My Christian Faith in a “Social Media Fearing” Society

If I ever ended up on a reality TV show, one where they had me living in a house with people of opposing beliefs and lifestyles and habits, I’m not sure there would be enough drama from me to make the episode controversial enough to be considered modern entertainment.

faith family friends sign

There are 2 main reasons for this:

Here’s the 1st reason.

Despite me being concrete on what I believe in and stand for, as my Christian faith is the basis of my existence, my role is not to “convert” anyone who is close-minded to what I believe.

I will gladly share my faith with anyone who I believe is searching for hope; which is what I believe Jesus and His followers demonstrated in the New Testament.

But Jesus didn’t seem to argue with nonbelievers and skeptics.

The people He seemed to really have an issue with were the people of His day who believed they already had their golden ticket into Heaven, but who weren’t willing to truly surrender their hearts to God’s will for their lives; which typically involved simply loving their neighbors as themselves.

(Apparently though, it’s not that simple; otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this today.)

Therefore, I feel I have no business in arguing with a “non-believer” of Christ, the Messiah; whether it’s a person of a different religion, or a skeptic of religion, or someone who simply doesn’t participate in religion whatsoever.

I feel that if my faith is not evident through my attitude and actions, words alone definitely won’t help the situation.

From a secular (and marketing) perspective, what good is a professing Christian on a reality TV show if he or she isn’t willing to argue, lose their cool, and demonstrate the opposite of Jesus’s mentality? The hypocrisy of Christians sells.

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But if a Christian is actually helping others overseas to get access to clean water, that’s apparently not worth prime time advertising dollars.

I feel the media is quick to give pedestals to the most opinionated and argumentative professing Christians, which helps make the rest of us appear as fools.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I fully accept my title as “fool for Christ’s sake,” as the Apostle Paul puts it.

But what if there were more examples of… I guess I could simply say… level-headed, nonjudgmental Christians in the media?

I don’t think America is really accustomed to that.

Here’s the 2nd reason I don’t think I would make for a controversial enough episode in a reality TV show:

I would quickly and openly admit I am not perfect.

There’s a stereotype that Christians are the most judgmental people; that they think they are “holier than thou.”

If I was on a reality TV show, the 1st thing I would proclaim to the other people in the house was that I definitely, absolutely do not believe I am better than anyone else.

I would share with them that my understanding of the Christian faith is not that we are people who think we are perfect.

It’s quite the opposite. I know for a fact I am far from perfect and therefore have no right to judge anyone else. Instead, I depend on God’s grace not only for eternal salvation from my imperfect state of being, but also for constant salvation from my greedy, selfish mindset.

I believe we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. I’m simply in the same depraved state as everyone else.

Our society (on both sides of the fence) places so much value on the morality/immorality of homosexuality, as the controversial topic only further divides America in its own civil culture war.

I remain publicly mute on the topic, because I’d rather focus on the things listed in the Bible that I personally struggle with every day:

Like pride.

And greed.

And gossip.

(Those are items people tend to overlook in the New Testament the moment they see a reference of homosexuality; even when those things are listed together with homosexuality in the same verse.)

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Our society actually places a high value on gossip, in case you haven’t noticed.

What should be a shameful thing is instead worshiped.

Let me be clear: While our society is divided on homosexuality, we love gossip.

In actuality, gossip is condemned in the Bible; the whole way throughout the book.

But it’s easier for us to question the things in the Bible that only some people relate to, like homosexuality… while the more identifiable issues to the mainstream, like pride and greed and gossip, are virtually excused.

So if I was in a reality TV show, my role would be to help other people alongside me. For example, if I was placed in a house with self-proclaimed slobs, I would help them do their dishes every day before I would allow myself to lose my temper with them.

Granted, I would still fear my scenes could be edited to be taken out of context, packaged into bite-size morsels, so convenient to be blasted all over Twitter- making me out to be the judgmental character I most wished to disassociate myself from.

After all, I fear that in some regards, as we live in a time when the Internet has become the modern day Tower of Babel, we have learned to fear social media (and its potential backlash) more than God Himself.

At the same time, isn’t it safe to say that we as a culture even worship social media, as well?

It’s sad, but that concept helps me better understand the concept of both worshiping and fearing God; though at first it seems like a paradox.

In a reality TV show setting, I would consider myself as a “competitor” in a contest, whose agenda was to prove that Christianity is serving others; not judging them.

Christianity is about demonstrating love, by being patient and kind and understanding and forgiving.

If we dumb down Christianity to “heaven or hell” or “traditional marriage or gay marriage” or “Republican or Democrat”, then I feel we’re not talking about the same faith Jesus taught His followers.

It seems that would be a compromised and ultimately misleading version of the very Gospel we are called to share with our “neighbors”…

Now, the question is, would an American audience buy into a concept so revolutionary… that serving others, not judging them, is what faith in Jesus is all about?

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A Snapshot’s Worth a Thousand Words: At My Parents’ House in Alabama

Here are 17 snapshots.  Plus the 301 words in the body of this post, not including this heading.  You’re dealing with around 2001 words, my friends.

