Professor Media Matters

I am a media professional with 6 years as a TV producer and reporter, and college professor in the field of Communications. I am also a Conservative with a passion for pop culture. This will be my attempt to put the "me" in media. It will be my take on movies, TV, books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet and all that is the worldwide media.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Media Encouragement (short story)

Announcer: “The Capital One Credit Card. For every purchase, every da$# day.”
“OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I hate that.”
The TV blaring in the family room quickly got Maggie’s attention. She stormed in on a mission to find the remote.
“I can protect my kids from violent TV programs. I can block the shows with sexual content. I can monitor for lousy political propaganda. But there is no TV Guide that will tell me when they are going to air a commercial where they have swearing. And I hate that.”
“So write them a letter.” Maggie’s oldest son Gabe had followed the sound of her voice and found her ranting in the family room. As she frantically looked for the remote, he found it on the bookshelf and hit the off button.
“Thank you. And I have done that,” Maggie said. “I have written more complaint letters to more television executives than anyone west of the Mississippi.”
“I know, mom. It’s just what you always taught us to do.”
“Look here, Gabe. Here’s the stack of letters I sent to the NFL after Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. That was ten years ago and I still have every copy of every letter. What good has it done?”
“Well, have you prayed about it?”
“Huh?”
Gabe slowed down his speech to mock her, “Haaaaave youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu prayed aboooooooooooooout it?”
“No, I heard you. Hmmm.” She laughed. “You know Gabe, I’m not sure. I mean I document everything that I think is offensive. I think my letter writing campaigns personally employ dozens of postal workers. But I honestly don’t know if I have prayed much about it.”
“Maybe you should do that.” Maggie, still distracted by the shock of his question, remained silent. “Maybe we should pray about it right now,” he offered.
“I would like that Gabe. That’s a great idea. I’m afraid your question has me a little discombobulated. Would you do the honors?”
“Sure. Dear Jesus, thank you for my mom’s vigilance. She wants to protect her family from everything displeasing to you. And it’s frustrating because there is so much that is out of her control. Out of our control. Please help her to know we appreciate her efforts. Please let it have a positive impact. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Maggie was truly touched by his gesture. “Thank you Gabe.” She walked across the room and gave him a hug. “What about you? Since we’re praying, what can I pray about for you?”
Now it was his turn to discombobulate. He hesitated. “Umm, nothing. No, I’m good.” He turned to make a beeline for his room.
“Not so fast, partner.” She glanced at the clock, “you’re home late by the way.”
He hesitated again.
“Out with it. What’s going on?” Maggie decided to get comfortable in the oversized lounge chair everyone fought over on family movie night.
“I got sent to detention,” Gabe admitted. “It’s no big deal.”
“Gabe how could you?”
“Mom, it’s all your fault.”
“What are you talking about? I wasn’t even there.”
“Well, it was like you were there. Everything you ever taught us was running through my mind and you got me in trouble.” He was talking really fast and flustered. His heart was racing as he relived the moment.
“Slow down, partner. Take a deep breath and explain yourself.”
Gabe exhaled slowly and sat down on the couch. “I was in last period history. Ms. Wells’ class. We were watching this documentary about the Iraq war. That’s what they called it, anyway. But it only documented one side. All it showed was all the bad stuff our troops do.  I just got sick of it and told my teacher I thought it was unfair.”
“Son, you have to be careful about these things.”
“No, mom. It was unfair. And I was respectful, I promise. I get that war is horrible and lots of bad things happen. But lots of good things happen, too. Before he died in Fallujah, Uncle Kyle wrote me all of those letters from Iraq. He told me about all of the lives they saved, and the school they built. None of that was in the video. I told Ms. Wells that American soldiers have liberated lots of people. She didn’t want to hear that. Then I said that Jesus said that greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for a friend. Quoting the Bible really sent her over the edge. She sent me to the principal’s office.”
“Hm. You really said all that Gabe?”
“Yes mom. All our lives you have talked to us about what we watch. What we take into our minds. I remember that night I watched Psycho at Billy’s slumber party and I came home crying. You sat up and prayed with me for 3 hours until I felt safe enough to fall asleep.”
“I was so mad at you that night. You knew better than that.”
“I know mom. And I never forgot that lesson. Now I am really careful about what I watch. And I examine everything to see if it honors God and tells the truth. And this documentary just didn’t seem like it was telling the whole truth. Before I knew it, I was talking about it to the class. I sounded more like you than you do.”
They both laughed.
“I’m really proud of you,” she said.
Now it was his turn. “Huh? You’re not mad.”
“At your teacher, yes. At you, no. I mean maybe we should watch this documentary together and I can see for myself. But bottom line, I am proud of you for using discernment. And for standing up for what you believe.”
“So, I’m not in trouble?”
“No. Ask your teacher if we can borrow the documentary and we’ll watch it together tomorrow night. And before we do, we’ll pray about it. How’s that?’
“Thanks, mom.”
“No, Gabe, thank you.”









