God Can Play Favorites

At nighttime when I put my son, Josiah, to bed I ‘ll whisper into his ear, “You’re my favorite four-year old…” and he’ll finish my sentence with boyish glee,“in the whole wide world!”

My wife and I will sit in the bed at night and conclude together that two boys couldn’t be more cherished than ours. I’m sure it is a common experience for the average parent. Parenting is a beautiful, frustrating, rewarding, costly experience.

I remember seeing the bumper sticker message, “God has many children, but I’m His favorite.” At the time, I thought it was trite and pretentious. But in fatherhood, I’ve come to appreciate the sentiment more.

To the ancient Jew God was a distant, holy, judge with meticulous requirements of strained obedience. To Jesus, much to the disciples shock, God was an all present daddy with a strong tender love (Mark 14:36).

God isn’t constrained in his affections like me. A unique biological bond melds my sons and I together for life. I can’t share that bond with others. But an eternal God who revealed Himself Father can burn with meticulous equal paternal care for many children. If we are “in Christ” then the Father treats us as His own precious begotten Son. The love He has for Christ is shed abroad in our hearts with supernatural efficacy (Romans 5:5). If the Spirit of His Son cries out “Abba!” in us, then the daddy must give His gracious preference to us as His adopted children (Galatians 4:6).

God’s love is so great we can all be His “favorite child.” (1 John 3:1)

And no matter how physically old or theologically wise we become we will never be more than a child.

Our stumbling hardened spoiled rotten hearts can’t violate our position or His affection. Children we are forevermore.

Sometimes Josiah is stingy in sharing toys with Gideon for no discernible reason, sometimes Gideon pitches a hysterical fit when we deny him chocolate kisses. At the end of tough parenting days, I hug them and kiss them and I’m as proud of them as the first day we met in the hospital.

Their position as my sons can never be broken by circumstance or disobedience.

Neither can our positions as His sons and daughters. Forevermore.

God signed the covenant with His own Son’s perfect blood. Christ’s blood is thicker than water, unfaithfulness, addictions, rebellions, selfishness and in the end: death.

Bryan Daniels

Murder of Men on Music Row (George Jones)

George Jones
Swag

I didn’t leave country music. Country music left me.

When news of the passing of the Possum, George Jones, hit me yesterday I instantly thought about the song largely dedicated to him, “Murder on Music Row.” Alan Jackson and George Strait sum up the angst most traditional country musicians have felt the past 20 years or so:

Legends like Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and Johnny Cash epitomized country music. They didn’t just sing about a life of hard drinkin’ and harder women, they barely lived through it. Country music used to have grit and authenticity. Now it has pop rock metrosexuals in bedazzled jeans and whitened teeth.

Who would you choose to have your back in a theoretical bar fight: Merle Haggard or Kenny Chesney? 1. Kenny Chesney is a midget with a fake tan. 2. A dude with a name like “Merle Haggard” has to be able to throw down.

I partly blame Garth Brooks. When the biggest country music star in the ’90s went and tried to create a cheesy pop rock alter ego, “Chris Gaines”, it knocked the wind out of traditional country’s soul. Hank Williams caused a minor tornado turning over in his grave after that spectacle. The timeless image of a worn lonesome cowboy with nothing but a guitar and broken heart was replaced by pyrotechnics, a rock band, and stupid antics that would make “Kiss” blush.

So terrible on so many levels...
So terrible on so many levels…

Don’t even get me started on country artists who try to rap. That genre mixing mess is a new kind of awful in my book. If you’re not good enough to primarily sing country or primarily rap, then. do. neither. please.

I’m not positing to be an expert. Just a concerned observer. My teenage angst years were spent with “Pearl Jam” and “Deftones”, but I always found a way to come back to my long-lost relative, Charlie Daniels, and the man in black, Johnny Cash. They seemed like kindred spirits on the dusty journey of life.

And that’s one thing I appreciate about traditional country. It’s transparent about human struggles and the dirt of life. It rarely celebrates infidelity or drunkenness, but it serves as a cautionary tale for those vices. There’s a visceral sorrow that accompanies those pictures of human depravity. A deep longing in the Possum’s voice that hopes to be better than his worst moments.

I don’t see reality in the carefully crafted public images of artists like Jason Aldean and Keith Urban. They talk about dirt roads and young loved lost but I can’t completely believe they’ve lived it. Same goes for disingenuous rap artists like Kanye West who talk about how hard they are (Taylor Swift could beat you in a slap fight bro). In my opinion, modern country folk artists like The Avett Brothers or Lone Bellow are picking up the mantle men like Jones and Cash have left behind. The rough mantle Rascal Flatts could never pick up due to their soft manicured hands.

