Miscarriage and Me

I have never really thought about miscarriages in my life. I have a couple of family members and a few friends in seminary that went through it. In these few cases I basically said, “What a shame, I’m sad for you,” I did my best to feel real empathy for them, but never thought much about it beyond that. One year ago today, however, I should have heard the heartbeat of my second child…but I did not.

Now I have thought about miscarriages.

I have never seen or heard a man speak about what miscarriage is like from their point of view. (Oh wait, after I wrote this, this was posted) What is the internet for if not being inappropriately open with complete strangers? In light of this, I will now share with you the experience from my side.

First and foremost; it is crushingly sad. I suppose that should be obvious, but I have rarely heard anyone ever talk about the experience, and when they do they mention it as some past event that they have grieved over, so I never realized how hard it must be. There were warning signs before we found out, so my heart was a bit guarded. I’ll never forget that ultrasound room on the day we learned there was no heartbeat. This was not our first ultrasound. In fact we were pros. We both knew that it was bad well before the doctor spoke to us. Even then I was not quite prepared to hear the news that my child had no heartbeat. It is a death, and you grieve like any other death even though you never got to know the child you are grieving over.

Secondly, I didn’t realize just how excited I was about my impending renewed fatherhood. When I found out that our first child was coming, I had a multitude of feelings. Mostly, for several weeks, I was freaked out. When I found out we were expecting our second I was only freaked out a bit, the most common thought was, “how can I handle another child? They cost so much money, and they require so much work, and they are so exhausting.” But also I began to make plans, I thought about the future, how to decorate the nursery, and the things we would do as he or she grew up. When all of that was ripped away, I discovered that I was much more excited than I ever realized.

Closely related to this one, and definitely shocking to me, is how, for the first few days after the news, playing with my perfectly healthy toddler daughter was sort of depressing. Many times when she would be smiling or laughing I would be overcome with sadness. I can’t even pinpoint why. I suppose it is because I knew that I would never have this same experience with the child we lost.

The hardest part of the process for me was telling people. Telling people brings back the freshness of the grief each time. Although it got easier, it still was hard every time. And because we had told so many people that we were expecting, it had to be repeated often.

Later there was a new round of grief as other people who had the same due date as us made birth announcements, then they began to show pictures of them. (There are 4 other couples who had almost the same due date as us.) It is unfair to those people. I want to be excited with them and celebrate their new babies, but they come with a small pang of grief each time.  Every one of these children is a reminder that we are not going to get to celebrate in the same way. I realize that this is completely selfish, and I’m not suggesting that it is good or right, but it is the case.

I very much appreciate the condolences of people. It is encouraging to know that others are empathizing with you, and feeling loved by others is helpful. Grief, however, must be dealt with alone.

By far the hardest part of this entire experience is watching the sadness of my wife, knowing that there is nothing I can do to alleviate it and deeply wanting to. I went through the early grieving process much quicker than she did. There are a few reasons for this. Most importantly, I began to be concerned for her health. A D&C is a surgical procedure and that carries with it the risks that any surgery does. She had a lot of difficulties in the aftermath and I was deeply concerned with her health. That forced me to grieve quickly for my child so that I could be support for my wife.

Also, and maybe this is screamingly obvious, there is a very different relationship between the father of an expected child and the mother. The mother knows the baby before they are born. (There are personality traits of my daughter that literally manifested in the womb.) For the mother the loss is more difficult because it is more personal.

Life does not stop for grief, so we must go on. We named our unborn child Emerson, and on the day he was due we celebrated his life. We released some balloons and bought an outfit for his memory box. We gave gifts to the other boys we know born in this time period.

And we move forward, because life always moves forward.

I can never remember being nervous about a blog post before, and I have written hundreds. However, it took me weeks to write this, months to finish it, and an entire morning of psyching myself up to press the post button. Hopefully it will be helpful to someone. 


 

Is Something Going on Tomorrow?

You may or may not have noticed, but the USA has a presidential election tomorrow. I figure that the one thing the internet needs is more Christians telling other Christians how they should vote in order to please God. 
Actually, I promise not to do that in this post. In fact I’m not sure that can even be done in this election. I will however tell you what God’s will is in light of the election. 
This election is unique in that I personally only know about 3 people who like either candidate. Typically, about half of people are unhappy with the outcome of any presidential election, this time most people will be unhappy. In this case, there is really only one thing for a Christian to do. Remind us that God is ultimately in control. 
For the first time in my voting life I am actually deeply concerned for our country based on the people that are likely to be elected. I’m not concerned that the next president will ruin our country, I’m concerned because the next president actually received enough votes to become the nominee of a major party, then got enough votes to win the general election. 
I believe that in the US we get what we deserve. We the people are in charge. We nominated these two, and we will reap the results of the election. Because of this, I need reminding that God is in control. 
For the first time in my memory I have heard many people say they are worried about the America their children and grandchildren will grow up in. I’m actually quite confident that my daughter will grow up in a nation that is mostly hostile to Christian beliefs, but I'm not worried. That describes almost all Christians throughout all of time. The scriptures almost seem like God meant for it to be that way. It will force Christians to be firm in their beliefs. One more reason to be reminded that God is in control.
I have never placed much hope for our country in politics. I think it matters deeply who we vote for, but mostly I believe we get what we deserve. What I believe most deeply is that if we, as Christians, want to change the direction of our country then who we vote for will not fix it. It is not a top-down problem. Remember, we elected these people.
To change the direction of our country we need to begin telling our friends and coworkers about the hope we have in Christ. We need to tell them about the way he has changed our lives. The way that having Christ gives us joy in hard times, gives us hope for the future, gives a purpose for living and makes life make sense. We need to live like we believe all that. We must be different from the rest of our culture. If God changes their lives the way that he has changed ours, then it will eventually change our nation. Believe it or not, that has happened before.
The election tomorrow is a big deal, but whatever happens, let it spur us toward living in a way that brings glory to God and to sharing our faith. 
Remember, whatever happens, God is ultimately in control He sets up our rulers and kings. 

Starbucks Cups, Merry Christmas, and the Death of Cultural Christianity

This weekend there is a new fake outrage on the internet - red Starbucks cups. That’s right, there are hundreds of stories on internet news sites saying that Christians are upset about a company changing its holiday cups from red with designs to plain red.

cups.jpg

I could write a whole blog post about how social media escalates things. (I mean seriously, the prom-posal is a thing now.) I could write a post about how a company like Starbucks has done things that actually are offensive to Christians. I could write a post about how wishing me “Happy Holidays” is not offensive. (If I start actually writing blog posts again, I may actually do that.)

