Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I haven't known what to write about Heather's passing.

I still don't.

Part of me keeps hoping that with each passing week since that horrible day in early October that I would gain some sense of clarity or peace about it.

Sometimes, a morbid part of my brain writes eulogies for friends who are still with us. Maybe it's a way to consider our mortality, or maybe it's a morose way of taking stock of valued friends. It usually happens after those joyful gatherings where it seemed that not one single thing could have been more perfect. 

But Heather was never one of them.

It wasn't for a lack of affection. I've considered Heather a friend for nearly 20 years. Perhaps my mind considers it too cruel of a thing for mothers to be ripped from the arms of their babies to entertain the thought for even a moment.

Indeed it still does, as the shock and denial about our friend's absence is still too fresh as we near eight months without her. 

Bits and pieces have floated to my mind to try to encapsulate our all-too-brief friendship with such a vibrant woman.

The first, arriving within days of her departure was this: Heather was my favorite kind of Christian.

She was saved as an adult, so she never seemed to take salvation for granted as so many of us do. Her approach to God and others was often so meek, it reminded me of Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. Even as she grew into a formidable woman of God, she never made anyone feel that she was better than them, at least not that I had ever seen. In speaking about matters of faith, she would say things like, "You probably know better than I do," which seemed supernaturally unusual coming out of the mouth of a woman whose opinions were so often strong (and vocal). 

If you knew Heather and ever felt that she didn't have enough time for you, you were right, she didn't. This was no symptom of self-importance. Rather, Heather was constantly surrounded by people who wanted one more conversation, just ten more minutes with her. For each of the 18 or so years of friendship I had with Heather, this remained invariably true. 

Heather could listen. I hope someday this could be said of me as it is said of her. She had this x-ray vision into your soul that helped her know just what question to ask, usually the one that would end with you cathartically crying on her couch a couple hours later. I don't remember ever having to endure small-talk with Heather, unless we were killing time waiting for other people to leave so we could talk about girls or jobs or whatever my latest drama was. She cared too much to waste time chatting idly when there were things of true importance at hand. 

Which reminds me ... Heather made me feel important, even when I would discuss high school crushes with her ad nauseum. She gave no indication that she was confused about what really mattered, but rather, she cared about things simply because they mattered to me. 

The second thought about Heather that occurred to me arrived as I began the dreadful task of getting ready for her visitation. I found myself wondering who I would see there, unsure if I was emotionally stable enough to visit with the full range of characters I would likely encounter. It was as though Heather collected people who lacked social graces. The awkward, the insecure, and the lonely all found a friend in this wonderful woman. 

Most likely a product of her patient attention and care, her collection grew each year that I knew her, from the first to the last. Even when I wished she would throw a few back, like my ex-girlfriends, she kept them, preciously, aware that their value was not even remotely linked to my discontinued romantic interest in them. 

As I drove to the visitation, still trying to process her unfathomable departure, I realized that I was one of her collection of misfits. There were likely as many of Heather's friends who found a conversation with me uncomfortably interminable as I did them. 

Heather's peculiar and beautiful gift was to make each one of us feel normal without ever demanding that we change to fit her preferences.  It worked, too.  Almost every one of us felt normal, comfortable, and accepted around her.

She wasn't perfect. I don't mean to deify her.  It's just that none of her flaws seem to matter that much when weighed in the balance of her life.  Some of them were even a little funny.  Sometimes I used to forget books on the end tables at Ben and Heather's place during college, and regardless of the amount of time they were there, if Heather was awake, those books were straightened and in size order (largest to smallest from bottom to top).  And then there were the times that we would unload the dishwasher to be helpful, only to return to find the dishes in the cupboards "correctly" color-coded, though she never said a word about it.

It hurts to think of her quirks and the unusual way that she would say certain words.  They made Heather who she was as much as any of the good things.

As you can imagine, a lot of words I've heard spoken in church since Heather's passing have rang a little hollow in my ears as I've tried to process the absence of this dear friend.  But I still believe in the Jesus to whom Heather devoted her life, and I look forward to hanging out with both of them one day.  The Heather hug will be long-overdue.  It already is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

never forget what you thought you'd never be

Friday, October 1, 2004 - the date of my first blog post.

