Happy To Be Here

For a while there, I wasn’t sure I was going to be around for this.

There wasn’t anything wrong with me … at least, not physically, anyway. No chronic diseases, no recurring health scares, no rotating list of prescriptions. I wasn’t courting some kind of death wish, either. No repelling off mountain sides, no canoeing down turbulent waters, no bungee jumping from bridges. And even though I had battled depression for the better part of my life, I wasn’t plotting my untimely demise. Things never reached that level, thank God.

I just had this feeling, though, that maybe I wasn’t going to make it to 40. I have no rational explanation for this. I know in the past few years I have put tremendous pressure on myself to achieve certain things before I reached that dreaded age. I basically kept a running checklist in my mind, and not many items were being crossed off as time went on. I felt more and more like a failure. So, instead of saying I wasn’t sure I would make it to 40, maybe it would be more accurate to say I didn’t want to make it there.

Today, however, I am 40 years old, and an amazing thing has happened: Life has continued to go on. Not only am I still here, I’mlife begins pretty happy to be so. My list is still in shambles, and there are days when I feel totally aimless and desperate for direction. That cutoff date I had established in my mind, though, doesn’t mean a thing today. Much to my surprise, I’m feeling fairly optimistic, even though this past week has left my scratching my head as to what the future may hold.

So what changed? Well, lots of things. I took a look around and realized there are many people who don’t “make it” in their younger years, and a large majority of them don’t care if they’re the old codgers on the block. I noticed I’m still in (relatively) good shape and good health. I got some help for the depression that had dogged me for so long, and I began to think about things differently. I finally began to see the truth in the Bible telling me that “all things work together for good,” even the things I don’t understand.

At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, I want to share one more very important thing I’ve realized: I have been blessed with some really great friends over the course of these last 40 years. Some of you I see a lot, some of you not so often. Some of you I haven’t seen anywhere other than social media for over 20 years. Whatever the case may be, every one of you who have been a part of my life are still very special to me. I love you all, and even in written form, it takes a lot for me to express that in words.

Here’s to 40, then. I’m glad I’m here for this, and I’m glad you’re here, too. Hopefully, we’ll all be around for 40 more.

The Absolute Last Post You Will See Here About Doug Phillips

Okay, I get it. Doug Phillips was a bad dude. The stuff that came out public concerning his affair and how that related to his Doug-Phillipsresignation from Vision Forum Ministries was just the tip of the iceberg. The affair that he claimed did not involve knowing a woman “in a biblical sense” actually probably involved just that. There was a weird gap between when he stepped down as an elder at his church and when he stepped down from Vision Forum. He was cocky and arrogant. He may have exaggerated his accomplishments. And, in the end, he alienated some of his closest friends and allies.

Really, I get all that. Now let me say this: People, get over it and move on with your lives.

Ever since I wrote a post titled Common To Every Manthis site has attracted readers looking for information on Doug Phillips. My top post from the past week was basically just a link to an article WORLD Magazine wrote on Phillips; I barely even wrote anything myself. I only wrote the first post to express a sense of caution I think every man ought to employ in realizing that none of us should ever be arrogant enough to believe we are safe from the type of fall Phillips experienced. I believe his is a cautionary tale, and I only shared the WORLD article because I respected the manner in which it was written.

This is not a Doug Phillips-related blog site. If news is reported, I’ll read it, but I’m not going to share any more links. It’s bothersome to me how many people seem to be trolling WordPress looking for information about this man. Maybe people are still trying to figure the whole thing out. Maybe they’re still disappointed. Maybe they’re intent on feeding their negative feelings toward him. Maybe they just like to gossip.

Whatever the case may be, I’m out. It was an awful affair (no pun intended), and it hurt a lot of people. It may have even shaken the faith of a great many. There are other more pressing matters worth our time, though. Love your families. Follow your passions. Read edifying things. I don’t know, go outside or something. There’s no point in beating this thing to death anymore.

Keep praying for Doug Phillips. That is all.

