2 Reasons Why Love Is So Much Harder For This Generation Than Any Other Generation

1. This generation doesn’t have it harder. Love has always been hard. Welcome to life.

I don’t enjoy responding to other blog posts, but recently there have been a couple of posts about marriage and love (like this one and this one) that have really gotten under my skin. These articles have pointed out several issues that plague this generation when it comes to romance and have suggested that today we are either incapable of love, or are losing our ability to do so. The problem I have with these posts is that a majority of the issues they underline are not generation-specific problems. Instead, most of the issues they outline are just problems that have plagued the average person from the beginning of time.

Love is hard. It always has been and always will be hard. It’s always been a challenge. It’s always been a choice. It’s always been work. All of us get angry, jealous, cranky, greedy, lazy, frustrating, and annoying. All of us make stupid decisions, questionable judgment calls, and attempt to further our own agenda ahead of others. We are completely imperfect in nearly every way. And that’s always been the case whether you are from the 2000s or the 200s.

But love is the act of choosing to sacrifice our own selfish desires in order to serve an equally selfish and imperfect person. It requires us to say, “I am not the most important thing on the planet,” and generally that’s a pretty difficult thing to do. It’s not something that suddenly become an issue because Facebook popped up. It’s not like people were holding hands and singing Kumbaya for the past several millennia until the advent of the internet. Placing the needs of others ahead of our own has always been a difficult choice to make, no matter what generation one has been a part of.

I am not a perfect lover of my friends and family. In the very distant, and very recent past I have hurt those whom I claim to love due to my selfishness. And in the future I predict I will do the same. But love does not require us to be perfect, it just asks that we continually strive to be a better friend, sibling, spouse, or parent to those around us.

There was only one person in the history of our planet that came to this earth and perfectly loved those around him. With his death on the cross, Jesus gave us the greatest example of love there ever was. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t painless, and it wasn’t easy. But love has never been pretty. It has never been painless. And it has never been easy. It’s a sacrifice, it’s hard work, and it requires all of us.

We have always preferred instant gratification, been unfaithful, and haven’t wanted to make compromises. This isn’t a generation issue, it’s a sin issue and it will always be hanging around. But love is a powerful force. It will always be ready to thaw a frozen heart. We just have to make the choice.

2. Refer to Reason Number 1

God’s Not Dead 2: American Revolution (EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK!)

Originally posted on the unbearable lightness of huckabeing:

As you know, after the runaway success of God’s Not Dead, America’s favorite movie, a sequel has been greenlit. The premise of the sequel has been shrouded in mystery, but I am excited to announce that we at Tylerhuckabee.com have landed an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from the script, God’s Not Dead 2: American Revolution

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The First Annual Good Movies of 2014 And Subsequent Top 10 According To Josh Jackson (Presented in HD)

With 2015 being only a few days old, I thought it would be an excellent time to recap all the films that I saw and place them into several different categories. The tiers and Top 10 were decided after a year long discussion held by a committee of one and will culminate with the undisputed best motion picture of the year.

Films had to meet the following criteria in order for a movie to be considered for the tiers and the rankings:

  1. Be released in 2014
  2. Be watched by one or more committee member(s).

This year, the committee screened 32 films and all of them have been carefully placed into specific categories. If you disagree with any of the categories or rankings within the post then feel free to yell your complaints into the empty void of night.

All movies will be accompanied by their MPAA rating and Rotten Tomato Score.

Hey Man. That Was Pretty Fun

Films in this category didn’t necessarily have a lot of substance, but they were pretty fun. They didn’t wow critics and they really didn’t take the box office by storm. Most of them lacked good plots, captivating casts, and quality, but they were fun adventures and I really enjoyed myself.

Non-Stop, PG-13 (60%)

  • Liam Neeson stars in an awesome fast-paced mystery on board a commercial airplane. It’s a blast and a half and one critic in particular noted, “The action in this movie was just… NONSTOP.” (Adam Hernandez, Southwest Airlines)

Hercules, PG-13 (58%)

  • There were two Hercules movies this year. This is the only one that featured The Rock, and was coincidentally the only one I saw. It was pretty goofy. It was pretty stupid. But it was really entertaining. It had some great one-liners, several laugh out loud moments, and The Rock was The Rock.

Dracula Untold, PG-13 (22%)

  • There are rumors that Dracula is the first film in Universal Studio’s expansive Avengers-esque monster movie universe. If that’s the case, the upcoming movies need to improve upon the quality found in Untold. But the “Hey Man. That Was Pretty Fun.” category isn’t worried about quality. It doesn’t concern itself with deep characters. It just wants to see some bad guys get beat up by invincible vampires.

Earth to Echo, PG (48%)

  • Echo is kind of a Millennial version of E.T. A bunch of kids find an alien, get into hijinks, government or some kind of agency gets involved, kids work hard to get the alien home, and film it all on their smart phones and expensive cameras. Didn’t think I would like this one, but the kids were really funny, I laughed a lot.

Like I said. None of these movies overwhelmed cirtics, but I thought they were delightful escapes.

Yeah. I Guess That Was A Movie

These are the movies that I saw once, and almost forgot they existed. Some of them were more memorable than others, but for the most part, these films were pretty average. Honestly, I forgot I watched half of them.

Note: Every film will be accompanied with an alternative title.

Malificent, PG (49%)

  • Cheek Bones

The Fault In Our Stars, PG-13 (80%)

  • OKAY.

The Book Of Life, PG (82%)

  • Yeah Alright.

The Monuments Men, PG-13 (31%)

  • This Isn’t Oceans :-(

RoboCop, PG-13 (48%)

  • If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It.

