Friday, May 31, 2013

Sharing the Moments

I attended another graduation tonight and thoroughly enjoyed the entire commencement. It was particularly special to me to see some of these young people walk across the stage. This class has several people that I have invested in over the last 3 1/2 years. We have been through tough stages of life, counseled through
heartbreak, shared cups of coffee, and served in the mission field together. It was a deep pleasure to hug each of them and tell them how proud I am of their accomplishments.

This is one of the main reasons I loved teaching and why I enjoy ministry. It's found in the life-to-life moments we share that build camaraderie and a depth of relationship that is carved out of good & bad times together. These relationships (some of them developed over the last 20 years) bring me deep joy & satisfaction and serve as an impetus to seek out more of the same.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seems About Right

It's a proven fact that things will not always go as well as you hoped. There will always be circumstances that you can't control and unforeseen complications that can hinder your plans. My wife and I have taken to a phrase when misfortunes seem to pile up, "Seems about right." I suppose it's our way of admitting that it seems as if things sometimes pile up and yet they are often just a result of the pattern of life. The truth is that things will often go awry and become more complicated than you think they should be. The key to survival and avoiding emotional implosion is to maintain an attitude of survival and adaptability. As a good friend of mine says, "Life is adjustable" and you have to figure out how to be flexible so you survive the unexpected.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Community Matters

The past 24 hours have only reinforced how ridiculously blessed we are. We have been inundated with friends stepping up to help us move, offering their vehicles, and going the extra mile to help us when things go awry. It's a powerful example of community and how people rally around each other to help. This is what happens when you do life together--you build rapport and trust with each other and have opportunities to step up when it counts. It's a pretty powerful feeling to be loved like this.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fresh Start

I have written before about my affinity for whiteboards. I am a visual thinker so it helps me to be able to script out messages, plan events, and brainstorm for all possibilities. I love to see a board full of ideas and plans, but there is also something refreshing about a freshly cleaned space. It represents
possibility and the potential for something brand new. This new white space is a chance to articulate new thoughts and sketch out the first stages of something big. It's a key part of my creative process.

It's the fresh start that is one of the most attractive things about a relationship with God too. There's something powerful in accepting His ability to erase the ideas, behaviors, and patterns of the past and set us alive with the potential for something great and pure.

Monday, May 27, 2013


In John 15:13, Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." With our benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that He was talking about the sacrifice He was about to make for all mankind. I'm also not naive enough to believe that Christ's statement only applied to Himself. He was
referring to His followers who would also lose their lives (some in horrifically painful ways) for the sake of the Kingdom cause. These people were to be honored as models of genuine love for their willingness to die for the benefit of others.

I believe Christ's statement is true of all generations and the magnanimous sacrifice of our fallen military heroes that we pause to remember today. We may not have a personal perspective on the cost others have paid for our freedom, but the fact that we live in freedom should give us enough reason to pay our respects. I share my appreciation for all of our military brothers & sisters and their willingness to risk their lives for the sake of others. All gave some and some gave all.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Step Up

In Joshua 24:15, Joshua is at the end of his life and has one final opportunity to speak to the nation he has led. He reminds them of what is most important and tells them that they will have to make a choice-they will either worship other false gods or declare their allegiance to the one true God. He then makes a bold (but not surprising) statement in front of his people. He says that his family will choose to follow God regardless of what other people will do.

It's important for leaders to take the first step of faith even when they are unsure of how those following them will respond. Our faithfulness will be measured in our obedience to God's direction and not in how it's received by others.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our House

We are moving into a new house in Milledgeville this coming Wednesday. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that we are leaving the best house we have ever lived in either. I will most certainly miss the
views of our water and the incredible sunrises and sunsets we have been privy to this past year and half. Every day that I looked out our windows I reminded myself that it was only for a season and that we were going to enjoy this blessing (and ridiculously kind generosity of friends) as long as it lasted.

