Nashville Half Marathon Recap

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What a weekend! I am not sure where to even start this post. As anticipated, our weekend in Nashville was incredible. The events and fun of the weekend were interrupted by a 13.1 mile half marathon on Saturday morning but took nothing away from the weekend! Let me say it like this:

1. Nashville is NOT flat

2. A BUNCH of people run in this race (30,000 or something like that)

3. David Schroeder and his wife are about the nicest people on the face of the planet.

4. Nashville, Tennessee has vaulted to the top on my list of 5 best places in the United States

Imagine a city that brings all of your favorite things in this world into one place. Music, lyrics, entertainment, authors, publishers and everything deep fried in something. THAT is Nashville, Tennessee. Our journey started Friday at packet pickup where we met up with Matt and Rachel Wojnarowski. After some pictures and fun, it was off to finally meet Dave Schroeder and his family for the first time in person. The rest of the evening we spent filling up on carbs and catching up with one another.

Way too early Saturday morning we were up and out the door. The Weather Channel was broadcasting threats of severe thunderstorms, hail and the Doppler radar was one massive mess. It looked like something out of the movie “Independence Day” hanging over the city of Nashville. We made our way to the race and jumped in to the stream of people already going through the starting gate. 13.1 miles later, not a single drop of rain touched down! We had made it through another memorable half marathon. The course was full (and I mean FULL) of long, slow, steady inclines. These were not hills, they were inclines. The personal highlight for me came around mile 11 where I was able to high five Sock Monkey as he stood on the side of the road cheering. It doesn’t take much…honestly….

More

TobyMac Sends Us a Shout Out!

Last night I received a very special message from my good friend Dave Schroeder and none other than TobyMac! This is just wicked cool. David was with Toby, Max Lucado and Third Day yesterday to prepare for the upcoming Make a Difference Tour. They took time out of their busy schedule to send Heather and I a quick note about the Country Music Half Marathon this weekend. We will all be hitting the streets for 13.1 miles and cannot wait!

Special thank you to Toby and Dave for taking the time to do this. The kids now think Heather and I are rock stars because their hero TobyMac said hello. Special thanks again to Dave for taking us all in this weekend. We are more than excited.

Saturday’s Lineup

On Saturday morning my wife and I will all toe the starting line for the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. We originally signed up for this race as a way to connect with our friends at Thomas Nelson and specifically, Dave Schroeder. As the weeks and months leading up to race have come and gone, the list of people running or attending the race continues to grow. With every name, the excitement and anticipation of this weekend builds to a fever pitch. Some of these names may not mean much to those reading this, but to me, they all represent friendship and admiration. The people we will meet in Nashville are CEO’s, Publishers, Artists, Authors, family and friends. I told Heather yesterday that it was going to be tough for me to focus on running when there were so many people I wanted to meet. Check it out:

More

Saturday's Lineup

On Saturday morning my wife and I will all toe the starting line for the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. We originally signed up for this race as a way to connect with our friends at Thomas Nelson and specifically, Dave Schroeder. As the weeks and months leading up to race have come and gone, the list of people running or attending the race continues to grow. With every name, the excitement and anticipation of this weekend builds to a fever pitch. Some of these names may not mean much to those reading this, but to me, they all represent friendship and admiration. The people we will meet in Nashville are CEO’s, Publishers, Artists, Authors, family and friends. I told Heather yesterday that it was going to be tough for me to focus on running when there were so many people I wanted to meet. Check it out:

More

A Little Crazy…

In one week, my wife and I will embark on an incredible 4 week journey. Actually, the 4 week journey will mark the completion of a journey we have been on for well over a year now. The journey has taken us to cities like Charlotte and Phoenix for half marathons. This will also mark the end of a whole lot of training. While most would say we’re crazy, the reality is that we’ll actually run less miles the next 4 weeks than we do on a “normal” week because we will be recovering on the weeks between races.

Next weekend we kick off the insanity by heading to Nashville, Tennessee with Matt and Rachel Wojnarowski and my running buddy Jeff Korbini (and family) to run in the Country Music Half Marathon. Matt, Rachel, Heather and I are staying with my friend David Schroeder. While it sounds creepy, David and I have connected through the internet. David and several others from Thomas Nelson Publishing have been very good to me, my family and this blog. I am excited to meet them all in person and share in the 13 miles for 13 years with Matt and Rachel.

The next weekend my wife will be running in the Capital City Half Marathon here in Columbus, Ohio. I am taking that weekend off. While I would love nothing more than to make it 4 straight weekends (and I sincerely mean that), we thought it best to have one of us be there with our kids and celebrate Mom’s big finish!

The next weekend my wife and I are headed to Indianapolis, Indiana for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon (13.1 miles). Another internet friend named Matt was kind enough to open his home to Heather and I for the weekend of the race. He and his wife will also join Heather and I as we cover the 13.1 miles of Indianapolis. Most exciting will be the 2 1/2 miles on the track of the Brickyard Race Track!

Our journey will end the next weekend in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio as I run in the Cleveland Half Marathon. Heather will be taking this one off and waiting at the finish line with the kids as I complete this race in one of my favorite cities (no kidding!!!). I am running this race to honor my Mom and anticipate some strong emotions and feelings as I cross that final finish line.

So there you have it. 3 Half Marathons in 4 weeks. We may be a bit crazy but I cannot wait. In June we are headed back to Outer Banks and that sand and sun will feel that much better knowing that this journey is complete. I would like to thank all of the friends and family that have supported us, opened their homes, given of their time and run the races with us. It has been a journey like no other and the friendships are more important than the medals we’ve received. In the words of Seal –

We’ll never survive unless we get a little crazy…..

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

When Friends Let You Down

Friends
Image via Wikipedia

As I sit here tonight reflecting on those moments that led to Calvary, one jumped out at me right away. Matthew 26:36-45 tells the story of Jesus in the garden. Knowing what was soon to happen, Jesus asked three friends to go with him and wait while He prayed. 3 times he returned to find them sleeping. In short, they let Jesus down. Ever been there?

Ever been in the storm of your life and had friends disappoint you?

Ever felt like when you needed them most, they were sleeping on the job?

Ever found yourself caught between frustration and discouragement at the darkest hour?

More

Help Celebrate 13 years in 13 Miles

I mentioned it in a previous post, but my wife and I are both running in the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee on April 24th. I am looking forward to this half marathon on so many levels. Short of Charlotte (God’s Country), I don’t know that I’ve ever been more excited about a half. This one is not about the time or the distance. This one is about friendships. From friends in Columbus that are running to Thomas Nelson friends we are connecting with for the first time when we get there. I believe some very special things await us in Nashville, Tennessee.

I wanted to highlight our friends Matt and Rachel Wojnarowski and their story heading into Nashville. Would you consider supporting them? We are honored to call them friend and share in this special day. Details of ways to support Matt and Rachel are below:

More

Last Chance Half Marathon Recap

I am sitting here tonight reflecting on what turned out to be a pretty good race this morning. To be honest I have been dreading this one for a few weeks now. Originally I put this on the schedule knowing that my good friend Jeff was running in it too. Initially I forgot that he was running the 10K version so I signed up for the half marathon. What made this one unique is that it is a 1 mile course. Depending on your race, you ran the appropriate amount of laps to complete your goal. In Jeff’s case, that meant 6 laps. In my case…it was 13!

