Saturday, December 17, 2011


Why do you worship Him? Do you really think He needs that?
No. I do.

How many times have I examined the heart of another when it's my own that needs examination? How many times have I assumed that God is trying to work in the life of another when He's been trying to work in my own life? How many times have I withheld something from a brother or sister believing it was not what they needed when it was not for me to determine but only for me to give freely?

If others had waited to help me feeling that, upon examination of my heart, I needed to learn some lesson because of my brokenness, because of my lack of relationship with God, or because it might "enable" me in some way, I know where I would be. And, it wouldn't be here. And, it wouldn't be with Him.

Our purpose here is not to be God. He's got it covered. Our purpose here is to love others as God loves us. He doesn't need it. We do.


Below are some verses to ponder and some questions to answer ...

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. ~ Psalm 140:12

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. ~ Deuteronomy 15:7

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. ~ Proverbs 31:8

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. ~ Matthew 5:42

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. ~ 1 Timothy 6:18

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done. ~ Proverbs 19:17

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. ~ Matthew 19:21

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. ~ Proverbs 14:31

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? ~ 1 John 3:17

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. ~ Matthew 6:24

Which verse stood out the most for you, and why?

Why should we serve those in need?

What is getting in the way of you serving those in need?

How have you served, could you serve, and will you serve those in need?

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I watched her move the food around on the plate as she sifted through her belongings resting next to her at the table. Expecting her to devour each morsel with ferocity, instead I kept glancing back at her repeatedly over a fairly long time. Her shirt was worn and thin. With dirty hands and nervous looks, she finally made her way through the meal. I wish I would have said something to her, even sat down next to her for a while. Instead, I filled up her water cup, cleaned up the table space she consumed, and wondered where she was headed.

The look in the eyes of someone who has survived an attempt on their own life is unmistakable. It's so empty, so hopeless, so blank, so desolate. Not too far removed is the look in the eyes of the visitor. Wondering why it's happened and desperately seeking some answers, blame settles in for an uncomfortable stay. What does one say when you enter the room? Do you allow silence to dominate the conversation, or do you talk through the thick mask of embarrassment and pain? Slowly but surely, an embrace finally happens, and through tears, hope forms once again.

Lives are taken. When least expected, and often in very tragic ways, death arrives and leaves a mark. Children aren't supposed to be pulled from us, especially before they're born. The congratulatory remarks become piercing barbs as preparing for birth becomes the awkward explanations around loss. Loved ones aren't meant to die in the crumpled remains of an accident, left to pass on alone in darkness. Vulnerability chosen is admired, but our greatest strength comes not from ourselves.

He has been with me through the confusing times, the painful times, the times of loss, and the times of gain. It's easy to remember His presence when we are swimming in joy - as easy as it is to forget His presence when we are drowning in sadness. He is with me every day in every way, just as He's with you as well. Open your heart, your soul, your arms, your life ... and breathe in the love of Christ.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
~ Luke 4:1-2

Forty is a fairly significant number in The Bible. Actually, forty is a fairly significant number in life. I recently turned forty and it's fairly significant to me, anyway.

Alece Ronzino promotes the idea of having one word to focus on during a year. It's inspiring, encouraging, challenging.

As I navigate my way through life, I'm continually seeking God's will in transforming me. Less me and more Him is the goal. More Him leads to more others and less me, and that's what I'm striving for. I know, though, it's not good enough to just sit back and wait without making any effort to listen and respond to His will. So, I set my sights on a yearly goal, knowing that I need to make concentrated efforts day to day.

Forty days. It's manageable and it's meaningful, and it's what I've chosen to focus on as I yield to God. There are very specific things getting in the way of my relationship with Him and others. With His strength, I am overcoming those things one step at a time. What's getting in the way of your relationship with Him and others? Are you willing to commit to forty days? And then, another forty days? And then?

With Him, you can do it, I can do it, we can do it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I shift in my chair uncomfortably as I wrestle with what's being shared. "Read The Bible literally," I am instructed. "Don't try to put things into context as it distorts His Word," I am told. "Either everything happened exactly as presented, or potentially none of it is true," I am reminded. And, yet, we listen as items are contextualized. So, I'm confused. Are we supposed to put things into context ... or not ... or both ... or neither ... or whatever happens to be convenient?

I roll my eyes and voice my displeasure as The Good News of Jesus Christ is ignored by those who claim to hold Him as Lord and Savior. The hypocrisy overwhelms me and stirs cynical thoughts, and comments, and actions. Back and forth we go, pulling Him back and forth, back and forth, determined to make clear that His message and actions clearly support our beliefs, not theirs.

It's silly. It's worse than that, but the word "silly" feels better, safer. How much time I waste, we waste, attempting to own Jesus. The lack of humility is astounding. With a wry smile, I'm saddened and encouraged as I turn to Him and give thanks: For loving me and you so much that disagreeing about words and fighting over possession ultimately leads us only to Him.

I got my Jesus. How about you?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


We're so sure of ourselves that we can't be convinced.
We're so broken that we can't be fixed.

We want to be saved, but on our own terms.
We want others to be saved, but only if we get to decide.

Love others, conditionally.
Give to others, conditionally.

Hold up the gospel as perfection, but limit the possibilities.
Spread truth, but keep it within the boundaries of what makes sense to us.

So unbelievable.
Unbelievably so.

