On Taking A Knee

After more than a hundred NFL players chose to either take a knee or stay in the locker room during the Star Spangled Banner several weeks ago, people didn’t hesitate to share their feelings.

Dustin and I were taking about how one of the purposes of taking a knee was to generate a conversation about race, police brutality, white supremacy, etc., but the original point is often missed because of the national anthem and American patriotism.

Instead of having those conversations, we either yell at people on Facebook or we cocoon ourselves with people who agree with and think like us. As an alternative, we asked a few friends and family members to help us with that conversation. We may not agree, but the main rules were no name-calling and keep it clean.

As our friends thoughts roll in we’ll be sharing them here. If you missed the first post you can check it out here. Next up is our friend Megan. Honored to have her share her thoughts with you.

I have never considered myself particularly patriotic. My early memories about our country are more about disappointment in laws, policies, and wars than any real pride in being from a great place. When Texas passed a law in my sophomore year of high school that required we recite the US and Texas pledge every morning, I rolled my eyes and stood silently. I found overt displays of patriotism distasteful, and for a long time, I thought that meant I didn’t actually care very much about being American.

What I’ve found in the last year is that while I haven’t felt connected to the symbols of America that are touted as emblematic of our country and its values (e.g., the flag, the anthem, the pledge), I do have very emotional ties to physical acts of protecting and promoting equity for those who remain disadvantaged. Walking with thousands in the Women’s March in Kentucky. Listening to Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (my senators who have been at the forefront of protecting Obamacare) speak at a healthcare rally at the Connecticut capital. Gathering with my small suburban community to hold a vigil for victims of white supremacy in the wake of Charlottesville. These are the moments where I’ve looked around and felt explicitly connected with the democratic ideals of this country—when I’ve actually felt patriotic.

L – The Women’s March in Lexington, KY, January 2017 (photo by Megan Faver Hartline); R – A vigil for victims of white supremacy in Wethersfield, CT, August 2017 (photo by Kaci White).

Part of why protesting matters to me now is how much more tenuous democracy and freedom feel. Even though there were many reasons to protest before the election—particularly, police violence and rampant inequity for people of color—I felt like we were making strides in the right direction, which made it seem okay for me to support activism from afar without fully participating in it. In the wake of a what felt like a drastic backtracking to me (though many people of color have pointed out that the election and actions of the Trump presidency are not really a reversal, as they are clearly aligned with this country’s centuries-long history of white supremacy), I see now how necessary it is for me to be involved in protest and activism as a means of ensuring progress toward the vision of America I hope for.

So you can imagine how I feel about the fact that Colin Kaepernick still does not have a job and that the NFL is considering requiring all players to stand for the anthem.

As Kaepernick himself and many, many others have already said, NFL players are not kneeling to disrespect the flag or the troops or America in general. They are protesting the violent treatment of black and brown people at the hands of the justice systems in this country. Black and brown people are three times more likely to be killed by police and more likely to be unarmed when killed by police. In 2017, 931 people have been killed by police. Only six officers have been charged with a crime, which is about 1%, and historically, half of those charged will ever serve jail time. (Statistics from Pod Save the People and Mapping Police Violence). Again and again, they do not receive justice. That is why NFL players are kneeling during the national anthem.

I’ve heard that this doesn’t seem like an effective protest or that there is a better place or way to make their voices heard. But protests don’t happen to make you comfortable. They happen to raise questions and start conversations and incite action. For me, the election and especially the racial breakdown of who voted for Trump (63% of white men and 52% of white women) helped me realize that I needed to be more uncomfortable to fully realize the daily oppressions other Americans were facing. For others, maybe the NFL protests will be what eventually spurs them to action. But we probably won’t know for some time. Even though civil rights protestors are now viewed as national heroes, their actions were not popular in their time. In a 1966 poll, many Americans said they thought the Freedom Riders’ sit-ins or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech were ineffective and inappropriate protests, but they were wrong. And as the work of Civil Rights activists started continues today, it remains unclear how history will view today’s protests.

In Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin writes, “I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” What I’ve learned in the last year is that loving America and feeling patriotic are not limited to how we feel about our country’s symbols. Fully reckoning with the contemporary challenges of justice for so many people in our country is an important part of loving this place too.  

Kneeling during the national anthem is one in a long line of political acts that seeks to ensure greater equality, freedom, and liberty for people in our country. I understand that not everyone connects to patriotism in the same ways, but I would ask all of us to consider when we might be putting things above people. If we care more about flags and songs than the lives of people of color, then who exactly gets to be part of the land of the free?  


On Taking a Knee

After more than a hundred NFL players chose to either take a knee or stay in the locker room during the Star Spangled Banner two weeks ago, people didn’t hesitate to share their feelings. Courtney and I were taking about how one of the purposes of taking a knee was to generate a conversation about race, police brutality, white supremacy, etc., but the original point is often missed because of the national anthem and American patriotism.

Instead of having those conversations, we either yell at people on Facebook or we cocoon ourselves with people who agree with and think like us. As an alternative, we asked a few friends and family members to help us with that conversation. We may not agree, but the main rules were no name-calling and keep it clean.

First up is my friend Whit. He is a devoted Tennessee Titans and Eric Church fan. He and I have had a lot of great conversations about this, and I’m grateful for his thoughts.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attending Tennessee Titans games. When the team moved to Nashville from Houston in 1998, the head coach was Jeff Fisher, who has long been considered somewhat “old school” – he played for Mike Ditka on the famous ’85 Bears team – and he requested (read: probably insisted) that players stand in line on the sideline with their helmet under their left arm and with their right hand over their heart while the National Anthem was played. My uncle and I always made it into the stadium in time for the anthem and the flyover and it was always a very special moment. It was a moment of unity between opponents, and a time to reflect on the fact that we live in a great country and that flag cloaks us in a sense of liberty and justice.

 I’m grown up now (most of the time), and instances of individual athletes choosing to sit or kneel for the National Anthem, as well as thought-provoking and productive conversations with Dustin have opened my eyes to a few things. Most notably, the fact that not all individuals feel that sense of liberty and justice when they think of the American flag or hear the National Anthem. And until the flag does that for them, I can see why protests should continue, especially after the ridiculous remarks of the president last Friday in Huntsville.

 This past Sunday, as I scrolled through twitter wondering what the Titans and Seahawks had planned in terms of National Anthem action or lack thereof, I was reminded of an old Jackie Robinson quote that I had read years ago that I found to have aged well, in my opinion, and is sadly still largely accurate, at least as far as I can tell:

 “There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.”

 And I’ll be honest – this hurts my feelings. I recognize how selfish that sounds. As far as I know, I’ve never experienced prejudice based on the color of my skin, or my gender, or my religion, or anything else. I love America and I think I love what the American flag stands for, to me, and it hurts my feelings that somebody would want to sit or kneel during the Anthem that I’ve come to love hearing over the years. But I can no longer ignore the fact that the things the flag and Anthem mean to me may not hold the same meaning to everyone else. Again, this is especially applicable in light of what the worst president in American history said in Huntsville on Friday.

 But you know what else bothers me, perhaps even more? Information like this that came from the tremendous and unapologetically opinionated Titans beat writer Paul Kuharsky via Twitter: “Friend in loop tells me at least 6 different Nissan Stadium suite holders will walk or stay away if Titans players kneel for anthem”. My first reaction: “let em walk”. The more I think about this, the more I think that this would be addition by subtraction for the Titans/Nashville community. Let’s fill those suites with individuals willing to listen to the opinions of the players for whom they’re cheering. I don’t like the idea of bigots representing my city that I hold so dear or my fanbase.

