Traveling the last couple weeks to Nevada and Texas, the reaction of people wearing masks and not-wearing masks seemed to shadow a dystopia. Nowhere more so than in airports.

During the summer, if you’d walk around an airport without a mask you'd get looks like, “Do you want to kill someone? How rude and insincere can you be?”

Now, whether in Texas where the mask mandate was dropped, or in Nevada or North Carolina where it still exists, there is basically no reaction. You could walk by someone wearing 3 masks and they’d look at an uncovered face with no concern.

Currently, it seems, for most people who regularly wear masks, it’s done, because well, that is what you do. Not out of fear or any real concern that not doing so is going to get people killed.

Which leads to the question, what else can we be talked into? And forced to obey? This might sound alarmist until you look at things like the growth of the surveillance state.

Which leads to a Wired article I just read about our surveillance society. An unparalleled ability to monitor people and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to. Security cameras, license plate readers, smartphone trackers, drones, not to mention every move on the internet and our computers, and soon they will be coordinated into one super system of surveillance.

As we’ve been talking about the last few podcasts, this is the opposite of being a little wild as were created. This is being tended into an electronic life-stock fence. It will continue to influence our lives and behavior, and will continue to divide.

Traveling this past week was I able to watch the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Revenant for the first time. The story of frontiersman surviving a bear attack to exact revenge on the man who murders his son, it is truly epic. It is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. While obviously Hollywoodized, it is based on the true story of Hugh Glass.

I couldn’t help but think about a podcast I did a few weeks ago on Henry David Thoreau’s essay “The Wild”. At the core of our nature, we are wild.

As Glass struggles to heal and survive abandoned in the wilderness after the bear attack, the screen jumps with life. Crawling through the dirt, escaping to snow caves, eating raw meat, fighting the French, the English, and Indians, he body surfs rapids and ultimately triumphs in a fierce and brutal showdown with his enemy. The entire time, life bursts from the action. Life, in its rawest sense.

Then I left that world of brutal truth as we arrived at the airport, and I was bombarded with the sniveling gossip and woke news of modern media and TV. If we ever descend into the wilderness for even a short term, watching the fragile egos of modern society will be quite a sight. And no doubt, savage, as the selfish consumers of matrix technology turn on themselves and others.

This past weekend, after the crew who filmed my wife and I’s interview on our love story were finished, they commented, "All your kids seem so happy. We’ve never seen that before." I credit wildness! As hard as it may be, and as much as it seems like wrestling against forces of nature at times, we’ve allowed them to explore, to wander, to dream, to learn from falls and scrapes, to see the truth in trees, and streams, and creation.

Don’t be afraid to be a little dangerous, maybe a bit reckless. Definitely get dirty. Enter the forest with nothing and feel what it is like to survive. You may never feel more alive.

The arbitrary and self-serving nature of two-sided national politics is a cancer that infects truth. There are not two sides to every issue. Politicians tell you what they need to say to get you to vote for them, then they follow the money.

If we continue to allow it to happen, we might as well replace the Liberty Bell with the lobbyist's briefcase full of cash. It would be a fitting monument to the current character of national politics.

Bart Ehrman is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although he is a go-to academic on Christianity, he is now an agnostic atheist.

A so-called expert on Christianity, he said the following in a Los Angeles Times Easter article:

“Billions of Christians around the world believe that on Easter, Jesus was raised from the dead and taken up to heaven to live with God. They also believe that when they die, their own souls will go to heaven. The great irony is that this is not at all what Jesus himself believed.

Jesus did not think a person’s soul would live on after death, either to experience bliss in the presence of God above or to be tormented in the fires of hell below. As a Jew of the 1st century, Jesus did not think the soul went anywhere after death. It simply ceased to exist with the body.”

Yet, what does the Bible record right before Jesus dies:

As written in Luke Chapter 23: 32-43:

"Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Bart Ehrman is a pure deceiver.

You should listen to my wife. She  makes miracles happen.

 

April 5, 2021

The Conversation Of Love

What a Saturday my wife and I had! We were interviewed for a documentary on Love Stories. With a little luck, it looks like it will be on Netflix!

One thing that came out during our interview, and afterwords talking about it, was that one of the primary mechanisms of long-lasting love is communication. It is the thing that allows the lustful love of youth to mature into a love where separate identities are intertwined and improved. A great relationship is truly jet fuel for life.

