Tag Archives: religion

Experiencing the Black and White

black and white

I recently wrote a post about 50 Shades of Grey (you know, like 5156872154 other bloggers. Between that and my American Sniper post, well, you’re welcome, movie industry).  I wrote about the things I wished people would do before seeing the movie, hopefully giving rise to some serious consideration on the part of the reader to avoid the movie (and the books) altogether.

I read a lot of posts similar to mine, asking women in particular to stay away from the movie.

And I read a lot of posts on the opposing side, stating that it was just “love story” and those of us avoiding the movie just needed to get over it and accept it.

And one theme seemed to ring true throughout several of the posts I read that supported the 50 Shades franchise– that my “religion” hindered me from making sound judgement of the whole ordeal.

In fact, it was even suggested that “religious” people were incapable of making sound judgement against the 50 Shades franchise because we hadn’t experienced it.

In essence, the world is not black and white, but instead several shades of grey…maybe more than 50.

From these bloggers I read that if I want to truly understand the people around me, I have to make myself willing to experience and test everything in order to be able to accurately identify the black and the white and all shades of grey in between– in order to be able to identify the harmful from the harmless.

I have to experience sin in order to be able to identify it.

In order to know that the 50 Shades books are filth that will destroy relationships and a morally-based view of sex and love, I need to read them.

Let’s apply that logic to other things.

In order to know that an affair would destroy my marriage, do I need to have one?

In order to know that stealing isn’t okay, should I take what isn’t mine?

In order to know that abusing my children will hurt them, do I need to hit them?

In order to know that murder is wrong, should I kill someone?

It would appear that based on this logic, it’s the outcome of the action that decides whether or not the action is morally reprehensible.

See, people like me, the “religious” types, believe that it’s the heart motivation to commit the action, not the outcome, that labels whether or not the thing is sin.

Sin is a word that most people don’t like nowadays. We live in a world based off of instant gratification and the idea that we must do whatever makes us happy–we want to feel good all the time. It’s all about how we feel. And we want to feel good All. The. Time. We want to do whatever it takes to make us happy, even if that means what we’re doing might be harmful in the long run, or even the short term.

As long as it makes us feel good. Sex. Drugs. Abortion. Taking what isn’t ours. Demanding what we don’t deserve. Hurting others as long as we’re not hurting ourselves. The list goes on and on.

Here’s the thing, friends– I can recognize sin by the motivation behind it. The motivation behind 50 Shades of Grey is nothing more than lust. It’s not a love story; it’s a lust story. I don’t need to read it to know that.

The root of all of this sin is simple: pride. We believe we’re better than we are. We believe that we can live outside of the black and white–somewhere in those shades of grey.

But this world IS black and white.

We’re stained, dirty, dark; covered in the muck of this world. Myself included. I’m no better than anyone else, whether I consider myself “religious” or not. Although I try daily to emulate my Christ, I’m not perfect and I never will be.

He, on the other hand, is perfection in radiant white, spotless, blameless–wholly complete and unchanging– and without pride.

The world in its broken state is the darkness, while He, the Savior of the world, is the Light.

No matter how good we try to be, no matter how much we want to think we are better than someone or something else, no matter how much we excuse our lifestyles or choices, no matter how many nice things we do, nothing we do will ever be good enough.

And that’s where the beauty of His cleansing grace comes in.

snowHe washed away all of our stains with his blood– he cleaned all the black and all of the shades of grey. He made us white as snow through his sacrifice. Praise Him and hallelujah!

The only thing we need to experience is the beauty of his mercy and grace– the only thing we need to accept is the forgiveness of our sins. 

We don’t have to experience sin in order to know it’s wrong. But we do need to experience Christ– and when we do, we’ll know just how right he is.

This is my prayer for you today, friends: that you will experience him and find that living in His light is so much more fulfilling than any shade of darkness could ever be.

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Filed under The Christian Walk

The American Bubble: A Follow Up To American Sniper Post


What a rollercoaster the past week has been. How does one even begin to follow up a blog post that has gone viral? Never, ever did I imagine that when I wrote out my thoughts about American Sniper (took me all of 20 minutes), millions of people would read them. A few hundred? Sure. But millions?

Thanks, y’all, for reading. Thanks for sharing, and thank you for commenting and reaching out to me. I am truly overwhelmed and humbled.

I found the reaction to this post quite interesting. As I read through the comments, there were several themes that stuck out to me, many questions raised, and a whole lot of gratefulness for our military members who have so honorably served and are currently serving our country.

I won’t address all the themes, comments and questions in this post because it would take forever to write and even longer to read (I’ll try to get to them all eventually), but I do want to address one thing first—the American Bubble.

There were strong reactions to my suggestion that many Americans live in a “bubble.” While many of you whole-heartedly agreed with me, others of you were very quick to point out that no such bubble exists, and perhaps I’m either too quick to jump to conclusions about our American culture or I’m just plain delusional. For those of you who think the latter, the only response I have is: thanks for reading the blog. 🙂

I argue that the American Bubble is very real, and far too many people live inside it.