If my blog was a human, it would be a seventh grader.

What has happened to me?  I thought those grey hairs in my beard were aberrations.

Don't bother trying to find that original post.  It has long since been scrubbed from the internet.

The truth is, this is my second blog, but it is the spiritual descendant of the original, if a rather censored version of it.

When I shut down Screaming Underneath, the first blog with the all too emo name (ripped directly from a Coldplay song), I wrote these words:
"I started this blog in college, when blogging was still pretty new, right around the time that facebook began. Some of the things that I wrote make me proud. Others make me cringe, although I don't think I would retract any of them.
When I started this blog, I was a bitter young man with a high opinion of my perspective but a fairly myopic outlook on life. I liked to mock and use the word "ass" as much as possible. My thoughts were of surviving a lost first "love" and figuring out my life.

In between now and then, there was a second relationship in which I used the word "love" too soon and didn't really mean it, though I fooled myself into believing it sometimes to ease the guilt. I finally grew tired of pretending to be someone else, and I ended the relationship - a big step of maturity for me. I graduated college, and I began setting my sights a little farther ahead.

Then the last and best relationship came. Lindsey and I met through this blog. I think that's why, though I could feel myself outgrowing it, I kept the blog alive. I'm sentimental. Sue me. I had learned to truly love, but I would be taught that I knew love like a toddler knows English and walking. You can't call it anything else, but it's hardly proficient. I lost my first job, which led immediately to facing some serious control and anxiety issues I had in my life. We got married, and we began our lives together in such a way that made all things prior seem but a forward to a great story. This was the hardest and best season through which you read.

I struggled for a while with how serious this blog was becoming compared to where it started, so late last year, I started a new blog for all of the serious stuff. I thought it would be my professional space and that all of the random, silly, and more fun and personal posts would return back here. It turns out that baring your soul to strangers on the internet is not so easily compartmentalized.

In a few days, I am going to delete this blog. As a pastor, I feel like it contains a few too many liabilities, dumb things I used to say (and still secretly find hilarious). I am thankful for your readership through the years. This post, though the only of 2011, marks almost seven years. Not bad."
That's where I was five years ago when I started this blog.

At that time, I still thought of myself as a pastor, which is why I've mostly watched my language here and only written about things that I felt comfortable with our church members reading or confident that it was justified in ruffling their feathers.

To be perfectly honest, I've bored myself here over the past five years.  There have been a few bright spots, but I used to take such joy in writing the absurd, unfiltered things that would spring into my mind.  It was like intellectual streaking.

Part of me wonders if this isn't one of the reasons that pastoring has never worked out for me.  I find things hilarious that I can only say in front of the"right" kind of Christians, who consequently might be the "wrong" kind of Christians (but they're certainly my favorite kind).

For as ill-advised as many of the old posts were, they were fun and brave.  They created a levity that excused, and perhaps even made endearing, my frequent sentimental oozings.

I've been sensing the need for a change here at Annoys the Dinosaur for some time now.  I'm not quite sure how things will turn out.  I hope the new result will be braver, wittier, and with a better vocabulary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

there is a world inside the world that you see: meet my favorite podcasts

Last year, we drove to California . . . in a minivan . . . with three children who were three and under.  Yes, we're insane.

Soon I'll blog about some of the lessons we learned, but this is a post about something different: audio entertainment.

I've been a music guy since I joined a children's choir in second grade.  When I hear a piece performed with the right inflection, the hair stands up on the back of my neck.  Music, unfortunately, isn't enough to get you through a 32-ish-hour road trip.

Thankfully, after we arrived, Lindsey's brother introduced us to his podcast.  I know we're about 1,000 years late to the podcast revolution, but this was our gateway drug.  People will talk to you - about intelligent things - for free.  You're not resigned to sports talk on AM (barf) or political shock jocks (double barf) anymore.  Just download some episodes on your phone, and set the autopilot for Omaha (I wish).

