Friday, August 30, 2013

Random Thoughts #2: I probably shouldn't write books

I'm sitting here at the Lanier Theological Library studying for that sermon I have to give on Sunday. One of the books I'm reading is a favorite of mine - Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. It occurred to me that he draws a lot of theological conclusions based on his life circumstances and experiences. Conclusions I really like. He also uses some awkward language sometimes that sounds like it was written by somebody trying to write books. As I was reading, I wondered if he would write the same things today. This book was written in 2004, before he was really very well-known, and I bet some things have changed for him. He's probably matured as a writer, and as a theologian, and as a man. I wonder if he'd cringe if he re-read some of his older stuff.

I'm probably just projecting myself onto him, because I'm pretty sure that's what would happen to me. I have changed so much in the last 10 years, I can't imagine agreeing with anything I wrote back then. It happens routinely when I go back to old posts on this blog. Anyway - the conclusion I came here to put down on virtual paper is twofold:

1. Maybe young people shouldn't write books because their ideas are probably evolving pretty quickly, and they can't be trusted to articulate something concrete and lasting while that is occurring. (Please don't send me a list of great things that were written or created by young people. I know it's possible, but as a general rule, maybe younger folks shouldn't draw CONCLUSIONS about things.)

2. Maybe older folks shouldn't write books either because I don't know if I trust somebody who hasn't changed their mind about anything in years and years. Once people have enough experience to reach good conclusions, I bet they tend to stop letting new ideas and information in. I don't know if I'm interested in that kind of thinking, either.

In summary - at the occasion of this writing, I am 36 years old. It's up to you, dear reader, to decide for which of those 2 reasons you will completely disregard what i am posting right now.

Random Thoughts #1: Bringing my lunch

Today is Friday, and I went to the Lanier Theological Library to study for the sermon I have to give on Sunday. It's payday, and I really wanted to eat lunch out. Like, really wanted to. There is a Potbelly Sandwichworks over here, and a Pei Wei, and a Chick-Fil-A.
Instead I ate the lunch I brought with me from home, and now I am as full and satisfied as I would have been if I had eaten out. Plus, I don't have the desire to do it anymore. Plus, I saved myself like 10 or 15 bucks.

I know it sounds like a simple thing, but no matter how many times it happens, I still want to eat out and spend the money. Therefore, it's worth reminding myself that it really doesn't matter in the end, as long as you eat something.

These things go here because they are too long for Twitter, and because the people on Facebook are pretty jerky sometimes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Remembering MLK: Kid Logic


There is no greater radio program than This American Life. I'd rather listen to This American Life than watch any program on TV or any movie in a theater. On June 22, 2001, they did a show called "Kid Logic". It was described as"Stories of kids using perfectly logical arguments, and arriving at perfectly wrong conclusions." In this, my favorite clip from my favorite show - we hear the opposite of that. A father tells the story of his young daughter reaching a heartbreaking, but perfectly logical conclusion about Jesus and MLK.

This link will take you straight to Act 1 of the show, give you some background on the subject, and a couple of other examples of Kid Logic. 

Scroll across to 13:11-16:55 for the specific story I'm talking about.

This American Life #188: Kid Logic

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Miley is Me

Much has already been said about Miley Cyrus' performance at MTV's Video Music Awards - not all of it valuable. If you missed the much-talked-about performance, you can view it HERE. It's a pretty good bet your kids have seen it. Watching it will help you understand the rest of this post.

Did you know that Miley Cyrus had a goal for her VMA performance? Her goal was to be even more shocking than previous performances by Madonna and Britney Spears – music role models to this young star. Miley Cyrus’ performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards definitely captured the world’s attention. Whether or not she achieved her goal is probably up for debate. However, I just can’t help but wonder how a person with so much potential wound up setting such low standards for herself. The reality is that Miley didn’t just wake up one morning and decide her goal was to shock the world. Where she is right now is a result of a slow progression of life circumstances and choices.

What was your reaction after watching the video?

Here was mine:

In truth, I had several reactions to Miley’s performance, but the ones that still stick are these: 
- Who is speaking into her life right now? 
- What if her goals involved helping – instead of shocking – people? How would her life be different today? 
- How is this image going to impact children (Hannah Montana fans!) and our students?

Parents and Youth Ministers have a really important calling to connect teenagers to Christ in the midst of living in a very confusing world. I always have to remind myself that my job as youth guy is not simply behavior modification, even though I and others are quick to reduce it to that. Rather, my role, OUR role, in their lives is to help them view this world, with all it's junk, with kingdom lenses. It's to point them TOWARD the love and beauty of Christ, rather than just away from ugly things. I believe our responses to the actions of others and to performances like Miley’s can effect the way our teens are impacted by them. This is a teachable moment! 
I hope that you will take some time this week to watch the video with your youth, share responses, thoughts, and then talk about the topics this video helps you talk about. I also hope that you will help them set goals and standards for living that help draw them closer to Christ. 