I will, instead, take this opportunity to write about the death of cultural Christianity. For pretty much the entirety of the 20th century, being American was equal to being “Christian.” Not really of course, a Christian is someone who has placed his faith in the death and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins and decided to follow him. But being American was equal to being a Cultural Christian.  What do I mean by “Cultural Christian?”  Essentially I mean that in our culture there is a strongly positive association with being Christian. For example, if you were to go out on Sunday morning and ask someone who hasn’t been to church in 15 years what religion she is, she will say Christian. What she means is not that she has placed her faith in Christ, but simply that if she was going to go to church, it would be some sort of Christian church. Why would a person claim this association with Christianity? Because it is culturally desirable.

There are many things that go hand in hand with cultural Christianity, most of which are seen in the sorts of things that people lament losing. Christmas themed cups and civic Christmas decorations, public prayers, and store cashiers who wish you a blessed day among them. Except for some pockets of the South, all this is going away. Cultural Christianity is dying.

A dirge for Cultural Christianity?

There are some things I will miss with the death of Cultural Christianity. Mostly this falls under that category of self censorship. It seems obvious to me that as it has faded, civility in general has faded as well. Profanity is common even in advertising now, and what is considered acceptable behavior would have been offensive a generation ago.

But mostly I do not regret the death of Cultural Christianity. I am glad that there is no longer confusion about being from the USA and being a Christian. It makes it easier to tell people about Christianity if they don’t think they already are one. It makes the next great awakening possible.

Salt and Light?

Now the hard part, Do I actually tell anyone about Christianity? Do I make a regular effort to share that Jesus changed my life, or tell others why following Jesus is worth it? Do I live in a way that makes me seem different from all those people who simply believe that being from Kentucky makes them a Christian? Do people even know that I am a Christian? These are the questions that need answering if the next great awakening is going to happen. Christians must share the gospel message.

In the meantime, my family's restaurant will continue to give out plain white cups…even through December…I hope no one boycotts.

What Being a Dad Has Taught Me

I've been a father for 27 days.
I figure that pretty much makes me an expert on fatherhood so I thought I'd write about it.
Back in my seminary days I used to ask all my friends who were first-time fathers what they were not prepared for. In other words What could no one have told you before the baby arrived and made you understand.

Day 17...There was a lot I was unprepared for

Day 17...There was a lot I was unprepared for

My attempt in this post is to answer that question. What aspects of fatherhood was I unprepared for?

I'll start by letting you know who I am. Before fatherhood I was a 39 year-old man with almost no experience with babies. I had never changed a diaper, never prepared a bottle, never put a stroller in a car, and certainly never been responsible for another human. I have barely ever even held a baby. Because of my inexperience, even disinterest in babies, I feel like I was extra ignorant of the realities fatherhood would bring. Therefore making me all the more qualified to write this post.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the major things that being a dad has taught me:

Having children makes you speak in third person - I'm not sure why, but immediately when you bring home a baby you begin saying things like, "Daddy needs to change your diaper." I never speak that way in any other context, why would I speak that way to a baby? Not sure the answer to that one, but I know I'm not the only one who is guilty of it. 

Worry (or something like it) - Worry is probably the wrong word because that implies that I am always anticipating something terrible, but I don't exactly know what to call this particular effect of fatherhood. So I'll try to describe it. I find that I am hyper-aware of my infant daughter at almost all times. When she's unhappy I know it, when she's content I know it, when she's asleep I know it. Also, I often wonder if her current behavior is normal or right. Often when she is asleep, if she has made no sound for a while, I feel the need to look at her just to make sure she's breathing. There's no reason to think a perfectly healthy 12-day-old is not breathing, I just feel the need to check. 

Emotions can be powerful - I am a man, and as such I don't really deal in depth of emotion. Like any man, I get choked up watching Old Yeller or Rudy, but I shed actual tears only rarely. I'd like to believe I am in touch with my emotions, but my sister informed me once that the reason I am in touch with my emotions is because I have none. I do not cry often. So far at least that is no longer the case. I the first week of my daughter's life I cried no less than 4 times. I cried when she was first born and her mother looked at me, I cried the first time I held her, I cried when we left the hospital with her, and after we got home I cried again. (Seriously, I dare you to watch this and not have to choke back tears.)

Sleep is NOT overrated - I do not think I can stress this one enough. Sleep is wonderful. It is one of the greatest things in life and it is necessary to function. I was utterly unprepared for how tired I have been these first few days. To illustrate, when I wrote the outline of this post the first line was "I have been a father for 9 days." My mind simply will not focus the way I wish. Soon I'll either get used to it, or I'll collapse.

Day 2 See, I told you. #awesome 

Day 2
See, I told you. #awesome 

My wife is awesome - I am not saying this flippantly or even to score points when she reads this. It is a genuine observation. Before now I've never seen childbirth, so I don't really have anything to compare it to,  but that was amazingly hard. She endured the whole ordeal like a champion. That however is just the beginning of why she is awesome.

Since bringing the baby home I have been exhausted nearly the entire time. There were a few days early on when I could barely function. She has not wavered. Her ability to wake up every two hours to feed a jaundiced baby, keep diapers changed, prepare bottles, and deal with all the rest in the first few days was impressive. Now that the jaundice is gone and the schedule has relented just a bit, she still manages to take care of our ridiculously high-strung dog, clean the house (although I practically do all of that work (winky face)), and take care of me. All of this is astounding to me.

Having a child changes you, no question about it. I'm sure that I'll learn way more as I go. I'm willing to bet I can squeeze loads of blog posts out of my daughter. 

College Admission Essay #2

So Where is Waldo Really?

It is common knowledge, and has been since the 1980s, that Waldo is a master of blending into crowds. In fact he is unrivaled in this ability. 

Because of these skills Waldo now works for the CIA in a position deep underground developing next generation camouflage and camouflage detection. 

Currently the greatest threat to the world's safety is from terrorism, the ability to blend into a crowd and to find others who are attempting to blend into a crowd makes Waldo the perfect expert for these troubled times.
If someone is attempting to sneak a dirty bomb into a crowded city, a major component of that plan would be to remain undetected.  To "hide in plain sight" so to speak. Waldo's years, potentially millennia (since he has been spotted as far back as ancient Egypt,) give him the experience necessary to both hide our own operatives and spot the operatives of other organizations. I for one am proud of his willing service in this arena of public service. 

