Monday, June 30, 2014

Not a Cliche

We all face situations where we are at a loss for words and action steps. Our personal wisdom doesn't seem up to the task of choosing what is next and we are unsure of which direction is best. It can be quite frustrating and can even cause a fair amount of heartbreak as this indecision can become quite paralyzing. It might seem cliche to those who don't believe fully in its power, but I know that the most important thing to do is to pray.

While circumstances may catch us by surprise they are never beyond God's ability to see. He knows the best possible outcome and is willing to guide us if we will let Him. He understands the depth of our confusion and pain and wants to bring our attention back to Him while bringing us healing. He works to restore our faith when it seems to wane and cover us with peace like a warm well-worn blanket. Even when we are unsure of exactly what to ask for, He is able and ready to deliver the answer we are desperate to find. He is our greatest comfort in times of need and simply asks that we seek Him and trust Him. Without faith in Him how else would we manage to survive these stormy seasons?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Halfway Gone

In just two days 2014 will be halfway gone. I'm not necessarily thrilled with my personal pace of progress or change in these first six months, but I also tend to be pretty hard on myself.

I could lament the time that I have wasted and the incomplete (and sometimes neglected) steps of transformation that lay behind me. I could also choose to gear up for the next six months, recognize the gift of this time, and use the remaining half of this year as a launching pad for growth and lasting change.

There are really two options: be frustrated about the first half of the year or maximize the opportunities that are in front of me. The first alternative just wastes more time while the latter sets me up for success and personal growth.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

All By Myself

Maintaining our character and holding to our values is not easily done alone. We might have the willpower and the plan to succeed for a while, but trying to maintain focus without accountability and support becomes increasingly difficult over time. We will all have moments of weakness and temptation where our supply of willpower seems to have run low. When we are in isolation we are more likely to choose poorly. In fact, sometimes we choose isolation because of the decisions that we have been making or anticipate making. The truth is that isolation is the enemy of accountability. Removing ourselves from the company of like-minded people eliminates the guardrails that help keep us on the safe path of decision making.

All of us need a dedicated community of people around us for support, strength, and reminders of what is most important. It's in the honest togetherness of genuine relationships that we find the courage to keep making right decisions. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Class Action

Isaiah Austin is a young man who played college basketball at Baylor University and had dreams of being drafted by the NBA. It was discovered through a physical exam this week that he has Marfan's syndrome and will no longer be allowed to compete in sports. Having your lifelong dream taken away from you before you had a chance to see it fulfilled would be devastating to anyone. While his situation can't be changed, NBA commissioner Adam Silver decided to do what he could in a tough situation. Commissioner Silver invited Isaiah's family to attend the NBA draft and in the middle of the first round chose to honor him by using an honorary league pick to draft him. This was a chance for Isaiah to have his name called out, to have the crowd cheer for him, and to be treated like a draft pick on stage.

Adam Silver and the NBA could have let this moment pass and no one would have thought any differently. Instead, they chose to act with tremendous class and provide the best experience possible under the circumstances. Leaders who are positive role models not only care deeply for others, but think creatively about ways to make the best of situations while doing it with integrity and class.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Off Target

We might think that we have a good idea of what we're aiming at and still not make a direct hit. Unfortunately, we can end up being close to what we think is right and even have some measure of success without being right on target. This is a false positive that can blind us from making the right course correction. Sadly, it eventually leads to us saying, "But I thought things were going so well!" when it collapses due to improper aim.

Are we missing the mark with the way we are doing church? Are we focused on the things that God wants us to be focused on or are we following our desires for church? Whose metric are we using to measure our success-our own devised system or God's Holy Spirit? We can put our focus in a lot of very good things and yet end up missing the true target.

What about our families? Are we letting the culture around us dictate what a healthy, successful family looks like or will we determine that vision by where God leads us to utilize our energies & resources? It's imperative that we strive to get this right or we will raise children who are unclear about what matters most.

These are two essential areas for me to focus on in my life. These are where I spend the most time and where the greatest danger of poor aim exist. It's also where the potential for damage from being off target will be most evident if I can't gain the proper perspective.

