George Michael and 90 Seconds in Hell

Anyone who’s seen much of 2016 would have to acknowledge that quite a few celebrities have checked out this year–and there’s still almost a week to go, so there could be more. What I’m thinking about today, having just heard about Carrie Fisher, is not Princess Leia. It’s George Michael. Why, you might be wondering? I know little of his music, and that video with the “Choose Life” shirts? My goodness. Before I continue, watch/listen to this…and think of the portly doofus in that picture below.

My George Michael/Wham! memory is from an audition for a musical I did back in high school. I did OK on the acting part, and didn’t embarrass myself singing–as part of the chorus, anyway–I didn’t do a solo. The problem was the dancing.

Anyone who knows me knows I lack even the smallest gracefulness.


Yes, I’m that guy. Many pounds and many years later. But dancing was part of the audition. One of the cheerleaders (Mona Nicholson) came up with a short, choreographed routine to the Wham! song Wake me up Before You Go-Go, which was a pretty big hit for George and his silent, guitar “playing” partner. I’m sure he had a name, but I don’t want to look it up.

So there we are–a handful of guys–on the tarmac outside the gym where the play would be performed. We’re standing there while Mona (yes, she was attractive) demonstrated the few steps for us. All I could think of at the time was to pray that no one saw me. The finger-snapping, “Jitterbug!” intro to the song came on and my humiliation began.

My hands/arms were held out from my sides like I was playing a drunken airplane running in a loose circle. I put the “boom-boom” into no hearts that day. I am tall. I am clumsy. And I demonstrated that fully on that 80’s afternoon. 85? 86? I can’t remember that part.

Maybe if any of my friends from those days read this, they can help me fill in some time gaps. I feel like it was springtime of 1986. Anyway, I’ll remember that time as long as I live, even if it isn’t the most masculine thing I’ve ever done.

I also remember there was this big number toward the end of the title song, “The Pajama Game.” We all had to wear pajamas for that last song. Someone (I have my suspicions) decided it would be funny to hide my pajama top. I searched frantically for it, but in the end had to “borrow” one from somebody that was about five sizes smaller than my own. Years later I would see Chris Farley crooning “Fat Guy in a Little Coat,” and it made me think of that. I had to raise my arms and do jazz hands at the end, looking like an obese genie that had just popped out of a bottle of Crisco.

I think my sisters came to the performance, but my mom didn’t, that I can remember. She was alive, but without much health or energy left. Probably a good thing–I put a hurtin’ on that pajama top.

So when I think about George Michael, I think it’s sad he’s gone–I think it’s sad when anyone shuffles off this mortal coil. But I don’t think of his hit songs from the early 90’s when his image comes to mind. I think of that white tee-shirt emblazoned with “Choose Life.” I think of stuffing my midriff into a third grader’s pajama top.

So “adios,” George. Thanks for making my 90 seconds of horror possible.


This is my Ministry

For a little while, it bothered me that I didn’t have time to do anything extra-curricular at Church. No home group or ministry involvement-just too much going on with kids, and work, and football, and all that. Then I realized “all that” is what mattered most. We worship, and we pray, and we have great friends and a terrific support network. God brought my family to my life, and I wouldn’t change any of it. They are my ministry right now.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It appears I have found myself in a bit of a quandary this Valentine’s day. I wanted to do something original for my wife, so she could really understand what she means to me. So the first thing I tried to do was sit down and write her a song. There were two main problems with that idea:

1. I don’t know how to write songs.
2. I have about a 2 note range, and I don’t know how to sing, so when I do, it looks and sounds something like this:


or maybe this:

So my romantic idea of a sweeping, romantic love ballad was dashed on the rocks.
Next I thought about a Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed thing, then I remembered:


So that was out. And a light turned on in my really big, peach fuzzy head.
Why don’t I just tell her how I feel, and embarrass her publicly.
Check. I can do that. What better way than Hall & Oates memes?


Oh, wait, that’s Beyonce.

Here’s another idea:


I could do that, but, really, this is a good way to describe how I feel:



Just a couple more truths.



