Monthly Archives: August 2020

Get out of your head and take a breather; 2020 will still be there when you’re done

I made an ass of myself on the Facebook yesterday. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last.


It was just a difficult day, the type of day where everything rises to the level of a pebble in your shoe. Nothing really hurt, but everything seemed to slow me down and was super annoying.

At one point, three people stood at the end of an aisle at Publix. They weren’t looking at anything, but to start, they weren’t looking at me. Or doing anything. They were just standing there. Like a big, dumb picket fence.

There are a lot of ways to deal with that. You could say excuse me. You could go around. I chose to just stand there while they figured out what to do. One of them looked at me and said, “Well, go!”

“I’m trying to go there.” I pointed behind them, like an ass. Then I crabbed something about situational awareness as I went up the aisle.

Fact is, I’ve been spending too much time in my head lately. It’s easy to do when you’re housebound. Between hurting my heel and not feeling that great, and as of this morning, my left hip hurting, I’m not running.

So my life is pretty damn annoying just now.

There’s a lot of first person in there. And that creates a wonderful tunnel to limit my vision.

I could get angry at myself and say, “I must immediately stop being so damned selfish. Anyone can see there are people out there who have it a lot worse than me. Relatively speaking, I have nothing–nothing–to complain about. I need to get my head out of my ass immediately and stop being an asshole.”

Which would also make it about me.

I do have stuff to complain about. I’m stressed and lonely and bordering on depression–kinda like you maybe.

So maybe a better way is to just take a breath. Acknowledge that things are difficult, and move forward. Say something nice to someone. Look at some flowers. Find that really cool cloud formation.

Winnie the Pool and the cumulus clouds

Maybe take a day away from the news of the day.

I know, there are huge injustices out there and if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re the problem. But name the leader–Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King–they all took a little time.

Even Superman had the fortress of solitude.

This isn’t going away any time soon–any of it. So maybe you need to be kind to you and take a minute.

Take a rest. Do something stupid. Laugh at a dumb joke.

The world’ll be here when you get back.

The road to peace

There’s a guy named Andy Ngo, who’s been posting pictures of looting and violence in Portland to Twitter. According to him, a Trump supporter was identified and killed this morning. He’s not the first (Charlottesville comes to mind). He won’t be the last.

Conversely, our message today at church was the blessing in Numbers 6.

May the Lord bless you and keep you
May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you
May he turn his face toward you and give you peace.

If you’re a believing Christian, God left the earth as a physical being almost 2000 years ago. So he’s not physically here right now. That means we need to do it.

The discussions about racial issues and white privilege seem to be pushing us toward not accepting anything less than fully committing to the ideals of equity and racial justice. Anything less is just leaning back on that white, male privilege.

It’s made me uncomfortable. It’s made me wonder if through my actions or inactions, I’m contributing to a culture where people might not survive their run or getting pulled over, mostly because of skin color. It’s made me wonder if I’d have gotten the same benefits of the doubt that helped me get where I am were my darker complected. Or a woman.

It’s made me assume worst intentions sometimes, starting with myself.

I don’t believe God wants us to be complacent when it comes to areas where love falls short. Jesus wasn’t. I think we’re supposed to ask hard questions, starting with ourselves and extending outward.

But as Peter says when he tells us to be gentle and respectful, this isn’t a license to be a schmuck.

No one ever changed their heart by getting screamed at about how horrible they are. No one ever came around to your side of the argument after their business was burnt down. And while Jesus wrecked some small businesses when he drove the money-changers out of the temple, you’re not Jesus. Neither am I.

There are two difficult parts of any conversation, particularly this year. The first is drawing a line at unacceptable behavior. Whether it’s a guy protected by his badge kneeling on another guy’s neck for 9 minutes until he’s dead, or people trashing a car dealer because capitalism steals from the oppressed, the line needs to be held. Too many people focus on only one side–the opposite one.

The other difficult parrt is assuming good intention by those who are willing to listen. Listening involves testing, trying and failing and trying again. It means I might not agree with you today, but I might agree with you tomorrow.

As a Christian, it’s abundantly clear to me how much I miss the mark every day. And yet God, who has no obligation to tolerate my nonsense, not only tolerates it, he embraces me.

