The Honest Faith: Headline Culture

This week I’ve seen a few things that started this thought.  Why don’t we actually read farther than the headline,  or even,  to use writer jargon, past the fold? Is it because we are weary of the facts that may be presented,  are we afraid of change,  are we looking for a fight,  do we just want to be angry,  are we hurting or helping,  or all of the above?

The things that triggered this thought range from “well that wasn’t cool” to “seriously,  why?!” It began on the news coverage of the latest presidential social media blunders (I’m at a loss at the fact that I’ve used that phrase more than once). Then moved on to a friend posting a status of “social media should have an ‘I’ve read the article before posting this’ tag”. Finally, I saw a headline about an actor whose work I enjoy.  It was obviously click-bait, but the headline made it seem like something much worse than reality had occurred.  So again I ask,  why?

I’ve seen so many writers I respect and admire begin to do this in order to gain readership.  I admit  I’ve done this a few times myself.  Here,  let’s play a game.  Let’s play how many of these headlines have you shared without reading the author’s work Christian blogger edition:

Full disclosure, the last one is mine. How many of you judge an article by its source, its title, how many shares or likes it has, how long it is, who shared it, and so on? How many of these articles are dismissed because of something like that before even opening and reading them? How many of these have had true and honest things to say, but sometimes go unheeded because of one of those things above? How many of you have actually sat down gave your full attention to an author, and read what they had to say? Struggled with it, let their words move you, or find the truth in them?

I could go on about how we’ve become a fast food culture, blah blah blah, but you’ve heard it all before. The thing is we still do it. We still look for those things that may get a rise out of others, or something to entertain us for the 15 minutes we are on break at work. Or the minutes we spend in the bathroom in the morning doing… well you know. What if we stopped? What if we allowed authors to not make up salacious headlines in order to get people to read their work? What if we unfollowed the voices who were just trying to get a rise out of us rather than actually contribute to the conversation (just so you know I’m referring to the social media blunders and others like that, trolls. Not the authors. I respect and admire all of those that I shared above, and more I didn’t share)? What if we decided to do something about those things that don’t add anything to our lives, but anger? What would that look like? Could we even do it? Maybe we’d end up spending much more time looking at “Look at these incredible 25 nerdy room renovations. You’ll never believe what number 10 looks like”. Oh, wait, that follows the salacious headline rule doesn’t it? Shoot…

We’ve been programmed for these things. Seriously, we take our soundbites from our favorite news sources. We take headlines for face value. We take people for face value. We listen to sermons on Sunday mornings and take what we like from them. We listen to our Rabbis, Priests, Pastors, Imams, or whoever and take their soundbites. We do this all without further fact checking. We do it because, well, we are lazy. I admit it. I don’t have the time or energy to look things up. I have a former student that does that for me ;). (Seriously, though, Holli, your work is amazing!) We take what we like for face value, and discard the things we don’t. We don’t let the hard truths that displease us gain any traction because we are afraid. We are afraid of change, being wrong, what it would mean to who we are, actually doing something, or letting go of a long-held belief, I don’t know take your pick.

I struggle to be honest with not just myself, but with you, my readers. I do this not for the fame, but because, like I’ve written so many times before, I want you to know that you are not alone you matter! I want to share what I’m going through, what I’m struggling with in an honest way so that maybe, just maybe, I may find the Divine. I hope to point others in that direction as well. This has become my new ministry, but I struggle with trying to find my own voice when what I have to say doesn’t lend itself to easy, quick soundbites. Granted, I have been making “Motivational” pictures with some of my work because those are some of my favorite things I’ve written (They can be found on the facebook page if you are interested). But, I want to be in conversation.

I think if anything can be learned from the year 2016 and the first half of 2017 as a whole, we have seen some of the worst cases of what our laziness has wrought. Our lack of fact checking, our desire to get easy news, our desire to get news that pleases us, our desire to get a rise out of others, all of these things leads to some rather disastrous consequences. I’m not talking about a certain political candidate or candidates being elected or losing. I’m talking about division. The splits we are making within families, friendships, and the like. We started drawing lines in the sand and saying, “either you agree with me, or you are one of THEM!” We have left each other on the opposite side and have begun pointing fingers so much that I’m surprised that we all haven’t lost eyeballs from the collective amount of finger jabbing. I heard something surprising last week as well. I heard that since 2016 there has been a steady decline in the belief that we, as a country, are civil. I think that’s horrible. I think we so easily dismiss the other without listening to what they have to say. To be honest we have modeled this behavior at all levels of government, churches, and community. Why? Why do we keep doing this?

I believe we need each other. We are not always going to agree on everything. That isn’t possible. We were created differently for a reason. We are supposed to find our common connections and use our different strengths to accomplish wonderful things together. When we take a soundbite, a headline, a sermon, a passing phrase or sentence, or even a person at face value without finding out what the true intentions are, what the truth buried within is, we create division. For some reason, we are happy to do this. I did advocate earlier to remove those voices who do not add anything. I agree with that. I don’t believe you should cause more division, I think you need to remain civil with the other. I think you need to remove whatever it is that is getting a rise out of you time after time. If it means unfollowing them on social media, but still being a friend in real life, so be it. If it means only having coffee with that one person you can’t stand, great! At least you are still trying to hear what they have to say.

I am proposing a new rule. I’m going to call this Miguel’s rule (because I’m making it up, I get to name it alright.): You are not allowed to completely dismiss someone until you have spent at least 12 hours with them, and struggled to see them as complexly as you see yourself. (Granted, there are many exceptions to the rule as there are people that are just toxic and just cannot be around others, that’s a different post for a different day.)

