Category: Life

Not because it’s right, but because it’s trending

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Photo: Bob Beecher

I was on the phone with a publicist for a movie production taking place in Texas.

“This is big,” she said. “Oprah has reviewed our script, decided she likes it, so the film will be produced by The Weinstein Company.”

Back when this conversation took place, The Weinstein Company was nothing more than a “W” logo that flashed on the screen at the beginning of a movie trailer or at the end of the movie credits. I didn’t know who they were or what they did. I did know who Oprah was, and I thought it was really cool that she had taken on this particular project.

There’s a lot with which I disagree with Oprah. I think her daytime TV talk show is overly emotional. Her politics lean left, mine lean way right. I still haven’t forgiven her for thrusting Dr. Phil upon us. Then again, I can blame the Texas beef industry for that. Had they never sued her over her show on “Mad Cow” disease, she’d have never gone to court in Amarillo, and would have never met Dr. Phil.

On the other hand, I have to respect a woman who went from absolute poverty to the billionaire she is today. She accomplished her success through hard work, good decisions, and by creating a product that, even if I don’t like it, is adored by millions.

Still, her speech at the Golden Globes the other night went all over me. While I agree with the message she spoke, I wondered how she must have felt delivering the message.

I don’t think Oprah engaged in inappropriate behavior with Harvey Weinstein. She has too much dignity and class. I don’t think she knowingly helped him, or was complicit in any specific encounter he had. She has a moral compass.

Yet, everyone in Hollywood, Oprah included, knew what Harvey Weinstein was. Go back and look at the Seth McFarlane joke on YouTube. Read or watch the jokes about the entertainment industry, and how Hollywood execs, including Weinstein, behaved themselves. What was going on was common knowledge, and had even become the punchline of a twisted cultural joke.

So, when she stood on stage and proclaimed that a new day was coming when powerful men would no longer be able to prey on young ladies, I couldn’t help but think, “Why haven’t you said anything before now?”

As long as getting along with Harvey Weinstein was good business, Oprah did it. Now that Weinstein has been revealed to be the pervert that he is, good business dictates criticism of him and the entertainment industry that allowed him to thrive.

But that’s all it is. Good business. Oprah’s speech, and the “Time’s Up” pins worn to the Golden Globes amount to nothing more than a social media post designed to get page views because the right hashtag was used. And therein lies the problem.

Our culture has become one of “hashtag activism.” You don’t actually do anything, you just post about it, and people congratulate you on your compassion for being able to type 140-280 characters.

When you log onto Facebook, look in the right-hand margin. You’ll notice a few topics that Facebook says is trending. On Twitter, that list is to the left. Make any post, add a hashtag that aligns with the word or phrase that is trending, and presto! Page views, comments, likes and shares.

When Weinstein’s accusers came out, the #MeToo hashtag began to trend. When that happened, accusations came out against multiple Hollywood celebrities and executives. Justice for sexual harassment victims trended, which is why Hollywood added the #TimesUp pins, and Oprah gave her speech. They are merely following the social trend.

Next year, this will all be forgotten, and another social cause, environmental cause, or political cause will take its place. Hopefully, more will have been accomplished than a few elite personalities going viral on social media.

In the meantime, Oprah can bring about a lot of healing, to her industry and reputation, by apologizing for her associations with Weinstein and vowing to create an entertainment industry where young ladies will be able to sell their talents, not their bodies.

When Rome falls

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You find the most interesting things on Facebook.

Scrolling through my news feed this morning, I came across this gem, comparing the distraction most Americans enjoy via the NFL with the distractions most Romans enjoyed via chariot races, gladiator “games,” and the Olympics.

And while the Roman government deliberately built elaborate stadiums to distract the masses from the crumbling empire and human rights abuses, in America, we distracted ourselves.

Now, I’m not bashing sports, or the NFL. I enjoy watching football, and even have been able to attend a few Big-12 College Football games, and one Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game.  I will probably continue to enjoy watching sports for the foreseeable future.

But for some reason, seeing the above-posted meme on Facebook was kind of an eye-opener for me.

Do you know why the NFL protests were so controversial? And subsequently, why the NFL protests have, at least in part, played a role in the decline of NFL ratings? It’s because, once the players used their platform to advance a socially conscious agenda, they reminded us of the social problems that remain in America.

Whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, seeing he and his followers take a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner reminded you that the reconciliation we thought we had accomplished hadn’t advanced us as far as we had thought. Having that bubble burst, watching football became a reminder of the deep-divides that remain in American society. Once that happened, watching football wasn’t as fun as it was before.

And that’s why the NFL protests were so controversial. People don’t like to be reminded of their problems as they try to escape them. So, we had the controversial debate over the past two years, and we quit watching football.

The good news is that we can use our newly raised awareness to make good things happen. True change will not come through legislation, political action, or by socially-conscious NFL players. It will come through the small, daily decisions made by each individual. So, to borrow a phrase, “be the change.” Extend random acts of kindness to others, and let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.

And Go Bulldogs!

The one thing that has challenged my faith

13350239_624569961040640_8092507861845382051_oA stranger knocked on my door one day.

“Hello, Mr. Acker. My name is Brother Turnbow.”

The elderly preacher was doing what he had spent his entire ministry doing. He was knocking doors to share the Gospel. I welcomed him to sit with me, told him I was also a pastor, and discussed with him the scriptures and the state of the world today.

The year was 2011, and I had just moved into my new house. Bro. Turnbow had gotten my name from the list of new water accounts opened with the city of Early. My heart had been heavy that week thinking about the rise of sin, and the animosity toward Christianity in society. Sin is taking our country down the hill of destruction, but the loudest voices in our society blame Christianity for the downfall.

That’s why a certain stanza from Marc Schultz’ song, “I have been there,” resonates with me:

He’s been a pastor 20 years, but tonight he sits alone and broken-hearted in the corner of the church.

Trying to change a fallen world, with his words and with his wisdom but it seems like it is only getting worse.

“Bro. Turnbow,” I asked, “Do you ever feel obsolete?”

Bro. Turnbow smiled and said, “As long as you preach God’s word, you are never obsolete.”

The problems of the world all come from unbelief. People distrust God, so they sin against Him, which causes all kinds of problems. It has been that way ever since Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit because they thought that God was holding out on them. Since then, the world has been in disarray, suffering from the effects of sin.

It is tempting to watch the demise of western civilization and conclude that, the end time is here, and Christ will soon return. He very well may, but to give up on the calling God has placed on your life is not only a dereliction of duty, but it expresses the same lack of faith shown by the generations before who “gave up” because of the changes in society, saying “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

I was reading Luke 5 in my personal devotional time the other day, and Luke 5:17 struck me.

“And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”

The power of the Lord was present to heal them. Heal who? The Pharisees and doctors of the law who sat by, watching in unbelief as Jesus taught the word of God and ministered to the people. These people were diametrically opposed to the message Christ brought, and his rise among the people. He was a threat to their influence and lifestyle, so they opposed Him.

Yet Luke 5:17 seems to indicate that the Lord had the power to heal their unbelief. And if the power of the Lord can heal the unbelief of some crotchety old Pharisees in the first-century AD, imagine what he can do for a world blinded by the selfish pursuit of pleasure.

Where my faith has fallen short in the past is that I failed to believe that God is the one who reaches people, convicts them, then redeems them. My faith has fallen short in believing that God can do that, and that He will do that. My faith has fallen short in believing that God WILL save, not just that He can.

That unbelief is in my past. I have repented from that sin, and now I am looking forward to seeing God move in mighty ways.

My wife once said, “True faith is realized when you no longer have to be the solution to the problem.” It would help us Spiritually, psychologically and emotionally to remember that the battle is the Lord’s. He will be the One who effects the change.

Our jobs are the same as the Apostles in Acts 5, who were told to “Go, stand and speak the words of this life.”

So, share the Gospel. Defend the faith. Preach the scriptures. But remember, the results are not up to you. Once you realize that, you’ll more fully understand “freedom in Christ.”

May God bless you in your Spiritual walk today.

Why I celebrate Christmas with toys and trees…

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It was 10 p.m. last night, and the Walmart parking lot was still full. My wife and I had already hit the Heartland Mall looking for gifts for our seven children. Having loaded up on several gifts, we went to Walmart looking for toys to fill out the space beneath the Christmas tree.

