>You’ve got to learn to get over stuff or it will hold you back.
You don’t want to be 50 years old rattling off a litany of hurts every time someone or something comes up—explaining why you won’t do that or be friends with them. That’s when you’ve become bitter. And bitterness rots the bones.
Don’t get me wrong. You’re probably totally right. How you feel is likely completely valid. Unfortunately, you can’t change people or past outcomes so it doesn’t matter.
>Festering will get you nowhere except alone and complacent.
That’s no place to be. That’s no goal worth achieving.
You can be responsible with your actions and attitudes. Don’t let other people or disappointment about life dictate yours. You’ll get nowhere relationally or professionally.
Learn to get over past hurts and disappointments. Talk to someone or get counseling if you have to. Just learn to get over it no matter what it takes.
Ephesians 4:30-32 states:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)
What else can be said? Just get over it or else you’ll pay is so many ways.
*Below is an excerpt from my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I thought this would be good due to my involvement with Stand Together Fest last weekend and I talk about my band Strongarm.
I was in a band called Strongarm. Psalm 89 in the Bible inspired the name. It talks about God delivering his people with his strong arm. Our name also had a double meaning as an indirect reference to Jesus. But mainly I picked it because it sounded tough.
Musically, we called ourselves hardcore. The style fell somewhere between metal and punk rock. Like punk, it was outspoken and raw. Like metal, it was heavy and a little more polished. Either way, if you heard Strongarm, you’d probably wonder what the heck we were saying and why we were so mad. The style was passionate, aggressive, and cleansing. I loved it. I still do.
I was the lead singer, but I can’t really sing. So I was the screamer. I also wrote the lyrics. In fact, I wrote 15 of the 19 songs that are out there. But who’s counting? And I ran most of our business affairs. By the time I quit, we’d recorded a full-length album, released a few singles on seven-inch vinyl records, shot a music video, and done several small tours. There’s still a bunch of our merchandise floating around online auctions, if you’re interested.
I learned a lot in the band. Overall, it was a great experience. Though I quit in 1996, I still get a few emails a month from avid fans. I’m always complimented and honored by their well wishes.
When our first album, Atonement, came out, we did something out of character. We did a tour of Christian venues. The opportunity came up, so we took it for the quick exposure to support the record. There were a lot of memories, like the last show of the tour when we stood around and shared how much we hated each other before going on stage. Did I mention we were all Christians?
We brought along a friend named Tom. He volunteered to be our roadie, helping us with extra muscle. This gave him an opportunity to travel the country for free. He didn’t believe what we believed, but he was an amazing guy. We really liked him, and he liked our band. We also hoped the experience might have a positive influence on him. It influenced him all right.
One show in particular stands out. It was in Memphis. We arrived and were greeted by the promoter, who told us he’d received a call from our previous stop. They called to advise him that we weren’t “Christian” enough. They recommended he cancel the show.
You see, our friend Tom had an underground magazine (called a zine). He hoped to promote it and make contacts on the tour. There was some slightly coarse language in it, but it wasn’t a huge deal to us. It really wasn’t any worse than what is on primetime television. We just asked him to hand it out on his own time and not from behind our merchandise table.
Anyway, a parent got hold of one of the zines and went ballistic. So, we were horrified when we arrived in Memphis to accusations that our band promoted filth and pornography. At the time, we felt the parent’s reaction was unwarranted. Tom felt terrible about jeopardizing our tour. We felt bad for him. But something even worse had happened.
This hit Tom hard. He just wasn’t the same after that. He learned something about Christians. He learned to hate them. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, because there always seems to be some type of fallout when they’re around. The deeper issue was that Tom, like many, decided to stay away from Jesus. I don’t know where Tom is today, but in the grand scheme of things, I wonder if it would have been better if he hadn’t toured with us.
Nothing has discouraged me more in my desire to follow Jesus and know God than my observations of those who call themselves “Christians.” They make it so easy to hate them. They can be crazy, annoying, judgmental, and hypocritical.
Even worse, I regret that each of those words also represents me personally, to some degree.
Sometimes it’ll go something like, “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I am very a spiritual person.” This seems to imply that a person is in tune with their soul (or true self), the environment around them, and others. But that’s not enough.
>Newsflash: Hitler was spiritual. Charles Manson was spiritual. It was just a different kind of ‘spiritual.’
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the term doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a catchall that sounds good but lacks any real meaning. It has style but no substance, if you will.
As a follower of Jesus, the goal should not be spirituality—or to be spiritual. The aim is higher and not so vague or ambiguous.
>Our best efforts are to be righteous and Christ-like.
Admittedly, these phrases are not going to be popular with co-workers during break time or your study group at school. So don’t use them in those settings! They are ‘inside baseball’ lingo and that’s okay.
Just know there is a difference. And let that understanding be you personal guide.
