21 Ways to Say “No” or Disagree–and Still be a Nice Person

Several years ago our youngest daughter, half a world away at college, was feeling overwhelmed because she was over-committing. She was suffering badly from “nice person’s disease,” a genetic malady she inherited from both parents. She felt compelled to say “yes” to every request and opportunity that came her way.

I just came across a “cheat sheet” I created for her at that time. (I recently learned that she still carries it around to this day.)

I found it to be a good reminder for me, today. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful, too.


Saying No

  1. Forgive me but I just can’t commit to that. I’m working on keeping my priorities straight and I’m hearing my Dad’s voice in my head right now saying, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” But thank you for the opportunity.
  2. Hey, you know I love you like a brother/sister, but that’s just not something I can commit to right now. I hope you’ll understand.
  3. Thank you so much for thinking about me. But God has been dealing with me strongly about over-committing lately. I’m going to have to pass.
  4. Wow, I’m so blessed by the invitation. But I’m working really hard on not spreading my self too thin. I’m going to have to decline. Please forgive me.
  5. That sounds so fun, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass. I’m so sorry. I hope you’ll give me an opportunity on the next one.
  6. I’m flattered that you want me, but for personal reasons I’m not in a situation where I can take this on. Can we talk again if my circumstances change?
  7. I’m so sorry, but I just can’t. The reasons are complicated but I hope you’ll believe me when I say I really wish I could.
  8. Thank you so much for asking. Sadly, I just can’t. I wish I could!
  9. This week is not a good time for me as I’m in the middle of XYZ. How about next week?
  10. I’d love to do that but I can’t. Mr. Schedule and Mr. Budget both said “no.” They’re very cranky.
  11. I’m sorry, I can’t. I’m having to make some very hard choices about my time right now. It’s painful but I’m going to have to say no.


When You’re Being Pressured to Change Your “No” to a “Yes”

  1. I was just reading what Jesus said about “letting your yes be yes, and your no be no.” I’m sorry, this really is a “no.” But I hope you’ll not be mad at me.
  2. Seriously, I’d love to participate. But I can’t. And if I let myself be pressured into it I’ll just feel guilty the whole time and be resentful later when I’m paying the price.
  3. I know you don’t mean to pressure me or make me feel bad, but I really need you to trust me right now when I tell you I can’t.
  4. I can tell this means a lot to you, but I’m going to disappoint you here. But I love you.



  1. That’s an interesting perspective. But that’s not the way I see it.
  2. That’s not been true in my experience.
  3. I’m not so sure about that.
  4. (This is the “feel, felt, found” method) I can understand why you’d feel that way. I’ve felt the same way in the past. But here’ what I’ve found . . .
  5. I just don’t see that the same way as you. But to each his own!
  6. You think? Huh! Interesting!

A Glance Back in Gratitude. Forward in Hope.

Mrs. H and I are suffering from Full Heart Syndrome here on this morning after Christmas Day. The last few days have been rich and sweet. In fact, the whole year gifted us with things for which we are profoundly grateful.

Yes, they’re real. And they really are that cute.

2017 was a year of four milestones.

April brought our first grandchildren into our lives. That’s right—plural—as our oldest and her sweet husband blessed us, and the world, with twin girls.

Meet Instagram stars, Cora Lee and Winnie Ruth. Many immediately remarked that they resembled yours truly. It’s possible. But I’ve discovered that when you’re bald and doughy, there is a sense in which nearly all newborns resemble you.

In any event, I can say without fear of contradiction that they are the cutest little things on the planet.

If we can get the names to stick, Mrs. H and I will be “Gigi and Pop.” Of course you never know. I’ve observed that the adorable mispronunciation that comes out of a todder’s mouth often becomes the moniker that endures for the rest of your grandparenting career. So it’s very much a theoretical possiblity that we will end up as “Gaggy and Poop.” These are the risks you take in life.

Around their six-month birthday, the little ladies got to attend their first formal affiar—the wedding of their auntie Olivia. This was the second major milestone event in our 2017. As I explained in a previous post, our youngest was married a few weeks ago, in October—our third and final chickadee to leave the nest.

Speaking of nests . . . In the midst of that celebration, we learned the wonderful news that our middle daughter, who was married the previous October, was expecting as well. This was milestone three. (See my previous post about this blessing.)

Over the last few days we had the opporunity to have all four households together under one roof. This is no small blessing, of course, as our sons-in-law have wonderful extended families of their own who want and deserve to have some time with them as well.

Thus we were delighted and grateful, here on our first Christmas with three married daughters and two girly grands, to observe our cherished traditions together. And particularly happy to have Tracy’s mom with us to savor the history-making, memory-making milestone.

Not Pictured: Me, two baby girls, five dogs.

We spent a good chunk of Christmas day watching old home movies so the sons-in-law could see how cute their brides were when they were little. For a couple of decades I, like many dads of the 90s, viewed every major family gathering and church/school event with one eye through the tiny viewfinder of a bulky camcorder. But it was worth it to be able to preserve those moments for days like yesterday.

