Gender Schmender!

I’m not sure why this country is up in arms over the transgender bathroom issue. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the issue at hand and have a problem with it myself. However, you’re assuming that just because there is a law in place people will actually abide by it.

I was in a busy airport restroom recently when a woman brazenly walked in and announced she was considering herself a boy today because her bathroom was closed. She then proceeded to wait within arms reach behind a line of men doing what they do in a restroom. (And just in case you ladies aren’t informed, we usually don’t get walls–or couches, potpourri, flowers, etc!) She made her statement in gest and obviously had no identity crisis–just the lack of motivation, dignity or respect to walk the 50 yards to the next restroom. She also wasn’t in a dire need or having a medical necessity, in case you were wondering. She was simply uncaring and blazé, assuming that no one would alert the authorities, which no one did.

I’m wondering how well this would have gone over with the gender roles reversed? If I had walked into and loitered in the woman’s bathroom? The first issue I would have had to deal with would be the concussion my wife would have provided for me, I’m sure! I’m guessing a beating (from someone I’m not married to) or a security person would have materialized within a minute or two, probably followed by formal charges and legal issues.

I have had medical necessity and yet still couldn’t have brought myself to break this particular law, especially in such a matter-of-fact manner. Who knows, maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe it wouldn’t be an issue and may have even led to dating opportunities when I was single, who’s to say? What I do know is that laws and rules are for those that choose to obey them in the first place. Therefore, those individuals that obey the laws aren’t usually the ones in need of the laws. The rule breakers and scofflaws will do as they please, as they always have, regardless of how many more regulations are added to attempt to bolster morality and decency. By all means proceed with the law making, but don’t be surprised when people do whatever they want, as usual.

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Happy Travels!

Flying for a person with obsessive compulsive tendencies is a very trying matter. The fun begins at the TSA security line, but first let me give you a brief background so you can begin to understand the situation.

Because I have “issues,” there is a ritual that occurs each day before I am able to leave the house. I methodically pack specific pockets with cash (rarely, because I really hate cash–but I’m traveling here…best to be safe), lip balm, keys, wallet or whatever else I feel necessary to be equipped for the day. I then check and recheck those same pockets multiple times before I feel ready to leave the house. It’s a continual movement that makes me reminiscent of Peter Falk in the Colombo series–standing, rotating in circles, patting each pocket in order to assess that its contents haven’t magically disappeared since placement. I’m told it’s a bit comical to watch.

Well, now I’m standing in my socks at the front of an airport security line full of hostile people in a hurry, staring at me wondering what my “deal” is. My deal is that we are expected to strip ourselves nearly bare, emptying out those perfectly packed pockets and let our carefully itemized belongings out of our sight. Then, assuming the scanning machine hasn’t stolen, dropped, zapped or flagged anything, we’re left with the task of reinspecting each item as it emerges, just barely out of our reach. If I trust my eyes that everything is in order (sometimes you have to touch as well…just to be sure!), then starts the wonderful task of attempting to repack your pockets as they originally were, all while someone else is reaching over and around you, moving and touching your bins to make room for other ones rolling out, which are also touching yours. I urgently try to find the furthest nook, of which there is none, to stop people from getting near my stuff while I’m trying to repack and take inventory. Now I’m holding up the line, doing the Colombo dance, trying to check and recheck my pockets for the correct contents in the correct places. It’s all a bit maddening, especially when you consider that all of this, of course, occurs under the watchful and suspicious eyes of those with the ability to kick you out of the airport and make your immediate life miserable. Although hopefully comical for you to read and maybe for some of those around you in line to watch, it’s actually quite frustrating!

Once that debacle is past, you get to reflect upon the fact that, in truth, the security line wasn’t the first obstacle. After you reach your gate and/or finally get seated on the plane, you get to revisit the first issue encountered with flying….the intense pondering upon the whereabouts of the carefully packed luggage you were forced to surrender at the baggage counter. Did it make it onto the plane? Your plane? Was it mistaken for someone else’s? Was it inspected, opened, man-handled, spilled, lost, mangled, dropped…. The endless list of possibilities won’t stop running though your head until you are once again reunited with said luggage and able to open and inspect the contents. But before that, you have to contend with all the other people who want a piece of my luggage–the taxi, the bellhop…why can’t they just let me carry my own stuff? I don’t look that infirmed or bad for my age!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy traveling very much, I just can’t stand the processes involved. It’s very taxing for someone with “issues”. Just a little food for thought the next time you’re upset at the slow guy holding up the line! We aren’t doing it on purpose, so please show a little compassion to those in need!

