When Life Sneaks Up On You


See the kid in that picture? That’s me, circa 1975 or so. See the hot chick fixin’ to lay a big ol’ smacker on me? That’s my godmother. I couldn’t pronounce the name “Linda” as a toddler so I just called her La. Even after I learned how to talk, that was my name for her, and that’s who she’s always been to me.

Here’s another picture of me and La. I asked her about it — she thought it was Virginia Beach.La2

I had the hugest crush on her growing up. I mean, look at those mischievous eyes, that radiant smile! How could I not? Okay, one more pic…


That’s Mom and La at their high school graduation. Sorry for the quality of the photo.

La was a pretty big part of the first few years of my life, when Mom was trying to get her bearings as a single mom, then as a military mom. The military kinda changed things a bit. We moved out to Virginia, and La came to visit at least once. Then we moved to Pensacola and back to Illinois when my Dad deployed overseas, and I got to see La again — not NEARLY as much as I had before, but it was still good to see her, even if occasionally. Over the years, life continued this trend, pulling us and La — and then even me and my Mom — in different directions, but La always held a special place in our hearts.

I haven’t seen La in person since before I graduated high school, but thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I recently got back in touch with her, and through me, so did my Mom. We weren’t in each other’s lives again, per se, but we were adjacent, and I found that particularly cool, especially after all this time.

So when I hadn’t had a Facebook post from La in a few weeks, I hadn’t thought anything of it. But Mom had. She’s a newcomer to Facebook, so she picked up on things going on with La that I hadn’t given much thought to. I knew she’d had a run-in with cancer, but I’d assumed that since she’d beat it, it’d stay beaten.

Mom didn’t. She, the newcomer to Facebook, didn’t have a timeline full of drivel. She still has only a few friends, La being one of them, so she noticed when La had stopped posting, and when her daughter had posted in her place, and when everybody had said they were praying for her. Mom had thought that the cancer had ramped up, so she asked me a couple times to check up on La, to see how she was doing. True to form, I forgot. And forgot again. I could blame life getting in the way, but hey — I’ve got Facebook. That should be all the excuse I need to pop over to La’s page and see what’s what, right?

Turns out that La went home to be with the Lord on May 15th, best as I can tell. And here it is June 12th. And I’m just now finding out. I would’ve known the day of, had I paid attention.

She was there when I fell out of a three-story window and came away with my life and a broken leg. She signed my cast, quipping about how little boys can bounce — which, incidentally, is a large reason why I still have that cast (don’t judge me, hehe). In 2016, on my birthday, I was recovering from open heart surgery when she sent me the following birthday greeting… “I’m so glad that your surgery went so well for you. Looks like this WILL be a great new year/new life for you. Probably one of the best bday gifts you could have received this year!” And indeed it was! When I found her on Facebook in 2013, she told me, “Reconnecting with you– and being called, “La”, again, has been one of the highlights of my year this year. Please send my love and hugs to your mom for me, too, will you?”

She was best friends with my mother, but she always made me feel included — not just part of a “package deal”. The two times in my life that I’d been the closest to death, and she took time out of her life to make mine a little brighter. I don’t have many regrets in life, but not keeping up with her like I ought to is definitely one of them. My prayers go out to her son Caleb, her daughter Heather, her brother Chris, and so many others who I’ve never met before but, like me, have been indelibly marked by her presence in their lives. She really was something, and will be missed.

Love you, La. Give my love to Grandma. I’m sure that was a wonderful reunion ūüôā

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A Brief “Thought of the Day”

My confined spaces rescue instructor taught us, “It’s ‘their’ emergency. It’s your JOB.” In other words, don’t become part of the emergency. In your efforts to rescue someone else, don’t become someone that also needs rescuing.

As we continue this discussion about borders and refugees and gun control and welfare and whatnot, this little piece of instruction has proven to be increasingly important… and increasingly IGNORED by certain factions of our society. Some people still don’t get that effect still follows cause, no matter how much we want it to be otherwise.

Everything we do has ripples, unintended consequences, and when someone disagrees with you, that doesn’t mean that they hate the people you love, or love the people you hate. Their disagreement may not have ANYTHING to do with the specifics of your idea, but rather with the unintended — and unavoidable — consequences that you might not have considered, or might not consider important enough to note. Consider that when you speak with them.

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The Brilliance Of Trump’s Idiocy

528c4e897059ec531bb43ab4fc2c29e2.jpgYeah, I said he’s brilliant. I went there. I can’t stand him, and I went there. I’m a pro-life libertarian, and he regularly exhibits tendencies and worldviews that I despise. And I still went there.

