Monday, July 18, 2016

HIMYM Monday: Sunrise

Welcome to another How I Met Your Mother Monday! For a die hard fan like myself, choosing a favorite episode from the the series is like picking out which hot glazed doughnut in a dozen from Krispy Kreme you will eat first. You cannot go wrong! In a later post I will choose my top 10 from the over 200 episodes, but today I want to focus on one from the final season that is right at the top of any such listing. It's the episode entitled Sunrise (season 9, episode 16) and the more I see it, the more I love it.

To set the stage, we are only hours away from Barney and Robin's wedding. Barney, having gotten really, REALLY drunk that night, has wandered away from the Farhampton Inn. Ted and Robin begin to search for him. A wandering Barney discovers two lonely young men in need of a mentor and begins to teach them the ways of awesomeness. These two threads rum simultaneously through the show.

Robin and Ted make their way out on to the beach in search of Barney, where they begin to talk about Ted's old girlfriends. Robin inquires about several of them, asking if Ted talked to them lately. We learn through a series of flashbacks that Ted has talked with each of them- all in his efforts to find a locket Robin buried as a young woman and planned use as her "something old" for the wedding, but cannot find. In the course of this, Robin lists her Top 5 of Ted's ex-girlfriends, and does not include herself. Her top choice is Victoria, whom Ted dated two different times and who ditched her own wedding to run away with Ted. When Robin says that she never really understood why they broke up, Ted hesitates to tell her. When she pushes the issue Ted blurts out, Because of you, Robin. We broke up because of you." When Robin inquires "Why?" she gets the following answer:
Ted: I'm not gonna answer the question, because you know the answer. You want to talk about my Top Five? There's no Top Five, Robin, there's just a Top One - and it's you.

Ted wanted Barney and Robin to be happy. He was determined not to undermine the wedding in any way, and he eventually saves the wedding with the locket and a pep talk to both parties. But he knew the truth that he could not turn off his feelings no matter how hard he tried. More on that later...

Meanwhile Barney is schooling his young proteges in the fine arts of visiting strip clubs and talking to women- including introducing them to the game Have you met Ted? At the end of the evening, as the young men debate just who this genius is, Barney delivers the following speech:
Barney: A few final thoughts. Don't get married 'til you're 30. Play laser tag at least once a week. Give as many high-fives as you're gonna get. Teacup pigs are lady magnets but very hard to care for - not worth the effort. The same goes for dogs and babies. And most importantly, whatever you do in this life, it's not legendary unless your friends are there to see it. Good luck, boys. [gives them napkins detailing pages of his fabled Playbook] Take care of the Game for me.

For all of his posturing and narcissism, Barney understood one very important things. Friends make the world go 'round. Whatever you do in life, it's not legendary unless your friends are there to see it. Now that's awesome.

Back to the lost locket. Ted tracks in down with Victoria in Germany (looooong story!) and she overnights it to him- but it is intercepted by another of Ted's exs, crazy Jeanette. She meets him on a bridge in Central Park and upon learning why he wants the locket accuses him of trying to ruin the wedding and win Robin back. She accuses Ted of being crazy. And Ted responds with what to me is one of the greatest definition of romantic love ever spoken...
Ted: I'm in love with her, okay? If you're looking for the word that means caring about someone beyond all rationality and wanting them to have everything they want, no matter how much it destroys you, it's love. And when you love someone you don't stop- EVER! Even when people roll their eyes or call you crazy. Even then. Especially then. Just don't give up! Because if I could give up, if I could just, you know, take the whole world's advice and move and find someone else, that wouldn't be love. That would be, that would be some other disposable thing that is not worth fighting for.

Of course Ted does eventually give up and finds "the Mother," but that doesn't change the fact the he stole a blue French horn for Robin- and as he says, would have stolen her an entire orchestra. There is nothing easy about letting go of true love, even if it is unrequited. It's just a magnificent episode that never fails to move me. The 3 quotes I featured today are among my favorites, and the scene with Ted and Robin on the beach at the end- when Ted finally lets her go as the Bangles song Eternal Flame plays behind them- is beyond perfect. It's this kind of humor combined with this kind of heart that made HIMYM so amazing to me. 

Join us next week for another HIMYM Monday!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2016


July 4th @ Margaritaville  (BTW- the beard is now history!)
Will Jones turns 21 today. Our little boy has grown into a fine young man. He's a loving son, an honor student, a faithful boyfriend and a caring friend. He has has always (well...MOST always!) been a joy to be around, but I have never enjoyed his company more that I do today. We are much alike in so many ways. We share passions for music, movies and grand romantic gestures. We are of one mind when it comes to the politics of the day. And we both believe there are few things in life better than a good sausage gravy!

