Random Thoughts: #TourDeDC2016

Last week I visited our nations capitol, Washington DC. I toured the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress, various museums, monuments, and the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Visiting these various locations prompted so many thoughts (some random, some deliberate) that it has taken me some time to process through them all. Here are some of the main takeaways.

America: Scarred but still Great

I knew there was a reason that I rejected the notion that America was never great. This statement has been a common refrain by many who reject the mantra of Donald Trump when he says “Make America Great Again”. They simply state that “America was never great.”

A simple tour of DC proves this to be false.

Washington

The Washington monument. Created to honor our very first President. A man who, when given the opportunity to expand power, chose to relinquish power back to the people. This principle, the idea that the government belongs to the people, is great.

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Abraham Lincoln. A man who fought for the idea that all men are created equal and managed to keep our nation intact as it sought to dissolve. This is great.

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This photo is front the entrance to the Holocaust Museum. A museum dedicated to remembering the millions of lives that were exterminated by the evil Nazi regime.

When confronted with evil in the world, the United States fought to destroy it.

And succeeded. This is great.

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Finally. Arlington National Cemetery. Countless rows of head stones with the names of honorable Americans. Many of whom died in combat securing the very freedom we have to proclaim that our country was never great.

The free air that we breathe is because of their sacrifice.

This is great.

Our Nation has its scars. A past full of things that caused deep pain and sorrow for many. But don’t you? What do you expect from a nation full of people that have pasts full of things that have caused deep pain and sorrow? We are scarred, but this does not fully eliminate the collective greatness of our Nation. Our scars do not define us. Just like your scars do not define you.

The Rest of DC:

  • DC was surprisingly quiet despite it being election season. I anticipated more but was actually pleasantly surprised.
  • Uber is the way to go when traveling around town
  • Clean city! As someone who understands custodial operations, I appreciated this aspect
  • Knocked off another MLB park while visiting. Enjoyed watching the Nationals play the Braves.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Brian

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Random Thoughts: May 2015

May was a very challenging month. Painful to be quite honest.

Cancer sucks. A family member and a close family friend died due to cancer this month. These situations hit close to home, and maybe even more so as we approach the anniversary of my Mom’s passing in early June.

Life is fragile. I am humbled by this reality, but more than anything I am motivated by it. Motivated by the thought that it is simply not supposed to be like this.

Death was never part of the plan. Death breaks the Lord’s heart, and finally it has broken mine.

Alas, May was not all doom and gloom. Life goes on and I am still breathing so that means that the Lord has a plan for me that He is working out.

Also, I have read and listened to some great content this month. Check out the latest in Titles and Tunes.

Titles

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

FiveDysfunctions

If you lead a team or are a member of a team, this is a MUST read. Easy to understand and implement while also being a very quick read. I knocked it out in a weekend and was able to go back and take some notes.

Spiritual-Leadership

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

I have not yet completed this book, but I have covered enough ground to know that it is a worthwhile read if you are interested in the subject of Spiritual Leadership. I am impressed by how practical and easy to digest the content is. So often I have found books like this to be heavy and lacking in practical day to day application. I need actionable content. So if you are like me in that sense, then check it out.

Podcasts

 The N Commandments – Northpoint Community Church

Andy Stanley explains what Jesus said we are NOT to do. Hence the N Commandments. (Think: Worry Not, Sin Not, Doubt Not, etc)

Awesome series, check it out.

Relat(able) – Passion City Church

Relationships. Everyone wants to have great relationships, but are we Relatable? Louie Giglio is currently working through this series on relationships and its good stuff.

Tunes

 My Top 5 Tunes as of Today

  1. What Would I Do Without You – Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
  2. American Beauty – Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
  3. Difference Maker – NEEDTOBREATHE
  4. Brother – NEEDTOBREATHE
  5. Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong Live

I went to a concert and was introduced to Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors for the first time. Needless to say, I am a fan. Check out the tunes!

 

 

 

When the Struggle is Real

“The Struggle is Real”

Struggle

This statement has gained popularity lately, and is usually reserved for “First World Problems” or when something trivial happens that we need to make light of.