When we talk about the amazing gift of God's grace, and then attempt to shape the message of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, according to our limitations as fallen people, we look like the idiots that we are. It's pathetic, and we can do better. Enough is enough with using Him as an excuse to deny others. Not a single one of us deserve a single thing, and that's what's so amazing about grace. Stop trying to define Him with words that only apply to us. He's bigger than that. He's bigger than me. He's bigger than you. He never put a single limit on loving and helping others. Not a single one. We did that. We do that. Knock it off.

Denying grace is deliciously futile.

Monday, September 26, 2011


"He is a voice, shouting in the wilderness."
~ Matthew 3:3

We get lost as to the purpose of reading The Bible, worshiping The Lord, and praying to God. We get lost because we frame it in such a way as to determine the worth through our own eyes. We get lost because, after all, we are lost.

Reading The Bible is meant to challenge us. We can take a passive interest in the words He shares with us, and the messages He attempts to convey to us. We can become flip about what's there since we're consistently challenged by the world about its contents. We know, of course, by way of the number of authors across the span of geography over the duration of time through historical and scientific analysis, it has withstood all the tests like nothing else has. We can become confused or bored about what's there since its complexity exists because of its simplicity. We know, of course, by way of years of study, that we have been given a living and lasting gift, complete in its message. So, there it waits for us to be filled with its truth. Challenging us.

Worshiping The Lord is meant to position us. So often we get caught up in this argument about how worshiping Him is not necessary to Him. He doesn't need us to worship Him, we think. He needs us to live out His message to us rather than waste time worshiping Him, we think. The fact of the matter is, we don't like to worship Him, because it reminds us of our place. Lavishing another in such a way is beyond our comfort zone. And, this would make some sense, if He was just another person, any person. For that matter, it would make some sense, if we didn't already worship other people, even though no person deserves this. Finally, it would make some sense, if we didn't worship things, even though there are no things that deserve this. We all worship something. The questions are, what do we worship that deserves that kind of attention, and what do we worship that puts us in our place? He is above all people and all things, and if we don't understand this, we don't have a proper understanding of who we are and what we need. It's true, He doesn't need our worship. We do. Positioning us.

Praying to God is meant to change us. We think a lot about what we want and what we think we need, but we don't spend much time thinking about what He wants and what He knows we need. Never has prayer impacted me more than when I've let go of my desires, and simply asked God to reveal to me His will and His purpose for what He has in store for me. Never has prayer been so clearly answered than when I've asked God to alter my selfishness, transform myself instead of others, and remind me of the blessings He has provided. Answered prayers to us translates to getting what we want, when we want, the way we want it. God is always answering our prayers, and we'd know that if we just took the time to listen, instead of just taking the time to ask. Believing that prayer is about manipulating God's emotions in order to receive what we want is not only futile, it's silly. Prayer is about remaining faithful to God, allowing hope in Him to transform us, and giving ourselves a makeover of epic proportions. Changing us.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


How does one keep track of death, determine the impact of loss, portray the outcome of tragedy?

My sister died not long ago. A single life snuffed out in perverse circumstances. Her children left to make sense of it. Her family left to wish for a different outcome. Her killer left to hopefully make something of his life. And yet, the loss of one young woman so deeply loved is nothing compared to ...

Columbine - 15 lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
Norway - 77 lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
9/11 - Nearly 3,000 lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
Haiti Earthquake - 46,000 to 316,000 lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
Rwanda Genocide - 500,000 to 1 million lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
The Holocaust - Nearly 6 million Jewish lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
World War I - 15 to 65 million lives lost. Nothing compared to ...
World War II - 40 to 72 million lives lost. Nothing compared to ...

When does it become impossible to keep track of death, determine the impact of loss, portray the outcome of tragedy? The truth is, it never becomes impossible. Not to the single person lost. Not to the circle of people impacted by that loss. Not by the lasting effects of tragedy.

The number of people who died on The Cross to save your life is directly proportionate to the number of people He died on The Cross to save. It's that personal. It's that kind of impact. It's that everlasting. It's that immeasurable.

My prayer is for the lives lost. May each and every one find the way home again.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I can tell when it's starting to happen. When the anger starts building up inside of me. When my blood starts to boil. Once again, I witness someone's negativity and self-centered ways spill over onto others. I get rattled to the point that I find myself imagining conversations, explaining with confident clarity that I don't want, we don't want, no one wants to be covered with the filth left in their wake. How does hate consume someone so completely, leaving not blindness, but actually drive? A sick feeling lingers as I eventually and consistently return to prayer for them.

For them.

And I hide my sins from others. Exposing the safe ones, the familiar, the common, but certainly not everything. No, everything would be too much for people, for friends, for family, for Him. If I try hard enough, and pretend long enough, I can trick anyone into believing that it's the muck and the mire that others are in and need to be saved from. They flaunt it with disregard, and I acknowledge it with pride. Finally it clicks, though, as I eventually and consistently return to prayer for me.

For me.

We all have darkness inside of us, but we all have light as well. Tears start to well up in my eyes thinking about what He did for people, what He did for you, what He did for me. What starts with sadness turns to joy. And a smile forms as I eventually and consistently return to prayer for Him.

