Friday, December 11, 2015

So you "like" Donald Trump???

I recently saw a Facebook post floating around that was explaining to people how to find out which of their friends "like" Donald Trump.  It then pointed out the importance of "de-friending" these people.  I was really bothered by this post, not because I support Donald Trump, but because it seems this mindset perfectly summarizes the direction of our culture.  The subject of "Donald Trump" in this instance, can really be a blank filled with any topic.  We are dangerously close to regressing back into the days of the Hatfield's and McCoy's in that what this post was really saying was:

"Here's a way to find out who of your friends thinks differently than you so you can stop being friends with them."

I was saddened by the idea that the author of that post felt one's perspective on a SINGLE topic was enough to potentially annul years of memories, experiences, and moments that went into a friendship.  We claim to "celebrate diversity" in our culture, but the fact is we are lying to ourselves, because when we come across that very diversity, we end up ostracizing it and ending relationships over it.  When we cut people out of our lives because they hold different perspectives than we do, our world quickly becomes very small, to the point we eventually only seek out those who think and believe the way we do on EVERY TOPIC!  Which, unfortunately, ends up being like 5 people.....maybe not even that many!

We no longer feel the need to try to share perspectives and possibly change someone's mind through logic and debate, we instead simply want to punish people for being so stupid as to not see the world as clearly and plainly as I do.  Rather than agreeing to disagree on some topics and then connecting and maintaining relationships on the topics for which we do agree, we simply choose to view each other as idiots and completely disassociate with one another.

As long as topics are more important than relationships, our society will not draw closer together but we will begin to drift back apart, negating all of the work those who came before us did to bridge races, religions, and peoples together.  At some point relationship must be important enough that we will seek out things we can agree on, to serve as the adhesive our friendships need to withstand the things with which we don't agree.      

So with that I beg us all, when we find a friend who thinks differently on a topic, rather than being so petty as to end the friendship, let's try to change each other's minds.  If that fails, agree to disagree on that topic, but then let's find something we do agree on, even if its just a common hobby or activity, whatever it takes!  Opinions are important but friends are more important.......and they are worth keeping.  Happy Holidays my friends!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

For Racism to die.......

What would happen if racism truly died in our nation?  When it comes to your life or my life, it probably wouldn't change much because chances are you are one of the vast majority of people in America that is not a racist.  But how would it affect you if you literally made money from racism?  If you got paid more for America becoming more racially divided then would you ever want it to end?  

Racism, as it should be, is an emotionally charged issue. Emotionally charged issues generate a lot of attention.  Attention generates interest and interest generates ratings!   

Remember folks, the media makes their money through advertising, which means the more people they can claim to put your ad in front of the more they can charge for that ad.  It is in the financial interest of an entire industry to get you to watch, and people will watch things that get them fired up.  The more that watch the higher the cost of the advertisements that air during that time and the more money they make. 

Proclaiming racism is one method the media uses to make money, therefore actually trying to quell tensions is not in their best financial interests.  In fact the exact opposite is the case.  

So, if we really want to improve social issues, we must understand it won't happen over the airwaves.  At some point we will have to realize we are all being played.....then shut off the TV or the Internet or whatever and go outside and make a friend.  (And yes, I recognize the hypocrisy of the fact that I'm using the Internet at this very moment to make this point........which is why I'm logging off now....Happy Thanksgiving!!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Monster In Me

In light of all the recent events in the world, I find myself conflicted as usual when it comes to facing the terrible atrocities that we humans intentionally and enthusiastically inflict on each other.  When ever I turn on the news to learn of a terrorist attack or a gunman on a rampage, I walk away filled with a combination of heartbreak, rage, fear, confusion, along with a handful of other emotions. 

The question that often keeps coming back is how can someone actually do such horrible things to another person?  As much as I want to believe these people have always been monsters, I can help but look at children and see their innate innocence.  Innocence that each of these "monsters" had to have once possessed and for some reason or another eventually shed.  I suppose some had it robbed from them while others simply gave it away, either way, the results are always the same, the wake of their hate leaving a trail of pain, anguish, and destruction. Often times sowing the seeds of rage in the next generation.   

