Tomorrow, we fast

I have historically not been an enthusiastic faster.

I support fasting.  I fast.  I have just embraced it reluctantly because, well….fasting.

Something is different in me right now.  Tomorrow, we begin a 40 day fast and perhaps for the first time since the year 2000, I am eager to dive in.  Perhaps because I am as desperate for God to move as I was back then.

In 2000, we were church planting in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati.  We were different people than we are now.  Adding eight children and twenty years of ministry will have an effect on you.  Yet in some ways we are the same.

We are very aware that our nation is at a crossroads.   We fasted in 2000, and the next September, the United States suffered an attack that would change the trajectory of our foreign policy, our expectations of privacy, our economy and our sense of safety forever. It feels a little like the nation is at a similar crossroads.  So much is uncertain, and what is certain does not seem encouraging, unless God breaks in.

We are hungry for a God-challenge.  We’ve had a few over the years, and we have found that we flourish in the challenges that God offers us while we struggle with those we pick up on our own.   Twenty years in, I’m realizing that the challenges He calls us to are the ones He chooses fight alongside us.

If you’re interested, we are joining in with Lou Engle and others for The Jesus Fast,  Over 60,000 people worldwide have signed up to do this together.

Also, I’ve been talking a little about fasting in recent editions of the Third Cup of Coffee podcast.  You can find it here.

Freedom Church, Magnolia, TX

It was great to be with Richy & Jess Clark in Magnolia, Texas last Sunday!

I talked about the heart of a father and told a bunch of adoption stories – most of this has been shared in other places but for some reason this morning got the Director’s Cut version…


Also, don’t miss the Third Cup of Coffee Podcast.


When Children Encounter God

Anna is 11.  She’s feisty, passionate, and has a razor sharp wit.   She likes all the normal 11 year old girl things like fingernail polish and her iPad and her new puppy.   Most days are spent juggling between school, making videos and setting her siblings straight.

Today, however, she had a powerful encounter with God.

She was a little discouraged and tired when, in her words, she

felt kind of funny, and suddenly I knew God was with me.  I went down on my knees in the bathroom and I started to laugh and cry at the same time and I was so happy all of a sudden!  I just laughed and cried!  I knew it was the Holy Spirit!  I knew He was doing it to me!

She actually cried and laughed so loudly that her twin sister, Mercy, came upstairs to check on her and found her in a pile on the floor, overwhelmed by the presence of God.  It had a profound effect on both of them.  Anna was astounded that the Holy Spirit would touch her in that way and Mercy was hungry for a similar experience.

I know, this is making some of you nervous.  What do we do with it when our kids seem to have an encounter with God – especially one so demonstrative?

Sadly, some people feels compelled to explain it away, dismiss it or minimize it. After all, we wouldn’t want our children to grow up with some strange tendency to expect profound encounters, would we?  We almost feel like we have to prepare them for adulthood by training them to anticipate a dull Christian existence.

I think that’s a mistake. We’re actually talking our kids out of God when we do that.

In Acts 2, as Peter preached to those gathered who were trying to sort out what was happening as the Holy Spirit was poured out on those in the upper room, he took a minute to start by quoting the prophet Joel.

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…”

It’s clearly God’s plan for the Holy Spirit to impact and use our children.   At the same time, we are the parents and the children will look to us for help interpreting their experiences.   How can we help them walk this out?

Talk it through.

Tonight, at bed time, we had Anna tell her story.  Most of us had heard it during the day, but I had her retell it to her siblings and allow them to ask questions.  They wondered how it felt, what she was thinking, and why she was crying.  She answered the questions that she had answers for, and was honest about the things she couldn’t understand.

I explained to her that telling our story was important because it helped remind us of how things happened as well as gave her confidence to testify to what God had done for her in other settings because one of the ways we overcome is by our testimony.   When things get hard, I’ll have her tell us the story again.

Address it with scripture.

Read passages from Bible where God’s power was displayed.  Adults are wired to doubt but children are wired to believe.  I think this is why Jesus never said “If you have the faith of an adult….” or “gather the adults to me…”.