And this, from me, but through the immortal words of pop artist and ladies man, Rick Astley. Things I am never gonna:


But seriously.
You are proof that the Father answers prayer. Look at our kids, and our home, and our life.
I love you, pretty girl. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Just Walk Away

I went to a smallish party many years ago at a friend’s apartment. There were probably less than ten of us there at the most crowded point, and though pretty much everyone was torn up to some degree, I had the least to drink of the whole crowd because I had to work the next morning at my day job.

I imagine that’s why this girl I didn’t know very well came to me and asked if I could help her friend. I asked where the friend was (who I actually did know a little better, and liked quite a bit), and she led me down a short hallway to a bedroom. She opened the door and then fell flat on the floor, almost like she was trying to “plank.” On a bed in the middle of the room was her friend, obviously also very intoxicated. On each side of her were “men,” and one of them was in the process of removing her shirt.

We exchanged a few words, and then the two men left the room. I got one of the other people at the party to help me to help get the two girls to my car and then after only a single incident of puking (the passenger floor mat was never the same again), we were able to get them home in one piece.

I thought of that night this morning when I read a couple of news stories regarding the former Stanford swimmer who was recently convicted of the rape of an unconscious woman at a party. No one would even know anything about it, had a couple of grad students on bicycles not seen him on top of the woman, and chased him down, tackled him, and held him until police arrived.

He was found guilty on a few of the five counts, and that was good. Then, he was sentenced the other day, and the judge gave him six months, which could actually end up being three, with good behavior. Good behavior. This from a young “man” who, in his own intoxicated state, thought it appropriate to take a woman behind a dumpster so they could “hook up.”

The recent development is that it was discovered a letter was published shortly before the sentencing from the former swimmer’s father, saying how tough things have been on his son because of everything going on. He expressed dismay at the possibility of his son getting several years for “twenty minutes of action.” He tells about the impact the proceedings have had on his son. Never mentioned is the victim.

The son is completely unrepentant, and completely unaccepting of any sort of responsibility for  his actions.

Yet Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky said in handing down the sentence that Turner had no prior criminal history, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Turner, whose character was praised in letters to the judge, plans to start a course for college students on binge drinking culture, and both he and his victim were drunk the night of Jan. 18, 2015, Persky said.

The judge said a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner. Persky doesn’t think Turner’s “lack of complete acquiescence to the verdict should count against him,” he said.”

Turner must register as a sex offender for life and complete three years of probation under the terms of his jail sentence, which as I mentioned before could last just three months.

He is a sex offender. His sentence should have a severe impact.

Here is what I believe the truth to be about that sort of person.

If you, in the course of partying, become intoxicated, you are still responsible for your actions. If you also come across a woman who is likewise inebriated and decide to “hook up,” and that woman becomes unconscious at any point, and you decide to carry on with your hookup, you are a rapist. It’s that simple. It is rape and you are ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.

Turns out only one of the two people involved knows exactly what was involved, because the other was unconscious. The conscious person may have had his judgment impaired, but that does not change the severity of the actions he chose, impaired or not.  He knows what he did, and didn’t do. He has to live with that.  Could be the sad state of his life is because of guilt, and/or shame. He should be ashamed.

Listen, this kid had the right to legal representation, and the right to defend himself against allegations, true or not. He did that. He was found guilty. His father has the right to speak in his defense, and to bury his head in the sand. But there comes a point when one needs to stop defending the indefensible. And consider that people also have a right to not be raped when they are unconscious.

That’s not just for Mr. Turner, by the way. That’s for anyone who has ever contemplated using someone for their own ends that is incapacitated in any way. That isn’t manly, that’s rape, and you are a felon if you do it. You haven’t accomplished anything if you get away with it. You’ve changed two lives with your crime—yours, and the person you forced yourself on. It isn’t a good thing. One can only hope you one day are made to pay the penalty for what you’ve done.

It is the same for those who use any influence they may have–any sort of power, implied or otherwise–as a means to some sexual end. You deserve what happens to you, whether it be punitive, or legal. You’re guilty, man. And you are a reprehensible individual. Hollywood producer, scout leader, teacher. Whether the object of your desire is an adult or a child, don’t misunderstand what your actions can do, and what they will hopefully one day bring you. Life may not bring legal or financial recompense.

But in your heart, you know what you are and what you’ve done.