(And don’t get me started on the germs, recycled air, and unsanitized surfaces of the plane itself…trapped in a tin can with all these hacking, sneezing typhoid Mary’s. What fun!)

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Predictable Me?

“You’re just like your mother!”

There are people in this world that don’t take that as an insult, but I’m not one of them. Likewise, I nearly broke my hand in several places while my mother berated me for being “just like my father.” He had left her and left me in his place.

To this day, it makes me bristle to hear that I am anything like either of them (though it’s unlikely someone would get the chance to make the comparison since I don’t often interact with them). I’m certainly not trying to be insulting or hurtful to my parents, but they made certain choices during my formative years that they either couldn’t or wouldn’t change. None of us can change our history, but we can deal with it. I’ve spent my life trying to do everything different than they did; to make better and divergent choices–to be my own person on my own path, forging ahead without letting my past influence my decisions.

Then I read an article that described me nearly to a tee…it may as well have been written with my name as the subject. After reading, I felt as if I’d been hit in the gut; as if I’ve fallen flat, failed in my endeavours to separate from the path I feared. I never wanted to be, or thought I was, predictable…apparently I was wrong in that assumption as well. Apparently I can be read as easily as a book to those that know the language.  I’m the first to profess that our baggage doesn’t need to define us, that we are free to make choices that separate us from our burdens and our pasts, but it seems that may be harder to live than it is to say. How hard it is, then, to know that deep down, no matter how hard we’ve tried not to be, we are still products of our upbringing. We may walk prescribed paths that we didn’t even know existed, all the while feeling as if we’re blazing our own trail. Apparently we still possess scars that we’ve become blind to from staring at them so often, but that others still see bright as day. We wanted to break the mold that shaped us, to be different, but apparently we are predictable in our journeys, nonetheless.

After careful consideration and contemplation, though, it all boils down to this: I am who I am, though I constantly strive to improve. I am a child of God. I have forgiven, although not forgotten. I am at peace with where I came from and where I will end up, if not necessarily comforted by the path between the two. I have flaws, baggage and hangups, but I also have hope, faith and love. I am a human being doing my best to get this life right, to glorify my savior and treat others around me better than I hope to be treated. Because that’s all I can do. It’s the only recourse I have. I can’t rewrite history and I will not let it define who I am.

Our past may always affect us, but our future is what we make of it…predictable or not. Forgive others and forgive yourself; live, love and share to the best of your ability.

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What Luck!

“Wow, I can’t believe my luck!” “What a coincidence!” “Well that all worked out nicely!”

Some people say these verses and others as if simply random events miraculously worked harmoniously to their benefit and everything came together out of the chaos of the universe to guide circumstances to exactly where they ended up. How fortuitous! It’s no wonder our society is moving ever more away from God, pushing Him into a corner to be called upon only as needed when we drink too much or seemingly have nowhere else to turn. Instead of our daily bread, He’s become our last resort. We’ve elevated our own status and consider ourselves orchestrators of our own lives, all-powerful creators of our own successes. And the rest is just chalked up to dumb luck. How wonderful for us.

While it is unfortunately true that evil people do succeed in this world and that good, hard-working people fall flat, it is a massive disservice and mistake to attribute all that does go correctly in our lives to luck and all that goes badly to God’s abandonment. We don’t want to give him any of the glory, but instead heap all the judgement upon Him per our rules of the universe. Sounds idiotically dangerous to me, but what the hey…you go on about your bad selves. Me…I choose to dwell on Psalm 73. I suggest you read it; it gives me strength, hope and reinvigorates my perseverance in this strange and hostile world.

God absolutely works in our lives. Period. Whether you believe or not. Whether you give Him credit or not. He loves us all and wants nothing more than for us to come to Him and live forever. Just because we believe doesn’t mean we will live trouble-free lives, but that will not stop me from humbling myself to his ultimate power when it manifests in my life. My piece of advice today–give credit to whom credit is due. He deserves it! Give thanks in all circumstances, it’s not all about you.

