Dear Old Friend

Dear Old Friend

The day we stop dreaming is the day we start dying. When imagination is sacrificed on the altar of logic, God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him. In fact, the death of a dream is often a subtle form of idolatry. We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without His help. We go after dreams that don’t require divine intervention. We go after dreams that don’t require prayer. And the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all our right brain can imagine is supplanted by a god- lowercase g- who fits within the logical constraints we have left for him to inhabit.”- Pastor Mark Batterson from The Circle Maker

Dear Dreams and Imagination,

It’s been awhile since we’ve spoken. Like really spoken. We’ve had casual conversations over the years, but the last time that I really listened to you? I can’t remember when. It’s just that I’m so busy, you know? Now we have 5 kids and we have gone through struggles and this adulting thing is just so hard! If you didn’t know, I’m in school now…again! Trying to become a school administrator. Yep! It’s hard trying to balance that with family life with work life with church work life, but in order for us to get anywhere close to where we need to be, I have to keep pressing for higher positions. 5 kids aren’t gonna feed themselves.

What’s that you say? Joy? In what I do, you mean? Yeah, I love what I get to do. The students are all amazing, even if they can’t see it yet. I have the usual jerks and turds in my classes, but nothing that keeps me down for long. In my schooling, I’m learning to much about school leadership that it is causing me to look at my own building leaders differently. The things that we do at church are good things. I just wish we had more time to devote to it all. And I love my family. You know that intimately. I never imagined a family like this, but I always did imagine that I would have a family to love and call my own.

Do you remember, Imagination, all of those dreams that we used to have about music? Like, before all of this? Where I would major in music and move to Nashville and become this big music sensation? Or even the dreams of trying out for the Voice or American Idol or America’s Got Talent? Man, I can still feel the lights and hear the crowd getting into the music that we created together! Or what about the dreams where I owned a white tiger and lived in a big house and had no worries at all, except for what we were gonna do that day? Those were good times. Oh! How about the dreams where I was a young pastor, and my wife and I were doing so many great things in our church that it grew because people felt loved and accepted?

You know? Sometimes, some of those dreams haunt me. Like, I can see them so clearly in my head that I wonder what I’m actually doing with my life. Sometimes I feel so sad when I think about them. It’s like I let you down. Like I let me down. I don’t know, man. I mean, now I want to write music that gets performed in churches. I don’t have to make millions off of them, but, dude, I KNOW that I can write some good, important music that can lift God higher. And while that’s a shift to a dream that we had together, I think the impact of it goes much deeper than the type of songs that I wanted to sing in my youth. Maybe I should have listened to you, though. But I listened to the fear. Yeah, the same fear that has been my companion since the time I discovered you. And yeah, I’ve quit writing music so many times over my life, because I’ve been so frustrated with lack of opportunities to use it, or get it heard. I’ve thought, who cares?

But now I know God cares. You care. And so I care.

And now, I think you’re talking to me again. Something about writing books? You’ve spoken to a few people for me about this very thing. God must speak to you, and then you speak to me. Is that how it works? But man, I don’t know even what to write a book about! Now I have this desire. I won’t doubt it. I’ll just go along with it and believe in it. That will make God happy. That will make you happy. And generally, when I follow after where you two lead me, I end up pretty happy as well.

I guess what I’m trying to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m 37 years old and I’ve watched life pass me by. I haven’t yet gone after anything that we have discussed in life. I don’t know how to even begin, but I promise you that I will find a way to start. Don’t quit talking to me this time. I promise to listen because I’m learning that when I don’t trust what God tells you to tell me, I rob Him of the opportunity to be God and do God-sized things.

And I desperately need to see God-sized things in my life. I crave it. And sometimes I feel I’m so close to them. And GOSH, I want the kind of things that scare me, but not in the fear-sense. I want things to big that looking at them drives me to my knees out of total reliance on God to accomplish them. That is the stuff worth living for! Can we get there?

It’s been good talking to you again, my old friend. Now, let’s get some things done. I love you, bro.







Through – moving into one side and out of the other.

“Stop praying for it and start praising for it. True faith doesn’t just celebrate after the miracle has already happened; true faith celebrates BEFORE the miracle happens as if the miracle has already happened because you know that you know that God is going to deliver on His promise.”

