The U.S. Needs A Fifth Party

It’s fair to say that the majority of people aren’t thrilled with the current political landscape. You, dear reader, have probably vented some frustrations in the break room, in a Facebook post, or around the dinner table.

This is nothing new.  Even before Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump clinched their respective nominations people had a bad taste in their mouths from politics.

Political polarization has been on the rise for years. (Pew Research Center, 2014) Each party has pushed the other to their respective extremes, preventing cooperation. We see this everyday on the news, but the most serious evidence of this is the government shutdown of 2013. (Politico, 2013) Republicans & Democrats were so polarized that they become impotent. They couldn’t compromise enough to do their jobs and pass a budget.

As if polarization isn’t a big enough problem, add to the mix the disdain of the two party system. Americans are more disillusioned with the two party system than they have ever been. (Gallup, 2015) It seems the vast majority of voters settle for a vote against an opponent they disagree with, rather than for a representative they’re excited about.

So Americans are forced to compromise in electing representatives to the highest offices in the country, simply because they think they only have two options. Neither of which excite the majority of the public.

It should not be this way.

If we compromise our values and beliefs to elect a politician, how can we fault them when they compromise theirs?

We should not settle when it comes to electing our leaders. The stakes are too high. Simply put, we need more options.

The US needs more than two parties.

All signs point to it. The trends above suggest people are ready for it. The idea isn’t really radical at all. The US political system shouldn’t be controlled by two parties when nearly half of its citizens don’t identify with either. (Gallup, 2015)

Luckily, there is another viable option: Gary Johnson of the Libertaian Party. The merits of the Johnson Weld ticket and the Libertarian Party as a whole are too numerous to expound upon here, so I have linked resources for you.

I am thrilled for the Libertarian Party to have a strong presence this year. I will most likely vote Libertarian for my first presidential election. I encourage you to check into Johnson and the Libertarians. They can topple the duopoly in Washington with your vote.

Jill Stein of the Green Party is also making a relatively strong showing in polls. People are beginning to support outsiders in bigger numbers.

These third and fourth options are a wonderful start, but I feel there is more that should be done.

I think many millions of Americans could rest comfortably in the Libertarian party, but I recognize that some wouldn’t. However, there’s no reason voters should align with either Republicans or Democrats if they don’t feel compelled to.

If not Libertarian, Amercians should have the option of Green PartyReform Party,  American Solidarity Party, or Constitution Party candidates.

I’m encouraged by the third and fourth party support, but why not a fith party?

Brazil has 5 parties. Finland has 6 parties. Germany has 6 partiesDenmark has 9 parties.

There’s no reason a developed country as diverse as the United States should be limited to two parties. If you perfectly align with Republicans or Democrats that’s great, but there are millions who do not. Especially this year. 

The US could transform into a multiparty system that’d more accurately represent the spectrum of views held by its citizens.  It’s entirely possible for the parties above and others yet to gain traction to be represented in all levels of government.

This is an awesome idea, but nothing changes if nothing changes. Other parties only rise if you vote for them.

I encourage you check into the Libertarians and other parties this election cycle. Your vote is only as limited as you make it.

Should Businesses Refuse Services To Protest LGBT Legislation?

The issue of transgender bathroom use has been a divisive topic recently. There’s a wealth of commentary on nearly every side of the issue. There are even some sympathetic, nuanced perspectives that I think are profitable.

I don’t have much to add the primary conversation, but one thing that struck me was the protest from businesses and individuals.

Bruce Springsteen, PayPal, Disney, and others have boycotted or threatened action in response to legislation concerning transgender bathroom use and other LGBT issues.

Not surprisingly, there was a public response to those actions. These businesses and individuals were met with praise and criticism alike. Public policy issues like this draw plenty of commentary, but it’s always a mixed bag. My concern is not with the quantity of commentary, but the quality.

There seems to be some inconsistency in the attacks and affirmations.

The same people that currently praise these businesses criticized others standing up for their convictions. Likewise, the same people that currently criticize these businesses praised others for doing the same.