Today I’m taking a break from writing to share some random items in my parents’ house in Alabama, where my wife and I spent the weekend.  It’s true that every picture has a story.  And these little stories make up our lives- they make up who we are.  So by looking through these snapshots of the house I grew up in, you’re taking a look into my memory pool- the same one I use to write from.

This is Samantha Shell.  In September, she turned 20 years old.  Samantha is a Cockatiel.

This is one of two windows in my bedroom.  My parents bought that little guitar for me when they went to The Philippines in 1995.

This is my sister’s bedroom, which has recently been transformed into a guest nursery for Baby Jack.

Here is my dad’s 1988 Ford Ranger he bought nearly new.  It’s still his main vehicle.

You never know when you might have to blow your nose while driving to work; less than a 10 minute drive for him.

He put these plastic lizard in the dashboard several years ago.  He says it successfully scares away flies.

This cross used to be dark red and white.  It was crocheted circa 1993 and has been hanging on his mirror since then.

This cross is my Italian grandfather’s.

And it opens up, as my mom demonstrates.

Two monkeys and my sister the ballerina.

Yours truly, from 1986 to 1999.

My parents and I in 1982.

My friend David Smith and I broke this Nashville mug that my dad bought for my mom when he went on a business trip.  We stayed up until after 1 AM to superglue it back together.  I’m not sure that it actually still holds liquid.

Classic frog and shroom.

My sister and I in 1991.

Local newspaper clips on the fridge. Busted!

Double busted!

The Blog Sniper (or, The Classic Case of the Compliment Intertwined with Condescending Criticism)

Um… thanks?

I’m convinced there are certain people in the world who truly can not (or will not) simply compliment another person- they feel they are doing the person a favor by also incorporating some sort of condescending criticism which picks at a minor detail to negate the positive vibes of the compliment itself.  Sort of like the way certain people can not (or will not) truly apologize, by saying something lame like this: “Well if I did something to hurt your feelings I’m sorry…”  That kind of apology translates as “I’m sorry you’re such a baby and sorry that you’re trying to make me look like the bad guy.”

Just last week when I published What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101, one of the points I touched on was “Knowing How to Actually Compliment Someone”.  Then ironically yesterday a random stranger acted out exactly what I had just mocked a few days before.  Click here (healthnutshell: Ketchup Vs. Mustard) to read a post I wrote which contrasts the types of food that ketchup and mustard are generally paired with.

In case you didn’t click on the link and haven’t read the comment I’m referring to, here it is again: Bahaha… you make a good point, but I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily. XD This is good stuff to know, but I also feel that it is a little fanatical. Thanks for the information, though!”

Here’s a breakdown of that comment:

“Bahaha”- A condescending laugh which translates as “that’s ridiculous”.

“You make a good point.”- An honest compliment.

“But I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily.” – A correction of my quirky lifestyle.  Totally missing the point, since I didn’t write the post in a tone of absolutes: “Because ketchup, in most cases, is paired with unhealthy foods that are either processed or fried.” Throughout the post I downgrade ketchup, yes, but I never say I refuse to eat it or that I don’t ever eat it.  Nor did I say that I am trying to eat healthy by simply avoiding ketchup.  Instead, I said: “So my general rule of thumb is, I stay away from foods that are enhanced by ketchup.”

“XD”- A slang symbol meaning “big smile”, an attempt to lighten the mood back.

“This is good stuff to know…” Another compliment.

“But I also feel it is a little fanatical.” – A call to put me on the defense.  Really?  I’m a fanatic just because I made an observation that typically ketchup is a condiment for less healthy foods, namely processed and fried?

“Thanks for the information…”– A expression of gratefulness.

“…though.”- In other words, “Thanks for the info, despite how laughable most of it was.”

Looking through each line of the comment, it is interesting the way this reader used the pattern “negative, positive, negative, positive…”  In fact, this may be the most perfect example I’ve ever seen of the classic case of the compliment intertwined with criticism.  That takes talent.

I literally laughed out loud when I read the comment.  Because it’s so tacky.  I think, “Make up your mind, either insult me, or compliment me, but don’t do both at the same time.  Commit.”  I totally respect someone’s opinion if they truly disagree with mine and don’t have a subtle motive to undermine my efforts.  But they have to be cool about it.  Etiquette still exists.

Otherwise, like in this case, it just becomes a joke to me.

But it’s evident from that comment that the person probably makes a daily habit of correcting everyone else, likely with a sarcastic tone, in an subconscious effort to feel in control.  Similar to the case of Some People Like Being Offended and/or Taking Advantage…

Be excellent to each other.

This event also reminds me of an excerpt of Christian Lander’s book, Stuff White People Like.  He is explaining that some white people let a little bit of positive feedback go to their heads too easily and that it eventually can get out of hand.  Therefore, he gives this advice to prevent that from happening:

“Do not dole out your praise like pinata candy… it is best to tease them with little bits of praise, balanced with a few barbs: ‘I have to hand it to you for putting KRS-One on that party mix.  I mean, you went with a pretty well-known song, but still, good job'”.