 I am reminded of the complexity of this issue when I read the comments of individuals like Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy who said on Sunday, “no man – president or otherwise – will dictate my actions. I stand for the National Anthem because of troops overseas who risk life and limbs. The president’s words will not change my tribute”. I would like to think that this is close to being in line with my school of thought as well.

 All of this to say – I’ve come to accept that because of individuals’ circumstances, beliefs, experience and platform, I understand and appreciate why an athlete would be compelled to kneel or sit for the Star Spangled Banner. My wish is that the same individuals who do so use that same platform and their access to media to express what it is that they are protesting. I understand that many, most, or all of these individuals are protesting police brutality and racism. I say we make that abundantly clear and eliminate ambiguity, because ambiguity of protest message will continue to be a barrier for individuals who presume that these protests are anti-veteran or anti-America. I feel confident that most are not, but I think that clarity of message will help the people who cheered during Trump’s remarks understand why the kneeling is necessary, or hopefully at least start a conversation. And if we are having conversations such as these in the name of unity and understanding, I think we must all be on the same page regarding these issues. Police brutality and racism and indisputably and unequivocally wrong, and I think that the more people who recognize that Anthem protests are protesting THAT, and not the flag or the anthem itself, the more progress we will be able to make together.

Open Letter to Refugees

Dear refugees,

I’m sorry this is happening to you. Some of you left your homes years ago and traveled thousands of miles to seek refuge. You sold everything and risked even more for an idea there would be a safe haven for you in America, the land of the free. Many of you said good-bye to or buried your loved ones along the way, and I realize my sympathy will never be able to take that pain away.
Some of you have managed to navigate the maze of bureaucratic red tape and the most rigorous vetting process in the world to be approved for entry to the US. I can’t imagine the emptiness you may feel to have your hopes dashed by the stroke of our President’s pen, and now you must find a way to survive even longer in conditions I will never comprehend.
It breaks my heart to learn the leaders of our government have decided you are not welcome here because of the country in which you were born and the deity to whom you pray. I’m sorry that your humanity has been denied, and you are now branded a threat to our national security.
When you hear the news that your chance to come to America has been delayed, please know that we are better than this. We hear you, we know your stories, and we will welcome you here. If your patience, courage, and determination are wearing thin, please hang on. Don’t give up.


Because Laughing Is Better Than Crying Part 3

Sometimes you just need to LOL about parenting. Because if you can’t LOL about it what is even the point!? Kids are cray. (Part 1. Part 2.) 


I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy saying I don’t understand what “I want to drink my slushy outside inside” means. #ivolunteerastribute 

Wyatt: Can I bring my snack inside? Me: Yes. Wyatt (bursts into tears): No! I don’t want to bring my snack inside!! #mmmmkay 

I’m learning that “the other day” in a 2 year old’s mind is literally any day from birth until present. #likeseriouslykeepupmom

It’s such a funny story, my toddler is doing this thing where he has “fake hiccups” every day because he hates me. 

My favorite part about breakfast is when my toddler exclaims from the table that he’s eating leftovers he found from dinner. 

Someone walked in on me in a public restroom recently and I was literally like, “It’s fine. You can come in if you want. I have a 2 year old at home.” 

Does anyone know where I could get a sheet cake and 100 balloons on short notice? I tried to go play with my 2 year old and he told me that I could go away. #dontmindifido 

Try telling your 2 year old that there is still in fact food on their plate when they are hell bent that “no, it’s all gone.” #LOL

My 2 year old has become besties with the liquor store employees. I have no idea how that happened. We don’t even drink. #sarcasmfont

My 2 year old is in this phase where he ROARS really loud in your face when he’s in trouble. The other day I ROARED really loud back because, YOLO. #thelookonhisfacethough

I have an actual masters degree from a credible university and I just wiped my toddler’s tears off wrong. #🙄

What am I doing? Oh sorry, just practicing my “mommy watch this” face.

My toddler is obsessed with Thomas The Train. His favorite train is Percy except he can’t say the R and he pronounces the E like a U. So that’s been super fun for him to yell in public.

