Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A White Man in Recovery

This isn’t easy to write. It shouldn’t be easy to read. Early last week, a black man by the name of George Floyd was slowly killed by a white police officer in public by suffocation. A video displays this officer pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck while Floyd is on the ground handcuffed. Why was Floyd being subdued? Because he had given a grocery store a fake $20 bill. We will never know if Floyd even realized that the bill was fake. Even if he did know, everyone can agree that such an offense does not carry a death penalty with it or anything close to it. As Floyd repeatedly pleaded for the officer to let up saying that he couldn’t breathe, bystanders even began to shout at this officer to stop, but he did not. Now another black man is dead at the hands of a white police officer who, at the very least, was incredibly stupid and ignorant. 

America became enraged when the officer and those other officers with him were not prosecuted immediately (though they were all fired immediately) resulting in protests and riots in several different major US cities. Our country is outraged and they should be. These officers have now been taken into custody and are being charged, but the damage is done. 

All of this comes after a plethora of stories involving police brutality towards black people in our country. These stories date back over the course of decades and you could make a case that they go back centuries. How are we still stuck here? How have we made this so difficult and complicated? Since when is the golden rule something that we have felt we are so far from?

I’m not an expert in racism and I don’t think that I ever will be for a number of reasons (the very first one is that I am a white male). However, I do believe that we have systemic problems of racism in our nation and in our local communities. I have learned that there are racial undertones to my own story that I am still, at the age of 32, learning about. At the risk of being labeled a racist, I want to share a part of that story and part of my journey and understanding in moving toward a shift in my own life and my own mindset in how I view people of color. 

It was about seven years ago. I was working at a private Christian school in Houston, Texas as a campus minister, Bible teacher, and basketball coach. The school had a lot of ethnic diversity at the time. The student population was about 40 percent black, 30 percent white, 20 percent asian, and 10 percent hispanic. I was one of the assistant coaches on a basketball team that was very good (we would go on to win the state championship that year). Most of the players on the team were black, the majority of the students in my 11th grade Bible class were black, and yet, I was still dealing with racism in my heart without ever truly realizing or acknowledging it. I had just finished coaching a game and it was fairly late on a Friday evening. I only lived about a mile from the school and did not make enough money to afford wifi in my apartment and stream Netflix so I decided to go by the McDonald’s near where I lived to rent a movie from Redbox before going to bed that night. I was still wearing my shirt, tie, and slacks from teaching and coaching that day. While picking out a movie, I noticed four black guys about my age walking into the McDonalds. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice one of them see me and start walking toward me. The others follow along. As I see them moving toward me, I then turn to face them. The one who walked toward me first was shorter, only about 5’8. Another was about 6 feet which is about my height and the two others were about 6’4. The shortest one begins talking to me,

“hey man! I’ve got something for you!”

I immediately start slowly moving backwards. My heart begins to race. I start looking around to see who could/would potentially come to my aid if things began to get violent. I start shaking but try to hide it. I was scared. I begin to try and respond but nothing really comes out of my mouth. I was caught so off guard and did not know how to respond. The guy continues,

“I think that you might like this stuff!”

He holds up some flat billed hats and tall tee shirts. I continue to shake and am finally able to mumble out some words, 

“I don’t want…..” 

I couldn’t decide if I should say “those clothes” or “trouble” so I just never finished what I was saying.

It’s at this point that the guy talking to me realizes that I am truly afraid. He stops and stares at me for a moment. He then changes his demeanor. He calmly changes his approach,

“Hey listen man. I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m just trying to sell you some swag and help your look. That’s all.”

He holds up the apparel again. I take a good look as if I’m trying to be interested, but I wasn’t. I probably wouldn’t be interested in what he had today because what he was selling wasn’t the type of clothes that I normally wear. But at that time, I wasn’t interested in what he had because I was scared of him and those with him. 

“No thanks” I said and began walking toward my car. I never even finished picking out a movie to watch. I just left the screen open on scroll and walked off.  I just wanted to get out of there. As I began getting into my vehicle, the guy follows me from a distance and changes his message altogether. 

“Hey man! You can’t be thinking and acting like that! This is how problems happen! This is how bad s*** takes place!”

As he says this, I begin to notice my feelings change. I begin to feel angry as I get in my truck. He continued,

“I was just trying to sell you some swag and what you did wasn’t right!” 

His friends behind him start talking amongst each other while looking at me. I don’t know what they said but it couldn’t have been anything positive about me. The first guy continued on,

“This is why black people f*** up people like you!”

As I turn on my car and drive away, he continues talking but I can’t hear him anymore. I feel rage boiling up inside of me. I was so mad at him. I couldn’t believe he said those things to me when all that I was doing was minding my own business. I called my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and told her about what had happened. I told her how ticked off I was and asked who he thought he was to just walk up to me like he did and then tell me off despite the fact that I didn’t say or do anything to him or any of his friends.


I wasn’t able to admit it at the time, but I was being racist. I was scared because I thought that these four guys were going to hurt me because I was white and they were black and they could. Had those four guys been white, I probably wouldn’t have responded the way that I did. Looking back on my feelings from that night when I left, I don’t think that I was truly angry with the guy who called me out. Deep down, I was angry with myself. That guy was justified in calling me out for my response and he was right about what happens when white people look at black people with fear. Fear causes people of all races to do bad things to each other. He called me out on my racism and he was right for doing so.

Now I could make excuses for my behavior that night (and I used to). I could make the excuse that I was about a quarter of a mile away from one of the worst apartment complexes for crime rates in all of Houston. I could make the excuse that you weren’t allowed to solicit anything outside a McDonalds. I could make the excuse that you don’t need four guys to sell three or four articles of clothing. I could make the excuse that it was getting late, that I was tired, and just wanted to be home alone by myself. The problem with all of these excuses is that none of them have anything to do with the color of those guys skin and that’s what scared me, that’s what triggered my response.

