Christmas is for Losers: How the Nativity Story Rips on Power and Privilege

Drunk Santa

The nativity story is probably one of the most misunderstood episodes of the Bible. It’s an ancient Jewish story – not a modern Christian one, jam-packed with scads of cultural idiosyncrasies that are a bit difficult to understand for us modern Western folk. Nonetheless, read from a 1st century Jewish perspective, it’s a far better story than the one we usually tell. It goes something like this.

There’s these three groups of losers…

The first group is hanging out in the hinterlands of the Judean region when some really scary shit goes down. We call them shepherds and typically think of them as humble, simple folk – people at one with nature, animal lovers, passive, kind, etc. In their day however shepherds were considered by many to be the lowest of the low, though not as low as tax collectors (that’s a different but very interesting story). Shepherds would frequently sell and/or eat the animals they were charged with protecting, then lie about it, claiming that the animal(s) had fallen to the all-too-frequent predator attack.

In their defense, if I were a shepherd I would have a hard time resisting the temptation for a little snack every now and again. It would be like hiring me to sit alone and watch bacon for a long time by myself with nobody else watching. Some of it might go missing.

When the “Angel of the Lord” appeared in a blinding light, they became “sore afraid,” i.e., scared shitless, not just because angels are depicted as frightening creatures in the Bible, but also because these shepherds believe that God has finally showed up to punish them for being such horrible people.

What they get is something totally different – transformed in a flash from trash to the very Heralds of the long awaited Messiah Himself. Why? Because they were good people? Because they deserved it? Nope…  They were the first on the invite list, and given a high seat of honor – because they were losers.

If God wanted everyone to know that the Messiah had finally arrived, and wanted everyone to show up at the manger, why would he choose people who were viewed as dishonest and cowardly, then send them running through the very capitol of all Jewishness to announce the arrival of something that everyone at the time was desperately waiting for?

The next group of attendees is the triad of “Magi,” travelling from the East, expecting to meet a great king, and led by a star. Again, if you consider what Jewish people were thinking at the time, these people have no business in God’s story – maybe as the bad guys, but certainly not as heroes. To be non-Jewish, from a place populated by so many people who wanted to see Israel burn, and on top of that some kind of “magician,” is to be pagan in the worst sense.

Losers.

The third group is comprised of the three people sitting amidst the dung, smell, and conspicuous absence of human dignity – surrounded by the other losers mentioned above. There’s a baby, and that’s cute, but he’s illegitimate. The mom claims that God had impregnated her, but everyone knows what really happened and they’re probably all talking about it. Her husband initially tried to conjure up some way to get rid of her, but was “visited in a dream” by an angel and changed his mind.  That’d be a hard story to sell in any culture.

In this world the only thing worse than a woman who has conceived via adultery is a husband who does nothing about it. We might romanticize something like this, but the people of Jesus’ day didn’t. Adultery was one of the most grievous sins to the ancient Jewish mind.

Where are the powerful, important, wealthy people?

It’s understandable why there were no important people stopping by to say hello to the newborn Messiah. “This can’t be him.” “He’s illegitimate.” “He might have the pedigree if he were actually the son of his father.”  “Where are all the other important people?” “Why are there so many losers here?”  “A stable?”

Considering the general sketchiness of the whole scene it’s easy to see why Herod, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, the wealthy folk and other potentates decided to stay home that night.

These believed that they were conditionally blessed by God. They believed that their obedience to His rules, their devotion, and their wealth made them more important to Him than anyone else. The dishonest, the poor, the “unbelievers” were treated as trash because that’s how God considered them.

Sound familiar?

When Jesus reached adulthood, the powerful, wealthy, pretty people rejected him, mainly because he came from a sketchy place, and was constantly followed by the losers of his day.  But he took those losers and did something with them that he never could have done with the important people.  And they went out and changed the world.

Yet so many of his followers today have reverted back to a system that exalts white, wealthy, straight, “acceptable” people.  That might piss you off if you consider yourself Christian, but who fills the pews on Sunday mornings?  I’ve been a conservative Evangelical for 30 years, I can tell you who fills the pews.

The Nativity story invites us to make some drastic changes to our values system, especially as it applies to how we decide who’s valuable and who’s not. Christmas is a time to remember that God typically doesn’t see things the way we do. The people we call losers, God calls kings.

So you’d better watch out.  Folk who consider themselves to be more important than others – especially in the name of religion – can easily find themselves missing the party.

