What's Your Medicine?

As a kid, I took a variety of medications. I wasn’t sicker than any other kid; it was just part of growing up. Triaminic for colds—aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen for headaches, cuts and sprains—antibiotics for the bugs we couldn’t get rid of—pain killers for the few surgeries I had—and I am sure there were more.

While I was a good student, I did enjoy the occasional fever. A day spent on the couch with a bed made up by my mother, hot soup, and all the TV I could endure.

It seemed that no matter what ailed my or one of my siblings, there was something out there that would make us feel better. Sometimes, the bed on the couch and cartoons were the medicines we were after, but they weren’t the ones we needed. Sleep, nutrition, hydration, and antibiotics were what healed us.

Not a whole lot changes when we become adults. When we get sick, we seek the medicine that can take the sickness away. But things get a bit more complicated when what ails us isn’t a condition of our bodies but rather a condition of our hearts, minds, and souls.

There are a lot of diseases running around right now, highly contagious ones; and it seems what some see as the medicine, maybe it’s better to say the cure, is just more of the same diseases packaged up as something else.

I am relatively confident that racist ideas and behaviors are people’s feeble attempts to fix what ails them. While hate rears its ugly face as racism, entitlement, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, abuse, and oppression; it’s medicine—at least it’s all used as a medicine to treat the real disease—the fear that people feel. Fear that someone might take what someone sees as theirs, fear that someone else might have an opportunity they don’t “deserve” but “we” do, fear one’s beliefs will be threatened, undermined, or destroyed… but it’s all fear.

And right now there is more fear out there than ever before. Maybe that’s not true. But we are more aware of it than ever before.

The problem with anything hate-filled is that it can’t cure anything. Hate only propagates more fear, and not necessarily just in those on the receiving end. Every hate-filled comment, action, policy, etc. emboldens the idea that the things we fear are worth fearing.

I see a lot of Christians out there standing up for the oppressed and speaking out for the broken, and I see a lot of Christians living in fear, so they turn to hate without even knowing it. God is not a God of fear, so why do we feed the beast and let it grow. Hate of any kind is no medicine; it’s poison — every single time.

No one is immune to hate. We will all experience it, and we will all cast it upon others at some point. More than likely because of fear. But we have to fight against it. Sometimes that fight needs to begin with acknowledgment.

So while I ruminate on what is mine, I ask, what's your medicine?

What are you turning to in the face of fear? If the medicine your taking exists at the expense of any other human being…

I’ve got news for you…

it’s not working…

Because it's not medicine…

It’s poison.

The Danger Of Perfection

I have met a lot of people over the past several years. As I travel and speak with my best friend, I’ve encountered individuals from all walks of life. With varied histories, I talk with men and women dealing with a variety of struggles. Some are recovering from trauma and abuse, others are facing the loss of a spouse or child, and others still are plagued with addictions and doubt.

But one specific struggle seems to be more prevalent than all the others—perfection. There are hosts of men, women, and children that have swallowed the lie that they must be perfect to be lovable. The source of this flawed thinking is different for each person. Some are wired this way, others have been held to an impossible standard for so long they know nothing else, but regardless of how someone arrives at this, the damage is the same. Perfection is the enemy of happiness, joy, and peace.

The constant pursuit of perfection destroys any opportunity for contentment because when we think we have to be perfect, we can never be good enough. Worse yet, when we think we are perfect, our arrogance and entitlement taint every relationship we have because we elevate ourselves above those who don’t meet our standard. And sometimes, when we see ourselves as perfect, our drive to invest in the lives of other fades because we convince ourselves there is nothing more we need to do because we have arrived.

I am a firm believer that we never arrive. Perfection is always out of reach, completely unattainable. And I am grateful it is impossible—because grabbing on to the idea that we never arrive means we can always do more, we can always be more, we can always love more, we can always give more.

When we shift our focus from being perfect to simply being more than we were yesterday, we get to enjoy the growth we experience, we find pleasure in the learning, and we see the beauty in others as they do the same.

The danger of perfection is pervasive because it can bleed into every area of your life and every relationship you hold dear. Perfection is deceitful because it convinces you that you have to be something that is always out of reach. Perfection will steal your joy, your peace, and your happiness.

But when we live with the perspective that today we can do a little more than yesterday, we find peace, joy, and happiness in the progress, in the learning, in the growth.

We can always do more, we can always be more, we can always love more, we can always give more. Let’s start by doing more than we did yesterday and walk the journey one day at a time.

Broken Hearts Have More To Give

I am 43 years old (44 in just a few days), and while I haven’t lived as long as most, my life has collided with the lives of many others. Young and old, conservative and liberal, democrat and republican, and the list goes on. And I have found that all the stories I am blessed to encounter have something in common. Every life is filled with pain—every heart will be broken.

For some reason, I have had several conversations in the past week about this. The force that causes the breaking varies—failed marriages, abuse, addiction, suicide, shattered friendships, death of a loved one—but the result is always the same—a broken heart.

Today, I had a great conversation with a new friend about what broken hearts have to give. The short answer is perspective. The long answer is not so simple. While the conversation with my new friend didn’t include these exact words, this is where my mind went. In order to give something, you have to acknowledge what you have. This means that for the broken heart to give, pain has to be acknowledged and embraced.

Let me say it again—for the broken heart to give, pain has to be acknowledged and embraced.

We will come back to this in a minute.

Earlier I mentioned that all lives have something in common—pain. That’s not all. Every man, woman, and child also has something else they share—the desire to know and be known. A beautiful reciprocity of understanding, this is the foundation of any successful relationship, a longing that is at the heart of every human being. And the need this longing creates can only be met through our acknowledgment and embracing of our pain. Because to be known, to be understood, is to be experienced.

All of who we are is a gift we get to share with others, especially our pain, but we have to choose to do so. The broken heart is one of the greatest teachers the world has ever known. A broken heart has knowledge, understanding, and wisdom found only in experience the breaking. A broken heart that has lived through pain and is still beating on the other side of grief can be someone else’s guide, the giver of sage advice, especially when that someone is floundering amidst a similar pain.

Our brokenness is what gives us the perspective necessary to walk with someone through the loss of a child, the death of a spouse, divorce, or addiction. But we have to have the resolve to pick up the pieces, put them back together, and find strength in the broken places. Chances are, someone else’s broken heart depends on it. When we embrace our brokenness and learn from the experience, we have so much to give.

Through a willingness to know and be known, the broken heart is what helps other hearts mend.

