Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Secure your pennies on your eyes cause I'm the Taxman....

Aaah yes. The old Beatles Standard. Tax Man. Today is the day. Doug started the taxes on Saturday and spent the better part of the day working on them. Sunday we took our day of rest break and went and had fun -- but after a brief nap and the Simpsons last night he went back at it and finished up the job.

I thought we'd owe about $12,000. I was having anxiety attacks. All told, we owe a lot less than that, but still a significant amount that we just don't have.

If I'd managed to get a good job right after or around Christmas, there'd be a ton of money in the bank. Now I'm basically waiting patiently to hear on the most recent job prospects, and hoping that something comes up. So we'll see what happens. We've got a mountain of debt now, when we only had a small hill. A manageable hill. This new debt is friggin' Mount Shasta and it's about to turn into Mount Hood.

I got an email a few minutes ago from a friend wondering where I was today. I guess it is to be expected pretty much that by noon there's an entry from me somewhere, either here or at journalspace. But today I chaperoned a field trip for my son's school. We went to the Merrimack Valley Christian Film Festival, which is held every Easter season, between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. All the movies are free, and each year Geoff's school takes all the three year olds and upwards in age to go see a kid's movie.

This year they showed a double feature of "Larry Boy: 'Leggo My Ego,'" from the Veggie Tales collection, and a short animated film called "The Legend of the Three Trees."

The Veggie Tales are some of my favorite kid-related Christian works. They are smart, very funny, and very truthful to the concepts they are trying to get at without being schmaltzy and manipulative the way so many Christian programs can be.

I was disappointed in this movie.

Not because it wasn't good -- the overall message was good and it was funny, it just wasn't... Big Idea worthy. It wasn't computer animated the way the bulk of Veggie Tales productions are, it was flat screen "old fashioned" animation, and the characters were ... lacking dimension. If I don't get to ever see it again, I'll be okay. The kids liked it, and they got the overall message, which is that if you tear others down to make yourself look bigger and better, you're doing the wrong thing. To feel super, and be a super hero, you must encourage others and not make them feel small. Then, my friend... you'll be exalted.

Best part of this 2-D animation series they're putting out is Larry's super hero mentor. His name is Bok Choy, and he is, of course, like a Kung Fu master. Very wise, very grounded, very veggie. Very funny.

The second movie was okay. It was narrated by Hal Holbrook, and he did a nice job.

You know the story. Oh, you don't? Well, in a nutshell, three seeds land in different places near a lake. The first is an olive tree, the second an oak, the third a pine. Each tree wants to grow up to do amazing tree things... The olive tree wants to be made into a beautiful box to hold the most wonderful treasure in the whole wide world. The oak wants his lumber to be turned into an amazing and wonderful ship for a king. The pine wants to be the tallest tree ever, which points to heaven and lets people know about God.

Not one of their wishes comes true.

The olive tree gets cut down and ends up being turned into a feeding trough for animals. The oak is cut down to become a fishing boat. The pine in all her efforts to grow to be the tallest is struck by lightning and felled onto the road, where she is later dragged off by the men who need the road and pushed down into a gully.

And so the trees all feel sad, because none of them are doing what they wanted to do with their lives. Essentially, they have sheep eating out of them, smelly fish being dumped on them, or are abandoned and forgotten. Quite tragic and sucky.


The first tree, the one who is now a feeding trough, is in the stable at Bethlehem, and is the vessel to hold the newborn baby Jesus.

The second tree is a ship which belongs to the fishermen of Galilee. Jesus is with them on that boat when he calms the storm and shows the scared fishermen that "even the wind and the waves obey him." So the tree's wish to be a ship for a king comes true.

The third tree is so big and strong, and the Roman soldiers use her trun to build the cross upon which Jesus is crucified. So forevermore the cross will be known to people through the whole world as the way that points to God. So her wish comes true.

And so, the lesson in a nut shell, pun intended, that our dreams for ourselves may not always be what comes true in the end, but... God has plans for us that we don't know of at this given time, and it's all going to work out in the end. I think it's kind of sad to be turned into a cross that someone is hung on and dies upon, but hey -- the tree served its purpose, which was known to God long before it even sprouted up from a seed.

