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What To Look For- A Thanksgiving Dadstory

I was looking for a box, when what I really needed were bags.

The cardinal rule of the trash can is, “Remove a full bag, replace with an empty one.” There is nothing worse to some people than going to the trash can and finding that there is no liner to catch the discarded waste.

(photo: my 3 biggest reasons to be thankful!)

When I don’t replace the trash can liner, it is usually because the unused bags somehow elude me. Such was the case on this date I’m thinking about right now.

I gave it my cursory glance around in the usual places before disturbing her, but I finally had to ask. “Honey, where are the trash bags?” “In the drawer,” she replied.

Our kitchen isn’t large, but it has its share of drawers. I calmly and methodically checked them all. No trash can liners. I had in mind what I would see when I found them.

Small cardboard box, with “Glad” or some similar brand name on the outside, the trademark smell of Febreeze (her favorite kind comes equipped with deodorizer), and a tightly rolled store of white, plastic bags complete with hard-to-separate layers at the open end.

They weren’t in the last place I looked. They were actually in the first place I looked, but I didn’t see them. Because I was looking for a box, not a bag.

It was pretty significant when the idea struck me.She came from the other room and walked straight to the drawer, where stored against the front panel was a few loose, white, plastic garbage can liners. I actually said, “Oh, I guess I was looking for a box.” How often do we not find what we are looking for because we are expecting something other than what we are trying to find?

You can’t expect to find something you aren’t looking for.

Similarly, you can’t expect to get the answer to a question you don’t ask. But somehow we get upset when we finally get the full picture. I guess we expect others to read our minds. Asking the question that is on your mind may be uncomfortable, but once it is out in the open, there’s bound to be tremendous relief on both sides of the conversation. What’s the worst that could happen?

When you waste your time with assumptions about what to expect from others, or what others expect from you, you can neither solve problems nor recognize blessings. I hope a lot of each of these happen this Thanksgiving.

God Bless!


Attitude is Influence, and You Own It

Attitude will take you places others never thought you could go. Or, it will take you places you never want to go. Like the time I finally got mom to agree to let me rope in the high school rodeo. My bad attitude took me a step too far when I said, “But you know roping will lead to bull riding someday…” That statement tore to shreds my chances of ever rodeoing while I lived under my mom’s roof.

(Photo credit:

Attitude is especially important when you realize that, even when you are not trying to influence others, your attitude will do the influencing for you. Attitude is an issue of ownership; either you own your attitude, or your attitude owns you.

Either you are intentionally influencing others, or unintentionally influencing others. You never get the results you want by going out there and just wishing for the best. So, to get the best results, you must plan to influence others for the best with a positive attitude.

Your attitude is infectious. Your children will see things as you see them. They’ll see themselves they way you see them. Your view will be their view.

This all sounds well and hokey. But the implications are huge. Ever complained about your job to your spouse? If you ever choose to complain about your job to your spouse, do not count on him or her to try to convince you not to complain about your job. In other words, as you see your job and talk about your job, is the way your spouse will view and talk about your job. If you can’t buoy yourself concerning your job and get through the rough patch you’re facing, then you can’t expect someone else to, even those closest to you.

Your spouse will likely be supportive and encouraging at first, because that person cares about you. But the seeds you sow will determine the harvest you reap in the long run. If you’re an adult then you likely spend a significant time at work. The worst thing for your relationship is for your spouse to always feel like you are under-appreciated and mistreated by those you work with, especially is that is not actually the case.

The way my wife paints what I do to my children is extremely important. I have a career that takes me away from home at odd times for long hours. I have suffered my share of legitimate issues and had gripes that were warranted, many if not all of which I have shared with my wife. I have had times when I was really down on my job and I made it known at home. Following times like that, it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get my family back in a good place with what I do.

