Texas Youth Livestock Auction

This could be called “Yet Another Reason I Love Texas.”

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The local livestock auction for young people of this county is being held today. The winners in the various categories (swine, beef, and goats) get to auction their animals off to local banks, car dealerships, oil drilling companies, and other companies which bid BIG for the winning animals.

Now livestock auctions are being held somewhere in America every day of the week. And, yes, I know (and even agree with) some of the criticism of the livestock and meat-packing industry. But this auction has a whole different flavor (pun intended) than many of those other ones. This auction is one of those places where the spotlights and attention are young people doing well. And, while there is a difficult reality to be faced by these young men and women as they say “good-bye” to their animals, they are also learning about relationships in life, and being an integral part of a community that is vital to this area.

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These animals have been raised for meat production since they were calves, kids, and piglets. They have been tended to daily by their young owners, and handled often so that they would “show” well when their time in the ring finally came. The animals are as clean and spiffy as their owners.

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You’ll note that there’s not a lot of jubilation evident in these faces of these youngsters, despite the fact that they are walking away with a whole lot more money than they spent on the raising of their animals. They’ve experienced that it is possible- impossible not to– love an animal. But they are also learning about the purpose and hard work involved in raising their livestock. The ones who continue in ranching will never lose that tension between the care of their animals and the purpose of their being raised in the first place. Some of the gentlest, kindest people I know are ranchers who discovered that dilemma early on, and continue to face it daily.

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Another thing I love about this Youth Auction is that the organizers realize that people really do like to eat other foods besides meat! So the opportunity exists for cookies, cakes, and pies to be a part of the judging and auctioning process, too. This little boy just sold a $750 cake to a local bank!

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These are the kids who ride horses, have dogs and cats, grow up understanding and respecting the land, and who get to spend part of each day hoping for rain or shading their eyes against a sunset. They will never eat a hamburg in blissful ignorance of where it came from or be able to tolerate the intentional abuse of any animal.

Or any other person. Just watch them as they grow up and you’ll see what I mean. The lessons you see being learned in these pictures don’t end today. They are part of lives now and those lessons will will benefit all of us.

Santa Claus is Coming..Run!

It’s a three year old tradition in the Weber household. We gather around the egg nog, hang our stockings with care, turn down the lights, and surf again to our favorite Christmas website: Santa Claus Scaring Little Kids!

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It’s a collection of 150+ pictures of kids who want to be anywhere but on Santa’s lap. “Mommy!, Mommy!” you can hear them crying in terror. The men behind the hot, scratchy beards usually look equally dismayed, hung over, or- occasionally- outright evil. The photographer, wanting to see the line of kids behind her go away so she can finally sit down or go have a cigarette or go home, takes the shot as quickly as possible, with none of the finesse of a Kmart or Olan Mills factory photographer who is usually able to eke out at least a passive look of indifference from most children, who would rather be anywhere else but sitting still in full view of the toy department or food court.

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The faux Santa in this picture is a good one. Notice the jocularity and kindness with which he disguises the iron grip of “Sit the hell still!” behind what appears to be gentleness. Notice the practiced skill he employs of wedging the child between his knee and his hand with seeming goodwill.

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Now this guy gives credence to those who equate Santa with Satan! I wouldn’t have allowed my daughters to live in the same town as this guy, let alone get up in his lap. Despite their seemingly calm appearance here, don’t you just know that “something about Santa” would scar their memories of Christmas for years to come?

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“Please, Mommy, make Santa stop breathing on me!”

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For Billy and Sally, it was a joyous Christmas. For Bobby, it was a door opening into the Dark Side.

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Christmas, 1965. Sister begins a lifetime of sneering hostility toward Mom, men, and everything about the patriarchal, materialistic, sexist, and bourgeois society into which she didn’t ask to be born. Brother becomes catatonic.

And, one more. This is the guy who will be in your house on Christmas Eve- the one that the cookies and milk have been prepared for. Pick up some pepper spray on the way home tonight.

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Christmas Presents

You cannot buy happiness. For anyone- not yourself, your spouse, your children, or your boss. You can buy a brief period of satisfaction. How brief? Watch the kids tearing into the next present..and adult attention spans aren’t that much longer.

