Kingdom Carriers

Kingdom Carriers

Have you seen the film Contagion? Is there anything more stressful in the world than watching that movie? Good grief, what an awful feeling I had watching that. In short, a global pandemic ensues from a virus that was passed by one sole carrier on an international flight, and follows the lives of several of those infected. Chaos ensues, fanned by a fear-mongering blogger (Jude Law).

The speaker this morning reminded us that we are Kingdom Carriers. Wherever we go, whatever we do, regardless of industry, school, church, store, trip, we carry the Kingdom with us. I used to believe that the Kingdom was something that would come from the sky some day when I was dead. But Jesus clearly said to the Pharisees in Luke 14 that the Kingdom won’t come from the clouds, but that it has already been fulfilled. The Kingdom is here now.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what is being carried by us – our family, and the church, and the guy next door. Judging by the conversations on our community FB page, and social media, and all media in general – FEAR. A wild contagion of fear, anger, hatred. It started small, but spread like hot butter. And now so many are without Hope. But not us. Not you and me. We have hope for what has already come! In the darkest of the scary night, there is no reason to fear, because the Kingdom of Jesus is within us. It’s not supposed to be easy. It never has been. But it is great! It is the joy and excitement of a mysterious adventure. But there is no mystery. It is so simple. God doesn’t NEED us to carry the Kingdom for Him, but He asks us to anyways. It’s not about having all the answers and telling people what to do. It’s about having no answer, trusting Him in the scary, all the while loving the crap out of every single person we encounter. No boxes to check, no running around. Simply sitting with Him, hearing Him, moving with Him. Let us spread light and hope, not disease. Wherever we are going, spread Hope like hot butter.

Play

Play

All my kids ever want to do is play. And I LOVE that. Somewhere along the way, that passion fades. Sure, responsibilities rise, but the passion to play shouldn’t. We make every possible excuse to not make time to play. We have believed that God worked hard for 6 days and was so tired that He needed to rest on the seventh. And now that justifies our 24/7 raging hustle, and we are lucky to actually take the 7th to rest. But the truth is, when God was creating Creation, it wasn’t a frenzied hustle – it was art, poetry, passion, love, play, excitement, pursuit… He then took a day simply to admire His incredible Creation in a very restful, peaceful manner.

Now I am finding it near impossible to peel away from the computer, emails, and responsibility to go play and rest. Partly because I believed those things are reserved for Sunday, or the “sabbath”. And partly because I have given “responsibility” my heart. Gross. A big part of Jesus’ character is playful, so if I am not making time for that consistently, DAILY, I am not engaging a big part of my Creator’s spirit. We have become too serious, too focused, too adult. Jesus constantly talked about children as having what we lack.

In my 6 months home, play was all but eliminated from my life. Responsibilities were incredibly high, our schedule became a frenzy, and I find time FLYING by. “I’ll make time to play next week” was my constant excuse. This weekend, we finally got out to play. HARD. Golf, hike, biking, tickles, family time. When I hit the office Tuesday, it was no surprise my focus and spirit were much more aligned with where I believe Jesus wants us to be. We can actually play in our work, regardless of what we do. It doesn’t take a whole day to play, but only a few moments. Let’s take our day to day FAR less serious. If I don’t make time to play now, I’m making time later for illness. Mental and physical turmoil are for certain.

This is Church

This is Church

I love Tuesday mornings. We have gathered a tremendous, unique, diverse, and brilliant group of guys to sharpen, study, learn, grow and live life together. Each of us are either entrepreneurs, creatives, husbands, fathers – a various combo or all of these. One of the things I love most about this group is there are 5 different local churches represented. We are not all from the same home church, but this group is the living manifestation of The Church. Each of our home churches might be different denominations, but that doesn’t matter to us (or Jesus). We all share the same fundamental and important beliefs in Jesus as our one and only Savior. Sure, we each interpret things either slightly or wildly differently, and it can make for some very unique and interesting discussions, but we don’t get hung up on that stuff. Our focus is to love each other the way Jesus has shown us, we inspire each other to love our wives well, lead our kids by example, and to be leaders in our businesses and community that point people to Jesus.

