Nov 26, 2015

better than I deserve

"Better than I deserve."

That's how I'd describe how I feel today.

I have no words to describe the depths of my thankfulness to God for being my Father and Redeemer... for my wife Katie​ for being my loving, beautiful bride... for my kids being amazing miracles and gifts (whether all if good or all is cranky)... for the committed core and growing congregation of Connection Church​ who continues to be a movement of God unlike any other... for my extended family and circle of friends who haven't gone anywhere on me over the years, but keep investing into me and letting me invest into them.

"Better than I deserve."

I love you all. Happy Thanksgiving.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (1 Chronicles 16:34)

Nov 13, 2015

my church

A friend of mine posted something on social media that didn't just catch my eye...

it caught my soul.

The post read:
"Local friends, tell me about your church and why you like it smile emoticon. [Our family is] church searching."
Several people reasonably talked up their churches.

Here's what I wrote back in reply.


The Church I take part in is amazing... 

I've been a part of it for more than 25 years now - 

although, truthfully, it's been around for more than 2000 years.

It's the means by which Jesus Christ has made Himself known on earth - through weird people who often get on each other's nerves, tend to put their own needs ahead of others and are looking for what they can get out of it. This Church will elevate pastors over the Father, programs over the Savior, and "the people" over the Spirit. We'll say we're committed to each other one day, and then suddenly we're not quite sure what happened.

And yet it is still a breathtaking movement of God, life change and transformation.

For all that we get wrong, God is still within His Church helping us get it right more often than we would without Him. For every wound, there is the healing touch of Jesus who continues to perform miracles through unsuspecting, ordinary people. For each clumsy stumble, there is an arm able to pick us up.

We are more than our gatherings. We are more than our doctrines. We are more than our people.

And yet we are our gatherings. We are our doctrines. We are our people.

It's this odd blend of heaven-and-earth in the same place, but not quite in the same place... as if our very existence proves God and yet pines for the fuller revelation of Him one Day - when a new heaven and new earth overlap.

It is this Church that keeps me serving the church I'm in.

It is this Church that causes me to defy the "We've got Spirit, yes we do, we've got Spirit, how 'bout you?" comparisons of congregation to congregation.

It is this Church that makes me sit down with area pastors and confess my struggles and joys.

It is this Church that I invite my neighbors to... knowing I've told them about a grand Broadway musical that is being put together through second-hand-store resources.

It is this Church that inspires me to seek out people who don't even realize how much they've withdrawn.

It is this Church that I tell my kids about, my wife about, myself about... when my eyes haven't seen it in a while.

It is this Church that when our kids are bored with or complain about, we lead them... they don't lead us.

It is this Church that is to dare casual Christians to become hot or cold, and to seek and save the Lost over making everyone happy.

It is this Church that is there for me and my loved ones when others are not.

It is this Church that can't be tamed or criticized.

It is this Church that I have been baptized into.

It is this Church that I give my life for, putting its needs ahead of my own when I'd rather find something sexier to take part in.

It is this Church that is searching for you as you church search.

That said...

I attend Connection Church. Come as you are.

Jul 3, 2015

empty flirting, whole kid

Sometimes you just humbly get to experience a moment of "Normal" through your kids.

I was bike riding with both of my boys last night and we happened to take our usual path. We tend to follow it twice in the same ride, in fact. Near the end of the first lap, we passed by a local party of teenage girls who were around my oldest son's age. They were playing music, hitting around a volleyball and just being girls.

As my oldest rounded the corner near them, four the girls started chasing after him. It was group flirting - the kind that many of us have likely been on the giving or receiving end of over the years. A part of me smiled as I watched it unfold. I felt flattered that they thought he was cute.

A common parental response.

As we geared up to do our second lap, he asked me about what had happened. "Why did they do that?"

"Guys and girls sometimes do that. I suppose they thought there was something about you that they found attractive."

"That just seems sort of random," he stated. "I'm not interested in flirting like that. It's kind of empty somehow."

I was spontaneously inspired at his wisdom. "Yeah... I guess it is."

"Maybe they were just having fun, but I sort of don't want to do that. I want to just save that for my wife one day, you know? I'm not up for having people play with my feelings like that, and I don't want to play with theirs. Can we take another path back instead of that way?"

I looked over this 14-year old in front of me. He really said all of this.

He wasn't embarrassed. He wasn't shy.

He was confident. He had a conviction... a driving value about the way things could be and should be.

The Normal way to live.