Maybe we need to start engaging more and enraging less. Maybe we need to take on my social experiment from last year and make it another hard rule. This is what I did. When I saw a political post or a headline I didn’t agree with, I forced myself to go and write something I liked about them or some encouragement on the person’s social media feed. I enjoyed it. I got into a lot fewer Facebook arguments while I did so. I encourage you to do the same. Instead of getting mad or automatically sharing due to a headline, go say something nice to the person who shared it first. Then read the article, find the truth, wrestle with the truth, and talk about it with someone. Maybe even learn something new. But always remember reader: You are not alone You matter!

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The Honest Faith: A New Family

Two weeks ago, Cathy and I went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”. The main theme question has stuck with me. It asks the question, “What defines family?”. We explored this a bit in our podcast this week, but yet again that is a topic that I want to further explore in the terms of my faith and my transition into “normalcy” in the church world. What constitutes a family, spiritual or otherwise?

I love my biological family. No, we haven’t always been the best of people toward each other, but what family is? My mother tried her hardest to keep a family together and raise three kids under difficult circumstances. My father worked hard to provide for his family even when things seemed bleak. My brother who was and is still my best friend from birth didn’t always enjoy my company. My sister who, I think, still sees me as her nerdy uncool little brother did her best to try to help me be somewhat presentable to society. We had rough times, but there was an abundance of love there. So much that even though we didn’t have much we welcomed others to share it with us. Now, even though my mom doesn’t find it that funny, my favorite joke is that my family dislikes each other so much that’s why we chose to live in so distant of places from each other. That joke is funny to me because it is so far from the truth. There is love there. Despite our differences, we are blood. We fought with each other, but we also fought for each other.

My non-biological grouping of people I consider to be family comes to mind as well. There is my friend who I’ve known since I was 13 years old. He is and will always be my brother. He was the best man at my wedding. There is the priest who believed in me when it seemed nobody else would, it seemed. He and his family are blood to me as well. There is my friend who had secret plans to set up my wife and me way before we started dating. She was a sister to me. I miss her dearly and still converse with her even though she is now having beers with the Divine on the other side. Those youth who I had the immense pleasure of teaching throughout my career, I still view as family and people I would do anything for.

There is an interpretive art that is commonly accepted as a pattern called soul mates or soul families. There are many different interpretations of this idea. Some believe that you were all connected in a previous lifetime and find each other again in this life. Pretty Idea, but I’m not really a believer in past lives hypothesis’. Another interpretation is that a spirit is re-used in different people. Again, not a concept that I can get behind, but I still see some merit in the thought. But my favorite is that some feel that those whom we feel such a close connection with is that our souls are formed with similar pieces.

There is a saying that is still contested on it’s meaning, “Blood is thicker than water.” It’s commonly known to mean that your family bonds are thicker than those other relationships. Another interpretation is that the bonds formed through “Blood”, such as fighting alongside someone in battle, are thicker than the water of the womb. I can see the truth in both interpretations of the saying. But I want to take the second interpretation a step further.

The Christian and Jewish scriptures often refer to the Divine as being a refiner, or refining. They use terms from metallurgy to describe the process. If you have ever been in a Christian church you have probably heard some person refer to a tough situation as a refining process, maybe even in a sermon. The problem with that is you never want to hear that at the time. It certainly doesn’t help. The thing is, though, I can see it as such now. Those times in our lives when we encounter the fires of life they teach us to get rid of the impurities in our lives. Or if you would rather a different construction metaphor, it sands down the rough edges of our souls so that we may better find connections with each other.

I think that our souls are formed through the experiences in our lives. We find people who have been through some of the same refining processes that we have and we are able to fit together easier because of it. It doesn’t mean that we find a lot of things to connect on, but we do connect with those people especially because of the sanding down of those particular rough edges. We will find others in our lives who we don’t connect with particularly because they still have those rough edges in those areas where we’ve been tempered and refined.

Our biological families connect well because we go through the same fires together, we form non-biological connections because those “others” have gone through similar fires and have similar connection points in their souls. The danger we face as human beings are only examining one aspect of another. We tend to focus on only one part of a person and not see the whole. When we can see other human beings as complex beings like ourselves we can begin to find the similar connection points. We all have connection points though some are a lot harder to find than others. Okay, I realize that this metaphor is getting really double entendre-y really quick. Bear with me though.

I think family is everywhere. Family is ready to happen at a moments notice. You just have to look for it sometimes.  As Peter Quill in the new Guardians movie puts it, “Sometimes, the thing you’ve been looking for your whole life is right there beside you all along.” I think you can make connections with anyone. I think family really is in the eye of the beholder. I will always have my biological family, but there are others I still consider to be family to me. I think that is what the Church is meant to be. It is meant to be that community that we consider to be family. Not just those other people we happen to see at a worship gathering. People who will love, support, and fight with us (even if we fight each other sometimes) no matter what. That is what makes a family to me. What do you think?

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Honest Faith: Beauty in the Breakdown

A few years ago I was obsessed, like many people my age, with the television show Scrubs and Zach Braff. I particularly enjoyed his movie Garden State. He put together a wonderful mix of songs for that movie and there was one that particularly stood out to me. Still, to this day, it wells up “the feels” in me. It is Frou Frou’s hit “Let Go”. If you wish to give it a listen here’s the first youtube video that pops up when you search it:

My life, as one of my friends puts it, certainly wasn’t the one I signed up for. I have had several breakdowns emotionally, spiritually, and physically along the way. I could have let any one of those stop me along the way, but still, I persisted. There is one thing that through it all I’m reminded of. There is beauty in the breakdown. I can quote any number of things that kept me going throughout the years, but that’s not what this post is about.

