Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Still Growing

As the year winds down I have been reflecting on the lessons and experiences of 2014. I don't know that I could accurately encapsulate all that this year has delivered. It is fair to say that it has been a year of stretching, self-revelation, expanded dreams, joy, sorrow, surprise, and disappointment. I do know that I am not the same man that I was at the beginning of the year. I may not have achieved all that I hoped to or grown in all the areas that I wanted to grow. Thankfully, the newness of the next year means that I get to keep working at it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Moving Calendar

I read yesterday that next week we will be closer to the year 2030 than we will the year 2000. That doesn't sound right when you hear it, but it is absolutely true. It seems a bit more astounding to me to think of it this way since 2030 has always sounded so distant & futuristic. Part of me doesn't like to admit how far the year 2000 is in the past either. It means that my girls are nearing adulthood and that I'm not getting any younger either.

I can't do anything to impede the progress of time so I suppose that leaves me with two choices. I can pretend that things are not changing or I can prepare myself the best way I know how. I won't be able to predict everything that will happen, but I can plan ahead to the best of my abilities and trust God to fill in the gaps. Forging ahead into the unknown with some semblance of a plan is better than ignoring the moving calendar and hoping everything works out for my benefit.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Simple Life

My wife and I spent a few hours together in Nashville today while visiting family. We didn't have any major objectives, but wanted to grab a bite to eat and wander around some. We both remarked on how much we enjoyed our afternoon even though there was nothing grand in the planning. It's often the simple things we share together that mean the most.

We agreed that it may not have always been that way when we were younger, but we have grown to appreciate the simplicity of spending time with each other. Our years together have helped to develop a relationship that is content with so many small things that bring us happiness just because we are with each other. I'm thankful for the gift of time that allows us to have afternoons like today.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking Ahead

My wife & I are focused on reviewing the end of 2014 and looking ahead to 2015. We both have things that we want to accomplish and areas that we want to grow in. We have also challenged our daughters to think about their ambitions for the next year. We have some thoughts on areas of growth for them, but we want to hear their feedback on what they hope to achieve. Our girls react differently to this concept for several different reasons. Part of their hesitance is based on the hard work it takes to think through potential change. I think fear plays into it in some regard as it causes them to think about growing up and the big changes that are on our family's horizon (with three girls in high school.)

It might be easier as parents to just let this go by without pushing on it, but I think we would be doing them a disservice if we did. While we can't prepare them for everything that they might face, we can teach them the valuable skill of assessing your current status and planning for growth. If they can learn to set some goals and move beyond only day-to-day thinking, they will be set up to mature each year. I can't guarantee that they will always be successful, but hopefully they will recognize the value of planning ahead in their personal lives and setting themselves up to move forward.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Different But Good

Our Christmas celebrations seem to change a bit every year. While we still have a few rock-solid traditions (like the gift of pajamas on Christmas Eve), the overall holiday celebration is more flexible. It's not that we don't place value on continuing traditions. Instead I feel that we have learned (and are learning) to be more adaptable as our lives change. Each home we have moved into and each new phase of life brings changes. We can either resist these changes and make our lives more complicated or we can make the necessary adjustments while honoring the heart of what matters most. A good friend of mine is fond of saying, "Life is adjustable." I think it's a healthy, growing life that adjusts to changing times and celebrates the journey along the way.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Take a Break

We periodically take technology breaks as a a family. It echoes the spiritual discipline of fasting (in a minor way) as we purposefully remove a regular part of our lives for a period of time. It isn't that our use of technology is completely negative, but it helps us to focus on what is most important. Taking these disciplined breaks will help remind me to place value in the right areas.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Best Gift

While it's desired at other times, we tend to think of peace on earth more often at Christmas. It's a representation of what Christ brings to us and the ultimate result of our journey with Him. The idea of it speaks to our souls and stirs up a longing within us. I believe we see glimpses of it (an appetizer of peace if you will) in days like Christmas when we set aside our regular agendas and simply rest in contentment. It may not be perfect peace, but it's good enough for my heart today. 

Merry Christmas and may the God of Peace bring you rest and satisfaction today. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Wait

Sometimes it seems like we've been waiting for Christmas forever. I remember when I was a child (and sometimes as an adult) that the wait almost seemed unbearable. It was hard to be patient as the days slowly rolled by leading up to the big celebration. There was a special kind of patient torture on Christmas Eve as I tried to sleep the night before opening up all our gifts. I'm still not quite certain how we made it through the wait which I was positive was going to make me explode with anticipation.

Anticipation isn't a terrible thing as long as we know we'll eventually get what we've been waiting for. I pray that this Christmas is everything you hoped (and waited) for it to be.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Theology

Christmas is a time when we celebrate and sing about joy to the world, peace on earth, and good will towards mankind. This isn't just a fond wish or a comforting thought, but a revelation of what the gift of Christ means to us all. We sit in hopeful expectation of what God has brought, but I believe it's more than that. I feel that it's also an expression of what we should seek to share with the rest of the world.