Note, I’m not¬†coming to the defense of his character — just his aptitude, and maybe¬†his¬†intentions. Yes, he is erratic.¬† He is coarse. Nobody’s denying that. But if you think he’s an idiot, I have to wonder if you’ve been paying attention. It takes brains to make a gazillion dollars, go bankrupt, and recoup your losses — with interest. And I think he’s been using those brains over the past year and people still don’t realize it.

See, there’s a certain power in people underestimating you. When you’re an idiot, they’re quick to commit to whatever action they mean to take, and once they commit, they don’t realize that they’ve¬†overcommitted until after you’ve countered their attack and maybe got in a punch of your own. It’s quite like aikido, a martial artform where your attack is less about the force that¬†you apply and more about using your¬†opponent’s force against them.

Consider what Trump was elected to do. We sent him to Washington to “drain the swamp”, but how’s he supposed to do that? One man, even the President, can only do so much, has only so much power at his disposal.

Kneejerk reaction¬†suggests that he try to “rule by fiat”. I mean, if the Washington apparatus¬†isn’t working in your favor, then overreaching your authority seems a viable option, so you ignore the separations of power and institute your will without needing anybody’s approval. Thing is, both sides hate it when “they” do it, but they have no problem when “we” do it. Obama proved that by using his “pen and phone” to the delight of progressives and the disgust of conservatives. When Trump tries to do that (as with the immigration ban), the same thing happens in the opposite direction and he gets shut down.

What’s interesting here is that rather than doing an end run around the ruling as Obama did, or ignoring it altogether as other Presidents have done in the past, he¬†submits to the authority of the ruling and approaches from a different direction. Yes, he tries again, but that’s not the important part — again, he¬†submits to the limitations of his office. This is huge (or should I say, yuge) when you consider how much precedent he had to simply run over courts and Congress and whoever is in his way. In submitting to the ruling, he reaffirms the separation of powers.

But Presidential fiat is only one thing his presidency is combating. Consider also the media. In recent years, the media has proven time and again to have abandoned journalistic integrity as its guiding ethic, and allowed its spin doctoring to play a vital role in the establishment remaining in power.

So how is one man supposed to dismantle the propaganda machine that the mainstream media has become? Certainly not by the strength of his frontal assault — the law protects the media’s right to lie as certainly as it does that of the common man. And chastising the media does no good, as past politicians and celebrities — including Trump, with his mockery of “fake news” — have demonstrated.

But Trump has demonstrated himself adept at playing to this tendency in the media to spin the news, and turning that spin against them. Political aikido. Here we are a year later, and the media that was gleefully picking him apart in January 2017 is not so quick to jump the gun in January 2018. They’ve been caught in so many spins, so many outright lies, and have been forced to backpedal and do damage control so many times, that they’ve grown wary of their own spins. Not enough to stop the spin cycle, mind you, but this is only the start of Year Two.

When you look at Trump’s actions over the course of the past year, if you only look at his actions, then yes — he looks like an idiot. But when you look at what comes out of those actions and how they stand to affect the workings of Washington and its influences, then a pattern starts to emerge. Trump playing the bumbling fool (whether accurate or not) is actually working to realign government, using the strength of its authoritarian elitism against itself such that, where he could not rein Washington in by himself, Washington is actually starting to rein itself in in its attempt to rein in Trump.

That being the case, I wonder how yesterday’s news will play out. See, Trump thought to end DACA, and a federal judge blocked him — to the jubilation of liberals everywhere, of course.

But what is DACA? Yeah, it’s the government’s policy regarding the children of illegal aliens, but what is it really? In essence, it’s Obama’s 2012 response to Congress’ unwillingness between 2007 and 2011 to reform immigration and pass amnesty — the DREAM Act. So because Congress — who alone has the authority to make laws — would not pass the DREAM Act, Obama moved unilaterally to ignore immigration law and institute a “law” on his own.

This is vital to the discussion. DACA is not a law but is rather a unilateral action by Obama. In discontinuing that action, Trump hasn’t made anything illegal nor is he doing anything illegal. Rather, he’s restored America to the same immigration policies that we had prior to 2012 — acting unilaterally to nullify a unilateral action.

This is what that federal judge has blocked. It is an unconstitutional overreach of the judge’s power… and it was entirely predictable.¬†¬†

I have to wonder if Trump didn’t intentionally plan this, either to highlight judicial overreach (and prompt a more in-depth discussion of the separation of powers, legislating from the bench, etc) or to nail down the actual laws governing immigration policy, rather than allowing vague guidelines to continue to rule the day.