On Sunday, my family and I attended a church service. It was only the second time we had gone since another such breakdown. Something there reminded me of this. The moments came together to suddenly bring me back to a place where I felt comfortable again at a small “c” church. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first time we had attempted to go back to a worship service. I broke down during the Eucharist. I felt unwelcomed and unwanted at the table. Because of this, I got very angry and upset. I realize it wasn’t rational. I know it is nobody’s fault. But it was something that just took me aback. I realize there are things that I could be justifiably bitter about in my life, but that would go to serve nobody. It doesn’t help me, and it certainly doesn’t help other people for me to hold on to grudges. It was almost enough to make me never want to go back to church again. But I made a promise to myself, my wife, my therapist, and my blog readers (Hey! Look you got a mention!) to try to find a way back.

Anyway, This week as I was sitting there preparing for the worst, as I am wont to do, something beautiful happened. Now, this may seem silly to a lot of people, but to me, it was one of the most beautiful and endearing things that have happened in a worship service in a long time. People kept missing their marks, there were misspellings in the bulletin, and the lectors read the wrong thing. Some may take offense at that, but to me it was beautiful. It was beautiful because nobody seemed to care. We were all just honest, real, and authentic human beings coming together to worship the Divine.

I think that is one of the reasons, out of many, that Millennials are leaving organized religion. It’s become too polished, too much of a show, and so much about the “entertainment value” that worship has become a shell of what it was. I did a youth group project a few years ago asking people why they go to church. One of the top answers was because my friends are there. I’m sure if you ask people what they love about a church, aside from disingenuous answers of the music, or the preaching, you’ll hear because they are family or some variation on that. Now let me ask you something, are your friends and family perfect, polished, and “showy”?

One of the things that Millennials value most is authenticity. I think that this is why I felt there was so much beauty in this breakdown of the service. It suddenly felt real to me again. It was a family muddling through the issues to do the traditions and rituals before us. We didn’t let the small things stop us. Maybe that is what the Divine intended all along for us. To be messy, to be real, and to be authentic.

What about you, reader? Do you find beauty in the breakdown? Is it easier to let go when others do? Am I way off base?

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Dear Son, On Thanksgiving

Dear Son,

Right now, your mom is giving you a bath. You like baths. You splash around in the water and smile up at us while we attempt to clean you. You still try to look at everything and end up making it difficult for us to try to get our goals accomplished. This is going to be one of my fondest memories of your early years. Today is a day of memories and taking stock of all we have. We look at what we have to be thankful for. For us, your parents, that is a lot. It may not seem like it to us right now, but we have a lot to be thankful for.

I remember a long time ago when I was little, your Nanna K and Abuelo, would cook together. We lived a long way away from the rest of our family so we often had our thanksgiving meals at our home in south Texas. One of those years I remember being really warm. In fact, I think there is a picture somewhere of your Abuelo in shorts and a t-shirt, standing on the sink opening the bay windows in the kitchen to air it out a bit. I remember that we always had wonderful food for thanksgiving: Turkey, Tamales, shrimp, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, chips and salsa, sometimes guacamole, sometimes that salad your Abuelo would make with jicama and oranges, and pecan pie. We always tried to have  our family with us. Thanksgiving was a time for family. No matter who was around the table at dinner, they were family.

Food has always meant a lot to me and my family. Your Abuelo was a cook for the Navy. That’s probably why he loved those cheesy Steven Segal movies… He loves to cook. Your Nanna K loves to cook. She made experimental dishes. She shows people love through food. That is something that your aunt, uncle, and I  try to carry on in our own homes and families. We show our love to other people through food. You may have noticed by now that I try to do the majority of the cooking at home, it’s because I love you and your mom. That whenever we have people over, I try to make food for them. I want them to know that I love them no matter who they are. Thanksgiving is the time of the year when that idea shines the brightest and boldest!

Son, Your family will change over the years, but one thing I want to impress upon you is that no matter who is around our table at any time they are family. When you are grown and no longer living with us, I want you to continue that tradition. No matter the menu, no matter the meal, no matter the company when you break bread with someone they are family. Especially at Thanksgiving no matter who you bring to our table, or who you invite to your table when you are older, they are loved and family.

Love,

Your Dad

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Dear Son, Don’t give up

Dear Son,

These last two months watching you grow have been the most amazing, and most exhausting two months of my life. There have been moments where I wasn’t sure I would make it through. There have been moments of pure elation. There have been moments when your lips curled up into a smile that reminded me of everything that is perfect and good in this world. I know you have no clue what is going on outside of your tiny little realm. At the moment I am so very glad for that.

There are times in this life where all seems bleak, and it feels like there is nothing that can make it better. We talked about this a little bit before in my letter on pain to you. But, as a quick reminder; I wrote this on a friend’s facebook post this morning:

I’m reminded that change is never easy, especially when we aren’t ready for it. Though we are never truly ready. Things seem at their worst right before it begins to get better. Maybe this is the worst, maybe it isn’t, but good is on the horizon.

Life is hard. Things worth having in life never come easy. There are all sorts of clichés that we throw around. But there is a lot of truth to be found in them. Yes, it is an over simplistic answer to a deeply complex and complicated issue. But sometimes we need those simple answers. This week something very terrible happened. At some point we will have a conversation about what has and what continues to happen, but not in this letter. People have offered their simple answers to this horribly complex and complicated issue, but what has happened has been reminiscent of events that are all too similar. The simple answers aren’t enough anymore.

