Monday, September 29, 2014

Did we miss the 'Love' boat?

As a Christian, I have been taught since I was a little kid that the greatest commandment was 'LOVE'.  Love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself.  How has this simple rule been so badly kept?  At my church this weekend, a very startling poll result was given to us.  When a large group of Americans were asked what word first came to mind when thinking of religion, love was not even on the list of 15 words.  It WASN'T EVEN ON THE LIST, our single greatest commandment did not make the list.  What a failure.

It set me back and made me think, how can this be possible, what is the reason(s).  I realize that I AM part of the problem also, I do NOT give myself a pass on this in anyway so this whole article is aimed at me as much as anyone else.  As I started looking back at the specific teachings, examples and expectations that I have seen or experienced a few ideas began to form. First, Christians (in the major branches I have been a part of are at War.  How can we love people when we have been taught that we are at war with them.   How can we love people who, we have been told, 'are out to get us'. We have to pull together and protect ourselves from all the bad stuff out there.  Be set apart from the world as it were.  We begin viewing non-Christians as possible sources of temptation, gateways to sin even.  We don't dare truly be a part of the world, we have to be 'set apart' from the world.  Much like when a herd forms up to protect itself from the lions, anyone on the outside is left to their own devices and when they fall we can sadly shake our heads and think, "they would have made it if they had been in the herd."  That is not love--it is not love if someone has to come to you to get it.  Love is given, it is given to you wherever you are, whoever you are AND whatever you have done.  We can be so busy defending ourselves from sin, or temptation that we begin looking at people AS being sin or temptation.

Here is another example; men in ministry or in Christian companies will have rules that they cannot be alone with women.  No meetings alone with a woman, no slightest possibility of the hint of impropriety with a woman, just stay away.  With this kind of attitude, how can you have women in leadership at this company or church?  How can you even view women as people? They become vessels of sin or gateways to sin or some other THING.  It is dehumanizing for them.  I know a professional woman that was helping organize a conference that included churches and Christian led companies.  She found out that a colleague was flying in to the city for the conference and was going to take a cab on to the convention area.  Her offer to pick him up and get him to the hotel he was staying at was met with serious hesitation.  Not by the man needing the ride but by one of his superiors. They had to take into consideration the possibility that someone thought it improper for a woman to be alone with a man in a car.  This woman, feeling slightly insulted, I might add is somehow, not a professional but a gateway to sin, whether she wants to be or not.  So this herd was made up of males and this woman was suddenly a lion prowling around looking for the weakest one in the herd. How absurd.

We MUST change how we treat everyone, how we view EVERYONE.  There cannot be a 'them' and an 'us' if  Love is our goal, there can only be an us.  I challenge all of us to enlarge our circle of us.  Not to view each other by race, sexual orientation or political persuasion.  We need to view each other as people, fallible, infuriating and needing love.  If we change how we view others in our own hearts it will change how we treat them and maybe one day Love can break the top 15 on the list.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sometimes I dont like me

I saw 'Saving Mr. Banks' this weekend and while I enjoyed the movie a great deal (it was quite touching), I came away with this one idea. 

It is impossible to like others if you do not like yourself.

Now I do not want to give away to much of the movie, but suffice it to say that the main character spends most of the movie being insufferable to those around her and demanding that they not only accept it, but change to suit her in all facets.   She so disliked herself that she spent her life making everyone else pay for it.

This is not a new thought for me. There are times I have done the same.  I find when I don't like myself, I don't like anyone else either. The harder I judge myself, the more exacting my judgment of others.

Over time, I discovered an answer to this state of being.


I had to forgive myself.  I could not find any other way.

All the shame, self-loathing, embarrassment, EVERYTHING will tend to pull you deeper and deeper into that dark place where all you can see is the black shadow of who you are.   Forgiving yourself is NOT easy. I didn't want to forgive. I didn't think I deserved it was very determined to hide, or suffer or just be as unhappy as possible.  How do you deal with being deeply disappointed in yourself? For me, I finally realized how hard I was making life on those around me, my wife, kids, siblings, friends...  I eventually got tired of seeing them tiptoeing around me, weighing their words or just avoiding me. 

