Thursday, February 28, 2008

The super awesome lying test.

The super awesome lying test.

I don't know if baseball player Roger Clemens is lying about whether he took steroids. Maybe he didn't. Maybe working out really hard, having the "eye of the tiger" if you will was enough to give him all those victories so late in his career. It's hard to say.

But what's easy to say is that Roger flunked the "Am I lying test?" Which I just invented and will one day patent and probably put on mugs and t-shirts.

Until then, here in an exclusive sneak preview are three questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are in fact lying:

1. Does the entire planet need to be wrong for me to be right?
A good way to recognize a lie is to see if anyone else feels the same way you do. In Roger's case, he's kind of on an island. While insisting he is correct, he's also insisting his agent, his trainer, Andy Petite and countless others are wrong. If the rest of the planet has to be wrong for you to be right, you might be lying.

2. Am I throwing people under the bus?
Do I have to hurt the reputations of other people to save myself? Roger told Congress his wife used Human Growth Hormone, not him. Ouch. Then he said his teammate and close friend Andy Pettitte, "misremembers" the details of a conversation they had. And he's painted his trainer as a lying alcoholic. If you ever have to save yourself by destroying others, you might be lying.

3. Am I outwardly, vocally opposed to this issue?
Sometimes the best way to cover up a lie is to rage against the issue you're hiding. A recent minister that was caught with a hooker was known for his loud, angry diatribes against adultery. Where's the disconnect? I think that in general, it's really easy to hate in other people the things we hate in ourselves. Even in the midst of his own drug problem, one television anchor railed against drug users. And Roger? In 2003, he told a crowd of advertisers in a speech,
"There is no place in the game for steroids," Clemens said, "and we need to make sure the game is clean."

4. Does my idea defy logic?
Liars say the craziest things. When you lie, you essentially create an alternate universe where the laws of nature don't really apply. Up is down. Black is white. Good is bad. I once wrote about a minister that tried to say it was normal for him to rent a hotel room and write his books alone in the city he lived in. My dad, also a minister, was flabbergasted by this logic. Roger tried to say that an abscess he got in his butt was due to a B-12 shot. The doctor that gave him that shot said he had administered nearly "one thousand B-12 shots" and never had any such problem.

Maybe you're not going to be investigated by the FBI concerning your alleged drug usage but you might be hiding a lie right now. Run through this list and for more on lying, check out the following posts:

The can't choose who you love lie

I'm lying because I love you

The hermit lie

Owning a guitar will make me a guitar player

p.s. the photo in this post is the cover of the magazine my high school sent me yesterday. It has nothing to do with this post but I thought it was funny and it further proves that I am a huge dork. Although this is not a photo of me, this is my heritage. These are my origins. And if the question is, "Jon did you take tap dancing lessons in high school?" The answer is yes.

p.p.s. New post about a snake and a horrible day for a small dog at

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

swimming in blood.

swimming in blood - new

Check out the uber short new post about the danger of swimming with sharks and temptation.


When God stops speaking to you.

When God stops speaking to you.

A few months ago, I read something that really grabbed hold of my heart. It was a simple idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it captured what I was feeling at the time. Here is what I read:

I got a hole in me now
I got a scar I can talk about

What felt powerful and true about this was the honesty. For close to two decades I had done everything I could to numb and ignore the hole in me. I had thrown so many different forms of medicine at it. I tried to stay in motion and be busy because if I ever paused, the hole had a chance to catch up with me.

And these two sentences express what it feels like to come to the end of running away. In the first, the author admits there is a hole inside. It is identified, there is a sense of dragging it into the light. And that’s what I feel like right now. I know it’s there. I’ve called it out and named it and it’s losing its power every day.

In the second sentence, the author confesses a scar he can talk about. That kind of reflects what I want this site to be about. Sharing scars and the lessons that blossom in our life when we roll up our sleeves with each other. Taken together, those sentences felt like a private message for me from God. They were a whisper of his plan for my life.

And, they were a Matchbox 20 lyric.

That’s probably a bit of a balloon prick revelation. I suppose if those two lines were taken from a dark poem by a German writer that would make me sound cool and hip. But instead, they’re a lyric from a Matchbox 20 song.

I think though, they reveal something deep and true about God. They remind us that God speaks in more ways than we can imagine.

I believe that in many ways, I have made God small and simple. He’s not as vanilla as I used to imagine him, but he’s still a fairly limited guy. He can speak to me through the Bible, ministers and really amazing sunsets, but a song? I don’t know.

The reality is though that God is the creator of creativity. He spoke to Moses through a burning bush, the Israelites through a talking donkey, Joseph through dreams. I don’t think he’s stopped talking necessarily, I just think we’ve stopped listening. We’ve stopped looking. We’ve stopped expecting to find God in the unexpected places.

The result is he’s gone mute. He’s gone quiet and we are alone again, trying to stay a few steps ahead of that hole inside, trying to wear sleeves big enough to hide our scars.

But God is talking. Today he is whispering and shouting and sending you lyrics and sunsets and little kids and birds and dreams and encouragement in a million different ways.

Don’t make him small.
Look for him on days other than Sunday.
Just listen.

p.s. what’s the weirdest way God has spoken to you?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Speaking gigs.

Speaking gigs.

I'm speaking tonight and next Monday at a church outside of Atlanta. I will try to post the audio on my site, but if you want a CD to listen to in your car or something let me know and we'll work it out. Just email me at with "Free CD" in the subject line and my wildly attractive colleague, AKA wife, will work with me to get you one in a few weeks.

Friday, February 22, 2008

we are the beatles

We are the Beatles.

That does not make any sense, but then neither do the Beatles if you really think about them.

Why did they get to be the Beatles and I get to be me?

Why did they sell over 1 billion albums and I file time sheets on Friday afternoons?

Why did they shape the entire world with what they did and most days I can't shape a paragraph?

Why did they get to be the Beatles and you get to be you?

