Even When the Pain Comes (The Miracle)

So, there’s something I haven’t really told my blogging audience about myself. It’s not it’s anything I’ve been hiding it, it’s just not something I’ve wanted to revel in. The truth is, I just don’t like to admit pain and have people feel bad for me, because so many people have so many more difficulties than mine. Still, I think today is the day I should tell you about my story. (more…)

Change is Good (Session One)

Today we’re going to do something a little different. I’m going to take a post I wrote in my first six months of blogging and I’m going to analyze it from the perspective of modern Matt. This post was written on December 28, 2013, and it kind of sucks. I mean, it’s not bad, but it seems I was so adamant in my resolve to not change that it prevented me from growing up as a writer. However, since the post gets some search engine traffic, I’m leaving the original here for all to see. This is going to be a lesson in how maturing can be a good thing, and we should all be open to development. (more…)

I Don’t Think We Deserve To Keep “Under God” In Our Pledge

onenation

Actually read the blog before raging, please. Thank you.

Us Christians have been fighting this for so long, I’m not sure we can look at it another way. And yet still, the question must be asked: can we really say we’re one nation “under God?” Because I wonder if we’re not lying to ourselves…

As of 2012, 77% of Americans still identify as Christians, so we’ve got that going for us. But marking a traditional religion on a sheet of paper in a fallible survey is one thing. Actually living a life with a conscious recognition of God in your life is another thing altogether.

I don’t see a lot of God left in our culture. Maybe it’s just because I spend every day on my college campus, but I see a lot of free floating ideas. It’s not America under God anymore. It’s the American grab bag. It’s everybody believing the ideology that works best for them. And I would venture that people mark Christian on that sheet of paper because they are too confused to mark anything else.

I have no doubt that the words “under God” will remain in the Pledge of Allegiance for a long time, because that’s part of American tradition. But I really don’t like the mixing of tradition and religion. Or more accurately, I don’t like the idea of “under God” being just a thing that people say because it’s there.

I want God to be seen as living and active in our culture. If we are to be under God, I want a society that sees his effects on everyday life like do. I want a society that actually worships him, not a bunch of confused people who only fear him enough to go to church once a year.

I’m not sure our nation deserves such a bold phrase in our pledge.

I want God to be in our schools, in our government, in our hearts. If we can’t have that, if we’re not truly a godly nation, I’d just as soon we stop kidding ourselves and take it out of the pledge.

Because without God we’d just be one nation.
One hopeless nation.

 

Why Women Shouldn’t Go Around Topless, and Other Crazy Fake-Feminist Ideas

 

I often identify with the social movement of feminism, when it is defined as seeking social equality between men and women. By identify I of course mean that I am full force in agreement that women should receive equal pay, equal societal expectations, and the opportunity to not be reduced to simply an object of sexual objectivity. Basically gender roles are dumb, and each person should be able to live life as he or she sees fit. Anything less is demeaning to both sexes.

But lately I’ve been seeing more and more of what I call “fake feminists.” While I can’t speak for every one of them, these people seem to have the notion that men are inferior, less intelligent, or less important than women. These sentiments are often manifested in some really, really misguided ideas.

I see men going around without a shirt on all the time. I should be able to go around topless too.

Is that what you want? Is that what you really want? All right, let’s talk about this. I am not a biology major, I’m just a guy with a degree in communications. Yet, even I know that man-boobs are different than woman-boobs.

While male breasts can house some impressive muscle for guys who work at it, that’s about the extent of a woman’s attraction towards them. Female breasts, however, are highly sexualized. They are, perhaps for some, even the most sexual part of the female body. Or, to put it another way: guys want to see your boobs. A lot. That’s exactly why there should be some red flags about public exposure of them.

I think maybe a bigger question is why it’s a cultural phenomenon that people wear clothes in the first place. And, that’s a question I will entertain. Now, I’m certainly not a proponent of people publicly appearing naked, on the contrary I much prefer nudity to have its own very specific occasions. What I’m saying is you may have a much better argument if you argue for clothes as a whole. Aren’t people’s bodies just the outcome of biology. Therefore, should people be allowed the option of not wearing clothes should they so choose? Shouldn’t clothes just be optional?

Again, I’m not a proponent of this, as I’m a fan of modesty. I’m just trying to set people on a more logical course. Mostly, I’m just trying to figure out why going topless would, in any way, further the cause of women’s equality.

 

But… but breasts are not a sexual organ.

