Tim really didn’t want to let us on that flight.

Kristan and I woke up last week ready to fly to the Dominican Republic for a few days of much needed relaxation.  When I say, “woke up”, I mean that we rolled heavily out of bed after about 90 minutes of shut-eye.  It was 3AM and we had a very early flight.  So we get to the airport, walk up to the counter with that cheery “I’m gonna be in the Sun in a few hours” look on our face and set our passports flat on the counter.

Well…Kristan’s passport was flat on the counter.  My passport curls up like the letter “U”.  Several years ago it was, um, bathed in the washing machine.  No big deal though.  It has effectively gotten me to many foreign countries since then, including the Dominican Republic.  It was all good.

But it wasn’t all good.  Tim was having none of it.  He tells me my passport isn’t going to get me past the TSA.  He tells me if I get past the TSA that it won’t get me on the plane in Atlanta.  He tells me that if I get past the TSA and on the plane in Atlanta it won’t get me past customs in the Dominican.  I was stranded at the airport.

Where were my protestors advocating my release?

Anyway, I go over Tim’s head and get to Atlanta.  PLOT TWIST!!!  Tim was RIGHT!  I get stopped and this time I can’t go over anyone’s head.  The minute the saw my passport they pulled my bag and gave my seats away.  I asked, “What do I have to do to get on this plane?”

“You aren’t getting on this plane”

Ugh.  I was frustrated, angry, depressed.  I was…everything.

Then, a sliver of hope.  The boss tells me that Atlanta is one of VERY FEW cities in the US where you can get same day passports.  He tells me that “If I hurry” I can make the next flight!  WHAT?!

So, all I need to do is locate the passport place (it was one of three options), make my way through Atlanta, fill out all the forms, trust the government to deliver, and return back to the airport and I can still go?  Sweet!

It was the closest I’ve ever felt to The Amazing Race!  I was calling everywhere, Kristan was navigating, I was running across busy streets and pushing through lines.  So exciting!!!

Then the waiting.  We have lunch as we wait for the passport to be processed.  I’m HOPING it gets done before they close.  This is the first time I stop to breathe and when I do, it happens…

I feel it.  The weight of all my frustration and anger and sadness over the whole thing.

Kristan tries to cheer me up and I kind of snap at her.  It was just for a moment and I got myself sorted out pretty quickly, but it happened and it reminded me of a big difference between the two of us.

In the crisis we both worked.  We both did our part to make it happen.  We worked really well together.  Then, when it was over Kristan was able to do something I couldn’t do: Hope.  I braced myself for the worst.  She was sure of the best.

Turned out she was right.  We got the passport and we got to the DR.

But even if she was wrong she was still right.

“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your day?”

In hindsight, we can look at it and say, “Yea, that was frustrating” but the truth is that God really did something awesome.

If Tim didn’t let us on the plane, if Atlanta didn’t offer same day passports or if we had a layover in any number of other cities or if there wasn’t another flight that day (or if all other flights were booked up) then we wouldn’t have been able to go at all.

The truth is that our trip down to the D.R. was much closer to the best case scenario than the worst case scenario.  If not for Kristan I NEVER would have seen it that way.


Our Home/Their Home

It’s 3PM.

That means I have an hour…an hour before the doorbell starts ringing and the dogs start barking.  An hour before the banging and laughing and cries of it all being “unfair” begin to rain down from the upstairs.  An hour before MY food gets eaten by a bunch of vagabonds invading MY space and annoying ME!

And I can’t wait.

Every day our house becomes a home not just for my kids, but also for kids up and down the street.  Some of them have great families and others I’m less sure about.  Most of them are (somewhat) respectful kids but a few of them look at me blankly, like I’m trying to teach them latin, when I ask that they say “thank you”.   All of them feel like they belong.

I had that growing up.  It changed my life.

When I was young I spent every day annoying, err, sharing life, with a nearby family.  I was an annoying kid and I’m not sure why they tolerated my constant presence.  Perhaps it was to keep an eye on me or maybe they were just too nice to send me home.  Then again, maybe it was on purpose.  Maybe I was their ministry.

