Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

9 Years — September 9, 2020

9 Years

This week is the 9 year anniversary of tropical storm Lee. I talk about this particular storm so much because it started to rain on a Sunday and when it stopped on Thursday, my house was underwater and our lives would never be the same. We now refer to memories and personalities as Before the Flood and After the Flood. It’s 9 years later, though, and it’s fingerprint is still branded on our souls. I had a friend (a good friend, despite the story I’m about to tell;) who said to me about 5 months afterwards, “Isn’t it time to move on? It happened months ago.” I wonder what he’d say now, and I wonder if I’d still want to punch him when he did.

Sometimes you move on, but the scars are still there and sometimes they still ache.

We all were forced to closely examine our unhealthy relationships with control. Maybe that’s the biggest, most valuable loss – the delusion that we were ever in control. I thought I could be a superhero, protecting my family from all threats, keeping them safe and secure with my strength and will. As it turns out, my strength and will couldn’t stop the rain, couldn’t keep the water from swallowing my house, couldn’t make the insurance company make good on their promise, couldn’t make the family pictures reappear, couldn’t give anybody back what was lost.

This was a great big domino that started an avalanche. This horrible lesson/sledgehammer broke me open and walked me into many many more “couldn’t”s.

Now. Last week, in another space I write, we discussed control, the things that ARE actually ours to control, and taking it into settings, circumstances, situations. The flood, when it broke me open also broke my heart (a sledgehammer is NOT a particularly precise tool, that’s why we don’t use it to crack eggs) and when it healed, it formed in a different shape and pattern with grooves and texture that wasn’t there before.

I have bad skin, the consequence of years of abuse. I hated that skin for so long, was often disgusted when I would look in the mirror and see only imperfections. But now, when I see the marks on my face, I only see me. I’m not flawless. I’ve made poor decisions with food and drink and lifestyle and sunscreen. I’m getting pretty old and, where there once was a baby face stands someone’s husband and dad, wrinkled around the eyes and mouth from laughter and tears and lots and lots of smiles. I’ve been slapped, pinched, frozen in a questionable procedure by a dermatologist, scratched by cats, and on and on and on. But it’s my face and I wouldn’t change one thing.

And that heart that turned out to be wildly mistaken about my imaginary strength, will, superpowers, and control – it’s mine, I wouldn’t change one thing, and I’ll be taking this new broken/repaired heart everywhere I go, into every landscape and environment.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to some college students who were volunteering to clean “flood buckets” (buckets filled with supplies and sent to flood victims about). I jump at those chances now. You see, I don’t exactly want to talk about or even think about our flood anymore, but now it’s a different sort of story. It’s about what I couldn’t do. It’s about kindness & peace & opening up my hands to the things to which I was desperately grasping. It’s about value and “enough.” It’s about losing all of my stuff and discovering that I didn’t really care about that stuff at all. It’s about my face. It’s about the redemption of my heart.

It’s a Gospel story, now, and it’s a very good one.

Unplanned — August 17, 2020

Unplanned

Last night was the reception for a wedding that I officiated in April. The couple were gorgeous and totally present. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, they are distant and preoccupied, hoping the families don’t fight and the food is hot. Wedding planning usually garners more time than marriage planning, so with that much of a commitment, it’s no surprise that who sits where gets the biggest piece of the pie and leaves only table scraps for the actual vows.

Not with these two, though. They are very well aware how extraordinary it is to have found each other, lovers, partners, friends. I dearly hope they don’t take each other for granted when the excitement of the day gets exchanged for the routine of the everyday like most of us do.

Anyway, I gave the prayer before the meal. In it, I said, “Today and on that day in April, nothing was how it was supposed to be, how it was planned, but it was just THE BEST,” or something like that. And then I paused. Maybe my silence was perceived as dramatic, but I was just thinking about how that’s absolutely true. Not just for their wedding, but probably for their marriage. Almost nothing will go how it’s supposed to, how it’s planned.

Maybe that’s the key to marriage. Maybe that’s the key to life. To ease our grip on the wheel a little. To not be more married to our calendars than we are to each other. To let things be what they are.

We plan, we prepare, then we allow the thing to breathe instead of choking it to death with our white knuckles. How many times have we completely missed the most significant moments of our lives by trying to shoehorn them into our expectations? Too many, right?

