Wednesday, December 10, 2014

American Idol, Idle, Ideal

I understand before I write anything that my thoughts could be seen as controversial and are going to upset some people. And I'm ok with that. The point of this blog is a sort of public journal and to share a lot of my thoughts as I'm processing them. It's a dialogue (mostly with myself). I also openly admit, as I have countless times before, that I am no theologian or seminary student and so don't know what I speak of on any "authoritative" level. So if you must comment, don't judge too harshly.

I had been thinking about Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount for a couple weeks. I told Amanda that I had been wrestling with and thinking about how far to take Jesus' command to turn the other cheek and what that means for us. It was a thought rolling around in my head. And then President Obama passed an executive order to helped undocumented immigrants and the grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown. I got to Matthew 5 in my daily reading and I've been dwelling on Jesus' teaching and America in 2014.

First on Ferguson... I don't have a ton to say. I've seen some really racist things shared on my Facebook timeline. Not that my friends have said anything hurtful, but they like articles and status updates with all sorts of awful things said in them. My sister is black. I have half a dozen black cousins. Two of my best friends in high school were black. One of my best friends now is black. My brother-in-law is a cop. I have a bunch of friends who are cops. Yes, I joke about cops, but I don't hate cops. This isn't a "I hate white people" post. This isn't a "I hate the man" post. Was I disappointed that the grand jury didn't indict Wilson? Yes. Not that I think he's guilty. But I think that it should've been decided at trial. Twelve shots is a lot. It's almost amusing that people read Wilson's testimony and said, "well see, Brown was a thug and Wilson had to shoot him." It's unfair. Was Wilson telling the truth? Possibly. Was Brown a thug? We'll never know. Is the rioting and looting disappointing? Absolutely! What really bugs me is all the articles and stories people have pointed to where "a black cop shot a white kid" or "how come no one's talking about this shooting." I've read a couple of those stories and if you look at the facts, it's never an apples to apples comparison. The loss of life should ALWAYS be heartbreaking. Every person is God's creation and any loss should be meet with sadness. Not rejoicing.

The words of Jesus pierce my heart when I think about the people in Ferguson and especially Michael Brown's parents.

"Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

"Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called children of God." (Matthew 5:9)


“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2a)

Now, to Obama's immigration order.


I made a mistake and got into a comment war over immigration. My number rule of the internet is "don't read the comments." You I know better than to get into an online battle. Especially if family is involved! But I did. The response to immigration has stuck in my spirit. And the more I've thought about it and tried to process my thoughts, it's led me to some interesting and scary places because it's brought up thoughts that I know vocalizing will make people angry. 


One of the arguments made over and over was that congress represents the people and these are "our elected officials." America spoke and they hate the President and the democrat agenda for America. I was disappointed with the midterm elections. Not because the Republicans took control. But because, if you look at the numbers, what Americans really said was, we don't care enough to let our voice be heard. Voter turnout sucked. Yes, those that voted let their voice be heard and made a change in congress. And good job to those who voted. But I think voter turnout should be looked at by both Republicans and Democrats. I don't know why people didn't vote this election. Maybe they felt like there wasn't a candidate that would actually make a real difference in congress. Maybe they grew tired of attack ad after attack ad. Or worse, maybe they didn't care. 


On a side note, I'd love to see a politician actually run on biblical principles. Principles like "blessed are the peacemakers" and "love your enemies" and "pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). I would love to see a politician not run attack ads or say a negative thing about their opponent. Wouldn't that be something. 


Continuing on about our politicians. I am educated and well read and researched enough to know that congress doesn't always do things for the good of the American people. Money talks. And a lot of money is being spent. I understand that if you're getting millions donated to your campaign by telecom companies then you're going to help your donors out and be against net neutrality. I understand that if you're a former lawyer for a big oil company and you now are in charge of a district that is home to multiple oil companies and they all donated to your campaign that you're going to be against green initiatives. Or if you're getting millions of dollars into your campaign from companies that manufacture and sell medical equipment, you're going to try and repeal the tax from the Affordable Care Act that allows people to get that equipment for free. Yes, I'm weary of saying that politicians represent me. Because I know that they have agendas and donors and things that matter to me aren't always going to make it to their plate. I vote for ideas and policies that matter to me. Not on party lines. I'll vote for a democrat or republican or a green party candidate or a libertarian, or whoever if they have ideals and ideas and policies that matter to me and match up with what I think is important for America. Sadly, those people often don't make it to office. And I pray for those who do make it office. But I'm smart enough to understand that money and lobbyists have more say than I'd like. 


Now for the big one.


What I've really struggled with over the last couple of weeks is America. Not the country but the idea of America. And to this point, is America an idol? Is the idea of America and upholding the constitution more important than upholding the values and teachings of Jesus? Even if we believe the constitution was founded on biblical principles, that doesn't make it matter more or on equal footing with the words and teachings of Jesus. And if the constitution gets in the way of living our life as Jesus commanded us to, should we be ok with breaking it? Do we identify more with being an American than we do a follower of Christ? Jesus said in Matthew 6 that we can't be devoted to two masters. Yes, he's talking about money, but that has to apply to more than just money. Does it apply to America as well? Can we fully serve Christ and America? Are we more devoted to one than the other? Or have we made one in the image so it looks like the other? 


I don't want to say that Obama's immigration order is akin to something Jesus would do. But the response by people before and after is heartbreaking at times. I see the church in Acts taking care of each other and selling their possessions to make sure no one in the community had a need. How many undocumented immigrants might be our brother or sister and need our help? How many are sons and daughters of Christ who haven't come home yet? How many could we show love and compassion and mercy to and be an example of Christ? I know someone much smarter will come along and explain to me why I'm wrong and how I'm mis-seeing/misusing scripture. But didn't Jesus say that we must become like little children? Aren't these the type of questions kids would ask? "Dad, why did my friends parents get sent away?" "Mom, why isn't Miss so and so no longer my teacher at church?" If I'm being naive and dumb, I'd rather err on the side of loving my neighbor. Documented or undocumented. And if that means supporting and being ok with an action that's unconstitutional because I feel like it might be biblical, then I'm ok with that. Because I need my identity to be in Jesus. And not in America. 


 "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46-47)




Thursday, October 9, 2014

A New Perspective

Finally getting around to a month's worth of blogging....

On September 8th 2014 Emily Grace Patton entered the world.

