09 Mar

I Can Only Imagine

It is hard to imagine there is anyone who hasn’t heard MercyMe’s double platinum song, I Can Only Imagine. Released nearly 20 years ago, the song has become a favorite among listeners in nearly every genre of mainstream music.

It is even harder to imagine the song’s inspiration came as Bart Millard, the band’s lead singer, reflected on the life and death of his father. Who would have ever thought that a little boy who suffered from domestic abuse, at the hands of an alcoholic father, would ever find a way to turn such amazing pain into such a touching song? There within is the power of the song. There within is the power of a life changed by Jesus.

Despite a rough and awful childhood both Bart and his father ultimately found new beginnings as followers of Jesus. Through the love and forgiveness, they discovered in their faith, they learned to love and forgive each other. When Bart witnessed such an incredible life change in the monster of a dad he had feared, he couldn’t resist spending time with his dad during his final days on earth. Their relationship was reconciled and found a new beginning. Hope was discovered in a new journey they both shared with Jesus. I Can Only Imagine became an outward expression of what Bart imagined his father must have been experiencing in heaven following his battle with pancreatic cancer. Surely, he never could have imagined a song about his father in heaven after having lived through the horrors of such an abusive childhood. However, he now recognizes the impact the gospel can have on all our lives.

Bart’s story was not too unlike my own. I have also survived domestic abuse at the hands of a drunken father. I wanted to believe he loved me but it was hard to imagine given he had tried to take the lives of my family and me on more than one occasion. Eventually, years and geography separated us but the painful memories lingered close to my heart. I could never have imagined forgiving him or seeing him again. But like Bart’s story, my father and I were both touched by the love and forgiveness we found through faith in Jesus. It ultimately led us to reconciliation and I too found myself spending as much time as I could with my former monster of a dad.

My wife and I were attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. when I got word that my father had died. Amazingly, Bart was sharing his story from the platform with the President of The United States at the very same event. I couldn’t help but sense the irony of it all. A God wink for sure as he sang, I Can Only Imagine, within hours of my father’s death. Here we were, two boys who had been hurt and abused together in a sea of a thousand onlookers, both reflecting on their daddies, as my dad and his, were no doubt being introduced in heaven by the one who brought us all together.

The song has now become a movie. If the shared experience in Washington D.C. wasn’t enough, the film was also shot in Oklahoma. I had the opportunity to meet Bart personally, my son worked on the production, the movie was shot near my hometown and the opening scene was shot at The Cedar Gate, where I am the president of Oklahoma’s premier leadership retreat center. Who could have ever imagined two lives could intersect in so many ways!

I have experienced firsthand the message behind this film. I Can Only Imagine beautifully illustrates how no one is ever too far from God’s love and redemption. Because I am so passionate about bringing leaders together, who want to use their influence to impact the world for good, I wanted to find a way to help bring MercyMe’s hit song to the big screen.

At the Cedar Gate we decided to challenge the leaders we serve to join us in buying out movie theaters and blocks of tickets for the movie. The response has been overwhelming! No one can do everything but together we have discovered we can do more than we ever could alone. We are excited about the impact this film is having in the lives of so many.

 Can you imagine what might happen if we came together and encouraged our families, friends and co-workers to experience this film? Without question it would be life changing. I believe this movie could be the catalyst to bringing healing, forgiveness and reconciliation to hundreds of thousands of broken relationships.

Below is a link to information as to how you too can get involved. I hope you will and by all means, go see the movie on opening weekend. I Can Only Imagine will be in theaters nationwide on March 16. See you there!  Imagine that!

Click here to see the movie trailer and to learn more about I Can Only Imagine.


Photos: My dad and I as a little boy and My dad and I a few days before he died.

03 Mar

Let go ego!

Egos lead to no goes. Notice one bull is black and white while the other remains neutral! Which bull are you? Is everything very black and white to you and in need of change or are you merely remaining neutral and think things should stay the same? Who are you locking horns with? Do egos have you stuck in a stand off? Does pride hinder strides in your relationship? Don’t be a bully. Be a buddy. Don’t comprise your convictions but by all means, let go of your ego!

21 Feb

That’s No Bull

Growing up on the Praire, life presents you with perspectives on happenings in a primal sort of way. For sure we have entered the modern age but there are regular reminders of a time that was and continues to be.

On a recent drive from the urban to rural, I happened to notice an old rancher riding fence, counting head and checking for gaps between posts. In case you are wondering what in the world I am talking about, he was basically checking on his herd of cattle. On the surface raising cattle can seem like passive work but like farming, it takes patience and expertise to reach the desired results, the fatted calf!

To cattle, a rancher appears to be the ultimate caregiver and best of friends. He provides a place to play, food to eat, a friendly community of like-minded associates and excellent health care benefits.

The burn of his brand on the cow’s hind end seems to be a faint memory and a small price to pay for such amenities. His kindness comforts the herd as he welcomes new born calves into a deep trusting relationship built on mutual admiration and concern.

