Try a Little Bitterness

The guy tailgated me up the freeway. When I got to the merge lane and patiently eased into the flow of traffic with everyone else – one car yielding to the next in the polite morning ballet we all participate in – he screeched around me and pushed into traffic at the very limit of the lane. And I mean the very limit, because that merge ends at the mouth of a two lane tunnel. I gaped at this. He had advanced three whole positions. I felt a familiar heat rising in the middle of my chest and I started to mutter out loud to myself about the dude’s IQ. I may have used a little Egyptian. Obviously this guy deserved condemnation. He needed a little judgment from me. I thought I might even keep a little bitterness in my heart towards him. If only I could take note of the car make and model and the plate I’d be set. I heard another voice saying “No.”

“No?” I said back. “No?Did you see what he did? I have a right to feel this way. I deserve it.”

“And what good is that? What will it do for you today? What will you get out of it?”

“But I just want a little bit! I just want a little taste! It’s good!”

“It’ll make everything else taste different if you don’t spit it out right now. Bitterness never stays where you put it. Never. It spreads out. It finds the other little pockets you’ve kept in your mouth like a cow’s cud or a cowboy’s chaw. Spit it out.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Look. Do you see that car anymore? It’s gone. He’s gone. Gone. Not coming back. You had zero effect on him. This is stupid. It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Give it up. Spit it out and drink something to clear out the taste.”

“There. I did it. I spit it out. Now will you leave me alone?”

“No. I won’t leave you alone. And I can see you’re still hiding some of it by the way you’re holding your mouth. Come on. Let’s talk about this. You know we did this whole routine yesterday…”

“And the day before and the day before…yeah.”

“You know I’m right. And you know how it feels when you admit it and take a sip of water. It’s the best water.”

I took a sip. I had to admit it was good. My mouth tasted sweeter. My heart felt lighter. My eyes grew clearer. “Poor guy was probably late for work. I hate that feeling. It makes me do crazy things. It stresses me out and makes me feel angry and scared at the same time. Yuck. Bless him. Get him to work safely. Ease his mind. Give him a good day. Yes. Give him a good day just like we are going to have a good day.”


Acts 1:1

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,

 First book… began to do and teach

Luke is the author of the book of Acts.  He is also the author of the gospel of Luke.  He is conducting a research project that takes him from the birth of Jesus to the birth of the church.  Theophilus is the person to whom Luke wrote both books. 

We know that Luke was a doctor and his writing is meticulous. Of all the gospel writers he is the most detailed and thorough.  He uses words precisely. When he says his first book was what Jesus began to do and teach we need to take note.  The first work is the gospel of Luke where Jesus is the lead character from start to finish, but in this second work, the book of Acts, Jesus is going to make a brief appearance and depart the scene.

How are we to understand the word “began”? Luke tells us that Jesus is going to continue both doing and teaching. How?  The way this is written is supposed to make us lean in and look for the answer right at the outset. We are supposed to enter here looking over the shoulder of the resurrection man, listening to a dead man teach about how to live in light of his destruction of the laws of sin, death, and physics. He is going to continue doing things and teaching us things and we’d better pay attention. He is no longer the peasant prophet, he is now the ruler of life and death. We listen in on the conversation and find out that he is not planning on sticking around and that some other person (thing, event) is going to shape and guide the movement he has begun. 

It is the Holy Spirit. It is not an it but a he. A person. He is the Spirit of Christ. What does that mean?  It means we should look for and expect Him to act like Jesus and to do the kinds of things Jesus did and say the kind of things Jesus said. He is not unknown to us. The whole gospel of Luke tells us what to expect from Him. Now we wait to see how He will arrive on the scene and what the gospel of Acts will be. 

Don’t Be A Jerk: The Solution to all Microaggression

“Microaggression” is the newest label the establishment, elites and educated have given to anything that a normal person says or does that offends them.  It is a brilliant use of language along the lines of substituting the word “choice” for being pro-abortion.  Anyone who opposes abortion now has to fight off the accusation of being something inherently anti-American; being against freedom to choose.  Americans are inherentlymeanperson1 laid back too.  This may not be obvious on its surface, but it is true.  We are the people who aggressively pursue innovation and achievement, but we are also the people who are keenly aware of pushiness and rudeness.  Calling someone “aggressive” in anything other than a sports or business environment is saying something about them is really wrong.  The effect of calling an action a Micro Aggression is two-fold; it makes you stop in your tracks because no one wants to be a jerk (the commoners term for an overly aggressive person from the highway to the office building to Wal-Mart) AND it makes you second guess every action because the jerkiness might be so small that only a microscope could see it!  You see how great a word microcaggression is?  Americans are so sensitive to being called a jerk that we are afraid to leave the possibility that even the tiniest part of our lives can rightfully be pointed out as jerky.

