A New Post … And Email!

I just put the linked post up at my website, lightsinthedarkness.net. Please go check it out!

http://lightsinthedarkness.net/?p=1387

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Starting A New Blog

I finally took the plunge yesterday and started a new blog dedicated entirely to perspectives on depression and other mental disorders from a Christian perspective. Hopefully, this will allow me to use this space for other subjects, such as parenting or editorializing or just messing around. Check out the new blog at http://depressionlighthouse.wordpress.com/. Thanks!

My Advice To Graduates

With this being the time of year for college and high school graduations, I’ve been paying more attention lately to the plans of those receiving diplomas. I’ve also been reflecting quite a bit on the decisions I made over the course of my educational journey, and while I would not by any means consider myself someone qualified to dole out career advice, I believe I made enough wrong turns along the way to be able to pass along a few tips about how to not fall into some of the pitfalls I have over the years.

I was always one of the “smart kids” in school. I made good grades, enrolled in all the honors and advanced classes in high school, graduateeven took the SAT in middle school. I graduated college with a 3.5 GPA, and that was even with my failing one class and not retaking it (For the record, it was an earth science class, and I could take it a thousand more times and still never pass it.). I received honors and awards and got my name in the newspaper a few times for different accomplishments. As a student, I was a success.

And, for the most part, none of it meant a damn thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything useful in school. For instance, had it not been for the encouragement and efforts of some great teachers, I would have never realized I had a (debatable) talent for writing. I never had any vision or passion, though, for what I wanted to do with what I was learning. Even worse, I somehow believed that doing well in school would save me from the more mundane jobs and tasks I didn’t want to deal with learning. I didn’t learn things because I didn’t want to. I was a good student, and that would get me where I wanted to go … even if I didn’t know where that was.

So I never learned how to change my own oil or repair a broken transmission or hang sheetrock or build a bookshelf or bring in a crop or shoot a deer. Are you going to be required to do any of these things in your lifetime? I can’t tell you for sure. I can say, though, that everything I just mentioned (with the exception of shooting the deer) is a service people will always need someone to do. I used to make fun of the kids in vocational school. Now I wish I knew how to do at least half of the things they do. Never consider any job beneath you, no matter how smart you think you are.

Manual labor is not for everyone, though, just as college isn’t for every high school graduate. We live in a society now that preaches everyone must go to to college, whether they have any clue what they want to do there and no matter how much debt they incur on their way to obtaining a degree. I am sad to say this is not a recent development. A great many of us have diplomas hanging on our walls that don’t have much to do with where we wound up. If you find a calling in life that doesn’t require a degree, go for it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, it’s not. You’ll be faced with all kinds of decisions. What do you need to learn? How much time, energy, and money will it cost? How will it affect those around you? Should you move and make a new start or make a go of it where you are? Fear and uncertainty will be waiting around every corner to derail you, and, unfortunately, you won’t always get the best advice. Education will be a tool, but it can’t make a decision for you. Be brave, and don’t take the freedom you have right now for granted. It won’t always be so easy to take chances.

Keep in mind, of course, these words are coming from someone who flubbed up in one way or another nearly all of the things he was just talking about, so I’m not claiming to be some kind of expert or guru. I just don’t want you to travel some of the roads I have. And, if you do happen to wind up on one of them, I hope you’ll be able to navigate them better than I did. That reminds me of my final bit of advice: Give yourself room to screw up. Because you’re going to – a lot. Instead of endlessly beating yourself up, though, keep going forward or backward or sideways or whichever way you have to go to move on.

Take all that for what it’s worth, graduates. I’m guessing a lot of you already know more than I do anyway. Just remember me when you get really successful. Okay?

Just Write Something

This is the kind of post I hate writing. You know the one – the “Oh, crap, I haven’t written anything in a while, so I guess I had better lazy writercome up with something so people don’t forget who I am” post. Funny, I never notice really successful bloggers having to write things like this. I, on the other hand, seem to have to do it every few weeks or so, which leads me to one very obvious conclusion…

I’m not doing this right.

It’s usually at about this point I would start going on about the difficulties of writing or the busyness of life or the struggle to figure out the purpose of having a blog in the first place. I don’t think I’m going to do that this time. Fact is, I’ve realized (with the help of others) that I’m sort of lazy sometimes. Or I’m deathly afraid of failure. Or maybe a combination of the two.

At any rate, I don’t dedicate myself to writing like I should.

Feels good to get that out of the way. Now, time to start thinking about the next post…

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.