Mar 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

Hollywood was stunned this weekend by the massive box office of The Hunger Games.  It apparently took in five bazillion dollars - without even having the benefit of 3D showings.  I was one of those people who braved the long lines and egregious ticket prices to see the film.  I read the books last year and thought they were brilliant.  So I was looking forward to the movie.  And I was not disappointed.  I thought it was a extremely faithful adaptation and it was a very well done movie.

Now, I know that there are some people out there that who will say, "Wait a minute.  Isn't that the movie about teens killing each other in a televised competition?"  Yes, you could reduce the movie to that description.  You could also say that The Matrix was a movie about a computer programmer battling a virus.  Gone with the Wind was a movie about the Civil War.  And Toy Story was the one about talking toys.  Obviously, that removes a lot of content from those products.  [I guess I need to put up Ye Olde Spoiler Warning at this point.  Maybe I should have done it earlier for those people who were unfamiliar with Gone with the Wind.]

The Hunger Games has been described as a bunch of different things.  The quick description is that it is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi book/movie set in what used to be North America.  Now what remains of the land mass has been broken into The Capital and twelve (or thirteen) districts.  The Capital is located somewhere around Denver.  The districts are divided by what they produce - coal, grain, technology, fishing, nuclear power.  About seventy-five years before the start of the first book, there was an uprising by the districts against the government.  It was squelched.  To punish the districts and remind them of the cost of their disobedience, the Capital created a sick annual event called the Hunger Games.  Each district is responsible for offering up one girl and one boy between 13 and 18 at The Reaping.  Those 24 kids then are trained and prepared for a battle to the death.  The battle is televised and hyped - and required viewing for everyone.  The Capital treats these games like The Olympics.  The winner is given wealth and food for life.  The others are dead.

It is a pretty horrific concept.  In fact, I had passed the books by several times before I actually took a gamble on them.  There were times in the books where I felt nauseated by the thought of what was happening.  And I think the reason that I responded that way was not because the concept was so foreign.  Rather it was because it was just believable enough to be uncomfortable.  I read a lot and watch a lot of movies.  And I have always been partial to the darker fare - not horror, gory dark.  I usually like the middle film of a trilogy, which is darker by nature.  I like Batman over Superman.  I am not a superfan of post-apocalyptic films, but I like dystopian ones.  And I love science fiction.

Just as an explanation, let me briefly explain those three terms.  Post-apocalyptic means that it takes place after a horrifying event that kills a ton of people and drastically changes life as we recognize it.  After the apocalypse.  This can be after a nuclear war, after an asteroid hit, after a global virus, or after a zombie uprising.  Some films that fall into that category would be: Terminator, Planet of the Apes, Walking Dead, The Matrix.  Then there is dystopian.  Dystopian is not the opposite of utopian.  A utopia is a perfect society.  A dystopia is one of two things - it can either be a society that appears to be a utopia that actually is corrupt, or it can be a society that used to be perfect that has devolved into a wreck.  Some examples of this are: A Brave New World, Animal Farm, The Matrix, Gattaca, Blade Runner.  If you were to draw the amazing Venn diagrams, you would see there is often overlap in these categories - but it is not necessary.  Lastly, science fiction is usually reduced to alien and space movies.  But they are much more than that.  At their heart, sci-fi offerings are based on scientific and technological advances beyond what we now have.  That can be space themed (Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly), but it can also be Earth-based with advanced technology (I Robot, Surrogates, Minority Report, Jurassic Park, Total Recall).

Hunger Games falls into all three of those categories.  Now, the best franchises in those three categories are so good because they are believable.  They are no so far removed from our reality that they cannot be taken seriously.  They have very recognizable features, with tweaks.  They actually can serve a very real benefit as they hold a kind of dark mirror up to our current society.  Sometimes they offer a warning of what will happen if things continue down current pathways.  Classics like Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Animal Farm all took this track - trying to point out the dangers of current thought processes and activities by taking them to their logical (or illogical) conclusion.  Gattaca presented a society where parents could genetically purify their children - pointing out the potential dangers of our obsession with physical perfection and of playing with the genetic code.  Jurassic Park looked at the dangers of cloning and introducing foreign biological elements into societies unprepared for them.

