Saturday, December 31, 2011

On Starting Over

This is, as I'm sure you've become aware, the last day of 2011. This is not a trivial thing...rather, it is an opportunity to look back at where we have come from, to look forward at where we hope to go, and to consider where we are in this moment. This past year has been nothing like what I expected before the calendar turned. In the past twelve months I have graduated from college, moved to a new city, started a new job. I discovered new passions, gained and lost relationships, and tore a ligament in my knee. Even this blog has changed...I began it as a way to express myself to myself, without any intention of other people reading it. That didn't last 2011, this blog was viewed more than 11,000 times by more than 8,500 different people, one of whom invited me to publish an article with his magazine.

If you had told me a year ago that I would lose my most important relationship or that I would be questioning my calling in life, I would have probably blinked twice and imagined that I would be miserable by the time 2012 rolled around. Thankfully, that isn't the case. And that's the amazing thing about matter what you plan for, you'll always get something different. And even though it's different, it's still good. Maybe even better. I may not have found my soulmate or my dream job in the last year, but I've found new friendships and gained a new home. I have much to learn, but I've learned more than I could have ever imagined in the last year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Blessing Machine

In my last post, I mentioned the idea that truth is truth regardless of who says it and why, an idea which is quite powerful and carries some significant implications for how I approach the world. This relates quite strongly to another characteristic of truth which I rediscovered tonight: when you stumble upon truth, whether by design or by accident, it will punch you in the face. By this I mean that when you happen upon truth, you won't be able to miss it or ignore it. Truth has this funny habit of making itself known.

One of the topics I've written on again and again in this space is my consistent frustration with what the word Christianity means in the 21st Century, and with what church has become in this era. I'm sure you've read and heard and witnessed many of the same things that I have...churches condemning the entirety of the gay community in a debate over what the word marriage means, religious leaders acting as though Jesus wants us to vote for one political party over another, and so on. I don't want to bore you with examples. Available by request, I'll say.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Religion for Losers

I don't often write in this space about God or my faith, at least in a personal way. Not because I am ashamed of it or it doesn't exist, though you might not be able to tell from my recurring criticisms of religion and church and so on. Rather, I choose not to write about the personal aspects of my faith because I know there are many other voices with more and better things to say about who God is and what it means to follow Jesus. That isn't what I'm here to do. I don't want to muddle the conversation by entering it as if I were some kind of expert, when admittedly I am not. All that being said, something came up at my church on Sunday which I feel the need to dive into a little bit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


This morning I visited a new church in my search for a new community, a new place to call home. It was what you might call a coffee church, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the people I met. Even better, the pastor spoke on something I've been thinking about a lot lately: the fact that if we truly believe what we claim to believe, we must step out into the communities around us and make an impact. If we're not making an impact on the people and places around us, we're simply not living the way we're meant to live.

Unfortunately, figuring out exactly what this means is far more difficult than I ever used to imagine, at least at first glance. If it is our purpose to give, to serve and to love those around us, how do we discern and respond to that calling? No two people are called in precisely the same way, just as no two parents will ever agree on whose child is more special. To think and to act otherwise is simply an exercise in beating your head against a wall.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


During the last few weeks, I've spent inordinate amount of time reevaluating myself, my passions and my purpose. These things change, you know, as time goes by. The overarching ideas and ideals tend to remain, but the specifics change with the seasons, the environment and the community I find myself in. This isn't to say that any one set of ideals are better than another, but rather a recognition of the fact that things change.

Over time, I've come to learn about my need for a battle to fight, some issue or cause or idea with which to dedicate my time and energy and zeal. Sometimes I forget about this piece of myself and slip into the trap that is complacency, repetition and boredom. I hate these times, especially when I become aware of them, because a life lived in this manner is so antithetical to both the person I am and to the person I hope to be.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trust, And Other Things

I was dangerously close to becoming dangerously cynical only a matter of days ago. To be fair, I've always been a very skeptical person, bordering cynicism in some cases. Asking questions and challenging assumptions are things I do on a regular basis, and this can sometimes lead to serious bouts with cynicism. But at the same time, I've also been someone who more often than not gives people the benefit of the doubt and trusts others more than I probably should. I've often been afraid that this willingness to trust would come back to bite me. And it did. And I quickly began to doubt everything.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming Clean

I've never been to Africa.

