Us vs Them

2020 has been a year of many things... most of all, it's becoming a year of "Us vs Them".

  • Us vs Republicans
  • Us vs Democrats
  • Us vs mask wearers
  • Us vs non-mask wearers
  • Us vs the police
  • Us vs Black Lives Matter
  • Us vs teachers
  • Us vs Fauci
  • Us vs Trump
  • Us vs Biden
  • Us vs AOC
  • Us vs governors
  • Us vs people who kneel for the National Athem
  • ... on, and on, and on we could go.

Us vs Them

It's truly an unfortunate place we are in... the Us vs Them mentality. Everywhere you look, it's Us vs Them. Everyone's been pushing this mentality. I've been guilty of it. And I understand where it comes from... at least with me. You see an injustice. You hear lies. You witness the destruction of people's lives. And it confuses you. Then it frustrates you. As you see more, it makes you angry. Then, as you watch tv and scan the internet and social platforms, you see other's comments. You see more lies and injustice and destruction. And the voices you listen to paint this picture of the Us vs Them mentality.

It's, if you're not for us, then you're against us. The Us vs Them mentality takes us to all out war. That's what you're seeing when you walk through the stores in your community. The looks of disgust at the signs requiring masks. The mask-shaming from those who wear their masks perfectly towards those that either don't wear them how you think they should or even wear them at all. You see it when grown adults scream at little kids in a grocery store and tell them that the person with the mask on hopes they will die. You see it when people who wear masks in their cars get made fun of. You see it when a white supremacist punches a lady. You see it when someone who votes for Trump is called a racist for no reason. You see it when people make posts and rants about those that choose to kneel for the National Anthem. You see it in the debate about going back to school from teachers and parents alike. You see it when people scream racist remarks at black officers at the protests. You see it in our politicians... both left and right. Local and federal. You see it on the "news" channels... both left and right... national and local.

You see it everywhere.

It's no wonder that as we look out into humanity today that very few of us sees humanity as human beings. Instead... we see each other as enemies. It's no wonder that as we look out into our cities, that we see destruction and despair. We've allowed it to be created. You. Me. Each one of us. We've allowed it to take shape and be built into what it was... into what it now is.

The Us vs Them mentality...

It's destructive. And it's not how we're designed to live. Unfortunately, there are far too many people that are pushing this type of mentality. And we need to run far away from those people who are looking to push this crap into our brains.

  • Shaun King
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Joe Biden
  • Trump
  • Don Lemon
  • Pelosi
  • Ben Shapiro
  • ...

The list could literally go on and on. The Us vs Them voices are everywhere on both sides. It's what makes good tv. It's what creates the most shares and likes. And it's much easier to destroy others than it is to build them up. The message of 2020 is quite literally...

Us vs Them

And we need to run FAR from these voices. Refuse to listen. The very people who tell us it's Us vs Them aren't trying to unite anyone. They aren't trying to bring harmony to humanity. They're trying to bring war between neighbors. It's not an agenda of peace. It's an agenda of power. Each one of them.

Socialism isn't the biggest issue in society. Racism isn't the biggest issue in society. Democrats. Republicans. None of this is the biggest issue in our society.

The biggest issue in society right now...

The Us vs Them mentality.

We need to refuse to listen to those that push this mentality. We need to silence them by coming together. It's not Us vs Them. It has never been designed to be that way. It's me for you. You for me. It's being FOR each other. Swallowing our pride. It's listening to each other's fears and scars. It's hearing each other out. It's not assuming someone's a racist. It's knowing that black lives do matter and not having to bookend it with a, "but all lives matter too." It's denouncing violence against our nation's police officers. And it's understanding that when someone kneels during the National Anthem, they are expressing their freedom of speech. It's speaking out against those that are rioting.

It's me. Understanding you. And you understanding me. It's coming together to call evil for what it is. And it's valuing and loving every life as a human being.

It's the first week of August. The second half of the year has just gotten started. Let's redefine this year from Us vs Them to...

Me FOR You... building everyone up together.


Perspective Matters

2020. What can you say.

You were supposed to be a cool year. We had cool New Year glasses made to wear. We made cool resolutions to enter the cool New Year.

