Photo of Garden of Gethsemane in Israel. The Long Walk

It's About the Walk

Growing up...

Me and my family… my mom, dad and two younger brothers… would routinely go places. Cubs games. South Bend Silver Hawks games. Vacation. Church… Anywhere really…

Each time we went somewhere, as soon as we got out of the car, my dad would walk in what felt like a dead sprint. As I got older I could keep up. But inevitably he’d walk so fast ahead that he’d leave my mom and the other brothers in the dust.

You’d routinely be able to hear my mom exclaim…

Jim, slow down.

He’d pause for a moment, look back, and say with a waive of his hand, “Come on,” and proceed to walk ahead.

Like many things a father passes down to his son, this is one trait that I inherited. Whether it’s going to a Cubs game, walking downtown Chicago, anywhere on vacation… or even on a neighborhood walk, you’ll be able to hear Jami and/or the kids say, “Why are you walking so fast?”

It’s not something that I even mean to do. It’s just how I’m wired. Whether it’s walking or playing softball or soccer… or really anything in my life… I just go all out. I don’t know how to do anything any other way.

Just ask Jami when I get on a health kick. I don’t just cut back on what I eat and drink at night. No, I buy brown rice, broccoli and whatever health food I think I need. It’s all out. It’s fast. Not slowing down because we’ve got things to do… things to see… places to go… tasks to accomplish.

But I read something that really convicted me this week… I’ve read it many times before. But for some reason, it really hit me… maybe it’s because of the times we find ourselves in… but this is what I read…

Walk in love.

Let me write that again…

Walk. In. Love.

It’s actually found in Ephesians chapter five…

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. - Ephesians 5:2

Other translations say, “Live a life of love…”

I actually like the picture that I get when I read, “Walk in love…” because when you slow your pace to a walk, it slows your focus. At least that’s what it does for me. I’m such a hard charger and move at such a fast pace that it’s easy for me to either forget about people, or worse yet, value my goals and objectives and agenda higher than the people around me. I make everything about me and what I want to accomplish.

And, while it’s good to have goals and objectives, it’s never good when you either forget about the people around you, or worse yet, treat others poorly as you move towards your mission. But God doesn’t call us to love our goals and objectives… to love our “party.” He calls us to love others. It’s actually so important to God that it’s only second to loving God Himself.

And so God calls us… each and every one of us to…

Walk in love.

It seems like a great idea. We all “know” that we should love others. We should certainly love people… duh. But knowing that we should love others and actually walking in love are two very different things.

So what does it mean to walk in love? What does it look like?

When I go on a walk with Jami and/or the kids, when we’re walking with each other, we’re spending time together. We’re talking to each other. Getting to know each other a little better. We’re listening to each others’ thoughts… our frustrations… our hurts. Our focus has slowed so that we can simply be with each other.

When God tells us that the second commandment is to love others, He doesn’t give a specific definition to who the “others” are. He doesn’t define “others” as your siblings or immediate family. He doesn’t define “others” as those people who are your friends or who hold the same views as you do.

God tells us to simply love others… in other words, He wants us to walk in love with everyone. Those whom you agree with. And those whom you disagree with. Those who treat you well. And those who treat you poorly. Republicans. Democrats. Even family members that you don’t see eye to eye with. And He wants you to love others even when you find yourself stressed and busy. Even when we get annoyed or angry, God still tells us to love others… even in those times.

God calls each and every one of us to…

Walk. In. Love.

…Just as Christ has loved us. You see, the photo for this post is taken at the Garden of Gethsemane… the place where Jesus went to pray just after the last supper. the Bible tells us that he prayed so hard that sweat dropped from his face like drops of blood. He knew what was ahead of him. But he loved us so much that He prayed for God’s will to be done. In other words… Jesus walked in love. And like Jesus, God calls each one of us to…

Walk. In. Love.

And when we do, it’s a sweet smell. It’s a living sacrifice that we can offer to God. It’s actually an offering to God that He loves.


Walk. In. Love.

One step at a time. One person at a time. There’s no question as to what God desires… the only question is…

Who does God want you to walk with?

Go and…

Walk. In. Love.

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.

Stone Pillars

I love pillars. Pillars on homes. Pillars on buildings. Pillars on monuments.

It's one of the many reason's I love going to Washington D.C. There's just something strong and beautiful about them. When you look at the Jefferson Memorial, you can't help but notice its pillars. I had the opportunity to chaperone Carter's 8th grade trip to DC where I captured the photo above of the Washington Monument... side note, if you have the opportunity to chaperone your kid's trip, do it... it's time well spent for sure.

