The Man in the Mirror


I’ve always really liked the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”. I guess you could say it is my theme song for my oldest son, Ryan. We have spent many summer evenings driving in the car with the sunroof open, windows down and wind blowing as we sang along to the classic by the King of Pop. It’s one of our favorites so whenever it comes on the radio I think of Ryan and smile. He and I went to South Africa on our first mission trip together when he was just 12 years old. It was a great trip and we met many amazing people. He experienced something extraordinary that had a great impact on his young life. But it was two years ago when we returned to Africa that changed him in a way I could never have imagined. We went to Kenya, again as members of a mission team, to minister to children living at an orphanage near Nairobi. We also visited Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums where we spent time with children who lived there. Afterwards we took a walking tour through Kibera and witnessed the most deplorable and shocking living conditions anyone could imagine. Ryan captured the experience on film and the images are some of the most disturbing yet oddly beautiful pictures he’s ever taken.

Tomorrow Ryan will graduate from high school. While he has been an exceptional student and has made many friends in school, he is not your typical teenager. It was the final day in Kenya and we returned to the orphanage to say goodbye to the children we had spent the prior week with when we held a vacation bible school for them. We knew it would be difficult saying goodbye because we had grown so close to them in such a short time and many of them were very attached to certain members of the team. There was one little girl in particular who had not left Ryan’s side the entire week. Her name was Grace. It was obvious that Grace was not as strong as the other kids and we assumed it was due to some health problems. But when we went back to say goodbye we were told exactly what was wrong with her. Grace had a severe heart condition and was not expected to live much longer. Ryan was devastated. In a short time he had come to love this little girl and was saddened to know that her life would be so short-lived. In the moments he took to say his goodbye to Grace, I stood nearby and saw my 16 year old son become a man. I watched him hug this small child, place his hand upon her head as he prayed for her, then shed tears as she gave him the only thing of value she owned – a black and white bracelet made of string. In an instance my son went from a privileged boy living in a country blessed with an abundance of wealth, to a young man who would never receive anything more valuable than the gift from a small child in one of the most impoverished areas in the world. His life would never be the same. In an instance he understood what truly mattered in life.

This morning as I stood behind my son as he did a final check of himself in the mirror before heading off to graduation practice, I saw the man in the mirror who God created to make a change in this world. A man who dares to boldly follow Jesus in a world that tempts him and pulls him from every dark corner. A man who has chosen to listen to His Father in heaven instead of the thousands of negative influences he has faced over the years. A man who many said “you just wait until he becomes a teenager” assuming that like many his age, he would end up compromising his faith yet has remained faithful and steadfast in his walk with Christ. A man whose gift of compassion has drawn the hopeless to him for encouragement and hope, and made him a true friend to friendless. A man whose commitment to his church and pastors has made him a reliable and dedicated servant and  leader. A man who has lead by example to those who have looked up to him. A man who has been a light in the darkness of all that surrounds our children today. A man who has been asked many times “why are you always so happy?” because he is filled with the joy of the Lord. A man who makes a positive difference in the lives of those around him. A man who has been the most protective and loving brother anyone could hope for. A man who has been an incredible son and makes us feel honored to be his parents. A man who will some day make an amazing husband and father. A man whose future is filled with endless possibility and whose life God has destined for greatness. A man who will make the world a better place.

Thank you God for the privilege of being Ryan’s mother. Thank you for your grace and protection over his life. Thank you to our friends and family who have covered him with their prayers over the years. Thank you to all those who have influenced his life by being an example of what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ. Thank you to the Godly men who have demonstrated to him how to honor God with his life. Thank you to his pastors and leaders who have led him to become the man of God he is today.

We are blessed with amazing people in our lives that we know love our children and have stood with us in prayer for them. There is no greater gift as a parent than knowing your child knows and loves Jesus. But the second greatest gift is having friends who know and love Jesus and love your child as their own. It takes us as parents laying spiritual foundations, an abundance of God’s grace and a loving spiritual family to do this parenting thing right and we are blessed to have all three. Thank you to all who have played a part in raising our Ryan. We can say with great confidence “Mission Accomplished”.