____
Maybe you are wondering why I'm answering a question like this on my blog. Click here for the reason why. It is from the University of Chicago application for admission, somebody from the admissions office tell me how I did please. I chose this one because it seemed fun and I wanted to answer it.  Also the University of Chicago has most of these and I thought I'd complete them all. 

College Admission essay #1

How do you feel about Wednesday?

Sadly for the purposes of this essay, I do not have strong feelings about the fourth day of the week as a day. I'm not offended by having a day named for Odin, because he is not a real God and because no one actually associates the name with Odin. Also, assuming a 7-day week, which is nearly universal, some day has to be the fourth, and so my feelings would just be transferred to that day regardless of the name.

Therefore, I will answer the question about Wednesday based on what Wednesday is like for me currently.  Now, onto the new question, "How do you feel about your Wednesdays?"

Wednesday is by far the hardest day of the week for me. For starters, it is the only day of the week when I have to be at work before 7. I do not function well in the morning, so anything before 8 is difficult for me. 6:30 is well before 8 and I struggle every morning to get out of bed.

Then once I arrive at work, the work is physically difficult. There is a lot of lifting heavy objects, sometimes in very hot or very cold weather.

After the difficult physical work of my morning, my day transitions to a normal work day, not too bad.    

After my most difficult day of the week at work then there is Wednesday night church.  I very much enjoy Wednesday night church, although I'm pretty tired sometimes and I miss.

One positive thing about Wednesdays as they are currently construed in my life - I sleep well at night.

_____

Maybe you are wondering why I'm answering a question like this on my blog. Click here for the reason why. It is from the University of Chicago application for admission, somebody from the admissions office tell me how I did please. I chose this one first, instead of the ones you voted on because it was first in the infographic, and I started on it before anyone voted.

My Triumphant? Return to Blogging

I used to write a lot.
Like, a whole lot.

I have a seminary degree. That alone required writing around 100 papers and book reviews. After seminary I spent hundreds of hours writing blog posts that only about 100 people would read. (Most of those can be found in the archives here.) Once upon a time I wrote a weekly column for my fantasy football league - maximum audience... 9. I have even written most of a rough draft of a book.

I believe that all the hours I spent writing made me quite good at it. I developed a style that people seem to enjoy, and I certainly enjoy doing it.

Tell me your favorites in the comments

Tell me your favorites in the comments

Then my life changed. and I had substantially less time for writing, so I didn't write. Eventually I adjusted to my new schedule, but by then the energy I formerly spent on writing went towards other things. For a while, I had a bi-weekly podcast (It may possibly be resurrected one day, maybe, possibly.) Then recently I began preaching on a weekly basis.  This required a lot of the same creative energy I once used for writing, and I began to enjoy it very much.  Currently I am not preaching, teaching, or podcasting regularly, so I feel the need to begin writing again.

I have a plan to begin writing again and a goal. In order to get back into the practice of writing again I going to answer most of the questions in this infographic from Mental Floss. They are offbeat college entrance exam essay questions. My plan is to answer 2 per week until I finish, lose interest, or find something better to write about. Maybe I'll actually finish that book.

You, dear reader, play a part in this. You get to vote for which questions you would most like to read my answer to.  And if you happen to work in the admissions office of any of these colleges, I would love your thoughts on my answer. Specifically I want to know if I would get in. Your other role is to generally be an encouragement to me. How? By commenting.  Comments let me know that someone is actually reading. 

30 years a Christian

Today is the eve of my 39th birthday which means that it has been 30 years since I placed my faith in Jesus as my savior.  Thirty years as a Christian is a true milestone. So if you will indulge me, I am going to share my testimony in long form. Hopefully it will actually be encouraging to you and not just a boring self serving piece by me.

            Thirty years.  A lot of life has happened in that much time.

            What was it like becoming a Christian?  For starters I had no idea what I was getting into.  As an 8-year-old my decision seemed simple. The gospel was explained in children's church, and I came to understand that I am a sinner. I certainly didn't fully understand what it means to be a sinner in its entirety.  I knew that I had done things God wouldn't like, although I didn't grasp that what I had done was so deeply offensive to the creator of the world.  I also understood that, because I was a sinner, what I deserved was hell. I am thankful to a children's minister (whoever she was) that was clear about the consequences of sin. I knew that if we had a wreck on the way home from church, I would go to hell and that I would be separated from God. That was a crushing realization for me. That same children's minister explained that we could be saved if we simply prayed and gave our hearts to Jesus. If we meant it, then we would be saved.
            That's all it took for me. Sitting right there in the back row of children's church I asked Jesus to save me.  I gave him my heart, and I meant it. There is a lot of digital ink spilled these days over the concept of a sinners prayer, but I can say unequivocally that for me, my life changed with a prayer.
            That is how it began, with at simple prayer. The prayer of an 8-year-old. I don't know how it was worded, nobody guided me to say the right thing, and I didn't even tell anyone.  I do know that I meant it, and that I gave my heart to Jesus. Thirty years later it is still the most important thing I've ever done.
            Thirty years is a long time. A lot happens in thirty years, and though my salvation was complete on the day I prayed that prayer, my growth in Christ lacked much. It would be years before I was baptized, and it would be even more years before I truly gave God the control of my life or before I promised Him that I would go wherever he called me ,and do whatever he called me to do.

My Baptism

Na-na na-na boo-boo can be very motivating.

Na-na na-na boo-boo can be very motivating.

            On the day I gave my heart to Christ, I did not tell anyone. I remember plainly the children's church minister telling us that if we had prayed a prayer, we should come up front. But I was shy and the idea of going up before all those other kids petrified me. Shortly thereafter my family moved to a different town, and it would be a few years, 3 houses, and a parental divorce before we were again settled in a church home. I remember regularly being convicted that I needed to be baptized to tell the world that I was proudly a follower of Christ, but that old fear of going in front of all those people kept gripping me. What finally pushed me over the edge? My brother, who after being baptized, taunted me for not yet being a  Christian. I had been a Christian for years and being taunted by my little brother was more than I could take. I made it public the next week and soon thereafter I was baptized by Bob Lowrey.

My Committment

            Though I was a Christian from that day 30 years ago, and though the world knew it after my baptism, my faith lacked a depth of commitment. I was a good kid but I never really gave God, who saved me, the position of priority he deserved.
          In college that finally changed. When you move a couple of hundred miles from home you get a lot of freedom. Many college kids use that freedom as an opportunity to do all the stuff they know is wrong and that their parents wouldn't approve of, but not everyone. For me I became involved in the Baptist Student Union (Now known as the BCM) This was the first time in my life where I was exposed to a group of people my own age who were actually committed Christians.  They were not there because parents made them come or because anyone expected it, they were there because they loved Jesus and wanted to be around others who did as well. During my first year at college I made a commitment to God that was much deeper. I promised God that I would go anywhere and do anything as long as I knew it was his will.
            Since making this commitment, God has called me into ministry, lead me across town to witness, three states away for seminary, and across the country for missions. I look forward to see where he will guide me in the future.

