The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three Rocks

Twa Men- Three Hands Monument in Port-Au-Prince
For those of you that have been to Haiti, the odds are you have seen the monument of three hands in the circle leaving the airport.  The monument was built during the Aristide regime.  The meaning of the monument depends on who you are talking to.

If you ask a guide that frequently brings in Christian tourists- I mean mission groups- they will tell you that the hands represent the Father, Son, and Holy spirit holding up the world and even Haiti.

If you are talking to an activist Haitian living in PAP they will tell you that it represents two hands from a Haitian and one from government, the other hand of the government is in your pocket.

The average Haitian though will tell you it has three hands because you can't do it alone.  We all need someone else to help us.  The saying in Haiti is "ou paka kwit diri sou de wo'ch"- You can't cook rice on two rocks.  It takes three rocks together to hold up the pot.  That is the way life is viewed in most societies besides ours.

In America, we believe we can do it all on our own.  We are so proud that we do not want to ask others for help or ever admit that we need it.  We base our success and achievements on our abilities and hard work. It's the "I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps" mentality.  Now I am a committed advocate of hard work and independence.  I hate entitlement and hand outs.  I am talking about something more basic yet essential than that.  I am talking about realizing that we were made by God to interconnect and help each other reach our full created potential.  When we arrogantly feel like we don't need others to reach our full potential, then any attempt by us to reach out to others to help them reach their potential will be condescending and superficial.

To be rich, I don't need you.  To be powerful, "I got this".  To achieve the American dream, "I am my own man".  To be successful I can rely on my intelligence, education, heritage, networking skills, communication ability, and inner drive.  To be what society says I should be, I don't need you.

But to reach my created potential as a Kingdom child, I need you.  I need people to speak truth to me in love.  I need people to help me be stronger in my faith.  I need people to keep me accountable as a father and husband.  I need people to encourage me on my down days.  I need people to celebrate my victories with me.  I need people to go into battle with me.  I need people to sit around and talk about nothing sometimes.  I need you.

By recognizing MY need for people, I am equipped to BE that person for others.  That is the key to humility being the basic foundation on which God builds us up.  Let's throw off the pride and self sufficiency that this society tries to encumber us with.  Let's commit to acknowledging our need of others so that we can help others reach their full created potential as Kingdom children.  It really does take three hands- and I only have two.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Day That Ruined Me

Part of it was finding myself in what appeared to be a war zone.  Smoke, smoldering fires, destroyed buildings, and dead bodies.  The bodies.  Lines of dead, uncovered, mangled bodies.  Nameless.  Lifeless.  Futureless.  

Part of it was the eyes.  I look into people's eyes for a living but I will never forget the look in the eyes of the people in Port Au Prince that morning.  Fear.  Hopelessness.  Confusion.  They had spent the night hoping not to die.  Most had stood huddled in the streets away from any buildings as the aftershocks continued.  For hours they stood.  Eyes wide.  Nerves on end.  Even as we arrived after sunrise to search for friends, the people still stood.  The ones not digging through the rubble or holding dying loved ones stood with eyes that will both haunt me and drive me for the rest of my life. 

Part was the realization that had I remained in the comfort and security of my job, and home, and family, and future, and church, and ministry in the U.S. I would not be the one God would use to help a people heal from the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds of losing over 250,000 lives in 43 seconds.  

Part of it was the word.  As we put up makeshift clinics in the streets- far enough away from any buildings to keep people at ease- we tried to clean wounds, stitch people up, dig out shards of metal and concrete.  We carried the mortally wounded on doors through the streets to clinics.  We comforted the dying and their loved ones.  And in the midst of the desperation and overwhelming chaos I kept telling God I was an optometrist.  I kept reminding God that this was not what I signed up for.  Then I got a word.  Not an audible word.  But a clear word in my spirit.  As I said I am just an optometrist, God said "no you are a Christian.  And THIS is what Christians do." 

