Signs… everywhere there are signs

Are you reading the signs?

(Click the image above to open full size)

The above cartoon from Sinfest seemed appropriate this morning. All too often I find myself asking the Lord for direction, but the communication seems a bit one sided. As a business owner, older-than-average-college-student, husband, new father, it would be nice to clearly see the path God wants me to follow.

How do I discern between my pride and my passion? Am I following the road in His glory or have I not changed direction out of my own stubbornness? When do you give up on a dream in order to take up responsibility?

The past month has been quite a challenge on both a personal & professional level. The dynamic of my life is swirling in whirlpool of choices, and I would prefer not to create a lot of collateral damage with a wrong decision.

And that’s the crux of the problem. You pray, and you take it on faith that you’ll be listening when God whispers in your ear. You pray that gut feeling, or instinct, or sign you think you see is the one that God meant to show you.

But what if you’re so busy looking for the signs you miss your exit?

My First Father’s Day


Nothing can prepare you for parenthood. Not great parents, or bad parents, a lifetime of experience or a generation of knowledge, every parent has to figure it out on their own. My daughter Sydney will be three months old next week. Sometimes I think if I blink her whole life will pass by me, and yet, there are responsibilities that keep me from the quality time we both deserve.

Today Pastor Hennigan challenged the men of the congregation to do more. To set an example as men. Women have had to battle for their voices to be heard; feminism born from a desire to be treated equally. Men have done little, but play defense, as global events have changed the world around them. They say nothing builds complacency like success, and perhaps men just took it for granted that the world would always be theirs. But as I have asked previously on this blog – where are the male role models these days?

Is it the professional athlete? How many pros dropped out their last year of college just for a shot at big league money? Maybe not all, but look at the ones who make the headlines? Kobe Bryant, Lebron James. Great athletes definitely. Can you blame them for using their talents to make a better life for themselves? Is the media to blame for weaving the tapestry of a rising athletes’ legend?

Are schools causing this male decline? In recent years, I have stumbled upon various articles that point out women’s increasing academic achievements and a decrease in men’s scholarly pursuits. An article on MSN discusses whether schools cater to the strengths of girls, while ignoring the needs of boys. In trying to break away from gender role assignments, are we forgetting that boys & girls are different?

Is feminism stomping out the idea of man? Male chauvinism aside, do women really want a metrosexual sap? Is it possible to look for gender equality, and still celebrate it’s diversity? I know that I love Michelle for all her fierce independence, but I also love the fact that she’s a woman who isn’t constantly trying to prove she’s better than a man. Let me clarify that statement; she can prove she’s worthwhile without a chip on her shoulder. While I’m keenly aware of the statistics that continue to point out women make less money than men, is capitalism really the point of feminism?

OK, I didn’t mean to stray off topic. I just hope that for Michelle & Sydney, I can be the husband & father, the man, that God knows I can be. The kind of man Holli described today in her dedication to Daddy’s Day.

Some related links I scouted while thinkin’ about this post. Consider them NSFW

Top 100 Fictional Male Role Models

Today’s male role models are pathetic.

Are Pickup Artists Bred Fatherless?

Christian Stereotypes

It’s hard not to stereotype isn’t it? Depending on your background, experiences, influences, etc., at some point in your life you’ll make a statement or do something that stereotypes another person or group. In the right context stereotypes can be funny. The best comedians make the audience see themselves in such stereotypes.

Today, I want to talk about the Christian stereotype. The one where Christians are seen as God-fearing, Holier-Than-Thou, self-righteous, preachy, pompous do-gooders, and most importantly hypocrites. I know the stereotype well–I used to think a lot like that myself. My experiences with “Christians” only enforced my perception of that stereotype. It’s one of the reasons I did not speak openly about my faith once I decided to embark on a spiritual quest. I didn’t want to be considered one of “those people.”

I believe this stereotype is reinforced by certain celebrities, evangelicals, and other folks who are in the public eye. This morning I was listening to the Jagger Mafia on Live 105.3FM, and they were discussing the recent interview Hulk Hogan had with Larry King. In that interview Hulk talked some about the accident involving his son Nick, in which the passenger of the vehicle John Graziano was critically injured. Jagger played some clips from the Larry King show, as well as taped conversations that were released by the jail facility where Nick Hogan is being held.

The disappointing thing about Hulk Hogan was how many times he invoked Jesus, spoke of being a good Christian, and yet took no responsibility for his lack of parenting skills or his son’s mistake. At one point Hulk even stated that being in a coma would make John Graziano a better person. Not only did Hulk come across as a hypocrite, but the negative Christian stereotype was in full swing. This type of behavior belittles true Christians who are perceived as using their beliefs for publicity stunts.

I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect, and while I aspire to be a better Christian, I make mistakes (and sin) all the time. That’s right, I sin. I am a sinner. During this journey of faith, I have come to accept that fact. What I don’t do is hide behind my faith, or use it as an excuse for my behavior. I don’t make black & white decisions based on my faith, because honestly, I’m still learning, still wrestling with what I’ve learned, still trying not to sweat the small stuff.