2020

It just rings off the tip of your tongue.

Big year. Big expectations. Ready. Set. Go... straight to a screeching halt. Little did we know when we were all ringing in the New Year that two months down the road everything... and I mean EVERYTHING would look nothing like we expected.

Expectations. We all have them. We certainly had them for 2020. And, being a parent for the last 15 years, I know we as parents have them for our children and our family. We expected that our kids would be in school. That the soccer season would take place. We expected to go to nationals for Morgan's dance team. And those are just a few small expectations.

Instead, soccer games were canceled. Dance competitions didn't happen. Everything shut down and we were stranded in our home for months.

Instead of living in fear... Instead of living in disappointment... we chose to look at this experience as a time where we could come together as a family. To spend this time bonding and looking inward together and building up our relationships together. Sure, there was a time when we were disappointed. But we didn't live there.

Having expectations is a good thing. Expectations in and of themselves are good. We should certainly have them in every area of our lives. But there are times, like we're living in now, when our expectations have the potential to derail our lives and our mental health, especially when we have expectations without perspective.

When reality doesn't match our expectations, it's easy to get angry or sad, to stay in the funk of disappointment. That's what happens when we don't have perspective alongside our expectations.

Expectations without perspective leads to life derailment.

It's normal to experience sadness and anger and frustration when expectations aren't met. 2020 might not be what we wanted it to be. It's definitely not what we expected. Fear. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. These are all words that have defined 2020.

These words are the definition of expectation without perspective. These are real emotions that we all experience. But we can't live there. Perspective helps us move on. Perspective helps us see to the other side and helps give us the ability to move beyond our circumstances.

Perspective matters. 

How you see the world. How you see others. How you see your life and your circumstances matters. It literally directs your emotions. It directs your life. It's what keeps us on track or get back on a path that leads to hopefulness and joy... even in the middle of chaos and destruction.

Fear. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. With perspective, these words can be turned into... Courage. Encouragement. Joy. Hopefulness.

Perspective matters.

What 2020 has taught me more than any year is this...

The only thing I can control is my perspective. I control how I look at my circumstances and the world around me. It's also taught me that I need help in keeping the right perspective.

I can't do it alone.

But, if I surround myself with the right people and pursue God, the alignment of my perspective will be on target.

Jesus had the opportunity to look at his world and humanity and be depressed. He was being beaten and persecuted... He was being called a liar... He was accused... all of it was not justified. They hung him on a criminal's cross even though He didn't deserve to be killed.

But He chose a perspective to look at the world and humanity with compassion and hopefulness.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

There is hope. There is a perspective that we can choose that is only found in the hope of Jesus and encouraged by the people we surround ourselves with.

2020 definitely hasn't aligned with what I expected it to be. I thought it would look differently. But we've chosen as a family to take advantage of our circumstances and fill our lives and relationships with hope, instead of letting our circumstances take advantage of us.

We all have a choice... will we be filled with hopelessness... or hopefulness...

It all depends on our perspective.


Spiders and the Web of Fear

So, I'm driving home the other day...

It was a great day to drive home with my car windows down. Radio was up. I was singing... loudly. The people in the car next to me were staring as I pulled up to a stop light. As I was in the middle of doing a drum solo on my steering wheel, this little thing caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. As it was running across my windshield, out of reach of my wipers, I audibly said, "Noooo," in a slow motion type of voice. (At least that's what it sounded like to me.) At that point, it was a race. A race to see if I could get my windows up faster than a spider could get inside my car. Luckily for me, I won. The spider was denied entrance into my vehicle.

But for the next 40 minutes, on my way home, I chose to drive with my windows up. I really wanted to enjoy the weather. I so wanted to have my windows down to enjoy the fresh air. But I let a fear of spiders win out. I let the fear of something so small prevent me from doing something I really wanted to do.

I've noticed something, I've let this happen in other areas of my life as well. I've let fear be the determining factor in whether or not I do something I know God is asking me to do. I've let fear prevent me from trying new things. I've let fear prevent me from being the person that God's called me to be. I've seen it in my kids, Carter and Morgan. I've seen it happen in the lives of students. And it sucks. Because, in the end, for me at least, I look back in disappointment and sadness. I look back with regret. But, that's what fear does. It traps us in its sticky web and sucks the life out of us.

