The Hierarchy of Jeep Wranglers and Why I Refuse to Have a Stick Figure Family on My Back Window (and Have a Metallica Snake Instead)

As much it’s an important part of my identity not to be judgmental towards other people, I am willing to admit my weakness in this area:

I have tasted from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Real Jeeps Vs. Mom Minivan Jeeps. My eyes have seen the truth.

The truth is, while a Jeep Wrangler is still a Jeep Wrangler, there is definitely an understood hierarchy among those of us who drive real Jeep Wranglers.

A real Jeep is a 2 door with a manual transmission.

But if it has 4 doors with an automatic transmission, it is ultimately the coolest minivan for moms.

If the only way I could have obtained a Jeep Wrangler was to have gotten the 4 door with a automatic transmission, then I would have.

Fortunately… I own a 2010 Jeep Wrangler Sport 6 Speed. All black with black tinted windows. It’s the real deal.

When I think of the Mom Minivan Jeeps, I think of a stick figure family on the back window.

Not me. I don’t want to be cute.

Instead, I only have one sticker on the back window of my Jeep: The snake from Metallica’s Black Album.

(Buy Metallica’s Black Album here from Amazon.)

It’s send the right message. I drive the Metallica Black Album Jeep Wrangler.

To anyone who perceives that I cut them off in daily commuter traffic, they shouldn’t be surprised when they see my sticker.

To anyone who perceives that I am driving too slowly in front of them (because I am in the same line of traffic they are but I am trying to maintain my speed in 2nd gear without needless downshifting to 1st again because I creep up behind the care in front of me quicker than I had do), they shouldn’t be surprised when they see my sticker.

To any who perceives that I am going too fast or too rough, they shouldn’t be surprised when they see my sticker.

One of the ongoing themes of Metallica’s music is embracing that fact that as human being are not the “good” people we naturally assume we are; especially as we compare ourselves to others who we perceive has worse morals.

Songs like “Sad But True”, “Devil’s Dance”, “Am I Savage?” and “Master of Puppets” carry a theme of recognizing the we as individuals continue to give control over our emotions and decisions to other people and/or vices; as opposed to making the conscious decision to take control ourselves.

The Metallica Black Album Jeep Wrangler is amoral. The Metallica Black Album Jeep Wrangler is chaotic neutral. The Metallica Black Album Jeep Wrangler has no emotions.

So yeah, a stick figure family wouldn’t be a good representation of the identity of the driver of my Jeep; even if, somewhat ironically, there truly is a fun-loving American family of 4 riding inside.

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Our Culture Doesn’t Believe in Sin Anymore: It’s Too Politically Incorrect and Judgmental

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think they weren’t a “good person”. The default seems to be comparing oneself to another person who has committed worse offenses: “Well, at least I’m not an ax murderer…”

My observation is that people subconsciously continually convince themselves they are not “bad” by referring to another person who makes them look like a saint, in comparison.

Clearly, people recognize that good and evil exists in the world. So therefore, there must be good and bad people in the world, as well.

But as Michael Jackson profoundly asked back in his 1987 follow-up to Thriller, Who’s bad?

Christianity differs in ideology from the “I’m a good person” concept that our culture seems to accept as the norm.

Christianity teaches that we were all born with a sinful nature; or as Metallica put it in the title track from their 2016 album, we are “hardwired to self-destruct“.

In other words, none of us, not one, is a good person. Instead, we are all sinners.

Who’s bad? We all are.

We were all born this way. We all have our own sinful instincts to manage.

As individuals, we all have what I call our own “sin personalities”.

Some people struggle with certain issues that other people never do.

So it becomes easy to notice other people’s sins that are different from our own, as a way to make ourselves feel better about our own “lesser” sins.

And that simply brings us to one of the most obvious sins that the Bible warns against:

Pride.

But in today’s culture, to acknowledge sin is becoming perceived as politically incorrect and/or judgmental.

When we start recognizing what specifically constitutes as sin, it makes people feel uncomfortable.

Even adultery, which is included in the Ten Commandments, is now being excused by our culture:

“Well, they were really unhappy in their marriage so…”

To me, sin is sin. I don’t care which particular sin it is: I don’t believe in discriminating against another person or group of people because their sins are different than mine.

Instead, I recognize my own sins. To focus on other people’s sins instead of my own would be that sin I mentioned earlier: Pride.

We were all born this way. We all have our own sinful instincts to manage.

But to deny that sin exists… what does that do to our perception of God?

If sin doesn’t exist, because we’re all good people anyway, then we have no reason to be saved from our own destructive sinful nature; here in this life or what comes after it.

As for me, I’m not a good person. I’m a sinner.

I’m a sinner who is crazy enough to believe that Jesus was the only perfect person to live on this Earth and that by believing in Him, my soul can be saved from God’s judgment.

Yes, that might sound ridiculous. I’ll go ahead and call myself a fool for believing it.