So here’s to the restoration of men in modern music. And here’s a salute to no-show George Jones, I hope his legacy finds a good John Deere lawn mower and sunset to ride off into.

Bryan Daniels

Propaganda Of The Heart And The Butt Naked Truth

 

World War 2 Propanganda

 

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies to our faces.

We’re discussing propaganda in my classes this week, particularly World War 2 Nazi, Communist, and American propaganda. World War 2 attached darker negative connotations to a word that was once largely innocuous. Up until then most “propaganda” campaigns had to do with public health and voting.

Propaganda once had to do with informing the public.

The great war morphed it into an effective way of persuading the public opinion about foreign policy.

navy propaganda poster

Neutrality in message, if there ever was such a fanciful thing, has long since fallen by the wayside. Every million dollar word in television, print, and media outlets has been carefully crafted to persuade. Products, ideas, and feelings are being peddled in increasingly creative and all permeating ways.

“This miracle drug will give you suicidal thoughts, but trust me, you need it to cure depression.”

Propanganda can only do so much damage, as long as an informed public is aware of the implications:

Namely,

Objectivity is a myth. Not just in political campaigns or advertising. In apologetics, music, journalism, science, religion, education, everywhere. No one person or institution is neutral about their opinions, otherwise it wouldn’t be their opinions. Everyone has a truth to sell, even if they are selling themselves as the only objective truth seekers.

Deeply held presuppositions are a given.

Everyone either stands on foundational truth where they are the final judge over it all, or they kneel under a foundational truth outside of themselves. Truth is under subjection to them and their whims, or truth is something fixed and greater and over them.

What we see in the world is not the whole story.

What we share with the world is not the whole story.

Government misinformation is not what kills the soul, it is the self created personal misinformation that will do us in. The divided heart of what we show ourselves to be and what we know ourselves to be.

I’m sure we all switch positions with hypocritical fluidity, sometimes as inerrant judge and sometimes as the cross-examined defendant. We’re not just being dictated to we are also dictating. Every dressed up propped up persona we push in public is self-made propaganda. A monolithic filtered message meant to persuade people who and what we are.

Nice.

Funny.

Talented.

Authentic.

Smart.

Humble.

Giving.

Hardworking.

The human soul is a perpetual propagating machine. I project witty and amicable, but the deeps are closer to generic and judgmental.

There is only one in the epoch of human history who was exactly who he said he was. Only one born of woman who never put on a front. He didn’t just have the truth, He IS truth (John 14:6).

Jesus is the death of our heartsick fixation with propaganda. He tears the layers of self constructed facades down to expose barenaked humanity. The lonely human soul that burns a hole staring through the ceiling late at night is the soul He covers with his blood.

At the most foundational level we know this stripping is what we want and what we need. We come into this world butt naked and unashamed and we spend our whole lives longing to be restored to that innocent state. We may take heart: Propaganda, in the end, will be destroyed with the invincible exposing gospel truth found in Jesus.

Bryan Daniels

Four Reasons You Should Wear Velcro Shoes

Velcro Shoes
Yes. High heeled Velcros. You’re welcome ladies.

They’re stylish

I mean this is obvious. Nothing says fashion statement more than two straps across the top of your foot. Nothing screams class more than that obnoxious ripping noise those straps make when you take them off. They come in three primary colors: Black, gray and hospital white. These colors can match any wardrobe combination. Jeans, slacks, capris, jorts you name it. You want to be on the cutting edge? Then strap these on and watch the envious glares coming your way.

They’re cost efficient

I get my beautiful pair from Wal-Mart. Where else can I get a brand new pair of shoes for $13.83 including tax? I don’t have to deal with those greasy shoe salesman one finds at FootLocker or Journeys, cause Wal-Mart employees avoid you like the black plague anyways. I can buy my shoes, diapers, a gallon of milk, and a bag of funions and I still have enough money left over to take my wife out to Shoney’s for the weekend.

They’re time saving

Cause ain’t nobody got time for shoestrings anymore. Seriously, do you still use a carrier pigeon or do you text message? Get with the times, velcro is the latest time saving trend to open up your schedule for more Call of Duty and Facebook creeping. That’s exactly why NASA or someone originally made this groundbreaking fabric.

They will make you feel young and wise

Who are the only people you see wearing velcro shoes in our society? That’s right: Three year olds and eighty-three year olds. But you have the benefit of wearing them while no longer (or not yet) wearing a diaper. Velcro shoes will give you that youthful vigorous look AND that worn and wise look. The best of both worlds. All rolled in one shoe. You can instantly fit in during a skating rink party or a game of Bingo. This shoe is fluid.

