Giving Up Bono and BMX

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I was eighteen years old the first time I sang a solo in front of a large audience. Every chapel service at Dayton Christian High School usually had a few songs of worship, a message from a local pastor or one of our teachers, and a solo by one of the students. For some unknown reason, I decided I would be just fine getting up in front of all of my friends and singing, so I decided to go ahead and bust out a song. And what song? Well, it was 1990 so there was no better choice than the epic, yet woefully repetitive and sluggish tune People Need the Lord.

As I stood on the stage in the auditorium preparing for my vocal onslaught upon all of my friends and fellow students, the music started and before I could catch my breath everything went downhill faster than a big kid on a metal sled. Staring out into the crowd of roughly five hundred students and faculty, I suddenly realized this was a really, super bad idea. My legs began to tremble, and as I opened my mouth, my voice came out quakier than Aaron Neville stuck in a giant, slow blender. A few of my friends motioned to their ears, cueing me gently to increase my volume, while my best friend saw me smile nervously at him, then quickly ducked his head to keep from making me laugh at the ridiculousness of this moment.

Don’t look at Shawn. Don’t look at him. Straight ahead.  Where’s Mr. Rough? Okay. And Mr. Sundberg?Gotcha. Focus on the teachers. God help me. This is horrible.

And honestly, it was. I was so incredibly worked up, sweat began to form on my forehead, dripping slowly down between my eyes and onto the tip of my nose, where it seemed stuck for the last half of the song. Towards the end, I desperately found a touch of courage, raised my voice above the tiny echoes in the large hall, and hung my head in shame as I walked off the stage.

Why? Why did I even agree to do this? Everyone was just gawking at me, watching this big ship go down in flames right in front of them. It was seven years before the movie Titanic was released on film, but on this spring day I gave an early viewing of a cataclysmic disaster right in front of them, just for their viewing pleasure.

Less than four years later I strolled out onto stage in front of about fifteen hundred Liberty Students. Gently picking up the mic off its stand, my guitar player began the iconic intro to the song One by U2, as my friends in the crowd screamed “Bono!” I followed up One with another U2 great, All I Want Is You, emotionally belting out the powerful lyrics at the end of the song and walking off the stage to the roar of the crowd one final time.

Eight years earlier I had given up BMX racing for good. There were too many wrecks, and oh those head injuries (could you tell?) were a little excessive. It wasn’t that I physically couldn’t race, but after the final crash put me in the hospital with a busted up face and a mild concussion, I was afraid to ever get back on the bike again.

As I placed the mic in the stand one final time, I walked off the stage knowing there was too much risk and the reward, no matter how great, would never be worth it. My voice wasn’t the problem. My love for the music was never in question. But the potential damage was never worth the potential rewards.

And that’s okay, it really is. Sometimes, no matter how talented you might be or the overwhelming affirmation you receive, it doesn’t mean that you will ever have peace in your heart. On a BMX, I was the fastest kid of any rider I knew, which often meant my wrecks were the stuff of ambulance rides and people staring at my carnage with their hands over their mouth. When I sang, it was all guts and volume, which meant if I went after a note and didn’t hit it, there was no going back. No matter how much time, effort, talent, and training went into racing and singing, none of it would bring me any peace. In fact, both usually left me an anxious mess.

Before a big race or a performance, my head would be pretty messed up. Every failed scenario would consume my mind, and I would spend countless hours obsessing over my plight. As much as I dreamed of being signed by GT or Haro and qualifying for the Nationals, BMX racing was never going to be my thing. As much as singing in bands brought a unique thrill and excitement, it usually left me remembering that People Need the Lord fiasco, and a reminder of what could happen again. There would be no deep exhale with the feelings of accomplishment and of satisfaction pouring out of me. I was always left empty, with a slight the dread of tomorrow hanging off my shoulders. The fear of what could happen wasn’t worth even the most glorious of payoffs.

Did you know in 2 Corinthians 12:7 the Apostle Paul mentions BMX racing and singing in public? Well, maybe that’s a bit of stretch, but for a moment I think I feel a little of what Paul was when he writes “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being conceited.”

So much conjecture has gone into defining what exactly was Paul’s thorn in the flesh actually was, from a sickness or disability or dark memories of harm he suffered at the hands of abusive jailers or his enemies. I think what connects to me the most from Paul’s words here isn’t what he was enduring, but the final statement he makes – “to keep me from being conceited”. In the world of performing on a bike or on a stage, for me, this makes sense, and I guess you’d call it how I was “harassed”.

