You’re Doing the Best You Can

Every day I speak to people who have failed—or at least they believe they have failed.

A relationship has deteriorated, a marriage has ended, a loss has been sustained, a mistake has been made, a dream has died; and in the wake of these defeats they invariably find themselves wondering what they could have done to change things. They become certain of their every error. In addition to grieving all that has happened they now prosecute themselves for the past negligence they believe they are surely guilty of.

Maybe you’ve been there.
Maybe you’re there right now.
Maybe you’re mourning the end of something and wondering if you did the best that you could.

You probably did.

Even if you now look back on a situation or conversation and imagine you could have been wiser or more forgiving or kinder or better—you likely couldn’t have. Given what you knew and how you felt and how much pain you were in and how tired you were and what was in front of you, that decision was the only one you could have made. Regardless of how poorly you now judge your performance, it was the best that you could do.

As much as we want to, we don’t get to live life in the rearview mirror. We can’t look back and imagine that we would respond differently, because time has allowed us just enough space and perspective and wisdom as to be safely outside of our past circumstances and to see them differently:

We can now critique former ourselves as some detached observer:
We see every red flag that was invisible to us.
We notice the defensiveness and selfishness we were oblivious to.
We spot every careless and damaging word before we speak it.
We foresee every stumble and misstep.
We sidestep all our approaching failures.

But that’s not how you got here. You didn’t get to stand back and watch it all from a distance. You went through those painful, difficult things in real-time. You crawled through the noisy, jagged trenches of your sadness and fatigue and fear, and you gutted it out the only way you knew how. Your response may have been flawed or impulsive or foolish or less than ideal—but it was the best you could do.

Yeah, you weren’t perfect but welcome to freakin’ humanity. You’re in good stinkin’ company here. Every single one of us becomes a genius after we sh*t the bed and drop the ball and everything falls apart. In retrospect we can all save the day and avoid catastrophe. Looking back, every plan works, every relationship endures, every summit is reached.

Too bad we can’t jump ahead a few days and live this day perfectly, because chances are we’ll think we did the best we could today—and later feel very wrong about that.

Life isn’t for the faint of heart, friend. It’s a heavy burden trying to walk through a day you’ve never been to and to get it all right and it’s no small task to survive here and to be perfect while doing it.

Don’t let the you in this moment crucify your former self for what that person did or failed to do. You’ve now had time and distance that version of you simply didn’t have.

No matter how things unfolded and even if you believe you have failed, you did the best you could. You really did, so show yourself some mercy.

Now go and do the best you can do in this day—and have a little grace for yourself tomorrow when you become brilliant.

Be encouraged.

Don’t Apologize for Your Faith (or Your Lack of it)

For over two decades I’ve served as a pastor to both local and online faith communities, unpacking lots and lots of God stuff with folks from all over the world. Each day I spend time talking with people about what they believe about life, the Afterlife, about whether a Creator exists, and if so what that Creator’s character is—the things that we all wrestle with at some level in the quiet and solitary places.

I get the privilege of listening to people. I get the blessing of hearing their unique stories and discovering the ways those stories have shaped their story about God: their childhood, their family of origin, the place and time they grew-up in, the education they’ve received, their church history, the experiences they’ve accumulated, the victories they’ve won, the suffering they’ve endured. It all has led them to the specific ground on which they stand; that ever-shifting spot called Belief.

None of us develops our faith in a vacuum and very few of us finds it in an instant. It’s a slow, constant process of learning and unlearning, of picking up and putting down, of accepting and rejecting. We assemble our complex belief system in fits and starts over time and distance, and it’s rare that we simply wake up one day and choose faith or choose to abandon it (even though it may feel like that sometimes). Through the nearly infinite twists and turns of the meandering path we’ve been on since we were born, our theology has evolved—and rarely does it sit still.

My faith is in flux as I write these words, yours probably is as you read them.

And as each of us interacts with the world and as we begin to share with others the story we’ve come to believe about God, most of us run into something incredibly sinister and terribly destructive: guilt. It’s an unwanted gift we receive the moment we express some aspect of our understanding of spiritual things. Invariably our personal convictions are met by a brutal wave of instant, violent disagreement from an opposing side, one that seeks not only to invalidate those convictions but to shame us for ever having them at all:

If we are historically religious and our views in some way begin to drift from orthodoxy, those fully ensconced within that tradition come with shouts of “Heretic!”, and vile threats of impending damnation.