“After you pray through, you need to praise through. You need to quit asking God to do something and start praising Him for what He has already done. Prayer and praise are both expressions of faith, but praise is a higher dimension of faith. Prayer is asking God to do something, future tense, but praise is believing that God has already done it, past tense.”

-Both excerpts from The Circle Maker by Pastor Mark Batterson (embellishments my own)

Praying through. In the book, Mark is talking about how many of us never see the miracles that we are believing for because we stop short. We pray right up to the finish line instead of through it. For example, those who run track are always told not to pull up as they cross the finish line. They are told to run through the line so that the effort is there. It is a horrible thing to watch a race and see the frontrunner let up just as they are almost about to cross the line, only to watch someone else take the win that should have been theirs. Or, I think of the Super Bowl when the Cowboys were playing against the Bills. Leon Lett had recovered a fumble and was rumbling (football speak for a big guy running with the ball) toward a certain touchdown. He would have easily scores, but before he crossed the goal line, he started celebrating and held the ball out. Someone came up behind him and knocked the ball away. Now, that didn’t impact the final result of the game, but it did cause him to miss out on an opportunity to score a defensive touchdown in the Super Bowl.

How many of us stop short? We spend so much time praying and believing for God to do something, only to stop because we don’t see any forward motion; not knowing that in the spiritual realm, we are right at the end? What if the Israelites had walked around the walls of Jericho only 6 days and took the 7th off because they were tired? Or what if on the 7th time around they did not yell, but only mumbled? They would not have received the victory the way that God had provided.

We have to learn to pray through!

And praise through.

We hear this so much, that we have to praise God before we see the manifestation of what we are believing for. Check this out:

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I HAVE DELIVERED Jericho into your hands.”

This engages my imagination to an intense degree. I can imagine the Israelites walking around the walls of Jericho in silence for six days. Everyday knowing that they had already received the victory. Did they get tired? Probably. Was it boring? I honestly don’t know how it could have been. How could they remain so quiet when they knew what God had already done? Every time around, were they thinking about what life would be like after this victory? How they would tell their children about this day? Every day closer to that seventh day, I know that they could hardly stand it; the excitement building and crescendoing to a fevered pitch, so much that on the 7th day, they probably needed no encouragement to scream. They’d had 6 days to reflect on what God had done, even while they hadn’t seen it yet. By FAITH, they had prayed through, and now their walking around Jericho had become moments of praising through, and they had been forced to contain themselves until God said “LOOSE THE PRAISE!”

And what they loosed on that day was 6 days worth of pent up private praise. One voice joined another voice, which joined a group of voices, until a cacophony of noise registered high enough on the decibel meter to reduce a fortified, awe-inducing wall to dust!

Talk about a holy moment!!!

I bet the air was supercharged, and their spirits were at an all-time high! They received the promise before they saw the promise, and so they praised through the promise like they had already seen it with their own eyes!

What about you? I know personally, I sometimes pull up before crossing the line. Sometimes I pray and pray, but never praise. But I’m convinced now of the following equation:

Praying Through + Praising Through= BreakTHROUGH

It’s time to circle your Jericho in the faith of what God has already done in your life, and what you’ve been praying about that has already been done by God. Receive it that promise! Praise God now for it! Then watch as the walls surrounding that promise fall and are disintegrated!

And no…this isn’t name it, claim it. This is built on standing on the promises of God, which are never null and never void. They are powerful and true, and they work! Every time!!!

Be Blessed, fam!!


Caution: Truth Bomb

“We lose sight of our God-ordained goals. Our eternal priorities get subjugated by our temporal responsibilities.”- Pastor Mark Batterson, National Community Church, from the book The Circle Maker

Who does this apply to?

(raises hand)

Gosh! This is tough. I was talking with a friend of mine who has been helping me walk through some issues that I have with goal-setting. She’s a life coach, and really, when we talk on the phone, she listens as I talk, and then she throws things out there that gets me to talk more. Yesterday she hit me with something that just totally blew me out of the water. She asked,

“So let’s say you’re getting an award, a major award like a Grammy or Oscar, and they are introducing you. What would you want them to say?”

Now, I’m usually pretty quick with responses to questions like that, but I had to pause for a moment because it messed me up. What would I want them to say about me? When I die, what would I want them to say about me? What about my kids and wife? What would I say about me?