It wasn't this common bantering of emptiness we toss back and forth to others as we summarize "There's no big deal in a little flirting." I don't want to arm wrestle you on that, but I do want to offer the overview my son again later shared: "Why would I waste energy raising and lowering someone's feelings like that, let alone my own? I'm going to save all that for when it matters most. I'm fine without it. Let's do something else in the meantime."

I didn't grow up this way. Anytime I was near a girl I had friends and family who were quick to say, "Oh, look! How cute. They like each other." It's funny how I found that to be the first reaction I was going for in this moment.

And then my son corrected me by being a more solid kid at his age than I was at his age.

Did I say kid? I meant emerging man.

I told him that later, in fact. "You know what, bud... what you did earlier? That's manhood. You're going to get all kinds of versions of what manhood is as you get older, but listen to me on this... that is what a man does. You are letting yourself become whole on the inside in order to confidently face down the brokenness all around you on the outside. That's going to be an incredible gift to anyone around you now or into the future."

So we took a different path back.

*This* is freedom.

What a Normal moment.
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your word. With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from Your commandments! I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me your statutes!" (Psalm 119:9-12)

Apr 3, 2015

the problem and the purpose of evil

I had one of "those dreams" last night.

It was the kind where the presence of evil is somehow present in the dream in a way that "petrifies" you in your dream... and I mean that literally - where you feel frozen up and powerless in the dream for a moment, if not more.

Over the years, my conscious mind has somehow learned to force its way into these unconscious moments. I find myself in my dream sputtering out the name of Jesus - even though it sometimes comes out "J-J-J-J-Jeeeesus."

Perhaps none of that matters, because it was only just a dream.

The thing is when I woke up I realized that with it being Good Friday how little I've considered the problem and purpose of evil in relationship to Jesus being on the Cross. I've certainly recognized His sacrifice this year, but I haven't considered with any weight how much God's adversary was involved in that day.

Theologically, I know all this. 

Personally, I've overlooked it.

That's when I recalled the eyebrow-less representation of Satan as portrayed in The Passion of the Christ... the ending of this scene still gives me encouragement.

There is a problem with evil in our world... even though it can also serve a purpose. The same is true of pain and wounds.

In Eden, God poured out His love by pouring life into humanity.

On the Cross, God poured out His love by pouring out His life.

God made Adam's wife Eve from a wound in his side. 

The Church ("Bride of Christ") was made from
a wound in the side of the second Adam, Jesus.

The same is true of the Cross:

It proclaims God will let
one thing die to bring Life into everything. 

When God seems to be killing us, 
He's actually saving us. 

This is the problem and the purpose of evil.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)
"...and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
"Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:30)
P.S. If you're local to me, join us at Connection Church at walking through this tonight:

Mar 18, 2015

what my family talks about at night

Me: (randomly) "Xanadu"

Son: "Xanadu?"

Me: "Yes, Xanadu."

Son: "What's that?"

Wife: "The seventies. It's a movie from the seventies."

Son: "It's a movie?"

Wife: "Don't show him any clips."

Me: (to son) "I wouldn't do that to you, especially before you go to sleep. It'll mess with your dreams."

Son: "What is it exactly?"

Me: "Okay... ready?"

Son: "Yeah."

Son: "Musical... PLUS roller skating... PLUS Greek mythology... PLUS... old-school tap dancing."

Son: (laughs hard) "Any afros in there?"

Me: "There's probably an afro in there."


this is what my family talks about at night.


we pray with and for each other.

(Thought I should throw that in there, too.)

Mar 6, 2015

a firm embrace

I just literally watched my son turn 14 before my eyes as the clock struck midnight. 

We unintentionally welcomed it in by having a late night movie that spilled into his birthday.

I even paused to sing to him.

After the movie, we prayed together and I gave him a hug.

Then... I asked for another hug - a firm embrace, if you will.

As I held him, I remembered the first time I held him in the hospital...

and then the time after that...

and the time after that.

Those first few hugs didn't allow me the chance to put my full strength into it.

Still, it's amazing how many powerful gentle embraces you remember through a powerful firm embrace.
"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." (Psalm 127:3-5)

Feb 4, 2015

remind me again who You are

Remind me again
who You are and have been
Give me a glimpse
of the Cross yet again
Speak to my needs
and my thoughts and my scars
Remind me again who You are

Whisper Your name
so I'll know it by heart
when the chaos of life
tries to pull me apart
I'll call out and know
that You're never that far
Remind me again who You are

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  (John 14:26)

Oct 30, 2014

never ending opportunities

It's simple math.
Two Myles guys + 
the Never Ending Pasta Bowl + 
man-to-man stuff = 
an amazing hang time with "this guy" tonight.

It's an odd thing to be someone's dad.