And the kids understood it and got it, and they liked it. It was a good story.

The one thing I had a problem with was at the end of the films they did an altar call. One of the participating churches had their pastor there to talk to the kids and let them know all about God.

As if our 8000 kids in our particular field trip class at this particular school don't already know that. They spend every day talking about this. They're down with it.

We're there with eight grown ups and 10,000 kids. And all the kids want to either go because the movie is over, or go up to the altar call and pray.

The teachers had decided in advance that we wouldn't be letting the kids go up front to answer the call... that they'd talk about it with the kids at school and anyone who wanted to pray and make a commitment could do so at school. In their minds, it is their responsibility and the parents' responsibility to lead kids to making these decisions, not some volunteer pastor at a film festival.

I gotta admire the decisions these teachers make, and the wherewithall they have on behalf of my kid and others. I picked a good school.

So we're trying to usher out 19,000 kids. And the pastor up front is so strongly encouraging the children to come forward and pray, not leave, and accept Jesus as their Lord.

Us teachers and chaperones were all looking like meanies because we want the kids OUT. As if we're denying them the opportunity to make that commitment right then and now!

Oy. We're suffering the little children.

I must admit I felt badly because Geoff and his little girl L wanted to go up and pray... but Geoff's teacher explained to them in the lobby when they expressed their dismay to her that they'd have the opportunity to do so at school later. And they understood and accepted that, and gladly got on the bus.


Four of the four year olds broke ranks and went up front as we were ushering the 23,000 kids out the door.

So the rest of the kids were all out on the bus, and there we are looking for the four committed Christian rebels from our group.

Their teacher and I both went back in to get them, and we waited for them and talked to the director of the program. Laura explained to him that our school isn't just a "christian" school but it is an actively evangelical school. Two of the kids who were up there answering the altar call were girls whose parents go to pentecostal churches, and Laura told me they go to EVERY altar call at church meetings and revivals because they like to talk to the people and pray. It isn't like these guys running the program actually saved these two girls that one moment or anything... the girls got free Children's Bibles and had a nice chat.

All told, aside from feeling like I prevented children from committing their lives to Jesus, I had a great time. All the kids in Geoff's class love me, and it's so much fun to spend time with them. They all fought to sit with me (I sat with L because she was odd girl out when it came to partnering up) and we had fun on the bus counting how many times the highway crosses over the Merrimack River.

When we got back to school each teacher set up lunchtime and talked with the kids. Everyone prayed. And all is good and right with our kids. In my mind.

Thing is -- if you answer one altar call, you're saved. End of conversation. You just need to make a concerted effort to live a righteous and sober, Godly life. You have to remember to repent when you muck up and fall short. You just have to keep renewing your initial altar call in your heart.

And in all honesty, I think that daily in your heart you need to have an altar call of sorts and rededicate your commitment I know I do.

In theory you're "set for life" if you're six and you go up there and pray to let Jesus into your heart, but how does that help you when you're 35 and you've pretty much spent the last 29 years not living that committed life.

I'm not a big fan of altar calls and children. I think that like Jayde and Ashley there, it's fun to go pray with people and to tell them how much you love God. I would have let Geoff go if we weren't making such a concerted effort to keep everyone in one place. And I know that in another circumstance, for instance if we go to the movies again later this week to see another film, if he wants to have at it, I'm all for it.

And I know it's my responsibility to make sure he tries to live up to that commitment while he lives in my home. And perhaps I should answer the call as well and go up there to renew my vows...

Anyway. I didn't mean for this to turn into a big ole Christian Entry. And it just occurred to me that I'm twittering away an absolutely beautiful afternoon. It is 86 degrees on my front porch so I think I'll go out and play.

So if you're in the northeast -- get out and play too. Plant something nice. A seed of your own. Whatever plan there is for it -- it'll all come together as its purpose is seen to. Have a super day.

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