Measuring our effectiveness by anything other than God is only setting us up for false success and lack of fulfillment.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Not Alone

Certain songs seem to resonate with me more at certain times. It's often a reflection of my current circumstances, but it's also from meditating on powerful lyrics that seem to speak to my soul. My favorite worship song right now is one called, "Open Up Our Eyes" by the team from Elevation Church. It's a simply powerful reminder of God's constant devotion to His children. It sings of the comfort gained from knowing that He is actually fighting for us and doesn't abandon us. Sometimes that's the message we need to hear the most.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Enemy of My Own Success

We have an old white-furred dog that is a bit nervous. He cringes when you walk by (even though we only pet him and treat him well) and is one the smelliest dogs that I have been around. He has weird nervous habits as well, especially relating to his dog pillows. He will scratch at them and pull them around the room trying to find the best spot possible. Many times he will spend 15 minutes moving it from room to room only to end up exactly where he started his journey. The funniest thing to watch is when he is standing in the middle of his pillow working hard to move it only to finally give up and lay down when it doesn't go anywhere. Unfortunately, he isn't bright enough to realize he is his own worst enemy in this endeavor.

How many times are we the biggest obstacle to the change we are looking for? How often are our own habits, hang-ups, and past decisions the very thing that keep us rooted in one place? If we are wise enough to see it ourselves or humble enough to let someone tell us, we can get out of our own way long enough for motion to happen.

Monday, June 23, 2014

There It Is

The story of three guys from the Bible who stood up to cultural pressure (Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego) is fresh on my mind since I just preached on it yesterday. These three men have the opportunity to do what everybody else is doing, but resist the pressure of those around them and take a stand. This comes with consequences as they are thrown into a fire, but they are not consumed as God saves them. The king who vehemently opposed them calls out to them, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" His tone changed from one of direct opposition to now recognizing the God that they served.

That brings up a tough personal question: can people see God working in us even if they don't share the same belief system? Can people say about us, "I don't believe in your God, but I can clearly see that you do!" This is the passionate authenticity the world is desperate for and will be curious about when they witness it in action.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Real Passion

I've told many people who have offered their condolences for my Uncle Bob's passing that he is just fine, but I am grateful for their prayers for our family. We are the ones that will need continued prayer in the days ahead as we continue to miss him. I've told many people about his steadfast dedication to God and his great desire to share as much as possible. This wasn't just a show for him either, but was something firmly ingrained in his spirit. There were two stories that I heard on Friday that confirmed his character and the depth of his commitment.

A woman who attended church with him and was a good friend shared that she had visited him in the hospital in his last hours. My uncle Bob had prayed for her family on many occasions and specifically for her brother. As she got up to leave the hospital room my uncle pulled his oxygen mask away to stop her and asked how her brother was doing. In his moments of difficult breathing and nearing the end of his life, he was still concerned for other people.

I also heard the story of his interaction with his hospice nurse. She was going over the details of the palliative care and what he could expect as his body continued to slowly shut down. At one point he reached out to touch her hand and again took extra energy and breath to ask her about her own relationship with Jesus. He wanted to make sure that she had heard the good news of Christ even in his last moments.

I'm not sharing these stories to brag about my uncle (well, maybe a little) but to point out what it means to be deeply passionate and committed. Even when his own health was failing he made sure to take the time to care for other people. His personal circumstances didn't change who he was at heart.

Can the same be said about us? What are we deeply passionate about? Are we willing to maintain the commitment to living that out even when our own circumstances are poor? This intense consistency marks the difference between temporary focus and real passion.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Finding the Good

When our minds and hearts are open to receive it, we can find good in any situation. My quick trip to Florida for my uncle's funeral provided several of those moments even as we all mourned his passing.
  • Conversations with my wife as we drove: some serious and thought-provoking while others fairly mundane, but all appreciated
  • Dinner and breakfast at two of our favorite places to eat
  • Watching the sun come up over the ocean
  • A great sense of peace in being back in my hometown even just for 24 hours
  • The perfect timing of God that let us have a great lunch with my mom & Mario
  • Time to talk with my aunt on the phone and in person 
  • Big hugs from so many family members that I haven't seen in several years
  • Hearing about the impact my uncle had on so many lives both young and old
  • Running into a parent of former youth ministry members who still talk about the impact God had on their lives when we served together
  • A chance to share the legacy of a godly man and speak the truth of Christ to family members
Even in difficult emotional times God shows us the good that is around us if we are willing to look. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

More Than Breakfast

I was preparing a few things to say at my Uncle Bob's funeral this morning and had my attention brought back to my November visit there. The Saturday I was heading back home I had set up a time to have breakfast with my aunt & uncle and mom & stepfather. My mom and Mario were running late due to traffic backups so I got to spend a long time talking with Uncle Bob and Aunt Nita. It was just the three of us for a good hour or so.