There, I said it. Not that I'm ashamed of it. In fact, I'm actually rather proud of it. (Proud might not be the best word, but its the best word I can think of for anti-shame. Satisfied, maybe? I'm sure you know what I mean.) I bring this up because of a question I was asked recently by someone interested in many of the same things I am, if not more so.

Let me provide a little bit of context. In April, I wrote a piece arguing that TOMS shoes and the perpetual phenomenon of in-kind donations are more harmful than they are helpful, and are ideas that the giving community should seriously reconsider. There's a lot more to it than that, but you can read the piece yourself if you're interested. Through a series of events and links and whatnot, that post exploded (both relatively and metaphorically speaking). In mid-July, I was approached by the editor of a soon-to-be-launched magazine focusing on localized innovation throughout the world who thought that my piece would be a good fit for the magazine.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Le Sigh

I was hunting around tumblr earlier today looking for something when I stumbled upon the post shown above. It is both telling and painful to read, on many levels. If you'll indulge me...

1. The girl wants to buy TOMS...obviously, I am not the biggest fan of this sentiment. Moving on...

2. Apparently everyone already has them. Well that's just unfortunate.

3. Since everyone has them already, the girl apparently feels the need to purchase the most expensive pair she can find in an effort to remain somewhat unique within this perpetually popular fad. I thought the point was to help kids, right? Or maybe it's still materialism after all.

4. Emoticons. My nemesis.

But hey, to each their own, I guess.

And so on...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Epitome of Bachmann

I know, Michelle, I don't get it either.

Earlier this week, world class rhetorictocrat Michelle Bachmann added to her long list of unachievable promises, baseless statements and shows of ignorance that have littered her campaign thus far. While speaking at a campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday, she made a promise to the crowd in attendence: "Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again. That will happen." On the surface, that sounds great. According to AAA, the current national average for regular gasoline sits at $3.57 per gallon, while diesel fuel is running at $3.88 per gallon. Assuming that she was referring to regular gas, Ms. Bachmann is promising to reduce fuel prices by 44% in order to get gasoline back to late 2008/early 2009 prices.

If you're anything like me, stepping up to the fuel pump and having to brace for paying $50 or more for a tank of gas is not something you look forward to. If I were the type of person who took promises at face value and trusted that politicians would deliver, Ms. Bachmann's promise to cut gas prices nearly in half would be music to my ears. Unfortunately, that's precisely the opposite of how I do things.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Victims in Name Only

Once again, Stewart came through in the clutch. Before I go on, I'd ask that you watch the clip I've embedded below.

I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin'.

You see, a big piece of why I'm so sick of the political atmosphere in this country has to do with the seemingly constant stream of individuals and groups playing the victim card. Honestly, it's like a giant playground where everybody is still in pre-school. But where I come from, nobody likes a tattle tale. I mean, I never would have guessed that people would want to play the victim card. It just doesn't seem to be beneficial.

Whenever I watch the news, I hear about terrible things happening in the world which I as an American am not affected by. Genocide, religious intolerance, racism - these are things I do not have to encounter in my day to day because of the life I was born into. Yet almost constantly I hear rich, powerful, usually white politicians and commentators claiming to be victims simply because someone called them a name or misrepresented their beliefs. It all seems quite over the top to me. I guess what I'm saying is this: conservatives aren't victims; children growing up in war-torn Iraq are. American Christians aren't victims; those giving their lives to living their faith in China are. Sarah Palin isn't a victim; those affected by the tragedy in Norway are. Al Gore isn't a victim, but everyone who had to sit through An Inconvenient Truth is.

Okay, while that last one might be a bit of a stretch, the larger point still stands. It seems like it has become not only acceptable but fashionable to claim victimization in our nation's current political environment. I don't care what your politics are, it happens on both sides of the spectrum. Nancy Pelosi does it, Sheila Jackson-Lee does it, Allen West does it, Fox News does it, and so on. And every time I hear it, it makes me cringe.

I don't expect the victim-claims to go away anytime soon, and I don't expect anyone to ever admit that their rhetoric might have gone a little overboard. That's the America we live in now. But I guess I keep coming back to the fact that even while it seems that our politicians do whatever they can to rub me the wrong way, there is always hope that tomorrow things might start to get better. Will they? Probably not. But I'll always hold onto that hope.

And so on...