But to believe that I am a good person, simply because my sins are different from other people’s, is more ridiculous to me.

Why My Next Car Will Have a Metallica Sticker on the Back Window, Not a Christian Fish Symbol

Whenever I eventually do trade in my 2004 Honda Element for a newer SUV with a 3rd row seat, I have already decided I will not be putting a “nice dad” sticker on my back window: No stick figure family, no logo from my kid’s school, not even a Christian fish symbol.

It’s Nashville. I’m a commuter from a bedroom community. I typically spend a minimum of about 2 hours a day, navigating through chaos from the congested back roads to the often stand-still Interstate.

Being perceived by other drivers as a “nice guy” is not what I’m interested in when I’m on I-65 or Columbia Pike. Otherwise, I’d be in danger of also being perceived as a hypocrite in other drivers’ eyes when I am either driving too fast or too slow for their liking.

Other drivers’ personal perception of my driving ultimately serves a reflection of the legitimacy of whatever sticker is on my car.

Yeah, I know that sounds obtuse and illogical. But it’s true…

If a non-Christian driver perceives that I selfishly pulled out in front of him, then sees a Christian emblem on my car, that driver is placed in a position where he can theorize: “There’s another one of those self-centered, hypocritical Christians! Why would I ever want to be like them?”

Instead, I’d rather be known as the guy who other drivers don’t have high expectations for. The easiest way I can think to accomplish this is to simply have one black sticker on my back windshield:

Metallica.

That way, when I have to hurry and pass another car real quick on the Interstate in order to reach the exit lane in time because of how congested all 4 lanes are, I’m not a jerk. Instead, I’m simply what they expect from a guy who listens to the legendary heavy metal band Metallica: I’m assertive, intimidating, and unpredictable.

However, when I do something courteous, like when another driver is trapped trying to make awkward turn and I let them in (which is something I do several times per day), and then I eventually catch up to them when that one single lane transitions to a double, and I’m now in the other lane and they can see the back of my vehicle…

Now, I’ve suddenly become the Good Samaritan. Why?

Because, hey, the Metallica guy was nice to me!

I’d rather be perceived as a nice Metallica fan rather than a “hypocrite” with a Christian fish symbol on my car. I

My ironic theory is that it’s easier for those fellow commuters to see the grace and kindness of a Christian when there is no Christian label, as I’ve learned that people naturally have higher expectations of Christians; meaning it’s also easier to be disappointed by Christians.

No one is disappointed by a guy who listens to Metallica. But as a commuter, I say the Metallica guy has got a better chance of being seen as a saint, compared to a guy with a Christian fish symbol on his car.

How Metallica’s Song “Prince Charming” Explores Parenting Gone Wrong

Metallica’s now 20 year-old song “Prince Charming” from their 1997 Reload album, is told from the collection of perspectives of unfortunate people who have ended up in undesirable situations as adults; being deemed disappointments and/or threats in society.

They are self-described as junkies, prostitutes, sufferers of suicidal tendencies, and potentially dangerous loners. In other words, they are the kinds of social outcasts who Jesus seemed to care so much about; which in turn infuriated the religious zealots.

The chorus of song presents an unexpected twist, as the focus is turned to the parent of that social outcast:

“Hey, look, it’s me! What no one wants to see.

See what you brought this world… Hey Ma! Look, it’s me!””

It’s a reminder that even the people who are seen as lowliest in the world, still had parents who to some degree, had a major influence on how that their child would group up; for better or worse.

One of the reasons Metallica has become one of my favorite bands is that they are able to expose our conscious minds to the darker side of morality, especially in songs like “Sad But True,” “Devil’s Dance”, and “Am I Savage?”

I enjoy the challenge of these kinds of songs; as they serve as a subtle yet blunt reminder that life is not simply as “right or wrong” as we would like for it to be. This is evident in popular TV shows like Breaking Bad and Lost, where even the good guys struggle with being bad guys themselves.

The older I get, the more I understand how truly imperfect I am as a human being. So there’s definitely some irony in the fact that I am responsible for morally leading two young children.

Imperfect adults parenting imperfect children. I suppose there’s a learning curve in there for all of us.

3 Rules I Made Up for What I Wear on Road Trips, as the Modern Millennial Dad

As you may have noticed by now, our family takes a lot of road trips: Key West, Lake Tahoe, and San Diego, just to name a few destinations over the years. This is something that makes me special, as a daddy blogger. (In addition to be the world’s manliest vegan, of course!)

During our trip to Louisville, Kentucky last week in the 2017 Toyota Highlander, I realized that I’ve established a dress code for myself over the years when I travel. My simple list ensures that as I drive across America with my lovely wife and our blonde children, I will be comfortable, yet still masculine and charming, but not a slob. Here are my 3 rules:

1) Boat shoes with no socks: It’s almost like driving barefoot, but projects an image of a guy who knows how to have fun, in an adventurous, yet classy way. I picked mine up for about 15 bucks at Old Navy. Plus, they look good with just about anything else I would wear on vacation anyway.