I always enjoy their company and this was no different. We talked about family and faith and people we were praying for. We shared our frustrations and deep desires for all of our family to come to follow Christ and simply rested in the comfort of bring with each other. It was a proper end to my November trip. I didn't know then that it would be my last time seeing Uncle Bob. It was only today that I truly appreciated that perfect gift of time together seven months ago. It was God's special treat just for me-a reminder that our Heavenly Father enjoys blessing us with small tokens of  his love. I will be forever grateful for those few hours over breakfast.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Valuable Reminders

Why do we have to wait for times of difficulty to realize what is important to us? It's the times of sorrow and loss that tend to refocus us on what is truly valuable. In the normal pace of life we often forget to be grateful for the people that matter to us and we neglect the regular connection that we all wish we could maintain. While I don't treasure the moments of grief that tend to bring us back together, I do appreciate the not-so-gentle reminder of the great value of the people we love. It's my personal ambition to be more connected to my family without having a sentinel event to refocus me. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fuzzy Future Vision

ESPN has a unique game on their website called, Streak for the Cash. It's an interactive event where you predict the outcome of various sporting events and try to build a winning streak. There is a cash reward at the end of the month for the longest active streak and for the most "wins" in a month. I don't participate in it regularly, but was a bit more active in it when it first began.

I consider myself fairly educated in most sporting events and thought that I might be able to rattle off a predictive winning streak. Sadly, my general enthusiasm for sports didn't translate into a pattern of fortune-telling. I never accurately predicted more than 5-6 in a row and my overall record is hovering right around the .500 mark. In theory, I would have just as much success flipping a coin as I do trying to figure out who will win the next event.

The truth is that we live in a world of uncertainty. We do not know what will happen next. We can predict some small things, but no one knows when a diagnosis of cancer will hit us, when tragedy will strike, or when seemingly stable things become volatile. I can allow myself to get frustrated by my poor forecasting or I can recognize my limitations and place my confidence where it belongs. The only accurate predictor of the future is God and since He is never caught off guard it would benefit me to trust Him with my present and my future. I certainly can't guarantee what will happen beyond this immediate moment, but I can at least be comforted in being close to the One that knows and works for my good.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Standing Tall

My uncle Bob passed away today. His body had become too weak to bounce back from treatments and surgery. He has suffered from multiple physical ailments since I have known him and this last one become too much for him to overcome. The powerful balance to his weak physical form was in his tremendously strong spirit. His inner confidence came directly from his relationship with Jesus Christ and the passionate desire to share that hope with others. He was a faithful, praying man who was unapologetic and yet unobtrusive about his convictions. He carried himself with a strength of heart that belied his failing body and continued to serve and share until his last breath here with us. Uncle Bob's longevity-not just in years, but in steadfast commitment to Christ and family-will be a testimony of his life and an example for the rest of us to live up to. I can speak with 100% complete confidence when I say that he is now perfectly healed and in heaven. His witness will stand as tall as he is finally able to do again now.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Necessary & Fulfilling

There are things that we do purely out of obligation and duty. There are other tasks that we complete because they bring us joy and fulfillment. This doesn't mean that our obligations can't bring often bring us satisfaction or that things that we find fulfilling are not also a duty. It does mean that we need to find the balance between the two or we will either avoid the mundane, but essential tasks or only fill our day with what we consider to be a joy. There is great maturity in balancing necessary discipline and enjoyment that may even lead us to find that they intermingle more than we think.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

I am so blessed to be a father to three beautiful girls. Today might be a day to celebrate dads, but it's only because I have such incredible daughters and their wonderful mother that I can even be a good father. My heart is full because I have been given far more than I deserve.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Higher Calling

There is a part of my personality that thrives on making a difference in others. It's the piece of me that gives me vision for reaching people and innovative ideas for ways to make that happen. This is where I draw my inner strength and connectivity that allows me to be part of mission trips, leadership events, middle school camp, and other large events. Even with the amount of work that goes into planning and implementation I find myself energized when I am part of these opportunities.

As much as I come alive during these times of connectivity and influence, I know that I need to find time to counterbalance this output with downtime as well. It's not just about the need for rest and rejuvenation although that is extremely vital after busy weeks. It's the fact that I draw complete satisfaction by being with the people that need me the most-my family. It's in the peace of my own home that I can be made whole through the love of my family, the affection that we share, and the perfection of my calling as husband and father.

I won't give up the part of my calling to reach other people, but I will make sure to place my highest priority at home where it belongs.

Friday, June 13, 2014


When you've been part of events with a significant impact you don't always know what your next steps should be. It's important to take the time to meditate on what you've gone through, but you also don't want to allow too much time to build up or you'll never take action on what has inspired you. The immediate emotions of monumental events will eventually fade and without a plan for follow up action nothing will ever change.

