Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End

I wanted to write a powerful blog on the last day of 2012 and the hope of 2013 that awaits, but I don't know that I can do either of them justice in one post. In fact, I find that I'm still reflecting on the past year and learning from my experiences. Suffice it to say that I feel as if I am a better man than I was a year ago and yet I am quite aware that I am not done yet either. I'm extremely grateful that I am loved by a heavenly Father who doesn't grow weary of working on me each year.

I am also still fleshing out my full objectives for 2013, but know that I want to be a more devoted Christ follower, a more engaged husband & father, and a more influential leader. I'm eagerly anticipating the continued work that God is going to do in me, my family, and my ministry even though I know the reshaping won't always be easy. I have some of these steps mapped out, but am continuing to work & pray to see how these desires will become reality.

I pray that I will be able to look back a year from now and see that I took the best advantage of the opportunities God put in front of me. There will be victories and failures, but as long as I am moving forward on the King's pathway for me it can be marked as a success.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I'm Fine

If people don't recognize their own need for rescue then they won't be willing to accept your help. They might politely listen to what you have to say, but when the conversation (or sermon) is over they will simply move on with the routine of life. It is a frustrating situation to share the truth that will save someone when they refuse to acknowledge that they need it. I know that their response does not hinge on the persuasiveness of our speech. It doesn't negate the frustration that you feel when you can see how desperately someone needs God's intervention and yet how unwilling they are to see the need for His truth. Our job as Christ followers is to be faithful in sharing God's impact in our lives while praying for receptivity from those we interact with. 

We can't make anyone seek rescue from drowning, but that doesn't mean we have the right to stop offering the life preserver either.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Life Together

I have been given many reminders this month of how blessed I am to have such great friends. It's not just the things that we do for each other that make the friendship great however. It's a genuine concern for the well-being of other people and the willingness to invest in our respective lives. It's a way of doing life together that requires honesty, vulnerability, and wading into the messiness of real life. We build bridges of trust and find opportunities to pick each other up on this life journey. It's not always a smooth path, but knowing that we travel together makes it a better trip.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Speak Up

Tim Tebow (outspoken Christian and NFL quarterback) has had a down year by anyone's standards. He was traded away from a playoff team in the off-season and hasn't had the opportunity to succeed with his new squad. He has been quiet most of the year even though things haven't gone well overall. In the past two weeks however, it has been reported that he is increasingly unhappy with his role (or lack thereof) and is looking for other opportunities. One of the stories circulating is that he requested to be removed from the game plan for that week and subsequently did not play. Although he has generally let most stories pass by he did end up sitting down for an interview to address this issue. His rationale was simple: he can handle any amount of critiquing about his playing abilities, but stands firm when his character is called into question.

When you are in a position of leadership you will always have to face criticism. A good leader will have to determine what is worthy of a response and how to respond appropriately. The strength & character of a leader will be clearly revealed by their response in the face of genuine criticism. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Get Moving

It's the time of year that we start to think about the potential for personal changes. It's a tradition that comes from the desire to make a clean start as the calendar rolls over & a wish to seek personal improvement. The key to successful resolutions for change won't be found in the dedication to write out a list however. The desire to change has to spur us to take the first steps in establishing a routine of discipline. Mental agreement without physical application doesn't change anything.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Getting Ready

I have spent many long hours in the hot sun practicing for just one football game. All our efforts in that week were geared to a three hour period on Friday night. The proportion of practice time to game time might seem disproportionate, but the preparation is essential. The reality is that we can't succeed on the Friday night playing field without diligent effort on the practice field during the week. 

Spiritually, the same principle applies. We will spend far more time in training than we will in actual competition. We will have opportunities to engage the enemy, fight for the souls of our children, and pray fervently during threats to our families & friends. We won't be successful if we haven't spent the necessary time preparing for the actual event. If we neglect the practice phase of preparation we're not as good as we think we are and will be quickly defeated once the real competition begins.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Families have varying traditions at Christmas that foster warm, fuzzy memories. It may be everyone gathering at one house to celebrate, opening all the presents on Christmas Eve, a special meal that is always served, or the reading of the Christmas story as a family. I have fond memories of Christmas Eve parties at my Uncle Bob & Aunt Nita's house with our whole family crowding together. We would then go home and open our traditional Christmas Eve present of new pajamas and read the Christmas story. The soundtrack for the holiday was the Johnny Mathis & Bing Crosby Christmas albums.

Our family traditions aren't exactly like that today, but they certainly helped to shape the way that we celebrate. The one constant is the focus on the birth of Christ over everything else and the joys of family being together. All the other memories add a special touch to the holiday, but these two things are what make it most important. They keep me focused on the top priorities in my life: the love of a God willing to do whatever it takes to rescue His people and the powerful blessing of a family. I am blessed tremendously by both.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Than Ordinary

I don't believe that any of us are actually okay with ordinary living. We are all seeking something that is beyond the routine and the humdrum pace of our existence. I believe that God implanted an innate desire for greater things in each of us & we spend our lives trying to find it. This is why we end up sampling so many other things--we are looking for a "spark" of something significant in our lives. We dabble in sexual relationships, turn to substances to moderate moods & emotions, seek notoriety for our accomplishments, and gather as many possessions as possible. All of these are an attempt to manufacture temporary energy and excitement in our lives. 