Thanks
A lot of people come into play in thirty years of Christian life. I would like to publicly thank some of them here.

            First of all, thanks to Tennessee Avenue Baptist Church. I moved away years ago, and because I have no ties to the area I remember very little about those people and practically nothing about that church, but I am thankful that God put them in my life.
I am thankful to people who took their next-door neighbors to church. (I think their name was Blevins.)
I am thankful for a Sunday school teacher who gave me my first Bible because he saw I didn't have one.
I am thankful to a children's minister who was clear enough with the gospel that an 8-year-old could grasp it.
Amazingly, all of those people at Tennessee Avenue know nothing about me today, nor have they known anything for the last 29 years. And  yet they played a tremendous part in my life and helping me be who I have become.

            I am thankful to Concord Baptist, the church of my formative years. My youth minister, Mitch, always loved us and through him I learned so much about living as a Christian as a part of everyday life and being fully devoted to Christ.
            As a teenager Buddy Crabtree taught me so much about passion for Christ. (Also I credit him with introducing me to apologetics so you can blame him for this whole website.)
           I also learned through so many loving people at Concord what a church is and what fellowship is. To this day, those people  would do whatever they could for me.  I am certain of that.

I'm thankful to the UK BCM and all those students who encouraged me and taught me that you could live your faith even on a college campus hundreds of miles from home.

I'm thankful to my parents. My mother who took my brother and I to church as small children, and my father who kept us there as teenagers.

            I am also thankful to a group of college and seminary professors, pastors, and Christian friends over the years who have cared about my becoming more like Christ.
Ray VanCamp - Who once fired me, but was encouraging even in the midst of that ordeal
Brent Highfil - Other than my wife, the best friend I've ever had
Stephen Wilson - One of the greatest encouragers I've ever known and very significant in my education
David Weeks - My former pastor, boss, and friend who I am grateful to for so many reasons. Not the least of which is that he fed me many, many meals.  
Bill Korver - who let me teach at Carolina College of Biblical Studies, my favorite job ever which helped me refine my calling.

            I'll save this last paragraph for my wife Julia. Because of her I do want to be more like Christ every day.  

Foreword to the blog

Many years ago I began blogging regularly on wordpress. Then life changed and I no longer had the time/inclination. I have decided to move that blog to this site.  Though this site is about me as an apologetics speaker, this blog contains years of thoughts on a variety of subjects including personal stories, UK Basketball, fishing, entertaining things I found on the internet, theology, and even apologetics. 
I hope you enjoy what you read here, but warning, it's not exclusively about apologetics.

What Mission Trips Have Taught Me

This July I am planning to go on a mission trip to Utah. Whenever someone goes on a mission trip with my church, they are required to full out a questionnaire.  This questionnaire includes general information, bu it also is designed to make you think about the upcoming trip with questions like "What do you hope to see God accomplish during this trip?" and things like that. One of the questions is, "what previous mission trips have you taken and what lessons did you learn on these trips?"

Although I have never been on a mission trip outside of the US I have been many places on mission and done many things on those trips.  I thought I would share some of those lessons with you here on my blog.  This is really more than I have room for on a form at church.  So without any further ado, here are 11 lessons I have learned on mission trips to Washington & Oregon, Memphis, New Orleans, Kenosha WI, New Hampshire & Massachusetts, and Pearlington MS.

1. You will probably have experiences with the native wildlife.

wildlife

2. The ability to make balloon animals will make you very popular

Picture4

3. Not just anybody can rock a plastic visor

Picture6

4. You better like playing cards or dominoes, because once the day's work is done there is nothing else to do. You will be playing cards.

cards

5. Take lots of pictures, because one day in the future you may want to write a blogpost about all the stuff you learned and the points that have pictures are much more interesting than the ones without. (Seriously though, pictures are great because you will want to report to the people back at your church what it was like and pictures convey more than most of us are able to convey with words.)

6. Even if, like me, you have no actual discernible skills, you can always find some way to help.

Picture10

 7. Pretty much wherever you are going, [especially if you are going to the deep south] sunscreen & bug spray will be your friends.

8. Working alongside others you will probably come to know the meaning of Christian fellowship in a new way

Picture3

9. Flexibility is extremely important, you almost always wind up doing things you didn't previously plan on

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10. You will probably have to eat weird food or food you don't like. Just suck it up, it won't hurt you (probably)

pic1

11. There is nothing  better for personal revival than a week or a vacation, or a summer spent serving others whether it is witnessing to them, trying to lead them to eternal life, or whether it is a work project and service of some sort.

Do something: Weight loss, goals, and the future

Does it look like I stepped straight out of Saved By the Bell?
Does it look like I stepped straight out of Saved By the Bell?

With the exception of 11-12th grades, I have been fat my whole life.  I have not always been extremely fat, but I have always been fat.  I was deeply convicted by an article I read around the new year, that essentially said it’s not what you think that matters, but what you do. With that in mind, I decided it’s time to actually DO some things. One of those things that I need to do is lose weight. I am obviously unhealthy.

With that in mind, whenever I learned of a city-wide weight-loss challenge, with a grand prize of 1000 dollars, I decided to do it. (It helped that I had some goodfriends also planning to participate)  That was 8 weeks ago and I have been eating healthy and exercising every day since.  I have had a lot of success during this period.  I have lost more than 30 pounds. I wore pants today that I could barely fit into a month ago. I am down 2 notches on my belt.  I have lost enough that pretty much everyone I know and see on a somewhat regular basis has acknowledged it and encouraged me. I now weigh less than I have since college.

Eight weeks is a long time when you are working hard, but ultimately it's not that long of a time. During this period I have hung on to every possible milestone and goal for encouragement.  Since week three, though, one thing has really driven me - the thought that I might actually win a thousand bucks.

It is 8 weeks later and I am substantially thinner. I am going to have to buy some new clothes soon. But I am still a load. Even though I won a prize (not the grand prize), if I put the weight back on, it would be a waste.  It would be a real shame to let 8 weeks of work and 30 pounds less of me go to waste, so I have to consider the future and more weight loss.