I was ruined.  I can never go back.  I can never go back to being ok with what's happening around us while we play church and act like we are doing what Christians do.  I can never go back to being content with chasing the American dream and giving God a token nod as I pursue wealth, comfort, security, and honor.  I am ruined.  I don't necessarily like it.  At times I wish I didn't weep over the condition of the church.  I wish it didn't break my heart knowing that there are enough Christians to care for every orphan in orphanages around the world but we don't.  At times I hate being angry about the prejudice and racism that is allowed to fester in the hearts of friends.  I wish I could just be content.  Good job.  Nice house.  Pickup truck and fishing poles.  Retirement account and people that like me.  

But I can't.  I am ruined.  Ruined to mediocrity and temporal thinking.  All I can see is me standing before God and wanting to have something to give back to him.  Some gold. A little silver.  A few precious stones.  I dread the thought of standing on a pile of wood, hay, and stubble and trying to explain to my Jesus that I went to church every Sunday.  I gave my tithe- of my gross even. I was good.  Better than some anyway.  "It was just so busy Jesus."  Work.  Church.  Ball games.  Civic clubs.  I did the best I could.  Come on Jesus, you know how it is.  


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Haiti is Still Haiti

A Humbling Gift

Many of you that have been to Haiti have met Pastor Remy. He lives in the distant mountains and pastors a small church there. He is the father of 7 children and lives in the two room house that I stayed in with Tracy Robinson, Tracy White, and Mark Ikerd the one trip we managed to make that far into the mountains. He fell and broke his shoulder recently and at about the same time their donkey died. They have a 3 hour trip to get water and without the donkey it was very tough for them. So we were able to buy them a new horse to replace the donkey. He wanted to come down and thank us and bring us a gift.

When they arrived they very formally told us they had a gift to give Joy and I as a thank you from their family. They first took out of their bag a large papaya. Next she pulled out a beat up canister with ground coffee in it. Finally she opened a container that she had carried the four hours to meet us and began to pull out eggs that her chickens had laid. She gave us 10 eggs. I came up with the excuse that I would go and get a box. I actually had to go because I could not help but cry. To think that these humble people would bring us their best. They wanted to bless us so badly. I immediately was reminded how selfish and proud I am. God used this encounter to remind me what true love and humility looks like. Thank you pastor Remy. I know you will never read this because you lives miles from electricity and have never used a computer. But Thank you for being used to humble me and remind me why we left all the entanglements of the life of prosperity to come here to be loved by people that give us eggs.  
(Originally Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010)

Update:  When cholera hit Haiti in 2010 it was a compounding difficulty on top of the devastating earthquake in January.  Just months after Pastor Remy and his wife came to deliver us this gift she succumbed to the disease. She was out working in the field in the morning and started feeling sick.  Before she could get down the mountain she died.  She left pastor Remy with 7 children to care for alone on top of that desolate mountain.

I was praying for the pastors in Haiti this morning as Pastor Remy came to mind.  I called to check on him through pastor Cesar and found out his father is deathly ill.  What a tough life to live.  Pastor Cesar reminded in his tone of wisdom "Haiti is still Haiti".  Pastor Remy is also the pastor of a small church that has a small school.  The school had to close 2 years ago due to lack of support.  The kids that can afford to pay now travel down the mountain to a school in a distant village each day.  We need to help him restart the school. So many needs. "Haiti is still Haiti."

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Do you really know the answer to the question "Who are you?" Do you REALLY know the answer?

I think we all have a little bit of confusion at times in our lives and it can have a huge impact on where we go in life.

This is a picture of Jacy Klaire in her Lee County Middle School cheer uniform after a competition.  Do you have a better grip on your identity than when you were a middle schooler?

What if we put emphasis on the different words?  If we say:

"WHO are you?"-  As opposed to WHAT are you.  'What' is much easier to define.
  "I am a teacher"
  "I am a mother"
  "I am a runner"
  "I am a husband"
  "I am a coach"
  "I am a middle child"
  "I am a ..."