When it came to Hunger Games, at first I thought, "There is no way this could happen."  Then I started to notice our world.  The geographical changes to North America are not out of the realm of possibility.  Sea and climate changes could affect current borders.  It seems like our world is always on the verge of some sort of apocalypse - be it nuclear, viral, or some other problem.  But what would it take for us to get to the point where we would not only condone teens in a death match challenge, but openly celebrate it?  I remember that I finished the book around the same time as the Super Bowl.  As I watched the absolutely insane coverage of this one sporting event, I realized that the love of pageantry is not so foreign.  Look at the opening and closing of the Olympics.  And this is certainly nothing new (gladiator matches, chariot races).

It is still hard to imagine allowing kids kill other kids for entertainment  Then again...

I have had a lot of trouble lately with the sport of football.  There is an increasingly obvious tie between football and severe head trauma.  The frequency of concussions in these athletes causes massive brain damage - increasing the chances of early death and suicide.  As football becomes more violent and as the athlete become bigger and faster, this damage is getting worse and worse.  And studies show that young people are even more susceptible.  As many people have pointed out, the danger is not really the NFL.  Those people are paid for taking those physical risks.  They even fight regulations because they make the sport "wussy."  The problem is in the college, high school, and elementary kids who are not paid.  They play and try to mimic the NFL players.  They lower their heads when they tackle.  They fly around and put themselves in danger.  They play through injuries in fear of being called wimpy.  And we are seeing this horrifying brain damage earlier and earlier in these kids.  The sad part is that people who love football are willing to turn a blind eye at the danger.  The coaches, parents, administrators all are acting like the dangers aren't real - putting thousands of young men at risk for a game.  The same argument could be made for many youth sports programs.  Our desire for entertainment and sports comes at the risk of these kids.  So maybe we aren't so far away from the Battle Royale as we would like to think.

One of the things that I have always thought was interesting about dystopian works was that it basically recognizes that mankind is inherently evil.  Even though so many people when pressed would swear that people are good at heart, our entertainment doesn't reflect that.  It is easy to say that the government, the rulers, the One Percent are the wrong ones who are ruining everything.  But a dystopian novel or movie usually takes place after those rulers have been displaced - and the "regular people" who took over ended up making a totally different kind of fiasco.  The salvation that we came up with never materializes the way we wanted.  I look at a brilliant work like DC Comic's Kingdom Come and see this.  The society depended on superheroes to save them.  It ended up backfiring when those superheroes didn't hold up their end of the bargain, or they felt that humans were not capable of doing things right on their own and took things into their own hands.  The Hunger Games follows in this tradition - especially the further you get into the trilogy.  Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't.  I don't believe mankind is inherently good.  If you spend any amount of time watching the world around us, it won't take long to come to that conclusion.  And my religious beliefs certainly echo that.  "There is none righteous.  No not one. . . . All have sinned . . . Our best is filthy rags."  It is not that I enjoy watching mankind make shipwreck.  But it is thought provoking, to say the least.

When it comes to The Hunger Games, it sounds strange to say that I enjoyed it or loved it.  They contain a great deal of depressing - even disturbing - material.  But, there is some hope in it.  It is good to see the difference one person can make.  I can find inspiration in the books (and movie).  However, they aren't even as positive as the Harry Potter series.  I did really like the books and I loved the movie.  I think I am drawn to thought-provoking films and books.  I like entertaining material.  I'm a sucker for comic book movie adaptations.  I love Pixar.  But I love to dissect and analyze the films I watch and the novels I read. The Hunger Games was definitely worth thinking through and discussing.  There are many elements that make you think about our society, the way we approach things, the way we treat people.  That's the kind of offering I can appreciate.  It may be a bit surprising that something classified as "young adult literature" could carry that weight, but it did.  So it was a different kind of entertaining.  And its a concept that I hope will remain fiction.

Mar 8, 2012

Why I Want Peyton Manning to Sign with Miami

I hate the Miami Dolphins.  I have never been shy to admit this.  I'm not exactly sure what created this pure hatred in my sports heart.  I think it was a combination of the fact that, growing up in South Florida, I was inundated with Dolphins coverage.  I had adopted the Cowboys as my NFL team of choice.  But, down in West Palm Beach (or Miami Jr., as I sometimes think of it), it was assumed that everyone was a Dol-Fan.  The newspapers would have page after page breaking down every play.  The news stations would spend four of their five minutes on sports talking about Miami teams.  News on other teams was usually limited to a paragraph on the "team by team capsule" page.  [Please keep in mind this was before ESPN owned all the sports leagues and Al Gore invented the interwebs.]  As a result, I grew to despise the Miami franchises.  The Dolphins and Hurricanes are both my least favorite teams in their respective leagues.  Since there was no Miami baseball team at the time, I turned my hatred to the Atlanta Braves - although over time I have learned to hate the Marlins as well.  And, thanks to LeBron and the rest, I have firmly placed the Heat in the Hate Zone.