Looking back, the thing that is still crazy to me is that I worked at a school where I was around plenty of black kids all day every day. I never had any problems with any of them outside of the typical teenager stuff that all teenagers of all ethnic backgrounds have. I feel like I should have been able to respond differently than I did, but I didn’t. I never told any of the faculty or students about what happened that night. I think I might have been too afraid to. I have no legitimate excuses or justifications for acting the way that I did. I am truly sorry for responding in fear. I will never have a way of contacting those four guys to apologize to them. I wish I did. I would admit to them that I struggle with racism and that it was engrained in me, not by my parents or relatives or friends, but by a system that taught me to see people differently based off of the color of their skin and I grew up around people who thrived in the system so I assumed that this was how the world functioned. How wrong I was.

Since all of this has taken place, I have talked with numerous people of color whom I know and trust. I have even asked some of them to read this before making it public. I have shared that I can do better, I want to do better, and I must do better. I have admitted that I will never truly see the world like they do. I have admitted that I have taught my son a different lesson about police officers than what black men teach their sons and that those black men are doing the right thing by teaching them this lesson. I have heard stories from several different black friends of mine who have experienced racism on a variety of levels.

The reason that I share my encounter at McDonalds is this: the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that there is one. You won’t find hardly anyone who knows what happened to George Floyd and isn’t affected by it. Pretty much everyone is going to say that it was wrong, horrific, and outrageous and they are all correct in saying so. All of these things are true. However, through the years with these kinds of stories surfacing again and again, I can’t help but notice people saying that it is bad and wrong to be racist, but almost no one is admitting to actually struggling with racism. Yes there are white supremacists and we all want to point to them as the culprits and the enemies of so much of the racism that takes place, but they are the ones who are simply open about how they feel. It is those of us who have racial undertones that we deal with in our lives (even subconsciously) and never truly admit that we think how we think because we don’t want to get labeled as a racist, because we think that this would be the worst possible scenario imaginable for us. That’s not true though. The worst case scenario is more people hurting and dying from racism. So as white people, in the name of protecting our reputations, we talk about how we aren’t racist and we justify that by talking about how we have black friends, we think that the KKK and Nazis were wrong and cruel and horrible human beings, and we claim that we “don’t see color.”

None of us want to admit that we tell our kids to play on the other side of the road from the black man who lives two doors down because “well we just don’t know him.” None of us want to admit that we tend to try to place our families in neighborhoods where almost everyone is white but that there are “some black people” when in reality there’s about 2 families out of 100 total. If nothing else, it’s obvious that we have a race problem when the only time that we want to talk about race is when something horrible like this happens and the media makes it incredibly easy to point fingers and cry out for justice.

If we want for this problem to go away, it isn’t gonna happen overnight because this problem didn’t arrive overnight. This is going to take a culture shift and culture shifts take time. It’s going to take  us (white people) admitting that we do indeed have a problem, that we are deeply sorry for it, and that we want to change and be better. It is going to take giving black people the voice and power to stand and speak truth about the wrongs that we have committed and continue to be committed (both intentional and unintentional) and this means that we take our stand and our voice and simply give it to someone else. Relinquishing power is hard, but so is culture shift and I think that they go hand in hand.

Since I have come this far, I might as well start off.

I am sorry for the racists things that I have thought and said in my life. I have been racially insensitive and ignorant for far too long. I am sorry for justifying my thoughts. I am sorry for dismissing voices from black people who cried out to me about the injustices in their own lives. I am sorry that I never made the attempt to see the world through the eyes of my black students. I do believe that I can do better, I most certainly want to do better.

I ask for black people to teach me where my words and thoughts are going astray. I genuinely want to see and understand the world that black people live in though I also know that I never fully will. Teach me how to cry out for justice so that justice can be delivered and oppressors may be overcome. Teach me to love like I have never known before. Love me even when I don’t deserve it, especially when I don’t deserve it and in this way, you will teach me what it truly means to love like Jesus.

A white man in recovery

Sunday, January 26, 2020

One of My Favorite Villains

Whats the difference between a hero and a villain? I always thought that the easy answer was that the hero was always good and the villain was always bad. When you take a deeper look, that might not always be the case. Perhaps who the villain and hero is in a situation is simply a matter of perspective. 

I am a huge fan of basketball. I fell in love with basketball when i was only 8 or 9 years old. I was never all that good at it. I talked a big game like anyone who loved basketball and tried to find my identity in it. When you’re a fan of a sport, you end up having heroes in that sport. I grew up telling myself that I was a Michael Jordan fan and the man was my hero. I still remember being in the living room of one of my friend’s from church when Jordan hit his “Farewell Shot” against the Jazz in Utah in 1998. I remember jumping up and down screaming with my buddy because we thought that we were watching the greatest player ever do the greatest thing ever on the greatest stage.

In the NBA and basketball in general, there are essentially three camps of player clubs as far as fandom goes for people my age. There’s the Michael Jordan club, the Kobe Bryant club, and the LeBron James club. There really isn’t a whole lot of debate outside of these three guys as to the matter of greatness. They are three guys who were known to put their team on their back and win games virtually by themselves. All three of these players have legendary moments in their careers and stats that define them. MJ never lost a finals. If he got there, then he would win it, six for six. Kobe once scored 81 points in a single game and in the final game of his career scored 60 points at the age of 38. LeBron went to seven straight NBA Finals (and he’s still not done yet).

Being in the Michael Jordan camp, I basically had to dislike Kobe. It wasn’t personal. It was more about loyalty for me. When LeBron came along, I liked watching him more than Kobe too. It was because of the loyalty to these guys and watching him take out my favorite team (OKC Thunder) in the playoffs that I decided that I wasn’t a fan of Kobe Bryant. Not only did he hadve an off court issue or two, but he also was out to take down my two favorite players and my favorite team. He was the villain. He was the enemy. I loved cheering against Kobe. I wanted him to lose. 

