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    Part comedian, part teacher, and part pastor, Dugan is a traveling speaker who loves to speak at a variety of events. If you're interested in finding someone to speak at your next retreat, conference, ministry night or leader training, you're at the right place! Dugan has experience speaking to students, adults, men, kids, and more! Whether you're looking for something powerful and moving, or light and comedic, Dugan offers both (as well as everything in between)! Check out Dugan's newest book "Never Alone" and shoot him an email 72,69,82,69,46.EREH

Dances With Infants

Being in the balcony at a concert is sometimes a very different experience than being on the main floor.

My wife and I went to a Brandi Carlile concert at the Chicago Theater to celebrate our 3-year anniversary this week. Our seats were in the center section of the middle balcony. A perfect overhead view of the stage and no row directly in front of us. It was great.

We got there, chatted a bit with the people next to us, took a few pictures, and waited with anticipation for the show to start.

There was an opening band, who was just okay. Eventually, they finished, there was a short intermission, and then Brandi came out. And I can honestly say that she was one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. Her vocal skills are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Her ability to sing a power ballad and a laid-back acoustic song back to back with equal skill was beyond impressive.

But there was a small problem. We were in the balcony.

And I kept finding myself being distracted by the people around us.

There were two young women behind us that would scream at the top of their lungs every few seconds while also attempting to sing along with Brandi and match each of her vocal nuances, which maybe only 3 people in the world could do as good as she does. They talked at full volume most of the time and kept lovl-ing (laughing out very loud) at each other.

Then at another point, the woman directly in front of myself and Brandi Carlile decided to stand up for the remainder of the concert to clap and take pictures.

Meanwhile, there was a pretty obviously drunk guy down in the 5th row who kept interrupting Brandi as she tried to talk between songs by yelling out how much he loved her and what songs he wanted her to sing.

And finally, just off to our left in the section in front of us, a young couple thought that the show would be the perfect environment to passionately explore each others’ bodies with their hands while tenderly making out in their seats. And I’ve obviously seen people kiss before, but this made me uncomfortable.

All that to say, after about 5 songs, we decided to move up to a different section for the rest of the show…which was a very good decision.

But I found myself still annoyed. For no good reason! Then I was annoyed that I was still annoyed! Here I was, at this amazing concert with my beautiful wife in an absolutely gorgeous theater, and instead of being able to fully invest in the moment, I was distracted by a few people around me who weren’t making me their number one priority in life.

How dare they.

So now I’m annoyed, I’m annoyed that I’m annoyed, and then I’m annoyed at how selfish I’m being.

Until she played one song.

The band had left, and Brandi stepped up to the microphone with just her guitar. The crowd murmured and a few cheered in anticipation of whatever she was about to do.

“I couldn’t leave before playing ya’ll this song.” She said.

People cheered…even though we had no idea what song she meant. She coulda played The Barney Song and then we would have been like: Why’d we cheer? Actually that’s not true. She’s so talented, even if she sang The Barney Song, I probably would have cried and ran to hug all the people who annoyed me, telling them how much I love them and that we’re a happy family.

But she didn’t play The Barney Song.

She played a different song.

One that I’ve heard many times before, but never one as amazing as right then.

She played the most soulful, beautiful, and powerful version of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen that I’ve ever heard.

I realize that everybody that has ever looked at a guitar and their mom has played and covered that song, but I kid you not when I tell you that the rendition Brandi Carlile sang was the most captivating, mesmerizing thing I have ever heard.

I found myself frozen. I wasn’t moving, I wasn’t blinking, and eventually I think my peripheral vision just shut down and all I saw was one person on a stage with a guitar and all I could hear was her voice.

And suddenly I noticed something. The room was still. Completely and absolutely still. Every single person in the Chicago Theater was one hundred percent silent, still, and locked-in with Brandi. Nobody was whispering, nobody was fidgeting, people were barely breathing.

For over an hour, people were loud, distracted, and obnoxious. And yet, out of the blue, we were all paralyzed by one thing: a song.
My daughter is almost a year old, and about a month ago she started doing something really strange: she started dancing.

Now this might seem like a normal thing for babies to do, since there are numerous videos of adorable children bouncing and waving their hands to music. But what made it so strange to me, was that we never taught her to do that.

Thus far in her life, we’ve had to teach her to literally do everything. We had to teach her how to nurse in a way that would help her get milk, we had to teach her how to put herself to sleep (which is usually a combination of crying and her pacifier, in case you were wondering), we had to teach her how to eat solid foods, we had to teach her how to sit up, crawl, and stand up, and now we’re even teaching her how to walk.

