Five Ways to Become the Church Janitor’s Worst Nightmare

I have worked part-time as a church janitor for the better part of 17 years. It might surprise you to hear this, but I actually enjoy it. It allows me to move around, do something very practical and tangible, and see immediate results from my work. That said, there have always been aspects of the job that get under my skin. Instead of ranting and raving about them internally, I figured I would put together a handy little list of the Five things you should avoid if you would rather not have an angry church janitor stalking your sanctuary each week. Trust me – you don’t want to get on our bad side. We control the toilet paper supply. (Special shout out to my boys for helping me put the videos together for this article.)

 

Paper Towel Disposal: The Right and Wrong Technique

It’s pretty simple: if you handle paper towel correctly after you wash your hands in the bathroom, you will save the janitor much heartache. Below, you will find two videos that demonstrate the two approaches for disposing your used paper towel. The first video is the common, albeit completely improper way to do it. As you will see, the trash can fills up quickly and soon becomes an eyesore and a nuisance.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=N5Mj_1J4Tyo

 

In the second video, you will witness the proper way to handle the paper towel. If you take the time to wad up that paper as much as possible before throwing it away, you will save space, save the janitor time, and maybe even save the world.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zM-I8YEKzL4

 

The Tools of the Trade: Using the church’s stuff in ways you would never dream of using them at home

The typical church janitor uses a few tools every time they clean. A broom. A dust mop. A mop. A vacuum cleaner. Things like that. Sometimes, these tools are borrowed or used by other church members. Sometimes this does not end well. The following are true stories. The quotes are fabricated…mostly…but the scenarios are 100% accurate to reality.

“Oh, you aren’t supposed to vacuum mulch? My bad!”

“Oh, I’m not supposed to use the dust mop to clean up the soda I spilled? They really shouldn’t use the word ‘mop’ in the name then.”

“Oh, the mop shouldn’t be used on the gravel outside of the church? I’m going to have to plead ignorance on this one!”

“Oh, the broom isn’t a communal broom to be taken home whenever we feel like it? I wish someone would tell me these things!”

 

Crimes of a Wet Nature: The Improper Disposal of Liquid

Are you familiar with what I like to call “trash juice?” No? Allow me to elaborate. (You might not want to read this while eating.) Trash juice is the wonderful and aromatic liquid that forms at the bottom of a large trash can when the disposed liquid and refuse become one flesh and together discover an escape through a small crack or seam in the bottom of the trash liner. Trash juice is odious and fetid. It is a misery to clean. The primary culprit in the creation of trash juice is the seemingly innocent act of throwing away a cup or container full/half full/quarter full of liquid. Here is a delightful stop motion video to explain what I mean. (The video works best with the volume on.)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cV7nXS-vjCI

 

In the demonstration above you witness the improper technique. There is a simple solution to this problem but it is rarely, if ever, utilized – POUR OUT YOUR LIQUID IN A SINK PRIOR TO DISPOSING OF YOUR CUP/CONTAINER IN THE TRASH CAN.

 

No Trash Liner = No Trash Accepted: Access Denied

Most churches have multiple trash cans. Almost every room will have one. So do us all a favor when you have trash to dispose of and you see the one trash can that does not have a trash liner (because the church janitor is currently in the process of taking said trash out and has not yet replaced the liner) – please don’t use that trash can. You might not think it is a big deal, but it is. It’s a huge deal. Your time-saving action will force the janitor to have to retrieve that bit of garbage out by hand. And that is super gross.

And so help me, if I see you throwing away a cup full of soda into a can with no liner, I will be tempted to imitate Weird Al Yankovic in the not-surprisingly overlooked 80s action comedy, UHF. Avert your eyes if you are squeamish and easily upset.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Qug9kNhDDvs

 

The only differences are,  I am a janitor and not a librarian and will be using my broom instead of a sword. And since my broom is not sharp, it will take me much longer to achieve the desired result.

 

Glitter: The Devil’s Dust

Glitter is evil. 100%, absolutely, unequivocally evil. I am convinced it was invented by someone whose only purpose in life was to bring pain and suffering to all janitors, housekeepers, and cleaners across the globe. Do not be fooled by its sparkle! Once you use glitter it never goes away. EVER. It will cling to every surface, every article of clothing, ever inch of exposed skin. It will not sweep away. It will not mop away. It will not scrub away. There is no greater metaphor of the destructive and pernicious effects of sin in our lives than glitter. It was birthed in the bowels of hell itself and seeks nothing less than the total annihilation of all that is good, noble, and pure. And we use it in church more than anywhere else in the world! FOR SHAME!!!

When the precious church children make a craft that uses glitter, the following gifs will walk you through my mental, psychological,  and emotional response:

 

My first response is absolute resignation. I am helpless to the horrors that await me.

It is then that I summon an unbridled bellow of frustration and desperation in it’s purest form.

Then, I throw a little hissy fit. Or a big one. Judge not lest ye be judged people.

Then, I Hulk out in the least intimidating or impressive manner possible.

Finally, I channel all of that rage, all of that anger, all of that hate and I do this. I would say literally, but you all know how I feel about that word being misused. But seriously though, it’s really close to literal. Super close.

Moral of the story: Don’t ever use glitter. Ever.

Ever, ever, ever.

Never ever.

EVER.

EVER.

 

That’s it. Avoid those things or do those things correctly and all will be well. Well, mostly. I still need to deal with people cutting their nails in church, church members bringing Chinese takeout into the sanctuary, worshipers taking…

 




The Definitive Guide to Awkward Silences

So you’re out and about, gallivanting around town with someone, anyone. It may be a good friend, a mere acquaintance, a close family member, a distant relative, whatever. Anyway, there is the dreaded lull in the conversation and you’re thinking, “Oh great, this is awkward. Now they’re going to hate me forever because I haven’t done my part to fill every millisecond of silence with some sort of jovial conversation. And they obviously already do hate me because they are awkwardly silent as well. What’ll I do! What’ll I do! Say something! SAY SOMETHING!” Hang on, my friend, things may not be as grim as you imagine. There may be a good reason for their silence. Here are five kinds of awkward silences and their logical reason.