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Getting Older

I’m on vacation so I thought I’d give you an excerpt from my first book to pique your interest:

I know I’m getting older because I complain about the music these kids are listening to today and that everything hurts all the time. Can someone tell me how is it that I go to bed feeling fine and wake up feeling like I was the dance floor at the prom? Remember when we were kids and you just naturally looked like you could run a marathon but now squat thrusts ruin you for three days? But complaining about health issues kind of reminds me of having an old car. Maybe you had or wanted a ‘57 Chevy (for me it would be a ‘68 Mustang fastback). I bet you would expect to replace some parts, do some work (okay a lot of work) on it on the weekends. A bunch of them barely run or aren’t even around anymore. How about a ‘71 whatever, an ‘81? You get my point? I think we’re doing pretty good as a whole if we are still around, let alone hopefully working pretty well. Our bodies are just huge, complex sets of wonderful mechanics. So you have to replace a water pump here and there, maybe a CV joint, or you need your wiring checked (who doesn’t). If you are here and running, count your blessings! After all, what can you expect in a fallen world?

Since when did aging become a disease? Something to be ashamed of? I love my gray hair (okay, only the ones that don’t stick straight out–oh, and not the ones in my nose, oh, and my ears; whatever)! Some women (no, not you baby!) try to single-handedly stimulate the economy by purchasing anything that contains the words “youth,” “miracle,” or “anti-aging,” “sagging,” “graying.” I spent my career trying to coax people to get the dreaded “shot” and here these ladies are lining up to get a needle stuck in their faces (among other places), repeatedly! On purpose! There are columns of plastic surgeons in the phone book just waiting to see if they can help stretch and mold you like Gumby! What’s wrong with aging and the way we look? I’m not condoning the donut diet and twelve ounce curls, but remember when working out wasn’t something you had to plan your day around? “What are you doing today, Bob?” “I’m going to work out.” “Oh yea? Then what?” “That’s it. Then maybe crash on the couch, or go back to bed.” I personally have much better things to spend my money on than torture disguised as “looking younger and better.” (Did any celebrity names pop into your mind just then?? You know–the botched attempts?) Remember “blue haired” ladies? Not anymore! Now the ladies in the nursing homes have all the colors of the rainbow (which doesn’t include white or gray)! Oh well, if my wife and others want to fight tooth and nail to prolong the inevitable, good for them. Me, I will go peacefully into that silver oblivion.

You can read more if you follow the links at the top of my blog to learn How to be Content in a World Full of Malcontents.

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Smell the Roses!

Have you considered the beauty around you today?

It’s springtime and the trees are blooming, the birds are singing and the rabbits are doing what rabbits do best. The sun is rising to present magnificent days filled with the sights, scents and sounds of glorious life.

It is hard to describe how beautiful this world is. You know what I mean if you tend to focus on what really matters in this life, not on all the other obstacles that try to hog our attention. You could absolutely stare at your computer or television all day, contemplating the stock market, President Trump or the refugee crisis–or you can take a step back, take a deep breath of clean air and open your eyes to what surrounds us all. It’s not that the issues of this world don’t need our attention, it’s that they don’t need ALL of our attention.

Take time out to smell the roses, proverbial and not. Go outside and soak in some vitamin D. Take a walk, take a swim, take a bike ride and enjoy each and every day you can draw breath–the day you can’t will come far too soon. I find fewer things so calming than walking by a babbling brook with the birds singing and foraging, with a breeze rustling the leaves. All the rest of the world can disappear, explode or do whatever it pleases at that point–because I’m at peace. Isn’t that something you crave? Peace, calm, quiet–contentedness. You can burn your candles at both ends and keep so busy that your life passes you by, or you can slow down, prioritize and blow out the flame instead of fanning it. Enjoy the time you’ve been given, it’s one thing we can never get back or buy more.

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Blessings

I recently read an  article that stated we should stop saying we are blessed when things are going our way. That by using such verbiage, we are insulting or disrespecting all of those in the world that are poor or in dire straits. While I agree with the author’s overall sentiment, I must take issue with certain points.

Since when did the concept of blessing become equated with the gain of money or the lack of trouble? The Bible tells us that we should thank God in all situations (1 Thess 5:18, Eph 5:20), to take joy in our suffering because it produces a sincere faith (Rom 5:3-5, 1 Pet 1:7), and that we can expect trials and tribulations (John 16:33). We don’t like to take joy in our suffering, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, and likewise, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge our “blessings” when they’re given.