Just because we have a “thorn in the flesh”, doesn’t mean we are ever without hope, however. If God wanted to use singing or racing for his glory, he would have shown me his peace and power, neither of which I never experienced in these frames. Maybe Paul’s thorn in the flesh was completely different than mine, but maybe the “what” isn’t as important as the “who”. My Savior, my purpose, and my peace are all found at the feet of Jesus, no matter where I am or what I am doing. By centering my life on Jesus, my passions, gifts and goals all line up under him and his glory.

Jesus prayed to God the Father in John 17:22-23 “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them even as you have loved me.”

It helps me to know there is so much of a greater purpose in this life, whether I am doing something that’s easy and brings me joy, or miring in something that makes me a bit of a mess. When Jesus becomes our ultimate focus, all of the trappings of fear, lack of self worth, and our up and down emotions all bow to him. The Holy Spirit grabs all of our gifts, uses them, and often we have no clue what’s happening around us until he shows us what he’s doing. In our greatest brokenness, God is powerfully working and preparing us for our glorification in Him.

The mystery of the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh isn’t unlike the mysteries surrounding some of our thorns. The anxiety and indifference we experience while using our talents helps us…yes, it helps us to become humbled and a little bit more ready to be used by God for his glory. It’s like Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Or Moses talking to Pharaoh. Or even Hosea in the pain of a marriage that won’t let him catch his breath. When Jesus is your king, every part of us, thorns included, bow at his feet, and we praise him for his purpose and goodness.  We praise him for the time we have and the gifts he gives us, knowing God loves us and is completing the good work he started in us.

 

Does God Think Its A Little Weird How I Pray?

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I’ve been thinking about how small I’ve been praying lately. Do you ever think about such things? Have you ever wanted to know what the Israelites were praying for in those final moments as the powerful Egyptian army pursued them up against the shores of the Red Sea.?Here’s a few of my best guesses –

From Bob “God, please help us get out of this mess. We don’t deserve this.”

From Janet “Dear Father in Heaven, please somehow make them give up this pursuit and leave us alone once and for all. Why are they still after us?”

From Jack “Okay. It looks like we’re going to have to fight. Please help us to beat them once and for all and give us resolve to be stand up to them.”

From Amanda “Lord, this is a nightmare and I’m scared! Please help us asap! Where are you?”

From Charles “Why does this stuff keep happening to us? Why did you ever let them send us away? So we could die out here in the desert?”

From Julie “God, let it be quick and painless. Help some of us to escape!”

And finally from Moses “Lord. The Red Sea stands before me. Help me to raise my staff and part the sea. Let us pass safely through, and then drop the walls of water on our enemy and destroy the ones who seek to kill your people!”

Pause. Really? My money is on Moses prayer sounding more like this – “God. This is all still about that Egyptian I once killed, isn’t it? God, please punish only me, and not my friends.”

It’s funny, but when I pray I ask for things that probably are quite weird to God. For instance, if I was Jonah, I’d ask for a painless death in the belly of the big fish. Or if I was Daniel I’d pray for an escape clause to get me out of being sent to the lion’s den. And if I was the disciples, I’d probably beg God for the boat to get to shore, rather than patiently ask for Jesus to raise his hand and stop the storm. I guess you could say I want what seems best to me, even though my perspective is so very limited.

Maybe today you and I could begin to stretch out these prayers a little bit? Maybe instead of praying for God to give us courage, we could also ask him to completely remove fear from our lives once and for all. Maybe instead of asking God to change the toxic narrative that seems to erupt in our culture, we could ask God for the name of Jesus to be worshipped all across America. We could be at the beginnings of the greatest revival in the history of America, and not have a clue that all of this stuff is what had to take place to get us here. Imagine if our nation found all of their peace, love, and joy in Jesus? What kind of a culture would we become?

I’m quite sure the Israelites didn’t understand why Pharaoh hardened his heart and relentlessly pursued them. You and I have the advantage, however, of knowing the end of their story, and we get to cling to the powerful promises of God to deliver us and bring us hope. We get to live out our lives knowing he always has good plans for us no matter what army is chasing us down. And so, when the waters rise on both sides and we discover the clear path to freedom and peace, we know why and we catch another glimpse of why we should put all of our hope in Jesus.