1. The Awkward Silence of Feasting – Talking between bites is fine and dandy, but I prefer to spend most of my time while eating concentrating on my food. I know I’m not alone in considering feasting a very, very serious business indeed. However, there are those who have the gift of concentrating on eating while holding a continuous conversation without showing everyone the matter wallowing around in their face. Unfortunately there are also those people who do both of these things, but don’t possess this gift. These poor souls just can’t talk (but insist on doing so on a constant basis) without displaying the food in their mouths to the world. If you are such an individual, you are very well advised to primarily restrict yourself to consumption concentration.

2. The Awkward Silence of Contemplation – Sometimes what you construe as an awkward silence might just be the other person thinking. There are those who have been known to do strange things like this from time to time. There are dozens of us! Dozens!!!! There is so much to think about: Thoughts and thoughts in thoughts and thinkers’s of thoughts and thinkers’ of thoughts in thoughts in thoughts. It never ends. I’m putting private prayer in this category.

3. The Awkward Silence of Concentration – This is related to contemplation but is more specific. While in contemplation you are considering a thought or group of thoughts in your head; with concentration you are honing in on something in the real world like a book, a movie, Bigfoot in the backyard, etc., etc., etc. Maybe your awkward silence right now is a result of reading this article. If so, bless your heart all to pieces, my friend.

4. The Awkward Silence of Friendship – It is often the case that when people are best friends or close family for a long time, the awkward silences turn into comfortable silences. At least that is often the case. Maybe you are one of those souls where no amount of familiarity can instigate the awkward silence of friendship. If this is the case, I feel for you, but know that this is a community of welcoming and acceptance. We embrace all levels of awkwardnicity. Other than that, I don’t know what to say. This is awkward.

5. The Awkward Silence of Awkwardness – Okay, there’s no way to get around this one. Sometimes an egg is just an egg. There’s no confetti or chocolate inside. Sometimes the awkwardness is mutual. In other words, you are right to be as full of despair and anguish as you originally thought. Kidding. It’s never the end of the world. Or is it?

There you have it. There is usually a mixtures of two or more of these visages of awkward silences. For instance, for me it might be the awkward silence of feasting and concentration if I’m eating lunch while watching Bigfoot play with the cats in our backyard.




Five Classic Curmudgeons of TV and Film

Movie and Television history is profuse with amazing and unforgettable crusty old men. Mean, cranky, ancient, eccentric – got to love those aged dudes and their disdain of all these hippies (everyone under 50) and newfangled contraptions. In our adoration of these wise, gray-haired, ne’er-do-wells, we have decided to highlight five iconic crusty old curmudgeons from either film or TV lore. Note: This is not necessarily a “best-of” list. These are simply the five cantankerous old coots that we have chosen to write about. – Ben Plunkett

 

Arthur Spooner – The King of Queens
by Gowdy Cannon

Frank Costanza could go from 0 to outrageously psychotic in two seconds. Arthur Spooner could get there, just a bit more slowly. And sometimes that was actually funnier. Arthur was Carrie’s dad, but it was his interactions with son-in-law Doug that showed how uninhibited Jerry Stiller was as a comedic actor and that caused me to cry tears from laughter. From the simple way he called him “Douglas” to their insane, petty, over-the-top, roll-on-the-floor-laughing showdowns in the kitchen, Arthur Spooner was just different enough from Frank, yet just enough the same. My favorite moments:

–Arthur tries some of Doug’s kids breakfast cereal and gets the prize 3D glasses. Doug is clearly upset because the cereal is his but he tries to be an adult about it. But he can’t because Arthur won’t stop acting juvenile. So Doug acts childish in return and the back and forth ends with Arthur ripping up the glasses and Doug destroying the still-full box of his own cereal as Carrie walks in.

–Arthur asks Doug how many stamps he needs for tickets he is mailing. Arthur doesn’t like Doug’s answer so Doug insults Arthur’s mooching off his family. It ends with Arthur destroying Doug’s sandwich and Doug destroying Arthur’s mail.

–Arthur asks Doug to pass the “catsup”. Doug won’t until he says “ketchup”. Arthur refuses so Doug pours an insane amount of ketchup on Arthur’s burger, demanding that Arthur call it “ketchup” as both yell back and forth until Arthur cedes. “And that’s how we learn”.

(And my personal favorite)

–Doug is answering a political survey over the phone when Arthur comes in and tries to make a phone call on the same line. He realizes what Doug is doing, insults his answers and this begins an exchange of severe putdowns between the two (including “Why don’t you tell him you’re enormous?” and “Why don’t you tell him you live in our basement?”) that ends with Doug asking “Why don’t you tell him your total salary last year was $12?” To which Arthur replies: “That was after taxes!” I don’t know why that Arthur line is so funny. Maybe the look on his face. Or the volume of the conversation. Or how inane the comment is. But I hurt from laughing at it and I’ve seen it several times.

As far as cranky old curmudgeons, Arthur Sponer takes a backseat to no one.

 

Carl Fredricksen – Up
by Phill Lytle


Merriam Webster defines crotchety as: subject to whims, crankiness, or ill temper. Thesaurus.com gives us these synonyms for crotchety: Cantankerous, crusty, grouchy, grumpy, and ornery. When we first meet the older Carl Fredricksen, he is all these things and more. He has grown sour after the passing of his beloved Ellie. He is prone to outbursts of anger, is mean-spirited to Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer.”, and doesn’t seem to enjoy much about his life anymore. In other words, every second he is on screen is a joy for the audience. His complaints are hilarious. His lack of patience with Russell, and anyone else for that matter, never ceases to amuse. Buried deep down in Carl is a noble, honest, and good man. It takes some time for the audience to find it, but the journey is no less enjoyable during the search.

Favorite moments and lines:

Already exasperated with Russell’s constant talking and enthusiasm, Carl says, “Hey, let’s play a game. It’s called “See Who Can Be Quiet the Longest”. The line is perfectly delivered by Ed Asner, one of the great curmugeonly actors of all time. But the response by Russell takes the joke to another level, one that makes us laugh, but also reveals a great deal about our main characters, “Cool! My mom loves that game!”