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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hospital Encouragement (Short Story)

“This stuff is so good,” shrieked Amy, as she scooped another spoonful.
“Pass it down here. My turn,” demanded her coworker Beth.
“You know if Dr. Martin catches us eating at the nurse’s station we are toast,” warned Joseph.
“I know, but this cookie dough is too addicting. Do you think anyone has ever really gotten sick off raw cookie dough? This warning label seems silly to me.” Amy grabbed for the bowl and another turn.
“I don’t know. We had a dormitory full of sick coeds once in the E/R with salmonella and a shared tub of cookie dough was one of many potential culprits,” remembered Beth.
BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
“Dang it! That’s my pager. It’s room 678 again. That man just won’t leave me alone,” complained Amy.
“What’s wrong with him?” asked Joseph.
“Everything. He is going downhill fast. This is the 6th time he’s buzzed me this shift. What’s it gonna be this time? Nurse, fluff my pillows. Fluff your own pillows you crazy old…” Her voice drifted off as she walked down the hallway. She stopped outside his room and took a deep breath, trying to gather her composure. “Dear Jesus. I don’t know why but I am losing my patience with this man. Help. All things are possible through God who strengthens me.” She entered, avoiding eye contact with the old man.
“I can’t give you any more meds for another 3 hours Mr. Bloom. Doctor’s orders. You’re just going to have to wait.”
“What? No, I don’t need any medication.  That’s not why I buzzed you.”
Amy wasn’t listening. “I’m sorry but there’s really nothing more I can do for you. I have to finish my rounds but I’ll check back in on you before the morning shift takes over.”
“Wait. Don’t go!” he pleaded. Now he was embarrassed and with the raising of his voice to get Amy’s attention, he had overexerted himself. He sank back down in his bed.
She wanted to keep walking but she knew she had to stop. His cheeks were red and he was breathing heavy. “Mr. Bloom, what’s wrong? I already helped you with the TV remote. I brought your juice. We changed your bandages and your IV.”  
Amy wasn’t really able to disguise her impatience. But Mr. Bloom didn’t care. This might be his last chance. He tried his best to get the words out.
“Nurse, what day is it today?”
Amy’s chin dropped. She was so frustrated right now. She had 4 other patients she needed to visit and this man was asking her to be his own personal calendar. “It’s Wednesday!” she barked.
“Sorry, no. I mean what is the date? I’ve been in here so long, I’m losing track.”
That made sense to Amy. Though recently moved to her section, he’d been in this wing for about three weeks and she could understand patients getting dementia.  That always broke her heart. “It’s June 3, 2014.”
“That’s what I thought,” he mumbled. Immediately tears welled up in his eyes.
That did not make sense to Amy. “Mr. Bloom, what is it?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to know but was beginning to sense this was going to take a while. She brought him the Kleenex but didn’t give it to him. Instead, she wiped the tears away for him.
“I’ve been trying to talk to someone all day. The doctor came in for all of 20 seconds and she didn’t even let me ask her a question. She spoke a couple of clinical sounding sentences, wrote on my chart and dashed out. You at least smiled at the beginning of your shift and I knew that I had to talk with you.”
The smile returned and Amy let it linger. She was starting to feel bad about how she had been treating him. She sat on the edge of his bed.
“What’s on your mind Mr. Bloom?”
“Call me Alex.”
“What’s on your mind, Alex? Why the reaction to June 3rd, 2014?”
“My wife died one year ago today. In this hospital.” Again the tears flowed and Amy could feel them bubbling up in her as well.
“I’m so sorry, Alex.”
“We’d been married 56 years. I was just missing her so much.” Amy walked up and gave him a hug.
“Where’d you meet her?” Amy sank back onto the bed, fully drawn into the moment.
“I was in the Army. The USO gave a concert at our base and Marianne was one of the backup singers. She had a great set of pipes, if you know what I mean.”
Amy laughed. “Do you have any children?”
“Our daughter, Amy.”
“That’s my name. With a name like that, she must be great!”
“She is. But once my wife got sick and the medical expenses started piling up, we became a financial burden. Our Amy just stopped calling. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since her mother’s funeral.”
Amy was stunned. “Well, enough about her then.”
 “I’m sorry I’m bothering you.”
“Alex, you’re not bothering me. I’m sorry I was in such a rush earlier.”
“I was overwhelmed with this sense of loneliness and then it dawned on me what day it must be. It has been a difficult year.”
“Tell me more about your wife.”
“She was beautiful. She made me the man that is wasting away before you today.”
Amy nodded. He was wasting away and she knew his time was short. She was going to make it as special as possible. “Let me get my coworker Beth and ask her to check on my patient in 684. Do you have any photos of Marianne? I want to see this great set of pipes, as you called them. I’ll be right back.” She left the room. “Hey Alex, do you like cookie dough?” she hollered as she went on a hunt for Beth.