The Church of the Broken, Divorced, Vagabonds, and Everyone Else

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Philosopher Khalil Gibran wrote “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”

It was early 2014, and these scars were still unfamiliar to me, but there they were, right on me in full view. Losses had piled on deep and heavy, and, to quote Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings, I felt “like butter scraped over too much bread”. Just a few years earlier we had purchased my dream house, but now the memories of all that had happened in the past twelve months made this home feel cold and empty. I was alone, me and the kids were alone, and our entire world had been flipped upside down. I remember spending so many days hiding my troubles from my children, hoping the past year hadn’t broken them as much as it had broken me.

I had once been this happy-go-lucky guy, walking around Dayton, Ohio with a big, silly grin on my face. As a single father, I remember feeling more awkward than ever, like there was something wrong with me. There wasn’t. But everything still felt…off.

I had played by all the “rules” of this life, so how could divorce and all this craziness happen to me? The more I asked myself this question, the more questions I got. Sometime it just all felt pretty hopeless, but there was always that sliver of hope hanging out there. And here’s why –

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message).

Jesus. When life was throwing some wild haymakers at my head, Jesus was standing strong, in word and deed. You see, it was through the scriptures, in verses like these, I was able to secure my hope that God continued to have my back. He led me to a new church, a place where I could breathe and rest. I found comfort in the weekly messages from the Pastor, and encouraging conversations with my friends. I felt more alive in worship than I had in a long time, while becoming far more rock solid in my identity, which is the identity of being a child of God.

And today, I kind of feel like the church needs me, and needs my story of love and rescue.  They certainly don’t need the Thad Riley of 2013 who was pretty judgmental, with appearing to have most of his ducks lined up in a row. They need the once, twice, and at least three times broken Thad Riley, the guy who knows how much he doesn’t know and wants to be a friend to those who need some encouragement and a little of God’s love in their life. So yeah, I feel like I have much stronger role in my church today than I did before I got that “Scarlet D” emblazoned on my chest.

By the way, we kind of need you, too. And we WANT you. Right here. With us. On Sunday mornings. In church. I’d say it’s the perfect place for you. We have room for you. In our row actually. You see our row at church is filled with some pretty interesting folks, to say the least. It’s got divorced people, and people who’ve lost a lot in this life. There’s folks who are still thinking someone is going to start judging them for their past or their current life, but it has happened yet, so maybe this is a different place. We’ve got single dad’s, single mom’s, and some of the most interesting characters this side of the Mississippi. Does anybody but me say things like this in New England? Maybe not so much.

So, why not? I mean seriously, what do you have to lose? The truth is, you have everything to gain. The church, you see, it’s this place where your world collides with the story of Jesus, the one who did everything he possibly could to rescue you. It’s a place of encouragement and eternal optimists, who believe in things like hope and forgiveness and God’s love. It’s not a place of judging and raining on people’s parade. The church is part of what I call home, you might say. It’s one of the best parts of my life.

I hope you’ll think about. We’d love to have you this Sunday at 9 a.m. at Bethany Church in Raymond. What do you really have to lose anyway? We even have a free breakfast! How about this – I’ll save a couple of seats and just think about it. And if you think I wrote this for you, guess what? I did.

About Life

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A letter about life written to my two oldest kids, but maybe others can find some encouragement, instruction, and peace within its lines.

 

Max and Kaitlin,

Good morning. I’m sitting in that big red chair, watching the flames in the fireplace shoot up and down. I have no clue who invented gas fireplaces, but I like them! It’s so much easier than the wood one your grandparents had when I was growing up. Popo and I used to cut down trees in our forest and chop the wood by hand. I wonder if I ever told you that before? One day, when I was sitting on the top of our woodpile, Popo took a big swing with an axe, and shot a big chunk of wood back in his face, breaking his glasses and giving him a big cut right off his left eye. He ran inside to wash off the blood, and tape up his glasses. It wasn’t near as bad as the time six years later when he fell off a ladder and dislocated a bunch of the knuckles on his left hand. There was a whole lot of blood and he had to drive himself to the ER, while I sat in the passenger seat staring at those horrible, unforgettable knuckles. I offered to drive my dad to the ER if he couldn’t, and I didn’t get much more than weird look and a head shake. Can you imagine having Josh or Summer drive you to the ER while you’re dealing with bloodied, dislocated knuckles? And I was a year younger than them.

