OLD & GRAY

 "Forever young." We assign this label to anyone taken before their time, and it carries with it a mystique reserved for those who never grow old. A prime example would be Alexander the Great, who died of a mysterious ailment at the age of 32.

Alexander was unique in that he did not sport the Greek beard of his time. His father had a beard. His teacher had a beard. Nearly every Greek male grew a beard as he entered manhood — why not Alexander? Some have spread the myth that Alexander ordered his men to shave so that enemies couldn't grab their beards during battle, but there is no historical evidence to back up the claim.

The real reason: because Alexander was widely thought of as a demigod (it helps when you spread rumors about yourself). Though Philip II was acknowledged as his father, a myth persisted that Alexander's true father was Zeus, the king of all gods. Since the gods were immortal, they were forever young, usually depicted as eternally 18 years old — too young to grow a passable beard. This part of the Greek "heroic ideal." (read about this and more in Of Beards and Men)

Alexander shaved because he thought of himself as a god. He wanted to appear forever young.

Humanity has always had a problem with aging. Wrinkles begin to form on our foreheads, and we frown into the mirror. It becomes more difficult to drop weight; our metabolism fights against us the entire way. The hair either falls out or begins to gray. Joints creak, pop, and ache. Sentences begin with "Things were so much better when..."

PAY ATTENTION: the global anti-aging industry is worth $250 billion per year. Despite our differences, the nations of the world have at least two things in common: we place a premium on youth, and we seek to conceal age at any cost.

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.   ///   Proverbs 16:31

The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head.   ///   Proverbs 20:29

The elderly are routinely mocked. Their worldviews are considered antiquated — maybe even quaint. Their stories are met with a smirk and a knowing glance to peers: "If only they knew how the world actually works." Hollywood specializes in "coming of age" stories, in which the protagonist is an agonizing teen entering adulthood, surrounded by ignorant parents and corrupt authority figures. We place a premium on this occasion, yet seek to diminish the importance of actual wisdom.

Despite our admiration for the young and demonization of anyone who wears their belt a little too high, the steady march of time catches up with us all, so we often respond with panic. Snip this! Tuck this! Make me young again! PLEASE DON'T LET ME DIE!

Yet time and tide wait for no man.

As I write this blog post, the gray hair has begun popping up above my ears (especially on the right side, for some reason #nosymmetry). My knees pop each time I stand up. My ankles ache in cold weather, and I find myself looking around with a scowl on my face saying like, "Smells like rain! Mmm-hmm. Yep."

I'm in the middle of the transition into middle age, and I'm keenly aware of the process. When I was younger (15-25 or so), I treated elders with respect but felt myself patronize them at times. I didn't always understand their mindset, but I just nodded and played along. I felt that younger people "got" this world and how to live in it — how to make it better. I honored my elders, but I didn't fully trust their capacity to understand this rapidly changing culture.

But time has a way of altering perception. I see young people's frustration with the older generation, and I see the older generation's concern for the young. Though it feels unique, the story has remained the same throughout history — the idealism of youth clashes with the pragmatism of experience.

But what keeps the young from becoming less like Absalom hanging from a tree and more like Solomon dedicating the Temple? It must be reverence.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   ///   1 Peter 5:5

Young person, don't dismiss the voice of those who have watched the decades roll by, yet remain with us. Perhaps their pace havs slowed, but the years of experience grant them an understanding that cannot be replicated except by thousands of days lived and lessons learned.

Like Tell Sackett told the young gunslinger who challenged his friend, Cap Roundtree:

"Don't try ridin' herd over this man, boy. Those wrinkles are war maps. He's fought injuns, grizzly, and seen a hundred struttin' peacocks like you get takin' down hard."

The frustration and angst that permeates our society must not be allowed to destroy our reverence for the pillars that have established and supported not only our churches but also our world. Yes, some blemishes from our past (perhaps most obviously, racism) stain the pages of history, but many our elders are the ones who played vital roles in beginning to right these wrongs.

As they shake their heads and worry, "I don't know what this world is coming to," please do not dismiss their longing for a time that is no more. There was value in our collective innocence.

