Back to the Future Grocery


Question: Is the new “connected world” where a corporation can track your preferences etc. to target you with specific adds really that much different from the “old days” where your local grocer knew what you liked and offered that to you?

I’m listening to KCUR’s “Up To Date” and they are talking about how Meijer chain in Michigan and Indiana is developing an in-store wi-fi system to assist shoppers with their grocery (and everything else) shopping. The example that was given is that you are walking around the store – the system notices that you are looking at peanut butter – it tells you that there are 10 different types of PB at the store and three are on sale – you can access reviews etc across the internet to make an informed choice – then, the system generates a coupon for Peter Pan PB and Welch’s Jelly.

On the one hand, it’s creepy that the store could know you that well. However, my question stands – is that really all that different from “back in the day” when you might go into your local grocery store (the good ‘ole days when you had a relationship with your grocer) and talk to the owner who knows you and your needs. He takes you to the PB and notes the pro’s and con’s of each brand while offering you a deal on one particular one.


Granted, one is big business and the other is local but based on personalized service alone, its actually very similar. Frankly, in a world of choices, it’s nice to have some information with which to make a decision. As someone who came into the internet age as a teenager, I like the idea.

Also, as a parent, the idea that I can hand my children a tablet on which they can happily watch Netflix while I shop?? Thank you. Really. Thank you.

Is that a fair comparison?

Back Pain and Soul Pain


There is a lie that floats about in our culture. It goes something like this – “healing has not happened (or worked) unless I do not feel pain any more.” As an Army prison chaplain, I experience it most in relationship to mental/spiritual anguish or “the dark night of the soul.” 

It goes something like this – the individual’s coping methods to dealing with pain land them in jail. They continue down this path (substituting alcohol, sex, drugs with ego trips, anger/rage, prescription meds) until they realize that they are still suffering greatly. They first reach out to mental health for relief and then, after realizing that drugs “won’t fix it” or that their counselor is encouraging them to work through their stuff reject it and show up in church. 

Here, they start reading the Bible furiously. Or, they start praying (at least in church) until something offends them at which time they either approach me about changing it or drop out all together. I challenge them on it and they say something like, “well, it didn’t take.” 

Another scenario that happens all the time is that someone will be the best Christian you ever met until they are denied parole. Then, clearly, God hates them and does not keep promises. (That they made to themselves on God’s behalf)

By the way, this is a common line of reasoning outside of prison too…

Which then introduces me mantra – people will not change until the pain of change is worse than the pain of staying the same. 

Somewhere along this path, they reach out to me for help. I introduce the above idea and say something like this, “I will not carry your burden. I cannot heal for you but I can and will join you and suffer with you if you want to really heal. You should know that it’s going to take you through some very dark waters. I’ll walk with you but not for you. I will be asking very hard questions and if you really want to heal, it’s going to be a little worse before it gets better. AND, it may actually NOT get better! In fact, your family might not be down with your growth and won’t like who you are becoming. You need to ask yourself if it’s worth the sacrifice.” 

Silence follows. 

Then a sigh and “I’ll give it a try.” 

Then we’ll enter into a pastoral care relationship. 

We explore the pain. We analyze why it’s painful. We struggle through how that pain might actually be a good thing and not something to be avoided. We seek to integrate it into life in a healthy way so as to not “cope” with it or avoid it but use it for positive growth. Those with enough courage hang in to the bitter end and experience great growth. Something people fall off. It happens. Either way, I’m there. Christ is there. 

What fascinates me on a regular basis is that the aforementioned lie is so prevalent in our culture. “Whatever you have to do to get rid of the pain…” 

What if pain wasn’t something to be avoided but embraced as God’s gift to guide you to healing? 

I heard this article on NPR this morning – loved it. It’s about managing back pain. 

“…along the way, she’s learning not to be afraid. “It’s learning not to fear the pain, learning that you can live with pain,” Wertheimer says. “Understand what that pain is, but then put it aside.”

In essence, sometimes the pain we experience both physically and emotionally is pain about the pain.

I teach my inmates to live with the pain, use the pain, make it a part of their spiritual strength and thus take away it’s power. 

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus

I love it when sports gives me the best illustration ever…


Disobeying a team rule.

Not an NCAA rule. Not a law. Not even a MSU rule. An undisclosed team rule.

It was for that, Coach Mark Dantonio benched his best player, his team captain, his undisputed leader of his tea. An undisclosed team rule.

That’s principled coaching.

I’ve been teaching the 7 Habits on the Inside (this is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People applied to prisoners living prison life) twice a week for 6 months now and once a week for over a year before that. It’s safe to day (as I am not deep into my 10th class) I am fully immersed in the 7 Habits lifestyle/program/cool aide…

Most basic to the program is living by principle.  Not living by indulgence, need, or want – principle. The idea that I know who I am, what I want, and what legacy I am leaving – I live to that. I live by my thought about, analyzed, tested principles.

This is why I loved watching the Spartans tonight. They played their football. The knowledge that they benched their best player on no less than the biggest game they have played for two decades, the 100th Rose Bowl, national television, Stanford. They benched their Player for an undisclosed team rule on the biggest game ever for everyone on that team.

That’s a principled team.

Then, there is Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind – living your life according to your vision. Seeing your legacy and then living according to that legacy rather than the one that comes by living out the default setting.

A year ago, Mark Dantonio walks on to the Rose Bowl field. Stands in the endzone and sees it all happening. His daughter captures the moment on a cell phone. He tells his team in the video that this is where they are going. A year before it happens, he stands on the field and sees it all before it takes place. Then, he takes his team there.


Living by Principle and Vision.

Thanks Coach. I’m going to get a solid 20 minutes of great discussion out of this…

Out of the Closet


I like Musicals. Always have.

