Friday, July 25, 2014

Are You A Rebel?

Rebellion is cool in our culture today. Rebellion against authority, parents, trends, beliefs, stereotypes, and so on. People are constantly finding new things to rebel against.

It has become painfully clichĂ© to read novels or watch movies about a group of rebel freedom fighters seeking to overthrow the government. Even I have written novels that incorporate this idea. Rebellion is fascinating, it’s interesting, and it’s adventurous.

The problem is actions have consequences. You can’t take the condition and then reject the consequences. “If you choose to step off the roof, you can't then choose not to hit the ground.”1

So often in our culture, we want to rebel without thinking about the consequences for that rebellion. We think if we jump off a building we will sprout flapping protuberances which will bare us aloft in glorious flight, but instead we’re falling on our faces.

Rebellion is nothing new.

Soon after the world began, humanity rebelled against God, and we have been rebelling ever since. But not everything is being rebelled against today. There is one entity that has not yet faced a rebellion. One idea of our culture has kept its citizens happy. What facet do I refer to?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Perspective: Find Joy Despite the Circumstances

Sunsets are a celestial phenomenon that few can deny the beauty of. The sun sets everyday, though not all sunsets are equal in majesty. In Ohio during the winter, you rarely even see the sun behind the perpetually gray monster that is our winter sky--sunsets are rarely spectacular.

My family and I traveled to Florida for three weeks a couple years ago, and there, the sunsets were awe-inspiring everyday. The sinking ball of fire would stain the sky and clouds varying shades of orange and red as sun dropped behind the ocean. Incredible.

I found myself thinking after one such sunset, “Where has all of this been? It's the same sun that shines on Ohio.” It's incredible how a sunset in one location can be magnificent, and yet, non-existent in another. The only variable that determines how glorious a sunset appears is your perspective.

Perspective.

How many other things are there that would take on a whole new glory if we only changed our perspective? How about mundane everyday tasks? Or stressful and painful situations? Is there nothing we can do? Are we at the mercy of our circumstances? Or can we find a new perspective and see things in a positive light despite our circumstances?

Monday, July 21, 2014

3 Reasons Why Boys Should NOT Play Football


"Gentlemen, it is better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football." - John Heisman


Last week I wrote about the 6 reasons boys should playfootball; however, there are reasons NOT to play football as well.

1. Time Commitment:

In my post last week, I listed the heavy time commitment football requires as a positive, but it is a double-edged sword.

While the time football requires can teach one to work hard and commit to something difficult, it does chew-up a lot of time that could be put elsewhere. There were many times where football interfered with my family’s schedule, and I wasn’t able to be home for dinner. Practices were supposed to go from 3:00pm to 6:00pm during the school year, but sometimes they ran longer, which also disrupted our family.

I was also unable to travel with my family during the summer because I had football camps or two-a-day practices. I had to stay behind. Family time and togetherness is something that is very important to my family, and it seemed that football would often interfere with that pursuit.

The great Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." I think there is a lot of truth to this statement. We should strive to always win. Even if your team doesn't end up with the most points at the end, you should always put forth a winning effort. On the other hand, there is a downside to this attitude, and so often football (or other things) get elevated above the more important things in life.  

The time football demands is costly, and before you decide your son will play football, you have to count the cost it may have in disrupting family time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What Is Love?

 “What is love? Oh baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.” –Haddaway

Love. This word is everywhere today--in movies, in songs, in books, and in our speech. Our culture seems to be obsessed with it. But what really is “love?” And is the love our culture worships the same kind of love Jesus told us to have for others? The same kind of love He has for us?


If you think about it, we probably use the word love at least once every day (if not more). We say we love things: “I love donuts. I love chocolate cake. I love flowers. I love Lord of the Rings. I love my platypus stuffed animal…” You get the idea. We also say we love people: “I love my mom. I love my dad. I love my date. I love Jesus.” Is the love we have for things the same kind of love we have for people? Often it is.

When we say we “love” donuts, what does that mean? It means we really like them. We want to eat them. We want to consume them. We have strong positive feelings about them. Why? Because they taste good and give us pleasure. In other words, we like donuts because of what they do for us. Is this the same way we love people?

When we say we “love” another person, what do we mean by that? Often, it’s the same kind of “love” that we have toward donuts: the desire to consume or take pleasure in. 

It seems today that love is a temporary state of bliss. People “fall in love” and then people “fall out of love.” A boy will tell his girlfriend that he loves her and then “break-up” with her soon later, and vice versa. A couple will get married, then simply fall out of love, and divorce. People are desperately trying to find “true love.” They want to experience love, but no matter where they look, or how many people they date, they can’t seem to find it. What does this all mean?

