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Archive for the ‘cynicism and/or hope’ Category

Christmas Music Recommendations

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Yesterday I posted something on FB about the duality of man and how I feel about Christmas. That came into my mind because I was thinking about Christmas music which, similar to how I feel about The Christmas Season, I both love and loathe. I’d get into why about both of those things, but I want to take this in a different direction. What I want to do is every day until Christmas recommend a Christmas song that you likely haven’t heard. There’s so much good music out there and most playlists on the radio or in the mall consist of garbage songs are that several decades old plus the additional garbage that is “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” (Lest anyone forget, all Mariah Carey wants for Christmas is me.) Ok, veered into the loathe part too much there. Back to the point.

My goal is to make Christmas playlists suck less. I’ll recommend songs based on my completely biased and inexpert opinion, and counterbalance that with what I’ll call the “Holly Jolly Factor” to ensure these are not just good songs, but good Christmas songs. So follow along if, like me, you feel the joy of the holidays with a slight undercurrent of sorrow.*

First song: “Baby Son” by John Mark McMillan. This is the big new song in the Christian circles right now because it’s by an established and respected Christian artist, and probably because it’s free ;). This is legitimately a good song, although I’d love to hear a better vocalist sing it at least a step higher. That’s a minor complaint though. Personal preference scale: 8 out of 10. Holly Jolly scale: 4 out of 10, which may not be enough for some people. It’s not a cover of a classic Christmas song, and there’s not even sleigh bells in it. (Is that all it takes to make a song Christmasy?) Check back, and I’ll keep the hits coming.

*i don’t think those are wrong feelings, btw. i mean, the reason we have a christmas is because God sent his son to save us (yay!) to die because we’ve all sinned (bummer….)


Written by matt

December 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I Guess I’m Not A Very Good Christian

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I guess I’m not a very good Christian.

I don’t think it’s a big deal when a sports star comes out and talks about how Christian they are. I also don’t think it’s a big deal when a different one comes out as gay.

I think Jesus had a lot more negative things to say about religious people than anyone else.

Even though I think the unborn have just as much a right to life as I do, I think they have a right to be healthy once they’re out of the womb, too.

I think rights and freedoms are two different things, and I don’t think either one of those things are under attack when someone else has them too.

I’m not interested in calling some girl I don’t know a slut because she got pregnant before she got married.

I don’t believe the Constitution, the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, Supreme Court decisions, or the words of the Founding Fathers to be God-breathed.

I don’t think rape victims were asking for it.

I think there’s a big difference between being outspoken for your faith and plastering Bible verses on yourself just to make sure everyone knows what your beliefs are.

I think straight people are doing just fine destroying the sanctity of marriage.

I think most poor people would love nothing more than to be able to feed, clothe, and shelter their family without anyone’s help.

I’m pretty sure Jesus said that those who live by the sword die by the sword.

I’m also pretty sure the good old days everyone wants to get back to were only good if you were a white male.

Given the past 1500 years or so of human history, I’m not very comfortable playing the victim card.

I guess I’m just not a very good Christian.

Written by matt

May 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Prayer and Daddy Issues

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The message at church on Sunday was on prayer, specifically the part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells his followers the difference between a good prayer and a bad one right before giving the example known as the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor today made several good points about what prayer is supposed to be like and laid out a few things that were meant to encourage us to pray.

I’ve never been good at praying. For some reason it’s always felt so uncomfortable to me to talk to God the way we’re encouraged to by Jesus himself. The thing that is supposed to make it easy to pray is that Jesus refers to God as “your Father” who already knows what you want and who has your best interest at heart. What’s gotten me stuck for so many years is that it’s hard for me, and I imagine for others who grew up this way, that picturing God as a good and loving father is a completely foreign concept. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve finally been able to conjure up an apt analogy.
Maybe some of you grew up like this, maybe you didn’t, but did you ever have a friend whose dad was maybe just a bit scarier than yours when you were a little kid? Like maybe he was a bigger guy, or had a more intimidating look,or didn’t smile as much, or maybe just smelled more like alcohol or cigarettes than your own dad. That’s how every dad was for me when I was a boy for the simple reason that there was a masculine authority there that was completely unfamiliar to me. For me, praying to THE HEAVENLY FATHER feels like approaching my friend’s dad to ask for a favor that he doesn’t owe me. When you grow up without a dad (or with a super crappy one, I’d imagine) it skews your perception of who God says he is for the simple fact that our feeble minds can’t comprehend who God actually is and have to draw comparisons to familiar ideas. God is consistently referred to as a father throughout the Bible which says two things to me: that we are to see Him as approachable and loving, and that fathers have an incredible and important responsibility/opportunity in their child’s lives.

To me, praying is still in my mind the equivalent to interrupting my friend’s dad while he’s busy with his own kids to ask a favor I’m not owed. My honest hope (and prayer, I guess) is that through being an earthly father myself I’ll begin to better understand what a good loving father really looks like and feel more at ease approaching my own Father.

Written by matt

February 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

(Nothing to do with New Year’s)

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I’m finally getting around to reading the Steve Jobs biography that came out over a year ago. I’ve only read the first several chapters so far, but as I expected there’s tidbits that spin my little brain.

