Join Hands

On May 14, 1988, Kristin and I got married. We were both twenty and ready to tackle life together. As I have instructed couples countless times as a minister, we were told to face each other, join hands, and say our vows to each other. 

One of my favorite memories of our wedding day was the private, “see the bride” moment. This was before “first looks” were popular. One of my groomsmen asked, “Do you want to see Kristin before the wedding? We will shut the sanctuary of the church so it is just the two of you. She can walk down the aisle, and you can have a moment.” We both loved this novel idea and were so grateful to have this time together.

It has been thirty-two years of marriage, and I am more in love with her today. I married a woman of strength, beauty, humility, and character. We have faced so many challenges over the years but continue to make it through. We are quite the team.

One thing that may surprise you is that we rarely pray together. Early on in our marriage, I worked at UPS loading trucks at 4:00 am and went to school, and Kristin had a more traditional work schedule. That started the pattern of my early morning prayer time and hers late at night. We pray together occasionally, but we always share what we are praying about. One thing we do well is we talk every day. Even when our kids were little, we’ve made time each day to connect and often share what God is showing us.

The idea of praying together changed dramatically, starting in 2020. When COVID 19 hit, we had time. We started praying together more often; before an important decision for our kids, when I went back into the office. It took a while to get our rhythm, but it became part of our routine. Praying together became something we both looked forward to and didn’t want to miss. Our prayer time brought strength through one of the most challenging times in our ministerial careers. 

Before this year, when others would say, “I pray with my spouse,” I wouldn’t disagree with them. I just didn’t think we needed it. I was wrong. Now, when we pray together, it is never the same prayer. God is revealing new insights and aspects of the things we pray about. We don’t follow a pattern – only that we do it. Like our wedding day thirty-two years ago, we join hands and invite God into all that we face ahead that day. 

With our schedule moving back to normal and life going 100 mph, we again face the time difference. On the first day that we didn’t see each other because I had a 6:30 am meeting out of the house, Kristin did something amazing. She texted me her prayer for both of us. It works to pray with your spouse over text! When I read her words, I either text back my prayer or agree with an “Amen.” We have done this numerous times, and the connection and agreement are not lost.

In no way do I believe our way is the only way. After all, it took us 31 ½ years to get to this point. As I shared, I felt we were good; we had a rhythm. What I learned is that we have room to grow. We can establish new practices that will move us beyond good. And it’s worth it.

I encourage you to take some step that draws you closer as a couple. Maybe it’s talking every day about the conversations or challenges you are experiencing at work. It could be agreeing to pray about the same things even if it’s not at the same time. Maybe you are where we were, and praying together is something you didn’t think you needed, but you want to try. The opportunity to grow as individuals and as a couple is rich. You will be on the same page as you tackle each day!

Tough Times

These are tough times. 

2020 has brought events that will transform so many life elements that I consider foundational: life, health, marriage, family, work, culture, politics, society, race relationships, and God. I cannot think of one thing on that list that hasn’t been affected by all of this year’s craziness. 

As I navigate through each one of these, I find myself asking more questions. Like many, I start with the “Why?” “How?” “How long?” “Who?” and so on. Then, I usually move into the “Help me understand?” phase of trying to get insights into what brought on that particular event that would cause it to happen. I want to empathize with people in those moments. I want to validate what they feel. I usually spend a lot of time asking for insight, discernment, and wisdom in each situation. It’s tough. 

With so much uncertainty, how will you keep yourself in a healthy place – physically, mentally, and spiritually? These three areas are crucial to our well-being. My father in law once told me, “When one of these areas are hurting, you can live with it as it heals. When two areas are challenged, life gets difficult.” This year has genuinely illustrated that paradigm. Let me share some thoughts on each.

PHYSICAL

I could spend lots of time one this one sharing what I have learned over the years of sports, triathlons, and working out. I am going to be brief. Find something you enjoy and do it. When that enjoyment stops, do something else. The body wasn’t made to be sedentary – move it. I can’t dance very well, but I can do burpees. I can’t run very much due to injuries, but I can ride a bike. Try something new. In recent years, I found a new love of fishing, paddle boarding, and boating. Do something every day.

