The Hard Life of a Bearded Man

beards1

Everyone finds something about themselves to justify playing the victim once in a while. You see it all over Facebook, Twitter, and the like. The whole “woe is me!” bit. I honestly scoff at 90% of the gripes you see on these social networking sites. No one feels bad that you had to wait a whole extra 10 minutes for your food at Chipotle. No one cares that the jerk cut you off in traffic. I certainly do not sympathize with someone who is “sick of the weather”. I feel nothing for these people.

I, however, deserve your sympathy. I am truly a victim. Please, gather ’round and feel sorry for me. For I, Gregory, am a bearded man.

I have had a beard for over a year now and I am constantly being attacked because of it. The questions, the comments, even the complaints, are unceasing. So I have chosen to write this blog post to address the typical questions and comments I receive on a daily basis. If someone chooses to ask me something on the list again, I will simply refer them to this post. And any of you that read this wonderful post are hereby forbidden from ever bringing up these questions/comments again in my presence.

1) Is it real?
I am offended by this question. The insinuation is that I either painted it on or received a “beard transplant” (which I heard is an actual thing). I won’t even dignify this question with an answer.

2) Can I touch it?
Dear God, no. Your hands are filthy. Go away.

3) Does your fiancée hate it?
I am a man! I live by my own rules! No woman tells me what to do! …

…I’m kidding. If Christine told me to shave it immediately, I would do so. I am so whipped. But, lucky for me, she loves my beard. And so I have just four words to say to all you men whose wives/girlfriends have forbidden you from growing a beard: sucks to be you!

4) Does it itch?
Let me answer that by asking you this: does it matter? I look awesome.

5) Does it get too hot in the summer?
Let me answer that by asking you this: does it matter? I look awesome.

6) Will you ever shave it?
When I’m good and ready. And not a second earlier.

I saved my most despised question/comment for last…

7) Do you watch Duck Dynasty?
Every person who asks me this thinks they’re hilarious. I have news for you. You’re not. You’re the 100th person to say it. Very unoriginal. Plus, do you really think I look like this????
Duck-Dynasty

 

I understand that like with any victim, there comes a time where you can no longer wallow in self-pity, but instead pull yourself up by your bootstraps, stop being sorry for yourself, and move on. Well, I’m not going to do that yet. I am not ready to move on. I’m going to milk this for as long as I can. For now, I will continue to be a bearded, pity party-hosting victim.

I am willing, however, to accept new, unique, and legitimate beard-based questions or comments. Show me what you got!

 

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5 Really Good Reasons to Leave Your Church

A friend recently shared an article written by blogger and pastor Aaron Loy, titled “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church.” It was a solid article and I encourage you to read it. Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of his reasons, it will undoubtedly challenge you to not be so quick to judge your church and hightail it out of there. Loy writes in the opening paragraph that there are indeed some good reasons to leave a church, but there are many bad reasons as well. As I was reading through the bad reasons, I started thinking, “What exactly are some good reasons to leave a church?”

Well, fear not, because after some serious prayer and meditation, I have compiled some legitimate, reasonable justifications as to why your current church might not be a good fit. If any or all of these following reasons apply to your situation, it may be time to flee.

1) The pastoral staff don white robes and hoods each Sunday morning.
You accidentally joined the KKK. Get out. Now.

2) On at least one occasion, you’ve been forcibly sent on a missions trip.
If you’ve woken up in a daze, finding yourself in the middle of the Amazon jungle or the Serengeti of Kenya with a Bible in one hand and a “Missionary Work for Dummies” book in the other, that rascally church family of yours has done it again. They’ve drugged your coffee during a “fellowship time” and put you on a plane to go do the Lord’s work in a third world nation. Further the kingdom, brother!

3) The board of elders is the official (and only) matchmaker.
Have your eye on that cute boy who plays piano on the worship team and works with orphans, eh? Well too bad. Elder Fitzsimmons has heard from on High that you were meant to marry Billy, that sweet, cross-eyed fella with the lisp. You two will have beautiful children, I’m sure.

4) Children’s Church participates in the Hunger Games each Sunday.
Have you noticed your daughter practicing sword fighting techniques or archery during the week? Is your son’s nickname Peeta? Have parishioners come up to you expressing their willingness to sponsor your child? It’s because your offspring just might be selected to represent their district come Sunday morning. May the odds be ever in their favor.

5) Your tithe and offering contribution amount is not decided by you.
Offering plates are not passed around. You do not choose how much you will give this week. Oh no, you couldn’t possibly be trusted with that responsibility. Instead, you must surrender your wallet to the nearest usher. He will decide how much you should give this week. No cash on you? That’s ok, a blank check will suffice. It’s all God’s anyway, so look cheerful!

Other possible reasons include: Your worship team is actually a Journey cover band; bake sales are forbidden because sugar is “from Satan”; your pastor received his theology degree via an online program run out of Bulgaria; or your pastor believes that a baptism isn’t legit unless the intending baptizee has been held under for a good minute and a half.

Do any of those apply to your church? Can you think of other good reasons to leave your church? Feel free to share them!

