Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Brief Glance

This is the very last day of 2013. I wish that I had a bold, powerfully insightful statement that would
encapsulate the entire year, but I don't have it. It's not that it hasn't been 365 days full of challenges, rewards, disappointments, hard lessons, and incredible joy. The fact is that it is difficult to sum all of it up in a succinct manner without demeaning the depth of this year's experience. In lieu of a comprehensive list I will simply say this: in this past year I have come to know myself more deeply, grown with my family in great levels of love and understanding, and recognized God's movement in my life with greater awareness. In hindsight, that makes for a solid evaluation of the year by my standards. I pray that the next year holds more of the same.

Monday, December 30, 2013

10 Years

This year marks a decade since I transitioned into full-time ministry from the high school level. In fact, I have now spent more years as a pastor than I did as a teacher/athletic trainer. While I couldn't possibly do justice to a comprehensive list, there are several things that I have learned in the last ten years:
  • You have to work just as hard to maintain your own spiritual relationship while working in ministry as you do out of it.
  • I was working as a pastor and caring for people on a deeper level long before I ever figured out my calling.
  • Just because I accepted my calling as a pastor doesn't mean I won't miss what I left behind.
  • The biggest focus for athletic trainers is in the prevention of injuries even while we respond to the immediate hurt in front of us. Working in ministry isn't that different. We strive to lead people to Christ and equip them for ministry in hopes of preventing personal catastrophe even as life calls us to step into the midst of tragedy and triumph.
  • Working in the church is the hardest thing I have ever done--no doubt about it.
  • I have to work to intentionally protect my family as they will endure harsher scrutiny in the ministry than anywhere else but perhaps politics.
  • The satisfaction of seeing lives committed to Christ, miraculous healing taking place, relationships restored, and incredible acts of generosity is greater than I could ever have imagined.
  • Even though I have come so far in my own journey with Christ there is still so much more room for growth than I originally envisioned.
  • You have to intentionally create your own rest opportunities in ministry as there are no complete down times. If you don't honor the Sabbath (no matter what day of the week it needs to be) you won't be sustainably effective.
  • No matter how much satisfaction I took out of my former career (and it was a large amount), leading a church is what I was created & called to do. 

I clearly see how God has been preparing me for this journey my entire life. I am thankful that He is patient with me and continues to mold me for what He has in store next. I am also forever grateful for those that have influenced & invested in me over the last ten years. I'm eagerly anticipating what comes next. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Simple Life

It's the simple pleasures in life that sometimes mean the most:
  • Laughing with my children as we quote our favorite movies while driving home
  • A Sunday afternoon nap after preaching
  • Making a pot of specially brewed coffee to share
  • Taking a leisurely walk with my beautiful wife on a chilly, cloudy afternoon
  • Holding hands with my wife as we walk
  • The ease of conversation with my love that drifts from the mundane to our future
  • Picking up fried chicken for dinner & seeing the smiles on my children's faces
  • Watching a classic movie with my wife
I'm grateful for these moments and many more. They remind me of how blessed I am to live this life in its complexity & simplicity.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feeling Tense

Tension is often thought of in negative terms as conflict between people or extremely tough
circumstances that cause stress. While this isn't inaccurate, it also doesn't portray the positive aspects of tension. In a practical sense, we have to have some amount of tension to grow. There has to be a gap between where we are and where we want to be so that we are motivated to grow. This tension pulls us to succeed and sharpens us in the process of developing us into better people.

I look at the man that I used to be, the man that I am today, and the man that I want to be to get a complete picture of my growth & my desires for the future. It's a positive reflective practice to see how much I have grown, but looking ahead encourages me to disregard complacency and push ahead to increase my maturity. It's the tension of my present reality against the desire for my future that keeps me moving, evaluating, and growing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Good Gifts

I like to give gifts and enjoy surprising & spoiling people that I care about. I like doing this throughout the year, but also try to take advantage of opportunities on special occasions (ie. birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas) to be generous. Our family has always been great gift-givers as well and the Christmas celebration is one that lasts for a while as we unwrap and enjoy our gifts to each other. While the presents are meaningful, I recognize that it's the family time that is the most important thing to me. It's that life-truth that we want our children to understand more than anything else.

My oldest daughter, Lindsay, posted a thought about Christmas that shows where her thoughts are:

"My favorite thing about this trip here in TN is that my Uncle Travis is so much better. I was able to run and jump-hug him when he visited yesterday. That was the first time we'd play fought since he had cancer and it makes me so so so happy to see him as he always was before. I had a ridiculous amount of presents this year, but this was the best one of all."

I think they're getting it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Out of a Rut

I am a man of routines. There are certain ways that I like to do things and specific habits that are important to me. Most of it centers around the way that I do simple day-to-day things, but there are also other routines that bring stability to the way that I process and plan.

As important as these routines are to me I have also found that I need to change things up on a regular basis. It stimulates me to look at things in a different light and at an adjusted pace. When I only stay in the rut of routine my personal meditation time can become dry and rote. I can continue to do the right things, but they lack the vitality that is necessary to see the greatest impact. I know this is true for me and need to remind myself to shake it up to find the balance of regular rhythm & unique approach.

It's the pairing of discipline with creativity that allows me to find the best productivity and enjoyment.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Memory

I don't like to qualify the holiday experiences by saying that one was better than the other. I believe that each celebration has its own merit and specific place in my memory banks. I can reflect back with great fondness on Christmas mornings with our very little girls awake at the break of dawn to open gifts. I remember the excitement in their eyes over the toys they couldn't believe they received. Bits and pieces of different years even flow together as I recall special trips, fantastic meals, and times together. This year already holds its own place in my thoughts as we shared a very special gift with each of our girls that reflected exactly how special we believe them to be. I sit here perfectly content at the end of another great Christmas day, not elevating one above the other, but reveling in joy of one more day together as a family. All of them are important and special and I am grateful for the place this one will hold in my heart as well.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


What we celebrate today went unnoticed by many when it happened. There were a few people who were privileged enough to recognize how special the birth of the Christ-child was. Sadly, the multitudes were not even aware how significant that day was for them personally. 