But we never taught her how to dance. 

It was just all of a sudden, one day when The Spice Girls were playing on Pandora, that we looked down to see Eva holding on to the end of the couch with one hand, waving the other hand like she was at a rap battle in the movie 8 Mile, and bouncing her chubby legs to the beat (or something close to it).

And it got me thinking about the power of music. The mysterious power of music.

After the Brandi Carlile concert, Lindsay was determined to find out if Brandi was a Christian. She Googled it, all while asking me if I thought she was or if she could be or why she wasn’t. According to the internet, she is not. But I told Lindsay that I think the reason it would seem to fit so well, is because of how spiritual her music is.   

And this is a theme I’ve seen throughout music. That there is this mysterious, spiritual power in music, sometimes even music without words.  

At a Sigur Ros concert, an Icelandic band that sings actual gibberish in place of words as their lyrics, a friend of mine said he wept, while another person he went with, who was an atheist, after the show said something to the effect of: “I don’t know if there’s a God, but there was something spiritual about that.”

I watched David Bazan in concert sing a song about giving up drinking for the sake of his wife an baby daughter that brought tears to my eyes.

I’ve heard God speak to me in powerful ways while listening to the most unlikely songs.

I remember hearing my first rock song when I was unpacking from a ski trip in my room when I was 15 that caused me to get up, walk over to my boom box, and stand frozen in front of the speakers, waiting for the song to end and find out who sang it.

And I sat in the upper balcony next to my wife, listening to a voice that sounded other-worldly, transform a room of a few thousand people into a worship experience. Something most people probably weren’t aware of, maybe not even Brandi. But the mysterious, spiritual power of music was the most evident I’ve ever experienced in those brief moments, as over and over again, the word “Hallelujah”, which means God be Praised, rang throughout a vast auditorium, and left a crowd of obnoxious, imperfect, sinful human beings utterly struck with the power of music.

    

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You Want to Eat Your Baby?

I always heard people say that their understanding of God and His love was significantly enhanced once they had children.

And I also sort of resented that.

I was like: “You don’t have to impregnate your wife to really understand God! I can do it!”

But for only the 3rd time in my life, I was wrong.

The other day I was sitting on the floor with my 11-month-old daughter and she was being so incredibly funny, so incredibly adorable, so incredibly sweet, I almost couldn’t stand it. She was pushing her walker across the floor at about 30MPH while giggling and yelling. She would pick up an object, focus on it for a few seconds with the same intensity that people who attempt to move a pencil telepathically do, then look up at me and confidently pronounce the word she believed fit that object. Then she’s crawl at top speed towards the pillow next to me and hurl herself into it while laughing, and then slowly pull her head back so she could flirtatiously glance at me out of the side of her eye.

I couldn’t stand it. I said that thing that parents say that I never understood before: “I just want to eat you up!” And I’d grab her and kiss her neck while holding her upside down until she belly laughed and then either spit up on me or froze, waiting for me to do it again.

It made me think of the numerous times that the Bible talks about God “delighting” in us (Deuteronomy 30:10, 2 Samuel 22:20, 1 Kings 10:9, 2 Chronicles 9:8, Psalm 18:19; 37:23; 149:4, Proverbs 3:12, Proverbs 8:30, Zephaniah 3:17). I’ve read those verses before but never fully understood what they meant…until I became a parent.

I absolutely delight in Eva.

In watching her. In talking to her. In listening to her. In holding her. In making her laugh. In holding her when she cries. In feeding her. In praying for her. In putting her to bed. In getting her up in the morning. When she plays. When she sleeps. In the car. Outside. Inside. Even when she’s fussy. I delight in her. I get an indescribable amount of pleasure simply by watching her or being in her presence just by the fact that she’s alive.

I’m somebody that tends to think of God as only liking me when I’ve been good and being generally displeased with me because of the numerous sinful thoughts I’ve had that day or being somewhat distant from me until I do the right thing, at which point He will reluctantly draw close until I mess up or don’t do it perfect again.

It sounds so obvious because I know I don’t follow a God that requires appeasement or enough ‘good’ deeds for Him to love me. I know that. I teach that. I know He’s a God of grace and love and desires, above all, an intimate relationship with me. But I still struggle frequently with doubting His love for me. Or at least doubting His desire for me.

But to think that God ‘delights’ in me?

That He simply enjoys watching me? Or just being near me? Or likes to see me laugh? Or comforts me when I cry?

Or, dare I say it, even loves me when I sin?

Or that just my very existence is something that makes Him happy?

It’s difficult to even wrap my mind around that.

