Favorite Things of 2016

2016 has been sarcastically referred to on social media as one of the worst years ever. Its funny because some believe its true. To be sure there have been some things 2016 would not be proud of and probably wishes that social media wasn’t invented so it doesn’t have to relive all those moments. (On that note I’m so thankful social media was not around during my high school and college years. Legend can stay just that :)

For me personally and for our family 2016 was a great year. We all grew a year older there were many memorable things for me to think back on. So with that, here is my list of favorite things about 2016 including:

  • My Favorite Things I Bought on Amazon
  • Favorite Apps I Discovered
  • Favorite Movies
  • Favorite Books
  • Favorite TV Series
  • Favorite Music
  • Random Favorite Things

My Favorite things I bought on Amazon

Amazon Prime

If you shop very often on Amazon, their deal for free 2 day shipping is pretty fun. You also have access to Prime Video which is like Netflix.


 

We used to use iPad white noise apps but the iPad speaker wasn’t loud enough and having a dedicated appliance is actually easier.  While it is still electronic the looping is seamless, the noise is actually loud enough to drown out other loud noises and the sounds aren’t obnoxious. If you’re looking for a sound machine I can’t recommend this high enough.


 

I’ve always used my iPad and iPad mini for e-reading but could never really get into it because the screen would eventually tire my eyes out and even the iPad mini was got heavy and awkward to hold. I had resisted getting a Kindle because it seemed so impractical while having an iPad. I wish I had gotten one sooner. It’s so comfortable and light to hold. I can read in any light, my eyes don’t get tired and I’m not distracted by other apps. Its fantastic.


 

For as as I can remmember I’ve wanted a Bose system. Sure there are probably systems that are better and some that are cheaper but I can still remember going into a Bose store and being blown away by the quality and size of their products. As we neared finishing our basement I had the opportunity to finally get one and I haven’t been disappointed.  The great thing about this particular system is that it also acts as a video receiver (it has 4 HDMI in ports) so I can reduce the amount of components we use. It sounds great and looks great. Tons of fun.


Favorite Apps I discovered

Alto's Adventure

I don’t normally like endless scrolling games but there are two components that made this a winner. First the design of the game is absolutely gorgeous. The sunrises and sunsets are worth it by themselves. Second the developers did a great job at adding in challenges and levels to get you coming back to play. There are some that were insanely hard but it was always fun. It was especially fun to pair the game with LCD Soundsystem’s song Dance Yourself Clean.


 

I love watching movies and for the longest time I’ve wanted an easy way to not only keep track of what and when I watch but to be able to rate the films right after I watch them. This is a well designed, well functioning app that does both of those things. My only wish is that they would incorporate TV series to track.


 

My favorite camera/filter app is still VSCO but Filmborn has some really great filters as well.


 

We recently got our first Five Guys store and during lunchtime the line is routinely out the door. Their app lets you order online and just go to the counter to pick up your food. I really shouldn’t be sharing this with all my Des Moines friends...


 

Our family is a huge fan of Mario. We’ll most likely but the new Nintendo just to get the new Mario game. So when I heard that Nintendo was releasing their first mobile game on the iPhone I was pretty excited. It takes a bit to get used to but the spirit of the game is the same and is a lot of fun.


 

I had known Amazon acquired Audible but I never put it together that my Amazon Prime account would give me some benefits there. That is until a long drive to Colorado had me searching for audio books to download and I noticed that Audible was asking if I had an Amazon login. Why yes, yes I do. In the apps channels there are a number of free audiobooks, nothing real recent, but a lot of good stuff nonetheless.


Movies

These are in the order that I saw them not what I think is better. I ended up seeing 36 new movies this year (I know that because of the app Letterboxd–see what I did there :) and there were 9 that I rated 4 ½ stars or better. My scale actually goes up to 5 ½ stars. 1-4 stars based on quality of story, acting, cinematography, and then an extra ½ star if I like/recommend it.

10 Cloverfield Lane ★★★★½

What a great thriller.  I loved the original Cloverfield in that the way they told the story was so original. This was completely different though it’s supposed to take place in the same universe. The acting and suspense are top notch and you’re left guessing as much as the characters are. If you didn’t enjoy the original Cloverfield you may not like the ending of this one but I thought it was fun.

Captain America Civil War ★★★★½

My son and I are big Marvel fans generally and big fans of Captain America in particular. The Captain America movies have been I think far and away the best of all the Marvel movies. The second installment with Winter Soldier might be the only comic book film to come close to the Dark Knight in terms of story and filmmaking. Civil War was fun because it had so many characters including Spider Man! The premise of civil liberties mixed with foreign policy was a great foundation to build the story on and the action was great.

OJ Made in America ★★★★★

One of only two films on my list to get 5 stars, this is a multi-part documentary that is a must watch. Not so much for the story of OJ, though that is really compelling, but moreso for the events in the culture that led to events of the trial and the reactions during and after. The insights on race and culture are extremely eye opening and sobering.

Zero Days ★★★★½

Another great documentary, Zero Days tells about the state of offensive cyber warfare in general and specially about the combined attack on Iran by the US and Israel with the Stuxnet virus.

Incredibly Stuxnet was only the tip of the iceberg and the NSA was ready and capable to shut down all of Iran's infrastructure if Israel physically attacked them and we we drawn into a war.

It also sheds light on the Iran nuclear deal so often mentioned in this political cycle. It was most likely made to avert a war. It also asked good questions about the nature of cyber warfare and the rules of engagement

Free State of Jones ★★★★½

In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. The reasons I really liked this movie are it's a true story, fantastic acting and this is subject matter we can never learn too much about.

Eye in the Sky ★★★★½

Eye in the Sky is a very intense modern warfare drama that explores the use of drones. There is a situation in another country where the use of a drone strike will undoubtedly save lives but there will also be collateral damage to civilians–in this case a small innocent girl.

From this I expected the typical scolding and virtue signaling that comes from Hollywood not to mention a tired story that tries too hard to push an agenda. I could not have been further from the truth.

The best films are the ones where you have an idea of what's going to happen and then everything is turned on its head. This is one of those.

