A Farewell to Texas

Lately I’ve been preaching through some Genesis narratives, and as I’ve studied I keep coming across those verses that say things like, “…and he sojourned at [such and such place] for [x amount of time] and begat sons and daughters,” etc.

As my 9 years in Texas wind to a close, I feel like I’m at one of those narrative junctures in my life.

I came here a single young guy who thought he knew what he was doing and found out in a million ways he didn’t, but I hope I did some good along the way. In the meantime, I developed a deep love and admiration for this state, its culture, and its people.

And in my sojourn here God has blessed me with a wonderful wife (a Texan, though I had to rescue her from the land north of the Red River 🙂 ), two daughters, and two sons. My time here could not have been more blessed, and I leave having enjoyed even more great moments than I did baskets of chips and salsa (or hot sauce, to you East Texans).

Moments like:

Those special years at Pritchett, on my own for the first time and teaching the Word for countless hours – particularly the first two years with a loaded schedule. Almost dying from humidity upon arrival. Writing Failure deep into the nights in a lonely, lonely parsonage with Boog the Beagle.

Driving I-35 possibly 100+ times to visit (and marry) Allison and then subsequent visits with her family. The birth of all 4 of our children. Packing up and moving to Forney. Monday night fellowships. Buying our first house.

Writing Church Reset over lattes at Murray Street in Deep Ellum. Countless workdays and cookie trips with Gloria at Latham Bakery (shout out to both Melindas, Lisa, Avery, Alexa, Tyler, Gabe, Michael, and everybody else who won’t see this but served me on one of my hundreds of trips).

Finding all the great places to eat (ask me if you ever go to Dallas). Getting to take in football and basketball national championship games at AT&T Stadium, along with a Leo Messi appearance. Austin and San Antonio trips. Queuing up for 3 hours for Franklin BBQ (worth it). State Fair trips. Being there for Gilmer’s dominant run to a state title in HS FB. Picking up a mediocre city and night sky photography habit. (The stars at night are indeed big and bright down here.)

Sitting among 18,000 people at a Dallas Mavericks game and seeing the notification that the NBA was shutting down due to the coronavirus, knowing our world was about to change in a way no one alive could even begin to understand. Ministering through 2 years of Covid, preaching to a hot parking lot full of dedicated people and then an oddly spaced out auditorium half-full of those people. Weathering the great Texas freeze of 2021.

More than anything, though, the greatest memories of the last 9 years have been about the people. As many things as I can remember, in somewhat chronological order:

Andy’s Frozen Custard trips with Jack and Anna, and a year and a half of #DodgeballSelfies.

Visits from Joe and Rachel filled by eating junk food, watching movies, and checking out Dallas and Shreveport.

Fishing trips and subsequent fish fry dinners with James and Wanda Roberts.

Member visitation with Bruce Slaven, and church events with him and Pam.

Gilmer and Gladewater football games (including the absolutely legendary head to head game in 2014) with Bobby and Jennifer Sanders and Judy Latham.

Ministry brainstorming lunches with the Pace family.

Preacher chats with HL Shirey.

Visits with the Snows, including a wise, gentle, loving corrective that a young knuckleheaded minister badly needed and that I’ll never forget.

Monday nights around the table with Jeff, Betty, Bobby Rex, Shirley, Darrell, Kathy, Mickey, Doris, Clay and others.

A million and one questions from one of my favorite Bible students, Lois Brock.

Lunches and photography meetups, solving all the world’s problems with Michael Whitworth.

Elders meetings with James, Clarence, and Perry, and the way their different emphases on things like fellowship, evangelism, and study complement each other so well.

The overwhelming support from all the ladies who have come over and helped through Allison’s last pregnancy and our first few months of being a 4-kid household. I can count at least 11 who have spent time over here helping out, and though I won’t type all the names here we are blown away by your kindness.

Countless lunches with James and Janice Parsons, and their generosity toward us and our kids.