Please Proofread

I honestly don’t understand how grown adults can confuse “your” and “you’re”. It astonishes me. We’re talking about the most elementary of grammar rules. This is first grade material here.

Clearly I do not hesitate in making fun of people that mess that one up. I can be downright nasty. I don’t hold back. I’m cruel and I apologize.

Wait a minute… No I don’t. I do not apologize. You people need to get it together. This is something you learned in elementary school. Probably around the same time you learned that the capital of our nation is Washington, D.C. I’m guessing you remember what our capital is. So how did you forget the difference between “your” and “you’re”?

After all that ranting, I’ve given it more thought. Maybe that isn’t the case. Maybe you do know the difference. The real issue, then, is that you don’t proofread. For those of you that are really struggling right now, click here for the definition of “proofread”. But seriously, how hard is it to just look over the sentence you wrote a couple of times before moving on? Is your facebook post that urgent that it can’t wait 10 more seconds before you post it? Unless you’re warning someone that they’re on fire, it’s inexcusable.

If I see that I have a facebook notification and it says, “Yo, dude, your on fire”, I probably won’t be mad. I’ll be like, “Man, I have great friends who care about me.” And then I’ll douse the flames and take my bro out for a pizza.

But if I get another notification and it says, “Hey man, there’s a new movie out with Ryan Reynolds in it. Your going to love it.”, no, I will not love it because first of all Ryan Reynolds is a terrible actor and also because you can’t use the correct “you’re”. And then I’ll unfriend you because not only do you apparently like Ryan Reynolds, you also can’t proofread (I’m sure Ryan is a nice guy, but his movies are horrendous).

For those of you that don’t make this mistake, I bet I have all of you nodding your heads in agreement and yelling out “Amen!” once in awhile. Don’t deny it, I know you’re doing it. I’m yelling out random Southern Baptist words of agreement myself and it’s my own post.

The morale of the story is to just proofread. That’s all I ask. Everyone makes mistakes, I get that. Heck, I’ve made mistakes before too (no, I haven’t). But if you all just start looking over your amazing works of literature once or twice before submitting it to the world to read, I might just be able to scroll through my facebook news feed without banging my head against the wall for once.

Oh, and do me a favor and work on “there”, “they’re”, and “their” as well. Thanks.

Coldplay Is Not A Worship Band

About a year ago, I was at a church meeting for youth and young adult leaders from churches throughout the area, and a local worship team kicked it off with a few songs. Much to my chagrin, I heard the band transition from Desperation Band’s “I Am Free” to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. Oh yes. That actually happened. True story.

I get it. You’re young. You’re hip (do people say “hip” anymore?). You don’t want to go to one of those stuffy, old people churches where they play songs from 50 years ago. You don’t want to hear music written by people with last names like Carpenter and Green. You’d prefer music written by people with last names like Cyrus, or Levine, or Gaga (not a real last name) (none of the aforementioned people actually write songs).

So what do you do? You go on that noble quest to find a church that’s a little different. A church that embraces a new concept designed to attract today’s generation. The concept is where contemporary, secular, easy-listening music replaces some or all of the worship music. As long as they’re songs about happiness, peace, and/or love and not Satan, they’re ok. Instead of your usual Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Jesus Culture, you have U2, Oasis, and Rush.

I hate to break it to you but Coldplay does not play worship music. When Chris Martin sings, “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you”, it’s a lower case “y” on the “you”, not an upper case. He’s most likely singing about a pretty girl, probably Gwyneth Paltrow (his wife, for those of you less informed). Hate to break it to you, but he’s not singing about Jesus.

Bad news: "Fix You" is not about Jesus fixing us.

Bad news: “Fix You” is not about Jesus fixing us.

I’ve heard two halfway decent arguments in favor of this type of music being played in a church.

1) It fits the theme the pastor is speaking on that week.
Really??? It fits the theme?? Give me a break. You’re telling me that you can’t find a better song than “Let it Be” to match your sermon topic?  If I personally hear that song played before a sermon, the sun will definitely not come up tomorrow.

2) The lyrics and musical style promote love and peace which is what Jesus is all about.
I found a post on a blog written by a guy named Al Di Salvatore (Check it out here) who uses this argument. Here’s what he said:

“Why can’t music be just music. Based on truth and excellence. One of my favorite quotes is by Author Holmes who said, ‘All truth is God’s truth.’ So couldn’t music if it had truth, honesty, brokenness, redemption, love, (sounds like Psalms of David to me) and rising guitar solos and soaring vocals be Worship. Could Non-Worship (secular) Songs be Worship?”

My answer to that question is, “Dear Lord, no!” When Matt Redman and Israel Houghton write their music, their thoughts and their focus is on Jesus. Their goals and motives are to glorify God. When Phil Collins or Sheryl Crow write music, what are their motives? Where is their focus? The bottom line is that these non-worship songs were not written to praise God. The lyrics are not giving honor to Him. No matter how much you try, you can’t make it work. You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole.