My wife and I ventured into 'Marriage Bootcamp'.  This week long exercise put us on the road to marriage recovery, and taught me about the importance of forgiveness.  I needed this information in order to salvage a marriage that was dying.  In the process of trying to make it right for my wife I realized I had to make it right for me as well.

In life we impact each other, sometimes nicely but many times not so much.  If we do not forgive, the anger and pain stay with us, coloring our choices, our actions and our general feelings.  Forgiveness is for US, not for the one being forgiven--they don't even have to acknowledge the apology--you just have to do it and do it honestly.  Once I grabbed this idea I traveled WAY back in my life and began forgiving people...all those little (and Big) things that I had been holding onto.  Slowly, my outlook began to change.  I quit holding onto grievances (mostly) and began working on forgiving me.  In the end I realized that I wanted to be better...I wanted to change, but the only way was to forgive myself for past mistakes and move forward fresh.  Now, I have the lessons I learned without the baggage they came with.  It is a very freeing place to be. I like me a whole lot more...and so does everyone else.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The work of friendship

This is more observational than anything else.  I notice that close friendships require work.  This is much like marriage in that if you want to keep a very close relationship you have to do things to keep it.  Mostly small things are all that are required, but consistent things.  You have to commit to the friendship and accept the unwritten responsibilities that entails.

As examples, in college, I developed a very close friendship with a buddy.  We did stuff together multiple times a week, we lived in the same dorms for several years and we routinely sat up late at night fixing the worlds, schools or other friends problems.  We dove deeply into each others psyche and found that we had many similar ideas AND that we admired the way the other acted, cared and thought about things and people.   I also found another friend while stationed over-seas in the army and found the same things happening.  The couple of years we were both stationed together found us hanging out a lot, enjoying many of the same things and really appreciating having another person to share the rigors of military life away from home and loved ones. 

Over the years I found myself making sure that I connected with these two buddies (different sets of years), I called them once a month, remembered birthdays and planned opportunities to get together.  At some level I realized that friendships require work and that close friendships require more work than any except spouse and children.  I looked forward to the monthly chats, our various get togethers, I even took an entire week of my vacation to be my buddies best man and help make sure he was ready.  This went on for several years and eventually (to long) I realized that I was making all the plans, calls or attempts to sustain the friendships.  I pondered this a bit and then spoke to my friend to tell him what I had discovered, both of them said that they understood and appreciated the need and that they would also put forth the energy to continue the level of friendship we had attained.  I felt better and went on, but I had decided to see if they would follow through.  They did not, and at first it made me very angry and hurt to be honest.  I did not make very many close friends and that ones I did make I had invested a lot of time and energy in.  Eventually I grew up a bit and realized that life happens, keeping a friendship close when either hundreds of miles apart OR after such a huge life change like marriage can be difficult.  Your priorities change and sometimes old things/friends get moved down the list.  This can be difficult but it is truth and it is necessary.  I learned to be happy for my friends and adjust expectations.  Not a perfect solution but an acceptable one.

The stuff I find unacceptable are the friends you have that should be close, or could be close if only a little effort was given.  Friends that are close by but don't have the time to reply to a text, return a phone call or initiate a meeting.  This is frustrating also because you realize, 'they just aren't that into you'.  I also realize this sounds like a jilted or unrequited love reaction and it kind of is that.   I believe we are ALL looking for a relationship or two that you can completely count on.  People (outside of our spouses) who enjoy us as much as we enjoy them and when you think you found them it is very fulfilling.  Unfortunately,  I have also found that there are a lot of 'fools gold' friends out there.  You find a strong connection but it is not quite as strong the other way OR they are a bit lazy and want you to do all the relational work.