We went to watch Frozen the other day.

We then bought the soundtrack.

Its been playing almost as much as Christmas music in our house for the last three days.

I would say that I’m a great parent and willing to listen to my kids favorite music but that would not be accurate. I will own that when I was at work yesterday, I wrote a memorandum whilst “Let It Go” blasted from my computer speakers.
I love that song. I love that Sophie loves that song.

Today, while I was reading the news, she came up to me in a pokadot dress and said, “Will you dance with me?”

Maybe its the prison. I looked at her big eyes and had this vision of her growing up. I’m getting old and my kids are growing up.

Christmas Eve 9 years ago, I met Sara for real. We talked till Christmas Day. Now we have three children, survived two deployments, have lived in 7 different cities, and still in love. It’s a different love. A resilient love born of adversity. The best kind.

Huh, didn’t intend to get all introspective, I intended to write about what I liked about Frozen. Here it is:

There is this strange power that one of the sisters has. It comes out when she has strong feelings. Fear, anger etc. Her well-meaning parents, acting on the information they have, keep her hidden away, avoiding anything that would trigger emotions. They teach her to control her power by suppressing it.

What a metaphor for suppressing anger, pain, and other emotions! Her power is uncontrollable and dangerous because she never learned to manage it. I resonate strongly with this. Much of my pastoral care is helping people integrate suppressed emotions into their present in a healthy way. When we suppress stuff, its going to come out and if we don’t learn to experience our emotions in a healthy way, explosions are the natural consequence. The energy has to go somewhere!

Redemption comes in the story as the queen learns to experience both the positive and negative sides of her power in a healthy way. Everybody benefits. I love it.

And, I’ve always liked Disney musicals. And musicals in general. I was a music major in college and its not good to suppress that side of me…

On Things I don’t understand.


We’ve been reading “Charlotte’s Web” at night before bed. All the kiddos get teeth brushed, jammies on, and snuggled up in bed and I read another chapter from E.B. White. Tonight we read this – it’s from the chapter where Mrs. Arable is concerned that her daughter is going crazy, what with the talking to the animals in her uncle’s barn. The conversation drifts to the miracle of a spider’s web, “it’s a miracle” the doctor proclaims, “the spider is not taught and yet it can still make that web…”

Dr. Dorian: “Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don’t you regard that as a miracle?

Mrs. Arable: “I suppose so. I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don’t understand how those words got into that web. I don’t understand it and I don’t like what I can’t understand.” 

Dr. Dorian: “None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian sighing. “I’m a doctor and doctor’s are supposed to understand everything. I don’t understand everything and I don’t intend on letting it worry me.” 

Exactly. Thanks for that E.B. 

R’s Fav Holidays… go figure…


So, my four year old son says to me tonight, “Do you want to guess my four favorite holidays?” 

“Of course. You have four?” 

“Yes. Four favorites.” 

“Can you have four favorites?” 

Silence. “Do you want to guess?” 

“Yes, Son, I do…” 

Here are my Son’s favorite holidays by order of importance: 

1. Halloween. 

2. Valantine’s Day (I got this one wrong) 

3. Easter (the hint was “this is when you look for Easter eggs” – I nailed it.) 

4. Field Trip Day. 

Here is a list of my understanding of why each holiday made the list: 

1. Candy

2. Candy

3. Candy 

4. Field Trip Day – does it really need an explanation? 

You’re welcome. 

I’m a prison chaplain. I talk about sex addiction with addicts on a regular basis.


…You should know that before reading this post. In it, I am going to acknowledge the existence of sex and… other words…

So… I read this today on Huffington Post. It’s about a reddit group “NoFap” (Fapping is masturbating), a collection of (and I just saw this – it’s significant) no less than 74,000 “fapstronauts.” These are *mostly* men, 89% of whom are under the age of 30 who have taken a pledge not to “fap” for a variety of reasons not the least of which is to improve their sex life. Read the article, there are alot of amazing stats. 

Item I find MOST fascinating? Zero talk of religion. 

This is not a religious movement. It’s a personal health one. 

When I was in Bible College (I now own that I am a graduate of Pensacola Christian College – they kicked me out 3 weeks before my graduation, then gave me my degree a year later – though for years I said something like, “I went to a small private college in Florida when asked…) there were thousands of sexually repressed young men who “fapped” all the time. It was referred to by those who dared acknowledge it’s existence (though never by it’s actual name – I have a memory I’d love to erase of Gregg Mutch the college president preaching a sermon to “just the guys” about, and I am not kidding here, true story, “stroking the snake of pornea”). Those progressive enough to own that sometimes 19 year old men who are not allowed to get within 6 inches of a girl (broke that one a few hundred not sure how many times..) sometimes might give into the lustful thoughts constantly on their mind and “fap” also used the most powerful tool in the fundamentalist arsenal to fight it – guilt. 

Nothing like some good, old-fashioned, unadulterated guilt to make someone go forward and confess to someone else that you had “thoughts” and sometimes even “lustful thoughts.” It was unhealthy and made sex dirty. 

We were told it was bad, bad, bad and then, once married, its on like Donkey Kong. Cause that’s not weird and backward. 

Understand. I have, as a chaplain, experienced the dark side of porn addiction. It is very painful and what it does to families is a plague. 

What is amazing about this article is that this group approaches the idea of purity for their own health. It is people who come to some kind of awareness that their tastes and pleasures are not healthy and they want purity. And they seem to be doing it without guilt! 

More power to you. 

This article was encouraging to me. Whether we approach a healthy view of sex from a religious worldview or not, less porn use is better for the human race. 

Update: here’s the website:

Also: your brain on porn – quite good

George Washington on Religious Freedom


“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792