The Muppets 2, PG (79%)

  • Where’s Jason Segel? :-(

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, PG-13 (21%)

  • Johnny Knoxville is Leonardo

When the Game Stands Tall, PG (18%)

  • “Based” on a “True Story” (The Entire Third Act Didn’t Really Happen)

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, PG-13 (60%)

  • The ACTUAL Desolation of Smaug

Let Downs

There were two movies that I was looking forward to this year, and they did not meet my expectations, those two movies were:

Noah, PG-13 (77%)

  • A lot of people were angry with Noah because Daren Aronofsky took a lot of artistic liberties with the classic bible story. But to be fair, the biblical account of Noah isn’t very long. If someone is going to make motion picture about the great flood, then some liberties are going to need to be taken. No, the movie was not very biblical, but that wasn’t my issue with the movie.
    Mainly, I just didn’t care about it. It wasn’t entertaining, it wasn’t super moving, it just ind of happened. I was expecting a major biblical epic, but it fell way short. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t great.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, PG-13 (53%)

  • There were three very flat, uninspired, vanilla villains that populated this movie. Electro wanted to kill people because he didn’t get enough attention. Harry Osbourne went from being a really healthy kid to being crippled by a mysterious “goblin disease” in a matter of days. The Rhino suffered from one of the worst CGI designs in modern blockbuster history. Gwen and Peter’s relationship continuously swung between being totally fine, to being on the rocks throughout the entire movie. This movie was awful. Totally awful. Shame on you Spider-Man. Shame on you.

Christmas Shoes

When it comes to Christmas, few songs drive people more insane than Christmas Shoes. It’s about a kid who wants to get his dying mother a pair of shoes for Christmas. It’s really not musically inventive, it’s super vanilla, very superficial, very cheesy, and is loathed by 95% of the population. Bottom line: It’s coming from a good place, but it isn’t a good song.

There was one movie this year that was essentially the Christmas Shoes of movies. And that was none other than:

God’s Not Dead, PG (17%)

God’s Not Dead tells the story of 10 different characters with like 13 different plot lines. The main story is about a college student who winds up engaging in a semester-long debate with his caricature of an atheist college professor. And as the title of the movie would suggest, they were debating whether or not there is a God.

The film culminates with all the characters going to the Newsboy’s God’s Not Dead concert. At the concert there’s a lot of dancing, hand raising, singing, cheering, high fiveing, a hit-and-run case of vehicular manslaughter that goes unsolved and unpunished, and the Newsboys!

Okay, you got me, there wasn’t a whole lot of high fiveing going on. But all the rest absolutely happened. Including the vehicular manslaughter.

God’s Not Dead has its moments, however few they may be, but overall the film is pretty bad. The characters are awkward and the multiple plot lines intersect about as smoothly as a pair of charging Rhinos. I want it to be good. As a Christian, I really really really want it to be good. But it’s super cheesy, pretty vanilla, and not very inventive. It’s coming from a good place, but it just isn’t a good movie.

I Am So Mad That I Bought A Ticket to See This Movie. Why? Why Did I Waste My Time? What Was I Expecting? I Am Just So Mad At Myself.

transformers: age of extinction, PG-13, 165 minutes (18%)

Better than the movie

This movie is 165 minutes long and did a really neat thing where it refused to tie up any of the hundreds of loose ends that it created.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Mark Whalberg stars as a man from Paris, Texas. Yup. Boston’s own Marky Mark Whalberg plays a man from East Texas.

This was the first time I audibly said, “You’re joking” in a movie theater.

If you go back and watch the previews of the movie, you will notice that they suggest that Dino robots will play a big part in the movie. The title alone “age of extinction” also hints at the inclusion of dinosaurs in this movie. And the opening sequence itself shows dinosaurs.

Well guess what.

The Dinobots show up around minute 140. And then they make their exit around minute 150.

I was so mad.

Lack of dinos, a man from Paris, Texas with a Boston accent, Optimus Prime magically growing rockets on the back of his legs and flying into space, a plot that is never explained nor makes sense, dumb villains, loose ends on loose ends on loose ends.

transformers four is the comic-sans of movies.

It is terrible in every way imaginable. I hate it so much.

And yet, I was one of the people that helped it make 1 billion dollars.

The battle is over. I am ashamed. We are doomed. All is lost. All is lost. All is lost.

Mark Whalberg has been confirmed for Transformers 5.

There’s Something In My Eye, I Swear :'(

This is a list of all the movies that made me cry in 2014 :'( They will be accompanied with a “Why they made me cry” explanation

St. Vincent, PG-13 (76%)

  • The little kid recognizes Vincent as a modern day saint and recounts all of the great things Vin did in his life. And then the kid goes and reminds you about Vin’s recently deceased wife who had been battling Alzheimer’s disease. You really can’t blame me for the little drop that escaped my eyeball.

Big Hero Six, PG (89%)

  • I didn’t technically cry, but I got close when Baymax sacrifices himself for Hiro.
    “I am satisfied with my care.”
    NO YOU AREN’T, HIRO. FIGURE SOMETHING OUT.

Alexander And The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, PG (62%)

  • I am just as surprised as you are to see this on the list, but sure enough it happened. When Alexander comes home and finds out his parents rented out an Australian Outback petting zoo, and Alexander realizes that he isn’t invisible to them, and that they really do love him, and that he matters to them, I just couldn’t fight it, man. A couple tears welled up. IT WAS REALLY SWEET, OKAY? IT WAS JUST REALLY KIND OF HIS FAMILY. LEAVE ME ALONE.

About Time, R (69%)

  • Yeah I know. It’s not from 2014, but I watched it over the summer for the first time. The beach scene at the end of the movie: Niagara Falls. I was a wreck.

Just A Bit Outside

Before we get to the top 10 I wanted to make note of some movies that were really good, but for whatever reason they just missed the top 10 cut. All of these are really good movies, and some may be present in other top 10 movie lists, but for me they just lacked a little here and there.

