In Earnest Praise of the Multitalented Knife

This February, I am bringing to you the next installment in my hotly anticipated kitchen utensil series. This year I introduce to you—drum roll, please…and Triangle, if you don’t mind—well the title already spoiled the surprise so never mind. Anyway, “multitalented” is just one of the many attributes that describe this little sharp slice of silver. It is in equal parts wise, knowledgeable, sober-minded, and lethal when needed. Here are the top five awesomenesses of the kitchen knife:


The Knife has More Use Than You Can Shake A Stick or Knife At.

Like the fork, there are quite a few different kinds of knives. And that’s all I’m saying about that. I am not learned in the many intricacies and various genres of the kitchen knife. There may be a dozen different varieties in our utensil drawer at home. I don’t know. They are all butter knives to me. And then there is the sharp knife holder thingy. As long as I can butter a piece of bread or cut a slab of meat. I’m good, I’m good.


The Knife and Fork are Soul Mates; They is BFFs, Yo!

Last year I named a few of the greatnesses of the royal fork. The fork and spoon are sort of friends, but more like frenemies. The knife and fork, now there is a pair that has chemistry. There is a pair I call true BFFs. The two don’t always work in conjunction with other utensils. However, when there is a silverwarey team-up to be had, its most often betwixt the fork and the knife. Say you have a steak or something that you need to cut. Admittedly, sometimes a piece of meat can be cut with a firm fork push, but sometimes that doesn’t work. In such times, the first utensil the fork calls for help is not the spoon or tongs. No, nor chopsticks or skewers. No, its first call is the knife. It is perfect for the job. Stick that fork in your steak and the knife glides perfectly through those slender prongs and gets the job done. Some are naturally gifted, others were trained by the Central Utensil Agency.


The Knife is the Perfect weapon for the Utensil-Based Superhero.

It has always astounded the utensil superhero world that the Blue Raja[1. The Blue Raja is a hero in the criminally underrated film, Mystery Men. He fights crime by using forks and spoons.] adamantly refuses to wield the greatest of all utensil weapons, but after all, as he clarified for The Shoveler he’s not Knifey Boy or Stab Man. While that does make some sense, the cardinal rule that the CUA teaches all of their superhero students is that the kitchen knife should always be their primary weapon. While it is true that not all kitchen knives are as lethal as a gleaming steak or butcher knife, the serrated butter and table knives can also be worthy servants in daring do.


It is a wonderful bridge for the Tiny Crackeletti.

Not long ago I briefly referred to the relatively unknown sidewalk crack dwelling Tiny Crackeletti Tribe. I mentioned that today they most frequently employ themselves by manning rarely seen sidewalk crack bridges all over the world. One of the of the most famous of these bridges is The Great Butter Knife Bridge, which can be found in a dark alley in New York City. (It’s exact location is a closely guarded secret known only to the Crackeletti world.) Crackeletti from all over the world take a yearly pilgrimage to this gleaming silver structure. It is widely considered to be one of the five Crackeletti-wonders of the sidewalk world.


Certain Knives Are the Most Intelligent Knives in the Kitchen Knifey Kingdom. Nay, of the Entire Utensil World!

You have probably heard the saying in reference to a dim-witted individual, “he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” These days just about everyone takes this as a clever turn of phrase likening ones mental sharpness to the knife’s literal blade sharpness. Oh no, no, no. The knowledge has been lost in the deeps of time that this particular idiom is actually referring to the great intelligence that exists in some knives in the kitchen knife culture. Some are pretty dull, hence “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” Truly, some butter knives are so intelligent that they (and some butter and toast) were instrumental in the many visionary innovations of Leonardo da Vinci.





An Open Letter from Maude, the Farting Cow

Hi, Maude here.