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Friday, April 28, 2017

Married to a Broncos Fanatic

On any given day, my wife will wear her vintage John Elway jersey with her Denver Broncos socks. She will accessorize that with her Broncos earrings and purse. Inside her purse is her makeup bag emblazoned with the Broncos logo. And before she got dressed she will have brushed her teeth with her Denver Broncos toothbrush and dried off with her Broncos beach towel.
When everything you touch in order to get ready for your day reminds you of your favorite NFL team you know you are a football FANatic. My wife is one of those fans. For more than 25 years she has faithfully fawned over her favorite team.
Now, in many marriages one might assume the husband is an avid NFL follower and the wife may or may not share in her husband's football fandom. But in our household, though always a football watcher, when I married my wife I definitely also married her pigskin passion for the Broncos.
While every room in our house has some Broncos influence, the office is decked out all in Denver decor. I am typing this article in a swivel office chair with the Broncos logo. I can keep my writing notes in a Broncos folder. Each wall is covered with Denver decorations, from blankets to bags to bumper stickers. Oh and board games, too.
Of course the jewel in her crown is the large curio cabinet filled to the brim with Broncos memorabilia. Boy did I score some brownie points when I bought her that for Christmas one year! She's got coffee mugs and key chains and anything else you can imagine. As the old saying goes, “everything but the kitchen sink.” She'd have that too if they made one.
If there is an item with a Denver Broncos trademark on it she either has it or wants it. Broncos inspired clothing that she can’t wear she foists upon her husband or son. I joke with her that I could put a Broncos sticker on a dead opossum and she would find a place to display it. I am still waiting for her to buy Denver sheets so she can say she sleeps with the Broncos.
Along with Elway merchandise, she has a Terrell Davis doll and Tim Tebow magazines. Whenever workmen come to the house to do repairs they automatically assume the collection is mine. I admit to loving the team,  yet I have to own up to the fact that my wife runs the museum.
There are no official visiting hours yet for the museum, but trust me, the collection keeps growing. Just this morning my Bronco-loving bride reminded me of a certain Denver emboldened item that she wants for Christmas. If she keeps this up, we’re going to need a bigger house.


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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dancing with the (Sports) Stars

The sports world has invaded my mom’s favorite TV show. Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews is Tom Bergeron’s co-host on Dancing with the Stars. She’s the one interviewing the B-list and has-been celebrities after they exhaust themselves on the dance floor. I have never been a big fan of Erin’s, at least not her attempts to entertain outside of sports. I saw her guest co-host a couple of times with Michael Strahan on Live with Kelly and Michael while Kelly Ripa vacationed. Her attempts at humor fell flat and I did not find her stories engaging. I thought she did well during her live post-game interview with Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman when he acted like a thug. She maintained her composure and tried to get more information out of an out of control Sherman. Maybe that ability to handle the pressure of a live interview is necessary when you are standing next to a sweaty Snooki or Charo.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

SLOW DOWN SEIBERS


In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am posting a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

 

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, Psalm 23:2

ESSAY:


            When Parker was in first grade he fell and broke his leg. It was a rare rainy day in drought-stricken California. Parker let our dog, named Ro-Ro, out the back door to go potty and he asked if he could stand by the door and watch the dog and the rain. I said sure, not thinking anything of it. As he watched our dog the rain splashed from the outside on to our laminate kitchen floor. After Ro-Ro came back inside, Parker shut the back door and ran to catch up with the dog. He slipped on the rain splatted laminate floor and fell directly on his right leg. SNAP!  For four months he was in a cast and the doctor said it was a spiral fracture and he absolutely could not walk on it or put weight on it. So he was immobile for four whole months. As an autistic child who regularly processes his thoughts and emotions with movement, whether that be running around the house or flapping his arms or jumping up and down for the physical sensation, he was unable to do that for four entire months. Instead he was stuck on the couch or in a borrowed wheelchair. It was such a difficult time for him and for us.

            The verse that came to mind during that time was the reference in the 23rd Psalm where it says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” God makes me. God is making the decision. God is making Parker lie down and rest. It is His choice. Now, that doesn’t make it any easier. It still is very difficult, very frustrating, and very worrisome. But “He makes me” reminds me that God is in control. He knows what He is doing, even when we do not.

            God didn’t just make Parker lie down and rest. He made my wife and I rest, too. Because Parker could not walk his school district would not let him return to school. They said they did not have anyone trained to lift him from his wheelchair to his desk or the toilet or wherever. So for the entire time his leg was broken my wife and I had to stay home from work with him. My wife went on family leave and spent the majority of the time with him. When her leave ran out and she had to return to work, it became my turn. We were forced to lay down and rest with Parker. Our priorities had to change to take care of our son. Slowing down and not working was far from ideal. For one reason, without my wife’s regular salary while she was on leave, we definitely took a hit financially. One good thing that came out of this time of forced rest, though, is I had time to write my first novel, The Homeless Informant.

            I was sharing this story with a couple of coworkers recently who have also had medical crises that involved forced rest. As they wondered why this was happening to them, I remembered our experience with Parker and shared Psalm 23:2 with them. It was a helpful reminder to them that God knew what was happening and He was in charge of their rest.

APPLICATION:

            Has there been a time in your life when God has forced you to rest? Did you experience the frustration that Parker did? What did you learn about your self during that process? I learned that I loved to write and started a new passion of authoring books (like this one). If you have not had a forced rest yet in your life, it may be coming. When it does, just know that God is in control and perhaps He wants to teach you something about Himself or yourself in the process.


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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

SELF-REGULATING SEIBER

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am posting a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

ESSAY:

            A relaxing massage, a long nap or a nice hot bowl of creamy clam chowder. Those are the luxuries we may treat ourselves with when faced with a stressful situation. We resort to a method of rest and self-regulation, perhaps.