This isn't a post about how amazing being a father is or how perfect and beautiful our daughter is, because...

The pictures tells you how awesome and adorable she is!

This post is about my wife!
Besides from being drop dead gorgeous and an all around amazing person, my wife is super. Like she's a super hero. That's really the only way to describe Amanda after having watched her give birth. She's a super hero!

I have never felt more worthless and useless in my entire life than watching my poor wife, in pain that I will never understand, with very little I could do to help ease it for her, and knowing that I am responsible for why she is in pain. Anyone who thinks women are in some way lesser than men, has never witnessed a woman giving birth.

I loved Amanda before Emily was born. A lot! And I still do! But my respect level is through the roof for what she did (and will probably do again some day). Amanda is amazing! And I am so thankful for her!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Food Review: The Waffle-nut!!

As I was waiting for Walmart to finish putting new tires on my car, I meandered over to Safeway. I didn't intend on purchasing anything, just killing time. I figured I could kill a little bit of time seeing if they had any interesting seasonal brews.

And that's when it hit me.

A sign. A beautiful sign. An intriguing sign. A sign I had never before seen. This sign.

A Waffle-nut! Part waffle, part donut. All tasty.

My instagram caption captured it perfectly; "This Changes Everything." What genius over in the Safeway bakery came up with this glorious evolution of food! A waffle/donut combination only makes sense, and now that I've seen it, neither a waffle or a donut on their own will ever be enough.

But then I had one for breakfast....

Maybe because I had let it sit overnight. Maybe it's because I got the cinnamon sugar waffle-nut and not that chocolate or maple glazed, but something about the waffle-nut did not work for me. It was dry; a waffle without butter or syrup. It didn't have that cake-like quality of a good donut. It was... disappointing.

To top it all off, I know that this waffle-nut will not go very far in keeping me full and I'll be ready for a second breakfast about an hour after I've finished the waffle-nut.

I feel ripped off...



Friday, August 29, 2014

Keep Going Part 3: Detours

About two miles before you get to Mt Vernon, they're doing some construction on one of the bridges on the trail. So as I approached I saw the sign that said "Trail Closed." My initial thought was "Dang, that sucks. Guess I'll turn around." I was even going to take a picture of the sign and instagram that. I was even a little relieved because I had already run about 7 miles and I had to make the trek back home...

The only reason I got close to the sign was to take a picture for instagram, and it was as I got close that I saw the little detour onto the side of the road that would allow me to keep running, which I took. I had already run that far and I was committed to going all the way to Mt Vernon at that point. Plus the detour wasn't a quarter of a mile long... so no big deal.

Often in life we see the "trail closed" sign some distance away and we quickly turn around or choose a new direction and never keep pushing forward and get close enough to see the detour God has for us to still make it to the goal. We need to keep pushing forward - because maybe God has a different way of getting us to our goals and dreams. Maybe we need to take a detour so we're better prepared when we get to our final destination. And maybe that detour just isn't that long....

Because They're Pretty....

I finished reading Job this morning. The last couple of times I've read Job I've been fascinated by the end of the book. Job is given 7 more sons and 3 daughters. The daughters are listed by name. The sons are not. In an Old Testament book of the Bible, this is weird. There has to be some significance to the reason the daughters are named and not the sons. So naturally I took to Google to do a little study.

The first link I clicked on was upsetting. The writer of the piece made a simple observation. Because the text says that there were no women in all the land as fair as Job's daughter (Job 42:15), then obviously the reason Job's daughters are named is because they were beautiful (my paraphrase). That's it... The sons are not mentioned because there was nothing special about them....

Ugh... That would be the first link I click on.

Thankfully I did a little more research to get some answers that made some more sense (but which I'm still not totally in love with). And to be fair to said writer, he does go on to say that possibly they're mentioned by name (giving the definitions of the names) to show that Job's suffering had come to an end. But that was his second thought....

As the soon-to-be father of a little girl, this line of thought doesn't sit well with me. As a person, it's upsetting enough that's the first explanation I get on Google.

(Come on Google! Don't you know my political and theological thoughts on all of these things? Or did you want me to be angry?)  

There's obviously been some push back lately to just telling girls they're pretty and being more engaged in helping girls see that their self worth is in more than their looks. From Maddie and Tae's song pushing back on the awful hit genre of bro-country to Lego's girl scientist collection, to commercials "shaming" people for telling girls what they can't do. I mean, Mo'ne Davis was the face of the Little League World Series!

So why does it feel like we never talk about the female biblical heroes? Sure, we talk about Ruth who was loyal to her mother-in-law and because of it found a new husband (and made her a part of Jesus' lineage). And we talk about Esther, who used her position to help save the Jewish people from being massacred, but what about the other female heroes of the Bible?

What about Deborah? She was married and was able to keep a job as one of the judges of Israel. Deborah's not even the real hero of the story. But it was a woman who saved Israel. Barak, the head of the army, wasn't interested in going to fight unless Deborah was going with him, so the victory over Sisera, the head of the Canaanite army, would belong to a woman. The honor of victory went to Jael, the wife of Heber, whom Sisera foolishly felt safe to run to because of an alliance. She took a tent peg and hammered that peg into Sisera's skull. WHAT!!!!!??? That's some Game of Thrones violence!!! Of course you probably won't hear that story in church because... violence is not cool. (Unless it's David and Goliath....?) [Judges 4]

And who was the first person, in the history of the world, who got to proclaim that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead??? A woman! Not the disciples, but Mary Magdalene.

And you want to talk about the Proverbs 31 woman? Badass! Just read Proverbs 31 again. The Proverbs 31 woman works her hump off!!! And not just in the kitchen making sandwiches or doing laundry. She runs a vineyard, she's dealing with merchants at the dock, working with the poor, making all the clothes for her house, keeping everyone fed.... What is the husband doing? It sounds like his wife has got it all taken care of. When did the description of this woman start at verse 25? Her list of accomplishments is way more impressive than just watching over the affairs of her household.

I want my daughter to grow up and be a strong woman, confident in who she is and who she is in Christ. I want her to know that she can be whatever she wants to be! I don't want her to have to feel relegated to certain roles because that's what society has dictated for her gender. And I want her to know that the Bible is full of women who were badasses doing great things for the Kingdom, God and God's people and that those woman still exist!

The Bible is full of great stuff and there are a lot of things in God's word I will probably never come to terms with why they're there... But I just CAN'T believe that Job's daughter's are mentioned by name because they were hot.