The problem with cheering against Kobe was that he didn’t lose often. He was a part of five championship teams and was the best player on at least two of those teams (the other three could be debated). He regularly led the NBA in scoring and for most of his career was one of the most unstoppable one on one players in the league. Kobe didn’t just want to win games though. He didn’t just want to defeat those playing against him. He wanted to take away their passion to play. He wanted to embarrass players and make them not want to play anymore basketball at all. Most players wanted to stick a sword in their opponent, but Kobe wanted to twist it. Many of the players whom Kobe had rivalries with ended up playing with him on the Lakers. The running joke was that these guys couldn’t beat him so they joined him. 

I remember so many different huge shots that Kobe made. I remember being in so many different places when he hit them. I remember Kobe making massive shots in Nashville, Oklahoma City, Houston, and Huntsville. Kobe made his career while I was growing up. He entered the NBA when I was only 9 years old. 

Regardless of whether or not you’ve watched any basketball in your life, you probably heard about the news today that Kobe was tragically killed in a helicopter crash this morning. Just like when anyone else you know of dies, you think back on times when that person was alive. As I thought back through Kobe’s career and how it aligned with some of the big moments of my life, I realized something. 

Jordan hit his “farewell shot” when I was only 10 years old and just starting to really fall in love with basketball and MJ’s career was over after that shot (basically, I try not to remember the Wizard years). Lebron entered the NBA when I was a freshman in high school and my love for basketball was already pretty high at that point. Kobe’s career started when I was 9 years old which is about the time when I was deciding that I was more in love with basketball than I was baseball, football, or any other sport. As my love for the game grew, Kobe became a bigger and bigger star. I kept telling myself that Jordan was better and when LeBron came along, I told myself that LeBron was better. The truth is that Kobe was the best basketball player in the world as I was learning about and falling in love with basketball. I told myself I didn’t like him, I think I did that because I wanted so much to either be like him, or watch my other heroes or favorite team beat him and they simply couldn’t. Kobe fueled my love for basketball. He fueled my love of competition that still exists to this day. Kobe is a major reason why I still watch basketball today. Watching Kobe Bryant play basketball was a part of my childhood, my adolescence, and my adult life. He exemplified greatness in so many ways and I got to watch it during some of my most formative years.

I started off talking about the differences between heroes and villains and how it might really just come down to perspective. Kobe was a great, notorious, legendary villain. He embraced the role. You were either all for him or all against him and he was going to be who he was and no one else, for better or worse. I think my perspective changed about Kobe toward the end of his career and definitely after he retired. 

You see regardless of what you thought of Kobe as a player, the number one thing that everyone talked about with Kobe after he retired was his relationship with his kids. Kobe was always at his daughters’ games and activities. He was constantly talking to other people about what was going on in his daughters’ lives. I’ve always had a ton of respect for any pro athlete who is a part of his/her kids lives because of how often pro athletes have to be on the road and on the other end of the country, not to mention the late games and extra training sessions. Kobe went from pro athlete to full time dad almost seamlessly. 

Growing up, I would shoot in empty gyms by myself and count down to shoot a fake buzzer beater “3….2…1…” and imagine celebrating after making shots. I found myself mimicking Kobe when my shots would go in. That was 10-15 years ago. Now, I like to dream about sitting at games and concerts with my own kids talking to them about what they are passionate about. If you’ve seen any of the footage of Kobe and his late daughter Gianna, it’s mostly footage of them talking and bonding over the sport that they love. 

I don’t know if any of my kids will share my love for basketball as they get older or a love for any sport. To be honest, I don’t care. I want to be passionate about what my kids are passionate about. Deep down, I wanted to be like Kobe the player. Now though, I’m proud to say that this player I grew up villainizing in my head is in fact one of my heroes as a father. Kobe Bryant was my hero and he was my villain. He was my past and he is my present. He is who I wish I was and who I hope to one day be. Thank you for showing me how to live life intensely and love my kids deeply all the way to the very end, Kobe. You will be missed

Image result for kobe and gigi

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Daddy in Heaven

First of all, in order to fully understand this post, you need to know mine and my family’s story. If you do not know what that is, then you can read more about it here.

From the time that Ashley agreed to marry me about 6 and a half years ago, I have thought about what my kids would call me. There is a part of me who has always dreamed of being called “daddy” throughout my life. I always thought that being a dad was so cool. I still think that too. Only special people get this title. Being a father doesn’t make you a daddy. Your children have to adorn you with this title. Being a father is a part of most men’s lives but being a daddy is only for the best of fathers. 

When Ashley and I were dating, Audrey and Addison who were only 10 and 5 years old respectively at the time simply called me Casey. I was ok with that. My two older girls are all about their routine and they work very hard to never break their routine. Since calling me Casey became a routine for them when we were dating, they never broke it when their mother and me got engaged and later married. 

At first, this was hard for me. I had always wanted to be a daddy and now that I was becoming the girls’ dad, I thought that I should get that title. Audrey told me very early on that she was not going to call me that. I understood it for her. She watched her dad die when she was only 7. Michael was her daddy and to call me that was a betrayal to him. Audrey has always been loyal to a fault and still is to this day. Addison dabbled in it here and there. She didn’t remember much of anything when her daddy died so early on in her life (she was only 2). She would occasionally call me daddy, usually when Audrey wasn’t paying attention. I would encourage her to call me daddy because this was something that I wanted and felt called to.

I still remember loading the girls up in the car one day when we were leaving Michael’s parents house and getting ready to move to Huntsville to start our new life together. I was talking to Michael’s mother when Addy asked me to help her get buckled up. “Hey daddy, will you help me?”

Before I could respond I looked over at her grandmother. She held it in as best as she could, but I could tell that hearing Addy say that cut deep. It wasn’t that she didn’t want me to be the girls’ daddy. It was that she wanted her to son to still be here and be the daddy. Hearing addy say this was just another gut wrenching reminder that her son was gone. All I could do was help Addy get in her seat and act like it wasn’t anything but I know it had to have been so difficult hearing her grandchild say that to someone besides her son.