When my oldest son was much younger, he could not understand what I did or why I was gone for hours at at time. This was especially true when I was working as a crisis counselor, studying for a msater’s degree, and completing an internship at the same time. But whenever I was gone, and he asked about me, my wife would tell him, “Daddy is gone to help a kid.” So if he had a chance to tell what I did, that’s what he would say. It meant the world to know she was painting me in the best light during the long hours away from my baby boy.

The people who care about you most, your family, feel for you if you’re having a tough time. So make sure that you are presenting everything appropriately, with the right attitude.

If you put down your pastor, don’t expect your kids to respect him.

If you tear down your spouse, don’t expect your kids to respect their mother or father.

Air your struggles and grievances in person or online, and see if the institutions you actually respect and hold dear, in spite of the present circumstances, will be respected or held dear by anyone else.

You own your attitude… or else, your attitude will own you. You’ll be freed by your attitude, or held captive by it. You will liberate others with it, or you’ll tie them down. You’ll get a boost of wind in your sails or you’ll seal your fate, based on your attitude and how it impacts those closest and most important to you.

For sure, each person owns his own attitude. But your spouse or children’s choice of attitude may be forming based on inaccuracies you present in your attitude. In other words, if your life doing the things you do does not truly stink, stop presenting everything as that way.

Decide to be an intentional influencer for the best by the attitude you choose to develop.

A Start-Again DadStory

Photo: Getting ready to break’em in at the Buck Creek St. Jude Trail Ride in Alamo, TN.

It was quite a morning. Crisp fall weather made the horses lively to begin with. While my dad’s mount has been on rides in the past, my little steed had not been off the farm since arriving on the premises since he was 2 years ago- maybe 10 or 12 years ago. Horses seem to arrive on the old homestead but never leave. It was time to turn this pasture rat into a lean, mean, trail-eating machine.

We were saddling up for the Buck Creek St. Jude Trail Ride, West Tennessee’s largest trail ride and a huge moneymaker for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We had never attended in the past. Along with the fun day of horseback riding and helping a great cause, my dad and I needed the chance to get a couple of horses ready for a 3-day trail ride later this month.

Every sight, sound, and moving tree branch got ol’ Sonny’s attention. There were horses as far as the eye could see, and he was on sensory overload. Dead-broke, but green and unpredictable in the new environment, this promised to be interesting.


A little about me and my cowboy cred- I’ve ridden all my life. Trail rides, chasing calves, riding buckers bareback in the pasture, 4-H horse shows, raising and training foals, and rehabilitating former race horses into moldable hunter-jumpers or fox hunting mounts are all a part of my resume. Riding was a huge part of my life until I went off to college.

Then, like so many things in life, horse-related activity came to a stand still. I left some things undone, like the colt I raised but never quite got trained. I left some things neglected- my old saddle I bought when I was 12 with money I earned working construction with my dad.

I came back home, and as I started building a life with a family of my own, riding and working the farm didn’t materialize as priorities. Time remained stopped on these old childhood dreams for a while yet. I married, worked, started and finished 2 college degrees, had children, and started a career.

The story has been told time and again- you never know what you’ve got until you try to live without it. The refrain over and over is that children grow up and leave the farm for better things, only to return to their roots in agriculture and rural living. Prodigals returning. I guess that’s me.

Change, even desired change, is very difficult. Change is especially difficult when you look back and realize the distance and the effort it will take to get to where you want to be. I’ve experienced it all. Physical health, higher education, relationships, and especially ministry and Christian living. In each of these areas, I have looked back and wondered, “How did I get so far from where I should be? And can I ever get back on track?”

The answer to the first question doesn’t matter so much, at least not at first. What is important is understanding that getting where you want to be in any area of life begins with deciding on a first step and taking it. Then, it’s a series of steps over time that gets you to the outcome you want. Guilt will try to overtake you because of the things you neglected or the time you wasted. There’s nothing to be done about that now. Guilt is counterproductive; it will stop you from acting. And action is paramount to achieving.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NLT

‬‬God gives grace. First Corinthians 13:13 speaks of faith, hope, and love. Hope is best defined as having determination and direction- a will and a way. In this scriptural context, faith provides the will, and love is the way. Hope falls in the overlap of faith and love, so if you have no faith, you have no hope. If you have no love, you have no hope. You may be driven and you may have a plan to achieve what you want in life, but without the faith in God and the love of Jesus Christ, you’ll never overcome the times of crushing doubt about the future, or guilt about the past.