My goal is not to be all ripped, I’m not planning to run a marathon (ever), I don’t want to set records for leanness or win any body-building contests. I just want to weigh less than 200 and be able to climb a flight of stairs without panting. I ate very badly the day the prizes were announced, and the next day for that matter, but I also rode the bike on those days.

Now I’m back at it.  I just don’t have the frenzy of a deadline and a cash prize driving me.  So I have to have goals to be encouraged by. Here are the next few:

  • I have this one shirt that I want to be able to wear in public comfortably. It was free, it’s a 2x, and I don’t even like it that much. But it’s a brand name and the sizes are very small, so wearing it would be a victory. (I squeezed into it the other day but I would not have been comfortable)
  •  When I get to 215, my BMI changes from the obese category to overweight. That’s still a way off,  and will surely be a struggle. Weight gets harder to lose the more you lose.
  • Under 200 pounds. That will feel like a victory of victories and then I try to transition into maintain mode.
Before & after
Before & after

I have no idea if I'll be able to keep going, and actually weigh under 200. That is still a very long way away. For all I know, by the middle of May I'll get tired of exercising and begin heading back towards being a huge fat guy. I always have been; I don’t really know anything different.  I genuinely hope that doesn't happen.

People keep asking me if I feel better.  The answer is yes, but not the way people mean. Physically there's not much difference. I never have heartburn, but otherwise pretty much everything is the same. Very often my left knee still hurts. I still never want to get out of bed in the morning and I still want a nap just about every day.  However, psychologically the boost is incredible. I’ve always been fat. I sort of feel like, if I can do this, I can do anything. It’s ridiculous, I know. But this has been very hard and the accomplishment very encouraging.

I’ll leave you with some encouragement, I hope:

Once you have some success, once you can see results and others see results you want to keep going. Right now I want to wear that one shirt more than I want to be lazy and eat a whole pizza. It is hard. I never actually want to start pedaling the bike & I NEVER want to do stomach crunches. But it is worth it…so far. So, umm, do something.

Ride the bike while you watch TV.

Eat less.

Move more.

Or don't. Do whatever you want. why should you listen to some jerk on the internet?

weight-loss faces
weight-loss faces

A New Venture

Way back in March of 2008 I began this blog by saying, “starting a blog is tantamount to saying what the world needs is more of me and my opinion.” I rarely blog anymore. Not even once a month. So somehow it feels like the world is just not getting enough of me. ;)Since the world is not getting enough of me, and since I do have a need to teach that is not being fulfilled to the degree that I would like, and since one of my friends is quite persistent, I have started a podcast.

The podcast is called UnApologetic, and you can find it on the nascent Introspection.tv podcast network.  The goal is for each episode is for me to answer a question submitted by a listener.  The introductory episode is up and very soon the second will be up.  You can find it here (here is the link on iTunes)

This is my first attempt at something like this. Consequently there are plenty of issues with this first “real episode.”  I really belabored my point a couple of times, missed some facts and, most significantly, I need to learn to moderate my tone. I will get better.

In order to get better though, I need questions.  If I’m going to keep answering one question per episode, I need more questions.

I am actually quite gifted at making difficult things simpler.  I hope that by listening I can clarify thingsm I also hope that I can help strengthen your faith .

Here is what I’m asking from you: -Listen to it -Forgive my mistakes. (I’ll work on them) -If you are using iTunes, rate the show -Send me questions -If you have graphic design skills, donate me some cover art or a logo

Prediction Results 2012

Each year on my blog I like to predict what will happen in the coming year.  I Invite my readers to make predictions in the comments.   I should have posted this a while ago but better late than never.  Let’s see how we all did. First …my predictions

UK basketball wins their 8th NCAA championship  - Yes Go Cats The UK football team will be no better than 7-5 and Joker Phillips will be fired - Yes Even though this is 2012, the world will still be here to make predictions about late next December - Yes I will go on a date this year – Sadly, No A passive 3-D TV comes out from a major brand (i.e. one with cheap glasses). Even so, nobody cares about a 3-D TV and they sell only because you can’t buy non-3-D TVs – Here’s how right I was, I actually had to google this to see if it happened Google+ remains irrelevant but doesn’t get shut down – Also yes.  I am on fire so far The Hobbit will be the number one movie next year.  Battleship (Yes, a movie about a board game), The Bourne Legacy, The Hunger Games, Spiderman (Again?) will all be in the top 10. – Wow, I was way off on this one. Only the Hobbit & Hunger Games were in the top 10 Republicans will make gains everywhere, but… - Yes Barack Obama is reelected president - Yes By year’s end I will derive more than 20% of my income from speaking.  – Sadly, wrong on this one too. I earned just under 3% of my income from speaking this year I will weigh less when writing 2013 predictions than I do today – This is a bit of good news I do weigh less.  Not much, but less

Overall I was 7-3 on predicting the future.  That’s .700; if I was a coach I would be highly paid.

How did my readers do at predicting the future?

Daniel Knoll I predict that i will still be single – Correct, although I say it’s just on a technicality Ryan UNC will make it to or past the Elite 8. - Yes The Panthers will go 8-8 or better. – Nope, close though 7-9 I will have a girlfriend or at least a real date.  – Got it because you hedged your bets. Date yes, girlfriend no The Dark Knight Rises will be the #1 movie of the year. The Hobbit will be #1 in December. (If it’s released in December, can it be #1 for the year?) Star Trek will be top 10. Skyfall (James Bond) will be top 20. – Dark Knight was #2, Hobbit definitely was December’s winner, Star Trek didn’t come out, Skyfall was #4.  So I’ll give you a No, Yes, Push, Yes Community and The Office will be cancelled – Not sure about Community’s official status, the Office is in its final season so I guess that is another push, and  Yes At least one glasses-less 3D tv will be available but will be more than $2,000 – as far as I know there are no Glasses-less 3D TV Apple will release Macbooks or iMacs with retina displays. - yes The world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012. – Yes

Ryan was 7-3-1 (.700) which means we are equal at prognostication

Roland UK wins the National Championship in Men’s Basketball. – Yes w00t! The UK women’s basketball team makes the Final Four. – Nope They were one game shy The Packers repeat as Super Bowl Champions. - Nope The Reds win the NL Central division. - Yep Mathis and I attend a baseball game in St. Louis. – No, although we had it on the schedule for a while I finish higher than Mathis in fantasy football. – No, mathis was 4th, Roland was 8th was it your worst season ever? Mathis speaks in at least 7 different churches – Yes, I spoke in 8 churches Mathis visits a new state – No new state this year All four guys that have posted in here go on a real date this year – Sorry to let you down, but I did not get a date, I even got turned down for 2 blind dates   That makes Roland 3-6 (.333) If this was baseball he’d probably be an all-star

If I self-publish, does that make me a writer?

