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Fueling Positivity

A couple of days ago, I was asked what fuels my positivity. The thing is, I don’t consider myself a consistently positive person. I’m a man of faith. And as much as a man of faith can be, I’m a realist. And I get irked by any number of things on a daily basis. So if you’re reading this as some sort of expert testimonial… stop. I am not that guy. I do know a few wildly positive people and thinkers, and between their daily lives and me at my best, I think I can answer that question fairly well. But for clarity, in my spirit and true for my life, positivity is fought for. It is not natural. Ok, onto the meat…

What Fuels Positivity?

What are you feeding on? The idea of fuel is that it nourishes a thing. Good fuel is a combustible element to an already existing flame. So before I discuss what fuel is, and how it can be used to fuel daily positivity, lets talk about what fuel is not.

Fuel is Not Flame

That is, in all honesty, the whole point. Fuel catalyzes the flame. Fuel can power the fire, but it is not the fire. And it is also not the spark. I could go on a long tangent about what sparks the flame, and the flame itself. But this would go on forever. So here’s a quick delineation of those terms.

Whatever gets you going or motivated, that is your spark. It can be a little thing, used daily to launch you into whatever you do. It can also be a mountaintop moment that set the course for your big life choices (marriage, profession, passions, philanthropy, etc.). And in my life, those big sparks have come from outside of myself. I didn’t initiate the big events, and in many cases, didn’t realize their true value until long after they occurred. However, the smaller sparks, those daily moments that get me going – I own the majority of those. I wake up trying to create that spark. And the effective sparks in my life are a wide variety of consistent thoughts, fun events, momentary hopes, and excitements over a number of things.

But the fire is a whole other thing. Simon Sinek might call this your “Why? I think of it as the things that personally inspire and motivate us. What are those big plumblines that penetrate into our guts? And again, there are a lot of right answers. Off the top of my head, here are a bunch: family, sense of duty, happiness, patriotism, and truth. But here’s a word of caution about the flames inside of us — sometimes our flames are kind of ugly: fear, hatred, self-preservation, and elitism come to mind.

Defining Your Flame

Not a Webster’s definition. You can google that.

What keeps you moving? What propels you in the direction of your most basic desires? Do you know? Have you even evaluated those basic desires? Let’s define your flame with a quick thought experiment:

When someone around you experiences something, what is your response? Because that immediate reaction to someone else’s experiences is a solid indicator of both your influences and your fire. If you complain or promote a negative, you’re likely miserable, and your fire might be ugly. If you immediately move to top their story/experience, you’re probably really self-centered and nothing lights your fire like… yourself. If you engage and express a proper response (laughter at a joke, empathy to a hardship, encouragement to a challenge, advice to a request for help, etc.), then you’re likely others-minded and you probably have a solid social circle. This isn’t a blog about friends and how to make them, but here’s a quick tip… genuinely care about other people. They love that stuff!

If you are able to take an honest look at how you respond to others, you likely got a solid indication of the composition of your internal fire. If you don’t like it, change it. If you dig it, engage it! Feed it. And take advantage of the knowledge you now possess about yourself. Fuel the best parts of your fire.

If Positivity Be the Flame…

Three key elements to fueling positivity:

  1. Fight Negativity – nothing hurts a positive like a negative. Right? Ground-breaking. And we can’t control all the negatives around us, but we can control some. Negative people… don’t need em. Negative environments… avoid them. Negative thoughts… fight them. And again, I am no expert here, but I don’t follow people online or in life that are consumed by negatives and expressing ‘anti-‘ views all the time. I’ve also all but stopped watching the news. It gets to me, and while blaming the news for being negative is very fashionable, it’s pointless. So I just don’t allow myself to feed on that stuff. And then thoughts… the best advice I’ve ever given on thought-life is this: The removal of a negative is not a positive. Just because you ‘unfriended’ a bunch of people and turned off some combination of CNN/FOX/MSNBC, doesn’t mean life becomes all roses. You need…
  2. Wide-Open, Insatiable Gratitude – buckets filled to the brim of things that make you smile, feel fulfilled, extend purpose, make you feel good vibes, get a good cry going, or remind you of all the things you love. I am intensely grateful for my wife and my parents. So I call on them for no reason. I send them messages. I say thank you for no clear reason. I tell them I love them when I can’t think of anything else to say. I tell them that I love them when I know exactly what I want to say. And I think about them when I’m doing something I love, something I don’t love, something at work or just hanging out with my sons. And what’s so great about gratitude is that you can spread it around without ever losing an ounce of it. Gratitude multiplies. For instance, my sister and I have always been close, but we have not always been great for each other. But right now, as she rocks out being a mom and a wife and a person dedicated to helping people professionally and personally, she’s become significantly more positive to and for me. She may have been on this path for years, but I just figured it out over a year ago. And once I did, she started getting more phone calls. I started asking her advice more. We updated each other more on life, and we said ‘I love you’ more. And we don’t do those things because we love each other more… I just have more gratitude for her today. And I want my life immersed in reasons to be grateful. You should too.
  3. Seek Goodness – I don’t mean that we should all be on some philosophical journey to inner-peace. I’m too busy for peace. And oftentimes, the burn of my inner fire doesn’t let me rest. I don’t want peace all the time. I want passion. And my passions are birthed from my fire. So if you’re in business, and growth lights your fire, fight for that with every inch of your being. If you’re a teacher, and seeing a child awaken to some kind of knowledge is your jam, pour your life into those chances to sit front-row for that awakening moment. And it goes on and on…. Know you! Know what lights your fire, and feed it with the same. Tirelessly hustle to accomplish the good you know, to find more good around every turn, and to breathe that goodness into others.

That’s it. Fight the Negative. Set Your Mind to Gratitude. Hustle to the Positive.

Share

Quick add-on here at the end. Share the fire. People share a negative without a thought. It’s a weird compulsion to point out awful. I’m sure we all have the compulsion. But there has to be more to positive than trying to filter out the negative. Again, the removal of a negative is not a positive. So take every ounce of positive you have and share it. Teach. Tell. Try.

And feed on the positivity of others. People are awesome… well, a lot of them are. I don’t really see the others too much anymore.

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“The ‘N’ Word” – Unwanted Parenting Moments

Parenting is a trip. It’s normally, at least in my experience, a fascinating experiment set that tests the depths of my affection and impatience, somehow simultaneously. And I have been tested this week, as a parent for sure, but also as a people-loving man.

The ‘N’ Word

My oldest is nine. He’s tender-hearted, compassionate, and deeply engaged in family and friendship. I love him, but not just because he’s mine… he’s just awesome. And recently, a friend at school told him about a movie he watched and a weird word he’d heard.

My son heard the ‘N’ word that day.

First, and important that I state it up front, the little boy that my son learned it from didn’t have a definition for the word, and seemingly didn’t understand the context it was used in. So basically, an innocent kid told another innocent kid an awful, awful thing. And their teacher and school principle did an exceptional job walking both boys through the awfulness of some words.

Second, it breaks my heart that a word that has historically dehumanized humans, extended prejudice, supported racism, and proved to be a conduit for hatred and evil now rings around in my child’s head. Yes, it was going to happen ‘one day’. And yes, it’s normal for him to hear bad words. But profanity is one thing [full disclosure – I love Jesus, but I cuss a little], as those words can have a lot of contexts: offense, insult, humor, emotion, emphasis, etc. But the ‘N’ word only has one context outside of black American culture. And the other contexts within black American culture don’t really make sense to me, which is fine. See, I’m not black, so an explanation isn’t needed. As a white guy, that word has a single context, and all of its meanings are atrocious.

So, what do I do with that?

Intentional, Clueless Parenting

I beat him. The end.

Just kidding… we talked. And any worry he had about the discipline associated with doing bad things evaporated when his dad cried. Yeah, I cried. I really hate that word. And I really love that boy. I will never be ok that anyone knows that word, but especially my sweet children.

So then came the daunting task of explaining centuries of hate and racism, marked by initial enslavement, war, defining people with dark skin as 3/5 of a person, hate groups, sanctioned violence, into today and how it has persisted with horrible words (among many other things) like the one he had just learned.