In a digital age, it has become incredibly difficult to find and maintain in-person relationships. So many people that I come across don’t have a community like the one we have on Tuesday mornings. Most of our kids are growing up with their online friends, but have very few friends they hang with. Many fathers I’ve connected with on here find much of their soul food online in various online communities. But NOTHING comes even remotely close to being amongst fellow believers in the flesh. When one of us is having a hard time, there is no word or verse or quote or thesis that can replace a good ole bear hug. We can yack at each other all day long online, but we were meant to be TOGETHER. To gather, break bread and coffee beans, pray, cry, and love. And if all else fails, we speak. We all look forward to that time on Tuesday because of how impactful it is. It is a weekly reset – a chance to share, be vulnerable, be challenged, be encouraged…

98% of what happens in the Secret Life of Dad community happens face to face. I always want to spend much of my effort and time in the presence of fellow dudes. Find community!

Over Under

Over Under

My little superhero is going in for surgery this am. It is the next big step in tackling his health in an effort to greatly reduce illness, asthma, deafness, among many others. Tonsils out and ear tubes in.

If you’ve known me long enough, you’ve heard 1 of 20+ black out stories. I have zero fear of needles or blood, but something in my brain trips every time. I, too, had my tonsils out. I was 25, sick all the time, and needed a change. The nurse couldn’t find my vein, and I blacked out w/out anesthesia, and then came to, raving about Carrie Underwood to @theliser 🤦🏻‍♂️

We are believing for a tremendous improvement in quality of life for him. He has not gone a day in his nearly 4 years without suffering and being significantly limited in daily life. As a daddy, I want nothing but for him to have the very best opportunity to thrive. As I have prayed over him at night while laying in his fort bed, I am reminded that health and healing isn’t guaranteed in this life. And that is so hard to swallow. It’s easy to fall into the trap in thinking that if I just pray more, pray harder, read more Bible chapters, that he will be healed. My natural posture is to assume that if bad things are happening to my kids, that I suck as a follower of Jesus. I am reminding myself this morning as he goes under that my thinking just isn’t reality. Jesus loves him and me and you the same, regardless of our “performance”. While I have great hope for healing, I know that our one true Hope is in Jesus’ love. He promised that things can get really really hard in this life if we choose to follow Him. One thing remains: His constant, never changing love for us. I am praying my face off that my son could experience freedom, but I also know that it may not be, and that’s ok, as long as I can show him where our Hope comes from. It’s hard to teach that to a 3 y.o., but even last night as he mimicked every single move I made as we mowed the lawn, where I lead him, he will follow. Let’s run to Jesus, little buddy. Let’s run to him in the good times and bad. We can lean on each other, and trust in Jesus’ love. What a gift!

O/U I pass out today?

Remember Me Not

Remember Me Not

I’m not a very good entrepreneur. Not by the standards taught in my business school courses that I took before switching majors 17 times. I didn’t complete biz school. I didn’t come from an entrepreneur family. I hate the hustle fad. Growth numbers are boring. I DESPISE marketing, especially myself. It’s hard to find long-lasting success in the creative world without “making a name for yourself”.

And yet, I find myself an entrepreneur. I have 7-8 brands I could / “should” be promoting. All of them are attached to a revenue stream. Nearly all are in the creative realm. And to successfully market, I “should” attach my name to them and showcase talent, ability and hustle in order to gain clients. And who doesn’t have a brand they are promoting these days? Our generation has shifted dramatically from how our parents earned a living, and now 90%+ of my friends own a business or brand. Not a bad thing.

I heard the song “Legacy” by Casting Crowns the other day, not for the first time, but it wrecked me. “I don’t want to leave a legacy – I don’t care if they remember me – Jesus is the only name to remember”. It’s what I have felt for so long, perfectly written as a song, to remind me what I need to continue striving for. Less watermarks and logos and websites and brands and me – especially if it doesn’t point to Jesus. Gosh that’s hard as a creative entrepreneur. But what I need to strive for. We can’t promote us and Him simultaneously, even though we may think we are. Paul had such a massive following, yet never pointed people once to his name or business or brand or… I risk too much trying to grow my brand, saying it’s for the Kingdom. This won’t set well with many, as it’s hard for me to swallow. I can’t deny the truth behind the words: my legacy can’t be about my work, my name or what I leave behind – if people only remember me, and don’t think of Jesus, I whiffed. There is no legacy to leave.

I’ve spent tons of hours and 💰 recently on branding and sites. But I’m asking myself: Why? Which direction will it point people? If we attract attention, then their eyes are on us, not Him. Do I grow this “brand”, or will He? Must “growth” happen?