My goalToday is November 1.  November is NaNoWriMo.  You may remember that last year I began writing a book in November, and even though it’s not a novel (it is one of my apologetics lectures expanded into book form) I used the prompts from NaNoWriMo as motivation.  I never finished my book though.  I have written approximately 10 percent and I have someone who has agreed to edit it for me.  I see no reason why I cannot be finished with the entire draft stage before the month is over.  With that said, this November I don’t necessarily have the goal of finishing, but I do plan on making progress every single day of the month, including Thanksgiving. Feel free to keep me accountable towards my goal.  Text me, tweet me, leave a comment here, whatever.

My Question

Even though my book is still pretty nascent, I have considered what to do when I finish. Should I submit it to a traditional publisher, or should I have it self-published?  As I see it, there are only four advantages to traditional publishing

1.  Approval – If a traditional publisher agrees to use the resources that publishing a book requires then it means that somebody (who should know) thinks I am worth publishing.  In my estimation, this is the number one reason by a long way. In my mind, even though this is the number one reason, successful sales of the book would make this reason obsolete. 2.  Promotion - Since the company has a financial interest in the success of the book, they would have a reason to promote it.  Also, since it’s their business,  they have the know-how and resources to make it financially successful. 3.  Editing – I have someone who has agreed to edit my book and I am planning to pay her.  If a company agreed to publish the book they would have their own editor to and it would save me some money.  Speaking of money… 4.  Getting paid  - I am certain that I would make less money by going through a traditional publisher.  I am also sure I will not be happy about what happens with the rights to the book.  I am also pretty sure that I would be on the losing end of a contract.  However, there is no up-front cost.  Self publishing, at least if I decide to have print copies made, is very expensive on the front end.

That’s it, that’s the list.  And really, if I am honest, the first reason is the only reason that would motivate me to seek out traditional publishing.  In every other way I think self publishing is better.  I keep the rights, I can do what I please with it.  I will make more money if it actually generates sales.  If I were already a published author, this would not even be a question for me.  I would self-publish.

I know that technology has changed the world, and publishing is one of the areas where the impact is strongest.  There is no need to go through a traditional publisher, but if my book is self-published, I feel as if I am being dishonest by saying I am a published author.  (There is one post on this blog that has been read several thousand times and only received positive comments, so it’s not as if I have had no success at writing. It just doesn’t feel the same)

I know I often beg for comments, but I would really love to know your thoughts on this. Especially if you have been published before.

[polldaddy poll=6654131]

My experience with Avastin shots pt 3: What the injections were like

This is part 3, if you want to read what led me to the point of needing these injections read yesterday’s post.  If you are squeamish about things touching your eyeball this is your pre-warning.  When you come to the actual warning, stop reading! After 3 months of observation and very little improvement, my ophthalmologist referred me to a retinal specialist.

Crazy eyes

The pre-exam stuff

I will now recount to you the events of my first visit to the retinal specialist.  It began with a battery of stuff, dilation, tests, and at least 3 types of images taken, one involving dye administered through an IV.

The exam

When the doctor came in, he examined me just as you would imagine, by shining a bright light in to my eye.  It has been a long time, but I will try and quote him directly.

He said, “You have a scar on your retina and a lot of blood vessel growth which is causing fluid to leak.  It is idiopathic, which just means we don’t know why it is occurring.  It looks like the wet type of macular degeneration, but you are way too young for that.  It is similar to histoplasmosis, but you don’t have the other symptioms of that.  We are going to treat it by giving you a series of injections.” “Injections?  In my eye?  Whoa." “Yes.  We are using a drug called Avastin.  It is actually a cancer drug most often used for treatment of colon cancer.  Your insurance will probably not cover it because it is not FDA approved for this purpose but I have done hundreds of these, and it is the best treatment.  It will stop the growth of the blood vessels, which will hopefully make the fluid stop leaking.  You should get back some of your vision.  It will never be like it was before, but you should see improvement.”

That was it, the bomb was dropped.  A man I had met 10 minutes earlier was planning to literally stick a needle in my eye.  I was freaked out.  I don’t know what I was expecting when I went, but it was not that. The injection I went to a room to prep for the injection.  The prep basically consists of a multitude of drops.  All these drops are designed to numb your eye so that you cannot feel the actual injection.  This is probably a 30 minute process.  After you are sufficiently numb here’s how it goes.

*You will want to stop reading here if you are squeamish*

 

These are the devices used to torture me

*seriously I’m warning you*

A swab of some sort of disinfectant is applied.  Then the lid-spreader is put in.  (I don’t know if there is a technical name for this device, but it is a metal clip that goes under your top and bottom eyelids to make closing your eye impossible.)  While the lid-spreaders are in, you will very much want to blink.  You cannot.  It is not a pleasant experience.

This all moves very quickly.

None of this seems particularly gentle. (especially considering that it is your eye)

The doctor waves his hand and says look here.  (I was getting the injection in my right eye so this was somewhere off to my left.) Then while you are looking, he gives you the injection…directly into your eyeball.

THIS IS EVERY BIT AS CREEPY AS IT SEEMS.

You cannot actually feel the needle pierce your eye, but there is no question whatsoever of when it went down.

You can see the medicine enter. It looks like dropping a few drops of food coloring into a glass of water.

Then they take the spreaders out

That’s it. It is awful!

But it is not the most awful thing ever.   And as you keep reading you will see that it is worth it. I had 3 injections.  On one occasion, when the needle went in, everything went black.  It was frightening for me, but the doctor and nurse were both not concerned.  That was comforting, but I was in mild freak-out mode.  If I had known beforehand that that sometimes occurred I would have been less likely to freak out. (That’s why I’m telling you now.) My vision came back within a minute or two.  It returned slowly like an old-school television turning on. The aftermath

I have a close friend who is my age and has also had several of these shots.  She would corroborate this experience.

Although only getting a shot in your eyeball, you will feel terrible for the entire day.  First of all, your eye is incredibly itchy and watery.  Sometimes it is also achy.  Putting ice on it helps.  This is going to last until you wake up the next morning and it may last into the next day.  Don’t plan a big day.

I feel that maybe I haven’t said that strongly enough.  Your eye will be VERY itchy and achy.