If we truly place our hope in this gift of Christ then it's also our responsibility to share joy and peace through our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. We do this because of the strength of these gifts that first flowed from Christ. It's only in His humble sacrifice for us that we can find the courage to be ambassadors of the true meaning of Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Better Together

Today my beautiful wife & I celebrate 20 years of marriage. I could write the world's lengthiest blog describing her incredible, loving qualities and how well we fit together. I could begin to detail what a wonderful, sacrificial mother she is. I could fill tomes with descriptive terms to define why I don't deserve her and how vital she is to me everyday. The simple truth is that I am a better man because of her and I strive daily to be the man that she really deserves. Twenty years together seems like a lifetime and yet not enough at the same time. I am the luckiest.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


There is a common saying that almost seems too simplistic to be true: "You will find what you look for." It's accurate because our genuine search shapes our perspective and our sense of expectancy. No matter whether we look for positive or negative things we can be sure to find them. Being armed with that knowledge should help us to seek the right things & with the proper motivation.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Watch Your Mouth!

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (‭James‬ ‭3‬:‭5-6‬ MSG)

I understand from personal experience the power of the spoken word and how damaging it can be to relationships. This isn't a new problem nor is it only an issue for me. The passage of Scripture above demonstrates the devastating potential of our words and cautions us in our choices. The good news is that we can choose the opposite of the verses above as well.

  • A carefully placed, correct word can put out the fire of conflict.
  • We can strengthen & build up the world and our relationships
  • The right word can create beautiful, unified harmonies while eliminating chaos
  • We can restore a person's reputation and protect their character
  • At the first sign of impending fire we can quickly put it out with words of peace, unconditional love, and reconciliation

We have always had the power to build up or destroy with our words. Let's carefully choose which list of results we want to describe our speech.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Grace Period

Our youth pastor & his wife attended a conference last month and heard a speaker share the following phrase concerning teenagers, "Don't judge a book by its cover or by the first few chapters." It's an encouragement to be part of the transformation process for youth and not make concrete judgments about who they are at an early age. It's a reminder that our youth are a work in progress and we need to show them some grace through their growth.

It's actually pretty good advice for all of us. I don't think it just applies to our early years of life, but also the formative years of many life seasons. I'm glad that many parts of my life are not defined only by the first few years: my marriage, my parenting, my development as a man, and my role in ministry. Instead it's a good reminder that we are all (hopefully) a work in progress and we all need a little grace. Sometimes (especially early in development) we need that grace even more.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


My wife and I agree that we like watching shows & movies with rough characters because we believe they are redeemable. A person can make you cringe with their choice of words and actions, but if they give you glimpses of having the potential for positive change it makes you keep watching. Part of it is my desire to see them turn things around and become a better person.

At the heart of it I think it's because I want to believe that I am redeemable as well. I need to know that in spite of my many flaws and a past scattered with poor decision-making, I can be rescued. In fact, I already have been. The gratitude & allegiance I feel to God for saving me fuels me to want to see it on others too. Our other choice is to believe that we are only the sum of our mistakes and that there is no hope. It's a good thing that I know better than that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's Over

"If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." 
Economist Herbert Stein

This may seem like a fairly simple concept, but it leads to a number of questions:

  • What does this mean for our concept of organizational leadership? 
  • How does this affect the way we react to family stresses? 
  • How does this help us cope with our seasons of life? 
  • How do we prepare for the end of situations? 
  • How do we react when circumstances are unbearable? 
  • When do we determine that it's time to let go of something?

The truth is that nothing here on earth will last forever. We need to prepare accordingly and be wise enough to move through the different seasons with some grace and patience.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Even though I grew up in Florida there were often signs of the change of seasons. The signs may not have been as obvious as other states, but you could normally tell what season it was even without a calendar. It's a little more difficult to determine the current season in our personal lives, but it's more essential than just gauging environmental conditions.

Do you know what season of life you are currently in? If you don't/can't identify it then you won't be prepared for what is happening now or what will happen next. It would be like wearing a fur parka and long-johns in the heat of summer or a bathing suit and flip flops in the snow. You won't be very comfortable, there is very little enjoyment, and you'll be woefully unprepared for the conditions. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Is Over

It's been a long Monday filled with a variety of emotions and challenges. It has held moments of triumph, periods of reflection, stimulated thought processes, and yearnings for the future. There have been reminders of the brevity of life, the power of a miracle, the comfort of good friends, and shared prayers. I have witnessed tears, laughter, and beaming smiles. I have felt boldly confident in some of the things that I have said and also been completely flummoxed as to what to do next. Needless to say, there isn't a lot that has been lacking from today on the spiritual spectrum.

In spite of all that today has held, I can still hold onto an essential truth: God is still God and I am not Him. I don't actually harbor any illusions to the contrary, but it brings me great comfort tonight in the face of all that I have been a part of today. Our great King is still in charge and His sovereign plan will be fulfilled. When I don't understand everything I am seeing, this brings me peace beyond my limited understanding.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Keep Moving

It's not coincidental (see last Sunday's blog) that I continue to hear challenges to transform our community. It's a tension felt by many and I'm grateful to be part of a church that is dedicated to doing something about it. I believe this tension is felt by many of us, but not everyone is committed to making something happen. I believe people have good intentions, but often get bogged down in a few areas.