I can't help but acknowledge that if these people started out as innocent children before the monster inside was awaken, then inevitability that same monster must lie somewhere in me, waiting for the nourishment of hate to awaken from its dormant slumber.  

It is this awareness that reminds me I must at all cost pursue it's antithesis at all times.  If hate awakes the monster then I must deprive it of it's oxygen with the suffocating pursuit of love.  And not just any love, but complete and true love, the kind of love that forgives even the smallest infraction, the type of love that is engaged and active, the type of love that drives one to be MORE committed to charity and beauty than  the broken are to hate and destruction.  God hear my prayer!    Win the war of my heart with a love so great as to destroy the monster in me.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Red Cups, Mizzou, and everything else Offensive

* A re-publish from a couple years ago in light of recent events....

Every so often a celebrity or public figure comes out with a tweet or a statement that reveals their true feeling about another group of people.  One of the things I find interesting about the public reaction is that normally there is a huge outcry for said person to lose their job, or to lose sponsorship or be forced to apologize.  Immediate social pressure is created to somehow "punish" these people for being racist or homophobic or whatever prejudice they convey.  Why?

Why do we have to punish people for voicing their opinions?  Isn't that what America is supposed to be all about?  Isn't it about being able to speak your mind no matter how crazy your ideas might be?  Personally, I think its sad that anyone hate anyone else based on a general set of criteria, but when that person voices that sentiment and they are met with an overwhelming backlash crying out for them to be punished, then doesn't that only reinforce their already warped view?  Shouldn't sponsorship or whether or not someone keeps their job be a decision left to the employers and sponsors?

I'm afraid that America is becoming a place where people are being intimidated into keeping their controversial thoughts to themselves, suppressing their right to express themselves and creating a pressure cooker of venom.  If someone is a racist, they are a racist, if they are a homophobe they are a homophobe, firing them and forcing them to apologize will not change their heart.  If anything it will only provide it new resolve, fanning their flames of hatred.  As a Christian, I can tell you we have over 1,000 years of church history where we tried to "force" people to believe and think certain ways and it hasn't work out all that well.

If you don't agree with someone then don't agree with them.  If they say something you think is out of line, then tell them they are out of line.  Punishing them for what they think doesn't make them change their mind and does nothing to fix the real problem which resides in their heart.  A wise man once said we should "love our enemies."  It sounds crazy but for the entire history of mankind just about everyone, including His very followers, have pretty well tested the idea of hating our enemies and this is where we are at.  Perhaps it might be worth giving His idea a try.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Curse of Prosperity

In the heart of almost every human there seems to be a deep lust for meaning.  A passion to have purpose in life and a true yearning for significance.  Never has that passion seemed more contemplated than in today's world of cubicles and computer screens.  Today some of the biggest issues seem to be those of self discovery and self acceptance, issues that have probably on some level always affected humanity, but not like today, especially in our lavish culture.  These are concerns that present themselves most when our most basic needs for survival are met.

For most of our time as a species, mankind has had to scratch and claw out an existence in a harsh and challenging realm, and there are many places in the world where this is still the case, but not so much in the "developed" world, and I've come to the conclusion that we may not be the better for it.  For our ancestors life was truly an adventure, life and death literally hung in the balance of a good hunt or a prosperous harvest, elements like drought, pestilence, famine, all real factors that constantly threatened to extinguish ones existence from the planet.  But from within that struggle came the true elements of life!  The fear of drought brought the euphoria of rain, the dread of starvation brought the true conquest of a successful hunt, the constant risk of death brought the appreciation of life.  Everything was risky and within that risk came huge disappointment and satisfaction.  In those days, women literally risked their lives by something as simple as sex since conception also brought with it the very real risk of dying in labor.  Cuts got infected, broken bones could change the course of ones life!