How To Train Your Dragon 2, PG (92%)

  • The second installment of Hiccup and the gang didn’t necessarily measure up to it’s predecessor, but it’s still a very good movie. It tugs at your heartstrings, expands upon the world created in the first film, and has a great final act. But it misses the very high standard that the first movie set by the hairs on its chinny, chin, chin. Solid movie.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, PG-13 (91%)

  • The only reason why this isn’t in the top ten is because the concept of apes taking over the world makes me really uncomfortable. Everything about this movie was good, I just felt really uneasy with the story it was telling.

Alexander and the THNGVBD, PG (62%)

  • Still can’t believe I cried a little in this one. I was so frustrated with myself. The film is endearing, charming, and pretty okay. It’s just not quite Top 10 material.

Interstellar, PG-13 (72%)

  • I wanted to put this in the Top 10. I really wanted to. But I couldn’t. I was really looking forward to this movie for a long time, and was super pumped to see what Nolan had in store for audiences this time, but was a little let down once the movie was over. It was emotionally draining for sure, but it was just missing something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for me it was just missing that extra something to make it a great movie.

What If, PG-13 (69%)

  • It was good, just not great. You knew Harry Potter would wind up with the girl the whole time. The story was well told, and I enjoyed myself, but much like Interstellar, it was missing that extra something to make it great.

About Time, R (69%)

  • The only reason why this isn’t in the Top 10 is because it was made in 2013. Great movie. So Good.

Top 10

The movies that have made it to this category are what I considered to be the best movies of the year. You do not have to agree with this list. I will admit that there probably won’t be much difference between my top 10 and one created by an 8 year old. But that’s okay. This is just my opinion. And if you don’t like my top 10, or any of my other categories, you’re more than welcome to disagree.

But if you put Transformers 4 in your top 10, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will make you sit down, critically watch it, and make you think about what you’ve done.

So here’s my Top 10 (Brought to you by the B1G 10 and Big XII)

11. Mr. Peabody and Sherman, PG (79%)

  • This was such a cute little movie and was one of the surprises of 2014. It had comedy, time travel, a talking dog with glasses, and a very touching ending. If it’s Friday Night, and you’re looking for something to Redbox, and you haven’t seen this movie yet, I would highly recommend renting it.

10. Big Hero 6, PG (89%)

  • Somehow I became emotionally invested in the destiny of a robot that looked like a marshmallow. I don’t know how Disney does it, but their last four films (Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6) have been phenomenal and they don’t show any signs of dropping off in the immediate future. Big Hero was so sad, thrilling, fun, goofy, serious, and fulfilling. It was a captivating adventure and a fantastic trip to the movies. I was satisfied with my care.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy, PG-13 (90%)

  • “We are Groot.” Yes we are. Yes we are.

8. Edge of Tomorrow, PG-13 (90%)

  • Edge of Tomorrow was easily the biggest surprise of 2014. It struggled at the box office, but it was totally awesome. There was tons of action, lots of time travel, and a thrilling plot. It was so much fun and it was really good. The movie formally known as Edge of Tomorrow (Now called Live. Die. Repeat. for some reason) is a lot like Groundhog Day in plot structure, but is a lot more serious and action packed. If you haven’t seen it, you really need to go watch it because it just so good.

7. The Lego Movie, PG (96%)

  • Everything is awesome about this movie. GET IT? No but seriously. Everything was great. I laughed a ton and got very sentimental. It ends on the overused “everyone can be a hero” cliche, but I don’t care. I hope that someday we all have the opportunity to unlock the special within us, and maybe, just maybe, we can watch TV with all our buddies on our own double decker couch.

6. St. Vincent, PG-13 (76%)

  • Bill Murray was a grumpy, surly, curmudgeon with a heart of tarnished gold which is exactly how I want to be when I grow older. The relationship he shares with his next door neighbor is really sweet and Murray delivered a fantastic performance. It is wildly inappropriate at parts, but if you can make it through the first 20 minutes, then you’ll be rewarded.

5. Godzilla, PG-13 (74%)

  • OH MAN. OH MAN. I love Godzilla so much. He was a childhood hero of mine. This movie honored the very best parts about my favorite atomic lizard and HOLY SMOKES ATOMIC BREATH. WOW. Bryan Cranston dies in the first 30 minutes, and Aaron Taylor Johnson was not anywhere near his best, BUT GODZILLA WAS SO COOL. HE STOLE EVERY SCENE HE WAS IN. HE JUST CRUSHED IT. Academy take note: Godzilla for best actor in a leading role plz.

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier PG-13 (89%)

  • The first Captain America movie was essentially a preview for The Avengers. Winter Soldier, on the other hand completely alters the entire direction of the MCU and changes everything you’ve known about S.H.I.E.L.D. But looking at the movie from a strictly standalone point of view, and outside the context of the bigger franchise, Cap 2 is just really good. The Winter Soldier is a great menacing presence throughout the film, Robert Redford is a fantastic political villain, Sam Jackson’s car chase was amazing, and Chris Evans is such a good Captain America. This may be Marvel’s best movie to date. So good.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past, PG-13 (91%)

  • Future Past is fantastic. It has its fair share of problems and plot holes, but when you’re dealing with time travel it’s impossible to cover all of your bases. Patrick Stewart’s speech to James McAvoy was inspirational and moving. Michael Fassbender once again reminds you why he is a more than capable heir to the role of Magneto. Hugh Jackman does less Wolverine-y things in this one and takes on a more sophisticated supporting role, while remaining totally awesome. Future Past not only fixes all the mistakes that X3 and X-Men Origins made, but it also has a very rewarding and nostalgic ending. It’s a solid entry in the X-Men franchise and is quite possibly the best of the bunch.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer, G (100%)

  • I MAKE THE RULES. THIS COUNTS. I’M SO EXCITED. LET’S GO.

1. Boyhood, R (98%)

  • For those who have never heard of Boyhood, let me give you the most inriguing aspect of this film: it was made over 12 years with the same cast.