I Want Results


I am admittedly a fan of the show The Biggest Loser. One of the things I like best about the show is the unexpected twists and turns that keep you guessing as to what shocking game twist they will come up with each season to keep things interesting. The current season of “No Excuses” is certainly not lacking in unexpected game changers. In a recent episode, two of the contestants were so upset by the decision of the producers to allow all previously eliminated contestants from this season to return and compete for the opportunity to be in the finale that they quit the game altogether. Of the three remaining contestants who chose to stay on the ranch, Jeremy lost the weigh in and was forced to compete with all the eliminated contestants for the final spot in the finale. His situation made him so frustrated that he became completely distracted during his workout and was putting forth very little effort to participate. Dolvett, his trainer, noticed Jeremy’s lack of effort and pulled him aside to ask him what was wrong. Jeremy explained that he was mad and didn’t even feel like trying because he was now in jeopardy of losing the game.

Dolvett’s response was wisdom-filled advice that could apply to all of our lives. He told Jeremy that his problem was that he was in love with the results when he needed to be in love with the work which would lead to the results. He explained that Jeremy was only focused on his desire to get to the finish line. But what he was missing was trust in the process that would get him there. Dolvett encouraged him that if he loved the hard work and the discipline that was required more than his desire for the end result and he put his trust in the process, then he would achieve the result he was after. Refocused, Jeremy worked out harder than he ever had and was able to beat all the other contestants for the spot in the finale.

As Christians we many times become focused on the result (getting to heaven) and miss the process entirely (a relationship with God). I remember when I responded to the message of the gospel and the promise that if I asked Jesus into my heart, believed that He died for my sins and that I was forgiven, that I would spend eternity in heaven. I responded because I wanted to be sure that I would go to heaven when I died and I wanted God to bless me because I believed in Him. But after my initial response to the gospel, I returned to the same way of life I had been living by doing whatever I wanted to do, not what God desired for me to do. I returned to the actions and behaviors that had made me so miserable before and had created so much drama in my life. I returned to the very things that initially drove me to the realization of how desperate I was for a Savior. My problem was that I was in love with the result – I wanted to go to heaven when I died and I wanted God to bless me. But I didn’t want to give up my own desires in order to follow Him and seek His will for my life. I wanted the result without the process. I was unwilling to surrender my life to God in order to be transformed into His image. I wanted Jesus to be my Savior but not my Lord.

Life continued and I kept doing the same old things but expected different results because after all, I was saved now so I thought things would be different. But because of a lack of true repentance and surrender on my part, things were the same as they had always been. Through God’s grace, I ended up attending a church that taught about discipleship and Lordship – two terms I had never heard before. I learned that nothing was every going to change in my life if nothing ever changed. I had to stop trying to run my own life and trust in God to be the Lord of my life. I began to fall in love with the process of building a relationship with my Lord and Savior. I began to trust in His will for my life as I lived in obedience to His word – not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I surrended to God’s will for my life and I began to experience changes. I was re-focused on trusting in the process and not looking only for the results. I began to be more joyful than I had ever been. When everything wasn’t going exactly as I wanted, it no longer consumed me. There was much less drama in my life and I had peace even in the midst of challenges and difficulties. My attitudes and my behaviors changed as I spent more time working on my relationship with Jesus through reading and studying His word and spending time in prayer. I was encouraged and hopeful but no longer condemned. I felt freedom from the hold that sin had on my life and healing for the wounds that had been part of me for so long.

I learned from faithful followers of Christ who gave of their time to disciple me and teach me how to not just believe in God for salvation, but to follow Him as His disciple. I was forever changed because of their willingness to pour into my life. By putting my trust in the process of discipleship and growing in my relationship with God through obedience, I got the results I desired. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams and I am assured that I will spend eternity with my Lord and Savior. Now that’s what I call achieving the results you’re after.

What’s Your Story?