If we express a deep and well-defined faith, those rejecting religion often respond with ridicule and sarcasm, painting us as simple-minded sheep incapable of fully facing the difficult realities of the world.

If we find ourselves somewhere in the in-between, unable to respond definitively in one regard or another, we receive vicious rebuke from either side as if we are simply tentative supernatural gamblers hedging our bets.

And regardless of where it comes from this shame-throwing and condemnation is all downright poisonous.

Your testimony is not up for debate. It is yours alone.

Whenever I counsel people (regardless of their theological views) I encourage them to resist feeling guilty for those views: to allow no outside criticism to stick to them because they are responding honestly and in real-time to the path that they have been on and to the faith that path has yielded.

None of us needs to apologize for our road or to justify to anyone else why we believe in or don’t believe in God, or to what degree or in what fashion we do either of those. You and I are only responsible for authenticity, wherever we are at a given moment on the spiritual journey.

Because regardless of what we think, when we engage in discussions of matters of faith with another person, we are not pitting our Right against their Wrong; we are simply sharing our best, most earnest, most educated guess on what is likely true about life beyond this life, none of us having certainty and none of us having cornered the market on Truth.

Friends, as much as you feel led to pursue answers to the deepest questions of life—do so, but show equal reverence for the conclusions of those who cross your path, trusting that they too have not come by those things haphazardly or easily.

And as you come to believe or not believe things about God or the ways of God, share those discoveries as openly as you choose but resist the temptation to ever be sorry for them.

Never apologize for the faith you have or for the road you’ve traveled to find it.

The Sin of Homophobic and Transphobic Christians


Dear Conservative Homophobic and Transphobic Christians,

I wanted to express my sincere regrets at how our recent exchanges have left you feeling.

It seems I’ve offended you in some way and I want to apologize for that.

I’m sorry you feel persecuted when I confront you,
that you feel unfairly judged by my pointed words,
or that it seems like I’m being purposefully cruel, as that isn’t my intention.

It’s just that sometimes my faith gets the best of me and in my sincere desire to help people I can come off a bit abrasive or rude or intolerant. Come to think of it, I guess I am intolerant: of sin. Your sin.

You see, that’s all this is. I know what God wants for you and for the world, and as someone aligned with God, I feel singularly burdened to make sure that you’re aligned with me.

I know you didn’t start out this way. I know you were influenced, persuaded, (groomed if you will) by the people who raised you and the media you’ve consumed and the culture you’ve grown up in—and you think this is what God wants. Actually, it’s a perversion. The teachings of Jesus are actually pretty clear on this, and if you could see what I see, you’d agree that what I’m seeking is the best for you.

I need you to understand that this isn’t an attack on you, it isn’t bullying, it isn’t oppression (as much as it may seem from where you’re standing), it’s love.

I love you, but as a Christian I simply can’t support the sin of your homophobic and transphobic lifestyle. I know that you weren’t born this way, and that for whatever reason you made the choice to reject God’s plan for you.

And so, in love—I can’t allow that.

Which is actually an act of kindness, a sacred gesture.

To not confront you with your blind hatred would be the most unloving act of all: to just leave you alone and let you live as you please and to allow you to continue in this blatant rebellion, well, I would feel like a really terrible Christian.

So, every time my words and manner seem in intrusive, every time you feel violated by my invasion of your privacy, every time it seems I’ve completely disregarded your humanity, forgive me. I only have your best interests at heart.

I’m hopeful that you will receive these words in the spirit in which they are offered and that they love you enough to change. I wouldn’t want to resort to actually passing legislation to force these things on you. (I mean, we can’t control people’s bodies with laws that reflect our religious beliefs. That would be theocracy, which of course, Jesus wanted no part of.

All of this to say, this is up to you.

You can fix all of this, with a little help.

You can change.

You can move away from the sins of your fears and phobias.

You can find freedom from the evil that has taken hold of you.

You just need to come to Jesus and repent.

Read his teachings and it will become clear.

If it isn’t clear, you just haven’t prayed enough.

You can leave your sin behind.

Again, please don’t be offended.

I’m just speaking the truth in love, which one day you’ll thank me for.

Homophobic and transphobic Christians—you can pray your hate away.


(Note: In case it’s not obvious, this is satire/tongue-in-cheek. It’s trying to help the homophobic and transphobic Christians reading this to understand how hurtful and condescending their assertions are, as they mistreat the LGBTQ community and try to both pass the buck to God and to pretend they are being loving when they are not

It’s the furthest thing from calling gender identity and sexual orientation a choice, but rather it is saying the active hatred of LGBTQ people by Conservative Christians IS a choice,

This point was to expose and confront the fraudulence of phobic Christians who hate and persecute people and then pass the buck to a Jesus who never once condemned anyone for their gender and orientation. Again, if the piece doesn’t read consistently with that, I apologize.)