Have you ever wondered what you were going to do in life? What you were going to be? What you would do when you "grew up?" I think about that, too often probably, but I think about it. And tonight while thinking about the Beatles I thought to myself, "why can't I do something as big as the Beatles?"

Really, what's stopping me? What would it take for me to do something big and meaningful? To create my version of "Let it Be?"

It all sounds so ridiculous, until you start to think about what the Beatles were. I don't think they were magic or lightning in a bottle. I think they were just four guys that for a period of time were doing exactly what they were put on this planet to do. Have you ever met anyone like this? They glow.

It's like some how, some way, they've figured out how to escape from the ordinary that consumes most of us. They're musicians and artists and accountants and project managers.

I don't think it's a job thing. This is not a post about turning in your khakis or starting a revolution against the confines of working in a cubicle. It's bigger than that, purpose is always bigger than that.

Because purpose is something that captured the Beatles. It wasn't luck or talent. There were better musicians than the Beatles. People that possessed more talent and skill. But the Beatles were doing exactly what they were supposed to do and that, that was unstoppable.

And I think, that purpose is one of God's greatest gifts to us. I think that's what the Bible means when it talks about fulfilling the desires of our heart. It's not stuff. It's not houses or cars or really nice pants. It's purpose and direction and mission. That's what we get when we stand close to the father. We get to see our dreams fulfilled. We get to be the Beatles of whatever it is we were meant to do.

I don't know what you're supposed to do. I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to do. But I know this, when I do it, when you do it, not matter what it is, or where it is, or when it is, it's going to be bigger than the Beatles.

the scarecrow and the swimsuit model

the scarecrow and the swimsuit model

My father, the honorable Reverend Acuff, only got the mail once a year. For 300 days he ignored it, but one particular day he was the first one to the mailbox. That day? The day that the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated arrived. Now don't get me wrong, he got it so he could throw it away before his three teenage boys got it. I swear, he had some sort of ninja radar sense of when that issue would arrive. His ability to hone in on the exact day it would get to our house was frightening.

It's that time of year again, and even though the Maxims of the world have put a hurting on the issue, it's still getting lots of fanfare. This morning when I saw a banner ad for it when I was reading a sports article it made me think, "Why do we men want to look at it?"

The obvious answer is that we like looking at attractive women because they are well, attractive. Women are beautiful and I'd be lying if I pretended that the particular issue of Sports Illustrated was not full of beautiful examples of this simple theory. But behind that, behind the obvious visual attraction, what is about things like swimsuit issues that drive men to act like we do?

For me, and maybe you, it's about more than just the woman in the picture. Ultimately, what it's about is who I could become in the presence of that particular woman. Who she would inspire me to be. What life would be like lived in the orbit of her beauty. The woman fades quickly, but the idea of becoming someone different as a result of who she is, that is what lasts.

You probably don't feel that way, but I promise you have at some point made a decision in your life based on the idea of "if only." I believe those are two really ordinary words that when combined become incredibly dangerous. What does that phrase mean?

If only is what you say when you find a shortcoming in your life and want some reason to explain it away.

If only is what you say when don't have something that you want.

If only is what you say when things are just not good enough.

And so, what I've done in the past and will be tempted to do in the future is to "if only" swimsuit models and cars and houses and job promotions. In my head I'll think, "If only I had a bigger house, things would be so much more peaceful at home." Or "If only I had the right job, people would give me the respect I deserve." Or "If only I had enough money in the bank I would never worry." There are a thousand if onlys is this world and the one guys silently and maybe even secretly tell themselves when they see a swimsuit model is, "If only I had a girl like that, everything else in life would be alright."

But if only is just a subtle way to covet. If only is just a slick way to want something you might never have and lose sight of the amazing things you do have. And that just makes you like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. His big line was, "If I only had a brain." All of his wants and dreams and desires hinged on the possession of a brain.

I think about the scarecrow and swimsuit models when I think of my friend Ben. His wife got a nose job and some lip work done and a tummy tuck. Even though he didn't say it, you could tell he was thinking, "If only my wife looked a certain way I would never be tempted to lust again." But within a month of the surgeries he confessed he still struggled with porn. He was still tempted. The lips and hips and nose did not magically take away his problems.

I suggest we retire the phrase, "If only." I challenge you this weekend to see what you have and be honest about what things or people you're trying to "if only" right now.
I dare us to all stop being the scarecrow.

This post goes well with:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Komodo dragons bit each of us.

The Komodo dragons bit each of us.

My favorite definition of creativity, the one I tell all my advertising clients, is pretty simple:

Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.

That is, creativity is the ability to fill your mind with thousands of seemingly unrelated ideas and then with the discipline of your eye, see the relationships that exist between them in a way no one ever has.

That’s a fun challenge, and one I am going to attempt to accomplish right now as I tell you about komodo dragons and temptation.

The only reason I have komodo dragons on the brain is that I recently saw a National Geographic clip about them on youtube. The clip focused on the way that the slow moving Komodo dragon is able to take down large prey.

In the short segment, a seemingly unaware water buffalo ate some grass while a komodo dragon approached. If you’ve ever seen the video where the water buffalo attack the lions, then you know that the approach of an overgrown iguana did not scare the buffalo in question. He just kept eating away, allowing the dragon to get closer and closer. Finally, with one short, not that spectacular burst of speed, the dragon leaped up and bit the buffalo in the leg.

The wound wasn’t that serious and the buffalo kind of sauntered away after shaking it off with a look on his face that said, “Really, that’s it? That’s all you got? They should call you komodo lizard, not komodo dragon.”

But then the narrator spoke up. You see, the Komodo dragon doesn’t have a lot of weapons at its disposal. It’s not fast, all that strong and it doesn’t have impressive teeth or claws. But, it is highly toxic in a way. It’s not poisonous, but a komodo dragon’s mouth is like the Ibiza of bacteria. I mean bacteria get in there and really party it up. Scientists have found up to 50 different strains of bacteria in their teeth. Ask Sharon Stone’s ex husband. She gave him a special tour of a komodo exhibit at the zoo for his birthday. One bit him on the foot and he had to have surgery. Happy Birthday!