For Him.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I like to play this game with my family and friends where I challenge us to consider how much money it would take to do something beyond our comfort level. Typically, it's about eating something that may disgust us, eating more than we could handle, or placing ourselves in a situation that would be extremely frightening to us. While I could spend a lot of time dissecting the fact that I use money as the item of enticement, or that I use food and fear as the challenge, the point here of mentioning my silly little game is something else entirely. Well, I think so.

My oldest daughter recently turned 12. It's the end of her tween years. Being a teenager is just around the corner. She's starting 7th grade. Her life is a whirlwind of change. For that matter, so is mine. So, I took her out to lunch for a father-daughter talk over sushi. She was thrilled, and I was perfectly centered. Yes, I lie.

I want my children to live a life that honors God, others, and themselves. Smoking and drinking and taking drugs, sexual encounters, inappropriate clothing and language and music and television and movies - all of it and more scare me when it comes to my children. We expect so little of our youth, and they are capable of so much more. Our sinful nature and God's perfect grace need not and should not be our excuse for throwing caution to the wind.

My daughter listened to what I had to say. I invited her to read a book I loaned her, Do Hard Things. We chatted about some difficult topics. And, we challenged one another to eat some fish eggs. Then, I asked her how much it would take for her to eat 2 or 3 or 10 or 20 more rolls. Amidst the laughter I stated explicitly what she already knew. The hard things I was asking her to do didn't have to do with fish eggs or sushi rolls. Rather, they had to do with things that wouldn't always be popular, but they certainly would always be right.

She'll continue to make mistakes, just like I do. And, she'll continue to do easy things, just like I do. But, I also have faith that she'll keep learning and growing, striving to love others above herself, and - above all else - trying to love God and accept His love and perfect grace ... just like I do.

Monday, August 15, 2011


When I'm struggling with someone or something, I just have to figure it out.

When I'm wanting whatever I'm wanting at any given moment of any given day, I just have to find a way to get it.

When I'm feeling like I'm better than the next person, I just have to judge them and maybe even try to fix them.

And, yet ...

When I'm looking for someone to blame for whatever my woes may be, I blame Him.

When I'm lacking whatever I think I'm lacking, I blame Him.

When I feel like people don't love me for who I am, I blame Him.

Maybe ...

I should turn to Him for help.

I should seek His will for my life.

I should let God sort things out with others, focus on my own repentance and acceptance of grace, and strive to live as an example of His love.

I wonder ...

Can there be any better way of reaching out to others and sharing truth then by turning to Him, trusting Him, and allowing Him?

Sunday, July 31, 2011


What an amazing day it was to attend my first Heaven Fest.

I used to be a bit of a concert fanatic when I was younger. I've enjoyed the live musical stylings of individuals and groups as diverse as Rick Springfield, Boston, Roger Waters, U2, John Mellencamp, The Kinks, Toad The Wet Sprocket, The Cranberries, 10,000 Maniacs, Chicago, Donny and Marie Osmond, Pink Floyd, Hootie & The Blowfish, The Cowboy Junkies, Natalie Merchant, Sally Taylor, The Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler, The Romantics, Peter Mayer, Sarah McLachlan, Jars Of Clay, R.E.M., Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, The Young Dubliners, Runaway Truck Ramp, Vince Gill, Open Road, Cake, and, well, I could keep going, but I think I've already gone on long enough ... or, more than likely, too much.

With all my exposure to various musicians, I've never experienced anything like Heaven Fest. Thousands of people wandering from stage to stage under the intense high altitude heat. I was lucky enough to enjoy Sanctus Real, Jeremy Camp, Superchick, Mercy Me, and Skillet. Great musicians all, but they weren't the focus of the day, regardless of how we all may have felt at times.

Music reaches out and touches our souls. It evokes memories like nearly nothing else, and it provokes feelings which often lie buried inside without blends of melodies and words to help them surface. There's something else that comes when listening to music focused on God. At some point, the music is less about what you're taking in, and more about what you're putting out.

Worship. That's the "something else." It's not about what He needs, because He needs nothing. Rather, it's about what we need, because we need everything. He is everything. Perfection. Even better than Donny and Marie Osmond.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today was not a good day in Norway. What happened is beyond our understanding. What happened was yet another tragedy in yet another part of the world on yet another day. What happened was yet another reminder of how broken we are, and how lost we can be. I wonder if we've become numb to daily horrors that people experience. I wonder if we've lost perspective and it's only briefly gained when large scale events that we can somehow relate to shock us to the core. I wonder how much it takes to even shock us anymore. Today was not a good day in Norway, and my prayers are with the people affected, as my prayers are with all people affected by tragedy in any given moment on any given day. And still, for me, it was different today ...  

Today was a good day.

Fridays feel good to many people since it marks the start of the weekend, and the weekend for many means no work and all play. That's not why today was a good day.

Today was a good day because I started it by blessing a friend with breakfast as he blessed me with some help I needed. We had a great conversation along the way as well. Real and honest and encouraging.

Today was a good day because I had lunch with another friend who made a point of reaching out to me in order to check in and listen. Not only did he treat me for lunch, he gave me some much needed guidance.

Today was a good day because I met with yet another friend in the afternoon for our weekly time together that just hasn't happened as often recently. We shared our struggles and made a simple plan together.

Today was a good day because I finished it with worship and a message from one of my pastors that was clearly directed toward me. God has a way of doing that.

