Friday, October 23, 2015


Sound the alarm
Light the signal fires
Cause a giant ruckus
Lift your voices higher
Because maybe they don't hear us
Maybe they don't care
Maybe we're the clanging gong
Ringing for nothing but empty air

(We're all making so much noise
It's breaking news, let's go to war
We're so concerned about every thing
We don't know what we're yelling for
We are, we are alarmist)

Beat the drum, make it loud
Deafen them, and burn it down
It's really super important that they hear us now
But maybe they don't care
Maybe we mean nothing
Sounding shots into the air


Maybe if you scream more
Maybe if you slit your wrists
Maybe if you blow your throat out
Maybe something will come of this

Cuz all you're doing is making so much noise

Monday, February 3, 2014

Main Things and Plain Things

Over the past few months I have become a bit of a silent observer of the internet, and it has become a rather.... depressing exercise. There are so many opinions, and so few people willing to listen and contribute to a conversation.

What I mean to say is that there are plenty of people contributing, but none of them to further any point other than their own. Social media now looks like a bunch of words body slamming into each other, like two sumo wrestles from hell, competing to see which one of them gets to go on the the final round down on level nine with the big man himself.

And.... I have not been helping. I contribute bile and venom and opinions that are so badly worded, not even the most understanding parent really wants to continue reading. It's my own fault, and I need to be more careful.

I have a lot of friends all over the world with DRASTICALLY differing views on this, that, and the other thing. In an age where everyone can be heard, and when all of us are told we are important and special, everyone has an opinion... whether it be on death and taxes, or Kesha and Bieber. Even I have my opinions on pop culture and what have you.

The only thing is, those opinions are not always helpful, and I have found that they often do more harm than good. I may like certain movies and recommend them to my friends, but not all of my friends are equally ok with different forms of entertainment. And the Apostle Paul was pretty explicit about being careful around other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to lift and build up, not tear down by exposing others to possible sin. And with the advent of the internet, we are now communing and fellowshipping with ALL THE brothers and sisters. The weaker and the stronger are all gathered together in this giant mass of people named the World Wide Web.

Example: A month or so ago, I promised to post a list of my top 10 movies from 2013. Not too long after I promised that, I realized that that might actually do more harm than good. In the past I have strongly endorsed movies that others found offensive, harmful, or just plain old icky. So, while there are some who might genuinely enjoy the movies I liked, others may not find them suitable or edifying. Better to have people ask me one on one, which movie from last year I think THEY may particularly enjoy. That I can totally do, all while edifying more people by being more personable, or through my public silence.

That said, I have been realizing that I have been remaining quiet (or at least more quiet) on issues that I should not be silent on. Of course, I need to moderate my views in a way that reaches my target audience (which as Dr. Steel once said is: "Humans"), but if I never even try to communicate my views on important matters of life and death, I really believe that I am being ineffectual at teaching. Something I have always felt called to do.

I want to teach. I want to help people understand things. But I am doing just as much learning as you guys. I need to learn how to communicate the main things.... because as a wise man once said:

"The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things." And of course, all things with grace.

Love you guys... and if you are still reading things I write after all these years, you are obviously a very patient person.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Trolls vs. God

Every so often (and those 'often's seem to be increasing in number) I stumble upon an online article, or Youtube video; or sometimes watch a movie or run into a coworker, who announces with supreme conviction: "YOU ARE AN IDIOT! THERE IS NO GOD! GOD DOES NOT EXIST!" Phrases like this seem to be standbys of horror movies and disenfranchised Walmart employees.

It is, of course, natural to respond with a sort of visceral rage to such inane comments. But as goes the internet gospel:

"Don't feed the trolls."

But on a deeper level, it makes even less sense to respond with more vitriol and pissy-ness. Sure, giving into raw emotion without reason is bad. Yes, feeding the trolls is bad. But what is even more illogical is becoming angry at someone who is clearly insane. This just doesn't make sense.

Would you argue with a madman? Do you take a holiday to Arkham Asylum every autumn to engage the Joker in deep philosophic debate? No? Why?

Because he's crazy. But even more than that, he is incapable of seeing the world through your eyes, and is incapable of reasoning with you. He may very well declare that the sky is green and that all dogs like to climb trees, but it would make no sense whatsoever for you to be incensed by his rambling. If anything, you should feel pity for him... not rage.

The same is true of your coworkers and internet trolls. Feeding rage with rage will only result in bad work relations and flame-wars... not the spread of the gospel.