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.   ///   Job 12:12

A culture obsessed with eternal youth idealizes those like Alexander the Great (32), James Dean (24), Kurt Cobain (27), Amy Winehouse (27), Tupac Shakur (25), and Heath Ledger (28). We look at their young faces in retrospective pieces and think, "Oh, to never grow old."

Yet the Word of God places a premium on the wisdom that comes with time. Alexander the Great wished to appear as a god by appearing younger, but we read a different story of a different God...

His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.   ///   Revelation 1:14

It's not necessarily the experience of watching the world change over the years that establishes wisdom; it's the overcoming of thousands of genuine obstacles in life. They say that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. What better way to learn our history than through the voices of those can provide a first-hand account?

The first commandment in the Bible accompanied by a promise is that which tells us, "Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." Let us make up our minds to honor our elders. Let us listen to them. Let us stop seeking out every fault and determine to focus on the principles that shaped those like the "Greatest Generation."

Remember:

That which appears weathereD
is that which has endured.


Additional Bible reading:

A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Proverbs 13:1
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.
Proverbs 19:20
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-4
You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:32
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
1 Timothy 5:1-2
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
1 Timothy 5:17

Nine Scriptures, No Context

Proverbs 16:5
Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:18-19
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 29:11
A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.

Proverbs 29:20
Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Luke 6:45
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Galatians 5:22-26
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Ephesians 4:29-32
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

James 1:26
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.

James 4:6
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

So, About the Confederate Flag...

Okay...

Let's imagine a scenario together. Let's say that you love rainbows. You really, really love rainbows. Every time you see one in the sky after a rain, it just makes your day. There's something about them that you love, and you've always loved. They're beautiful. They're rare. They're a gift from God.

One day, you're walking through a store, and you see this rectangular, rainbow sticker. All of those colors...so beautiful. So you decide to buy that sticker, and place it on the back window of your car.

Suddenly, people stop you and ask you questions. "Are you gay? I didn't know you were gay. When did this happen? You're not gay? Then are you an LGBT advocate? Are you a member of GLAAD? Why? Well, I saw the sticker on the back of your car, so I figured..."

Eventually, you would grow so tired of the questions that you'd peel the sticker off of your window. What you wouldn't do is leave it up, then proceed to give everyone who questioned you a lecture about how you just love rainbows, and you'd rather be left alone about it, and they're wrong for misunderstanding. Yes, the rainbow has come to be adopted by the LGBT community as their's, and everyone knows it, but should that affect what people think about you when you place it on your window?


Many Southerners defend the display Confederate Flag, claim that it's not racist, and insist that anyone who thinks it is should read their history books. Here's the problem: no matter your intentions, the flag has been, and will be, associated with racism. If you are genuinely against racism, but simply proud of your Southern heritage, there is no way to communicate that sentiment to a stranger who sees you from afar. To them, you're just another racist. You can say, "Heritage, not hate," but it's not going to make a difference.

Yes, the Civil War was fought over "states' rights." But what state right was the fundamental, defining issue that severed the bond between the North and the South?

Let's read an excerpt from Georgia Congressman Alexander H. Stephen's famous "Corner Stone" speech:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

What flag represented his "new government"?

Included in Mississippi's Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

What flag came to represent their new government? Georgia's official secession addressed it in the second sentence. Systematic racism, emphasized by the continued legalization of slavery, was essential to Confederate beliefs. Make no mistake about it — it is the reason for the Civil War.

By all historical accounts, the flag remained popular after the war as a symbol of Southern pride and in remembrance of the fallen soldiers. But it didn't stay that way. It was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, as well as the short-lived Dixiecrat Party, whose official platform included the line, "We stand for the segregation of the races." (Article 4)

Throughout the 20th century, the Confederate flag became inexorably linked with racism. Nothing that anyone says at this point can sever that tie. No, it wasn't always the primary flag of the Confederacy. No, it wasn't always a clear-cut symbol of racism. However, it is today.

In short, flying the Confederate flag doesn't necessarily make you a racist, but it definitely makes you look like one, and to that I say...

Romans 14:13-16 (ESV)
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.

If you want to be thought of as good, then find another way to express your Southern heritage. Regardless of whether it flies over a state's capital, it has no place in a Christian home.

