What Do You See?

What do you see?

People? A stone floor? A giant stone wall? Backpacks? Shoes? Cameras?

I’ve seen this place on the news… on tv many times.

The Wailing Wall. Some call it the Western Wall.

What do you see?

The first time I saw it in person was at night with a small group of people. Everything all lit up, the giant stone wall climbing to the pitch black night sky. It was a sight I will never forget. Amazing and awe inspiring doesn’t come close to describing it.

The next day we came back with the whole group. There’s actually two areas to approach the wall. One area for the guys and one area for the women. Regardless of what you believe or feel about that, it’s the way it is.

For guys, you can’t approach the wall without your head being covered. If you don’t have a hat, there are yarmulkes that you can grab and place on your head. I had a hat, but I took one to wear anyway… I may or may not have given it back like you were supposed to. I know I know… I’m a horrible person. I still have it somewhere around my house.

Like many places in Jerusalem and Israel, the place that I was standing, the Wailing Wall, was and is holy ground. It’s not like Disney World where kids are running around and people are laughing. There is a weight and sense of reverence for this place that is within the walls of Old Jerusalem.

The ground that I was standing on was and is considered holy.

As I walked into the area that you can see in the photo, it was clear that this place was 100% different than the area just 15 feet behind me. Towards the back there were Jews who were studying the Torah… sitting at a desk, memorizing and literally taking in the Word of God.

As I walked closer to the wall, I could see people praying silently. Some were placing paper into the cracks of the wall. That was something I was prepared for. I remembered seeing that on the news as I was growing up. We were also prepped beforehand so that we could write a prayer to God and place it in the wall. As I stood at the wall, and placed my paper prayer in the crack, I could see the Orthodox Jews out of the corner of my eye.

The Orthodox Jews don’t just stand in silence to pray at the wall. The guys that I saw were rocking back and forth and were physically and audibly crying out to God. As I stood there and watched, it was clear that they so desperately wanted the presence of God and wanted God to hear their prayer.

As I looked to my right, there were others, non Jews, tears streaming down their faces as they cried out to God and stuck their paper prayers into the wall.

Jews. Non Jews. People from all over the world. Standing at the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) crying out to God. Asking for God to hear them. Desiring God to move.

As I stood there, I no longer simply saw stones and walls. I not only felt the presence of God, but I saw it there in the holy place and in the very people I was standing next to.

It’s now been over a year since we’ve visited Israel. But the lessons of that trip, the lessons of specific areas keep seeping into my life… into my mind.

This place, the Wailing Wall, has not been more applicable to me than right here and right now.

When you look at 2020 what do you see?

When you look out into our country, what do you see?

When you look at those that sit on the opposite party as you, what do you see?

These are questions we all need to ask ourselves. And it’s a question that we all must answer.

As I was beginning to write this post, I could hear my kids arguing and fighting upstairs (my office is in the basement.) The words that came out of their mouths toward each other broke my heart. After talking with them, I took Lola on a walk to clear my head.

As I was walking the dog, two things happened… each song that I listened to was centered around the presence of God. This wasn’t a 10 minute walk. This walk took 40 minutes. It’s not an accident that each artist sang about the presence of God. Secondly, God placed this question in my mind… “What do you see?” And then it hit me and I started to wonder… What do my kids see when they are arguing with each other?

As I thought about it those 40 minutes, it became clearer and clearer that my kids only see whatever it is that they are arguing about. This morning it was cold brew coffee. It was all about what they perceived to be “theirs.” They didn’t see each other as a brother or sister. They didn’t see each other as human beings. They didn’t look at each other and see the very presence of God in each of them… that they are made in the image of God. They didn’t see any of that… They simply saw each other as the enemy to what they wanted.

Guys… People… It’s the same thing with our country. It’s the same with those who are on the right and the left. Those who are red. Those who are blue. It’s the same for me and for you. Ohhhhhhhhh. That rhymed… totally didn’t mean to do that, but I’ll keep it.

What do you see?

When you look out at our country… When you look at those who are on the opposite aisle… when you look at those who have wronged you and those whom you disagree with… when you look at those people, do you only see the issues? Do you only see red? Do you only see blue? Do you only see the perceived wrongs? Or do you see the presence of God in their souls. Do you see the image of God that they have been created?

What do you see?

You see, when all we see are the issues…. When all we see is red or blue. When all we see are the perceived wrongs and disagreements… It’s easy to hate the other side. It’s easy to be enraged with anger towards them and sling hateful words. It’s easy to look at them with disdain.

