How strong is your Core?

A Harvard article stresses why having a strong core is so important to our physical health. “Your core muscles are the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it.“It enhances balance and stability when playing sports. It makes a difference even with the simple things like getting out of bed, bending to put on shoes or scooping up a package. Quite frankly, a strong, flexible core underpins almost everything you do.

I am leading my Friday AM Knucklehead group of men through the book, Finishing Well by Bob Buford. In his conversation with Peter Drucker, they leave no doubt the importance knowing what is at our core in our spiritual lives as well. We to know what is at our core and continually work to strengthen it. Buford writes, We have to find our core to know who we are with the understanding that how we go about life springs from it. We need to take the time to figure out what ultimately drives us. Another definition is finding our true identity. Out of that comes a freedom to live your life without the need for recognition, praise, or fame for the good one does. Knowing and acknowledging what is at our core, frees us up to live life for the way we were created.

I believe our core identity starts with God. In my Valentine Day blog, I shared He loves us and created us to be in a relationship with Him. When we comes to grip with this Truth, we are freed up to stop chasing success but instead, strive for significance. No matter what age we come to this realization, we embark on the journey of finishing our lives well, This new identity establishes a new core for us. Where we start striving for Significance versus being wrapped up in our own success? We realize what matters most is loving God and then as Buford encourages, “go out knowing what we do impacts other people and will contribute to the spiritual and emotional health of the communities to which God calls us to serve”

I don’t know about you but I have work to do on my physical core. I don’t spend time each day doing what is needed to keep it sturdy even though, Harvard Health shares it is the central link in a chain connecting my upper and lower body. I can say the same for my spiritual core as well. I know my faith in God is what links my heart attitude with my words and actions. I need to do the same daily work in remembering my true core comes from God.

When I do, the fruit of His Spirit in me is produced; “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22-23 When my life is exhibiting those characteristics, I know that they spring from my identity in Christ and will create eternal significance rather than earthly success. It allows me to know what Jesus meant when He said in John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. I wish the same for you.

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We all think we know what we want, but do we?

Our move back to Charlottesville has given me the opportunity to become friends with many UVA coaches. One friendship resulted in my serving as a character coach for the UVA Men’s tennis team for four years. During that span they won 3 National Championships. Several coaches here have also led their teams to National Championships. When I talked with them after the excitement died down, each made a similar comment. They were surprised how quickly the high they felt in reaching the pinnacle of their profession, turned into a feeling of “Is that it”? Each of them spoke of being discouraged because, the exuberant feeling they had worked so hard to achieve, only lasted for a very short period of time. For those of us who have never had that kind of success, we might wonder how that could happen. The answer is quite simple…….

Although they had a worthy goal, it did not fill the void that has been created in each of us. The void that can only be filled with God. St, Augustine explained it this way. “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you (Confessions 1.1). When we seek to fill our hunger for God with anyone or anything but God, no matter the success, we are left wanting for more.” It is like the childhood toy that is a ball or a box that has different shapes cut out.

The goal is to find the shapes and fit them through the appropriate shape until they are all inside. No matter what achievement or great relationship with someone, it will never allow you to fulfill your true purpose in life and as Augustine teaches, your heart will remain restless.

Jim Denison made this point when writing about the great sportscaster Vin Scully after he died this past week. “You may not be as legendary as Vin Scully in the eyes of society, but your soul matters to God as much as if you were the only person who had ever lived. His Spirit is ready to fill the “infinite abyss” that only he can fill.” We need to stop chasing what is only temporal and focus on the things that only God can provide us.

The Lord is our strength, He directs our lives, and He is our deliverer. There is no substitute for our need of the Lord. Our tendency is to live life our way without looking to Him. We may experience temporary and short lived happiness but as Psalms 1:4 reminds us,

“it is like chaff that dries up and the wind blows away.” Proverbs 17:3 says this about where our purpose lies. “The crucible is used to test the purity of silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

What will God find when He tests your heart? The world’s successes and blessings are great but the reward of His presence on earth and the eternal glory to come, is our true life’s purpose, unlike the feeling of a National Championship, will never disappear.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”  Fredrick Buechner

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What golf teaches us about life?