 I very much wish that folks would be more aware of the relationships that they have and the real gifts these things could be.  Don't take your close friends for granted, look at your friendships and see if you are giving them the time and attention they deserve.  Don't lose close friendships just due to being too busy, take the five minutes to respond, take the initiative on getting together, take responsibility of a little bit of another persons happiness.  I believe you will be well rewarded for it.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Fear is a funny thing at times. It can save your life if you are running from a bear or it can stunt your life if you are running from God. You see as a young man, in junior high, I had a wonderful conversion experience. I understood that God was out there, Jesus died for me and all I had to do for forgiveness was truly acknowledge this information. I did truly acknowledge it, in front of my family and the rest of the large(for New Mexico) church populace.

The God of my childhood was a very imposing figure, he was a great miracle worker but he was also scary. With Zeus like attributes portrayed at times and the teaching that many of our problems were brought on by God because we failed to meet his standards. How many times was it implied that this persons marital problems or another couple’s problem birth was because of some hidden sin in their lives. Even beyond these things there was the thought that God just might 'Call' you to be a minister or, even worse, a missionary going to Africa. This last one seemed to hang with me.

Fear kept me inside myself, I never learned how to love Jesus back, I never learned how to love anyone back. My parents divorced while I was in junior high and we moved around so much I never fit in to the small towns we lived in. I built up walls and barricades so that no one could ask anything of me that I did not want to do. I didn’t ever really put myself out there and allow relationships to grow beyond what I could handle and control. I went to church but that was about all, no small groups, no close Christian friends. Most of all no way for God to show me he was not scary, because I was not listening.

I got married after college, a truly wonderful Christian woman. We let the physical relationship go too far because she really loved me and was in-love with me. I did love her but really I was afraid to love too much, to love all the way. Our marriage was pretty good but I still had limits that I didn’t even know where there. I had walls up to protect my heart from pain and walls up to protect me from 'Gods plan'. The walls stayed up for nearly 20 years of marriage. I loved my wife, my kids and Jesus, but I was afraid to let them too close, . I mostly did what I wanted to do, many times to the detriment of my wife and kids and DEFINATELY to the exclusion of God in any real capacity. Eventually this led to mistakes that could not be overlooked. My personal fear was not touched by God or my wife in nice easy ways, no, it had to be broken. When, finally, my pornography problems and infidelity were brought out in the open the process began I saw that I was hurting others very, very badly. I had to watch the woman I love being TORN UP inside for nearly two years, I had to watch my daughter get nearly forgotten as we tried to repair the damage my fear of giving up control had caused. I had to come back to Jesus, ON MY KNEES asking him to help them with the pain I had caused. I had to beg Him to save my marriage and I had to beg Him to remake me into a good man. Slowly but surely it happened. My wife saw the changes, my relationship with my daughter was strengthened and my relationship with Jesus was rebuilt. I resolved to listen for what God wanted me to do and be willing to take on his work and YES he sent me to Africa.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Creation, Fall of Man and other Myths?

I am sitting in church today listening to a message about Creation.  I have always had an issue with the creation story; it has hampered my ability to be a Christian and to believe as one most of the time.  We are told that a perfect creation was made and Man was given charge of it.  In fact along with naming all the animals and keep order we were also told, "by the way, those two trees, you can't eat from them."  Man was setup to fail. Add to that in this perfect creation, the serpent.  Satan is present in this world and he is not limited by the 'all-powerful' God we are told about.  Satan wanders up to Eve and begins to tempt her (THIS IS THE ORIGINAL SIN), Eve is an innocent, she does not know good from bad, she does not suspect ulterior motives and is an easy mark.  Once she has eaten of this fruit Adam is just another mark for the carney, his fate is sealed.  God gets mad at Man, kicks him out of Eden and THEN puts up guardians to keep peopel away from the two trees. 