Who knew that it would turn out to be such a blessing. I can’t talk about this race without mentioning the fact that Jeff finished the race and stood in 30 degree temperatures, sweaty, waiting while I pounded out another 7 laps. I didn’t realize until we were standing around afterwards how much of a sacrifice that was. It was cold and the wet clothes did nothing to make it warmer. That’s a friend. Not only did he stand there, he encouraged and energized me each lap. When I saw him standing there with 1/4 mile left to go, I got the energy I needed to finish as strong as I could. Can’t say enough about the friendship and the encouragement. I won’t soon forget that.

I also would be remiss if I did not thank another friend, Darren Carter for the shirt which I wore for the race. Darren and I went to high school together back in Cleveland and connected through facebook and twitter. He was kind enough to send me a shirt a few months ago and I wanted to wear it to support him today. I wasn’t sure the temperatures were going to make it possible, but it actually worked out well. Thanks Darren. I appreciate you my friend.

Now the race. As I said, I have not been looking forward to this one. With the massive amounts of snow that have been pounding Columbus, training has been pretty much limited to the “dreadmill” with an occasional run outside. I had no idea how I would do today. I didn’t set any expectations, but was hoping to post something in the upper 1:40’s. I finished with a 1:51. I was feeling good until around mile 9. At that point it was like someone took the battery out of my energy source. My iPod, Jeff and some great music got me through to the end. I missed not having my running partner (my wife) next to me as well.

It was also great to briefly catch up with an old fried at the start and finish, Chris Bean. His prayer with some other friends to start the race set the tone for the first several miles. Music memories were “Tonight” by TobyMac and “How He Loves” by David Crowder Band. I had some great worship time around mile 13 with the Crowder song. It was a great way to finish the race. Best signs I read were “Trust Your Trianing” and “You Guys Are Like Toyota – UNstoppable”!

Next Up:

Country Music Half Marathon – Nashville, Tennessee (can’t WAIT ) – April 24th, 2010

Capital City Half Marathon – Columbus, Ohio (possibly) – May 1st, 2010

Mini-Marathon – Indianapolis, Indiana – May 8th, 2010

Phoenix Half Marathon Recap

On January 17th, my wife and I took part in the PF Changs Half Maraton in Phoenix, Arizona with our good friends Troy and Catherine Plant. Since it took place during my 40 Day Blog Fast, I am just now getting to the recap. As I look out my window at the mounds of snow, I think part of me is hoping that posting this will bring some sunshine back to the Buckeye state as well.

I cannot recap this event without first thanking Troy and Catherine for making our trip to Phoenix so memorable. From the moment we landed, we were treated like a king and queen by our dear friends. They met us at the gate with water bottles in hand. When we arrived at their home, we found “Run Arizona” technical shirts on our bed. They thought of everything and didn’t miss a single detail for our visit. Heather and I were just overwhelmed by their kindness. Friends and people like that are hard to find in life and need to be appreciated. Thank you Troy and Catherine!

Now for the race. We arrived at the starting gate early Sunday morning with temps in the 50’s. It was a little chilly, but coming from Ohio felt like a heat wave. Former Presidential candidate John McCain was on hand to kick off the start of the race. We gave him the thumbs up as we ran by. Heather and I started off with a very good pace (8:15’s) for the first four miles. I think the reality of the distance started to creep in as we slowed to a much more comfortable pace and stayed there for the remaining 9 miles. We finished in 1:54.

I’ve said it before, but I find so much joy in just soaking in every minute and mile of a half marathon. This was one of the series of  “Rock-n-Roll” marathons so there were bands every couple of miles. One couple running near us stopped at every stage to dance for a moment and then start their journey again. The race began downtown and ended at Arizona State University. By the end of the race, the temps were in the low 60’s and very comfortable.

While the race and accomplishment were memorable, the time with friends is something that no medal can ever replace. Thank you Troy and Catherine for your accommodations but most importantly your friendship!
Next Up:

Last Chance for Boston Half Marathon – February 28th

Country Music Half Marathon, Nashville – April 24th

Mini-Marathon, Indianapolis – May 8th

Sharing the journey

With the Country Music 1/2 Marathon just a few short months away, I made the insane decision to sign up for the “Last Chance for Boston” 1/2 marathon on February 28th. I figured it was a good way to stay ready and motivated for the Nashville half. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo about keeping the snow away so those of us in Columbus could train appropriately. Like most of the country, we have been hammered with snow around these parts. Training has been alternated between the “dreadmill” and outside runs in the snow.

This half marathon is unique in that it is 13 laps around a one mile course in a local industrial parkway. Many (not me) use this as a chance to qualify for Boston because the course is so flat. One blessing is that the site has been relatively cleared of snow so people can get to their office buildings within the industrial parkway. For that reason, I have made my way over to the course the last two Saturdays to get my mileage in and test out what the repetitive laps around a course would feel like. In short…it’s BRUTAL!

2 weeks ago I ran 12 miles (laps) around the course by myself. When I got home, my wife asked how it went. I said “if you look up grinding it out in the dictionary, you will see a picture of me running around Metro Place”. Half of the course is a stiff wind in your face while the back half is a strong wind at your back. When the temps are in the teens and the snow is piled high, it is a recipe for a long, long day.

This weekend I again visited Metro Place but this time my friend Jeff shared the journey with me. Together we set out for 10 miles around the parkway. We started strong and eventually hit a wall. Step by step, we continued on. At times we both wanted to quit. The wind in our face and the chill in the air were making this a very tough training day. Our conversation went from frequent to very little. While we were both battling in different ways and fighting different fatigue, there was something about having someone else there to push, encourage and share the struggle. About an hour an a half later, we were driving back home and talking about life, family and our kids. You wouldn’t even know we had just run.

Once again I am reminded how much running can be a picture of our faith journey. We were meant to do life together. While the “training” and the times in our life are going to be difficult, there is no comparison to having a partner on the journey. Together you can share the valleys and rejoice in the victories. Having someone next to you that you are accountable to keeps you going. It keeps you moving. The tough times are temporary. There will be moments of laughter and even moments of great fatigue. Each mile makes you closer and stronger.

Keep sharing the journey friends.

Which One Are You?

My wife and I were having a discussion recently about friendships and I shared a philosophy that I have about them with her. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but I have come to believe it is. Maybe it’s my desire for one or the other, or simply an observation. This is where your feedback would be appreciated. I am interested to see if others see themselves in one of these two categories. So here goes:

I believe that there are two kinds of people (and friendships) in this world. The first type of person (person A) has friendships “a mile wide and an inch thick”. The second type of person (person B) has friendships “an inch wide and a mile thick”. In other words, the “person A” is the kind of person that knows everyone. They have a million friends on facebook and seem to know people everywhere they go. They have a short list of people that are those they count as “close friends” or the kind of people you would call at 2 in the morning when your world just collapsed.

“Person B” may not have the list of friends that “Person A” has, but those that he/she has are “solid as oak”. In other words, the friends that they do have would take a bullet for that friend if they had to. Their relationships are not many, but the ones they have are deep.

As I pondered my analysis, I wondered what scripture would say. I wondered which category Jesus fell in. Was he “person A” or “person B” in my formula. The more I thought about it, I think he might have created a new category (He was always doing that wasn’t He?) altogether. I think Jesus had both. We know He had 12 “B.F.F’s” that He spent 3 years investing His life into. Yet He also was the center of attention every place he went. If it was facebook, He might have even created a “fan page” because He had so many friends.

When the dust cleared on my big thought process, I guess I am still not sure. I believe that we are called to be Jesus to each person we meet. Yet, like Jesus, we need a band of brothers that pour into our lives and we into theirs. We need a community of people that we can be real with and depend on at 2 in the morning. We also need to be that friend for others.

