Moving Up, Moving On

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May 252017

Today is the final day for both of my kids at their current school. One finishes middle school, the other elementary school, so they are not just moving up, they are also moving on. I remember what that was like. It was an odd mixture of joy and grief. It feels good to work your way up to the point where you can move on, but it’s sad to say goodbye. It’s perfectly normal to feel both joy and grief. Healthy, even.

Which struck me as odd, because normally we think of grief as a bad thing. When’s the last time you heard someone say “Man, I’m grieving, and it’s good”? I’ve certainly never heard that. But I realized that sometimes, grief really is good. Without grief, there can be no progress. Without grief, my children never grow, never mature. Without grief, they don’t get to experience the joys of graduation, marriage, having a family of their own. They’d just end up sitting my basement doing, well, I don’t know what. But I know they wouldn’t be living. They’d just be existing, and that’s not what I want for them. Not at all.

No, I want my kids to live, and that means growing, and that means grieving too. That means grief isn’t just good, it’s vital. Because without grief, there can be no progress, and that would be the worst thing of all.

Logan. Wow.

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Mar 102017

I just got home from seeing Logan. As in, came home, at lunch, and sat down to type this. There are a lot of reviews that talk about why great Logan is so good. Feel free to read them. I just want to tell you how good it is.

It was amazing.

And when I say “amazing,” I mean it in the true sense of the word. It’s not amazing like the other Marvel movies, which are amazing because of the special effects, or because Iron Man is cute and funny. No, this one was amazing because of how emotionally powerful it was. This film packed such a wonderful emotional wallop that it left my whole family drained. I’m serious. None of us could get up when it was over. We had to sit and take some time to let it all sink. We couldn’t even speak until we got to the parking lot. It was amazing because I’m amazed that I could care so much about these characters, be so moved by this story, and feel so deeply throughout the course of the film.

Logan is not always easy to watch. It is gory, it is profane, and it shows heroes doing some awful things. But there is a beauty and a truth to this film that makes it deeper than any Marvel film yet. This is much more than a superhero movie. Films that are this moving don’t come around very often. Don’t skip it.

Take a Hike

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Jun 222016

This weekend my sister texted me a picture of her wrist. It was broken, and pretty gross. Not “bones sticking out of the skin” gross, but still not something I’m going to post here on this family-friendly blog. She was doing a really long trail race in the wilderness, longer than a marathon, and fell. It was four miles to the next exit point, which probably sounds like a long way if you haven’t spent much  time in the wilderness. I do spend some time in the wilderness, and it didn’t sound crazy to me at all. When I took a stick to the eye during a wilderness hunt in Colorado, it took almost a whole day to get to the nearest urgent care. When my wife did a hike on the Appalachian Trail and had to end it early because temperatures had dropped to thirty six with winds of thirty miles per hour in May, it took her half a day to get off the mountain. If these numbers seem crazy to you, and dangerous, there’s a good reason why.

Me on top of Grandfather Mountain, NC. No, I didn't drive. We hiked up.

Me on top of Grandfather Mountain, NC. No, I didn’t drive, we hiked up.

I grew up in the era of nature as spectacle. We watched it on TV and marveled at the majesty of tall mountains and graceful animals. It was all so pretty, so wonderful, and it was all over TV. We glorified nature and made it into something magical, and people came to think of it like they think of Disney World: happy and pretty and fun. We were shocked when mountain climbers died, or people were killed by animals, because it didn’t fit with what we saw on TV or in zoos. It just didn’t make sense.  How could that happen?  But as I think about these wilderness incidents, and the death of that poor toddler in Florida, I’ve come to realize that we’ve forgotten something important. Here it is:

Nature may be pretty, but it’s also trying to kill you.

Perhaps this makes you never want to go out in nature again. Or perhaps you see me, and others like me who enjoy the wilderness, as daredevils who eschew caution and take needless chances. That is not me. I’m a chicken. I don’t take chances in the wilderness. I play it very, very safe. But I still go, and I will keep going until I can’t anymore, because there is a profound truth waiting in the power and ferocity of nature.

Out there, the world does not rest on my shoulders. Out there, it’s not all up to me. Out there, I’m small, a bug that is easily squished. So why go?

Because being small makes me free.

This is the complete opposite message of our culture, which tell us that if we can just get what we want, we’ll be happy. That contentment comes from exerting our will on others. Like the Disneying of nature, that is a lie. I do not feel free when I have control. All I feel when I’m in control is pressure. Instead, I find freedom in letting go of control,  and there’s no better way to do that than to get out there in the wilderness. That’s why I go: to be part of something bigger than myself, to remind myself how small I am, so that I can be free.