They were people desperate for relief from their circumstances and searching for validation for their beliefs. They were people who were unsure about their future and wondering what God had to say to them. These people were struggling to maintain their daily existence and praying that there was something more than just this life here to grab onto. What they needed is what God delivered--hope. Hope for forgiveness, hope  a grander purpose, hope for impact, and hope for joy were all revealed in the birth of one child. It was missed because it came from an unlikely place, to an unlikely couple, on an unlikely night. 

The gift is the same for us as is the danger of missing it. Look for God's on-time, yet unexpected hope this Christmas. Be ready to receive it even if it comes in a way you didn't anticipate and be grateful for the gift-giver of life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

No Clue

I don't know what I'm doing. That used to be harder for me to admit, but I am starting to get used to that simple fact. It may seem defeatist to some people, but I choose to recognize it as a sign of my weakness and and the possibility of God's strength in action. 

If I'm honest with myself I can see this in the different roles in my life:

  • Christ-follower: struggling to live a life of purity and devotion to my Father & King and making it a consistent part of my character
  • Pastor: listening intently to God's direction and yet always cautious of what the exact next steps are as we seek to expand our influence and reach more lost people
  • Father: understanding my impact on three young ladies and knowing that what I say, do, and think will not only shape them, but the men they choose to spend the rest of their lives with. How am I loving them as God does and helping to prepare them for their future in Him?
  • Husband: thinking of her emotions and thoughts first & wanting to lead her to a growing relationship with Christ. It is a heavy responsibility to be the spiritual leader in our home and to understand the impact of my attitude, words, and personal spiritual health on her.

There is the potential of great frustration when you realize you aren't sure what to do next for the best possible impact and influence. I instead choose to look at it as the chance to trust God and allow Him to direct my steps. It sets up a powerful opportunity to see my faith increase as I have no choice but to rely on God's direction and plan to see a chance at success.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not Long Enough

Today marks 19 years since I stood across from a beautiful redhead and committed to spend the rest of my life with her. Our vows were not traditional (thanks to a non-traditional officiant) and the gathering was intimate with immediate family and two witnesses only. We had no idea what was ahead of us, but took the first step by pledging our love to each other and beginning the journey.

I couldn't begin to anticipate the depths & heights of emotion and experience that we would share. While we had dreams of our future life, there was no way to be prepared for all that it would bring. Through each adventure, disappointment, life change, and incredible joy we have stuck together. In it all we have not only grown closer together, but also to our God. He has been the binding agent for us all these years and we continue to see Him at work as He leads us into our future together.

There is no one else I would rather travel this road with. We are still growing in our grand adventure as parents, Christ followers, lovers, and friends. I am grateful for the comfortable fit of her by my side-as gently perfect and intimate as our hands intertwined together. We've only just begun this life together and I am truly the most fortunate of all men. Happy anniversary my love.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Closer Look

There is an ancient Christian practice called the prayer of examen. It was intended to be part of a
Sabbath reflection even though it has merit for each day. To take part in this liturgical devotion you would find a place to be quiet and ask two revealing questions.
  1. Where did I feel most alive, most hopeful, most in the presence of God? 
  2. Where did I feel most dead, most despairing, farthest from God?
Our answers will reveal the truth of how we see ourselves and our awareness of what brings us fulfillment. Inevitably, there will be weeks when it seems that we spend the bulk of our time in efforts that drain us emotionally. The key to peaceful maturity is to be able to stay in step with the Holy Spirit as we gain recognition of the small, life-giving things that God is working in our lives each day. This will help us celebrate these moments of spiritual prosperity while disciplining ourselves to stay centered in daily, life-giving practices with God.

Friday, December 20, 2013

On the Job Training

I want to be an effective leader in my family, personal life, and in ministry. I know that leadership is one of my gifts and yet I'm also very aware of the need to develop that gift. There are ridiculous amounts of materials available to help, but some of the longest-lasting lessons are the ones that are learned in action. There are simply some things that are best taught by experience-whether it's the satisfaction of a good decision or careful analysis after a poor choice. The life lessons learned in our successes and missteps are recalled most quickly and have the longest lasting impact on our future decisions.

While there is merit in learning to lead, at some point you need to lead to learn

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some Days

There are days when it becomes difficult to get anything done. You have a game plan for success and find out quickly that you aren't even playing the same game everybody else is playing. Instead of running smoothly towards your goals and swiftly through your task lists you get bogged down in difficulties and disappointment. It's the kind of day when you reach the end and have difficulty measuring the progress from your efforts.

Your character is developed more by persevering through this day and trusting that the next will be better. Days like this are poignant reminders that the passion for your calling will overcome any obstacles you face. It's also a reminder that you may be making more progress than you believe even if it's not that evident.

 Much like God's mercies for us are new each morning, the bittersweet taste of today can be quickly replaced with the realization that the good days will far outnumber the difficult ones. The best counsel is to get a good night's rest, thank God for a chance to start again, and tackle the next day with renewed focus.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Predicted Production

There is a business axiom that states: Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting. It might sound insulting on the surface, but it's merely a statement of fact. A machine that is designed to produce square boxes won't make circles. An inefficient system of shipping won't receive rave reviews for on time delivery. A poorly trained customer service department won't deliver excellent care for disgruntled consumers. It's impossible to expect certain results when you aren't doing what's necessary to get what you desire.