What people are looking for is the emotion of love--the feeling of love. However, the funny thing about emotions is, they don’t last forever. No feeling is permanent. Emotions are as fickle as the weather. So if love is just a feeling, then love is not meant to last forever. The best we can do is jump from one emotional “love” high to the next. Commitment is not worth it.  
  
If we really break down the “love” we see today, we find that it is actually a very selfish phenomenon. We’re looking to feel something. We want the warm fuzzy feelings. We want the experience of “being in love.” It’s all about us. It feels good to feel strongly about another person, and it feels good to have another person feel strongly about us. “Love” today is just about filling our own needs. We completely neglect the other person. All we think about is ourselves.

We are deceived.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Am A Sexist

My recent post describing the reasons why I don’t participate in ballroom dancing seems to have upset a lot of people. In fact, I was even called a legalist and a sexist. Someone needs to stop me because I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to hug or dance with girls outside my family. I'm dangerous. Yes, because I don’t feel like I have a right to touch and hold the bodies of girls and women, I must be a sexist.

Then I realized my scoffers are right. In today’s modern society, I am a sexist.
Being a sexist used to mean you believed one gender was superior to the other. This is now called “hostile sexism”. It’s pretty obvious to everyone today (except radical Feminists) that both genders are equal in value. The Bible confirms this in Genesis 1:27,
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Clearly, both men and women are created in the image of God. Both men and women reflect God's character, so they are equal in value.

So I’m not a sexist, right? I believe men and women are equal in worth.

Wrong!

Today, you are also a sexist if you believe men and women are different, or that men and women should treat each other differently than members of their own gender. Many refer to this kind of “sexism” as “Benevolent sexism.” If that sounds confusing , just think “Chivalry.” Chivalry is considered benevolent sexism today.




“As it turns out, men and women are equally prone to holding benevolently sexist values (the idea that men should always open doors, or earn enough to support a woman, are two common examples).” – Prevention.com

In this case, I am guilty as charged. Why? Because biology and the Bible says so.

Monday, July 14, 2014

6 Reasons Why Boys Should Play Football

Ronald Reagan, “Going to college offered me the chance to play football for four more years.”

There seems to be an idea among some Christian homeschoolers that sports are bad, silly, or simply a waste of time.

I’ve even detected an attitude of haughty condescension at times, and the idea that, “I may not be athletic, but at least I’m not a dumb meathead and I have all ‘A’s.”

I can certainly understand this, “geeks will inherit the earth,” sort of perspective. It’s a natural backlash to our culture’s unhealthy obsession with sports, and indeed, there are a lot of negatives that have arisen out of the sports culture. But are sports themselves, bad? Are sports to be avoided by Christians?

I played football for 11 years, basketball for 7, soccer for several, and lacrosse for 1. Sports have been more a part of my life than writing, or homeschooling even. In fact, I voluntarily attended public school so I could play sports, and if you know anything about me or have read my blog, you know my opinion of public school is less than stellar.

This is not a, “Confessions of a Christian-homeschooler-sent-to-public-school-athlete,” article, which means I’m either stupid, crazy, a hypocrite, or maybe there was something about playing sports that justified my attendance at public school.

I believe my participation in so many different sports and for such a long period of time gives me a perspective that many who have never played sports, don’t have. From the outside, sports can look pretty bad. Many athletes tote around gigantic egos, men put “the game” ahead of responsibilities and family, and youth and scholastic sports teams generally are environments hostile to God; however, sports are not the problem. The problem is the people involved—or more specifically—sin. So often we mistake things for being sinful, when it’s often how we use them that is right or wrong.

I have been asked on multiple occasions by homeschooling moms my thoughts about sports (specifically football) and whether or not they should allow their sons to play. 

In a two-part series, I'm going to be going over a few reasons why I believe boys should and shouldn't play football. 

Part 1: 6 Reasons Why Boys Should Play Football:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Life, Liberty, And The Pursuit of What Makes Me Feel Good

Last week was the 4th of July, the day our Independence from Great Britain was proclaimed. Over 200 years ago, this independence was announced through a document which has been so often quoted since:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We are all familiar with this famous line from the American Declaration of Independence. Not only is it arguably the most often quoted sentence from the document, it may also be the most widely misunderstood.

Today, “pursuit of happiness” has come to mean that we have the right to “do whatever makes us feel good.” In our world today, this line has come to be understood as our right to acquire wealth, status, and to do and marry whomever we please. “Happiness” as we understand it today, is not how Thomas Jefferson or the founding fathers meant it when they wrote it into the Declaration. Indeed, the “pursuit of happiness” is actually an ancient idea that isn’t native to the shores of North America.

