What Depression Felt Like For Me

"It feels like I'm swimming in an underground cavern." This is what I told my therapist five years ago. She eventually diagnosed me with situational depression and prescribed an anti-depressant. At first though, she wanted to know how I saw my own emotional state.

"The whole cavern is filled with water. It's dark, there's no air, and I feel like I'm drowning. Yet I know there's an escape. The cavern is connected to a larger body of water where I could swim out and surface."

This was the reality of my depression. I knew I didn't have to be there. I knew there was an alternative. I've been happy before and there was always something inside me that realized peace and contentment were possibilities. Yet I continued to exist in turmoil and pervasive overwhelming sadness.

"Why don't you swim out?" She asked.

"That larger body of water is a sewage lagoon. Sure, I could get to the surface, but then I'd be swimming in other people's crap." Although, I didn't say crap.

"I feel as if I have two options," I continued, "I could stay where I am and drown in darkness. Or I could swim to the surface; sure, at least I could breathe but I'd be treading water in fecal matter and human waste, and I wouldn't have the strength to stay there for long."

This was my mode of operation for longer than I'd care to ever experience again. My life was at a crossroads: my marriage was falling apart and my boss at the time was the type of person who should never be placed in a position of authority. When I left home to go to work, I dreaded going back home. And when I left work to go home, I dreaded returning to the office the next day. One place was the dark cavern where I was drowning and the other was the wastewater plant where I could breathe but had to deal with everyone's effluence.

My therapist prescribed medication. She told me, "You're strong enough to make it to the surface, but only enough to tread water. This will give you the strength to swim to shore." Eventually, I overcame my depression. The chemicals helped, but only because I was in therapy. The counselling helped but only because I was medicated. I don't think either option would have benefitted me without the other.

There were other factors that contributed to my recovery. First, my boss was moved into another position and I was given a promotion. Then came divorce, a solution I would never advocate for anyone, yet I recognize it now as the best gift my ex ever gave me. I found myself reporting to a more supportive manager and was no longer in a failing marriage. My circumstances changed. I started volunteering and hiking more often. I re-engaged in hobbies I had previously abandoned in hopes of avoiding conflict. I learned a lot about narcissistic abuse and how heal after enduring it. I discovered how to take better care of my own mental health and took ownership of my mistakes. I forged new friendships and built a support network.

This is what depression was like for me. However, I understand that depression affects everyone a little differently. Our symptoms are as diverse as our personalities and our brains all function with a high degree of variance. For me, depression was temporary and rooted in my circumstances. Some experience it seasonally and others have more long term and chronic struggles. Recovery could be quick, or it could take years. It can be a mood-altering annoyance for some and physically debilitating for others. I have heard some people describe it as a sadness that will not be abated. Some individuals explained they felt an absence of emotions; no joy or sorrow, no sense of anticipation or disappointment, just feeling dead inside.

However wide the spectrum of depression, I learned some universal truths while fighting my battle. If you're there right now, please find these words as encouragement.

Your depression is real, but it isn't honest. The things your emotions (or lack thereof) tell you about yourself is twisted and skewed. Depression is a liar. You need voices that speak louder than the tapes in your head. It doesn't matter if it's a close friend, a trusted family member, a pastor, a support group, or a therapist. You need people who are going to speak truth to you about yourself. You need to hear from them frequently.

Don't be afraid to seek help. Medication isn't for everyone, but it can help. Therapy can be intimidating but I believe everyone could benefit from it occasionally. It's OK if neither are a permanent solution for you, it's a place to start and if you're brave enough to seek help from a licensed professional, then you're strong enough to find help in other (and sometimes unusual) places.

The natural world is a playground for better mental health. Take in some vitamin D. Go for a walk in the woods. Listen to the sound of a waterfall or waves crashing along the beach. Visit a petting zoo or a farm. Talk to animals. Multiple studies have shown outdoor activities and interacting with pets and livestock have unique abilities to lift your spirits and stave the symptoms of depression.

Volunteer your time somewhere. Doing something good for others is a natural anti-depressant. By acting selfless for someone else's benefit, you're also giving yourself a gift. It alleviates feelings of worthlessness and provides a sense of purpose you won't find anywhere else.

Above all, take care of yourself. And if you need to talk to someone, let me know.


The Kid & Rejection

My oldest son is in the midpoint of his junior high career. That means a year from now he'll be saying goodbye to his middle school campus and beginning his last summer before high school. These are the days he and his peers are discovering who they are and where they belong. Everything is changing; their bodies, brains, friendships, attitudes, and opinions. His age is one of awkwardness, wonder, fear, excitement, and growth. Between remembering what it was like when I was that young and watching him navigate the complex world of teenage drama, I've come to realize no one is good at doing middle school. It's weird for everyone and we all make mistakes.

