Driscoll and Ditches and Dirt and Us

As an old-young man: There’s some things I don’t wrestle with anymore.

Yet there’s other things that have my psyche crippled like a Rhonda Rousey armbar.

Ten, OK maybe two, years ago I would gladly jump into a variety of online political or apologetic debates. Acting like my two cents was a million bucks I’d weld philosophic catchphrases like a Thor Hammer:

“Out of context!”

“Straw Man!”

“Ad Hominem, sir!”

Driscoll is wrong and so is everyone

I don’t inject myself into those blog comments and Facebook threads anymore. Maybe it’s life taking me by the shoulders and shaking some sense into my big ornery head. Maybe I’m blinded by the apparent planks protruding from my own eyes. Maybe that sounds humble-bragish, it probably is.

But my mission has become more simple lately. To love my beautiful pregnant wife as the Bridegroom has loved the church. To rear my sons and model manhood to them in a way that makes them see their daily need for Jesus. To put to death the nasty flesh that still lurks around the corners of my own heart. To sow into fellow strugglers and friends the gospel seeds of grace. To teach and coach in such a way that my students and athletes will see that life is bigger than school and sports.

If I strive to do these well: How will I have time to be the interweb keeper of theological/political/philosophical/ecclesiastical/whatever fidelity?

I’ve admittedly spent too much time on Twitter and Facebook (just reactivated) this last week of my summer. One common article theme was regurgitated within my social media circle: The scandal(s) of Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church outing of Act 29 Network.

Five years ago I would have cared a lot more about this cultural Christian news. That’s not to say I don’t care, because there’s still a latent scandal-seeking rubber necker inside me scratching to get out. But there’s too many battled and bruised souls (including mine) in the world to give two rips about the latest fabricated scandal. You could replace “Driscoll” with “Gungor” here and nothing would change about my sentiments.

This isn’t a just Christian problem. It’s a human problem. If it wasn’t Mark Driscoll or Gungor for us it’d be the Kardashians or Jay Z or insert some other political or celebriscandal.

What we humans end up having is a strange echo chamber of faux outrage towards fresh juicy news about public figures. And we almost never really know the people we rage against. Their public persona is largely made by the marketing whims of others. So we breathe our own fiery rhetoric into the heated reactions to reactions all clamoring for anonymous interactions with people we don’t care to meet or know.

If I may corner my own “tribe”: The online Christian community spends so much time and energy being angry at people they don’t know or never will meet I wonder how they have any time and energy to love the people they do know and meet everyday.

I believe the scandals we long to gaze into say more about us than the people involved. Maybe we want to see a chink in the armor of the best among us. Maybe if we peer close enough we’ll see through the shiny marketing and find a soul that’s hemorrhaging a bit like ours. A fellow sinner stumbling in the dark yet desperately reaching for the light.

We need to know the imperfections of our perfect. That we’re not alone in frequently falling into the ditches our own shovels have dug.

I’m with you.

And I believe grace lifts us out of those ditches again and again.

And it enables us to help lift others. The nearest ditch faller is the one we run towards. The souls closest to us need the hand of grace we’ve found in Christ. Not our self-righteous posturing, just our honest forgiven self.

I may pull you out today. Tomorrow I’ll need you to pull me out. It can’t be from afar or from the safe confines of a raging online persona. Let’s make this commitment to one another:

We’re gonna have to get dirty at some point.

Bryan Daniels

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I’m Quitting Facebook: And the Fantasy of Social Media

I recently deactivated my personal Facebook and I’m in the process of deleting my Twitter.

I’m tired of being a slave.

Not that this route of abstinence is necessary for everyone. I’m sure many can use such social media tools in moderation. But for now, I’m not one of them.

I’ve seen the dire effects of social media on this SmartPhone generation I teach everyday. If my ninth graders are not texting, they’re tweeting. If they’re not tweeting, they’re sharing pics on Instagram. If they’re not Instagramming, they’re liking on Facebook. If they’re not liking on Facebook, they’re Snapchatting. If they’re not snapchatting, they’re sharing their Flappy Bird score. If they’re not sharing their flappy bird score, they’re texting…

And so their virtual world turns, revolving around 3 X 2 inch screen that makes everything, especially relationships, smaller. With a hunched posture and lowered gaze, they bow before their handheld idols all day long.

My drug of choice the past year(s) has been Facebook and Twitter. The little red number that pops over the little blue world has been a confirmation of my social value. The retweet or the favorite has been a welcome endorsement of my public thoughts. None of the satisfaction lasts, and none of it has depth.

I want to try to plant my time and resources into the people that matter most.

Hopefully, twenty years from now my sons will remember a dad who joyfully Hulk Smashed them onto the living room couches during their early childhood. They won’t remember the brief time dad’s witty post on Skinny Jeans went viral.