We sat outside on our deck tonight for our last family dinner. Our girls faces were sun-kissed as they lounged in chairs and told a succession of stories. We pet our dog and laughed at his idiosyncrasies and watched boats & wave runners go by. I played my guitar and we sang as we continually interrupted songs with more stories. It only reinforced in me what is most important--our family being together. Each of our homes has a set of memories and is a part of our life together. I look back on each one very fondly and know that this next great house (with fantastic landlords again!) will be a key part in the tale of our lives together. It reminds me that I am blessed man indeed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Picking the Path

When I taught at The Mainland High School in Daytona Beach I would tell my students that there were two key factors that would directly influence the people they would become. There is no way to deny their
impact and even if we try they cannot be ignored. We are all in some way a result of our heredity and environment. The key (as I shared with my students) is what you decide to do with your genetic makeup and how you respond to your environment.

Very few of us can profess to having a perfectly ideal childhood and there are obvious genetic predispositions that can hamper each of us. The key to overcoming these potential obstacles to healthy development is in the actions we take to as we map out our future. It is a result of self-control, honest assessment, and the drive to do something different. I'm not negating God's sovereign plan and power to transform lives, but I am highlighting the need for people to make the right decision. We are all given the power of choice and can use that to find success through these fundamental life keys.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Personal Choice

Ancient Hebrew history reads like a bad Middle Eastern soap opera. It's rife with stories of murder,personal betrayal, bribery, sex, revenge, and treason. After a period of peace and affluent influence the kingdom is split into two regions and strife explodes exponentially. Generations of leaders were worse than the one before and yet there were periods of hope as a godly leader would step up in spite of his ancestry. Unfortunately that reign of godly focus was usually followed by malcontent, selfish leaders willing to betray everyone around them for power.

It's interesting to note that God-honoring kings would reign directly after their evil fathers and that the God-focused kings didn't usually produce offspring of the same integrity. This reality doesn't negate the need to provide the right influence for our own children, but it highlights the element of personal choice and free will. It's a frightening reminder of our need to not only teach and model what's right for future generations, but to also pour ourselves into importunate prayer for the choices they will make on their own.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Small Taste

It can be hard to keep pushing towards a goal when you don't think you're being successful. It's the
reason people give up on exercise programs in the early stages, why couples stop going to marriage counseling, and the rationale used when trying to kick an addictive habit. To be motivated to keep working you have to feel that you are making some headway or the process becomes too discouraging. It's an important reminder for us to celebrate when we shave 20 seconds off our run time, go a whole day without a cigarette, respond more kindly to our family than usual, or spend even  just five minutes reading your Bible. They are all small yet vital steps in the process of maturity.

When you're trying to grow you've got to have a taste of victory-no matter how small-to encourage you to keep going.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Clinging to Hope

It seems that there is an abundance of bad news and a scarcity of good news lately. The evidence is seen in the aftermath of tornadic devastation in Oklahoma to the young man that was gunned down in Milledgeville this weekend. Each day that passes delivers another story of marital infidelity, drug addiction, sex trafficking, bullying, and severe depression leading to cutting and suicide. It can be enough to completely overwhelm you and lead you to believe there is no hope for society.

I will readily admit that I don't have all the answers. I can't explain why some people are cured from cancer and others are not. I don't know why some relationships are mended and others irrevocably broken. I am unable to rationally explain why one home will be destroyed in a storm and another one is spared. The only real answer that I can give is the one that brings me hope and peace when it makes no sense to have either. My God is still good in spite of all that we see and experience. He is still King over all, He remains sovereign, and He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. Even though it may seem foolishness to some, I will place my trust in Him and continue to seek His peace that passes all understanding. 

Some days that's exactly what you need to move forward with strength and confidence. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Recognize the Tone

As I continue to read my way through Old Testament history, I read this morning about King Solomon and his leadership. During his reign Israel thrived in a period of safety and prosperity unlike any other. They were not threatened in any real way and increased their influence and affluence as a nation. Obviously God was blessing them through Solomon's leadership and fulfilling His promise to his father, King David. Through his character and abilities Solomon was able to provide guidance for an unparalleled time of peace, safety, and prosperity for his nation.