Justin Thomas took home the Wannamaker trophy as the 2022 PGA Champion. Many experts thought Scottie Scheffler would be the winner but he missed the cut meaning he didn’t get to play over the weekend. It is often said, ”that is why they play the game”. Others would say, ”It just wasn’t his week”. Another friend remarked, ”You can prepare well but you can’t control the variables.”

Last week, I wrote about how the first three verses on Psalms 23. Here is the link if you don’t subscribe (which I hope you will 😀) or missed it. We must first acknowledge that the Lord is our shepherd who does not want us to want for anything. Golf like Life is hard and times can be tough at times. Therefore, God makes us rest and provides times of peace so that we can strive to walk the paths of righteousness with our souls refreshed. Why? Because the circumstances of life will come which we won’t have control of the outcome. That is when we must be able to trust that our Shepherd or a caddy/coach for a golfer is there to protect, provide comfort, and lead us out of the adversity that has come our way.

Each golfer has a yardage book for every course on which they play. It shows the exact distance to every place on each hole This book helps the player hit the right shot so that it avoids any hazard that has been placed between the tee and the green. The more the golfer plays a course, the more notes are written so they can better understand the best way to achieve success. The bible is our yardage book for life. The more we read it and take notes on what it teaches for each life situation, the better we will know how to live life well. When we are challenged we can choose to trust and not fear. We can find peace and comfort knowing God is with us whether walking by still waters or facing the valley of the shadow of death.

Believe it or not John 11:44 can provide a golf and life lesson at the same time as well. The well known story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, ends with Jesus saying to his friends and family, “now take off his dead clothes off so he can go home.” You see, Lazarus arms and legs were bound to his body so he couldn’t free himself without others help. In golf, there might be a few things that hinder you from hitting the ball properly. We need others who we trust to help us correct our mechanics allowing our swing to be freed up to hit the proper shot. Jesus teaches that we need others to help us live our lives well. Yes, we have the yardage book called the bible but it was not a mistake that He sent the disciples out in twos. We need others to encourage us so we can be free to live the life God intended for each of us. We also desire folks who have our best interests in mind to help us correct our life mechanics so we can become the best version of ourselves.

Let’s all go out this week asking others to help us take off the things that restrain us from living the way God intends for us to live. Let’s also be willing to be that trusted friend who helps strip away things that keeps someone from living their best life.

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Sometimes, it is better to just listen

It has been a wild week. So many things coming at me from so many different directions. God spoke to me in such amazing ways through scripture and via folks much smarter and stronger in their faith than me. Each one came just at the right time. They lifted me up and helped me navigate the challenges and stressful situations that were on my calendar. I share them with you hoping that they will help you in the same way they helped me.

Henri Nouwen wrote: “I really want to encourage you not to despair, not to lose faith, not to let go of God in your life, but stand in your suffering as a person who believes that she is deeply loved by God. When you look inside yourself, you might sometimes be overwhelmed by all the brokenness and confusion, but when you look outside toward him who died on the cross for you, you might suddenly realize that your brokenness has been lived through for you long before you touched it yourself.”

David wrote Psalms 3 after he ran away when Absalom declared himself King. It is appropriated called the morning song. “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him. But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

Isaiah 55:9-11 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it”

If you have taken the time to read what came my way this week, I hope you too will go into this coming week knowing God is with you and meets you no matter what circumstances your facing. To face these extremely challenging times, you first need to know who you are and where your identity lies. My identity is in Christ and the way Carol Wimmer describes what that means is how I will end this week’s blog.

“I am a Christian”

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,”
Now I’m found and forgiven.

When I say…”I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
and need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
and need HIS strength to carry on.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
and need God to clean my mess.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
but, God believes I am worth it.

When I say… “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain,
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say… “I am a Christian” I’m not holier than thou, I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow.”

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Were your Christmas expectations met?