Remember: never wrestle with a pig... you only get dirty, and the pig learns nothing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What I Am Not... (Part II)

Looking around Facebook can be a confusing and demoralizing past time. It, more than perhaps any other modern invention, makes us focus on what we aren't and what we do not have. This can go the way of lusting after what we have, or the way of that stuffed shirt Pharisee from Jesus' famous parable. "Dear Lord, I am SOOOOOO thankful I'm not like them." Neither are healthy... and by not healthy, I mean that they are the spiritual and metaphysical equivalent of eating a greasy spoon burger with a pound of cheddar and a slab of bacon on top.

One dude did get the whole "I am not" thing right though. His name was Dave. He was... smart, to be sure. A bit of a boss and a whole lot of righteous indignation. As is usually the case with those who get righteously angry a lot, he failed to get righteously angry with himself as much as he did with others. It only got worse as he got older.

He was pretty much the cream of the crop by the time he was 55, had the whole world in his hands, you could say... and then he made a critical error: he stayed home from work.

Small mistake? Maybe. But if there is one thing that I have learned over the past several years, it is that bad things happen when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Anyway, he ended up staying home. He ended up chilling on his roof. He ended up ogling some dude's wife while she was taking a bath... and then things pretty much went downhill FAST. There was some hanky-panky, there was some murder and then there was a kid. And only after that did Dave finally figure out that maybe he should have gone to work that day after all.

Sound familiar? Good. King David of Israel? 1000BC-ish? Ruler of most of the Mediterranean at the time? Yeah... that guy.

David, while chosen and beloved of God... had finally pulled the rug out from beneath his feet. He was standing over nothing, and realized how far he was about to fall. Confronted with this, he realized what he was not:

He was not righteous. "There is no one righteous... no not one." We can only fool ourselves for so long. But then, realizing his own inability to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, he fell upon the mercy of the court:

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to the multitude of Your tender mercy and loving-kindness blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin! For I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them; my sin is ever before me." (Psalm 51: 1-3, AMP)

When you are facing death, spiritual or physical, you reevaluate everything. You realize there are things worth living for... and perhaps the only shot you have at life is admitting how small you are.

"Against You, You only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and faultless in Your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in [a state of] iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me [and I too am sinful]. Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart." (Verses 4-6)

But this is what we all hate: losing control. We are consumed with our haves and our wants and our lust for power. I am in control... and even if the stupid government is out of control and war is everywhere... at least I can rule my own life and emotions and my crap is my crap and no one elses!

Wrong. You are not. Let it go... breathe.

Breathe, and embrace the "am not"s. 

You aren't in charge... and don't let that be a curse. Let it be a blessing. You don't have to rule the world... you are free. Free to live... and move... and have your being... all while finding your "haves" in the Almighty Creator of every epic story ever told.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What I Am Not...

One of the most problematic problems I have discovered over the past few years is how little the platitude of describing yourself as only a Christian really solves. TL;DNR: \

Skeptic: "Who are you?"
Good Christian Boy: "I am a Christian." 
Skeptic: "What does that mean?"

We need new ways to elaborate and describe ourselves, and often I have found myself describing myself in the negative. Not "oh, I am a horrible person," but more "I am not an X, Y, Z."

I know, I know... the age old piece of advice is that we are to describe things in the positive. Give people solid projections to grasp. But sometimes deduction can be so much more fun.

If I say that I am not "X," then I have successfully narrowed down what I AM. If I say that I am neither "X," "Y," or "Z," you have an even BETTER idea of who I am. Let me give you two examples:

Person A: "I like puppies, rain storms and ice cream."

Person B: "I don't like running, Jane Austen and I have never owned a cat."

Right off the bat, I have a clearer picture of person B. Maybe this is just me, and maybe it's just that I used a bad example... but to me at least this makes sense. And in a world where I am bombarded with information for a good 16 hours a day, it is useful to know what you are not and thereby establish what you are.

I am not a political savant, nor do I hate the military.

I do not hold that the entirety of the Levitical law still applies today.

I do not agree with PETA and their views... even less their advertising.

I do not hold that anyone but God has the ultimate right to end a life.

I do not believe that climate change is bad.

I do not understand Obamacare.

I do not study as often as I should.

I do not leaving my backpack at home.

I am not perfect.

I do not like sinning.

I do not know how to stop of my own accord.

I do not know how to live as I ought to.

I do not always know how to talk to God.

...and then... you are left with a few certainties: the primary one being that falling to your knees in humility is the only way to figure out what is going on.

I am finite. And therein lies the ultimate "I am not...":

I am not God... and now I know where to start.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Zuko: Ode to a Fish

I hate it when things die... even if it is just a five dollar fish that Leslie bought me from Walmart. He had a name, I even learned to love him... a fish. This is exactly why I didn’t want a fish, something that would live only long enough for me to bond with it before it died suddenly. Micki, while a pain at times, sticks around long enough to be a member of the family, piss off a few people, endear herself to a few more, and eat, sleep and poop her way through several years before passing on into the Never never. Years.... get that? Not weeks. Not days. Years.

