Category Archives: Personal Reflection

Only those that failed to live

A poem I wrote on the occasion of a funeral of a friend.

“Celebration” by Robb McCoy

I celebrate the sunshine,

And the breaking of the dawn.

I celebrate this journey

That we have ventured on.

 

I knew the power of a laugh,

Always ready for a joke.

Through all my trials I could smile,

With Jesus as my yoke.

 

I never did it for the praise

Under Christ’s yoke I’ve bent

I’ve only hoped to hear God say,

“Well done good and faithful servant.”

 

All my joys were multiplied.

We danced until the end.

Now may your sorrows be divided

In the company of friends.

 

So when the choir sings the hymns,

With piano, organ, flute,

Remember all the seeds I’ve sown

And know that you’re the fruit.

 

And now when I lay down for sleep,

I know that there is be pain,

But promise me there will be no cries,

For a life that was spent in vain.

 

I celebrate the hearts I touched,

At peace I close my eye,

For only those that failed to live,

Should ever fear to die.

Facebook cover photo dimensions

Facebook cover photo dimensions

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Personal Reflection

I’m not babysitting, I’m her Dad.

20140203-095440.jpgMy wife has a part-time job, and my hours are very flexible.  This means I spend a lot of time with my two daughters during daytime hours.  We go to restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes, and the office.

Both of my daughters are adorable and engaging.  They smile and wave at people.  They tell people things like, “Your shirt is pretty.”  This means that I have many conversations with strangers that I otherwise would not have.

Usually this is quite fun.  I like meeting new people, and I love how my girls brighten people’s day.  There is one conversation though, that gets on my nerves.  On a fairly regular basis, someone will ask me something like, “Are you babysitting today?”

Once I actually said, “No.  I’m her Dad.”  The woman looked at me a little puzzled, as if I didn’t understand her question.

What I wanted to say was:

No. I’m not a babysitter.  A babysitter is someone who occasionally watches a child, often for money.  A babysitter has temporary hours, and goes home.  I am her Daddy.  I cut her umbilical cord and handed her to her mother.  I never breast fed her, but I spent many long nights holding and feeding her.  There were a few months when there was no one on earth that could put her to sleep faster than me.  I changed diapers, wiped butts, and cleaned up puke.  I was at the helm of The Great Poopy Disaster of 2011.  The last time she had a stomach virus, the only place she wanted to sit was my lap.  I had to change shirts twice.  I once got a little bit of her poop in my mouth.

“I made up a song about how strong and smart she is, and sing it to her at night after carrying her to bed. Every morning before she gets out of bed to start school, I hold her.  I hold her and I pray for her and I kiss her sleepy head.  I know that in my arms she is safe, and I contemplate just staying there safe and warm forever.  Every morning we eventually get up, I cook her breakfast, pack her lunch, and kiss her goodbye when her ride gets here.  I send her into the world and pray to God that I sent her with enough love to get her through the day.

“I can make a pretty tight pony tail, paint a pretty neat fingernail, and I’ve taught her how to catch and throw a softball.  She’s my doctor, my hairstylist, and my makeup artist.  Sometimes she picks out my tie.

“We built a Lego Jabba’s Palace, and we’re working on the Rancor Pit.  I’m currently leading the best-of-101 game Stanley Cup air hockey series 23-17.  I took her to her first hockey game, her first Major League baseball game, her first ballet, and we have already set a date for December 18, 2015.

“The last snow day we had together, we turned on the TV a total of zero times.  I help her with homework, and taught her M&M math.  She told me when a boy hurt her feelings at school, and when her best friend was mean to her.  She has wiped many tears on my shirt.  My kisses work to heal boo-boos.

I’ve messed up plenty.  I’ve been the cause of more of those tears than I wish to admit. I get too angry over little things.  I get frustrated because she just won’t listen.  I wonder why she doesn’t seem to understand the phrase, “you need to hurry up.”  Sometimes I’m too busy, or too tired, or too selfish.   I’m not a perfect Dad, but by the grace of God I’m trying to be.  She teaches me everyday about the power of grace and forgiveness.  Being their Dad is the greatest, and most important thing I’ll ever do.