None of these things will bring a satisfaction that lasts. In retrospect, we'll see that they weren't even that fulfilling in the moment. They remind us that any substitutes for godly living are merely exercises in missing the point. Seeking an extraordinary life through ordinary means isn't just foolish--it's also futile.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Eighteen years ago today I said, "I do" and pledged to live the rest of my life with this beautiful woman that I had fallen in love with. Neither of us could have predicted what the future would hold for us, nor did we have a real clue what we were getting into. 

We have weathered emotional storms and worked through disappointments. We have celebrated births, mourned deaths, and survived the scare of cancer. There have been raw moments of honesty, genuine forgiveness, and discovery of who we are. Our life has been radically impacted and then rebuilt even better. It has been (and will continue to be) a journey of hope, love, promise, laughter, tears, and fulfilling our calling.

She makes me want to be a better man and has influenced me to be a greater father, Christ follower, and pastor. She will protest and claim that the opposite is true, but the truth is that I am the luckiest man I know. 


Friday, December 21, 2012

525,600 Minutes

My youngest daughter & I spent the afternoon together running errands around town and enjoying a daddy-daughter Starbucks date. I love spending one-on-one time with her and hearing the thoughts that are rolling around in her head. As she and I talked about the end of the year, she expressed her disbelief that 2012 is coming to an end and that we are about to begin another new year. I understand exactly what she was saying--it certainly seems like the year has sped by without a whole lot of advance warning.

The truth is that we all have the exact same amount of time in a year. It isn't portioned out differently if you are busier than most, wiser than your peers, or have more money than the GNP of a third world country. We don't lose increments of time when we choose to speak rashly, sleep longer than we intended, or keep repeating our mistakes. This timely gift we receive each year is the same regardless of social status, geographic location, ethnicity, or religious beliefs.

The results of the investment of our time will be what separates us from everyone else. We have the potential for our families to grow stronger, our confidence in God to increase, our impact to multiply exponentially, and our spirit to be transformed. Our 525,600 minutes move forward at the same rate as everyone else. With the right focus, however, the results of our efforts bring greater satisfaction and reward.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


In Genesis 49, Jacob is nearing the end of his life and gathers his sons around him to offer a blessing. This is a monumental moment when he prays over his sons and leaves an inheritance of wisdom for their future. The tradition is that the oldest son will take over as the leader of the family after their father's death, but Jacob instead gives that honor to his fourth son, Judah. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were all older than their brother, but their willfully sinful actions caused them to lose the right to lead the family.

We have to be aware of this risk as leaders today. We can make decisions that will cause us to forfeit our right to lead in our marriages, our families, and in our calling. This doesn't negate God's grace that covers over our transgressions, but it does reinforce the principle of consequences for decisions.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Leadership Lessons From The Hobbit

I have been thinking about the movie The Hobbit since our family saw it last night. Not only was it an excellent film, but there are some powerful leadership lessons to be learned from Tolkien's work.
  • Don't judge someones ability solely on their external appearance. There is often more heart in them than we can see.
  • We might play it safe, but within us beats a heart that longs for adventure and risk. God created us to look beyond our day-to-day and be involved in the Great Wonder of the world around us.
  • No matter how you prepare for the journey ahead you won't be completely prepared for what you will face. Dangers will be greater than expected and things never unfold exactly as you anticipated.
  • We have stronger resolve and courage than we give ourselves credit for. We won't know the depth of it unless we leave the safety of our homes.
  • There are always people who are worse off than we are. When we recognize this, we will have the opportunity to do something about it and make a decision to help or not.
  • When confronted with danger (and we will be at some point) we can choose to run and hide or stay and engage in the battle. Both decisions reveal our true character, but only one path will strengthen it.
  • We will be pleasantly surprised by the help and encouragement we will find along the path of this life. It will come from unlikely sources and at the most opportune times if we look for it.
  • Be willing to admit when you are wrong. It's an extremely admirable quality in a leader and is a foundation of humility.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pass It On

There are things in all families that get passed from one generation to the next. These can be positive (and negative) character traits as well as shared physical characteristics. We pass down heirlooms from one generation to the next, special recipes from our grandmothers, and holiday traditions. I admit that one of the things my wife & I have passed on our children is a love of literature and the telling of a good story. Tonight we shared both of those by going to see The Hobbit.

It isn't just about a great movie (which it was) or a fantastically written tale of fantasy (which it is.) It's getting a chance to share in the adventure of a story that was a big part of our childhoods. It's hearing the excitement in our girls' voices as they talk over each other in the van on the way home. It's seeing a tale on the screen that I imagined for years and having the opportunity to enjoy the thrill with my family. There's a deep satisfaction in passing on the love of something from our childhoods and knowing it provides the same wonder and excitement for them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Multiple Choice

We have a choice. We can choose to love, to follow, to cheat, to worship, to grow, to be resentful, or to give up. 
The choice is ours to be wise, act like a fool, show respect, be compassionate, follow God's vision, or ignore the people around us. Each day is filled with decisions that will determine our future options and deliver benefits and consequences. We have the power within us to make those decisions, but we need to be prepared to deal with the results of what we choose. 

Thankfully we have the gifts of grace & mercy from God for when those decisions go awry. This path of life and the learning curve we find ourselves on would be more difficult without them.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Our life group met for the last gathering of 2012 today and had a tremendous feast. We enjoyed far too many calories and filled plates more times than was advisable. As the afternoon rain fell the children lounged lazily in the living room while the adults gathered around the dining room table. We shared Christmas memories, talked about 80's movies, laughed loudly & frequently, and shared common sorrows for the tragedy in Connecticut. It was an imperfectly perfect gathering of flawed people who are doing life together and working to become more of who God created us to be. I am grateful for such good friends and the love we have for each part of our extended family.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Side by Side

I am meeting once a month with five guys as we share life together and work to sharpen each other into better leaders. We read through a book and talk about how to put principles into practice to improve our marriages, parent our children with purpose, and develop into godly leaders in our work & the church.