It’s come to my attention that a few Democrats recently introduced a new bill called “The Green New Deal.” It’s full of all sorts of wonderful ideas, including retrofitting or rebuilding every building in the United States to meet with new energy standards. That doesn’t sound too difficult to pull off. I mean, it’s not like there are 100s of millions of buildings in the US…

Most of the stuff doesn’t affect my life at all. I am a cow. I have simple needs. Grass. Water. Some room to roam. You know. The usual. If I say so myself, I don’t really ask a lot from the world around me. Me, and others like me, are simple creatures. So, you will share in my shock and horror that this new bill specifically targets me and my, how to put this delicately, flatulence. This bill wants to eradicate, and I quote, “farting cows.”

Excuse me! I will have you know that I suffer from a very common malady among my kind. I have a touch of irritable bowel syndrome. It’s no laughing matter by the way. It can be a bit embarrassing from time to time, but the other cows understand exactly what I am dealing with, as so many others have this or similar gastrointestinal issues. It’s not like we sit around and try to see who can pass the most gas every day. (Well, Henrietta does that but no one likes her and she is giving us all a bad name.) Sometimes, you just have to let one fly. Is that so wrong? Is this where we are as a society that we are going to not only shame cows that are passing gas but plan to get rid of them? That’s a nice way of saying we are going to exterminate all gassy cows. I won’t stand for it. (Well, I’ll stand because lying down is really hard for a cow, but you know what I mean.)

So, this letter is for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez (or Ms. Ocasio-Cowhater as I am going to call her from now on) and her friends that helped write this new bill calling for my death. We reject it out of hand! We will have nothing to do with this blatant and offensive bovine shaming. We ask that everyone else, cow or human or any other creature that struggles with a rumbly tummy, stand with us! Say no to the “Green New Deal” and its ridiculous attempt to get rid of cows. Mooove over, sister and let the adults handle things from now on!




Five Lessons Learned from F. Leroy Forlines

Let me tell you a story. I am one of many who grew up under the ministry of Leroy Forlines, long-time theologian and professor at Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch College). There are few people who have had as great an influence in shaping me than Mr. Forlines; my mother, my pastor, and a handful of others.

Mr. Forlines was a teacher, mentor, example whose personal integrity and godly life touched many of us. Now in his 90s, Mr. Forlines is a national treasure to our denomination, and to the entire body of Christ. A few months ago, an REO contributor wrote a tribute to him. My thoughts here are somewhat a tribute as well, obviously, but I want to be more personal and talk of how he influenced me in several ways, both big and small. I hope to follow this article with another that will focus on one of his sayings or approaches to finding the truth: his well-known “poles of tension” that I first heard articulated in the 1970s.

1. Mr. Forlines was intentional in teaching good manners.
2. Mr. Forlines was insistent in teaching his students to accept responsibility.
3. Mr. Forlines was inexorable in emphasizing a commitment to holiness.
4. Mr. Forlines was important in our movement as a theologian.
5. Mr. Forlines was involved in ministry in his later years – bearing fruit even unto old age.


1. Mr. Forlines was intentional in teaching good manners.

It was my first or second year at Free Will Baptist Bible College, 1969 or 1970. I asked a young lady (not Judy; it was before we started dating) for an on-campus date. These consisted of either sitting in the student lounge, outside in certain designated areas or walking around one of the approved blocks on or near the campus. This particular day the young lady and I were walking, probably around Richland-Bowling, and met Mr. and Mrs. Forlines who were approaching from the opposite direction. He greeted us, and then pulled me aside and said: “a gentleman walks on the outside of a lady on the sidewalk.” I hadn’t even thought about it. I learned a lesson in etiquette I remember to this day.


2. Mr. Forlines was insistent in teaching his students to accept responsibility.

Every week, usually on Wednesdays, we men students had an on-campus meeting. Usually, Mr. Forlines met with us. Some guys found the meetings boring and a waste of time, but my friend Seldon Buck and I had a ball, listening and laughing (not out loud) as Bro. Forlines shared with the guys. There was always Scripture, some sort of devotional thought, but so much more, especially as it related to living responsibly in a campus dormitory situation. Things like flushing the toilet, knocking on a fellow students’ door before entering, keeping your room neat; things of that nature that some of the guys didn’t do too well. Occasionally, Mr. Forlines would do some entertainment, such as his famous trick of standing on his head and drinking water. Amazing! I don’t know if we realized it at the time, but he was helping us grow up as young men, and even when it was emphasizing rules, it had its value. I personally am grateful for those “Boy Scout” meetings, as they were known.


