Category Archives: Christianity

As You Were: Remain IN GOD

I get so restless lately. And for me, maybe not everyone, but certainly for me, restlessness is akin to faithlessness or hopelessness. So my devotion this morning kicked me right in the stomach. 

“So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” I Corinthians 7:24

Paul is speaking to the church at a dizzying clip here. Sandwiched in between some fundamental principles on marriage and deeply challenging thoughts on singleness, Paul throws in our calling. It’s honestly a little confusing, because the illustration Paul uses for calling is NOT marriage. He uses enslavement and being bound to serving someone else. It’s not a pretty illustration at all, especially when commitments to marriage or singleness are such a seemingly easy segue to our calling in Christ. But no… slavery. 

But I do think that there is a subtle truth to be grasped for here: Sometimes that calling to Christ is not a pretty calling to paradise. We can be called to things or people or seasons of life that do not encourage. Or we can be called to Christ, but not out of the weird darkness we were facing the day before. 

I have been there. Following my last brain surgery in 2014, the cloud over my head and heart felt more real than anything else at the time. I was still called to be a pastor. Still a husband to a great wife. And within a few months of surgery, our son was going to be a big brother, so the call to fatherhood was obvious. But the cloud was all I saw. It was all I felt. If you’ve never experienced that, I don’t think I can explain it any better. There were lives being lived all around me, but I woke up every day to meet a cloud that would stay all day and keep me up all night. Sometimes I would panic, thinking I was done ever being productive again. Sometimes I would be so deeply sad that I felt unlovable and worthless… things I knew weren’t true. But that cloud was everywhere.

If you’ve ever been there or your are there right now, here’s the best advice I have: Keep getting up. Louie Giglio has a great book called The Comeback. Read it. And, as he instructs, find a song to sing in the darkness because if we can sing in the darkness, we can worship God anywhere.

But Why Slavery?

I like to think that if I was born in the 1800’s, I’d have been the white guy fighting against slavery in America. I’d like to think that I would see the evil for what it was and fight it. I’d be holding my Bible close, and doing whatever was appropriate to advance individual freedom and national emancipation. That’s what I like to think.

Because slavery is heinous. So when Paul tells a bondservant to remain in that place and to “not be concerned about it.” [I Cor. 7:21] I lose my lunch a little. Why would they stay in that place?? Why would God want that for them? What’s the point of remaining in an awful place?

Oh. Sometimes, you can’t get out. 

2014 was a painful year in my life. We bought a good house, had a beautiful son, started a new business using a talent I didn’t know I had, and ended up back in a familiar and encouraging place by year’s end… but there was that cloud. And I would love to tell you that God lifted it all at once or there was some grand miraculous thing that happened or that there was a turning point to the darkness, but that’s not true. It required a long, hard walk in an obedience that I often despised. It took a lot of people praying for me, even when I wasn’t praying very much myself. It took a good church. It took family. My wife was a rock. And all I could do was fall back to the basic things that I loved when I became a Christian. I read books I hadn’t opened in years, and I read them slower than I’d ever read in my adult life. But I read. Bonhoeffer and Sproul and Piper. And I sang old songs. I remember coming to Christ not long after hearing Jesus, Lover of My Soul, and I sang it to myself quite a few times during that darkness. And I talked to people when I could find the strength. No plan, just confessing my hurt and hopelessness. 

So Today, I’m Restless

Some people are called to hard things for their entire lives, but I don’t believe those places are intended to define us. The depression of 2014 does not define me. The comeback doesn’t either, but there was a comeback. I’m simply defined as a Christ follower. In the darkness, in the comeback, in the sadness, in the joy, at the pulpit, or in private… Jesus. Jesus and loving people. 

In my last blog, I talked about throwing darts and trying to maintain the hope of my calling in Christ to preach and teach and love people. And I’m still throwing darts. And I’m admittedly restless. I love being a pastor and I miss it. 

But in this place, there’s a memory of 2014 and that darkness. Keep calling on Christ. Read. Pray. Speak the truth of my heart to trusted people. Sing my song to God. Love my family. Above all else, remain IN God.

Maybe a lesson to learn from Paul’s writing here is that if we are married and happy, remain in God, if we are married and unhappy, remain in God. If we are single, remain in God. If we’ve lost the person we were walking through life with in marriage, remain in God. And yes, even if we are enslaved, to men or to darkness, remain in God. Because anyone can remain in God when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, but can we lift our hands when the clouds begin to form?

Here’s a good reminder from Psalm 3:3-4…

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.”

Lift your head. Sing your song. Talk to someone you trust. Remain in God. 

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Filed under Christianity, depression, Discouraged, faith, Goals, Growth, Leadership, Ministry, Storm

Keep Throwing Darts

I recently saw a clip of Will Farrell’s commencement speech at USC. Google it. It’s great. And somewhere in it, he mentions his goals post-graduation, and how one of his most proud accomplishments is that he never stopped trying. He just kept throwing darts at the dartboard, hoping one would eventually stick. I respect that.