Communication is work. To call love a "journey of communication" is no cliché. It is easy to get completely overwhelmed by the day-to-day struggles and responsibilities of life that real deep conversation gets lost. And once it is lost, it is hard to get back.

But, to be married over 22 years and get lost in a conversation lying in bed is true bliss. You close your eyes and you and your love are ageless. Dreams can’t be imagined without the other. How precious are these moments. They happen because you battle through the dark moments, the tough times. As my wife says, “there is only way out of a tough child birth, birthing that baby. And there is only way out of a marriage, together. That has to be your level of commitment.”

If you are committed to your love, make conversation and time for each other a priority. Don’t be afraid to argue, be quick to forgive, and even quicker to listen.

April 2, 2021

God, And Us, In The Dock

In my leadership classes I begin by discussing what I think is the most important trait of leadership: humility. I don’t mean a personality style, I mean the ability to take responsibility for the good and bad, and to be honest about it. It means that your first move is never pointing fingers, it's always looking in the mirror.

In many ways, that is the first step to being a Christian, taking responsibility. As CS Lewis said in “God in the Dock”

“The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin... The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes, or Pagans, a sense of guilt. (That this was common among Pagans is shown by the fact that both Epicureanism and the mystery religions both claimed, though in different ways, to assuage it.) Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy."

"The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”

In a world where many people seem to make a living looking for excuses for their circumstances, the reality of one’s condition can be an elusive quarry. It can become a sort of tyranny.

As Lewis goes on to say in "God in the Dock":

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

It satiates our ego to put God and others in the dock. Judgment is so easy. But the hard thing, the Christian thing, the human thing, is putting ourselves in the Dock. That is where the road to truth begins.

March 31, 2021

Who Do We Love?

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."

Thomas Merton

"I love you not as something private and personal, which is my own, but as something universal and worthy of love which I have found."

Henry David Thoreau

Flying out to Las Vegas I listened to Scott Adams' Audio Book, Loserthink.

It is about learning the skill of thinking, and it calls those that violate the rules - both smart and dumb people - perpetrators of Loserthink.

One rule stood out, don’t think you can read people’s minds. Because you can’t. Mind reading leads to ugly judgments or worse.

In my class here in Vegas, an officer told a story of his own Loserthink that he overcame. As a young school teacher, he told his students to bring in a note from parents that they had completed their homework. One boy didn't do this too many days in a row, and he tore into him. Eventually though, he found out this boy was living without this parents, and taking care of his young 8-year old brother.

As we are reminded in Matthew: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

One reason this is important to remember, you can’t read minds. You don’t have good evidence. Before you judge, listen, ask questions, have a conversation. Otherwise, the only thing your judgement is damning of is you.

It’s not often you get to experience such a rare expression of your church’s faith. Yesterday, my family and others from our church community had the opportunity to visit the Kursk Root Icon at a small orthodox church, St. George, in Michigan City, IN, consecrated over 100 years ago by Saint Rapheal of Brooklyn. The church itself is filled with relics from St. Paul to St. Seraphim, Mary of Egypt and Joachim and Anna.

On September 8, 1259, a hunter noticed the icon lying on a root face downwards to the ground. The hunter lifted it and saw that the image of the icon was similar to the Novgorod "Znamenie" Icon of the Mother of God. Just as the hunter lifted up the holy icon from the earth, a strong spring of pure water surged up at that place where the icon rested.

With the help of friends the hunter rebuilt an old small chapel and placed the newly-found icon in it. When news of this spread, many came from Rylsk to this old chapel to venerate the icon and pray about their sorrows and needs. There the Mother of God healed all who came to her icon.

And yesterday, this amazing relic of our church history was with us in Indiana.

There are miraculous things all around us if we will only open our eyes and reveal our hearts.

March 25, 2021

Get Some!

The practice jerseys for the basketball program I coach, The Kash Eagles, is emblazoned with a screaming eagle with blood dripping from its talons and the phrase, “Get Some!”

Get some! A little wild, a little untamed. The phrase gets smiles and energy from the boys.

In his journal, Thoreau said the following:

"Whatever has not come under the sway of man is wild. In this sense original and independent men are wild—not tamed and broken by society.—Journal, 3 September 1851"

Life is too short to be completely tame. Looking for opportunities to be original and independent are good, an aimless walk in the woods is good.

One of my favorite people from the bible is John the Baptist. A desert dweller, wild, he was the one picked to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

Wild! I love it! Now go get some!

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