Since last summer, I've become a bit of a podcast junkie.  I'm sure some will laugh at my pedestrian tastes, but for others, let me introduce you to my favorites.

Martyr Made

This is Lindsey's brother Darryl's podcast.  It's a beautiful, narrative telling of the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict.  You might think you know about Israel and Palestine, but if you're like anything like me, you're dead wrong.

You know how when family members tell you about something, you have to try it/watch/listen and smile while valiantly suppressing your gag reflex?  This is nothing like that.

I always knew that Darryl was smart, but I didn't know if it was in a Beautiful Mind, little bit loco kind of way, or a "I'm about to drop some knowledge" kind of way.  Turns out, it's definitely the latter.

To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a little bit strange having my brother-in-law's husky baritone narrate our journey home.  I was incredibly, and pleasantly, surprised to find myself angry that we had to stop for gas and food.  I had no idea that I was deeply interested in this conflict, but with the right teacher, I am.


Radiolab is my favorite podcast.  (Sorry, Darryl, don't beat me up.)

I used to wonder how people ever sat around listening to the radio before there was TV.  Now, I'm starting to think they were on to something.

This is storytelling at its finest.  The little audio flourishes, background music, and even pregnant moments of silence are all superbly crafted.  Episodes are a satisfying length for my commute or workout, and the payoff of the stories is often surprisingly emotional.

Start with:
The Cathedral (on loan from another of my favorite podcasts)
23 Weeks 6 Days - parents, have tissues ready.  You've been warned!

I also liked:
K-poparazzi - you think you're not interested in Korean pop, but be prepared to get sucked in.
Smile My Ass - the history of Candid Camera you never thought you cared about.

As a bonus:
Hard Knock Life - a charming Valentine's Day story about beetles, with a guest appearance by the phenomenal Lin-Manuel Miranda.

The West Wing Weekly

Started by The West Wing superfan Hrishikesh Hirway and co-hosted by The West Wing late-comer Joshua Malina, this podcast discusses every episode of The West Wing, starting from the beginning.

I love their hip-hop update of the theme from The West Wing.  I love reminiscing about the episodes of my favorite show ever.  I love the guest appearances from show contributors such as Dule Hill.

This is a nice audience, but if you haven't seen and loved The West Wing, stop reading this and go watch it or else we're not friends anymore.

Start at:
The Beginning

This American Life

I'm pretty sure this is the most popular podcast in America, so I'm barely going to say anything about it.  Just listen.  It's great.

One of my favorites:
My Damn Mind

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At first blush, it seems like a podcast on the Internet about the Internet is going to be sterile, self-serving, and dull.  Instead, it's human, interesting, and sometimes poignant.  They first aired "The Cathedral," mentioned above under Radiolab, which is reason enough why you should give them a try.

This podcast is newest on my rotation, so it's hard to offer solid recommendations of where to start.  The most recent episode, about e-mails people have been putting off (some for years) is a pretty good reflection on what they do: Episode 63 - 1000 Brimes.


I'm still discovering new podcasts, including a few that I'm trying out but not invested in yet.  Also, Christian podcasts (sermons, etc.) deserve their own post, since the ones I listen to are very different in nature.

Have I missed any brilliant ones with great storytelling?  Please share your favorites!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

where was I before the day: some thoughts about my wife on mother's day

When you get married, you don't really know what's going to happen.

You stand at the altar, and you make the vows.  The highs and lows, the good and bad, from this point until we breathe our last.

In this way, it's no wonder that so many marriages falter when the unknown arrives.  How can you tell from a few dates who will make a good nurse when accident or illness happens, or a good teacher when the children have needs, or a counselor when your world falls apart?

Even those who live together for months or years before marrying end up surprised, more often than not, how difficult it is to navigate life's unexpected hurdles.

And what's almost worse than the pendulum violently swinging between opposites, is that only the mundane remains in the middle.  The drudgery.  The bills, the dishes, the laundry.  These soul-crushing realities are often harder on people than crises.