3. Mr. Forlines was inexorable in emphasizing a commitment to holiness.

I don’t recall the first time I heard him utter the phrase “a passion for holiness,” if it was during my student years or shortly after graduation when I heard him speak at a National Convention or Bible Conference, but I do know that it became a passion of his to stress the importance of striving after personal holiness. It came up frequently and reminded us of how far we often fell short, and how our hearts needed to be focused on holiness. He drove it home every time he could, and I am thankful.


4. Mr. Forlines was importantisimo in our movement as a theologian.

That’s a Spanish word which conveys a little more than any English word could: he was of the greatest importance as the theological voice in our movement. After Bible College, he spent nearly a decade in institutions of higher education, earning multiple degrees, and studying under some of the finest minds in the world. Not only did he shape our movement by training hundreds of pastors and missionaries, he was able to influence others who came to the college who weren’t Free Will Baptist. Additionally, his articles in CONTACT magazine provided theological insight to many more who did not study at the college. His years of service on the Commission on Theological Liberalism was a voice of warning about dangerous trends that threatened the evangelical faith once delivered to the saints. His works such as Systematics, and later The Quest for Truth, showed how he remained current and relevant in theological debate, and did so with grace, kindness, and an irenic spirit, even while standing for the truth boldly.


5. Mr. Forlines was involved in ministry in his later years, bearing fruit even in old age.

Amazingly, while still teaching at Free Will Baptist Bible College, Leroy Forlines and his wife Fay were able to travel to Russia and spend considerable time there teaching Russian pastors. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, it immediately became possible to travel to Russia, and the Western evangelical world began to do just that. Russian Baptists have always been historically Arminian in theology, but most of those going from the West were Calvinist and brought a strong Calvinist emphasis. Our brothers there were so thankful to learn of Arminianian theologians from the West who were virtually identical in their viewpoints with them, and Leroy Forlines, Robert Picirilli, Garnett Reid, Thomas Marberry, and Ron Callaway were able to spend much time with them. The Forlines stayed for several months, and covered the entire country. Mr. Forlines also spent time in India with veteran missionary and former college classmate, Carlisle Hanna. I well remember him sharing with me, with tears, the impact the India trip made on his life. I think it was tremendous to see someone his age expand his horizons, and no doubt at great personal discomfort serve His Lord in that way.


I suppose someone might ask, “feeling as you do about F. Leroy Forlines, he must have been your favorite teacher.” Actually, I never had one class under Mr. Forlines! The reason is, I had not determined my area of study my first two years, and when I was called into missions I had to cram a number of missions courses into three semesters, and I was not able to include Systematic Theology or Biblical Ethics.

However…in subsequent years I devoured everything Mr. Forlines wrote. I taught Systematic Theology no less than five times in Spanish in Panama, and Ethics at least four times. Mr. Forlines’ works and thought are so embedded in mine, that I think it’s safe to say no other theologian or thinker has influenced me more. I am truly thankful for his life.

*Image courtesy of ONE Magazine.




Government Representative (Fill in the blank) Says/Does (Fill in the blank) and the Nation Recoils

In a stunning, shocking, and outrageous display, Generic Government Representative’s recent remarks and/or actions have sparked a national outcry. We went to the streets to ask average Americans their thoughts:

REO Reporter: “Did you hear about the recent controversial remarks by your Government Representative?”

Average American: “No, what did they say?”

REO Reporter: “It was awful. They said horribly degrading things about immigrants and/or law enforcement officials.”

Average American: “Wow! That is awful. There is no place for that type of hate-filled rhetoric in our country. Remind me, is this government representative in my political party or are they on the other side?”

REO Reporter: “They are on the other side.”

Average American: “That’s what I thought. They are just a bunch of racist, fascists, bigots over there. Just the…”

REO Reporter: “My bad! I got that wrong. They are on your side. Very much on your side.”

