God reaching across the cosmos

While listening to the Ask Science Mike podcast, Mike was talking about how language and mathematics are completely inadequate to describe what existed before the big bang. That God, existing as a singularity when laws of physics and time and space were one. We as humans have been trying to define and understand it, yet not quite getting there. As our knowledge grows, it changes and it will continue to grow and change. Despite our increased understanding, words will always fail to fully describe God.

During that bit, Mike said the following, which I found absolutely beautiful.

Even in the bible our understanding about God has evolved.

First, God was a man who walked with us in a Garden. He said that it was good and He showed us how to live. But there was trouble in paradise and we moved on.

Next God was a stranger we wrestled with. An unknown face who looked like a man and only after difficulty, could God be known and be revealed.

But God continued to grow in our eyes. And God became a burning bush that was not consumed by its fire who said simply that, "I am."

God continued to expand beyond just a bush, and after the people of God left Egypt, God was a pillar of cloud during the day and fire during the night that showed the people where to go in the wilderness.

After that, God dwelled in an ark that traveled with the people of God in the fields of battle, and who rewarded His followers with the social currency of that time: military conquest and victory.

When the people of God settled down into their own nation, God became a dwelling Spirit within a temple that denoted Yahweh's rule over a specific geographic patch of the earth.

After that nation was overthrown, and the people of God were in exile, God returned as a man. This time, a man named Jesus. An incarnate face on the mysterious spirit from the temple.

But this time God spoke of a greater and more expansive love than had been part of the faith before.

This time God said, "The most important thing is to love Me, and the next most important thing is to love your neighbor, and all that I say hinges on those things."

And then, this Man left. He ascended into Heaven.

And suddenly, God was a spirit that dwelled within our hearts. A universal force that dwelled not within one temple but every body of every believer.

Potentially, a temple everywhere in world. Everywhere humans traveled.

But our understanding of God was not done evolving still. Because next the church established God as a triune God, three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Which one of these Christian Gods accurately reflects reality? They all do. They are all metaphors that point to the source of all. They are all pictures of a God that somehow reaches out to us across the cosmos.

As a Christian, I do not feel threatened by science. Rather, I am excited by the new discoveries found by scientists. Groundbreaking, mind-blowing, and endlessly fascinating. My oldest and I will have some of the deepest and most important conversations about faith and life that were born from discussions about alternate universes and time paradoxes.

It bothers me that so many other Christians view science as a bunch of gobbledygook. They're missing out. Science is not an art that should lure us away from our belief in God, but fill us with wonder and awe of the complexities and beauty of His creation. From microbiology to astrophysics, God's fingerprint is present. God is reaching across the universe, screaming our names.


The Trump Predicament

I may be a week late to this dump on Trump party but it has taken me this long to formulate a collection of words that resemble anything more than blundering gibberish.

How is this bully the number one polling GOP candidate?

Perhaps we could understand the perspective of Donald Trump's words if we substitute the objects of his ire.

For example:

"Billionaires are not pleasant people, they’re not the best. They’re not you. They’re people that have lots of problems, and they’re making you pay for those problems. They do drugs. They’re white collar criminals. They’re narcissists. And some, I assume, are good people."

or ...

Me: "Donald Trump has the worst toupée I have ever seen."
Trump: "This is real 100% authentic American grown hair."
Me: "It's not a toupée - Donald swears it is real."
Trump: "How dare you call it a toupée you moron."
Me: "I never said it was a toupée. I just prefer hair that doesn't look like a wig."

It baffles me to see so many people excited about the possibility of President Trump. Is it the irresistible allure of watching a car crash in slow motion? Is it a fascination with offensive material? Do people like Trump for the same reason that they watch the Saw movies, get slobbering-all-over-yourself drunk, or laugh at Triumph the Insult Comic Dog? Is cheering for someone who is meaner and uglier than you something that is supposed to make you feel better about yourself?

Photo courtesy of UPROXX

Why? Why is Donald Trump leading leaps and bounds above any other Republican presidential wannabe? Those are questions that I am unprepared to answer - and possibly incapable of explaining.

I don't understand the popularity of the Trump campaign. But here is what I do know.