I admit, I’ve said it before and got a few laughs.

But what about when the struggle IS real? What are we to make of life when we cannot make light of it?

Life is tough. This reality is inescapable. There will be seasons when the struggle is real.

I have been through a few seasons like that. In fact, I am just coming out of a season like that. For a few months, I was just in a funk. I felt like the Lord was distant and there was nothing I could do about it.

Of course I knew this wasn’t the case, but I certainly didn’t feel it.

All of the Christian clichés in the world couldn’t help me feel better about my situation.

I was struggling. I was suffering.

Suffering is part of the Christian experience. Suffering teaches us lessons that may be learned through no other medium.

As C.S. Lewis says – “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In these moments of pain, suffering, and confusion we are driven to a greater reliance on the Lord. Our faith in the Lord is tested, and forced to grow.

We are forced to lean into the Lord and trust that He will catch us in this time. Allow me to share an analogy that helps me visualize this.

The Jump

I went skydiving last September with a handful of friends from my hometown. I was apprehensive at first, but the challenge was just too much for me to turn down. We all speculated on the drive down that our moment of greatest fear would be as we approached the door for our jump. As the plane begin its ascent, reality began to set in. I turned to my buddy Daniel and said “Well, at this point the fastest way down is going to be by jumping.” He agreed, and we both concluded that since we were strapped in, we pretty much had no choice at this point.

We had to jump.

Just think, here I was, attached to a stranger jumping from 15,000 feet into the blue Florida sky. I was relying on this stranger, and our parachute.

The Jump

Needless to say, I survived.

I have discovered that our walk with the Lord is a lot like this, especially in the realm of suffering.

The Lord often invites us to greater reliance on Him but sometimes He pushes us to the edge so that our only choice is to jump and discover our complete reliance on Him. The latter of these two options is certainly more difficult. It is nice to have the choice to acknowledge my reliance on the Lord as opposed to skydiving into His peace. Either way, the fact is that the Lord is really all I have.

I say all of that to make this point: when the struggle is real, it helps to consider that the Lord is likely using that to make you look more like Him.

That is the goal after all: to look more and more like Jesus.

Recognizing this purpose has not made my struggles any easier, but it has helped me to understand and even be grateful for the experience. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

It is my prayer that if you are in the midst of a trial, that you would jump. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth that could not be achieved any other way. Cling to the Lord and recognize that He is ALWAYS all that you have

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:50

The Greatest Game Ever Played

As I navigated 18 holes of golf this weekend with my Dad, I found myself thinking about how the game of golf uniquely reflects life. Most athletes would say that sports in general reflect life, and they are right in saying so. Adversity, perseverance, teamwork, dedication etc are inherent in all sports but I believe that golf most precisely reflects life. Consider the following principles:

  • Individual Sport

Golf is an individual sport. We have tried to make teams, but golf in its purest form is about you. Your swing, your decisions, your shot, resulting in your score. People can teach you everything about the game, but at the end of the day YOU must execute.

Life is a lot like this. Your time, your decisions, your habits, your relationships, resulting in your life. Not unlike golf, you can get a bad break here or there. Heck, you can get a string of bad breaks. It happens. However, it is your response to those bad breaks that will define your life. People can teach you how to live, but it is up to you to decide.

At the end of your life, the Lord will hold you accountable for how you lived. Be sure to live well.

  • Great Challenge = Great Opportunity

If you have ever attempted a round of golf, then you know how hard it is. You must use a small club to hit an even smaller ball, to a relatively small target, hundreds of yards away, guarded by just about any natural barrier imaginable. For some reason, this challenge keeps me coming back. I have played the sport for 20+ years and I keep coming back.

And therein we find the principle: Great challenge = Great opportunity.

All it takes is one incredible shot to redeem a round. The routine shots in golf are not the ones that you remember; it’s the shots that you achieve against all odds.

The long par 5 you reach in two.

The bunker shot you hole out to save par.

The punch shot through a small gap in the trees (I have failed at this shot a few times and have the scar to prove it).

