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.