I immediately thought of the Christian baker controversy of last year. These bakers didn’t want to bake a cake for a homosexual marriage, as motivated by their beliefs.

Generally speaking, social liberals called these bakers bigoted, while social conservatives praised their convictions. The roles seem to have been reversed this time. Social conservatives call PayPal and others bullies, while social liberals applaud their actions.

This is an incredibly hypocritical stance on both sides.

If Christian bakers should have the right to refuse service other businesses should too. Similarly, if the Christian bakers are bigots for refusing service then other businesses are too.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

It’s totally unfair to ostracize one business for acting on its convictions while admiring another for doing the exact same thing. Social liberals and social conservatives are both guilty of this.

I suppose you can argue that only businesses with your beliefs and convictions should be able to boycott or refuse services. That’s a biased position, but you can hold it.

You cannot, however, argue that it is a business’s right to do so. If so, then other businesses you don’t agree with have license to protest as well.

Sometimes we might have to grit our teeth through a protest or boycott, even if we don’t agree with the beliefs behind it. Our beliefs may motivate a boycott or protest in the future.

So should businesses refuse services for their beliefs?

That’s a complicated question that I cannot answer for you. However, regardless of your stance on that question, you should be consistent in your answer.

What are you thoughts?

This Idea Radically Changed How I View The World

As you grow in your faith, you’ll occasionally come across of a piece of theology or an idea or a perspective that changes everything.

One of the biggest ideas that changed everything for me is Common Grace.

This specific term comes from the Reformed school of thought, but don’t head for the hills if you’re not a 5 point Calvinist (I am not either). The idea is shared by many circles. In fact, this logic is often celebrated by even the staunchest Arminian.

Common Grace is a deep issue, though, with many possible implications depending on how it’s interpreted and how far it’s taken. Much of the reading online comes from Reformed commentators and writers so it can be taken to a place you might or might not agree with, but the essence of this idea is agreed upon by the majority of Christians. It is quite apparent in scripture, after all. I hope to expand upon Common Grace in future posts, but I’d like to introduce it here.

What’s the big idea? 

At its core, Common Grace refers to the gifts (and therefore grace) God bestows that are common to all people. This is drastically different from saving grace; these common gifts are given to all, not only those that have accepted salvation.

Most Christians agree that God reveals himself in the expanse and awful power of nature. A roaring waterfall, the vibrant color of fall leaves, and the serene rainbow that emerges after a thunderstorm are signs God shows to all people.

But He has given us much more than nature itself. Life could be devoid of color, music, taste, and fun. If you watch the movie The Giver you’ll see this presented and see how possible it is. None of what makes life enjoyable is necessary. But God showed grace to all people in creating those things.

Think about just a few of the things you experience with your senses.

God didn’t have to create sugar cane, cumen, rosemary, pepper, salt, cacao, or coffee beans. Food and drink could merely be fuel, lacking taste or texture of any kind.

God didn’t have to create pine, cedar, lavender, grass, smoke, rain, lime, cheese, leather, flowers, or apples to have a distinct scent. If taste is unnecessary, so is smell.

God didn’t have to create octaves, thirds, major, minor, rhythm, pitch, or even sound itself. We could communicate by means that aren’t auditory.

God didn’t have to create red, blue, maroon, periwinkle, cobalt, orange, azure, yellow, sea foam green, cyan, aquamarine, magenta, beige, black, gray, or navy. There’s no need for color or texture.

But God created these things.

Why? The omnipotent Creator didn’t need these things. Why create so much extra stuff that is completely unnecessary to life?  It’s simple.

God created these things for us.

Everything you’ve every tasted, heard, seen, smelled, felt, or experienced has been created by God for you.

How beautiful is that?

This radically changed how I viewed the world. The world God created isn’t some decrepit vacuum that only holds the sinners to be harvested. It’s a gift. It’s good in and of itself because it’s been given value by its Creator. My Creator.