This…issue—for want of a better word—makes me angrier than almost anything I can think of. Part of it is my own issues, but also because over the course of the past decade, I have had the chance to get to know many victims of this wretched crime through a ministry I was part of. I know what being victimized does to people, and no one, no one deserves that.

Something that I will probably always struggle with as well–I’m human, with a very flawed human nature–is reconciling the knowledge that Jesus came for unrepentant people as well as repentant ones, and longs for their salvation and redemption as much as anyone else’s. It doesn’t excuse or explain what they’ve done, it just speaks to God’s perfection and our imperfection. No one deserves forgiveness for things like rape, or anything else they’ve done that hurts or victimizes others

Yet it is still available for all.

The college culture of drinking, partying, and hooking up I will save for another post.  For now, let me leave you with a comprehensive list of things that cause rape:

  1. Rapists.

So think about what you’re doing before you do it. You can’t go back, and you can destroy a person just…like…that.

Don’t do it. Be a man and walk away.

With Each Stretch

As many of you know, I had a rotator cuff repair done last Wednesday. I was very fortunate because all of my work was able to be done arthroscopically. That doesn’t mean less recovery time, necessarily, but it does mean a less painful recovery, and I am all for that. It also means this little baby is going to be with me for the next six weeks:


I take it off briefly when I shower (very awkwardly–my wife has to help), and again for about 30 minutes four times a day when I do stretching exercises. I was encouraged by this initially, because it didn’t seem that bad. Also, because my Doctor had seen fit to hook me up with Percocet. With Percocet, I thought:

Taking this off would be no big deal. Because I’m a boss, and I only need one hand anyway.


Except I’m not a boss, and the first time I did it I whined like a b****.

Because after all, it is just three little holes in my arm.


And all I’m doing us placing my hand on a stack of pillows and stretching:



Set of 12 stretches, then 25 empty hand curls. Then another set of 12 stretches and pivot to this angle:



Second verse, same as the first. No problem, right? With Percocet I can do anything.

Today I woke up and I could hardly open my eyes. I couldn’t collect my thoughts. I was a zombie.

Who’d wanna be a drug addict? I thought. So I decided I was done with Percocet. It’s just stretching, right?

All those pics I took were sans Percocet, and every stretch hurt like a mother. Because I’d forgotten something. I thought I had to have my little white tablet friends to help me. I thought with them it would be easy. It was easier, to an extent, but it also messed up my head.

Today, I had to try something different, so I decided to make each stretch a thank you.

Thank you to God, for making it just arthroscopy.

Thank you to Dr Peare, for being good at his job.

Thanks to my in laws, for taking care of my boys so I could work on coming all the way back.

Thanks to Jen, for being a Godly and strong wife.

Each stretch, and each stab of pain meant I was alive and blessed. I had two arms, and a place to exercise them.

I have so much. 6 weeks on disability is no fun, but on the other side of it is a job, and more blessings. Wrestling time with the boys. Being able to hold my wife unencumbered.

With God, and a little patience, I can do anything.

Kids are Funny

David said school was early out today, and we thought that was 1130, so John and I showed up about 1115 to the school. We went inside to confirm the early out, and were told it was 130.

We had time to kill, so I took John to McDonald’s, where he showed no interest in his Happy Meal.

He seemed very interested in something on the ground, however.


He sat his drink on the table and crouched down, and came up with this hanging out of his mouth:


That’s right. A piece of old hamburger patty.

After jamming my fingers into his mouth to fish out the offending meat, he decided he was going to have a chat with the man next to us about the playground equipment.

He chattered like a monkey for almost a minute, and decided he was going to play with a Nintendo DS belonging to the man’s kid, who was about David’s age.

He chattered for another few seconds, the man picked up the DS and said “no habla ingles.”

John thought that was hilarious and started cracking up. He pointed at the man and said “funny.” Then pointed at the slide and said “funny slide.”



I Wonder

Let me begin by saying I am no pastor. I am not a theologian, or apologist of any particular skill. I am just a man who believes, and I am a member of a congregation. As such, I’ve began to wonder a few things about “the church” as a collective body, not just the place I worship a couple times a week.

I wonder if sometimes we forget why we enter those doors, or why they’re even there in the first place?

I wonder if sometimes we sit in judgment on the people who walk through those doors, as if the things that bother us about them matter at all to God?