I’m in the middle of a job hunt right now. As our family has trekked across America, truly learned to appreciate a new set of cultural norms in Washington State, and bought more rain-ready clothing than I’d ever previously seen, let alone owned, we kinda want to stay around. But there’s a nagging passion that for me, for us, is inescapable. Ministry.

Last fall, when my buddy passed away unexpectedly, his dad called me and asked me to fly home. He called me their pastor. Some of you reading this consider me your pastor. Or maybe I’m the only pastor you know, or the only one you willfully talk to. Or I’m one of the many pastors you know. Or maybe you have no idea who I am and you accidentally stumbled onto my blog because you like darts… and you are so disappointed right now. My apologies. But to someone, to a few people for certain, I’m their pastor. And that absolutely lights my fire. I’m Parker and Elliott’s dad, and that gets me up and going every day. I’m Grace’s husband, and that stills my heart when I’m hurting and lifts my heart higher, even on great days. And to God, I got picked to teach and love people, and that gives me a purpose for all of this extroverted energy inside of me. But to those who think of me as someone trusted enough to call Pastor… well, that keeps me throwing darts. The idea that someone would listen to me, seek me out for advice, in triumphs, in sadness, or in doubt, or trust me to teach them about the role of Christians in the world and how following Christ gets us to those right places… that’s just humbling. Thrilling. Horrifying. Humbling. 

The prophet Jeremiah contemplated quitting. His path was hard, on a scale that I cannot fully comprehend. He was against a nation that liked the comfort of their brand of disobedience, and despised being told they were wrong. And sometimes, I can’t tell if I’m Jeremiah, fighting to keep the fire burning in my own ministry because I cannot stop if I wanted to [ref. Jeremiah 20:9], or if I’m the defiant Israel, shaking my fists at the idea that I might not be on the right path, because ministry is hard, finding work is obnoxious, and the idea of moving my family again weighs so heavy on my heart. 

Centered-Set & Preaching

Somewhere around 40-50 years ago, a man named Paul Hiebert theorized that missiology had truly become a study of two methods of expressing Christianity, based on two ideas of how Christians become Christians: Bounded-Set and Center-Set. Basically, you’re taking Set Theory from Applied Mathematics, and laying it over how we view missions, belief, and the requirements for belonging to Christianity. Dumbed way down, you are a Christian either because you meet certain criteria [Bounded Set] or you’re a Christian because you are moving toward Jesus [Centered Set]. Admittedly, I don’t think it’s so cut and dry. If anything, I’m probably a Centered-Set guy that recognizes that some boundaries (profession of faith, exclusive belief in Christ, etc.) must exist, but not nearly as many as we often try to lay on top of faith. 

So the goal has always been to get people moving Christward. In my relationships, teaching, training, counseling, the aim has always been to point in the direction of Jesus, and draw the necessary connection between Him and us. So when I got the chance to preach at First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma last Sunday, my goal was to point all of us toward Jesus. And I had a blast. I love all of the stuff that comes with preaching. The over-studying, gathering too much material, tying to fit a message into a time constraint that allows people to eat all three meals on a Sunday, and the nervous tension between doing what I love and fearing that I’m not that good at it… love it! And no one walked out mid-sermon, thank God, but the pastor hasn’t told me yet if anyone emailed about that awful preaching on Mother’s Day. If you want to hear it, bless your heart, and you can find it on the website (linked already) or the church’s app.

And now, sermon behind me, job applications and copious resume dissemination in front me, I’m throwing darts hoping that one sticks. 

So Thanks…

If you’re reading this, I appreciate you. Maybe you disagree. You might be opposed to faith, to me as a pastor, or still disappointed that this isn’t a blog on dart-throwing. But you’re here, allowing me to point, whether you agree or not. Thank you.

To that faithful group of folks that claim me as a pastor. As their pastor. I keep you closer to my heart than you will ever know. To the Ted’s crew, lifelong Durham friends, some family, everyone at Clements, and people from Cornerstone, Guess Road, Patterson Park, and Lakeview – you keep me hopeful that I’m not done, there is still a word to be said and people willing to hear it, and I might still be a man for the job.
So until the darts run out or one lands, I’ll just keep throwing. Grateful. 

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Filed under America, Christianity, Discouraged, faith, Goals, Growth, Leadership, Storm, Uncategorized

Why I Can’t Stop: Was I just racially profiled?!?

It’s been a challenging week or two. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lost friends over the last 2 weeks of my responses to American current events. Additionally, I’ve gotten some tough notes & comments from people that think I should get back to blogging about faith & posting pictures of my kids, the Tacoma sites, & woodworking projects. And I will. But I will not stop speaking on the needs of others…

I’m Working On It

I just don’t know what that means yet. I’ve attended meetings, talked with friends, & spent a good portion of my prayer life asking God what I should be doing. I’m reading books & articles on ethnic conciliation (not racial reconciliation… because I think DA Horton is brilliant), & I’m trying desperately to unpack the responsibility of the church & a Christian man in this season of hurt & newfound awareness of the ethnic divide. 