Raylan's Story (So Far)

I preached a message at our church (The Pentecostals of Bossier City) a few weeks ago in which I briefly discussed our oldest son, Raylan. This has led to a few posts on Facebook celebrating certain milestones, as well as several rapid developments that we believe to be directly associated with a prayer that we prayed Sunday, April 26. Our immediate family, friends, and POBC members generally know what’s happening, but many others have expressed an interest in knowing the story.

Since so many people have asked, I’ve decided to share a bit about the incredible blessing in our lives that is our firstborn son, Raylan Mason Dean. I’m doing this for several purposeses:

  1. To eliminate potential misunderstandings.

  2. To describe Raylan’s situation in full.

  3. To establish my family’s perspective.

  4. To establish Raylan’s future testimony.

A warning: this will not be brief. If you want the quick summary, just scroll to the bottom, where you will find a fairly concise synopsis.


Even before Shari and I were confirmed by a doctor to be pregnant with our first child, we had already begun praying for him/her. We prayed for all the typical things -- a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery, a happy and healthy future, etc.

However, I also prayed for one thing that some might misinterpret: I prayed for my child to be different. I don’t mean better, and I don’t mean weird; I simply mean that I wanted God to use my child in a special way, for a special purpose, and for God to design him or her with that purpose in mind.

We eventually discovered that we were having a boy (initially much to Shari’s chagrin), and decided to name him Raylan Mason, with Mason being the name of Shari’s maternal grandfather. The pregnancy was fantastic; Shari felt great, was almost never sick, exercised frequently, and ate properly. As the day approached, Shari realized that it was a very real possibility that not only would she be having a boy, but she might also give birth to that boy on Halloween. Her exact words: “I don’t want a devil baby!”

Sure enough, with an hour and a half left on All Hallowed’s Eve, the doctor performed an unplanned C-section to bring Raylan into the world. I’ve mentioned it before, but as I held him in my arms for the first time, just moments after the cold, unfamiliar air hit his skin, I had a newfound perspective on the love of God. I didn’t just love this frail, tiny, old-man-looking little boy. I really, really loved him. Every priority that I thought I had changed in a matter of seconds. I leaned over to Shari to show him to her, and her shivering lips (a side effect of the anesthesia) formed into a smile, and I knew she felt the same way.

Upon arriving home, Raylan’s initial problem began to surface: colic. I had heard people say many times, “Oh, so-and-so’s baby has colic. They’re about to lose their minds.” I would always nod, not really knowing what colic was, and certainly not realizing that it meant their home had become a post-apocalyptic wasteland of anguish and insomnia.

We never slept. Raylan continually cried as if he was being stabbed in the abdomen. He wailed and curled his legs into his chest. We read everything that we could and tried every remedy, both medicinal and homeopathic, but nothing seemed to help. Our baby boy barely slept and rarely seemed happy for months. The colic gradually faded, but gave way to a barrage of ailments over the next three years.

We have done our best to compile a list of some of the sicknesses that kept us in and out of the pediatrician’s office:

  • Over 20 ear infections, resulting in...
  • Two sets of plastic tubes (the second was colonized in bacteria, leading to…)
  • A third, titanium set of tubes
  • 8 cases of croup
  • 2 instances of scarlett fever
  • 13 staph infections in 16 months (at least one confirmed case of MRSA)

We were so consumed with caring for Raylan’s health complications that we hardly noticed until around 18 months that he wasn’t hitting some of the verbal milestones in his age bracket. At two-years-old, our doctor told us that he had spent the majority of his life with his world sounding as if he were underwater due to the severity of his ear infections. This would seem to account for the delay in speech, but not entirely.

Raylan has always been different. We noticed that he wasn’t speaking sentences or responding to people as early as we expected, but in other ways, he has shown himself to be incredibly advanced. We started becoming curious (i.e. scared), and I began reading everything I could find in regards to late-talking children.

The first question we asked was, “Does Raylan have autism or Asperger Syndrome?” Despite having been screened by child behaviorists and a professional team during an examination to be approved for behavioral and speech therapy, Raylan has not been officially confirmed to have any disorder. At the present time, we’ve been forced to analyze his behavior ourselves.