Watching my boy though, I'm filled with hope. He seems to be better suited for these challenges than I ever expected. He has, like many his age, been on the receiving end of bullying. He struggles to stand up for himself, yet he has taken actions that are honorable and admirable. He's also a tender soul who desires all people to be treated fairly and with dignity. It often grieves him more when he sees someone else get bullied than when he is the bully’s target. He doesn't understand why or how anyone could be bigoted and it angers him to see others mistreated because of their appearance or beliefs. His sense of justice is pure and fierce.

It is strange and difficult to be a teen, complicated and more bizarre these days than in my youth. Kids today do all the same things I once did: attending field trips and school dances, experiencing their first crush and heartbreak, awkwardly sitting through sex-ed, make new friends and losing old ones, learning to drive, getting their first job, taking finals and writing term papers. They do all those things with the added distractions and stresses of smart phones, social media, and modern technology. They are more interconnected yet more isolated than any other generation before them.

My son opened an Instagram account this year, something impossible to do when I was in eighth grade. The version of Mario games he plays are far superior to the Mario Bros that existed in the mid-90s. He watches viral videos, something that didn't exist when I was a kid. His favorite band is no longer my favorite band, and he has the ability to listen to any song they ever released whenever he wants, a benefit the thirteen-year-old me could have never imagined.

He's at once uniquely different from yet so much like me. I see in him the boy I used to be. Short, blond, geeky, uncoordinated, picky eater. Middle school is also an interesting time for parents. I'm watching my boy mature and evolve. Every day, he's a little bit different than the day before. Taller, smarter, wiser, funnier, moodier, more odorous. At times, I'm not ready for him to grow up. And there are days I can't wait to see the man he is becoming.

Part of being a dad is navigating disappointment when your kids make bad decisions, yet this year I am incredibly impressed by my son. Even though he is a lot like me, I think he's better than I ever was. He has demonstrated unusual insight in many private conversations, times he and I share that he treasures. In one of those discussions, he told me a story of something that happened at school (and he's given me permission to share here) that blew me away. It's a proud daddy moment and I believe our world would be much better if more kids acted like my son.

Over the last couple years, he has frequently talked to me about girls that he liked - often asking me how you can tell if a girl likes you. This isn't my area of expertise, especially considering how much I was rejected when I was a teenager. Still, I gave him the best advice I could think of in the moment. I reminded him that he's too young to date and these young crushes will prove to be irrelevant when he's older. I tried to encourage him to express his feelings and find confidence in himself. A couple months ago, he finally worked up the courage to tell a classmate he liked her. Naturally, it didn't go quite the way he hoped.

The two of them were friends and she was always kind to him. According to his retelling, she was flirtatious. With a school dance coming up, he resolved to ask her to go with him. He was nervous and scared yet worked up the courage to say it. When he asked her out, she turned him down. After I picked him up from school that day, he explained how it transpired.

"Well, it was uncomfortable. I told her I liked her and she apologized to me. She told me that she didn't feel the same way because she's gay."

I apologized to him too, and said I was proud of him because he tried. He put himself out there which takes a lot of guts.

"It's OK, Dad," he continued, "I was sad at first but then I realized she was really nice about it. Besides, we're still friends. Also, she trusted me enough to tell me something about herself that she hasn't told many people."

Late that night, after his brother and sister were in bed, he said, "Maybe it's a good thing she turned me down."
"Why is that," I asked.
"Because I don't know how to dance."
"So? Why does that matter?"
"Because it would be really awkward if I took her to the dance when I don't know how to dance."
"Can I tell you a secret?" I said. Christian nodded so I continued. "You don't need to know how to dance to enjoy it." He gave me a funny look like I was speaking a foreign language.
"It's true." I said. "You don't need to know how to dance. Most of your classmates don't know how either. You can still go, even if you don't have a date. Hang out with your friends, enjoy the music, drink the cheap and nasty tasting fruit punch. If you really want to dance, get on the floor and fake it."
"How do you fake dancing?" he asked.

I demonstrated for him. I turned on an iTunes playlist and started bobbing my head. "Like this." The head bobbing slowly transitioned into a shoulder roll, some swaying, and a foot shuffle. Then I started dancing like a white guy.

The picture below is him right before leaving for his first school dance. He went and had a lot of fun. He doesn't have a crush on that girl anymore but they're still friends. And he asked me to never dance like that around him again.