Kids approach the supernatural with a natural curiosity and an unassuming spirit.  Give them some tracks to run on that are found in the Bible.

Pray with them.

Never let an encounter, big or small, go without following up with prayer.  In this case, Anna’s heart was still very tender and I believe she still in a heightened state of sensitivity to the Lord.  We prayed God would continue to speak to her and that she would recognize His voice quickly – and then we prayed that her siblings would have their own encounters with the Holy Spirit.

Some would say that kids can get overly emotional and this can all get a little weird. That’s true.  The far more common scenario, however, is that we don’t give them room to breath spiritually and it gets a little boring. 

Lead your children through these encounters – even if you’re not having them yourself.  Personally, I am provoked for more of God tonight.

I am being led that direction by my own daughter.  Life does not get better than that.


Don’t miss the Third Cup of Coffee podcast.

The Myth of the Blank Sheet of Paper

Kelsey and I are at a unique place in life.  We find ourselves talking and praying about what is next for us.  We thought we had that part figured out, but we were wrong…and it’s ok to be wrong.  It’s an opportunity to make adjustments and get things into alignment with heaven.

I’ve had several people tell me to look at the future like a completely blank sheet of paper.  Given a sharp, new pencil, what would we draw on that sheet?   I love that idea. Who doesn’t like new school supplies?  Who doesn’t like boundless opportunity?

Except that idea is a little off.

The paper is not blank.  I’m 52, not 25.  I have experiences, opinions, strengths, hangups, and quirks that I didn’t have when we started this journey.  We have a few miles on us – the vast majority of them were wonderful. A few were unexpected.  We may have gone off roading a few times.  We don’t regret them but we can’t deny them either.

No, the paper isn’t blank.  The corner is crinkled and there’s a coffee stain and there’s that one thing I started to write one time and rubbed the eraser too hard until I tore a small hole.   Our future is not going to be pulled from the ream of paper, it’s going to be written on something that’s been in our backpack for a while.  Parts of it have been carried around for years.

I actually think that makes it a better story.  There are rich characters and plot twists and a backstory that all make for a better future.  A blank sheet of paper is for those without a history.   We are not those people.

I’d appreciate your help.  Would you pray with us about the next phase of our lives?  For something that encompasses who we are?   We need to hear from heaven and we trust that we will.




Don’t miss The Next Cup of Coffee podcast – it’s about five minutes of what’s going on in our life and 15-20 minutes of Bible study, posted on Wednesday mornings.

Job(‘s) Experience

I’m a big fan of the book of Job.  That’s something you don’t hear every day because at first glance, Job’s experience is terrible.  In the first chapter, even though he’s living right and honoring God, the wheels start to fall off.

He loses his herds.  His riches. His children. He keeps his wife and his friends, and frankly, they’re no help.  His friends offer a mix of observations, advice and criticism. His wife tells him to curse God and die.  Job is crushed by circumstances and then abused by people near him.

Few of us ever approach the pain that Job must have undergone, but at some point, most of us do know what it feels like to be betrayed and accused.  It stings.   We want to speak, to explain, to make sure that everyone understands…and sometimes we don’t get the chance.

Even when we know the Lord is a God of justice…it still hurts.

Recently I discovered this really interesting portion of scripture near the end of the book.  I’ve read it over and over again but this time it leaped off the page at me.

In Job 42, Job hears God speak to one of his abusive friends.

(verse 7)  After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has..

You can almost imagine Job searching for the GIF of the guy getting the popcorn and settling into his chair to watch because it appears that God is going to drop the hammer of justice on those who have hurt Job.

(verses 8 & 9) “…now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 

So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

This is what caught my eye.

God accepted their sacrificed based on Job’s intercession for them.  It appears that God had mercy but it was because Job asked for it.

We have a unique role to pray for mercy on those who have wronged us.  When we have been genuinely mistreated, the prayers we pray on behalf of our oppressors have specific equity in the heart of God.  God’s heart is moved when we ask for mercy on them.

He has always heard the voice of the oppressed – how much more so when the oppressed are praying for their oppressors?