So how about you?

Restored

In about an hour I am leaving town to attend a wedding rehearsal. It is with great honor that I have been asked to take part in the wedding of my best friend. The honor and joy I feel for him comes from watching a new chapter be written on what has been a tough journey for him. I remember a time when all we saw in front of him were dark clouds and storms. Tomorrow night, his wedding will mark the start of a new journey and the completion of the promise of restoration. Below is a post I wrote a long time ago, but I thought it was worth a re-post. Thank you Lord for restoring what was once broken.

fc2b81f9-d8f0-4a57-a1c6-1943e5b50687.jpgA couple of months ago a strong wind came by and pretty well ripped the storm door on the front of our house right out of the door closers. Being the handy man that I am, I just took the screws out of the hinges, removed the door and put it in the garage! We still had the front door right? The house was still secure and functional, but clearly something wasn’t right. I am man enough to admit that the best tool I own is the phone book (to call someone that knows what they are doing) to fix these types of problems.

Over the weekend, the door was repaired and the front of our home has finally been restored. Not only that, but reinforcements are put in place so that it won’t happen again. I understand what David meant when he said –

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” – Psalm 51:12

I think of the mess that King David had made. He fell far from the little guy in the field with 5 smooth stones. He was worn out emotionally, physically, mentally and was desperate to be restored. Ever been there?

Have you ever restored something? I can remember when I was in High School, it was a really big deal to find an old car and restore it. I wouldn’t even know where to start, but I would know this…

Restoring something takes time

Restoring something takes patience

Restoring something removes the imperfections

Restoring something makes it new again

Restoring something, sometimes, makes it stronger than before

Now take those things we know about restoring something and place them over the hurts of ours and others. I think of friends that are going through struggles that we can never fully understand. I want so badly to just fix it. I want for nothing more than the TV version where they flip a house into a mansion in an hour (including commercials). I want to rejoice with them over the good news.  I want nothing more than for God to restore as only He can.

After a lengthy battle with the unimaginable, God restored to Job “twice as much as he lost” (Job 42:10). God is in the restoration business. While his version is not “made for TV”, it is certainly reality. It takes time. It takes patience. It removes the imperfections. It makes all things new and in many cases, stronger than before.

That’s what I’m praying for….

Restore To Me” by Mac Powell


Remembering Stef

sunset-shot-r

Many of the readers of my blog prayed, commented and supported my good friend Stefan Tarapchak throughout his journey with cancer. Through Stef’s blog, you now have the opportunity to remember Stef with resources from his funeral. I received many requests for a copy of the service and at this time we are unable to get the service posted on the web. We have, however, done our best to put the pieces of the service that we do have onto his site. You can find each of the speeches given and the slide show that was created for his service on his blog and by clicking on the “Remembering Stefan” tab.

It is our hope that the site is a tribute and memorial to Stefan and the great husband, father and witness that he was. If you feel comfortable doing so, please leave a comment anywhere on his blog with a memory or words for his wife Sandi and their precious children. Sandi is going to put all of the comments into a memory book for her children to read when the time is appropriate.  Thank you all again for your support, prayers and love throughout this journey.

Sandi has also started a new blog which can be found HERE.

Before and After

img_4929

img_4931

Distance: 4.11 Miles

Time: 39:43

Pace: 9’38” Per Mile

Finishing it together with friends: Priceless!

NOW LETS EAT!!!

Old School

n1573994202_18840_7327

I know I am going to hear about this! It was actually too funny to not post. I must be a glutant for punishment via comments. I post for three reasons.

1. You have GOT to love the New Edition T-shirt

2. Many have commented how much it looks like Austin in this picture (including Austin!)

3. This one time, at band camp….

Who’s Your Jonathan?

Many of you commented off-line regarding my post “What’s Your Isaac”. For that I thank you. This post is somewhat born out of that post as well. One of the things I will always remember about our Charlotte oddessy is what we learned about our friends. People said heartfelt things to Heather and I that we will forever cherish. They expressed sadness is our leaving, but sincerely wished us the best. They prayed for and with us. They offered their homes when it looked like we might be in need of temporary housing. As Tobymac sings:

“Cause real friends are willing to intrude”

As to not embarass you all here, I won’t mention names. Hopefully you know who you are. What I will say is that I thought of each of you as I re-read 1 Samuel 20:17. One of my biblical heroes, David, had a friend like that. His name was Jonathan and he cared deeply for David. He fought for David. He protected David. They had a friendship and a bond that was as strong as they come. Today we would say that Jonathan “had David’s back”. David did the same. They were friends. They were brothers.

Sadly, I have been to many funerals in my life. One thing that always puzzles me is that we wait until someone passes to say wonderful things about them. We all wish we would have had that chance to tell them how we felt. I would argue that we do have that chance. Each day we have the opportunity to let a friend know that they hold a place in our lives. Their friendship is special and it’s good to know that they “have our back”. I hope each of you have a Jonathan (several really). I ask you today, who’s your Jonathan?

Maybe now would be a good time to let them know….

Who's Your Jonathan?

Many of you commented off-line regarding my post “What’s Your Isaac”. For that I thank you. This post is somewhat born out of that post as well. One of the things I will always remember about our Charlotte oddessy is what we learned about our friends. People said heartfelt things to Heather and I that we will forever cherish. They expressed sadness is our leaving, but sincerely wished us the best. They prayed for and with us. They offered their homes when it looked like we might be in need of temporary housing. As Tobymac sings:

“Cause real friends are willing to intrude”

As to not embarass you all here, I won’t mention names. Hopefully you know who you are. What I will say is that I thought of each of you as I re-read 1 Samuel 20:17. One of my biblical heroes, David, had a friend like that. His name was Jonathan and he cared deeply for David. He fought for David. He protected David. They had a friendship and a bond that was as strong as they come. Today we would say that Jonathan “had David’s back”. David did the same. They were friends. They were brothers.

Sadly, I have been to many funerals in my life. One thing that always puzzles me is that we wait until someone passes to say wonderful things about them. We all wish we would have had that chance to tell them how we felt. I would argue that we do have that chance. Each day we have the opportunity to let a friend know that they hold a place in our lives. Their friendship is special and it’s good to know that they “have our back”. I hope each of you have a Jonathan (several really). I ask you today, who’s your Jonathan?

Maybe now would be a good time to let them know….

No More, No Less

I promise, this is my last reference to the S.L.O.B of the Month award! The reality is that this isn’t even about me, it’s about you all. I received my signed copy of All That Is Within Me from the guys at MercyMe today in the mail. Since you are all the ones that made it possible, I wanted to share it with everyone. I can’t come up with any other creative way to do it, so here’s a picture of what I received. Again, I can’t thank MercyMe enough for the honor. I also can’t thank you all enough for clicking through to make it happen. This is as much yours as it is mine. Congratulations!

To all of those that have come over to visit Arms Wide Open for the first time, welcome! I thought I would let the guys from MercyMe introduce what this blog and I am all about. Every lyric of this song pretty much covers why I do what I do. Thanks for taking a few minutes to stop by and check my blog out. Hope you enjoy your visit.