The film is set in 7 different simultaneous locations and switches between them to provide the perspective of each character where they are at. This is beauty of the film and provides a tremendous amount of tension. It also allows the view points on all sides of the issue to be represented. I thought they did a very fair job at this.

In the end the film extols the horror of war, the massive decisions our leaders and military make on a daily basis, and does a tremendous job in not glorifying violence.

Hacksaw Ridge ★★★★½

While Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t glorify violence, it doesn’t shy away from it either. It’s important for us to realize how horrible war is so we avoid it at every conceivable turn. Its also important to remember and recognize the sacrifice and bravery of those that serve. This film is an amazing salve of heroism, liberty, and the true American spirit.

It depicts the common ground of decency and liberty we can find together.

Rogue One ★★★★½

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan but I've enjoyed them, and since they are part of the larger culture I do feel some responsibility to embrace them on a certain level. That said I really enjoyed The Force Awakens last year and I enjoyed Rogue One even more. I really liked the fact that they had another strong female lead and it was very interesting to see all the foreshadowing to A New Hope. The last few minutes when Darth Vader appears out of the black and shows his true power is worth the rest of the film.

Arrival ★★★★★

The other film to recieve 5 stars was Arrival. It has a great twist, sparks the imagination, and presents an "alien encounter" in an incredibly realistic fashion. There is a palpable tension throughout the film that is necessary and realistic given the stakes.

It's gorgeously shot and the shallow depth of field added to the overall tension. There is a noticeable amount of silence as well which is just as effective as the soundtrack.

I love Brett McCracken’s review of the film and I would encourage you to read it. He asks this poignant question: “Would the “gift” of seeing the future be a blessing or a curse? How could a brain that grasps the eternal picture—an all-at-the-same-time awareness—not go insane in a time-bound world?” And obviously you can fill in how this might be fascinating to think about, especially around Advent.

It's a compelling, original story that will have you asking questions about the future, decision making, theories of time, and even Calvinism :)


In a year fraught with political animosity this book was extraordinarily helpful to take us back to the founding of our country and to rediscover just how unique and special the idea of America is.


 

This is the memoir of a Yale grad who grew up in Appalachia and in a small industrial town with as dysfunctional of a family as you could ever find. Its compelling and revealing especially in this election year. No wonder it hit #1 on the NY Times bestseller list and has taken the country by storm. Be sure to also read Mez McConnels review and reflection of his own experiences.


 

I finally read the book that inspired my all time favorite documentary. It recounts the story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates' successful but disastrous and nearly fatal climb of the 20,813 foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. The story is utterly amazing.


 

I’ve never read anything by Isaac Asimov before but I’m glad to have started. I really enjoy thinkers who not only posit what the future could be but nuances and problems that might occur because of it. I also love stories that deal with time travel and this book is all about time travel and the effects it has on mankind.


 

Christopher Hitchens is famous or notorious for being an outspoken atheist. This book tells of the friendship that he had with a Christian Pastor. It is so encouraging on a number of levels. It gives hope for all and it shows that love can transcend even the largest of disagreements.


 

Aaron Draplin is a designer who has designed a lot of really cool things. This book is part memoir, part portfolio, and all awesome. It’s a massive book that is beautiful to look at and provides tons of inspiration.


 

How could I leave out my own book!? What an amazing year it was to see the launch and positive reception of something I’ve worked on for so long.


TV Series

Stranger Things

This was a treat that was completely unexpected and so much fun to end to the summer with. Me and my generation are obviously getting older and as we are the primary money makers and spenders I’ve noticed that we are quickly becoming the targets of many advertisers and shows. Nostalgia is huge right now especially from the 80’s. The creators of Stranger Things nailed the nostalgia factor and everything that we identify as cool and fun about the 80’s they packed in. Nostalgia alone however won’t work but there was a fun intriguing story and some really great young actors to pull it all together. I can’t wait to see what they do with season 2.

Halt and Catch Fire

Speaking of nostalgia… The show Halt and Catch Fire while always being character driven is based on computer companies and the development of technology in the 80’s and 90’s. This last season we saw the influence of Nintendo and the birth of web. This article by Jason Kottke nailed the sentiment and how cool it was to first discover the open web and it’s possibilities.

Broadchurch

The best shows are always about humans. What I mean is they are trying to convey human emotions and reactions to problems and everyday situations. The shows that do well are those that explore this while developing the characters around an interesting story. Broadchurch has to be one of the best at drawing a real emotional connection. In the story a young local boy of a small beachside English town is found dead and the plot revolves around solving the case. The story itself is compelling enough with lots of twists and turns but the focus on the true emotional state of the town in general and the family in particular is what makes it special.

Better Call Saul

Spinoffs and sequels generally don’t do very well. With the exception of a few they struggle to either come up with their own story or rely too heavily on the nostalgia of a previous show. Better Call Saul has done both brilliantly. They have crafted an amazing and interesting backstory to how Saul from Breaking Bad became Saul and hey throw in just enough of the Breaking Bad world to hit that nostalgia button. This show is so fun and so well written and acted it might equal or dare I say surpass its predecessor?


Music

There wasn’t a lot of new music for me in 2016 that made a real impact but here are a couple.

Changes by Mutemath

I love the sound of Mutemath and the unique spin they put on their music. Changes was a remix of their most recent album Vitals but it included one new song called Changes. The words I use to describe it are “pure sonic fun.” There is something unexpected around every corner and it’s a joy to listen to.


 

Even So Come by Tommee Profitt

I had never heard of Tommee Profitt before my friends Lisa and Curtis got married. They used his rendition of the song Even So Come as the attendant march and it blew me away. He absolutely nails the emotion and power of the song and it brings me close to tears when I listen to it.


Random Things

These are things that were great about 2016 but don’t fall into a particular category.

Good Friends

We were privileged to launch our book into the world at the T4G conference this year and we had some amazing support from some really good friends. We are super thankful for our Cody and Londa. They were so encouraging and supportive during this week. They were literally pulling strangers aside and telling them about my book! Each of them is the definition of a joyful servant. Blessed beyond words to know them. Thank you!