My hatred for the Dolphins has only grown over the years.  As I have aged, I have realized some of my team-related anger is misplaced.  I have even found myself having somewhat fond feelings for teams that I used to loathe.  I really admire the way that some teams (Packers, Steelers) do business - something I didn't care about when I was 10, but appreciate now.  But the Dolphins have never received that mercy from me.  There are several reasons why.  First, the 1972 Dolphins are the most obnoxious single team in NFL history.  Some people think it is great how this one team continues to celebrate their perfect season.  Each year I root harder for another team to go 19-0 just to shut them up.  Second, Dolphins fans are on par with Gator fans for annoying behavior.  Back when the Dolphins started 10-2 before tanking December and missing the playoffs, Miami fans would crow and hoot about their team.  Then they quietly would disappear as their team did.  Now the Dolphins start every year 2-10 and then catch fire in December.  These same fans are eerily quiet for three months and then start yapping about how they are going to be unstoppable next year.  It gets old.  [Yes, I am perfectly aware that I am beyond biased.]  Third, Miami fans are some of the worst, more sports ignorant, fair weather fans in the world.  All you need to know is this: the Heat failed to sell out NBA Finals games when they stole their title.  How in the world do you have a non-sellout final game?!?  Fourth, the Heat are in Miami.  There is a major crossover of fan bases.  Enough for me.

That was all to give you a little history why I will make this next statement.  I desperately hope that Peyton Manning signs with Miami.  This is not because I think the Dolphins have suffered long enough.  I am not hoping he turns the franchise around.  I want him to sign with the Dolphins because I think that Manning, more than perhaps any other player in history, is the perfect athlete to increase and lengthen the agony of the Miami Dolphins.  I think that he can drag out their misery for another few years.  There also is a good chance that signing him will hurt the team longer than his career.  I'm all for that.  Here are some specific reasons why I feel this way.

1. Manning Can't Finish - From his days at Tennessee to his time in Indy, Manning has proven that he cannot finish.  He can run up 14-0 records, set passing marks score 50 points a game.  But, when it counts, he gets the yips and watches someone else lift the trophy.  He never won the Heisman - despite being the most dominant college player for four years.  He never won the National Championship - the Volunteers won after he left.  Even though the Colts frequently were the number one seed with a bye week, Manning only won one Super Bowl.  And that year the NFC put up the Bears, the equivalent of the Republican party running John McCain against Obama.  It reminds me of another great quarterback - Dan Marino.  See?  It's perfect.

2. Manning And the Florida Heat - I don't mean the super-obnoxious NBA franchise.  I am referring to the South Florida heat.  For the last fourteen years, Peyton Manning has played at least half his games in a climate controlled dome with a perfectly constructed field.  He has never had to deal with playing the majority of his games outside in the burning hot Florida sun.  Some would argue that Manning has done well in his trips to Florida - against the Gators, Dolphins, and Jaguars.  Manning was 0-4 against the Gators.  He is 14-5 against the Jaguars (okay, bad example), 5-7 against the Dolphins, and 2-0 against the Bucs.  However, even a positive record in Florida is different than playing there for the majority of your games, practicing there, going through summer training camps in the blistering, surface of the sun heat.  Throw in the unstable weather, the rain, the mud, the poor fields.  Should be great.

3. Manning and the Miami Heat - LeBron James and the Heat have said that Manning should come to Miami.  That alone is a bad omen.

4. Manning is Bound to Disappoint Physically - I don't care how well that Manning says he is playing. He has had three neck surgeries in the last eighteen months.  He is 36.  He is one of the most prepared and disciplined players in NFL history.  But that doesn't mean a whole lot when your body gives out on you.  It is only a matter of time.  Even if he makes it through one year or two years, this is not a long term decision physically.

5. Derails Long Term Planning - Everyone that assesses the NFL draft talks about how deep this draft is for quarterbacks.  The Dolphins have not had a strong quarterback since Dan Marino.  They have constantly been bringing in retreads, long shots, and big whiffs.  What they need to do is start from scratch and get someone they can build a franchise on.  Instead they are foregoing that in a deep draft and going all in for the immediate.  The really goofy things is that no one believes the Dolphins are one player from a title.  So throwing all in on Manning could cost Miami for years.  Awesome.

