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Nothing left to spare

On Monday, July 4, most of the nation’s thoughts were drifting toward our independence, our national heritage, the evening’s fireworks and just how many hot dogs Joey “Jaws” Chestnut would eat in 10 minutes at the annual “Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest” (62, as it turns out).

That morning I awoke in a more or less patriotic mood. To reflect my thankfulness for living in America, I took a few steps to honor my nation: rather than wear my usual black knit shirt and tan shorts to work, I donned a white oxford, tan pants and topped it off with an American flag tie.

Yes, I proudly serve my country- one latte at a time.

After I got in my car and began backing out of the driveway, I noticed something was wrong with the steering. I stopped, got out and looked. Sure enough, I had a flat tire.

Before changing the tire, I removed my shirt and tie. Then, feeling like an old Italian man in my undershirt and long pants, I began the process of taking off the old tire and replacing it with the “donut” spare.

My car has four lug nuts that secure the wheel; three gave me no trouble whatsoever to remove. The fourth, though, didn’t like change and refused to budge. With increasing perspiration, I tugged on it with all my might.

At this point, I no longer felt I resembled an old Italian man; thanks to the freely flowing sweat, I looked the part as well. I probably would have been more at home standing on a balcony, talking with my neighbors, and gesturing profusely with my hands.

After several minutes tugging on the wrench, something began to happen. Filled with hope, I gave one last pull and the lug nut came off.

Along with the stud.

Prior to this, I was mildly annoyed with the situation; after this, I was completely frustrated. Regardless, however, I got the spare attached and continued on my way to work.

All was well until I was halfway there and driving along a stretch of road where I could not pull over. I began to notice a slight vibration in the steering wheel which quickly progressed to active shaking. I continued at a reduced speed until I came to a side street.

I stopped the car and got out to look at the spare. The first thing I did was check the lug nuts; they were tight. Wondering what was wrong I stepped back and saw the problem- the spare was flat. Somehow I managed to get the car to the local Target parking lot. Unable to go any further, I called work and had a friend come pick me up.

One hour, two tires and a second car later, I arrived at my job.

Upon reflection, these events remind me of an episode in the life of Paul. In 2 Timothy 4 Paul wrote to Timothy: “Do your best to come to me soon…When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments… At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” (4:9-16, ESV).

Greater than my being stranded in a parking lot, Paul was unable to leave the location he was writing from; after all, he was imprisoned in Rome and awaiting his death (4:6). His friends had either abandoned him or had gone to minister in other locations (v 10). The only person he had with him was his friend and physician Luke.

Yet he wasn’t ready to stop. He had a job to do as long as he was alive, and he needed Timothy’s help to do it.

Just as I needed a spare tire to get going that morning, Paul needed Timothy to bring him some “spares”- his cloak, his books and his copies of Scripture. We don’t know what happened to his original cloak or copies of Scripture. Perhaps they were confiscated by the Roman authorities. Perhaps, like my regular tire, they were worn out through constant use. Regardless, Paul could not continue in effective ministry without them.

Not only did Paul need replacements of some necessary items, Paul also needed a few choice people to help him stay strong until the end. I believe Paul’s need of human companionship is why he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him, so that the two of them could minister to him. Their ministry to Paul would be felt by everyone who Paul witnessed to and taught; as such, they were impacting the world for Christ by assisting Paul himself.

My adventures that Monday helped bring to life 2 Timothy 4. I gave my all but could not make it to work because my car could not go any further. However, since I still had a job to do, I called for help and received it. I was delivered to my destination and eventually my car was delivered to a mechanic who was able to repair the stud and replace the tire.

Paul was at the end of his life, but he still had a job to do. Unfortunately, he was not able to continue on without help so he called to his “son in the faith,” Timothy. Presumably, Timothy brought Paul the supplies he needed as well as the companionship he requested. As a result, Paul was able to continue in ministry until he died.

Like my car, Paul had nothing left to spare. Yet God met him there through the actions of a few friends and kept him going until he reached his final destination.

