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?


One Thing You Need to Make a Difference

If you want to make a difference...

If you want to make a difference...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to better your marriage...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to be a better parent...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to be a better friend...

Have More Conversation.

If you want to have peace...

Have More Conversation.

I think I need to...

Have More Conversation.

You?


The Jeep Wave

The Jeep Wave... it's a real thing...

It's one of the things that I love most about owning a Jeep. We can literally be driving down the road and as we pass another Jeep Wrangler driving by, both of us wave at each other. Essentially, we show each other some love.

I wasn't alive during the 60's, so I only have 44 years to reference from. But this day, more than ever, seems like our country is divided in every area. Everywhere we look we can see hate. The news. Hate. Social media. Hate. I watch the way people debate and hear the things that are being said... hate and more hate. We are not the United States of America at this point... We are the Divided States of America... in almost every corner... except the Jeep.

I know this seems funny and maybe even trite to say, but riding in a Jeep is a connection point to people. It doesn't matter who passes by, there's always a wave. Two very different individuals enjoying the same type of thing waving at and being good to each other. This past weekend I really took notice of who was in the Jeep passing by each other. We passed by white drivers... wave. We passed by black drivers... wave. Latino drivers... wave. Young drivers... wave. Older drivers... wave. It didn't make any difference who was driving our Jeeps... we all waved at each other.

But seriously, this got me thinking. What if this was the picture of the church? What if this was the picture of America? What if the body of Christ all came together and was good to each other? What if America came together and was good to each other? Democrats? Republicans? Can it happen? I think it can. And it starts with me.

That's the message I'm trying to send to my own children. The answer doesn't lie in social media. It doesn't lie in cute posts that point to someone else's post. It's not found in me telling someone else what they should or shouldn't do. My message to my own children is best taught by my actions... by

Doing.

The.

Next.

Right.

Thing.

What conquers hate? Jesus and living my life how He lived His. But maybe you're not ready to do that yet... so the next best thing that conquers hate is doing the next right thing... whatever that may be.

I have, and will continue to do the next right thing. I hope you will too.


We Didn't Start the Fire

I've literally typed up three different blog posts for today. Non of them do any justice to what's happening in the United States of America.

So today's blog will be a virtual moment of silence...

What our country needs, is not more outrage... our country needs more brokenness.

Brokenness about racism

Brokenness about hate

Brokenness about violence

Brokenness about looting

Brokenness about destroying businesses

Brokenness...

When our country and people are broken about these injustices, then true change will come about. That's my prayer going forward, God make me broken for the injustices in our country and use me to help make real changes.

If you choose, feel free to use the comment field to write your prayer below...

 


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


We Have A Dud

I've wanted a lab for quite some time.

What I would call a real dog. A big dog. So we finally jumped and got Lola, a charcoal lab, just over six months ago. She’s been amazing. She goes pretty much everywhere with us… on walks, to the park and to the beach. She absolutely loves all of it… or so we thought.

So a few weeks ago we went to spend the afternoon at Warren Dunes Sate Park in Michigan. It’s got a great beach and they allow dogs as well. We thought that since Lola loved the creek water in the other parks, she’d love the water at Lake Michigan. So we got our things set up, put our blankets and chairs down, and Carter and Morgan took Lola down to the water and threw the ball. Lola ran up to where the water met the sand and as soon as the wave crashed ashore, Lola went running the other direction.

The kids threw the ball a few more times, and each time Lola ran away and wouldn’t go after the ball. After about the seventh time, Carter came back to us and declared,

“We have a dud!”

And to make things worse, just 25 yards down the beach there was another lab that was running into the lake to chase down its frisbee. It was comical, sad and embarrassing all at the same time. What if we really did have a dud!?

Lola loved the water everywhere else. But she was super afraid of the sound and crash of the wave coming ashore. She just couldn’t push past her fear. But Carter and Morgan weren’t done trying.

As I looked towards the water, I could see Carter carrying our 70 pound lab out past the waves and into the lake. It was one of the most funny, ridiculous things I have witnessed. A 15 year old boy carrying his 70 pound lab into the lake all while the other lab was doing its, well, lab thing of running into the water to play fetch. I didn’t think this was gonna work. The first time the kids took Lola out in the water, she freaked out and ran back to the shore. But Carter and Morgan followed her back to where she was, picked her up again, and carried her back into the water. This time, they sat down in the water with her and petted and comforted her. Lola played for a couple of seconds then ran back to the shore. They tried to throw the ball again, but no luck. So, Carter again, picked her up, and walked her into the water. This time he walked her to her ball. She grabbed her ball and ran back to the shore.

The kids followed her back, grabbed the ball. This time, as they threw the ball, Morgan ran out into the water after it and… Lola followed her… past the waves, into the water to retrieve her ball.

Success! “We don’t have a dud!”

The rest of the afternoon was more of the same… Lola living her best life, chasing her ball out into the lake. I don’t think she has ever had as much fun as she did after she conquered her fears with the kids help.