End Rant.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Walking With God

I'd never really thought about what walking with God might actually look like until recently.

I rarely walk with a destination in mind. My favorite walk lately has been a path that runs along the Potomac River through the woods and out onto a dock. You can see the beltway in the distaste, but there's a mini "marina" and if you look the other way, nothing but peaceful blue (sometimes green) water. It's relaxing. Early on a cool morning, overlooking the water, you just breathe deeply and feel refreshed. Sometimes that's what walking with God is like. It's a walk to our favorite peaceful spot, where we just breathe God's presence in and feel refreshed.

Sometimes walking with God is like moving to a new town. It's exploring your new home base. Taking a drive and parking downtown, checking out the cool restaurants, finding a nice coffee shop... Just getting to know your new surroundings. Exploring something new. I think this is an aspect of walking with God that's missed and overlooked. We should always be learning new things about God, life, and how to love better.

Most of the time walking with God is being like a little kid, just holding on to your dad's hand, with no clue where you're going, but trusting that God knows the way and that he's got you and you're safe. Walking with God is far less an active thing we do and more about trusting God to be our guide. It's about grabbing hold of God's hand and saying, "lead on!"

Friday, August 15, 2014

Experiences

I love going to museums. Living near DC my whole life, you become accustomed to museums being free, which is not normal (and I am aware that not all DC museums are free). I love going to any one of the Smithsonian museums and popping in for a couple hours, checking out new galleries. The Air and Space museum never gets old!

In 2012, Amanda I went to Boston and hit up the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was $15 a person, but totally worth it!! Easily one of my favorite museums I've ever been to! Great pieces of art that go all the way back to the time of Christ! A really cool house with rooms varying in design creating a totally unique experience! We went through every room, took our time checking out all the art, and spent 6+ hours in the museum.

Two very different experiences, both great. When the museums are free, I never spend more than 2-3 hours in there. I always move quickly, checking out only certain galleries, knowing I can come back at any time to check out other galleries or pick up where I left off and finish. But, when I paid $30 for the two of us to get in, we took our time exploring everything square inch of that museum. I might never go back to the Isabella Stewart museum, but I'll never forget it!

Both museums experiences are great! I loved spending over 6 hours in the Isabella Stewart museum. It was $30 well spent. But I also love popping into one of the Smithsonian museums for a couple hours on a Sunday. Each experience is unique and different, but I enjoy both.

Circumstances don't have to define our experiences. A baseball game with friends is still enjoyable and a great time, even when your team loses. I've been to an amusement park while it's been raining and riding roller coasters in the rain is still fun!! Sometimes the band isn't that good, but the conversations and time spent with friends and family makes it a successful evening. It's about perspective and finding the joy in moments where we could complain.

I'm guilty of letting circumstances cloud my mind and impact my experience. We all do. When things aren't going well or life is difficult, it's hard to see through the fog. Life is full of ups and downs, and it's in the downs, when we need to find the joy more, that we struggle to see the double rainbow.

We never know what's just around the corner. Things could get better, or things could get worse. Which is why it's important to look for what's good in the midst of struggle. Snow is just an inconvenience if you don't go out and play in it or snuggle next to a fire with some hot chocolate. Summer's just too hot if you don't hit up the beach or pool. Rain is wet and depressing, but when you see the rainbow after the storm...

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Ecclesiastes 9:7

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Keep Going Part 2: Those Small Early Decisions

I did a ten mile run this morning. Some days I predetermine how far I'm going to run and this morning was one of those. The biggest decision I have to make on mornings like today isn't to run ten miles, it's to run five. At the four mile mark I have to make the choice whether to turn back and just do eight miles, or push forward and run that fifth mile. I mean, once I've done five I have no choice but to turn around and come back. So that fifth mile is the real key to running ten miles. That fifth mile also usually ends up being one of my fastest miles. 

Setting your goal and achieving that gaol isn't where you have to get dirty. It's the decisions along the way that guide you and get you to your goal that matter and make the biggest difference, even if it seems like a small or insignificant decision early on. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Keep Going

About a month ago I ran from my house south of Old Town Alexandria, across the Wilson bridge, over to National Harbor. 11.6 miles. It was tough, long and worth it. I didn't set out that morning to run that far. But once I had gotten on the bridge I had set my mind to accomplish that goal of running to National Harbor. And I did. Ran out to the end of the dock, took a selfie, and ran back. I felt a sense of accomplishment that day. 

But here's the thing... I almost turned back after two miles. My coffee wasn't sitting as calmly as I would've liked and there was some mild cramping going on. I was honestly ready to turn back and call it good enough. I mean, four miles is nothing to sneeze at. It would've been respectable and completed a nice week of workouts. But I pushed myself to at least get a five mile run and like I said, once I hit the bridge, there was no turning back. 

Had I stopped I would've forfeited an accomplishment. (That most people have label as crazy. Those people aren't runners.) I think too often in life we fail to push through the pain or waiting. We give up too soon because it's too hard or too painful or too long. We live respectable lives, but miss out on the accomplishments that would mean more to us (and would make others call us crazy). And even when we've reached our goal, we have to keep going, keep pushing ourselves to what's next. I couldn't have just stopped running when I got to National Harbor. I had to push forward and make the run back. 

Don't quit. Keep "running"!


"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Thursday, July 24, 2014

When God's Provision Doesn't Blow You Away

When you've been praying for something for a while, or maybe even not all that long, you hit various stages in the waiting for answer. Not quite the seven stages of grief, but I imagine there are certain emotions that overlap.

People speak into your life. "God has big plans for you." You believe it. You pray specifically, you pray vague prayers, you pray long prayers, desperate prayers, hopeless prayers. You go from knowing that God will act on your behalf to thinking God is not going to help you. I've had moments where I've felt so close to God and knew that he was on my side and would answer my request, to feeling like God did not have my back, to just having to put myself aside and trust God, even when I don't feel like it.

God is God and God is good and faithful, even in the little things. But what about when our expectations aren't met? What do you do when you're underwhelmed by the answers to prayers? How do we manage realistic expectations while maintaining the faith that God can do more than we ask or imagine, without being disappointed when he doesn't.