Photographing friends weddings

As my passion for photography has grown I’ve been blessed to be able to take photos for fun at various events including several weddings of good friends. It was so fun to capture some of the many emotions and moments of those days and give it to my friends.

Taking the kids to their first Bronco game

Even though they ended up losing the game the kids had an absolute blast. While we were watching the players warm up Bennie Fowler gave Jace his receivers gloves, the Broncos published some of my photos from Twitter all over the stadium, and we even got on the big scoreboard!

Chick Fil-A 1st 100

I can’t think of a much better way to spend a day then hanging out playing games with friends, being fed for free, and in the end getting a year’s worth of Chick Fil-A just for being there. So much fun.

Mia’s Spring Soccer Highlights

Mia had an amazing Winter and Spring in soccer and was constantly mentioned as one of the best keepers for her age group. I was lucky enough to record a number of her highlights and put them into a short video.

Being on Steve Deace’s show

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With the release of my book came some really cool opportunities. One of those was to promote it and talk about it on a nationally syndicated radio show.  The segment went really well and was a part of the book ultimately making it onto the front page and number 20 overall of Amazon’s best sellers.

Broncos Super Bowl

Something switched on for my son this past year and he has become crazy interested in sports. This has been all sorts of fun for me as we got to share the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory together. I still come home every so often and see him rewatching it! I couldn’t be prouder.

Speaking at our local caucus

Even though the 2016 campaign was crazy and a lowlight for many I had the opportunity to stand up and speak for Ted Cruz at our local caucus here in Iowa. Even though Cruz eventually bowed out he did win our caucus and the state of Iowa in the primary and I’m happy to have played a small part.

Designing infographics for the Ted Cruz campaign

In addition to speaking at our caucus I also got to design several infographics for the campaign to use to help promote Ted’s message. This is unique to our place in Iowa as I was able to get to know several key team leaders and contribute to the campaign.

Baptism Videos

Anytime I get to be creative and share the gospel at the same time it’s the perfect confluence. We had a number of people get baptized this year and I was able to help tell their stories. Watch some of our stories here.

Church Plant Trip

My year ended by being able to take a trip to Phoenix where we are working to plant a church. The primary purpose was to shoot photos and film to help promote the church both here in Iowa and there in Arizona. It was so much fun seeing friends that moved down there and being able to do what I love to help the church grow.

Three Ways We Can Propel the Gospel Forward in Light of the Election

This is the Epilogue of being #NeverTrump.

The only time I think I've been more shocked than when I realized Trump was going to win, was when our first child came out a girl after an ultrasound tech a few months earlier had given us a picture with boy parts circled...

Just as it was all those years ago the shock is wearing off and the question becomes what now?

I think its important to state that my position of being #NeverTrump was never about his ability to win or lose (though I did think he would lose). Rather it was a stand against what I believe (and still do) disqualifies him from a high leadership position. Even though I generally agree with the Republican platform, character should always "trump" issues. If you're a con-man and moral reprobate in character, you'll typically be a con-man and moral reprobate on the issues too.

That said, I hope I'm as wrong about Donald Trump as a leader and president as I was about the chances of him being president. I will continue to fight for conservative causes and will absolutely hold him accountable for the things he says and does.

But again the question remains what now?

For me as a Christian first and American citizen second, the answer is to look for ways to continue to propel the inclusive message of the gospel forward.

So here are three ways we can propel the gospel forward in light of this election.


1. Be Humble and Empathize

You must be gracious and give grace to those who you oppose.

If Hillary had won those on Trump's side would not want the victory rubbed in their faces. You would not want to see gloating Facebook posts and nasty memes.

In the past 24 hours I've scanned through thousands of tweets and have read dozens of articles and one of the most encouraging came from one of Hillary's most ardent supporters Mark Cuban. 

We all need to give President-Elect Trump a chance. Support the good. Lobby against what we disagree on. No one is bigger than us all
— Mark Cuban

That was an amazing display of humility and leadership in the light of a crushing loss and we would all be good to emulate his example.

We also must empathize. There are a lot of people who are very nervous right now given what Trump has said and done during his campaign. Whether you think their fear is rational or irrational isn’t the point. It’s real to them and we would be wise for the sake of their soul to cover them with a grace and empathy that only comes from the gospel. 

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
— 1 Peter 3:8-9

Be compassionate towards your brothers in arms.

I disagreed with many very close friends and others over Trump's candidacy. They didn't stand for his moral character, but believed the best path forward for the country was to make sure Hillary was not put into a position of power. Though I disagree with their solution I respect their motivation. It would be an absolute travesty that the divisions fracturing America would also cause a permeant break among fellow Christians. We must remember we are trying to win the world and not just an election.

2. Pray and Give Thanks for Our Leaders

As Christians we are commanded to pray those who in a position of authority above us. 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
— 1 Tim 2:1-4

I think its striking that Paul instructs Timothy to not only pray for those in authority, but to also be thankful for them. This admittedly is harder with some people, but remember Paul lived at a time when Nero, one of the vilest, and most bloodthirsty emperors was in power.

Most of us, even if you voted for Trump have strong reservations about how he will lead, but we must pray and find ways to be thankful for him. This would have been no different if Hillary had been elected.

And why? Because when we humble ourselves to pray and give thanks for our leaders, people around us are saved and come to the knowledge of truth.

I'm extremely encouraged by those in leadership positions that are already being an example. And these people are not just in leadership positions but have been some of the most outspoken against Trump.

My family and I just prayed that President-Elect Trump will be wise and faithful in his new vocation. We call on all Americans to as well.
— Senator Ben Sasse
Congratulations on your victory @realDonaldTrump. As our President, Columba and I will pray for you in the days and months to come.
— Former Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush

If these guys can be gracious and public in their prayers so can we.

3. Keep the Gospel in the Center of Your Life

This last Sunday we had special service that focused on praying for the election and our country. One of my favorite parts was a testimony given by one of our members Joe Crisp. He spoke primarily about the recent tragedies of police shootings. Joe has a very unique and nuanced position as he is a person of color, grew up in the inner city of Cleveland, and is now works with law enforcement as a prosecutor.

