Dec 3, 2016

13


My love for this kid... no words remotely come close.

He's the real deal, and he turned 13 today. The rest of the family and I thoroughly enjoyed investing into him.

But let me tell you... beyond the presents we gave him, we're thankful for the gift he is. Jesus is at work in his heart and through his life. That means this young man, flaws and all, is in a much more rooted place as he starts his teenage journey than I was at his age. I know that in itself is by the grace of God, so... thank you, God.

Beyond the normal day-to-day with my son, he and I have spent the past several months working on a big project together. That means I've been that much closer to his thoughts and his character. I gotta tell ya - this world is a much better world with him in it.

Once again... thank you, God. Please lead us as we try to fan the flame you've put in my son that's already warmed our hearts.

Apr 21, 2016

the man in the mirror

One day, we wake up and realize we’re not children anymore.

Another day, we wake up and realize our children aren’t children anymore


(Ouch! Yeah, this is going to be one of those posts. Sorry – we gotta go there.)
 
The year my oldest son was born, my wife and I bought a journal.

It was intended to be something we’d write in each year on his birthday to sum up what we’d seen in him over that previous year. I remember the day we picked it out. I wanted this to be meaningful from the very start.

That’s when I saw a picture on the cover of one journal. It was a piece of art called “Always” by Ron Dicianni, and it moved me.


I was the man in the mirror, holding my baby boy. The man in front of the mirror was a long, long way off.

Or so I thought.

I still remember writing the first entry. I wanted to write something funny that would perhaps lead into something meaningful. (Apparently, some things never change.)


As context, the birthday journal idea went well for a long number of years. Unfortunately, my wife and I ended up getting caught up in the busyness of life. We actually haven’t written in it for four years. While I can justify it in saying that’s just how things go, I knew I had to pick it up again.

That’s when it hit me… the cover had changed.

More specifically, my placement in it with my son had changed.

It shredded me. I had to actually set it down.

Because the reason I’d picked it up was because earlier that night I found myself in front of a mirror again. This time, I was teaching that very same son how to shave. 


And this time, there were two men in the mirror.

(I told you I was going there. Please grab a Kleenex for me, too.)

Our kids growing up is by no means a bad thing. It means they’re preparing to own who God made them to be and the unique difference they can make in the world. While this same young man with shaving cream on his face still (literally) has a Peter Pan hat in his bedroom, he also started his first job the “day-after-the-shave.”

(That’s what I’m calling it, by the way. I may need therapy soon.)

Holding our kids firmly when they’re little is needed, but as they get older we need to hold them with an open hand. If we can do this well, we’ll still get a firm embrace from time to time that reminds us of when they were more handheld.

So at this stage of things, there are a few things my wife and I are trying to do to help our oldest emerge into adulthood. Maybe we can all do these in our attempt to be unconditional:
  • Pray with them. While it may be easier to just pray for them, we want to pray with our older kids. Even if they go through the stage of pushing back on faith, they need something consistent here. As life hands them a “trampoline” and says everything has now become flexible, they need this “foundation” for the trampoline to be set on.
  • Partner with others. We can’t be everywhere our older kids are, but we can partner with others who are. Our son’s first job is actually under an amazing Christian man who runs a hot dog restaurant locally. We talked about how cleaning plates in the kitchen is a “dish position that will impact his disposition.” Our owner even came over to pray with us at our meal when we ate there that night. That can be rare, but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Think of who else “gets it” and can help your son or daughter “get it,” too.
  • Prod with opportunities. While it may be impossible to return our older kids back to the innocence of their younger days, we can choose how to expose them to the world. My wife and I do our best to walk our kids through big headlines as they happen so they can get a mature understanding of the issue versus just hearing a sound-byte on it. We also decided when each of our kids was 13-years old to take them on a mission trip. My oldest and I went two years ago, and we’ll be back there again with his younger brother who is turning 13 this year.

Wait…

I just realized that I’m going to through all of this again with my emerging 13-year old!

Forget a piece of Kleenex. Please pass me the whole box!

Can you relate?
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Feb 17, 2016

thinking out loud

Perhaps I merely need space to do some thinking out loud.

Maybe this blog feels like it's where I've best figured this out before.

Here's what I know and wonder about, either way:
  • Knowing how to do something doesn't mean you're the person to do it: I see this all the time in my parenting as I watch my kids take ownership of something in an hour that I could do in five minutes. Maturity doesn't always equal doing things in a mature way, but investing into immature or underdeveloped people so they can step up. The future depends on me doing this in the present.
  • What you do doesn't define who you are: In some ways, our actions do validate who we really are on the inside - but we need to pay more attention to the inner workings of our life than our actions. When you are fatigued or can't seem to make your life produce what you want, that's when what's going on in your soul can kick in to guide and sustain you. It will also be where God speaks so that you know if you are hanging on for the right reasons or merely clinging to what you know out of insecurity.  
  • God's Story plays out in chapters: Sometimes we are in multiple chapters of one tale, and other times we merely make a cameo appearance. You can give a quarter (or more) of your life to something and it still only be a part of the Story God has for you. Don't get hung up on how much or how little your name appears on certain pages - let the Author writer what He wants, for He knows the best way to avoid watering down the Plot.
I can think of no more appropriate analogy than what this means today than watching my 5-year old daughter go down a sledding hill for the first time yesterday. She first went down with my wife and I a turn, and then asked, "Can I do it myself?"

Isn't that the most appropriate question of a 5-year old?

We reasoned that it was worth a gamble, but only if we went half-way up. The plan was for my wife and I to be at opposite ends - one to launch her, and the other to catch her.

Here's what happened... pay attention to my daughter's expression.


Maybe we're ready for the hill ahead... or maybe we're ready for half of it.

Perhaps we're to launch others. Perhaps we're to catch them.

Either way, something tells me we're meant to be out on that hill.

At least, that's what I'm just thinking out loud.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord directs their steps." (Proverbs 16:9)


Feb 1, 2016

politically homeless?


Once upon a time...

there was a rich, famous man who became political,

who was known for regularly building huge structures,

who barked at people regarding what he thought

and who generally didn't care what they replied back to him.