I prayed and prayed that God would open a door (and job) so I'd be able to ask Amanda to marry me by October of that year. Doors looked like God was making a way, and then they'd shut. Lots of silence, and then a door opened. A part-time job with no growth potential (that would ultimately only last just over a year). It was enough for me to realize that God had opened the door, right at the beginning of October. It wasn't what I would have chosen for a job at the time, but it was God's provision and it was just enough, and I was thankful.

With baby girl on the way super soon, I feel like it's crunch time again. I've done everything in my power to control my job situation and it's going to take a miracle from God, which is what God does. So the pressure should be off me, right? We all know that doesn't really work. I'm stressed and worried. My wonderful wife is not (at least not outwardly to me). I would like for God to show up in a huge way, whether that's an unexpected job, a new direction, or a salary that would allow Amanda to stay home with baby girl. We've planned for the reality that this might not happen and she'll have to go back to work. I want God to show off, but I also want to make sure my heart is prepared to give him praise and be thankful, even if I'm "disappointed" in the answer.

My brother's had a dream to be a youth pastor for at least a decade. This is a dream still unfulfilled. I think my brother's been treated pretty unfairly and cast aside in a lot of situations where I think he should have been the clear cut candidate to fill a position, or at least had a real fair shot and not just cast aside as a nuisance. My brother's been interviewed for another full-time position that has nothing to do with youth ministry. It would be a great opportunity that would allow him to move on into other areas of life and fulfill other dreams, but... It's not the desire of his heart. Is it a stepping stone into something new and exciting God has for him? Is it a distraction? Will he even get the job? I don't know, but I imagine, even in the excitement for an answer to a prayer, there will be a hint of disappointment and unfulfillment in there.

So how do we trust God to come through in a big way, but still be thankful and grateful when he comes through in a small or just enough way?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Re-Focus

I've always liked the Psalms. I've always felt like Psalms gave me permission to be honest with God and sometimes say "God, what the hell is going on? Don't you see all the sh!t that's happening around me?"I've also hated the Psalms, because I'm pretty sure Jesus is not ok with me asking the Father to send flaming arrows into the hearts of my enemies to wipe them off the face of the earth (Matthew 5:44). 

Reading through the Psalms the last week and a half has been refreshing. It's been like a reset button for my soul. 

It's the simple things that I need to be reminded of most. The things that we know are true but are in constant need of hearing and remembering because they're the easiest things to lose focus of, which is where I started. 

"I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you."(Psalms 2:7)

We are children of God. Sons and daughters. It's a duh moment, but it's the starting place. God loves us, as sons and daughters. My daughter hasn't been born yet, and I love her. I'm super excited for her to get here so I can show her how much I love her. She hasn't done anything yet, but she has my heart and my love, without question. And that's how God feels about me/us. He loves me. I don't have to do anything to ear his love. I have it because I'm his child. He just wants me to love him back. That's the starting place for me. God loves me, just because I'm his.

"The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9)

The desert is a hard place to live because it feels like God isn't hearing your cries and requests. You see the goodness and faithfulness of God happening around you and you believe that He is good and hears the prayers and cries of others... but not yours. Heck, you believe at times that God hears your cries for other people but not yourself. That God is faithful and will answer your prayers for other people, but you start to believe that maybe God is not on your side. And you lose hope...

It seems silly to believe that God will answer your prayers for others but when it comes to you(me) he has a target on your back and is holding out because he hates you. But after time you slowly drift into this place where you start to believe that. And you can see David cry out to God in a similar manner throughout the Psalms. But once you get to the place where you're a child of God and He loves you just because, the idea that's he's against you seems silly. That simple reminder changes your perspective and you get to a place where you believe that God is hearing your requests and setting you up to be rescued and will bring you out of the desert because...


"And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grandpa Stories: Shipping Out

On Monday, March 10th, Robert E Patton went home to be with Jesus. I, and the rest of my, very large, extended family, is blessed that my grandfather put together a small book full of stories from his life. Some of them are absolutely incredible stories of God's saving mercy and I wanted to share a couple. 

The tide of the war was beginning to change. The build up of US forces in Europe was in full swing; convoys of Liberty ships were carrying men and supplies to the European Theatre in huge quantities and American planes were decimating European cities in Nazi hands. Battles in the Pacific were intense with immense casualties for both the Japanese and Americans. But the Navy was winning naval battles and the Marines were taking one island fortress after another; Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pelilu, etc.

I wanted to do my part as a patriotic American. Thew result was far from a forgone conclusion. Our national survival was at stake. I enlisted as soon as Dad would allow. Now, boot camp at Parris Island was over and four months of infantry training at "Tent City" in Camp Lejune was coming to an end. There had been months of obstacle courses, jumping over things and crawling under others. There were many overnight bivouacs in the chilling cold. This place had been built in a hurry to handle the training of thousands of marines. Only the mess halls and churches were heated. We lived in six man tents and from January to April, were cold most of the time. One break from the cold came when we were loaded on to a troop ship, went to the Caribbean and practiced assault landings on the island of Vieques, near Cuba.

Every few weeks I would pull out of my "seabag" a letter that I had received prior to enlisting that said I would be sent to Radio School at Great Lakes Naval Training Center when my basic training was complete. It never happened, even though I showed that letter to each Personnel Officer as I was transferred from place to place.

Finally, time came for us to "ship out" We knew that we were to be assembled with a large group of Marines somewhere in the Pacific. It would soon be our chance to prove our manhood... or otherwise. We were to pack our seabags and carry our rifles and full marching packs. We were marched to the train platform and after the normal wait of several hours, loaded on to coaches for the trip to California or the Pacific.

The train pulled out and went for several miles and stopped. No one knew why but there were all kinds of rumors. Eventually, after hours more, the train reversed and we backed to the platform from which we left, unloaded and sent back to our tents. No reasons was given. "Ours not to question why; Ours but to do or die".

Several days later, it was the same "drill" all over again. Pack up as instructed, march to the train platform, wait, get on the train by the numbers, then wait. The train pulled out slowly, gathered speed, then slowed and stopped. More waiting. The train backed up almost to the platform; then stopped. Before long, it backed up the rest of the way and we were again sent back to our tents. It took all day. What a way to run an organization. But the unofficial "scuttlebutt" was that these actions were to confuse any enemy spies about troop movements.