All of this seems to be either a MUCH less than perfect creation of a not quite all-powerful God or, perhaps, the plan from the beginning.  In any case it is NOT Man's fault that creation fell, original sin was created by Satan and man and the rest of creation was infected with it.  I can see where perhaps God's plan is also including a chance for even Satan's redemption but I am sick and tired of being told that the state of this world is Man's fault when the story just does not back it up.  If God is a Good God, then there is a lot that we are not seeing, misinterpreting or just ignoring.  The story our church is giving us about Creation is not aligning with the facts that we know.

It seems to me that Adam and Eve were created  with knowldge and maturity along with a childlike innocence.  This, as we all, know is a very easily shattered state when confronted with someone who is not innocent and has no consideration for  those who are.  Man, it seems, was DESTINED to fail.  Perhaps we were created to create some kind of path for redemption for Satan and the rest of the fallen angels, as well as ourselves in the end.  We live our 80 years in a hell of Satan creation.  A place where he rules but cannot quite control and a place were God dwells but does not quite control. All in order that everyone, including the fallen angels can, one day, dwell with God in heaven.

I am beginning to believe that our accepted religions have missed the mark from the very beginning and in so doing have spent a lot of time and energy telling the WRONG story.  Satan caused the fall but Man's job is to redeem it.

:: A thought that has occurred to me, has no grounds in the Bible or any teaching I have found BUT, consider the image of the Prodigal Son.  That ruler just wanted his child back, he was willing to forgive and willing to move mountains to make it so.  What if God and the original Prodigal, Satan, are put in this picture.  What if mankind was created to eventually be the tool that not only redeems themselves but redeems Satan because a being of perfect love may always want the lost sheep to have a way home.  I am not sure I believe this but it is an interesting thought.

Sunday, April 08, 2012



With Easter nearly open my daughter and I decided to revive a family (sort o) tradition and have a peep war.  Giving her first choice she immediately went with the pink chicks and I took the remaining yellow ones.  Quickly we released the small soft warriors from the protective packages.  Next we each chose a toothpick weapon, looking at length, flexibilty and sharpness.  Eventually we both settled on the best available weapon and armed our fighters.  Once armed we slowly and carefully placed them on the protective fighting surface, positioning them with the utmost care.

Finally, we closed the chamber and stepped back to allow the fighters room to practice thier craft.  As the carousel began spinning they both began to puff themselves up in hopes of dishearening the opponent, but these were both TRUE warriors and neither backed down and the spears inched closer and closer until, finally, a winner was declared.  The yellow fighter barely got the touch in before the pink chick could finish him off, and that ended the first fight.

All in all, Peep Wars 2012 was won by Team Dad but it was a hard fought battle and the plucky daughter promised to be back in 2013 for another try.

The seldom seen 'Dark Side' of peep wars.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Steampunk Shelf- final product

I do think the shelves turned out very nicely, I enjoyed the end result and spent a good 10 minutes just sitting and looking at the whole thing, it is much like I envisioned. A simple parts list goes as follows: 1" Copper pipe 10', 3/4" Copper Pipe 15', 1" Cast aluminum threaded plates (2), 3/4" Cast Aluminum thread plates (8)[both painted copper], 1" XMale Adapters (2), 3/4" XMale Adapters (8)[threaded into the plates with the other end ready for pipe insertion], 1" Copper T (2), 3/4" Copper T (10), 1" Copper Elbow (2), 3/4" Copper Elbow (8), 1" to 3/4" adapter (2).

Each fitting needs a 1 1/2" piece of appropriate sized piped inside it to join to the next adapter (if the fittings are to touch), I also used clear liquid nails before connecting each piece together and I used sheet metal screws in a couple of places to make sure the pipes did not sag or twist. I tried to place the plates over studs so that they were anchored to wood in at least two screws and used sheet rock anchors in the other holes.

The whole thing cost about $240 and took me most of two days to finish. This is mostly because I dont do this very often and do not work efficiently as I should.