I do not have a ton of answers. As Tony Evans once challenged, our pursuit is not sameness, but One-ness. We are called to be one in the body of Christ. And I personally love the diversity of our multi-ethnic nation; the celebrations, traditions, customs, patriarchy/matriarchy, holidays & praise Jesus, the food!! I don’t want everyone to be the same. I don’t want churches to be the same. The homogenous nature of our worship stifles Christians & their response to the goodness of God significantly more than instrumental preference. What if our churches were Gospel-centered & community focused, rather than being Gospel-centered & preference focused? Community revival. I really believe that. 

Skin In The Game

At a meeting recently, a good friend said that white Americans just don’t realize that we have skin in the game in regards to our civil rights issues. The group conversation went on to discuss how community should be actively pursuing ways, big & small, to help bridge those divides. Small things like looking into the eyes of the homeless & smiling, not staring awkwardly at someone wearing ethnic or religious clothing, & just generally treating difference as difference, not leprosy. And then a nice woman began to speak to everyone. She was different from me in ethnicity, gender, orientation, & faith. I don’t know if she was left-handed, but if she was, then we were complete opposites on the big issues of our day. Yes, handedness is a major issue. Ok, maybe not.

In the meeting, I was the anomaly. Conservative, white, middle-class, heterosexual male. If their were  5 of us there in that group of 70+, I’d be shocked. And I loved it. I loved the discomfort. But the ugly truth is that I loved it for one reason… I could walk away from it. And that washed over me the entire meeting. I could leave, step outside, & be the majority again. I could go to church, my neighborhood, the store, the mall, the park & be the ‘norm’. What must it be like to feel the inescapable reality of a minority culture, without the luxury of being able to step out of it if the fire got too hot.

In a room full of diverse ethnicities & socioeconomic backgrounds, different gender identities & sexual orientations, I’m just the white guy wearing a safety pin. And I was loved. Several people thanked me for being different. The lady with nothing in common with me, she had a great smile & gave a really good hug. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was welcome. It was just a safety pin. But it was so much more….

Coffee With a Muslim Man

You aren’t going to believe this… I’m stunned. What you can’t see in reading this is that there was a 15 minute pause in my writing. As I was typing “But it was so much more” an older white guy was stepping up behind me. I’m sitting at a high top table in a coffee shop that is mostly empty. My latte to my right, John Piper’s Bloodlines to my left, & iPad in front of me. 

“Oh, well thank God. I thought you were Arab.”

I look back, prepared to intervene for the man or woman being spoken to if the situation deemed it necessary, only to realize that this guy is talking to me. Arab? What? 

It… was… my… beard. My beard. He thought I was Arab because of my facial hair. Now first, what an awesome beard compliment!!! Part of me wanted to thank him for the compliment. But it was not a compliment. He went on to explain that under that black book (Piper’s), he saw a Bible as he was walking up. 

Wait. As he was walking up… Why was he walking up in the first place? Why was he behind me walking up? What would our interaction have been if it was my copy of the Quran or an innocuous journal? My mind was racing, so he stepped in to ease my mind.

“I see you’re a Christian & not one of those Arabs. I was nervous. [Insert horrific terror story-related insult]”

Now folks, I love Jesus, but my blood pressure was rising quickly. I pictured Hussein & his wife & kids. They practice Islam. Or Jermaine & his wife & kids. They’re black. We’ve been friends for nearly a decade, so I know how he’d have responded, & it wouldn’t have gone well. Or Ed, with his husband Tim. Or Iyesha, whose family is Hispanic, but she’s Midwest America, sharp & smart, & sarcastic with southern charm. 

So I made it known that all Arabs are not practitioners of Islam anymore than all Americans are Christian. Then I reminded him that Jesus was Arab. He tried to argue back… I cut him off. I got out of my chair, & let me be honest…

Nothing happened. He got embarrassed. He apologized. His buddy or son came over & apologized. And I’d love to say that in this moment I represented the grace & dignity of a believer. But I didn’t. 

What would you have done if I was Muslim or Arab?

I asked it a little louder than I should have. But they stopped & looked at me. 

I don’t know sir.

And I don’t either. I truly believe he had no plan. He was emboldened & clueless, not prepared for a white Christian that was ready to fight for Muslims… & bearded folks everywhere. So it ended there. No great lesson. No moral-ladened closure. No rush of people ready to apologize to me. No one asking me to leave. And no cops called. I’m still typing at my table. That gentleman left after he got what he came here for. And business is back to buzzing. 

And now I know. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I wasn’t apathetic. I wasn’t scared. I was mindful… I get to go outside in a minute & hop into a minivan, & be a white guy. I’m not different. I just have a beard that I’m shamefully proud of for a lot of macho, ridiculous reasons. 

So whatever it is that I’m going to do going forward, I will be a Christian, white, heterosexual man, fighting for the marginalized, the cast aside, the ignored & oppressed, because I don’t know how this last 1/2 an hour would have played out if I had been anything other than me. So I won’t stand by. I won’t stop. 

I believe in better days for all of us. And I believe I have a part to play.

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Filed under America, Christianity, faith, Growth, Leadership, Ministry

Dear Trump Supporters & Voters

The immediate shock of the election is wearing off. People are still protesting, arguing, name-calling, & complaining about the people protesting, arguing, name-calling, & complaining. And we all blame the media for not saying what we want them to say the way we want them to say it. And then we get online so we can be mad at other people for saying what they want to say however they want to say it. 