I've found it's best to pause long enough to gain perspective, but then prepare to intentionally do something about it or no change will take place.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Known: Making God Known

We wrapped up our week of camp tonight by focusing our campers on how they can make God known in their own world. It might seem like a daunting task to a middle schooler (and an adult) but God promises that we won't have to do this on our own. He asks us to bring what we have to Him: our imperfect talents, personal flaws, overwhelming history, and insecurities and let Him use them.

We might think that these won't be enough to do anything, but God doesn't ask us to be any more than we are. He has a deep, passionate desire to take what we have-what He's given us-and do more with it than we could on our own. We are the ones that have to decide if we will trust His power more than our own. There's no other way for us to have maximum impact without the power that He brings and the perfection that He matches with our imperfection.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Known: Knowing God

I could write tonight about decisions that have been made and the power of this week of middle school camp, but instead I simply want to ask two questions:

  • Who do you say Jesus is?
  • What are you going to do about it?

There are many things that are important, but nothing matters more than our answer to these two questions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Known: Power of a Name

There is a story from my time in youth ministry in Florida that I will never forget. There was a young man named Thomas that started to come to our high school ministry on Tuesday nights. I introduced myself when he first showed up, sent him a postcard the next day, and then talked with him again when he came back the next week. He become a regular part of the group and would attend most of our events and services.

He dropped by my office one weekday afternoon to talk about some issues he was having at home. I walked him out of the office when we were done and told him that I would see him later that week. He walked out the door and then stopped to come back in. He looked at me and said, "Do you know why I came back here after the first time I visited? It's because you remembered my name."

There is great power in our name being known. I'm not talking about social media followers or other forms of popularity, but the great power shared in speaking a name in a personal connection. It's an intimate familiarity formed with compassion, pride, and a desire to connect. It's an affirmation of the name that we've been given and the respect we are showing to each other. It reflects the ingrained principle that we want to be known.

While some may dismiss my statements, I have seen enough evidence to know how encouraging this can be. It inspires me to continue to work to know and speak the names of people that I encounter.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Known: I Am Enough

We carry far too many labels. We identify ourselves by our physical characteristics and our abilities. We carry the label of our past and present mistakes, hurtful words spoken over us, and failed expectations. Our life history can burden us with hurts from a painful family background and bullying. Those that we trust and respect can obliterate our confidence in minutes with words and actions that never seem to leave us. It can leave us feeling like we can't measure up to the right standard-that we will never be good enough. This is the ultimate label of discouragement and hopelessness.

It takes a certain point of confident maturity to cast aside these ill-fitting labels and grasp who we really are. It's a crisis of identity that prevents us from forging ahead and fulfilling the purpose that God has given us. This is an important step in our own faith development when we can confidently say, "I am enough." It is a statement that affirms who God intends us to be while casting aside the lies and mislabeling that derail us from the right path.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Won't Quit

I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised when things become difficult before big opportunities. Each year that I have been involved in camp, conferences, and mission trips there are multiple obstacles that need to be overcome. Many of these are directly related to the setup and implementation of the events, but many of them have nothing to do with what's going on. It's in these times of year that the family of our staff has car problems, their children get pinkeye, people get the flu in summer, sinks explode, bones are broken, and roofs develop monstrous leaks. If it wasn't so predictable it would almost be comical. If I didn't know any better, I wouldn't understand that these are distractions intended to take us off course.

I am grateful to be surrounded by a team of adults who will not be thrown off track by events like these. I am even more grateful for a wife and family that understand the bigger picture of what we're dealing with. We are facing an enemy that wants to steal, kill, and destroy the people we are working to guide to Christ. The good news is that we are working against an enemy that is already defeated and is scrambling to disrupt something that he can't stop. We know who the higher power is and that He has already brought victory over death, disease, and discouragement. We know that it is God's power that fuels us to press on towards our goal of bringing people closer to Christ. We won't stop moving in that direction. We won't quit or be deterred because we know that what we are doing is the difference between life and death.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Corrective Therapy

So often we put our focus on avoiding one sin in particular. We decide we need to stop cursing, avoid lustful temptations, or watch our tongue. While it can be good to understand our weak areas and practice smart decision making, this can lead us to miss the bigger picture.

God isn't concerned as much with correcting small character flaws as He is capturing our hearts entirely for Him. He wants us to recognize that we aren't better people because we fix a few things in our behavior, but because He makes us better when we surrender to Him. He is calling us to a new, transformed life-not a better behaved version of who we've always been. Christ didn't come to behaviorally neuter us, but spiritually empower us to be different people entirely.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Something Bigger

I like to think big. I have big dreams for my family, my personal influence, our family finances, and for ministry. I like to imagine the potential of what could be and determine what is necessary to see that become a reality. In fact, it's the possibilities of personal transformation and environmental change that inspire me the most.