The same is true for our personal life. The thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions we are presently engaged in will bring about exactly what they should based on the input. If we don't like the results we are seeing then we should ask some questions:

  • Do I really place a high value on the things that I say I do?
  • What am I doing that is contributing to where I am at today?
  • What am I waiting on God to do that would change my circumstances?
  • What difficult adjustments does God need to make in me?

Addressing the dissatisfaction with our outcomes involves changing our methods or altering our expectations. We prove our maturity when we submit to God's transforming power in us as the first step towards improvement.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Payoff Time

How are you preparing for the next level?

Michael Thomas is a safety for the Miami Dolphins who just joined the team in the last 10 days. He has always been a practice squad player (for non-sports fans this means that he never got to play on Sundays, but helped prepare by being part of a scout team) in the NFL and had never made an active roster. Michael got a call last week on Monday that the Dolphins wanted to sign him, flew cross country to join the team, and spent the rest of the week studying the playbook in anticipation of Sunday. As these stories tend to go, he saved the game for his new team twice in the last minute & sealed it with his 1st career interception. Whether you are an avid sports fan or not, it's a great story of someone stepping up when they were finally given the opportunity.

What will you do when you get your chance? How are you preparing now to be ready when that opportunity comes? It doesn't matter if it's in a relationship, a career advancement, a financial opportunity, or the chance to do something with significant impact. The moment won't reveal itself if you're not faithfully laying the groundwork long before it arrives. Those who are prepared are more aware of that special moment and ready to take action when it counts. 

Preparation combined with opportunity breeds success. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Incomplete Effort

Last night in the NFL (don't leave non-sports fans--it will be relevant for you in a moment) the Dallas Cowboys lost a game after leading by 20 points at halftime. It was a demoralizing loss that that derailed their positive momentum and leaves them with a bleak outlook on the rest of the season. One of their top players, Dez Bryant, said when asked about their loss, "We fought, but we didn't finish."

How often can that be said about us? When have we worked at an aspect of our lives, but then given up before we completed the job? Where do we fall short due to lack of follow through? This is a common characteristic of human nature. It's why we need constant reminders to strive for the finish line, to persevere through adversity, and follow through on our commitments. It's not enough just to fight for what we believe in. We've got to keep pushing forward until it's complete. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Being There

The old axiom is that showing up is half the battle. While there certainly has to be more concentrated effort than simply our attendance, there is truth in being in the right place at the right time. Opportunities very rarely become available while we are sitting in our recliner (although the prayers that fuel them might start there.) We have to ask for God to work and then put ourselves in positions where He can show us what He is doing. 

What are you waiting on God to do? Do you believe that God will do what He has said? We should be faithful in doing what we know is right and trust that God will be faithful to His word when the time and place is perfect according to His plan. Being there as a follower, parent, spouse, and worker will set us up for taking full advantage of what God is ready to show us.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Model of Strength & Character

We celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela this week as he passed gracefully from here into eternity. His impact on equality, the destiny of a nation, and countless generations and individuals is immeasurable. While there have been a plethora of testimonials and remembrances in his honor, there was one comment this week that impacted me more than others. Someone posted on Twitter that he was most impressed with Nelson's character and his ability to stay focused on what was right after leaving prison. The thought was that after 27 years of false imprisonment, Mandela left prison resolved to change a nation while we would leave with little desire to do much of anything but survive. It takes indomitable courage and a God-fueled life to walk away from imprisonment as a stronger, intentionally focused man. This reveals a fortitude of character that can only be measured in grandiose terms and serves as a model for all those who strive to make a positive impact.

Thank you Nelson for your tireless passion for freedom and equality and the instinct to bring it about peacefully. You leave a legacy that shapes more lives than you could have possibly ever known and inspires me to be a better man.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Yearly Reminder

There's something about this time of year that reminds us of what is most important. The obvious answer is that Jesus is what we are searching for, but it's also about what Jesus represents. Celebrating the birth of the Christ child reinforces our desperate need for hope. He represents freedom from oppression, a light that overwhelms the darkest shadows, and renewal of weary hearts. His simple birth was the first earthly step in our rescue from hopelessness. The Christmas season is so uniquely special and gives us the annual reminders we are desperate for.

Come, Emmanuel, deliverer of hope and provider of peace.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Start With Why

I remember asking my mom the question "Why?" when she asked me to do something and that the answer was often "Because I said so." While I understand the principle behind needing to obey her (although I didn't necessarily do it then) I wanted to be included in the supporting argument for the decision. This simple response didn't provide any clarity on the motivation & reasoning behind decisions that are made. Needless to say, that question wasn't usually answered, but perhaps I should have been asking that question about my own behavior first.

The answer to the question, "Why"?" directly reflects our hearts. It's actually the way that God prefers for us to follow Him. He didn't intend for us to blindly follow His laws, but instead wants our motivation to be intrinsic. In Psalm 40:8 David writes, "I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart."

This attitude reveals the true impetus for godly behavioral change. It's not based on the law (no matter how good that law might be for us) but is instead a result of a yearning to do God's will. If we don't shape our acceptance of God's direction in our hearts we won't really pursue change. We will simply turn back to old patterns of behavior when the truth is no longer convenient for us.

Our focus on our own "why" breeds loyalty and devotion and shapes our morals to honor God. It's the internal commitment that endures.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Blessing

I love stories of generosity and being a blessing to other people-especially when I can be part of it. It feeds me spiritually to witness the deliberate kindness of others and to see the interaction of people genuinely caring for each other. The holidays (Thanksgiving & Christmas both) provide ample opportunities to be that kind of community blessing and we should adopt that philosophy as part of our lifestyle each year.