Did you get the present you really wanted? Did people’s faces light up your gift to them? Unfortunately, many times we are disappointed by what we receive or see that what you gave wasn’t what they wanted. I am not sure why but this has been a struggle for me since I was a little boy. I can remember the sadness I felt when the gifts were all unwrapped and I hadn’t gotten what I wanted. Even then, I knew it was selfish and that made me feel worse. It was like my identity or how I was loved was measured in what had been given to me. As a parent, I tried to make sure my kids got exactly what they wanted because I remembered how I felt as a child. It bummed me out when I could see that I had missed the mark with my gift. Again, I realized the unmet expectation feelings that arose were selfish. Yes, I wanted the kids or my wife to be happy but I also wanted to feel the happiness too. Maybe that is why I love Thanksgiving because you don’t have the pressure of presents. 😀

As I have journeyed through Advent with you, I wrote what the four candles in the wreath represent. If you are new to my blog, you can scroll back to the previous posts on Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. Yesterday the tallest candle placed appropriately in the in the middle of the wreath shined brightly. It represents what Christmas is all about. The true present, the Light of the world, yes, Jesus Christ.

I read in a devotion this week that “One must understand the larger storyline of Scripture—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration to identify this baby in Bethlehem as the Christ child. Jesus is the eternal Son of God who was born, lived, died, and praise God was resurrected so that we might have eternal life. Without Jesus dying on a Cross and coming back to life there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas. And yet………………..

Like me at Christmas, many people in Jesus’ day, were disappointed with the gift God gave them. There expectations were not meant. They thought His description in Isaiah 9:6 (“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” meant something very different.

It is still true today isn’t it? As the song says, “we continue to look for love in all the wrong places” We wallow in the world of “if only” (fill in the blank) If only I had_____, If only I could____, If only this would____,If only this hadn’t____ and therefore our expectations are never met and we continually find ourselves disappointed and discontent. If that is you or someone you know, the greatest Christmas present I can share is that God loves you and through His Son, has made it possible for you to be in a relationship with Him. He created you and therefore knows how your life is meant to be lived. When we live it His way, He promises to dry every tear, care for every sorrow, and meet our every expectation. That is why they say “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you can find your identity in the One who created you and wants us to Remain Thankful in all Things! When we do, like Mercy me sings, We can only imagine!

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Facing our own mortality.

When did you first begin to deal with your own mortality. We all know we will die one day. It is just something most of us don’t want to think or talk about. Getting older didn’t really impact me until I hit 60. Folks talk about 60 being the new 40 but let’s be honest, I was still 60 meaning I had lived more years than I had left to live. How do you figure that out. Take your current age and double it. If the result is over 100, well …………….😀 Death has been on my mind more often recently. One, because I have had several folks pass away recently. If this is your first time reading my blog, I wrote about my Season of Sadness a few weeks ago. The second reason is I lead a discussion group of men who asked me to lead them through a time where we openly talked about this topic. We are reading Henri Nouwen’s book, “Our Greatest Gift, A Meditation of Dying and Caring” In it he shares, “Dying and death can often bring fear. But the experience of dying and caring for the dying can become the deepest experience of love. Nouwen encourages us to ask: ‘How can my death become fruitful in the lives of others?’ Ultimately, it is the greatest gift we have to offer.”

How can both of these men see death as the greatest gift we have to offer? My experience while suffering from Guillain Barre Syndrome pails in comparison to Tim Keller, my friends who have passed away from cancer, or in John Allen’s case, Parkinson’s. I can say however, that laying in a hospital bed unable to move reveals the depth of your faith. I was totally dependent on others and felt my need for God and the Hope He promises in ways I never had to before. I understood what He meant when He said, like a branch cling to the vine or have your house built on a firm foundation rather than sand so that you can weather the storm. http://Build your house on the rock niv As awful as it was, I never want to forget that experience because it brought me closer to God. I felt His peace and presence in inexplicable ways. Henri Nouwen explains it as being brought into the core of your very existence. It happens when you allow yourself or have something happen that moves you from an outer silence or solitude into the inner silence where one’s reason for being is found. Many of us never take the time or are uncomfortable with just being with ourselves with no distractions. It takes some sort of health crisis or losing someone we love to take us into the place of understanding our own mortality. I write to encourage you to take time to come to grips with the fact that you will die one day. By doing so, you can live in a way like the Kellers who do not take one single day for granted. It will lead you from “the already” to the promise of the “not yet”. In that place, we can be assured death doesn’t have to be terrible as it is not an ending but just as with birth, a new beginning. That place where Jesus went to prepare a place for you and me. That way, as Father Nouwen exhorts us, “when it is our time, our death will give new life, new hope, and a new hope to our friends and family. Instead of it producing sadness, it will allow others to find our greatest gift.” The joy of celebrating a life well lived. May your Joy be made full and may you experience abundant life God promises for those who find their way to Him.