Losers.

 

Why Lectures Blow Time-Outs Out of the Water – And How to Give a Good One

I have 3 kids who have no problem telling me where to stick it. Time-outs were my go-to for a long time, but I’ve recently transitioned to a far more powerful defense.

Don’t get me wrong, time-outs are huge if you want to survive as a parent of strong willed children. If nothing else, they’re a great way to get a nasty attitude out of play so you can rest your brain and rekindle a general sense of hope. But time-outs for my kids are only temporary, short-run solutions. They’ve never effected any real change.

Up to this point I’d always hated lecturing kids, it seemed so pointless, so torturous. My wife lectures our kids all the time and it drives me crazy. They stand there like statues while she talks – forever. I always feel like I need to rescue them.
But our kids are much more behaved for my wife than they are for me, so I recently decided to give lecturing a try.

I was wrong. It works. Here are three reasons why.

1. Lecturing Forces Kids to Face their Mess

Lectures give our kids some time to stew in their transgression and consider it from someone else’s perspective. Time-outs remove them from everything; they can think about whatever they want. We control the engagement in a lecture and make it oh so difficult for them to distance themselves from whatever it is they need to face.

2. It Feels Good

Let’s be honest, when our kids screw up, when they’ve trodden upon some coveted value of ours, or destroyed our property (again), it’s easy to believe they did it on purpose, like they’re out to get us, or deliberately trying to get under our skin. Sometimes they are. Either way, just being honest, it feels good to retaliate.

Lecturing is the best way to suckle the sweet fruits of retaliation and help your kids get their shit together.

I don’t have to hit, scream, shame, threaten, etc. All I have to do is slow down, gather myself, and let fly with the most boring, repetitive speech about family rules that you can possibly imagine. They can’t stand it and I can’t tell you how good that feels when they’ve triggered one of my emotional landmines.

Best of all, it’s culturally acceptable, and it’s legal. You can do it in public, at the doctor’s office, at church, in front of the grandparents. Anytime. Anywhere.

3. The Breaking Point

My kids don’t hate the talking, or the repetition, they hate thinking about what they did wrong. We all do. That’s why they squirm and try to run away when we confront them.

A good lecture helps kids understand the impact of what they’ve done – not only that it’s wrong, or that parents are disappointed, but that others were affected. Kids don’t change their behavior unless they feel true remorse. That’s why intimidation, threats, shaming, time-outs, etc. are so marginally effective; they don’t go far enough.

The most powerful thing about a lecture is that mom and/or dad are right there in the middle of it. There is no human presence more powerful to a kid than her parents, regardless of how their attitude might suggest otherwise. Lecturing doesn’t just put the infraction in their face, it puts us in their face, and gives a ton more weight to the issue we’re trying to address.

Four Tips for a Good Lecture

1. Squirmy Kids

If my kids are fidgety, giggly, or are flat-out blowing me off, I make them sit on the ground till they’re ready to talk. This breaks them down a bit and prepares them for what’s coming. My tagline is “You let me know when you’re ready to talk, I’ve got all day.” Works like a charm.

2. Don’t be abusive

Shame, screaming, intimidation, fear, and distance all feel great, but ultimately won’t bring anything good to your kids. It teaches them that they’re worth the abuse, that there must be something wrong with them. If you prefer to have kids who are constantly struggling to control themselves, make them feel like a piece of crap, that’s the ultimate fruit of abuse.

I know we lose our tempers from time to time and we should apologize and make amends when that happens, but, as much as you can, get the abusive stuff off the discipline table.

Focus on their behavior, it’s impact on others, and keep it at that.

3. Make it a long one.

You might be thinking that you don’t have enough material to draw a lecture out long enough to make them really think. Not a problem. If you run out of words, ask questions. “You know our family rule is no punching in the face. If you know that’s our rule, why did you punch your sister in the face?” Silence is OK if they don’t want to answer, it gives you time to come up with more material.

Your speech doesn’t have to be ground-breaking, it only has to be relevant to whatever it is they did wrong. And don’t be afraid to repeat yourself, they really hate that.

It’s also a good idea to get some time alone to think about the things your kid does over and over again, the areas where they’re habitually disobedient. Craft some good material outside of the arena so you’re not always trying to come up with stuff on the fly. They’ll think you did make it up on the fly, which will make you seem even more impenetrable.

