New Life With Every Step — Rediscovering The Beauty Of Humanity

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote a post, and a lot has happened since then. On September 26th, we left for Spain to do the last 111 km of the Camino. We joined up with 48 people—10 wheelchair users, a visually impaired lady, and 37 helpers.

When you bring this many people together for something as strenuous as pushing/pulling/carrying ten wheelchairs over challenging hiking trails, there are bound to be obstacles. We experienced a few fractures, several flat tires, and pain in places we didn’t know existed, but we did it together.

Some people had trained more than others, some were experienced hikers while others had spent little time on trails, and others still had never been outside of their home country. But while experience with the outdoors and travel varied, our backgrounds were far more diverse. Our group consisted of Christians, atheists, agnostics, and more. On any given day, you walked with individuals who were conservative, liberal, democrat, republican, gay, straight, and yet, not a single divisive conversation was to be had.

We had all come together with one purpose—to get each other to Santiago, one step at a time.

And with each step and roll of wheels, conversations of faith, doubt, painful childhood memories, dreams, and fears filled the spaces between us. There was new life with every step because regardless of differing belief systems, political affiliations, and lifestyles, we all walked into this experience, ready to love each other and move forward together.

Our sights were set not on what might divide us, but rather what could unite us. Over the course of more than a week, we grew close in unique ways. While I had conversations about differing ideas, faiths, beliefs, and more with several in our group, these conversations were ones I had earned.

Sharing our thoughts and beliefs with another is so often treated as a right. It’s not. This is something that is earned—earned through investing in relationships and time spent together.

The most important conversations we will ever have are the ones we earn by walking with others, taking in what has brought their journey into ours, and listening to their story.

New life can be found in every story.

Adventure Feeds The Soul

I love adventure for many reasons—the excitement of the unknown, sharing experiences with others, new foods, new cities, new landscapes, new perspectives. Every time I set out on some new journey or pursue a fresh experience in life, I am blessed by so many things. But I have grown to anticipate one thing above all others. No matter how grand the adventure is, regardless of how magnificent the things I see, what I look forward to most is the person who comes home from the journey in place of the person I am before I leave.

In a few short days, I am headed back to Spain with several friends. Several years ago, my best friend and I did the Camino de Santiago. We traveled 500 miles along the ancient pilgrimage—he in his wheelchair while I and others pushed him the distance.

Now we are going back with a group of people; some are coming to help, some use wheelchairs, others live with limited mobility, another is blind—but all are incredible and have stories waiting to be shared. And I can’t wait to see how their lives impact mine.

We will cross rivers, climb hills, drink wine, and enjoy good food; but most importantly, we will be together—strangers from across the country and around the globe spending time in each other’s presence, learning from the stories that have brought each of us into one another’s worlds.

I am filled with anticipation for this journey because I know that each person who is joining us will open my eyes to new perspectives, and their love and life experiences will help me be a better person upon my return than I am today.

Here’s to adventure!

I Don't Want To, But I need To

Whether you’re a parent, leader of a team, business owner, heck, if you work with people in any capacity; you know how big of a deal it is when the light turns on—that moment when someone gets it. A perspective shift occurs, and they see the world through a new lens or have a fresh understanding of what it means to be a part of humanity.

My oldest daughter had one of those moments recently, a sudden insight into what it means to exist. But before we get into that, let’s talk about a disease that is out there—one known as entitlement.

It seems everywhere we look, from social media to news stations, there is no shortage of people with the mentality of “I don’t need it, but I want it.” and this soon leads “I don’t want to work for it, but I deserve it.” 

We live in an age of entitlement.

Simply put, if you want something but don’t want to work for it, or if there is any privilege or special treatment you feel you inherently deserve, you’re entitled. 

I’m pretty sure this means we all have suffered a sense of entitlement at some point. I know I have, after all, I did use to be a teenager.

Back to my oldest daughter. She’s fourteen. Some of you think you know where this is going. We’ll see.

Cambria is a hard-working, driven, young woman who knows what she wants most of the time. And with that strong drive, she usually has an idea of how to get there.

She is a freshman in high school, playing volleyball, and is an active martial artist. So needless to say, there isn’t as much free time in her schedule as there was in my somewhat entitled teenage years.

A few weeks ago we were discussing her desire to get her black belt in Tang So Doo (a Korean form of martial arts), but volleyball practice and games are making it hard to attend practice sessions for martial arts.

I asked her, “How bad do you want your black belt?”

“Really bad.”

“It’s okay to take a break.”

“I’m not doing that.”