His name was Pharaoh.

Pharaoh was popular among a certain segment of people who liked those things about him.

Then again, there were other people who wished some sort of plague would swoop in and take him out of the spotlight.


Once upon a time...

there was a man who was a public servant known for slamming the wealthy.

Some people nicknamed him Robin Hood.


Remember Robin Hood? He was either a villain or a hero, depending on who you spoke with.

Maybe he was both.

Perhaps it was an appropriate nickname for many reasons, for by all means he was within the system yet outside of it; he had resources but didn't take resources. 

In fact, at the end of the day he was sort of a hard guy to pin down.

Should he really be in power?



Hi, my name is Tony Myles and I am politically homeless.

What I mean by that is I have no interest in living under the roof of a particular political party.

Can we still be friends? I ask because I can already hear some of you cracking your knuckles to reply.

I wrote the two anecdotes above not to stir up trouble but to make a point - every human leader is flawed and can be stereotyped away so we don't have to pay attention. To top it off, messing with someone's candidate is like messing with that person's family. I get that.

But... do you? 

Do you get how they aren't your family, but you think they are?

I've spent multiple elections trying to help people lean into praying for wisdom in how they vote. Voting, after all, is a human idea that doesn't always reflect the truth and will of God. We have this belief that if many people say something must be a certain way that we have no choice but to agree.

Voting never has, nor never will, overpower the pure truth of God or His standards. 

What's common isn't Normal. What's Normal isn't common.

Another hurdle is there are many people who aren't sure that they fall into one camp 100%, if even 10%. Rather than jumping into another round of "WE'VE GOT SPIRIT, YES WE DO! WE'VE GOT SPIRIT, HOW 'BOUT YOU?" they elect (pun intended) to not elect.

I'm not sure that's entirely the best approach either.

Here's what I believe about all of that, right or wrong:
  • The issues matter more than the candidates: You'll likely never in my lifetime hear who "my candidate" or "my party" is. God is my leader in all things, and I believe what He cares about and proclaims transcends party lines. In fact, to be even clearer - what God cares about and proclaims transcends even my personal preferences or previous affiliations. If you or I are inclined to vote on something a certain way that conflicts with something He's made clear, then we are the ones who are to change - not Him.
  • The Gospel matters more than the parties: Jesus' teachings are highly political yet incredibly bi-partisan. As a follower of Christ and a Story-teller of His Story, I am called to do what I can where I can while realizing I can't do it all. No human platform, speech or rally cry - not even the snarkiest of Internet/meme graphics - can overshadow even the smallest punctuation marks of the Bible.
  • The Church matters more than the government: Someone just got really angry reading that. Again, apologies... but not really. I can't use the title "God" without letting Him be God. Makes sense, right? He gets to be first in all things. His agenda matters more than anyone's agenda. He says everyone in the whole world matters and not just one country. He says we're to go all into the world to make this known because eternity is a bigger deal than the next four years. Granted, the next four years play into eternity, but the mission of the Church must always take precedence over the mission of government. They work hand-in-hand sometimes, and we can show our faith in how we treat our rulers, but again - they are different.
  • The faith matters more than the skills: While I know none of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are perfect, I have a sense that many of them are teachable. You have to be in order to follow God. I'd like to see that in a political candidate a bit more than mere skills. Meaning, I'd love to see an "all-in" follower of Jesus who nods His life before God every day than someone who speaks well and plays political games better than others. If we only vote for the lesser of two evils, we're still voting for a form of evil.
Why did I write all of this?

Why does any of this matter?
  1. I have strangely angered people simply by talking about politics. There are people in my life who constantly post about political topics, from the economy to sexuality; from health care to the poor. It's all worth talking about, because these are issues God does have perspective and guidance for us on. My hurdle is I sometimes find that if I even dip my toe into those waters I lose friends. Literally... I can think of five people right now who scaled back their friendship from me simply because I said, "You know, here's another way to think about this." For real.
  2. People want to know what I believe. As a pastor I understand that this is not my role in their lives. While I will happily give people a framework of things to think about, I've found that promoting a party or a candidate is ridiculous. I'd rather introduce people to Jesus and let Him work inside of them and reshape how they handle the political piece of their lives. To top it off, there are legit Christians in both of the major parties - and following Jesus together is one thing we can agree on. 
  3. I see too many of my friends just recycling what they already think and labeling others who think differently. If you assume someone else is idiotic, stupid or anything in this realm for not thinking as you do then you're missing out on a key truth in the world - everyone generally is trying to do what they think is right, whether or not it actually is. If we can speak to one another personally versus with punchlines, perhaps we could form a real relationship that transcends the topics.
So...

have you read all of this up until this point to simply see if you can I match up so you know what to write in the comments?

I'd suggest instead we keep growing, praying and developing.

The main way God wants to change the world is by changing people.

Maybe we can be two of them?
"But the people refused to listen... 'No!' they said. 'We want a king over us.'" (1 Samuel 8:19)

Jan 16, 2016

sweetness

As a kid...

I passed on meeting football legend Walter Payton just to see Star Wars in the theater a second time.

Walter Payton.

"Sweetness."

For real.



Tonight...

my 12-year old son just passed seeing Star Wars in the theater a second time to hang with me and his 5-year old sister.

His sister.

Sweetness.

For real.

"Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble." (1 John 2:10)

Dec 19, 2015

keeping our kids spoiler-free

It's been said that R2D2 is the most vulgar movie character of all-time.

After all, the director bleeped out every single word he said.

(ahem...)

Recently I took my oldest son with me to see the first show on opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. According to him, it was "the best day ever."

It's not the first time he's said this. We've had many experiences over the years that qualified as "the best day ever." Every time he's made this claim, there's been one common theme: they've all been something we've never done before, and he had no preconceived expectations.

I call them "spoiler-free" moments.

Creating these moments isn't easy to accomplish when it comes to movies. These days just walking down the toy aisle at Wal-Mart will spoil a movie's plot through the merchandise alone, not to mention movie trailers and commercials.

But somehow we avoided all of that with Star Wars.

After an early dinner at a local Chinese buffet, we arrived at the theater two hours before showtime to get the best seats in the house and wait with the other fans.