Food is your fuel. There is so much information and support out there to develop a healthy plan that works for you. Make good choices and find a way of eating that supports the lifestyle you want to have. 

MENTAL 

This is one area that I have really worked on this year. In reading some of my previous blogs, you would recognize that mental toughness is something that I have tried to develop over the years. I am not where I want to be, but I not where I was. I know this will be a life long journey.

In the last few weeks, I have used three simple phrases to help me work through difficult situations.

What can I control in this? This is a great question to help you determine the scope of what you can do about a situation. Many times, things are out of our control. Other people are making choices that affect you. Situations happen outside of your ability to change it. In the end, I have worked with this answer for me: I can control my thoughts, my words, and my actions. Everything else is out of my control.

Stay in the present. Does it add to your strength and resilience to rehash the past or playback the scenario of what could happen in the future? We need to learn from the past. Find the nugget of wisdom and move forward. One of my gifts is strategizing, and I know developing plans is essential. There is time for that and time to let it rest. 

Fear and pride want us to allow the past and future to take us to unhealthy places. We either beat ourselves up or become arrogant about our history. Also, we can approach the future either under-confident or with too much belief in ourselves. The present is where you can bring it all to God and approach the situation in humility, courage, and wisdom. Fight to stay in the present. You will find that both your past and future will show the results.

Don’t write stories you know are not true. This is a formidable skill to develop. Our natural tendencies cause us to look out for ourselves. We justify why we said or did something. We do not give as much grace to others. We tend to “write stories” about someone else’s intentions and motives. We use non-verbal cues, words, actions, and situations to begin to formulate “a story” in our mind, not based on truth and fact.

For example, I am on the golf course I and I give my friend on the 18th green a $10 bill. In seeing that, am I helping pay for the round of golf, tipping the staff, paying for a lost bet, giving him money for personal reasons, etc.? Each way you look at it will cause you to think differently of me. We think we “know” things, and honestly, we don’t. The harsher truth is we make judgments and assumptions on those things, and we begin to write the story in our mind. If you want to make it through tough times, I strongly encourage you to stick to the facts you know.

SPIRITUAL

Staying spiritually healthy during tough times is challenging. There are so many ways to spend time with God – reading His Word, worship, prayer, solitude, enjoying His creation, and many more. Even so, God cannot be seen, touched, and heard in an audible voice (most of the time.)

In 2020, I have used all ways listed above to be with God. I have seen a real love for His Word grow more profound, and my prayer time more meaningful to me. Worship and solitude have brought special times of intimacy that have particular meaning to me. It has been a rich year of growth.

Yet, I have also struggled with God in this year’s challenging times. My expectations of Him challenge me. I know he can heal, change, fix, and redirect many frustrating events, people, and situations. He could take away the pain, hurt, anger, and disappointment that so many people are dealing with daily. He could make His presence evident to people in a way that would cause them to flock back to Him. But He doesn’t always do those things. I have learned that my expectations of God sometimes don’t line up with His plan. I can choose to believe that God is distant and far, or I can put my faith in his will and purposes. 

There is an excellent illustration in C.S. Lewis’ book “The Screwtape Letters.” A little background on the book’s premise: the chief demon is instructing a junior demon how God (his enemy) works. Here is one of his admonishments:

“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

When we look around for God during tough times, many times, it appears He has vanished, and we are alone. At that moment, you have a choice. You can believe that is true, or you can believe Hebrews 13:5 NIV, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” In making that choice, you set your path to navigate the tough times. It will be driven by circumstance and events or faith, and hope. Ultimately, you will have to choose.

I will end where I started – these are tough times. You are going to make it. You will be tougher, stronger, and wiser. The sun is going to come up tomorrow. Take the next step.

My Best

An excerpt from a book I am writing “A Day in the Life of a Pastor” 

– My Best

I was listening to a teaching by Bill Hybels, and he used a phrase that caused me to pause, write down, and ponder. He said the following words:

“When did God do his absolute best for me?”