Even at 10 p.m. in a small town like ours, traffic was heavy with holiday travelers and last minute shoppers. The shoppers had filled every store in town, dwindling the gift selections and extending the checkout times. Every year, this happens. Every year, I get caught up in the holiday rush, and every year I promise that next year will be different. I promise myself that, next year, I won’t wait until the last minute to buy my Christmas gifts. Then, every year, I do.

Those who know the true meaning of Christmas know that it has nothing to do with trees, Santa, or gifts. The true meaning of Christmas is remembering God’s promise to send us a Savior, His only begotten Son, who is Christ the Lord.

God stated that promise in Isaiah 7:14, when He promised that a virgin would conceive and bring forth a Son, and His name would be Immanuel, which being interpreted means “God with us.” He stated this promise again in Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6-7 promised that this child, God’s only begotten Son, would bring eternal peace and prosperity to us. This would be accomplished by redeeming us from sin (Isaiah 53) and by delivering us from the pain of this world, and healing us (Isaiah 61).

Scripture records how God kept this promise in Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2. Christ was born, went to the cross where He purchased our redemption, rose again to defeat death, and sits at the right hand of the Father advocating for us until the day God sends Him back to earth to establish His Kingdom and complete the promises of eternal peace, health and prosperity.

With that being the true meaning of Christmas, why was I in a supermarket checkout line last night with a buggy-load of Christmas presents, tired and exhausted from a long day? After all, my kids know the true meaning of Christmas. We could forego the tree and gifts, honor the birth of Christ by scripture reading, and then send money to less-fortunate people overseas. We could do that. The kids would go along with it. Instead, I have to ask myself what my true motivation in doing that would be.

Christmas was the defining event for the year in the house where I grew up. The entire family would converge on my grandfather’s house on Christmas Eve. It was a small farm house designed for a family of three, not to entertain dozens of guests. Still, every year, my mom and dad, uncle and aunt, great grandparents and great uncles and aunts, cousins, siblings, in-laws and even friends of the family, would come over, enjoy a Christmas dinner of turkey, dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, macaroni, etc etc etc and pecan pie, and celebrate the holiday.

Then, we exchanged gifts. Following the gift exchange, a televised basketball game, and some hilarious yet sentimental conversations, we’d all retire to bed. You read that right. This was a giant sleep over for adults and children. There were sleeping bags and fold-out couches. Sometime early on Christmas morning, before the sun rose, someone would loudly announce that Santa had come, and the gifts were out. We would then see what the jolly fat man brought us, collect our gifts, enjoy a breakfast of sausage, biscuits and dinner leftovers, and go home to recover. Those were good days.

We knew the true meaning of Christmas. There was a birthday cake for Jesus. There was the reading of the Christmas story. We celebrated in such a huge fashion because we were thankful for the family, friends and gifts God had blessed us with.

If the birth of Christ brought joy and peace, then why not celebrate His birth with a Christmas celebration that fosters joy and peace in our family? Celebrations like the one we will have this year, full of songs, gifts, and, of course, the scripture reading, brings joy and hope to our children, and that’s what I want to give them for Christmas. That’s why I braved the shopping crowds and holiday traffic, and that’s why I emptied my wallet. It’s a small price to pay to give the gifts of joy and peace to my kids, after the huge price the Lord paid to give joy and peace to me.

Merry Christmas. I’ll see you on the other side of the holiday.

Why we love Star Wars

Star_Wars_The_Last_JediMovies succeed at the box office due to effective marketing campaigns. Movie franchises, like Star Wars, the Hunger Games, or Jurassic Park, thrive because they either (a) mirror our lives or (b) speak into our human nature on a deep level.

Jurassic Park thrives because, in addition to capturing our imaginations through the resurrection of the dinosaurs, it poses the question as to whether man has the ability to create life, species, and whether we can overcome the natural order set forth by our Creator. Spoiler alert: We fail every single time.

The Hunger Games succeeded because it captured man’s natural desire to be free, the fact that hope never completely dies, and the lengths to which man will fight to win his freedom. All of that was embodied in the main character, Katniss Everdeen, who struggled through poverty, oppression, imprisonment, torture, and PTSD to lead a rebellion against a powerful overlord who subjugated everyone. Most who watched that series could identify with Katniss on some level, which is why the series succeeded.