Hola at me

The phrase “you are what you eat” has been used in one form or another since the early 1800’s. One of the first known instances was by French lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. It was not for his politics that he has a place in history; it was for his writings on food. In fact, he is considered one of the two father’s (grand-pere’s?) of the “gastronomic essay,” otherwise known as food writing.

Brillat-Savarin said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,” though of course he said it in French, probably while wearing a beret and chain smoking.

Such is his stature in the world of French cuisine that he has a cheese named after him.

I ask: where, other than France, can it be considered one of the highest honors of society to have a cheese named for you? After all, the only thing Napoleon has named for him is a complex.

Not to be outdone by Les Francais, around 1863 German philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach quipped “man is what he eats.” Then, in the 1930s, American Victor Lindlahr stated “you are what you eat;” the phrase immediately caught on in the U.S. and brought Lindlahr nationwide fame and fortune.

Like any modern American, he wrote a book about the experience entitled: You Are What You Eat: How one phrase took me from tuna fish to caviar.

Well, not really.

While he didn’t write a book about receiving nationwide fame and fortune, he did write a book on health called You Are What You Eat which eventually sold over half a million copies.

None of this crossed my mind at lunch Sunday, however. What was on my mind was how much I enjoy eating spicy foods. My family and I were eating with friends at a local “Mexican” restaurant after church; in fact, on many Sundays you can find us eating at a Mexican restaurant in either Rolesville or Wake Forest.

It occurs to me that if the three gentlemen mentioned above are correct, then I am a mix of Mexican, Peruvian, Cuban and many other Central and South American cultures whose cuisine I so enjoy.

Is this right? Does my love for spicy Latino foods reveal the genuine me?

No.

Rather than being defined by what I put in my body, the Bible says I am defined by what is already there. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (NASB). In the gospels, Jesus said “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matt. 15:18).

What the Bible teaches is that no matter who we are or where we’re from, we are all alike. We are not defined by our cultures, our food or our backgrounds; these factors neither elevate nor denigrate our position before a holy God.

Rather, what every person from every culture has in common is the fact that: a. we are born, and b. we are born separated from our Creator. We are “defiled” from birth on the inside and no amount of healthy eating can make us better. This defilement is called sin and is something we all share.

This is why Jesus came- not to change our diets but to cleanse our hearts. He doesn’t offer us healthy eating or lifestyle habits; he offers salvation as a free gift to whoever acknowledges their need.

All we have to do is confess our sins and ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ name. No one else can save us.

The eternal result is that we will no longer have to go to Hell’s Kitchen; instead, we will go to Heaven’s feast (Rev. 19:9).

I don’t know what will be served there, but I know it will be incredible! I do believe that foods from all cultures will be represented because people from all cultures will be there.

Until then, though, you will likely find me after church dipping my nachos in the hot sauce you have to ask for and getting entirely too full on burritos, fajitas and chile rellenos.

If you see me with my family, come over and introduce yourself.

Hola at me.

Thinking outside the bun

If you are like me, you often ponder the deep questions of life. As every reader knows, these are the questions that keep them up at night and the ones that dominate the topic of their conversations. They are the questions that must be answered, no matter what that answer may cost.

Having been debated by philosophers throughout the ages, they are as familiar to us as our families and as important as our home addresses. They are universal in nature and not relegated to any one culture or nation alone.

They are questions like: What is the meaning of life? What happens to me when I die? Why do dogs and their owners so often resemble each other?

This last question has troubled me recently because my family and I own two dogs: a male boxer mix, Berber, and a female Chihuahua, Chica. In conversations I often describe the Chihuahua as “my wife and daughter’s.”

What scares me is that I don’t think Chica knows she belongs to them and not me. If she thinks she belongs to me, will we start looking like each other? For a Chihuahua she’s cute, but come on.

After all, I remember the Taco Bell commercials.

Ultimately however, it doesn’t matter whether my dogs and I resemble each other or not. As a Christian, what does matter for me is this: do I look like and reflect Jesus Christ? This is a question that I need to ask myself regularly and one I need to be willing to have others ask me as well.