The thing that really got me thinking showed up in the first few pages. It’s a widely known fact that he was adopted at birth. He had grown up knowing that. According to the book, the first time Jobs had a negative reaction about being adopted was when a fellow child had asked him if that meant this his real parents didn’t love him enough. His adoptive parents made it a point to instill in him that it wasn’t that anyone didn’t love him, it was that they chose him because he was so special.

At this point in the book, the biographer tries to probe Jobs and people who had been close to him about his true feelings about the fact that he was adopted. His friends had recounted several instances of Jobs saying that he had a hard time with feeling like he had been out and out abandoned and how terrible that felt. Jobs’ own words were that his parents had always told him how special he was and that he knew he was usually the smartest guy in the room. He said that his being adopted didn’t really affect him and that his biological parents were nothing more than sperm and egg donors.

I grew up saying the same thing about my dad; that he was a sperm donor and that’s all I ever thought of him as.

There’s a scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” where the young cop (whose character’s name completely eludes me right now) who grew up in an orphanage confronts Bruce Wayne about being Batman. He tells Bruce that they had met before when he was still at the orphanage. He remembers Bruce getting out of his limo and smiling huge for all the other orphan boys, which is how he starts to piece together that Bruce is actually Batman. The young cop knows that every one of those orphans has a bit of a dark side to them that they practice hiding so that the rest of world doesn’t shut them out, and he had practiced faking that same big smile that he saw on Bruce that day.

I call your bluff, Steve.

Written by matt

December 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Unpopular Opinions

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(I actually started writing this on Wednesday of this week, continued on it last night, and finished it this morning. Due to current events, the overall tone and direction changed during the writing.)

It’s an odd feeling to want to write about several things that you may not want to have out in the open, especially when you feel like the topic could warrant a book’s worth of material. I’ve been struggling with this dilemma for some time. I’ve dabbled in openly saying what I actually think and feel about “controversial” topics from time to time with increasingly predictable results. What has typically occurred is that I say something in the form of a question with the genuine intent of expanding my mind beyond knee jerk reactions and my own innately human narrow point of view. The responses tend to go beyond mere disagreements and veer into heated borderline disrespectful territory. I don’t know how it comes across to others, but my reason and tone has always tried to be that of honest searching. It’s been difficult to walk that line of needing to write for my own mental health knowing that the majority of the subject matter that goes through my mind (religion and politics) is so inflammatory to most of the people who would ever read anything I write. I’ve tried alternatives. I have a Twitter account that maybe four people know about where I can say anything I want to. I have pages of paper that I’ve written on that no one will probably ever see that are completely unfiltered.

It’ s not enough. Ask any artist if they’re fulfilled after spending hours painting a picture only to have no one see it. Ask a musician if they’re fulfilled when they write a song that no one will hear. And ask a writer if they’re fulfilled knowing that no one will read what they have to write. I know this sounds intensely arrogant, but I can’t keep needing to write with the intent of lukewarm neutrality. I’m not placing myself in the realm of great thinkers or writers or artists whose work needs to be seen by the world, and I’m not demanding that people read and agree with me. All I know is that I’d rather experience silence in response to something I’ve actually written instead of something I was afraid to write to begin with. Know that if we disagree, that that’s all it is. Assuming I know you, I still love you and still would love to have a relationship with you.

Starting now.

There’s five stages of grief. The first is denial. After that, anger. Those are followed by bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. I posted a relatively mild statement this afternoon about gun control in the wake of the tragedy that happened in Connecticut. I don’t know how clear it was, but I was in the second stage of grief and probably still am. I honestly don’t know how it’s possible to not be angry about a psychopath killing 26 people , 20 of them children between the ages of five and ten. I wrote my thing about gun control out of anger. I stand by it, but it was out of anger.

Whenever a massacre like this happens, which feels like it’s becoming more frequent in this country, the two camps come out to discuss more gun control versus potentially even less gun control. There’s one group that says if guns were harder or even impossible to acquire, that this tragedy could have been avoided. Then this other group says that the weapon isn’t the problem, it’s the madman who pulled the trigger that’s the issue. Some in this group will even say that had more people had a gun on them at the time that there might be fewer casualties.

Inevitably, there’s also the group of people that will say that all this talk about gun control is too soon; that this should be a time of mourning and not of playing politics. I honestly don’t think anyone is playing politics when it comes to this or that it’s “too soon.” I don’t have any points to score or anything to gain from wanting to engage in that discussion, but I am angry about it. And if you’re someone who has said that it’s too soon, just know you’re in a different stage of grief than I am. It wasn’t too soon to have the discussion after Columbine, nor was it too soon after Virginia Tech. It wasn’t too soon after Aurora, and it wasn’t too soon after Michigan or Oregon. It’s never been too soon to talk about this for the simple fact that it has always been too late.

