I grew up in an AG (Assembly of God) church. I was taught that all people without Christ are going to hell. Trained how to “win” all unbelievers to Christ. Was taught to speak in tongues, which often involved being slain in the spirit, rolling around on the floor, and or running around the church. As I child, I often felt like God wasn’t within me, and I would do the things I saw other kids and adults doing to win #acceptance and approval from my Mother, and her peers. I was taught to judge, and reject those who believed differently than I had been taught to believe. That most people were without God, and destined for an eternity of damnation, and suffering.
When I was in my early twenties, I began traveling the world, and quickly became exposed to many other world views and religions. Although my own faith had been something I’d struggled with for quite some time, it steadily became apparent to me that I believed differently than I had been trained. Years later, I can unashamedly profess that I remain a person of faith, but a faith I have arrived to on my own experiences, studies, convictions, and what I believe to be a natural desire to do what is right, no matter the cost. I’m not a professing Christian any longer, but remain close with many believers, was married in a traditional Christian ceremony, and acknowledge and value many biblical principles as true. Of course I’ve also discovered that most of those values are consistent among most of the mainstream religions, which was a bit of a surprise I must admit.
Our World in recent years has been plagued by the division that difference brings. Different faiths, race, world views, cultures, and in some cases values. I’m particularly bothered by the amount of fear, hate, and bigotry that so many Muslims endure outside of the Middle East. I’ve traveled to the Middle East, specifically, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Bahrain, Turkey, Oman, Kuwait, and Egypt (technically North Africa, but a Muslim country.) In all my travels, not once have I ever been afraid of being an American in a Muslim country, even when I was in Bahrain a week before a riot broke out, or in Egypt, three days after the US ambassador was killed in Libya, and there were so called riots all over Egypt. In fact, we drove by one of the riots, and it was underwhelming to say the least. I’m in no way making light of the terrible acts that terrorists are responsible for, and the killings of innocent people. However, unlike most Americans, I have at least a dozen Muslim friends, some of which are Americans. What’s most interesting is that they call a terrorist the same thing I call them; a terrorist, because terrorism has no religion.
I often feel like I’m not doing enough. Look, let’s be clear, if I felt as if someone’s religion or world view put me and/or my family at risk, I would respond defensively. I’m no fool. However, I really feel as if so few are asking the right questions, but instead are just jumping on the no toll bandwagon. Sadly, I think that most, on both sides of the argument are just not bothered enough by what’s wrong to stand up for what is right. The attitude is, hey, “you stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of yours.” It’s only the radicals and lunatics in the World that have a voice, because it’s the only thing the media will report on.
Think about this. Young black men are killing each other by the thousands each and every year, and our government and society are allowing it to happen. The solution is simple; education and opportunity. School shootings are happening so frequently now that most feel it’s not if it will happen again, but when. The solution is simple; better controls on gun ownership, which may included psychological exams. Gay men and women are being brutally attacked, bullied, and killed for loving a person of the same sex. No one needs to “understand” this, they just need to #accept it. Homosexuality isn’t a trend. The point is, there is never a reason to resort to violence in the name of any God, or world view. Every man, woman, and child, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation has just as much right to their next breath as you or I do. And this I believe is the answer. For each of us to resign to what we think we know about God, religion, or particularly our neighbor, and start finding out for ourselves what’s on the inside of strangers. I’m confident if humans so desired; we’d find much more sameness than difference in every stranger and friend alike.
When watching movies like Milk, Selma, Remember the Titans, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of grief, and responsibility to stand up for what I believe is right, and as simple as it is, I do believe in “live and let live,” but most of all, I believe in “love and let love.”
I don’t think stoning women who commit adultery is justifiable, nor do I think thousands of America’s youth killing each other is necessary. I don’t think slaughtering Jews or native Americans was something any God would have ordered. I think above all, the problem remains, the ignorance of weak men, and the fear in those who have the power to change the World, one mind at a time. Have I changed yours? You have the power to do the same.
#acceptance | http://www.acceptance.org
When I was five years old, my Dad took my Mother and I to Jamaica. It was my first trip anywhere, and it was paradise. My Dad wore a gold nugget Rolex, and carried literally thousands of dollars in cash in his front pocket. He bought my Mother a diamond that made every woman jealous, and we were rich. And then oil went to $10 and the nearly 5,000 rigs that were drilling in the US went to 1100. We were broke, and although my Dad didn’t sell his gold nugget Rolex, he had me put it in the floor safe of the home we lived in on Cornett. Since then, I’ve lived through my own oil boom and bust, and likely will see a few more. My skin grows thicker by the minute.