That's not at all a critique, but rather a humble reality. I love my kids beyond measure.

What I mean is that I feel the weight of my words as they're coming out of my mouth and understand how they will be received by my sons and daughter.

Tonight was a good example... my 13-year old and I have started going through the book "Preparing Your Son For Every Man's Battle." That's all you're going to know about a good part of our discussion, as the fearless conversation we were able to have together is rooted in relational trust.

All I want to offer here is that there's something about driving a half-hour to a restaurant while listening to some clean stand-up comedy together, plopping down into a booth, ordering some delicious food (that we've budgeted up to afford), catching up on life over breadsticks, and then diving right into some profound back-and-forth together over stuff that really matters.

I again felt the power of my words as I shared how this experience was something I wish I had growing up on the other end with my own dad, but that perhaps because of that gap the one I was having now was that much more intentional. He listened as I shared about how much of my own walk into manhood was full of guessing that he doesn't have to settle for, and that he's not alone in whatever he navigates.

At the end of the night? He asked if I would write all of this down. He said a lot of what I said tonight are things he doesn't want to forget, and hopes to reference back to them in the future as needed.


Parenting is full of such never ending opportunities.

We can't control what has been handed down to us.

We do have a say in what we will hand the next generation.
“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

Apr 20, 2014

the Resurrection in images and sounds

The Resurrection is not an event...

the Resurrection is a Person.

This past weekend allowed me the chance to realize that through some images and sounds that personalized my journey with God. I offer them here to give you that same opportunity.

Video 1: Something I found.
  • Thought: Jesus could have received all the praise He deserved. Instead, He took on our all the condemnation we deserved... not just once, but again and again - even as we pridefully try to presume He can stop. For this, He becomes like a criminal... so we can become free.

Video 2: Something I assembled.  
  • Thought: The Resurrection isn't what it is without the Cross. The Cross isn't what it is without the Resurrection. We are not who we really are unless we really have both. Don't just celebrate this - choose to experience it. 

Video 3: Something I said.  
  • Thought: I was unexpectedly ministered by this - it involved listening to something I didn't plan on saying today in service, yet apparently said. A friend of mine caught it and put this together. In the event God wants to use this to speak to you as He did me when I listened to it (which is ironic, I know)... here it is.

Don't just celebrate the Resurrection. Experience it. Integrate it.

Because the Resurrection isn't an event. The Resurrection is a Person.
Jesus said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

Apr 8, 2014

shaving off some more parenting

One of my sons asked me about shaving.

Over the years, we've had some small snippets of chats about it. This time, it felt like a visual lesson was needed.

So I broke out the two options he'd eventually have to choose from - electric or manual.

I shaved half of my face with the electric, and the other half with the manual. I explained the pros and cons of each, from ongoing costs to one-time costs. I let him touch both sides of my face and evaluate how each felt in comparison to the labor that went into it.

And... that was it for now.

I'm sure some day soon we'll reverse roles and he'll be the one under the blade.

For now, though... we just took another step of being a father/son together.

How many times in parenting do we put people under the knife... when all they wanted to know is what the knife looks like?
"Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6, AMP)

Dec 13, 2013

christmas is about presents

There is a reason.

  • It’s why people smile while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, as if they don’t know they’re wearing an ugly Christmas sweater (even though we know they absolutely do).
  • It’s why someone feels the permission to smooch you under a certain configuration of dried leaves hanging on the ceiling.
  • It’s why families drive around neighborhoods, aimlessly looking at how someone else arranged the same lights they arranged on their own home in a lesser quantity.
  • It’s why an old guy with a white beard can earn some extra money by dressing up in a specific red suit this season.
  • It’s why you do your best Michael BublĂ© impression as he does his best Frank Sinatra impression, while singing Christmas songs you only know half the words to.
Some would say it’s the reason for the season… Jesus Christ. 

Let’s be honest, though. The holiday of Christmas is more about presents.

(Yes, I just said that. It’s about time you did, too.)

Christmas is about presents. Stuff. More of what we want. Our traditions, favorite songs, special treats and preferred circumstances.

Even if we’re “open minded” and muse, “People celebrate differently during this time of year, and I’m fine with that,” we get a little wound up when we’re not able to spend this time as we think we’re entitled to.

If you can agree with me on this for a moment (even if it offends you), then perhaps we can talk about the power of a gift.

I recently took my ten-year old son on a trip to Chicago. Our stops included heading to the top of the Willis Tower, also known as the Sears Tower. (You can still call it the Sears Tower if you want, but most Chicagoans will use it as the chance to say, “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?”)

I’ve never been in the building before.