Our lead pastor shared a message this morning that called us to action and to making a substantial difference in our community. There were three essential elements to that change: prayer, planning, and taking action. It doesn't seem mind-boggling to grasp this concept, but it's important to have all three of these without zeroing in on only one of them. Asking the following questions might help us stay focused:
  • Are you spending so much time in prayer that you don't do anything?
  • Are you planning so much that you never take action?
  • Are you taking action so quickly that you neglect to pray?
We need all three of these to move forward with God's blessing, wisdom, and power. Our communities are waiting for us to do something about it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

That's Different

The practice of discrimination is disturbing and divisive. It's the dehumanization of another person based on criteria that we have determined to be essential. I wish that I could say I am unaffected by it, but that would not be honest. The truth is that it affects us all and we are all also practitioners. Any time we categorize people and cast judgment based on those categories we are fostering discriminatory practices. While we tend to think of racial and ethnic lines as the most polarizing, we are all guilty of minimizing other people based on a number of other comparisons:

  • Single or Married
  • Liberal or Conservative
  • Man or Woman
  • Caucasian or Black (or Hispanic or Asian or Slavic or any other group)
  • Jewish or Gentile
  • Rich or Middle Class (or Poor)
  • Coffee Drinker or Tea Lover
  • Meat Eater or Vegetarian
  • Gator Fan or Dawg Fan
  • North Side of  Town or South Side of Town
  • College Educated or Self Taught
  • Spender or Saver
  • Traditional or Contemporary
  • Your Denomination or The "Other" Denomination

How do we stop this? It isn't by ignoring our differences, but in appreciating our uniqueness and realizing that each one adds value to us as individuals. Collectively our community is better when we are heterogeneous and not completely identical. Can we strive for this unity and appreciate what we each contribute to the beautiful mosaic of our lives? It's a focus that has to begin in the hearts of each of us before it can influence the rest of our community.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Every Hour

I am a fan of almost all types of music. I have widespread (and somewhat eclectic) tastes, but I always appreciate talent and the weaving of melodies and harmonies. I like finding new voices and unique approaches to old songs. 

I stumbled across a young man named Sam Robson several months ago who uses his abilities to highlight the beauty of older hymns. There is one in particular that continues to resonate with me-partly because of the message of the song and partly because of his beautiful performance. I listen to it frequently to remind myself of what I truly need.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Consider It

A few weeks ago one of our teaching pastors shared a message that issued a challenge to "consider your ways." It's a provocation to think carefully about the path we are on in life and to make sure we are headed in the right direction. It sets us up for a regular time of introspection that is necessary to keep us focused on the right way. If we don't occasionally pause to measure our motivation and get our bearings, we can find ourselves off track. It's hard to implement course corrections if you don't recognize that you've strayed from your intended path.

Taking measure of our actions and motivations isn't always easy. If we want to find success, however, it's important to periodically ask three questions: 
  • Where are you going?
  • What are you doing?
  • Why are you doing it?
Stop and think about these answers now and then or you'll end up far from your intended destination.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


What do the following things have in common?
  • Cultural shift
  • Radical personal change
  • Major life goal
  • Positive relationships
  • Unity in our community
  • Overwhelming task list

They can only be achieved by tackling them one step at a time. We won't accomplish these in a single day or with a specific act, but with consistent effort in the right direction. Take the first step today, followed by positive movement tomorrow, and let the momentum build with each step in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

17 and Counting

We celebrate a birthday today that we shouldn't be able to honor, as our oldest daughter turns 17. She and her sisters are walking reminders of God's grace to us and my wife's healing from cancer. This causes us to be even more thankful for each of them and especially for our Lindsay on this day.

Our sweet young woman is the oldest child of two firstborn parents and possesses her own independent streak that carries her forward. She is wildly creative, sees the best in people, and has a deep desire to make an impact on the world around her. I love her passion for life and the deep feelings she has for her friends. She continues to amaze me with her calm nature in the face of change and I love to have conversations with her as she shares her heart. I don't look forward to the day when she is no longer under our roof, but I am excited to see the adult she will become. I have no doubt that she will do phenomenal things that might seem crazy to some people, but make perfect sense to her. There is more to her than meets the eye and she doesn't fit any stereotype you might try to put on her. I love how much she loves her Savior and her commitment to making a difference. She is wonderfully & uniquely herself and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Every day is an adventure with her & her sisters and I am humbled that God allowed me to be their father. I hope your 17th birthday is everything you hoped for, my Lindsay-Lou. You are certainly everything we could have wished for.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Standing the Right Way

In Jewish history, there is a man named Mordecai who served as a guard for the king when the Jews were in exile. Circumstances led to an edict being issued that called for the death of all of the Jews because of one man's personal grudge. Mordecai refused to go into hiding or to run from the situation, but instead humbled himself before God and sought the help of leadership to have the situation changed. Because of his determination, his willingness to do things the right way, and God's deliverance, the Jewish people were saved.  

As I look at his example, I wonder if we are willing to be a Mordecai today? Will we stand against injustice in a God-honoring way? Will we actively seek God on behalf of other people? Will we have the courage to stand for what is right as we stand united for God? 

Relief and deliverance from oppression are a gift from God and He is ready to bring that through faithful people even today. Let's stand together for what is right and stand the right way. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014


I don't believe in coincidences, but in the sovereign plan of God that is always right on time. I've seen so much evidence in my own life of details coming together that I can't attribute it to chance. To  be honest, the statistical odds on things repeatedly coming together at just the right moment are astronomical. On the other hand, to assume that the universe is pulling strings merely for my benefit is demeaning to an all-powerful & all-loving God.