What I find entertaining are the theories manufactured in an effort to explain the feast or famine nature of the O&G life. Supply, demand, dictators, war, cold winters, WMDs, bailouts, etc. You name it, I’ve heard it, and if you’re in the O&G, you can add a few descriptors yourself I’m sure. The point is, no one knows if and or when any or all of these influencers will drive the price of oil up or down; one can only speculate. However, and as silly as it sounds, anyone can predict two things; it will go up, and it will go down. The key is being right. Rarely is anyone right, or at least consistently right. If and when you are right, everyone loves you, but the minute you’re wrong, the booing begins.
You’d think that by now, someone really smart would have figured out a way to strike a balance between growth and sustainability, but for the most part, the only companies that can stay steady are the ones that have figured out how to make hay, and sit on it. The small guys not so much, which is why so many get washed away in the huge swells of the O&G storms.
But before you think this is a doom and gloom piece, it’s not. I happen to be one of those that have grown to appreciate the volatility of the industry. The older I get, the more I realize that it’s all about how you play the game. The price of oil will be $150 before long. No, I can’t tell you when or why, but I can tell you it will be sooner than later. Why, because the World needs it badly, and the swings typically don’t last. And, although I’m a supporter of alternative energy, we’re likely a hundred years away or more from replacing oil and gas as the primary energy source.
So, instead of worrying about how many rigs are being stacked, how low the price of oil will go, or whether you’re the next to be let go; focus on doing your job, servicing your customer, and getting your house in order, because before long, the World will give us a reason to be excited once again.
Oh, and if you happen to have a nugget Rolex, they’re back in, so wear it proudly. You know who you are.
On May 28th, 2014 at around 8:30am, my mom took her last breath. I put my hand on her chest and left it there until I could no longer feel her faint heartbeat. She went out of this world with all but one of those she brought into the world by her side. A week prior was the first diagnosis she’d received; colon cancer, stage four. It wasn’t my mother who received the news first, it was me. Six days later, she was gone. She didn’t drink, smoke, and ate rather healthily, but cancer couldn’t care less.
During the last week of my mother’s life on earth, there was sadness, forgiveness, togetherness, and lots of remembering. I listened as each family member reflected on their own unique relationship with the matriarch of our family.
Last fall was when my mother began to experience pain in her side and lower back. For ten years, she left her diabetes diagnosis go untreated, and when she finally went to the doctor for her pain, she argued with them about further testing. If you knew her, this certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to hear, as she was a stubborn woman. Knowing what we know now, it’s very possible that my mother would still be alive today had she gone in for extensive testing and treatment. However, that’s not what my mom wanted. Her lack of action to seek the medical attention her body was requesting may in fact be the only selfish act my mother carried out; maybe.
A month before she died, she had a liver scan that indicated she had dozens of lesions, which immediately concerned her doctor that not only did she have cancer, but that it hadn’t originated in the liver. When she called to tell me, I asked her how she felt, and she said without hesitation, “excited.” When I asked why she was excited, I already knew the answer; “because I’m ready to see Jesus.”
Over the course of the next four weeks or so, I spent as much time with her as possible, and watched as she hurried to do things for family and strangers alike that demonstrated her selflessness and concern for others. She struggled to do right by her children with what she was leaving behind, as she wrestled to manage the pain in her ailing body. She said many times that she knew she was going to die, but I’m not sure if she believed it, or wanted it so. I know I didn’t.
Not only was I her youngest child, I was her only biological son. As a boy, she instilled in me the values I still hold true today. Be honest, fair, just; forgive those who wrong you, turn your other cheek, help those who can’t help themselves, etc. When I became a man, and began to evolve spiritually and mature mentally and emotionally, our relationship changed, but never did the mutual love and respect we had for each other. My father’s death, my divorce, and the death of my faith were the three things that greatly challenged our relationship, however, we made it through all of it by communicating how these life events shaped what we needed from one another. In all my years as my Mother’s son, I’m grateful that I never allowed our differences to compromise the relationship that begun when I was just a boy.
Here is what I wrote and recited for my Mom’s Eulogy:
If I only had One word to describe my mom it would be…Selfless
Never did she live a day without serving others. Even in her passing,
she served those closest to her and remained concerned with those who
depended on her stability most.
She lived a life of purpose. A lighthouse to her family, friends,
church and community.
Her faith was immovable. Even for those who didn’t believe as she, her
genuinity and conviction was irrefutable and undeniable. She was in
love with the one who loved her most, and who have her purpose.