Again, we got instructions over the loudspeaker to "fall in". (A Marine Corps term that means to get in a three row formation where you are supposed to be!) The Sergeant gave us "the word", but this time he called out some individual names: "Bronder, Patton, Smith, Williams". The four of us were told to stay in our tents and wait for further instructions. Then the order was given... "Right Face; Forward March" and off went the friends we had made during the last eight months. They boarded the same train again and left Camp Lejune. We never saw them again.

Our platoon from Parris Island and Camp Lejune were sent to California, then to Guam for more assault landing training from large LCI (Land Craft Infantry) ships. They were being prepared for a major attack "somewhere in the Pacific".

Bronder and I were shipped to the Marine Corps base at Quantico and assigned to the Field Arto;;dry Training Battalion, Smith was discharged for bad feet and Williams went to San Diego to bugler school. I had joined the Marine Corps to "fight Japs", not teach school. Why was I left behind?

Some time later, I heard through the grapevine that our platoon had been on an LCI ship headed for the attack on Okinawa when it was sunk by a Japanese suicide bomb. All of the platoon were lost. Maybe God has something for me to of in life! Make it count!

Postscript:

Many years, after my parents were killed together in an automobile accident, I found a copy of a letter which indicated that Dad had contacted someone with influence in the Marine Corps who had been responsible for my being assigned to the Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia.

When I get to heaven I'm going to have to thank Great Grandpa Patton for stepping in and saving Grandpa's life. When you think of the ripple effect that would've happen if he hadn't, it's pretty incredible. My dad wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here. My baby wouldn't be here in September. Thank you Lord for using Great Grandpa!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Want/Need

Rain pelts the window like a thousand metronomes clicking out of time with each other. I roll over. The clock reads 4:23 AM. I'm wide awake. Sleep is my enemy tonight.

I leave the room, shutting the door softly so my wife can sleep. I fill up the tea pot and turn the stove top on high. I'm not ready for coffee but tea will keep me company at this early hour. I walk to the record player and put on Brian Eno's "Discreet Music." A light soundtrack that won't wake those still asleep. There's a bible on the coffee table and I open it up to my earliest memory verse.

"The Lord is my shepard. I shall not want...."

More like I shall not need. I have not contented myself in the Lord enough to not want. I have been taken care of and been without need, but want... I still want. My selfishness has not been purged and my heart is nowhere near as grateful as it should be.

I get to the kettle before it's whistle sets off an all too early alarm. I let the bag steep while holding the mug in my hands. The warmth feels good in the quiet hour. I pace slowly back and forth, ignoring the light background soundtrack I have chosen for myself.

I pray...

"God forgive my stubborn, ungrateful heart. Restore my faith. Restore my trust in you. Father purge this bitterness that's taken over. Let your grace wash over me in a fresh way. I'm sorry."

It's simple... But its enough.

The Struggle Is Real #FirstWorldPains

I wanted dessert last night. I mean, I want dessert most nights, but yesterday I had a hankering for something sweet. We have a giant bag of pancake mix that we bought at Costco. So I figured I'd google desserts that one could make with pancake mix.

The first link I clicked on was for pancake mix sugar cookies. Admittedly I'm not a huge sugar cookie fan. But it looked easy enough to make and sounded good enough.

Cooking is an art. Baking is a science. I've always been good at artistic things. Science... Yeah, not so much. I followed the recipe. I didn't deviate. I know better. The cookie dough didn't mix all that well... I checked the recipe. Double checked it. I had done everything right.

My first mistake was not getting out the kicthen-aid mixer. That would have helped the mixing process. But the kitchen-aid involves a lot of pieces that need to be hand washed and I wasn't interested in having to hand wash a bunch of stuff. So I just mixed it myself. And it was not well mixed. I almost just threw the mix out.

But I didn't. I put that dough onto a tray and into the oven. The cookies didn't look very attractive. A lot of odd shapes and sizes happening. I expected to be disgusted and throw out all the cookies and the rest of the dough.

But hey, it doesn't have to be pretty to taste good. The cookies weren't half bad. And smothering those bad boys in Nutella takes them to a whole new level!

So that was a little insight into making cookies with Bryan. Happy to have wasted a little bit of your time today!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Writing Exercise

Sometimes you're in the middle of meaningful conversation. The back and forth of engaged dialogue, where no one feels left out, but everyone is enjoying this moment to share and be a part of something special. Other times you're the facilitator, the moderator, keeping the conversation moving, but never engaged or adding to the discussion. At Kristen's, I was always the moderator.

Politics, art, religion, music... The brunch crowd was always saying something provocative, trying to one up the person who just spoke. They'd say things like, "If Jesus were a woman who fronted a rock band people would cry themselves back to salvation every Sunday." What the hell does that even mean? After one too many bloody mary's, I excuse myself and step outside.

I light a cigarette and walk past the line of boutiques. Jewelry, cloths, knick knacks, all over priced for their recently gentrified clientele. The politicians have kept their promise; no more crime in the city. It's been pushed one zip code over. It's someone else's problem now. Our city is beautiful, "cleaned" up.

I walk over to Omar's, a small cart that sells used vinyl and draws a minimal crowd, the hipsters all choosing to buy their records at the new shop across town. Omar's selection is varied, mostly jazz and soul, the good stuff. Billie Holiday, Al Green, Otis Redding, Dizzy Gillespie... I slowly leaf through this week's collection of "new" records. Somehow Carole King's Tapestry found a home at Omar's. I grab it and give Omar a five, even though the sticker says fifty cents. Omar doesn't make much and he's always been fair. He's the kind of guy who does what he does because he likes interacting with the people who share his interests. He's the kind of guy you want to see succeed.

I walk the couple blocks back home and put the record on. A couple of scratches that add more character than I care for, but as the music starts I forget all about the static coming from my speakers. This is the anniversary of my move across country and "Home Again" feels like the right song for the occasion.

I decide to find a church with a Saturday service. The bar scene has worn me out and there're no good bands playing tonight. I walk slowly, looking for a quiet reflective place to pray and put my mind at ease. I walk past an abandoned looking building where I can hear a woman singing "Come Thou Fount" while banging on a piano desperately in need of a tuning. I step in and witness what appears to be a makeshift church service. It's beautiful and I begin to cry. There's nothing flashy or special about what I see in front of me, but the off key passion and honesty reminds me that God still hears. That this sound could only be pleasing to him, and I'm sure it is.

This is what I've been waiting all day for. A moment of pure beauty and reflection. Something honest and innocent in this city of people trying to gain an advantage over their neighbor. This was God in the chaos.