Too Much

too-much-mailI remember several years ago having a talk with my supervisor at the time about mail. Specifically, we were talking about the sheer volume of mail he received every day, and he said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget: “We get so much stuff, I just get overwhelmed with it. I’m sure there have been good things that I’ve thrown away, but it’s just too much to keep up with.”

I’ve thought about those words often as the world keeps changing to bring us better and better access to nearly everything imaginable. There’s just simply too much stuff out there to take in. It flies at us from every direction every minute of every day. From our televisions, from our computers, from our cell phones, from our radios. We can’t even blame the professionals anymore. Suddenly, it seems everyone is capable of producing anything they put their minds to – albums, books, apps, podcasts, websites, movies, videos. You name it, we got it.

overloadIt’s just too much. Links to links to links to links to links. Independent music websites. Independent book publishers. YouTube. Hulu. Web series. Daily podcasts of programs that have already aired somewhere else. Spotify. Pandora. Online sites for newspapers and magazines you might have missed. Reviews of reviews of reviews. And the blogs. Blogs and blogs and blogs and blogs…

A lot of you reading this have been kind enough to follow this blog. I can’t thank you enough for that. Every follow notification I get is a tremendous encouragement to me, and lets me know I actually have something worthwhile to say. In all honesty, though, I’m not reading your blogs. I’ve looked at some of them, and they’re very nice, but there’s only so much information I can stuff into my tiny brain in one day.

So I’ve begun to cut some things out. For instance, if you post a video to your Facebook or Twitter feed that is “amazing,” “unbelievable,” “touching,” or “astounding,” I will more than likely not watch that video, since 99 percent of those videos I have watched are neither “amazing,” “unbelievable,” “touching,” or “astounding.” If an article is billed as “mind-blowing,” I’m skipping over it. If a video is “must-see,” it ain’t gettin’ watched by me. If an album doesn’t have at least one fast song on it, it will not be getting added to my collection. And so on and so forth…

I fully realize I could be missing some truly great stuff this way. Then again, I could be missing some truly great stuff by focusing on all these other things, too. Either way, I just can’t take it all in. And, in an odd way, having this many options has actually caused me to limit my horizons in some areas. Take music, for instance. With options like my iPod, Pandora, and Spotify, I can tailor the music I listen to into whatever categories I choose, which means I can basically not try anything new or out of the ordinary if I don’t want to.

I didn’t think this was a problem until I thought back one day to all the music I listened to in high school. Now, I’m more of a hard bobby brownrock/borderline metal kind of guy with bits of Americana mixed in, but back then I also thought Bobby Brown, LL Cool J, Young MC, and Enigma were pretty cool, too. And as poorly as some of that music has held up, it broadened my sense of rhythm and wordplay and electronic music. But I heard it all in the natural flow of life – radio, friends’ cars, sporting events. It was just there; it just happened.

It’s hard to believe I actually feel this way. I mean, a world of infinite possibilities should be awesome, right? I should be more knowledgeable than ever, able to snap off information in the blink of an eye. Instead, I read a really wonderful and insightful article the other day on the relationship between teenagers and social media, and now I can’t remember the name of the book it featured, the author of the book, or the website I saw the article on. Whatever I got from it is crammed into all the other bits of data I’m consuming nearly constantly.

So consider this my apology for missing out on all the wonderful work some of you may be doing. Maybe one day I’ll give you the attention you so richly deserve. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here sorting through the day’s mail and trying to decide what I should keep and what I should get rid of. The trash can is looking pretty full already…

 

Falling Away

I sure do love me some March Madness. Wall-to-wall basketball for the better part of a month. If it’s not being played, it’s being talked about. Nobody mailing it in, every team playing their hearts out because they know it’s win-or-go-home. The best time of the year to be a basketball fan, hands-down.

freakout_1_-_1.0_standard_500.0I used to devote hour upon hour to watching every second of basketball I could during the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. I obsessed over my bracket every year, cursing the names of every losing team that made me look foolish for picking them to win. Much to the chagrin of nearly everyone around me, I was a Kentucky boy rooting (for no particular reason) for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Yelling at the television, throwing stuff, biting my nails… Yep, I was that guy.