 

Just because they serve the dual purpose of breastfeeding does not mean they do not play a large part in romantic intimacy. When they are touched (by the person you’re married to, because that’s how sexual relationships are supposed to work), it is supposed to feel good. To say otherwise would be like saying the male penis is not a sexual organ just because guys also use it to go to the bathroom. It just doesn’t make any sense. Plus, ask anyone who has been a victim of revenge porn (leaking private nude pics on social media) if topless imagery isn’t harmful.

The proof is in yesterday’s top story.

The whole internet just saw the backlash caused by the release of topless pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. If that had been socially okay, it would have been greeted by a big “meh” from the internet and Lawrence. Instead, she is doing everything she can to persecute whoever flagrantly destroyed her privacy. Her life is ruined because people got a hold of pictures of her breasts. Breasts are highly personal, and highly sexual.

If you think girls should be able to walk around topless without judgment, you’re not a feminist. You’re a nudist.

Creepy Girlfriend Pasta

bendrowned

You think my girlfriend is sweet? You think she couldn’t hurt a fly? Generally, you would be correct. But not that day… not that day.

This is the story of the scariest event in my life. I am not easily spooked. Horror movies do nothing to me, and I don’t jump when someone comes out from behind the door. However, there is one thing that gets to me: creepiness. When things seem almost normal, but things are just out of place enough to know something is wrong. When the laws of God’s universe seem slightly off, that is where all of my concerns and doubts come together and I find fear. It’s when a dark cloud covers a bright sun at a particular angle, or when a dream closely mirrors, but doesn’t entirely represent, reality. Thus, only one movie and one video game have ever truly freaked me out. The movie: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The game: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Enter creepypasta. There exists a story online which should never be read. It is the tale of a haunted Majora’s Mask cartridge. In it, a presence terrorizes the life of a poor victim. Now, if you want to sleep for the next three nights, I recommend you don’t read this. However, knowing your human curiosity, I know you will anyway. So just go ahead and click the link to read it if you want.

So, without giving too much away, I’m going to tell you what my girlfriend did. The plan was clever. When I told her about reading Ben Drowned, she seemed genuinely interested. The following weekend, we spent all day at my house reading the long story. We read all the material and watched all of the videos.

Then, after being creeped out reading the scary story, we moved on to doing other things. It was only that night when I took her home that she brought the matter up again. After doing some school work, she said the following.

“Let’s go play Majora’s Mask.”

I responded delighted that we could play one of my favorite games. So we went back to her room where the Nintendo Wii was set up. (We downloaded the game on the Virtual Console.) So I turned on the Wii, selected the game, and was greeted by the following screen:

ben

 

I have never been more scared in my life. This is EXACTLY how the haunted cartridge file names looks. I looked over at Nikki. She was just as scared.

I thought it may have been demons. I thought it may have truly been real. And I was scared… I had to get Nikki and myself out of that house. We had explored too much darkness, and this was our consequence.

She let me think this for probably five minutes, and it was only when I made her leave that she finally, finally, said something.

“I was the one to do that.”

She put those names on the game?

I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea that my sweet girlfriend could ever be so manipulative. So cruel. And that is the most scared I’ve ever been.

You shouldn’t have done that.

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ARF’s (Alternate Reality Friends)

arf

“In another life, we could have been together,” he says in a heartfelt moment. Then, he walks away with the girl left standing there. She’s heartbroken, sobbing, as a sense of finality washes over her. And yet, she also feels a sense of inner peace. Alas, in that moment, they have become Alternate Reality Friends.

Everybody has them.

Alternate Reality Friends, or ARF’s for short, are people that you could have been in a long-term relationship with if something else was not stopping you. Most of the time that stopper is another relationship, but it could also be a career or even a divine calling. It doesn’t matter what it is, there’s simply an understanding that two people will never get into a relationship. But you could have, under a different set of circumstances.

Here’s the requirement of an ARF: there must be a reverence for the other person. While definitely not a crush, the mental components of a relationship must exist. The software, if you will. These could include:

  • Attraction
  • Proximity
  • Easier than normal conversation (chemistry)
  • Harder than normal conversation (nervousness)
  • An abundance of childhood memories

Now, to make this clear, ARF’s are generally a bad thing. Yes, the thoughts may be innocent, but nothing sparks jealousy like an ARF. If you’re like me, and in a committed relationship, Alternate Reality Friends are people you want to keep at arms length. Don’t give your bf/gf/husband/wife any reason to think that you’re into an ARF.

Don’t send them private messages over Facebook.
Don’t text them often.
Don’t talk to them with more spunk than you talk to your significant other.
Do NOT hang out with them alone.
Ever. 