But Washington D.C. isn't the only place where you will find pillars. Check this out:

"I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of truth." 1 Timothy 3:14-15

There's deep meaning in the word, "Pillar."

Pillars are strong.

They stand for something.

Pillars are noticeable.

They stand out.

Pillars are beautiful.

They're majestic.

There's deep meaning in the word, "Pillar."

Paul, the writer of 1 Timothy, tells us that the church of the living God is a pillar of truth.

My question is...

What are you a pillar of?

At your job.

In your marriage.

In your relationships with your friends...

And kids.

What are you a pillar of?

Truth? Love? Peace?

The world... your coworkers... your children... my children... need us to be pillars that are described in 1 Timothy.

We all stand for something. We are all noticed. We're all pillars...

The question is...

What are you a pillar of?

The Masks We Wear

I loved wearing masks when I was a kid... LOVED them!

It didn’t matter if it was Spiderman, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Zorro. Whenever I could wear a mask, I would. Halloween was a highlight growing up because that meant I could get a new costume with inevitably came with a mask. But unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to wear it before October 31, no matter how hard I tried. I. Simply. Loved. Masks.

The thing about masks, for me, was that as soon as I put the mask on, I was instantly transformed into that hero. I was no longer Todd Ruth. No. My identity was Batman. Or Spiderman. Or my favorite, Zorro. And the garage at 242 Altgeld in South Bend, Indiana, was transformed into Zorro’s lair.

The era of me wearing masks had come and gone… until now. Now, I find myself having to wear a mask to walk into certain businesses. Before, I chose to wear masks and pretend I was someone else, protecting humanity at all cost. Now, I’m made to wear a mask if I want to enter certain businesses… to protect myself and humanity.

This isn’t a political statement. And I’m not arguing about the benefit or lack of benefit in wearing masks. No.

As I look back at my life, over the 44 years, I can see time and again how I wore certain masks to pretend I’m something I’m not… to pretend I’m something other than myself. Sometimes as a kid and as an adult, it was because I was self conscious of what I looked like. Sometimes it was because I was insecure about what people might think I am. Other times it was to fit in and gain the approval of others. All to protect myself.

I’ve seen this in myself. And I’ve seen this in my kids as well. Instead of physical masks, masks come in the form of social media. Photos we post (both adults and students). We hide behind our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok profiles. Girls post photos of their bodies in an effort to gain approval and likes. Guys post photos of their cars or watches or anything that gains them more status in the eyes of their followers. It’s all masks. We wear masks to protect ourselves at all cost. And all of us have worn them at different times. We pretend we're something we're not. On and on and over and over we wear our mask only to lose who we really are and who God has called us to be.

One of the reasons I do TikTok videos with my daughter is in an effort to rip off any mask I may want to wear. It’s super clear that I can’t dance. And. I. Don’t. Care. I want my daughter to see that I’m posting content that shows who I truly am… no mask needed. And it's ok.

I want my kids to learn and know many things. But top of the list, I want them to know that…

They. Are. Enough… without masks.

I want them to find their identity in Jesus… not in a mask they might wear in search for acceptance.

When we find our identity in Jesus, no other mask is needed. Jesus tells us we are enough, not for anything we can do. No. We are enough because He is enough. And when we rest in that truth, peace and protection and love overcomes us and we no longer feel the need to wear a mask and we can live as God has called us to live.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” - John 1:12

Your Student Is On Social Media Even Though You Think They're Not

How many of you decided to sneak something out of your house when you were younger even though your parents told you not to?

I was perfect, so this doesn’t apply to me. ??But Jami has a number of stories where she snuck clothes and makeup out in her backpack on the way to school or a church event. Her parents told her she couldn’t wear the outfit she wanted to wear. So, instead of listening, she decided she would walk out the door in their approved clothing attire. Then change right after arriving to where ever she was going. Then change back before getting picked up or getting home. The whole time, her parents were naive to the fact that their little angel wasn’t following the rules they have set.

Times aren’t much different. We’ve caught Morgan trying to sneak out clothes in her backpack prior to getting on the bus. Knowing what we know, we decide to do what we call, “Spot prison searches.” Ok, we don’t really call them that. But our children (ages 13 & 15) know that we can, and will spot check bags, rooms and yes… phones. Not because we’re nosy… even though we are. Not because we want to make their lives miserable… even though that’s a plus if they’re doing wrong. No. It’s really not for either of those two reasons. We reserve the right to do spot checks because we care. Because we are trying to protect them. Because we want the best for them. We know things they don’t. We can foresee problems and dangers that they can’t foresee. So it’s up to us to teach and guide our children to the best of our ability.