Speaking truth and speaking your mind are not the same thing.
Honesty without kindness is rarely beneficial.
Dishonesty masked by arrogance is still dishonesty.
It is possible to recognize the accomplishments of people you don't like.
It is possible to express dissatisfaction without denigration.
There is a fine line between being politically incorrect and being a jerk.
There is a finer line between being a smartass and an jackass.
Anyone who sets out with the intention to offend will succeed in offending.
Rewarding the rude behavior of one individual will encourage others to be equally rude if not more so.

Considering the above observations, you need to ask yourself if Donald Trump is the kind of person you want representing our nation. Is he the kind of man you want negotiating foreign policies with dignitaries and world leaders? Would you be comfortable knowing that Trump is the most powerful person in the world?

For me, the answer to those three inquiries is one simple word: No.


Gun Up or What?!?

Another day another shooting. Am I right?

Ugh. That sounds horrible. Callous at best, sadistic at worst. It is, however, an honest assessment of American life. Not even two months since the attack at the AME Church in Charleston, and we've seen at least a dozen more mass shootings grab headlines since then.

Motivated by one form of hatred or another. Racism. Misogyny. Islamic extremism. Xenophobia. Gang rivalries. Revenge. The only other common element in these incidents is the weapon of choice: firearms.

The political aftermath of these shootings follow a predictable approach ad nauseam providing endless fodder for 24 hour news outlets to argue in the days that follow.

One side says that the appropriate response is to enact stricter gun laws. The other wants to loosen gun laws. One side wants to restrict access to guns. The other wants everyone to get a gun. Forgive my bluntness, but both of those responses are utterly ridiculous.

We can debate these opposed ideals until modern society collapses but such an endeavor would only prove fruitless. It would solve nothing while the body count increases at a rate that would discourage the most cheerful optimist in America.

We as Americans have a problem with guns. Denial of such problem is either foolish, willfully oblivious, or perhaps both.

However, it is not the guns themselves that is the source of our woes. Our problem with guns is our attitude toward guns. The idea that an armed society is a polite society is hyperbolic nonsense; apprehension and civility are not synonyms. The claim that anyone who open-carries a side arm is a nut with violent tendencies is nothing more than fear-mongering. The belief that any attempt at gun control regulation is a ruse to take away our guns is a slippery slope fallacy. Thinking that better gun control will eradicate all mass shootings is wishful thinking.

The arguments on both sides of the second amendment debate are so mired in rhetoric that everyone needs to sit down and shut up.

Our problem is one of attitude. We live in a culture that glorifies violence. We view our personal collection of firearms as an idol but no one is brave enough to admit it. We are so caught up in our own personal liberties and the pursuit of self preservation that we no longer give a damn about our neighbors. We mask our faults with weaponry and label it security.

These mass shootings are not the fault of gun availability alone. It is a cocktail mixed from entitlement issues, family dysfunction, greed, jingoism, generations of people turning a blind eye to injustice, unwillingness to support the underprivileged and at-risk members of society, and constant political vilification. Toss a loaded weapon into that volatile concoction and bad things will happen. It is inevitable.

Same thing but shorter: Our attitude problem with guns is a moral dilemma. Unfortunately, it is impossible to legislate morality.

We need to enforce existing gun laws. We might even need new laws. Still, neither of those options will solve the issue. They are nice gestures but will only serve as a band aid on a gaping gunshot wound.

If the problem is our attitude, then the solution would be a changed mind-set. What we need is a massive cultural shift. That is something that the law is powerless to enforce.

There is a funny thing about social shifts: culture can shape the government, but the government cannot shape culture. It is a one way street. Yet, in order to make those changes, it requires culture to make an effort.

If we are to fix this gun problem, it means the responsibility for change belongs to us. To me. To you. Our friends, our family, our churches, our neighborhoods. It is time we live out the biblical commands to love our neighbors, to forgive freely, and reconcile this broken world in which we live. We need to love our kids unconditionally and teach them to love others in the same way. We need to rebuke any semblance of hatred.

That is a power that belongs to individuals and if we were to wield that power, I guarantee we would see less nuts with guns killing in public places.