But over time, with advancements in technology, the world has gradually become safer and with it, the numbness of security.  Today, I honestly don't fear starvation the way they did back then, and as a result the appreciation of every meal I eat is cheapened.  As a child, I grew up in a house that only had fireplaces for heat.  There were times I could actually see my breath in my bedroom on the coldest of winter days.  I remember the feeling of climbing out of a warm bath only to begin shivering as I tried to dry off as quickly as I could to get my pajamas on and race to my bed where I would climb between the cold sheets and wait for them to warm up.  I loved those experiences, and although far from true suffering, it was the discomfort of the cold that made the simple warmth of a fire in the fireplace or an extra blanket on the bed so wonderful.

Today, I can control the climate of my home with a push of a button, I can go to the grocery store and collect my produce without the nervous anticipation of a good harvest or fear of drought.  With the mitigation of risk modern technology has provided us and the comforts that come with our ability to control our environment, we have robbed ourselves of the extremes that come with either side of life.  As a result, we now settle for the cheap alternatives of social media and fantasy in search of those intense emotions that reminded us of what it means to be alive.  To either attempt to safely pursue experiences that cannot be obtained safely, or to create our own risk through dysfunctional living in an effort to replicate what we no longer have.

Is it any wonder that when Jesus called us to experience life to the full that He included in that calling the need to take up our cross to follow Him?  Perhaps the risk of death nay, the eventual guarantee of death, is required to fully appreciate the heights that only life can provide.  Perhaps that is why God gave us this unlimited Universe to pursue unlimited challenges as He knew we would eventually tame this world and in turn would always need more to challenge our wild hearts made in His image.  Perhaps our lack of perceived meaning comes not from the fact that there is no meaning but that we've removed all the risk that is required for us to truly feel all life has to offer!              

Saturday, August 1, 2015

This Perfect World

Have you ever had the task of having to break absolutely terrible news to another person?  News like a loved one has died, or that someone only has a short time to live?  Several times, in my law enforcement career I have had the very unfortunate duty of performing the dreaded death notification.  There have been few moments in my life more awkward than knocking on the door of some complete stranger who is having a perfectly normal day, knowing I am about to destroy their world with the news I'm going to share.  They don't even realize yet they are already having perhaps the worst day of their life.  To watch the kind smile melt away from their face as they lock eyes with you and begin to realize that something is terribly wrong.  You can almost see them begin to brace themselves for something awful as you open your mouth and the words seem to crawl out.  Their reaction to what is being said seems delayed as they try to process such monumentally impactful information.  Then it hits.  The melt down.  That moment when all the air is sucked out of the room and absolutely nothing else matters as the most pure, raw, and human of emotions come pouring out.  That moment when it doesn't matter who is around, it doesn't matter what we look like, who we are, or where we are from, nothing really matters.  For those not directly emotionally invested in the situation it is extremely awkward to sit and watch someone completely break down.  The immediate temptation is to try to quell the situation.  To begin to console and tell them it will be okay.  All the while knowing it won't be "okay."  It will be "okay" that you lost your daughter, it will be "okay" that you husband will never come home again, it will be "okay?"  Really?  It will be "okay?"  No it won't.  You may eventually move on, you may come to terms with something like this, but it will never be "okay."  I've learned that the temptation to say such thinks comes much more from my discomfort of the situation rather than theirs.  As people, I don't think we realize how used to being fake we have become.  And in these moments when we experience 100 percent pure, unrestrained, humanity, our immediate reaction is to try to cram it all back into the bottle from whence it came as quickly as possible.  Nothing will make us feel more like a fraud than being around something that is completely genuine.  And few things are more genuine than a grieving person.  Time and time again I hear from people who have suffered the loss of loved ones that after the funeral, everyone disappears and goes back to their regular lives, fully expecting the same for them.  After a week or two they feel they are expected to have "gotten over it" or "moved on."  When our lives are upset, we tend to want to race back to the way things were as quickly a possible, and we seem to want that for other people as well.  