Monday, July 4, 2011

At First Glance

Last night I moved into my new apartment. I had been preparing for the move for a while, but to actually do it was exciting and scary and wild all at once. My family and I walked down to the beach at sunset, and we were greeted with one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen; in the moments I spent wondering at the immensity of that sight and the relatively miniscule nature of my own issues, my fears and worries were melted away. God, it turns out, is good.

I haven't had the time to think much, but I have made a number of observations in the short time I've been here.

My apartment is fantastic, couldn't have asked for a better location.
From time to time, the building smells like fresh-baked bread from Jimmy John's; I enjoy this.
If I look out the window, I can see the beach and Lake Michigan.
If I walk outside my building, there are six restaurants, a winery and tons of shops within a block.
This morning, the city parade went right by my window.
During the summer in St. Joseph, it seems that there are only three kinds of people: old, in bikinis, in boardshorts.

More to come.

And so on...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Motives and Outcomes

I spent a little bit of time this morning thinking about the things I have written about in the past, and in the process I began to notice something. Over and over again, the things I have gotten passionate about enough to write about have had a similar theme: the overwhelming importance of outcomes and the (relative) irrelevance of motives.

What I mean by that is this: it seems that in many situations in life and in this world, we give credit or support based solely off of the motives of people involved. If someone has good intentions, often that is enough for us to write them in as good and worth supporting, irregardless of the outcome of their endeavor or pursuit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Change of Scenery

The last few weeks have seemed like a perpetual writer's block for me. Whenever I have tried to sit down at home and write, something always has seemed to come up. I decided this morning that I wanted to do some writing this afternoon, and for the sake of avoiding the distractions which always seem to follow me at home I decided to try a little change of scenery. So here I sit in the library in my hometown, typing away while everybody around me appears engrossed in one book or another.

Oddly enough, this new location has me thinking all about changing scenery. This morning I was (finally) able to lock down an apartment to live in when I move up to Michigan in a few weeks. While I am undoubtedly excited to get that monkey off my back, it also makes more real the fact that the place I have grown up the last many years will no longer be my home.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The End of a Journey

Today perhaps the greatest journey I have traveled thus far in life comes to an end. For the last four years, I have studied and learned and grown and changed, always moving with today in mind, with this end on the horizon. Strangely enough, I never really expected that today would come. Yes, I knew it was a relative certainty. But I also never thought that these four years would go by so quickly. In four years I have formed lasting friendships, traveled the world, developed as both a leader and a learner and grown immensely as a person. If today I met the person who walked into this place in 2007, I wonder if I would even recognize myself.

Spending this time at Our Lady's University has been wonderful, an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my time on this earth. Being able to find a place that becomes home so quickly yet so truly is something I doubt I will ever experience again.

Yet while this path is coming to an end today, another path begins. I am not entirely sure where it leads, but the surprise is half the fun anyway. I don't expect that the next journey I go on will come near to what this one has been, but perhaps it doesn't need to match this one. Regardless, I know now like I did four years ago that there is but one way for me approach this new journey before me:

Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road.

And so on...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some Thoughts

Sometimes I worry that I take life too seriously. Other times I get concerned that I don't take each moment seriously enough. If I take life too seriously I fear that I'll miss out on the lighter side of things, the times when I can be myself and not worry about who is watching. On the other hand, if I don't take life seriously enough I run the risk of missing out on opportunities and possibilities; if I spend my time focused on fun rather than moving forward, I might never make it out of my seat.

It is incredibly important that I find the balance between taking moments seriously or not. A time for everything, as they say.

And so on...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thank You, Pat Robertson...

...for once again validating everything I ever said about you.

How can Christians be taken seriously by the world if the people who claim to speak for us are allowed to spout hateful, ignorant rhetoric over and over again? There are so many problems in this world, so many problems that we have the power to effect and change. And in case you were wondering, gays and lesbians aren't the problem. Liberals aren't the problem. People on welfare aren't the problem. Unfortunately, if you ask Pat Robertson and those who think like him, you will be told that gays and liberals and so on are the problem. I just can't figure out how that fits in with the message of love Jesus spent his time on Earth preaching and teaching. The sooner the Christian community can shed Mr. Robertson as an influential voice, the better.

And so on...

