When I was growing up, there was a tradition in my parents’ church. Anytime a member of the church was moving away or leaving to take a ministry role somewhere else, there would be a special music presentation. Another member of the congregation would sing a song from Michael W. Smith. If you were raised in a conservative church during the 80s like I was, you can probably guess where this is going. It was the perfect union of schmaltz and forced optimism that was typical of CCM in the Reagan era. From Smith’s 1983 debut, the song was ‘Friends.’

No matter how old I get or how long it’s been since I last heard the song (some time in 1999), I will never forget the lyrics of the chorus: “Friends are friends forever if the Lord's the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never because the welcome will not end. Though it's hard to let you go, in the Father's hands we know that a lifetime's not too long to live as friends.” If I ever live long enough to make it to live in an elder care facility, this is one of those songs that will periodically get stuck in my head.

Back in Marysville, this song was my church’s way of saying goodbye. It was how we let people know that they would be missed and if the worst were to transpire, they could always come back. It was the Nazarene equivalent of scribbling “I’ll never forget you, don’t ever change” in someone’s high school yearbook. But the sentiment was appreciated.

Life doesn’t promise ease and comfort. Despite our grandest tactics to the contrary, crisis will arise. From medical emergencies, to car repairs, to the heartbreak of complicated human relations. Sometimes, catastrophe is inevitable. As they say in the corporate world, life happens.

We should make every effort to plan for the more unpleasant realities of existence. Save money and set it aside for emergencies. Routinely change the oil in your car and rotate your tires. Get health insurance. Write a will. Yet there are things that can’t be mitigated. And when those events happen, no amount of financial or strategic preparation can protect us.

However, there is another buffer essential to our well-being to help in times of trouble, speaking words of wisdom: a good friend.

Through adolescence, we’ve heard similar messages from parents and teachers and youth pastors and counselors: choose your friends wisely. I once heard in a seminar that we are the sum total of the five people with whom we most frequently spend our time. Both lessons preach the same lesson: our best friends will either drag us down or lift us up. I didn’t heed those lessons when I was younger, but now as an adult I am much more diligent in choosing those I pick to be on my team, my squad, my crew. In recent years, I’ve become increasingly intentional in my choice of friends.

After the past couple weeks where I experienced three consecutive but unrelated disasters, the value of a good friend became more apparent. During that time, the four people who I have considered the best friends I’ve ever had stepped up to lend unimaginable support and encouragement. It has been a relief to know that I have their back and they have mine. It makes me wonder why I waited so long to find friends like these.

My heart is filled with gratitude for these individuals who have entered my life. The sentimentality is unavoidable. I can’t help but hear the keyboard riffs, key changes, and Michael W. Smith’s silky tenor “A lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.”



My kids had an interesting question for me: "Dad, if you got elected to work for the government, would we have to move?"

"Well," I answered, "it depends. If I was elected to city council or the county commission, I wouldn't go anywhere. So we'd stay here. If I got into the state legislature, I'd have to go to Boise while in session and live there for a few months during the year, but I'd still live here. If I became a state representative in the federal government, it would be more interesting and I'd do a lot of flying back and forth between here and Washington DC. I'd also have to travel around the state a lot."


I continued, "However, such discussion is purely hypothetical and purely irrelevant."

"Why?" They asked.

It is encouraging they have (at this stage of their lives) enough faith in me to think I could win a seat in an elected office. They think I'm smart enough and that my ideas are worthy of consideration in deliberating law and government policies. Their confidence in me won't last forever, but I cherish it while I have it. However, I will never run for any political office. Not because I'm uninterested but because it would be a fruitless endeavor.

"Because," I said, "I am unelectable."

"You are?"

"I am." their over-inflated belief in my abilities humbles me. They wanted to know why so I explained. "I am too conservative for the Democrats and I'm too liberal for the Republicans. Socialists would not approve of my libertarian tendencies and Libertarians would not appreciate my socialist leanings. Politically speaking, I don't fit in anywhere. No party would accept me, which would make it impossible for me to run for any elected position."

There is a reason I describe my political persuasion as potpourri. I am the purple voter. Anyone who sees me as something other than a true independent is an extremist within their own party. Maybe that means I have more in common with the average American than the people who inevitably end up on ballots each November. Perhaps that makes me completely unelectable.

Yet, if the election of Donald Trump has taught me anything, it is that anyone - and I do mean ANYONE can become president.


Fear (In Practice)

Modern society is a peculiar creature. We live in a world where everyone is afraid but no one is willing to admit it. Instead, we hide our fears in the shadows, pretending they either don't exist or can't be seen. This creates a dysfunctional society. Even my 12-year-old knows such cultural rules are not healthy.