So, maybe – just maybe, we need a little less “F-yeah! Guns! Whoooo!” And a little more, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?


My Top 5 (+1) Musical Movie Moments

From my previous post, one of the podcasts that brings me joy is the Deucecast; it's all about movies. I thought I was a film buff until I started following David Dollar's blog and podcast; he makes me look like a casual fan in comparison. It is satisfying to listen to someone so passionate about something I enjoy. Additionally, I don't get out to the theater as much as I used to, so David and his friends provide insight to movies that I probably will never have the time to see.

A few weeks ago, The Deucecast had an episode about their favorite musical moments from film - the best I have heard from them so far. Music is one topic over which I will gleefully geek out. They combined two of my favorite things and that awesome Deucecast episode, so here is the countdown of my favorite musical moments in cinema.

Honorable mention: Mariachi lessons from Desperado. Desperado is a dude's movie. Shootouts, explosions, guitar cases filled with guns, and Salma Hayek. The Chicano rock and Latin music infused soundtrack helps make this one of my all time favorite movies. The movie's premise is simple: a man on a quest for revenge. On the way to the Tarasco bar to confront his enemy's goons, El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) meets a kid who is struggling to play a guitar. El Mariachi provides some tips and a quick lesson to help the kid improve his technique. It is a tender moment in a hyperactive movie, a glimpse of kindness and compassion from a man preoccupied with violence.

Now ...

Five. "Step in Time" from Mary Poppins. If I am honest, I strongly dislike this movie. It and the Sound of Music are two of my mom's favorites; I cannot count how many times she forced me to watch them when I was growing up. Even though I cringe at numbers like "A Spoonful of Sugar" or "Let's Go Fly a Kite," there is a certain oddness to the rooftop dance routine and the pub-like quality of "Step in Time" that I do appreciate. It is the one scene from Mary Poppins that I find entertaining. It's a daft blend of absurdity and danger with a dark streak that suits my preference for scarier and more action filled movies.

Four: "Johnny B. Goode" from Back to the Future. Seeing Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel back in time to meet his parents is the stuff that inspired the wildest dreams of my 80s era imagination. If I ever found myself transported back to a time when my parents were in high school and was thrust upon a stage at a school dance to play with the band, I would play a song they've never heard. It wouldn't be "Johnny B. Goode," perhaps "Wonderwall" from Oasis or "Today" from Smashing Pumpkins. But I would not be able to resist doing what Marty did: get a little carried away.

Three: "You Make My Dreams" from (500) Days of Summer. This quirky movie is both depressing and optimistic as it traverses the highs and lows of a dysfunctional romance. And somewhere in the middle of it, between the butterflies and the heartbreak, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a moment of bliss. Along his walk to work, a tune from Hall & Oates plays. There is an extra pep in his step as he starts dancing. Then the crowd on the sidewalk dances with him. A little cartoon bird perches on his shoulder. He walks into his office; the elevator doors close to end the scene. Just about every guy I know has felt like this at some point in their lives. I know I have.

Two: “Sweet Caroline” from Beautiful Girls. This is my favorite movie ever. From the melancholic title song by Pete Droge to the bittersweet tone of the movie. So many memorable scenes: Rosie O'Donnell’s anti-pornography rant; Michael Rapaport’s creepy monologue about the power of a beautiful girl; the conversation between Timothy Hutton and Natalie Portman about love, The Wizard of Oz, and Winnie the Poo; the argument over champagne colored diamonds. It’s endlessly quotable and bits of dialog from this film have worked their way into my conversational repertoire. When I tuck my daughter into bed and give her a bedtime kiss, I tell her four words from this movie: “Good night sweet girl.” The one musical clip that stands out above the others is when the guys gathered at the bar convince Willie (Hutton) to play the piano and it devolves into a group sing-a-long of the Neil Diamond classic. Everyone is off key and reveling in the moment. This scene demonstrates the best that a good group of friends can offer.

