The Gift of Presence

I am currently visiting our oldest daughter and her family in South Carolina.  My wife, Susan, and I are here because she gave birth to our tenth grandchild.  We are so thankful to God for this great blessing.  We are not really doing all that much, but we are present and we are here for whatever the needs are that we can help meet.

I had a friend call yesterday.  The person had problems at work and just needed to vent.  I didn’t say a whole lot, but I listened.  At the end the person thanked me for just being there and listening.

Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to be present with people who are going through the challenges of life. You don’t have to solve their problems.  You just need to be there where they know they are loved and not alone. 

That’s what God does for us.  He is always present with those who are his. Jesus said, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. His presence is promised to us.  He is with you through the ups and downs of life. Even one of Jesus’ name, Immanuel, means “God with us.”  

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but trust that God is with you. It is his gift of presence. He will be there for you throughout whatever you are going through and will work it for your good. “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I missed a call

I missed a call from one of my grandchildren this morning.  I was working and couldn’t take the call.  I was disappointed.  I enjoy connecting with them.  In our case, all our grandchildren are very far away.  We only get to actually be with them maybe once a year.  So, to miss a call is a big thing for me.

As part of my devotional time with God this morning I read,

MATTHEW 7:9-11 9″Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

These verses talk, among other things, about God’s relationship with his children.  He gives good gifts to his children because he cares them.  I can tell by these words that he values his relationship with his children.  I value my relationship with my grandchildren.  So, I was disappointed to miss the call.  I wonder if God is disappointed when we don’t take the time to call out to him?  My bet is that he is so much more disappointed than I am when his children don’t reach out to him.

Have you called out to him today?  He values his relationship with you.  Take a second and call out to him.  He’ll appreciate it…and you will too.16864590_10208241084120624_4024477391247759834_n


In the last few years God has blessed us with seven grandchildren.  All of them unfortunately live very far from us, so we only get to see each about once a year.  Being completlely open , that is very hard. We so wish we could be with them more often and really get to invest in the lives of the next generation.

I think the thing about being a grandparent that has been surprising to me is the immediate love I have for those children.  I can certainly understand it for my own children, they came from us.  But I was surprised how quickly those grandchildren became so special to me. It is one of the incredible life joys that God gives us.  I just want to give glory to God for allowing me to have

Psalm 103:17 (HCSB) But from eternity to eternity the LORD’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren

He’s just not that into you.

Not into you.

When I was in the U.S. Army, I had a boss once that attended the same church I did.  Although, I couldn’t read his mind, his negative demeanor (similar to the picture to the left) while at church seemed to indicate that he really didn’t want to be there.  He had recently remarried and his new wife was a very pleasant redhead who was a serious Christ-follower.   I was a leader in that church. I always got the distinct feeling that my boss didn’t like that very much. His comments to me about anything that had to do with church were always harsh and antagonistic.  He told me once that he attended the church to be with his wife.

When it came time for my evaluation, he was not quite as positive as my previous bosses had been. I was always a hard charger and took the initiative in my work.  I accomplished the goals set for my work and did them well.  In this case it didn’t matter. This guy just didn’t like me. He just wasn’t that into me. Many years later, I still think it’s because of my faith.  I believe I got to experience first hand a mild form of what Jesus said, Matthew 24:9b (NLT) You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.

There are times in life when people just won’t like you.  There are a myriad of reasons why people just won’t like you. So, what do you do when someone doesn’t like you?

  1. Love them anyway. Jesus said, “Love your enemy.”  Respond in love to them even when they don’t reciprocate or are actually hateful toward you.  Go out of your way to help them. The Bible says that will enfuritate them.  Especially go out of your way to help them when you’re in a place where you have to work with someone as a superior or as part of your team. Do your part to go over and above the call of duty. Others will see you’re trying. The aggressor will be the one to look bad. Truth will win out. Oh, in a blinding flash of the obvious, if it is your boss, it won’t help to get in a power struggle with him/her.  Let it go.
  2. Work to make sure that their criticisms are truly unfounded.
  3. If the criticisms are founded, maybe you need to use this relationship as a catalyst to change where you need to change.
  4. Lastly, Suck it up and drive on. Accept it.  They’re just not that into you. Your self worth is not based on whether they like you or not. Your self worth should be based on knowing that God loves you very much.

You’re not going to win every popularity contest. That’s ok. Please the One that matters most.

Can you think of any other good responses when you’re faced with someone who just doesn’t like you?

Don’t Freak Out!

Don't Freak

Some times life is just hard, so don’t freak out, just work through it.  I’m 57 years old now.  I guess one thing that I’ve seen over and over and over; “Stuff Happens.”  Things happen in life that are completely unexpected. None of us are perfect and we live with imperfect people in an imperfect world.