It is amazing the difference 20 miles under saddle will make in a horse. Sonny has a long way to go, but he got a good start today. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an achievement. I have a long way to go, too. My steps so far have been slow and sometimes faltering. But I want to see my boys have the benefit of knowing Jesus, family, and a few good horses in their lifetime. I want to build something that’s ours under God. Something meaningful. And there is no way to do that, other than to start.

You want to start something today? Let me know; I’d love to hear about it.


A DadStory About Contentment

Photo: 5 years ago as of the day of this posting. There’s something great about this time of year!

It was a beautiful day. All 208.8 miles of it.

The first thing I noticed- the sun was bright and the breeze was cool. It was some of the most autumn of all the autumn weather we’ve had so far in West Tennessee. A lot of asphalt was being laid on the highways. It’s finally cool enough I guess, and the extra tax money we’re contributing must have kicked in.

I saw the fullest, whitest cotton fields I’ve seen all season driving through Crockett County. They were even picking some when I came through Dyer County. Dust clouds arose from the bean and corn fields- It is that strange and wonderful time when everything is ready all at once.

Trees are still green, though. Which is fine. There’s no reason to rush the fall foliage. No sooner than it gets here, it’ll be gone. Like the way the weeks and months of 2017 have ticked down so quickly, I wonder where the year has gone, and I’m a little bit sad.

I wonder if I’m the only one who noticed all this today. Because today I have travelled for work, and the people I have met are so focused on the immediate problems in their lives that a lot of the blessings can end up going by unnoticed.

I witnessed tears today. One family experienced the wonder of new birth; another, the gut punch of miscarriage. The scars of cuts made in desperation were there. The inside scars of physical abuse, they were there today, too. Frightful parents, at the end of their rope; I saw them as well.

I spoke my recommendations. I ascertained safety. I assessed. I even spoke my piece- I told her being treated like trash doesn’t make you trash. Believe the people who care about you. If God didn’t take you, it isn’t because he hates you. He loves you and he has something left for you to do.

Somewhere, there are two kids I know are safe and sound, treated with the utmost care. I’m missing them. The highlight of my day is when I had to ask their mama to meet me halfway through Gibson County because I left something at home I needed. Circumstances put them close enough to bring me what I needed. I saw those two boys for the only few waking minutes they and I would have today. In a few minutes, when I’m done writing this, I’ll go look at them and kiss them while they sleep.

I travelled from near the Mississippi River in Northwest Tennessee to nearly the Tennessee River in the Southwest, on rural state highways; through 7 counties including my own. God sped me along safely, and I was blessed. I prayed. I looked around. I knew the day would end and the labors would end, and I felt hope.

I hope I’m not the only one who found some contentment, in the midst of the busyness, and even the tragedy, of today. In a discontented state, it’s easy to become a victim. It’s easy to blame others, even those closest to us, for our dis-ease and discomfort. We have a society of such people these days. It’s the worst when adults blame their children for the problems they experience as a family. It seems that children are either being accused or ignored these days. And in that environment, it is a learned behavior to blame others, blame circumstances, avoid responsibility. And so the world turns…

I have a better hope than that. I look forward to better things. And I can see God in everything. In the sky and the fields. In the opportunity to help another person. In the faces of my loving family. In the Word of God. If it wasn’t for the Lord, where would I be?

Just thoughts on a page. But this is my DadStory today. Do you have one? Let me know.

7 Things That Amaze Me

Thirteen of us raised money for St. Jude by running the Marathon for Memories in Trenton, TN on Sept. 16th. I’m amazed by these people!