This really changes the Christian vs. worldly dichotomy that was the dogma for approaching culture for decades. Christians should engage and create culture, not separate themselves from it to create a watered down version of their own.

Rap music, a filet mignon, football, cap toe derbies, train-side graffiti, a Ferrari, ice sculptures, knit ties, barbecued ribs, Footloose, motorsports, bluegrass, succulent gardens, Interstellar, strawberry smoothies, and a child’s finger painting are enjoyable because God allows them to be.

Just as the Bible has authority because God authored it, so Creation has value because God created it. And these things do have a real value as Creation, but their ultimate reason for existence is to point to our Creator.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Open your eyes to see all Creation as valuable. Realize that everything you use and/or experience is good, because its Creator gives it value. Be thankful for everything you eat, see, smell, touch, and partake of; it’s a gift God has made common to all.

Street Vendor Gospel

I just got back from a family trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a wonderful city and my family and I always have a great time when we go. I highly recommend visiting Vegas if you have the opportunity.

The issue of a Christian family in big, bad Sin City is a different post for a different time. Instead, I’d rather speak to something I remember from my previous visit to Vegas.

Our last trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago. I was around 10 or 11, but I don’t remember much from the trip. However, there is one specific memory that still sticks out from our walk on Fremont Street.

fremont_street
Fremont Street Las Vegas, NV. (vegasexperience.com)

I remember my family and I walking down Fremont Street and
it
was
amazing
.

I was surrounded by vibrant lights and sounds. People speaking different languages were passing me by. Vendors selling everything from phone cases to watches were calling out to me and my family as we walked down the street. It was so exciting. This had to be past 9 p.m., which was super late for me as a 10 year old. I was living it up in the big city.

I soon noticed a man that was a little different from the rest. He was accosting every passerby, but wasn’t getting much of a response from anyone. He wasn’t coarse or rude, just loud and impersonal.

A sign was draped over his shoulders and his megaphone was piercing clearly through the roar of Fremont Street.

This guy’s sign focused more on Hell and eternity, rather than calling out sins, but you get the idea. We’ve all seen these people before. Despite all of his effort, this man didn’t draw anything more than a few disgusted looks and rolled eyes.

Our megaphoned crusader was attempting to tell people about the Gospel.  This 10 year old theological titan (ha.) didn’t hear any gross missteps or errors. None of his views seemed to be way out there…

But the Gospel wasn’t penetrating to a single heart. He was seen and heard by hundreds but didn’t reach anyone. What was the problem?

He was viewed as another vendor on the street. 

This guy with a sign and a megaphone didn’t seem to be making any friends, much less winning lives for Christ.

I felt terrible for this guy. I felt like he had missed something. The way to reach lives for Christ is through relationships, not shouting at them as they pass by. Jesus himself ate, drank, and partied with people so he could talk with them, not at them.

This street vendor presentation of the Gospel was cold and impersonal, which was exactly opposite of the strategy Jesus employed. Jesus met in people’s homes, went to their feasts, and met their children as he was reaching them.

Why though? Jesus already knew their hearts because he was sovereign God. He didn’t have to visit with them, or take the time to build a relationship. But he did. So what does that tell us?

Personal relationships are vital to sharing the Gospel.

If we are aiming to be disciples of Jesus that means interfacing with people the way that he did. Jesus did speak to thousands at a time, but he also took time with individuals.

Jesus built these relationships everywhere he went.  Just think back to a few people he met in his ministry.

Jesus met his first 4 disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John at their workplace (Matt. 4:18-22).

He also went to people’s homes, like he did with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus met with people alone, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-42).

He also met people in crowded places, like the lame man near the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15).

People have to know we truly care for them, or our pleas for salvation will only seem like another sales pitch. We have to learn a heart before winning it to Christ. So the obvious needs to be pointed out.

Strategies aimed at reaching everybody are sometimes great ways to reach nobody.

Huge campaigns and movements are definitely powerful tools, but arguably the best way for real, lasting growth of the Church is through personal relationships. The first century Church exploded because of their intentionality in relationships.

