Monthly Archives: May 2016

Should Sheep be allowed in Public Restrooms?

A few days ago, I was killing time in a local department store while my wife shopped, when the urge to make a nature call hit me.  With all the controversy swirling around department store restrooms lately, I was a little wary of using the store facilities.  However, you can only deny nature so long, so after a few minutes of waddling around the store with my knees clamped together, I found myself standing before the men’s restroom ready to risk whatever evil lurked behind the door.  At that point, I would have kissed Hillary Clinton flush on the mouth for some relief.

Maybe, it was because my eyeballs were floating, but the moment my hand touched the door to enter, I broke into a sweat, and the image of a tall bearded guy wearing a John Deere baseball cap and a three-quarter sleeve red dress with a ruched waist stretched over a budding beer belly flashed before my eyes.  Standing at a urinal with the dress hiked over his hips, he smiled sweetly and winked at me.   The heebie-jeebies rolled down my spine, down the backs of my legs, and to my toes.  Warning lights and sirens flashed and wailed in my brain, but my growing need for relief overruled the warnings.  I pushed open the door and walked inside.  Thankfully, the only person in the restroom was a guy in the stall nearest the urinals with his pants wrapped around his ankles.  So far, so good!

I was unzipping when from the stall next to me, I heard, “Baaaaaaa.”  I froze.  That sounded like a sheep.  “Baaaaaaaaaa!”  It was a sheep!  I have always joked I don’t care what a person does in the privacy of the bedroom, that is between the person and the goat or the sheep, but folks be careful what you joke about!  “Baaaaaaaa!”  A man and sheep sharing a public restroom stall is just as kinky.  What were they doing in there?  What was I to do?  I needed relief, but I felt so exposed and vulnerable standing next to that stall with my zipper open.  What would I do if the guy or his sheep reached under the stall and started playing with my shoelaces?  Suppose one of them tied my shoelaces together, and I was unable to escape.  With my shoelaces in knots, what would I do if accosted by a perverted sheep and a guy with a wool fetish?  I would not be able to run, and although I knew exactly where to kick the guy to incapacitate him, I had reasonable doubts I could do so with my feet tied together, and even more troubling, I did not have the slightest idea how to disable a sheep with raging hormones.

Ker plunk!  Something plopped into the toilet; that was gross I thought.  Bam! Bam! Bam! The stall rattled and shook as the man . . . or sheep . . .  banged against the metal walls.  “Oh, sh@#, oh, sh@#, Ohhhhhhhhh, sh@#,” the man moaned from inside the stall.  “Baaaaaaaa,” warbled the sheep as if underwater.  The man’s head popped above the stall door.  Wide eyed, he looked around the room.   With a twist and hop, he and the pants crumbled around his shoes turned to face the toilet.  He looked down, moaned, said, “Oh, sh@#!” and dropped to his knees, the heels of his shoes protruding from under the stall door.  “Oh, sh@#!” the man groaned. Splash! Splash! Splash!  With each splash, his heels rose and descended much like a bird drinking water.   “No, no, no, no,” the man wailed.  Splash!  Bird drinking! Splash! Bird drinking!  Water from the toilet ran from under the stall and pooled in the middle of the room.  I backed away to the nearest restroom wall, my urge to pee subdued by the desperate macabre dance unfolding before my eyes.

Water circled the man’s knees soaking his pants.  Long, air gulping, crying sobs came from the stall.  “Oh, God, what have I done?” he cried.  The sheep was strangely silent.  Terrible pictures of the man and the sheep doing unmentionable things to one another flashed before my eyes.  “What have I done?” the guy moaned.  Dread for the sheep’s safety suddenly engulfed me.  The sheep was no longer bleating; what had the guy done?  Had he injured or maybe killed the poor animal?  Was it possible the guy had come to his senses and realized a rendezvous with a sheep in a public restroom was not such a good idea after all, and the splashing was him drowning the evidence in the toilet bowl?  But, who in their right mind would have thought a tryst with a sheep was a good idea anytime or anywhere?  Unless, maybe, this was one of those perverted transgenders lurking in public restrooms I had been warned about in the news and on Facebook.  That was the only logical explanation, which meant the odds were high that as soon as he finished with the sheep, he was coming after me!  I knew I should run for help, but I couldn’t move.  What would I tell the store manager?  Did I say a man with his pants around his ankles is abusing a sheep in the men’s restroom?  I could see the headlines, “Retired Educator Witness to Hideous Sheep Abuse in Local Department Store,” story at ten.