What is it?  What is it about being completely real that scares us?  Why do we ask people how they are doing when honestly, unless the answer is "good" we really don't want to hear about it?  Everything about the human existence is really about being fake isn't it?  We hide our emotions, we hide our bodies, as I already mentioned, plastic surgery is one of the biggest industries around.  We prim and prep, we literally spend billions of dollars on making ourselves look different than we do while people across the world are starving and struggling to survive.  Somewhere along the line, perception became much more important than truth.  We became more infatuated with what people think about us than who we really are.  The truth is that I'm 50, but I want people to think I'm 40, the truth is that I weigh 140 pounds but I want to wear clothing that makes it look like I weigh 120.  The truth is I'm balding but I put on a wig so people think I have hair.  On and on it goes.

There is something so symbolic about the idea that man and woman were created naked.  They were created as they were, with nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be fake about.  They were truly and completely transparent.  Yet in today's world, one of the most humiliating things you could do to another person would be to strip them naked in public.  It's viewed an dehumanizing.  Isn't that interesting?  It's dehumanizing to reveal someones true humanity?  Isn't it ironic that uncovering the very body God created us to have is dehumanizing or obscene?
What I find interesting about the physical world that we live in is that it seems to constantly be calling us to be real.  We have a tendency to look around this Earth and see it as flawed.  We see the existence of things like earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes as attributes of a broken world.  Things like cancer and disease are all signs that our realm is far from perfect.  But is it really?  After all, for something to be perfect is really more dependent on the task or the objective than it is the item itself is it not?  If I'm trying to knit a sweater and someone hands me a hammer I might say the hammer is completely flawed.  But is it flawed, or is it just not the right thing for the job I have in mind?  When we say the world isn't perfect, why is that?  What is the standard we have in mind when we declare this world to be imperfect?  Personally, I would wager to say that most people have happiness in mind when they make that claim.  Imagine how much happier we would be if these negative aspects of life didn't exist.  Imagine how wonderful it would be if nobody got sick, if there was no suffering, etc.  And if God's purpose in creating the world in which we dwell was for us to be happy, then I think its pretty safe to say He failed, as there is plenty of suffering out there.  One of the biggest gripes about this world isn't even that there is suffering.  It's actually that there is suffering among the good and the innocent.  Few people have a problem with the evil suffering.  In fact, most of us kind of like the idea.  But imagine a world where only the bad people's houses got washed away in floods, only the evil got sick, only the cruel had accidents all the while the good prospered.  What might that world look like?  I would imagine in a world like that there would not exist evil people.  Once everyone put together that only the evil suffered, you would have to be an idiot to continue to live a bad life.  You would literally have the entire world manipulating us away from being evil.   Everyone would be good because the world would force it from us.  Then, once everyone was good, nothing bad would ever happen any more.  Paradise right?  A perfect world. The only thing is, nobody would be real.  People would only act the way they do because they were made to by a very coercive reality.
But we don't live in that type of place.  We live in a world where bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  We live in a world were sometime the evil prosper and the righteous suffer.  Its a random world where the outcomes don't always align with positive inputs.  Its a flawed world right?  Unless of course happiness wasn't what God had in mind when He made this place.  What if God made this place not to make us happy but to make us real?
In a world that rewards everyone for being good and punishes everyone for being bad, we never get to see who is really good or bad.  But what of a random world?  A world where one is not always rewarded for their charity or punished for their infidelity, what then?  It is when we live in a world where sometimes the innocent suffer, sometimes the wicked thrive, sometimes the good succeed and sometimes they fail, a world where it rains evenly on the righteous and the unrighteous, that we are more likely to  see who people REALLY are.  We can know the good man is truly good because the world does not always reward him for it, we can know the evil man is evil as likewise the world doesn't always punish.  What if authenticity was God's goal when He made this beautifully unpredictable world, this world that seems to constantly be trying to extract and coax our true selves out into the light?  If that was God's desire .....then perhaps this is a perfect world.      

Friday, June 19, 2015

Charleston: The Result of The Attack on Christianity

Already we are hearing sentiments that the attack in Charleston, South Carolina was not motivated by racism but was an attack on Christianity.  Sadly, there is a very real and threatening attack on the Christian way of life but it is not coming from outside sources.....the attack on Christianity is coming from within, it is a subtle attack that erodes at the foundation of everything for which Christ stood.  I'm embarrassed to say that it is an attack that even I myself at times have participated in, the attack of apathy. 