It's also important to remember this:
If I just condemn Miley for being slutty or shocking, then I become part of the problem. I become a pawn in the same game she seems to be caught in. That is, I turn her into a commodity submitted for me to accept or reject. I do this all the time. I draw lines to delineate what is good, and what is bad; what I support and what I do not. What is me (good), and what is not me (bad).
Instead, why don't I try to recognize her flawed humanity and mine.
Instead, why don't I stop and ask if there's anyway her journey can inform my own.

Here are a couple of questions you might consider asking and answering with the students in your house:
1. Who are your role models? Where/who do you get advice from when you need it?
2. Does media ever influence your decisions, self-image, views of others?
3. Do you consider others when making decisions?
4. What role does your faith play when you give advice to others?
5. What are your life goals? What about your immediate goals?
6. How are you guarding your life against sin? Who helps you with that?
7. Do you think the negative comments about Miley's performance are hurtful to her?
8. What would you say to her, if she were sitting in the room with us right now?
(Or, to phrase this a better way, "What would you say to a close friend of yours who had performed the way Miley did?")

It wouldn't hurt to read the lyrics to her song, We Can't Stop with your student(s). Okay, actually, it might hurt a little bit. These things have a tendency to take on a different feeling in the cold light of day. A discussion of what these lyrics imply, and how they compare to the way Christ calls us to live, would not be inappropriate.

Some passages of scripture to encourage and inform this discussion:

Media suggestion:
Along with Miley’s video, you could also show the music video for Casting Crown’s song Slow Fade. Casting Crowns lead singer, Mark Hall, explains that a slow fade marks the regression that happens when Christians aren’t living intentionally. 
He explains: 
“People don’t crumble in a day. You don’t fall, you fade. In your mind, there’s that pride that says ‘I’d never do that’… but you don’t just do it, it’s a slow, series of compromises, little ones that go there eventually, until you’re sitting in a place you’d never go, doing something you’d never do… and yet the way you’re living totally makes sense to you somehow because you’re so numb.” Maybe that's what happened in Miley’s life. It has certainly happened in mine.
Finally, remind teenagers how deeply they are loved and valued by God and the people in our faith community, and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Lead them in a time of reflection and prayer to ask God to help them live lives committed to Him.

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet. James 4:7-10 

(This post has been adapted from a blog post by Helene Foust and a Facebook post by Mark Riddle, two very insightful and interesting youth ministry veterans, who submitted their thoughts as resources for folks dealing with this very event, and edited/amended by me.)

Thank you for all you do to be parents to your children, and partners with me.
Grace + Peace,

Saturday, March 2, 2013

DSC Review Part 2 - Forget everything I said before...


In the words of the immortal poet "Weird" Al Yankovic - Everything you know is wrong!
As I mentioned in the first part of my Dollar Shave Club Review, I decided to go ahead and upgrade my subscription from the 4X to the Executive model (6 blades!) before I fully renounced my membership in the Club. The Executive bills at 3 blades/month for $9. To my surprise, I received my new blades (complete with a new handle) in the mail yesterday. At first glance, 6 blades on a single cartridge looks ridiculous. It's a wall of blades. I wondered if I should have a paramedic on standby when I decided to use it. If you cut your head with this baby, forget it - you are going to bleed out. Better invest in a 6-pointed styptic pencil, my friend, and pay your insurance premiums.

Rather than experiment with a new blade on a Sunday Morning, which could be disastrous, I took a late shower today and decided to take it for a test run.

WOW. This is THE blade, right here. Forget any disparaging remarks I ever made about Dollar Shave Club. I have never had a shaving experience like this. This blade moves so smoothly and quickly, and accomplishes so much more in a single stroke that I was actually done shaving before the hot water ran out (quite a feat at my house). My head looks great, feels great to the touch and doesn't burn in the slightest. Not a single nick or cut, either. When I was using it, it didn't feel like the wall of blades I expected it to. It actually felt like my old Gillette Fusion, only better - more substantial. This blade was doing WORK! I know I said this about the HEB brand in my last review - but THIS is the best shave I've ever had. I seriously considered shaving the beard so I could use it on my face.