The GREAT LIE in America is that happiness (as defined by television script writers) is available to anyone whose means and desires coincide. And advertisers keep the sweet carrots dangling just a little bit beyond everyone’s reach, so that no one is ever quite there, where X marks the spot that happiness, true happiness, will finally begin. (Even Lottery winners get the blues: there are many sad stories in that chapter of the New American Dream.)

Last week, I stood in line at the local Fred’s behind a couple who were juggling two credit cards to buy what looked Round One of their Christmas gift orgy. Among the items was a battery operated model of Bill Clinton playing a saxophone. Here’s what it looks like:

Yeah, that’s all it does. How quickly will Uncle Bill tire of that thing? That thing will be in someone’s yard sale by April. Along with probably 25% of December’s Gross National Product, which is quickly becoming China’s Very Gross National Profit. How many gallons of foreign oil were used in this year’s manufacture of those Bill Clinton saxophone toys? And, how much landfill space will they still be occupying 30,000 years from now when the plastic in them finally begins to break down?

So here’s my point: There are alternatives– places where you can spend money and affect the future in positive ways for generations to come. Here are three:

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Kiva is a micro-lender. You can make loans to small business people in places around the world. Your $25, $50, or $100 is added to similar amounts from other lenders to finance the $500 to $1500 loans being requested. The payback rate is close to 100%, and when your money is paid back, you can either get it back or re-invest in someone else’s business.  Some people on my list this year are getting KIVA gift certificates so they can experience the same fun I’ve had giving six women and three men on four continents a real hand up in their lives.

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The SEVA Foundation is also in the business of fighting poverty and disease through self-help projects. And the array of those projects is fascinating. Last year, my wife received a gift from me, given in her name, which enabled two Mayan women in Mexico to be trained as mid wives.

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The Heifer Project is an elder statesman in the world of really good places to share your resources. Last year, each of my three children received a flock of ducks, going to Cambodia. Others received from me a flock of chickens, a goat, and some trees. All of these things are given to the recipients with the understanding that they will use the gifts for both food and income, and that they will give away some of the new chicks, kids, and saplings that result from their work. They are gifts that keep on giving for real.

Two years ago, I received from friends a llama in Ecuador and part of a community water well in South Africa. I’ve never seen either of those gifts, but they are the ones from that Christmas that I remember best. They are making a continuing difference in the lives of people, as they continue to make a difference in my own.

It’s a pretty cool bandwagon. Jump aboard! We’ll meet there at the X where real happiness is always waiting.

My First YouTube Video..

Our church is observing a Sesquicentennial tomorrow- 150 years of Methodism in our county. And I’m a great believer in contexts, so I put together a set of pictures of other things that were happening in those years 1857- 2007. (One picture per year) This is it, made possible by Windows Movie Maker:

Christmas will be on a Tuesday this year..

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It’s always on the same day of the week as my birthday, which was two days ago, a Tuesday. I discovered that “same day” fact at some point in seventh or eighth grade study hall, after I had (no doubt) broken all available pencil leads drawing cartoons of various teachers, gone to the restroom several times, and finished reading whatever James Bond book was in my possession that day.

Be that as it may, and all that is to say, the Christmas spending orgy is about to commence. Jesus will, again, be honored best this year by pushing our Gross National Product through the retail roof! Walmart, Target, and L.L.Bean will again become the hallmarks of American holiness as millions prove their love for baby Jesus by spending, spending, spending themselves into a January nightmare.

But what are a few more 29.9% maxxxed out credit cards compared to the half hour of joy to be experienced by children of all ages as they tear through carefully wrapped gift packages before finally settling down to watch the Christmas Edition of “The Price is Right?” After all, isn’t that exactly what was set in motion by God in that Bethlehem stable 2000 years ago- the right to keep and bear arms full of plastic things molded in China and cloth things sewn in various parts of the Pacific and Caribbean rims?