To deny that we still have a real and true issue with racism in our country is an attack on Christianity.  To make a murderous rampage about gun control vs gun rights is an attack on Christianity.  For Christians to fight harder and more vocally about political agendas and social stances rather than earnestly seeking to build and foster true and meaningful relationships with others is an attack on Christianity.  To place a higher priority on converting people rather than loving people is an attack on Christianity. 

For me one of the most troublesome aspects of this latest massacre in Charleston is the youthful age of he attacker. This was not an old man who lived in an old era of racism in this nation's past.  No this was a young man who was born more than a century after slavery and a generation after the civil rights era.  He was clean slate born at a time when we should be well past these issues, yet on that clean slate in this "enlightened" era the marks of racial hatred were made, so much so that he grew to hate complete strangers enough to murder them for no other reason than the color of their skin.  If we want to acknowledge an attack on Christianity then we need look no farther than this young man.  He embodies the attack in that his life of hatred was sculpted on our watch, under our noses.  While we were fighting to keep our guns, prevent certain people from being able to marry, and arguing over doctrine, a life of hate was growing in the midst of our so called religion of love.      

There will be those who will say, this wasn't about the gun but the person holding the gun, if that's you then fine, I'll give you that argument, but if that's the case then let's start addressing the issue, stop worrying so much about keeping the gun and let's start trying to reach hearts and lives.   People are literally dying because of hate and the failure to recognize that is the real attack on Christianity.  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner Is Every Single One of Us

Bruce Jenner is dead....

This saddens me a bit as I enjoyed Track and Field in both high school and college and I even competed in a couple of Decathlons...not well mind you...but I did them.  So naturally Bruce Jenner, the legend that he was in the sport, was an iconic symbol of everything I was striving for at that time in my life.

There has already been and will continue to be a lot of attention devoted to the emergence of Caitlyn Jenner and like it or not, Caitlyn represents every human on Earth.  Not to get all Bible-ish on everyone, but isn't this the exact story of Eden?  Let's go back and take a second look at the ancient tale.  It begins with God creating a creature in "His" image, that creature being mankind.  Mankind enjoys being mankind for awhile but then an opportunity is presented by a crafty serpent that if mankind wants to, they can actually become gods.  Once this is presented, mankind become eager to shed their humanity and adorn themselves with the shroud of the divine.......only problem didn't work.

I am convinced that at least part of the story of Genesis is not so much about the "sin" as much as it was about the intent.  They intended to become something other than what they were.  They were already "like God" in that they were made in God's image, but they rejected that image in an attempt to become what they wished they were......Gods.  When it failed, they did not simply return to being human, no, now that they were aware that there could be more, they became ashamed of their humanity, hiding in the bushes and covering their bodies with fig leaves....the same bodies about which they had previously felt no shame........the same bodies that were made in the image of God.  What must it say to God for us to have been made in His image and then for us to reject that image and cover it up??  I would imagine it would be pretty discouraging to say the least.

And that folks is were we stand to this very day.  We are the only species on Earth that covers its body out of shame.  In fact, its actually ILLEGAL not to have your body covered up in certain circumstances in most parts of the world.  ILLEGAL to simply be human.   But that's just the beginning, we cover our hearts significantly more than our bodies.  We hide our feelings and manipulate one another like crazy.  To be real, to be authentic, to be human is really foreign to all of us.  We are all constantly rejecting ourselves, covering our bodies and changing our appearances.  The fashion and cosmetic industries make billions every year treating our insecurities.  I don't like the way I AM so I'll become something I wish I was.  Then we want people to accept us for who and what we are when we are often the first person to reject ourselves.  So before we dump on Caitlyn Jenner or praise her, remember either way, she's just like all of us, she rejected who she was and pursued what she wished she was...maybe on a bigger scale than most, but its the same game we all play.

