Welcome Home from Gracee

2012-10-04 18.18.27Through the years, one of the reasons I loved walking through the door of our home was because our dog Gracee was always there to greet me.  Whether I went home for lunch or went home for the evening, she was thrilled to see me.  She often brought a toy along for the tail-wagging greeting in case I was in the mood for a few minutes of play.

Interestingly, her feelings toward me were not based on my recent accomplishments, my standing in the community, or the strength of my credit rating.  She just liked me because I liked her.  Forgive me if I’m taking this too far, but isn’t that an honorable approach.

As Christians, we are instructed to love those who love us, but it doesn’t stop there.  We are even instructed to love those who hate us.  Listen to this Bible passage and see if it challenges you like it does me.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

4 Keys to Leadership

During my reading over the last few years, I have read dozens of books on leadership. Allow me to summarize four leadership keys that stand out to me from those books.

1. Leaders are born AND made. Leadership is defined as “the ability to influence others.” Leaders can lead people for noble purposes or for evil purposes. The question often comes up, “Are you born a leader or do you learn to be a leader?” The answer to the question is “yes” and “yes.” Some people are born with natural leadership abilities, but leadership can be learned as well.

2. Jesus was a servant leader. People will follow leaders who do not ask their followers to do something that they would not do. By serving others as leaders, we earn the right to lead. People “vest” us with true authority as a result of our service to them.

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

3. Integrity is imperative. The real test of leaders is in their private life. Image is what people think we are; integrity is what we really are! Leaders need to be people of integrity—honest, genuine, consistent, and transparent. They need to have strong spiritual disciplines in the areas of Bible study, prayer, and church attendance.

4. Leaders need to carefully guard their time. Elton Trueblood wrote, “A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” Gordon MacDonald asked one of the most profound questions a leader must face, “Are we going to order our inner worlds so that they will create influence on the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer sphere to shape us?” This is the choice we have to make every day of our lives. That’s what Paul seemed to say in Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this [outer] world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

“Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Romans 12:2 (Phillips)

You Can Learn A Lot From Hiking

Laura and I have recently become interested in hiking. We don’t plan to thru-hike the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest trail anytime soon–we mainly focus on day hiking. As a result, we enjoy the trail with very little planning and minimal cost. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of similarities between hiking and everyday life.

4 Hiking Lessons

  1. Good equipment helps. Good hiking shoes, trekking poles, and backpacks make hiking more enjoyable and hikers more proficient. Likewise equipping ourselves as pastors, disciples, church members, and/or parents makes all the difference. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it helps to be equipped with new knowledge and abilities.
  2. Sometimes you hike uphill. We love trails that have lots of climbing. We seek them out when we plan. It’s great exercise to make your way up a long, challenging climb. It’s so rewarding when you reach the top. Life often seems like a long, challenging climb. Christians are not exempt from difficulty. Those difficult life moments often shape us into better people and mold us into more dedicated Christians.
  3. Sometimes you hike downhill. Trails that go up eventually come down. Going downhill is easier, but not without challenge. You can easily lose your footing because you are moving faster and with little resistance. Going downhill can lead to a lack of concentration and focus which usually ends poorly. Life is a lot like going downhill. When things are going well and success seems easy we often make quick and uninformed decisions that cause us to fall. “Downhill” makes us feel invincible which leads to decisions laced with arrogance. Solomon warned us that “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, HCSB).
  4. You can do more than you think. Now that we are hikers, we’ve climbed hills we never imagined that we could. Slowly, steadily, step after step–eventually we reach the top! I’ve watched several YouTube channels of men and women who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. When they finished the 2,181-mile trek, they were amazed they covered the entire distance on foot. One guy said, “It blows my mind to think that I just walked from Georgia to Maine!” We should dream big and shoot high in life and in Christ! Through Him and over time we can do more than we could ever imagine (Phil 4:13).

6 Tips for Beginning Runners

ShoesI’ve been an on-again-off-again runner for the past 35 years.  I love running, but on occasion, I’ve allow life’s responsibilities to cause me to set aside my favorite sport for matters that seem more pressing at the moment.  Over the last 7 years, I have been “on-again” with my running and I feel better as a result.

On January 18, 2010, I made the decision to step on the bathroom scale.  I knew I had put on “a little weight” and in my mind I thought I might, for the first time in my life, even weigh close to 200lbs.  The scale rocketed past the 200-mark and finally settled on 218.  I’m 5′ 11″ tall with a small frame–let’s just say that I was much heavier than I imagined.  That moment was a WAKE-UP CALL for me.

The next day I began to run (mostly walk) again and I began to think differently about eating.  Gradually, over the next few months, I lost a significant amount of weight.  I currently weigh around 165, but I still have to work at keeping my weight at a healthy mark.

You may be considering running.  You may want to drop a few pounds.  Allow me to share a few basics things that I would recommend as you begin.

6 Tips for Runners Who Are Just Beginning

1.  Start now.  If you feel any inspiration at all, then begin now.  Of course, if you have any health concerns, it would be wise to see your doctor and get his or her approval before beginning.