The video below is from WestJet Airlines and is a prime example of ridiculous generosity and over-the-top customer service. It is a reflection of a company that wants to care for people in a deep way and was able to pull it off as an unexpected and much appreciated blessing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Picking Through

When I was much younger my grandparents would often take us to a discount store called Pick-N-Save. They had a buffet we loved to eat at and ridiculous bargains on clothes and many other items. The deals were there and you just had to choose what it was you wanted to buy. You didn't have to take everything in the store--that's why it was called "Pick-N-Save"--the choices were yours to make.

Unfortunately, we take that same approach to our Christianity even though God doesn't operate that way. We can't go to Him and ask for an increase in patience, but ask for Him to leave us alone in the humility department. He won't dish out extra portions of love while leaving holiness on the shelf for someone else. God isn't a discount store with bargains for you and I to pick over. He offers all of who He is as a reflection of the gift of His grace. He gives us all that we need in one package-His Son, Jesus Christ.

To truly accept the gift God has for us we should stop trying to sift through and only take what we think we want, and instead graciously take the gift that offers everything we need. It's an all-or-none principle that might seem restrictive, but is really the best thing for us.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sweet 16

Our oldest girl turns 16 years old today. As the oldest, she has always exhibited a different maturity than her sisters, but this is still a monumental level in her life. Up close she honestly doesn't seem that different from who she was yesterday, but if I take a bigger step backwards I can see how greatly she has changed even in the last year.

She has always had her own unique style and now she is even more secure in that as her personal confidence grows. Lindsay is starting to think more about her future and is working to define what she wants to be included in that and what she most definitely wants to avoid. The sweetest part for me are the conversations we share about her future in God and her thoughts on what matters most. Her devotion to Him is increasing as He continues to lead her forward and I can see how she is being shaped by her faith. While she still needs us as her parents that role is changing as we pray more fervently and try to guide her to what is right by challenging her to use her own cognitive processes to choose wisely. I love how well she listens and is willing to offer her own insights. Her unflappable nature and willingness to engage those on the fringe will continue to be honed by God as He shapes her for the future.

Happy birthday my Lindsay-Lou. We couldn't be more proud of the young woman you have become.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Trying to Survive

I was reading an article on an old school "hobo code" that used to be left on trains as homeless men would hop on to find food and scratch out an existence in different towns. This code would reveal information about an area that would let other hobos know if a place would be safe, where to get a free meal, and even who would be generous if you told a good enough story. The code was a matter of trust between fellow travelers, but represented a greater need-the deep-felt need for survival and the willingness to use whatever means necessary to make that a reality.

Do we still have this survival instinct or have we gotten so comfortable in our modern lives that we have forgotten what it means to fight to get ahead? Do we invest great energy into moving forward or have we accepted our status and resigned ourselves (often subconsciously) to this pattern we live in now? A true survival response causes us to work diligently to protect and guide our families and to eliminate threats that take us away from our preferred future. It's our complacency that deadens this natural instinct until we find ourselves in desperate situations with no idea how we got there and an inability to respond in a way that guarantees our endurance. 

For the sake of our families, our communities, our churches, and our character we need to regain that innate passion for survival.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Balancing Act

There is always a hotly contested debate (at least among us sports fans) when you try to determine who the best quarterback is. While rating systems, number of awards, and championship rings certainly can factor into that assessment they don't necessarily reveal which athlete performs better under pressure. In fact, there have been recent statistical studies that reveal how the most widely accepted great quarterbacks aren't necessarily the ones that rise to the occasion when circumstances are difficult. The flip-side of that argument is that those that seem to thrive under the most intense pressure are not able to replicate that same success under more calm circumstances. It's an interesting paradox in leadership: the ability to succeed under duress vs. the ability to be successful in times of calm. 

Are you the type of leader who can only perform well under pressure? While this is beneficial in a crisis, it can be detrimental in times of peace. It means that you won't be able to thrive unless there is turmoil, community unrest, or drastic deadlines. 

Do you only perform at your best when things are smooth, with plenty of time to survey the scene and make the right choice? While this is essential for growth and forward progress in stable periods it can lead to avoiding conflict, refusing to take risks, and stunted personal & organizational growth. 

The most successful leader will be able to thrive in both situations even if it takes hard work to create balance and develop the skills necessary for the greatest possible results. Any place we lead will have both sets of circumstances at some point and we will need to make the necessary adaptations to positively persevere. Finding success in both areas won't necessarily make us the greatest leaders of all time, but it will certainly make us more effective.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wanting More

I long for more--not just material things, but a life that is greater than what I am currently living. This is a reflection of the fact that I am not meant for this world, but that I am intended to think of eternity and the spiritual side of my nature. I also recognize that this is a characteristic of a visionary leader who wants his life to be a catalyst for transformation and growth.

This passion for increase is a key part of my dreams for all parts of my life. I want to increase my impact on my children and help shape their future while guiding them to make better decisions. I want to be a better man that influences other men and inspires people to pursue God's deliverance and hope for their lives. I want to lead a church that is so vital to the health of the overall community that society wouldn't be the same if that church no longer existed. I aspire to this as a natural part of who I am, but also from the impact of other godly role models.

The influence of other visionary men inspires me to rise above my own circumstances and be more than I think is possible. Their life example leads me to not settle for the cliche patterns of typical manhood that are easy to fall into. These great men encourage me to not let my base emotions and desires drive me, but to aspire to a stable, Spirit-guided state. It brings me to dream of the possibility of great things and then work to see them become a reality. 