On a personal level, what would be said about the tone of our leadership? How would our families describe the way that we lead--is it one of contention, preoccupation, and selfishness or one of safety, focused quality time, and generosity of spirit? How do we lead in our organizations--career, church, and community? Are we leading with negativity, criticism, and insecurity or with affirmation, constructive coaching, and genuine humility? Our personal philosophy of leadership will contribute heavily to the success of the people we lead.

There is no discounting the way that God works through us, but it's also vital to bring the healthiest tone of leadership to our circles of influence.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tight Knit

We had our mission team reunion this afternoon--the first time we have all intentionally gotten back together since our trip right after Easter. There was good food, laughter, shared memories, and inside jokes as we reveled in each other's company. It is a group like no other (like each unique team I have had the pleasure of serving with) and we will always share this trip as something special.

It comes from a familiarity that is forged in Kingdom service. There are lasting bonds built when you have prayed, saved, worshiped, and shared a small space for a week. The DNA of each team is uniquely shaped by our individual personalities, the mix of people we minister to, transparency in our time together, and the lasting impact of our work--both on the mission field and in us.

Over the last decade of ministry I have learned that mission efforts develop genuine community. When you sacrifice together it creates a unity that can't be dissolved.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Background Story

I will admit that I am an unashamed people watcher. I can sit contentedly in a coffee shop and pass the time observing the people that pass through. It feeds the curious part of me that wonders what their story is. I wonder why they are there in that moment and how they have arrived at this stage of life. That might seem a little heavy for a person that is simply stopping in for a cup of java, but it's just part of who I am. I am
fascinated with the concept of stories and how they have shaped us into who we are today. I think that we have neglected the art of storytelling and as a result we diminish other's history and the significance of their tale. It's really a shame because we fail to explore who we are when we negate the power of our stories.

Imagine the shift in authentic community if we were willing to not only share our personal testimony, but to passionately engage in listening to other people's as well.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Journey On

I am headed to a high school graduation tonight at a local school. By my estimation I have attended somewhere between 30-40 of these in the last twenty years. Each celebration is capped with
motivational speeches, planned (and unexpected) humor, proud parents and families, and satisfied graduates. It marks the end of a long journey of education, (hopefully) maturation, and experiences.

We celebrate their efforts to this point, but also the future that lies in front of them. They aren't really ending a journey and beginning another, but are looking up to realize that the road in front of them has just become more difficult to traverse. While they won't travel completely alone they will be more personally responsible for what happens next. These graduates have endured trials, pursued parental and individual expectations, and fit their lives into a routine bell schedule for twelve years. This next phase of the journey will give them the opportunity to develop their self-discipline, define their character, discover their strengths, and delve into new territories. It's an exciting and frightening future all at once.

It makes me think that we should more frequently celebrate tough portions of life's journey and new horizons. They happen more often than we realize.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


King David was one of the greatest military leaders and most passionate followers of God in history. He is described as a man after God's heart and it's evident from his writings (read the book of Psalms.) He was not a man without flaw however. He was imperfectly human (like us) and made poor choices in several areas of his life in spite of his devotion to God. 

There is one particular instance that stands out above others. David stayed behind at his palace while his army went out to battle and he found himself on his roof staring at a woman bathing. He continued his poor choices by bringing her to his home, committing adultery, and then arranging to have her husband killed. He thought that he had gotten away with it (she obviously wasn't going to say anything) and married her thinking his life was fine. David allowed his tremendous ego and sense of entitlement to remove him from God's protection and blessing.

God had chosen David as a young shepherd boy and anointed him as king. He had given him victory over his enemies, blessed him with tremendous riches, and set up his kingdom to rule over all. God even told David that his legacy would last forever--that the salvation of God's people would come through his lineage. With all of these things David still chose to sin. God's words to him after confronting him were, "And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more."

That is God's truth in the middle of our own selfish dilemma and what I think is the root of our sin. We choose to sin because we want more--more pleasure, power, possessions, influence, entitlement. What we find is that our version of "more" doesn't satisfy. We struggle with the choice, but it truly only makes sense to seek abundance from a perfect, generous King.

