The Word: Halfway

The Word: Halfway

Thirteen days ago turned to page 855 in the book I’ve carried for thousands of miles. It’s been on almost every trip I’ve taken in the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve used it to prepare and preach from pulpits in both Brazil and the US. The words of Isaiah 35 brought profound insight and encouragement last December when I was in Houston. As I opened to page 855–chapter one of the Gospel According to Luke–a new and unexpected journey began.

In the Christian circles I tend to run it we frequently open our Bibles together. Usually it is because someone is teaching and asks us to open to a specific verse. Honestly, this has confused me a bit from time to time…the teacher always reads the verse, so why do we turn to it? We’re don’t read entire chapters together, and certainly don’t have the time to read entire books. Sure, it can be helpful to mark a passage or scribble some notes in the margins, but how many of us really do that during a sermon?

Still…the Word beckons.

On January 1 as I read the first word in Luke 1 (“inasmuch”), a bunch of friends did the same. We aren’t physically together and we’re not reading at the exact same time…but folks said “I’m in” and began the two month journey through Luke and Acts. Everyone is going at their own pace, which is wonderful. I’m reading 6 chapters per week in Luke, but grace is abundant. This week, Wednesday was simply too busy and I was too exhausted. So I didn’t. I shared that I didn’t. As expected, people responded with grace, not condemnation. That’s what life together is supposed to look like. That’s what we do.

Having just finished chapter 12, I am now halfway through the book of Luke. Just a few small steps every day and here I am. Halfway. Most days it takes longer for me to write a few thoughts about the chapter than it does to actually read it. This two weeks of reading has taken me to page 872. Seventeen pages in twelve days of reading. On one hand, it doesn’t sound like a lot. On the other, there has been so much ground covered. Remember…we’re reading text that was written almost two thousand years ago. It’s not necessarily all going to be straightforward and easy. It was originally written to a different people in a different culture living at a different time. Some of it seems quite foreign.

As I pause today in the journey through Luke that we’re on, I have a couple of areas I’ve personally noticed change.


The last two weeks something really cool has happened. People are sending me messages letting me know they’re with me on this journey. I’m getting insightful takeaways from my friend Tamarah. I got a message from Mike letting me know he’s reading with us while he’s traveling. Some people tell me they’re behind but still with us. Dear friends are engaging with Scripture at a level they never have before. Because we are doing it together. I’m learning that we all get more out of God’s word when we go through it together. We have a longing for community because God designed us to do life together. It makes sense that His Word is experienced better together.

I’m afraid most of us carry around a lot of baggage about God’s word. Many Christians carry an unnecessary burden of guilt…perhaps because they think they don’t read their Bible enough. Or perhaps it’s because they have tried and just don’t understand it. We want to love God’s Word, but find it intimidating or unapproachable. We look around us and see Bible verses printed floating around everywhere…sometimes used like fortune cookies or horoscopes, bringing brief feelings of hope and encouragement…but sometimes used as daggers, thrown at others with the intention of drawing blood. But there has to be more, right? Surely God’s Word is more profound than a fortune cookie. Surely it has some other purpose than to wound and condemn. Unfortunately, guilt and pride keep us from opening those pages and even more, it keeps us from asking the questions we find embarrassing.

We’ve all been there. Nobody was born understanding Scripture. Way back in the early chapters of Luke it says that Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature.” It was even a process for Him. Personally, I remember sitting in Mike’s class and asking if John the Baptist was the same dude who was one of the disciples. Was he the one who wrote John, or was John just about him? Was Luke a disciple? Are Christians supposed to take every word of the Bible literally? Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it? Why do people think Jesus was God? How can there be one God if the Father and Son both claim to be God? What’s up with this Holy Ghost thing…is that like Christian Gatorade or something? Do we even need the Old Testament anymore? What’s up with all those lists of names? Why don’t all Christians read the Bible?

I asked all of those questions at some time in the past 10 years or so. I’m not embarrassed in the slightest about any of them. That’s how I learned who God is. That’s how both my faith and knowledge deepened. And now that’s happening around us…as we read together, we can learn from each other. We’re all travelers on a journey and all have something to contribute. We’re a community.

Our community is a bit disorganized, but it’s beautiful. I cherish every interaction. Nothing’s off the table or out-of-bounds.


Knowing others are also reading changes my own perspective. I’m not only reacting to what resonates with me, but I’m anticipating what others will respond to as well. It broadens my view and allows the Word to challenge me in unanticipated ways.

In the first twelve chapters, I have found myself comforted by the narrative. The story of Jesus’ life and ministry is familiar. When the disciples feed the crowds, I’m delighted. As the people lean in to listen to the incredible teachings of Jesus, I’m amazed. Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds…it’s like visiting old friends.

But there’s more that has been happening. In addition to the life and events, there is conflict. There are teachings that are hard. As I read Luke, I see Jesus continually warning us to stop focusing on things of this world. He tells us to seek the Kingdom of God, which seems to be a stark contrast to the kingdoms we build for ourselves. He tells us that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) That brings my mind back to the woman with the alabaster flask in Luke 7, who out of gratitude washes the feet of our Savior with her tears and anoints His head with oil. This woman who had nothing pours out everything she has for Him, simply as a worshipful response to the forgiveness she has found through Him…the new life she has found. She knows Jesus and has been transformed. She is no longer who she was…she has walked away from her old life completely. Her future is completely unknown except for this…that she is trusting Jesus with it. There is deep meaning in the anointing of Jesus here, but for her it represents letting go of her “before” to step fulling into “next.”