This passion for more can be the driving force that leads men to seek a grander vision and fulfill the calling this brings on our lives.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Flexible Leadership

Unsuccessful coaches are those that impose their coaching style on their players without any regard for individual abilities and tendencies. These coaches arrogantly assume that since they have had victories using their system that everyone must adapt to how they do things. This doesn't take into consideration the chemistry and capability of individual people and highlights a stubborn inflexibility in that leader. It's why some coaches that were highly successful in one program are unable to translate that to another team. A wise coach will either recruit the people that fit the mold of their personal philosophy or invest the energy in reshaping their strategy to fit their personnel. Steadfastly refusing to adapt is what separates one-dimensional leaders from those that are truly transcendent.

What kind of leader are you? Are you secure enough in your own strengths & confident enough in your abilities to make those you lead successful? We reflect our true thoughts in the way we guide people in our jobs, the church, and even in our families. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bad Trip

Have you ever planned a trip & it ended up not going quite like you expected? Perhaps your favorite restaurant was closed, the hotel was not what you thought, or the weather was terrible the whole time. It left you feeling less than satisfied with the experience and with resolutions to travel differently the next time.

Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, can definitely relate to that type of experience. They had gone to Joseph's hometown for a census and found themselves without a place to stay and having child born in a barn. John Piper (pastor & author) described their situation by saying, "A stable was not where Joseph wanted to be that night. It held no romance for him. He was there out of desperation." 

  • The interesting twist is what Joseph perceived as desperation was actually a necessary part of God's plan for salvation. It was only in the humble beginnings of a stable that the story of God coming to save us could have its earthly start. Joseph was left with his only alternative in a difficult situation and it was the perfect way to welcome a humble Savior. 

    What desperate situations in our own lives are an opportunity for God to show His plan in action? Do we trust Him enough to deliver us when our reservoir of hope seems to be empty? These are the moments when our need is overmatched by His provision if we are open to receiving it.
  • Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    D & D

    I've said many times before that we seek God out of desperation or devastation. One is a reflection of a deep, passionate desire for God that overwhelms us and drives us to seek Him above all other things. The other creates the same result, but stems from terrible circumstances that drive us back to Him. Disastrous life circumstances can certainly lead to desperation, but I would rather choose to seek Him on my own before those tumultuous periods of life occur. I've discovered that choosing to be desperate for God eases the times of devastation and increases my daily dependence on His strength.

    Which one of these best describes your interaction with God? Are we normally inclined to relentlessly pursue Him out of our normal relationship or do we wait for difficulty to strike before we turn to the one true hope? Hopefully we'll learn to desire desperation for Him in every aspect of our life and not follow a pattern of ignoring Him until devastation strikes. 

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    Psalm 139 Remix

    God, You've done your research and You know exactly who I am
    No matter how I'm reclined or what direction I'm inclined
    You read my distant thoughts like a story right in front of you.

    In or out, up or down, none of it sneaks by you.
    I can't form words that surprise you
    You're walking ahead of me & protecting behind me
    I can't begin to understand how you pull this off
    All I know is that it's too magnificent for me to handle.

    I'm out of hiding places even though I've tried
    I can't fly high enough or dig deep enough to avoid you
    No distant land, no watery depth can keep you from my life
    Your hand is ever ready to steady my step and keep me straight.

    No lack of light is dark enough to camouflage my presence from you.
    You see brightness in the dark while I stumble trying to find my place.

    You've known me from before my beginning and pieced me together 
    from nothing to something
    I can't help but be amazed at your handiwork.
    You've created me for a time and place and none of it is hidden from your sight

    I value your insights even as I don't comprehend all that you plan and do.

    I am firmly on your side, my God. I stand united with you and in 
    firm opposition to those that hate your ways.

    Check me completely God & reveal my motives.
    Examine me thoroughly and quiet my mind
    Reveal to me who I truly am
    Heal me, transform me, remake me, lead me towards your perfection that lasts forever
    It's your path I want to walk in my present & my future.

    Sunday, December 1, 2013

    Our Sweet Bailey

    My sweet Bailey, our middle daughter, turned 15 today. While I am perfectly comfortable with their
    growing up and the stage of life we are blessed to be in, I sometimes still can't believe how quickly they are maturing. My girl Bailey is incredibly sweet and kind-hearted and our most sensitive girl by far. She loves her family deeply & passionately and she is incredibly loyal. I love how she will sit and stare off into the distance deep in thought and is perfectly content to be by herself. She is her very own independent, unique young woman and I am proud of who she is becoming. I love this girl and all of her special quirks of personality. I'm not ready to let her go & I am forever grateful that I don't have to do that just yet. Happy birthday my girl-I'm grateful everyday for the gift you are to us.

    Saturday, November 30, 2013

    Proper Posture

    I remember being a kid and my mom telling me to stand and sit up straight or it would affect my spine for the rest of my life. This must be a standard principle from the Mother's Credo along with not sitting too close to the television or my eyes would be ruined, and the need to stop crying before she gave me something to cry about. In actuality, I'm sure it was something that she carried over from her mother and father-the importance of good posture.

    It's obviously something that matters to God as well since He teaches on it often. We are counseled regularly in Scripture on the importance of bowing our heads, kneeling, and taking a reverential stance. It reflects our level of honor for God and our recognition of our position relative to Him. 

    What spiritual posture are we maintaining in our prayer life or when we read the Bible? What position do we take when we are desperate for an answer from God? Do we come with a position of humility, honor & respect or do we show up with a sense of entitlement thinking that God owes us something? Maintaining a proper posture reveals our level of understanding of our position relative to God. It's a stance that is developed over time as we recognize our need to rely on His generous greatness.

    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Hard to See

    I was driving home and listening to ESPN radio the other day and the talk show hosts were talking about a recent decision made by Mitch Kuptchak, the general manager of the LA Lakers. His choice was being over analyzed by countless outsiders as they debated his wisdom and ability to plan for the future. The best commentary was provided by a reporter calling in on one of the shows. He simply said, " It's easier to play Mitch Kupchak than it is to be Mitch Kupchak."

