PC or Bust

I’ve been thinking about political correctness the past few days, and I decided I was tired of it. It’s too demanding–and that much ambiguity is unattainable. One must become racially, sexually, politically, religiously and culturally ambiguous–or “fluid,” I believe they say now.

Don’t distinguish yourself from the pack in any way, because we are all the same–meat-covered cookies.

Refer to people without gender specificity. Tell your DNA it isn’t the boss of you.

Referring to one’s self as any particular color is racist. We are all opaque.

Fiscal and governmental concerns? Nah. Give lots of stuff to people–who cares how it’s paid for.

Don’t worship, just…be. And wear scarves and patchouli so you can better find your oneness.

Personal pronouns? Make up one. We have 26 letters. Or maybe–since letters are specific–they should all be “—.”

Are you fleeing another country because it sucks? Which country? Oh, never mind, I can’t ask you that. Do you have ID? Oh, wait. Verboten. Sorry.

Do you identify as an ampersand? Come on, &. There are no letters.


Toward The Hard Things

My desktop background on my work computer is a picture of all three of our boys riding their bikes down 17th Pl toward the intersection with Magnolia–John in the middle with his training wheels, David and Jose on either side.

Just this moment, I was thinking about the work I have before me as their Dad. I was not thinking in an apprehensive way, because there’s nothing to be afraid of. I was simply watching them ride down the street away from me–all at their own pace, in their own way.

Toward the end of the street.

How do I prepare them for that, or help to?

I think the best thing I can do is show them how to be men, and hopefully one day fathers who do not shy away from the hard things.

How on Earth do I do that? I will try to show them respect for people, and respect for life. I’ll try and teach them how to listen to understand, and not just respond. I’ll teach them that God can be real to them, as he is to me. I’ll teach them how much of a blessing a kind word can be. I’ll teach them that God didn’t make people as objects, but sentient and loving beings, just waiting to be recognized for who they are, rather than what they have done or can do. I will teach them that for the most part, politics are so much compost. People matter, not agendas. God matters most of all, not whether America is great, was great, or can be great again.

And because they might want to have a family some day, I will teach them how I came to mine. Through openness to love when it seemed a futile endeavor. Through an open mind and an open heart. Through loving beyond myself. I will show them this by loving their mother as best I can, in every way I can.

I do not worship my wife, but I love her, as my wedding vows said, “as Christ loves the church.” I love my kids as my kids. I am not their buddy; I’m their father, and that carries a hefty chunk of responsibility. Sometimes there will be discipline. That’s OK. There will be a greater measure of love.

Sunday, Jen was staying home from church because she was in pain and more than a little jacked up from her fall on Saturday. There was a bit of a dust up amongst the kids–they are still learning how to relate to one another along with their newest brother learning how to relate to them. On XM63 a song came on, from the band Fee, I think, called “Glory to God.” All three boys knew the words from various places, and they began singing it. Not in perfect harmony, because life isn’t perfect. They sang it like brothers with three different voices, and it was awesome.

It ended up being a pretty good day.

1-1/2 Seconds

A friend of mine posted something online in reaction to the recent El Cajon shooting of an “unarmed black man.” That the man was indeed unarmed is proven.

But. What if he wasn’t? How could the responding officer have known that?

There are, of course, extraneous circumstances–as there always are in these instances. The media is certain to let us know about them. Yet I got to thinking–it’s so easy for us to second guess police. Why don’t they tase them? Why don’t they shoot them in the leg, or shoot the gun out of their hand?

Imagine someone facing you from a few feet away and pulling out…anything. How long does that take?

Roughly speaking, it takes about 1.5 seconds. A lot can happen in 1.5 seconds. Try this: hold out your arm straight in front of you with a pen in your hand. Drop the pen. Catch it before it hits the ground.

It isn’t that easy, is it? Or even possible. Now add stress to that. Someone shouting. The possibility of nearby people being injured.

Watch someone pull a banana from their waist. Or a Nerf gun. Time it. What if their back is to you? How long does it take for your eyes to recognize movement? Where the movement is coming from? What the movement is? The guy’s hand is moving…what’s in it?

1.5 seconds. That’s all you’ve got. That’s all that’s between you and…anything.

Just watch this short video, and tell me how the police in the El Cajon incident–or any incident–could have reacted differently. This didn’t happen. But it could have.

1.5 seconds




On Adoption

I never thought to adopt, prior to taking a foster parenting class with my wife. I think it was just a few of the classes in that we both felt moved to foster/adopt. That is, to foster parent a child(children) with the intention of eventually adopting them when their parental rights were “severed,” and they were open to be adopted. We found out during the class how many kids were “in the system” in AZ, and it was mind-blowing and heartbreaking all at the same time–it was upward of 4k then. I don’t know what it is now.

Since the completion of our class and the receipt of our licenses to foster, we came across the profile of a young man named Jimmy (I don’t know what the rules are about using real names, so I am changing it here). The profile did not explain anything of consequence regarding Jimmy’s earlier life, but it had a brief description and a small photo. I can’t speak for my wife, but there was something about that tiny photo and the brief description therein that moved me incredibly. I thought about how someone could condense my life into a small thumbnail on an Excel sheet, or what my life would look like if they did.