I notice you can get a jump on Christmas tinsel-spending by jumping on the Halloween lighting bandwagon currently being driven into our collective consciousness by the Chinese-American Plastics Consortium (motto: “Americans Will Buy Anything We Tell Them To!”). There are more orange-colored lights hanging on doorways this year than last year and, barring natural disasters, there are probably less this year than there will be next year. By that time, the Halloween light trend-setters will be needing to replace their antiquated sets from 2006 and this great new niche in the Useless Stuff marketplace will have taken on a full life of its own!

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and this year he’s wearing a wool/polyester blend with genuine baby seal trim from Abercombie and Fitch. And you can demonstrate your own holiday spirit this year with a matching outfit- only 495.oo! (hat, boots, and other accessories, extra) Self-indulge yourself this Christmas with 2007’s versions of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; you’ll be glad, for all of ten minutes, that you did!

Or….

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Go to Kiva.org. Find a small business person somewhere in the third world and help them get the amazingly small loan they need to expand their business. Dream for him or her. Hope for their families. Then lend as little as 25 bucks to them in the name of someone on your Christmas list, instead of buying that someone a tie or bauble for their already too-heavy charm bracelet.

Baby Jesus will smile.

 

A Christian’s Response to Harry Potter

Read ’em. If you want to. That’s my response.

I am not (cannot be!) one of those Christians who, because of rank or status (ordained or self-anointed), would label what comes out of my mind or mouth as doctrinal. I am not one of those who would have the audacity to label anything I say or write as THE Christian response to anything. I’m just a guy who tries to follow Jesus, makes mistakes in doing so from time to time, but has (as you can probably tell by now) LOTS of opinions.

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(for anyone unable to tell, all the people in the above picture are actors)

I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, and never will. But among the people whose opinions I value, my wife and daughters do read Rowling’s books, enjoy them, and none of them have become witches. I did see the first movie, and smiled all the way through it. I’ve missed the others, and don’t remember why; I probably had building committee meetings or something equally invigorating to go to.

If you want to see THE Christian response to Harry Potter, here are three of them:

here- Focus on the Family

here- Christian Answers for the New Age

and here- Exposing Satanism (this one’s the most fun!)

The common objection by these defenders of the faith seem to center around, “But what about the children??” Yeah, what about them?

Half the kids between 10 and 20 that I know have read all the Potter books. And I have yet to see any of them on broomsticks, doing incantations, or so much as carrying a magic wand. I don’t know how the reading of Harry Potter manifests itself among children in churches where there is more talk about the fear of Satan than about the love of God, but in the churches I spend time in (the latter), Harry Potter has not had any behavioral impact that I can see.

Except for the fact that there are a bunch of kids who have learned to love to read and are not watching some dismal sit-com on TV while they do it!

Can I suggest that no one anywhere has seen a child doing occult, witchy, or otherwise “dark” things because of their having read Harry Potter books? Kids are not the stupid lumps of clay many adults think they are. They have, at the age of 9 or 10- about the time most would even begin to read these books- real abilities to discern between truth and fantasy. Notice that you can’t fool them with your silly magic tricks, the way you could when they were 2 or 3; none of them will play peek-a-boo with you anymore. That’s because they are learning the difference between what is real and not-real!

And that will continue! If they are older than 8, 9, or 10, children’s cognitive abilities are getting even better, and more complex. Even the ones who think, for a moment, that there might be something to this broomstick business, will, after about three seconds of experimentation, realize there is not.

Relax. That’s another of this Christian’s responses to almost everything, come to think about it. Relax and, while doing so, take a look at the money angle of those who have lots to say about the Potter books. Are they raising money for themselves through their usual ploy of fear, yet again? Are they, through their own painfully minute exegesis of the Potter books, trying to build more credibility among those who willingly hand over their own abilities to discern to these “experts”?

Just relax. Stop reacting to the “panic” of others. I’d be far more concerned about my young child watching anything on (so-called) Christian TV than I would about her reading a Harry Potter book. (Which wouldn’t be hard to do, since I’d have NO concern over her reading a Potter book.)

Relax; stop trying to scare children into loving God. Take a child outside today, to the park or to the woods, and let God do all the talking.

For once.