The process of creatively thinking ahead and seeing glimpses of a possible future motivate me to work and prepare in new ways. I recognize the necessity of the small steps of discipline and the practice of patience that are necessary to see these big things happen. It's not always easy to maintain focus during the slow process, but understanding the larger vision helps fuel my desires.

These ambitions might seem a little absurd to some, but nothing of significant impact came from thinking limited thoughts or from very small dreams. It's better to stretch myself towards new, unknown possibilities or I run the risk of losing momentum and becoming stagnant and lifeless.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Just In Case

It's just about time for our week of middle school camp again. I have had the pleasure of leading a week for the past 11 years and it has definitely changed tremendously in that time. I have had to adapt my style of leadership and our approach to things over the years, but each year is an incredible blessing through the changes.

We spent today packing our trailer for the early crew to set up on Saturday in anticipation of the arrival of 130 campers and 27 staff on Sunday. We had a specific list of items for our stage set, the sound equipment, camper games, and object lessons. Our staff knew exactly what we were getting into and had our lists prepared. Even as we packed we collected several other items that were not on our original list. Many times this is done because we want to be prepared for what might happen.

Camp veterans understand that there will be unexpected events and surprises along the way. We can plan and strategize each moment, but there will always be moments that we need to take advantage of when they come up. While we can't always predict them we can prepare as much as possible so that we don't miss the chance for impact.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Whatever It Takes

Life does not work out exactly as predicted. I suppose that other people find themselves more firmly entrenched on their projected life path, but I doubt that many of us are exactly where we intended to be. Financial markets crash, we receive an unexpected diagnosis, children make very poor choices, jobs are lost, and other tragedies ensue. These are big events that can easily derail our intended life trajectory. This doesn't just pertain to the "big vision" for our life either. Often the smaller details of projects and desires don't end up where you wanted them to be either. Tasks become much more difficult than first imagined and firm planning becomes much more unstable. It can be very unsettling when it seems as if this happens all at once.

I wish that I could share four easy steps to make sure these things don't happen, but there aren't any easy solutions. We do have the power to choose our reaction. We can allow unexpected occurrences (both big and small) to derail our vision or we can decide to adjust and overcome. When it is something that is incredibly important to us we approach it with tenacity and focus. We decide that what we are doing (short term and long term) is valuable enough to do whatever it takes to see it survive and succeed. It's this attitude that enables us to overcome obstacles and stay focused on a positive end result. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Charles de Foucauld was a priest in the early 1900's that didn't begin his true journey of faith until later in his adult life. He was no stranger to wealth and was known for a fairly extravagant lifestyle. While serving in the military he observed people who were adamant about their faith and he developed an interest in discovering what this meant for himself. As he explored Christianity and cemented his faith, he gave away his financial rights and become a priest. He wrote a prayer called, "The Prayer of Abandonment" that is quite humbling to read from a personal perspective. It's a reflection of his search for God and his desire to submit all of his life to God's purposes and not his own. It's a prayer that I aspire to pray in complete commitment of my life purposes to God's direction.


I abandon myself into you hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you;
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tough (But Necessary) Questions

My blog yesterday focused on the need to see the evidence of life change if it is truly taking effect. It actually led me to be fairly introspective in my own journey of transformation. I realized that I often say that I am a changed man, but where's the real proof?

  • Where is my temperament different? 
  • What do I allow my thoughts to settle on? 
  • How are my reactions different? 
  • How have my priorities been shifted? 
  • How have my values been realigned? 
  • Where am I committing my resources?
  • What commitments do I make and how do I maintain them?
  • In what positive ways do I look at people differently?
  • Where is it evident that I trust God more?

I have to ask these intrusive, personal questions if I expect to measure the pace of my own transformation. I would encourage anyone who really wants to be different to figure out what they need to ask to gauge their own progress.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Looking for Results

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:8

Many products change their label and tout that they are now "new & improved", but haven't really made adjustments that are noticeable. I feel that this can often describe people. We talk about how we aren't the same person we used to be, but the changes (even over great time) are negligible at best. If we are truly changing directions with our life choices there should be a corresponding change in what we produce. Our thought patterns, reactions, speech, and habits will slowly be transformed as well. These changes may not be immediately evident, but there should be a collective transformation that takes place as we look to improve our lives.