I Hate That
Click bait, surely. But I don’t know how else to describe what happened.
I have two babies right now. A- is 2.5 and J- is 11 months. When A- was younger, I wanted to get her the classic shape sorter game/activity.
If you don’t know, they have many versions these days. The old red and blue one with yellow pieces is retro.
The one I decided upon is a blue dome with a knob or button thing on top that rotates the top half. So the shapes change each time the knob is depressed. A square/cube area becomes a top half triangle, bottom half cube. And the oval piece changes to top half concave thing, bottom half oval. You get the picture.
Anyhow, my wife and I have been embattled for some time now. (Not ever going to go into details here, sorry.) Almost every conversation becomes an argument. Well, I get on the floor with the babies tonight and start to play. I have been working a ton of late and this is a rare event these days.
I see my wife helping J- to put the cube in the cube space.
Good, I think.
Then I see her encouraging him to put in a wrong piece that happens to fit sideways into that same hole, but is clearly (by markings on the pieces themselves) not meant for that spot.
“That doesn’t fit there,” I exclaim, as if I believed the LORD could actually prevent J- from becoming Special Needs at this point.
“Yes it does,” my wife responds.
“What?” I ask, dumbfounded. “It may fit, but you don’t train the baby to put it there. The entire point is the right piece to the right spot.”
“Are you sure?? Because it seems like you just told me that ‘it fits’, even though it doesn’t?”
With Metallica’s new album and tour announcements, I have been mentioning to a coworker that I may text him some songs as he is uninitiated. I haven’t yet. It’s actually a daunting task to share something so intimate.
As I wait and consider songs, I found myself listening to the radio today, and a perfectly poetic—in the “eternally powerful” sense of the word—rock song came on. It’s main lyric is, “I hate everything about you/why do I love you?”
This got me thinking. I know exactly what he means. Not because I hate everything about my wife, but because it’s a killer lyric. Here’s my attempt at a killer lyric.
I want my wife to think/She never thinks anymore
I hate that my wife won’t think/When she does think, I have seen good results—like with most people/I think
Why won’t she think?
Teaching our son the wrong way to do the game is tantamount to abuse
Abuse/Not because the game matters—though it does
Abuse/But because other kids (her son for example) didn’t or don’t have games
Abuse/Because it’s a complete waste of an opportunity
Abuse/And I hate that
I Believe I Speak for All of Us
I believe I speak for all of us when I say, “Sorry, but you’re wrong, Mr. US Official. This is like Top Gun. Shoot it down.”
How do I know we’re right?
First, I became a US military pilot because of Top Gun.
Second, anytime a representative of China speaks, they are lying.
Third, on the topic of espionage, anytime any government official from any nation, even our great USA, speaks, they are lying.
Fourth, what great patriots they would be who sacrificed their lives to the falling debris.
Fifth, instincts have a role in decision making. And we all have an instinct that the puny Chinese believe they’d win if they fought us. We have an opportunity here. I’m talking send up a B actor or X Games “has been” with an Air Soft to bring it down. Doesn’t anyone desire glory anymore?
In any case, I repeat, I believe I speak for all of us when I say, “Sorry, but you’re wrong, Mr. US Official. This is like Top Gun. Shoot it down.”
On the Relationship Between Motivational Speaking and Biblical Interpretation
At any point where motivational speaking and the teachings of Scripture reveal discordance, it is one’s interpretation of the Bible that needs adjustment.
Youth sports again being the catalyst (pretty low point in marriage too), I have found myself re-visiting some motivational speaking to help orient my thoughts and perspective. And I have to say that I love it.
For most of my life I’ve always wanted to hear what folks had to say about how motivational speaking relates to the Bible. As far as I had seen and experienced, whatever the actual content of the Bible, many Christians “let go and let God.” The trouble with this is that motivational speakers are out there getting results for people. And oftentimes, they use Scripture—sometimes even in context—to get the job done. So what gives? Or, more to the point, I wondered, “What do real theologians do with motivational speaking and the Bible?”