Lots of lights begin to come on when you grow up and get married. Even more pop on when you have kids of your own (or are about to). You can find yourself viewing well-remembered events through a new lens. So, as the happy ghosts of Christmases 20-years-past danced across our television screen yesterday, Mrs. H and I enjoyed watching the girls see themselves (and their parents) with new, adult eyes and grown up understanding.

What I believe they saw and heard on those videos were two people who adore and respect each other, doing their best to love well the children God had placed in their care.

They saw a mother who went to extraordinary lengths to create a home filled with beauty, warmth, order, harmony, and delight. A woman who transformed every place we landed into a cozy little echo of the garden of Eden on earth. Who made every day a party, and every party a grand affair.

They saw two people striving, as best they knew how, to teach them gratitude and selflessness and generosity and empathy. To help them feel both safe and courageous. To instill in them confidence, character, and compassion.

Most of all, to initiate them into the most vital mysteries of all:

  • That God is.
  • That He is good.
  • That He unfailingly rewards those who seek Him by allowing Himself to be found.
  • That we’re all born broken, flawed, and in desperate need of a Savior.
  • And that such a Savior—the wonderful Jesus—ever stands at the door knocking; ready to come in and feast with all who will simply open to Him.

All these thoughts and many others swirled in my mind as Mrs. H and I crawled into bed last night. We talked of how precious the last few days had been to us. And of how quickly this just-completed chapter of our lives seemed to pass. How is it possible that many of those events we watched on video transpired 25 years ago?

In that moment last night, I looked across the bed at my God-given life’s companion and spoke the truth my heart was holding:

“Honey, I’ve adored every day of it. I have absolutely loved living this adventure with you more than I can express, and wouldn’t trade a single minute of it. I’ve loved being your husband. I’ve loved being their dad.”

Hand to heaven, it’s the truth. From the “I do” to the “It’s a girl” (three times) to the “Sir, I want to marry your daughter” (three times) . . . every thread of it is pure gold to me, and I have no regrets. Certainly not about the husband-father aspect of my life and choices.

Our fourth milestone came just a few days ago as we celelbrated our 30th wedding anniversary.

Of course, this adventure isn’t over. As I’ve noted previously, life is a play in three acts. Act 1 is Birth to Marriage. Mrs. H and I have just completed Act 2—Marriage to Empty Nest.

The curtain has just risen on Act 3.

I have some specific hopes for this next leg of the voyage. I believe days of impact, influence, and legacy-building lie in the decades ahead. Days of teaching and writing and mentoring. They will be good days. But if it all ended today, I’d be okay. I’d head home with a heart filled with gratitude for the abundance of gifts already received. And for the legacy already in motion.

Merry Christmas. And blessings in the new year.




Early Christmas Gifts

Dear family & friends,

We got a wave of great early Christmas presents this year. Among them, the news that Our Grayson and Jose are expecting (it’s a girl!).

Even better, they’ve decided the little lady should be born a Texan. So they just moved here from Miami (yesterday!). The move was a leap of faith as Jose left a great job in Miami and is now looking for opportunities here. So . . .

If you know of an organization looking for a remarkable young man with customer service and inside sales success in his hip pocket, please let us know.

Here’s how I described Jose to a friend recently:

  • Talented Hillsong-Trained-and-Certified Musician
  • Technically savvy.
  • Very, very good with people both in person and on the phone. Winning personality.
  • Smart, adaptable.
  • Recently flourishing in customer service and sales contexts.(auto dealership service & parts departments)
  • Very conscientious, dependable, strong work ethic.
  • Bi-lingual (Spanish)

Shout if you hear of someone looking for a home-run hire.

A Transfer of Treasure


Three daughters. As long-time readers well know, we were blessed with three girls in the first six or seven years of our marriage. Three remarkable individuals with widely differing personalities, temperaments, and giftings. Yet each child somehow a unique blend of their mother’s and father’s traits, strengths, frailties . . .

And eccentricities.

The firstborn gets to be the barrier breaker. The first to arrive at all the milestone touch-points in the long passage from childhood to womanhood. The first lost tooth. First babysitting gig. First to drive. First to attend a prom. First to head off to college. And so on.

Of course, that means for the one bringing up the rear, the baby, each of those milestones gets celebrated, but, human nature being what it is, that celebration may come off with just a little less wonder and awe than the first or second time around.

Even so, only a parent can understand how it’s possible to love all your children with absolutely equal intensity while having that love take on a slightly different fragrance and tint for each one—shaped in part by that child’s calling and character.

In a similar way, though each child eventually reaches the same  milestones in their rites of passage, each moment is as unique as a fingerprint.

I mention these things because in less than two weeks, at sunset, our youngest will take me by the arm. We’ll both take a deep breath, and I will walk her down a petal-strewn aisle, just as I did with her older sister one year ago this week,  and her eldest sister five years ago next week.

It will be a wonderful night—filled with hugs and music and food and toasts and dancing under twinkling lights, but first there will be solemn vows and prayers of blessing.

Yes, this will be our third wedding in five years but this event is no rerun. It will be as unique and distinctive and lovely as the girl who will rightly be the center of attention that night.