Life on the open range is free of worry, hassle and pain. After all, as the song says, it is where the deer and the antelope play. Life is good. What a great place to raise the kids. The rancher loves them too and just like the other cows and bulls on his place, he nurtures and cares for them in preparation for the slaughter!

The disappearances go unnoticed at first. But then it begins to click. At a certain weight and size, cattle start to vanish, never to return. Those who left long ago have one thing in common, they followed the rancher into a narrow metal trailer, for what many believed was a joy ride on an exciting field trip. Little did they know that their so-called loyal friend had lured them into a death trap. They were collateral damage, casualties and victims in a masterful mass murder.

The more cattle reflect on life on the ranch, the more they realize the signs of deception and betrayal were there all along. It was truly too good to be true. The rancher’s cow hide boots, matching leather belt, leather vest, leather gloves and the smell of a juicy cheese burger on his breath, were all indicators that were somehow ignored in an otherwise blissful relationship.

That is life on the Praire. The journey from the thrill to the grill ends with an unexpected surprise, the rancher is not a friend. He is a predator! He is a master manipulator with a master plan to steal, kill and destroy. The cattle’s loss is the rancher’s gain.

Here is the brutal reality. We all have potential to end up as cattle on the devil’s ranch. He is a deceptive, conniving fake. He acts like he cares but in the end, he is after our very souls. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. He pacifies us with toys, vices and creature comforts. It’s all a big fat lie as he does his best to lure us away to the slaughter house.

What is a cow to do? It starts by realizing you aren’t a cow. You are a sheep! You are meant to run in flocks not herds. You are raised for hair cuts not to have your throat cut! Don’t buy the lie. Recognize who you are. You are meant to be led by the Good Shepherd not the ruthless rancher. You are not destined to be lamb chops or prime rib. You were born to thrive and stay alive!

The Good Shepherd’s motives are pure. His friendship is genuine. He is a giver of life. He never seeks to pull the wool over your eyes. He is your protector, caregiver and companion. He loves you dearly and longs to be with you now and forever.

Someday, when life on the Praire is no more, he will take you home with him to greener pastures. He is a good shepherd, not an evil rancher. You are his little lamb, not a fatted calf. And as we like to say on the Praire, ”That’s no bull!”

06 Feb

Time to Fly!

Another life lesson. You would think that at my age I would have learned this one, but as of late, the Lord is continuing to help me reign it in, or should I say, bite it. No, I’m not talking about my little pony. I am referring to my big fat tongue.

James 3:2 says we all make many mistakes and if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. Tall order, right? A very tall order for me sense I am out of control in so many ways.

Recently, my wife and I set out on our annual trek to Washington D.C. for the National Prayer Breakfast. One would think that someone with such spiritual interest would walk with some level of dignity, poise and uprightness. One would think. But we forgot. Let me explain.

It is fair to say that 3:45 a.m. comes early even for those who get the worm on a regular basis. The mind is just not the sharpest before the sun comes up. This morning was no different. Nonetheless, we did our best to gather our senses and stumble through our otherwise daily routines.

Amazingly, we were right on time. I even made each of us a cup of coffee for the open road to that airway in the sky. About halfway down the highway my wife had a revelation. She had left her phone at home! What? Left her phone? How could this be? Despite the incredible urge to provide color commentary, I took a station break. I controlled my tongue! Besides, I had a tinge of empathy. What modern human could last five minutes without an electronic pacifier, let alone go a whole week without a peek or two at a flat screen?

At the next exit we whipped a u-turn and I put the hammer down. Thankfully, local law enforcement was checking on inventory at the corner donut shop as I rounded the intersection on two wheels. I rushed through our garage knocking down an array of handy-man necessities, leaped over the couch and pounced on her phone nestled quietly under a few of her favorite items from the makeup counter.

Like a pilot in a fighter jet, I jumped back in the cockpit, secured my seat, fired the after burners and propelled us back toward the interstate. We still had time so long as the friendly peace officers asked for a second cup of joe.

As we approached the on ramp, at near mach speed, it hit me like a punch in the gut. She had forgotten her phone but I had also left my travel bag sitting in the breeze way! What in the world is going on? I pumped the brakes. No, I locked them up! I looked in the rear view mirror and drove backwards out the on ramp. Oh yes I did! I shouldn’t have but we were desperate and my wife was more than white knuckled. She was about to pass out from the g-forces.

We two-wheeled back through the intersection. I leaped over the fallen tools in the garage, slid into the breeze way and hurdled dogs, laundry and kitchen counters to gain back seconds I knew mattered. Wind blown and traumatized, I greeted my copilot with a grin and we were off again!

I confess it was more than wrong but I sped through our neighborhood like the mouse in Nitendo’s Mario Cart. Impressive I might add. Had this been the actual video game I would have been way out ahead of the pack picking up a ton of bonus points along the way.

It would be a nail biter. But if we hit every green light, we could still make it on time. Let’s just say a few of those lights were on the amber side as we blew through. How exciting, no traffic accidents and no traffics tickets. No tickets? Wait. No tickets? Surely not. We grabbed the airplane tickets, right? Small panic but huge relief. We got this one right!

