session to end too early, I got the last question wrong. 1 + 1 = 1. I asked for an explanation for how my answer could be wrong. How can ones make anything other than ones? And the playful sparring (aka: exasperating) began.

Megan: OK. Pretend you have one cookie.

Dad: What kind of cookie is it?

Megan: Chocolate chip, but that’s not importa…

Dad: How many chocolate chips?

Megan: Seven.

Dad: So what you’re saying is I have seven chocolate chips.

Megan: No. What I’m saying is you have one cookie.

Dad: How big is the cookie?

Megan: Ummm. It’s about the size of this plate. (she holds up the small dessert plate that recently held her cream-cheese bagel)

Dad: That’s a big cookie. And it ONLY has seven chocolate chips?

Megan: OK fine. There are 20 chocolate chips on the cookie.

Dad: On the cookie or in the cookie?

Megan: In the cookie. And now – let’s pretend Kyra walks up to you.

Dad: What’s she wearing?

Megan: Blue jeans, blue sweater (pause) and a blue t-shirt underneath. (giggling)

Kyra: … and blue underwear (more giggling)

Dad: Why is she wearing all blue?

Megan: (more giggling) I don’t know. Maybe she’s just feeling blue today. (continuing) And she walks up to you and …

Dad: What am I wearing?

Megan: (by this point, the giggling has grown to a full-on laugh. Her words are sputtered more than spoken) You’re wearing blue jeans and a black t-shirt.

Dad: And socks?

Megan: Umm … yes. And socks.

Dad: And a cap?

Megan: Umm … sure. And Kyra walks up to you with another cookie.

Dad: What kind of cookie is it?

Megan: It’s a chocolate chip cookie just like yours.

Dad: How big is it?

Megan: (thinking) Umm … let’s say it’s a little smaller than yours. (continuing) And pretend that she gives you her cookie. How many cookies do you have?

Dad: Well, I guess I’d have one and a half cookies since hers is smaller than mine.

Megan: (laughing) No … just pretend her cookie is the exactly the same as yours.

Dad: Exactly the same? That’d be weird.

Megan: Well, maybe not exactly the same but they’re close enough.

Dad: OK. So we both have cookies that are almost the same. I’m hungry. Can I eat my cookie?

Megan: (giggling) Umm… sure. And pretend that Kyra gives you her cookie. How many cookies would you have?

Dad: One.

Megan: No – you’d have two.

Dad: No – because you said I ate my cookie.

Megan: Well … how many cookies did you have?

Dad: One. I had my cookie and ate it. And then I had Kyra’s cookie. I only ever had one cookie.

Megan: (more giggling. runs over to the kitchen counter and grabs my sunglasses in one hand and mom’s sunglasses in another) OK. Forget the cookies. Let’s say I have one pair of sunglasses.

Dad: a pair of sunglasses? So you have two sunglasses.

Megan: (giggling) Ummm … no. (thinking) ok, say I have one … sunglasses.

Dad: One sunglasses? I don’t understand.

Megan: (more giggling. puts down the sunglasses and runs to the living room and carries back with her two throw pillows from our couch). OK. Forget the cookie and the sunglasses. Let’s say I have one pillow.

Dad: But you have two pillows.

Megan: (throwing one of the pillows back into the living room). OK. I have one pillow. This pillow right here. See?

Dad: Yes. I see you have one pillow.

Megan: (to Kyra) Pass me the pillow! (Kyra throws the pillow from the living room back into the kitchen). Now, how many pillows do I have?

Dad: Two.

Megan: (laughing with GREAT relief). YES! See! One plus one equals two.

The End.

(NOTE: the accuracy of this post was verified by Megan before publishing.)

The Female Brain


Occasionally when Rachel and I go to bed, if it is not too late, we will stay up for awhile and read. I’m currently reading A Room Called Remember by Frederick Buechner. Rachel is reading The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.

In an effort to help me further understand how she ticks, she read me a short excerpt about “fluctuating hormones” that ended with the following:

“Because of the fluctuations that begin as early as three months old and last until after menopause, a woman’s neurological reality is not as constant as a man’s. His is like a mountain that is worn away imperceptibly over the millennia by glaciers, weather, and the deep tectonic movements of the earth. Hers is more like the weather itself – constantly changing and hard to predict.”

Rachel: “I’m not making this stuff up.”

Curtis: “Mm hmm. I believe you.”

A few moments of silence pass … during which a funny albeit potentially dangerous thought occurs to me.

Curits: “Does your book, The Female Brain, does it have a subtitle?”

Rachel: “No.”

A few more moments of silence pass … during which I begin to question the wisdom of whether or not I should actually share my funny thought. I internally wrestle with my dilemma and weigh the options. Humor-and-certain-retribution versus silence-and-a-continued-peaceful-time-of-reading? Hmmm. What to choose …

Rachel: “Why?” (She asked slowly. Deliberately – with a deeper-suspicious tone – presciently knowing that she doesn’t really want to hear the answer but must all the same.)

My internal battle was now resolved. Humor-and-certain-retribution won.

Curtis: “The Female Brain – See? All of my illogical, unreasonable, foolish, and irrational moments are TOTALLY justifiable. It’s SCIENCE!”

I definitely incurred some bruising (proof that the male brain may not be as smart as I want to believe it is).

Love you, sweetie. Honest.

Two Rachels

Rachel one.