I still don’t know.
But I know my Bible today more than I ever did in the past and more than most and I know what I think.
I think that at any point where motivational speaking and the teachings of Scripture reveal discordance, it is one’s interpretation of the Bible that needs adjustment.
3 Reasons Youth Basketball Is Better Than Church
I am kinda the last Boy Scout. I am definitely one of the last pilots of the last male-only squadron of the USAF. And I think my generation was the last one which didn’t turn youth sports into the all-consuming beast that it is.
I’ve mentioned how easily my own 12 year old went from 2 practices a week and five tournaments in 12 weeks, to Mon-Fri practices/games, in addition to the 5 weekend tournaments. It’s been crazy.
I’ve also mentioned how my attempts to join a church have been actively rebuffed. One church’s staff member actually told me I could watch but not speak at their Wednesday night youth service. Another church’s head deacon invited me to coffee to suggest now isn’t the time to join his church.
Keep in mind that I have a “Graduate Certificate In Biblical Studies” which means that I certainly care and also that I certainly have studied the Bible and Christian History (history and philosophy in general too) more than any rural Christian member (or Pastor) ever could dream to have. (Only slight hyperbole.)
I have done light internet research into the topic, “Youth Sports are better than church” and the only or main results are articles written by Christians which offer tips on how to navigate the two worlds.
That said, it’s time someone tell the truth.
Here are three reasons youth basketball is better than church.
1. Basketball is fun.
Attend any youth or children’s activity at a protestant Christian church and you’ll find adults trying to make said activity fun. Well, with basketball, it is fun.
2. Basketball, win or lose, instills youths with desirable life skills.
Attend any youth or children’s activity at a protestant Christian church and you’ll find adults trying to persuade kids that the Bible has eternal life skills within it. Well, with basketball, life skills (perseverance, growth, not to mention hand-eye coordination) appear like wetness with water. No advocate needed.
3. Basketball games provide a perfectly indirect (safe) way to make new friends, both for kids and parents (me).
Attend any youth or children’s activity at a protestant church and you will not find parents. If any parents are there, they are too occupied to talk, what with making speeches to kids that church is fun, and that church will endow them with life skills.
Put simply, as a Christian man and parent, now that I’m involved, honestly, I am not afraid to report that youth basketball is better than church. Sometimes the games are on Sundays. Sometimes not. I’m not recanting my faith; Jesus Christ is Lord forever and ever and ever. Glory. Hallelujah. Amen.
But I won’t ever feel guilty for recognizing that basketball is the better activity for my kids and I and skipping church.
I’m Twelve. And I Believe Exile is Worse than Death.
My wife responds to my news, with barefaced contempt, “Because he’s black?”
“No. I didn’t say he brought the gun to school because ‘he’s black’. He did it because he’s stupid,” I clarified. “The reason I said he is black is because your son thinks all things black are right and cool, which itself is stupid, but the main point is I want to know what your son, A-, has told you about it. Because it is important that he agrees with me that this kid did something truly stupid.”
“He told me it was stupid.”
“Really?” I wondered, in blunt disbelief.
“Hey. How come you didn’t tell me about W- bringing the gun to school?” I asked A- nonchalantly as we drove home from school ball.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what do you think?”
“I don’t understand why he would be expelled for bringing it.”
“Did you mention it to your mom?”
“On Monday I told her about it, but I thought it was a toy gun then.”
“Did you ever use the word ‘stupid’?”
“I may have said that I thought it was stupid that he was in so much trouble.”
“Okay,” I said. (I knew the boy would not react, ‘W- did something stupid.’ Check.) Then I took a father’s breath. “Here’s the thing. The most famous school shooting happened when I was a senior in high school. That’s over twenty years ago. And they have been happening regularly since then. For someone to bring any kind of gun to school at this point is absolutely, totally, and irredeemably stupid. Understand? Guns destroy. School, in theory, is about creation. The two will never mix. He was stupid. Or his decision was stupid. I don’t really know him.”