4. Be firmly on their side

Kids are more likely to listen/change if they know we’re pulling for them. At some point in my lectures, usually in the beginning, I’ll let them know I understand why they’ve misbehaved.

“You must have been really mad at your sister to punch her in the face.”
“I probably would have wanted to punch her in the face too you know.”

All misbehavior has something good at it’s core. An angry outburst can be the result of some perceived injustice. If they lie, it’s because they’re scared. If they steal, it’s because they really wanted something. We can all empathize with those emotions. The root of all sin is desire, not stupidity or selfishness – the behavior might be bad, but the desires aren’t. While we should always condemn the bad responses, we can connect with them by validating their desires and let them know that they’re just as human as we are.

Give it a Whirl

I don’t lecture every time one of my kids screw up – that would be impossible. Sometimes I’m too tired, or too busy. Sometimes I don’t have the emotional energy. There are times when I lose my temper, or do a “drive by” sort of consequence threat. But once I started lecturing, my kids’ level of respect for dad seemed to change, dramatically so. And I’ve gotten way better at getting them to the “breaking point.”

My kids aren’t perfect, but they know that whatever it is we’re discussing is so important that everything needs to stop, and that they’re worth stopping for. I can’t tell you how much change that’s brought to our family.

How to Build Self Esteem: 8 First Steps Anyone Can Take.

I was picked on incessantly in Junior High.  The cool kids needed someone to dump on, and I always seemed to be the closest target.  I didn’t know how to take up for myself and didn’t have anyone to talk to, so I began to believe that I deserved whatever abuse was coming my way.  It was so bad that I would go to bed at night worrying about who would pick on me the next day.

By the time I graduated High School, I decided that I had had enough.  I worked out, took steroids, defended myself – physically if necessary, changed my look, and hung out with the cool kids.  The “cooler” I got, the more I needed other kids to pick on, mainly because I was still lacking confidence on the inside.

Since then I’ve changed, dramatically so.  I’d like to share what I’ve learned – what I would consider the basics of building self esteem.

1.  Understand where your poor self image came from.

Low self esteem isn’t something you’re born with, someone has to give it to you.  We think poorly of ourselves because someone told us that we should, and we believed them.  Parents, peers, bosses, media, anything with a voice can convince you that you simply don’t measure up, and leave you thinking that you’ve got to “perform” to be on equal footing with everyone else.

2.  Spend time with good people.

If listening to stupid people got you here, listening to good people can get you out.  Folk who like themselves naturally reek of self-worth – it’s hard to hang out with them and avoid getting some on you.  These people can be found in churches, non-profits, volunteer opportunities, etc.  They’re easy to spot – they smile, help a lot, and unwittingly make you feel like you matter.

3.  Join a community where you can serve.

By listening to the lies other people have told you, you’ve come to believe that your life doesn’t matter.  Volunteering and serving can help you understand that you have something to offer, that you have just as much power to bring change to this world as anyone else.

4.  Get a Mentor.

It’s good to hang out with groups of people, but you won’t get very far in this game unless you’re willing to find someone who’ll sit down with you over coffee, someone who’s safe, who’ll listen to your stories and tell the truth about you.

“Where do I find a mentor?”  As a mentor/counselor I get asked this question all the time.  Below are some ideas, but understand that finding a good mentor is difficult, you’ll have to do some leg-work here.

Visit a nursing home.  Elderly people love to help, have a ton of wisdom/life experience,and have typically navigated more bullshit than you can possibly imagine.

Keep your eyes open for older, peaceful folk as you volunteer and serve. You’re bound to run into someone that’ll invest in you.

If you’re OK with church, join one that highly values peace and social justice.  There will be a lot of good people there.  Avoid churches that are all white, all straight, anti-this, anti-that etc. These are not typically places of peace and encouragement.

5.  Never treat anyone like you’ve been treated.  Ever.

I know it feels good to make fun of people, especially if you have low self esteem, but few things will wreck your view of yourself like disrespecting others.  If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.  Whatever you throw at others will come right back at you, so it’s always best to throw the good stuff.

6.  Tell Yourself the truth, over and over again.

The people that hurt you were first hurt by someone else.  They didn’t abuse you because you deserved it, they did it because they didn’t know how to deal with the shit they were carrying around.  So they painted a picture of you that wasn’t true, and you believed it.  Now there’s a huge gap between the real you and how you perceive yourself.