So what happened to the water buffalo? A few days later, after laughing off that bite, he felt a little tired and laid down. Then he couldn’t get back up. And the wound got infested and suddenly there were four or five komodo dragons appearing from the shadows and cue Boys II Men, “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.”

I think temptation works the same way. I think that when something impacts us, when we get bitten, whether it is a big bite that shakes our world or something small that barely nips our ankle, the foundation for bacteria is established. And when we don’t deal with it, we allow it to secretly control us, eventually convincing us to lie down and give up on what we should really be doing.

I saw that the other day on a show about body image. A woman in her forties cried when she told the host that when she was 6 she had fallen on her neighbor’s sidewalk. The neighbor, seeing that she was a chubby little girl, said to her, “Go get your mom, you just broke my sidewalk.”

One sentence, one thing spoken from one stupid neighbor 30 years ago, but that bite still lingered. That woman still clung to that sentence and believed it to be true more than anything her loving husband told her or friends told her or family told her. The bacteria still told this woman that she was fat, that she was ugly, that she was damaged.

There was no hope for the water buffalo. His fate was sealed the second he felt that small bite on his leg. And maybe you feel the same way sometimes, that the things your father told you, the words your mom used, the hate a relationship painted you with, are all fatal wounds. But the truth is, that unlike that buffalo, we have a great healer. Someone that comes not in spite of our wounds, but because of our wounds.

And it’s not complicated. I’m sorry we’ve made it appear that way sometimes. At the churches you’ve been too maybe God was explained as this complex puzzle that we had to pray about and figure out and wash ourselves clean before we approached. But it’s not like that, I promise. That’s not who God is. He’s the great doctor, the author of hope, the healer of Komodo dragon wounds.

All we have to do, the only thing I think we are all asked to do, is to admit that we’ve been bitten.

This post goes well with:
1. The Italian knife on the couch.
2. Words from a crack addict.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The last resort.

The last resort.

I was recently not invited to a special event. This is different from being uninvited which is what happens when you mess up between receiving the invite and when the event actually takes place. But it still didn’t feel all that good.

I mean honestly, I didn’t really have any business attending this event. I was not expecting to be invited and didn’t know it was even happening. But when I heard that I was not on the invite list I was a little disappointed. I want to be included. I want to feel like I’m on the inside of the circle. More than that, I want to feel like I’m one of the first people invited.

I want to feel important and necessary for good times. And when people don’t invite me or invite me as a final option, a last resort so to speak, I feel like a loser. Fortunately, I am not God.

You see, the truth of it is, I came back to God as a last resort. I wish that one day while things were going along well I thought to myself, “Things are good, but I dare say they could be better.” That maybe I hadn’t thrown hand grenades into my life until there were but a handful of breaths left. But I did.

I messed it up. I tried everything under the sun to create some semblance of happiness but nothing worked. Corporate success did not make me happy. Money did not work. Sex failed. Admiration and approval from peers was paper thin at best. Drugs were useless. And at the end of all that, at the end of chasing everything, that’s when I knocked on God’s door.

And he was cool with that.

Have you ever worried that God gets insulted when he’s your last resort? That he’s mad you tried so many different things first? That if you just sort of chilled for a while, enough time would pass since your last attempt at self happiness and God would overlook that you had well, overlooked him for a while? Do you ever think God gets upset for being uninvited for so long?

I used to think that, until I read John 6. In that chapter, Jesus drops some science on people, really getting into the whole idea about needing to eat his flesh and drink his blood. As you can imagine, people freaked out when he said those things. Let’s pick up the story in 66:

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

I like that section because Simon Peter’s answer has two parts. In the second part he tells Christ that they believe he’s the Holy One of God. And that’s nice, we expect disciples to say things like that. But in the first part he essentially says, “Where else could we go?”

There’s an unspoken sense of trying expressed in that. It’s easy to imagine that Simon Peter was speaking from experience. Like maybe he’d already tried to make himself complete and realized he couldn’t. Why else say that sentence?

If you said to someone, “Are you sure you want me to be your best man?” And they replied, “Who else could I ask?” You’d be mad. You’d be frustrated because they were telling you that you were the number one option because there were no other options. You won the gold medal because you were the only one that was in the race at this point. You’d be hurt.

But God’s not. Do you know what God does when you’ve tried everything else and finally come to him? He celebrates. In Luke 15 we’re told they throw a big party in heaven when someone comes to the father. He doesn’t care that it took you some form of yoga, or a failed business that wouldn’t validate your worth or a marriage that didn’t complete you or millions of dollars of success that was still a little bit empty for you to get to him.

He’s just happy you’re there. First or last, his reaction is the same.

p.s. Check out "the backwards belief" on

Let's get lost tonight.

Let's get lost tonight.

If you know the next line to that song then you know this is about Kanye West. He recently did really well at the Grammys, but a few months ago I predicted he could do even better. Why? Cause he's a self proclaimed addict and he's using.

Here's the post I wrote:

Imagine a Kanye without porn.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The scariest thing I've ever written.

The scariest thing I've ever written.

When I was in the fourth grade I watched the movie “Jaws.” It’s a nautical thriller about a giant shark that haunts the deep, dark waters of Martha’s Vineyard. In my head I pretended that the floor in our family room was the ocean. I believed that if I could keep my feet off the carpet, I would be safe and the shark would not bite me.

Now, even though I am 32 years old, I automatically pull my feet off the floor if I see something scary on television or in a movie theater. It’s a silly thing to do, but I promise that for hours at a time I have balanced my legs upright during movies in the hope that not making contact with the floor would protect me.

But there is very little that can save me from what I am about to tell you.

Maybe it won’t scare you, maybe you already knew, but when I read this I was surprised. I reread the sentences over and over again until I could make sense of them. And then I walked out into the rain and screamed at the cosmos from a long row of grey steps. (OK, I didn’t do that last part, but I’m thinking about being more sensational having recently read a fairly sensational Christian book that is selling well. It’s a problem I have.)

