Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Take on the Duck Dynasty Firestorm

I love Duck Dynasty. I resisted it for years, and recently got sucked in to the down-home, quirky humor of this family--who all seem like good people. I enjoy watching it with my kids.

But all the social-media brouhaha is crazy, and I am saddened by what I read from many of my evangelical friends, and how this reflects on us Christians.

I do not claim that my opinion is the RIGHT opinion. I've been wrong before. But here is where I am:

This is not a free speech issue. Phil Robertson has the right to say whatever he wants. No one is telling him he can't. But just as he has freedom, A&E has the freedom to run their company the way they choose.

And to say Phil is being persecuted because of his faith? please. Phil has made millions with his business, TV show, and merchandising. He's not hurting. Even without the TV show, he has the means and the freedom to go where he wants, do what he wants, and say what he wants.

To call Phil a martyr is insulting to the millions of people who have lost health, home and life by standing for their beliefs.

Imagine this scenario: There is a network that is created and funded by a Christian ministry. It airs a traditional family TV show with an actor that viewers come to love. It comes out that the actor is gay, and lives with his partner. He begins to talk about LGBT rights publicly.

The network decides that this actor and his beliefs don't fit with their image. They fire him from the TV show. How many evangelicals would stand up and claim that the network trampled the actor's rights?

We're all for free speech when we like the speech; but people often look for ways to stifle that speech when they don't like it or agree with it.

The bigger issue is this: why do many evangelical Christians feel the need to fight the battle against homosexuality publicly? Do they believe their rantings are going to make a positive difference in people's lives? Do you find it helpful or effective when people publicly rebuke you and tell you that you need to change?

I get that they believe it is a sin.

But why do we see so many people in the public arena fighting this fight?

Why not divorce, or greed, or gluttony, or dishonesty?

Why is this one issue elevated so far above others? Many evangelicals will say it is not or should not be addressed more than other "sins." But they still do it. We never see this kind of social media uproar about other issues (except maybe abortion).

Does this follow the example of Jesus? I don't remember reading anything in the Bible about Jesus standing up for free speech, and fighting for individual rights. He seemed more concerned with feeding the hungry and healing the sick and helping the poor and offering forgiveness.

Did Jesus often use public forums condemn particular sins? Most of the time in Scripture when he did address sin, he did so one-on-one, in the context of a relationship; with gentleness and compassion and grace.

When Jesus' rebuked publicly, He was usually addressing the hypocrisy of religious leaders.

Finally, do people think that fighting this fight publicly is going to draw people to Christ? Does anyone think that non-Christians are watching all this and thinking, "wow, these people and their God really love me"?

In my opinion, that should be the bottom line. How do my words and actions help connect others to the God that loves them and gave himself for them? I don't think the current uproar is accomplishing that.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Value of Time

I wrote this for Gracious Goodbyes, a wonderful blog created by my friend Jill.

The older I get, the more I recognize the value of time. Not about how time working equals financial gain, but the relational value of time.

 When we’re young, time seems like an endless commodity. We don’t think much about how we spend our time, or with whom we spend it; we just live, doing what we want, with whom we want, when we want.

 As I grow older, and life brings more choices and stresses, I realize that our time is limited, especially the time we have to spend with people we love.

Continue here

Thursday, June 27, 2013


The pictures below show what each of my boys did at the Burlington All-Comers Track Meet this summer. Over three weeks, the boys ran every Wednesday night against other kids their age.

Brady's Ribbons

Cash's Ribbons

All runners received ribbons--blue, red or white for the top three in each age group, light blue "participant" ribbons for everyone else.

Looking at the two pictures, it looks like Cash achieved more success. He placed second or third in most of the races he ran, from the first meet. He was really excited and ran very fast.

Brady, who just turned 7, was running against 7 and 8 year olds, and was often one of the smaller kids in his races.

At the first meet, Brady ran his best, but was never able to break the top three for a red, white, or blue ribbon. He did receive 4 participant ribbons, while Cash had one 2nd place and one 3rd place ribbon. Brady was disappointed he didn't do better.

At the second meet, we talked about him running some longer races. In the first meet, both boys ran the 50 meters, the 50 meter hurdles, and the 100 meters. I encouraged Brady to run the 200 and 400, thinking he could do better in the races that depended less on speed, and more on endurance.

But at the second meet, Brady got anxious and didn't want to run at all. He watched Cash run race after race, earning even more ribbons, and he kind of shut down and didn't run at all after doing the softball throw.