Jefferson drew much of what he wrote in the Declaration of Independence from the English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke. Locke, in turn, drew his ideas about the “pursuit of happiness” from ancient Greek ethics.

The Greek word for ‘happiness’ is eudaimonia…Eudaimonia is linked to aretĂȘ, the Greek word for ‘virtue’ or ‘excellence.’ In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote, ‘the happy man lives well and does well; for we have practically defined happiness as a sort of good life and good action.’  Happiness is not, he argued, equivalent to wealth, honor, or pleasure. It is an end in itself, not the means to an end. The philosophical lineage of happiness can be traced from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle through the Stoics, Skeptics, and Epicureans.”1

To translate, the Declaration really reads, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of goodness and/or virtue.” This is quite different from how our culture has come to think of it. Could this be why so many seem to lack happiness today? We’re searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Are You Worth?

How much money are you worth? If you were put up on that auction block today, what kind of price would you fetch? How much are you worth?

 An object’s value is determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it, or, as the dictionary defines value: an amount, esp a material or monetary one, considered to be a fair exchange in return for a thing.

A cup of water in New York City is worth very little since there is a lot of water to go around. Meanwhile, that same cup of water may be worth a great deal in the Sahara desert.

The value of an object is determined by its practical value to the possessor. An object is only worth as much as one can get out of it, or how much use one can get out of it.

In other words, when it comes to objects…worth is not intrinsic. Value is relative.

But we are not objects…right? We’re not slaves, are we?

Well if we aren’t, we sure insist on thinking of ourselves as though we are.

How often do we gain our idea of self-worth the same way a cup of water or a microwave oven gets its worth? It’s from what we can do, or from how much other people think of us, that we decide on our value.

This truth is uncomfortably apparent with the American female. As the culture has so masterfully taught them, many girls get their sense of self-worth from their physical appearance. To be pretty is to be valuable; to be admired and sought after by the opposite gender is to be worth gold.

But is it really?

What are these girls doing when they place all of their self-worth on their bodies? Well, they are equating themselves to a microwave, making themselves into objects.

Whether they realize it or not, these girls are getting their worth from their practical value to others. How pleasurable they are to look at becomes their measure of value, and their sole purpose for existing.
 
In other words (subconsciously or not) these girls are saying their worth is not intrinsic. Their value is dependent on other people. This would also mean that the more attractive one is (physically), the more valuable one is.

But this doesn't apply only to females.

Guys will often get their ideas of self-worth from what other people think of them as well. How good at sports they are--how talented at one thing or another they are--will often give them their ideas of self-worth. 

But again, we are equating ourselves with practical appliances if our worth only comes from what “things” we can or can’t do, and what selfish pleasures we can bring to other people.

Does our value really come from what we can do? Or what the other gender thinks of us?

Remember, an object’s value comes from what someone is willing to pay for it. But we are not objects, right? We are people, created in the image of God! So why then do we voluntarily objectify ourselves? Why do we enslave ourselves to people who only care about us for how we can please them? We are not objects. We are slaves to no man. We need to stop garnering our self-esteem from what others think of us. Why? Because people are not our masters. However, even if we do consider ourselves objects, our worth is still innumerable, and what other people think of us is still meaningless. They are not the highest bidders.

No! There is someone else. There is someone else who has bought us at a price no one has—or ever can--match. That person is Jesus Christ.

If our value stands at the highest price someone is willing to pay for us…then our worth is literally priceless…because no one can put a figure on the price Jesus paid for us. If Jesus is our master--our savior—then His opinion of us is the only one that really matters. And it just so happens that God looks at the inside, not the outside. As the Bible says in 1 Samuel 16:7 “for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” It’s not about what we look like or what we can do…it’s about who we are.

So why do we continue to fret over what others think? They do not own us. We are not their slaves, we are not their objects of enjoyment. We are slaves to God, and God only. His opinion is the one that matters, and we are priceless to Him. The creator of the universe thinks you’re priceless! We don’t really have an excuse for insecurity. We can boldly go forth and do what our Master, our value-giver, our savior, would have us do. And once we give up our insecurity, we will become better vessels for Christ.
    

So what are you worth? The answer…nothing. That is, no figure can be put on your head. You are priceless. So stop acting like you came from Walmart! You weren't bought cheap.

Linked up at:
Raisinghomemakers.com

Monday, July 7, 2014

Should Boys Play Football? - My Senior Speech

The frigid October wind tore across the field, battering the young athletes finishing up practice. I stood watching my teammates from the sideline, balancing on a pair of crutches. Six days prior, on October 21st, 2011, I had played the last snap of football I would ever play.