“So no, I’m not babysitting.  I’m her Dad.”

But usually I just say, “Yeah, Mom is working.  Aren’t I lucky?”

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook

Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

16 Comments

Filed under Personal Reflection

Mystery Menu Dinner Party

The kids had to fill out the full menu before being served.  The plate of Jello-O, spaghetti, pudding, and animal crackers with no utensils provided a lot of laughs.

The kids had to fill out the full menu before being served. The plate of Jello-O, spaghetti, pudding, and animal crackers with no utensils provided a lot of laughs.

Last week we celebrated my daughter’s seventh birthday with a Mystery Menu Dinner Party.  It was a huge hit, and parents have been asking me about details of the party, so I thought I’d share.

The concept of a mystery dinner party is simple, and can be adapted in a lot of different ways.  Each guest is seated and given a menu.  Before anything is served, they have to order every item in a three-course meal.  In the kitchen, I had prepared 9 foods that most kids enjoy.

  1. Macaroni and cheese
  2. Spaghetti
  3. Pizza
  4. Garlic bread
  5. Gold fish crackers
  6. Corn
  7. Jell-O
  8. Pudding with cake
  9. Animal crackers

As you can see, all of this food is easy to make and pretty popular with kids.  The trick of the meal though, is in the ordering.  Guests have to order everything – including utensils.  We provided drinks, napkins, and a plate for each course.  The knife, fork, and spoon were added to the menu.  Then, all 12 items were given code names.  Macaroni and cheese became “Yellow elbows.”  A fork was “Farmer’s tool.”  Spaghetti, corn, and Jell-O were “Wigglies, nibblies, and jigglies,” respectively.

Each guest had to fill out the entire three-course menu at the start, so the kids were surprised by what they would get for each course.  Since even the utensils were a mystery, this caused some pretty good hi-jinks.

Since most of my daughters’ friends are pretty well-behaved, well-mannered kids, I had to tell them this right before we served the first course, “Today you are allowed to eat with your hands.  You might make a mess.  That’s okay.  You can have as many napkins as you want.  It is likely that sometime tonight you will get a plate of food with no fork.  The point of the dinner is to have fun, so if you are really unhappy with what you have, we can give you a fork.  We just want everyone to have fun, and be silly.”

These were the first two plates served of the first course.

These were the first two plates served of the first course.

During our party, one little girl’s third course was a plate of goldfish crackers, a knife, a fork, and a spoon.  That gives you an idea of what her other courses were.  She had a blast.  Another boy struggled to scoop up his Jell-O with a butter knife.  His giggling didn’t make it any easier.  One little girl told her Mom afterwards, “We got to eat with our fingers!” Her Mom told me she couldn’t stop talking about the party for the rest of the night.

Really, there are no limits to what is possible.  The hardest part of the night was the actual plating.  With just my wife and me, it took a little while to plate all 10 kids.  Another helper or two would have been good.  There are great opportunities to adapt the menu for themes like Halloween, Superheroes, or Christmas.  I’m considering coming up with an adult version – with the right friends.

Star Wars Mystery Menu

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook

Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

2 Comments

Filed under Food, Personal Reflection

When I stopped teaching my daughter to fear

spider meme

I’ve killed my fair share of spiders.  I’ve never been one to consciously support stereotypical gender roles, but I fell easily into the role of family spider-getter.  There is a little kind of spider that seems to thrive in our bathroom.  They appear on a pretty regular basis.  With  legspan about the size of a nickel, they are harmless little creatures.  This week, something pretty amazing happened.

“Daddy!” my six-year-old daughter screamed.  “Come quick. There’s a spider.”

At hearing such a cry, most Dads would grab a magazine or tissue.  Instead, I wished I could remember where I had put my magnifying glass.

“It’s so cool,” she said, as she sat and watched it crawl along the wall and spin its web. Mesmerized by the work.