Tonight we will celebrate this momentous occasion with a dinner with family and friends at Maggianos. It is hard to believe 21 years have passed since Will joined our family, but it is even harder to remember that there was a time before that. I could not be more proud of the man he has become and the son he has always been. We all know that the bond between  mother and son is always special, and Will and Marilyn certainly share that unique connection. I am just so thankful to be able to say that he and I have something very special as well. I love you buddy, and can't wait to see what then next chapters of life have in store for you. Have a wonderful weekend of celebrations!!!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

When Nothing Else Could Help...

I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the classic hymn of the church called Love Lifted Me. Today I would like to share with you an exercise in gratitude that uses the chorus to that simple song as its basis. The lyrics to the chorus are as follows:
Love lifted me, love lifted me
When nothing else could help, love lifted me

In the song, "Love" represents the love of God whose name is Jesus. And that love does indeed lift us out of many difficult situations and give us hope when all hope seems gone. But there are many times when that love comes to us through other people in our lives. And today, I want you to remember those special people, who have lifted your heart and your spirit when you needed it most. So sing the entire chorus, or if you don't know the tune, just read the words aloud. Go ahead.  "Love lifted me..."  Now do it again. But this time, instead of the word "love," substitute the name of someone who has given you love and hope. For instance at various times in my life I have sung "Steve lifted me" or "Denise lifted me." Again, sing the entire chorus. Keep going, substituting a new name each time. Recognize how often Jesus works in our hearts through the people he places in our lives. Finish the exercise by singing the name of Jesus in place of love. Then take a few moments in prayer, giving thanks for all of the names you have mentioned.

I do this exercise several times a week when I am alone and aware of how important the people in my life who love me are to my spiritual growth and mental health. I encourage you to make this a regular part of your prayer life as well. We all have known so many people who are blessings from God in our lives, and we should live with an attitude of gratitude. Have a blessed day, and thanks for being among the many who have "lifted me." You are needed today more than ever!

Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Krispy Kreme!

Today is the 79th birthday of the Krispy Kreme doughnut. This is an auspicious occasion in my life. Even at my advanced age, it's hard to remember a time when Krispy Kreme was not a part of my life (they were in NC before they were much of anywhere else), including some fairly momentous occasions. Witness the following examples:

  • We sold them by the dozen as a fundraiser for my Cub Scout pack when I was around 10 years old. Yes, I was that young once...
  • In college there would often be midnight runs for hot doughnuts. Sometimes I delivered them to friends and sometimes we all piled into tiny cars and went together. One of those nights was the first time I ever met my future wife Marilyn.
  • Stopping by the local 24 hour KK was a regular part of my youth group's Rec Around the Clock event for many years in many places. I particularly remember a large group standing outside the one in High Point, NC and watching the hot doughnuts roll off the conveyor belt at 5 am as we ate them by the box full.
  • I once served hot glazed doughnuts and OJ as communion on a youth group beach retreat we took from Springfield Friends Meeting. There's a lot in that statement to process, since Quakers don't traditionally practice communion at all...
  • I have eaten hot glazed doughnuts for LUNCH with a friend- and I am not ashamed to admit it!
  • Before the KK opened in Kissimmee, FL I would sometimes drive to Orlando on Tuesday mornings so we could have fresh doughnuts for our Breakfast Club. It made me a hero to those youth brave enough to get up early for the meeting!
  • I have purchased hundreds of dozens of hot doughnuts from the KK in North Myrtle Beach, SC over they years and delivered then to the Betsy B, often risking my life to get them in the house before people started ripping boxes from my arms!
There are few things in life that conjure up as many fond memories for me as Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I have eaten more than my share of chocolate cream filled and chocolate
glazed, of blueberry and of jelly filled. But there is nothing like seeing this sign, snarfing down fresh manna from heaven and licking that glorious icing off my fingers. Even now, as a diabetic, there are times when they are just totally worth the cheat. There's only one problem with today's big birthday deal, featured in the ad at the top of this post. If I got a dozen hot glazed right this minute and had them here all by myself, I would eat every stinkin' one of them! And be very, VERY happy! So go get some doughnuts today. Make your own memories. And tell them Carl sent you!

Monday, July 11, 2016

"How I Met Your Mother" Mondays

"Kids, I'm gonna tell you an incredible story..."