A fun thing about parenting is trying to decide if your toddler is screaming because they’re dying or because the crayon broke. 


God Is Faithful

It’s about to get old school up in here.  This post will take us back all the way to Genesis.  Not so far that we’re back in the Garden of Eden, but far enough back to when Abraham was still Abram.  In my Bible, it’s page 30.  Double-digit page number?  That’s right – way back in the day.

In Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave his nation and take a mysterious journey to a new home.  God doesn’t tell him where he is going, he simply says, “Go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).  Pretty vague, but Abram decided to be faithful so he can earn his place in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.  With this calling, God also tells Abram that he will bless him with many descendants and make him the father of many nations.

Sounds like a pretty cool deal.  At this point, Abram is 75 years old.  Science will tell us that this is a bad time to start having kids.  Not for a lack of trying, but Abram and his wife Sarai were unable to have kids up to that point.

In Genesis 15, God promises to bless Abram with a son.  Nothing seems to be happening, so Abram and Sarai decide to take matters into their own hands to “create” a son.  Abram sleeps with Hagar.  Surprise, Hagar gets pregnant.  Fantastic, Abram now has a son named Ishmael. Now, Abram is 86 years old.

Well, it turns out that God wasn’t very pleased with Abram taking the cause of baby-making into his own hands.  After Ishmael’s birth, an angel of the Lord says, “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will have hostility toward all of his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).  How’s that for a blessing?  By the way, followers of Islam are believed to be descendants of Ishmael.  There’s an “Ah-ha moment.”

Fast forward 13 years.  Abram is 99 years old, and God speaks to Abram saying, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.  I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers” (Genesis 17:2).  A few sentences away, Abram becomes Abraham and God tells Abraham that he is going to have a son with Sarah (Sarai got a name change, too), and they will name him Isaac.  

Great, all is fulfilled.  God was right.  God wins.

But it took 24 years for the ball to start rolling.

As you read this story, you can sense the frustration that Abraham had toward God.  “You told me your plan.  You said I would be a large part of that plan.  What are you waiting for?  I obeyed and took a mysterious journey to find a new home.  Your move.”  Abraham is praised for his righteousness and is the father of many nations, but he went through many of the same seasons that we often go through.

We want to believe that God is faithful, but it seems like nothing is happening.  Even after Abram chose to take matters into his own hands by having a baby with Hagar, God doesn’t immediately respond to Abraham (according to what’s written in Genesis).

But God is faithful.  He returns to Abraham 13 years later.  “Hey, remember that covenant I made with you, Abraham?  I know you’re 99 years old, but great things are about to happen.  You’re going to have a boy!  By the way, every male among you shall be circumcised…Including you”  (Check Genesis 17:10 – it’s in there).

Sometimes we wait.  Sometimes God waits.

In the end, He is faithful.

When was a time in your life when you waited for or doubted God’s faithfulness?

Lord of the Ants

On Sunday, Jon Acuff (writer and blogger of Stuff Christians Like) decided to talk about the age-old question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  As Christians, this is probably one of the questions we wrestle with the most, but we never truly seem to come to a reasonable conclusion.  We pass it off by saying, “It’s a part of God’s plan,” or “This world is not our home,” or some other type of religious word-vomit.

Jon said that this question stems from the “conflict between a beautiful God and horrible pain.”  It simply doesn’t make sense to us that God would create us and then throw us into miserable situations.  Yes, I get that.

It is as if we picture God to be the Lord of the Ants.

I recently heard a comedy bit from Dan Cummins about his fascination with ants and his affinity to ruining their lives.  Here a portion:

I came up with another game you can play with ants called “Lord of the Ants” because it occurred to me that anthills are like their own little world.  It’s a whole little civilization, a hierarchy, people living, working there, and then I could stand on that world and declare myself a god of their kingdom.  Sometimes I was a good god, and I nourished my children with gifts of bread and skittles and jerky.