Here is the paragraph that caught me off guard:

Harvard economist Juliet B. Schor, in her book The Overworked American, writes that "The average employed person is now on the job an additional 163 hours, or the equivalent of one month a year, compared to figures for 1969.”

What does that mean?

We found an extra month of work in our lives.

We invented a 13th month in our year and it’s designed for work.

We carved out 20 more days from our already swollen calendar.

We work too much.

That information above might not be new to you, but have you ever gone through the exercise of understanding where we got the extra time from? What or maybe even who have we robbed in order to shoe horn in an extra month of work? Because it’s not that someone found a new month called “Flubumary” and we just decided to use that.

Instead we decided to get up earlier and go to sleep later. Instead we decided to stretch work into our cars and our dinner tables and our even our bedrooms. Instead, Saturday became the new Friday and Sunday became a new day to prepare for Monday.

I don’t really have a solution to this new month we’ve created. The scary thing is that we’ll probably try to find another. Things just tend to trend that way. But if we took little steps to get there, maybe we need to take little steps away.

My little step, the only one I really commit to faithfully is working from 7-4 every weekday. Keeping this schedule helps me avoid traffic and gain more time with my young family who goes to bed early.

What do you think your own little steps look like?

This post goes well with:
1. This is what $3 gets you.
2. Would you trade your dad for a Mini Cooper?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'm chewing tobacco, let's make out.

I'm chewing tobacco, let's make out.

I think that there are really only two things this blog is supposed to do:

1. Galvanize people.
2. Share dangerous ideas.

Now by galvanize, I am of course referring to the definition “To arouse to awareness or action.” That is what I ultimately hope that the words on this blog are able to do. Don’t get me wrong, galvanize can mean “to coat with rust-resistant zinc” and occasionally I hope I’m able to also accomplish that. But what about dangerous ideas? What is that about?

For me, it’s about saying the kind of things you might not hear in most churches. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and being honest about the scrapbook of scars you’ve collected on your arms from foolish decisions in the past. And sometimes it’s about making fun of advertising.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the whisky ad that said, “Your mom wasn’t your dad’s first.” Tonight in the March edition of Men’s Journal, I saw a chewing tobacco ad focused on sex. I know, I know lady readers, nothing is quite so hot as a guy with a muddy clump of snuff in his lower lip constantly spitting a bubbly residue into a bottle. It’s hot and I can see the attraction. I’ve included the actual ad but in case you can’t read the text, I’ll write that too. Here’s what the ad, written like an interview with a guy playing pool with a hot girl, says:

Dipping vs. Smoking?

Better for my sex life.

What do you mean?
While some are outside smoking, I’m inside working.

There are at least 3 things this makes me think.

I was an idiot when I was single but I really hope I never said to my friends, “Watch out, it’s time for me to start working.”

The phrase “sex life” is really interesting. It’s like we’ve interwoven those two words so tightly together that it’s easy to think that sex = life. And it doesn’t.

Is there any product on the planet that won’t sidle up to sex to sell itself? I mean really, if we can do snuff, could we do oatmeal? Or pencil erasers or maybe cat litter in a sexy manner?

All that to say, don’t let the world be your final voice when it comes to sex or love or really anything for that matter. They want you to think that chewing tobacco will get you a girl, clogging a toilet could lead to an affair and your dad’s sex life is reason to get drunk.

p.s. New stuff is up on 97secondswithGod

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Let's rescue sex.

Let’s rescue sex.

I don’t remember how old I was when I decided to choose the world’s opinion of sex instead of the church’s opinion of sex. But it happened. The decisions I’ve made as an adult indicate that I did indeed cast my vote. A thousand times over and over, I have sided with the world’s interpretation of sex.

And I think it makes sense in a lot of ways.

The reason is that in so many different ways, the world does a better job explaining, advertising, and detailing the wonders of sex. (Just typing that sentence made me a little uncomfortable, in part because discomfort is one of the things we flavor the concept of sex with at church.)

The result is that to most of us, the world owns sex. You might not say that, you might think you don’t believe it, but most of the things we see everyday tell us differently. The world is who celebrates it, incorrectly sure, but it’s still a celebration. The world is who is open about it. The world is the one that makes a big deal about it.

But we don’t and that’s why it was easy as a kid to choose the world’s opinion of sex. As a teen, I was presented with a decision:

Choose the world’s definition which is wild, intoxicating, colorful, alive. Or choose your youth group’s definition of sex which is guilty and stifling and no PDA and quiet and vanilla and flat and waiting, waiting, so much waiting.

The decision was easy. I chose the world.

The real danger though is that I got it all wrong. I acted like God was the creator of the mountains and the oceans but not sex. I acted like he wired the human body but was surprised about the nuances of sex. I acted like the God that can infuse life and emotion and power into a worship experience couldn’t do the very same thing in dare I say sex.

I started to think today though, what if I’ve allowed the world to take sex ransom? What if sex is a hostage? A beautiful, perfect concept that was kidnapped long ago? What if sex is just waiting for people like you and me to go get it? To bring it back to the church. To bring it back to the bible. To bring it back to our marriages.
  • Can you imagine if sex within marriage became so big and so real and so important that the world’s view of sex felt empty and hollow?
  • Can you imagine if instead of reading a newspaper article about a minister caught with a prostitute you read an article about a minister leading some sort of holy sexual revolution?
  • Can you imagine if one of the reasons people liked being Christians was because the sex was so good?
I don’t know about you, but I’m going on a rescue mission and it starts tonight. It starts with being honest about sex. It starts with being real about sex with my accountability partners. It starts with inviting God into my sex life, which kind of scares me. And eventually it’s going to continue with me telling my kids about sex in a way that is true.

What do you think? Are you up for rescuing sex?

This post goes well with:
God was surprised sex was fun.
Your dad is having sex, let's get drunk.