Raylan has demonstrated the following suspicious traits:

Verbal Delay: though we have heard Raylan say countless words (easily in excess of 2,000), he doesn’t often communicate in sentences. And though we ask him questions like, “What do you want to eat?”, he usually either points or drags us to the desired item. The entire process is usually a facade; the answer is almost always “Cheetos.” Though he’s gotten much better in the past few months, he’s still noticeably behind his peers.

Selective Mutism: Raylan interacts with his family and friends fairly well, but when strangers or people with whom he doesn’t regularly interact approach him, he is perfectly capable of pretending they don’t exist. Questions will be ignored, and physical touch or “getting in his face” will result in a dirty look and turn of the shoulder. I know I’m supposed to be embarrassed by this (or something like that), but I find it secretly hilarious. I’m sorry.

Social Delay: Raylan initially had no interest in his peers. He thought he was an adult. He showed little interest in social interaction with anyone who wasn’t a parent, cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend whom he saw on a weekly basis. Almost everyone else in the world was to be shunned. Complete strangers in Target didn’t make the cut.

During the past year, Raylan has developed a much stronger interest in children his age. We give most of the credit to his speech and behavioral therapists and the Sunday School teachers at our church, as most of his progress began after they entered his life. We now have to watch Raylan like a hawk, as he’ll burst into a full sprint if he sees children 100 yards away, and will begin laughing and playing with them as we struggle to keep up and tell him he can’t just run away from us at a moment’s notice.

Hand Flapping: Here’s where things start getting confusing. Family and members of POBC may have seen Raylan flapping his hands in excitement. In the world of autism spectrum disorders, hand flapping is usually associated with stimming, or “self-stimulatory behavior.” In includes hand flapping, rocking, head banging, repeating noises or words, and several other repetitive behaviors. Stimming is believed to be a response to overstimulation in those with autism. It is supposed to relieve anxiety.

However, we have only observed Raylan flapping his hands out of happiness or excitement, and never during moments of stress or anxiety. He doesn’t enter a trance-like state, but is usually hopping around and grinning or laughing while flapping his hands. It’s unclear as to whether he is stimming, but it’s fairly clear that it’s not textbook stimming.

Sensitivity to Loud Sounds: If Raylan is in a crowd, he’s fine. However, if the entire crowd begins screaming wildly or if he stands in front of a loud speaker at church, Raylan will cover his ears and give us a “Please make this stop” look. We recently observed this at the Dallas World Aquarium — if a large crowd of schoolchildren passed by, screaming, Raylan would cover his ears until they passed.

These “warning signs” have often been so mild that we never really considered some of the possibilities. In fact, his therapists have been unable to form a solid opinion on whether or not the signs are solid enough to confirm a diagnosis. Even Raylan’s amazing strengths have been somewhat ambiguous. I’ll list a few of those now.

Incredible Memory: Though Raylan has been delayed in speaking full sentences, we have heard quote entire 60-minute cartoons, word-for-word. He sings dozens of songs (and always sings perfectly in tune). He has also demonstrated us that he remembers places and things that he hasn’t seen in over a year and a half. These are only a few examples, but he has repeatedly demonstrated this unique gift in a variety of ways.

Academically Precocious: Despite Raylan’s speech delay, he is academically advanced considering his age. He was counting to 20 and saying his ABCs by 18-24 months, and apparently became sufficiently bored with his ABC’s that he began reciting them backwards after turning two.

His memory and perception has been most pronounced in dealing with shapes and colors. After Raylan turned two, we pointed to the moon in the sky and said, “Look, Raylan, moon!” He shook his head and said, “Crescent!” Sure enough, the moon was in either its waxing or waning crescent phase. He recognizes shapes everywhere — rectangular couch cushions, conical construction markers, and so forth.

On another occasion around his second birthday, Raylan looked at a caution sign leading up to a construction zone, pointed through the window, and instead of pointing out something like, “Yellow,” he shouted, “Equilateral triangle!” He can distinguish between octagons, hexagons, rhombuses, and many other odd shapes in addition to the typical squares, circles, etc.

During his weekly visits with his therapists, Raylan has impressed them most often by his approach to puzzles. They told Shari that it’s usually as if he analyzes the puzzle and puts it together in his head before ever touching a piece, then rapidly assembling it. He has put together several puzzles which the therapists told us they had never seen a kindergartner complete. They have told us several times that he has the mind of an engineer.

