Golf, Syria & Stamp Collecting: Why I’m Not Religious- Guest Post

3 Apr

Editor Note: A friend of mine (and published author no less) offers his two cents on religion in our first ever guest post.

Why I’m Not Religious

It should be an easy question to answer, right?

Is it because after my baptism and excluding my attendance at weddings, my parents took me to Church exactly zero times? Perhaps it’s my logical and analytical mind that finds it easy to poke holes in most religions’ core beliefs. Then again, it might simply be that I prefer spending Sunday morning bonding with my spiritual self out on the golf course.

 

jesus_golfsm1

 

The real answer is D; all of the above. That along with continued negative portrayal of religion in the news. From religious-based violence in Syria and other areas of the world to further reports of priest-involved child abuse cases across the country. Unless you pay close attention, it’s hard to find the positives in religion as someone who sits well beyond the reach of religious gospel today. Could I be swayed otherwise to embrace religion in my lifetime? Perhaps. Let’s explore three foundational aspects of religion.

Religion provides an answer for what lies beyond our physical death

You know, I’m ok just living my life in the current world and making the best of it. I anticipate that I won’t fear or embrace death any differently due to my lack of belief in the after-world. What if there is something waiting for me beyond this life? Well, I’ll accept that as bonus time after living a complete and satisfying life here on earth.

Religion guides our moral compass, helping us to live righteous lives

I don’t need the bible to tell me if a choice I’m about to make is morally right or wrong. And if I make a mistake along the way, I still have to forgive myself whether or not I choose to ask God’s forgiveness. Plus, the cynical side of me can quickly point to all the believers out there that are breaking the law, or otherwise choosing to ignore their religious teachings.

Religion creates a sense of community

Hmm…this one has potential. I don’t know any of my neighbors beyond a quick hello and a brief synopsis of the week’s weather. I rarely find myself talking on the phone anymore in the world of email and text messages. My network consists of Facebook and LinkedIn, where meaningful conversation is nonexistent. And I don’t belong to local Rotary or stamp collectors club. While I have a great relationship with family and a strong core group of friends, maybe there is something missing here. Stating that I’m not religious is perhaps an incorrect statement. It might be more accurate to say that I’m approaching my 40th birthday and I’ve yet to find the religion for me.

Questions:

  • Will people like me ever accept religion in its current form? If not, how can religious groups evolve to become more attractive to people in my shoes?
  • What risks are there for religions that stick to their traditional beliefs and don’t evolve?

You Got a Tribe?

1 Apr

How many friends do you have?

In the social media age that word friend gets watered down a lot. Facebook allows you a maximum of 5000, while a recent scientific study indicates the most you can realistically have is 150.

Personally I’d aim even lower.

I don’t need 150 or even 50 friends, I need a tribe.

“You get yourself three or four good pals; then you’ve got yourself a tribe. And there ain’t nothing stronger than that… we gotta stick together fellas. That’s the only way I see it” — William H Bonney, Young Guns 1988

A wise man once said “your enemies may stab you in the back, but your best friends stab you in the front.”

His point was that a true friend can serve as an accountability coach; someone to take you to task. Are you walking the walk? Investing in your family? Your marriage? Glorifying God in all you do?

Surround yourself with yes-men or less-men and you may never know. A friend may have your back, but a tribe has your front.

It is a tough conversation, but if your best friend or your spouse can’t convict you, who can? We all have our blind spots; working together we can close some of them. I for one, want those kinds of friends. I *need* those kinds of friends.

The bible simply says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

It is incumbent upon us to be deliberate in cultivating the friendships that sharpen us. And drop those that don’t. And occasionally be willing to have (and receive) those difficult conversations.

It is all a part of life in a tribe.

Seven Things They Won’t Tell You

19 Mar

aplane

A civilized society would have figured all of this out already. Since ours is struggling, here is a list.

Seven things you need to hear but no one is saying.

1. If you are looking for a reason the world is against you, you can probably find one. Adapt.

2. Republicans are all heartless monsters and Democrats are all spendthrift statists. Arguing about it won’t help, so stop.

3. Drive on the right, pass on the left.

4. Total number of Facebook “friends” is inversely proportional to number of actual friends. Invest your time in real relationships.

5. A participation trophy belittles accomplishment and incents mediocrity. We aren’t fooling anyone, the kids still keep score.

6. If you recline your seat on an airplane you are selfish.

7. Very few souls are saved via twitter

All pretty basic advice, yet very little of it is heeded.