Finally, the big moment arrived. The theater dimmed as one of the most famous opening lines of a movie emerged on the screen:


"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

A silent giddiness consumed the theater.

I leaned over to my son and whispered, "Remember this moment."

As the Star Wars logo filled the screen, he yelled out "WOO-HOO!" and soon the whole theater joined in. He leaned over to me and said, "I started that!"

From there, we were caught up in the epic story from start to finish.

I could tell during our ride home how much he'd gotten out of the experience. I asked him, "How did it feel not knowing anything going in?"

He replied, "It was so hard to avoid it all, but I'm so glad I did. I felt like I almost saw something in a magazine about it and I was mad because I didn't want to ruin the movie. I've had that happen before where I felt like there weren't any surprises going in, but this time it was different. Seriously, one of the best days of my life!"

The analogy was obvious, and I couldn't resist the opportunity for a lesson.

"You know," I began, "a lot of things in life are going to be like that. A lot of people won't think twice about spoiling things that should be saved for the right moment. It could be something like sex before marriage or the way we trust the authority in our life. Tonight you experienced the joy of waiting and not ruining something ahead of time. Do you understand the parallels?"

He nodded. It got deep.

I'm certainly not an expert on this, but as I looked back on the night I thought of three things that help my son stay spoiler-free.

Three Ways to Keep Our Kids "Spoiler-Free"

  1. Age-appropriateness:  I remember wanting to take my son to see the last Star Wars movie that came out but he was four-years-old at the time and that film was darker in tone. Skipping that and waiting ten years so he could be the right age to experience Star Wars in the theater was worth it. Part of parenting is keeping our kids innocent of evil and darkness as long as possible. Though it can be tempting to think our kids "can handle it," we're invited by God to help them stay sensitive to sin, profanity, sex and violence.
  2. Investing in what's honorable: We had to budget for the tickets, concessions, and dinner for our event to happen, but it was worth the celebration. It gave me a chance to affirm my son's good habits with a fun night out. While not every great choice or habit needs fanfare, surprising our kids with unexpected celebrations or ceremonies is powerful. Saying "I'm inspired by how hard you've been working at school this year" or "The way you're generous with others really blesses so many people," accompanied by a special event, can really affirm good habits.
  3. Living spoiler-free, too: Our kids may hear our words, but they will listen to our lives. If we're not endorsing the values coming out of our mouths with the choices we make, then they won't believe in them anymore than we do. Just as God has in mind the kind of future adult your kid can become, he has something incredible for you, too. Consider (and perhaps write down) how he might want you to grow as you attempt to grow your kid.
Epic galactic movies aside, helping our kids be "spoiler-free" doesn't mean they won't make mistakes and rush into experiences prematurely. But by helping them practice self-control in small things like movies, perhaps they'll be able to save the larger things (like sex for marriage) with greater enthusiasm since they'll know the value of delayed gratification.

And perhaps that will lead to multiple "best days ever" with their future spouse and kids.

What tips, thoughts, or hopes do you have on this?

P.S. Check out this post and others I wrote at Lifetree Family

Nov 26, 2015

better than I deserve

"Better than I deserve."

That's how I'd describe how I feel today.


I have no words to describe the depths of my thankfulness to God for being my Father and Redeemer... for my wife Katie​ for being my loving, beautiful bride... for my kids being amazing miracles and gifts (whether all if good or all is cranky)... for the committed core and growing congregation of Connection Church​ who continues to be a movement of God unlike any other... for my extended family and circle of friends who haven't gone anywhere on me over the years, but keep investing into me and letting me invest into them.

"Better than I deserve."

I love you all. Happy Thanksgiving.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Nov 13, 2015

my church

A friend of mine posted something on social media that didn't just catch my eye...

it caught my soul.

The post read:
"Local friends, tell me about your church and why you like it smile emoticon. [Our family is] church searching."
Several people reasonably talked up their churches.

Here's what I wrote back in reply.

----

The Church I take part in is amazing... 

I've been a part of it for more than 25 years now - 

although, truthfully, it's been around for more than 2000 years.

It's the means by which Jesus Christ has made Himself known on earth - through weird people who often get on each other's nerves, tend to put their own needs ahead of others and are looking for what they can get out of it. This Church will elevate pastors over the Father, programs over the Savior, and "the people" over the Spirit. We'll say we're committed to each other one day, and then suddenly we're not quite sure what happened.

And yet it is still a breathtaking movement of God, life change and transformation.

For all that we get wrong, God is still within His Church helping us get it right more often than we would without Him. For every wound, there is the healing touch of Jesus who continues to perform miracles through unsuspecting, ordinary people. For each clumsy stumble, there is an arm able to pick us up.

We are more than our gatherings. We are more than our doctrines. We are more than our people.

And yet we are our gatherings. We are our doctrines. We are our people.

It's this odd blend of heaven-and-earth in the same place, but not quite in the same place... as if our very existence proves God and yet pines for the fuller revelation of Him one Day - when a new heaven and new earth overlap.

It is this Church that keeps me serving the church I'm in.

It is this Church that causes me to defy the "We've got Spirit, yes we do, we've got Spirit, how 'bout you?" comparisons of congregation to congregation.

It is this Church that makes me sit down with area pastors and confess my struggles and joys.

It is this Church that I invite my neighbors to... knowing I've told them about a grand Broadway musical that is being put together through second-hand-store resources.

It is this Church that inspires me to seek out people who don't even realize how much they've withdrawn.

It is this Church that I tell my kids about, my wife about, myself about... when my eyes haven't seen it in a while.

It is this Church that when our kids are bored with or complain about, we lead them... they don't lead us.

It is this Church that is to dare casual Christians to become hot or cold, and to seek and save the Lost over making everyone happy.

It is this Church that is there for me and my loved ones when others are not.

It is this Church that can't be tamed or criticized.

It is this Church that I have been baptized into.

It is this Church that I give my life for, putting its needs ahead of my own when I'd rather find something sexier to take part in.

It is this Church that is searching for you as you church search.

That said...

I attend Connection Church. Come as you are.