Our schedules have been pretty packed this month so we were running behind when we met this morning. The morning didn't exactly flow as planned as we arrived at the church to discover a major water leak. We spent 30 minutes trying to shut off the valve and then another 30 minutes contacting someone to fix it. We never did get around to discussing the book (and rescheduled to meet next week to do so) but were able to share how life has been going for each of us lately. One of our guys spoke the truth we all were thinking--it was just good to have our group together to encourage each other even if we didn't hit our intended purpose.

It's further validation for me that life isn't meant to be lived alone. There is something uniquely powerful about men sharing life together and pushing each other to succeed as godly leaders. I'm grateful for the guys God has placed in my life and the opportunities we have to help each other on this journey.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Do All the Things

The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel's victory in Canaan and the work of Joshua. There are great tales of battles, conquering foes, and following God's will. Also in the book are chapters devoted to Joshua assigning land to the tribes to ensure their futures. Acting as a realtor for the Israelites isn't the most thrilling of bedtime stories--fighting battles for God is certainly more engaging and exciting. This doesn't negate the importance of doing all that God asks, however, even when it doesn't thrill the soul.

It's an important lesson for leaders to understand that fulfilling all the tasks God has assigned to us reflects our obedience regardless of the excitement level. As fully devoted and developing followers, we should exhibit a willingness to do what He is calling us to do in that moment. The best leaders work equally as hard and are patient through whatever the position requires at that time. Fathers lead their families best when they are consistent through the normal and the abnormal. Husbands show love to their wives in the ordinary and not just the extraordinary. Men are spiritual leaders through the day-to-day devotion to the King as well as the time of great trial and risk. 

Joshua's consistent example revealed his passionate desire to do whatever God's will called for. Our obedience n the mundane and the fascinating reveals our own character and develops us into godly leaders worth following.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Father's Blessing

As I'm reading in Genesis, I read through the story where Isaac blesses his sons Jacob & Esau as his health is failing. Honestly, their relationship is less than ideal and typifies many rocky family relationships that we would identify with today. Nevertheless, Isaac has a wish to bestow his blessing on them and does so even though his sons aren't exactly bastions of integrity. After receiving his father's blessing Jacob left his home for two decades before returning home in time for his father's death. The thing that struck me is that Isaac didn't wait until his deathbed to bless his children. He gave them God's direction & prayer with time still on the clock.

This is a vivid example for fathers today. It causes us to question the way that we are interacting with our children.
  • Are we blessing our children daily or waiting for a sentinel event?
  • What words of encouragement, promise, and truth do we speak into their lives each day?
  • How are we influencing their perception of God as Father through our attitude towards them?
  • What are we waiting for?
There is no time like the present to speak positive life into your children and help set them in a God-focused direction. Don't wait for a graduation, wedding day, or death in the family to give your children a blessing. Positive daily investments produce lifelong blessings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Repayment Plan

Joel 2:25  I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the 
young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 

In ministry I see people who are consumed with the mistakes of their past. They are unable to offer forgiveness to people in their life and incapable of forgiving themselves for things that they have done. It's not that I don't identify with this dilemma or have it conquered. I have tremendous regret for the history of my own sins and the damage it has caused (and continues to inflict in some cases.) It can consume me as I get lost in the missed opportunities with my children, in my marriage, and in ministry. If I'm not careful this can paralyze me with guilt, prevent me from engaging in positive actions in the present, and lead to hopelessness. I feel confident in saying that losing hope is not God's desire for any of us. 

Hope is a powerful gift. It enables us to see past our current circumstances and gain a glimpse of something better. There is great promise in God's hope and the deliverance that it offers for His people. When I speak of a better future blessed by God, it inspires people to see the potential of what could be and not be demolished by what is. 

Perhaps the most attractive part of that hope is God's ability to restore. It's not just that He redeems us, but that He is willing to restore blessings to us that we thought were forfeited as a result of our choices. It's God's way of blessing His children and reveals His intense love for us. It reminds me that God's grace is vast enough to cover my past, present, and future. His hope is the promise of greatness that is beyond our ability to fulfill. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wide Awake

I don't tend to sleep & rest too well--it's been that way for years. I blame part of it on my mind constantly working and being unable to shut it down. I actually don't have problems getting to sleep (I don't go to bed until I'm tired) but I do have problems staying asleep. If anything wakes me up then I tend to be up for the rest of the night or at least in a half-asleep, restless state.

It seems to have ramped up lately and I'm not entirely sure why that is. My typical response when I find myself awake is to spend time talking to God. I figure that He woke me up for some reason or my spirit is uneasy and I need to talk to Him. I find myself praying for my children, for friends that are struggling, for the future of His Church, and for my family to fulfill our calling. I don't regret the time that He and I spend together in the middle of the night, but the result is a very tired body.

Rest is a difficult concept for me on a lot of levels and I recognize that I can only truly find it in Christ. I'm the one who makes the burden of parenting and ministry heavy. He has promised me rest if I come to Him as I am and let Him carry the weight of this life. I'm working on it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Give It Away

In Genesis 26 there are two brothers named Esau & Jacob. Esau was a hunter and spent most of his time away from home pursuing wild game. Jacob was the opposite of his brother in many ways and didn't venture from home very often. Esau had been hunting one day and returned extremely hungry and found Jacob who had cooked up some stew. While Esau begged Jacob for something to eat, his brother turned this to his advantage. He asked that Esau give up his rights as the firstborn so that he could eat and Esau flippantly acquiesced. 