No More, No Less” by MercyMe

I’m not trying to hide anything
I wear it on my sleeve
I wear it on my sleeve
I’m not trying to be something I’m not
This is all I’ve got
This is all I’ve got
I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel
Just trying to be real
Trying to be real
I’m not trying to say follow me
I’m not the one who leads

I’m not the one who leads

Let me introduce myself to you
This is who I am
No more, no less
I am just a man who understands
Because of You I’m blessed

No more, no less

I’m not trying to prove anything
It’s all about the change
It’s all about the change

I hope you stare just long enough to see
The heart that’s beating here inside of me
Beyond all the things you may think you know
I’m just a kid trying to make it home, that’s it
No more, no less
Lord, I want to go home
Nothing more, nothing less

When Love Takes You In

Many of the readers of this blog have gone through the adoption process. For those that have, I would like to introduce you to my friend and blogging band of brother Mud Puppy. While he didn’t ask for this and doesn’t know I’m going to do it, it was on my heart this afternoon. You can read the details and follow the journey of his family on his Blog, but they are beginning the steps toward adoption. To those that have walked where he and his wife are about to walk, would you reach out to them? To those that have never adopted, would you  join me in praying for this family? I honor their courage and am challenged by their willingness to do something for another life. One day the streets of Heaven will be lined with faces of those that love took in.

Facebook’s Cool.

That may qualify as the cheesiest title I have ever called a blog post. Then again…I just used the word “cheesiest” so how bad can it be. Here’s my point, Facebook is cool. I don’t know what else to call it or say. I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes trying to find another way to frame it and I can’t. This is also coming from a guy that de-activated his account a few months ago because I just didn’t see the value in having one. For reasons I don’t remember I fired the account up again recently and I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that I did. It’s cool.

“After all that we’ve been through, I know we’re cool. I know we’re cool” – Gwen Stefani

I don’t know if Gwen Stefani uses Facebook, but I wouldn’t be surprised. That is basically what I have been experiencing the past month or so. Through Facebook it has been my pleasure to connect with people that I never thought I would see again. It’s great to see their families, their children and hear the stories about what they have been doing all these years. It’s also good to know that after all these years and after all that we’ve been through…we’re still cool. In other words we can still call one another friend.

To those that I’ve connected with I’d like to say thanks. Thanks for the messages on my “wall” and the emails in the inbox. After all that we’ve been through..I know we’re cool!

Refuse To Lose Invitational

It is great excitement that I post this opportunity. Many of you have followed the journey of my good friend Stefan Tarapchak over the past year through his blog and mine. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayer support and love for Stefan and his family during this time. So when I heard about this opportunity to show the Tarapchak family our support and love, I couldn’t wait to get it to the web. For all of those that have asked how they can support this family, or if there is something you can do, here is your chance! It’s the first annual Refuse To Lose Invitational.

I cannot take an ounce of credit for this exciting day. A group of great men have put the entire day together and it’s sure to be a great time. You can find all of the information on either my RTL Page or on Stefan’s RTL page. Even if you don’t live in the area, you have an opportunity to show your support. Companies and families can sponsor a hole for the low cost of $50! (I hear “Conrad Corner” is brutal). Let’s take this opportunity to love on this family and support them in their time of need.

Want to spread the word? Feel free to link to our RTL pages or download your RTL brochures HERE (.doc) and HERE (.pdf). Stefan has committed to speaking to all of those that attend the event about his journey and his plans for the future. You won’t want to miss it!

Special thanks to all of Stefan’s friends that have made this opportunity possible. We’ll see you on August 16th! Please note that the date for entry for the tournament on the brochure is August 1st. It can be extended to no later then August 6th.

Introducing: Alastair Vance

In case you haven’t noticed I have been doing some housekeeping around this blog. I’m not quite done yet so you might see an occasional broken link or template change here or there until it’s all done. While doing some updating last night to the blogroll, I was reminded of what a blessing the blog community has been to me. If I never would have started a blog, I never would have met many of the incredible people across the United States World that I have.

I thought I might take some web space occasionally to introduce some of the people I link to. Hopefully it will not only be an introduction to the people, but to their ministry and their hearts. Let’s get this started with Alastair Vance at Live to Worship. I’m not sure how Alastair and I connected recently, but I look forward to meeting him in person one day. He is a worship leader at New Horizon Church in Durham, North Carolina. Since Charlotte is about 2-3 hours from Durham, I don’t think we can attend NHC, but I’m sure we will visit a time or two.

If you want a blessing today, check out Alastair Vance’s Youtube Page. His acoustic version of “God With Us” by MercyMe is awesome. I chose just one of the many videos on his site. He is blessed with the kind of voice I hope to have when we get those heavenly bodies. 🙂 Until then I will keep “making a joyful NOISE” and appreciate those that can sing like Alastair. Check it out for yourself. Thanks Alastair for using the gifts that God has given you to be a blessing to His Kingdom (and a fellow blogger).

I Ordered Mine!

I can’t believe it has been two years since roughly 30 other men and I went through the book “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. Something special happened over the course of the 8 weeks within this group. Although we have all continued on our own journeys, I think what happened in “Wild at Heart” has stayed in “Wild at Heart”. It was something I will never forget.

One of the men that joined us for the 8 weeks is a man named Ken Neff. While I did not know Ken before WAH started, I had the honor of getting to know him throughout the 8 weeks. Ken and a few of the other men in the group took our charge to create a “band of brothers” seriously and continued to meet long after WAH ended. My family and I had the honor of joining Ken and his family on the 4th of July for an evening of food, freinds, fellowship and fireworks!

I write this post to highlight a new venture for Ken. He has released a book called “Thoughts on Becoming a Journeyman“. I had the opportunity to preview it while at his home. I also just ordered my own copy today. I’ll have a review once I get a chance to read through it, but I can tell you that Ken is a man after Gods own heart. He has an incredible family and has been a blessing in my life. Take a minute and visit Ken at KenNeff.com.

Before I even read through it, I know I can say “thanks Ken”!

A Friend To Me

There’s times I’d rather kill you then listen to your honesty, but you’ve always been a friend to me” – Garth Brooks

You gotta love when you surround yourself with “truth tellers”. I made a commitment long ago to run everything in the discernment process through God, family and close friends. The catch was that I would not keep calling people until SOMEONE finally agreed with my point of view. Each persons input must be considered.

Today I spoke with 3 of my “truth tellers” and their responses reminded me why they are in my band of brothers. All three responses were different yet fed directly into my thought process as well. With respect to my friends, I share their comments with you too…

Friend #1 – “I knew this email was coming….”

Friend #2 – “While I can’t say I am thrilled about it, you have to be obedient to what you feel like God is calling you to do.”

Friend #3 – “Dude…you have not been able to find your groove for months now.”

Three friends with three insights. What I find amazing is that all three recognized something in my life. They didn’t offer their input until asked, but were kind enough to be honest in their responses. Not only were they honest, they were right. I couldn’t have put it any better myself. To my friends and brothers, I thank you.

I thank you for being a friend to me.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

What a weekend. The family and I left on Friday afternoon to head to our hometown of Bedford, Ohio for the wedding of Heather’s youngest sister. “My Girls”, “The Boy” and Heather were all in the wedding so it was an exciting time for everyone. There is always a part of me that still loves going “home” to where my roots are planted. While the condition of my old hometown is not what I remembered it to be, one thing is for sure…the people never change. You really can go home.

One take away from this weekend is that no matter how many miles, years or changes separate people, when there is a bond that is formed, nothing can ever break that. This weekend I was reminded of how strong and real friendships are as I spent some time with some old friends. I’m amazed how 10 years can seem like 10 minutes when you meet up with old friends. When I spent some time with guys like Gary and Ern, it was as if we were on the old softball fields again.

