Tag Archives: Personal growth

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.



How to Grow Stronger in the Race of Life

I’ve never been guilty of taking Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:8 as a commandment against exercise; I’ve only ever been too lazy to get the physical exercise I needed. I can get away without running for a while if I get busy, but among the other ways that I grow closer to God and further from myself, running holds a particular significance. Along with praying, reading the Word, and writing, running is one way that I get with God and lay down my burdens.

(Featured photo: we spent our Flag Day enjoying our freedom to do meaningful work and produce something worthwhile. We will be seeing corn and canteloupe soon!)

Paul describes the Christian life as a race, one we are to run with patience, looking to Jesus who endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). We focus on being carefree and unburdened, but this race requires us to take a burden upon ourselves.

To grow stronger in this race called life- Run Burdened

Building strength and endurance requires weight or resistance. After a long absence from running, I decided to combine running with calisthenics and light barbells that I carried while running. A little bit of added weight feels like a ton, until your body gets used to it. But if you can persist, running burdened helps you to be even stronger and faster without the weights when it comes time to compete. There is a benefit to running burdened.

For me, running allows me to lay down my burdens- worries, stress, tension. But before long, I’m picking up other burdens, more beneficial to be borne.

A family member in need, a loved one in the hospital, the state of our community, state, or nation. A lot of meditating on purpose, calling, and mission in life. Something that is beyond a cosmic wish list I hope God will fill for me.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬

We’re not promised to run carefree, we can only try to run while carrying the right kind and amount of weight- the Lord’s yoke, easy and light, will teach us of Him.

Some personal burdens are hard to shake, but I can’t stop running.
There are lots of grave needs, close to home and far away, but I can’t stop running.
In the physical or the spiritual sense, if you run burdened, you will grow stronger.

Do the Thing God has Called You to Do

I’m going through a whole-life coaching program, offered to me by my employer. By whole-life, I mean that it is about life performance, not just job performance. I had my fourth meeting with my coach Pete yesterday morning.

I have determined that Pete and I are both Christians. Though he has not elaborated his particular beliefs, he has been very affirming of mine as I have talked about them so far. I told Pete in this session about conversations my wife and I have had about healing for my colitis, about the work we are doing for the Lord, and future plans we have together.

A big topic, probably the main one we will focus on in the rest of the ten weeks we have together, is my plan to write a book. The book will articulate my message to the world and earn me the opportunity to work for myself, helping other people live the 1st Century faith of the Bible in the 21st Century world we now live in. As I talked about all kinds of other things I’ve done or want to do, Pete helped me realize something very important that I want to pass on to you.

He said to me, “When I hear people say they make time for church once a week, that think they have the spiritual life all together, I doubt that. But when I hear you talk about prayer, and giving yourself to ministry outside the church, and bringing your heart for God to your class, and you and your wife talking about faith and healing, if that doesn’t say your spirituality is solid, then I don’t know what does.” I had not taken stock of myself like that before, and it was a huge boost to have all of these signs of vibrant faith reflected back to me.

That is not to say I have it all together, because I don’t. However, I do think that there are many of us who are giving our all for Jesus that do not realize how strong and vibrant our faith really is. And we need the opportunity to recognize what we are doing that is good and right and pleasing to God.

The next thing our coaching conversation turned to was that I know I have everything it takes to write the book I know is waiting to be written. I just have to do it. Confidence is the kicker, and my words and tone at times are laden with uncertainty. If I want the opportunity to help you get moving on living out your faith, I have to be busy living mine. And that has been where the conversation trails off, and I know it is crunch time.

Life coaching is not the same as spiritual mentoring or submitting to spiritual authority. In fact, coaching can be a completely secular endeavor. It isn’t necessarily right for someone who is not solid in their faith in Jesus Christ. But it is a really helpful thing for me right now. So I hope you will keep your eye on this blog for my progress on the book. I hope it will bring much motivation to believers who need help doing what God has called them to do in this life. I also hope that by completing it, I can be an example to you of what you are capable of.

A Spark for Writing- Taking Interest to the Next Level

20121021-052748.jpgWe went floatin’. I loaded my kayak before work and packed a change of clothes so we could meet as soon as each of us got off work. We were dropped off up river at the bridge where we started our 2-hour trip back down stream. The weather was perfect and the water was high.

For a while we took in the peace and quiet, but inevitably we started talking about ministry, what we are doing and what we want to do. He made a comment that led me to tell him what I have in mind for the next big thing- he said, “I really want to write more.” I told him my next big idea is a coaching program for ministers that want to write more often and more effectively. He and I are both ministers in the same organization, and I told him that there aren’t enough of us putting out consistent, articulate writing online. I told him some of my thoughts for the program, then I asked, “Is that something you think you would try in order to increase and improve your writing?” He said, “It’s something I would sign up for, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t stay committed enough to complete it.I want to improve but when I sign up for emails or get materials to help me, I lose motivation and end up deleting not finishing.”