I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve asked the question many times: wouldn’t these strengths also lend themselves towards an autism diagnosis?

While it’s true that those who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum often demonstrate savant-like behavior, Raylan fails to show many of the other characteristics associated with autism, including the following behaviors that do not indicate autism:

  • Has no trouble with eye contact
  • Doesn’t engage in repetitive behaviors
  • Shows empathy to those around him
  • No problems smiling or expressing joy as an infant
  • Babbled consistently as an infant
  • Reciprocated gestures by 12 months
  • Doesn’t throw uncontrollable fits (at least not atypical toddler fits)
  • Responds to his name and commands (and has for a long time)

Many times, it seems to us that the only indicator that points towards autism is Raylan’s limitations in complex verbal communication, but the truth remains: we’re not experts, and we don’t really have any answers.

In reading two books by Thomas Sowell, Late-Talking Children and The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late, I found more similarities in Raylan’s behavior to Einstein Syndrome than in autism. Einstein Syndrome can typically be seen in late-talking boys who sometimes do not speak in sentences until the age of four or five. They are usually gifted in fields such as mathematics, music, or analytical areas, and their social development lags behind that of other children. Their memories are far above average, and they love to figure out how to take things apart. Yes, they are also very good with puzzles. Their families often consist of engineers or musically-gifted individuals.

Out of the behavioral characteristics, Raylan has only failed to demonstrate one, which is precocious reading ability, but it may be too early to tell. Again, we’re not experts, and this might be wishful thinking.

These questions have stuck with us for about two years, and though we don’t currently have any solid answers, we want to make the following points clear:

IN SUMMARY:
 

Raylan has demonstrated a verbal communications delay.

Despite proving himself to be capable in most areas and consistently surprising us in areas such as memory, puzzles, and music, Raylan is not communicating at the level of a three-year-old, and actually speaks in very few sentences despite understanding and speaking in excess of 2,000 words (obviously an approximation — we don’t keep a list).

We don’t know what has caused Raylan’s verbal delay.

Raylan is receiving therapy and has been monitored by professionals, but there is no diagnosis to which anyone has attributed his delay. He might have Einstein Syndrome. He might have high-functioning autism. He might be delayed because of hearing troubles that lasted over a year due to severe ear infections. The truth is that we don’t yet know, and to be honest, it’s not incredibly important that we attach a label to him.

We have sought out assistance, and will continue to seek aid in tracking and accelerating Raylan’s progress. We’re not in denial. We’re involved parents who want our son to progress.

We are not embarrassed or afraid of Raylan’s verbal development.

Yes, Raylan should be speaking sentences more often. Yes, we see the looks of confusion on people’s faces when they try to hold a conversation with him and he strongly rejects their advances — we’ve even seen people get offended when he completely ignores them (again, it’s kind of hilarious).

However, we don’t just love our little boy, we’re actually incredibly, immeasurably proud of him. He’s hilarious. He’s incredibly smart. His interactions with us on a daily basis leave us laughing and amazed, and we can’t imagine him any other way.

In other words, don’t “Bless their hearts” or pity us. Our boy is awesome. We’re happy with him, and we don’t lie awake and cry about it at nights. There was a time when we were fearful, but that day has long since passed (more on that in the next section).

He also happens to be super cute.

God is already answering prayers and helping Raylan

I already mentioned the sermon I preached that discussed Raylan (you can find it on our podcast — just search for The Pentecostals of Bossier City on your podcast app. The message was entitled “Thou Mayest”).

Several weeks later, during an incredible move of God in an altar service while Pastor Todd Johnson was with us, I felt compelled to publicly pray for Raylan. I don’t use this phrase lightly, but I felt impressed by God to pray for Raylan in a public manner. We cannot be afraid to pray bold prayers and let God declare His own glory through working miracles in a demonstrable fashion, and it seemed like that’s where God was pushing me.

I anointed Raylan and prayed for him, and felt the presence of God move on us both. There was no light beaming down from Heaven or a dove floating over our heads, but I felt that God touched my son at that specific time.