One: I Want Joe's Money from Empire Records. Of course, a movie set in a record shop would be filled with great musical moments. Most of it centers around the store staff dancing and singing while cleaning or stocking shelves. Then there is Rory Cochrane’s banishment to the couch, Ethan Embry’s breaking of the fourth wall, Robin Tunney shaving her head, the shoplifter chase, and subsequent mockery of the shoplifter’s musical tastes. The soundtrack is as much a part of this story as much as the characters. You can see it in Embry starting a mosh pit during a Suicidal Tendencies song, The Cranberries playing in the background as AJ (Johnny Whitworth) confesses his feelings to Corey (Liv Tyler), or Renée Zellweger and Coyote Shivers singing Sugar High in a rooftop concert at the end. Most of the music is there for flavor but one song serves to further the plot. That is Flying Lizards cover of Money (That's What I Want). The song and an employee’s lyrical change prompt Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) to inform his staff of the impending transition to a big-box music retailer. Everything about this scene is the kind of thing we would do when I worked in a record store.

Those are my favorites. What are yours?


Podcasts - Stick It in Your Ear

In pursuit of better mental health, I have improved my learning habits. Reading more. Writing more. Actual study. Another learning tool is found in consuming podcasts. This is a deviation from my natural inclination to spend my day listening to music. I still believe in the therapeutic benefit of hearing a collection your favorite songs, but podcasts are something different.

I am using podcasts to keep my mind active. These are opportunities to learn something, to challenge and inspire myself, to support my geekier tendencies, and stimulate thinking beyond my daily routine. And occasionally, these podcasts provide much needed reason to laugh.

Here is my list of Podcasts - divided up in three sections.

Group 1: Thinkers

  • Live Your List: A leadership podcast from Ryan Eller and Jerrod Murr with an emphasis on bucket lists and intentional living.
  • The BadChristian Podcast: Matt and Toby of Emery with their friend and pastor Joey talk about church culture and taboo topics through irreverent conversations, interviews, and bizarre news stories in hopes to challenge the church to talk about stuff that actually matters.
  • Never Was: Former Stavesacre vocalist Mark Salomon reminisces over his career while interviewing his friends and fellow 90s era musicians.
  • NPR's TED Radio Hour: A showcase of TED keynote speakers with interviews and clips from their TED talks.
  • Ask Science Mike: Mike McHargue answers questions about science and faith submitted by show listeners - grounded in both scientific and biblical study.
  • RELEVANT Podcast: The weekly podcast mixing indie music, culture, interviews, and faith from the group that publishes RELEVANT Magazine.

Group 2: Nerds

  • Fat Man on Batman: Kevin Smith discusses his Batman fandom and general geekery with filmmakers, comic books creators, and other Batman fans.
  • The Weekly Planet: The two Australian guys behind comicbookmovie.com chat about movies, TV shows, comic books, and related geek news.
  • The Deucecast Movie Show: David Dollar and some of his friends talk about their favorite movies with topics ranging from romantic comedies, to musicals, summer blockbusters, and Disney classics.
  • You Hate Movies: Josh Dies of Showbread gather friends together to argue about movies.
  • It's a Duck Blur: A husband and wife team from Australia spend an hour to an hour and a half talking about each 22 minute episodes of Duck Tales - all 100 of them.
  • Doug Loves Movies: Comedian Doug Benson performs with his comedian friends before a live audience in a show that is equal parts stand-up comedy and trivial game show.

Group 3: Preachers

  • The RobCast: The weekly podcast from Rob Bell featuring interviews or topical discussions to connect Jewish traditions of the ancient world and our modern society.
  • Daily Audio Bible: Daily scripture reading from Brian Hardin that goes through the entire bible in a year.
  • Hillsong: The weekly sermon from Brian Houston's Hillsong Church in Sydney Australia.
  • Bethel: The weekly sermons from Bethel Church in Redding California.
  • North Point: The weekly sermons from Andy Stanley's Atlanta area church.
  • Beautiful Struggle: B3ar Fruit artist Octavious interviews hip-hop artists about the origins of their faith and artistry.

That is what fills my ears and brains, and I am always up for suggestions.

What podcasts do you enjoy?


Room for Doubt

Within the hero's journey, you will find a myriad of under developed traits, flaws and weaknesses, and imperfections making the hero unlikely - or at least undeserving. Through that varied slop of characteristics, there is one trait that surfaces frequently enough to be believable.