Earlier in the summer we went to Joe, given his background and position, and asked what we as a church could do to help the volatile situation in our country. His answer was profound and simple as he told us to "keep doing what you do." What he meant by that was to keep living a life that show the love of Christ, and keep the mission to share the gospel of Christ as the primary thing in your life.

Those words are especially poignant in light of the election. We need to make the mission of the church our primary mission. By the way you can watch Joe's full life story here.

I love what Russel Moore wrote yesterday: "Political power—or the illusion of it—has not always been good for us. Such influence has led us to conform our minds to that of the world about what matters, and who matters, in the long-run of history. We should, as missionary Jim Elliot put it a generation ago, own our “strangerhood.”

What Elliot meant was we need to understand that this world is not our home. Embrace the fact that we have a hope to come that is better than anything here. That hope is realized in the gospel and we need to be bold to share it with a nation that needs it.

We will need to be united on this as a divided nation needs us to be focused on this mission.

Work to engage those not in your culture comfort zone.

If your Christianity only engages elites, college grads, artists, "creatives," urban professionals, etc. you won't understand why Trump won. The gospel is not just for those in our social circles. There is a massive group of people in our country that feel left behind. If we want to reach them with the gospel we will have to reject comfort and reach across our culture.

A good place to start would be to read the book Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Another good place would be to read the review of that very book by Mez McConnell. Mez has the perspective of living in Great Britain and going through Brexit this past year.

Our identity is not in politics. Our hope is not in a candidate. Our party or support of a candidate is not the sum of who we are.

We need to continue to fight for the gospel. Spread it with love far and wide.

I'll end with this challenge from Matt Chandler. If we want to propel the gospel forward we must "fight for diversity love the poor and welcome the immigrant."

Why I Still Trust Ted Cruz

I can’t say I’ve ever believed in, and truly put my trust in a politician before Ted Cruz. [disclaimer about knowing that politicians are not Jesus]

A few months ago I wrote about why I trust Ted Cruz. I’m proud to say I still do, and can add the events of yesterday to the reasons why.

Putting trust in a political figure is always a tenuous relationship at best and in some ways is always a dangerous proposition, but let’s back up a few years...

I’ve never been too active in politics. It has always interested me but nothing I would wanted to be involved in deeply. The first election I was able to vote in was in 1996, and I can’t remember if I voted. If I did, I certainly voted for Bob Dole but only because he was on “my team,” that is, I was a Christian so I am compelled to vote Republican.

I followed the 2000 election more closely as I was in college and truly believed we needed to bring dignity back to the white house. September 11th changed the world for everyone and in 2004 I was the most involved I had ever been. I proudly put a Bush sign in my yard and went to exactly one rally here in Iowa because I wanted to keep America safe.

Over the next few years the constant division and the image that everyone in Washington was morphing into the same corrupt entity disenfranchised me and I really didn’t want anything to do with the political system. I didn’t follow it and didn’t really care. Nothing they ever did seemed to affect my life anyway. Plus as a leader in a brand new church in a new community I wanted to be careful about speaking any public opinions I might have about the system.

In 2005 I had the wonderful privilege to help plant Lakeside Fellowship, a church in Polk City, IA. I was a leader in the church and while not a pastor in title, I shepherded our student ministry. Because of that role I concluded in the 2008 and 2012 elections I would lose opportunities to share the gospel with my neighbors because of relationships being prematurely shut because of political views.

In this political cycle I struggled with the same question. Now as a “real” pastor what was the right thing to do? Part of the conflict is having to put your name on line for someone who can and often does fail publicly and spectacularly which then damages you and the message you're trying to convey.

However my thinking changed when I started to watch and read about Ted Cruz. Here I saw a politician not just stand up for his principles but was able to do it in a way that if given the opportunity and national platform, could win the hearts and minds of regular people.

The problem is that we have trotted out the same lukewarm candidate every four years and have spoken the same tired rhetoric.  If want to have any chance at impacting the culture with conservative values and principles we need to remind people of why America is unique in the history of the world and win the hearts and minds of the people. I firmly believe the majority of people in the country can be reached. Sadly there are some that can’t. Those people aren’t willing to have a conversation or debate about what might be best. All they care about is power. When you challenge the established power structure (Washington and the Media) and try to change their hearts and minds, no matter how you do it, nice or not nice, you’re labeled an outsider. You’re blacklisted. You’re a traitor if you don’t fall in line. And as the rhetoric goes, you’re divisive. You have no friends. You can’t work with anyone, and on, and on it goes.

One of the most beautiful things about America is that everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and in the past we would engage in debate (spirited and heated sometimes) but we would listen and debate ideas respectfully. Ted Cruz is one of the only politicians I’ve seen actually try and do this with American people who disagree with him.

A few examples stood out to me.

In August as the 2016 primary season was starting to heat up, Cruz was ambushed by actress Ellen Page at the Iowa State Fair and asked about LGBT rights. Instead of shutting her down and ignoring her or becoming hostile he engaged her in conversation for nearly five minutes.

A month earlier Cruz was invited to speak at an event about the Iran Nuclear Deal. During the event protesters from Code Pink crashed the event and were very disruptive as he was trying to speak. Instead of calling security he invited their leader on stage and proceeded to talk through the issues for nearly a half an hour. That just doesn’t happen–anywhere.

As much I would like to believe it was a stone cold calculated move to shiv Donald Trump at his own convention I really don’t think that is what Cruz intended. Now for sure he knew the silent “non-endorsement” wouldn’t go over well I don’t think he calculated the firestorm that it has become.

I believe Cruz intended to go to the convention to specifically not be divisive but to try and articulate conservative principles and channel Reagan of ‘76. I believe he wanted to reach the hearts and minds of not just conservatives and Republicans but all Americans.

  • Its why he mentioned issues that African Americans are passionate about. Its why he included Atheists as a group that deserves their freedoms protected every bit as Christian's and Muslims. Its why he specifically named LGBT people as being equal in the bill of rights.
  • Cruz and his team have mentioned the link to 1976 numerous times where Reagan did not endorse Ford but tried to unify the party, and set a vision in the minds of the American people for 1980.
  • He specifically congratulated Trump on gaining the nomination.