My eyes kept wandering back to the spot on our field where I had been injured, morbid fascination causing me to ponder the “what ifs.” What if I had just gone down when I caught the pass? What if I hadn’t tried to jump? What if I had been able to land just a split second faster? I wouldn't have gotten injured. I would still be out there. I felt like a ghost returning to the place of his death.

I shook the ponderings away. Butterflies formed in my gut as my thoughts drifted to the speech I would give in just a few minutes.

I was a member of the Dublin Coffman football team, and we had a tradition where every Thursday after practice, three seniors would give speeches to the team, along with one coach. Back in the summer when I had signed up, I had picked this day: the last practice before our final regular season game. We would be playing Upper Arlington, a team I had little fondness for. I had built-up quite a bit of competitive animosity toward the boys from UA going back to our middle school battles in football, basketball, and lacrosse. I wanted to give my speech before the UA game, but little did I know at the time that I wouldn't be playing.

Each senior had been given a sheet of paper with 5 questions on it that we were expected to answer:

  1. Item that best describes you that takes no talent and why?
  2. Share 1 individual goal and 1 team goal.
  3. Best Coffman memory so far is?
  4. Favorite Coffman football tradition is?
  5. My hero is? And why?


Most guys would just go down the list and answer the questions one at a time almost like an interview. I wanted to do something more, especially since I wouldn’t actually be able to contribute on the field. I wanted to give a real speech.

The problem? I’m a writer, not a speaker. I hate public speaking.

The solution? Write out my whole speech and just read it, so that’s what I did.

I hobbled into the locker room, balanced on one crutch while I held the pages of my printed-out speech, and then read it aloud to the hundred or so men and boys that made up my football team.

Here is what followed:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Spilled Paint: I Got Fired - Part 5

Make sure to read the previous parts in the series if you haven't already! (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3: The Paint Begins To Peel, Part 4: The Showdown)

Everything was going well. I had met the sales threshold of $20K by early May, I had an additional $30K pending, I was done with college for the summer, and now it was time to focus solely on Student Painters.

It was May 3rd, and we were finally having our paint training. This was where I would actually learn how to do the service I had been selling to people for the past three months. It’s very hard trying to sell something you don’t know how to do to someone, and Student Painters knows this, which is why they frequently emphasized paint training and how we would learn everything we needed to know in order to paint a house.

Paint training arrived, and there were roughly 30 or 40 of us there, 20 to 30 Branch Managers and 10 District Managers. We clogged the narrow suburban street with our cars, and then huddled up in the small front yard of a two-story home. Jake quickly went over some safety regulations and gave some tips on how to handle ladders and other equipment. Then we went to work painting. We quickly found out who was afraid of heights.

I was tasked with painting the peak of the roof, only, my ladder wasn't quite tall enough to reach, so I could only paint so far. In fact, we only had one ladder that was tall enough, and only 6 ladders total. This resulted in a lot of people standing around doing nothing.

Not every Branch Manager had their full crew. Some had none at all, while I personally had three that showed up. Despite the absentees, our numbers still swelled considerably. We now had 70-80 people standing around this little house, but we still only had 6 ladders, and only one was a step-ladder. As you can imagine, there were a lot of spectators.

I made sure my painters found a spot on the house to paint, but it was only a low soffit. They didn't get any experience climbing tall ladders, no training with caulking or other prep work, and none of them used a brush or had to do any “cutting” (cutting is painting straight lines along edges so you only get paint on the surface you want to paint. We didn’t use painter’s tape). All they did was that little soffit.

What was more, I didn’t see anyone from Sherwin Williams there. Throughout the year, again and again, we were told that at the training, there would be people from Sherwin Williams to train and certify our painters. Over and over, when my customers expressed concern about having a bunch of college kids painting their home, I told them (as I was told to tell them) not to worry, because all of my painters would be trained and certified by Sherwin Williams.

Finally, someone from Sherwin Williams showed up, and Jake gathered all of the Branch Managers to meet him.

Good, I thought. This guy is going to come and train the painters how to do everything. A little late, but at least there is someone here from Sherwin Williams to give some training and back up the claim that Student Painters has their painters certified.

It turns out he wasn't there to train us how to paint. He was there to help us with any problems we have selling more work. He was the Sherwin Williams sales rep. All he did was give us his card and tell us to call him if we ever had any questions.

Makes sense. We buy all our paint from Sherwin Williams. Obviously, the more work we sell, the more money they make. That was all we saw of Sherwin Williams that day.

Paint training over, I was concerned. I didn’t feel like I had a good grasp on how to paint a house, and I certainly didn’t believe my painters were the trained, experienced, and certified painters I had been advertising they would be.  

A day or so later, I called up my mentor to see if that paint training really met the expectations that been set, because I wasn't seeing it.