Despite the mantra that great responsibility comes with great power, Peter Parker/Spider-Man constantly questioned his ability to accomplish what he felt was his duty. Daredevil confided in his priest, wondering if his actions were either noble or evil. Harry Potter considered his victories as a matter of luck and clueless blundering. The Doctor referred to himself as "just a madman with a box." Sam never really understood the importance of his presence and thought Frodo was mocking him when Frodo called him the chief character, Samwise the Brave.

Then there is my favorite. In the How to Train Your Dragon movies, Hiccup (the main protagonist) embodies the role of a hero filled with doubt. He is the scrawniest of his peers, has no interest in fulfilling his father's imposing expectations, and thinks himself unworthy of ruling the land of Berk. Awkward, dorky, and oblivious to the feelings of those who love him. Overly reliant on sarcasm and self-deprecation to mask his insecurity. He knows he is destined for greatness yet he is hyperaware of his shortcomings.

Modern Christianity has painted doubt as a horror as grievous as great sins like pride and lust. Any who question their faith, themselves, or their salvation is branded as an apostate. This has created a culture where Christians are afraid to ask tough questions and express reservations, fearful that they could be denigrated for challenging the sacred order. Because of this, good people are walking away from the church - a place where honest seeking has become unsafe.

This is a sad state of affairs. I do not think this is what God had in mind for His people. I do not believe that God is afraid of our doubts. Neither should we.

In Matthew 25, Jesus told the familiar parable of God separating the sheep and the goats on judgment day. To the faithful, a message is given that they fed the hungry, clothed and housed the underprivileged, cared for the sick, and visited prisoners. "I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me." The unrighteous did not do any of those works. As a result they are told, "Depart from me, you who are cursed ... whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

This passage is often interpreted as a command for social justice. This is Jesus challenging his followers to act on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society. This is instruction to perform good deeds. Of course it is all of those things, but there might be more to this story.

Dig deeper.

The reaction of both the sheep (those who did good deeds) and the goats (those who refused to do good deeds) are identical. "Really? Us? When did that happen?"


God recognized the good works of one group of people who didn't realize the grace of their actions. It's almost as if they're saying, "Who me? I'm just a normal person. There is nothing special about me."

Yet the other group is incredulous. "How dare you accuse me? I am special. I demand a second opinion."

Both groups are surprised by their judgments. One unaware that what they did actually mattered, the other unaware that what they didn’t do mattered. One questioned their own validity, the other assured in their own power.

The sheep were never sure if they were making a difference. They were imperfect heroes. They were humble yet filled with doubt.

The goats thought they'd be a shoe-in. They assumed they were the people who pleased God. They were puffed up with arrogance yet callous toward others.

This is important because we have more in common with characters like Daredevil, Samwise Gamgee, and Hiccup of Berk. We also find ourselves plagued with doubts. If we believe that such feelings are inherently evil, then we believe something about ourselves that cannot possibly be true: that there is no room in God’s kingdom for messed up people like us. Within the parable at the end of Matthew 25, we see room for doubt, and that should be good news.

So maybe it’s OK to have doubts. Perhaps we should stop thinking we must have it all together. We should stop insisting on unattainable perfection and unquestionable understanding. We should stop dictating who gets to go to heaven and who will be sent to hell because that is not our job.

And maybe, just maybe we should give ourselves the liberty to ask tough questions.


The Complete Gospel

A little over three years ago, Marvel Studios released The Avengers – the movie shattered box office records and remains one of the best superhero movies of all time - adored by both fans and critics.

The characters had all been introduced in earlier films. Now Earth's mightiest heroes are assembled after an attack from the demigod Loki in a culmination of previous interconnected stories. They chase and capture Loki. They bicker and splinter. Loki escapes and uses alien technology to open a wormhole above Manhattan which allows a Chitauri army to begin its invasion. The Avengers reassemble to fight off the alien horde in the Battle of New York. In the end (spoilers) Iron Man carries a nuclear missile through the wormhole and destroys the Chitauri mother-ship, Thor escorts Loki to be imprisoned in Asgard, and the heroes quietly gather in a deli to eat shawarmas.