Moscow Is In The Telephone

In October of 2012 I started the S section of my iTunes library. It's March 2014 and I'm listening to Rachel's Systems/Layers, the last album of the S section. Since I started the S's, I got engaged, got married, and am preparing to have a baby. You know... Lots of life changes. Lots of albums starting with the letter S. Did I learn anything? Eh... Mostly that I like High On Fire, but I'm not in love with the band.

So... On to the T's.

Next 5 albums up:

Tail Swallower and Dove by These Arms Are Snakes
Take A Spin by The Kreepdowns
Take Care Take Care Take by Explosions In The Sky
Take Me To Your Leader by Newsboys
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by Blink 182



Monday, February 24, 2014

Defining Church...

Don Miller stirred up one hell of a storm by stating he doesn't connect with God in a traditional church service setting and so, he doesn't attend church regularly. I have very good friends of mine who don't feel comfortable or connect in traditional church services. I've been in bible studies and home churches with them. They are great people who have challenged and help me grow in my faith. And I love and am extremely grateful for them. 

Kevin Miller wrote a piece about how sad and how far Don Miller, Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell have fallen. There were a couple points in Miller's piece that bugged me more than others. 

(Kevin)Miller has a problem with Don's story about a communion experience he had with some friends of his. 


As a movement, we treasure the individual getting right with God, the religious born-again experience, the innovative way to do mission. Sounds good, but when individual trumps communal, experience trumps received teaching, and innovation trumps the Great Tradition, you get exactly what we've all just lived through. It can go no other way. How else can you explain Don Miller's nostalgic delight in do-it-myself Communion: "I remember pulling over on the side of the road with friends, climbing into an old abandoned building that we thought looked interesting and doing communion on a loading dock using hot chocolate and cookies. … It was a fantastic bonding moment between us but also between us and God." The same soil that grows create-your-own sacraments feeds create-your-own moral teaching."
Isn't (Don) Miller's experience with his friend, the essence of communion? Isn't it a beautiful picture of what communion can be? That communion doesn't have to be limited to inside church walls eating stale mini crackers and grape juice past its best by date. I'd take hot chocolate and cookies any Sunday morning. Communion is a meal of remembrance. Isn't stopping, taking a moment to recognize God's goodness, and celebrate what's He's done in your life , with whatever elements you have? Why should this beautiful expression of communion be frowned upon? How did we get from a communion that features hot chocolate and cookies to create-your-own morals? That's quite a leap...
My other big issue was this statement...
"yet that Scripture was written by the church to the church for the church, so it must be read within the church."
Uh... Say what? On certain levels I understand what Miller is trying to convey... But it's a little offensive. I love my church. Our teaching team is phenomenal and I love them! But... Most of what God has shown me and taught me in the last year has not been in a sermon. It's been in my own personal reading time. In fact the message with the most impact on my life in the last year was given by Don Miller. If the only place the scriptures are being read is the church... That's a problem. And I know this isn't what (Kevin) Miller meant, but it sure sounds like he's suggesting that our spiritual fill of scripture should come from the church alone. 
Why are we trying to define and limit what a church is and should look like? 
The church is you and me. It meets in beautiful church buildings, movie theaters, coffee houses, bars, wineries, abandoned warehouses... Heck, have church on a baseball diamond (why not!). The church is Keveil Miller, and Donald Miller, and Rob Bell, and Joel Osteen, and the right wing gun owner, and the tree hugging democrat, and all of us who proclaim Christ as our Savior. We are the church. We need to work together and love each other. The world will know we belong to God by our love for one another (John 13:35). Shouldn't we be focusing on our common ground and strive to work together to bring the love of God to everyone? Isn't that what matters more?

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Wanting In The Waiting


I just found this on my computer. Not sure when I wrote it.

"The wind chimes clash together in an un-united melody, a sound so unsettling yet so beautiful that my ears can’t help but listening
Her high-heeled gait breaks through the sound of the tea kettle singing as she walk down the stairs towards me.
Her hand brushes my shoulder as she walks past. Click, clack, click clack
There’s a bird outside my window singing the prettiest tune to the lilies about how wonderfully dressed they are.
The reassurance of a promise long ago given.
Fear not my child, your father knows exactly what you need.
The radio played a sad song but no one was around to cry.
Wedding feasts contained laughter but no body danced.
The street preacher is calling for repentance while a man tv is asking for my money
And somewhere a baby cries for the very first time, bringing a smile to it’s mother’s face
There’s a violent storm raging in my heart
The thunder speaks louder than all the words of man
But I’m still waiting for the whisper that is your voice
To speak truth and peace into my soul
There’s a crack in the window that turns this blustery day into a summer breeze
But it’s January and the wind is cold
Set my soul on fire, like California in the summer"


Friday, February 14, 2014

FREE DE LA SOUL!!!!

I was going to blog about the law that just passed in Kansas but it's Friday. And it's Valentine's Day. So not hatred today! Just love!

And what could be better for this Friday than spreading the love of hip hop!

For a limited time De La Soul is offering their entire catalog for free!!! No joke! FREE!!!

Why are you still reading my stupid blog? Go get some free music!

http://www.wearedelasoul.com/

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Man Fail?

So Tide released this commercial...



It's kind of funny. It made me chuckle. It apparently ticked Owen Strachan off. Strachan had this to say about the ad...

"I will say, though, that the “Dad Mom” concept is a “man fail” in my view."

And I'm super offended by this... 

Strachan declares that men should be out working and bringing home the bacon and women should be where God has placed them... In the kitchen and in the laundry room. 

It's 2014... Maybe I'm "too influenced by the culture around me", but this kind of thinking is really damn primitive. 

I do the laundry at home. I cook dinner 50% of the time. I clean the dishes often. I cleaned our house the other day to get things ready for small group. Does that make me less of a man? 

Look, I haven't been able to find a full-time job in four years... I would love to be able to go to work all day and be the one bringing home the bacon, but I'm not. And that probably wouldn't change the dynamic of who does what in my household. I'd still probably do the laundry. Why? Because my wife has a lot more clothes than I do and I just need to laundry at a rate that is significantly higher than she does. And I'm man enough to my own damn laundry! Who did Strachan's laundry before he got married? 