Realizing that reflecting Christ is what I am to do, my next question is: what does it mean to look like Jesus? Does it mean growing out my hair and beard, wearing linen tunics and sandals, and walking or riding pack animals wherever I go?

Absolutely not.

Does it mean eating only certain foods, going to church, wearing Christian t-shirts and paraphernalia, or tattooing Bible verses on my body?

While these things aren’t necessarily wrong, they aren’t verifiable proof of a relationship with Christ.

What does it mean, then, to look like Christ?

Looking like Jesus means nothing more, or nothing less, than behaving like Him. This is not done in an outward fashion but through an inward transformation that begins at salvation and continues on until the believer joins Him for eternity.

This work of transformation is done by the Holy Spirit, but as a believer I can either assist the process or hinder it. Romans 12:2 gives a succinct word on how I, as a believer, can work with the Holy Spirit to reflect Jesus Christ: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Quite simply, I come to resemble Jesus in greater capacities by reading the Bible and putting into practice what it says.

Conversely, I can hinder this process by neglecting the Bible and becoming conformed to the world’s patterns.

Therefore, the only question I have left to ask myself is: am I assisting or hindering this process of transformation? If I am assisting it, then I need to keep on and not quit when it gets difficult. If I am hindering it, then I need to stop and change my behavior.

Outward behaviors alone, such as wearing Christian clothing or just going to church, are not an accurate way to reflect Jesus. Reflecting Jesus starts on the inside and then works its way out.

Thinking that behavior alone is what resembles Jesus is like thinking that going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.

Inward transformation- now that’s thinking outside the bun!

Better latte than never

There are many things I love about Ukraine. Coffee is not one of them.

Nothing could have prepared me for the discovery that Ukrainian chocolate is some of the best I have ever tasted. Or that their coffee is some of the worst. Suffice it to say that when McDonald’s serves the best coffee in a city of 5 million people, one can safely assume that the coffee situation is not good.

I like to think that I am no stranger to a well roasted bean. After all, I work as a barista for a multinational company whose name is synonymous with coffee.

Yes, that one.

My side job notwithstanding, I have had many good cups of indigenous coffee in or from other parts of the world. I bought coffee while in Barranquilla, which I brought home and brewed, thus realizing that authentic Columbian coffee is worthy of its reputation.

Also, I have been privileged enough to receive several pounds of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee from the owner of a plantation located in the Blue Mountain range. Never before, or since, have I enjoyed a coffee as smooth and full bodied.

I’ve savored pure Kona in Hawaii, been given Brazilian coffee by a friend’s wife who was raised there, and had coffee of such quality in India that, 13 years later, I still can’t get it out of my mind.

So I admit the bar was set pretty high for Ukraine.

I probably should have lowered it before my trip. Before we left we asked the friends we were visiting what they wanted us to bring them from the States. To a person they asked for coffee. All of them said Ukrainian coffee wasn’t good; and our friends ranged from expats to natives.

However, I thought that perhaps these people didn’t know what they were talking about. After all, two major staples of the Ukrainian diet are mayonnaise and the beet. What could they possibly know about food quality?

My brief stay in Frankfurt’s airport didn’t lead me to change my opinion, either. I had one of the best cappuccinos in my life from an Illy Café while waiting for my flight to Kiev.

Exhausted, we landed in Kiev mid-afternoon. I wanted nothing to do with coffee when we arrived because I had not slept since leaving the U.S. I drank nothing stronger than a “Coke Lite” (Diet Coke) and slept well that night.

The next morning we went to McDonald’s for breakfast. I skipped their coffee, preferring to drink the “ready brew” I brought along.

After breakfast and still firmly trapped in my American ignorance, we went to a supermarket to get some water and basic supplies. These we bought and, at the prompting of one member of our group, we also purchased some Ukrainian chocolate.

The chocolate was opened in our van on the way to a meeting. We each broke off a piece of a single bar and ate it. As soon as I tasted it, the song “The Candy Man Can” began playing in my mind.

