Unscripted with Doug Bender – I Am Second

Today I welcomed back my friend Doug Bender from I Am Second. In this episode we breakdown and review their film “Loud Krazy Love.” This film follows the story of Korn band member Brian “Head” Welch and his daughter. This film is raw, real but so worth your time. We spend a lot of this episode discussing what love really is, what it does and what it means.

I’m so thankful for Doug and the entire team at I Am Second. Take time today to love someone. Express your love for someone. Ask forgiveness from someone. Do it now. Do it today. Set someone free. Love each other.

LINKS:

For more information, visit https://iamsecond.com

Loud Krazy Love Film – https://www.loudkrazylove.com/

I Found Love Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085XNMHHL/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Unscripted with Fatima C. Oliver

Fatima is a Wife, Mother, and Author, and an extreme lover of chocolate. She also has a passion for helping other’s. Using what she calls, a “Baby Step” approach, Fatima has been able to embrace the work necessary to heal from childhood trauma, heartbreak, and abuse. Much of her life’s journey is shared in her new book, “The Prescription is in the Dirt”. Now available on Amazon.com.

At an early age, Fatima became convinced pain and family was synonymous. Living with the trauma from physical and sexual abuse, the loss of a child, abandonment issues, and horrible decision making, helped Fatima develop a long and complicated relationship with anxiety and depression. It took over thirty years before finding the courage to change her life. The journey to finding herself and accepting who God created her to be, birthed some key baby steps that have helped Fatima mature in her healing journey.

In this episode we discuss her story, her incredible spirit and grace and of course her book. Fatima is quite simply a wonderful, genuine and joyful person to engage with. She has overcome painful obstacles to be a light for others. I enjoyed our time together and look forward to watching the continued great things that are ahead for her and those that have the opportunity to meet with her. There is no question that Fatima will be back on #Unscripted again soon. 



“The Prescription is in the Dirt” – https://www.amazon.com/Prescription-Dirt-Fatima-C-Oliver/dp/B08NRVZ7N5/ref=sr_1_1?crid=8AGCYKO6M2C0&dchild=1&keywords=the+prescription+is+in+the+dirt&qid=1612320325&sprefix=the+prescription+%2Caps%2C194&sr=8-1

Fatima C Oliver Website – https://fatimac.com/
Fatima on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TheFatimaOliver/
Fatima on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/fatimaoliver1975/

Unscripted with Annette Lovrien Duncan

Annette Lovrien Duncan has taught English and Critical Thinking at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin for 33 years, also serving as Title IX Coordinator and Leader of the Academic Senate.  While her stage acting and musical theater experience spans the past three decades, in the past two years she has stepped into the world of film and television, appearing in television productions such as People Magazine Investigates, in commercials and print products for companies such as Stainmaster, Korres, and Apple, and in various documentaries and films.  In her latest feature film, Dolphin Island, she enjoyed playing the role of SHERYL WILLIAMS. Though originally from Nebraska, Annette has lived for many years in Franklin, Wisconsin, with her husband Reverend David Duncan (Church in the City, Milwaukee). They have seven children and seven grandchildren (and counting!).

In this episode we discuss her role in the new film “Dolphin Island. DOLPHIN ISLAND shares the story of 14-year-old Annabel who lives with her fisherman grandfather on an island paradise. She is surrounded by an extended family of loving but quirky neighbors and her best friend – a dolphin named Mitzy. Everything changes when her maternal grandparents arrive with a shifty lawyer to bring her back to New York. It’s up to Annabel and her friends to figure out how to save the day and prove that love conquers all!

I so enjoyed my time tonight with Annette Duncan. Her poise and story telling of the behind the scenes of the film was so refreshing and fun. I could have spoken with her for hours. She was very much in this episode as she was in the film. Warm, engaging and a graceful presence.

Dolphin Island is a fun film with powerful message about relationships, community and the powerful bonds we create. Shot in the Bahamas, the scenery is beautiful and the sites are breathtaking. The film will be available on all platform in early March.

LINKS:

Official Website – http://www.dolphinislandmovie.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dolphinislandtv

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DolphinIslandTV

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dolphinislandtv/

Unscripted with Ty Manns

Major (Retired) Terrence “Ty” Manns enlisted into the U.S. Military in 1980. In 1987 he was accepted into the Army ROTC program at Wright-State University, Dayton, Ohio. In 1989 he graduated and was commissioned, Second Lieutenant, Infantry, Regular Army. Ty served as an Army Infantry Officer in tactical assignments in Germany, Korea, and worldwide from 1989 to 2003.

Writer Ty Manns created the film based on his father’s experience returning home from Vietnam. His PTSD was destroying the family – and father even tried to kill his mother during a flash-back. Only after walking through the doors of a church did his father find the help he needed. I want to note that Ty is a veteran, as is his wife, and their two children are currently enlisted. Ty has an amazing personal story, and, as a partner in Manns Mackie Studios, he is passionate about brining to life characters and films that will have a lasting impact on viewers.

In this episode, we discuss many of the cast, thoughts and inspiration behind the film. I am so thankful to Ty Manns for his service to our country, his ministry and passion for those suffering and this film. I really enjoyed our time with one another and I hope you all will too.

LINKS:

My Brothers Keeper Film Site – http://mbkfilm.com

Unscripted with David Elijah

David Elijah was “living the dream” as an artist touring, singing, songwriting and even shared a tour with Katy Perry. Something was missing. Something was telling him he was made for more. This episode is an incredible story of leaving what many would chase to live for a bigger story. Gods story. So thankful for David. His passion and energy are contagious. I am inspired tonight to believe in the greater vision that God has for each one of us. He will show up when we are open and available. Thank you David.

LINKS:

New Hope Calvary Chapel Church – https://www.nhccchurch.com/

Unscripted with John Stewart Hill – findahousechurch.com

John Stewart Hill is a businessman, author, and award winning Entrepreneur with his Dallas based company, The Good Contractors List.  He is married to his wife Cindy, who is now CEO of the company.  He has 2 children, 3 step children, and 5 grandkids.  He is currently Founder and CEO of Central Storehouse and working in full time ministry without taking a salary.  John is also the author of the 2016 book “Loving God Without All The Answers: Hope for Even Me”  His favorite term for how he lives his life is “Gumpin’ it.” 

In this episode we learn what “Gumpin’ it” means but more importantly, John shares his passion for his new site, findahousechurch.com. FindAHouseChurch.com believes that the church needs to be relational, and so the site is designed to help align people with a likeminded community. Users simply create a profile, and begin their search for a nearby house church, filtering results by parameters such as by distance, childcare requirements, day of the week, and denomination.  After identifying potential communities, users fill out an online form to begin communicating with the house church. Many house churches have limits on the number of attendees, so this allows the church itself to regulate the number of people they are communicating with and get to know the person before sharing their address. 

We discuss the way you can find the site, find a match, feel safe and connect with the body of Christ as we were meant to from the start. Johns passion is contagious and his vision for this site is awesome. You will hear his heart to connect us to one another and find a community which we all so desperately need. Especially in the times we live in.

LINKS:

Find A House Church –  http://www.findahousechurch.com

Central Storehouse Inc – https://www.centralstorehouse.org/

Unscripted with Author Michael Thompson

A few years ago my best friend sent me a text and said “You have to read this book!” I unfortunately didn’t have the time to pick it up or read it and he continued to remind me. Now I know why. Todays guest is Michael Thompson, author of the incredible book “The Heart Of A Warrior.”

Michael Thompson is a teacher and mentor, the author of Search and Rescue, and a guide for the hearts of men and women. He and his wife, Robin, are the founders and directors of Zoweh Ministries in Durham, North Carolina. Zoweh functions as both a spiritual “medic team” and an outpost to help men and women experience intimacy and connectedness with God and others.

Married to Robin since 1990, Michael is the father of three daughters, Ashley, Hannah, and Abbey. He and his family live in a redemptive community of friends and allies who work together to experience Life together and offer Life to all whom God brings across their path. The Thompsons live in Durham.

In this episode we just begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be a Beloved Son and warrior. There is much to unpack and the best advice is to visit Zoweh.org for more information, resources and to begin your journey as well. Several years ago that friend recommended I get the book and now I know just why. He has discovered his is beloved son and wants the same for those in his life. What an honor to have Michael on Unscripted!

LINKS:

Zoweh Ministry – Zoweh.org

The Heart Of A Warrior Book – https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Warrior-Before-Become-Beloved/dp/099623280X

Unscripted with Christian Chapman

Christian Chapman is a man of many talents. A remarkable man of God that lives and preaches the word with great conviction. He has lived and continues to live life to the full. Check this out.

– Graduated from Southern Wesleyan University where he was a scholarship baseball player and later became a Hall of Fame member because of some of his accomplishments on the field.

– Played baseball overseas as a missionary with Athletes In Action.

– NASCAR Chaplain

– Won Reality Racing TV show on Spike TV

– Was on Wild World of Sports TV show while racing in the worlds most dangerous race the Baja 1000 in the desert of Mexico

– Author of 2 books “Testify” and “Breaking Down Walls” working on 3rd book now called “The Revenant”

– Song writer and piano player of 30 years and working on new album now called “Songs From The Heart” and three of my songs are on all music platforms today

– Campus pastor and church planter for Steele Creek Church of Charlotte

– Most importantly married to Amy for 32 years and has 3 boys Malachi, Isaiah, and Jeremiah

We cover a lot of topics in this episode including faith, family, career, finding your passion, living your best life and stepping into opportunities. What an honor to host my friend and brother in this Unscripted interview.

LINKS:

Website is christianchapman.org

Steele Creek Church – https://steelecreek.org

Unscripted with Doug Bender – I Am Second

Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer and small groups coach. He developed many of the small group tools found at iamsecond.com and has coached churches, organizations, and individuals to use I Am Second groups to share the message of Jesus with their friends and family. I recently sat down with Doug to discuss the launch of his new I Am Second book – I Found Love.

Doug and I met about 8 years ago when I had the incredible honor of contributing a post to the I Am Second blog. One of the highest honors of my blogging days. From the beginning, I have been a fan of I Am Second and their incredible ministry. In this episode we discuss their early books, the vision and growth of this incredible movement. I Found Love is the highly anticipated new book from I Am Second, gathering together stories of people who searched everywhere for fulfillment and wholeness and found it only when they surrendered to God.

People whose stories appear include the following, among others: David and Tamela Mann Jason Castro Sean Lowe Stephen Baldwin Moving, compelling, and profoundly inspiring, the stories found here remind us that our hearts will always be restless until they find their rest in God and always unsatisfied until we find the love of God. I am so thankful for all that I Am Second has provided.

Incredible movement with powerful stories for everyone. The book launches January 6th but can be pre-ordered now.

LINKS:

Pre-Order “I Found Love” – https://iamsecond.com I Found Love book – https://www.amazon.com/Found-Love-Discovering-Belonging-Friendship/dp/1400210380

I Am Second – https://iamsecond.com

Unscripted with Kelsey Lensman

HUGE podcast with a great friend to me. Miss Kelsey Lensman is a joy to know, to follow and to work with. She is a visionary, inspiration and one of the most life-giving people I know. Kelsey is the founder of KML Movement. She is a certified athletic trainer that has worked with people of all ages to help them live happier, healthier and more fit lives through fitness, injury prevention, nutrition, and mindset training. Take time to enjoy this one today.