Keep in mind, I grew up and lived in Chicago for twenty years. Nonetheless, I’d never entered it nor rode the elevator up to see the city from a top floor in one of the world’s tallest buildings. I shared that first-time experience with my son.

What caught me off guard was how caught off guard he was about hearing that. He asked, “You mean… you saved that experience for me?”

I paused, then replied, “I suppose I did.”

He paused, then replied, “Well… that makes me feel special.”

Talk about a Hallmark commercial moment. I never felt like I’d done something so right, yet so unintentional.

Later at dinner, we had another conversation about other experiences we should save in life, like certain things that are intended for the woman he might marry one day. 

The Willis Tower offered something else amazing we took part in together. The building has four completely-clear glass viewing decks that come out of the building four feet so you can look straight down while standing 1,353 feet high, as if you’re dangling in mid-air.

My son was a trooper on this. He walked right out, even laying down and relaxing on the platform.

And why not? He’s full of the kind of faith many of us have forgotten about or don’t even know exists. He trusted in his father to look out for him and introduce him into situations that he couldn’t handle on his own, but could with me by his side.

I believe that’s why Christmas has become about presents. Underneath all the wrapping paper is a desire to give something to someone else that’s meaningful to us and them.
  • Sometimes you give the perfect gift on accident: You offer someone something you thought would be received at one level but is enjoyed at another.
  • Sometimes you give the perfect gift out of relationship: You give the gift of genuine trust to another person where there is mutual love and respect.
  • Sometimes you give an imperfect gift that you thought was the perfect gift: The person who gets it will have to decide if they’ll receive it in grace or reject it as unwanted.
During the Christmas season, people give tangible things that create an intangible reaction. If you think about it, that’s exactly who the Baby in the Manger is – God in-the-flesh so you can know Him in-the-soul.  

Yes, Christmas is really about the Present of Jesus Christ. What I’m proposing is we can use the natural thing this holiday has decayed into as a step of faith to the supernatural thing it is under the surface.

James 1:17 clarifies, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV) There is a reason.
  • It’s the reason you’ll be generous with what you can see by donating something to “the poor” you’ll never see.
  • It’s the reason you’ll join into tactile traditions today that remind you of emotional experiences from the past.
  • It’s the reason you’ll be physically sitting in church service to spiritually connect with your Heavenly Father.
  • It’s the reason you’ll even give up some of that in order to enjoy some extra time with others who need to sense God is there through your life… especially when you actually put on that imperfect, ugly Christmas sweater they give you.

Step out in faith on the ledge of what Christmas happens to be today... then look down.

You just might see something underneath you that is deeper than you think.

Dec 4, 2013

father-son time

Hanging out with my son today...

kind of feels like this.

Oct 15, 2013

one month in

Thank you, God...

for blessing us beyond what we deserve...

and for You alone being even better than our blessings.

 Thanks for this house we've been able to move into... until the day we come Home.

Aug 17, 2013

silent protectors

Up late, keeping watch from afar over my sons and their friends as they sleep in a pop-up camper in the driveway. Just watched a cop car drive by.

Maybe it's just the time of the night, or maybe it's something more. But I love seeing things like this... silent protection over our lives in the form of teamwork. Things we're unaware of, until we become aware of them.

A lot of life is like this.

Sometimes you're protected without knowing it when someone who could do something doesn't... or when someone does do something they don't have to:
  • Maybe they don't take seconds because you want thirds.
  • Maybe they hold their tongue as you let yours fly.
  • Maybe they take a financial hit so you have a running car.
  • Maybe they remember a great past so they don't give you a black eye in the not-so-great present.
  • Maybe they don't like what you've said even though everyone else has.
I wonder how many silent protectors we're all surrounded by.

I wonder how often we're more in life together than we realize...
and not so far apart as we feel.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. "Selah" (Psalm 32:7)

Jul 27, 2013

lime jello

This is my personal blog.

It's been a while since I blogged here... partly on purpose.

The last time I wrote something was just before my daughter had a seizure in January... then another. She was in the hospital and we were full of questions.

So much of our lives felt touch-and-go for a while. How could I possibly blog here?

Eventually we realized we could move forward... one cautious step at a time. But by that point I wasn't sure what to write of any personal nature.

It was around this time that someone blasted me apart in an email that was mass emailed out to 50 people (and yapped about by more than those 50). Most people saw through it, while others bought into it. Ironically, all I was trying to do was reconcile with the guy.

I was devastated. People I thought were friends suddenly became quite unfriendly. Who I am, my household and church became a "topic" - as if we could be discussed with criticism without feeling any sort of pain or damage.