From the moment her personality began to emerge in her first year of life, we bore witness to a unique, complicated blend of creativity, imagination, vocality, passion, determination, compassion, empathy, and fierce sense of justice.

We also saw an individual powerfully drawn to to communicate through performance—singing (beautifully), dancing (uninhibitedly), dramatizing (dramatically), debating (forcefully), and writing (expressively.)

These traits emerged early and never receded. They have merely been shaped and tempered and harnessed by the same God who placed them within her in the first place. 

Now we approach one of the most momentous days she will ever have. Covenantally joining one’s life to that of another person is pretty much the most impactful thing a human can do. The ramifications are immense and lifelong.

Nevertheless, we approach this particular milestone with an abundance of peace because we believe she has chosen well.

This young man clearly adores her; treats her with the respect and gentleness that she has seen modeled in the house in which she grew up; and most importantly, shares her genuine faith in Jesus.

He is a good man. And she will inspire him to be an even better one.

That is the way of a good woman. She doesn’t change the man. Her love simply draws out the best version of him. This has certainly been the case for me.

The young man courted, wooed, and won her the old-fashioned way. He overcame her caution and resistance with tenacious patience. Kindness and respect constructed a bridge to her heart.

Back in April she and her roommate took a long-planned trip to Paris. The young man, having already requested and received my blessing, followed a few days later to surprise her. Thus, in the historic palace gardens of Versailles, he showed up unexpectedly for this moment:

And later on, this one:

And so here we are. As I said, this is our third and final wedding to arrange. Thus, it represents a milestone for us as well. The final launch into adulthood of the three lives we’ve been responsible for for about as long as we can remember.

God entrusts these tiny, helpless little things to us and we spend the next 25 years or so devoting enormous portions of our time, energy, thoughts, faith, prayers, and, of course, wealth to helping them become productive, functional, literate, Jesus-following, adult contributors to society.

At the end of all this, if we do our jobs right, they leave. We send them marching off into the future, with the occasional glance back over the shoulder for reassurance.

Still, the rapid approach of this special event brings with it a lot of memories and feelings—particularly because she is the last of our little flock to leave the nest. There will be no more after her. Life comes at you fast, as they say.

Wasn’t it just the other day that she was a newborn wrapping a tiny hand around my index finger? A few eye-blinks later, wasn’t hers the hand reaching up for mine when crossing the street? Her hands applauded my heroic exploits as the only man in her life that mattered. Now, tradition demands that I take that delicate hand and put it in that of a new hero. And having placed her hand in his,  I will step aside. This, too, is as it should be.

For a third and final time her mother and I will transfer a treasure.

We do so with gratitude for the time we’ve had and the memories we hold precious. We embrace the next season with excitement and hope. By the way we will mark 30 years of marriage in December.

Stand? Kneel? Or Just Walk Away Shaking Your Head.

Sure, our 64-year-old cease-fire with North Korea may be about to end. And the Kurdish referendum on national independence could be about to draw Turkey, Iraq, and Iran into a full-scale shooting war. Yes, the entire island of Puerto Rico is a desolated wreck of human suffering. And Russia seems to be moving military chess pieces around the Risk map-board in preparation for taking back some more big chunks of the former Soviet Union.

So by all means, let’s follow the President’s lead and focus 97% of our energy and passion on fighting a bitter culture war over pregame football ceremonies. Makes perfect sense.

In fact, it makes so much sense, I’ll weigh in here by blorching all the random thoughts I’ve been having about it onto a single page. Blorch sequence commencing in 3 . . . 2 . . .

Thought 1. The whole anthem protest gimmick was dying from lack of oxygen until Mr. Trump poured gasoline all over it and flicked a smoldering Twitter cigarette butt on it a few days ago.

Protests, to be effective must shock and offend. An act of protest loses all power the moment it becomes boring or cliche or simply ignored. It’s why “Occupy Wall Street” ultimately fizzled out.

Once the cameras stop showing up, once regular folks are simply annoyed rather than incensed, it stops being fun and turns into work.

And we were aaaaalmost there. Then . . . well, you know. #MAGA

Thought 2. By the way, I’ve always found these NFL anthem protests grating and wrongheaded. Why? Because the national anthem is the wrong target if you’re trying to make some point about policing. Policing is a local issue–reformed at the local level. The national anthem is . . . you know . . . national. It’s right there in the name.

If the police department in St. Louis is broken, then it’s the responsibility of the people of St. Louis to fix it. And they’re in the best position to know what’s broken. Disrespecting our service men and women–past and present–is just counterproductive and ugly and dumb.

Of course, part of the liberal mindset is to reflexively and unthinkingly believe that every human problem can be and should be solved by the (messianic) federal government. When a Progressive says to himself, “there oughta be a law” . . . he always means a Federal law.

Thought 3. Of course, Mr. Trump knew exactly what he was doing when he verbally poked his finger into the chests of the tiny handful of NFL players who were routinely sitting out the anthem. He was baiting the “blame America first” crowd in order to gin up his base and rally knee-jerk support. And the players, the media, the usual politicians, and a big chunk of the country, all inhaled the bait!