Really, we are all a little absurd right now. And sensitive. And good God in Heaven, we all think we are right. But I know that for some of you…

You’re Mad At Me

I think I’ve lost a few friends over this election & my responses to it. Now, when I say friends, I use the term broadly. I’ve lost the respect of a few people I knew a long time ago, connected back up with on social media, & recently had them call me names or argue with me, & then disconnect. I think it means we’ve broken up. But I don’t know the rules for internet friendships. Others have silently deleted me or used the brilliant ‘unfollow’ option wherever available. I’ve also found myself at a distance from people I know back home in NC or people that know me as a pastor, etc. Those are challenging losses for my heart to handle. And I’ve also lost some folks that I call true friends, which is painful. And so far, the number one reason I can gather for the disconnect is this…

You think I’m calling you a racist because you voted for or support Donald Trump.

To be clear, I’ve never said that to anyone. Almost half the people who actually voted, voted for Trump. So I can’t make that accusation & consider myself an intellectual or a thoughtful person.  I also know people that voted for clear reasons that don’t have a direct racial implication. We disagree, but I know their reasoning. So my bottom-line statement is this: if I know you, I love you. I’d never call you a disrespectful name & never accuse you of hate. And racism always comes from hate… & insecurity. If you are a racist, you probably know it, but I don’t. 

But it begs the question, what’s a racist? Literally, a racist is someone that believes a certain race is superior to another, & inversely, they believe that a certain race is inferior. And it’s more subtle than stating the belief itself. In fact, I believe you can say racist things without recognizing yourself as a member of a superior race. Think of this: If you think white men are better drivers than anyone else… well, that’s racist & sexist. It’s broadly assuming that one race & gender is superior in an area that you have no data to prove. The assumption is based on stereotypes & prejudice, & the bias is almost always in the favor of the person expressing the assumption. 

My example is a small one. And there are thousands of other examples that are equally valid. Some are seemingly harmful, while others are outright demeaning, dehumanizing, & godless assumptions about other humans because they look or sound or come from a place different than you do.

I can also be honest & admit that some of the things that we call racist can also be seen as overreaching. I see that. I know it can get silly. But does Brad think you’re a racist? Brad does not give a crap. You be whoever you are, & if a real look at humanity & faith permit you to be that person, carry on.  

Voting for… Not Supporting

Tonight I got to hang out with some people that I like. As is the case with everyone in Washington, they are new to us, but our kids like each other, and as a couple it’s kinda rare that the husbands are buddies, the wives are buddies, & together there’s an ability to talk funny, talk family, & yes… talk politics or other serious topics. And we don’t agree on present political issues. They cast a vote… but it was cast in hope.

And if you’re reading this, voting as I voted, but believing that a lot of good people voted for the new President-elect, then there’s only two reasons they (the good ones) could have done it: belief or hope. 

  • They believe in the guy. They believe his record, his speeches, his plans & his promises. And candidly, I don’t know a ton of these people. 
  • Or they have placed their hope in this guy. They are worried about our nation. Our security, our economy, & maybe even our marginalized, & they think that his plans helps better, & if he does what he says he will do, America will be better for it. 

They voted. They may or may not be supporters. But they’re voters. And if I’m honest, & I’m usually honest to a fault on here, I’m a Bernie guy that placed my hope in Hillary Clinton. I’m not a Clinton guy. I just liked her plan better, trusted her D.C. connections better for her Cabinet, & really didn’t like the other guy. 

And right now it is super important that we see each other, because I’m not in this to be right or a Democrat or smart or any of that useless garbage. I’m in this for hurting people. 

Someone Needs Help

For me, that’s the bottom-line. People need people, need encouragement, need a hand, need support, & need… love. 

And yes, for some of us, we struggle with the marginalized people groups that need help right now. And that must be so awkward. And I don’t have a lot of really good advice for that. Maybe just get over it. Maybe pray about it. Or fight to see past their skin or orientation, gender questions or income, disability, poverty, addiction or whatever they have that makes you see them & want to look away. But see them.

See them like Jesus sees them. Made in the image of God, imperfect & sinful, but created for a purpose. The have a divinely inspired purpose. They matter. They matter to another human, & they matter to God. And if you’ve ever held open a Bible for personal growth, direction, hope, or guidance through hardship, you should know more than anyone that people need the Lord… but before the Lord reveals himself to anyone, His Word says that he sent divinely appointed humans to love others, encourage them, sacrifice for them, share their lives together, & to go to the hard places & find them. He sent you, Christian. And as a pastor, here’s some advice: step out of the homogenous mess that you call church, where everyone looks the same, talks the same, & hopes the same because right now, somehow is hoping for a meal. Someone is praying for a sign that they aren’t damaged goods. Someone needs hope. And you’re supposed to be the light of the world. Go shine. 