You see...

I could have crushed the spider had he entered my car. He was a lot smaller than me. It wouldn't have even been a match. But I let fear rule my world for that 40 minutes. And I've let fear rule my world in bigger areas of my life and endeavors.

But, here's the thing...

God can crush whatever we're afraid of - whatever fear that holds us captive. But we've got to open the window and let God do what God does. Because that fear, whatever it is, is a lot smaller than God. It's not even a match.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified) 

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3-4 (NIV)

One last thing... I've noticed that when I'm letting fear rule my life, I'm making it out to be about me. When in reality, this life isn't about me - it's about God. Everything I have... everything I have to offer... talents and abilities... comes from God. And when I turn my focus off of me and focus on God, my fear turns off.


The Rosco P. Coltrane Hot Pursuit

I love the Duke's of Hazzard.

Especially Rosco P. Coltrane, when he says, "I'm in hot pursuit!"

The dude is hilarious. But all too often, I find I'm just like him... chasing hard after something I really want.

As I was looking at the 10 Commandments before Covid, it hit me...

"I am so worn out. Just exhausted."

Now this could be the result of a couple of things...

Lack of sleep. Not eating right. Lack of exercise. Work schedule plus the kids' activity schedule.

But more times than not, it's because

I'm

Not

Following

The

First Commandment...

"You must not have any other god but Me." - Exodus 20:3 

More times than not, when I'm exhausted, it's because I'm chasing after other gods in my life other than the One True God.

-Acceptance from my kids
-Success in my job
-Success with money
-Performance in a sport
-Parenting my kids

The list could go on and on. And it's a list of a hot pursuit of "other gods" - Like Rosco chasing after the Duke Boys... I get exhausted chasing something I rarely ever catch.

But...

The 10 Commandments isn't simply a list of do's and don'ts - right's and wrongs - laws... it's a glimpse into the heart of God. God doesn't want me to simply keep Him first (whatever that means) because He's got a big ego, He wants me to pursue Him because that pursuit brings life and not exhaustion.

So what's your "Rosco P. Coltrane" hot pursuit?

Why not switch it up and get in hot pursuit with God?


Handcuffed to the Garage

Growing up, we used to stay out late playing in the neighborhood.

I know! Kids actually played outside! At night! Until we were exhausted! Some nights it was Ghost in the Graveyard. Other nights it was Kick the Can. Still, other nights, we simply climbed trees and stayed out talking about anything and everything.

One of the favorite games we played in the neighborhood was, "Guns." There were a lot of kids in our neighborhood. Me and my two younger brothers would go knock on doors to get everyone gathered up. Each kid would bring their toy gun. Some would make noises and some wouldn't. That was ok because it simply meant that the shooting noise would simply be made with our mouth.

Once we got everyone gathered, it was time to pick teams. The three Ruth boys would always be on one team. And we'd have a few more to pick. Once teams were set, each team would part their ways and find their home base. Once each team had their base, the game was on.

It. Was. A. Blast. We felt like we were hunting the enemy. We'd crawl on the ground from bush to bush. We'd hide in unlocked cars that weren't our parents. Hiding under front porches that weren't our homes was just fine too. Then, once the enemy walked by, we'd jump out and... "Pew" "Pew" "Pew." Ok, that's not actually the sound I would make... that's impossible to type here. But we'd jump out and shoot the enemy, then take them back to our base because it just happened to be a flesh wound and not a shot to the head.

During more times than not, out base was our garage that was behind our house and opened up to the alley. It wasn't attached to our house, and it had windows on three sides. Once we had the captured enemy at our base, the interrogation began.

Where are your teammates?

Where are they hiding?

Where is your base?

Unfortunately for this enemy combatant, he didn't feel like answering. So, like any smart (and cold-hearted) soldier, we took his handcuffs off (he was handcuffed with his hands in the back), and placed them back on so that his hands were in front of him. Now you might think we were being nice. You would be wrong. We did that so that he could raise his hands above his head.