Sep 9, 2015

getting back on the bike (of parenting)

It wasn’t my finest moment in parenting.

My actions embarrassed my son and made him cry on his bike, right there in the middle of the street.

All things considered, I thought he needed me to prod him with the intensity like a football coach. It turns out he needed me to be more like a horse whisperer.

All things considered, I was tired of being a horse whisperer.

My son is 11-years old, and for a number of years he's struggled with riding his bike. It feels like every summer he's come up with a "reason" (note the quotes) about why he's just not up for it.

Right or wrong, my wife and I have allowed it. He's ridden around the neighborhood instead on his "Green Machine" (note the quotes).

I recently explained to him that enough was enough, and we were going to get out together and ride bikes until he felt confident on it. Even before we headed out to the garage, he started telling me how difficult this was going to be. He chose to wear winter gloves in case he fell.

I knew he was scared. I thought I knew what he needed to overcome it.

So I took a leap out of my usual approach and character and began to embody a football coach persona. "Let's go, no excuses," I barked. When he would stop and explain why this would just never work out, I replied, "Enough of this, get on that bike and start peddling. Now. NOW. NOW!"

Again, not my finest moment in parenting. I know there is a place for being firm, but what I started to realize is I was using this "firm opportunity for parenting" (note the quotes) to actually vent other frustrations of my life into my kid.

I realized it when I was so angry at the seventh time we'd stopped that I slammed my bike down and walked over to him and he was crying in the middle of the street.

We finished the ride, went home and debriefed. I first justified my actions by explaining he needed me to be firm.

Then an hour later, I was near him again - asking him to forgive me for handling it wrong. 

I explained, "Even if that's what you needed, I didn't tell you I was going to take that tone with you. Even more, I let some anger out that had nothing to do with you."

He nodded. He put his hand on mine.

I continued, "Will you give me a chance to get this right again tomorrow? Can I reset with you somehow on this?"

And he let me. And we did. And I was the horse whisperer he needed.

Four days in a row of biking later, my son and I came across some deer who literally bolted in front of us as we rode. He and I stopped together and watched them for ten minutes, saying nothing out loud but enjoying the moment together. Later that night he said, "Dad, I'm so glad you made me to get on my bike this week. I feel like God gave us that time with the deer today as a special gift just for us."

I was thankful, but again had to apologize. "Buddy, I'm so sorry I handled things wrong on the first day. Maybe by you seeing me fail, though, you'll learn how to handle it when you fail someday. We all will. Thanks for giving me a second chance to try again... for getting back on the bike."

I know the story doesn't always end like this.

I also know sometimes that has more to do with how easy it is for us to not admit we were wrong as parents.

But we are... sometimes... often.

When have you felt the strength of admitting you were weak?
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

Jul 3, 2015

empty flirting, whole kid

Sometimes you just humbly get to experience a moment of "Normal" through your kids.

I was bike riding with both of my boys last night and we happened to take our usual path. We tend to follow it twice in the same ride, in fact. Near the end of the first lap, we passed by a local party of teenage girls who were around my oldest son's age. They were playing music, hitting around a volleyball and just being girls.

As my oldest rounded the corner near them, four the girls started chasing after him. It was group flirting - the kind that many of us have likely been on the giving or receiving end of over the years. A part of me smiled as I watched it unfold. I felt flattered that they thought he was cute.

A common parental response.

As we geared up to do our second lap, he asked me about what had happened. "Why did they do that?"

"Guys and girls sometimes do that. I suppose they thought there was something about you that they found attractive."

"That just seems sort of random," he stated. "I'm not interested in flirting like that. It's kind of empty somehow."

I was spontaneously inspired at his wisdom. "Yeah... I guess it is."

"Maybe they were just having fun, but I sort of don't want to do that. I want to just save that for my wife one day, you know? I'm not up for having people play with my feelings like that, and I don't want to play with theirs. Can we take another path back instead of that way?"

I looked over this 14-year old in front of me. He really said all of this.

He wasn't embarrassed. He wasn't shy.

He was confident. He had a conviction... a driving value about the way things could be and should be.

The Normal way to live.

It wasn't this common bantering of emptiness we toss back and forth to others as we summarize "There's no big deal in a little flirting." I don't want to arm wrestle you on that, but I do want to offer the overview my son again later shared: "Why would I waste energy raising and lowering someone's feelings like that, let alone my own? I'm going to save all that for when it matters most. I'm fine without it. Let's do something else in the meantime."

I didn't grow up this way. Anytime I was near a girl I had friends and family who were quick to say, "Oh, look! How cute. They like each other." It's funny how I found that to be the first reaction I was going for in this moment.

And then my son corrected me by being a more solid kid at his age than I was at his age.

Did I say kid? I meant emerging man.

I told him that later, in fact. "You know what, bud... what you did earlier? That's manhood. You're going to get all kinds of versions of what manhood is as you get older, but listen to me on this... that is what a man does. You are letting yourself become whole on the inside in order to confidently face down the brokenness all around you on the outside. That's going to be an incredible gift to anyone around you now or into the future."

So we took a different path back.

*This* is freedom.

What a Normal moment.
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments! I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me your statutes!" (Psalm 119:9-12)

Jun 30, 2015

parenting - may the force be with you

My son didn't want to talk about it.

That didn't mean I was fine with that, though. The text message I'd received about what had happened in our neighborhood really set me off.

Now I was driving home late at night and realized what he needed most was to feel understood, even at this crazy hour.

That's when it hit me... it felt like God himself showed me what needed to be done.

What my son needed most was to feel understood.

He'd had a rough night with some local kids, and it wasn't the first time. Perhaps it all added up, but it had really rattled him. My wife shared that he walked into the house angry that he wasn't allowed to just punch them all. "I'm not sure I like being a Christian in these moments," he vented.

I was at a meeting when it all happened and didn't come home until about 10pm. It was a school night, but since we do an online public school we have some wiggle room with our schedule. Knocking on his door, I was invited in. Apparently he was still awake.

"Hey buddy," I began. "Can you come downstairs?"

"Okay," he replied, assuming we were about to have a lecture.

We stood in our kitchen for a moment as I continued. "Do you have anything big in the morning, like a test?"