LINKS:

KML Movement – https://www.kmlmovement.com/

Kelsey on Instagram – https:/instagram.com/kelseylensman

Kelsey Bio:

Kelsey Lensman, ATC

Founder, KML Movement

Kelsey is the founder of KML Movement. She is a certified athletic trainer that has worked with people of all ages to help them live happier, healthier and more fit lives through fitness, injury prevention, nutrition, and mindset training. 

Kelsey has background in injury rehabilitation, functional neurology, and functional medicine. 

She says she is just a normal girl with an insane amount of passion and belief that people are capable of so much more than they ever think. She wants to help show you that

Unscripted with Emma Conrad

I am not the only one that started a podcast during the pandemic. Actually, I would argue that I don’t even have the best podcast in my own house. Today’s Unscripted One-on-One is with Emma Conrad. Some of you may know her as “Princess 1.0.” What an incredible joy as a parent to see your children pursuing their dreams and their goals. In this brief podcast, Emma and I share her new podcast with my audience. We also discuss the various ways that she inspires me on a daily basis. She also may have given a pretty good clue as to where she is going to attend college next year.

Also Available on Podcast:

Links:

Full Podcast – anchor.fm/emma-conrad

Michael Todd Podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/transformation-church/id1348831124

Erwin McManus Podcast – https://erwinmcmanus.com/podcast/

Levi Lusco Podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/fresh-life-church/id214017745

Unscripted with Curt Harding

Todays Unscripted guest is Curt Harding. Curt is a writer, speaker, story teller, author, reporter, producer, publicist, DJ, 80’s music fan, Huey Lewis fan, husband and #Girldad to twins. He and his wife Polly live and work in Nashville, Tennessee. What a rich 30 minutes discussing all of that but mainly writing and sharing your story. We talk writing, storytelling, jobs, working for Dave Ramsey and being a girl dad. For the benefit of the audience, we saved our 80’s music until the very end. I am a better man for knowing Curt. He will bless your day.

Key Takeaways:

“It’s impossible to hate somebody if you take the time to hear their story.”

“You have to find your way sometimes and

“If you’ve got an idea, just get it out there. Write it!”

“Just write what you feel and what you’re experiencing.”

“A leader does not let gossip in the building.”

Also available on Podcast:

Links:

Curts Harding’s Website – http://curtharding.com

Contact Curt: curt@curtharding.com

Tail of Two Kitties Book: http://curtharding.com/shop/

Dave Ramsey: https://www.daveramsey.com/

Total Money Makeover Book: https://www.daveramsey.com/store

In case you don’t know or wondered……This is Right Said Fred…… Listen to the podcast and that will make sense.

Unscripted with Ryan Grammatico

Tonight I sat down with my good friend and band of brother, Ryan Grammatico. Ryan is the Community Engagement Director for Right Moves for Youth in Charlotte, North Carolina. We met over a decade ago but if you watch the video, you’ll see that this was literally only the third time we’ve talked face to face. I am blessed to call him friend. You’ll hear about the incredible work he is doing in his community both in his job and on his own. We talk race, changing the score and end talking about being a “Girl Dad.” Video and podcast available below. Links to items mentioned throughout the video below as well.

Key takeaways:

“Seek less to be understood, seek more to understand.”

“You can’t just put a black box on your social media and think you changed the world.”

“God stays faithful to those who are faithful.”

“We have 150,000 students in Charlotte Mecklenburg county and one school district”

“My girls shifted the way I view humanity”

Available via Podcast:

Links:

Unscripted Podcast – https://anchor.fm/aaronconrad

Right Moves For Youth – https://www.rightmovesforyouth.org/

Equitas – Equitas.cc

Ryan Grammatico on Twitter – @RyanGrammatico

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – https://amzn.to/3bFUey6

I Still Believe – Movie Review

Right about the time that this ol’ blog got started, an artist named Jeremy Camp was just coming on the scene. In some odd way, Jeremy’s career and this blog have grown up together. I have let this site go somewhat dormant while Jeremy’s incredible career continues on. In my imaginary “soundtrack of life,” songs like “Walk By Faith,” “Give Me Jesus,” and “Overcome” will be forever included. When he released “There Will Be a Day,” I was in the process of saying goodbye to a close friend far too soon. It was my therapy and an anchor. I’ve never met Jeremy, but I will forever be thankful to him for his gift and his message.

A few months ago, I received an personal invitation to see a pre-screening of the incredible new film “I Still Believe.” As my time on this blog has become less and less, so have my reviews and the acceptance of these opportunities (I really need to get back to that). There was something about this one that arrested me. I knew the song and I was familiar with Jeremy Camp’s story. Something in me said “I must see this film!” I accepted and requested two tickets so I could take my bride. We don’t get many date nights so this was a welcomed opportunity.

I will repeat that I was familiar with the incredible testimony of Jeremy Camp. I knew how this film would end. I knew this would be hard. I refer back to the loss of my friend. I knew this dealt with cancer. I was in no way prepared for the emotional journey that this film would take me on. I left the theater numb, reflective and yet inspired. The car ride home was quiet. We both needed a moment. For me it was personal. I reflected on the loss, the hurt and the hope. As a dad, I also reflected on the role of his father (played brilliantly by Gary Sinise) and maybe the most powerful words in the film. No spoilers here but you’re gonna want to remember what his dad tells him. I would have saved it in my phone but there was a no cell phone policy.

I don’t want to say much in this review because I want anyone that reads it to go see it for themselves. I don’t want to tell you his real story. I want you to watch and experience it. I don’t want to tell you what his father said because it hits different when you see it in the film.

What I want to tell you is to go see this film. Take tissues. Period. That is the review.

Someday, I hope to meet Jeremy Camp. I hope to do nothing more than shake his hand. I hope to place a hand on his shoulder and thank God for his ministry, his message and his music. Life can be so hard yet we walk through these seasons for reasons. When we can realize the reason and impact others with our story, we see the heart of God.

And for that……

I still believe.

“I Still Believe” hits theaters on March 13th. A powerful cast that includes KJ Apa (Riverdale), Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland), Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump) and Country Music artist Shania Twain. Find out more at https://www.istillbelievemovie.com/

Remembering Mom

*Repost from May, 2016

I was standing in the grocery store a few minutes ago, looking at Mother’s Day cards. What a sobering moment that turned out to be. Tomorrow, I will pause to reflect and remember my mom. Maybe you too will “celebrate” their life while mourning the loss. When I returned home, I pulled up this excerpt of the speech I gave to honor my Mom at her memorial service. I can’t think of a better time to make it public. To all of the Mom’s out there, Happy Mothers Day. Never under estimate your impact, your role, your touch on your family. To all of the spiritual mothers that have stood in the gap since my mom stepped into eternity, thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.

When I was 5 years old, about the age of one of my children, I was running and tripped over a sidewalk. The result was a trip to the emergency room and ultimately stitches and a scar on my chin. What happened in those hours in that emergency room was the coordinated efforts of my parents. My Dad, our protector, did what he could to get someone to help us as the wait for assistance went much longer than it should have. All the while, my Mom, the comforter, rocked me back and forth and sang the words to a Helen Ready song called “You and Me Against The World.”

You and me against the world
Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world
And for all the times we’ve cried I always felt that
God was on our side

And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

Today I remember my Mom. I celebrate that she is in the place she most longed to be in the presence of her King and her Savior.

Remembering is what we do. 

I remember things like falling down (notice a theme here?) and Mom putting ointment on our knees in the form of a smiley face.

I remember working in the garden in our old house on Randolph Road and my grandfather sneaking up behind my Mom and I to scare us. He had parked his truck down the street so when he said “Boo”, my Mom jumped up so high she literally split her pants.

I remember a time when they renovated my bedroom on Woodrow. Mom spackled the ceiling by hand and with her fingers. I have never been the best sleeper at night and often would sleep on a foam fold out chair next to my parents bed when the fears of life and nighttime would wake me up. In an effort to combat those fears, Mom wanted to create a room where I would be comfortable. Within the swirls of the ceiling, she wrote messages I would find while laying in bed at night.

When I didn’t communicate much as a child, she found that playing Atari Pac Man and Pinball were a way to get me to open up. We spent hours playing those games, breaking those joysticks and creating a mother and son relationship. I can’t tell you who won a lot of those games, but I would imagine the time spent got me through the years of growing up.

I remember the many times Mom would work at the Alexanders Flower Shop at Southgate so her son had gas money, prom money and money for whatever the latest fashion was I just had to have (parachute pants). Even though there was something in that flower shop that gave her migraine headaches. She never complained.

From as early as I can remember, my Mom spent regular moments in her prayers dedicated to my future bride…wherever she was. I stand here today a man overwhelmed by the answer to her prayers. My wife and three children are more than I can ever be worthy of. I believe God answered those prayers so frequently prayed by my mom.

I remember the Bible and a Bus Ticket Home. “One will get you going when you haven’t got a prayer and one will bring you back son if you’re dreams aren’t waiting there.”

It was almost providential that “You and Me Against The World” was our song. The memories indeed will see us through.

While I could spend hours telling stories, I feel it almost necessary to speak of the other thing that my mom loved as much as her family and that is her Savior, her King, her Jesus.

It goes without saying that my mom loved Jesus. She shared Jesus with everyone. Our front porch and home at 83 Woodrow was a testimony to her heart for others and her compassion that everyone know her Savior too.

To the mailman that was lemonade on a hot day and a present at Christmas.

To our neighbors it was listening when no one else would

To many the front porch was a place to lay your burdens and receive a comforting word. It was a place where broken hearts were mended and the problems found solutions.

My mom knew no stranger. Our home was your home. Our door was always open. She was in her glory at Christmas when the house was full of people, the piano top was filled with food and hearts were full of love.

When the summers came, it was retreats to Tuck-away Lake for prayer, fellowship and friendship. No matter where, no matter the season, Mom was teaching Jesus, sharing Jesus, being Jesus.

As Tina and I grew up, Mom would often say that our accomplishments were their diplomas on the wall. I always envisioned the long hallways of our home on Woodrow Avenue with framed pictures to signify our accomplishments, most based on Mom and Dad’s sacrifices.

Each time I had any form of success (job promotion, special honor or a unique happening), I would call home to say “I got another diploma for your wall.”

Mom didn’t have a college degree. She didn’t have a Masters in theology or a degree from a prestigious Seminary. She couldn’t tell you the greek meaning of the second word in the 5th verse of Matthew. What Mom had was a heart full of Jesus and a passion that each person she had contact with would too. She loved Jesus and she loved people.

And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you
You and me against the world

I love you Mom.

*Originally posted May 10, 2014

6 Things My Kids Need For School

Here we are again. Where did the summer go? Maybe you’re getting ready to send your first-born off to school. You might be sending your oldest to college. Maybe you home school and you’re ramping up for another year. Wherever this post finds you, I thought I might share the 6 things that I firmly believe my kids need before they start school. These 6 things are part of that “hill I will die on” I often refer to. I know each child and home is different, so take these for what they are worth. Here we go….