Friday reminded me that our lives are not meant to be spent idle or in isolation. We're meant to be active and in relationships. I'm fortunate to have a purpose, as well as a wife, as well as daughters, as well as friends, as well as a Savior.

Today was a good day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


We're all broken.

Hiding that fact about ourselves from others tricks people into thinking there is such a thing as self perfection (or at least something close to it) in this world, and they just can't live up to it ... and it tricks us into thinking we can.

We need to get real, act real, and keep it real.

None of us are any better than anyone else. None of us will ever attain or even come close to perfection, because it doesn't exist in this world. Thank you, Jesus, for helping me allow you to be my perfection.

We can do absolutely nothing without Him. We can do absolutely everything with Him.

Father, it matters not when I have run away from you
or when I have chased after you,
for you're always there.
Like a river carving the rock, you've softened my heart
and drowned me with your overwhelming love.
Angry at times with my inability to escape your raging waters,
I'm forever thankful to bathe in your eternal springs of hope.

Monday, July 4, 2011


He didn't "take her life." He isn't "the one responsible for her death." As harsh as it may sound, and as dramatic as it may sound, the accurate description is that he is my sister's killer.

It's been a few months since we began picking up the pieces and were saying goodbye to my sister, Kathy. This coming week, the man who killed my sister will be pleading guilty to a single felony count, avoiding other charges he would also most certainly and easily be convicted of. I'm sharing here the letter I'm sending to the prosecutor to pass along to him. I do this not to sensationalize a tragedy, but rather to give insight into what I hope to come out of my sister's death. Time heals wounds, but scars remain.

Dear Brad,

Kathy was my sister. Kathy was a daughter, a mother, a niece, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend. And, Kathy was a sister. Kathy was my sister. And, I loved and miss Kathy very much.

Imperfect as Kathy was, as we all are, Kathy's not the one who killed herself, and neither am I, and neither is anyone else ... except you. You verbally and physically abused Kathy repeatedly over a long period of time. You chose to drive that fateful morning while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. You drove with extreme recklessness, lost control of your vehicle, and killed Kathy. You fled the scene without knowing if Kathy could be saved or not. You denied driving the vehicle, denied knowing Kathy, and denied those who loved Kathy the knowledge of her death until long after Kathy died.

It's time to stop the denial and accept ownership of everything you've done. It's time to stop throwing your life away. It's time to stop living a life of selfishness and destruction. It's time to start making something of your life. You have been blessed with an opportunity to do this.

I forgive you for everything. I don't have an ounce of that power of love and forgiveness inside of me except for what I've received. Recognizing my absolute brokenness, openly admitting it, and allowing myself to accept my need to stop living for myself has given me the strength to truly forgive you for everything. I want you to feel this as well.

God's grace is all you ever need. He died for you, so live for Him. Your life here won't ever be perfect. However, you will be changed beyond what anyone or anything can do here for you. You will desire to put Him first. You will strive to put others next. You will struggle to put yourself last. And, you will finally feel the love you've always been searching for.

I sincerely forgive you and love you and hope (for your sake and for others) for a changed life for you,


Sunday, June 19, 2011


Maybe you don't know who Rainbow Man was. Pretty famous guy. Pretty weird guy. Pretty disturbed guy. I've used the last two descriptions in reference to my Dad, and I know my older daughter has thrown those couple words out when mentioning me as well. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my Dad and my older daughter loves me. And, neither my Dad or I are as weird and disturbed as Rainbow Man.

We all think we're so much better than at least some other people. We're all so wrong.

We take and we take and we take, but we give nothing back. We do what we want, when we want, and how we want. And, in exchange for our selfishness, we get this ...

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

I figure the least I can do is love Him, and I do, and I love how it makes me feel. He just never stops giving.

Happy Father's Day, God. I couldn't have done it without you.

Quite literally.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I bet I could take God. I mean, if it came down to it, and we had to sort things out with a bit of fisticuffs, or things came to blows, and we had to settle it with a little wrastlin', I bet I could take Him.

It would be nice if we always agreed with everything God has in store for us. Of course, it seemingly would be nice if His plans for us would match our plans for us. However, we're so self-centered that we're unable to determine what's best for us, and, quite frankly, we're unable to realize it's not just about us. But, we just don't get it when we're in the moment, do we?

There have been plenty of times when God and I haven't seen eye to eye. My anger toward Him has risen to unhealthy levels, but even when I can't seem to forgive Him, He always forgives me. And, slowly but surely, I return to Him because He's always there waiting patiently for me. I simmer down, time passes, and I realize what He had in store for me and why it was best. Well, sometimes I do. And, I figure when I don't, there will come a day when I do.

God just doesn't make sense to us. Die to live (Matthew 10:39)? To be first is to be last (Mark 10:31)? Being a leader means you must be a servant of all (Mark 10:43)? We want what we want, and if God really loved us and answered our prayers, He'd give it to us, right? Sounds a lot like the way children speak to their parents.

I look ahead and don't always see it. I look behind me and it makes sense. So, I suppose if I'm honest, I actually have tried to throw down with God, and I've never won. And I never will.

Thank you, God.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again" (John 3:3).

I know when I was born. We all do. A birthday is just one of those things we commit to memory, and one of those things we celebrate (like it or not) year after year after year. It's a big deal. I remember when my children were born as well. A master of details I may not be; however, I most certainly remember how I felt watching my daughters come into the world. Absolutely amazing.