How does that look for us in 2015, though?

Take someone to lunch. Invite them to your home. Go with them to the doctor. Join them in their hobbies. Grab coffee before work. Take them to a movie. Go to their child’s ballgame. Spending quality time with someone nurtures a relationship that can easily turn into a witness of its own.

We are called to love people, and to love them well. Our message of love and acceptance has so much more authority when people experience it first hand in the way we treat them.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Intentionally build relationships with your eyes looking towards eternity. Love people in the way Christ did—personally. Beware of the Street Vendor Gospel. It can easily come across as casting stones, rather than sowing seeds.

 

You Won’t Be Happy Anywhere If You’re Not Happy In Your Boring, Little Hometown

I see it everywhere, all the time.

“I’m so tired of [insert hometown, home county, or state].” “Can’t wait to get out of here.” “Back in [x] for 10 minutes and I’m ready to leave.” “I hate living here,” and on and on. There are people endlessly pining to be anywhere but where they are now.

True, where you’re at right now might not be the most exciting place on earth. There might be a single grocery store or a few supermarkets. There might be one restaurant or hundreds. There might be a single watering hole or a thriving entertainment district. The fact still remains:

Happiness is not a place.
There’s no location, no matter how intriguing or bustling, that can bring you happiness or fulfillment.

I come from a tiny town in Alabama. There are just under 1,000 voters, so we’re not exactly a bustling metropolitan hub of excitement. There’s a single grocery store (plus a Dollar General if that counts?), a single fast food restaurant, and a single gas station. There’s not much to do, to be quite honest. Trust me. I get it.

What I don’t get is why so many people, especially young people, hate their hometowns. Most people from my area are dying to leave. They think their current location is just a stop on their way to a bustling city with things to do and people to meet. But I feel like I should let them know. You read the title, but I’ll reiterate it again:

You won’t be happy anywhere if you’re not happy in your boring, little hometown. 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to travel, or even live somewhere else. I’d love to see every inch of Creation that I can. I want to taste all the food, hear all the music, and live all the culture the world has to offer.

I could do all of that twice and still be unhappy, though. You have to learn to be content, no matter your situation, and no matter your location. Abound and abase.

I love living in Birmingham when I’m at school. There’s tons of music, food, parks, events, and new places for me to experience. But I also love living in my hometown. It’s a little slower paced, for sure. But it’s not a toxic hole of monotony to be escaped; it’s the potter’s wheel that helped mold me into who I am. There’s beauty there just like there is anywhere else.

You absolutely cannot wait for your life to begin or to improve once you move out of where you are. You can have a fulfilling life right where you are. You should have a fulfilling life right where you are.

The change of scenery, the different people, the happenings of other places are just distractions. Those things can keep you occupied, entertained, and satisfied for a time, but that new place you once longed for will soon be as old and worn out as the one you left.

Atheistic Worship

This post is directed at atheistic worship. Atheistic worship might seem kind of impossible though, how can you worship something you don’t believe in?

Do you just get together with a bunch of other non-believers and gather to non-worship? No, of course not. That’s like asking non-smokers if they get together and non-smoke.

But we still press those who do not share our faith, and rightly so. We sharpen our apologetic swords and rush into the non-believers’ camp on the battlefield of belief.  We have many tools in our arsenal, and we wield each with precision.

How can they not see God? How can you look at Niagra Falls or even the sky and not admit to God? How did life come from non-life without someone to direct it? Why would the early church have endured persecution and executions for a Man that wasn’t what He said He was?

And so on and so on for endless conversations. We leave the battle drained and frustrated. We win a few, but the majority don’t budge an inch. How can they not respond?  We question the non-believers, but often share their same attitude.

Hold the phones, Josiah. I’m a child of the King. I’m redeemed. I believe. I had a response.

That you did, and I commend you for it.

But you still might be sharing the atheists’ attitude.  Allow me to present you with a question, much like the ones we throw at non-believers.

How can we experience God’s infinite grace and not respond in worship? 