I unwrapped the first of my chocolate bars feeling like Charlie in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. It was smoother than any Swiss or Belgian chocolate I’ve ever tried. My bar was semi-sweet, as I prefer that to milk chocolate, and was like eating midnight on the dark side of the moon.

I am forever a fan.

When we arrived to our appointment we found it located above (what I can only assume is) the Ukrainian version of Wal-Mart. We didn’t venture too far into the store to investigate my observation, but instead rode an escalator to the second floor where there was a bar, a dinette and a café.

I treated our group of four, plus the businessman we were meeting, to lattes.

To satisfy my innate curiosity, I watched the “barista” make the latte. He started with whole milk, which he steamed to the proper temperature. Additionally, he frothed more whole milk into foam of such consistency that would make Tempur-pedic jealous. I was further surprised to see that he pulled his own shots rather than press a button on a machine.

A work of art was created before my eyes when he combined them in a clear cup.

I was giddy with delight- a real latte, in Kiev! However, I passed the first two to our guest and one of my companions and waited my turn with eager anticipation. Again the process was repeated; again, art was served in a clear cup. I took my first sip and…

Never before has coffee made me nauseous.

I pray it never does again.

In order to be polite I managed to choke down the entire drink. The milk and the froth were fine; the espresso sat in my stomach like lead.

All day.

In hindsight, I realize the statement “once bitten, twice shy” contains a lot of truth. I did not attempt to drink another latte while in Ukraine. Instead, I stuck to my insta-brew and Coke Light, thereby sparing myself a lifetime of coffee abstinence.

In lieu of coffee I managed to consume chocolate at breakfast, lunch, dinner and any other time that ended in am or pm. I also enjoyed eating in a wonderful ethnic Georgian restaurant, famous in Kiev for its seared meat.

Our last night, we had a traditional Ukrainian dinner at the flat of one of our contacts. There was plenty of meat, fresh salad, several kinds of bread and a beet/mayonnaise/garlic combination that I dutifully tried and swallowed. It stayed down and didn’t negatively impact the rest of my dinner.

But my one Ukrainian latte haunted me until we landed in America. Only then did I attempt another espresso based drink. I don’t remember it now, but that is fine with me.

I had a great time in Ukraine. I met some wonderful people, visited a pleasant city, ate some really good food and discovered a hidden secret: their chocolate. I am looking forward to returning.

However, one thing is certain. Until some changes are made, I will never have another one of their lattes.

Straight out of “Deliverance”

I can hear the banjos playing

Growing up, I knew only two families that homeschooled their children. One was a family of missionaries to Indonesia or some similar locale. They homeschooled on the field; therefore, they maintained the practice while on furlough in Raleigh.

The other family was just plain weird.

The second family’s children had “problems” of some unidentified nature which were manifested in emotional and behavioral issues. Whatever these issues actually were, the parents had decided their only recourse was solitary confinement because their children were not capable of being educated among the general populace.

Upon reflection later in life, I believe it may have been the parents who had the issues. I remember they had a bunker mentality, and this was long before the days of Glenn Beck. Who knows; perhaps they were refugees from Ruby Ridge.

Even though I was young, I considered the family a little too close knit.

After all, what child wouldn’t have emotional and behavioral issues if they were forced to wear curtains for clothes- that is, other than the Von Trapps. (Although, a strong case for “issues” can be made for any family that dances and sings “Do Re Mi” in public.)

Sadly, this second family fit every negative stereotype society has about homeschoolers.

The majority of society, including many Christian families, believes it’s not normal to homeschool one’s children. There must be something wrong with the parents, children or both; otherwise, the children would be in public or private school. Why, they ask, would any family lacking severe mental deficiencies or extreme political views voluntarily choose to educate their children at home?

It seems that to most of society, homeschooling families are not far removed from the locals in the movie “Deliverance.”