Average American: “Yeah, yeah… What I was trying to say is that if you look at the context of what they were saying, it makes sense. They weren’t speaking specifically about any group. We just need to do a better job of really listening to each other and not attacking. We need to dialogue, you know? Really look at all the facts…”

REO Reporter: “Woops! Boy, is my face red now! I got that wrong again. They are totally NOT on your side. Yep, very much on the other side politically.”

Average American: “I knew it! They are evil, evil people. Just the worst people that have ever lived! They don’t deserve to live in this country. They just want to destroy everything this country stands for. They are worse than if Hitler and Satan had a baby! I HATE THEM AND ALL THEY STAND FOR!!!”

REO Reporter: “Thanks for your time.”




Five More Facial Expressions That Are No Longer Acceptable in a Tolerant Society

This weekend, the entire world witnessed an unspeakable horror. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, violent racism was deployed in the most damaging manner possible. A young MAGA hat-wearing bigot got in the face of an innocent and totally upstanding Native American elder. He stood there. He looked through his arsenal of privilege and he chose his weapon of choice.

He smirked.

Everyone of sound mind and heart instantly recognizes the hatred, rage, and condescension that comes with that smirk. Most of us have been on the receiving end of a smirk like that. It is a searing knife, plunged into our very souls. Sadly, it is not the only facial expression deployed by the depraved and craven in their attempt to silence those of us on the right side of history. No, there are many more facial expressions of hate, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and intolerance that confront us on a daily basis. Here are five of the most offensive that you need to recognize and eradicate from your life, posthaste!


The Single Eyebrow Raise

There is nothing wrong with your average single eyebrow raise. You know when you lift one eyebrow a little higher than the other. It is an extremely time-honored expression. Abraham Lincoln often raised an eyebrow at his fighting men. So did Helen of Troy when she launched a thousand ships. Very elegant indeed. That being said, the eyebrow-raiser is well advised to avoid it these days. Such expressions are frequently taken as sarcasm, pretension, and various other forms of belittling. This dreaded expression is often effectual in instigating feelings of rage and inferiority. It is henceforth deemed inappropriate if one eyebrow is lifted a least one millimeter higher than the other, and/or if causes the forehead above said eyebrow to be furrowed.


The Non-Flirtatious Wink

We are all aware of the total devastation that occurs when a person (99% of the time a man) winks at another person (99% of the time a woman). We have made great strides in eradicating such toxic behavior in society. Yet the wink’s destructive powers do not end when decoupled from flirtation. The wink, in all its forms, contexts, and deployments is a thing of unbridled hostility, superiority, and vulgarity. If you are a winker, you are a part of the problem. Repent of your winking ways and come to the side where no non-verbal communication of the visual kind will ever be tolerated or condoned.


The “Jim Halpert” Face

Jim (from TV’s “The Office”) was a nice guy. A decent guy. Almost everyone liked him, except for Charles Miner for some reason. He had fun at work, drove Dwight crazy, and got the girl of his dreams. And while he never had a catchphrase, like so many classic TV characters from days gone by, he had a catch look. The look. The “Jim Halpert” face.

Yeah, that’s the one. The problem with that face is that it was often used as a way to deflect any responsibility for all the sexism, racism, and generally offensive behavior of his boss, Michael Scott. It was the look of a coward. In light of how things are progressing in Donald Trump’s America, we have no room for cowards.


The Yucky Food Face

This is something civilized diners should never do. Naturally, it is not good to offend the food preparer in this way, but that is a secondary issue. Of primary concern is 1) disrespecting the animal, fruit, and/or vegetable who died to give you sustenance and 2) offending a stranger who happens to see you across the restaurant and thinks you have been talking about him or her and therefore also thinks that your grimace is directed at them. According to social media, this second is one of the top ten social problems facing our country today. When eating in a public place it is, therefore, best to maintain a straight face at all times so as to avoid this sort of thing. It may even be a good idea to wear a hockey mask when you go out so no one will be mistakenly offended by your Yucky Food Face.


