Buy a Dog

One of my mentors used to tell me if I was scared, I should go purchase a domestic animal. Actually his exact words, in a slow, loud midwestern drawl I could never orally replicate, were “If you’re scared, buy a dog!!”
Then you’ll learn to take care of them, getting the best food and supplements from sites as TreeHousePuppies online, and grooming them, making sure they’re healthy, and all the other cares and responsibilities a dog have.

There’s a lot they don’t tell you going into marriage. For starters: how to buy a house, how to balance public transportation with owning vehicles, and how much to put in your respective fantasy sports/crafting budgets.

Side note: how did we go through four (or more) years of college and never have a primer on fundamental life decisions like home-buying and budget-balancing? I must have taken 39 hours of statistical analysis and I can literally not give you a one sentence synopsis of anything I learned. Are our priorities that messy or are these actual classes and I just managed to sleepwalk through everything?

There’s also a lot of future to be sized up: how much to put into retirement, which stocks to invest in, how to prepare for kiddos. The never-ending laundry list of what we must do to be successful is overwhelming. Because this is the case, there is plenty of room for fear and doubt to creep into your marriage, your relationship, even your individual lives. What if we aren’t reading the right books? What happens when truck #1 (or #2, or both) dies? What if I’m missing out on a great vacation by going on this one? What if my renters insurance doesn’t cover jewelry? What if…what if…what if?

We prepare, I’m not saying we don’t. We categorize our finances for the future in a responsible way. There’s a new car fund and a baby fund and a house fund. But we’ve made the conscious decision as a couple to not be overcome by worry or fear about what that future, or really what tomorrow, holds. In America in 2011 there’s too much to be fearful of or overwhelmed by. You’d just end up spending all your time paralyzed and never get anything done.

So we do our work, we hold ourselves accountable to the responsibilities we have as adults, and then we release from our grip that which is incapable of saving us to look to the only one who can.

What do you stress out about?

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Christmas Fail

It feels like Christmas has shifted for Christians. Oh we still open our iPods and eat our pies and throw the football around just like the rest of society. But something has changed.

I don’t know when it happened either. Michael W. Smith probably wrote a wintery song about Christmas slipping from our collective grasp or perhaps Rebecca St. James penned some lyrics on how Christmas used to be, but I must have missed them.

See, for Christians, Christmas has become open season on people who don’t share our beliefs. We seem to get rather upset with how people celebrate Christmas.

We’re funny about it though. We pick and choose what we want to be mad about.

We’re fine with the neighbor who burned down half the block because he went all Griswold with the flying angels in his oak tree. We pay no mind to the colleague who hasn’t showered or shaved since Thanksgiving because he’s trying to “be in character” as Joseph for the church Christmas play. Flocks of sheep holding up traffic in the town square for a re-enactment of Jesus’ birth? No worries.

But for some reason Christians (and conservatives – and the two are mutually exclusive) get all crazy about these four things in the month of December:

We get all crazy on people who say “xmas” – This seems to be the standard “yeahhhh, we’re gonna have to remove you and your family from the Wednesday night church dinner list” holiday sin made popular over the last 5 years. I don’t care if you had 400 Christmas cards to sign and were just trying to save time!! Use a laserjet next time!! Carlos Whittaker wrote a funny post on this the other day.

We get crazy and think people who say “Happy Holiday” are closet Satanists – For some reason the “Happy Holidays” people have been lumped in the “yep, that person hates God and probably lights wooden mangers on fire in his spare time” group Christians love to hate. Conversely a simple “Merry Christmas” lands you in the “yep, that person loves God so much he probably gives out frankincense and myrrh at his office party” group. Jon Acuff wrote a funny post on this the other day.

We get crazy about the Fox and Friends Christmas program – Not watching Fox’s Christmas special? Might as well be ramming a trident into the chests of all the inflatable wisemen in your neighborhood. Christians get crazy about their Fox News Christmas special. Don’t get me wrong, It’s a fine program, no haterade here, I just see no need to spew vitriol all over people who choose NPRs Christmas program or CNNs program. I actually have no idea if either of those networks have Christmas programs but if they do and our friends choose to entertain themselves elsewhere let’s not imagine them with poking wisemen with tridents.

We get crazy and make websites like this – Go ahead, click on it, check it out. Then scroll all the way to the bottom and look at the left-hand corner to see who your sponsor is. I’ll save the holier-than-thou rant because I’m sure I’ve spent my time and money on pursuits that were less than what the Lord desired but if this is what the church is pouring itself into: the political segregation of a community based on what words people in that community did or did not use to celebrate a holiday, well, I mean, what are we doing?

I say all this not to eviscerate any singular organization or person but rather to bring light to some things we might need to evaluate this Christmas. Do we love others or do love others as long as they love the things we love?

Feel free to disagree with us in the comments below, but if you feel the need to write a 1000-word prayer over souls however we ask that you just send an email.

Oh and don’t forget to win our playlist if you haven’t commented yet!

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Whatever is Pure

Sometimes I like to read trashy, mindless novels. Not the kind that evoke romantic emotion or suspense, but just the ones that tell a story, usually about an independent and recently divorced woman who is in the midst of making her life what she wants it to be. Those are the good ones.

I like to watch a few T.V. shows, albeit online. We try to pick decently wholesome and entertaining shows, though there’s probably a question of how wholesome they are on a regular basis.

