"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, January 24, 2011

A flying monkey makes a cool present

True to form, I didn’t make it all the way through Christmas day without having one of my presents taken away from me. You’d think that I would have learned better when I was, oh...say...12 or something, but, nope.

I got great presents this year from family and friends, and I don’t mean to disparage any of their generosity, however, in my family, the coolest and most fun gifts usually come in our stockings. MY family doesn’t give the usual oranges, walnuts, and the $5 fast food certificates in our stockings. We get office supplies, bookmarks, plastic animals, and unknown things that are squishy and beep, hiss, warble, and grunt.

For example, a couple years ago, my mom got a little plastic zebra in her stocking. She had been to Noah’s Ark and fell in love with Evidence to the point where she really wanted a zebra to pat and talk to for her very own. Well, since I’m sure the City of McDonough has some type of zoning ordinance against exotic, wild game being kept in senior adult communities, Santa got her a small plastic zebra for her stocking that year. You’d think it was the real thing. It still stands on the table by her chair and she tells it “good morning” and “good night.” That same year, and every year since, my brother wanted either a monkey or a gun. Knowing the propensity he has for not knowing boundaries, Santa wisely chose a plastic monkey for his stocking. And, there it still sits on the table by his chair...sometimes wandering over to visit the zebra. Really. This is my family.

One more tidbit of background will tell why my family has some type of weird fixation on wildlife, and especially monkeys. I grew up in the area of Grant Park in East Atlanta. It was a very Cleaver-ish neighborhood back in the 1950’s where we kids played outside more than inside, and enjoyed the inexpensive games like Rock School, Swing Statue, and Freeze Tag. However, one nice sunny day, our play was interrupted by a disturbance in the trees above. We looked up and (even more exciting than some alien spaceship), we saw a monkey jumping around in our tree. A real live monkey, escaped from the zoo, was in our backyard! Unfortunately, the zoo people came and took our monkey away, but we’ve all had a desire for another monkey ever since.

So, this year, what to my delight did I find on Christmas morning when I reached into my stocking? A monkey with a cape. How cool is that? You could put two fingers into little sleeves on his front paws, pull back on his tail and back legs, let go, and whoosh! Monkey would sail across the room, howling monkey sounds as it crashed into a wall, the floor, or anyone in the way. My mind began to whir with the possibilities of my flying monkey. The only mistake I made was sharing these possibilities.

“Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to let the monkey fly down from the balcony during church next Sunday?” “I wonder if I could sail it from the Courthouse toward the Square and see how many people scream and run?” Then, my biggest mistake.

It had just begun to snow and my mom went out on the back deck to look and take some pictures. Unfortunately for all concerned, it was after dark, and our backyard is all woods. Monkey decided to take a flight out of the kitchen door and crash into the brick pillar right by mom’s head and let loose with that howler monkey sound.

About the same time, my mom let loose with her imitation of a howler monkey,ß∑ which quickly turned to the angry mother sound as she scooped up my flying monkey and headed back into the house. Somehow, it seemed a whole lot funnier before it happened. Nor was it funny when she sailed monkey back out the door later in the night and I almost jumped off the deck.

Gosh, I love my flying howler monkey, but most of all I love my mom for giving it to me and for understanding that sometimes her eldest son just has to play with his toys at her expense. For an 80-something-year-old lady, she sure can hop high, though!

Jimmy Cochran is a resident of McDonough, Co-editor of the Times, author, musician, Minister, and all-around cool guy.
(Published originally in The Henry County Times newspaper, McDonough, GA)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keeping both hands on the wheel

I freely admit that I’m not the world’s best driver. I do manage to stop at all the stop signs, traffic lights, wear my seat belt, and give gap/take gap on the McDonough Square; it’s just that my tendency to multi-task during driving sometimes leads to problems. For example, this past weekend, I was driving through town on the way to eat lunch and was trying to get a pair of sunglasses on, while taking off another pair, get the radio on the right CD, and taking a sip from my glass of tea. No problem, my knees were on the steering wheel and my eyes were sorta on the road. My driving companion was screeching most of the time about keeping hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, etc., until I could get to a place to stop and get everything done. Finally, the statement came flying out of their mouth that it’s no good to have your eyes on the road if your hands aren’t on the wheel.

That made me stop and think for a bit. Not about the driving concept, but about the living concept.

God gives us a road map of how we should live. It’s called the Bible. In it are the instructions given to us by God through men and women of faith in the form of parables, law and commandments, letters of encouragement and instruction, and the descriptions of our final destination. Many people will complain that it is hard to read and understand this book: however, most road maps are also difficult to read and see the clearest path and straightest route to your goal. Other people will say they don’t believe the book; yet from what I’ve experienced, it is also hard to trust many GPS units and maps that are too simplified for the area. And, as an adult male, there are times I think I can ignore the guidance of the Bible, just as I feel I can sometimes ignore a road map. When this happens, I always end up lost, frustrated, and in a mess. I don’t mean to be flippant or off-hand about the importance of the Bible, because it is the Word of God, yet I feel that it can be used as simply as a road map to guide our way.

I’ve been a believer most of my life and have tried to use the Bible as my guide to daily living. Yet, there have been times when I have taken my eyes off the road ahead and tried to go my way with only my hands on the wheel. Or, with only one hand. Or, maybe neither hand, and steer with my knees. At any rate, my ability to function was seriously compromised. In the Bible, God asks us to believe in Him and in His plan for our life. If we do this, we will learn about His Love and how to love others. If we do this, then we will begin to treat others with love and respect, putting aside the lies and manipulations and hypocrisies that seem to run rampant in our culture.

I take a great chance of harming myself and others on the road every time that I do not put 100 percent into my driving. It takes keeping my eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel. We all take a great chance when we don’t keep our eyes on God…and our hands (and feet) on doing what He asks and going where he wants us to go. If the Bible isn’t a part of your daily pattern, try starting out by reading a chapter a day, or at least once a week. Begin with the book of John, then Philippians. You can also read a Psalm a day. Start a new year with a new map for your life and keep your eyes on God.

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.