Friday, April 15, 2011

TOMS: A Discussion on Bad Aid

We are a culture fixated on the newest thing. Whether it is the iPad, hybrid cars or some other fad, we grab hold of it in an effort to be "cool" or some other adjective. Perhaps the biggest fad of the last few years has been a five year old footwear company: TOMS shoes. On April 5, TOMS and their supporters came together for the event "One Day Without Shoes", asking people to go barefoot for a day to raise awareness concerning "those people who don't have a choice."

TOMS was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie with the intention of donating one pair of shoes to the poor for every shoe purchased from his company. Since the company was founded, more than 1,000,000 shoes have been donated to children in the United States, Argentina, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa.

TOMS has gained great notoriety and popularity for its socially conscious business model, allowing people to donate to the poor through their own personal consumption. However, as good as the idea sounds, there is one major problem: TOMS is the definition of bad aid. Bad aid refers to any donations, charity or other form of aid which at best do not help its subject in the way it is aimed or at worst are harmful to the recipients. There are a number of reasons why TOMS and similar in-kind donations (non-cash donations - goods and services - which can be given a cash value) are bad aid, and I want to go through them one by one to explain why each is significant. My hope is that by the end of this piece you will reconsider your assumptions concerning aid and how best to help those in need, and maybe look at TOMS with new eyes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Often I find that the most valuable times of my day are the ones spent alone in thought. There is something special and different about time spent in silence, to the extent that productivity and creativity reach their peaks. In times like these, when the events surrounding me are full of questions and suffering, it is especially important to carve time out of the day to spend in silence, alone. Thinking. Wondering. Doubting. Wishing. Those four words describe some of my favorite things to do, things that there is never time enough in the day for.

All that being said, living in silence is the very opposite of our design. We are meant to live in community, surrounded and affected by the people around us. For all of the productivity and "solving the world's problems" which goes along with time spent alone in silence, I am never as complete or happy as I am when with others. Not only do I lose that joy when I am alone, but I begin to lose focus on those around me, a focus which is integral to who I am. With that in mind, I wrote this. I call it Silence. Enjoy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

There Is Always Hope. Always.

The last time it happened I didn't understand. I was sitting in the place I call home, a place that I love, a place full of people I love and love me. I could not understand the level of loneliness and brokenness that must have been. The best way to describe the way I felt is confused. Completely, totally confused. No matter how greatly I tried to understand, I could not. This time is no different. I do not understand, not one bit. Yet to try and understand would be to try and step into a pair of shoes which I have no business trying to stand in. I do not understand, nor should I.

In situations like these I find myself trying to rationalize or justify or explain what just happened. I try to spin it such that I can say to myself and others "don't worry, everything will be okay", even if that simply isn't the case. The thing is, things like this aren't supposed to happen where I come from, to the people I grew up with. It's like being hit by a train when you didn't even know there were tracks nearby. It's shocking and jarring and confusing all at the same time, a crazy mix of emotions that doesn't add up to anything.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stepping Back

As much as I enjoy writing and putting my thoughts to paper, I decided that it would be a good idea to step away for a little while and let my mind decompress. That led to the recent period of silence in this space, silence that was good for me and my own experience. No more explanation is necessary - nor desired, I suspect.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The View & DeSean Jackson

Spurred on by the question of moral absolutes versus moral subjectivism, I want to highlight something we can all agree is absolutely wrong: bullying. And I don't just mean name-calling, although this is certainly included.

Anyway, The View had a young man on the show recently who was the victim of some pretty brutal harassment at the hands of some schoolmates. To their credit, the women of this often ridiculous show did a fantastic job highlighting the story and giving the young man a chance to step up and tell his side of things. Best of all, student is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, and the show arranged for three Eagles players (including his favorite player) to stop by and encourage the young man. DeSean Jackson, you made a fan out of me.

Feel free to watch the video clip below:

And so on...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Jon Stewart Wins At TV

Remember a few posts ago when I called out Tucker Carlson and others for using war metaphor? If you don't, feel free to catch up. No worries. Maybe you instead remember some of the many times I have called out politicians or religious figures for using hateful or derogatory rhetoric about the people they disagree with (here, here, or here, among other examples). Either way, I'm sure I have made clear my distaste for Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, MSNBC and all the rest of the rhetorictocrats (copyright to Xander) which have taken over our televisions, radio stations and news outlets. Partisan hackery should have no place in today's politics, and as such I distance myself from Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Nancy Pelosi, Michael Moore and all the rest who partake in such foolishness.