So the next time you feel pressure, like life is a bigger burden than you can carry, try the mountains. Literally take a hike. Get out there. Just be smart about it, because there’s no point in going if you don’t come back.


The Flint Water Crisis Shows That America Still Works

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Jan 312016
John and Jackie Pemberton and other protesters gather in the Michigan Capitol to call for Gov. Rick Snyder’s resignation on Jan. 14, 2016, in Lansing. Photo by Anna Maria Barry-Jester.

John and Jackie Pemberton and other protesters gather in the Michigan Capitol to call for Gov. Rick Snyder’s resignation on Jan. 14, 2016, in Lansing. Photo by Anna Maria Barry-Jester.

If you haven’t been following what’s been happening in Flint, Michigan, here’s a brief summary (the not-so-brief summary is here). On April 24, 2014, the city of Flint changed the source of its water to the polluted Flint River. It’s no surprise to this New Yorker that the pollution has caused numerous health problems, particularly in children. Many writers and news outlets are justly and appropriately evaluating what created this public health emergency. Solutions and consequences will  be discussed for decades. What I want to share is a bit different. I want to share is my observation about the response of those affected by this crisis, and what that response, and its result, says to me about America. Which is this:

America still works.

Let me explain.

There are two narratives about the poor in this country that are relevant to what happened in Flint. One is that those who collect welfare (usually blacks) are lazy, and another is that they are disenfranchised because money and race are what drives politics. Flint is a city that would seem primed for both of these characterizations. It is 57% black and has a median income of $24,000 per year. Forty percent of the population live below the poverty line, and are on welfare of some type.  If either of these narratives was true, the people of Flint would be stuck without hope of ever getting clean water.

Fortunately, they had LeeAnne Walters, a 37-year-old mother of four who became a self taught expert on water pollution science and led the charge to get accurate data. They had Jackie and John Pemberton, who went to City Council meetings and the state capitol at the head of a group of citizens determined to get this fixed. They came to their government armed with an important fundamental right: the right to petition their government for a redress of grievances.  That right is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution, but is often forgotten. Freedom of religion, speech, and the press are talked about far more. But all those, and the right to assemble, are crippled without the right to bring concerns to the government. This fundamental right was exercised by the people of Flint, people who nobody would expect to be able to win because they are either lazy or disenfranchised.

But the City of Flint has returned to using it’s previous water source. The concerns of these supposedly lazy, disenfranchised citizens were heard and heeded. In short, these people, who no one would have expected to win, won. In doing so, they showed us that America still works. The wealthy might control some aspects of politics, and race is definitely a factor, but if America still works for the people of Flint, then it works for all of us.


The Accidental Mission Statement

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Jan 052016

I’ve studied church leadership quite a bit, and one thing I have read over and over is that churches (any organization, really) need a clear mission statement. It has to be easy to understand yet profound, motivational without being controlling, and it has to seep into the DNA of the entire church.

That’s what the experts call it: the DNA of the church. Experts love abbreviations.


See how scary we look? That’s me in the middle.

But how do you come up with one? That’s harder. There are a bazillion books on the subject, dozens of leadership seminars, and you can spend thousands of dollars learning a never ending stream of abbreviations to help you and your organization craft the perfect mission statement.

Or, you can read about the time I came up with one by accident.

In addition to being a pastor, I am a lacrosse player and coach. I captain the team I play on, the Alpharetta Raptors. We’re called the Raptors because it sounds scary, and one look at the picture to the left will tell you just how scary we are.  From our very first game we started having a meeting right before we started playing. We’d discuss strategy, talk lineups, and then I’d say “Play hard, have fun, don’t be ****s.”

Sorry. I guess I should have mentioned that these games are PG-13.

Anyway, I don’t know why I said it first. Probably because that’s the kind of team we’d created without really meaning to.  We do play hard, we try to have fun, and we go out of our way to make sure we aren’t ****s.  It’s how we’ve played the game since we started a year and a half ago. I was just using words to describe what we already did, and the guys really took those words to heart. Everyone knows it  now. It’s become our motto.

“Play hard, have fun, don’t be ****s.”

I didn’t invent it. I didn’t sit around in my home office with a giant sheet of newsprint and wrack my brain to come up with something that ticked all the boxes of the perfect mission statement. I wasn’t even trying. And it isn’t perfect. I’d like to have something there about, you know, winning. But it’s as close to perfect as any mission statement I’ve ever come up with, and despite all the expert advice, I did it by accident.

