Pics, Links, eStore, Stuff...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why I (still) support President Trump, one year later

I’ve started writing this several times now. I am torn between needing to say this, and dreading the backlash or the total disdain, or the rejection out-of-hand from some of my liberal friends. But at this point I am weary and I need to say these things so here goes.
When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy, I was nonplussed. I didn’t take him seriously because, like most of us, I was stuck in the mindset that only career politicians should run for president (or any office for that matter) rejecting the basic idea that our founding fathers held to…that the governance of the United States was best done by real people and not career politicians. The founders wanted men of experience to come to Washington, and lend that experience to the governing of the nation, and then go back home after a term or two and resume their businesses. They never envisioned career politicians. They would scoff at Senators who have lived half their lives, or more, in Washington, getting rich off of an elected office.
I was an early Ted Cruz supporter. I think Ted is brilliant, truly conservative, and possesses that rare trustworthiness that barely exists in Washington. I loved Ben Carson. I loved Marco. But as the primary season wore on, and as I listened to Donald Trump speak, more and more I heard myself in his words. Granted, I am a better orator than our president. I don’t mean that I heard myself stylistically. I heard myself in his content. And not the 2016 version of myself, but the 2013 version. The forgotten, broken, near-hopeless man I was for six years.
There is a background here, so let me explain…
From 1998 to 2008 I was employed in the mortgage industry. I wasn’t a hedge fund trader, I didn’t write those risky garbage loans that sank the economy. I started off green and inexperienced, and did better each year until by 2006 I was making –for the first time in my life—six figures. I was a national award winner. I was recognized by both my company and my local community as the best of the best. I served my customers well and made friends of them all. I owned a home and was a single dad to my wonderful daughter.
Then came 2008.
You can argue about who was at fault. We’ll leave that for another day. But the economy collapsed and it was my industry that pushed it over the brink. In the eight-month period from August 2007 to March 2008 I lost my job, my career, and finally my home. (The recognized collapse came in 2008 but it really began almost two years prior)
While this was going on, my daughter’s life began unraveling. Her mom had remarried many years before and her husband was a drug and alcohol addict with a violent temper and a flair for psychological cruelty which often ventured into physical violence as well. My daughter lived in hell. I had no home and no job and no way to help her or get her out of that situation. I can’t tell you how it hurt to not be able to rescue my own daughter from the hell she lived in.
I could have left Nashville, where we lived at the time, but to do so would have meant abandoning the only natural boundary this guy still recognized. He knew that, despite his cruelty, if he went too far I would kick his front door in, and take care of it once and for all. My daughter has told me in the years since, that my staying literally saved her life.
Staying required me sleeping in my car. At first it was a 1995 Volvo 850. I am 6’3” and the seats don’t recline all the way down, so you can imagine how uncomfortable that was. But I did it because I love my daughter and she needed me. That car died after three years and I scraped together enough (I was doing construction work and taking any job I could find just to survive) to buy an old, used GMC Yukon. I could stretch out at night and carry my tools around so it was a blessing.
During this time, from 2008 to 2014, I had been hired for three different jobs, and within months each of those companies folded. The economy was terrible and showed no signs of getting better. One of the companies had been in business for 39 years and finally decided to give up. Any hope they’d had of a turnaround was gone. This was Barack Obama’s economy. This was his “Hope and Change.”
I lived like this for six years. Six years of desperation where I tried, quite literally, everything I could think of. I returned to college and completed my degree, (while homeless) hoping that having a bachelor’s degree on my resume would open a door…any door. But it did not.
I was offered three positions in the mortgage industry and within a week all three were rescinded because it was the week that Obamacare became mandatory and when the employer figured out how much it was going to cost them, they froze hiring.
All the while, my daughter was enduring more and more hellish treatment. (Her experiences were so bad by this point that she was diagnosed recently with mild PTSD. It breaks my heart.) I had to stay, and I had to find some way to rescue her.
Finally, when events worsened to the point that her life was at risk, her mom let her move with me to Virginia, where I was hired at my alma mater. I loaded everything I had left from being a homeowner (which took the smallest trailer U-Haul offered and still left room) and we moved here.
It’s hard to be a single dad of a teenaged daughter. She was sixteen when we arrived. We moved into a tiny townhome and had no furniture except the box spring and mattress a friend bought for her before we left Nashville. I slept on the floor in my bedroom on the same foam roll and sleeping bag that I slept on in my truck. We had no dishes, no silverware, and only enough money for one month’s rent and some groceries. But we were safe, we were indoors and we were together.
