Monday, November 14, 2016

Why We Fear, and How We're Part of the Problem

Monday, November 14th.
Last week, I publicly wondered on Facebook how people were so afraid of the world in the wake of a Trump election. The day after the election, I saw comments from people I know, people whom I knew to be intelligent, basically erupting in what I saw to be illogical rants and backhanded memes. Some were saying they had to go home because they just couldn't bring themselves to concentrate on work the day after the election. But a day later, a friend of mine posted a similar question to the one I had, asking why there was so much fear in the hearts of people. Many who responded to him also seemed to have no clue why the fear was there. Some tried to explain it away, even in belittling terms, but none of them connected. And the disconnect bothered me.
People made grand, hyperbolic predictions that Trump would bring in the end of the world, and send us socially back to the 1950s or before. That gay rights would be abolished. That women's rights would be removed. That racism would become the order of the day again. I even saw some people say they were afraid for their families. And while I always try to do the best I can to understand other peoples' points of view, I didn't get it. Then, within 24 hours, I began to see stories of people being taunted, intimidated, and attacked by people who were glad Trump won, and took it upon themselves to act like thugs. Idiots posted pictures of themselves in blackface in front of a Confederate flag (by the way, I do everything I can to keep from calling people "idiots" on the internet, but in this case, it fits). Graffiti, TONS of graffiti full of anti-gay and racial epithets. For whatever reason, these lowlifes felt empowered, and thought it would be a good idea to invoke the name of Trump in their work. Like he would condone it. And I didn't get that, either. Even though I had asked the same question, the previous day had brought examples of some reasons why people were afraid. As a Christian, I know that the Lord hasn't given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. But while I had no reason to fear, not everyone did. One of the things I know about fear is that many times, it's based in conjecture, confusion, and the unknown. Fear can come from things that are real, but also from things that are not real. Irrational things. Illogical things. Still . . . someone in fear is reacting to something, and I tried to unfold what that something was. So here was the response I offered to my friend's question, after having thought about it for 24 hours:
People jumped on the idea that Trump was a racist because he said he wanted to build a border wall, and stop illegal immigration. What he actually wants is to end the crime that comes with some of the illegal immigrants that come into our country. They commit crimes as illegals because it's easier to circumvent a system they're not entered into. But all they heard was 'Trump hates Mexicans', therefore he's racist.
People jumped on the idea that he wanted to temporarily cease entrants of all Muslims into the U.S. until we could come up with a way to safely vet all refugees seeking asylum, so as to rule out any potential terrorist threats. A sane choice, given that some of the sanctuary cities have had reports of violence and terrorism by some professed Muslims. But all they heard was 'Trump hates Muslims', therefore he's a bigot.
Trump has said that he supports the idea of traditional marriage, therefore the LGBT community thinks he is attacking them directly. Forget the fact that he actually is a strong proponent of gay rights. The marriage equality thing is one on which they don't agree, but to the LGBT community, that's like Holy Grail. It's the one thing that makes them equal to the rest of the population.
He made crude comments about what amounts to sexually assaulting women several years ago. Inexcusable, yes, but some people think this will boost the narrative of fostering rape culture if he takes office.
The media has painted a narrative (actually, it's more the bloggers, the opinionators, and the people who won't actually do their research) of Trump as a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, a religious bigot, and a nationalist. Two groups have clung to this narrative -- his detractors, and idiots who actually are using that same inaccurate narrative as license to begin harassing people of color, non-Christian religions, and the gay community. It's that latter group of hooligans that the first group is afraid of.
And if the stories that have been popping up over the last 48 hours are genuine, then we need to have a sympathetic ear. Because even though it's not Trump that's condoning this kind of activity, it's still happening. And it still needs to be stopped. Their fear may be based on a lie, but perpetrators of evil are believing the same lie . . . and that's reason for all of us to be concerned.
I firmly believe that if you have a discriminatory problem with a large group of people -- a certain race, a religion (or denomination), atheists, gay people, straight people, even people of a particular generation -- then the problem you have more than likely stems from your interactions with a very few people from that group. That at some point in your life, something happened that caused you to view ALL people in that group the way you viewed one or a few from that group. Maybe they did something to you. Maybe you've heard news stories about people from a particular group doing evil against someone else. Whatever the case, it's very likely your sample size was tremendously small. Which means your viewpoint is skewed somewhat. Now, this happens to all of us, but some of y'all need to admit it. For instance, I had a friend in college who refused to give to The Salvation Army because they were affiliated with the Methodist church. This stemmed from an encounter she'd had a few years before where she attended a service at a Methodist church, and the minister, who knew she was Catholic, began to say harsh, mean, and very hateful things from the pulpit about those who practice Catholicism, all while looking in her direction. She felt belittled, betrayed (the man had never treated her badly before), and embarassed. And from that day on, she decided she would rather stop giving to a charitable foundation whose goals including feeding, clothing, and sheltering our homeless population, among other things. So he was wrong in his actions towards her. But she was just as wrong in her response.