First off, let me define what I believe this “American Bubble” is.

  • To me, the American Bubble exists for those who are unaware of history, religion, culture, politics, economics, and current events and how all of those things are tied together throughout our world. I don’t mean Americans need to be scholars in these areas, just have general awareness.
  • The American Bubble exists for those whose greatest concerns in life are trivial matters—those who are perfectly content with accepting that life exists only inside of their own understanding; that their world is small and needs to stay that way.
  • The American Bubble exists for those who believe that one human cannot affect the life of another for the better.

Let me expound on that last statement. Far too many people believe that their impact on the world is too trivial to make a difference. They believe that they can’t do anything to make the world better for others, so they might as well not even try—in fact, some go so far as to flat out ignore the plight of others in various parts of the world because they see it as “too sad” or “just too uncomfortable.”

And I think that’s the essence of the American Bubble—comfort.

Too many people are unwilling to move their hearts and minds outside of their comfort zones in order to accept the reality of the world and attempt to do anything to make the world better.

Two points I want to make here:

  1. I do not believe that most of these folks in the Bubble are purposefully ignorant. Many of them simply haven’t been taught.

I was privileged enough to grow up as an Army brat with parents who openly discussed religion, geography, history, and current events, among other things, around our nightly dinner table. I was lucky enough to have the kind of upbringing that exposed me to all kinds of people and places, opening my eyes to the beauty of the world at an early age.

Not every kid grows up like this. I’m very well aware.

In my years of experience as a high school Social Studies teacher (throughout my career I have taught US History, World History, American Government and Comparative Religions), I often find myself shocked at the lack of knowledge high school students have. They have no base for understanding the Social Studies for two reasons: their home situation either doesn’t allow for them to have exposure to these things from the adults or older people in their lives or their parents are in the American Bubble and simply don’t know enough to talk to their kids about these subjects.

Social StudiesAnother problem is that Social Studies is the most undervalued subject in American education. Just ask any elementary teacher. When they are out of time and need to cut something, what’s the first to go? Social Studies. Why? Because our education system places so much weight on math, science, and reading that there’s no time left for the valuable lessons Social Studies brings to making a well-rounded student. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying math, science, and reading aren’t vital—Social Studies actually ties into all the other subjects in a vital way, too, if given the opportunity). Middle school and high school are the same way. In my state, we require only 3 credits of high school Social Studies to graduate, while all other core subjects require four.

I’ll save the rest of my spiel on what’s wrong with education in America for another post. 🙂

My point is, young people haven’t been taught. Then they grow up into unaware adults and the cycle repeats itself. Is this in part due to our culture and our ever-constant shift away from the traditional family? I’m not sure. But I know many adults who just don’t know what’s going on in the world, how we got here, and what we can or should do about it. And I know even more teenagers who are the same way. Thankfully, as a teacher, I have the opportunity to do everything I can to education my students—and trust me, I’m making the most of that opportunity.

  1. The second point I want to make goes to the idea that far too many people believe they can’t make a difference in our world.

I’m certainly not suggesting that once we’re out of the American Bubble of blissful ignorance we should sell all our possessions and join the Peace Corps or become an international missionary (if you want to do that, awesomesauce!)—I’m simply suggesting that there are plenty of ways that we, even right around our own families and communities, can make a difference, and while those differences may seem small, they have a huge impact on the lives around us.

When I mentioned in my American Sniper post that Evil does indeed exist all over our world, I mentioned that we needed to combat it in all areas—from international war zones to the battlefields of our own hearts.

I believe this is one of the ways we improve the world—we start with improving ourselves. We must rid ourselves (as best we can) of hatred, greed, pride, and anger, and put our energies into helping and serving others.

**Side note: My personal belief is that the only way to be able to successfully do this is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. When you know Him as your personal Savior, combating this evil is so much easier because you have the tools with which to fight. I know there are some of you who won’t agree with this, and that’s okay. This is my worldview. Yours may be different. But if you are interested in learning more about Jesus or my worldview based on Christianity, please contact me. If you’re not interested, just remember that our goal is one and the same: making our world a better place.**

Whether you run the largest humanitarian organization in the world or you simply stop to help an older person carry their groceries to the car, the essence of improving our world lies, I believe, in ridding ourselves of the sin of pride (self-focus) and instead focusing our hearts on serving others.

Little things do make a big difference. Give kind words. Volunteer. Donate money. Sponsor a child (click here to check out WorldHelp for awesome child sponsorships).


Prayer can do mighty, mighty things, folks.

Some of these might seem too small and insignificant to make a difference, but I’ll tell you what—our God can do amazing things with the smallest offerings. There’s miraculous proof of that not only in the Bible, but right around us all the time. We need only look for it. We need only act on the opportunities we are given to serve others, even when we feel like they are not really opportunities at all.shaking hands

Because we live in America, many of us live in relative “comfort” compared to other nations in the world. We’re blessed in that. We’re blessed that we have opportunity and access to education and clean water. While these things are definite blessings, I believe that our access to comfort might have made many of us complacent to the realities of the world. This is an example of us living inside the Bubble—complacency.