I make a third of what I made in my peak years in the mortgage industry, but my daughter –who has a magnificent singing voice—is a music major here and gets her education for free, so that certainly helps. I work side jobs, doing carpentry. This cold snap we’ve had recently has provided me with the first weekends off since we got here. Prior to this, I have worked non-stop for almost four years. 
I am drastically overstressed. I work far too much. My full-time job is actually a relief for me compared to the demands of carpentry, but I do it for my daughter. We came here with nothing, and have little more than that now. But she is safe, we are getting better.
That long exposition explains why I say I heard myself in Donald Trump in 2016. I heard the man who often cried himself to sleep at night because his precious little girl was in trouble and he couldn’t help. The man who put out almost 15oo resumes and applications over six years, and still found nothing. The man who could not drive down the road he used to live on, and see his old house, without having to pull over and sob.
The man who never quit, even when he was tempted to. Who shivered in the winter and sweated in the summer. The man who sometimes made dinner out of the free samples they were giving out at Sam’s Club, who once washed his hair in hiding in a public park, with a jug of water, so he could be clean for church service that morning. Who smiled for his daughter when he wanted to cry. Who endured the questions about his work ethic, and the sneers from his liberal friends who mocked him for not taking handouts and government assistance.
That man. 
The man ignored for six years while Barack Obama sank the economy further into despair. While I was living in my truck, mired in desperation and embarrassment, Obama seemingly stood outside and pointed at me as a loser.
Then came Donald Trump. He said all the things I felt when I was living that way. He said what I was thinking. It was as if I was still in that Yukon and he was tapping on the window, saying, “I see you in there. I am here to help you. Are you okay? I’m going to make things better for you…just hang on.”
When I voted for him last year, it felt like, for the first time in six years, my voice mattered again. Like he was running for office just for me.
One year later and we are already leaps and bounds better than we were. People are working. People who forgot how great it feels to have a paycheck. Who forgot how wonderful it is to go buy something with their own money…not a SNAP card or a welfare check.
The liberals are doing everything they can think of to derail this man, regardless of the cost to our nation. This weekend, Nancy Pelosi mocked the wave of $1000 bonuses and raises that so many companies have given out as a result of the new Trump tax plan. She mocked it as if it were nothing. It’s nothing to you if you have millions. But to a guy like me, it would be incredible. For the average American, it would mean a family vacation for the first time in years. Or some house repairs, or car repairs or just stocking the pantry. Many of us would make a bigger donation to a charity. But Pelosi, and all libs, really, only see political gains or losses, and right now they are losing. To them I say this…
I am done with you. All of you liberals. In the six years, I suffered under the weight of homelessness, I had ONE friend who identifies as a liberal, who offered to help me. ONE. (I have not forgotten you pal…) The rest never even bothered to call and ask how I was. Never. One friend, who I thoroughly liked as a guy, was constantly complaining about the high cost of his medicines, (he has a chronic illness) yet was off to EUROPE almost every summer for weeks at a time. He had a home in a trendy neighborhood in Nashville and I once actually offered to help him. But he never even asked about me. Liberals talk a good game about compassion and caring, but the truth is they only use those words as a means to tax someone under the guise of helping someone like me. They don’t actually care. My conservative friends often dug into their own pockets to buy me some gas, or pay me for a small job, or help in some way. My liberal friends occasionally texted me the phone number of a government agency where I might find help. That was it. Nothing of their own. That sums up liberals entirely. “Oh, I feel your pain. I know you need help. The government should do something…”
That was the man whose voice I heard in Donald Trump. The man who’d been through all that and was still standing…albeit punch-drunk and battered.
One year later and I have never been prouder of a vote I cast. This president is far from polished. Far from perfect. But he heard me then and he hears me now. Me and all the people like me who were forgotten and ignored and even –in the case of our previous president—mocked for the state we were in. Barack Obama never gave a darn about me. Period. Donald Trump did. That’s all the reason I need.
I have had it with tolerating the harsh intolerance of the left. You Apple-tini swilling elites who have never walked where I’ve walked, or cried the tears I cried, or my daughter cried. Who never cared about me or people like me…not then and not now.
I’m done with you. I despised Barack Obama but I honored his office. I disagreed with him but I never wished him ill or threw the verbal sewage at him that you people heave at president Trump every second of every day. I detested him…but I did not hate him. There is a difference.