Not too long ago, this scenario would have played out much differently.  When my daughter was much littler, she had no particular fear of spiders, but by the time she was four or five, she was terrified.  Given where our spiders like to hang out, this posed a problem at some very inopportune times.

“Daddy!” She would scream. “I have to go to the bathroom!”  Long potty-trained, I wasn’t sure why she was screaming this at me with such ferocity.  “So?” I would ask.

“There’s a spider in here!”  So I would go in, armed with a tissue, and “take care” of the problem.  I would explain, “These spiders are harmless.  They won’t hurt you.  There’s no reason to be afraid,” as I squashed the little guy into oblivion.

Then I realized something.  My actions and my words were incongruous.  My words were saying, “Fear not.”  But my actions were saying, “This spider must die!”  She heard my actions much louder than my words.  By killing the spider every time I saw one, I was reinforcing the idea that the spider must be eradicated.  It must be feared.  So I did something strange.  I stopped killing them.

“Daddy!” she would scream, “There’s a spider.”  So I would go in, and explain to her that there was nothing to fear.  “That little guy is harmless, I would say.  He eats mosquitoes, which are annoying.  I’m not going hurt him, because he’s not hurting us.”  She was not happy with my decision, but eventually the power of nature’s call would overcome her fear.  As she did what she had to do, she wouldn’t take her eye off the little spider. 

This scenario repeated itself several times over the course of a few months.  Eventually the fear was gone, and it was replaced with curiosity.  Until one day she found herself excited to see a spider.  Well, maybe not excited, but at least intrigued.

Yes, this is a story about my daughter and spiders, but I feel like it is so much more.  Too often, when confronted with something different, our default reaction is fear.  What if, instead of fear, we respond with time, care, and compassion.  When curiosity or empathy replaces fear, maybe there is room for something more, like learning, relationship, and friendship.

Follow the Fat Pastor on Facebook

Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

1 Comment

Filed under Personal Reflection

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

let none hold you

Leave a comment

December 5, 2013 · 4:58 pm

Are they brothers? A Mom’s brilliant answer to a peculiar question.

Duane and Lisa Larson with their sons Seth and Sam, and daughter Sarah.

Duane and Lisa Larson with their sons Seth and Sam, and daughter Sarah.

“Are they brothers?” Over the last decade and a half, I been asked that question hundreds of times. And yet when I hear it, even now it stuns me. Often, the question simply fails to register. It sounds, quite literally, nonsensical. “Is your foot your foot?” “Is the moon the moon?” My answer is commonly an awkward, “well, of course.”

Yes, yes, I know what the questioner is asking — all about biology, right? (The need to inquire and why it matters is perhaps another issue, and perhaps not.)

Yet, should I say no? Can I possibly? “Are they brothers?” No, they are not. — And so I say, “No, my sons, you are not brothers.” What are you? You are less-than, other-than. Not. This, I will never say. Not once. Ever.

The question itself breaks my heart. What would you have them be if not brothers? So surely the questioner does not understand that the question can have only one answer and so isn’t a question worth asking at all.

Yes. Because they are. Just as your foot is your foot and the moon is the moon, they are brothers. It can be no other way. They are family. In every way. Bonded and bound, and blessed beyond measure to be true, real brothers.

So ask me “Are they brothers?” And I will say yes every time.

This post was written by Lisa Larson.  This was posted as her facebook status on November 19, 2013.  I asked her if I could use it for my blog because I thought it was beautiful and needed to be shared.  Lisa is a proud Iowan, but currently lives in Eureka, Missouri.  I met her in 2006 when her family came to Eureka so that her husband Duane could serve as the Senior Pastor of Eureka United Methodist Church.  I was a seminary intern at Eureka UMC for a year with Duane as my supervisor.  In that short amount of time I learned a lot about being a pastor and raising a young family.  I remember little Sarah coming to her Daddy in worship, and think of them often when my own little girl does the same to me now. Lisa let me use this picture of her beautiful family, and I hope she is able to write another guest blog for me someday.