Because I reject the ideologies of both political parties (and therefore virtually all of cable news), I find myself being drawn toward whatever voice of reason I am able to I've said before, I am all about moderation - the middle ground. What else to I enjoy? Comedy. What would be awesome? Combining the two.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rep. Jim Moran: Seriously?

He looks angry, doesn't he? Anyway, we all know that politicians are prone to say stupid things from time to time. Rinse and repeat, so to speak. Foot-in-mouth is in their nature, and it seems like there is no fixing it. In this edition of Seriously?, I'll introduce you to Representative Jim Moran of Virginia. Mr. Moran is a Democrat, and as such is prone to say stupid things about conservatives, much like Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck and others are prone to do toward the left.

Per Fox News (here), Rep. Moran, in an interview following the State of the Union Address, "blam[ed] his party's losses last November in large part on voters who 'don't want to be governed by an African-American.'" He then compared the current political climate to the one which existed just prior to the Civil War. Wait, seriously?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I have always believed that it is important to have rules to live by - a set of principles that I can fall back on whenever things get hazy or complicated. A core group of ideas which permeate and affect every decision I make. These maxims I have developed slowly over time, morphing and changing and adding to them as time goes on. I decided that it is probably worthwhile to put these maxims to paper, so to speak, so that I might be able to rely on them in a larger fashion. Are they all perfectly formed? No. Do they have flaws? I'm sure. But this is less for an audience and more for my own use. Even so, feel free to read and consider them as you please.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gov. Robert Bentley: Seriously?

Apologies for following up one post with another similar post, but the newly elected governor of Alabama leaves me no choice.

If the governor wants to get into theology, perhaps he should recognize that God is the father of all - Christian or not. To use the prodigal son example, we are all God's children; many have simply strayed from the Father. Non-belief in Jesus doesn't change who your father just prevents you from being an active part of the family.

Regardless of theology, politicians (of both sides) need to stop using inflammatory rhetoric with such regularity. There is no reason for Gov. Bentley take a shot at non-Christians in the way he did; how can an athiest or Muslim or whomever expect him to govern fairly and without bias if he views Christians as better than non-Christians? How do we know that view won't seep over into his policymaking, in a way such that non-Christians are deprived of rights or attacked by his government? You might say that I'm simply looking at this situation as a slippery slope, and that none of this is worth worrying about. The problem is, such a me-versus-them mentality has permeated both our churches and our political offices, and division never brings reconciliation. It only brings suffering. And correct me if I am wrong, but we have had enough suffering lately for quite a while.

And so on...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cindy Jacobs: Seriously?


Politics aside, these are the kinds of people who bug the everlivin' out of me. I should probably just stop, or else another Tucker Carlson-esque post might get written.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Beat Poet

During my semester abroad, I had the pleasure of attending a few poetry slams. Spoken word poetry is one of the most powerful mediums I have experienced, and listening to one talented poet after another was truly an honor and a privilege. The thing about spoken word poetry, like that written and performed by Saul Williams and others, is that it often is meant to stand up to establishment or challenge injustice, speaking truth into the darkness. In short, spoken word poetry is supposed to change the world. At least, that is the intent. But for all the poems and songs and performances that are given by so many talented artists, the world is still broken and we still aren't doing our part to fix it.

With that in mind I wrote this. I call it The Beat Poet.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Art and Artists: Lyricists

There are few things better in life than combining one thing I enjoy with another. For example: root beer and vanilla ice cream, lunar eclipses and Pink Floyd, football and Saturdays. One accentuates the other to the extent that both are enjoyed on a larger scale, often so much so as to illustrate the idea that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Pretty cool.

One of my favorite combinations is of music and profound poetic genius...and while profound might be a bit of a stretch, a song with powerful or beautiful or poignant lyrics will always catch my ear more than one that could be written by a middle schooler. Perhaps this explains my affinity for folk and indie music while maintaining a general dislike of rap and hip hop (yes, I know there are some rappers who are masters of word choice...there are exceptions to every rule).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

So, About Tucker

Lest anyone think I was too hard on poor Mr. Carlson (or not hard enough) in my last submission, I want to follow up with a bit of clarification and expansion of what I previously wrote. Don't worry, I'm not going back on anything I said before. Rather, I want to make sure it is clear where I am coming from.

Recently I have been rereading one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Seemingly every day that I read it, something jumps out at me worth writing about and commenting on in this space. But that would be annoying and you know it, so I refrain. You can thank me later.