If you ask any semi-mature Christian they’ll gladly tell you that God’s grace has saved them from Hell. Their sin was placed on Christ’s shoulders, and God’s wrath that was deserved of them was then poured out on Jesus, the spotless Lamb. They’ll say Christ’s resurrection 3 days later allows them to live a full life here on Earth, but more importantly it allows them to have an eternal life, an everlasting life.

That’s heavy. My cross, my lashes, my nails, my crucifixion, my sin was imputed on God’s sinless Son. The only thing I have to do is accept this gift of salvation in faith.

That should evoke an overwhelming response, right? That’s a pretty big deal.

And we do have an overwhelming response initially, to accept salvation, but then our fire slowly dwindles.  

We sing the same songs, listen to the same sermons, gather with the same believers that we did when we were passionate, but it’s different now.

We don’t feel any different week to week. We don’t look forward to church like we used to. We no longer have that sweet hour of prayer; we’re doing good to fake 10 minutes now. We don’t sing like we used to. We don’t feel The Spirit’s presence like we used to. We’re just going through the motions now.

We’re faced with the evidence of God’s grace and mercy everywhere, everyday. But then we don’t respond. Just like the atheists we so often criticize.

That is atheistic worship. The atheist is faced with evidence of God and lacks a response. We do the same exact thing in being faced with the evidence of God in our lives and exercising a shallow worship devoid of passion.

So I want to challenge you, Church. Rekindle the fire you first felt at your conversion. Fall in love with Christ all over again. Remind yourself of your sinful condition and Christ’s unrelenting love for you in spite of it. And then respond.

Don’t have empty, atheistic worship.

Sometimes I Wish Christians Would Stop Talking About Gay Marriage

Christians, I love you. You know that. We’re more than conquerors, we’re redeemed, we’re liberated from the weight of sin.
Christ’s death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection paved the path of salvation for you and me. We’re brothers & sisters and will sing our Savior’s praises throughout all eternity. Amen!

But there are moments when I’m almost ashamed of some of you. This week has been a bad week for level-headed, thoughtful discussion as the controversy over the Confederate flag, passing of Obamacare, and now the ruling on gay marriage have all happened in a few days’ time.

As always, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media has been a hotbed for scholarly wisdom to be bequeathed upon on us simpletons.

Conservatives, liberals, and every other political affiliation came out with guns blazing, bashing the other side over the decision.

A healthy, calm discussion isn’t bad at all, I think it’s vital to sharing and shaping ideas. But as many of you have observed, that type of discussion is the exception, not the norm.

Many claiming to be Christian are being downright hateful. Slinging hurtful words and using dogmatic diction that isolates people, rather than showing them the love of Christ. I’d venture to say that many of these people aren’t actually Christians at all, but just assume the name without experiencing the radical change.

We cannot make Christ’s banner of love into our banner of hate. Calling homosexuality a sin isn’t wrong, it’s outlined as such in both the Old & New Testaments numerous times, but picking fights and cutting others down is.

Sinful homosexuality is just as wrong as sinful heterosexuality, an addiction to pornography, a casual lie, non-biblical divorce, lusting after another, neglecting personal worship, gluttony, greed, pride, and every other sin you can imagine.

Sinful homosexuality is just as wrong as having a hateful heart. How can someone who has experienced grace be so calloused towards others’ sin? Jesus would never have spoken the way some of you are speaking. We are called to bring others home to Christ, but we can’t lead others to the riches of God’s grace when we push them away with hateful hearts.

So, if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. Your hateful attitude is hindering, not helping. 

Tuesday Adventure – The Birmingham Zoo

My brother Isaac and I were home alone with my two younger brothers, Asa and Zane, this past week. Mom and Dad were on vacation for an anniversary, so it was up to us to keep the house from burning down and keep them happy.

The week went very well! The highlight of the week was our trip to the Birmingham Zoo last Tuesday. My girlfriend Ashley came up with the idea, so we went for it. I took tons of pictures to share with my parents, and figured they’d work well in a photo essay. Enjoy!