See, this is a heavy subject for me, because I’m in a season of something different. I don’t know what that is and how it will manifest, but I certainly can feel God stirring the waters of my life. There’s not a discontent, but a restlessness. An expectation. Yet, for what? I have no idea, because I don’t know what I want. See, I discovered yesterday that I don’t know what anyone would say about me because I don’t know where the guy is who used to build entire worlds out of Legos and narrate entire storylines. I lost that child in all of the adulting that I do on a daily basis. That child represents the big dreams and goals that I had for my life.

Temporal responsibilities. Hmm.

I read this quote yesterday as I’ve restarted reading Mark Batterson’s best-selling book, The Circle Maker.

See, I think what has happened to me is the same thing that happens to so many adults. I was actually talking with my wife about this yesterday. We become so busy trying to raise our kids to be amazing and believe that they are special that we tend to often times forget that the end of our existence is not simply just to raise our kids and to be a good husband or wife. It’s not simply just to work a vocation, or even Pastor a church, or whatever. Just as we spend our lives trying to help our children become who they are meant to be, God is trying to do that with us as well. So there has to be a balance!!

Eternal priorities. What is God trying to grow me toward that has eternal implications?

What are the dreams of God for me that will live on after I am dead and gone? What are the dreams of others that are living within me right now?

In our pursuit to be great for others, have we lost the desire to be great for God? And see, I don’t see this as a selfish pursuit. I’m a husband and a father, a teacher and KidMin Pastor, but that’s not all.

I’m Justin. The kid who had an imagination so vast that he would don a towel and wrap it around his neck, and then run around the neighborhood with a sword looking to vanquish evildoers. That kid wanted to take on the world. That kid dreamed HUGE dreams.

That kid….is who I’m trying to find again. There are things that God has for that kid. Eternal things.

I tell my wife all of the time that she needs something that is hers. She is having a hard time with that statement. But, I believe that something is God’s dream for her life…apart from His goals for our family, God desires that both of us, individually and collectively, achieve the dreams that he has for us.

Music, Books, and one more thing. Those are the dreams of my heart that I believe God put there. Maybe this great stirring I feel is a call back to the dreaming kid who believed that nothing was impossible. He’s still there, lost among the bills to pay and kids to pick up from school, and students to instruct, and degrees to earn…he’s in there.

His purposes are eternal.

As are mine.

As are yours.

Before I close out this morning, in our session yesterday, I said something that had to be God, because I had never said it before, nor had I ever thought it. It is simply this,

“Faith is living as though dreams do come true, not living as though they might possibly come true.”

Be blessed today, fam!

What Do You Want?

What Do You Want?

So, I’m trying to get on the whole audiobook bandwagon (yes, I know I’m like 5 years too late), but I don’t know if it is working for me. I’m listening/reading “The Circlemaker” by Mark Batterson. He is the one author that I absolutely LOVE, but the problem with listening to his books is that I want to mark poignant quotes and line the margins with thoughts, but an audiobook affords me no margins or highlighters. It was free with Audible, so I’m not out of any money, but I will probably have to just purchase the book really soon. Dude is just so full of good passages. He constantly blows my mind.

Last night I was listening to the book while getting ready for bed and he said something that I posted on Facebook. It was simply this,

“Too often we don’t get what we want because we don’t know what we want. We also don’t get what we want because we give up too soon.”

Over the course of the night and this morning, one troubling thing began to occur to me. I pray. But I pray in generalities.

But Justin, why do you pray in generalities? Because I have not settled what I actually want God to do. Maybe I’m a victim of too much thinking. Wanting too much? Rationalizing too much?

Or maybe I just have become used to living by the moment, because, in many ways, that has been my life for the longest. At any rate, what is it that I want? This is the all-important question because Mark Batterson writes extensively that we only achieve the results that we want when we know what we want. Which coincides with a recent meeting I had with a life coach where she told me essentially the same thing.

What do I want? I’m thinking about this earnestly for the first time in a long time. There are some things that I know that I want. Here’s a short list…

  • One day I want to plant a church with my wife (for all of my friends at Exponential, we will get there one day!!)
  • I want to write a book
  • I want to record an album

Not to mention all of the things that I want for my family and other areas. Those are things that I have always known that I have wanted, yet how have I prayed for these things? The reality is that I haven’t. But why wouldn’t I, if I really want to accomplish these things in my lifetime?