As I read I wonder what pieces of my past am I still clinging to that are keeping me from fully following Him? I often think of emotional baggage like the tattered and worn suitcases we bring back from Brazil. Rio is really hard on luggage. But what if the weight I’m carrying around is an alabaster flask, beautiful and full of a substance of great value? Do I trust Jesus enough to break that flask and pour its contents out for Him? Do I trust Him with my future, even if it is uncertain and difficult? At the end of chapter 9, Jesus seems to be telling us that we can’t look both back at our old lives and continue forward with Him. As He said in chapter 11, “a divided household falls.” And so I look at my heart and pray the end of Psalm 139: “Search me, God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” The reality is, trusting Jesus with eternity often seems much easier than trusting Him with tomorrow.

Even so…among all these teaching that challenge me so greatly, Jesus never gives up on anyone. Sure, He rebukes Pharisees and Scribes. We see plenty of people leave His side when the teaching gets difficult or the cost of following Him grows too high. But He never turns His back on anyone. This is where I find hope. In these chapters it is abundantly clear that following Jesus is not an easy life. He never guarantees that…in fact, He repeatedly tells us the opposite. When we follow Him, though, He remains with us. He does not abandon us, even in the middle of our messes and failures, even in our deepest hurt and darkest places. When friends abandon us or tragedy strikes, He is there with us…lifting our face and pointing it toward eternity…toward a time when there will be no more tears or pain. These chapters remind me that we don’t get there by breaking our jars and unloading our baggage. Those things bring us closer to Him in the journey, but ultimately all of our hope is in Him. We get a beautiful glimpse of Him on the pages of the Gospel According to Luke.


On December 31 I posted an open invitation to join me in reading Luke and Acts. There are no checklists and no discussion questions, just a ragged band of misfits wandering through the Word together. I’m reading 6 chapters of Luke each week and plan to read 7 chapters of Acts per week when I get there. I set that pace because it seems achievable and I’m just dorky enough to need that kind of symmetry. Four weeks through Luke and four weeks through Acts. But if you want to take this journey, do it at your pace, not mine. Read 30 minutes a day if you want…perhaps that will be 2 or 3 chapters. Read more or less…just keep reading. I’ve been posting a few thoughts and my progress on my personal Facebook page because that’s where this all started, but I’m happy to interact with anyone anywhere. Reach out to me and let me know how it’s going. And if you’d like me to reach out to you a couple of times a week to see how you’re doing, I’d be happy to.

The Word: Six Steps

The Word: Six Steps

One week ago I cast a message in a bottle out into the sea of social media. It was both a declaration and an invitation. I publicly pledged to kick off the new year by systematically reading Luke and Acts. With that pledge was an invitation to take this journey with me. No formal plan…no checklists, daily email reminders, or study questions. There’s no medal at the end and there are no tests. Simply: read through Luke at your own pace. Then read through Acts. Share what you want to share, but don’t feel obligated to do so. 

The pace I set for myself was six chapters of Luke per week. When I got to Acts, I’d move to seven chapters per week. At that rate, it would take 4 weeks per book. It’s a reasonable enough pace that it should be approachable by someone opening the Bible for the first time. It’s also possible to catch up if you fall behind but want to stay with the group. In my Bible, each chapter is only a page or two.

Something interesting happened… quite a few friends chimed in with “I’m in.” As people volunteered to go on this journey with me, my excitement grew. After the clock struck midnight, I stayed up until about 2:30 talking with my oldest son. Right before turning in for the evening, I thought, “hey…I could go ahead and read chapter one! It’s January first!” As much as I love reading Scripture, knowing so many others were going to be enthusiastically turning to Luke 1 in the morning brought new joy to it for me, too. One of the lessons I think scripture quite clearly gives us is that we are not meant to walk our spiritual journey alone. God brings people into our lives specifically so we can encourage and sharpen each other. Every “I’m in” has affirmed this in the past week. The questions, comments, and insights shared with me through Facebook, the blog, and in person have been delightful.

Some who messaged were reading the Bible for themselves for the first time. Some were adding this to their “though the Bible in a year” plan they had repeatedly done for years. All ages and all levels of people bravely jumped in. I got questions as wide-ranging as “where can I get a Bible” to “what was the meaning of the incense at the altar in chapter 1?” It was beautiful and good.

And we made it. We’re six chapters in. We’ve taken the first six steps through the book of Luke. We’ve seen the births of both John the Baptist. We met Simeon and Anna in the Temple. Jesus grew up and was baptized. Both John the Baptist and Jesus started their public ministries. Jesus shared the beatitudes in His famous Sermon on the Plain. And so much more…

On my agenda for this next week is chapter 7-12. We will move into the heart of the ministry of Jesus. We get to see the first parable of this Gospel. Parables are simply stories told to illustrate a point and were one of Jesus’ favorite ways to teach. There are a couple of parables that are unique to this Gospel, including my absolute favorite (although that one doesn’t come until chapter 15). This week we also will see quite a bit of healing and miracles as well as a few nuggets of truth coming from the lips of our savior. As you go through the week, remember that every word is important. I’d like to challenge you to contemplate both the transfiguration and the cost of following Jesus in chapter 9. Notice the attitude of Jesus toward the Father. Be on the lookout for the Holy Spirit. Notice how much time Jesus spends in prayer.

Above all else, don’t give up. If something challenges you, allow it to challenge you, but don’t let it stop you. Make a note, write down a question, but keep going. If you have trouble reading, then listen! That’s not cheating at all…that is how Christians have taken in scripture for thousands of years. The Youversion Bible app has a “play” button that reads the text to you in multiple interpretations and even multiple languages. Explore a little and find what’s right for you. The Bible.Is app has an audio option, too. Both apps are free. Even listening, you won’t understand every little thing the first time through and that’s okay. The important thing is to persist. God’s Word is designed to be read for a lifetime.