One other mark of friendships that last forever is that they still answer the bell when you are in a time of need. With Heather’s responsibilities in the wedding, I was flying solo trying to keep 2 little girls dresses clean neat and organized and one little boys tux from permanent damage. Just when I needed help most, there were old friends saying “You need a hand?” and “if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know”. That’s friendship. That’s community. That’s going home.

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

What a weekend. The family and I left on Friday afternoon to head to our hometown of Bedford, Ohio for the wedding of Heather’s youngest sister. “My Girls”, “The Boy” and Heather were all in the wedding so it was an exciting time for everyone. There is always a part of me that still loves going “home” to where my roots are planted. While the condition of my old hometown is not what I remembered it to be, one thing is for sure…the people never change. You really can go home.

One take away from this weekend is that no matter how many miles, years or changes separate people, when there is a bond that is formed, nothing can ever break that. This weekend I was reminded of how strong and real friendships are as I spent some time with some old friends. I’m amazed how 10 years can seem like 10 minutes when you meet up with old friends. When I spent some time with guys like Gary and Ern, it was as if we were on the old softball fields again.

One other mark of friendships that last forever is that they still answer the bell when you are in a time of need. With Heather’s responsibilities in the wedding, I was flying solo trying to keep 2 little girls dresses clean neat and organized and one little boys tux from permanent damage. Just when I needed help most, there were old friends saying “You need a hand?” and “if there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know”. That’s friendship. That’s community. That’s going home.

A Call to Prayer

Many of you have been following the journey of my friend Stef the past few months either through his blog, AC180, my blog or all three. If you are not familiar with Stef, he is an amazing man of God, Christian brother, husband, father and friend. God gave me the blessing of connecting our paths and I am a better person today because of that divine moment. If you would like to know more about Stef, his journey and his family, he has been sharing it through his blog.

Today, I want to make a public call to prayer for my Christian brother and friend. He has a surgery coming on Monday which is another step in his journey. I’d like to make the request to all that read these words to join me in praying. By linking arms with one another and lifting up Stefan and his family, we are proclaiming that God is on His throne. We are placing our trust in the hands of the great physician and the surgeons that will be handling the delicate procedure. I am also asking that everyone pray specifically on Monday morning while Stef is undergoing the surgery.

Thank you to all of you that are praying. We serve a great God. We serve a BIG God. May he get the glory, honor and praise.

“Be Still” by Story Side B from the CD “We Are Not Alone”

And The Winners Are….

The votes have been tallied and what would voting be in Ohio without a little controversy? Actually, there isn’t any controversy, I just have mixed emotions about the winners in my Toby Mac “Alive and Transported” giveaway contest. Without further delay, I give you our two contest winners….

1. Rindy Walton– Rindy has seen Toby Mac 3 times has three sons that will really like this CD/DVD package. I might be a bit biased, but I also have a heart for people that “step out of the boat” and launch a church plant. Rindy is doing just that at Walls Down Church. She is jumping into the unknown to reach the people of Cincinnati with the message of Jesus Christ. She has a great heart for people and her sons. This CD/DVD will play nicely as she makes the journey to Cincinnati to begin her ministry! Congratulations Rindy!

Now for the controversy. This kills every fiber of my Tar Heel lovin’ being to announce….

2. Jeff Korbini– “JK” and I go WAY back. While it kills me to give “the goods” to a Duke Fan (it hurts to even type it), I couldn’t be more happy to share this CD with the Korbini family. You can read Jeff’s comments on that post (which was by far the most creative), but he is a HUGE Toby Mac fan. He’s also a guy that is real and a brother whose Christian walk I admire. While I question his judgement in sports teams, one thing I don’t question is his integrity and love for his family. I know that Anthony, Marissa and Mauriana will be rocking out to this CD/DVD on a regular basis (*cough* wearing UNC gear *cough*).

So thanks again to my friends at Wiredforsound and EMI CMG for the opportunity to pass along the latest offering from Toby Mac. It doesn’t disappoint. Look for more contests in the future and congratulations again to Rindy and Jeff!

Before, During and After

The Girls (Heather and Amanda) and my man “D-Rich” completed another race yesterday. The order of the day was a 5 mile race run for the Armed Forces Honor Run in Westerville, Ohio. As always I was proud of the ladies, but “D-Rich” stole the show with his pre and post run interviews. Check out the quick bit we put up on youtube to mark the occasion. While we had some fun joking around about it, there is something to be said about getting out there and running 5 miles for a good cause. As for me….I’m bringing lazy back.

Hey…someone had to watch the kids…

Priceless….

I may bleed Carolina Blue, but no matter where I may roam, a large part of my heart belongs to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Thanks to the ultimate hook-up from my friend Brian, “The Boy” and I had a chance on Saturday night to soak it all in. Check this out:

Brian won four tickets from the local sports station to take part in their “Fan Bus to Jacobs Progressive Field”. Knowing I love the Tribe, he was kind enough to extend his winnings to “The Boy” and I. So Saturday we took off for C-Town with a bus full of fans. We were treated to a viewing of the movie “Major League” on the way up to the game as well as prizes for trivia (We are now the proud owners of a Jim Tressel/Troy Smith Bobblehead combo thanks to that trivia).

What made it even better was the fact that our beloved Cavaliers were playing Game 3 against the Celtics right next door at “The Q”. The old town was “rockin” and electric once again. The Indians and Cavs won big which made the fireworks at the end of the game even better. To top off the evening, Brian gave me a Vince Carter North Carolina Bobblehead he picked up at a garage sale that morning. “The Boy” has not let that out of his site.

Many thanks to my friend Brian. After a long week, it was great to hang out with a great friend, create memories for our little ones and visit my roots one more time! It really was priceless.

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

I have had the absolute blessing on several occasions to meet people from the blog world either through my travel or theirs. It happened again tonight as my family and I had the honor of meeting a family that I have the ultimate respect for. Many of you in the blogging community know Rindy Walton and her son Matt. I don’t remember how or where, but somewhere “the matrix” connected our paths.

Rindy and Matt’s blogs are more examples of what I’d like mine to be when it grows up. It was even better to meet them live and in person! Rindy, Matt, Tim, Dan and my entire family met up on their way through town at Cheeseburger in Paradise for dinner. All of the parrot heads out there just made the connection between the post title and the place we met. However that is not the only reason why I called it that.

You see God’s timing is perfect. If you know Rindy or follow her blog, you know that God has called her on a journey. He’s called her to sell her home and move 7 hours to a new city. He has asked her to leave the comfort of what she has always known to go somewhere for the single purpose of advancing His kingdom. He has asked her and the boys to make changes in latitude and changes in attitude for Walls Down Church in Cincinnati, Ohio!

It was awesome to sit down for dinner and discuss how God is working and (literally) moving in our lives. My only regret is that we will be 2 hours away when Walls Down opens their doors. You can bet we’ll take a road trip to visit sometime though. I had to share this lyric from the song by Jimmie Buffet. The chorus pretty well explains what God’s up to with both of our families right now.

“It’s those changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” – Jimmy Buffet

To Matt, Tim, Dan and Rindy I say thanks for sharing the laughs and the journey! May God bless your changes in latitudes and changes in attitudes. Keep blessing the world through your blogs and your lives. Lord knows you have blessed mine.

The Week Ahead

calendar.jpgBig week in my little world. Check it out:

1. “90 Days in Heaven” landed at the library today. I’ll pick it up tonight.