He proceeded to talk about Jesus being the unblemished, Son of God, a man of flesh, yet without sin. He was the perfect sacrifice. Hybels spoke about the Holy Spirit’s role, God’s perfect gift for man’s ongoing, daily relationship with Him. He even mentioned the perfect destination and that heaven awaits all who have a relationship with God. He ended this segment with a new challenge/statement.

“My best for His glory would be greatly appreciated.”

I have pondered this teaching for a while now, and it has been an amazing journey. I realized pretty quickly that God has perfection in all that He has provided for me. I haven’t achieved perfection in anything that I have given him. I fall short in every gift, talent, thought, words, or actions that I performed. My achievements were never perfect…there was always room for improvement, better results, and attitude. I will never match God in the giving ratio. God = 1, Me = 0.

The statement doesn’t ask for my perfection. It asks for my best. When I read that, I think about all my efforts. I don’t do many things halfway. When I decide to do something, I will make an incredibly strong commitment. Watch me work out at the gym, and my commitment looks like a puddle of sweat around me on the floor. My eating habits line up with a diet that maximizes my health. “My best” does well most of the time, but it doesn’t reach the highest levels possible…it doesn’t reach perfection. It falls short every time. God = 2, Me = 0.

“For His glory” is a tough one to ponder. Do my words, thoughts, and actions bring glory to God? Are there things that in my daily routine that reveal God’s glory to others? Do I give others the time or the listening ear they need to help them see God’s love in me? Do my thoughts always bring reverence to God and exalt his power and character? 

Tough one…not even close. God = 3, Me = 0.

Aren’t you glad God scores it differently?

God = 3, Me = 0 

God =3, Me + Jesus = More than Enough

Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Before 2020 turned into the craziest year for all of us, I started with the goal of losing 10 pounds. My doctor said, “You work out, eat well, and you love fitness…can you lose some weight?”

I began by going to a nutritionist who helped me see how my food choices included natural sugars and extra calories. I started tracking my sleep. But the big kicker was my daughter Taylor’s suggestion to get a stationary bike – A Peleton without the cost. I got a dupe bike for a fraction of the cost and downloaded the App. This all arrived a week before the stay at home orders went into effect.

During one of the spin classes, one of the instructors said, “You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” That phrase has been part of my journey ever since. Not just in my exercise… in everything.

This year has challenged so many of us to go to uncomfortable places.  Not just outside our homes but inside as well.  In our jobs, relationships, families and even our own thoughts, we feel the strain that is put on these precious parts of our lives.  Our human nature wants to move back to what feels normal, comfortable or easy.  Honestly, who knows what that is going to look like?  We were not created to do this alone.  We need to invite God to be with us as we navigate these uncomfortable times.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV”.

Look at the action verbs in this verse – come, take, find. Let’s use these as our template to look at what the uncomfortable can do for us if we let it.

Coming to God is humbling. You have to admit that you need something bigger than yourself. You will need to slow down the speed of life into a series of moments where you can admit you are not in control, you don’t know the answers and you recognize your brokenness. This is uncomfortable. If you think it is only you, look around – we are all broken. If you need more encouragement, look in the Bible. All the heroes of the Bible… broken and needed God to intervene.

Need one more nudge? Jesus himself needed to come to God. ‘Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. ‘ Luke 5:15-16

As his ministry and notoriety spread, Jesus pulled away and spent time with God. What does that look like for you – reading the Bible, prayer, worship? Maybe it is sitting quietly and letting God speak to you. Come to Him and just talk with him. Tell Him everything…he can handle it.

What do you take up? The truth. This is a big one for me. One of the greatest deceptions in our lives are the stories that we allow in our heads. Your mind is bombarded with stories every day. People’s lives and situations, social media, the news, society, culture, entertainment, politics, and even the church are creating new stories every day. You wake up and go through your day picking up pieces of other people’s story while trying to understand the one that is in your head.

You may have heard the verse, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 NIV. Let me encourage you to add the verse before it to the equation. ‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ‘ John 8:31-32. You have to believe Jesus is who he says he is. And you have to believe the Bible is true and apply it to your life.

