Eight Years Ago Today (A Ribbon In The Sky)

We swayed to Stevie Wonder

Like a ribbon in the sky

Under the shade of a huppah

Friends and family 11 wide

We stomped a light bulb together

“Mazel Tov!” in unison

I kissed the prettiest girl in the world

Your drunk uncle: “Get’ er done!”

We ran out high fiving guests

Hand in hand we laughed

Bird seed beamed into my eye

As we scurried down the path

To where an old Ford awaited us

An eventually two perfect boys

An eight years with my best friend

And countless other joys

And I meant it lover girl

When I said I’d love you til I die

And we’ll sway through life together

Like a ribbon in the sky.

Bryan Daniels

 

 

I’m Quitting Facebook: And the Fantasy of Social Media

I recently deactivated my personal Facebook and I’m in the process of deleting my Twitter.

I’m tired of being a slave.

Not that this route of abstinence is necessary for everyone. I’m sure many can use such social media tools in moderation. But for now, I’m not one of them.

I’ve seen the dire effects of social media on this SmartPhone generation I teach everyday. If my ninth graders are not texting, they’re tweeting. If they’re not tweeting, they’re sharing pics on Instagram. If they’re not Instagramming, they’re liking on Facebook. If they’re not liking on Facebook, they’re Snapchatting. If they’re not snapchatting, they’re sharing their Flappy Bird score. If they’re not sharing their flappy bird score, they’re texting…

And so their virtual world turns, revolving around 3 X 2 inch screen that makes everything, especially relationships, smaller. With a hunched posture and lowered gaze, they bow before their handheld idols all day long.

My drug of choice the past year(s) has been Facebook and Twitter. The little red number that pops over the little blue world has been a confirmation of my social value. The retweet or the favorite has been a welcome endorsement of my public thoughts. None of the satisfaction lasts, and none of it has depth.

I want to try to plant my time and resources into the people that matter most.

Hopefully, twenty years from now my sons will remember a dad who joyfully Hulk Smashed them onto the living room couches during their early childhood. They won’t remember the brief time dad’s witty post on Skinny Jeans went viral.

Hopefully, forty years from now my wife will remember her husband looking into her eyes before bed every night and saying with focused intensity “I love you.” She won’t remember all the funny YouTube cat videos I showed her or the times we spent all night gazing into our Iphones.

And I could try to be balanced and nuanced and put boundaries and clear guidelines up as far as my social media use. 1. Only fifteen minutes a day 2. No use right when I get home from work ….. etc. I have in the past. But it’s easier for this dog to return to his vomit than learn new tricks.

The chimera of social media has stunted our relational growth. We’ve swung into the carnival door on the whim of our thumbs and now we measure every real world experience and relationship with the fleeting fantasy of faux social contact. I’ve heard normal ninth grade girls mention they have thousands of Instagram followers. They only personally know a fraction of their followers. They largely have no clue who is viewing or using their pictures for fancy sake.

That is scary.

But that big contrived social media platform affirms their worth.

“It’s not real,”

I told a high school FCA group yesterday about our obsession with social media “relationships.” And those words probably resonated with me more than them. There was a time (like 15 years ago) people met physically for face to face encounters and fellowship. Over tea or barbecue or wiffle ball.

But there’s also a cost involved in that: It’s harder to hide a zit or bad hair day in the flesh.

It’s harder to be inauthentic in the flesh. As a result, it’s easier to be known in the flesh.

And so the unfortunate catch is this: We’ve so controlled our public persona that no one really knows us. Sure, they know the facade we’ve carefully constructed to be seen by others. But they don’t know the hurts, dreams, fears and failures at our soul level. We don’t bare those groanings to an inanimate screen. We only bare those groanings to fellow souls we trust.

And who we trust has gotten narrower and narrower because our social life has been imprisoned within the dull glare of a smart box. And one of our deepest human longings, to be truly known and accepted, has been blurred and manipulated through the lens of a device we control…or controls us. And I know it’s not a handheld issue, but a heart issue at stake here. This is true with anything in life that lords over us.

So I will attempt to break out of the box for a while.

To be a better husband, father, and friend.

To be known, and to know.

Bryan Daniels

*I will still post on this blog irregularly as time permits.

Starbucks Eavesdropping and Turned Fathers Hearts

He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6)

I eavesdropped at Starbucks today. So did my wife.

