Poor Middle Guy…


A phenomenon has been occurring for the past few years if you haven’t noticed. There has been an eclipse where two bodies have been progressively growing while a figure stuck in the middle has been gradually and sadly decreasing. Poor middle guy…

Happy Thanksgiving, all! This is one of my favorite holidays; I might like it more than Christmas. *gasp!* I know, I know, I’m the grinch.

Which is actually kinda why I’m writing. See, my two year old daughter likes to watch morning cartoons. You know, Cat in the Hat, Curious George (I actually love that little monkey myself), and others like that. And guess what premiered yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving…

Christmas specials.

Go ahead, I’m used to it by now. The snarl of disgust, the shake of the disappointed head, the label of “Scrooge” that is most definitely overused. I get it often when I verbalize my displeasure at the progressively earlier commencement of Christmas festivities. Do I need to get my inner child to wake up or something? Nah, I don’t have one, I have an inner man.

But let’s get back to why I like Thanksgiving. It may be as patriotic a holiday as July 4th, it prompts our minds to think soberly and encourages contentment, and it commemorates an historic event where God Himself aided early Americans. Patriotism, sobriety, reverence. Just that would be a great day. But we also have a great excuse to splurge once a year  and stuff ourselves with comfort food, spend time with friends and family, and watch football. FOOTBALL!

Yet as I look at my world I see little of the above things emphasized or even anticipated. Our culture in an effort of political correctness and cultural diversity has discouraged the foundation of our politics and has shunned a culture. Thanksgiving has become like any  other harvest festival and instead of having the deep and sacred meaning with which it was birthed it has been reduced to the gong of the Christmas bell. Our “Thanksgiving Day Parade” is more the red carpet roll-out for the big man in red. Today this celebration is observed more as the beginning to the Christmas season than an actual independent holiday.

And Halloween’s increasing popularity has only worsened Thanksgiving’s plight. Thanksgiving is being squished between two super-holidays, and soon I fear it will be diminished to something so far short of what it should be, what it was born to be.

Tomorrow I’ll let my wife play the Christmas music in the house, and I’ll probably dance like a monkey with my daughter to “Rudolph.”  I’ll start figuring out my Christmas list for my family, and I will begin to prepare my heart for that great holiday. But today, today I give thanks to God for all He is and all He has done. I will spend time with family and enjoy all I have been given.

… and I’ll watch the football game. FOOTBALL!

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Knock knock!


“Knock knock!”

“Who’s there?” … “Hello?”

“Oh, sorry, I went to find myself so I could answer your question.”

I started a new job today. You know, one of those desk jobs. When I got there and we were all corralled into a conference room, they informed me that they apparently needed my soul.

Oh, wait, sorry, I got that wrong. They only wanted my identity.

*raises hand enthusiastically* (But isn’t your soul your identity? It’s who you are, right?)

Evidently they weren’t interested in my soul, and that’s a good thing because it means I get to keep the job. I provided my SSCard and Photo ID and that seemed to satisfy.

After this fun transaction we had another little assignment. Because they want to encourage a “team spirit” they had us pair up and find out some particulars about each other. You know, one of those assignments that is supposed to break us out of our awkward shell with which we instinctively encase ourselves at every routinely new environment. We were supposed to discover something interesting about the other and write our findings on a poster for that individual that is now hanging on the classroom wall and will stay there for our 6 – 8 weeks of training.

When we were done and one of my partners had filled my poster, it read something like this:

Used to work as All-Around Restauranteur: cooks, waits, works!

Likes to write fantasy, currently working on a novel

Black belt, kung fu (karate)

Married, 1 daughter and 1 on the way (congrats!)

Well, it didn’t cover everything I said, but not a bad summary for 5 – 10 minutes of interview. At least any friend of mine could read that poster and be able to identify it as mine. So there that poster hangs as my classroom identity, the summation of the details I am currently willing to disclose to complete strangers.

What would have happened if I had presented that poster earlier in the day as my identity? Or what if in the corporate project I had provided by driver’s license? Both were apparently acceptable forms of identifying my person but only to the specific people interested. My coworkers could care less what my driver’s license ID number is, and I think the Human Resources Department doesn’t really care that I’m working on a novel. So why did they want what I gave them?

