Thursday, September 13, 2018

Things I've Learned About Hurricanes

Things I continue to learn about hurricanes as this is now our second go 'round:

1) Someone on FB said waiting out a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle. That's pretty accurate. You feel like you can outrun it, but the danger is always there.

2) While the concept of being safe rather than sorry is wise, there's something to be said for not making rash decisions. The forecasts of these things, even just a couple days out, can change so much from day to day. Until all the models start to converge, it's wise to prepare, but unwise to panic.

3) Packing up and evacuating is a big pain in the butt, especially when one considers everything one should do to try to secure one's home. After that, you have to pack, decide what important docs or possessions you might want to take, pack up all the pets and their supplies, find accommodations, adjust schedules, try to factor the financial burden, etc. And that's if you DON'T have kids. There's a lot that goes into it, and if you do all that too early and find you didn't really need to, it can be very frustrating and costly.

4) Trust the veteran locals. They've been there and done that, and I've found they've been right most often, at least in these last two storms I've been thru.

5) Hurricanes are NOT the fault of Donald Trump! Or Bill Clinton, or George Bush, or Barack Obama. Get your head out of your butt.

6) DO NOT trust all the hype and predictions on social media. Joe's Weather Page is not a reliable source. Watch the National Hurricane Center, and a good local forecast that converges well with them. Local weatherpersons tend to overdramatize the weather for ratings purposes (for us Midwesterners, watch the local news when you get an inch of snow and you'll see what I mean.) However, they don't mess around with hurricanes here, and you can't overstate the dangerous implications of taking a hit, so I find they're pretty good at trying to get it right here locally. To be fair, there are some good independent weather organizations out there, but there's a lot of whackos out there too.

7) Just because Freida posted on Facebook that she saw a National Guardsman standing at Wal-Mart, it doesn't mean the town is going under Martial Law. Knock off the nonsense, and wait for the official sources to hand out info. I don't care if Freida's husband's cousin works for the fire department. Wait for the fire department to tell you themselves. (Unless you're best friends with Freida, then you can trust her if you want -- I don't even know who Freida is!)

8) It's wise to learn about hurricanes, and how they function. No matter their strength, they all have a general mode of operandi, and while they can be very unpredictable, and their paths can be swayed by a variety of variables, they tend to function the same way. In general, it's better to be on the south end of an Atlantic hurricane than the north end. They tend to pick up moisture on the south rotation and dump the bulk of it on the north and westward rotations. The wind will be stronger on the north side, generally. When you learn these little nuances, it's helps to get a better understanding of the impact it could have on your area. It's not an exact science, but it's good info to have.

9) Don't be a hero. Be smart. If you're in the crosshairs, you should run, it's just that simple. Lives are more important than stuff. But if you're not in the crosshairs, there's no need to panic, and these storms move slowly enough for you to wait and watch before making the right decision. Of course, nobody should ridicule you if you choose to run, even early. You do what's best for you and let the rest of the bozos work it out for themselves.

10) Know your insurance! In general, homeowner's insurance works differently for named storms than it does for anything else. And there's a good chance you ain't covered to the extent you might believe you are. Talk it over with your agent. Find out what you have, what you're covered for and what you will be responsible for. And flood coverage is a SEPARATE policy, and not part of your homeowners policy. If hurricane winds blow your house down, your storm policy probably covers it. If storm surge floods your home, it won't. Only a separate flood policy covers that. Shop around. In short, if I had suffered a loss last year in Hurricane Irma, I would have been on the hook for roughly the first $14,000 out of pocket, and I didn't have flood coverage. This year, I'm on the hook for $1000, fully covered for a flood. Find out BEFORE the storm hits.

11) Living with tornado possibilities all my life as a Midwesterner, I'm still not sure which is worse. The short term stress of a possible tornado from Hell from which you cannot hide, or the prolonged stress of watching a hurricane that can wipe out everything you own, but from which you can run. They're both VERY stressful, but I will say I've been far less stressed this time around with the knowledge I have now than I was during our first go 'round last year during Irma.

12) In the end, the good far outweighs the bad here in my opinion. I realize not everyone feels this way, and that's OK. I also realize that someday, sometime, we're gonna be in the crosshairs and take the hit. It's inevitable, and the risk you take when you want to live by the ocean. But a couple weeks of hairyness a couple times a year just doesn't trump the overall spectacularness of the weather down here pretty much year round. I can do without the prolonged dreariness that sometimes plagues the midwest, and I'll sit through another couple hurricanes if I don't ever have to see another snowflake as long as I live, thank you very much.

I in no way want to minimize the serious danger of a storm like Florence. But you should know that there is something about living near the ocean, and in a place that is sunny and pretty most of the time, that is just good for the soul. And after living here in it for coming up on two years, there's little now I'd trade for it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

John McCain

First, let me just say that I have absolutely no problem with admitting that I voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. As I recall, I did not vote for him in the primary, but, living in Indiana, the primary is so late in the season that he may have been the only one on the ballot. I really do not recall. I believed he was the better of the two candidates that November, even with his Liberal leanings, and his choice as Sarah Palin was a solid conservative move to balance out the ticket.

McCain lost that election for two reasons. First, the failing economy was being placed squarely on George W. Bush's shoulders, and any Republican candidate was going to suffer at the polls as a consequence. (The same thing happened to George Sr. in the 1992 election.) Second, if I may be brutally honest, I'll say what most people in today's world won't: given the state of the Democrat party then (and now,) McCain lost that election because Barack Obama was black. Hillary was still Hillary, even back then, and the Dems recognized almost too late that she was virtually unelectable. Obama was a nobody no one had ever heard of, hopelessly ill-qualified for the position, but he was charismatic and hip -- everything Hillary wasn't -- and... he was black. The timing was right. So despite McCain's being obviously more qualified for the job, the election came down to a young, hip, black man vs. an old, crusty white guy. The young, hip, black man won.

If you check the stats, it is true that more minorities voted in 2008 than ever before, and it is also true that black voters voted almost exclusively for Obama, while traditionally they would only account for 70-80% or so of Democrat votes. But what is also true is that a significantly higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than they would have ordinarily voted for a white Democrat. And that percentage was even higher among white women. The reality is that many white people voted for Barack Obama in that election so they could prove to others they weren't racists. It made them feel good about themselves to say they voted for a black man. (Even though millions of those people would admit it openly at the time, and subsequently voted for Romney in 2012 after seeing how bad at the job Obama really was.)

That's not a racist opinion. It's the stats. The vote was clearly not based on qualifications for the job among the candidates, because Obama had done nothing at all in his minuscule political career (or his personal career, for that matter) to that point to warrant being President, and McCain was a seasoned political pro. Had the demographic stats held true from previous elections, McCain probably would have won, or at least would have lost by a much smaller margin. Had the economy been in better shape, he likely would have won regardless.

(As an aside: It's upsetting that in today's world, we cannot have a conversation about race without being labeled a racist. So while I shouldn't have to say this, I will: I would have no problem at all voting for a minority of any race, gender, or ethnicity if I believed they were qualified for the job. There are many such potential candidates I can think of today who I could support. My opposition to Obama had nothing to do with his race. It had to do with his liberalism and complete incompetence for the job.)

Nevertheless, I'm simply making a point that McCain was once serious presidential timber, and had the timing and circumstances been different, he might have stood a real chance at winning the Presidency. Alas, it was not to be.