As Ashley and I drove away, I told her that from then on, while I wanted the girls to call me daddy, they could call me whatever they wanted. I hadn’t earned the “daddy” title, at least not yet. Marrying their mom didn’t make me a daddy, it made me a father for the time being. 

Ashley knew that this title was something that I was aspiring to so whenever she was talking about me to the girls, she would call me daddy to them. This became confusing to them early on because Michael was also daddy and he had rightfully earned that title. One time when the four of us were at dinner, Audrey brought up how it was confusing to her and Addy that they had 2 daddy’s and that she was sometimes wondering which daddy her mother was referring to. 

In order to keep the peace with everyone including the girls, me, and the in-laws, Ashley began referring to Michael as “daddy in heaven”. This name has stuck ever since. Michael is still referred to in our house as daddy in heaven. I am still Casey unless the girls are talking about me to someone else, in which case I am their dad (I know, it’s like they’re wanting to taunt me).

When my son, Gatlin, was born, I began to rightfully and proudly wear the title of “daddy.” That’s the only name he has known for me his entire life. He’s four now and he only realized about 6 months ago that my name is Casey. Millie has been the same. When she copies off her sisters when they say Casey, she still doesn’t really know who she’s referring to. I am simply daddy to both of them.

What’s weird is that not only do I correct the little ones when they call me by my actual name, but Addy does too even though Addy doesn’t call me daddy. She wants them to do this though and I think it’s because she sees how much I love it. Addy is secretly an incredible kid and the best big sister ever but she doesn’t want anyone to actually know that. 

This name thing became a bit of a conundrum to me a couple of years ago when Gatlin became a pretty good talker. The girls would make the occasional reference to Michael or their “daddy in heaven” and Gatlin wouldn’t really notice but I figured that it would only be a matter of time before he and Millie began wondering about who Michael was. This would be a kind of tricky conversation for a variety of reasons. 

I want to shift now for a moment and talk about my faith for a minute. Since going through seminary, I have been so blessed to be shaped and formed by God through so many kind and loving men who know more about God and the Bible than I could ever hope to. Through this, I was able to engage some parts of my soul that I had either avoided or that I had never knew existed but were aching to cry out to God for revelation and change. I experienced joy and laughter and pain and tears and hurt and love and grace. I am better for it and I’m so grateful that I was able to do it and I’m even considering doing more of it somewhere down the road. 

Something that I learned in one of the courses was the admiration for saints. I grew up being told that we shouldn’t worship saints and that we are never commanded to do so and other churches that do this are wrong. However, what I have since learned was that while we do not worship the saints, we do honor them. Some of the most formative spiritual  experiences of my life happened as a result of me remembering the saints. Saints are different for me though. While the saints of the Bible and the heroes who kept the faith since are ones whom I hold in high regard, I believe that the saints whom I hold in the highest regard are the ones who have reached me on my deepest levels. People who lived 2000 years ago have trouble doing this with me, because, well, I never actually talked with them, walked with them, ate with them, argued with them, or even met them at all. There has never really been much intimacy between the apostle Peter and me. I’m sure we would get along because I stick my foot in my mouth regularly just like he did with Jesus. However I can’t know for sure because we never really got to talk about it. 

The saints whom I hold in the highest regard are the ones whom I have had some sort of intimate relationship with. They are people who set a high bar in keeping the faith. They are people whom I still aspire to be like to this day. I think about people like George Vaughn, Edith Randle, Ray Clyde and my aunt Rita. These people all set an example for me in a variety of ways. 

What has also struck me have been the saints whom I never actually met but have had a direct personal impact on me anyway. I think about Vera, my mom’s mother, BC Goodpasture, Bob Onstead and David Lipscomb. After thinking for a long time about this, I realized that there is someone whom I never met but have been impacted more by this person spiritually than any of the others listed above and even some of the saints in my life who are still alive: Michael Bonine.

Though I never met Michael, I have been connected to him for sometime now and I always will be. There have been times when I felt intimidated by him and his legacy. There have been times when I felt like we would have been friends. There have been times that I have wanted to talk to him when I struggled to find the words to share with Ashley or the girls around the time of year when he passed. When Michael died, he left his faith instilled in his wife and children. Without that instilled faith, I don’t know if I ever even meet Ashley and Audrey and Addy. When I think about it, that’s part of why Gatlin and Millie are even here right now. I have come to realize that Michael has greatly influenced my spiritual formation and continues to do so.

When I take the communion each week in church with my church family, I have begun making it a point to take a moment to remember the hope in the resurrection that I have with saints who have impacted my life and have already gone on to the next life. I have thought about my aunt Rita a lot on Sundays since she went to be with God this past May. Because of this hope, I can look forward to the biggest reunion party of all time, so can everyone else who calls Jesus their Savior. I look forward to that reunion with these saints and in the case of Michael, I look forward to meeting him face to face for the very first time.

The more I have prayed and meditated on this, the more that I have realized that I want to commune with Michael. Ever since I married Ashley, I had dreaded the encounter I would have with Michael in the next life. I felt it would be this awkward encounter of me meeting the man whose family I claimed after he died. In a way I felt like I had almost stolen his life. Based on things that Ashley told me about how he was, I wondered if he would punch me in the face for claiming his life or at least give me an atomic wedgie or something like that. (I’m still not sure about what the heavenly brawling rules entail…)

Things are different now though. I see this from an entirely new perspective thanks to how I view my communion time with God. I believe in the communion with Christ and I believe in the the hope of the resurrection along with the saints who have gone on before me, including Michael. 