I was really disappointed. I didn't care about him winning, but I didn't want him to quit. I didn't want to see him give in to fear. I wanted him to be brave and do his best, even if it didn't turn out the way he wanted.

All those desires are good, but I let it frustrate me more than I should have.

It was a great lesson in realizing that our kids are their own people, and make their own decisions. I had to let it go.

I tried to encourage him, telling him that winning wasn't what mattered, but trying. Doing his best.

Going into the last meet, Brady had a pretty good attitude, and seemed ready to try again.

He did the softball throw, and got a participant ribbon. He ran the 50 meter dash, and got another participant ribbon. He ran a great race in the 200, but finished 4th, and got another participant ribbon.

At this point Brady had earned 9 participant ribbons. Cash had earned 9 ribbons for 2nd or 3rd place. 

The last event Brady tried was the 400. One full lap. Too long to sprint. He started off well, pushing his way to the inside and looking strong for the first 200 meters. Between 200 and 300 meters I could see he was getting winded and tired. 

I was running along the infield, yelling encouragement to him. 

"Keep pushing Brady! Don't stop! Run as fast as you can, now, all the way through!"

On the last straight I could see he was hurting. Another runner pulled alongside Brady, and looked as if he were going to pass him, but Brady found another gear and pulled away. He crossed the finish line in second place.

As I watched the race official hand him the red ribbon, tears filled my eyes.

I was proud that he ran his best and never gave up. I was happy for him that he earned a red ribbon, knowing how important that was to him. 

I'm proud and excited for all the red and white ribbons Cash earned, and just as proud and excited for the one red ribbon Brady earned.

I love being a dad.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rich Mullins film is coming!

After hearing about a Rich Mullins movie for a couple years, I finally saw a trailer today.

I watched it over and over, and it brought back many memories...

I was introduced to Rich's music in 1986. I was a new Christian, and everyone was listening to Amy Grant at the time. I went with some friends to see her in concert at the Patriot Center, the arena at George Mason University, where I was a student.

Rich opened for Amy. I think he sang "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," a song Rich wrote that became a big hit for Amy. I was greatly impacted by his music. I bought his debut album and listened over and over.

I bought every album he put out from then on.

"Awesome God" was probably his biggest hit, but I preferred some of his lesser known songs. A few early favorites of mine were "If I Stand" and "Home."

In 1991 and 1992 Rich released The World As Best As I Remember It, volumes 1 and 2. Both were amazing albums, with "Step By Step," "I See You," "Waiting," "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" and "Sometimes By Step."

In 1993 came A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band, with "Creed" and "Hold Me, Jesus." The album was later chosen number three on CCM's greatest albums in Christian music.

Rich's music became the soundtrack for much of my life in my twenties and thirties. I listened to him all the time. "Hold Me Jesus" was my go-to song when I was hurting, afraid, uncertain about life, and who I was, and where I was going.

"Creed" was my inspiration, when I needed a spiritual boost. "Step By Step" and "Waiting" were my prayers, as I reached out to God and sought his presence.

I remember when Rich died in 1997. I was in seminary in Fort Worth, and went over to my girlfriend's apartment one day. She sat me down on the sofa and told me Rich had been killed in an auto accident. I sat there stunned for a minute, then began to cry. I felt like I had lost a close friend.

Rich also introduced me to one of my favorite writers, Brennan Manning, starting with his book The Ragamuffin Gospel--which is my absolute favorite book ever.

In 2002, I was leading a campus ministry at GMU. In October we went to a retreat at Eagle Eyrie, near Lynchburg, VA. The speaker for the retreat was James Bryan Smith, a professor, writer and speaker. Jim and Rich were good friends; in 2000 Jim wrote Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven.

It was a beautiful picture of Rich's life, music and ministry.

I was thrilled to meet Jim, and hoped to get a minute or two to chat. One day at lunch, I had been talking with students and went to get some food as most were leaving the cafeteria. Jim came in, and we ended up sitting together and talking.

He shared wonderful stories of Rich's life and their friendship--Rich lived with Jim and his family for a time, and Rich wrote "Madeline's Song" for Jim's daughter, who was born with severe health problems, and died six months after Rich's death.

We talked for about an hour, and it was wonderful. Spending that time with a close friend of Rich and hearing personal stories about his life was amazing. I was so grateful to God, and to Jim, for that time. I left feeling even closer to Rich, who has made such a big impact on my life, in many ways.