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook

Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

Eureka United Methodist Church

 

1 Comment

Filed under Personal Reflection

Praying for peace on Veterans’ Day

Veterans Day

I can’t help but feel like the best way we can support Veterans is to pray for peace.  When you get up from your prayer, do something like write a Christmas card, support the USO, hire a soldier coming home, or offer free babysitting to a family that is missing a parent.

Support the USO
Support the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Support the Wounded Warrior Project

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook
Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

6 Comments

Filed under Media, Personal Reflection

I am Malala

Little ones are infamous for their love of repetition.  I swear my three-year-old daughter could watch the same episode of Daniel Tiger on repeat all morning and be happy. I cannot tell you how many times she has said to me, immediately after finishing a book, “Again. Read it again Daddy.”

Most of the time, the repetition can be a little tedious. Well, I found a video that Lucy wants to watch over and over, and I’m totally okay with that. Watch this video, baby. Watch it again. Watch it as you go to preschool. Watch it on my lap and don’t worry about the tears rolling down my cheek.  Watch it when you start middle school, even if you don’t want me to walk with you to school any more. Watch it in high school, and before you go on your first date. Watch it when you go to college, and know who and whose you are. Watch it when you feel discouraged. Watch it when some one tries to tell you that you do not count. Watch it when you feel like you cannot make a difference.

You are Malala. You are infinite hope.  Hear these words.  Hold onto these words.  Watch it over and over and know that as long as I have strength to stand, it will be by your side.

“It is time for you to decide. Would you choose to fight for what you believed in? Would you do what is right? If I need you, would you stand tall with me, right here by my side? Be the change you want to see. Take a look through my eyes.”

Inspired by Malala Yousafzai’s incredible courage, this video was created by Girls of the World to support the Malala Fund.  I found it here on Upworthy.  Go to Malalafund.org to learn more about supporting education for girls.  Follow The Malala Fund on Facebook.

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook
Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

Leave a comment

November 8, 2013 · 10:57 am

Hear them roar

Katy Perry has done it again.  Firework is one of my favorite songs.  Granted, its not entirely her doing.  Firework was one of the first song selections for my church’s Dramatic Worship team, which is a liturgical dance group.  One the dancers is my daughter, so now I cannot hear that song without thinking of her and her best friend singing it out loud with all their heart.

Well, Katy’s song Roar is a similarly awesome song about conviction, courage, and strength.  It is one I want my daughters to know and sing along to.  I had heard it once or twice, and enjoyed it.  Then I saw the video below, shared by a friend on FB through Upworthy on Tatiana Danger’s blog.  It contained a crying warning label, but I’m okay with a few tears every now and then.  I wasn’t expecting what came next.  Tears.  Then sobs.  My heart was at the same time broken and strengthened.  I was saddened beyond words, and yet inspired.  The video is apparently a fundraising effort for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.  I don’t know if it will help them, but I will never hear this song again and not think of the courage in that building, and all Children’s Hospitals.

And by the way, the girl in the purple tie-dye is an awesome performer

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook

Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

In a video full of inspiration and awesomeness, this girl stole the show for me.

In a video full of inspiration and awesomeness, this girl stole the show for me.

3 Comments

Filed under Media, Personal Reflection

#JusticeforDaisy

anonymousI’m not sure how I feel about vigilante justice, but I do know how I felt last night as I read Dugan Arnett’s piece in the Kansas City Star about Daisy Coleman.  I made the mistake of reading the article in bed before trying to fall asleep.  The story made that task almost impossible.  The story is told very well by Arnett.  Read it, then come back and skip the highlighted part below where I try to summarize the story.

Daisy Coleman was a 14 year old freshman when she and her 13-year-old friend sneaked out of her room to go to an older boy’s house.  Matthew Barnett was senior.  He was a football star.  He was the object of many a school-girl crush.  By the end of the night, he was the subject of nightmares.