People like me struggled for eight years under him. If you didn’t see it or feel it…God bless you for the charmed life you led. But most of us suffered and that suffering found its voice in Donald Trump. Not any Democrats and not the establishment Republicans. In the end it wasn’t about party, it was about us. We the people. The everyman who knew this country was better than Obama was telling us it was, and who knew he was wrong. You offered no solutions and you lost the election. Try focusing your energy on solving real problems, not creating chaos so Trump can’t govern effectively.
If you don’t like what I’ve written here, then you are the problem. You are now, and you were then, while I was homeless. You don’t want what is best for this country…you want to destroy anyone not like you. You are the problem.
You don’t have to support Trump, I didn’t support Obama. But I didn’t hate his supporters, and we didn’t try diversionary tactics to stall his efforts. We employed the Constitutional system of elections and governance.
You need to understand why people like me voted for Trump. I’ve tried here in this article, to explain it. At least from my perspective. When you attack me for supporting him, you attack a man who loved his daughter so much that he chose homelessness. When you attack Trump supporters you attack people who just wanted to work. To stand on our own two feet again. To build something. To risk working hard and gamble that we would see the payoff. Things that Obama mocked for eight years. That’s who we are. We, the Trump supporters. We the people

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

So yeah...I'm a Hopeless Romantic

I don’t know where you are. Or who you are.
But I swear I know you.
I’ve known you my whole life.
And when I finally find you, I’ll know.
I’ll know because your smile will tell me…
Your eyes will tell me…
There’ll be a moment during our first meeting when I’ll see a flash in your eyes,
You’ll giggle at something I say, or we’ll find out we like the same flavor of ice cream.
We’ll talk about our children and you’ll be impressed at what kind of dad I am. You won’t say it, but I’ll see it in your eyes.
“She gets me,” I’ll think. “She understands my devotion to my daughter, and she appreciates it.”
I’ll tuck that away in my heart.
Or maybe we’ll go for a walk after dinner. Just meandering through the town and it’ll be like talking to a friend. Especially when we talk about our Faith, and about Jesus and what He has meant to us both. And I’ll know you’re serious about that, and not just dabbling.
And I’ll tuck that away in my heart too.
There’ll be a moment when I touch you. It won’t be a big thing, probably just my hand on the small of your back as we step outside and I’m holding the door open for you.
But it will feel like I was meant to touch you.
Like my hand was meant for the small of your back.
Like I was never supposed to touch another woman before this moment.
Maybe you’ll feel it too. Maybe you’ll pull in just a little closer, or take my hand in response. I’ll be cool about it, but inside it will be like the first time I ever held hands.
We’ll be talking about the dinner we just had or what movie we should see or what a nice night it is…
But I’ll be memorizing the way your hand feels in mine. So when we say goodnight, I’ll still feel your hand.
I’ll memorize your dress,
Your hair,
Your smile.
So during the days that follow I can go back to this moment and revel in it,
And ponder it,
And hope for another.
Maybe I’ll kiss you. Maybe that will take a few dates.
But if it’s really you…I won’t mind.
I’ve already kissed the wrong ones. The imposters.
I can wait for the real thing.
Maybe you’ll call me one afternoon, out of the blue, thanking me for the nice evening, and I’ll hear in your voice that you’d love to see me again.
And I’ll be nervous, and I’ll cross my fingers, and whisper a prayer, and ask you if you’d like to get together again.
Maybe you’ll say yes. Maybe you’ll be cool about it but inside you were really hoping I’d ask.
Maybe I’ll circle the date on my calendar, and stare at it all week. It will seem like forever.
Maybe I’ll pick you up this time…because you trust me enough to let me pick you up.
Maybe I’ll knock on your door and you’ll open it and I’ll have to hide the fact that you just stole my breath.
Maybe I’ll have a silly smile playing on my lips just because I’m standing there looking at you.
Maybe I’ll feel my heart racing. Maybe I’ll be too caught up in how beautiful you are to me, that I’ll not notice that you’re smiling too.
Maybe I’ll be saying hello, and making that awkward small talk that lives in the world of new relationships…
But inside I’ll be singing the lyrics to Marc Cohn’s “True Companion” to you.
“…I’ve had this vision of a girl in white. I’ve made my decision and it’s you alright.”