It doesn’t feel like much – making sandwiches and pouring milk, all while simultaneously being a referee and jury, but it’s changing lives I know it is.  It’s hard, and it takes patience I often don’t have. They are just…always there!  Yesterday I stuck my head inside the refrigerator and silently screamed out my frustration!  Then I shut the door and delivered another snack to another kid that isn’t mine.

Can anyone relate?

Yea, they get on my nerves sometimes, but I’m so GLAD they are always there!  These kids, they aren’t my kids…but the ARE my kids.  God has put them in my life and provided me an opportunity to minister to them the same way that family ministered to me.

And when I forget it, I get hit over the head with my own selfishness…

Like yesterday, when one of these kids who I have complained about and been impatient with, knocks on my door looking for a friend or just someone to talk to.  Yesterday was the worst day of his life & he needed more than snacks and a room to bang around in.  He needed someone to sit with him and talk to him about life, hope & Jesus.

As Kristan told me the story about their conversation I realized that every sandwich made and every scratch on the wall that we didn’t freak out about was currency used to purchase trust.

So the countdown begins.  It’ll be noisy.  Someone will get hurt (probably Asher).  There’s a good chance that I’ll lose my mind for a little while.

It’s worth it.  We want them here.

The only way to make a difference in a life is to be in the life.

How I Know You Aren’t a Christian

As I looked over the menu of Macs Speed Shop here in Greensboro I felt, for the first time in our marriage, a lack of confidence from my wife.  She didn’t believe in me and it hurt.  It shook my resolve and, after a few uncomfortably silent seconds when the waitress came for our order, I’m ashamed to admit it…

I chickened out.

Right there in front of me was the opportunity of a lifetime!  It was MY moment!  A chance to stand on my desk and seize the carp!  In front of me was Greensboro’s very own version of “The Old 96er”


5 pounds of bbq, burger, macaroni, and other assorted goodies!  The picture looks amazing. And if I finish WHEN I FINISHED I would have earned free dinner for both of us.  Alas, my wife let it be known that I most certainly would not finish a 5 pound sandwich, and she didn’t want to pay the 50$ price tag when I failed.  So I got the 10 oz jalapeño burger.

And I didn’t finish it 🙂

Anyway, as we were wrapping up we noticed a table of about 20 people nearby.  Now, one of our pastimes (like “who can beat up who” where we pick two of our friends and guess who would win in a fight to the death) is “How do these people know each other” (we aren’t great at naming our games).  Most of the time it’s pretty obvious so the game devolves into us just making up elaborate jokes about possible relationships.

This time, however, it was genuinely a mystery.  We ruled out church group pretty quickly before eventually settling on Pokemon Addicts Anonymous Meeting.

Then we were sad.

We were sad b/c of the reasons we dismissed the group as being one of spiritual orientation.  First, and probably most painful, was that the group was diverse.  Not only was there both white and black people among the group, but it was pretty balanced between the two.  Also the group spanned generations.  Sitting across the table from a couple in their 20’s was an older gentleman who must have been near retirement age.  Next we noticed how social the group was acting.  Not among themselves (church folk are pretty good at that), but with other people there.  The wait staff, when they weren’t with customers, would mosey (I’m going to start using that word more) over to hang out with them.  One guy walked over to smoke with another guy off the patio and they ended up talking for a good while.  Finally, and this is more “gut” than anything else: they didn’t “feel” like a church group.  You know how when you are searching radio stations and you get to KLOVE and you can tell it’s a Christian song long before you hear any words about Jesus, the ocean, a battlefield, or our hearts eyes being opened?  Something about Christian music just “feels” Christian even before they say anything.  Well, that’s kind of true for Christians in general.  I don’t mean morally or b/c of our good deeds.  I’m referring to our subculture.  They have us pegged.

Our Christian “way” isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but if we aren’t aware of it we may forget that there are square people out there who don’t fit our round hole.

Anyway.  I wanted to walk up and ask them how they knew each other.  I wanted to get to know them and why they are the way they are.  To be totally honest I wanted to join them!

I wanted to respond to them the way I so wish the world would respond to the church.

But I didn’t.  I got on with my thing and my agenda.  Makes sense…

After all, I am a Christian.