What’s the truth about you?  You bring just as much to the table as anyone else, you’re just too afraid to step into the arena because you don’t want to get hurt again, so you’ve come to believe that you’re worthless.  Not true.

7.  Get a handle on your body image issues.

Here’s the truth about the way your body looks, regardless of how you look.  It. Doesn’t. Matter.  Lose some weight if you want to.  Workout 30 times a week and get ripped to shreds.  You might garner some attention from people who care way too much about being pretty, but theirs is typically a worthless opinion.  Healthy, emotionally strong people don’t care what you look like.  It’s the weak/immature folk who’ll treat you differently based on how you look.

I have a friend who’s over 6 feet tall, gangly, and can never seem to cinch his belt tight enough to keep his pants up.  He’s changed more lives than you can imagine, including mine.  He’s a prolific speaker and teacher, a published author, and a respected leader, both in the U.S. and the U.K.

He’s also good friends with the lead singer for Mumford and Sons, just to throw that in.

I’m so glad he didn’t decide to curl up in a corner and cry himself to sleep every night because his body is what many would consider “ugly.”

Our world is full of fat, gangly, less-than-attractive world-changers who decided that “pretty” is a waste of time.

8.  Never stop pursuing this

Like any great pursuit, failure is part of the deal.  Some of the world’s greatest leaders see failure as little more than evidence of a good effort – if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.

What’s not acceptable is quitting.  When we have a poor self image, it’s easy to see failure as proof of the problem and an excuse to stop trying.  You’ll need to get “I quit” out of your vocabulary.

The people who’ve managed to crawl out of the low self esteem hole are people who’ve tried over and over until they figured out how to see themselves properly, and then lived accordingly.  They’re not people with some unique skill set, they simply made the decision to unconditionally persevere.

I did it.  So can you.

Why blaming everyone else for your crappy life is killing you

Blaming everyone and everything but yourself for the crappy things in your life is is typically referred to as “playing the victim.”  It’s a popular way to respond when things don’t shake out as they should because it feels good, it’s easy, and everyone else does it.  And, if you want to live a truly crappy life, this is the best place to start.

I should know.

I’ve been married for almost 15 years now.  My wife, like every human on the planet, has habits, personality quirks, and character flaws that make my life difficult.  It feels unfair to me that I should be forced to live with them.

For our first 10 years together I decided that it would be best for her to change.  What I soon learned is that the worst things about her are not easily changed.  Many of them are well-rooted, and, like everyone else’s junk, the result of something painful she experienced long before we met.

Imagine my shock when I also learned that I bring some not-so-savory things to the marriage table.  Unorganized, irresponsible, angry, overly sensitive, smelly, snorey (full list provided upon request).  It’s just as downright unfair to her, and she’s spent just as much time as I have trying to change me with similar affect.

So we’ve both spent a fair bit of our marriage playing the victim, believing something akin to “I can never be happy here” and being completely miserable.

I know people that hop from job to job with the same spirit – “So and so is hard to deal with,” “I need to leave,” “I can’t be happy until I have the right job.”

I have a friend who frequently says that the wrong job is one of the best things you can experience.  Learning to be un-miserable in a bad work situation is key to learning how to live an un-miserable life.

We play the victim in our relationships, with our kids, even our hobbies.  Every time a bad situation pops up, it’s tempting to view ourselves as the hapless pawn, completely unable to find happiness until things change.  The reality is that there will always be something crappy in our lap – something that will be hard to deal with – completely out of our control.

I came to an understanding recently in our marriage that I brought some very difficult things into our relationship that were there before I met my wife, that these things were within my control to change, and that I have a better chance of changing myself than changing anyone else.

I’ve also discovered that compassion, forgiveness, patience and growing in my ability to love Elaine without condition are very powerful tools, all of which I can wield at my whim.  They’re heavy, but not impossible.

The more I do this, the more my eyes are opened to her true beauty, as well as the power and majesty that is my own life. I’m not as distracted by crappyness as I used to be, and far less miserable.

Our best life is waiting for us, just inches beyond our greatest challenges.

Playing the victim, on the other hand, leaves us miserable because a) things usually don’t change and b) we’re so busy trying to change things we can’t change that we miss out on the good stuff flying around within arm’s reach.

A good life requires strength, the kind of strength that can only be gained by facing the hard things of life head-on, doing our best to get through (getting a mentor if we don’t know what that looks like), and not giving up until the storm has subsided.