When traveling across the country, there are many options. You can fly from coast to coast. You could drive. If you’re Forrest Gump you could even run. A different perspective is provided with each. The view from an airplane gives a broad view from above. On foot you move a lot slower but get a lot more detail, experiencing sights, sounds, and smells not available from a plane. This chapter-a-day path through Luke and Acts is much more like looking out the window of an airplane than it is a road trip. We’ll see themes, events, and attitudes but might miss some of the more subtle points and people. That’s okay. Enjoy the ride and learn to long for a return trip through this same country.

Have you seen anything new or unexpected so far?

Once again, thanks stepping into this journey. One week from today we’ll be halfway through the Gospel of Luke!

The Word: Day One

The Word: Day One

Day One

Yesterday I shared my desire to start the year with a simple, approachable Bible reading strategy. As much as I love a good plan, the intent is for our time in the Word to be something enjoyable and uncomplicated. There are no formal checklists, questions, or study guides. Our goal isn’t to climb the highest mountain, but to take a few small steps.

To be honest, I had no expectations when I hit “publish.” Having strongly encouraged others to begin Bible reading with the books of Luke and Acts, I had a bit of an internal conviction. How could I continue to recommend something I’ve never done myself? There are no other words for it but to say I felt led to not only follow my own advice, but to do so publicly. I have no agenda and no formal structure. And yet…I start the New Year with quite a few brave souls who have said “I’m in.” I find myself craving structure that will allow us to connect and communicate. I want us to be in a small group, holding each other accountable and answering each others’ questions. I want that because I’m comfortable there. I love to hear what everyone else is experiencing. I love to answer questions. I love to hear how God is working in each person’s life. I love encouraging others, praying for them, and lending an empathetic ear when things aren’t going well.

My desire is to connect with and unite all of us who have expressed a desire to do this Luke/Acts plan. The original call, though, was simplicity. The call was to a personal journey through the scriptures. So, for now, I’m resisting complicating things by pulling everyone into a group. I’m not a ringleader, I’m a sojourner. Feel free to send me questions, observations, and feedback, but I’m not driving this bus. I love to hear about how people are engaging with the Word and what they are learning.

Today, on Day One, I’d like to share a few tips and answer a few common questions. If these are helpful, super. If not, that’s fine too. Share your own tips with me so we can all learn from each other.


What’s the schedule? The plan is to go through Luke and then Acts. I’m shooting for a chapter a day, with a little bit of built-in grace. For Luke I’m shooting for 6 chapters per week. For Acts I’m looking at 7 per week. If that’s too much, then just stop when there are natural breaks. My Bible has 6 headings within the first chapter of Luke, and each of those would be fine stopping points. The goal here is to find your own rhythm. Don’t let it become a burden, but don’t give up either.


What translation should I use? Whatever you’re comfortable with. There are a billion articles on the internet talking about the different English translations of the Bible. Most “ordinary” people I know still like the NIV. The more scholarly types I hang out with prefer the NASB or ESV because they are a more literal translation of the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The CSB is a newer translation that is approachable but is also sticks closely to the original text. Some people prefer the Message, which is a paraphrase and not a translation. Personally, I find it poetic and fine in small quantities but distracting. It is old enough now that the “modern language” found in it is already a bit dated. But, the best translation for you is the one you’ll actually read. Don’t force yourself into King James if the NIV is easier for you to read. If you grew up with the KJV and find the NIV or ESV to be too informal, then by all means continue on with King James! For this study, I’m going to be using my trusty ESV journaling Bible. I’ve carried this Bible to Brazil a number of times and have spent hours in it already. I can take notes in it, highlight it, and carry it around everywhere. Although I use the Bible on my phone a lot, there is something about a physical Bible that is more inviting and intimate.


What commentary do you recommend? My goal is still to keep this simple. Personally, the best approach I’ve found if you’re struggling to understand the text or if you find you have a lot of questions is to get a good study Bible. When I first became a Christian at the age of 32, one of my first purchases was an NIV study Bible. The footnotes and brief commentaries were helpful but not distracting. They were there if I needed them, but were out of the way if I didn’t. There wasn’t devotional content (which I find distracts from the text). I’ve since “upgraded” to a really big ESV study Bible that I got on sale a few years ago. It has a lot more content in it than the NIV Bible did, but either one is sufficient. There are good study Bibles in all the major translations. An alternative (and one that fits in nicely with the overall vision) is to write out your questions and stumbling blocks and then just keep reading. Don’t seek the answers yet, just let them simmer in your mind. You may find that the answers become apparent (or irrelevant) later. I’m not saying ignore your questions…I would never say that. I’m saying enjoy this first soak through these two books and then return later for a deeper dive. If you’re looking for more insight without any additional cost, check out my New Testament professor’s web site. Here is the link to Luke 1 and 2.


Any other advice? Pray. Persist. Pray some more. From the very opening chapter of Luke we see God responding to prayer. God acts. God moves us. Why not invite Him to illuminate His Word? Invite Him to continue to transform your mind, heart, and spirit as He draws you into His Word. Pray for persistence as you spend the next 2 months reading Luke and Acts. Pray for the Word to bring you joy, that you eagerly anticipate the next reading and that you begin to long for it. I’m already praying these things for all of us. Join me. I know we have a few non-Christians joining us as well. You all can go ahead and pray too, okay? What’s the worst thing that can happen?


If you have any other questions, please share. As part of my time in Luke and Acts every day, I will be praying for each of you. If there is anything specific I can pray for, let me know.

I’m thrilled that so many people have decided to join this journey and I’m excited to see all that the Lord is going to do.

The familiar pit: Grief

The familiar pit: Grief

A side effect of a summer full of travel surfaced recently. Hours after midnight, I’ll sit straight up in bed and fumble for the lights in a mad panic. My disoriented mind attempts to discover if I’m in a hotel in Brazil, a condo by the ocean, or a sleeper train on my way to Scotland. In the dark, I could be anywhere. As the light suddenly fills the room, two questions pop into my head:

Where am I? How did I get here?

