Fighting Dirty

I saw two girls get in a fight one time when I was a teenager. The school bus let us off right in front of my house, and I remember they started going at it the second they stepped off. I had never seen anything like it. They didn’t fight like guys did. One took the other down almost instantly (on my front lawn, no less), and they immediately started punching, kicking, pulling hair and ripping at clothes. It seemed the desired outcome was less about fighting and more about simply embarrassing or humiliating the other person. At the end of it, the “losing” girl had her shirt ripped completely off. The fight ended with that.

We had election results on last night, and I thought how much like that fight political campaigns seem to be—at least as far as ads and commercials go. They so very often seem to have nothing at all to do with the merits of the candidate paying for the commercial, and focus on what a crappy _____ the other candidate is. Seldom is a campaign run any other way.

We question the opposing candidate’s intelligence, political loyalty, fealty to the United States, patriotism, and even sexuality at times.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather hear what the candidate I am considering voting for actually supports, and how they’re going to achieve it.

It’s on all sides of an issue, office, or candidate as well. People are so crappy to each other. And they fight so dirty.

I hate politics. At least this election is over. I can go back to watching commercials.

Better Questions

I read online today that Tim Cook—CEO of Apple since Steve Jobs passed away—came out as being gay recently. He said something to effect of he was “proud to be gay.”

Good for him. Even with today’s much more relaxed morality and tolerance for most things and lifestyles, that’s still a pretty ballsy move. Privately, people already knew, but being publicly anything is always a big step.

It made me think, though, and some questions came to mind:

Why does it seem the arbiters of political correctness in this day and age only allow people belonging to one minority group or another to be proud of it?

Proud to be gay, or African-American, or Green Party, or Latino, or whatever it happens to be rather than the majority.

So if a person can be proud to be in the minority—any minority—is the converse also true? Must someone else be ashamed to be a majority?

In other words, should I feel as if I cannot be proud to be who I am if that someone happens to be caucasian, middle-class, straight, and Christian?

I don’t know.

It seems like whenever someone comes out as any of those things, or espouses any of the views that seem to go along with membership in any of those groups, there are some who will automatically assume that means they’re hiding a noose under the white bedsheet they’re wearing.

The words “hate speech” have become so ubiquitous they’ve lost all their power.

For my own part, I am caucasian. I am male. I am straight. I am a Christian. Does that mean I am particularly proud of myself for being any of those things? I don’t know that it does, because to my way of thinking, that is just part of who I am, and whether or not I admit it is secondary to the truth I already know, which is that with God came awareness of my identity.

Pride doesn’t really fit with that.

While humility is something any human being probably struggles with, I guess I would say the parts of myself I am proud of are the things I worked at, rather than the things I can’t help being.

I am proud to be a college graduate, even if it took me until middle age. It was hard, and expensive, and I struggled at it. It doesn’t mean I have animosity toward anyone without a degree. It just means I worked my ass off to get mine.

I am proud to be the husband of my wife, and the father of my children. Marriage and parenthood are a grand freaking struggle sometimes, but I have never given up and I never will. It doesn’t mean I hate single people. It just means I love my family—who would not be in my life without God.

I am proud to be an American, because even with the struggles our country goes through on a daily basis—and we all know what they are—the fact that our country remains in the face of all the assaults crashing on her, the freedoms our citizens are allowed are pretty extraordinary. You can fly your flag upside-down, or even burn it. The constitution protects you.

Am I proud of my faith? That’s actually hard to answer. Not because I don’t have it, or because I question it, but because my faith is grounded in humility, and service. Not being served. I guess what I am proud of regarding faith is that he chose me. Who would choose me? I wouldn’t. I would pick my frail and self-serving ass dead freaking last, if at all. While there is some pride there, I am also daily humbled by my savior.


I am proud to be chosen, and to have my name written in the book of life. I’m proud I was chosen to share that with people. These are my convictions, and I am certainly not saying I expect yours to be the same. Please do me the same courtesy. In Much Ado About Nothing, the character John the Bastard says something to the effect of “Let me be as I am, and seek not to alter me.”