Once they have nearly reached their destination by air, they are forced to continue the rest of the way on foot. Carl, wanting things quiet delivers this little nugget of gold to Russell, “Now, we’re gonna walk to the falls quickly and quietly with no rap music or flashdancing.” I’ve always loved that the two things Carl mentions are rap music and flashdancing, as if those were obviously things Russell would be involved in.

Finally, early in the film, when the builders are trying to get Carl to leave his home, he spots one of the businessmen in the distance. The man is wearing a suit, looking distinguished and professional. Carl yells at him, “You in the suit! Yes, you! Take a bath, hippie!” I think that one speaks for itself.

 

 

Merlin – The Sword in the Stone
by Ben Plunkett and Phill Lytle

He is, perhaps, the progenitor of all curmudgeons. Merlin is both cranky yet full of vigor. Quick tempered yet a great teacher. Ornery yet kind and caring. The first time we meet this magical old hermit is right after young Arthur literally drops in on him and Merlin is literally waiting. Along with Merlin’s even more curmudgeonly pet talking owl, Archimedes, Arthur is prepared for his rightful place of king. Every kid I knew wanted to have a mentor like Merlin, someone who could transform us into a fish or a squirrel. Someone who could teach us about the world. Someone to take note of us and invest in our lives. Someone who would fly off the handle and disappear to Bermuda when he got angry…

Favorite moments and lines:

Merlin tries to explain the way of the world to young Arthur, telling him that everyone faces adversity, “Oh, bah! Everybody’s got problems. The world is full of problems.” Merlin gets his beard caught in the door and yells, “Oh, blast it all! There, now! You see what I mean?”

When Merlin transforms Arthur and himself into squirrels, an older, lady squirrel becomes quite enamored with Merlin. Growing every more frustrated, yelling “Madame!” at key points of discomfort, Merlin finally decides enough is enough, “By George! I’ve had enough of this nonsense! ALAKAZAM!” He transforms himself back into a human being, leaving the female squirrel confused and upset. “There! Now you see? I’m an ugly, horrible, grouchy old man!” Even Merlin recognizes that he belongs on this list.

While he could be a very grouchy curmudgeon, Merlin also had times of great wisdom, like when he taught Arthur the lesson of love during his very squirrely adventure: “Ah, you know, lad, that love business is a powerful thing,” said Merlin.
“Greater than gravity?” asked Arthur.
“Well, yes, boy. In its way, I’d, uh… Yes, I’d say it’s the greatest force on earth.”

 

 

Frank Costanza – Seinfeld
by Ben Plunkett


Ah, Frank Costanza. Prone to psychotic outbursts. Hilariously and boisterously confrontational. No wonder his son George is a mess (with the very capable assistance of the almost equally psychotic Estelle, of course). The senior Mr. Costanza was portrayed to perfection by Jerry Stiller, whose acting, I imagine, was key to making Frank one of the most iconic crusty old curmudgeon’s of all time. But like all of Seinfeld, there was seriously great, hilarious, and memorable writing going down. A handful (but not nearly all) of Frank’s most memorable quotes and moments:

– “Serenity Now!”

– In my mind the episode “The Strike” is the perfect Seinfeld episode in just about every way. It is in this episode that much to George’s chagrin, Frank’s creation, the alternative holiday Festivus, is revealed to the world.

– “This is Frank Costanza. You think you can keep us out of Florida? We’re moving in lock, stock and barrel. We’re gonna be in the pool. We’re gonna be in the clubhouse. We’re gonna be all over that shuffleboard court. And I dare you to keep us out!”

– Festivus wasn’t the only case of Frank thinking outside the box. In the episode “The Doorman” in another insane fit of invention Frank collaborates with Cosmo Kramer to invent the Bro/Mansierre to assist older fellas in holding up their increasingly sagging chests.

– “He stopped short. You think I don’t know what that’s about? That’s my old move! I used it on Estelle forty years ago! I told everybody about it! Everybody knows! (demonstrates the move) Mmm! I stopped short.”

 

Lt. Mark Rumsfield – The ‘Burbs
by Phill Lytle


I’ve long considered The ‘Burbs to be one of the Tom Hanks’ greatest films. I realize I am in the minority, but I am not alone. I’ve met many people that believe the film is wildly underrated. What makes the film work so well is not just the fantastic performance by Hanks, but the wonderful and eccentric supporting cast. No one steals more lines and earns more laughs than Bruce Dern as Lt. Mark Rumsfield. Rumsfield is a retired military man, yet still living in constant vigilance and readiness for war. He is opinionated, suspicious of everyone, and ready to jump to the worst conclusion possible at the drop of a hat.

Favorite moments and lines:

Unfortunately, most of his dialogue is salty, after years in the military, and I will not reprint it on REO. (The film is rated PG-13, so the saltiness is not as extreme as it could have been.) Just watch the movie and enjoy his well directed vitriol and sarcasm. But, for the sake of this article, here are a couple I can mention:

Rumsfield takes great pride in his yard. Unfortunately, he has a neighbor (Walter Seznick) down the block whose yard far surpasses his own. His reasoning why his yard can’t compete with Walter’s, “That old fart. He’s got the best lawn on the block. And you know why? Because he trains his dog to crap in my yard.” A bit coarse and rough around the edges, but straight to the point.

When a group of our main characters head over, uninvited, to the new neighbor’s house, Rumsfield does his best to make everyone uncomfortable with questions, poking around, and examining as much of the house as he can. His interaction with the new family, the Klopeks, is delightful in its boldness and rudeness. One particular exchange has always cracked me up. Introducing himself to the youngest of the Klopek family, “Rumsfield’s the name. Don’t think I caught yours, sonny?” Hans, responds nervously, “H-H-Hans.” Rumsfield responds in the most natural manner possible, “Hans! Oh-ho! A fine Christian name. Hans Christian Andersen! What are you, Catholic?”

That should give you a good idea what to expect from Lt. Mark Rumsfield and an indication why he made our list.




Five War Movies to Honor the Fallen

No one on the REO staff has served in the military. We have never had to risk our lives in service of our country. Yet, we recognize the bravery, courage, and sacrifice that so many of our citizens have displayed throughout the history of our nation. We recognize and we admire those men and women who have fought and died to protect those of us on the home front. There is little that we can do to honor that ultimate sacrifice. Our words amount to so very little in the end. Even so, we will forever be grateful.