Right – Wright – Rite – Write

Right – Wright – Rite – Write

This really is an interesting time to raise young kids. With the amount of info thrown at us minute by minute, I sometimes catch myself saying something to my kids that I totally don’t even believe, I just happened to read it that day and it came out during a teachable moment. Thankfully I usually catch it before saying it. There is a constant stream of opinions, fake news, bad teaching, or truth wrapped in agenda, theology, hatred. What is severely lacking is love and relationship. We all know the saying “would you rather be right than married?” From what I’m observing not just online, but in day to day conversations, we are choosing “right” over “married” (relationship).

We want to keep teaching our kids to value relationships over opinions. We believe that is what Jesus did. He never forsake what is right. Yet when the Pharisees were arming themselves with stones to throw, Jesus stepped in every time to extend love, grace – relationship. It happened time and time again. So why is it that we aren’t seeing that anymore. In the church, out of church, online, offline. We are choosing to die on all sorts of hills, just not the good hill. Much of it is over frivolous stuff, as well as faith, parenting, politics, vaccines, diets. But bigger than all these is love. Jesus never left his values, all the while chose to engage in relationship rather than a debate. I find myself drifting towards winning my “point” in marital discussions, while also driving a wedge in the process. What’s the point of being right, if we crush our wife, kids, friends, passerbyers in the process? I rarely, if ever, engage in debates, because we are now so quick to fight. I have my opinion, they have theirs. Is it more important for me to change their opinion or to love them? I’m likely not going to change their opinion. Why die trying, when I can show them life and truth simply by loving.

When was the last time you saw something posted online and it radically changed your opinion or view of something that you passionately opposed before? Never, probably. We are lovers, not fighters.

Timelines and Things – Pt. 2

Timelines and Things – Pt. 2

My wife and I each experienced way more trauma than anyone ever should, all before we had ever met. And it has been much of the same since that fateful day on January 3, 2008 on my front porch. She was wearing a red dress, and I was on the receiving end of a blind date that was setup, unbeknownst to me. I look back at that moment with such vivid fondness, and a good amount of “what the hell was she thinking?”

I look at that moment now and I hear the thoughts that were in my head at that moment – “Are you sure you want to enter this house? You have no idea what you are getting yourself into”. To which I envision her thoughts of “if you only knew what I have been through just to get to this doorstep – what I have seen, heard, the pain and loss I have experienced. Are you prepared for this? Can you handle this?” We then recounted our dating years, engagement, wedding, and our marriage up to this point. There is NO WAY we should still be married. We were as broken as it gets when we met. We have endured chaos and turmoil, more trauma, such deep pain and loss since. And yet, here we are. In love, pursuing Jesus, engaged with our kids, and moving the ball down the field for the Kingdom. There is simply no way for me to sit here and put to words how ANY of this makes sense. But I can confidently point to Jesus and say “that dude must really love me, because I don’t deserve her, this life, to still be standing.” Yes, He DOES love us that much. And He is writing an extravagantly beautiful narrative through the redemption and restoration that is taking place in her life, my life, our marriage, our kids, our purpose.

I hope this encourages you to take note of your own story. All that you have endured, the pure suck that life has been at times. Or all the time. And if you still have breath in your lungs, God is NOT finished with you yet. No way, no how. I spent 30 years in the thickest, darkest fog I could imagine. But I am still standing, on the strength and grace of Jesus. I have a story to tell. So do you. So tell it.

Timelines and Things – Pt. 1

Timelines and Things – Pt. 1

We have recently started meeting with a life coach / marriage counselor to help us strategize, set goals, achieve goals, stick to our values while loving and leading our kids and ourselves well, all while making a living and fulfilling God’s purpose and will for our lives through our marriage and our ministry. We have done counseling throughout our marriage, and we both still engage weekly in personal counseling. We have realized that as different of individuals as we are, we are on the same page in key areas – the most important areas, for the first time in, well, ever. We are so incredibly opposite in how we think, act, behave, that it really is quite the challenge to ever get on the same page AND get some forward movement in these areas.

