God Wants Something Much Deeper Than Obedience: Something Many Religious People Will Never Manage

In the years I’ve spent pastoring/mentoring, I’ve grown tired of trying to convince people that God doesn’t hate them because they don’t follow the rules as they should.

It’s an epidemic of sorts.  In our culture, when someone gets religion, it’s as if a spirit comes down from heaven, like a dove softly landing on their shoulder, and whispers until they die:

“More than anything else, get your shit together.”

Some people manage to improve their behavior to a degree, but nobody can do it completely, and many are driven to anxiety by their newfound awareness of personal faults and failures.  Ever wonder why religious people can be so cranky?  And when the greatest fruit of your religion is self-loathing, you’re now open to all manner of activities, agendas, and campaigns that God would never endorse.

At best, the gospel of shit management will never do anything more than turn well-meaning religious people into something nobody else wants to be. Read more

Checked Out Dad Syndrome: How and Why I’m Trying Hard to Avoid It

It’s Sunday, 6:00 AM, post-Hamilton midnight bedtime.  I’m tired.  I haven’t been spending much time with kids.  And they’re showing it.

Lot’s of mouthy, disrespectful, anxious-type behavior.

If I can manage to engage – connect in a way that’s meaningful for them, they’ll settle down, today at least.

I don’t want to.  Hanging out with kids is boring, and when I’m tired, boring is depressing.

But alas, I can at least cognitively assent to the fact that my kids’ mental and emotional health rests on whether or not they’re getting enough time with me.  And if I’m not at least functional in the way I engage them, they’ll unravel.  They get anxious, struggle at school, struggle with self control.

In short, they become “bad” kids.

So we punish them, which works until they become teenagers.  Then they pay us back with interest.

Men struggle with disengaging from their kids.  We’re there geographically, but not emotionally, not very often.  Do an internet search for “checked out dads” and you’ll get tons of stories.  Do the same with “moms” and you’ll get random articles about grocery shopping and things that moms should “check out.”

I have a friend who’s dad emotionally disappeared in her early teens.  Nobody’s sure what happened – maybe he felt like she didn’t want to spend time with him.  But it destroyed her, and has taken years for her to process and heal as an adult.

So many of my friends have the same story.

I worry that I’ll do the same.  Dadding isn’t going to get easier as they grow up.  I feel this constant urge to excuse myself, and I can imagine that it will get stronger.

At the least, when we struggle to engage our children, we send a very strong, very consistent message about their value as a person.  That would explain the anger, anxiety, and lack of self control that they exhibit when they don’t get enough of us, and the difficulties they bring into adulthood if we’re consistently AWOL.

I can articulate all of this on a cognitive level, but living it out is another story.  Again, kid time is usually boring.  I’ve tried to get them interested in interesting things, but they’re all <11 – our only mutual interest is TV and ice cream.  Engaging them is challenging.

I’m also typically running on limited emotional energy.  Turns out that in your early 50’s, you get tired easily.  If I’m not careful to get my rest, it’s super tricky to pay attention to my kids.  Parenting’s hard – how the hell am I supposed to get through my day without coffee in the morning and booze at night, which wrecks my sleep, which requires more chemicals during the day, etc., etc.

And kids don’t walk up to you and say things like, “daddy, your inattention is causing some negative feelings about myself, that’s why I’ve been so hard to deal with lately.”  Or, “daddy, I miss you, can we please spend some time (that’s meaningful to me) today?”

If they could do that, I think we’d realize how needed we are, and check in more.

While this is an area where I’d give myself a C+, I have learned a bit more about how to tell when my kids are struggling, and they each struggle differently.

My oldest will walk up and hit me, or pester me, especially when I’m working on something.  Our middle kid will get super defiant and hard to deal with.  Our youngest is still a mystery.

I’ve also learned to connect on their schedule, not mine.  For awhile I’d get really frustrated if I went out of my way to spend time with them, only to get rejected.  “OK, then, F-you too” my soul would whisper.

But I’ve learned that my oldest, for example, comes alive at night.  If I go into her room after the other two terrorists are in bed, lay next to her, snuggle and talk, she’ll do most of the work.  It’s WAY easier than planning a date, or trying to come up with something to do that doesn’t bore me out of my mind.

If any of my kids randomly walk up to me and start talking, I do my best to drop what I’m doing and engage.