I still don’t know what to tell him. We talked, but I don’t feel like I crushed the discussion. But if you’re reading this and you think your brown-skinned child is a friend of his, trust that I tried my hardest to raise the brilliance and beauty of your son or daughter to the light, while casting racism and prejudice into the darkness it belongs to.

Excluding v. Including

The problem with defining something like an insult, is that you attach the group(s) associated with the insult to the insult… and that’s just stupid. In order to tell my kid why that word hurts my hurt and deeply offends people that we love, I have to explain the association.

If there’s a better way to explain it, I don’t know it. But man, I wish I did.

We have such a bad habit, humanity, of excluding people. We are against so many things, and our language so often reflects who we exclude. And oftentimes, we are so proud of our uniquenesses that we create strange factions of belonging. All the while, we are creating large groups of the excluded.

I bring that up because I am now faced with the reality that my son just created two awful groups: people who use the ‘N’ word, and people that could be labeled by the ‘N’ word. And I don’t want him to have either group in his head. I want my son… my family… all of us, really, to speak life into a group that hates and to speak life into a group that’s hated. But not because we can tell the difference.

What if we just spoke the language of belonging to everyone? What if the measure of our speech was quantified by the number of people that felt like they belonged to our groups, and we belonged to theirs too? Even if it’s not true!! What if Christians/Muslims spoke so lovingly to all people, that everyone just loved Christians/Muslims in spite of the differences that we know we have? What if the poor/wealthy in our nation were so welcoming that the wealthy/poor just liked being around them? What if, instead of untrue monikers like ‘colorblindness’, we all wanted to know everyone else’s cultures? What if differences were lauded? What if we loved… just loved… all the time. Love.

Reality Bites

I know, I know, I know… I sound ridiculous.

But this morning, I got a phone call I didn’t want. A mentor in my life died just last night. [To CJ’s family and friends… thank you for sharing him with me for the last decade.] And I am running out of mentors. I am running out of leaders who can speak into my life and guide me as I balance the disappointments of reality with the joys of… reality. And while that is a bit scary, to feel like I am down a rudder while the flow of life is not slowing down, I am grateful.

I’m grateful that the mentors and friends and family in my life have pointed me to a place I didn’t know I was prepared for.

My son heard the ‘N’ word this week, and I got to be the voice of love, inclusion, and faith to one of my favorite people.

Not a bad way to have a tough day.

Go love people. All the people.

– Brad

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A Christian in America

This is the weirdest, saddest, most distressing time of my life, as an American Christian. I believe that the church has strayed so far away from the needs of the ethnic minority, the poor, and the disabled of our own nation, that my generation is forced to choose a strange paradox: Do we vote for and actively pursue equality, knowing that eventually the exclusivity of Christianity will come under very strong fire in American Liberal politics? Or do we cover our right to religiously assemble, and by default (if not intentionally) perpetuate the divide that sees a Klan rally justified by an anti-biblical expression of “free speech”, to say nothing of the horror that blatant racism and willingness to harm other ethnicities reveals about our nation and its systemic racism as a whole?

Yeah, I think those are the two options. And they both suck.

That is not to say that there aren’t Conservatives standing opposed to the events of Charlottesville, and rightly condemning white nationalism, white supremacy, and the groups that represent those ideologies. But for the majority of those standing up now, there was silence until a white woman was murdered as a peaceful protestor or the leader of the nation made outlandish claims equating the KKK with people demonstrating in response to them. And why the silence? I think because American Christianity has largely become a game of safety and security. But why?

Patriotism Run Amuck

George McKenna, in his book The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism, wrote that the idea of patriotism is in effect, “an affection rather than a syllogistic process, it is a highly evocative word, recalling all kinds of memories, stored up in images”. He goes on to address the origins and true adaptable nature of American patriotism in the 17th century. And I think he’s right on all accounts. My first image of patriotism is my grandfather’s Purple Heart, that he earned as a soldier in the Army, fighting in WWII. And I remember the first time I stood at the Vietnam Memorial, overwhelmed by the length of that wall, and the small print still needed to fit the names of soldiers lost on it. Oh, and the first time I read Letters from a Birmingham Jail, as a student at Elon University. These things, for me, ring of American patriotism.