Announcing Uncle Bush’s Live Funeral

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Jul 152015

In case you missed it, Uncle Bush’s Live Funeral is out! It’s my first book, so I’m very excited. I’m even more excited because it is the true story that inspired my 2010 film Get Low, and it took a long time to get here.  Here’s a summary:

This book tells the incredible true story of Felix “Bush” Breazeale, a feared hermit who attracted ten thousand strangers to the funeral he held while still alive in 1938. Author Scott Seeke had begun researching Get Low as an outsider, a New Yorker married into a skeptical East Tennessee family. By the time Get Low arrived in theaters ten years later, he had earned their trust. They opened doors that allowed him to finally learn why Bush had his funeral while he was still alive, and why so many people came. He found the moving story of a man trapped by his culture and past, desperate to rewrite his life’s story before it was too late. Uncle Bush’s Live Funeral shows that any outcast can find acceptance, and any label can be overcome, all masterfully told by Get Low writer Scott Seeke.

A picture of the crowd at Uncle Bush’s Live Funeral, June 26, 1938. From the Roane County Banner.

Many parts of Bush’s story were so unbelievable that I just had to shake my head. That was also something I did a lot of when trying to navigate my way through the community around him because I was often lost. Through my many missteps, I came to appreciate for East Tennessee’s distinctive character and culture. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where you’re a stranger for five minutes and a newcomer for fifty years, or where old timers still spin yarns for hours on end with barely a pause in between. There is no place like it, and there has never been anybody quite like Bush.

Uncle Bush, date unknown. Credit to Frank Huggins.

And now you can read that story for yourself. You can also keep checking back here to find out where and when I’ll be speaking, because dates are starting to fill up. It’s exciting, and I’m glad you’re on the journey with me.

At Long Last

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Jun 272015

It’s finally here! My new book Uncle Bush’s Live Funeral is now available for preorder. It’s hard to believe that I will soon get to hold it in my hand. Maybe when I actually hold it I’ll believe it. Until then, this will more than do! Click the cover to go to the order page.



What Bruce Jenner Reveals About Manhood

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May 112015

I don’t pay much attention to celebrity news or gossip, so just about everyone knew about Bruce Jenner becoming a woman before me. Even my preteen daughter knew. Because gender identity questions have long confused me, I decided to watch Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer. I hoped to learn something. What I learned made me exclaim out loud.

jennerYou see, Bruce Jenner actually isn’t a woman.

When people said he was now a woman, I assumed that meant he had a sex change operation. I thought having female genitals was what made someone a woman. And being a man, I assumed, meant having male genitals.

Apparently I was wrong.

Apparently Bruce Jenner dressing in women’s clothing and liking makeup makes him a woman. Which is odd, because if a woman dresses in men’s clothing, she’s still a woman. She might be negatively labelled, but she’s still a woman. Having male genitals, though, does not make someone a man. They also have to wear rugged manly clothes, and do manly things, like drive a truck and fart out loud.  The list of things a guy has to do to be a man is so long that it reveals an uncomfortable truth: we have no idea what it means to be a man. None. It’s a mixed up, tangled up pile of entirely subjective actions that no one can agree on.

I don’t think that definition of manhood is helpful for anyone. Bruce Jenner has man parts, so to me he’s a man, whether he wears dresses or not.

The Miracle Losers

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Mar 192015

Like most Americans my age, I will forever remember the 1980 Miracle on Ice. It was a transformative experience for me. Every time I watch a clip of the end, it gives me goosebumps, even though it was thirty five years ago.

“Do you believe in miracles?!” Yes, Al Michaels. I certainly do.

Part of the reason it was so meaningful is because of the Cold War, and how good the Soviet hockey team was. We were David, and they were Goliath: big, bad, and very scary. That’s how I always saw them. But not anymore.

My perspective changed when I watched an ESPN documentary called “Of Miracles and Men.” It tells the story of the Miracle on Ice from the Soviet perspective. I learned about the players, who seemed like good guys and weretremendous athletes. I saw the devastating impact of this loss had on these men, and the shame they brought to their country. Their failure was as great as our triumph, but they were not the villains we think. They were just men, doing their best to win for themselves and their country. It is a tragedy that this one failure overshadowed all of their great achievements. And yet, if not for their failure, we would not have our miracle.

Check out “Of Miracles and Men,” and let me know what you think.

My New “Events” Section

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Mar 182015

Welcome to the new section of my blog! Here I will be announcing and posting details about upcoming appearances and events.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “But Scott, what kind of events will you be having? Is there something we should know about?”

The short answer is: yes, but not right now. I think it’s coming soon, and think you’re going to like it (I know I will!), but the news itself will have to wait a little while. Hopefully not long. Hopefully there will be some events here very soon. Stay tuned, there’s never a dull moment on!*


*Except for the weeks I go without posting anything. Those can be duller than watching spilled molasses.