    The exact same cast.

    You literally get to watch the main character grow up right in front of your eyes. Boyhood is the perfect picture of what it was like to grow up in Texas in the 2000’s. The family situation may not have been the same as yours, but the real world situations are exactly the same. The movie only filmed a few scenes at a time over the course of twelve years which creates a very unique evolution process. The music, the film quality, the dialogue, the culture, all grow and change as the plot moves forward in time. It’s fascinating.

    It’s remarkable that not only was this type of movie attempted, but that it was executed so well. The story is great and the actors all deliver phenomenal performances. It’s so good.It is sentimental and nostalgic without being cheesy. It is a work of art and yet it isn’t pretentious. You may not agree with all of the view points of the characters and the choices they make, I certainly didn’t. But you can absolutely relate to a lot of the situations they were in and the challenges they faced.

    Parents, be warned that the F-word gets dropped a lot. But if you have a senior in high school, or a recently graduated senior, I think you should really give Boyhood a viewing. It’s remarkable. It’s moving. It’s my favorite movie of the year and has a real shot to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Well that wraps up the list. If you disagreed with everything, that’s okay :( If you disagreed with a few things, that’s also okay :( If you also cried during Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, please let me know so I can at least feel better about myself.

Thanks for reading.

XOXO- Josh

PSA: A Hippopotamus for Christmas

In 1953, ten-year-old Gayla Peevy hit the airwaves just in time to send a very particular message to dear ole Santa Claus. Like all the children of the world, Gayla had one thing on her Christmas list that she desperately wanted more than anything else. Most kids ask for things like dolls, tea sets, footballs, maybe nice clothes, or perhaps a Turbo Man action figure with the arms and legs that move and the boomerang shooter and the rock’n roller jet pack and the realistic voice activator that says 5 different phrases including, “It’s Turbo time!” I don’t know, I’m spit ballin. But ole Gayla wanted something far more obscure. She wanted a Hippopotamus.

Gayla’s obscure and peculiar request became quite the Christmas Classic, and most of us have been delighted as the song has slipped out of our car speakers and joyfully played on our ear drums this Christmas. But all fun aside, it’s clear to me that Gayla’s request is not as innocent and playful as it would appear. She’s dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, and her Christmas wish is actually a death wish.

Hippos Aren’t Goofy

The Hippopotamus is the most poorly depicted species in the animal kingdom. In cartoons they are viewed as lovable giants or as the goofy aquatic bovine of Africa. In the 1940 Disney film Fantasia, hippos are depicted as graceful ballerinas that are desperately afraid of dancing alligators. Here’s a refresher for those of you who didn’t watch it everyday as a child.

Look at them. So innocent. So loveable. So goofy. A little creepy. Actually, really creepy. I’m uncomfortable.

But they look harmless. They look friendly. They are peaceful creatures that are to be cherished and loved. What could possibly go wrong?

YEAH. THAT’S WHAT COULD GO WRONG.

Hippos Are Terrifying.

Listen Gayla. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but for some reason you have not only condemned yourself to destruction, but also your immediate family and also the big fella up North. What did he ever do to you to deserve such a fate.

Listen kid, allow me to divulge some fresh knowledge on you.

  • Hippos weigh anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 tons.
    Santa already has an issue getting to all the children over the entire world in one night, he does not need the additional 3 tons of angry hippopotamus weight slowing him down.
  • Hippos are easily angered and territorial.
    It would be one thing if you were asking for a baby hippopotamus. One that you could build trust with, and nurture. But Gayla, your lyrics seem to suggest that you want a fully mature, male, hippopotamus in a brand new habitat. A habitat that he will naturally wish to dominate and control. Gayla why.
  • Hippos kill more people than crocodiles, elephants, lions, tigers, and bears.
    Gayla’s mother tries to warn little Gayla in her song. Mother says a hippo would eat Gayla up. “But Mom. Teacher says that Hippos are vegetarians.” LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, GAYLA. The hippo may be a vegetarian but “hippopotamuseses” also kill 3,000 people a year. I guess Gayla is trying to make it 3,001.
  • The Hippo’s bite can exert upwards of 1800 PSI.
    It exerts more force than the lion, tiger, bear, and others. The Hippo will eat the cookies you left for Santa, the plate they were sitting on, the table, and the carpet in one swift and satisfying chomp.

These are not the animals from Fantasia. They fear no one. They will saunter into a clan of feeding crocodiles and begin licking their spines. They will challenge Lions, Elephants, hyenas, and any other unfortunate soul that wanders into their midst. They are constantly mad. Part of this is because they have two sharp tusks that drive into the roof of their mouth. But I think it mainly has to do with the fact that they’ve been misrepresented in the media and have no choice but to pick a fight and convincingly exert their dominance over every living creature they meet.

Closing Remarks

Hippos laugh at the Leviathan, badger the Behemoth, challenge the Collosus, and guffaw at giants. Readers, please do not follow in the footsteps of Gayla. Do not ask for a Hippo for Christmas. Ask for a doll that will talk or go for a walk, your two front teeth, a pump action Red Ryder BB Gun, a boy named Sue, something, anything, just don’t ask for a Hippo.

Or you will face the toothe-ache-induced-wrath of the Hippopotamus.

For the Dogs

Yesterday, I received the bit of news I had been dreading for several months. Judy, my German Shepherd from back home, had passed away. She had been struggling for several months, her legs were in poor condition, she was nearly blind, and basically deaf. It was her time. My Mom and Dad made the difficult decision to take her to the local shelter, and as of yesterday afternoon, Judy is no longer suffering. This isn’t the first time I’ve lost a dog, and it certainly won’t be the last.

In 6th and 7th grade I lost Ranger and Shadow, a Sheltie and a German Shepherd respectively. The loss of Shadow really, really hurt the whole family because she was such a stupendous companion–not that Ranger wasn’t, Shadow was simply exemplary. Both times, I was the first one to find them after they had died.

