Sunday, April 27, 2014


Good evening sir.
I have not really stopped thinking about this topic, this one we have talked about in depth, this subject that seems to pervade nearly every area of our lives thanks to the media and all sides who appear to want it to become more than it probably should be.

I'm not saying I am sick of anyone or anything, but I have to wonder if all this volleying is doing any good or if it is just furthering the divide. The world seems bent on creating a chasm of us versus them and hiding inside their exceptionalism until Jesus comes back on the wings of an F-18, holding an American Flag and shooting RPG's at anyone sporting a rainbow sticker on their Mazda Miata.

You may have to pardon me for my excessive wit as I'm afraid that most of my compassion for those who call themselves Christian is waning. I suppose this was bound to happen given my strong liberal leanings and the fact that I was a liberal before I gave my heart to Jesus, but I am so tired; frankly.

In this day of communication and social connectivity for a wide range of platform broadcasting, how is it that there is so much hate? Oh wait, I know, let me answer that's because the people who control the platform for broadcasting are full of hate and anyone who dares to stand up and speak love is labeled as a softy or a pacifist or worse....a Jesus freak.

Over the last few weeks, I have had the honor to sit and talk to quite a few people who have different views than mine and share with them about this topic. Our positions on a host of topics are all over the board but we all agreed on one thing: we are not doing anything to show the love of Christ in this matter, at least not to the extent that we could be. Furthermore, we are forgetting about a few simple tenets, so let me share them with you.

When did we become perfect? Seriously, think about that one for just a second and then remember what Jesus told us to pray. He prayed what is now commonly called the Lord's Prayer. In that prayer we pray to God to "Forgive us our debts". Remember that one? It's a good part of the prayer and we like it because we know that God forgave us our ultimate debt, the one we could never repay, the one we could never do anything about unless somebody did something for us. Our debt was sin and without the ultimate sacrifice, we would be eternally guilty with no way to ever pay back that debt. We should all be found guilty and forced to spend eternity separated from our creator but that wasn't the plan. God wants us to be with Him so He forgave us our debt.

Have you ever scratched your head on that one? I know I have because I know I am certainly not worthy of being saved. As the song goes, I was a wretch. But Jesus came, lived a sinless life, was crucified in our place and then rose again. This is the story of our lives too, not just the story of His.

That redemption story is for you and me.

That story is for everyone.

That story is for the gay man.

That story is for the lesbian woman.

That story is also for the murderer and the thief and the adulterer and so on. We've touched on the beauty of grace before but let me delve a little deeper this time. Bear with me. This is a story of redemption, to be sure, but this is also a story of perfection and of forgiveness of sins. This is even a story about justice...just not your brand of justice.

You see, in the world today we seek justice for those who commit wrongs. Those wrongs could be against society or they could simply be personal things, like having someone lie to you. They could be serious offenses like childhood abuse or a different kind of abuse, like watching your father cheat on your mother and then walk away from everything. In our world, we want justice to be served because somehow it will make us feel vindicated and give us closure and help us sleep better at night so we can say that the other person got what was coming to them and we can sit back and say "I told you so" and laugh.

We want people to hurt because we've been hurt. That's our brand of justice. And the reason we want justice so badly is because we have a problem and that problem can be traced back to the very beginning, to an apple, a garden, a snake and two people. Before that fateful bite, life was good. In fact, life was perfect. Let me repeat that, because it bears was perfect. From the moment those teeth sank into the skin of that apple, we have been desperately trying to get that perfection back. We have tomes full of rules that have been written since nearly the dawn of time and those rules have always been for the sole purpose of keeping people in line, keeping the peace, honoring others, honoring God and if we would only keep all the rules, things would be....wait for it....perfect.

So far, that's not working out very well for us.

In fact, since that fateful bite, there hasn't been a perfect moment since. And yet, we strive for perfection daily. Our marketing gurus tell us to do so and our society says it's attainable and we teach and coach our kids in such a way that we expect it and when we go anywhere and do anything we demand it and ARE WE OUT OF OUR MINDS???!!!!

