Guest Blogger Josh Duggan – Rewriting Your Identity


In the 1990’s America Online mailed me a disk that awarded 30 free hours of connectivity to the world wide web. I encountered online personality tests and surveys for the first time as well as the concept of “identity-seeking” — and this concept captured my imagination. The term, identity, comes up in social discourse about gender identity, and in Christian circles about our identity in Christ Implicitly or explicitly, identity-seeking or identity-forming takes up a large fraction of what we humans do with our lives.

A quick review of the beginning of human history will reveal a progression of events: An act of creation occurs. An entire world and life is given as a gift and a blessing. A model of love in a family unit is established. The very first offspring comes up with a different model, as he kills his brother.

Human tradition continues to drive us to *define* ourselves and our world; each in our own way to grasp at authorship and authority. All of what we see played out in the struggles of our society is the result of the past and continued attempts to pick up this pen and rewrite ourselves in at we might imagine is our own image. In our minds we have driven down the streets of self-actualization, self-determination, self-esteem, and other glorifications of the self. This is the logical outcome when man directs his own life. We seek, in turn, to create our own world, our own morality (or “tolerance”) to impose, and our own relationship ethic.

Or, alternatively, God blesses us and imposes his external system on us; and we obey and worship.

Once one of these systems is chosen, a process is set in motion. Romans 1 elucidates the progression, starting with, “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (v.21 ESV).” and culminating with the characteristics of the lost society, ” . . . foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless (v.31)” It’s the classic fallacy: “If I ruled the world, it would be a Utopia.” The truth: If any of us ruled the world, it would be tyranny, injustice, and ruin; just our individual brand of it. An important aside here, do not mistake the outcomes (the observable behaviors and traits of the human-defined society) for the cause of the trouble (refusing to honor God as creator and give thanks).

Here is the problem for our race. We desperately want to be loved and accepted. Moreover, we want to be loved for who we are, not for what we might do to earn it . . . . and deep down we know that we are unlovable. We employ all kinds of strategies to avoid this disturbing truth, and even make all kinds of changes to our “identity” just to create a diorama where we can dream that we are not so horrible; that we could be loved despite the fact that we fall so short on so many levels. We imagine we can do this because *we* are the authors and we define success, and beauty, and love . . . . but that sad road is a dead-end street . . . . Until we hear that a bush burns on the side of the road . . . . And we turn aside to see this thing . . . . And we find out that we are loved in spite of what we have become, and that priceless stamp of our creators image on our persons cannot be erased because it is sealed with his own blood. He offers to take upon himself all of the justice and well-deserved wrath that we have been wildly successful at earning. Even at our ugliest and most objectionable, we are somehow beautiful to God; one of his more incomprehensible characteristics, that he could love his enemies so much *before* they turn to him. He died for the ungodly, not for the ones who aren’t as bad or the ones who started turning things around. A glance at Romans 5:6-11 will show this powerfully and concisely laid out:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a god person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Seek — stop rewriting — your identity. Try the following start to your day:

“God I acknowledge you as my creator and king. Thank you.”

The Ents are going to War (and so are we)

TT-favorite4Without daring to glance to my right, I gently placed my popcorn down on the open seat next to me, and leaned forward with my eyes practically burrowing a hole through the giant screen. In all of my thirty-two years, never had I been so enthralled in one cinematic moment. Almost two decades years after I first read the books The Lord of the Rings, the ending of this film had become everything I hoped it would be.

“Come, my friends. The Ents are going to war. It is likely we go to our doom. Last march of the Ents.”

Fifteen years later, chills still sweep through me as I sit in this big, red chair watching this iconic scene once more. As Treebeard and his fellow Ents march into war, their enemy had no clue what kind of violence and destruction was heading their way. The Ents wouldn’t have gotten into the fight, however, if it wasn’t for the burning of the trees happening in the forest around them.

“Many of these trees were my friends,” their leader Treebeard muttered in disgust, just moments prior. This destruction was simply too much for him to bear.