But when we begin to see the presence of God in others… When we begin to see the image of God within their very being… we will begin to treat them with love and kindness. We begin to see the intrinsic value they have... not because of who they are, but because of who's they are... because they are God's creation.

But how can we begin to possibly see differently?

Check this out…

“I asked them about the conditions among the Jews there who had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem. They told me, 'The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.' When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven. I said, 'God, God-of-Heaven, the great and awesome God, loyal to his covenant and faithful to those who love him and obey his commands: Look at me, listen to me. Pay attention to this prayer of your servant that I’m praying day and night in intercession for your servants, the People of Israel, confessing the sins of the People of Israel. And I’m including myself, I and my ancestors, among those who have sinned against you.” - Nehemiah 1:2-6

It’s hard to argue where our country is at. It’s hard to argue that it doesn’t resemble what Jerusalem looked like back when Nehemiah walked the earth.

But what Nehemiah saw and what we ultimately see is defined by what our heart sees… It ultimately is determined by where our heart is… When Nehemiah received a verbal picture of Jerusalem, it didn’t enrage him… he didn’t lash out and attack the people responsible… No.

It broke his heart… when he received the verbal picture of Jerusalem, the Bible tells us that he sat down and wept… that he mourned for days… and that he fasted and prayed before the God-of-Heaven.

You see, it’s hard to hate people when your heart breaks for them. It’s hard to hate people when you fast and pray to the God-of-Heaven for them.

Nehemiah also knew something else… He also knew that he himself had sins to atone for… He knew that he also had a hand in the problems of Jerusalem…And he took responsibility for his sins and confessed them to the God-of-Heaven.

So… What do you see?

Do you only see the issues… The colors… The disagreements… The hurts… which enrages you.

Or,

Do you see what Nehemiah sees? Do you see the very presence of God in people. Do you see the image of God in those you may have differences with?

Nehemiah’s heart broke for the people of Jerusalem. If we want to see people how Nehemiah saw people, it starts in our heart. It starts with seeing ourselves for who we are and praying and confessing our sins to the God-of-Heaven. It starts with our hearts breaking for the wrongs that we have committed… Taking responsibility and calling on God to ask for forgiveness.

Then, and only then, will we see like Nehemiah saw and have our hearts break for others… to weep for our nation.

It’s hard to hate people when your heart breaks for them. It’s hard to hate people when you fast and pray to the God-of-Heaven for them.

So the question remains…

What do you see?


In the Everyday

I love this photo.

It’s probably one of my favorite photos from the time we went to Israel.

If you look closely, you’ll notice the group is walking away from me. As I stood there to get a different shot, the entire group ended up way around the curve.

I don’t know how many people visit Jerusalem a day, but there were a ton of people all over the place. For the entire trip I would hang out in the back and/or wander off to get the photograph I needed to get. At one point, someone asked Jami where I was at… to which she replied, “I don’t know, I’m sure he’s somewhere nearby.” Sheila Beeson heard the question and she quickly replied, “Don’t worry about Todd, he’ll catch up and be fine.” I’m sure she’s had the same experience with Mark many times over.

Time and time again our guide, Mitch, would be asking where I was, or would call me over the radio to stay up with the group, or tell me to get down from wherever I had climbed. At one point, as we got off the buses, Mitch pulled me aside and said, “Todd, I have eyes all over this city (Jerusalem),” then laughed… then said he was serious. Another time he saw a billy goat on the side of a cliff and exclaimed to everyone on the bus, “Look, there’s Todd!”

I couldn’t help it. To get the photos I wanted, I had to leave the traditional, normal path to get the view I needed.

Visiting Jerusalem was an interesting city to see. On one hand, you had all of these groups specifically coming to walk where Jesus walked.

Then you had the native Israelis who live within the very community that Jesus lived. They go to school. They go to work. They play. Drive their cars… they literally live their everyday lives in the very place that Jesus lived His.

As I walked around and took photos, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these people walk around and miss the fact that they are walking in the very place that Jesus walked. How many of these people are walking around, missing Jesus… not even aware… they’ve grown so accustomed to their place that they miss Him. Day in and day out, it’s the same view… same schedule.

And then, as I think about my own life, I can’t help but realize that there are times when I’ve grown so accustomed to my own life, my own way of living that there are times that I miss Jesus in the everyday.

The schedule. The activities. The day-to-day living can get so jumbled together that I miss the fact that Jesus is walking with me everyday.