Smiling

Let us be honest here: there are some of us who are simply not allowed to smile anymore. Our smiles are loaded weapons and even if we intend no harm, they leave a swathe of destruction and chaos in their wake. Smiles are just the latest manifestation in a long line of hate and privilege and we just cannot afford to be party to that sort of evil. Until further notice, stop smiling. Our betters in society will let us know when it is safe and proper for all of us to smile again. One last point: If you are unsure if you are allowed to smile, then your complete ignorance about how a progressive and tolerant society works is a clear indicator that your smile is not needed or wanted for this moment in time.


As you can see, if we are not careful we can do great damage even with something as seemingly innocuous as our face. Therefore, we humbly suggest that until the “all clear” is given, let this be your only facial expression:

 




Visionary! Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Nominates Hank Pym, Tony Stark, and Shuri To Science and Energy Board.

Washington, D.C. – On the steps of The U.S. Capital Building, surrounded by supporters and members of the press, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, newly elected Congresswoman and rising star in the Democrat Party, officially offered three names to head the newly created “Climate Change and Renewable Energy Board.” Based on the three people she submitted, she is not afraid to think out of the box. “We have to get off fossil fuels and we have to do it soon. Our planet is dying and the time to start is now. I looked around and these people are the most qualified to lead us into a bright and clean future. I mean seriously, who is smarter than these three? As we all saw in Ant Man, Hank Pym invented the “Pym Particle” for crying out loud! And everyone knows all the great stuff Tony Stark has done – The Arc Reactor and he even helped create a new element! How awesome is that!?! We just need him to give up that whole warmongering, Iron Man stuff. And what can I say about Shuri other than she is a fierce, independent, minority woman who just so happens to be the world’s expert on working with Vibranium. Plus, getting her would allow us to open more channels for trade and information exchange with the thriving nation of Wakanda and it’s wonderful ruler, her brother T’Challa, or Black Panther as most people know him. It’s definitely a win-win.”

Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s office has reached out to Pym, Stark, and Shuri but has received no response from them or their representatives at this time. “We’ll get in touch with them soon. I’m sure they understand how important it is for us to fix this massive environmental mess Big Oil and their Republican cronies have created. They’ll want to be on the right side of history and that side is fighting for renewable energy and a clean environmental future.”

When a reporter from Fox News pointed out that all three of these “people” are fictional characters in recent Marvel films, Ocasio-Cortez simply danced around the steps and said, “This is not the time to get hung up on specifics and ‘facts.’ We have been called to do the impossible so that is exactly what we will do.” The crowd full of her constituents, supporters, and press exploded in cheers and joined in the dance.

It is clear that we are in very good hands indeed.




Report: Millennials Offended by Behavior of TV Characters Who Ended Up In Jail

NEW YORK CITY—According to at least one internet blog post, which in America is considered sufficient evidence to drive a narrative and spark widespread outrage, U.S. millennials are now offended by hijinks of the four main characters from TV’s Seinfeld, a sitcom of mammoth popularity back in the 1900s.

The obscure web site—which allegedly has used the term “grammar nazi” in articles on occasion—-also stated that show’s uber-famous episode involving a Manhattan soup stand proprietor known as the “Soup Nazi” was just one of 13 reasons why the show is now problematic.

“The behavior of those people was rancid and in 2019 to more enlightened ears, a grown man pushing others out of the way to be the first out of a burning building and then rationalizing why he was so selfish just isn’t funny,” the writer concluded. “The passive racism, the cheapness in buying toxic envelopes, the shameless judgment towards a potential pig man, and the utter disregard for everything that is good and decent in society…I’m totally offended that 20 years ago such actions were exalted. Those were despicable characters. They probably should have ended up in jail.”

Show creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David could not be reached for comment, as both are spending copious amounts of time these days not caring at all about what humor modern Americans find offensive.




REO Presents: New Year’s Recommendations

We write reviews often. We’ve also had a semi-consistent book review/recommendation series. (We really need to update that…) This will be a little different. Instead of focusing on one thing: movies, books, music, etc… we are going to try to paint a broad view of things we love that we think you should check out. These blurbs are going to be fast and furious – all around 200 words and all about things we think are pretty great. Consider them our New Year’s gift to you.


