A Laundry List, So to Speak

In college, I only used the dresser in the dorm room once each year – when I moved in and my mom placed all the clean clothes I owned in the proper drawers. Once an article of clothing was removed from a drawer it never returned.

It just moved to the floor, where the dirty clothes gathered in two piles: those smelling good enough to re-wear and those not. Once the dresser was empty and no more items of clothing passed the sniff test, it was time for laundry. Once the clothes were clean, they were placed back on the floor in the restarted “smells okay to wear” pile. This pile served as a laundry account, where I would slowly (probably too slow, if we’re being honest) draw from my laundry account until I had no clean clothes left to wear.

After getting married, I was somewhat domesticated and laundry began forming multiple piles: dirty, lights or darks to be washed, washed but not dried, dried but not folded, folded but not put away, and finally – washed, dried, folded, and put away.

To me, Christianity is a lot like laundry – especially clean laundry. The dirty clothes are those things we know not to be true. Therefore, we have no use putting them on or dealing with them without first cleaning them up. These things are also pretty obviously bad – like old workout or yard work attire.

Then we have the clothes set to be washed. We’ve set them in piles based upon colors (or how soon we need them). These are ideas or thoughts we either aren’t sure whether are true or not, or they’re concepts we are beginning to think differently about as we apply the sniff test. We haven’t fully thought through these yet, but they’re next.

Next up is the load that has been washed, but is still sitting there. It hasn’t been moved to the dryer yet to complete the wash cycle. And if we’re not careful, someone else will pull them out of the washing machine and place them on the table – still soaking wet. These are ideas we know to be true, but we don’t fully understand. Most likely because we’ve read or heard it and not because we understand or have experienced it – yet.

After we dry the clothes, we now have a giant pile that needs to be folded. In college, this is where the laundry process ended – I just chose clothes from this pile rather than fold and put away. This is where most of my thoughts lay. Items and theologies I know to be true, but I probably couldn’t explain. I haven’t worked through these yet in my mind and am probably not comfortable talking about these on a regular basis, unless absolutely necessary.

Now the laborious process begins – folding. And once we’ve folded, we must still put them away. For people we are comfortable with, we don’t always put laundry away before they come over. We sometimes leave it out because we know they won’t judge. Similar to most key concepts in Christianity, we can easily share them in comfortable and familiar surroundings, but put us in front of people that we are trying to impress – or worse yet, we are intimidated by, and we can’t do it. We aren’t fully prepared and we have not invested in the commitment and discipline necessary to speak to all people – with confidence.

And the final stage of laundry is the best – the clean, folded, and put away stage. There are few moments in life when all clothes are clean and the dresser is full. But those moments are grand and peaceful and we have the full allotment of clothes at our disposal. The same could be said for our knowledge base of Christianity and the Bible. There are few topics we know – I mean know – and can speak authoritatively on. There are few moments of peace and enjoyment. There are few satisfactions. And we are unable to readily pull verses and concepts as needed.

Yet – it should not be this way. While the laundry is never actually finished (unless you’re a 300 pound football player at Clemson who washes ALL his clothes – I mean ALL), it doesn’t need to be thought of as a meaningless chore.

Besides the tangible benefits of completing the laundry, the process should be thought of as purposeful – we are deepening our understanding of Scripture, we are able to engage with other people, and we are learning more about who we are and who God has created us to be.

So – the next time you have three loads to fold, think – what could God be teaching me and how do I learn more about it.

Christmas Lights & Catholicism

Bringing religious discussion to any cult classic is sure to ruffle some feathers, but please hear me out. It may have a good ending – or great beginning, depending on how you look at it.

Nothing is more taxing than trying to untangle last year’s Christmas lights. They are frustrating and confusing while making you sweat and swear.

You wonder if you could ever untangle the mess, whether the Christmas lights will ever work again, or whether it’s all really worth it. Your promise yourself this is the last time you go this route and that next time will be different.

And while you are in the midst of this mess, you wonder to yourself: Have Christmas lights always been this way? Do they always get tangled? Does everyone have these same frustrations?