To my friends and family that haven't had to deal with people taunting you, or threatening your life, or the lives of your friends or family, if you've never had to defend yourself from an attacker who hated you because of the sexuality you claim, or the race you were born with, or the religion you practice, then you don't know the fear that many of these people talk about. And until you become the target of an attack, like some of these people actually have, then you likely won't know that fear, either. I'd like to say that I've been through my share of "persecution" as a Christian, as I've been put through the wringer by many people because they didn't agree with my faith or thought I was weird for being a Jesus freak. But the truth is that I've never had to defend myself against violence because of what I believe. So I'm very fortunate in that regard. And while I can't understand through experience the fear that some of these people are feeling, I can't disregard it, either. To my liberal friends who have ever used the words "bigot", "fascist", "homophobe", "racist", "xenophobic", and "misogynist" when talking about Trump supporters, or people that simply disagree with you certain social issues, please listen up. You're wrong to use those terms against a blanket group of people. Okay? You're simply wrong when you do that. Own that. The vast majority -- the VAST majority -- of people who voted for Trump don't match the definition of those words, AND YOU KNOW THAT. Yet you spew them at us in an effort to try and justify to yourselves why we would possibly think differently than you. If we become villainized to you, it's easier for you to write us off as lunatics. Now, you might be thinking about how right you are, and in your state of rightness, you don't want that level of understanding. You don't want to try and understand someone that doesn't believe what you believe. Fine, that's your right. But if that's the case, shut your mouth. Stop engaging them. Surround yourself only with people that are exactly like you and agree with everything you believe, all the time. That's the only way you're ever going to be at peace with the things people say and do. And even as you're reading this, you see the fallibility of that suggestion, that there's no possible way you can do that without alienating people you love, work with, and buy goods and services from. Which means that if you do continue to engage people in the way that you have been, the only thing it will accomplish is to show others how immature you've been. To everyone, we all need to try and have some understanding. You don't know everything that others around you have been through. You don't know if that gay man got attacked by some random dude just because he was holding his boyfriend's hand in public. You don't know if that black family you seem to know so well has ever had problems with being harassed by neighbors, or law enforcement, or total strangers because of their race. You don't know, so you can't experience their pain and frustration first hand. So before you litter Facebook with your memes, rants, or vilifying tirades about anything relating to a position you disagree with, STOP. THINK. Wonder what life would be like if any of those things had happened to you or someone you love. How angry would you be if a good friend got raped? How terrified would you feel if someone defaced your home? How much would you want to step out and face the world if the majority of the people around you thought you might be a terrorist because of your skin color or religion? In full disclosure, I must be responsible for my own actions. There have been times that I've made horrible blanket statements before about certain groups of people, and not everything I've said has been wise. I've apologized for those times, and I apologize for them again. But I will never apologize for what I believe. And I will never mock or ridicule you for what you believe. Here's an example of why I take that stance. A few months ago, I had to drop a friendship with someone whom I had previously respected a great deal. I hated that I had to do it. As a member of a minority group, he had spent a significant chunk of his life fighting against bullies. He had been attacked at an earlier age, and that was just one example of the injustice he faced. But over time, he had let his anger grow so much that he actually began to get antagonistic with people who disagreed with him. He actually told me during one conversation that he didn't want to try and understand where I and other people were coming from. He used words like "bigot", "fascist", "crazy", "insane", "mentally ill", and others to describe me and others like me. He didn't do this peripherally, he did this in direct conversations with me. I was so sad for him, because he had officially become a bully, the very thing that he'd spent so much time railing against. He saw me as an enemy now, even though I loved him like a brother.
So I was disappointed, but I still had hope. After all, bullies I can deal with. Bullies can change. And then, one day, he took something I told him and something that someone else close to me had said and posted those things to his timeline as examples of people to avoid. That went beyond bullying, beyond insult. That was a betrayal of trust. Done. Friendship over. Immediately. Clean break. I still pray for him. I still wonder how he's doing. But I can't engage him anymore. His heart and mind may change in the future, and I believe people deserve second chances. But he doesn't need my friendship to live his life, nor do I need him in mine. Our absence from each other's lives won't affect either one of us all that much. And I firmly believe that not everyone is beyond hope, but even the Scripture says that with some people, you have to wipe the dust from your feet, and you move on to the next town, move on to others that will receive you and what you have to say. Here's my point: we need to realize that whatever issues we face, we have to face them together. If we continue to act like the village is dead, like what's yours is yours and what's mine is mine and if you're in trouble you're out of luck, then we're only going to wind up worse off than we are now. The world we live in? WE are the ones responsible for creating it. WE allowed our society to get to this point. And WE have the responsibility to come together before we tear each other apart. So go and act in love. Have that conversation over coffee. Break bread with them. Hell, play a board game with them. You'd be amazed how something as simple as friendly, fun competition can open doors. Ignore the incendiary and inflammatory comments from detractors, or respond in a private message rather than a public forum. Find out WHY someone believes the way they do. Get to know the person rather than their ideology, because a person is more than their ideology. They always are. Don't react. Respond. There Is No Box.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Better Late Than Never.