There comes times in our lives when we are called upon to act. It’s those moments where we know our simple answers will not work anymore. It’s those moments where I’m reminded not to give up. You will learn that I am an idealist and a dreamer. Your mother will tell you that I’m very much like Clark W. Griswold from the Vacation movies. I build things up in my head and I work very hard to achieve those things, but more often than not it tends to only reach halfway or fail spectacularly. Yet, I still don’t give up on those things. Maybe it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment. Or possibly, it’s because I know that things can be better than they are. There is a deep and abiding hope that lives in us dreamer idealists. I’m not sure if you are going to be like me or not, but I know that it is a very tough life living that way.

People often want to live in the dark. I don’t mean actual literal dark, but sometimes people want to live that way too. I’m talking about an emotional darkness. They want to live in that place of pain and hurt because at least they know what they have lost, and will not have to give anything else up. I can’t blame them too much. Change requires that we sacrifice. Moving on requires that we give more of ourselves up. It is painful, but ultimately it leads to something better. These people see that deep abiding hope within those of us who are dreamer idealist and fear that we are the catalyst of change. They will do whatever it takes to put out that light so that they may remain in the dark where they are. They want us to stay with them. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not the best thing for either person.

My message in all of this is to say don’t give up. When you encounter the dark people, when you feel like the world is turning in on itself, when you feel like you can’t go on;  hope is there. It may be a small spark within yourself, or it may be your ever idealistic father behind you prodding you on, but it is there. I wont go into the details here, suffice to say my other blog posts which aren’t letters to you will tell you what it is, but I’m going to keep fighting for what I think is best. I don’t have all the answers, but I know what I need to do make sure that you grow up feeling safe. I know that things can be better. I’m going to do the best that I can to make things better for you. Maybe it will work out, maybe it will fail spectacularly; but I am not giving up. I love you and I am going to give you the best life that I can. I am not going to try to make it magical, you do that on your own, I’m just going to make sure the world is ready for you.

Love,

Your Dad

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Dear Son, Be Kind

Now that you are a month old, we are beginning to see you take in the world around you. You, like me, are a stare-er. You enjoy staring off into the distance or toward an object giving off light. There is nothing wrong with that, though some people find it creepy, trust me they’ve told me so . It just means you are beginning to formulate thoughts and discover new things. That’s beautiful.

There is a lot of beauty in this world, son. It takes many shapes, colors, smells, textures, complexities, and even simplicities to make something beautiful. As you are discovering you will note that things aren’t always the same. Especially when it comes to us human beings.

For some reason along the way us human beings wanted things to be the same. We got comfortable with things being uniform, though I’m not exactly sure why. Though we still appreciated beauty in it’s many forms, we wanted a lot of those things to be uniform as well. I discovered something a while ago with the help of the writings of someone I looked up to immensely. His name was Mike Yaconelli, he wrote a book called “Messy Spirituality” along with many others. Something I discovered while reading that is, Beauty is messy. We’ll talk about this more fully in another letter, but this sets up what I wanted to discuss with you.

In life, son, you will come across many different people. There is beauty in all of them, but that beauty is messy. Something your Nana K always used to try to get me to understand is that everyone is going through something. Everyone has their own mountains to climb. Often times that struggle takes a lot from them. Even if they climbed that mountain a long time ago they may still carry the bruises and scars from the struggle. It’s part of what makes them beautiful, but fragile at the same time.

Here is something that may be controversial. You were born a quarter Mexican male with very white looking skin. People will often say things like what does that have to do with anything, but will secretly place qualifiers on those things and more. Because you look the way you do and you were born a certain gender it is going to afford you a lot more opportunity than most. People want to say this isn’t so, but in my experience it very much is. I think the reason this happens is because we as human beings want to make things uniform, and comfortable to us.

I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad, no! I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that your life and struggles will be different from other peoples. I tell you this because I want you to understand why it is important to be kind, to everyone. By being kind you allow the beauty that was always there in someone shine through. You allow them to embrace their own humanity, while you embrace yours. It’s not because you are better than someone, no. It’s because you, like them, are going through something. One of the biggest tenants (Not that one) of our faith is something Jesus taught us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I believe the reason for that is within all of this rambling that I’m giving to you. All people are beautiful. That beauty is messy. Messy is uncomfortable.Beauty is in the differences.

I hope this makes sense to you. I’m writing this when I’m severely sleep deprived. You will understand one day…

Love,

Your dad

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Dear Son, On Pain and Growth

Dear Son,

I’m blown away at getting to know you. You decided to be born three weeks early. It was a little unexpected, but nothing that we couldn’t deal with. After all we have been waiting for you since 2013. This is probably one of the hardest things for you to read, and for me to write. But it’s something that I have thought a lot about. Pain is a catalyst to growth.

Now it certainly is not the only only one, nor is it the easiest. But almost every time there is growth there is pain that goes along with it. Right now you are fussy and don’t like change, especially when it means me having to put a fresh diaper on you. That’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking more about what you go through when you start cutting your first teeth or how your muscles feel after a growth spurt. There is pain, but it’s there for a reason.

In 2013 your mother and I found out that you were to be born. We know it wasn’t exactly you, but one our coping mechanisms has been to think that you just weren’t ready or you didn’t like the original versions of the bodies that were forming. We miscarried our first two pregnancies. This was extraordinarily emotionally painful for us, and in fact there is still a lot of healing the two of us have to do yet. Loss of life is probably one of the most difficult pains we as human beings face. Because there is so much uncertainty that is associated with it. We don’t know what happens after death. There are many religions that make their best guesses at it, and even our own does that as well. The truth is we only know by experiencing it ourselves. Without this pain that we endured, we would never have fully appreciated every single breath you take. Every moment you are alive is a miracle to us. Every diaper change that you fight me on and wail at the top of your lungs through is a joy to me because you are alive. That is the rainbow, the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel, or whatever someone wants to call it. Without the pain, there would have been no growth.