The really funny (and by this I mean completely odd and off-putting and out of place and ironic) thing is that the people who are laying this new label on normal people are aggressively aggressive and jerky about anything that disturbs their plastic banana, phony baloney, good time rock and roll lives.  And since they are inherently disturbed there is no and will be no end to microaggressions.  They will always be able to build a new, more powerful electron microscope enabling them to see how offensive the world is.  Building a better microscope is not building a better life; not for the offended, who become more and more over sensitized, and not for the offenders who become more and more paralyzed.  We need a better answer than a label.  We need to bring an end to being offended altogether; if we don’t we will all become jerks.

The way to get rid of jerks is to ignore them.  We used to know this.  We also used to know that giving the time of day to a jerk was the pathway to becoming a jerk ourselves.  Sticks and stones really were the things we needed to worry about, not names.  Names could never hurt us.  But we lost our name.  This is the inevitable consequence of a godless world.  By godless I am not railing like the church lady against the prevalence of “sin.”  I really mean the absence of god.  The more we exclude god from our collective consciousness, the more we lose our identities.  Or I should say, the more we reject god and all the existence of god implies, the more we must become the creators of our own identity – we must make names for ourselves.  We lose the sense of givenness and begin the struggle for self-definition.  The reason the sight of a confederate flag became intolerable last year wasn’t because we’ve grown more as a people, it is because we’ve shrunk.  Our identities are not strong enough to minimize that symbol to fit snugly in the dustbin of history where it belongs.  Now we must be protected from a flag.  Our name is too small to handle it.

What would happen if all of us became acutely aware of an identity that was so real and so permanent and so good that no words flung at us could stick to us and no deeds aimed at making us feel small could put a dent in us??  And what if no one could take away that name?  That would be cool.  That would mean we could not be offended any more by anyone.  How could we be?  Our good and higher name would immediately squash the lesser names.  Our good and higher identity would crush the acts of the bullies and leave them impotent.  The answer to microaggression is to have a name.  We have to quit being jerked around by every name that comes our way; by every deed that seems to minimize our personality.  If only we had someone who would give us this kind of name.  If only someone could reach high enough to make this true.  If only we had a god who would do this for us… If only.


Microaggression in an Aggressive World

While we have debates and seminars and create safe spaces for victims of microaggressions it seems few liberals want to discuss the real and increasing use of naked aggression all over a world in which safe space shrinks daily.  The educated and elites spend hours discerning how many offenses can dance on the head of one phrase that commoners have used for ages.  Steve Martin is twitter shamed into deleting a comment on the (actual) physical beauty of Carrie Fisher because it supposedly dishonors the memory of an intelligent, strong-willed woman who also just happened to blatantly use geeky sexuality to sell movies.  Meanwhile a woman in Saudi Arabia was arrested and receives death threats for “disrobing” in public by “gasp” removing her hijab and showingarrogance-aggression-and-assertiveness her face.  The Saudi government is demanding “maximum punishment, and you can be sure they will get it from their misogynistic courts.  Somewhere on a college campus a gay coed is distressed and needs a trip to a stress free zone because they saw another student wearing a Trump red Make America Great Again hat.  In Iraq wherever ISIS occupies territory gay men are gleefully thrown from the roofs of tall buildings, and if the “moderate” Muslims displace the radical killers, gay people can look forward to being stoned instead of falling to their deaths.

There is no such thing as microaggression.  It is a figment of the tiny liberal ego which has so little internal substance that everything it encounters feels like it weighs 100 times the earth’s normal gravity.  Aggression is real.  Hatred is real.  Evil is real.  People who are worried about their delicate constitutions do not turn back real aggression, they invite it.  Real evil has a very keen sense of weakness, especially that kind of weakness that is currently on display in our society which is paralyzing itself over trivialities and trying to screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-12-34-55-pmfind comfort in thumb sucking.  Hitler had the discernment to see it in the Europeans of his day and now the Hitler with a thousand heads discerns it in the Europeans of this day.  Hitler was stopped by a nation slapped out of its comfortable slumber and into action by the brutality of real evil.  Evil ceased to be debated by classroom existentialists and snowflakes and became an existential threat that necessitated real and aggressive action.  We have yet to see if this nation has been slapped into action or just slapped silly. Trump’s election is a good sign that it is the former rather than the latter.

Trump and the NOC List

Trump will be attacked over the Non-Official Cover List.  This will be another attempt to delegitimize him as an incompetent person, unable to be trusted with the nation’s secrets. The effort will come from within the CIA and will involve a rehash of the hack job carried out on the George W. Bush administration when Valerie Plame, a publicly known CIA agent, claimed her identity was leaked to the press by a member of the administration. I am writing and predicting this on the 18th of Dec 2016.