With more emotion than reason, they immediately went all in and started kneeling all over the place. And average Americans who love their country and appreciate those who serve in the military—also with more emotion than reason—reacted just you would expect them to.

The President couldn’t possibly have hoped for a more desirable outcome than the immediate over the top response by the players and owners, and the accompanying media frenzy. His approval numbers are already climbing, now that hundreds of players have willingly chosen to play their designated part as the villain in this melodrama.

Yes this is very bad for our society, but it’s great for the President.

Thought 4. Free speech (for conservatives and Christians) on college campuses has been under vicious assault recently, but we were beginning to win that argument, primarily because we clearly held the moral high ground. You could feel the tide beginning to turn.

But now we have conservatives cheering the President’s calls to force players to respect the anthem or be fired.

It’s hypocritical to, in one breath, tell college deans they need to allow conservative speakers to speak on campus without threats or intimidation because free speech rights are absolute. And with the next breath endorse firing or fining players who take a knee while country superstar Jodi Lee Whassername belts out the Star Spangled Banner.

Don’t misunderstand. I love this country fiercely. But the call to force reverence for the national anthem is idiotic. And more than a little creepy. (I’m looking at you Lou Dobbs.)

No person who doesn’t truly love this country; doesn’t appreciate the freedoms it provides, or doesn’t appreciate those who have died or risked their lives preserving those freedoms, should be forced to pretend that they do.

You know who has to force a fake smile and pretend to love their government? People in North Korea.

Thought 5. On the other hand, I’m all for exercising your free marketplace rights to turn off NFL games on principle as long as the players, the league, and the networks like ESPN/Disney insist on injecting “issues” and PC politics into sports. I certainly have.

On principle, I avoid ESPN dot com if at all possible. And I turn off game broadcasts that show me anthem kneelers. Kneeling is the players’ right. Not watching their game is mine. We’re all good. No one is being forced to do something that violates their conscience.

Thought 6: On the left there has been a lot of silly romanticizing of all the players who knelt during the anthem this last Sunday. The narrative is that they were courageously striking a blow for civil rights and equality.

Please. If a player wasn’t taking a knee in the weeks prior to last weekend, but did so after Mr. Trump’s tweet storm, then be honest. His kneeling wasn’t really about a cause. It was about pushing back at the President. Speaking truth to power, as they say.

No wise deed goes unpunished.

Thought 7: I feel really bad for Coach Mike Tomlin. Everyone, both left and right, completely misread and misconstrued his approach to handling this unnecessary, idiotic poop storm.

Last Sunday, he, like most other NFL coaches was faced with the challenge of trying to keep his team united while hurricane-force winds of a culture war tried to rip the locker room apart.

Many members of his team wanted to kneel during the anthem. A lot of others, both black and white, wanted to stand. Tomlin made one request of his team: “Whatever you do . . . do it together. Talk about it. Vote. And be unified 100% in what you do.

Well the team couldn’t agree. Passions were running high. There were strong convictions on both sides. Yet Tomlin continued to place the emphasis on 100% unity.

So displaying savvy worthy of King Solomon, Tomlin essentially said, “Okay, if we can’t be unified in what our posture is going to be during the anthem, we’ll skip it.” The team stayed in the tunnel during the anthem rather than provide some dramatic spectacle for the benefit of the gawking cameras.

Immediately, social justice warriors on the left, looking through the lens of their preferred narrative, praised the Steelers’ “boycott” of the anthem. Conservatives saw the headlines about the “boycott” and began a verbal crucifixion of Tomlin and the Steelers.

In reality, Tomlin’s team didn’t “boycott” anything. He simply said, in effect, “We didn’t ask for this mess. A handful of activists and politician trying to stir the pot put us in this no-win situation. So we’re going to sit this dance out. We choose “none of the above.” Let us know when ya’ll stop being bat poop insane.”

There was just one problem. Tomlin’s goal and strategy was to keep the whole team unified and doing the same thing—together. But at the last minute, Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva stepped out of the tunnel before the anthem was completed. So he–a former Army Ranger who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan–came to attention and put his hand over his heart. As the cameras rolled and snapped away, the lone Steeler, a former war hero no less, stood for Old Glory.

Villanueva the patriotic veteran became an instant hero among those grieved by the anthem protests. His picture was shared endlessly on social media. His jersey rocketed to the top of the list of most sold.

So, in the very same way liberals attached a false narrative to Tomlin’s “boycott,” conservatives instantly crafted their own false narrative around Villanueva’s hand-on-heart emergence from the tunnel.

As FoxNews.com reported, Villanueva later said in an interview: “Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally. Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself I feel embarrassed.”

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Villanueva, but I understand why he’s embarrassed. His coach tried to bring some non-political sanity to a political circus. Tomlin tried to keep his players from being cynically used pawns in some larger war. And Villanueva inadvertently cut his legs out from under him.

Tomlin is still being roasted on social media by a lot of the God-and-Country folks I usually agree with. But they’re dead wrong.  I think his voice was the wisest, sanest, most reasonable one I heard last Sunday:

“We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches,” said Tomlin. “We’re not participating in the anthem today, not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance.”