It’s just funny that in the Internet world it’s somehow more acceptable to go around criticizing people for the sake of trying to sound smarter than someone else who was creative enough to invent.  But I guess with the wave of online writers come just as many online critics.  And my guess is that the critics aren’t themselves inventing any original content- just looking to start a sophisticated food fight about ketchup and mustard.

I say let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.  And when possible, find ways to truly compliment people, not find perceived fault in their creativity.  There’s not enough of sincere complimenting going on in the world.  Especially when “compliments intertwined with condescending criticism” are so popular.

Sammy sings praises, not pious put-downs.

healthnutshell: Ketchup Vs. Mustard

What’s so fancy about ketchup, anyway?  I have faith in mustard seeds.

My dad always said, “You are who your friends are or you soon will be.”  That is indeed the case with both ketchup and mustard.  Though they are as much as a pair as salt and pepper, they tend to attract different “friends”.  Bottom line: Ketchup is a bad influence, but mustard is a role model.

On occasion, I have no problem enjoying some good fries that I know actually came from whole potatoes from a reputable restaurant (meaning they don’t have a drive-thru there).  Same thing with a good juicy burger that is hand-pattied.  And when that happens, that means ketchup is involved.  Other than that, I don’t eat ketchup.

Because ketchup, in most cases, is paired with unhealthy foods that are either processed or fried.  For me, it’s sort of disgusting to think about what ketchup really is: tomato concentrate, vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, “spice”, and onion powder.

Tomato concentrate is processed tomatoes.  Vinegar is okay.  High fructose corn syrup and corn syrup are both forms of processed sugar.  The rest of the ingredients are fine.

Ketchup is candy.  For a serving the size of one tablespoon, there are four grams of sugar.  But honestly, when I eat ketchup, I typically have a bit more than that.  For a typical serving of fries at a decent restaurant, it’s pretty easy to consume four tablespoons of ketchup with the fries alone.  That’s 12 grams of sugar, (one tablespoon of sugar) the equivalent to smoking one cigarette.

So my general rule of thumb is, I stay away from foods that are enhanced by ketchup.  Not only is ketchup really just candy sauce, but it attracts the wrong kinds of friends.  I don’t even keep ketchup in my fridge.

Mustard on the other hand is much more legit: Vinegar, water, mustard seeds, salt, turmeric, and paprika. None of those ingredients are processed.  In fact, there are actually health benefits of turmeric and paprika.

Tumeric– linked to possible benefits in arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, aids in digestion, is an anti-flammatory agent as well as an antibacterial agent

Paprika– rich in vitamin C (more than lemon juice) and high in antioxidants

Of course that doesn’t mean that I recommend eating a bottle of mustard a day in order to prevent diseases.  But compared side by side to ketchup, it’s pretty obvious that mustard is actually healthy to eat, whereas I can’t truly consider ketchup to be nutritious.

Mustard easily goes well with healthy foods.  People don’t put ketchup on a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread.  That would be gross.  But mustard would be great.

Foods that go well with mustard- good.

Foods that go well with ketchup (or both ketchup and mustard)- watch out.

Choose this day whom you will follow, ketchup or mustard.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on ketchup, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one


How to Hang Out with Friends and Have Fun

 

An instinct we had as kids is that we always knew how to hang out, without a plan or agenda. In the way that Adam and Eve were not at first aware of their nakedness, we used to have the blessing of being unaware of social awkwardness and social cues. It’s an ability that began to escape us sometime around junior high. When I was a kid, it didn’t matter which friend I was hanging out with after school or spending the night with, we never got bored or recognized that we were about to run out of activities or subjects to talk about.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that as kids we knew “how to play”. Though I may not be a girl, I remember my sister and her friends always seemed to be playing “House”. Females socialize. Males, on the other hand, compete.

As boys we would go outside, often to the woods, to play out some sort of good guys/bad guys scenario. Our version of “Cops and Robbers” was more like Ninja Turtles Vs. Shredder. Bikes and water balloons were often part of the plan. When we got tired, we’d go inside and play Nintendo until we had regained enough energy to initiate a wrestling match on the carpet. And there was the trampoline too. Hours of fun.

But as adults, we don’t use “playing” anymore as the main way to interact with our friends.

It’s not as simple as an adult just to tell a friend, “Let’s hang out at my house after work today”. In many cases, the hanging out is done outside of the home. Instead of playing like we did as kids, adults talk and “catch up”. But there is always a staple to bring the people together. It may be sharing a meal, going to watch a game or movie, or a showing up at a party associated with a holiday or sports event.

But the most simple and common thing I see is people going out for coffee, beer, or wine. The drink serves as a campfire. In the same way people gather around a campfire and find comfort in it with those around them, a drink of choice magically sets the fertile environment for good conversation no matter the location. If by chance the friends find themselves in a noticeably quiet moment, it’s easy to fall back on the easy conversation piece: “Starbucks is wonderful”, “Good beer”, or “I love this wine.” Obviously it’s good. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the modern day campfire.

The one exception and yet another reason to love Paul Rudd in a bromantic situation…