It doesn’t matter that I’m white, or straight, or any of those other things. While membership in those categories doesn’t necessarily mean I should be proud of them, I also don’t need to be ashamed. Yet political correctness seems to demand I hang my head because of something I had no part in determining. So if you don’t want me to try and alter you, let me be as I am. We need to respect each other more than we do. And it goes “both” ways. All ways.


If I cannot or should not be proud of being things I can’t help but be, then why is it different to be proud of different skin tone, or language, or which gender I feel called to be with sexually?

It may not be intentional, but it is without question a double standard. And it confuses me.

Oddly, just now I thought of this:

Earlier in the movie, Eminem loses a battle when he chokes out after being mocked and ridiculed by his opponent for a handful or inarguable truths his opponent throws up in his face to embarrass and humiliate him. It works. In the above scene, he does a couple of different things. One, he grows a thicker skin. Two, he realizes if he admits that which he knows to be true about himself, he takes away the power of that truth to hurt him. Also, he finds out some truth about his opponent which causes him to choke.

My point?

Maybe, if we all were just able to be truthful and open about who we are, opposing words would lose the power to hurt us?

I don’t know. I’m just a white, straight, bald, semi-conservative male who likes show tunes AND heavy metal. I’m a big ball of confusion.

And I have better questions than I have answers. So maybe we can figure this out together.

Stop Thinking Everyone is a Jerk

I read this article about the movie “God’s Not Dead” the other day online, and it was less a review than a callout to the filmmakers for misrepresenting atheists. Something akin to “What I learned about atheists from “God’s Not Dead.” The answer, of course, was either nothing, or falsehoods.

What stuck in my craw about it, was to wonder what they were expecting? It’s a faith-based movie about a student who defends his faith when a teacher tries to compel him to admit that God is dead, with the real statement being that he never existed at all. The student is made to try and attempt to convince the opposite, which is, of course, that God is not dead.

If the film wanted to educate people about atheism and how atheists perceive themselves, it probably would have done just that. That’s not the kind of movie it was. I believe it was meant to encourage believers in their ability to defend and represent their faiths. In that regard, I think the film succeeded.


The professor was represented in the film as kind of a snarling bulldog and all-around jerk. It was a stereotype, to be sure, but it is also true that stereotypes exist for a reason. I have had many, many encounters with atheists who were actually quite similar to Kevin Sorbo’s character in the movie. They were indeed snarling, and condescending, and insulting, and very misrepresentative of Christians and faith in general.

Today I kind of understood why, at least to my line of thought.

I think people often respond in a hostile manner to things they don’t understand. Like faith in Jesus, or atheism for that matter.

As a person of faith, it’s difficult to understand why someone would respond to people of faith with so much hostility, as so many atheists do. Where the filmmakers went wrong—as I have done myself so many times—was to assume that all atheists are the same kind of lunatic as the professor in the movie.

Clearly that isn’t true at all.

I have several good friends and family members that are also atheists—who while they might not agree with what I believe and how I practice it—are also not condemning or insulting to me. They’re still people I love and pray for, and enjoy hanging out with. I’m not going to treat them like they are rabid or infected with the zombie virus.

The filmmakers of “God’s Not Dead” might have chosen to qualify the central premise of the professor character as being representative of some atheists, rather than all of them. Clearly not all atheists are as loathsome as the professor in the movie or people like Richard Dawkins (To me, he seems a step or two away from espousing the virtues of eugenics, and should definitely stay the heck off Twitter).

Now, where atheists go wrong is to assume all Christians are hypocrites and charlatans. That is also quite obviously not true. And to treat all people professing faith as if they are deluded dolts who hate everyone not like them and deride belief in any other religion (or lack of religion) is a mistake.

Christianity is not about derision, or hate. It’s about a relationship with the creator. It’s about trying to help others find that same relationship. It’s about loving people as you love yourself. It’s about loving God.

Certainly, there are Christian jerks, too. Lord knows I have been one of them.

So atheists should qualify their platform—their statements—as being representative of some Christians. Not assuming all are the same, as all atheists are not the same.