So that we do not forget, the REO staff has selected a handful of movies to commemorate this Memorial Day. These films range in style and focus; some telling the story of a few soldiers, while others tell the story of many. Some were made decades ago and some are much more recent. All of them capture the nobility and sacrifice of the soldiers that fought and died so we can have freedom. Take some time this weekend to remember those who have given their all so that we can be free.

 

The Longest Day – by Benjamin Plunkett

The Longest Day recounts the hours immediately preceding and then every single hour on the day of the Invasion of Normandy. I have loved The Longest Day ever since I was a kid. However, it has not always been my favorite. I do not deny that I have had a long illicit love affair with war movies in general. It has not been until the last ten years or so that this has taken first place among the library of war movies that I love. There are a number of reasons it is a war movie to be deeply appreciated. Two are tops in my mind:

1) A huge international cast of some of the most famous actors of all time. Some of the most recognizable actors of yore appear in this movie, all-time greats like John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, and Rod Steiger. While that is a very impressive lineup, it is only a sampling of the amazing cast from the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. This means that multiple languages are spoken throughout the course of the film, which, of course, means plenty of subtitles.

2) The meticulous attention to historical detail. The examples of this in the film are legion. And many of the scenes are said to have been among the most complicated scenes to shoot in movie history. To do this multiple directors and units collaborated on the project to make it painstakingly accurate. Two that are particularly impressive: The paratroopers dropping in Mere Eglise and the assault on Ouistreham (which was supposedly the most complicated shoot in the whole thing).

This blurb barely scratches the surface of this great war movie. Its place as a historic educational tool is massive. D-Day was one of the greatest and proudest days in the history of mankind. This is one of the best ways to learn about that very historic event.

 

The Thin Red Line – by Phill Lytle

“This great evil, where’s it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might’ve known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?” – Private Edward P. Train in The Thin Red Line

Meditative. Poetic. Profoundly spiritual: Qualities rarely used to describe a war film, but they serve as the perfect descriptors for Terrence Malick’s World War II masterpiece. There will be many who will walk away from this film bored or disengaged, but for those fortunate enough to understand the unique cinematic language, the film contains unexpected and unrelenting rewards. Malick uses narration, inner dialogue, and sublime visuals to move beyond the words and actions of the soldiers who fought and died. He allows their spirits to speak to the horror, the passion, and the humanity of war. The Thin Red Line transcends the usual movie treatment, presenting instead an exploration of our deepest questions and longings viewed through the prism of combat and war.

 

Saving Private Ryan – by Mark Sass

Very few movies truly redefine a genre. Saving Private Ryan was one such film. At the very least it revolutionized audio/visual techniques, style, and tone for war sequences in film. Prior to Saving Private Ryan no war movie had ever looked so real on screen. The film made a commitment to communicating the horrors of war like no other. At times the movie was visceral to a degree that was difficult to watch. However, the realism of the film encompassed much more than only violence. Audiences didn’t merely watch the film; they experienced it. Several scenes stood out in this regard, but none so like the 22 minute sequence on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day. Unlike many other war movies nothing was glamorized, toned down, or embellished in this film. To this day many regard the Omaha Beach scene as the most realistic depiction of war ever put on film. Audiences got the smallest taste of the true nature of war from the film. And that was very different from how other movies portrayed it. For this reason it’s difficult to say this was an enjoyable movie. No, it’s better said the movie was one to appreciate and respect. Saving Private Ryan told a story that was worth telling. The plot masterfully jumped between the events of WWII and present day in a way that captivated the viewer. Familiar emotions for the genre such as courage, heroism, and sacrifice permeated the film. Led by Tom Hanks, the entire cast delivered top notch performances from beginning to end. The acting, cinematography, editing, music, FX, and everything in between, all came together to deliver a film of the highest quality which will never be forgotten. Saving Private Ryan might be the pinnacle of director Steven Spielberg’s long and illustrious career.

 

Sergeant York – by Gowdy Cannon

When I was a teenager I did not like history. Yeah, I was a doofus. I didn’t like black and white movies. I didn’t like war movies. So when Mr. Marshall Thompson, my 10th grade American history teacher, showed our class a movie that was both, and that I loved, he basically did the impossible.

Based on his personal diary and with the demand that Gary Cooper play the lead, Alvin Cullum York let Hollywood give us his story in a truly remarkable and unforgettable way. I bought the VHS and watched it over and over. I would go around randomly saying “Killn’s agin the book” and “I’m fer the book” in high school and college. I did my character presentation for Mr. John Carter in U.S. History in college on him. (And to this day I regret not doing Sergeant York’s turkey call when classmate and future best friend Joshua Crowe tried to prompt me to during the Q&A time.) I love “Give Me That Old Time Religion” because of this movie. Every time I am driving into Nashville on the interstate and see something off of an exit dedicated to him, I still smile.

A tale of not just war heroics but of a man’s personal and riveting journey, notably of the struggles that come with the Christian faith and its convictions, I think most people can enjoy this film. Even the knuckleheads who do not normally go for movies of its age and genre. I am thankful to it for teaching me how good those types of movies can be.

 

Band of Brothers – by Phill Lytle

Though not a film, no list of this type would be complete without including the HBO adaptation of Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. First released in 2001, Band of Brothers is a ten-part epic mini-series that follows the formation, training, and World War II experiences of “Easy Company”, part of the Parachute Infantry Regiment of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Due to its longer run time, Band of Brothers is able to do something that no film can: it can tell a long, sweeping, fully immersive story that features dozens of main characters, locations, and battles. The viewer is able to spend time with these brave men. We are able to get to know them, understand their strengths and weaknesses. See them perform heroically time after time.

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, every detail is handled with care and respect. These were real men that are portrayed on screen by an assortment of incredibly gifted and committed actors. There are interviews with the actual soldiers before and after episodes, which adds another layer of authenticity and power for the series. For my money, there is no greater picture of the war than Band of Brothers.

 




Five Reasons You Should Read Rambling Ever On (Video)

Our first video post! As always, we continue to look for ways to bring you new and interesting content. We hope you enjoy this short video. Word of advice: Watch it in full screen.