If Arnett’s story is to be believed, Matthew Barnett is a rapist.  He and his friends gave Daisy enough alcohol that she blacked out.  He then raped her in his basement, and left her passed out in her own front yard wearing nothing but a t-shirt and sweatpants when it was 22 degrees outside.  He does not deny having sex with her, he just claims that it was consensual.  At 9 a.m. the next morning, about seven hours after her last drink, her blood alcohol level was .13.  The incident was apparently filmed on one of the boys’ iPhones, shared with classmates that week at school.  Daisy’s friend was also raped.  Though she was not as intoxicated, she claims that she repeatedly told her assailant “no,” while he undressed her and had sex with her.

As if the nightmare of being raped and left out in the cold were not enough, things got worse for Daisy.  Matthew Barnett was arrested, but never indicted.  Never tried.  Never stepped foot in a court room.  Charges against him were dropped.  Matthew Barnett was a football star in a football-mad town.  The ensuing victim-blame that happened in Maryville, Missouri, is enough to make any objective person boil in rage.  Daisy’s older brother, who was a teammate of Matthew Barnett, was threatened.  Daisy’s mother was fired.  Eventually the family moved 40 miles away.  Their house burned down while it was on the market.

Making things even more maddening is that Matthew Barnett is the grandson of Rex Barnett.  Rex is a former Missouri State Trooper and four-term Missouri State Representative.  He, of course, denies using his influence to gain leniency for Matthew.   The claim, of course, is dubious.

Where things stand right now, Matthew Barnett is a freshman at Central Missouri.  Daisy Coleman is a suicidal young woman who had her life turned upside down.  But that does not seem to be the end of the story.

The video below came out yesterday. Anonymous, a infamous group of online hackers have promised to take action.

Anonymous on Youtube

Like I said, I have mixed feelings about vigilante justice.  I’m afraid that in our culture we are much to quick to confuse vengeance with justice.  I understand the desire for someone to be punished, but too often people are quick to be judge, jury, and executioner.   It seems clear that someone needs to answer for what happened.  I am a big believer in grace, but not grace without accountability.  Anonymous has promised action, and though their move has not yet been made, others are sure to follow in some small way.

It has started.  The article mentioned the A and G Restaurant.  Its reviews on Yelp have been relentless.  The University of Central Missouri’s Facebook page has also been blown up with bad reviews.  There is a lot of anticipation brewing as to just what Anonymous is going to do.  One unfortunate side effect of this desire for justice has been some threats to another Matthew Barnett – the wrong Matthew Barnett, who is a pastor in California.  The Matthew Barnett in question no longer has a public Twitter account, although his last public statement on twitter showed how little he has learned from this experience.

The whole story is heartbreaking.  It seems as if Daisy has been made a victim over and over.  She was raped once, and it seems like she was raped over and over by the failed justice system and the community that turned their back on her.  When I consider this from the perspective of a father of two daughters, the rage is hard to contain.

I would be angry at my 14-year-old daughter if she sneaked alcohol into her room and then sneaked out of the house to party with older guys.  I need to do my best to teach her to be safe.  I need to teach her to make wise choices.  But do Daisy’s actions somehow justify her being raped, left in the cold for dead, and then tormented by a town that wanted to protect their football team?  I’ve written about his before.  It is clear that much more needs to be done.  Our culture of rape acceptance and victim-blame is terrifying.  Just last week a fraternity at Georgia Tech circulated an email that basically taught the brothers how to successfully rape girls. The problem seems to be getting worse, not better.  Luckily, there is another way to teach rape prevention that is probably more thoughtful than my hackneyed list AND avoids victim-blame.  Here is another great article on proper rape prevention education.  We have to do better.  For the sake of both or girls and boys.  We need to do better.

So where do we go from here?  I don’t want vengeance.  I don’t want retribution.  All I want is what Daisy deserves: compassion and a trial.  I want Matthew Barnett to answer for what he did.  Also, I want to know how the people of Maryville that abandoned Daisy in her time of need can sleep at night.

What can Anonymous accomplish in Maryville?

Follow The Fat Pastor on Facebook

Follow @FatPastor on Twitter

Girls Fight Back

2 Comments

Filed under Personal Reflection