Don’t confuse intercession for your oppressor with agreeing with your oppressor.  It doesn’t mean that what they did was right or that it’s instantly put behind you….but this isn’t about you.  This is about the hearts of fallen men and women who are more like you than you may care to admit, and because you feel you’ve suffered at their hands, God tunes His ears to your prayers.

If you’ve been mistreated, the most powerful thing you can do is pray for the one who did it.  God hears that prayer and the oppressed person can move heaven.  If you’ve been treated poorly, you are not helpless or hopeless.  You are powerful.  Take your place of authority in prayer.


Don’t miss this week’s Third Cup of Coffee podcast

Florida Gets It

Florida takes a lot of heat online.  I’ve contributed to it myself.  Last week, a cold snap had Florida iguanas falling out of trees and Floridians selling the iguana meat on Craigslist.

It seems like there is a daily stream of news articles referring to a “Florida Man” who gets into all sorts of strange situations.   Consider the following…

Florida Man Drives Ferrari Full Speed Into the Ocean

Florida Man & Woman Ran Over While Lying In Road Looking at Eclipse

Maybe it’s the sun.  Maybe it’s the saltwater.  I think it’s more of what my friend, Steve Sjogren, calls Vacation Brain.  Steve lived in Tallahassee for years and used to tell me, “You know how you just don’t think about stuff when you’re on vacation?  The entire sate of Florida acts like it’s on vacation all the time.”

Nevertheless, Florida is getting something right.

There are already provisions of $5,000 for any State employee who adopts and another $5,000 if the child is diagnosed with special needs.  New legislation recently passed in the Florida House would extend that to veterans and members of the military.  This means a military family that adopts a special needs child will receive $10,000 from the state of Florida.

I can almost hear some protesting already.  Is this fair?  Why should adoption be subsidized? Who is subsidizing peoples’ biological children?   I think it’s a very different thing and here is why.

It removes a substantial burden from the State.

In many of these cases – especially the special needs cases – if the child is not adopted, it will remain a ward of the state.  The state will pay for the child’s housing, food, and care for 18 years, and then pay the penalty that comes from a child having grown up without a permanent family.   Anyone who works with kids who age out of foster care knows that many of them struggle significantly without the support system that other kids have.

The $10,000 grant is a drop in the bucket compared to what that adoptive family will pay over the life of that child – money the state would have to pay if the child were not adopted.

Adoption involves costs not covered by medical insurance.

In a private adoption situation, adoptive parents generally pay for the medical care of the expectant mother.  In some cases, she has state coverage, but usually the adoptive parents end up paying significantly out of pocket and they are willing to do so….but were this a biological child, their private health insurance would pay for a large part of the bill.

Yes, childbirth is expensive, but many people having biological children are not paying for it in a lump some or at all.  I understand there are exceptions to this, but they’re exceptions, not the rule.  With adoption, it’s the rule.

Strong families are the building blocks of a strong society.

Everyone is important in our society.  There are no throw away people.  The elderly, the young, the single, the married – they all make up a rich tapestry and we need them all.  That said, families play a unique role in that they set up the more permanent households.

Families anchor a society by living in the same home, more often building long term relationships in civic and church communities, and providing a picture of long term love and commitment that can exist in other arrangements but is often missing or less obvious.

Just as young people often supply the energy and the elderly provide the wisdom, families in a community point to stability, and in today, we need it more than ever.

Well done, Florida men and women.  This is a great idea.


Don’t miss my weekly podcast, The Third Cup of Coffee. Pour a cup of coffee and take 20 minutes for a quick and encouraging Bible study!

Failing at Success

Jonah 1 through 3 work together to make a fantastic story.  And then comes chapter 4.

Jonah 4 kind of spins off into crazy town, as Jonah reveals that success can be devastating if your heart isn’t in the right spot.

Today’s podcast finishes out the story of Jonah in about 22 minutes with a short side trip into the U2 audio desert and one of the more poignant questions ever asked in politics.

As always, it’s available on most podcasting platforms – get it here.

47 years

Every year on January 22, I try to acknowledge a painful truth – the number of years we have legally killed unborn children in the United States.