 

 




In Defense of the Seinfeld Finale

“I got so much grief from the Seinfeld finale, which a lot of people intensely disliked…” (Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld)

 

If you want to start an argument among Seinfeld fans my advice is to ask this simple question: “What did you think of the finale?”

I’ve been talking with Seinfeld fanatics since before Kramer had a first name and I have seen firsthand how volatile conversations about Seinfeld can be. This is perhaps the biggest time bomb.

Let me preface my defense of the finale by saying that it was nowhere near the funniest episode or even as funny as an average episode. Out of 180 total episodes, I doubt it would crack the Top 100 for laugh out loud moments. I can easily support that critique. Similarly, if someone wanted to be introduced to the show there is no way I would want them to see the Finale totally aside from the nature of a finale not being an episode to watch first. It was a different beast from episodes like The Comeback and The Marine Biologist.

But even with all this, I loved the way the show ended.  Here are five reasons why:

 

1. Larry David came back. 

I for one do not think the show fell off a cliff the post Larry David seasons since probably half of my favorite moments came in Seasons 7-9. But there is no Seinfeld without Larry David. And to bring him back to recreate the magic of Seinfeld’s origins–everything from Jerry doing stand up to open to the very last conversation bringing the show full circle–made the finale worth remembering. From writing to producing to championing the show with such passion he would argue with NBC executives, Larry David was as important to mainstreaming and popularizing Seinfeld as anyone.

 

2. They found a creative, clever way to bring back the best one-off characters from the show’s history. 

Who didn’t enjoy experiencing the Bubble Boy testify, railing against George about the Moors again? Or watching Babu wag his finger one more time? Or seeing the Soup Nazi refuse to spell his name and demand the next question?

This was what made Larry David so proud of the finale and I have to agree with him. Finales should be a trip down memory lane in some sense and they found a truly unique way to recall inimitable characters and jokes that were defining moments for this award winning series.

 

3. This scene with Newman:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIiplTlZNTI

 

Newman, the character who appeared the most outside of the main four[1. I you don’t count Ruthie Cohen, and I don’t] and who Jerry cannot explain his hatred for, had his moments. He even stole some scenes. But they saved the pinnacle Newman meltdown for last. Either this or Frank Costanza interrupting the trial to yell at George Steinbrenner is the biggest laugh of the Finale to me. And this is definitely a “Gowdy stands up to clap” moment.

 

4. The characters gave us 45 final, glorious minutes of what made them great.

Not to contradict myself above but if someone did want to know what Seinfeld was like and they only had 60 seconds to do so, I absolutely would show them the comments the New York Four made on Kramer’s video while the fat tub was getting robbed. Anyone who didn’t smile and nod when George complained about no catsup–while in jail–probably missed most of the show’s run to that point. Jackie Chiles’ rants; Frank yelling about Hideki Arabu; Puddy’s utter indifference to Elaine going to jail complete with the Puddy stare and the Puddy voice-tone reply of “Alright” to Elaine’s “Don’t wait for me”…the finale unquestionably reminded us of why we became addicted to the show in the first place. Not all of these moments were boisterously laugh funny, but they were all quintessential Seinfeld.

 

5. The conclusion was absolutely true to the nature of the show.

I wish I had kept better files back in 1998 when this episode aired because I cannot remember who it was or where I read it but someone perfectly captured the ending by pointing out that the characters in the show didn’t care about anyone else and the show’s ending showed they didn’t care about us either. No good vibes. No sappy ending. Just the standard “Everyone loses” Seinfeld climax. There is something so real about that I can’t help but love it.

And the verdict: Four completely self-absorbed narcissists who left countless lives worse than how they found them, going to jail for a year. Poetic Justice in inane form. And the crime could not have been any more fulfilling–breaking a law based on a story from Jesus, a man who was perfectly contrary to them. The moment that “guilty” verdict is read, my goosebumps shatter as though I were watching a walk-off grand slam Cubs win. What an ending! It all, indeed, came crumbling down. And Newman was there. In all his glory.

As Larry David has said, everyone writes their own finale in their head[2. Anyone who wanted Elaine and Jerry to get together needs to get bonked upside the head with a marble rye.] and it is impossible for a show as popular as Seinfeld to make everyone happy in an episode like this. But I respect it because they did exactly what they wanted to do the way they wanted to do it. And they did not care about anyone else. The same man who yelled at NBC reps for not liking his Chinese restaurant episode idea, and got his way (and eventual great acclaim for the idea), went out the only way he could. And I cannot dog that. It worked.

 

I’m but one voice, yet 19 years ago I walked away from the TV longing for more new Seinfeld. Nevertheless, I was still completely satisfied by its ending. Two decades later I feel the same. The greatest show of all time went out on top. No critiques of the finale can change that.

 

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know below!

 

 




The Time-Traveling Spaniard Bigfoot Bernardino Big and the Continuing Quest for Dr. Pepper

In Five Grossly Inaccurate Recollections of Important Big Family Dates and What Actually Happened I related some historical Big tales as they are inaccurately known among the public at large. All of that was information given to me by Bill Big. Well, new information has come to light about the Spaniard Bernardino Big. I recently discovered his diary and found that before settling down he was indeed a time traveler. During his journey in Texas, he stumbled upon a strange time traveling device, a glowing orb, which changed his life forever. In the course of his travels he tried out all manner of popular merchandise of the individual times like felt top hats, bell bottoms, and Dr. Pepper. This last would quickly find a place in his heart, a memory to be cherished forever. After a time, however, all the time and space gadding about got old and he went back to his native space-time continuum. Only he made a mistake with the controls and when he returned was a few weeks after he left rather than just a few minutes. By that time, all of his countrymen had long gone, giving him up for dead. So that is the state we first found him, a long-lost traveler in a caffeine withdrawal rage. His diary tells us that shortly after this event he had had it with wandering about aimlessly and began a five-visit quest to relive Dr. Pepper glory. Sadly, though, he had quite forgotten which timeline possessed this carbonated nectar of life. That meant he was going to have to do more moving about in time here and there and everywhere. So off he went.