By the way - a lot of pain and damage did occur.

Again, that came right after my daughter's hospital and medical issues.

As time went on, the person never apologized for it. I had to deal with the wake of it almost every other week as someone new was caught up in its ripples.

Somewhere in there I felt the sting of a financial gap. Our church had been struggling financially, so I took a voluntary pay cut. It meant extra side work was necessary for me to serve my household. In the process of taking on a ton of work all at once, I wrote two books, a lot of curriculum and more. That sounds good on paper, but I ran out of juice, time and more. The stress it caused was felt throughout my family. I thought I'd bottomed out internally.

This was when all of it started to collide together... the question of medical bills, financial strain, being misunderstood by people close to us and more... all of it... it all added up.

Toss in Easter... already a big deal, but we relaunched our church around then. We had a massive building project in the mix, too. Everyone had an opinion about everything. Much of it added up and subtracted me down to a divided spirit that only multiplied.

"Boo hoo... woe is me," I thought.

Then my best guy friend in all the world lost his daughter. She was ten and died almost instantly as they were all serving as missionaries in Africa.


Sometimes it takes perspective to have perspective.

I've spent a lot of time in the midst of all of this trying to figure out what it means to move forward. There's much I won't write here, including how some of the struggles haven't been mine alone to bear. Others I love are likewise working out what all of this means.

I mentioned to my friend that I had a memory from January of walking downstairs in the hospital when my daughter had finally relaxed to try to find something for my wife and I to eat. It was here that I saw it...

lime jello.


I'm a pastor, and I've visited many hospitals.

In every hospital that I can remember, I have always found lime jello.

You would think that I'd find something red more often than something lime... strawberry... cherry... maybe even raspberry.

Without fail, I always see lime jello.

I shared with my friend how absurd this is - as if there was some research that was done by hospitals and they reasoned that by putting lime jello in their selection that you would think, "I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting red. But lime jello... well... that's different."

Maybe you would then think, "Maybe the unexpected is still possible. Maybe a miracle can happen. Maybe there's more to life than this moment."

Who knows? Maybe it's that strategic and subliminal. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just that lime is cheaper than any other flavor.

Either way, it's there... all the time... lime jello.

You'll notice that I took that picture in January and waited until now to post it.

It's because this past week I found some lime jello in a few different moments I wasn't expecting:
  • I found forgiveness for the jerk way I was treated and belittled in the mass email. It still hurts and I have to call it for what it was, but at this point I can love the flawed source behind it. How can I not? After all, isn't this what I ask of God everyday for myself?
  • I watched the church I'm in be reborn before my very eyes. God did something amazing and profound that has His fingerprints all over it through the many hands of others. It's something I've been praying for years would happen.
  • I had a conversation with someone who rediscovered the cross of Jesus Christ and likewise began a shoeless walk into His holiness and grace again. Again, something I've been seeking God on.
Lime jello.

I'm not sure what the future of this blog looks like, but years ago it gave me sanity to begin it when I was going through junk about junk. Somehow it helped me find my footing, not to mention my voice.

So between here, my leadership blog and a youth ministry blog I've been offered the chance to write for I'm going to be sharing my lime jello with anyone who wants some.

Need a spoon?

Dec 17, 2012

SPOILERS from the Hobbit (no, not really)

I didn't see the Hobbit this past weekend.

It's the type of thing I'd normally do with friends who enjoy going to see epic movies at midnight. Given the past week of life and more, I just couldn't swing it.

What I was able to do was to post some tongue-in-cheek "spoilers" from the Hobbit on my Twitter account throughout the three hours the movie premiered. I'm not sure if I was able to influence anyone to actually believe these were true, but since I lost three Twitter followers that night I do believe my purpose was achieved.

(For the record, I gained 10 others).

Here is a chance for you to enjoy the updates in the order I posted them.


SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Gandalf doesn't end up with Hermione.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Orlando Bloom returns as a slightly more mannish Keira Knightley.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Orlando Bloom returns as a slightly more mannish Keira Knightley.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Elrond wears Agent Smith style Matrix glasses.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : It already won a bunch of obscure Academy Awards for costumes... blah blah blah, something artistic, I think.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The movie happens in real time. Keifer Sutherland's character Jack Bauer somehow stays awake for 24 hours.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : John Rhys-Davies brought back for one scene for #Sliders fans where he looks at camera and says, "Mr Mallory!"

