Friday, January 31, 2014

Evil vs Love

Two articles showed up in my Facebook news feed today, glaringly juxtaposed.

The first is a nearly five year old article about Columbine. It’s about how most of us don’t know the true story of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. It details how misinformation about the killers and premature speculation about why they did what they did still affects how we view the incident today. The story helps explain how the mixture of modern reporting capabilities, combined with rampant social media, skew our immediate perceptions and warp our long term memories of episodes like this.

You can read that article here: 10 years later, the real story behind Columbine.

The second is a blog post about one teacher and how, on the day after Columbine, she changed the way she both interacts with her students and how she manipulates their interactions with each other in an effort to proactively work against the human power hierarchies that contribute to these rare, but horrific, events. She's using math to direct love.

You can read that blog post here: Momastery Blog Post

I took a couple things away from this combination:

1. The information age approach to codifying and deciphering emergency (and even non-emergency) situations, in the heat of the moment, needs to be carefully considered as we start passing information around that might or might not be accurate, that might or might not have been verified, that might or might not have been researched. The effect of spreading “knowledge” this way has the potential to make us all liars. We participate in the negative impact on our collective ability to create accurate societal/historical memories.

2. The only truly effective way to combat evil is through human interaction. Love wins. Sadly, it requires effort most of us do not want to put forth.

That’s a lot for 8:00AM on the last day of the first month of a new year. Time to go grab a second cup of coffee.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


A FB friend posted this article the other day. She’s a mom, and the article definitely follows the trend of the dozens like it that are pushing the message that mom’s need to stop being so hard on themselves. It’s a good message, and one that most moms today probably need to hear…repeatedly. And, to be honest, I don’t think her “confession” is as shocking as the title article says it is.

The truth is, I didn’t read it for “what it is.” Duh, I’m a dude. It’s not written for me, specifically. But I noticed one thing, in the first two paragraphs in particular, that really stuck out to me.

The whole blog post starts out talking about how she copes with her two little boys who refuse to go to bed and stay in bed. She lists off many of the discipline techniques she has tried…but it felt like there was one thing missing from the list.


She either doesn’t spank her kids when they are stubborn/purposeful in their disobedience or she left spanking off the list on purpose. I don’t understand either of those motives. Why is spanking not a viable option? Or, if she did try it, why leave it off the list?

I know that I have just offended half of you and you’ll probably stop reading right here, but I wish you wouldn’t. You either:

  1. …think spanking is a horrible and violent form of discipline. You feel like it is abuse, which I get, really, I do, but I think you’re part of the problem. I get it because I grew up in a house where spanking wasn’t always done appropriately. It was often done in anger. It was often far more than just a couple of swats with a spoon or a hairbrush. It was often used for some pretty petty and minor issues. It was often used with little or no warning. And you most often knew it was coming because you could hear dad’s belt whipping out of the loops on his pants behind you. I get it. That’s just not right. No one should want to raise, or discipline, his or her kid that way. To be honest, for most of us that grew up in that kind of house, I don’t think it was how our parents “wanted” to raise us; I think they just didn’t try to figure out a better way. That doesn’t excuse what they did, or make it ok, but it doesn’t make eliminating it as a discipline option OK either. I don't feel like I grew up in an abusive home, just one where spanking was not done in a manner that elicited change through proper motivation and understanding.
  2. …are thinking, “you don’t have kids, so just shut up.” To which I reply, “thank you for being a horribly insensitive jerk.” My daughter may have only lived three days, but I can put myself in your shoes at the drop of the hat as I think about how I would have had to deal with the same issues you do. Also, taking a six year old boy into my home has brought a huge does of reality with it, too, and I’m able to take the parenting ideas I have developed over the years, watching my friends and relatives raise their children, and put them to the test.

Here’s the deal, the kind of spanking you’re thinking of is not the kind of spanking I’m talking about. You don’t have to be a famous child psychologist to know and understand that the kind of spankings many of us grew up receiving only created an atmosphere of fear and left us feeling like we needed to “perform” well, or in specific ways, to receive the approval of our parents. That kind of atmosphere is why children don’t tell their parents they’re being sexually abused or bullied, because they think their parents will be angry at them instead of the person who is hurting them. It’s the kind of atmosphere where children feel guilty about things their parents should be comforting them over. It’s not the kind of spanking anyone “deserved.”