I realize now that I commune with Michael each week and I now look forward to meeting him for the first time in heaven. I envision entering heaven with Ashley and we see Michael as we enter. I envision my wife running into his arms. They cry as they embrace while I stand and smile and then they both look back at me, smile, and each open up an arm and invite me into their embrace. I join and all three of us hold one another in tears because through each of our own hurts and struggles, we were found to be worthy of our calling through the Spirit of God. I envision the three of us one day welcoming all of our children into our arms, Audrey, Addy, Gatlin, and Millie. We won’t care who’s kid is actually who’s or who Ashley is truly married to because it won’t matter. We’ll be standing before the throne of the Almighty. We’ll be too busy celebrating Jesus triumphing over death on all of our behalf. We’ll be too busy embracing one another because we were called worthy by our Creator. We’ll all be family then so why not start thinking and celebrating this here and now. 

So when Ashley asked me what I thought we should tell Gatlin and Millie who Michael was, the answer for me was very easy: he’s their daddy in heaven too. There’s no doubt in my mind that if our positions were changed that he would do the exact same for me. He’s not just watching down over Ashley and Audrey and Addison. He’s watching over me and Gatlin and Millie too. This is the kind of man he was and this is the kind of spirit that he has even to this day. After all, this is my brother we’re talking about and my children’s daddy in heaven.

Thursday, July 11, 2019


I think that we all have different variations to our personalities. This can go without saying obviously. These differences tend to define how we are viewed by others. Oftentimes these differences we have from others are a result of past experiences that we have had. Other times it has to do with our convictions regarding our core beliefs. One of my seminary professors referred to this as the legitimating narrative. This term is used to describe why people are the way that they are: it’s because of the life that they have lived.

At different portions of our lives, we will try and blend in with what everyone else is doing. We succumb to the crowd, heck, we join the crowd, we conform. In the eyes of many, it’s an anticipated action and to deviate from this is actually doing the unimaginable. However, we live in a society of options and we have become a society of so many options that we no longer have to come up with new options because they have all been laid out for us. Don’t want to eat lunch at McDonalds? go to Burger King, or Wendys or Chick Fil A or Subway or Jack in the Box etc. Don’t like your cable tv package? get Apple TV or Roku or FireTV or Smartcast or Sling. Also get Netflix or Pureflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or just make peace with cable being frustrating. Don’t like driving your car? take an Uber or Lyft. Make the trip shorter by flying with Southwest, United, American, Delta, Frontier or if you’re in the mood for a horrible experience then take Spirit.

While creativity is exploding in some areas of our society, it’s been stuck in other areas. Being different from the norm often means taking criticism, both fair and unfair. This doesn’t mean that creativity should be put in a box. I’ve never heard of a music artist or even genre that existed without receiving negative feedback from a group of people. We all have those foods that we love and hate and don’t understand those who feel the opposite of how we do. When you do something different, you’re probably going to get some negative attention to some degree. I thought that I would do this on this particular post. 

One popular term that I have heard used for how the Christian community is to be is “counter culture.” While I understand the good merit behind this, I would like to propose something slightly different: we become an alternative culture. I say this because there are things about our culture that are actually pretty great and even biblical. Why stand against those things?! One of the primary moral ethics of those who are 35 years old or younger (millenials and younger) is “Do No Harm” or basically everything is ok as long as it doesn’t harm any person in any way. While I have my own personal questions about this ethic, I also realize that there could be some far worse ethic codes to live by. I’ll also note that this ethic code is very similar to what we refer to as the “Golden Rule” found in Matthew 7:12. Some of this alternative culture would indeed be counter to the culture that we are currently living in. I do not know many people who fully immerse themselves in all aspects and facets of mainstream culture. Everyone stands out in their own ways whether intentionally or not. I am proposing that we, as followers of Christ, take a stand for the good things of God currently existing in this culture and then love and teach the areas of cultural collision.

SeaWorld with the Kiddos
Tubing the Comal

Before I share some things I do differently, I want to give a disclaimer or two. First of all, I am not going to tell you that everything that I do on this list (or in general) is right or correct for you as well and that if you do it differently then you’re wrong. You might do something in life differently because you need to or simply believe differently on something than I do. Also if you do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life, some of these things might seem weird to you or even ridiculous. Feel free to comment or message me and we can have a conversation about that. With these being shared here go a few things that I might do a bit differently, but also a little reasoning behind it.