To those unfamiliar, “Deliverance” was a movie released in 1972 which starred Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. The movie was about four friends who went on a weekend rafting and camping trip in the remote mountains of Georgia. Unfortunately, at the start of the trip they ran afoul of some backwoods locals. Reynolds, Beatty and his friends were hunted throughout their trip by two of the hillbillies and had to fight for their lives. Sadly, one of their party did not make it, and Reynolds and the other two barely escaped. All three were scarred for life by the experience.

The movie is brutal and graphic, and unflatteringly portrays the mountain residents as grotesque, deviant and inbred in both appearance and action.

The movie is famous for many reasons, but one of the most popular is a scene at the start of the guys’ trip. Reynolds and his party arrive in a small hillbilly town and promptly look for guides to help them. One of the guys sees a toothless local child playing a banjo and gets out his guitar to play along. An impromptu jam session follows in which they play “Dueling Banjoes.”

As I said above, many in society view homeschooling families as next of kin to the hillbillies in the movie. They are grotesque, deviant and possibly inbred. They are outcasts and misfits. They are like the toothless banjo player who can’t talk or read and has no ability to relate to the outside world.

However, I must ask: is this stereotype true?

I certainly hope not. After all, I’m a homeschooling dad. (Believe me, that’s not something I thought I would ever admit in public.)

At this point, it would be legitimate to question whether I am “normal” since I am offering myself as a counter-example. In order to establish my normalcy, I need to examine the stereotypes to see if they apply to me or my family.

To begin with, I don’t wear curtains as clothes. That alone makes me like most of society, so I am feeling pretty good about the rest of my chances. (For the record, I also don’t ride public transportation singing musical scales.)

Take my word for it, I am not inbred. As for being grotesque, well, thanks to surgery, I now have only 10 fingers and toes and all the webs between them have been safely removed.

Lastly, I am not a political extremist. I don’t have multiple wives nor am I stockpiling massive amounts of weapons and ammunition in secret underground bunkers. If you think otherwise, prove it.

I dare you to call Janet Reno.

Now that I have conclusively proven that I am like most members of society, it is appropriate to ask: why do you, Mr. Normal Person, homeschool your child?

For me and my family, the answer is found in the Bible.

There are two passages that are foundational to our homeschooling, and both are in the Old Testament. The first is Deuteronomy 6: 5-7, which states: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

In this passage God was commanding the Israelites through Moses to love God with all of their being and to teach the subsequent generations His word. The motivation for teaching their children and future generations was to flow from their love for God, and from their thankfulness for what He had done for Him. What had He done? He had called them to be His people, He had delivered them from Egypt and He was about to lead them to the Promised Land.

As believers, He has done the same for us! He has called us to be His people, He has delivered us from the bondage and penalty of sin, and one day He will take us home to Heaven. Why shouldn’t I teach my daughter about Him, combining education with His word? Does anyone actually believe that it is better to allow someone else to teach my child like this, especially someone who doesn’t believe in God at all?

The second verse that is at the heart of why we homeschool is Proverbs 22: 6- “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I know this is a popular verse in many Christian circles and is commonly associated with childrearing. However, I recently heard a Bible teacher speak on the Hebrew concept of “uniqueness” that is found in this verse. Every man, woman, boy and girl are unique, each have unique needs and unique ways of doing things. God has a unique plan for each one of His children; therefore, it is my role as a parent to help my daughter see herself as uniquely gifted by God and uniquely called by God for a unique purpose of God. Will any school, public or private, Christian or secular, teach her that correctly?

Schools, even good ones, are not designed to educate children uniquely. The student to teacher ratio is too large to allow that. Additionally, public schools are increasingly becoming hostile to any hint of Christianity, so they won’t show my daughter her worth in Christ even if they had the resources to do so.

What other option as a father do I have, especially since I take my role as a parent seriously?

That is why my family homeschools.

There is one other thing I need to mention- homeschooling isn’t easy. We are not well off by any means; in fact, every month is a struggle to pay the bills. Some months I win, other months the bills win. Furthermore, since I lost my job in 2008 and have not yet found full time employment, it has only gotten more difficult. Yet we continue. Why?