The success of both of those franchises, however, pales in comparison to the success of the Star Wars franchise, which has become the definitive movie franchise for three generations due to the fact that it speaks into virtually every aspect of our lives, from our family life, to our professional life, to our philosophical life. Star Wars touches on family drama and pain, captures the plight of characters who are trying to overcome their station in life, and poses the bigger questions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

On this level, Star Wars speaks to our entire persona. We are all trying to make our way in this world, battling the elements of opposition as we try to climb the corporate ladder, move into the next tax bracket, or obtain the next level of education. While we fight those battles, we deal with issues at home. We struggle to repair or maintain relationships with our parents, to make our marriages work, to give our kids positive direction, and to keep from losing touch with those closest to us.

This multi-generational family story is laid against a back-drop of intergalactic battles, space ships, and planetary conquests.

In an interview after he sold the franchise to Disney, George Lucas said, “Star Wars isn’t about space ships and aliens, it’s about family.”

Those who understand that statement will understand Star Wars that much better. The franchise follows the plight of a single family, the children of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, as they learn their family history and fight to keep the galaxy free. Skywalker was overcome with rage and a desire to rule the galaxy, so Amidala took her two twins and hid them in separate places with friends and family.

Their circumstantial reunification and new-found purpose became the first Star Wars Trilogy, Episodes 4-6. In order to explain that trilogy, Episodes 1-3 were later released (for better or worse) in the 1990s. Now, we’re working on the third trilogy, which will follow the plight of the third generation of Skywalkers.

You see the family drama at work when Darth Vader is reunited with his son, Luke Skywalker, as well as when Hans Solo and Leia pine for their wayward son, Kylo Ren. Rey is trying to solve the mystery of who her family is, and why they left her on a desert planet, and Finn is the orphaned former Stormtrooper who’s searching for belonging.

You see the quest for betterment as Hans Solo continues his career as a smuggler, as inn-keepers and bar owners struggle to stay in business, or when Rey seeks Jedi training.

And then there’s the forbidden love between Anakin and Padme. Those two had to defy all customs and protocol in order to be together.

The issues that these characters deal with are issues we can all relate to. We’ve had family struggles. We’ve experienced lost love. Our kids have turned on us. We struggle to overcome, and we often feel like we get caught up in world affairs beyond our control.

And that’s why we love Star Wars. We see a little bit of ourselves in those characters, and so we root for them. We rejoice with them, we cry with them, and we die (figuratively speaking) with them.

Right now, critics and fans are debating whether “The Last Jedi” lives up to the hype. If it turns my life into another sci-fi thriller, it most certainly will.

In the year 2000…

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, we often talked about what life would be like in the future. A common expression to introduce such daydreams was, “In the year 2000….”

That phrase and concept became the basis for a bit on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on NBC. Conan satirized futuristic thinking with such quips as, “In the year 2000, Coke and Pepsi will merge, and successfully market a product called, ‘You Will Drink This Crap and Like It.'” and “Golfer Casey Martin will win the right to drive his golf cart, at the Indianapolis 500.”

Late night comedy aside, there was a time in the mid-20th Century that Americans genuinely had a sense of optimism. And why not? We had won World War II, new technologies were emerging daily, medical advancements were curing once-fatal diseases, and America enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity.

This optimism was captured by the above-posted Walter Cronkite special. All the way back in 1967, he predicted multiple channels and digital TV listings, large screen TVs, the internet, the home office, homeschooling, and online recipes. The technology we have today isn’t as clunky as demonstrated by Cronkite, but it accomplishes the same thing.

“By 2001, home computers will be just as common as telephones,” Cronkite predicted. That was a huge prediction, considering that most computers in 1967 took up entire rooms, and the home computer hadn’t been invented yet.

He also predicted 6-hour workdays and month-long vacations. Those didn’t quite pan out.

The optimism of the 1960s didn’t just provide a wishful look at the future, it inspired greatness. We founded companies, invented products, built schools and bought homes knowing that life in the future was going to be better. By the time the 1980s rolled around, we were dreaming of flying cars, holograms, teleportation, and world peace.