Dear Antonios

In the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, America has been faced with yet another incident in a long line of human wreckage. It's a tragedy that could have been avoided. At first, I was angry and heartbroken over the needless loss of life. Until I read your comments and now I am disgusted. You describe your kid as a good boy who was mistreated at school. You must be mistaken because in some ways, you could be describing a younger version of me.

back when I looked like this

When I was a kid, I strove to be a good boy. I did all the right things. I participated in drama club and took zero hour classes. Didn't smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Never attended a kegger. Stayed away from drugs. And I endured years of bullying. Throughout middle school and junior high, into my first couple years of high school, I was targeted by cruel, humiliating, and sometimes violent bullies. Occasionally, I retaliated which got me into trouble. Yet I still tried to keep my head up and be a good, wholesome kid.

Retaliation means I pushed back. When they called me names, I said they were stupid. If they tripped me, I punched them. As a result, I got my ass kicked a lot. But you know what I never did? I never brought a gun to school. I never attempted to murder those who abused me. I often wished for them to be humbled, or publicly disgraced. Yet even in my darkest fantasies, I never wanted to see them dead. That's what makes your son different from actual good kids who are mistreated at school. Good kids don't kill people.

Reportedly, your son felt shamed by girls who rejected his attempts at romance. That was also familiar to me. My high school years where punctuated by girls telling me "no" when I asked them out. One girl turned me down because I was the kind of boy her mom would want her to date. Another told me she wants to date a guy just like me, but not me. There was a girl who said I was too nice. One girl wouldn't go out with me because she wasn't allowed to date. One rationalized we were too good of friends and she didn't want to ruin the friendship. And one gal just frowned and replied, "ew." The worst of all my rejections came when I asked a girl if she'd go out with me and she responded by laughing; after she finished, she paused and said, "Oh, you're serious?" I was rejected by so many girls that I lost count. However, I never asked more than once. If a girl turned me down, I moved on and never made a second attempt. I never sought revenge on a girl who didn't want to date me.

Rejection is a normal part of adolescence. Girls are not obligated to accept every request for a date. No means no. Good boys respect those boundaries. This is why I refuse to believe your claims about your son. One of the girls he murdered repeatedly rejected your son's requests for a date. And it wasn't that she turned him down once or twice, your son made unwanted advances over and over again for four months. In the real world, that's called sexual harassment.

Finally, your son's social media posts suggested he was capable of violence. A t-shirt that read "born to kill." A handgun and knife on his bed. His coat adorned with pins and buttons featuring Nazi iconography. A fondness for fascist ideology from Nazi Germany, to Soviet Russia, to Showa's pre-WWII Japan. Interest in occultic imagery and white supremacist organizations. Nothing here is something that would interest a good boy.

Regardless, you are his father. As a dad, I understand how we want to see the best in our kids. We should never give up on our kids, yet there is a point where we need to be honest about the predicaments they create. Your son killed ten people and wounded another thirteen. I can understand how you love him; I don't understand how you could have the audacity to say he was the victim. Administrators at your son's school and his former classmates have disputed your claims that he was bullied. Some kids described him as a bully. Either way, your son is not a victim. I abhor bullying, but it should not be a death sentence. If your son was bullied, he stopped being a victim the moment he took your guns to his school. At that moment, he became a perpetrator. Being mocked and abused by classmates is not a valid justification for lethal vigilante tactics.

Your son is not a good boy. He is a murderous incel. He is a relentless sexual predator. He is an entitled misogynistic racist. His bullies are not to be blamed. The girls who didn't want to date him are not to be blamed. Critical teachers and coaches are not to blame. He's responsible for his actions and I trust the courts will hold him accountable for his actions. If you want to blame someone for his rampage, take a long look into a mirror.

You failed as a father. Prejudice, antisemitism, and misogyny are learned behaviors. You were either ignorant of his hateful comforts or you did nothing to stymie his bigotry. You failed to teach him that he's not entitled to sex, that girls do not owe him their attention or admiration. Either you share his chauvinistic views, or you were oblivious to the way he treated women. You failed to secure your guns, which he took and used to kill people. Your negligence makes you an unintentional accomplice. You've enabled him and it doesn't matter if you did willfully or unintentionally. As far as I'm concerned, you are just as guilty as your son. To call your son a good boy and a victim is an insult to the true victims of his crimes.