That is my brief synopsis from opening sequence to post credits scene. Considering its theatrical success, popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and general demographic of people who read my blog, I realize that most of you have all ready seen this movie and don't need an explanation of the plot. We all could probably recall our favorite moments from the film: the epic fight between Thor and Iron Man, the witty banter between egos, when Hulk smashes the crap out of Loki then calls him a puny god.

Pretend for a moment you have not yet seen The Avengers until now. (C'mon, it's been three years. Where have you been?) The first scene is the moment Loki connects the Tesseract to the machine on the roof of Stark Tower and aliens begin to pour from the sky. You see the iconic image of the five superheroes gathered in a circle with their backs to each other, prepared for war. The film plays through the climactic battle. At the moment that the missile is detonated to defeat the invading Chitauris, the screen goes black. End of story. Roll credits.

image courtesy of Marvel Studios

If that is all you got, you are missing something. Sure, you saw some action. But there is more to the story than the fight and the winning explosion. You missed the exposition, the initial conflict, the rising action, and the long dark night of the soul. You witnessed the climax, but received no resolution or conclusion. This truncated version of The Avengers would be hollow, an ultimately unfulfilling lack of entertainment.

Watching an incomplete third act of a three act play creates unanswered questions. Who are these people and how did they get here? What is going on? Why should I care? You have no vested interest in the characters and given no incentive to see any sequels.

We may not do that with our favorite movies, but Christians tend to do that to the Gospel.

When we try to explain the basics of our beliefs, we start right before the final showdown and end with the climatic deathblow. Then we wonder why no one is listening.

Having grown up in evangelical culture, I have seen this minced version of the gospel presented so many times I have begun to wonder if these people even read their bibles.

Ninja ministry style seems to compact God's story into a five second snippet to be dumped on bystanders with minimal effort: "You're a sinner and Jesus died for you so you can go to heaven the end."

Is that the best we can do?

That is an incomplete gospel. It lacks substance. If that is the only story you have to tell, your listener will be left with the same questions as they would with the hypothetical version of The Avengers described above.

"You're a sinner." Who am I and how did I get here? "Jesus died for you." What is going on? "You can go to heaven." Why should I care?

A truncated gospel fails to answer these questions. It provides no vested interest in discovering God and no incentive to pursue a deeper faith. Skim through the gospel, pick out a couple of soundbites, and wonder why no one listens.

There is so much more. A complete gospel answers these questions because it starts at the beginning and ends at the end. Mankind's sinful nature is not the first part of the Gospel story, and hope of eternal life is not the end.

The complete gospel begins with exposition. God created us to be in a perfect relationship with Him. The initial conflict is failure damaging humanity's connection with the divine through which sin enters the world and infects everyone. In the rising action, we see how God offers methods for people to reconnect with Him, but humanity is so broken we continually screw it up until God sends His Son to restore the damaged relationship. His Son, Jesus, is executed in the long dark night of the soul. The gospel story climaxes when Jesus conquers death through resurrection.

Still, the story isn't over. We are given a resolution that Jesus’ sacrifice gave us the freedom to truly live here and now. This is where God's original intent for a perfect union with Him begins. The future hope is the conclusion but that element of the story hasn't happened yet. This is when God has given us life in abundant measures. This is when we share our story and invite others to participate in our adventure.

The purpose of the gospel is not about how we will someday go to heaven. Such simplistic view misses the point. Eternity begins now. What we say and do matters because we are a part of the gospel story.

So if the only version of the gospel you know to tell is a five second blurb, please stop. God's story is bigger and better than that.

ps: If you still haven't seen The Avengers, what are you waiting for?


Dear Apple

Hello people who designed and created my phone. You are like the friends whose names I can never remember. I know you by proxy and tell everyone your awesome. Until I see you and I say "Hi ... " awkwardly trailing off in hopes someone else will fill in your identity on my behalf.

Ever since I first slid the 3G into my pocket to claim as my own, I felt as if I had purchased a shiny glimpse of the glorious future. I was time traveling without a Delorean and it was awesome.

