My Vote

Very little polarizes people, including friends and family, like politics. There hasn’t been a more controversial, confusing election cycle like this in 50 years. My point in this post isn’t to tell you who you should or shouldn’t vote for. I’m not going to tell you who I’m going to vote for…since I don’t even know yet. I’m just going to lay it out what will drive my decision, if it even matters to anyone other than myself.

You’re going to see that s a registered Republican, that is not the deciding factor because it votedoesn’t define my standards. It seems to be expected of me that I should support the candidate who bears an R next to their name. I have had people suggest to me that if I don’t vote for Trump, I am casting a vote for Hillary.

Huh? Is there a new system I don’t know about? What happens if I don’t vote for Hillary? Is that a vote for Trump? I’m really confused. In case you didn’t realize, there is no such thing as a national election. There are fifty individual statewide elections. I live in Rhode Island, and my vote only counts here. If Trump wants my vote, he’s going to have to earn it with more than party affiliation.

Here’s the thing. My vote belongs to me. My vote is currency. It is bestowed up on me to offer to a single candidate I ultimately endorse and wish to hold the office for which they pursue. With that as the mindset, I offer a list of five qualities that define me and will determine my choice. In descending order of influence, they are:

  1. I am a Christian. This is the fundamental influence in every detail of my life. While I understand I am not voting for a pastor or spiritual leader, they must demonstrate to me consistent character and integrity. Even if they are not, themselves, Christian, they will defend and respect my faith and not minimize it, silence my voice or demonize my beliefs and values. They will respect the office and remember they serve the people.
  2. I am soon to be a husband and stepfather. I will vote for a person whose values and agenda is, in my estimation, in the best interests of my family, both now and moving forward into the future.
  3. I am an American. What is in the best interests of my country outweigh those of other countries. I do not want conflict, but if it is necessary in order to preserve our freedom and lives, so be it. I believe in American exceptionalism. We are not perfect, but we are the greatest country in the history of the planet. It is not our role to make everyone like us or to emulate us. But we must set and live by a high standard, and hold ourselves to it.
  4. I am a Constitutionalist. I believe this document empowers the people and limits the government, not the other way around. Rather than seek to throw out things that don’t fit an agenda, they see the wisdom and time-tested value of this document and the men who sacrificed everything to draft and ratify it.
  5. I am a Conservative. As such, I support the individual over the collective. I believe in personal liberty and responsibility. Government needs to be reduced, not an obstacle to a citizen’s inalienable rights. While the government cannot and should not compel Americans to practice a particular religion, We must remember that this country was founded on, and is inextricably linked to Christianity. Our Christian values demand that we love others, even those with whom we disagree. Even those who worship differently, or not at all. Our values do not discriminate against anyone for any reason.

Some have justified supporting Donald Trump as, “the lesser of two evils.” Do you know what the lesser of two evils is? Still evil. Before anyone takes this as me calling anyone evil, that is not my meaning, and that is not my job. The phrase is an idiom, and that is the context in which I mean it. The point is, my vote is not simply for the person who is less awful than the other. My vote will go for the person I believe is best suited for the job based, at least on the criteria I listed above, even if that individual has no chance to win. My vote is sacred to me, and I will not give it to someone who hasn’t earned it.

You’re welcome to disagree with my standard. Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t. I’m only sharing this with you because I have had my position and values questioned and mocked. That doesn’t bother me one bit. I’d much rather be mocked for upholding a high standard than cave in and throw my support to someone I wouldn’t even want to have dinner with. I’d rather be wrong and have the person for whom I didn’t vote prove to be a wonderful president than hold my nose, vote for them, and they turn out to be what I predicted, or worse.

If you find my reasoning flawed, that’s ok. But at least you now understand it. Donald Trump has not earned my vote. I have almost no faith that he will, but it’s not the first Tuesday in November yet. I just see no evidence that he will. Miracles can happen. But if one doesn’t, I cannot, in good conscience, cast my vote for the lesser of two evils.

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Happy Birthday SJ!

Today is the birthday of the woman who, in 135 days, will be my wife. Sarah-Jane captured my attention immediately on August 8, 2013, and has never lost it since. From her inner and outer beauty, to her rapier-like wit, there is layer upon layer of goodness that make up this precious jewel.

As for anyone, she has endured great difficulties in life. Only people with strong character and conviction come out of the worst times in their lives stronger and better. She is too humble to recognize her true value to the lives she touches. As we prepare for our wedding and people pour out their love, I have a front row seat to see how loved she is by such a vast group of people.