"Born again" is one of those phrases many people scoff at. It's easy to roll your eyes at something you either don't believe in or understand. I'll even acknowledge it's a bit humorous to think about, especially since we think of infants being born, but certainly not adults. Hey, I've been there. I'd venture to say most of us have.

There came a time when I realized that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior. God's grace saved me. I would also say once I knew I was saved, I didn't feel born again. That journey continued for me until I understood through my actions that I was emotionally and even physically changed. It wasn't that I was somehow saved through my actions; rather, it was that I was simply and passionately pursuing Jesus with a willing heart.

I am born again. And, just as when I was born, I am maturing every single day.

It makes me smile.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Geep: A goat and sheep hybrid
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."
They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"
He will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

~ Matthew 25:31-46

Being saved doesn't mean doing more good works than bad. Being saved also doesn't mean simply saying you follow Christ, and then living a life that fails to demonstrate what Christ has called us to do. God knows a goat, He knows a sheep, He knows a geep, and He knows you. Strive to put your heart in the right place, and then show this through your actions. He knows we will stumble, and His grace covers this. Living a life for Him is about here and now, not just about later.

Monday, May 23, 2011


"Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).

Maybe the right thing to say is that I don't like to sin. That wouldn't be honest, however, and I certainly don't want to sin while I'm in the middle of admitting that I actually like to sin. I mean, don't get me wrong. It's not that I run around trying to find ways to sin. It's not even that I always like to sin. And, it's definitely true that I never like the ultimate results of my sins.

One of my pastors reminded me during a message recently that we can approach sin a couple ways. The first is to allow ourselves to feel the least bit comforted by giving into sin in only small portions. Justifying small concessions feels somewhat acceptable in the moment, but before we know it, those small portions add up. What seems harmless initially eventually becomes downright horrifying. It reminds me of an uncle of mine who used to only take a sliver of pie at our family gatherings during the holidays. Those slivers of pie looked fine, until you added up all the slivers he took. Then, well, it looked just plain gluttonous.

The second is to guard ourselves at all costs from allowing sin to enter our lives. Our sinful nature, along with our enemy, satan, prevents us from living a life of perfection. However, we can actually strive to stay away from sin. Recognizing where we have the greatest weaknesses allows us to avoid temptations. Fleeing from sin takes it to an even stronger reaction. We have no problem running toward what we desire; therefore, we should have no problem running away from what we should not desire. Everyone's different, so the trick is acknowledging our specific sins and bringing them to the light. Hiding our sins from others does not protect us.

I use excessive amounts of food to escape rather than healthy choices to nourish me. I allow lustful thoughts to bring me pleasure rather than focus on the healthy and loving relationships overflowing in my life. I've got plenty of other sins as well, but I'm going to start with those two. How about you?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We look for God and we don't always see Him because we aren't always paying attention.

A staff member where I'm an administrator came to me in my office, letting me know she had been praying for me since the loss of my sister. My struggles were obvious, and it had been on her heart to share her desire to pray with me. So, in the middle of the day, at a moment I was feeling at my lowest, God spoke through her as she put her hand on my shoulder and lifted me up through prayer. His timing is perfect.

She sent me a message over the weekend, asking me if I'd lead a prayer at the beginning of a tough week at work. Another staff member looking for some leadership that comes only from above. Seeking guidance, we gathered in my office, a group of colleagues understanding our strength comes from a single source. His timing is perfect.

We were in a place under repair and preparations to become our church building. Sharing our thoughts from our Bible reading, and about to discuss our challenges and prayer requests for the coming week, our small group was interrupted by a man carrying a Bible and a backpack. We prayed together in a place no one would have normally been at that time (let alone our group who never meets there), with a man who simply came in looking for some rest and support, for things only He can provide. His timing is perfect.

We look for God and we don't always see Him because we aren't always paying attention.

So, the challenging thing becomes
not to look for miracles, but finding where there isn't one
~ Peter Mayer 

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I'm a parent of two daughters. I'm also an assistant principal at a middle school. These two roles charge me with caring for young people. Caring for young people gives me the opportunity to demonstrate genuine support with all of my heart. It's rewarding. I love it.

This may come as a surprise to you, but my daughters don't always act the way they're expected to. Interestingly enough, the students I serve don't always demonstrate a willingness to abide by basic rules either. Yes, none of us our perfect. We all make mistakes. And, when my daughters and my students make mistakes, I'm charged with disciplining them. It's challenging. I don't really enjoy it.

My love for them is no less present when I'm giving them what they have chosen to receive, when I'm giving them what they deserve. It's not about making them miserable. It's not about eliminating the possibility to learn from their mistakes. Rather, it's about connecting them with reality and opening a door for better choices. Ultimately, they must make the choice on their own, and with the proper guidance, they will hopefully make the right choice. At least, more often. I hope.

God's love for us, as well as His justice demanded through perfection, meet perfectly in one place: The Cross. Our inability to meet His standard requires punishment. That punishment is death. Thankfully, I don't have to try to meet His standard. Neither do my daughters. Neither do my students. Thankfully, because we cannot possibly meet it. No matter what we do. Never. Ever.