We mounted the steely steed and rode into The Wind. And by The Wind I mean Jack’s. A Jack’s biscuit is the perfect start to any day, especially one so exciting. After meeting up with Ashley, we were off to the Ham! We were there in a jiffy, not a bad drive at all. There was a little pond with loud Macaws just past the entrance. We popped a squat to look at the map and figure out a game plan. We decided to go counterclockwise to hit everything we wanted to see. Zane was pretty disappointed when he saw that the fish we came to see were dead. He didn’t realize those fish were food until he saw the real one, a Largemouth Bass.  After passing the carousel (without riding it, by some miracle), we made our way to the Alabama Barn, the contact area that’s similar to a petting zoo. Goats and sheep of every color and size bleated at us as we walked through.  With the sweet goat noises still ringing in our ears, we went into Alabama Wilds, a circle of exhibits showcasing some local animals from Alabama and North America. We saw this Black Vulture on the trail.  After the vulture, we went over and ruffled the feathers of this Red Tailed Hawk.  Just shy of the trail’s exit was the Great Horned Owl. Zane asked me about his eyebrows.The trail opened up to a little pond, where a duck and a turtle greeted us.  The birds were appreciated, but the boys were really excited to see this Giant River Otter.  After leaving the Alabama Wilds, we headed for the Predator Zone. A gentle incline made the bench up top that much sweeter.  We went to the habitats inside before seeing the tigers and lions outside. Apparently Asa and Zane are Ocelot experts since the cats are on a game they play.  We continued on and found one of the zoo’s two Black Bears asleep. I looked for a pic-a-nic basket, but couldn’t find one.  After a minute or two, the other bear came out. These bears were actually left on a porch on Montana. Uber amounts of character in these Ursulas.  The Golden Eagles were much bigger than I imagined. It’s hard to tell here, but they’re further down than it seems. I see why they are famous for more than just their syrupI rounded a corner and saw two yellow eyes staring at me. I’m too much of a man to say it scared me (not that it did), so I’ll say that it startled me. The Malayan Tiger had already turned around by the time I got the picture, but it was still exciting to be that close to one.  We went to the outside section, and the same tiger circled around to stretch his legs a bit. We turned around from the tiger to see the African Lions. The lioness was asleep, but the male struck a majestic pose just as we got there.  We found out that trainers would be feeding them soon, so we waited a bit to watch. The trainers called the lions over to the side of the habitat with a fence to feed them and tell us more about them. Lying down, standing up, and whispering (a soft roar) are husbandry behaviors that the lions are rewarded for with ground beef.The husbandry behaviors help the zoo keepers look after the animals, allowing every inch of them to be visually examined for cuts, bruises, or defects. Many times, shots can also be administered without sedating the animal. Cool stuff for sure. We left the big cat area and ran into Red River Hogs. I told Zane to get off the rail because he might fall in. He quickly assured me and said that they’ll only charge, they won’t eat him. I felt a lot better.  After walking another 50 feet or so, we found Grant’s Zebras. We watched the zebras for a moment before moving on to Ashley’s favorite animal, the Reticulated Giraffe. They were joined by Ostriches. By then we had circled around to the massive elephant herd. While breaking for lunch a gentle drizzle came upon us. Luckily, we came prepared with two umbrellas.No rain is gonna ruin our zoo day though. “Oh! The primaries!” – Zane RobinsonThe Ring-Tailed Lemurs were curled up to get out of the rain. Zaboomafoo was a hero of mine, so it’s good to see his relatives.  De Brazza’s Monkeys were in the next exhibits. This mother was with her baby, who had just celebrated his 1st birthday.The porcupines didn’t have an umbrella, so they took shelter under a rock.This otter exhibit was a wide open habitat with a bridge running over it. We couldn’t find the otters, but the bridge made up for it.  I was concerned when we were about to meet the most dangerous animal on earth. But then I was a little underwhelmed. Asa was disappointed when he saw that this orangutan wasn’t real. The real Orangutans were napping to the sound of the rain. The Primates area led right to the Boma Play Area, an African themed play ground. We decided to pass because of the rain, but one activity on the sign caught my eye. Guess which one? We walked over a bit to the Sea Lions. One of them jumped right up to greet us!  We came back to the Sea Lion Splash Show a bit later. We saw Geo stand, flip, wave, and do so much more. Geo has learned husbandry behaviors too. It was an entertaining and informative show. The Birds section was right by the Sea Lions, so we strolled over to the aviaries after the show. We were able to investigate some incubating eggs.There were more than a hundred different kinds of birds, each with different colors, sizes, and sounds. We’re looking at Ravens here. There are six different birds in this habitat, definitely a cool one. These tiny birds were by far the loudest. Lots of punch in that tiny package.  This Southern Cassowary was staring us down. This picturesque staircase led us to the larger bird habitats. After descending the staircase, we were at the American White Pelican habitat. We stuck around a bit for the feeding. We didn’t know that we would be throwing the fish.But we all did! We then passed by a peacock who refused to show his feathers, despite Ashley’s encouragement. We left him for the flamingos. Hopefully he’s jealous. There were tons of these American Flamingos, they just didn’t come near us. Vanity side-note: I busted out my new Nike’s for the zoo trip. They looked super spiffy and felt like clouds of comfort. Little ponds with turtles were scattered everywhere in the park. Zane always leaned over a bit too far for my comfort. Our last exhibit was the Reptiles!  This Monkey-Tailed Skink didn’t move an inch no matter how bad Zane wanted him to. This massive snake (can’t remember if he’s a Boa or Python) was coiled up and still stretched across the habitat.  Zane had been going on and on about a Komodo Dragon since we got to the zoo. I couldn’t remember if they had one, so I told him we’d try to find one. He was so excited when we finally did.  Asa read the timeline for a Komodo’s life, so he’s an aficionado now.  We saved the train ride for last. The Red Diamond Express travels throughout the park and takes us behind a few habitats. She’ll be coming ’round the corner when she comes…Our engineer and tour guide told us tons of interesting facts about the animals and the zoo. There were a few corny jokes in there too.Asa and Zane both got some scenic views of the zoo. The tunnel was fun for sure!Zane had to ring the bell a few times to let them know we had a good ride! The Birmingham Zoo treated us well! Despite a little rain, we had a wonderful time seeing all that the zoo has to offer. If you’re anywhere near the Birmingham area, it’s worth the trip!We had an awesome day at the zoo. We went hard, bro. The ride home was pretty quiet..