She served family and strangers without prejudice. She was a giver.
She was strong. Not only could she outwork most men in the room, she’d
do so without one complaint.
She was rich. She would always remind us that her father owned the
cattle of ten thousand hills.
She was wise. Life experience, street smarts, and some attitude made
her a person of interest. Never have I met a person that knew her that
didn’t love her, respect her, and was touched by her testimony or act
To the family:
She is gone but not forgotten, for she lives on in us. I can see her
in each of you, in me, and those who will only know her through the
stories we tell of how they remind us of her. My challenge is that we
become half the woman she was. For us, for our children, and for her.
No words will take away the pain, or the loss, and time has met its
match. So we grieve. Our hope is that what she believed so deeply is
Since her death, my heart is filled with sadness. That she will never meet my soon to be born son August. Never will she sleep in the room we built just for her. Our Tuesday afternoon calls have ceased, and there is now a hole in my heart that I will attempt to fill by sharing stories about her with those who will listen. Whether I see her again is something I am unsure about, but then again, all I have to do is close my eyes, look in the mirror, or in the faces and actions of my children to see her legacy live on. In honor of my Mother, we’re naming our son August.
Several years ago while going through my divorce, and during my weekly brain purge with my shrink at the time, I was struggling with the possibility that I would never again see my kids every day, as divorce was imminent for their mother and I. I also remember feeling guilty that after more than a year had passed since my ex and I had separated that I had met a beautiful woman who had given me hope. As I was teeter-tottering with the emotion of it all, my counselour suggested that my new found love was God’s way of giving me a second chance, at being a husband, and an “everday daddy.” When those words came out of his mouth, I literally thought of hitting the guy, but I froze. I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, and I was full of both fear, and anger. I didn’t want to be an everyday daddy to some kid I’d never met, and I certainly wasn’t ready to accept the idea that this woman was sent by God, or anyone else for that matter, to be my life partner.
Well, it turns out, he was right, on both accounts. Not only did I fall in love with that strange woman, she quickly became my best friend, lover, and later my bride. And now, a few years later, but only a few short months from now, we’ll be bringing a baby boy into the world. My chance to be an everday daddy. Even as I write these words, my heart breaks for the child I do not yet know, and the children I miss everday I don’t see their sweet faces. A father’s heart torn, not for how I feel, but how my children may feel about this new addition to our family. Will this child close the loop, or create tension, possibly even jealousy. Both I think. Blended familes can be tough.
When my ex left, she took the kids and never returned, not to mention managed to keep our kids two hours from Houston. We’ve been to court a few times since then fighting over money and custody, but until the law changes, or she has a labotamy, the kids aren’t going anywhere. So, being closer to them, involves us moving, which has all sorts of implications. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t ponder the possibilities, but not unlike every other blended family, being close, doesn’t necessarily mean having access. Projections play clearly in my mind by marrying assumptions with experience.
So, here we are, five months pregnant. My wife is glowing, happy, and anxious about becoming the mother she deserves to be. For the past few years, she’s had all the responsibilities of being a mother, to children that only by marriage and the lessons they’ve taught her, belong to her. Yes, they are my children, she is my wife, but pressed together, we are a family. I’m working hard to accept some of the things I cannot change, and enjoy all the many gifts God has given me. My hope is that this child will bring our family even closer together. And I guess the reality is, that no matter if I am physically present or not, nothing will change the fact that everday, I am my children’s daddy.
I am an everday daddy!
My Dad died September 21, 2005. He was 66 years old; I was 27. His passing devestated my Mom, and ultimately led to our family becoming even more estranged. I never knew my Dad was the glue that held our family together; I never knew he was my hero. Today would have been his 75th birthday. I think of him often, possibly even daily. I miss him. I miss having a Father, especially now that I am a Father. So I reflect.
Growing up, my Dad wasn’t a big part of my life. We seldom played catch, or spent quality time together. He took me hunting a few times, and occasionally we’d go fishing. We didn’t watch sports together, and although he did attend many of my games, he never took a genuine interest in me, or the things I was interested in. You see, my Dad was an addict, and his addiction robbed him, and his family of many things, however, somehow, he managed to function in society, build a business, provide for a family, and most of all, he loved us. I vividly remember watching him so desperately try to get back all he’d lost in his dying hours. I swore I’d never let anything come between me and my family, but I did. I am the son of an addict who for the past 15 years have too battled with addictive tendencies and selfish behavior. I am my Father.