But I can’t say that I always succeed.

We’ve had some bad behavior lately, and some signs of anxiety, so this AM, MY Sunday off, I’m going to spend an hour with each one of them and let the other two watch TV until it’s their turn.  That’s maybe too much TV, but it’ll be a great morning for them.

We’ll do a cat video or two, maybe a game on the iPhone, but for the rest of our time together we’ll talk, relate, connect.  I’ll do the hard work of asking them questions, maybe tell them some stories, we’ll see how it goes.  I’ll be ramped up on coffee the entire time, and completely blown up when we’re done.

Later in the day I’ll do some yard work, or take a bit of time to myself.  I’ll have earned it, and, honestly, feel a little less guilty about how I’m doing as a dad.

But the biggest payoff for me is, the more time I spend with my kids, the more I like them, the more I like spending time with them.

As I sit in the early Sunday AM hours – the calm before the wake-up-break-up-1,000-fights storm – I can’t say that I’m looking forward to spending 3 hours straight with kids.  When I’m done however, I won’t only be thinking “that wasn’t so bad,”

I’ll be thinking about how much I enjoy connecting with my kids.

An Open Letter to My Black Friends About My Own Racism

At some point in my life, I drank the Kool Aide, and grew up with the belief that “there must be something wrong with black people.”  When I see a black person, or a large group of black people, something in my soul whispers things about them simply because of the color of their skin.

I’ve also bought in to the popular belief that our system is on your side, and that if things aren’t working out for your people, it’s because you just can’t get your act together.

My camp has tried to call it different names – “implicit bias,” “prejudice,” etc.  Best to call it what it is.


I’m sure you’ve noticed, and been victim of it on multiple occasions.

I’ve repented before God and now I’m taking my repentance to you. I ask for your forgiveness, and I pledge to continue my journey of personal emancipation from this unholy spirit.

There’s some freedom that’s come out of this – and it’s changing my life.  I realize that you and I are the same – It’s like breathing fresh air.  I’m also free to reconsider typically white narratives about you so that I might have my reality reoriented to something closer to the truth.

I’ve done my homework, and it’s left me angry.  Our system is skewed against you.  It isn’t fair.  Some of you will rise above it, and my people – white evangelicals especially – will cry out with righteous indignation, “see – the problem is with blacks, not with the system.”

I’ve begun to use my ears for hearing, and come to understand that my country was built on the backs of slaves.  Our modern system, and by extension, my power, wealth, and influence as a white christian man is at your expense, and will continue to be at the expense of your children.

You’ve tried to tell me about all of this, but I haven’t listened.  White Evangelicals typically don’t listen to blacks, and have taken to responding to your cries for equity with “All Lives Matter,” which is our way of perpetuating the ages-old white tradition of telling blacks to shut the hell up.

I can’t believe our country is still here.  We transitioned out of slavery, into something far more equitable, only to have that obliterated by the following administration who took us back into something that differed from slavery in name only.

Then, after continued years of torture, rape, murder, chains, etc. we transitioned into Jim Crow, then the Civil Rights Era, where us whites convinced ourselves that the slate was cleaned, that we were starting over.

“We’ve given you so much” we like to say.

There has NEVER been justice for what has been perpetrated against blacks in the US.  And our country continues to find new and creative ways to ensure that you don’t threaten my power and privilege.  There’s only one way to do that.  I can’t imagine you’ll ever see justice in our time, unless God does what He’s so often done to nations who refuse to stop perpetrating injustice on this scale.

Maybe He hasn’t done that yet because you would suffer too.  And you’ve suffered enough.

As for my personal racism, It’ll take a ton of work to dig out of the hole that I’m in.  This particular brand of spiritual brokenness doesn’t stop on a dime.

But while I journey through this, I’m thinking of ways that I might spread this freedom to others like me.  Racism hurts everyone.  My new found freedom has bred a desire for the freedom of others.

Pray for me as I stretch my legs into this new reality.

And please , again, forgive me.

What Almost 20 Years of Marriage Finally Taught Me About the Worst Parts of Marriage

My wife is one of the best people I know.  And hot.

Still, marriage is one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted.  It’s that way for everyone.  I’ve never met anyone who’s been married longer than 10 years who hasn’t considered divorce at some point.

