April Funk

ImageIt’s April now. Today looks like spring for the first time in a while here in Atlanta. The sun out, birds are singing, there’s no threat of snow. And I’m trapped in a massive funk. Can’t think of anything to write. Nothing. The tank is empty, despite recently being invited to join a group of apologetics bloggers (in fact, it was the invitation that prompted my realization that I am currently tapped out for topics).

I’ve tried starting five different blogs today, and nothing is connecting. I don’t really have much to say on anything. I think it’s time for one of those annoying dry spells that every writer needs. So if the blog goes silent for a couple of days/weeks, just know that you were forewarned.

I’ll try and keep the discipline of posting at least something on a regular basis, but it may just be brief bursts like this, or the occasional funny picture or video.

But for now, I think I need to take some time to refill the creative glass. And with spring beckoning me to come outside and enjoy life, I can’t imagine a better time to do so.

The Holding Pattern (Not My Best Blog Ever)

ImageEver just stared at a blank screen, waiting for words to magically appear? Ever held a paintbrush in your hand, bare canvas before you, dreaming of pictures that you can’t see? Maybe you’re the kind of person who’s a wizard with systems and flow charts, but there’s no one in need of your managerial skills; or maybe you’re fantastic with kids but marriage and parenthood isn’t exactly on the near horizon.

Welcome to the holding pattern, population buttload.


I had planned to write out a long bit about the holding pattern being similar to pregnancy, but once I got going, I realized it was a stupid comparison. The birth of a human life is not the same as trying to finish that short story you’ve been working on for months. But there is some crossover – the expectancy that comes with trying to produce something you’ve carried for a long time can create similar stresses.

That still sounds lame. Sheesh.

Basically, I have two books stuck in my head. I have the outlines. I have the rough idea of what I want to say. But when I sit down at the keyboard and start typing, I immediately fill like a doofus for even trying to say something about anything. My voice goes away. My fingers stall. I feel the sudden need to go surf for memes.

There’s still a long way to go, it would seem.

Of course, that’s if you subscribe to the idea that creativity works like a fountain. That once you have an idea, the details and actionable parts of that idea will just free-flow behind it. That happens for some people; there are those folks who can just sit down at a keyboard and pound out an entire book or screenplay or essay in one sitting, no stressing required.

I am not one of those people.

Well, maybe for blog posts. But no one’s offering to buy my blog posts and put them into a book, so that brings me back to being stuck.


How about you? What is going on in your life that seems to be taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to come to fruition? Can you relate to be a citizen of the holding pattern?

When Books Get Tiring

No, I'm not above posting a cute cat picture as a way to draw traffic.

I’m a reader. Love to read. Love to read so much that I currently have a stack of books on my office floor that is approximately 5 feet in height. Love to read so much that almost all of the wall space in my office is filled with bookshelves, and those bookshelves are crammed full of books–on the shelves, on top of the shelves, books on top of other books. So please know that what I’m about to write comes from a place of deep love.

I’m bored with books.

Not all books, mind you, just the ones I’ve been reading lately. Admittedly, my scope has been narrow–as a youth pastor, I’ve been reading a lot of Christian books lately in an effort to improve myself as a pastor. I’ve read or re-read everything from Desiring God to Crazy Love to Mad Church Disease to Transformational Churches to Influencing Like Jesus, and I have to say:


Now, this is a generalization. One of the things that I love about books is that each one, no matter how boring, has the capacity to surprise you with a sudden turn-of-phrase, or a burst of insight, or a brilliantly delivered line. The books I mentioned above are no exception; each have their moments. But as a whole, the Christian stuff that I’ve been reading (most of which calls the reader earnestly to live a full, vibrant life for God) is flat. Dull. Lifeless.

I can’t put my finger on it, but if I had to offer a thought as to why these books bore, I would have to say it’s due to the fact that too many of us Christians are concerned with how to live life than with actually going out and living it, and the books we read reflect that. It’s the Age of Insecurity–are you a good enough person? Do you know enough? Do you love enough? Do you give enough? If so, how do you manage it? If not, what keeps you from living your best life now? (©Joel Osteen) In the end, you’d think that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are paranoia, depression, repression, fear, conceit, and self-loathing.

I mean, by comparison, Woody Allen’s neuroses are small.

Of course, no one is forcing me to read these books. There’s not a gun to my head. But lots of people are buying these books and using them for guidance on how to live life better. People are obviously dissatisfied with the direction/trajectory of their lives, and they’re seeking answers. This is good. That they’re seeking them from books that make you want to end your life rather than finish reading them is a problem.

Let me be clear. I have no problem with people writing books. I want to write books. I want to publish books. I think books are a vital contribution to the world, and one of the best gifts given to humanity. I think that the authors of the books I mentioned are deserving of credit for what they’ve written because their books have helped many people.

But we have reached a place where the words written on the page do not suffice for the ache, the lack, in a person’s daily life. There’s only so much we can learn by proxy; at some point we must get out and live life. And in living life, share it with other people. There’s a crackling to that kind of living; an energy and a pulse that can’t be found anywhere else, not even in the world’s best prose.