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying they need respect, that comes when you GIVE respect. From the time our oldest began school, we chose one thing we really wanted for them that school year. His first year, my word was respect. I don’t know a lot and I’ve never been accused of being really book smart, but respect for others will take you a long, long way in this life. Like my father-in-law says “you earn your breaks.” One of the greatest things you can offer another person is your respect. Respect your elders. Respect your friends. Respect those who disagree with you. You don’t have to agree with every one, or everything, but you can respect their differences.

2. Treasured – This one REALLY applies to my girls. I wrote a post about being fifteen about a year ago and apparently I am incredibly naive to what that age is like now. Our children are growing up faster than we did at their age. They have access to so much more. The only way I know to combat all that waits out there both virtually and in reality, is to make sure they all know they are treasured. They are treasured by me, they are treasured by God. They are my joy and the prize of their creator. They don’t need to settle for anything less than all that God planned for them before they were even born. There will be influences and voices to encourage otherwise, but my hope is they have a firm foundation in how treasured they are both at home and by their Creator.

3. Quiet Strength – There is confidence and then there is arrogance. Confidence crosses the goal line, hands the ball to the referee and heads back to the sideline. Arrogance takes off its helmet and makes sure every one knows who scored the touchdown. When it comes to achievements in everything from academics to athletics, I’ve always encouraged my children to be more like Barry Sanders and less like Dion Sanders. Act like you’ve been there. Consider the feelings of those that can’t or didn’t or won’t achieve their goal. Remember when you fell short and how that felt.  As the saying goes…

Work for a cause, not for applause.
Live life to express, not to impress.
Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

4. Be The Change – In an age where “bullying” is a word thrown around a lot, I want my kids to be the change. Stand up for those that can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. Be “that friend” we all want, seek and need. Surround yourselves with those that are different and learn what makes them that way. Let your life be consistent. Let it be so consistent it changes others in ways that are positive. Be individual but be consistent. God created you to influence a circle of people. Be the change in your circle of influence.

5. Be Awesome – Before you click out and think I am “that dad” that demands perfection, let me put your mind at ease…I’m not. You can be last and still be awesome. You can not be at the top of your class and still be awesome. Bob Goff said it best…

Be Awesome…. God loves the humble ones, and the humble ones often don’t make it as first-round draft picks for the jobs with big titles or positions. But they always seem to be the first-round picks for God when He’s looking for someone to use in a big way.

To Be Awesome is to be humble and to be available. We get opportunities every day to be awesome to someone or for something. I want my kids to be available to any and all opportunities, especially with others. As the saying goes – “in 20 years the people won’t remember your name or achievements. But in 20 years they will remember how you made them feel and the memories you gave them.” Be awesome. Make others feel special and leave them with great memories.

6. Be Brave – How could I send them off without a charge that I set for myself in 2014? Be brave to try new things. Be brave to explore and learn. Be brave for those that can’t find the courage to be brave on their own. Let your bravery influence and encourage others to be brave too. God wired each of my kids differently. One will “be brave” with a quiet, calm influence. One will “be brave” in her compassion for others. One will “be brave” with an enthusiasm that is contagious. It’s they way they were built before they were ever born. Gods perfect design. Take each of those gifts and be brave.

As we send our kids off to school and college, my prayer is that these days will be rich with learning. Yes, I hope they fill their minds with book knowledge, but I also hope they are filled with moments and experiences that mold and shape who they will become. As I’ve posted before, it’s time to “Let That Pony Run.”

*Originally posted October 2016

Inputs and Outcomes

I shared in my last post that I am leaving one company and joining another one. I also shared that this is a difficult transition because I hold my current CEO in the highest regard. He is a man of incredible integrity. He’s a tremendous leader, husband and father to 5 girls. Sitting at his feet the last two years has restored my faith in leadership and taught me so much about how a man of faith can lead a successful organization. Fortunately, I am joining another organization where the CEO has the exact same qualities. For that I am thankful. Very, very thankful. I’ve been a part of teams where that could not be said and the difference in culture was quite noticeable.

During a recent conversation with my CEO he said something that was so simple yet such a testimony to how he not only runs our company, but to his faithfulness. He said:

Aaron, I know this will sound crazy and even our investors give me a strange look when I say it, but this is how I believe we run this company – we control the inputs and God controls the outcome.

At first I just nodded my head and agreed. There is nothing I have seen in my 2 years that told me any different. That IS how he leads the company. We control the inputs and God controls the outcome. During my 3 hour commute back to Columbus, I just kept repeating those words…. “we control the inputs and God controls the outcome.”

Our finances? We control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

Our faith? We control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

My kids tryouts for various sports teams? They control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

My witness to the circles of influence where I am placed? I control the inputs, God controls the outcome.

I’m not sure who will read this today. I’m not sure where this will find you. I just felt like that wisdom from a man that has taught me so much was worth sharing. It’s made a difference in my attitude and approach to many things.

I control the inputs and God controls the outcome.

“If we faithfully cast out the net, He’ll be responsible for what comes back in.” -Tony Dungy

There’s This Guy…..

Sunday after Sunday, I have had the same thought. Sunday after Sunday, I forget to put it into words. This morning I reminded myself as I was taking notes in church by writing three simple words…. “There’s This Guy….”

There’s this guy at our church…

There is this guy at our church that inspires me every single week. He doesn’t sing (that I’m aware of). He doesn’t play an instrument or lead worship. He doesn’t stand up and preach (at least not verbally). He doesn’t run the sound, lights, usher or speak a word. Sadly, I don’t even know his name.

What he does speaks to me every single week. After our worship team is done and as the Pastor takes the platform, he appears from behind a door. He quietly moves the microphones, hides the pedal board, sets up a stand, places a glass of water on it and puts the makeshift pulpit on the stage. Then he quietly disappears to his seat somewhere among the rest of us.

And this speaks to me. Every. Single. Week.

I wish you could see this guy. I wish I could put into words what joy beams from him. I wish I had a video of him doing what he does. I really wish I had a video of him doing this when he had what appeared to be a bad knee for several weeks. He literally limped out there, moved all of the things he moves and limped off the platform. Never complained.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4)

This is the sermon he preaches each week while never saying a word. Every Sunday when I see “this guy” do what he does, I’m reminded that we are all given different kinds of gifts. We’ve got an incredible worship team. They sing like I could only dream to sing. The guys that rock the guitars make me wish I would have taken lessons and practiced a lot. The people that do sound and lights and video and usher and greet….all important. All great. And then there’s this guy….the one that does something that needs to be done and does it so well. He oozes joy in doing it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27)

What I enjoy about “this guy” is that he is fulfilling his purpose. Again, I don’t even know his name. His “sermon” is short but the message is strong.

Do what God designed and gifted you to do.

Do it with joy

Do it even when you don’t know others are watching

Do it even when you don’t feel 100%

When you use your God given gifts, that thing that comes naturally, you’re doing so much more than a job or duty. You are bringing Him glory. You are inspiring others to do the same.

There’s this guy that preaches a sermon every Sunday and never says a word.

What sermon are you preaching today?

#BeBrave

Send Em On Down The Road

IMG_1311-001Tough week last week. When I say “tough” I’m always quick to point out that the word is very relative. Last week was one of those weeks where you’re looking for that chapter in the parenting manual that covers how to handle certain situations. Truth is there is no manual. An even bigger truth is you navagate as you go.

I said last week that the details were not important. They really aren’t. Last week was a lot of things. Last week stretched our parental “wisdom” (I use that term losely).

It was about seeing God given gifts in your child that they don’t see

It was about pushing where you can while allowing them to make choices

It was about choices and consequences

It was about trust. Trusting them and them trusting you.

There were tears. There were words…a lot of words.

There were inspirational speeches and motivational speeches.

There was a let down and building back up.

When you become a parent there is so much you don’t anticipate. You assume things. You dream big dreams. Last week was a reminder that we are all given gifts and talents but until we step into the moments, our gifts and talents will never be fully appreciated or realized. We need people in our lives to encourage us to step into those moments. To be brave.

The sports reporter Rick Reilly once wrote – “We are here to be there for our kid when they score the game winning goal…and especially when they don’t”

Last week was one of those kinds of moments.

On Tuesday I downloaded the new Garth Brooks CD. I’ve often said that if they put a soundtrack to my life, Garth Brooks music could pretty much play the entire time. One song jumped out at me right away called “Send Em On Down The Road.” It’s classic Garth. These words really hit home…

You can cry for ‘em
Live and die for ‘em
You can help them find their wings but you can’t fly for ‘em
‘Cause if they’re not free to fall, than they’re not free at all
And though you just can’t bare the thought of letting go
You pick ‘em up
You dust ‘em off
And you send ‘em on down the road

I said last week that I was so proud of “the boy.” Always. As parents we have and will face moments when we will “help them find their wings but can’t fly for ’em.” Wisdom tells us there will be days when we wish we could step into the moment for them.

But it’s not our stage and it’s not our spotlight.

You pick ’em up.

You dust ’em off.

And you send ’em on down the road.

Mom and Dad, you gotta let em go. Today’s hurt will be tomorrows victory. Life is lived forward and understood backward.

Send ’em on down the road…..

6 Things My Kids Need For School

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Here we are again. Where did the summer go? Maybe you’re getting ready to send your first born off to school. You might be sending your oldest to college. Maybe you homeschool and you’re ramping up for another year. Wherever this post finds you, I thought I might share the 6 things that I firmly believe my kids need before they start school. These 6 things are part of that “hill I will die on” I often refer to. I know each child and home is different, so take these for what they are worth. Here we go….

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying they need respect, that comes when you GIVE respect. From the time our oldest began school, we chose one thing we really wanted for them that school year. His first year, my word was respect. I don’t know a lot and I’ve never been accused of being really book smart, but respect for others will take you a long, long way in this life. Like my father-in-law says “you earn your breaks.” One of the greatest things you can offer another person is your respect. Respect your elders. Respect your friends. Respect those who disagree with you. You don’t have to agree with every one, or everything, but you can respect their differences. There is an exception to this but thats another post for another day…

2. Treasured – This one REALLY applies to my girls. I wrote a post about being fifteen about a year ago and apparently I am incredibly naive to what that age is like now. While none of mine are fifteen yet, they are growing up faster than we did at their age. They have access to so much more. The only way I know to compat all that waits out there both virtually and in reality, is to make sure they all know they are treasured. They are treasured by me, they are treasured by God. They are my joy and the prize of their creator. They don’t need to settle for anything less than all that God planned for them before they were even born. There will be influences and voices to encourage otherwise, but my hope is they have a firm foundation in how treasured they are both at home and by their Creator.

3. Quiet Strength – There is confidence and then there is arrogance. Confidence crosses the goal line, hands the ball to the referee and heads back to the sideline. Arrogance takes off it’s helmet and makes sure every one knows who scored the touchdown. When it comes to achievements in everything from academics to athletics, I’ve always encouraged my children to be more like Barry Sanders and less like Dion Sanders. Act like you’ve been there. Consider the feelings of those that can’t or didn’t or won’t achieve their goal. Remember when you fell short and how that felt.  As they saying goes…

Work for a cause, not for applause.
Live life to express, not to impress.
Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.