Showing Up

There's a funny challenge floating around social media; I've seen it a few times posted by friends or in a couple of private groups for dads. The challenge is to describe your profession badly. For example, a photographer could say they ask people to smile then shoot them. A PE teacher would explain how they make kids throw balls at each other. An IT support person said he asks people if they've turned it off and back on again. Me? When I terribly describe my job, I say "I have the most amount of power with the least amount of authority." Which is both the worst and truest explanation of my day job.

Realistically, my job is unique and difficult to describe. The simplest definition is data analyst, and while I do some analytical work, it's not a big part of what I do. I could also call myself a reporting technician, but even that is a flimsy descriptor. I work closely with IT, but I'm not in IT. I speak their language, yet I don't have any of their certifications. My actual title is system access coordinator, but no one knows what that means. To complicate matters, I'm the only person in my building that does what I do and it's not a common job in other industries.

This leads me to fall back on the most power/least authority comment. No one reports to me so I'm not responsible for any employee development. Although, I frequently support those who do train and coach employees. I do not have the ability to make hiring or firing decisions, which is good because firing people was my least favorite aspect of my job when I was in that kind of position. I can make recommendations but can't make demands. I have zero authority. But power? Absolutely. If I didn't do my job, then no one in my group would be able to do theirs. This leaves little room for error. Thankfully, I'm good at my job.

In some ways, I could say I am to my office what Fox Mulder was to the FBI. When something weird happens, I am the one that gets summoned. I show up, I troubleshoot, I investigate, and sometimes I resolve the weirdness. Other times, the strange occurrence is beyond my ability to diagnose or fix, so I escalate it to someone who can take care of it. If I don't know the answer, I know who does.

This guy, probably.

There are other times, when hailed for trouble isolation, I don't have to do anything. I show up and it mysteriously works. It's like a superpower. One of my coworkers refers to it as my magic pixie dust. Here's how it works. An employee complains about a system or process that isn't working the way it is supposed to, preventing them from doing their job. Their boss comes to my office and asks me for help. I follow them to the employee and ask them to show me what went wrong. They open the supposedly broken system to recreate the error, but instead it works exactly the way it's supposed to function. Problem solved. They thank me for assisting and I walk away a hero despite not doing anything.

Actually, I didn't do nothing. (Yay, double negatives!) I showed up. You would be surprised how many problems I fix by just showing up. Perhaps the real problem was user error and all they needed was my presence to fix what was broken. They probably could have done it on their own but having someone like me standing beside them or looking over the shoulder was enough motivation for them to do what needed to be done. They know I'm not going to judge them or criticize them or terminate their position. I'm only a friendly face and they can't get that support if I don't show up.

There is a life lesson in here. Showing up is great for employment, it's also needed outside of the office. When my friends invite me out for pizza, they don't need me to do anything specific for them, they just need me to show up. When my fiancée shares her feelings about a rough day, she doesn't need me to fix anything for her, she just needs me to be present and listen to her. When my kids need help with homework, it's not because they can't do it on their own - they just need me to be there providing bits of guidance and affirmation. It's amazing what can happen with the people I love the most when I just show up.

To be honest though, I'm not great at showing up. Too often, my nose is pointed down looking at a little black device most of us carry around in our pockets. I get distracted far too easily. Facebook and Twitter, texts and IMs, news feeds, podcasts, Angry Birds, Youtube, Netflix, Kindle. It's like I'm around but I'm not. I'm there and somewhere else at the same time. I'm simultaneously productive and unproductive, busy and slacking. I am horrible at multitasking. Maybe it's ADD or FOMO. Probably not. The true culprit is misplaced priorities. The solution is easy, yet incredibly difficult. All I need to do is turn off the phone. Put it away. Ignore it. It's a habit I need to break because there are more important things in life. And great things happen when I show up.


Down the Rabbit Hole

Conspiracy theories fascinate me. Not because I think they have any validity, rather, I am interested in the psychopathy behind it. I want to understand what twists a mind to the point it readily embraces the most preposterous ideas, how they can cling to beliefs so easily disproven. I don’t believe the moon landing was faked, that the earth is flat, that 9/11 was an inside job, or that Obama was born in Kenya. Those theories are ridiculous and the evidence to support those claims are laughable. Yet the people who believe these conspiracies intrigue me.

When presented with a conspiratorial idea, the skeptic in me is quick to dismiss the theory. There’s usually a simpler and more logical explanation. Even with the Trump presidency. As much as I don’t like our president, I tend to view the most outlandish claims about him with skepticism. He’s corrupt enough on his own, I don’t think his opponents need to make up stories to make him look bad.