For autistic children like my son Parker, self-regulation is a not a matter of luxury but of necessity. With the inability to process his emotions and handle the multiple stimuli careening around him, Bubba frequently resorts to self-regulating behaviors. Like many with autism, Parker will self-regulate by running wildly through the house, flapping his hands in constant motion. This is a sign that he is happy about something, but excited, and needs to process some energy. Another common self-regulation tool for my son is to sit on the floor and flip a book. Endlessly. Something about the repetitive motion and sound and monotony are soothing to him when he feels overloaded. It is not uncommon for him to flip the book from back cover to front cover for 45 minutes straight. Yet another self-soothing behavior stems from Parker’s love for numbers and counting. He will recite digits over and over and invent games in his head that allow him to focus on numbers.  One night we were shocked when, at the age of four, he calmed himself by counting to 100! (I know, he’s a genius. J)

Now that he broke his leg in an at-home incident involving the dog and a wet kitchen floor, these self-regulating soothers have been stolen from him. He can’t run or jump. And with his burdensome cast it is almost impossible to get him down on the floor and back up. Instead, he spends the entire day sitting. On the couch. On his wheelchair. Occasionally on the toilet. Sitting. All day. I can see the frustration. His go-to soothing tools have been taken from him. His body has no familiar way to process the change, the commotion. He cannot tell me what he needs. Together we have not entirely figured out a new way to help him self-regulate.

He does rock his body now when he sits on the couch. Big swinging motions with a firm hit of his back on the cushions. I worry that he will hurt himself but also know his body needs some sort of outlet. Some way to process all that has happened. We so take for granted that when we are stressed we can go shopping or exercise to relieve the stress. For many, including my son, escaping the stress of life is not nearly as easy. Not nearly as common. I can only hope that God is helping him rest and self-regulate in ways that I cannot see or know. He is a trooper. I do know that.

APPLICATION:

            When my son broke his leg his life changed dramatically and I felt hopeless. Ask yourself in what areas of your life do you feel hopeless. It might be your finances or your love life or your health. Those are the areas where God can step in and provide you peace and rest. Give those areas of your life to Him in prayer. Then do your best to set aside time to relax.





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Monday, April 24, 2017

THERAPY TRIUMPHS

KEY VERSE:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

ESSAY:

            With his multiple diagnoses including autism and cerebral palsy, Parker’s life has always been filled with therapy. He started weekly therapy shortly after he was born and it continues to this day. Some therapies were provided by the medical community, some by his school district and others by social welfare agencies. At times it has been a long and difficult journey but it has also been worth it. Here are some glimpses at his therapy triumphs.

Physical Therapy:

            With Parker's cerebral palsy it is hard for him to do fine motor things with his hands and fingers. They work on it weekly in occupational and physical therapies, trying to strengthen the muscles in his palms and digits. When he uses his hands too much, attempting to hold a pencil or use an eating utensil, they begin to shake uncontrollably. So I was quite shocked when this morning he decorated Mr. Potato Head's face all by himself. Woohoo!

Speech Therapy:

            In speech therapy, my son has been working on learning the primary colors: red, orange, yellow, green and blue. For the most part he has those mastered. Now they have introduced a new hue. Parker is learning the color silver. But he pronounces it “silger” with a hard “g.” I'm not sure why, but it is cute. He is very good at noticing this new color now. "Daddy, look at the silger car." It is fun to see him learn and apply new things.

            Parker learned a new word this weekend. He hasn't quite mastered it yet, but it is a tough word. We went to Mexican food yesterday at the "meshtaurant." Makes me smile.

Behavioral Therapy:

            Proud dad alert: Parker went potty all by himself recently. No teachers. No therapists. No assistance of any kind. He just told his therapists he needed to go potty and went on his own. This is a BIG deal.  To see Parker make progress in this area is just another of many answers to prayer in his development. This momentous occasion was remembered in his Thanksgiving prayer Parker prayed days later. He prayed it in the car on the way to school. This is what he prayed: "Dear Jesus thank you for at school, thank you for Wii, thank you for baby Riley (his nephew), thank you for my friends at church and thank you for helping me go poop and potty on the toilet. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Occupational Therapy:

            I got to see Parker engage in some imaginary play this week. It was fun to watch. He took his Woody and Bullseye Toy Story action figures and laid them down on a pillow. He pulled up the blanket and said, "Time for nigh-nigh. Say your prayers. Love you." He kissed them goodnight. Then he would go over and turn the light off. After that he would wait approximately 30 seconds and turn the light back on and say, "Time to get up. Got to go to school." And then do it all over again and again. He did it endlessly, never wavering in his enthusiasm for the process. My smile engulfed the entirety of my face as I enjoyed his play therapy.

On another occasion Parker had an imaginary phone conversation. My wife has an old blackberry she no longer uses. We call it Parker's phone. I walked in on Bubba this morning and he was having a conversation on it: “Okay babe. I love you. Gotta go.” So fun to see and hear his pretend play.

            Parker has always avoided certain textures: walking barefoot in grass, bark dust, playing with Play-Doh. As part of his therapy he is always being introduced to new textures. Today we got him to play with his racing cars in shaving cream. Woohoo!