Visit One: 986 A.D. – Old Leif Erikson and his merry band of Vikings reported sighting sighting a big old monster who they described as an ugly, hairy beast with big black eyes. In his diary, Bernardino took great umbrage at this horrific description but admits it was probably accurate at the time. He had just left his Texan visit (which was his ninth visit since the very beginning) and was still on the caffeine withdrawal quest for the refreshing taste of Dr. Pepper. By this time he was veritably aquiver with this withdrawal. Leif, who actually chatted with him for a bit, informed Bernard that he knew not of this strange, mythical substance. So after after the Vikings sailed off home, he pouted for a bit then jumped again.

Visit Two: 1828-1829 – One of Bernard’s longest visits was in Georgia’s Okenfenokee Swamp throughout an unusually dry winter. He stayed so long because he cottoned to the solitude of swamp life. “Cottoned to” was a phrase he picked up from the various hunters and explorers who ventured through the swamp now and again. Although he didn’t know it, he was a regular old Yoda on Dagobah, he was, and managed to elude detection until some guys discovered his footprints he had carelessly left behind. Next thing you know all hell breaks loose and Bernard’s little piece of paradise comes to an end. Those dudes all hauled back and brought back a bunch of fired up Bigfoot hunters. Well, they found old Bernard, but their recollections of the event were vastly exaggerated. The only true part of their recollection is that just as many others in the Big line, Bernard was very tall. Other than that, bogus. Although it is true that they did eventually find the “monster,” they claim it viciously attacked them in a mad fury. In reality, Bernard was just standing there, kind of embarrassed since he had just taken a mud bath and wasn’t dressed and cleaned to receive visitors. The hunters, on the other hand, weren’t embarrassed at all, just scared and very, very nervous. When a cone dropped from a nearby cypress tree, the skittish hunters unloaded their guns into the poor, defenseless bulb. Bernard took the chaotic moment to leave this timeline. He grabbed the nearby time traveling device and said sayonara to his beloved swamp home before skedaddling into space and time.

Visit Three: 7856 – Here Bernardino landed in an alternate universe, which he had seldom done before. It was usually in his own homegrown universe. Anyway, in this far distant time and in this universe, Bernardino blended into the crowd since it was inhabited by all manner of Bigfoot civilizations. There were also races of flying unicorns and talking geraniums. Despite his being entirely covered in mud, within minutes of his arrival he was inundated with applications to join any one of at least a dozen different Bigfoot tribes. It was all quite fascinating and Bernardino was sorely tempted to stay, but alas, he longed for Dr. Pepper and the loving comfort of his native timeline so he pushed the button and off he went.

Visit Four: 1973 – This is the year the public started going crazy with Bigfoot and UFO sightings. Only two of these touted sightings (one of bigfoot, the other of a UFO) are actually true. And what is even crazier is that both of these happened on the same night and in the same location. Here is what is claimed to have happened that fateful night in Pennsylvania: A couple of teenage girls were out in front of their friends house waiting for a ride home when all of a sudden a nine-foot-tall Bigfoot with white fur emerged from the woods across the street. They claimed the beast was also carrying a glowing orb. The two ran back inside to tell their friend’s dad. He went to investigate and reported that while in the woods he saw a UFO. Here’s what actually happened: After arriving in 1973, the nude, still mud-covered Bernardino found himself in an empty house. It took him a couple of hours, but he somehow managed to figure out how the new-fangled inside bathroom stuff worked. He basically knew how these things worked thanks to his earlier visits to the 20th century. So he took a shower and cleaned off the mud. Afterwards, he covered his nakedness with the only thing he could find that even remotely fit: A pair of white long johns. Anyway that’s what his description sounds like. Bernard just figured clothes is clothes, you know. Afterwards he traipsed through the surrounding woods with the glowing orb to figure out where and in what time he had ventured. In the darkness he crossed a strange gray pathway and in the process scared off two girls. In the woods beyond a strange light beamed down on him. That is when the alien craft alighted beside him. Berbard stated that indescribably hideous beings came out. He said every one bore striking resemblances to Justin Bieber who he had actually encountered on an earlier visit. The Bieber beings told Bernard that they had been searching for precious time-travel device and had been stuck in 1973, the worst year ever, until they found it again. Bernard agreed to graciously return it to them on the condition that they return him to his original time and space.

Visit Five: 1519 – Yeah, that’s right. Bernardino was born and raised right in the timeline where we first met him. He had jumped from 1519 already two times. The very first time was at his home in Bilbao, Spain where he was part of a crew that set off for the new world. After a months-long sea voyage, they began to pave a path of death and destruction through Mexico. It was during the journey through what we now call Texas that Bernardino found the glowing orb in the sand. The orb, it had all manner of dials and numbering on its surface. When he accidentally made his first jump he wasn’t sure how to operate the blasted thing. After a few jumps he got a hang of it and eventually figured out how everything worked. Now at the end, sadly not having achieved his greatest desire, the alien Bieber beings, per his request, delivered him to his Balbao home. But seeing his great sadness and being filled with great pity, the Bieber beings graciously bestowed upon him a parting gift of a bottle of Dr. Pepper, a sacred liquid to their kind and their most valued possession.




Five Amazing Truths About Election On Which Every Christian Should Agree

Editor’s Note: This article was written as a follow up to an article published earlier this year by REO on Five Statements made by Arminius that even Calvinists can agree with.  If you missed that article you can read it here.

 

Aside from the myth of the Rapture, nothing stirs up a theological hornets nest like Predestination and Election. Just five minutes ago, I overheard some students at my high school debating Arminianism and Calvinism. They don’t even get that worked up over Trump! While I don’t want to diminish the points of disagreement, I find it helpful to discuss five truths surrounding the doctrine of Election that all Christians, whether Arminianist or Calvinist in leaning, can (and should) agree on.

 

Election equates Christians with God’s chosen people.

When the writers of the New Testament use the term “elect” their first century audience would have thought immediately about God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Peter calls believers a “Chosen Nation” and a “Royal Priesthood.” In doing so, he identifies the calling of the believer with the calling of God’s chosen people Israel. Just like the people of God under the Mosaic Covenant, Christians also have a calling to worship God as one people and to be a priesthood for other “nations” who do not know the God of the Bible. As priests our role is to connect the nations with the one true God. This is not through animal sacrifice, but by the living sacrifice of a Gospel-centered life.