“Well,” I answered my own 12 year old, H-, that night on FaceTime, “one of A-’s teammates brought, like, a bb gun to school. He’s probably gonna be expelled. So that’s causing some drama amongst the kids.”
“Why is this shocking?”
“I can see suspended, but expelled? From the entire district?”
Drawing enough air to fill a sermon, “Guns kill people. Kids have been killing people in schools for twenty years now. What are we even debating, my daughter? So what if the kid has to go to another school. His parents maybe should be forced to move and try to live another way somewhere else. What they’re doing so far has failed. No person alive can suggest that ‘they didn’t know’ to NOT bring a weapon to school. How are we even talking about this, H-?”
“Tell me that your father thinks it is absolutely stupid to bring a gun to school and that it is absolutely fair to expel a kid who does.”
“-No, say, ‘my father’,”
Oh, the glare.
“My father thinks it is stupid to bring a gun to school and fair to expel anyone who does.”
Please, dear reader, lament with me. You already know how much I loathe public school. To hear that both my not-so-bright step-son and my I’d-like-to-believe-has-paid-attention-at-least-once-in-while daughter believe that expulsion or exile from the community is worse than being killed by a school shooter only feeds the fire.
Education is supposed to liberate, not indoctrinate. It’s supposed to turn the brain on, not off. Create, not conform.
Choose life, kids. Especially if it means alone.
People are stupid.
Our Little Exvangelical
Of all the annoying words that unfortunately carry usefully definite meaning, I have to say “exvangelical” is my least favorite. But I just listened to the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast and so it is now in my lexicon.
In any case, this is a word which upon one hearing the meaning is clear. Or rather, in one use we can tell what it does not mean. It isn’t denoting apostasy from Christianity, it is just expressing that the tenets of evangelical Christianity are too much too bear.
Well, tonight I discovered the exvangelical roll has an additional name.
My step-son, A-, is twelve, as I have mentioned. That’s seventh grade.
He is playing traveling basketball, which here in rural Minnesota is not quite insane or indicative of his abilities or desires. It’s just what they call the most base level of youth basketball. Two practices a week. A few three-game tournaments.
Traveling basketball as a term is also useful because, we have learned, there is another kind of youth basketball being played in the winter months—school ball.
Long story short, since hearing that there is such a thing as school ball, A- is now practicing or playing basketball 6 days a week. What can I say? Basketball is something A- enjoys. I’d rather see him do something he enjoys than yell at him for being (fill in the blank with undesirable qualities) all day and night.
For my part, too, I have been fascinated at comparing my youth basketball experience with my local church experience.
Remember my, “Guests cannot speak. Not even me.” post? That was church world. Now, in youth sports, as of a few weeks ago, I am coach of the B Team.
Why did they let me? What are my qualifications? Did I go to the equivalent of seminary for basketball, you may ask?
I simply had to display interest and availability.
Next thing I knew, I was choosing tournaments and directing where the money should be sent.
Back to our little (and new) exvangelical.
Tonight at dinner, keep in mind it is Wednesday night, I said to A-, are we still aiming to make YTH tonight? (Out loud you would’ve heard “youth”, but the trendy multi-site Assemblies church calls it YTH.)
“Oh,” he says sheepishly. “I kinda forgot about that.”
I then said, chuckling, “Well, now you know what it feels like for every other Christian in America.”
The LORD’s Air Traffic Control
This morning I found myself wondering an uncommon question.
“Just when is the sun coming up?”
I left the house at 5:30 with the aim to arrive in Wisconsin around 8. The “wintry mix” that had fallen all night proved to be more ice than mix, and traffic was slow. I figured I’d be safe because I’d only be in the dark for the first hour of my ride as surely BMNT (beginning of morning nautical twilight) would happen around 0630.