The days become the same everyday.

Jesus knew this, it’s why He withdrew himself to get away and take a different path from the people He was with. Check this out…

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. - Luke 5:16

Listen to this…

Sometimes you need to remove yourself from the normal path to be able to explore and get a different view of Jesus.

Jesus knew that. It’s why he often withdrew to lonely places… so that he could focus and get a different view of life and a different view of God.

Just like I needed to get away from everyone and get off the normal path to get a different view for a different photo… our lives are the same. In order to get a different view of life… in order to get a different view of Jesus, we need to get off the normal path we usually take.

Life can be busy. Life can get muddy. Especially now with the election drawing near. Our nation’s leaders just flat out lying to the people they have sworn to serve. It can get frustrating and if we’re honest, depressing.

But Jesus has given us a different way to live. He’s given us a different path to take.

I don’t know if you’re missing Jesus in the everyday moments. If that’s the case, take a different path that you’re used to. Change things up.

Get away by yourself. Pray. Ask God to reveal himself to you in the everyday moments.


Sea of Galilee

Play Dough Faith

Play Dough

I used to love playing with play dough. It was great. I mean, first off, the smell of play dough was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Secondly, it felt good to play with because it was so soft… unless you left the lid off the play dough, then it became hard as a rock… and, well, that wasn’t good.

Thirdly, you could make almost anything out of play dough… and with the right colors, you could make food like eggs look legit… well, to a six year old.

When I was growing up, we had a play dough set that, with the right colors, you could make what looked like fried eggs. So one day, as I was playing with the play dough set, the neighbor boy came over to see what I was playing with and told me he was hungry. I told him that I was making eggs and that he should try one.

After a bit of selling him on the idea that these were in fact real eggs, he tried them… he took a bite, started to chew and then spit the bite of play dough right out of his mouth. He obviously hated the fake eggs that he ate.

Yes. I fed the neighbor boy play dough eggs. I don’t know why he actually took a bite, maybe his vision was blurry.

The next day, when I told him I could make him bacon and pancakes, he simply walked away without saying a word.

I didn’t have compassion on this kid at all. It was about me.

There’s another feeding that took place. This one, much bigger than the feeding of the play dough eggs… check it out:

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. - Matthew 14:13-21

You see, Jesus had just lost his cousin… his friend, John the Baptist, because King Herod had just given the order to kill him. Yet, even though Jesus left to be alone, once he saw the crowds the Bible tells us that he had compassion on them. He originally went across the sea to get away, to be alone. Instead, He had compassion on the people and healed their sick.

Hours later, in the evening as it was getting late, the disciples wanted to send these people away to have them find their own supper. But Jesus says something they weren’t expecting…

“They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.”

The disciple’s responded by telling Jesus that they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus told the disciples to bring them to Him. It’s like the disciples were saying, we can’t get this to work Jesus.

As a parent, when our kids couldn't get something to work, my response was... "Here, give it to me. Let me take a look." And immediately I got it to work and gave it back to them because the father knows what he's doing.

Jesus, then takes the loaves and the two fish, looked to heaven and gave thanks. Jesus knew that His father knew what He was doing and made those five loaves and two fish work.

This act of feeding these more than 5,000 hungry people was another display of compassion. It would have been easy to dismiss these people to find food on their own. But Jesus was filled with compassion.

When Jesus told the disciples to feed the people, he in essence was saying, “have compassion” on them. Don’t send them away hungry. Feed them.

Compassion. It’s an interesting word. It was also part of Jesus’ character. The origin of the word helps us grasp the true breadth and significance of compassion. In Latin, “compati” means to suffer with. Compassion means that someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak. Someone else’s suffering becomes your suffering. Another’s hunger becomes your hunger.

The Bible tells us over and over to be compassionate.

Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

1 Peter 3:8 - Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Zechariah - This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another…

True compassion changes the way you live. It’s not a once-in-a-while event. It’s a lifestyle. Having true compassion means having true faith in a true God… it’s not play dough faith. It was part of who Jesus was and is. And with the help of Jesus Himself, the Father and Holy Spirit, it can be a part of our character as well.

So the question is, how, in our own life, can we be compassionate with others? How can we show compassion and to whom do we need to show compassion to? God will give us opportunities, it’s up to us to be in a place to be able to see those opportunities and act.


Not Yet

Coffee

It’s the one drink that I HAVE to have in the morning. Brewed. With caramel macchiato creamer… latte… and in the summer time, cold brew.