Hopefully, forty years from now my wife will remember her husband looking into her eyes before bed every night and saying with focused intensity “I love you.” She won’t remember all the funny YouTube cat videos I showed her or the times we spent all night gazing into our Iphones.

And I could try to be balanced and nuanced and put boundaries and clear guidelines up as far as my social media use. 1. Only fifteen minutes a day 2. No use right when I get home from work ….. etc. I have in the past. But it’s easier for this dog to return to his vomit than learn new tricks.

The chimera of social media has stunted our relational growth. We’ve swung into the carnival door on the whim of our thumbs and now we measure every real world experience and relationship with the fleeting fantasy of faux social contact. I’ve heard normal ninth grade girls mention they have thousands of Instagram followers. They only personally know a fraction of their followers. They largely have no clue who is viewing or using their pictures for fancy sake.

That is scary.

But that big contrived social media platform affirms their worth.

“It’s not real,”

I told a high school FCA group yesterday about our obsession with social media “relationships.” And those words probably resonated with me more than them. There was a time (like 15 years ago) people met physically for face to face encounters and fellowship. Over tea or barbecue or wiffle ball.

But there’s also a cost involved in that: It’s harder to hide a zit or bad hair day in the flesh.

It’s harder to be inauthentic in the flesh. As a result, it’s easier to be known in the flesh.

And so the unfortunate catch is this: We’ve so controlled our public persona that no one really knows us. Sure, they know the facade we’ve carefully constructed to be seen by others. But they don’t know the hurts, dreams, fears and failures at our soul level. We don’t bare those groanings to an inanimate screen. We only bare those groanings to fellow souls we trust.

And who we trust has gotten narrower and narrower because our social life has been imprisoned within the dull glare of a smart box. And one of our deepest human longings, to be truly known and accepted, has been blurred and manipulated through the lens of a device we control…or controls us. And I know it’s not a handheld issue, but a heart issue at stake here. This is true with anything in life that lords over us.

So I will attempt to break out of the box for a while.

To be a better husband, father, and friend.

To be known, and to know.

Bryan Daniels

*I will still post on this blog irregularly as time permits.

A Glass Raised To Our Worst Days

Being alone with our thoughts is a noisy brutal exercise.

Unmet desires parade across the screen of our mind. Untouchable. Voices speak. Some tell us what we are, others what we are not. In this world of supposed haves and have nots, what we lack becomes what defines us.

A lack of human affection in hand.

A lack of money in the bank.

A lack of purpose in career.

And we feel stuck in a perpetual posture of always reaching yet never grasping. Chasing the American Dream is like chasing bubbles. Through our fingertips it floats off and mockingly lands in our neighbor’s manicured yard in plain sight from our cracked kitchen window.

That dream dangles ever before us. And it’s attached to a string. The string is attached to a stick. And the stick protrudes from our soul; an obtuse and painful reminder of what we don’t possess.

Yet in reality, I have so much. Even on my worst days.

On my worst days I have a beautiful wife who is also my best friend and partner in clowning folks.

On my worst days I have two healthy boy ninjas who play Avengers on the living room floor with me.

On my worst days I have a career I enjoy with an opportunity to impact future generations in a lasting way.

On my worst days I have a roof, clothing, and an abundance of food and water at my disposal.

My worst days, even days of inconsolable longing, ain’t so bad.

Even on my worst days, I’m granted so much more than I deserve.

Especially that grace that just won’t stop. Relentless in its generous affection. Radiating from our elder Brother and Savior who sits and invites us to sit at His Banquet table. This spread surely awaits us regardless of the quality day we’re having right now. The date is saved and sealed with His own bloody ring.

So here’s to our worst days.

We can eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we will live to do it forevermore.

Bryan Daniels

Skinny Jeans, Roaring Lambs, and Prophetic Names

The interwebs are a strange unpredictable beast. You may cut your blogging heart open and bleed it all over the keyboard and get a drizzle of a hits. Or you may submit a silly tongue and cheek cultural meandering about the unfortunate prevalence of men in skinny jeans that causes an SEO stirring.

In blogging, you just never know.

I have taken an extended hiatus from consistent blogging since the beginning of the summer. Other than a post per month or so, I’ve been too busy or too bleh to sit down and organize coherent thoughts. But a blog a few years old with a decent amount of content brings anonymous search engine perusers to my neck o’ the woods on a daily basis.

So here’s, by and far, what people have searched for and found on “Chief of the Least” during my summer (and now fall) Sabbatical. In order:

Why I am Thankful for Men Who Wear 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…..”

I Wish You Could Have Sat In That Room That Night

“In addition to being an educator at a public high school, I’m also an assistant football coach. Last weekend, we took 50 players to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes full contact football camp. The camp included spirited scrimmages, upbeat services, and plenty of team building time. On the last night the speaker gave a gospel invitation to come to Christ. Twenty four student athletes from our team alone stood up and came forward as they professed their need for Christ…..”