It's hard to imagine giving up the birthright as the firstborn for a simple bowl of stew, but it honestly wasn't about the price that was being asked. It was more about Esau's disregard for the importance of the covenant that God had made with Abraham (their grandfather). This trade might seem incredulous to us, but I would argue that we do the same thing on a regular basis. We forfeit greater things for temporary pleasures because we don't realize the greatness of what God offers. Because of our shortsightedness we're not willing to set aside something good for what is best.

We participate in activities that we know are not spiritually or physically healthy, but do so for the immediate gratification it brings. We hide behind the illusion of busy schedules and being financial providers instead of spending invested time with our spouses & children. We convince ourselves that next month will be when we start tithing, serving, reading our Bibles, praying, and exercising because this month is just too busy. 

The concept of trading away a blessing from God for a bowl of soup is completely foreign to us, but we don't have the right to judge Esau. Far too often, we share his guilt in abandoning God's promises for the brief satisfaction found in physical pleasures and spiritual apathy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Fifteen years ago today we celebrated the birth of our first child. I was in love with her from first sight (and even before then) but I had no idea how much that love would grow. I don't think it's possible to comprehend how much things will change as your children grow, but I can honestly say that I couldn't be prouder of who she is becoming. She is extremely intelligent and quick-witted and loves to use her creative gifts. She has a passionate desire to help other people and wants to make a difference. One of the things I love most about her is her ability to make friends with people that other people tend to ignore. Lindsay is able to see the underlying truth in things and deals with it in a very rational fashion (more than a typical 15 year old should.)

Our relationship is changing as she grows older, but in ways that are giving us opportunities to talk at deeper levels and share life truths. I'm soaking up every opportunity to spend with her & her sisters as I know they won't be here under our roof forever. While I still miss my little red-headed girl talking to herself in the mirror, I am also excited about the future of our relationship as we are able to share more things together.

Happy birthday my Lindsay-Lou-Bug. I can't believe it's been this long already, but I couldn't be prouder of who you are & the young woman you are becoming.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Make That Change

catalyst  cat·a·lyst (kāt'l-ĭst): a person or thing that causes a change

What are catalytic events in your life? What inspires lasting change & motivates you to alter your status quo? 
  • Birth
  • Death
  • Disease
  • Sin consequences
  • Personal revelation
  • Unexpected results
  • Dissatisfaction
  • IHHE (I Have Had Enough) moments
  • Holy Spirit inspired tension

These life factors all sway us, but I have found that the most powerful, lasting influence comes from a vision of a preferred future. Our current circumstances will change-and thus some of our motivation-but a firmly rooted vision lasts. We all need a spark that ignites the drive to make decisions that will lead to something better.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Faithful Persistence

Genesis 19:29 "So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."

Lot wasn't rescued because of his great faith, in fact, history doesn't paint a picture of a man with a high level of integrity or mature character. This family was rescued by the faithful prayers of Abraham.

Who are we desperately praying for? What family members, friends, and co-workers are we asking God to rescue? I recognize that salvation must be an act of free will, but we can still be in persistent conversation with God for their protection. Even when we don't see the immediate results, we have to continue to petition God to save the people we care about. We'll find that as God rescues them from their current circumstance they may have their eyes opened to the grander vision of salvation He is offering.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rapids Pace

I have fond memories of white water rafting trips with the youth from Florida. We would stop each summer after our summer conference trip and raft down a portion of the Ocoee River in Tennessee. I have some pretty great stories about swift rivers, teams coming together in trust (and sometimes survival), boats flipping over, and the beauty of nature around us.

The key to surviving the trip down and staying in your boat is to pay attention to what is ahead of you. If you can see the rocks and understand the flow of the river you can maintain your position. You end up working ahead of a particular rapid to ensure your safety instead of slamming into the rocks and then trying to adjust your position.

Sometimes in ministry I feel like I am slamming into the rocks and then trying to correct my raft--not always with great success. It can be jarring to your body (both physically & spiritually) when you are only reacting to what is happening to you instead of preparing for what you see ahead. I recognize that we don't always know what is coming, but we can prepare through diligent, focused prayer and intentional reading and application of God's Word. I felt that way this morning as I spent an hour refocusing my vision through these disciplines. The first part of this week was consumed by the river as it swept me along and battered me against the rocks. Because of my time with God this morning I feel confident in saying that the rest of this week won't bring the same tiring results, but will foster success as I navigate my way downriver with God's direction.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gentle Rebuke

I was sitting in church this past Sunday and had just shared a communion thought for Advent that reflected on the hope found in Christ. I have to admit that I had been struggling through a few personal things that morning in my prayer & preparation. I had spent time committing it to God, but knew it was going to be a continual process. As I sat there I felt God speak directly to me and giving me a gentle rebuke. I wrote it down so that I wouldn't forget that moment & the truth of what He is saying:

"You preach this all the time, but do you really believe that there is hope in me? Do you believe that my love for you is unfailing and can't be outsinned? Why do you carry the weight of hopelessness when I have offered you my true hope?"