With the hot coffee, other than a few minutes, I can start drinking it almost right away. But with cold brew, I have to wait. You see, with cold brew, it takes approximately 24 hours to make. From the time I put the grounds in the cold-brew pitcher, to serving time, is 24 hours.

This last batch, Morgan wanted some. So when she asked if she could go get it from the fridge , I said, “Not yet.” It wasn’t ready. It still had time to brew left.

Life can be like that too.

“Not yet,” God says.

You had life all planned out. Your dreams all dreamt up. Maybe from the time you were a little kid…

The type of job you’d have. The type of guy or girl you’d marry. The amount of money you’d make. The family you’d start.

Dreams. Plans. Ambitions. Goals. And… then… God says,

“Not yet.”

Our dreams. Our plans. Our prayers. They’re often what we live our lives by. But too many times, what we are living… our current reality… is far from what we’d wish it were.

“Not yet.”

These aren’t words that I wanted to hear as a kid. And still, as an adult, these are not the words that I want to hear from the lips of God either. Our goals. Our plans. Our dreams. Our desires. We want them now… because we really believe that we are ready for them now.

To become the leader. To start that business. To build that ministry or career. To get married and/or to start a family. We want all of these things so badly… right now. And in the quiet, even dark-like moments God says, “Not yet.”

And you’re left wondering… “Why?” “Why God?”

There was another guy who I’m sure felt the same way. Joseph, in Genesis chapter 37, he had a couple of dreams… dreams from God. And he told his brothers,

Listen to this dream I had. We were all out in the field gathering bundles of wheat. All of a sudden my bundle stood straight up and your bundles circled around it and bowed down to mine. Genesis 37:5-7

And like any great brothers would do, they said, “So you’re going to boss us around!?” And the Bible tells us that they hated him more than ever because of his dreams. Not taking the hint, Joseph told them another dream. This one he said that he dreamt that the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. His brothers became more jealous and after he told his father, his father reprimanded him.

These dreams that Joseph had… to be a leader of a great nation. A dream from God. What did God say?

“Not yet Joseph.”

Joseph’s dream was put on hold. He had to wait. Not only did he have to wait, he had to do it in a cistern first after his brothers threw him in there. Then he had to do it from a jail cell. Year after year after year after year Joseph had to wait.

“Not yet”

From 17 to 30. Joseph had to wait. God had a different road for Joseph to travel. It wasn’t a road that Joseph planned on taking. It wasn’t one that he ever prepared for. Joseph could have lost hope. That would have been the easier option. But Joseph didn’t lose hope. Instead, he persevered and served God. And when he was able to face his brothers, the very people who sold him into slavery, he said,

“So you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt.”

Even though God said, “Not yet,” Joseph still held on to the hope that God offers. God’s “Not yet” aren’t meant to crush our dreams… our hopes… no, His “Not yet” allows us time to grow more before we have what it takes to fulfill them.

God’s “Not yet” isn’t there to discourage us from our hopes and dreams. It’s there to make us depend on God and develop our faith in times of unknown and struggle.

Joseph came out stronger, more humble and with greater faith because of God’s “Not yet.” He was tested and tried before his dreams were fulfilled. And God does the exact same for you… for me.

It’s never easy when God tells us, “Not yet.” But that doesn’t mean that we should lose faith… that we should lose hope. Instead, we can do the three things that Joseph did…

Continue to Wait on God and His timing. (Psalm 27:14)

Continue to Trust God and that His timing is better than ours. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And Stay on the right path that God has for your life. (Psalm 17:6)

Just like the cold brew I make, if we take it out before it's ready, it isn't as good as it could be if I would have simply waited the appropriate time. God's plan for our lives is the same. He says, "Not yet," because He wants us to be fully ready for the blessings He has in store for us.

Don’t mistake God’s patience for His absence. His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant. He’s always with you. Deuteronomy 31:6


Dusty Souls

I love sitting around the fire pit at night.

The whole process. Scavenging for kindling. Setting up the wood. Placing the paper and fire starters in the pit. Me and the boy doing it together. Lighting it up and working it till we have a good fire going.

There’s something about being around the fire. Sitting there. Eating S’mores. Laughing. Talking. It’s a special place of communion together. Where we experience the presence of each other. Whether it’s with family or friends, you can always tell when you’ve sat around a fire because you are covered in the smoke.

It doesn’t matter if it’s blowing directly on you or not. When you sit close to the fire, you are eventually covered in the smell of the smoke.