    We often rush to make judgments on other people's decisions without understanding all of their reasoning. While it's true that people will sometimes make poor decisions (even with all the facts in hand) we still can't completely comprehend the weight of their thought process. I've discovered (especially in recent years) that leaders of healthy, successful organizations have to make difficult choices that may not be readily accepted or understood by everyone else.  Successfully leading an organization requires a great deal of vision and the ability to make tough decisions after weighing all the options. Leaders are willing to take a risk that will better their organization even if that isn't readily apparent to outsiders. We can choose to be overly critical of every move or show some grace to our leaders by trusting the careful thought & prayer they have invested in a difficult choice. It's a conscious choice to be an encouraging follower instead of a negative critic.

    Thursday, November 28, 2013


    Since it is Thanksgiving I thought I would fight my natural inclination to avoid what is typically being done and instead write about ten things I am thankful for.

    1. Grace: I don't completely understand it (and probably never will) but I am grateful for the gifts & patient love that God gives me when I have done nothing to earn them.

    2.  My wife: I out-kicked my coverage when I married my wife-there is absolutely no doubt about that. I am forever grateful for our lives converging at the point where & when they did because I wouldn't be the man I am today without her.

    3. My children:  We have three beautiful, passionate, wonderful daughters who are highly intelligent and possess fantastic potential to do great things. I am nowhere near the perfect parent, but want to do the very best I can to help them see what God has in store for their future.

    4. Calling: I may not have realized it early in my career, but I am grateful that I have discovered exactly what I am supposed to dedicate my life to doing. In retrospect, I can see how God was preparing me to be a pastor and I am thankful for His willingness to use me in spite of my many faults.

    5. People: I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am for the people I have walked this path of life with. I am grateful for those that I have known for over 25 years, former students, youth from the ministry, people that have ministered to me as I ministered to them, fellow pastors, and the people of Milledgeville that love us as family now. I couldn't begin to list them all, but I think of those that have impacted my life very often and can't believe how blessed I am.

    6.  Future: God is giving me glimpses of what our future will look like and how He is continually guiding us there. How great is it to know a God that still looks for ways to bless His children and allow them to flourish?

    7. Second chances: I have seen the damage that my choices have caused in relationships and in those around me. I don't deserve opportunities to make this right, but am thankful that over time I can choose to do things differently and see new results.

    8. Contentment: I know that God is always shaping me into a better man, but I am grateful for the contentment with where I am right now. I'm not satisfied to the point of not wanting to change, but I can clearly see how He has molded me over the years and I am eager to take the next step on this journey.

    9. Family: While I am obviously grateful for my wife & children, I am also thankful for the incredible influence & love of the rest of my family (both biological and through marriage.) They are all a key part of who I am and I don't go a day without thinking & praying for them all.

    10. New Beginnings: It's not just the name of my blog, but it's a philosophy of life. I believe in God's ability (and desire) to make brand new things out of refuse and to turn the ugly into beautiful. It's why I invest in people and why I cling to my relationship with God so firmly. I've seen it in action and want others to experience that newness for themselves.

    It's a brief (yet lengthy) list, but I couldn't let the day go by without pausing to be thankful. It's a poignant reminder of what matters most and a refocusing of my energies where they need to be invested.

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    Generous Spirit

    "If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it." Stephen Colbert

    It seems to be natural inclination to look to be a benefit to people during the holidays. This isn't a negative thing, but I am certain we are called to be a blessing on a more consistent basis. It should be a reflection of our regular life mission to seek ways to share what we have with the people around us. I don't believe it's a burden-in fact, I haven't met anyone who regretted making this a regular practice. We simply choose to make a habit and then daily look for ways to make it a reality. It's the life of generosity that is capable of creating change in the community around us even if the scope of our impact doesn't seem that large.

    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    Right There

    As much as we are in contact with people via social media we are a society that has forgotten what it means to have true face-to-face interaction. I don't want to sound like an old man lamenting the loss of the personal touch, but I think it's a perspective worth viewing. It's not so much that we've neglected to develop interpersonal skills or that we have lost the ability to communicate in genuine sentences without slang abbreviations (even if we have.) I think the greatest loss is in our inability to see the humanity of the people around us. When our focus is on the tiny screen in our hand and not on the living people sitting, eating, walking, and breathing around us we've lost a part of us that is beautifully valuable. As much as I enjoy keeping up with people from a distance I thrive even more on the up close & personal investments we can make when we near and willing to engage each other in life.

    Watch the video below to see this in a simple light and recognize the potential of embracing the friction of life-on-life around us.

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    No Consideration

    Her filthiness clung to her skirts; she did not consider her future. Her fall was astounding; there was none to comfort her. Look, O Lord, on my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed. 
    Lamentations 1:9

    I like to look ahead to the future and try to determine if my actions are leading me where I truly want to go. I will regrettably admit that this is not a consistent personal practice of mine-especially when I was younger. I would make foolish financial, emotional, and spiritual decisions based on the immediacy of the moment and neglect to think about the long-term implications of my choices. The fallout from this short-sighted decision making can be devastating on an individual level, but even more so for the people in our immediate circles of influence. 

    What choices are we making today that will directly affect our future? Are we carefully considering the long-term benefits & consequences of those decisions? If we refuse to take the time to meditate on where we might end up we forfeit the right to be surprised/appalled when the results are less than satisfying. When we won't evaluate the potential results we're valuing the present moment much more than the coming future. I've seen too much damage in people's lives to believe this is the right way to go.