It's only when we find satisfaction in what God is offering that we can truly be at peace. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Take a Step Back

For sale: home with backyard pool.

 Our perspective has a substantial influence on our actions. When we view things as better than they actually are we can neglect to address potential problems under the guise of "everything's fine." If we take the pessimistic viewpoint, we downplay the positive aspects of our life and miss out potential opportunities. It is a life skill that is developed through our personal history and people interactions. Sadly, most people don't realize it and never shift their view.

For sale: home with backyard pool.

Taking a step back to gain a healthy viewpoint on our lives will help us eliminate poor choices caused by inaccurate vision. It's a learning process that is shaped by constructive mentoring and a willingness to change our approach to life situations. It certainly isn't always easy, but it's necessary for an accurate assessment and subsequent correct actions.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What's Your Value?

By what measure do we determine our self worth? For most of us it's found in two outcomes: the
things we do & the things we don't do. When we do something positive (achieve a goal, buy gifts for our family, take part in community service, refrain from sin) we feel better about who we are. When we do something negative (yell at our kids, slip back into bad habits, ignore people around us) we feel worse about who we are. Essentially we set up a self-value that is based upon our behavioral choices. While this might work in some respects in the physical world, it creates an inaccurate picture of our standing with God.

I believe that one of the most difficult things for us to realize is that God doesn't base His estimation of us on our behavior. There is no cosmic, supernatural scale where God weighs our daily choices and then decides whether to show His love and answer our prayers. We are completely loved regardless of our actions (even though we confuse consequences with God's disdain.) His love and our value in His eyes are constant--this is the status we struggle to accept in a world that generally follows the opposite philosophy.

Humbly embracing the everlasting love of an eternal Father is key in grasping His gift of salvation.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Means to an End

In Hebrew history, God worked through the taking of the Promised Land to keep His people
dedicated to Him and reliant on His power. Sadly, once they made it through their battles they became preoccupied with possessing the land and forgot to keep their focus firmly on Him. Ironic isn't it that God's people took the very thing that was supposed to center them on Him and used it as an idol?

I suppose that's not drastically different from parents that are so consumed with raising good children who experience every benefit and yet never know what it means to genuinely follow Christ with their desires and ambitions. It accurately reflects a couple so concerned with affirming their spouse that they neglect to incorporate God into their marriage as the leader and provider of all that is good. Sadly, it can also represent churches that desire bigger campuses, larger attendance, and overflowing offering while forsaking the One for whom the church exists to begin with. 

It's discouraging to see how we can take a blessing from God and start to worship it more than we do the One who gave it to us. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Motherly Love

It's hard to know where to begin when talking about my mom.
She is deeply devoted to family, loves to
laugh, and is a hard worker. She has shown me what it means to persevere and how to make the best out of the situation at hand. I have watched as life's circumstances have forged her character and developed an indomitable will. She has always believed in me and has given me the freedom to make my own choices--even when she wasn't sure how they would turn out. She is a model of grace and forgiveness for family and friends and always wants the best for those she cares about. Our relationship has always been a little unique, but I know that I wouldn't be the man I am today without her love, support, and guidance.

Happy Mother's Day mom--thanks for your countless sacrifices and constant love.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

40 and Counting

I remember walking through the Volusia Mall holding your hand shortly after we found out you had cancer. We had been married less than two years and were staring at a tremendous obstacle already. As the seriousness of what we were facing settled over me, I looked at you with tears in my eyes and said, "I'm not ready for you to be gone yet. We just got started." 

Here we are 17 years later--longer than any doctor probably would have given us--with so much life together behind us and even more in front of us. As we celebrate your 40th birthday today my thoughts are still the same. I can't imagine this life without you. Hang on baby because we're just getting started. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Supporting a Theory

I was reading Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler this morning and he was writing about scientists and their method of research and thought process. He wrote that scientists develop a theory on some topic and then
go looking for the evidence to support their thoughts. While this may not be 100% accurate in describing scientific research it probably accurately reflects a major portion of theory development.