In short, I wonder if Trump’s actions on DACA aren’t yet another example of the political aikido that I’ve noted as a hallmark of his administration thus far?

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Christmas — Setting Christianity Apart


“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

This monologue from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is among the first passages of scripture that I ever memorized, and specifically because of this monologue. To me, it perfectly encapsulated the marvel of Christmas, and at a time when I still didn’t really realize the full magnitude of what God had done.

But what HAD He done, really? What’s so special about God coming to us in the form of Jesus? What did Christmas — or Christianity in general, for that matter — have that other religions didn’t have?

The world’s religions are replete with moral codes and laws, each one designed to make us better people. Many of these religions start from the position of man being broken and NEEDING to be better. Some of these religions even go so far as to offer “salvation” of a sort.

Islam ostensibly shares certain roots with Judaism and Christianity. It offers the potential for Paradise to those who do certain things and live a certain way.

Hinduism and Buddhism are both karmic religions, with salvation being potentially achieved when an individual produces enough good to sufficiently outweigh their bad.

Sikhism, Bahai, Jainism, Shinto — pick whatever religion you want, and you’ll find they all share certain traits. They all ultimately center on the individual doing certain works to “buy” a certain life or a certain eternity. Even those religions that center on service to others, they ultimately lead back to the individual themselves, such that no matter who or what they refer to as God, in the end, the individual ultimately serves as his own chief priority. Either the believer is following a “more perfect” version of himself, or striving to become a better version of himself, or giving to others in order to receive unto himself, or performing works for a supreme someone in order to garner favor for himself, or even denying his own individuality because it stands in the way of him being a more communal “self”.

In the end, they all come back to “me”. Self is the ACTUAL god of these religions, regardless of who or what serves as the frontman. And that’s where Christianity fundamentally differs from them all.

Christianity does feature a “more perfect” being, but Christians don’t serve Him to garner favor. We serve Him because we ALREADY HAVE His favor.

Christianity does feature certain “blessings” for those who believe… but they also go out to those who do NOT believe. Similarly, Christianity features trials and tribulations for those who do not believe… but they also apply to those who DO believe.

Sometimes, we do petition God in prayer to move on our behalf, but far from those who “sacrifice” or perform rituals or say the right words, a move of God depends entirely on HIS Will, not on us finding the right formula to move Him to OUR will.

In all things, God — not we ourselves — is the central focus, the chief priority. We serve Him because we love Him, not because of how our service might convince Him to love us. So what does this have to do with Christmas? What’s the big deal with God coming to Earth as a baby?

The big deal is the relationship. In Christ, believers enjoy relationship with God that is impossible in any other religion, specifically because we are not the center of that relationship. We do not receive Christ to get to Heaven, or to avoid Hell, or to get healing, or to have peace in our lives, or to have peace with other people. Granted — Heaven, Hell, the miraculous, those are all FACTORS in our faith, but they are not the POINT of our faith.

You might say that the devil is in the details ūüėČ

In coming to us as a baby, God didn’t just come to us in a relatable way. He didn’t start a formulaic chain of events that would magically “create” salvation. In the birth of Christ, the God of the Universe entered into His own creation, at the very lowest point that He could enter it.

He could have wielded the authority that was due Him right from the start, but instead He shed His authority and chose to play by His own rules, the very rules that separate us from Him.

He could have chosen to be born into a family of “comparable” wealth and significance, the kind of family that we might expect the God of the Universe to associate with, should He choose to suffer humanity at all. Instead, the family He came to was as common as you can imagine — a woman who was not even married yet, a man who would forever have to deal with the fact that his son was not really his son.

He could have chosen to be born at His earthly parents’ home, in safety and comfort, but instead He was born on the road, in conditions that no mother would willingly choose.

He could have chosen to be wrapped in linens worthy of a newborn baby, but instead He chose to be wrapped in ceremonial clothes set aside for sacrificial animals.

He could have sent angels to announce His coming to priests and the aristocracy, but instead He chose to have shepherds attend Him.

NONE of these themes are consistent with any other religion — most particularly, God’s target audience, the Jews that Christ was born among. To the contrary, the details of Christ’s birth would have convinced the Jews of exactly the OPPOSITE of what the Gospel reveals Christ to be — not only the promised Messiah, but our very literal Immanuel, “God with us”.

If you were to “make up” a religion as an alternative to Levitical Judaism, you’d be hardpressed to construct one that was intentionally FURTHER from the mark than Christianity. There is NO WAY that the birth of Christ could appeal to its target audience, the Jews…

…unless it was true.