My metaphorical archery skills

How can I do less than others, even if they stand for things I disagree with and sometimes abhor?

People of my ilk have said “Hate the sin and love the sinner” about a number of things, most of them sexual in nature. It’s become a trite phrase, often used to justify aggressive words and actions. But it all changes when you look first at the primary sinner in your life–the one in the mirror each morning.

Another trite phrase–perhaps the biggest cliche of 2020–is that we’re all in it together.

But we are. Even if we don’t realize it.

I haven’t figured the race stuff out yet. I’m working on it. I may have a lot of work to do.

Regardless, if you’re reading this, you’re one of the people God told me to love. So I’ll lead with that, challenge myself, and let the chips fall. And I’ll screw it up.

So it’s up to me to do my best to be patient and kind with you when you screw it up.

That’s the only road I know to the peace we need so much.

Friggin 2020

I was reading an old blog post that turns up now and again and a phrase I used jumped out.

Life sucks. That’s part of the job description.

Happy Saturday, everybody.

I wrote that in July 2015, which started the darkest period of my life to date. I was sick, but working a ton. Things weren’t going well. My boss at the time died of brain cancer one Friday afternoon. Within a few weeks of writing that, I went on partial disability with a diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I asked my doctor what I needed to do to beat it. I’d done the research and knew the answer. But he was the doctor. Maybe I’d missed something.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “You don’t beat this. It will eventually get worse. You won’t get better.”

So I spent my time at my desk and in bed. There were days when I couldn’t walk across the living room without stopping to rest. A couple of days I worked from bed because that’s what I could manage.

Then my disability claim got denied, so I was limited to working half time, getting paid half time, and I owed my employer a crapload of money for the time before the claim got denied. I had a daughter finishing college and a son a year away from starting.

I was super lucky. About three weeks after I went on partial disability, I started to feel better. I appealed my claim denial and won. On January 21, 2016, I returned full time to work. As bad as 2015 was, 2016 was good.

Since then, my son has attended and graduated from a top university. We’ve moved to a townhome. I’ve run a half marathon. We’ve been on a cruise and to Utah and California.

It’s trite right now, but tomorrow really is another day (fiddle dee dee). In July 2015, I couldn’t conceive of a world where any of the things I just listed was remotely possible.

Tomorrow could bring further devastation. After all we’ve already seen murder hornets, locusts, massive fires, major hurricanes, and near misses from asteroids this year, and it’s not quite September.

But it could see something amazing, too.

Life sucks is part of the job description. Only part of it. It’s been good before and it will be again.

For whoever is joined to all the living, there is hope.

You do deserve hope. Because while everything could fall further to shit, it could also improve in ways we can’t imagine.

It’s a scary time, even for white guys. It’s time to be brave.

I understand why people are drawn to Donald Trump. I’m an older white guy who still needs to make a living for a few years. When employers say they need more women and minorities in their workforce, I’m the guy they need fewer of to make that happen. I’m the guy they need to promote and retain less often to make that happen. And I’m old enough that skill set and experience is starting to not matter should someone show me the door.

In the past few weeks, I’ve listened with as progressivism has been discussed as if it were table stakes. You need to be progressive just to have a seat at the table. Anyone who isn’t–they shouldn’t expect a welcome.

I’ve wondered if my worldview and opinions are relics of a past that’s useful only as an example of what not to do. I’ve wondered if I epitomize what younger generations–what my children–view as repulsive in the world.

Not all of those fears are the result of my spending too much time in my head. Some are legitimate.

On the other hand, my daughter doesn’t feel comfortable going for a run at certain times by herself. A black man going for a run was ambushed and murdered in Georgia. I can run anywhere and not worry about it a bit. My experience should be the norm.

People I work with have to tell their sons exactly how to act around law enforcement because they’re more likely to be shot. I’ve been pulled over and have never once worried about anything more than what would happen to my insurance rates. My experience should be the norm.

I’ve never gotten my ass kicked because of my religious beliefs, my skin color, or which sex I think looks good in jeans. My experience should be the norm.