Or see them like you’re an actual patriotic American. Yes, I’m calling out the flag-waving folks too, whether you practice a faith or not. If you stand for the pledge of allegiance & boast that men & women have died for our unique freedoms, then stand for the people that aren’t experiencing those freedoms to their fullest. Some of those people have made mistakes, I know that. But so have we. We just didn’t get caught & go to jail. We didn’t get pregnant or get her pregnant, so we don’t live that life. We aren’t addicted to whatever it is that has crippled their joy, but we could have been. And beyond those who’ve made mistakes, their are people that really do believe they were born to love someone that shares their gender, & it’s not un-American to love someone. And please, fight for the people of this country that make us the coolest, most diverse, most beautiful nation in this Earth’s history. You are an American, beholden to a constitution that says all men & women are created equal. And the ideals of our nation proclaim that for all whatever their language or faith, the pledge is to fight for the them. On the Statue of Liberty, where all who hope to become Americans one day can pass by, an inscription boldly calls the world to give us the tired, hungry & poor; those huddled masses yearning to be free. And we are called to embrace them. So embrace them.

The Road is Long

Yes, I know there will be disagreements. I know we will fight. You will try, & jerks like me will call you to try harder or do more. You might offer help & get met with rejection. You might offend someone or be offended in the process. 

But you might also find an ally where an enemy was just standing. You might find some hope that you didn’t know you needed. And four years from now, when we are yelling once again, I hope we are fighting together, with different ideas of how we reach the same goals. That’s actually what our politics is intended to do.

And I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you by the things I’ve posted. But I’m going to keep posting. You matter to me, I promise. But Christ compels me to the hurting, & I’m jumping in. And maybe one day people will no longer care about what I have to say, but today that’s not the case. People are listening & reading. I hear about it every day. And while I’m a little overwhelmed, I’m not going to back down from using the privilege of being an educated white, middle-class, straight man for the good of humanity. God made me this way. Now I just want everyone else to feel the same privilege, without having to become someone they aren’t. 

So even if you’re mad at me. Go ahead & cut me off. But love someone that isn’t like you. And know that some of you already do! And keep at it!! It matters. Here’s a quick story, & then I’ll leave you alone…

I have a heart for homosexuals. That’s a weird sentence, I know. And it isn’t because I have family that are gay, but I do. And it isn’t because I have friends that have come out to me or shared life with me after they came out, though I do have those people in my life. And it isn’t because of any gay person at all. 

I took dance as a kid. And my dance instructor was a loud, hilarious, radiant, married straight lady with a daughter I was in school with. She had so much faith in me & my friends. And given the nature of her profession, she was surrounded by a vast diversity of people. The first ‘out’ gay man I have ever met danced beside me for 3 years before I ever had a clue. And he called me clueless for not knowing. But he was just one of us. Ok, he was significantly better at all things dancing than all of the other guys, but he was just a guy. So when I found out he was guy… I didn’t care. Yes, I know what the Bible says. But he was a guy. My friend. Someone so ridiculously gifted at a thing I struggled to keep from embarrassing myself in. And I liked him. I like good people. Always have. But that dance instructor is a conservative Christian! I haven’t seen her voter registry ID, but I’m certain she’s a Republican. So what in the world is a conservative Christian Republican doing with a dance school??? Loving people. That’s what she does. Oh, she’s demanding, but she’s demanding to everyone. And she compassionate… to everyone. And that’s how we do it. We love people. We have our beliefs & our opinions, & we love people. And Nina, if you get around to reading this, thank you. You taught me that a person was a person no matter what. And while we may disagree on politics today, we love people. And I will take that every day, all day, any day.

I’m not upset that I live in a country that nominated & will appoint a candidate I didn’t choose. I’m upset that there’s more to be done & not enough people doing the good work that’s waiting to be accomplished. 

So I’m in this fight. And I will call out discrimination & prejudice when I see it. And if you’re up for it & feel compelled, I’ll still argue with you. And whenever I can, wherever I can, I will help the hurting & maringalized that are right here in America. And I believe in my heart that some of you already do, & that more will come. Because I don’t think you’re a racist or horrible. I think you’re human. And the election is over, but people still need one another. 

So to a better future on a wider, fairer road for my country…

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Filed under America, Christianity, faith, Goals, Growth, Leadership, Uncategorized, Vote

I Lost. Where Did I Put My Big Boy Pants??

I did not vote for Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him for dozens of reasons. And in the primary, I did not vote for Hillary Clinton. So I guess I’m “one of those”. For all of you reading that did vote for Trump, congratulations. It’s a tough pill to swallow today, & I don’t have much else to say there… but, he is my nations leader in a couple months. I’ll pray for him like I have for Pres. Obama. I promise. 

So now what?

First, I am a white (mostly Scottish, English, & Cherokee, I think), Christian, college educated, & a middle-class fella. So if I speak for any group, that’s the one. And I’m a Democrat that almost never votes straight ticket. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever voted for a presidential candidate that lost. I’m 36. 

I say that to say this… I will not be telling African Americans how to feel. I will not be advising women. I can’t tell the lower or upper classes how to handle this. If you didn’t vote for President-Elect Trump, & you meet most of my demographics, I am talking to you. And if you aren’t in those circles, I hope this is helpful in some small way.