Taking God’s word and using it as guide for our lives is uncomfortable because it directly contradicts our human nature to be comfortable. We like to focus on ourselves and what we need more than what is best for us. The first time I pushed away a second helping, went to bed early or sweated in my garage did not make me comfortable. It was just the opposite. It is a choice to give up the thing that feels good in the moment for the bigger picture or goal. I choose to be uncomfortable to see the growth and progress. Same with God’s word – it’s your choice to either keep it on the shelf or live by it.

When you come to God and take up His truth, What do you find? You come to the place that God will meet you in your brokenness, bring true love and direction… and you will find peace.

Honestly, I am doing my best to apply all this to my life every day. For the last year and a half, my family has been through many challenges. Personal curveballs that have knocked us down like waves during a hurricane physically and emotionally. Add the ministry, pandemic and racial tensions in our culture today. It is truly uncomfortable. Yet…and this is a big YET…I am walking in a peace that I have never felt before. Only with God, can I take everything that comes my way each day and win the battle for peace. I am not enough but He is!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ‘ Philippians 4:6-7

Can I leave you with one more uncomfortable challenge? What if this verse is true? What if God really can meet you in your mess today and you could walk through it with a heart and mind at peace? What do you imagine that would look like? Personally, I am living that. I am uncomfortable with many of the things in my life right now. YET…I know who I am and who I am not. YET…I know what I control and what I do not. I am uncomfortable…YET, I take comfort in Him.

YET...I am at peace.

Observations from the Stairs

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If you ever attended the Grace Family Church Van Dyke Campus, you most likely saw me standing at the main staircase in the lobby.  I get a lot of playful jabs about “Stand on this dot,” “These tiles have your footprints,” and “Are you holding up the stairs?”

Honestly, it is a great compliment.  When we opened the sanctuary in 2006, I was very intentional in the last days of construction to find the best place for me to stand.  I wanted a place that gave me easy access to the sanctuary, high visibility for people coming in and the ability to have a pulse of what was happening on campus.  This spot afforded me a great amount of “wins” in each of these areas.

I see a lot.  Which prompts me to write Round Two of Observations from the Stairs:

  • With a strong tint in our foyer glass, many people use the walk up time to check out their hair and appearance.  Looking good folks!
  • I am continuously amazed at our volunteers.  Greeting, shaking hands and just smiling makes a huge difference when coming to church.  Thank you all of our Blue Shirt Teams on all of our campuses – you make an impact.
  • If you wear a tie, you are more than likely a guest.  Thanks for joining us for the day!
  • So many people say “Hi” or “Hello” back when you greet them.  It is interesting when someone doesn’t.  It is like a far away land is calling them and they just stare off  in the distance.
  • Kids love to climb stairs.  I am good with that as long as someone is with them.
  • Yes, you can get sunburned in the lobby if the blinds are up and the sun in your sight line.  I tell people it makes me look like an angel.
  • Two most popular questions – “Where is the bathroom?”  and “Is this the sanctuary?”
  • People are thirsty…many bring drinks with them to service.  I am all for it (since I usually have a bottle of water with me.)  The part that is hard for me to stomach is Diet Coke at 9:15am…wow.
  • Our Preschool ministry is tremendous – I can see parents coming with their kids across the courtyard and those volunteers and staff are always so welcoming and smiling.  Love that!
  • Grateful for Scottie and Sheryl – two regular volunteers who show up and sit in our lobby ready to help those watching from the lobby.  You rock!
  • Love the new configuration of the Buddy Brew Coffee area – more central and efficient.
  • Appreciate the parents who bring their children to the lobby when their child gets noisy or antsy during service.  Please have a free coffee or tea on me…it really makes a difference for those in the sanctuary.
  • It is a staff “secret” that me being that consistent in one spot is actually allows any of them to have a first place to look for me.
  • Yes, I watch the service on the Lobby TV when I do announcements in a service so I know when to come back in.
  • If you stand with me long enough at the stairs, I will ask you to help me greet people arriving for service.
  • I have seen some very talented fathers carrying a diaper bag, the baby in a carrier and smiling the whole way into the lobby…way to go Dads!
  • And finally…when no one is in the lobby…usually before everyone arrives…the area by the stairs is a great place to sing…know your best song and belt it out!