This wasn't a move of generosity. No. We needed to be able to hook his handcuffed hands to the garage door. You might be thinking we didn't want him to escape when we left to find the other enemies. Again, you'd be wrong. You see, we asked him very specific questions. Easy questions. Questions he refused to answer. So to get him to tell us where his base was, we hooked his handcuffed hands to the garage and began to slowly lift the garage door up.

"Where's your base?" No answer? Ok. Raise the garage door. "Where's your base?" Nothing again? Ok. We raised it again. This kid's feet were nearly five feet off the ground before he told us where his base was. After he told us, we lowered the garage door but kept him hooked up until we were able to confirm it was true. Once we did, we took the base and won that game.

That kid didn't speak to us for some time. But it was worth it, we won that game. And when we captured someone else and asked where their base was, they answered right away after that game.

Looking back on those times is fun. We didn't really hurt anyone... badly. But remembering stories like this gets me thinking a little bit...

You see, this kid could have been released from the handcuffs right away if he would have simply answered the questions we had for him. How many times in my life have I handcuffed myself by the decisions I've made. Because I've been stubborn. Because I've been selfish. Because I wanted things my way. Sometimes, we handcuff ourselves in life. Sometimes it's our fault. Handcuffs like when we fight with our spouse or our children.

We've all handcuffed ourselves at some point or another. But the beautiful thing is, as long as you have breath, you still have a chance to remove those handcuffs by God's grace. While people may give up on us, God never will. He can free us from the handcuffs we've placed on our own wrists when we place our faith and trust in Him.

"He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness and broke away their chains." Psalm 107:14


Stone Pillars

I love pillars. Pillars on homes. Pillars on buildings. Pillars on monuments.

It's one of the many reason's I love going to Washington D.C. There's just something strong and beautiful about them. When you look at the Jefferson Memorial, you can't help but notice its pillars. I had the opportunity to chaperone Carter's 8th grade trip to DC where I captured the photo above of the Washington Monument... side note, if you have the opportunity to chaperone your kid's trip, do it... it's time well spent for sure.

But Washington D.C. isn't the only place where you will find pillars. Check this out:

"I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of truth." 1 Timothy 3:14-15

There's deep meaning in the word, "Pillar."

Pillars are strong.

They stand for something.

Pillars are noticeable.

They stand out.

Pillars are beautiful.

They're majestic.

There's deep meaning in the word, "Pillar."

Paul, the writer of 1 Timothy, tells us that the church of the living God is a pillar of truth.

My question is...

What are you a pillar of?

At your job.

In your marriage.

In your relationships with your friends...

And kids.

What are you a pillar of?

Truth? Love? Peace?

The world... your coworkers... your children... my children... need us to be pillars that are described in 1 Timothy.

We all stand for something. We are all noticed. We're all pillars...

The question is...

What are you a pillar of?


Leave It Better

I got a lot of speeches when I was growing up...

Jami and I were having a discussion while on one of our walks a couple of days ago. And during the discussion, we realized that we haven't hit the topic in question hard enough with our own kids. It's an action that if taken, shows that you as a person cares and that you're thoughtful and mature.

It's easily taught through teaching moments with our kids. I taught it and modeled it every day when I was leading a Boys and Girls Club site. But I've failed to do this with my own kids.

When I was growing up, my dad would routinely model this behavior after each baseball practice or game. My mom modeled it when we went to a friend's home. It's super simple.

Leave it better than you found it.

It didn't matter if it was a park, a dugout or someone's home. Before we left, we always... always left it better than we found it. We didn't just put things back. If there was trash there before we arrived, we made sure to throw it away and leave the space cleaner, better than when we found it.

Today, this needs to apply to human life as well. Now, more than ever, people are leaving other people worse than before they met. I don't want to simply teach my kids to leave physical spaces better than they found it... as important as that is. It's even more important that we, as human beings, leave others better as we interact with them. I want others to say after they meet me and my family, that they are better off for interacting with us... that we've had a positive impact, and to...

Leave others better than before we met


Moving Beyond Failure

Randy Johnson was a beast of a pitcher when I was growing up.