Of course I’m not saying I’m going to subject you to painful circumstances so that you grow! Certainly not! I’m saying that in life you will go through things that are painful. I’m going to try my best to keep you from those things, and I probably will try to shield you from pain that you should go through as well. But know that when you do encounter pain that it only means growth is coming or is in the process. I know this doesn’t lessen the pain. In fact it may even make it worse. One thing that I have learned as the neurotic paranoid anxiety mess that I am though is that it always helps to hear that someone loves you, and that no matter what they will have your back. I love you and no matter the pain you go through, I will be there for you to help you grow.

I know that some of those painful things may be caused by me. I know I’m going to make mistakes, and as I sit here listening for your cry I’m so incredibly terrified by that fact. I know though that I love you. I know though that I am going to try my hardest to be the best dad I can be. Every boy struggles to either be better than or completely not like their father before them. I know that there will be something that I do along the way that will make you feel that way.  I pray that it will be more inspiring than painful, but you can’t plan things like that. I pray that you will love more, learn more, and reach higher heights than even I can fathom. I know some of these things aren’t possible without hardships, but I hope that you will know that I will be there for you even when you don’t want me to. I love you beyond what words can say. I never fully understood what a father’s love was until you were born. Every single moment of your life that grows more and more.

Son, You will endure pain. I’m sorry that you have to. It’s necessary in life. No good story is born without conflict though. We as human beings try our hardest to avoid it, and in fact many of the stories I will soon share with you begin just that way. I will be here though when you fall. I will pick you up and dust you off. I will bandage your wounds. I will care for you until you can get up and try again. Because son, that’s life. Life is getting up and trying again until we get it right. Then there will be a new thing to try, a new thing to fail at, a new thing to get right. We live, we grow, and sometimes we fail. There will be pain, but I hope, I pray I will be there to help you through all of it. I love you, and no matter what I’ll have your back.

 

Love,

Your dad

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Ten reasons why I’m reclaiming the name Millennial

Okay so, I know my last post was a list post. I’m not switching to solely list posts, I just found it to be a fun way to organize my thoughts, and it actually helped. I think it was one of my better posts in a while. I don’t know, maybe you disagree, but I figured it’s better for me to organize again in a way that makes sense to me. So here we go the ten reasons why I’m reclaiming the name Millennial.

1. Names are important!

Maybe you were forced to read Shakespeare, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you have done a lot of study on story, the bible, or ancient writings. Maybe you have read the book Freakonomics. If you have you know that names are important! In fact one of the most famous, and famously misquoted scenes in Shakespeare is a characters struggle with why names are important. william-shakespeare-dramatist-whats-in-a-name-that-which-we-call-a-rose-by-any Juliette struggles with Romeo’s name. After all he’s a Montague and no self respecting Capulet would be caught dead with one. The most misquoted part of that scene is “Wherefore art thou Romeo.” Which instead of the commonly misconceived meaning “Where” means “What or why”. Why are you a Monague? She struggles with the fact that his name divides them from being together, in fact the entire plot hinges on it.

In the Bible names are extraordinarily important. People throughout the Bible are named for the amazing works they are going to accomplish or an important thing that happened to them, except for the James’ whose names were changed for a king but that’s a different blog post for another day though I’m not discounting the name it still bears weight. In college I had to write a 20 page paper on the book of Ruth. One of my favorite parts of that paper was researching the names in the book. One of my favorites was Orpah changing her name to Naomi, going from bitter (or stiff neck) to pleasantness. There are many iterations of name changes and why it’s important. in the Bible. From Simon (God has heard) to Peter (Rock). Jacob (supplanter)  to Israel (May God Prevail).

maxresdefaultEven in modern story telling names are important. In the new star wars movie for example *******SPOILER ALERT****** (seriously how have you not seen it yet?) Kylo Ren, whose chosen new name I have yet to figure out (also one that I saw that I thought was kind of funny Ky from skywalker and lo from Solo) besides Ren being Ruler, forsakes his given name Ben Solo (bum bum buuuuuummmmm, seriously I gave the spoiler alert why did you read this?). This is essential to who he is. He forsakes Ben (son) or if his full name is Benjamin (son of justice), he forsake being a son and he forsakes justice. There are plenty of these peppered throughout modern stories like in the Matrix, Thomas Anderson (Twin Man, best superhero name ever!) Is the name given to his “digital” counterpart within the matrix. One of my favorite examples, Dolores Umbridge (Pain or sorrows) basically her name is pain so bad she’s named it twice, it’s no wonder she does what she does to the students at Hogwarts…

******Spoilers Over*******

All this to say I wanted to take a name that held some importance. I chose to start the list with this because I wanted to convey the importance of this name in the next list sections. This name may have been one that has been placed upon us millennials, but it holds importance nonetheless.

2. The Dawning of the new Millennia

We are now firmly in the third millennium Anno Domini, year of our Lord or common era if you’d rather. Some important things happened around the turns of the millennia. In the first we had Jesus’ life and death, in the second we had the forming (as in giving form to) and structuring of our most dominant religions, and here in the third we have made information and learning more readily available for all humankind. That’s terribly important. We are named for the fact that we came of age at the dawning of the new millennium. I was the first graduating high school class of this new milletumblr_mbo4b85mF71r31ngfo2_250nnium, take that class of 2000 that’s right there was no year zero. We are the ones who are to shape the direction of this millennium. I know that’s a lot of pressure, but whether you want it or not it’s ours. We will be the ones who shape the future, good or bad. This is why I feel it’s so important for us Millennials to reclaim this name. They call us lazy, incapable moochers on society let’s prove them wrong. Our grandparents (or great grandparents depending on the timing of your birth since the term millennial has been blanketed over a few generations) were called the great generation maybe it’s time we take up that mantle and take responsibility for this new millennia. Which brings me to my next point.