The incredible, repeated generosity of Mike and Jeanette Kirksey, and the friendship extended toward us that has wonderfully never had that weird line that often exists in minister-member relationships.

A very sickly Eddie Phillips insisting on mowing my lawn when I was swamped with family and work duties, along with all that Terry means to us.

Seeing Robert McMahan working away in the building as one of the only outside humans I interacted with for weeks through March and April 2020.

Mama’s Daughters Lunches with Mr. Larry.

Joe and Debbie White helping talk me through the toughest days of my life.

Will and Nakia Duncan having me over to watch sports on a couple of nights when I needed that more than I can explain.

Lisa Burton organizing a drive-by baby shower at the height of Covid quarantines, and Ernest driving me clear across DFW to pick up a car.

Marq Toombs taking time for a young minister despite being on a bit of a different path than his.

I know I’m forgetting a whole bunch of names here, and for that I apologize. Even if I tried, I could not count the number of people who have impacted my life here in Texas. I’m thankful for you all, and pray that even if I don’t have the chance to see you all again here, we’ll meet again in the home of the saved.

I’m thankful to God for making my sojourn in Texas so fruitful, and I’m thanking Him for the chance to know all of you.

The Day The Lockdown Should’ve Ended

April 16. That’s the day every lockdown order in America should have ended. Not because the virus was eradicated that day (it obviously was not), and not because of economic concerns. No, the lockdowns should have ended because every quarantine talking point got overturned by the top coronavirus authority in the land.

In an interview on a Snapchat show, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the doctor who has served as our national COVID-19 spokesman was asked about how people should navigate their use of dating apps during quarantine. Here was his answer:

You know, that’s tough. Because it’s what’s called relative risk. If you really feel that you don’t want to have any part of this virus, will you maintain six feet away, wear a mask, do all the things that we talk about in the guidelines? If you’re willing to take a risk—and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks—you could figure out if you want to meet somebody. And it depends on the level of the interaction that you want to have. If you’re looking for a friend, sit in a room and put a mask on, and you know, chat a bit. If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk.

“If you’re willing to take a risk…”

“Everybody has their own tolerance for risks…”

“That’s your choice regarding a risk…”

By saying these things, Dr. Fauci revealed two principles that undermine the entire narrative the actions of the last 2 months have been built on. First, he believes people should be free to choose their own risk. Essentially, the advice above boils down to this: calculate your own risk and make your own decisions based on what you’re comfortable with. If you’re willing to risk catching the virus and the other person is too, you’re free to make that choice. You may think that’s a great idea, and you may think that’s a terrible idea. Regardless of our feelings, it’s the officially endorsed position by the face of our national coronavirus task force.

The question, then, is obvious – Why hasn’t that been the official recommendation across the board? Why haven’t we been allowed that kind of self-governance with regard to supporting mom and pop shops? Eating at restaurants? Going to the library? Opening businesses? Assembling in a church building? Playing basketball in a park?

Dr. Fauci endorsed the idea of choosing your activity level based on your own comfort and sense of risk with regard to only one thing – meeting up and having sex with strangers. Every guideline goes out the window in that situation. It’s the quickest, most efficient way to violate every social distancing, germ-free recommendation. But, “if you want to take the risk, go for it.” He even made sure to add that people shouldn’t do so under illusion that they’re healthy, because in his view the virus can be spread even if both parties are totally asymptomatic. That means he made this proclamation knowing full well it could further the transmission of the virus, and that the choice is yours as to whether possibly getting coronavirus is a worthwhile tradeoff for having a date.

Flattening the curve, #StayHomeSaveLives, all those slogans we’ve been trained to recite… Fauci brushed them aside as irrelevant in this case. In his view, the entire premise of government dictating our actions to stop the spread of the virus –  the premise this whole thing was built on – goes out the window the minute a person decides they need some casual sex. You can’t choose to sit 10′ from someone in a church pew in some states, but you can find somebody on the internet, go to their apartment, get physically intimate, and share their bed. You’re not allowed to choose the former because it’s too risky, but the latter is left up to you at your own discretion.