2. The new Michael English CD hit the streets last week. Review coming soon

3. Tomorrow is Primary Day in Ohio. Get out and vote.

4. Really looking forward to the Casting Crowns concert on Thursday.

5. Pray for my friend and brother Stef this week. Especially on Thursday. Refuse to Lose brother!

6. I’m honored to be a part of Daily BlessingsFriday’s are Full of Blessings” starting this Friday.

7. What can be better than UNC vs. Dook on Saturday night at 9:00. Short of the rapture…you know where I will be. Revenge will be sweet and yes…I’m still bitter.

Have a Nice Day

haveaniceday.jpgYesterday was a great day.

It all started yesterday morning with Columbus being covered in snow. I smiled as I shoveled the driveway knowing that in a few short hours I would board a plane for Phoenix, Arizona. My biggest concern was what I would do with my winter coat when I got there.

I got an early morning laugh when my son asked me if I was going to watch the Carolina game that night on my plane. I explained that they didn’t have TV’s on airplanes, but I would probably be able to watch a movie. Little did I know that Delta Airlines now has TV ON AIRPLANES! I could barely contain my excitement as I watched the game from the comfort of my airplane seat last night. I even found a pocket of phone signal at 30,000 feet long enough to text my little man and tell him I too was watching the game.

Upon arriving in the 70 degree evening in Phoenix I was finally able to complete a friendship loop that started with Stef and a former neighbor that moved to Phoenix. About 6 months ago I made a promise to connect with Troy Plant, a friend of Stef’s and supporter of my blog if I ever made it to Arizona. Last night we shared a dinner and got to know one another in real time. Troy is a great guy and if he ever starts a blog I will be one of the first to feature it. Just another highlight to a special day.

My son called me this morning at 5am (7am EST) to deliver the news that put a bow on the entire evening. “Hey Dad….guess what? Dook lost”. I caught the highlights on ESPN before going to bed, but it sounded even better when delivered from a 7 year old.

As the great philosopher “Ice Cube” once said…”Today was a good day“.

Late Night…Early Morning

Wow, it is EARLY. Due to an unanticipated stop to meet up with a friend last night in Cincinnati, I arrived in Kentucky roughly around 2am. I have no complaints though. There is no doubt in my mind that it was a divine moment. The friend I met up with is going through a storm. A big storm. He’s a guy that probably knows as much about me as my wife does. He’s one of those few friends that we let in to our very core. One that we let see what we keep others guarded from. I know the same about him. So when he is in the grips of a storm, how can you resist not taking whatever time necessary?

I got back in the car, and this song came on the CD player. I must have listened to it 30 times over and over. No song could have captured my thoughts and prayers at that moment any better. Lyric after lyric I was breathing these words…”Lord I lift my friend to you”

Prayer for a Friend” by Casting Crowns from the CD “Altar and the Door

You Find Out Who Your Friends Are

spanky-alf2.jpgI remember John Eldredge once said something in one of his books about thinking of the people you would call at 2 in the morning when your world just collapsed around you. That’s a mark of friendship isn’t it? Think about it. You just got some news (good or bad) and it’s 2am, who would you call? I’m pretty sure that most of us don’t set out with tragedy in mind, but when it happens, who are the people that show up in a heartbeat?

I have told Heather several times “If I was ever going to go into war, I would want to take so-and-so with me because I know they would have my back”. There are a few guys in particular that I know would drop what they are doing and say “let’s go”! Here’s the question….would they say the same about me? Have I been the kind of friend in return that they could list as the ones that “show up” when the times are good, bad or normal?

In 2008, it would be my hope that I return that favor, or those favors as often as they have been extended. When a friend launches an idea am I the first to say “count on it, I’ll be there”? If a friend is in need and I can somehow assist, will my first reaction be to grab the opportunity? To the guys that have been there, done that, led me, stood behind me, walked beside me, I thank you. Hopefully in 2008 you will find out from me who your friend is too.

You Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tracy Lawrence from the CD “For the Love

All Pro Dad Kickoff Recap

img_3858.jpgIt’s official, Northwest Columbus now has an All Pro Dad chapter. 32 Dads and approximately 60 children came out early Saturday morning to share breakfast together, have some laughs and take the first step on a journey of being All Pro Dads. I was overwhelmed by the response. From friends like Clay and Stef to some new Dads I have never met, they were all there to make a statement. By attending, they were saying that they are committed to investing time into the most important gift we have ever been given…our children. To all that came out, thank you! You’ve got my commitment that we are just getting started on this road together. I can’t wait to share it with each one of you.

As we look ahead to February 2nd, take the words to this song to heart. Let’s commit to “saying it loud, saying it clear” and to making the investment in our children in our living years. Thanks again guys!

Russ Lee – “The Living Years

Walking the Walk…

footsteps.jpgYou can say what you think, but you will live what you believe” – Mark Hall

I witnessed something today that still has me reflecting on it. Simply put, I witnessed two friends “walking the walk” in their lives. They probably don’t know I noticed. My guess is that they are not even aware that anyone noticed. I would also bet the house that they are not even thinking “I sure hope someone saw that”. It’s not in their nature. It’s not their style. It is how they live what they believe.

What I saw today on two separate occasions is two different men that I consider brothers in Christ living out what they say. I know that at the very core of these men, they care deeply about other people. I have had the privilege the past few years of hearing them talk about it and sharing conversations regarding it. Today, I witness words in motion. I witnessed actions that speak louder than words.

I write this because we never know who is watching. We may never know the impact of a life lived by the ones that we don’t even know are viewing it. What strikes me is that the most meaningful part of this whole story is that the two guys I mention probably don’t care about who was watching. They were too busy caring about what they were doing. Which set an example no words could explain.

Thanks guys….

Kickin’ it Old School…

prom

It’s official, with this post, I am breaking nearly ever personal blog rule I ever set in place. I think I am also breaking man law #53 by posting a prom picture from high school which includes another friend. All that being said, I am “taking one for the team” here too. By posting this picture I am showing that I did, in fact, once have hair. I’m also showing the early stages of what was to one day become my “sweet mullet“. If you look close enough…you can see the “party starting in the back”.

I don’t post this as a gift to all of you that have been requesting photo proof of said Mullet, I have a much greater purpose. It’s the other arrow! I and this blog community are going to be absolutely blessed by the recent creation of a blog called “Christian Caterpillar Metamorphisis“. It was created by none other than one of my lifelong and dearest friends, Ernie Ley. I couldn’t be more excited about this! You’re gonna love this guy!

The image above is just one of many, many great memories I have with Ern. We attended different high schools, but grew up together through those years, after college and before Heather and I moved to C-Bus. Ern, his brother Steve and their cousin Tim are like brothers to me. Oh the stories I could tell. For now, do me a favor and bookmark, blogroll, feed link my man Ern today! He’s just getting started, but I know he’s going to bring some great stuff to this community. Ern’s Linkhttp://caterpillarthoughts.wordpress.com/

I leave you, and Ern with one of the songs we used to cruise to back in the day. Look it was the 80’s, what did you expect?

The Promise” by When in Rome.

Kickin' it Old School…

prom

It’s official, with this post, I am breaking nearly ever personal blog rule I ever set in place. I think I am also breaking man law #53 by posting a prom picture from high school which includes another friend. All that being said, I am “taking one for the team” here too. By posting this picture I am showing that I did, in fact, once have hair. I’m also showing the early stages of what was to one day become my “sweet mullet“. If you look close enough…you can see the “party starting in the back”.

