Monday, December 31, 2012

Couch Family Year in Review 2012

     CNN has a news article that seems to appear on every page of their website: "Ted Dansen turns 65." Who cares? Lots of people have turned 65. Reading about the Couch's adventures and mishaps in 2012 is a lot more worthy of your time.
  • Early in the year, Ella was chosen to be a part of the Young Author's Faire and read her original work in front of parents and students. Only two students are chosen per class, so we were right proud. Yet, while Ella was receiving an outstanding recognition, Marty and I got the bad parent award. We couldn't be there! We had a training on the calendar months before we knew about the Faire, so Gramma took Ella. 
  • Speaking of training, Marty and I completed ours for becoming Sexual Addiction Specialists. After we finish our supervision, I will officially be a CPSAS (Certified Pastoral Sexual Addiction Specialist). I love having a bunch of letters behind my name that nobody knows what they mean!

  • Speaking of letters behind my name, add M.A.R. to the list. A journey that started in 2008 came to completion in July. I received my Masters of Arts in Religion: Pastoral Counseling through Liberty University Online. I started at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, but decided to go Baptist. Not really, but Liberty had the focus I wanted for my current ministry. 
  • Speaking of our current ministry, Marty and I continued to see pastors and spouses in private counseling sessions, helping the hurting and bringing hope to the hopeless. I've had the great opportunity to travel and preach, speak at special functions, and once again do break-out sessions with Marty for our own denomination's District Council. We are definitely called to minister to the ministers.
  • Speaking of ministers, Marty became a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God. Once again, she had to hit the books, study for her test, interview with a scary panel of pastors (actually, we personally knew all of them and felt very comfortable), and then received her certificate stating she is now the Reverend Marty Couch. We are all about more training and further equipping ourselves to be all that we can be in our ministry. 
  • Speaking of the army... (officially done with the "speaking of's"). Max signed up for his first organized sport and played coach pitch/T-ball. He was a Marlin, and had a great time. I loved hearing him crack the bat on that ball. Carting him to games and practices showed us what is in store for us as our kids get more involved in extracurriculars. 

  • We had to say a sad good-bye to Ingrid this year. Ingrid was our '98 Honda Accord (named after the lady who sold her to us). Ingrid served us well for almost 15 years until I ran her into a Cal-Trans trailer hitch that was sticking out in the middle of the freeway lane in the dark of early morning. But God redeemed the situation when a very kind couple from our former church gave us their 2000 Honda Accord AND we got a check from our insurance company. 
  • Speaking of our former church... (Dang! Couldn't escape it). We had to make a change this year that wasn't fun. We said good-bye to Pathway Church in Redwood City after attending for over two years. After much prayer and conversation, we made the painful decision to leave our friends there and go to Bethel. As much as we didn't want to, we feel going to Bethel is fitting for this season of life, but we miss Scott and Sue Aughtmon and Brett and Jenny Moody and everyone else there. Pathway was definitely where we needed to be the last two years.
  • Our family grew by one. Her name is Daphne. She cost us 26 cents. 

Best Books I read in 2012

Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay (1999) was a very challenging and convicting read. It was one of my text books for seminary, but it reminded me what my job as a Christian is, not to "save" people, but share the love of Jesus. The author was a staunch non-Christian, until someone shared Christ's love with him, and then someone else, and someone else, until he finally accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I may not agree with all of his tactics, but I am inspired by his conviction and passion to be a witness for Christ.

Wherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey was the first book I cracked after graduating from seminary and it was an enjoyable autobiography of a professional baseball player who not only became known for mastering the elusive "knuckleball," but also had to overcome childhood sexual abuse, typical marital strife for a Major League ball player, and learning to walk with Christ. Dickey is a proficient writer making this an easy read.

Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones is an essential book for anyone who speaks publicly. Very practical and concise book. If the reader happens to hear a message from Stanley after reading Communicating,  they'll find he practices what he preaches which is what makes him an effective public speaker. 

A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser refined my philosophy of life. The book was birthed out of the tragedy the author experienced when a drunk driver struck his mini-van killing his mother, wife, and one of his daughters. He recounts how he walked through the tragedy and began healing while experiencing God's grace. It's hard not to pay attention to a man who's lived through this kind of trauma, and hard to believe he is a better man of faith after the experience. Very, very inspirational. 

Quotes I Read, Heard, or Said Myself

"He that has but one word of God before him and out of that word cannot make a sermon can never be a preacher." - Martin Luther

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." - I. P. Hartley

"I can't change who I was but I can change who I am." T. S. C.

"The devil doesn't tempt with ugly." - Rick Fry

"The problem of expecting to live in a perfectly fair world is that there is no grace in that world, for grace is grace only when it is undeserved." - Jerry Sittser

"The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked." - Mark Batterson

     I'm expecting great things for the Couch's in 2013. I believe it will be a year like we've never experienced. The New Year will be happy, and it will be sad, but make it a joyful year regardless. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Gifts I Can Give

     Every once in a while I come up with a good idea. When my oldest daughter was born 10 years ago, I decided I was going to give her a greeting card on Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas, and, of course, her birthday. In the card I would write my sentiments, my exact feelings in that moment about her. Then, I would save the cards and give them all to her when she was much older. I have done this for all three of my kids from the time they were born. At this age, a greeting card is not the most exciting thing about a holiday or their birthday. They politely acknowledge it, but soon, I find my very intentional gift laying on the floor somewhere while the kid is off playing with a new toy or trying on fresh clothes. That's when I go pick it up, and put it with all the other cards that have been collected and saved over the last ten years. It doesn't bother me. I know and understand that it's not a big deal to them right now... but it will be.