One of the first things my dad asked me after Shadow had died was, “Is it worth it? Would you want another one? Would you want to go through all of it again? Knowing that this would ultimately have to be the outcome?”

After I wiped the tears from my eyes and snorted up the mucus that had been building up inside my nose, I looked up at him and emphatically replied, “Yes.”

And that is still the case today.

The Great Welcome

“Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. I can’t wait for master to come back.”

In a previous blog (which you can read here if you really want to) I talked about how cats show us the reality of our own sinful and selfish desires. Dogs on the other hand, give us a picture of unconditional love.

If you’ve never owned a dog or experienced the love of a canine, then you’re really missing out on something special. Yeah, they can be pretty needy, they can get a little hyper, their spacial awareness drops to zero when they walk in a living room and start wagging their tail, and getting them house-broken is a pain in the neck. But, you need to go through it at least once because the reward is really special.

The smell, the noise, the slobber, and all the annoyances that can get to owners, gets forgotten pretty quickly. Because on any given day of the week, there is a friend waiting patiently at home for the return of their master. And when a dog’s master does finally return from work, school, the store, the house next door, the mailbox, or the front step, they always seem to respond in the same excited fashion. If they could talk, it would be an endless stream of “I missed you!” and “You’re so awesome!”

The way Shadow, Ranger, and Judy all welcomed me when I had been away from them for any given period of time, was fantastic. There was a genuine feeling of excitement and love. It was pure.

If you’ve never experienced the joy that Man’s Best Friend offers, if you’ve never questioned the reason why they turn around three times and sit, if you’ve never been bombarded by the greatest welcoming committee that this life has to offer, then you are missing out on a beautiful experience.

Mirrors

“When will reflection show who I am inside??? :D”

The best part about dogs is that there isn’t much you can do to earn or lose their love. If you get them as a pup and feed them a few times, they’ll stick by you through anything. Once they’ve placed their trust in you, you can’t do much to lose that trust. For the most part, their love is unconditional. And you won’t find a better example of unconditional love short of the love found through God.

You think it’s a coincidence that “Dog” spelled backwards is “God?”

You think Adam was one hundred percent responsible for naming all of the animals?

You think the same guy who named the hippopotamus, the rhinoceros, the zebra, and the giraffe was the same guy who came up with “dog?”

I like to believe that Adam was just coming up with the most nonsense words he could conceive when any animal walked in front of him.

And God had to reign him in a little bit.

God: Hey Adam how’s it going?

Adam: GREAT! I’m naming so many things! Hey look over there! I’ve never seen that before! I think it looks like a… a….

God: Oh yeah! That guy! I was think something along the lines of–

Adam: CATERPILLAR

God: I’m sorry what was that?

Adam: I DON’T KNOW MAN! I’m just saying the first syllables that come into my head!

God: Oh dear.

Adam was not going to narrow it down to “Dog” on his own. It probably would have been something along the lines of “Xantergoose” or something else ridiculous had God not intervened. He took control of the process for just a moment or two to ensure that dogs received the perfect name.

(Side note: This made up narrative, which features both free will and predestination, has conveniently played into the hands of both the Calvinists and the Arminians. Everyone is happy! Or Upset! I don’t really know!)

Dogs have a name that mirrors God. But there name is not the only way in which we can see the Lord.

One of the parables that Jesus tells in the bible is the story of the prodigal son. The son represents all of us and the father represents God. The son decides he wants to leave home, he takes his inheritance, spends everything way too quickly, and eventually winds up having to work really undesirable jobs in order to survive. Then he gets the idea that he needs to go back home and try to work as a servant for his father in order to live a more comfortable life.

After a long journey, he finally makes it back to his father’s land. But before he can even get within a hundred yards of the house, his father races off to meet him. The dad wraps him up in his arms, hugs him real tight, kisses him on both cheeks, and shows his son how much he missed him.

Sound familiar?

If it doesn’t, I’d recommend clicking this link.

Dogs aren’t God. They never will be. But they are a small reflection and constant reminder of the love that the Lord has for us.

Man’s Best Friend

Dogs can be smelly, messy, and disaster-ridden. Loud, yippy, and obnoxious. Inconvenient, annoying, and needy. But every owner would probably agree that they are also unwaveringly loyal, steadfast protectors, and watchful guardians. Inhumanly loving, uniquely joyous, and unabashedly adoring.

They love you even when you don’t feel like loving them back, and shower you with their own form of praise when you need it most. Dogs do not look at your potential, your current state, or anything of the sort. They just want to love you and be loved in return.

Shadow, Ranger, and Judy exemplified all of these characteristics and more. I am thankful for the time I had with them, and look forward to the companions I will walk with in the future.

Here’s to the frustration, the joy, the agony, the love, and the unrivaled companionship that embodies the adventure of owning a dog.

Thanks for everything.

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Farewell, old gal.

 

 

Josh vs. The Hooch

Josh vs. The Hooch

When I was a freshman in college I applied for a job at a Baptist summer camp called Mount Lebanon. They were in need of a pretty big staff because summer is one of their busiest times of the year, and I was in need of some cash inflow and some experience. So in the summer of 2011, I joined 50 other college kids in Cedar Hill, Texas for one of the most memorable seasons of my life.

Part 1: The Platypus

For those of you who have never volunteered or worked at a camp before, it’s important to know that a camp job is a conglomeration of several different jobs. Over the summer a staffer could be a janitor, PE teacher, baby sitter, landscaper, lifeguard, safety specialist, counselor, belay rope master, chauffeur, hydration expert, and a medical assistant. Because a job like this takes on the identities of a wide array of responsibilities, I like to compare the camp staffer to a duck-billed platypus.