We had their wedding in her parents backyard, only immediate family (maybe 15 of us) and me, and to tell you the truth, I probably had the virus. I had been sick with a fever for days and days only getting out of bed to put on my suit and tie. But that horrible disruption may have been the greatest blessing of their lives. We were mercifully freed from ALL of the distractions (except for my mask;), and had no reason at all to be there (no food, no guests, no favors or centerpieces) other than for a man and woman to say “I do” to each other.

I really love weddings, except for the ones I don’t, but if I’m honest, this was one of my very favorites. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the lovely gift we were given. These 2 reminded me, reminded all of us, that things don’t have to be perfect to be perfect. I hope I don’t forget.

A guy at the gym — August 13, 2020

A guy at the gym

I go to the gym everyday. This isn’t a source of pride, it’s actually just the opposite. It’s an admission of my lack of discipline. I don’t take rest days, even though I know how important they are and would really like to take one here and there. It’s interesting how something healthy can transform so quickly, so quietly into a negative. I’m smart about the workouts themselves. I don’t train body parts on consecutive days, so I stay relatively strong and energetic, focused and grateful. The problem is with my spirit. Where my body is moving forward, for me working out every day subtly reinforces the belief that I am what I can do, what I look like, what I can lift, what I can accomplish, the number on a scale or plates on a bar. It may be arriving at the right house using the wrong road. Or using the right road and the wrong house. One of those.

That’s enough of that. AND I took yesterday off from the gym so that problem has pretty much been solved. (That’s how it works, right?)

There’s this guy at the gym who doesn’t re-rack the weights from the bar or clean the equipment when he’s finished (IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC!!!!) I know! He leaves the bar loaded with sweat, germs, and weights like a monster.

Seriously? Seriously. So, I’m judging him as a monster and this morning had the opportunity to parent him a little. “Are you still working over there?” I asked. “Yes.” “Then why don’t you come with me and I’ll help you take those weights off.” He mumbled and shuffled over like a scolded child. I was the Hero of the Gym, keeping the world safe for everyone from the rude, selfish and disrespectful.

Except for afterwards in the locker room he says, “Goodbye,” (the 2nd time we’ve spoken) and asked me about my supersets and day splits. Now, I know he’s not been lifting weights too long, evidenced by his poor form and lack of any discernible plan, but I must have failed to remember somewhere along the way that he was just a guy in the gym.

I’m a man who reads the Bible and today I ended up in Matthew 9:36 “When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” My Bible, which is apparently an older version of this one, says “their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help.”

Isn’t that quite the picture of our environment right now? Our problems are all so great (all different, but we’re all feeling something huge on our hearts and shoulders) and we don’t know where to go for help. And then we turn around, our practical amnesia kicks in and we forget that so is everybody else. The vast majority aren’t monsters, just other human beings in a mess with no idea what to do or where to go for help.

Jesus had compassion on them, on us, on me, and maybe I could do the same.

Echo — August 11, 2020

Echo

This post is about another documentary AND it’s about creativity AND Jesus AND should be required viewing for anyone who has ever loved a song or another person or being alive.

The documentary is called Echo In The Canyon (on Netflix) and deals with the music of the 1960’s. It’s mostly American music, barely touching on English bands like The Rolling Stones or the Zombies, focusing on the Laurel Canyon scene and the Byrds, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield (whose members refer to as THE Buffalo Springfield), and the Beatles (who were English, but they were the focus of everything musically and culturally, it didn’t matter where they called home). 

Oooh baby, the songs!!! 

We’re not talking about how great the songs were, though. We’re talking about the daily news and our Facebook feeds instead in the context of the 1960’s southern California folk rock movement.

Producer Lou Adler describes the time: “You just felt like you could do anything, you know. You just felt like there was nothing stopping you.” And in the most inspiring moment, Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash asserted that the “power of music is undeniable. I truly believe it can change the world.” 

These hippies, in the middle of the consuming fear of a totally out of control world, made the revolutionary choice to imagine a new reality, one marked primarily by love. In the face of   tremendous social unrest, war, violence, all of the -isms (sound familiar???), they chose beauty and creativity. They chose imagination. 

Think about Adler’s words, “you felt like you could do anything…like there was nothing stopping you.” He was, by most accounts, wrong. There were an awful lot of things stopping him, so many obstacles. And Nash, “music can change the world?” – silly words of a dreamer who didn’t understand the complexities of the times. What resistance could poetry and a guitar possibly offer against the swinging wrecking ball of hate?

I know, I know. You can already see how I’m going to say they were right, can’t you? Well, I am.