A testimony is a statement or declaration by a witness which typically provides supporting evidence to a fact or statement. In the context of religion a testimony is when someone openly declares or professes their faith in God by sharing supporting evidence of His existence based on their personal experience and relationship with Him. Many Christians have overcome incredible situations, not because of anything they did by their own strength, but because they trusted God to release them from a particular area of their lives that held them captive. I have known people who have been freed from the bondage of addiction, who have been able to forgive those who have done unspeakable things to them when they were children, or who now have an incredibly healthy and fully restored marriage after suffering though the hurt of adultery. I’ve known those who have been miraculously healed from a disease and those who have conceived a child after having been told they would never be able to do so. All of them have one thing in common – they trusted God to overcome the impossible in their lives and because of it they share their story with others who face the same circumstances in order to encourage them that God is more than able to do it in their lives too. Sharing your testimony is a powerful tool to bring hope and faith to those in hopeless circumstances.

I used to watch the cartoon “Kim Possible” with my children when they were younger. Kim would always get a message on her communications device from her friend, Wade, when a situation arose that needed her attention. Her first response was always “What’s the sitch, Wade?” and her friend would fill her in on the details that required her to respond with her superhero abilities. There was a never-ending array of “situations” for Kim Possible to battle. And like Kim Possible, most Christians I know face a seemingly endless amount of situations in their lives with the difference being we need God to prevail on our behalf, not a super hero. But what if you’ve never been through some major “sitch” in your life? What if you chose to follow Jesus from a very young age and have never encountered a major storm of life? Does that mean you do not have a testimony?

The truth is that no matter what you have been through or whether you’ve been through nothing at all, we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior. The bible says we are born with a sin nature (Psalm 51:5). Because we are born human we are capable of sin and have a propensity toward it. And when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, “sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” (Romans 5:12). Sin levels the playing field for us all. No matter how “good” you think you’ve lived your life or how “bad” you think you are because of your past, we are all sinners who need the forgiveness of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in order to become redeemed and return to right standing with God. And we all have a story that needs to be shared.

If you are someone who has followed Christ for as long as you can remember and have been spared from having made choices that lead to grievous moral failures, then be grateful to God for having His hand upon you as protection throughout your life and know that it is only by the grace of God that you did not follow a different path. But know also that you should never feel “less than” anyone else because your testimony isn’t filled with regretful choices that led to major problems. You have a powerful testimony that you were born into sin and in need of a Savior. But by the grace of God you were spared from difficulties that many others have faced but you are nonetheless redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. You are proof that you don’t have to go through horrible circumstances to have a testimony and that you can follow Christ for life without succumbing to damaging temptations. You are proof it can be done, don’t ever underestimate the power of that message.

Nobody Loves Me


There is a worship song that says “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” It’s one of my favorites because it’s a reminder that the measure by which I am loved is solely based on what God did for me when He sacrificed His son on the cross. Because of God’s love for me and His forgiveness of my sins, I am no longer separated from Him and I have the assurance of spending eternity with my Father in Heaven. It is the litmus test by which I measure whether I am loved or not. The definition of litmus test is this: a test in which a single factor (as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive. The determination of whether I am loved or not is solely based on the fact that God loved me so much that He gave His one and only Son so that everyone (including me) who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. That is the basis for which I am loved. Not whether I feel loved or not. Not whether someone who I thought loved me told me they no longer do. Not that someone who was supposed to love me and take care of me didn’t. The reason I know that I am loved is because God said so in His Word.

But many people determine whether they are loved or not based on how fulfilling their personal relationships are in their lives. They “feel” loved when someone treats them well and meets their emotional needs. But as soon as that person fails to do so, they begin to feel unloved. They falsely believe that when someone rejects them or disappoints them that they are no longer loved. While it may be true that they are no longer loved by the individual, it does not mean they are not loved. The only love that will never fail to meet our physical, emotional and spiritual needs is God’s love. People will undoubtedly let you down, but God’s love is unfailing.