And I believe living inside the Bubble, for many, is a choice.

Too many times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t watch the news. It’s just too sad.” Perhaps that’s you. Folks, I’m here to tell you that unless you keep up with current events, not only can you not come out of your Bubble, but you’ll miss out on a lot of the happy going on in the world, too. Yes, there is sadness. There is Evil. There is tragedy. But there are also stories of those who have popped that American Bubble and are doing whatever they can, even in some small way, to make the world around them better. That’s hope, folks, and hope is just about the best news ever.

Many of you let me know that you didn’t need to see a movie like American Sniper to come out of “the Bubble” because you were never in one.

I think that’s fantastic. And rare. I’m so glad that you are more aware of the state of the world and how you can affect it than many others seem to be.

I would like to think that I don’t live in the American Bubble. I’m too much of a student of the world for that. However, that movie jolted me into the reality of what our soldiers face during war time; what our soldiers currently fighting in the Middle East are facing right now. Perhaps you didn’t need that reminder. But I did. And I’m grateful for it because although you won’t find a person in the US who is more grateful for our military than I, I simply needed a reminder of the conditions they face during war time, the struggles they have readjusting once they’re home again, and the realities the families face when their loved one is at war. I was in the Bubble and I didn’t even realize it. I think that can happen to us, too. We get so caught up in our own lives that even if we think we are aware of what’s going on, all we’re aware of is self. That’s pride, and pride leads to selfishness, which is pretty much the opposite of what we’re going for here.

For me, American Sniper wasn’t only about Chris Kyle’s story—it was the story of every man and woman in all branches of our military who has ever had to face an enemy and how life-changing those encounters can be, not just for that person, but for all those who know and love him/her.

Even as a military brat who experienced a life lived with a father deployed to a war zone, I needed the reminder.

The American Bubble is a real thing. I would argue that it’s not just an “American Bubble,” but can be applied to anyone in the 1st world who refuses to acknowledge the realities of how current events, politics, economics, and religion play a vital role in how our world interacts and where we’re headed.

It’s never too late to get educated. It’s never too late to learn. Even if you are educated, it’s never too late to get a little reminder; a dose of reality to make you realize how blessed we are to live in this great country, where we have the freedom not only to choose whether or not to stay inside the American Bubble, but the freedom to do something, even something small, to serve humankind.

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Share with me: What are your thoughts on the “American Bubble?” Do you think it exists? Are you in it or out of it?

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Filed under Just For Fun, The Christian Walk

I Thought Everybody Had One– Do You?

I have opinions. Lots of them.

I’m what you’d call an opinionated person. It’s rare to find me without at least an inkling of what my opinion is on any given topic, although I try to keep them to myself unless asked. (Unless it’s on my blog, which is, well, my blog, so I’ll write what I want.) 🙂

I wish more people were opinionated.

Do you think I’m crazy?

Perhaps you do because you think the people in your life, maybe even you, are too opinionated and should keep their opinions to themselves.

Let me rephrase– I wish more people had opinions on issues that matter.

We’re quick to share our opinions about TV, movies, music, books, clothes, etc., but in this politically correct world in which we find ourselves, more and more people are going “opinionless” about issues that are socially, politically, and economically relevant.

On a regular basis I find it easy to converse with people about trivial issues, but when it comes to meatier topics, I find that many, many people have a distinct LACK of opinion.


A lack of opinion makes us sheep. It makes us followers, willing to go along with those we consider to be “wiser” and “in the know.” Most of the time people who claim to “know” really don’t.

So you need to know for yourself. You need to have an opinion. An educated opinion.

The opinionless epidemic stems from two things–

1. The fear of being judged or discriminated against because the opinion isn’t “politically correct” or mainstream. (I.r.o.n.y.)

2. Lack of information and education.

How can you better educate yourself on issues of politics, religion, economics, and social movements? Watch the news, even for just a few minutes a day. Read a few news articles online (go to google and click “news.”) Take the time to stay up to date on what’s happening in the world and why.

Make it a priority so that you’ll have an opinion when it’s time. Election Day, for example.

How can we end the fear of voicing minority opinions? Well, for one, we can practice what we preach about blanket acceptance and actually apply it to all, instead of screaming that we need it and then choosing which groups can have it. And we’ll have to be brave enough to stand up for what we believe in.

There will never be a time in this country that we’ll all get along socially, politically, and religiously (not before Jesus comes back, anyway). There will never be a time when we’ll all get along, so it’s no use arguing your opinion to change someone else’s mind, but it’s certainly wise, prudent, and civically responsible to have educated opinions of your own.

There will be a time when you will need to stand up and give your opinion, even if it’s just through a vote, so make sure you have one.

Share with me: I wish I had a stronger opinion about ________.



Filed under The Christian Walk, Uncategorized