My Story

I told my story last night.  Our church's student pastor asked me to kick off the series of stories that the teens will hear.  They will listen to stories, including mine, of people who speak of their life journey. 

Everyone has a story.  The stories of Christ-followers center on how they encountered Jesus.  For a Christian, his or her story (aka "testimony," "My God Story," "witness") cannot, if it is to be true, be told without Him. 

Paul, while openly debating himself on which is better - life or death - wrote, "to live is Christ."  (See Philippians 1.)  

Believers live for Jesus.  Perfectly?  No.  Yet, believers seek to live for Christ in the knowledge that "to live is Christ." 

I share with you now a portion of my story and I do so geographically.

El Paso, Texas
I was born in William Beaumont Army Medical Center.  By God's grace, my mom and dad were (and are)

Birmingham, Alabama - After brief layovers somewhere in Missouri and Tacoma, Washington

Preschool.  Kindergarten.  A family and a church family who loved me.

Arlington, Texas
By the grace of God, my older sisters told my parents which church they enjoyed best out of two; and my parents chose the same.  Therefore, God used a great woman of faith (the children's pastor) to join the encouragement of my parents and grandparents, by explaining "How To Be A Christian."  Their devotion was coupled with the heart of a senior pastor who loved children as Jesus does.  I confessed (quietly), "Jesus is Lord" before he plunged me beneath the water and he "raised me up to the newness of eternal life" and continued, along with my parents, grandparents, children's pastor, and Sunday School teachers to guide me in God's ways. 

For the next ten years, I encountered Jesus.  Then one day, while listening to our senior pastor preach, God sent me a message - "You are called to do that."  "That" referred to preaching.
Waco, Texas
While serving as a youth minister, working on two degrees, and learning how to love my wife as Christ loves the church (She makes that rather easy for me to do.  Thank you, Babe!), I continued to encounter Jesus.


Anchorage, Alaska
Six and one half years of pastoring.  Birth of my daughter and first son.  Viewing God's beauty daily.  Adjusting to "below freezing" and learning that working "on the slope" didn't refer to the ski patrol.  Encountering Jesus.

Tyler, Texas
Three years of pastoring.  Birth of my second son.  Deep friendships.  Adjusting (back) to 100 + degrees.  Realizing that my state of birth, while great, was not the home for my heart.  Encountering Jesus.


Anchorage, Alaska
Nine and one half years of pastoring and, with the grace of God, many more to come.  Adjusting (back) to "below freezing."  Deep friendships.  A church full of encouragers.  A pastoral team who loves Jesus and each other.  An amazing wife and three great kids.  Encountering Jesus on a daily basis.  I am home.  Well . . . sorta . . .

My story, thanks to encountering Jesus, is eternally growing better.

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone has a story.  God uses ordinary people with ordinary stories.  This is my story.  What is your story? 

Not So Easy

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 
John 8:31-32 (NIV)

Everyone appreciates authenticity.  As a Christian, I want to live as an authentic disciple of Jesus.  Thankfully, John the disciple recorded Jesus' statement that instructs me how to live with such authenticity.  The instruction begins with the word "if."  Sometimes that is a rather big if. 

While her subject matter varies from Jesus', when I think about the calling to follow Jesus, I hear the words of Sheryl Crow -  "No One Said It Would Be Easy." 

The Apostle Paul, in his most vulnerable moment, with pen in hand (or dictating to his amanuensis), confessed . . .

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:25 (NLT)

Perhaps you relate.  While, truth be told, some people frustrate you and me, the one who frustrates us most is self.  Like Paul's question, we ask our own. . .

"Why can't I stop?"
"When will I learn?
"Why is this so hard?"
"I know better than that!"
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Romans 7:24 (NLT)

When Paul wrote that question, he knew the answer.  Thankfully, he shared it with us.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:25a (NLT)

Thanks be to God; through Jesus, we find freedom and the strength to do that which we should do and not do what we should not do.  No one, including Jesus, said following Him would be easy.  He did, however, say it would be worth it.


Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23 (NIV)
King David invited God to know his anxious thoughts.  In their book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, the authors address the dangers of toxic fear. 

Before I ponder the adjectives, I give attention to the nouns "thoughts" and "fears."  I am thankful for both, at least the healthy variety of each. 

I enjoy healthy thoughts of . . .

  • raindrops on roses (Sing if you know the rest.)
  • time with my wife and kids
  • memories of joyful events
  • Jesus' love for me
I welcome the fear that . . .

  • tells me when danger lurks
  • reminds me to remember that drivers often don't see motorcyclists
  • keeps us from doing stupid things (sometimes!)

Now to the adjectives . . .

The words "anxious" and "toxic" make me . . . well, anxious.  When someone begins a sentence with "Don't worry, but . . ." - it's already too late, even before the "but" perhaps even before the ",".  Nevertheless, the wisdom in Jesus' words rings as clear and true as it did two millenia ago.

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

How then are we to avoid anxiety and reject toxicity?  Jesus comes through yet again.

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:33-34 (NIV)
Thirty-four is brought to you courtesy of thirty-three.  When I live the words of 33, my anxious thoughts fade and my toxic fears give way to faith-based assurance.  So when the bee stings and the dog bites (Singing yet?), I simply remember my favorite things (Yet?). 

One of my favorite things is the collection of history, letters, poetry, theology, and story known as the Bible.  God's word defeats bee stings and dog bites.  For example . . .

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)

Just a few sentences after verse ten, the Apostle writes an explanation that reminds me of 33.  When anxious thoughts and toxic fears creep your way, recall and cling to this explanation . . .

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)


It arrived by mail two weeks ago.  After unwrapping it from the protective plastic wrap, I grabbed my Pentel P205 pencil and wrote thirty-two names in their appropriate spots.  Than I circled numbers such as 1, 11, 25, and 24.  The names belong to the members of my family (immediate and extended); the appropriate spots are the spaces next to the calendar dates of their birthdays.  The numbers I circled reference New Year's Day, the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, Palm Sunday, and Christmas Eve; many other circles appear throughout the 365-day log.

While I own a newish smart phone with the, according to my wife, ever-handy calendar app; I really like my pencil-prepped paper calendar.  Next to my Bible, it is my most valuable (no reference to financial) leather-bound possession.  In fact, just last week, I paid one of the children in our church a bag of Skittles for the return of my 2017 version.  (He initially requested $400.  I convinced him to settle for a bag of rainbow candies.  Quite a bargain!) 

The paper of little value gains worth as it bears the notes that organize my life, week after week.  I like knowing what's next as well as having a memory-jogging log of what has been. 

The pages tell my story - much of it, at least.  Other parts of my story stay in my pencil.  While I write "No school" on the days when I know my kids will have an academic break, I refrain from writing "lost" on the days a racquetball game didn't turn out the way I prefer.  While I write "Date Night" on the evenings when I am gifted with time with my amazing wife, I refuse to make marked reference to days like today when I chose to wear yet-unwashed jeans that I wore a few days ago which, unknown to me until I donned them at the gym, smell like the baked halibut we ate the last time I wore them.  Halibut tastes great!  The smell of days-old halibut is another story. 

One thing I really enjoy about the accounts in Scripture of the likes of David, Deborah, Martha, and Peter is the inclusion of the parts of their stories that reflect events more akin to smelly jeans and lost games than to wins and great feasts.  The Bible includes the events that a more cautious historian would choose to leave unrecorded.

Think David's cover-up.
Think Deborah's doubt.
Think Martha's complaining.
Think Peter's adamant denial, repeated twice.

The Bible is perfect; yet, save One, no one in it is.  While I dare not rejoice in their failures, I take solace in knowing that I am not alone in mine.  You see, while I don't write of lost games and stinky pants, I choose also to leave other parts of my story untold - other failures, doubts, struggles, and unwashed acts.  Rather than writing them in a collection of dated events, I confess them to God.  And here's the cool part - He doesn't write them down!

3 If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
    LORD, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,

Psalm 130:3-4a