There's this show that just finished its short summer run on NBC called Better Late Than Never. It's about four aging celebrities -- William Shatner, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw, and Henry Winkler -- who take a world tour to several different cities so they can experience different cultures. Watching the exploits of men their ages as they try to climb hundreds of stairs so they can look at Mount Fujiyama, sleep in a capsule hotel, or be part of a Japanese talk show, among other things, is quite hilarious.

But did you know what's really awesome about what they did on this trip? The fact that they actually did it.

William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, Jeff Dye, George Foreman
They decided to go out and do something they'd wanted to do, but had never done before, either due to schedules, work, family business, et cetera. Whatever the reason, no matter how legitimate it was, they simply never took the time. They were never deliberate in making it happen until they decided one day to pull the trigger and go for it (of course, input from producers notwithstanding).

One thing I find interesting about this show is that these four men have another guy going with them, comedian and actor Jeff Dye, a man significantly younger than the rest of the entourage. He's the one that actually planned the trip, took the time to research where they would stay and what activities were available. He's the one that put the plan down on paper so that they trip could happen. All of that star power, spread over decades of television, movies, sports, music, and marketing, and it took a fifth guy to help make the trip happen.

I firmly believe this is because he had a plan. If he hadn't had a plan, they never would have gone on the trip. So, what's the equivalent of planning for a major worldwide trip in our normal, everyday lives?

Setting goals.

When you have a goal to aim for, you have something worth achieving, especially if that goal is tied to a dream. Dreams don't happen on their own, and just one goal being met isn't going to fulfill one's dream in its entirety.

But what good is a dream without goals? And what good are your goals if you don't make them tangible?

Statistics (I don't know from where . . . it's late, and I don't feel like looking up anything significant, so let's just go with "Statistics") show that people who write down their goals have a much higher chance of attaining them that people who do not. The reason you've never paid off that debt, written that novel, or made your marriage better? They're all the same -- you probably didn't have a written goal that you could work towards.