The EXTRAordinary Moment of Weddings (Part 2 of 3)

“When the world sees the way that I love you/they will see the way Jesus loves them”

That’s the final statement in the grooms vows when I perform weddings.  I get a lot of compliments on that line.  In fact, just the other week, as I was walking out of what a beautiful reception I was chased down by a gentleman who wanted to tell me something I’ve heard more than a few times:

“That was the most worshipful wedding I’ve ever attended”

That makes me sad.

Don’t get me wrong.  It makes me feel good to be complimented.  I like when people tell me I’m good at something, or funny, or that the way I play fantasy football reminds them of Francis Underwood.


It makes me sad because people go to a LOT of weddings!  One year Kristan and I watched like 16 knots get tied.  That was the year I finally bought dress shoes, spent more money at Bed, Bath and Beyond than the rest of my life combined, and got all of 1 Corinthians 13 memorized.

How do we sit in wedding after wedding and let it not be about what it’s supposed to be about?

Easy.  Because we are convinced it’s about us.

When it’s OUR special day, it can’t be HIS special day.  If it’s about us, it’s not worship.

We have settled into a habit, even on the most ordinary of days, of turning everything inward.  We work for ourselves.  We have hobbies for ourselves.  We exercise for ourselves. Day after day goes by and it becomes increasingly difficult to find God in the mundane.  Only in the EXTRAordinary does God emerge.

A wedding is an extraordinary moment.  It’s a special day.  It’s that rare pause in our lives when our attention is naturally drawn upwards…if we will let it.

It’s often missed.


Otherwise known as Magic Eye.  You remember these nightmares.  2D pictures that, if you stare at them long enough you’ll either see a 3D image or a schooner emerge or blood will start coming out of your ears.

I hated these things.  I lacked the patience and discipline to find the hidden picture.  Nevertheless I had a few of the posters in my room when I was a kid.  I was content with the wavy lines and colors.  Obviously I believed there was something else there, but I never bothered really trying to see it.

Life is like that.  Even on the most mundane days there is a lot more going on – a 3d image hidden in the 2d routine of our lives.  It’s natural for us to settle into life and struggle to consistently find God in the ordinary.  It’s not good, but it is natural.

Weddings aren’t ordinary.  They are extraordinary.  They are one of those moments when we can so easily stop and see past the regular 2d pattern of man and woman to find the image of God in husband and wife.

We just have to try…


The Thing Everyone Should Stop Saying at Weddings (Part 1)

“Don’t unity candles have to stay lit forever for them to actually serve the intended purpose?”

Ok, that’s not it.  I’ve just always wondered about that.


They are beautiful, fun cry-fests for all, shared around the bond between a loving couple and a mutual hatred for the wedding planner.

“No Samantha!  We don’t need to practice WALKING again.  I’ve been doing it since I was four (I was a late bloomer)”

We love weddings.  I’ll admit, every wedding I do there is a fair to likely chance I’m going to start crying the minute the bride and groom make eye contact for first time.  Although, as a Dave Ramsay fan, a part of me dies inside when I see flowers that cost more than my annual gas budget; I really do love the spectacle of it all.

But there is one thing that bothers me.  One thing that you will hear at EVERY wedding…heck, you’ve probably said it.  Every time I hear someone say it I want to make farting noises into my elbow and blame it on the bride.

I don’t.  I just want to.  Don’t judge me.

Here it is:

“I’m so happy for you on your special day”

PPPFfffttttpppllllhhhhh…..”um, she did it”

Ok.  I get it.  It comes from a really nice place.  A place of celebration and shared happiness.  It also comes from our culture and our worship of the wedding above the marriage and the bride above the groom (ducks and hides).

It’s not your special day.  It’s not about you…

Well, not completely.  It can be special for you.  It obviously IS!  It’s special for the bride, the groom, the parents, and everyone in attendance.  It can be special.

It’s just not “ours”

“For from him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” Romans 11:36

Everything, even marriage, is designed for God.  The wedding isn’t our special day.  It’s so much bigger than that…

Running with Kristan

I don’t like running with Kristan.

She’s faster than me.  She has more endurance than me.  I’m afraid that if she sees me run she’ll realize that, despite doing it regularly for a while now, I still look and sound like 18 year old overfed pug.