 

Moving Through the Mundane – Tanisha Taylor

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Have you ever had moments when you’re explaining something and at the end of sharing, a big light bulb goes off?  I have. I learned something about myself last week which I am still processing.  In my small group, we are reading Soar by TD Jakes. One of the first conversations we had was to remember what it’s like for you to fly on a plane.  As I began to share my planning experience, it hits me; I start well but I don’t keep the momentum going and when it is time to end, I scramble. Scrambling causes me to finish mediocre. A lot of mistakes are made, and when I look back in hindsight, I see all the things I should have done better. In the past, I could not have figured it out why I scrambled to finish until that moment.
In taking time to reflect on my flight plan, I looked back on many examples where I started strong and didn’t finish the way I would have preferred. I remember the 1st day of school. I purchased all my books, pens, pencils, 1st day of school outfit, had an early morning breakfast, and said a prayer, starting the 1st day a proud student. However, mid-semester life takes over, and the demands of the classes begin to take a toll. Hanging out seems way more appealing causing me to get distracted and make mistakes. I start to tell myself “I’ll complete the assignment tomorrow,” and  “I’ll have the time later,” or I just don’t feel like it and then it’s too late, forcing me to pull all-nighters to stay afloat.
The older I get, the more I realize the need for a greater share of discipline. The mundane – life’s repetitiveness is usually long and time-consuming. It requires continuous checks and tweaks but is vital to finishing well. I am learning it’s a challenge to do the mundane things in life. Keeping a consistent study schedule isn’t exciting, especially if I do not like school. Going to work every day and being present can become a bore if I don’t feel like I am being challenged. Waking up and having time with God every day, is not always appealing even though I know it important. Having to choose to eat healthy vs Pepsi and Buffalo Wings – Buffalo wings all day long!
 
I was recently reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son. Most of us are intrigued and can relate to the son who asked his father for his inheritance and partied it away. But, what about the son who stayed and was consistent and faithful to his father? Which one was a greater challenge?  How much fortitude did it take for the son to stay with his father and be faithful in his routine of life? Although he may not have lived an exciting life with stories of drunkness, he finished strong.
Where am I now with this new understanding of myself? I am working on tweaking my flight plan and finding the tools to stay engaged in the mundane parts of the flight because scrambling to finish is not exciting anymore. What about you? What does your flight plan in life look like? Where are you getting stuck in achieving your goals? Where are you at your best? What would be the next three steps to improve?  Who knew understanding my flying experience could reveal so much about how I move through life.

I Am God’s Foe

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“When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me” – Cory Asbury, Reckless Love

I heard the song Reckless for the first time during the GFC Beautiful Ministry’s Found Conference for women.  Even as I peered through camera 2 and the sound pretty muffled because of the control booth headphones I was wearing, I could tell this song was special.  It is declarative of God’s love and how He will do “whatever it takes” to find me in my “lostness.”

The lyric above is nestled into one of the verses.  It isn’t song over and over like the chorus. (Which is truly an awesome piece of music – it can be sung quietly or like an anthem proclaiming the truth.) This little lyric has been working on me lately.

When I accepted Christ, I became one of God’s adopted children.  I recognize and reciprocate the love that God has for me back then and today.  I know God has a purpose for me.  I know that his plans for me a for my good…even when I don’t know why certain things happen.  I love that I have a heavenly Father that loved me enough that Jesus would come and be my Savior to my sin and life’s messiness.

So, why is that lyric working me over?  I am God’s foe.  I am human.  I am not without sin.  The Bible says that I am made in God’s image and that He loves me.  Yet,  I have a human nature that is marred by sin and God cannot love sin.  Accepting Christ does not change that.  I still battle against sin in my words, thoughts and actions.  The enemy has a job to do – to rob, kill and destroy.  The Bible says in Revelations 12, “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth–the one who accuses them before our God day and night.”  The struggle with sin is real but then you also have the devil reminding you of all the times you fail.