My eyes quickly find familiar objects…my lamp. The picture on the wall. My dresser. My wife. Those answers give me perspective. Context. Even though my heart is racing, the adrenaline begins to subside. My breathing slows. Awareness of my situation helps me move on. I am not entirely unchanged…even though I’m safe at home in bed, this is disruptive. I’ll be a little extra cranky tomorrow. The memory of panic will return throughout the day. Yet the truth shines through… I’m home.

Experiencing the same grief again is a similar emotional process. Self help sites and well-meaning friends may tell us grief is something we process, move through, and get over. At some point we should be better. We can expect life to be normal again. The truth is, when we lose someone we love dearly, their absence leaves a hole in our world. It’s possible to stumble into that hole again and again for the rest of our lives. When we do, we find ourselves disoriented and confused, like my panicked fumbling in the middle of the night. To find our way through it, we ask those same two questions:

Where am I? How did I get here?

Recently I found myself in that familiar pit again. Like most of us, I’ve experienced loss. Grief is familiar. I’ve recently learned that when it comes, accepting and pressing into it is much healthier than denial or avoidance. Acknowledge it for what it is without minimizing it or giving it more control than it deserves. Understand that the deep hurt is a reflection and validation of love known, experienced, and lost.

Just like the whimsy of love can drop in at any time, grief can as well. That’s what happened this time. I was staring blankly at my screen. When my screensaver kicked on, my mind snapped back to the present. “This is a familiar darkness…hello again, grief.” 


Although the weight had settled into my soul the day before, I finally recognized it for what it was. I was in the pit. Oh, but I knew that first key answer. Where am I? I’m in the pit. I’m mourning. Recognizing my surroundings was vital.


There hasn’t been a personal loss in my life lately, though. So the next question became key. Just like in my jet-lagged panic, I first had to answer:  How did I get here?

Our minds work in strange ways. Although mysterious, they aren’t entirely unpredictable. As autumn approaches and the daylight hours decrease, I tend to drift toward melancholiness. This was different. It was triggered by something. I realized social media had been showing me memories of my past.

This time, it wasn’t the anniversary of a loss that led me to the pit again. Instead, it was the anniversary of the beginning of a relationship that ultimately left me heartbroken. I had been revisiting the start of a life-changing relationship that would be cut short mere months later. Seeing the beginning prompted my mind to revisit the entire journey, including those familiar feelings about what might have been.

The wounds became fresh again. I’ve heard a broken bone become stronger than the original once it has mended. I don’t think that’s true of our emotional breaks. Years later they can still be uncovered and be once again raw and sensitive. Falling into the pit of grief reminds us that the wounds on our heart never fully heal. The pit remains because the love remains, which can be a freeing thought. Grief is a consequence of love, and love is worth it. Understanding this key helps validate our time in the pit, even years later. It frees us to feel the pain without the self-condemnation that often accompanies it.

It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to mourn again. In that way, these wounds that remain fresh do ultimately strengthen us emotionally by allowing us to revisit that love and acknowledge the loss. When we allow ourselves to feel the loss again, we also give ourselves permission to experience the joy, too. The scars we live with aren’t unlike those on Christ’s hands and feet, which the Bible tells us are eternal. Those scars are a reminder of the permanence of love. He thought it was worth it. We should, too.

My time in this particular pit had a wonderful outcome this time. By allowing myself to feel the loss, I began to remember why the loss was so deep. It wasn’t because of the way that relationship ended. The reason I find myself in this pit again is because of the joy, good times, and love. I don’t miss the ending, I miss the during. So I reached out, because in this case I can. An incredible conversation followed, and a bit of a reconnection happened. A ray of light broke through the darkness of that pit. 

Even though revisiting the pit is ultimately beneficial, it’s important to remember that life does go on. Although it is vital to allow ourselves to feel the emotions of grief and loss when they return, it is just as important to press forward into the remaining days we have been given. 

Although we glance back over our shoulder at times, our life is meant to be lived looking forward. The keys to the journey out of the pit are similar to flipping on the lights in my confused state in the darkness. Answering where am I and how did I get here was the first step for me in this new journey through this old pit.

I’ve walked this road before. I’ve been in this particular pit before. Although it’s not exactly pleasant, the familiarity makes it easier. Remembering the love that was found…the special times we shared…these things cast light into the pit. Light illuminates the path.



As I stood worshipping during the final chapel at Moriah Christian Academy, one single, simple quote came to mind. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Quickly grabbing my phone, I took a pic to capture this moment. Both my boys were up on stage, one strumming and singing, the other pounding the keys. This bittersweet moment was fleeting and would never come again.

“I want to hear voices of angels above singing as one, ‘hallelujah, holy, holy.’” As those words echoed through the sanctuary, gratitude overwhelmed me. Smile because it happened, indeed. Our eight years at MCA have been miraculous. We were told on our first visit the school was named for the biblical Mount Moriah, which means “the Lord will provide.” He has.

The music fades. The last reverberation of this fleeting moment slowly becomes silent. Through the years I have often stood outside with my back to doors that God has closed. Jobs, ministries, and even friendships. “What’s next” is a question I face with uncanny frequency. The experience is familiar but never easy. Each ending is a reminder that life is a journey and each season is only for a time. Smile because it happened.

But oh, these precious times and memories go deep. Tears carve a canyon in our soul. The heart longs to return to treasures of the past. Remembering first days, first friends, and first adventures….Science fairs and talent shows. Yes, we smile because it happened. We thank God for the incredible times we have had. Letting go is oh, so hard, though. The smiles we now share are through tears. Even as we rejoice for all God has in front of us, we grieve for those times that will never come again. We mourn that these halls will soon be empty and “what’s next” for each of us lie down different paths.