Who Killed the NFL?

I know a lot of people blame a third-rate second string quarterback taking a knee in San Francisco for the loss in popularity of the National Football League, but it was a hall of fame super star quarterback’s bent knee that really did the deed.  It was the first game of the 2008 campaign and Brady got hit while throwing a pass.  A defender tried to tackle him while a running back tried to block the defensive player.  Back then the owners of NFL teams tried to field the best teams they could.  They owned teams and players.  They paid the best price they could afford for a quarterback to play the game of football.  Back then quarterbacks dropped back and tried to throw complete passes, blockers tried to stop defensive players from hitting the quarterback, and linebackers tried to hit quarterbacks to keep them from completing passes.  Every body tried to do their job…that sound familiar to you Patriot fans??  But then Brady got hit.   You can take a look at the play for yourself.  Personally I hate watching replays of injuries.  It reminds my body about old aches and pains.

The play is awkward.  In spite of the commentary of the always over dramatic Dan Dierdorf who says Brady took “a tremendous shot” to the knee, it was really just a freak play.  It wasn’t too different from the Lawrence Taylor – Joe Theismann leg breaker.  It was angles and forces and bodies intersecting in a game of controlled violence.  And, just like the LT – Theismann play, there was no penalty on the field and no fine levied against the player who applied the hit.

But something happened on the way to the Emergency Room.  All of a sudden it dawned on the owners that one of the stars of the league was going to be out for the season, and that concerned them.  Were people going to watch NFL games if there were no stars?celebration-flag-master675  Wasn’t Brady’s absence going to cause a fall in ratings?  Shouldn’t they do something to protect their product?  So….the NFL competition committee decided to do something about it.  They instituted a new rule, the Brady rule that basically said you couldn’t do what the defender did when he hit Tom Brady’s knee.

What you need to know about the competition committee is that they meet every year to discuss the rules of the game and other issues impacting how the game is played.  It is made up of a collection of owners, general managers and head coaches of NFL teams, not players and not fans of the game or people who watch the games for entertainment.  All the people on the competition committee earn their living from the game of football as it is played in the National Football League.  You understand what that means?  It means people who are protecting their bank accounts are deciding what the game of football is and what it isn’t.  You have to think about that for a while before you begin to understand why the NFL is dead on its feet.  And it is dead.  They should have paid attention to NASCAR which is another dead sport.

All you need to do is catch a wide angle camera shot of the stands at a NASCAR race these days and you’ll see thousands of empty seats in racing venues that were selling out not long ago.  NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing began its decline when it decided to implement rules that would make racing more safe and competitive.  They stopped being stock cars (in other words cars outfitted with gear that technically anyone could buy and put in their personal (stock) car) and morphed into sheet metal shells full of high tech custom built mechanical gear.  The rules and procedures they adopted meant the cars were faux stock cars and the races were no longer decided by drivers, they were decided by back room big shots, NASCAR officials and their version of referees making calls on race day.  It is boring and frustrating to watch and the outcome is determined by things fans aren’t interested in.  NASCAR used to be exciting to watch because it was a real competition, now it is an exercise in technical details and sometimes the most interesting thing that happens is that someone gets caught cheating by bending a fender in a quarter of an inch to get a mechanical advantage over the other teams.  And even when that happens NASCAR doesn’t do anything dramatic like taking their race result completely away from them.

The NFL died the day they decided a player was more important than the game.  Brady is a great quarterback and will be in the Hall of Fame – and I hate the Patriots but you gotta give them their due – but he is not the game of football.  When he started to get up from getting popped by a good solid hit and throwing his arms up in the air in the motion of throwing a flag, the game started to disgust me.  Terry Bradshaw would never have thought of doing that (another team and quarterback I hated).  The Brady rule was just the start.  If the quarterbacks were so important, how could they be the stars they needed to be without receivers to catch their passes thrown from the bubble of untouchability?  Receivers had to be protected too.  So we got the “defenseless player” rule to keep them from getting popped too hard.  And if a quarterback’s knees are important, surely his head screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-7-47-55-amis more important so we got the “can’t touch a quarterback’s head area rule.  The game is ruined now and people are trying to figure out why no one is watching.  It is true that while all the rule changes were happening the sports media decided to become social commentators (thank you so much Bob Costas et al) and players did really stupid things off the field (thank you so much Ray Rice et al) and then came the socially aware protests (thank you so much Colin Kaepernick et al), but all those things proceeded out of a weakened structure.  You add in the truly ridiculous replay rules and questions about how many receivers can dance on the head of a pin and the zebras running around having coffee conferences during games and not only is it boring, it is unintelligible.  What is a legal hit and what isn’t?  What is a pass reception and what isn’t?  What is a fumble and what isn’t?  Who can get hit in the head and who can’t?  (that’s a good question to ask Cam Newton and Tom Brady at a presser) Is a touchdown a touchdown if you can’t see the football in a pile of 250 lb men?  Once the game became so diluted that the average fan can’t understand it and they can understand that some egg head with a lot of money is running the show, the game is dead to them.  The NFL committed suicide but its taking a long time to die.  I guess that’s what happens when you bleed out from a gun shot to the knee.