4. Be The Change – In an age where “bullying” is a word thrown around a lot, I want my kids to be the change. Stand up for those that can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. Be “that friend” we all want, seek and need. Surround yourselves with those that are different and learn what makes them that way. Let your life be consistent. Let it be so consistent it changes others in ways that are positive. Be individul but be consistent. God created you to influence a circle of people. Be the change in your circle of influence.

5. Be Awesome – Before you click out and think I am “that dad” that demands perfection, let me put your mind at ease…I’m not. You can be last and still be awesome. You can not be at the top of your class and still be awesome. Bob Goff said it best…

Be Awesome…. God loves the humble ones, and the humble ones often don’t make it as first-round draft picks for the jobs with big titles or positions. But they always seem to be the first-round picks for God when He’s looking for someone to use in a big way.

To Be Awesome is to be humble and to be available. We get opportunities every day to be awesome to someone or for something. I want my kids to be available to any and all opportunities, especially with others. As the saying goes – “in 20 years they people won’t remember your name or achievements. But in 20 years they will remember how you made them feel and the memories you gave them.” Be awesome. Make others feel special and leave them with great memories.

6. Be Brave – How could I send them off without a charge that I set for myself in 2014? Be brave to try new things. Be brave to explore and learn. Be brave for those that can’t find the courage to be brave on their own. Let your bravery influence and encourage others to be brave too. God wired each of my kids differently. One will “be brave” with a quiet, calm influence. One will “be brave” in her compassion for others. One will “be brave” with an enthusiasm that is contagious. It’s they way they were built before they were ever born. Gods perfect design. Take each of those gifts and be brave.

As we send our kids off to school and college, my prayer is that these days will be rich with learning. Yes, I hope they fill their minds with book knowledge, but I also hope they are filled with moments and experiences that mold and shape who they will become. As I’ve posted before, it’s time to “Let That Pony Run.”

Broken and Beautiful

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My kids love birthday celebrations at the house. Especially our youngest (aka Princess 2.0). Throughout the day yesterday I was instructed that I “couldn’t go in the loft” and I “wasn’t allowed in the dining room.” Since I was running out of places in the house to go, I ended up in my office. Princess 2.0 would later come in, head down, tears streaming down her face. All I heard in between deep breaths and sniffles was “daddy…I tried to make a basketball…and it fell apart.” At this point, she handed me a broken beaded iron ornament….and she broke down. I mean, full blown tears. She was crushed.

I picked her up and just held her for awhile. Over and over again, I just kept telling her I loved it. I kept repeating that what meant more to me was the time, thought and heart that she put into this project. I kept telling her that her heart is what I love more than anything she could possibly make me. It was so important to me that she knew that. I don’t know if she understood or received that, but it really meant the world to me.

We then took all of the pieces of her project and together we rebuilt a new one. We took what she had worked on, added some new parts and when it was all done, I have a treasure for my office and she has something she is proud of. We took what was broken and made it beautiful.

Last night I went to bed and re-lived that moment over and over. Quietly I had one of those “Hello McFly” moments. Over and over in this life I have started something with the best of intentions. I have wanted to make something of my life for the God of this universe that He would be proud of. All too often, my best intentions fell apart. My fresh start turned to another failure. Slowly I approached the throne broken and frustrated. I started off with intentions of being holy and ended up saying “what do I know of holy?”

What hit me last night is that we are His children. Our broken, failed attempts at holy are beautiful in His eyes. Our time is what He cherishes. Just like 2.0, He knows my heart. It doesn’t end there. Over and over He reminds us that He loves us. He then takes the broken attempts and the failed intentions and, if we’re willing, creates something beautiful. Together we take what was broken, mix it with other elements and create our new story. It might not be exactly what we originally thought, but it is whole.

Feeling broken? Feeling like your best intentions and attempts at seeking a life of faith have failed? Take what you have to Him. He’ll take what was broken and make it beautiful.

#BeBrave

What You Believe…

My father-in-law was recently at the house and popped his head in my office. He said “so, are you ready for Monday?” I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what significance Monday had. I finally had to ask “what’s Monday?” He then reminded me that Monday is a day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had a post ready to go to impart wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

I was glad he reminded me what Monday was because I needed to renew my drivers license this year. As I stood in that hateful long line at the DMV, I pondered what I could possibly share. What wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I’ve got nothing.

I’ve spent the days since that conversation going round and round about this post I could write that would change the world. What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and anyone else that might read this? Then one day it hit me….while I was making the bed (I kid you not). I thought back to a friend that had a birthday close to mine. Sadly he is no longer here. We lost him all too soon. I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe sums it all up…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

That’s it. It’s funny that I share that in a blog post. I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For over 9 years I have posted thoughts and hopefully, shared the struggles too. Social media has exploded over the years. Now more than ever before I believe that statement has to be our filter. It’s easy to only post the great moments, the times when the kids did amazing things and when the house looked incredible. Hopefully you’ve seen our not so primetime moments through social media too. We’ve got them. I’ve got a ton of them.

I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I wasn’t bragging on my kids, I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

So thats the best I’ve got. The calendar turns on another year older. It’s another chance to say what I think and most importantly….

Live what I believe.

#BeBrave

The Greatest Lesson My Dad Ever Taught Me

Fathers Day is this Sunday. How do you possibly honor your father for all he has done? Especially when you are a father now and know the requirements of the job. Today I wondered what the greatest lesson my father ever taught me was. The answer was simple and it took very little thought. Before I get to the answer, let me give you some other thoughts.

Now that I am older and a home and auto owner, one of the greatest regrets is that I didn’t pay closer attention when my dad would work on the house and cars. I was usually in the driveway shooting hoops at our garage while he was working away under one of our family vehicles. When it was time for home projects I was most likely in my room impersonating a rock star or playing Atari.

I never became a rock star, basketball star or great video gamer but I sure could use the knowledge I would have gained measuring, cutting, installing and removing. I thought it was important to point out that the teacher was always available. Sadly, the apprentice had other priorities. Thanks for always being willing dad and for still being a phone call away when I need the help.

So what is the greatest lesson I learned from my father? Three words….

Love your bride.

To the best of my recollection, these words were never once said to me by my dad. He never sat me down and gave me this lesson. As I have learned as a father myself, the best lessons are caught and not taught. Dad loved his bride. Every moment and every opportunity he honored his bride. My mom glowed because she was made to feel like she was the queen in his kingdom.

When my mom entertained in our home (which was often), it was a big deal. Behind the scenes, in the kitchen with an apron on was my dad. He would wash dishes, prepare food and make sure everything was as it should be. He supported her dreams and her spiritual gifts. He understood that when your bride is in her sweet spot in life, she radiates Gods glory.

My mom had a crush on Kenny Rogers. He was fine with this crush and every single time Kenny dropped a new album, she was one of the first to have it. The night or morning it came out, you would find my dad in a line at the record store buying one for his bride. He taught me the little things mean far more than the big trips to extravagant places.

In her final years, my mom needed constant care. While I have always respected my father, what I witnessed in the final years of my moms life was an entirely different level. He bathed, tended and provided for her every need. As the song says, he “walked her home.” He taught me what “in sickness and in health” really means.

Dad, Happy Fathers Day.

Thank you for the lessons you were willing to teach.

Thank you for the lessons you taught.

Thank you most of all for loving your bride.

I love you Pop.

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Knots In Your Rope

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We arrived home safely last night after a week in the Outer Banks. In case you missed it, I covered why this trip was important (HERE). I also gave a mid-week update of some of the not-so-brilliant moments (HERE). It was an incredible week on so many levels. I once again was reminded who I am on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (AKA – Gods Country).

My wife is a runner and I jog at a pace just a tick above walking so we typically map our various mileage routes when we arrive in OBX. One route we mapped out had a series of inclines and seemed to be a challenging 6 miler. I let my friend “D-Rich” somehow talk me into coming out of race retirement and sign up for a quarter marathon in August so I set a goal to get said challenging 6 miler before we left OBX. Saturday morning came calling and I always try to achieve goals I set. When I pushed off and hit my watch, I decided to take the 6 miles and compartmentalize all that had taken place on our week away. Immediately, my useless knowledge kicked in and this quote came to mind:

“Y’all come up here about the same time with the same problems. You spend 50 weeks a year getting knots in your rope and you think 2 weeks up here will untie them for you. None of you get it.”

-Curly (City Slickers)

Sure enough, old Curly was right. The only exception is I usually take 51 weeks a year to get knots in my rope. Then I spend a week in OBX thinking it will untie them for me. As I pounded away at the pavement, I kept wondering how a week off the grid somehow will solve all of the problems of the other 51 week mundane. Had I somehow found the magic I was seeking when we arrived 6 days earlier? Was there an “ah-ha moment” that I would now take home with me for the year ahead? If so, what was it?

“None of you get it”

If you’re familiar with the movie, Curly goes on to deliver his “One Thing” speech and it’s brilliant.

There is so much truth in such a silly little movie clip. Honestly.

While we were on our vacation, a good friend sent me a text asking for some advice. I called him a bit later and we discussed a decision that was weighing on his mind. As I ran those miles, I couldn’t help but think I shared my one thing with him without even realizing it. Our week away didn’t help me discover my one thing, it removed the distractions so I could focus on it much more clearly. It’s like his text and call were that ah-ha moment for me without flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder.

So what is that one thing?

What I told my friend is that he must decide on the hills that he is willing to die on. In other words, he must decide those things that are the non-negotiable things in his life. Everything else will fall into place and be viewed through this lens. They are the one thing. You figure that out and everything else just doesn’t matter.

Getting knots in your rope 50 or 51 weeks a year can’t be solved with a week or two away. It can’t and won’t untie them for you. Knowing your one thing and the hills that you will die on help keep from ever getting knots in your rope in the first place.

What are the hills that you are willing to die on?

What is your one thing?

It’s probably obvious by now, but these four are just one of mine. Every. Single. Time.

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Grace Week – The Finale

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So here we are. Seven days of pressing pause during the week of Easter to reflect on the grace that was poured out on Good Friday and the hope of Easter Sunday. How do you wrap this up? How do you put a bow on all that we’ve walked through, thought through, examined and reflected upon? What is the anchor you drop? As I have said throughout this week, I’m certainly no expert on grace. I’ve walked this journey with each of you this week. Actually, you’ve walked it with me and for that I thank you.

Tonight as I was winding down from an incredibly beautiful day in Columbus, I thought more about this post. I thought more about what to say, how to say it and how to wrap it all up. It was then when something so simple came to me.

“Live it.”

As I unpacked those two words a bit, I think what it means is that if we don’t accept the grace we’ve been given and live it out each day, it doesn’t mean much. It’s like the tree that falls in the forest. Imagine if we all accepted the grace we’ve been given and lived it out to those we impact each day. Imagine if our words and our actions were grace giving. I can think of no better way to honor the gift of grace than to give it away.

Today we celebrate a risen savior that is very much alive and interceding for each one of us. Today we celebrate a grace we’ll never fully understand this side of heaven. Let’s do our best to walk out that grace as our way of saying “thank you” to the one that paid it all.

Christ is risen.

Amazing grace.

If you made it to a church service or not this morning, take a few minutes and set up camp around this song. It says it all.

 

Grace Week – Day Six

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It’s Saturday. I was going to end this “Grace Week” yesterday but this morning I felt like this needed to be said today. Someone somewhere needs to know that it’s Saturday. I know we all know it’s Saturday on our calendar, but the Saturday of grace week can be a lonely place. Imagine the isolation and hopelessness that all those close to Jesus felt on this Saturday so many years ago.