I actually believe in the power of art, too. In the words of Frank Turner, 

“And I still believe (I still believe) in the sound, That has the power to raise a temple and tear it down. And I still believe (I still believe) in the need, For guitars and drums and desperate poetry. And I still believe (I still believe) that everyone, Can find a song for every time they’ve lost and every time they’ve won. So just remember folks we not just saving lives, we’re saving souls, And we’re having fun. And I still believe.”

I believe that when a song breaks your heart with the first words “all the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray,” it shows us that if something could sound like that, anything might be possible. That in the compositions on Pet Sounds, maybe the complexities of the times were no match for the soaring imaginations of a small group of brothers and sisters bent on peace and love, man. That “Fast Car” and “Hey Jealousy” and Thriller and Adele and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Panic! At The Disco are actively re-making the world around us.

I recognize that I could be mistaken about this, after all, it’s only music, right? It’s only an album or a song, right? But here’s where I’m right. All through this film, I saw utter selfless devotion to an idea based on faith, hope, and especially love. What I know now that I didn’t know when I was 12 or 22 or even 42 is that the idea that sparked my faith in songs & films and made me think that yes, absolutely all we needed WAS love wasn’t actually the chords or strings or drums, it was Genesis 1. It was Jesus. It was grace. It was the empty tomb of the resurrection. It was a New Creation.

And I still believe.

Either/Or or Both/And — August 6, 2020

Either/Or or Both/And

Bryson DeChambeau is a professional golfer who recently added 40 pounds of muscle and started outdriving everyone in golf history. Before we get into today’s post, I just want you to know that I, too, will be riding along with the sports media’s silence and will not be asking the obvious question…Unless somebody else does. And in that case, the public narrative will be feigned ignorance, surprise and outrage. This is protocol. We all agree that we don’t really mind if every athlete is doped up, hitting balls cartoonishly far, as long as they don’t rub our noses in it with positive tests or confessions. So, yes, Bryson DeChambeau is a weightlifter and all the distance records will fall and we’ll all be keep our mouths shut about it. I honestly don’t mind, even a little. The only offensive thing about this social contract is the aftermath, when we self-righteously pontificate about ‘ethics,’ ‘fairness,’ and the children.

We sure are silly sports fans, willing to accept anything to defend our childish ideals.

Anyway. I want to discuss something today that is probably unrelated to Bryson DeChambeau. Well, if they are related, the link is in the stories we tell ourselves to understand, explain, or rationalize our behavior.

I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. This alone created an environment that is easy to imagine, many of us were raised (or now live) in spaces where we felt as if we were “walking on eggshells.” Someone was unpredictable and volatile, often violently so, and to survive, we learned to be pleasers. We avoided conflict, suppressing emotions and opinions in the service of what we thought was peace (but was in reality it’s opposite). That’s the first thing.

I am also deeply sensitive and empathetic, with a gift for being able to truly see all sides of every argument. I do have deeply held principles, but they do not hinder me from this ability. It’s why I make everyone pretty comfortable. Ideally, this is the safe space from which they can honestly seek the truth. When there is disagreement, I often don’t confront. I listen and ask a million questions, believing that this safety is essential to growth, free of judgment, free to change.

Now. I am either crafting beautifully valuable soil…OR I am a child pleasing his father, afraid to confront and suffer wounds on the broken eggshells.

I wonder which one it is.

I am also a guy that tends to black & white, always & never over-generalizations. Last night my thought was that maybe my wondering which one is actually wandering down a misguided path. Like most things, I have learned, the answer is both. My ridiculously simplistic question, “which one?” is only answered with a “Yes.” I am crafting beautiful soil AND I am pleasing, ignoring the song of my soul and spirit. I read that wisdom is less what to do as it is when to do, because the right action at the wrong time ceases to be the right action. In fact, the “right” thing can destroy relationships and build thick, high walls of steel.

The answers we receive are directly related to the questions we ask. Flawed questions will never lead to true or meaningful truths. Today is a very good day because I think I’ve finally stumbled into the question that can lead me away from that familiar fear of a child and into the man I have been called to be. Now, I can wonder something altogether new and exciting; what that, what I, will look like.

 

 

The Fling — August 1, 2020

The Fling

On Saturday mornings, I attend a contemplative retreat. Long periods of silence and meditation aren’t everyone’s bag, but they are certainly mine. The pace and noise of life very easily prove overstimulating and leave me exhausted and empty, to check out for even an hour on Saturday mornings are like water in the desert.