The Americans and How to Stop Being Afraid

Elizabeth: “You know what I wish, as I fall asleep every night? That I’ll wake up and not be worried.”
Phillip: “About what?”
Elizabeth: “Everything.”
Phillip: “You can’t live like that.”
Elizabeth: “Show me another way.”
from The Americans – conversation between two deep cover KGB spies living double lives in America.

Most of us aren’t living double lives like the spies in The Americans. Well, at least we aren’t doing it on purpose. But we do worry a lot. The spies are worried about getting caught; getting exposed for being something they are not. They are always looking at every person and every situation from a posture of threatening their existence. We are worried about…about what? What are you afraid of? The money running out? The kids going off the rails? Your health going down the drain? We look at things threatening us too. What if the economy tears away our livelihood or age or disease steals our health or bad people turn our children into bad people? How will we survive if that happens?? Spies develop elaborate cover stories and engage in activities intended to keep their secrets safe. In The the_americans-1Americans the two main spies have gone so far as to have two children together to make their fake marriage appear real. The children don’t even know they are pawns in international espionage. We have our own cover stories though. We build elaborate defenses to keep us safe and happy. We build financial walls. We pursue education or skills we think will keep us valuable. Some of us do have children because we want to feel our lives are meaningful. The thing you fear the worst will be very close to the thing you believe you can’t live without. And you may go to bed worrying about it on a regular basis.

Worry is strangling in slow motion. Worry will not make you better at your job. Fear will not improve your parenting skills or make you a better lover. It will choke friendships and marriages and keep families from fulfilling their highest goals. It will chain you to places and jobs and people you should leave behind. Fear needs to be ruthlessly eliminated from our lives if we are going to live well.

There is only one solution for getting rid of worry and fear, and it is counterintuitive. The way to defeat our fear is to embrace a higher fear; we must have a huge fear to defeat our little fears. The Bible teaches this. Our fear of everything else is supposed to be swallowed up in the fear of God. We are not supposed to deny the fears one by one. They exist. They are real. Some of our worst fears are going to come true. We don’t deny these things; we deflect them with our fear of God. How does this work? What is fear? It is a focus uponscreen-shot-2016-12-03-at-11-11-42-am some object. It is something we must reflect upon in relation to our lives. If you are afraid of clowns and I tell you there is a clown in your living room, what are you going to do? Stay away from the living room! You’ll go out of your way to avoid that room. Fear is a reference point. Remember what I said about the spies – everything in every situation had to be looked at in relation to their lies and blowing their cover. A new man in the corner cafe reading a newspaper could be the FBI or the CIA staking them out. No rest for them, ever. If you keep your reference point on your bank account, your marriage, or your children, you will be afraid for those things all the time. If you move your reference point to God, you have only him to fear. What is higher than God?

OK – I admit there is a hole in this method of getting rid of fear. If we move our reference point onto God, we also have moved our fear to the person with the greatest potential to destroy our lives. No one has more knowledge or power than God. No one could do more damage. Not only that, how do we know what our relationship is with God? If we are going to reposition everything relative to God, we have to know how that works. How do we know what He thinks of us? How do we know its safe? How do we know that fearing God is any different than fearing anything else? Because of the gospel, we can answer those questions. In the gospel fear is actually turned inside out. Whereas all the other fears (reference points) cause us to build defenses in order to keep the fearful things away, the fear of God lets us take down all the walls. Why? Because the One who had all the knowledge and all the power took all his knowledge and all his power and bent it down to help us, not to destroy us or condemn us. This is the Christian gospel – the good news – and it is either true or it is not. If God did what the Bible says he did for us, we can be sure that none of the things we fear outside of him are fatal to us. Paul sums it up in his letter to the Roman Christians: if God is for us, who can be against us?

So I will show you another way. Believe the gospel. Believe God was and is willing to give up everything to have a relationship with you that is based on love not effort. This is what Christians call being “saved” or being “born again.” Either way, it is a completely different way to live that deals with our fears without denying or suppressing them.