Some perspective — in martial arts, not only do you have to demonstrate proficiency in the various skills at each belt level, you also have to be consistently attending training sessions. 

“Okay, if you’re not going to take a break from martial arts, you’re going to have to attend volleyball practices/games and then head straight to Tang So Doo and still get your homework done.”

“I know.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I don’t want to do all that work, but I need to if I want to be involved in both.”

I don’t want to, but I need to.

How many times in a day can I employ that mentality? How many people who want something need to understand that the path to what they want is filled with I don’t want to, but I need to moments.

Life is hard, and there are many good things out there that don’t come to those who wait.

Many of the good things in this world come to those who work hard and never give up. My daughter is starting to see this, and it makes me so happy.

We could all benefit from a little bit of I don’t want to, but I need to.

The Weight Of Grief

The first time I remember feeling the heaviness of losing someone, I was nine years old. My grandpa passed from emphysema. I remember the funeral, the casket, the flag given to my grandmother in honor of his service in the military, and the tears. 

But what I remember most are the things that were a part of our visits to my grandparents, the ones that would never happen again. My grandpa sitting on the back porch watching us climb the tree in the backyard, the freezer full of his frozen chocolate chip cookies, and the games we would play.

Since then, like most people, various lives have slipped away. Most have been expected as age slowly wore away the bodies of my remaining grandparents. Others were sudden or the outcome of a long battle with cancer. None of them have been easy to deal with. And the most painful parts of each are tied to the things that will no longer be. 

Over the past several months, several friends have had to deal with death. I'm not sure “deal with” is appropriate. They have been thrust into a new paradigm, “normal” has been shattered, and they are left with the heaviness of loss, and an emptiness that seems bottomless. 

Grief manifests in different ways for different people but it’s always a weight. In fact, the word comes from grever in middle English which literally means “to burden.” 

I recently attended a memorial service, a beautiful celebration of a life gone too soon. When I was driving home, I was taken back to a phone call I had with a woman about writing that led to a myriad of conversations. One of those was on grief. She had lost her son a number of years ago to a car accident. In our conversation, this insightful woman said something that stuck with me.

“The weight of grief is unlike anything I have experienced. It is the only thing I have carried that is too much for my mind, body, and soul.”

When I asked her how she has been able to navigate life with such a heavy burden she replied, “I haven’t—but we have.” 


“Yes, we—the many who have walked with my family through the pain just as we will walk with them through theirs when their time comes.”

So much beauty exists in those words. A beauty that comes only from the darkest of pains.

Never Stop Asking Why

When my oldest daughter was two or three years old, she went through a phase of questioning everything.

“You aren’t supposed to cut the carpet with the scissors.”


“Please stop pulling on the dog’s ears?


“You shouldn’t put cereal up your nose.”


These, and a host of other questions were asked, time and time again. Our two younger children did the same thing. And now, my oldest is fourteen, and we are in another stage of questioning.

There were and are times I get frustrated with the questioning but I have to remind myself, my kids aren’t challenging me as a parent just because they want to drive me crazy—they’re trying to understand their world so they can navigate it with more knowledge, make better decisions, and grow from other’s insights.

A few months ago, I was at a conference where a man was talking about the financial state of the world. About halfway through his talk, he went off-script. But his rabbit trail was the most important thing he addressed.

As he paced the stage, he said, “I don’t want to get political today, but do you know what’s wrong with America?” His dynamic style of speaking meant all eyes were on him. A room filled with a thousand people from various political parties, faith backgrounds, and lifestyles sat attentively in their seats, waiting for his answer.

“We have become all about extremes, and nobody listens anymore. No one is asking the right question.”

He paused as he scanned the room. When his eyes locked with mine, he continued, “So you’re probably wondering, ‘What is the right question?’”

He held his left hand up and closed it so only his index finger pointed up. “One word. Why?”

“We have stopped asking ‘Why?’ or when we do, we don’t have the guts to wrestle with the answers.”

I was all ears as he dove into the importance of asking why and how seeking to truly understand the answers is a necessary shift our cultural must make if we are going to move past the divisions we have allowed to take hold.

We must ask other's, “Why?”

Why do they believe what they do, why do they hold to a certain faith, why do they align with certain political parties or figures, why do they fight so hard for certain values.

But we can’t just ask the questions—we have to shut up and listen to the answers.

And we must be willing to answer the same questions. We must be willing to sit with someone who sees the world differently and seek to learn from them as we try to share with them our perspective.