Then a couple weeks ago, I awoke earlier than normal and began to skim through Twitter. I watched a few videos and read a few news stories. Everyone seemed to ask the same question: has Rudy gone crazy? I don’t think he has. And as I read various accounts, watched and re-watched the mind-blowing interviews where Rudy contradicted all of Trump’s previous claims, I began to (as the saying goes) connect the dots. I clicked the new tweet button and began to type:

All this Giuliani chaos seems absurd right? It doesn’t make sense. Even Politico posted a headline claiming he’s playing into prosecutors’ hands. Some people think Giuliani is bonkers, which is possible but there might be a better explanation. And one I think is far more logical. So, follow me down the rabbit hole. What if Giuliani is doing all of this on purpose? And what if he hasn’t gone rogue? What if this is Trump’s legal game-plan?

Throughout the course of the Russia investigation (AKA: WITCHUNT!) there’s been talks of pardons. Trump has already made two questionable pardons: Joe Apario and Scooter Libby. He’s also hinted at pardoning more. The pardon talk is (allegedly) a sign to his loyalists to keep their mouths shut as if Trump is telling them they have nothing to fear. Anyone charged in the investigation into Russia’s interference will be pardoned as long as they’re loyal. There’s also been speculation that Trump will try and pardon himself. There’s debate to whether he can or can’t legally do that. I don’t think he can, but I’m not a legal expert. Let’s assume for now, he can’t.

Things are looking bad and getting worse. Multiple charges filed. Multiple guilty pleas. Multiple cooperating witnesses. To everyone except the most ardent in the MAGA crowd, it’s obvious the Trump’s presidency is not going to end well. I think Trump knows this. Contrary to many of my liberal friends, I don’t think Trump is an idiot. I think the buffoonery is an act to play to the lowest common denominator. He wants undying admiration, and this is the easiest way to get it. Trump is smarter than most people give him credit. What rational people see as the most inane ideas are his specialty. After all, he did win the electoral college. He knew he’d never win the popular vote, so he didn’t even try. It worked.

His current legal strategy is (as far as I can tell) more of the same. What looks like complete insanity is actually subversive genius. Trump knows he’s going down, so his best option is to look incompetent. Is there a better way to look incompetent than to hire the worst possible lawyers to represent you? Between the turnover on Trump’s legal team, Giuliani’s baffling media blitz, Trump’s constant self-contradictions, and blatant lies, what we are seeing in the Oval Office is the biggest display of incompetency ever. Actually, faux-incompetency. They’re not all idiots. It’s a show. Why would they go through the effort of making themselves look stupid? Simple answer: like Doctor Strange said in Infinity War, “This is the only way.”

Trump really only has one way of avoiding serious legal charges - to get them thrown out in court. How? Because we’re all entitled to adequate legal representation. It doesn’t matter if you’re so poor the court appoints an attorney or if you’re as (allegedly) rich as Trump and can buy the most expensive attorneys in America. An ineffective attorney violates our 6th Amendment rights. Trump is hoping to muddy the waters so swampy that it’ll be impossible to get a guilty verdict. And if that fails, get the ruling overturned for reason of incompetent or negligent representation. To do that, Trump must prove two things.

1. Trump must prove that Giuliani’s performance was deficient with serious errors.
2. That Giuliani’s deficiency unfairly biased prosecution against Trump, depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

Giuliani’s performance and media appearances since joining the Trump legal team could be evidence supporting gross incompetence unfairly prejudicing the defendant. Trump’s statements since then are already playing into this plan. All of it is an elaborate ruse. If you act dumb enough for long enough, people will start to believe you’re dumb. I don’t buy it, I don’t believe Trump is that stupid. Calculated? Manipulative? Vindictive? Yes, yes, and yes. Dumb? Hell no.

But what do I know, I’m just a nerd from the middle of nowhere. All I know, is I’m not alone in my thinking. On his Late Night show, Seth Meyers said, “Trump’s going to be the first client who pleads insanity on behalf of his lawyer.”

photo courtesy of Politico

I could be wrong. It’s possible. However, I’m a fan of Occam’s razor, the philosophical rule that states problem solving explanations become increasingly unlikely the more assumptions you make in your answer. In other words, the simplest explanation is often the correct one. If the problem we want to solve is to explain the rationale behind Giuliani’s recent performances, the simplest answer that requires the fewest assumptions is that he’s doing it on purpose.


Do Christians Read the Bible?