I confess that there are times when I wrestle with the veracity of God's hope for me and my family. I know in my heart that it is true, but that doesn't always translate into my spirit. I suppose my response to God would simply be:

"I know that my only true hope is found in You, but sometimes the weight of ministry, the journey of parenting, the burden of my sin, and the details of life overwhelm me. Forgive me, Father and thank You for restoring my confidence even when I can't see the end of these struggles. I will trust that You have better things ahead. Where else can I place my hope but You?"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Different Measures

The past two days have held a lot of activity and prayer, but not much in the way of directly measurable productivity. I've been fortunate, however, as God continues to show me how He works in all circumstances. On two different occasions in completely different locations I have been approached by people who knew me from Northridge. One of them wanted to talk about making a decision for Christ and the other was trying to get his adult son connected to the church. I wasn't advertising who I was or what I was doing, but they both took the initiative to come up to me and start a conversation.

It's another reminder to me of how God is actively working in & through us. He is constantly providing opportunities for us to positively impact the people in our community. There is a continual flow of the Spirit that draws people to Him and when we are open to it we will be surprised how many people are ready to hear truth. It's further validation that God doesn't measure productivity by the number of things accomplished, but by our level of eager obedience.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Settling In

In Genesis 11, Terah the father of Abram (later Abraham) took his family and started on a journey. In verse 31 of chapter 11 it says, "Terah took (his family) and together they set go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there." In the next chapter Abraham is called by God to finish the journey and head into the Promised Land where his descendants will live. God's plan was for his people to end up in Canaan and even though Abraham was going in that direction at first, his family stopped short of their goal.

What are we settling for in our families? Are we content with only fulfilling a portion of God's vision for our marriages & children? We attend church fairly regularly & think that is good enough so we don't continue to make the investment in true growth. We are content with showing genuine, unconditional love to our families a few times a year (birthdays, anniversary, Christmas) and falsely believe that will cover us for the year. We get excited about a vision for great potential in our family, but are too afraid to make the lifestyle changes that obedience requires. We give just enough to appease our guilt, but not enough to truly trust God with our finances and see remarkable breakthroughs in blessing.

If we want to be passionately true to our faith in Christ we need to have the courage to refuse to settle for anything less than God's complete promises regardless of the personal cost and level of devotion required to see it fulfilled.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Parental Guidance

Today has been a very long day interspersed with good and tough moments. My greatest satisfaction was found in the 40 minutes we spent around our dining room table with our girls at the end of the day.

My wife & returned from our staff Christmas party and gathered our girls up to begin our Advent readings as we celebrate Christmas. What was intended to be a 5-10 minute event ended up taking much longer as we sat around the table and talked. We lit the candle representing hope, read Scripture, and then shared a great deal about our hopes for them. We shared our passionate desire to see them grow up firmly rooted in their relationship with Christ. There was a time of honest confession from us and laughter over past circumstances.  We talked about the need for our family to do more intentional things together and how we were going to take advantage of the opportunities God has given us while we can. It ended in prayer and with us reaffirming our constant love for our girls.

Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and I am confident my wife would agree. We most certainly do not have all of the answers, but we are firmly committed to seeking God's wisdom and raising them the very best way we can. There are ups & downs, but tonight's time with our ladies was most definitely another step in a positive direction. It's a difficult lifelong journey and yet I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In the Middle

Today my beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed, middle daughter turned 14. We have several friends who have commented on how they can't believe that she is this old & when I stop to think about it I admit it's a struggle for me too.

The time that we have with her under our roof is quickly growing short and I know that there is still so much that we need to do to prepare her for what comes next. It's a daunting responsibility and my wife & I want to do our very best to guide her down God's path. She is already making so many good choices and we want to do what we can to help her determine how to keep choosing wisdom. Bailey is most definitely a daddy's girl (even my wife says so) and I don't take lightly the trust that I have to protect her heart. She is genuinely sweet and hates to think that you might be upset with her. I constantly pray for the protection of her innocence and for the maturity she will need to keep herself safe in her decisions.

I love this girl with all my heart and can't wait to see the woman she will become. I just pray it doesn't happen too quickly.

Friday, November 30, 2012


My name is Craig and I am a recovering fool. This is not an admission of being an idiot, but a confession of my continual process of transformation. I look back and can see the incredibly foolish ways that I have reacted to circumstances, treated people poorly based on my own insecurities, mishandled resources, and continued to commit the same sins. It certainly doesn't inspire any personal pride to admit this, but recognizing my need for recovery will help me stay focused on avoiding the foolishness that threatens to trap me.

The good news for me is that Christ died for fools and there is hope for my future. If I will genuinely search out His ways through Scripture and base my decision making on His wisdom I stand a solid chance of improving. Fools can change, but we have to recognize God's wisdom and recondition ourselves to choose what is best. The diligent discipline of choosing wisdom is the only successful recovery for fools.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Customer Service

My wife & I were eating in a McDonald's near the Apache reservation this week and heard the woman behind the counter ask one exact question to each customer, "What can we make for you today?" This isn't about them getting something pre-made for a customer--it's an admission that they were tailoring something specific for each person. This isn't a mass-produced item, but is made as you ask for it & made with you in mind.