But even then, McCain was beginning to show his liberal leanings, and as time went on, he strayed further and further into liberal ideology, all but abandoning most of his conservative views by the time his health forced him to essentially retire several months ago.

But let's back up. One thing cannot be disputed: The man was a bonafide military hero, worthy of all the respect that comes with those badges of honor. At his core, he was an A-1 stud, more brave and heroic than I could ever dream to be. Regardless of one's political leanings, anyone who is willing to put their life on the line and risk the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom deserves every ounce of respect and honor I can give him. As a prisoner of war, he endured torture the likes of which I cannot fathom, and which caused him lifelong disabilities. And he did it for me and for you, because he believed it was the right thing to do. We can never thank him enough.

But as is not uncommon, it is sometimes necessary to separate the personal and business lives, as it were. While his military service certainly likely influenced his political affiliations and decisions, it is not necessary to allow that service to cloud our assessments of his political career.

It can't be argued that he had what most would consider to be a successful political career, which began in 1982 and continued until his death some 36 years later. For the first half of that career, he held mostly to his initial conservative values. But following a bitter primary battle with George W. Bush for the Presidency in 2000, he emerged from the loss bitter about the divisiveness of modern politics. And thus began a spiral toward the left for the rest of his time in Washington.

He cloaked his bitterness as an attempt to "reach across the aisle" and "get along with the other side" and other such nonsense. What it really was was a slow abandoning of his conservative viewpoints. Each time he voted against his constituency, he claimed it was in an effort to compromise, and work together with Democrats. But compromises usually benefit both sides, whereas most of McCain's votes garnered nothing to enhance conservative ideals. They were simply votes for the opposition's agenda, and that trend only grew larger as time went on.

So what of it?

Well, it's interesting when we place it under the light of the Trump administration. To this day, the left and the media are still clueless not only to how Trump won his election, but of his enduring popularity among his base. The answer to it is stunningly simple: Trump was not a career politician, and so far, he has continued to keep his campaign promises to his constituents.

Ignoring, for a moment, that McCain should have hung up his cleats years ago, as no person should be in Washington for anywhere nearly approaching 30+ years, he had been slowly disenfranchising his voting constituency for at least the last 15 years. Trump won because there is a large mass of voters out there -- myself included -- who are simply tired of voting for someone who promises to do one thing and then goes to Washington and does the opposite. I got tired of voting for politicians who promised to go and fight for conservative ideals, then simply bent over for liberal agenda once they got to office. It was maddening. Trump promised to do different. And wasn't a lifelong politician. So I was willing to give him a shot.

This is essentially what John McCain had been doing for years, and why the voters of Arizona continued to allow him to get away with it for so long is beyond my guess. But it was happening nevertheless. In some cases, it appeared his votes were little more than an outright vendetta to oppose Trump. The Junior Senator Jeff Flake is doing the same thing. It is true that Arizona as a whole has grown more liberal over the years, and so it can be supposed that both McCain and Flake recognized that and reacted accordingly. But in the end, it simply is not cool to promise your voters one thing and then deliver the opposite.

And the Arizona voters are waking up. McCain wouldn't have gotten away with it much longer. Flake knew he couldn't and has chosen to jump ship instead. But I digress.

What is disappointing, and, quite frankly, a bit nauseating, is watching the left (at least the left we see on the news everyday) now, upon McCain's death, laud him as they are, applauding his military career, and making a fuss about the flag at the White House, when they have, in fact, disparaged his military service for years. They mocked what they called his "phony heroism" in 2008, as they belittle the military in general and the flag most every chance they get. But because he opposed Donald Trump (and most of the conservative agenda) they want to pretend he's their hero. It's pretty tough to watch. (To be fair, Trump's dig at McCain's war hero status was unfair, and way off base, but at least he's been consistent in his disdain for McCain over the years.)

But it is important to note that it is possible to separate his military heroism and his political career. They don't go hand in hand. And that's the difference between the liberal and conservative reactions to John McCain as they each reflect on his life and career. Whereas conservatives have always lauded and championed his military service, they still do so, even as he essentially switched his political affiliations somewhere along the way. Liberals, on the other hand, once disparaged his military service and disdained his political beliefs. It wasn't until he starting voting on their behalf and opposed Donald Trump that they began to portray him as a hero.

John McCain was a hero. But he also turned his back on the people in Arizona who voted for him. He rightly deserves our respect for putting his life on the line for our freedom. But he also deserves the criticism he has received for promising his voters he would uphold ideals he ultimately chose to abandon. In today's society, military service and political service to your country are not the same thing, especially when you consider what each receives as compensation for said service.

John McCain was an honorable military hero. He ultimately was a relatively poor politician.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Why Kids Leave the Church

You'll have to indulge me on this one, because it's gonna sound like I'm bragging. And I promise I'm not. I might brag on my wife for a bit, and I don't apologize at all for bragging on my kid, but the reality is that I'm giving praise to the Lord for being faithful to us as a family as we were trying to be faithful to Him.

I don't mind telling you that I'm proud of my children, and the young men they've become, and I won't apologize at all that we took our children to church, taught them about Jesus, and gave them an opportunity to find where they belong in God's family.

Yesterday, my oldest son put up a post on Facebook that he has accepted a job in the worship ministry in his church. His mom and I couldn't be more proud of him, and are humbled to know that he is pursuing a career path of serving the Lord. In his post, he wrote something very interesting, and it is a concept I've been stressing for many years as it relates to young adults in the church. He wrote:

"I have been actively participating in Church services since I was 11 and have spent far more Sundays in church than not."

Notice he did not say, "I have been going to church since I was 11..." No, he said he has been "actively participating in Church services" since he was a young boy. (Not to contradict him, but he's actually been involved since he was 8. But I'm not here to nitpick!) He is a musician, and as a worship leader/participant myself at our home church, I put him up on stage as soon as his talent level allowed him to participate in the service without being a distraction. First, it was auxiliary services, like Wednesday nights, and so forth. But it didn't take us long to see he had the talent to jump into our regular Sunday morning services with the "seasoned" musicians.

From that moment on, he has spent the subsequent years of his young life as an active member of Sunday morning worship teams. He did so throughout high school, and when he left for college out of state, his first inclination at college was to not only get involved in the campus ministry group, but he sought out a church where he could play in the worship team.

Notice again I did not say, "He sought out a church home." I said he looked for, and found, a place where he could land and immediately get involved using his talent. Within just a couple months of being away at college, he was not only playing worship with the campus ministry team, but he was playing regular Sunday morning worship at a local church.

You've seen the statistics, and its an epidemic problem the church as a whole has faced for generations. Young children grow up in the church, get involved in youth group, and then when they leave for college, they leave the church. The numbers can be staggering. Depending on the poll you search, the numbers get placed anywhere from around 50% to upwards of 80%. Kids who grow up in the church, and then leave when they graduate high school. And that's the kids who grew up in the church. We're not even talking about children who never went to church to start with.

I did a Google search "Young Adults Leaving the Church." And up popped all sorts of articles trying to explain why this happens. "Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church" and "New Stats on Why Young People Leave Church." And many more like that. They all say pretty much the same thing, and they've been saying the same things for at least the last 25 years or so. And I can tell from reading those article and countless others like them over the years, mostly, they're wrong.