Longtime readers know I don’t shy away from topics such as abortion, feminism, and homosexuality. Many would argue that my opinions contradict being a Christian, but I choose not to isolate myself from dissenting ideas. How can a person grow if they are only exposed to one experience? How can I become closer to God if I don’t learn as much about the world-both good & bad? How can I not love my sister Lesli just because she’s gay?

Yes, I have done stupid STUPID things. I think part of being a Christian is the drive to be better, not just in what we do or say, but in every aspect. Some days I do better than others. Today, I didn’t give the finger to any other drivers, not once. Oh, I screamed some profanities in my car, but no tailgating of other drivers for 10 miles. Guess that means I’m not excused yet from anger management classes. Heh.

I totally respect your right to choose your beliefs, and I don’t condemn people because they’re Jewish, Agnostic, Aetheist, Buddist, etc. I think such beliefs are very personal, and who am I to judge another person? Some of my closest friends are Jewish, one of my best friends thinks Jesus was an alien, and Lesli is more deserving of a decent afterlife than I ever could be.

This is one Christian who doesn’t have all the answers…

UPDATEBen has some insights into what makes a “Christian.”

Church – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

BIG THANKS to every ALC Lifer that shows up every week. (I think I also mentioned today that people who showed up for church today “wanted to” and people who didn’t show up…”didn’t want to”! Your life has been changed by that comment, admit it.)”
Pastor Jeff Hennigan, Abundant Life Church, Plano TX.

I have never been much of a church goer. At least, I haven’t been since garnering some sense of independence from my parents. Growing up, I sampled a Smörgåsbord of religious denominations including Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran (but we don’t talk about it), Baptist, and others simply defining themselves as Christian. As a child, I had little understanding or appreciation for the church. Entering into adulthood my church experiences while not negative, had little impact on my life experiences.

My church visits were limited to holiday sessions–annual meetings celebrating Christ’s birth, and His resurrection. I made an effort over the years to find a church, and while I never attended regularly, I continued on my journey of faith.

Last year I started attending Abundant Life Church after an invitation from Ben. While I don’t sit in the pews every Sunday (I am trying to be better), it doesn’t matter. Let me clarify that statement, while Pastor Hennigan certainly challenges me to attend, he along with the congregation, have welcomed me at every turn. Technology also plays a strong part at ALC Plano (as called by its members). Big God Radio makes it easy for me to stay connected on the road with the ability to listen to Sunday services live via the Internet. ALC Plano also creates podcasts of their worship services. Pastor Hennigan maintains a blog, and even Twitters with the best of them.

But it’s not the Pastor, the congregation or even the cool technology, that has me up before 8AM on a Sunday. It’s the feeling, the one I always heard about, and saw acted out on TV, that envelopes me when I participate in the morning’s worship. For the first time, in a long time, I can say that I feel better after attending Sunday service.

Movie Review – The Passion of The Christ

The PlotThe Passion recounts the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life following the betrayal by Judas Iscariot. Suffering brutality at the hands of his jailors Jesus is ultimately crucified.

The Review – This is the one time I’ll write a review about a film without worrying about “spoilers”. Maybe it’s the times we live in, but it seems whether it’s a titty flash, trash talk radio or even a movie people want to be outraged about something. This movie was a curiosity for me because so many people had an opinion about it before it was released. Some Christians hailed it as THE story about Christ, others have called it pornography while casual observers have called it “…brutally realistic, it’s probably finally a film that does Jesus some justice.”

While I’m currently on my own journey of faith I have to admit my knowledge of the Bible and its contents is sorely lacking. As such I cannot refute the interpretation offered up by Mel Gibson in The Passion. I don’t believe the intent of the film is one of anti-semitism, but like the Star Wars series Gibson does little to downplay cultural stereotypes. It is also true that it portrays the Romans in a more sympathetic light than the Jewish people. Overall, I thought the film’s strength was also its weakness. You’ll be disgusted and outraged at the horrors Jesus endures, but the film will lock hold of you for 120 minutes.

The sheer brutality Jesus suffers through draws the audience’s attention and holds it like gawkers passing a highway tragedy. I don’t think the film is violent or gory for gore’s sake, but I think the message of The Passion is watered down because much is assumed about its viewers. The film establishes Jesus’s character, his message through a series a flashbacks. Maybe it is sufficient for the educated Christian, but to the casual observer there really is no explanation or understanding why the Jewish priests and people have such overwhelming hatred for Jesus. To the casual observer only a handful of people were followers of Jesus. The audience feels for Jesus because of his circumstance not because they are enlightened by his message.

Regardless of how you feel about the movie the key point is it is JUST A FILM. This is one man’s interpretation of the last moments of Christ’s life. Perhaps Mel Gibson created this film to invoke a certain reaction to shock people back into their faith. You may be offended by it, you may be affected by it, but if the film stirs you to look more deeply at your own faith then I think that is a good thing.

I’ll echo The Ward’s sentiments by not rating this film, and I’ll quote Mr. Perry and say “If you ask me, the book was a lot better.”