Can I admit something without seeming glib about how difficult marriage and life can be?  I am blessed beyond all reason to be married to Lindsey.

I am trust-fund-kid spoiled to have her as my partner in life, marriage, and parenting.

Our plans never included three kids in thirty-seven months, let alone the three major moves, seven jobs, or two miscarriages.

But, you guys, she's a champ!

It's easy for her to see the worst of herself in our kids, like when C goes on a malnourished-t-rex-style rampage through our home when she's tired, but she doesn't always know the things that I see.

I see C comfort N gently.  Not only that, but she actually anticipates N's emotions and tries to help her manage them.  "It's okay N.  Don't cry, N."

I see C becoming so helpful around the house and enjoying working hard to help all of the rest of us.

I see N, impossible as it may seem at 2.5-years-old, exhibit a wry sense of humor, complete with the best awkward arm movements and dances I've ever seen.

I see N absorbing information right behind her sister, unaware that she's not supposed to be "old enough" to learn the things she's taking on.

I see G smiling everyday like he's posing for the dustjacket for his autobiography Best. Life. Ever.

I see G respond to her call in our sometimes chaotic, noisy home, like her voice is the only sound he can hear.

There's so much more that I see but only so much I can write.

I see her fight through the days where she's so tired she can barely lift her coffee mug to her lips.

I see her hold her tongue when the orange juice is spilled on the floor for the third time that day.

I see her diffuse our girls' fears and frustrations like an FBI negotiator.

I see her carefully and lovingly prepare meals that won't be considered edible by the editorial staff of The Daily Toddler until slathered with ketchup.

I see her talk to our kids like they have the capacity to learn anything, instead of treating them like they're stupid.

I see her create days full of adventure that make it easy for me to put our tired hooligans down at bedtime.

This is only barely to mention the things that she does to make it possible for me to own a business and work across town.  Oh, and can I add that she's a stellar photographer who shoots with me in her "spare" time?

She makes me laugh, and she makes us all dance.  She's the glue in our family.

One of the best things about Lindsey is that she's completely, 100% imperfect at all of these things.  She loses her cool, and she loses track of things/times.  She let's days get away from her, and she sometimes chooses the wrong words to say.

Because of this imperfection, she oozes grace all over our home.  I see her apologize to our kids almost everyday, which teaches them how to apologize and forgive.  She changes yet another diaper, when it's surely my turn.  She sets our kids up to see, without a doubt, that God loves us and is for us.

Happy Mother's Day to the mother of my children, best friend, and most awesome wife in the whole world!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The America I Hope To See - A Platform Draft for a New, Conservative Party

Photo: Thomas Hawk

Good & Evil

Good and evil exist.  The government's role is to condone/honor good and punish evil.  These terms and their implications are difficult to define in a country that values freedom of and from religion, but it is a privilege to debate and reconcile with our fellow Americans in exploring and delineating our shared mores.

The Constitution

The Constitution is the document that binds us together and, with the Declaration of Independence, define the identity of the United States of America.  All laws must comply with it, save a ratified amendment, or they will be abolished.

Opportunity and Poverty

True freedom means having not only the opportunity to better oneself but the access to the means of doing so.  Our country has a divided history, not only along racial lines, but along class lines.  A conservative-led government will actively seek out and rectify inequality wherever it is found.

It is our sincerely-held belief that prosperity should lift all, not some.  Our honor demands that we care for the vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, and indeed we find joy in doing so.


There are times when evil presents itself in such a way that requires us to take action.  In these situations, not to act would be the same as giving our assent to the evil before us.

But security must not be wrought at the expense of liberty and generosity of spirit.  We will not suspect our neighbors or those in need of our help unless we are given probable cause to do so.

Immigration & Race

Some of our best and brightest, including many of our founders and original soldiers, were born in other lands.  We will continue to welcome immigrants and will renovate our legal system to facilitate a more equal and beneficial immigration system.

We will continue our proud history of fighting racial injustice by examining  our current systems for and ridding them of racial bias, including public education, law enforcement, and access to employment.