Sure, they bring up good points that our church needs to be cognizant of, and issues the church as a whole needs to address, and many issues they would do well to fix. But on the whole, most of the reasons you'll read flat out miss the point. For the most part, God's church hasn't changed. Society has changed, but the teachings of the Bible that have been sound and true since God spoke them into existence aren't all the sudden failing in the last several decades. Society wants you to believe that is the case.

It's not.

No, young people leave the church primarily for one reason, and one reason only: Because we, as adults, never helped them find their place in the church. We never gave them a chance to actively participate in the ministry of the church as a whole.

Youth group doesn't count.

DON'T HIT THE PANIC BUTTON! And please, hear me out. I'm NOT saying youth group isn't important in the life of a young Christian. I'm NOT saying youth group doesn't play a vital role in a young person's growth in Jesus. And I'm NOT saying a vibrant, active youth group isn't vital to the growth and health of the church.

What I AM saying is that youth group alone doesn't help a young person find their place in the church as a whole. Far too often, youth group is a social club for kids. As adults, we continue to buy into the idea that kids "need a place to go," or they "need a place to be" that's safe and healthy and isolated, and yadda, yadda, yadda. So we send them to youth group.

What youth groups do well, for the most part, is teach kids about Jesus and give kids a place where they can go and open up and be real around peers without the heavy hand of their parents on top of them all the time. A place where they can go and feel comfortable.

But what far too many youth groups do is isolate kids away from the rest of their church. Sure, it gives them a place to go, but it also takes them away from what I like to call "the big boy church." We think that if the kids get together every Friday night for pizza at the youth minister's house, and if they have their own isolated Sunday school class and Sunday night church service, then they're doing great.

During the summer, we ship them off to a camp for a week, and a couple of youth conventions. They take a trip to an amusement park, and a precious few head out to a missions trip for a week or so. Maybe they get a Winter retreat over Christmas break.

Please hear this: all those things are great, and important. And they can, and often are, life-changing experiences for a young person. A good number of Christians can look back at one of those experiences or something like it and tell you that was the moment they became a Christ-follower, or made a decision to serve the Lord, or any number of other life-altering decisions. They're great. (Ask me sometime to tell you about a Petra concert I attended back in 1983!)

But they're not enough. And in many cases, REALLY miss the boat on providing opportunities for kids to find their place in the church AFTER youth group. Far too often, we plop kids down in youth group, and youth group is the only thing they ever know about the church. And other youth group kids are the only people they ever know. And when youth group is no longer an option, they don't know what to do. We kick them out into the real world after high school and they are often ill-equipped to deal with it. They no longer have a "place" in the church, and so they flounder around and often succumb to the secular world.

And it is for these same reasons that many "young adults" ministries fail to fix the problem. Because too often, their goal is simply to provide another "place" for young adults to land, maybe with a "young adults" themed class, or a "young adults" get-together or outing every now and then. And the only people they hang out with is other young adults. And they don't do any better job at getting someone plugged into the church than youth group did.

Let's jump ahead a few years. It's fairly common for many kids who left the church after high school to come straggling back in several years later. For a variety of reasons, but mostly after they've had some life experience and mature to find out there isn't much out in the real world for them either. Life experience brings maturity, and many grow to realize that being in the church of Jesus is a far better place for them than wandering around out in the secular world. Often, it is after they've started their own families, and they're now searching for a place to land their own children.

If you are a believer, think about your own walk with Christ. If you are thriving in your church family, it is probably because you've gotten involved in the ministry of the church. You're volunteering, or leading a small group, or teaching a class, or playing worship, even chaperoning youth group events, or in some other way giving your gifts and talents back to the Lord. It's likely that someone in the church helped you recognize your gifts and talents and showed you there was a place in the church to use them to help bring people to Jesus. That's exciting and energizing, and when people have ownership over what's happening in the church, they tend to become very active.

If you're floundering, and just showing up each Sunday and filling a pew, then the church isn't doing its job well enough to help you understand that you're needed just as much as everyone else.

My son learned from a very early age that he had a place in the church. And not just among his peers, but in the "big boy" church as a whole. He learned that his gifts and talents were vital and needed, and not just in the youth group. And when it was time for him to move out into the real world, he naturally set about to find that place where he could plug in. It was second nature to him. He didn't wonder if he belonged, and experiment to find his place in the world. He knew his place, and set out to find where he could be used.

We didn't do anything magical. We're not super-parents. There's no secret, or special formula. We simply recognized the gifts our kids had, and made sure they found a place to use them in the church. Truth is, if our worship minister had told me my son was "too young" to participate in worship, or any other such nonsense, I'd have probably left our church and found another home right then and there. Fortunately, our worship minister -- a wonderful, Godly man who will remain nameless here, but knows who he is -- was wise enough to see the same thing I saw, and holds the same views I hold about getting people involved. My son, and that church, was the better for having that man there.

Kids leave the church -- and so do adults -- for one primary reason: because they don't feel like they belong. They don't think they have a place. They don't feel like they have any ownership in the ministry. They don't think anyone needs whatever it is they have to offer. If we, as a church, want to fix that, then we have to be intentional about helping people plug in. Especially young people and children. We have to help kids find and identify their gifts and talents, and then help them see there's a place for them in the church as a whole. Sure, those gifts can change and evolve with age, but it doesn't mean as their leaders that we can't instill in them the concept of plugging in, and help guide them along that path to make sure they stay plugged in.

If you want young kids to stop leaving the church, you have to give them a reason to want to stay. It is natural human nature to want to belong. And they will seek to belong to wherever it is they feel accepted -- wherever they feel NEEDED. We must help them understand, at a young age, they are needed in the church. If we don't show them that outside of youth group, then they will leave when youth group is over.

It is that simple.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Children at the Border

I just get tired of people -- especially friends of mine who are usually good, smart people -- simply refusing to do their research and putting thoughts and ideas out into public that simply are not true. It's so frustrating, and really disappointing.

If you don't like Donald Trump, that's fine. Just be adult enough to admit it and stop trying to blame things on him that simply aren't his fault.

I did not like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton -- or most of their administrations. I still don't. I think they're snakes, and I think we're really just starting to see all the awful, and illegal things they did while in office. But I never tried to pin things on them they didn't deserve. I never attributed things to them they didn't create, or wasn't their fault. I don't like them, I think they were bad at their jobs.

This whole "separating the children from the parents" thing is just ridiculous. RI-DIC-U-LOUS!

First, a little research will show you that Presidents don't create or establish immigration laws. They don't establish any laws, really, but that's beside the point. Only Congress can create immigration legislation. And then that legislation gets sent to the President to sign into law. A President can propose legislation to Congress, via strong suggestions, but after that, really all a President can do is to mandate how strictly his administration enforces those laws as they exist.

Further research will show that there is no such law requiring immigrant families to be separated. It does not exist. Clinton or Obama didn't pass one, and neither did either Bush president, and Trump didn't either.

Here is a link to a good article from the National Review that explains the situation, including the Flores Consent Decree that was passed under the Clinton administration in 1997, and gives some relevant ideas on how to fix the whole problem.

If you take all the immigration laws that DO exist, and boiled them all down in a pan, what you would have left over is this: It is against the law for immigrants to come into this country without registering at a federally mandated checkpoint to so.

End of story.