The Power Of An Embrace

Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you I’m a hugger. It’s in my blood.

I’m an affectionate dad, and my kids, ages fourteen, ten, and nine still crawl into my lap to snuggle. Touch is a connection point in my family, and it is the same for many people I know.

When I hug someone, I am telling them they’re valued, and their presence is important. But my youngest daughter, Olivia, threw me a bit of a curveball recently. Hugs are something different for her. I am sure she would tell you she like hugs for many of the same reasons I do, but a recent embrace sparked a conversation that opened my mind and gave me insight into both her heart and mine.

My wife and I travel a lot for work, and while none of our kids are fans of us being gone, Olivia takes it the hardest. When one of us has to leave for a work trip, tears are often a part of our goodbyes.

After a recent departure, I held my nine-year-old girl after her mom had left for the airport. She wrapped her arms and legs around me while she sobbed. After a few minutes, her breaths slowed and the tears subsided.

She had her forehead pressed against mine. We were eye to eye.

“Are you doing okay?’ I asked.

Olivia nodded and nuzzled her head into my neck.

A few more minutes passed, and she said, “Daddy, I like your hugs.”

“I like your hugs too.”

“Why?” she asked.

“I like feeling close to you. It’s a way to show you I love you.” I replied.

We passed the next few moments in silence, and then I asked, “How about you, why do you like my hugs?”

With her head still pressed to my neck, she said, “Same.”

I smiled and squeezed her with my arms, and she continued, “And they make me feel safe.”

BAM!

While not a new idea, her words hit me hard. I know she feels safe with me, but to hear her say it like that brought a smile to my face and a few tears to my eyes.

A child is supposed to feel safe in their parent’s arms, but not every child does. They make me feel safe is something I’m going to fight to protect. I never want her to feel any other way.

Since then, I have been thinking about Olivia’s words and why I hug people. To my friends and family, when I hug you it might be because I’m excited to see you, or because I want you to know that I love you. But it always means I feel safe with you.

While on different levels, the power of an embrace is the same for my daughter and I. Depending on the situation, a hug can mean a lot of things:

It’s good to see you

Welcome home

Let’s celebrate

I’m glad you’re here

I love you

I’ve got you

You’re pain is mine

Share your sadness with me

And the list goes on. But for us, the constant within every embrace is I feel safe with you.

So ask yourself, “Who do I feel safe with?”

Now make sure they know it.

The Man I Want To Be

Every good story has a hero—someone who, no matter how flawed, learns, and grows. A hero always evolves into a better version of themselves—usually because someone who shows them the way. Yep, every good story also has a guide—someone who teaches the hero in ways big and small, someone who sees the hero’s potential, even when the hero doesn’t.

I have often said to myself, “I want to live my life like a good story,” and I believe this is a desire of every human. Sometimes we long to be a hero, other times, we want to be the wise one giving sage advice, or maybe we want to be rescued in our hour of need.

It wasn’t until recently that I understood how good the story I’m living really is.

Over the past week and a half, I spent time with my wife and kids on the Oregon coast. We played in the sand, enjoyed good food, played games, and connected without distractions.

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I would read or play a game, but sitting in her presence stirred something inside of me that I couldn’t put my finger on. She fills me up and makes me a better person in so many ways, but my thoughts about what we have were something I couldn’t put into words. At least not until this past Friday morning.

My son is an early riser. At 630, he woke up an came into our room, crawled into bed, and asked if I wanted to watch an episode of Sherlock with him. You bet! So I crawled out of bed and snuggled up with him on the couch. Ten years old, and he still loves to wrap up in a blanket with his dad.

It’s not often that a profound life lesson comes out of early morning Netflix, but a line from the episode we watched hit me hard.

In Season 4, episode 2, Dr. Watson (played by Martin Freeman) says to his wife who had recently past, “The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.”

There they were. The words I had been looking for, they perfectly articulated what had been stirring inside me on our family trip to the coast.

Is it possible to be the hero and the guide in the same story? Because if so, my wife is it. When I look into her eyes, she sees things in me that I don’t understand, but I know that the man she thinks I am is the man I want to be. However, it goes beyond that. I have failed her countless times, and yet she forgives me for my shortcomings, tells me she has faith in me, and moves on, guiding me down a path to a better version of myself.

Not only is the man she thinks I am, the man I want to be; she gives me the strength I need so that one day I might be the man she believes I am.

Hero and guide, all wrapped up in one cute package.

I think that’s how relationships should work. When people choose to see the best in one another, both are given the opportunity to become something more. Remarkable power rests in how we choose to see others.

When I look into my wife’s eyes and try to understand what it is she sees in me, I encounter the man I want to be.

This begs the question, what does she see when she looks into mine?

What do people see when they look into yours?

All In—A Way Of Life

Every once in a while, life brings an individual into my world who teaches me a lesson that I don’t know I need but am desperate to learn.

A little over a week ago, my best friend and I headed to Nicaragua with an organization known as Compassion International. We have partnered with them in the release of our upcoming book titled Imprints: The Evidence Our Lives Leave Behind. To learn more about the book or preorder, go here.

The purpose of our trip was to get a first-hand look at Compassion’s work with children living in extreme poverty. While I have been on several mission trips and have had brief experiences with abject poverty conditions, seeing it first hand is always eyeopening and the people I meet always leave impressions that will last forever. Some of those impressions, though are deeper than others. This was the case with a man named Carlos.

We met Carlos on our second day. After a two-hour bus ride from Managua on mostly dirt roads, we arrived at a village in the northwestern part of the country. Carlos greeted us wearing blue jeans and a tucked in blue plaid button-up, with a white t-shirt underneath. His shirts were tucked in.

Carlos is a pastor of a small church here where the house of worship is a simple concrete slab with stone walls and a tin roof. The area surrounding the church is populated with homes of varying types. Some are of stone; most are made of plastic and sticks. All have dirt floors. Despite the limited access to clean water, scarcity of food, and a failing economy, many of the children wore smiles on their faces. Compassion works with the children and families to make sure they have their basic needs met. Knowing you have food coming each day is a far cry from starvation, and these people are grateful.

Still, life is hard in Nicaragua, and Carlos feels the pain of his people.