  • The love of God through Jesus Christ, that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  • The generosity of people. Twenty-nine teams of runners raised over $17,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Saturday at the Marathon for Memories in Trenton, TN (thanks, Mark Finton and family). Churches and church organizations of all kinds raised money and provided relief, and will continue to do so, following this summer’s massive hurricanes in Texas and Florida (Shout out to First Church (UPC) of Pearland; the United Pentecostal Church Relief Fund and affiliated organizations, Compassion Services International and Reach Out America, the latter of which received some of the $1 million President Trump donated; and my own local church at Beech Bluff UPC, among many, many others).

  • The upbringing of a family that works hard and cares about people. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

  • The love and servant heart of a wife who never stops loving, who gets cracked up in the oddest way by the things I say or do and who will step out on faith as long as she is convinced God is in it. She made the decision to give a sacrificial offering to the missionary who visited on Sunday when she knew better than anyone we could have used it on something else. Something else that would have been of far lower value. Thanks, baby.

  • Amazing sons. They’re fun and full of personality. They’re great at reading AND math. They love animals and Jesus, and Mommy and Daddy. And they’re lights in a dark world. Not just for us either…

  • A home in the greatest State of the Greatest Nation on Earth. We are duty-bound to pray and stand up for this home with which we are blessed.

  • The calling to be saved, loved of God, and a minister of His Word. It’s the most amazing thing there is.

Bonus thing I’m amazed by: the speed of this kid!


There’s a lot more to be amazed by and thankful for, but I’ll let you think of some for yourself. Care to share?

How to Communicate Without Ever Having to Say “I’m Sorry.”

What is your strategy for communicating with important people in a way that you never have to say you’re sorry?

I have been writing a lot for lessons and sermons lately, so original content for this page has been a little low. But, if it can be spoken, it can be printed. So here is one of the more significant presentations I have made over the past week. This was done for our church’s marriage and relationship workshop in Wednesdays in August.

“Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Do not sharply reprimand an older man, but appeal to him as [you would to] a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters, in all purity [being careful to maintain appropriate relationships].
‭‭1 TIMOTHY‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭AMP‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace. Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices. Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue. Your clothes are scented like the cedars of Lebanon. You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.”
‭‭Song of Songs‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

In the KJV, the word “treasure” in Song of Solomon chapter 4 is translated “sister.”
God has put us in a familial relationship with one another in the kingdom of God.
If you skip “sister” and go straight to “spouse,” then you have sacrificed a lot of depth and entered a relationship you have not properly developed.

The end result would be a childish relationship, an immature relationship, where certain needs have not been met, or have even been sacrificed for the sake of more pressing wants.

The consequences of skipping key developmental tasks are:

  • You become stuck at the stage at which development became interrupted
  • You have to return to that stage and learn the tasks that you would have learned in order to move forward in your life and relationship.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Following are the famous verses on how wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to give their lives for their wives, as Christ did for the Church. These separated forms of submission are based on developing the submission outline in verses 15-21:

DON’T be foolish. DON’T act thoughtlessly. DON’T be drunk.
But, DO be filled with the Spirit, DO sing and speak of spiritual things, DO give thanks, and DO submit one to another. Skipping steps in spiritual development will have consequences for the married life.

In a Jenga match- which piece made the tower fall?
The last piece was the trigger, or last straw, or precipitant.

But the first piece that was pulled is just as much to blame, because it led to the next piece, and the next, and the next. And in an effort to WIN, each person in the couple was responsible for bringing down the tower.

As the blocks stacked up (unresolved problems, unaddressed issues, resentment, danger), the base of the relationship became weaker.

When I titled this session “How to Communicate Without Ever Having to Say I’m Sorry,” I caused a little confusion. I’m not referring to never having to apologize. In some cases, the earlier you say I’m Sorry, the better. I’m not addressing the problem, whatever that problem is.