2) Long sleeve, casual button down shirt with comfortable jeans: I’ve noticed that as the driver, I get the constant brunt of the A/C, as my son is typically on the verge of sweating in the back seat. Long sleeves and long pants keep me from getting too cold when I drive, yet I look sophisticated enough when I get out of the car for rest stops, restaurants, and hotels.

3) Classic rock-r-roll t-shirt: This sends a message that despite being a responsible grown-up with a family, I am still one cool dude. Obviously, my rock band of choice is Metallica; an American legend since 1981; just like me. But really, just choose a rock band that that’s been around at least 25 years and you’re good to go. Other options could include Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Stone Temple Pilots.

You’ll never see me road tripping while looking like a loaf of laziness. No!

I am a man with a plan.

Boat shoes with no socks? Check.

Long sleeve, casual button down shirt with comfortable jeans? Check.

Classic rock-n-roll t-shirt? Wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Mic dropped.)

I am So Excited about the 2017 Toyota 4Runner I Get to Drive This Week!

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire!”

Those were the magic words I spoke, which caused my 2004 Honda Element to mysteriously morph into a 2017 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Limited V6.

It’s like how Cinderella’s pumpkin turned into a wondrous carriage pulled by horses. Only way cooler.

So for the next nine days, until the clock strikes 11:30 AM on July 6th, I will get to be the proud driver of this undeniably tough (yet charming) machine of glory.

In the dozens of vehicles of featured on my blog over the years, my very favorite was the Toyota Tacoma. So obviously I have been looking forward for months now, knowing that a Toyota 4Runner was being delivered to me this week; as I find the two vehicles to be similar to each other.

This thing has the elegant look of a Storm Trooper, yet the unpredictable great power of Darth Vader.

Seriously, I am going to be so cool this week.

I’ve already had several co-workers stop me and tell me how jealous they are.

This 4Runner taps into a pocket of my psyche that I typically keep subdued on my blog.

After all, I’m the Family Friendly Daddy Blogger. Readers have certain demographic expectations of me:

Take lots of cute pictures of my kids while telling cute stories about them. Rinse and repeat.

And that’s what I will provide for my readers over the next week or so, as we enjoy some awesome upcoming adventures, being the Chip and Joanna Gaines kind of family that we truly are.

But this is me, breaking the 4th wall, to say, “I am a conservative husband and father living in the Suburbs… hear me roar!”

I suddenly feel so in control.

So powerful.

So… alive.

This is 36: Taking Shifts with My Wife, As the Baby Sleeps in the Car

As you know, our family recently spent a week down in Destin, Florida for a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend. As you can imagine, with a 1 year-old little girl in tow, we largely had to base our schedule and activities around her sleep schedule.

For example, on the way down to Florida, we left our home in Tennessee immediately after an early dinner so that we could get to our condo in Destin by 1:30 AM. This created an environment for our daughter to be able to sleep through the entire drive. Granted, we only stopped once during the 7 hour trip for a bathroom break; to help ensure she didn’t wake up.

Since this formula proved effective, we did the same thing for the drive back home from Florida. That’s right- just 2 bathroom breaks during the 14 hour round trip.

Uh… impressed much?

We continued to cater to our daughter’s slumber throughout the course of our vacation.

One day we took a day trip over to Pensacola where one of my brothers-in law and his wife have recently moved. After we toured their new home which is currently under construction, everyone decided to walk through some of the model homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So my mother-in-law and her husband (who were also in town for the weekend), my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I successfully toured two model homes.

But as we drove to the next neighborhood, our daughter had fallen asleep in just a matter of minutes. I volunteered to stay in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Toyota Prius Three as our daughter took her afternoon nap behind me in her car seat.

There in the driveway of that model home, I pulled out the classic 1984 Ride the Lightning album by Metallica to enjoy for myself. Fortunately, the symphonic distorted electric guitars helped keep my little girl asleep. She’s not too picky when it comes to music, yet.

Even after my wife and son returned from the tour of that model home, they returned to the car, only to inform me that there was yet one more model home to visit before we made our way back to Destin.

Honestly, I didn’t mind one bit. It was peaceful and relaxing for me. It gave me not only a chance to think, but a chance to help my wife out by giving her some time to see something new and exciting and to take a break from constantly caring for a baby.

Of course, it was no surprise that less than 24 hours, my wife would be taking the next shift of “chill out in the car while the baby sleeps.” Because for lunch the following day, as went out for Mexican food for lunch, our daughter had fallen asleep in the car.

So I took my wife’s order, then eventually brought her food to her roadside, while the rest of us ate inside the restaurant.

This is just how it has to be right now. We’re used to it.

This is 36.