Right now there may be someone in your life who is failing to make you feel loved. Or maybe someone you thought was there for you has given up on you and you feel the hurt of rejection and disappointment. Maybe your spouse has run out on you and you feel alone and think nobody loves you. But there is One who loves you more than anyone here on this earth can ever love you. And He will never leave you nor forsake you. His love is unconditional, everlasting, and unfailing. His love is healing, comforting and liberating. His love has no limits and knows no bounds. His love is giving but it won’t cost you. His loves brings clarity to your confusion and light to your darkness. His love is pure, forgiving and redeeming. His love covers you and strengthens you in times of weakness. His love drives out fear and builds up faith. His love is immeasureable and secure. His love cleanses and restores. His love is protective and inviting. His love fulfills and completes. His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on you.

When You Live To Be 100


This past weekend we celebrated the 100th birthday of my grandmother, Sissy, as she is affectionly known by to her family and friends. It was a celebration of a life that began in 1912 and has been witness to many incredible events throughout this century. Sissy began working as a telephone operator when she was just 16. At the time, she was the youngest employee to ever work for the phone company. She grew up on a farm in Tennessee which she and her three sisters and two brothers helped maintain in order to provide for the family’s needs. I believe it was through her humble beginnings she developed lifelong habits that are worth sharing and learning from.

Wash your face before breakfast – I’m sure this habit was necessary growing up for Sissy because her day began long before breakfast with chores on the farm. She came in after morning chores to “wash up” for breakfast. She still does this every day. I know that I need to “wash up” in the Word before I start my day. The spiritual cleansing that comes from beginning the day with God sets the tone for the entire day.

Have something sweet with every meal – Sissy has a dessert with every meal. Now that may sound crazy for those of us desperately trying to watch our weight but her small indulgence at mealtimes prevents her from a fullblown, whole cheesecake meltdown that might occur if she deprived herself. Every day she has 1 small chocolate donut at breakfast, 1 small chocolate chip cookie at lunch and a 1-scoop ice cream cone after dinner. Moderation is the key that has allowed her to enjoy the things she likes while maintaining self control.

Get excited about the small things – Every day at 3:00 pm Sissy looks out her window with great expectation as she anticipates the delivery of the day’s mail. She if filled with joy when there is something in the mailbox that is meant just for her. Too often we miss the pleasure of the small things in life because they become too routine for us.

Make molehills out of mountains – Whenever something big happens in Sissy’s life that would send others into a stressful frenzy, she seems to have a knack for letting it roll off her back. She doesn’t waste her energy and emotions on getting upset about the things she knows are ultimately in God’s control and chooses to spend her energy and emotions on the people that matter most to her

Keep a routine – Sissy is as predictable as they come and has been for as long as I can remember. She wakes up at the same time every day, washes up, has breakfast, reads the paper, has lunch, watches the same soap opera that she has watched for over 45 years and then enjoys a little afternoon nap (which she vehemently denies). Knowing what your day holds and the peace of knowing the One who holds it in His hands takes the guesswork out of how to respond when the routine is interrupted. She knows what her plans are every day and when the unexpected happens she turns to God and trusts Him with that which is out of her control.

Tell your story often – I’ve heard them all a hundred times but I still enjoy hearing Sissy tell the stories of how she started with the phone company, how she met my grandfather, what it was like to live during the Great Depression and where she was when JFK was shot. She loves to tell her story to anyone who will listen. And no matter how many times you tell your story there’s always a part that someone may have not heard before. Or there is someone out there who needs to hear your story, that needs to know they are not the only one who has experienced what they are going through. Tell your story and tell it often.

Make an actual phone call at least once a week – Sissy is pretty hip but she she is definitely not up to speed on social networking and texting. She uses her old rotary dial telephone to keep in touch with her friends and family. There is something special about a real phone call and hearing the voice on the other end that is lost through emails, texting and social media. People need to know we’re willing to take the time to pick up the phone and call them. I bet right now there is someone you’re thinking of that you should call.

Put on your make-up when you’re expecting guests – Even at 100 years old, Sissy still takes time to care about her physical self. As difficult as it can be for her she puts on her make-up, sprays a little perfume and combs her hair when she knows someone is coming to see her. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 6:19-20) and we are never too old to take care of ourselves and our bodies in honor of God.

We may not live to be 100 years old but we sure can learn some valuable lessons from someone who has. I know I definitely have. Thanks Sissy.