Life and Personhood

We believe that life comes from life, and this applies to conception and personhood.  If it is a tragedy when a woman involuntarily loses a pregnancy, it is a tragedy when a pregnancy is voluntarily ended.  To this end, we will work first to make abortion rare, then illegal, except in cases of medical necessity.

This requires of us a commitment to better foster care and adoption, regardless of the cost or complexity.

Our value of life also governs the treatment of prisoners and our enemies.  We must and will set the standard, the world over, for just and even beneficent care of prisoners and enemies.


Anyone who proudly claims their American citizenship and pledges allegiance to her is an ally, not an enemy.  Despite our political differences, it is our duty and honor to work together with our fellow Americans, not a burden.  We appreciate and are grateful for the freedom that allows us to have dissenting discourse, and for the uniting documents and spirit that produce compromise and cooperation.

Health & Death

The glory of American research and innovation shines brightest in the medical field.  We endeavor to find pathways to present all Americans with affordable healthcare and continue the pursuit of medical advancement.

Likewise, we will begin a discourse about what dignified death looks like in America in a way that honors our elderly and ill.


Freedom is an experiment that must be protected and cherished.  If it were easy to maintain a free society, every country would do it.  We will renew our defense of constitutional freedoms, and in doing so, chart a path that readies our great nation for future obstacles and threats to freedom.


The American dream is tangible, but it must not be an idol.  We will not sacrifice our best selves or indeed our souls for prosperity.  Banking and financial reforms are key issues in ensuring the most prosperous future for all Americans.

Campaigning and Public Office

Public service should be an act of service, not a means of personal betterment.  It should be the solemn duty of officials to serve and their joy to return home.

We will seek immediately to end soft-money donations and Super PACs, and we will enforce current campaign-finance laws.

Salaries of public officials will not exceed the median wage of United States citizens.

Term limits will be enacted on all public offices.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#NeverTrump + My Third Party Wishlist

President James Earl Jones commissioning a U.S. Naval Vessel: "This Battleship is fully operational."

Was I crazy writing yesterday's post about my intentions to vote for John Kasich in the Nebraska Primary?  No.  Just hopeful.

Many have asked on Facebook today what I'm going to do now.

The only thing I know for sure: I'm not going to vote for Donald Trump.

I'm a social conservative, but I believe that government has a role in punishing evil and honoring and encouraging good.  To me, that means government should be small enough that it doesn't become an evil in itself, but large enough that it can enforce and nurture the best version of our social contract.  This, by the way, is why I was never on the Ted Cruz bandwagon.

Donald Trump is the opposite of that definition.  His inflammatory, irresponsible, and disrespectful ways, which, I assure you, are reflective of personal character and not just campaign stunts, will never build that kind of government.  He will continue to alienate, obfuscate, and confound, rather than unite, accomplish, and lead.

So what does Never Trump look like in practice?

My options as I see them:
1. Stay home on election day.  

This option accomplishes nothing.  It leaves the decision up to others.

2. Vote third party.

I sincerely hope that a qualified third-party candidate arises, but it seems unlikely.

My third-party wishlist:
Bill Gates - Tech and Humanitarian Leader

Tim Cook - Tech Leader with an eye on the future of privacy/security

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - I can, in fact, smell what The Rock is cookin'.

Bill Hybels - Pastor and Humanitarian, likely to be endorsed by Bono

Kay Warren - Accomplished Humanitarian

Mayim Bialik - Smarter than both of this year's candidates combined.

Elizabeth Warren - Tells the truth.

Bruce Willis - Live free, die hard.

Chuck Norris - Walker Texas Ranger would like you to know, you have the right to remain

Robert Downey Jr. - Every press conference would be amazing.

Martin Sheen - Fictional president.  Better than most actual presidents.  Pro-life.

Aaron Sorkin - Best speeches we're ever likely to hear.

James Earl Jones - Darth Vader for President!  Need I say more?  (Can you imagine Putin picking up the phone only to have James Earl Jones on the other end?)

Nikki Haley -  Took down the flag. As long as she doesn't campaign for Trump.