After the splashing stopped, the man remained on his knees in front of the toilet for what seemed a very long time – it was a very long time.  Maybe, he had drowned himself.  A part of me told me to check on him, but my Christian side reasoned he might be praying and shouldn’t be disturbed.  From what I witnessed, he needed all the time on his knees he could get, so I decided not to disturb him.  A more disgusting possibility was he was sick and throwing his guts up, which was highly likely since he was sharing space with a sheep?  I also asked myself what I would do if I opened the stall door and saw the sheep stuffed in the toilet?  Other than cruel, was that illegal?  Could a sheep be murdered?  If it was a murder scene, did I, as a citizen, need some kind of warrant before I opened the door?  If I didn’t have such a warrant, could I be held criminally negligent and liable?  The idea of PETA detectives interviewing me in a dimly lit room smelling of puppy and kitty feces terrified me.  Also, if this was truly the end of time as my Sunday school teacher proclaimed, I was terrified that Gabriel and his angels might find me lying in a puddle of toilet water underneath a sheep and a bearded guy in a red dress.  I was convinced that would pretty much cancel my ticket to heaven.  What would a sane, rational person do in my situation – RUN!  I couldn’t, so I did the next best thing – I did nothing.

Finally, the feet disappeared into the stall and righted themselves.  A pair of hands pulled the soggy pants crumbled around the shoes up over argyle shins.  The man’s head once again appeared above the stall door – this time his back to me.  I strained to hear the sheep, but there were no sounds other than the sounds of the man’s stressed breathing and water dripping to the floor from the toilet.  He turned, clicked the stall lock, and stepped out.  Not only were his pants soaked, but his white sleeves were wet to the elbows, and thin trails of water streamed from the drenched suit coat hanging over his arm.  The sheep was nowhere to be seen.  He stared at me for a moment and then looked in the mirror.  “Damn,” he said, “What a mess.  I guess I am going to be late.”

Late?  Did he say late?  He had just molested a sheep or been molested by a sheep in a public restroom, and he was worried about being late.  What kind of unfeeling, unconscionable monster was this?  “What about the sheep?” I said.  “What did you do with the sheep?”

The guy frowned.  “What are you talking . . . ,” he said and stopped.  “Oh,” he said holding out his dripping cell phone for me to see.  “Word of advice . . . never play games on your cell while on the toilet and if you do turn the volume off and hold tight to your phone.”  Stuffing the phone in a soggy pocket, he walked to the restroom door dripping puddles.  “By the way,” he said over his shoulder.  “The sheep is fine.  Thanks for the concern.”

I continued to lean against the wall for a while after he left.  I needed a drink.  In those few moments of solitude before the guy in the bunny suit walked in, closely followed by a woman in a yellow hard hat and overalls with no shirt underneath, I swore off public restrooms.  In today’s society, adult diapers simply make more sense.  The convenience as well as peace of mind is liberating.  I don’t care what anybody says, sheep do not belong in public restrooms.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 29, 2016

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Abandoned by God or Common Sense?

The 2016 campaign for the presidency has turned this nation into a swarming hive of publicity seekers, doomsday enthusiasts, and impetuous and reckless lunatics stirring the pot of chaos.  Seldom has a day gone by without somebody new jumping on the lunacy bandwagon so shamelessly driven by both political parties.  However, the madness goes beyond politics.  As a nation, thinking and emotions have become so compromised that it is clear many Americans have lost touch with reality.  Every day, the nation is confronted by people entangled in delusional aberrations.  They inject the reality of what they see and hear with what they want to see and hear, thereby creating a sense of warped personal authenticity.