Home Therapy:

            Parker's therapy is built around teaching him life skills. At home therapy we have been working on teaching him how to wash his own hair. It is odd writing up the process as a step by step function but that is how he learns. Who knew it took 10 or more distinct steps to wash your hair? You don’t realize the effort until you have to teach it to someone else. Take a look at this step by step process the therapist helped us establish for teaching Parker how to wash his own hair.

Step 1: Fill cup with water.
Step 2: Dump cup of water on your head.
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 at least one more time.
Step 4: Put right palm under the shampoo pump.
Step 5: Push the shampoo pump down.
Step 6: Put left palm under the shampoo pump.
Step 7: Push the shampoo pump down.
Step 8: Rub your two hands together.
Step 9: Place your two hands on your hair.
Step 10: Rub your head.
Step 11: While rubbing your head, count to 15.
Step 12: Put your hands in the bath water.
Step 13: Fill cup with water.
Step 14: Dump cup of water on your head.
Step 15: Repeat steps 13 and 14 at least one more time.

Today Parker washed his hair all by himself. He showed great coordination by using both hands in the process, which with his cerebral palsy is difficult for him to do. I am very proud of him and his progress.

            With autism, social interaction can be a struggle. For example, Parker loves that there are other kids in his Sunday School class at church, but he doesn't want to play with them. So in separate home therapy sessions we have been working on his comfortability interacting with people he knows. Every session Grandpa calls to talk to Parker. Parker loves his Grandpa but he shies away from phone interaction. It scares him. But tonight he made good progress. He answered two questions that my dad asked him. Grandpa said we want to see you play baseball and Parker answered, "In March." And Grandpa closed with, "I love you Parker," and Bubba said, "I love you, too." Baby steps but it warms my heart.

ABOUT AUTISM:

            For many autistic children potty training is a grueling process for the child and their families. And some never achieve independence in this facet of their daily life. They remain dependent on diapers, dads and moms to help them with this biological process for their entire lives. My son still requires daily assistance with toileting and uses pull-up diapers at night.

APPLICATION:

            Celebrate a triumph today. If you don’t have a recent one, celebrate one from a while back. Buy your favorite flavor of ice cream to commemorate the accomplishment of finishing your college degree.  Take a long bubble bath to remind yourself that you quit smoking a decade ago. Or celebrate that all of your children are potty trained with a latte. Even if you are currently down on your luck, we all have triumphs to celebrate. Don’t miss opportunities to mark yours’ and your children’s triumphs.


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Sunday, April 23, 2017

PARKER'S STORY (with extras)

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am posting a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. Job 5:9

ESSAY:

            “There’s something wrong with his brain.” Those were the words my wife shared with me on the telephone more than 6 years ago. Her doctor had called two days after a routine ultrasound to give her the bad news. Actually there were a bunch of somethings wrong with his brain. My wife bravely relayed the medical information to me. But of course all I focused on was, “THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH HIS BRAIN.” I tried to remain calm and reassuring, reminding her that people would pray. God was in control. But as soon as she hung up I startled my co-workers with my sobbing. I couldn’t talk I was so overwhelmed. All I could get out was “There’s something wrong with his brain.” I was 38 years old and this was my one chance to be a parent. My wife had already had one miscarriage and the doctor told us it would be difficult to conceive again. And then, miracle number one, we did. Now it seemed it was all slipping away. But it didn’t, it just got more difficult. Most things in life worth fighting for are more difficult. There were multiple ultrasounds, MRI’s, heart monitorings, surgery consultations. Our son had more doctors than the state of Kansas and he wasn’t even born yet. And we weren’t sure he ever would be. But now the rest of the story. Six years ago today, after a long and arduous pregnancy, my beautiful wife gave birth to our son Parker, miracle number two. Then came every miracle after that – sitting up, crawling, feeding himself, walking, talking. The miracles have become too numerous to mention. But we must mention them. People say God only performed miracles in the Old and New Testament. They are wrong. God still performs miracles today. I have one living in my house. He calls me “Daddy.” Maybe the reason we don’t see more miracles is after one tough phone call, we abort the miracle process. And when we do it’s because there’s something wrong with our brain.

APPLICATION:
            My hope is that there are two lessons to be learned from this essay. The first lesson is that God is still in the miracle business. God’s ability to perform miracles is just as alive and well today as it was in the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The second lesson is that life itself is a miracle and as Christians we should celebrate and protect all life, even unborn life. Even the life of the (potentially) disabled. Today find a pro-life organization that you can support with your prayer, time, talent and/or money.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blogging about Blinkers