The second principle Dr. Fauci endorsed is this: there are some things in life more important and necessary than avoiding all risks. The doctor thinks Tinder dates fall into that category, and though I disagree on that specific point, many of us agree that some activities are worth it. There are things we don’t want to give up indefinitely in the name of personal safety, and we should be able to associate with people who have come to the same conclusion. Other concerns have to be weighed, too, like paying bills, preserving mental health, seeing family members, etc. Doing some of those things might involve a health risk. But why can’t we calculate it for ourselves? Apparently that’s a luxury only afforded to people who need a date.

Yes, protect the vulnerable. Yes, take precautions. Yes, allow people the choice to stay in should they so choose or should they need to for health reasons. Yes, encourage hospitals and nursing homes to take extra precautions. But the minute dating app hookups got the thumbs up as a matter of personal choice should have been the minute mandatory lockdowns ended as a matter of principle.

 

Top 7 NBA Players

While we’re all locked in our houses, I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time doing two things I love: Writing and arbitrarily ranking things. Why top 7? Because 1) 7 is more interesting than 5 but less open-ended than 10 and 2) Subtle tribute to the greatest, John Elway (but that’s another list for another day).

As an NBA expert* I decided to sit down and write out the definitive** ranking of the seven best players in the league’s history. If you think I’m wrong, the rules of the internet dictate we have to walk away thinking of each other as terrible people who don’t know anything about basketball.***

*guy who watches a decent amount of NBA
**totally arbitrary
***rules are rules, man

So, without further ado…

7. Wilt Chamberlain

It’s tough to accurately rank any of the legends before 1970 (or even 1980 for that matter), so let’s pretend I’ve seen a ton of ancient NBA games to justify this ranking. The league was smaller back in the day, the competition was clearly weaker, and the game sure seemed a lot easier for imposing figures like Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Still, the numbers are what they are and they’re pretty mindblowing, regardless of era. And, with what limited footage we do have, it’s plain to see that Wilt was a complete player who could score, pass, defend, and rebound – not to mention his spectacular athleticism.

6. Kobe Bryant

This post is already going to be ridiculously long, so I’m going to sum this one up by saying that in a time with historical greats like Shaq, Dirk, Duncan, and Nash, Kobe was consistently the best player and became the defining figure of the era.

5. Larry Bird
4. Magic Johnson

The MVPS and championships are there. The highlight reels and legendary games are there. The influence is there – their long-running rivalry is widely credited with exponentially growing the league’s popularity leading into the Jordan era, so their influence can’t be denied. They represented the ultimate clash of styles – flash vs. fundamentals, LA vs. Boston, the guy with the Hollywood smile and charisma vs. the guy who looked like your neighbor’s dad who coached the city t-ball team. Magic’s versatility and team success give him the slight advantage.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The case is simple: NBA’s all-time leading scorer, 6x MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 5x All-NBA Defensive team, 6x champion between two franchises, one unstoppable, iconic shot. In a sense, he got to enjoy a decade of individual success followed by a decade of team success. Not a bad career path. And he did it all while dragging Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.

2. Michael Jordan
1. LeBron James

I know, it’s considered heresy to have anyone but MJ as #1. We’ll get to why I did that, but first I need to establish that this isn’t me trashing His Airness. You don’t need me to tell you that Michael Jordan was a great basketball player. 5x MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Olympic gold medalist, best player on 6 title-winning teams. Career scoring average over 30 points per game. Saved the Looney Tunes from interplanetary kidnapping. Aside from all of that, he was simply the coolest guy on the planet. The black Air Jordans, the tongue hanging out, the shoulder shrug, the #23, even the cheesy earring – all iconic to an entire generation. He might be the most famous athlete in history. There’s no denying his greatness, and that’s not what I’m here to do.

However, I do think there’s a case to be made that LeBron deserves #1. I made that case in-depth here, but for the purposes of this article I’ll limit myself to these three points.