I say all that in the past tense because I’m not really that guy anymore. I mean, I still watch quite a bit of the tournament, but I don’t feel very emotionally invested in it anymore. I still fill out a bracket, but I don’t really care what my overall record is once the dust is settled. Not only do I not root for the Tar Heels anymore, I don’t throw my support behind any particular team these days. I still care … but, then again, I don’t care. Know what I mean?

Maybe my slow fade from tournament junkie to semi-casual observer started several years ago when I read Alexander Wolff’s Raw Recruits during the breaks in a lengthy trial I had to cover for the newspaper I was working for at the time. Or maybe it began nearly 12 years ago, when my wife and I welcome our first child into the world and our lives and priorities got turned upside-down. Or maybe it was when I realized I was finally older than all of the players (and now I’m actually older than a lot of the coaches,too).

Whatever the case, I found myself sitting down to fill out a bracket this year and suddenly realizing I had no idea what I was doing. Even stranger, I wasn’t really bothered by that. I’m certainly not criticizing anyone still knows the starting five of every team or dresses up in their favorite team’s gear just to watch them on television. If your heart still lies there, I think that’s awesome. Somewhere down the line, mine sort of moved on … and I’m not entirely sure that’s such a bad thing.

All my life, I’ve heard that God will take things out of your life if He doesn’t think they’re fruitful. I’ve always envisioned that as Him having to pry whatever it was I was holding onto from my clutching, angry fingers as I kicked and screamed through the entire process. Whatever it was, it would be something I desperately didn’t want to give up, and He would cause me great pain and discomfort by taking it. After a while, with this mentality, it’s easy to start thinking that Christianity is less about joy and freedom and more about sucking all the joy out of life in an effort to conform.

As with most things in life, though, God needs to change the heart before he change the behavior. Had someone come to me and said, “Hey, you’re really obsessing too much over basketball. You need to stop watching so much.”, I probably would not have responded in a very compliant way. Stretched out over time, though, I saw my time going to other things – writing, kids, friends – that made me happy in my heart. And while I never lost my love for the game, I did lose that feeling that I had to be plugged into it constantly during tournament time.

There are certain things we’ll have to give up in life. For example, if you’re an alcoholic and you’re destroying your liver with booze every night, you will have to give up drinking. Something will have to move the heart away from the liquor store, however, before the body will follow. So from ending sports obsessions to chemical addictions to ingrained behaviors, the same madness is at work. The good thing is, it’s not just limited to the month of March.

World Magazine Reports On Doug Phillips

A while ago, I wrote a post concerning Vision Forum Ministries founder Doug Phillips. I’ve been surprised since then at the number of reads it’s gotten, and I was surprised by the amount of feedback I received after writing it. I’ve also been dismayed by the amount of unverified information floating around the internet concerning Phillips and his decision to step away from Vision Forum and public ministry, so I was quite pleased today to read this excellent piece on the WORLD Magazine website concerning his rise and fall. I wanted to share the article here, as sort of a follow-up to what I wrote earlier.

http://www.worldmag.com/2014/03/set_adrift#.Uyw-bbflgb4.facebook

Guest Blogging

Many moons ago, when I decided I didn’t want to be a newspaper reporter anymore, I met Kristin Hill Taylor. Kristin replaced me at the paper I was leaving, and she proceeded to do such a great job that most people probably forgot I was ever there. These days, though, Kristin is a stay-at-home mom, publicist, and writer, whose blog - 152 Insights To My Soul - can be found here. She and her husband, Greg, are the parents of two beautiful adopted children, Cate and Ben, so obviously parenting is a high priority for her.

This week, Kristin’s blog is featuring real-life stories from dads who have struggled with the notion that their children need to be perfect. More information on the book that inspired this current thread - No More Perfect Kids, by Jill Savage and Kathy Koch – is available there as well. Kristin was nice enough today to let me share some of my struggles with this issue, so I’ve included the link here. And be sure to check out all the things she’s written. It’s good stuff.

http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com/2014/03/no-more-perfect-kids-building-faith.html