The America Worth Fighting For


If your eyes are clear and open right now you can see it: this is a pivot point for us, America.

It is the place we collectively turn toward back toward our best selves or slide into the abyss of the very worst of who we are capable of being. In real time, we are crafting our collective legacy and the world is watching to see who we will be. Our children are too, along with a vast multitude we will never know, who will inherit the nation we will leave them.

When history replays these days, they will tell the story of this country as either the time decent, empathetic people crossed lines of political party, faith tradition, and surface differences and stood together to push back a rising tide of fascism—or the days we all stopped giving a damn and fully consented to the darkness for good. These will be marked as the moments we collectively succumbed to a million small assaults on decency—or when we decided to stop the bleeding once and for all.

There is no question anymore for those not deluded by white supremacy, nationalistic religion, unacknowledged privilege, or self-preservation: we are facing an existential threat.
It is a homegrown movement defined by an abandonment of empathy, a rejection of personal liberties, a removal of human rights, an elimination of diversity.
There is nothing redemptive or life-giving in it.
The only question remaining, is whether or not we will abide it.
In the presence of such great hatred we cannot claim neutrality.
We are either adversary or we are accomplice; the vocal opposition or willing collaborators.

In these very seconds in which we find ourselves, in this singular day, you and I get to decide whether we will leave those on the horizon of history something beautiful or grotesque. It’s really that simple, that elemental, that close.

This is not about waiting for someone else to do something: not God or a political party or a social media celebrity or some faceless people you imagine will rescue you.

No, friend, there is no superhero flying in to save the day—you need and I to save it.

And the way we will save it is by finding whatever it is that is that pulls us out of the paralyzing funk of grief, sadness, and disbelief we’ve been in—and into the jagged trenches of passionate resistance.

We will save this place by deciding what matters most in this life, and that it matters enough to do more than we’re doing to defend and protect it right now.

You and I need to decide what is worth fighting for and we need to take a deep breath and step back into the trenches . We need to speak and write and work and protest and vote, and do all the things we’ve been waiting for someone else to do; the things we wish more good people in the past had done.

This movement may cause friction in our families.
It may bring turbulence to our marriages.
It may sever our friendships.
It may yield collateral damage to our careers.
It may cost us financially and personally.
It may alienate us from our neighbors.
It may push us from our churches.
It may be inconvenient and uncomfortable and painful but that is the price of liberty— and you and I need to pay it because other people paid it before us.
Anything we lose now, will be our failure to hold steady the arc of the moral universe.
No excuses will be good enough to the generations that follow us about why we did nothing or grew too weary to keep going, so we need to stop trying to find them.

I don’t know what matters enough to move you from complacency or indecision or selfishness or apathy:
the human rights atrocities,
the perversions of Christianity,
the pillaging of the environment,
the Constitutional violations,
the cries of migrant children,
the Supreme Court hijacking,
the attacks of public education,
the dismantling of healthcare,
the anti-Science conspirators,
the school shootings that go ignored,
the LGBTQ teenagers being harassed,
the assaults on women’s autonomy over their bodies,
the malice of our public servants,
the twisting of objective truth,
the Nazis marching in our streets,
the dumbing down of our discourse.

Does love or equality or compassion or diversity or humanity still move the needle within you?

I don’t know what is worth you doing something right now—but you do.

So, instead of lamenting how horrible it all is, decide to make it less horrible.
Instead of looking to the sky and wondering why no one is doing anything, you do something.
Do it in the small, close, here, now, and doable of your daily existence where you have both proximity and agency.
Step out of the cloistered place of your private despair and into a small world that you can alter by showing up.
Use your gifts and your influence and your breath and your hands—and fix something that is badly broken before it breaks beyond repair.

Affirm life, speak truth, defend the vulnerable, call out injustices—and gladly brave the criticisms and the wounds you sustain in doing it, knowing that they are a small price to pay for the nation that could be if you speak—or the one that will be if you do not.

Chances are you won’t actually be called to die for these cause and these people, but when you do leave this planet you will have lived for them. That in itself will be a beautiful legacy.

If you aren’t finding your voice right now, don’t bother worrying about it later.

You won’t have one much longer.

There is an America worth fighting for.

Find it.

Fight for it.