Zuko, I named him Zuko. He was a beautiful blue and red crown-tail betta. After a week or two I even got to see that he had a distinct personality for a fish. He was feisty, angsty and wild, loving to display his enormous wing span of a tail for me whenever he could. He was a show off. And that was the first tell that he was sick... he stopped showing off.

At least he gave me a good amount of time to prepare myself... at least for a fish. There were about three days of worrying, during which my wife urged me not to. I tried, but then Zuko refused to get better and the “white ick,” as it is so scientifically named, started to grow around his muzzle. (I know fish don’t have muzzles, but that’s the best name for what I saw.) So after a few days the medication started. Two days on this fishy medicine, then the tank got cloudy and apparently toxic from too much medicine, and he started thrashing about one night. Leslie switched him to a travel tank for the night, and then the next day went out to buy him a brand new tank, then we started him on a different medicine.

The next morning? He was dead. Just dead. No movement, just the wiggling back and forth of a dead body in water whenever I moved the tank even slightly. You know the motion I’m talking about, the swaying back and forth with a current that clearly displays a corpse as a corpse.

I had hoped that he would get better, I really did, but I think that somewhere deep down in my heart of hearts I knew that he was going to die young. It’s more than likely that I loved him to death with my good intentions. Moving from your first home to a temporary one and then a new one after that while on two untested drugs over the span of 5 days would probably be enough to kill a sizable human... no matter how well meaning his doctors may be. But a human would have said something... for that matter, so would a dog or a cat... even a rat would have been able to scream in pain or bite you.... clearly informing you that “Hey! This sucks! Leave me alone for a while so I can get better on my own!” I don’t understand fish. I just can’t talk to them. I don’t have that ability. I am not a fish whisperer like my wife. I’m just not.

Micki sits next to me, silently watching the morning, as Taylor showers and Leslie sleeps. Micki, while whiney at times, at least lives. I can respect that. She has a life and all that entails: opinions, goals, desires, feelings, urges (the the urge to scratch on my door at 7 AM every morning, or to poop right beside the litter box). Zuko, and the other fish that my wife has adopted, seem to just... swim. They exist, and this is why all those months ago I firmly decided not to buy one. They are not my kind of pet. I cannot cuddle with it, I cannot play with it, I cannot do anything but form a faint bond with it before it dies suddenly and violently. This is why I bought a cat. She eats, poops and overstays her welcome... and while she is quiet much of the time, and enigmatic in that special way that cats are, Micki is about as subtle as a jackhammer; just my kind of animal. We understand one another.

Perhaps one day, when we are all good and dead, I will have a nice sit down with Zuko and Micki, as well as Gunny and all the other animals that I have loved and have passed on during my life. We’ll talk about this and that, small talk about how awesome heaven is, and then we’ll get down to brass tacks: what did they think about me? What did Gunny really mean when he put his paw on my forearm? Was Micki really as much of a prissy, spoiled princess as I thought she was, or did she have sweet spots? What was Zuko thinking while he was in pain? Did he forgive me? Did he love me back? Did he know that I was trying to save him?

Or maybe, like the divine voice of God, he would look at me from his serene, crystalline lake and say: “Silly human, of course I know that you loved me. Your heart broke at the death of a fish. Despite all the death and sadness and despair around you in your mortal  life, you chose to morn a fish. Your compassion and high regard for life are precious, and that is why you are now here with us, because you placed your faith in the One who created that precious life. Now... let’s go swimming!”

Attempting to understand something as strange and alien as a fish will never come easily to me. Perhaps, though difficult, I will continue to try. Regardless, Zuko is dead, and I loved him. His was a life, through brief, composed of fins, fury and righteous indignation. I will miss him.

Micki: Ode to a Cat

During the period of “I have no idea what the crap I’m doing in this town anymore" when I first moved to Lynchburg, Leslie took me to a pet store. The honest truth is that neither one of us entered the store with any intention of buying a pet. Well... Leslie told me later that her original plan was to convince me to buy a fish. Obviously that didn’t exactly work.

See, I’ve never really been a fan of fish, and after nearly killing hers the DAY BEFORE I PROPOSED, I was understandably hesitant to buy one for myself. I’ve always been a fan of, how should I put it... hardier animals.

To appease Leslie, we did indeed go look at the bettas. They are beautiful fish, to be sure. I picked up a few of the small tanks in which they were displayed as Leslie discussed the merits of “having a connection” with an animal; and as I put each cup down she would eagerly ask me: “Did you feel it? Did you feel a connection?”