It is illegal for non-US citizens to enter the United States without either the proper documentation, or by going through a United States checkpoint. If one enters this country any other way, they are -- according to the laws of the United States already on the books -- a criminal. Our current immigration laws have been on the books primarily since at least 1987, when Ronald Reagan signed into law what was at the time the most sweeping immigrant legislation up to that point. There have been tweaks and twists added since, but the bottom line remains the same. If you try to enter the US illegally, you are a criminal, no matter your reasoning for coming here.

Now, every President since then has basically chosen how strictly to enforce those laws. Generally speaking, even though each party talks tough about immigration when they're campaigning, Republicans have enforced them more strictly, and Democrats more loosely. But all have enforced it to some degree.

Which brings us back to the children. In this country, when you are arrested for a crime, generally speaking, if you have children, those children are taken away from you and put into our foster care system until the case plays itself out. At some point, you might get your kids back, or if you turn out to be a real slimeball, you probably don't.

It happens hundreds, maybe thousands of times every day in the United States. Has for two centuries. Rapists, murderers, drug dealers, burglars, thieves, et al, if they get arrested and have kids, their kids get taken away from them.

Happens. Every. Day.

Nobody really seemed to care until our news media, in their latest attempt to smear the Trump campaign, decided to start reporting that it's now happening at our borders with illegal immigrants. Immigrants, when caught at the border, if deemed to have attempted to cross illegally, are then arrested, according to the law. If they have family, that family is separated and the children are taken into the ICE version of foster care. And the case plays out...

The media have reported this in such a fashion as to make us believe that Donald Trump, and he alone, has started the practice. But the truth is that it's been going on forever. Every President has, to some degree, been enforcing the practice, some more than others.

However, here's what's also true: Democrats need not only minority voters, but illegal immigrants, to win elections. Any election. Doesn't matter. Check the polling numbers. They cannot win elections without them. (It's why they're so against Voter ID laws.) Obama was not only the best example of this, but also embraced the concept as a part of the larger Democrat platform, and as such, virtually did everything within his power to open the borders and all but instructed his administration to cease enforcing any of the immigration laws on the books. Sure, as all candidates do, he talked tough about immigration before he was elected, but once he took office, he opened our borders to unprecedented levels.

And here's what else he did: He demonstrated that if you, as an immigrant, came to the border with a family, you were far more likely to get to cross, no questions asked. You see, for decades, the vast majority of border crossers were single males. They would cross, legally and illegally, hope to get established here in the states, and then send for their families when they could reasonably hope to get them across safely.
Because of the threat of capture and incarceration -- and the subsequent breakup of their families -- they simply did not try to bring their families across the border that often. It just wasn't safe.

But Obama changed all that. For the first few years of his administration, he prosecuted illegals -- and took the kids away from the criminals -- just as Trump is doing now. But once he adopted the policy that the more immigrants in the country, the better for Democrats, he halted the policy of breaking up the families of those who cross illegally. He simply told his border agents to stop enforcing it. And as word got out that if you brought your family to the border, you would likely be allowed to pass unchecked, then the flood gates opened.

All of the sudden, the flooding did indeed happen. By the hundreds and the thousands, illegals started showing up at the border with their wives and children, and for the past several years, have been flowing into the US and basically disappearing into the crowds.

By now, you know Donald Trump's position on immigration. He campaigned heavily on fixing immigration and stemming the flow of illegals into the country, even demanding the building of the now-infamous Wall. It's something that desperately needs to be done, of course. Everyone knows it. But most people don't have the stomach for it, and Democrats can't win elections without them. So the fight was on.

Trump, who has done little else but tick off one campaign promise after another since being elected has continued his fight to fix the problem. He cannot, however, enact any immigration legislation without Congress, and Congress, the boneheads, refuse to do it. So Trump is left with two options: Pass some Executive Orders, and enforce the laws already in place.

Initially, even Trump was reluctant to enforce the policy of breaking up families at the border, but as he realized the problem wasn't getting any better, he re-instituted the policy. He basically told his border agents to start enforcing the law. And that law requires that if you are arrested for a crime -- as some illegals are -- then you get your kids taken away.

Of course, it's happening far less than the news wants you to believe. The latest figure I saw in a New York Times article last week is that roughly 2700 kids have been separated from their families since the policy was reintroduced last year. When you contrast that with the hundreds of thousands who have attempted to cross in that time, and the fact that most families have multiple kids, the number is relatively low. It remains to be seen whether the policy will stem the overall flow.

But here's the real problem: Nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- cared until Trump's name got tied to it. Nobody cares that it happens hundreds of times everyday all over the country with law-breakers. And nobody cared that it's been happening at the border for decades. They only cared until the press told us it was all Donald Trump's fault.

I have never seen a person, let alone a President, so vilified as Donald Trump. Never has a man been so maligned for trying to serve his country. It's absolutely atrocious and sad. But beyond that, it's just wrong.

Much has been written about Trump's past indiscretions. Everybody knows about them, and nobody can change them. But this immigrant issue now is just another example of the kind of unfair political bias that has virtually wrecked our American political system.

I'm so disappointed in my friends -- people I know to usually be smart, fair, and loving people -- who have chosen -- yes, chosen -- to pile on to somebody and perpetuate lies against someone simply because they don't like a guy. It's unbelievable to me.

Who am I? Well first, I'm a father. I get it. You don't think I can imagine how tragic it must be to have your children ripped away from you? For those who witnessed me raise my boys, and watched me work with youth in my life, you think I don't have a heart and compassion for children? I'm offended at the notion. I don't like that children get ripped away from their families.

But I'm also a regular guy, who wants the laws of our country enforced. I'm not a scholar of anything. I don't have any special powers. So why is it I can do a little research on the internet and find the truth about something and you can't? It's absurd.

You don't like Donald Trump? Fine! You don't have to. Nobody is going to make you. In the end, it's only your loss if you refuse to see the things he's fixing in this country. But have the guts, and be adult enough to stand up and say so without having to make up lies about him.

If you didn't give a rip about children being separated from their families -- legally -- and you only do now because you found out it was all "Trump's doing," than you are being highly disingenuous, and you should be ashamed.

I have no problem telling you where I stand. And I'll do my best to back up my stand with facts. Sometimes I get it wrong, and I've had to eat a lot of crow over the years when I was wrong in my opinions. But at least I try. And you can rest assured I won't perpetuate -- or worse, create -- a lie about someone just because I don't like them.

What's happening at the border right now is tragic. For a whole variety of reasons. Mostly because our Congress won't act and fix the problems and give the President something he can get behind. Also because we have laws on the books -- passed by both Republicans and Democrats -- that our previous President chose to ignore, and ordered his administration to not enforce, even though he took an oath of office to defend and protect the laws and Constitution of the United States.

I don't like some of these laws. I think they should be changed. But I would rather my President see to it that the laws we do have are enforced, than to ignore them altogether. I would like to think you would want your President to do the same. It's infuriating to me that some of you don't.

And even more infuriating that the only reason you don't is because his name is Trump.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Honoring Heroes at the Indianapolis 500!

Every year for the past 30+ years, I have been attending the Indianapolis 500 with my wife's family. It is a family tradition for them, and I have been swept up in it since we started dating back in 1987. We go every year, and I absolutely love it.