 3. Making a name great

Every great name has to start somewhere right? Whether you are a Catherine (pure) or a Miguel (Who is like God?) your name has an origin. You may have been named for an ancient saint or a saint a bit closer to home. But you are named for someone who made that name great. We have thought a lot about what we are going to be naming our child. He will be named for many many wonderful people who took their name and made it great. There’s Peter Capaldi (incredible actor and the most recent Doctor), Peter Parker tumblr_mgxs7pXmgl1rmxg74o1_500(spider man), Saint Peter, but the biggest influence of them all was Peter Bishop (Fringe). Which, granted they are all characters who have not always made the best choices, but they all were solid and reliable in the end. They all embody the name Peter, and they make it great. That is what I want for my son. I want him to embody the name and make it great.  His name will be Solid Joy, because he is that undeniably bright rainbow at the end of a long storm. He has already succeeded in that. We millennials didn’t choose our name, but we have the opportunity to make it great. We have the opportunity to turn what was meant to be a negative into a glorious positive. Those are some of the best stories aren’t they? The ones where something went horribly wrong, but in the end the protagonist redeems it all. You are not what people call you. You are not what is said of you. You are what you make of yourself. We millennials are what we make of ourselves. Let’s make ourselves incredible!

4. Rethinking Religion

Millennials, it has been said, are much more accepting of different faiths than any preceding generation. The only problem is they are largely giving up on organized religion, allegedly. There are many reasons for this in my studies. Not the least of which being that this age demographic throughout history has always had an odd relationship with the institutions of faith. Eighteen to thirty-ish has been a largely un-reached demographic within mainline denominations and faiths. It’s only when those thirty-ish-somethings start having children to they finally see value, again, in the institutions of faith. I could write another whole list post on why this is as well. Well they are all mostly unproven hypothesis’, but educated ones to say the least. One of the biggest ones in my mind though is one that I keep facing to this day.

I think this image encapsulates exactly what I mean by this.youth-group It was the very first image that came up when I did a google image search for “Youth Group”. Let’s deconstruct the image. It looks like a raucous good time. It looks like a bunch of people at a rave or something. A lot of people with their hands in the air like they just don’t care. OK, now what in this image says church? Go ahead take another look, I’ll wait…. You back? Did you find anything? Maybe a cross? A star of David? A crescent moon and star? No? What did you find? I couldn’t find anything in this that says church to me. In fact have any of you found an institution of faith that looks like this? Not discounting Mega-churches and all that they do, but since when has a church that actually did spiritual direction, education, and formation looked like this? Granted the early church worship services were basically dinner parties at peoples homes, I don’t think they ever looked like that. That’s the problem. We have made youth programs into fun raucous parties, and when those teens go off to adult they can’t find a church like that. They don’t really exist, at least in my experience. So there is this big disappointment and let down in college, and they end up leaving the church until they find value again for their own children. This is a cycle that I have so desperately fought to break in my career. It’s tough though to break people’s expectations.

Pretty-ChurchIt’s on millennials to shape the direction the institutions of faith are going in. I, personally, don’t think that we should go the direction of Sunday morning raves.  But maybe I’m a bit old fashioned. I think it has a lot to do with rethinking what those institutions of faith are supposed to do, and how best to do it. I think it’s a bit of deconstruction and reconstruction. After all isn’t that what the people at the turn of the last millennia did? It’s a new millennia time for us to do our own formation and structuring. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel as it were.

5. An age of Love

At the risk of sounding like a hippy, wouldn’t it be great if we learned to love each other? Again, millennials are seen to be the most accepting of all generations. I think there is a major hurdle facing millennials is that the preceding generations are teaching us division. Especially in this country, people are deeply divided on many issues. Which is alright in itself, but we have to allow people to hold their own opinions and love them anyway. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the Episcopal Church.Episcopal-Church-welcomes-you-1024x464 I had been looking for a place where I could still worship with people even though we held different viewpoints, but we still came together as family around the Lord’s Table. I think this is what can make a society great. An ability to put aside differences and talk about how best to move forward as a whole. Isn’t that the vision our country’s forefathers had for us? Isn’t that what Democracy is meant to be? Let us Millennials be the generation that does that. Let’s come together. Let us not hate each other due to differences, but love each other and realize that only together do we have all the pieces of the puzzle to move forward. I believe that we can achieve that. That is another reason why I’m choosing to be called a millennial.

6. Millennial doesn’t have to apply to only one generation

The official term came about to describe “those who came of age at the turn of the millennia”. To which I say, giphy“that’s incredibly vague!” Coming of age is a sort of nebulous term to me. Considering this whole concept of adolescence has thrown us off of things for over a century. We’ve prolonged the process of transition to adulthood well into the twenties, and sometimes even thirties. Here I am sitting here writing this thinking, “Yeah, I don’t feel like an adult.” I’m thirty-two. I don’t know that we have enough rites of passage as a society to help people feel like they have left behind childhood. Or maybe it’s alright that we haven’t completely transitioned out of childhood. Maybe it’s alright that we still hold on to that. Because as Madeleine L’Engle once said “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” So in essence we all still have that child inside of us that gets giddy when watching the latest Star wars movie (Woot! two references to star wars down!).  So essentially I’m saying you are a millennial if you want to be one. If you don’t that’s fine too. The reason why I say that is because some of the most inspirational and transformative moments I’ve had in my life were moments of inter-generational togetherness. Some of my favorites were talking theology with a deacon I served with, her husband, and my wife in the pub. We all learned and grew from these interactions. It wasn’t focused in a teacher/ student dynamic, it was a free flowing conversation on whatever came to mind. This, then, became the inspiration for one of my favorite ministries. I think this goes back to my previous point about overlooking the differences and just loving. So don’t worry too much about the name, but know that it holds importance and meaning.