Election Night

When Florida & Virginia numbers first started coming out, I was worried. I saw the county map & knew he’d successfully mobilized rural America, & was closer than Romney was to Obama in the largely blue counties. I told Grace I was worried. It never got better. Media stopped spinning & started asking real questions, so that was nice. But by & large, it was awful to watch. 

Parker headed for bed around 8:30pm here on the West Coast. He was disappointed. He likes Hillary because ‘she smiles better’ & ‘likes brown people’ & ‘she doesn’t say mean things’. So I’m probably going to ban him from watching coverage of polling. I don’t want him to create negative opinions of the people who voted against his opinions. We have enough of that amongst the grown-ups. 

Uneducated White Women 

I watched CNN until it was basically over. Then I was just watching to see how Fox & MSNBC were handling the reality. But CNN didn’t really use the phrase ‘uneducated white women‘. I started seeing it on social media & found out a major cable network or two was wearing the phrase out. CNN was polling large turnout for ‘non-college white women‘. 

First, current polling suggests that this apparent large turnout is not true. Gotta love polling 🙄

Second, words matter. Someone on national television called my mom uneducated. My mom is a conservative Christian with an important job overseeing proposals for millions in grant money for Duke University health systems. She’s not only smart, but also self-educated & has taken numerous business classes because business is her career. She is not uneducated. And the phrase wreaks of elitism & prejudice against people, & in this case women, that don’t have college degrees. It was inappropriate & a missed opportunity to properly characterize a sizeable populous in our nation. I love you Mom.

Mom Is Wrong

Ok, Mom isn’t wrong. I just wanted a catchy subtitle. But she & I don’t vote very similarly, so we don’t discuss a lot about politics. However, I know she can be counted in the millions of us that have looked at the two main party candidates with befuddled expressions, & wondered aloud, “Really? These are the options?!?”

But she’s my mom. I love my mom. I’m grateful for the faith she helped me cultivate, the family that she & Dad made for my sister & me, the way she loves my wife, & the relentless depths to which she spoils my sons. She loves Jesus simply. She knows theology & doctrine, but she just loves Jesus. And I think that has shaped my love of Jesus & humanity more than anything I’ve ever read or been taught. So when it comes to my mom, disagreeing with her is not more important than loving her. She’s my mom, & my sister in Christ, & she human. I love me some humans. 

Loving Through Disagreement

I can’t tell if today has been awful or inspiring. I’ve argued all morning on social media. I’ve had text message duels with some of my favorite people. I’ve had my faith called into question because I’m not more anti-abortion than human equality. I’ve been called a few names, & none of them by strangers. I’ve probably lost friends today. And I think this has happened because we’ve ALL traded in our decency for some policies & fears. 

So to some of my former students, I’m sorry we’ve argued. If in my debating, I failed to remind you or uphold the measure to which I love you, I am so sorry. To my family members that don’t like my views or posts or blogs, etc., I’m not trying to attack you. But I am probably trying to offend you. And I’m sorry that the road to understanding has to cross through offense. Again, we are ALL becoming way more political than we are compassionate. And I forget that sometimes. And if you are one of those few people who look to me as a leader in faith or thought or social responsibility, & I didn’t say enough or I said too much or you assumed that being a Christian & a pastor meant I was a Republican, I am so sorry that I disappointed you, but…

Disagreeing Through Love

We don’t agree. 

I think that you can’t call yourself Pro-Life if there is any scenario, no matter how bizarre or vile, where you would permit a woman or female child to have an abortion. If you have one scenario that you can concoct that allows for a fetus or embryo to be terminated, you’re Pro-Choice. And that needs to be thought through & dealt with honestly, first in your own heart, & then with people you trust. And then maybe see who is actually getting abortions & why. 

I think African Americans & Latino Americans are the most marginalized & quietly despised ethnicities in American history. I think we have a system that batters them & then tells them to unify with us. And I can’t be quiet about human injustice. The are more people involved in ethnic hate groups right now in America than at any other time in our history. Absorb that. Change that. Fight that. 

I think our prisons are full of black men who shouldn’t be there. 

I think Big Business has butchered the Constitution & bastardized our free market. Nothing is free now. And the cost is steep, well beyond the dollars & cents. 

I think we’ve taxed college students by giving them a minimum wage that falls well beneath inflation, & tuition rates that cripple economic freedom for most that are engaged in the system. 

I think we’ve created a poverty class that has little to no hope of overcoming the economics of their situation because the media calls them uneducated or worse, pundits over promise & under deliver, many of our policies perpetuate classism, & Americans that aren’t poor are largely ignoring Americans that are poor!! 

…..

And if you’re reading this, feeling flush & getting red in the face, then we disagree. Some of those bullets points are economic, & you might be able to teach me something that grows my knowledge, & therefore my opinions on it. Cool. Teach away. 

But on some of these disagreements, I am steadfast in my conviction that change must be the order. We are as racially divided as ever. I don’t blame anyone. Blame is for people who don’t want to be bothered with correcting the problem. But our system is tilted in favor of… me. And I love humanity too much to have a Brad-first society. I like diversity too much to favor one small fraction of the ‘haves’ over the growing number of outsiders that exist around me.

