Reflections on My Cluelessness

I used to work for an organization called “Young Life” that partnered with local high schools to help kids learn about Jesus, life, relationships – just about anything we could do to journey with them as they navigated their teens. It was one of the most challenging jobs I’ve had.

It was also one of the most clueless episodes of my life. I won’t list all of the awkward things I perpetrated there, partly because there’s not enough storage on my WordPress account, and partly because I don’t want to re-hash it all.

However, just to illustrate how bad I wrestle with this…

I went on a date with a friend’s cousin. Nothing huge, no fireworks, neither of us was really into it. At the end of the date, I parked the car in front of her apartment, unbuckled my seat belt, opened the door and started to get out. She got agitated and said, “No. No, it’s OK, you don’t have to walk me up.”

As someone who’s always struggled with social anxiety, trying to figure out norms, protocols, and the myriad games we’re supposed to play, especially the ones that apply to girls, I thought I had run into something new. Maybe girls don’t actually like being walked to their door. Maybe it makes them feel some kind of pressure to invite you in, or kiss you because you went out of your way.

My next date, some time later, with a different girl who worked with Young Life, went way better, until the end when I didn’t get out of the car. I didn’t want to freak her out, or put some kind of pressure on her – I thought I was doing a good thing.

So I sat in the car like an idiot and said “good night.” Read more

“Blind” for a Day, and Found Something

being vs. doing

By writing what follows I’m in no way implying that any kind of blindness, especially the permanent kind, is good, or beneficial. I sort of lost my sight for a day and got my eyes opened, but thankful that it was temporary.

Here’s the story…

5 years ago I was diagnosed with a thing called RA. My immune system will occasionally flare and attack my joints. It’s super painful and can result in permanent disability if it’s not handled rightly. But somehow, about two years into the diagnosis, I convinced myself that if I exercised super hard I could manage this without RA meds, which are super scary.

It “worked” for a couple of years, but last week I started experiencing a burning sensation in my left eye, which got worse day by day. Pretty soon, the only time I could open either eye was in a dark room.

Wife rushed me to the ophthalmologist who said I had an ulcer on my eyeball, most likely caused by the RA which he believed wasn’t being managed well. Can’t tell you how painful it was.

The next day we visited my RA doc who gave me a bunch of dirty looks for not going to the doctor for two years, put me back on meds. Eye’s feeling better, still burns a little – having a hard time writing this morning, but I hope what I learned by not being able to see for day stays with me for awhile.

It’s weird at first, being driven around in cars, not being able to see anything, or sitting in your living room with your eyes closed, nothing to do.

You can’t turn on the TV, read the news, or soak in some social media. I had no idea how much crap was coming into my brain through my eyes. I’m not mature enough to read someone’s rant on Facebook and not let it into my soul, so I’m frequently feasting my eyes on things that take me to the dark side.

I also couldn’t judge anybody, which for me has become a staple of being, a coping mechanism of sorts. I pick on the frailties of others to make myself feel good, which works in the moment, but the bill that comes later is big, and gets paid out of my quality-of-life budget.

But the hardest thing about my temporary loss of sight was that I couldn’t get anything done. I’m a “do-er.” I derive my value and life’s purpose from what I can accomplish – especially if it’s something impressive. That’s why being a stay-at-home-dad has been so difficult. There are no paychecks, no measurables – nothing I can throw out in a conversation to give evidence to my worth as a human.

That’s difficult in a world that worships accomplishment.

For years, sociologists have drawn an interesting distinction between “doing” and “being” cultures. Ours is more of a “doing” culture. We’re busy, tied to the clock, frequently talking in terms of accomplishments and accolades. Things like achievement, awards, education, goals, money, real estate, and other signs of “success” are what we value.

That’s not a bad thing. Every culture needs to have a “doing” aspect to it, or… well… nothing gets done.

Cultures that focus more on “doing” are typically more wealthy and powerful than “being” cultures, which place more weight on things like artistic expression, parties/gatherings, celebrations, friendship, and a general care for one another. Folk in “being” cultures enjoy more intimacy, more interdependence, and far less anxiety, loneliness, and depression than folk in “doing” cultures.

If there was a perfect culture, it would have a healthy amount of “being” and “doing,” and neither would exist at the expense of the other.