There were a few times in the early years of our life together that I thought I had married the wrong person.  There were things about my wife that took me completely by surprise – things that I had a super hard time dealing with.

It’s that way for everyone.  I’ve never met anyone who’s been married longer than 10 years who hasn’t run into something about their spouse that they really don’t like.

The picture of marriage that our culture paints over and over again drives me crazy.  You fall in love with your soul mate and enter eternal bliss where you fall more madly in love each sparkly sun-filled morning.  I’ve never met anyone who’s experienced that.  I have however met a ton of newlyweds, or folks who’ve been married less than a year, who have this vision firmly cemented in their minds.

I’m now almost 20 years into this marriage thing and finally discovered something that I wish hadn’t taken almost 20 years to discover.

What I hate most about my wife has almost nothing to do with my wife.

At multiple points in my before-married life I was mistreated by people close to me.  If you’re an earthling, you’re pre-married life went the same way.  It’s impossible to make it to adulthood without getting hurt – really bad, really frequently.

The majority of us don’t deal with this well, and enter into married life with a mountain of accumulated, unaddressed damage.  And when someone comes along and rubs their finger in it (enter our lovely spouses), we feel pain. Read more

Is it Assault Rifles and Mental Illness – or a Simple Retaliation Issue?

I know – the last thing we need is one more Sunday morning blogger claiming to have the answer for why the US has recently had more mass killings than any country in the developed world.

But there’s one more thing the US does better than everyone else – it’s something that isn’t getting much air time as we scratch our heads and try to figure out WTF’s happening.  While I don’t think the argument I’ll be dumping in your lap this morning is a slam dunk solution to our problem, it at least deserves a seat at the table.

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the numbers of children dying from abuse/maltreatment have been steadily increasing in the US.  According to UNICEF, we’re second only to Mexico in the number of children who die each year as a direct result of maltreatment at the hands of a parent of guardian.

In a nutshell, we’re really good at child abuse.

And there’s no shortage of research linking child abuse to all manner of mental/social disorders, especially the ones that put a person at risk for buying an assault rifle and doing something bad with it.

I don’t think the problem is with our kids, I think it’s with us.  Why are we so regularly beating, sexually assaulting, neglecting, and screaming at our kids?

“The challenge of ending child abuse is the challenge of breaking the link between adults’ problems and children’s pain.”

from UNICEF’s Global Child Maltreatment Report 2003

Read more

What a Conversation With an Angry TrumpFan Facebook Friend Taught Me About Politics in America, and Myself

A Facebook friend recently posted this on her timeline:

Why did African American Dems refuse to stand when our President announced the lowest unemployment rate for AAmericans in history?

I said, “Ask them.”

One of her friends asked, “What are they saying?”

I mentioned the ever present wage gap, the ever present unemployment disparity between blacks and whites, and a few other staples of the racial inequity conversation.

My friend asked “Cite your sources please.”

So I shared a link from my blog that lists all the disparity with references.

My friend said, “this has nothing to do with what we’re talking about.”

I repeated my “ask them” statement, a little more snarkily. My friend responded with something akin to “I already know the answer.”

Boom – you couldn’t articulate American politics more clearly.

The conversation devolved into this:

Mark Landry You’re like a spoiled child who can’t get his way and has to be sent to his room because he won’t listen to reason.”

Read more

Dear My Kids: I Don’t Care if Your Room is Clean, but I do Care About Your Strength of Character. So Shut up and Clean Your Room

getting kids to clean their room

char·ac·ter  /kerəktər/  n. 1. The ability to do the right thing when everything inside you, down to the bowels of your soul, wants to do the wrong thing. 2. Pretty much everything sucks if you don’t have it.

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to tackle our kids’ messy rooms.  It’s taken this long to make any headway.  But now, when we tell them to clean their rooms, they do it – really well.  They even keep their rooms cleaner on a day-to-day basis than they used to.

We started with “just put everything somewhere,” which meant transferring all the crap on their floor into a box, or under the bed.  We operated that way for awhile, mainly because of the screaming and crying that it caused, then ratcheted things up a bit when we changed the definition of “clean your room” to include cleaning under their beds.

After awhile we added “keep your storage bins clean,” and recently tacked on the “keep your shelves organized” amendment.  We still have a little work to do but I’m confident that, by the end of 2018, all rooms, with the exception of my closet and the garage, will be kept as they should.