Those are my most vivid memories of accidents I saw my dad experience as a kid. You can’t do anything about flying wood and sometimes ladders aren’t as sturdy as they look. Neither of those things were dad’s fault, but they both messed him up pretty good. Life happens, right? Some things you just can’t prevent.

And some things you can. I watched first hand as your grandfather drifted more and more away from the best things EVER in this world. I did not sit idle, either. As that eleven year old kid, I remember pleading with him to stop drinking so much wine. He just gave me that same look he did when he didn’t let me drive him to the ER. This time he should have listened to me. Dad allowed the foundational truths in his life to erode over a period of about three years, and by within five, he had zero interest in his spiritual growth, being part of a church, or encouraging his family in their love for God. It was no accident, it was simply his choice.

You see, our relationship with God is always a choice. If you fall off of a ladder, totally a “life happens” thing. If you drift away from a relationship with God because “life happens”, that’s on you. And you will be judged by God for your choices. There are specific reasons why the scriptures tell us to “fear the Lord”, but too often in today’s Christianity it’s been replaced by a good looking, young, Bernie Sanders version of Jesus and not much more.

The drift. That’s we’ll call this, and it’s exactly what dad allowed t0 happen to him. He didn’t build and maintain a strong foundation in his life, but made excuses and then sat there as the most important things in his life drifted away. The drift.

To build and maintain a strong foundation, you need to be proactive. It’s really not hard; it just takes a love for God and a commitment. People say they’re a Christian all the time or they’ll tell me “I believe what you do”, but their live don’t make any sense if that were true. 71% of Americans say they Christians, but we see that obviously isn’t the case. They haven’t built a strong foundation.

Here are a few specifics on how you both can build a strong foundation in your lives. I’ll be as detailed as possible, which will allow you to live in between the lines. Here goes –

  1. Wake up every day to something good spiritually. This could be one Psalm, a worship song, five minutes in prayer or maybe you do a whole devotional at this time. You choose! But having just a few positive impacting moments with Jesus to start your day can make your days start so much better.
  2. Read at least one chapter in the bible each day. If you read 3-4 everyday, you’ll read the entire bible in one year. I was 22 years old when I read through the bible in one year, and I’ve done it 3 more times since. If you feel bogged down or heavy, just a Psalm might be enough, but try to make it meaningful. Block out the world around you for a few minutes and you’ll be on the right track.
  3. Prayer – it’s impossible to have a relationship with anyone if you aren’t communicating. The more time you spend in prayer, the stronger your relationship with God will be. You may want to spend a few minutes in a quiet place on your knees, or be like Moses and get on your face. Remember, you are communicating with a massive and Holy God, but he loves you, so it’s good. Sometimes, when I wasn’t sure how to pray, I find a Psalm that feels right, and pray that as my prayer. A lot of folks pray off of lists, and that’s a great way to go, maybe even the best. It’s not a check off list, though. This is all about communicating with the God of all creation.
  4. Church – you need a solid base of Christians around you. Not some jokers who are religious or some folks who have excellent behavior, but you need people who actually love Jesus in your life. Those religious jokers will leave you feeling heavy and burdened, and the good people offer little but a high moralistic perspective. Find a legit group of other Christians who are actively pursuing Jesus and stick with them. This was the biggest thing that went downhill in your grandpa’s life and it went fast. He gave up on the church and didn’t see it for how great it was.
  5. You should always try to be reading one good book that encourages on your Christian walk. They are free for you because we all share the kindle, and Melanie and I can always help with recommendations. We own some really great books.

You are both old enough to figure this out, but you can’t do it alone. You’ve always got me, and don’t ever underestimate Melanie. She is brilliant and strong and would help you all if you ever need it. But we aren’t enough, so stay on point 4, the church. Don’t minimize that point, ever.

The devil will try to make these things feel heavy and burdensome, but literally this is about thirty minutes a day, outside of the church stuff, which is a lot of fun anyway. And you will be in CONTROL of your life. Unless you’d rather be controlled by your circumstances or even the evil one, this is the path you need to pursue. This is my best counsel on how you can live a blessed life in God’s love and grace, and it also outlines the choices you need to make to protect yourself from the enemy.

My entire life I have had the shadow cast by my dad hanging over me, until about ten years ago. You see, I finally realized that I wouldn’t be like him one day, forsaking everything I believed in for another life. I understood I had built a strong foundation, and it was God’s love, grace, and that strong foundation that kept me following God no matter what life threw at me.