I’ve never doubted or questioned the gift that God has blessed me with. But as time movesIMG_2829 on and a relatively small collection of memories pile up, I can simultaneously look back at wonderful experiences, and ahead with peace in my heart that the mysteries the future holds will be shared with my best friend.

God has chosen me to be a steward of her heart. That includes providing and protecting her two greatest joys, Christian and Jeremy. Well, three greatest joys, including her four-legged troublemaker, Finn.

I love the little girl that lives within her. She is satisfied with the simple expressions in life. She notices all the little things that most of us take for granted. She has opened my eyes to these things, and I marvel.

I feel like a painter who thought there were only six colors in the spectrum before meeting someone who introduced them to an almost infinite array of color and texture.

Happy Birthday to the love of my life. I pray the day reveals just how loved and respected you are by so many. Today is your day. I know it will be filled with laughter and love.

And to make things even more perfect, as I write this, I can hear your mom in my head saying, “oh brother!”

Bonus!

Confessions of a knucklehead

Yesterday, during the music portion of our church service, I briefly shared something that is and was heavy on my heart. Many people I know are dealing with severely difficult times in their lives. I am facing certain difficulties in my own, while simultaneously celebrating wonderful blessings and answers to lifelong prayers.

Sometimes we make dumb decisions and compound them by avoidance. Many of us end up in this type of situation at some point. Whether it’s health, finances, relationships…bad decisions happen. Avoiding fixing them makes matters exponentially worse. Beneath the surface of the bad decisions, a cancer grows until it demands immediate attention.

I don’t know about you, but when I make some kind of significant mistake, I beat myself up with the power, relentlessness and devastation of an MMA champion. Yesterday morning as I was spending some quiet time with God, He reminded me of some powerful things that I want to share with you.

My cry to Him was that I felt completely unworthy to be on the platform leading worship or participating in any kind of ministry on that day. But God quickly cut me off. He wasn’t bothered by my thought that I was humbled and broken before Him and valued my role as a leader in my church and my responsibility as such. He was more concerned with my notion that I ever considered myself worthy to be in that position in the past. Who among us is truly worthy? While we were sinners, while our hearts were hardened to Him, while we were overtly turning our backs on Him, Jesus died for us. I fail Him daily. Hourly. In good times, I forget just how completely dependent I am for every single thing. Every breath. Every moment. Every detail.

Next, He reminded me of a conversation I had with Sarah earlier in the week. In seeing what people around me are going through, I have prayed and believed God would reveal Himself and miraculously see them through these trying times. She asked me, “do you believe God can deliver you and heal you as you believe He can for others?”

Simple question, right? But in all honesty, I felt that because what others are going through are more tragic and not their own faults, it’s different for them than for me. Simply, it’s easier for me to believe in miracles for others than for myself. That’s when Sarah got very real with me.

“Then that makes you a liar.”

Ouch.

Just as God’s reminder that I’m not worthy and I must depend on Him in good times and bad, Sarah’s words weren’t said in anger or to slap me down. These words were brutal truths. If I deny the extent of God’s power in my own life, while promoting it to others, I make either God a liar, or I am speaking falsely.

God can’t lie, so that made the conclusion pretty obvious.

Then God brought to my attention the following few verses in Isaiah chapter 6.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LordAlmighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

In the verses that follow, God’s redemption of the contrite heart is immediately followed by a call to action. Though I am unworthy, though I feel shame for my mistakes and shortcomings, He supernaturally removes the guilt of our sin.

In our weakness, in our failures, in our desperation, God redeems. He forgives. He restores us. He sends us out to share who He is and that He loves us unconditionally, even when we might even hate ourselves.

I cannot complete the simplest task without His favor. He can remove the air from my lungs. He can allow my heart to stop beating at any moment. He can isolate me from people I love, and who love me. Instead, He is blessing me abundantly. How can I not trust Him? How can I not honor Him?

Sometimes, we must be broken down to nothing. Beaten to a pulp. It is then that potterthe formless lump of clay can be molded by the Potter’s hand. The hard part is remaining pliable and desperate for Him when we feel self-sufficient. When we try to do things on our own, we’re destined for failure. When we place our trust in Him, when we seek Him with all our heart, He will be found, and He is, was, and will always be faithful.

Thankfully, it’s not about who I am, but who He is.