Do you ever feel a little like Treebeard, repulsed by the carnage of words burning in our world today? For me, this is what I am experiencing more and more as I hear the heresy and devaluing of the scriptures from so many folks who say they love Jesus, but want a theology all for themselves. As the Ents held precious the lives of the trees around them, many Christians passionately cling to God’s word as truth, and hold precious the lives affected by the false teachings of our day. Heresy is when someone claims to teach from the scriptures, yet deliberately changes core doctrinal truths to fit better into their ideas or into the current culture. And it’s actually pretty evil.

Let me share briefly about the evil of false teaching, and how it is impacting our culture today. First, though, imagine coming over to my house on a scorching hot day and asking me for a cup of water. I go into the kitchen, and unbeknownst to you, I grab a cup of water, and throw it in microwave for about a minute. My music is turned up, and you’re in my living room not suspecting a thing. I also chuck in two clear chunks of plastic, that look just like ice and hand it to you in a temperature modifying cup. As you lick your lips, you reach out to take it from me, give me a quick “thanks” and what you thought would be a cool cup of water turns out to burn your lips, tongue, and the back of your throat. You spit it out and are about to punch me in the face when I say, “Hey. This is water. It’s good water. There’s nothing wrong with your water. Maybe you don’t like the temperature, but it’s still good water. “

Let’s be real now. The story of Jesus is based upon our need for a Savior because of our sin, which has separated us from God. Jesus, however, created a path to God the Father, through his perfect life, crucifixion on the cross, and glorious resurrection. All of this was done for you and me and the rest of mankind. By falling on our knees and rejoicing over our part of the story within this beautiful gospel, we can know for all of eternity we will be in paradise with Jesus.

The most popular heretical teachings of our day have two main ingredients thrown into the  pot. First, they preach a gospel that is incomplete, one that doesn’t involve hell or any type of separation from God. The iconic scriptures, such as John 3:16 and Romans 6:23, play second fiddle to a compromised Gospel, one based in the culturally relevant philosophical teachings of man, all while ignoring key biblical truths. Hell is never going to be a popular topic, yet it is a quite necessary conversation in teaching the beautiful Gospel of Jesus.

Second, false teachers today will play manipulative games with sin, most commonly sexual sin and the sins associated with life, such as abortion. While many of us rejoice in the freedom from sin the Gospel of Jesus delivers, false teachers want to rejoice in something else – You! It is just so true! Folks, I am all for the big hug, but I’m not interested in worshiping anyone else but Jesus himself (Seriously this idea of worshiping myself is getting uncomfortable now so I’ll just step away now. Yikes!).

Treebeard and the other Ents marched forward to not only protect what they found precious, but to also defend those who were too weak or immature to defend themselves. This is the great calling of those who are mature followers of Jesus – we defend our brothers and sisters from heresy and false teachers. We do this just like the Ents, with the “rock and stone”, that is the rock solid foundation we find in God’s word. We speak in truth and with love of course, but we do not sacrifice one for the other. We are not called to sit back and turn away from the battle before us, but we are to engage, protect, and yes, attack the heresies. For those we love. For those who are precious to Jesus.

And then we march forward into the pure,  beautiful, and glorious story of man’s redemption.

Dinner with Friends and Parachute Pants

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I was in sixth grade at the school’s monthly roller skating party when my skate slipped and my legs went sprawling in two different directions.  Before I could even scream in the horror of the moment, my white Fruit of the Looms were now visible to each and everyone of my classmates. I had split out the whole crotch of my parachute pants.

Mom couldn’t fix them. Heck, Alice from the Brady Bunch couldn’t make this right. Mom just kept shaking her head saying, “I should have known better than to buy you pants made out of nothing. I’ll tell you, this would never happen in your Toughskins!”

Toughskins. Yes, this epic disaster threw me back into my Husky size 14 Toughskins, fresh off the shelves of Kmart, and my mother never bought me another pair of parachute pants again. But all my friends had parachute pants and they were wonderful.