So I think its nonsense that Cruz went in with intention to get revenge. More likely Trump and the RNC tried to knock him down.

  • Trump and the RNC reportedly had his speech 2 days before. At the very least Trump and his team saw it, vetted it and allowed it to continue and the RNC sent it out to all the media. (This was hours before the speech which is years to a campaign)
  • The booing and having Trump walk in during the speech is what set all this off. 

    Ben Shapiro at the Daily Wire wrote “That booing has, of course, put Cruz in a difficult political spot – instead of the speech being seen as the quasi-endorsement it was, it was now seen as a betrayal, an act of political backstabbing.”

    Shapiro makes the case that it was orchestrated by Trump to embarrass Cruz and kneecap him politically. If that’s even partly true it shows that Cruz was trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

At the end of the day, Ted Cruz willingly walked into a hostile area, stood up for conservative principles, did not bow down under the fierce pressure to conform, and did it all without uttering a negative word about or attacking Trump personally.

He stood up to the establishment and stood for the grass roots. He gambled that he will be the last conservative standing and he has the message to truly unify not just the Republicans but all of America.

I trust Ted Cruz because he understands that if there is no truth and moral clarity there can never be unity.


Main Photo by Chris Corrado • Digital illustration by Josh Byers

A Silent White No More

We are literally watching, live on Facebook, the deaths of our neighbors.

The shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have opened fresh wounds not only for our country but also in the mind and heart of this very white midwestern pastor.

Please understand that I come this subject with a very heavy and conflicted heart. On the one hand, as a white male, living in a mostly white city, in a mostly white state, I don’t have the credibility to speak on issues of race. On the other hand, as a pastor, leader, and as one with a platform, I am compelled to speak. You may rightly ask, “Why now?”

Something has changed, and maybe it’s just me, but I don’t fully believe that.

  • We are literally watching, live on Facebook, the deaths of our neighbors.
  • The outpouring of cries of people from my own conservative tribe seem to be much stronger than at any other time in my lifetime.
  • There is a group of people who are truly terrified for their lives and for the lives of their children.

Any one of those things should give us pause to stop, listen, and consider what our response should be, but, when you put all of them together, I believe we are at a moment where we need to take some action.

The main issue at hand is the question of systemic cultural bias and racial injustice against African Americans. The idea that it exists manifests itself it many different ways and to many different degrees. And in the last couple days it has been exacerbated through two different shootings in two very different parts of America.

Now, I understand that the issues involved are extremely complex, run very deep, and have been around for a long time. I don’t believe it is helpful at this point to dive into the complexities about movements of arms, the inner-city, poverty, the fatherless, and everything else–especially for most predominately white churches. Also note, that at this point I’m not interested in prosecuting a case for or against the shootings. This is a personal testimony about an awakening and where I believe we need to go from here. There are always things you will be able to pick apart and question, but our hearts are deceitful, and, often, our biases hidden.

So what do we do?

We need to Listen

Racial injustice is an issue in our country. Do not gloss over this or roll your eyes because that is the whole point. To truly be able to recognize if there is injustice, I need to listen intently and empathize deeply. First, I believe we have done a terrible job of listening. We pretend to hear, and we may even nod in agreement, but then we go on our way unaffected by it all. I need to listen to those crying out. I need to hear their stories. I need to know how they feel. How many times in the gospels does Jesus listen and see and immediately respond with compassion? How could anyone not be cut to the core, listening to a four-year-old tell her mom it will be ok, after watching her father shot in front of her?

If we are listening, we will weep. Someone doesn’t need to be a saint for me to mourn their death. The Apostle Paul lays out exactly how a follower of Jesus is supposed to act in Romans 12. We are commanded to “weep with those who weep.” He follows that command directly with the command to be humble, and not think of yourself as higher than others. I weep with those who mourn today, because I hate the pain that they are in. We weep together because we can all identify together as broken people who need redemption.

This won’t change anything overnight, but our black brothers and sisters will know that we have their backs and in solidarity stand shoulder to shoulder with them. This doesn’t mean we condone all the actions of one group while disavowing another. It means that we will truly listen and empathize.

This goes beyond recognizing racial injustice on an individual level.

The Church Needs to Speak Out

For many reasons, most not very good, predominantly white churches have stood silent on the issue of racial injustice. Mostly it’s because it really doesn’t affect us. Individually, we all want to believe we don’t have a racist bone in our body, and the thought process is that, if I think racism is wrong, I’m good on this issue. There is no need to speak out because my personal opinion is on the right side. What if we had acted in the same manner when the Planned Parenthood videos came out? We all believe abortion is wrong to the core. We didn’t wait for all the facts to come out when we saw those videos. We knew innately that something was deeply wrong. We spoke out, we held rallies, we lobbied our representatives, and rightly so! Because we understand that all humans, including the unborn, are made in the image of God, life is something to be protected. The same thought process applies to racial injustice. We must speak out in solidarity with our brothers and sisters because they, too, are made in the image of God!

The white church has stood silent long enough. Those who speak out against injustice must not only be the ones who are being persecuted. We speak because we believe in the gospel. That is, we believe that Jesus was sent for all men, and salvation is for everyone because God loves all people and values them equally.

Last, we must recognize that it must be the church that speaks the loudest, because the systemic cultural change of sin rooted this deep only comes from the hearts and minds of men being changed by the gospel.

We Must Speak Out with the Gospel

Our own hearts can’t change unless we preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Specifically, in relation to the events of the past couple days, ask yourself pointed questions: Who did you presume was guilty when you heard about the shooting videos? Why haven’t you watched the videos? The point is, if we willingly looked more closely at the assumptions and prejudices buried in our hearts, we would run more quickly to the gospel. And we would not remain silent.

The hearts and fears of the inner city, the police, whites, blacks, Hispanics, and others won’t change, and we’ll keep on killing each other, without the good news of Jesus’ love transforming our lives.

Paul exhorts us earlier in Romans 12 to “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Why? Because of everything in the first 11 chapters of Romans that speak to the glory of Jesus saving us from our sins–because the gospel has been given to all men, and to all men equally.