We have lost our ability to use our blinkers. As a nation, collectively, we have lost our ability to use our blinkers. Just like we have lost the ability to resist trashy reality TV programming. The Kartrashians could move next to the Osbournes and they could open up lemonade stands in their driveways and it would be a top ten hit. I think our blinker issue is because of all the processed food we eat nowadays. Let’s blame it on the Twinkies. I am convinced there is some chemical in Twinkies that has altered our mental ability to anticipate and use our car blinkers. Even when Twinkies went away for a while (Oh, the horror. My therapist is still on speed dial.) we still failed to use the blinker. Maybe if there had been an afterschool special when we were younger about the trauma caused by not using our blinkers, starring Scott Baio and Cloris Leachman, we would have changed our blinker-avoiding ways. But we’re beyond that now. All because of Twinkies. And NASCAR. Yah, NASCAR doesn’t help. You don’t see Kurt Busch using his blinker when he cuts off Brad Keselowski on the third curve of the 240th lap. That is about as likely as Jeff Gordon stopping in the middle of a race, blocking a lane and rolling down his window to ask Jimmie Johnson, “pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?” Not gonna happen. NASCAR vehicles don’t even have blinkers. When I die, hopefully not as a result of someone failing to use their blinker, I want a simple phrase on my tombstone. “He always used his blinker.” It’s true. Always have, always will. Except occasionally when I forget or I am in a hurry to get home because I really have to pee. But most of the time I use my blinker. It frustrates me when people don’t use their blinker. Perhaps we could save the younger generation by inventing a video game where the goal is to use your blinker. In order to save the queen, or win the battle, or plunder the treasure (or whatever you do in video games these days), you have to excel at using the blinker. Use your blinker and get 500 points. Use it two times in a row and get an extra life. Use it with your left hand while holding your cell phone in your right hand and you get nothing. Because talking on your cell phone while driving is even worse than not using your blinker. I can’t put anything about that on my tombstone because, in all honesty, I need to work on that. But you can put the part about the blinker. Maybe my tombstone could even have a blinker, a light that flashes on and on while the throngs of people come to visit my grave. Or not. Just when you come to visit, please use your blinker. 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

CALLING ALL SOLDIERS

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am posting a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

ESSAY:

            A while back a caller on the radio version of the Sean Hannity Show said her son was leaving soon for armed forces basic training. She described his decision to join the military as a “calling,” as if it was something he was born to do. She said she was very proud of her son and his decision, and indeed we all should be.

            For those like me who grew up in Christianity, we’re familiar with the idea of a “calling.” It seems it is most closely identified with religion, as if God has “called” you into the ministry. He has spoken directly to you and told you to become a pastor or a missionary. But I believe it can be applied to other career fields as well, outside of religion. After all, this young man felt “called” to be a soldier. And in these dangerous times that we live in, we should all be thankful he did.

            I read an interesting book t about that elaborates on this drive in men and boys. Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge talks about how God creates boys to be rambunctious, rowdy, to play with toy guns and pretend to be cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers. My six year old son likes to pretend to play Wipeout and jumps from chair to chair imitating the obstacles he sees on the hit ABC television show. I used to try and stop him, fearing he would get hurt. But now I realize it is just the way he is wired. No matter where we are: McDonald’s, the mall, a hotel room – give my son a few steps to climb and some chairs and he will turn it into a Wipeout-worthy obstacle course. He is so creative and active.

            So this is how Parker has been playing Wipeout all weekend. We pushed his bed along the back wall. Then he stands on a little footstool about two feet away from his bed. And he jumps to the bed. If he makes it without falling off, he has advanced to the Wipeout Zone. If he lands short or falls off, then he has to pretend to swim back and try again. He lets me do the play by play announcing like I am one of the star hosts of the show, John Henson. We are loving it. Then there is another obstacle course game he has invented. It is named “Kamikaze” after a Wipeout stunt. It involves me getting on my hands and knees, which is getting harder to do the older I get. Then Parker yells, “Kamikaze” and jumps on my back. It is fun and hilarious. But when a 60 pound six year old repeatedly jumps on you, who knows how long this 44 year old’s back will last. Oh well, it will be fun in the meantime.

            We need boys to play like this. Our society needs to let boys be boys. Sure, they need to follow the rules at school and obey the law, but don’t try to feminize them and take away their toy guns or their rowdiness. Let them be and act like boys. For one day we may need them to harness that rowdiness, that energy to become soldiers. Thank God there are so many men who are willing to do just that. Men like my dad who served in the Korean War and my nephew Kyle (U.S. Air Force) and another nephew Micah (U.S. Army). They epitomize John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

ABOUT AUTISM:

            While my son loves to be rowdy and rambunctious like other boys, he is not likely to ever serve in the military. With autism, cerebral palsy and other significant issues affecting his brain, the U.S. military is not likely to accept him into their ranks.

APPLICATION:

            Is there an area of your life where you feel God is calling you? It may be to become an actual soldier or it may be to step up your game in the spiritual war and become a greater soldier for Christ. Listen to God and His word and answer the call. It won’t be easy, but you also won’t ever regret it.



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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Buy We Bought A Zoo

The Mrs. and I saw a great DVD this weekend: We Bought A Zoo. Such a heartwarming film. Matt Damon is terrific as a harried single dad. He has played that part before, in the infectious disease film Contagion. Maggie Elizabeth Jones is luminescent as his daughter. She is going to be a BIG star. This film teaches so many valuable and/or biblical lessons: 1) do all that you can to protect animals that are under your care, 2) things that you believe in require sacrifice, even financial sacrifice, 3) grief is a process and everyone handles it differently, 4) families have to decide to stick together during the hard times. It is a sad film as one of the main characters has died before the film even begins. So be prepared with Kleenex. There are about 4 swear words in the entire film, so I think it is appropriate for ages 8 and up but requires parental supervision. Watch it with your family. You'll be glad you did.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Neighborhood Diplomacy