Everything they had hoped for was gone.

They were scattered.

Their plans were shattered.

They left everything for a man that was now gone.

What now? Where do you turn? How do you begin to rebuild? I don’t know about you but I’ve been in “Saturdays” in my life too. My hopes came crashing down. What I thought would be turned out to be nothing but isolation. In this life, there will be Saturdays. There will be moments when nothing seems to be as it should.

But Sunday happened.

God rolled away a stone and rocked their world. On Saturday, though it seemed lost, things were happening behind that big ol’ rock. Things were happening in that tomb. God was at work though it appeared he had walked away in their desperation.

He’s doing the same for you.

When the stone is rolled away on this season of your life, it all begins to make sense. Today may be lonely, but don’t lose heart. Your Sunday is coming. It may not appear to be what you hoped or thought, but your Sunday is coming.

Hold on friends.

Sunday is a stone roll away.

Amazing Grace.

Grace Week – Day Five

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This week I have taken a personal journey through what I have called “Grace Week.” As I sat in church last Sunday I felt like it was what I needed to do personally. I needed to spend this week reflecting on grace that was poured out on this day. I needed to reflect on how I walk that out as a follower of Jesus. As I looked back over the years of my life, I found that I’m not so good at that. When it comes to grace, I am not amazing. It is when I begin to feel the weight of my failure that I hear…

Not guilty.

The reality is that the few true stories I’ve shared this week were cherry picked from my massive pile of failures in grace. Right next to my pile of failures in grace is my pile of failures in character. I have a pile a mile high of my failures in extending love. Words can’t describe my pile of sin. It’s not pretty. Not pretty at all. When I rewind the DVR of life, it feel the weight of it all. It’s then that I hear….

Not guilty.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. I’m not talking about appearance, that ship sailed long ago. I’m talking about the mirror of interior. I’m talking about my mind and what it thinks. I’m talking about my eyes and what they see. I’m talking about my ears and what they hear. I see the heart and what it should beat for and what it rarely does. When I look in the mirror, I feel the weight of it all. It’s then that I hear….

Not guilty.

Today is a day of reflection. If you’re like me, I reflect on all that I’ve listed above. That list was nailed to a cross that wasn’t his. If you’re reading this, it wasn’t just mine, it was yours too. Because of that sacrifice, each of us stand in the court of God and hear….

Not guilty.

On Sunday morning, we’ll dress in our spring colors. There will be baskets and straw, eggs and bunnies. For those that have accepted the verdict of “not guilty” there is hope. There is celebration. There is Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Sunday is the celebration. Today is the memorial. Today is the reflection. Because of the events of today.

You and I are not guilty.

Amazing grace.

Grace Week – Day Four

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I’ve got issues. As a matter of fact, I’ve shared “the list” below before. I’d like to say I’ve made some strides in some of these areas. In honesty, I think I’ve continued to struggle in others. Let’s just say I totally understand when Paul talked about his “thorn.” In our instagram/facebook social media driven world, it’s easy to create a perfect life. But this life is anything but perfect. At times it’s downright ugly. To review, here’s my list –

I hide.

I act.

I show a smile and die on the inside.

I want to show no signs of failure but am rarely anything but

My internal thoughts are dark, depressing and often rude

I have a really hard time with forgiveness and saying “I’m sorry”

I bury bitterness, anger, doubt and fear so deep that when it surfaces it’s much worse

I live in fear of so many things, at times I lose grip with reality

I’m broken and damaged

I have a past that haunts me

I’m selfish

I fear being irrelevant

I have addictions that are like bondage that won’t release me from their grips

I wrestle with and sometimes lose faith

I’m judgmental

I’m afraid you’ll forget me when I’m gone.

Paul only mentioned having one “thorn.” Apparently I’ve got a few more than he did. But this is why Good Friday was so important to my story. I don’t know who will read this, but maybe Good Friday was important to your story too. You ready?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Hold up. Back up the truck. You mean I am supposed to be GLAD about my weaknesses? It actually says that I should boast gladly about them? That is some crazy talk. That is the kind of crazy talk I need some help understanding. So I look to a resource which has become like a manual for me over the years. The book is “In The Grip of Grace” and the author is Max Lucado. Max writes –

You wonder why God doesn’t remove temptation from your life? If he did, you might lean on your own strength instead of his grace. A few stumbles might be what you need to convince you: His grace is sufficient for your sin.

You wonder why God doesn’t remove the enemies in your life? Perhaps because he wants you to love like he loves. Anyone can love a friend, but only a few can love an enemy. So what if you aren’t everyone’s hero? His grace is sufficient for your self-image.

You wonder why God doesn’t alter your personality? You, like Paul, are a bit rough around the edges? Say things you later regret or do things you later question? Why doesn’t God make you more like him? He is. He’s just not finished yet. Until he is, his grace is sufficient to overcome your flaws.

You wonder why God doesn’t heal you? He has healed you. If you are in Christ, you have a perfected soul now and a perfected body. His plan is to give you the soul now and the body when you get home. He may choose to heal parts of your body before heaven. But if he doesn’t, don’t you still have reason for gratitude? If he never gave you more than eternal life, could you ask for more that that? His grace is sufficient for gratitude.

For all we don’t know about thorns, we can be sure of this. God would prefer we have an occasional limp than a perpetual strut. And if it takes a thorn for him to make his point, he loves you enough to not pluck it out.

God has every right to say no to us. We have every reason to say thanks to him. The parachute is strong, and the landing will be safe. His grace is sufficient.

I don’t know what your thoughts were when your feet hit the floor this morning. Maybe you leaned over and picked up your “list” and put it on your shoulders to carry again for another day. Maybe you’re struggling with the “why” and the “when” too. Know that the events that took place on Good Friday are significant to your story too. Your list, your struggles, your battles all are a part of your story. When it comes to grace and your story….

His grace is sufficient for you.

Grace Week – Day Three

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I decided to do something new this year as we enter the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Because one of the greatest gifts that happened on Calvary was the gift of grace, I’m going to take each day this week and focus on that. I thought it would be good to remind myself of that amazing grace every single day. If you’d like, feel free to follow along throughout this week.

Let me start off todays thoughts on grace with a couple of ground rules. First of all, I have issues with forgiveness which I’ll unpack in a minute. Second, I have issues with feet. I can’t stand bare feet on the dashboard of my car. I don’t like touching feet or feet touching me. I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things. Forgiveness and feet are two of the many things I have issues with. When it comes to forgiveness, I used to adopt the motto of the great philosophers…The Dixie Chicks…

“Forgive sounds good. Forget, I don’t think I could…”

I’m just being honest here. I know we’re supposed to forgive and I really do wrestle with situations where I should. I’m working on it and Gods not done with me yet. If you really want to see me get nasty, do something to my family. I can usually get through personal situations which require forgiveness, but you mess with my family and the protector in me comes out. Especially if it has anything to do with feet….(sorry, had to throw that in there).

Now here’s where I get all kinds of tripped up with grace. In John 13:1-17 we see Jesus do the unthinkable (in my mind anyway). He is just days away from dying for the entire world (you and I included). He’s with his closest friends. He is with the very men that will soon scatter. They won’t have his back. One will betray him outright. Another will deny he even knew him. Talk about having forgiveness issues. If I knew the people I had let into my world at the deepest levels would soon walk away, betray me and deny they even knew me, do you think I would want to share a meal with them? Would you?

As if the meal wasn’t enough, he goes far beyond the call of duty. He takes the role of a servant and washes their feet. For more on the significance of Jesus washing their feet, there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to it HERE. Regardless of what Wikipedia might have to say, I know this, Jesus placed himself in a servant role before the very people that he had every right to distance himself from. He had every reason to sing that Dixie Chicks song. You want to talk about Grace? It was on full display in that room.

As he washed the feet of friends that would bail on him.

As he washed the feet of the man that would betray him.

As he washed the feet of the man that would completely deny knowing him.

And he knew it would all happen.

Grace.

When I think about this act of grace and the one which would soon follow, I am ashamed of my inability to forgive. I am saddened by my lack of grace in situations. Should I wash the feet of those I may have issues with? No, I don’t think so. Yet an email saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” might be a modern day version of that. A phone call, even if I still believe I was the wronged, may be like filling that basin and kneeling before my enemy. When I am quick to say “but,” I remember that Jesus didn’t complain as he was placed on my cross for my sin. This is a critical point that cannot be missed – Have you allowed Jesus to wash your feet? Have you accepted that grace? Maybe today is that day. Maybe this week is a week to finally accept the grace that happened on that Friday.

…And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.” – Max Lucado

Who do you need to call/text/email today? Who’s feet do you need to wash?

Grace.

Grace Week – Day Two

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I decided to do something new this year as we enter the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Because one of the greatest gifts that happened on Calvary was the gift of grace, I’m going to take each day this week and focus on that. I thought it would be good to remind myself of that amazing grace every single day. If you’d like, feel free to follow along throughout this week.

I never thought God could use a trip to San Antonio to continue to teach me things about grace. A few years ago I had a large presentation and meeting in San Antonio, Texas.  I arrived in Texas on a Monday night around 11pm.  I was weary from a long day and ready to check into my room at the Holiday Inn express. It’s not my hotel of choice, but it’s where my meeting was being held early the next morning. Like is or not, it’s where I was staying. Or so I thought…..

The nice people behind the counter at the hotel kindly informed me that all of the rain they recently had damaged a number of their rooms and I was going to be “walked to the Westin.” I had no clue what “The Westin” was, or why they were going to “walk” me anywhere. The next thing I know, I am given directions to my next destination. When I walked into the lobby, it was pretty clear that this was certainly not the Holiday Inn. From the valet parking at the front door, to the lobby big enough to land a plane in, as the man behind the counter said

“wow, this is quite an upgrade from the Holiday Inn.”

When I finally got to my room, I found the square footage to be larger then my apartment when I was single (and much nicer), robes in the closet, Starbucks coffee on the counter, even a telephone next to the toilet in the bathroom. This is the kind of place you see in movies and never dream of paying for. I was like a grown up version of the kid from Home Alone. The most amazing part came in the morning when I got my bill. It literally read $0.00. That’s right. No charge. Free. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The Holiday Inn had paid the bill in full.

You probably see what I am getting at here. Isn’t that something like the grace we have been given? I had a debt to pay. A large debt. I did not earn this place. There was nothing I did, could have done, or will do to ever have made that possible. Someone else paid my price. All I needed to do was gladly accept the offer, and follow the directions to get there. Even though my original plans were “damaged,” someone had noted my situation and provided a better way. That alone would have been worth it all. But remarkably, they also paid my price in full. Now that really is, as they say, amazing grace.

Grace Week – Day One

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I decided to do something new this year as we enter the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Because one of the greatest gifts that happen on Calvary was the gift of grace, I’m going to take each day this week and focus on that. I thought it would be good to remind myself of that amazing grace every single day. If you’d like, feel free to follow along throughout this week.