Let's get back to the Lord's Prayer. After the line where we pray to God to forgive us our debts, we then say "as we forgive our debtors". This is simply meant to say that we should pardon the debts of the people in our lives who owe us, because there is nothing that someone owes you that is anywhere near the debt that God pardoned for you. The trouble is that we have that pesky perfection problem, so anyone in our lives who isn't living up to that standard of perfection that we set becomes a failure in our eyes. This goes for anyone who owes you anything, including an apology. This goes for anyone in your life that you have deemed imperfect based on your standard of perfection. This goes for anyone who you want the swift arm of justice to come down on. The truth is, this goes for anyone you can think of, regardless of whether you know them or not, that you think deserves God's wrath and if it were up to you, a lightning bolt from heaven would simply smoke them out. Or maybe an RPG from a guy standing on the wing of a jet.

Did I mention I was tired? I'm not tired, I'm fired up; frankly. But getting fired up isn't going to solve much, it's just going to raise the anxiety in the room a little and with all these RPG's flying around, that might not be good.

Perfection is not going to happen. But you know what will (and can) happen? Forgiveness.

And that happens because of grace.

Not justice. Not your brand of justice, anyway.

In the world of forgiveness, we live day to day wanting grace but also wanting justice. We want to hurt people because we've been hurt and maybe if they apologize just right and make us feel all warm and squishy inside, we might offer them a little grace. But only maybe.

So we go on hurting others and calling it justice because in our heads, it's what people deserve. Grace becomes something we think we deserve and as we continually strive for perfection and demand even more from those around us, we want to be worthy of grace but in all reality, we want justice first.

And in this life, there's only room for one. Grace or justice. You can't have both. Not your kind of justice, anyway. You can't have perfection either. Not your kind of perfection, anyway.

But you can have grace. In fact, you've already been given grace, even though you don't deserve it.

The only thing left is to give it out.

Because trust me, justice and perfectionism and all this striving isn't working.


But grace will. Grace always works. And grace is what this world needs if we're going to compassionately address the gay community in love. If we're going to reach out a hand to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. If we're EVER going to accept the fact that perfection in this life is unattainable, but love and grace are in abundant supply at the foot of the cross.
My life is not mine, and yet it is mine to live for Him. Peace to you all.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Environment variables

Recently, I made an observation about myself that got me thinking. After more observation, which included watching others, I began to form a conclusion, at least so far as the initial observation is concerned. I think this behavior is key to understanding certain adaptive settings as well, but for now I am intrigued with what I have seen to this point.

Namely, I am talking about how some of us change behaviorally depending upon the setting, the people, the music, the sub-culture or the language. To understand this clearly, one must consider his or her own behavior from a certain base point. A base point for indicating behavior would be found by pinpointing where a person spends the majority of their time, or who a person spends a majority of their time with. For instance, in my case one could simply observe my behavior at home with my wife and kids. After a certain period of time, specific behavioral elements could be obtained. For some people, a workplace can also be an excellent spot to determine behavior, but not always.

Once a base point is established, regarding common (or expected) behavior, the next step is to watch someone in a setting that is not normal or is outside of routine. Some good examples would be a family reunion or any function that involves a setting and people that are not familiar from the base point. A company holiday dinner party or a professional meet and greet for business purposes where spouses are invited or a school reunion are just a few more examples. In any of these cases, it is common to observe individuals behaving differently than they would if they were in their daily routines.

Using myself as an example, I occasionally travel to spend time with my two brothers, my sister, their respective others and their kids (my niece and nephews), as well as my mother. From the moment our conversation begins, I am different. My speech patterns change, as does my vocabulary, even my demeanor. These are not subtle changes either, they are indeed quite noticeable. I use words, mannerisms, figures of speech and gestures that are not part of my typical daily routine. My desire for specific food and drink changes as well which ultimately leads me to feel as if I am on some distant planet every time I see them.