I don’t know. Lazy? Fear? Do I think that my list is too extensive for God to take seriously? Shoot, most times I don’t even take myself seriously. There are probably too many reasons to mention. I just know that as I am reading this book I feel like I need to make a list and hang it up. I need to circle those items and pray BIG prayers around them just like the Israelites prayed around the walls of Jericho. Sometimes I am sure that I am living in a season of change. It is no coincidence that I’m reading this book at this present moment. God is trying to wake me up.

Is God trying to wake you up too? What do you want?

Echoing in my ears right now?

“You don’t have these things because you have not really asked for these things.” James 4:2-3

Be blessed, fam.


Focus Matters

Focus Matters

This journey with diabetes has been a whole trip, man. I remember being so vigilant when I was diagnosed. I remember my doctor telling me that he felt like I could be rid of the disease. So, I watched what I ate. I was an intake and carb Nazi. As a result, I’ve lost almost 45 lbs, depending on the mood of the scale in the mornings. (Evil, evil creature). I’m wearing the same size pants that I wore as a senior in High School. I look like the me that I thought I was when I looked at the mirror of the old me. I see those pictures of me months ago and can’t believe that I didn’t see it. Then I remember how much in denial I was in. lol.

Focus. Somewhere along the journey, I think I began trying to focus on both carb intake and losing weight. Then losing weight became the priority. When I had my A1C taken earlier this month, it had gone down dramatically from 10.6 to 6.2. I’d hoped that it would be in normal range. I was disappointed, and honestly, it has taken me some time to try and refocus on watching what I eat, carbs specifically. I’ve become this totally recognizable carb monster, except instead of consuming it all at once, I snack on it here and there. Pulling pieces of bread off and having a bit more pasta than I know that I should. Then there is the guilt. What is wrong with me!!!

Focus. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit over the last few days. I can’t focus on losing weight and carb control at the same time. I have to focus on carb control and just let the weight be what it will be. That is easier said than done. lol.

This reminds me of James 1:8 “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

In my walk with Christ, how can I move forward while thinking backward? There is a natural tension that exists within all of us. We want God’s best, yet refuse to quit thinking about our worst. We want the success, yet can’t go of the failure. Just like I have to focus on controlling carb intake, we all have to focus on God first, and allow everything else around us to shift in the order of that priority.

Focus matters. There is more to life than our failures and sin. There is more to life than who disappointed and hurt us. When we look forward and let everything else fall by the wayside, our quality of life will begin to take on a completely better tone.

Find something to focus on today.

be blessed!

My Action Plan

My Action Plan

“We don’t have to wait for destiny, we should be the change that we want to see.”

Sigh……I never post anything like this, but it’s time that I do. To any that I offend, I deeply apologize. I hope that you read my words for what they are. Love.



18 school shootings and February is not even finished yet!

18 instances where human beings will never have the opportunity to live out their purposes. 18 instances where our world will never see the contributions to society that these lives were meant to provide. 18 events that snuffed out lights that were meant to shine.

And as I think about the latest incident in Parkland, Florida, my first instinct is not anger. It’s sadness. Such a deep sadness.

Lives lost needlessly.

Here’s my problem though. So much of the noise that I hear and read on social medical comes from a place that sets the lives lost aside as a means of furthering a political agenda on gun control. Let me be clear on this. I believe in gun control. But I also believe that no government can regulate the sale and distribution of guns well enough to stop violence like this from happening. In addition to this, I believe that users are dangerous, not necessarily the guns. Guns are like money. Neither good nor evil. It’s what we do with them that colors the conversation in either perspective. And as much as I want these senseless killings to stop, I don’t know what the real answer is.

Well, I do, but I hate spouting Christian tropes in a moment when people need real answers. Yes, the real answer is Jesus, but for people who don’t know Him, that is as empty a response as there comes, unfortunately. So how do we respond to this?