Forty seven years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade.  I know that there are those who would say it’s settled law and we should move on to other arguments, but slavery was settled law.    We changed it.

Take a look at the photo below.


This is Scout.  He’s my boy.

Scout is nearly five.  He likes stuffed animals and preschool and planets and the movie Frozen 2….and every day, I thank God Scout alive.  Because before he was nearly five….at one point, he was unborn.

He was not only unborn, he was conceived in less than optimal circumstances.  A birth mother with some life controlling issues.  A birth father with issues of his own.

Had his birth mom wandered into a Planned Parenthood rather than a Pregnancy Clinic like she did, I know what they would have told her.  Can you imagine how wrong they would have been?

There was a point in the existence of Scout where it would have been entirely legal to take his life.  We are so grateful that his birth mom chose life and chose us.  The entire world is richer because of Scout.

Life is beautiful.  Some day, life will be valued as well.

Don’t miss the latest episode of The Third Cup of Coffee podcast.


Jonah 4 is an interesting chapter in that it really doesn’t need to exist in order for the story to land well.

  • Chapter 1, Jonah is called and runs away.
  • Chapter 2, Jonah is swallowed by a great fish and has a major change of heart.
  • Chapter 3, Jonah reaches to Nineveh and there is citywide repentance.

Every bit of writer in me says “That’s a wrap.”  The end.  It’s tidy.  And of course, God reveals a little more of the story.  The more is that Jonah has mixed emotions about Nineveh’s repentance.  In fact, they’re even mixed.  He’s angry.  The reasons why are complex – and I’ll touch on them in the podcast later this week – but they’re also kind of peripheral to a question God asks him four verses in.

And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

Jonah 4:4 ESV

It’s a question I’m asking as well – not of Jonah, but of the only person I can answer for.  Myself.   Does it do me well to be angry?

I tend to answer the question with the reasons I am angry, and I can present those reasons in a logical way.  But just because something is logical doesn’t mean it’s productive.  The reasons why I’m angry seem almost inconsequential in light of God’s question.  Does it do me well?  Is it good for me?  Is it satisfying?  Does anything change?

Anger is impossible to avoid in life, although we all mitigate in in our own lives to some measure.  It’s going to happen.  We’re going to be angry.  What we can’t do is allow ourselves to believe that our anger accomplishes anything.  It’s an overflow of the heart, but it’s not a useful tool in moving forward.

Anger didn’t accomplish much for Jonah.  I have had very little luck with it myself, as well.   There is no great return on anger.

Read through Jonah 4.  It’s an interesting passage.  I’m hoping to drop the podcast episode Wednesday afternoon.

Our Best Stories

Bedtime around our house makes preparations for D Day look simple.  There are lots of jammies to be put on.  There are lots of teeth to brush.  There are lots of stuffed animals to be found.  It takes a while.


Historically, our kids have listened to Adventures in Odyssey at bedtime.   And By ‘historically’, I mean every child we have had.  Jackson (now 26) listened to some of the same episodes that our littles are hearing now.   He still thinks the episode with the talking chicken is creepy.   The littles concur.

I have also been telling a series of impromptu stories about Rosie the Six Toed Girl, but in adding details, the story has grown so horribly dark and complicated that I regularly get confronted by the kids with my own plot inconsistencies.  This throws me a curve and ruins the story, so it may be that Rosie needs to retire.

Lately, we’ve just started telling the truth. 

By that, I mean truth of our lives.  I’ve been sharing episodes from our past that we thought they had some knowledge of.  Boy, have we been wrong.  Every night they say, “We didn’t know this!  Why didn’t you tell us?”

There are a lot of stories of faithfulness in our past.  Last night, we told them about a time God answered an absolute crazy prayer of our heart.  When I would stop, Anna, Mercy, Piper, Creed, Cadence & Scout would all stare big-eyed, wanting more.  When it was done, Mercy announced, “This is encouraging!  It makes me excited to pray more!”

Tell your kids your stories.   Don’t assume they’ll learn them by osmosis.

Let the things that fired your heart 20 years ago begin to stoke a fire in theirs.