After spending time with the children, the staff, and visiting with families, we took some of the kids to the beach to play in the ocean. Our time in the salt water didn’t last long because there was a pool close by, and most of the kids had never been in one before. Through the help of an interpreter, we taught the kids how to play the water tag game known as Marco Polo. There were laughter and smiles everywhere I looked. And before I knew it, Carlos was in the deep end of the pool, wearing jeans, button up, and all. The grin that spread across his face as he watched the children playing wasn’t just a grin; there was much more going on behind his kind eyes than simply joy, and I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world he was in the water wearing all his clothes.

After we drove the kids back to the village, I took the opportunity to interview Carlos. I wanted to know what was going through his head when he jumped into the pool fully clothed.

We sat facing each other in small plastic chairs next to a hut made from tree branches and sheets of plastic. Carlos still wore his wet clothes. He smiled as I asked him a variety of questions through the interpreter. Each answer came slow and thoughtful. I learned that Carlos is a recovered alcoholic. He had spent many years living on the streets of Nicaragua, sometimes sleeping in the dump where he scavenged for food. He talked of love, grace, his grandchildren, the joys of life despite such hard living conditions, and his desire for everyone to know love.

Finally, I got the nerve to ask, “What were you thinking when you jumped in that pool with all your clothes on?”

His answer was something I needed to hear. Through the interpreter, Carlos said. “When I was a drunk, no one came to see me, no would touch me or hug me, no one would even take notice of me. When I became sober, I made a promise that no one I met would face their struggles alone. If you are covered in filth, I will hug you, if your clothes are soaked in your own vomit, I will embrace you and show you are loved. Whatever you face, I will face it with you because I know what it is like to be alone. No one should be alone in their pain.”

He paused to gather his thoughts before continuing. His close to his answering of my question will stay with me until the day I die. “We all have pain, and we all need someone to share it with us. And we all have joy, and we all need someone to share it with us. Today was a day of rejoicing, and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to rejoice with the children. So I jumped in the pool."

Every fiber of Carlos’s being is filled with love for his family and his village. He is all in, all the time, ready to share whatever life brings his people—pain and suffering or hope and joy.

I want to be like Carlos…

I want to be all in!

There Is Power In Your Story—Tell It!

I have always loved stories. As a child, I spent hours reading, devouring books. I would lay in my bed, long after lights were supposed to be out and use my flashlight to illuminate the words that would create pictures in my mind. Each character would give me something to think about, something to learn. I found myself examining the plight of each hero, the struggles that created the victims who needed rescuing, and the pain that gave rise to so many villains. And no matter the story, I saw myself in all three—a hero, a victim, and a villain. I longed to be the rescuer, I felt the pain of the oppressed, and could feel the hatred and darkness that led people to do terrible things.

Real life isn’t much different than fiction. The lines that separate us from the characters in our favorite books or movies are thin, We are drawn to them because we see something we want, or something we have in their stories. In our hearts, we are all heroes, victims, and villains in our own ways. We decide to be one of these every single day. In each situation we face, every scenario we encounter, our actions lead us down one of three paths. Sometimes we allow our circumstances to refine us, making us stronger so we can rise up and fight for others just as the heroes do in our favorite stories. Other times we let life beat us down, leaving us feeling weak and defeated and in need of rescue. Or, we allow the hurt we face to jade us, and the wounds we suffer leave holes in our hearts were the darkness creeps in, and we justify selfish behaviors because we swallow the lie that our wants are more important than other’s needs.

As an adult, I still dissect the circumstances that lead people down different paths, but now I am heavily drawn to real stories, especially those that are told by the people who have lived them. Because our experiences are remarkable gifts that we can offer others—our stories have the power to let others know they aren’t alone.

Over the past eighteen months, I have met several people whose lives differ, but all are heroes in their own way—A woman who cares for her ailing father every day, dressing him, helping feed him; a man who has overcome alcoholism and has been reunited with his family; people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and yet are living life to the fullest while they can; a lady whose childhood trauma and life of homelessness is seen as something to overcome as opposed to something that defines who she must be. Each story is one of hope, and yet, all these people are fearful about sharing their journey with others.

Why?

Because we can’t be a hero unless we’ve overcome something, and people can’t know what we’ve overcome unless they know our pain—and to share our pain is to be vulnerable.

But it is in the pain where the beauty rests. Because everyone has pain, and everyone needs to know they aren’t alone.

Regardless of what we face—depression, abuse, addictions, loss, struggles of all kinds—there is someone out there longing to hear our story, someone desperate to know they aren’t the only one.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to see themselves in a hero who has overcome the darkness, who has said, “No, I will not remain a victim!”, who refuses to let their pain be a vehicle to perpetuate that same pain in the lives of others.

Sharing your story is one of the most heroic actions you can take because when you do, you are taking someone by the hand and telling them, “You’re not alone.”

Suffering Well — There is Power in Our Pain

Suffering is a part of our world. It is one of the few guarantees for every life. The degree of suffering varies greatly but we all experience pain, heartache, fear, neglect, and the list goes on.

I have lived a relatively blessed life, and most of the suffering I have experienced has been at my own hand; poor judgment, selfish decisions, making the same mistakes with increasing confidence. So, you might be asking yourself, “Why write about something you have little experience with?” I’m about to tell you.

My journey through life has brought me into the lives of some fantastic people, individuals who have stared pain and uncertainty in the eyes and defiantly pressed through so much darkness. I’ve watched my best friend face a disease that will undoubtedly take his life, but he does so with grace and dignity. I have seen people die from cancer and marveled as they passed to the other side without fear. Friends who have endured the pain and disappointment of divorce, others whose marriages have survived seemingly insurmountable struggles.

There are so many people who have taught me so much—hosts of lessons in each chapter of their stories. But the one that stands out the most, the lesson of most vital importance is this: There is power in our pain.

These people have learned to suffer well, and in doing so, they have helped me and many others gain a perspective that is often lacking in our world. The strongest of individuals are those who don’t shy away from the pain of this life but let the fire refine them making them stronger because of the pain they have endured.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

When someone can embrace the shadows and press on in spite of the darkness they’re facing; they give rise to a new understanding in those who walk with them. All who encounter such people are given the opportunity to discover a new perspective—that there is always hope and there is always a choice. Circumstances can and will shape us, but we always have a say in how the shaping occurs. Life may break us, but we have a say in how the broken pieces are mended.

I hope and pray that when my turn comes that I will stand strong, and as the waves come and the defining circumstances threaten to wear away parts of me, that I will remember that I have a say in how the shaping occurs, that I will remember there is power in my pain.