For this all to make sense and for us to find peace in uncertain times, I need to believe that there is a greater plan in play. There is a destiny and purpose that our world is moving rapidly towards and God is working all of the details out for the good of those that love Him. This doesn't mean that I comprehend it all and can even see all of the pieces that are in motion. It does mean that I have put my trust in a God who always seems to bring things together in a way that rejuvenates my faith and validates my confidence in Him. I'll gladly stake a claim on that kind of faith instead of occasional coincidences.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

God on the Shelf

I've discovered that I can't relegate God to certain circumstances or big moments and expect to have a relationship that means something. While God promises to always be there for us when we call on Him, He is not content with being a once-in-a-while God either. Honestly, we don't have the power to limit God's ability to work in our lives, but we do get to choose our level of attention and devotion. We fool ourselves however, if we believe we have the power to keep God on a shelf to be used at our convenience. He isn't a magic genie that exists to help us in times of trouble. He will continue to see His will fulfilled through our on-and-off devotion while waiting for us to get serious about following Him. We might think we are keeping Him at a safe distance until we need Him, but He is intimately involved in our lives whether we recognize it or not. He wouldn't be fully God if it was any other way.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tools in the Toolbox

The old saying is that if you only have a hammer in your toolbox, you approach everything like it's a nail. While you can get a lot of things done with that one tool, it's not very effective for a wide spectrum of jobs. You might be able to force it to work, but you will certainly cause a lot of collateral damage along the way.

The same holds true for leaders. We've got to develop other tools or we are only truly effective in one type of circumstance. Even if that hammer (our strength) is the best hammer anyone has ever seen, it's not going to be very helpful when the situation calls for something a little more delicate. A leader that is committed to personal growth and leading change will invest the time and energy in developing other tools. This intentional personal investment can be difficult (and sometimes painful) but the end result will be worth the commitment.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On the Ground

My wife & I spent some time in a local community this evening as we look for ways to partner with the people there. We wanted to see the condition of their local community center and get a better feel for how we can help them. Our church has invested in this neighborhood in our town for a while and we are looking to increase that commitment. While I have had several recent conversations with people about what is needed, I knew that the best way for me to gauge the situation was to put my own eyes on it. I'm a visual person that needs to see things for myself as I process.

I think it's a valuable principle for almost all situations. If we want to make the biggest possible impact we need to have first-hand experience & observation as our guide. Once we've made an individual connection our desire to make a difference is more personal. It's after that level of involvement that we truly become passionate about transforming a community.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


When I worked as a high school teacher in Florida, the school system had a motivational statement they used build around the acronym "T.E.A.M." The letters represented the statement "Together Everyone Accomplishes More". While I always thought it was a bit cheesy the sentiment is certainly true. We might be able to get a great deal done based on our own talents and strengths, but we won't really make progress or find fulfillment unless we do it with a group of dedicated people.

I am continually reminded that I am blessed with great friends, an incredible staff team, a loving life group, and a community-minded church that embodies this principle of team. Time and time again these wonderful people step up to collaborate for a common cause. It makes this sometimes difficult journey worthwhile and much more gratifying along the way. I can't imagine trying to make a difference in our community any other way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Performance Based

"Many Christ-followers try to live for God's acceptance, love and blessings instead of living from God's love, acceptance, and blessings to us based on 
Jesus' accomplishments for us."
Limitless Life, Derwin Gray

I identify far too much with that statement. It took me years to realize that I was living a performance-based existence and searching for validation in what I was able to accomplish. It affected my attitude towards my family, my career, and my relationship with God. As I have recognized this over the past several years, I have readjusted my perspective to more accurately reflect who I am in God's eyes. While I may still fall into the "performance trap", I now have a greater appreciation and understanding of my value based simply on God's unconditional love. 

It may be difficult for us to fully understand this (and even harder for us to live it out) but that's what make it so unique. This perfect love can only come from a perfect God. No matter how successful or unsuccessful I might be God's love for me is unchanging. I don't have to comprehend it to appreciate it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hey 16

Our middle daughter turned 16 today and she has been counting down the days on our refrigerator whiteboard for a while now. Even as we said goodnight last night it was with the phrase of "last goodnight as a 15 year old!" The truth is that birthdays are a big deal at our house-especially for the four lovely ladies I am blessed to share my life with. They are certainly worth honoring more than just on the anniversary of their birth, but this day in particular is special.

I don't know that I could accurately describe my Bailey (or Boo as we affectionately call her) with simple words. We often just say that Bailey is Bailey and that sums her up well. She is her own wonderfully unique young woman that loves people close to her deeply. She is soft-hearted, affectionate, and wears her emotions on her sleeve. I love everything about her and the unique bond that we share. I know that our family life would be incomplete without her wonderful smile and love. I pray daily for that big heart of hers and for God to protect her from anyone who would take advantage of her great love. It encourages me to know that her deep capacity to love also leads her to love God deeply and I pray that her devotion to Him will continue as she grows.

She asked me this morning at our traditional dad-and-daughter birthday breakfast why it is called, "Sweet 16." Even as I explained it I fell short of the real answer. The truth is that she fits that description perfectly.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lack of Leadership

I have been a Florida Gator fan all of my life. I watched the second half of our annual rivalry game with FSU yesterday and wasn't too surprised when we ended up losing. While I had certainly hoped that we might be able to pull off the upset it wasn't unexpected when we fell short. 