You face many great challenges in each round, but those challenges are an opportunity for greatness. You will never hit the miraculous shot if you don’t take a chance.

Life is a lot like this.

You are faced with great challenges, but those are great opportunities! Go after them with everything you have so you can at least say you gave it your best shot. Who knows, perhaps you will pull off the miraculous.

I think the Lord calls us to live like this. A life of full engagement, viewing challenges as opportunities, and impossible situations as faith expanding experiences.

  • Every Shot is Unique

Variables, variables. So many variables. Wind direction and speed, lie, grass length, distance, pin location, green speed, humidity, temperature, etc.

I think this is one of the reasons golf is so challenging.

Every shot is unique.

Life is a lot like this.

Every day is unique.

Full of variables as well. Relationships, challenges, frustrations, experiences, lessons, opportunities.

I often lose sight of this, usually around Monday when I am wishing my days away to get back to my weekend. I hope for an “easy week” so I can get to my weekend.

I sacrifice 5 days in order to relax for 2.

Something about that math just doesn’t add up for me. And it shouldn’t, because life doesn’t work like that.

I think about when the Psalmist says “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”

I ask myself this: Given the reality that my life is fleeting, how then should I live each day?

Golf has been called the Greatest Game Ever Played, a gentlemen’s sport they tell me.

Now I don’t know about all of that, but what I do know is that this game has taught me a great deal about life.

Here is the one difference though: I will play many rounds of golf, but I only get ONE shot at life.

Better make it count.

– B

Random Thoughts: March 2015

March is almost in the books and it has been a good one. Here is the latest in Titles and Tunes.

Titles

Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus

Must Read!

Must Read!

I heard Erwin speak at a Better Man conference a short time ago and was blown away. I immediately purchased a few of his books and have not been disappointed at all. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of intentional living as a follower of Christ. It is easy to read, easy to understand, and delivers a punch straight to your heart.

Tunes

My top 5 Tunes as of Today –

New York to California – Mat Kearney
Without a doubt one of the sweetest songs I have heard in a long time.

My Only Answer – Austin Adamec
Glad to see Austin be successful. He led worship with CRU @ UF for a number of years and I always thought he was very talented.

Overwhelmed – Big Daddy Weave

Live Like That – Sidewalk Prophets
Talk about intentional living!

Throwback Tune – Chances – Five for Fighting

Social Media

This will likely be a topic for an entire blog at some point… but does anyone else think that social media has gone too far in some cases? I walk around every day and constantly see this

Look up!

Look up!

Here’s the thing – I observe this as a guilty man. I spend too much time on my phone. Heck, I will post this very blog to various social media outlets. But how much is too much? Just some food for thought. (Stay tuned because I will be writing another blog on this.)

Sports

I love the Spring sports lineup, and here’s why:

March Madness (although I didn’t even complete a bracket this year, weird)

Major League Baseball/Fantasy Baseball (Go Cardinals)

Fantasy Basketball playoffs (I am locked into a heck of a battle right now)

The Masters (Will Bubba repeat?)

Monday

It has become a popular thing to beat up on Monday as the representative of the beginning of our work week. I guess I just can’t relate. It seems to me that wishing your days away is just like wasting your days away. I have lived long enough to know that each day is unique and special. Enjoy each day.

Enjoy the remainder of your March!

-Brian

Walking Wounded

BME 2015

This weekend I attended an annual event hosted by Better Man Ministries here in Central Florida. During the middle of this event, a local Pastor of a very large congregation was recognized for his commitment to advancing the Kingdom of God in his community. He was given a moment to share a few words, and he vividly stated what so many men in that room knew from experience:

“The question is not IF you will be wounded in life, the question is WHEN you will be wounded.”

After he detailed the tragic passing of his grandchild, and the suicide of his son, he then said this:

“The LORD permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves.”

What a powerful statement, by a wounded man who stood in front of thousands of wounded men.

The odds are good that you have been wounded. Some wounds deeper than others. I know I have. The thing about wounds is that they WILL happen and there is not much you can do about it. You may not be a follower of Christ, but the problem of pain and hurt in your life is no less a reality.