Gowdy Cannon

TV Show – Chuck

This is not a popular show but my wife and I watched it this year on Amazon Prime Video. I was blown away. It’s not like any other TV show I’ve watched. It defies any genre box. It may be a comedy at its heart but it has extremely well-executed action scenes and its most important story arc is romance. In a world full of Ross and Rachels it dared to give us Bartwoski and Walker. This show reached deep and pulled wonderful emotion from me often.

Levi, Stahovski, Gomez, and Baldwin are unforgettable as the main players and like any TV show worth watching the role players are dynamite, highlighted by Jeffster! and their hijinks and musical concerts (which were basically the same thing). It is also replete with unforgettable guest stars and if you loved the 80s as much as I did, you will probably get giddy with their choices.

It can be a tad campy and goofy at times, but that never bothered me. It is exceptional at its strengths and it was fantastic entertainment for five seasons.

Food – Bojangles

It’s a shame that so often in America if you claim you like something, people sometimes interpret that to mean you do not like other similar things. I love Chick-Fil-A and think it is blessed by God, but I also eat and thoroughly enjoy KFC and Popeye’s. And to me, the second best chicken place I’ve had in my life is Bojangles, which seems to be less known than these other three. Probably because it is so regional (though its regional fans are pretty passionate from what I can tell).

Whether sandwiches, strips, sides, or those glorious biscuits, Bojangles has excellent quality in taste. There used to be one in Turbeville, SC and any time I was down there visiting family and someone said, “Let’s just pick up some Bojangles for lunch” I would get quite excited. No place has equaled CFA to me but this place is close. And it deserves a huge fanbase.


Ben Plunkett

Book – Strange Stories, Amazing Facts of America’s Past

Throughout most of the second decade of my childhood (about 11-18) I was obsessed with what I called fact books (Most people know them as books of trivia, but I prefer fact books. I suppose they might not be useful for a person’s day to day life, but is any information actually useless? I think not.)

Anyway, when I was 16 my parents got me this particular quality hardback fact book for Christmas. While I am no longer consumed with fact books and have sold most of them, I still have this one and still read portions of it now and then. This book does not attempt to cover all the important basics of American history. What it does do is to highlight fascinating stories about its history that are not discussed much or at all in history class. My edition was published by Reader’s Digest in 1989. They published a new edition in 2007. I cannot comment on that edition since I have not read it yet.

TV Show – Better Call Saul

I realize this show is fairly popular but I don’t understand why this show isn’t more popular than it is. My guess is that people were disappointed that Better Call Saul, which serves as a prequel to Breaking Bad, wasn’t a clone of its predecessor regarding its how the story plays out. It is true that the two shows have the same basic outer feel and framework. It is also abundantly clear that the two are part of the same universe (if you are familiar with both, that is). But the individual stories themselves are very different. Better Call Saul is less dark, intense than Breaking Bad. It is also basically an extremely well fleshed out legal story with multiple intriguing plotlines and angles. The show stars Bob Odenkirk who plays Jimmy McGill AKA Saul Goodman but also stars an amazing ensemble cast. Odenkirk and every one of his co-stars bring it every episode. Forgive the hyperbole but most of them deserve every acting award in the history of mankind.

I will probably be destroyed for saying this, but I believe Better Call Saul is better than Break. In fact, it is in the running for my favorite show of all time. It had an extremely good first season and has been greater every season (It recently finished its fourth).


D.A. Speer

Board Game: Dropmix

One of the most off-the-radar board games right now sounds like something right out of the future. DropMix (created by Harmonix studios…you know, the same team that created Rock Band) has players placing cards onto an electronic, Bluetooth-powered board with six spaces for cards. Each card in the deck has a chip inside of it, and each card space is equipped with a wireless chip reader. When you place a card on the board, the game (which runs on a tablet or phone that sits at the front of the board) reads it, syncs it to BPM and the set key, and then incorporates the loop into the mix. There are cards that have drum loops, vocal tracks, instrument tracks, or even custom-designed effects.