The tone and timing of this may suggest to some that I am siding with one group over another. Nothing could be further from the truth. For true justice to take place we need to listen with humility.

Like the father unable to heal his son, we cry. “I believe. Help my unbelief.” We stand with you. We want to listen. Help us to hear what you hear and let the gospel guide us to solutions that help us to love all men.

Running on Empty

Social media is great, but because of the onslaught of information and news its so easy to become numb to it all.

And its not just the fact that its all there but the fact that you're expected to know what's going on at every moment–not to mention the irrational fear of missing out.

The real tragedy though I'm realizing is the fact that because of all the horrible news I'm not able to feel or empathize the way I want to.

These past few days have been crazy with the shooting of Christina Grimmie, the mass murder at the Pulse nightclub, and then this morning learning about a toddler being taken by an alligator at Disney World in front of his parents.

Its just too much and I don't have enough tears, emotions, or words for it all.

And that is just a drop in the bucket compared to what is going on in the rest of the world that I don't even know about.

I have to ask myself though, is it because I'm getting too much information or is it something else? How can I prevent the numbness? How can I empathize with everyone?

I can't.

But, I know someone who can.

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”
— Psalm 58:6

And its not just that he knows and feels our sorrows, but that he is in the process of making everything sad come untrue. Because Jesus substituted himself for humanity there will be a day when there is no ugliness, no sin, no pain, no sorrow and no tears.

When I've reached my end of empathy and sorrow I can take comfort because there is one who's compassion is infinitely greater.

The Colorado Project

I was recently inspired by Aaron Draplin to create a poster of logos, places, and names from my native state of Colorado. Aaron has done this for a variety of states that have resulted in some really cool posters.

While I could could just copy what he's done I wanted it to mean more.

So many places, and names have memories etched into my brain and evoke a strong feeling of nostalgia and longing. For example, at the Westminster Mall there were these large balloons in the middle of a water feature that would go up and down almost magically. I remember sitting or laying on the carpeted steps in front of them and being transfixed as they would float up by some unseen force and then squish back down again. I must not have been the only one because there is a nine minute video on YouTube of just these balloons...

So every logo, place, and name I'm working on has a special place in my memory growing up. I plan on sharing all of these as I work my way through this project.

And its not just about nostalgia, I want to hone my illustrative skills, and also bring back or create new logos that have been long forgotten.

Right now my goal is post at least one logo a day. I've compiled a list of nearly 100 different things and I may add to it so I've obviously got my work cut out for me. 

I anticipate this being a really fun journey to look back on the things that made my childhood special in Colorado. I invite any of you to post your memories as well.

See and follow the project in progress.


The List:

  • Putt-Putt
  • IMAX
  • DIA
  • Santa's Workshop
  • Westminster Mall (the balloons!)
  • Grand Lake
  • 9News
  • Biggs
  • Time Out on the Court
  • McNichols Arena
  • Denver Gold
  • Denver Dynamite
  • Denver Zephyrs
  • Stella's Coffee Shop
  • Chautauqua Park in Boulder
  • The Flatirons
  • Roller City
  • Skate City
  • Cinderella City
  • Cinder Alley
  • Graystone Castle
  • North Star Drive Ins
  • American Furniture Warehouse (Jake Jabbs!)
  • Elitch Gardens
  • Lakeside Amusement Park (The Fun House!)
  • Celebrity Sports Center
  • Northglenn Mall
  • Larimar Square
  • Lo-Do
  • Heritage Square
  • Cave of the Winds
  • Glenwood Springs
  • Hanging Lake
  • Mile High Stadium
  • Coors Field
  • Webster Lake
  • Winter Park
  • Cooper's Square
  • Beau Joes Pizza
  • Copper Mountain
  • Loveland Ski Area
  • Berthod Pass
  • Eisenhower Tunnel
  • Boulder Falls
  • Karls Dairy
  • Northglenn High School
  • Huron Middle School
  • Casa Bonita
  • Denver Zoo
  • Stock Show and Rodeo
  • Georgetown
  • Broadmoor Hotel
  • Camping
  • Blinky the Clown
  • Channel 2
  • Show Biz Pizza
  • Nathan's Funtastic
  • King Soopers
  • The Ranch
  • Parade of Lights
  • 16th St Mall
  • RTD
  • Broncos
  • Rockies
  • Nuggets
  • Avalanche
  • Water World
  • Pikes Peak
  • Stapleton International Airport
  • Jim's Burger Haven
  • Troccodaro
  • Denver Post
  • Rocky Mountain News
  • Union Station

Why Rick Grimes Died on The Walking Dead

On the season 6 finale of the Walking Dead there is definitive evidence that Rick is killed.

Let’s narrow it down first. We know for sure that a character is killed. Executive producers Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple confirm this, but who is it?

It's A Major Character

We know it’s a major character. The producers talk about this specifically and also use phrases like “extremely sad”, “extremely distressing”, “the world changes for everyone”, “it’s the start of a new story”, “we have to do an episode that justifies it to you.”

And not only is it a major character it has to be one that you would be totally stressing out about. In opinion that rules out Eugene, Abraham, Sasha, Rosita, and Aaron.

Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, and Carl are left. Let’s take them from least likely to most likely.

I almost didn't include Michonne in this group because even though she is a major character and people would stress out about her being gone, it just doesn't quite fit the game changing language the producers and actors are using about the scene. However, with her recent relationship with Rick I included her though I think she is the least likely to be killed.

It most likely isn’t Glenn because his death has already been teased this season. It would seem to be lazy writing to do the same again. Also, Glenn is the one Negan kills in the comics in front of Rick and Maggie. I do not believe they would copy such a pivotal moment. That would be too obvious.

Daryl is an option. The show’s first shot is from his perspective being held captive and keeps returning to that perspective. But I believe that actually shows hope in his getting out of captivity. At the very beginning when the group encounters the Savior’s first roadblock the Savior spokesman says that they would make an example out of the one who “fired the first shot.” That would seem to be Daryl in the rocket launcher scene. But as we’ll see below, this could be figurative as it could be seen as self-defense and Rick led the first offensive to fire “the first shot.” Daryl’s death was also teased both in the middle of this episode and as a cliffhanger in the last episode. Again it would seem a bit lazy to do this multiple times. While Daryl’s death would be a shock I don’t think it would, in the executive producer’s words, change the world for everyone.”