Got a bad relationship?  A bad job? A bad marriage?  The best way to live un-crappily is to stick it out – work out your “deal with it” muscles, stretch yourself and be less affected the next time something bad comes up.

What we’ll find in the end is that these bad situations aren’t what make our lives miserable, it’s the miserable way we deal with them, and our failure to find the good life that lies just ahead.

Rest Your Brain to Boost Productivity

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No matter what method you try, or what advice you take, if your brain is worn out, you’re screwed.

Many believe that stress is good – you have to get that adrenaline flowing to get anything done. But stress keeps your brain on red alert, firing neurons like pistons on the Space Shuttle and releasing all kinds of stress-related hormones and making you a really tired person. When your mind is tired, you’re not functioning at full capacity, and you’re sure to get behind. It’s ironic really, the harder you try to be productive when your brain’s worn out, the worse it gets.

Why Stress Management Doesn’t Work

Let’s be honest – stress is fear. If you reflect upon the things you’re stressing about, you’ll quickly understand that there are all kinds of things flying around that are scaring you. “What if so-and-so outperforms me?” “What if I don’t meet my deadline?” “Who am I if I can’t rise above my peers?” We like to call this “stress” because it feels…

I wrote this post for Lifehack.org. You can see the rest here.

Uncle Don’s Cabin: Why so many Evangelicals are still Pulling for Trump

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Photo credit: Kenny Wiley/First Unitarian Society of Denver

Evangelicals are jumping off of the Republican ticket like never before – a truly unprecedented exodus.  But an estimated 65% still remain faithful.  While it’s true that Trump’s strong words against abortion, Gay rights, and the most vile human being an Evangelical can imagine have left so many still swooning, two recent studies suggest that Donald Trump’s racial animus might be playing a key role in this unholy union.

Racial Bias in the Church

The Barna Group, an Evangelical polling firm based in Ventura, California recently released  the results of two surveys they conducted on racial tension in America.  Of all the groups queried, Evangelicals were most likely to believe that racism is a thing of the past, that people of color face no race-based disadvantage, and that reverse discrimination is a far more serious problem.

Evangelicals were also most likely to respond to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement with the phrase “All lives matter,” which Donald Trump and his congregants used to shut down a small group of BLM activists at a campaign rally in Virginia.  As an Evangelical minister of 15 years, having watched “All Lives Matter” gain so much popularity in the church, I can assure you that it has nothing to do with God, or love for humanity, and everything to do with white people responding to BLM’s appeals for justice with something akin to “Hey Black folk, you never had it so good.  Shut the hell up.”

Brooke Hempell, Vice President of research at the Barna Group, summarized their findings with the following perspective:

Our research confirms the fear that the church (or the people in it) may be part of the problem in the hard work of racial reconciliation…

More than any other segment of the population, white evangelical Christians demonstrate a blindness to the struggle of their African American brothers and sisters… This is a dangerous reality for the modern church. Jesus and his disciples actively sought to affirm and restore the marginalized and obliterate divisions between groups of people. Yet, our churches and ministries are still some of the most ethnically segregated institutions in the country…

By failing to recognize the disadvantages that people of color face—and the inherent privileges that come from growing up in a ‘majority culture’—we perpetuate the racial divisions, inequalities and injustices that prevent African American communities from thriving…

Dr. Jarvis Williams offers this lament from the perspective of an Evangelical seminary professor, and a person of color:

…I’ve learned to accept that there will be many evangelicals who will simply never get it, and they could care less whether they do. Just say the words, for example, white supremacy, systemic injustice, institutional racism, mass incarceration, or racialization in certain evangelical contexts and notice the deer in the head lights look on the faces of the Jesus-loving people to whom you speak those words. Their response of ignorance, apathy, or frustration will symbolically represent the fact that some Jesus-loving, bible-saturated Christians will simply never get the race issue.

Evangelical leaders have come out in droves to disavow Trump and his racist, violent, abusive, misogynistic persona.  Others have refused to respond to the BLM’s cries for justice with “All Lives Matter,” seeing it for the blatantly racist mantra that it is.

There are still so many who have yet to be converted.

This cross section of Evangelical Christianity might not be racist the way is a Klansman is racist, or an antebellum plantation owner – it’s more of a “What?  Me? Racist?” sort of thing, until someone cries “reverse discrimination,” or “Black Lives Matter,” then this brand of racism shows itself kin to the ages-old spirit that birthed it – one that for centuries has managed to hitch a ride on the holy heels of God’s white army.

