My political and religious post for the year

“It’s almost over.” It seems like every four years, around this time, we’re all saying the same thing. We’re all happy that the craziness of the presidential election is finally coming to a close. However, this year I feel like the entire process has devolved into a new low. I make no secret that I’m on the liberal side of the spectrum, but even I have respect for most conservative candidates, despite my disagreement with them. I am usually able to have a rational discourse with people about political issues.

This year, the conservative side of the equation brought out the most irrational and inflammatory rhetoric it could find. In addition, the political season once again started earlier than ever. This means that rational political discourse has been absent from the public square for a solid year. Trump is the type of candidate that knows how to work the media, and almost every step of the way he has done exactly what he has made him famous for decades, create a spectacle.

Creating a spectacle is great for entertainment and growing a brand/business, but it’s horrible in the political spectrum. Spectacles bring out raw passion and emotion in people, and although that can be good in the entertainment sphere, it damages the political world. What has disturbed me the most during this election cycle is seeing so many people give in to the spectacle that is Trump, and willingly turn off their critical thinking skills.

Almost all of the political plans that Trump has laid out are just eye candy for a populace that is fed on constant streams of attention grabbing social media and reckless infotainment that passes for news. Trump, as a master showman, has realized that he can tap into people’s desire for radical change to fuel an emotion and passion based campaign which, just like frenetic social media, has little basis in reality.

I’m certainly not one to stand in the way of progress, and I agree that many things in government need to change. However, there is only one institution that changes slower than government, and that is the Church. Change WILL come to our country, and it always has. It simply takes time and patience, along with the willpower to slowly turn a very, very large vessel. It often also takes baby-steps, such as the Affordable Care Act, which although flawed, is paving the way for better change in the future. That’s the nature of government and politics, and as much as we love to imagine a world where public policy and programs change on a dime, it’s simply not the reality that we live in.

Yet here we are, in an election cycle where reality has taken a back seat to rationalism. Perhaps my biggest complaint is how this emotion fueled campaign has fueled the rise of hate. Many, sane, rational people that I know are voting for Trump, not because they believe in him, but because they “hate that crooked Hillary”. Trump has masterfully turned his lack of political prowess into a referendum on how many people he can get to hate Hillary.

As someone who still clings to the notion of a Christian faith, this is perhaps the saddest part of all. People of faith have gathered around Trump to decry the evil that they perceive is Hillary, and they do it with such a blind eye towards faith in Christ that is almost brings me to tears. Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that these people believe that what they are doing is because of their faith, and that supporting Trump is the ‘Christian’ thing to do.

I have always been a firm believer in the philosophy espoused by Greg Boyd, a pastor here in Minnesota, that Christians are meant to be a power under society, not a power over it. There is no such thing as a Christian Nation, and there never should be. The entire concept is anathema to the message and teaching of Christ. Christians are to show the love of Christ through their actions in the world, not through the seizing of power in a political sphere. This most certainly does not mean that political figures shouldn’t act our their faith, but they should never use their position of power to impose their faith on others. That is simply not how God has called people to spread the love of Christ.

A nation will reflect the nature of the people who inhabit it, and that is why for many decades America has had the appearance of a Christian nation. The overwhelming majority of the populace lived and practiced a Christian life, and our government reflected that reality. However, our country is changing and we are becoming a much more pluralistic society and our government will change to reflect the make up of the people. The fears of many conservative Christians are reflected in the insane proposals of Trump, such as building a wall with Mexico and deporting Muslims.

Our nation is changing, and no amount of crazy ideas will change the fact that we are no longer the “Christian nation” that we once were. But that’s OK. Christ did not suffer and die to create America. He sacrificed himself so that those who follow Him can have victory over sin and death in their lives. That is a victory that has real meaning and power in a person’s life, since it them empowers them to show that same sacrificial love to those around him. That, in-turn, creates a type of Christian society that exists between all people, no matter their faith or the political policies over them. It is truly a power that changes the world from under it, through the power of the cross and not the sword.