“My calculations must be off,” I finally conceded.
It hit me that BMCT is what matters when driving (civil twilight—sun at 6 degrees below horizon, not the 12 of nautical twilight).
No problem. But even at 7am, there was still no sign of our nearest star, and quite a bit more roadway to go than I could squeeze into one hour.
Then it happened as it always does—suddenly.
Suddenly, dawn made her appearance.
A few minutes later, the true miracles occurred.
Miracle Number 1: I saw a headless bird eating road kill.
“Wait-a-minute!! That’s no headless bird, that’s a BALD EAGLE! And it’s so close!”
Zoom. I passed within feet of him.
“And to think I saw him in Wisconsin USA,” I further thought to myself.
I mean, seeing a bald eagle is one thing, but seeing one in the great state of Wisconsin, USA elevates the experience well into the clouds, if not all the way to the heavens.
Next, it happened again.
Miracle Number 2: I looked and saw a bald eagle on the tippy top of a leafless tree. His chest was as broad as the Rocky Mountains.
Unlike last sighting from a few posts back, we’ll call that one The Sentinel, this treetop eagle had the pleasure of directing traffic.
Upon entering Wisconsin, I observed that the wintry mix had stopped at the state line and now there were only enormous snow flakes. Enormous snow flakes in need of some direction. And I was staring at the divinely appointed tower controller as he was directing traffic.
“Cleared for landing, Uniform Sierra Foxtrot.”
“Yes, sir. Come on down.”
“Wonderful flare, way to go!”
“Last calling, you’re number two for that branch on your right, keep your speed up, I’ve got two more behind ya.”
“Sierra Foxtrot Heavy, I’ve got a spot for you on the virgin mantle two hundred yards from centerline.”
And on and on he went. It was like listening to the soothing crackle of George Washington’s torch as it illuminated the unimaginable freedom just on the other side of the darkness.
I haven’t been shy in lamenting some recent marriage and family woes to you.
Today, I want to counter this and slightly elevate the conversation.
Back in 2019, as I took my step-son under my wing, you might say I went a bit overboard in used book buying.
eBay and I were quick friends and used book sets were my specialty. I bought the Children’s Book of Knowledge set, and all 10 annuals. (That’s thirty books.) I bought the Journey’s Through Bookland 10 volume set. And I even found a three volume Family Treasury of Children’s Classics set.
(That’s 43 books—he was 10.)
Anyhow, as my daughter, A-, who is now 2.5 yrs old, arrived, I began doing what I do, which is reading aloud from these classics.
The first volume of the Family Treasury opens with all—and I mean it is the actual collection—of classic nursery rhymes that we all struggle to find in Barnes and Noble’s.
A- is at the age when she is starting to talk and use multi-word phrases. Because I have a knack for these things, I began to test her the other day.
“Mary had a little-”
“AM” she concluded.
“Its fleece was white as-”
“NOOO!” she roared laughing.
Most of you have done similar and we should rightly be applauded.
The other day I came in from a long day of driving. My wife and step-son who, generally speaking, are opposed to learning are sneaking a quick movie since I wasn’t around to stop them.
Mission Impossible III is on the screen. One of my favorites.
I head to bed. I’m tired and not in the mood to point out that my step-son is still not ready for such a film.
The next day, my wife says to me out of the blue, “I didn’t ever know that’s why he said Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.”
To your ears, you probably would’ve heard her thick accent, and it’s very likely she didn’t even say what I wrote. But that’s what she meant.
Despite my having understanding of her meaning—regardless her actual words—I still had no clue what she was talking about.
“Huh?” I asked.
“What?” she asked.
“You said something about him saying Humpty Dumpty?”
Now at this moment in recent conversations, she will look at me and using all her feminine intuition do her best to determine whether I’m in earnest or whether I’m mocking her and usually conclude the latter by saying, “Never mind.”
But this time she said it again.