"No," he replied, somewhat puzzled.

"Want to watch a movie?" I asked.

"Um, sure... wait, is mom okay with that?"

Smart kid.

"She is, or rather she's trusting however I want to spend this time with you. So a movie it is. Want a snack? Some ice cream, maybe?"

"Okay," he replied, smiling.

"How about a soda, too?"

"YEAH!"

I know... it was a horrible move in terms of nutrition. He ended up combining the ice cream with with his soda. I opted for adding a ton of fruit to mine. My wife and I have started eating healthier, and this move let him know that I was willing to make a concession so we could bond over it together.

As if to say, "I see you."

We took it over to our living room and popped in the movie. Before I hit play, I showed him pictures of two of my adult friends on Facebook.

"This is Scott," I explained. "And this is Mike. Scott always tried to get Mike and I to get along, but I couldn't stand Mike and he couldn't stand me. Then one day in high school we somehow became friends. I've followed his career as a video game designer, including when he designed some games for George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise."

"Cool," my son replied.

"In honor of Mike, we're going to watch a Star Wars movie you haven't seen yet."

And so we began watching Episode 3 in the Star Wars saga around 10:30pm on a school night.

As if to say, "I know you."

If you know the plot of that movie, you probably realize why I picked it. In it, Anakin Skywalker lets his fear, anger and insecurities get the best of him to the point that he strays into the dark side. Much pain and hurt occurs in the lives around him because of it. The movie took the place of any lecture I might have given, like some kind of backdoor parenting.

I realized this when my son observed, "Anakin really lost his way. I can relate to how he feels, but what he did was just wrong. I'm kind of glad I didn't just go off on those guys tonight. Was that God helping me?"

I nodded, which led into a brief exchange about how wise I thought my son was for seeing through the moment and grasping the larger picture.

As if to say, "I understand you."

I know that what I've described may all sound either weird to a casual reader, or that I'm perhaps some time of zen-master parent who always nails this kind of stuff. Honestly, I'm probably closer to the former than the latter.

I do appreciate the Holy Spirit's leadership in such moments, though. Perhaps in sharing the win with my kid out loud it inspires you to do something similar in your parenting... sort of a "may the force be with you" baton pass.

By more deeply connecting with your kids you help them more deeply connect with God.

Be unconditional.
"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11)

Apr 3, 2015

the problem and the purpose of evil

I had one of "those dreams" last night.

It was the kind where the presence of evil is somehow present in the dream in a way that "petrifies" you in your dream... and I mean that literally - where you feel frozen up and powerless in the dream for a moment, if not more.

Over the years, my conscious mind has somehow learned to force its way into these unconscious moments. I find myself in my dream sputtering out the name of Jesus - even though it sometimes comes out "J-J-J-J-Jeeeesus."

Perhaps none of that matters, because it was only just a dream.

The thing is when I woke up I realized that with it being Good Friday how little I've considered the problem and purpose of evil in relationship to Jesus being on the Cross. I've certainly recognized His sacrifice this year, but I haven't considered with any weight how much God's adversary was involved in that day.

Theologically, I know all this. 

Personally, I've overlooked it.

That's when I recalled the eyebrow-less representation of Satan as portrayed in The Passion of the Christ... the ending of this scene still gives me encouragement.


There is a problem with evil in our world... even though it can also serve a purpose. The same is true of pain and wounds.

In Eden, God poured out His love by pouring life into humanity.

On the Cross, God poured out His love by pouring out His life.


God made Adam's wife Eve from a wound in his side. 

The Church ("Bride of Christ") was made from
a wound in the side of the second Adam, Jesus.

The same is true of the Cross:

It proclaims God will let
one thing die to bring Life into everything. 

When God seems to be killing us, 
He's actually saving us. 

This is the problem and the purpose of evil.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)
"...and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
"Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:30)
P.S. If you're local to me, join us at Connection Church at walking through this tonight:  http://www.connectionchurch.org/easter

Mar 18, 2015

what my family talks about at night

Me: (randomly) "Xanadu"

Son: "Xanadu?"

Me: "Yes, Xanadu."

Son: "What's that?"

Wife: "The seventies. It's a movie from the seventies."

Son: "It's a movie?"

Wife: "Don't show him any clips."

Me: (to son) "I wouldn't do that to you, especially before you go to sleep. It'll mess with your dreams."

Son: "What is it exactly?"

Me: "Okay... ready?"

Son: "Yeah."

Son: "Musical... PLUS roller skating... PLUS Greek mythology... PLUS... old-school tap dancing."

Son: (laughs hard) "Any afros in there?"

Me: "There's probably an afro in there."


This...

this is what my family talks about at night.

Then...

we pray with and for each other.

(Thought I should throw that in there, too.)

Mar 6, 2015

a firm embrace

I just literally watched my son turn 14 before my eyes as the clock struck midnight. 

We unintentionally welcomed it in by having a late night movie that spilled into his birthday.

I even paused to sing to him.

After the movie, we prayed together and I gave him a hug.

Then... I asked for another hug - a firm embrace, if you will.

As I held him, I remembered the first time I held him in the hospital...

and then the time after that...

and the time after that.

Those first few hugs didn't allow me the chance to put my full strength into it.

Still, it's amazing how many powerful gentle embraces you remember through a powerful firm embrace.
"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:3-5)


Feb 4, 2015

remind me again who You are

Remind me again
who You are and have been
Give me a glimpse
of the Cross yet again
Speak to my needs
and my thoughts and my scars
Remind me again who You are

Whisper Your name
so I'll know it by heart
when the chaos of life
tries to pull me apart
I'll call out and know
that You're never that far
Remind me again who You are

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  (John 14:26)

Jan 27, 2015

navigating sex talks with your teen

The predicament my son and I were in all tracked back to a coupon.

I'd received an email explaining that we could have a free family-sized bowl of pasta at a particular Italian restaurant. It seemed like a no-brainer for him and I to use it as an excuse to go out to dinner and have another talk about sex and more.

The problem? The whole restaurant had scattered pictures of alluring women on the walls.