When I was a kid questioning my beliefs, my curiosity and doubts were frequently ignored, discouraged, or shamed. The tools to learn for myself were scarcely provided. I was never challenged to figure it out. Anything remotely resembling an objection to the status quo was quickly and adamantly shut down as if it was a stumbling block. Or even worse: sin. When answers were provided, they were vague and insubstantial.

I would ask, "Why do we believe (random doctrinal statement or denominational tradition)?" Their reply would often be, "Because the Bible says so." The details of what the Bible actually said was rarely a part of those conversations. The authoritative impression is the Bible said whatever was convenient to support their perspective and my duty was to take their words at face value because, well, because the Bible said so.

So, I read the Bible to see if the Bible said what they claimed. And I read it more. Then some more. I kept reading it. I read commentaries and different translations. I studied the Koine Greek language so I could better understand the original context of the earliest texts we have available. I read books about the Bible and read the Bible some more. I still read it. The more I study the Bible, the more I'm convinced that the majority of people claiming to share my Christian faith don't read it.

Why do I have that belief? When I see how Christians act, the way they behave, the words they speak, the attitudes they display, so much of it is contrary to Christian scripture. This is either deliberate defiance or complete ignorance. Either people read it and decided it doesn't apply to them, or they have absolutely no clue what is contained inside the book they consider holy. This lack of Biblical knowledge was again made apparent for me over the last few days while the violence between the Israeli government and Palestinian protesters unfolded over news stories and social media. Considering the typical American and predominantly white, conservative, evangelical reaction, I feel compelled to document a pair of my core values that I believe because the Bible says so.

First, everyone is created in the image of God. In Christianese, we call them 'image bearers.' During the creation story contained in the first chapter of Genesis, God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness." The 27th verse is one of the earliest Bible verses I memorized in my childhood church classes: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." That means every human born on Earth bear the image of God. Black, white, and every shade of brown; gay or straight; American, Asian, African, or any other region of decent; Muslims, Jews, atheists, and Jedi, all were created in the image of God. Nationality, sexuality, age, wealth or lack of wealth, religious belief, and political identification are all irrelevant.

If we are to take the Bible seriously, we should see the image of God reflected in every face we see. A Buddhist monk spinning a prayer wheel in a remote Tibetan village. A Hindu woman throwing colored powder during the Holi Festival in Delhi. A Christian teenager who hasn't told anyone he's gay because he's scared his parents will kick him out. A hacker in Russia. An undocumented immigrant in Arizona. A political prisoner in North Korea. A tribal leader in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. All are image bearers. You are an image bearer, so is the person you hate most in this world.

The creation story is not the only passage describing all people as creations of God. In the book of Job, the friend Elihu described God as impartial, showing no favor for royalty or the rich over the poor because they are all God's handiwork, "For they are all the work of his hands?" The 16th chapter of Proverbs tell us that God made everything, "even the wicked." In Isaiah chapter 42, God is described as the Creator "who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it." That passage doesn't specify only a select receive breath and life from God; breath is given to all earth's people, and life given to everyone who walks this world. The prophet Malachi asked, "Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us?" While in Athens, Paul preached, "He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth." Throughout scripture, I find a God who sees every single human on this planet as a person made in his image. If God sees God in all people, we should too.

image courtesy Buzzfeed

This means every Palestinian protester was created in the image of God too. When you applaud Israeli snipers, you're celebrating the destruction of God's image. You are relishing in the loss of a human life. When you say, "they deserve it, they had it coming," you're blaming an image bearer for their own demise. You have failed to see in them the beauty and intricacy of God's creation. We should never glorify death, we should never praise a killer. Your glee is antithetical to Biblical instruction.

Second, revenge is not a Christian activity. It is not our right. It is not our privilege. It is not our duty. There are certain matters of justice we should relinquish control. In Deuteronomy, God says, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." As Christians, we must accept the fact that vengeance is a divine matter, not a human pursuit. We must also realize our definitions for words like due time, disaster, and doom are different to us than they are to God.

The writers of the New Testament reiterate this instruction to abstain from taking matters of retribution into our own hands. In Romans, Paul quotes the verse in Deuteronomy where God claims sole right to avenge. In the same letter, Paul implores us to live in harmony and writes, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone." The book of First Peter instructs us to be sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. It says, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing." Then it quotes a Psalm, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it."

I am not naïve. I understand governments, judicial systems, and militaries pursue justice and vengeance on their own terms. This is not a plea for world leaders to abolish war and lay down arms. I do not believe victims of crime should be content if perpetrators walk free or that police should allow the underbelly of society to break the law without repercussions. At the same time, we as Christian individuals must have a different mindset. Our focus should be on peace, not revenge. We also need to recognize evil for what it is, wherever we see it.