But for now, our culture makes it difficult to value people, relationships, etc. We’re too heavy on the “doing” end, and suffering for it.

But when you can’t see, when you have to spend an entire day getting nothing done, all you can do is “be.”

So, I sat in the silence of my living room chair with my eyes closed for hours. For the first time in my life I rode in the car while dad drove, totally un-annoyed by his lack of respect for the lower end of the legal speed limit. Instead of worrying about all the stuff I want to get done, I thought about my wife, thankful that I get to spend the rest of my life with her.

I felt present. I couldn’t think about all the things I was dreaming about, or the list of things needed to make them come true. I never realized how distracting my dreams are, how much they keep me from being present with the people I love, or with the things that are truly beautiful and meaningful that I’m constantly surrounded by.

I’m so taken by “what’s coming next” that my life is like a long, steel tunnel. I can see what’s at the end, and it looks great, like nothing else matters, but I can’t see what’s around me – the beauty, the weight. Peace. The things that are most important to me will occasionally poke their hands through the tunnel and try to get me to come out, but that impedes forward motion, and makes me angry.

Not being able to see for a day showed me that I’m too heavy on “doing” at the expense of the “being” that my soul is craving.

So, for now at least, I’m not going to spend the time I usually spend on Sunday AM blogging, and go hang out with the fam.

Be.

 

 

 

Uncovering The Real Reason Why NFL Protests Make Us Christians So Angry

Football’s here.

And although the NFL will fine any player who publicly protests during the national anthem, we’re already seeing more of it  – highly paid professional football players acting in a manner we find disrespectful; and us getting really angry about it.

But I don’t think we understand what it is that we’re really angry about.

Hang with me here as I do my best to explain.

Say, hypothetically, that the US passed a law allowing parents to beat their children. Slapping, punching, screaming, starving – all became legal. And because of the good and bad of social media, we’d be daily bombarded with images of abused children.

And there’d be nothing any of us could do about it.

Or say that Hilary was president, and she found a way to ban all public expressions of Christianity – not any other religion, just Christianity. No more t-shirts, tattoos, jewelry. No more talking about Jesus in bars or with co-workers No more Easter Sunday outdoor services, small-group Bible studies, Christian youth camps, etc.

So, NFL players start taking a knee during our national anthem because they feel like they can’t, in good conscious, stand as everyone sings about America.

Would that bother you? Would that break your mind?

Of course not.

They’d be heroes.

We’d support them if they were protesting something we valued.

But they’re not, and that makes us mad.

Our problem with the NFL protests isn’t that taking a knee is disrespectful to our flag and country. What’s making us mad is that we believe, with every fiber of our being, that there’s nothing to protest.

Football isn’t the only place this is happening.

Recently, lots of folks got mad when Donald Trump announced that black unemployment was at an all-time low (which is true) and everyone stood up to clap, except for most of the black people in the crowd. They sat in protest.

Why?

My social media feed lit up with people saying things like “how dare they,” and “they don’t know how good they have it.”

Fox News interviewed a few spokespeople from the black community to assure us that these people should have celebrated.

This was proof to so many that blacks in the US are entitled, whiny, divisive malcontents.

But most white people I know can’t articulate why these black people didn’t stand.

Black unemployment has always been twice that of white unemployment – always – since we started measuring employment statistics long ago. No matter how educated or empowered black people become, or whatever good comes from affirmative action, blacks will always be 100% less employable than whites.

Why?

I wouldn’t have stood up either.

When NFL players kneel, they’re convinced that our systems – our economic systems, our educational systems, our law enforcement systems, our economic systems – are rigged in favor of whites at significant cost to non-whites.

And we get mad because we’re firmly convinced that they are dead wrong. Sure, we’ve got problems with racism in the US, but it’s not that bad.

If that’s how you approach all of this – If you believe that non-white NFL players have nothing significant to protest, you simply haven’t done your homework.

There is a MOUNTAIN of statistics that support the fact that our systems are white-skewed at the expense of non-whites. Turns out there actually is something to protest. Here’s an article that puts a lot of this in one place, with links to sources. It’s a great place to start if you haven’t been exposed to any of this.