So, this is it. This is my best effort to set you up for your future, keep you close to God, and to protect you from the enemy, the devil, the one who seeks to destroy all of your life.

Love you,

Dad

“Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread”

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins from the Fellowship of the Ring

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Two years ago we took a journey on our winter break, to celebrate our new love and life together. Our honeymoon ventured us to the Island of Roatan, Honduras, but something felt different about this trip from the moment we stepped on the plane. Having just finished Eugene Cho’s book “Overrated” on the flight over, we were looking for more than just a typical Caribbean adventure. Within hours we were eating dinner in the home of two missionaries, our now dear friends Bob and Debi Cowan. They didn’t know us from Adam, but God had plans a million years ago to bring the four of us together. It was a week like I’d never dreamed, and we came back refreshed and ready to conquer the world. God challenged us on those three foot long docks of the Sea Dancer, and within days Melanie took a new role at work, and I made the announcement I was leaving the wireless industry after twelve years. These moments in Roatan created the vision for the future of our family of eight, and we have truly never looked back.

Last year’s story landed us on the Island of Culebra, and took us to a place of much needed respite and adventure. We snorkeled with frighteningly massive rays and sea turtles aplenty swam by. We rested on the beaches of Flamenco, Zoni, and Tamarindo as we swam, snorkeled, rested, wrote, and read. We ate at Zaco’s Taco’s and had the best crème cheese breakfast pastry I have ever had the pure joy of indulging. We visited the coolest little, big store on the planet called Milka, which is like their Walmart in a building smaller than the average 7-11. They truly have everything you could need. We hiked, studied the culture and history of the island, and took pictures by the tank our country left sitting on the shores of Flamenco Beach. Frankly, it was weird. During the days of the World Wars our country used this island as a testing ground, recklessly shooting off high powered weapons, and risking the lives of the people who call this island home. Still, the beautiful people of Culebra love their visitors, and have a sweet and simple way about them. It’s like visiting a small town in Tennessee, only it’s an island in paradise. I read two great books that week, The Year of Living Like Jesus by one of my heroes in this life, the late Ed Dobson, and Whatever the Cost by my friend David Benham, and his brother Jason. Both books led me, instructed me and ministered to my soul. The highlight of the week, was the quiet moments I spent with the human I admire most, my best friend Melanie Jean. If there was ever a gift to our world, it is her, and I still have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t admire her. It was an amazing week with the best person I know.

Saturday takes us on another adventure, heading back to Culebra yet again. This will be an exciting time to refresh, rest and re-energize ourselves. We are spending one night in Old San Juan, and then it’s off to Culebra the next day. The book I was supposed to read while there, Scary Close by Donald Miller, was too good and I finished it before this trip even begins. I’ll keep my ears open for something, and if you know of any great books I should read, please comment below. My favorites are always Christian books, the ones with real stories from real people, from authors in the realm of Miller, Goff, Niequest, and Ed Dobson. Anything inspiring will probably work.

But there’s something else. I can’t explain it, but I feel God’s leading in a certain direction, so I will be doing something a little different each day while I’m sitting in the sand, diving into the waves, and walking the through the open streets of Culebra. I will blog about it daily, and keep myself accountable to be part of a story God is already creating inside of me and on this island. Who knows where this adventure will lead us this year, but we are grateful for the time we have and the journey we are taking.

More soon!

Joyful Seasons and Hard Losses

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Joyful Seasons and Hard Losses

Sometimes I wake up and struggle a little with this reality. It is a surreal thing, this life. Suddenly it’s 3 AM, and a dream jars me awake, and my brain has to catch up to what state I live in, this beautiful woman next to me and how I got here.

You could hear a pin drop in this house, on this frigid morning in New England. They say it’s too cold to snow, but maybe we will see a few flakes falling down later today. I like the snow most of the time, because it reminds me of Christmas. If there was ever a time our world needs to talk about the birth of Jesus, I’d say it’s 2016. Some of you say I’m a bit religious. I’m not, actually. You might say I’m just all about the hero of the story.

What makes this morning feel so “surreal” is within moments of my son returning home from his first semester away at college, I found out a friend of mine who twenty-three years ago attended that same college with me, lost her baby girl in the last half of her pregnancy. It’s hard for me…maybe it’s hard for all of us to understand how things like this happen. As one set of parents experience joy, others suffer in a deep loss. I can’t begin to tell you I understand how she and her husband must be feeling, but she wrote something of deep, poetic beauty. It taught me. It broke me a little.