But I also believe that the adaptability of American patriotism has neutered what it truly means to love our nation, and learn about and FROM its history. Somehow people have so bastardized American ideology that ethnic cleansing is taught by some as permissible and beneficial. And churches can recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but most don’t know the Nicene Creed, or even that it exists. We study the news, but not the Bible. We know what we are against, but we have abandoned so much of what Jesus was truly for. We’ve traded in true belief and biblical conviction, for memes, prejudice, and the conviction to be right and loud. We don’t evangelize because we don’t want to be offensive or counter-offended, or we’ve just completely forgotten how to. We can’t be real in the world or “do life” with people because we’ve been so busy condemning gay people and Muslims, or standing for things that Jesus apparently forgot to make as pillars of his ministry. In so many ways, we’ve just stopped being the church.

So if you’re still reading this, you’re either in agreement so far, completely fuming but hanging in there, or you just came to see the fireworks. No matter what, I do believe that social media has influence. And as unbelievable as it may seem, altogether, roughly 5,000 people ‘follow’ me. And because I make everything I post public, many more can follow along too. So while I’m a pretty insignificant cog in the machine, I have a voice. And this is what I think needs to happen in American church and within the hearts of Christians soon.

Evangelism Lost

My sweet and brilliant wife reads my posts. She proofs some of them, and parts of all of them. In the introduction, where I mentioned evangelism and our fear of it, she rightly pointed out that we largely misunderstand it too.

We’ve lost American evangelism to a handful of unbiblical ideas. Here are a few that drive me insane:

Attraction – Being well-liked, or in a pretty building, or having an affable reputation is nice. It would be a whole lot more effective if that was coupled with being engaged in the community, financially invested in helping the hurting within that community, or being known as a haven for the hurting through programs or availability. But even then… if we poured money into the poor, and had a beautiful building, and were well thought of… none of that is evangelism. None. It’s nice. But it’s not evangelism. It may be a tremendous catalyst TO evangelism, but if you think it’s enough, well that’s called an idol.

Moral Superiority – I don’t know where to begin here. Christians are not superior in any way to anyone else. The moral superiority of Christianity resides entirely in the person of Jesus Christ. To posture that the rituals, habits, and platforms of faith cast a shadow on our cities that compel people to Jesus is absurd. Again, a positive reputation might lead someone to you, but if your excellence is your platform, again, that’s an idol that you’ve made in your own image.

Anti-Secularism – I grew up hearing the phrase, “no one has ever been argued into salvation”, and I’m 37, so the phrase has been around a while now. But we’ve gotten so good at being against things, that I think we’ve convinced ourselves that a Facebook video about what we find unbiblical or evil is some kind of evangelism. But it’s not. It never has been. It never will be. At best, it’s my opinion, gleaned from interpreting scripture, but at worst, it’s bullying that pushes people away from Jesus.

Lawless Love – My last one is the one I’m generally most accused of. As a registered Democrat, now living in Washington State, I get it. Since I don’t rail against things that are not permissible from Scripture, maybe I appear complicit. Maybe it seems that I treat people as though they are sinless, and that Scripture doesn’t really say hard things. But that’s not true of me, nor is it evangelical. The Bible is true for Christians, and it says hard things. In my experience, the best way to talk through them with people who do not view Christ as I do, is through (1.) earning the right to be heard, through loving them as they are and as I am, (2.) being humbly honest about Scripture, (3.) and reminding them that we are all on the same footing, as sinners. And then, after that, be consistent and steady. Scripture guides me as the Lord is my Savior. To reduce Scripture for the sake of love is not love at all.

Evangelism Reclaimed

It simply means that we bring the Good News. That’s it. And since, for Christians, that good news is the story of Christ and his sacrificial atonement, it means that evangelism is telling someone about Jesus. That’s it. All of that other stuff is either secondary or self-centered.

Period.

Choose For Yourselves

So yes, I’ve stepped beyond that crossroad of choosing which fight I’ll fight. But I do understand the real angst over potentially losing our freedom of religious assembly. I’ve been to countries where my function as a pastor and teacher was illegal. I’ve heard the knock at the door and watched a few dozen faces turn immediately from focus to fear. I have shaken the hands of a man who was disavowed, then condemned to die, and then martyred for simply believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And America is a long way away from that kind of existence… I think. But I could be wrong. I laughed at the idea of Trump as President.