It's now been over 2 years since my favorite TV show of all-time, How I Met Your Mother, aired its final episode. But thanks to syndication, and especially to FX, it is never off the air. I own the entire series on DVD, and I can watch every season over and over again without growing weary of the great comedy and friendships shared by Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall & Lilly. I read recently that McGee's in Manhattan, the bar that was the inspiration for McClaren's (featured in nearly every episode of HIMYM), still changes there menu every Monday (the night the show aired for 9 seasons) to feature themed items that celebrate the series. I recently re-watched the final season again and was amazed at how emotional it still makes me. These things combined to inspire me to write a series of posts about the show to be featured on Mondays here on the blog. So welcome to the first HIMYM Monday!

Each week I will attempt to capture the true spirit of the show and explain some of its lasting influence on my my heart. There will be flashbacks to entire episodes and to brief moments in time. There will be exploration of some of the ancillary characters who helped make the series feel so real. There will be lists of things that should not be forgotten and favorite things that never will be. Friends, it was would be a stretch to say that anyone I know has been asking for this series of posts. But I need to write it. So I trust you will enjoy reading along.

Today, I want to share some words I wrote in the final days of the original 9 year run of HIMYM. It explains why the show mattered to me, and why it is my favorite. It seems like a great jumping off place and an easy way to let you know the WHY of my need to write about this show. This is from March 31, 2014- the day the series ended.

You see, HIMYM has been the rarest of TV shows- 9 years with the same cast, the same writers, the same director and the same story line. It has more continuity than any show I have ever watched. Just this past week I watched the pilot immediately after watching the most recent episode, and they feel completely connected- 206 shows later. Plus (as I have written here before) HIMYM has always rewarded faithful viewers with inside jokes and references. And nowhere has that been more evident than in this final season. Every show has been a treat for those of us who have watched faithfully, full of little things that let us know the writers remember us. It is brilliant. And it makes HIMYM my favorite show ever. Sorry, Seinfeld.

So as we say farewell, HIMYMers will remember the classic moments that will stay with us long after the show is gone. We will always suit up, always give high fives and never forget to be legen...wait for it!- dary. We will fear the cockamouse while believing that Nessie is a gentle creature, and that Sasquatch is very real. We will continue to search old music stores for vintage Robin Sparkles vinyls. We will treasure last words and understand the importance of being there when friends are hurting- even if it means dancing Christmas lights set to AC/CD music. We will occasionally hum Bang, Bang, Bangity Bang and Marshall Vs. the Machines. And I, for one, will have Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit as my default ringtone. We'll remember that we have indeed met Ted, that nothing good happens after 2 am, that new is NOT always better and that most anything can be "the dream." We will remember the crazy eyes and that there is a "hot/crazy scale." We will still be expecting one more slap to finish off the bet. We will remember that nothing is more romantic than stealing a blue French horn for a girl the first night you go out, throwing 3 parties in 3 days just to see her again, or making it rain (by doing a rain dance!) so you can get together with her again. And most of all, we will remember that nothing we do in life is legendary unless our friends are there to see it. To call this show a comedy is to miss out on the many dramatic moments and life lessons that have been offered up along the way. To not see it as a comedy is to miss 9 years of hilarity. HIMYM is the complete package.

If all of that is nonsense to your brain, then come back every Monday and learn about the wonders of HIMYM. If that started your heart on a trip down memory lane...then ditto. Join me next week and we'll explore what has, with the passage of time, become my favorite episode, complete with the ultimate definition of romantic love. See you at Sunrise. You don't think I can write about the show most every week for a few months? Challenge accepted!!! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Let It Shine

Every now and then the lyrics to an old familiar song jump off of my iPod and smack me upside the head, bringing some clarity to feelings or thoughts I might be struggling with at any given time. Yesterday featured one of those moments. The song was There's A Place In the World For A Gambler by my old favorite Dan Fogelberg, and these were the words that hit home. No further explanation is needed.

There's a light in the depths of your darkness,
There's a calm at the eye of every storm.
There's a light in the depths of your darkness...
Let it shine, oh let it shine!

Now if only I can heed Dan's advice...

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Hogwarts School of Youth Ministry

Bob in Spanish Wells, 1997
This post was first shared in May of 2014. I share it again on this Flashback Friday in it's original format (slightly edited) for a couple of reasons. One, I was recently asked once again how we were able to do all we did in our student ministries and this post is my favorite answer. Two, I wanted you to see the original comments. And three, I have been talking with a lot of old Kissimmee friends these past few weeks. It got me thinking about the good old days...

"Most folks these days don't have enough faith to see that God's magic is happening all around them..."