Strive to be righteous and Christ-like. That’s so much more than simply being spiritual.
It’s being godly.
Nothing is truer.
>If you are doing Christianity correctly—if you’re taking it seriously and really devoting yourself—it is very difficult.
It is hard to say ‘no’ to going out for drinks after work with the gang, so you don’t predictably end up doing something you shouldn’t. Maybe you think you can be a ‘good influence’ or even assume the role of designated driver. But it always ends with some regrets.
It’s hard to break up with someone you love, get along great with, and have tons in common with. It’s hard to finally face the fact that this person is not a Christian. He or she may be ‘Jesus-friendly’, but it just isn’t enough.
>If you’re faith doesn’t have regular and reoccurring moments of difficulty, you may be doing something wrong.
I’m not saying to be a contentious and cantankerous person. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. But taking a stand when it would be easier to be passive and ‘go with the flow’ isn’t easy.
It’s hard. It’s supposed to be.
Taking a stand singles you out, because Christianity is harder than you think.
As a result, there is a tendency to rely on yourself, your experience, and your wisdom. Now, that’s not all bad or even ill advised, but it can be a problem.
>When no one can speak into your life, it is a problem.
When we rely only rely on our own wisdom and experience it is dangerous. It is a disgusting trait when someone has no curiosity or desire to learn about new things. This is called complacency and be sure to drive it far from your character.
That’s not to say you don’t have a unique perspective that is valuable. Or that you don’t have a singular vision in certain situations. You do. It just means that you need to be sure to glean wisdom from others as well.
>Gather what you know, ask others what they know, and move forward. And do this for the rest of your life.
So be teachable. Please be teachable.
Today I’m talking about current events. So I was minding my own business this weekend reading the news and looking forward to seing the Hunger Games when I stumbled upon something that shocked me.
What was it?
I came upon this official Obama/Biden campaign shirt with cussing. And not just cussing. The king of cuss words:
Can you believe it?
Now, I’m not a prude. I’m not afraid of controversy (I mean, look at the title of my book). I appreciate the humor of the shirt. I appreciate them not running from the Joe Biden gaff this obviously refers to. I would be fine with it coming from third party company or independent campaign organization. I’d laugh and retweet it.
>But this is completely inappropriate coming from such a prominent leadership position–coming from the preeminent leadership postion in the world, even.
This office of president is something that should be handled with dignity, class, and the highest degree of character. It’s not a place to be crass, petulant, or petty.
I would be equally disturbed if the GOP came up with a shirt that said: Obama, WTF?!
This is just shameful and embarrassing. The office of president is something to look up to, something that should set the example, something I should be able to tell my kids about and how there is nothing higher or important to aspire to.
>Leadership is not a place to act like some trendy teenager chasing cool.
Does our culture need to grow up a little? Leadership is a big deal. We should treat it as such. It deserves a higher standard, especially when we claim to be a Christian (like both the president and vice-president do). No?
Just a thought.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like this, “I don’t have to go to church in order to be ‘saved.’” Many people hate going to church and I get it (as I’ve written about).
Often people will cite reservations of ‘organized’ religion in defense of statements like this, as if disorganized religion makes any sense. And why is that people get defensive when saying things like this? That should tell you something about your spiritual state, shouldn’t it? Plus, what do you think people who told me this when I invited them to church were doing during church?
It is true. You don’t have to go to church to be spiritually maturing or growing, but most of the time it helps. It’s supposed to. It creates fellowship and accountability, as we say. We need this. Lone Ranger Christianity just doesn’t work to well.
>As I look over last 25 years there’s no way for me to separate my spiritual health from my church attendance and involvement.
There is a direct correlation. And I challenge purveyors of these statements to be truly honest with themselves about their actual spiritual state and maturity. Often, self-awareness is lacking.
In Hebrews it says,“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Sure, there are many different contexts to accomplish this. Be it one-on-one friendships or small groups of fellow believers sharing life together and gleaning from each other’s experiences.
>But there is also something very healthy about regularly meeting in a large group setting: learning together, singing together, and hearing from an experienced and seasoned teacher of God’s word together.
It’s different. It’s good. Going to church matters. It just does.
When helping someone move, everyone avoids the boxes labeled “books”. Why? Because they’re so freakin’ heavy, of course. Eventually, you’re all stuck moving the book boxes all at once—and it hurts and you get tired real fast. But it gets even worse. Then you have to move them all again when you get to the new place.
>Like books, unforgiveness will weigh you down.
You’ve got to learn to let things go:
When people hurt you, you have to let it go. Even if you’re 100% absolutely unequivocally right, you have to let it all go.
It’s not easy, but you have to.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should forget about it. You have to learn from it. The old “forgive and forget” motto is wrong, though . That’s dangerous, but more on that another time.
>Unforgiveness will weigh you down, make you grumpy, bitter, and jaded.