New Magazine Article

New Magazine Article

Every now and then, my friends at Enoch Magazine ask me to write something. The other day I expounded a little on my theory that the Prodigal Son story has an interesting idea about how to share your faith. your For many of you, it will seem like part two of other posts I've written.

Please go check it out and post a comment so that I look cool and at the bare minimum, mildly interesting.

It's called "The Pensacola Bullhorn." Click here to read it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oh Daniel Baldwin.

Oh Daniel Baldwin.

I watch dumb TV. If despite posts like “Yanni and five other things I wish you didn’t know about me,” you still think I’m cool you might want to stop reading. This post is going to make you realize that in my free time I’m not just reading leather bound books and thinking deep thoughts. But I digress.

I recently watched a reality show about celebrities that are in rehab. One of the celebrities is Daniel Baldwin, the fourth most well known of the four Baldwin brothers. He struggles with alcohol and cocaine. While in the rehab facility he hung out with another resident, a former adult actress. On the episode I saw, he abruptly decides that rehab is not for him and leaves. That night, the actress confesses to another resident that Baldwin had been texting her dirty messages and asking for photos, something his pregnant wife would most definitely not appreciate.

When the other residents found out, they were all shocked and deeply disturbed. “He seemed so nice and he was just lying,” they yelled in the group session. “How could he do something like this?”

It’s a fair question and the answer is simple:

Temptation never travels alone.

I wish it did. More than almost anything in my life I wish that when I met counselor 3 he didn’t say to me, “I would say you have four main temptations you struggle with.” Please know that I am not being sensational or cool or hip or extreme when I say that no one ever has just one thing they struggle with.

Temptation is less like a single point on the map of your life and more like the infinity loop or figure eight if you prefer. (I posted one above.) When you face a temptation and move past the challenge, you don’t necessarily leave all temptation behind, you sometimes just move to another one, traveling slowly up or down the figure eight.

So when Daniel Baldwin entered rehab, even though he had 9 months of sobriety under his belt, he wasn’t done with temptation. He simply moved along the never ending loop and in his path he found a vulnerable former adult actress. And all that temptation he faced in the form of drugs just met him there, in the form of sex and it was bigger and stronger than he could handle.

That has happened to me a million times. One of the things I struggle with is workaholism. I tend to obsess over projects, getting an endorphin high from the success, getting crushed at the failure. When I stand up to that temptation, I feel good for a short period but then quickly go into my struggle with worry. Like a damn that has had one hole patched, all my energy, all my temptation, every thought I have quickly rushes to the weakest point. And there, at another stop along the way on my figure eight, I feel like drowning.

I still find myself on that loop sometimes, walking through challenges, ducking temptations only to find another waiting for me on another day. But I’ve learned something along the way. When you know where you’ve been, you can get ready for where you’re going.

That is, when I identified the four things I struggle with the most, I was able to see what they looked like. The monsters had been pulled from under the bed and in the light I could begin to make preparations.

Someone smarter than me once said, “Predictable mistakes are preventable mistakes.” And by looking at my loop I can figure out where I’m headed next. I can say, “Wow, that was a struggle with the work obsessing, what over the last ten years has followed that? Oh, that’s right, worry.” And I can pray and plan for what I know is waiting for me.

Is planning the thing that keeps me from jumping from temptation to temptation to temptation? Not really. I tried to plan my way around that loop for twenty years and wrecked my life in the process. The truth is that I had to let go of the infinity loop and give it to God. I had to turn it over to him.

He didn’t take it away. I don’t think he always takes our temptations away, but now when I travel that loop, I know I’m not alone. I know where I’m going. And more than that, I know what’s next.

This post goes well with:
Be sick

Shoplifting, turning 32 and the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

The cure for cancer and the alpaca addiction.

Link love and Facebook

Link love and Facebook

I'm updating my list of other blogs I link to. If you have one and are cool with me checking it out and possibly linking to it, please let me know. If you want to link to mine then by all means, please do.

I'm also on facebook. If you search for my email address, it's easy to find me. I also have a reader group called, prodigal jon.

I'm working on a post for tonight called "Oh Daniel Baldwin." Should be up later today.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The stories that went unread.

The stories that went unread.

I started this blog last June but until late October, few people were visiting the site. That means that about 65 posts weren’t seen by most of the people now reading it

I went through the old posts and pulled out what I think are the strongest of the bunch. Don’t get me wrong. June and July were kind of “B-“, but I think I was just starting to get my feet under me and find my voice.

So without further ado, here are 8 posts few people read but a few folks might like:

1. Christopher Walken and God June 26
Sometimes you find God’s love in weird places. Like the movie “Man on Fire,” a brutal revenge film based in Mexico City.

2. The Cocaine Question July 3
My wife’s friend has one of the most beautiful testimonies and in it she says she is “thankful for cocaine.” I promise this post makes sense of that.

3. The Cure for Cancer and the Alpaca Addiction July 21
“As a teenager, the acquisition of alpacas* dominated most of my waking hours.” That’s how the post starts and it only gets weirder from there.

4. Please stop knitting or why I’m insecure. September 17
My wife pulls out some knitting while we await service to start at the super cool North Point Community Church. I cringe. Hilarity ensues.

5. Booty, God Booty September 26
That title kind of explains it all.

6. The colors rich people don’t want you to know exist. October 7
“The other day in Williams Sonoma I smelled poor. It wasn’t that I smelled bad, I just didn’t smell like that store and that store smelled rich.”

7. Let’s be irrelevant. October 8
Maybe in trying to be relevant we’ve lost sight of what matters the most. A look at Apple, Starbucks and a bunch of monks.

8. Girls in underwear, killing deer and somehow God. October 18
People actually read this one and this is kind of where things started to pick up but it's still a good way to look at how temptation looks at you.

p.s. If you read all these when they originally came out then you've been reading for a while and I really appreciate that.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The food drop, an Africa update.

The food drop, an Africa update.