America has lost touch with common sense!  People are quick to embrace hearsay, Facebook dribble, and biased news, especially if it supports what they “want to” believe – to heck with truth and reality.  Americans have developed a passion for morphing little things into big things or nothing into something.  They love to create mountains out of molehills.  As a result, they resemble Chicken Little running around crying the world is ending, and moaning and groaning that God has abandoned America.

If God has abandoned America, which is doubtful, it is because he is embarrassed at the lack of common sense currently on display.  People point to the lack of prayer in schools, lack of attention to the Bible, and sinful lifestyles as the reasons for America’s decline when the sad truth is this country’s problems lie in the hearts of the American people.  God has not abandoned America! The people, due to their reckless disregard for the American pursuit of liberty and happiness for all people as well as their neglect of the Biblical commandment to love their neighbor, have abandoned America.  As a nation, too many Americans no longer embrace diversity as a virtue in their politics, in their society, or in their personal lives, which means they have abandoned what made America great.  As a consequence of this indifference to liberty and happiness for all and love of neighbor, the nation stands helpless in the shadows of mountains built from molehills and righteousness built from convenience.

Common sense is the mountain Americans must reclaim before the nation can regain its sanity and move forward.  Until people begin to filter life, media, and hearsay through the lens of common sense, America will continue to resemble a quagmire of lunacy.  It is time we stop building molehills into mountains, stop pandering and giving credibility to stupidity, stop assuming we are more righteous than the other person, and return to practicing common sense and treating one another with respect.  That is the only way America will regain its sanity.  Once we have a grip on common sense and can again converse respectfully as adults without shouting down those who disagree with us, we will find America is still the greatest nation on earth, and throughout the insanity, God has never been more than a prayer away.

JL

©Jack Linton      May 22, 2016

Sweating to the Gospel

Have you noticed there are almost as many exercise joints as there are churches?  While church attendance declines, attendance at exercise gyms is booming!  Not only are these gyms/clubs opening on corners across the South once reserved for churches, these places are keeping their doors open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  They now compete with churches for time that was once held sacred for Sunday morning and evening worship as well as Wednesday evening prayer meeting.  On any given Sunday or Wednesday you are likely to find as many people, if not more, sweating their buns off in the gym as you find sweating their sins off under a barrage of “hell fire and brimstone” from the pulpit.  The perfect sculpted body has become as important, if not more so, as the perfect spiritual body.  Why are people flocking to the gyms?  What is so enticing about the fitness craze?

Fitness centers are cutting into church attendance for two basic reasons:  static movement and a perplexing state of social angst know as FoMO.  First, Americans are always on the move, mentally and physically, and sitting for long durations in church is contradictory to their norm and activates their ADHD (Ass Dead Hellfire Disassociation).  It is difficult for people to idle down the juices after constantly being on the run between home, their job, the shopping center, eating out, and getting kids to dance and ball games all week.  When they do sit for long periods such as at work or occasionally at home, they are stimulated by a computer, smart phone, digital tablet, or television in front of them.  Even when sitting in front of the television, they are texting and checking Facebook for the latest cutesy photos and “knock your socks off controversy.”  Americans are always on the move and in search of new stimuli, but yet, churches expect them to sit quietly in thinly padded church pews with nothing to do other than sing a couple of hymns and listen to the preacher.  As dynamic as some preachers may be, most of them cannot entertain and stimulate people at the level they are accustomed.  Therefore, more and more people stay home to play with their “Flappy Bird” app, or they skip church to go to the gym where they can insert their ear buds and escape kids, spouses, work, church, and anything else that might remind them how miserably chaotic their life is.