No Matter The Outcome

Acts of compassion are powerful. They let others know that they matter, that they’re loved, that they aren’t alone. In recent years there has been an increasing number of research studies on compassion and the effects on both the giver and receiver. One thing that has come out of the variety of studies is that when someone is treated with compassion, they are more likely to do the same for others.

It turns out we get what we give (or we give what we get). When others treat us with disrespect, anger, and disdain, we are more likely to do the same. And when we experience love, grace, and mercy, we tend to pass those things on to those we encounter.

So what happens when we experience the ultimate act of compassion? What happens when we acknowledge someone’s sacrifice for us? It changes us, at least it should.

Several weeks back, I wrote a piece titled The Magic of Letting Go. In the post, I explored how I view the cross. The focus of that piece was the beauty that exists in letting go of our burdens and how such a decision gives us the ability to carry the load of someone else. You can read the original post here.

Shortly after I posted the blog, a woman sent me an email thanking me for painting a picture that helped her understand and appreciate the magnitude of forgiveness, freedom, and strength that is found in the symbol of the cross. Others reached out saying similar things.

But while there was positive feedback, others still expressed concern because they felt I skirted something very important. I had spent time in prayer and meditation on that post, and my thoughts and heart led me to address the magic and beauty represented in the symbol of the cross. While I had no intention of ignoring the source of that magic and beauty, for some, that was a major take away. I want to clear the air here.

Compassion, grace, mercy, love. These are all beautiful things. Behaviors we all should model for others. Practices that make the world a better place. In the Christian world, the ultimate symbol of compassion, grace, love, and mercy is the cross. Why? Because it is the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for all humankind. It is his death and resurrection that make the purest form of love possible. Love without an agenda. Love for all. A love that I believe in with all my heart.

The cross is one of the most famous icons in the Christian faith because of the love it symbolizes. This kind of love is what makes it possible for us to let go of our pains and burdens, it is what makes forgiveness and compassion possible, it is this love that gives us the strength to step into someone else’s story, press into their pain, and walk with them, no matter the outcome.

However, in social media posts, the news, and even hallway conversations; many claiming to hold the cross high are selective about the people they love. It turns out we don’t get to point to the cross as our anchor and yet be particular about who we will walk with in their pain. To embrace Christ’s death and resurrection is to embrace a love for all of humanity regardless of differing faiths or lifestyles.

I have come to recognize that to be discriminatory about who we will love is to reject the cross and the beauty it represents. To embrace it means I must choose to love all humankind, extending compassion to all I encounter, letting go of my pain so I can press into the suffering of others.

The late Rachel Held Evans said it best.

“But there is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”

This is the kind of love we are offered. It’s time to pay it forward.

No matter the outcome.

Please, No More Us Versus Them!

I have been sitting on something for more than a week now—a topic I wasn’t sure how to tackle. But It hasn’t left me which usually means I need to get it out of my head and heart. So here it goes.

Easter Sunday is a day where many gather with friends and family to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. People talk of hope, new beginnings, and forgiveness. Food is shared around tables filled with love, grace, and mercy—a happy day. But this past Easter was far from celebratory for many in Sri Lanka. At least two hundred fifty men, women, and children were murdered because they believed differently than others. The following Monday, more blasts were reported, more injuries, more devastation, more pain.

Shortly after the first bombings were reported, I stood in the foyer of our church and I heard a man say, “This is an attack on our faith.” Another gentleman shook his head and countered, “Any attack on any house of worship is an attack on our faith because it’s an attack on humanity. ”

Now that is an interesting perspective—one I've had to chew on for a while.

It seems like not a day goes by where violence doesn’t fill our news feeds. And as I read the stories, Twitter feeds, and Facebook posts, people are choosing sides without understanding the magnitude of their decisions.

Any time a church, mosque, synagogue, or any other house of worship is attacked, and people are wounded or killed, the responses widely vary. Some respond with comments about attacks on people while others talk about attacks on a specific faith. Then there are those who feel more anger and outrage when such deeds are carried out against like-minded individuals. Others still seem to take little notice when differing faiths or groups are caught in the crosshairs of hateful actions, and then there are those that claim God’s judgment and celebrate when others who believe differently suffer.

So many cry out about attacks on the cross, attacks on beliefs, attacks on sacred ideologies—but first and foremost, these are attacks on people; attacks on families.

Thinking back to the conversation I overheard, I tend to agree that any attack on any church or house of worship, regardless of the faith represented, is an attack on our faith. Why? Because it is an attack on the innocent, it is an attack on men, women, and children; it is an attack on our neighbors, it is an attack on those we are called to love.

And now, thinking about the seemingly constant violent attacks on all faiths, we should be heartbroken by all of it. No other response is appropriate, regardless of the building, the people, the race, the lifestyle.

Easter is a day that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. His life and teachings were and still are filled with love. Love offered to others regardless of differences, regardless of the life they lived. We should do the same.

When we treat our “own” people as more important than others, we narrow our scope of love, grace, and mercy. With such thinking, we cheapen the faith and beliefs we claim to hold dear.

A Letter To My Wife—I Guarantee This Isn't What You Think

Typically writing comes naturally to me. Every week I sit down and let the thoughts flow. It’s therapeutic. It’s cathartic. It’s healing. Until it no longer comes easy.

Today I found myself at that point. No thoughts with clear direction, no drive to address a specific topic, just a lot of ideas rattling around inside my head. So I decided to have some fun. I’m going to give you a look under the hood with a letter I wrote to my wife:

Honey,

My mind can be a scary place. Not because of the crazy ideas I have at random moments throughout the day, or the dreams in Technicolor… my mind is a scary place simply because of the haphazard way I process information. Maybe it’s better to say, “lose” information. Don’t worry, I almost always find it! It’s just a matter of when and where. 

You often look at me with a concerned look, gently placing your loving hand on my shoulder and say, “Honey, what in the world is going on inside that head of yours?”

I’m about to tell you, so hang on; it’s going to be a trip!

Have you ever lost your keys?

Or your wallet?

Or your glasses?

Or your belt?

Only to find them somewhere you’re certain you didn’t leave them? Except for the belt, I can’t blame anyone else for putting it on without my noticing. 

That’s my mind, 100% of the time—oh and it’s also my life! I lose crap all the time! But that’s not the point of the story, back to the chaos that is my cursed way of processing everything from the important to the mundane.

I have a series of file cabinets in my brain. I’m not sure how many, but for the sake of simplicity let’s say there are three (there are way more than three, but we don’t have all day). These file cabinets are responsible for holding information past, present, and future—kind of like the Christmas Carol ghosts, but not nearly as helpful.