But I believe the truth of Scripture. And if I believe that God delights in me as much or more than I delight in my daughter, then I am a long way off from truly understanding God’s love.

But I hope He continues to teach me more of His love every day. I hope I begin to truly experience the power of God’s love. I hope I begin to sense God’s delight in me, no matter what, at all times. That out of His delight, I will know Him more. Out of His delight I was experience peace and joy and security unlike anything I’ve ever known before.

Because that’s what I desire for my child, and so I believe that’s what God desires for me.

Especially because I won’t spit up on Him.

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Status Update!: I’m Lonely

I did something last week that I can’t remember when I did last: I bought a CD.

I didn’t download it, I didn’t stream it, I didn’t “add to ‘now playing.’” I bought it.

I drove to the store in a vehicle, walked in to the store, found the CD on a shelf, physically carried it to the check-out, and handed over my debit card to Michael, who then gave me my CD back in a bag with my receipt.

It was so weird.

I remember buying my first CD (“Enema of the State” by blink-182, in case you were wondering) when I was about 15. My mom drove me to Best Buy inDundee,IL, I ran in, paid with my own money, and promptly handed my mom the inappropriate album cover when I got back in our light blue mini van. “Don’t worry, mom. I just want the music.” I said.

But nowadays, tangibly getting a CD is a lost experience. Something my grandkids will pretend to find interesting when I tell them stories about when I was their age.

And honestly, it was a very pleasant experience. Carrying my 10-month-old daughter, who carried/tasted the CD for me and I actually interacted with the cashier as he said he was excited to buy the same album when he got off work. I got to get out of the house, browse some other music, interact with some real-life humans, and feel the slight excitement as I opened the CD case and put the disc in to listen to.

Of course, then I came right home, ripped the CD to my computer, and transferred it to my MP3 player.

But this got me thinking. I thought about how the continual advancement in technology seems to be uniting the world yet isolating the people in it. With Netflix, iTunes, OnDemand, Amazon, and on-line delivery, the need to even leave the house for anything seems to be less and less necessary.

Cell phones carry more capabilities and resources than people a few decades ago couldn’t even dream of having access to. We can discover and communicate with almost anyone from almost any location at almost any time we want with a few clicks of a button or swipe of a finger. Through text, face-time, Voxer, Twitter, and FaceBook we can now interact with more people than anybody in the history of the human race.

I even heard that the former “7 degrees of separation” has now been reduced to 6. We’re so connected through technology, I’m no more than 6 relationships away from every single person on the planet.

And yet…as I’ve experienced with myself and numerous other people, we seem to be one of the loneliest generation ever. From students to adults, depression, suicide, loneliness, and even a lack of basic social skills seems to be the norm.

Is it possible that the massive amount of connectedness we experience has caused us to lose the ability (or desire) to connect with the actual people around us?

If I look at typical trip to Target for me to buy eggs, diapers, and Red Bull, I probably interact with 10-50 people from the time I park to the time I get back to my car. And at the most, I maybe talk to 2 of them. One to say “excuse me” as I pass them in the cereal aisle and the other as I say “hi” and “thank you” to the cashier.

That ratio seems a bit off.

As much as I enjoy technology and all that it enable me to do (especially play golf atPebbleBeachwhile I wait for my computer to boot up), I also don’t want to lose the practice of interacting with people. It’s almost strange nowadays to be friendly and outgoing to strangers. But isn’t that one of the most important ways to do things like: make new friends, spread the love of Jesus, get directions?

So maybe I won’t start buying CD’s for every song I want. But maybe I will start keeping my phone in my pocket and looking people in the eye from now on. Or going into the gas station to pay for my gas. Or simply saying ‘hi’ to the people I pass in the aisles of Target.

I’m sure I’ll get some odd looks and responses. But I think I want to be the type of person who can connect with people in-line as much as I can connect with people on-line.

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Demons in Movies

I have a bone to pick with Hollywood.

I’m sure a lot of people do, but mine is a major one.

I believe they continue to release movies that are factually incorrect.

Now, before you send me a Tweet that defines the word ‘fiction’, let me explain.

Well, first off, I need to confess something that, if you know me at all, you already know: I hate scary movies. Hate them.

I cannot stand them. I think it’s great that some people can watch Dawn of the Dead or The Exorcist or Texas Chainsaw Massacre while eating popcorn and walk out of the theater having simply been entertained and get a good nights sleep.

But for me, there have literally even been some movie trailers that happen to be shown while I was watching a sporting event or some show on TV that have terrified me.