Ever been around someone who keeps bringing up wrongs from 10 years ago? If so, then you know exactly what I mean. Like in a funhouse, they are a distorted ugly mirror image of what they once were.
Let it go. Let it all go. Or it will destroy you.
>Giving away your hard-earned money isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
Now, I’m not talking about taxes. That’s not benevolence or charity since it is compulsory. But there is something that happens to your heart when you make generosity a regular personal principle and choice.
As I have said, envy is at the root of greed. Giving drives envy away. And it guards against greed taking root. Something very positive comes from this discipline.
>It’s as if we acknowledge everything we have comes from God and offer a portion of it back to Him as a sacrifice.
You see, sacrifice is at the core of love. Giving is a healthy sacrifice. It stretches, protects, and keeps your heart in check. Sure, the Bible says God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but He’ll take a grouchy one too.
>Giving a portion of your money away is the only way to learn to be generous. The Bible is also clear when it states, “The love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Believer in God or not, this truth is inarguable.
As important and profound is what is not stated in the verse:
The love of giving is at the root of all kinds of good.
I was listening to a song the other day that chorused with a prayer to God that went something like, “Fill us with passion for you…” On it went in this theme. It wasn’t a mellow worship song. It was screamed over chugga chugga guitar riffs.
It got me going and then it got me thinking.
>I realized that I, along with most other Christians, have been praying distanced prayers like this for years—even decades for me.
What do I mean?
I have a friend who is an insane Red Sox fan. And you know what? He doesn’t sit around asking for more passion for his team. His passion is something that he builds, and has built, over many years.
He reads scores and stats, listens to radio commentaries, watches all the games, talks about it with other fans, and even sports gear signaling his loyalty. He does this when they play well and when they lose. He does this when he feels good and when he’s laid up in bed. He follows through when his life is going well and when he is failing at something. He’s is a citizen of the Red Sox Nation and everyone knows it.
Want to be filled with passion for God?
>Then fill yourself with passion:
Read the Bible, read some commentaries, build bonds with other Christians, listen to teachings, attend church. And you’ve got to pursue this in good times and bad.
This is a mark of maturity. And it builds passion.
It’s a cold hard truth. There were many times in over the 25 years of my faith that I thought it wasn’t true. I dressed differently, talked differently, listened to the right music, and watched to right TV shows and movies (that way I could ‘fit in’ at work when everyone talked about the latest episodes etc.). I even got a tattoo.
I tried to emulate coolness. The problem is:
>Christianity isn’t and never will be cool.
This Christian book is a prime example:
It’s painful to think that someone else who also called themselves a Christian wrote a book called Anybody Can Be Cool…But Awesome Takes Practice. This person even thought it was relevant and ‘cutting edge’. Let’s be clear, this book isn’t and never was cool or awesome. Seeing this just makes me feel nauseous (not cool or awesome).
But you know what?
In the eyes of culture, it’s not trendy, cool, or displaying total awesomeness to stay married, do your job at work, get to work on time, be a father or mother to your kids, drive an old car to save money, or drive the speed limit.
Instead it’s ‘cool’ to quit school to tour in a band. It’s ‘cool’ to leave your family for a French model and ‘follow your heart’. It’s ‘awesome’ to quite your job in a frenzy and go paint landscapes–because it’s ‘your calling’ and all. You get the idea.
>But I don’t care about cool or awesome anymore.
I just want to try to honor God with life. That is all the awesomeness I need. I don’t need approval from culture or society. In the end, I just want it from my Heavenly Father. One day, I hope He will say, “Well done.”
That will be truly awesome. So I suppose I am practicing that kind of awesome. It’s lame. I know, but oh well. It’s the right thing to do.
PS-If you want to get a REALLY good laugh, read the reviews of this book at amazon.com by clicking here.
Eventually at least one interest in our lives will grow into a hobby. No worries there. In fact, everyone should have a hobby. It helps is decompress from the stress, strain, or mundane elements of our lives. We escape for a short spell and return to our responsibilities refreshed. It’s what happens next that must create the caution.
>Sometimes a passion evolves into a cause.
Causes can be good too. But as I’ve said, this can become a defacto religion—an idol. But it can be even worse. We can step into activism. Again, activism can be good. But this is where we need to be cautious.
>Although we may merely worship an idol (as mentioned), we fight for our cause as activists.
Fighting for something is tricky. There is always collateral damage. I mean, that’s partially the purpose, right? The ends justify the means after all. We create confusion and chaos in order to build our utopian vision from the remains. It’s the only way sometimes, we think. That’s what revolution is all about after all and Jesus was a revolutionary, right? No. Not exactly like that. That’s blind.
>When we blindly fight for something we have become extremists.
That’s when we’ve fallen over the edge. Extremism in any arena, even your faith, is a problem because we’ve lost all reason and drive away any accountability. This is always the evolution of a movement or a cause.