Trump Supporters and Racism

Analysts of a recent survey conducted by The American National Election Studies have drawn a direct correlation between Trump support and racial prejudice.

On just about every measure, support for Trump increased along with measured racial animus.   … increased levels of overt racial stereotyping among white respondents — as measured by belief that black people, Muslims, and Hispanics are “lazy” or “violent” — strongly increases support for Trump, even after controlling for other factors.

In other words, If you’re a Trump fan, especially at this stage in the game, you might be harboring some less-than-Biblically-appropriate feelings towards people of color.

Maybe Trump knows what he’s doing.  Racist folk are historically fearful, angry, and not-so-highly educated.  These negative, unchecked passions could easily be used as “leverage,” the one thing Trump claims is fundamental to closing any deal.  The 2016 campaign has shown us that there’s more than enough racist energy in the US – specifically among Evangelicals – to make Trump a legitimate contender for the White House, so long as he leverages it properly.

Either way, he’s made it clear that easing racial tensions in the US, challenging systems that advance or perpetuate white privilege, and giving voice to historically marginalized/mistreated people are all issues  that  his administration won’t be tackling.  The ever-increasing cries of injustice from the Black community will continue to be met with clueless racist slogans, along with frequent reminders that there’s nothing to complain about, while we send the Muslims packing and build a wall to keep the Mexicans out.

Sadly, Trump’s vision of a shiny white America might be giving so many Evangelicals hope; and hope trumps reason every time.

4 Things about Self Respect Nobody’s Talking About

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I just got an article published at Lifehack, an online journal that’s focused on, well, hacking your life so it works better.

The article covers 4 facts about self respect that typically won’t get much air time, but 4 things you’ll have to understand if you want to live with any measure of it.

I’d love it if you’d check it out here > http://www.lifehack.org/481683/4-self-respect-basics-that-nobodys-talking-about and let me know what you think.

Hope to hear from you soon!!!

Mark

 

How Changing My Mind about Changing Everything Changed My Life

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I wish I would’ve learned this in my 30’s, it would’ve saved so much grief, frustration, relational entropy – emotional energy.

I’ve spent most of my life believing that situation determines happiness – the right job, a good boss, money, etc., and I’ve had multiple careers as a result – nothing salves a crappy life better than a drastic change.  There have been some fun moments, tons of things to be learned, not many of which have helped in my latest career – Stay At Home Dad (SAHD).  Regardless of where I’ve landed vocationally, there’s always been a nagging compulsion to change everything as soon as life becomes stale, boring, unjust, or downright bad.

Feeling like I can’t be happy until things change has always made me downright bitter, especially in those times where I was powerless to change things. There’s nothing worse than being stuck, feeling like you’re supposed to be somewhere else.

Everything changed in my late 40’s when I was assaulted in a men’s airport restroom.

I left my wife at the gate with 3 crazy kids, hoping to be back in time to board.  This particular facility was attended by a soon-to-be elderly gentleman of Middle Eastern descent. I’ve got some pictures in my head of what retirement will look like.  At worst I’ll be handing out carts at WalMart by day, smoking cigars and watching Lostreruns by night.  Bathroom attendant?  Not on the table.

This guy said nothing, and everything.  He had an air of dignity and self respect as he looked me in the eye and nodded. I felt like I mattered – a break from the desert of meaninglessness through which I usually trod.  I turned around and put some money in his tip jar, then felt like I should patronize one of the items neatly arranged on his counter. I dabbed some cologne on my neck, tried to give a similar nod, and headed back to the gate.

I couldn’t shake it. He seemed happy – working in an airport restroom all. day. long.  Funny how we can sense when someone’s happy.  Like hungry dogs can smell a bologna sandwich ten miles away, people smell peace.  This guy had it in spades; you couldn’t get past him without getting it all over you.

I’ve been a pastor, pilot, restaurant manager, banker, and now I have 5 hours five days a week to kick back while my kids are at school and my wife goes off to support us all.  This guy’s happy and I’m not? He’s at peace and I’m so typically torqued?  What’s missing?

In that moment I decided to at least try to look around at the things that are going well, the things I should be thankful for. I began to realize that expecting things to change before I can be happy is a truly miserable way to live.  The more I flex the “be happy now” muscle the more I’m able to be at peace, even when things aren’t going well.  The more I’m able to be at peace when things aren’t going well, the more I’m able to interface with the good/beautiful/powerful things of my life.