I think the author’s overall sentiment, which I absolutely agree with, was to point out the flaws tied to prosperity theology. But I disagree that we shouldn’t consider our good fortunes and gifts as the blessings they are and not thank Him from which they came. The author was mistaken in his assertion that God doesn’t perform acts of positive reinforcement, and it is a mistake to limit Him by our ideas of what He would deem appropriate for our instruction. (Mark 10:29–“no one who has left home…for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age,” Matt 25’s parable of the talents, Mark 4:25–“Whoever has will be given more,” 2 Cor 9:6–“whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” Mal 3:10–“Test me in this…and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it,” Eph 6:8–“the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does,” Heb 12:10–“God disciplines us,” and many more). These examples are by no means aimed at, or limited to wealth and prosperity, but toward a positive prodding to strengthen our faith in Him and His promises. They’re aimed toward us knowing that we have a loving savior that is able to shower us with gifts in many different forms, at many different times and in ways we often take for granted and attribute to the wrong sources. They’re aimed at us recognizing and counting our blessings.

All good things come from God (James 1:17). He knows what we need, he knows how to bless each of us, and he knows what will cause us to stumble (Matt 6:25-34). To some, money and possessions are doorways to sin, failure, and separation from God…a means to be our own source of inspiration (Matt 6:19-24). But God does not tempt us (James 1:13), so those “gifts” didn’t come from Him, they came from the great tempter knowing what we hold dearer to our hearts–God or money. In those cases, wealth is not a blessing, but a curse and stumbling block. Our true gifts are those which we use for good, to help others, to come closer to our savior and be fruitful in our lives. Those gifts, in whatever form–discipline, monetary, or not–are blessings and we must give thanks for them…regardless of perceived insult or injury to others. We must take the time and have the proper heart to consider our blessings as such. The author states that “we are grateful” is an adequate enough statement, but that negates the gift or instruction…what are we thankful for? Our blessings.

There are great blessings bestowed upon those who are “poor” in this world: they are not tied down or held back by material wealth and can instead, if they choose, focus on their spiritual wealth (Mark 10:23-25, 1 Tim 6:9-10,17, Luke’s parable of the rich fool). They are not any less blessed than those who have been given worldly wealth; they are blessed with clarity, faith and hope…what they need…what we all need. Money is not evil, it is the root of all evil because of the importance we place upon it. James 2:5–“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom.” Their blessings are magnificently tailored to the poor and their needs…that’s the incredible nature of our savior.

We should absolutely stop attributing our blessings to ourselves, our incomes, our provisions. We should absolutely stop saying we are blessed if our hearts are considering our monetary wealth. But we should never stop thanking Him through which we live, survive and hope for a better tomorrow. We should never stop thanking Him for our daily sustenance and correction, and consider them blessings, no matter what form they come in!

He gives to each as he sees fit, it’s up to us and our hearts to sort out the thanksgivings. Do we attribute our circumstances to fate, luck, chance…or do we give thanks to Him? Our hearts are what determines a blessing, not our money or lack of it.

“The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” Prov 10:22

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Who Are You?

I used to be called cynical, tactless, and heartless among other things, but that’s WHAT I was, not WHO I was. All to often this world feels more at ease if it’s able to label things and people. I don’t like to be labeled.

When someone first meets me, they may not like my beard, my clothes, my accent or the car I drove up in. They may come to rash, hasty conclusions about who I am and if I’m worthy of their time. Even the most forgiving and faithful of us can be guilty of forming these preconceptions some of the time.

It shouldn’t be that way.

I chastise myself when I jump to conclusions based on initial conversations or appearances, and yet find myself making the same mistake at a later date. Why do we get stuck in this trap? Why don’t we give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise? It has been stated that there is nothing more important than a first impression, and while this can be true and we must put our best foot forward, first impressions can leave a lot out of the picture.

By listening without an open heart and looking with veiled eyes, we may blind ourselves to the history and backstory of the person we face. We all have demons, pasts…skeletons in our closet propped up on our baggage that shape how we speak and interact with others, but how many of those things are we being judged upon before we get the chance to prove ourselves?