This week was no different, but it is a seemingly throwaway comment made early during the hello’s and how are you’s that I wanted to talk about today. The woman, Susan, quoted a tv show called Northern Exposure: “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself.”

I never watched the show, don’t remember the context she provided, and honestly couldn’t care less about either. The quote is absolutely perfect and vital to our every moment of every day, no matter if the show was great or terrible, no matter what they were flinging or why.

I might amend it slightly, to say “it’s not the thing you fling or where it goes (if it goes anywhere at all), it’s the fling itself.”

If I write this post for the likes or comments, with an eye towards potential advertisers and income… well, so many things will happen. I’ll probably, on some level, conscious or not, begin to tailor it to reach the most eyeballs. It will cease to be 100% honest, because authenticity is usually packaged with sharp edges. I will drift into what I think you want to read instead of who I am, carefully crafting the image of taste-making, (insert popular characteristic I can pretend to possess here), supercool famous blog rock star. I will shoehorn the “thing to fling” into the popular trend.

And if I don’t get enough response, then what? I’ll quit or I’ll put on some new clothes and opinions and try again to fit the current to achieve an imaginary idea of success. Either way, it’s superficial and fake. It’s what we used to call, back in the day, “selling out” and the internet is lousy with it.

As you may or may not know, I am the pastor of a small church and as far as I can tell, the Bible is (among other things) a library of books connected by the Art of Subtraction. We subtract all of the ways we invent to manufacture an image – in the Scriptures, it’s called hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is meant to describe actors on a stage, bending themselves into a role to be what the audience wants them to be. Except in this case, our lives are the stage and we bend ourselves so much and so often that we forget who the person is under the mask. It’s a focus on the ends, the responses, the rewards, instead of the life-giving passion and fulfillment that only comes from stripping the expectations until we are left with exactly who we have been created to be. We subtract all of the extraneous layers until we are left with the genuine true us.

Now, maybe that includes gigantic paychecks from YouTube and fame beyond your wildest dreams. Maybe I’ll be driving a fleet of Rolls Royce’s by next summer due to an avalanche of social media adoration. Maybe I’ll be the next darling of Instagram or TikTok. But if that pseudo-success includes any hint of pretense or masquerade, it’s going to feel hollow and leave us wanting more and more, trying to fill the hole that all of our different costumes can’t plug.

It’s the fling, the process, the naked transparency of being exactly who we are and doing exactly what we’ve been made to do (whatever the thing to fling or where it is flung), that tears down walls of division and builds something new, inspiring, significant and undeniably awesome.

The fling is what builds a beautiful life.

General Zod In Waco — July 30, 2020

General Zod In Waco

I told you last week that I was falling apart, right?

We’ll talk about that in a few paragraphs, but first I want to give you a quick recommendation/review. I followed up the Filthy Epstein documentary with the Waco series, also on Netflix. It’s a 6 part series based on books written by those closely involved, produced by and starring Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon. Taylor Kitsch hasn’t been in anything I’ve seen, but is outstanding as David Koresh. Michael Shannon has been in quite a few things I’ve seen (General Zod in the newest Superman movies, Walt Thrombey in the awesome Knives Out, etc) and is terrific in everything, including this, as the chief FBI negotiator.

It’s the feel-good hit chronicling how the FBI & ATF murdered 76 people. Maybe we can talk about the things the Branch Davidians (the group led by Koresh) did wrong or that we don’t like or understand. Surely, there are plenty of those to discuss. But I’m absolutely positive none of those things deserved the death penalty. It was disgusting and when the final credits rolled, I cried and cried. It’s beautifully written and acted, an excellent miniseries.

Now back to the beginning. Nothing is new about me falling apart from time to time. I have ups and downs, like everyone, but as I am told, not everyone feels them quite like I do. When I was much younger, the dark down parts felt like they’d never end and I’d often contemplate anything to end the darkness. Now, I don’t ever think about making today my last day, because I know the darkness isn’t forever. I know the darkness will pass and it will be light again, sometime. That’s as good of a definition of faith as I can find.

It’s been dark for me for some weeks now, and as my tears dried from the horrors of Waco, my heavy heart plodded to why? After breakups in college, I would listen exclusively to the Smiths, Morrissey and Depeche Mode and the other saddest songs I could find. I’d play “Unloveable” on repeat. Why purposefully walk deeper into that abyss? As I watch the pain of Federal Agents being sent into Seattle on the news, why am I choosing the story of Waco, TX? When I’m overwhelmed with sadness, maybe the murder of women and children isn’t the best option. Or is it?