If you don't know Rich's music, LISTEN! I've linked to many of his songs, I encourage you to take some time and let God sing to you through Rich.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Goodbyes and other changes

Old age creeps in...I wrote this post in March, thought I posted it, but didn't. It's been sitting in my drafts for over a month. Better late than never...

I've probably written about goodbyes before; they happen a lot the older I get. Change is part of life, yada, yada...

But change and goodbyes never get easier. And last week was a tough one.

Last year I moved into a leadership position at Logos and was assigned an administrative assistant. Lauren transferred to our team from another department. She was friendly and professional and eager to learn.

She soon became the hub of our department and worked hard to help us all be successful. We worked together a lot, and quickly got to know each other. Our team ate lunch together once a week. Lauren and her boyfriend came to Cash's birthday party.

We would often start Mondays by telling each other about our weekends. Lauren always asked about how Jamie was doing, and was an encouragement to me during that time.

When work was difficult, Lauren was a loyal co-worker and a good friend. She became one of my favorite people, and made work a more enjoyable place. I came to see her kind of like a little sister. (although I'm old enough to be her dad : )

Lauren and her boyfriend both recently got great jobs in Seattle, so they have moved down there.

I am really excited for them, watching them begin a great new adventure together. But I will miss seeing her at work. I know we'll stay in touch, we talked about taking my family down and hanging out with them in Seattle.

Work won't be the same without her, and I'm sad for that.

But I am glad for the time we did work together, and for how Lauren's kindness and encouragement helped me when Jamie was going through her treatment, and when I was going through frustrating times at work.

Lauren is the most recent in a long line of wonderful people that have impacted my life, and made it a little better. Saying goodbye is always hard; but I am so grateful for Lauren, and the others to whom I've had to say goodbye, because the hard goodbye means the friendship was special. And that's good.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Lesson in the Cold

Brady had baseball practice tonight, even though it was freezing, and halfway into the practice it started raining. It was so cold that at one point I looked around and realized all the parents had gone to their cars in the parking lot. Cash and I were the only ones still watching.

After a while, Brady came over to the dugout, where Cash and I were standing and watching. He was in tears, his face and hands red and frozen. He wanted to go home.

"Brady, we can't just leave. Your teammates are out there practicing, and you're part of the team. I know it's tough, but keep moving, keep your hand in your pocket and try to be strong."

He began crying, asking me to please take him home.

I told him I would, but that he needed to go tell his coach he needed to go. He didn't want to, and kept talking and crying about being cold.

I wanted to take him home. I wanted to tell his coach he was crazy to keep practicing. I thought about how sometimes at work I don't agree with the decisions made by those above me.

I told Brady, "You have two options, Buddy. You can tell your coach that you're just too cold and sore and need to leave, or you can go back out there in the field and keep going."

He stood there a minute, then ran back out on the field. Soon it was Brady's turn to bat. He came in and hit several balls, even though I could tell it hurt his hands each time he connected.

A few minutes later, Coach said enough and ended practice.

I went up to Brady in the dugout and knelt down in front of him. I took his face in my hands and said, "Brady, I have never been more proud of you than I am right now. I know you hurt, and wanted to leave. I wanted to leave. But I am so proud that you went out there and kept working."

His red face broke into a big smile, and we raced to the car.

I love being a dad.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Another New Year

A new year. Hard to believe.
Another chance for me to try once again to be more faithful in writing.

Random thoughts today...

Excited for a new year, new opportunities, new challenges (and some that continue)...

I preached Sunday about moving from self-consciousness to God-consciousness.

You can listen here if you are interested.

It's something I'm working on, and really want to work on with my kids... I want them to grow up bold and free and unashamed.

This past year has been the most stressful of my life--Jamie's battle with cancer (which has been a big victory--she had her last treatment 4 weeks ago and is doing great!) and stress at work have been the main factors.

Money is always an issue, but we have been very blessed by God and by family and friends who have helped out.

I've been fortunate to get part-time work at our church, where I preach once a month. The people there are great and have quickly become family.

The kids are doing great--I can't believe Ashley is a junior. She is doing great in school, and becoming more wonderful every day!

The boys are growing by the minute--they are so much fun and make Christmas such a joyful time.

I have gained a little weight this year, but taking advantage of the new year to make some changes in diet and exercise. I have my 30-year high school reunion next summer (which sounds unbelievable every time I say it or write it), a good time to try to get back into shape.

I also want to recommit to spending time with God, reading, praying, thinking and writing.

One of the reasons we moved to Washington was for life to slow down, and it has. But I need to slow down my thoughts, and specifically my worries; and enjoy each day, each minute, with my amazing family.