You can DJ your own set in “Freestyle” mode, go head to head in a VS mode, or even play a new Puzzle game based on a surprisingly interesting card game that is incorporated. The music source material is all over the place (electronic, rock, country, pop), and more expansion packs are coming out all the time. You can find the base set on sale frequently…I bought a new one for $30! At the very least, check it out on YouTube and marvel at the technical genius:


Phill Lytle

Food – Aldi “Journey to India” Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce

In the past few years, my wife and I have fallen in love with Indian food. Unfortunately, it’s cost-prohibitive to get it as often as we would like. Enter: Aldi and their amazing sauce in a jar. I was skeptical it would taste anywhere close to restaurant quality, but I was wrong. We keep things simple with some seasoned chicken we sauté in olive oil and some steamed veggies added to the sauce to make it a bit more “healthy.” We serve it over white Basmati rice and we are good to go. It’s moderately spicy so if that’s not your thing, you shouldn’t be eating Indian food anyway.

Comedian – Nate Bargatze

Maybe you’ve seen him on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Maybe you’ve seen his special on Netflix. Perhaps you’ve just seen clips on YouTube. Or maybe, sadly, you’ve never heard of Nate Bargatze. Well, be sad no more! If you like your comedy clean (yet not lame), dry, and just a little bit odd, then Nate is the man for the job. He holds a special place in my heart because he graduated from the school where my wife teaches and my children attend (Donelson Christian Academy). If Nate came from DCA, then there is hope for my family as well.




The Season, the Music, the Resonance

For Western Christians, and quite possibly for all believers everywhere, music is inseparable from Christmas. I’m aware that some folks delight in reminding us that the angelic choir that appeared to the shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth didn’t sing. “And the angel said to them…” (Luke 2:10). Then it says there was a multitude “praising God and saying.” (2:13)

That’s all well and good, but I still think they sang. For one thing, he/they might have spoken and then sung those or other words. Also, Job 38:7 tells us the “sons of God sang for joy” at creation, and I’m thinking those were angels, not humans since presumably no humans were present at creation.

No matter. Much of Christianity down through the centuries has inseparably linked the celebration of the nativity with singing.

From the 5th century “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” a piece so hauntingly beautiful that pastor Rob Morgan considers it one of his favorites, to Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley and their powerful all-time hymns “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” to “Mary, Did You Know,” we all have our favorites, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Every year some song or songs resonate with me. Maybe something new, previously unknown. Maybe an old favorite. This year there are several:

1. The afore-mentioned “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. I’ve listened to it several times and mediated on the poignant lyrics. The story of Christ retold in the 5th century. The Incarnation described in beautiful, ancient poetry. The recurring “evermore and evermore.” By the way, if memory serves this was the lead-off song for the Welch choir project from several years ago, “Alpha and Omega.”

2. “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” Written by Charles Wesley. Wesley is one of my all-time favorite songwriters, and this hymn has become a favorite Christmas song of mine. It’s the kind of song the ancients would have sung, had they known their Messiah’s name. We do know and celebrate accordingly.

3. The country gospel classic “O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” We sang it at our church a couple of weeks ago and the excitement was palpable, as “amens” were heard at the conclusion. Watching the Gaither video years ago as Ben Spear chokes with emotion as he sings the line “for Jesus is now that star divine, brighter and brighter He will shine,” touches me, as does the whole song.

Just for good measure, I’m going to throw in a few more. They aren’t really Christmas songs but are so fitting for the season. “I Call Him Lord,” by Dottie Rambo, reminds us “but the angel called Him Jesus, born of a virgin, Mary called Him Jesus, but I Call Him Lord. That lyric enables me to celebrate just a little more worshipfully this Christmas.

And there’s the old Fanny Crosby hymn “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.” The first stanza has a powerful incarnation lyric “…Tell how the angels in chorus sang as they welcomed his birth, glory to God in the highest, peace and good tidings to earth.. ”

Finally, an older song by Bill and Gloria Gaither, not so well-known. I’ve enjoyed hearing it again, as it tenderly breathes out its Christmas message: “love went on reaching, and love went on longing, right past the shackles of my mind, and the longing and the reaching became Mary’s little son, and his love reached all the way to where I was.”