If you've never attended the 500 race, you should. There simply is nothing more exciting and exhilarating in all of sports than the green flag start of that race! Especially if you sit in Turn 1. Until you see it for yourself, you will never truly understand how 33 cars, traveling at the speed of some jets in flight, can fit into a corner that is really no bigger than one side of 278 in Bluffton or I-465 on the south side of Indy. You could fight the crowds to get there, watch the green flag start, and then leave, and it would still have been worth the price you paid for the ticket. It's that exciting. (And the green-flag restarts the rest of the race -- especially those near the end -- can but just as exciting as well.)

But I'm not writing this to tell you about the race. I'm writing this to tell you about what happens before the race.

There's something else the folks at the Indy 500 do well, too. And that's honoring the men and women of our armed forces, especially those who have given their lives on behalf of our country. As you know, the Indy 500 is held Memorial Day weekend every year. Has been forever, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it's entire staff, goes out of its way to honor our military heroes.

It's not cheesy. It's not patronizing. And it's not over-the-top. They do it very well, and they do it right. A top-brass military official typically kicks off the festivities, saying a few words on behalf of our armed forces, and then introducing the parade of military personnel, representing all branches of the military, who hop aboard official Indy 500 track trucks and make a parade lap around the Speedway. I don't know how many there are for sure, but there's several dozen, maybe close to 100, who circle the track to the standing ovation of the fans.

That's followed by the invocation, which is followed by a moment of silence, which is in turn followed by a 21-gun solute from military personnel, capped off by an always-moving rendition of "Taps" by a lone military bugler. It's stirring, and played before 300-400 thousand silent patrons.

More festivities follow, which includes a performance of "God Bless America," traditionally sung by the late Florence Henderson, but in the past few years by an Indy-local musical artist.

All of that is then followed by the National Anthem, performed this year by Kelly Clarkson, which culminates with a military flyover, which was done this year by a lone stealth bomber, but has, in the past, featured in various years a squadron of fighter jets, a Harrier Jump Jet, a B-12 Bomber, and a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters.

There's various other nods to the military during other pre-race festivities as well, and it's all very moving. The only thing left after it all is to sing "Back Home Again in Indiana," start the engines, and watch the most exciting moment in all of sports.

I tell you all that to say this: They do it right because it's the right thing to do.

In light of recent events in the news, I made sure this year to look around during most of the festivities. I watched to see who was paying reverence to the ceremonies, and who wasn't. Without fail -- and with the exception of some who clearly had imbibed a bit too much to that point in the day -- everyone was standing and showing their respect. Everyone was honoring those who deserved that respect.

In the effort of full disclosure, I will freely admit that the Indianapolis 500 does not -- at least to the extent that I could see -- attract a large faction of minority fans. There simply is not, at least where we were sitting, a significant number of racial minorities in attendance. Some, but not a lot. Certainly any minorities were in the minority, if you catch my drift. It is a mostly Caucasian crowd. I have no control over that, and I really don't know why. It simply seems that watching cars turn left for three hours at 230 MPH seems to appeal more to white people than to other races. Make of that what you will.

But when it came time to honor the military, they all stood, they all removed their hats, and they showed respect where it was due.

All of them.

Why? Does every white person who attends the Indy 500 have a perfect life? Have none of them had a rough go of it in life? Have none of them been beaten down, unfairly treated, faced discrimination in some form or another, or otherwise been given the short end of the stick?

Did none of them have nothing to protest?

By now you've most likely heard of the NFL's new policy requiring their players to stand and show respect during the playing of the National Anthem before games, all in response to the ongoing saga surrounding Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the Anthem and now no longer has a job. Several NFL players followed suit. The players' reasoning for doing so, they claim, is to shed light on injustices they perceive other minorities face in our country on a daily basis.

Here's the problem: There is a right time and a wrong time to protest. Just because we have the right to protest doesn't mean the timing is always right. And often, the protest can be held in such a way as to ultimately be counterproductive to the cause.

Each year, on the way into the Speedway, there is always someone from a local Indy church standing on one of the corners near the track screaming into a little sound system about how everyone entering the track is going to Hell unless they turn their lives over to God. It's a fire and brimstone message that cannot be missed if you're walking by. It happens every year. It's almost become tradition.

He's right, of course. We are going to Hell if we don't turn our lives over to God. And he has every right to stand out there and scream his message. But the delivery of the message is more annoying than it is encouraging. Screaming at a bunch of people who intend to get drunk is not an effective way to tell them about Jesus. So the message gets lost in the delivery. If he runs more people off than he saves, what's the point? (The Bible is very clear, by the way, on the perils of causing others to turn away from God.)

No right thinking American believes Colin Kaepernick, or any other person or NFL player, doesn't have a right to protest. Whether we agree with the reason behind the protest or not is irrelevant. I wouldn't want my right to protest taken away, and I don't want anybody else's right removed either. Despite what the media wants you to believe, we, as Conservatives don't want the right to protest silenced, and we don't think Kaepernick's right should be either.

What we think is simple: The place and timing of his protest is all wrong. The message is getting lost in the delivery because it's aimed at the wrong target. If you believe minorities are getting the shaft in this country, you might be right, but it certainly isn't the fault of the brave men and women who fight every day, and who have given their lives so the rest of us can live freely every day and play a game or watch a race. The National Anthem isn't solely about celebrating America. It was specifically penned, and tied to the significance of a waving flag, because of a brave fight our military was waging. The National Anthem isn't just a song. It is specifically performed to remind us of those who fought for our rights to do whatever it is we might be doing at the moment.

It is not a time to protest. It is a time to celebrate our right to protest, and all the other rights we have as free Americans, given to us by those who paid the price of their lives to attain those rights.

The NFL, as a private organization, is well within their authority to create this rule. I've had many debates with many liberal friends who like to remind me that our "rights" don't always translate to private businesses and organizations. This is no different. The NFL pays its players to do a job, and they have every right to require certain things of their employees, as does any other business. Requiring employees to honor something that gives them the very right to become millionaires by playing a game seems like a reasonable request. This is not discrimination, nor is it a violation of anyone's rights.

Regardless, it is impossible to watch what happens during pre-race ceremonies at the Indianapolis 500, and pay attention to what it means and what it stands for, and not support the NFL's policy. If you cannot see that demanding people to stand and give respect where it is absolutely due is not a violation of rights, but simply the good and right thing to do, then you are very likely a part of the problem.

If Colin Kaepernick, or anyone else, can't honor the very men and women who gave their lives so they can have the types of jobs they have and live the kind of lives they live, then they simply do not deserve the job. Period.

And if you want to see the proper way to honor those brave men and women, get your tickets to next year's Indy 500. But hurry... they can sell out fast.

And get your seats in Turn 1 if you can. You don't want to miss the green flag drop!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Trump Train: Still Rolling Along!

As they did during the last GOP primary season, and leading up to the 2016 presidential election, I believe that the pollsters are getting it wrong.

Well, let me clarify a bit: I believe the media is lying to you when they cite polls that Democrats are going to clean house in the upcoming mid-term elections. The polls aren't just wrong, they're intentionally misleading.

If you'll recall, from the moment Donald Trump entered the presidential race, virtually every poll, and virtually every media outlet tried to lead us to believe that he had no chance to win. They said he'd never make it through the primaries. And then they said he'd never get the nomination. And then they said he'd never win the election. All along the way, most polls showed Trump trailing and losing, in some instances by double digits.

I, as you may recall, said all along they were wrong. I agreed with the likes of conservative talking heads like Rush Limbaugh that there was a grass-movement, ground-swelling group of conservative voters "out there" who had been disenfranchised for a long time. A group that was being ignored by the "experts," and who were just waiting for someone like Trump to come along and shake up the whole system so they could rise up and support him.