A Lesson in Grace

Several years ago, I received a lesson in grace and hopefully taught one as well. It was the bedtime hour and I was putting the kiddo’s to bed. My youngest daughter requested some juice in a sippy cup to place beside her bed. She got used to doing this during a recent battle with the flu so I didn’t mind agreeing to said request. My middle child heard the request and decided she would like a little bedside refreshment as well. One problem…she had been known to sleep right on through her “potty alarm”….if you know what I mean.

Knowing that she would have this “issue” and trying to avoid a further problem, I kindly explained that she probably shouldn’t as it might lead to her wetting the bed. Since I am a softie when it comes to my girls, the hour was late and I didn’t have it in me to argue…you guessed it, she got a sippy cup too. Everyone went to bed without a hitch and I enjoyed the next 2 hours of watching television. After a few hours of down time, I decided to catch up on some work in my home office. That’s when it happened.

Small footsteps

Sleepy child walking in my office

Quivering lower bottom lip

Embarrassment on her little face

A tear forming in her eye

Decision time for daddy…..

In that instant I knew this could go one of two ways. While my human nature was screaming “I TOLD YOU SO”, there was a still small voice. It softly whispered “be careful here Dad, you’ve got this childs heart and maybe even her future understanding of God right in the palm of your hand. Don’t blow this!” After confirming that she had, in fact, wet the bed I decided to take a route she wasn’t expecting me to take.

Grace.

I motioned to my little one to come and sit on my lap (thankfully she had already changed her pajama pants). I then wrapped my arms around her and simply, softly whispered that I knew it was an accident. I explained that Mommy and Daddy know what we are saying when we ask them to not do certain things. I then told her I loved her, it was okay and that we would go clean up her bed. Once all the cleanup was complete she was back in bed, asleep and her heart and spirit were still intact. Hopefully one day she’ll remember that her father’s love is like that of our Heavenly father.

How many times have I done what I knew I should not have done? How many times has it gone as predicted? How often have I experienced Gods grace in those circumstances? God has every reason to hold my every foolish decision and move over me. My list of wrongs is much longer than the list of things I get right. Remarkably, “Friday” happened so He doesn’t have to. “Friday” happened so each day I experience a grace beyond my understanding. Lesson learned and hopefully…a lesson taught.

Grace.

There’s only grace
There’s only love
There’s only mercy
And believe me,
it’s enough…

-Matthew West

The Baseline

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It’s that time of year. Your mailbox is probably full of invites. Lawn signs are popping up all over the neighborhood. Each notification an invitation to attend a local church service for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Let me quickly say that I absolutely support this movement. There are so many great churches. Honestly. Each one has so much to offer. The decision where to go can sometimes be overwhelming. Especially if you are considering where to put down roots as a family and call that church your “home.”

Several years ago I read one of the most important books I have ever read. It’s worn, torn, folded, underlined and sits where I can quickly grab it. It’s a book that is written by John Ortberg called “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them.” Besides a wicked cool title, it’s a book that focuses on the fact that each of us were built and long for community. For each person, the word “community” may look different. In the context of church, I am convinced it is critical.

To experience community is to know the joy of belonging, the delight at being known and loved, the opportunity for giving and growing, the safety of finding a true home.

Wow. As I said earlier, there are so many great churches. Some offer small, intimate settings. Some offer big productions and loud music. Some have great children’s programs, teen programs and group studies. Many have all of the above. Most offer a “come as you are” policy and just about all of them have coffee on tap. Visiting each one offers some of this and some of that. Assuming all are bible based and theologically sound how is one to chose? What’s the baseline to start from?

Might I suggest the quote above from John Ortberg?

It is my experience that those who love their church and call it “home” will say something very close to what Mr. Ortberg said. This isn’t promoting one church or another. I’m also not knocking churches. I’m simply recommending using this as a possible way to help filter the many choices that exist. Once you’ve determined that they are theologically sound and bible based, begin to pray that God will order your steps to that church where…..

You experience the joy of belonging

You delight in being known and loved

You find the opportunity for giving and growing

It is then you will know you have found the safety of finding a true home.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

299724_10151383618463449_310160452_nIt’s Saturday, March 2nd. 4 years ago today I received that call that no child wants to receive. You fell and they were doing all they could to save your life. While those last few years were difficult for you, that last few days came so quickly. No sooner had I boarded a plane, we were all around your bed, saying goodbye. While it still hurts to type those words, I will always cherish those few moments you and I were able to share. I know you heard me. I know you shared that moment too. As we approach the day that you left us, I thought I would let you know a few things.

Remember that time we had “the talk” as I was getting to be that age? Well, Austin has approached that age now too. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the talk. I remember when you and I discussed such things, we laughed so hard we couldn’t get through it. What started as a serious talk, ended with us laughing and moving on to something else. While I didn’t learn much about the birds and bees that day, I knew you meant the best and did what only you could do. You brought joy to a tense moment.

Remember when you took me on a date to show me how to treat a girl? Well now I’ve got two girls in my home that I hope have seen the fruits of your efforts. You taught me to open a door, walk on the street side, and cherish the girl on my arm. I was only a child, but I still remember. Now I want the same for my girls. I want them to find a boy that will do what you taught me to do. Your lessons continue even though you’re gone.

Remember the many times you prayed for my future bride? God heard those prayers and answered exceedingly more than we could have ever asked. Mom, Heather is the rock in our home. She guides our children’s hearts and maintains schedules that far exceed my understanding. If only I would have known with each talk we had that you were right. God heard the prayers you prayed. He answered with one word, “Heather.” Thank you for praying for my future bride.

Remember the hours you prayed for me? There were so many years when I went my own course. I tried all that I could try. I tested all that I could test. I struggled with the world and wrestled my share of demons. All the while you prayed. When I would face a tough challenge you would ask me if I prayed. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to take your advice. I still wrestle and struggle and fight my share of demons, but the power in prayer is my refuge. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for leading me home. Your prayers were never lost. The hours never wasted.

There are so many more things to share. You’d be so proud of your grandchildren. You would cherish who they are and all they are becoming. I would be quick to remind you that it was your foundation. Each brick we place on this life we build is based on the strong foundation you created in your years here. Our reunion will be so sweet and I look forward to it most this time of year. Until then, save a place for me. I’ll be home soon.

Love you Mom.

** Originally Posted March 2013. Updated March 2014. 

To Hear The Words

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Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” –Deuteronomy 34:4

Most people I know have that list of people they want to talk to and questions they will ask when we get to Heaven. Somewhere on my many lists of lists, there is a simple question I have for Moses. It goes like this…”Dude, what was it like to hear those words?” I just want to know what it must have felt like to have gotten to the edge of the promised land, seen it all and then hear the words…”you will not cross over into it.” BOOM.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever chased, discerned, given, hoped and sacrificed for Gods will? Have you been on the edge of what you thought was to be His vision for your life only to hear those words..”you will not cross over into it.” Where do you go from there? Where do you begin to put it all back together and understand that God is still in control. God is STILL on His throne and the journey has been worth the moment. I found an anchor in verse 7 that we might hold onto:

Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone – Deuteronomy 34:7

“His eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” I love that. Moses had just completed the ultimate “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” and was left on the outside. Although he died at that spot, his eyes were not weak and he never lost strength. There’s something there for all of us. If you feel like your standing where Moses stood and on the outside of what you thought Gods purpose and vision was, don’t lose strength. Don’t let your eyes grow weary. There’s still work to be done. His ways are not our ways. As I type this post, I am reminded that I am “preaching to the choir” here. I have got to find a way to be okay when I hear the words…..

“Are you willing to live a life that honors God and reflects His character and leaves the outcome to Him? Are you willing to live by faith and trust Him to be faithful? There will be days on this journey of faith when the outcome will be clear, and you will not like the implications. On those days you must, like Jesus, declare ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42)”

– Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus (pg 81)

Originally posted April 17, 2009

He Will Fix It.

photo (3)This morning as we were all getting ready for work and school, I heard a small voice calling from the kitchen downstairs. The little voice sounded concerned but not panicked. I figured it was important but not life threatening. As a parent, it doesn’t take long to start to distinguish the level, pitch and tone of the voice of your child relative to the level of emergency. This was about a 5 on a scale of 10. My youngest (Princess 2.0) simply said –

“Uh dad….we have a problem.”

It wasn’t a Tom Hanks level “Houston, we have a problem” but it was a problem nonetheless. So I came down to investigate. What I found is in the picture in this post. Actually, this was the “after” version of the picture. The before had the lid still on the soup can and the pull tab off. There was also a can opener laying near the can. As my daughter walked away to leave me to figure this out, she exclaimed to my other daughter (Princess 1.0)…

“He will fix it.”

I stood there looking at this potential disaster thinking that I was glad she had that much confidence in my skills. That is when it hit me. The past few weeks have been brutal on social media. The number of prayer requests have been uncharacteristically large. They have been heavy, heavy requests. From the passing of loved ones to major surgeries, they have been heavy. I stood there looking at this can and thinking how my daughter approached me with a concern and then confidently left me to make it better. She walked away knowing I would fix it.

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

How often do we approach God’s throne of grace with CONFIDENCE? Do I make my prayer requests and walk away with a confidence that “He will fix it?” Because He will and He does.

In case you’re wondering, I was able to save the can of soup. I used a butter knife and pried the lid off through the opening that was created before the tab popped off. Her faith in me was rewarded with hot soup in her lunch thermos.

One other thought (and it’s important). Just before they left, Princess 1.0 said “How did you get that lid off?”

Me – How do you think I got it off?

Princess 1.0 – Can opener?

Me – Nope.

Princess 1.0 – Bare hands?

Me – Nope. Butter knife.

This exchange was important because when we approach the throne with confidence, we need to understand that the way we THOUGHT He would fix it and the way He does fix it are not always the same. It might not be the “fix” we requested. We might even make suggestions to God as to HOW He should fix it (can opener). But His wisdom and greater understanding trump our knowledge.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

His ways are higher. Today, as you scroll your social media feed, or the pages of your prayer journal, consider approaching the throne of grace WITH CONFIDENCE that He will fix it. Know that it may not be the fix you suggested or thought, but He will fix it.

My New Year Resolution

6a00d8341c5bb353ef0134899cb209970cI’m not a resolution guy. I don’t make a list of things that I’ll end up breaking. It’s not that there are a few things that couldn’t stand to get my act together on, or lose, or quit. I’ve just never been one to make resolutions. This year will be different. In many ways, this is a wave that has been building throughout 2013 and is crashing to the shore in 2014. You ready? Here it is….

In 2014, I resolve to make the name of Jesus famous.

That’s it. I’m not joining a gym or some 12 step program (although there’s nothing wrong with that). I am just going to make it my personal filter to make the name of Jesus famous. I’ve heard that phrase before. I heard it again recently and for the first time it struck a chord. Because I’m not good at that. I want to make His name famous.

Not a TV celebrity.

Not a Pastor.

Not a Church.

Not a musician.

Not an athlete.

Not a sports team.

Not a fast food restaurant.

Not a retailer.

Not an author.

Not a book.

Not a website.

I could go on and on because when I look at the timeline of those things I have made a priority this year, there are a TON of them. I’ve done a lot to mention these things. I’ve thrown my support around just about everything. It’s not that you can’t or I won’t do this, but am I doing anything to make Jesus, first and foremost, famous? If I put that in perspective, the list above and all that I didn’t mention should fall into their rightful place as well.