6. Brady/Eli Factor - Both Tom Brady and Eli Manning are tired of always hearing that Peyton Manning is the best quarterback around.  So both of those guys perform to their absolute peak when playing Peyton.  Now Brady will be playing Peyton twice a year.  As if the Patriots didn't already love beating down the Dolphins as frequently as possible, imagine their glee when they get to do it with number 18 at the helm.

7. Poetic Justice - The Dolphins have been defined in many ways by the amazing play and failure to close of Dan Marino.  Now they are turning to another quarterback that fits that category.  The Dolphins for the last fifteen years have been marked by streaky play.  They either start off strong out the gate and then stumble at the end or they suck tailpipe for three months and then do great at the end.  Now they are picking up a quarterback who has made a career out of that behavior.  The Dolphins are a franchise whose best days are behind them and who are living off past successes.  Well, you know.  It just makes sense.

So that is my completely unbiased reasoning for why I hope Peyton Manning decides to take his receding talents to South Beach.  In short, I hope that he goes there to give the Dolphins hope, only to take it away - thereby crushing the spirit of all Dolfans everywhere.  If that is hateful, so be it.  That's sports.  Meanwhile, I - like all Jaguar fans - will watch Tim Tebow perform minor miracles semi-consistently to a rabid and sold out stadium and wonder why oh why my team passed on him in favor of some no name defensive lineman.  All sports fans carry some baggage.  I hope the Dolphins' will include a past-his-prime Peyton Manning.

Mar 6, 2012

Defending My Absence

Well, it is quite apparent that I have fallen down on my blogging responsibilities.  Over the past month, there have been numerous things that normally generated a post.  But I have failed you, o faithful half dozen readers.  I didn't post my annual bemoaning of the Oscar nominations, ceremony, and demonstration of how Oscar voters hate the American moviegoing public.  Not a peep was heard when Star Wars: Episode I - George Lucas is a Menace came out in 3D.  And I have let several Hunger Games and Avengers trailers come out without my highly insightful comments.  What is wrong with me?  Have I given up writing?  Am I living in a cave?  Have "they" finally dragged me away and placed me in my much-deserved padded room.  Nope.  I could toss up the standard excuse of "I was busy" and leave it at that.  But, instead, I am going to make my excuse into an entire post.  Doesn't that sound exciting?  I bet the tingling of anticipation is nearly too much for you to handle.

In March of 2005, I was fortunate enough to be presented the opportunity to help launch a ministry with my friend, Charles Wise, and a couple of our other friends.  That ministry became Defender Ministries.  I had little idea what exactly that would entail.  But it was exciting and I knew it was the right place for me.  Over the last seven years, we have been on what could be called a roller coaster with Defender.  There have been moments of great victory.  And there have been moments of intense pain and betrayal.  Through it all, we just keep plugging along and try to do the right thing.  There are times we have made mistakes and overstretched our abilities or calling.  But, for the most part, we have done our best to help people.  And it has been amazing to see how our little ministry has been a part in changing hundreds of lives.

Originally, our ministry was founded to address the topic of internet pornography.  But it has expanded over time.  Building awareness wasn't enough.  Parents wanted to know how to fight the encroachment of this entity on their families.  So we started teaching on technology.  And then it expanded to cover issues of media, entertainment, purity, dating, brain chemistry.  It has been very strange to see the path we've taken.  Years ago, I remember sitting with Heather in our dingy little apartment and talking with some friends of ours.  They asked what I would be doing if I could do anything in the world without worry about money.  I said that I would develop curriculum and resources for families and churches.  (That was years before Defender ever started.)  So what do I do for Defender?  Well, I develop curriculum and resources for families, churches, and schools.

Along this path, I have been able to create a full curriculum for teenagers.  I built the complete structure for a line of curriculum for elementary students on tech safety.  And I've written about two dozen booklets on different topics in our arsenal.  It is always humbling and strange to see something that you've created in the hands of other people - or to know that a church in Nebraska or Missouri is running its youth weekend using your materials.  I love what I do.  It is challenging and trying.  There are times when we haven wondered if it was time to shutter the whole thing and move on.  But we never feel free to do that.  So we keep plugging along.

In May of 2009, my family moved up to Tallahassee so Heather could attend medical school at FSU.  I became a full-time stay at home dad.  And things for Defender went into what I call "stasis mode."  We hardly did anything for those two years.  There were a couple of school experiences, a few internet orders.  But the ministry didn't advance much.  It was difficult to see that.  I could see others of our sister ministries moving forward.  At times I got jealous and other times I got angry.  And there were many times I feared everything was done - that we had run our course.  Not to minimize what a person goes through, but it felt like watching someone I love in a coma.  It was still there, but it wasn't doing anything.  And I really didn't know if it was going to come back.