7 Things You Learned After Your Freshman Year Of College

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU MADE IT THROUGH YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR!

You’re a big kid now. College wasn’t necessarily a picnic though, you learned some stuff. You’re now the wisest you’ve ever been thanks to college. Let’s recap just a few things you might’ve learned in your freshman year.

1. College ain’t no joke

shutterstock_1017017412

You heard everyone say college is hard, but you had no idea till you’re at your wits’ end and in the trenches. The difficulty of the work usually isn’t that intense, it’s the amount. Having to juggle assignments from your different classes is exhausting. You’ve mastered multitasking though. So that’s a plus.

2. High School was terrible

hs-sucks

Can you imagine staying in the same building for 8 hours? Eating lunch at the same crappy cafeteria every single day? That’s awful. Sure, you did it for four years, but now you’ve tasted freedom. You can eat lunch wherever you’d like and hammock outside between classes. Yay independence!

3. Sleep is for the weak

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You might not have had to last 3 days on 3 hours of sleep during finals, but you felt it. You probably pulled an all nighter. You might have only gone to bed before midnight like twice. That’s fine, that’s more than most.

4. Eating alone isn’t bad

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High school you would’ve dreaded sitting alone in a room full of people at lunch. No one eats lunch alone if they have a choice, right? Wrong. You realized it’s alright to sit in a hall with a few hundred other people socializing and be completely alone. In fact, it’s one of the most peaceful parts of your day.