What I am talking about is the kind of spanking that is only given after a warning has been clearly given and the consequences of further disobedience have been clearly laid out. I’m talking about the kind of spanking that takes place long before you have “had it up to here!” I’m talking about the kind of spanking that is given when you are in full control of both your emotions and your physical abilities. I’m talking about the kind of spanking that is reserved for stubborn and purposeful disobedience, not every minor discipline issue. I’m talking about the kind of spanking where you use a wooden spoon, because hands were made for holding and loving and hugging after the spanking. I’m talking about the kind of spanking where the real pain the child feels is more the sting of pride than the sting on their bottom…because as you spank them, you’re crying--on the inside, if not the outside--because you hurt just as much as they do.

Why are we so afraid of that kind of spanking?

If you’re like me, you know a bevy of non-spankers these days. You also know that many of them do actually spank their kids…but only when all the other things they “believe in” have failed and they just don’t know what else to do. They end up spanking the wrong way and reinforcing the idea that ALL spanking is wrong, no matter how it’s approached. Like I said…part of the problem.

So, back to our blogger, I don’t know if she’s a spanker or not. I’m not going to take the time to read her whole blog to try and find out. All I know is she left it off her list for one of the two reason above: she either doesn’t do it or she does and doesn’t want to admit it. She’s just like a lot of people I know.

Here’s what I see when I read those first two paragraphs. Her boys have a nightly game with mommy and they are most definitely winning. They go to sleep on their terms, not hers. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if she would lay it on the line and explain to them that every time they get out of bed they will get a swat on their bottom. I hypothesize there would be a couple of nights with a lot of tears. I also hypothesize that within a week or two, she wouldn’t have to sit outside their door until they finally fell asleep. Finally, I hypothesize that she would feel less frustration about it, in the long run, by addressing it in an appropriate manner where she is in control of the situation, taking the control away from her sons.

Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.
Proverbs 20:30 GNB

Don't hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won't kill them. As a matter of fact, it may save their lives.
Proverbs 23:13, 14 GNB


I really don't want people to think I'm claiming to have been abused as a child, by spanking, because of this blog post.

Yes, I was spanked.

Often. Even for things I didn't do once or twice. That happens with 4 rambunctious boys in a small house.

However, ultimately, I'm glad I grew up in a home where spanking happened. I have three brothers and I think there were many times when we probably truly deserved a good spanking. Today, all four of us know that wrong is wrong because it's wrong, not just because you get caught. We understand that if we make poor choices, we deserve the consequences, no matter how bad they are. None of have been in jail. We all grew up to be good people (I think.)

But that doesn't mean I agree with the way we were spanked. I do think there is an appropriate way to spank and that way was not usually the norm in our home. I realize many of you know my family, and no, I haven't talked to them about this, yet. It's probably a huge can of worms to open, especially just before Christmas, but we're all adults now and I know we can "deal with it" if we need to. I love my parents, my siblings, their wives, and their children. When they say, "love covers a multitude of sins" this is what they're talking about. The past IS the past; that doesn't mean it didn't happen, it just means none of us can let it rule today.

Sally forth in good spirit.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve will be here soon. A wonderful night when Christians (and even some non-Christians) will gather together in churches around the country, and around the globe, to celebrate the coming of Christ. 

In many of those churches, the attendees will celebrate with the traditional Christmas story. You know the one: Mary is in labor, riding into town on a donkey, it’s cold and snowy, all the local inn keepers turn them away, they spend the night in a dirty cave (or barn) where Joseph delivers the baby, he is named Jesus, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and spends the night in a manger full of hay so shepherds and wise men can come and worship him. Yeah! That one…the nativity story that’s not really in the Bible…at least not most of it.

Really. Honest Injun’. Get your Bible out and check. There was no donkey. There was no inn, nor an inn keeper. They’d already been in town for at least a few days, if not weeks, when Jesus was born. And Joseph probably didn’t have much to do with the actual birthing process. 

Based on the culture and customs of the time, they were probably staying with some of Joseph’s relatives and, due to the census, it was a packed house. It is likely there were plenty of female relatives on hand to assist with the birth. Because the guest room was full, Joseph, Mary, and the baby, Jesus, were relegated to sleeping out in a common room, near where the animals were kept in the home (also a normal thing back in first century Bethlehem) hence the necessity of putting Jesus in the manger.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to “bah humbug” your Christmas. But I also feel like the Nativity scene most of us grew up thinking was the the “Gospel” truth is just about as real as Santa Claus.