I didn't catch all of the game, but the part that I did see had some pretty clear leadership lessons. It was very obvious why FSU is now undefeated over their last 28 games, are the defending national champions, and will have an opportunity to defend that title very soon. Florida on the other hand is wrapping up another unsatisfactory season in a minor bowl game and is already looking for another head coach. The game spoke volumes about the way successful leaders and teams operate.

1. They are disciplined: the Gators had 9 penalties for 100 yards and had several potential drives thwarted due to the inability to play disciplined football. Undisciplined leaders lose control of their emotions in tense circumstances.

2. They don't waste opportunities: the defense of Florida forced FSU's quarterback (and reigning Heisman trophy winner) into four interceptions and yet only managed to score six points off of those turnovers. Leaders don't let opportunities to move forward slip by without maximizing the impact.

3. They are focused on proper execution: even though their kicker kept them in the game, he ended up missing two field goals that would have ultimately given them the win. Even if circumstances are not ideal, winners find ways to be successful by executing at the right time.

4. They know how to shift momentum in their favor: Florida had a chance to put the game away early when they had a lead of 9-0. They were about to score near the FSU goal line when their quarterback threw an interception that was returned 94 yards for a touchdown. Instead of potentially being up 16-0 Florida was only up 9-7 and momentum had shifted. Leaders learn to divert negative circumstances for the betterment of their organization.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Forming new habits isn't easy, but developing new, healthy patterns is the only way to grow. These new rhythms of thinking and behavior help us maintain focus on our goals while giving us the strength to keep pushing forward. They end up helping us continue to do what is right even when our will power is weak and our rationalizations for abandonment are strong. They shift our emphasis from something that we've "got" to do to something that we "get" to do. That is the moment that we find pleasure in sticking to our transformed lifestyle and want to do whatever it takes to see it continue.

What new habits are you developing that will eventually become a positive engagement instead of dreary discipline?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Best Decision

I've learned to carefully weigh my options before making decisions. It's the result of hard-learned
lessons found by seeking out immediate fulfillment without considering the long-term impact for myself and others around me. The truth is that decisions are not always easy to make and even after you have committed to a course of action there are still doubts and second guessing. The best we can do is to prayerfully think through the implications of our choices, think compassionately about the people around us that will be impacted, and choose the best path from there. It may not appear to be the best choice to those outside our scope of influence, but hopefully we are acting in wisdom when we take it all into consideration.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

It might seem somewhat cliche to post the things that I am thankful for, but it's an important practice in gratitude for me. I thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and it's a good reminder for me to ponder the things that I am truly thankful for.

  • Nearly 20 years of marriage to my incredible wife. She's far better than I deserve.
  • Three beautiful, kind-hearted daughters that challenge, encourage, and love me
  • A warm, love-filled home
  • Family that loves me through miles apart & my own shortcomings
  • Grace, grace, and more grace.
  • Being part of a church that is intent on changing the community we live in
  • The contentment of living out my life's calling
  • Friends & mentors who continue to invest in my life
  • Being part of a staff that genuinely loves Jesus
  • Knowing that I'm not the man that I used to be
  • Confidence in knowing God isn't done making me into the man I need to be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Be a Blessing

Our church has a phrase that we use quite often: we are blessed to be a blessing. We believe that God has given us the resources we possess so that they can be shared with others. It's a reflection of our gratitude for God's generosity and a desire to make an impact in our community. This can be exhibited through financial means, physical energy, emotional support, and prayers. The key is in recognizing how much we've been given and being intentional about investing in others. It's not just a principle for the holiday season, but should be a year-round mentality.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mystery Creations

My family & I really enjoy a show on the Food Network called, "Chopped". It's a cooking contest show that brings on four chefs to impress a panel of judges. They are given a mystery basket that contains odd ingredients that they must whip into a tasty dish if they want to survive. It's a high-stress show (especially in the final seconds of each elimination round) that showcases the quick-thinking abilities of these select chefs. We watch because it's always interesting to see what creative thing they are going to come up with in the allotted time period.

I don't fool myself into thinking that I could be as successful as any of the chefs on that program. They are much more talented than I am and are able to make something amazing out of what appears to be very little. It reminds me of how God works with each of us. We may not believe that we have much to offer personally, but if we are willing to turn it over to God we will see something amazing. God is always able to do more than we ask or imagine, but He won't seize control of our lives and force us to submit to Him. The choice is always ours and the end result of our faith in Him will always be more than we thought it could be.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Challenged Thinking

I have a good friend who is a pastor at another church in town. Our friendship was developed through our churches mutual investment in a community camp a couple of years ago. We have continued to work together on a variety of projects and are both very welcome in our respective churches.

Outside of church events and outreach, we continue to meet for coffee and early morning breakfast to stay connected and encourage one another. I thoroughly enjoy conversations with my friend and always gain a great deal from the way we stimulate thinking in each other. He has more ministry experience than I do and is able to offer a unique perspective from his denominational and cultural background. It's obvious that he spends a great deal of time in prayer and Scripture as he is willing to change his own view of things as God works in him.