While it’s been a long time, I’ve had my ass kicked for arbitrary, stupid reasons. I know what it’s like to feel like I’m on the outside with no way in, to feel overwhelmed with isolation. Those experiences should be unacceptable.

I’m a little afraid of all the stuff mentioned at the beginning of this post. Life is a scary place.

Some may condemn me for my fears–hold them up as racist, sexist, homophobic, and the rest. Those people are afraid, too. And their fears have made them small. I choose not to be small.

Thoughts are just that. Free will means I can choose whether those fears shape my actions.

I can choose to acknowledge my fears and move past them. I can view change as opportunity and understand that acknowledging the views and experiences of others doesn’t invalidate my views and experiences.

I can choose to live in fear and act in faith.

Overcoming fears and acting in spite of them is hard work. But if 2020’s taught us anything, it’s that life isn’t always easy.

Ann Coulter endorses Kenosha shooter for President (vomit)

I’m a conservative, always have been. I wasn’t old enough to vote in 1980, but I was happy that Reagan beat Carter. I see nothing wrong with cop shows and don’t think Olivia Benson needs to be canceled. I even worked for a conservative member of the New York State Assembly for a while.

But now, the movement I supported is falling all over itself to justify the actions of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was arrested for shooting three people, killing two of them in Kenosha, Wisconsin during riots there.

Rittenhouse for President, because freedom is best when enforced by the barrel of a stranger’s gun

Last night, Tucker Carlson said we shouldn’t be shocked that Rittenhouse restored order when no one else would. While his comments aren’t an outright endorsement of what Rittenhouse did (the proper term is murder), they imply his actions are reasonable.

If you want an endorsement, you need go no further than Ann Coulter, who might vote for Rittenhouse in the 2040 election, when he’s eligible to run.

To be clear, burning down businesses and assaulting people is wrong. And people have a right to defend themselves when their lives are on the line.

However, shooting an unarmed man seven times in the back and driving across state lines with a gun looking for people to shoot is a far bigger wrong.

We’ve reached the point in American politics where you have to choose between a political movement that increasingly requires absolute fealty to the most progressive idea in play and a movement that condones a guy running around shooting people and, in one case, wanting him to lead the entire country.

Since the giant meteor doesn’t seem to be coming, the lesser of two evils is the progressivism.

When she wasn’t trying out to be the female successor to Sam Kinison, Kimberly Guilfoyle made some valid points about California. There are needles in parks and there is an app that allows you to avoid poop piles in San Francisco. There’s a decent chance the next District Attorney for Los Angeles County will see his job as being an ally to the accused. The governor of California (Guilfoyle’s former husband Gavin Newsom) endorsed the man who takes that stance (George Gascon).

But Guilfoyle’s valid points supported a man who has gassed peaceful protesters, embraced QAnon, and said positive things about pedofiles (Ghislaine Maxwell) and actual Nazis (Charlottesville). So much foor validity.

You cannot support vigilantes and claim the mantle of law and order. You can’t surround yourself with people who throw matches at a smoldering populace and holdup a Bible and claim Jesus as your own.

The Republican party is a festering sewer. It’s clear they’re willing to pour gasoline on a brewing race war to help stay in power. It’s not a party for reasonable people who disagree on political points.

When you endorse a vigilante murderer as President, you maybe you aren’t selling your soul. Maybe you did that a long time ago.

Shouldn’t some of that money go to Jesus?

In reference to Jerry Falwell, Jr’s, pants-open picture with a fetching young redhead on his yacht, Shannon Farren asked, “Shouldn’t that money go to Jesus?” The question was concise and perfect.

In spite of what the meme wants to imply, not every church is housed in a former NBA arena, like Joel Osteen’s. And most pastors don’t live in palatial estates, like Joel Osteen’s. And most don’t get a $10.5 million payout after resigning because of a sex scandal, like Jerry Falwell, Jr. (who isn’t a pastor).

Joel Osteen’s church is housed in what used to be the Houston Summit, where the Rockets used to play basketball. It’s not typical.

Many pastors work a day job outside their ministry. Everything church-related is their second job. It’s a huge toll on them and their families to serve God and His people.

Many hold services in a rented school cafeteria or a store front. They don’t have budgets for everything under the earth.