God's perfect solution was to send His one and only Son to live with us and die for us. He paid our debt in full. We no longer have to meet it. Now, I don't know about you, but that doesn't make me want to do whatever I want; rather, it makes me want to live for Him. It makes me want to get closer to Him and His standard. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

Because, there is no greater love than His.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Sunday, May 1, 2011


"One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit." ~ Oswald Chambers

What risk do we take to believe in ourselves? What risk do we take to believe in others? And, what risk do we take to believe in God and His gift of Grace?

God needs us not, but we desperately need Him. He doesn't need our love, our praise, our worship, our sins, our prayers, our efforts, our hearts, our souls, our anything. Loving Him brings us closer to Him and one another, and He desires that for us. Praising and worshiping Him humbles us, and He desires that for us. Giving Him our sins washes us clean and allows us to accept His gift and live for Him and for others instead of for ourselves, and He desires that for us. Praying to Him encourages conversation and relationship and faith in Him, and He desires that for us. Our efforts demonstrate our willingness to serve and be obedient, and He desires that for us. Our hearts and souls hold our very essence, and for them to remain with Him is for our benefit, and He desires that for us. God needs us not, but we desperately need Him.

What is spurring you on, and what is holding you back?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18).

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I'll cut right to the chase. He isn't just another person who makes a positive impact on the lives of others. He didn't just hang out for a while to teach us how to love. He is God in the flesh. He died for us.

Jesus claims who He is (John 10:30). Jesus performed miracles (John 14:11). Jesus led a sinless life (John 8:46). Jesus prophesied (Luke 24:27). Jesus resurrected from death (John 2:18-22).

Jesus was punished for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus substituted His life for ours (1 Peter 3:18).

I'm amazed by this. Are you?

Friday, April 15, 2011


This was the message I shared at my sister Kathy's service on April 14, 2011. This is for you, Kathy. May you forever be at peace and full of joy.


Kathleen Elizabeth Altepeter: April 16, 1971 - April 8, 2011.


I loved Kathy’s smile. When left unhindered by her hand that often made its way to cover her mouth, her smile would slowly spread across her face, light up her eyes, and move its way out to our hearts. I loved Kathy’s smile. I think we all did. In fact, I know it.

Kathy seemed to hide that smile. She’d guard it and protect it, even to the point of seemingly being ashamed of it … even when there was nothing to be ashamed about. When she did, however, allow that happiness to infuse joy throughout her body, Kathy’s smile would erupt into a giggle and then a laugh that was unforgettable.

We owned a Vista Cruiser station wagon when we were younger. It featured that little third row seat that faced forward and added an additional tier of excitement for my brother, Jeff, me, and Kathy as we ventured both within and outside of our hometown in our stylish ride. Yes, a Vista Cruiser station wagon: An exceptional vehicle. Fortunate enough one day to be the first to gain access to this third row, My brother and I barked out some of our typical nonsense to our sister who was seated in front of us. It made her break a smile. The smile turned into a giggle, the giggle turned into a laugh, the laugh turned into a snort, and the snort turned into a thick, elongated stream of snot. This unexpected, and unwelcome, mucus made its way toward me in a painfully “slow motion” whip-like movement as I sat anxious about and then astonished with the final outcome: It had come to rest directly across my cheek. Disgusted as I was, Kathy and Jeff and I continued to laugh uncontrollably. I mean, seriously, it was snot, and if snot’s anything, it’s funny.

Yes, Kathy knew how to smile and she knew how to laugh, and she knew how to leave a mark. The mark was sometimes disgusting and sometimes disturbing, like the snot. But, it was also sometimes painful and sometimes sad. Yet, it was also sometimes absolutely joyful. And, it was always and distinctively, her mark.

We remember Kathy’s smile and Kathy’s laugh because it was uniquely hers. She was special in her own way. She loved for her own reasons. She felt loved for her own reasons. And, she was loved for her own reasons as well as our own. We also remember her smile and her laugh because we didn’t always see it much. As she grew older, it seemed we’d see it even less. But we all knew it was there. And, it would come out from time to time. Those moments were special. We all have them. Keep them with you.

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We do. Kathy did. You do. We do. Kathy wasn’t simply born with this ability to love, and she didn’t just figure out how to do this by the example we attempt to set for one another. We were given this gift and example from a single source. Kathy wrestled with God like the rest of us do. However, she received His ultimate gift, and that gift is love. We may have felt her love in different ways for different reasons. We may not have always appreciated how we received that love. We may be wishing that we would have experienced that love in a different way or for a longer period of time. However, the good news is that the love we gave her and she gave us isn’t from us or from her. It’s from Him. And it’s always available, exactly the way we need it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s always there … always.

Dead and alive again … lost and found (Luke 15:32).

From the time our parents, Jim and Pat, brought Kathy home, to the time they adopted her permanently into our family, to the time she left us, now just less than a week ago, Kathy was lost. Kathy was searching for something she struggled to find. Kathy didn’t fully comprehend what was already hers. Kathy didn’t understand the gift she was waiting for would never come from her journeys, nor would it come from her return; rather, it was to come from what was directly in front of her the entire time. Kathy isn’t any different from me or from you. When she finally let go, Kathy was found, and Kathy received what was planned for her long before she came to be. Long before any of us came to be. Dismissing this truth doesn’t make it go away. Thank God. Yes. Thank God.