It’s unavoidable really. It permeates your clothes. It gets all over. Your shoes. Your hat. Your hair. Your skin. When you’ve been sitting at the fire, the smoke covers you and anyone who comes around you that hasn’t been sitting at the fire knows it immediately.

There’s another thing about sitting around a fire pit… the one who makes the fire invites the rest to come and sit around it.

There’s an invitation to sit and commune and to be covered in the smoke of the experience.

Moses had a similar experience where he was invited to communion around a fire… communion with God. In Exodus, chapter 19, the Bible tells us that Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because God descended on it in fire. And what does God say to Moses?

God sends out an invitation to Moses.

God invites Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to meet with Him in the smoke… to commune with God Himself. And I bet, when Moses returned to the people in the camp, the holy smoke of that mountain had permeated everything… His clothes. His skin. His hair. Everything.

It was clear that he had met with God.

Let me explain it a little differently…

Fast forward a few hundred years…

Rob Bell said it like this… Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, living in a first century Jewish world. The Jewish people where Jesus lived believed that God had spoken to Moses and had given him the first five books of the Old Testament… they call these first five books the Torah. Torah was the foundation of their lives and was the focus of their education.

Most Jewish children around the age of six would go to school for the first time to start to learn learn the Torah who was taught by a local rabbi. This first level of education would last until the children were around 10 years old. Most kids would memorize the Torah and by age 10 would know it by heart. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. All memorized.

By 10 years of age, most children would end their education and begin to learn a job… maybe the family business or how to manage a household. But the best students would keep going in their education. These kids were the best of the best. In this next level of their education, these students would memorize the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures… Genesis through Malachi.

By the end of this next level of education, most of these students would be learning the family trade or another business. But the best of the best of these students would try to continue and would have to go to a rabbi and would apply to that rabbi to become one of his disciples.

When we think of disciple, we think of someone who simply knows what the teacher has taught. To learn what the teacher has to teach us.

But being a disciple is much, much deeper than that.

A disciple doesn’t simply want to know what the teacher (rabbi) has to say. A disciple in the first  century wants to be like the rabbi and wants to learn to do what the rabbi does.

So the rabbi would grill these students who would come before him to see if they had what it took to be his disciple. And if the rabbi thought the student had what it took, he would say to the student…

Come, follow me.

So at around the age of 15, that student would leave everything… family, friends, village… and would devote their entire life to being like their rabbi… to do what he does. This is what it means to be a disciple.

Now the rabbi’s in the first century didn’t just stay in one location. They would travel from village to village. From town to town down these hot and dusty roads. So as a disciple, by the end of the day, as you try to keep up with your rabbi down these hot and dusty roads, you’re filthy. So a saying developed that you would say to a disciple of a rabbi…

May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.

As a disciple, what covered your rabbi covered you. Whatever your rabbi walked through, you walked through. The dust that your rabbi kicked up, landed on you. It was evidence that you were your rabbi’s disciple.

I wonder… how many of us… really don’t want to smell like smoke or get dusty.

Sure, we want the S’mores. We want that marshmallow. We want to hang out in the house or the yard. We want the benefits, but we don’t want to smell like smoke. We want peace. We want grace. We want blessings. But we don’t want the smoke of the fire. We don’t want to get dusty.

You see, the burning of the wood gives off energy and light. It’s getting rid of what was and gives light to what’s new. God says come around the fire and commune with Him. And when we do, the evidence of meeting with Him will be in our lives. We want the benefits, but we don’t want the smell of the smoke of what God is getting rid of in our lives.

When we walk with Jesus and follow Him, but we don’t want the dust that He kicks up to land on us. But when Jesus moves, He certainly kicks up dust.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve done this too many times… we try to live our lives and add faith to our life. We try to make it a simple mathematical equation… we try to add faith and maybe subtract something else.

We try to add God to our life when He wants TO BE our life.

We want to add God, but we don’t want to live a wholly sacrificial life to God that makes us smell like smoke as we give our lives over to Him. We don’t want to be wholly devoted to Jesus and follow Him so closely that we are covered in His dust.

We don’t want to smell like smoke or be dusty… but what if that’s where Jesus really is. Just like the disciples in the first century, when you’re walking that closely with the rabbi, you’re gonna get dusty. There are things in our life that need to be burnt up and dusted up. There are things that we’ve gotten comfortable with that He will kick up. And our lives will begin to smell like smoke because God is working and moving in our life.

The question is,

Will you sit by the fire with God?