Ben Stein - Make America Smart Again!

Tom Selleck - Magnum P.I. for President!  "You mustache not what your country can do for you, but rather you mustache what you can do for your country!"

Jeff Bezos - He built Amazon, which is only a few letters different from America, and equally as awesome.

Morgan Freeman - Seems like a bit of a demotion for God, but if we ever get hit by a meteor, I only want his voice keeping us calm.

Bill Pullman - We will not go quietly into the night!

Will Smith - "I pulled up to the White House about 7 or 8 . . ."

Warren Buffet - The Oracle of Omaha, baby.

(Yes, I know this is celebrity-heavy.  I'm sure I will think of a few others later.)

3. Vote democrat.

While I've yet to vote for a democrat in my adult life, I am very strongly considering it this election.  John McCain was such a lackluster candidate, and I wanted to see a minority in the White House, but Barack Obama is far too pro-abortion for me to have voted for him.  Likewise, Mitt Romney didn't even occur on my list of preferred candidates, but I figured, "He's more in tune with my values than President Obama."

But I can't really make either of those arguments about Trump.

I would much sooner vote for a candidate of a different party, with whom I know that I disagree, than vote for someone who defies everything that conservatives stand for yet claims to be a Republican.  Not to mention the illegal, unethical, and just generally horrible things that we know about him (let alone the ones we don't).

Donald Trump is the what the douchey rich kid from every high school movie grows up to be (if they don't get arrested for murdering a prostitute).  Hillary Clinton has held public office and at least tries to hide her racism.

I hope that Donald Trump gets swept in a fifty-state-rout that teaches the Republican party to never, ever again present us with a candidate like him.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why I'll Be Voting For John Kasich in the Nebraska Primary

For anyone who knows me, it's no secret that I dislike Donald Trump.  I wasn't a fan of him before he ran for president, but his campaign has cemented my opinion, built a monument atop it, and a bald eagle perches on the monument daily, waving an American flag whilst flipping off the Donald with its middle talon.

I hadn't planned on writing about this topic tonight, but with the unexpected news of Ted Cruz dropping out of the race, it seemed it was the right time.

A brief history of my preferences in this election season:
"Hey, I like Ben Carson.  He's a brain surgeon who saved a lot of lives, and he respectfully mouthed off to President Obama at that one prayer breakfast."
"Bobby Jindal kind of looks like he could be in my family.  Yay, Indians (the real kind)!"

"Is Ben Carson asleep?  I can't take this anymore."
"Bobby who?"
"We need a candidate who is presidential, like a governor of a state that's not New Jersey."

"Hey, John Kasich is a governor, and he's actually done a lot of good things!"

So why am I voting for John Kasich in the primary?
1. He's a governor.
I like people with job experience.  Ridiculous, I know.  The governor's office is the highest executive office in a state, which is probably the best preparation a person can get for the highest executive office in the country.

He doesn't make flashy promises because he's used to the reality of the office.  Broker compromises, actually lead and govern, like a grown-up.

2. He's got strong faith.
Governor Kasich hasn't been afraid to break ranks with the GOP establishment when he felt his faith demanded it of him.  I respect that.

He has been in a Bible study group with the same group of men for 25 years.  This is a pretty clear indicator of his integrity.  Hard to share your life with the same people for that long if you've got skeletons in your closet.

3. He's a father of daughters.
While the governor is known for being prickly, so much so that his press secretary has e-mailed out the thesaurus entry for "prickly" to reporters, he's ultimately a realist.  He doesn't seem to be in this to watch the world burn, or to dig his heels in even when nobody else is going his way.  It truly seems that he wants to leave behind a country and world that is better for his daughters.  I know the feeling.

4. He's electable.
Sixteen polls in a row have him beating Hillary Clinton in the general election.  A vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton.

There are plenty of other reasons to like Governor Kasich, including his tendency to eat pizza with a fork like a civilized human being.  I encourage you to look him up for yourself and see whether you'd rather have him or a reality TV star holding America's highest office.

California and Oregon friends, especially, please consider voting for John Kasich!

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