No wonder we have a society where we are obsessed with “finding” ourselves. We feel like people don’t really want to know us for who we are but only the part that pertains to them. We are forced to present a different form of ourselves to different people or risk rejection. We define our identity by a few numbers on a card and yet are expected to give an accurate picture of our person when asked “What do you do?” So is it the numbers that define me, or my actions? We wonder. For myself the fact is I found myself a long time ago because the Bible showed me to me. God’s helping me define a new me because I didn’t like the old one.

We can try to say “I am not a number” but the sad fact is we are. It’s our decision if we stay just a number or not.

Just another everyday thought.

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Ahoy, maties!


Well, it be National Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day here in the United States of Americaaaaar! Now, don’t be shy, lassy, none’s gonna make fun of ye.  And, laddy, the trick is to speak it from the gut! Ahar!

Ain’t it amazin’ how much a grummy group of outlaws and felons have turned into such a worldwide phenomenomenono… well, it’s like the scurvy and people are catching it. A few hundred years ‘go, the very association with a pirate meant certain death; ya might as well tattoo the black spot on yer hand!

I always was awondering ’bout that curse.  If ya had it, wouldn’t ya cut off yer hand? It’d be better than dyin’, right? Maybe that’s why we have old Captain Hook…

No matter, back to the subject at hand (HARHAR, hand, get it?). Isn’t it loony that a bunch of miscreants could gain so much popularity? One day, they’re walkin’ the plank and hangin’ from the gallows, and the next couple centuries later they get their own motion pictures and national day to commemorate their speech. Ironic, isn’t it?

They really weren’t as ruthless a bunch as many think.  Yeah, they stole and pillaged and all, but they did it pretty honorably.  They always had their own laws of conduct and codes of treating prisoners (we all know paaaaaaarley) and usually had their own ship chaplain. Bet that guy never preached on the Ten Commandments, ahar.

I just be thinkin’ it’s strange we’d honor such a group of felons so much as to disconnect their character from their actions.  I mean, we’ve got kid shows with pirates as the good guys for Pete’s sake! (Not really sure who Pete is, but rest his soul…) And yet we demonize the pirates of Somalia as if they are really much different. Oh, I forgot, they don’t talk like a pirate, AAAAR.

Anyway, irony aside, it is pretty fun to stomp yer feet and give a nasty snarl. Give it a try, it ain’t the plague. Any other day you might seem to need to get below and out from the sun, but not today! No, today ya show them landlubbers what it means to be a pirate, AHAR! Or, at least, how to talk like one.

Make sure to leave a comment with yer best pirate speech! Good-day, me beauties!

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You’re a (Happy) Monster!


Used courtesy of Lee Brimelow

Oh, hey there! I’d like to welcome you to our world of Happiness! Here we all strive to have a happy society void of downers, “realists”, and pessimists. Here your only standard of living is whatever finite fancy fulfills your fickle feeling for felicity! Here you will be encouraged day to day to pursue that highest of goals with phrases such as these:

“Does it make you happy?” “Whatever makes you happy.” “Well, if you’re happy, that’s all that matters.” “It makes me happy, so it must be OK, right?”

What kind of horrible monsters of happiness have we become?

It wasn’t always like this. In times long since past and even still in select places around the world, happiness was only one of many cherished and respected feelings. Emotions such as sadness and anger were held in reverence and known to be reserved for reverent occasions such as death and injustice. A funeral procession was seen as solemn and the mourning of the loved ones honored in such a way as to be emulated. All was governed by the guideline of sobriety and each emotion was valued in its proper place.

But not in our world. No, we truly live in the world of happiness. Happiness is our law, our code of conduct. It is our goal, our guiding light. It is our standard of value, our life’s worth. And it’s not really the happiness that is spoken of in our Constitution or the Scripture, but rather the happy feeling of mirth that drives our lives.

Somehow with statements such as, “If you’re not happy, what do you really have anyway?” we have confused happiness with contentment. Yes, they are synonyms but only when used as synonyms. Because of the duality of the meaning of happiness, we have somehow concluded that something that does not make me feel good in the moment does not make me feel content either. We value our continual dandy feeling more than our relationships, our responsibilities, and in some sad cases, our lives. If anything doesn’t make us happy, we end it.