Parenting can look super similar to this situation. There’s been countless situations where Carter and Morgan have been fearful of something. At times, they have stepped past fear and have overcome to do what they really wanted to do. Other times, they’ve given in to fear and have lived with regret for a short time. It’s painful to watch them live with regret. It’s painful to watch them give in to their fears knowing that what’s on the other side is great. But that’s life. We can only be there to hold their hand and carry them whether they overcome their fear or give in to it. The choice is completely theirs and theirs alone.

As parents… as adults… we have our own fears. And while we have friends and relatives to help us through. The ultimate parent, Jesus, is there to carry us through the fear of the crashing waves sometimes called life, just as Carter carried Lola. We just celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday. And with parenting, there are countless fears that we have to walk through. I don’t know what fears you are facing, but know this, Jesus will carry you through them. Check this out:

For I am the Lord you God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

If you allow Him to carry you, Jesus will never drop you. He will help you through your fear to overcome. Because with Jesus,

There are no duds!


The Chipped Plate

As a parent, I'm always looking to do something unexpected.

Not like “something big” unexpected. No. I’m actually a firm believer that the small things are a lot more memorable that something huge. So, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do that would be unexpected in the mundane everyday life experiences. 

So after we moved to a townhouse eight years ago, I was going through and unpacking our things… because who wants to live out of boxes for any length of time? Not me for sure… although I will live out of a suitcase after getting back from a trip instead of unpacking. I mean, why hang clothes up or put them in drawers when I know I’m gonna wear them in the next few days. Anyways, not part of this story. Just a look inside my psyche. 

Where was I? Oh ya. We were unpacking our things… specifically our kitchen items. Cups. Glasses. Silverware. Plates. We were pulling each of those items out and then placing them in their rightful place. As I was unpacking our plates, I noticed that one had been chipped. Not a huge chip, but noticeable for sure. It’s actually the one I used in the header image above. It didn’t really phase me. I wasn’t upset. We had more. And honestly, it could still be used. But it was tarnished. It didn’t look like the others. And it was frankly, broken. So I put it away and didn’t give it much thought.

Then, a few days later, I was pulling dishes out to get ready for dinner. As I was placing them on the table, I noticed I grabbed the one with the chip and almost didn’t put it down. And then it hit me. This plate deserves to be used just as much as the other plates. Sure it’s damaged. It’s not perfect. But it deserves to fulfill its purpose.

Stay with me…

One of the things that has been huge with me when it comes to students and parents is to make sure they have been encouraged. It’s something that has been super important to me… even in the difficult discussions… whenever possible, I want to make sure they have been encouraged. I want our house to be filled with encouragement… with encouraging words. It’s super important. 

And so, I stood there, with the chipped plate in my hand, and I thought, “This is the perfect place to do something unexpected. It’s the perfect place for a great illustration.” So that night, we sat down for dinner and I said, “You guys see that plate, it’s got a chip in it. But it’s still usable right? It still works. It still serves its purpose.” And I said, “We’re kind of like that plate.” Mind you, this was eight years ago. Our kids were 7 and 5 years old. I said, “We all mess up. We’re not perfect like this plate isn’t perfect. But it doesn’t mean we’re not loved the same… by God and by your parents.” Then I said, “From now on, whoever gets this plate at dinner gets to pray, and then we’ll go around the table and say something encouraging about the person who has the chipped plate.” 

The. Kids. LOVED. It. I mean, who doesn’t love it when someone says something encouraging about them? 

It was the perfect part of the day to do something unexpected. It was dinner. Something small. Ordinary. But that night, it became something more. Something unexpected. It was a great time to slow down and make sure that our kids know that they are loved and encouraged in even the smallest of ways. It was actually such a hit that our kids told their friends. They went to school and talked about the chipped plate. When we would watch our friend’s children for date night, they would want to be the one who got the chipped plate for dinner… and unexpectedly we would put the chipped plate down in front of one of them. 

And, even better, when the kids would be arguing and fighting throughout the day, we would make sure that one of them would get the chipped plate so that the other would have to say something encouraging to the other. 

The chipped plate didn’t make an appearance every night. But when it did, the kid who noticed it in front of them would light up. And more than that, on some nights, the chipped plate would find its way in front of myself or Jami. It wasn’t just a kid thing. It was an adult thing too. Because, well, everyone needs encouragement. And it’s always a good thing when kids can learn to encourage adults as well. It’s super important that our kids learn how to not only receive encouragement, but also give it as well. We did this on a regular basis over the last six to seven years. It disappeared for a while. But we’ve started doing it again. And even at ages 13 and 15, when it’s placed in front of them, their faces light up. 

Our children face a lot these days. They feel the brokenness in their lives. They know they aren’t perfect. They are constantly comparing themselves to others… more so now than any other generation before them. One of the things they need the most from parents and youth workers are encouraging words. Words that let them know that they aren’t damaged. They have talents and abilities. They need to know that, despite the fact that they aren’t perfect, they are loved. We don’t need to do something extravagant to make a lasting impact in their lives. The lasting things are the little things, like words of encouragement that take place over time. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

What’s something that you’ve done to encourage either your kids or someone else?