Amen, coach. Thanks for trying to bring us what most of us really want . . . sports as an entertaining refuge from our ugly politics.

We’re Haunted by the Ghosts of the 20th Century

Communist Kids (Antifa) Spanish Civil War

So . . . that recent ugliness and bloodshed in Charlottesville . . . some thoughts about the larger meaning and historical context. (Because that’s what I do here, provide historical, biblical context for current events.)

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) taught me a jarring lesson I’ve never forgotten. Namely, that not every conflict features a side that good people can root for. Lifetimes of reading fiction, and watching movies and television, have left us all with an unthinking, unquestioned assumption that in every war there is one side that is “right” and another that is wrong.

But when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran there was nothing for decent people to do but sit back wish that somehow both sides could lose.

The Iraqi’s were using chemical weapons and indiscriminately targeting civilians.

Iranian children off to be machine gun fodder and human mine sweepers

At the same time the Iranians were recruiting tens of thousands of young inexperienced volunteers and recklessly throwing them into battle in pointless human wave assaults.

Whenever they encountered an Iraqi minefield, they convinced or coerced child soldiers to walk through the fields to clear them—by setting off the mines with their bodies.

Again, in Iran vs. Iraq, there was no one to “root for.” Both sides were despicable in their own distinct way. A victory for either side would mean their particular brand of evil would advance, and many would suffer.

In some conflicts, everyone is the bad guy.

I was reminded of this truth while following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia over the last few days. The reprehensible “white nationalists” who showed up Friday night with tiki torches from their local home improvement stores were instantly mocked by liberals and conservatives alike. Here’s Sonny Bunch of the conservative Washington Free Beacon:

Of course, mockery and humor is a human coping reflex. The reality is that these angry, foolish, mis-educated, boneheads are drinking from a toxic, demonic ideological fountain.

As we know, the next day a small army of counter-protestors descended upon poor Charlottesville. These were to some degree the usual suspects—the professional marxist and anarchist protesters who can be counted on “occupy” Wall Street, rage against capitalism at G7 summits, or shut down a freeway for the environment. However, many of these perenniel protesters are now marching under a new flag. The call themselves “Antifa.”  Here’s the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on the group:

Antifa is a left to far-left, anarchist political movement of autonomous, self-described anti-fascist groups in the United States. The term is loosely used with anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, as well as Anarchism and anti-capitalism.

As we now know, the violent conflict that both sides seemed to be prepared for and to actually crave, unfolded, with tragic results. A young woman was killed and many others critically injured when a clearly unbalanced, amped-up white nationalist bro borrowed a page from the Islamists playbook and rammed a shiny new Dodge Challenger at high speed into a crowd.

Sadly, it is the 1930s all over again. As numerous posts on this site have revealed, “We’ve Seen This Before.” Here’s what I mean by that.

A Little History

The first half of the 20th Century is essentially a story of two murderous giants locked in a titanic fight to the death—Marxist Communism and Fascist Nationalism. This death match was well underway decades before Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Russia in the summer of 1941.

Meanwhile, democracies like Great Britain and United States—what Winston Churchill liked to call “Christian Civilization”—represented a third way. Let’s call it Christian Capitalism. The Christian Capitalist nations largely looked on from the sidelines as the two competing totalitarian evils fought each other, trying to figure out who to root for based on their own national interests.

The two movements were actually cousins. This was a battle between those who advocated “international socialism” (the marxists) and those who championed “national socialism.” (indeed the official name of the Nazi party in Germany was the National Socialist Party.) Thus the fight was about whose utopian socialist vision was going to prevail.

By the way, it’s proven axiom of human tribal behavior that small differences between similar groups results more furious hatred and resentment than the large differences between very different groups. This is why Protestant denominations have continually splintered into ever-smaller sub-denominations.

Throughout the ’20s and ’30s, Communists and Fascists were vying for political power in numerous European countries. And that struggle erupted into a full blown civil war in Spain.

In the late ‘30s, Soviet Russia-aligned Marxists fought Nazi Germany-aligned Fascists in the streets of Spanish cities. Meanwhile, back in the USA and Great Britain, the same artists, actors, novelists, and screenwriters who had romanticized and rooted for the Communist takeover of Russia, began to do the same for the cause of the Communists in Spain.

For a time, Earnest Hemingway embedded himself as a journalist with the Communist rebels in that war and his writing helped further romanticize the cause. He also wrote and funded a propaganda film designed to create sympathy for the communist side.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, many Kremlin records were made public. Among the revelations was that Hemingway had been recruited as a Soviet operative and was on the payroll of the KGB.

Again, let me be clear about this, both sides in these struggles for power were and are demonic and reprehensible. Millions of innocents died under Nazi rule. Many millions more died under Communist rule. As with the Iran-Iraq war, there is no side to root for when these two idolatries clash.

But the Arts and Academics crowd has always been infatuated with the Communist-Anarchist side of this evil equation. And have actively worked through movies and other forms of entertainment to encourage you and I to make the same choice. Liberals are largely romantics. Or more likely, extreme romantics are more likely to be liberal. And they find the egalitarian narrative of Communism irresistable.