You should get this blade. Period.
The only concern I have here is cost. At $9/month for 3 blades, we're talking $3 per blade!
The Gillette Fusion runs about $15 for a refill of 4 blades - around $3.75 per blade. The Gillette Mach 3 costs about $15.50 at Walgreens for a refill of 5 blades - around $3.10. In both cases, you still shave with Dollar Shave Club. If you can stretch it out and make your 3 blades last 2 months, you can go to an every-other-month subscription, and get your cost down to $1.50 per. If you think about it - these blades ought to last twice as long as a 3-blade cartridge, because twice as many blades do half the work each time! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Not to mention the fact that you never have to drive to the store to get them - and you never have to remember to put them on your wife's all-important master grocery list, and then make an extra trip because, "I've told you a thousand times, if it ain't on the list, we ain't gettin' it." But maybe that's just me.

SO, to recap - The best whisker-removal options out there, in order:
1. Dollar Shave Club - the Executive
2. HEB Hill Country Fare disposable 5-blade for ladies
3. Gillette Fusion
4. Gillette Mach 3
5. A piece of broken glass
6. A warm butter knife
7. A homeless guy's pocket knife
8. Wax
9. Literally any other blade out there.
10. Dollar Shave Club - The 4X

If - after these glowing reviews - you are curious and frugal enough to give Dollar Shave Club a try, please USE THIS LINK, which will also serve to hook your buddy J.T. up with some credits toward free months.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The DSC Conspiracy

Obligatory inclusion of the brilliant Dollar Shave Club commercial:

LOVE that. Aside from the old Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer radio spots - it's probably the only commercial I have enjoyed over and over again. All commercials should be like that.

You can go to their site and look up all the details for yourself. See the different blades they offer, their ridiculously low prices, and their process of shipping it right to your mailbox.

About me:
I'm a beard guy. I like to keep the beard nice and thick. Sometimes long and crazy-looking.
I am a head-shaver. I usually shave my head 2-3 times a week depending upon how lazy I am, and how many special occasions there are. Also - my head is round is most spots, while faces are often flatter in a lot of ways. I hope I don't need to explain that. I shave in the shower, a really hot one, not in front of the sink. I don't know why everyone doesn't. I used Edge shave gel. Anyway - those factors might mean that I'll be looking for something different in a blade than you are.

With Dollar Shave Club I went with the 4X (see right). I thought the 6-blade seemed a little excessive, and since I went from the Mach 3 (3 blades) to the Fusion (5 blades), it wouldn't be that big of a deal. They sent me a handle and 4 heads for $6.  Since I got it, I've used the same blade 3 times. I wanted to give it a couple of runs before I drew any conclusions.

All I drew was blood.
Seriously - OW. I'll admit that I probably have some sensitive skin, but my head's been shaved HUNDREDS of times. It hasn't hurt that bad since some friends shaved my head in college with a disposable. I suffered from the classic "Shaver's Paradox" - that is, a shave that looks good, but feels AWFUL. The first shave felt great to the touch, but burned like hell. The second was uneventful except for a little nick, which I hadn't had in a while, and burned a little less. I thought - "Ok, cool, I'm getting used to the new blades". The third was on a Sunday and was probably the worst shave I've ever had. Tore me up, and left me bloody in places I hadn't bled before.

This 4X is not going to work. For a couple of reasons.
The head on it pivots too much. It was difficult to find the angle and keep it against the skin. Upon comparison to the Fusion blade, it seems to have the same range of motion- but the 4X wants to bend, and the Fusion doesn't. As a result, the Fusion kind of sticks to your head, and with the 4X I had to choke way up on it, and put a finger behind the blade to make it flush.
Also - there actually ISN'T an aloe strip. The marketing says it has one. After 3 uses, nothing on this blade has changed color or faded one bit. It feels like rubber or hard plastic. No wonder it hurt so bad.
It might actually be great for shaving faces, but it just doesn't do the trick for heads.
I admit to having been overly optimistic about this. Because of the great marketing, I wanted to like it more than it deserved to be liked. It was all sizzle and no steak.
Before I completely give up on DSC, I decided to upgrade. I have changed my settings to receive the Executive, their 6-blade version, and give it a try. It might actually be a closer match to the Gillette Fusion. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Here's my conspiracy theory:
Dollar Shave Club is actually a creation of Bic/Schick/Gillette to teach us a lesson. You think razor blades work pretty okay, but cost WAY too much? Well, here, then! Here's a discount version using cheaper material and lower quality! What's that you say - it doesn't do the trick like the leading commercial brands? DUH. Come on back to our newest 10-blade battery-powered model with a flashlight, GPS and nose-hair trimmer.

This morning, I actually used my wife's disposable HEB brand razor that she shaves her legs with. It's big and clunky and pink - and ended up being the EASIEST, BEST SHAVE I'VE EVER HAD. I see another change in my future.