Still Hurting

When you get hurt badly, it has a way of consuming your life. I am quite certain at this point people who are in my life are quite sick of my injury of recovering from a torn achilles tendon. But when it is personal to you, you feel every aspect of the pain and process. This is true beyond just physical pain. This is just as true when you are talking about emotional pain and loss. It is true about any kind of pain. The person going through it feels it all.

I have had something happen recently during the process of my physical pain. For five weeks plus, I was getting around on one of those sweet knee scooters. Then for about two weeks, I went to crutches and a boot before moving to just a boot. And now I have no boot as of about two weeks ago. Now when I walk in a room, people don’t see anything obvious. People begin to assume I am better. I have even had people say, “glad to see you are all better now.” And the truth is just because there is nothing visual to remind people of the trauma and because time keeps going by, people begin to think I am fine. Yet I can tell you that almost every step I take hurts. There is tightness and aching and time spent in physical therapy and time spent icing. There are moments of mental angst about the process itself, potentially re-injuring my foot, and what my life will look like in the future. And all this is over a dumb injury.

But here is the thing. We do this with people when they get divorced, break up or lose a loved one.  We act like because some time has gone by or because they are no longer meeting with the lawyer or in a funeral home, life must be better. But we should consider something: When there has been a major trauma, people are still hurting even when it is not obvious on the surface. We should consciously consider and think through how someone’s experience may have affected their long-term health. They may have stopped crying on the outside, but not on the inside. They may have gone back to work and are around people, but they are incredibly lonely. They made have gotten through the first major holiday, but another is coming. I think there are some things we can do to help people in pain as they are going through the process. People serve people the most in the moments closest to the trauma, which is often helpful as the person is to numb to function. That said, I think we can help them as they continue to navigate the pain later in the process.

  • When a friend loses a loved one, grab your phone and make a calendar reminder to take them out to dinner at the six-month mark of their loss.
  • Send an encouragement card to the person regarding the recovery even once it looks like the person has recovered.
  • Approach the conversation with the idea that they are discouraged when you think they should be encouraged. (Not so they will stay there, but so you can truly encourage them as you meet them where they are.)
  • Plan a get together/event with the person during what will inevitably be a hard season for them based on the pain they experienced.
  • Offer pragmatic help with a routine task (meal, lawn, cleaning, childcare, leaves, etc.) to the person months after the pain with the goal of just refreshing them.

We Know Better

I have started counting how many times each day I do things that I know better than to do. I am not even talking about morally right and wrong stuff. I am talking about this kind of thing: I didn’t put on my blinker when I know I was supposed to. I picked french fries as my side instead of broccoli. I didn’t clean up at home. I didn’t drink enough water. I kept watching TV instead of playing with my kids. I didn’t read the book even though I had time.  I could keep going and going…and going. In all of these things, the reality is this: I know what I should do and I just do not do it. I could make the list exponentially larger when I start adding right and wrong stuff as it pertains to my faith. These are actions, attitudes, and thoughts that I have or commit while knowing I should not.

So here is a an idea: Forget about learning new stuff.  What would it look like in our lives to just push play on the stuff we already know we should do. Here is my challenge: Pick one thing you already “know better” about and start doing it today. Just pick one and go for it. Here are some ideas:

  • Plan a date night for your spouse that will happen in the next 7-10 days.
  • Cut out something in your diet (For example: pop/soda).
  • Replace watching a show with reading a book.
  • Stop speeding.
  • Drink more water every day.
  • Plan two new activities with your kids this week.
  • Clean out your music list. (For example: songs that demean women)

I think most of us, our education far outweighs our obedience to that education. Let’s just pick something we know better about and change it.

So Cool

I love seeing the power and potential of the local churched unleashed. This happens when a church serves the single moms and specials needs communities of a city. It happens when families choose to adopt and foster children to propagate a culture of life. It happens when a church leverages its facility to help the community. It happens when a church says to city officials: “what can we do to help” and then actually deliver on that help. It happens when the church works to be a peacemaker with groups that are divided. It happens when the people of a church live out their faith.

Our church, Grace Fellowship, does not get everything right by any means. We try and work hard to get things right. And this week, it has been so cool to watch. Our church is in the middle of Impact Week. We are sending out over a thousand people into the various communities our campuses are located in just to serve. I want to say that I am proud of our church when it behaves this way. Thank you to every single person who has gone out into our cities to make a difference. I love seeing the pictures online.  I love driving by a work site and seeing a sea of blue volunteer shirts. I love hearing the “thank yous” from the entities that are being blessed. This encourages me.