Bryan Daniels

What are some additional benefits of Velcro Shoes we should consider?

That Moment You Lose Your Two Year Old Son

You know that moment when you’re at your in law’s house and you’re laying on the couch recovering from the eight pounds of spicy chili you just ate for lunch and your mother in law and four-year old son come in from working in the garden and your wife asks, “Where’s Gideon?” your two-year old son and your mother in law says in bewilderment “I thought he was with you!” and everyone freezes for one second like they were slapped in the face and then four adults sprint and scatter to separate corners of the large property where ditches and tractors and busy roads are now seen as death traps and they almost leave your four year old behind in the process and the world slows down to a stumbling pace and a fog develops around the corners of your eyes and you ask the neighbors if they’ve seen a two-year old riding on a four-wheeler and they ask, “You let a two-year old ride a four-wheeler?!” and you want to explain that it is battery-powered and slow but you don’t have time so you keep running and scouring the perimeter of the neighborhood in a breathless panic and you scream “Gideon!” what seems like a million times fearing the unspoken worst and knowing your wife is about to pass out about right now and you sprint back to your house two doors down and check the back yard and see nothing but toys and you feel like this moment will change your life forever as a dark cloud approaches your hope and you yell at your next door neighbor standing in his driveway  “Gideon’s lost!” and he looks at you with a puzzled expression and points and says

“He’s right there standing next to your front door”

And you round the corner to see your little red-headed boy playing with the faucet, thirsty, waiting for you to come home, wondering what all the fuss is about

Has that ever happened to you?!

Bryan Daniels

Why I Am Thankful For Men Who Wear Skinny Jeans

Skinny Jeans

When I saw the disgusting fad grip the nether regions of young men 4-5 years ago I assumed it would fizzle away like Val Kilmer’s career (I guess you could never top Doc Holiday anyways). But it hasn’t gone away.

The grip is just as tight today.

They’ve blunted the force of the word with the new description, “straight jeans” but that’s like calling an anorexic super model “big-boned.” Don’t spin the facts boys. You’ve squeezed into a preteen girls pair of jeans. And everybody, even old ladies with cataracts, can see it.

I’ve come to appreciate the natural function of these tourniquet pants. Bearded boys who wear skinny jeans are doing society a favor. Man boys who wear skinny jeans, like male cyclists who ride on women’s bike seats, are weeding out their impish brand of genetic code from the natural selective process.

To put it plainly: Skinny jeans beget impotence. At least I’m convinced they must. It cannot be healthy to restrict and constrain your future children within these terrible torture devices that would be illegal in a Vietnam prison camp. But we have a whole generation of boys who put them on willingly, in the fancy name of fashion.

It’s not just the feminization of young American men I have an issue with. It’s the sterilization of young American men. It’s not just that many women are naturally repulsed by this issue, it’s that our male bodies necessarily reject such nonsense, anatomically speaking.

But it won’t always be this way.

A side benefit of this skinny jean demise, as a friend put on Facebook, “You know it’s bad when America has a skinny jean fad and an obesity problem…nothing good can come from that.”

Yes, I’ve seen the blinding public spectacle of a chubby dude like me, squeezing himself into jeans six sizes too small. It makes one sad for America. But he is weeding out the future possibility of having his own boys who will pick up his terrible fashion habit. So it is also an opportunity for Murica! to rejoice.

Skinny jeans will eventually be the end of men who are inclined to wear skinny jeans. And for that, for the future sake of this proud nation, I am thankful for them.

Bryan Daniels

PS Please don’t take this too seriously….

Blog Tips: An Important Addendum About Goldfish and Rob Bell

blog tips

In the comments section this past week, astute fellow bloggers like Steven Sawyer, Cliff Richardson and Dave Knickerbocker brought up some excellent blog tips. The gist of their comments was important enough to add an epilogue to this weeklong blogging series. This undervalued, and misused, aspect of blogging can murder the benefits of great content and active networking.

I had to learn the hard way on this:

Blog Tip: Format for Goldfish

Aesthetics matter. Especially for internet readers. Almost all blog perusers scan before they engage. If you intimidate them with daunting thesis post length or gargantuan paragraphs you will lose them forever. This is a blog not an academic journal. 

A loose guideline I have is to keep most every post between 400-600 words. I try to keep every paragraph 3-5 sentences long at the most. We have the collective cultural ADD of goldfish nowadays, so we better believe our readership reflects that.

Isolate important sentences as a summary to previous paragraphs.

Some charge this style is too Rob Bell-esque in that it uses formatting and terse prose form to engage the reader instead of using extended logical argumentation.