We pray, first. If you believe in God, seek Him. Pray like your life and the lives of your friends and family depend on it. Pray like those children who died were your children. Grieve like that was your misguided youth who went into that school and committed those crimes. See, we vilify the commiters of these crimes without looking at them as Jesus does. To Him, he doesn’t see evil. He sees the effects of lives lived without the hope that he brings. We can be angry at the crime. But remember that those who commit them are still loved by God. Call me naive, but I believe that we when really pray for people as if we are truly connected to them, that is the kind of faith that moves mountains in peoples’ lives.

Next, quit the politics, folks. Geez! Republican, Democrat, Independent. Red, Blue, whatever. It doesn’t matter. We all bleed red. We need more conversations that are not laced with poisonous bias and rhetoric. We need conversations that are rife with a true concern for life. It is life that matters.  All of this blaming on either side of the aisle CHEAPENS the worth of these lives. Our infighting is leaving others vulnerable. How do we protect that life? How do we protect those who are defenseless? How do we love those who feel disenfranchised?

How do we?

I have no idea. I lean on my faith heavily right now. I have 5 kids. I teach 180 kids this year and have had hundreds more in my 5 years of teaching. My wife and I pastor roughly 50 kids and have relations with countless more at church. I’m sick, just knowing that any day it could be any one of them.

I refuse to NOT love even the hardest. I refuse to give up on the ones who have already given up on themselves. I commit my heart, and my faith, to not letting one fall through the cracks of my attention. That’s where it starts. The conversation…

The action plan…

It starts with me. And you.

Take some time today and pray. And be blessed, fam.


A Father’s Love pt 3

A Father’s Love pt 3

I remember when Emerie was in the NICU.

I walked over with her and watched while they put things up her nose and down her throat. They hooked her up to monitors and taped stuff down. When she cried, I cried. I couldn’t believe that my little girl had to go through any of that. When Tricia could not move to get over to her, I was there in that room playing worship music and kissing her little hands, talking to her and telling her how strong she was.

Now it feels like she doesn’t even know who I am. Much less that she even likes me. She’s all about Mom, which I have no issues with, but whenever I hold her, she cries. Rather…she screams bloody murder.

Every. Single. Time.

It probably shouldn’t hurt my feelings, but it does. My heart breaks a little. Maybe its the lack of real rest that has me so emo about this, but whatever. It’s how I feel. I love that little girl to death. Anyway, last night was another in this chain of nights where Emerie would not allow Mommy to sleep. Trying to be the good father that I hope to be, I took her from Tricia, because the strain of not sleeping was really wearing on her. I took Emerie into the front room in the dark and began to rock her.

She screamed. And roared.

And screamed. And roared.

For hours on end. Keep in mind, this was at about 1:15 in the morning. We had just gone to sleep at around midnight. (We’ve gotta do better).

But Emerie cried. I spoke soothingly to her. I professed my love. I kissed her forehead. And rocked.

She hissed. And screamed. And fought my embrace. She wanted nothing to do with me. Nothing at all. Yet, I placed what I was feeling aside, and gave my all to try to hold her an comfort her through her apparent disdain for it.

We finally got to bed at about 4:50.

My alarm sounds at 5:20. Sigh.

But even in all of that, God showed me something. I personally fought God. I kicked and screamed. I had grown up in church and knew how good everyone said that He was. I knew that He loved me because some children’s song told me. Yet every time He tried to pull me close, I screamed. I rebelled. I would try and find something to do to prove that I was unworthy. But He never let me go.

Maybe you fought God too. Maybe you still do, yet He is still holding you, rocking you. Refusing to let you go. He is whispering words of love and kissing you on the forehead. Maybe you don’t love God. Maybe you don’t even like Him, yet He STILL has His hands on you and refuses to take them off until you realize how much He cares.

“How deep the Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure..”

This is the power of the Father’s love for us. He not only pursued us, but when He caught us, He pulled us to His chest, wrapped His loving arms around us, and endured our kicking and screaming. He endured our roaring against Him. He nodded and said that He understood as we repeatedly expressed our displeasure with being with Him, knowing that one day it would all click.

And on that day our lives would be changed forever. We would truly know His love.

No matter how much it hurts to “feel” my daughter’s “rejection”, I’ll continue holding her, because I know that one day she will know that I’m not the enemy who takes her away from Mommy. I’m the man who loves her more than his own life.

Hmm…sound familiar?

How funny to have this experience on Valentine’s Day, the so-called day of love.

Be blessed today!