Do you remember the tiny phones from Zoolander? For a while I thought that was where y'all were headed. Each new model of phone being slightly smaller than the prior version. Had you continued with that trend, we would all now be debating whether or not there is more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. Then you released the iPad and everyone realized your vision for the future: iPhones for giants. As much as I would love to herald Ben Stiller as a prophet of science fiction, you went a different direction.

Now your iPhones are getting bigger, your iPads are getting smaller, and it is only a matter of time until no one will be able to tell the difference. Of course, no one will care either because your unveiling events are always an act of dazzling theatrics melting the hearts of any iPhone devotee, turning us into swooning 13 year old girls attending their first One Direction concert.

Granted, I am not an Apple enthusiast. Yes, I feel naked without my iPhone. My home computer isn't an Apple product, but I do use iTunes on it because iTunes is far better than any other media player I have tested. I adore my iPod. Why? If you've ever tried to use a Zune you would know why. If I could afford one, I would probably use a MacBook for all of my writing. (Until my budget allows such a purchase, I am wishful for some benevolent family member to bestow upon me the gift of their never used MacBook.)

But I'm not an enthusiast. More like a fan. It is for that reason I write this open letter blog post that I doubt any Apple employee will ever read.

I have a valid complaint tempting me to switch to Android or even a Windows phone. Until now, I have resisted that change despite the multitude of friends and family that have all ready blazed that trail before me. Might be because I am lazy and do not want to learn a new mobile OS. Too much effort. But this issue of mine is pushing me closer to the edge.

What is this irksome defect I have found? Well, if you don't mind me saying: whoever decided the Lightning connector was a good idea was wrong. Horribly incorrect.

Please don't misunderstand me. I appreciate the fact that I don't have to worry if the cord is right side up or upside down. Both ways are acceptable. It is nice to have a tip that is significantly smaller than the 30-pin-connector. Such a difference would be necessary if you were still producing smaller and smaller phones, but you are not. We do not live in a Zoolander world, and the next iteration of your iPhone is not the iPaperThin. The tiny tip might be pointless, but still nice.

I will not complain about the lost compatibility to docks or speakers when I upgraded to the 5s because I did not have any of those fancy accessories. I only needed a phone and a power cord - you delivered.

However, of recent times it has become increasingly difficult to charge my phone. One day I plugged it in and nothing happened; after shifting my hand in a few degrees of rotation, the device vibrated and the little green charging image appeared on the screen. All was well, or so I thought.

Over the following days and weeks, the connector progressively felt looser inside the jack forcing me to discover new ways to coax my phone to charge. Tilting the phone. Twisting and bending the power cord. Using the weight of gravity to pull pull the connection in the optimal direction to spark the flow of power from outlet to hardware. I sometimes felt as if I had been transported back into the 80s, adjusting the bunny ears on top of my television so that my family could watch the Mariners game without static and fuzz.

My breaking point came when my efforts to charge my phone felt like an act more worthy of a Vegas magic show than a step in my bedtime routine.

Thankfully, I am not an idiot. If Google is to be trusted, I found this stressor is one shared by many of your customers. The Apple discussion boards are filled with consumers complaining of loose Lightning jacks and phones that will not charge. Within those boards, I found a culprit.


Stupid, annoying, pesky pocket lint.

An easy fix and my phone has been returned to its normal state, happily accepting the union between connector and jack.

I know what you're thinking, if my gripe has been resolved then why mention anything? I do so for one simple reason: I never had this problem with the 30 pin connector. I still have my 3G. I use it as an mp3 player when I work out. Despite its age, it still charges with ease. It looks at lint and laughs.

Your research and development teams are currently working on rolling out next year's iPhone 7, and probably planning iPhone 8 designs. That's business and I understand. But I hope they figure out the lint flaw. Your phones are not Nintendo cartridges; we should not have to blow in them to get them to function.

ps: I really do want one of those tiny Zoolander phones. You should make that a real thing.


When in the Course of human events ...

These are perhaps the most famous words spoken within the course of American history: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We could argue about which rights are unalienable all day long without resolution, but the founding fathers were plain in their text: Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness. Even those words have come possess debatable meanings. I find it sad that in our America, many who claim to believe these words from the Declaration of Independence as the truest form of patriotism somehow translate them through their actions as if to mean my Life, my Liberty, and my Happiness.