By happenstance, I read James 1:2-4 to the kids this morning. You should look it up if you don’t have it memorized. I am so very grateful our hero, Jesus, provided us with scriptures like this as we endure heartache and pain. The writer, James, was the brother of Jesus Christ himself, but didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God until after his resurrection. It’s just my opinion, but I think more than anyone James would be the writer most influenced by Jesus, and he launches his book with the words of comfort to those who suffer. It feels like Jesus’ words, like the words we see in the Beatitudes at the beginning of Matthew chapter five. If you spend any time in the bible, you understand this. There are pages and pages of encouragement and love for those who are suffering.

Christmas can be a very tough time of year for so many of my friends. And let’s be honest. It’s weird. This humble story of our Savior coming to us and being born as a baby in a manger has somehow been transformed into this commercialized thing. More than ever, in times such as these, we need Jesus and the hope in our eternity with him. The idea of parents reuniting in eternity with the children they so tragically lost is the kind of hope we can hold on to. God loves us so much he offers forever in paradise with Him, Jesus, all the babies we lost too early, and everyone who claims Jesus as King. I don’t know how anyone could ever have any hope in this life without Jesus. I hope all of you know him.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the losses you’ve experienced lately, and the ones that still haunt you in this life. There is hope for all of us, in the overwhelming and powerful love of God. This doesn’t mean we don’t suffer. But it means we always have hope, the same hope that came to this earth as a baby over two thousand years ago. Christmas is all about hope, yes, a humble hope, but a powerful hope indeed. Its about the hope for all mankind to find peace and love in the arms of Jesus. In our sorrows and suffering he’s just who we need. He’s the reason the angels said…

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

And so with the Christmas of 2016 we celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to bring hope to me and to you.

Pumpkin Pie and Forgiveness

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In the eternally epic Folgers Christmas commercial, the college kid comes home, surprising his family, and we’re left feeling a little emotional about the whole thing. Its this not-so-subtle reminder of who’s missing at the Thanksgiving Table this year. I think of a lot of people who should be here with me, but they’re not and I don’t know how I really about it. My dad passed away in April of 2015 and it would be fun for us to wear our Chicago Cubs World Series ball caps and talk about the season. My son won’t make it home from college, but he will be here in just a few weeks. My mom, sister, two nephews and a niece-in-law (Haha!) live almost 900 miles away, while other family lives even further. The best friends I’ve ever had in this world currently reside in Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Dayton, Jackson Tennessee, somewhere outside of Atlanta, and Pennsylvania. I’ve only lived in New Hampshire for two years. It feels like home, and has for awhile, but it would be nice to see my old friends again.
     I remember saying good-bye to most of them. Shawn we he moved to the Florida to try to become a golf pro. Dave when he went back for his Senior year at Stamford. Eddie when I pulled out of Kingsport, Tennessee. J.R. when I finished packing the moving truck and pulled away. And on the list goes on and on. For me. And for you.
     I sent an old friend an overdue message this morning to someone. It’s a message that’s probably been years in the making, and today I finally hit send. I’ve justified not sending it, and honestly, when I stand before God one day, I don’t know if writing this and hitting send will matter so much. I wrote “We are part of the same family. Much love and prayers for you this morning from New Hampshire. 2 Chronicles 7:14”. For the past year I have dug in deep, examined my heart and asked the Lord to reveal anyone to me he wants me message. I ask him all the time “How can I serve you? Is there anyone who I need to reconcile with or make something right again?” It is the pursuit of my heart to honor God, and to walk this earth as Jesus did. We aren’t built to remain idle in conflict. We are built to follow Matthew 18 and to pursue reconciliation at all costs to ourselves. To our pride. To whatever.
     I am quite sure not much angers the enemy more than packed Thanksgiving tables filled with broken and redeemed people. Packed full of folks who once harbored bitterness and anger towards each other. Packed full of people who hung up their hard feelings with their coats and sat down to steaming mashed potatoes and the succulent aroma of the turkey in the oven. Passing the plates of stuffing and green bean casserole around while the children are laughing at grandpa. It’s maybe not quite so picturesque, because love and forgiveness never comes easy. But its good. Cranberry Sauce good. Pumpkin Pie good. And the glory of God shines through these moments, and this is how you’re part of it. If you want to be. If you’re willing. It’s never easy, to find your courage, but Jesus holds the biggest welcome sign. Follow him, my friends. Follow Jesus.