I still honestly had no idea what she was talking about. Like the Bible, she was not giving me to the antecedents I needed. Who was “he”, I wondered?
She finally said something that made me realize she was talking about the movie and then I recalled the scene was TC drops off the wall as a priest.
“Oh, you’re telling me that in the movie last night you finally understood why he said the Humpty Dumpty line, because A- says it all the time in our reading. Is that what you meant?”
Keep in mind the relationship is still on edge.
I then say, “That’s what happens to everyone the more we read, Mistiye (or “Mee-stee-yay” which is the phonetic spelling of the Amharic (one Ethiopian language’s) word for “my wife”). Every new book adds to every other book. Reading makes everything better. That’s why I am always telling you to do it.”
A normal husband would stop there, probably acknowledging he had gone too far already.
“That’s what school did to the Bible for me. When I hear Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, which has the infamous ‘For God so loved the world’ line, I can no longer NOT hear the book of Numbers. I can’t even see how it means anything unless it is involved in what Numbers says.”
The question for you, dear reader, is what precisely happened to my wife in the Humpty Dumpty MI:3 moment? She didn’t get wiser. She didn’t get smarter. It wasn’t an increase in her knowledge. What was it?
So What That She Was Wrong?
So what that she was wrong? So what? She’s two and a half. How many times is little A- gonna be right at such a tender age?
Here’s how it started. A big winter storm was forecast to roll through over the night. (She couldn’t have known this, obviously.)
Then, this morning, as I surveyed the damage, I noticed it wasn’t quite as much snow as I feared, but I also knew more was on the way.
During breakfast, a certain sound, a bit like crackling, began as I monitored A-’s progress through her bowl of oatmeal and strawberries.
Focus in here: I wanted to test her meteorological knowledge. You see, she’s been the daughter of a pilot her entire life and school is always in session.
So I asked, casually, “What is that sound, A-?”
Simple enough question, right?
Apparently she hasn’t kept up her studies over winter break.
After turning towards the window, “Water?” was all that she could guess.
Much like you, when I heard this answer I naturally thought, “Wrong!”
To bring out the lesson, I got my phone, opened up ForeFlight, and read off the current METAR for the nearby airport, here redacted for national security purposes.
031415Z AUTO 01011G16KT 2 1/2SM UP OVC008 M03/M04 A2968 RMK A02
Obviously the only important part, the part she had neglected in her studies of late, was understanding just how broad a category “UP” was.
Sure, there is a certain sense in which precipitation of an unknown type and water are synonymous. But she was supposed to know the answer verbatim. Ver. Batim.
Maybe I’m being too hard on her. I don’t know.
So what that she was wrong? At least she heard the question. At least she considered it and gave an answer that reflected as much.
Vomit, A Joint Review of Triangle of Sadness and Ticket to Paradise
As I resumed Triangle last night, it happened to be at a scene when the seas were angry, dinner was served, and the passengers were beginning to vomit all over the place.
Apparently, my wife had said she was, in fact, not working last night, and next thing I know she is awkwardly standing in the room wondering what in the world I’m watching and why I am suppressing glee.
This holiday season has to be one of the worst of my life. Other’s have likely had worse moments, but on the whole, this one has been the worst. Stuff is just going poorly.
So I say, “Oh. Well, I don’t have to finish this. We can pick something else.”
She sits down and we begin the chore of scrolling.
I had in mind the new George Clooney rom-com, but said nothing.
After a good fifteen minutes and one false-start, she said, “There’s a new Julia Roberts-”
“-I was actually thinking the same thing.”
So I finally find it and we press play.
(Keep in mind, our relationship is at a low, and the film is about a divorced couple about to fall back in love.)
Within minutes, the law-degreed-college-graduate daughter—on a trip prior to starting a career as a lawyer—is lamenting to a random pool boy in some shit-hole country that she has to continue on the law path otherwise she’ll disappoint her…her…her parents.
That’s when I vomited. In my mind. And went to bed. Alone.