It really is astonishing to me that God should be due INFINITE honor, but instead intentionally choose such humility — even humiliation. But more remarkable to me is the fact that He did this… for a world that even today despises Him, and stands at active enmity with Him.

As dear as that scene with Linus was to me as a child, it means so much more now as an adult, seeing my sin the way that I do and able to recognize the full gravity of what God did to overcome it. All out of love for me.

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The World — How It Was Designed vs How It Was Intended


Okay, let me offer a disclaimer from jump. I am a Christian, and I do believe that God is sovereign and all powerful, and His Will irresistible.

…if He takes it upon Himself to BE irresistible, which I don’t think is always the case. Simply the fact that things happen AGAINST His Will is proof to me that God must permit resistance to His Will.

That said…

On my way home from work this morning, I was listening to my podcasts — in this case, Ask Away, put out by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries — and the speaker was talking about “natural evil”, and about how death and disaster and suffering are not how our Earth was made to run. Now, I know this is a popular concept, and that there may even be support for it in scripture (though I’d say that interpretation is hardly conclusive), but it makes very little sense to me, scripturally or logically.

Starting with scripture, the very first verse that comes to mind is “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. Note here that the very INSTANT that God created the universe (whether you believe in the Big Bang or, like me, adhere to the Young Earth Creation theory), He created it with Christ’s death on the Cross as an inevitable reality. That’s not to say that God “intended” for Christ to go to the Cross, but that when God created the universe, He intentionally did so in such a way that Christ’s sacrifice would be an unavoidable consequence. Christ’s death, though unwanted, was nevertheless NECESSARY to God’s creation because God wanted Creation to be governed by certain rules (man’s freedom to reject God, and God’s mercy to redeem man, among others), and Christ’s death was a necessary outcome of those rules.

So death was a part of reality “from the foundation of the world”. What does scripture say about death AT the foundation of the world?

Well, go to the descriptions in Genesis. “The evening and the morning were the first day” speaks of the passage of time, and its effects on reality. Even before God created the sun to produce this light, the light moving to darkness moving back to light itself embodied change.

Day Two — the water cycle. This is the basis of all life, the movement of water from liquid to gas to liquid, and the movement of water from one place to another. When a quantity of liquid becomes gas, that quantity of liquid has ceased to exist as it was. Death.

Day Three — plants. God creates them to cover the dry land… but how to plants subsist? They draw nutrients up from the soil, nutrients that, if they are to be self-sustaining, necessarily come from things in various stages of decomposition. Death.

Day Four — the sun itself. It is ultimately a huge nuclear reactor, CONSUMING elements and producing heat and light in the process. The elements that it consumes are effectively dead, changed from what they were into something else entirely. Death.

Day Five — sea life and birds. What does God design them to do? Multiply, which necessitates the acquisition and use of resources. In order to produce MORE of themselves, they must add more matter TO themselves. They must consume, whether it be plant or animal matter. The matter that they consume? Now dead.

Day Six — land animals and mankind. Again, God designs them to multiply (which necessitates consumption, which necessitates death). Further, God commands man to SUBDUE the world, to bring it under his dominion. That doesn’t necessarily mean to “conquer” it, but to do as God Himself eventually does in His creation of Eden, which I’ll speak to in a moment.

So in the very creation of the Earth, it’s pretty evident to me that God created the world to be self-sustaining, with death not an “unfortunate” part of life but as an impartial, dispassionate, driving force. The solar cycle drives the water cycle, which in turn replenishes the plant and animal cycles. And all of these cycles necessitate death as a source for new life — the resources of the past, broken down and feeding the present, such that they can be repurposed as the building blocks of the future.

What gives this theory credibility, to me, is the intentional creation of Eden. Note how Genesis describes Eden as a GARDEN. Consider that every garden grows something that is (or at one time was) found out in the wild. The purpose of a garden is NOT to give space for something wild to grow, but to INTENTIONALLY grow it. A garden is where naturally occurring things are intentionally ORDERED, grown for efficiency and purpose to serve the grower, rather than left to happenstance to serve itself. This in itself is a death of sorts — the death of the wild, the feral, the self-living, at the hands of order.

Now, the scripture doesn’t speak to whether or not the plants of the Garden could have been found elsewhere in the world, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that the plantlife here was common. Rather, what set the Garden apart is the fact that it WAS set apart,¬†intentionally compartmentalized from the rest of the world for the purpose of ordering it, and with Adam and Eve placed there (intentionally) to tend it (intentionally).

