A litte over a week ago our good friends and our pastors were hit with a bomb. Liz, a 36 year old mom of 4, had a stroke. The next few days were intense and scary as we rallied to pray. As doctors worked they discovered the stroke was caused by a hole in Liz’s heart. On top of the stroke, they discovered 2 aneurisms and a mass on her thyroid. I think this would qualify as a difficult day.

David says in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me.” I’ve been reading Psalm 23 often over the past 6 months. One of the things I have wondered is what was David thinking when he wrote this worshipful prayer. Was he recalling the lonely nights in the wilderness as a shepherd boy? Was he thinking about the day he stood toe to toe with Goliath? What were his darkest valleys? Having Uriah killed? Being forced to flee his throne by his own son? Running for his life for years from the king he swore to serve? In whatever way dark valleys come, self inflicted or simply by living, we can be sure they will come.

Over the past 10 days as we have walked with the Griffin’s through this dark valley. What has astounded me during this journey through darkness is what has come out of them. They have worshipped, cried, laughed, encouraged, and inspired in the midst of all that has sprung up around them. When they were hurled into this dark valley they’ve not shrunk back in fear. Sure they have had moments where the unknown of the future felt scary. But in those places they have clung to the promise that in this dark valley Jesus is with them.

Jady & Liz are walking through a dark valley. They aren’t out of it yet. There are still multiple surgeries to be had and a long road of recovery. But they aren’t letting fear win the day. They have declared “we are gonna thrive, not just survive.” This is can only be done when you find your strength outside of yourself. You find this kind of strength by leaning into the grace of God. When you continually recall, YOU ARE WITH ME.

As they continue to walk this journey we want to ask you to walk with them. While Liz is making remarkable progress in her recovery, the journey to full restoration is substantial. To help them we have started a GoFundMe to help them cover the medical & therapeutic expenses they will be facing in the coming weeks & months. In just 3 days we raised over $7900, more than a 1/3 of our initial goal. But we need your help to get us to the goal of $20k. Give the link below a click and walk with us through this valley.

The Recipe for Greatness

I am pretty tough guy. Not the like overly macho I’m so insecure I try to smash beer cans on my head kind of tough. But an internal toughness. I can’t really put my finger on where it was developed but it is a trait I admire in myself. 

In today’s language many would call an internal toughness like this GRIT. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Grit is good, especially in our western culture where entitlement has infected the hearts and minds of so many. Grit gets knocked down and gets back up again, and cue Chumbawamba. Grit does hard things that push you outside of your developed skills. Grit gets dirty and embraces aspects of the job that seem mundane but are critical. Without grit the inclination to quit when the going gets tough grows. As author Angela Duckworth says, “It’s sticking with your future, day-in, day-out, not just for a week, not just for a month, but for years and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

It's sticking with your future, day-in, day-out, not just for a week, not just for a month, but for years and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Angela Duckworth

If you were to search your Bible for the word grit, you aren’t likely to find it. But you will find are words that produce grit in our life. Words like steadfast (James 1:2-4) and endurance (Luke 21:19). You will read stories like Joseph who endured things like prison while holding onto a promise. Paul being beaten, shipwrecked and starved as he work hard at the job God had given him. You will even read in John 16 Jesus giving his friends a heads up that life is gonna be really tough at times. 

In my opinion, if grit fails to be developed in your life you aren’t likely to achieve the greatness your life was intended for. And thus, I have worked very hard to develop a sense of grit in my life. As a whole I’ve done a good job, though my diet could use a bit more grit in it. Yet, there is something that is missing still in order to achieve greatness (I’ll give my definition of greatness in a later post).

It seems a bit strange to me that the second ingredient to produce greatness in a life has not been a strength. See my life has not been particularly challenging. I grew up with both my parents, in a upper class home, in a Bible teaching church, with consistent friendships. Sure, like everyone I have experienced things that challenged me within the environment I was placed in. When faced with those things I pushed through, picked myself up, and just kept going. Thus the grit was developed. But in general life has been pretty solid with far more internal challenges that needed to be faced rather than difficult life circumstances. So what is this mysterious second ingredient that evaded me? 

GENTLENESS. Does that sound strange to you? It did to me. How could gentleness produce greatness? My coaches growing up must have missed that memo. Though the longer I am a parent I realize in an on-going way the fruit of gentleness with my kids. Sure my tough love will produce grit within them, which they will need. But gentleness does something that is just as important. Gentleness balances the tough love by coming against a performance mentality. If you were to dig into the lives of the high performers you’d likely learn they are doing great things because of the grit they’ve developed. But for so many, historically me included, what they have lacked is understanding of gentleness. For people of grit minus the gentleness enough is never enough. Rest eludes them. They are far and way their own worst critics. 