What I’m getting at is this: don’t assume you know people and are qualified to judge them because you may have had a bad experience or sometimes heard about a bad experience. You don’t have that right.

Get to know them, whoever they are. Have a conversation. Don’t try to convert the person either way. Just talk to them. You learn more about people and who they are by enjoying a cup of coffee than by holding a sign in their face and telling them what a tool they are.

And also, that plank in your own eye can get super uncomfortable.

Don’t Be a Tool, Fool

Social media logos

I learned a while back that besides the obvious value of finding and keeping in touch with friends and family on sites like Facebook and Twitter(as well as mass-marketing events and other promotional-type activities), there is also quite a bit of potential for problems with those same people you were just sharing photos with.

No matter what your platform of choice is (and there are many), it can get you in a lot of trouble, even if you had the noblest of intentions. This is for many different reasons, and in the interest of not crashing the WordPress server with examples, I will only enumerate a few within the confines of this particular post.

1. Subtleties:

Like text messaging, you can’t grasp the intended tone as well as the other nuances of a conversation when you’re reading a status update, tweet, or whatever other services call it.

Also, because even though the people reading the things a person says are supposedly “friends,” they often don’t really know each other, or at least not well. You may think their cat memes are hilarious, but they may privately not hold your fondness for sharing Taylor Swift videos in similarly high regard. In short, they aren’t really your friends in many cases.

2. Don’t Be a Jerk

So while whatever point you’re trying to get across may be true and valid, you never know who you’re going to offend by making it. And there are clearly also some people who sometimes use social networking to say things they would never say in person.

Because of this, there are times when something that starts with a perfectly innocuous question often ends in ugliness, hurt feelings, and possibly even far reaching consequences.

Mainly, this is because you never know what’s going on (or has gone on) in a person’s life when they read your stuff.

Consequently, you also never know when they’re going to flip out on you and start puking ugliness or saying things they won’t be able to get back.

3. Know your audience

The other thing to consider is a person needs to weigh the material they’re going to share and decide if a huge and impersonal platform is appropriate. Remember, anyone and everyone has the ability to read your stuff.

If you don’t want your mom seeing your vacation shenanigans, don’t post them.

If you don’t want your boss to read your whiny little missives about how mean he is, don’t post them.

If you don’t want people from church to see you doing body shots, that might be one to send your frat buddies via email or private message.

Speaking of church, if you don’t want to look like a bad example, or hypocrite, or charlatan of some sort, keep that stuff to yourself online! Gosh! There is absolutely no need to post screen caps, memes, or movie clips that require a valid ID to view.

4. Solving Problems before they happen:

I would also offer this: if one has a problem with something said, a simple email or private message can go a long way toward clearing things up. It can also avoid dozens of people feeling the need to attack or defend a person or point.

It’s possible to confront someone in an appropriate manner and resolve a situation without hurting feelings or having a person blow a gasket, which is what happened to me a while back. Yes, I often have to learn things the hard way.

I’d also say that if you’re a person with thin skin and a hair trigger, then social networking is probably not for you. But if you do choose to use it, stay away from contentious topics.

5. It’s Only a Joke:

Maybe that’s how you mean it, but don’t expect everyone to get your sense of humor. Don’t expect everyone to react like you do, or share that same level of verbal sophistication you think you have. Here’s a tip: if you think you’re hilarious and clever and full of wisdom, and just have to share your cleverness with the world, try to contain yourself.

Not everyone thinks cats barfing to techno is funny, or likes watching frat boys light gas or drink tequila from a morbidly obese navel.

Use your brain, man.

6. Like It Or Not, You ARE An Example

Look, I know everyone is different. Everyone likes different things, and may laugh hysterically at something that makes you see red. You may think that blog is chock full of profound truth, or that that live clip of dudes eating cockroaches or women giving birth in wading pools is really cool and interesting. Just don’t expect me to. The thing is, you never know who will see your posts.

You never know how they will react to them.

Don’t cause harm to a friendship, or relationship, or cause someone to stumble or turn away from God by being an idiot online.

It’s not worth it.