I got an email from my uncle tonight. Since so many of you were so incredibly kind when I told you the story about the orphanage in Kenya that was under attack, I thought I would share this quick update on the situation:

Since the update sent on February 1, 2008, we are thanking our Lord that classes resumed at GGCC this past Monday, February 4 without further incident! Construction work continues on the 4-story building, and as soon as the building is completed, our 50 new students will be admitted.

You may remember that about three weeks ago Samaritans Purse flew almost 9 tons of food from Nairobi in their DC-3 to a small airstrip on the mainland, then a smaller Samaritans Purse airplane that could land on the small dirt airstrip at GGCC made six flights to ferry the food out to Mfangano Island. Roads in Kenya are still unsafe and food remains very scarce in the Lake Victoria area. In the February 1 update we asked for prayer that food supplies would last until more arrived.

We have just learned that our Lord is using our brothers at Samaritans Purse again next Tuesday, February 12 to send more food out in the DC-3. This time trucks escorted by guards will transport the food to the shore where GGCC boats will take the food to Mfangano Island. Thank you for praying for this need and celebrate with us the Goodness of our Lord! Please pray for the safety of the pilots next Tuesday and the safe transport of this food so desperately needed.

It is such a blessing when God's people serve together for the glory of His Son Jesus Christ. God's people have prayed. God's people have enabled missionary airplanes to transport food. God's people have given to Samaritans Purse sometimes not knowing how God would use their gift.

The dog, the geese and why friends matter.

The dog, the geese and why friends matter.

I once worked for a company in Massachusetts that had a problem with Canada Geese. Now before you cry “typo” on me, please know that the correct way to pluralize our feathered friends from the North is to refer to them as “Canada Geese” not “Canadian Geese.” Odd, and if you ask me a little pretentious of the geese, but true.

Anyway, our campus at work was crawling with the birds and they were making a mess. I admit I like the honkity honk of a v-shaped formation flying over my head as a way to signal the beginning or end of winter. But constantly walking through their droppings and having them eat all the grass in your yard is just not cool.

But my company couldn’t kill them. They were protected by some sort of migratory bird law. You know the one. And whenever the janitor chased them away, they just came back a few hours later. It was quite a quagmire.

So, the company bought a trained goose chasing dog and gave it to the janitor. The single, all consuming purpose of this canine was to scare away geese and he had an interesting method.

While eating in the cafeteria you could watch him approach the business at hand. First he kind of just crawled forward a little and took in the size of the flock. After a little recon, he began to slowly round up the geese into a tight, loud bunch. Once they were crammed together in a knot of feathers and anxiety, he would walk away, turn and then with his full momentum, run as fast as he could right into the ball of geese.

They were terrified of what was essentially a dog catapult and would take off. They might come back later but eventually after realizing this dog was never, ever going to tire of chasing them away, they would migrate somewhere else.

That whole scene kind of reminds me of the importance and necessity of friends. See, the dog couldn’t win if the geese were spread out. But if he clumped them tightly together so that they were acting as one goose instead of a hundred individual geese, he could chase them away easily.

And so it is with friends. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation or with a problem on our hands, it’s often tempting to isolate. A friend of mine recently lost a bout with temptation and told me, “I thought about calling you Friday night but didn’t want to bother you.” So he didn’t call. Perhaps worse than not calling is the idea of getting advice from the people that you know will give you the advice you want to hear. If you can manipulate an accountability partner to side with you every time, then that’s not an accountability partner. That’s just one more goose standing closely to you.

The friends that help me the most are the ones that are on the outside of my orbit, the friends that don’t automatically see my point of view. My friend Dwayne is that way. I’m a writer, he’s an accountant. I’m roller coaster emotional, he’s stable and steady. I’m impulsive, he’s analytical. So when I come to him for advice, I can trust he won’t be shouldered up next to me, like two geese waiting for the dog. He’ll be on the other side of the issue, a few feet away, helping me objectively.

That’s not really a new concept. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, says that the best job opportunities and new experiences come from people you are not that closely associated with. The reason is that your close friends travel in the same circle as you. They work similar jobs, go to the same church, shop at the same store. The friend of a friend however travels in a different circle and by nature knows about things you don’t regularly come in contact with.

The very idea of needing friends isn’t that unique. But hopefully the idea of having friends that are close enough to know your heart but far away enough to help you avoid the “ball o’ geese” approach to temptation will help you the next time you face something that seems bound and determined to chase you away.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

New 97 and a question for you.

I just posted a new 97secondsfromGod. Check it out if you get a chance.

And I'm working on a post to answer a few of the most popular questions I've been getting from readers. So if you have a question about the site, what's going on with my book or how you ended up in the friend zone so quickly with that girl you really want to date, post a question and I'll add it to the post I write.

Don't eat fish at work.

Don't eat fish at work.

There are a few simple rules we all need to agree to when working in a cubicle or small office type environment. For my money, the most important is “Never bring seafood for lunch.” At no point should you think to yourself, “You know what would be good tomorrow at the office? Grouper.”

Now clearly, I’m not talking about tuna sandwiches. I’m focusing on the guy that has some sort of oyster and clam leftovers that he brings in. He throws it in the break room microwave and then sets the timer like a bomb. It heats up in that small metal box, just getting hotter and hotter, smellier and smellier. Until finally, he opens it up and a blanket of funk just unfolds on the entire office.

That’s not an official rule at the company I work at and occasionally I will see someone with a Tupperware container full of cod. But I once worked at a company that made a rather silly pronouncement about food. Here is what corporate headquarters told my building:

“Employees may no longer have coffee at their desks. Only water and hard candy are permitted in the work environment.”

The management team came up with this rule because the previous summer there had been a fruit fly infestation. The small black bugs had covered everything and before the weather got warm, the guys with pleated pants and ties decided to eliminate the problem. At the time I wasn’t a coffee drinker and I appreciated hard candy, so I didn’t take great offense to the rule.

But a lot of people in the office were bothered. They grumbled about coffee and caffeine and production for a while. And then someone asked the question none of us had considered, “What is hard candy?”