    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Three Voices, One Message

    We had a three-headed message at Northridge today as our entire teaching team shared the Thanksgiving sermon. It was the first time all three of us had taught at the same time and it seemed to be well received by all. I enjoy it when we do things similar to this (Mike & I have taught this way several times over the last four years) as it presents a different challenge as a teacher, but also gives some insight into the relationship of the team. We get a chance to banter back & forth with some planned (and unplanned) conversational give and take while sharing Scriptural truth. It's also a way to break down some barriers between the congregation and our pastoral staff while stretching us as communicators. Hopefully this approach keeps people engaged at a deeper level as we keep the pace moving. It reflects one of our core values of teaching: to do whatever it takes short of sin to communicate the truth of Christ and see
    transformed lives.

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    Good Times

    My teenage girls don't react exactly how they used to when good things happen, but they still have a youthful enthusiasm that quickly turns into gleeful squeals. I love surprising them with things that elicit those reactions whether it is taking them to a movie we've been eagerly anticipating or just bringing home unexpected ice cream. They laugh, give big hugs of thanks, and throw themselves into the moment with passion.

    We're spending the afternoon with friends and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Dr. Who show. My ladies (including my wife) have been looking forward to this since we first planned it and it now involves a big meal and celebration of a show they love. My oldest daughter found it necessary to dress similarly to the good Doctor and has been planning her outfit for a while. All three of them are giddy with anticipation of the showing this afternoon and won't forget to tell anyone about it.

    I don't watch Dr. Who so I can't share in their fandom, but their enthusiasm has reminded me of how important it is to just have fun. As adults, we often forget to simply enjoy moments in life whether it's a silly TV show (my apologies to true Whovians), pizza for dinner, or a fire with smores on a chilly night. These are all moments where we can choose to acknowledge it in passing or stop and revel in the simple joys we're blessed to share in life. It's a reminder I need now & then to keep me focused on what matters most.  

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    It Matters

    I attended the ribbon cutting on a new garden and walking trail in a nearby community yesterday afternoon. It is in an economically depressed area of town that is seeing a resurgence as the members of this specific area are banding together to make a difference. The walking trail is open to anyone and people can choose to rent a small area to plant for their own garden. It has seen families, individuals, and community investors partner together to revitalize an area that has struggled for many years. Older men are working alongside young men to make a physical difference while having an opportunity to share life changing truths at the same time. Families are directly enjoying the fruits of their labor while they eat the foods they have grown themselves. The area has become a safe and enticing place to play for children again as well.

    The best commentary was shared yesterday by a mother and her family. She said that this community felt like it had been asleep and it had finally been awakened again. That's the result that excites me and encourage me to find new ways for us to change other areas in our community around us. It's exactly why we get involved and will keep investing our resources to make a difference.

    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    Difference Makers

    Tonight a group of men from Vaughn Chapel and Northridge Christian Church met to chat & chew. While we enjoyed conversation with each other and a good steak dinner, we gathered for a greater purpose. We were all concerned with the state of our community and the role of men in leadership and want to be part of the solution. It won't be fixed overnight, but it can begin with a group of dedicated, godly men who are willing to prayerfully invest in the generations around us. It's a risky move that requires dedicated time, effort, and spiritual energy to find success. It's almost guaranteed that it won't be easy, but if we won't step up to do something about it nothing will ever change for the better. 

    All of us recognize the need for men to step up and lead in our families, in schools, and in industry. We also see the lack of man-to-man mentoring, but realize what an incredible opportunity that gives us.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Not Mine

    Your will be done in my life, Lord. Not mine, but yours. 

    Are we actually content with that? On the surface we are good with those statements while in reality we still want our plans to take place but with God's blessing over them. We're at peace with God's will as long as it matches our agenda, ambitions, and desires. Truly surrendering to His will might mean that we don't end up where we thought we would. This submission dictates that the priorities of God become our priorities and His plans become our plans. 

    We've got to decide if we are okay with that or if we are stubbornly going to insist that our way is best. One path leads to contentment & peace regardless of our circumstances and the other creates a tension that we constantly struggle to manage.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013


    It's an interesting collision when past & present come together. It allows me to see how all of my past has shaped me into who I am today and reminds me of how far I have come through God's grace. I am extremely grateful for this on a regular basis, but being back in my hometown last week only reinforced how much that place is a part of the man that I am today. It's the familiarity of good friends, the memories of growing up, early marriage, and raising kids, the years of influence from people who love me, the tough love that has shaped me as a man, and the mutual investment of lives in ministry, teaching, and maturing that make a substantial difference. 

    It's a sweet blending of coming face-to-face with who I used to be and the man I am today while realizing that nothing is wrong with either one of those men. They are both key in the summation of who I am now and I am comfortable with that confident knowledge while God continues to shape & mold me.

    Monday, November 18, 2013


    Have you ever had an old pair of shoes that you just didn't want to get rid of? They aren't meant to be worn on every occasion, but they are perfect for when you want to wear something comfortable.
    Other people may not completely understand why you hang on to them-after all, they wouldn't fit them well anyway. The important thing is that they fit you and you are at ease when wearing them. It's definitely much more about the function of the shoes than the style.

    This is similar to some relationships in our lives as well. There are people that are just comfortable to be around. Even though it may have been quite a while since you were face-to-face, there is a sense of ease as you slip back into a comfortable interaction. There is a depth and familiarity from shared experiences that can't often be explained, but feels right when you are in it. Every now and then you are fortunate enough to be reminded of how valuable these kinships are to you and why you continue to keep them around.