Scientists have been studying the effects of secrecy. The white bear experiment in the 80's demonstrated how trying to avoid specific thoughts make us think more frequently about that which we don't want to think about. James Pennebaker has written books on communication and the secrets we keep. He studied victims who experienced violence at a young age, finding health issues were common when they got older because they kept their trauma secret. His book Expressive Writing: Words That Heal specifically focuses on writing as an aid for healing after physical or emotional trauma. Pennebaker argues in favor of divulging personal secrets because there are tangible health benefits. In the bible, the book of James says we should “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” And Proverbs says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”

Clearly, our culture is more than just a little messed up. If scientists, psychologists, therapists, theologians are to be believed, we could all be a bit healthier if we were open and honest about our feelings. The things that scare us. Our worries. Our anxieties. Our doubts. We're not there yet. But if we want to change how society functions, someone must go first. That person will probably look weird. Their actions will be thought of as abnormal. When everyone fakes being fearless because admitting your fear could make you seem weak, those that flaunt their fears will look bizarre and perhaps even foolish. Yet, someone needs to go first.

Allow me to be that weirdo. Why? Well, as John Reuben said in his song No Regrets, “I'm secure enough to admit my insecurity.” Also, I'm not Superman. I'm afraid. A lot.

I'm scared of insignificance. This has been my greatest fear for as long as I can remember. I'm afraid that my efforts will count for nothing. That in the end, who I am and what I do won't matter.

I'm scared that my appeal wears off. I'm afraid that people like me when they first meet me, but once they get to know me, I'm not that interesting. Once you get to know me, there’s always going to be someone more charming, more dashing, better looking, wittier, funnier, more athletic. Once you get to know me, you'll discover you don't need me, like Christopher Robin outgrowing his stuffed bear Poo.

I'm scared of success. What if I actually succeed at my goal of writing professionally? I'm afraid that if I get a publishing contract and become a bestselling author, I would not know how to manage my finances and I would not be able to handle strangers recognizing my name and face everywhere I go.

I'm scared that my good enough isn't really good enough.

I'm scared that I will never be able to lose the weight that I need to lose and my health will suffer because of it.

I'm scared that my divorce has left irreparable scars on my kids. I'm afraid that they will grow up to repeat my mistakes.

I'm scared that no one will show my kids the love and respect I think they deserve. I'm afraid that I can't protect my kids when I'm not with them.

I'm scared for my two younger children. I am afraid that they will face injustice, discrimination, and hatred because of their Native American heritage.

I'm scared of running out of gas while driving. The low fuel warning light fills me with anxiety and I actively try to avoid seeing it turned on.

I'm scared of creepy kids. Movies like Children of the Corn or that episode of Doctor Who with the kids wearing gas masks who keep asking “Are you my mummy?” chill me and frighten me more than any other fictional monster or villain.

Image courtesy of BBC One.

Most of the time, I am just like everybody else. I hide it. I put on a happy face and get through my day. I work, I play, I take care of my kids. Like the saying says: fake it ‘til you make it.

But I am done with the charades. I'm scared y'all. I can't keep pretending to be OK. The cracks are showing, I might as well admit they're there. I'm a mess. I'm in a glass case of emotion. However, I'd be willing to bet you are too.

We are all scared of something, Maybe it's time we admit it.


Fear (In Theory)

Phobias are common. Everyone is scared of something. Some have a fear of heights or the dark. Others fear failure or death. I once knew a girl who was afraid of mismatched straws; the sight of two differently colored straws in the same drink literally caused her feelings of anxiety. We give our fears fancy names: arachnophobia, enochlophobia, podophobia. As if nomenclature is the first step of conquering that which scares us.

In comics, Bruce Wayne feared bats (chiroptophobia) so he donned a bat suit and became the Batman to strike fear into the criminal underbelly of Gotham. Elsewhere in the DC universe, Jonathan Crane sought revenge on the bullies that taunted him through adolescence by invoking their fear; he was obsessed with phobias. Years later, he got a job as the psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum and conducted fear-inducing experiments on the Arkham inmates. With degrees in psychology and biochemistry added to a constant desire for revenge, he created a blend of drugs and toxins to concoct a fear-gas that he would use to exploit those things his advisories feared. Under a mask, Dr. Crane is better known as the Scarecrow - a deranged super-villain (and my personal favorite) in Batman's Rogues Gallery.