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Why are we never satisfied.

A friend sent me this Instagram post the other day. I found it quite helpful as I was trying to put my finger on what was creating a restless spirit within me. Christine goes on to say she “doesn’t want to grieve over things properly because she doesn’t want to feel sad.” She holds back from boldly stepping forward in her faith because of the question, “what if tomorrow isn’t doable?” I find it disturbing that I can be rock solid in my faith one day. Trusting and being perfectly content as I abide in Christ. While the next, finding myself asking the questions “Why me?” “Why not me?” because of the circumstances occurring in my life. It leaves me frustrated that I can’t live each day in the abundance that Jesus promises in John 10:10. Needless to say it can lead me out of the attitude of being thankful in all things. 😀🤦🏻 I find solace in the fact that the Apostle Paul experienced the same frustrations. He writes in Romans 7:15 “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Even he obviously, as we all do, had “those days.”

So what do we do to combat the darkness of a defeatist attitude that comes our way? God says we are to look for the light that pierces the darkness so that we can find our way out. He says His Word is to be “a lamp upon our feet and a light unto our path. Psalm 119:105 and of course Amy Grant made it a hit song. Believe it or not, Buffalos set an example for us as they run toward storms versus away so that they only are impacted by the storm for a shorter period of time. As Rory Vaden says in this blog, it takes everything out of us when we try to out run the storm. We ultimately tire and give up. No instead, we need to run to God asking him as the disciples did in Mark 4:35-41 After Jesus calmed the storm, He chastised them for having such little faith which leads me back to Christine’s IG post. For us to live a life of Joy, we have to be confident that God is indeed with us and wants what is best for us.
She writes, “This idea reminds me of my morning star.
He waits for me. He’s gentle with me. He speaks tenderly to me in the dark, calling me ( like the buffalos 😀) forward to more of him and more of whom I meant to be.”

Lord, let us run toward versus away from the storm knowing You are with us.

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To what are you being held hostage?

My pastor shared a story about saving a goose who had gotten entangled with some fishing line. He knew the goose was in trouble but couldn’t see why until he dove into the water. I learned two lessons as he shared.
It may not be fishing lines but, like the goose, there are things that restrict us from living our lives to the fullest. Look at your life. Is it all you want it to be? If not, what holds you back? Is it lack of confidence, fear, mistrust or like Romans 12:2 says, are you conforming to the world versus experiencing what God wants for your life. We may not even see what holds us back. Like my pastor did I helping the goose, we need others to help identify what is holding us back and then aid us with removing it. The scripture that comes to mind is when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. If you read the story, Lazarus comes out of the tomb bound in dead clothes meaning his arms and legs were wrapped in material. Jesus speaks to his family/friends next saying “now take his dead clothes off so that he can go home.” The same thing happens when four friends bring a paralyzed man to Christ for healing. I love that Jesus heals the man because of the faith of the four friends. This passage brought new meaning to me during my fight with Guillain Barre Syndrome. There were so many people who faithfully prayed for my recovery. I am certain my extraordinary recovery was enhanced because of the faithfulness of others.
Whether on your own or with the help in others, ask God to help you shed all that keeps you from the abundant life promised in John 10:10. Think about it. Lazurus came out of the grave bound in grave clothes. He had been raised from the dead. Like the four guys with their now walking friend, Jesus says to the families and friends, now take his grave clothes off so he can go home! Be encouraged. Today is the day you let go of what is holding you back. You are a new creation! Go out out and live that way 😀😀

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Simple lessons learned from a sunrise.