    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Wait Time

    When I worked in the restaurant business we would often have put customers on a waiting list for a table. It was a sign of healthy, consistent business when all our tables were full and people were still willing to wait to see when they could eat. One of the keys to keeping customers happy was to ensure that the actual wait time did not exceed the predicted wait time. In fact, we would often overestimate the delayed seating by a few minutes so that our guests would be pleased when a predicted 20 minute wait was only 15 minutes. Conversely, people would be very upset when a forecast of 20 minutes became 25 instead.

    What's our reaction when it takes longer for something to happen in our lives than we anticipated? 
    • The answer to our desperate prayer for healing isn't answered quickly enough. 
    • God doesn't show us the next step He is asking us to take even though we keep asking what to do. 
    • The mending of broken relationships seems to be moving at a crawl. 
    • Trust that has been destroyed is being rebuilt in very small steps. 
    • A solution to a problem either hasn't materialized or seems to be taking too long for our own preferences. 
    • An area that needs growth isn't maturing as fast as we might have hoped.

    There will always be a period of waiting and we won't always understand why. Our willingness to believe in God's deliverance and timing by reacting in patient maturity will reveal the depth of our trust.

    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    Give & Take

    Understanding your personality type is a huge benefit. When you are comfortably aware of who you
    are, you are able to invest in things that bring great satisfaction and encouragement. It has taken me many years to come to this understanding on a personal level and now I am able to intentionally make time for interactions that energize me.

    The past two and half days has been a perfect example of that practice. I was blessed to spend that time down in my hometown with a constantly full schedule of meeting with friends and family. It's a frenetic pace filled with laughter, coffee, prayers, encouragement, and very little sleep. As much as it eventually tires me out physically (mainly due to a lack of restful hours) it increases my emotional and spiritual energy exponentially. I am grateful for a wife and family that understand my need to do this periodically and a church home that allows me to have the time as well. I am still processing all that I experienced and shared in and am very content in the fullness of my heart.

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Next In Line

    I spent a good portion of today with friends at my alma mater, The Mainland High School. It's always refreshing to catch up with people that I have shared life with-some of them for over 25 years. I
    wrapped up the day by hitting the football playoff game and walking the sideline. Sharing that space with me were former students & athletes that I was blessed to teach. These men are now serving as the head football coach, the head athletic trainer, and other football position coaches. Those that we invested in as teenagers are now leading the way by mentoring and training other young people.

    It hit me as I stood on that familiar sideline that this is the way mentoring and development is supposed to work. When leaders intentionally invest in other people and give them the opportunity to step up it, becomes a perpetual, sustaining culture. Not only is it the most effective way of developing new leaders it gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment as you witness it in action and recognize the extent of your personal influence.

    Thursday, November 14, 2013


    Some days are more full than others. The schedule might be packed enough to leave zero space for flexibility, but that factor alone doesn't describe the best day. The most complete day is the one that leaves your heart full from rekindled friendships, mutual investment, unexpected conversations, and shared hugs and love. It's a day that allows you to spend time with people you have invested in and shared life with. The mark this type of day leaves on you may not be as visible to others, but leaves you with a confidence in being well loved and grateful for life-to-life influence.

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013


    Each day will have something unexpected in it for us. It might be a reaction from someone, a pleasant surprise, a distasteful experience, or an unplanned event. While some of these are big enough to be completely out of our control we still get to determine whether it will be a positive or negative reaction. Like most of our life circumstances, it's our attitude that determines whether something completely derails us or if it becomes part of the story of our daily growth. 

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Negative & Positive

    It's a given fact for responsible adults that we must do some things that are not always pleasant or enjoyable.
    It can be simple daily tasks like taking out the trash, dealing with a long drive to work, or a part of a job that is difficult to endure. Those unpleasant tasks can even be centered around monthly obligations like paying bills and other mundane household chores. The distaste we have for these duties doesn't change the need for these to be completed or the consequences may be unpleasant. While mature discipline is part of the solution, I have found that we have to create a balance by adding things that we do relish to our daily schedule. It's an important benefit to our overall health to add encouraging tasks to our daily regimen.
    • What did you do today that you enjoy? 
    • What did you do that brings you a sense of satisfaction? 
    • What were you able to complete that delivers a sense of accomplishment and gives you encouragement for tomorrow? 
    It's vital that we find something that positively answers those questions so that we have the strength for the things that we find less than satisfying.

    Monday, November 11, 2013


    I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17 NIV)

    I keep praying for wisdom and direction from You, Father. Forgive me for seeking things from You instead of simply seeking You. Give me wisdom to know You more fully and to see more of who You are as my King and Savior. I trust that as I know You fully that wisdom in other things will be given to me as well.

    Sunday, November 10, 2013


    I was thinking about the word "overcome" this morning and how we use it to describe trials of life. It can sometimes be casually tossed around to describe all difficult seasons when it really only applies to those that we tackle head-on. We can't avoid adversity and claim to have overcome it. It's not possible to steer clear of (necessary) conflict and talk about how we overcame a problem. 

    If you imagine your life as a trail through the woods and difficult circumstances as something blocking that path, you are left with two choices:

    1. Jump off of the path, find another route, and refuse to deal with what's in front of you. You can circumvent the direct issue, but you didn't really handle it--you found a way around it that ignored it. It might be possible to find a non-confrontational way around it, but there will be problems in finding your way back to the right path once you're past it.

    2. Recognize the huge obstacle in the middle of your path and choose to find a way over over it. This choice isn't easy--it might be covered in barbed wire, be bigger than we first anticipated, and exhaust us more than we thought. Moving forward is an aggressive way to keep moving in the right direction. 

    It's the second choice that builds strength in us while revealing fortitude we might not have realized we had. Once we've overcome it (with God's strength being our fuel) we'll be able to look back and realize exactly what's been conquered. There won't be any confusion about finding the right path again--we're still on it and more resolute about keeping our footing sure for our future.