But despite the fact that these statistics, studies, research etc. have been around for the last 20 years, us white Christians keep finding creative ways to ignore them. So, whenever a non-white cries “injustice,” white people, especially white Christians, turn a blind eye. That’s what we’ve always done.

Have you noticed that, with very rare exception, it’s white people that get the most angry about the protests? People that have no experience with racism whatsoever, people that are more likely to get hired when the economy’s good, people that are less likely to get fired when it’s bad, people who are less likely to be incarcerated, etc., all say “there’s not a problem here.”

I have white friends who would say, “hold on a minute, white people are the victims of racism all the time.” A Facebook friend recently commented that any form of discrimination where a black person is chosen over a white person is racism.

That’s not racism…

Racism says “there’s something wrong with a person because of the color of their skin.” Affirmative action, even in it’s most broken expression doesn’t do that. You can call it wrong if you want to, but you can’t call it racist.

We don’t know what racism is. We have no experience with it. If we did, we’d love it when our NFL stars and others protested. We’d march. We’d organize. We’d fight.

But because we don’t understand, we vilify those that do, especially the ones who take a stand on their knee.

And we get angry. We call it righteous anger, but rest assured, 99% of the time, anger is far from righteous.

As someone who does an OK job at following Jesus, and as a former pastor who still mentors people from time to time, it’s become clear that the places we’re angry are the places we’re the most broken, the places where we need to be begging Jesus for help.

If these protests are making you mad, you’ve got some work to do.

If you’re a Christian, what would it hurt to pray to Jesus, “Am I missing something here?” Or surrender to Him, “You can do whatever you want to me, just make sure that I’m not on the wrong side of this thing.” Even the great King David prayed that God would protect him from himself.

But we don’t pray that. Why would we? There’s not a problem here.

Unless you’re willing to start listening, these protests are going to keep ruining your Monday nights, because there is a problem here. A big one. And it’s not going anywhere until the people who have all the power at the expense of the people who don’t, do something about it.

I know, when people start talking about “white privilege,” it makes us angry. White privilege isn’t a thing right?

That’s what you believe when you haven’t done your homework.

Do your homework.

At least do your homework so that, when people like me start ranting, you can have a conversation, a debate, maybe the two of us can get somewhere we haven’t been before. But this homework will complicate the problem of knee-taking at football games.

It’ll make it harder to point fingers and run to simple, black and white, judgmental solutions that require little more than an emotional response and some heated social media ranting.

I Invited Jesus into the HQ of My Porn Addiction. It Didn’t Go Well for My Porn Addiction.

porn addiction

I never struggled with pornography until my wife and I decided to plant a church. I became distracted, busy, boring, and not too interested in my own spiritual health.

I had work to do.

For most of my career as a church planter, I struggled with porn.

I fessed up to my wife, my mentors, and got into therapy, which seemed to make things worse. Everyone knew what I had been up to. One mentor cautioned, “If you look at a mere thumbnail of a naked woman, you should step down as a pastor.”

Scared to death, I downloaded software that would block the bad sites. I locked down my router and signed up for a few “accountability” programs that would alert my friends every time I clicked on something questionable. While this had some effect, I was a part-time web developer and knew how to sneak around these firewalls if I wanted to.

At times I could plow through the temptation. The shame of so many people knowing every site I visited, and the shame of “letting God down” were good motivators. But after a few years I got tired.

I fought the best I could, had some victories, lied sometimes, and got pretty good at keeping it all to myself.

Then, boom. Victory.

I got out of church planting, signed up for a local pastor gig, hung out with a healthy staff team, started having some fun, and for two full years found freedom from porn that I never thought possible.

But our three adopted kids were struggling, and in need of some specialized time and attention from their parents. I drew the short straw, quit my pastor job, sold the web business, and became the first male at-home-parent in my family’s history.

And my porn problem went off the charts.

Saved by a Selfish Prayer

About a year later I gave up. I stopped trying to stop, and let porn become a regular part of my life. Anytime I felt discouraged, angry, lonely, or hopeless, which was often, I’d dive in.

I’d tried everything. And looking for another “fun” job wasn’t an option.

Why keep trying?

I was fully aware of the evils of porn – how it warps us, affects our marriages, marginalizes women, and puts a huge clamp on our ability to be happy. But what concerned me the most was the impact it had on my relationship with Jesus.