So I love you, but we disagree. And I’m not going to be getting over it. But I swear, I love you. 

One Last Thing, Dear Black People…

This part is for all of you still reading that aren’t a group that looks like me, but it’s especially for African Americans. 

I’m heartbroken for America today. I’m afraid for you, especially if stop & frisk is brought back into the forefront of policing. And if the brokenness in our justice system isn’t confronted. And for whatever you felt compelled to tell your children this morning. 

I do trust God today. But I’m reminded this morning, of how Christ responded to the death of his friend Lazarus. Jesus, knowing God’s will fully & completely, knew that his friend wasn’t truly gone. He knew a miracle was coming. But in the moment, at that awful place where someone else’s pain is tangible, Jesus cried. So trusting God, I weep with you today. 

I do not understand. I’m a white guy. I can’t possibly understand. But I will fight for you. And I will believe that your mourning will be turned to joy. And I will fight for that joy. And while I’m fighting for your rights in our free nation, if I can encourage Latinos, Muslims, homosexuals, the poor, refugees, & the imprisoned as well, well I’m going to do that too.

I love you guys. All of you reading this. Let’s think together, love together, & walk together. 

I John 4:7-12, 15-18 read it & dream

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Good Grief: Making a Choice

I wrote a blog last week. Over 3,300 people have viewed it. And I wrote it because I was sad, hopeful, & inspired I suppose. Tripp had died the prior week, I had been called in by his sweet wife & awesome parents to officiate a funeral that I was not remotely prepared for, & I had spent every day back home in N Carolina with someone who was suddenly fatherless, husbandless, or sonless. And that blog exploded. 

For perspective, I hadn’t written anything in over a year. And when I was writing, it would be impressive for one entry to get 200 views. And that was more than enough for me. It was an exercise in fun & public journaling, & not much more. But then Tripp died, & my name was in his obituary, & it seems like a lot more people were watching. A lot of them still are. And to all of you, thank you. Tripp’s influence will forever loom large in my life. 

So I wrote a blog on a Tuesday morning flight. And then late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, Tripp’s mom died. She had been battling a rare & terminal illness that had certainly taken its toll, but she was still sweet & caring, up to the very last second. And grief came rushing back. I could not stop thinking about Tripp’s dad & sisters. And then his wife. It’s a process…

Grieving Healthy

As I write, I’m outside of an Sicilian bakery in Tacoma, Washington. I’m literally on the coastline of the Puget Sound. It’s a breathtaking picture. And the bakery is crazy good. So many awesome things that I can’t pronounce, but none of them healthy. So I make a choice; eat healthy or not. 

The cannoli was incredible… Don’t judge me. At least I walked here.

And similarly, I have found myself parked right at the door of grieving. And my options for consumption are unending. I can grieve however I want. I can numb the grief by ignoring it & pretending I’m fine, or I can find some thing or person that gives me a false & temporary feeling that just masks grief. Or I can eat healthy… but if you’re like me, there’s a dark secret about healthy living. It kinda sucks. 

Choosing

Allow me to sermonize for a moment. In the book of Joshua, God brought his people through some incredible difficulties & challenges. Often, those challenges were met by the raw emotions of people who knew God, had seen His work, & been blessed by his provision. But in the midst of their crises, some felt hopeless. Usually, it was a lot of people. And they were desperate for answers or revelation or solutions. And in a moment of profound wisdom, Joshua asks them to choose this day whom you will serve (ref. Joshua 24:15). Because, like the bakery beside me, in grief we have a choice.

I spoke with Tripp’s dad today. We talk/text daily. And today is his wife’s birthday. Yes, four days after she passed away, their family was faced with funeral visitation on her birthday. Horrible.

But they made a choice. Someone had the idea to give mom some balloons. So they gathered a bunch of the family together & sent some balloons heavenward. And while it is a small gesture, it’s a healing one. It forces them to smile through sadness. It doesn’t ‘grief-proof’ their day, but it makes the daily process better. And when the story was relayed to me, it was a happy story. And there is nothing better then happiness when you’re sad. I’m so glad that they chose good grief. Because tomorrow will have its troubles, & they will need more reasons to look heavenward. More chances to place some happiness in their sadness will be needed. So if you’re in Durham & you know any of them, send a text & tell them you love ’em. That stuff is gold!

As Joshua was finishing his challenge to Israel, he turned it personal. And that’s how I should end this blog too. It would be arrogant & foolish to pretend that I didn’t think of Tripp the moment I woke up today. And I was immediately sad. And I’ve had a rough dream or two. And when my oldest son, Parker asks me about Tripp or if I’m sad, I admit my grief & occasionally get a little lost in it. But I have a choice in my grief & sadness. And there are two things that Tripp’s family has shown me this week: choose happiness & look heavenward. So I’m going to try & do that more often. 

I hope you find a balloon today, & send your heart to Jesus. 