Last week I was blessed to spend several days at the beach. For those who follow me on Facebook,, you saw the post showing I enjoyed every sunrise while I was there. The last morning my mind clicked in on how a sunrise teaches me to begin and live out the day that it starts. Taking in all what comes with a sunrise (attach video) brought a fresh perspective of my morning routine. Side note, if you need one check out Glenn Lundy’s Morning 5. The Morning 5 | Glenn Lundy
I am sure what I will write here came from earlier in the week reading a devotional and then writing about how we need to be ready to be replenished every day so that we can be the best version of ourselves. Last week I learned from a simple cup of coffee (if you missed it click here I have a Code to Life, what is yours? – Thankful in all Things)and this week how I am to live is more clearly focused as I think about sunrises and what they teach us.
First, there is something special about getting up early. If you don’t, you miss the beauty of a new day dawning. You also realize that you are amongst a select few that make the effort to greet and get ready for whatever God has in store for you. I have found rushing into the day without settling into it first, makes for more frenetic day no matter what is on the schedule. It allows us to remain in the quiet presence of God even as we enter the noise of our schedule. I love the Martin Luther quote when he was asked how do you prepare for the busiest of days? While most of us rationalize spending less time w God because of our schedule, he answered, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
Second, I watched as people walked or ran along the beach without stopping to take in the beauty the God of the Universe was creating. How many times throughout the day are we just so busy, so tunnel visioned, that we miss opportunities that present themselves right in front of us. Wow! Why be up early and down on the beach and not stop to experience all that moment in time has to offer.
Finally, it reminds me of the way the Lord allows me to reset each and every day. No matter how I may have messed up or failed at something yesterday, the sun rising shows me that it is a new day and out of the darkness will once again come the light. That I am free to confess whatever I did wrong or how I might have let someone else down. When I do, the God who sends the sun each and every morning will forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness so that I might be renewed. (1John 1:9) That way, I can move forward into the day thankful for all things but most importantly for the God who loves me and you.
Jesus, thanks for coming to live amongst us so that we can learn that it is not about being religious but about a personal relationship with God because of you. Thank you that you give us that opportunity. As we watch our next sunrise, may each of us decide to renew ourselves in you. Like the sunrise creates a new day, create us more and more into your image so that we might take advantage of what you want to do in their lives. I summed up last week in this way
A week of sun rises has come and gone, 

A great way to start each day enjoying the break. 

The consistency of it and the waves coming in/going out,

Shows me what my life should be about. 

Reflecting first on God’s work in my life

and then when it’s time stepping out to bring peace not strife. 

Let me serve you Lord in all that I do 

Let my actions toward others show that I love You.

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Musings on a snowy day

What is it about a snow day? Where I live in Charlottesville, VA, snow days are a big deal. Everyone talks about it for days before and things shut or slow down during and after the event for a couple of days. Part of the attraction is that sometimes because of the mountains to our west and the Atlantic Ocean not far to our east, it goes around us and doesn’t happen at all. We got one today 😀

Watching the snow fall early and into the morning, I relished it’s beauty and the way it brings a fresh look to my usual perspective. The view from in front of my house or off the back deck is the same. (see below) Yet, it has been changed by the newly made winter wonderland. What came to mind is that it is only temporary. It is exciting and allows us to enjoy something new but pretty soon it melts away and the view is back to what it was before. The deer poop in the back yard is still there. It is just under the white blanket that will soon go away.

This is true about our lives as well. How many times do we try or do new things hoping they (like the snow over the deer poop) will cover up what is really bothering us? Interestingly, what deer leave behind can be harmful to your yard if not removed. The same can be said if we don’t deal with what causes stress and worry in our lives. It just spreads and causes more damage. If we are to remain thankful in all things, we need to find what brings us our purpose and our joy. Only then can we fight the circumstances that want to rob us of that very thing.
Paul David Tripp says it this way. “Looking to creation to do for us what it was not meant to do will not only disappoint us, it will enslave us, and for that there is rescuing grace.  We need to be constantly pointed toward the One who alone is able to satisfy the longing of our hearts.” What the world has to offer us is like the snow. It is temporal and will melt away leaving us disappointed and once again, yearning for something more.
Most of us know the Latin phrase, carpe diem, meaning “seize the day.” What we all need though is Coram Deo which is Integrity found when men and women live their lives knowing they were created to be in a relationship with God. A Ligonier ministry writer said it this way. “It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.” What it is not is a life that continues to be disappointed as it goes from one experience or snow day to another hoping to find happiness.
The good news is that God makes it all possible. He desires to be in a relationship with us and says the darkness of our imperfections are made as white as freshly fallen snow. Isaiah 1:18. James 4:8, says “if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us” and when we do we can have that snow day experience exclaiming “new every morning, new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”

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