I always look forward to our conversations simply because of our friendship. I also appreciate how he challenges my understanding of things and raises questions that are aimed at growth. It's encouraging to me to see two pastors from diverse backgrounds come together and motivate each other as we look to make an impact on our community. It's an important relationship of diversity in unity and the kind that I believe all leaders should seek out.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I am fortunate to be able to have a full day of ministry and reminders of the power of my calling. While the pace may be hectic, the rewards are plentiful even in complicated circumstances. I'm thankful that today had many different things that continue to affirm God's work around me. It wouldn't be possible to list every detail, but there were some events that stand out. 
  • Sitting with my family in worship
  • Encouraging words from a faithful Christ-follower
  • Having chances to pray with people
  • Baptizing a young girl whose family has set an excellent example for her
  • A full room of people excited about being part of the church
  • Seeing several people ready to take the next step in their spiritual journey
  • Working hard with a group to bless families with Thanksgiving meals
  • Spending the evening with an awesome group of high school youth & being reminded of the good old days of youth ministry 
  • A phenomenal meal with my wife and the comfort of each other's company

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Not Permitted

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; 
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

In another parallel to dealing with spiritual attacks (see yesterday's blog), I recently compared the enemy to a childhood punk who steals our lunch. He takes the very best things out of our lunchbox and leaves us with nothing worthwhile. He is the hooligan who always takes our Hostess cupcake and leaves the celery sticks behind. He doesn't want us to have anything to find joy in, but aims to leave us feeling short-changed and disappointed. 

I don't mean to diminish the attacks of the enemy (or those that love celery sticks) with my illustration. I simply want to draw attention to the discouragement that can be used against us. We have to recognize that our enemy, the thief, has come to steal from us. He isn't interested in our well-being or our happiness, but only wants to make us miserable by taking our focus off of God. If we want to fight back we've got to grasp the full life that God offers and refuse to allow anything to dissuade us from that path. 

The truth is the best gifts come from God and the enemy can't take those from us if we don't give him permission.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Frontal Assault

The clip above is one of my very favorite moments from the show, "The Office." The humor is obvious, but it struck me yesterday (pun intended) that it accurately describes how I sometimes allow things to attack me. You would think that I would recognize the work of the enemy when it comes at me in familiar ways. I hope that I will be able to deflect the blow when it is aimed directly at me and yet I often ignore it until it's too late.

Even though I like to think I am on guard, I allowed it to happen to me yesterday. After I realized it, I almost couldn't believe that I had fallen for some of the same old manipulations. I've got to be more vigilant in watching for distractions and disruptive attempts. While I certainly can't guarantee 100% deflection, I hope that I will get better at recognizing and avoiding traps as I keep maturing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hide It Away

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

Why do we hide things? So others can't find it? To protect it? As an act of preservation?

We most likely wouldn't hide something of little or no value. We would only make the effort if it was something of great worth. I would think that our expectation would be to hide it for some future purpose.

That's why we should commit ourselves to studying God's Word. It's not so we can impress anyone with our knowledge and ability to recall long passages. We do this so that the power of the right path is there when we need it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Grief

The shortest verse in the Bible is found in John 11:35 where it simply says that "Jesus wept." It is at a time when a close friend of his has died and people are attributing his emotions to this loss. I tend to believe it also revealed how Jesus understood the power death has over us. Even though Jesus was going to defeat this forever, He knew how much grief it would cause us. He knew the pain we would have to endure when we were confronted by it, and the deep sorrow we would feel.

I have seen death and its effects too much recently. I too grieve as Jesus did for those that suffer and I turn to the only answer I know. It's the solution of Christ, His peace that passes understanding and our confidence in a life beyond this one. It doesn't eliminate our sorrow, but it provides the only true source of hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lifelong Coach

I saw a segment on ESPN today that highlighted Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the Duke
University Blue Devils and the USA men's national team. There were four sports journalists talking about his career and influence and three of them were former players of his. I have great respect for Coach K, but was left with more appreciation for his character and leadership after listening to his proteges. There were several leadership principles that he obviously practices and should be applied by compassionate leaders as well.

He always wants his players to be better.
This wasn't just geared towards better athletic performance, but in being a better person overall. Being a better person makes you a better teammate and overall contributor.

He never stops coaching you.
One of his players said that even though it had been over 30 years since he had played basketball for him, he was still coaching him in life decisions and character development. This shows genuine compassion for the long haul and not just for immediate results.

He wouldn't tell us what to do, but would ask you the right question to get you to think.
The most effective leader will help you discover the best path as you discover more about yourself.

He's not just about basketball, but is about developing people.
Coach K understands that basketball can help to teach life lessons and shape our character more than just teach us how to play a game. A career as a basketball player will eventually come to an end, but the lessons learned will carry on throughout the rest of life.

His players would do anything he asked them to do because they trust him.
Effective leaders have committed followers because of the level of trust they have established with each other. Earning complete trust comes through consistent servant leadership and a belief that the leader is invested in you and not just what you can produce.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Daily Perspective

The pace of my day has been different than I anticipated, but as I wrote recently that doesn't necessarily make it a bad day. Looking back in retrospection reveals a lot of positive things that didn't show up on my to-do list.
  • A good cup(s) of coffee and morning meditation 
  • Reading that challenges my thought processes
  • Encouraging & praying for friends going through difficulties
  • Feeling like I am making valuable contributions to forward movement
  • Being part of a team
  • Talking with a like-minded colleague about the potential of ministry
  • An overly enthusiastic greeting from a happy dog at home
  • An appropriately enthusiastic greeting from a happy family at home
  • Pushing through exercise in increasingly cool weather
  • A really good meal at the end of the day
  • Taking time to read & write with another good cup of coffee
Our perspective determines the outcome and today's outcome has been good. Here's to finding those parts that help us see the positive things happening around us.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

That's Messy

I heard a quote from Madeline Albright (former Secretary of State) today where she was asked for her assessment on the state of the world. She simply said, "The world is a mess."