For most of my Christian life, I’d had a sense of His presence, His hope. In this latest chapter, I felt like He wasn’t there, and it didn’t bother me. I began to believe that if I kept this up, I wouldn’t believe much longer. Pretty soon I’d be someone who’s faith didn’t amount to much more than good behavior.

One night, at about 2AM, wrestling with thoughts that typically led to something bad, I told Jesus that I didn’t want to live like this anymore, and that I had no idea how to get out.

I prayed something I never prayed before.

It was a self-serving prayer, and wholly unspiritual. But it was also an invitation for Jesus to step into the epicenter of my porn addiction.

“Dear Lord, I feel like crap and porn is the quickest way out. It’s the only thing that makes sense right now. Would you comfort me? I’ll sit here, feel bad, and wait for you. I won’t do my usual escape. Please give me what I’m looking for.”

Instead of gritting my teeth, flexing my spiritual muscles, and plowing through the temptation until it subsided – God knows how long that would have taken – I asked God to solve the problem for me; to provide the comfort that I was expecting from porn.

I told Him He could have 15 minutes to make something happen. If He didn’t show, I’d fire up the laptop.

That’s bad theology, and arrogant, but that’s the shape I was in.

Within 15 minutes the comfort showed up, and I fell asleep.

Saying No to DIY Spirituality

I’d always believed that this fight was up to me. I’d ask God for strength to resist, employ some tools, and go to others for motivation/shame, but I saw it as my battle. I had become confused about the limits of my strength and the limitlessness of His.

It never occurred to me to let God do the work – to have faith that He was willing to replace the temptation with something better.

But this forced me to embrace the spiritual disciplines of weakness and dependence. I’m not good at that. I’m an American Evangelical – part of a culture that values strength, faithfulness, personal purity, and people who overpower life’s frequent hardships.

We are warriors, overcomers, do-it-yourselfers. And we look down on people who aren’t.

But the heroes of the Bible are too often spiritual “losers” who throw up their hands and cry out something akin to “God! I can’t do this! Save me!!” The Bible is the only religious document in the history of religion, to my knowledge, that puts weakness and self-insufficiency near the top of the spiritual disciplines list.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” I Cor 12:9

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Unfortunately, these passages don’t get much pulpit time – they don’t drive our culture nearly as much as the ones that lead us to believe that God loves a good warrior.

So it’s no surprise that my anti-porn campaigns were too dependent on my own strength, which brought even more shame when I failed, which did little more than add fuel to the fire.

For me, shame drives porn like nothing else.

So does repression. When we’re faced with a desire for something, even if it’s for something destructive, and we try to ignore it, or distract ourselves, we make things worse.

If I grit my teeth and go the DIY route, added to the pain of saying “no” to porn is the knowledge that I’ll be doing the same thing multiple times before day’s end. I might be able to claim bragging rights, or sooth myself by thinking about how faithful I am, but by the time I climb into bed, I’ll be a hornet’s nest of repressed desire. No amount of pride or feeling like God loves me for my faithfulness will soothe it.

And I’m not aware of any psychotherapeutic professional who would recommend our typical, repressive model of porn avoidance.

Underneath my temptation to do bad things is the desire for good things – comfort, excitement, pleasure, etc. Repressing these will make them worse. I needed to engage my desires in a way that honored them while keeping them in their place.

This was the best prayer I could come up with. And regardless of how unspiritual it might sound, and how weird it feels when I pray it, it’s working, even in this difficult, lonely, frequently un-fun stay-at-home-dad chapter of my life.

Tempted to Worship

Attractive as DIY spirituality is, it’s never done anything for my addiction beyond making it worse.

Via the weak, dependent, spiritual-loser route, I’m slowly coming to believe that my desire for comfort will be fulfilled. I have confidence that I’ll go to bed tempted to worship God for the tangible, frequent, undeniable ways I saw Him intervene in my day.

He’s taken an impossible addiction and turned it into a call to worship.

I know, I’m peddling a formula here – “Do X and God will give you Y.” We’re not supposed buy into formulas. God does what He wants to do and isn’t subject to our whims and addictions.

But in too many of our Bible translations, the Holy Spirit’s very name is “The Comforter.” No need to speculate on His role in our lives, and no need to feel weird, unholy, or selfish asking for comfort when we need it most.