Just like in the kitchen, it really matters a what we put in our bodies. But I’m not sure what that even means when it comes to this. I refuse to ignore or avoid the pain of real life…but maybe diving in so fully isn’t the healthiest, either. Maybe I need, say, 2 Morrissey albums and then a mindless electronic dj mix, like a cold glass of water tossed in my face to remind me that a full life contains joy as well as pain, mindless superficiality in addition to matters of weight. Depth includes laughter, too. Not just tears. Who knows?

But I can’t stand electronic dj mixes. (I call them mixes – maybe that’s what they call them, too – because they’re not songs or albums, they’re just beats and pulses. They’re not really anything, are they? Besides awful, I mean.)

So. I don’t have a nice tidy ending, here or in my broken heart. We’re just having these conversations.

Hot — July 21, 2020

Hot

It is hot where I live. I saw a meme (which are what passes for the wisdom of our generation) that compared these days to the level in Super Mario where the sun was trying to kill you, and that’s close.

Anyway.

I watched the Netflix documentary Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich last week. This was a series that detailed how an empty vessel of a human being victimized tens (probably hundreds, maybe thousands) of young girls. He did it because evil exists in the world. He also did it because no one would say or do anything to stop it, because money talks and/or because they enjoyed the sexually trafficked children as much as the monster in the title.

Just a quick aside: When Bill Clinton says he absolutely was not on the island or in any of Epstein’s houses, and there is evidence that he was…well, it’s a very bad look. I didn’t think he was necessarily involved in the trafficking, but the lies scream that there is something to hide and I might be wrong. He may have been a fine president and a swell guy, but he has proven over and over to be of pretty poor character.

I am also watching the downward spiral of humanity in America played out on my television and social media every second of every day. I happen to be a man who believes in God and the Bible and follows Jesus. I think there probably is an enemy (I don’t think too much if he’s red and horned and carries a pitchfork like in cartoons, though) and if there is, he would absolutely start with isolating us from each other. We would stop listening and only talk. The separation would make us myopic and selfish, only concerned with what we want and what it means to meeeee. It would make us see in terms of us/them, as enemies instead of brothers and sisters. It would make us desperately need to be right, at all costs. At that point, culture would be a tinderbox, waiting for a spark, which this enemy would provide. We would tear each other to shreds, literally and figuratively.

I see politicians and political parties elevated to gods, doing anything and everything to achieve and secure more and more power. If any of us can trust even 1 word spoken by any politician at all anymore, I simply can’t imagine why.

So, how did we get here, where an angry review of a well-made film became an indictment of our recent collapse? It’s easy. Because the vast majority of the people and systems in the documentary were riddled with corruption, consuming anything and everyone in their way. Now, it’s 2020 and the names of the people might have changed and the systems might have cooler logos, but it’s business as usual in the empire.

I’m not usually this frustrated or depressed. I’m actually pretty relaxed, if a bit high-maintenance at times. I have a perfectly lovely rabbit named Honey-Bunny (like Amanda Plummer’s character in Pulp Fiction) and 2 hamsters (Snowflake and Pete). My favorite song is “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” and my favorite book is “Breakfast of Champions.” You’d really like me I bet. Maybe not today, though. Maybe it’s this heat. It’s oppressive, like one of those new heavy blankets that smooshes you into the mattress.

 

This Morning At The Gym — July 13, 2020

This Morning At The Gym

Once we received our “Green” designation, the gym I belong to was free to open. There would of course be the changes we notice everywhere – space, masks, distance, etc. One big change was the hours of operation. Instead of 24 hours, my Planet Fitness now opens in the morning and closes at night. This was the one that caused me an unhealthy level of concern.

You see, I transferred to PF because the old gym had a morning employee problem. None of them could be counted upon to open on time. There were 4am’s (too many to count) where we would sit in our cars or on the sidewalks and wait…and wait…and wait, until we could wait no longer, and abandon our workouts.

The great thing about a 24 hour gym is no one ever opens so on one ever doesn’t.

(Before I get too far, I am still aware that we are in a global pandemic and the problems of hours of operation and irresponsible employees at a local fitness center are not what any of us would call too important. But we have been in an intense time of anxiety and upheaval – maybe a sense of normalcy is exactly what we need. In a time where things are wildly coming undone, maybe a sense that there is something at all that we can affect holds some allure. Maybe in that sense is the key to regaining our mental as well as physical health. Maybe not – just know I know how trivial this 1st part is.)