Fat-Pug (1)

Yea, it’s not pretty when I run.

But I love my wife & I knew it would make her day if I invited her on my run this evening.  It felt like such a great idea at the time.  Granted, that was before two delicious fish tacos from Rio Bravo…and a butterfinger ice cream cone for dessert.  If I had it to do over again maybe, eh who am I kidding?  I’d do the exact same thing.

Anyway, running with Kristan is like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play the Generals.  I kept waiting for her to throw a bucket of confetti at me.  There are moments, and this is very hard for me to admit, that she is LITERALLY running circles around me as I make my way down the street.  I run.  She orbits.  Ugh.

Yet here we are.  I have about 225 miles on the year (significantly more than I’ve ever done).  It’s August so I’ll likely get there sometime in late September or early October.  You know what?  It’s an amazing feeling!

Long term goals are tough.  Anyone can say they are going to run today, but calling a 300 mile year takes commitment from summer Mike.  Sometimes summer Mike doesn’t stick with January Mike’s plans.  I’m a quitter & I know it.

Don’t look at me like that!  Most of you do it too.  Only 23% of New Years resolutions are kept (and most of those are probably the easy ones like “I’m going to try new menu items at Wendy’s”).  We are all quitters.  If we really wanted to do the thing that we “resolve” to do in January, we would have been doing it in December.  The same reasons we had to force ourselves to START are the same reasons we are probably going to STOP.

We don’t like doing things we don’t like doing.

I hate running.  225 miles in and I don’t enjoy it any more than I did on January 1st.  I find reasons not to do it: It’s too cold, it’s too hot, I’ve had too many fish tacos, The coyotes are howling (ok, that’s actually really reasonable).  Nothing has changed!  I still hate it.

But I do it.  I’m going to do it tomorrow.  Next year I’m going to run 400.

And I’m going to complain about it after every run just like I do now, because that’s what discipline is: It’s work when you don’t want to work.

That’s how you get results.


“The waves don’t look very big from up here”

Just a little while earlier Asher and I were out riding waves on boogie boards.  Perhaps I was a bit too optimistic, but I pushed him out on the board in front of a large wave that he rode for a few seconds before slamming him down under water.  Then, just as he stood up, coughing salt water and looking like The Flash on Halloween he got hit with another one.

Isn’t that how it always goes?

Sometimes painful moments just build one upon another until, if you aren’t careful, you can start losing hope that things will ever get better.

But Asher got up.  He made his way to shore.  Then we went to the pools and the lazy river and eventually decided to make our way back to the room for lunch (read: oreos).  As we sat on the balcony he dropped one of those unintentionally profound observations on me:

“The waves don’t look very big from up here”

He wasn’t saying this in a general way.  He was commenting that the waves that once seemed so relentless and overwhelming were small and insignificant when he could step back and see them from a distance.  Perspective, as it always does, makes all the difference.



The Privilege of a Destroyed Home

It was 4PM on a Tuesday afternoon in March.  The short walk had me sweating because it was Houston, and in Houston you sweat even if you think about taking a short walk.  So I opened the front door of my friends house, walked inside and grabbed a soda out of the fridge.  Then, I plopped down on the sofa and grabbed the Sports Illustrated that they had sitting on their coffee table and waited for them to discover me in their house.

It’s pretty easy to remember the details of that day….

Because it wasn’t that day, or maybe I should say, it wasn’t JUST that day.  That’s what I did every day.  Every day I got home from school, dropped off my stuff and left for Mike’s house (Yes, his name was Mike too.  Our last names both start with R as well.  I’m not sure why people always thought that was funny, or even interesting, but whatever).  Every day I walked right in and grabbed something to drink (usually I asked).

I remember reading once that you know you have real community when you can walk in a friends house and grab something to drink without asking.

Sometimes I wonder if they felt as much community with me as I did with them?  Did I get on their nerves?  Did they want me to go home?  I’m sure they did.

I sit here looking out my office window and watch a half-dozen neighborhood kids running around my front yard spraying each other with our hose.  Pretty soon a few of them will come running inside soaking wet and shaking like a big shaggy dog until our foyer looks like a public men’s room.