You CAN find a donkey and a cave in the story if you want to stray from the Biblical canon. Do a Google search for The Protoevangelium of James. There’s a donkey and cave in that one. Joseph is also an aging widower and Jesus isn’t so much born as he is delivered via a supernatural, non-surgical, c-section…oh, and Mary was confirmed to be a virgin and remained so until she died. Some of the traditions we celebrate have their roots in extra-biblical books/stories that have long been rejected by the church.

So what’s my point?

I think it would be great to celebrate the story that IS actually in the Bible. It’s a story of brokenness, fear, and shame. It’s also a story of great joy, angelic hosts, heavenly choirs, the birth of a Savior, and it's one that doesn’t need any sensationalism to make it better.

If you want the Biblical Christmas story, here it is (in a nut shell):

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
 and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 1:26-38 & 2:1-20 (NIV)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow blower...

So, I've had a snow blower with an electric starter for the past two winters. I consider myself to be a "man" and have chosen to ignore that feature...because a real "man" will give himself a hernia or wrench his back using the pull start before acting like a girl and using the electric start.

I went out to the garage this morning and cleaned it up just enough to get the snow blower out, check the oil, and get it gassed up for the coming snowpacalypse. Every man knows that Murphy's Law says you actually need to start the thing up prior to the first snow. If you don't, it won't start when you really do need it.

I pushed the primer button a half dozen times, inserted the "key," moved the choke lever over, and started pulling that starter rope. I decided to push the primer button a few more times after the first 20 or so pulls didn't work. I took the key out, moved the choke lever back, and started over from scratch after the next 20 pulls didn't work. A few minutes later, after I'd stripped down to my t-shirt and underwear and punched 911 into the phone, just in case, I gave up.

As I lay on the icy garage floor, gasping for my last elusive breath, I looked up and, for the first time, settled my gaze on the 3 pronged plug embedded in the back of the snow blower. As the feeling began to return to my left arm and the black edges of unconsciousness ebbed away, I slowly got up, collected myself; and grabbed an extension cord off the shelf on the other side of the garage.

Female plug to male outlet, male plug to female outlet, all plugged in and ready to hand in my man card...I pushed the starter button.

Screw my man card! That extension cord is staying plugged in and right where it is all winter long.

Wisdom found through giving up is still wisdom.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lesson learned...

I learned a good lesson yesterday...

Not long after I woke up, I came to the realization that I just couldn't put off the job of dragging the humidifier out any longer. I don't know what spurred me to action. It could have been the haboob (Google it if you have to) that tried to exit my body when I blew my nose. It could have been the dry hacking cough which has been plaguing me for the past month. It could have been any number of things; regardless of the reason, I sprinted into action and finally found my Kenmore Quiet Comfort 12 gallon humidifier hiding in the basement.

I hauled the KQC12g up to the main floor, cleaned it, put it back together, ran out to Sears and picked up a new filter for it, and found a nice place to put it...right in the corner of the dining room. It really did seem like the perfect spot. The KQC12g humidifier is rated for a 2,500 square foot home. Mine is only about half that and, to top it off, this corner is almost in the exact middle of the house. It is the perfect spot for an even distribution of humidity throughout the whole house...and it has an outlet. Besides, I have yet to find anything else to put in this corner. It's in the dining room in that awkward spot between the hallway going to the basement and bedrooms and the door way to the kitchen. It's not big enough for a nice piece of it exists as an empty column of space in my already cramped little home.

When I got the KQC12g up and running, it would only flash a 25% as the humidity level. This is the KQC12g's calm and quiet way of letting me know the humidity level in the home is significantly low. I filled it up, then refilled it immediately, since the first filling almost instantly drains from the holding tank, and let the KQC12g do it's work.