It was a fair query. How would you define hard candy? Is it candy that is hard through and through? What about those little strawberry treats that have a hard shell and a soft middle? What about lollipops that start out hard but have a chocolate center? And above all, what do you even begin to do with nougat?

It was quite a dilemma and eventually they discussed drawing up a memo of inquiry to corporate headquarters. We were a billion dollar company with some ridiculously amazing products and a brand that punched other brands in its category in the face with its awesomeness but we thought maybe corporate should focus on candy definitions.

I sometimes wonder if we do the same thing with God. I wonder if we’re like corporate headquarters, making up rules and regulations to fix the fruit flies of our life, losing sight of what matters. Taking coffee away from 1,000 people on a Monday morning was not a smart thing to do, especially considering that fruit flies prefer tea anyway. But that was part of the fix to the problem.

So management added rules that didn’t really fit real life and didn’t really focus on the problem. It reminds me of something I read in the book of Acts recently. Some of the Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile Christians to get circumcised. Peter steps up and gives this really impassioned speech that convinces the crowd not to force this on their Gentile brothers. (If you’re a Gentile man, this speech is commonly referred to as the “greatest speech ever.”)

Instead of forcing circumcision, they send the Gentiles a pretty simple letter that says at the very end:

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.”

So simple, so true, so not focused on rules and regulations. They told them to watch out for idols, blood, strangled animals and sexual immorality. Why? Because they would do well to avoid these things.

I have friends that won’t have a pack of playing cards in their house because it represents gambling, they don’t think girls should wear pants and they consider girls and guys swimming in the same pool at the same time to be “mixed bathing” and immoral.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe God is deeply concerned with ladies in jeans, but sometimes I have to wonder if he’s given us some straightforward rules and we’re trying to figure out what the definition of hard candy is.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

We all got lost, waiting to be found.

We all got lost, waiting to be found.

A few weeks ago I planned to have a party at my house. I was going to read a few things, my friend Scott was going to play some music and my friend Ben was going to do some delightful things with food.

Then it snowed in Georgia and got canceled.

I wrote a post on my blog announcing the party was off. I thought I would be clever so I mentioned that Barry Manilow had canceled too. If I am being honest, I thought at least a few people would post messages saying how disappointed they were the party was canceled.

I know that’s probably shallow but I can’t just write about the good bits on my blog and make myself seem more put together than I am. So the truth is that I thought my post about the party being canceled would generate a bunch of emails/comments in the first 24 hours. And I would feel important or missed or something.

I got 1 email in the first 24 hours.

Here is what it said:

Actually Barry didn't cancel the show last night; the management at Phillips arena did, and it hasn't been canceled just postponed. Barry's management is already working on another date for the show to go on.

Instead of readers telling me how good I am, one “Fanilow” (what Barry Manilow fans call themselves) told me how bad I am.

I was frustrated at first, but the reality is that the Fanilow helped me see a universal truth that I had forgotten about since I was in college:

We all want to be found.

I don’t care if you're Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, Atheist or Agnostic. I think deep down inside, we all want to be found. We all want someone to come looking for us. We want people to be glad when they are with us, as if they have arrived. As Radiohead once said, “I want you to notice when I’m not around.”

That’s how I was in college. I was dating a girl that didn’t seem that concerned if I was around. So when we went to parties, I would get a little drunk and then hide. By “hide” I really wish I meant “go outside and sit on a curb forlornly like a singer/songwriter waiting for inspiration.” Alas, that is not what I meant. I used to go hide in closets. (If you listen closely you can actually hear readers leaving the site as I write.) I would stand there in the dark of the closet, awkwardly shoved amidst coasts and shoes waiting for her to look for me. Wanting, more than anything those stupid nights, for her to notice I was missing. For her to come find me. I wanted to be found.

I wonder if that is how the Prodigal Son felt when he ran away from the father. I wonder if when he was in the pigpen, when he had come to the end of himself if that is what he wanted more than anything. To be found by the father. To be missed. To be looked for.

That story is woefully incomplete in some ways. We don’t get a picture of what happened the day after the welcome home party, which is the subject of the book I am writing. We don’t know anything about a mother or additional family members or specifics like how long the son was gone.

But what Luke 15 does reveal is pretty powerful. We are given two images, two distinct pictures of two people at odds with the idea of being lost and found.

In one image, we see the father. Here is what we are told: “But while he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.”

The father was watching the road. He wasn’t going about his day casually glancing at the road thinking he might see the son but he had some business to attend to. You get the sense that life had ceased on the farm as far as the father was concerned. And he wasn’t alone. He was with servants that eventually ran with him. I like to imagine that the moment the father was told the son was missing he called together his most trusted servants and together they started watching the road. All day, all night, all week, all month, all year.

And then we have the son, stuck in a pigpen, desperately planning his return. And when he was ready, all it says of his journey was “So he got up and went to his father.”

The journey is not what matters in this story. We are not told how long he walks or how far he went or any other detail of the trip. And it’s not that the Bible is not detailed. Read the description of the temple in the Old Testament. It’s exquisite and microscopically detailed.

But here we only get nine words and I think there are only three that really matter. I think we’re supposed to look at “got up” and “went.” That was all he had to do. He stood to his feet and he went. It wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t long. It wasn’t full of do’s and don’ts.

I don’t know where you are right now. Maybe you’re found, maybe you’re lost, but regardless, please know that there is a father watching your road. It is all he does. His beard is growing long, his stomach is going empty as he waits by the road for you. He won’t leave. He can’t leave as long as you’re still out there. You need only get up and go and wait for the sound of desperate feet in the distance.

p.s. If you've already read the 130+ posts on this site, check out my other site,

Saturday, February 2, 2008

When a mile turns into a million.

When a mile turns into a million.