Sitting with us this evening are Kathy’s children: Matt and Kylie and Michael. They are their very own selves: Beautiful, unique, powerful, defiant, strong, resilient, loving. Those characteristics didn’t come from nowhere. They came from God. They came from their mother. They came from Kathy. Kathy brought her children to us, she shared them with us, and now she permanently leaves them for us. Entrusting their care to this body of people, let us not fail her. Let us not fail Him.

When Kathy was young, she would play a particular song on a record player in her room. Performed by Debbie Boone, it was titled, “You Light Up My Life.” I guess I should be clear here though that she didn’t just play the song on a record player in her room. No, Kathy would play the song over and over and over ... and over again, until nearly all of us in the house would plot ways of destroying that record, and forever giving ourselves an escape from its endlessness. Interestingly though, we never did. I think we never followed through because deep down inside we actually enjoyed listening to it. And, even if that’s a bit of a stretch, then we most certainly enjoyed the smile and the happiness it brought to Kathy. Her joy brought us joy.

I loved Kathy’s smile. I think we all did. And now, I believe, she will be smiling every single moment for eternity. In fact, I know it.

I love you, Kathy. We love you, Kathy. We always have, we still do, and we always will.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Kathleen Elizabeth Altepeter
April 16, 1971 - April 8, 2011

How do you measure a life, counting it important among us, and knowing it really happened, and truly mattered?

My sister led a troubled life. She yearned for a happiness she could never seem to find. Mental illness and addictions followed her wherever she went, and unfortunately where she went was seemingly always toward those people and places she should have ventured far away from. Abused by her boyfriend, repeatedly and violently, the steps she needed to take to walk away never got her very far. Until, that is, she was led to her death in a car driven by her abuser. Drunk behind the wheel, he sped along with Kathy as a passenger until he lost control and she met a pole at a speed and impact beyond what the car and her fragile little body could handle. As he walked away from the accident and left her to die, the footsteps heard walking and even running away certainly weren't hers. However, the quiet early morning enveloped her as God embraced her and led her home. A final and painful chapter in a troubled life. An opening of a door to a new and everlasting one.

I've been working to gather her belongings at the various places she has been. A little bit of herself left a trail of sorts where I'm beginning to both find her and lose her. Again. Sifting through clothing, clean and unclean. Sorting through papers, a written history with more gaps than bridges. Pictures, sorted away in various fashion, showing who she valued the most: The children she left behind. Matt, 19; Kylie, 13; and Michael, 9 (who celebrated his latest birthday on the day of her death) were dearly and deeply and passionately and eternally loved by my sister ... even though she couldn't always do it in the way most of us are used to.

So, we gather as a family this week, attempting to determine how to pick up the pieces, put them together once again, and create a collage bound not by typical means, and not by time. But, most certainly, by love.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Friday, April 1, 2011


I'm still hanging out on earth, I'm still loving Jesus, and I still believe I'm spending eternity with God because I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. All this, and I purchased Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, yesterday afternoon. Then, I read it yesterday evening and this morning. I haven't been struck down, my faith hasn't been shattered, and I'm born again. Even now. Still.

Here are my points ...

1. Read the book. Don't let others, including myself, tell you what it's about. Let Rob Bell tell you what it's about by actually reading the words he wrote and the Scripture he quotes.

2. Have an open mind. If you've made up your mind about what it's about and what's wrong or what's right with it, then you don't have an open mind.

3. Trust in God. He's bigger than Rob Bell and this book. He's bigger than you. He's bigger than everyone.

4. Be humble. Rob Bell doesn't have it all figured out. Neither do you. I know what I deserve, and I know what I've gained, and I know why. But, I don't have it all figured out either.

5. Love.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it. ~ W.C. Fields

It doesn't make sense to us to give up. We weren't made that way, we don't live that way, and we sure don't plan to die that way. So determined are we to find a way to win, that we'll do nearly anything to conquer what stands before us. Inspiration comes from dreaming the impossible, executing a plan to overcome it, and defying all odds to demonstrate that we are the victors. Oh, we're certainly full of ourselves, if nothing else.

So, when does it make sense to actually give up?

Using our differences as a starting point, there's quite a gap between ourselves and God. He wants us with Him, and hopefully, we desire to be with Him. So, we try to bridge the gap ...

We attempt to use religion. If I go to church, if I pray, if I read my Bible, if I follow all the rules, if I repeatedly confess and ask forgiveness, if I'm religious, then I will get closer to God.

We attempt to philosophize our way to God. Exploring our own spiritual understanding and that of others seems like a good path to take. There's certainly no harm in it.

We attempt to do good things. Hey, as long as we're doing a lot of good things, or at least more good things than bad things, then it makes sense we would grow in our relationship with God. Let's not argue that doing good things for others is, well, somehow not good.

And, we attempt to at least do the best we can. I mean, come on, none of us are perfect. So, as long as we're doing the best we can, then it'll all get taken care of in the end. We hope.

The fact is, all these attempts fall short. It's not that being religious or philosophizing, or doing good things, or trying the best we can are bad. But, that's not the point. The point is that these attempts fall short of bridging the gap between our broken and sinful selves, and the love and holiness that is God.

He desires us. He is jealous for us. He provided a perfect solution for us. All we have to do is want Him as much as He wants us. Here's where it makes sense to give up.

Give up. Get Him. You win.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Do you know who I love more than anyone else in the world?

I'd like to believe I would do anything to protect my wife and my daughters. The fact of the matter is, I probably would. I love them. Wow, do I ever love them. Given the choice, I truly don't believe I would hesitate for even a split second to give my own life if it meant saving theirs. My mind wanders to fears, and I come to the rescue.