We interact with people from so many backgrounds and such varied pasts that we can become jaded by stereotypes and preconceptions based on our own backgrounds and experiences. We can form instantaneous opinions based on those jaded views without taking into consideration what life events have influenced the person we are interacting with. That isn’t right, fair, or acceptable…but it is reality; one we can and should attempt to change.

Most of us find it difficult to focus on ourselves in a mirror–to excruciatingly examine our own flaws (physical or emotional), so why do we rush to do so for others? It would be nice if we could see their history as clearly as we know our own so that we could afford them some latitude and grace, but since that isn’t going to be a reality, why don’t we cut them some slack anyway? Why don’t we try to withhold judgement until we see what fruit they bear, what motives are in their hearts, what kind of people they are…not what kind of people we think they are.

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Under Pressure!

Peer pressure, job pressure, performance pressure, family pressure…the list goes on and on. We have tons of issues pressing down on us at any given time, so much so that sometimes it’s a miracle we can stand at all. Some deserve our immediate attention, some aren’t that serious…such as trying to do your business when afflicted by shy kidneys in a restroom serviced by an eager attendant! Talk about several pressures at once…pun intended. (It wasn’t as funny as you may think, but that’s a story for another day!)

The pressure we most often feel is that which we place upon ourselves. We may have high expectations of ourselves and then may also project fears and worries of others onto the heap as well. We have real and imagined benchmarks to live up to and pressure ourselves even more if we fall short of those marks.

Pressure itself isn’t a bad thing. We absolutely need to push ourselves; motivate ourselves to be better, stronger, more resilient and more able to handle this life. But it’s also important to put those pressures into perspective, learn how to handle them correctly; we need to be able to accept failure. We need to be able to face it without its weight crushing our hopes and dreams…as well as our motivations.

All successful people, ideas and inventions had failures that guided and prodded them on their road to fruition. The difference being, the successes had the fortitude and continual motivation to push forward, to try harder….to overcome. We can easily let the pressures of life hold us down, stifle our efforts, block our motivation, impede our progress, but those that are daring and willing to push forward will see rewards that those who quit will not. (Philippians 3:13-14)

We must find balance in our lives to be able to afford ourselves some grace…from God, those around us, and ourselves. It’s alright to want to get everything right, but we must leave room for grace in our lives to pick us up and dust us off so that we don’t lose our hope, our spirit, or our motivation.

Thankfully the Lord knows all of this much better than we do. He knows what we can bear and what will crush us. If we open our hearts to his will and grace, he’ll offer us relief from the pressures of this life…or at least a way out of our current circumstances. Burdens are always easier to bear if shared by more shoulders. Cast all your worries on the Lord, open yourself to His grace. You can probably handle all the pressures of life alone, but why would you want to if you don’t have to?

“He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…he will also provide a way out” 1 Corinthians 10:13
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you” Psalm 55:22
“Do not worry about your life…is not life more important” Matthew 6:25-34
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened” Matthew 11:28
“Do not be anxious about anything…present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6-7

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Tell Me the Truth!

In this electronic age, it is isn’t prudent to believe everything you see and hear. Interviews are edited, pictures altered and contexts shifted. With the speed of the internet, whichever story hits first becomes gospel and becomes nearly impossible to refute. The benefit of the doubt and truth take backseats to bandwagons and malicious gossip.

Do you remember the days when we could think for ourselves? When we were presented with non-biased (or at least much less biased) and unaltered information, then left to discuss it among our friends and family in order to form our own opinions? Days in which character and proven track records won out over ratings and viral videos?

I used to wake each morning to read the paper during breakfast and ended each day watching the evening news. Those days are gone. And probably for the best. With so much misinformation, media spin and ulterior motives and agendas, I’m not sure how many actual facts make it to my ears and eyes. I’m now reminded daily how easy it is to ruin a reputation, a career, a family and more with a maligned word, mistaken quote, ill-timed photo or outright lie. By the time the truth comes to bear, the damage is done and people are left to pick up whatever pieces they can salvage, all while their heads are still spinning from disbelief.

We need to change what we’re willing to believe, what we take for truth…we need to take advice from Missouri’s Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who declared, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Let’s let truth reign and gossip die. Let’s find our morality and common sense instead of the bandwagon. Let’s test everything through the filter of Christ and take to heart only those things worth believing. Let’s have some hope and show some faith in humanity.

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

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