For me , the itchiness lasted a few days but it was much more tolerable after day 1. You get a really neat floater.  It’s a bubble in your eyeball juice.  One time I had 2 bubbles.  If you can center the bubble right in the middle of your vision so you can look through it, it is like a giant magnifying glass. For me the bubble lasted as long as 3 days. Get ready to wear your glasses.  I wear my contacts 99.9% of the time when I’m not at home, but I was not allowed to wear them for a week after each shot. The results For me the results are miraculous.  I can now see 20/25 in my right eye.  And although I can still see the scar, I could easily pass the drivers license eye test.  I can shoot, I can read with only my right eye, and I can do everything I could do before.  Your brain has an amazing way of combining the vision from both eyes so that I never notice the scarred place.  The only time my vision is ever a problem is in fine detail work.  Sometimes it takes a few tries to get the fishing line through the eye of the hook, etc. getting a shot in your eyeball is truly a horrible experience, but I would do it again.  In fact I would get a hundred shots for the results I have received.

Other thoughts As you can imagine, it is not cheap to visit a doctor whose sole job is to know about and treat one part of your eyeball and your insurance will probably not cover it.  It is worth whatever it costs. I’m not trying to disturb anyone with this.  I really wish I had some concept of all this before I walked into the retinal specialist that first day.  My goal is just to let you know what I didn’t know.  I hope you find it helpful.  If so, let me know in the comments.

My experience with Avastin shots pt 2: Why the need

How it all started It started simply enough.  Approximately 2 years ago I noticed an artifact in the vision of my right eye.  I would describe it as similar to the blind spot you get after looking at a bright light except that it persisted.  I ignored it for a while, then I began to notice that things were also looking warped.  So I made an appointment with my optometrist.

My optometrist dilated my eyes, examined me, and was clearly very concerned.  She referred me to an ophthalmologist that same day.  He diagnosed me with a fuch’s spot or a lacquer crack and said that in all likelihood there was nothing that could be done.  For a while he simply observed me. It got much worse.

The effects My retina hemorrhaged and made a large blood pool. It was very near the center of my vision and so I was functionally blind in my right eye for a period of months. After the blood pool mostly dissolved there was significant leakage of eyeball juice*, and a severely warped / blind place in my central vision.   To illustrate how blind I was, when I went to renew my driver’s license I couldn’t pass the eye test.  So I had to get a waiver from my optometrist.  At that point I could only see the biggest E (20/200) on the eye chart.

Retinal scar

How it felt

I do not mean physically, how did it feel.  There was no pain.  I never experienced any discomfort with my eye whatsoever during this entire process so far.  Unless you count the dilation and bright light being shone in repeatedly every 2 weeks over the course the observation.  There are no nerve endings in the retina, consequently there was no pain.

However, over this period of a couple of months I did have to come to terms with having no vision in one eye.  It was a sort of odd grieving that is hard to explain.  I wasn’t disabled in any real way.  I could still read and drive, and function in every way that I could previously, but I still had to come to terms with it.

Just when I felt that I was coming to terms with this loss of vision, I remember picking up a gun, and realizing that I could never shoot again, or that I would have to learn to shoot left- handed.  This realization kick-started the whole spiral of depression and dealing with loss all over again.

I am not saying this in order to earn pity.  I am just reporting what I experienced.  This grieving over the loss of my eyesight is at least as significant as any pain that I incurred with the injections.

Speaking of Avastin injections, you want to know what they were like don't you?  I know, I know that’s why you are still reading this ridiculously long post.

That part comes tomorrow.  Click here.

* I know it's not called eyeball juice but it's a funnier word than fluid and this topic needs some levity.  Even though ocular fluid is called humour it is not funny at all.

My experience with Avastin shots pt. 1: Intro

The most popular blog posts I write are the ones about my experiences. I don’t mean posts about my life, but rather posts about what I experienced when I went through certain events.   For example, by far the most popular post in the history of this blog is my experience with the Miller’s Analogies Test.  Second would be the series on Bells palsy.  The point of these kinds of entries is to help others out who are going through the same thing. Recently I went through a series of Avastin injections for a problem with my retina.  I wish that I had something like this to read before my first shot. That is my goal - to help others know what to expect if diagnosed with something requiring Avastin injections.

I will divide this into 3 posts.  This intro is the first.  The second will be my problem, my diagnosis, and what led me to the point of needing injections.  The third, and most helpful, will be about what I actually experienced with the shots.  How they felt, the side effects, and my results.

A Tragedy, the Gospel, and My Peace of Mind

Oh great another gospel post.  Is this guy obsessed or something?…One of the things I do to work out my thoughts is to write about them.  You don’t have to read, but I appreciate it when people do read.  Feel free to comment. A tragedy:

Recently there was a tragedy in my life.  One of my coworkers, Ed, died.  He literally just fell over dead while at work.  He was 46 years old, and though he was not in great health, nobody expected  him to die.  I have worked alongside him for over 2 years.  He was possibly the most likeable person I have ever known.  I can’t imagine who he wouldn’t get along with.

When a thing like that happens there is a cycle of emotions that you go through.  I believe that emotions are mostly outside our control.  They happen at a visceral level. Emotions are why fear or phobias have a hold on us even though we understand that they make no rational sense.  For me that gamut of emotions began with simple shock.  I could not really do my job effectively, and I was just stunned.  It is almost like every thought that is necessary to function properly is cut-off by this other thought, “I can’t believe it.”  That shock was followed by simple sadness.  I was sad because I’ll miss him and I was truly sad because his teenage boys no longer have a dad.

The Gospel:

All of that is really introduction for what I want to write about today.  The Gospel.  I know I write a lot about the message of the gospel. (Obvious confession; I don’t really write a lot about anything anymore)  There are two reasons I write on this subject often. Number one, because it is important.  The gospel changes lives.  Number two, I’m afraid that it is becoming hidden in church culture.  There are so many things we have put on top of the gospel that many people could not even tell you how it is that they were saved.   In fact, I think that many church people believe they need the gospel less and less as they live, as if the goal of the Christian life was to become more independent from God by doing less and less of "the bad stuff," and therefore, need the atonement even less.  This could not be further from the truth.  The closer we become to God the more we should realize how desperate we are for His grace.

I have shared this recently.  But I will now repeat myself.  The message of the gospel is this: God made us for fellowship with Him, but we cannot be in fellowship with Him because we are sinners and He is holy.  Because of sin, we deserve death and hell.  But because God loves us and wants that fellowship He made a way to restore it and for us to avoid the consequences of our sin. What is that way? Jesus, who is God, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected.  In order for the gift of salvation to be effective you must, by faith, believe in this sacrifice on your behalf and ask Jesus to take control of your life.