The blog post also reveals another flaw in the argument. The author lists specific songs that he thinks are “worshipful” and some of the top ones are written by artists such as the Rolling Stones and Kings of Leon.  Maybe he doesn’t know who exactly the Stones are. Maybe he’s not aware that Kings of Leon wrote a song glorifying promiscuous sex on the same album as the song “Use Somebody” (mentioned in his list).

The glaring issue that this author and many others do not address is the fact that you can’t take the supposed “good” without the bad. You can’t just pick out the fun, happy songs some dude sings and ignore the crude, profane songs that same guy sings, and even ignore the crude, profane lifestyle the artist may lead.

Something tells me this isn't a worship service.

Something tells me this isn’t a worship service.

Whatever argument people want to use to justify why they bring secular music into the church just won’t ever be enough to sway me. Some Christians simply don’t want to admit that they’re just scared of what the rest of world thinks of them and they are so desperate to boost attendance every Sunday morning that they’ll compromise as much as they think they can get away with.

There is no question that music is something special. It can stir up emotions and have an impact in a way nothing else can come close to matching. But if music is so important and influential, how dare we try worshiping to songs written by people who not only are not saved but have meanings behind their lyrics that are often the antithesis of who Jesus is!

I appreciate a lot of non-Christian music, just like everyone else. I love everything from the Beatles to Mumford & Sons (I still loathe Nickelback). I’m not saying that listening to and enjoying secular music is a sin (Nickelback is). What I am saying is that by labeling secular music as “worship”, we’re permitting room for compromise. And that is extremely unwise.

So when you walk into your church next Sunday morning and the band is rocking out to a song by Snow Patrol or Green Day, maybe you should think twice before raising your hands in worship.

A few pointers to leave you with.
1) “Imagine” by Lennon isn’t worshipful even though he says the word “heaven” in the song. You’re trying too hard to make it work. Plus, I haven’t forgiven him for bringing Yoko into the fold.
2) Josh Groban is NOT singing about Jesus in “You Raise Me Up”. He’s not. Just accept that.
3) I understand that you can find Creed’s albums in your local Christian bookstore. Still doesn’t count, I’m sorry.
4) If you need some new tunes to mix things up, there are some incredible lesser known Christian bands out there. Check out Bellarive, All Sons and Daughters, and Gungor. They are amazingly talented and are consistently passionate about Jesus throughout their music and their lifestyles.

What do you think? Do you firmly disagree? Are there bands/songs that you think are exceptions? Does your church jam out to T-Swift and One Direction? Weigh in below!

Glamping is for Wusses

Meet my dad's protégé.

Meet my dad’s protégé.

Camping is awesome. I loved doing it as far back as I can remember. My father is one of the most outdoorsy guys I know. I’m convinced he trained Bear Grylls. He hikes, hunts, fishes, kayaks, the works. And that love of the outdoors has passed down to me and my siblings.

Allow me to define camping for you so there’s no confusion. Camping is the spending of time outdoors overnight in the confines of nothing more than a four-walled tent (but it could also be a lean-to or cave or something awesome like that). You have a campfire going, you’re pulling food out of coolers (or rehydrating MREs if you’re super intense), you’re using lanterns and flashlights, and you’re falling asleep cocooned by a sleeping bag. That there, folks, is the definition of camping.

This is camping.

This is camping.

And then there’s this concept of glamping. It’s the sissy way of sleeping outdoors. In case your soft, weakened mind couldn’t figure it out, glamping combines the words glamour and camping. Neat, huh? Not really. I’m offended by glamping. How could you possibly appreciate the beauty of nature by being sheltered by the comforts you could find in your home? If you couldn’t possibly be apart from your daily creature comforts for one single night, don’t even bother! Stay home with your DVR, your microwave, and your WiFi. Us real men and women will be fine without you.

This is not camping. This is glamping

This is not camping. This is glamping

Now before you get all defensive, there are some exceptions. Well, there’s one. If you have done your fair share of camping over the years without complaint and with genuine enjoyment, you deserve to utilize a camper or something like that (shout out to you, Mom!). But that’s the only exception. For everybody else, suck it up. Oh and traveling around in an RV or camper is not camping. It’s traveling around in an RV or camper. It’s fun, but unless you bust out a tent at some point, you didn’t actually camp.

Now I appreciate an upscale hotel or a tropical beach as much as the next guy, but camping is a whole other experience everyone should enjoy. There is something about marooning yourself out in the middle of nowhere and living off the bare necessities for a few days (or longer) that clears the mind and refreshes the soul. Plus, there is nothing more affirming to a guy than to be able to hack down a tree, build a fire, and feed his girl. All the other dudes need a Chinese take-out joint on speed dial. Those guys are sad.

Have you ever been camping? Truly camping? If you haven’t, do it soon! Autumn is an awesome season to camp! The leaves look amazing, the smell in the air is incredible, and it’s cool enough that a fire is welcoming, but not so cold that you feel like a character from a Jack London novel. So men, get out there and prove you have some vestige of masculinity left in you. Women, break the stereotypes of females and head into the wilderness. Say goodbye to sissy glamping and say hello to epic camping! My tirade is now done. Feel free to comment below!