Republican voters over the last decade or so have become very discouraged with the candidates we've been electing -- politicians who promise us one thing (like repealing Obamacare) and then bend over for liberal ideology once they get to Washington. Many of us were then, and still are, sick of it. All it took was someone like Donald Trump -- who wasn't a career politician, and who is well known for saying and doing what he believes -- to come along and galvanize that group. He did, and he won.

Along the way, Trump laid waste to the most serious Republican heavyweights the party could throw at him, and then beat the single most popular Democrat on the planet outside of Obama on election day. And did so all the while the media was telling us it wasn't possible, and they had the polls to prove it.

Now, they're trying to feed us the same lies again. They tell us that Trump is so unpopular that the voters are going to turn out and reject his mandates and fill Congress back up with Democrats and other liberals. It's a done deal, they're telling us.

I didn't buy it then, and I'm not buying it now.

First, a look at Trump.

What's so fascinating is that the media, and the Washington elite in general, still have no idea how to deal with him, a full year and half after his election. They're still dumbfounded by his win. If you watched election night, it was a beauty to watch the media talking heads completely collapse in on themselves in a drunken stupor at their complete and utter surprise over Trump's victory. In some instances, they literally did not have words for it as they were absolutely convinced of a Clinton victory. It was magnificent.

If you watch media coverage of Trump today, and especially his press conferences, they still don't have it. They have no clue how to deal with him. They are so used to decades of politicians doing and saying exactly what is expected of them that they cannot deal with a man who doesn't play by their rules. They're so full of themselves they don't realize how Trump played them like a fiddle during his campaign, and they're too stupid to realize he's still manipulating them everyday now. Just yesterday, Trump waived off an ABC reporter's question as "stupid" and you'd have thought he stabbed him in the neck with a knife. The reporter was dumbfounded, and so was the network when it reported the exchange later in the day. Priceless.

They still have no clue why he was elected in the first place. They have no clue how to deal with him on a daily basis. They have no clue how he continues to follow through on his campaign promises, and no clue how his policies continue to pass, let alone work. They have no clue how he remains so popular with his base, despite massive, daily attacks from both Republican and Democrat elites. They have no clue why he can't act more "presidential" (whatever that means), especially via his Twitter account. (If you're still worked up about him on Twitter, you need to get your noses out of your phones and catch up with the real world around you.) And they have no clue that his popularity and successes are going to carry the day come the mid-terms.

Donald Trump is an enigma, I'll give you that. He's rude and brash. His past is streaked with immoral personal behavior, and he still has a way of saying things in such a way that doesn't put him in the best light. And yet he is a highly successful billionaire businessman, and was a wildly popular celebrity. But those of us who voted for him will tell you he is doing exactly what we voted him in to do: Fix the business of the United States of America.

You see, Trump is not a politician. Never has been. Every problem the United States faced prior to January, 2017, and every hole we seemed to find ourselves in has absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump. Every problem our country faced was either the fault of Barack Obama, the hundreds of politicians currently in office in Congress, and those who preceded them in the years leading up to their terms. But they weren't Donald Trump's fault.

And Trump was the only candidate from either side that was A) offering different solutions to the problems than the same old, same old, being offered by the other candidates; B) had the business track record that gave credibility to the solutions he was proposing; C) wasn't a career politician; and D) had the guts to stand by what he said. He spoke from the hip, without a filter, not worried about Political Correctness, and didn't care whether you liked what he had to say.

There were a lot of good Republican candidates in the primaries. Good, quality guys and gals I believed would be good choices. But I have to admit: after years of being jilted by the candidates I'd elected, I was excited to back an outsider, and someone I believed had the experience and cajones to do the job I think needs to be done.

So Trump, since his election, has done little else than make good on his campaign promises. IN just over a year, ISIS is nearly non-existent. Taxes have been lowered. A wall is being built. The economy is growing at record levels. Our military is as strong as it's been in years. The greatest nuclear threat on the planet -- North Korea -- is backing down, and ending their war with South Korea. China is losing the perceived "trade war." A mere Tweet causes oil prices to drop. And it goes on and on. And the promises that haven't been fulfilled yet, like the repeal of Obamacare and stronger immigration laws, aren't because Trump isn't trying, but rather being held up in Congress by boneheaded GOP members who can't seem to get a handle on things themselves.

Trump has had to endure daily the most vitriolic attacks from his opponents and the media that any President has every had to endure. He's had to stand by and watch an investigation into his campaign that not only has turned up zero evidence against him, but only continues to bring to light the lawlessness and improprieties of not only Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, but the entire Democrat party. I mean, Marcia Clark had less evidence on OJ Simpson than the Mueller investigation has turned up against the Democrats!

Trump has been labeled as everything from a bigot, a hater of women, and a racist, labels none of which were tied to him in the 35+ years he's been a celebrity in this country. He's filled his administration with minorities and women, and done absolutely nothing to lend any credibility to the racist claims. (No, he did not call Nazis "good people" after Charlottesville, and his travel ban bill is not a "Muslim ban." Those are media lies that simply are not true.) Bottom line is, they have nothing on him.

At all.

Those of us who are truly paying attention know this. Which brings us to the upcoming elections. Voters in the last several mid-term elections, and again in this last major election, have given the GOP overwhelming majorities, with a mandate to go to Washington and stop the liberal ideology landslide. And they've failed to do so. Miserably.

So many felt all warm and fuzzy every time Obama signed another law in the name of inclusiveness, but was in fact further pandering to liberal ideology that has sent our society into further moral decline (we wonder why whackos keep shooting up schools with increasing regularity.) We stood by and watched as a liberal congress passed a healthcare bill that has proven to be a disaster and was, in fact, a ruse for gaining liberal voters, and nothing more. We stood by and allowed Obama to decimate and belittle our military, all the while handing away military secrets and signing agreements that put our very existence in jeopardy. We watched as Obama was played by other world leaders to sign a climate deal that put virtually all the financial burdens for the deal on the US, and offered no repercussions to nations who failed to comply, all so everybody would like him better.

And we stood by and watched as Obama pitted different classes and races against each other, championing criminals and denigrating our police men and women, in attempts to create a permanent underclass that is dependent on the government, and that has, in fact, set race relations in the country back 50 years.

All we have to show for it as conservatives is a bunch of Republican rhinos who, despite their campaign promises, not only have capitulated to the Democrats, but in many cases have actually signed on to their policies. It truly is shameful in some cases how they have sold out their constituents.

But what you're beginning to see -- and this is what the media has latched onto as evidence of a Democrat victory -- is Republican stalwarts beginning to fall. They're resigning and retiring. They're announcing they won't seek re-election. They're losing special elections. It's happening because they have done little but prove the point of why we voted for Trump in the first place. And they're starting to see the writing on the wall: they're going to lose their jobs. Those of us who voted for an outsider President -- and got him elected -- are not afraid to do the same with our representatives. The process is just beginning.

The Democrats think because the likes of Paul Ryan, Orinn Hatch, Bob Corker, and Jeff Flake are getting out, they're going to win those seats. I hate to disappoint them: Those guys are getting out because they know they're gonna lose this next election, and not to some retread Democrat. Trump voters are making it clear we're not going to stand for the status quo any longer. And if Donald Trump can accomplish the things he's accomplished in just a year and a half with a hostile Congress, imagine what he can do when he actually has people there who want to work with him.