My piece of mind:

As far as I am concerned this message is the most important thing I can tell anyone.  When you tell someone the story of the gospel you get different reactions. Some people will want to know immediately how they can accept this message.  Others will put you off.  They say, “I’ll deal with this later,” or “I’m not ready now.”  I have heard this many ways.  Once somebody who I had just witnessed to simply nodded and said, “Interesting.”  Our conversation ended there.

I once had an opportunity to have this conversation with Ed...and I changed the subject.  That’s right.  I was given the opportunity to witness to him and I failed, miserably.  I regret that, but it could have been so much worse.  I would be typing this now with the knowledge that I failed to tell him the most important thing I know.  The most important thing he would ever hear.  I would have nothing but doubts and a guilty conscience.  Nothing resembling peace of mind.

Fortunately that was not the last chance I ever got to have this conversation with Ed.  Later I took advantage of the opportunity to tell him the Gospel.  Not quite as pointed or succinctly as the paragraph above, but when our conversation was finished, I knew he understood.   I asked him simply, “Has there ever been a time in your life when you asked Jesus to be your savior?”  He nodded, and said yes. For me that conversation gives me great piece of mind.  At that point I can stop worrying about judging his behavior to see if this is the way a Christian should act. (I really want to write a whole paragraph here about church discipline and judging others.  Instead all you get is this parenthetical note.)  I can simply take his word as truth.  Because he told me yes, I can expect to see him again after the resurrection.

The same is true for almost all of my loved ones.  If I have known you long enough and we are more than simple acquaintances, then I have probably heard your testimony.  If you are reading this and that doesn’t describe you then tell me.  I would love to hear it.

WBAGNFAFFT V

It is late August, so you know what that means.  Time to come up with a name for your Fantasy Football team.  As always I have compiled a list of names they are some of the clean & funny, WBAGNFARB’s* from Dave Barry’s blog over the last year.  This list is not original in any way I just stole them all from Dave Barry. I have done this in the past as well.  Here you can find list 1, list 2, list 3, list 4.  I was not quite as diligent as usual this year, so the list is short, but" Elvis Monkey" is pretty much gold when it comes to naming your team.  I hope you find this useful.

  • Zombie Caterpillars
  • Psychedelic Gecko
  • Elvis Monkey
  • Promiscuous Yeast
  • Decapitating, Rat-Eating Clocks of the Black Forest
  • Blazing Entrails

*WBAGNFARB = Would Be A Good Name For A Rock Band

Just Tell Them the Gospel

Yesterday I told you about an opportunity to share the gospel with a coworker.  He immediately left the room after making the comment that opened the door, so I was not able to share with him.  However, another coworker was.  And the path of the conversation was relayed to me shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly, almost immediately, became about what is and is not a sin.

I wish I could say this was the first time I ever heard a conversation go this way.  Many times I have seen conversations which should have been about the gospel turn into conversations about morality.  Is drinking wrong? What is the line you cross that becomes lust? So-and-so is a hypocrite.  You can believe in God and not go to church.  I have heard all these things repeatedly.  Those conversations are not necessarily bad.  However, if they distract from the Gospel they are a tragedy.

The person with the spiritual questions will almost always begin to turn a conversation this way.  It is natural.  They do it because they associate Christianity and morality.  They think it is where the conversation should go.  Also, I believe it allows them to feel better about their spiritual condition.  If we are all sinners and we all fail, then a conversation about how we disagree about what even is a sin makes them feel as if they are in the same boat with the rest of humanity.  Misery loves company, confusion does as well.  There is comfort in the confusion I suppose.  The problem is, this does not address their problem. A discussion of this type gives them no answers.  A discussion of sin or hypocrisy with a person who is not a Christ-follower is completely unhelpful.

Imagine this conversation.

Cletus says, “How do you get to the grocery, Joe?” “Well, I’ll tell you.  I always take the first left.” Joe replies. Cletus interrupts, “Jimbo says that there’s a lot of ways to go.  He thinks that the second left is the best way” “C’mon Cletus.  You know Jimbo gets lost wherever he goes.  My way is better” “He might get lost a lot, but so do you.  What makes your way so much better?”

Hopefully you can see that this conversation is not going to help Cletus get to the store.  Ultimately it is going to leave him unsatisfied.  He may find the store, but not because of his conversation with Joe.

This is a [probably overly distracting and unclear] analogy designed to illustrate the futility of focusing on the wrong thing.  Whether or not Jimbo gets lost a lot does not matter.  The question was, how do you get to the store?  It was not answered.  The most important thing is to answer the question.

Why does this happen so often?  Two reasons. Number one I already shared.  Lost people do not know the problem, they have a notion that morality and the afterlife are connected. So morality discussions seem to be the natural path for them.  Also there is comfort in feeling like everyone is confused.

Number two is confusion on the part of Christians.  Talk to some people in your church.  I will bet that many of them cannot clearly articulate the gospel.  And worse, many of them have also confused Christianity and moralism.

Briefly, the message of the gospel is this: God made us for fellowship with Him, but we cannot be in fellowship with Him because we are sinners and He is holy.  Because of sin, we deserve death and hell.  But because God loves us and wants that fellowship He made a way to restore it and for us to avoid the consequences of our sin. What is that way? Jesus, who is God, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected.  In order for the gift of salvation to be effective you must, by faith, believe in this sacrifice on your behalf and ask Jesus to take control of your life.

That is the gospel message as briefly and clearly as I can state it.  You may notice that there is not one word about morality in that, other than to say that everyone sins and Jesus did not.  If I had been in the conversation with my coworker I guarantee he would have heard that message. Probably not that succinctly, but as clearly as I could make it while being sure that he understood.   I would have asked him if he had ever heard that message before, and if he had come to a place in his life where he had placed his faith in Christ.  I have no idea how he would have responded.  I only know that by allowing the conversation to become about morality the message of the gospel was lost.

If you are reading this and you think that the gospel is the same as moralism, go back and read that paragraph again, click through the scripture references.  There is nothing there about whether you can or cannot drink alcohol or how much money you give to the church or whether your neighbor kicks his dog or even whether you were baptized.  None of that. The gospel is about restoring sinners to fellowship with God.

When we have opportunities to share the gospel it is very important that we use them wisely.  With many people you may only get one opportunity.  GIVE THEM THE GOSPEL. Please don’t get sidetracked with moralism.