He later adds that he finds it equally enjoyable to keep them in check with bug spray, fire, and the infamous magnifying glass.  He doesn’t want the ants to get too spoiled.

Some people analogize God to be like Santa Claus, a magical genie, a loving father, or a therapist, to name a few; but in a strange way I sometimes see God as this Lord of the Ants.  When things are going well, I imagine God pouring his blessings on me, taking care of me, and keeping the junk out of my life. 

Then everything hits the fan, and it is like God kicked my anthill.  When you knock over an anthill, what happens?  Well, if you’re in Texas and it happens to be a pile of red ants, they will maliciously attack you and make your legs itch for about two weeks.

The ants scurry around trying to fix everything – to put everything back together.

We turn to scriptures like I Peter 5:7 that says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” to give us encouragement.  More often than not, I wrongly paraphrase that verse to say, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he will fix it.”  This begins an inner struggle because I don’t want/need God’s help.  I can fix it myself.

So I start to scurry.  I work tirelessly to take control and put everything back together.  As my wife (who is also a counselor) would ask, “How’s that working out for you?”

The good thing is that God is not the Lord of the Ants.  No matter how likely it seems, God is not in the business of knocking down anthills.

Have you ever had a moment where you could relate to the idea of God being the Lord of the Ants?

When it seems like everything has “hit the fan” in your life, where do you find God?

Angry Old Lady

There is an elderly lady that lives around the corner.  When I go running in our neighborhood, I usually see her out in her garden, mowing the grass, or taking care of her flowers.  Well, over the weekend, her flowers were maliciously attacked, and she posted the following message at the end of her driveway for all to see on a large poster:

Dear God, please kill all the people who killed my flowers for no reason.  Sentence them to Psalm 109.  Kill them all, Lord, and I will praise your name forever.  In the holy name of Jesus I pray – Amen.

In a perfect world, I would have taken a picture and simply posted it on Twitter, but she lives on a busy street, and I didn’t want to cause a wreck.  Also, if I did stop to take a picture, I was afraid that she would call the legions of angels from heaven to take me out.

I did a little research, and Psalm 109 is not one of those “My name is David, and I play the harp” kind of psalms.  Here’s an excerpt: “When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him.  May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.  May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow” (Psalm 109:7-9).


What are your thoughts?  Is this lady overreacting?

Not Now

Last week, my wife and I went to Washington, DC, and took a tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  I can remember studying the history of flight when I was in second grade, and we watched videos and looked at pictures featuring the subjects now located in the Smithsonian, so this was at the top of my list of places to visit.

While it was great to see all the old planes, rockets, space shuttles, and satellites, the thing that fascinated me the most was the exhibit of the Wright Brothers.

Brief history: Back in December of 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first ones to actually fly a plane.  Up to this point, several others had created aircraft that mostly fell and crashed, but never flew.  The Wright brothers were the first ones to create an aircraft that actually flew in a controlled path of considerable distance.  Hopefully, you remember that from school.

The disappointing part of the Wright brothers’ story is that Wilbur passed away 9 years later in 1912, but Orville lived until 1948.  The amazing thing that I noticed in the Air and Space Museum is that roughly 80% of the exhibits there centered on things that happened between 1912-1948.  The Wright brothers, together, made a fascinating breakthrough that launched the age of flight, but Wilbur never got to see it.

Between 1912-1948, there were two world wars, which led to mass production of planes.  Commercial airlines were also created, resulting in the need to build larger, stronger planes.  The airplane industry “took off,” (ha, get it?) during that time, so that I can now travel across the country in a few hours.

And Wilbur missed all of this.  Over the years, Orville could look up in the sky, see a plane flying overhead, and think, “We made that happen.”  After dedicating countless hours to create an aircraft that could fly successfully, Wilbur didn’t live to see the fruits of his labor.

In Hebrews 11, which I was told is considered the “Hall of Faith” in the Bible, we are told of dozens of biblical pioneers who lived by faith everyday, but rarely reaped the fruits of it. 