There were moments of hope in those two years.  One of the tough things about running a ministry is that you are dependent on other people.  You need people to spread the word of what you are doing, you need people to help you organize things, you need people to book you, you need people to support you financially.  Over the years, we have had people promise us the moon.  They believed in what we were doing.  They got on board.  They got excited.  We got excited and started planning based on that person's promises.  And then they disappeared.  This hasn't happened once or twice.  Honestly, we are probably up near twenty times this has occurred.  Each time, it is like getting your heart broken.  And each time you have to pick up the pieces and figure out how to get back on track.  Sometimes we have incurred expenses we would never have undertaken without assurances of support.  And then we are left with the bills and no help.  You start to get a little jaded.  And it is hard to trust people.

We have had people donate money for months and then quit.  There have been board members who got us to run an event and then stood there and watched it blow up in our face.  We have had supporters who left and basically stole what we were doing to start their own efforts.  During that two year time of stasis, we had a very painful experience with a person who funded us for months and promised us the world.  And then he just left.  It damaged the ministry deeply.  With each one of those, there is a time of examination where you wonder what you did wrong or what should have been different.  This time, it could have killed the ministry.  I had just moved back to Orlando and was able to give more time to working on things.  But the ministry was very weak at the time.  It was a dangerous time and the damage done really hurt.  I almost came to a place where I was sure the ministry was over.

In the last seven years, it has been very strange watching how the ministry grew.  It made no sense.  You would think that going to conferences and having displays or placing ads would be the greatest impetus for growth.  But it hasn't been that way.  Almost every time we saw the ministry have a jolt of opportunities or a growth of vision it has been because one person opened one tiny door.  On the other side there was a huge field of blessings waiting.  Connie Ricks was one of those people.  She opened the door for us to do college events - which became the majority of our events in the early years.   Then there was Eulie Brookins, who said, "Hey, you guys should develop a youth curriculum."  I still remember sitting with Charles at the (now defunct) O'Boys BBQ in Winter Park and creating the entire structure for what would be Operation Isaiah in an hour and a half.  Terri Alderman was another person who opened the door to working with schools, specifically International Community School.  That led us to design a ton of school based materials.

All of that was said to set the stage for this past fall.  The ministry was struggling to get back on its feet.  I was working on how to get things revved up, while helping with some other aspects of our parent ministry.  I got an email from Stuart Goudy from Little Rock, Arkansas.  He was the men's minister at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church.  The senior pastor there and I had worked together in Tampa about fifteen years ago.  Stuart wanted to know if we could do a men's conference for them that dealt with some of our pet issues - pornography, technology - and other aspects of being a man.  I went to our default answer when talking to people, "Never say no."  So I told him that we could.  Little did I know what exactly was going to come from that.

Over the next six month, we created a new event - Rewriting the Man Code.  It was a men's conference that was unlike anything we had done.  We've done conference type events before, but not one like this.  We incorporated videos and humorous stories and a more structured format.  And we took some of the ancient Knight Codes and brought them into the modern vernacular.  It was a good looking event - from the development perspective.  We thought it would be good for men.  But we had never even been able to test it at all.  Normally when we have taught conferences, we took lessons we have already taught and combined them into a full event.  This was the first time we started from the ground floor and intentionally created a conference - writing the lessons as the conference was built.  Yes, it included elements from what we had taught previously.  But it was all being rebuilt.

I was terrified.  A lot of the success of the events rested on my ability to be funny on demand.  I can be funny.  But a lot of it is accidental.  I've always been nervous about choreographed humor.  It is a hard thing to pull off.  You want it to sound organic.  Humor can be too rehearsed.  I have a reputation for being a funny speaker.  Being completely honest, some of the biggest laughs were from things I never even planned to say.  They just flowed from the lesson.  So I was very nervous about the execution of the whole thing.  And just to amp the stakes up, we had other churches hear about what we were crafting.  So they went ahead and booked us.  We were scheduled to do three of these weekends in a row.  We had Arkansas booked for February 17-19.  Then one Orlando church had us come to their men's retreat February 25-26 at a local camp setting.  Lastly we had another Orlando church schedule us for March 2-3.  If we failed, it would be in triplicate.