For my part, because I have a problem with not saying what I really feel, or not calling BS BS, I will probably hereafter restrict my comments to things like “lol,” and only share things like

Advantage: Metallica

Tonight, I’m listening to a lot of music. I’m in the office doing paperwork, and I have my mp3 player on shuffle. It’s keeping me awake, and 1600 to 0230 is a pretty long night. Of course, one needs to take a break from paperwork every once in a while, too.

So over the past thirty minutes or so, I heard two songs with the same title that are about a zillion miles apart, content-wise.

“One,” by Metallica

And “One,” by U2

It’s interesting when you look at the two bands, and the two songs. I have to admit I approach both from a rock perspective, and this is what I came up with.

Both bands have great frontmen, in James Hetfield for Metallica, and Bono for U2. James Hetfield looks like he could snap off Bono’s pretentious head and use it for a soccer ball. Advantage: Metallica.

Both bands have good guitarists, Kirk Hammett for Metallica, and “The Edge,” for U2. The edge of what? Sucking? Knit cap wearing? Anyway, Hammett is a beast, and his tone and technical ability caused a generation of up-and-coming guitarists to “facepalm” in despair. Advantage: Metallica.

Well written song referencing a heartbreaking decades-old anti-war film?

Please. Advantage: Metallica.

I guess the best thing I could tell you is that Metallica is much better at inspiring wakefulness.
My mp3 player is demented, though. In addition to those two songs, in those same thirty minutes I also heard “Build Your Kingdom” by Rend Collective Experiment, and “Wizards of Winter,” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

I need to find some more caffeine. There’s gotta be some around here somewhere…

Change the World

If it were just me I needed to think about, I wouldn’t try to change the world. I’ve lived long enough and seen enough of how things always seem to be that I don’t really care what the world “does” to me. I’ve gotten a lot better at taking it.

Yet when I wake up in the morning and when I lay my head down at night I think of these people:


Then I think that what really matters is them, and what I leave behind for them when I’m gone. When I think about them, apathy is no longer an option. I have to care about things because they look to me to learn how to do so much.

How to treat people.

How to treat each other.

How to treat the planet.

Things like that.

I may not want to be an example for anyone, but that almost doesn’t matter. I’ve got two people who need me.

I guess the best place to start is simply changing my own world first…

Stream of Early Morning Consciousness

You are everything I will ever need
to complete everything you are asking of me
So I lay it all down for the sake of
Your name
Here I am, God, use me, set me aflame…

It’s so interesting the times God chooses to communicate something to a person. It’s 0440 and I want to be asleep. Lord knows I should be. Yet here I lie, thinking the above song lyric.

Why now, God?

What do I have to offer that you need, or can use? I can’t even manage to sleep…my mind keeps spitting out praise lyrics, like some demented late night Wurlitzer…

you are my all in all

And I wish I could praise you with my own words, but I keep coming back to the words of others, perhaps because my words are not enough

if I had no voice, if I had no tongue, I would dance for you like the rising sun

If I could say what I really meant I would say something to thank you for pulling me from the quicksand that was my life and making a man out of me.

I would thank you for coming to me in my weakness and not my strength, and for showing me it was ok to grieve and be broken.

I would thank you for holding my patchwork heart in your hands, and loving me even when I feel like a ****up. I would thank you for the beautiful and Godly woman who sleeps behind me as I thumb type this, who makes me want to be better.

If I had more words, better words, I’d thank you for showing me my gifts, and bringing me to this smallish town and bringing people like Ken, and Paul, and Jeff, and Zeb and Alan into my life–Godly men who love you and are helping me to pull something out of myself I didn’t know existed.

If I had the words, I would thank you for your Word, and your words, that bring life, that

wake me up inside

And here’s the other thing, maybe the last thing for now. Maybe there are people I know who will read this who do not believe. They might give a little sigh of exasperation because here I go again.

Well, so what.

I may not be the best writer or speaker or teacher or husband or whatever. But I am learning, all the time, and I am realizing that

we were meant to live for so much more

I know this and feel it in my heart. My words might not properly represent you at times before others, maybe even most times. But I know what you’ve done in my life, and nothing anyone says or believes about me can change that.