Catholicism makes us ask the same questions: Has Catholicism always been this messy? Does it always get tangled? Does everyone have these same frustrations?

I believe the early church, from which Catholicism was founded, was not a mess, but actually quite the opposite. It was beautiful. It was honest and sincere and humble – like the Griswold house with a dash of humility.

The Catholic Church consisted of caring for one another and meeting needs all while sharing the Gospel with everyone they came in contact with. It was focused on Biblical authority and the perseverance of the truth. It did not worry about getting everything right as long as the absolute truth was being sought.

But it is run by people. People like me – and Cousin Eddie. Fallible. Sinful. Emotional. Selfish.

Because we all are. All of us. Everyone of us. Regardless of our position and responsibilities. We’re not perfect – and never will be.

And when people are involved, something’s going to get messy and tangled. Unfortunately, this time it was a little bigger than last year’s Christmas lights.

Do other denominations have all the answers? No – because they too are led by people. People with the same character traits as the Catholic Church.

But if they preach Christ alone, they at least have directions for untangling any knots.

And they know the lights work. Because they are preaching the Light.

What is Stealing in a Digital Age?

As I write this post there are two files downloading in the background – each a fairly new release that we may never watch.

And every time I do this, I wonder to myself where the line between stealing and borrowing falls.

As technologies and the ease of file transfers continue to develop, we will be faced with a new set of ethics related with the copyright and ownership of digital media.

I want to be clear – this is not an issue of piracy or peer to peer networking (where you both host and download). Piracy involves the reproduction of copyrighted material for distribution or financial gain and in peer to peer networks you are uploading content that others may use for illegal purposes.

This is about whether or not it is okay to download material produced by someone else without their consent.

While a senior in college, Napster emerged. Content was no longer confined to cd’s or dvd’s. Once we figured out how it worked, it only took a week to exhaust the list of known songs and artists. We then used Netscape Navigator to search Billboard’s lists to think of any others we may have missed.

And we never thought twice about the ethics of what we were doing. For one, we were in college and everything goes – and two, we didn’t know any better.

And then Napster was deemed illegal. Plausible deniability was no longer a viable defense.

A decade later the debate still rages on. What is stealing – and who is the responsible party – the one who uploads or the one who downloads.

The first question we must ask is whether or not the internet is open source. When someone posts something to the web, do they still retain ownership of it? The platform with allows it to be available to millions also allows it to be copied by millions. Words and images can be copied while music and videos can be downloaded. Does the opportunity to share your work override the ownership of it?

My personal opinion is the content is provided on an open source website, such as Google, YouTube, Vimeo, etc… then it is fair game. This is not content produced by them and is available to the public for free. However, if it is behind the walls of a paid site like Netflix or an official journalistic website like ESPN or NY Times, then it is off limits without consent or proper crediting.

The next question we need to asked is whether or not it is okay to download content from the internet. Even if we’ve already established material from the internet is open source, is it okay to download it? Some websites offer links directly from their pages to download content while most browsers offer add-ons to allow you to do the same thing. And if neither of these work, shareware products are readily available.

The silence of large corporations against the use of browser add-ons and shareware for downloading has only further solidified my opinion allowing the downloading of open source content.

The next question we need to ask is whether or not downloading content from the internet is any different than the use of VCR’s and tape decks, the ripping of CD’s, and the use of Tivo and DVR’s. Other than the time lag between the DVD release and the TV premier, not much. DVR’s already allow for the skipping of commercials, the exportation to the computer, and the burning to DVD. Sounds pretty similar to me.

The final question we need to ask is if all content is created equally – and to me it’s not. Downloading music and adding it to your library is different than dowloading an episode of a TV show or a new release movie – it’s worse.

Music is created by an individual or group, contains their creative licensing, and is for enjoyment over a period of time. It’s like stealing art and should be treated as such.

Also, avenues exist allowing for the previewing and listening to music without the requirement to download. And if the music is worth listening to over and over again – and on multiple devices – it needs to be purchased. It is of higher quality and supports the artist themselves.

Movies and TV shows, on the other hand, are totally different. They are mass produced and insanely expensive all the while being made for a singular viewing.