For those who attend Grace, the week is still full of good stuff. We have a worship night, Sing, on Friday evening at the Pickerington Campus. And then at each service this weekend at all campuses, we have a surprise serving opportunity for the entire church.  I am excited to see how the week finishes up. So far, it has been so cool to watch the church be the church.

I Want to Quit My Job

There are days when we all want to quit our jobs. Being a pastor is no different. For the record, I love my job and am incredibly humbled to get to do what I do for a living. What I am about to write may just prove to be a personal therapy session in the form of a blog. I think many of my pastoral colleagues would resonate with what this post calls out.

There are some consistent realities about being a pastor that are incredibly frustrating. It has been said that every job has its bed pans. Working with people and in the ministry is no different. Certain things show up and they show up a lot. Here are a few that make me want to quit:

  • Just tell me the truth – I expect people to make mistakes. I am ok that people leave a church. I know that people struggle in areas and drift away from the Lord and church. What challenges me is when you are asked about these and you do not admit to, own, or tell reality. I get that someone may have made it unsafe to be real and honest, but I am not that guy. I want the truth about where you stand and where you are with things far more than what you think I want to hear or what is safe. I long to know people’s realities. Even if that reality is you hate me. You hate the church. You are leaving. I failed you. Whatever it is, I just want reality.
  • Please respond – It is hard to make people feel valued. One way is to try and reach out and connect with people. I know I’m not always what I could be in this area, but I work hard at this (and many pastors do).  Sometimes to say hello. Sometimes to encourage. Sometimes we are asking you to do something.  Sometimes to ask how are you doing. Sometimes to find out where you are. It is so hard to reach out and try and connect just have people ignore you. Maybe it is because someone does not want to have to deal with reality and tell the truth. I am always perplexed that people who are professing Christians are not even kind enough to respond an email, a text, or a phone call.
  • Extend me grace – I forgot your name. I was not able to meet with you this week. My response was not as long as you hoped in my email response. I said something wrong to you in passing. I hurt your feelings in a message while preaching. I could not take the meeting with your friend who does not go to our church. You get the point — I failed you. And I do and I will continue to. But this you can know: it was not on purpose. I am not trying to disappoint anyone. I know I will, and I can live with that. I want to give up when the ethos of the person is “you did me wrong on purpose.” Why would I want to do that? I am not perfect, but I work hard not to be malicious. I also am limited in time and skill set. I want to extend you grace and I ask you to do the same.

I should not be shocked that these are the realities of my job. I work with people and people are sinful, including me. In the end, I love my job. But even in a job you love there are moments I think “I should go be a chef” or “I’ll be a tour guide in Rome.” I trust my pastoral colleagues have felt these tensions many times.  In the end, I would not change my job for anything…therapy complete.

Even Better

The movie Invincible has been on quite a bit lately on one of the channels on cable. And due to my dumb Achilles tendon rupture and surgery I have had a little more time in front of the television than I would like  recently. As a result, I find myself watching shows and movies I have already seen. So as I was watching Invincible the other day, I started doing some internet research to find out the accuracy of the story being portrayed. The story is about a local man from Philadelphia, Vince Papale, who through a public tryout made the Philadelphia Eagles and got to play professional 3 seasons of professional football. As I did some research I right away began to see that in many ways the story Hollywood created was better than the actual story. The climax of the movie is Papale scoring a touchdown against the hated rival of the Eagles — the New York Giants. But in real life he never scored. In fact, Papale never scored a touchdown in the NFL.

This is par for the course in our world. What is sold to us and promised to us in life often does not deliver. The fiction is better than the truth. The movie is better than reality. This is true in many things, but I am quite certain it is not true in one area: The reality of connecting to Jesus is greater than any possible way that reality could be communicated. The real thing is even better than what is advertised, dramatized, or marketed.  The truth of  Jesus could never be outdone by a movie or a book. The unfortunate thing for many is that we treat fiction like the truth, and truth like fiction. The person of Jesus and the reality of following him is even better than can be imagined or presented.


I was at a hospital not long ago and I needed to get something to eat. A staff member pointed me down the hallway.  I make my way to the space they called out and it said “Something Bistro.” I can remember what the “something” was, but it was called a bistro. I looked up the definition of bistro when I got back to my office. In the most generic sense it is a small restaurant. Many other definitions indicated things like a European influence, or cafe vibe or a connection to wine and so on. This “bistro” at the hospital had chips, some pre-packaged salads and sandwiches, some drinks and some candy. It was not a bistro. It was barely above a vending machine.