The creamer counter sat facing a father and daughter couple. I was quietly squeezing a honey packet and shaking sugar into my venti cup of bold Italian. The girl was probably in ninth grade. I wasn’t really listening to the conversation as much as reading body language.

My interest is piqued when I see a kid one of my student’s ages in social situations. I get students at school, where emotional walls and facades cloud the self-portrait they’re painting. They’re on guard as drama and judgment fly around them like violent bees aiming for the heart.

So I listened to this little curly-haired blonde girl speak glowingly to her father (presumably) about her best friend.

“I want to show you her picture.”

And she stuck out her Iphone screen across the table so one of the most important people in her world could see another one of the most important people in her world.

It could have been a picture of Hitler or Pol Pot. He wouldn’t have known. Or cared.

He was disgustedly bored with this soul he sat across from. He never once made eye contact with her. And there wasn’t much else to look at during the moment. There wasn’t a parade going on outside or a big screen TV with a UFC match inside. It was just her and him at Starbucks…and the awkward couple a few feet away eavesdropping.

The man looked like he was watching paint dry. Or grass grow. Or baseball. Not even an obligatory nicety like “Yeah” or “OK” came from his lips.

I don’t know the man, so I want to be careful. He could be having a bad day or year. He could have just been given some tragic news, divorce papers, or have some health condition that keeps him from providing basic social interaction. This may be just one moment of weakness I’m generalizing over his whole life.

And I can empathize with this father. I’m not a poster dad for providing my kids pure and focused affirmation. I’m a slave to my Iphone and social media much more than I should be, and after the sixth “Do it again” my Hulk Smash routine begins to wear thin.

So I pray Malachi 4:6 over me and my boys.

And I pray it over this man and daughter.

That she finds respect and unconditional love and affirmation in the tender gaze of her father. That she finds a strong embrace from him that makes her feel confident and stable. Before she tries to find it in the arms of some cocky kid with a smile and gaming addiction who has no clue how to provide her any of these things.

That dad’s see there is no higher calling than sharing a coffee with their kids and drinking deeply of their life, their hopes, their dreams, even their friends. That we wouldn’t outsource our unique fatherly embrace to their peers, or their mother, or Justin Bieber.

Being there. Present. Turned towards them.

Turning fathers hearts is the Father’s heart.

Bryan Daniels

Santa Claus: The Anti-Christ?

I’ll confess, my 5-year-old son, Josiah, knows all about “Santa Claus.” I wouldn’t say it’s a hallowed family tradition we’re passing on to him. He seems to already know the idea of an omnipresent fat man squeezing down every chimney in the world is a bit ridiculous. This time of year we talk of Santa with a playful wink and grin and he’s cognizant of the inherent silliness.

Santa Claus

I’m not against the idea of upholding mystery and levity early in childhood. I wouldn’t be considered puritanical in my approach to Christmas trees and giving gifts. And in the midst of the festivity: My wife and I always try to stress to our children that the birth of God’s Son is the highest purpose of the season.

But the stark juxtaposition of Santa Claus and Jesus Christ has struck a deep chord with me lately. And it has caused me to take a more cautious approach to this jolly old saint as modern culture has rendered him.

Santa is dressed in a red suit bearing toy gifts for children.

Jesus is dressed in red from his own blood bearing up his own body as God’s gift to us.

Santa only gives good gifts to good kids

God only gives the perfect gift (His Son) to bad kids. Good kids are left clinging their own filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)

Santa makes obedience a legalistic requirement for his good favor.

God through Christ gives undeserved favor that spurns obedience.

This is where I have to be careful with the precious 5 year old soul God has entrusted to me.

We’re hardwired to expect the law out of people. Even our children. You do this right for me, you get this good thing in return. You only get what you’ve earned with your good work. It’s convenient (and unbiblical) for parents to use a mystical authority figure like Santa as leverage against a child. “You’re on the naughty list and the only hope in life for good stuff is behavior modification.” But this manipulation can only last for the season.

Santa’s legalistic demands virtually flip everything I want my son to know about the gospel of grace.

If I can be frank: Santa Claus, in some ways, is the Anti-Christ.