Determining if my actions are the result of a choice or if they are due to programming is something I wrestle with. Mostly, the way I react feels intrinsic so I am led to believe this is something I am hard wired with but I don’t like the idea of being unable to control these patterns so naturally I want this to be an act of choice so I can correct it. The trouble is that I have been travelling up there for many years and it has always been this way. Changing this is going to require a tremendous amount of focus on my part. I’m positive it can be done but then it leads me to wonder if anyone will notice, and if so, what will the reaction be?

I also believe that it may be possible to have had a base point at an earlier time, only to be replaced by a newer base point. In my case, I grew up and remained in the same area for 25 years and then moved away. For the last 18 years I have been living apart from my immediate family. To some degree, I have lived nearly 2 different lives. Initially I was surrounded by brothers, a sister and parents who all sounded, acted, thought, ate and lived the same. I was surrounded by similar speech patterns and behavior that was distinct to my family, introduced by parents who came by their own distinct personality traits from their own respective upbringings. There can be no doubt that even though I moved away, I maintained some piece, some part of me that was built, so to speak, by how I was raised.

After I moved, I became surrounded by new influences. Over the last 18 years I have been changed based on my surroundings and most certainly by my wife and 2 kids. The mannerisms I have today are a direct result of them as well as co-workers, friends and even acquaintances. Therefore, all of this makes for an interesting dynamic when I go back to where I am from and visit family. There is a bit of a clash at first, between my current personality and my old one, but before long I talk and act like I had never left. It feels uncanny, to be certain. I have begun to wonder if there will come a time, when after spending enough time in my new surroundings, I will not be affected by my travels.

Interestingly, even when I talk to my family on the phone, my voice and speech are influenced by what I hear. Consciously, I have been working on deliberately sounding like myself (which is very weird since it should be natural) and I am making some progress. The last few phone calls have been better and I believe that in time I will simply talk like I usually do and there won’t be any sliding towards what used to be. It’s the difference between that initial base point of behavior and speech patterns to my current base point that was established nearly 20 years ago.

Have you experienced anything like this? A tale of two lives perhaps, with distinctly different sets of personality traits, behaviors and speech patterns? I find it all very fascinating and wonder how a person could change their innate and early speech patterns and behaviors that would conflict with newer, more adopted patterns. Share with me if you have.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My dog, the cat

My dog thinks she’s part cat, and based on the amount of time she sleeps during the day, I’m inclined to believe it. Also, because of how much she sheds, year round, she is a terribly messy cat to boot. There is certainly some dog in her and of course, she does bark from time to time but this almost seems like a front or a diversion.

Many believe that a dog is man’s best friend and my first dog was certainly the embodiment of that phrase. I adored him and he was my buddy, always so excited to see me and always ready to please. Before he (Boo) passed away we acquired our current dog/cat, knowing full well that Boo was going to be gone soon. Our new dog (Scout) came with a few interesting warnings, such as she did not like women; at all. When I first met Scout, I was somewhat indifferent because of my attachment to Boo, but when my wife and daughter met Scout, it was love at first sight. And even though Scout was supposedly not that into women, she took to my wife and daughter from the word go. We adopted her the very next day after having met her at a downtown fair.

Oddly, Scout is not a “man’s best friend” kind of dog. She was, and still is, a dog who will follow my wife around incessantly as if my wife is holding the last dog treat; ever. I have tried repeatedly to win favor from Scout by taking her for walks (she usually makes it 1 block before ripping her head out of her collar and running home), playing with her (she becomes ultra submissive after a few minutes and usually pees on herself), being overly doting (typically, she makes a bee line for her bed and won’t come out unless I have food) and petting her nearly every chance I get (all she wants to do is lick my hand).