I don’t post this as a gift to all of you that have been requesting photo proof of said Mullet, I have a much greater purpose. It’s the other arrow! I and this blog community are going to be absolutely blessed by the recent creation of a blog called “Christian Caterpillar Metamorphisis“. It was created by none other than one of my lifelong and dearest friends, Ernie Ley. I couldn’t be more excited about this! You’re gonna love this guy!

The image above is just one of many, many great memories I have with Ern. We attended different high schools, but grew up together through those years, after college and before Heather and I moved to C-Bus. Ern, his brother Steve and their cousin Tim are like brothers to me. Oh the stories I could tell. For now, do me a favor and bookmark, blogroll, feed link my man Ern today! He’s just getting started, but I know he’s going to bring some great stuff to this community. Ern’s Linkhttp://caterpillarthoughts.wordpress.com/

I leave you, and Ern with one of the songs we used to cruise to back in the day. Look it was the 80’s, what did you expect?

The Promise” by When in Rome.

Playing Catch Up

One of the most remarkable things that has happened over the years with this little blog of mine is that others have helped to contribute to it. In that way, it’s all of our blog and not just mine. I am humbled and honored when people send me links, podcasts, stories, and other blogs that they think are of value. Often they recommend that I post them so that you all get the benefit of seeing, hearing or reading them as well.

With all of the madness the past several weeks, I am WAY behind on getting much of this content to the world wide web. To each of you I apologize that as Tammy Cochran once sang “Life Happened“. With that, here are some of the links and resources from friends to the blog:

1. First off, Amanda from a new blog called “Are You Ready For This” recently sent me a link for an incredible site dedicated to reaching the youth of our generation called “The Rebelution“. The site is “a teenage rebellion against the low expectations of an ungodly culture”. Incredible site and ministry. Check it out when you get some time and thanks again Amanda!

2. One of my most faithful and encouraging commenters and friends, Mary, recently sent out a link for a new state of the art facility in her hometown called “The Center for Courageous Kids“. You have GOT to watch the video at their site and see what it’s all about. It was founded by Betty Campbell who lost a son to cancer. Ms. Campbell is the daughter of the late Cal Turner, Sr. who founded the Dollar General Corporation. Thanks Mary!

3. Next up is a new Journey (literally) for my friend, my mentor and my brother in Christ, Denny. Most of you are familiar with Denny from his blog at “Joy in the Journey” (if you’re not, you don’t know what you’re missing!). Now you can follow Denny as he begins a new church plant called “Journey Church“. I love this guys heart for the Kingdom. Link it now so you can say “remember when”. Thanks for being obedient to the call brother!

4. Another guy that has been a big supporter of this site is one Mr. Chris Kelley. My man was a “lurker” for awhile, but we are now officially bloggin’ brothers. I have done my best to corrupt him into domain names, blog sites, re-directs and so on. But I think he has finally landed on some real estate here at WordPress.com. We’re glad to have you. Check out “Salvo Noodle” for some insight into CK’s thoughts.

5. One final link comes from a guy that I know, but didn’t know he was a blogger until recently. His post today “Everything Waits to Get Noticed” will give you an idea of his creativity and humor. His entire blog can be found at “That Would Make a Great Song“. I love this guys heart for God and his family. Keep singing Ted!

Last but certainly not least, I had the absolute blessing of meeting a guy named Troy Plant (who we are still convincing to start a blog) through our mutual friend Stef. Troy was kind enough to send me the link to a podcast of a sermon from his church. The sermon below comes from a guy named David Pike who works with the High School Ministry at Chandler Christian Church in Arizona. The sermon is called “The best sex ever…… when you’re married”. For those with teens or pre-teens out there, this is a great message. Thanks to Troy and David for sharing it with the rest of us. (T.P… I’ll see you in February!)

The Best Sex Ever…When you’re Married” – David Pike

We Went to a Fight…

noHockey1 What an exciting evening this turned out to be! Stef and I went to a Fight and a Hockey game broke out! Actually it was the Columbus Blue Jackets vs. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks. This would be my first professional Hockey game and Stef even prepped me by sending some instructions.

We had a great time watching some fights, a little hockey and sharing stories. The Jackets lost the game, but we had some good laughs. I now know what a “blue line” is and can tell you that overtime ends when the first team scores.

Thanks to Stef for taking some time away from the family to invest in another brother. I’m a little more versed in hockey, and you now have a story to tell everyone keep in confidence regarding a certain Go Daddy domain purchase I once made (you had to be there….)!

The End of the Innocence

Sandlot Several years ago the shoe company “Keds” had an advertising campaign that simply asked some questions. I don’t know why it has stuck with me all these years, but it was great marketing. Featured in the commercial was a small girl with her Keds on and the narrator simply said things like:

“What size Keds will you be wearing when you lose your first tooth?”

“What size Keds will you be wearing when you meet your first boyfriend?”

“What size Keds will you be wearing when the first of your friends gets married?”

What captured me in this 30 second spot is how we were presented with the reality that life happens. Time moves on and things and people change. I have always shared the journey in this blog and this post is the result of several days of reflecting on the loss of a childhood friend. Someone that was like a brother to me through my high school years.

I guess the past few days I have been wondering when we lost the innocence of our youth? What happened to the times when we ran with our “crew” and didn’t worry about the things we worry about now? When phone calls at 1am didn’t scare you that it might be bad news. When you didn’t fear doctors, dentists or the things that would cause you to need to see either one of them. We stayed out late, drove without seat belts, ate what we wanted and lived without the fear. Somewhere, somehow, some time ago, that changed and so did we.

We can’t live our life looking back, but it only takes a twist of fate to remember and reflect on the past. Tragedy should not be the thing that makes “the old gang” get together. What are the miles that separated the gang in the first place? I wonder if it can be found at the same place and time as the end of the innocence.

“Who knows how long this will last?

Now we’ve come so far so fast.

Somewhere back there in the dust

That same small town in each of us.” – Don Henley

How Quickly….

I received one of those phone calls today that you really wish you would never have to hear. The friend on the other end said those words that you never, in your wildest dreams imagined would happen to a friend. Yet in an instant, everything changed. Life dealt another reminder that it is brief. Our time, our moments, our light is but a flash. Today I lost a childhood friend when a fire consumed his home. The friend that called also informed me that Tim’s wife, who is with child, was able to escape the home, but is battling severe burns. While I don’t know her, my thoughts, heart and prayer are with her tonight.

As I was reflecting on the brevity of life, specifically Tim’s tonight, several very vivid memories came to mind. Some filled with laughter, some of the journey. I found it a cruel irony that the annual posting of the “Sesame Street Thanksgiving” was almost always prompted by Tim. He would usually email and say “don’t forget to email out the annual Thanksgiving picture”. He never forgot that, even when I did.

The second memory was of a time when we were in high school when his father passed away suddenly. Tim was crushed. It would be a time when we would realize early on, that life can change in a blink. A few years ago, Tim emailed the lyrics to the song “My Sacrifice” by Creed on the anniversary of his father’s passing to some of his friends. I had never thought of the lyrics in that manner, but it was so appropriate at the time.

Tonight, my heart is heavy but one day, the quickness of life will be no longer. Everything will be made new. Souls will reunite and questions will have answers. To those that read this, I say again…make that phone call, mend that relationship, hug the ones you love a little tighter. This is not home and our time is brief. Make each moment a memory and squeeze every ounce out of each second.

After writing this, I am reminded of the song on the new Mercyme CD called “Finally Home”. I can’t help but think that this morning Tim got to “wrap his arms around his daddy’s neck and tell him that he missed him.” What a moment that must have been. What a day that will be for us all. I love ya brother.