If there ever is a time when you know you will be engaging with an ARF, make sure to let your significant other know. It helps to build trust in the relationship.

This isn’t to say you must eliminate them from your life, but it is to say you must be very systematic. The key to hanging out with an ARF is to make sure your significant other knows he or she is ranked higher on the totem pole than your ARF. The best tool for this is the double date. There is a high probability that your ARF is in a relationship. Take advantage of that by allowing the relationship between the four of you to grow.

Alternately, you could just never talk to your ARF’s again. That works too.

What Kind of Student Am I?

college

Guess who graduates in a month? Me. To some extent this makes me happy. Here’s what doesn’t make me happy:

I’ll be graduating in the neighborhood of a 3.1 GPA.

“That’s not so bad,” you may be thinking. And in a technical sense, you’re absolutely right. It means I’m a B student who had made slightly more A’s than C’s. What’s more, I haven’t made a D my entire college career.

But I look at those numbers and think that they could be a whole lot better.

I’ve made the mistake many other college students have. I have spread myself too thin. I’ve done too much, and I haven’t learned how to say no. I haven’t lived my life with intention, with art, with grace.

With it, I’ve exploded into a million different directions. Overload. I haven’t had time to focus on what’s important, or to even focus at all. Basically, I’ve been too busy. I haven’t had any time for myself, because I’ve wanted so desperately for others to see me as relevant.

And now they have.

But this is not what makes life worth living. In fact, it’s the single thing that makes life not worth living.

I am not a B student. I am an A student.

I will be starting graduate school immediately after finishing my bachelor’s degree. Once that happens, I am simply focusing on three things. These will be my priorities in this order.

1. My relationship with Christ.
2. My girlfriend and my family.
3. My college and its associated job.

So that’s it. That will be my life. No more spreading myself too thin.

I am tired.

I am tired of not being able to make friends because I am too busy.
I am tired of not being able to write as much as I want.
I am tired of not having time to relax and have time for myself.
I am tired of not having time to help my family when they need it.
I am tired of not being able to advance my life.
I am tired of being tired all of the time.

What you will so in a month is a restoration of my life’s priorities. I will live with direction and purpose, and God is going to help me do this.

I have the capability of making excellent grades.
I know I can make all A’s and have a 4.0 GPA in graduate school.
And with my life organized, I know I can do this.

We’re Jerks on the Internet

int

You know how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly or a tadpole turns into a frog? This type of metamorphosis is a beautiful thing… in real life. But this is not so true of another type of metamorphosis: a digital metamorphosis.

I’m just going to say it like it is. When people go online, they become huge jerks. Have you seen the YouTube comments lately. They’re filled with racial slurs, seriously abusive language, and a general lack of respect for each other. There’s no way that anyone could get away with such behavior in “real life,” so why is it permissible on the interwebs?

One word: anonymity. You can say anything you want to someone assuming that the other person has no ability to physically retaliate. That makes the internet trollers of the world the biggest cowards. It also forces us to consider an important philosophical question.

Are people naturally good or evil?

You see, the internet gives people something they’ve never had before. It gives them the ability to be completely isolated from their namesake. You don’t know who’s behind that keyboard. It may be a thug from the streets, it may be successful businessman, or it may be middle class father of two children.

Of course, most likely it’s a fifteen-year-old boy just trying to be a jerk, but still you never know.

I think history leans more towards people being naturally evil, with a few heroes who have a good heart. Through the past wars were started, people were enslaved, and the world was flooded because people did not understand how to be good. It was a learned behavior. You see shadows of that carnal behavior today. You see it in kids who simply refuse to behave, but you also see it in an internet culture that will tear apart a poor soul entirely too quickly.

“She’s so fat!” a YouTube comment will scream about an anorexic girl.
“Crucify him,” a person will say about a crime-related article.

The worst part is, we humans love to rally around the flag. We’re vengeful people with extremely short attention spans. If a few people start a train of abuse, it will snowball until people move on to the next impending crisis.

I know I paint a bleak portrait of humanity. I don’t think everybody is like this. But I do feel that each person must make a choice to overcome his or her natural desire to be evil. One way to do this in the 21st century is to stop taking advantage of our anonymity. We need to stop being jerks on the internet.

[Thanks Darrin Federspill for the suggestion!]

The Hot Car Crisis

hotcar

Children dying in hot cars is nothing new. According to a recent CNN article, there have been at least 388 children who have died of heat death in a vehicle within the last ten years.