7. It’s a challenge

There has been plenty of shade thrown the way of the Millennial. I’ve mentioned a lot of it here already. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as well. We have been called the unluckiest generation, and many other things that instill doubt and hatred of us. The funny thing is that I don’t take that too personally, because I know I, for one, am not like that. So I take it as a challenge to prove the powers that be wrong. I don’t know why I do this. Every time I have been called something in my life or challenged on something I have always tried to set out to prove that person or thing wrong. Often I come up short, or I’m the one who changes in the process; but my point is that we should see this as a challenge to be better.

As I’ve already, and will in the next points, laid out some of the goals for us we need to change some things.d8cfdcb6950f67925848ab725d75300b57603e8fd54b348ebba9e8c46a641f7f Yes, change is hard. But nothing in life worth having is ever easy. Those who tell you that they are easy, I think, don’t truly appreciate what you have. Remember how I said the best stories are those where something is redeemed. It’s through hard work and dedication to something that redemption is achieved. I enjoy a challenge, because I know that something will be gained through the process. Win or lose you are changed by the process of the challenge. That’s why you take it on. You will be changed by the process. Hopefully for the better, but it’s not often that rising to the occasion has made someone a worse person.

8. It just sounds cool

bcooOThis is probably my least significant point, but seriously say it.
Millennial… Millennial… Just sounds cool doesn’t it?

 

 

 

9. It’ll strike fear into the hearts of your enemies

Okay, so I know these last two sound like I’m kind of stretching for extra points, and on some level I am. I challenged myself to 10 points after all. But if you have a name that sounds cool, and has had negative pr surrounding it don’t you think it would be a bit intimidating, for others, if you chose it for yourself? Sometimes intimidation can get some people to listen to you, granted it’s not the best method to do so, but it can get the job done.

10. We are here

George Mallory was asked in an interview why he wanted to climb mount Everest. His response has been famously re-quoted ad-nauseum. He said “Because it’s there”. Honestly, it is simultaneously apathetic and inspirational. On one hand it’s basically saying, cause I wanted to. On the other it’s saying, why the hell not?  We the millennials are here. We’ve been named, so why the hell don’t we reclaim that name? We are much more than Buzzfeed articles or test results. We are much more than youtube and netflix. As Father Richard Rohr said,

Grace and mercy teach us that we are all much larger than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves or about one another. Please don’t get caught in your small stories; they are usually less than half true, and therefore not really ‘true’ at all.

Don’t let the bad stories define us. Make our story the best the world has ever heard. May it be said of the Millennials, not that we were the unlucky and lazy ones, but that we met our struggles head on and overcame. That we changed the world and shaped the millennium to come. We are here, whether we like it or not, so let us make the best of the time and stories that have been given to us. May we be remembered, and remembered for the good that we did. So come with me. Let’s climb this mountain of reclaiming this name together. Let us be the millennials they will speak of!

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The Problem with Superheroes

Last year I met up with a high school buddy of mine. We had done a bit of catching up and reminiscing. The conversation turned to the finer points of the two comic book giants, DC and MARVEL. He brought up an interesting point. He said that DC was the comic of those who were godlike in their power and set apart from humanity, those who were to be worshiped. He went on to say that MARVEL was for those who would become heroes; ordinary people, becoming heroes.  It was an interesting idea and one that I hadn’t thought about in that way. I think both have had a huge impact on society, and have changed us; whether we’d like to admit it or not. Though I think there has been a change made in us that is extremely dangerous.

We have come to expect heroes to come to our rescue. We put things off and expect someone else to do it. I think that this is partly the result of our laziness, and the result of the popularity of superhero culture. Granted, I’m not condemning it at all. I love superhero movies, comics, video games, etc. as much as the next guy. But when I think about it I see so much of this in our culture. Or we excuse our inaction by saying this problem is bigger than that problem. When asked who will take care of that problem it’s the same answer as above though, Somebody else.

What baffles me even further is that when someone does actually find that thing that they care about and want other people to care about it with them, they are attacked for not caring about issue b, c, or x. I don’t think we were built that way. Granted, I do care about a lot of issues, but it is impossible for us to take on everything. For instance, I may care about issue A and you may care about issue B. That doesn’t make either issue more important than the other. It means there are a lot of issues we need to take care of.

I have been thinking about all of this because of our recent state of affairs in this country, coupled with the manipulation and fear-mongering of media and social media. A lot of people are very afraid, and I totally get that. But as George R.R. Martin put it,

‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.

We shouldn’t let our fear rule us. We shouldn’t shut our doors and windows and believe that someone else is going to take care of the problems if we don’t. Because the truth is we were all made to be heroes in our own right. It’s your choice whether or not to be a hero or a villian.

I have seen a few viral posts going around about helping our countries veterans before we help our refugees. But one of the biggest and saddest truths, whether you admit it to yourself or not, is that almost none of those people who have posted that would lift a finger to help a veteran if they saw one. Why? Because they are afraid. I don’t like to be cynical, and in this instance I know a lot of people will instantly dismiss me thinking that I’m just being cynical. But the facts are there. Look at the statistics of support and help that they are receiving when they return. You can find article after article about both sides of the aisle politicians voting against veteran care bills. These are the people that we are expecting to “help” or to save from our current issues.