What does a life look like isolated into something like a sentence fragment? I don’t know. Jimmy has had his challenges, and like anyone else in his situation, did not deserve them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that in many cases–maybe close to all of them sometimes–nobody deserves the stuff that happens in their childhoods.

Today I was thinking about the adoption experiences of some of the people I know here, and how extraordinary those people ended up being, and the wonderful things they have brought to my life–there are several people like that, and I love them, friends and family alike. I want my wife and I to help someone have an extraordinary life. For my part (and probably my wife’s, too), I plan to do that by explaining to little J that he might not have chosen his life to be the way it was. He might not have chosen us. We chose him, though. We want him to know he’s wanted, and loved, and we will work through what comes as a family.

I don’t know–I can’t figure it all out today. I know it will be a challenge, and we will need to pray without ceasing and increase our patience and stamina a hundredfold. Three boys, man. That’s no joke. I need to talk to a couple of my friends for advice. All of that said, I am so glad that God has chosen to bless our family in that way.

Trail of Scars

Last night I had a dream of a memory, if such a thing is possible. I think I was about the age John is now, and my family was on some kind of camping trip or vacation. There were many tall trees, and a fast rushing river. Our truck/camper was parked near the river and I think my aunt and uncle’s camp was set up right next to ours. My brother, myself, and my cousin (I think) were off playing in the trees, and the older boys decided to have a “rock fight.” Of course I, being the youngest and worst thrower of rocks was the first to go down, with a scalp lacerated and bleeding profusely.

I ran into the camp, to my mother, and all I can really remember is that she held a cloth to my head, first washing my wound in river water. I remember all the blood. If my memory serves, I did not go to the hospital, or any doctor, and was left with a crusty scalp and blood in my hair for a few days. There may have been a scar, but I could not see it because of my hair, which at the time was sort of long and very dark brown.

This morning, I ran my hand over my bald head and I could feel the scars on my head from my trip to Alaska a couple years ago–8 stitches in my head in a Fairbanks ER, scars now a Y-shape about the size of a half-dollar coin. Fell like a drunk in front of a hockey arena completely sober. I could not feel anything from the camping trip more than 40 years ago.

This morning, I realized that scars fade. They really do. Time might not heal all wounds, but it helps you remember that long ago is not now. I am not 4 or 5 or whatever it was. Wounds received at that age no longer affect me the same way they did then.

I can’t see or feel my scars anymore–they’ve healed.

Even the deepest ones remain only as a thin line, a reminder of the person I was vs. the person I am today. I’ve changed a lot, and this morning I was reminded that the person I was is a big part of the person I am, as stupid as that sounds to say.

To you I want to say do not be afraid or ashamed of the person you were–no matter how rough around the edges, no matter how sloppy. It’s part of who you are now, and that person is good. God designed you to be a particular you, and you had to go through a lot of things to get here, both good and bad. They left their mark on you, inside and out.

But you’re here, and here is a good place to be. I hated my life for so long, in the sense that it was really hard, and really lonely in places.

Yet here I am today. I struggled, but I did not give up. God saw that struggle, and recognized it. He came to me in my despair, and I was forever changed. You can be, too.

The truth is, when we look behind us, there will always be a trail of scars. We aren’t those scars, and we are not defined by them.

We are defined by our response, and what we do with what God’s given us. Whether we think so or whether we don’t, it’s a great deal.





Life’s Too Short

There’s this video going around right now that’s making everyone feel all the feels. In it, a youngish African-American man comes home and his younger brother is in his house. He hasn’t seen him in 4 or 5 years, I think it is. They laugh, and hug, and it’s great. Then his mom enters the video, and he hasn’t seen her in ten years (I think both mom and brother had been in some African country). The older son completely devolves to his childhood, it looks like. He falls on the ground, cries, and hugs his mother.

The first thing I thought of was this one time I forgot my lunch when I was in high school. The bus stop was literally right across the street from my house, and I remember standing there with a big group of kids when my mom came onto the front porch with my brown bag in her hand and yelled “Tommy, you forgot your lunch!”

I must have rolled my eyes or something, because she set it on the porch and went back inside. Immediately, all the kids started mockingly calling out “Tommy, Tommy.”

I went and got my lunch, and it was more of that stuff the whole way to school. I don’t remember how the situation was resolved with my mom. It was true I’d been extremely embarrassed, but it wasn’t right to be rude to my mom.

Anyway, I saw that video of the kid breaking down when he saw his mom and it occurred to me that’s probably what I’d do, too. I’d give anything now for my mom to hold up my lunch and call out “Tommy!”