Gun control isn’t The Answer to preventing mass shootings like this. I’ve read the same stuff you have. We all know that there were obviously mental health issues at play in probably all of the massacres in recent history. That needs to be addressed too. We need to address the culture of violence that we’re all guilty of by virtue of complacency. And I think we need to realize that it’s possible to have a real discussion on things without going overboard. For example, I’m pretty sure that 100% of responsible gun owners don’t want crazy people to have access to guns, and I’m also pretty sure that 100% of non-gun owners recognize that there are such things as responsible gun owners. Also, we have to remember that this is a fallen world. As a Christian I believe that in the world as it is there’s nothing you or I could do to redeem or prevent every act of evil that could possibly occur, and until Christ returns we have to be examples of what the kingdom of heaven could be one soul at a time. So no, tighter gun control isn’t The Answer to this, but I think maybe it’s time to recognize it as part of an answer. The sooner the better.

Written by matt

December 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

“So, how’s does it feel to be a dad??”

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I’ve never heard that question prior to six weeks and five days ago. Now, it’s all I can do to go a day without being asked that. It doesn’t bother me. I’m sure most people have questions they get asked all the time. Being in a touring band for a good long time you get very used to hearing the same questions all the time and so get used to having your awesome (and always witty) stock answer ready to deploy. I’ve been answering this question since he was born and for the first time with one of these types to questions, I’ve probably answered differently every time I’ve been asked. There’s simply not a good (conversationally short) answer that could really communicate everything I’ve been feeling. This blog is my attempt at really explaining how I feel so far about being a dad.

First, there’s the wide range of emotions. Now, a year ago, after spending some months in counseling I would occasionally make the joke of, “Yeah, counseling is going great. I’m up to four feelings now.” Having a kid has kind of opened the flood gates as far as that’s concerned. I’ve felt things I didn’t know were even possible. Here’s a small sampling of the different feelings I’ve recently experienced:

-Absolute joy at seeing my son for that first time
-The weight of knowing God holds me responsible for him
-Euphoric peace when we take naps together
-Frustration at not being able to figure why he’s crying this time
-Sadness at seeing him cry with his little lower lip quivering
-Immense pride whenever he does anything
-Deeper love than I thought possible watching my wife be such an amazing mother to him
-Out and out rage towards my father for choosing anything else than what I get to experience with my son
-Curiosity about what my son is going to be like as he grows up
-Surprised at how much I’m not grossed out by all his bodily functions that need constant attention
-Sheer unadulterated exhaustion

That’s just a sampling and it’s already more than double my previous number of feelings.

Before having my son, I would ask new dads all the time what it felt like to be a dad and a recurring theme was them saying that there’s no words that can do it justice; that it was so intense they couldn’t really explain it. Being on this side of it now, I think I understand what they meant by that.

Do you know what white noise is? Or the snowy static that used to come on old analog TV’s? It’s not really the absence of a certain picture or frequency, it’s actually every frequency on display at once. The TV static is every light frequency at once and white noise is every audio frequency all at once. Part of the reason it’s been so hard to accurately tell people how it feels to be a dad is because of the number of emotions involved. The hardest thing to explain is that I’ve literally felt every emotion I’m capable of feeling all at the same time all the time. It is, in a very real sense, a constant white noise of emotions.

I think I have my witty stock answer for when people ask me that now.

Written by matt

August 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Reflections on a Father’s Day

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(I wrote this late Sunday night, but haven’t gotten to finish it until today.)

I really wanted to have a great blog post for Father’s Day. It’s been my entire life that I’ve seen this day as something that I’m left out of, and this year is the first one that I’ve gotten to celebrate. Despite the fact that it started out with so much promise, it ended with a bit of a letdown.

This was the first Father’s day that I really feel like I got to celebrate instead of doing my usual reflections on my abandonment issues. My lovely, nine-months-pregnant wife made me breakfast this morning and really went out of her way to emphasize how much of a great dad she thinks I’ll be. She knows what this day has meant to me previously and what it gets to mean to me now. I even (coincidentally) got a very welcome surprise phone call from my sister. It turns out one of my brothers is also expecting a baby only a few weeks after me. Lastly, I had a show tonight and that always puts me in a good mood.

About halfway through the four hour drive though the day took kind of a weird left turn. I’ll spare you the gritty details, but suffice it to say that there were many phone calls and frantic text messages with a few more (likely) uncomfortable phone calls in my near future.

I tend to be a “live and let live” kind of guy for the most part. The phone calls will be uncomfortable for me because it’s the opposite of that, but it’s for the good of myself, my wife, and very soon, my son. And it’s just not fair. It has so little to do with me and I don’t want to do it and I shouldn’t have to.

That’s the trick, though, isn’t it?

The more I learn about what it means to be a man and a father, the more I hate that I would much rather just let things go at the risk of those things negatively affecting my family. I’m beginning to understand on so much a different level of what it means to sacrifice for your family and to lead and protect those who God places under you. This isn’t to excuse them, but I’m even better understanding why so many men just check out of the whole thing: it’s really freaking hard.

I’m not gonna check out though. The first reason is accountability, meaning everyone who reads this gets to administer a very serious ass kicking if I ever do check out. Another reason is that is that I’m already beginning to feel rewarded by doing the occasional really tough thing. I get to look at my wife and see how much she loves and trusts me, and one day I may get to see that from my son.

Written by matt

June 19, 2011 at 11:53 pm