The problem is that the socialist promise of equality for all is a trap. As in Venezuela currently, after surrenduring your freedoms, everyone ends up equally poor (except for a small clique of privilged elites.)

Think the upraised fist as a symbol of #Resistance is new? As the picture of the Spanish kids at the top of this page reveals, it’s older than the open palmed fascist “heil.”

Peace Activists

Both ideologies are anti-Christian and anti-Semitic at root and core. Both have resulted in the deaths of millions and millions. Both are authoritarian and freedom-hating.

These two ghosts of the last century are walking among us again. And it is presenting us with the same challenges the Christians of Spain and Germany faced 100 years ago.


In our rush to rightly recoil from and reject one great evil (white nationalism) we can find ourselves tacitly endorsing (or at least accepting) the anti-Christian, anti-biblical premises of the other race-based ideology. That’s a mistake. It’s a mistake the Left and its media allies want to help you make.

The “white nationalists” and alt-right numbskulls can turn out a couple of hundred people at most for one of their tiki torch jamborees, while Antifa and it’s affiliated groups— many of which have billionaire benefactors like George Soros—can turn out tens of thousands on short notice.

(Have I mentioned that I find the racists, Nazis, and white nationalists reprehensible? I truly do.)

This is precisely what happened in Boston yesterday. There, a puny white nationalist rally was dwarfed by an estimated 20 thousand counter demonstrators. A small subset of these, the hard-core Antifa marxist-anarchists threw rocks and bottles filled with urine at police.

Please don’t take my word about the aims of the Antifa movement. Take them at their word:

These are the guys “all decent people” are supposed to be siding with in this mud-wrestling match.

You in?

Of course, the racists are despicable in their own special ways.

Why do I keep re-empasizing how vile and nasty I find racism in all forms, particularly white supremicism? First, because it’s true and I don’t want to be misinterpreted. But also because the current environment of hysteria demands it.

Right now there is a push to use the appearance of these nasty little frat boys and their kreepy klanny uncles as a club to beat the vast, decent middle of our society into embracing the equally demonic agenda of the anti-Christian, anti-Semitic left.

In other words, if you’re not for Antifa, you’l by default a Nazi.

Example, Dave?

A few days ago poor Ed Werder, a longtime football analyst for ESPN, and a profoundly decent human being, got called out on Twitter for preferring to stick to writing about sports rather than weigh in on the side of the social justice warriors:

This is the club we’re all about to get beaten with: “If you refuse to take the side of the Marxist-Anarchists then you’re taking the side of the Racist-Nazis.”

But this is a false dilemma.

As in the ’20s and ’30s, the times would like to insist that Christians choose between two demonic anti-Christ idols, and worship at its altar. There was a third choice then. There is a third choice now.

I’m sorry, but it requires little courage for white Christians to make social media statements condemning racism. I’ve made them. Meant them. Will continue to make them. But the social costs for engaging in this kind of “virtue signaling” are very low.

What is becoming increasingly costly is taking a principled stand against both kinds of evil. In fact, the view I’ve just expressed is now being derisively condemned as “both sides-ism” by the Left.

However, just because there’s a name for it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Evil is evil. An Anti-Christ spirit is an Anti-Christ spirit. And when two brands of evil go to war, anyone who insists that I pick a side is going to be sorely disappointed.

I continue to stand on the side of my brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of skin tone, sex, or nationality. If you’re “in Him,” I’m with you.

But if you’re against Him, you’re on your own.


Recommended Reading:

Blather Gold: Father Daughter Road Trip

Originally posted on BWR, March 2010

Female Offspring Unit #3 and I drove down to Austin Friday night so she could participate in a thingy Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon we were headed back up I-35 toward home.

Now I have always endeavored to bring up children who are culturally literate and appreciators of fine art. That’s why I’ve insisted each of them have a broad knowledge of late 70s classic rock, disco, and early 80s New Wave.

Why allow a teenager to remain isolated in an iPod, Jonas Brothers cocoon when she can be introduced to the stark differences in Doobie Brothers music pre-and post-Michael McDonald?

On this trip, we discussed one of my favorite topics–“Misheard Lyrics.” Misheard lyrics are words to a song that are sung in such a mumblypeg way that you have no idea what’s actually being sung, so your mind makes something up–even if it makes no sense.

The trigger for this discussion was hearing Fleetwood Mac’s song, Dreams. It’s a long-standing joke between me and FOU#3 that Stevie Nicks is singing this lyric:

Women, they will come and they will go.

When Lorraine watches you clean your nose.

Stevie Nicks is the queen of misheard lyrics. The titular hook in Nicks’ duet with Tom Petty is Stop Dragging My Heart Around. But millions thought they heard, “Stop driving my car around.”

In her duet with Don Henley she sang, “Give to me your leather, take from me my lace.” But many heard something else. Among the interpretations of Nicks’ utterance in tongues was:

Give to me your liver. Take from my, my legs.

Give to me your letter. . . J. Cromley’s my name.

Give to me your ladder . . . J. Cromley, my ace.

The band Boston and Elton John have also proved an enduring source of lyrical confusion. The line from Boston’s iconic song, More Than a Feeling: “I see my Marianne, walking away,” has bewildered several generations of radio listeners. It has been sung:

I see Maid Marion, walking away.