What I’ve been seeing over the Facebooks and the Twitters lately is nothing but comments about the “recent epidemic of kids being left in hot cars.” Allow me to compile everybody’s responses into one neat little amalgamation.

I’ve been seeing all of these stories about parents leaving their kid in their hot car lately. What a horrible terrible thing to do. That kid didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s not like leaving your keys or your cell phone, it’s leaving YOUR KID. You can’t forget your kid. You’re a murderer and I hope they lock you away forever.

Also, most of these types of statuses have major grammatical issues, but I’ve mercifully filtered those out. I’m not here to mock the people who say this, because helplessly dying of a heat stroke in a vehicle is a horrible fate for a child. Still, I want you to consider some things.

Vehicle Heat Deaths Happen All The Time.
I don’t fully understand why they are suddenly getting so much attention now. It’s not a new problem. Perhaps it’s a slow summer for the news, or perhaps we’re experiencing yet another outlet for anger on social media.

It Could Happen to You. It Could Happen to Me.
I’m serious, you could be the best parent in the world. All it takes is one little slip-up and your child is gone. You can say you would never do that, but that’s tempting fate based off memory. Memory is, unlike love, incredibly fickle. I have no doubt that at least 200 of those 388 parents loved their child, literally, to death.

Murdering Your Child is Punishment Enough.
To constantly have the crimes a person committed in a social media feedback loop does nothing except further hurt the parent. They’ve already lost their child and likely the rest of their life to the guilt. Not to mention most of them serve quite a bit of time in jail.

It’s Not Like You Can Create Awareness For This.
Unlike diseases or social movements, speaking out or donating money accomplishes nothing. This is a momentary event with life or death implications. Kids will die in cars until technology catches up.

Stop Dissing On Memory Techniques.
I’ve seen a lot of people say that you shouldn’t need a memory trick for your kid. If it saves their life, yes you do. Do WHATEVER it takes to get your kid out of that imminent inferno.

Children dying in hot cars is far too serious to jump on the social media outrage bandwagon. This really is a matter of life and death, and should be treated as such.

Please Recycle (Please!)

recycle

Here in the American South, there is something of a flippancy in regards to the environment. Our cities aren’t particularly clean, recycling facilities are few and far between, and there seems to be quite a bit of litter on the side of the roads. The cars we drive are old and consume a lot of gas, people scoff at the mention solar power, and we rejoice when a new factory comes to town.

This is slightly ironic, because we also take tremendous pride in our lakes and forests. We have some of the best fishing in the world, and people come from far and wide to hunt the whitetail deer in the state.

I like my world.  I want my grandchildren to live not in a world featured in a dystopian movie, but in a world dominated by wildlife and nature.  But not everyone around me shares my interest in it.

I am the only one I know who recycles. Me, and the people I’ve convinced. Everybody else simply throws their recyclable goods into the trash can to end up buried in landfills or trashed into the ocean. On their way, they’ll kill wildlife and mess up the ecosystem.

I’m not trying do be dramatic, but we humans underestimate our strength. I’ll bet your immediate family goes through 1,000 plastic bottles a year. Mine certainly does. So here’s some easy things I want you to do in relation to plastic bottles. You don’t have to be an activist, just make a few subtle changes to your ways.

Collect your plastic bottles.
This is the single most important thing you can do to help the environment. Get another trash can besides the one you use to throw things away in. Use this one exclusively for recycling. Then, when it gets full, take the bag to your nearest recycling collection center. Here’s where you can search for recycling centers in Alabama. Use the great Google to find your state’s collection center. Alternately, take advantage of your community’s curbside pickup recycling service if your lucky enough to have one.

Use Refillable Containers.
Tumblers are pretty cheap these days. Save your money and instead of buying bottled water, fill it up at home and using water fountains. Many businesses now have special sanitary fountains just for this purpose. If you don’t like doing the dished, buy 5 of them; one for each day of the work week. It also helps with health because you won’t be tempted to buy a soda.

Stop Buying Bottled Water
The thing about the economy. If you stop buying stuff, they’ll stop selling stuff. If they stop selling stuff, stuff stops getting produced. Cut the head off of the snake and stop letting these miniature environmental disasters get produced in the first place. Bottled water should be reserved for outdoor work can camping trips. If you don’t like the taste of your faucet water, buy a water filter. I know you can afford one if you can buy bottled water every week.

We need to make large, sweeping changes to our cultural habits. Still, I believe we can do this.

[Thanks Conner Carroll for the suggestion.]