I felt crushed by the weight of what was being expected.  A lot of it I put on myself.  We had a very positive board meeting with our new board a few weeks before the conferences.  They seemed to be ready to help in any way possible.  But some of the hope was based on the men's conference.  In my own mind, the fate of the ministry hung on this.  We didn't have any other events booked.  If this succeeded, it could open the doors to a lot of things.  If it didn't, all the momentum would be gone.  I had trouble sleeping.  I was short tempered with everyone.  And I was constantly stressed.  I had to write the booklet, design the presentation, edit videos, organize the whole shebang.  Charles and I would create the lessons together, but I was the one who had to put it together.  Things fell into place and everything looked good.  But there still was the event itself.

We got out to Arkansas and spent a whole day rehearsing the stuff.  And as we worked on everything my voice started to give out.  I hadn't taught much in the last couple years.  The change in weather, the flight, the hours of talking all wore me out.  In getting ready to speak, I tore my throat up.  When Friday rolled around, I was rasping and my throat was killing me.  I tried to keep quiet in the interim and drink tons of water.  I was scared.  When it finally came time to start things, I stepped up on stage and started.  The guys didn't respond right away.  They were a little hesitant.  Then we kicked it to the worship band and they played.  It was supposed to be a fifteen minute set and it became a 45 minute one.  It was great, but it cut into the schedule we had established - one that we already felt was very constrictive.  When I stepped back up on stage, I was a wreck.

But the guys started to defrost. The singing had helped.  And when I started in with my intro to the conference, I saw the first cracks appear.  The thawing continued until the guys were completely invested by the beginning of the second session.  The rest of the weekend was great.  My voice was horrible at best.  But everything worked out well.  The feedback was incredible.  The guys were so encouraging and we saw some great stuff happen with these men.  We got home and tried to recuperate before the next weekend.  My voice still was pretty bad rolling into the second event.  Charles lost his voice completely during that one, partly due to the fact he had been carrying some of my load when my voice was out.  The event was marred by technical issues, but it ended up just as positive as the first weekend.  Then the third weekend happened.  By then, both of our voices were back and strong.  The church was a very conservative one - different from the first two in tone and approach.  The guys there, though, were the most invested from the outset.  And it ended up being the best overall of them all.

So that is what I've been up to in the last month.  Now we are sitting here, figuring out the next steps.  We have some very high quality things to offer - things for the whole family.  The men's conference was a raging success at all three places with three different types of settings and churches.  We already have other churches wanting to book us for them.  We have also booked a youth weekend for later this Spring. The throat issues have been resolved, but they also were a reminder of the fact we need some sort of backup system of speakers.  That means training some people and expanding the ministry - which we have never done in seven years.  It is all a little hard to grasp.  A few months ago I felt things were about to shut down and now we are talking about hiring other staff.  A lot of it is due to an event that we hadn't even conceived that was brought up by a guy we had never met seven months ago.  And it doesn't stop there.  Every one of those churches wanted to know if we could come up with a follow up conference - one that was for both spouses.  They have asked if we could develop a Bible study that will follow the conference - one that would take place over the next year.  There is so much work to do.

The thing that I can't even begin to wrap my mind around is that I'm even involved in this.  I know myself.  To steal from Isaac Hunter, our pastor at Summit Church, "I know myself.  I know my mind and my heart.  I know what I'm thinking when no one can see me.  I have NO business being involved in this in any way."  I shouldn't be teaching anyone about being a dad or a husband.  If you've read this blog at all, you should be vigorously nodding your head right now.  In fact, most of the sessions in the conference begin with me telling a humorous story about how I've failed as a father and a husband.  The Apostle Paul says that we should follow his example.  I say to see what I'm doing and do the opposite.  Again stealing, this time from, my life exists to serve as a warning sign to others.  But this ministry works.  Most of my contribution is showing all the dumb stuff I do, all my failures.  Why in the world should anyone listen to that?  For some reason, God thinks I should be involved in this.  And it is just so surreal to see things happening other places because of that.  Over the last three weeks, I watched around 300 men examine how they were measuring up as dads and husbands and friends.  I saw some guys take extreme steps in repairing those relationships.  It is just so cool to see that.

So I hope to get back on track with my leisure writing.  I've missed it.  And I think it is important for me to be able to share the cool things (and the stupid things) going on.  We all need reminders from other people about important stuff.  God is still moving.  Sometimes things have to get really dark before the good stuff happens.  No matter how dimensions Episode I is released in, it is still going to stink.  God can use you, even if you are the dullest and most idiotic tool in the box.  I know I've needed those reminders and appreciate it when others share their struggles and victories.  So I hope this can be that kind of inspiration for you.  See?  I told you.  Longest. Excuse. Ever.