 

Election speaks to our being in Christ.

The title “Christ” denotes Jesus’ positon as God’s “Chosen one.” He is the Lord’s anointed, the chosen king, THE servant spoken of in Isaiah; Jesus is the Elect (Luke 9:35). Ephesians 1 tells us that we have been chosen “in Him.” Our status as “the elect” is made possible because we belong to “The Elect” One. We are chosen because we belong to the Chosen one.

 

Election connects us a larger community of faith.

Perhaps this is a restatement of point number one, but from a different angle. As modern Americans, we invision faith as private and individualistic. We need a greater emphasis on the community of faith. Too often we think that the gospel is about me and God. Paul, however, usually presents the gospel as us and God. While we are certainly not saved because of the faith of others, every passage about election in the scripture is addressed to groups of Christians. When John calls the congregation receiving his letter “The Elect Lady” (2 John 1:1) the point is clear—the people of faith are God’s elect. This emphasis on community is why the church father Cyprian proclaimed that “there is no salvation outside of the Church.” Christianity never imagines the Christian life outside of a community of faith. To be Elect is to belong to something bigger.

 

Election makes ethnic differences insignificant.

Many Puritans applied the idea of “the Elect Nation” to what they thought were God’s eschatological purposes for the nation of England. In doing so, they missed the purpose of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians, Colossians, and Galatians. There is a reason Paul spends the first chapter of Ephesians discussing Predestination and Election. There is a reason he asserts God’s activity and the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. In establishing these doctrines, Paul is getting to his point in chapter 2—The unity of Jew and Gentile. God is creating “one new humanity out of two.” (Ephesians 2:15) Any feelings of racial superiority or hostility are burned away by the truth that in Christ we are one people. (For more on this you can read this article)

 

Election makes no room for pride.

In light of all these truths, the doctrine of election should primarily be a humbling one. We don’t deserve to be God’s chosen people, we don’t deserve to be in Christ, we don’t deserve to be part of a family of faith, we don’t deserve to be healed of our racism. As much as we may or may not have tried, we have done nothing to deserve God’s election. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

 

If Ephesians 2 is true, rather than prompting us to argue over TULIPs and the order of decrees, maybe the doctrine of election should prompt us to humility, unity, and good works. If it doesn’t do that, it’s not a doctrine worth teaching.




Five Petra Songs That Taught Me the Truth

To be perfectly clear up front – this is not a joke. This is not some sarcastic, ironic, wink-at-the-audience type of article. This is real. I am sure there are many out there that either do not know who Petra was or many that do know and wish they did not. For any number of reasons, though Petra was one of the most popular and well-loved rock bands in the Christian music scene, there is a level of indifference, or worse, disdain directed towards them and towards that entire era of “Christian rock.” Someday, I hope to further explore the peculiar myopia of the Christian music world. In no other genre of music are the historical roots ignored like Christian music. It is as if any artist, band, or song that did not come out in the past few years does not even exist. However, as I said, that is an article for another day. Today, I do want to shine a light on a band that paved the way for so many others. A band that sold millions of records, won dozens of Dove and Grammy Awards, and most importantly, gave kids like me some absolutely great music to listen to. Music that was not only cool but that imparted great truth to a young, impressionable mind. So here are five, of the many, truths in Petra songs that spoke to me in my youth and helped me see God, the church, and spirituality in a much clearer way. I have included a Spotify playlist with the Five songs at the end of the article.

 

Petra taught me to be more outwardly focused.

Song: Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows
Album: More Power to Ya (1982)
Scriptural Support: Matthew 25:35-48, John 13:34-35, Luke 6:27-36.

Key Lyric:
Out on the doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe they’ll go away
When you have so much you think, you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack, when you’re really destitute

This album came out when I was four years old, so it took me some time to discover it and truly appreciate what I was hearing. This song in particular worked slowly on me. I responded immediately to the opening of the song – with an organ churning out “Showers of Blessing” and then transitioning to the acoustic guitar melody. When the truth behind the song finally broke through for me, it was a lightning bolt type moment. So many times our churches are insulated things. We build walls in so many ways to keep out the ugliness and messiness of the world. As believers, we are no different. This song challenges me every time I hear it. It pushes and prods me to reach out more, to care more, and to love more.

 

Petra taught me that prayer is a vital part of the Christian life.

Song: Stand In the Gap
Album: On Fire (1988)
Scriptural Support: 1 Chronicles 16:11, James 5:16, Ezekiel 22:30, 2 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Timothy 2:1.

Key lyric:
Stand in the gap
Coming boldly to His throne of grace
Stand in the gap
He will hear you when you seek His face

Too often, prayer can feel like a last resort. When someone we love is hurting, we look for any numbers of ways to help. We exhaust ourselves trying to “fix” the problem, usually to poor result. Scripture makes it clear that we should seek the face of God first and often. While this was a truth taught to me at home and in church, this song brought the truth home in a way I had not understood before. Our lives are a battlefield and when one of us is wounded, our job is to stand in the gap, defending and upholding them with our powerful and effective prayers.

 

Petra taught me that my eyes are closed to the suffering in the world.

Song: Hollow Eyes
Album: Beat the System (1984)
Scriptural Support: Matthew 25:35-48, Psalm 9:9; 10:14; 12:5, 7; 34:18; 37:18-19.

Key Lyric:
The least of these is hungry.
The least of these is sick.
The least of these needs clothing.
The least of these needs drink.
The least of these knows sorrow.
The least of these knows grief.
The least of these has suffered pain, and Jesus is His name.

I am not sure how old I was when I first heard this song. I do remember being very young. I also remember a long drive from the interior of Panama, back to our home in Panama City, when I listened to this song. This might have been around the same time I first heard it, or it could have been a short time later. I was one of those kids that would latch on to new music like it was essential to my continued existence. I soaked it in completely. I have a distinct memory of hearing this song at night while on the road. I remember hearing the haunting words and melody. I remember being shaken by it, down to my very bones. All at once, this song widened my perspective of the world, showed me the truth of worldwide suffering, and made it perfectly clear that to ignore all of it, was to ignore Jesus Himself.

Petra taught me that God is my Rock.