I suppose I was expecting too much from a dog. I had hoped that Scout might be a running buddy that would run with me whenever I went jogging. I tried it once. We actually made it 2 whole blocks before she stopped and looked at me as if to say, “you sir, are completely mad”. Scout also hates the water and refuses to go into a lake or the ocean. Bath time is tantamount to some wicked form of medieval torture. I may have also recently traumatized her by throwing her into a 3 foot snow bank of fresh powder. Scout stands approximately 12” high and while she hopped out like a rabbit, I’m pretty sure she was doing so while planning my demise.

All of this is not to say that Scout is a bad dog, she’s just a weird dog. In some odd attempt to lick the faces of everyone, she will stand on her hind legs and put her front paws on you, completely stretched out, as if standing up like a human. When Scout gets excited, she will jump straight up from that position. She has been known to “walk” to my wife before while standing upright; it’s hilarious.

At night, she will use her nose to completely cover herself with her blanket in an almost cocoon like nature. My wife thinks this is cute but I’ve never seen another dog do it, so therefore it’s weird. In an effort to enhance the cute factor, we have purchased a few outfits for her, especially for when it’s cold out. Scout wears them well but I often wonder what she must think. Then I remember, she’s part cat; she doesn’t think.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When grace is enough

It’s been said that we are our own worst enemies. Why is that? Why do we judge ourselves differently?

When I was younger, I was much more critical of others and less so of me, mainly because I thought I had it all figured out. Now that I’m a little older and don’t know near as much as I thought I did, I’m much more lenient towards others but much harsher on myself. Did age and experience do that? Is it based on a certain level of life’s successes and failures which create higher expectations?

A lot has been said about extending grace towards others but little is said about accepting grace for you, from yourself. The first step in that realization is grasping the subtle fact that we are indeed, only human (insert sarcasm font). Knowing that you are prone to fallibility helps to keep some rose in your glasses. After that, finding grace is as easy as realizing you are loved in spite of your goof-ups.

I truly believe that most of us walk around with the idea that when we screw up, we are not as loved as before we made a mistake. Or we truly believe that we would be more loved if we made fewer mistakes. Romans 5:8 makes me smile every time I read it: But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Fewer mistakes, no mistakes, whatever you think it takes, you were loved before you made them, after you made them and even in the middle of making them. Nothing I’ve ever done changes that fact and because of it, I am a new and changed person.

When you mess up, the enemy is right there to wave it in your face. Your mistakes are thrown at you in the form of shame as you are led to believe you aren’t good enough and your sin makes you unworthy of grace. It’s at that moment your own judgment takes over and you not only believe the lies that say you’re not good enough, but you compound the problem by burying your head in the sand, so to speak. Knowing who Jesus was and is and will always be is nice but unless you know who He is in your life, then He’s just another guy and grace will remain foreign. But after you let Him in, your life will never be the same.

You see, grace is God’s ability to counter our inability. Accepting grace for yourself means accepting that you are unable to save yourself, no matter how many good deeds you do, or merit badges you earn, or old ladies you walk across the street, or people you help out of a ditch, etc. But the heavy lifting for your salvation has already been done and once you accept what has been offered, you will realize that grace has covered you completely. That moment will change your life, and what follows will be your opportunity to give back, by sharing that grace with others.

Grace is a gift to you that you didn’t and couldn’t earn. Because it was so freely given, it is expected you will extend it to others who need it, as it is the single most important gift anyone could ever receive. You’re still going to make mistakes from time to time because, again, you’re only human. And yet, grace covers you completely once you accept it. The same goes for the people around you. They didn’t earn it, it was given to them freely and it covers them completely. And guess what? They’re going to make mistakes from time to time too (crazy as that sounds)!

What I’m trying to say is, stop withholding grace. It is a gift that was given to you SO THAT you could pass it on, not hoard it under your couch. Grace is not something that is in short supply so stop worrying about it running out, which also means, there is plenty to go around for you too. When you grasp that grace is FOR you and you personally your mind will be blown and you won’t be able to stop sharing it.