Military snipers firing on civilian protesters armed with rocks and tennis racquets is evil. There are no qualifications, no exceptions. They killed children and the disabled. Their actions are wrong. You could argue how Hamas is evil, they've engaged in terrorism and they've caused great loss of lives. I would agree with you. But when you claim the Palestinians deserve to be killed because of Hamas, let me remind you, the Bible says we should not repay evil with evil. Palestinians killing Israelis is evil and Israelis killing Palestinians is just as evil. One does not justify the other.

image courtesy Sky News

Several dozen deaths and thousands injured. I cannot fathom how this remotely resembles doing what is right. There is nothing about Israel's handling of the protests that is sympathetic or compassionate. Monday's carnage is the opposite of harmony. This is not how you seek peace.

Stop dancing with joy over the deaths of a bunch of protesters. It's wrong. Why? Because the Bible says so.


Infinity War: Nothing but Spoilers

The following contains spoilers. Lots of them. You've been warned.

image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Thanos got the power stone before the movie begins so Xandar has already been decimated.
Most of the Asgardians are dead and Valkyrie is nowhere to be found.
Thanos beats the crap out of Hulk, murders Heimdall and Loki, takes the space stone, then leaves Thor as the only survivor behind moments before the Asgard refugee ship explodes.

image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Groot is now a teenager who does nothing but play a handheld video game all day.
Star Lord and Gamora developed a relationship.
Rocket is still sarcastic.
While responding to distress signal, Thor lands on their ship. Once inside he wakes up.
Thor keeps calling Rocket "Rabbit" and thinks he's the captain.
Rocket and Groot take Thor to Nidavellir to forge a replacement for Mjölnir.
Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis travel to Knowhere to prevent Thanos from getting the reality stone from the Collector.
Tobias Fünke is in the Collector's collection. After he blue himself.
Surprise, they're too late; Thanos already has the reality stone.
He captures Gamora who is the only one who knows the location of the soul stone.
Star Lord, Mantis, and Drax go to Titan in hopes to rescue Gamora there.
On Thanos' ship, Nebula is being tortured. Gamora gives up the location of the soul stone to save Nebula's life.
They travel to the planet Vormir to retrieve the soul stone.
The Red Skull is there. The tesseract transported him there at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.
To get the soul stone, Thanos must sacrifice the thing he loves most.
Gamora laughs because she thinks Thanos doesn't love anything.
Surprise, he loves Gamora, his favorite daughter. So he kills her to get the stone.

image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

The bifrost transports Hulk to Earth but he's transformed back into Bruce Banner.
For the duration of the movie, Bruce is unable to turn into the Hulk again.
Banner warns Doctor Strange and Tony Stark about Thanos moments before members of the Black Order arrive to take the time stone from Strange.
Strange is subdued and taken onto the Black Order ship.
Tony was going to propose marriage to Pepper Potts but he goes to space instead.
Peter Parker has spider sense now.
He used Ned to create a distraction on the bus, driven by Stan Lee, so he could sneak away and do superhero stuff.
And he gets his iron-spider suit.
Spider-Man joins Iron Man on the Black Order ship to save Strange.
The surviving member of the Black Order is defeated because Spider-Man once watched the "old movie" Alien.
Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange travel to Titan instead of returning to earth because Tony's ego believes they can stop Thanos.
They can't.
On Titan, they're joined by half of the Guardians of the Galaxy. They fight briefly before working together on a plan to stop Thanos.
Strange uses the time stone to see 14 million different future scenarios where they battle Thanos.
They lose each of them except one.
Thanos arrives and the fight begins.
They must prevent him from closing the fist with the infinity gauntlet.
Through their combined efforts they almost remove the gauntlet from Thanos' hand.
Until Star Lord learns Thanos killed Gamora and freaks out.
Star Lord ruins it for everyone and Thanos gets the upper hand.
Thanos stabs Iron Man through the chest and threatens to kill him if Strange does not forfeit the time stone.
Before the fight, Strange told Iron Man that he would let him or the kid (Spider-Man) die before giving up the time stone.
Now to save Iron Man, Strange gives up the stone as long as Thanos lets Tony live.
In possession of five of the six stones, Thanos transports himself to earth to get the final stone.
Strange tells Tony that it was the only way.