Perhaps the issue isn’t with the books as much as it is with the reader, and in this case that’s me. Maybe it’s my time to get out and live a fuller life, do a better job of becoming the person I want to be instead of reading about how to become that person. The tools are at my avail; I don’t need anything more than what I already have. I just have to make myself do it. I have to choose to live.

And by living, here’s hoping I bring life back to the pages I hold so dear.

When Hell Is Not Good Enough

This image chapped a few butts last night...and brought out some unbelievable rage.

I have to confess, I didn’t keep up with the Casey Anthony trial at all. Not a bit. I knew it was going on, but the details of the proceedings were lost on me. So when I sat down at my computer last night, it took me a minute to figure out what in the world had happened. My Facebook news feed, normally a nice little collection of inanity, was suddenly a vituperative group teeth gnash. Some of the comments from last night:

“God will judge this evil woman! She may have escaped justice here, but she won’t in the next life!”

“I can’t believe the jury was that stupid! She was clearly guilty. It’s like OJ all over again!”

“Here’s hoping this slut gets the crap beat out of her in jail tonight.”

“Thank God there’s a hell, because that’s where this woman belongs, and even that may not be good enough.”

At first, I thought they were talking about Ann Coulter and her latest comments. Then I realized the verdict had come in, and that a jury of our peers had decided Casey Anthony was only guilty of lying to the police. Granted, that’s four counts of lying to the police and obstructing the investigation, but still – it wasn’t what a lot of folks expected.

And it certainly wasn’t what a lot of folks wanted. If the public had gotten its way, they jury would’ve disemboweled Casey on the courthouse steps with dull safety scissors, lit her body on fire, and danced like pagans around the pyre.

Pesky 4th Amendment.

I was horrified by what happened to Caylee Anthony, and I don’t mean just her murder. I have a five year-old daughter and two year-old son, and if they disappear from my sight for more than thirteen nanoseconds my heart begins to seize. The idea that they could be missing for a month while I was off partying and entering myself into “hot body” contests (none of which I would win) is so ridiculous as to be unimaginable. It’s offensive to me as a parent, a Christian, and a human being.

But just because Casey Anthony might be one of the all-time skeeziest parents and human beings (both of which terms I use loosely) doesn’t mean that she deserves all the rage that’s been lobbed at her. It deserves to be shared with the sleazy defense team, the overconfident prosecutors, the jury, and the national obsession with cases like this that build our collective rage to impossible-to-satisfy heights and inevitably leave us screaming for justice to be done.

Oh – and lastly, the rage should come our way too. We, the viewing public.

I’m not gonna get up on a moral high horse and tell you how awful you are for following the trial and being upset by the verdict, mainly because I found myself raging over OJ sixteen years ago. I understand the rage, and I know that it needs an outlet. But the fact that such rage exists within us as a collective people is profoundly disturbing, and what elevates the issue for me is the number of Christian people who took to the keyboards to vent their displeasure at it all.

I can understand how people who don’t believe in an omnipotent, omniscient God could be PO’d that Casey got away seemingly scot-free. In their world, the only justice is what we as human beings make, and when we miscarry justice, there’s only ourselves to blame. There’s no corrective and that leads to anger, not just at the fact we failed but also at the fact that there’s nothing we can do to make this situation right. It’s a helplessness that raises troubling questions about existence and humanity, which only leads to further anger and rage at the futility of it all.

But as Christians, we shouldn’t be prey to this line of thinking. For us, we believe that there is a God who not only knows all, but sees all, and will one day make things right. We believe that this cosmic address of grievances will include the punishment of those who have done wrong in Hell. So there should be no rage at this verdict, no anger that fallen human beings did what fallen human beings do: make mistakes. We should look at this situation differently than others do, and we should be turning off the rage, or at the very least putting it within its proper context – God will judge.

Now, I can hear some of you already, “Jason, that’s exactly what I put on Facebook last night. God will judge. And this heifer will get what she deserves.”

Yes, but God will judge means that God alone will judge. It will be up to Him to decide on Casey Anthony’s life against His standard. What many of our brothers and sisters were doing last night is deciding on Casey Anthony’s life against their own standard, and that’s not what we’re supposed t0 do. If God is truly great, and truly will judge, then why should we be pushing our judgment onto Him? Shouldn’t we sit back, shake our heads, and say, “Lord, have mercy”?

Instead, many of us want our judgment to be given divine approval – we want the lightning to strike quick and hot and without any hint of mercy, and in so doing we forget the very reason we even have these strange convictions as a Christian: that, once upon a time, this same God we so anxiously want to judge Casey as guilty, judged us as righteous because of the grace of His Son. Because we’ve been pardoned by Christ and made square with God, we now sit back and declare others as unworthy?

I think Jesus had a few words about that. So did the Apostle Paul.

Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be troubled by the verdict. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be disappointed that our justice system seems to fail at all the wrong times. What I am saying is that there seems to be a malicious anger within the American church that overrides the grace of God with the rage of the redeemed. And it’s polluting the message we’re supposed to be sharing. Namely, that we all deserve to be punished for who we are and what we’ve done – you, me, and Casey Anthony alike. But God is forgiving and gracious and kind, and He has made a way for us to be counted as righteous through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Only Son, Jesus Christ.

To spend our time telling the world anything else is something we’ll have to answer for ourselves – when we stand before God to give an account for how we lived beneath His grace.

Because, after all – God will judge everyone. Not just the ones we want Him to.

My Son, The Monster

Crying for little to no reason at all. Mood swings. Hitting people. Screaming “NO!” at the top of his lungs. Deliberately disobeying even the smallest request.

My son has officially turned into a monster. If Lady Gaga wants him, she can have him.

We’re pretty sure it’s because he’s getting his final molars in. And I say pretty sure because, a) we can’t actually get him to let us feel around in his mouth, and b) there’s just no other realistic explanation, short of demonic possession. And we know possession is out because we can’t get him to sleep without singing a medley of his favorite Jesus songs before bedtime.

It’s been frustrating, to say the least.

Now, I don’t know if this is just particular to me, or if it’s a common occurrence across the parenting spectrum, but whenever my son goes grade-A nutzoid, I feel a tightness in my chest that panics me. It’s not a heart attack-type feeling (at least, I don’t think it is), but more of an emotional anxiety that grips me right there in my heart. It’s a feeling of helplessness mixed with annoyance mixed with a frightening anger. It just sits there, dead center, as if it were a piece of food I can’t swallow. And the more Jonathan screams or whines or disobeys, the more it builds.

I don’t know if this feeling comes more from being incapable of helping my son or from being tired of hearing the crying. I can’t tell if I’m just a normal parent experiencing normal parent emotions, or if I’ve somehow become psychologically unstable and need to be medicated. I just know that I hate feeling that way about my child. I want to feel nothing but love, nothing but magic, nothing but the sweet tenderness of a Hallmark moment.

"I thought I told you to go to bed...does Daddy need to come in here?"

But life is so infrequently like that. I mean, half the time it seems like I vacillate between Ward Cleaver and Jack Torrance, despite my desire to be a good dad. Some days I know I’m three good seconds away from grabbing an axe, hacking through a door and shouting, “Heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” not because I hate my family, but because I genuinely feel that close to being out of control.

And maybe that’s my real issue – control. I like for things to be smooth and conflict-free, and that just ain’t life with kids (it’s rarely like that with adults…). I’m not a certifiable control-freak, but I have grown to appreciate the predictability of my five year-old; in fact, I almost prefer Ella’s age precisely because we’ve already bypassed all of the crap we’re currently going through with Jonathan.

Which makes me wonder if part of my problem too is the feeling of “Haven’t we done this before?” There’s a small kernel of resentment, maybe, at having to train another kid all over.

But even in the monster madness, there are moments that make me laugh and remind me that I love, LOVE, the boy. Take bedtime last night – I put Jon down to bed at 9:15, way later than normal, and, because of the time, I abbreviated his bedtime routine and plunked his little butt down in the crib. He was quiet for almost an hour, and then began screaming his head off for no apparent reason. I went in and shushed him, but by the time I walked out of his room he was at it again. I could feel that familiar clutch in my chest, so I sent Rachel in to deal with him. She walked in and got a robust “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”, and promptly turned around and walked out.

So it was Daddy or nothing.

I went back in there, fully prepared to either scold him severely or punt him through the window, but once he saw me, he stood up, held his arms out and said, “Daddy, peese.” I walked over to the crib and he wrapped his arms around my mid-section and rested his head against my stomach. I could feel his little fingers working over the fabric of my t-shirt as he attempted to get a better, bigger hug on me.

I picked him up. He nuzzled his head into the base of my neck where my jaw meets my ear and he let out the most contented sigh you’ve ever heard. It wasn’t huge, mind you – more on par with a simple exhale of breath than anything else – but the satisfaction I heard in that release  was immense. Jonathan ran his fingers through my hair lazily and within three minutes was sound asleep, his little chest rising when mine fell, our breathing intertwined. His skin, so soft and warm, was damp from the tears he’d unloaded, and in the few minutes that I rocked him, I felt the stress/anxiety/anger melt away because I knew he felt just as pained as I did.

Having kids is easy. Raising them borders on mind-shattering insanity. But being a kid is equally as tough. Every experience in childhood is somehow different from the one that precedes it, every day brings some new emotion or word or developmental milestone. It’s no wonder kids go crazy and take adults with them.

But it doesn’t last, thank God. At least, the early stages anyway. There will be growing pains of a different sort in three years, or ten. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly be able to be at ease around my son until he’s an adult; and even then, I’m not so sure. I think it is just the life of a parent – to be perpetually on edge around your child; not so much because of them, but because of the world that surrounds them.

Right now my son is a monster, and I probably need a good dose of fluoxetine. But he’s my monster, and I love him. Here’s hoping his molars, and the other 5700 developmental breakthroughs ahead of him, arrive soon.