In my life, there are plenty of things I haven't done . . . YET . . . for various reasons. No matter how legitimate those reasons are, they pale in comparison to the fact that if I write down goals that help lead, bit by bit, to the fruition of my dream, I will begin to see my dream take shape. And since dreams start with ideas, I decided to make my ideas public.

NOTE: this is pre-writing down. As I type this, I realize that I haven't actually put pen to paper and written these things down yet, so I will still have to eat my own words by the time I'm done writing this.

1. RECORD THE ALBUM I'VE BEEN WORKING ON SINCE BEFORE I GOT A CALL FROM A PRODUCER SAYING THAT HE WANTED TO WORK WITH ME BECAUSE HE LIKED MY SONGS. This will require a lot of steps, a lot of little goals, but let's just say the weapon's been cocked and loaded for a long time, and I've been somewhat scared to pull the trigger.

This will take time, because of my inability to get together to game with people on a regular basis. But with 3 playtests already under my belt, I know what direction I want this to go in.

I had A TON of fun playtesting a loose solo variant of this game, much more fun than I thought I would have had while I was actually putting it together. I think I have something really worthwhile here, and I don't know of any other games that use the theme in quite the same way I've developed.

4. Put the 2 RPG setting ideas and 3 other board game ideas that I've had into some kind of practice, actually coming up with an overall theme, mechanics, and specific elements to make the game work. I know that one of these ideas has a unique combination mechanic that I don't think any other game has, at least that I'm aware of. So I could be sitting on a really great idea, so long as I don't keep sitting on it.

Like the title of the program said, it's better late than never. Just because I'm 40 doesn't mean I can't still conquer the world.

There Is No Box.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Back Burner Podcast - Episode 6: Interview with Mike Perna (Part 1)

In today's episode of The Back Burner Podcast, I interview Mike Perna with InnRoads Ministries, and host of The MacGuffin Factory and Gamestore Prophets podcasts. In this, the first of 2 parts, we talk about what got us into gaming, and why we love it so much. We also discuss what InnRoads Ministries is doing, and how its mission is one that all Christians and gamers alike can get behind.


Here's what you're missing if you haven't heard of HeroQuest.
The Pac-Man board game, Donkey Kong board game, and Zaxxon board game from the 1980s.

We also discuss how Miniature Market is the type of place could bankrupt us both.

The love-hate relationship with Munchkin.

Mike's "MacGuffin" podcast co-host Peter's other podcast, Saving The Game.

Connect with me!
My Facebook page, and my Google+ profile, in case you're so inclined to connect with me.

There Is No Box.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Back Burner Podcast - Episode 5: Fiasco - Showdown at Blue Camel (Part 2)

In today's episode of The Back Burner Podcast, we conclude the Boomtown playset game we started in Episode 4. Sam McQuiggan, Tina Mayer, and Jason Kelley help me finish this awesome session.

Fiasco by Jason Morningstar can be purchased at Bully Pulpit Games' website, and "Boomtown" is one of four playsets included with the base game.

El Guapo may not have known what "plethora" meant, but that doesn't mean you don't have to know.

Find more great playsets for this game at

Episode of Wil Wheaton's TableTop podcast featuring Fiasco
TableTop's setup for Fiasco

Links to the playsets that I've created:
Reunion: Class of 1994 
Teach Me How to Demon (award winning, don'tcha know)

My Facebook page, and my Google+ profile, in case you're so inclined to connect with me.


There Is No Box. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Back Burner VIDEO PODCAST - Episode 1: Paradox

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you the brand spanking new Back Burner Video Podcast!

This video podcast will be an extension of the audio form of The Back Burner Podcast, because I know after 4 audio episode you've all been wondering what face lurks behind that voice for radio. My ugly mug has inspired many great and terrible things, so I hope you enjoy.

Future episodes won't always be as snazzy, but they will be fun and entertaining. Enjoy!

There Is No Box. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Back Burner Podcast - Episode 4: Fiasco - Showdown at Blue Camel (Part 1)

In Episode 4 of The Back Burner Podcast, you'll hear Part 1 of an Actual Play of the roleplaying game Fiasco from Bully Pulpit Games. Sam McQuiggan, Jason Kelley, and Tina Mayer join me in creating a wild west scenario that could have ended much better than it did.