Envy reared its nasty head, as boy after boy showed up at school in their new parachute pants, and I in my Kmart Specials. I loved everything about my parachute pants, from the look to the feel, but none of it mattered. Sixth grade boys live in the prison of clothes chosen by their parents, and mine had secured me into solitary confinement with little help of reprieve.

You know what? I still get that feeling sometimes. I got it once when an old friend’s bestselling book was nominated for an award. Or when another friend qualified for the Boston Marathon. I got it when a wealthy friend posted a picture standing with someone pretty famous, who I’m pretty confident isnot waiting with bated breath for a selfie with me. I got it when a friend ran faster than me, and he hadn’t been running as long. It’s this thing and out of nowhere it can erupt on you at the most bizarre times and in verypeculiar ways.

Envy.

The scriptures, fortunately, have a lot to say about envy, and I for one am quite grateful. As little screen time as the topic gets in our cultural landscape, the Bible pulls no punches and dives straight in.

“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:2).

Well, that’s some pretty happy stuff about me and my envy issue. Parachute pants or not, that pretty much cuts to the core. But wait, there’s more –

“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).

Years ago a friend of mine came and confessed his envy of me and apologized for the way he had been treating me. I was like “WHAT???” First, this guy was really good looking and successful, and everyone loved him, yet he found something in me that caused him to experience envy on a deeper level. I more than forgave him, and also tried to learn from him, to understand how he had come to allow envy to influence the way he treated me.

In my world, envy could stem from knowing a dad who has done a better job of supporting his kids in sports or in their academic achievements. It could harass me about being a better writer, someone who gets more clicks or likes and those always coveted comments that read “I totally connected to this.” Sometimes it rears its nasty head in strange and random ways, like spotting a guy driving a Ferrari or a group of friends out having a great time. “Boy I wish I had a bunch of friends to go laugh and have fun with tonight. I wish my life was like theirs.” Sometimes envy kicks the door down when a man provides great wealth for his family in a way I have never been able to. And will probably never will.

Its Smeagol wanting the ring. Or King David killing Bethsheba’s husband. And in the words of Judas when he questioned the actions of the lady who poured perfume all over Jesus’ feet. It is always shameful. Always ugly. And always leaves a feeling of void, especially if we ever get the “thing” we were truly envious of.

Envy isn’t a materialistic void, as much as it is simply worshipping something that was never intended to be worshipped. When our hearts take us down the path where we are filled with envy and longing, we need a “worship reset” to readjust our inner core, our spiritual self. Through the consistent practice of studying the scriptures, we not only reset our spiritual base, but we also provide our hearts with a passion that is good, and just. Here’s an example from 1 Chronicles 16:23-25 –

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.”

When worship of Jesus increases, envy decreases, because our passions are redirected towards a God who passionately loves us, and wants us to be in a loving relationship with him. As we study the Bible, listen to Christian worship music, or engage in our local church, our hearts are captured by what is good, what is pure, and what brings life not death.

Envy, the worship of what you don’t have, brings death to marriages, friendships, reputations, and so much more. Worshipping God, however, brings light and life, first to your heart and then to the hearts of others. It provides a constant reminder of who we are and who God is, and when we practice the worship of God, we are left amazed and entranced, and also left wanting little else.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).

The English Patient, Titanic and Here’s My Favorite Christian Movies

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Do you remember the movie The English Patient? Boy, I sure do. In 1997 it won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director. It also holds the distinction of being the only movie I’ve seen where more than half the crowd was booing and heckling as the credits rolled. It wasn’t a just a bad movie, it was the worst movie I’d ever seen and I don’t think I’ve ever felt such an overwhelming relief than when it was over. Soon after I saw the much ballyhooed film, The Titanic, which also won Best Picture and Best Director, but in the year after The English Patient. The Titanic also makes my most hated list, due to the obvious ending (c’mon, you all knew Jack was going to die) and the fact that I just didn’t like Rose. She seemed bratty and her storyline didn’t feel very legit, but maybe that’s just me overanalyzing stories again.