Our marketers have only capitalized and encouraged this philosophy. With flashing smiles and cooperate hugs they tag their product and are trying to tell us they have the price tag to our happiness. Medication commercials are always showing what we’re like without our meds and then trying to tell us we can live “normal” lives if we only take their drug. Car commercials are trying to brand their vehicle with a social identity and telling us that a particular stereotyped identity is somehow individualistic and will make us feel better about ourselves. And above all, we’re told if it’s not fun, it’s not good.

Because we value being happy more than anything else in this world, any other feeling is diminished and disregarded. Sure, we allow for the emotions such as sadness over the death of a loved one, but that is seen as simply the path to healing so we can feel happy again. We have suppressed our feelings that take us away from feeling good to the point where we have become numb to sympathy, outrage, and grief.

Where has this world of happiness brought us? It’s brought us to broken homes where parents no longer were “happy” with their lives and left to “find their own happiness.” It’s brought us to slums and streets overflowing with druggies and alcoholics that say they just want to feel good while the workaholics look down from their twentieth stories at the lower-lifeforms in disgust. It’s brought us to extreme forms of depression when people cannot perpetuate the good feeling they think they need.

No, we’re not to be all sad and gloomy. Anyone who knows me knows I love having fun more than most people. Being happy is a good thing and helps unite the bond between us. The pursuit of happiness is an honorable one, but not the pursuit of feeling good. That’s just a pleasant-sounding name for selfishness.

In college, one of my roommates once looked at me straight in the eyes and told me the truth I needed to hear: “The difference between a boy and a man is this: a boy does what he wants to do, while a man does what he should do.” It’s not about feelings. It’s about truth.

Just another everyday thought.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4

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Me with Myself


A couple years ago I made up this short story for a children’s class I was teaching.  After the lesson I kinda realized it was worth writing down so I wrote it out and posted it on my Facebook notes.  A few people read it, most didn’t believe I wrote it.  One girl told me it left her speechless, and another guy said I could make money off of stuff like this.  That makes me feel all fuzzy.  Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy it and it speaks to you!  Please, comment and let me know your thoughts! I want to see through my reader’s eyes.

Me With Myself

I entered into the painter’s workroom. Beholding the three easels before me, each easel holding a separate painting and each painting covered with a cloth, I turned to the painter and asked, “Why have you brought me here?”

“I want to see what you think of these paintings,” the old man said. “I have noticed your eye of perception, your ability to tell a superior thing and notice an inferior. Will you tell the artist your thoughts on his work?”

“Of course,” I said as my heart swelled with pride at the compliment. To think this master artist would ask my opinion on his paintings was a marvelous thought!

“Good,” was his reply, and with it he strode to the first easel and pulled the cloth from the painting, revealing the portrait of a woman. The woman’s face, however, was not unfamiliar to my eyes, for this was a woman with whom I was well acquainted. Often my daily business would have me interact with her, and these interactions had allowed me to procure quite an opinion on her person. The painter looked at me with his old, fading eyes and asked me, “What do you think?”

“The painting itself is marvelous, beautiful even,” I said. “But if you were to capture her truly, her brows should be furrowed, her forehead taut, and her lips tight, as that is how she appears at almost every moment of the day. You must have been with her at the very best of her moods, for to say her temper is not too bad would be like saying a mountain is not very tall.”

“Fair enough,” the painter said, as he nodded and examined his picture. “I can see how a few adjustments might make it a little more realistic. However, you have two more paintings at which you must look.” With those words he walked to the next painting and pulled the cloth to the floor. On this painting’s surface was the portrait of a man, and again I was quite familiar with his face.

“Oh, a true work,” I said. “Again, the painting itself is a wonder: the colors, the lighting, the shades. However, if you wanted to truly capture the man, you would turn his lips downward, his brows upward, and his eyes would point to the floor. I do believe I have never met such a melancholy individual in my life. Even his presence makes me dreary.”