Whether I’m right or wrong about the trajectory of faith in America, I’m captivated by Joshua’s call for covenant renewal: “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the god that your fathers served… and serve the Lord… choose this day whom you will serve.” [Joshua 24:14-15a]

My dad loves Jesus. It’s a humble affection that I’m forever grateful to have grown up under. But it’s not my faith. Same Jesus. But I’m not my dad, and his faith doesn’t save me or fuel me. It saves him and only him. And for me, I choose the God that says we are all equal (Gen. 1:27; Eph. 2:14; I John 2:2), and that our chief aim is to glorify God (Isa. 43:7; Hab. 2:14; Ps. 115:1) through loving one another (Rom. 12:9, 13:10; Mk. 12:31; I Cor. 13:1-3), even those who feel the need to oppose me for my faith (Luke 6:35), because I must fight as someone that has been called out by God to those who need him, need hope, and need help…

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Aggressively for the Love of People

Maybe you still disagree with me. That’s fine, but I think I’m standing on Scripture here. So unless you can convince me that Jesus isn’t real (& you cannot), that we have not been called to bind up the broken-hearted (Isa. 61:1) and that somehow does not include black Americans right now, but other minorities, the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the refugee, the imprisoned, the homeless, and the foreigner, and that the eventuality of religious persecution in America is justification to hide, or defend the love of Christ that cannot be thwarted (Rom. 8:35)…. what are you standing for?

A fight just broke out in the cafeteria of the American consciousness, and everyone wearing a WWJD? t-shirt just collectively stood up and picked a side. And with the whole world watching, but more importantly, our neighbors, classmates, family, and friends saw us rise, and they saw us run to defend the hurting, as Jesus did, or to the defense of anything else.

So if one day, I lose the right to freely claim that Jesus alone is the way to God and that the Bible is uniquely true…. well ok then. I’ll go to jail for that. I’ll go to the mat for hope and faith. And until then, I’ll stand for Christ’s love for all people.

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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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Influence & Our Lil Boy

We have two kids. The 6 year old is just like me. I’ll post about him eventually, & it will likely revolve around passing on bad habits or something equally humbling. But this post is for Elliott, our gorgeous, precious, 16mo. old. He’s great. With 10 teeth, he has an incredible smile. He’s learning, growing, into cuddles, & adventurous. And just this week, he taught me something so valuable.

You repeat whatever you hear the most.

It seems so simple. Mommy talks about Daddy, & before long we heard “Da-da”. Daddy talks about Mommy, & “Ma-Ma” sticks. And along with those two staple terms, he’s got variations of these words: up (for being held), yes, no, baby, boo, mwah (to make a kissing sound), & countless indecipherable terms that I’m certain are brilliant. But for the most part, he’s learned what we intended for him to learn. But that changed this week, when he was in our living room, just all of the boys…

“Bubba”

For those from the north, this probably evokes a giggle & some slam on being southern. Go ahead, we don’t mind….

But what makes this even more precious is that he said it to Parker, his big brother. And I’ve been calling Parker “Bubba” since he was a baby. I don’t know why. I just have. And now it’s a family-wide thing. I say it. Grace says it. I’ve heard other family use it. Even a friend called our oldest “Bubba” at breakfast last week. And somehow, Elliott caught on. And he heard it enough for it to become more than a term her recognizes. It’s now a term he says. So it went from foreign to familiar, then normal to repeatable. It was great to hear. And now he says it all the time.

What are your influences?

Influence is tricky. Aristotle said that ‘We are what we repeatedly do’, but I think he may have missed the real impact of influence. Yes, what I do may very well define me, or at least my character. But what I read, hear, & take in trains me. Whoever I go to for counsel, accountability, gossip, or fun are my teachers. The inescapable reality is that we don’t control all of our influences. 