Christmas and music. Christmas carols. The birthday of our King. Still, a few days to go. I hope we all make the time and find the way, or ways, to worship the Newborn King this Christmas season. Going through the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Reading and studying Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2. Singing the old songs joyfully, and adding in some newer ones. Going to a Christmas concert or candlelight service. “Let every heart prepare him room, and Heaven and nature sing.”

Now I need to listen to “Handel’s “Messiah,” and Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God.”




Five Lame Christmas Ornaments You Should Never Make Again

Hey kids, Mr. Lytle here. It’s almost Christmas and just about everyone has their trees decorated and displayed. My guess is, if you are like most kids, you probably haven’t thought of anything to get your mom, or dad, for Christmas and just might be considering throwing together another homemade ornament for the tree. “They’ll love it, right?” No, no they won’t. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no parent at any time or any place has ever loved a homemade ornament from one of their children. (The only exception is if the child that made the ornament is an artistic prodigy of some sort. They have a shot…barely.)

Let’s take this a step further, though. While all homemade ornaments are terrible, there is a handful so awful and so pervasive, that it’s my duty to warn you specifically about them. Here are the five lamest Christmas tree ornaments you should never make again.


The popcorn garland strand

In my mind, this is the gold standard. The king of the mountain. The cream of the crop. There are some who actually think this decoration/ornament is capable of looking pretty. I question their sanity. You are literally stringing food together and then wrapping it around your tree. Let that sink in for a few seconds. It might look okay for a few days but then the popcorn starts to shrivel and wilt a little, it loses a bit of its color – going from a bright white to a faded eggshell – and it turns into a pitiful sight altogether. Do you really want that corpsified looking edible arrangement clinging to your beautiful tree? I don’t think so.


The soda-tab-picture frame

I understand what you are trying to do here. I really do. How could your parents be unhappy with a picture of you to hang on the tree? Easy. You framed it with soda can tabs. There has never been a pretty version of this ornament. They are all ugly, misshapen, and shoddily constructed. And the pathetic little ribbon at the top is an embarrassment to everyone involved. If you give this ornament to your parents, it is their legal right to disown you. That’s the law.


The construction paper links

The biggest problem with this travesty is that it takes so stinking long to actually make it. Scratch that. The biggest problem is that it looks stupid. Or maybe the biggest problem is that it’s fragile and will fall apart before Christmas Day even arrives. In summary, there are many problems with this decoration and you should have nothing to do with something this problematic. There is no upside to this one at all.


Anything with glitter

I’ve made my views about glitter very clear. It’s evil. Altogether evil. I fully believe glitter is a direct result of the Fall of man. Adam and Eve sinned and glitter was born. No theologian will be able to convince me otherwise. So to be clear, do not use it in any way, shape, or form. Do not use it on, in, under, above, within, without, baked in, cooked in, glued on, brushed on, or any other way you can imagine. It is literally the worst. If someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, I have this great homemade ornament we can make for your parents. We just need a little glitter to make it absolutely perfect.” You are well within your rights to slap them and then run away. No one of sound mind would blame you.


Any ornament using a combination of Popsicle sticks, cotton balls, or yarn

You are really scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point. If Christmas Day is quickly approaching and you have nothing to give your parents, do not reach into the junk drawer hoping that you can rig together some masterpiece using the above items. You can’t. No one can. These are the hand-tools of the lazy – have nothing to do with them. Giving your parents nothing is better than whatever monstrosity you create using what basically amounts to poorly-glued-together garbage.


I know what you are thinking. “If we can’t give our parents one of these, what can we get them for Christmas on such late notice?” I’m glad you asked but unfortunately I cannot help you. I’m not the one that waited until the last minute to think of a gift for the people that love, raise, shelter, teach, and guide you. That’s your problem, chief. Maybe next year you will be a little less selfish and come up with something good to give them in a timelier manner.