“You gotta have some kind of back-up plan, right?”

So, this short video clip pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling since I was about 21.

Constantly.

Without ceasing.

It sometimes keeps me from easily falling asleep at night and it is often the first thing that I think about in the morning.

I first became aware that this sort of thing might be a real problem when my dad had some mini-strokes back in 1992 and I ended up running the family business for a while.  Nothing sobers you up like having the responsibility of making payroll for 27 people (people with families) and taking a hard look at the financial books and business prospects.  That’s when I discovered that new corporate-backed competitors were getting ready to obliterate independent auto parts stores nationwide.  They had already started opening up in town and my father’s only response was to continue doing business as we had done since the early 70’s, hoping that our service and long-standing relationships would trump corporate volume discount pricing.

It didn’t.

We got to sell our part of the family farm 12 years later when the floods came in 2004 and I learned that the way Dad had kept the last of his businesses open was to take $125,000 out against his and Mom’s house.  Not exactly the back-up plan I had hoped for.

Later, as I was finishing-up college, I worked with some friends and we did Christian summer youth camps.  When we became successful, I started noticing that people almost twice our age were looking to us as if we had the answer to where youth ministry and even the evangelical church, as a whole, were headed.  We were young and unmarried,  with no kids, no mortgages, and we had few responsibilities beyond keeping our grades up.  How could someone with all of the things we lacked in addition to a master’s degree possibly be looking to us for answers?  Didn’t they have a plan?  Didn’t they know where we were headed?

Next, I graduated and started working as a youth minister in Baptist churches.  Every staff meeting, deacon’s meeting, or planning session left me with an ever-growing sense that instead of “The Great and Powerful Oz” that there was merely some bumbling man behind the curtain to which I wasn’t supposed to be paying attention, because if I was paying attention I would certainly learn that he didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing.  Was it possible that we were on a train with no engineer at the controls?

Finally, I started paying attention to national politics and the news, in general.  At that point, all of my suspicions were confirmed.  Things are out of control because a whole lot of leaders from just about every avenue of life have dropped the proverbial ball.  That’s when I had the exact same realization that Bruce Willis’ character had in Armageddon.

There is no room somewhere with people thinking shit up.

No brilliant answers are forthcoming…at least not for most of what is really ailing us.

I challenge you to take about an hour.  Lay down all of the patent answers and statements that you’ve been accepting from our politicians and our ministers and our media outlets.  The people that we’ve been trusting, like doctors, counselors, gurus and experts.  Put all of those people aside for just a few minutes and forget that they are telling you that they have a good idea for how everything is going to work out.

Now, take a look at the world.  Take a look at our country.  Examine the state of our communities.  Read today’s newspaper front to back.  Hit up Reuters and the Associated Press.  Look at the actual events, not the coverage.  Turn the sound off on your television and flip through all the channels and see what our kids and popular culture figures all look like.  Go to a public place and see how many people are interacting with the people around them and how many people have their face stuck in some sort of electronic device or have headphones jammed in their ears.

After doing all of that, I don’t know where you will end up, but I know where it has left me.  I think we aren’t paying attention.  I think that we are being distracted by people who are trying to convince us (as well as themselves) that they have it figured out.  I think that we are getting hollow platitudes.  I think that some of us need to find a way to walk away from most of the concerns of the American dream and start soul-searching for some better answers.

We need to realize that there really isn’t a room where people are “thinking shit up”…but there should be.  And those people that should be “thinking shit up”?  That should be us.

We are responsible for our own families.  We are responsible for our own faith.  Each and every one of us is responsible for being well-informed, so that we can make the appropriate choices.  More importantly, we need to be able to tell when we are trusting someone that has no contingency plan.

Really? This is some sort of surprise for you?

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This particular magazine has been the bane of my existence today.  I normally wouldn’t get so upset, but it was everywhere.  It was even in the line at Lowe’s Home Improvement.  Lowe’s, a store that sells lumber and hardware.

Why should I let something like this magazine bother me, you ask?  Because this is the sort of thing that he is ruining young American women.  We are allowing the reinforcement of a stereotypical woman with poor judgement.

I barely know anything about  contemporary pop culture and even I know that John Mayer has had a string of bad relationships.  It has been covered in the tabloids, in the news, and comedians even make jokes about it.  In fact, Taylor Swift went so far as to write a song about the kind of person he is.

Anyone who wants to know what went wrong need only look at the man’s track record.  And yet somehow…somehow, we like to pretend that this is a situation that has a victim.  We like to imagine that Katy Perry has just ended up on the wrong side of love, when the reality is that she should have used better judgement.

This is one of the things that frustrated me the most during my final years of youth ministry. We live in a society that tells us that we can no longer make a decision about another person based on their track record because that would be “judging”.

I can’t tell you how many times I caught flack because I told some girl that her boyfriend was a loser and she could do better.  I would point out the young man’s past record with women advise that this was probably a bad decision. Too often, my advice is ignored and I was left to console the young lady somewhere down the road when the young man, inevitably, showed his true colors.

It has been said many times: “If a dog bite you once, shame on the dog. If a dog bites you twice, shame on you.”  I say that if you see a dog bite someone else and then you let it bite you, then shame on you the first time.