Last night one of those kids had a sleepover.  They were up laughing and yelling until 1 in the morning.  It was…fun.  Before that the all those kids rode bikes and created a mess everywhere they went up and down the street.

You know, now that I think about it, there hasn’t been a day this week that kids from around the neighborhood haven’t filled my house with chaos like the first scene in Home Alone.  Too often I find myself wanting, like Kevin McAllister, to make it all just disappear.
But I don’t want that.  Not really.  I want our house to be the place kids come to play.  I want them to grow up having a “home away from home” where they have fun.  The parents on this street are all so great, but I really want to be involved in the lives of my kids and their friends as they grow up.  It’s easier when they are around.  I get to see my boys live out their friendships.  When they are kind and encouraging I see it.  When they treat someone poorly I see that too.

I always thought that my friends parents were just strangely nice people.   Maybe they were.  More than likely, however, they felt the way I do.  They had moments grumpiness, asking if it’s worth the cost of having a perpetually destroyed house.  For them, it was, and I wouldn’t be the man I am today if they decided otherwise.

We have a big opportunity here, and I’m not gonna screw this up by asking them to go play somewhere else.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than raising up the next generation” – C. Everett Coop


The Most Romantic Conversation & The Top 10 Reasons I Love My Wife

Something special happened this evening.

After dinner, Kristan and I were sitting on our back patio.  It had been a long day and I was actually falling asleep on the couch when Kristan broke the silence…

“Um…Did you….”

(I sit up) “Huh?”

“Um…I actually don’t have anything to say.  I just wanted to talk to you”

“I think that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said”


10. We have two amazing kids and it didn’t happen by accident.  Kristan’s an amazing mother & all you new mothers should be paying attention.  She will never act like she is some “Super-Mom” who never gets frustrated or impatient, but that’s exactly why she is so great!  Kristan is vulnerable and honest with others about the parenting journey and new parents need to hear that.  There is tremendous pressure to have your life so together and it’s just not realistic.  Sometimes kids get under your skin.  Sometimes you give them too much lee-way and they take advantage.  Sometimes you let them have a little too much screen time because you want a few more minutes of peace and quiet.  That’s parenting.  Kristan is incredible with our boys.  Not only do I know it, but they know it.


9. She’s so freaking competitive.  People have made fun of me for being competitive, but at most I am the 3rd most competitive person in our family.  I love that.  It’s driving Kristan insane that I have run more miles than her this year.  INSANE!  She will catch me by the end of the year but I’m enjoying it for now.  Also, I love that she destroyed Nolan and Asher in Monopoly and made Asher cry!

8. Grace. I’m not great with grace.  Kristan keeps me tuned in to God’s heart when it comes to other people’s failings.

7. Off the top of my head I can think of 3 projects she is currently working on (or wanting to work on).  “Making things better” is who Kristan is.  Everything she comes in contact with – friends, ministries, ideas…me – is better after Kristan touches it.

6. The way she looks at me.


5. Two weeks ago Kristan was off work on a weekday.  I missed an opportunity to see Captain America: Civil War with a friend the day before so she suggested that we go see a matinee showing.  We like to arrive early to the theatre and talk before the previews.  After sitting there for 30 minutes she finally leans over and says, “I never saw any of the Captain America movies or the second Avengers”  Kristan organized a date to go see a movie which, to enjoy it, you had to have seen the previous installments of the franchise.  She did that for me!  She always does stuff like that.

4. There is a running joke that Asher goes to the ER every October (3 years running).  Typically, he’s the one getting hurt.  A couple of months ago, however, Nolan broke his leg.  Now, in a crisis I’m pretty good at keeping my cool and not freaking out (at least visibly).  I was able to carry Nolan home, get him comfortable, and make him laugh to get his mind off the pain.  However, when it comes to the ER, Kristan is ALWAYS the one who takes the hurt child while I hang out at home with the other.  It’s never even a discussion.  She knows that once I get to the hospital I would come down from “crisis” mode and get extremely frustrated and impatient.  Kristan, on the other hand, is the epitome of patience.