Will you walk so closely with Jesus that you’ll be covered in the dust of the Rabbi?

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18


Stuck in A Corn Field

I love corn mazes.

When our kids were growing up, we’d take them every fall. They loved them too. We’d get to the start of the maze and they would take off running with their friends. Inevitably they’d come running back screaming, “come on, come on,” as they’re pulling our arms down the path.

Corn mazes are great… as long as you stay on the path. One year I decided to walk off the path so that I could explore and eventually scare the kids. Unfortunately for me, I was at the edge of the corn maze.

After venturing a little too far and taking more turns than I should have, I found myself stuck in the middle of a corn field. Feeling completely disoriented, I had no idea how I was going to get back to the corn maze path.

Luckily, as we usually did, we went to the corn maze near sunset. So in order to get back, I used the sun as a compass to help get me back to the path. Once I got closer, I could begin to hear the voices of my friends and the kids and eventually made my way back to the path.

That’s kind of how I feel like parenting can be at times. Or, how about 2020 in general.

It can feel like I’m lost in the middle of a corn field with no known way back to the path. There are so many unknowns… the virus and shutdowns, the civil unrest, the presidential election and what that will bring, and now the kids school and sports.

So much unknown. And it can be completely disorienting… like you’re walking in the middle of a corn field not knowing where to turn. And that’s just your feelings/my feelings. If you have kids… how do you parent when you feel like you’re off the path.

First, depend on the Son.

As soon as I started to feel disoriented in the middle of the corn field, I calmed myself down and looked to the sun. You see, as we drove up to the corn maze, I took note of where everything was as it related to north, south, east and west. I knew, that, if I could find where the sun was setting, the sun would point me back to where I needed to go.

The same is true with life. In times like this, when we feel disoriented and lost, whether it’s related to all the crap in 2020 or just parenting in general, the Son will point us back to the path where we need to go.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him,Follow me.” John 1:43

Jesus, the Son of God. He is the One who will point us to the path where we need to go. He understands where we are, where we’ve been. He understands and knows us.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. John 1:14

He, along with the Bible, will point us in the direction we need to go in our life and our parenting.

And two, have friends in your life where you can trust their voice.

You see, I knew I was heading in the right direction when I could hear the voices of my friends getting louder and louder.

Who’s voices in your life are the loudest right now? Those who are helpful? Or those who’s cause more confusion and madness? In order to find your way back to the path you need to be on, you need the loudest voices in your life to be voices you trust and point you towards the right path and not create more confusion and angst.

This in an interesting time to be alive. It’s a challenging time for sure, especially if you have kids. But there is a way out of the disorienting corn field…

Follow the Son. And have friends in your life whose voice you can trust. I can’t promise you won’t find yourself in the middle of a corn field again, but you’ll definitely be able to find your way out if you do.


Us vs Them

2020 has been a year of many things... most of all, it's becoming a year of "Us vs Them".

  • Us vs Republicans
  • Us vs Democrats
  • Us vs mask wearers
  • Us vs non-mask wearers
  • Us vs the police
  • Us vs Black Lives Matter
  • Us vs teachers
  • Us vs Fauci
  • Us vs Trump
  • Us vs Biden
  • Us vs AOC
  • Us vs governors
  • Us vs people who kneel for the National Athem
  • ... on, and on, and on we could go.

Us vs Them

It's truly an unfortunate place we are in... the Us vs Them mentality. Everywhere you look, it's Us vs Them. Everyone's been pushing this mentality. I've been guilty of it. And I understand where it comes from... at least with me. You see an injustice. You hear lies. You witness the destruction of people's lives. And it confuses you. Then it frustrates you. As you see more, it makes you angry. Then, as you watch tv and scan the internet and social platforms, you see other's comments. You see more lies and injustice and destruction. And the voices you listen to paint this picture of the Us vs Them mentality.

It's, if you're not for us, then you're against us. The Us vs Them mentality takes us to all out war. That's what you're seeing when you walk through the stores in your community. The looks of disgust at the signs requiring masks. The mask-shaming from those who wear their masks perfectly towards those that either don't wear them how you think they should or even wear them at all. You see it when grown adults scream at little kids in a grocery store and tell them that the person with the mask on hopes they will die. You see it when people who wear masks in their cars get made fun of. You see it when a white supremacist punches a lady. You see it when someone who votes for Trump is called a racist for no reason. You see it when people make posts and rants about those that choose to kneel for the National Anthem. You see it in the debate about going back to school from teachers and parents alike. You see it when people scream racist remarks at black officers at the protests. You see it in our politicians... both left and right. Local and federal. You see it on the "news" channels... both left and right... national and local.