We are the only non-minority (white) family in our neighborhood and it is a decent-sized block. There are multiple Hispanic households. Across the street is a nice Samoan couple. Our next door neighbors are black. And we have several immigrant families from Russia and the Ukraine. At our most recent garage sale we were attempting to sell a nice picture frame for 10 cents. An older Russian gentleman wanted to buy it. He gestured to me, as if to ask how much it was. For about 30 awkward seconds I repeated "Dime" "Dime" "Dime" over and over. He did not speak English and I unfortunately did not speak Russian. If there had been onlookers they probably would have laughed at our inability to communicate as I imagine it was pretty entertaining. But the old man was getting stressed. He really wanted that picture frame but we were not understanding one another. So I had an idea and I ran to our cash box. I grabbed the first coin I could find, a nickel. I ran back to the older gentleman and I held the nickel up so he could see it. He still didn't completely understand but he reached into his pants pockets and pulled out a ton of coins. He held them in front of me with both hands. He was letting me take any amount I wanted. I politely reached over to his hands and combed through his money until I found another nickel. Then I help up my nickel and his nickel and smiled. He breathed a sigh of relief and I smiled and said "thank you." He nodded and smiled and walked away a happy customer. Language barrier crisis averted and I even managed to make the sale. Perhaps I should have gone into diplomacy.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Carny Encouragement

“5 darts for $5. Pop 3 balloons and win a BIIIG prize,” he barked. As the carnival crowd ignored him and bustled by, he darted behind the booth for another drag on his cigarette. When he popped his head back around he was startled to see her, as if one of his giant balloons had just exploded.
“Hi dad,” she said.
With the hot sun beating down on his balloon booth he shielded his eyes, pretending to look at her. But it wasn’t really the sun, it was the shame that made him avert her gaze.
“Mom told me where I could find you. She said you had trouble finding work and this was the only place that would hire you.” She paused to fight back the tears. She didn’t realize this would be so hard. His obvious discomfort wasn’t making it any easier.
“I’m sorry I never came to visit you,” she continued.
This was too painful for him and he turned to walk away, though he had no escape. She noticed how thin his frame was, how old and tired he looked. Sure carny workers always look old and tired, but this was different. She had never seen him like this before.
“Don’t go,” she gasped. “It wasn’t just you. I never visited mom, either. When I came back to town I was shocked that you two were still together. That she had waited for you.”
That made him smile and he stopped in his tracks.
“She said she decided to forgive you and that she still loved you. Always loved you. She waited five long years.”
“I don’t deserve your mother,” he stammered.  He thought his baby girl was gone forever. Instead she was here and he was dirty and smelly. He had never wanted her to see him like this. He grabbed some balloons and began blowing them up, trying to keep busy. He needed something to do with his nervous energy.
“I didn’t wait,” she sobbed. Without realizing it, her crying had caused quite a commotion. Carnival goers, always eager to see a freak show, began to stop and stare.
“I got outta town as fast as I could. The only reason I got all those college scholarships is that people felt sorry for me. The good girl from the good family, until the dad got charged with a felony. I was so embarrassed. And I was so angry at you.” The sheer force of that sentence, the first time she had ever spoken those words, compelled her to look directly at him. For one brief moment they locked eyes and he was stung by her anger. He stopped exhaling and the balloon in his mouth shriveled up and fell to the floor. He wished he could do the same.
“My anger was so out of control I ended up following in your footsteps. I became the very thing I hated.”
Those words were a dagger. The last thing a father ever wants to do is hurt his child and he could see how deep a wound he inflicted. He reached out for her but shrunk back in fear.
“I didn’t come back to town because I wanted to. I had to. My anger consumed me and I couldn’t focus on school. I got expelled for cheating. Like father, like daughter.”
As he began to cry he noticed the onlookers and tried to shoo them away. He popped a balloon to break the tension and yelled “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”
She thought he was trying to shut her up and she needed to finish. She had to get this off her chest. “No, I’ll pay,” she blurted. “Here’s $5” as she fumbled through her purse. She started talking faster, afraid that he would bolt.
“I came across the letters you wrote me from prison. I had never opened them. I was too good for you. You had hurt me and I wanted nothing to do with you. But then when I saw them again I thought maybe it will be comforting to read about someone’s life that is more messed up than mine.”
An older lady from the crowd approached and handed her a tissue. She wiped away a tear and let out a sigh that could have deflated a row of balloons.
“But I was wrong,” she admitted. “Your letters weren’t messed up. You told me how sorry you were. That you loved me. You took responsibility for your mistake. You shared about the Bible study in your cellblock and asking God to forgive you. You sounded so at peace. And I didn’t have any peace. So I knew I needed to forgive you.”
Murmurs rose up from the crowd like an episode of the Jerry Springer show. Some agreed with her, some walked way in disgust. She turned to look at the crowd, as if to persuade them. “Mom and I agreed. I need to forgive you. I do forgive you, dad.”
Applause broke out amongst her supporters as she looked back at her dad. He ran to the edge of the booth and leaped over the counter. He swung her around in his arms as the remaining crowd hollered their support.



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Monday, April 17, 2017

What's In a (Nick) Name?