Few on the freeway know how to drive and social media is still rife with bible-beaters carpet bombing the internet with Proverbs.

Sharing scripture over social media may feel good, but it is less effective than a Jehovah’s Witness. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I haven’t seen too many Jehovah’s Witness mega churches around town.

Case in point is the last witness who stopped by my place. He accomplished two things. First he informed me that they have rebranded and call it JW now– wow, that’s hip! Secondly he invited me to a big JW meeting in my area. It turns out that “in my area” is Rochester (a scant 95-mile donkey ride away).

Why would I mock people trying to make good on the great commission?

First, you could argue it’s because I’m a sarcastic curmudgeon who hates uninvited guests at my door. You’d be about half right. But there is another reason. It’s because I think they are wasting their time.

We’ve likely all been handed a book of Mormon, or a copy of the Watchtower, yet none of us have converted. There is a good reason for that.

It is because Evangelism in 2014 requires more of a rifle than a shotgun.

If you think 100 doors slamming in your face is worth it to get one meaningful conversation out of the owner of the 101st, then JW.org is just a click away. Check it out, and then lose my address.

No, evangelism isn’t about beating the virtual or actual pavement; it is about living your life in a way that clearly has a different focus. Are you going to tell people, or are you going to show them? God did a lot of telling in the Old Testament and the results were pretty mixed. So He decided to go the other direction.

Bethlehem was the Missouri of bible times.

God wants you to follow suit. Faith may be a noun, but we need to convert it into an active verb. It isn’t something you have, it is something you DO. Do so and you will stand in sharp contrast to the world today and it will afford you an entry point to start a conversation.

This is meaningful Evangelism.

It’s hard and I suck at it, but it is important so we need to double down. The world is broken and needs a Savior. People are hungry for it. The key to sharing God is to become the salt and the light. If you get good at that, Evangelism won’t be something you do, but something you become.

Be the salt.

And stop reclining those airplane seats.

Going Going Gone… Or is it?

17 Jan

bud

“The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually nonexistent. The so-called ‘steroid era’ is clearly a thing of the past.”–

Bud Selig- Major League Baseball Commissioner,
January 2010

Since this statement was uttered, a full 19 Major League Baseball players have been suspended for steroids.

Three of those players were former league MVPs…and that’s just since 2010.

Is my point to rip on Bud Selig and A-Rod? Only partly.

The more important part is to make a simple point.

We are never done.

Unless we are diligent, constantly checking ourselves and striving to be better, our past tends to catch up to us. As much as we’d love to leave it behind, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

We can make pronouncements, resolutions and turn over countless new leaves. And yet we still remain one bad decision from a relapse.

Am I talking about drugs, adultery, gambling or cheeseburgers?

You tell me.

Just know that making progress takes work, constant attention, engagement and support.

Getting your shit together may take work.
Keeping it together takes more.

***
What part of your past is dead and gone?
How can you keep it that way?
Who can you ask for help?

Why? Why? White Trash

8 Jan

Where were you twenty years ago?

If your name is Tonya Harding you were on top of the world.

Not only were you kicking tail on the ice at the ’94 National Championship, but your biggest rival was just violently knee-capped by a “mystery” assailant. This left you the clear frontrunner to achieve your lifelong dream; a berth on the 1994 Olympic team.

Nancy

It was truly the best of times. It would soon become the worst, as a conspiracy was uncovered implicating you in the assault.

The rise and fall of Tonya Harding took approximately one month. From relative anonymity to public enemy number one.

And things only got worse. Tonya went on to…

• An 8th place finish in the Olympics

• A lifetime ban from competitive skating, a fine and community service

• A starring role in a sex tape

• A job as a professional wrestling manager

• A failed boxing career

• An odd encounter where she saved an octogenarian with CPR

• A land speed record for vintage cars

• Countless police encounters involving many ex-husbands

You can’t make it up. She’s a modern day Forrest Gump. That is if Forrest Gump lived in a trailer park and free-based opiates.

So why did I lead you on this trip down memory lane recounting 20 years of bad choices?

Because it didn’t have to be this way.

In a brilliant piece written for Bloomberg, Kavitha Davidson recounts the story of what could have been.

We could be recounting the feel good story of a hard-working blue collar girl’s rise from an abusive home. How that girl not only dominated figure skating but also revolutionized it along the way. Tonya could have been that girl.

Davidson reminds us just how good Harding was. She remains to his day one of only two women who have successfully landed a triple axel in competition. This earned Harding a perfect score of 6.0

She was not a good skater, she was great.