The platypus is the weird combination of several different animals. It has the body of an otter, the tail of a beaver and the bill of a duck. It’s classified as a warm-blooded mammal, but it lays eggs. It’s quite the anomaly in the animal kingdom, and I believe it is some of the strongest evidence we have to suggest that God has a sense of humor.

There’s actually a small part of me that likes to believe that God created a human right before he created Adam. His name was probably Todd, he was given the maturity of a four year old and he was tasked with helping God design all the animals. When God first asked him for a suggestion, Todd kind of panicked and blurted out a series disconnected thoughts that ultimately resulted in the creation of the platypus.

Clearly, Todd did not keep his job for very long.

Platypi have some strange surface level features, but it’s a pretty regular aquatic animal once you look past its oddities. Same thing goes with a summer staff position. Most people have a pretty general idea of what they’re getting into when they apply for a job like this. There may be a few unorthodox tasks asked of staffers, but there isn’t a whole lot that catches people off guard.

When I arrived at orientation for Mt. Leb in May, I felt like I had adequately prepared myself for everything that this job would throw at me. I had been to camp before, I had seen summer staff at work, I thought I was ready for anything.

I was wrong.

Part 2: The Call

Orientation went fairly smoothly. I made a handful of rookie mistakes, got nicknamed Aslan (Thank you Drew Lyons), bonded with some pretty swell people, and got acclimated to life in Cedar Hill. I really couldn’t complain about anything.

Heading into the last day of orientation the only thing that I was nervous about was a safety certification test. If you failed the test you were kind of out of a job, so it was important to be prepared. I don’t think anyone has ever failed it because it’s pretty simple, but I took the challenge a little too seriously and became a little stressed. So I decided to wake up early on the last day to do a little last minute cramming.

6 am rolled around and my alarm started blaring. I shut it off and laid on my back for a little bit while staring at the ceiling. I started running through little factoids that I would need to know for the test later that day and tried to remember the little acronyms that would lead me to success.

After about 5 minutes I heard some movement coming from with the cabin common room. The noise turned into whispering and hushed snickering. And then in a moment everything became silent. The birds outside stopped chirping, the air conditioning shut off, even the snores from a few neighboring staffers ceased. It was eerie, like the calm before a very powerful storm.

I wish I could go back in time and linger in that silence for a few moments longer. I would revel in the blissful ignorance of that moment and truly appreciate the silence for what it was: one last moment of happiness.

The last fleeting moment of silence was not merely broken, but utterly shattered. The sound of a drum roll came crashing through the cabin and it slowly crescendoed into the deafening roar of a heavy metal song. Sound violently reverberated through the 1970s wood paneling of the bunkhouse like a pinball and abruptly collided with the ear drums of every unfortunate young man still in their bed.

Immediately, the bunk house became flooded with the male staff members that had worked at Mt. Lebanon in previous summers. They ordered all of us sleepy and discombobulated rookies to throw some clothes on and go into the common room where we were greeted by a group of men violently moving their body to the fatal pulse of the death metal music.

“DANANANANANANANANANANANANANANANA YOU. WILL. DIE. TO. NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT” (assumed interpretation of lyrics)

This may have been a mistake.

I was terrified. It looked like a scene from a tribal witch dance in a third world country.

Once all of the rookie guys were assembled, the returning staff members looked at us with soulless, possessed eyes, all while swaying to the distorted beat of the noise. And then in unison, they all uttered a phrase that still haunts me to this day.

“The HOOCH is calling.”

Part 3: Poison Knives

Remember the platypus? Remember the concept of “what you see is what you get?”

Well. That’s not totally true for the male platypi.

Here’s the thing about the fellas: They have all the weird stuff that the females have but with one fun little addition…

THEY’RE POISONOUS.

WHAT.

You remember Todd, don’t you? He was person that I sacrilegiously inserted into the original creation story. Apparently one of his last ideas, right before being relieved of his duties, was putting VENOMOUS SPURS on the back legs of the male platypus.

TODD. WHY.

I guess God was like, “Hey, that’s actually hysterical. You’re still fired, but thanks for that idea,” and then signed off on it. Apparently this little freak show of a marsupial was too adorable and needed hidden poison knives to spice stuff up.

” Time to die, losers.”

LOOK AT THAT FACE.

“lol here comes the pain”

THAT’S THE KIND OF FACE THAT WILL KILL YOU AND FEEL NOTHING.

That’s right, Perry. I know your dirty little secret.

And just like the male platypus, the male staff position at Mt. Lebanon also had a hidden poisonous knife called: The Hooch Run.

The Hooch run was the process that Mt. Lebanon had for collecting all the trash bags around camp. It involved a green dumpster, a trailer, a tractor, a driver, and 2 runners. The dumpster was strapped down to the trailer which was pulled around by the tractor. The two runners had the envious task of running out in front of the tractor, collecting the full bags of trash in the trash cans, running back to the tractor, and throwing them into the mobile dumpster.

“Hey Josh, what does Hooch mean?”

I’m getting to that, please don’t interrupt.

In some instances “Hooch” might refer to alcohol, and in others it might refer to the crime-solving canine sidekick for Tom Hanks. But at Mt. Lebanon it has a completely different meaning. Hooch, or Hooch juice, refers to the liquid substance that would collect at the bottom of a trash bag. In the hot Texas summer, anything can liquefy if left in a black trash bag long enough. Dr. Pepper would usually find it’s way to the bottom of the bag first, then pizza would eventually slide down, and on a few occasions plastic would melt, slither to the end, and fuse itself into the now lethal concoction that rested at the bottom of the trash receptacle. And the best part is that the trash bags would leak this substance all over the place when they got picked up!

Staffers called it Hooch, I called it flirting with patient zero.

“Josh, why was the run so bad?”

What did I just say about interrupting?