I wonder why I don't always show that in my words and actions?

I'm selfish. I like to do what I want when I want. While I don't run around like some wild man, carelessly and recklessly and purposely causing pain and anguish for my family or others, I do consistently exhibit selfishness. It is written in Isaiah that "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way ... " (53:6a).

We have, haven't we?

It freaks us out to say we're sinners. We get caught up in the ugliness of the word. The feeling that we're not being positive about ourselves makes us spiral into self-loathing or react with a flurry of excuses. Just because we make a few mistakes now and again, doesn't make us bad people, especially since most of the time we really do pretty good things ... or so our justification for our actions typically goes.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

We fall short of His glory. Over and over and over again, we fall short of His glory. Not just our actions expose our sinful nature. It's also our words. It's also our thoughts. Don't be angry or scared ... it's true ... for everyone. Our sin has earned us death and eternal separation from God. Again, don't be angry or scared ... it's true ... for everyone.

God doesn't want that for us. He wants us to live with Him now and forever. He desires that for us. He would do anything to protect us. Anything and everything.

Friday, March 11, 2011


God is love, and God is holy.

It's not just that God loves us, is the prime example of love, and consistently demonstrates love. It's so much more than that. It is written that "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). Yes, God IS love. He loves us like no person can ever possibly imagine to love us, or us another.

But, God is more than love.

God is holy. He is perfect. He is pure. He is righteous. He is just. God requires absolute perfection from us, which we cannot deliver. God is pure to the point of never being wrong. Never. Ever. Even though we're wrong. A lot. God is righteous and has standards for us to live up to for our benefit. Which, we cannot live up to. And, God is fair - He is not partial - He must punish all of us for our unrighteousness. Bummer.

Or, is it?

Because, after all, remember ...

God IS love.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I used to despise the notion of heaven and hell.

It's much easier to believe that this life is all there is. It's much easier to believe that we should take all we can, get all we can, or even give all we can, right here and right now, because when the lights go out, there's nothing to concern ourselves with anymore. Nice and tidy.

Why would a loving God condemn anyone to hell? The thought of it disgusted me. I'm not sure if it's because I believed I was going to hell, because I believed I deserved to go to hell, or because I believed that anyone was going or deserved to go to hell. Sick and wrong.

Here's what changed everything for me: This isn't all there is, and we get a choice of what's next. Heaven is spending eternity with God. Hell is spending eternity without God. This isn't all there is, and we get a choice of what's next. Amazing and true.

How sure are you that if you died now you would go to heaven?  

He is jealous for me
loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
we are His portion and He is our prize
drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
if grace is an ocean, we're all sinking
~ Kim Walker

Monday, February 21, 2011


I wonder sometimes, is it that I don't think I'm good enough, or is it that I think I am?

Reflecting on the mistakes I've made in life, I'm amazed I've made it as far as I have. The fact of the matter is, if everyone really knew everything about me, I probably wouldn't have made it as far as I have. As much as we feel somewhat relieved by fully disclosing truth to those around us, it usually feels far safer to withhold at least some information. You know, the stuff people couldn't fully handle. But that's it, isn't it? People haven't, can't, or won't fully handle it. My stomach turns a bit, and with eyes downcast, I recognize I'm just not quite good enough.

While I certainly admit I haven't been perfect, there's definitely a lot I've done in my life that I'm proud of. I look at my accomplishments, my family, and my profession, and I can't help but have a smile slowly form in gratitude. After all, I was a superb runner, with hard work resulting in successes that are still reflected in record books. With two beautiful daughters and a loving wife, I'm a father and a husband, and I'm enormously blessed. I've dedicated my working life as a teacher and an administrator to making a positive difference in the lives of young people. In some ways, really, I am more than enough.

Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). He made clear to us, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 9:24). And He brought it home with, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

There's a reason I struggle with believing at times I'm not good enough, and at other times believing I am. It's because both are true. Crazy. Spectacular. "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Life is about love ...

Life is about trust ...

Life is about letting go ...

I'd be a liar if I did not say
sometimes I wish that there were more than one way
I'd be a liar if I hadn't said
I wish the glory meant for You was for me instead
~ Steele Croswhite

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


My story is a great story, but not because of anything to do with me. I was baptized, communed, and confirmed in the Catholic faith. Thankfully, my parents introduced me to God, but I certainly didn’t have any relationship with Him. Successful academically and athletically, I floated through school and life. Full of myself, I lived for myself. This led to poor decisions in my youth related to alcohol, drugs, sex, and relationships. Eventually I became consumed in work to at least give an appearance of being devoted to something other than myself. When I was 33, my search for what I needed came to an end when I realized what I needed was always there. With some skepticism and anxiety, but also with an acceptance of the fact that I was completely lost, I followed my parents’ example and connected with God again. This time it was with a realization that He died for me and that I need to live for Him. I couldn’t believe the joy that came with recognizing my faults, accepting God’s grace, and turning my priorities to loving and serving God, my wife, my daughters, and others. Life isn’t easy, and it isn’t meant to be; however, I clearly know the path I am on, even when I stray from it. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I look forward to spending eternity with Him. My story is a great story, but only because He made it so. Praise The Lord!

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go
~ Peter Mayer