  1. While a bedtime for my kids exists in my house, it is not a lawful mandate every single night. Maybe this has something to do with how I was raised myself. Don’t get me wrong on this either. On most nights, my two youngest are in bed asleep by no later than 8:30 (the two older ones have a little bit later bedtime). I have never been able to fully understand the houses where people are married to their kids’ bedtime. I have seen more than one family not come to various events and activities for school, extracurricular, and/or church because of how late their kids would be out. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were when I stayed out late. I still remember being at the rodeo in Sikeston, MO watching my cousin ride out with the American flag and my Aunt Wanda dancing in the stands to Clint Black. I was 8 then and was out until 1am on most of those nights. I remember being up until 9 or 10 on some Wednesday evenings during school nights so that after Bible classes we could go eat a late dinner with the “super families” from my church. You know what I don’t remember? Being asleep or what I was dreaming about. I don’t even remember being asleep or my dreams from last night. From 11pm-7am, I have absolutely nothing to talk about from last night. Now when I was a kid, was I sometimes grouchy the next morning due to being so tired? Probably. However, if you asked me if my kids would have a lifelong memory like I do and in exchange I would have to deal with them being cranky that next day, would I do it? Absolutely.
  2. We have open discussions about sex in our house. It’s astounding and even disturbing how many households cannot say this. I told many of the parents in my church a few days ago that if you are not talking to your kids about sex, then someone else is. The problem then is that your child gets to choose who that person is and it usually isn’t someone you would have chosen for your child, or anyone else in society for that matter. We talk about sex and relationships with our oldest who is now at a dating age. We’ve begun these talks with our 12 year old who is not far away from that stage. We’ve even begun having anatomy talks with our 2 and 3 year olds and how those are special places of the body that God made for a special reason and that they are not “dirty” (though of course they should be washed while bathing too).
  3. I try to read something every day that is much longer than 150 characters. I have always been someone who hated reading. It bored me and I ended up finding a lot of books that took too long to read and get to their points. I am finding authors who get me and that’s helping. I’m also discovering that God really gets me too when I read the Gospels. Read something besides twitter, instagram or facebook. Feed your soul with something other than a screen. I am becoming very thankful for it myself. 
  4. My kids are allowed to see me drink alcohol. My parents do not drink at all. They had family and friends who were destroyed by it both figuratively and literally so I grew up in an alcohol free environment and to this day when I go home, the house remains that very same environment. While I respect them and that decision, it also opened my eyes to some other things. I went to a private Christian school growing up where those my age who consumed alcohol simply did it to get drunk. They became people whom God did not create them to be and I’m convinced that is why the Bible speaks out against drunkenness but not against drinking (you could make a decent biblical case for the consumption of alcohol if you wanted, but that’s not what this post is about). I noticed that most of those kids grew up in houses where alcohol was not even allowed to be seen let alone drank. I think that’s why so many of my friends went crazy with it: they didn’t know how to handle the responsibility that comes with it. I’m ok with my kids seeing me have the occasional drink because I want them to see that one can both drink and be sober and responsible at the same time. I feel like the Prohibition Act and it’s repercussions should have taught us something by now.
  5. My relationship with God comes before my relationship with my wife or kids. I don’t think that many people fully buy into this. They’ll say something to the effect of “yea but why can’t we have both?” and the answer is that while that is indeed possible for some, it is not the option for all. We are taught in both the old and new testaments to love God above all. The way I see it, without God I wouldn’t have my wife or kids anyway. I need this relationship to be the focal point of my life or else I would never be capable of being even a remotely good husband or father or friend or minister, etc. One of the hottest things that my wife can do is put God ahead of me and let me see her do it. She’s leading a parenting book club for mom’s tomorrow night….I’m a little turned on just thinking about it……
  6. Ninety-five percent of the time, I will side with the teacher or coach when there is a dispute involving my kid. As a former teacher and coach myself, I can’t tell you how degrading it is to be chewed out by a parent while the student is present. A few years ago, I actually had a parent go to my athletic director at the school I worked at to tell him I needed to be fired. We were 19-3 that year. The worst part was that these parents said and did these things while their child watched. When kids see this, they’re taught something immediately: I can get away with almost anything as long as mommy or daddy are around. My parents NEVER sided with me when there was a dispute between me and a coach or teacher, even on the very rare occasion when I would be right! I’m thankful for that now because it helped me learn to work out my issues with people instead of having my parents come in and do it for me. One of my kids had a coach this past year who clearly did not know what he was doing, but he was trying and was kind to all the kids and did his very best. I appreciated his work and dedication to my kid as well as the others. The exception here is when a teacher or coach is blatantly disrespecting my child and giving non-constructive criticism (i.e “you suck”). In this case, I do NOT confront the teacher or coach in front of my child. Adults should always be respected by children, especially those willing spend their time working with younger people. It is NEVER an easy job.
  7. I still have the occasional moment of weakness where I pick my nose or bite my nails. I never said that I was proud of the things on this list……
  8. I don’t own a gun and currently have no plans of that changing. I can see potential future scenarios where this could change but as of right now, I don’t have a gun. Please don’t perceive this as me being a hater of guns or those who own them. I have no problem with others owning guns and have tons of friends who own them. I simply choose not to because of the type of person I am. I simply don’t see enough scenarios that could occur where I would want to shoot a gun. I don’t like to hunt (yes I have tried it before and I simply don’t feel drawn to the idea of waking up at 4am to drive out into the middle of nowhere in 40 degree weather and climb into a tree to wait for an animal that may never actually show up). Yes if someone were to break into my house then I would not have a gun to protect them (I have plenty of knives). I’m still under the understanding that you are actually safer without a gun statistically (also I have noticed that a lot of people say that they stash guns to protect themselves from intruders but unload them in order to protect their children were they to find them. I have to ask: if someone breaks into your home, then will you ask him/her to simply wait while you load your gun???). Again, I have no problem with people owning a gun or multiple guns, but I choose not to.
  9. I am intentional about going on dates and getaway trips with my wife whenever possible. I actually think that this might be more important than your relationship with your kids for one simple reason: if your relationship with your spouse isn’t where it needs to be, then it’s very difficult for your relationship with your kids to be the same way. In the 7 years that I worked in youth ministry, a very common theme that I noticed was that many of the kids who had struggles in their lives also had parents who had a fractured relationship (this wasn’t always the case but I would say 75% of the time). Ashley and I will go out about once a week and do some sort of getaway trip every year. Personally, I think it’s the hardest to parent my kids when I’m not on the same page with her.
  10. Our Denver getaway trip
  11. Everyone who is in our family is IN our family. This might sound like something that everyone does but after talking with Ashley about it, we don’t think so. We make it a point to do most of our family things together. There are the times when Audrey will have a game she needs to work or attend or a school thing and the same on occasion for Addy, but for the most part, we do things together. It can be very difficult for a 16 year old and a 2 year old to do all their things together because of how different their life stages are, but we want them to enjoy their time together. A time is coming and is not far away when Audrey will be in college and not able to do very much with our family. It is very important for us to do things together so that we have these memories and we will be able to look both back on those memories and smile and laugh and also look forward to making more as our kids grow up, gain spouses, and live their lives apart from their mom and dad.
Incredibly blessed by these five people

I want to reiterate that I don’t think that everyone should do everything on this list. I simply do some things differently. I figure that there might be some backlash from some of the things on this list as well. I have spent time in prayer and discussion with my wife about it and this list is a huge part of who I am so I don’t see myself changing much of this anytime soon (and some of this ever). In our culture of polarity thinking where either we agree with someone or disagree to the point at which we feel the need to prove them to be idiots for not seeing our side, I believe it is imperative that we accept people where they are before immediately trying to instill changes in them so that they will become the people that we think they should be. This isn’t how we have ever been called to treat people and while there is plenty of room for open conversation, we can only control ourselves at the end of the day. I hope that this blesses you in some way and encourages you to be open about who you truly are. Blessings.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

What A Difference A Degree Makes

This weekend, I'll be submitting my final copy of my capstone. Assuming I receive a passing grade on this and my comprehensive final exam which I turned in last week, I will be approved to receive my masters degree in Christian Ministry from Lipscomb University. This was a 36 hour program that took me four years to complete. I would have been done about a year and a half ago had it not been for some scheduling issues and moving this past fall to a new town and a new church.