And this is how I treat the two. I will download a video, watch, and delete. And if the movie is worth watching multiple times, then I will get it. Or if it needs to be watched in higher quality, I will purchase it. But if it’s just the latest episode or another Nicholas Cage movie, I’m not paying for it. If you make me, I just won’t watch. Your call.

So – all that said, music is off-limits except for streaming and freebies while movies and TV shows are fair game – as long as it is not for multiple viewing or distribution.

The written word needs to be purchased, rented from the library, or borrowed from a buddy and photographs most belong to their creator and need to purchased, unless they have been released to open source websites for viewing and distribution.

For further reading, check out Derek Webb’s take here.

What about you? Your thoughts? Am I a bad guy? Did I confuse you?

Is It Okay to Dream Big?

So I find this law at work: When I want to be content, the dream is right there with me.

The dream is there. For what, not sure. But it’s there.

Thinking in the shower – the dream. Daydreaming while at work – the dream. Random thoughts while falling asleep – the dream.

It’s not that I’m unhappy or bored. Actually quite the opposite. I just have that feeling of not working at my calling.

But is it okay to dream? Is it okay to long for something or for somewhere while you’re here? Is it okay to wish for the future while still in the present?

God knows our thoughts and tailored our dreams. We are told to long for the things of heaven. We were created for a purpose.

But we’re also called to do live in the here and now. To work as if we’re working for the Lord. To do the best we can and be Christ here on earth.

And both sides are valid. And the debate rages.

How do you balance the call of the present with the desires of the future?

How do you mesh Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship with Warren’s Purpose Driven Life? CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity with Eldredge’s Wild at Heart? Platt’s Radical with the Shack?

I read a great column in Relevant Magazine about the world needing more boring Christians. I tried to be boring. Only problem – the idleness brought about more dreams of the future.

I wish I had the answer. I wish I knew where the balance is.

Maybe one day…

You’ve Got to Know When to Fold ‘Em

What happens when you give something all you’ve got and it’s not enough. Matter of fact it’s not even close?

Do you analyze your mistakes, try harder, and give it another go? Or do you walk away realizing your dream may not be attainable – at least not in this realm.

Winning a trophy, catering an event, being a sous chef, and having my name on a giant trophy are dreams of mine. So much so that they made up 10% of my 40 Before 40 list.

And barbecue appeared to be the avenue in which these dreams would be fulfilled. And last weekend was my first shot in 2012. We worked hard – to the tune of little sleep, cramping legs, and hurt feet.

But it wasn’t enough. Not even close. We finished middle of the pack in one category and dead last in the other.

And then I took a step back and looked around. The people beside me were judges. The people to the other side do this 20-30 times a year. The people across from me did this over 40 times. The people beside them do this for a living. And as I walked down the list of people I was competing against, I realized I am an amateur going against pros. I made Michael Jordan’s attempt at baseball look like child’s play.

So moving forward, I have a decision to make – continue trying to fulfill my dreams in an arena with little hope of success or being open and available to the next chapter.

Sometimes you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em (you’re the man Kenny). And with barbecue competitions, I think it’s time to fold ’em.

Things My Parents Were Right About

When you’re living at home, you think you know everything. You think you can do no wrong and your parents are only trying to stifle your fun.

And then you have kids of your own and you find yourself telling your kids the same things you were told. You catch yourself protecting your kids from the same things you couldn’t wait to do.

And you take a step back and realize – maybe my parents knew some things I didn’t. Maybe – just maybe – they were right. That’s not the easiest thing to say, but it’s true.

Here are just a few of the things my parents were right about:

  • Having a snack will spoil your dinner

  • Beach Music

  • College

  • Make an effort to make others smile

  • Using manners

  • The value of friends

  • Clemson

  • Keeping chapstick handy

  • Cherry Dr. Pepper (the regular kind with the syrup added)

  • Turning the TV off to read a book

  • Always believing in Santa Claus (he still comes because we still believe)

  • Have fun

  • Working for your money

  • Earning your keep

  • NASCAR