This election cycle can’t end soon enough, but I know that the struggle to accept change will take longer than a presidential election. It takes a changing of hearts and minds to reflect a life of Christ, serving and helping others in whatever ways we are gifted to do so. Our country will never be a “Christian nation” again, and that’s OK, and that’s the way it should be. I would rather worship a God who is present in the relationships we have with others, and not imposed upon the unwilling. Christ is not our slaver, He has broken our chains to make us free to show his love to every single soul.

Saying goodbye to the Nessie

img_0287Back during my divorced years I was looking for things to keep myself occupied. I had always enjoyed watching soccer on TV, and so in 2011 I decided to check out the local minor league soccer team, the Minnesota Stars. I had remembered the Minnesota Kicks visiting my elementary school as a kid, and was excited to see what had become of Minnesota soccer over the years.

I brought my kids (and one of their friends) with and got to experience my first visit to a live soccer game. At the time we were a small team in the second tier of American soccer, the NASL. We had a lot of fun at that game, and going to a Saturday night soccer match became a regular occurrence. Sometimes I would bring the boys, and other times I would simply go alone and enjoy the game.img_3436

When I met Lisa I introduced her to the game, and she enjoyed it as much as I did, so we eventually became season ticket holders for the newly branded Minnesota United FC. This past year it was announced that we’d be joining Major League Soccer next spring, bringing The Beautiful Game to a big stage here in Minnesota. However, with all of the growth and excitement around MNUFC it means that our stadium in Blaine wouldn’t last as a permanent home. It was simply too small, and for most of the metro area, too far out of the way. Next year we start playing at the University of Minnesota stadium while our dedicated soccer stadium is completed sometime in 2018.

Saturday night, is the final game at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Since I started this journey in 2011 the NSC (or Nessie as it’s called) has been our home for soccer, and it all ends today. It’s a bitter sweet thought. It’s exciting to think about the cool amenities that we’ll get in bigger stadiums, yet, there is a fun intimacy at the Nessie. It’s a small stadium, with bleachers on one side, and a regular concrete structure on the other. They’ve invited food trucks to park around the stadium for different food options, and I’ve gotten to know my regular beer vendor.

img_0038The Nessie is a place of memories for me. It has significance because of what it meant to me at a difficult time in my life. I was discovering who I was, and starting a new life. Going up to Blaine became a comforting tradition; one that we’ve now shared with lots of other friends and family. Hopefully, other teams, like perhaps a pro female team, will eventually call Nessie home, but it won’t quite be like when I started going there to watch the Stars.

Saturday night I raised my beer in toast to a great stadium, and to the wonderful memories it has given me over the years. Long live the Nessie!

 

Friday night pasta night

The boys in my house love pasta. It’s one of the common things I would make when I was single, and it’s becoming a new Friday night tradition, on weeks when both my boys are over. It’s something that’s quick and simple to make, and doesn’t require a lot of prep. It’s also cheap and gives us a ton of leftovers; yet another positive feature in a house of teenage boys.

We keep it very simple, and the following ratios have worked really well:

  • 2 boxes penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 jars of pasta sauce
  • one 3oz container of grated Parmesan cheese

We also sometimes have some chicken warmed up for anyone who wants to add that to their pasta. There might also be garlic bread, depending if we have any around.

So there’s a quick peek into a Friday night at our house.

iPad workaround

A few months ago, while camping, my iPad apparently took a spill, and the power button broke. It’s flush with the casing, and it refuses to pop back out, telling me that the internal mechanism is probably not working either. Today I decided to take it to the Apple Store to get an estimate on how much it would be to fix it.

Apparently, that isn’t a part that they will fix, and my only option was to get a new, re-manufactured, iPad to replace it for a couple hundred dollars. However, before the Genius even told me about the replacement option, he pointed out some little known features of iOS that might help me get by and make my iPad last longer in it’s current condition. iOS comes with all types of adaptive features to help with accessibility. One of these features is  AssistiveTouch. This feature allows you to operate some of the physical buttons on the iPad through on-screen controls. With this, I can turn off the iPad, as well as take screenshots.