To me, this speaks to God’s intentions toward Adam and Eve, and through them, toward mankind at large. Far from death (and by extension, suffering and all other forms of “natural evil”) being an imperfection in the machinery of Creation, it suggests to me that death was ALWAYS a part of God’s Creation, as a driver rather than a destroyer. This does not undermine the tragedy of death as we now see it, but rather the tragedy of it demonstrates how we recognize, even in our rejection of God, that God intended us to be MORE than self-sustaining, MORE than the physical nature that He built within us.

See, quite like the Garden was an example of God’s self-sustaining Creation being INTENTIONALLY sustained, God created mankind with the physical nature to be self-sustaining but with the purpose of being intentionally sustained. So when we see death or suffering or what have you, I can’t see that as God’s plan going awry. To the contrary, I see that as God’s design in full effect — a self-sustaining world — which makes the choice in Eden so much more profound: between remaining¬†in relationship with Him and being intentionally sustained by Him, or choosing to reject that relationship and assuming the responsibility and consequences of sustaining ourselves.

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“A Commonplace Life”


A commonplace life, we say and we sigh,
But why should we sigh as we say?
The commonplace sun in the commonplace sky
Makes up the commonplace day.

The moon and the stars are commonplace things,
And the flower that blooms and the bird that sings;
But dark were the world and sad our lot,
If the flowers failed and the sun shone not.

And God who studies each separate soul
Out of commonplace lives makes His beautiful whole.

–FW Boreham, “Mountains In The Mist”, pg 279


Boreham used this poem to emphasize a point he made in the surrounding passage, entitled “Poppies in the Corn”, an illustration that suggested that we draw a false dichotomy between those things we consider remarkable and those things we consider commonplace. The truth of the matter is, it’s ALL remarkable, and we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t see it as such.

Now, I don’t typically tear up at poetry, but this one was rather touching — so much so that I had to go Google searching for its source. Turns out that it’s from the book, “Mountains In The Mist”, circa 1919. It has been uploaded to Google Books and is available for free at the following link…


I was listening to my Ravi Zacharias podcast on the way in to work this evening and he referenced this poem (and its original surrounding context) in a sermon about Naaman and Elisha in 2 Kings 5.

See, here are two men recorded in history, one a mighty prophet of God, the other a general for the kingdom of Aram in Syria who was stricken with leprosy. And yet, the reason we have this story in scripture is NOT because of either one of them, but because of a nameless — one might say “commonplace” — servant girl who got the ball rolling.

She owed Naaman nothing. She would’ve been well within her right to treat Naaman with indifference if not outright hostility. Heck, Elisha had never even healed anybody before! And yet this servant girl, whose word was ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS in Israel, had faith enough in God to send this leprous general chasing a prophet — already a miracle, as servant girls didn’t send generals anywhere, let alone chasing¬†prophets who,¬†in Naaman’s country, were not sought but themselves¬†served at the pleasure of the king.

We all know what happens next. Naaman seeks out Elisha, but rather than meeting with him, Elisha sends out his servant to tell Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan River. After much grousing over the perceived insult, Naaman does as Elisha commanded… and was cleansed of his leprosy.

What’s really remarkable about all of this is that, as famous as Naaman and Elisha are, the serving girl is utterly forgotten by history. We have no clue as to the course of her life. She may never have done something of this significance ever again. Her suggestion to Naaman might not have impacted her life at all — certainly not as much as it impacted Naaman’s. It could easily be that her suggestion to Naaman was simply a matter of course for her, just this girl doing what she did because she was who she was.

Nothing special. Commonplace. And yet, for all the mundanity of the servant girl’s actions, we have the story of a miracle as its result. How can we then look to¬†anything we do as insignificant, if God can take a servant girl’s faith and turn it into enduring scripture?

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A Big Night


I savor every chance I get to watch my son play football — not that I “know” a whole lot about the game, technically, but I love the sport itself. I love the struggle, the stick-to-it-iveness that separates the men from the boys, figuratively speaking.

Or literally.

Last night, I saw the first steps into adulthood for both my son and his team as a whole. It’d been a few weeks in coming, and you could see the foreshadowing of it in their (admittedly few) practices, but last night in their game against the Buccaneers, it all started to come together.

First, let me comment on the game as a whole. As is¬†expected for little league football, there were a great many youthful “mistakes”, but on the whole both teams played well. The Buccs scored against the Packers early on, but the Packers held them when they went for a two point conversion. The score stayed 0 – 6 until deep into the fourth quarter, when a young Packer broke away from the… ummm… pack, and sprinted for the end zone. Like the Packers before them, the Buccs were able to stave off the point-after. The game came to an end of¬†regular play with the score tied 6 – 6.