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Musical scene with Beyonce' where she plays a temptress singing about how you shoulda putta ring on it.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The "orc" costumes resemble what Robin Williams wore when he landed in Colorado in the 70's.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Will Ferrell plays a character simply known as "Elf" who is passionate about Christmas.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The phrase "there and back again" refers to a craving errand Bilbo's pregnant Hobbit wife sends him on.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The traditional hat worn by Gandalf has been replaced by a red metal helmet resistant to telepathic attacks.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : There are, in fact, 16 fade-to-black endings.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The ring is a Krispy Kream donut... the hot kind, not the cold kind.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Elves have a foreign language they sometimes speak. This is actually just their attempt at German.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The different nations have political tension with each other, which is an ancient metaphor for #GoogleMaps

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The last name "Baggins" is revealed to be an acronym for "Boy Another Great Gain In Nerd Sales" (guilty!)

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : CeeLo Green plays a Hobbit who plays an Elf who plays a Troll who plays an Orc... with a cat.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Andy Serkis does the voice of Morgan Freeman, and Morgan Freeman does the voice of Andy Serkis.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Ian McKellen and Ian Holm wear matching "Ian" tennis bracelets. Gollum, naturally, wants one.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : One person in every theater nationwide memorized a map of all the lands and actually understands the route.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Hobbits all bummed Sean Astin didn't make it into movie. Each lays down his ears; chants "Rudy" repeatedly.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : "Middle Earth" got its name by being in a love triangle with good guy "Upper Earth" and bad boy "Lower Earth"

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The "Shire" scenes are bootleg videos stolen from the movie Avatar.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Winklevoss Elves are all played by the same guy.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Dwarves don't talk about it much, but each one with a beard has killed an Ewok.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The treasure everyone's trying to reclaim are stock shares from "The Facebook" Timberlake's character swiped.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : Smaug, the dragon, isn't actually that smug. Most people overlook the "a" and he's "sick of all the haters."

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The Lonely Mountain symbolizes Mount Rushmore... only with actor Mickey Rourke's face in all four spots.

SPOILER ALERT for #TheHobbit : The characters Fili and Kili have a brother played by Ben Affleck you only see in the deleted scenes - Gigli.

Oct 20, 2012

how I'll be approaching today

I've been asked by several people how I'll approach today. If you don't know why, no worries... my answer is the same - illustrated through these two pictures.

Sep 22, 2012

are you a ninja?

Are you a Ninja?

  • Kitchen Ninja: Trying to complete tasks before the microwave hits 00:00 like your life depends on it.
  • Bathroom Ninja: Attempting to flush before you're done, but finishing before the water completely is done flushing.
  • Nighttime Ninja: Turning off all the lights and running up the stairs super fast before the monsters get you, but then daring to turn and completely stare into the darkness behind you as if you say, "You're ain't so bad, sucka!"
Got any more?

Aug 20, 2012

heaven is...

Heaven is a realm where Jesus isn't pious/tame but unleashing "AWESOME!" to the Nth degree, all the time, without ceasing.

There is no sitting on clouds with harps for us... nor is it anything close to the absence of actual pleasure. We're in the midst of the whole version of the broken stuff we chase after.... including each other. True relational transparency is the norm, for the real you is revealed and emerges - not the fractured version you keep wanting to prove and justify to the world, but the Original You that is buried like a diamond under the dirt of this life.  The Lord Himself meets you with love and restoration and invites you into a feast! A party! It's an unending, unfractured journey of "THIS IS BEYOND WORDS!!!" that all are invited into through Jesus Christ but not many choose to enter.

Never forget: God isn't just "the man upstairs" or merely a presence in the universe, but He is completely thick in the thin parts of your life even now. (read that again) This VIP experience likewise isn't merely the after-party to this life but the Life He meant for you to be experience right now. He can give you glimpses of it if you trust Him today. So follow Christ...  believe, receive and call upon His Name... deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him.

Are you in?
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:3)

Aug 5, 2012

guest blogger: rick lawrence - on being shrewd and learning from serpents

I'm deeply thankful for a friendship with Rick Lawrence, a humble Yoda/Miyagi to many in the world of youth ministry. His new book "Shrewd" unearths more of what many of us miss in Christianity, so make sure you snag it. I'm thankful to share his thoughts below - enjoy!

Five-or-so years ago I was locked in what felt like an all-out war over a dream that was in danger of dying, because a man who was much shrewder than me was bent on stopping it.

One day, in my grief and fear and anger over what was about to happen, I felt God sort of “sit me down” and challenge me—it was clear that my “frontal” way of dealing with this situation was not going to work, and He was asking me if I was going to have the courage to move more shrewdly. In the nicey-nice Christian culture that is promoted and perpetuated in most churches, shrewdness is anathema—worse, it’s entirely off the radar as a spiritual practice.