I wonder if sometimes we think so much about who signs the most checks in the offering plate we forget about the people who have no checks to sign that are right outside our doors?

I wonder if giving people what they expect from church can sometimes supersede giving Jesus what he deserves?

I wonder if we can change–as people and the body–to actually reach the people in our own backyards who are so broken and so jaded and hurt by the world they have no idea who Jesus is?

I wonder if we can ever grasp that while Jesus is the way, truth, and life, the worship methodologies we’ve grown accustomed to are not necessarily the only ones that can bring the proper measure of praise to God?

I wonder if we will ever understand the vernacular of our youth in such a way that we can acknowledge they can actually say something to God with it?

I wonder if we will realize that our preferred level of spiritual reverence is not the only one that exists?

I wonder if we can truly learn to love the sometimes unloveable?

I wonder if we can ever really be the hands and feet of Jesus if we don’t stop trying to please people and start trying to please God?

I wonder if we can remember that in a sense, we are all leaders in our respective churches?

That’s the real trick, at least it is for me. I represent the church, and not just my own church. I represent Jesus before people who have never heard the truth about him. Like it or not, I am a leader in the church. And as Northpoint Pastor Andy Stanley said, as leaders “we are not responsible for filling anyone else’s cup, we are responsible for emptying ours…”

I think if we all just focus on emptying our cups in worship and praise we will be on our way toward living in the fullness of Christ.

I wonder what would happen if we did that?

This young man here is emptying his cup…

Back on the Couch

It has taken me several days to process Friday’s events in Connecticut enough to get to a place in my head and my heart where I could write about it. I was in The Big Swirl frozen yogurt shop with John when I saw something on Twitter about a shooting.

Just then John tried to go behind the counter so we took off and headed over to GameStop to look for some Xbox accessories for David. John decided that would be a great place for a power dump, and it wasn’t until after I changed him that I sat in my car and read the story in full.

The magnitude of the tragedy was simply breathtaking, and I struggled to get my mind around it. What could have happened in this young, young man’s head that he could murder a class full of first graders?

In my mind I saw their faces as he came through the door, probably looking up in curiosity. As a parent my mind immediately went to my own third grade son sitting in his classroom, and two the toddler I’d just buckled into his car seat.

I wanted to be angry at the boy (because that’s really what he was) who had done this evil (because that’s it was), and I even expected to be mad at God for allowing it to happen but all I could feel to this very cold Sunday morning is a sadness so profound it coils in my guts like sickness. I think CS Lewis had it right when he said “no one ever told me grief felt so much like fear…”

I feel a grief of a level I haven’t felt since I was a teenager when I lost my parents and a good friend in my 16th, 17th, and 18th years. I didn’t know how to grieve that loss, and I don’t know how to grieve this one.

Clearly I didn’t know any of those children, but I grieve for them just the same. I grieve for their families. I grieve for what could have been. I grieve for the loss of so much innocence all at once.

I grieve for the teachers and faculty who died trying (some successfully and some not) to protect their students. I grieve for their families.

I grieve for the family of the murderer as well. The love they felt for the killer is no different than what the parents of the murdered children feel. Plus, this young man’s father has to live with what his son did and wonder where he fell short for the rest of his life.

I grieve for the country I love as well, because I feel this tragedy will not pull us together but further apart. It will be gun control vs gun owners and it will not stop.

I grieve because I know something like this will happen again.

I don’t blame the gun, or the killer’s mother for owning the ones used that morning. I don’t blame God or anyone else. God didn’t pull the trigger so many times Friday; a man did. I’m not going to get into the gun control debate today and maybe not at all, but I will say this (and I grieve the loss of my own innocence as well):

I own a gun. I bought it to shoot at targets. I have no plans to shoot any living thing.

But I would put a hundred bullets into the young man who did this thing to protect even a single child and I would be able to live with myself.

I read an excellent post by Morgan Freeman (find it on the Internet) which apportioned blame to media influenced sensationalism and I think that’s true, but not the only truth.

I think we’re failing our kids on a regular basis. So many have lost the idea that life is precious, and what binds us to it is little more than gossamer thread. Violence and violent imagery is ubiquitous. We expose our kids to it and we expose ourselves to it. It makes me despair for people. It makes me think there’s nothing to be done for the world. It makes me think there’s nothing anyone can do, the world is speeding to a sad and inevitable end.