We first noticed it when the waitress sat us down in a booth and a large retro picture of a woman wearing lingerie right above it. I asked if we could pick a different table, and yet as we scanned around it felt like every one of them had a random number of pictures like this mixed in with the other pictures of Italy, food, and more.

What happened next may or may not have been the same decision you would have made.

We sat down, ordered some food, dove into a book we're reading together, and had an amazing conversation. In other words, we didn't leave.

The reason?

As we were initially pondering where to sit, I looked at my 13-year-old with genuine humility and said, "There is one way this can work. If you and I make a pact together to focus our attention on each other versus the walls, we just might create our own object lesson on sex tonight."

And that's exactly what we did.

Somehow, once we decided to enjoy each other's company and fully engage the conversation we were in, the pictures seemed to disappear. All that mattered was the connection between a father and his kid.

The metaphor is obvious, isn't it?

What if the nervousness you feel heading into conversations with your teen about sex can dissolve if you first sit down with your Heavenly Father and fully engage in a conversation with him?

Once you do, you'll find yourself more fully prepared for whatever you felt unprepared for.

In addition to finding a focal point for your next sex talk, take some practical steps with your teen to create a great interaction:
  • Clarify the conversation: Explain that you're going to sit down sometime soon and talk about sex, culture, and more. Ask your teen to speak into what that conversation will look like through at least a few questions, observations, and conclusions that he/she will bring to the dialogue. Your goal in this is that each of you ends up as both students and experts on whatever you end up discussing.
  • Clarify the vocabulary: Talk about what the word "sex" means in your mind versus your teen's mind. Brainstorm how other people might answer that question, from celebrities and musicians to pastors and friends. Circle back to the idea that someone ultimately has to have the last word on this: will it be God or someone else?
  • Clarify the arguments: Our "hook up" culture would like us to think that everyone is having sex without consequences. Kick at this together, from how even oral sex can create an attachment to someone else emotionally. Discuss the lies that teens and adults alike buy into that creates this behavior, such as "This is one way I can feel more liked and less alone."
  • Clarify the worth: You have an incredible opportunity to help your teen feel unconditionally loved by God and you. Explain that while you may not always like what he/she does, you will always love him/her and that he/she can come to you with her questions, doubts and mistakes. He/she is also worth having standards to live his/her life by so that he/she can say "yes" and "no" to the right things. The more he/she realizes how special he/she is, the more he/she can properly respect herself.
What if we didn't have to feel weird talking about this with our kids?
"How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart;do not let me stray from your commands." (Psalm 119:9-10)

Oct 30, 2014

never ending opportunities

It's simple math.

Two Myles guys +

the Never Ending Pasta Bowl +

man-to-man stuff =

an amazing hang time with "this guy" tonight.


It's an odd thing to be someone's dad.

That's not at all a critique, but rather a humble reality. I love my kids beyond measure.

What I mean is that I feel the weight of my words as they're coming out of my mouth and understand how they will be received by my sons and daughter.

Tonight was a good example... my 13-year old and I have started going through the book "Preparing Your Son For Every Man's Battle." That's all you're going to know about a good part of our discussion, as the fearless conversation we were able to have together is rooted in relational trust.

All I want to offer here is that there's something about driving a half-hour to a restaurant while listening to some clean stand-up comedy together, plopping down into a booth, ordering some delicious food (that we've budgeted up to afford), catching up on life over breadsticks, and then diving right into some profound back-and-forth together over stuff that really matters.

I again felt the power of my words as I shared how this experience was something I wish I had growing up on the other end with my own dad, but that perhaps because of that gap the one I was having now was that much more intentional. He listened as I shared about how much of my own walk into manhood was full of guessing that he doesn't have to settle for, and that he's not alone in whatever he navigates.

At the end of the night? He asked if I would write all of this down. He said a lot of what I said tonight are things he doesn't want to forget, and hopes to reference back to them in the future as needed.

Win.

Parenting is full of such never ending opportunities.

We can't control what has been handed down to us.

We do have a say in what we will hand the next generation.
“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

Apr 20, 2014

the Resurrection in images and sounds

The Resurrection is not an event...

the Resurrection is a Person.

This past weekend allowed me the chance to realize that through some images and sounds that personalized my journey with God. I offer them here to give you that same opportunity.

Video 1: Something I found.
  • Thought: Jesus could have received all the praise He deserved. Instead, He took on our all the condemnation we deserved... not just once, but again and again - even as we pridefully try to presume He can stop. For this, He becomes like a criminal... so we can become free.

Video 2: Something I assembled.  
  • Thought: The Resurrection isn't what it is without the Cross. The Cross isn't what it is without the Resurrection. We are not who we really are unless we really have both. Don't just celebrate this - choose to experience it. 


Video 3: Something I said.  
  • Thought: I was unexpectedly ministered by this - it involved listening to something I didn't plan on saying today in service, yet apparently said. A friend of mine caught it and put this together. In the event God wants to use this to speak to you as He did me when I listened to it (which is ironic, I know)... here it is.


Don't just celebrate the Resurrection. Experience it. Integrate it.

Because the Resurrection isn't an event. The Resurrection is a Person.
Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

Apr 8, 2014

shaving off some more parenting

One of my sons asked me about shaving.

Over the years, we've had some small snippets of chats about it. This time, it felt like a visual lesson was needed.

So I broke out the two options he'd eventually have to choose from - electric or manual.

 
I shaved half of my face with the electric, and the other half with the manual. I explained the pros and cons of each, from ongoing costs to one-time costs. I let him touch both sides of my face and evaluate how each felt in comparison to the labor that went into it.

And... that was it for now.

I'm sure some day soon we'll reverse roles and he'll be the one under the blade.

For now, though... we just took another step of being a father/son together.

How many times in parenting do we put people under the knife... when all they wanted to know is what the knife looks like?
"Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6, AMP)

Dec 13, 2013

christmas is about presents

There is a reason.