I remember feeling angry at him for many years, and even at times today because of the life he chose. He wasn’t there for the birth of my kids, he wasn’t there through my divorce. But I got over the anger, and now I just feel sad. Sad, he’ll never meet my wife Ashley, who would have been his trusted ally. Sad that our children will have to learn of him through pictures on the wall and memories we share of him. Even now, I weep.
I’ve made many mistakes since my Dad’s death. With the business, my family, and myself. However, in the past few years, I’ve grown in as many or more ways. For the first time in a long time, I feel happy…I feel fulfilled. I’m learning how to live life to the fullest, to speak my mind with love on my tongue, and be comfortable in my own skin. I’m beginning to see the good that came from the bad, and people let me tell you…there are good things to come. At my Dad’s funeral, I read a poem I wrote. It reads as follows…
I can only imagine… what life will be without him. Shoes too big to fill; an act too hard to follow; a life never to be outlived. A great man; a captor of the hearts of people. Filling every room he entered with an energy only described by experience. A mystery to many, a legend to all. As he epitomized the American dream, generosity never escaped him. Simplicity was his suit, hard work his trump. A leader’s leader, a deal-maker, a lover of life. Hard-nosed, but loving. Opinionated, but kind. Confident, but not arrogant. Proud but not boastful. A patriarch. Never will he be replaced, and life on earth for those who knew and loved him, will never be the same. However, pushing through our grieving, we must celebrate. Because in death, there is life, for all those who believe. He believed in the one who came that we may have life; that is Jesus Christ. He accepted the free gift that is available to all of us. But like you, I still wonder, what is he doing now?
I can only imagine.
Although some things have changed, all of the things I wrote about my Dad nearly nine years ago remain true. He was an incredible man. He touched the lives of so many through his huge personality and generous heart. Although he wasn’t the type of Father that coached my little league baseball team, I learned a lot about life, and although he and I were very different in some ways, we are similar in many more.
He was funny, generous, and very affectionate. He’d cut my fingernails in church, and take me for grape juice when I was suppose to be in trouble, and of course, he’d smoke on the way to and from. He taught me how to sell, and always said…”if you learn how to sell, you’ll never be out of a job.” He was right. He taught me how to make it on my own by telling me no, however, I always knew he would be there if I really needed him. I could go on and on about my Dad, and probably will for the rest of the day with family and friends. When you lose someone, all the things that drove you crazy are exactly the things you miss most.
So Dad, if you can here me. I love you. Dad, I miss you so much. I still pick up the phone to call you before realizing I can’t. I miss your laugh, your heart, and sitting on the porch with you. I miss picking you up for breakfast. I wish you could meet Ashley, Kyson, and Sariah. Oh and Dad…Ashley’s pregnant! Ashley told me not to tell anyone, but I can’t stop. I’m trying very hard to be the man I want to be; a loving Father and Husband, but I often fail. I took over the business you built, and did some cool things before having to sell the company. It was a very difficult decision, but I didn’t have much choice. I’ve tried to look after Mom, but she seems to be handling herself fairly well. I know how much you loved her, and she talks about you all the time. Dad, I’m not sure if Heaven is real, but I sure hope it is, so I can see you again. Life on earth isn’t the same without you. I love you Dad.
I don’t watch much television, but when I do, it’s not Duck Dynasty. Frankly, I’ve only seen parts of a few episodes, which didn’t keep my attention for long. That’s not to say that the show isn’t entertaining, because if it wasn’t, then millions of people wouldn’t be tuning into every episode. Whether you like the show, hate it, or have never seen it, chances are you’ve heard about it, or seen their merchandise at your local Wal-Mart. The Nation has officially gone Duck Crazy, and with Phil’s recent comments, there will be no one left from hearing the Duck Gospel.
What I find interesting is how so many evangelical Christians are inflamed by A&E’s decision to ban Phil from the show. Their majority position is that Phil was excercising his freedom of speech, based on his Biblical convinctions. However, what they aren’t acknowledging is the apparent bigotry and ignorance, particularly involving homosexuality. Phil went on by lumping homosexuals in with terrorists. Whether his heart was in the right place or not, his mouth and mind weren’t, and to compare homosexuality to terrorism is completely irresponsible to say the very least. Freedom of speech doesn’t give anyone the right to say whatever they like, regardless of the injury to others, and then blame it on their belief system. The family did release an official statement this morning, which did not include an apology for Phil’s comments. They did acknowledge them as “unfiltered” and then offered a scripture on loving thy neighbor, which I thought was odd, because it certainly didn’t sound like his comments were promoting love and acceptance.