Be careful of causes because they can evolve into extremism.
I’ve concluded there are two types of people in this world. There are the goody-two-shoes who like rules and take great pride in creating and obeying them. And there are the other people. The ones who like to rebel. The ones who never saw a rule, standard, or principle they didn’t salivate to defy. They like breaking rules.
I hate rules. Like most people, I decide when I want to follow them. I love that autonomy. Most of us do.
>We’re not going to let anyone or anything tell us what to do or how to do it.
I tend to push against rules because I don’t always see their benefits in the moment. But even if I could, it probably wouldn’t matter. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it.
And if just one rule gets me edgy, what about dozens?
In my faith, it didn’t take long before I got the impression Christianity was filled with rules.
>Jesus I found compelling, but I started to wonder why someone would ever want to be a Christian with all those rules that seemed to go with the territory.
Rules tend to make me think God doesn’t want me to have any fun. Like he is some sour old man yelling at the neighborhood kids, “Keep it down out there or else!” But we all want to have fun; it makes life worth living. If we can’t enjoy it, what’s the point to life?
It’s impossible to keep up with all the rules.
I liked my fun, and rules bring an air of legalism that sap the life and vitality out of anything good. Legalism does that. Figure out which one Christians are making up. Don’t assume they are all in the Bible.
I can’t keep track of all the rules I’ve been told to keep over the years—like no smoking, drinking, cussing, premarital sex, clubbing, or dancing.
But wait, there’s more! If one decides to really get serious about following God, there’s another set of rules for the “truly religious”—like no listening to “secular” music (music that isn’t “Christian”), no watching R-rated movies, no dating, no tattoos, no body piercings.
As far as I can tell, some of these rules are meant to address character issues. They call into question the things that influence you, what you take in, and how it all affects who you are. They also call into question what you choose to do, which is seen as a representation of who you are.
>Determine to discover more about the rules.
So get a Bible and get to work. It’s the only way, as a rule of thumb.
It’s time. The beginning of the New Year is off and running. Will we start it with new perspectives and accomplishments? 2 years ago I finished my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I set a goal to finish it by March. I did. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be March 2008! I was a year late. I don’t have to say it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I loved and hated the entire process. But at least I finished it, right? I guess I am glutton for punishment, because I am setting a goal to finish another book this year. UGH!
It’s true, I have a long list of failed accomplishments. So I wanted to update some fundamental lessons I’ve learned about making resolutions and accomplishing goals. That’s why I am gleaning from both my successes and failures. Put in no particular order, I hope these lessons can help you with your resolutions and make this one of the best years of your life…maybe even the best year ever!
GOALS: Like Santa, resolutions are a list of personal goals that you’ll need to check at least twice. I’m the type of person that does fine with a short list. But once my to-do list has over ten things on it, I can’t get anything done. That’s why I think it’s best to assemble two different lists. One list is the BIG-ticket items, like writing a book, loosing 20 pounds (I’ve already done this, but I need to lose another 20), or finding a new job. The other list will be the small-ticket items, like reading a book a month, learning to play the piano, or organizing and labeling the family photos. The process can get overwhelming. That’s why you’ve got to get out of your regular environment to do it right. Go away for a few days to a conference, golf trip, or antiquing quest. If you can, minimize the distractions of normal life so you can think about new ideas. Reduce the clutter in order to clear the path. This is where creative brain waves thrive. Don’t forget to bring a pad and pencil wherever you go and write everything down as you look for that rare colored vinyl album of your favorite band. Write from your heart first, and then sift with your mind later and decide what list the resolutions belong on.
MOMENTUM: Having no momentum is a resolution killer. You need momentum bad. It is the make-or-break thing. That’s why it is so dangerous to miss a couple days of exercise or not eat right for a few days. That’s how the fatty makes his way back into the mirror. I have found two critical ingredients that make up momentum: 1) support and 2) validation. Without those you will stall. Support is your wife liking the idea of your book (speaking in context of myself, of course) and letting you pursue it. Validation is someone actually buying your book, for example. Since it takes so long to accomplish a goal like this (or losing weight, saving money, etc.), you’ll very often have to figure out how to be your own source of momentum. Not to mention, if one of your major life-goals doesn’t have measurable impact. Will you pursue a goal like this again? Legend has it that Thomas Edison failed 5,000 times before he got a light bulb to work right. He was his own source of momentum all along the way without any validation. Keep it up!
DOUBT: There is no doubt, you will doubt. Doubt is your biggest enemy. Besides the negativity from other people, you can easily second guess yourself to death or beat yourself up over and over. It’s not that people mean to be negative. It’s just that no one will be as excited about your resolutions as you, especially with the BIG ones. Nothing will cause a state of stagnancy in your progress like an overwhelming cloud of doubt. In fact, there will be more doubts than anything else. Once you decide to put together a list of goals, it’s like someone builds a doubt factory next door to flood the air you breath. Whether you believe in God or not, you need to fight doubt by believing and having faith in the success of your resolutions.