We continue to homeschool because we believe that is what God has called us to do. Would we be right in disobeying His call simply because it is difficult?

Homeschooling has come a long way in America. Once only the educational choice of missionaries and social misfits, homeschooling is now appealing to families across all demographics and socio-economic levels.

However, vestiges of the former stereotypes still remain in society. In many ways, homeschool families are misunderstood and looked upon like the backwoods hillbillies from the movie “Deliverance.”

I don’t homeschool because I am inbred, deviant or a political extremist. I homeschool because I believe it is the best way to educate my daughter in both her schooling and Scripture, to nurture her mind and spirit, and to help her discover God’s unique plan for her life.

As a result of my choices, some may look on me like the man-child banjo player from the movie. They may think of me as unable to talk, read or relate to the outside world.

To that I have only one thing to say: I can’t even play the banjo.

Plus I have all my teeth.

The Marlboro Man didn’t ride his Harley in skinny jeans

In 1991, MGM released a movie called “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.” The movie was instantly forgettable and, not surprisingly, ended up a flop at the box office. I won’t say that it was the worst waste of disposable income that year, but rumor has it that portions of the tobacco company settlements were dedicated to pay for the few viewers’ long-term therapy needs.

I’ll give you three guesses as to why I mention the movie: a. my counselor believes I have made real progress in recent years, or b. the title perfectly captures what our society considers a “real” man.

Obviously, the answer is c.- they are two of my childhood heroes.

Not really. The answer is b.- they are stereotypes of what society considers a real man to look like. They both represent untamed free spirits, unfettered maleness.

Or what society used to consider were the traits of a real man. More recently, however, there is a new addition to the pantheon of manhood.

The new man is diametrically opposed to the former stereotype- at best he is metrosexual, at worst he is homosexual (or at least comfortable with his “feminine” side). Ambiguous sexuality and skinny jeans are now admirable male traits.

At this point I need to confess a personal bias- I dislike “male skinny jeans” to an unfathomable degree. It doesn’t matter who wears them or what form they take. Robert Plant wore them with Led Zeppelin, and it was wrong. Parachute pants were an ‘80s variation, and they were wrong (of course, many fashions of the ‘80s were wrong, but that’s another issue altogether). The Jonas Brothers were wrong to wear them, as is Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day.

I don’t feel like that just because I can’t wear them, by the way. I’m just old school.

Sorry, I digress.

If the old man was 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, the new man is “Lord of the Rings’” Orlando Bloom.

There is a war between the old stereotype and the new one, yet somewhere in the battle the truth has been lost. What is lost, you may ask?

“Lost” was a television show that aired on ABC in which plane crash survivors were trapped on a deserted island and tried to get home, but that doesn’t matter right now.

What is lost, culturally, is the fact that neither stereotype is an accurate definition of “man.”

So, what is a man?

In a broad survey of the Bible, it appears that “man” (i.e., the male gender, not mankind) can best be defined by the words “responsibility” and “accountability.” So a man is someone of the male gender who is responsible and accountable in every area of his life- to God, to his family, to his work, etc. It does not mean he is perfect, but that when he fails, he repents and moves forward.

At this point I need to acknowledge a term society has developed to avoid the difficult reality of being a man (I would say “skirt the issue” but that would be a poor choice of words. Besides- it’s not a skirt, it’s a kilt). It is distinguishing between being a man and being a guy.

In his book “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys,” Dave Barry lists the differences between a “man” and a “guy.” To sum it up, a “guy” is a male who wants all the benefits of the gender without any of the responsibility. Though Barry doesn’t say it, based on his definition we are a nation full of guys but lacking in men.

Adam was the first man, created by God and placed in the Garden of Eden. One of his first actions after eating the forbidden fruit was to shirk his responsibility and blame Eve for his choices.

Moses and David were considered men of God. While neither were perfect, they accepted responsibility for their actions before God and the nation of Israel. When they sinned, they accepted the consequences; when they led, they were conscious of the weight of responsibility of leadership.