  • It’s why people smile while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, as if they don’t know they’re wearing an ugly Christmas sweater (even though we know they absolutely do).
  • It’s why someone feels the permission to smooch you under a certain configuration of dried leaves hanging on the ceiling.
  • It’s why families drive around neighborhoods, aimlessly looking at how someone else arranged the same lights they arranged on their own home in a lesser quantity.
  • It’s why an old guy with a white beard can earn some extra money by dressing up in a specific red suit this season.
  • It’s why you do your best Michael BublĂ© impression as he does his best Frank Sinatra impression, while singing Christmas songs you only know half the words to.
Some would say it’s the reason for the season… Jesus Christ. 

Let’s be honest, though. The holiday of Christmas is more about presents.

(Yes, I just said that. It’s about time you did, too.)

Christmas is about presents. Stuff. More of what we want. Our traditions, favorite songs, special treats and preferred circumstances.

Even if we’re “open minded” and muse, “People celebrate differently during this time of year, and I’m fine with that,” we get a little wound up when we’re not able to spend this time as we think we’re entitled to.

If you can agree with me on this for a moment (even if it offends you), then perhaps we can talk about the power of a gift.

I recently took my ten-year old son on a trip to Chicago. Our stops included heading to the top of the Willis Tower, also known as the Sears Tower. (You can still call it the Sears Tower if you want, but most Chicagoans will use it as the chance to say, “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?”)

I’ve never been in the building before.

Keep in mind, I grew up and lived in Chicago for twenty years. Nonetheless, I’d never entered it nor rode the elevator up to see the city from a top floor in one of the world’s tallest buildings. I shared that first-time experience with my son.

What caught me off guard was how caught off guard he was about hearing that. He asked, “You mean… you saved that experience for me?”

I paused, then replied, “I suppose I did.”

He paused, then replied, “Well… that makes me feel special.”

Talk about a Hallmark commercial moment. I never felt like I’d done something so right, yet so unintentional.

Later at dinner, we had another conversation about other experiences we should save in life, like certain things that are intended for the woman he might marry one day. 

The Willis Tower offered something else amazing we took part in together. The building has four completely-clear glass viewing decks that come out of the building four feet so you can look straight down while standing 1,353 feet high, as if you’re dangling in mid-air.

My son was a trooper on this. He walked right out, even laying down and relaxing on the platform.

And why not? He’s full of the kind of faith many of us have forgotten about or don’t even know exists. He trusted in his father to look out for him and introduce him into situations that he couldn’t handle on his own, but could with me by his side.

I believe that’s why Christmas has become about presents. Underneath all the wrapping paper is a desire to give something to someone else that’s meaningful to us and them.
  • Sometimes you give the perfect gift on accident: You offer someone something you thought would be received at one level but is enjoyed at another.
  • Sometimes you give the perfect gift out of relationship: You give the gift of genuine trust to another person where there is mutual love and respect.
  • Sometimes you give an imperfect gift that you thought was the perfect gift: The person who gets it will have to decide if they’ll receive it in grace or reject it as unwanted.
During the Christmas season, people give tangible things that create an intangible reaction. If you think about it, that’s exactly who the Baby in the Manger is – God in-the-flesh so you can know Him in-the-soul.  

Yes, Christmas is really about the Present of Jesus Christ. What I’m proposing is we can use the natural thing this holiday has decayed into as a step of faith to the supernatural thing it is under the surface.

James 1:17 clarifies, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV) There is a reason.
  • It’s the reason you’ll be generous with what you can see by donating something to “the poor” you’ll never see.
  • It’s the reason you’ll join into tactile traditions today that remind you of emotional experiences from the past.
  • It’s the reason you’ll be physically sitting in church service to spiritually connect with your Heavenly Father.
  • It’s the reason you’ll even give up some of that in order to enjoy some extra time with others who need to sense God is there through your life… especially when you actually put on that imperfect, ugly Christmas sweater they give you.


Step out in faith on the ledge of what Christmas happens to be today... then look down.

You just might see something underneath you that is deeper than you think.

Dec 4, 2013

father-son time

Hanging out with my son today...

kind of feels like this.

Oct 15, 2013

one month in

Thank you, God...

for blessing us beyond what we deserve...

and for You alone being even better than our blessings.


 Thanks for this house we've been able to move into... until the day we come Home.

Aug 17, 2013

silent protectors


Up late, keeping watch from afar over my sons and their friends as they sleep in a pop-up camper in the driveway. Just watched a cop car drive by.

Maybe it's just the time of the night, or maybe it's something more. But I love seeing things like this... silent protection over our lives in the form of teamwork. Things we're unaware of, until we become aware of them.

A lot of life is like this.

Sometimes you're protected without knowing it when someone who could do something doesn't... or when someone does do something they don't have to:
  • Maybe they don't take seconds because you want thirds.
  • Maybe they hold their tongue as you let yours fly.
  • Maybe they take a financial hit so you have a running car.
  • Maybe they remember a great past so they don't give you a black eye in the not-so-great present.
  • Maybe they don't like what you've said even though everyone else has.
I wonder how many silent protectors we're all surrounded by.

I wonder how often we're more in life together than we realize...
and not so far apart as we feel.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. "Selah" (Psalm 32:7)

Jul 27, 2013

lime jello

This is my personal blog.

It's been a while since I blogged here... partly on purpose.

The last time I wrote something was just before my daughter had a seizure in January... then another. She was in the hospital and we were full of questions.

So much of our lives felt touch-and-go for a while. How could I possibly blog here?

Eventually we realized we could move forward... one cautious step at a time. But by that point I wasn't sure what to write of any personal nature.

It was around this time that someone blasted me apart in an email that was mass emailed out to 50 people (and yapped about by more than those 50). Most people saw through it, while others bought into it. Ironically, all I was trying to do was reconcile with the guy.

I was devastated. People I thought were friends suddenly became quite unfriendly. Who I am, my household and church became a "topic" - as if we could be discussed with criticism without feeling any sort of pain or damage.

By the way - a lot of pain and damage did occur.

Again, that came right after my daughter's hospital and medical issues.

As time went on, the person never apologized for it. I had to deal with the wake of it almost every other week as someone new was caught up in its ripples.

Somewhere in there I felt the sting of a financial gap. Our church had been struggling financially, so I took a voluntary pay cut. It meant extra side work was necessary for me to serve my household. In the process of taking on a ton of work all at once, I wrote two books, a lot of curriculum and more. That sounds good on paper, but I ran out of juice, time and more. The stress it caused was felt throughout my family. I thought I'd bottomed out internally.