(I've written two updates to the Kenyan crisis. The first is a letter from my uncle and the second is a thought that hopefully dispels some of the dangers of reading a story like that. )

My wife won't eat a cupcake unless it is fresh. She is not a diva or fancy. But she has a simple theory when it comes to deserts and such. Here is what she believes:

"If I'm going to eat something that is 500 calories, I want it to be something I really like."

A stale cupcake isn't really worth the amount of calories. If she is going to indulge, she wants to make sure she gets the most out of the indulgence. To make sure that a temporary slip in healthy eating is in fact worth it. So instead, she always eats ice cream instead of cupcakes.

That concept is one that I've unknowingly applied to temptation in my life a thousand times. When I make a mistake, when I give into some small temptation and suddenly find myself in the wrong, I want to make it worth it. The idea is that if I've already blown it, I might as well really blow it and enjoy myself. Instead of just one stale cupcake, I should eat like an entire truckload of fresh ones.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever binged on temptation? I have. When I slip on a Friday it's like all the sudden I have this free pass to just complete stay in that place for the next three days. So a little stumble quickly becomes a major fall.

As I write my book about the Prodigal Son, I can't help but think this is like running 100 miles just because you've taken one step away from God. Like adding a thousand steps to your journey away from the Lord just because you've taken three.

I don't really know how to stop that. I think part of the way is changing how I see the goal of staying next to the father. The reality is that before I die, I am going to sin again. I wish this was not the case, but my need for constant forgiveness and repentance is based on the promise of my constant missteps. With that in mind, maybe the goal of staying on the farm, in the context of the Prodigal Son story, is not to white knuckle my way into being perfect and never leaving. Maybe the goal is to make my escapes much shorter.

Maybe the goal is to not let one mile away from the Lord turn into one million. To not let an hour of temptation turn into a three day binge. Please don't misunderstand me, holiness is what I seek and righteousness is what I desire, but an inappropriate pursuit of perfection can give an unholy weight to failure. It becomes this monster of momentum that helps carry us away from God. It transforms all of our failures into this massive wall between us and God, that when we gaze back upon urges us further and further away because once we're on the other side, we might as well enjoy ourselves.

But what if we saw each failure as God sees them? As proof that a savior was necessary. As a sign that he was right to send his son for us. As an indicator that we need his love now more than ever.

I don't know where you are in your journey, but I pray that next time you step away, you won't let a mile turn into a million.

P.S. - Check out the new post on called "Why I started emailing God."

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hands without weapons find strength without fail.

Hands without weapons find strength without fail.

Yesterday I introduced you to Naphtaly, the headmaster of the Gethsemane Garden Centre, an orphanage and school in Kenya. The orphanage is on high alert right now because radicals have threatened to burn it down if they don’t close it.

In the midst of that, Naphtaly sent an email explaining how he was feeling about the whole situation. There are probably a dozen ideas in the email I want to explore, but the only one I’m going to touch on right now is 10 words long.

The reason I am going to unpack those particular words is that I think there’s a great danger when you read an extreme story like the one I posted. The problem is that sometimes stories like that seem far away. They feel further away than just the other side of the planet, they feel like they’re happening in a whole other solar system. And when we read them, we think to ourselves, “That’s horrible, I can’t imagine going through that.”

Only, here’s the thing, you can.

Maybe there aren’t men with guns outside your door in the shadows of an African moon.

Maybe you’re not on an island with a food supply that will run out around February 10.

Maybe you don’t have to explain to eight year olds how God can still love them even though they’re growing up with HIV in their veins.

But in more ways than you can imagine or maybe admit, you’re a lot like that orphanage in Kenya. And 10 words in Naphtaly’s email are the 10 words we all must deal with.

Here is what he said:

“We have no weapons but wholly rely on the Lord”

He wrote these because they were true of his situation. He did not have any weapons. His hands held no bullets, but they were not empty, for he relied wholly on the Lord.

But that can’t be like you, can it?

I’m not so sure. Maybe we’re just not looking at that sentence the right way. Instead of looking at the words, we need to look at the idea, because it’s one that applies to all of us. Maybe instead of weapons the sentence could read like:

“My wife has left me but I wholly rely on the Lord”
“I lost my job but I wholly rely on the Lord”
“My mom doesn’t believe in God but I wholly rely on the Lord”
“I’ve lost half my life to alcohol but I wholly rely on the Lord”
“I’m not doing what I was made to do but I wholly rely on the Lord”

I could write a thousand examples there and hopefully you’ll share your own with me in a comment, but the simple truth is that each of us will face the darkness of the night. Armed rebels in Africa or apartment rent that’s late in Atlanta, each of us will stare out into the unknown and long for a weapon that just isn’t there.

My prayer is that instead of seeing your hand as empty, you’ll see your heart as full and in the darkest of times will do what a Kenyan headmaster did, rely wholly on the Lord.

p.s. There's a new post on Check it out.

Update on the orphanage.

Update on the orphanage.

I got an email from my uncle a few minutes ago and told him last night that I would send the prayers friends and strangers have showered on the orphanage. Thanks for sharing them. Here is the update.

In a telephone conversation this morning Naphtaly (the headmaster) shared that a peaceful "demonstration" was held this week on the dirt airstrip in front of the school on Mfangano Island, and over a thousand people from several villages attended to sing, mourn, weep, pray, and call upon our Lord together for the nation of Kenya.

Although GGCC classes were suspended several days ago, the school, which is home to GGCC students, 85-90 percent of whom are partial or total orphans, has remained open and the students have spent time in prayer, working on the compound, and games. Naphtaly added that by the grace of our Lord classes will resume Monday, February 4, 2008! We praise Him for the calm now being experienced on Mfangano Island.

However, over the last few days an extra security guard was utilized and six of the staff have served throughout the night as additional guards. This brings to mind the account in Nehemiah 4:16-17 of how God's people served while protecting themselves from attack.
The turmoil in Kenya has united and bonded the GGCC staff as never before in their calling to serve our Lord in ministry to innocent children He loves so much.

Please pray for food supplies to hold up until more arrives, and for Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, to draw many to Himself during this difficult time.