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Do you find minivan/SUV window family decals irritating?

back of van

 “Can someone please explain to me why I find minivan/SUV window family decals so irritating?”  That is the status update of a friend of mine on Facebook.  As always is the case on Facebook: there were many replies to this question from people I know and care for, and people I do not know, and there are answers I agree with and not so much.  I found it interesting enough to write this.

Though I must admit that I am not a big fan of the stick figure representation of families, I do have something on the back of my Minivan.  Yes I do drive a Minivan… does that make me a soccer dad?  In that way we are almost the opposite of the stereotypical traditional family (at least of the past).  Though we both work, I drive the Minivan, while Andrea drives the corporate car (though the corporate car is also a Minivan, that is about to change with a hybrid due to GE “going green”).  So I sold my Hyundai Elantra to taxi kids around town in the family minivan.

A few years ago Andrea’s parents gave us family decals to put on the Minivan.  Andrea told me on the phone, and at first I wasn’t too happy about it.  When I got home, I was relieved to discover that they were not stick figures, nor did they have any stereotypical symbolism beyond their innate symbolism.  They familly decalswere purple sandals, I didn’t really mind.  Shortly after we put them on I saw Switchfoot (my favorite band since U2) and bought one of their stickers… also a sandal.

Another reason I like these more than any of the multitude of these stickers is that the “children” sandals do not differentiate between boys and girls.  I like this a lot, and not because I buy into the idea that there are no intrinsic differences between girls and boys (I think the notion that ALL gender identity exists in social constructs to be incredibly foolish).  Rather, I have never understood why in this day and age one would advertise “little girl here”, “little boy here”.  Why would one advertise that?  Which I guess is really the question.  Would I have these on my car if my in-laws had not given them to us… I think maybe not.

There is one thing I really do not like about my own Family Bumper stickers.  We now have a fourth child, Isaac Wilberforce Merrin.  I have no idea where to get a fourth sandal!  Plus, even if I found one, I would have to peel off my Switchfoot sticker!

So what do you think of the habit of putting these minivan/SUV window family decals on the back of the vehicle?  Does it annoy you?  Also while you are at it, check out my other sticker: if you do not know what Invisible Children is… Google it!

invisible children


Local Radio 3 of 3

This is Christ in the Community for Friday, November, 11. Beginning in 3,2,1

Good Morning. I am Steve Merrin, pastor of Hodge Presbyterian Church. On behalf of the Trenton Ministerial Alliance, I want to thank KTTN for this opportunity to share Christ in the Community.

        Back in 1993, a Christian musician by the name of Steve Taylor released a CD called Squint. This CD was among my favorite CDs of the early 90’s. I remember reading an interview in which Steve Taylor is asked why he called his latest CD Squint. His paraphrased answer was something like: I have a history of writing songs that people misunderstand because they seem to say one thing on the surface, but when you look a little closer it may open up to an entirely different or deeper meaning. He went on to say that he sees that the parables of Jesus are like that, when you think you have the meaning of a parable down, just squint, look a little harder, chance are there is more to it.
        I would expand his point about the parables of Jesus to the majority of scripture. When we have learned about a verse or a Bible story in Sunday School, or when we read it for ourselves, there is a certain level of meaning and understanding we have. In my experience, I usually can go deeper with any bit of scripture. The deeper I look, the deeper or more meaningful it becomes. This is why you hear of the giants of Christianity (whether they are academic like Colin Brown, or pastoral like Billy Graham) still learning from scripture after all these years. I can’t tell you how many times I have read the 23rd Psalm and have found something new and unexpected there. In fact, I think that the more familiar we are with a scripture passage, the more likely we are to not learn something new from it. The reason for this is that we think we know that one already so we tune out. When this happens to you, I would encourage you to squint, and look a little more intently.
        So how about it Trenton, are you reading the Bible regularly? Are you asking questions of what you are reading? Are you thinking about it? Are you squinting at it for a deeper look. I want to share a quote with you from one of my more famous and maybe even notorious fellow Presbyterians, Mark Twin: “People say when they get to heaven, they’ll fly around from cloud to cloud playing a harp; but I don’t see too many people trying to learn how to fly or too many taking harp lessons to get ready for the event.” I would add to mister Twain’s comment that I find it interesting that so many of us believe that the Bible is the Word of God, yet we do not read it much more than once a week.
          1Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. Psalm 1:1-3 reminds us that those who squint, look deeply, and meditate on the Law of the Lord is like a tree planted by streams of water. Tall, strong, and healthy. So join me in spending just a little bit of time today meditating on Gods word.