After I watched The Sixth Sense, I had to sleep on the floor in my parents’ room for a week (please don’t take the time to figure out how old I was when this happened…). After catching a short clip of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I laid awake all night for 3 days, too afraid to fall asleep or get up and pee. And once, when I was younger, I called my mom at 3am to come pick me up from a friend’s house after watching The Twilight Zone movie. The first thing I said when she picked up the phone was: “Hi, mom. Did I wake you?” My friend laughed…more ‘at’ me than anything.

And in all seriousness, I truly believe it’s something I need to be careful in a spiritual sense. It’s the perfect illustration of Paul saying: Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. (1 Corinthians 10:23) Horror movies might be fine (or even fun) for some people, but they are truly an open door for the enemy for me.

So, for more reasons than my beauty sleep, I avoid scary movies like our dog avoids our ten-month old who wants to pull his ears off out of love.

But I also know the truth about spiritual warfare. Through studying Scripture and a number of incredible experiences of seeing God’s power over the kingdom of darkness, I know that the power of Jesus is enough to wipe out the entirety of Satan and his armies like it was nothing.

And herein lies my issue with Hollywood.

Every single movie that comes out about demonic possession or influence (The Exorcist, The Last Exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Possession, Paranormal Activity, Paranormal Activity 2, and Paranormal Activity 34 just to name a few) makes it very clear that demons are ultra powerful and scary and, as humans, we can only hope that the movie ends soon so our tortuous final moments on earth, because of demons, are over quickly.

But when I read through Scripture, it becomes pretty clear that when faced with Jesus or even His name, demons become pretty wimpy. They beg Jesus not to hurt them (Mark 5:7), it describes Jesus as casting out demons with a “simple command” (Matthew 8:16), Jesus didn’t just cast out one demon at a time, sometimes He cast out many (Mark 5:9), other people who Jesus didn’t even know could cast out demons just by using His name (Mark 9:38), and at the end of all things, it talks about some random Angel being the one who gets to chuck Satan into the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-2).

So, if you ask me, it doesn’t really sound like demons are anything to bat an eyelash at…as long as you have and use the authority and power of Jesus.

Remember those moments in old-school cartoons where Bugs Bunny or Tom Cat would be in an alley and all of a sudden a huge monster shadow would be cast on the wall and Bugs or Tom would freak out and run away in fear…only to then reveal that the shadow belonged to a mouse or a small bug that strolled out?

That’s what demons are. They want you to think they’re the shadow, but they’re really just the bug. They try to use lies and fear to make you think they’re more scary than they actually are. But once you confront them with the name of Jesus and His power, they will turn and flee with their tail between their legs.

Therefore: DearHollywood, please begin consulting me, any pastor, or the Gospels for some more accurate research on how to portray demons in your movies.

Sincerely,

Mr. Scared of Your Movies But Not Scared of the Real Thing, Rockford, IL

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My Guardian Angel Drives a Lexus

I was driving in my tan mini van yesterday morning when my iPhone buzzed. I think someone had ‘liked’ one of my Instagram photos or something. Anyway, I picked up my phone and was glancing at it to see what the buzzing was all about.

About 90 seconds later I came to a stop at a stop light. I was about 5 cars behind the first car at the intersection. The lane next to me only had one car in line, which was about 30 yard up ahead of me. While I’m sitting there, a silver Lexus pulls up next to me and stops. It caught my eye because he had 4 car lengths between him and the car in front of him in the lane to my right.

So I glance over and a middle-aged gentleman had his window down and motioned for me to do the same.

I found the passenger-side window button to my left and rolled it down.

“I noticed you were texting back there.”

Uh oh. I thought. Here we go. Now I’m gonna get it. Ok, D, just let this guy talk and nod along ‘til the light turns green.

I almost defended myself and told him I was checking an Instagram update, but realized they’re essentially the same thing…and he probably doesn’t know what that is.

“I just came from the hospital where my best friend is. He was in a car accident because he was texting and driving. He killed the person he hit and is being charged with murder and they might have to amputate his leg.”

I was listening.

“I don’t mean to impose but I know it’s the kind of thing I always figured would never happen to me or affect me. Now it really freaks me out and I just wanted to say be careful!”

Wow.

“Thanks so much.” I said. “I really appreciate it and I will.”

“Have a great day.” He replied.

He pulled away with a respectful wave as his window rolled up.

I paused for a moment before accelerating.

Then I threw my phone out the window.

No, not really. But I haven’t looked at my phone while driving since.

So if you call me and I don’t answer, it’s probably because I’m driving. Or I don’t like you. Or both.

And if a middle-aged man in a Lexus pulls up next to you, listen to what he has to say.

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