I hate physical activity. I don’t care for it at all. I really detest running. Whenever people ask me to run their 5k, I ask if I can drive it instead. I was not trained to run, I do not run, and this particular run (close to about 2.75 miles, maybe less, I don’t really know) was no beginner course.

When the returning staff members finally snapped out of their demon possessed trances, they led us outside so that we could do a fake hooch run, which was the exact same thing as the real deal, minus the trash bags. All the rookies participated. It was awful. I was terrible and I hated it.

After that “jog” around campus I vowed to do my very best to never get chosen to be a runner for the remainder of the summer.

And for quite some time, that’s exactly what I did.

Part 4: The Real Deal

Everyday during the staff lunch, our bosses would select two unfortunate guys to go run around campus and pick up trash. During this time, I would act very nonchalantly. I wouldn’t make any noise. I wouldn’t draw attention to myself. I would just sit there and blend in with my fellow staffers. It worked brilliantly. All those years of getting picked last for dodgeball had finally paid off.

On Wednesday during the fourth week of camp I once again avoided being selected. I thought I was in the clear. I thought I was a champion.

I thought wrong.

During that lunch, my boss came up to me and two other guys and told us that one of the runners had rolled his ankle and couldn’t finish. They were only about a quarter of the way through the run and someone needed to step in and finish for him. There was silence as a very dangerous game of chicken began between my two co-workers and me. I prayed that one of them would speak up and volunteer themselves as sacrifice to the Hooch. But as I looked at the other two guys that were standing next to me, I depressingly realized that they were not going to answer my prayers. So, I manned up and told my boss that I would step in.

The Hooch was calling. And I couldn’t escape.

One last note about the Hooch: It is not held in the morning or in the evening. It’s done in the middle of the day immediately following staff lunch break. Which is great because the run is just long enough for your body to go through almost the entire digestive process.

So with the sun at it’s peak point in the sky, pizza in my belly, Target brand Sketchers with no arch support on my feet, and the fear of God in my body, I raced out to meet the monster.

I caught up with the tractor and was greeted by fellow Hooch runner, Matthew Cutchen. He’s a super encouraging individual and one of the most positive men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He could make you feel fantastic about anything and he lived up to that reputation all throughout our run.

For about 30 minutes the driver told us where to go and which bags to pick up. Matthew galloped like a majestic steed and I hobbled around like a wounded cow.

After what seemed like an eternity, our run finally came to an end. There were many times when I wanted to give up. At one point I even barrel rolled down the side of a hill because I misjudged how quickly I was moving, the incline of the hill, and gravity. I was dirty, dusty, cut up, a little bloody, and exhausted. I felt pretty worthless throughout the duration of this silly task. The Hooch ate me up and spat me out, but I lived to tell the tale.

Part 5: The Hooch Shop

The end of the run took us to a big steel storage shed where the Tractor and the dumpster were kept. I was relieved to be done running, but I was not prepared for what was ahead of me. The shed was fittingly named the Hooch shop. It was pretty filthy inside and outside. It didn’t have a whole lot of feng shui going on.

Once inside someone told me to go grab some “hooch water” from the water fountain inside the shed. I was down for water, but the machine that they directed me towards was not very encouraging. All the panels on this beaten up fountain were coated in a layer of rust. It looked like no one had bothered maintaining it since the 70s and I’m fairly certain that I saw some fungus growing along the outside. I took one look at it and suddenly I wasn’t that thirsty anymore. When my partners saw that I wasn’t down for the water they encouraged me to give it a shot and then that encouragement turned into a flat out demand. So I nervously made my way to the fountain and got myself a drink.

The water from that fountain must have had a direct line to a little pond somewhere in the Colorado Rockies because it was the most delicious water I’ve ever had in my life. I was blown away. After the first few timid sips I put my whole mouth on the spout and started taking on water like a camel. It was so refreshing.

My partners called out to me again, “Hey Josh, get back here. There’s more.”

“THERE’S MORE?” I replied emphatically. I found it quite hard to believe that there could be anything better than the water fountain I had just made out with, but I was wrong. When I came back to the front of the shop I was met by an air compressor. The hose connected to the air compressor was fitted with a very thin, very long, copper tube. And then one of the fellas said, “Take your shirt off.”

Which was weird.

“Nah man. I’m good.” I said.

“No. Josh. Just take your shirt off.” They insisted.

Removing the shirt was a fairly difficult task because it was stuck to my body due to the immense amount perspiration I had just produced. But once I peeled it off, the air compressor was turned on and I was rewarded majestically. When you’ve sweated all day long and a nice breeze sweeps over you, it feels pretty good. When that breeze is a concentrated through a copper tube and is about 20 degrees cooler, It feels like God is breathing on you.

We didn’t stay in the shed for too long because we had to get back to our jobs, but right before we left I’ll never forget Matthew coming up to me and saying, “Hey man. You did a great job today! Really proud of you dude! We did it!”

That was the first and last time I ever heard Matthew tell a lie.

I’m a terrible runner. I was terribly slow. I couldn’t keep my footing. I fell down. I really made a mess of the whole run. But you know what? That’s kind of what life is like.

Part 6: Well Done

The New Testament has several instances where life is compared to a race or a long marathon that we have to run with the purpose of winning. But often times we get tangled up and stumble. We get slowed down. We barrel role down the side of a hill. We lose focus and we lose sight of what we’re doing. We get some hooch juice spilled on us. We grow weary. We long for the chance to quit and leave it all behind.

Hebrews 12: 1 & 2 says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus already did this little hooch run called life. He’s better at it than we are. Like WAY better. His life became infinitely harder and way more dangerous than our lives, but verse 2 tells us that he completed the race because of the joy that was set before him.

Jesus knows what’s on the other side of this race. He knows the rewards that are coming. God is going to meet us at the end and give us the most refreshing water we’ve ever had. And when we meet Him face to face, He’ll look us in the eye, and just like Matthew said to me he’ll say, “Well done.”