Finally Home” by Mercyme from the CD “All that is Within me”

 

Into Every Life….

photo_112.jpgWe’ve all heard it said that “into every life a little rain must fall”. Well, when I got off of the plane today and looked out the windows at Seattle, it was raining. Just like the movies. That was about the extent of the “rain” that fell today though. It all started when my hotel let me check in early (which NEVER happens). About an hour later, I had the absolute blessing of meeting Susan and Richard Peralta in person. We have been anticipating this for several weeks and were thrilled when it all came together.

I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful afternoon this turned out to be. We had the opportunity to share a meal together, trade stories about our families and discuss our hearts and vision for ministry. After our meal, we headed towards downtown Seattle with no real plan in mind. Our road trip took us past Safeco Field and the Space Needle. We didn’t realize it, but the Seattle Seahawks were playing on Monday Night Football tonight as well. We joked that we would tell everyone that we went to the game together.

I type all of this to say that once again I am amazed at what I believe are “Divine Moments” in our lives. Two weeks ago, I had the blessing of meeting Jeremy Wheeler, my brother from AC180. Today, it was Susan and Richard. When I say my prayers tonight, I will thank God for these opportunities to enrich my life by meeting Godly people with incredible hearts for people, their families and ministry. To Jeremy, Richard and Susan, I thank you. I thank you for taking the time out of your schedules to coordinate our time together.

I am a richer man tonight after having the opportunity to meet and spend time with you all.

Forgiveness?

Our “homework” this week in the Starting Point series is to reconcile with someone for which it is long overdue. Tell me again why we are doing Starting Point? I was the guy that told everyone when we launched this thing that they were to take the homework seriously. I’d sure like to take that statement back this week.

When I read that assignment aloud, the truth is that someone came immediately to my mind. It’s now 3 days later and I have yet to make that call or send that email. Why is that so hard? Why, when we have been shown grace beyond measure, is it so hard to pay that forgiveness forward? I wish I had the answer.

I’ve always been one to procrastinate so I guess this is nothing new. Maybe, before this week is up, I will have done what I need to do. I’d hate to do what I did so famously in college and wait until the night before.

Sometimes we lose our way, we don’t say things we should say.
We hold on to stubborn pride when we should put it all aside.
To waste the time we’re given seems so senseless.
When one little word shouldn’t be so hard….forgiveness.

Forgiveness” by Jim Witter

The Warrior is a Child

images.jpgI spoke with a dear friend this evening that is facing a storm. Through his journey, others have found strength and seen a faith that inspires believers and those that don’t know Christ. He is a warrior in every sense of the word. But even warriors need a place and a time to rest a bit.

When I was growing up, our home had a front porch with a swing on it. It was a place of rest. I had friends in high school that would come over and just hang out on the front porch. More then once, I came home to find that a friend had been there for a while, just hanging out, chatting with my mom. Many a decision was made there. Many the outcome of decision was cried over there. It was a place to rest.

We may grow older and get farther away from home, but as Twila Paris sings, “the warrior is a child”. We still need a time and a place where we can lay down the armor and find rest. The battles get long, the legs grow weary. But praise the Lord there is comfort and a place to rest. Probably my favorite Max Lucado quote says:

“God didn’t still the storm, but he calmed the sailor”

To all who are facing the storms, fighting the battles, may this song bless you today. Deep inside all of our armor, the warrior is a child.

The Warrior is a Child” by Twila Paris

The Lord of the Gift

gift_wrap_LRG One blessing I can never put into words is the blessing of some great friends in my life. I say this not to boast, rather that I am amazed at the way that God has intertwined our lives in his providence. As I was reading about spiritual gifts in “If You Want to Walk on Water” by John Ortberg, I couldn’t help but think of two friends in particular. Both have given me gifts recently that are irreplaceable, unforgettable and treasured.

Both gifts were not necessary, but were given because both of these individuals have, what I consider, the spiritual gift of “gift givers”. One recently visited The University of North Carolina and brought back a coffee thermos and pack of UNC Tar Heel gum from their gift shop. Knowing my heart bleeds Carolina Blue, it was the perfect gift! The other gave me a pair of official basketball practice shorts from THE Ohio State University where he works for the team. Knowing my love for college basketball, again, it was the perfect gift (I think he’s trying to convert me).

My thoughts were drawn to both of these because God gave both of these individuals a gift of giving. They recognize that gift and are using it. As the receiver, knowing the giver, it gives glory back to God. I began to wonder if I have grasp my spiritual gift? Have I unpacked it and used it to bring glory back to God? Do I understand the magnitude of what that gift might be and misusing it? To my friends, I again thank you. Not just for the gifts, but for allowing God to work through you.

Your friendship is a gift itself. Your service and willingness to be open to your giftedness is greater than any sermon. You are a blessing to me. If I ever get a handle on my spiritual gift (it’s in here somewhere), I pray I am to you as well!

The Utmost Admiration

launch.jpgI had breakfast with a very close personal friend last Friday morning. As I drove away from our meeting, I felt a total mixed bag of emotions from the news that I had just heard. While what he told me effects me, our friendship and our journey together, I was thrilled with one thing. He is chasing God.

Period.

We have shared our desire to be everything that God has called us to be as men, fathers and husbands for a few years now. On Friday, he took it to the next level by literally putting his entire future in Gods hands. My reaction was one of complete excitement. I later had to apologize if it came off that I wasn’t going to miss him, or our times together. The reality is that I am thrilled FOR him because I know his heart. I know that he is chasing Gods will and that is the most important thing any of us can do.

He is not sure where his journey will take him. It might take him out of town, might even damage some relationships. Yet he is putting all of that in Gods hands and trusting his plan for whatever he wants to do with his life. Though there is uncertainty about his future, there is certainty in the author and provider. Amazing.

To my friend, you have my utmost admiration. You have my utmost respect. Most of all you will always have my friendship. May God bless your journey!

"If It Was a Snake…"

1sandlot.jpgWhen I was growing up my mom had a rather funny phrase she would use. If I was looking for something that was right in front of me, she would say “If it was a snake, it would have bitten you”! Once again tonight I was in my temple of inspiration (otherwise known as the front yard cutting the grass) and I had that feeling that I might have just been bit. It would seem that something I needed, something we all need has been slowly creeping up in front of me. I just didn’t see it.

My wife and I have had this conversation many times, but when it comes to relationships, mine tend to be a mile wide and an inch thick. In other words, I feel very blessed to have several friendships, but for some reason, I don’t let them get very deep. She on the other hand, has a core group of friends that form a sisterhood and hedge for her. It is remarkable. It’s something I have been missing out on due to approaching each one with the “Heisman Pose”.

Through a rather interesting course of events, I had the opportunity to meet my blogging buddy Russell today. We grabbed some lunch and marveled that a guy from Ohio and a guy from Michigan could actually share a meal! Just before our lunch, I received an email from a guy I have a world of respect for named Stefan. Through a recent joint venture, We have had the opportunity to connect on several levels. Lastly tonight, while we were out in front of the house, my friend “D-Rich” and his family rode by on their bikes. We shared some laughs and even something that God had laid on my heart. It was a good day.

You see, God has been building and weaving men into my life right in front of my eyes. “If they were snakes, they would have bitten me”. I have resolved to be very intentional in doing what is required to create lasting, meaningful relationships with these divine moments. It’s not the way I am wired, but I think it might be time for an overhaul. I’m looking forward to making that “mile wide” much deeper than an “inch thick”. After all, no one wants a snake bite.