At about half-time, during the Lions game, I noticed the area around the chair I was enjoying watching the game from was getting kind of warm. In all honesty it was getting hot. Well, that chair sits directly in front of the register for that room. I closed the register and solved my problem post haste. A little later, I stood up to walk to the kitchen and was greeted by an extraordinary amount of heated air from the waist up. I made note of the changing climate conditions via a verbal exchange with my bride, who was sitting at our tall dinning room table, only to find she had been cognizant of this issue for quiet some time while I huddled down in the lower altitudes, watching the game. Being a normal man, I quickly discharged all concerns about the issue from my brain and returned to watching the game.

As the game came to a close, and I watched the Lions jiggle the handle to the toilet they are in the midst of flushing themselves down, I stood upright to find that my house felt both more humid and really warm. Not just pleasantly warm, but "do-you-have-an-80-year-old-woman-living here?!" hot! A quick walk around the house proved this to be true in every single room. What in blue blazes was going on here? The furnace had been running non-stop for nearly 6 hours, which only now seemed odd. True, it was cold outside, but not THAT cold.

My investigation lead me to the thermostat, in the dining room, which was proudly telling me it was only 67 degrees in my house. "LIAR!" I shouted at the thermostat at the top of my lungs and reached over to see if the temperature settings had been changed...and that's when I felt that stream of moist cool air blowing straight up from the KQC12g and in front of the thermostat....

...needless to say, the KQC12g is now humming away over on the other side of the room. My house finally cooled back down to something less than "sleeping-in-a-tent-on-a-hot-muggy-night-in-July" hot at some point during the night and I learned to pay more attention when doing something as simple as setting the humidifier up.

The infamous corner.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Bible In A Year

Today is day 330 of the year 2013; my Bible-In-A-Year plan told me so. All I have left to read are the Minor Prophets, a couple chapters of Proverbs, a rehash of the last 30 Psalms (you read them all twice in this plan), and the last few books of the New Testament. Three hundred and thirty days down, thirty five to go.

I will admit that it has been harder than I thought it would be, for several reasons:
  • The experts tell us if we do something regularly, at the same time every day, for a certain number of days in a row it will become a habit. I don’t know why, but reading the Bible just doesn’t seem to want to fit that mold for me. I started off reading every morning, then I switched to every night, and then I swapped back and forth intermittently. It has never become a “habit.” Reading the Bible is/was/has been something that I have to make myself do each and every day. It is not that I don’t want to read it, I just frequently “find” easier or more interesting things to do. At this point, I am realizing that may just be how it was intended to be, something intentional as opposed to a mindless act.
  • It can be a very hard book to read. No, I’m not talking about the reading level, I’m talking about the content. 
    • Most people complain about books like Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, but I breezed through the Pentateuch without much problem. The books that bogged me down were the major prophets; Isaiah and Ezekiel were the toughest. They are looooonnnnnngggg and tend to get very repetitive. In addition, they really can twist your brain in a lot of different directions with difficult concepts, images, and content. Some of what’s in there is just “hard” to read in an “I want to poke my eyes out” kind of way.
    • There are many uncomfortable parts, especially in the Old Testament. It is a book (or many books) filled with stories of murder, rape, incest, violence, genocide, and expectations and/or laws that just seem unjust or oppressive. Those parts are uncomfortable because God is often represented as being the very opposite of the loving, white-bearded, golden-aura-shrouded, grandfatherly, geriatric, passive, forgiving, and almost senile God that so many of us in Western Christendom WANT our God to be.
I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t taken a course in Biblical Interpretation last spring…I might have given up back on day 39 or 40…most certainly by day 52. I would have quit for the same reason(s) that so many others who have tried to read the entire Bible give up; it IS hard, it makes me feel uncomfortable (often in a bad way), it is sometimes boring, and it really challenges me from a faith perspective to KNOW what this foundation my faith is built on is really about. In class I learned that I have to read the Bible through at least three main “lenses”:
  1. The world in behind the Bible: the historical context/understanding of the world that preceded the writing of whatever portion I may be reading.
  2. The world inside the Bible: the historical context/understanding of the world at the time of the writing of whatever portion I may be reading.
  3. The world in front of the Bible: the context/understanding of today.
Focusing on those first two lenses helped me get through some of the parts that were most difficult. They are passages written to/about a people with whom I have little to no historical context. I can study up on them and their time, but I can’t “know” it the way I know my own context today. This doesn’t mean those passage can’t/don’t hold meaning for me, just that I need to try to understand what it meant to them first.