This was when all of it started to collide together... the question of medical bills, financial strain, being misunderstood by people close to us and more... all of it... it all added up.

Toss in Easter... already a big deal, but we relaunched our church around then. We had a massive building project in the mix, too. Everyone had an opinion about everything. Much of it added up and subtracted me down to a divided spirit that only multiplied.

"Boo hoo... woe is me," I thought.

Then my best guy friend in all the world lost his daughter. She was ten and died almost instantly as they were all serving as missionaries in Africa.

Devastation.

Sometimes it takes perspective to have perspective.

I've spent a lot of time in the midst of all of this trying to figure out what it means to move forward. There's much I won't write here, including how some of the struggles haven't been mine alone to bear. Others I love are likewise working out what all of this means.

I mentioned to my friend that I had a memory from January of walking downstairs in the hospital when my daughter had finally relaxed to try to find something for my wife and I to eat. It was here that I saw it...

lime jello.




Look...

I'm a pastor, and I've visited many hospitals.

In every hospital that I can remember, I have always found lime jello.

You would think that I'd find something red more often than something lime... strawberry... cherry... maybe even raspberry.

Without fail, I always see lime jello.

I shared with my friend how absurd this is - as if there was some research that was done by hospitals and they reasoned that by putting lime jello in their selection that you would think, "I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting red. But lime jello... well... that's different."

Maybe you would then think, "Maybe the unexpected is still possible. Maybe a miracle can happen. Maybe there's more to life than this moment."

Who knows? Maybe it's that strategic and subliminal. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just that lime is cheaper than any other flavor.

Either way, it's there... all the time... lime jello.


You'll notice that I took that picture in January and waited until now to post it.

It's because this past week I found some lime jello in a few different moments I wasn't expecting:
  • I found forgiveness for the jerk way I was treated and belittled in the mass email. It still hurts and I have to call it for what it was, but at this point I can love the flawed source behind it. How can I not? After all, isn't this what I ask of God everyday for myself?
  • I watched the church I'm in be reborn before my very eyes. God did something amazing and profound that has His fingerprints all over it through the many hands of others. It's something I've been praying for years would happen.
  • I had a conversation with someone who rediscovered the cross of Jesus Christ and likewise began a shoeless walk into His holiness and grace again. Again, something I've been seeking God on.
Lime jello.

I'm not sure what the future of this blog looks like, but years ago it gave me sanity to begin it when I was going through junk about junk. Somehow it helped me find my footing, not to mention my voice.

So between here, my leadership blog and a youth ministry blog I've been offered the chance to write for I'm going to be sharing my lime jello with anyone who wants some.

Need a spoon?

Dec 17, 2012

SPOILERS from the Hobbit (no, not really)

I didn't see the Hobbit this past weekend.

It's the type of thing I'd normally do with friends who enjoy going to see epic movies at midnight. Given the past week of life and more, I just couldn't swing it.

What I was able to do was to post some tongue-in-cheek "spoilers" from the Hobbit on my Twitter account throughout the three hours the movie premiered. I'm not sure if I was able to influence anyone to actually believe these were true, but since I lost three Twitter followers that night I do believe my purpose was achieved.

(For the record, I gained 10 others).

Here is a chance for you to enjoy the updates in the order I posted them.

From https://twitter.com/tonymyles 

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Gandalf doesn't end up with Hermione.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Orlando Bloom returns as a slightly more mannish Keira Knightley.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Orlando Bloom returns as a slightly more mannish Keira Knightley.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Elrond wears Agent Smith style Matrix glasses.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : It already won a bunch of obscure Academy Awards for costumes... blah blah blah, something artistic, I think.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The movie happens in real time. Keifer Sutherland's character Jack Bauer somehow stays awake for 24 hours.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : John Rhys-Davies brought back for one scene for #Sliders fans where he looks at camera and says, "Mr Mallory!"

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Musical scene with Beyonce' where she plays a temptress singing about how you shoulda putta ring on it.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The "orc" costumes resemble what Robin Williams wore when he landed in Colorado in the 70's.


SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Will Ferrell plays a character simply known as "Elf" who is passionate about Christmas.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The phrase "there and back again" refers to a craving errand Bilbo's pregnant Hobbit wife sends him on.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The traditional hat worn by Gandalf has been replaced by a red metal helmet resistant to telepathic attacks.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : There are, in fact, 16 fade-to-black endings.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The ring is a Krispy Kream donut... the hot kind, not the cold kind.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Elves have a foreign language they sometimes speak. This is actually just their attempt at German.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The different nations have political tension with each other, which is an ancient metaphor for #GoogleMaps

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The last name "Baggins" is revealed to be an acronym for "Boy Another Great Gain In Nerd Sales" (guilty!)

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : CeeLo Green plays a Hobbit who plays an Elf who plays a Troll who plays an Orc... with a cat.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Andy Serkis does the voice of Morgan Freeman, and Morgan Freeman does the voice of Andy Serkis.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Ian McKellen and Ian Holm wear matching "Ian" tennis bracelets. Gollum, naturally, wants one.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : One person in every theater nationwide memorized a map of all the lands and actually understands the route.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Hobbits all bummed Sean Astin didn't make it into movie. Each lays down his ears; chants "Rudy" repeatedly.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : "Middle Earth" got its name by being in a love triangle with good guy "Upper Earth" and bad boy "Lower Earth"

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The "Shire" scenes are bootleg videos stolen from the movie Avatar.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Winklevoss Elves are all played by the same guy.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Dwarves don't talk about it much, but each one with a beard has killed an Ewok.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The treasure everyone's trying to reclaim are stock shares from "The Facebook" Timberlake's character swiped.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Smaug, the dragon, isn't actually that smug. Most people overlook the "a" and he's "sick of all the haters."

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Lonely Mountain symbolizes Mount Rushmore... only with actor Mickey Rourke's face in all four spots.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The characters Fili and Kili have a brother played by Ben Affleck you only see in the deleted scenes - Gigli.