We’re hardwired to assume God holds the law over us. In Christ, He does not. The law rightly taught reveals our naughtiness (Romans 3:20). The gospel rightly taught heals and covers all that shame and guilt (Romans 8:3-4).

That’s the beauty of the Incarnate God with us in a dirty stable.

He comes to bring a good and perfect gift.

To bad folks like me.

And my little boy.

Thankfully,

Jesus, and His Father, are the Anti Claus.

Bryan Daniels

How Crossfit, Crossbows, and Cross Training Shoes Combat Zombies

From Nazi Zombies to “World War Z” to “The Walking Dead”, images of the post apocalyptic snarling undead are ingrained in America’s cultural psyche. There is also a Christian cultural fascination with the Left Behind series and biblical prophecies of impending end times doom.

Sometimes biblical and cultural realities merge in our warped imaginations.

Come on. Don’t act like you haven’t daydreamed your way into a doomsday Zombie attack scenario while your pastor was busy trying to break down the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. What you’d do first if all hell broke loose, who you’d protect, what would be your longterm “bug out” plan. So here are five fool-proof tips to survive the coming crisis without having to lock yourself in a prison food closet with no outlet for…um…”processed” food:

noah is needed for the Zombies

1. Find your “Noah.” You’re probably related to him (or her). He’s probably a distant cousin you haven’t seen in 17 years. He’s been living off the grid lately and he fully expects to escape the coming tribulation with pickled food, an embarrassment of generators, and thousands of rounds of military ammo. If you can stomach his propensity for vast conspiracy theories and railings against the Illuminati it may save your life. Most importantly, he is a man or woman of old school MacGyver-esque sensibilities which include breeding goats, building underground bomb shelters, and blowing up stuff with homemade mortars. Be sure you know the fastest route to Noah’s house without having to travel major highways.

newbalance can run from zombies

2. Running shoes. Well, since they are only the “Walking Dead” they can be jogging shoes. The electrical grid will be down and nonrenewable resources will run out in 2-4 weeks. Like Jesus and the disciples, you’ll have to hoove it from town to town (avoid big cities). Buy some good insoles and quality Nike, Adidas, New Balance or those weird Five Finger shoes.

5 fingers can run from zombies

 

Cross training shoes may be your best fit since you’ll likely be running on a variety of sketchy surfaces. Your feet are your greatest commodity. Beware: Even in the zombie apocalypse, Crocs with socks will get you laughed at.

crossbows kill zombies

3. One word: Crossbow. Forget the guns. Ammo will run out and gunfire will attract herds to your location. A crossbow is an apt discreet zombie slayer and arrows can be reused. More importantly, a crossbow can be used to kill food sources like rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and former house cats (I kid…but seriously) Even if you have tons of freeze-dried food from that failed Nutri system diet plan, it doesn’t matter. Because of looters and herds you will not be staying in one place for long. Get a crossbow. You can wait for heavenly manna, but you know the wise Proverb: God helps those who hunt with crossbows.

crossfit women kill zombies

4. Another similar word that can save you: Crossfit. You know that psychotic workout routine your in-shape friends keep inviting you to do so they can make fun of you? The one where the women dead lift Mack trucks like they’re lifting up a small child. Trust me, you need to get in better shape than you’re in now. You want to be able to run for miles and still have enough in the tank for hand to hand combat with a herd of mouth foaming undead car mechanics. Maniacally flipping monster tires and snatching tree logs over your head may very well be a marketable job skill in the forest tribe you’re forced to join.

The best apocalypse fitness solution may also be to join your local Parkour club. Jumping, flipping, scaling fences and climbing walls can keep you alive. If your family wonders why you’re playing on the park jungle gyms all the time tell them you’re just getting ready for your “Ninja Warrior” debut.

The Bible Kills Zombies

5. The Bible.* According to some lone ranger named “Eli” this holy book will be worth more than water in the desperate desert apocalyptic new world. Oh yeah, and you also need antibacterial wet wipes. The word and wet wipes. Don’t forget.

Bryan Daniels

*Seriously, you will need Living Word and Living Water. Not just for then, but now and always.

Imaginary Haters and The Real Way of Hate

There’s no greater proof of this generation’s narcissism than its fabrication of imaginary “haters” to make it feel more important.