The assumption in town was that the town would grow, and the business community wanted to grow with it. The bowling alley bought the land next door to build a putt-putt course. The skating rink expanded to add an arcade. The mall installed an ice rink in the center of all the action. Remember when the mall was the place to be?

The optimism that spurred the joy and growth of the late 20th Century is gone. No longer do we hold the assumption that technology will improve, that the economy will grow, and the town will get bigger. We no longer assume that the next generation will enjoy a better standard of living than our own. In fact, many believe it will be worse.

In a world where America won the Cold War, and rapid advancements are being made in technology and medicine, we no longer look to better times in the future. Instead of preparing to grow, we assume that tough times are ahead, and we fortify ourselves for the downturn.

So, what happened? What changed?

Is it the vitriolic nature of the political discourse of the day? Is it the ongoing threat of lawsuits? Is it the declining manufacturing sector due to increased overseas competition?

I can’t place my finger on it. If you can, let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy the times we have now. If life has taught me anything, it’s that I will one day look back on today, in spite of its difficulties, and say, “those were the days.” Who knows, maybe I’ll catch a daydream of how great tomorrow can be.

The Lost Art of Leisure

16708472_10211627013496723_1898660107827657514_n“The world went and got itself into a big ole hurry,” wrote Brooks Hatlin to his former cellmates at Shawshank prison in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption. Brooks had served a 50 year sentence in Shawshank before being paroled in 1954.

While the pace of life in 1954 seems like a leisurely dream today, it moved at a breakneck speed for those accustomed to the pace of life in 1904, like Brooks.

The more time passes, the faster the pace of life. It’s not your imagination, and it’s not the effect of age. Life is really more hectic today than it was in 1954, or 1984, heck, even 2004.

The fast pace of life today would surprise futurists of the 1960s, who predicted that computer technology and automation systems would reduce Americans’ workloads, resulting in more time for leisure. Instead, computer technology and automation systems led to large scale layoffs. While those laid-off workers ultimately found new work in a growing economy, the fact remains that automation didn’t cut down on workload, but rather increased the demands that employers placed on workers.

It’s a far-cry from the world envisioned by Walter Cronkite on his 1967 CBS News special which looked forward to life in 2001. Instead of a life of leisure, Americans are spending one of the most prosperous and technologically advanced periods in world history trying to keep up with rising demands.

Lost in all this is the art of leisure. In time past, workers had weekends off. Fathers took their kids fishing, or to their Little League baseball games. Extended families gathered for cookouts in the back yard, weekend trips were taken, and nobody batted an eye when you took your annual two-week road-trip vacation.

Offices observed all the national holidays, and life really slowed down around Christmas, with many companies offering paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s.

All of that has gone by the wayside. Vacations are now four-day adventures in resorts, hotels, cruises, or the ever-so-popular “stay-cation,” where you take time off, but never leave the house.

At one time stores were closed on Sundays. Today, they remain open. Retailers open on Thanksgiving to get an early start to the Christmas shopping season.

All of this has built into a perfect storm where Americans not only face ridiculous expectations at work, but also live their off-time in a frenzy, trying to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible, all while neglecting to rest.

During a recent interview with Michael P. Foley, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Christianity, I asked what we could do as Americans to defend and preserve Christmas traditions. Foley said that we can preserve and defend Christmas simply by taking the time off and enjoying the holiday. He noted that we used to take Christmas off, as well as every Sunday, for leisure, adding that God gave us one day of rest per week.

He said if we truly want to preserve Christmas, we should observe it by taking the time off and enjoying that time with our families. Obviously, if you are in the military or are a first responder, this may not be an option. For those of us who have this option, however, we should take it.

It’s time that we all stop and take a look at what’s important in life. Look at your commitments, prioritize what’s most important to you, then budget your time and money accordingly. As you do this, set aside time for leisure. Take a day a week where you have no commitments, where you take a day to do nothing. Go fishing. Play a board game with the kids. Go to the local park. Take leisure.

Doing so doesn’t make you lazy. It brings you into harmony with God’s plan, which offers a day of rest every week, and periodic rest throughout the year. As Psalm 127:2 says, “He giveth his beloved sleep.”