Look at the heroes of the Bible.  They were not void of their human nature.  Outside of Jesus, each one has challenges in these same areas.  Even Paul, who wrote a majority of the New Testament struggled.  He wrote in Romans 7:22-25, “ I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The reason the lyric is resonating with me is that even in a relationship with Christ, God is still fighting for those areas of struggle.  The power of the cross that brings salvation is the same power that brings freedom through the resurrection of Christ.  Where as God loves me, He cannot love my sin.  He made a way for me to live without it.  In surrendering all the areas of my life to God, He can truly bring freedom.  I continue to pursue relationship and freedom.

Maybe that is you today.  You are living without a relationship with God or you have one and you are in a battle for a certain area of victory.  

The answer is Jesus Christ.  No longer a foe…now a Savior and Conqueror.

Tension is Good

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“I just want to know how you do it.  How do you listen to all the conversations and see the it all from the 30,000 foot level?  After watching an amazing video by Andy Stanley, “The Upside of Tension,” my assistant, Tanisha, wanted to know how do you keep a healthy tension of moving the church forward, while maintaining value for the numerous individuals.

I want to empower and support everyone while executing the vision of the church in the most efficient, productive manner possible.  I have a lot of wins in these areas…and failures.  Since both exist in the vortex of growth and progress in relationship with people and feelings, the tension never ends.

I told her that I totally agree with Andy Stanley – Tension is good.  A rubber band laying on a table is ineffective and it doesn’t serve its purpose.  But when tension is placed on it, it fulfills its purpose, it brings things together and it has the potential to propel objects forward.  If I can do my job effectively, than it is not eliminating tension.  Rather, it is harnessing the potential of it to be a catalyst for growth.

There is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy when constant tension is applied.  I am learning that the view from the 30,000 level is challenging.  It is one thing when you make a decision and you say, “I own it.” (Love it when people do this by the way)  Take that same ownership and apply it to an organization where your decision affects over 120 staff people, their families and a congregation of 10,000 people.  Now, the tension is real.

Here are some nuggets I have learned in leading and the tension that comes with it:

  • The “Yes” and “Yes” decision is still a win.  Decisions these days are not right and wrong.  They both are right but you need to choose the “better” of the two.  This tension can be paralyzing or this can encourage you that you are moving forward.
  • You can communicate effectively.  When you make a decision, somebody is going to feel like they should have received better communications.  Sometimes that is justifiable and I need to be better at determining “who needs to know.”  Sometimes, it isn’t in their scope to be brought in.  This tension is always in my viewfinder and is one of my biggest growth tracks to date.
  • Decision making is best supported by collaboration and feedback.  We have tremendously gifted staff and key leaders who speak into the growth of GFC.  Why would I not invite their input, ideas and insights into decisions?  The tension in cultivating collaboration and feedback is challenged by timing and expectations of those providing it.
  • You do have time to listen.  Everyone wants to feel valued. (I know I do!)  Taking time for someone to share their story and thoughts doesn’t slow you down as a leader.  It gives you real time application of what you decision did for that person.  Sometimes it’s a win, sometimes you challenged them and sometimes…well, you just blew it.  The tension always runs that your decision affects real lives and you have to own it.
  • You can do you best.  There is a price tag for being a high level leader.  You pay for it in your relationships, commitments and ownership.  In the end, you do your best and continue to grow.  Every day, I pray that the Holy Spirit would lead me in my thoughts, words and actions.  Because of that, you would think I “succeed” every day.  Far from it.  I still make mistakes – where He is God, I am a fallible human.  The tension is that I want to do the very best I can to lead our church to reach more people for Christ.  At the same time, valueing and empowering people along that journey to grow in their own relationship with Christ.

The tension is me.  The tension never goes away.  The struggle is real.  God continues to grow me.

 

 

What’s Next?

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“What’s next?”

I recently sat with 1,000 men at the GFC Man Event listening to Tony Dungy challenging men in their daily lives.  He shared a story from the night the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl that he played in as one of their defensive backs.  In the celebration after the win, he shared that he was amazed as he heard the first question poised to quarterback, Terry Bradshaw.  “Do you think you can repeat and win the Super Bowl next year?”  As the quiet lingered in the sanctuary, Dungy continued with this – “In the losing team’s locker room, the players were asked, ‘How does it feel to fail?”