Once at cruising altitude my instrument panel gave a surprise greeting. Low fuel! Not no fuel but low fuel. I asked my copilot how far the navigation system, on her now handy cell phone, indicated it was to the airport. “Nine miles,” came the reply. With the confidence of a duck on water, I replied, “We should have just enough.”

With no time to spare and our fuel tank near zero we landed, yes I said landed, at the airport. I pumped the brakes. Slammed the vehicle in park and threw my wife and luggage to the curb. Trust me, she was grateful!

As I did a donut of my on in the airport parking lot I couldn’t help but smile and be just a little bit proud. We had not only arrived on time, we arrived in one piece without a cross word between us.

Lesson learned? The jury is hung on that one. Time will tell but I think I’m heading in the right direction even if I may have forgotten a thing or two.

I had been focusing on the later part of the verse from the book of James. If I could control my tongue I could control anything. Perhaps the key to achieving this character quality is in the first part of the passage. When we recognize we all make mistakes, holding our tongues becomes a little easier, mercy comes a whole lot easier and like cops prone to preoccupation, we are extended an extra measure of grace!

Did I mention that after boarding the plane the captain made an announcement that our flight would be delayed. We couldn’t help but smile. After all we had been through, biting our tongues and extending a little mercy and grace came natural. I have to admit that it entered my mind that if I the captain should need suggestions on how to make up some time, I had an idea or two. Besides, after all I had been through, I had earned my wings! It was time to fly!

13 Jan

A suit for strong personality

Why is it that in nearly every aspect of life strength is a strong suit. We want strong bodies, strong teams, strong buildings, strong countries, strong character, strong leaders and strong resolves yet mention a strong personality and it is often viewed as a weak trait.

We tend to put strong personality into the same category as strong winds, strong breath and strong odor.

Strong personalities are like onions and garlic. A little bit goes a long way. They make other things taste better but by themselves, well, they are just way too strong! In essence, too much of a good thing is bad.

Less of me and more of you is what is needed in the salad bowl and the sandwich shop we call conversations in life.

People are like fruits and vegetables. Together they make beautiful culinary things. By themselves and with too much of any one thing, and your palate grows weary and your taste buds wane.

Who doesn’t like watermelon, avocado, bananas or strawberries? Truth is, there are a lot of folks that not only despise them, they are allergic to them! We sometimes forget that onions and garlic aren’t the only portions of the pie that have limits.

We’ve heard them all. It is too sour, too sweet, too tart, too mild, too coarse, too slimy, too hot, too cold, too bland, and you guessed it, too strong!

It helps knowing when your contribution to the overall dish is needed. Sometimes it’s a dash of this or a dash of that. Rarely is it a lot of any one thing.

Embrace who you are while embracing the other fruits and nuts in the salad bowl! Even cabbage and celery have a place in the kitchen. What is good Italian food without plenty of garlic? Onion burgers have a huge following but not everyone’s tastes are the same, nor should they be.

You be you and let them be them and when it is your time to shine, flip on the switch. Otherwise wait your turn in line and be ready to contribute your unique traits and qualities at the appropriate time.

08 Nov

Wait a minute, update in progress!

Has your life become sluggish? Are you experiencing more frustration than usual? Are things more or less just clunking along? 

Perhaps it’s time for a spiritual software update.

Being still before the Lord is like downloading the latest and greatest iPhone software, it fixes bugs and makes other improvements to our operating systems. 

In order to succeed at an effective download we have to stop, be still and focus on the update.

The same is true for a spiritual software update. When we get still before the Lord he downloads new thoughts and insights certain to refresh our spirit, fix glitches and make other enhancements in our spiritual operating system.

What is the key to a great update? Being still long enough to download the necessary upgrades.

The iPhone requires that the phone be solely focused on the system update. There are no exceptions. The phone is basically inoperable while the update is in progress. 

In order to be filled with our spiritual update we too must be still and completely yielding to the download the Lord is giving. No interruptions or distractions are allowed if our upgrade is to be a success.

Rest assured, if we want the latest and greatest the Lord has to offer, we will be required to slow down, hit pause and be still before the Lord as he downloads all he has to offer in our walk with Jesus.

Knowing your spiritual operating system is up to date makes everything operate and run more smoothly.

What are you waiting for? Maybe it’s time to wait a minute as the update makes progress! 

03 Nov

Don’t miss in the mess

Jacob was on the run and ran right into God!

His life was a mess. Bad choices left him to living on the run.

Nonetheless God met him where he was at and spoke encouragement into his circumstances.

God has 4 things for us as well:

1. Blessing (expect the best)

2. Companionship (he is with us)

3. Protection (there will be danger)

4. Safe return (we will make it)

God’s got this!

“What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭28:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

And then verse 16 …

“Then “____________” awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭28:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

YUP! God is at work in all the mess! 

Don’t miss Him in the mess!!!!