My mind started working on how this applies to the church. There are certain parts of what we practice that are important components of liturgy and culture. If we want to reach new people though, is there a way to tailor-make an experience for each person? Are we willing to be open to the idea of restructuring our services and programs to reach people that we aren't currently reaching? If the church wants to impact people that we aren't presently influencing we'll have to do something different than what we're doing right now. Our choice is to either change or to be content with saying, "Here's what we do--either grab it or don't."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Math

I'm constantly reminded about the need for well communicated, godly vision. This is vital for successful families, passionately focused marriages, thriving churches, and growing organizations. Clarifying that vision helps people make the best decisions with their resources and invest energy in efforts that move along the right pathway. As that vision is communicated it becomes contagious to the people it directly impacts and inspires others to join in. When times are tough (and they will be at some point) it's the clear vision that motivates people to keep pushing forward. It reminds me of a simple equation I came across in my reading:

Need + Vision = Inspiration            Need - Vision = Desperation

There will be times of need in every family and organization. The key factor in thriving is to have a clearly articulated vision that involves everyone and gives people something to work towards during adversity. The hard work of clearly defining & sharing that vision is the only way to guarantee lifetime success. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mission Minded

My wife & I are currently in Arizona visiting the American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low. It is a place that I have been leading mission trips to since 2004 and have now made 15 different trips there. I don't ever get tired of the views along the way or the opportunity to make a positive impact through one of the missions that we support. We have watched young children grow up and have children of their own, experienced joy as life decisions are made that break cycles of depression and pain, and sadly watched as lives have ended prematurely. Our stories pale in depth & number to our friends and fellow servants who have given so much of their lives over the years to further the mission of AICM.

This is a difficult, heart-breaking mission field and we are tremendously grateful for the full-time missionaries who serve for the opportunity to change the destiny of a Native American child. We keep working together from a distance to see the same goal achieved--transformation of a nation by equipping and evangelizing Native Americans to make a difference in ways in their nation that we cannot. The journey is wearying, but the call and commitment are clear. We have to keep fighting to help change their future and trusting that we are making a greater impact than we can sometimes measure.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tunnel Vision

In the book of Acts there were Jewish leaders who wanted the apostle Paul dead for his conversion & missionary lifestyle. As far as they were concerned he was a traitor to the Jewish faith and since they could not stop the positive effect he was having on God's Kingdom, they decided to kill him. Circumstances led to Paul being imprisoned and left unable to travel or speak publicly to share the truth of Christ. Most of us would tend to neglect Paul at this point and pull back on the ferocity of our attacks on him. The Jewish leaders refused to do this, but were instead pushing hard for his death two years after he had been locked up.

As I read this I found myself thinking about the life of these religious leaders during those two years. What other things did they forsake in that time because they were so focused on ruining Paul? What needs in their family & community did they miss because they were consumed with ill-conceived notions of revenge? While we might agree that these leaders were overzealous it might help us to examine our own obsessions. Where do we place our passions that ends up being a waste of time? How do we reconcile these wasted efforts in light of the bigger picture of need for our families, churches, and communities?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Go Hard

When I was working in athletic training we were always cautious with athletes who were returning from an injury. Not only we were focused on rehabilitating the physical injury, but we had to help the athlete develop the confidence to return to action. There is always great danger in an athlete returning from injury and being tentative. They were more susceptible to further damage by playing with less than 100% focus and energy.

In Mark 12:30, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It isn't a dictatorial principle of God, but is instead a measure of protection. He knows that we won't be successful or reach our goals if we not completely invested in following Him. Not only will we fail to see the completion of His vision in us, we will be more susceptible to the schemes of the enemy. Pursuing a 100% self-investment is the only way to see spiritual victory.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Ecclesiastes 10:10 If your ax is dull and you don't sharpen it, 
you have to work harder to use it. It is smarter to plan ahead.

I haven't cut a whole lot of wood with an ax, but have worked mainly with a chainsaw in my time. From my limited experience with a human-powered tool, I do know the importance of making sure the blade is sharp. It is tiring to continue to swing the ax with great force to attempt to cut wood when the ax head isn't prepared to help with the work. If you know that you're going to be chopping wood then it would make sense to spend the time beforehand making the sure the tool is ready to use.

What personal "axes" do we need to be sharpening each day? We don't always know exactly what we need to be ready for, but there are ways in which we can begin to prepare. Working to maintain our integrity is a sharpening that will guide us to make the right decision in our relationships, finances, and habits. Developing the disciplines of prayer and Bible application will have us ready to depend on God when circumstances are tough. Having confidence in our moral boundaries and reinforcing those choices daily will help us make the right decision when our resolve is weakened.

It's been said that tough times reveal our character more than they shape it. The preparation that enables us to be successful in these trials requires forward thinking and diligent sharpening of the right tools.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ebenezer: Greatest Gift

As I wrap up this week of thanksgiving blogs, I have to pause to recognize the greatest provision of God in my life. The blessings of a wife and children, fulfillment of vision, and even rescue from dire circumstances are all inferior to the most powerful intervention. God willingly chose to step into the gap and provide payment for me through His Son.

Some of my friends can point to a specific date when they were baptized as the day that everything changed for them. They look back with fondness and can recall exactly how that experience unfolded for them. I have a tendency of making things more difficult than they have to be so my story isn't told with the same precision and finality. I grew up in church and remember being baptized at a young age when other people were doing the same thing. I knew that I believed in Jesus, but didn't know what it meant to follow Him with my life.

When I reached my junior year of high school I left the church. For several years I only attended for non-religious reasons and set aside the beliefs of my childhood. After I was married and Dana was attending church in Ormond Beach, I made the decision to reconnect with what I once believed & practiced. I didn't have any doubt that I was "saved", but wasn't sure about the question of re-baptism. Our pastor told me that if I had any doubts it wasn't wrong to be re-baptized & could be beneficial to me if it helped solidify my relationship.