It makes me think there is no hope.

There is hope, and that hope came to earth two millennia ago in a humble and quiet manner.

The hope for humanity is in the form of an obscure Nazarene carpenter who wore humanity for 33 years before dying for it. Our hope is not in a victory that can be achieved by strength of arms, though it is by blood.

We can’t change the hearts of our children, but we can tell them about who can. We can teach them to love like Jesus did. We can teach them every single life means something. We can teach them of the quiet heroism of school teachers and janitors.

I think if we just pour love into our kids then maybe we have a chance against this sort of thing.

Back to this morning. John woke up at 0600, and I brought him out to the couch. I skimmed through Twitter and Facebook, reading news stories about the shooting and people’s status updates about their lives, which carried on. Mine will, too.

Then I saw a picture, and it just wrecked me. It was a painting, really, on a post that was a poem with the rhyme structure and meter of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.’

In the painting, Jesus sat in a classroom surrounded by children, and a teacher was reading to her students from a children’s book.

There will be more pictures in the days to come. Many words will be spoken and written, and not all of them will be loving.

I think the thing to remember is that everyone grieves differently, and we should allow them that. Some will cry, some will pray, some will be angry. Some will curse God or call for the weapons of all gun owners.

We need to let people process their grief in their own way, and then we can move on.

We need to talk about a lot of things.


My Alabaster Jar

I woke up this morning (way too early, thanks to John), and I was still thinking about church last night. Specifically, the music. Perhaps it was that in conjunction with a video I watched earlier in the day:

(Zeb posted this a month or so ago. It inspired me then and inspires me now)

I watched that again yesterday afternoon while Jen was getting her toes did, and I was still thinking about it when we got to church and Jorge sang this song during communion:

I started thinking about truly dedicating my life to something, and what that actually meant.

here I am, take me…

When I got married, I dedicated the rest of my life to being with my wife in all circumstances, forsaking all others. I think it is very much like that when you offer yourself and your service (such as it may be) to Jesus.

I suppose that’s why the church is often referred to as “the bride of Christ.”

I tell myself that my natural affinities would not be useful to Jesus, and that he would never be able to use me for anything of consequence. This morning I realized Jesus doesn’t much care for our natural affinities. If we ask him to use us, he will.

A single lyric from this song popped into my head when that last sentence ran through my mind:

here I am, God, use me, set me aflame

I don’t have much to offer. I don’t have anything of worth. I’m no preacher, no evangelist. I’m getting a little long in the tooth, and lots of things hurt in the morning.

But I don’t want to waste another second of my life taking salvation for granted and serving my own ends first.

here I am, take me…

Better Questions

I started writing a blog post this morning and then decided to scrap it and just see what people thought instead. Several questions have been occurring to me lately:

1. Provided the Gospel is rightly presented, do we have to “do church” the way it’s always been done?

2. If we do church the way it’s always been done has that placed more emphasis on liturgy and less on the prompting of the holy spirit?

3. Can we do church differently and still represent God properly?

4. Can we shift our emphasis from trying to please people to trying to reach people?

5. Can we go places we haven’t gone and do things we haven’t done in the interest of bringing the Good News to people that haven’t heard it?

6. Is our corporate “packaging” of the Gospel turning people away from it?

7. If it is, can we change the packaging but not the gift?

8. Can we worship (musically) with different instruments than we normally do?

9. Can we play non-traditional music and still worship?

10. What does proper worship look like?

11. What would happen if we stopped doing church and started being church?

12. What if everything Jesus said was true?

13. What if we loved people as they were and stopped trying to change them and instead let God do it?

14. What if we let go of our inhibitions about how we worship and just started worshipping?

15. What if we taught our kids how to live by teaching them how to love?

I could keep going forever, but I think John is ready to be awake, which means I’m going to need both my hands to start cleaning up messes and putting out fires.

What are the answers to all my questions? I think that would be different for everyone. Personally, I have better questions than I have answers, but I’d welcome hearing yours. Dialogue is a good thing. I’ll leave you with a picture of John doing what he does best: little boy mischief.