What gentleness can do when combined with an already grity person is assure them they are accepted no matter their level of success.  A gentle touch produces that confidence they are loved beyond what they have done. This is because gentleness comes close when you are at your worst, whether that worst is actual or perceived. Gentleness reminds us of our vulnerability and our need for others. And that might be the most important things gentleness instills. Because no matter how much grit you have, no one does anything great without others. The ones who do things that are inspirationally great are the ones who know they can’t do it on their own, not matter how hard they try. They know they will fail and when they do, they let another comfort them with a gentle word of hope.

You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
Psalms 18:35 (ESV)

As a parent I know this is an area of growth I am focusing in on. I don’t want my kids to only recognize me as a hard driving motivator that helped them succeed. I want them to remember me as a gentle father who pulled them in close in both moments of triumph and failure. So, what am I doing to grow in this underdeveloped characteristic? I’m learning to see God as my gentle father. I am reading my Bible reminding myself that he is gentle and he doesn’t get angry easily (Psalm 103:8). Even the other day when I was reading from Genesis 3 about Adam & Eve’s fall, Holy Spirit reminded me that God entered into that moment not in a rage but with gentleness, compassion, and grief. This work of renewing my mind with the gentleness of God is challenging but worth it. I sure am grateful I’ve developed all that grit because I will need it to do the hard work of learning this gentleness.

What about you? What of these two characteristics is keeping you from the greatness you were made for? I know you were made for greatness. You can do it with bit a pinch of grit and a dash of gentleness.

Stumble No More

Recently when I was reading my Bible I came upon a passage in Matthew 11. The story told was not new to me as I have read it multiple times this year. Take a look at what it says,…

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” — Matthew 11:2-6 (NIV)

Like I said, I have read this passage many times over the course of the last year. But there in the gym, as I walked on the stair climber -with a 30 lb. weighted vest, I might add- I was hit again. And no joke I nearly stumbled on the mechanical stairs. Just like I had done multiple times during the past year, I was stumbling again.

I once read a book by Gene Edwards entitled, The Prisoner in the Third CellIn the historical adaption the author tells of the John mentioned in Matthew 11. What you need to know about John is that he was kind of a big deal before Jesus showed up on the scene. He was this wild looking prophet who lived in the desert, ate bugs, and smelled like a camel (because he dressed in camel skin). Yet despite his appearance people flocked to hear him speak. He spoke of God and His coming savior. He was a special dude who had sacrificed an insane amount to serve God. John was legit.

You would think a guy this rad would be parading around with Jesus being celebrated. But nope. As Jesus goes from town to town doing miracles and dazzling the people John is hold up in prison. If I were John the tone of my question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” would not have been very kind.

I can’t speak for you but I know for myself life doesn’t look like what I had planned. I resonate with John’s question, even if his tone differed from mine. If you would have asked me a year ago where I would be today it couldn’t be any more different than where I am actually at. This past year has been a year of me trying to not stumble as what I thought was going to happen didn’t. Often I stumbled. Disappointment would creep in and I’d trip on expectations that were seemingly unfulfilled. It isn’t always blatant disappointment in God but definitely disappointment in myself and how I didn’t measure up.

See, what I have learned through my stumbling this past year is that stumbling isn’t always the obvious disappointment or disillusionment with God. For many of us, and I mean US, we stumble by degrading who God has made us to be. The negative chorus in our heads becomes, “You are not enough!” And we believe it.

We stumble because we think who he made us to be is not enough. That the work He is doing in you needs to an extra shot of something to really push it over the top. In essence we are questioning whether he really knows what he is doing.

Because circumstances are different than we expected, we stumble.

Because my we haven’t achieved certain goals yet, we stumble.

Because the life we were sure we were going to be living feels further away than ever, we stumble.

It’s time to stop stumbling. Not everything is going to go the way we envision. Plans are gonna fail. People are going to screw up. Boneheaded mistakes are going to be made.

And blessed are we when we don’t stumbled over Jesus when it all goes to crap. Blessed are we when we go to Him in the middle of it. When we remind ourselves that He is better than the outcome we were sure we wanted.

So instead of wondering why things went the other way I choosing to write out all the ways God is working. John was in prison, but the blind were receiving sight. John was in prison, but the lame walked. My plans didn’t pan out, but a young girl is now serving God in the Middle East. My plans didn’t pan out, but marriages got restored. My plans didn’t pan out, but I’ve won my kids hearts.

Today I am choosing not to stumble.