When “Love Thy Neighbor” Means Being Kind to Someone You’d Rather Duct Tape to an ICBM

To my knowledge, I’ve only had one neighbor that hated my guts.

And I hated her back.

My wife and I had just bought our first house, in Denver, a place where the cheapest houses aren’t very cheap. You’d think after paying all that $$ you’d at least get a decent neighbor.

On our first night, Elaine called my attention to the old, beat up, crappy van that was parked in full view of our living room window. Our neighbor parked it in front of our house because she didn’t want to look at it from her living room window.

She was older, super wealthy, apparently, and kept the old van for sentimental reasons. I never said anything about it – felt too weird to begin our relationship with a complaint.

That was the first of many annoyances.

At the time, I was attempting to start a church – something I would later learn I’m not very good at. I was stressed out most of the time and didn’t have much time for the people closest to me, much less a crazy neighbor.

Long story short, all the bad neighbor stuff she threw my way I returned in kind.

After a few years, things finally blew up.

My dog yipped a few times from our porch one evening and bad neighbor let me have it – she YELLED, standing in her yard, loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

At this point, I wasn’t just fed up with her, Read more

I Lost 30 Pounds by Doing Three Things I Never Tried Before

Weight Loss

 

Last year, walking on the beach in Costa Rica, I had an epiphany.  Maybe the reason I was feeling so bad was because I was 40 pounds overweight.  I made (another) commitment to drop the pounds, got on the plane, and got to work.

But this time I did it differently

 

The Problem with Quick Weight Loss Plans

The first thing I decided to change was my level of commitment.  A quick weight loss goal requires no long term commitment to losing weight.  Even if you manage to lose weight, it’ll come back because there’s been no real change in attitude.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend that, instead of committing to lose 10 pounds in a month, commit to losing 1 pound a week for 10 weeks.  That will require something a quick weight loss plan doesn’t require.

A lifestyle change. Read more

How I Came to Embrace a Truly Nut-Bag Religion

Some random nobody from nowhere shows up on the Judean countryside, rounds up a group of losers that nobody in their right mind would ever listen to, and turns everything upside down, for generations to come.

He claimed to be the “messiah” that the Old Testament prattles on about. That’s crazy.

He claimed to be God. His followers would later write, “yep, it’s true, He was God.” That’s crazy.

His followers also claimed that this nobody would die and remove the “sins of the world.” All of them – past, present, future, yours mine, etc. Crazy.

Top it off with the whole resurrection thing and Christianity gets really close to the top of the world’s craziest religions list.

Maybe that’s why so many Christian people are crazy.

When I first drank the christian Kool Aide, I was going crazy. My Baptist girlfriend had just dumped me at a local breakfast establishment, my dreams of becoming a military pilot had been dashed to bits, and I was deep in the throes of PTSD from something horrible that had happened years prior. Read more

I’m Not As Insecure As I Used to Be: 3 Reasons Why

I’m old.

And tired.

I have limited emotional energy reserves with a side of three children – I have to be super careful with my worries, fears, etc.

So, a few years ago I made some pretty massive changes to the way I think about the opinions of others.  I’ll invite/encourage you to do the same.  But a quick disclaimer:

These are simple steps, and I promise that they’ll make perfect sense to you, but they’re not easy. Turns out I had become a bit addicted to the things that kept me chained to my perception of how others thought about me. Little about what follows was a quick, easy, “change of mind” kind of thing.

Insecure About Something That Never Mattered

I’ve been worrying about this for a long time – millions of hours spent sweating over my mistakes and shortcomings – how others might be talking about me, or laughing.

My habit began in middle school. I was a “dork,” surrounded by other kids who loved to poke fun about the way I looked, or something stupid I did. I had no idea how to handle it, so I agreed with them, and accepted their labels.

Like so many in our culture, I entered adulthood believing that I was only good if others thought I was good.  If someone hated me, or laughed at me, that meant I was bad, and it hurt.  The opinions of other people began to matter way more than they should have.

Having lived like that for most of my life, I can now declare with the utmost confidence that the negative opinions of others don’t matter.  Worrying about them doesn’t “work.”  It doesn’t do anything but bad things. Read more

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. Read more

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.

Racism.

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.” Read more

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.

Bad Relationship?

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