Well done? God, are you serious? Is that some sort of joke? Are you saying I did a good job? Or is “well done” the way you like your sinners to be served up? God I don’t know if you paid attention, but I am pretty far from well done. I fell into the same sin over and over again. I stumbled on multiple occasions. I was a terrible child, parent, teacher, worker, etc. You really need to review the tape.

But that’s the great part about Jesus running the race. He accomplished the run that we couldn’t. He stepped in for our shortcomings. He picked up the loads we couldn’t carry. He perfected the race and authored our faith. When God looks at the race we’ve run he doesn’t see someone who stumbled every step of the way to the finish line. He sees a group of people who completed a journey with his son. And that’s pretty cool.

There are some days where it’s going to feel like a trash bag exploded on our back and we’re covered in hooch juice, but some days will be a breeze. The important thing to remember is that we are never alone. We have a partner who has done this and knows the struggles we will face. He sympathizes with us and picks us up in our brokenness. He is guiding us to the finish of a long marathon. He’s preparing us for hardships (Romans 5:3-5) and when we do stumble, we are reminded that we will rise again (Micah 7:8).

And maybe.

Just maybe.

When we get there, he might even let us create the next platypus. But don’t quote me on that.

In Defense of the Bears

On Saturday, 5 Baylor beat 9 TCU in a fantastic 61-58 shootout that featured two unbeaten teams. Baylor was down 58-37 early in the fourth quarter after Bryce Petty threw a pick six. What followed was the most resilient comeback that I think I have ever witnessed. Baylor scored 24 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take down the frogs and keep their undefeated season alive and then the Baylor fans then proceeded to rush the field.

There were some very questionable penalties late in the game, and quite justifiably TCU fans were upset that the refs may have blown the game for them. While the referees did make a few bad calls in the last minutes of the game, I will point out that they were not the ones who suddenly stopped playing defense in the fourth quarter after taking a 21-point lead.

But apparently Horned Frog fans and college football connoisseurs everywhere were not so much appalled at how the game was officiated, but rather how Baylor’s fans reacted to the comeback victory.

“I can’t believe that the fans of a higher ranked team rushed the field. That’s just ridiculous. You just don’t do that. So dumb. #Unbelievable #Classless”

I guess fans of higher ranked teams don’t ever need to rush the field when their team beats a lower ranked opponent. You wouldn’t want to find yourself being like these guys:

For the record. This was in 2009. TCU was ranked number 4. Utah was ranked SIXTEEN. The score at the half was 38-14 in favor of TCU. The final score was 55-28. There was no big comeback. Victory was hardly ever in doubt. And Utah wasn’t even undefeated. But apparently a win over a one loss Utah team, who really hadn’t done much all season, warranted a more emotional response than Baylor’s victory over a Top 10, undefeated team simply because College Gameday had come to Fort Worth for the game against the Utes.

Baylor is now being told that they need to “act like they’ve been here before” (Whatever that means) because they’re the defending Big 12 Champs and were the higher ranked team. But here’s the thing about telling Baylor to act like they’ve been here before.

They haven’t been here before.

Yes, they won the conference last year. Yes, the Heisman trophy has been to Waco. Yes, they are currently ranked number four in the nation. And yeah, there was a brief time in the late 70s when Michael Singleterry played with them and they were pretty good, but come on. Five years ago in 2009, Baylor was awful. They were the midst of a 15 year bowl drought. It wasn’t that they hadn’t won a bowl game in 15 years, they hadn’t been bowl eligible in 15 years. For a good stretch of time people legitimately forgot that Baylor was a division one program.

When the Cowboys were having rough seasons, they would schedule a pee wee league team to boost their spirits. If they were unable to beat that squad of fourth graders then they would schedule a scrimmage with Baylor, because no one could lose to Baylor.

One year Oklahoma was playing the Bears and they were winning 122 to negative three at the end of the third quarter. Some fans got bored in the parking lot and started setting off fireworks. The Sooners lost track of time and assumed that the fireworks were signaling the end of the game. So they packed up and left the stadium before the start of the fourth quarter. 10 plays later, Baylor scored.

Telling Baylor fans to act like they’ve been here (Again, I don’t really know what this means) is like handing a king size Hershey’s bar to a child and telling them to take small bites once every 15 minutes. It’s not going to happen. There’s too much awesome, fantastic, wonderful, stuff going on to not just dive right in and experience the sugar rush of a fantastic season and an unbelievable comeback.

The people who say “you should never rush the field” are probably people who have never experienced the jubilation and pandaemonium of that event. Rushing the field in a victory over a ranked opponent is not tacky. It’s saying, “OH MY GOSH I LOVE THIS TEAM SO MUCH, I WANT TO CELEBRATE THEIR VICTORY WITH THEM AND HUG EVERYBODY THIS IS WONDERFUL. I WILL HAVE MASSIVE STUDENT LOANS WHEN I GRADUATE BUT AT LEAST FOR THIS MOMENT IN TIME, I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IT. HOORAY.”

Seriously, the cost of tuition should give every fan base the right to rush the field anytime they want to. Win or lose.

Let Baylor have their fun. This may not last forever. They could be terrible for the rest of time, and if that’s the case, no one will not look back at these few seasons of success and say “Yeah. We are terrible right now. But at least I never ran onto the football field and enjoyed an exciting win. We were far too classy for that.”

In terms of being a national and respected football powerhouse, Baylor is very young. It’s still really weird to pull up the AP polls and see the Bears sitting near the top of the national rankings. But as a winning culture becomes more and more common place for the Bears, the fans will respond accordingly. They will calm down. It will be fine. But for right now, let them enjoy their king size Hershey bar of a season.

Taking to the field after the victory is not explicitly reserved for upsets. That’s never been the case. And If you really want to keep their fans from running onto the field, then don’t let them beat you at their house. Easier said than done, but that’s what you have to do.