I had a grandson born nine months ago with a metabolic disorder that unless he gets a liver transplant he will have to regulate his protein intake his whole life because his body cannot process them.  (Check out this blog post). Stuff happens. No one saw it coming, but now his parents just have to work through it.

One thing I was taught during my Army career is that a plan is a plan until the battle starts.  Once it starts, you don’t know what is going to happen.  Life is the same way. You may have financial plans in place, but then the market crashes; stuff happens.  You may have a career plan and then you get a boss who for whatever reason doesn’t like you. Stuff happens. You may have family plans. You know how many children you are going to have and how you’re going to raise them.  Then you find out that you’re infertile. The list and go on and on.

The important thing is not that stuff happens. The important thing is how you handle it; how you adjust your plan in the battle of life. I once commanded an Artillery Battery. We were out on a training exercise and several of our vehicles got stuck in the mud up to their axels. (Check out this blog post). Stuff happens. Now we could have just freaked out and not done anything but lament. But, what we did is methodically work our way out of the mess. That’s what we have to do in life. Don’t freak out. Formulate a plan and just work your way through it.

One thing that really doesn’t solve anything is whining. Yes it may identify the problem, but in the long run it won’t solve the problem. In fact it will probably do a good job of making you ineffective. Your whining will probably lower your morale and heighten the feeling that this problem is insurmountable.  So, quit you’re bellyaching and get busy.

Actor Ashton Kutcher was asked what he missed about growing up and living in the Midwest (Iowa).  He said, “I miss being around people that don’t complain. I’m in the drama business, and there are a lot of dramatic people that seem to be not very happy with where they are.” When you hit a snag, don’t complain.  Simply take time to reassess and then start trying to work you way out of the problem.

Ultimately the way to make it through the difficulty is putting your faith in someone that can pull you out of the mud.  Jesus said, John 16:33 (NIV)  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Put your faith in the overcomer and he’ll help you get through life when stuff happens.

Don’t argue with crazy people


I once had a guy come into my office. He was pretty negative and he was very combative in his conversation. I did my best to keep my temper, because it certainly seemed like he was trying to goad me into an argument. Our relationship had normally been very cordial and as far as I understood we had a good bond.  I did know he did not like the military very much.  On this occasion he spewed an assortment of anti-military rhetoric. It was really over the top.  Although he seemed to be trying to provoke me, I didn’t bite.

After his visit, I spoke with a counselor trying to understand what had happened and to formulate an appropriate response. I felt I needed to have a crucial conversation with him to clear the air and reestablish appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I mentioned to the counselor that I knew that in the past this individual had suffered from some type of mental illness. When the counselor heard that, he said, “Don’t argue with crazy people.”  It was good advice.  This was not a battle that I needed to fight. It was fruitless to do so. I just needed to let it go.

I have another friend who argues for any perceived slight; everything is a fight. He badgers waiters and waitresses, medical professionals, lawyers or anyone who in any way has not met his own personal standards.  It is all about him.  Needless to say, he doesn’t have many friends. He’s had several failed marriages. People avoid him like the plague.  He can’t let anything go.

When it comes to life, I have learned that you have to choose your battles wisely. Everything isn’t worth a fight. Some things you just have to let go. That is hard for me. I’m very competitive.  It’s hard to let a challenge just pass me by. But, everything is not worth a fight.   This has been a lifetime learning process for me. Earlier in life, like my friend, I’d battle for everything. I’m sure people must have tired of my constant combativeness.

In the long run, what is important in life is people. They are made in the image of God. He loves people. When I battled for everything, it didn’t foster good relationships and didn’t get accomplished what I wanted to get accomplished. It didn’t value others because it became all about me. I probably could have gotten a lot more done by treating people with love and respect.  I think that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, Matthew 7:12 (Phillips) “Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them – this is the essence of all true religion.”

Don’t argue with crazy people. Let it go!

I can’t open anything!

Some thoughts on married life from my sorta newlywed daughter, Carolyn.

Lawfully Wedded Life

When I first got married, one of my close friends asked me if there was a moment I could point to when the reality of being married really set in. What was the answer, you ask? “When I realized that I cannot open a single jar or bottle in the entire apartment without help!”

And at that point, that was the number one thing I had noticed. It’s no wonder women always have to ask their husbands to open things, it’s because THEY close them to the point that it is impossible for any woman to get the dang thing open!

And, while that is still a true statement for me in our marriage (seriously, can’t open anything without help), I would say that there have been a few other things that marriage points out that I did not notice as a single woman.

Definitely Not a Servant

First off…

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One of the most difficult times of our lives.

My daughter-in-law, Lindsey, is writing a blog (here) about her son’s life and his genetic disorder called Citrullinemia. She is currently writing about his first few days of life. I wanted to add my perspective as a grandparent for the record.