Our oldest son is graduating, which is a beautiful thing. At last week’s chapel I mentioned that He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20) certainly did so with my sons. Each are unique, but each is immeasurably more than I could have ever dared to ask or imagine. I’m often humbly driven to my knees, wondering what I ever did to deserve this kind of blessing. These young men are like “arrows in the hands of a warrior,” (Ps 127:4) ready to be launched into the world, guided by divine providence to make an impact on the world. Now is their time. First one, followed quickly by the other. My role is quickly transforming from coach to cheerleader to spectator as they step fully into manhood.

Tears meander toward the earth as I turn for one last look at that closed door. I smile. Unlike that famous quote, though, I believe it’s okay to cry because it’s over while you smile because it happened. We carry both grief and joy on our travels down the road to where He is leading us next. Denying one or the other is an injustice to our past and undermines our future. We trust that it will be as profound, impactful, and significant as the roads we have traveled so far.

Finding Life: Fight For It

Finding Life: Fight For It

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but …against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph 6:12

As a kid one of our favorite games was to have breath-holding competitions. It was generally a battle of wills. We learned the human body can go longer without breathing than one would think. Somebody always won, nobody ever passed out, and we didn’t have any fatalities. Oh, but that first victorious deep breath after the contest ended was sweet.

In the journey of life, there will be moments that take our breath away. There will also be moments that find us frantically gasping for air. I have exercised induced asthma that is triggered by cold. So, while it only happens rarely, I am intimately familiar with the feeling of my body betraying me, closing down my airways as I gasp to take in the oxygen that so abundantly surrounds me. What happens when life is that way?

There is fuel for our soul…just out of reach. We are gasping for breath but disconnected from the source.

When running, the most effective response is to slow down. Open the airways. Rest. When it’s time to return to the fight, work into it slowly. Our battle is not the road or the race, it’s our airways.

In our life, too, our battle is often not what it seems. When we find ourselves gasping, our gut reaction is to try fight harder. We pull back from relationships and positive habits to focus on regaining our footing. But our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood. We easily forget the battle against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Our struggle blinds us. 

Let’s draw a lesson from my asthma…

Plodding Onward!

Slow down, but keep moving forward. Don’t wander from the path.

Open the airways. “All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.” (1 John 4:15)  God is never far from you. Recenter on Him. Breathe in grace. Breathe out praise. Pray.

Rest. Even God rested. Not because He had to, but as an example to us. Trust Him.

Plod forward. God has called you to something. But He didn’t say you had to get there today. Small steps are still forward progress. Forward progress is better than quitting the race. Trust His guidance and strength.

Find a running partner. When we can’t find God, our trusted companions can point us to Him. Speaking the truth in love can challenge us, but reorients us.

The moments of panicked gasping never last. We can learn to navigate them. God has called us to boldly step into His plan. Keep. Moving. Forward.

This post is the fourth entry of a #5ForFive challenge by the Rev1211 community. This year, the group theme is “breathe,” and my theme is “Finding Life.”  You can visit part one here, part two here, and part three on my Facebook page here.

Finding Life: Breathe In

Finding Life: Breathe In

“…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Gen 2:7

The words of a fictional scientist decades ago stuck with me. Long before Jeff Goldblum brought the character of Ian Malcolm to the silver screen, the phrase “life will find a way” leapt from the pages of a borrowed book and lodged in my cranium. Life will find a way. It doesn’t just apply to dinosaurs, but to you and I.

As life finds its way, how do we find it? How does this general inevitability become personal and passionate?

Let’s take a step back. For those of us who are radical enough to believe that in the beginning God created, every object in this universe exists for a purpose. That purpose has more depth and richness than our textbooks present. For example, rain is much more than the arrows drawn in an Earth Science textbook can convey. Sunset is more than masses in motion and energy interfering with molecules in the atmosphere. You and I both know it at a level ingrained deep in whatever make us “us.”  Afternoon summer showers and quiet evenings watching the sun fade can be profound. We experience a touch of the divine. That’s where we find life…In our creator, the source of it all.

Let’s step forward now. Like the clouds at sunset, you and I are also much more than simply molecules in motion. To think we are merely a complex set of chemical reactions responding to stimuli is to miss the profound purpose  our lives are and can be. It diminishes our significance and misses our own intersection with the divine and the possibility of knowing Him. Just like the earth, birds, and the trees, our lives were created to point to the one who made us all.

In the beginning, God breathed life into mankind. Man knew the creator personally and intimately. We knew our purpose and delighted in it. Then we turned from it. Now we seek purpose and fulfillment everywhere but Him. Jobs, relationships, art, entertainment, diversions, education, and a myriad of other pursuits. All fall short of fully filling us, because all fall short of what we were created to be filled by.

Let that sink in. Breathe in deeply. Exhale slowly. Whatever you’ve thought about God in the past, consider this now…He created you. Lovingly. He cherishes you. The One who splattered the Milky Way across the night sky also knit you together. His creativity shines through you when you are grounded in Him. His plans for us are always more incredible than our plans for ourselves. He sees in full what we only see in part, and He is the architect, artist, and engine for it all. When we return to Him, we learn that He freely gives. We find purpose, creativity, and meaning. We find life.

Breathe in. Breathe in and live.

This post is the first of a #5ForFive challenge by the Rev1211 community. This year, the group theme is “breathe,” and my theme is “Finding Life.”  


The Polymath Talk

The Polymath Talk

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Jerrod and I

 Below is the text of my Launch Out St. Louis presentation. I’ve had a few people request I post it somewhere. Although it is written specifically to be delivered verbally, hopefully it makes sense as text. The cadence and inflection were an important component of the delivery. If you’d like the full experience, the video is here.