I see my derriere walking away.

And thousands of other delicious iterations.

One of the most famous misheard lyrics of all time is a line from Jimi Hendrix’ “Purple Haze”. An astonishing number of people through the years thought the line “‘scuse me, while I kiss the sky,” was actally:

‘scuse me, while I kiss this guy.

Perhaps that’s because they were in some sort of lavender fog themselves.

“Kiss this Guy” is the name of a website devoted entirely to misheard lyrics and it makes for pretty hilarious browsing. But I digress. Back to our road trip . . .

A Detour Down “Roots 66”

As we approached Temple, Texas from the south we reached the exit for Holland, Texas. I’ve driven past the sign scores of times and told myself that someday . . . on a day when I wasn’t in such a hurry to get where I’m going . . . I was going to take that exit and visit Holland. This was that day.


As we drive the nine miles off the Interstate toward Holland, I told my daughter the story of how it got its start in 1874 when my great-great-uncle James Holland bought some land and moved there from Tennessee by way of Arkansas. He had cotton farming in mind.

Shortly thereafter he was joined by his father (my ggg-grandfather John A. Holland) and seven siblings. There, in those post-Civil War years, they homesteaded on Darr’s Creek and built the first steam-power cotton gin the area had ever seen.

Some of the houses from the 1880s are still standing in the area.

The powerlines are a slighly more recent addition.


In the decades that followed, Holland seeds blew all over Bell county, taking root in tiny towns with evocative Texas names like Cyclone, Prairie Dell, Red Ranger, and Salado.

Today, you’ll find the graves of John A. and Louisa Holland, side by side, at Cedar Valley Cemetery outside of Salado. John’s headstone reads:

Born June 19, 1824 – Died May 7, 1908


My daughter and I talked about all of the boisterous history that is surely squeezed into that delicate little dash mark sitting quietly between those dates. Eighty-four years of sweat and heartache and adventure and accomplishment.

As a boy, he would have seen men who served with Washington in the Continental Army. Before he died, he would read of the Wright Brothers motorized flight at Kitty Hawk and see babies who would be alive for the birth of the Internet and the dawn of the 21st Century.

I would have loved to have heard his stories, but I was born about 60 years too late. He might have carried some anecdotes from his own grandfather, who had ended up in the mountains of East Tennessee (Grainger County) by way of a land grant he earned fighting the British in the War of 1812.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, my great-grandfather, Samuel Houston Holland, born in 1884, left Bell County, Texas for Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The motivation for his move is not known to me–but it’s the reason I and hundreds other Hollands were born in the Sooner state rather than the Lone Star Republic.

He’s this tall glass of charged water:


He had 11 children. One of them, my grandfather, died when I was two. So even his stories are lost to me.

As #3 and I, drove north out of Holland on Texas 95 — past river-bottom land featuring tidy, evenly spaced rows of 120-year old pecan trees probably planted by  her ancestors or their friends — I made myself a promise.


She and her sisters will know my stories. They already know my music.


I disappeared from this space for a while because, among other things, I was writing a devotional focused on grace-based praying. That’s done now and I can resurface.

I have every intention of posting here frequently for a while. And we all know that good intentions make excellent paving material.

Two BIG events have transpired in our lives in recent months that have gone un-chronicled here. I’m about to remedy that.

As Paul Harvey used to say . . . Stand by for news!

Remembering a Good Father

It seems that with many of the truly important things in life, we don’t really understand how to value them until they’re gone.

Dad would have been 88 this Tuesday. Father’s Day always fell around, or on, his birthday. So we’re doubly mindful of him this weekend.

I honor him today by reposting the eulogy I delivered on behalf of my siblings at his homegoing service several years ago.


John F. Holland

June 20, 1929–October 11, 2010

It is customary, at a moment like this, to mention some of the attributes and achievements of my father–in other words, to talk about who he was. Instead I want to share a few thoughts about who Dad was not.

Our father was not pushy.

At home, as in his work life, he was not prone to imposing his will or asserting his opinions. And he did not enjoy confrontation. I get that. I’m temperamentally wired in a similar way.

I vividly remember one of the few occasions in which he really tried to change my mind about something–probably because it was such an unusual occurrence.

As a father, he would offer you his opinion but wouldn’t push it. He would occasionally offer you his advice unsolicited. Most of the time he would not opine unless asked. When he did offer advice, He was usually right. And when you ignored his advice, as I often did as a younger man, and made a royal mess of things, he would invariably be right there to help you mop up in the aftermath and without the standard and customary I-told-you-so.

It was the early seventies, I was about 13, and I had been lobbying Mom heavily to buy me my first pair of big bell bottom pants. Dad got wind of it. He had already, with some difficulty, reconciled himself to the longer hair which had increasingly become the fashion since the late ’60s. But now his oldest son was asking to dress like some character from Laugh In or Love American Style. He wasn’t a fan.

I remember being startled at how strongly he tried to talk me out of those pants I wanted. It was so out of character for him. I parried with the universal comeback utilized by all kids challenging a mystifying directive from a parent: “Why?”