The file cabinet of my past should hold things like birthdates, the contents of recently had conversations, the name of a someone I met last week at church, or where I set my keys last night. The file cabinet of my present is responsible for the information needed to complete the task directly in front of me like mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, or unloading the dishwasher. And finally, the file cabinet of my future is where I should find my appointments for next week, dreams, or aspirations.

Here’s the problem! None of these file cabinets do their damn job! I used to think they were misnamed and if I reorganized them, my filing system would make more sense.

Uh, nope!

But I know who's responsible. I blame it all on Reggie—he’s a little troll that lives inside my head.

Reggie the Troll has one job – file information. It should be a simple task. Here’s the problem though. I’m pretty sure Reggie is a complete drunk and is as ADD as I am! Because if I showed up for an audit of Reggie’s work right now here is what I would find:

Picture a massive warehouse, mostly empty (yeah I know how that sounds—shut up!) with one exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling. The faint light from the flickering lamp casts long shifting shadows across the floor from three large file cabinets. The drawers of each cabinet are scattered across the floor with file folders and documents lying everywhere in complete disarray.

Atop the center file cabinet is the dark form of Reggie the Troll. His mangy hair is pulled up in a poor attempt at a topknot, and he has a chewed up cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Grease stains cover his shirt, but that’s okay because he dressed up today, he’s wearing a tie—keeping it professional. An almost empty bottle of gin dangles from his left hand (who drinks gin straight anyway?), and his right hand is stuck halfway down the front of his pants (we have something in common), which clearly haven’t been washed in weeks.

Through sleep filled, bloodshot, squinting eyes that can only mean a wicked hangover or the worst case of pink eye ever, Reggie looks at me and grumbles, “What do you want?”

“I’m here for an audit. I want to see how well you’re keeping things in order.”

Reggie reaches down deep to adjust whatever trolls have in their pants and then pulls his right hand out from the depths, sweeping his arm extravagantly through the air while shouting, “Take a look around, everything is in tip-top shape.”

The momentum from his grand gesture is too much, and Reggie slips and falls off of the file cabinet. The force of his head striking the ground echoes with the hollow thud of a watermelon. Don’t worry; Reggie is fine—just another day at the office.

So here I am, staring at a passed out troll, three empty file cabinets, an empty bottle of gin, and a host of information that I would love to have readily available, strewn across kingdom come. This will take me weeks to sort out. Good help is so hard to find. That’s why I just turn and walk away.

So the next time I forget a birthday, can’t find my keys or don’t remember a conversation, give me a little grace.  The next time I start mowing the lawn, only to get distracted and half empty the dishwasher and then take out the garage while the lawnmower sits in the half mowed yard, you’ll know why. Just remember, the next appointment I miss…

It’s all Reggie’s fault.

That reminds me, I told him I would get him another bottle of gin.

Walk With Me — The Desire of Every Heart

Everything is better with someone you love. Whether it’s a good meal, a fine wine, walks through the neighborhood, or hikes across foreign countries; when we share experiences with others who we care deeply for, there is a depth to such experiences we can’t achieve on our own.

I believe that shared adventure is one of the most important facets to any successful relationship because at the heart of every human id a desire to know and be known. I was reminded of this recently as my wife, and I took a long weekend to Walla Walla, WA with some friends. Six couples, together in one house for three days.

These are people who have been with us in our journey of life for a while now. Some for three or four years, others a decade, and others still for most of our lives.

In the mornings some of us sat in the hot tub and watched the sunrise, taking in the beauty and enjoying the quiet together. We shared breakfast, talked about things big and small, and spent time at different wineries. Each day tasted wine, enjoyed great food, played games, and laughed a lot.

The second morning we were in Walla Walla, I sat with a few of the guys around a fire pit on the back patio. The sun was still low in the sky and the cool morning air fought against the heat of the fire. I read while others chatted, but I kept getting distracted by my thoughts.

What makes this work? How did we get here with so many beautiful people?

We are a jumble of individuals. The things that make us different outnumber the things we have in common. Some of us are conservative, others liberal, and others still are middle of the road. Career paths are varied. Some are introverts, others extremely extroverted, and some fall somewhere in between. I could go on for a while about how different we all are, but the beauty of these people is that despite the differences we possess, we all have chosen to walk this life together.

When we are willing to walk through life with others, and they choose to do the same, we are bound by something far more powerful than shared interests, similar political views, or the same hobbies. We become united by the shared experiences made possible by enduring life together.

The depth of love, grace, and forgiveness I have come to know through these people has only been made possible because every time I have needed someone to walk with me, they have been there to do so.

Look For The Wonder - Life Is Better This Way

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a kid on the inside. I still have an active imagination; I love to explore, and discovering new places opens up a host of possibilities in my mind—new adventures, new stories, new challenges.

While my inner child is always at play, he has grown older over the years and sometimes he needs a reminder about the things that matter… sometimes he needs to be challenged by the joy and imagination of children much younger and much less inhibited.

For spring break, my wife and kids headed to the Grand Canyon, while I flew to Florida for some work. A few days into their trip, I met them in Zion National Park. I arrived at the cabin where my family was staying at 1 in the morning and was woken by my three children (13, 10, and 9) a few short hours later. They were so excited about some hikes they had saved just for me.

We packed up our stuff, loaded the minivan, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out. The landscape in Zion was breathtaking. It’s hard not to feel small in such a place, but the excitement of my three kids had me rushing ahead alongside them, exploring nooks and crannies. Smiles accompanied the heavy breathing from climbs and questions about what we might find around the next bend filled our minds.

That night, we made our way to Bryce Canyon, but because of snow, most of the trails were closed. We hiked what we could while there, and the next day, we made our way to Capitol Reef. But on the way there we stopped at a State Park called Kodachrome.

We hiked through a barren landscape to structures that looked like blobs of clay dropped from the sky. These red structures offered many tight channels and holes to explore. My oldest daughter, Cambria, and I found a spot that seemed inaccessible, so we climbed our way to the top of the narrow space in between some rocks. The climb was sketchy, but after several slips and near misses with falls, we made it up the 60-foot climb and stood side by side in a bowl surrounded by red clay towers. Small slivers of bright blue told us where the sky was were visible. For a few minutes, she and I were the last people on earth.

“This is so cool!” said Cambria as she smiled.