The point of this isn’t to have a pity party–my mom’s been gone many, many years. I just want to say that life is too short to be consumed with stupid things. If you’re a kid and you somehow read this, your parents are going to embarrass you sometimes. Maybe they’ll even do it on purpose (I remember taking the boys to the fair a couple years ago, and my older son brought a friend. They were playing this really loud fair music and my wife and I started dancing along behind my son and his buddy–he was horrified. And when we ran into one of the cool kids from school, he practically screamed “stop!!” Too bad, really, because my booty song came on…). Let it go when that happens. It’s making memories. Things you’ll look back on later and be glad they happened.

Be embarrassed, that’s fine. Just never forget that if your parents didn’t really love you, they wouldn’t take the time to act the fool in front of your friends. For my part, I love doing that stuff, and I am not above sacrificing my dignity for a laugh. I just wanted to say that, in the words of Bradley Nowell from Sublime, life’s too short, so love the ones you got.


I remember waking up after my rotator cuff surgery and being/feeling pretty wasted and confused. And in quite a bit of pain. The nurses were struggling to get my blood pressure down. I muttered something like, “my wife…” and then fell back asleep. When I woke up again, she was standing there. I was dazedly watching them drain off some of my blood into something like a little squeeze ball, and the pain was lessening.

Somehow, my pain became more manageable, and my blood pressure went down. I don’t remember getting dressed, but I became aware I was wearing sweat pants or pajamas or something and a button up shirt about 4 sizes too big was sort of draped over me with only one arm through the sleeve. It was time to go home, which was very close, but I couldn’t walk very well.

I got to my wife’s car courtesy of a wheelchair, but I didn’t know how I was going to make it into our apartment. Jenny ended up calling her dad to help, because she couldn’t lift me. I am no lightweight, but Ken held me up and helped me walk into the apartment, my arm over his shoulder. I was leaning quite heavily on him. He helped me to the restroom to pee, and I was afraid (probably he was, too) that I would need help with my pants. Thankfully, I didn’t, and I was able to do my business and get to the couch, where I would spend quite a bit of time over the next month.

I remember being grateful for his help; that he was there when we needed him. Ken and Linda have always been like that, and probably always will be, so long as they are able. They are always willing.

I remember my sisters pretty much taking over parenting duties after my dad was gone and mom was really starting to get sicker. I was a teen, and it couldn’t have been easy. But they all helped with whatever care I needed, and I’d like to think I turned out OK.

I remember when my gall bladder crapped the bed a couple years ago (on Valentine’s Day, no less) because of a gall stone that felt like the size of a watermelon jammed into the neck of my gallbladder. It hurt like the devil was poking me with a pitchfork. Jenny slept in a chair next to my bed for two days, and Ken and Linda kept the boys for two days while I was in the hospital.

I remember also texting with my best friend, who is also a pastor. He asked me if I was ok (because I was the one who messaged him first to tell him I was in the hospital and why). Told him I was a little scared because I had never gotten surgery. He said he’d grab his chaplain’s badge and be right there, which he did and was. And sat with me all night.

Those are just a few of the times I have felt like–and probably actually been–a burden to someone. Today I was thinking about that, I don’t know why. And it occurred to me that helping the people you care about isn’t necessarily a burden, even if in actuality it’s sometimes a  hardship.

Today, our pastor posted a meme on Facebook about hardships, and how they involve (roughly translated) ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Certainly they have in my life.

I don’t know how good I have been at doing similar things, but I hope the answer to that is “ok.” I am, after all, an ordinary person. I am no pastor, no bible scholar. No hero. I am just a man, a person like you are, and I do my best to serve God, to whom I feel like I must also be a burden.

Yet there I go back to my statement a few paragraphs ago. “Helping the people you care about isn’t necessarily a burden.”

If that is true, then the God of the universe cares about me, which is an extraordinary thing. The God whose hands shaped the world and whose breath made it alive cares about me. He cares about you, too.

Don’t discount that, even it doesn’t feel true at times. Even if it feels He isn’t close. I promise you, He is near.

Time has brought me clarity and truth on a few things, and because you’ve stayed with me this long, please take another minute or so and don’t go just yet.

The first thing is that even when I stood in my mom’s hospital room when she was in a coma and weighed about 80 pounds, God was with me and with her in her haze of painkillers. I know because earlier on, I heard her ask him to be. The last two things I heard her say on this earth were “where’s Tommy?” and then “good” when I told her I was there.

He was with me when I was 5 or 6 and bad things happened. I saw and felt the truth of that as a grown man, kneeling at the side of the Colorado river.

He was with me when my friend took his life less than a half mile from my bedroom.

He was with me through relationships that ended, and jobs that were lost. He was with me when I was steeped in my sin, and had no idea he was even there.

My shoulders may have sagged, and I may have felt like I was alone.

He was there, much like when my father-in-law helped me walk from our car to the house, helping me walk with my arm draped over his shoulder.

He was there for me, carrying my burden. Carrying YOUR burden, in the form of a roughly hewn cross.

I wasn’t a burden to him, because helping the ones you love isn’t a burden.

You aren’t, either.

Maybe a more accurate statement would be to say, you don’t mind bearing a burden for someone you love, or helping them bear it. Even when that burden IS the person you love.