MONEY: Now is the time to take stock of your income and outflow. The economy is hanging on a thread, people are still losing jobs, and most likely your home isn’t going to be worth what you paid for it for quite some time. The problem? Many resolutions cost money, money, and more money especially something like writing book or remodeling your kitchen. I’m not saying don’t do those things you want to do. I’m just saying take stock of what you have coming in, create safe margins, and spend accordingly. Don’t just start spending yourself into financial oblivion. That ruins lives. But you know what improves lives? Accomplishing resolutions that are important to you. Nothing is healthier for your attitude, outlook, and potential hopes and dreams. Find ways to save money and do it better. In regard to one of my goals, it’s important to know that by the time a book hits stores (or Amazon.com), there’s been about $20K invested in the project. There is editing, rewriting, more editing, design, layout, website, marketing, and printing costs. If you can’t afford to do this all yourself, then you’ll have to put all your efforts into getting published. This is largely based on whom you know or who you are these days. So if you are not rich, famous, or powerful (or related to someone who is), you have quite a mission and challenge ahead of you. You’ll need to convince someone to put their money into your goal. So start thinking how this applies to your own resolutions.
DOERS DO: Like everything else in life, it’s all about follow-through. That’s why we have to make resolutions in the first place: we don’t get them done. You may have noticed, but follow-through is not a common character trait today. You’ll never get anything done if you don’t actually do anything. I told people for a long time about the book I was writing. Unfortunately, nothing was really getting done. I felt like some longhaired kid wearing sandals and a tie-dyed t-shirt smoking-out and driving around the country in a Volkswagen bus telling people I was going to change the world. So I started a handyman business in order to finish my book. It was the only way to create any flexibility in my schedule to finish. It was, and still is, a big risk, but it was the only way. Dreamers dream. And doers do. So go and do.
TIME: You need time, but it is not on your side. Like money, once you spend this you can never get it back. All the regrets and apologies can never replace the time you’ve wasted away. If you don’t figure out a way to balance your job, school, love-interest, marriage, kids etc, you’ll never accomplish your resolutions. One-by-one, you’ll give up on goal after goal. Sound hard? It is. That’s why the most important resolutions we make can also be called labors of love. In the real world, a passion will drain your time. Just try to find a healthy balance that you can live with and won’t ruin your life, job, or family. Keep in mind, taking time for one thing means taking it from another. You can’t give everything your best efforts, so divvy time where it counts the most. You might have to cut out watching American Idol (that’s easy for me since Simon is gone) this year—or something else that wastes valuable time. You’ll have to make time for your priorities if you’re going to resolve to get stuff done.
FAILURE: You will fail. I know that’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s true. I’m not trying to be negative as I warned about earlier. Remember Thomas Edison? The fact is, most successful endeavors are built on a long succession of lesson-learning failures. That’s really the point. Just learn from it. Talk to a successful person and I’m willing to bet they’ll back me up on this. I can’t tell you how many bad decisions I have made. As much as it pains me, I try to prepare myself (as much as I can) for the fact that my books may not be all that successful. In fact, (statistically speaking) they probably won’t. That’s life. Will I learn from failing? I sure hope so. It’s the only solution if these goals are as important to me as I think. I just can’t let failure make me into a quitter.
TEACHABLE: Speaking in regard to my most important resolution this year, you know why people can’t stand most artists and writers? They know everything about everything. They’re not teachable. People who aren’t teachable don’t take any advice from anyone. It’s always a temptation to cut corners or compromise on a project when it gets hard. But that decreases the integrity of what we are doing, and, even worse, gets us back to our old ways and business as usual. Someone else’s perspective is important. That’s one of the best ways to get out with old and in with the new. You always need an outside opinion, good or bad. On your most important resolutions, you’ll need to learn to ask for input and be able to take it. Just try to know the difference between negative criticism and constructive input. How will you know? You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. And don’t think someone has to be an artist (or whatever is in line with your particular goal) to have helpful input. Listen to the two cents of nobodies, somebodies, and anybodies. The best goals are accomplished with the help that comes from standing on the shoulders of others.
REVIVE: I know it’s a religious term, but revival is real. That is to say, your resolution will die. There’s no way around it. As much as you try not to, you will inevitably lose momentum. No one will care about what you have accomplished and it will probably hurt. Life will interfere or get really stressful. Even worse, you may not be progressing as well as you want or the results won’t be all that great. You may even start to hate your idea and get sick of it. You will change as a person. The core ideas that your most important resolutions are built upon will likely need to evolve many times over. I rewrote my first book several times. It’s 60K words, but there is easily another 60K that ended up on the cutting room floor. Like Frankenstein, do whatever you have to do to revive your goals back to life every time it dies. Stay focused. Keep believing. Make adjustments. Reshape it. Roll with the punches. Just bring it back to life! You will never get any resolutions done if you don’t.