In all this reading, there is one passage that has come up three times and, as such, stands out to me as a guide for “being a better Christian.” I first studied it in class as part of a lesson in exegesis, then Pastor Mark preached on it twice this past month (November 3 and November 10), and I read it yesterday as part of my plan. The passage is from 1 Peter 3:8-18, and I really feel like it sums up the message of what I’ve been reading for the past 330 days, how I really want to live the rest of my life, and how I hope other Christians want to live, too. Allow me to paraphrase (probably poorly):

As Christians we should be:
  • Agreeable
  • Sympathetic
  • Loving
  • Compassionate
  • Humble
This goes for ALL Christians! There are no exceptions.

There should be no room in our lives for retaliation.
There should be no room in our lives for sharp-tongued sarcasm.
Instead, we should bless others…that’s our job! To bless!
If we can practice living this way we’ll be a blessing and get a blessing!

You want to embrace life? You want to see your day fill up with good? Try doing these things:
  • Say nothing evil or hurtful.
  • Snub evil and cultivate good.
  • Seek peace with every ounce of your energy!
God approves this message!

God listens and responds when we talk to Him, but He also turns his back on those who do evil things!

If you practice living this way, do you really think people will ask you to stop?
Even if people respond to your kindness, goodness, and good living with hatred or persecution, you’ll be better off!
Stop worry about what non-Christians think about you or say about you! 
God will deal with them in his own time, so don’t worry about it or respond negatively or inappropriately!

Just keep your focus on Christ…no matter what!

If people do get curious about your life, or challenge you about the way you are living, make sure you understand your faith so you can respond correctly; however, make sure you respond respectfully!

If people want to mistreat you for doing good things, that’s their problem and God will deal with them. At some point they’ll realize they are in the wrong, even if it’s only at their final judgement. If you respond to their attacks with attacks of your own, your conscience won’t be clear.

If you’re truly suffering because of your faith and good living, if that’s the place where God has put you, just remember that you’re way better off than those who will be punished for ignoring and/or disobeying God.

Christ’s role in all this is definitive! He suffered because of other people’s (including your, my, and our) sins! He was righteous and suffered for our unrighteousness. Remember, Christ went through it all—suffering, death, and resurrection—to bring us closer to God!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Pardon me, for just a moment, as I'm about to step on your toes.


I am one. It is a title I earned through marriage. It is a title I wear proudly. It comes with responsibility I take seriously. It is not just a word to describe my legal standing in a relationship with a woman; it is part of my identity. I am a husband. I long to hear my wife use that word both in public and in our quiet moments together at home. It describes a unique position in life. It carries significant meaning and weight, enough so that many non-heterosexual people are fighting in court to be able to use it.

That being the case, I'd like to politely ask the growing throngs of unmarried, but dating or engaged, young women to stop using it to describe the man you are currently with...especially if you call yourself a Christian.

When you use it, before it has been earned, you do a disservice to the title and more importantly to what it stands for in a truly Christian marriage.

Trust me, I get it.

You bought a house together or you're sharing an apartment. You both drink straight out of the milk container. You eat off each others plates when you go out. You might even share a toothbrush in an emergency. You may even have fur babies together that you call your "children." Sadly, you're  also sharing his bed. Those things don't make him your husband. However, calling him that helps the take the sting out of knowing you're living a life that should be reserved for marriage, doesn't it? It helps you justify your decisions to live against the belief system you were brought up with.

He is your boyfriend or fiancé.

He won't be your husband until you stand before God, family, and friends (or a justice of the peace, your choice) and make a commitment to marriage.

Every time you call the man you are not married to your "hubby" or "husband," you cheapen the word, you water it down, and you remove the responsibility and weight that comes along with it. Using it prematurely means that the "D" word will be all that much easier to use when you have finally gotten married and it doesn't met your Hollywood expectations, especially if you're using it during an on again/off again romance.

For someone like me, who has been through "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health", it makes me believe you don't truly have an understanding of what that word means and what comes with it when it has been earned.

Oh, and tell your fiancé, or boyfriend, that I think he's weak. He allows you to use the word husband and won't ask you stop. After all, he wouldn't want to make you mad, or upset you. He's allowing his genitals to lead the way in your relationship instead of waiting to earn the title that some of us actually respect and cherish. If he was really your husband, he'd respect himself and His God enough to wait for marriage to be called that.