That’s when the Packers really showed up.¬†The officials asked both head coaches if they wanted to take the tie or duke it out in overtime. With¬†the time¬†being after 9pm, the Buccs coach gave the expected response — a tie. But when he asked the Packers, every last player said they wanted to take it to overtime. Every. Last. One.¬†The head coach tried to sway them to take the tie — it was late, they were tired, they could lose, etc — but they would not be deterred. They wanted that¬†win.

What happened next is the stuff of Friday night legends (albeit on a Thursday night). The two teams faced off over the next four — four — overtimes before the Buccs drove one down the Packers’ throats. The Packers denied the Buccs their point-after, bringing up¬†one last chance for the Pack¬†to turn everything around.

The first hike saw the Packers cut the distance to the goal by half. The next took the ball within spitting distance. Third down, and the Packers answered the Buccs touchdown, re-tying the game at 12 – 12.

Less than a minute later, the Packers did something that neither team had been able to do all night. They got the extra point. Final score, Packers 13 – Buccaneers 12.

I couldn’t have been prouder for my son’s team, driving against fatigue and frustration to snatch victory out of the jaws of “good enough”. It was an amazing moment, but I’ll be honest,¬†my proudest moment a full quarter before.

If I’ve harped on Caleb for anything this season, it would be him not driving through the offensive line. He’s a small guy, and at¬†defensive tackle he’s often¬†head and shoulders¬†smaller than the guy he’s matched up with. Rather than using his size (or lack thereof) to his advantage, he has the habit of patty-caking with his counterpart,¬†coming¬†up just long enough to push off of the player and dart back from the line, running along the backside of the pile toward whoever has the ball.¬†This often¬†puts him in chase mode, never quite getting to the ball carrier before somebody else brings him down.

But on this particular play, a little bit of magic happened. Buccs center hikes the ball, and Caleb drives forward, likely expecting to patty-cake his match-up… only to find that he wasn’t there! The Buccs player had botched his assignment. To his credit, Caleb didn’t hesitate — he drove straight forward through the hole, catching the quarterback around the waist and pulling him down with him¬†in a picture-perfect sack!

To say he was walking on clouds the rest of the game would be an understatement. You couldn’t slap the smile off his face. Even those times when he wasn’t overtly grinning, he had a look of contentment that could easily have passed for a grin. Battered and bruised though he was, I can tell you that he was feeling no pain.

Last night was a big night for the Packers, and an even bigger night for my son. But if I may be so bold, I think the night meant the most to me, because for the first time that I can remember, I saw my son push past his insecurities, exceed his limits, and lay claim to something that he simply would not be denied.

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Shared Struggles


Here it is, 0426 CST on another September 11th. In a three hours and twenty minutes, it’ll be exactly sixteen years since American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and our lives were changed forever. That day sparked a lot of fear,¬†anger, and even hatred. We’re still reeling from the effects of it today, and it has brought out the worst in our culture.

But that day also brought out the BEST in our culture. Alan Jackson’s signature song, “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” went a long way to highlight just how good our best could be. Even now, the thought of 9/11 moves people to “notice the sunset for the first time in ages and speak to some stranger on the street”, “stand in line and give your own blood”, or “dust off that Bible at home”.

We’re still prone to the same evils that we’ve always been prone to, but we’ve proven that we CAN listen to our better angels, and in so proving, we’ve left ourselves without excuse. That’s one of the many reasons it breaks my heart to see the crap that goes on today — the division that the media and politicians capitalize on, the race baiting, the racism of those who hate and the RESPONSIVE racism of those who are hated.

We’re sixteen years older as a nation — some of our number are LITERALLY sixteen, having grown up with the better AND worse angels of their elders, but never having lived through an event like 9/11 themselves, with all the bad and good that can come of it.

So maybe it’s fitting that, on the sixteenth¬†anniversary of 9/11, we have Hurricane Irma cutting a path of devastation through the larger part of Florida, just two weeks after Hurricane Harvey did the same thing through Texas. We don’t “deserve” this — not any more than we deserved 9/11 — but it’s fitting all the same.

And once again, we’re seeing the worst of our culture — looters taking advantage of the DISadvantage of business owners, hatemongers reveling in the suffering of others and declaring the hurricanes “justice” for one asinine reason or another, and so on.

But we’re also seeing the best of our culture, as people of character once again step up to the plate and lend their strength to others, often at great personal expense. You’ve got people braving flood waters to rescue total strangers. You’ve got churches organizing relief efforts. You’ve got people reaching through their fear and anger to lend a hand to people that MIGHT NOT do the same if the roles were reversed. My own cousin is en route to Florida right now, hauling a trailer and picking up supplies from donors along the way.