     I'm not sure exactly when I'll give each of them their own collection, but when that time comes, I know they will cherish them. A dad's words to his kids are so important, so impacting. I don't want my kids to ever wonder about how I felt about them. I want them to not only hear me say, "I love you," but I want them to have it in writing. And when I'm gone, they will never have to guess how much they meant to me, impacted me, and were cherished by me. Those "discounted"cards will one day mean the world to them because every child wants to hear good things from their dad. Toys break and become obsolete, clothes are grown out of and go out of style, but these cards are the best gifts I can give.
     It is Christmas Eve, and I have a stack of cards waiting to be addressed. Pardon me while I go gush over my babies. The card won't be the highlight tomorrow, but someday, it will be.

Peace and Quiet

     When I was a kid I used to ask my dad what he wanted for Christmas. He always said the same thing, and usually in a slightly exasperated tone: "Peace and Quiet." It was a little difficult to grant that Christmas wish with four kids residing in our home. And the fact that there were four kids bouncing off the walls or battling with each other probably caused his semi-terse response to my question. I get it now. I have three of my own, and I have been asked the same question. And on more than one occasion I have heard my dad's voice coming out of me and I have answered thusly: "Peace and Quiet."
     One year Dad got exactly what he asked for, though it may not have been what he had in mind. Marty found candles with the words "Peace" and "Quiet" printed on them and we gave them to Dad for Christmas. He chuckled after he opened them and I was pleased that I was finally able to give him something he really wanted for Christmas.
     After my dad's funeral a few years ago, we all went back to his house for a luncheon. My sister had placed those candles in front of a picture of him. I had to smile as I thought that Dad had finally got what he had requested.
     This Christmas, I wish for peace in your homes and quiet in your souls. God bless you all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Top 5 Christmas Specials of All Time

When I was a kid, the CBS TV network had an intro for it's special presentations that would make me thrill whenever I saw it. It usually introduced a show that I could only see once a year since vcr's were not a household appliance at the time. That intro guaranteed that I would be captivated for the next 30 or 60 minutes. The drum beat, the graphics, the short musical riff got any kid of the 70's excited for what was about to happen. 

In this season of giving, I wanted to "give" you my opinion on what I believe are the best Christmas specials ever produced. Christmas movies are not included. That's a list for another time. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to agree or disagree. 

#5 Frosty the Snowman (1969)

This one is almost as old as I am, but has always been a part of my Christmas experience for as long as I can remember. Every kid wants a best friend, and who better than a magical snowman who can give the best belly flop rides around? Even though I knew how it ended, watching Karen cry over Frosty's demise in the greenhouse always tugged at my heartstrings. A timeless classic that my own kids now enjoy.

#4 How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The narration, the animation (classic Chuck Jones), the song!... all so very memorable. One aspect that makes this special so intriguing is the fact that the mean old Grinch has a pet dog. I guess everyone needs someone to pontificate to. Which brings us to Max the dog. His expressions are priceless making him a very memorable character in the Christmas special genre. Favorite line in the song: "You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch." And recording artists everywhere, quit trying to cover this tune. No one can touch the original with a... "39 and a half foot pole!"

#3 A Muppet Family Christmas (1988)

I recorded this charming TV special when it first aired and still have the vhs tape, complete with commercials from the 80's for Osh Kosh B'Gosh, Doublemint Gum with the Doublemint twins, and MnM's holiday candies. The commercials only add to the experience at this stage in the game. Four Muppet franchises are brought under one roof from The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street. The result is pure Muppet bliss. There are laugh-out-loud moments, plenty of Christmas songs, and this is one of the last Muppet productions that included Jim Henson before his untimely death in 1990. The home video release has been painfully edited down because of copyright issues, so I cherish my vhs copy. 

#2 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

This holiday gem could be considered the one that started it all, and the one that almost didn't happen. The network was concerned about the "religious" aspect of the program, but Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts gang, insisted Linus' now infamous speech about the true meaning of Christmas stay in. The dance sequences, the brilliant jazz score that accompanies the animation, and Snoopy's ability to convey a complete personality without speaking a word all add up to make a classic that is practically on everyone's "favorite" list. 

#1 A Pinky and the Brain Christmas (1996)

Among other things, the chuckle factor of this cartoon lands it at number one on my list. The concept of two lab mice trying to take over the world always struck me as genius, so the concept alone is already funny. The plot involves Pinky and the Brain applying to be elves at the North Pole so Brain can slip in his blueprints for a doll that will obtain mind control after Santa delivers it to every home in the world, allowing the Brain to command the whole earth's population to obey his every command. The climax of the story is very touching which balances all the silliness of the show. The spirit of Christmas and friendship truly culminates in this underrated classic. 

Epilogue:   So where's Rudolph? Though I did enjoy the red-nosed reindeer growing up, I've lost interest, therefore can't put a special on my list that I feel I don't need to watch to make my holiday season complete. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town?" Never really liked that one. Even as a kid, felt the back story of Santa was kind of contrived, even though I didn't know the meaning of the word. "Year without a Santa Claus?" The Heat/Snow Miser anthem is the best part of that one. The rest is so-so.  And I have absolutely no use for "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" or "Frosty Returns."

So there you have it. May all your Christmases be "special."