Many Republican incumbents have begun to see reality, and for every one who's getting out, you're seeing two or three others who are beginning to buddy up to Donald Trump. Buyers beware: If your horse isn't running with Trump, he's gonna lose the race, plain and simple.

I believe GOP candidates who align themselves with Trump will do very well in these mid-terms, and a desirable side effect is that we're going to clean house of a few rhinos who should have gotten out of the game years ago.

None of this is to say that the Dems won't put up a spirited fight. They'll succeed, in many ways, of continuing to paint Trump with brushes that are just plain lies. And many people will fall for it. But for every Trump voter who may have fallen off the train, I'm willing to bet there are former detractors who have jumped on board, especially after they finally got a job, or after they've seen their tax return, or their IRA statement, or watched as Kim Jong Un and virtually every other terrorist leader right now is backing down.

It doesn't really matter whether you like him or not. It's not important whether I like him or not. He's getting the job done. People are getting jobs, working again, and having more money in their pocket. America's prominence as a world leader, financially, militarily, and benevolently, are being restored. Bullies around the world are beginning to realize we can't be trifled with. Other countries still look to us to provide financial assistance in times of need, as we continue to be the #1 provider of aid around the world. And he's making honest efforts to protect us from foreign entities who wish to enter this country and do her harm.

There's a lot left to do. We've got to stem the tide of declining immorality in our society. If you haven't noticed the farther we've strayed from traditional family values, and the farther we've strayed from Christian principles, the more our society has declined, you're simply not paying attention. In the end, Trump may not be the guy to lead us in those fights. But I'll say this: He has waged the fight to protect religious freedoms and Constitutional freedoms far more than did our last President, far more than Bill Clinton, and an argument can be made that he's fought harder for those freedoms than either of the Bush administrations. Trump freely admitted in his acceptance speech that he hasn't done much in his life to deserve the support he's received from Evangelicals, but he made a vow to fight for our religious freedoms. So far, he's done that.

Don't believe the lies the media will tell you leading up to the elections. They will be desperate. The polls are intentionally wrong. They're designed to mislead you into believing what they want you to believe. Don't buy it.

No, the GOP -- or the "new" GOP -- is going to do very well come November.

You heard it here first.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Modern Day Worship

A good friend of mine posted an article recently to his Facebook post, and tagged me in the post, along with many others, asking our opinions on the piece. Rather than gum up his FB feed, I thought I'd put my thoughts down here.

The piece is titled "Nine Reasons People Aren't Singing in Worship." As a long-time worship participant and leader, this is a subject -- along with worship services in general -- that I've thought long and hard about for some time. I won't rehash the whole article here. You should read it. But I'll list the nine reasons the author gives:

1) They don't know the songs.
2) We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing.
3) We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.
4) The congregation can't hear people singing around them.
5) We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment.
6) The congregation feels they are not expected to sing.
7) We fail to have a common body of hymnody.
8) Worship leaders ad lib too much.
9) Worship leaders are not connecting to the congregation.

I'm not going to go through these point-by-point. I will say this about them all: They each have some merit. They are legitimate problems in today's worship environment, albeit some more than others. Not every church, of course, struggles with all nine of these issues. Most struggle more in one area than another, if they're struggling at all. But each of them are issues that indeed need to be addressed to some extent or another in our modern-day worship services.

Rather, what I want to do is address some issues this list -- and many others like it -- ignores. I don't pretend to know the author's overall mindset behind the piece, or his overall abilities as a worship leader, or his experience therein. I do, however, believe the piece illustrates his own frustrations in worship, and probably speaks to some specific agenda or stylistic beliefs he holds regarding modern day worship. That's not a bad thing, per se, but a piece like can easily imply the author believes there is a proper way and an improper way to conduct modern day worship, and as such, either accidentally or on purpose ignores other factors that shape the whole worship discussion.

So let's dive in...

First, as a church, we often hold an inaccurate definition of what worship in the church is. Worship, all-encompassing, is not the music service alone. Its important to understand the a church's music service is only one tiny piece of Godly worship as it is defined by the Bible. The truth is that music could indeed be eliminated entirely from Sunday morning church, and you could still have one whale of a worship service. Godly worship encompasses many aspects, music included, but also giving, prayer, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, etc. Worship involves many facets. A case could be made that the biggest mistake we make as a church is that we put too much emphasis on music, and all too often cause new believers or transplanted Christians to believe that worship is all about the music, and if we don't have some killer band and some killer singers, then that church just ain't gettin' it done. It simply isn't true. Music is indeed a part of worship, and we should strive to do it with excellence, and as inclusive as possible, but it ain't the end-all-be-all.

Second, lists like these assume that everyone who walks into a church is a singer. As a long-time karaoke DJ, I've often joked, "Everyone can sing. Some people just do it better than others." The truth is that not everyone is a singer, nor desires to be one. True, there are many who want to be singers, and it isn't their talent. And indeed still others who believe it is their talent, and bless their hearts, it simply isn't. But the reality is that not everyone is a singer. And if you want to be brutal about it, very few are. The Bible teaches us that everyone is given different talents. It's not the talent we're given that's important, but rather, how we use that talent for the Lord.

As a musician and singer, I'm often given much praise for that gift. And while I dearly love making people happy with my talent, I often have to remind them that there are many, many --many -- things I'm not good at. Like fixing the brakes on a car, or sewing, or drywalling, or painting, etc... etc... I'm a singer, and a guitar player. That's my gift. But it's not everybody's. Entertainers and athletes are often afforded a lot of glory, and I truly appreciate it. But I am just as fascinated by the guy who can fix the brakes on my car as he is of my ability to sing. The sad part is that he doesn't have people packed into his garage applauding him everytime he changes a caliper!

So ask yourself: How many really good mechanics do you know? How many talented seamstresses? How many really good lawyers, or teachers, or doctors or preachers do you know? They're not a dime a dozen. It's the same with singers. The reality is that God gives out talents to each of us, and they're all different. Some have the talent to sing. Everybody else is just along for the ride.

That's not in any way meant to imply that someone who isn't a singer can't come into a church and fully participate in the musical worship, and sing their hearts out for the Lord. (Jesus doesn't care how good you are, I promise!) Not at all. What it means is that many people come into church and are just fine NOT singing. Many are just fine to sit and watch the band, much like they would a good concert, and they get just as much out of the musical service as the guy who's singing his brains out. So inasmuch as we can all go and enjoy a really good concert, and have a great experience doing so, it doesn't diminish our worship services at church if people truly just come to enjoy the show, as it were. There's nothing inherently wrong with that.

I RARELY sing in the worship service when I'm sitting in the pews. I sing so much outside of church, or when I'm on the worship team, that when I get a break, I'm more than happy to just sit back and enjoy the band. I watch the drummer most of the time, if you must know the truth, and just dig the musicianship I so often see displayed on the stage for Jesus. So it's wrong of us to assume everyone wants to sing in the congregation, and certainly wrong for us to assume that if they're not singing, they're not worshipping.

Third, we often wildly misrepresent the concept of volume, and what it actually means with regard to our music service. Far too often, we confuse volume with sound quality. Make no mistake, there are indeed volume limitations in any setting. But most often, when people complain about the volume of our musical worship, what they are really complaining about is the quality of the sound. And because sound reproduction (or music in general) is often not their area of expertise, they equate bad sound with volume that's too loud simply because they don't know any better and don't know how to articulate what they really mean.