If we jump into the movies I have loved, like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and The Matrix, I think we can agree for the most part we’ve had to endure the brutal aftermaths of movies that obliterated our hopes of another cinematic work of perfection. With zero thanks to The Hobbit Movies, Star Wars Episodes 1 through 3 and Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, you and I had our greatest of expectations smashed as we shoved the popcorn down our throats in the horror of bad storylines, over-acting, and casting mistakes that will never make any sense.

Let’s be honest. How many times has Hollywood let us down on the big screen?

Whenever I sit through a bad movie, I get a bit ticked, because I’ll never get back the money and time I’ve wasted. There are almost zero redeeming qualities in movies today, except for a few which might inspire or educate us. In comparison to Christian movies with a positive message about Jesus, even if the movie is pretty low budget and horrible, I’m often left with feelings of hope, being challenged, and God’s love and acceptance despite our own brokenness. There are many movies with a Christian theme that have impacted my life, so here is my ranking order of the best Christian movies I’ve ever seen. And along with this, I will include the Rotten Tomato Ratings from Critics and Users.

  1. Facing the Giants (13% Critics/85% Actual Humans with a heart, also called the Audience Score) – Even though their entire budget was about what it costs for us to take our six kids out for ice cream, this is one of my favorite films of all time. From a great script, to a little shaky but heartfelt acting, to an ending that will have you clutching the arms of your sofa, this is the best of the best. Watch this with an open heart, and you won’t be let down!
  2. Courageous (30% Critics/86% Audience Score) – The follow up to Facing the Giants with Alex Kendrick as the star did not disappoint. There is one scene that might be the best original comic writing I’ve seen in years, and the ongoing tension throughout the movie kept me on the edge of my seat. The thoughtful storyline about being a father has some awkward moments, but I wonder if those aren’t because of what we have lost in our country as fathers, and our lack of initiative to be leaders in our homes. This is a must see movie, with a few surprising twists.
  3. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (42% Critics/87% Audience) – a light hearted romp through a familiar feeling narrative, that continued to make us laugh, question, and even cheer a little throughout the whole movie. There are no car chases or high impact scenes, just a very well-acted, heartfelt story that brings that satisfied feeling as you’re pulling out of the theatre parking lot. The lead actor, Brett Dalton, was perfectly cast as the wayward son/Hollywood wanna-be, working on his comeback, while figuring out his life. This is the first Christian movie The World Wrestling Entertainment company has produced, and it leaves us hoping there will be more.
  4. The Island aka a Russian film titled OCTPOB (63% Critics/81% Audience) – Although this film was well received by some critics, it has never been given its credit due. The subtitles take a little getting used to, but after a few minutes, it feels like a movie spoken in the language of Russian is quite fitting. It’s a sad, but inspiring tale, and almost akin to The Dead Poet’s Society, which I appreciated, but still found a little disappointing throughout. The Island rarely let me down, and when I found out the lead actor (a former Russian Rock Star) actually lives on this island in Russia, I was even more in awe. By the way, it’s free on Youtube!
  5. War Room – (33% Critics/87% Audience) –This movie bounces cleanly from tension to heartache to humor, and the acting is the best of any Christian movie I’ve seen. It all flows well together, as real life collides with the promises of God, as prayer takes center stage throughout this movie. There is a deep brokenness exposed in its most revealing moments, especially towards the end, but not as much as Courageous, which was almost too heavy at times. This might have been my top movie, but its climactic scenes didn’t leave me catching breath, as was the case withFacing the Giants and Courageous. But the directing, acting, and story were all top notch.
  6. Flywheel – (too low budget to make Rotten Tomatoes) – This is the first movie from the Kendrick Brothers, and has the most heart of any low budget movie in the history of film. From top to bottom you can see the director had little to no money to make a movie, but this was the launching pad into his next movies.
  7. The Passion of the Christ (49% Critics/80% Audience) – This doesn’t even feel like a normal movie, so I’m barely sure how to rank this. As far as cinema goes, this is the closest we can get to the final days of Jesus before his great ascension into heaven. Though The Passion is brutally violent, I wouldn’t hesitate bringing kids age twelve and up to see it.