I can identify. I have found myself being a “self-improvement junkie,” signing up for a lot of stuff, and then deleting tons of emails that I either never read or never acted on. As I was pondering this, he went on to talk about some of the writing he would like to do. He has written a couple of songs and has several others started. He writes small group lessons every week and has considered compiling them into a book as a resource for churches. I commented how that he is already a writer, it is just a matter of figuring out how to leverage his passion to write the way he wants to write.

20131103-220119.jpgTime passed, and we talked about other things. Then out of the blue he said, “So the writing thing is going to be your next project?” And there is was- a spark. I knew his mind had been turning the entire time, thinking about all the possibilities. I have tried a lot of projects with the aim of helping people, but just helping him consider where he is now and where he wants to be, and seeing him realize it could be possible, provided a lot of value, and it was a great feeling. Everything else is execution- just doing it. Hopefully I can help fan his spark into a flame. Hopefully I can keep my fire burning so I can do that for him and others.

Have you ever seen the “Spark” in someone? Has anyone ever ignited a spark in you? I would love to hear about it, tell me in the comments below. And if a program like I talked about interests you, sign up here, get a free New Birth bible study, and I will email you at least weekly to keep you updated. Thanks!

The Importance of Personal Values in Helping Others

Personal beliefs provide the Foundation and the Fuel for Helping- the Why and the How.

Helping is universal language that flows out of values and moral beliefs. The very word “believe” means more than to just give mental assent to a notion- it means to act on that which is believed.

My personal beliefs have definitely been the foundation from which I have sprang into my professional and volunteer helping roles. I believe life is sacred and has inherent value granted by God. So I have spent my professional life helping preserve life and improve the quality of life for children and families ravaged by abuse, mental illness, and constant crises. I work on a voluntary basis to help see that unborn life and mothers have common-sense protections and options. For those that decry people that care more for unborn babies than children in difficult living situations- they aren’t talking about me. My belief that God has a preference for life hopefully has influenced everything I’ve done and definitely has brought me into the helping work I have done and continue to do.


One of the biggest contributions that a helper’s values, morals, and beliefs have on helping others is the way they sustain the helper. Your values create the anchor that holds you firmly in place while others drift. Dr. Janet Furness, one of my professors and a former director of the Master of Social Work program at Union University, taught me some unforgettable lessons on the impact of Christian spirituality on leading and helping:

  • Strength is drawn from the Holy Spirit and poured back into your helping persona.
  • You are able to provide a non-anxious presence in the middle of turmoil.
  • You are able to know and show the next steps that should be taken.
  • If you have nothing of value to offer, how can you add value to others? Do your values and moral beliefs add to your life and sustain you in times of need? If they don’t, I would ask a) do you really believe the values you claim to believe? And If so, b) Are you truly living out the values you claim to espouse?

    Not everyone you help will have the same moral values and beliefs that you do. And that is ok. When you start on common ground concerning what will help that person, and you believe you can provide what is needed in order to help, with genuine desire to be helpful, you will likely add value to that person’s life by your actions. As values-driven helpers, we have to understand that we are filling a specific, narrow role in the lives of those we help. Stand strong on your values. Also stand on your belief that people can act in their own best interest and make necessary changes to do so.

    When Helping Isn’t Helpful


    It was cold, too cold to be standing around outside. I had just parked the car after running out with the family to pick up some stocking stuffers. The ride home isn’t all that long, but my boys have a bad habit of taking their shoes off anytime they get in the car. We preempt their efforts usually (or relent to them when the drive time seems sufficient), but on this occasion my youngest one slipped it by us. Of course his preference on this cold night was for me to put his shoes back on him so he could walk himself to the house. I didn’t have time to fool with that. The shoe had already dropped. A decision was made.

    I wrested the squirmer out of his seat and carried him to the house. When I sat him down inside, he cried and screamed in a manner reserved for the worst of beaten children. Head back, tears flyin’, mouth wide open yellin’ at the top of his lungs. And this continued several minutes. My goodness, what had I done to cause such anguish?

    Children often have this immature notion that things have to always be done their way. And adults often have an equally immature notion that the help they offer is always offered in the best way. We needed to get from the car to the house. Since I was the one wearing the shoes in this relationship, it shouldn’t have mattered to my son how we achieved our goal. But it did. Helping, to him, would have been for me to put his shoes on for him, in spite of the time it would have taken in the cold, so he could walk for himself. But it was more convenient for me to simply carry him. Mission accomplished. But was my help helpful?

    The best of intentions don’t always equal out to giving the best of help. If you want to offer help that is helpful, you should remember:

  • The end does not justify the means.
  • I always had great 4-H club woodwork projects. My dad did them for me. Not that I wanted them to be done for me, but it was more convenient for him to just do them. He could get the work done faster without me trying to drive screws or cut boards. He’s paying for it now, however; even though I picked up some of his skills, he still has to come help me do home improvement projects. I had great projects in the end, but I didn’t feel helped.