In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am posting a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3

ESSAY:

            My handsome Parker is six months old. In those six short months, I have come up with a variety of nicknames for him. I use them all intermittently. None has necessarily risen above the rest and become permanent yet. Here they are, in no particular order. Let me know which one you like best. I'm sure Parker will do the same when he is old enough. Hopefully he won’t be mad at me and think any of them are too silly.

1. Man Cub - what the animals called Mowgli in the film The Jungle Book.
2. Parker Doodles - I stole this one from his Aunt Robin.
3. Sweet Pea - his MRI technician called him that, too. So I know it's universal.
4. Sweetey Petey - a derivative of Sweet Pea.
5. Sweet Potato - a slight change from Sweet Pea, brought about by the recent introduction of this baby food vegetable into Parker's diet.
6. Sweeps or Sweepers – another derivative of Sweet Pea that most recently has really started to stick. I probably use this name the most now, even more than calling him Parker. He really seems to respond to it.
7. Bubba – shortened from Bubba Chunks. My wife gave him this nickname due to his chubby cheeks in infancy.

APPLICATION:

Revel in the fact that Jesus knows your name. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords knows your name. He even knows your nickname, if you have one. And if you have a relationship with Him, He will call you by your name and lead you. If you don’t yet have a relationship with Him, pray these words and believe them in your heart as you do. “Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. Please call me by name and come into my heart. Forgive my sins and be my Savior. Amen.” If you did that for the first time just now, congratulations! Angels in heaven are rejoicing at your decision to follow Jesus. If you are already a Christian, pray right now for someone you know who needs to come to Christ and hear Him calling their name.



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Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Doctor Is Sin

PRO-LIFE MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
You may remember Kevin Sorbo as the muscular action star of the long-running television adventure series Hercules. But now the well-known actor is throwing his muscle into a pro-life media cause.
Sorbo and his wife Sam are putting their weight behind a movie production entitled Gosnell: America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The movie, with the tagline “The Doctor Is Sin,” intends to tell the horrific story of Kermit Gosnell.  A late term abortion doctor in Philadelphia for thirty years, Gosnell was found guilty of multiple murders, including at least 21 late term abortions. In 2013, according to several news outlets, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Mr. and Mrs. Sorbo recorded a video to help promote the fundraising effort designed to get the film into production. According to the film’s Web site, gosnellmovie.com, the crowdfunding effort has raised $2.25 million to pay for the project. The television drama is being made by friends of the Sorbos, journalists Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. The filmmaking pair may base the drama on actual grand jury testimony and trial transcripts. 

“We pray that the thousands of babies slaughtered are not forgotten,” says Kevin Sorbo in the video. “It’s the crime of the century but most of Hollywood and the media have ignored the story. If the media won’t do their job, then we can do it ourselves.”


Sorbo’s most recent acting effort was in the surprise hit film, God’s Not Dead.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

PROFESSOR PARKER


In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am posting a devotional from my book about my son, Parker's Story: Essays on Autism and Awesometism.

KEY VERSE:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

ESSAY:

            For six years I worked at a Christian university and loved it. I was even blessed to have an opportunity to teach a number of courses to young people who were preparing to live their lives in service to God. But even though I was once a teacher, being a parent has made me more
of a student.

            See, I have been on a leave of absence from work for three days now, taking care of my newborn son. I am enjoying it immensely, and learning some valuable lessons along the way.

Lesson #1: (Not) Ready, Set, Go!

            When preparing to go on an outing, don't put your child in his car seat too soon. My mistake was it was one of the first things I did. Then I packed the diaper bag. Then I got my personal belongings together. By the time I was actually ready to leave, my son Parker had been in his car seat for 10 minutes and was screaming bloody murder. He was bored, uncomfortable and frustrated. Once we got moving in the car, he calmed down and fell asleep. Nevertheless, I won't make that mistake again. Next time, Parker is the last to get ready to go.

Lesson #2: Skin on Skin

            Give your kid what he wants. The doctors and nurses in the hospital where Parker was born stressed that for infants, skin on skin contact with both parents is essential. Especially during feeding time, let your baby's skin touch your skin. Makes sense, that's pretty much how it's done during breast feeding. So today, I took off my shirt while I gave Parker his bottle. (It's not a sight you want to see. Thank God there is no photographic evidence. ) With just a diaper on, he was sans shirt, too. I put his back up against my chest and rested his head against my arm as I began to feed him. Parker decided he wanted more of snuggle time with daddy, and scooted himself over so that his head was cuddled up against my chest. It was very cute. And it melted this daddy's heart. I didn't protest.

ABOUT AUTISM:

            I have learned more from my son than I will ever teach him. While autistic children often have difficulty bonding, don’t assume they won’t make connections or develop relationships. It might be more difficult, but it is possible. Even as an infant, Parker was cuddling up to his daddy and he has been a daddy’s boy ever since.

APPLICATION:


            If you are a parent, what is something that your child has taught you? Thank God for that right now in prayer. What is something that your child wants that you can give him or her? Often times, they just want more of your time and attention. How can you demonstrate to them that you are listening to them and want to provide for their needs? Pray about it and make a commitment today to spend more time with your children, whatever their age! Take action soon, before you forget your commitment, and make it happen.

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