If you haven’t noticed, the Audiences are high on these films, while the pros pan them. The critics continue to dismiss the inspirational messages, and the impact it makes on moviegoers lives. If you’re looking for the English Patient or Titanic or even the movie Chicago (which I hate only because it won Best Picture over the Fellowship of the Ring), then none of these movies are for you. For everyone else, add these to your library and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

In closing, here’s a few more Christian themed movies, in no particular order –

  • Soul Surfer
  • God’s Not Dead (the original)
  • Fireproof
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Amazing Grace
  • One Night with the King

666 and Salsa and Chips

 

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Come to River Falls, Wisconsin, a beautiful town where you can get the Mark of the Beast and experience an exciting walk over the Swinging Bridge!

This might not be the Welcome Wagon’s latest bumper sticker, but something is about to happen in the town of River Falls, Wisconsin and if we don’t address this as a country, we may never address it until it’s too late. And by too late, I mean the world is destroyed kind of “too late”.

Three Square Market is a technology company out of River Falls and on August 1st they are having a pretty big party, like salsa and chips kind of party, but for the worst reason possible. By the way, you wanna know why I hate salsa and chips at a party? Because I think “FREE CHIPS YES!!!” and eat the whole bowl. Anywho, at this party there will also be a bunch of needles and syringes, which the company will be using to inject small microchips into the hands of their employees. Read that last line just a little slower.

“Hey Jerry. Pass the zesty nacho dip and let’s use this needle here to get a small, foreign object stuck permanently inside of your body. Pass the Corona baby!”

I can’t even begin to express my disgust with Three Square Market’s CEO, Todd Wesby, who enthusiastically initiated this program at his company. Shockingly, these types of chips have been approved by the FDA, even though they can become infected or migrate to different parts of the body.

“Sorry, Barb. That’s not a zit on your forehead. It’s a chip, and it’s somehow stuck in your between your skull and your skin. But hey, I’m having a pampered chef party this weekend and wondered if you and Mike…”

Mr. Westby CLAIMS (does it not terrify you when it says a CEO CLAIMS something?) that this chip is not trackable by GPS and that it cannot bring you any super powers (I made the super powers thing up). Seriously, though, does anyone actually trust that technology won’t retroactively make GPS locating happen? I can’t even imagine getting this and having it not sound like a Viagara commercial with all of the disclaimers.

By the way, what happens if the chip gets hacked, which is a definite possibility? I think we’ve seen far too much deception in our dealings with technology companies to do as they ask and take their word for it. Mr. Westby also compares it to keeping our cell phones with us, but hey Todd, can I just share with you that “I DON’T HAVE TO CUT OFF MY FINGER TO LEAVE MY CELL PHONE BEHIND!!!” Just a humble thought.

With fifty of the eighty-five employees agreeing to being injected with the microchip, and the other thirty-five being actual human beings with a clue, maybe we should look to the bible for some insight in this situation (and drug testing for the 50).

Revelation 13:15-18 says “And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.”

Our country has a history of first encouraging a new thought, and then turning a thought into a law punishable within the terms associated with the law.  In other words, once we go down this path, I don’t think the Average Joe’s like us can control or even influence this type of initiative. I’m not saying that it’s time to go buy bottled water, hang your Don’t Tread on Me flags, and pick up a new shotgun. I’m just saying this is obviously at the top of the list of bad ideas, even for health reasons, let alone followers of Jesus’ beliefs about the end of the world.

It will be interesting to see if this company makes it mandatory. And then if the state of Wisconsin does. And so on. And so on.

It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of something that sometimes doesn’t seem like it really is that far away.