Mother’s Day 2016

This week has been like no other in my life. What a ride! To cap it off, I have the privilege to honor one of the two best moms who ever mom’d. Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post telling the story of my mom, and my now-fiancee. My mom’s name was Sarah Jane, and the woman God has ordained to be my life’s partner is Sarah-Jane. The similarities only start there.

I was blessed with an amazing mother. By virtue of her example, I know an incredible IMG_6752mother when I see one. Sarah-Jane has two incredible boys. I am so fortunate to soon be the stepfather to these young men who love each other and their mom in such a special way.

I was a knucklehead when I was a kid. Though I had such an incredible mother who sacrificed so much for me, I didn’t appreciate her nearly as much as she deserved. Sarah-Jane’s boys are so far ahead of me in that department at the stages of life they are in.

I couldn’t be more proud of Sarah-Jane for the mom, and the woman she is. She is so loved and respected by so many people, and her sons know they were blessed by God with the woman he chose to raise them.

My mom has been gone since 2009, but her influence is alive in my heart to this day, and I know her seal-of-approval is etched in Sarah-Jane. They never met in this life, but the two women who have loved me most will one day meet in eternity.

Though I was slow in appreciating my mother, I was able to learn how important it is to recognize the special bond between moms and their kids. And because of that, I know just how wonderful a mom and woman I have in my life today.

Somewhere, pigs are flying

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

Thomas Paine

Two years and nine months ago, my life changed forever. I knew it then, and I know it now more than ever. That knowledge didn’t mean it came easily. It’s been anything but easy. That’s why the quote above has been one to which I’ve held closely for some time. In fact, I remember sharing it with Sarah-Jane very early on in, what was then, our long-distance relationship.

For those of you who know us and have been following our relationship in person, or perhaps on Facebook, you may know that the past two years have been fraught with challenges. We have always gotten along incredibly. But there were things we had to walk through together, and individually. It’s been a grueling process. But how glorious the triumph.

It is my profound pleasure and blessing to announce for the both of us, we are engaged to IMG_5388be married!

I know, right?

True to our personalities, there was no fanfare in the moment of engagement. After the road we have each taken in our lives to get to this moment, we just had a private moment when we mutually shared and agreed that it’s time.

God has taken each of us through something of a gauntlet in life, and in our relationship. But the conflict has never been with each other. It has been with wrestling with our individual regrets, disappointments and consequences in our lives before we knew one another existed. Those challenges really stressed us and our relationship significantly. There were stretches where we were essentially mere friends. But God never gave up, even when it was tempting for us to do so.

For those of you in Rhode Island, before you even ask, there is no ring yet. We shopped a little over the weekend, and we think she found what she wants. So it’s coming in the near future. I don’t know how guys do it, surprising their ladies and popping open a ring box. I wouldn’t pick out a top or a pair of shoes for her without her approval. No way I’m doing that with a ring!

So, with all that said, thank you to those who have invested in us. Those of you who have prayed for us. Those of you who have taken our phone calls and bazillion text messages when we needed our friends. We will be revealing more plans as time moves on, but we’re both too stinking excited to not share this all with you!

 

Mission Field: Facebook

I am a Christian. Hopefully this statement doesn’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me. Even if you don’t know me well, even if we haven’t had conversations about faith, church or anything else, I hope that the way I have presented myself, my speech, my character, and my behavior hasn’t compromised my identity as one who loves God and loves people. Hopefully I’ve made you laugh. Hopefully I’ve brought something of value to your life. Hopefully, if you need someone to talk to or ask for prayer, you’ll feel I’m someone you can trust. Hopefully our association has changed your opinion of Christians as they are characterized by Hollywood and those who think we hate those who aren’t like us.

My intended audience for this post is my fellow believers. If you’re not one who goes to church or considers yourself to be “religious”, please don’t feel that this means you need to stop reading. In fact, I encourage you to continue reading. I and my intended audience welcome you hold me/us accountable.

It’s easy to define the mission field as some far off foreign country. For over a century, yeah, that’s pretty much been accurate. People leaving the familiarity and comfort of their home, families and culture to go off to some impoverished people on the other side of the planet. Today, the world is quite literally at our fingertips. At any moment of the day, you have the ability to communicate with people all over the world.