A whole segment of music and culture submit to this ridiculous ideal: That someone is out there, and that someone hates us for simply being so awesome. Artists like Kanye West have carved a sizable niche from the music market based on this assumption. Their pointed lyrical message to all the haters resonates with the cultural masses. “These envious faceless hordes can’t just be happy for my success…Haters!”

But I doubt it. I don’t doubt that you’re awesome (I’m sure your mom believes you are), but I doubt that someone literally despises you for being you. Or “doing you.” Or however those cool kids say it.

I’ve taught and coached high school age youth for a few years now and nothing is more ingrained in their combative psyche than the prospect of their own personal mythical mass of haters. Having “haters” brings a level of street cred. These hate groups are scheming against them at school, fronting them at the mall, and subtweeting them on Twitter. Those #oomfs are always up to something. Apparently, it’s a full-time occupation being a playa hata.

Kids used to have imaginary friends. Now they have imaginary haters.

Here’s a revelation: All these mean folks probably aren’t “hating” on us. I bet, for the most part, they’re just being people. They’re having a terrible day, they’re busy, they’re self-absorbed, or they may not even know we exist. They may simply have never been taught basic manners or social skills. But it’s doubtful they are preoccupied with all-consuming hatred towards us. That angry glare they were giving was probably directed inward at a bad memory, not at what we were wearing.

Believe it or not: The world and its hatred doesn’t revolve around us and our awesomeness.

People just don’t hate much anymore. At least not in the red-faced loathing sense. That requires too much passion. Too much emotional investment. To really hate something, we have to actually care first.

The hatred we’re more likely to experience, and express, is the hatred of shrugging neglect. We’re apathetic slackers with other people’s lives. With souls. With images of God with interesting stories and deep hurts and unique gifts.

We hate with pitiful indifference when we don’t treat humans as humans. As truly unique and truly interesting. As fellow bearers of an immortal flame housed in fading tents. That Imago Dei is still deeply loved and cherished by the original One who created it. They’re worth time and conversations and coffee and eye contact.

So in a sense

Don’t hate.

but also

let’s not accept the desperate narcissistic cultural stance of being “hated” on either.

Hater.

Bryan Daniels

The Battle of Our Age Is a Nursery Rhyme

There are some battles I don’t fight much anymore.

When I was a younger man (I’m 30!) strong of heart and mind I would dive into whatever simmering debate kept my idle polemic skills warm. These were mostly good hearty theological discussions of:

Premillennial Eschatology vs Amillennial

Continuationist Charistmaticism vs. Cessationism

God’s Sovereignty vs. Man’s Free Will

I still dabble in these things. But my fragile frame of mind and soul doesn’t find much joy in the debate halls anymore. It may just be the season I’m in. I can really only handle simple truth now. Like the truth that has haunted me since Vacation Bible Schools and tree fort battles dominated my childhood summer days. The rhyme that goes:

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so.

The little ditty of epic truth that I could barely grasp as a 4-year-old. Or maybe I grasped it perfectly as only a child can.

Who knows.

Being settled, assured, and knowing the love of Jesus is a lifetime pursuit that never ends. Resting in unconditional love is the simplest, and hardest, posture in life. Love without condition is not believable, because we attach conditions to every thing. With every shovel of self-righteous assurance or self loathing condemnation, we’re trying to dig our way back to a perfect garden.

We’ve tied the universal principle of reaping and sowing to God’s affection toward us. This affection isn’t constrained by a law or principle, it’s wild and free. But bondage to our good and bad works restrains us.

Like if we show up to God’s gate with enough dirt in our fingernails and sweat on our brow we’ll get a pass. But only the blood, dirt and sweat of Christ is a good and perfect payment on our behalf. And he gives entrance freely because He love us. It’s in his nature to do such things for dirty sweaty folks like us.

“This we know.”

Not “this we understand”

We can’t understand perfect love.

“For the Bible tells me so…”

It’s evident in the word He’s given us. He doesn’t leave this awareness solely up to our shifting emotions or weak intellectual reasoning. He gives evidence outside of ourselves. That is fixed and assured and anchored in timeless passages of truth.

It’s there. In black and white and clear in its propositional brilliance.

It’s a message that curious 4 year olds, disenchanted 30 year olds, and stubborn 70 year olds can all cling to and feel afresh:

“Jesus loves me this I know…”

The battle to believe and rest in that every day may be the most urgent fight of our time.

Bryan Daniels