 

The North Pond Hermit

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For almost three decades Christopher Knight, dubbed the North Pond Hermit, lived alone in a makeshift campsite in the wild of Central Maine. He hadn’t spoken with a soul for 27 years, choosing a life devoid of friendships, laughter and love in exchange for the deep solitude of a life on the outskirts of the world. The officer who found him said Mr. Knight could move through the woods without making a sound, swiftly and unlike any human he had ever encountered. In even the thickest and thorniest brush, Knight easily walked without getting even the slightest scratch on his skin. It was like he was born for this type of existence.

But, he wasn’t. In fact, because of the choices Christopher Knight made, the next several years will likely be the antithesis of his past three decades, trapped behind thick, steel bars in a prison. Knight will have to line up with other inmates for food, be cramped into small spaces with too many men, and will only be able to see the outdoors through a chain linked fence for maybe an hour a day. I wonder if he ever thought he’d end up in prison for the thousands of homes he burglarized during his stint in the wilderness. The irony of it all is he has gone from the open wild, to closed concrete, and it was all his own doing.

I went to breakfast last week with a couple of friends, and we talked about all kinds of cool stuff. We shared life over a couple of egg white omelets, while our waitress Jen kept our mugs perfectly filled with coffee. A couple times a year I get in one of two vans of twelve runners, just so I can run two hundred miles with a team of friends, some of whom I barely have met. I think that’s the best part, actually. I love the discovery of new friends, and going on the thrilling journey into someone else’s story.

What’s most fascinating about The North Pond Hermit isn’t that he spent 27 years in the wilderness, but that he spent 27 years without speaking with anyone. I know, when you’re like me and you have six kids in one house that thought can be sound a little like utopia, but c’mon. How could anyone seriously spend maybe a third of their lives with zero connection to anyone else. Heck, I’d rather be stuck on an island with my arch enemy than nobody, but it seems that’s not the story of Christopher Knight. He not only chose this life, but sacrificed everything he could to maintain it.

Historically speaking, hermits make the choice to leave their society for either religious reasons, in protest of the politics within their culture, or they have suffered some sort of traumatic event. From what we know, none of these reasons apply to Christopher Knight. In fact, his story might be more of a mystery than almost any hermit before him.

In my book, God Is For You, the second chapter takes us on the journey of community and how upon creation we were intricately woven into each other’s lives. One of the fascinating discoveries I had as a writer was coming to understanding that many of us are living as hermits in society today, and we don’t even know it. I’m not saying our society praises isolation and not contributing to the world around us. I’m just saying sometimes we spend more time and energy getting ready for the picture we will post on social media than we do for our date. Or maybe we will hide who we voted for because we don’t want to be verbally abused or harassed. I wonder if we don’t have the smallest grain of envy in our hearts for a man who probably still doesn’t understand the basic concept of Facebook, and gives weird looks when someone tells him Donald Trump is President. Can you imagine that conversation? Can you imagine explaining the winking emojji someone just texted him?

You know, the most fascinating thing about the story of Christopher Knight isn’t where he has been, but why he left the people who loved him, his family and whatever friends he may have had. Maybe he gave up hope, and I can understand that things can get tough some time, but for 27 years? Really?

Four years ago I was at work looking at the huge window and way across the parking lot I see this lady’s car, and it suddenly stopped in the middle of the intersection and it’s like the heaviest pouring rain outside. I don’t know if it was her engine or something else, but her car was dead and not going anywhere. And before I could even process what was happening, all of these people start getting out of their cars and they come help this lady push her car out of the road. In fact, these two guys did most of the work while a younger woman consoled her, and helped her to the side of the road. They were smiling and acting like it was a sunny day, as their clothes were now soaked in the heavy downpour.

Sure, Christopher Knight missed 9/11, the election of 2016, and the OJ Simpson Trial, but he also missed strangers rushing into intersections in the rain to rescue a stranded motorist. He might have been spared from an increasingly toxic mainstream media, but he hasn’t given a thing back to anyone in almost 3 decades, and I feel  sorry for him.