But you are not defined by WHAT you are- You are defined by WHO you are.

"Who ARE you?" - As opposed to who WERE you or who WILL you be.
  "I was all-state in three sports"
  "I was valedictorian of my class"
  "I was beautiful"
  "I was such a sinful person"
  "I was a drug addict"

  "I will be better once I finish school"
  "I will quit soon"
  "I will be retired"
  "I will be alone"

Our past helps to mold who we become but it does NOT define us.  The hope of our future motivates us to be the best we can be, but it can't dictate who we are in the present.

"Who are YOU?" - As opposed to who you appear to be.
Facebook and social media are great tools to connect with people that are not in your everyday circle of encounters.  Distant relatives, past friends, and others we like to communicate with can seem closer.  But, it can also be a huge confusing element in our true identity.

Most people are NOT who they seem to be on Facebook.  People put on Facebook what they want people AND themselves to believe that they are.  We see how other people are on their pages and we want to be like that.  If we can't actually be like that, at least we can look we are.

The greatest influence in my spiritual life other than my father has been Pastor Ruffin Snow.  Pastor Ruffin taught me more about life and about myself than anyone else in my life.  He teaches that pride is wanting people to see us as ANYTHING other than what we really are.  Humility is allowing EVERYONE to see us as we truly are.

Facebook and social media make it hard for us to stick to that standard of humility.  I don't mean you should "air your dirty laundry" on social media.  That is not being transparent and humble.  I mean you should recognize Facebook and Twitter etc. for what it really is.  A place of communication and "social"-izing.  Hence the name "social" media.

Don't base your identity on who you are and who you want people to believe you are on Facebook.  Don't modify your identity based on how many "likes" you get from a post.  Base your identity on what the ONE WHO MADE YOU says you are.  God made you.  God made YOU to be YOU for a reason.  God has a perfect plan for the REAL YOU in His Kingdom to make an impact.  His plan is not for the Facebook you, or the High School Year Book you, or the Sunday morning you, or the water cooler you, or the past you, or the future you.  God says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."- Jeremiah 29:11.

Don't miss that plan because you don't know you.  Take time to find the YOU that God has the plan for.  Study His word.  Talk to Him about it.  Make it enough of a priority that it has an impact on your life.  Your kids need that you.  Your spouse needs that you.  Your friends- fake Facebook friends and real life friends- need that you.  And if you don't start living in that you- YOU will miss the very purposes for which YOU were made.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Get Engaged

Jaxon, Josie Kate, Judah, Justice, Jacy Klaire, Paige with Logan
There are words that get tossed around ministry circles at times that represent a ministry intention or purpose and then the phrase often becomes cliche'.  I hope "engaged" doesn't become cliche'.
I like it.
I like using it.
I have come up with several ministerial scenarios where it fits well and makes me feel "relevant" (one of the aforementioned cliche'd phrases) to say it. But most of all, I think it appropriately describes the proper interaction I want to foster in the relationships in my life.

I want to be engaged.
I want to be involved...but more than involved.
I want to be committed...but more than committed.
I want to be passionate...but more than passionate.
I can be involved, committed, and even passionate about ministry, or relationships, or church, or family but still just cruise.  I can be all of those things but still allow myself to be distanced and non-impacting.

But if I am "engaged", then I am all of those things.  I am involved in fostering the engagement.  I am committed to the relationship to the point that I want to see it blossom.  I am passionate enough about it to make it a priority in my life daily.  Engaged.  If I was a tattoo guy, I would definitely get Engaged tattooed somewhere cool.

If we engage the people around us with the intention of expressing to them the love that we have for them because of the love of Jesus flowing from us, then we will have the opportunity to impact that person's life.  

As a preacher, I want other people engaged too.  I want them engaged when I preach.  You can tell when people are engaged versus when people are enduring.  Often times I preach to enduring crowds.  They are willing to endure me as long as I don't engage them too long. But when the congregation it all changes.  You can tell when they are internalizing what you say.  You can see emotions and deeper than "what's for lunch" thoughts plowing into their minds.  They are exploring the possibility that what I am saying might actually be true, and then seeing the enduring ramifications of that truth.  I love engaged people!