Today, sixteen years after the hatred of a handful of men shocked the world, we’re being struck again. The nature of the struggle is different, but the people who respond to it are the same — ordinary folks, being pushed off the fence and out of their facades to show the world what they’re really made of. Some will be shining examples of heroism. Others will be stains on our culture that we will forever wish we could scrub away.

And amongst it all we will have a generation, too young to pick their own side, but not too young to watch us pick ours. In the days and weeks to come, may it be that the greater portion of us will follow our better angels.

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Irrationality of Hatred… and the Need to Let It Speak (Statues, pt 2)

Boll_weevil_monument (1)

No, this blog post is not another one about the Boll Weevil Monument, but it does effectively tie this post to my previous one.

Turns out, that one post has generated more comments than I have ever had subscribed readers! Granted, most of those comments were negative, but in a round about way, they do prove a point I was making in that post, and serve as the basis for this one.

As an aside, I’d like to point out that this blog is not intended to be some bastion of wisdom. Quite honestly, it’s something that languished for a long time, but¬†I started back doing for my kids’ sake, to save my “thoughts of the day” (or week, or whatever) for¬†them, should anything ever happen to me,¬†a possibility that became very real to me when I had my open heart surgery last year. I spend so much time at work, or writing, or gaming,¬†or lost in my own “grown up” world that my kids don’t get a chance to see the totality of who I am.¬†Right now, I’m just Daddy — a fat curmudgeon that should probably refuse that overtime day and take them kayaking instead.

ANYWAY… regarding that blog post, I got a lot of grief for trying to build a “false equivalency” between the hardships Enterprise suffered under the boll weevil blight and the hardships that¬†many people (not just blacks) suffered under the institution of slavery. The fact is, that was intentional. I wasn’t trying to downplay the suffering of blacks. Rather, I was trying to make a point about a contentious issue by illustrating it with a NON-contentious issue. Jesus used this tactic all the time in His parables. Every time He would speak on a topic that His disciples¬†presumably¬†were not equipped to grasp, He first addressed the topic using illustrations that they could grasp — not to say that His Saviorhood actually made Him a Door or a Vine, but to show the characteristics that were the same even though the metaphor was simply a metaphor.

In any case, the majority of the commenters on that post either failed to grasp my meaning regardless of my efforts, or they were dissatisfied with my approach. But rather than engage me and ask for clarification, or discuss the topic at hand, they made assumptions about my meaning — many of which were inaccurate — and proceeded to personally attack me, as have many who were dissatisfied with Trump’s response to Charlottesville (not a huge Trump fan myself, but that’s neither here nor there).

As this happens to be my blog, my personal corner of the internet, I could just as easily have turned off their comments — still could, in fact. But I chose not to, and will likely leave the comments open on this one as well, because however much I might disagree with some of the comments, and however hurtful I might find them, I think it actually serves the conversation to allow them to remain. In allowing them to continue to have a voice, they are ultimately proving my point about integrity and¬†hypocrisy. They are demonstrating, better than I myself ever could,¬†that although people in America cry out to “stop the hatred”, many have no problem with hatred itself, so long as they feel it’s justified.

I don’t share that view. As much as I might hate a thought or an ideal, and as much as I’m moved to fight certain thoughts or ideals, I still feel compelled to respect the person who holds that thought or ideal — maybe not their use of it, but certainly their right to have it.

If you’ll permit me to use another non-contentious yet applicable illustration (at the risk of being accused of false equivalency hehe), take¬†Westboro Baptist for example. I absolutely despise the rhetoric that they spew. I think it is a total insult to both Christ Himself and me as a Christian. And yet, until one of them takes their picket sign and pops someone over the head with it, I believe that they deserve the right to make themselves look as repulsive as they want to. I find their rhetoric hateful and hurtful, but they have as much right to say it as I¬†have to refuse to listen to it.

But here’s the thing. When Westboro spews their hatred, and run Christ’s name in the dirt, what they are also doing is setting an indelible, immutable¬†example — like an unchanging landmark that, when compared to actual Christianity, shows the stark contrast between Christian love and anti-Christian hatred. To some people, Westboro’s hatred illustrates BEAUTIFULLY what’s so genuinely attractive about people who shrug off hypocrisy and genuinely follow Christ.

Do I want Westboro to shut their pie holes? Every second of every protest. But I would never “make” them shut up, never censor them until they become a physical danger to somebody, because what they intend for evil, God can turn around and use for good.