“I see,” the painter said, standing in front of his work for a moment, judging the words I had just said. He stood in silence for longer than I had anticipated which made me wonder if I had revealed too much of my mind, but then he said, “I see your point. The painting is not exactly realistic, is it?” Then, walking to the last easel, he said, “You have been very helpful on these two paintings, and I want to see what you think of this last one. But this one is different, because I did not paint it.”

“Who did paint it, then?” I asked.

“You did,” he replied, pulling the cloth off the easel, leaving me looking into the glass of a mirror. As the cloth fell in folds to the floor, I stared at the face before me in shock at this twist of events. The old painter simply smiled and walked out of his workroom, leaving us alone: me with myself.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

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Freedom of Speech is LOUD


Freedom of speech is a funny thing.

Ever heard, “I just need to say my peace”? Me too. Not only have I heard it, I’ve said it, and you probably have too. Do we mean it? Nope, not a bit.

It’s amazing what happens to us when we get freedom of speech. Something inside our brains turns on; a little button gets pushed that flicks a switch that makes us do something crazy. I know you’ll be shocked by this, but people free to speak actually speak. Insane, right?

OK, pretty basic stuff here, but follow me a little further and you should see where I’m going. Why do we speak? Why have people fought so hard and long to be free to speak? Why is it the only one of five freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights that every American knows? Know why?

Because we all want to be heard.

There’s no point in saying anything at all if no one is listening, is there? Other than the occasional self-help psychology that we all practice but are too proud to admit, few of us talk for no reason at all. No, we don’t want to just say our peace; we want people to hear it.

It doesn’t stop there. You see, we all don’t just want to be heard, we need to be heard. Sure, being understood is nice, and having people agree is ideal, but those aren’t vital to our existence. There are things even my wife doesn’t understand about me (imagine that), but that doesn’t make me feel empty and alone. Not being heard? That does. And it’s not just me, this is a pretty universal truth about people. No one wants to be the only kid in the classroom whose raised hand never gets picked. When we aren’t heard we feel like people don’t care about what we have to say, and when that happens we feel like people don’t care at all.

This is why freedom of speech is a funny thing. We all have this universal need to be heard, right? So what happens when everyone is set free to say what they want? We all stop listening and start talking.

Sit back and just imagine that for a second. Everyone talking. What would that sound like? What would you hear? Probably a steady hum of unintelligible words where one voice is hard to discern from the next, a mixing pot of thoughts and ideas so simultaneous they are lost within one another’s content.

See why it’s funny? We value our freedom of speech so greatly because that means we can be heard, but when we all start talking no one is left listening. We become a mob of philosophers and busybodies, a classroom of teachers at their boards with not a student in the desks, a bunch of friends on their phones with no one on the other end. We end up gravitating to the people who say the same thing as us and somehow we feel like we are being heard when we hear what we want to say coming from someone else.

I think I went too deep there. Sorry, let’s swim up and head for shore.

So here we are, in a world of humming discussion with a still-unfulfilled need to be heard. What do we do? There’s an easy answer: talk louder. And we do, don’t we? Look at your world right now. Go on your Facebook and scroll through your notifications. Check Twitter. Surf YouTube. Watch the news. Talk to your friends. People are screaming to be heard any way they can. They’ll interrupt, ridicule, yell, whatever it takes to be the one to whom people listen, that status that gets the most likes, the guy with the most followers. Those who still feel unheard go to extremes as self-mutilation, emotional explosions, or even suicide in a sad and sick attempt to be noticed.

Amidst the wall of verbal graffiti we stand with our hands over our ears trying to decide: not listening means being uninformed and ignorant while being up-to-date is often obnoxious and always overwhelming. We are forced to choose between headphones or megaphones. Unfortunately, I believe our “Freedom of Speech” has somehow led us to the “Right to Scream-Your-Head-Off.”

So quiet down. Grab a friend, a couple cups of coffee, and a couple chairs. And listen. Because what we haven’t talked about yet is our need to interact. We need to hear what others say to us just as much as we need to be heard. Both are necessary for us to feel like we belong, like we’re loved. I don’t know about you, but I know I easily fill my talking quota. We feed our mouths all the time, maybe our ears are hungry. And the funny thing about when we stop talking and start listening is everything seems to get a little quieter all of a sudden.

Just another everyday thought.

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