Later that night, we were going through our typical routine with Raylan. I heated his “milky,” he counted down the seconds on the microwave from twenty, and then I told him to go give his mom “sugies,” where he lets her kiss him on the cheek. Each night, Shari tells him, “I love you,” but Raylan has never reciprocated. That Sunday night, just two hours removed from our prayer, Raylan turned around, looked at Shari in the eyes, smiled, and said, “I love you!”

This was the first time he had told his mom he loved her. She cried for half an hour.

During the course of the next week, Raylan began not only speaking more often, but constructing sentences. It’s been nearly two weeks, and he continues to show rapid progress. We’re not remotely close to the end of our journey, but we feel that it was a direct result of the power of prayer, and that God is going to help us every step of the way.

That’s why we’re not afraid — we know God is with us. Raylan isn’t typical, and we’re absolutely okay with that. However, we do believe that God will progress his speech, he will lead a “normal” life, and the unique abilities that God spoke into him while he was in the womb will lead him down his own, divinely-ordained path.

When Raylan was a few months old, Bro. Lee Stoneking looked at him and without hesitation said, “That boy is going to be a prophet.” It wasn’t a passing statement — it was a declaration. One of the most powerful men of God that I have ever known, who was raised from the dead, having not breathed for 45 minutes, looked at this boy in the early days of his life and prophesied over him. For anyone that knows their Bible, they know that the prophets of God always walked, spoke, and carried themselves in a peculiar manner. We wanted a “unique” son, and we now believe this is all part of God’s plan.

So once again, please do not read this post and say, “Bless their poor little hearts.” The journey we’re on isn’t filled with fear, anxiety, or doubt — it’s all made enjoyable because of one incredible, smart, blonde-headed, dimple-cheeked little boy who brings light into our lives every single day.

We wouldn’t trade him for the world.

MONDAY MO(U)RNING - 9.8.1

I skipped a week already, but this is just another collection of thoughts that have struck me in one form or another during the past two week, and I collected them and saved them for a post this Monday morning (since an average of four measly hours of productivity is standard for employees on Mondays — sorry, I don't have the link to the new story handy). This week's offerings are small, but they're here. I hope you enjoy.

1. THE iWATCH IS UPON US

Tomorrow at 12:00 PM CST, Apple is hosting an event to announce the new 4.7" (and possibly 5.5") iPhone 6. The rumors and leaks have been endless, but it's expected to look like this. The best news: the screens are finally getting larger (and on one model, much larger).

As I've gotten older and my eyes have worsened, I've actually been clamoring for a larger screen. I hate watching tiny little videos and reading tiny little text on my tiny little iPhone 5.

But honestly, I barely noticed that the iPhone screen was "small" until Android users started bragging about their ginormous HTC Ones and Samsung Galaxies, which I wrote off until I held one particular phone: the Moto X. Coincidentally, the original had a 4.7" screen. In my personal opinion, the 4.7" screen hits that perfect sweet spot where you can still comfortably hold it with one hand, but the screen is large enough to make for a significantly different experience. But you don't feel like you're carrying a tablet in your pocket.

But the iPhone 6 is (largely) a known quantity. What's really interesting is the possibility of the iWatch being announced. #EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

We don't know what the iWatch looks like. We don't know exactly what it will do. We don't know how much it will cost or when it will be released. All we know is that it's coming, and Jony Ive told Switzerland to watch its back.

This is Apple at its most exciting in years. As a geek, this is practically another Christmas-caliber holiday.

2. THE DALLAS COWBOYS ARE GARBAGE

I'm a lifetime Cowboy fan, but they are. And I don't really have anything else to say about this.

3. I'M WRITING A BOOK, AND IT'S NOT EASY

I've alluded to it before, but I've been writing a book for about two years now. Actually, I was gathering information and thoughts for a different book for a decade, but I've since moved on, and I'm not sure I'll ever finish it. However, the current book is something I'm 100% committed to, but I don't know when it will be ready for release.

The subject of my book: awkward topics for modern Christians. I'm discussing the issues that people either seem unwilling to discuss, questions people don't want to ask out loud, and anything else that makes us squirm. I enjoy uncomfortable topics, so it seemed like a natural progression.