5. Professors are people too

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You come into college imagining a strict old man that lectures fast and won’t answer questions. Don’t get me wrong, those guys are definitely out there, but you learned that most professors aren’t that bad. They’re real with you in a way that your high school teachers couldn’t be. They’ll talk about being hungover or about being a “horndog” in college. They’ll level with you. They’ll say they won’t grade your paper cause they’re watching football this weekend.  And biggest thing of all is that they cuss. In high school some teachers did, but it was always scandalous. Here, it’s commonplace.

6. Balancing free time and school

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The problem is that you have to do the vast majority of your work in your time outside of class. This might’ve been difficult for you, since there are literally hundreds of other things to do. You can take up cactus keeping, rock climbing, ultimate frisbee, start a band, join the ballroom dancing club, and so so so much more. You’ll eventually have to bite the bullet and do your school work, though. The key is to do it earlier than the hour it’s due.

7. College is only as fun as you make it

This is the big one. College is a world of opportunity where you can branch out and discover yourself. You can do all the things mentioned above and so much more. You can create friendships that’ll last a lifetime. You can unearth a passion you never knew you had. Or you could sit in your room and watch Netflix for 16 hours straight. You could’ve gotten out ahead of your work, or get swamped. You had a choice to make college awesome or awful. Which did you do?

That’s just scratching the surface of what you might’ve gotten out of your first year of college. Did I miss anything? Do you have a funny story? Let me know in the comments!

Country Music Christianity

Before the title makes you think I’m opposed to country music, don’t get that idea. I like old, real, pining country. The new stuff feels like pop with an accent, but that’s a different post for a different day.
I’m not raising objections to country music here.

I do have an issue with Country Music Christianity, though. What is that? Well I’m glad I asked myself.

Country music loves to mention prayers, God’s blessings, God’s providence in watching over our soldiers, and a myriad of other things. The idea of God is speckled throughout the lines. He’s never the focus, just a supplement.

But the hypocrisy, often within the same verse, is what really gets me. It simply reflects the mindset of millions who claim to be Christian. God’s blessings and the importance of prayer are beautiful, but how can you truly grasp those if you’re living in sin and praising that sinful lifestyle? If you’re getting in bar fights, raising hell on the town, and cheating on your wife, how can you experience the bounty of God’s plan for your life?

Country music lyrics tend to compartmentalize God, only acknowledging Him when asking the blessing, talking about the troops, or when He needs to take the wheel. We turn God into a genie in a bottle. Many of us recognize how wrong this is, but still buy into this mindset because it’s comfortable

We like that kind of God. I know I do. 

I like God to be there with my family in the hospital, but I don’t want Him there in my dorm on a Saturday night. I like God to listen when I’m asking for an answer on an exam, but He can’t listen to the jokes I make when I’m with my friends.

I like a medicine cabinet God. One that I can turn to when things aren’t ideal, yet one that I put away when everything’s going smoothly. I don’t wanna overdose and be one of those crazy people, after all.

I’m afraid that many of those professing to be Christians fall into this mindset. Many live this way for years being comfortable, but not changed. This comfortable Country Music Christianity gives people just enough God to deceive them. I overheard a guy in my cafeteria put it candidly:

“I think there’s some good ole boys that know the Lord, and then I think there are some that think they do.” – Guy in my college cafeteria 

These people love the medicine cabinet God that helps when they’re down or need something, but is absent when they are in living in sin and rebellion. Even those who don’t live this way continually put God in a box in certain times in their lives. I know I do.

The problem is that God is much more than that. I’ll never comprehend the plans He has for me and my life. He shouldn’t just be sprinkled throughout my life like a country song, but my life should pour out a chorus of praise and surrender.

He should be a fire that consumes every aspect of my food, drink, language, jokes, relationships, sexuality, attitudes, finances, school, my life.

So I want to encourage you, Church. Avoid compartmentalizing God, allowing Him to consume you will transform your life in ways that a half-surrendered heart never could.