My inner child was right there with her… so cool. I was sharing an adventure with my daughter, but not as her old dad. I was a kid doing kid things with my children.

A few days later we found our way to Goblin Valley where my wife and I climbed, crawled, and shimmied our way through more cracks and alcoves than we have in years. The kids hid, tried to scare us, sat atop natural thrones as a young king and queens, and the smiles and laughter could not be contained.

“Mom! Dad! Come check this out!”

“Hey guys, come over here!”

Every moment was filled with exploration, imagination, and joy.

We finished our week in Arches, and though we were tired from miles and hours of hiking, memories were etched deep in our minds and on our hearts.

The one that left the most significant mark on me isn’t a particular hike or landscape; it isn’t the joy on my children’s faces or the laughter that makes me smile as I write this. The single most powerful idea, maybe call it a lesson, that I hold from our time together is the power our children have to keep us young. Our bodies will age, our knees will ache, our steps will slow, but when we seek to experience things with them, and through them, a part of us is awakened—one that was never meant to fall asleep.

When life distracts me, when it vies for my time, my energy, and when I feel drained, I turn to my kids. They are gifts God has given me. Through their eyes and through their experiences, it’s as if he is saying:

Remember the joy, embrace the adventure, look for the wonder—life is better this way.

Unintended Consequences

Life is full of the unexpected. Our decisions and actions can bring things across our paths we don’t anticipate. These unintended consequences arrive without warning and, depending on the type, can take our breath away. Be they good or bad; they leave us surprised.

Unintended consequences that bring about adverse effects are no fun, but when you are blessed by someone else’s response to your actions… well, those are the moments that make life beautiful.

A childhood friend, Chris Scott, recently reached out to my best friend, Justin Skeesuck, and me to inform us about some surprising news. Our 500-mile wheelchair journey through Spain was being used as the inspiration for something great! A friend of his, Lynel Curd, is the coach for the Greenfield-Central Guard, a winter guard team from Greenfield-Central High School in Greenfield, Indiana. Lynel had his entire squad watch our film, I’ll Push You, and they then created their routine around our story.

When I reached out to Lynel to request a copy of the routine, I didn’t know what to expect. I sat and watched with tears of joy in my eyes as young men and women told their interpretation of our journey through their choreographed routine.

To watch someone take a part of your life and use it to create a part of their own is humbling in the best of ways.

A little over a week ago, Justin and I FaceTimed with the team and fielded questions. Thirteen young women and one young man surprised us with their insights. Questions about struggles and lessons in life gave us a peek into their minds and hearts, and everything we saw was beautiful.

There have been a lot of unintended consequences that have come out of our crazy trek through Spain—this is one of our favorites. To be reminded that someone is always watching, learning from who we are, the person we choose to be motivates us to make better choices. But, more importantly, it’s one that keeps on giving. Our journey may have inspired the Greenfield-Central Guard’s routine, but their routine has giving us the motivation to keep doing what we are doing.

To keep writing. To keep telling stories. To keep sharing love with all we encounter—because this is what makes life worth living, sharing it with others.

Greenfield-Central Guard competes on the national level. They just finished regionals and are headed to Nationals on Thursday. Click here to watch their routine.

Arrogance or Ignorance? Either Way, Something Needs To Change

My wife and I travel for work. While we don’t have extremely heavy yearlong travel schedules, it seems to come in waves. Recently, she had a long stint, and I was at home with the kids. While I don’t enjoy being apart from my wife, I always find value in the times she is gone because I am forced to acknowledge all the things I take for granted when she is here.

Over our almost 22 years of marriage, we have assumed certain roles. Some would call them traditional. Historically, she has done most of the laundry, cooked the majority of the meals, done the grocery shopping, and kept the house running along—all while working. I have helped out where needed, cooked the occasional dinner, helped in the kitchen, and done the majority of the yard work. This has always worked for us. But as we both have been traveling, we have had to take on each other’s responsibilities. It turns out she has a few more than I do.

This last week was a reminder of how much she does. But before we get to that, I want to share a quick story. I heard a remarkably arrogant (not to mention misogynistic) statement the other day. A man was talking to a friend of his about their plans for the evening, and he responded to a question with, “She’s at home making dinner where she belongs.” I overheard a bit more, and everything screamed of, “I’m better than my wife, and she is there to serve me.”

All I could think was, “What an ass!”

That conversation was in the back of my mind off and on during the week my wife was working hard out of state. While she was gone, I took the kids to school each morning, worked a full day of work, picked the kids up from school, made dinner, ran to the store for a few groceries, cleaned up the kitchen, and got the kids to bed, not to mention three loads of laundry on Thursday and another three on Sunday. It turns out working full-time and running a household is a whole lot easier with two. My wife does alot, and when she is gone, I am reminded of exactly how much. But whenever she is home, I become slightly ignorant to the amount of time, energy, and work she pours into myself and our three kids.

While it may not be the same as the arrogant mentality I heard from a stranger, when I choose to be ignorant to all that my wife does, it makes me just as much of an ass!

I have known many men and some women who have fallen into this trap. Some know it and don’t care; others let the routine of life create expectations out of other’s actions. But, any time someone’s work, dedication, or acts of service for another are expected, go unnoticed, or are trivialized, it’s disgusting, and there is no excuse.

Whether you are a husband, wife, friend, or coworker; if you have fallen into the trap of expecting any form of work or sacrifice from another human being as opposed to being filled with a deep appreciation, something is off. Whether it’s arrogance or ignorance, something needs to change.

The only appropriate response to any act of service, no matter how routine, is appreciation. If you do one thing today, make sure you let those who do so much for you know how much you appreciate them. And I’ll do the same.

Just Because - Giving Like A Child

This morning I woke up early with the intention of working out. I got dressed in my workout clothes, put on my shoes, and then sat down on the couch for a few minutes too long. But I’m glad I did.

As I sat in the living room, my thirteen-year-old daughter was in the kitchen packing her lunch for school. Once she had picked up her bread crumbs and dishes, she started to head upstairs to get ready. But before she made it up two steps, she stopped, turned around and walked over to me. Bending down, she wrapped her arms around me, hugged me, and kissed me on the cheek.

Smiling, I asked, “What was that for?”

She smiled back, “Just because.” And then turned around and headed up to her room.

What a great way to start the day. Just because.

An hour later, my youngest was up, and she came into my room as I got ready for the day. She walked up to me, still sleepy-eyed, and wrapped her arms around my leg. She didn’t say it, but I knew it was just because.