It hit me as I read this that it's this same behavior that causes difficulties in most relationships. We develop a mindset and attitude about someone and then look for ways to support what we are thinking. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't allow for grace. We become entirely focused on what we want a situation to be instead of what is actually happening. We then base our reactions on these scenarios that we mentally create and begin to assume certain things about people. When we do this we fail to gain an accurate assessment of what someone is saying, feeling, or doing. It leads to a lack of trust that can only damage the foundation of our relationships and exacerbates any problematic situations.

Approaching our relationships without preconceived notions is the only healthy way to be strengthened through conflict. It's an attitude of grace that closes the gap of misunderstanding.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

She's 13

My youngest daughter turned 13 today. It's hard to believe that our last little girl is no longer that little, but it's the reality we are faced with. She has truly grown into a teenager and not necessarily in the "typical" fashion. She is maturing at a rapid rate both intellectually and emotionally. We have seen so much growth her in this
past year-not just the fact that she is taller than my wife-but in the way she handles adversity and processes difficulties. She is a passionate young lady who is willing to speak her mind and her power of speech will be an incredible gift for her as she continues to refine her character. She loves her family deeply (as evidenced by the pure joy & love she greets me with each time I return home. I know that God has great things in store for her and my wife & I pray daily for her commitment to Christ to be the core of who she is as she develops. I keep seeing glimpses of the woman she will become (they are more frequent now) and I am trusting in God's promise to complete the good work that He has started in her. I love this girl and am proud of who she is & who she will be.

The first 13 years seem like they have gone by too quickly--here's hoping these next few slow down a bit. I don't want to miss any part of her growing up.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mindfully Patient

Saul was the first king of Israel and while he was anointed by the prophet Samuel (through God's direction) he didn't live up the billing of being a godly leader. One particular incident hastened the removal of God's blessing from his leadership. Saul was ready to lead his army into battle against their enemy and knew that he needed to wait for Samuel to arrive to administer the blessing and perform the sacrifice. Apparently Samuel (and God) weren't moving on Saul's timetable so he jumped ahead and did the duties of a priest even though he wasn't qualified to do so. It led to the undermining of Saul's authority as God took His protection and blessing away from Saul and eventually placed it on David as the next king. Saul's refusal to wait for God's timing led to his downfall.

There will be times when we may grow impatient with what we perceive is a slow pace of development and deliverance. Creating a shortcut in our learning process or cutting out methodical and necessary steps won't necessarily deliver the results we have been waiting for however. When we are humble & patient enough to notice we will see how essential each part of the process is to our overall success. God won't necessarily stop us when we try to shortcut the process, but there will be consequences for moving off of His timeline. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fire At Will

If you're going to go into battle you don't want to enter combat with only one bullet in your gun. Even if you have excellent marksmanship the odds are not necessarily in your favor. It's better to be prepared to fire more than one shot for the greatest success.

The same principle applies to success in our family life. We can't expect one night of attention and focus to develop closeness with our children, but we have to use multiple opportunities and approaches to have the best possible influence. Assuming that Valentine's Day or an anniversary is sufficient to build romance in our marriages will leave our spouses lacking in genuine love and appreciation. Using the church on Sunday morning as the only chance for your family to hear God's truth leaves a gap that widens with each subsequent day of the week.

There are active forces battling against our homes and the health of our families. It only makes sense to take advantage of multiple opportunities to strengthen them instead of taking one shot at it and hoping it works.

Monday, May 6, 2013


The change of seasons is not always predictable regardless of what the calendar might say. Our current weather is proof of that as the months flip towards summer, but our temperatures stay in
February/March. It makes it difficult to predict what each week will hold and dressing appropriately for the day becomes a task in preparing for wide fluctuations in conditions. You simply do the best you can to prepare and know that eventually conditions will change. Our rants about the weather won't bring the change about any faster so we simply enjoy what we have while it's here and look to the future for what's next.