Our kids fold their clothes and clean their rooms on Fridays.  They have multiple chores that must be executed on a day to day basis.  We have a family business meeting on Saturdays.  We still get some fussing, but we don’t get the meltdowns from long ago.

This process has been a lot more difficult for me than my wife – I’m the artsy, sensitive, empathetic one.  I hate doing things that cause people pain. Read more

I’m Not Out of Control, I Just Have Delayed Gratification Issues.  

I went “stay at home dad” a few years ago, and unwittingly entered into the world of too much food, too much coffee, too much booze, and too much TV.

If you’re considering the world of at-home parenting, hide the chips man, it’s super hard.

Toughest thing for me is the lack of “wins.”  I used to run my own business.  I could regularly measure my successes.  At the end of most weeks, I could sit back and say, “well done.”

This?  I’m just happy that I’m not incarcerated at the end of the day.  

I constantly break up fights, repeat myself over and over again, get critiqued daily for my poor choice of menu options, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.  There are few wins here, so when I get some down time I want to escape, fast.  

Enter food, coffee, booze, TV, and a whole new level of angry-chubby.

I’ve always been delayed gratification (DG) challenged, but it’s off the hook in this, the darkest hour of my life.  The idea that I need to feel some discomfort now, so that I can feel good later, doesn’t make as much sense as feeling good now…

…which leads to more discomfort later, which leads to another big boy pour – wash, rinse, repeat. Read more

What My Mid-Life Crisis is Teaching Me About Everyone Else’s Mid Life Crisis: An Open Letter From a 51 Year Old Depressed Fat Guy

Turns out it’s not a crisis, sort of.

For a lot of us guys, this phenomenon is part of a timeline that goes something like this:

  • Go to college, party, chase girls, feel like a man, talk about all the money we’ll make when we graduate and get a real job
  • Get a real job, usually sitting behind a desk, making more money than we had in college, comparing  our salary/material gains to everyone else’s
  • Get married, have kids
  • Struggle with drinking, porn, infidelity, etc., and/or
  • get a Harley, fast car, take up a new and somewhat dangerous sport, etc.

By the time the affair/Harley comes out, we’ve gained a ton of weight, we’re battling depression, and we don’t look nearly as man-like as we used to.  But, like grandma’s pool-chalk eye shadow, it’s not how you look, it’s how you think you look. I always thought the old, fat guy in the Camaro looked kind of stupid, and desperate.

Now I understand.

MLC’s don’t happen because of our age, and they don’t appear out of thin air.  The desires/passions/whatever have always been there – maybe since day 1.  We just stuffed ’em for awhile – usually out of some cultural expectation to become a quieter, more predictable, docile version of ourselves.  But the older and more confident we become, the less sense it makes to keep repressing what’s inside.

Who knows where this desire came from.  It might be cultural, or maybe it comes from ages of building log cabins, fending off the bad guys, tilling the fields, and generally being needed/relied upon for our strength.  Might be both.  Maybe, in time, as men continue to evolve into God-knows-what, it’ll all wear off.

But for now, rest assured ladies, it’s real. Read more

Before You Judge Others, You First Have to Lie to Yourself



I like to judge people.

It gives me a momentary “rush,” makes me feel good about myself, because, if nothing else, at least I’m better than the person I’m judging.

I’m not sure how I got here.  Most of my thoughts about myself aren’t good ones.  I don’t feel like a good parent, a good spouse, a good blogger, a good Christian, etc.  One of the only times I do feel good about myself is when I see someone do something stupid and think “hey, at least I’m not as bad as that guy.”

But that’s crap – I do stupid things all the time.  I could provide a very long, very entertaining list of stupid things I’ve done recently but I’m too embarrassed, too worried that you’ll judge me and stop reading my blog.  For now, I’ll leave you with the illusion that I’m not a complete dumbass.

Turns out that you can’t judge others and not do the same to yourself.  Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said “If you judge others, you’ll be judged.”  It’s so true.  The harsh judgments I pass on others come right back around, almost immediately, like an old, scraggly dog you just can’t get rid of.

Two Lies, Actually

To judge others, I have to firmly believe in two things that aren’t true.

Lie #1 – I’m better than everyone else

I regularly pass judgment on people who are overweight, which is interesting because I’ve spent the majority of my adult life wrapped in 40 extra pounds.  Read more