Quick disclaimer before we move on... We don't have all the answers. This is simply the way we're choosing to parent our children and social media.

The same is true with social media. I’ve talked to a lot of parents who pride themselves that their student isn’t on social media. The reasons are many and range from…

We don’t know anything about social media so we'e not going to let our student be on it.

Social media is so negative and full of drama. There’s just so much bad stuff on there so we're going to keep our student off of it.

There’s social predators out there that can take advantage of students, so our student won’t be on it cause it scares us.

Students are on social media too much, so we’re just going to keep our student off of it.

All of those reasons aren’t bad reasons. They’re valid and real. But they aren’t reasons that your student will stay off of social media. And that’s the real scary part. Because, to think that your student isn’t on social media is naive. Your student(s) may not have social accounts with their names listed. But time and time again I have heard stories from parents who had banned their student from social media only to receive a phone call from a school official, law enforcement officer or coach informing those same parents that their student was in trouble for what they had posted or sent on social media.

How could that be? You ask… good question. One, students today will either make a social account that isn’t related to their real name so that they can connect digitally but not come up on their parents radar should they search Instagram (for example) using their real name. Or, when they go to a friend’s house, the first thing they do is jump on their friend’s social account to chat, send photos, messages, or posts. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, TikTok, etc… the student who isn’t allowed to have their own social account is going to their friend’s house and jumping on theirs. It’s kinda like when some my friends came over to my house back in the day. They didn’t want to play outside, they just wanted to watch tv and drink pop all day. Why? Because their parents wouldn’t allow them to watch tv and drink pop.

It’s. The. Same. Exact. Thing.

But the potential consequences are far much worse. We’re not talking about simply getting cavities because the student has drank too much Mountain Dew. The consequences with social media can be much more serious and life-altering for our students when they don’t have any guidance on how to use it responsibly.

That’s why, for us and our students, we have decided to allow them to have Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and SnapChat accounts when they reached the age the social platforms allowed them to sign up. We didn’t just let them sign up and wish them good luck. We signed them up ourselves and put some safeguards in place. Safeguards like:

We kept their passwords… meaning, they didn’t have access to them. They didn’t know what they were.

People couldn’t add them or follow them without our approval on the accounts that had that privacy option.

We don’t allow our students’ friends on our students’ social accounts.

If we find a “fake” account that our students have created, “all” of their accounts will be shut down in addition to receiving offline consequences.

We reserve the right to spot check our students’ phones and social media accounts.

We give them guidelines on what to post. We discuss when we think posts should be removed. We let them know over and over and over and over and over again that everything they post is… Instant. Global. And Permanent. What they post today, can have severe, negative consequences years from now.

Yes, allowing our students to have social media accounts was a hard decision. It should be. And yes, it has and is and will take a lot of work on our part. We monitor our students’ social accounts and our students’ friends’ accounts when possible. We also try to stay up to date on the current digital trends. We have decided to not use time as an excuse on not allowing our students to be on social media. And we think it’s worth it. Our students are going to make mistakes. Offline and online. And I’d rather our student make a mistake early when the mistake is less likely to be life-altering and when we can still have influence in their lives. If we don’t have these discussions with them now and teach them how to use social media now, they won’t know how to use it in the future. The mistakes that are being made now, is nowhere near as big as they could be in the future if we didn’t teach and guide them now.

Just like we went to the mall for our social connection or talked on phones for hours, our students today are going digital for their social connections. And that means that, even though you tell them they can’t have their own social accounts, they will find a way to discover and explore those connections digitally. (Just like I found my way to the mall, even though I told my mom I was going to Ben's house.) It’s just a fact, students connect digitally with each other. And while some people would rather their students build relationships offline, the digital world they live in will only be getting bigger… especially in today’s climate.

Our job as parents isn’t to put our head in the sand and pretend that if we say no it won’t happen. Our job as parents is to guide and teach our students. This is the way that Jami and I have decided to handle social media with our students. Again, it's not that we have all the answers. It's just our way of doing things. I hope you’ve found it helpful. Please know that I’ll also have additional posts about students and social media that I think will be helpful as well. Looking forward to sharing those posts.

Thoughts on social media? Questions? Ready. Set. Comment.