Why does doing laundry, or cooking and cleaning equal a man fail? Aren't there guys who just enjoy doing these things? Can't a guy work from home and have more time to do the laundry? Why is being a stay at dad home such a bad thing? Can't each marriage define the roles they take as a partnership? Can't that look different for each couple? Why are we branding a couple's decision as a man fail? Because he stays at home? Didn't maybe God design different people to hold different roles? Isn't it oppressive to tell your wife she has to be the one at home taking care of all the household chores because "It's God's design?" Does that sound like God? 

It seems backwards to me... If doing laundry makes me a failure as a man, I'll just continue to fail. Besides, my failures are why I need Jesus... ;)


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Paper.Beats.Rock - Steady

I've been listening to the new ep from Paper.Beats.Rock today. Loving the ep. Catchy ep, full of rich instrumentation. It's refreshing. And I love the band's idea behind the ep.

"In a world of highs and lows, we have found steadiness in God and His grace alone. Our experience leads us to believe that human beings are not meant to be the foundation of hope. We’re too emotional, too instinctual, too inconsistent. One doesn’t have to look too hard to see a broken world and a broken way of thinking. This EP looks to move from the unsteadiness found within humanity into the steadiness found in an unchanging, unconditionally loving God."

Check out the ep http://noisetrade.com/paperbeatsrock/steady

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

OkDoThis

Amanda downloaded the OkDoThis app onto my phone while we drove to Alabama for Christmas. And it's pretty much sat there dormant. But I've been pushing myself to use it and try and spark some creativity in my life. Just find a do and take a picture. I've learned a couple of things...

1. I take terrible iPhone pictures. And I'm ok with that... It's a phone. Sure, I've taken some nice shots. But when I'm trying to be all artsy on my iPhone, I fail.

2. Taking pictures of random stuff as prescribed by someone else, doesn't get my creativity flowing... Not photographically. I had an idea I'd been kicking around for a little while and it's started to take shape over the last couple of days. My juices have gotten going. Not sure if it's app related or not, but hey... Something happened.

OkDoThis is fun. You should give it a spin!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Safe?

"See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you." (Exodus 23:20)

Life is tough and it doesn't always feel like God is with us, or keeping us safe. I read the verse above and just pondered on it for a moment. The NIV version says "I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way." I like guard better than safe. 

Because the Israelites journey into the promised land wasn't going to be safe. It hadn't been safe. They'd already fled from Pharaoh and had been in a battle where they took casualties. And that was going to be the first of many battles that Israel would go through. And they had to fight to claim the promise God had for them. 

But God was still there. He was guiding them, preparing the place he had in store for them. And even though the road was going to be tough and it would feel like God wasn't there at times, He was still guiding them and keeping them "safe".

Don't lose heart. God is preparing the way, and He's got your back. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Keep Waiting... God Has Not Forgotten

The more I read the book of Exodus, the more I love it. The more I relate to Moses. It's a behind the scenes look at how God works at times. Because the Bible is full of great stories where God shows up and bam, things get done! But the freedom of the Israelites and their coming into the Promised Land, takes a long time.

In Exodus 5, Moses visits Pharaoh and demands that the people be let go. And Pharaoh says no. Not only does he say no, but he makes life even harder for the Israelites and they are not happy about it. And Moses doesn't get it. God said he'd free the people and he hasn't yet... What gives?

Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:22-23)

But God reassures Moses that all is ok. 


And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’ - but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them.  And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners.  You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. (Exodus 6:2-4)

God goes on to reassure Moses that the people of Israel will be set free from captivity. He doesn't set a time table for when this will happen, just that Moses and Israel can rest easy knowing that God's got this. 

But I love the phrase "And I am well aware of my covenant with them" from verse 4. God hasn't forgotten his promise, because he never does. Abraham didn't get to see God's promise fulfilled. Isaac didn't get to see God's promised fulfilled. Jacob didn't get to see God's promised fulfilled. And Moses didn't know it, but he also wasn't going to get to see God's promised fulfilled. But God was still aware of his promise. 

God doesn't promise that we won't have hardship and God doesn't work with our time line in mind. But he is well aware of his promise. 

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Letting Fear Ruin Our Destiny


Moses tried really really hard to forfeit the plan God had for him. He didn't want to go back to Egypt and free the Israelites. Moses was happy where we was. Even with God speaking to him from a burning bush, Moses had no intention of carrying out the plans God had for him. Moses was full of excuses, even with the assurances of God.

But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.“Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand. Perform this sign,” the Lord told him. “Then they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out again, his hand was white as snow with a severe skin disease. “Now put your hand back into your cloak,” the Lord said. So Moses put his hand back in, and when he took it out again, it was as healthy as the rest of his body. The Lord said to Moses, “If they do not believe you and are not convinced by the first miraculous sign, they will be convinced by the second sign. And if they don’t believe you or listen to you even after these two signs, then take some water from the Nile River and pour it out on the dry ground. When you do, the water from the Nile will turn to blood on the ground.” But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you.  Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do.  Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.” (Exodus 4:1-17)

Three times in Exodus 4, Moses asks God to use someone else. What if they don't believe me? I'm a bad public speaker. And then just, please Lord, use someone else. 

I'd like to think that if God showed up and spoke to me in a burning bush and asked me to do something, even something I didn't want to do, that I would listen and wouldn't argue. But I know myself, and I'd probably be like Moses and put up a fight. 

Fear can be crippling. Fear prevents us from taking the steps God has in store for us. But if we let fear get the better of us, we can miss out on the destiny that God has in store for us. Moses tried to default on God's plan for him and let someone else take the wheel. 

And to be fair, the destiny God had in store for Moses was going to be difficult. God says He's going to make Pharaoh's heart hard and not willing to let the people go. God makes an attempt to kill Moses shortly after he heads towards Egypt. And Moses' first encounter with Pharaoh doesn't really help the Israelites and doesn't make them view Moses with a lot of favor. And then Moses had to deal with the Israelites, who made is life awful!

But Moses got to talk to and see God. He got to free God's chosen people! And he tried to throw that all away...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Little Brother in the Middle Seat with the Hump Between His Feet

Please stop kicking me!
My annoying little brother in the middle seat with the hump between his feet. 
Your attention span is short and I don't really have time for you. 
Sister is watching this month's latest pop craze and I just want to play Super Nintendo. 
We're only two hours in to this eight hour car ride and I can already tell we're going to be mortal enemies when this trip is through. 
After last year's fiasco where sister threw my blue comb out the window, I'm not prepared for another vacation of terror. 
And I just know deep down in my gut that as soon as we get to the hotel, mom and dad are going to suggest we share a bed. 
Oh this nightmare just won't end. 