So I offer you my service, such as it is.

here I am God, use me

Stop. Heyyyy, Macagangnam Style

I watched the above video through once, and I’m not sure I could do it again without spiraling down into a nightmare world where everyone wears weird pants that don’t fit and does a little dance that’s like the bastard love child of the Macarena


And the African Anteater Ritual

All of which makes sense, all things considered. Gangnam Style is without question the Macarena of this era, which was U Can’t Touch This of the one before. Undoubtedly, Psy’s ode to sexy ladies will usurp one or both of the other two aforementioned songs as the one all the champagne-sodden parents hit the floor for at their kids weddings.

God help us all.

Clearly I’m not the first one to get the connection, either, what with the mashup in the first video. MC Hammer may have been relegated to background dancer, but he still killed it.

Now I’m gonna go lay down in front of a tank.

Of Conviction, Inspiration, and Change

There’s this scene in the movie Sling Blade where the camera moves through the day room in a mental hospital, passing by various patients on its way to Karl, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who is quietly sitting in a chair looking out a window.

The audience is offered brief glimpses of many of the patients, and their common features all seem to be lots of slack jaws and staring eyes.

I was thinking about my high school Sunday school class the other day and that image occurred to me.

It has been no walk in the park to try and get those kids interested and participating. I’ve been observing the other teachers and taking lots of notes, and hopefully my next lesson will go a little better.

Certainly, part of the problem must lay with the students having difficulty relating to someone so much older than they are. Also that it’s likely they are not in class by choice, but because their parents make them go.

But I think the problem is larger than that. It’s more than my teaching style and that the students may be tired from a long evening of playing Call of Duty or instant messaging their “bestie” on their smart phones.

I think we’ve raised a generation of kids that has forgotten about the passion of Jesus. By that I do not mean his long walk down the Via Dolorosa, but his zeal for his father, and his Father’s house.

It’s my job to find a way to reawaken that in them. It’s not just about Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, though he does.

It’s about reminding these kids that Jesus is relevant to them, and is not simply a set of ideals passed down from their parents like a set of holiday china. This is the same Jesus that wept over a city. The same Jesus that calmly made a whip from leather cords and then cleared the temple.

But how do you instill passion and zeal in a generation that seems to care for very little other than what’s before them at that moment?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I feel a sense of urgency about it because now is when these kids are going to learn the things that will stay with them. The urgency comes from the knowledge that if things about the world that so desperately need changing are ever going to be changed, it will be these kids that do it.

I think of movements like Jesus Culture, who get so much right. I think it will take some kind of revival to wake this kids up, and that it starts with us. It starts with parents, teachers, and pastors.

We need to find a way to not only make Jesus relevant and real to them, but also to help them realize that while Jesus is the hope of nations, they are, too.

Until (and unless) Jesus returns, they have the unique opportunity to shape their own futures.

How do we do this?

I believe there are several things we need to do.

1. Awaken in them a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. There seems to be an almost choking apathy amongst young people today–the “whatever” generation.

2. Inspire them to act for the kingdom. Retreats and conference highs are great, but we need to be there when they come off it and the real work begins. Inspiration is not a one time thing. We lead from the front and we kick them in the pants when they need it. We need to do this for them:

3. Pray for them. Lift them up. Let them know they can do anything, with effort, with God, and with accountability.

4. Teach them it will not be easy to change the world. It will be tough. Teach them that changing the world starts with their own world. Search their lives and their hearts and identify the areas lacking and bring God to those places. Invite healing.

5. Walk with them. Let them know they aren’t alone and never were. We might be out of touch with their reality in respect to our own, but if we show them consistency and back our pledges to be there for them and pray for them with the actuality of doing those things, then we can change that part, too.

I am not writing this because I think I have all the answers. Certainly the opposite is true. The conviction I’ve been feeling lately is my own, based on my own experiences and my own prayers. It could even be that the huge pile of words I’ve just expelled is solely for my own edification. But on the off chance there’s even 1 other person out there who shares my struggles and convictions, I’m going to put both this and myself out there.

And I’m going to pray.