  • The arguments for Jordan are often made based on memories, not facts. Michael Jordan the myth was better than Jordan the player because no human being could ever be as good as Michael Jordan the myth. He never missed a big shot. He didn’t need any help. He played against defenses that were far better than those in any other era. For goodness’ sake – fans ranked him as the greatest NCAA player of all time when no legitimate analyst would have him in the top five of college players.
    Thanks to YouTube and Basketball-Reference, the mythologizing can be fact checked and it does bring him down a notch from the flawless player everyone remembers.
  • The championship rings and finals record aren’t viable arguments. A number of LeBron’s finals performances were statistically better than MJ’s last three finals performances. In his three series losses to the Warriors LeBron averaged more points, rebounds, and assists and had a better shooting percentage than Jordan did in his three finals wins from 96-98. Lebron lost all three because his team was hopelessly outgunned against a team with potentially 5 Hall of Famers. I suppose if LeBron really had the winning gene he would’ve thought to be born at a better time, or kept the 2nd best player in the world from joining the only 73-win team ever. Alas, he just didn’t want it bad enough.
  • LeBron checks off all the boxes. He can score as well as anyone, he rebounds, he’s been one of the best passers in the league for much of his career, he can and does defend all five positions (typically at an elite level), and his blend of power and agility means his athleticism rivals the best athletes the league has seen. On top of all of that, he goes about his business efficiently. His routinely high shooting percentages and assist totals show he’s a master of making the right decision. And, he’s the best we’ve ever seen at coming through when it matters most. His career elimination game averages are 34-12-8. If you had to build a perfect basketball player robot, he’d look a lot like LeBron. And if Dwyane Wade’s knees fail and Kevin Durant joins a 73 win team to prevent your roboplayer from winning championships, you shrug your shoulders and move on. Doesn’t mean he’s any less of a player.

Obviously it’s a debate that can go on for days, but that’s my 7. Tell me why I’m wrong.


[1] stats via twitter.com/megatoughscene

Top 7 Fast Food Items

While we’re all locked in our houses, I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time doing two things I love: Writing and arbitrarily ranking things. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Why top 7? Because 1) It’s my website and I get to do what I want 2) 7 is more interesting than 5 but less open-ended than 10 and 3) Subtle tribute to the greatest, John Elway (but that’s another list for another day).
I’ve got a few ideas for topics lined up, but if you have one you’d like to debate be sure to drop me a message.

Rules:
– Nothing that can only be found in a small region. For example, the large majority of the country has no idea what a Bojangles is, so they don’t count.
– I have to have tried it. Yes, it makes the list incredibly subjective. But I can’t rank it if I haven’t eaten it.
– It has to have a drive-thru in a typical location. Places like Five Guys, Chipotle, and Shake Shack get bumped up to “fast casual” and therefore don’t count here.

And now, for the list…

7. Dairy Queen Blizzard
You can get this kind of thing plenty of places. Soft serve whipped up with some sundae toppings is a pretty basic idea. Dairy Queen just does it way better than everybody else.

6. Chick-fil-a Peach Shake
If summer had an official taste, it may very well be this shake.

5. Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Taco Bell is a magical place with a wonderfully inexpensive array of options. The only problem is, almost all of those options are just a rearranging of 3 ingredients. Of those, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch is by far the best permutation of the tortilla, meat, and cheese. The spicy ranch sauce puts it over the top.

4. Chick-fil-a Nuggets
Perfectly juicy chicken. Perfectly breaded. Perfect for dipping in their delicious sauces. Simple as that.

3. Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Was it worth the kind of hype that created lines 20 cars deep at 9:55 at night and drove it out of stock for 3 months? Well, no. But it was pretty close. It has the crispiness that Chick-fil-a has always lacked, plus a fantastic spicy sauce and the best pickles in the business. The bun is pretty great too.