I think that accurately describes some people that I talk to as well. They aren't thrilled with their current conditions and keep hoping that things are going to change for the better. Complaining about what's going on won't miraculously improve them. The mature (and often difficult) thing to do is to find some joy in the middle of tough times and cast an eye to the future. When we're honestly seeking God's will we can be sure that seasons will eventually change. My counsel is always to learn what you can in this one because a new one will be here more quickly than we realize.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Admit It

We talked about the word "confession" in our life group today as a follow up to this morning's message. We were all in agreement on the need for genuine confession, but also agreed with how difficult it is. It's a humbling action that opens you up to the potential for great healing and full restoration. It can also be incredibly frightening to be that honest when you are unsure of how people will react. It speaks to the need for compassionate people in our lives to help us through the process. It's the willingness of kind friends to cover up our embarrassment--never to cover up our sin--and help us through the healing process. In this way we model the best of Christianity through our extension of love, mercy, and unqualified grace towards others. It's the embodiment of one of my favorite quotes from Andy Stanley, author and pastor at North Point Community Church: "The church is most appealing when grace is most apparent."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Out of Control

One of the things that I like most about Northridge is the externally minded focus we strive to develop. We put that into action today through something called Northridge Cares. It's a time when we head out into the community to make a tangible impact in various ways. We were partnering with all of our local public schools, the Boys & Girls Club, and and another local church to improve their campuses. We planned out every detail that could be managed, but had no idea what the weather would be like. Naturally it rained all morning, but our devoted volunteers came out anyway. We had to quickly readjust our plans, but I feel confident in saying that the work sites were better when we left than we arrived. I am grateful for the hard work, the willingness to adjust, and the endurance for cold, rainy weather to get the job done.

Things do not always go as planned & there will be circumstances beyond your control. Each of us get to make the choice of whether we will adapt and forge ahead or have our emotions and intentions derailed by things outside of our control.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Too Fast

Today was my day off, but ended up being filled with activities and necessary chores. As a bonus to the busyness I was given the gift of spending some of this afternoon with my oldest daughter, Lindsay. We
dropped her sisters off for an overnight middle school event, grabbed some Starbucks, and did some grocery shopping. It wasn't a fancy afternoon, but one that simply brought me joy. We talked about nothing, laughed, shared some wisdom, and just enjoyed each other's company. I could have sat around the house and read or watched a movie, but I wouldn't trade a few hours with my girl for anything. All three of my daughters are incredible gifts to us and I don't want to waste any opportunity we have together. The time of all us under one roof is growing too short to miss out on quality experiences with each other.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Regal Responsibility

Several times in the book of Judges it states that the people had no king so they did as they saw fit. It's not a compliment to their ability to practice self-discipline, but more of an indictment on their lack of restraint. Not only does this reveal a selfish character trait, it highlights our own need for godly leadership. Without it people make foolish, short-sighted decisions that cause personal harm and collateral damage to others--sometimes irreparably.

While we aren't part of a monarchy (depending on where you are reading this) a need to lead positively is still present. If we fail to positively guide our families, careers, churches, and communities we are refusing to create a legacy that will lead to success and we are setting them up for potential destruction.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I don't devotedly watch any reality talent show, but I do enjoy watching clips of them online. One of my secret pleasures is to watch the auditions and see the unexpected talents that arise. I will also admit to watching to see the train wrecks--the people who truly shouldn't sing in public (or perhaps even in private.) I feel badly for them not just because of their lack of talent, but because they have deceived themselves into thinking they have a shot. It's a strong testimony on the power of self-deception. It makes me wonder where the people are in their lives who should be speaking the truth (in love) to them.

Self-deception is a dangerous trap that any of can fall into. It can affect our marriages, friendships, family life, careers, and even damage our integrity. Exposing ourselves to the truth through genuine accountability and life-to-life mentoring will help us avoid the potentially damaging effects that we can impose on ourselves. Growth takes a willingness on our part to hear the unpleasant truth and the humility to make changes.