Ya know… kinda like what I was telling my daughter about something “bad” not having to BE “bad”.

Now, I have no doubt that there will be precious few negative commenters from that post¬†reading this one — I kinda doubt that they cared enough about my blog to subscribe to it — but if any of them are, let me just say that everybody has¬†a point of view. Some¬†treat their views as subject to revision¬†(I do my best to treat mine that way). Some treat their views as unassailable. But one there is one truth that transcends every one of these views — if you already know everything, you can’t learn anything new.

This is why you can talk to someone who talks with you but you can’t talk to someone who talks at you. Even if you don’t agree on a single thing — before the conversation or after —¬†when you are willing to engage, and the other party is willing to engage, you are both¬†better for having had the conversation. Whether or not an opinion was changed, it was exposed to something that could¬†potentially change it, if not today, maybe tomorrow. And that’s true on both sides of the conversation, not just one.

But that’s a miracle that’s only possible when hatred is set aside, and¬†the conversants¬†allow humility — not “rightness” — to do its work. This is what it means to be rational in conversation, and sadly the single most conspicuous element lacking in today’s culture, whether we’re talking about race relations or politics or what have you. Don’t believe me? Have a single Facebook conversation with somebody you think is “wrong”, and watch how hard it is to keep that puppy from devolving into¬†personal attacks.

Categories: Blogroll, Government, Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Importance Of Monuments That Hurt

Boll_weevil_monument (1).jpg

Last week, my wife and I went to Enterprise, Alabama to pick up a chicken coop that someone was giving away. As we were driving back home, my daughter (who chose to ride in Daddy’s truck rather than the air conditioned Sequoia hehe) and I were talking about history, and about how just because something “bad” happens doesn’t necessarily mean that it HAS to be bad. It’s all in how you take it.¬†Since we were in Enterprise, I referenced the local monument to the Boll Weevil.

Yes, the Boll Weevil. A monument to a bug.

Story goes, Enterprise — like the rest of the Wiregrass area, and the South at large — depended upon cotton crops for its economy. But in 1915, Alabama suffered an influx of boll weevils, which are native to Mexico, and the beetle devastated the local cotton crops. The next year, one enterprising man (LOL see what I did there?) had the idea to change his crops from cotton to peanut. As the boll weevil plague went on, local farmers watched their cotton crops suffer while this farmer’s peanuts flourished. This taught the local farmers the value of diversifying their crops, a lesson that was so valuable to the farmers of Coffee County that in 1919 they erected a monument to the boll weevil in appreciation.

Did they appreciate the bug itself? Not hardly. It proved to be the near ruin of many a farm. But had it not been for the boll weevil and the hard times it brought with it, the farmers of Enterprise would never have learned the value of diversification. They would never have prospered without the hardship that they had suffered.

I thought it was a good lesson for my daughter to learn, but about halfway through it, her eyes started to glaze over and her attention wandered. Such is the life of a thirteen-year-old¬†— this one in particular, anyway. I finished the lesson though, if only to remind myself of its value.

As I watched the news over the past couple days, as more and more Confederate monuments are torn down, the value of monuments like the Boll Weevil is made even clearer to me. See, the local museums have all this same information… and I never cared enough to track it down. Had it not been for the monument, out in plain sight where I couldn’t help but encounter it, I would never have known what the monument meant. Had it not been for the sheer¬†oddity of a monument to an insect, I would never have¬†understood the adversity that these farmers had overcome, and how such a “bad” thing could have made them¬†better.

That’s what I find so sad — and so infuriating — about the current crop of Social Justice Warriors tearing down Civil War monuments. They think they’re fighting injustice when, in fact, they’re creating it. Their desire to wipe our evils from our history — or to pack them away in museums where we can conveniently forget about them — only hurts us because, as George Santayana is famous for saying, “Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In their righteous indignation, these SJWs don’t realize that they are becoming the very things that they claim to loathe. They decry chattel slavery, but have no problem enslaving the taxpayer. They denounce racism against blacks, while at the same time encourage it against whites by their denouncement of “privilege”. They lambast gender inequality,¬†while feeling no shame in accusing someone of “mansplaining”.

The tearing down of these monuments is but one example of a cultural cancer that, I fear, will eventually kill this country. Civilization is not something that you can inherit. You have to learn it and relearn it with each successive generation, else you revert to your inner beasts, as we see happening today. Without the monument, out there in the open — obnoxiously so, sometimes — we’re tempted to let the past stay in the past. It can’t hurt us there, sure, but neither can it prompt us to take care that we don’t repeat it.

Categories: Blogroll, Government, Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | 35 Comments

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