At some point, as we grow older, we begin to lose the just because mentality. I don’t believe it ever completely goes away, but as adults, the number of social transactions we are a part of that have expectations definitely outweigh the ones that don’t.

Blame it on society, movies, or social media; there are a host of influences out there promoting the use of behaviors that will get us what we want. Over time, we can become motivated by paychecks, tax breaks, and any other scenario where we get something for what we give. But at the end of the day, we're the ones that choose to give with expectations or choose to just give.

Kids get it, they give hugs just to give hugs and give kisses just to give kisses. They have more excitement about giving a gift at a birthday party than any adult I have ever seen, and they're ready to give someone in need money or food with no thought of how it will impact their schedule or bank account, and with no regard for who is or isn't watching. Kids live with a natural just because mentality.

Today, find a moment or two where you can operate with that same mentality. Take someone out for coffee or lunch, just because. Find someone in need and give them time, money, or food when no one is watching. Find something good you can do, and do it just because.

The Magic of Letting Go

I prefer not to get political or talk about religion in much of my writing because so many times it becomes divisive, or a point of contention for many people. But today, I need to get something off my mind. I’m not a religious person. In fact, I’ve found little value in religion itself. Living by a list of rules and checkboxes to make sure I’ve done things right has always smacked of misguided motivation for me. It’s not that I don’t value much of what religion can teach us, but the motivation is often disconcerting, and sometimes it frightening, especially when religion is placed in a position of higher importance than the relationships we possess.

I go to a Christian church, and though some of my political and religious views aren’t terribly popular among some of the church patrons, we find a way to set those differences aside (most of the time) and engage in honest and thought-provoking dialogue. Recently, someone asked me what the cross means to me. I didn’t have to think long. My response was, “It’s the source of a magic that sets us free from our burdens so we can pick up the burdens of someone else.” Needless to say, the word “magic” used in the same sentence as “the cross” raised some eyebrows—this made me laugh.

I could tell the individual I was speaking with and a few of those who listened in were thinking of wizards and cauldrons. I had some explaining to do. When I say, “magic,” I’m not referring to spells and witchcraft. For centuries, people have used the word magic to explain the unexplainable, to try and give some context to things not understood. The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights were thought to be magic, fire was a gift from the gods whose source was unexplained for centuries, and there are a host of other things that until they explained were thought to be magic.

Once I had clarified my perspective and the reason I had used the word, anxieties seemed to subside, and people were more inclined to listen.

So I continued as I explained what the cross represents for me, a place of letting a go, a focal point for many that stands as a reminder that we don’t have to hold on to the burdens we carry. We always have the choice to let them go, sometimes we set them down for a minute, a few hours, a few days, But when we choose to set whatever is weighing us down at the base of the cross, it gives someone else the opportunity to pick it up and carry it for us.

And this is where the magic happens. When we let go of the pains, addictions, trauma, and the host of other things that plague our lives, not only are we allowing others carry what we were never meant to deal with on our own, our arms a free to pick up the burden of another.

I finished with the conversation with, “The cross represents the magic of letting go. We can’t fully understand the dynamics at play in any situation, but when we choose to set our pains aside, sometimes just for a moment, and carry someone else’s load, we are permitting others to do the same.

The cross represents a beauty that all men and women should aspire to because we all can be a place where someone can lay down their burdens knowing that we will pick them up.

Ask yourself, “what is preventing me from carrying someone through hard times?” Once you’ve identified it, try letting it go and let the magic happen.

Little Adventures And Big Teeth

Life is an adventure — one grand experience filled with a multitude of smaller ones. And it’s the quality of the smaller ones that make the big one worthwhile.

I get to travel a fair amount. Working with my best friend, Justin Skeesuck, as a keynote speaking duo, we find ourselves all over the country — sometimes the world. More often than not, our clients fly us in for a few days, which means we are on the road for 3 or 4 days at a time. But sometimes we have events that are close enough together that flying home just to hop back on a plane doesn’t make sense. It’s on these kinds of trips that we find a way to tap into our inner child. We’re always looking for the next adventure. But our experiences always have a unique dynamic because Justin lives life from a power wheelchair (Justin can’t use his arms or legs due to a progressive neuromuscular disease).

Over the past few weeks, we traveled from Boise to Kansas, and then to several cities in Florida. Our days were filled with a number of events, so we bounced from event to event with some downtime in between. And with downtime comes the opportunity to do things we wouldn’t normally do, in places we wouldn’t regularly visit. In Hutchinson, KS we spent time with their Chamber of Commerce team, spoke at their annual meeting, and took advantage of the opportunity to explore a salt mine 650 feet below the earth’s surface. From there we headed St. Petersburg, FL where we spoke with representatives from universities far and wide at CCCU’s multi-academic conference. Our free time there was filled with hours on the beach, good dinners with the wives, and some incredible fish tacos.

After saying goodbye to the amazing women who chose to marry us (still trying to work that one out), we headed to Orlando, FL. We were going to be speaking at ThermoFisher Scientific’s North American Sales Conference. But we had some free time and needed something exciting.

Justin and I are no strangers to doing stupid things together — we have so many stories involving trips, crazy foods, and idiotic escapades. One of the reasons we have maintained our friendships over the course of 43 years is the fact that we are always ready to jump in and embrace the other’s ideas and sense of adventure, no matter how big or small the adventure might be.

Justin had read about an accessible zip-line in Orlando where the line took riders over a pond filled with Alligators. When he asked me what I thought, I was all in. The day before we were supposed to speak, we headed to Gatorland. We bought our tickets, worked our way to the zip-line office (past some huge alligators), and filled out the appropriate releases.

While the team harnessed up Justin, I was instructed on how to get into mine. Ten minutes later, Justin and I were at the top of the long series of ramps that led to the drop off point. In the water below there were gators as long as 14 feet. Several hundred of them swam in the murky waters below.

While the crew secured Justin to the zip-line, I filmed. Minutes later they let him go. He laughed the whole way across the pond. Five minutes later, I was doing the same thing.

Though it was short, we had a great time, and we have one more story to tell. A small adventure that helps make up the bigger adventure that is our friendship.

Since making our way across that pond, I have been thinking about what each of us can do to enrich our relationships with our children, with our spouse, with our friends. While there is no shortage of improvements we all can make, one guaranteed way to grow deeper is to live life together — and we don’t have to fly across the country to do so. Every day offers opportunities for more adventures to be taken and more stories to be written. Whether it's through backyard games of hide-and-seek, puddle jumping till you’re soaking wet, forts built out of cardboard boxes and duct-tape, bike rides to get ice cream, a walk holding hands, coffee in the middle of a workday, or happy hour conversations — every day we can find ways to live out a little adventure making the big one so much more significant.