Most don’t have yachts. And it’s been a few thousand years since God asked someone to build him a big-ass boat.

God wanted Noah to have a big boat. Jerry Falwell? Maybe not so much.

To be fair, Jerry Falwell, Jr., is–or was–the head of a religious university, not a church. His university has a decent basketball team and an enrollment of nearly 80,000. His job was a big one.

That said, Liberty clearly self-identifies as a place where moral wholeness is an expectation. Among other things, it teaches creationism alongside evolutionary science. And unless you’re the couple in charge, there’s not supposed to be sex outside marriage, because the Bible and stuff.

So the question remains: shouldn’t that money, some of it, go to Jesus?

This isn’t about pastors and church workers living in decent neighborhoods and driving cars that don’t break down once a month. This is about the few who have yachts and mansions, and whose Gospel pronouncements seem long on sex references and short on feeding the poor and caring for widows and orphans.

While churches shouldn’t necessarily be taxed, in exchange for tax-free status, maybe their financials should be made public to some degree.

When I worked for the New York State Assembly, my salary was public record and was published in the Albany Times-Union. If you don’t pay taxes, maybe you owe that much.

And aside from the legal aspects, if you’re going to sit on your golden throne of God Agrees With Me, maybe your devotion to the word of God needs to extend beyond Leviticus chapters 18 and 20.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. isn’t all Christians, but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise

In the Christian faith, in Psalm 51, King David writes that he has sinned against God and God alone. With respect to King David and a whole phalanx of biblical scholars, that’s just not true. While Kind David did in fact sin against God, he also murdered one of a loyal soldier, Uriah, because David had impregnated Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. He used his position as king to commit and cover up his actions. And as a result, his kingdom was never the same.

If we can hurt God, then King David did that. He also hurt a woman, a man, and his entire kingdom. For years, an untold number of people paid the price for his actions.

King David’s story came to mind today when I read about Jerry Falwell, Jr. The now-former head of Liberty University has been implicated in a sex scandal in which a pool boy, Giancarlo Granda, said he had sex with Falwell’s wife, Becki, while Falwell watched. Ironically, students at Falwell’s former university have to sign a conduct pledge that they won’t have sex outside marriage.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Giancarlo’s Granda’s former sex partner

Falwell’s transgressions might be shocking if they weren’t a cliche.

Between the sexual transgressions, the financial misdeeds, and the overt misuse of power, it’s been hard to keep track of the falls from grace and the tearful confessions that counted on God’s forgiveness (wink, wink). And then there’s the things like shifting pedophile priests to Hispanic parishes because there’s more reverence for clergy there.

To be fair, I’ve been cheapened grace now and again, though on a smaller scale. I’m trying to do better. Grace is necessary because without it, we’re simply the sum of our worst actions. But on this side of eternity, some sign of contrition is customary.

My sins were against God, but also against his people. Back in my asshole days, I used to wear a WWJD bracelet. I wore it because I wanted to be better than I was, not to trumpet some illusion of purity to those around me. I stopped wearing it because I didn’t want people who were good at it to be judged by my shortcomings.

My former fashionn statement

I’m not perfect at this Jesus thing, but I’ve put the work in to get better. I’m also not certain about my own grace and forgiveness.

Maybe grace and forgiveness and assuring our eternal bliss should be secondary.

Maybe we should be less worried about salvation and heaven and more worried about love and earth.

I’m no role model there, either. But I’m trying.

My sins, like King David’s and Jerry Falwell’s, were against God, but they hurt people. So I’m sorry. I’m sorry to the people who really do walk the walk and get painted by assholes and charlatains.

More important, I’m sorry to the people hurt by our actions and by the people who might otherwise find solace and peace here, if we weren’t such a turnoff.

We aren’t all like that. It seemed important to let you know that.

God allows us to hurt him

I recently had a situation in life where someone I went out of my way for a few times–someone I thought I’d been treating well–metaphorically treated me the way a little kid with golf club treats his dad on American’s Funniest Home Videos.

I’ll get over it. Mine is as the strength of ten for my heart is pure. Ot something. But it hurt. It made me wonder about myself and how I treat people. But it also made me wonder about other people.