Every member of the Robertson family are now household names because their show was pitched to A&E who bought it, produced it, and created a Duck Dynasty nation. However, they didn’t buy the show because of the Robertson’s Christian values. They bought the show, because the producers thought their viewers would find blue-collar, bearded millionaires, racing lawnmowers in the front yard entertaining. It’s only because of A&E that Phil and his family of duck hunters have a platform by which to speak openly about their faith, which ironcially could be the very reason the show sees an early grave. I’m indifferent either way, and who knows, perhaps this will extend the life of the show. “There’s no bad press.”
From what I’ve seen, read, and heard about the Robertson family, they seem like good people. Perhaps this will give them an opportunity to grow, learn, and gain a whole new demographic…LGBT. Wouldn’t that be crazy? Some real Jesus stuff.
How has Phil’s comments affected your attitude towards the show?
When I was four years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. This is of course what I was told anyway, because I certainly don’t remember it. I do remember however vaguely a time when I was about ten or twelve feeling compelled to recommit my life to Christ. It was very emotional, as was most experiences in my church growing up. Many people cried during worship, and then after the preacher was finished with his thrashing, everyone one go to the alter for 15-20 minutes to pray, and cry, and in some cases speak in tongues, or perhaps be slain in the spirit. If you’ve never attended a service in a Pentecostal or Assemblies of God church, this may all sound very foreign to you, but for me, growing up, it was very normal.
I was taught not to lie, cheat, steal, curse, drink, dance, lust, among many other things that were thought to displease God. So, I worked very hard to be a “good Christian,” by following these teachings, and many others that I understood at the time to be “the Truth” and what would lead to an eternity in paradise with our God and Savior.
Over the past ten years, I have experienced a great deal of spiritual evolution. In other words, most of what I believed to be true as a child and young adult, I no longer believe to be true. Specifically, and most disrupting to most, especially those close to me, or who have strong Christian convictions; I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, which disallows me to profess Christianity as my religion of choice. Before you judge, please understand that for me to say that has required a death of my own faith, years of soul searching, traveling the World, hundreds of hours of study, research, discussion, and prayer. In other words, it’s a much bigger deal for me to say that and mean it, than to be concerned about the consequences of doing so. In other Words, don’t email me, call me, or pray for me in hope that I will return to the Faith. I’m happy, whole, and convicted in my own belief system. Keep reading, and you may be surprised that we’re not as different as you think.
Very simply, I believe that if what the Bible says is true; that no man will enter Heaven that has not accepted Christ, the rest of it questionable. The acceptance of Christ as God in the flesh, and Savior of the World is the most important and most fundamental part of the religion, which is what so many overlook, and so few truly understand.
If you ask most Christians the question; “Do you believe that if someone doesn’t accept Christ, they will go to hell?,” their answer will be “no,” or “probably not,” or “I’m not sure.” The reality is that the Bible is very clear; death and eternal damnation. This is where I draw the line, as it would mean that every friend I have that is a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Mormon (yes I said Mormon,) or of any other religious flavor is going to hell, which I think is ridiculous.
Although I would very much enjoy providing life experience, logic, historical evidence, and opinion to support my position, I will just say that I very much agree with Mark Twain when he said; “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
I’m not arguing Jesus’ existence, or the fact that he was and is to this very day, the most influential person who has ever walked this Earth. Jesus was in fact, a Badass by anyone’s account, including religious leaders and scholars of many other faiths and religions.
I aspire to be like Jesus, and can’t imagine why anyone in the World wouldn’t want to do the same. He was kind, compassionate, selfless, generous, and exemplified true Love and Acceptance. I’m grateful for many of the things I learned as a result of growing up in Church, and I’m equally grateful for God giving me a mind and a will of my own, that has allowed me to remain curious, and develop my own set of beliefs, that stem from experience and personal conviction.
All religions; there are thousands, require Faith, not just Christianity. My challenge to those of you, who call yourselves Christians, is to open your eyes and your hearts to those around you who believe differently than you. You don’t have to agree with us, but the World would certainly be a better place if we all could learn to accept others as they are. Standing up for what you believe, doesn’t mean forcing those around you to lie down. Jesus invented Christianity, disrupted the World’s religious community, told everyone he was God, and never raised his voice, or his hand. He hung out with tax collectors, lepers, and whores, only to be later hung on a cross. I’m not making this up, it’s in your Bible. Let your life be your witness, not your tongue.