Christopher Knight has terrorized the good people of rural, Northern Maine for at least a third of their lives. He made the choice to break into their homes and steal their food and stuff. He’s a criminal, no matter how you may view the decisions that he’s made. As bizarre as this story is, we have to acknowledge that the people who lived in his community were afraid of the legend of “The North Pond Hermit” and were worn thin by his cruel antics. Still, I can’t help but feel great sorrow for him.

It’s like that line from the end of the Harry Potter movie The Order of the Phoenix when Harry looks at Voldemort (the bad guy) and says –

“You’re the weak one. And you’ll never know love. Or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

Christopher Knight certainly isn’t a monster, but he is weak, and even more so due to the lack of love and friendship in his life. I can’t help but wonder why someone would go so far to place himself into such a deep isolation from others. Until that question is answered, we really won’t know, and honestly, even if we did I doubt most of us could truly understand. I know I certainly don’t.

Celebrating Taquitos and Other Amazing Things

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This evening I googled “Worst News Story” and it led me down a strange and pervasive path I don’t think I want to venture down again.

One of the top news stories that caught my eye was the one about a gas station getting a two million remodel, and multiple reporters on the scene (that’s right, there was actually more than one) took us from the rotating racks of fried looking things, to the over-compensating attendant pumping gas for an eighty year old lady.

By the way, from all appearances this was her first time at any gas station, as the cameras caught her in an overly surprised tone asking the man clutching the gas pump in his glorious bright red vest, “Are you out here helping people?”

His best response would have been, “No. I’m standing here holding a gas pump waiting for my cousin Willie to show up with his flame thrower and we’re going to have some legit fun ‘round here! Hope ya brought some stuff to make s’mores!”

Sadly, those words never made it on camera, but the nice red-vest-wearing-dude pumped gas for a lady who shockingly isn’t up for an academy award this year.

The cameras moved inside to the spinning racks of fried TAQUITOS (in caps so you can feel my emotion here), which looked about as appetizing as the Amazon Prime cardboard box I just chucked into the garage. I also learned they are currently saving the world with a redesign of the pumps outside for a quicker and easier entry into the station. They interviewed a man who was very enthusiastic about all of the new construction. Why? Well, because he said he goes to this particular gas station every day and the remodel will save him some time getting in and out of the service station. Because those seconds will mean everything.

So for two million dollars this is what ya get, and I’m sure they will eventually make enough money to not only pay for their remodel, but maybe even create a medical expenses fund for their customers eating what may possibly go down in history as the most epic bad food idea of all time – Gas Station Taquitos. If you have never consumed a Gas Station Taquito you should probably just move along now and read something that’s going to provide you with a little more depth and beauty, like a comic book. Or the back of your Wheat Thins box.

Back to Taquitos, though, did you know that October 4th is actually National Taquito Day? I’m not sure if this was widely known, and in case anyone was to ask you what day is National Taquito Day, you now can give them an educated answer. You’re welcome.

Call me crazy, but I kind of think we are a bored country, and we are stretching to find any story, except for the best stories it seems. It’s funny, but I hear better stories, truly great stories all the time. How? Because you’re the one telling them.

One of the reasons I spent nineteen months writing a book is because I, too, discovered that when my friends share a personal story with me, I know something pretty amazing  is about to happen. Too often we overlook our own stories, maybe because we’re afraid to open up and share our hearts or pasts, or maybe because we just think it doesn’t matter. It DOES matter. Your story always matters.

They want to celebrate gas station remodels. And Taquitos. I want to celebrate you. And our stories.

I’ll make any of you bet. I could sit with you for fifteen minutes and I bet I could discover a wonderfully compelling story, one that could benefit the whole world. We could even eat a whole bunch of Taquitos while we talk! But seriously, we’ve let a strange, often worthless, and quite negative narrative get a stranglehold on our culture and I for one say we take it back, and talk about the stories that really matter, the good ones that keep getting overlooked. Like yours.

Or we could just stick with Taquitos. The choice really is ours. Isn’t it?