I have a dear friend named Jennifer Kuramochi. Some of you know her her Jennifer Minnigan; still others simply as Bob. You can read about her days in the youth ministries of the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee in many posts on this site, including The Legend of Bob, which is her entry into my Hall of Fame! So anyway...Jen and I are still friends. We were talking a few weeks back and she was telling me that whenever she recounts stories from her youth group days people are often in disbelief of all that we were able to do. Her husband Jun just shakes his head in wonder at the fact that a church youth group was able to go places like Spanish Wells, New York City and Myrtle Beach- not to mention the speakers, the concerts, the mission trips and the day trips. We got a lot of that same reaction at the FUMC-K reunion last year. Jennifer told me that once when asked how we were able to do all that we did, she thought for moment and responded, "I'm not sure. I think maybe Carl was part Wizard!

One of my favorite places on Walt Disney World property was The Beaches and Cream Soda Shoppe. I remember not only the great meals and the oh-so-decadent banana split pictured here, but also all the times times we were there with so many old friends and youth groups. This, after all, was the home of the Disney Dash Ice Cream Bash! One of those memories concerns the time in 1993 a group of us from Springfield Friends Meeting headed over mid-afternoon one day to get an ice cream fix and wound up singing Hopelessly Devoted to the other patrons of the restaurant (click But Now for the whole story!). That memory got me thinking more about that amazing '93 trip to WDW, stories of which were told here on this blog under the label Magic Tour back in 2010- and it took me 20 posts! Each of the nearly 50 participants had a 5-day park hopper pass. We stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. We ate at some of the finest restaurants on property, and saw both the Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue and Polynesian Luau dinner shows. We were special (and featured!) guests at Pleasure Island's Comedy Warehouse. Every day was amazing, and as Marilyn I sat talking on Saturday the words of Bob came ringing back to me. How did we do all that stuff? Maybe I was part Wizard...

Of course we know the truth. We were able to do all that we did and accomplish all that we accomplished because we were blessed by God to do these things in Jesus' name. All of the churches I served had the resources and gave us the freedom to dream, to be creative, and yes- to be MAGICAL with our youth ministry programming! But the adult leadership in each of those ministries deserves credit for this one thing- we believed the magic could happen! We had faith that amazing things could happen. We had the audacity to believe in the biblical directive to pray big prayers and dream big dreams. I learned early on from some brilliant mentors that youth ministry thrives when you live in the Possimpible (thank you, Barney Stinson)- that place where the possible and the impossible meet. There was no doubt in my mind that if we did those things, God could provide the supernatural- the MAGIC. I suppose you could say I attended the Hogwarts School of Youth Ministry! What I lacked in theological training I made up for in faith. I believed in what we were doing and never allowed nay-saying Muggles to steal our dreams. If I were indeed part Wizard, it was only in the sense that I never ruled anything out just because it seemed to be out of our reach or impractical. Big churches or small, we believed in trusting God to take us to places beyond our grasp- but firmly in His. There was never any doubt in my mind that God had great things in store for the churches I served a youth pastor. That's how we did great mission trips over my 28 years to places like DC, Chicago, Nashville, Tijuana and Spanish Wells. It's how we did ski trips, amazing weekend retreats, over a dozen NYC trips, took trips to see the Braves play baseball, spent weeks at Myrtle Beach and had
New York Trip in the early 1990s
amazing adventures together at
WDW. It's how we hosted great bands like Spooky Tuesday, SundryLost And Found and Geoff Moore & the Distance, and communicators like Curt Clonninger, Duffy Robbins, Mike Williams, Rick Bundschuh and Ted & Lee. It's how we did outrageous summer events, had awe-filled worship and built bonds that are still strong to this very day. It's how we changed lives! We didn't get everything right, and we had our share of mishaps. There were times when it became less about God's power and too much about me, and the ministry suffered. But even in the tough times, we never stopped believing in the magic of youth ministry to bring teenagers into the presence of God and into relationship with Jesus and with one another. And when our plans were filtered through a mission for Christ and magnified by God's love for us, all things were possible. 

Looking back now, I still can't explain how it all came together. I don't know how we paid for everything, I don't know how the plans came together so well, and I don't know why God blessed us in so many ways- other than we believed God would! I just know that for 28 years God kept sending waves, and instead of ducking and hiding we kept yelling SURF'S UP!!! It was indeed magical. And if that makes me part Wizard- probably more like the foul-up Mickey the Sorcerer than Harry Potter- so be it. The abiding lesson of the Hogwarts School of Youth Ministry? Never underestimate the awesome power of God to do things that are far beyond your reach. So tell me, fellow Christians- do you believe in that kind of magic? The church so often seems to be full of Muggles...

Because of Jesus,