So what?!

Rob Bell didn’t invent this writing technique, and we may lament about his theological blunders, but there is no doubt about his effectiveness as a communicator. We can write for the strict English professor or we can write for the college kid addicted to porn and Call of Duty.

Which one do you think is actually reading your blog?

Blog Tip: Simplicity Is The Way

Simplicity is a must. You want your crown jewel to be your message, not the cyber awards you’ve won, the links on your sidebar, or the fact you’re selling books/shirts/toe rings/etc. Some people insist on creating their own themes and web design, and for the most part my advice on that is:

Don’t do it.

Use someone else’s expert work on the technical side. Otherwise, your blog will probably look campy and give viewers a seizure like a Japanese cartoon. First time visitors should notice your work, not the fact that there is a generic tropical ocean scene in the back ground.

Break up posts with pertinent headings (H2) so readers are clear about your message. Bold and italics are fine tools if not overused. An image or two can focus content, but don’t get all diarrhea with posters and inspirational messages you found on Facebook. You’re more creative and unique than that.

Clarity of message should be the priority, and the aesthetic of your blog should contribute to that end.

Hope that helps. I sincerely hope you find the platform your talented writing voice deserves.

Peace and grace,

Bryan Daniels

Final Blog Tip: Growing Your Blog Platform

building your blog platform

So you dove in the deep end and started a blog with WordPress/Blogger/etc. You have even contributed world shaking content to the internet conversation and have multiple published pieces submitted on your site.

You’ve shared the work with family and friends through email/Facebook/Twitter/etc.

Everything is perfect, right?

Wrong.

You’ve probably noticed that barely a drizzle of traffic has been the standard for your daily stats. One day a tumbleweed even rolled across your Dashboard.  Some SEO algorithm god has thrown a few stray bones your way, but they have been totally unrelated to your blog discussion (real example: “Rastafarian polygamous women”).

Now I know numbers don’t tell the final story (Jesus only had a “following” of twelve for Peter’s sake!).

But let’s be honest. No one cuts their wrist open on a computer screen, hits “Publish” and then says,

“Man, I really hope nobody reads this. And if they do I really hope they don’t comment on it….”

We all hope for an audience. And the only blog tip I’ve successfully used (other than trying to build great content) in growing an audience platform is simply this:

Networking

Not random machine gun networking. Networking with like blogs that have like interests. On this blog, I try to relate everything I write about back to a Christ centered message. So I may write about Tim TebowCall of DutyLil Wayne, or fatherhood. But I always try to relate everything to Christ, because in the end all that matters for all eternity is our relationship to Jesus Christ.

So when “networking” I try to find blogs like mine, with writers who simply have an invincibly high regard for the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is a large and flourishing Christian community among WordPress bloggers, and it is quite easy to find them through tag surfing and searching titles and keywords through the WordPress reader. And when I find those blogs I do something equally simple:

I connect.

Whether it be through a short encouraging comment, a like, maybe a follow (have to be more conservative with those), or whatever “connecting” means available. I have found this to be true:

People want to connect.

They want to be encouraged. They want to know other people are reading, digesting and appreciating their contribution to the e-world. Many times I will connect with people with completely different denominational influences, worldviews, and outlooks on life. I appreciate their content not because I always agree with it, but because I enjoy their writing style or ability to form a compelling story or argument.

You can stay within the comfortable bounds of your Dashboard, keep submitting excellent content, and just cross your fingers and hope the SEO gods are good to you. Or you can connect. Maybe it is the timeless biblical principle of reaping and sowing, but after you reach out and connect then usually the favor is reciprocated. You may get a friend and follower out of it.

This is for my readership who have gospel saturated Christ exalting blogs: I want you to build your platform. But you’ll have to spend about as much time networking as you do writing for consistent growth to happen. We don’t have to have subversive motives, this is just the way the world of blogging works.

Don’t worry so much about your own writing platforms, site stats and getting a mad following. Get out of your Dashboard and make a big deal out of other people’s blogs.

Connect, encourage, and make someone else’s day better.

They’ll probably return the favor.

Bryan Daniels

Three Blog Writing Tips For Rookie Bloggers

blog writing tips
Trust: This would never be my wife.

Let’s pretend you took my advice yesterday and started a blog. Being only barely above par with weblog technicalities, I’d have to refer you to someone else on the code end of blog design. But I can give you a tip or three on the most important aspect of blogging: Content.

If content is king then networking is the queen that takes him places. But if you don’t feel confident in your core message and writing voice you won’t feel confident sharing your work with others.