I've been talking about being done with my degree with Ashley a little over the last week or so and what has amazed me has been different from what has amazed her. She has been impressed with the progress I have made over this time as I have really stretched and challenged myself over these last four years. I can see things in scripture and in the world in ways that I never would have had I not taken on this endeavor. I'm so glad I took this on because I needed the challenge. In the spring of 2015, I was spiritually bored. I was working in youth ministry with a lot of students who, while being terrific kids, knew a pretty small amount of the story of scripture. (Fun fact: I have found that most of the people who know the Bible fairly well can tell me who Elijah is. This is usually the question I ask people when gaining a grasp of people's biblical literacy). While I loved working with this great group of students, I wasn't really stretching or challenging myself in teaching them because most of what I taught them were things that I had already mostly memorized. I needed a challenge and would soon realize that seminary was my best bet at gaining a better understanding of God and the Bible. I had a lot of respect for the professors at Lipscomb and knew they could help me in a number of ways so I enrolled there. I would begin my first semester in late August of 2015.
Addy playing in the sandbox. Apparently there are some things you're not too old for...

What amazed me in comparison to what amazed Ashley was not what I learned but how much has changed since I started. You see Ashley was pregnant with my 3 year old son, Gatlin, at the time that I enrolled at Lipscomb. He was born about three weeks before my first classes began. We were prepared for this and my schedule changing drastically to accommodate a newborn and extra studying but we'd had about 5 or 6 months to prepare for all of this. What we weren't prepared for was what happened at our church at the same time that my grad school started. Our church had parted ways with the children's minister on staff at the end of July. Our college minister at the time had left at the end of the school year to take on a preaching job in the Corpus Christi area. A few days after my son was born, the preaching minister at Huntsville and my good friend, Matt Springfield, told me that he had accepted the preaching job at the church he had grown up at and he and his family would be moving there within the month. In about four months time, I went from being on a staff of 4 to being the lone minister on staff in Huntsville..... right when my son was born and I started grad school. I wanted a challenge so God clearly gave me one. Since beginning grad school, we have gone from being a family of 4 to a family of 6, my wife and me have both taken on new jobs, our family has moved to a big city and a larger church where we both work on staff together as ministers, we have a new house, the big girls are in new schools, and the two little ones have begin "school" (daycare).
Sweet girl catching a nap during lunch

Even with so much transition over the last couple of years for us mentally and physically, I have personally gone through a ton of transition spiritually. I went through a season where I felt distant from the heart of God. While saying this sounds simply, it was a devastating blow for me and took some time to move past. I owe a ton of gratitude to Kris Miller and John Mark Hicks as they taught me the work and movement of the Spirit and the heart of God. That season was tough for me in a lot of ways that very few people actually know about for a variety of reasons. Dr. Miller introduced me to spiritual direction, something that I am very thankful for. I'm very grateful for Karen Wood, my spiritual director and the mom of one of my old high school buddies, Burton. She helped me to engage the Spirit of God who helped guide me during a really tough season. Dr. Hicks showed me how to question God in healthy ways that led me to a healthy struggle with His heart. I never questioned God's existence, but I did question His purpose and motives during all this time. Dr Hicks showed me how to do this in a way that would lead to blessing, which it did. There are other professors that I am extremely thankful for having learned under such as Rubel Shelly and Earl Lavender. Their classes have changed my approach to ministry forever. However, the timing of when I took the courses from Miller and Hicks were divine. I only told a couple of people this, but I probably would've left church ministry altogether had I not had those courses when I did.
Little man's first swim lesson!

Overall, it's incredible to look at everything that has happened in our family's life. What I have discovered about healthy relationships though is that what is important isn't the events you end up experiencing, it's the people whom you experience these events with. I can't imagine doing everything I have done over the last four years without having the kids and Ashley there with me to experience them together. I think it was a natural thing for Jesus's apostles to continue His work after He left when you look at everything they experienced together. I think this is a major reason the global church continues to grow. It hasn't been incredible preaching or amazing global outreach programs (don't get me wrong, those are important). It is because we find a common bond in Christ and we're willing to share life together with one another because of that bond.

I don't want this to look like everything has been miserable by any stretch of the imagination. While there have been some tough times here or there, we have gotten to experience some wonderful things all together as well. Hopefully the pictures in this post are an example of that. We've been blessed with two more beautiful and incredible children, new jobs and a new home. Everything is so much more local for us now. We live within about two miles of everything that we need (Ashley never wants to leave the house now so there's that...) We now have season passes to SeaWorld and the zoo! There's food truck park about 5 miles from our house (Ashley and I are foodies so it's heaven on earth for us). We are blessed with a home that provides a lot of fun things to do too. While I have enjoyed my seminary experience, I am also glad it is over. I haven't ruled out continuing my education even further down the road, but I have definitely ruled out continuing it anytime soon.
At SeaWorld waiting for Shamu
At the Texas Open with my oldest baby

I am very thankful for the men who have served most of their lives in the church and are now giving of their time to teaching other ministers like me the road that we travel and showing us how to navigate life and ministry. I would be fortunate to one day have anything close to the wisdom and guidance they share with so many other ministers on a regular basis. I am thankful for two parents who have financially and mentally supported over these four years and have always provided a place to stay during my weekend intensive courses. Of course I can't say enough about Ashley during these four years. She was finishing her masters degree during the first year of our marriage and while I pitched in to help with the girls as she finished things up, she has been infinitely more instrumental in watching kids longer and giving me space so that I can read, write, and research. Her support continues to be the second most vital of my motivational factors behind only the last one I want to thank. Most of all, I am thankful to my Creator God who loves each of us beyond imagination and reveals to us His divine plan through the life He has poured out through His Spirit that is moving in is, through us, and with us. May I never lose the wonder of His mercy or the desire to continuing following His heart. Praise God.