I think she might find many people who agree with her. We could all find things that contribute to the messiness we find ourselves in. It could be an uneven political climate, dysfunctional family dynamics, ineffective churches, the lack of male role models, and disunity. I doubt that we would struggle to come up with influences for our current situation. Identifying problems won't be an issue.

The bigger question is what is our response going to be? Are we content just to recognize the mess or do we want to do something about it? We can bemoan the current state of affairs or we can decide to engage in a two-step solution;

Step 1: Talk to the Creator and The Solver of problems and seek His wisdom and healing
Step 2: Do what He asks us to do to be part of the solution

It's time to stop simply talking about messiness and work to clean it up. We need to either do something about the state of the world or shut up.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Learn Something New

I learned two things that were new to me yesterday.

Fact #1: I had no idea that cows produced more milk in winter months. I guess it's too much effort in summer to make it.

Fact #2: The word "materiels" is not a misspelling when you are on a military base. It actually applies to the equipment, apparatus, and supplies of a military force.

I don't know how much more well-rounded these bits of knowledge have made me, but it does help fulfill an ambition of learning something new each day. It's when we neglect to keep learning that we stop growing as a leader and a person.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Museum Day

We spent time at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins today with our family. My mom & stepfather are in town and since Mario is a pilot and military veteran, we knew it would be a hit. I was pleasantly surprised that our girls enjoyed it as much as they did. It didn't hurt that there were a ton of actual planes for us to see and that it counted as part of their home school days. We all agreed that it was a successful and enjoyable adventure.

There's something powerful about walking through history. It's not just about the cool planes (although that part was phenomenal) but it's about the stories that each plane and exhibit told. It was about the great sacrifices of people in trying times of war and their willingness to fight for freedom. There is something appealing about sharing in tales of great valor, leadership in adversity, and a unified team fighting to preserve their values. It's was a powerful reminder of important principles and the people who lived their lives fully committed to preserving them. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

In Part

What were you part of today? It's not that we have to be actively engaged in a community are part of something bigger and if we are aware of it our focused efforts will be that much more significant.
transforming movement to call the day a success. It's important, however, that we recognize the value of our role in each of our interactions. We have opportunities each day to influence others, encourage our friends, love our families, and develop our character. These might not seem like monumental increases, but they are key contributors to the flow of life around us. We

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting Hungry

Tonight we have people who came to the church to have a meal before our programming. Unfortunately, our fryer isn't working properly so our kids' meal has been changed. Instead of offering fried chicken fingers & french fries they will have chicken and macaroni & cheese. I'm certain that some people will be disappointed since they came expecting one thing and were served another. Some may even say, "I'm hungry, but I'm not hungry for that."

Obviously food is on a unique level as I've been known to eat anything to effectively curb my hunger. I think it's a different matter when we are talking about spiritual fulfillment however. We are created with a longing for something that is real and eternal. When we attempt to fulfill that feeling with anything less than what God offers, it doesn't take care of the need for long. Sadly, I don't know that people always recognize the lack of fulfillment. We'll keep attempting to satisfy our hunger and never come to the realization that we aren't hungry for anything but truth. 

Think of how much disappointment we could avoid if we could identify what we are really seeking and ignore the things that won't bring lasting satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Common Focus

I'm encouraged tonight by the group of over 500 people that gathered in worship. There were multiple churches represented as we met to benefit a local charity and work together for a cause. The diversity of talent was impressive and it was all enriched by our shared concern for others. Tonight was proof that we need to continue to seek out ways to work together.

We need to continue to practice mutual respect as we honor each other's differences. It's vital for the future of our community that the shared attitude of this event is not restricted to a few events a year. If we intend to come together to transform lives, heal old wounds, build trust, and restore relationships it is essential to make this a permanent value. I have high hopes for the future of our area and pray that we will continue to strive to make this unity a priority.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unity In Diversity

I had the honor of witnessing something very special yesterday afternoon at one of our local churches. A friend of mine was sharing his initial message after receiving his calling. In his church's culture, he would preach and then seek the affirmation of the church to receive his license. It was a ceremony of worship, Scripture, recognition, and the teaching of the Word in a powerful way.

Not only was his testimony engaging and effective, but the reverence shown throughout the entire ceremony impacted me deeply. I left with a higher sense of honor for my own role as a pastor and a tremendous sense of gratitude for my friends in this church. The diversity that our churches continue to share with each other is exceedingly valuable and I appreciate being included in this special day. I pray that our openness and willingness to share will continue as we grow together with understanding and mutual admiration.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Today has been full. Not just full from a schedule perspective (although that is certainly true) but full from a spiritual view. I have had the tremendous pleasure & responsibility of teaching God's Word and I have prayed with several people. I was honored to baptize three people into Christ and talk with another about her future partnership with our church. I have been encouraged by the words of good friends and challenged by God's powerful reminders of my weakness. I was incredibly proud to witness the initial message of a God-honoring man and to share in moments of worship with brothers & sisters from another local church. I now have the incredible privilege of wrapping up my day with my beautiful daughters, our energetic puppy, and my devoted wife.