Just like toddlers seem never to stop asking why, we should do the same thing because it will expand our understanding of the world so that we can navigate it with more knowledge, make better decisions, and grow from other’s insights.

But so many are afraid of the other side, so many are so vehemently opposed to ideas they disagree with that they have lost sight of why they believe what they believe.

Worse yet, we often take positions where sacrifice the values we claim to hold dear in an effort to silence those who stand opposed to our ideologies.

No, asking why won’t solve the world’s problems, but listening to the answers will start the conversation.

I'm Drowning In The Water You're Walking On

I’m not one to get easily frustrated—most of the time. While I’m a passionate individual, I try to keep a level head and approach situations or conflict with an open mind, but sometimes I fail. This might be one of those times.

Have you ever heard words spoken that spark completely unrelated thoughts?

My daughter and I were listening to music the other day, and the following lyrics poured from the speakers and filled the room, “I’m drowning in the water you’re walking on.” The song is about a relationship that is falling apart, where one individual is a bit entitled and takes advantage of the other while elevating themselves to an undeserved pedestal (at least that’s my interpretation). But those words sparked some good conversation about an entirely different topic. My daughter and I explored other situations where this phrase might fit and our thoughts turned to religion— more specifically, humanity's propensity to use an infinitely big God to further our smallness by making us look more important than we are.

I’m tired of scripture being used to tout diseased thinking like prosperity gospel, or perpetuate ideas like “if you prayed a little more you would be healed, if you had more faith you would be healed, if you just run through a fire tunnel (this an actual present-day practice) you will be empowered or healed.

There seems to be a host of people touting flawed theology that results in empty promises made by a god who doesn’t exist because it’s a god the church created as opposed to the church God intended.

And as a result, people are drowning.

So many are so desperate for a god they can manipulate, a checklist they can complete, a list of rules to follow, and a bunch of, dare I say “pagan ritual BS”, that makes things feel more “spiritual”; that they fall hook, line, and sinker for lies closely resembling the truth.

I have seen people wounded by such theology, children born with a disability or lifelong disease, people plagued with cancer, men and women fighting to survive in the face of a host of ailments, and they’re all people filled with a faith that rivals any other person I have met— and yet someone has the arrogance, audacity, and insensitivity to suggest things like, “they must not have as much faith as they say they do”, or “their parents must have sinned.”

Any time people say such things, whenever such theology is taught, so much damage is done because people are drowning while others walk on water. God is a God of love over all other things, a God who has given my best friend the strength, grace, and dignity to endure a disease that will take his life, and he does so without fear—that’s so much more powerful than a physical healing.

When our faith elevates us to a position over others because we believe more, we pray more, we jump through more hoops, or we see ourselves as modern-day prophets—we need to find lifejackets because all we're doing is treading water.

We're All Addicted To Something—What's Your Fix?

It’s easy to compartmentalize certain words. When we hear the word hunger, food is generally the first thing that comes to mind, even though we hunger for things like affection or time with loved ones. When someone mentions faith, religion is often people's first thought, even though we find faith in friends, families, even ourselves. And when we hear someone utter “addiction”; drug users, alcoholics, porn junkies, and the like tend to be what we picture in our minds. But my perspective on addiction has been challenged in fresh and beautiful ways of late.

I’ve had periods of my life filled with addiction; the most significant was pornography. It’s devastating in so many ways. But I’ve never really thought about how invasive addictive behaviors are in my life beyond the demons of my past—the proverbial skeletons in my closet.

After reading an advance copy of Seth Haines up coming book The Book Of Waking Up, I realized the skeletons we hold aren’t as few as I thought, and no one has a closet big enough to hide them all

Seth has challenged me with a fresh perspective on addiction, and I have come around to the thought that we are all addicted to something. If you think you’re not, hmmmm.

Research has shown that too much of anything causes brain activity similar to that seen in drug addiction. Simply defined, addiction is the dependency on anything where our body feels rewarded. Ultimately, the things we are addicted to make us feel a certain way, and that feeling is something we then pursue.

With drugs, alcohol, and porn it might be the pursuit of the high, the ecstasy, or the numbing of our pain. But there are a host of other addictions we fall prey to because of the way certain things make us feel.

I’ve been a workaholic at times because I want the sense of control. Because control feels safe to me. Others work the 60, 70, 80 hour work weeks to feel valued, needed—the more work they do, the better they feel about themselves—for awhile.

I like shoes, and while I’m not addicted to shopping, it wouldn’t take much to tip me over the edge. But I know people who buy things after a hard week because the instant gratification of something new makes them feel better for a few days.