Maybe we’ll have the best second date anyone ever had. And we won’t even remember much about where we went or what we did.
Because we spent the evening talking to each other and laughing and feeling comfortable.
Maybe I’ll kiss you goodnight, and feel like I’m kissing royalty,
Or my future.
Maybe I’ll drive home wondering how this happened. How you happened.
Maybe I’ll crash into my bed that night, and just have to call you and say goodnight one more time. Because I just have to hear your voice again.
Maybe you’ll say “Goodnight” but my heart will hear “I already love you”
Maybe I’ll ask God about you. Are you “the one.”
And maybe He’ll say: “When I made you…when you came into this world, I took a tiny piece of your soul and set it adrift in the world inside another person. Your job all this time was to find her, and in the finding…to find the missing piece of your soul. The piece that you can’t have alone. Because that’s how I made you. Your whole life you’ve been searching for that piece. I’ve helped your search when you’ve asked me to.
Son…your search is over.”
Maybe I’ll fall asleep with tears in my eyes, because even though you’re in another place…I’ve finally found a home.
But first I have to find you…

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Crisis of Faith

In “The Ragamuffin Gospel” Brennan Manning calls it a “Crisis of Faith.” It’s sort of a mid-life-crisis but instead of concerning your age, it concerns your Christianity. I never thought I’d have one…but I’m having one.
I became a Christian at the tender age of nine, after Sunday School one morning at the Baptist church of my childhood. I was convinced of my need for a Savior, and I asked Jesus to become that for me.
But even before that...I loved God. I attribute this to the godly grandmother who really raised me until I was five and my mother got married. My mother worked and we lived with my grandparents, and my grandmother really was more like my mom. She was a devout, wonderful, saintly woman of immense prayer and wisdom. The first songs I sang were Sunday School tunes. I remember bedtime prayers being among the first words I spoke.
I recall trying to read the Bible when I was maybe six or seven years old. The KJV was too dry for a little boy, but I really wanted to read that book. My mom came to Christ when I was nine, after a small earthquake in the middle of the night shook her to her core.  We went to church the very next Sunday, and I’ve been going ever since.
I went to a Christian high school and a Christian college. I can’t recall a time when the Bible didn’t fascinate me, when reading it and studying it didn’t bring me immense joy, when teaching it to a group or sharing it one on one wasn’t a burning passion.
When I rediscovered my talent for writing, I also discovered how much I enjoyed writing about my Faith, and how good I was at it. Not that I broke new theological ground, but that I had a true gift for explaining timeless truths. I am good at word-pictures and this is useful in writing about the Faith.
In my life, I have wanted to pursue only a few differing passions as a vocation. I wanted to play hockey for the longest time. I love the game but I was realistic about my abilities. I satisfied myself with a couple of seasons at the collegiate level and that was that. I wanted to build a construction business and did that for a while. It pacified my creativity but it’s a tough racket. I succeeded in the mortgage business, mostly by default. I was very good at it, but it wasn’t my passion.
No matter what I was pursuing vocationally, there remained beneath the surface a deep desire to have some sort of ministry. I’d always thought –since I was a teenager—that, given my talents and gifts, I would be in ministry full time. That was always my goal and I have wrestled, for forty years now, with the feeling of shame, disappointment, and failure, that I never did achieve this goal.
I feel like I’ve failed God somehow, even though I’ve always been willing, and I have literally failed to achieve all that I might have in my other pursuits, because part of my heart was always looking for this phantom ministry opportunity.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to put this to bed once and for all. I think I finally have. I have, and it’s caused this Crisis of Faith I now find myself mired in. I’ve accepted the fact that there is no ministry door opening for me. Not full-time anyway. But it’s more than that. I’ve watched, especially over the last four years, as the Evangelical world of which I was a part, has become increasingly liberal, increasingly more godless, more commercially driven, more man-glorifying and Jesus ignoring. Oh, they’ll tell you they love Jesus, alright. But not the Jesus of the bible. He’s the Jesus of their own creation. The social justice warrior Jesus who’s only attribute is love. (at the expense of all other attributes of God…holiness, righteousness, etc.) Jesus is just a slightly better version of all of them, now. He’s no longer the holy son of God, who demands a pure, righteous life as a result of the salvation He bestows. Jesus wears skinny jeans. Jesus doesn’t believe in sin anymore. Jesus doesn’t demand change. Jesus confronts nobody about anything…except for capitalists. Neo-Jesus hates capitalists and wealthy people. He hates America and commands American Christians to walk around in sackcloth and apologies for being Americans. He hates Donald Trump and his followers had better not have voted for Trump or else they can just stop following right now.