The second reason attendance in church is declining is called FoMO or the fear of missing out.  This very real fear is a pervasive apprehension of missing out on something, especially if that something is the latest and greatest craze.  People today, especially young people, are consumed by this social dilemma; they want and need to be a part of the latest and the greatest whatever it may be!  The adage “build it and they will come” has never been truer in America.   If there is a new workout gym in town offering a great deal on membership, they have got to be a part of it, or they feel they are missing out.   At heart, Americans are joiners and a membership is a drawing card few of them can resist, especially if there is a fee required.  For many people, a membership fee adds a sense of value to their experience and makes it more exciting and desirable.  A fee also heightens their resolve to be present at every opportunity, which means they are more likely to be found sweating at the club than at church on Sunday evening.

Some might argue church is not for sale, and that it should not cost a person anything to join.  That is a beautiful faith worthy thought, but such thinking is archaic and out of touch.  For many Americans, “free” does not carry the same quality, value, and prestige as the same or similar item with a monetary cost; they are literally “turned off” to free as an inferior product or experience.  Therefore, if preachers and their congregations are really serious about increasing attendance in church, they might consider charging a fee based on level of faith.  Such a fee speaks to a level of prestige in the community that many churches have unfortunately lost.

Fitness center proprietors know how to bring people in the door, and churches need to take notice and learn from them.  For example, the movement issue in churches could be easily addressed by intermixing treadmills with the pews and setting up workout stations with free weights at the rear of the church sanctuary.  This would attract the fitness enthusiasts who can’t tear away from the gym long enough to attend church, the time strapped individuals who can’t seem to find time to work out, and the individuals who can’t sit still with nothing to do.  Some might say clacking weights and the hum of treadmills would create a distraction for the more traditional church members, but if a church congregation can get accustomed to rock and roll bands blasting Amazing Grace to the tune of the House of the Rising Sun and strobe lights bouncing off the ceiling, there would probably be very few people to object to banging weights and the drone of treadmills.

Nevertheless, the biggest lesson churches can learn from exercise centers is the importance of membership drives anchored to tangible membership benefits and incentives.  In today’s society, people expect to receive a T-shirt, a coffee mug, a drawing for a free vacation, etc. for any commitment they make, so to get people in the door, giveaways are a must!  People will sell their souls for a free baseball cap or T-shirt.  Unlike churches, exercise clubs understand this; they understand to pull people into your building you must sell them on the value of the experience by charging a fee.  It doesn’t have to be much, but to make membership attractive and give it clout, there has to be a fee!  As long as tithing is optional in church, attendance will not carry the same clout as attendance at the local exercise club that charges ten to twenty bucks a month for membership.  People, especially in the South, are wary of anything that is free, so to boost attendance, churches must require people to tithe and not simply give when they grow ashamed they haven’t put anything in the collection plate in the past six months!

Requiring people to tithe, especially if there is a tiered payment program for tithing, could reap huge benefits for people hungry churches.  Like membership programs in exercise gyms where the more you pay the greater the benefits, church membership benefits could be layered to reflect the more you tithe the closer you are to God, the more you tithe the greater your heavenly benefits, and the more you tithe the holier you can proclaim yourself in the community.   Offer people a bumper sticker reflecting their level of commitment to the church, and they will beat the doors down to sign up!  The American mindset is you get what you pay for, and free gets very little, so charging for church membership makes sense.  Increasing attendance in church is not rocket science; give people what they want and promote it as a value!  If moving to a tiered membership format and removing a few pews to make room for treadmills will fill the church and level the recruiting playing field, why not go for it?

The one negative is that a change might need to take place in church attire, and that might cause a stir with older folks.  However, over the past several years, fewer and fewer people are dressed in their Sunday best for church, so sweats and sports bras would likely barely be noticed in most churches.  A positive with workout attire is that such clothing could actually be utilized to help promote attendance.  “Prayers Answered Here” splashed across the fronts of hot pink sports bras, “Heaven Made” stitched across ample female bottoms, or “Pumping for Blessings” stretched across the swollen pecks of pumped up choir boys could be attendance inducing “eye candy” for both men and women of all ages.

Of course, exercise in church is really nothing new.  As far back as 1957 when Charlie Shedd authored Pray Your Weight Away the church has been slowly edging its way into the fitness arena.  Other books, Rita Hancock’s The Eden Diet and Gary Thomas’s Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul, have also sought to tap in on the fitness craze.  Programs such as The Daniel Plan, Firm Believer, Bod4God, WholyFit, Body Temple Wellness, and Body Gospel are just a few of the fitness programs aimed at the faith-based community.