So, in an uncharacteristic spirit of desperation, I asked God to teach me what I needed to know about shrewdness—and He (of course) brought me to Jesus, the source of all good things. The point of Jesus’ “Parable of the Shrewd Manager” (Luke 16:1-8) is specifically to highlight the behavior of a lazy, lying, good-for-nothing servant who has no qualities we’d want to emulate except for one: his shrewd way of saving himself from the consequences of his terrible behavior. Jesus highlights this anti-role-model for one purpose: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.”

Later, in preparation for sending out His disciples on their first ministry journey without Him, He tells them to take nothing with them (no clothing, money, or “insurance” of any kind)—instead, He tells them they need just two things:

1. Be as shrewd as a serpent, and

2. Be as innocent as a dove.

The word He uses here for “serpent” is the same one He uses for Satan. And the word He uses here for “dove” is the same the Bible uses to describe the Holy Spirit. Jesus is telling His disciples to be as shrewd as Satan is, but as innocent as the Holy Spirit is. Shrewdness, then, is a way of living and relating that Jesus first modeled for us, then commanded us to do likewise.

In Shrewd: Daring to Obey the Startling Command of Jesus, I describe “shrewd” as a way of thinking and acting that Jesus long ago urged His followers to use in their uprising against the powers and ‘spiritual forces of wickedness’ of this world. Shrewd people—and Jesus is the Exemplar—first study how things work, and then leverage that knowledge to tip the balance in a favored direction. Shrewdness is the expert application of leverage—“the right force at the right time in the right place”—as The Way Things Work author David Macaulay observes. Jesus is perpetually taking what His enemies intend for evil and morphing it into good—He uses their destructive momentum against them, like a martial artist. Most Christians have a negative reaction to the word “shrewd,” but Jesus not only exemplified this way of relating to others in His redemptive mission on earth, He gave us a mandate to grow much, much more adept in our practice of it.

Because I’ve had scores of conversations with people, both young and old, about the mechanics of “innocent shrewdness,” I know people of all ages have experienced repeated failure in their frontal, conventional approaches to problems and challenges in their life. They’re frustrated and lost. And when I simply walk them through a Jesus-centered process of thinking and acting more shrewdly, it’s like Dorothy in The Wizard of

Oz moving from her flat, black-and-white world into the 3-D colors of Oz. The process, simply, looks like this:
  • Answer the question: “What do I really want?” Jesus habitually asked an irritating question of people with obvious needs who approached Him for help: “What do you want?” (e.g., Matt. 20:32; Mark 6:22; Mark 10:36; Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41). We must know what we really want before we can truly ask in faith.

  • Answer the question: “Is my ‘want’ born out of innocence? Would I feel just fine asking Jesus for this ‘want’ if I was face-to-face with Him?”

  • Answer the question: “How does this (person, organization, or process) work?” Shrewd living always starts with understanding how things work—so spend five minutes brainstorming (either alone or with someone you trust) an answer to this question.

  • Based on your understanding of how things work, spend five minutes brainstorming a point of leverage to go after with a “sideways” approach. Sideways means the leverage comes from an unexpected direction—you find “sideways” by experimenting with approaches that carry the force to move the situation.

  • Now, try one of your options and debrief the results with someone you trust. Decide whether to continue with that option or whether to try a new approach.

  • Repeat steps #3, #4, and #5 in a continuous loop—until you’ve landed on “the right force at the right time in the right place.”

Rick Lawrence is the author of dozens of books, including Shrewd: Daring to Obey the Startling Command of Jesus and Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand ( and He’s has been editor of Group Magazine for 25 years and is the co-leader of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Rick is a church leader, consultant to national research organizations and a frequent conference and workshop speaker. He and his family live in Colorado.

Jul 31, 2012

book review: 21 Day Dad's Challenge

I've been sorting through some great books lately. One of them is the 21 Day Dad's Challenge, a book that reminds fathers that we can't let life get in the way of being intentional in our parenting. Contributors include Tony Dungy, Chip Ingram, Josh McDowell, Randy Alcorn, Carey Casey, Jim Daly, and more.

A handful of thoughts:
  • The 21 day challenge is "do-able." It involves a short reading each day, including a challenge at the end of each chapter.
  • The tone of the book is motivational and not condemning. Most dads know they fall short - this one paints a picture of what they're capable of.
  • An assortment of QR codes make it possible to scan content as you read and watch complementary videos.
  • Everything is based on biblical principles that release a clearer common sense in how one parents. For that reason even non-Christian dads will get a lot out of this.
  • The book is best read in community, such as a men's group where guys can hold each other accountable.
I'd also add that moms can get a lot out of this material, too, but it does feel distinctly written to men. Snag a copy and rock a kid's world - I got mine through the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.