Carl is more likely. At the beginning of the episode he tells Enid that if he doesn’t return she’ll just have to survive. He is on a quest for revenge which normally doesn’t end well. What better way than to teach Rick a lesson by killing his kid. Near the end, Negan tells his group “if anyone moves, cut out his [Carl’s] other eye and feed it to his father, then we’ll begin.” However, much like Daryl I don’t think Carl’s death would impact the group as much as a the producers are saying.

So that leaves us with Maggie and Rick.

Now Maggie is not an original character like the others in this list (save Michonne) but she has been there since early season 2 and has become a big part of the story, especially with the ties to Glenn.

Her death would certainly be a shock and a sadistic twist on what happens in the comics, not to mention she's pregnant which amps up the horror. 

Some have said that the audio at the end of the episode is Glenn saying Maggie's name.

This would also lead to a change in the group if Glenn blames Rick which could be what the producers are referring to when they say that everything changes.

So, while I'll say it very well could be Maggie I think there is even more evidence for Rick being on the receiving end of Lucille.

So what is the evidence for Rick?

The Episode is Based on Rick

The entire episode revolves around Rick, and the de-evolution of his confidence. Almost every key scene involves Rick.

The Opening Suggests a New Leader

Morgan is set up to be the new leader of the group. The show opens with Morgan (a central and charismatic character) finding a horse and mirrors the pilot episode with Rick on a horse. Rick originally sent Carol out but Morgan will be the one who brings her back. Morgan is the only one who stood up to attacking the Saviors. Morgan’s journey through the episode has him realize in order to effectively protect the people he loves, he will have to kill. When Morgan kills the Savior to save Carol he assumes this new identity. He also is the one who appears to have made an alliance with a new group that will help in the future.

Negan’s Goal

Any smart villain knows you have to kill the leader of the other group to effectively shut it down. Throughout history if you want to subjugate people, the leader is killed as an example, and the rest of the sheep fall into line. Negan’s ultimate goal is survival and wants Rick’s group to work for him. What better way to demoralize the group and put down thoughts of rebellion by killing its leader?

The De-Evolution of Rick

At the beginning of the episode Rick is as confident and cocky as ever. Statements like, “tell them to wait for me, I’ve a deal for them.” In his first conversation with Maggie in the RV he tells her: “Things have always worked out because it’s always been all of us.” “As long as it’s all of us we can do anything.” Rick retorts and taunts the first roadblock group. “I don’t have to kill anymore of you!” He tells Carl that we are going to “play it our way, how we want it.” Rick defies Abraham and several telling glances that they are heading towards trouble.

Rick’s second conversation with Maggie is not so confident and shows signs of cracking. Almost like he’s trying to convince himself he tells her “this isn’t it...there is going to be more.” Maggie then responds weakly: “I believe in you Rick.”

When they are finally captured Rick looks absolutely terrified and is the most distressed of anyone in the group. He knows it is the end and can hardly look Negan in the eye. His de-evolution of safety and confidence would be completed by his own death.

The Savior’s Taunts

When the group encounters the first roadblock the lead guy asks Rick specifically to think about that this might be his “last day on earth.” This is also the title of the episode. That is not an accident. This phrase is repeated at another roadblock again directed at Rick. These are glaring hints that this is Rick’s last day on earth.

Other Interesting Things

Why tell us that Judith will be safe and cared for? Why the focus on Morgan? Why does nearly every character have an interaction with Rick and basically says things will be okay? If you were going to replace the main character wouldn’t you add in an incredibly charismatic character that can hold the show like Negan? The line about cutting out Carl’s other eye still works because Negan uses the qualifier “then, we’ll start.”

The Last Scene

Negan specifically asks who the leader is and then figures out that Carl and Rick are related. Why the focus here if it doesn’t matter? Negan blames Rick for the death of his people. He tells Rick “you are so going to regret crossing me.”

The camera angles are very interesting in that the shot always comes back to focus on Rick. There are quick cuts to each of the other characters but it always comes back to Rick. The angle used to frame Rick and Negan is unique to every other character. The shot is below Rick looking up at his conqueror. Its also very similar to the angle used when the character is killed. The last character focus before the swinging of the bat is on Rick.

The Producers Hints

I believe the producers told us everything on Talking Dead.

First Robert Kirkman said that there are hints in the episode that tell you who was killed. I believe we have dissected those. Kirkman also said that they want to shake things up have an event that will skyrocket things for many seasons to come. What better way to do this than to kill Rick? Kirkman says Rick is not a good dude and then immediately after says “Negan is killing someone so beloved.” Kirkman also says that the cliffhanger is not the story, it’s what comes next.” He then immediately begins to talk about Rick and his de-evolution through the story. Kirkman says this episode is about “tearing Rick Grimes down and that is the conclusion of this story.” How do you not read into that?

Next Scott Gimple says “the end of [this episode] the story is the start of a new story.” He also says that the “world changes for everyone.” Lastly he ends by explaining the death in these terms: “we have to do an episode [looking to season 7] that justifies it to you. We have to do something so great, so intense…” I do not believe any character but Rick is worthy of this language.

On a show that has consistently taught us that no character is safe, what better way is there to live up to that billing, shake up the story, and start a new chapter then by killing off the lead?

R.I.P. Rick Grimes.

Ted Cruz Tax Plan Infographic

Ted Cruz has one of the most pro-active tax plans in the GOP primary. It includes eliminating a number of taxes, abolishing the IRS and making filing super simple.

Let the following infographic be your guide on Ted Cruz's tax plan.

This is the fourth Ted Cruz infographic in a series. You can find the first two below:

Share this Ted Cruz infographic on your site

Apple Has a Liberty Problem

Recently Apple and the iPhone have grabbed all the headlines again. But this time there is no sleek new design or killer innovative new feature. On February 16, Tim Cook, the CEO at Apple wrote a letter to their customers to tell them that the government is trying to forcibly coerce them to create a new version of iOS.