The late 70s and early 80s popularized the slasher movies - a subgenre in horror. In these movies, masked or disfigured madmen stalked and murdered young and beautiful people. Michael Myers is an unkillable boogieman in Halloween. Freddy Krueger wears bladed gloves and haunts the dreams of the teens, killing them in their sleep. The hockey masked Jason Voorhees hunts the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake with machete. Each of these villains struck fear into the hearts of their victims.

It permeates pop culture. From the pages of Stephen King novels to the classic literature of Bram Stoker and HP Lovecraft. We see it in survival horror video games and Halloween costumes. Fear is the driving force in film from big budget blockbusters to creature feature b-movies. Of the greatest motivating emotions (anger, love, heartbreak) fear seems to be the most powerful. It is deeply primal and preys upon our instincts. Terror prompts our fight or flight responses.

A few weeks ago, I had a long conversation with my oldest son about how middle school is a breeding ground for fear and insecurity. He was frustrated how so many of his classmates are so mean to other students and how those he considers friends can act in ways that are out of character to humiliate each other.

We discussed social hierarchies and those unwritten rules that dictate group dynamics. We discussed human biology and child development through the various stages and how our minds and bodies change as we grow from an infant to a toddler to a kid to a tween and teen to a young adult to a (hopefully) fully functioning adult. We talked about humanity's history from tribalism to modern civilization. We talked about how cultural norms are formed and cemented and how difficult they are to break. We talked about how gender biases and ableism and stereotypes influence the way people behave.

I painted a picture for him to explain why our neurology once viewed those who were bigger and stronger as protectors of our tribes. They defended us from thieves and rival tribes and the dangers of nomadic lifestyles. When people began to settle into cities, those bigger and stronger members of society became our soldiers and providers. Despite centuries of progress our human nature still defaults to old biases to govern who are the popular kids and the outcasts, who we admire and who we avoid. Our brains still make assumptions and snap judgments to determine those in our circles who are bigger and stronger and those who are weak and powerless.

Christian also understood that he's reached the age where our psyches are most fragile. Being a tween is when everything changes. Bodies are going through puberty and experiencing hormones and emotions that they've never encountered before. Personalities evolve. Voices and appearances morph. At the same time, these kids transition from the routines of elementary school into middle school. There are more teachers to remember, more books, more students, more homework, locker numbers and locker combinations, stricter rules, chaotic class schedules. There are added pressures to perform academically and fit in socially.

Everything is new and strange and intimidating. Biologically, mentally, emotionally, socially, it all creates an environment where the most natural response is a feeling of insecurity. When we're feeling insecure we fear exclusion and isolation. In middle school, ostracization is the worst of fates.

I asked Christian what we do when we feel insecure. He comprehended that we over compensate. We hide our insecurities. He knew that's what we do, but he couldn't understand why. If everyone feels this way why don't we admit it? In his mind, it should be the most normal thing in the world.

My answer didn't satisfy him. Admitting our insecurities makes us feel weak. It makes us feel less than. In a world where we look to the bigger and stronger in our peer groups as the best, none of us want to look weak. So we fake it. We try to act tough in hopes of climbing the social ladder. Our fears make us act ridiculous. Common sense is ignored in our desire to fit in and be accepted. Christian thought this reasoning was absurd. In fact, the words he used were "That's so unhealthy."

Can't argue with the kid. It is unhealthy. There is much about our culture is unhealthy. We are walking a tight rope between acknowledging it's just the way it is and admitting it doesn't have to be like this. Christian wanted to know how we fix it. How do we change our culture so that people are freer to admit our fears and insecurities? Wouldn't our society be healthier and better if we could be open and honest about our feelings without the illogical social rules that currently restrict us?

I don't have easy answers for him. Or any answers. What I do know is that change is difficult. After all, change is another thing many people fear. If anything is to happen to create the cultural shift Christian desires, it will take a lot of people acting counterculturally. Whoever goes first is going to be thought of as strange and weird.

We need people who are not afraid of being weird.


Make Money, Save Money

You might see something a little different on the blog. Christian was excited to see it because even as a sixth grader he knows enough about the starving artist that he doesn't want me to be one.

So I decided to try something new. This blog has existed in one form or another for almost twelve years and I've done it without ads. Now if you look in the top left of the page and underneath the newest post, you'll see advertisements. Or above and underneath if your on mobile. Or not at all if your browser has an ad-blocker (in which case you can pretend this post doesn't exist).

Does that mean I've sold out? It is possible. But what is for certain is I am taking baby steps to turn my work into something more than a hobby. That starts with a tiny effort to generate some extra income. Even if it is only enough to buy a single cup of coffee at Starbucks every other month. Besides, I can't save money if I don't make money.

ps: if you see an ad that is horrendous, annoying, or offensive, please let me know.