I honestly said that I did, once... sorta. It was a beautiful fish, one of those bettas with a frilled tail and vibrant colors. He even swam up to the edge of his cup and stared at me. I don’t know if the “connection” was simply one of hate on his part, due to some gargantuan creature picking up his home, or whether he was genuinely curious... whatever the case, I put him back down knowing full well that his fate would be more secure with a girl who poked his tank and screamed “I’M A PARANA!!!!!!”

Relaying this information to Leslie, she shrugged and I suggested that we go over and look at the SPCA cats instead. She looked up at me with these eyes, very much like the cats, begging me to keep her from buying a cat. Leslie, no matter how rough and tough she can be (and believe me, she can be rough and tough), has a penchant for all things fuzzy. Knowing her own frame, she pleaded with me that I prevent her from buying a cat. I promised that I would, and we went over to look.

There were several very lively kittens in the cages; bouncing around, swatting at random objects... you know... kitten stuff. There was one calico that Leslie was particularly drawn to, perhaps because it reminded her of herself in a playful state. She got one of the managers to open up the cage and let her play with him.

While Leslie was occupied, I decided to look around at the other cats. Kittens were all well and good, but not my style. In a home environment I needed something a bit more calm... a bit more my pace.

Then, in the lower left hand side of the cages, I saw her, an incredibly fat and depressed looking cat with a very tempting price-tag. Micki didn’t move. I made noises and waggled a finger at her. Micki didn’t move. I opened the cage. Micki didn’t move. Eventually, the SPCA volunteer got a little brush, and began to run it down the length of Micki’s back. Micki sorta moved.

It was obvious that Micki had been in the cage for far too long. Her tag said that she was 10 years old, and had lived in a house with multiple other cats. Being in a cage did not suit her. In time I would discover just how many things did not suit her.

At this point, Leslie, who had initially not been interested in the depressed cat at all, came over to pet Micki. We tried to liven her up with a bit of catnip, to no avail. Eventually Leslie began to pet her, at which point Micki actually started to roll over so that Leslie could scratch more of her belly. This was the first sign of actual life we had seen yet, and suddenly it was Leslie who was feeling “the connection.”

Mere minutes before we had been promising ourselves that we would not buy a pet, and now we found ourselves discussing prices, logistics and I myself called Michael and my landlord to OK the idea of buying a cat. It was all such a blur that I am still surprised it all happened within the span of a few hours. Before I knew it, I had gone to an ATM, gotten the money, driven back to Petsmart and was picking up the cat.

As soon as Micki was in the crate and on the way to my apartment, she instantly came alive; and I don’t mean in a good way. I had no idea an animal could protest so much. Once the gate on the crate had been closed and the crate itself picked up, Micki started meowing like one possessed. The patrons of the store would have been within their rights to assume I was murdering the poor cat.

Once we finally got to the apartment, I took her right into my room so as to minimize the allergens that Michael might be exposed to. Free at last, Micki scuttled under my bed, and did not come out for a good two days. She didn’t poop, pee or eat for longer.

At first I was extremely worried that she might be sick, but Leslie assured me it was nothing quite so serious... she was just terrified.

In the following several months, Micki and I developed an interesting relationship. Having never been a cat owner before, I was shoved up against a rather steep learning curve. Micki became accustomed to relieving herself and desiring food around 7 in the AM, which caused me no end of frustration. Waking up to the smell of cat dung and complaining animals is something which I will probably never fully adjust to.

Another thing that I discovered rapidly is just how much a cat is like a woman, and how much dogs really are like men. When a dog comes up to you, he either wants affection or food or attention. He is very specific about this, and knows what he wants. A cat, on the other hand, will brush up against you, and this could mean any number of things. She could want you to feed her, but she may just want to play, or perhaps she wants you to pet her tummy so that she can bite you, because she enjoys inflicting pain. Or maybe she is genuinely lonely, and has been missing you as of late. But more than likely it is all of these things in equal and chaotic measure.

I discovered this within the first week.

I also discovered why cat owners put up with all this nonsense... cat tummies are sooooo fluffy! (Luckily for me, Micki’s front claws have been removed. However, to compensate, she has become quite adept at scratching me with her rear paws.)

We have now reached a mutual understanding based on fear, trust and companionship. I feed her, she keeps me company. I have also discovered just how far reaching a cat’s desire for distant companionship is: despite the fact that Micki often acts as though I am a lumbering oaf-beast (which I have yet to refute), she never wants to sleep far from me. No matter where I am... bed, couch, floor... Micki will find me, curl up close by and pass out.

No one likes to be alone.