Add to that the faithfulness of God, the power of God, the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, and the fact that He’s the one who came up with the whole comfort thing in the first place. It’s a little silly for me to not ask for and expect comfort in these moments where my soul is so thirsty that it’s willing to drink toilet water.

I wish I was the kind of person who worships when things are bad, or when God’s not answering my prayers, but I’m not that mature. I’ve got some growing up to do.

Watching God show up in this tangible way, over and over again, and knowing that my temptations now have an enemy that’s bigger than me is not just driving worship, it’s driving trust, and a deeper intimacy with God… which drives more worship.

Feel free to call me weak, undisciplined, hedonistic, whatever – but with regard to spiritual maturity, I’m growing like a weed.

And at the core is one simple belief, an awkward prayer that puts Jesus smack dab in the middle of something that wants to put a great distance between myself and everything that I love.

I Killed a 260 Year Old Bonsai Tree

A couple of years ago, I quit my web business and my volunteer pastor gig to go stay at home dad.

I wouldn’t change a thing about it, but I’ve since struggled with the lack of paycheck and the sense of accomplishment I used to find in the workplace.

So I took up a new hobby. The Japanese refer to it as “Yamadori”

If you’ve ever seen a really old bonsai tree, it wasn’t grown from a seed, someone who’s really into bonsai trees climbed a mountain, searched for hours, maybe days, found a very old tree struggling for life in a rock, very carefully harvested it, put it in a pot, and trained it into something amazing.

That’s Yamadori – collecting wild bonsai trees. It’s a blast. You get to hike, “hunt,” and if you know what you’re doing find a really old, really amazing tree that you keep till you die. Here’s an example of a ponderosa pine that was harvested in the Rocky Mountains:

With time and training this tree will be extremely valuable. As-is, if the harvester can keep it alive in the box for a year, the tree could easily sell for $2000.00.

I lost my mind when I heard about Yamadori, how it works, and how to do it. I called a friend who owns some land in the Red Feather Lakes area near Fort Collins and he agreed to let me try and collect a few trees.

The problem with Yamadori is that these trees are struggling to survive – that’s why they can be hundreds of years old and only 3 feet tall. Their root systems are super complicated which makes the harvesting process difficult, especially for newbies. Most hunters lose half the trees they harvest.

I’ve taken 4. Yesterday I lost #2 – a 200+ year old ponderosa that’s easily the coolest tree I’ve ever seen. If I could’ve kept it alive and trained it well, it would easily rival any bonsai at the Denver Botanic gardens.

When I found it, I was about to give up. I had climbed to the top of a ridge near my friends ranch and was completely worn out. When I stumbled across it I shook the trunk to make sure it was loose enough to come out. I could tell it was crazy old but it didn’t look like much as it stood in the rock it had grown up in.

I decided “what the heck” and started the harvesting process, trying my best to track down all the roots and get as many as possible.

I wrapped everything up in burlap and started down the mountain. The whole package weighed 50 pounds, and I had 30 pounds of gear to contend with.

One thing I hate about Yamadori hunting is that you feel guilty when you harvest a tree, knowing there’s a 50/50 chance that it won’t make it. At one point, about an hour into my journey off the mountain, I had to decide whether to leave the tree behind, or my gear. I couldn’t carry both.

I left the gear – a nice, internal frame backpack, a 20 lb breaker bar, my water, some tools, and an awesome jacket my wife gave me for Christmas.

2 hours later I made it to the truck, put the tree in the bed, and headed back up the mountain to find my gear. It was getting late, and I can’t remember ever being that tired.

I spent an hour so on top of the ridge looking for my pack but couldn’t find it. The sun was going down and it was time to go home. I prayed – why not – “Jesus, you gotta help me find this backpack. You’ve done bigger things, really need some help right now.”

I said “amen,” went to the bathroom, walked about 150 yards, and stumbled into my gear.

You can call it dumb luck, I’m calling it a miracle. These days I’d rather err on the side of “Jesus did it” than “dumb luck,” annoying as people like me can be.

What a day.

Which made it all the more difficult when the tree finally died.