VISION: Yes, building a vision is different than setting a goals. Setting goals is the end of one point, while building a vision is the beginning of another. It’s as if vision is built on a series of goals accomplished. It is a long-term, big-picture look at what you want to happen in the end. So if you want to lose 20 pounds, remodel the kitchen, buy a new car, read more, or write a book, brand that vision of your future in your mind. You have to think beyond your resolutions a little. Once you have a tentative vision of what you want the future to look like, then just fill in the steps. Seeing is believing, after all. Those are your resolutions. Those are how you get to your vision of what can be. The vision will change drastically as time goes on. That’s fine. But the vision gives a framework and avenue for the goals and resolutions to flourish and evolve. It keeps you moving. Building a vision is not easy. It is one of the hardest things for me. Most artistic people aren’t strong in administrative tasks, which building a vision is. But you have to do it in order to accomplish your New Year’s Resolutions.
There you have it. Achieving goals is an ongoing process throughout life. These are many of the things I’ve wrestled through while writing, releasing, and promoting my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. Sure, I got that book done a year later than I wanted. But if I had never set the goal, it probably would have taken even longer.
As I keep my eyes on the future, these ideas keep me focused. This is why I hope these lessons can be a catalyst for achieving your own goals as you turn your dreams into reality many times over.
Oh yes, and Happy New Year!
Now that may sound stupid to you. But most of us who’ve grown-up in America were told there’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, God, and Jesus. We teach kids they’re all real, but they’re not all real.
Eventually our kids will be okay with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy being cute little white lies, while accepting Jesus and God as completely legit—right?
Not really. At least I don’t think so, and it’s something I talk about in my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. So Santa is something that my wife and I have spoken about in depth, because ultimately we want to be honest with out children.
Will we tell our kids about Santa?
More importantly, will Santa be the one who gives them their gifts?
On a humorous side-note, it’s funny how many atheists (and some agnostics) have railed me over the years for teaching my kids about Jesus and God—something that can’t be proven. You know, they want to wait to introduce ideas of faith and religion to their kids when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.
Sounds so intellectual and enlightened, right?
But these people have had no problem telling their kids about a fat guy sliding down the chimney with a sack full of gifts and eating the cookies and milk, his elves, flying reindeer, and somehow doing this at midnight in every home all around the world. What’s with that? Do I have a problem with the story of Santa? Not at all. We’re not Grinches. We tell our kids the story of the real Saint Nicholas. But we’ve decided that’s where it stops. Sorry Santa. No cookies for you at the Berggren home.
It’s not always easy. A few years ago our middle child (who was 5) confessed that he told a friend at school that day that Santa isn’t real. Of course, this is something we have coached our children notto do extensively. So we reprimanded him.
This issue may not be a big deal to you, and I understand. For us, this all came together when our oldest was about three. Like most, he was still enamored by the story Santa. We had to explain it again.
And when he added “…and Jesus and the Bible!” we were floored. Now, I’m sure there are some (that don’t believe in God) that love the fact my son made that connection. But for us, Jesus is real and we explained that to him all over again.
So there is a little dynamic about our family and Christmas. I’m sure you have some funny family dynamics as well. It’s what makes life interesting.
*much of this was taken from a previous post.
In light of the very interesting Atheist 10 Commandments by Pen Jillette, the taller half of the noted magic duo Pen and Teller, that I posted about, I wanted to talk about faith, belief, and doubt.
>For me, faith isn’t about fantasy, as many atheists hold. No. It’s about possibility and potential in light of the unknown.
We all rely on a set of beliefs or core values, not necessarily religious in nature, that guide us at unsure times. Perhaps people seek the advice of good friends, parents or grandparents, take a class, or read a book. The resulting beliefs and values they develop aren’t visible, but people trust in them.
So isn’t it true that we all look at the situations we’re facing, consider what we believe, and then leap?
This functions much like faith. For the most part, we’re all trusting in things we can’t see—a type of faith, to some degree.
>Don’t get me wrong, I still doubt from time to time. But I think it’s normal to doubt.
In fact, I don’t even view doubt as the opposite of faith. Some think it is, but that’s unfair. In the same way that caution isn’t always the opposite of risk, or fear isn’t the opposite of courage, doubt is not the opposite of faith. They can be present at the same time. There’s always a measure of caution when balancing a risky decision. There’s also a sense of fear to sober us as we advance in a courageous endeavor. And there’s always a sense of doubt that tests and purifies my faith as I step forward with it. I just believe what Jesus said is true.
>To me, faith is the unknown revealed and explained.