So what influences you? Do you have mentors in your life? Now I don’t mean blogs you read or podaasts you listen to. I mean, who are the people that directly lead you? No one? Go find someone. And in my experience, ask someone hugely important or impactful in your life. They just might say yes! And beyond mentors, what do you read, listen to, or spend your time on? I am in no way speaking against the fun things in life! To be transparent, I love all sports, country music, woodwork, pro wrestling, joking around, competing, winning, & going out with Grace, my wife. I am certainly not against enjoying this great life we’ve been given. But let’s be honest… If you are immersed in negativity, you become negative. If you are surrounded by hopelessness, your outlook becomes progressively more hopeless too. If you are neck-deep in relationships that promote something unhealthy, the impact is just damaging. It just IS!! I didn’t make up influence. I just want to repeat & lead positivity, hope, health & growth!!

Who do YOU influence?

Unfortunately, influence is not the exclusive property of leadership. You can be influenced by countless combinations of things, people, objects, & ambitions. And in return, you can influence countless people.

This is the one that convicts me the most. I influence my wife. I’m pouring something into my sons. I’m training the people that work with & for me. And as I prepare to send this out, I’m seeking to influence friends & strangers alike. It is daunting to think about how easily I influence anyone I come in contact with!

In my anger, influence. When I’m openly discouraged or disappointed, influence. When I’m unfocused or silly, reckless or off-center, I am an influence on the lives around me. And those people are… well, they’re people. Humans who love & hope & have plans. And in a moment, I can leave an imprint.

What will our influence imprint be?

If you’re like me, this is both encouraging & kind of a bummer. People are watching. Some of those people are learning. So it is up to me to try & control what they’re learning, & what they are learning from me is seen in my responses to life, challenges, happiness, disappointment, trials, failure, success, etc. & only I can control it. 

So be intentionally influential today. There’s a person that’s about to blurt out a “Bubba” that your life has taught them, so lead well!!

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A World of Difference, Pt. 1

I went to South Asia. Just sounds a little odd. I got invited by one of our pastors, I prayed with Grace about it, said yes, raised support, paid for some of it on our own, planned, prayed, & studied… then I flew to the other side of the world.

I flew to a place where evangelism is illegal. I evangelized. I flew to a place where I was a multiple minority: Christian, white, financially well-off (by comparison), & clearly unfamiliar with my surroundings. I was in a place that was hot, humid, overpopulated, & more culturally diverse than any place I’ve ever seen. It smelled weird… did I mention the heat? The food confused me. I couldn’t drink the water. Electricity just cut off any time of day…

And I loved just about every minute of it.

I’m not sure I’d call me a missionary. Perhaps a missionary encourager. A glorified cheerleader. I did teach a couple times, & I did get to spend amazing time with locals, but mostly, I watched heroes love strangers, share God’s love, & get nothing in return. Eternal investing. That’s what I watched. And back for two weeks, I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the experience. But this will be my vain attempt to ‘blog’ it out. I saw that there is a world of difference between claiming the mission of the Gospel & laying hold to it, living it, laying all down for it. I got to live among missionaries…

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace be to this house!” And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” Luke 10:2-11 ESV

Laborers – Oh, they’re out there. They are dedicated, missionally driven, sacrificial, & excellent. But they must be more of them! And I’m not beginning to say ‘Just go!’. My concern is that we aren’t thinking about the world’s lost state with our Christ-mindedness in tact. ‘Not me.’ ‘I don’t know anything about missions.’ ‘Someone should really do something about that.’

I dare you to go. I dare you to go clueless, humble, prayed up, & eager to see God move. You won’t be disappointed. And if God has a stateside calling on your life, you will be better for the journey. I can hear the leader of the team we were with right now… ‘We just want people to come here & help. Two weeks. Six months. Two years. Just come!’

The Harvest – I’m dedicating the next blog to these people. And make no mistake. The mission, the harvest, is people. Christ’s love is towards people for God’s glory. And the people we were with were amazing. The harvest alone, is reason enough for me to return there again.

‘Go your way’ – Out there in this world are people dedicated to a mission that is not always easy. Really, the success rate is low. The perks are… not perks. But people are experiencing life change. Lost are found. Broken are healed. Those kept in chains are being set free. The call of the Lord is being heard in S Asia. And these men & women who have chosen to go the way of the Lord are heroes.

I can’t wait to write out more about my time overseas. There are great stories. And it will be broken down this way:

I’ve seen the next generations of Islam, Christianity, martyrdom, & poverty on this trip. And I love them all.

More to come…

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