Pine trees don’t just give up the ghost all of a sudden, it takes them months to die. So when you bring home your prize, you get to bite your nails for a long time before you get your report card.

I figured if the tree could make it to mid-July I’d be in the clear. On July 13th it went from looking good, to worst case scenario.

Yesterday, I said goodbye, pulled it out of the ground, trimmed the leaves off, and prepared it for it’s life as an ornament in my back yard.

I can’t tell you how much this sucks.

I did however get to cut the trunk and count the rings. 260+. Counting rings on these trees is difficult because they’re so close together – you need a microscope, or a powerful magnifying glass, and some patience to get a good estimate of age.

But there you have it. I harvested a tree older than George Washington’s cat, and killed it.

Such is the life of a Yamadori hunter.

I’m still at 50% though – I’ve only killed half the trees I’ve harvested. I’m on par with people who actually know what they’re doing. The two trees I took last year are doing great, and giving me something to do in one of the most boring, discouraging chapters of my life.

Got a Bad Attitude? Two Options: Kill it or Watch It Grow

bad attitude

I watched a guy almost drown in Cabo last week.

The beach there is nasty – there’s one 12 foot break 100 yards from the beach – people get sucked into it and drown all the time. On this particular day there was a rip current that yanked two guys, who decided to go swimming at a black-flagged area, into the break. One guy made it out, the other guy was in for five minutes or so. I’ve never seen someone that exhausted, that close to going under.

Someone showed up with a rescue buoy and a very long rope. Another guy swam it out to drowning guy and they were both dragged to shore.

My kids were watching. I had to wrestle with a bit of PTSD for the rest of our trip.

Shortly after, we watched a sea turtle lay eggs on the beach. Can you imagine? An animal that spends 99.99% of her life in the water – deep, cold water – climbs onto the beach, crawls for 50 yards or so in the 95 degree Mexican heat – super hot sand – spends about an hour digging a hole with her flippers, then delivers her ~75 eggs. Then another 10 minutes across the scorching sand into the water.

And maybe one of her eggs will make it.

Shortly after that I rescued a baby bird who had fallen into the pool. The poor thing was so scared Read more

Why Are Christians Afraid of Social Justice?

social justice

When the US decided to recently separate immigrant children from their parents, the world lost it’s mind, and so many Christians responded to the outrage with more outrage. “We are a nation of laws,” folks from my camp said, “These people dragged their children into this, it’s their fault, not ours.”

Simply stated, according to every child psychologist I’m familiar with, we caused a mountain of PTSD to a near generation of children. When kids are separated like this, and begin to wonder if they’ll see their parents again, it causes a “break” in their sense of safety, their understanding of the world, and their confidence in humanity.

Some kids didn’t recognize their parents when they were reunited.

In the name of “law,” “sovereignty,” and “authority” we perpetrated an injustice against children. And all God’s people said “hell yeah.”

In general, anytime someone outside of our camp cries “injustice!!” we turn a blind eye. Black Lives Matter advocates are terrorists, regardless of the legion of statistics that all but prove that our system is rigged in favor of whites. The US has the second highest child poverty rate in the developed world, which should outrage us.

But we have bigger fish to fry.

A Brief History of How We Got Here

Long ago, social justice, i.e., taking care of the poor, marginalized, and mistreated was big on our radar – it wasn’t seen as some Godless, pagan agenda. But around the early 70’s an interesting cultural shift happened. The hippies and Catholics were all about social justice, and for myriad reasons we felt the need to distinguish ourselves. We also felt strongly that the pro-social justice groups didn’t care much about the Bible and didn’t understand our God.

Enter the Bible movement, one of the most fascinating cultural shifts in church history. Read more

How to Fix a Broken Marriage

How to fix a broken marriage

My wife and I have been counseling married folks for a few years now, and learned a few things about broken marriages along the way.

We’re also married. We’ve made our way through some tough times, but there’s still work to do. Marriage is one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted, and I’m just now learning, 17 years in, that it’s not going to get any easier.

It gets better to be sure, but it’s never easy.

If your marriage is difficult, or horribly broken, or that it might end soon, consider the following before pulling the plug.

How to Fix a Broken Marriage Alone

Nothing will make you feel more alone than a tough marriage. Even in a great marriage, when things get tough, as they often do it’s easy feel like you’re floating around in outer-space without a tether.