Social media pulls so many people in. What do people think about my post? How many likes did I get today? Do I have any new followers?

Work, shopping, and the lure of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds on our phones are pretty easy jumps to make when looking at addiction.

But I have witnessed some that are much more subtle — volunteering to look good, as opposed to being altruistic—addicted to image.

Pouring over study after study on a given topic without putting anything into practice, without growing as an individual, without letting the things you learn improve your life and the life of others. Can we be addicted to knowledge? Uh, yep.

There’s more; food, exercise, gossip, Netflix, and the list goes on.

I would argue that anything we do to feed a certain feeling, anything that gives us a fix of euphoria, power, or numbs the pain of our lives runs the risk of becoming an addiction.

This means I have a lot of things I need to watch out for; many potential addictions lurk in the every day.

And chances are, you have quite a few as well.

We’re all addicted to something; the first step is acknowledging what that something is.

So what’s your fix?

What do you turn to at the end of a hard day or week?

How much time, energy, and money do spend on the fix?

And is it necessary?

Because if it’s a fix, it’s not.

**Preorder a copy of Seth Haines’ The Book Of Waking Up: Experiencing The Divine Love That Reorders A Life

Scars—Evidence Of Stories Worth Telling

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had some friends over for dinner. We enjoyed good wine, I made Old Fashioned’s, everyone ate too many appetizers, and we overindulged on tacos. The evening was a time to reconnect with good friends, and while our kids played upstairs, the four of us sat on the back patio as we shared laughs and stories.

While his wife shook her head, my friend told the story behind a white patch of scar tissue on his knee. He shot an elk, field dressed the animal, and in the process, he accidentally drove his knife inches deep into his leg. He gave us a good look at the scar and laughed at his carelessness.

My turned to me and said, “Tell them about your scar.”

“Which one?” I asked, but I knew.

Ten years ago, my brother and I went camping with some friends. Five guys in the woods—what could go wrong. One of the guys we went with had brought a brand new, razor-sharp ax. When we arrived at our campsite (for the purists out there, yes, we were car camping), we unloaded tents, stoves, sleeping bags, and the brand new ax.

I volunteered to chop wood, so I took the ax and found some logs that needed to be hacked into smaller pieces. Once I had completed the task at hand, I decided to prepare some kindling by shaving an old dried out stump.

This is something I had done dozens of times. Take an ax and swing it in a way that you strike the outermost inch or two of a stump. The result is a pile of nice chunks of bark and dried wood.

I swung with strength and speed, and my pile of kindling grew. About five minutes in, I took a more significant swing than necessary, but rather than striking wood, a loud metallic ring echoed as the ax hit a wood-splitting wedge someone had left in the stump. The ricocheting ax traveled back toward me, and the point of the ax blade stuck about two inches into my right calf.

We had been planning this trip for months, and I wasn’t about to ruin it with a trip to the ER. The first aid kit we had was lacking anything to wash the wound, but we did have a bottle of hand sanitizer. And while no dressing in that kit was going to stop the bleeding, a couple of socks tied together made a great tourniquet. While extremely painful (both the ax puncture and the hand sanitizer) and crude (the tourniquet), we were able to enjoy all sorts of shenanigans. The bleeding eventually stopped, and the pain was bearable.

I have told this story many times over, and every time is a reminder that our scars are proof of the moments that define us—the scars on our hands, arms, legs, and faces have come from a host of stories. Some we are proud of while others offer others a good laugh, but all have left a mark. But what about the stories behind the marks that are invisible to the eye, yet very real?

There is another kind of scar, one that is deeper, yet impossible to see. The stories behind the scars on our hearts and souls are just as important. They have shaped us; they have molded our minds and helped define our histories. Our heartbreaks, traumas, addictions, shameful moments; they all leave scars.

While often more challenging to tell than stories about mishaps in the woods, the stories behind the scars on hearts and souls need to be shared, they are stories worth telling.

These are the stories where we can learn the most from one another, but only if we are willing to tell them.

I have started to view my scars as gifts I can give to others—the hard parts of life are meant to be shared. Because of my scars, I am reminded of the wisdom I can offer my children, helping them avoid making the same mistakes I have made. But, more importantly, when others offer me the stories behind their scars, I look for the ways their lives can richen mine. How can my life be made better because of the experience they have to offer?

You have scars that are proof of the life you have lived.

What scars do you carry?

What stories do they represent?

Who is waiting for you to share your journey with them so they can avoid the same scars?

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.”


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.


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:


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.