What a paradox?  These men have played this game almost all their lives, honed their skills to the highest levels and prepared their minds, bodies and instincts to play in the ultimate of all football games – the Super Bowl.  Yet,  upon the last whistle, the celebration was met with questions of what was next.  The lack of victory was met with the description of failure, even though they bested every team in the league…but one.

They made it to the pinnacle and found the moment fleeting.  What about you and I.  When we reach the highest achievement, how long does it last?  Whether it lifelong goal, a career achievement, a relational peak – how long does it stay with you?   Achievement is amazing – it is tremendous, exhilarating and fulfilling.  Until it fades and the hunger for the next comes.

Life’s defeats are challenging – they bring pain, questions and searching.  You wonder how you are going to get past it.  It stares at you and it leaves you wondering what if?  Over time, the scar is healed, the lesson is learned and the question finally surfaces…what’s next?

The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” NLT.  Whereas life has its ups and down, wins and losses and mountain tops and valleys, the love that Christ demonstrated on the cross never changes.   The principles of the Bible are tried and true…they never change.  God’s character and nature…they never change.

I have been a Christian for a long time.  I have enjoyed some tremendous highs in my life – my marriage to my amazing wife, Kristin, my children and their families, and I get to serve at a church that continues to reach the Tampa community with God’s love.  So many great moments.  I have experienced challenges – paths that zigged when I wanted to zag, questions that were left unanswered and expectations left unfulfilled.

In the end, I have learned that God has a plan, purpose and relationship worth pursuing.  Coach Dungy encouraged us to pursue these things that won’t change with life’s highs and lows.    He told us to pursue God daily.  God is who the Bible says He is.  It is in that relationship, we find peace and hope in life’s pinnacles and valleys.  The question now becomes…

“God, what’s next?”

 

Found

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I knew I was in trouble in the first 15 seconds.

Kristin asked me to watch the video produced for the GFC Beautiful Conference.  The theme was “Found.”  On the video, a group of amazing ladies shared a challenge in their life.  These weren’t simple.  These were tough, gritty challenges that causes you to ask, “Where are you God?”  With courage and grace, each lady shared their scar and how God found them in the journey.  I knew most of the ladies but when it started with my assistant, Tanisha, I could feel the tears welling up.  Each story was compelling – these smart, talented ladies realized they couldn’t do it on their own and allowed God to be part of their journey.  Gutsy video. (If you want to see it, it is on the GFC Beautiful Facebook page under Conference Video.)

Flash forward to the conference itself.  For the second year in a row, I was the cameraman on Camera 2.  (It’s the straight on camera directly in front of the speaker.) I was in the perfect spot to see all that was going on in the services and sessions.  What an amazing two days for the ladies there!  Lisa Harper was an excellent speaker.  Her humor and ability to connect with the crowd was off the chart.  Yet, her ability to bring God’s Word and truth into life application is truly a God-given gift.  She ministered powerfully.  Sharon Tubbs continues to be one of my favorites.  Speaking for the second year – wow, she also has the gift of leading and teaching. The worship was a wonderful, intimate time with God.  All the other aspects were tremendous – the Pew, breakouts, and the couch talk.  We have some very gifted ladies in our church.

Being on the camera brought some challenges.  You can’t react on camera.  At least overtly.  When Lisa shared about going through double menopause, my camera visibly shook because I was so surprised.  And then I said, “Oh God, please tell me that isn’t a possibility.”  The problem with that was that I had head phones on and didn’t hear that I said it out loud.  Well, the ladies around heard me say it and gave me a hard time afterwards.  The biggest challenge was when Taylor in leading a song, shared about her miscarriage last year.  My reading glasses filled up with tears and it took me a while to see again through the viewer.

A lot of great people worked hard to make this year’s conference a tremendous event.  It is always humbling to see the food services, maintenance team and all the men who gave up time to serve.  And our tech and video team.  I am amazed at how much happens behind the scenes to put on live production.  Thank you everyone!

 

Lives were changed, relationships formed and the lost were found.

What a win!