Here’s where I’m going with this. In “real life”, how do we communicate? A conversation? Of course. Our words are a very important part of communication. However, it’s really only a fraction of how and what we communicate about ourselves. No matter where you go, no matter what you’re doing, you’re communicating with people you don’t even realize. How you dress communicates something. How you respond to stress, the music you listen to, the jokes you tell, the pictures on your wall or desk at work, your attitude, your work ethic. These are just some of the almost infinite ways we communicate who we are and what we’re about.

With that being said, I think of social media. Last quarter, Facebook reported over 1.19 billion monthly active users. One in seven people on earth use Facebook. My question to you is, what are you communicating to your mission field? I have to admit, I have been seriously disturbed by some of the things I have seen posted by Christians I know. I have seen vile profanity, I have seen sexually provocative and even perverse “shares” and “likes” of material that grieves the heart of God.

I am no prude, nor am I perfect. I have found things to be funny that I know God doesn’t approve of. I am human. You are too. I get it. But I am a child of the most-high God. I represent Him. I fail Him, but I am still His ambassador to anyone and everyone who I communicate with, both directly and indirectly. facebook

Just as I don’t walk around with a twenty pound bible with which I bludgeon people over the head, I don’t use Facebook as a battering ram of piety. I post videos of cats, I rant and joke about sports and pop culture. I occasionally share some of my political views as they relate to the direction of our country and current events. I am not fake. I really try to be as real as I can be. It does no one, including you and God, any good if you pretend to be one thing to the public, but you’re someone completely different when no one is looking.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is that our lives are a fitting and suitable representation of a life changed and perpetually influenced by the saving and unmerited grace of God. Be real. Be a human being. Laugh, cry, joke, rant. Be flawed, but be honest. People respect and identify with authenticity. When you miss the mark, share what God taught you through it. Testify of God’s mercy and abundant grace. Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul and countless others in the bible failed God miserably at times. They all failed in what they communicated to others. But they also turned it around and brought glory to God and influenced those who were watching them.

We are to be in the world, not of it. The world’s standard is not God’s. We live by a higher moral code. Share your cat videos. Share your funny memes. But think carefully about the stuff to which you attach your name, your reputation and your associations. Be consistent. In real life as well as online, the things you say and do should not contradict each other. Out of the same mouth cannot come blessing and cursing. Whether people admit it or not, they want and need us to be different. They desperately need to see that we can walk through life right beside them, but we don’t fall into the same traps because God is alive in our hearts and lives. They need the hope we profess.

They are watching.

Re-membering

This week is the definition of bittersweet for me. Last Sunday would have been my mom’s 80th birthday, and today will be the first October 30th since 1935 without my dad.

The title of this post is not a typo. The word remember means bringing back that which is broken. Imagine one of your arms being broken from your body. The act of restoring it to your shoulder is re-membering. IMG_5453

For several years in the 1990s, my parents served on the board of directors of an orphanage in Mexico. I had the privilege of visiting and ministering in this orphanage. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. Being with these children, with whom I could barely communicate because of the language barrier, touched my heart in a way I never knew possible. We laughed, played and even cried together. This was my first experience in such a ministry, and it never would have happened were it not for my parents.

This past Sunday, the 80th anniversary of my mom’s birth, we had a special missionary guest. His ministry?

Orphans in Haiti.

On the day that held a special place in my heart as I remembered my mom, God sent a messenger who re-animated a chamber in my heart for those with no parents or blood relatives.

Re-membering.

Today, as I think of my dad, and for the first time, being unable to see or even call him to wish him a special day and tell him I love him, I re-member his unwavering integrity and character. An imperfect man, yes, but one who wouldn’t allow himself to knowingly do the wrong thing whether people would know or not. HIs example has served as an inspiration to me throughout my adult life.

Re-membering their love and devotion to one another. Re-membering their steadfast pursuit and love of God and people. Re-membering the laughter. Re-membering the tears.

My heart was broken on March 20, 2009, and again on August 5, 2015. But as I re-member the parents God blessed me with, and think of those who have no parents, my heart is restored and filled with joy, humility, and resolve. A resolve to make a difference in lives, just as my parents did. By any means necessary. Even if it seems crazy. Even if it seems impossible. Even if it seems too late. Even if it seems too expensive.

God showed me through my parents that all He needs is a willing heart, and lives will be changed.

It must start with mine.

Thank you Mom and Dad. I miss you. But you are part of me as I re-member you. May my life be a continuation of the spiritual heritage you began. I look forward to seeing you again, but first, there is work to be done here.