I remember where I was when Randy Johnson became the 24th pitcher in baseball history to win 300 games after struggling early in his career (having won only 64 games by his 30th birthday). That is a GI-NORMOUS achievement. People all over the world were talking about his achievement.

But what people weren’t talking about, were the 164 games he lost.

Before Randy Johnson won his historical 300th game, he lost 164 times. He had to endure 164 heartaches, failures, losing attempts… however you want to look at it. He flat out failed 164 times.

But after each loss, he kept going. He learned from what went wrong, and moved forward. He didn't quit or give up. He went out on the mound when it was time for his next start. It’s easy to look at this 300th win with awe and wonder. But it’s not the win that really matters… it’s the will and drive to keep going. To keep working. To keep moving forward, even in the midst of losing.

It’s easy to give up. And it’s hard to keep going.

In baseball. In life. In work. In parenting.

There are many times we’re going to want to give up and give in. But we won’t reach the victory in life, career, family, parenting, etc. unless we keep going. We won’t reach the achievement we want to reach, unless we keep taking steps forward – unless we keep getting up.

I’m sure those 164 losses were hard for Randy Johnson. Some probably harder than others. But he didn’t give in. He didn't give up.

I’m sure there will be seasons in each of our lives, careers, families, that will be hard. Some probably harder than others. Learn from what went wrong…

Get back up.

And keep moving forward.

"Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back." Jeremiah 8:4


Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

Give it away. Give it away. Give it away now...

Sing it with me... I loved singing this song as I was growing up. It's written by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I honestly can't remember any other song that they wrote. But I remember this one. It's stuck with me through the years. And as I'm singing this song in my head right now, I can't help but think of a few things I need to give away today. So, with that said...

Here's a few things I need to give away...

  • The need to always be right
  • The feelings of anger at myself
  • The feelings of anger at others
  • The need to be in control
  • The feelings of inadequacy
  • The feelings of bitterness towards people who hurt people I love
  • The need to be liked
  • The need to appear to have it all together
  • The need to look religious
  • The fear of what others think about me
  • The fear of failing

Sometimes, the things I hold on to above get in the way of how I parent and they can affect my relationships. So, if I'm being honest, those are just a few things that I need to give away today.

What about you? What are some things you need to give away?

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7


Marked by Cheetos

When Morgan was little, she loved Cheetos.

And by love, I mean LOOOOVVVVEEEDDD Cheetos. When she ate them, she got the orange flavoring all over her hands. Anything she touched she left Cheeto hand prints everywhere… the fridge, the counter, table, walls…

She LOVED Cheetos. She loved them so much that she got them all over - all over her hands, all over her face, and all over anything she touched.

She loved them that much. She couldn’t help it. The Cheetos marked her, and in turn, whatever she touched she left their mark.

The same thing happens to each of us. Sure, I may not be covered in Cheetos, but there are things that I allow to mark me everyday. And the things I allow to mark me, in turn, leave their mark wherever I go and whoever I come in contact with…

My kids

My spouse

My friends

People I run into that I don’t even know

So the question is...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

It's easy to get wrapped up in the mess that's tossed at us...

The crap at work.

The anger we experience.

The families we see falling apart.

The hurt we encounter everyday.

But the question remains...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

You see, when my little MoMo ate her Cheetos, she dove in with both hands. And when she came out on the other side, she was marked. Whatever she had on her hands before was covered up by the cheesiness of the Cheetos.

I don't know what you've got going on in your life. But I know what I face each day. And I know I have a choice. Because more times than I care to admit, I allow things I hate to mark me. And in turn, they leave their mark on everything and everyone I come in contact with. So I have to ask myself daily...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

The answer I want to walk away with is...

Jesus.

He's the only One who can cover up the crap at work, the burden of witnessing families imploding, the anger I experience and give, and the hurt I encounter and see each day… in the news and real life. And when He makes His mark on me, in turn whatever I touch, His mark will be left wherever I go.

And so I dive in with both hands... Because I want to be marked by Jesus - and in turn, leave His mark everywhere I go.

So the question remains...

What are you allowing to mark your life?