Brad
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭24:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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Shocked by Grief & Shock

I love peanut butter. Really, all kinds of peanut butter. But I also know that I don’t really love it. I like it a lot. But I don’t have a deep, intimate connection with the stuff. I know that I don’t really love it because I know what it truly means to love something & be loved. I am loved by God, & in response to that incredible & faultless love, I love my wife, our kids, & a large handful of some wonderful family & friends. And if I’m honest, I really do love our dog, Abbey & possibly the Chicago Cubs too. But I know love. I don’t love peanut butter.

And if you had asked me earlier this month, I’d have said that I knew what grief & shock were all about. I’d have told you a list of things that ‘grieved’ me or had shocked me in my life. But then last Monday, in the earliest part of the day, one of my best friends, favorite people in general, inexplicably breathed his last breath…..

And right there, in that moment. When a few hours had past, his family was just in the wee hours of that horrific tragedy, I got one call that placed an emptiness in my heart or stomach, or maybe my soul, & I haven’t truly shaken it. It’s like wishing for your ears to pop as your flight begins its descent home, but that pop never comes. I can’t do anything with the empty feeling of grief & the shock of this loss. I thought it would pop when I saw his wife or high-fived his children. When his mom & dad gave me that first hug, I was certain that the grief would break & I would start processing the shock of it all. But I was wrong.

Tripp was not just my buddy. And a few of his friends aren’t simply mutual acquaintances. And his family aren’t just folks that raised him. His wife isn’t just the nice girl he married. These are my people too. I love his wife. His family has always loved me. I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t love someone in his family. And very quickly, once I had confirmed the awfulness of last week, I pictured some of the funniest, most sincere friends I have ever known. And it really just compounded the grief & fortified the shock.

And like a dutiful minister, I went to the Bible & to prayer. I have desperately wanted to find a plan for closing the grief-hole in all of our hearts. But instead, I found out that God is daily grieved. That Christ was deeply familiar with grief. And that the Bible doesn’t tell me when this hurt will subside. And that is challenging for a man of faith to process. But that’s just what I’m doing. I’m processing it. Every day I have thought of my friend. And it doesn’t stop the hurt. Sometimes the thoughts inflame my emotions into tears. But I give into the daydream because, honestly, I trust God that like my body digests food naturally, I will just process my mourning naturally as well.

Whenever you eat something your body takes the process of digestion as a challenge. Separating the good bits from the bad, utilizing the good for the sake of energy, health, cleansing & clarity. The bad bits, & depending on what you eat it might mostly be bad bits, pass through & either hurt your overall health or become the waste that they are, & you know how that ends. So here’s the question I’m pouring over as I fly home (deeply grateful for JetBlue’s free wifi!!):

What Am I Grieving? Where is the Shock resting?

And I think I’m discovering there’s a healthy grieving & a harmful grieving, & I have to make the choice each morning, that I’m going to grieve healthy. So I am chewing on how great my friend was. I’m taking in the memories that are so precious to me. I’m committing to remember & hold on to the people that matter most to him. I’m remembering that while he can’t be the dad, husband, brother & son today that he’s always been, I still can be. 

So I think about my wife & kids a lot. And I cry. But it feels healthy. I’m not forgetting God. I’m not denouncing Christ or forfeiting my faith. I’m certainly not burning bridges or forcing myself to pretend I feel a way that I don’t feel. Tripp is in Heaven & that is more than enough cause for celebration & gratitude. Now, to be clear, I still confess to God all of my confusion & hurt. But God tells us to cast our burdens on Him, so I’m just being obedient. I’m not angry. I’m sad. I’m not hopeless or faithless, I’m just staggered & stunned by pain. And if anyone gets that, I trust that God does. And I don’t want to isolate or ignore my grief. I want all of those people in my life with me. I’d like to add some new folks too. If misery loves company, then healing wants the company to just move in & stay a while. And the worst way that I could honor Tripp is by distancing myself from faith & family right now… or ever! 

So I’m going to keep on grieving. Just ask the woman in 9A. She’s on the plane right in front of me, with her 2yr old daughter & apologized just before take-off. I guess that’s what all traveling parents with children think about doing. And she just casually said, her Daddy is away for a while so ‘it’s just us’.

I immediately teared up. She looked mortified. I was embarrassed. Her husband is deployed in the Air Force & will be back next month. Good.

But a couple hours into the flight, when her daughter (who flies better than most adults) had fallen asleep, she turned around & asked if I was ok. So I just spilled it. I talked about how awesome Tripp was & how great his wife is & will continue to be. I told her about his family & friends, & how much I miss him. How badly I want to get off this plane & hug Grace & our boys, nonstop for about a month. And I told her where he was right now, with Christ. I spoke with hope. Yes, I choked up a couple times in those short minutes. And grief is still grief. 

There’s still that awful pit in my stomach, reminding me that I’m not over it today. But it’s a process. It’s probably a slow process. But I’m getting all of the good bits out so I can use them forever. And it takes a while to digest two decades of great friendship. Missing him is just a part of loving him. And the next time someone mentions grief or shock, I’ll have a much better understanding of what they are going through. And this has helped me today. I hope it helps someone else. Share this with anyone you want to. For now…

I don’t love peanut butter. I do love you, Tripp. I’ll see you later.

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