The hard sad truth is, we really don’t care. The American people have been conditioned to be afraid and complacent. It’s very sad. I can tell you that the majority of the outrage over things is just that outrage. No action ever comes from it, because we don’t hold our “heroes” accountable. Look at the approval rating for congress. It’s worse for the president who is actually trying to do things. Yet, we keep voting for them. Or maybe we don’t even vote. Because we want someone else to do it.

There is good news though. There is a being that believe in us. Some one who believes we can be heroes. A being that can fix everything with a snap of It’s fingers. I know this may sound like “pie in the sky” idealism, but I very much believe it to be true. The truth is you can do something to change the issues that impact you so deeply. The truth is there is nothing holding you back, but yourself. If you believe in an evil entity, that evil wants you to sit around and just be angry and not do something.

So get up! Be a hero! If you are outraged by red cups at your local coffee place, fine don’t shop there. Send the money you would have otherwise spent on coffee to your local VA. If you think that Veterans are more important than refugees, fine go and contact your senators, representatives, and other elected officials and tell them that they better take care of that legislation that needs their vote. AND in the meantime find a homeless veteran, take them in, give them a meal, help them get back on their feet. Don’t attack other people who care about other issues than you either. Because the truth is the world needs all of our help. EVEN YOU!!!! They will be working on another issue. I may care about refugees, and you may care about veterans, GREAT LET’S BOTH GET TO WORK!!!! So… BE BRAVE! BE COURAGEOUS! BE A HERO!

Edit: I had something that I decided I needed to add. I heard somewhere, if you change the world for one person, you have changed the entire world. So don’t think you can’t make a difference. There is something right near where you live that you can do to make a change in someone’s life. So go and do it! I will too.

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My Perspective…

WARNING: Super emotional post… You have been warned!

 

 

This started out as a venting post, about the things that really grind my gears, but then I found I was writing a rather long post about the miscarriages. So I decided instead I’m going to write about the husband’s perspective on this. My wife did a wonderful job with telling about her journey through this ordeal, and you can read her blog here.

Cathy and I had a rather rough year in 2013. We were both going through a lot of stressful events at work. We were having to deal with friends and family who were pulling away from us. Then we discovered, twice, the pain of miscarriage. It’s not something that I would wish on any couple.

As a husband, You go through this period of extreme happiness at the discovery of the pregnancy. If you are like me you even begin prepping for the baby. You buy books, begin reading, read every article you discover online, and begin dreaming of what the little one will be like. You start with these wonderful plans for the future. What you are going to teach them. What movies you are going to introduce them to. You hope that they will turn out just like you, but better. You have big hopes, dreams, and so much love for this life that is only microscopic at this time. You spend hours daydreaming of what you will do as a father, and fretting about the horrid things you may do to screw up their lives…

Then there is a period of almost constant terror. When things happen that you don’t understand and you are told are not normal with a healthy pregnancy, you begin to over analyze and live in this state of dread. You dread the dreams that you have dreamed in the last few weeks will not come true. You fear that you wont be able to take care of your spouse through the pain if it does happen this way. You bargain with God. You yell at God. You wonder why God would do this to you, and then remember that is an absurd thought.You drive back home from a camp you are working at when you get the call from your wife that she has bled constantly. You tell her to go to the hospital and you will meet her there. You make the 35 minute drive in 20 because you were maybe speeding a bit too much. You leave the hospital late that night with nothing new to show for it, only more questions. They tell you that everything appears to be fine, but in the back of your mind you know it isn’t. You try to stay hopeful and positive so that everyone around you can’t see the cracks starting to form in your armor.

Then you get confirmation that the horrible event has happened. You sit in the doctor’s office trying to tell yourself that everything will be ok, when it most certainly is not ok. You were, after all, just going in for a regular check up after the hospital visits. Then the doctor comes in and tells you that nothing changed in the weeks since the hospital. It’s not good. All the while you fight back your tears and emotions so that you can be the “strong” one for your spouse. You try to figure out what you and your spouse will do now. You tear off your “I am your Father!” star wars t-shirt when you get back home and hide it in shame in the back of your closet. Then you just sit and cry. There is nothing else to be done.

Then begins the private pain. You may not be like me. You may be very open with people when it comes to your pain, and all that you are trying to drag your spirit out of. I was once told by a pastor that I worked for that “Nobody wants a depressed spiritual leader.” The pastor I worked for after him told me, “we [those of us in church leadership] live our lives in a fishbowl, everything you do will be scrutinized. They have no forgiveness for us either.” I know both pastors were meaning well and trying to help me professionally, but I think what was told to me has made me overly guarded and closed off about my emotions. I don’t think it’s healthy, but I know people place unfair expectations on their spiritual leaders. But the pain begins regardless.

You don’t feel the depth of pain that your wife may be feeling. But it is still an immense loss. If you elected do so, you sit in the hospital with your spouse waiting for the doctor to begin the d and c surgery. You comfort her the best you can, but you are in that pain as well. You are terrified about the horrible things that could go wrong, but probably wont. You worry that they made a mistake in the office the other day and the life is still growing. When things go well you laugh and joke just to help you hide how much you hurt. You return to your life like nothing happened…

As I have said before, it’s hard to move on from pain. You end up carrying bits of it with you from that point on. You do move on though. You try again. You want to talk about it with others, but you don’t know how. You find little places here and there where you allow people to share that pain with you. As a man it’s much harder though. Men aren’t supposed to show when they hurt. It’s a horrible societal norm which I think hinders our species. This was my hurt though. We went through it twice over the course of this past year. The second not as bad as the first, but still painful. I think because we didn’t let ourselves hope or expect too much. We aren’t going to leave it at that. We will be hoping for our future as a family, and I for one know that it will happen. One way or another our family will grow. Whether it be through adoption or natural means we will be parents. You have to move on. You have to try again.

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