You see it everywhere.

It's no wonder that as we look out into humanity today that very few of us sees humanity as human beings. Instead... we see each other as enemies. It's no wonder that as we look out into our cities, that we see destruction and despair. We've allowed it to be created. You. Me. Each one of us. We've allowed it to take shape and be built into what it was... into what it now is.

The Us vs Them mentality...

It's destructive. And it's not how we're designed to live. Unfortunately, there are far too many people that are pushing this type of mentality. And we need to run far away from those people who are looking to push this crap into our brains.

  • Shaun King
  • Tucker Carlson
  • Joe Biden
  • Trump
  • Don Lemon
  • Pelosi
  • Ben Shapiro
  • ...

The list could literally go on and on. The Us vs Them voices are everywhere on both sides. It's what makes good tv. It's what creates the most shares and likes. And it's much easier to destroy others than it is to build them up. The message of 2020 is quite literally...

Us vs Them

And we need to run FAR from these voices. Refuse to listen. The very people who tell us it's Us vs Them aren't trying to unite anyone. They aren't trying to bring harmony to humanity. They're trying to bring war between neighbors. It's not an agenda of peace. It's an agenda of power. Each one of them.

Socialism isn't the biggest issue in society. Racism isn't the biggest issue in society. Democrats. Republicans. None of this is the biggest issue in our society.

The biggest issue in society right now...

The Us vs Them mentality.

We need to refuse to listen to those that push this mentality. We need to silence them by coming together. It's not Us vs Them. It has never been designed to be that way. It's me for you. You for me. It's being FOR each other. Swallowing our pride. It's listening to each other's fears and scars. It's hearing each other out. It's not assuming someone's a racist. It's knowing that black lives do matter and not having to bookend it with a, "but all lives matter too." It's denouncing violence against our nation's police officers. And it's understanding that when someone kneels during the National Anthem, they are expressing their freedom of speech. It's speaking out against those that are rioting.

It's me. Understanding you. And you understanding me. It's coming together to call evil for what it is. And it's valuing and loving every life as a human being.

It's the first week of August. The second half of the year has just gotten started. Let's redefine this year from Us vs Them to...

Me FOR You... building everyone up together.


Perspective Matters

2020. What can you say.

You were supposed to be a cool year. We had cool New Year glasses made to wear. We made cool resolutions to enter the cool New Year.

2020

It just rings off the tip of your tongue.

Big year. Big expectations. Ready. Set. Go... straight to a screeching halt. Little did we know when we were all ringing in the New Year that two months down the road everything... and I mean EVERYTHING would look nothing like we expected.

Expectations. We all have them. We certainly had them for 2020. And, being a parent for the last 15 years, I know we as parents have them for our children and our family. We expected that our kids would be in school. That the soccer season would take place. We expected to go to nationals for Morgan's dance team. And those are just a few small expectations.

Instead, soccer games were canceled. Dance competitions didn't happen. Everything shut down and we were stranded in our home for months.

Instead of living in fear... Instead of living in disappointment... we chose to look at this experience as a time where we could come together as a family. To spend this time bonding and looking inward together and building up our relationships together. Sure, there was a time when we were disappointed. But we didn't live there.

Having expectations is a good thing. Expectations in and of themselves are good. We should certainly have them in every area of our lives. But there are times, like we're living in now, when our expectations have the potential to derail our lives and our mental health, especially when we have expectations without perspective.

When reality doesn't match our expectations, it's easy to get angry or sad, to stay in the funk of disappointment. That's what happens when we don't have perspective alongside our expectations.

Expectations without perspective leads to life derailment.

It's normal to experience sadness and anger and frustration when expectations aren't met. 2020 might not be what we wanted it to be. It's definitely not what we expected. Fear. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. These are all words that have defined 2020.

These words are the definition of expectation without perspective. These are real emotions that we all experience. But we can't live there. Perspective helps us move on. Perspective helps us see to the other side and helps give us the ability to move beyond our circumstances.

Perspective matters. 

How you see the world. How you see others. How you see your life and your circumstances matters. It literally directs your emotions. It directs your life. It's what keeps us on track or get back on a path that leads to hopefulness and joy... even in the middle of chaos and destruction.

Fear. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. With perspective, these words can be turned into... Courage. Encouragement. Joy. Hopefulness.