And I know, that one day you'll be the one by my side, as some unknown man walks to me my future bride. 
You'll tell a joke as my best friend, about disastrous car trips from way back when. 
And I know that you'll always be there for me
And if you have a bully, he'll have to mess with me. 
And that's all great and I'm looking forward to it. 
But right now... Please stop kicking me!!! 
My annoying brother in the middle seat with the hump in between his feet.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fields Of Grace


"And I started to wonder if He (God) had been with me all the time and I just hadn't allowed myself to see the beauty and breadth of His reach because of the narrow lens I had been given through which to see Him." - Hannah Luce

I read Fields of Grace last week while on vacation. It was an easy and compelling read. I picked it up on  a whim because it looked interesting enough. I think if I had done more than look at the cover of the book I would've passed by it. If I had seen it was written by Ron Luce's daughter, I might have ignored it. I'm glad I didn't. 

I'm not sure I've ever read a book where I've thought "holy sh!t" as much as I did while reading Fields of Grace. Part because Hannah's story and personal tragedy is heartbreaking and at times hard to read. Mostly because some of her life experiences make me wince and I find it hard to believe that anyone would think books by CS Lewis and Donal Miller to be rebellious and not good for a christian teen to read. 

I think Hannah's experience and where her relationship with God went represents a lot of people I know. Some have walked away from their faith and some have just expanded and shifted their view of God. It's interesting to hear someone who was their and in the trenches of Teen Mania talk about questioning God and having to figure out what she believes. And I don't have any hard feelings for Ron and his ministry. My life was deeply impacted by Teen Mania and Acquire the Fire is where I rededicated my life to God. But I also know that Ron and me wouldn't see eye to eye on everything if we sat down today. 

Hannah didn't "hear" God. She felt abandoned and alone. Because she didn't feel and connect with things the way her parents and those around her did, she felt lost. And I relate. Because I was there. It's a struggle I think a lot of people my age have felt. What do we do when our perception of what God is doesn't match up with our convictions and what we see? It was a struggle of mine and I related to Hannah's struggle. 

I also enjoy that the book doesn't end with any sort of declaration. Yes, the book is more about her struggle and the tragic plane crash in which she was the lone survivor. But it would've been an easy and a nice happy ending to have Fields of Grace end with Hannah talking about how she's come back to God and has clarity and life is awesome and her relationship with God is perfect. But it doesn't...

And I love that! What we get is a girl who no longer needs painkillers and alcohol to help numb her pain and grief and is finally able to just be comfortable in her new skin and with her scars. She's still trying to figure out the role that faith and God play in her life and what both of those look like. And I appreciate that. Because it's real. 

It's not a conventional happy ending but it's a resolution that leaves you feeling satisfied and not cheated. 

Fields Of Grace is a great read and I think a lot of people will connect to Hannah and her (spiritual) struggles. She's relatable. And her story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. There is hope....

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Let The Steroid Guys In!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the greats from the steroid error, even those who were using, SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame.

Let me be clear, I'm against cheating. And the big home run guys who used steroids to hit those ridiculous numbers, were in the wrong. Bu the idea that Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire hurt baseball by using steroids is a little hypocritical.

Baseball thrived on Sosa and McGwire's home run race to break the record.These guys were honored and covered nonstop. They helped bring fans back to baseball after the strike. I, like thousands of others, watched every night to see if one of those guys would hit a home run. We watched and waited for the record breaking home run. It was an exciting summer and baseball made a lot of money on the backs of these guys.

Yes, they cheated and were in the wrong. But they made baseball really exciting and it's a damn shame that they won't be in the Hall. Go ahead and put an asterisk by their names. But them in the Hall!!!

Hall Of Fame

The baseball Hall of Fame just added three new members yesterday and as a Braves fan, it was an exciting announcement. Along with Frank Thomas, former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were added to he Hall of Fame. And both deserve it.

Maddux and Glavine, along with John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, and Bobby Cox, represent my Braves fandom. They're a part of one of the greatest starting trios of pitchers ever. They were a huge part of two World Series appearances, one World Series Championship, and fourteen straight NL East titles. It's a well deserved honor.

The two pitchers will go into the Hall with their former manager Bobby Cox. It's a great trio and I imagine a lot of Braves fans will make the trek to Cooperstown to see all their inducted. I know I want to go.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Righteousness?

As Christians, we put a lot of focus on being righteous, living righteously.Our lives should reflect righteousness. There are things we should and shouldn't do to live righteous lives. But are we over complicating things?

Abram was considered righteous in God's eyes.

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6)

Abram's faith and trust in God's word was credited to Abram as righteousness. Nothing he did, or said, or didn't do, or din't say... Just his unwavering faith. 

So, like many other things, are we over complicating what God wants for and from us?

Just a thought... 



Friday, January 3, 2014

Counting Your Blessings

It made me happy that as Amanda and I started planning for 2014, we were able to come up with wins from 2013 easier than the loses and heartaches. It was a good reminder of how great a year 2013 was, despite not everything always going the way we wanted.

Of everything that happened in 2013, the obvious big one is that Amanda and I got married!!!




Naturally we threw a crazy awesome party! It's what we wanted. We wanted people to have a good time. And while I can' speak for everyone there... I had a great time!




We then flew over to the island of Santorini in Greece. Oh my goodness... Amazing!!!




Great food, beautiful landscapes, super relaxing. It was a great 11 days and I can' wait to go back!!!

One of my favorite things to happen this year was a new family tradition. Every year we do a Christmas gift exchange among the siblings over the age of 18. It's not really secret Santa because everyone knows who got who. But I had a brilliant idea this year... What if we chose who we were getting a gift for... Draft style! As one can imagine, it was an instant hit. But I couldn't have predicted how awesome the experience would be. Being the first year of the draft, we all drew numbers for our draft position. We had a big board to write down our picks, a Santa hat to wear as you were drafted... It was a lot of fun! We're thinking of ways to improve it next year. But I think it's a success that's here to stay!!!

I read through the Bible chronologically this year. I came away with some deeper insights into the character of God. His heart for the poor, orphans, and widows is evident all through the Old Testament bit was one of Israel's big downfalls. It gives some credence and background to James' statement.

2013 was a great year. I'm super excited for what 2014 has in store!