To one day write a book has been a goal of mine since I was a child, so I can't forget about this project. It's important to me. I don't have any delusions of grandeur — I don't believe it will sell a lot of copies or get me special attention. It's simply a personal goal that I wish to accomplish, and if it helps a single person, then the time spent will be worth it.

I'll self-publish on the iBook store and Amazon, and I'm sure I'll do a brief social media blitz to let folks know when it's ready for release. I anticipate that it will be cheap (none of this $12.99 garbage), and looks like it will top out at around 300 pages. Pray for me that I get it done sooner rather than later.

Are You Happy?

You might have seen a widely-circulated story in late April concerning Courtney Sanford, the 32-year-old woman who was driving to work, snapping selfies and posting a status update to Facebook. After picking up her phone and telling her friends, "The happy song makes me HAPPY," she lost control of her car, drove across a grass median, and hit a large truck head-on. Sanford was pronounced dead at the scene.

This story was a tragedy. We know the dangers of texting/posting while driving, yet millions of Americans like Courtney post about the minutia of their daily lives while behind the wheel.

But this post isn't about texting and driving.

The song Courtney posted about is Pharrell Williams' song, "Happy," which was featured prominently in the soundtrack to the family-friendly animated movie, Despicable Me 2. The chorus ends with these lines:

(BECAUSE I'M HAPPY)

CLAP ALONG IF YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPINESS IS TO YOU

(BECAUSE I'M HAPPY)

CLAP ALONG IF YOU FEEL LIKE THAT'S WHAT YOU WANNA DO


The idea behind the song is, "You know what makes you happy. Do it." The bridge repeats over and over, "Can't nothing bring me down."

The problem? We humans are really bad at figuring out what makes us happy.

This is why, regardless of the warnings of history, we're drawn to the materialism, wealth, sexual conquests, recreational drug use, and much more that we do in our search for peace and happiness. But we also know the darkness that follows. We knew of that darkness even before we fell victim, because something in our society's moral center tells us, "Some things are just wrong."

That moral center was the Church.

Over the course of several decades, the Church's influence was weakened. The quest for prosperity and the competitive spirit that is seemingly built into the American psyche filled us with passion and insecurity, which only left us searching for something more. The secular humanists that once constituted a fringe group found a platform in Hollywood, the music industry, higher education, literature, and the pages of the major American newspapers. The desired effect took time, but it worked.

At some point in the 20th century, the "If it feels good, do it," philosophy went from being the counter-culture rallying cry of secularists to something that made sense to many who called themselves Christians.

Ministers who preached a redeemed life separated from sin were branded "legalists," to the point that muscular preachers in skinny jeans across the continent regularly avoid the topics of sin and Hell — subjects, by the way, that Jesus didn't feel a need to avoid. As a matter of fact, Jesus regularly spoke of sin, Hell, and destruction.

The church should be a place of healing.
The church should be the central point of grace and mercy in every city.
The church should be a place to find counsel and wisdom.

But the church could be, should be, must be a place of correction.

Jesus' teachings centered around correcting institutionalized ways of thinking. The Apostle Paul routinely corrected (i.e. blistered) the churches to whom he directed his epistles. And have you read Revelation chapter 2? Holy moly, the New Testament is harsh.

Jesus wants to save us, and give our lives meaning. He wants us to stand with confidence, bodily proclaiming the Gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But notice His words in John 8:10-11 (NKJV):

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers  of yours?  Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

"I do not condemn you...GO AND SIN NO MORE."

If you want to be happy, begin eliminating the sin from your life. Jesus gave us the only answer for being held responsible for our sins, but never in the scripture did He give us a free license to commit unrepentent sin (See: Romans 6:15-23). If the Holy Spirit is meant to lead and guide us into all truth, then we must understand that TRUTH in the Scripture never leads us into the cares of this world.

That's why, when we are focused on ourselves, on worldly pleasures, on money, on sex, on temporary fulfillment, we always find ourselves desiring more. We inevitably look for something else — something greater, deeper, and lasting.

Do you want to be happy? Then love God more than anything.
Do you want to be happy? Then make choices that steer your life away from sin.
Do you want to be happy? Then bury yourself in God's Word. Discover who He is.
Do you want to be happy? Then rely on the One that created You.

I promise you: He knows what He's talking about.