For those of us who are old enough to remember the old dial-type car radios, remember how you had to get the dial just right on a station so the sound would be nice and clear? Otherwise, you would get static and background noise on the station. And at any volume, that static could just about drive you nuts. So you'd turn it down. But once you got the station dialed in just right, what did you do? You turned it up! And you could keep turning it up because it sounded good! And you'll sing louder in the car when the music is cranked.

The same concept applies in our musical services. Most professional concerts you go to have professional, quality sound gear, and professional sound people to run it, and it often sounds very good. So those concerts tend to be really loud. Because they can be -- because they sound good. By contrast, many of our church musical services are run by volunteers, and often on sound gear that was purchased because it was cheap, not because it was the best. If you happen to attend a church that spared no expense on it's musical equipment, and/or have volunteers who just so happen to have sound and musical expertise, then you might have a pretty nice sounding service. If not, then you're at the mercy of people who are doing their best, but might simply not have the ability or the resources to dial in the quality of the sound like a professional. And if the quality of the sound is poor, it will almost always sound TOO LOUD! And people will complain about the volume.

If churches would put more of an emphasis on buying quality sound and music equipment, and endeavor to either hire people with expertise, or properly train their volunteers to run sound well, they would actually eliminate a large portion of what they consider to be volume problems. And they would eliminate volume as a problem in congregational singing. You don't sing in your car until you can crank up the radio when it's sounding just right. The same principle applies in the church.

Fourth, music today is not too complex. If anything it's too simple. Have you ever really checked out some of the old hymns? Many of them are extraordinarily complicated! So complexity is not an excuse. I agree in part with #1 on this list, but I believe it misses the bigger picture. People do indeed tend to participate more with songs they know. But that is true for every person in every generation, and we often ignore the fact that many people simply may not like today's modern praise and worship music style.

Think about it this way: If you grew up, say, a big Tom Petty fan, it's a good bet that your kids aren't. Generally speaking, our children often don't enjoy the same music we grew up listening to. Just as we didn't like what our parents listened to. If you're a Tom Petty fan, you're probably not much of a Perry Como fan. I'm generalizing, but you get the point.

Conversely, you don't like what your kids listen to. Again, if you're a Tom Petty fan, you're probably not much of a Justin Bieber fan. If you and your children attended either of those concerts together, one of you is going to be jamming, and the other is going to be bored.

The same concept is happening in our churches. Today's style of praise and worship music is vastly different from inaugural praise and worship music of just 15 or 20 years ago, and virtually unrecognizable to the groundbreaking Christian music of the late 70's and 80's. If you're in a megachurch of 2500 people, what's the chances they're all Switchfoot fans, or Chris Tomlin fans, or Rich Mullins fans, or Petra fans, or Gaither fans? Virtually nill. So the reality is that some people aren't singing because they simply don't like the music. Perhaps they could get lucky and find a church that plays nothing but 80's Christian rock, but I doubt it. So, to a certain extent, they're stuck with what they have. If they don't engage, it's not always because we're doing something inherently wrong in worship. That shouldn't be discouraging to the worship team. It's simply reality.

Which brings me to my final point. Churches need to stop trying to please everyone. They just need to stop. Because it ain't ever gonna happen.

Back in the early, heady days of Contemporary worship, a church had to decide whether it wanted to "go Contemporary," or stay "traditional." Eventually, someone came up with the ultimate compromise: "Blended" worship. And churches took a lot of pride (some still do) in being able to bill themselves as "Blended" worship. All it really means, of course, is that you played a few contemporary songs in worship, and you threw in a hymn or two for the old people, sometimes even still accompanying it only on the piano -- and even better, actually using the hymnal book. If you did this every week, you could call yourself "blended."

Back in my days as a church staffer, the subject would actually come up in the weekly staff meeting. "We didn't have a hymn in worship this week. Make sure we do next week." Or, "One too-many hymns this week. Better back it down next week."

All the while we ignored the fact that it was absurd to believe that by doing what we were doing, we were actually making everybody happy. I used to complain in the staff meetings, "Hey, when are we gonna do an 80's Christian rock song in the service?" I mean, that's what I grew up with. It helped lead me to the Lord, and what caused me to devote my musical talent to God. It's what still resonates and speaks to me today. But nobody -- and I mean NOBODY -- is doing 80's Christian rock in their weekly musical worship. Not then, and certainly not now. So I got a little tired of the whole "we gotta make everybody happy in worship" chatter. Because if you liked Contemporary worship, or you liked hymns, you were golden, and the church was satisfied in believing they were doing "something for everybody." But if you liked any other kind of Christian music style, you were simply out of luck.

And, sadly, you still are. There are very few truly "traditional" churches left, and once Chris Tomlin started rewriting hymns, there really was no need for the hymnal at all anymore, so there isn't any "blended" churches left. Most churches are doing musically what is considered modern day Contemporary worship. And so they've lost all pretext of trying to keep everybody happy anyway. Which is why the lip-service to it is so futile. It's simply not possible, and as such, it's virtually impossible to not violate at least some of the bullet points in this list.

Churches today should simply choose what they're gonna do, and what they wanna be, and then strive to do it the very best they can. Preachers do it all the time. Any preacher worth his salt will not care how his sermon is going to offend someone. They're going to preach from the Bible. If you don't like it, tough. Church worship services really ought to be this way.

The church I attend currently in my new hometown is that way. Being a former church staffer, I know full well they get a lot of pushback the general congregation probably doesn't know about, but they do what they do, and they do it well. It is a large church, with a large congregation. The worship staff overall is relatively young. Youthful and vibrant, and they are very in-tune (no pun intended) with today's worship style. And they do it with excellence and precision. They've spared no expense on technology, sound and musical gear, and their overall production, from the lighting to the sound to the musicianship and the technology is fantastic. It's very hard for a church to have a large production and it not feel like a large production. Our church does, and they do it about as well as any I've ever seen. And I've seen a bunch.

And you know what? They hand out ear plugs at the Welcome Centers for those who'd like them. Because our services are loud. And living in a vacation spot as we do, our congregation is made up a wide variety of age groups and generations. And our worship teams do what they do. They play the same songs on the Jr. High and High School worship nights as they do on Sunday mornings. And everybody (well everybody I've talked to anyway!) of all age groups love it. They're not trying to "do something for everybody." They're very confident in who they are, and they do THAT to the best of their ability.

The nine points in this list are good guidelines. They truly are. But they're only a part of the bigger picture when it comes to our modern musical worship. And the truth is, trying to adhere to and fix every single one can actually bog us down at times. No matter how hard we try, we're never going to make and keep everyone happy. So the best we can do is to strive to be excellent, and remember that our audience is not our congregation, it's Jesus. And there isn't a separation between the worship team and the congregation. We're all -- every one of us -- on the SAME stage and the SAME team leading worship for the Lord. Everything we do is a sweet sound, whether it's an 1800's hymn, a Petra rocker, or a contemporary hit, and we should strive to do it the best we can.

Worship of all kinds is deeply personal between you and God. If you remember that, and focus on that, then it won't matter what your worship team is doing. Jesus will show up and inhabit your praise. THAT'S the goal.

Everything else is just clutter in the way, and we should stop worrying about it so much.