I share all of this to say that my relationship with God has been one of working out my salvation with fear & trembling instead of one revelatory moment. It has been a lengthy journey of discovery for me and continues to be in a lot of ways. My thankfulness in my wandering is due to one great moment in history: when God decided that His Son would bear the pain for my sin so that I could be set free. Even though I took my time getting to this point, the freedom that I was seeking had already been provided for in one instance of sovereignty and obedient sacrifice. Our salvation stories don't look the same, but that doesn't negate the powerful provision of a God who works to draw His people to Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ebenezer: Relocation

In August 2009 our life as we knew it was thrown into upheaval. I was unexpectedly asked to leave my ministry position and the only church our family had really ever known. Our world had been rocked and the fallout from it would take us a couple of years to work through. Fortunately, God already had a plan in  action to rescue us.

Earlier that month I had visited a church in Milledgeville, Georgia to see a great friend & his wife. They had asked me to come up and spend the weekend to help them in their search for a youth pastor and to preach. None of us knew that it would serve as an interview weekend for me, but God knew that we would shortly be returning here for good. My wife and I laugh constantly when we look back and see how God was working each detail out to bring us here. When He makes His grand plan so visible to us, even in hindsight, we can't help but be amazed at how much He must truly love us. The story of God setting us up to be part of Northridge will be a tale that we tell our grandchildren and will hopefully continue to be told long after we are gone. It's a definitive marker of His provision and ability to work through all circumstances.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ebenezer: Vision Fulfilled

It was March 2003 and I was happily working at my alma mater, Mainland High School, as the Head Athletic Trainer. The program was growing and gaining national recognition and we were finalizing plans for a state-of-the-art facility in the new school. Our Sports Science Academy was continuing to increase in student numbers and our local college partnerships were flourishing. Needless to say, my professional career couldn't have been going any better.

The senior pastor of our church asked me to breakfast on a Friday morning and said that he needed to talk to me about something big. He & I were friends and it wasn't out of the ordinary for us to get together, so it didn't surprise me that he had asked. I remember thinking that perhaps he wanted to talk about church leadership and the potential of stepping into a greater volunteer role. I was quite stunned when we met and he asked me if I would consider coming on staff to be their youth minister. It was not something that I had ever imagined and it took me three days to process it and come to the right decision to go into ministry.

Even though I never would have sought it out on my own, this was a definite God moment. As my wife and I looked back over our past we could see where God was guiding us to this very point. He had been preparing us to enter into ministry even though it wasn't something we thought we would end up doing. As much as I continue to miss working at Mainland, this was a moment of God delivering us to the calling that we were supposed to follow. This is what I was meant to do and without God's orchestrations it never would have happened. It has been harder than we ever dreamed, but we believe in God's promise to continue to deliver us through it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ebenezer: 3 Gifts

As a continuation of yesterday's blog, I admit that I am going to cheat a little and meld three events into one that is evidence of God's great help.
Due to my wife's breast cancer we probably shouldn't have any children. Her survival odds weren't fantastic (at least according to medical science) and the odds of getting pregnant were low as well. Needless to say, God came through in bigger ways than we could have anticipated. 

The first moment we saw each of our girls was a beautiful fulfillment of God's promise to heal. All three births increased the love that my wife & I share and remind us that God doesn't have to listen to medical science. These girls represent God's ability to deliver and a life that He was sharing with us that was (and is) filled with potential. Our lovelies are beautifully and wonderfully made and I am humbled that God would trust me to be their earthly father. It's a responsibility that frightens me when I think about the weight of influence, but gives me incredible joy as we live out our futures together. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ebenezer: "Yes!"

1 Samuel 7:12  Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it "Ebenezer" (Rock of Help), saying, "This marks the place where GOD helped us."

If we took the time to reflect on it, I am certain that we could find moments in our life that stand out more than others. It could be a specific answer to prayer or a confluence of events that ended up being life-changing. This season is an appropriate time to be grateful for those and see where God brought things together as part of His plan.

One of those destiny-altering moments happened for me on February 14, 1993. It was the one year anniversary with my girlfriend-the longest relationship I had ever been in to that point. We had met as cast members of a play in college and had our first date on the previous year's Valentine's Day. I had purchased a ring several months before and was waiting for this day to ask her to marry me. Fortunately for me, when the moment came, she never hesitated, but quickly (and tearfully) said yes.

While others may not see it the same way, I can clearly look back and see how God brought the two of us together. There have been many moments in our almost 18 years of marriage (and 20 years together) where I can see God's hand at work, but this was the beginning of our covenant relationship. God brought me the most incredible companion for this journey and knew how she would bring out the best in me and help me see the truth of the man I'm supposed to be. 

I'm thankful that God steered our paths to cross and even more grateful she said yes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stolen Moments

Parenting probably causes me more stress than anything else in my life. It's not that my children are bad or difficult because they are pretty wonderful girls. My anxiety is more about my wife & I doing the very best job that we can to set them up for future success. We don't want to miss an opportunity to guide them to make the right decisions and choose to stay on God's path. I realize that our daily time with them is growing shorter and this seems to add urgency to my awareness of investment opportunities.

I was blessed to get one of those opportunities today with my youngest daughter, Olivia. Our church is providing Thanksgiving baskets for families in need in our area and we needed a few more baskets purchased. Olivia was the most eager to be part of the process of buying & putting them together so she & I went out this afternoon. Not only we were able to set up food for 6 families, but it gave us a chance to talk about why we were doing it and how blessed we are right now. It ventured off to talks of mission trips to Arizona and her desire to go with us. She asked if I missed her & her sisters being babies and I told her that while I did, I was excited about this next phase of life and their life as adults as well.