I’m addressing the problem behind the problem. The problem behind the problem is how we don’t communicate about what’s bothering us. Or we communicate too aggressively. Or passive-aggressively. Or hyperbolically.

It isn’t a matter of these things happening once. It is a pattern of behavior that leads to the final straw. It isn’t about the pile of laundry that’s left lying in the floor. It’s about the pile that’s left lying in the floor again. It’s about the feeling that says, “I’m unappreciated.” And if it was only the laundry, it may not be so bad, but the problem is also that there are other signs you’re being unappreciative that find their outlet in the laundry argument- “Why do you ALWAYS leave your dirty laundry in the floor?” Or the more common passive-aggressive or silent treatment.

The problem behind the problem is you won’t say you feel unappreciated.
The problem behind the problem is that you may erupt.
The problem behind the problem is that you might withdraw or withhold.
The problem behind the problem is that any of these reactions might be an act of manipulation. You will never get a change in behavior through manipulation.

Any of these malignant modes of communication will eventually lead to you saying, “I’m sorry,” if you want to save or maintain the health of your relationship. That means saying I’m sorry on top of whatever you may actually need to apologize for. And if you were not in the wrong to begin with, you will be in the wrong after communicating in one of these ways. Two wrongs do not make a right.

No one just snaps and kills someone. The victim may be random, but the violence is not. How often is your spouse your victim? Is he or she really the problem? And if so, did you just handle it correctly? In other words, without having to say your sorry?

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:45‬ ‭KJV‬‬

A Time-to-Adapt DadStory

(My little blonde shadow looks on as I race in the photo above.)

Have you ever experienced a challenge in your life that required you to adapt?

I picked back up on race training this week. The next race is a relay, Marathon for Memories, and I’m happy to have my wife and sons join me!

I attempted a 3-mile run at a 9 minute pace, which normally I would be able to do pretty easily. Not today. The last month has been consumed with training for the Tough Mudder 5k in Nashville that I ran last week. While I trained hard for that run, it was different than training for a regular 5k. Even though obstacles and exercises interrupt the run in an obstacle course race, it does provide a break from keeping a rigorous pace. So I was out of my usual element when I tried to run a straight 3.1 miles today.

Walking the last mile gave me a chance to reflect. It was just Monday that I ran with Julie, who is just starting her training for the upcoming relay. Playing as her personal trainer, I pushed her to cover distance without worrying how fast she ran. Could I swallow my own advice, even though a month or so ago I was running 5k in around 8 minutes?

Further reflection on my current state of racing preparedness was about the footing. I was training today on a dirt field road, the “war path,” as I call it. It was slightly muddy today, which made it even tougher than usual compared to asphalt. So recognizing that brought my level of concern down.

Aside from that, I’ve learned recently that when it’s time to quit, it’s ok to quit. That probably is not a positive sentiment with trainers, but I’ve never had a trainer. I’m better off for having gone the distance, even with significant walking, than I would have ifI had stayed inside today. Besides, I have a month, I’m in good shape thanks to my recent training, and it won’t take long to recover an 8 minute per mile pace, maybe even better.

The next challenge you face may require something more, or something different, from you than the last one did. It may be tougher. You may feel less prepared. But don’t stop, and know that God gives new grace every day.

You can’t curse the road you’re on, whether you’re on it by your own actions or at no fault of your own. You may be on the road you’re on due to your biological makeup and physical traits; you may have been put on this road intentionally or unintentionally due to the acts of others. But you’re on it, and you can be stringer because of it. Don’t be a victim of your conditions.

The choices you make, make you. It’s ok to recover and regroup. It’s fine if you need more time. All that matters is that you start again when you’re ready.

Just some thoughts from the road. I’ll be hanging out with horses and boys a lot over the next few weeks, so count on some stories from the corral and the trail. Also look for our fundraising page for the Marathon for Memories, coming soon.

Contact me at if you have a story to share, or if I can help in any way.