You don’t get great by sleeping in, or taking shortcuts or being the “loser” that the media portrayed. So why does her story end the way it does? What led her from perfection to punch line?

Two key things

Accountability and the expectations of others

Harding failed to take the former and in the process lived down to the latter. Her own choices doomed her to be the white trash villain, rather than the persevering champion. Sadly, as recounted in Ms Davidson’s piece, Harding can’t, or *won’t* see that even to this very day.

It is the story as old as time. Adam only ate the fruit because Eve told him to and Eve in turn because of the serpent.

Pointing fingers is always easier than introspection.

But the result can mean the difference between playing down to expectations or meeting our full potential. We have all fallen short and failed. The question is, are you going to take ownership and seek forgiveness, or are you going to blame others?

Recruiting Nazareth High

23 Dec

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football program.

The formula has never changed; sign the best players, build the best team and win.

And in 2008 it was no different. That class, now seniors in college, included 30 five-star recruits and a few hundred four-star recruits. They represented the best in the country, and they all had one thing in common.

None signed with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Our nation’s quickest, strongest and best football talent went to 100s of different schools, but not a single one chose to go to Iowa City.

And Kirk Ferentz couldn’t care less.

He simply assembled a recruiting class that included 13-three star players and 11 with no rating at all and built another New Year’s Bowl team.

How does Kirk manage the football equivalent of the “Island of Misfit Toys” and still compete for Big Ten titles?

Ferentz knows how to put players in a position to win. He doesn’t adapt his program to his personnel; he adapts his personnel to the program. Team over individual.

Players will always bring flaws, but if everyone plays their role, and puts the team first– they can accomplish wonderful things anyway.

God works the same way. As a recruiter, he’s more Ferentz than Nick Saban. Consider his track record…

Noah was a drunk.
Rahab was a prostitute.
David was a runt, adulterer and a murder.

And yet each played a pivotal part in building the nation of Israel and hold a place in the lineage of Christ. Christ who Himself entered the world a Servant; born in a barn, laid in a manger, welcomed by lowly Shepherds. Indeed He started out with only one star.

God has a soft spot for long shots; it’s time to sign your letter of intent

Merry Christmas

Runs a 4.2 forty.  Good burst.

Runs a 4.2 forty. Good burst. Can get to the second level, can help you get there too.

You Smell That?

3 Dec

Bellevue, Nebraska
population 50,137

It is the third largest city in Nebraska… most days that is.

On a select few Saturdays, and one notable Friday each autumn Bellevue slips to 4th, surrendering its bronze medal to Memorial Stadium.

It is the home of Husker Football; an ancient relic of a stadium that is routinely filled with 91,000 crimson-clad lunatics.

Routinely may be an understatement… try always. Every single game sold out since 1962.

A true blueblood of college football, Nebraska football is unique. Expectations among the legions of fans are sick. For most teams an eight win season gets their coach a contract extension, in Lincoln it gets you fired.

mem

Friday I found myself in the belly of this beast; a lone Hawkeye fan sitting among Big Red season ticket holders. And as my Hawkeyes laid a monumental beatdown on the local squad (38-17) a funny thing happened.

I saw Big Red’s true colors, and they were spectacular.

Late in the 4th quarter the crazy, sick, irrational and devoted fans seated around me did a really odd thing. They began to congratulate me. They each took turns shaking my hand and genuinely wishing me well. It was bizarre. Five minutes from collecting their 4th loss of the year (three seasons worth) they bore no anger, no bitterness, no excuses– just grace.

One guy even offered (unsolicited) to take my wife and my picture with the scoreboard in the background. And the whole thing was genuine. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

Turns out the same school that tolerates the single most immature coach in all of college football has fans that make Tony Dungy seem like a jerk.

I gotta say, in some small way it kinda makes me a Nebraska fan. Second to the Hawks of course, but I like good things to happen to good people, and these are good people. What they have, their dedication and love of the Huskers is really special.

As Evangelists we can learn a lot from this. Telling people about God is great, but if we leave all the positivity at church on Sunday, we are missing the boat.

Our children aren’t leaving the church because they don’t like what God has to say, they are leaving the church because too many people *in* the church don’t apply the teachings of Christ to their lives. What is really going to attract people to the Church and a Savior is seeing His redemptive power in action. The bible calls us to be

“the aroma of the Messiah among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost”
2 Corinthians 2:15

What is your aroma?

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