Jun 20, 2012

casual Christianity doesn't eat it

Casual Christianity (aka saying you're a Christian without backing it up) is like starting to eat an amazing steak but stopping short of a real bite half-way between the plate and your mouth, and telling everyone you know what it tastes like.

It's common to occasionally go to church or tell people you have one (that you don't really attend), but the question is have you made a defining step of receiving the forgiveness of Jesus and letting Him become the Lord over every area of your life?

You won't do this perfectly at any time you're on this earth, which is why His grace is so amazing... but you can do it relationally and intentionally. Again, don't presume you've really eaten, until you've really eaten. And then - don't miss out on the chance to "eat" with others at every opportunity.
"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." (Psalm 34:8)

"In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always." (John 6:57-58, The Message)

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)

Jun 6, 2012

homeboy or God?

I spent some time in the Ten Commandments recently and was reminded that we often want to make our relationship with God more casual than it is intended to be. I'm all for grace, and yet I'm all for reverence, too. It's perhaps why I've never been a huge fan of the "Jesus is my homeboy" shirt - while anything can be used to bring people closer to God, I'm not sure we need to lose our most direct access point.

If you just can't open up your Bible, though, let me help. Based (loosely) on Exodus 20, here are ten signs that you got this whole thing right by making sure God is your God vs your homeboy:
  1. You have priorities in that honor Him, vs Him flashing the peace sign at what you already do.
  2. You let nothing else busy you from putting Him first, vs He gets what left, not what's right.
  3. You think about who He is, vs you give Him a casual nickname based on who you want Him.
  4. You daily/weekly invest into that relationship, vs thinking the world runs on your charisma.
  5. You let your family see Him in you, vs telling Him "He's there, but I'm not perfect, so chill."
  6. You let the Life He put in you bring Life into the world, vs killing others with criticism/hate.
  7. You give God your urges and follow His lead, vs you say, "I can't help it. I do what I feel."
  8. You let Him help you become content, vs you take what you want that He didn't give you.
  9. You prioritize truth over comfort, vs you say what keeps you out of trouble - "God understands."
  10. You prioritize people over things, vs you drool at what's cool & demand the Lord be your stool.
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." (Matthew 6:9b)

May 7, 2012

an observation from watching years of TV: slow motion

Perhaps slow-motion effects on television first caught my attention with the Six Million Dollar Man. Back in the day they used to slow down Lee Majors so that we'd  visualize him running faster than we could imagine.

Um... nice try.

Then again, maybe I've spent too many years watching too many TV shows to count. Either way, here are some observations on the use of slow-motion effects in general when it comes to the small screen:
Celebrity walking in slow motion on Entertainment Tonight/Access Hollywood/Extra = they had something tragic happen to them in real life or recently went a little coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs on camera.
Celebrity walking in slow motion in a feature movie = they're about to save the world.
Celebrity walking in slow motion down a hallway in a high school or down a staircase = the cool kid, or the kid who didn't used to be cool but now apparently is after getting a quick makeover (i.e. no longer wearing glasses).
Celebrity walking in slow motion in a commercial = they used to be famous for something else and now are selling you beauty products.
Celebrity walking in slow motion in a primetime program = their character is about to be written out of the show.
Celebrity walking in slow motion in any other TV show = they are Donald Trump, a part of his family or a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice.

Apr 10, 2012

a word to my friends

If we're friends, there's a chance you might hear this as it applies to your life. It's not something I copied and pasted - it's written from my heart to yours.

Simply put, be careful. When your life feels like darkness, you may mistake a grey-option for a colorful one. Keep in mind, that option is still very much grey - and while on some level you know this, your eyes have stared into what feels like a black hole long enough that even what is dull seems like Light... especially if you keep telling yourself it is.

You'll tell yourself that grey mush is a yellow smiley face.

So again, be careful. The knight in shining armor may actually be a court jester who will use you for a laugh. The woman who makes you feel good by agreeing with your perspective on life may keep you from hearing what you need to hear most. Your new BFF may set off some TNT when your IQ doesn't sense it coming.

Sure... maybe none of that will happen.

But then again, there's a reason I'm writing this. I know too many people who thought that counsel wasn't for them, yet ended up in a backward situation they never saw coming. So again, if we're friends... I'm not writing this to tell you I told you so. Instead, I'd like to catch you on the front end and help you see from the outside looking in what it may be hard to see with your nose that close to what you think you want. Write me a note if you're interested. I'm obviously not perfect, but I am your friend.
"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14)