We learn of Abel, who was killed by his jealous brother Cain: “And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb. 11:4).

We read of Noah, Abraham, David, Samuel, Rahab, Joseph, and many others, but their lives are summed up in a simple phrase: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13).

In a time where we want instant gratification from our education, careers, charities, ministries, families, and social circles, we have to face the reality that we might never see the end product.  We may never see the impact our work has.  You may be working will all your might to make things happen, but you are still waiting, as if God is telling you, “Not now.”

What is the “Not now” subject in your life right now?


I don’t have very many atheist friends.  According to Facebook, which is the source of all relevant things, I have 914 “friends,” and a very small percentage of those friends classify themselves as atheists.  Where would a person go to find an atheist? Even if you saw a sign that read, “Atheists gather here,” how would that first encounter go?

“Excuse me, Mr. Atheists? Hey, my name is Dustin. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but I need some more atheist friends. How about joining me for a round of golf on Saturday?”

Maybe I’m intimidated by atheists.  They are on the opposite side of the spiritual spectrum from me.  They tend to know a lot of scientific rhetoric, and science was my least favorite subject in school.  They are mean and rarely smile.  Just kidding.

I read the articles and other blogs online about faith and Christianity to get some fuel for this blog, and reading the comments is always very exciting. It seems to me that the Christians always look like wimps. Atheists always have trump cards.

If there is a God, why did he let the earthquakes happen in Japan?  If there is a God like what the Bible says, why doesn’t he show himself anymore?

Christians do have some comebacks though: How did the earth and everything on it get here?  How do the different fields of science work together perfectly to produce and sustain life?

At some point, for both atheists and Christians, the only thing left to say is, “I don’t know, but I still believe.”

In his book Life of Pi, Yann Martel tells the story of a young Indian boy who is trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the ocean.  Exciting, I know.  The young boy, Pi, meets an atheists in a zoo one day, and after several hours of conversation Pi says, “I felt a kinship with him.  It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith; and every word they speak speaks of faith.  Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them – and then they leap” (Martel 28).

Before reading this, I never thought of atheists having faith, but it’s true.  They have faith, it’s just in something different.

As Christians, we see things that point to the existence of a supernatural Creator.  We have the Bible that tells us of the hope that we have with eternity in heaven.  But at some point, we have to leap.  That’s where faith takes over.

How can this influence how we view and treat atheists?

The Merger

In business, when companies merge, they typically eliminate redundancies.  This usually comes in the forms of lay-offs and demotions.  The people from the weaker company become victims to save money.  That’s capitalism.

It is very rare to hear of church mergers, though.  More commonly, we hear about church splits, which can be even worse than a corporate merger.

The Christian Post ran an article last week about two churches in Arizona that are merging together.  They seem to be taking Captain Planet’s motto – “by your powers combined” – to a whole new level.  Audrey Barrick writes, “Church mergers mostly involve one healthy church saving a dying one. But in Arizona, two growing congregations are coming together for the purpose of creating a greater impact.”

It’s actually a pretty cool story.  Both churches are growing and preaching a Christ-centered message, and they chose to team up to have an even greater impact on their community.  Tom Shrader, pastor at the East Valley Bible Church in Gilbert, AZ, said, “We wanted to be an influence beyond the campus.”

For some reason, this encourages me.  Until I left for college, I went to the same church my entire life.  Throughout those eighteen years, I grew to become very comfortable in my pew, beliefs, and traditions.  It’s easy to be comfortable, and I like how the pastors from these two churches have decided to go beyond their comfort zones to join forces.

If I were a member at one of these churches, my first reaction to this news probably would not have been very positive.  However, as an outsider to the news, I see how these two churches becoming one can serve the community in a great way.

The new church, Redemption Church, it set to have it’s first service on January 9, 2011.

How would you feel to be a part of a church that decided to merge with another?