Song: You Are My Rock
Album: This Means War (1987)
Scriptural Support: Psalm 18:1-6, Psalm 31

Key Lyric:
You are my rock, my fortress, my shield
You are my rock, let Your strength be revealed
My rock, my comfort, my peace
My salvation, my refuge, my God
You are my Rock

While this album came out when I was 9 or 10 years old, I truly hit my music obsession stride around my early teens. This Means War! was a landmark moment. It hit me at a time when I was struggling with assurance of my faith. With the gentle wisdom and patience of my parents and albums like this, I was able to nail things down in a permanent way. This song in particular was a huge help. There were times, in my head, when things felt out of control. My spirit felt like it was being tossed and turned, this way and that, with fear and doubt. This song became an anchor point, a rallying cry to me. When I felt surrounded by the darkness, God’s inescapable light would break through. I was never standing alone.

 

Petra taught me that God has conquered death forever.

Song: Grave Robber
Album: Not of This World (1983)
Scriptural Support: Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17

Key Lyric:
Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

This is a song that has encouraged me for the majority of my life. For one, it is full of Scripture, with verses and passages woven in and out of the lyrics. It is a bold and full statement of faith that our God is stronger than death. He is the grave robber and the killer of death. Secondly, the song itself is upbeat; building to a powerful bridge and final restatement of the chorus. The band chose to make the song triumphant and victorious, instead of contemplative and reserved. The melody and style do much in imparting the true power behind the lyrics. Our hearts might still ache for those who have gone before, but we are promised a reunion of joy where we will witness death being swallowed by the giver of life.

 

I could probably write about another dozen songs by Petra that spoke to me just as powerfully. I could talk about Godpleaser or Adonai. I could go on and on about Creed, He Came, He Saw, He Conquered, or Hey World. I could spend hours discussing the songs, the words, and the integral role music has played in my life. I won’t. This is enough for now. I am eternally grateful for the way God has used music to teach me, mold me, and help me see Him more clearly. Petra was a big part of that.

https://open.spotify.com/user/1226908113/playlist/05371QlsvHrlFRd1XqqziJ




Five Movie Resurrections and Why They Matter

In honor of Easter and our celebration of the resurrection, I have decided to compile five of my favorite film resurrections. Now, some of you more pious and holy readers might be shaking your heads right now wondering if you should continue reading this, with its borderline-sacrilegious-sounding premise. I assure you, no sacrilege or disrespect is intended. I just happen to be a huge movie fan and I believe strongly in the concept of art imitating life. Or in this case, art imitating death-then-life. I am convinced that resurrection, in a variety of forms, is a powerful storytelling device, primarily since it is grounded in the truth of the greatest story ever told. This will not be an in-depth exploration of these films. There is simply too much ground to cover. I do reserve the right to revisit these films down the road with a more thorough examination. With that in mind, here are five of my favorite movie resurrections. Warning: Many spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

 

Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings)

Tolkien scattered Christ figures throughout his most popular work, with Gandalf being one of the most obvious and powerful. Director Peter Jackson, though not sharing Tolkien’s faith, fully embraced many of these allusions and in some ways, upped the ante. When Gandalf falls to the Balrog in the Mines of Moria, in the first film in the trilogy, he “dies” with his arms extended in cruciform. He gives his life to save the fellowship. When he returns in The Two Towers, he returns transfigured. He descended into the bowels of death and is raised up again in power and glory.

 

E.T. (E.T. The Extraterrestrial)

Everyone knows about E.T. If you don’t, stop reading this and go watch it right now. It is one of the greatest films ever made and you are less of a person if you have not watched it. The film includes one of the best Christophanies, which is ironic considering it was directed by a Jewish man who had no intention of making that connection. E.T. dies, comes back to life, performs miracles, and ascends to the heavens by films end. Awesome stuff which is only helped by the incredible John Williams’s score.

 

Neo (The Matrix)

Whoa! I realize that the religious symbols, words, and imagery that are liberally sprinkled throughout the film were included not out of any devotion to the truth, but more in an effort to tie the film to older and deeper archetypes. For the most part, it is effective. The final scenes in the film step into the eternal conversation about death and rebirth and while the filmmakers divorce their exploration of these things from Christian ideals like selflessness and sacrifice, they do touch upon the concept of Messianic necessity.

 

Truman (The Truman Show)

At some point, I am going to do a deep dive into the spiritual and social truths layered into this film, but for now, we will just hit some highlights. The Truman Show is the story of one man – Truman Burbank – who lives a false life. He doesn’t realize his life is fake, but everyone around him does. He is the unwitting star of a television show that has followed his every move since the day he was born. His entire world is fake; the makers of the show even construct a city-sized studio to preserve the illusion. Late in the film, once Truman has discovered that things are not what they appear, he is confronted by Christof, the creator of the show. Christof summons a storm to destroy Truman’s boat, leaving Truman tangled in ropes and unconscious under water. For the lack of a better word, Truman dies. Then he rises from the dead. Truman continues his attempt to escape, using the still floating  boat and Christof, in a final, desperate attempt, uses the studio’s sound system to speak to Truman. He is the very voice of the god of this fake and empty world. He tries to convince Truman to stay. Every plea and bargain rings hollow and Truman remains steadfast in his desire to leave. There is imagery throughout the final moment of the film that are clearly signposts to the crucifixion, Jesus, and the empty tomb. Combined with the thematic ingenuity of the film, the ending makes for a powerful and satisfying resolution.

 

Thor

Scoff if you want, but in my mind, there are few films that incorporate the ideas of self sacrifice and resurrection better than Marvel’s Thor. Without getting too specific, Thor, the god of Thunder, goes through a massive character transformation; going from arrogant and foolish to noble and selfless during the course of the film. The emotional climax of the film occurs when Thor offers his life to save his friends. He is rewarded with death and then a return to life in a powerful and triumphant bit of cinematic magic. In the clip below, the elements that truly sell the moment are the amazing score by Patrick Doyle and the radiant smile on Lady Sif’s face when she realizes that her friend is not dead.

So there you have it. Those are a few of my favorites. I would love to hear your thoughts on them. Or, you can tell us about some other resurrections in popular culture that mean a lot to you.