I pondered this a little bit and something hit me. I have heard it said “that everything rises and falls with your definitions.” I think there is a lot of truth here. In fact more and more, I see this applying to titles. So many titles have lost pretty much all meaning. What is a Christian? What is an evangelical? What is a patriot? What is a Muslim? What is a best friend? What is a luxury car? In all of this, I am coming to the place where putting almost any value in titles in a waste of time. I don’t care about what it is called, I care about what it does.

You may say “So what, why does this matter?” It matters because we are making judgments are people, objects, places and worldview based on titles that have no constant, substantive meaning. So when we are talking about something, although we use the same titles, we are talking about very different things. I would suggest whenever we are talking about something with others, we work hard to make sure our titles, our terms mean the same thing. Without this, I fear we complicate and confuse reality.


Sometimes you just need to get some things off of your chest. Here are some confessions I just need to make.

  1. I struggle to understand how people like shows with zombies at the center of the plot.
  2. I like Taylor Swift’s music.
  3. I do not understand how you can not like Chick-fil-A.
  4. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
  5. I secretly want to train to be a chef.
  6. Navigating life by a scooter as a result of an achilles tendon rupture requires swallowing your pride.
  7. God is teaching me some valuable lessons about joy.
  8. I think I am pretty close to saying I am done with rollercoasters.
  9. While my oldest kids have been asleep recently I have been contemplating releasing their turtles and gerbil into the wild and making up a tale of something that happened to them.
  10. I thought the newest Star Wars was just kind of ok.

Ok…I feel better.

What The National Championship Game Can Teach Us About Life

I am a University of North Carolina basketball fan. I have been as long as I can remember. I am not sure how it happened, but I love the Carolina blue. So if you know the results of the National Championship game against Villanova, you can imagine that I feel like I was sucker-punched last night a little after 11 pm.  From my perspective, it was a great game with an unpleasant ending. Please know I am not one of those people that is depressed today or the that my life rises and falls by whether the ball goes in or out. But nevertheless, it is more enjoyable to have the team you are rooting for win rather than lose. So I figure the best thing to do is to take a poor result and turn into a helpful lesson. I actually believe that is a good way to approach life — learn from every win and every loss.

Here are some lessons from the big game:

  1. Do the right thing and don’t try to be a hero – On the final play of the game, Archie Arcidiacono made the right play. He did not make the spectacular play. He did not try and do too much. He made the right play.  The play was the smart, quality basketball play. Many people will forget he made the pass. Kris Jenkins made the shot, but Archie made the play. And to do that, Archie has to resist trying to be the hero. He had to be willing to be a good teammate who was interested in “we” more than “me.”  Too many people in life want to be remembered. They want to be the center of attention. They want to have the big office. They want to known. Just do the right thing: The right thing morally.  The right thing professionally that you have been trained to do.  The right thing in relationships.  The right thing in your family.  Just do the right thing and live with the results.
  2. Just keep playing – The Tarheels were down 10 points with just under 6 minutes to go. It looked bad. But they scored and got a stop. They scored again and another stop. And they just kept playing. They did not quit. They did not get overwhelmed by the deficit. They did not start blaming others. They did not panic.  They just kept doing what they knew to do and over those last few minutes climbed back to tie the game. In life, one of the most important things is to just keep going. Don’t quit. Don’t blame others or make excuses.  Moment after moment, just keep taking steps forward. No one ever reaches the finish line if they quit. So keep going.
  3. Disappointment is a part of life – Marcus Paige hits an unbelievable shot and ties the game with just under 5 seconds. It looks like Carolina will have a shot to go to overtime and win. And then Villanova hit the dagger at the buzzer. All the Tarheel fans had their heart ripped out of their chest. Disappointment for the players, coaches, trainers, students and fans now sets in. And guess what? Disappointment is a part of life. You can play hard, do the right thing, compete, give your best and still lose. It happens. Everyone needs to expect failure and disappointment. They are realities. My uncle used to say “fair is a place they show pigs at.” Your best does not always equal win. Suck it up and go compete again. People will break up with you. You won’t always get the job. Sometimes the other guy or other team is just better. Rise up and try again.
  4. Overcome adversity that you can’t control – I know people will think I am biased, but I do not believe what I am about to say is biased, I think it is reality. (And many on social media agree with me) The officiating was terrible if you were a UNC fan. Carolina got hit with some awful calls including one on Hicks in the last minute that put Nova at the line. But you know what, it happens. You cannot control it. You can’t control many things in life. You control what you can control and go from there. You work hard to overcome adversity. You realize that other people will do things you don’t want them to do. The city will turn down the levy. Your coworker will gossip about you. So what? Go do what you can. Control what you can control and overcome the other variables.