Friday, March 1, 2019


Transitions are rarely easy. We're forced to stretch ourselves and push beyond what we thought our limits and comfort zones extend to.

Our transition from Huntsville to San Antonio was anything but easy. While the new position at NorthWest has been fantastic in so many ways, our family struggled for a number of reasons. It took much longer to sell our Huntsville home than we had anticipated. Because of this, we had to drop the price to lower than we would have preferred. We still came out ok financially, but things were extremely tight there for a bit. We stayed at an Airbnb townhome for about a month because thats all we could afford when combining the cost of that and our mortgage. Our savings account was virtually wiped out. God would eventually provide a way for us and we were able to sell our house just in time, but it seemed like there was almost no light at the end of that tunnel for some time.

The thing that made this difficult though was that about two years ago, Ashley and me purchased a week long vacation in Cabo and it was impossible to get a refund. We were supposed to close on our new home here in San Antonio two days after we left for Cabo. Again, if we stayed back to close on our home, then we would forfeit a non-refundable vacation that cost us around $2000. We were able to sign power of attorney over to some close friends of ours and they signed for us while we were gone. 

Here's what was incredible. My mom stayed with our kids while we were in Cabo. She got in touch with several people from our new church home who all elected to spend their Saturday moving all of our things from a storage unit into our new home. What we thought would take several days to do ourselves, they did in one. My new church family reversed robbed us! They took all of our things and put them INTO our new house. Once they got wind of Ashley's illnesses, they also set up a meal train and we did not need to cook dinner at all the first week that we were in our new house. 
The playground at our new house. Given to us by one of the families at our new church home!

A few weeks later, Ashley applied for and was offered the Children and Families Minister position at our church. I now get to go to work every day with my wife! We're blessed to be working with a terrific group of ministers and administrators at NW and some exciting changes are happening that we have both gotten to be a big part of. God continues to do things in our life that we never saw coming.

Audrey is flourishing at her new school despite it being 30 times the size of her old school in Huntsville (literally). She is a student athletic trainer and she loves it. It puts her on a fast track for medicine which is what she has always wanted to go into. She is thriving in her AP classes and really loves her new school. 
Audrey with Santa (who also happens to double as one of our shepherds!)

Addison is doing well too. I've learned that Addy is neutral about literally everything. I ask her how school was or how she enjoyed a particular event or activity and 99% of the time she simply says "it's good" and refuses to elaborate any further. She wears a purple hoodie and black athletic pants to school virtually every day. There was one day when she didn't and I asked her why and her response was "I have no idea. I don't know whats wrong with me today." She also works very hard to continue being a little girl despite being 11 now. This can be witnessed in the picture below where she's playing in her younger siblings' sandbox.

Gatlin and Millie are both in daycare three days a week and they love it. It's a recently opened place but the teachers are very intentional about loving on and caring for the kids who are there. Gatlin thinks it's just the coolest thing that his mommy and daddy both work at Bible class. 

A couple of weeks ago, our family went with all of Ashley's sisters and their family to Disney World and I'm pretty sure that Gatlin was the most fascinated by everything that was going on. We got to see all of the newer attractions like Pandora from Avatar (my personal favorite), Harry Potter world (by far Audrey's favorite), and Toy Story land (by far Gatlin's favorite). We had some experienced Disney guides take us through each of the parks at the right times so that we could avoid lines as much as possible. They were terrific. They would even watch our two little ones so that Ashley and me could go on rides that they were too small for. It also turns out that Gatlin was barely tall enough to ride a couple of roller coasters for the very first time. You can see the video of him riding Slinky Dog Dash below. The entire vacation was exhausting because of everything that we did, but it was a very good kind of exhausting. 

Audrey's Gryffindor acceptance letter

Pure bliss 

Today marks six months that I have officially been on staff here at NorthWest and four months for Ashley. This transition has been difficult on so many levels. However, I have learned so much about myself and my family during this time. I think that we can handle just about anything together. We have learned the value and importance of relying on our church family in times of need. We have learned how much easier it is to work at a place where you feel like family as opposed to simply an employee. Paul's writings are so much clearer to me than they used to be because of the family style relationship that he had with the churches whom he was writing to. Ashley and I have both loved working with Marvin, our lead minister who has been at NW for over 25 years. We are very different from one another but I think that's why we're able to work so well with each another. We also get to work with a young youth minister whom we have both been very impressed with in Brandyn. There are also 14 shepherds at our church who have all loved us in so many ways that we have never experienced before. The more Ashley and I talk about this place, the more that we envision ourselves being here for a very long time. 
Gatlin entertaining himself in my office

Transition is difficult, even the good transitions. The Israelites struggled when they left Egypt. They struggled again when they entered into the promised land forty years later. They struggled the most when they were taken into captivity. The churches in the New Testament struggled during their start times. I think that we have struggled in our own ways as well. This struggle must take place though so that we can learn from God and lean on Him more. One of my professors in seminary once told me that by looking at the story of Jacob wrestling with God and receiving a blessing, we can conclude that when we wrestle with the heart of God, we will be blessed in a variety of ways. I am finally beginning to leave this season of transition and the season of wrestling with the heart of God. It was very difficult on me mentally, physically, and especially spiritually. But I am grateful for this struggle. It has been yet another reminder that God is so much bigger than anything that I ever could have imagined. He continues to open so many doors for people here and it has been a joy and honor to walk alongside them during these times. May God continue to open my eyes in ways that I never thought were possible, and may He open yours in the same way.