image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

When Thor, Rocket, and Groot arrive at Nidavellir, they discover the fires of the star are extinguished.
Peter Dinklage is a giant dwarf named Eitri, and he's the only living survivor of a visit from Thanos.
Thanos previously spared Eitri's life in exchange for forging a gauntlet capable of harnessing the power of the infinity stones.
However, after getting the infinity gauntlet, Thanos put out the forge's fire and encased Eitri's hands in metal.
To forge a new weapon capable of killing Thanos, Rocket and Thor must restart the fire and open the doors to reignite the forge.
Eitri creates an axe to replace Thor's hammer.
Stormbreaker can kill Thanos, and it has the power of the bifrost so Thor can transport himself anywhere in the nine realms.
Bad news, the axe needs a handle.
Good news, Groot donates a limb to provide the handle.
Thor takes hold of his new weapon and teleports himself, Rocket, and Groot to Earth.

image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

On Earth, the Secret Avengers (Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon) rescue Wanda Maximoff and Vision from a Black Order ambush.
They meet up with War Machine and Banner at Avengers headquarters where General Ross orders their arrest for defying the Sokovia Accords.
Wanda is the only person powerful enough to destroy the mind stone and Vision asks her to do it to prevent Thanos from taking it.
Instead the group travels to Wakanda to see if the time stone can be removed without killing Vision.
In Wakanda, the Secret Avengers, War Machine, and Vision meet up with Black Panther and Bucky Barnes.
Hawkeye and Ant-Man are unable to be there because they took a plea deal after Civil War and are under house arrest.
Bucky gets his biomechanical arm back and everyone prepares for battle.
Wanda and Vision remain with Shuri in the Wakanda science and medical labs to remove the mind stone from Visions head.
The remaining members of the Black Order arrive with the armies loyal to Thanos.
The Earthbound Avengers and Wakanda's tribes war the alien hordes.
Since Banner can't Hulk out, he's using Tony's Hulkbuster armor.
To save their friends, Wanda and Vision join the fight instead of finishing the procedure to remove the mind stone.
The heroes are about to be overpowered by the invading enemies.
Then Thor arrives and zaps the aliens with lightning.
Rocket is impressed with Bucky's robotic arm and offers to buy it.
Just as the invading aliens are about to be defeated, Thanos arrives.
The team is out of time to thwart Thanos so Wanda is forced to destroy the mind stone that is still attached to Vision's head.
The process kills Vision but the stone is shattered preventing Thanos from possessing all six stones.
Unfortunately, Thanos has the time stone and he uses it to rewind time, restoring the mind stone and bringing Vision back to life.
Then Thanos rips the mind stone off Vision's head, killing Vision a second time.
Thor jumps in and impales Thanos through the chest.
Thanos tells him he should have aimed for the head.

image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

With all the stones in his possession, Thanos can achieve his goal of balancing the universe.
Thanos snaps his fingers and half of life in the universe dies. Those who pass dissolve into dust.
Thanos teleports to a new planet (perhaps a pocket universe inside the soul stone) and has a conversation with the childhood version of Gamora who asks if the cost was worth it.
He says it was.
Movie over. The villain wins. Roll credits.

Bucky Barnes dies.
Wanda Maximoff dies.
Black Panther dies.
Several members of Wakanda's army die.
Falcon dies.
Groot dies in front of Rocket Racoon.

On Titan, Doctor Strange dies.
Mantis dies.
Drax dies.
Star Lord dies.
Peter Parker dies. Because of his spider sense, he's the only one who can feel it coming. He collapses into Tony's arms crying "I don't want to go."

On earth, cars and planes and helicopters are crashing because the people controlling them perished.
Maria Hill and Nick Fury are in a car crashed caused by a pilotless vehicle.
Maria and Fury both die, but not before Fury sends a page to Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel.


Notes from a Jedi Master

If you ever ride shotgun in Emrys, you should recognize my geekery before you get your seat belt fastened. Just look at the dashboard and you'll see Chewie.

Bonus points if you can identify the song playing on my car stereo.

As a Star Wars fan, I celebrate Star Wars Day faithfully. You know who else celebrates this geeky holiday? Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. Hamill is one of my favorite humans on this planet. From lending his voice to create my favorite version of the Joker, to his quick and sharp wit, to the general level of coolness most nerds hope to achieve, Hamill is one of my heroes. Despite his incredible career, most people will only remember him for his role as Vader's son, the kid from Tatooine who really wanted to go to Tosche Station to get some power converters. Some people could complain about their singular identity, but Hamill embraces it. He's a man who doesn't take himself too seriously and tweets like these are evidence.

I will never be as cool as Mark Hamill. However, I am as cool as me. And that is enough. So, from one nerd to another, I wish you a happy Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

I am one with the 4th and the 4th is with me.