When the kids are crazy, when my wife and I are fighting, when I screw up and everyone’s talking about it, when I walk out of the doctor’s office with a diagnosis for Rheumatoid Arthritis – when my life seems like an endless day in a restroom – I can still be thankful, at peace. I might even be able to infect someone. I’m new to this and sometimes not very good at it, but slowly learning that, somehow, every day, I have what I need.

So, thank you nameless guy who’s cheap cologne I’ll never forget.  Our 20 second encounter, and the way you’re living your life has incited me to change mine – to get rid of some caustic attitudes, to open my eyes about what’s truly good and beautiful.  You slapped me in the face with your peace, your self-dignity, and your respect, and got some on me.

Didn’t see that one coming

The History Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

A photo by Samantha Sophia. unsplash.com/photos/NaWKMlp3tVs

Our modern Bible, good book as it may be, was written thousands of years ago, copied millions of times, translated into thousands of languages, and therefore can in no way accurately represent the Bible that was originally written.

That’s the conclusion of Bart Ehrman’s best selling Book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. Dr. Ehrman is considered by many to be one of the most erudite New Testament scholars in the U.S; he’s overqualified to speak on the topic of “New Testament Textual Criticism,” the discipline of attempting to ascertain the original contents of the New Testament.  I think it’s a must-read, with one qualification.

Dr. Ehrman rightly points out that there are over 5,000 complete copies, fragments, and other parts/pieces/manuscripts of the New Testament, ranging in date from early 100 AD forward (preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work). Some are full copies of the New Testament, some are mere scraps containing a few lines. Scholars have pored over these documents…

This post has been featured at revtrev.com.  You can view the full article here.

Yamaka

I saw something offensive on the golf course a few days ago that will stick with me for awhile – something that flies in the face of so many things we hold dear in our culture.

I was playing a par-three course in Denver that’s surrounded by a retirement community.  It’s cheap, plays fast, and they take really good care of it – a great place to practice your “short game.”  I was by myself and playing faster than the couple that had started a few holes ahead of me.  From a distance it looked like a man teaching his wife to play golf – his arm around her as she swung the club, very loving and patient, albeit slow.  As I caught up to them I realized it was a very old man and his son.

I got frustrated because they were playing so slow.  Each time the old man swung, his ball would go about 15 yards or so.  I waited forever on the last hole, but the longer it took, the more I was changed.  The son would help his father, bent almost 90 degrees at the neck, out of the cart, take his hand as he walked him to his ball, and hold his shoulders as his dad tried to swing.  I think it took 6 shots to get to the green, 195 yards total, and another 6 shots to finish.

As I waited, leaning against my 5 wood because I can’t hit a 5 iron that far, I thought about what it must take to be that patient, that concerned, that present.  I thought about what a hurry I’m always in, how I’m never that present with my own father, much less anyone else.  I thought about how offensive this was to the “me first,” “get it fast,” “what’s the next thing on the list” stereotypical Western values that we all hold onto so tightly.  I had one of those rare moments, reminded what really matters.  I felt at peace.

The old man and his son putted around on the green for a bit, then left.  I teed up my ball and swatted it – 15 yards or so – which really pissed me off, like it was some sort of anomaly.  I’m a shitty golfer, always have been.

I had a good second shot and 2-putted, which isn’t horrible.  As I walked off the green I passed the young man who had been helping his father.  “Can I tell you something?” “Yeah,” he said with a totally checked in peace on his face.  “I really appreciated watching you with your dad.  That changed me.”  “Oh,” he said surprised at the awkward/blunt confrontation, “Thank you.”  I felt like he needed to know that his submission to something higher than himself didn’t just affect him and his dad.  Few people could have seen what I did and not been affected.  We think our lives, lived in front of others, good are bad, are benign.  As awkward as it was, he needed to know, and I needed to say something.

As we parted company I noticed that he was wearing a black Yamaka, I didn’t see it before, I was a long way off, and he had dark hair.  Forgive me, I’m none too savvy on Jewish customs, maybe I should to refer to it as a “Kippah,” or “Yarmulke.”  Either way, I walked back to my car, popped the hatch on my crappy white minivan, put my clubs in the back, and thought about strength and humility for the rest of the day, wondering why, as an Evangelical, I don’t think about it more often, especially in those places where I really suck.