3. A couple of years ago we were in Riviera Maya and I wanted some Tacos al Pastor.  It was important to me and Kristan knew it.  Unfortunately, I am a notoriously bad navigator and I get very frustrated when I’m lost (I’d be terrible on The Amazing Race).  Between the heat and all the walking we had done around Playa Del Carmen that day I was ready to just call it quits…which I really would have regretted.  Kristan took control and suddenly her Spanish was back to full fluency.  She commandeered a taxi and got us in minutes to a hole in the wall, yet famous for it’s tacos, little restaurant.

2. She’s gorgeous.


1. Kristan and I have identical toothbrushes.  The only difference is mine has a TINY square on the handle and hers has a TINY triangle.  I love my wife, but I would never never never never never share a toothbrush with her.  That’s weird.  I know, we kiss…what’s the difference – I don’t know.  There’s a difference.  Anyway, Kristan knows I’m far too lazy to always check for the square.  She doesn’t think I notice this, but I notice – My toothbrush is ALWAYS placed closer to the sink and hers is always in the back where it’s a little harder to reach.  Always.  If you don’t know why this is the #1 reason I love my wife you don’t understand the unexplainable joy of having someone who puts even your smallest, most inconsequential needs ahead of their needs.

We were watching Community but she said she needed a 3 minute nap break.  Little things like that make up the infinite list of “Honorable Mentions” of reasons I love my wife.

Time to try to wake her up so we can finish this episode.

Dare or Truth

“Dare or Truth?”

“Um, I think you mean ‘Truth or Dare’ Asher, and how do you know that game?”

“School.  Truth or dare?  I dare you to go to McDonalds on the way home and get me a milkshake”

“It doesn’t work like that.  I get to pick, and I pick truth.  Ha!”

“Will you go to McDonalds on the way home and get me a milkshake?”

As the game went on I thought back to the times I played as a kid – always selecting “Truth” as the lesser of two evils and hoping the question wouldn’t be too intrusive.  Eventually, there comes a point when disclosure is no longer fun and comfortable and the game comes to an end.

Truth: Sometimes I cry while watching movies with Kristan and will try to  play it off as a yawn.


Whew!  That feels good to get off my chest!

I’ve been married to Kristan for almost 13 years and I still don’t want her to know that Sweet Home Alabama makes me tear up every time.

In the beginning Adam and Eve were naked & perfectly happy.  Then the fall and suddenly man and woman hid themselves from one another.  Vulnerability was replaced by shame. Comfort with being fully exposed to another person would never come naturally again.  Now it takes work.  Work that most people will never put in, because vulnerability is hard.  No one wants to feel naked.

Truth: When I was 11 years old I dove into a pool and my swim trunks came all the way off.  I was completely naked in front of all my friends.  Scarred me for life.  To this day I wear two swimsuits just in case.  

I think vulnerability is the most important part of a healthy friendship.  To know and be known is foundational for love to be real, to be truly accepted for who you are, and to be able to really challenge one another to become better people.

The problem with vulnerability is that it always hurts.  It hurts your pride.  It strips you of every facade.  It leaves you with a nagging urgency to hide and flee from the intimacy of being fully exposed.

Truth: I have an amazing family and some really great friends, and I still struggle with feeling really lonely sometimes.  

For a long time I was afraid of going to the dentist.  The longer I waited the more difficult it was to finally sit down in that chair.  After years of avoiding it I eventually chose what was right even though it scared me to death.

And it hurt.  I paid for my mistakes.  In the beginning the poking and drilling and scraping (not to mention when they take a mold – that’s the worst) made it feel like my mouth was getting worse instead of better.  Then my visits started going more smoothly.  Now, I haven’t had a cavity in years and, though I don’t look forward to the dentist, it’s not a scary experience.  I see it for what it is: A necessary component to health.

Vulnerability in friendships is a lot like that.  It’s easy to hide and keep people out, but the longer that goes on the harder it will ever be to open up and let people see what’s going on inside of you.  The problem is, in our culture, we have actually deluded ourselves to thinking that it’s somehow ok to not let others into our lives.

It’s not good for man to be alone.

You and I need one another.  I’m not going to lie, it can hurt.  Most of the time any hurt you sustain from vulnerability is a necessary hurt – a hurt to make you better.  And we want that.  We need that.  The only way to get it is to allow yourself to be known and trust that you just took a step towards true Biblical community.