Perspective matters.

What 2020 has taught me more than any year is this...

The only thing I can control is my perspective. I control how I look at my circumstances and the world around me. It's also taught me that I need help in keeping the right perspective.

I can't do it alone.

But, if I surround myself with the right people and pursue God, the alignment of my perspective will be on target.

Jesus had the opportunity to look at his world and humanity and be depressed. He was being beaten and persecuted... He was being called a liar... He was accused... all of it was not justified. They hung him on a criminal's cross even though He didn't deserve to be killed.

But He chose a perspective to look at the world and humanity with compassion and hopefulness.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

There is hope. There is a perspective that we can choose that is only found in the hope of Jesus and encouraged by the people we surround ourselves with.

2020 definitely hasn't aligned with what I expected it to be. I thought it would look differently. But we've chosen as a family to take advantage of our circumstances and fill our lives and relationships with hope, instead of letting our circumstances take advantage of us.

We all have a choice... will we be filled with hopelessness... or hopefulness...

It all depends on our perspective.


Spiders and the Web of Fear

So, I'm driving home the other day...

It was a great day to drive home with my car windows down. Radio was up. I was singing... loudly. The people in the car next to me were staring as I pulled up to a stop light. As I was in the middle of doing a drum solo on my steering wheel, this little thing caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. As it was running across my windshield, out of reach of my wipers, I audibly said, "Noooo," in a slow motion type of voice. (At least that's what it sounded like to me.) At that point, it was a race. A race to see if I could get my windows up faster than a spider could get inside my car. Luckily for me, I won. The spider was denied entrance into my vehicle.

But for the next 40 minutes, on my way home, I chose to drive with my windows up. I really wanted to enjoy the weather. I so wanted to have my windows down to enjoy the fresh air. But I let a fear of spiders win out. I let the fear of something so small prevent me from doing something I really wanted to do.

I've noticed something, I've let this happen in other areas of my life as well. I've let fear be the determining factor in whether or not I do something I know God is asking me to do. I've let fear prevent me from trying new things. I've let fear prevent me from being the person that God's called me to be. I've seen it in my kids, Carter and Morgan. I've seen it happen in the lives of students. And it sucks. Because, in the end, for me at least, I look back in disappointment and sadness. I look back with regret. But, that's what fear does. It traps us in its sticky web and sucks the life out of us.

You see...

I could have crushed the spider had he entered my car. He was a lot smaller than me. It wouldn't have even been a match. But I let fear rule my world for that 40 minutes. And I've let fear rule my world in bigger areas of my life and endeavors.

But, here's the thing...

God can crush whatever we're afraid of - whatever fear that holds us captive. But we've got to open the window and let God do what God does. Because that fear, whatever it is, is a lot smaller than God. It's not even a match.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified) 

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3-4 (NIV)

One last thing... I've noticed that when I'm letting fear rule my life, I'm making it out to be about me. When in reality, this life isn't about me - it's about God. Everything I have... everything I have to offer... talents and abilities... comes from God. And when I turn my focus off of me and focus on God, my fear turns off.


The Rosco P. Coltrane Hot Pursuit

I love the Duke's of Hazzard.

Especially Rosco P. Coltrane, when he says, "I'm in hot pursuit!"

The dude is hilarious. But all too often, I find I'm just like him... chasing hard after something I really want.

As I was looking at the 10 Commandments before Covid, it hit me...

"I am so worn out. Just exhausted."

Now this could be the result of a couple of things...

Lack of sleep. Not eating right. Lack of exercise. Work schedule plus the kids' activity schedule.

But more times than not, it's because

I'm

Not

Following

The

First Commandment...

"You must not have any other god but Me." - Exodus 20:3 

More times than not, when I'm exhausted, it's because I'm chasing after other gods in my life other than the One True God.

-Acceptance from my kids
-Success in my job
-Success with money
-Performance in a sport
-Parenting my kids

The list could go on and on. And it's a list of a hot pursuit of "other gods" - Like Rosco chasing after the Duke Boys... I get exhausted chasing something I rarely ever catch.

But...

The 10 Commandments isn't simply a list of do's and don'ts - right's and wrongs - laws... it's a glimpse into the heart of God. God doesn't want me to simply keep Him first (whatever that means) because He's got a big ego, He wants me to pursue Him because that pursuit brings life and not exhaustion.

So what's your "Rosco P. Coltrane" hot pursuit?

Why not switch it up and get in hot pursuit with God?