Thank you for listening and God Bless You!

Local Radio 2 of 3

This is Christ in the Community for Thursday, November 10.  Beginning in 3,2,1

Good Morning.  I am Steve Merrin, pastor of Hodge Presbyterian Church.  On behalf of the Trenton Ministerial Alliance, I want to thank KTTN for this opportunity to share Christ in the Community.

        I want you to remember one of the all time great Bible Stories of the Old Testament, from the book of Daniel.  It is the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah!  Not ringing any bells?  How about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?  It is likely that those three names you have heard of.  The first three I just said were their real Hebrew names, the more well known names were their slave names.  Am I the only one that thinks it is strange that these three Hebrew heroes of faith (that wouldn’t bow down to the King, but instead get thrown into a fiery furnace, only to have God deliver them from that certain death; the Babylonian King demanded that they bow down to his huge statue and worship or be put to death, they didn’t choose the easy way out, they put their lives on the line and God delivered them)  are remembered today by us by their slave names?  I think there is a great reason for this.  I actually think that the author of Daniel was poking fun at the false Gods of Babylon.  It has to do with the meaning of all those names. 

         Their original Hebrew names, exalted Yahweh: Hananiah, means, “The Lord is gracious”, Mishael “Who is what God is”, and Azariah means “The Lord has helped”.  The Babylonian names honored  Babylonian gods.  Shadrach “Command of Aku”, Aku was the Sumerian moon god, Meshach “Who is what Aku is”, and Abednego “Servant of Nabu”, who was the Babylonian god of wisdom.  I can almost hear the original Hebrew audience of this story laughing at the repeated mention of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Neither Aku, nor Nabu (nor any other false god) protected these three men, it was the one true God who did that.

         In our lives, we constantly come into situations in which we may face our own fiery furnace, maybe not as dramatic as these three men and their fiery furnace.  Maybe we find ourselves in a situation in which we have to decide between what is easy and what is right.  Maybe we find ourselves, or those we love, in a situation that seems hopeless, painful, and we wonder if we dare trust that God is working even in that situation.  What the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tells use about God is that we can know that, though we may not feel it, or understand it, God is in control; in the big decisions, and the little decisions, God is deserving of our trust.  God is sovereign; and we are his.  I challenge you today to trust God in whatever situation you might be facing.  To respond to your own fiery furnace situations with the acknowledgment that whatever happens, you are God’s; and ultimately that is our only real hope.

 God Bless You.

Local Radio 1 of 3

This is Christ in the Community for Tuesday, November, 8. Beginning in 3,2,1

Good Morning. I am Steve Merrin, pastor of Hodge Presbyterian Church. On behalf of the Trenton Ministerial Alliance, I want to thank KTTN for this opportunity to share Christ in the Community.

        This morning I want to talk with you about one of the most well known passages of scripture (Possibly second only to John 3:16). It is a Psalm often called the Beloved Psalm, I of course am talking about the 23rd Psalm: 1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
        In these troubled times, I want to point out two things in this beautiful Psalm. God never promises us an easy time. God promises to help us rest, to lead us, to restore us, and to prepare a table for us to eat… they all sound very serene and peaceful… but where is the setting? All this is while we are in the darkest valley (I like how some versions translate this the valley of the shadow of death), in the presence of our enemies. This psalm is so beloved because it promises that the Good Shepherd is watching over us no matter the size of the problems we might be facing.
        The second thing I want to point out is in regards to the last verse: the part that says surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The Hebrew word that is translated here as ‘follow’, in the Hebrew is much stronger than merely follow. It carries with it the meaning of a hunt. That is right I said a hunt. So respectfully let me suggest that one could paraphrase this verse as saying: Surely the Good Shepherds Hound dogs of Goodness and Mercy share chase me down all the days of my life. That is a striking image, is it not?
        So whether you are having a great day, or if you feel like you are stuck in a very dark, dark valley… may God’s Hound Dogs of Goodness and Mercy Hunt you down today and everyday for the rest of your life. God Bless You!