Between 65 and 71 percent of Americans or over 225,000,000 people are on Facebook daily and about 187,000,000 of those claim to be Christians.  However, based on USA census numbers only about 40% of those Christians actually attend church on Sunday, so, that means 112,000,000 Facebook Christians are not in church on any given Sunday.  It is easy to see something needs to be done to entice Christians back to the church house, and the nation’s infatuation with exercise is probably the best ticket.  Since 1957, the Christian community has understood this and has created books, magazines, and faith based fitness programs to address this niche.  Their only mistake is they have conducted their fitness ministry as a fringe program.  Fitness in America is no longer on the fringe; fitness is a mainstream force that churches would do well to pay attention to.  Therefore, it stands to reason that if churches tap into the world of fitness and make it a mainstream part of what they do Sunday and Wednesday, the odds are good they will boost both interest and attendance.

To survive, churches have always embraced those things in society that bring people in the door.  Churches have embraced scare tactics, revolution, generational music, youth indoctrination, and social media to draw numbers through their doors, so why wouldn’t the next logical step be to embrace fitness as a part of worship.   Visualize churchgoers seated between rolls of treadmills and exercise bikes while gospel rock explodes from a band of teenage and greying rockers wearing ragged jeans and flip-flops on the stage behind the pulpit.  Imagine the pastor dancing in the isles and calling for sinners to repent.  Rolling across the giant video screens to the left and right of the stage, imagine scrolling script urging people to join the church fitness club and become a member of Anti-fat Believers, Fluffy Angels, Disciples of Bulge, and Sweating to the Gospel.  Is that much different than what is already happening in many churches?  In today’s world, to boost church attendance, churches need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get people in the door, including sweating to the gospel.  Such a commitment will certainly increase church attendance as long as there are plenty of deodorant dispensers throughout the sanctuary.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 14, 2016

My Mother was not my Real Mama

I believe most people have secrets they keep with them for a lifetime.  Secrets that may be ugly, sinister, or by the standards of others, even silly, but nevertheless, a secret they choose not to share with anyone including family and close friends.  I have such a secret, and it is neither ugly nor sinister, and it is not silly at all.  It is simply a part of me that I have never found words to express.  It is a secret that no one knows but me – until now.

My biological mother was not my real mama.  I mean no disrespect to the mother who gave birth to me; I loved her, and in her unique way she loved me also.  I was not a mama’s boy, not by choice, but because my mother thought that was a weakness.  Maybe, she was right, but neither of us will ever know for sure.  She raised me in a time when teaching your children to be strong was more important than love, although now I believe she would agree teaching a child to love is part of being strong.  She was a good mother, and I often miss her, but without my real mama, I would not be where I am today.

Growing up, my mother’s love always had conditions, but my real mama wiped away the conditions and loved me for who I am, not who she wanted me to be.  That is real love.  I call this other woman in my life, my “real mama” because she continued to raise me long after I left my mother’s house.  She kept the wheels on the axle even after I had worn them to shreds.  She was the unconditional love I needed to remind me that I was good enough even when I failed.  This lady, and she is truly a lady, has been my shade tree when there were no trees.

A mama’s dreams often take a backseat to the dreams of her children and her husband; within their dreams lay the sacrifices and unselfishness of an angel.  My wife has been that angel.  On this Mother’s Day, after forty-two years of marriage, I wanted to take a moment to honor and celebrate the love of a woman who has stood by me and yes, even raised me (it is still an ongoing struggle, but she keeps hanging around), raised two sons who are great husbands and fathers and a daughter who has turned out to be as awesome a mother as her mama.  Although she will probably take exception to my referring to her as “my real mama,” I hope she understands I do so with the greatest of love.  I do so because she is the story behind my story.

Happy Mother’s Day to my wife!  Thank you for not throwing in the towel.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 8, 2016