I don’t like a lot of Christian music. I just think most of what you hear on the radio is really lame and predictable, and stylistically I just can’t dig it. Plus God isn’t lame or predictable. So I listen to what I want.

Sometimes I get bored with regular conversation and gossip is the only way out of it.

And then there’s this:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.

I don’t really have to dwell on these things in order for them to affect who I am becoming. They don’t even, in themselves, have to be bad things. But little by little, they creep into my heart and I suddenly realize that it’s much easier for me to curse more often. Homosexuality has become hilarious. Kissing someone other than your spouse isn’t really cheating. Gossip is just telling the facts. Jealousy is fine as long as you’re not too violent, and everyone is bitter. It’s just part of life.

My thoughts reflect what I’m reading. My words reflect what I watch and what I hear. And it all comes out in my interactions with other people, with my husband, with my family, with complete strangers. I feel like I can fake it pretty well- I can pull off the sweet demeanor long enough to make you my friend. But if you stick around for long enough, if you really get me going on one topic or another, you’ll see my true heart. And my heart is usually a mixture of what I’m taking in at the moment. Good or bad.

How do you balance being in the world without being of the world? What’s okay and what’s off limits? How do you decide?

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A Letter

Dear God,

Yesterday at church I was helping out on the parking team and I watched a girl get out of her Infinity and walk into church wearing her TOMS shoes. The girl is probably a really sweet girl with a much bigger heart than mine but for a moment she was the object of my own self-aggrandizement. I patted myself on the back, not because I don’t have an Infinity (I can’t afford it) or a pair of TOMS (I look like a clown in TOMS), but because I don’t want them.

Then I realized that I don’t want a new house either, my 600 square-foot apartment will be just swell, thank you very much. I realized I don’t want a limitless gift card to the Nike and J. Crew outlets or a lifetime supply of Southern Tide or Vineyard Vines shirts. I realized I don’t need a new iPhone, in fact, God, I don’t even want a new iPhone.

I realized that as much as I would love to watch Oklahoma State go 12-0 in football some year and play for a title, it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things.

God, you made some really intelligent people who created this thing called the iPad. Apparently it makes Bible-reading much easier, but I don’t want one.

I got to thinking about it and I don’t really think sports are all that important either, which implies that fantasy sports are even less important. I realized I love sports, but sports don’t love me, and sports don’t actually matter eternally.

Oh, one more sports note, thank you for making that tract of land us humans named “Augusta” but I guess it’s not really that wonderful, you know, relatively speaking.

I realized that I don’t really want to be wealthy someday, or famous, or even moderately well-known. I don’t really care about those things. They’re vices, mostly. I don’t have much desire for power or what our depraved culture labels “success” for my marriage or family.

I realized that all I have any yearning for is you and my community of family and friends. I patted myself on the back a few more times at church last night for all these realizations. I’m so holy.

After I realized all that, I realized something else:

Every word I speak and action I take…
Every Tweet I proclaim and ‘like’ I click…
Every email I send and website I visit…
Every magazine I read and meal I eat…
Every phone call I make and conversation I have…
Every TV show I watch and thought I think…
Every single day I live, my life…

Says something vastly different from what I wrote above.

We’re worlds apart, you and me. Thank you for relentlessly shattering me with your grace.

Your son,
Kyle

P.S. Thanks for my wife Jen, she’s pretty cool. And she’s always reminding me of how unworthy I am before you. Do you think you could maybe, you know, get her to be a little less sweet about it though, it makes getting mad at her pretty hard. Thanks.

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Underrated 9.11 Moment

No matter what your feelings are about our former President (or our current one for that matter) I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch this video. I think it correctly and appropriately sums up all the feelings and emotions splattered all over the canvas of our nation in the days following the 9/11 tragedy. I’ve watched it through a few times and if you can take everything in and not tear up even a little then, well, you’re a bigger man/woman than I am …or you might want to get your lacrimal glands checked. Oh, and how about Jeets busting the President’s chops a little bit during one of the most relevant moments of either of their lives? Gotta love Jeets.

If you have served or are currently serving in our country’s military in any capacity we would like to take today to say thank you for everything you do.

Go do something American today…like watch a bunch of foreign tennis players play in the United States Open…thanks Andy.

Ocho

So we have a child. Not a real one. But not a fake one either. His name is Max and he lives in Haiti and today is his birthday. He has the same birthday as our country, though Max’s party probably won’t have as many people or fireworks. He probably won’t imbibe all the food we imbibe and I’m guessing he won’t be watching Breakfast at Wimbledon on Sunday morning. Max’s hobbies are walking and helping his mom farm. We live different lives. And yet we are connected.

We support Max (just as many of our friends support kids throughout the world) through a missional program called Compassion International. We send him and his family some money every month and write him letters to make sure he’s doing well. Kyle nicknamed him Ocho Cinco. He couldn’t believe we sent him an extra $10 for Christmas. We felt like cowards for not sending more.

We pray for his feet because they were injured in the earthquake. We don’t really know to what extent, but we know God can heal anything. In his last letter to us, Max asked if we felt the earthquake in America. We didn’t feel it physically, but we feel it in our hearts every time we remember him. Here’s to Max. And to the freedoms we enjoy. Happy 4th.

Max (or 'Ocho' as I like to call him)

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