Pondering Purpose: Perspectives of a polymath paralyzed by potential and possibilities

(this presentation is brought to you by the letter “u”)


As a young child I woke up at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning. I would bolt out of bed and sit under the glow of the television, eating my cinnamon toast and watching cartoons. After solving crimes as I rode with the gang in the Mystery Machine, I’d get together with my super friends to battle the legion of doom. I’d grab a picnic basket with Yogi before running through the desert with the Roadrunner. This life was full of adventure…it was a good life. A simple life. And then… then I would find myself in space. Zooming into the earth, I discovered a city built on stilts. In those houses in the clouds, a car would fly by. This car held one of my favorite families. The Jetsons.

Even as a young boy, my head was in the clouds. I love looking to the future and imagining the possibilities of all the things that could be. In the world of George, Jane, Judy, and Elroy, not only were there flying cars, but robots would brush your teeth or clean your house. People moved from room to room by being sucked through large tubes, often while a machine dressed them for the day. There were moving sidewalks. Kids could actually talk to each other through their televisions. The future was Rosie, so to speak.

As enamored as I was with this shiny future, I always felt sorry for George. It wasn’t because his boss yelled at him so much or because he was accident prone. No, I pitied George because of the work he had to do. George’s job was to push a button. One button. Sure, he might have been good at his job, but that’s all his job was. Even sitting on the floor in my batman underoos wearing my Chewbacca house shoes under the glimmer of that cathode ray tube, I knew I wasn’t wired that way.

When I grew up, I wanted to be a duck, flying freely through the sky and floating lazily on the ponds. I wanted to be an astronaut, exploring space. Discovering new life and new civilizations. I would be an inventor and automotive engineer, shepherding in a new era of technology. I wanted to be a marine biologist, sailing on the Calypso and diving to the unexplored depths of the seas. These weren’t phases I went through, I wanted to be all of them at the same time. You see, we aren’t all wired to be like George.


I’m a polymath. A polymath is someone who passionately pursues many different things. It’s different than ADD, but there are similarities. If you ask my community of friends what it is that I do, you’re likely to hear that I’m a photographer. Someone else might tell you I’m a pastor, or maybe a missionary. A different person might tell you I’m a writer. Someone might say I work in information security. So which is it? All of the above. That’s what a polymath looks like.

All my life people have asked me what I want to be when I grow up. People are still asking. As if I have to pick. As if there is one thing. To tell you the truth, I still haven’t decided and I know now that I never will. I’m perpetually undecided.

From my perspective, I was paralyzed. Those infinite possibilities have that effect on a polymath. Our cultural narrative tells all of us we should find one thing to do. Find that one thing and master it. They tell us that is the secret to finding value, meaning, and significance in life. The world tells you to find that one button to push and then push it with all of your might for all of your days. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell observed that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to be world-class at any one thing. But what if I’m not wired that way? What if you’re not? When I focus on just one thing, something tragic happens. I’m fighting against my built-in programming. If I sell my camera to buy a typewriter, a piece of my soul dies. When that happens, I’m not as good a writer. Because I’m a polymath, I need the interplay between all these different disciplines in order for any of them to be good. That tension must exist, it provides the spark for creativity and the fuel for the journey.

My perspective had to change. Paralyzed is no way to live. But what can I give up? What one thing should I choose? I wasted years this way.

When I quit my day job to be a writer, I experienced the longest dry spell of my life. When I stopped writing to focus on photography, words burned in my head and in my hands, consuming me until they found an outlet.

It was only when I accepted myself as I am–the way that I was knit together by our creator–it was only then that I discovered the joy of being a polymath. Within the tension created by balancing writing, photography, preaching, and information security, I found life. Exhilaration. Instead of feeling pulled in a thousand different directions, I looked for the common thread uniting them all. In this new exploration, I discovered the beautiful journey my life was designed to be. I became unstuck. I became free.

Perspective. That common thread I found was that our lives have significance and meaning. We were each created for a purpose. Everything I do points to that truth in some way.

That first step…the one that took years to discover…is acceptance.

To step into a life of meaning, we begin by accepting the beautiful tapestry that we each are. You were designed to shine, but first you have to step away from the things that hinder. For me, it was that big button George Jetson pushed his whole life. I had to stop looking for that button that would complete me and instead look at myself. I had to discover my own unique shape and then accept it.

I had to accept my polymathedness. I had to understand my own composition and trust the one who created me. I had to accept that I’ll never be the best at any one thing, even though I could be pretty good at many. That was a difficult truth to swallow, but I found freedom on the other side. I discovered room to flourish. A space to be me. That freedom to explore flows from self-acceptance. Instead of trying to be like someone else or living up to someone else’s expectation I learned to trust God with the way He wired me.

All my life I’ve heard it repeated: you can be anything you want to be. The uncomfortable truth is, you can’t. You see, we are each uniquely designed. We’re customized. When we accept that the possibilities aren’t truly infinite, we begin to understand that the options still left on the table mesh with our internal composition. Instead of mourning the loss of all you can’t be, embrace the satisfaction of doing what you were created to do.

Perspectives. Acceptance.

Moving forward into a life of meaning, even after we have accepted our own uniqueness, is still a struggle. For me, even when I accept that I can juggle multiple gifts, I still think I need to focus on a single one. I’m a high achiever, I want to be the best at what I do. Over the years I found myself turning opportunities down because I feared failure. I feared I would never be the best. I sat on the sidelines, waiting for the day I would discover my true calling. Waiting to discover what I could be the best at. Eventually, I found it. I overcame that paralysis when I understood that the only thing I could be the best at is being me. When that clicked into place, I found even more freedom. Freedom to truly explore my own unique design and purpose.

This is integration.

We naturally tend toward elimination instead of integration. We try to cut out all the little things in our lives that don’t contribute directly to our dream. But all of us here are human, and humans are complex.