2.  Buy good shoes.  Find a local running specialty store and purchase a good pair of running shoes.  Go in the afternoon when your feet have “settled” for the day.  The clerk will measure and fit you properly which should provide you with a shoe that fits snugly around the heel and gives you a little extra room in front of the toes.  After you settle on the right shoe, you can buy additional pairs online at a discounted rate, but initially you should take advantage of the expert advice found at the running store.

3.  Walk a lot at first.  Start by mainly walking.  You will probably be able to walk a mile in 16-18 minutes.  Mix in a little running along the way.  Gradually walk less and run more.  Running coaches like Jeff Galloway say that you should continue to mix in some walking even after you become an accomplished runner.  Galloway advocates a “run-walk-method” for exercise and races.

4.  Keep a running journal.  You can use a simple spiral notebook, a 3-ring binder, a published running log (can be purchased at running stores or bookstores), or a web-based journal (runningahead.com, logarun.com, Runner’s World log).  There’s just something about writing it down!

5.  Keep an eating journal.  I personally found that the biggest key to losing weight was knowing how many calories I was eating.  I used livestrong/myplate.com to track what I ate and to keep a running total of my daily calories.  Other good sites include fitday.com, myfitnesspal.com, and myfooddiary.com.

6.  Subscribe to Runner’s World magazine.  Runner’s World magazine is an excellent source of information and inspiration for beginning runners.  For less than the cost of a nice meal, you can purchase a multi-year subscription.

Many people find that they are more consistent if they enlist a running partner.  I personally cherish the solitude of running alone most of the time.  Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions or questions.


I Miss My Mommy

You wouldn’t think that a grown man would miss his mother, but I miss my mom more and more each year.  My mom went home to be with the Lord in 1992 at the age of 60.  She was the heart and soul of our family, especially when it came to holidays and birthdays.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is etched in my mind forever and revolves around my mom.  For some reason when I was about 10-years-old, she decided to move the Christmas tree from its usual spot in the living room of our modest little eastern Kentucky home, to the dining area off the kitchen.  She placed it in front of the breakfast nook window and it snowed during the holidays that year.

I remember staring at the Christmas tree with the snow coming down outside in the background. For some reason the combination of the simplicity of the tree, the falling snow, a warm house, homemade candy, and my family nearby is a memory that remains vivid to me.  Even at the time, I seemed to sense that I was experiencing something special.

Enjoy every moment with your family this Christmas and be thankful for each person.  Be sure to slow down so you can notice and appreciate the “little” things about them and about the holiday.  This may be the year that your favorite Christmas memory is etched in your mind to enjoy for years to come.

True Satisfaction

Untitled-1In 1965, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards released a song that gave the English rock band, the Rolling Stones, their first #1 hit. One of the unique features of the song was the repetitive, three-note guitar riff throughout. The song was titled “Satisfaction.” Here are the words to the chorus:

I can’t get no satisfaction. I can’t get no satisfaction. ‘Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try. I can’t get no satisfaction.

This was one of my favorite pep-band songs in high school because the trombones played that three-note guitar riff. You can probably guess that I played trombone in school. BUT, at the time, I didn’t know how sad the song’s lyrics were.

When I think of these sad lyrics, I think of King Solomon. He spent most of his life searching for satisfaction. Listen to his frustration:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiates 1:2

“All life is far more boring than words could ever say. Our eyes and our ears are never satisfied with what we see and hear.” Ecclesiates  1:8 (Contemporary English Version)

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiates 1:14

As a pastor, I have learned that many people in life are just like Solomon. They are seeking true meaning in life, but don’t know where to find it. Fortunately, our search can end well if our search brings us to Christ. Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians:

“For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible…everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him (Jesus).” Colossians 1:16 (Msg)

If you are reading this and have an emptiness in your life, then I encourage you to give your life to Christ. Find purpose and meaning in a personal, intimate relationship with Him. Pray and invite Him into your life. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Follow Him, love Him, serve Him. If I can help you in some way to that end, please contact me at [email protected].

Gear Tips for Winter Running

Winter Running Gear

I’m absolutely amazed at the running gear that is available today!  Yesterday morning, I ran before daylight in 13-degree temperatures with a cold, blowing snow and was as warm as toast.  I wore three layers and really only needed two.  Believe it not, I actually got a little too warm about halfway through my run.

Here are a few gear choices that work for me on really cold days:

  • Morino Wool hats, neck gaiters, socks, and  gloves.  I use these products at times constructed of materials other than Morino Wool, but on the coldest days, Morino Wool is hard to beat.
  • Pearl Izumi Thermal Base Layer. I have a half-zip thermal base layer from Pearl Izumi that is a “perfect” design.
  • Under Armour Cold Gear. These products are high quality, but quite expensive.  IMHO, you certainly get what you pay for though.
  • Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp. This headlamp should really be called a headTORCH! The lamp provides 215 lumens, multi-beams, Reactive Lighting, and is fully rechargeable! This is BY FAR the best light I’ve ever worn.
  • Ski Socks.  I have found that wool ski socks work great on frigid days. Since they are very long, they add extra protection on the lower legs.
  • Sugoi Zero Plus Pants. I have accumulated a number of running pants over the years, but when it comes to cold days, I always go for the Sugoi Zero Plus pants. They are much thicker than most running tights and have a great design. I especially appreciate the large, zip pockets. They are available for men and women.

Here is a video that you may find helpful as well as you make winter gear choices. Warm running!