So, a week into our re-opening, the gym doesn’t open. While I’m sitting in the parking lot, with nothing to do, I post on the Planet Fitness members page on Facebook. Not because I’m particularly angry or looking for retribution (after all, these things do happen), but because I understand the power of a “Me too.” Someone else saying, “yeah, I understand” and that being the truth is undeniably healing. Especially now, I just want to feel like someone else is there, like someone understands.

My post was taken down in minutes by the Admin, but not before I would receive 5 surprisingly nasty comments. Instead of presence and understanding, I was mocked and berated.

I don’t know why they were so mean. Of course, everybody can be mean online in ways they would never to my face, but where does that impulse come from? In the Fight Club film, after mercilessly pounding another, the narrator says, “I just wanted to destroy something beautiful.” Is that it? When we feel stripped of all power (whether ecologically, biologically, or politically), is any exercise of force enough to regain the illusion of control?

Is that why the discourse online has devolved into a battle royale, where the best insult shouted the loudest with the harshest 4-letter words “wins?” Where our most devastating hurts must be passed along to another immediately, safely behind a screen of anonymity?

I know this gym nonsense is trivial, but this condition sure as hell isn’t and if we intend to move forward, as a nation, as human beings, I think we’re probably going to have to acknowledge all of this powerlessness and isolation that is causing so much suffering. We’re going to have to acknowledge that we’re not just names and avatars and the sum of our emojis. We’re going to have to acknowledge that we’re all just people who are in this mess together.

Family — July 8, 2020

Family

We need to talk about The Family on Netflix. It’s about a super-secret Christian organization that may or may not be pulling all of the strings in America. Full disclosure: I’m only 2 episodes in (out of 5), maybe by episode 4 or 5 I will no longer use the phrase “may or may not be pulling the strings.” That appears to be the way it’s going. The music is ominous and in my experience, it’s not usually very awesome anytime anything is super-secret. But I don’t know that yet.

So far, it’s a group of boys hanging out together having Bible studies and playing football, men having clandestine meetings with politicians and world leaders, and women who say things like, “the men spend all their time serving others, who is serving them?” Maybe that’s ok. Maybe it’s even ok to have frat house-ish buildings with tax-exempt religious status, too.

But politicians seem to historically have pretty much trouble with infidelity, and this super-secret Family rationalizes these indiscretions with a shoulder shrug and a questionable reading of the story of David & Bathsheba: an “oh well, when you’re chosen by God, these missteps don’t matter much.” And then the bright lights go away, politicians keep their offices and their club memberships. And maybe that is how it should be. Forgiveness is a vital tenet of the faith, right? We all fall, right? These politicians get caught, (then, ONLY then, always after they get caught) are sorry, have a community in place around them to help pick up the pieces of their lives and re-dedicate themselves to their wives, children and constituents. Is that cool? Redemption in real time?

I suppose it depends on where you stand how you tell (or interpret) the story.

For the first 22 years of my life, I hated God and Christians. I would have heard this story as one of pure corruption. The “Family’ of swine are grossly manipulating a nation of marks, using Bible verses to achieve and increase their money and power. It would make me want to throw up all over their frat-houses and twisted insincere ‘apologies.’

Then I fell in love with Jesus and for the last 8 years, have been a pastor of a local church. Now, I hear this story and…

Well, if I am honest, I hear it exactly the same. However, the big difference is that now I can hear that there might be another side of the story. I can watch 2 episodes and think that though I don’t personally know John Ensign (former Senator from Nevada, whose repaired marriage ended in divorce after he resigned from his seat), he might not be a high character guy.  But if he is in fact a swine, maybe they all aren’t. Maybe some are just young guys looking for meaning and a space where they can support the leaders of our country, love the people who live here, and play football in Washington DC grass.

When you gain or lose weight, it’s slow and over time, totally unnoticeable until someone you haven’t seen for a while reacts, right? It’s that way with spiritual growth. We don’t really feel like we’re moving all that much, still make mistakes, still raise our voices to our children, get heated when we’re cut off in traffic. But it’s less often. And there’s less and less time between when we act like idiots and when we know we’ve acted like idiots. Watching this documentary, I can recognize that I am different. I still don’t have all the answers, but I’m far less inclined to pretend that I do, and that’s really something.