I think it's going to simply be enough to say that today was full in some of the very best ways. Even though it may seem that I am the central character in most of the good things about today, I recognize that it is far more about God and His generosity.

I am grateful for the gift of this Sunday. Selah.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

If Only

The words "if only" are two very small words. They are often used to describe a sense of longing, an excuse, or a wish for something better. Our finances, families, marriages, jobs, and communities would all be better "if only" certain things would have been different. We would work to improve ourselves "if only" circumstances were right. They describe a sense of dissatisfaction, but are deeply rooted in the idea of discontentment. We are unhappy with our current situation, but these two words give us a pass on doing anything about it.

Perhaps it's time to stop using these two words as an excuse for our inaction. If we want to see things improve we have to commit ourselves to the discipline of identifying and pursuing the right goals. This will create new opportunities for change and eliminate the paralyzing power of two small words.

Friday, November 7, 2014

At the End of the Day

How do you know if you had a good day? Is it all about your emotional state as you lay your head on your pillow? Is it about the number of things you checked off on your to-do list? Perhaps it's the accomplishment of goals and a feeling of success. Do we fall victim to the lie that one bad moment causes the entire day to be bad?

The encouraging news is that we get to decide what makes it a good day. We are the ones assigning value as we determine how things are going. Maybe we should look for a positive moment and let that define the day instead of hanging on to the negative. It may not alter every part of our reality, but it will definitely alter our perception of it.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sticker Shock

"I can't afford that." 

Have you ever used that phrase? It's most often used in a financial sense as we weigh out the cost of an item in comparison to our available funds. We decide that a car is too costly for our budget, a restaurant too fancy for our wallets, or a trip too expensive for the rest of our checkbook. Hopefully we are wise enough to recognize that this is out of our reach instead of going into debt. If we ignore the actual cost in pursuit of immediate gratification we end paying a higher price than we ever anticipated. 

I've got to know that there are other decisions that I can't afford to make either. There are people depending on me and trusting that I will make the right choice. If I forget my priorities and chase after temporary satisfaction, I will end up paying a higher (and very unpleasant price) for my actions. 

If more men would keep this principle in mind, we would see relationships being protected and Christ being honored instead of generations being enslaved to the emotional debt of sinful behaviors. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Believe It

What do you believe? Can you clearly articulate it? The key to our belief isn't so much in our ability to define those values. I feel certain that we can all speak fairly intelligently about a number of different topics and align ourselves with specific viewpoints. Even our most eloquent language doesn't necessarily indicate our true beliefs though. That is truly only indicated in our actions.

How is this seen in our lives? Where are we professing one thing and yet living another? If you are unsure about your belief system then take a careful look at what you are doing and it will be made obvious. We reveal our true level of belief by what we apply to our lives.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I believe in the power of a well-timed, well-phrased question. It has the ability to draw people close together, to bring insightful clarity, and to communicate interested concern. There are two keys that make the art of question & answer effective.

1. Ask the right question.

2. Listen intently to the answer.

You will never get the answer you are looking for if you ignore either one of these.

Monday, November 3, 2014


The Gift and the One who gave the Gift are the same. You cannot have one without the other. The Gift and the Gift-giver are a package deal. 
Limitless Life, Derwin Gray

You can't expect to receive all that God has to offer without accepting Him as well. We might see portions of forgiveness, grace, mercy, and purpose without having a relationship with Him. We won't ever fully experience the beauty and power of what God offers if we won't commit to following Him though. It won't be a personal journey then, but merely a secondary spirituality that only comes into contact with the purity of God through other people. That's not the depth of commitment that interests God and it's less than appealing to us. All of God's gifts are illusions without Him at the center of them. 

Fulfillment and contentment are found in all of who God is.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Don't Slip!

I was running the steps next to our campus church on Saturday and meditating on two verses I had recently committed to memory. A portion of it says, "The law of God is in his heart and his feet do not slip." I was thinking about the idea of my feet slipping while I was concentrating to make sure that didn't happen when running up and down the stairs.

With winter's chill in the air, I was recalling our ice storms of this year and how I wouldn't find myself running steps if that happened again. In fact, it would be incredibly foolish of me to attempt to run the steps if they were covered in ice. I would hope I would have enough sense to stay off of them if they posed that much of a danger to me.

I hope that would apply in other areas of danger as well. If I want to maintain sure footing on my chosen pathway I need to avoid treacherous areas that might cause me to fall. I need to avoid looking at certain things, participating in certain conversations, and perhaps even having relationships with certain people. I hope that God has been active enough in my life and character development that I would recognize the potential of falling and choose to stay away from those areas. It's a much wiser move to stay in areas of firm footing so that I am not falling of the right pathway.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


I wrote yesterday about overload and how a certain level is essential for growth. While this is completely true, too much overload can also lead to damage. In the interest of pushing past our limits we can end up causing self-harm instead of helping ourselves to grow. 

The key is found in recognizing the difference between stress and distress. Stress lets us know that we are working hard while distress is a signal that we are pushing beyond our ability to withstand increased work. When we ignore these warnings we fail to achieve our desired objective and end up taking steps backwards in our development. 

Pushing through exhaustion helps us to see gains, but only if we are able to recognize when we are stretching into potentially injurious territory. We've got to be aware of the warning signs of injury if we want to maximize our maturity while minimizing risk.