2. In-N-Out Double-Double burger (Animal Style)
Plenty of people think In-N-Out is overrated, but that’s almost certainly because of the hype surrounding it. After years of hearing people talk it up, you expect some extravagant burger. I know I did. What you find instead is a very simple burger. It’s as basic as it gets, just juicier and fresher than the burgers you get everywhere else. Since the cheeseburger is the very best fast food entree of all time, and since they do the most important parts of the cheeseburger better than everybody else, they’ve earned their ranking.
Throw in the extra thousand island-esque spread and the mustard-fried patties of the Animal Style (on the “secret menu”) and you’ve got the best fast food burger in the business.

1. McDonalds French Fries
Like it was ever going to be anything else. It’s exactly what you want out of fast food – salty (but not too salty) and greasy (but not too greasy) with a perfect texture. They will forever reign supreme.

Now, tell me why I’m wrong.

Want to help clean up social media?

We all bemoan the outrage cycle of social media. It’s become a constant drone in the background of our daily lives. Every day we’re mad about something. Conservatives and liberals take their turns, atheists and Christians, and people of every other belief and demographic.

What can we do about it? I think we can start by being a lot more selective about the fights we take up.

Just last week, a Twitter user shared a video of Maya Angelou correcting a young person for addressing her simply as “Maya.” In response, a few people tweeted about how disrespectful Angelou had been. Once those tweets got found, the floodgates opened. Countless people jumped on Twitter to off

But that’s not how the story got reported. Most people think it went down like Yashar Ali described:

Please know that Maya Angelou is trending nationally because there are some young folks who are offended that she directed a young woman to call her Ms. Angelou instead of Maya in a 20-year-old clip. We are doomed.

The problem is, that just isn’t true. She wasn’t trending nationally because people were offended that she demanded respect. She was trending nationally because people were offended that a tiny group of people were offended that she demanded respect.

With characterizations like Ali’s (and his “We are doomed” commentary), one would be led to believe that this is a widespread issue. It feeds into the outrage culture, the divisiveness, and the fearmongering by adding yet another thing that people think divides them from their fellow humans. “Can you believe this???” “People are so awful these days!” “I’m on team ______”

And we fall for it over and over and over.

A preemptive version of it even happened with the recent mosque shooting, with dozens of prominent Christian accounts tweeting and Facebook posting to make the point that Christians shouldn’t rejoice but rather mourn for the fallen muslim people, leaving the implication that there are countless vocal Christians who need to be told not to celebrate.

Remember the Starbucks Christmas cups fiasco of 2015? One or two loud “Christian voices” expressed outrage that Starbucks had released cups without the words “Merry Christmas” on them. Outsiders still derisively refer to the over-sensitivity of Christians by claiming that we got offended by Starbucks cups… and nobody would’ve ever known about it if we didn’t feel the need to respond.

The same thing happened with the supposed boycott of Star Wars: The Force Awakens because it included a black character, a boycott so large that it held the release to a paltry $2 billion gross.

And the same thing happened with the Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez “dancing scandal.” I never saw a single tweet, FB post, or article criticizing her (though I’m sure there were a few), yet the occurrence will now enter the internet lexicon as an example for the conservative right’s “snowflake-ishness.”

The opposing viewpoints people are posting in these cases are often true and right and good… and totally unnecessary. Almost every time something like this goes viral and becomes a trending topic, it trends because all of the people criticizing it, not because of the people promoting it. 500 people making it an issue can’t make something a worldwide trending topic… but a million people snapping back at them can. These social media virtue signaling campaigns take small, fringe groups that don’t deserve any kind of platform and give them headline status.

So, you want to quell the outrage machine that is social media? Don’t join in the outrage mob.

Unplug the outrage culture. Take a few minutes to research and see if there are actually any advocates for the thing you’re wanting to speak out against. Don’t help make problems bigger, more outrageous, and more scandalous than they really are. Let ignorant, obnoxious people on the fringes of society be ignorant, obnoxious people on the fringes of society. Don’t feed the trolls.