Engaged people change.  
Engaged people put forth the energy and diligence to cause change in the conditions around them.  Engaged people don't quit.  
Engaged people fight for what's worth fighting for.  
Engaged people recklessly pursue the goal set before them of being like Christ.

Disengaged people don't.  
Disengaged people don't have impact.  
Disengaged people are content with mediocrity.  
Disengaged people just cruise. 
Disengaged cruisers drink the Kool-Aid of the propagandists in our culture and surrender their right and opportunity to fulfill the destiny for which God created them.  

Engage.  Engage the relationships you are in.  Engage the people you are around.  Engage the circumstances in which you find yourself.  And in the end you will see that you have engaged the essence of what it means to be Christian.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Evil is Evil

In light of 9/11 tomorrow and our President's speech tonight, I can't help but think of how diverse our nation is and how it fills its role in the world.  In my worldview, God established the United States of America as the first nation in history to be founded as a Christian nation from the start.  A nation whose initial purpose was to be a light to the world and a major player in the historical role of evangelizing the nations.

So what is the big deal about that?  Evil.  Plain and simple.  There are evil forces in the world that work to oppose ALL things established by God.  His initial creation, His chosen people, His church, and even America and other nations since our founding that have been instrumental in furthering God's plans.  

In comes ISIS.  Just the next player in the role of opposition to all things Jehovah.  Based in the demonic religion of Islam.  Does that offend you?  It shouldn't if you understand that Muhammad was so engulfed in demonic activity as he devised the religion of worshiping Allah.  Satan is the father of all lies according to the apostle Paul.  Any religious force that is based in lies and opposes Jehovah and Jesus Christ is powered by evil.  Jesus said if you are not for me, you are against me.  The prince of the world is Satan and he directly opposes the things of God.

That's the problem.  Our leaders and the progressives of the world don't ever like to admit that evil exists.  Evil exists only if God exists and has influence in the world.  If we can take Sec. Kerry's stance that all these groups just get misunderstood and peace is possible if we can just come to terms, we don't have to acknowledge evil and thereby God.  No God, no judge.  No judge, no absolute truth.  No absolute truth, I can do what's right in my own eyes.  

Don't be afraid to stand up and call evil- evil.  It's not unloving or narrow minded.  It's not ignorant or radical right wing fanaticism.  It's right.  Let's do what's right.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hate, Hope, and Home

Riots in MO, open borders, amnesty, beheadings, ISIS or ISIL - what's up with 2 names-, Golf outings, Hamas, Gaza, "bless you", and ebola.  Anybody else ever feel like things are a little out of control?    
Throw in personal tragedies, terminal illnesses, strained relationships, financial hardships, workplace pressures, and gnats...and it's almost too much to handle!  
That makes you wonder what really pushed Robin Williams over the edge. Money, fame, comedy, success and yet he chose the most painful way out for his family and friends.    
Good thing there's Jesus.  He has never crossed a border and yet keeps no one out.  He never grants amnesty yet forgives all who ask.  He hates terrorism but understands Holy war.  He loves all people but declares none come to God but through him.  He never leaves his leadership post- even for a golf game.  He has rightly battled Palestinians for over 4000 years.  He is the healer.  
Whenever those personal trials abound, He says - Rejoice!  Take joy!  This trial can help you know me more.  This pain leads to perfection.  This sadness leads to sanctification.  He says "I don't like it either but I am with you all the way!"  
Don't despair or get too caught up in the world and it's problems.  The end of The Book says its just going to get worse anyway.  Stand firm for what's right.  Fight only for what's important.  And most of all, be the ONE person in the lives around you that everyone in your circle knows will never leave them or forsake them.  Be the person that keeps others from crossing that line.  Be Jesus and a source of hope and it will ALL be worth it.