No one wants to strain their last brain cell while being subject to the harrowing glow of a blank screen. So what to write about? I’ll answer that question with three questions:

Blog Writing Tip #1: What do you daydream about?

Where does your mind go when it’s not constrained by school, work, or dirty laundry? What’s the default mode of your thought patterns? God, family, baseball, food, MMA, travel, guns, reggae music? I’m not saying all topics are equal, but everyone has preferences they’re passionate about.

You have a unique niche that is probably shared with millions of internet perusers.

And that’s what the world needs: People who are sharing their passion. Some may suggest you go with what you know. But I say go with what you love. Sharing your textbook knowledge won’t sustain you or attract others, sharing your passion will.

You will learn as you write and write as you learn, anyways.

Blog writing Tip #2: What’s happened to you?

I’ve shared this before but it can’t be stressed enough. People know where to find academic resources they trust. They’re not at a personal blog to just learn about a topic, they want to learn about a person. Unfortunately, neighbors rarely share an evening cigar on the back porch anymore; instead, they read your blog over their morning coffee.

Reading your blog is the way folks meet you for coffee.

Give personal anecdotes. If you have a blog with an apologetic thrust share personal testimonies and stories about your apologetic endeavors. Show how you’ve failed in the past or how funny cultural misunderstandings have left you dumbfounded.

In the past month I’ve written about my chicken pox, blood brother, back hair and almost getting murdered by a hot tub.

Draw from your personal history. You have a reservoir of interesting stories to tell.

Just be real. Or as my hipster friends say, be authentic. Share you.

Blog Writing Tip #3: What’s in the news?

If your favorite daydream or personal history is a dead-end for now, hit up Google News. I guarantee there is a fascinating current event, weird crime, stupid scandal, or political debate that you have a personal opinion about.

Something in the news will get your creative blood pressure pumping.

You don’t have to be belligerent about heated topics. You can give a careful nuanced social commentary that adds balance to the global conversation. And that’s what blogging is at its best: A conversation. Soap box’d monologues may come easy for O’Reilly, but the wages of spin is blog death for you.

I’d be careful here. Ranting about the Kardashians comes natural to me, but that doesn’t mean I should waste my time blogging about it. It also would garner a decent amount of “hits” and “shares” by the reading public.

But as my boy, Martin Luther, said, “It’s not right or safe to let your conscience down.”

Fellow bloggers: What are some other important blog writing tips for the rookie blogger?

Bryan Daniels

3 Reasons You Should Start a Blog

Blog side
The Universal Blog sign for Gangstas like us

It’s hard

If you want a challenge, try finding a coherent writing voice. I am unorganized by nature, and gathering my thoughts to express a logical argument or non belligerent piece of journaling is counter intuitive. My car looks like a teacher’s lounge and coach’s locker room exploded in it. My closet (to my wife’s chagrin) doesn’t look much better.

If a cluttered desk intimates a cluttered mind, then I have a hoarding cat lady with a nutella addiction living in my head.

Blogging helps me focus. Sometimes I’m not sure what I believe about a topic until I endeavor to plot my thoughts and write it down.

It’s hard, yet necessary, as a human with God-given reasoning faculties to sharpen our communication skills. Blogging is one anvil that helps do this.

It’s humbling

Sometimes a personal, more vulnerable, piece is written for the public’s peering eye. Sometimes it’s so close to home it’s like slicing a wrist open and bleeding all over the keyboard. Sometimes the reading public is totally unaffected by this.

That’s humbling. Stats pages, in themselves, can be humbling.

The most thoughtful heart-rending posts garner nary a drizzle. The most trite off the cuff pieces go viral. Ok not really viral, but comparatively shared much more than serious pieces.

In blogging your work is submitted before a great cloud of witnesses, or in some cases “critics”, and that is a constructive thing. Community input keeps you humble and open to others in the world. And we really are writing for the world: Otherwise we wouldn’t be sharing our thoughts with the world-wide web (aka Da Internetz).

It helps

People really are aching to be encouraged, spoken into, and valued by others. A word of gracious affirmation is not the autopilot of our hearts and mouths. Life has a way of punching folks square in the soul. What we write can be the healing balm that alleviates those wounds.

You have a unique God-given voice no one in the world has. You have a circle of entrusted folk around you who would never listen to me, but will give an interested ear to you. Saturate those souls with grace filled words that spurn, engage and fascinate them on this journey.

God ensures that those who bless will in return be blessed. You don’t have to be the next Spurgeon or Twain, just a soul who cares about fellow souls and words.

There’s three reasons you should start a blog (or continue writing one if you’ve already started).

My fellow blogging readership: What’s some other reasons for starting a blog you can offer for prospective bloggers?