In that letter Cook said, “The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.” He believes that his employees are being forced to do something they consider immoral. He believes his engineers shouldn’t have to create something that violates their conscience.

Let me repeat that. Tim Cook believes American citizens should not be forced to create something that violates their conscience.

Pot, meet kettle.

In an ironic twist Apple now finds themselves tumbling down a slippery mountain where at the top is a Washington Post op-ed written by Tim Cook last year.

In 2015 the Apple CEO led the charge to boycott the state of Indiana with the desire to coerce small businesses like cake bakers, photographers, and florists to use their creativity against their conscience. Now less than a year later, Apple finds themselves defending their own creative liberty.

Now, I agree with Apple here in 2016. I do not believe they should be forced to create a new version of iOS to hack to iPhone. I believe the issue of getting information off a single phone is secondary to protecting the liberty of all Americans.

Realize that the precedent here is massive. If Apple is forced to create new software, essentially the government is saying that it has a claim to our creative thinking and creative power. And if it has claim to my thoughts, it has claim to absolutely everything else. The idea of freedom absolutely evaporates.

Unfortunately, we are already down this path and this is the result. When the government can fine, shut down, and shut up small businesses because they will not conform why would they stop there?

In a world where the government thinks it can forcibly coerce one of the world’s largest companies to bend to its will, what chance does a simple baker in Oregon have?

So, I’m writing this to all Americans. I’m a Jesus freak, bible thumper, fundamentalist and I know we don’t agree on many issues, but liberty of creative expression should be one we can all agree on. We can’t have freedom of creativity for some and not for others. We don’t want to discriminate right? If the government doesn’t get to force Apple to create something that violates their conscience, the government (or CEO’s) don’t get to force bakers or any other creative to create something that violates their conscience.

The beautiful thing about liberty is that it is all-inclusive. And while we may disagree on the morality of certain creative endeavors, the right to create or abstain is fundamental.

Can We Trust Ted Cruz?

Without trust relationships fail.

It’s a fact that has roots all the way back in the beginning in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve believed the serpent and thought God was lying to them, the relationship to their creator (and subsequently all of mankind) was utterly broken.

For any relationship to work, whether between friends, spouses or even those who hold office to the people they represent there must be trust.

This is one of the reasons why Washington is so fundamentally broken. We do not trust the politicians there. For this reason trust is major component of how I vet any candidate for my support.

In recent days the narrative of Ted Cruz is quickly becoming that he can’t be trusted. In fact its sort of ironic that the campaign logo you see often is the combination of the words “trust” and “ted” to form the word “trusted.”

How can you know whether or not to trust someone? Can I trust Ted Cruz? Should I believe it, when the media and other candidates call him a liar? I am a firm believer a person’s character can be seen by what they do, how they react and most importantly how they respond when the truth will hurt them.

So can I trust Ted Cruz?

I believe wholeheartedly the answer is yes and here are four specific instances that demonstrate why.

Standing Tall

Late last summer a link was shared on Facebook that had an intriguing headline: “Ted Cruz Calls Mitch McConnell A Liar on the Senate Floor.” That’s not something you see every day and it caught my attention. So I watched the video...all 20 minutes of CSPAN goodness. Now normally I would rather stab myself in the eye than watch CSPAN, but I was captivated by Cruz’s speech. Not only was he a great orator but he was standing up to members of his own party. I hadn’t seen that before. That immediately told me Cruz was not interested in playing games or getting comfy in Washington. It also told me he would not break under pressure and was not afraid of Washington. In that moment Cruz proved he would keep his word and stand up to those in Washington who made bad deals.

Leadership

Next. During the CNBC debate in late October the moderators started off by asking a series of ridiculous questions. Ted Cruz stopped the debate and called out the moderators on the lack of issues being discussed. And what happened next was amazing. Every person on the stage followed the lead of Ted Cruz and unified behind him. Some of the most powerful people in the world stood behind the leadership of Ted Cruz and went to battle with the moderators. Cruz was coalesce that group and lead them by speaking the truth. Again I can trust Ted Cruz because he is willing to put himself out there and go where nobody else is willing to go to stand up for what he believes and the people of America.

Tithing

The next instance that grabbed my attention was a couple weeks before the Iowa Caucus. A rival campaign’s Super PAC had put out an ad intended to smear Cruz that basically consisted of two women sitting at a kitchen table gossiping about how much the candidates had given to charity. The ad stated that Cruz had given very little and both women were shocked to hear it.

Now, set aside the fact that we are apparently vetting candidates based on gossip and their tithing percentage, this would have been the easiest smear to brush aside. When asked about the ad by a reporter, Cruz very easily could have turned the tables and said that he doesn’t report what he gives because he doesn’t want the credit. Not only would that have made his rival look petty it would have made Cruz look good. But Cruz wasn’t interested in making himself look good. In fact he told that reporter that “I have not been as faithful in this aspect of my walk as I should have been.

He owned it.

Folks, this is leadership. This is humility. In a moment where Cruz seemingly had everything to gain by lying, he didn’t.

Ethanol

Lastly, at the final debate three days before the Iowa Caucus the moderators had prepared a “gotcha” question directed at Cruz asking him about his position on ethanol subsidies. (If you’re not familiar, ethanol is perceived to be a big deal here in Iowa.) As the question was asked the network went split screen with Cruz and Governor Terry Brandstand who had days before called for Iowans to not support Cruz, and amidst the cheers of lobbyists in the crowd Cruz held firm to his belief that Washington should not pick who wins and loses by giving them federal subsidies. He did this in Iowa. He did this three days before a vote that very well could have ended his campaign. He stuck to his principles again with seemingly everything to lose.

Why do I trust Ted Cruz? Because he has stood up against the fiercest of opposition. He has stood up when he had everything to lose. He stood up and admitted when he was wrong.
I want a candidate that says all the right things, and says that he will fight for what he believes in, but more important is the fact that I want a candidate that has kept his word and actually fought for what he said he would.