The only thing that it won’t let me do, is a hard reset if I end up with crashed software. I decided that these features were more than enough to keep me using my current device, and I think my next investment will be in a bit more solid case for the iPad. I was happy that Apple was able to come up with a feature that can get me by with a device that is in perfect condition apart from the single button.

2016 12″ MacBook

I’ve spent the past week with my new MacBook, and I’ve had enough time to form a solid opinion. First though, I should go over the reasons that I chose this model over others. There were a few criteria that I was looking for in a replacement for my Chromebook. First, I wanted something in the 11″ to 12″ range. I had an opportunity to use a 13″ MacBook Air for a bit, and it was just a bit too big for how I like to use it.

Second, I wanted something that could run Adobe Lightroom. One of the main purposes in having a laptop is to be able to do some basic photo processing when I’m traveling. I often like to bring my DSLR out on trips, and getting the RAW photos off of the camera and onto Chromebook has been quite putzy. I’ve tried a bunch of different apps, and some have worked better than others, yet none of them work as well as Adobe Lightroom. That fact left me with choosing between a Windows laptop and Mac.

I have a lot invested in the Mac eco-system, so that wasn’t that difficult of a choice for me, but then I was left with which model to get. In the 11″ and 12″ range there are two choices, the MacBook Air, and the MacBook. The MacBook Air is a bit older, but has a slightly beefier processor and many more ports. The MacBook has a Retina display, and is even lighter and thinner. I spent a few visits at the Apple Store comparing both models, and decided that the MacBook was the way to go.

One of my biggest reasons was the Retina display. It is by far one of the best looking displays I’ve ever used, laptop or desktop. It’s a truly stunning display, with rich colors, and insane resolution. For doing photo editing it more than meets the need. This display pumps the price up a little, but frankly, after comparing them side-by-side, it was no-contest when it came to screens.

Many people have complained about the lack of multiple ports on the MacBook. I did invest in one of the Apple HDMI adapters right away, which comes with HMDI, USB, and USB-C connectors on it. That should cover just about everything I’d need when traveling. I also have a tiny hub I can throw into my bag for extreme cases where I need multiple devices plugged in at the same time. Frankly, the ability to charge my laptop off of a USB hub, or even a USB battery pack, is a trade-off I’m willing to accept.

The other issue that many people have raised with the MacBook is the keyboard. It is a very low travel keyboard that, honestly, feels weird the first time you type on it. On one of my visits to the Apple Store I spend some time just transcribing a Wikipedia article into a textbox so that I could get a solid feel for how they keyboard felt. The strangest thing happened; the more I typed on the keyboard, the more I fell in love with it. I had originally resigned myself to the idea that the keyboard would be a compromise for me with this machine, but it’s turned into one of my favorite features. I LOVE typing on it. It has just a slight bit of travel, but it’s more than enough to make you feel that you hit the keys, but it also is small enough that you can move your fingers over the keyboard with much less up and down movement. I feel like I can type faster on this keyboard, and it feels amazing.

The one downside to smaller laptops is the lack of CPU power, and it’s obvious that the MacBook won’t be winning any speed contests. However, when I loaded up a couple dozen photos into Lightroom and started making adjustments, I didn’t feel like I was hampered at all by the smaller CPU. All of my actions in Lightroom worked quickly, and I never found myself waiting around for things to complete. Partly, I’m sure this is due to having a full 8GB of memory, as well as onboard flash based storage. This helped the CPU keep up with what I threw at it, and left me very satisfied with performance. It also helped that I get all-day battery life out of it.

Overall, I am VERY happy with my selection. I’ve found myself using this laptop on a daily basis instead of parking myself at my larger iMac. It meets all my needs, has an amazing screen, and a keyboard that I’ve fallen in love with. I can see myself using this machine for a long time and being very happy with it.