In 2014, I resolve to make the name of Jesus famous.

Let’s Find a Better Way

christmas-trucedaily_express_4_4_09You’ve probably heard the story. Maybe, like me, you thought it was urban legend or just some nice story that gets retold this time of year. Well, I can confirm that this story is absolutely true. I’ve confirmed it at Snopes.com as well as this article from 2005 in the New York Times. If you’re not familiar with the Christmas Truce of 1914, here’s the story in a nutshell:

Yet on Dec. 24, much of the Western Front fell silent as ordinary soldiers made temporary peace with the enemy. This was the remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914.

It’s estimated that about 100,000 men, mainly British and Germans, took part. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the event led many to doubt that it ever happened. As late as 1983, one veteran called the truce a “latrine rumor.”

Today, however, it is often seen as one of the few bright moments amid the slaughter of the Great War, in which 14 million people were killed.

To quote the last remaining survivor of the event:

It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about 7 or 8 in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights -I don’t know what they were. And then they sang “Silent Night” – “Stille Nacht.” I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune. – Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment

As I was driving today I heard the song written by Garth Brooks about this event called “Belleau Wood.” As often happens behind the wheel, it gave me pause to consider this season and that moment nearly 100 years ago. Sworn enemies found a moment to pause in their fighting and share a song. They put down their weapons. They called a truce. At least for a few moments there was “peace on earth and good will to men.”

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

As I scan my timelines, I see battles. I see people taking sides over current events. For this moment, for this season, can we put down our weapons? Can we, like those soldiers call a truce. Can hate not be strong? Maybe it’s more personal for anyone that would read this. Maybe it’s that phone call you need to make or that person you need to have THAT conversation with. Why not now? Why not today? Enter 2014 with peace where once was war.

To quote Garth Brooks in Belleau Wood

“Here’s hoping we both live to find a better way.”

Why You Won’t Get Our Christmas Card

Tis the season. Each year about this time, we start to receive Christmas cards from friends and family across the United States. Some send a card. Others send a newsletter with updates on what is happening with their family. All are enjoyed by our family and received with much love and appreciation. We too used to send the annual Christmas card. We did the photos, printing and postage.

Then one year I heard that you could feed and help someone in need for as little as $2.05 per person.

I’m not the sharpest guy in the room, but when I did some 8th grade math and looked at our annual spend for the cards, photos and postage, I knew that those dollars could be better spent. We talked it over as a family and decided that rather than send a card that will one day end up in the trash, or a box, we would dedicate those dollars to provide meals and help through Faith Mission of Columbus. We have kept that tradition going each year and now, thanks to social media, you probably already know more about our family than any card could ever tell.

To those that have sent us your annual card, thank you! We love seeing all that is happening with your family and in your life. Please consider this our annual Christmas card and know it is shared with the same thought and love. Also know that by accepting this token, you were also a part of helping to feed and assist someone in need right here in Columbus, Ohio.

Merry Christmas to each of you and a Happy New Year!

The Conrad Family

Going Home for Christmas

1383542_10202491903806626_1740966647_nHolidays can be really hard. For many this is a season of lights, presents and parties. For many others, this season brings a heaviness and void that can’t be filled. I fall in that second group. Christmas in our home was my moms super bowl. If you ever spent Christmas Eve at 83 Woodrow in Bedford, Ohio, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Many that will read this were in our home to celebrate. Many probably also left our home that night with a handmade parting gift from the tree. Most years it was an angel of some kind. There would often be a complete stranger in our home along with the other annual guests. It could be someone they met in the grocery store, or a new visitor to the church. It didn’t matter who it was, they were welcomed.

My Mom loved Christmas and I loved my Mom.

A few years ago, a close friend fought cancer to the very end. Within days of Christmas, he put down his armor and stepped into eternity with his Savior. I still miss my friend Stef.

Just this week I was exchanging texts with a close friend who is in a season of saying goodbye to his father. My heart hurts for him. I have never met his father, but I know that he raised one heck of a son.

So why all of this now? Why the heavy post? Because for any of you walking through this season hurting, I want to hand this post over to Max Lucado. In his book “When Christ Comes”, he paints a beautiful picture that each of us can use and an anchor. He paints a picture of our (their) arrival in Heaven…

But Jesus isn’t finished. He loves to save the best for last, and I can’t help but imagine him doing the same in heaven. You’ve seen the neighbors, the coworkers, the people you hardly knew, the foreigners you never knew, but there is one more group. And Jesus parts the crowd so you will see them.

Your family.

Your spouse is the first to embrace you. There were times when you wondered if either of you would make it. But now you hear the words whispered in your ear, “Thanks for not giving up on me.”

Then your parents. No longer frail like you last saw them, but robust and renewed. “We’re proud of you,” they say. Next come your children. Children for whom you cared and over whom you prayed. They thank you; over and over they thank you. They know how hard it was, and how hard you tried, and they thank you.

And then some faces you don’t recognize. You have to be told – these are grandchildren and great-grandchildren and descendants you never saw until today. They, like the others, thank you for an inherited legacy of faith.

They thank you.

I don’t know about you, but that gets me all kinds of choked up. It gives me a picture so incredible as I envision those I’ve lost in this scene. Surrounded by all those that they have touched. Welcomed home.

It also gives me a challenge. It causes me to consider that stranger at the grocery store or the new person at church. Just as my mom would invite them into our home, she would invite them into a glimpse of Christ. No big sermons. No flashy worship songs. Just one on one, love for a complete stranger. A stranger that may one day walk up to her in Heaven and simply say “thank you.”

Praying for each of you this holiday season as we remember those we’ve lost. I can’t say for sure, but if my Mom has anything to say about it, they’ll be invited to a memorable Christmas Eve somewhere in Heaven too.

A Vision and A Manger

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5 years ago, a close friend of mine had a vision. It was a vision she had already experienced in Nashville, Tennessee. Now she wanted to see this vision happen in Columbus, Ohio. She followed her heart and over the last four years, hundreds of men, women and children have had presents on Christmas morning to unwrap. Each present was purchased with money from someone in the family. Each present picked out specifically for each family member.

Friends…welcome to “THE MANGER“.

The vision of THE MANGER is that adults that are going through a tough time financially will still be able to provide Christmas for their family. Each member of the family will receive three gifts. Total cost to the adult is $2 per person in their household they are buying for. So, for example, a family of 5 will have 15 gifts for a total of $10. The individual has a sense of pride in providing Christmas gifts while only experiencing a minimal cost. The gifts are new, in a box and well above the price paid. They are also wrapped by hand before the family even leaves the Manger. It is beautiful. The Columbus Dispatch heard about THE MANGER a few years ago and featured an article (Found HERE).

This year they anticipate they will need more than 4500 gifts. Remarkable.

I’m so proud of my friend for following her passion, her heart and her vision. THE MANGER’s new location in the Polaris area! CenterPoint Church Lewis Center campus has graciously offered to host this week long event, which will be more convenient for Delaware and East-side families. They’ll be open the week of December 16th from 6:30-8:30 pm and Sat. December 21st from 9:00am-Noon.

You can donate to THE MANGER (HERE)

You can volunteer to serve at THE MANGER (HERE)

You can get all of the latest news and developments at THE MANGER’s facebook page (HERE).

My family and I look forward to this event each year. My girls love wrapping packages for the shoppers. The rest of us usually help shoppers or wherever else they can use us. Consider supporting my friend Robin and this vision that makes a difference for all involved.

Simply Be My Child

Saturday was the day the kids have had circled on their calendar for a few weeks now. Our youngest (Princess 2.0) has been reminding me for days that she could not wait until Saturday. No sooner had we put all of the Thanksgiving and fall decorations in our storage space, the Christmas decorations came out and began to go up. I actually cheated a few weeks ago and hung the outside lights while the temperatures were unseasonably warm. We just haven’t turned them on until now.

With Christmas decorations come Christmas music (which I have been listening to off and on for a few weeks as well). By far, my favorite Christmas song is by the band “MercyMe” called “Joseph’s Lullaby.” From the time that the first of our three children were born, this song has rocked my world. I love how it’s written from Joseph’s perspective. The new father singing a lullaby to the One that would soon change the world. Incredible. Not just the song, but one line in particular. It gets me every single time. The line is this….

For tonight, simply be my child.

I think it rocks my socks because most parents feel that way. We have so many visions and dreams of what our children will be one day. We know early on what their bent is. Having lived as long as we have on this earth, we also know the challenges which lie ahead. We know enough to know that we don’t know many of the challenges and surprises too. As I watch them in various moments, I often think back to that simple line….

“Simply be my child”

Because I don’t want them to speed through these moments in their life without having memories to look back on.

Because the world and all of its challenges can wait.

Because there are plenty of things that will steal their attention and time.

Bob Goff once said:

I think a father’s job, when it’s done best, is to get down on both knees, lean over his children’s lives and whisper, ‘where do you want to go.'” (Love Does)

I think Bob was on to something there. Actually, I know he was because I talked to him on the phone once about that very thing. I was in between jobs, had severance coming in and was looking at where to go with my life. His instruction to me was to “have the kids make a list of all the places they would like to go and then go do that.” I loved that advice. I think Bob was encouraging me to invest time and moments into my children so they could simply be my children.

As we navigate the hustle and bustle of this season. Take time to make memories. Carve out moments and put the world and all it’s worries on pause. Allow your child to simply be your child.

One Last Sermon

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Today is the 95th Birthday of the incredible Reverend Billy Graham. One of the most recognizable and respected men to walk this earth, Billy Graham has influenced Presidents, changed lives and inspired millions. He will leave a legacy that no one will match. He is on record as saying that he has “One sermon left in him” and when the time is right, he will deliver it.

Tonight is that night.

Tonight, to mark his 95th Birthday, Billy Graham will share “My Hope America” with all that will watch it. You can find your local stations and times (HERE).

With all that Billy Graham has done in his 95 years, I believe it is the least that we can do to hit pause on our lives and hear what he has to say. He’s earned that right. He’s prepared this message. I think we can all agree that this nation could use some hope.

Check your local listings (HERE)

You can also watch it online at http://watchbillygraham.com/

Spread the word.

Gather your family and loved ones.

Pay your respects to Billy Graham by hearing his one last sermon.

The Oddest Thing

mariano-riveraYesterday I happened to catch the exceptional documentary on Mariano Rivera called “Being: Mariano.” If you missed it, it will be on again October 22nd at 8:30pm on FOXsports. I highly recommend it. At some point during the show, he said the oddest thing. I hit rewind on the DVR, listened to it again and again and again. Then I tweeted it and 6 people retweeted it and 2 favorited it. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that found this statement so interesting.

https://twitter.com/AaronConrad/status/392038989068124161

This little quote has done a number to me the past 24 hours. So you’re telling me that the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball is doing something that he “likes” but doesn’t love? Then you’re telling me that he believes that God chose him to play baseball and not the sport he really loves? Then you are also saying that he doesn’t just play this sport, he’s the greatest to ever play that sport at the position he played. He just likes it, but loves something else. But he’s the best and God chose him to do that.

What?