  • If you recognize the need to “do” helping in your own way, acknowledge that you’re doing it the way that is best for you…
  • None of us are saints just because we help somebody. And our ability or capacity to help will not be at 100% in all places, at all times. So just be honest about what you can do and what you can’t do, so the helped person can decide if what you can do is the help they want to receive. And if what you have to offer isn’t received as helpful, forget about saying, “Well, I guess he didn’t want help after all!” He just didn’t want the help you were offering.

  • … Or just say, “Sorry, I can’t help you.”
  • “No” can be a powerful way to help sometimes. We can’t tell our children yes to everything. Boundaries are important in relationships so that helping stays a way to empower the helped person to help himself. We must also count the cost of helping before making commitments. I have seen disappointment and felt the loss of credibility from people I made commitments to, small commitments that would have truly been helpful, if I had only carried them out. You’ll never have to apologize for a commitment you didn’t make, when that commitment would have resulted in a let-down. Don’t help in haste; count the cost.

    Every time we help someone in need, it should be a chance to build credibility. Helping is a growth opportunity for both parties. As a parent, there will always be times that I can’t help my children in the way they want to be helped. As a social worker, there will always be boundaries I have to keep that prevent helping from becoming enabling. But because I want to be helpful, I will be willing to endure inconvenience more often for the sake of those I hope to help, than I would if I hadn’t stopped to think about what is truly helpful for them.

    Have you ever been “helped” in an unhelpful way? Love to hear your stories in the comments below!

    Copyright (c) 2013 Glen Gaugh

    The Power of Setting a Goal

    —>Watch the video of this story and sign up for the new email list and get a Guide to Setting Goals with your Children.

    “E, did you know that when I was a kid, they used to put toys in cereal boxes?”
    He replied, “When were you young, ‘back then’? I that when people used to ride camels?” I took exception with his remark- people still ride camels in some parts of the world! So his remark couldn’t have meant he thinks I’m old, could it?

    “Son, what do you hope to do today at school? What do you hope to do?”
    “Uh, listen and learn?” A generic answer I’m sure he has been encouraged to do many times in class. “Ok, listen and learn. So when I pick you up from school today and ask you did you listen and learn, will you answer me?” “Yes,” he said. I said, “When I ask you did you listen and learn today, how are you going to know if you listened and learned, or not?” “What do you mean? I’ll just listen and learn.”

    “Do you think when I ask you this afternoon if you listened and learned, and you say yes, you could tell me one thing you learned today?” “Yes.” “Good,” I said.

    “We also want to look at the behavior number you end up with today. What number do you think you will get today?” “We’ll, I usually make 4’s. I think I’ll get a 4 today.” “Good, that’s good. But what do you think it will take to make a 5?” “I don’t know.” I said, “Do you think if you did something nice for someone today, you would make a 5?” “I don’t know, maybe,” he said. “What if you raise your hand to answer a question in class? Do you ever do that?” “Yes, sometimes,” he said. “And does your teacher call on you in class?” “Yes,” he said. “Do you usually get the answer right?” “Yes, I think I usually get it right,” he said. “Good. Why don’t you try raising your hand in class to answer a question and see if that helps you get to a 5. And do something nice for somebody if you get a chance, because that is a good thing to do even if nobody sees you do it, right?” “Right,” he said. I said,

    “Ok, let’s review. When I pick you up from school today (timeframe) and ask (accountability) did you listen and learn, you’re going to be able to tell me yes (measurability) and tell me one thing you learned. Also, we’re going to look and see what number you got for your behavior today, and I’m going to ask if you raised you hand to answer a question or if you did something nice for someone. Sound right to you (agreement)?” “Yes!” “Sounds like a plan, Stan,” I said.

    —>Watch the video of this story and sign up for the new email list and get a Guide to Setting Goals with your Children.


    I asked, “Do you know what we just did?” “No.” “It’s called setting goals. When we set goals for ourselves we decide what we want to do or need to do, and then we are able to look back and see if we did them or not. I do that at work; I decide what I need to do and write it down so I can look back at the end of the day and see if I did everything I needed to do. And if I didn’t, I figure out why so I can be sure to meet all my goals the next day. You don’t get in trouble for not meeting you goals, but you do have to look back and see what went wrong so you can do better the next day. Get it?” “Yes,” he said. “Good deal. Well, I’ll ask you all those questions when I pick you up so we’ll know if you met your goals. Time to get out; I love you, have a good day!” “Love you, too,” he said.

    “How was your day?” I said when he got in the car. “Good! I think you’re going to like it when you ask me the questions- ask me the questions!” He didn’t let me get it out before he said, “I got a 5! My teacher gave it to me because I did something she liked. I don’t remember what it was…” And sure enough, he had a 5. The second one of the year so far. There was pandemonium when we got home and his mother saw it written in his agenda book. I proudly said, “He set some goals today. And he met them.” I think we just added something to our morning routine.

    What is your story about the power of setting a goal? Have your children ever risen to the occasion when you put them to the test? Let me know below!

    Copyright (c) 2013 Glen Gaugh