Ahab was a wicked king in Israel. He did not stand for God or what was right, but rather listened to his depraved wife and therefore was cut off from the kingdom.

Jesus was the ultimate Man. He never sinned, but that is not what made Him a man. What made Him a man was His accepting the responsibility of everyone else’s sin, and then allowing Himself to be held accountable for the resulting judgment like it was His own.

That is why He is the God-Man, not the God-Guy or the God-Male.

Society does not encourage males to become real men; instead, it offers imperfect stereotypes and then labels that being a “man.”

Furthermore, if meeting one of these stereotypes is too difficult, society has made it possible to be a “guy” instead.

However, the Bible doesn’t pull any punches. While it is full of stories of males who were men and males who weren’t, the defining characteristics of a man (“responsibility” and “accountability”) are not compromised.

Additionally, it reveals the only True Man who has ever lived- Jesus Christ. Because He was a man, every male can be one too.

I realized the other day that it’s hard to be a man. It would be much easier for me to fit into skinny jeans, but that wouldn’t make me more of a man. (It would likely make me less. Skinny jeans on me would assume the properties of tourniquets and cause my legs to fall off.)

So to any male that is reading this, don’t look to society to confirm your manhood; it can’t.

Instead, look to Jesus, who will not only confirm you but also empower you to live as a man.

Skinny jeans or not.

Richland Creek Writers

All inked up and ready to go

The church I attend has a motorcycle ministry known as the Richland Creek Riders. The Riders, as they are commonly known, are a hard-core group of men and women who boldly witness for Christ, actively serve in the church and yell loudly when anyone says the words “Richland Creek Ri…”

On second thought, I’d better not type it…just in case.

A lot of them also have tattoos. Not all the Riders have them, but most do. Some are covered in them, a reflection of their pre-Christ days; others have gotten them since becoming a Rider.

Either way, they speak of being inked up for Jesus.

On the surface, there are not many things that the Riders and I have in common. Most of them ride motorcycles; I almost hit a parked car with a moped the first time I got on it. Several Riders speak of broken bones and other injuries received in accidents or at work; I am still traumatized by a paper cut I received in 2005.

(Hey, it was bad; I bled for three minutes straight, and had to use two tissues to stop it.)

There are two things we have in common, though. One is forgiveness that has been purchased by Jesus Christ, and the knowledge that our salvation is only through Him. The other thing the Riders and I have in common is that we are both inked up.

No, I don’t have any tattoos. I am not opposed to them per se, and would get one myself except for two reasons.

They are painful and they are permanent.

Since I am not a masochist by nature, I don’t normally or voluntarily submit myself to another person so that they can inflict pain on me. Besides, even if I did get a tattoo, if I ever changed my mind I would be out of luck.

After all, I certainly am not going to submit myself to more pain just to get rid of it!

I know that it is somewhat of a trend for ministers and seminary students to receive and then reveal their ink. A lot of these tats are in verses in either Greek or Hebrew. That is fine, but only if the individual can actually read them. Otherwise, it might as well read: “I got this tattoo and I have no idea what it actually says.”

So, how can I say that I am inked up given my complete lack of “body art?” Easily; I am a writer. Ink is my modus operandi.

And, since I go to the same church as the Riders, I suppose that would make me a Richland Creek Writer.

I don’t possess a lot of gifts. I can brew a decent cup of coffee. I can make a big mess at work. I can tell jokes so poorly that my wife and daughter feign unconsciousness when I am finished.

Additionally, I can construct a complete sentence.

The Bible says, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Therefore, I want to write for His glory. For better or worse, I want to use whatever gift He has given me for Him.

So what will that look like? I am no theologian, apologist or winsome evangelist. I’m just a guy trying to do life. I’ve had ups and downs; sometimes it feels like more downs than ups, but that’s okay.

After all, that’s life.

So, thank you for staying with me so far. I do appreciate it. After all, I am about to document this journey called life, and, as a Richland Creek Writer, I love having traveling companions.

I’m all inked up and ready to go.

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