My wife, Susan, and I were thrilled when our grandson, Caleb, was born.  We had plans to visit Louisiana a month later so we could meet him. We so enjoyed getting to see his pictures and talk with our son, John, on the day of his birth.  We didn’t know it but we were entering probably one of the most emotionally difficult periods of our lives. Things changed quickly when I got a call from John that Caleb was being transferred to an NICU about 60 miles away because he wasn’t acting right.  He was not eating and was lethargic. We were concerned and began to ask friends, family and our prayer team at Bay Community Church to pray for Caleb and his parents.  We were so glad Lindsey’s parents were there supporting them.

I can’t convey the sense of helplessness to have your son and his wife have their first child and things were taking a turn for the worst and we couldn’t do anything to help. So, we maintained contact receiving frequent updates via text and phone.  Most of the updates weren’t very encouraging. We got a call from my son after they had been in the NICU for a couple of days saying that Caleb was being transferred via helicopter to New Orleans Children’s Hospital.  His body had too much ammonia and he had to get dialysis immediately or he might not make it.  That NICU didn’t have the capability to do it.  That was pretty shocking news.

The transfer was on Monday night. I made reservations for John and Lindsey at a hotel near the hospital so they’d at least have a place to stay when they arrived in the middle of the night.  They were driving while Caleb was flying.  We talked with them while they were driving.  In the morning I talked with John and he said that they had arrived safely during the night. They used the room only to shower and spent the rest of the time at the hospital.  He said it was a hard night, but at that time they still didn’t know what the prognosis was.

I had a friend that had recently graduated from a seminary in New Orleans. I called him and asked him if he knew any pastors there that might be able to go to the hospital and visit John and Lindsey.  He said one of his professors was also a pastor and he’d give him a call.  God’s people are so good. The professor had an early class but went to see them right after.  He spoke with them and prayed with them.

Around 10:30 a.m. I text him and asked how he was. His reply to me was, “terrified!”  That put me into action. I thought to myself, “if my son is in a foxhole terrified, I’m jumping in there with him and we can be terrified together.” (I’m retired Army and he’s currently in the Army) I got online and bought an airline ticket from Miami to New Orleans.  I made ground transportation and hotel arrangements.  I also arranged for my wife to join me the next day.  I had great support from our congregation who urged me to go and took care of covering my preaching responsibilities for our church service on Sunday.  Susan arranged to leave her work the next day.

I didn’t tell John I was coming because I didn’t want him to be concerned about me in anyway.  He needed to focus on being a dad in a crisis.  When I arrived in New Orleans, I spoke with John and then I drove the rental car to the hospital.  He came down to the car to meet me. I guess the thing that struck me was how calm his demeanor was and how well he was handling the whole situation.

I came to find out that the reason he was terrified is that the main physician working on Caleb had told him that Caleb might not make it. She wasn’t sure he would pull though. That is hard for any parent to hear. I will tell you that being a grandparent in that situation is double hard.  You hurt for your child.  No one wants their children to go through such difficulties. But, you also hurt for your grandchild.  It’s amazing the automatic love connection you have with your grandchild.


I remember walking into his room. I saw Lindsey near the bed and little Caleb with all kinds of wires, monitors and hooked up to a ventilator. I kept on thinking how difficult that had to be for these young parents. I was glad to be there with them.  I couldn’t do much for them. They were the parents and I was a bystander. But, I could just be there for them.  I went over to Caleb and rubbed his little body and prayed for him.

It was a blessing to see them be there with their son. Lindsey would read Bible stories to him. Of course, he was not conscious, but she knew he was listening.  I know God was pleased at this loving mother.

Psalm 71:18 (NLT) Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

I’ve been out of commission.

May 2013 was a very stressful time for our family. There were several health issues that popped up with family members thatImage we love very much. After that stressful time, I’ve not felt much like blogging. But, June has allowed me to recuperate. I’m ready to get back at it. 

At this point in my life, I’m a full time pastor/church planter. But, this hasn’t always been my vocation. I was a soldier in the U.S. Army for 22 years. No, I was not a chaplain. I was an Artilleryman or a “Redleg.” God called me into pastoring in my last years of serving my Lord while I served the country.  What I plan to do over the next several blog posts is take some leadership lessons I learned in my time in the Army and discuss how those lessons have worked out in the church world.

I will tell you. I’m not sure I would have been prepared for what I’m doing now without those 22 years of preparation in the Army. I’m thankful to God that he allowed me to grow and mature in him, before he called me into pastoral ministry.

I’ll publish my next blog post, “They’re not soldiers,” in the coming days. Until then, have a great Independence Day and always remember that “Freedom isn’t free.”