Regardless of how you translate those three words: Life, Liberty, Happiness, there is qualifier in our founding documents to whom those rights apply. It is this, "all men are created equal."


This is an all inclusive phrase. Despite the gender specific terminology, we accept the definition of man to reflect all of mankind - both male and female. Nor did the men who authored this document intend it to portray American exceptionalism that concluded we were better than anyone else. By saying all men, they granted that the American colonists were created as equals to the citizens of the British Empire. We must accept that either all peoples of every nation were created equals - even if their nation does not grant them the same legal rights and privileges.

This can be a tough pill to swallow. Because, if you truly believe this, then you must live as if it is true. That means you cannot treat anyone as if they are lower class persons. Every person is a human individual deserving of decent respect and courtesy. The Syrian refugee, your gay neighbor, the Mormon missionaries who proselytize in your neighborhood, the homeless person you ignore on your way to Starbucks every morning, the Latino immigrant busing tables at your favorite restaurant, the kid at the grocery store who stutters while she bags your groceries, the school yard bully. Each and every one of them carries the same worth as you and me.

So when we talk about these unalienable Rights endowed by our Creator, even when we cannot agree on the definition of those rights, we must remember that all men and women were created equal.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Including those with different socioeconomic backgrounds. And those who do not share your political beliefs or religious convictions. And those whose skin color, national origin, or sexual orientation is not the same as yours. Even those who annoy the crap out of you. Like it or not, they are your equal.


The Practical One

My daughter is the most practical of my three kids. When presented with new information, she approaches it with reason and logic in a way that is admirable for any elementary aged kid. At her best, she is calm and collected and almost diabolical in the best way possible.

This trait will serve her well as she grows up and faces teenaged drama. But for now, she delivers eight year old wisdom with pluck and grace. It has its downside though. She has the tendency to apply her sense of practicality to my daydreams.

Perhaps I should explain.

We were out running errands and stopped at a traffic light. While waiting, a Porche Carrera slipped by in the lane next to us and joined us in the line for a green light. It was a couple years old and had a freshly detailed shine.

I whistled, perhaps even purred. "That is a beautiful Porche," I said.

"What's a Porche?" JJ asked.

I gave the simplest answer that I could think of. It is a vehicular work of art. They're expensive, fast, and stylish.

Then Zu came in with her logic. "Is there a back seat in a Porche?"

"Well, no." I answered.

"Ugh." Zu expressed instant judgement. "Then you can't have one, Daddy."

Her practical mind recognized that she and her brothers would not be able to ride with me if my budget magically allowed me to own a Porche.

image courtesy of Top Car Rating

Zu repeated this practicality a little later. We were on our way home from church and passed a new Mazda MX-5 convertible. Once again, I made a remark about the attractive car and Zu instantly noticed the problem. "No, Dad, there isn't a back seat. You can't have one."

That Mazda reminded me of an item on my bucket list. Someday, when the kids are grown and on their own, I want to rent a sporty little convertible like that Mazda and drive the entire length of the 101 from the Olympic Peninsula, down the Pacific coast through Washington, Oregon, and California to Los Angeles. If I'm married, it is the kind of trip I would want to take with my wife. We would stop anywhere along the road that looks interesting and enjoy the sights and flavors of the quintessential left coast experience.

I am always looking for opportunities to inspire my kids and encourage them to dream big. So I took the opportunity to share my dream with them. I explained it in a brief summary, taking care to explain this is something that wouldn't happen until they were all adults.

Zu was not supportive. Her first concern is that she wouldn't get to go with me. I stressed again that this is something that I would not do while they still lived at home. I would wait until they were grownups and had their own families and careers. I told her that I believe it is important for us to set goals and dreams - even if it is something that isn't going to happen for another 20 or 30 years.

That helped her feel better, however she was still not convinced. "But dad," she objected, "what if JJ still lives at home?"

"Oh, Zu. I would wait until all of you have your own life."

"But what if JJ doesn't?"

She was serious. My daughter was legitimately concerned that her younger brother will never move out. With that assumption, Zu's practical mind could not accept the idea of daddy leaving little bro behind.