I had to hit pause on all I have ever assumed or thought I knew about God and me and doing what I love for a minute. Could Mariano Rivera (who I have massive amounts of respect for) be right? Could he have just closed out a Hall of Fame career doing something that God chose him to do, even though it’s not what he loved but just liked? Could it be that God may chose us to do something we only “like” but don’t love and it turns out to be the thing that we are possibly better at than anyone else….ever?

What?

This is the oddest thing I have ever heard and yet there is something so rich and true and real about it that I can’t stop pondering it. I think I’ve spent a majority of my life chasing opportunities that I love because I thought that is how God wired me so it must be where I’m supposed to be. I’ve lost/left positions where I was doing something I absolutely loved and figured that is where I was supposed to be. It fit like a “hand in a glove.” Now this comes along and changes things. What if the thing we’re supposed to be doing and the thing that God chose us to do, we just “like?” What if that is where He is going to do His greatest work in us? What if that is where we will leave our greatest impact and legacy?

I’ve always thought that we leave our impact and legacy doing what we love to do. The oddest thing is that it might actually be doing what God chose us to do and we just like. Even if we love to do something else.

Thank you Mariano. Thank you for playing the game the right way. Thank you for leaving a legacy far beyond cutters and fastballs. Thank you for being the greatest at something you just “liked.” This game and this world is a better place because 42 played the game that God chose you to play and you just “liked.”

Mission Trip Prayer Guide

422316_10151011915398449_1299371892_nIn July of 2012, my wife answered the call to go on her first mission trip. She said “yes” to the invitation to go to Honduras and be the hands and feet of Christ. She said “yes” to working to build homes, and to spread a message of hope to those that need it most. From the moment she arrived, she felt right at home. It was no surprise that when an opportunity to return was announced, she would say “yes” again.

Our finances aren’t quite what they used to be so she would need to once again look to others for support. How all of that came together is worthy of a post all it’s own (she actually wrote about it HERE). Long story short, it all came together and on Saturday she will board a plane headed back to Honduras.

If you follow her on facebook, she’s been counting down the days and sending out prayer requests leading up to her trip. Below is a quick prayer guide for the time that she will be gone next week. She leaves on Saturday and returns the following Sunday. To all that supported her funding for the trip, words cannot begin to cover our gratitude. We would covet your prayers while she is gone as well. I’m so proud of her for being willing to “follow Christ into the homes of the broken and follow Christ into the world.”

Saturday – Pray for safe travels to Atlanta and to Tegucigalpa.

Sunday – Pray for the Honduras workers, the bus drivers and the ministry staff.

Monday – Pray for the interpreters from the city on their mission trip.

Tuesday – Pray for clear communications of the gospel message

Wednesday – Pray for each of the women on the team.

Thursday – Pray for each of the men on the team.

Friday – Pray for the people of Choluteca, Honduras and their willingness to see Jesus and receive Jesus.

Saturday – Pray for the families and loved ones of the team back home.

Sunday – Pray for the team as they say goodbye to Honduras and protection as they return home.

You can download the prayer guide here –  (PrayerGuide)

Facing A Giant

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Like most guys I know, I’m a big fan of David. How could you not be? He is every man. He was a warrior. He was a king. He made HUGE mistakes. He paid for those mistakes. He made more mistakes and somehow he was a “Man after Gods own heart.” We all know the story. It’s been in coloring books and on velvet boards in Sunday School rooms for as long as we’ve been around. David and Goliath. The ultimate underdog. Great stuff (did you catch the fun part of that image above by the way). Yet my favorite part of the entire story is in these few words in 1 Samuel 17:48….

 “David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him”

How do you like that? It doesn’t say “David shook as he walked out to meet him” or “David feared as he slowly went out to meet him.” What is says is that David RAN QUICKLY out to meet him. If you’re going to face your giant, why slowly approach it? Why not go right after it and let it know that this one is going to go in your win column. You might get a little beat up in the process, but run out and meet that giant.

Meet it.

Own it.

Beat it.

Be free from it.

If you think I’m preaching something I’m not practicing, know that I am running towards one of my giants today. I’m done with this one. It’s going down and it won’t be from my strength. The battle is not my own. As the song says “stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.” Your prayers, however, would be appreciated.

Put on your running shoes.

Grab a stone (or Angry Bird)

And lets face our giants and claim victory.

Praying for each of you today.

Pastoral Appreciation Month

couchOctober is “Pastoral Appreciation Month.” The first thing I thought of was a conversation I had with a ministry friend of mine recently. Several years ago, it was recommended by the Lead Pastor (where my friend is also a Pastor) that they seek counseling. When you first read that, it might sound harsh, but if you understood their relationship, you would understand that he was recommending this in my friends best interest. Their role is one that lives in the midst of the tensions in ministry, creativity and leadership. As with any occupation, those tensions can do a real number on the one that stands firm in the midst of them all. The ability to weather those tensions make an organization better. The Lead Pastor understood that he needed my friend to be healthy mentally as well as physically. So he recommended therapy. 8 years later, their relationship is as strong as ever, their leadership team is strong and the church is strong. My friend will point to that therapy as a reason why.

When the words therapy and ministry are mentioned, you would instantly assume that the person in ministry is the one providing the therapy not attending it. Maybe this gives an idea why Pastoral Appreciation Month is important.

For a guy that never attended seminary, many of the people I call “friend” work in some form of ministry as an occupation. Some lead small churches, new churches, established churches and churches on the decline. I often find myself across the table from said friends in coffee shops or on the other end of texts from those that live out of town. I’ve seen some resign. I’ve seen others fired. Some have stayed in the same church for years while others have moved across the country to lead a ministry. If you think that ministry is different than Corporate America when it comes to the moves and changes, think again. It is a changing and challenging role. It takes a calling and a special kind of person.

I honestly am not sure how the friendships I have with all of these Pastors happened, it just has. The ones that I call “friend” are guys that I respect far beyond words. One key difference between ministry and jobs in other industries is the departure or job change. When you leave a corporation or are let go, you move on to the next one without much thought. Ministry is different. Ministry involves people and relationships far deeper than the water cooler at most places of work. Pastors invest emotionally, mentally and spiritually in the lives of those in their church. You can’t just separate yourself from that. It doesn’t matter if the choice was theirs or the choice was made for them. Those relationships remain even after the time in a ministry ends.

To those Pastors that I have the honor of calling “friend,” you have my sincere appreciation and respect. Thank you for answering the call and weathering all that is thrown your way. Thank you for investing so much in the lives of others. Thank you for accepting the role of shepherd and all that comes with it. Doing so requires so much more than just being the face of your church. The reality is that there is no way to honor all that you do. May each of you be honored this month (and every month for that matter) by those that you’ve invested so much in.

Do It Again

9805031I’m not sure if you are like we are, but thanks to digital cameras, we have tons and tons and tons of videos and pictures. Last week I got into a late night project moving those files around and archiving them and discovered we had 100GB of photos from the last 13 years. That’s a lot. I can’t complain though because it was 100GB of wonderful memories. Sometimes we get so busy we forget how quickly life moves and how treasured the moments are. Thank God for pictures and video.

I was recently looking through my blog archives for something and was reminded that my family and I were on quite a journey just 12 months ago. We were entering a season of launching into something completely new and different. We had no idea what we were doing. We just launched into the unknown and said “do it again.”

Take a minute and watch this clip.

“Do it again”

I’m not sure if you heard it in the clip (no, not the Marvin Gaye song in the background…) but my favorite part is how he would say “I wanna do it again.” After each fall back to earth (and my midsection), he would climb back up and simply say “I wanna do it again.” As I look back on the journey my family has been on the last 12 months, it’s been a lot like this clip. There have been moments of complete thrills and abandonment as we launched into the air and the unknown. There was fear in launching into unknowns, but we always knew that our feet were held firmly by our Father. There have been moments of disappointment as that launch ended and we crashed back down. Yet each time, we climbed back up and said “do it again.”

I’m not sure what you’re walking through today. I’m not sure what life has handed you the last 12 months. I don’t know if you’re in the midst of a hands up thrill ride, or the joy has come to a crashing end. Let me encourage you to not get stuck on the down time. Even if you’re there right now. Get back up on the knees of your Father and simply say “do it again.” Launch into the unknown with your hands lifted in complete abandonment. There are more moments ahead. There’s another ride just a launch away.

Do it again!

Reality Check

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On Sunday, Princess 1.0 joined roughly 100 other girls in grades 4-6 to try out for travel basketball in our local high school. “The Boy” and I sat in the gym to encourage my little girl and observe the tryouts. I was surprised to see how many of the 100+ little girls in the gym were wearing the popular Nike “Elite” socks. These are the socks that Nike made popular a year or so ago (they have the dashes and dots along the back). It amazes me that a sock can be a fashion statement. You see them everywhere. As if the $150 pair of shoes aren’t hard enough to keep up with. Now we have $15 socks to add to the “want” list.

I received my 3rd assignment yesterday for Compassion Bloggers Month. This weeks assignment was to observe a picture and write a post with what comes to mind. When I looked at this picture of these little shoes, I thought back to that gym on Sunday. I thought about how we often replace our running shoes when they reach 400 miles because they are “broken down.” I thought about how much our society judges a person based on their shoes. Then I looked again at this picture and it brought a reality check. It brought a reminder that it’s so hard to understand the needs around the world when I’m so comfortable in mine.

Rob Bell once wrote:

They gather, they sing, they hear a talk from the pastor, and then they get back in the car with their parents and they go home; the garage door opens up, the car goes in, and the garage door goes down.

Ouch.

Please don’t read this and think that I’m telling you what to buy your kids or how to spend your money. That’s none of my business. I just know that when I look at these shoes and I read that statement from Rob Bell, I wonder if I am doing my part to educate my children in just how blessed we are. This is one of the reasons I am honored to partner with Compassion Bloggers. We’re just doing our part to spread the message, see children sponsored and lives changed.

To find out more about sponsoring a child through Compassion, please visit their website (HERE).

Let’s change the score.

Merry Larry and The True Light of Christmas

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My friends at Veggie Tales informed me this week that there’s a brand new DVD coming October 22, just in time for Christmas. “Merry Larry and The True Light of Christmas” features all of your favorite Veggie Tales characters but wait….there’s more. This new film also includes voices such as reality star Si Robertson of Duck Commander as a brand new character, Silas the wise okra, as well as an all-new song titled “Light of Christmas” performed by Owl City and TobyMac!

I’ll have a follow up post once I get a chance to review it. You can find out more and even pre-order the DVD today by visiting VeggieTales.com. Here’s a quick look at the new DVD.

In Plain Sight

My friend, David Trotter (Executive Producer of the Mother India Documentary) has launched a campaign to tackle sex trafficking in the United States through a film, music album, and 31 day devotional / study guide. He’s not alone in this campaign either. Natalie Grant (Five-Time GMA Vocalist of the Year) has joined David as a Co-Executive Producer and Narrator, and Word Entertainment has already agreed to release all three resources in stores and online in 2014. Can you believe that?

According to THIS REPORT on CBS News, about 1,000 American-born children are forced into the sex trade in Ohio every year and about 800 immigrants are sexually exploited. This is just in Ohio. The ages of these children is enough to make me physically ill when I hear about it. That’s why I wanted to make  you all aware of this project. David needs our help. Would you consider supporting this project? There are several ways listed on their website HERE.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to preview this video. Please spread the word. It might just change the score.