One game, lots of lessons. Every event is a chance to grow. The question is will we learn the lesson?

The Problem Is People

Everywhere I look I see people.  And let me be honest, I wish a lot of them would get out of the way.  They slow me down in traffic and at the grocery store.  They often don’t agree with me and they approach life with different goals and objectives.  These people hurt me, expect things from me, disappoint me and criticize me.  I turn around and do the same stuff to them.  People just make it all really challenging to navigate the day to day.  Truth is it does not matter whether these people are strangers, colleagues, friends or my own family.

We are created to be relational beings and yet this is so hard.  Relationships are a source of our greatest joys and trials.  Is there a way to solve the riddle, the puzzle, the problem that is people?  At Grace Fellowship, we are going to take 5 weeks and have some conversations about this.  I really hope you join us this week at one of our campuses as we begin to think through how to live in a world of people and not go crazy.



This time of year stirs something in my soul every single year. I end up feeling sad, concerned, angry, frustrated, helpless, useless, determined, and confused as a result of it. Every year around this time, people put on green shirts and funny hats and celebrate St. Patricks’s day. And for many it just becomes a reason to rearrange the wardrobe, decor and props in a life that is marked by drinking and partying. So Instagram, Facebook and Twitter fill up with pics of people lifting their glasses in celebration. Inevitably in these feeds are people I know and some I feel like I know well. But even if I do not know them well, I know many of their professions of faith. I see person after person, both of drinking age and not, wearing green and smiling while drinking.

A few things before I go on:

  1. I am for celebrating St. Patrick’s day.
  2. It still is against the law to drink underage regardless of your religious belief.
  3. Christians are allowed to drink, but they can’t get drunk. For non-christians, it’s your call, do what you feel led to do.
  4. Christians posting pics online with alcohol is a wisdom issue. There is a great chance you are not doing anything wrong, but eliminate the risk and don’t post. Pictures can leave a lot up to interpretation. This is especially true with images from a bar or a party like those connected to St. Patrick’s Day.

Well here is the thing I am get concerned about.  St. Patrick’s day season highlights the issue, but it is something I see all the time. I feel like there is a version of Christianity that has been propagated in which you can call yourself a Christian but your character does not have to change. Let me be clear to the professing Christian: You can not have it both ways. Jesus taught that saying yes to him is saying no to the world. Yes, Christianity is not built on rules. Yes, you are resting on the finished work of Jesus. Behavior does not make you good with God, Jesus does, but those who are good with God have different behavior based on that relationship with Jesus.  Somehow it is being taught that I can say “I love Jesus,” go to the third world and serve, buy justice-conscious clothing, take and post pictures of my Bible with coffee and then still go get drunk because it is a holiday and that is just what you do. No bachelor party, senior year school event, vacation, or holiday are justifiable reasons to live as though God’s decrees are not real. Jesus says (not in a mean voice, but in one that is clear), “if you love me, you will obey me.”

Now I know I sound like I am 100 years old and just one step away from saying “get off my lawn”. But I think the stakes are huge here. We have some “Beyonced” version of Christianity where Jesus can be my homeboy, but I can do whatever I want and those can coexist. That is not real faith in the God of the Bible. It is a form of godliness that ends up lacking all power. It is a recipe for frustration in both worlds you are trying to live. God offers all of us so much more than green beer and silly shirts. He offers us more than the next sexual conquest or another night of laughs. There is more than the trip where I conform to all my friends in the name of image. You think giving up this other part of your life where your character and behavior are altered will be less fun, less cool, less relevant, less whatever.  But the truth is, we settle for less fun, adventure, meaning, purpose and joy when we take anything less than what Jesus wants and asks.

A version of following Jesus in which my character is not conforming to the person of Jesus is no real version at all. It is counterfeit. It is dangerous. It dishonors a holy God. Following Jesus means He is going to alter everything about me, especially my character and my behavior.