Some people believe and preach that as Christians, we are immune to wounds, but a quick glance at your past proves that to be false. A quick glance at Scripture proves that to be false. Scripture is littered with wounded men and women and we follow a Jesus that was the most wounded of them all.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Where do wounds come from? What is the source? How are we to deal with them?

Sources of Wounds:

Sin – As a follower of Jesus, I believe THE source of brokenness, loss, and pain in the world is sin. Now, this of course is the Sunday School answer so I will flesh it out a bit. Here are some examples:

Sin against You – Someone turns the sword on you, and wounds you. Abuse, neglect, rejection, denial, hate etc. The act of someone sinning against you that leaves a wound.

Sin against Yourself – You turning the sword on yourself. Destructive habits, addictions, poor choices and their consequences etc. Even if you deny the existence of sin, you cannot deny that some of your decisions have wounded you.

Loss – Broken relationships, death, crushed hopes and dreams etc. If you live long enough, you will lose someone close to you. If you engage in relationship, then there is a chance that it could end for no real reason. That happens sometimes and it still leaves a wound.

How are we to respond?

INVITE OTHERS IN –

Take a look at this story from the Gospel of John.

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

You see, this amazes me. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand into His side. He invited Thomas into His wound. He showed Thomas it was real. He was pierced but He was now alive.

We have to follow this model that Jesus put forward. Invite others in to your wound. Allow them to see that it is real, but you are still alive and moving forward.

BE VULNERABLE AGAIN –

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

Pain teaches us a lesson: “Do not repeat that action, because it hurts.”

This is why we only touch the hot stove once when our Mom says not to.

It is also why we are less vulnerable after a failed relationship. A failed attempt to love someone. Or love rejected. Our hearts and minds tell us: “Do not repeat that action, because it hurts.”

Apply wisdom when being vulnerable, but absolutely commit to being vulnerable again.

ENGAGE IN LIFE –

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Once wounded, our tendency will be to withdraw. That is what pain does; whether it is physical, relational, or emotional. We must fight this tendency. Engage in life. Engage in the battle to advance the mission of Christ. Engage in the gritty, messy, and broken aspects of people’s lives. Jesus stepped down into the muck of our lives, pressed on through wounds, and continues to engage us to this day.

As one wounded person to another, I encourage you to continue walking.

Keep Walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendly Fire

Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman, professional athlete turned Army Ranger, died 10 years ago in an attack in Afghanistan. The worst part about this attack is that enemy forces did not carry it out, it was carried out by friendly forces AKA Friendly Fire.

Friendly fire is loosely defined as “an attack by a military force on friendly forces while attempting to attack the enemy, either misidentifying the target as hostile, or due to errors or inaccuracy. Such attacks often cause injury or death.”

This was a terrible tragedy resulting in loss of life, a decrease in combat effectiveness, and utter embarrassment for the US Armed Forces.

This incident was a completely preventable occurrence. Of course in the course of battle it is sometimes difficult to discern what exactly is going on, where the enemy is located, where friendly forces are located, etc.

Here’s the thing though, friendly fire is not only occurring overseas during war. It is alive and well within the church.

Just think about it, we have a very real enemy that is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” and we have Christians battling each other over meaningless things.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for debate within the church. Always has been and always will be. People have deeply held convictions and God is beyond our comprehension. There will be differences within the church.

What I am saying, is that we need to be careful that we don’t forget our primary mission when we engage in these debates with fellow Christians. Our mission is not to win debates against fellow believers. It is not to be right all the time. It is not to be a theological mastermind. And honestly, from personal experience, I can tell you that most of these debates are a waste of time.

Hear me on this, truly hear me on this and think about it:

The world is full of dying people that need the hope of Jesus.

 Question- how effective are you going to be at 1) battling the enemy and 2) reaching the lost if you are engaged in a battle with your buddy in the trenches next to you?

Answer- Not as effective as you could be.

I pray that we would embrace this reality, and devote our full energy to the mission of Jesus Christ.