Having faith may seem irrational to you—and I assure you, it is. With faith it’s strangely possible to acknowledge the unexplained, face it, embrace it, and move forward. It’s not a mindless devotion to antiquated ideas or benevolent ideals, but a calculated conclusion in the light of present reality: there’s more unknown than known. It’s a coming to terms with the mystery of life. It’s the strength to keep a conviction when surrounded by questions. It’s discovering twenty variables and one truth, then holding to that truth regardless of the present ambiguities. It can go against better judgment and modern thought, while being the wiser approach.
Faith is a gift.
Faith captures my imagination.
Faith pushes my potential.
Faith inspires dreams of possibility.
Faith explains foundational questions of the unknown.
And yes, faith is the basis of very healthy and productive of divergent thinking, rather than being conformed to convention and reason. Because whether it’s science or faith, we all have to suspend our limitations in order to test, consider, and discover what is true.
Everybody knows long distance relationships (LDRs) usually don’t work. The love interest you had in the Niagara Falls area probably isn’t the person you married and had kids with. The odds are stacked against it. I’ve met a few couples that started out as LDRs and managed to finish well together, but it’s rare.
>I find trying to build closeness with God through prayer is ten times worse than any other LDR.
It’s an LDR that spans not only the world, not just the universe, but even different dimensions. I mean, who exactly am I talking to? Where is he?
Ground control to Major God! Do you hear me? I sure don’t hear you.
Now I’ve met people who claim they “hear from God” all the time. And I’ve tried to get away from them quickly. Those words always seem to be the precursor to an individual’s evolution into a serial killer. Those words are just foreign to me.
>If I’m going to honest, often when I pray, my words seem to evaporate and hit the ceiling.
You may be thinking, “Did he just say that?” Oh yes he did.
I pour out my heart in hopes of feeling a touch or getting some interaction with God, but it seems he doesn’t answer. And I hate being left hanging and all alone. I never hear his comforting voice. God’s door is closed, and I just want some face-to-face time. It’s kind of a tease—a cosmic one. It’s not what I expected when it comes to talking to God.
>I think most people probably feel this distance at some point, yet they continue praying.
Even the hard-line atheist calls on God before rear-ending the car in front of him at full speed: “Oh God, help!” It’s funny—everyone prays. I think everyone feels like it’s a good habit with some therapeutic benefit.
But still we wonder: does it work, or is it pointless?
I think it does, but there’s a lot to understand and wade through along the way.
I carry a lot of baggage. I don’t like it, but it’s there. Plus, I have a problem with anger, as you may have suspected. I also have a problem with forgiveness.
I tend to carry things around more than I like to admit. I hate that I can never seem to forget things. Although I’m an adult, I can’t get over certain experiences. It’s not that I don’t want to. But I’m often reminded of the past in the present.
It’s not that I want to live in the past. I just hate having to relive it in the present.
>I say all that to say: None of it matters.
It doesn’t matter in respect to love in its full measure. Love tries to forget and works to forgive. I hate that part. Because, mostly, I fail. And, honestly, I’d much rather avoid all the energy it takes.
Although I may not always feel that loving emotion, I try to be loving in my actions.
And there’s only one reason I do. There’s only one reason I continue to work through draining relationships and painful experiences, only one reason why I see any value in these things. There’s only one reason I don’t give up and take the easier path. It’s because of what Jesus did for me, for us. It’s because of what Jesus modeled in love and forgiveness that I do any of this. I know it’s the right thing to do.
>I know it’s the closest thing to unconditional love I’m able to achieve.
Sure, I would rather keep a long record of wrongs I feel were done to me. It would be easier to hold grudges and never forget. I would love to demand restitution from everyone who has ever wronged me. But that’s no way to live. That’s not love. That’s not living.
>Love is work. It always will be. It has to be. That makes it real.
When life’s already hard, I’ve realized I have a way of making it even harder.
I once saw a bumper sticker on a truck that said, “Life is tuff. Life is tuffer if you’re stupid.” I don’t live by bumper-sticker-philosophies, but I laughed at this one because I know it’s true. When trying to figure out if God is still good, I can be pretty stupid, which makes it worse.
>Hardships bring what I call The Happiness Trap. It’s vicious.
For some reason, I feel entitled to a good, comfortable, easyish life. I also think I should get a basic level of treats and toys to make my life “more better.” I even believe I should be spared discomfort or disappointment. I don’t know why I think that. I just do.
This eventually unhinges me.
I feel entitled to happiness, and when I don’t get it I wonder what’s wrong. Why isn’t God, my Heavenly Father, being a better dad and doing his job by giving me what I want? If he’s so good, he better make me feel good. Eventually I decide that if he won’t, I will—so I go about ways to make myself feel good. After all, through culture and society I’ve learned over the years to seek my happiness above all else.
>I call this a trap because it’s so destructive.