Take some time today to go on a little adventure with your kids, your spouse, or a friend. Because it’s the little ones that make the big one possible.

There Are Worse Things

I recently went on vacation with my wife and three kids. The destination was Orlando, and we had the Kennedy Space Center, Universal Studios, and Disney World in our sights. But first, we had to get there.

My wife travels a lot for work, so we utilized some miles for tickets for myself and our two youngest. The catch was we were on a different flight. Boise to Seattle, Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Orlando.

We made it all the way to Seattle before things went south. A winter storm hit Chicago, and our flight was delayed, and we were going to miss our connection. So my nine-year-old daughter and ten-year-old son sat next to a pillar and snacked on some granola bars while I waited in line to see if we could get booked on a later flight to Orlando. I struck up a conversation with the lady standing in front of me, and as we chatted, we overheard one of the agents say “ all flights into Chicago are canceled.”

The woman standing next to me said, “Well, that stinks. but there are worse things.”

I nodded my head in agreement, and said, “going hungry.”

She said, “Having no water.”

“Not having a home.”

“Or a job.”

We continued the back and forth while a man in his fifties, lit up the agent who was trying to help him, all because he was going to make it to the Caribbean a few hours later than planned.

Finally, we were both called up to the desk. The young agent who was helping me spent 25 minutes looking through options, had to make a few phone calls, and after ten more minutes, we finally had a way to get to Orlando. But it wasn’t going to be pretty because a lot of other airports were being affected by weather and few flights had enough room for three passengers.

I walked over to my kids and said, “Well, we're going to make it to Orlando, but not till tomorrow.”

With tears in his eyes, my son Josh asked, “Are we going to miss going to NASA?”

“No, but here is what we have to do to make it.”

I explained that we had a 5-hour layover in Seattle, a flight to Las Vegas, another 4-hour delay and then a redeye to Miami where we would have to race to make a connection to Orlando.

I smiled and said, “There are worse things though.”

“Like what?” asked my daughter, Olivia.

Without missing a beat, Josh said, “Not having a house.”

I smiled and said, “Or not having money to buy food.”

To which Olivia continued the game with, “Or not being able to go to Orlando at all.”

The scenarios continued as we walked to a restaurant to get some food.

With no changes to our new itinerary, we made it to Miami at 540 am the following morning. Running on little sleep, and feeling mildly grumpy, Olivia said to me, “There are worse things.”

We made it in time for the Kennedy Space Center and all things NASA, enjoyed a wonderful time as a family and made it home safe and sound.

But what a great perspective to have. There are always worse things, and to listen to my children rattle off scenarios and be grateful that they were on a trip that had delays and changes in plans was beautiful.

Every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister — so pretty much everybody — has the opportunity to focus on the negative or use challenging scenarios to give the children in their lives a different perspective. One that finds things to appreciate when situations don’t go the way we want, as opposed to dwelling on how bad we have it in any given moment.

There are plenty of things to get upset about; being a few hours late to a Carribean Island or a day late getting into Orlando sit pretty low on that list.

When it comes to day-to-day struggles like bad traffic or airline delays, someone always has a harder situation than the ones we're facing. It helps to keep that perspective.

Hard Realizations - The Challenge of Differing Perspectives

This past weekend, my son and I went up to the local ski resort to enjoy some time on the slopes. I used to snowboard, but three knee surgeries and no cartilage in my right knee mean I watch and coach from below. On the drive up we listened to music and talked about his week at school. The fourth grade is filled with great stories, goofy things he and his friends do and experiments or science projects that far exceed my expectations for a fourth-grade classroom. This kid loves school, is a bit of a thinker and, like all three of my kids, teaches me a lot.

When we arrived, the sky was bright blue, the air a warm 37 degrees, and the ski hill was busy. For four hours, Josh rode the lift and worked to perfect his turns. It was his fifth time up.

We enjoyed our lunch, sat by the fire, talked with friends, and packed up to head down the hill. That's when it hit me.

Do you ever have those days where you're just trucking along, enjoying the simplicity of the day and something comes out of the blue and strikes you? It hits you so hard, you have to take a moment to understand what has just happened.

We were headed down the hill listening to more music, and a few lines from a song struck me.

I'm tired
Of tending to this fire
I've used up all I've collected
I have singed my hands
It's glowing
Embers barely showing
Proof of life in the shadows
Dancing on my plans

I asked my son, “What do you think the writer is saying here? What is he talking about?”

Josh thought for a moment and then answered, “I think he is saying ‘sometimes you’re just done. When life gets hard, it hard to keep going.’”

I don’t know why I asked the next question; it just came out. “Have you ever felt this way?”

The back seat was quiet for a few seconds and then, “Yeah.”

Josh is ten.

“When?” I asked.

“When I was little, and I would get in trouble with you or mom for something, sometimes I wondered if you still loved me. When I felt like that, I wanted to disappear.”

“Even though we always told you there was nothing you could do to change our love for you?” I responded.

“Yeah, because when I was little, I didn’t know it yet.”

My heart broke for a moment. I asked, “How about now that you’re older?”

“No, now I know you love me no matter what.”

I have put a lot of thought into digesting that conversation. A three or four-year-old heart and mind processes things much differently than that of a ten-year-old. But juxtapose my son’s four-year-old heart and mind against my then 37-year-old ones and things suddenly get very eye-opening.

Perspective matters. Thinking back to the times I have had to discipline my kids, I know I approached the situations with my life experiences, my understanding of love, my perspective of forgiveness, responsibility, and accountability. My son only had four years of that, and the difference in those two perspectives is stark. And because I hadn’t recognized this, I had given my boy a moment of doubt.

It turns out the same rules apply to others our same age, or people older than us. Individuals with far more life experience than a four-year-old may have a greater understanding of the things we encounter, but this understanding will differ from our own. No one, not a single person, will have the same perspective as I do. It is essential that I remember this, Whether I am having to discipline my child, have a hard conversation with my wife, or am dealing with the difficulties that come with working with people; I must remember that no one sees things the same as I do.

As parents, spouses, and friends, I can’t help but wonder how many broken hearts and wounded souls could be avoided if we all would seek to understand someone else’s perspective before we react; before we speak.