I find it interesting the only thing Jesus every flipped out about was hypocrisy, in short, being something other than what you really are.  He mentioned that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become like little children, who fittingly are the most authentic people in the world.

I also find it interesting that when God identified Himself in the Old Testament it was simply "I AM" a statement of complete and total acceptance of who He was and is.  We humans on the other hand, even while created in His image, can't really say that.  Most of us reject I AM in favor of I WISH....  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

50 Shades and Porn...what they can teach us.

With the release of the new 50 Shades of Grey movie I’ve noticed A LOT of social media the past few weeks pushing people to boycott the movie do to its negative content and unhealthy portrayal of women.  Many have made the comparison that the book and the movie are simply Porn for women……which if we are honest………they probably are.

But… an interesting thought occurred to me the other day.  Statistics show that somewhere between 60%-70% of men either have or have had issues with pornography at some point in their life.  That’s A LOT of men.

Likewise, we can call 50 Shades porn if we want to, but porn or not, it had over 100 million in book sales and a quick Google search will show you that erotic romance novels generate over a billion dollars a year for a primarily female audience.  That’s A LOT of women!

What’s interesting to me is not just the incredible “success” (if you can call it that) of the porn industry and the erotic novel industry, but the fact that they are so strongly divided along gender lines.  There is plenty of research out there that shows the negative aspects of porn addiction, to the point that even GQ Magazine recently released an article about it, but one can’t deny that if its affecting 70% of a gender, then something is hitting a nerve among that gender.  And likewise, one could claim the same things about erotic romance novels but when billions are being poured out by mainly women to read them, something again is hitting a nerve among that gender as well.

Good, bad, or indifferent, it is inescapable that these two industries have “exposed”  (haha see what I did there…..) some very powerful drives within the male and female psyches.  Both at their core present little more than unrealistic fantasies and expectations for each gender, which play a part in the frustration and controversy surrounding them.  But I think it’s important to note that fantasies are MAKE BELIEVE situations that address REAL DESIRES.  Is it possible that we could be missing something really big here that could help men and women to understand each other better?  It makes sense to me that the one reason this stuff sells so well is that the needs and desires they address must NOT be being fulfilled in real life, thus the escape to fantasy land.

I’ve been married almost 17 years now and know full well how the passion of new love can be lost in the mundane repetition of life, but that doesn’t mean the desire for certain things go away.  I can’t speak for women as I’m not one, but I’ve dealt with A LOT of guys who have struggled with sex and porn addictions.  And almost every time it’s the same….want a little secret ladies??  It’s not really about the sex as much as it’s what the sex represents.  Everyone mocks the stupid plots of a pornographic show.  Some plumber comes over to work on a sink and a desperate woman begins throwing herself at him trying to seduce him.  What most guys won’t tell you is that we want to feel desired too sometimes.  Guys tell me, I really wish every now and then my wife would look at me the way those women in the Sports Illustrated Photos are looking at the camera or the way the women in the porn look at the guys.  It’s make believe we get it, we get that those women are just acting…..but they are acting in a way that is striking a real nerve with 70% of men…..

Ladies, I bet if we took the time to ask you we could probably learn a lot about what it is in these romance novels that is causing them to fly off the shelf.  The reason why “chic flicks” are always best sellers….maybe we could learn about the way these men pursue their women in ways that make them feel special or valued, or loved?  I’m sure I can’t articulate it nearly as well as one of you could, but guys we need to pay attention to the hidden messages in these shows and movies because even though we might see it as a bunch of garbage, there is something there that is resonating with the ladies.  

Often we are intimidated by the story lines…women look at the women in the magazines and think “I could never measure up to her.”  Men look at rich good looking characters in the fiction films and think the same thing.  But perhaps the reason for the insecurities is because we are looking at those situation through the lens of our gender rather than trying to see what our significant might see there.

If we don’t like the exploitation and dysfunction that surrounds the porn and erotic scene, perhaps the best way to put it out of business is not by boycott but by trying to fulfill those desires and needs in the lives of our significants so that their realities no longer need the fantasy.