It’s common for one spouse to be committed to doing the hard work of healing, while the other spouse completely checks out and puts the blame squarely on someone else. I don’t usually buy into stereotypes, but it’s usually the guys who check out when things get hard, leaving their wives to figure out things on their own.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not a guy, and your husband isn’t too interested in how to fix a broken marriage, much less accepting the idea that things are bad.

But if you try to figure out things on your own, I can all but guarantee utter failure. I know, we don’t like to get help, it makes us feel weak and helpless, but getting help from people who know something we don’t is the only way out. Read more

One Coveted American Pastime that Might Be Eating Your Soul

On Birthday #50 I asked a painful question.

How did I get so grumpy? I wasn’t born grumpy. I wasn’t grumpy as a kid.

Is it something that automatically happens to old men? Sure seems like there’s a lot of us.

I decided to take an inventory of all the activities and attitudes that had changed over the last 20 years. Maybe this was my fault? In my personal audit I noticed 2 things that were all but absent in my younger years.

First, fat. So I made a lifestyle change, bought a fitness watch, lost some weight, slept better, and got a bit less grumpy. But losing weight’s a walk in the park compared to the other thing I noticed – a bad habit that seems to get worse as I get older.

It’s something I didn’t do in my 30’s. I didn’t need it. I definitely didn’t do it when I was a kid; life was too fun to waste time on crap like this.

Now, I can’t seem to go five minutes without paying homage. It makes me feel good, and feeds an emptiness that’s been growing since I became a Christian, oddly enough.

In the early 1990’s I entered the world of Evangelical Christianity and began attending a small church in Texarkana, Arkansas. I was a mess at the time and needed a place to belong, a place where I felt valued. This was it.

I remember sitting in the back row during Sunday morning services, looking at the small gathering of fellow congregants, thinking to myself how good and holy these people were.

They were fighting the good fight, saying “no!” to the evils of the world and “yes!!” to God.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but in this moment, convinced that there was a significant number of people in the world that I saw as “good” convinced me that my world was “good.”

It was one of the most peaceful chapters of my life. Read more

If You’re a Christian, Feeling Like Your Country is in Ruins, Here’s What God Told You to do about It

If you’ve spent any time on this blog you know that I’m an Evangelical, Bible-believing person. Politically, I lean left on some issues, and right on others. I have friends on both sides, so it’s difficult for me to jump on board with the popular belief that “liberals are trying to destroy our country,” or, “conservatives are under-educated, overly-armed people who don’t care about anything.”

But I’m worried.

So many from my Evangelical camp seem to be losing their minds.

Someone has been whispering that our political foes want nothing more than to take away our freedom. I can take a guess at who that might be – there’s one particular media outlet that’s seen by many as wholesome and mostly aligned with God’s priorities.

I used to have an Evangelical neighbor who had it playing on her TV 24/7.

And it’s just like any other media outlet. It knows its audience and makes lots of $$ telling them what they want to hear. It doesn’t broadcast “fake” news, it simply doesn’t tell the whole story – just enough to lead one to believe that the “other side” wants nothing more than to burn our country to the ground.

Either way, there’s this army of people, all claiming allegiance to God, who are frightened, angry, and view any “liberal” agenda as the Devil’s seed.

And like religious people who see their country in danger have always done, we believe it’s up to us to turn things around.

Jesus dealt with this. Many of His followers believed it was their job to eradicate Israel of the Romans. Bad as the Romans were, Jesus had a different agenda for His people, one that repeats itself over and over again in the Bible.

God knows we get angry and frightened about the state of our country, and the world, so He saw fit to include one simple commandment, something we’re all supposed to be doing, but seem to frequently excuse ourselves from it.

It’s a commandment that forces us to step down from our anger, and stop the finger-pointing, division, and general hatred that has so characterized Evangelical politics this year.

The commandment is found in the Old Testament Book of Second Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14, and goes like this:

“If my people, who are called by My name, would humble themselves,…”

We all tend to think the problem lies beyond us. Our country’s predicament is someone else’s fault. Our bad marriage is someone else’s fault. Our bad kids are someone else’s fault.

And when we believe other people are screwing things up, we judge them, belittle them, downgrade them. Read more