Since I have returned from my time at the depression center, EVERY area of our lives has been in serious shake and bake mode. God is moving and stretching and growing and pruning in every single area of our lives right now. Kinda feels like a feather pillow getting shoved into a wood chipper over and over again. Stripped down and pruned to the barest of levels. The exciting thing is there isn’t a lot left to prune, which is another way of saying we have no pride left to white knuckle. We are learning to truly pursue Jesus with a wild and reckless abandon. Sure, we still have a ton of moments of bitter selfish pride. But it wasn’t until we truly gave ourselves up did we start seeing some movement. BUT, given both of our career choices, personalities, ministries, purpose, vision, our kid’s health, schooling, visions for the future, work, church, family, friends – a typical Wednesday is more complicated than a lunar landing attempt in the 60’s. And this is AFTER we have pruned almost all we can.

In the initial stages of our meeting with our “life coach”, she asked that we give an in-depth timeline of significant events of each our lives, starting at birth. I went first, and had only gotten to my college years and she stopped me and said “seriously? you need to write a book because you can’t make this stuff up”. I said: “funny, cause I’m only half done, and wait until you hear my wife’s story.”

My Enemy Brother

My Enemy Brother

“When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother”. Lyrics from a powerful song by @thebrilliancemusic. I first heard the song during the ending credits of @nations’ film Iraq. There are several minutes of flashing 16mm film portraits of Iraqis, shot by @janssenpowers. Seeing those faces on the screen, while hearing this song, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus hanging there on the cross as he looked down into the faces of those killing him. I try to comprehend how He felt in those long sufferfest hours. To have the option to use His power to make it all stop, while looking into His enemy’s faces, and to still choose to hang there until He died. I simply can’t wrap my head around it.

But on this GOOD Friday, I’m sure trying. I think about the border crisis, the racial divide in America, the pure hatred & evil drenching our planet in red. I think about those who hurt, abused and abandoned me, setting forth decades of suffering. I think of them and I try to allow my heart to LOVE. I simply can’t do that on my own. Only the Spirit that is within me can enable that, because Jesus IS love, and He lives in me. We already possess the power to love our most hated enemies. We are capable of it right NOW. What is stopping us is a fear and pride that holds us in bondage. It is not our abusers nor those we fear the most that pin us down. We choose that. And we choose to be free of that. Good Friday means that our battle is won. There is no battle left to fight.

My suffering is so very real. It’s is almost all I have ever known. I don’t know what it’s like to hang on a cross and bleed out. But the suffering I know is very real. Caused by others who are not evil, but also hurting and broken. And then we act out of fear. We close our borders, build walls, shun refugees – our brothers – for the sake of “safety”. There is nothing more safe than the death Christ endured, & His rising again to redeem his Church – us. ALL of us. We who choose Him, are already safe. We are in danger when we stiff-arm those who look different than us – our brothers. Those who even try to hurt us.

“May our shuttered hearts greet the dawn of light w/ charity & love”

Unique New York

Unique New York

What makes our kids unique? Yours? Lots of things. That’s not a unique statement. Lol. This is something I think we often miss. I know I do, and I see it all too often in our culture. There seems to be this wildly vast divide between those that celebrate, almost worship, uniqueness. Often times they demand others to applaud, and be more like, their uniqueness, which I guess would make us all slightly less unique. And then there are those that demand we all fit in the same box. Same language, same church, same hair, same swagger. Whatever that means.

We boast uniqueness and yet demand all to be like us. Our kids are watching. They follow our lead in this. We have a bent in one direction, they may follow. We swing too far, they may rebel. What is being missed in ALL of this, is that we all are unique. Incredibly unique. Different. No two people look alike. Even identical twins have a different gate (swagger). Our kids are created in our image, biologically. But their minds, and their hearts – oh so unique. And we get so preoccupied with forming them to who we THINK they should be, rather than fostering who they truly are. Not who they think they are, but who they really are. God calls each of us by name. Not the same name – our own name. He gave each of us a different number of hairs, a different voice, a unique set of days, gifts, fruits, talents. I could spend my entire life trying to conform my kids to my desires of who they ought to be. And I can CRUSH them in the process. It is so important that I pay attention to their uniqueness. Those traits may be microscopically subtle, but they are there.

To the dad who forces club ball on their son because they wished they had the opportunity – the dad whose son has giftings in theatre and design, but “should” be bucking wood or starting a business. It’s not bad to encourage our kids to try things. But eventually they develop their own interests re their gifts. It is important we provide them opportunity to explore, learn, try, fail, quit, try something else. I love the idea of “we aren’t quitters”. But we need to recognize the leading of the Spirit in our kid’s hearts. We can’t box them out. 👇🏻