In my journey, when I focused solely on writing, my perspective was that my day job was hindering me. It was my big obstacle, so I eliminate it. What I found out, though, is that income helps. Later, I thought photography took me away from graduate studies. Public speaking interferes with my ministry. My struggles with physical pain and clinical depression undermine everything. But I learned to integrate it all into my message and my mission. It is all part of my story, and that story is glorious. Through everything I do the core message remains…life has purpose. Life has meaning. I believe that. And I believe in you.

My words, photos, ministry, and entire life are crafted to point to the truth about our creator and ourselves. We were custom crafted by a glorious and beautiful creator who loves us very much. As we learn to embrace this, we learn to step boldly into all we were designed to do. There is nothing as satisfying as integrating all you are into all you do.

Even our obstacles. Those things that seem to so painfully hinder us…lack of money, lack of time, lack of support, sickness, loss… all those things shape us. They refine us if we let them. The struggles give our lives focus. They help us prioritize. As we persistently push through the pain, we emerge stronger and wiser. If our perspective lets us. A healthy perspective tells us that every obstacle is temporary. Even our darkest and most painful moments can be endured. They can be integrated into our story.

Perspective. Acceptance. Integration.

After gaining this new perspective of acceptance and integration, another struggle still remains. This one is particularly troublesome for the polymath. Distraction.

A polymath that has accepted his own design easily rationalizes a lack of focus. It can resemble an attention disorder. It’s easy to only write when inspiration strikes. To only minister when on a mission trip. To only take pictures when conditions are perfect. If every aspect isn’t ideal, we always have something different to tinker with. What I’ve learned, though, is that discipline is the one habit that differentiates between average and exceptional. Significance versus meaningless. And who wants to live a meaningless life? I certainly don’t.

Hopefully none of us do.

So once we discover that common thread connecting all our various pursuits, it’s important to find the discipline to focus. It can be okay to jump from thing to thing, as long as each is working toward the larger vision, allowing the natural tension between disciplines to feed each other and the message. Andy Stanley once said that our direction…not our intentions…determines our destination. We can’t let our diverse interests divert our eyes from the end goal, a life of significance that impacts the world in a positive way.

Perspective. Acceptance. Integration. Discipline.

That’s the point of this presentation about polymaths, potential, possibilities, and paralysis. The truth is, you might not be a polymath at all. But, just like me, you have a unique design. You have a purpose…a work to do that is significant and meaningful. You might feel the tension …between what you’ve got to do and what you’d like to do. You can’t let go of your current circumstances to step into the new, but you can’t let go of the new stuff either. All of us end up there some time.

And when you do, remember to adjust your perspective. Accept who you are. Integrate everything you have into everything you do. Keep stepping in the direction of your dream.



Moving Forward

Moving Forward

The morning news has broken my heart. Every day. It isn’t that he won the election or that she could have. It is the division and divisiveness. Tears. Grief. Riots. People claim our country will return to the dark ages, or perhaps worse. They say bigotry will once again be the law of the land and fundamental individual rights will cease to exist. Millions across the nation are living in fear, wondering if our country can survive this.

As the nation reacts on social media, I continue to be confronted by one question: What is the response of the Christian? Although I know many Christians who voted for each candidate (including third parties), everything that people fear will happen in the next four years is being placed at the feet of the evangelical Christian. Regardless of how we actually voted, we are being looked to for guidance in making sense of the mess we’re in and finding a path forward. So where do we go from here? How do we heal a nation? How do we avoid repeating the mistakes of the now infamous “moral majority” movement from decades ago?

Interestingly enough, who sits in the Oval Office does not change the mandate of the Christian. God’s kingdom is much bigger than our country. But, since a nation is looking for answers, let’s revisit a few key points of our faith.

As believers, we our response is informed by Scripture. At times like these, my Bible naturally opens to Micah 6:8: 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”

Do justice.

Before I was a believer, I would have guessed this verse was a mandate for believers to judge others and punish them for violating God’s standards. When read in context, though, a deeper meaning is revealed. God has always commanded His people to look out for the downtrodden and oppressed. We are to find those who are being discriminated against or overlooked in society and advocate for them. We are often reminded to take care of the widows and orphans, but that is only the starting point. Our understanding of humanity and the human condition is that ALL humans have an inherent and infinite value. The implication is that not only do we personally seek to refrain from oppressing the basic human rights of ANYONE, we also sacrificially stand up to combat oppression everywhere we see it. Yes, that means that I absolutely will take a stand to defend the rights of my Muslim neighbors to freely practice their beliefs. It means I adamantly fight racism, bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia, and misogyny everywhere I find it and by any method I can. It also means if you disagree with me on my political, religious, social, or other beliefs, you have nothing to fear from me. This is how the believer is designed to live. Anything less is not Christianity.

Love kindness.

Once again, this is fueled by our deeply held belief that every person is of infinite value. When things get heated, take a deep breath. Take a look around. Every individual you see was uniquely and lovingly hand crafted by our Creator. Each person is deeply loved and each life has meaning and purpose. As Christians, we believe that God loves “that person” so deeply that He willingly paid the ultimate price to reconcile that relationship. With that in mind, how can we not treat our fellow humans with kindness? Yes, we are still human and prone to outbursts fueled by anger and outrage. But love kindness. Seek reconciliation. Apologize quickly and seek deeper connections with those who aren’t like you.

Walk humbly.

Many of my evangelical friends had deep and valid concerns about the election. There was nothing about this year’s voting choice that was clear cut or easy. I have quite a few friends breathing a sigh of relief right now. Right or wrong, their perception was that the country would take an irreversible turn away from issues that they held dear if the result had been different (and the issues they care about are not the ones making the news). Even so, God reminds us to walk humbly. That means entering into the fray not to gloat but instead to understand those who are hurting, to let them know they are deeply valued and truly loved. We humbly reach out to those who grieve and assure them that there is hope and that they are not forgotten. If our posture is not humble, our posture is not Christian.