He initially struggled to come up with a cogent, logical case for his ban on bell bottoms.  After floundering for a minute, he finally asserted–in so many words–that wearing bell bottoms could make me gay.

My recollection of his argument was not that bell bottoms would make me look gay, but rather that the pants were somehow imbued with exotic properties and powers that could actually make me gay.

I’m reasonably sure he was wrong about that. But he was right about most things–especially the things that mattered.

The long hair and the bell bottoms were just superficial manifestations of deeper cultural shifts taking place in our country in those years. And he didn’t like the way the winds were blowing. He was absolutely right to be wary.

I think that was one of the things that moved him to relocate our family from Oklahoma City to Wilburton. In the summer of 1965–the year the nation saw escalation in Vietnam, rising unrest on college campuses, and race riots in Watts–he moved the four of us as far out in the country as he possible could while still improving his job prospects as an aspiring college professor.

He saw the hills of rural southeastern Oklahoma as a good place for a kid to grow up. And he was right about that, too.

At that time it was just me and my younger brother, and we reveled and thrived in the wildness of the place. We roamed over the hilly, wooded countryside like two wild men of Borneo.

Dad made sure we knew how to properly tie a fishing lure and to use a gun safely. He saw that we got plenty of fishing, hunting, exploring and camping in. And when we got old enough, he served as co-Scout Master of our Boy Scout troop.

He wasn’t a perfect parent. But he got the big things right where my brother and I were concerned. And then “the girls” came along.

My parents really raised two waves of children. My younger brother and I (two years apart) and then ten years later two girls came in quick succession (a little more than nine months apart).

As he entered his early 40s, something wonderful and astonishing came alive in my Dad when those girls arrived in our home. He was suddenly animated, funny, and playful in ways we had never seen. When he was home, he invariably had both of them in his lap–one on each knee. And oh how he loved to tease them.

On Sunday mornings when they were three or four years old, Mom would dress them up and then send them downstairs to be inspected by my father. The first one downstairs would present herself to Dad, do a twirl, and then ask, “How do I look?”

Invariably, he would get a look of complete rapture on his face and gush, “You look absolutely grotesque!” And my sister would beam with delight.

This became a tradition that extended well beyond the time they came to understand the true meaning of the word grotesque. When they were teens he would create good-naturedly derisive nickname/titles for all the girls’ friends, among them, “Here Comes Trouble,” “Get Out of Town,” and simply “Toots.”

They adored him.

My father was not ambitious.

At least not in the way we usually think about ambition. Dad wasn’t driven to get ahead, climb anyone’s ladder, or draw attention to himself. He didn’t have a10-year plan, or even a 5-year plan. Actually, I don’t think he had a 5-day plan.

What he did have is something exceedingly rare in our day. Contentment. We live in a day in which few people seem to know how much is enough. However much they accumulate, they seem to always need more.

Dad knew what he wanted. A piece of land to call his own. The opportunity to dig in the dirt and grow a little food; cut some wood for his fire; to hunt and fish a little; to help out his neighbors when they needed a hand and the kind of neighbors who would do the same. A difficult crossword puzzle to master every day was vital, too.

And one other thing. To see his children doing well. He had all of those things. And that was enough for him.

Dad was not successful.

At least not in the way the world tends to measure success.

When he stepped over into eternity the other day, he did not leave behind much in the way of wealth, or titles, or headline-making achievements.

What he left behind was a 30-year long string of students—a lot of whom will tell you what they tell me whenever I meet one–that John Holland was the finest teacher they ever had.

He left behind a community of people who, to a person, will tell you he was good-humored and decent and kind and honest.

He left behind children who adored him. And a wife of 55 good years who had made him a better man.

I once heard a wise man say that he thought the world’s definition of success had it all wrong. He said real success was being the kind of man and living the kind of life in which—the people who know you the best respect you the most.

Come to think of it, John Holland was a success. In those terms, he was and is the most successful man I’ve known.

One Quick Thought About North Korea

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair. Or don’t. 

An official mouthpiece for the chubby lunatic kid running North Korea started talking tough to the government of China today. China! Told ’em they’d be very sorry if they continued to “betray” them.

For decades the Chinese, sitting on North Korea’s northern border, have been their only friend and ally in the world. Which makes this chest-poking of China ultra-crazy, even by North Korean standards.

It’s quite possible, however, that Kim Jong Un actually thinks he can take on China, the  U.S., South Korea and Japan. How could he possibly think this? Because in brutal dictatorships, no one dares tell the boss bad news. They only tell him what he wants to hear.

You may recall that this was precisely the situation in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The entire ground attack portion of First Gulf War only lasted 100 days. Iraqi forces melted like butter. We later learned that Hussein had a wildly inflated view of his defensive capabilities precisely because everyone around him was lying their backsides off.

Saddam surrounded himself with generals who’d learned to maintain their positions of privilege by assuring the boss that their piece of the military machine was the awesomest ever.

In regimes where the tellers of unwelcome truths frequently die horrible, public deaths, the dictator lives in a bubble of fantasy. I have a feeling young Kim’s bubble is about to get popped.