There was nothing earth-shattering in our conversations--just sharing thoughts and glimpses of the future with one of my girls while serving others. It's an investment in love that I am sure will continue to pay off as they grow older.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Speed Walking

It's easy to walk through a crowd and ignore the people around you. If you are focused on your fulfilling your objectives or a reaching a destination, you can miss those you pass by. What we often to fail to realize is that each person we pass by represents a life story. We have have no idea what frustrations they might have, the weight of their past, the things they have overcome, or the vision they have for the future. It takes intentional effort to stop and notice these things and the truth is that the pace of life encourages us to keep quickly moving.

John Maxwell, leadership guru, says that a leader walks slowly through a crowd. While I frequently move through crowds, I can become guilty of going too quickly and missing moments with people. I need to learn to slow down and take time to see each face, learn names, and hear people's stories. It is the mark of a person who genuinely cares for others and wants to share moments of life. There is something powerful in the intimacy of sharing our names and stories and we won't find it by speed-walking through the people around us.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I love to read. Discovering books and being challenged by authors is something that I have always been passionate about. I remember walking home from the public library as a child, struggling to carry all the books I had checked out. Even as an adult, I have continued that same passion and am proud to say that my children are the same way. I think it is safe to say that I am a full-blown bibliophile although the transition to electronic books has certainly made it easier to store what I seek to read.

As a leader, I recognize the need to read as a way of improving specific skills and developing new methods. The danger comes in the vast amount of literature that is available to us. I can find books for growing in faith, developing a prayer life, becoming a better husband & father, finding my purpose, fulfilling vision, and growing a church. I have enough to read right now that I could sit in my recliner until the end of the year and still not be through the stack. If I'm not careful however, I can simply sit and collect information and never put anything into practice. New thoughts & helpful practices aren't very much use if you never try them. It's the same as reading a cookbook and never going into the kitchen. When we gather information and fail to use it, we are
over-educated beyond the level of our obedience.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Best Practices

I am finishing Andy Stanley's new book, Deep & Wide, and gaining tremendous insights from his wisdom. Towards the end of the book he writes about how NorthPoint always asks questions about what they do. The big question is, "What's the best way to __________." It's an exercise in evaluating what you are doing & how to do it better. Even though the book was applied to the church, it stirred thoughts for other parts of life as well.

What's the best way to:
  • be a committed Christian that engages community without absorbing the culture
  • lead my family without allowing my personal agenda to be the driving force
  • influence leaders
  • increase financial generosity
  • develop the best God-led path for my children to follow
  • encourage people to volunteer in ministry
  • help people see their need for Christ
  • to prepare for God's future calling on my life while working diligently in the present
  • be involved in our community in ways that are deeper than only meeting physical needs
  • stay clear minded & self-controlled
  • live a life that leaves a legacy worth following
The hard part isn't asking the question--it's the strategy of follow through that comes with the answer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So Far Away

Long distance relationships might work in romance, but they aren't very effective in facilitating societal & spiritual change. Transformation within our community is most effective when there is a life-to-life investment. The most powerful impact isn't found by sitting on one side of town and throwing money & prayer at those in need, even if those resources are desperately needed. It's an invested level of commitment that we might struggle with, but is essential if we genuinely want to be an active part of a lasting solution.

When we engage in spiritual battles and work to reclaim God's territory, it usually involves some form of hand-to-hand combat. While we can (and should) pray for people & areas that are far from us, we must combine that with intentional efforts to come face-to-face with our community's struggles. If we profess to be a Christ-follower, it isn't effective to declare that we are claiming territory for God. We have to enter that property and plant the flag of ownership ourselves. It isn't safe to do this, but re-claiming nations & people is worth the risk.

You can't solve problems from far away.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Do we ever stop and ask why we do something the way we do it? Introspection & careful analysis are keys to increasing market share for businesses but we often fail to do the same thing in our personal lives. The honest answer for most of our habits in family, church, etc. is "We've always done it that way." 

While there is comfort in familiar patterns, if this is the only motivation for our choices we will never determine if what we are doing is effective. Honestly, it doesn't really matter how effective it is if we are unclear about the vision of our future and the steps that are leading to it. When you don't know (or care) where you're headed then your motivation isn't that important to understand.

The refinements that will need to take place if we ask, "Why?" can be daunting. This isn't just attributed to the hard work of change, but to the intimidation factor that comes from things being different from what we have known. It's worth the effort, however, to avoid lapsing into patterns of behavior without understanding the motivation behind them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hit or Quit

While there are always exceptions to generalities, I can safely say that a characteristic of our society today is that we aren't willing to work hard for the things we want. We seek immediate gratification and if we don't get it, then we walk away. If we are unable to hit our ideal the first time out or if something isn't easy for us, we simply quit. This reflects our cultural laziness, a wandering attention span, lack of work ethic, and an unwillingness to persevere.

This is reflected in relationships, jobs, learning new skills, leadership, and academics. It's modeled in giving awards for simply participating instead of setting a higher standard that gives people something to aim at. I'm not denying the need to affirm effort, but I am also advocating the need to realize when an effort has fallen short and adjustments need to be made. This provides an open opportunity for genuine improvement through setting goals and identifying the steps it will take to reach that higher plane. There is value in the struggle to succeed.

The truth is that no matter how talented or gifted you are, things will not always be easy. There will be seasons of failure and frustration. Our character will be revealed (and strengthened) in our willingness to evaluate, make adjustments, and put in the sweat equity to eventually succeed. This tenacity will leave a legacy for those that we lead that surpasses the "feel-good theology" of only doing the things that come easily to you. Disappointment can be a valuable teacher if we channel that into an investment of labor to improve.