It was June of 1993 when I met her. I was serving as a worship intern at Foothills Alliance Church in Calgary, AB. The church was in the middle of a building project and so we met in a gymnasium.

And there she was. Just one look was all it took. Radiant. Even amid the hideous-industrial-gymnasium-ceiling-grid lighting that makes everyone look jaundiced. But she … she was gorgeous. Modesty had never been so hot. She was working that full length floral print dress (work it, girl) and those red lips. Wow. It was my first Sunday there and so I was not leading worship. Rather, I was just one of the 10-voice worship chorus.

And so was she. Mm-hmm. Yes, she was.

I sang unbelievably well that morning. Impeccable pitch. Pure tone. Passionate. I single-handedly elevated the musical experience that morning in an effort to win just a glance from her beautiful jaundice-lit face.

Rachel two.

Under instructions from his father, Jacob set out eastward to find a good woman from the town of his heritage. Apparently the local Canaanite women weren’t good enough. Nearing the end of his journey, he sees a well out in an open field. A couple of shepherds have gathered with their flocks, but a large stone still covered the well.

“Why not water the flocks and go back to grazing?” Jacob asks.

“We can’t,” they said. “Not until all the shepherds get here. It takes all of us to roll the stone from the well.”

Enter Rachel. Mm-hmm. There she was. Just one look was all it took. Leading her father’s sheep to the well (work it, girl) and oh how well she lead those sheep. The moment Jacob spotted Rachel, “he went and single-handedly rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered her sheep.”

The things we do for love.

Two things came to mind as I read this text today. First – my Rachel (hey-oh!). Second – and I know this is not the intent of this story in Genesis 29 – but I couldn’t help but think of another stone. Covering another well. A well of living water. Ten roman soldiers couldn’t move it. But that’s what love does. It makes a way. It finds new strength. And it rolls away stones. And God’s great affection for you and for me could not be stopped. And “there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

Trophies

It’s been a long time since I’ve received an award. Sure, I’ve been the beneficiary of a few verbal acknowledgments and paper certificates from time to time. But it has been years since I’ve been the recipient of an actual, bona fide, legitimate trophy or plaque. You know the kind. With the authentic fake plated gold mounted onto genuine imitation wood.

I’d probably have to go all the way back to high school (10th grade). I was a top scorer on the Stony Plain Marauders Basketball team, and I remember receiving a trophy at a basketball summer camp between tenth and eleventh grade. As is CLEARLY indicated by the photo, I was a stud!!

Well, my 21+ year trophy / plaque drought has ended. This past Monday night, I received a plaque from the APA (American Pool players Association) acknowledging my team’s (Ben & Stimpy) dominance in the summer session last year (2008). Ben, Gregg, Geoff, Brad, Pete, Nikki, Jeff and I put the heat on the competition last summer. We won our league and advanced all the way to the semi-finals of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill city championships. It was so much of fun. But this plaque means a whole lot more to me than success during the summer session of ’08. It’s a symbol of something much more.

It means that I’ve burst the bubble. I’ve finally broken out of the oh-so-constricting-yet-strangely-warm-and-seductive Christian sub-culture bubble. That’s the real victory behind this plaque.

My beautiful wife wrote me a letter yesterday from Portland where she is currently visiting her two little nieces. The letter touched me deeply … especially a portion that she wrote about my pool playing ventures. At the risk of appearing prideful, I want to quote her words … poor punctuation and all.

“i am in awe (envy?) of your open heart to God. so willing to examine and be examined, willing to change, to obey even when it’s hard, when you’d rather not, to do risky things. even your obvious love (and their love for you) of ben and stimpy shows great humility and how much you carry the spirit of Jesus with you. that is what those boys like in you, tho they don’t know that yet.”

Rachel – I love you. Thanks for journeying with me and allowing me (us) to fumble forward as we try and learn together to embrace the full call of Jesus.

Salt is best when applied. – Mt 5:13

4th Commandment

I’ve had several people comment to me how they enjoyed hearing the first three commandments spoken of within the context of Israel’s just-ended captivity in Egypt.

First off, I’d be a lying fool to take full credit for the insights. The ideas came from Rob Bell’s book “Jesus Wants to Save Christians.” A book that I think you all should read. It’s that good. Especially the last (sixth) chapter. It makes meaningful-world-changing-faith seem possible.

The fourth commandment (Sabbath rest) also takes on new meaning. We tend to forget that there was no such thing as a Sabbath before the exodus. 430 years without a weekend. Everyday was Monday. Everyday was mud, straw and bricks.

Into this God speaks “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.

Imagine going from 1000 consecutive Mondays to all-of-the-sudden having a Saturday. A mandated day of rest. No wonder God has to say remember to observe the Sabbath. And notice the phrase at the end of the commandment about who is included: and any foreigners living among you.

God’s people are not to become someone else’s Egypt.

Sunday Morning

Rather than write a brand new post on a largely-non-functioning-tired-Sunday-evening-brain, I thought I’d get a little extra mileage out of the message from this morning. Or at least out of one of the images shown during the message.

Yes. That is my head.

For those of you who are out-of-towners or if you were not in attendance this morning, my wife printed this image onto posters for an “irreverent reverend” party that she threw for me after successfully completing my ordination requirements here in NC back in 2005. It was a fun party … at least the bits and pieces that I can remember.

(and if you can’t for the life of you figure out how this picture could have possibly been integrated into a church service, you can listen to the message here.)

Sometimes I think I'm certain. Other times I am certain I'm not.

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