Striving to be solely happy is a stupid way to live. It actually makes the subsequent pains of life even worse. That’s because a person is tempted to subdue the pain with happiness. Something new, often a good feeling, to dull the pain, instead of processing the range of emotions as they come and getting through it.
I’m convinced that once a person’s aim is to be happy above all else, that person will never be happy again. He’s doomed; she’s hopeless. And maturing is on pause.
>Searching out happiness above all else delays us from coming to terms with things and, even worse, we end up creating more of a mess.
For example, if I live by some sort of happiness meter in my marriage, it will fail. Just ask any honest couple. Happiness begins to wear off only a few months into marriage. It’s about the time the honeymoon feeling begins to fade a bit.
Many things contribute to the happiness meter registering low. It might be when he rolls over and smells her dragon breath in the morning (and she’s without make-up, to make matters worse). Or it might be when she walks in the bathroom after him and hits that potent invisible wall (because he forgot to spray the air-freshener). At this point, fights also become part of the routine. They aren’t necessarily directly related to the dragon-breath or invisible wall, but they happen.
Much of culture would say to move on and find happiness elsewhere. Search out the feeling wherever it may take you—follow you’re heart, they say. This is where the destruction begins.
>Happiness always wears off.
It leaks out. Happiness is an emotion, an appetite, and a fix. When the feeling goes away, we’re tempted to find another boost for it.
Life is about happiness, but it’s not all about happiness. There are priorities to consider. There’s a bigger picture that demands the guidance of principle over the infatuation of a jolt of fresh emotions. Seeking the emotion that is happiness always ends up being a mistake, because no matter how happy I am, I always want more. It’s never enough. There’s a balance to evaluate. Spending more money or eating more food doesn’t heal or mature me. It puts all that on pause. I’m happy for only a moment.
>This lust is a destructive cycle and makes the difficulties of life even more difficult—like putting salt on an open wound.
Totally focusing on happiness is dumb. It makes pain worse, because I’m inclined to do something, anything, to make the hurt go away—to make it feel all-better.
Some generic feel-good medicine becomes a temporary balm on a wound that eventually yields permanent regrets.
I’m tempted to find a new fix and inebriate the pain. I might end a relationship that reminds me of the ache or leaves me open to it again. Maturity is paused and personal progress is delayed when we do this.
>There’s a better pursuit than happiness. There’s a better goal to strive for: contentment.
Unlike happiness, contentment is a strategy, attitude, and approach. Happiness is like a moving target you try to hit, while contentment is constant movement in the right direction. Contentment is a decision rather than the result of peripheral situations. It’s an inner state, not swayed by the whims of outer dependence.
One can learn to be content regardless of surrounding circumstances—no matter how happy the meter inside says we are. Contentment transcends circumstance and emotion. An individual can have it in good and bad times.
But it takes discipline.
It means telling myself, “Things may not be what I want them to be. But I resolve that there can be purpose to my existence and value in each experience—the good and the bad. This will help me to learn, grow, change, and develop stronger character.”
>It’s a healthy and productive choice that, in the end, will bring true happiness.
This is a wiser approach.
Pat Robertson has said some outrageous things over the years. He is the founder and the popular Christian show The 700 Club. There was the time that he said that Haiti had that horrible earthquake last year because God was punishing them. Recently, after the earthquake in the Washington DC area, he said the resultant crack in the Washington monument was a sign that Jesus is coming soon.
Well, he’s at it again. In the segment below he condones a man’s desire to divorce his wife because she suffers from Alzheimer’s.
It reveals that the man is:
- already seeing another woman
- mad at God for ‘letting’ this happen to his wife
- views his wife as practically dead (walking dead, if you will)
Now, I acknowledge that this must be a very difficult situation. I am not insensitive to this.
>But this ‘man’, is a selfish scumbag.
That’s right, I said it. He’s hurting, I’m sure. But in his pain he has given in to his lesser nature and become horrible and insensitive. In her time of need, he wants to treat his wife like she is dead. He is cheating on his wife. And he justifies it all this by blaming God. And, it pains be to say it, but I can’t believe Pat Robertson has become complicit.
Although the lines from the marriage vows most people take are not specifically found in the Bible, I have no problem saying that they are certainly Biblically sound.
>Death do us part and In sickness and in health are quite Biblical principles.
It doesn’t matter how you ‘feel’, if you’re hurt, or even mad at God. I have always defined maturity as the commitment to pursue a goal regardless of surrounding circumstances. The goal here? To honor your marriage to God. This man needs to grow the heck up.
This poor woman hasn’t done anything to this man, cheated on him, or abused him. She deserves his wholehearted devotion until her last breath.
>And Mr. Robertson, this is not one of your finer moments. Consider the platform you have. I know I am not perfect by any measure. But with regard to this issue, I am embarrassed to share the label ‘Christian’ with you.
Here’s the segment. It’s only the first 2 minutes.