The Revelation of The Lion Lamb Man

We left the dejected apostle, stricken with grief, with no hope in our last blog post (Revelation 5:1-4).  But an angelic elder comes to comfort John in the very next verse.

The first figure John is introduced to is a Lion(verse 5). A lion is a beast of prey; the noble creatures are strong, majestic, and dangerous. You don’t fight with a lion, you submit to a lion. Lions aren’t hunted as prey, they are hunters.

Christ, like a lion, devours His enemies. The book of Revelation displays Christ as a sword wielding horse riding warrior with a tat on his thigh….”

Naming Your Child: Prophetic?

“Names were rich in meaning in the ancient days. You didn’t just name your children wily nily whatever-sounds-good-at-the time names.

A hodge podge assimilation of syllables or fleeting cultural icons would never do for a child’s name way back when (ie I’ve ran across more than one ”Nike” or ”Mercedes”). A regrettable upward trend in 2010 girl baby names shows that “Kendra” and “Kourtney” with a “K” are becoming more popular among young parents. Why? Because of the notorious reality shows of Kourtney Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson (former playmate).

In the olden days of biblical history, a child’s name held a certain foreshadowing weight to it….”

So there are the top 4 search items of “Chief of The Least” as it has remained relatively passive in the last few months. I assure you, “Chief” Daniels is busy, with family and school and football and other important life items. I appreciate your continued interest and readership to this little blog project despite its dry seasons.

His peace and grace to you and yours,

Bryan Daniels

My Pithy Answers To Anonymous Googlers

Is Tim Tebow a bad Christian

One of the mysteries of blogging involves the enigmatic role of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in sending internet searchers your blog’s way. Many come with disturbing dark searches I’ll leave unmentioned, some come with weird puzzling searches that leave me wondering for more (IE “Rastafarian Polygamous Women”).

Many are in the form of questions, questions I’m not sure they received clear answers for in my disjointed ramblings. So here’s my attempt to pithily answer a few random search engine questions that have popped up on my stat radar the past month. I’ll keep it short and non nuanced. If you need clarification ask and a longer post shall be heretofore granted to you.

What does the gospel of grace say about leaving a church that preaches the law?

If it strictly ONLY preaching law (like women being unclean in their time of month, or shrimp being off-limits to Christians) then lovingly share the gospel with the leadership while you share your reasons for leaving (first of all, any kind of shrimp makes me rejoice).

If it preaches what seems like a mixture (which is what I think you’re saying) then sit down with the leadership of the church over coffee and learn about their story and testimony. See where they’re coming from. Most preachers see the ten Mosaic Commands as a rule of life for believing Christians, and as a result sound more behavior modification than grace in their public speech. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re placing the cart of works before the horse of faith. It may mean they haven’t found how revolutionary, freeing, heart changing, and permanent the undiluted gospel of grace is for all of life. Help them with that by modeling it.

Why be an educator?

It’s challenging, rewarding, discouraging and incredibly interesting. Teachers (and coaches) will absolutely have a greater impact on youth than physically or emotionally absent parents. You want to be a light in the midst of the demonic darkness? Come to public education. Future lost generations need mentors to sow love and time into them.

What has been done for justice to the holocaust victims?

I don’t know if anything can be done on this side of eternity concerning real justice for over 20 million lives brutally cut short. Tribunals? Reparations? Band Aids on gaping flesh wounds. My best offer of justice is that of a coming perfect Judge and King, who can make indescribable beauty out of the most ugly heap of ashes (Isaiah 61:3). King Jesus will judge rightly those criminally guilty, and comfort perfectly those lives shattered by tragedy.

I was a bad witness as a christian can i fix it?

Absolutely not. But God can. That’s where grace comes in and murders the shame of being a “bad witness.” You will continue to fall short in your life and that will continue to highlight your continual need of Christ and his daily grace. The best you can do is point to his perfect life and death and life again on your behalf. His gospel doesn’t make you better, it gives you life. This living mercy is new every morning, which is the greatest news for mess-ups like me (Leviticus 3:23)

Is Tim Tebow a Bad Christian?

No. He seems like a bold, genuine, pleasant Christian young man. He seems like the type of positive role model kids need in this day with replete cautionary tales like Snooki or Lindsey Lohan dominating culture. Tebow relies on the same grace we all must be given day to day. Reference “Tim Tebow and How to Be a Bad Christian Witness” for more thoughts.

Should 55 yr old men wear skinny jeans?

No. Never. Absolutely Not. No comprende. What is wrong with you people?!

Hope that helps some of you Internet searchers and lurkers.

Peace and grace,

Bryan Daniels

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

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