These three themes are present from Genesis through Revelation. This is the ideal and standard for a believer’s life. Yes, we aren’t perfect, but striving to embody these principles are how we outwardly display our internal beliefs. We don’t look to politicians or even celebrity pastors to lead us in this, we look to God alone and then walk this out together. The church, like the country, is still at its best when we work together as “we the people,” finding common ground and moving forward with unity.

To my fellow Christians…

Yes, we believe in absolute truth. We believe in right and wrong, even if we don’t always agree on every nuance. But I ask you to remember your own past and journey…show others the grace you have been shown. There isn’t a single Christian who has “behaved” into a right relationship with God. We were saved by grace and our lives were transformed by grace. Let’s not expect those outside the faith to embrace our own ideals. Our greatest goal is to win people for Christ. We do that relationally, often listening more than we speak. If the perception others have of Christians is of a hate-filled bigot who spews judgmental and ignorant rhetoric, they will certainly miss the beauty of God’s love for them. This is the image we must fight against. With our lives. We must be painfully aware that we are ambassadors of Christ, sent to bring good news. We are not His mercenaries. We are not the judge, jury, or executioner. We are messengers. Never lose sight of the bigger picture and the deeper calling on our lives.

To those who don’t yet share my faith…

I hear your cries. I understand that you are grieving and worried, and it breaks my heart. I value your perspective and deeply want to know it more fully. I readily admit that there have been Christians on the wrong side of oppression and injustice at every era of history. But those who take our beliefs seriously instead of politically have been on the right side of it. Remember people like Williams Wilberforce who, compelled by his belief in the Christian God, spent his life ending the British slave trade. People like that still exist. They just don’t make the headlines.

I’m not going to ask you to trust us. I’m certain you have stories of deep hurt inflicted by people claiming to be on God’s side. I do, too. Honestly, that’s what kept me an atheist for 20 years. But I ask you to hold us accountable to standing up for injustice and oppression. Reach out to us. As you fight, you will find many of us standing beside you. As a Christian and an American, I wholeheartedly believe that all people were created equal. Equal value, equal worth, and equal rights. No matter who is in the White House, this is something for which I pledge to always stand and for which am willing to die.




This is Derek. 8c8d5893-9d7c-4a9c-a937-9709d44eaa39I met him a few years ago at a pumpkin patch. Although I’ve seen his family around these parts my entire life, I guess I never got to know any of them very well. The look on Derek’s face intrigued me. I pulled up a bale of hay and struck up a conversation.

“Hello, friend!”

“Hello, young one. I’m Derek. What can I do for you today?”

“You looked lonely. I thought you might like some company.”

“I’ve been in this field for years. Through thunderstorms and blizzards, tornadoes and earthquakes. I watch the pumpkins grow. I see the people rush by. After all these years, a touch of melancholy has set in.”

“But Derek, you’ve seen countless beautiful sunsets from where you stand. Plus, the work you do brings warmth to the people of this land. Things can’t be all that bad, right?”

“Young one, I do not grow melancholy for myself, but for those I see hurry by. Look at that family over there, tell me what you see.”

“Well, there’s a mom and dad with their toddler. I saw them pose for a picture with scarecrow just a moment ago, now they’re hunting for the perfect pumpkin. It’s actually a sweet sight.”

“Ah…but did you see how they rushed? This pumpkin patch is a mere checklist item for them, a chance to capture a picture, not a memory. Did you see their daughter? There was a butterfly on the scarecrow. She was enthralled by its beauty. Perhaps she lives in an apartment in the city and has never seen one before. Her parents didn’t see the butterfly…they hollered at her to look at the camera and then made her move on as soon as the shutter clicked. The picture was more important than the moment, so the moment was missed.”51ce8bd6-8d7e-4311-a864-c4dfd38d9d36

“Gee, Derek. Surely it isn’t that bad. Look at them enjoying the pumpkins!”

“Watch the little girl. See her staring longingly at that cute little pumpkin with the discolored stripe? She sees the beauty in the imperfection. But dad tugs her away. He’s finding the biggest, most perfect specimen. He’s missing the beauty of the young lady’s perspective.”

“Okay, Derek, now I’m getting a little melancholy, too. I see myself in that situation, and I hesitate to tell you which side of that relationship I’m on.”

“I’ve seen you, too. You’ve been here many times, but this is the first time you’ve noticed me. You’re learning, young one. You’re growing. You’re slowing down. In a good way. There is still hope for you. There is still time.img_0096

Listen, young one. Most people walk through life with their head down. They hyper-focus on what they don’t have and neglect what gifts have already been given. A single hardship overshadows a hundred blessings. Young one, take a step back from the moment you’re in. Seek a long view on life. In ten years, the overwhelming hardship you face today will no longer matter. However it resolves, it will be in the distant past. Why worry so much about it today if it will not matter at all tomorrow? What will still matter are the relationships you have and the memories you make. Play more freely. Love more deeply. Rest more frequently. You will discover your days are full of beauty and love. You will learn to truly soak in a sunset. Even your cloudy days and darkest nights will retain a glimmer of hope, love, and beauty.

Some days you will be sad. Some days you will cry.  With a longer perspective, you are free to fully feel, knowing it is simply for a time or a season. The sadness and tears will pass, and the sunshine will return.”

“But Derek, when we love deeply, we hurt deeply, too.”

“It’s worth it young one. Every time. It’s worth it.”img_0162

img_0097I walked away from Derek deeply pondering his words.. As I walked my boys over to the pumpkin patch, we meandered a bit. For the first time, I noticed the family of red-headed woodpeckers nesting in a telephone pole. The setting sun broke through the grove of trees that were now between Derek and me. After a brief pause, I picked up my pumpkin…slightly lopsided with a discolored streak right up the front. Like life, it was imperfect but beautiful.