It hurt and it made me angry. And it was someone not specifically close to me.

Imagine if it was someone I loved.

Part of love is giving the object of your feelings direct access to the most intimate parts of your being. And because they know you well, they know how and where to stick the javelin. Whether they carelessly cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding and take aim with the intent of inflicted damage. the ones you love can hurt you like no other.

And God, the same God whom Jesus portrayed as a father sprinting to welcome back his lost son, love us like no other.

Imagine for a moment if your child hurt you badly. Imagine how deep and all-encompassing that would be. Imagine the pain in your soul.

By loving us so deeply, God is giving us permission to hurt him. And the kicker is, he knows it’s going to happen and he does it anyway. Would you do that? The closest thing I can come up with is the century of Cubs fans who knew they were probably going to get hurt, but couldn’t turn away anyway.

It’s okay dude. Eventually Chris will come around, err, the Cubs will win.

It’s an incomplete metaphor. Unlike Cubs fans, God has absolute knowledge how it turns out.

And like Cubs fans in 2016, when it turns out, there’s great excitement.

A Cubs fan in 2016. Crying at the end of the curse.

I don’t know if God’s celebrating over me, and shaking his head and thinking maybe next year. But I know I did nothing to earn this love and forgiveness. I can only stand in front of God because he invited me there, in spite of all my shortcomings.

It’s a heavy example to follow. It’s damn risky and runs counter to our self-coded programming. Mostly, I don’t have the tools to do what God does in that regard.

But it’s worth trying, even though I understand the cost.

Parents with school from home kids are heroes, too.

It may have been the most adorable thing ever. A person I work with showed us a screen capture of a Zoom call with her facing the camera, doing work, and a tiny hand gripping the top of her chair from behind.

The reality behind the picture isn’t nearly as adorable. In many places, parents are entering the second school year of trying to balance a full-time job, often with new pressures and concerns because of the Covid, and overseeing school for their kids.

The only words for this picture are Holy hell.

Many years ago, our house was the hub for my son and his friends. They’d be in and out 17,234 times a day. They’d ring the doorbell every single time. The dog would announce that the doorbell rang. And my phone at the time didn’t mute.

And there were the weighty matters of being seven, like Jake hitting you in the face with a baseball bat (they were playing light sabers) and Brandon being mean. And, of course, the dog would add to the fun by digging out of the back yard and trotting out the front, usually during a call I was hosting.

By the end of the day, I’d have gotten an extra job to cover the cost of military school. And that was without a global pandemic and trying to keep them online doing what they need to do while answering a neverending cascade of IMs from impatient coworkers.

I can’t imagine it.

So, on my calls, we have Sesame Street rules. They’re just like Vegas rules, except no one gets to remember the kid coming in screaming bloody murder about what their siblings did. And you don’t have to apologize if you get distracted or have to reschedule a call.

Sesame Street rules should also include an unlimited supply of cookies for parents to use as they see fit. Or tequila.

Everyone’s under enormous stress right now. And parents of smaller kids doing virtual schooling week after week are near the top of the list.

Yes, schooling is important. But so are work, dinner, and a modicum of downtime to recharge your batteries.

So while we celebrate teachers and first responders and other essential jobs, don’t forget the parents, who are carrying a massive load just these days.

A’s teddy bear clears concussion protocol, returns to stadium

If you’ve watched any baseball this year, you know the teams are selling their seats, where you can place cutouts of yourself or someone else. A few people have gotten creative with their cutouts. The space behind the plate at Dodger Stadium includes Entertainment Tonight anchor Mary Hart and former Dodgers scout Mike Brito, who used to be a fixture behind the plate with a radar gun.

The Royals have include a Weekend at Bernie’s cutout.

And the Oakland A’s have invited large teddy bears to their games. Problem is, teddy bears aren’t good at avoiding foul balls. So Thursday night, this happened.

Even though it’s 2020, not everything is horrible. The A’s have reported that T. Bear has cleared concussion protocol and is bandaged and back at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for more baseball action. The A’s gave him a new seat, hopefully behind the protective netting.

He even got to keep the baseball.

Happy Saturday.