Fiasco by Jason Morningstar can be purchased at Bully Pulpit Games' website.

Episode of Wil Wheaton's TableTop podcast featuring Fiasco
TableTop's setup for Fiasco

Find more great playsets for this game at

Links to the playsets that I've created
Reunion: Class of 1994 
Teach Me How to Demon (award winning, don'tcha know)

My Facebook page, in case you're so inclined to connect with me.

With no further ado, here you go.

There Is No Box. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Back Burner Podcast, Episode 3 & Zach's 40th Birthday Donation Challenge

Another year has gone by, seemingly all too quickly, and I spend the first few minutes of this, the first podcast of 2016, talking about some of the cool things I was able to take part in in the 2nd half of 2015.

But the crux of this episode is in the 2nd half, where I talk about my friend Seth Greenwell. In fact, I'm issuing a challenge to everyone I know, whether they listen to this podcast or not. (By the way, you can stream or download the podcast episode at the bottom of this post.)

I'm turning 40 years old on February 6th. However, for my birthday this year, I don't want gifts or a huge party. I decided to make this milestone birthday a milestone for someone else. I'm asking my friends and family to commit to donating to Global Teen Challenge for my friend, Seth Greenwell, who is directing a Teen Challenge center in Fiji. 

Seth's story is explained in the podcast episode, but let me give you the short version.
Seth and I led worship together at our church. He moved away to pursue a relationship, but it went south, and he moved back, but he fell in with the wrong crowd and fell into a life of alcoholism -- and he fell hard.

Eventually, he saw the damage is alcoholism was causing, and he entered a Teen Challenge program in Joplin, Missouri. He not only made it through the program and was delivered of his addiction, but he was asked to stay on as a staff member. Eventually, he was selected to be the director of a new Teen Challenge center in Fiji, which opened in early 2015.

Fiji has a major problem with people losing their livelihood to the black hole of substance abuse and addiction, and Seth, as a graduate of the Teen Challenge program and now a member of its staff, has been assigned the role of director over a center in Fiji that just started within the last 12 months. All the funding that Seth needs in order to operate that facility -- including his living expenses -- is received in the form of donations. My wife and I have been supporting his efforts since we heard about his new assignment, but there's only so much that we can do because of our finances, and we've wanted to do more.

This, I thought, would be a great way to do that.

This year, for my 40th birthday, instead of giving me a present, buying me a gift card, or even sending me a simple greeting card, I'm asking everyone to instead make a donation in Seth Greenwell's name to Global Teen Challenge.

Here's how you can help.

1. Make a donation straightaway.
You can go to the Donation page on Global Teen Challenge's website and make a donation right now. At the bottom of the form, in the dropdown menu asking for gift designation, select "Specific Projects", and in the space provided, write in "Fiji - Seth Greenwell". They will make sure your donated funds are assigned to the Fiji center for its operation.

2. Commit to helping, then flood the coffers on Saturday, February 6th.
I think it would be a fantastic idea to give Seth a large number of donations from multiple donors all at once. So one thing you could do is commit to giving a certain amount on Saturday, February 6th. Just go to the event page I've set up on Facebook and leave a comment with how much you'd like to donate, or just say "general donation" if you don't want to disclose how much you're giving.

3. Spread the word.
I can only do so much on my own, but if all of you help spread the word about this in your social media circles, or to people you know aren't connected with you online, there's no telling who among the people you know have a heart to help an organization like this. Like I said, any amount will help, so please spread the word on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, your own personal blog, anything you feel will help get more people involved. Together, I believe we can do something miraculous.

Why am I not setting up a GoFundMe campaign or something similar?
Frankly, I don't want any of the money to come through my hands. This way, everyone donates directly to Global Teen Challenge, and nobody has to wonder if any of the money is going to be swallowed up by administrative fees or anything like that.

Now, as promised, here it is, Episode 3 of The Back Burner Podcast. Stream it or download it, however you like. Thanks!

There Is No Box.