This Woman of Mine

I’m working from home today and Mrs. H is out of the house, throwing herself headlong into  a long list of tasks for me, her work, her family, and for friends. As all who know her will attest, she is a force of nature. Some wonder what her secret is. I know all of her secrets.

In fact, as I sit here on our sofa where we share morning coffee, one of them is visible just to my left. The evidence is visible in the photo above. She is a woman of the Word.

All is just as she left it this morning. And every morning. As she is prone to reminding herself, me, and those she loves:

Wisdom shouts in the streets.
She cries out in the public square.
She calls to the crowds along the main street,
to those gathered in front of the city gate:
Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
and make you wise.

She has heeded, wisdom’s call, this woman of mine. Father, “Reward her for all she has done.” (Proverbs 31:31)

God Places the Lonely in Families . . .

 

 

It’s Thanksgiving night and the house that was full a few hours ago is quiet again. Now it’s me that’s full. I’m full in stomach and heart. Mrs. H outdid herself. And our family was together.

“Family.”

God created family as the most powerful and effective institution on earth for creating and maintaining well-being. It is His richest gift to mankind. (Aside from the gift of His own Son, of course.)

Yes, I know that in our broken, fallen world not everyone experiences the blessings, protections, and benefits that God meant the family structure to provide. Families can be and often are dysfunctional and even toxic. But that doesn’t change the fact that when a family is whole and operating as God designed, it offers the closest thing to heaven we can experience on earth.

Family is the heart of God. Psalm 68:6 speaks of God’s redemptive, restorative nature. The psalmist reminds us that “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” 

If God had his way, every lonely, isolated person would be in a loving, functional family. That’s because He’s good and kind.

And for that, I’m truly thankful.

On Earth as in Heaven

Many believers have misinterpreted Jesus’ words in John 18:36, wherein Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

They take this to mean that Jesus’ Kingdom has no earthly manifestation. In other words, that until His physical return, His kingdom remains exclusively spiritual and therefore invisible.

The unavoidable implication of this is that the believer should not expect the advance or expansion of Jesus’ kingdom to impact the natural world—including our physical bodies, nature, or earthly institutions.

Consistent with this view, many believers gauge the expansion of His kingdom by one measure alone . . . souls saved.

But is this an accurate understanding of Jesus’ words to Pilate? I don’t think so.

Understanding the words, “My kingdom is not of this world,” hinges on the meaning of the word “of.” I’m convinced that Jesus was saying that His kingdom’s legitimacy and validity did not derive from any earthly source. Rather, the authority and legitimacy of His rule was (and is) rooted in Heaven—a much higher source.

Consider the context. Jesus is being questioned by an earthly ruler, Pontius Pilate. Pilate was the ruler of the prefect of Judea because the Roman Emperor Tiberius designated it so.  Pilate’s authority and legitimacy was rooted in the earthly power of the Roman Emperor and the Roman Senate.

In other words, Pilate’s kingdom was of Rome.

Jesus knew this was Pilate’s frame of reference when he asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” The implication behind the question is, “If you are the King of the Jews, then some earthly authority must have declared it so.”

Perhaps the Jewish people took a vote. Maybe the Sanhedrin had convened a secret council and determined that Jesus was indeed the rightful heir to David’s throne. Maybe an enemy foreign government was trying to destabilize the eastern edge of the Roman Empire by installing a rival ruler.

With a single phrase, “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus swept away all of these unspoken questions. Meaning, “Yes, I am a king, but not because any  earthly legislative body or governmental authority says so. The throne that declares me a king is not anywhere on this planet.”

The words Jesus spoke immediately following this response validate this interpretation:

“If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)

In other words, “If my kingdom were rooted in earthly authority then earthly people would use earthly force to keep me from being killed.”

Nothing in Jesus’ response should keep us from expecting that the expansion of His rule—seeing His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven—will impact the physical realm here and now.

That physical realm includes your physical body; your family and home; your neighborhood, community, and the entire culture. But we don’t see these impacts if we don’t believe they are legitimate.

In the light of all this, it’s not surprising that an era in which the dominant evangelical theology has marginalized the concept of Jesus’ kingdom to being wholly invisible and largely in the future . . . is the very era in which the earthly institutions such as the arts, academia, the sciences, and government have been overtaken by darkness and godlessness.

The kingdom of Jesus is a present and progressively unfolding reality.

No, it is not of this world, but it is very much in it.

He Arose in the Dark

He arose in the dark.

Our familiar Easter sunrise services have trained us to associate the resurrection with sunrise. This is because the discovery of the empty tomb by the women occurs around daybreak. All four gospels record their arrival at the tomb at or just before sunrise on the day after the Sabbath. As Mark describes it, “Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb at the rising of the sun.”[1]

This means they assembled and began their journey to the garden while it was still quite dark. When they arrived, as every Sunday School child can tell you, the tomb was already quite empty.

So, I emphasize this once more. He arose in the dark. There is a large message in this small detail of the resurrection narrative.

We ought not wait for our circumstances to brighten to put our hope in a faithful God. We must not say to God, “Show me some improvement and then I’ll believe in your goodness and mercy.”

No, it is when things seem the most hopeless and grim that we should anchor our faith to the rock of expectancy. It is when it seems “too late” that we must muster words of praise and thanksgiving.

We all recall that Paul and Silas sang a hymn of praise from the depths of a filthy Philippian dungeon, but do we remember when? I summon Acts 16:25 to rise and testify. “At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God . . .”

When did these shackled saints find their song of praise? At midnight! When things seemed the most hopeless! You know the result. “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s shackles were loosened.”[2]

Oh, dear child of God, do not wait on the dawn to find your shout of confidence in God. Sing your song now, in the middle of your midnight hour, when trouble seems to be pressing in all around you. Anyone can sing a hymn at noon under a clear blue sky. That kind of faith doesn’t alarm principalities and powers.

The day doesn’t begin at dawn. It begins at midnight. Likewise, that is when God’s resurrection power comes. Tombs open in the middle of the night. Graves burst open in the middle of the night. Jesus comes walking on the waves in the middle of the night with a message for you and me. It is that very one He spoke to Jairus who had just absorbed the news that his daughter had died, “Do not fear. Only believe . . .”[3]

Don’t be afraid of the dark.

[1]Mark 16:2

[2]Acts 16:25-26

[3]Luke 8:50

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.

 

Disagreeing

  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.