Skinny-jeans Jesus wears trendy clothes, because otherwise He wouldn’t be relevant. He has a stupid, hipster beard because He isn’t sure whether he’s a man or not. In fact, nobody ever explained to him what manliness was, so he grew that beard because biologically, men can grow beards and so if he grows one, it must mean He’s a man. Neo-Jesus thinks homosexuality is okay. Not that He loves gay people…because all Christians do that, (the real ones at least) no…He literally thinks it’s okay. He thinks the Bible is wrong on the matter. He feels abortion is a matter of “deep personal conviction” (Neo-Jesus’ buddy Carl Lentz told us this so it has to be true) not murder, like Traditional Jesus said.
I’ve watched as we’ve created a star-making system within Christendom. If a “pastor” draws big numbers it HAS to be because he’s “anointed.” (A word so dreadfully overused, but poorly understood as to almost be criminal) If he tells great stories, and makes us feel warm and gooey inside, like a delicious gluten-free, vegan, Tollhouse cookie that our non-gender-specific parent baked or us when we were kids…they tell us he’s a great preacher. He lives in an enormous house, drives an expensive car, dresses like he’s twenty-five (even though he’s forty-five) and uses cool words. He’s known on all the social media outlets, but anonymous in Hell. He’ll greet you warmly if you’re famous, but ignore you if you’re everyman. He says less and less about the Gospel, salvation, sin, virtue, circumspect living, and anxious, desperate prayer…and more and more about success, blessings, prosperity, “love” (as he defines it) and social justice.
He’s never experienced a hardship and yet he is an expert on enduring them. He’s never spent an entire night in prayer, but he writes books on the matter. He can’t wait to drop the name of the entertainment idol who goes to his church, or the other famous Flockstars with whom he associates, but he couldn’t tell you anything at all about the guy who cleans the church during the week, or the kid who cuts his grass.
These people own the Christian media outlets and they have no need for guys like me with dirt under our fingernails, spit in our speech, and mud on our shoes. We wear regular Levis, construction boots that have actually seen a job site, and we’re man enough to not need a beard. (My bearded friends who sport them because they like them, notwithstanding) We’ve been broken and bent. We’ve cried out in the wolf hour and waited for an answer, and when no answers came, we soldiered on because we know Whom we have believed. We didn’t lick our wounds. We didn’t cry like woman and ask lisping existential questions of ourselves. We didn’t get a stress puppy or a facial. We sucked it up, got up off the ground, trusted that God was Who he said He was and we kept going. Our stories are born in actual life experience…not second-hand observation. We grant fame and honor to those worthy of it…not to some sawed-off pop singer who acts like a boorish frat boy but suddenly wants to “just love everyone” and call that Christianity. (COUGH Justin Beiber COUGH) We aren’t enamored with the famous, but the faithful.
There is no place left for guys like me. Not really. We’re offensive. We’re too rigid about things like truth, righteousness, holiness, purity. We’re too patriotic, too American, too conservative. The Neo-Jesus says we can’t be followers if we’re those things.
Well…Neo-Jesus wins. I can’t walk this world with this battle in my soul anymore. I can’t look at the state of Christianity as it is currently constructed, and see any place at all where I fit. Everywhere I look, I see the same faces clawing and grasping for power. Demanding that their opinion be adhered to. Not just heard…followed. Demanding that to be a Christian (as they define it) you must vote this way, act this way, listen to this music, read this book, (not the Bible of course) participate in this social cause, eat no meat, fell no trees, burn no fossil fuels…
I can’t stand the internal battle. So…I surrender. I’m not giving up my Faith, I never could. Jesus is no mere historical figure to me. He is everything. But these people have ruined it for me and I want no more to do with them. There is no place for me in their world, and so be it. I fear more and more real Christians will begin coming to this conclusion. Once the power brokers within modern evangelicalism realized they could actually steer their culture…they headed right for the rocks. I’m jumping ship.
I wanted to write faith-based books, and speak to churches and Christian organizations. But now I see that only as futility. It ain’t gonna happen and I’m not going to try any more. Neo-Jesus and his followers win. I surrender.
I feel better already. Not really, but I’ll keep telling myself that until it’s true.