It’s one of the most familiar phrases in the English language. It carries power to change circumstances, shift world views and even shape nations. It is known by people from age 2 to 102 and usually elicits a similar response regardless of the age. It is spoken in houses, schools, universities, churches and countless venues by moms, dads, teachers, statesmen, clergy and the like. Although timeless, it grounds itself in a particular place and time to convey truth and experience in the most powerful medium of communication the world has ever known. And the phrase is simply this, “once upon a time…” We sometimes see variations of this phrase and we understand that what follows will be still be a story worth hearing i.e. “in the beginning…”, “I remember when…”, “Did I ever tell you about the time…”.

But what is it about a story that gives it such power? As alluded to earlier, story has the ability to transform the world. I think we have to consider what a story is meant to accomplish. Stories are somehow coming alongside our human experience to speak of a shared human experience that resulted in some new way of understanding the world. The root of the word story even comes from from the Latin word historia, so you can see how there is some necessary expectation behind what a story is meant to convey. Consider the person of Jesus for a moment. Whenever he was attempting to introduce a new understanding of the Torah or of the world, He would usually begin like this, “There was a man who had two sons…” (Luke 15:11) or “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho...” (Luke 10:30). It’s almost as if he understood the power of a story to challenge preconceived notions of the way things are supposed to be.

Now many of you might not consider ourselves to be storytellers. I am sure many of you have friends who are great storytellers but might not feel so gifted. The thing is though, we all have stories to tell. We have all had experiences that have shaped our lives and shaped our worldview differently. We all have lived storied lives. We just need to find ways to tell our stories better knowing that they can, and more than likely will, effect the hearers. In his short eBook, How To Tell a Story, Donald Miller reveals his structure for how to tell a story. “A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a comedy or tragedy”* I think the power in this structure for us is to see ourselves as the main character in our life’s events and then finding a way to relate it to others through those lenses. For many of us who follow Christ our problems are often aided by others in the church or through Christ himself. The challenge for us is to realize how much of an impact our story could have for someone else. Paul puts it this way in II Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Our stories have power; power to comfort, power to transform, power to help, power to heal. May we find meaning in our stories and find ourselves willing to share them with the world around us today.



I enjoy riding my bike. When I say that I need you to understand this is a bicycle and not a motorcycle (evidently those terms can be synonymous). The tricky part about my bike riding habits was that for the most part this was an early morning activity. That being said, as it began to get darker earlier (roughly around late June) my riding started to be come a bit more difficult. In fact, roughly around mid-August I gave up my riding so that I wouldn’t injure myself or any number of early morning walkers around the UTPB trail. However, about a week ago I purchased a bike light and all of a sudden my world changed. Welcome back early morning bike rides.

I set out on Monday morning of this week around 5:30 AM for what was sure to be an amazing ride. And I thought that this would be about as easy as driving a car with headlights…boy was I in for a shock. Imagine driving a car with a single headlight that lights up about as much as the width of your car only. Sounds tricky, right? It took me quite a while to get used to this. I am sure it greatly improved others being able to see me, but I really had to focus on being able to see the things in front of me (especially when there were no street lights). In fact, any time I took my focus away from that point of light it made it that much more difficult to get adjusted again. I found though, as I was able to maintain my focus ahead I enjoyed the bike ride all the more and was free to ride once again in the early morning hours.

This past week for me has kind of been a bit like an early morning bike ride. In life, I think that for many of us, it is easy to get overwhelmed by our to-do lists. Whether it is job related, family related, ambition or future plan related, etc. life can be quite a lot to deal with at times. Even in ministry one can get overwhelmed by the to-do’s of running a church or para-church program. And I will let you in on a secret…pastors struggle with stress just as much as non-pastors do. But in the midst of the heaviness of this particular week I was reminded of my bike ride. As long as I was able to focus on that point of light, I was enjoying the ride. Sure there were other things about the ride to worry about, like hitting a rabbit or a pedestrian. But as long as I was focused on that light those other things became part of the background. I was reminded of the verse from Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The “all that” Jesus is referring to? The stuff of life. The to-do lists. The stuff that if we are not careful can rob us of our true focus; God’s Kingdom. So if you find yourself overwhelmed with the to-do’s of life today…stop. Take a breath and ask yourself, ‘Am I following after God’s Kingdom first?’ If you are, then I think you will start to see the other things fall into place behind your true focus.


It was a little over three weeks ago when he stumbled into our church. I say that because he really wasn’t in the best of shape and had trouble walking. But he came and I greeted him in the normal fashion and gave him a visitor’s packet and told him it was nice to have him in church. It was a different kind of Sunday as we had a special speaker and at the end when we had an altar call Daniel came forward. I went down to pray with him and he confessed that he hadn’t been in church in probably about twenty years. We then prayed together for his re-commitment to Christ and to following after Him. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a new friendship for me.

I saw Daniel a couple of more times that week as he attended our Sunday evening Bible study and our Wednesday night gathering. I came to find out he was proficient in Biblical Hebrew although we was self taught…who teaches themselves Hebrew? He was very Biblically knowledgeable, but he had also had negative experiences with the church before, so he was a little gun shy about getting involved. Daniel also struggled with self worth because of his health issues and had several struggles because of that. But I reassured him that at our church that wasn’t something that we based your value on and we were excited to join with him on his journey of restoration and wholeness in Christ.

Another week went by and occasionally I would get calls from Daniel. Wanting to talk or see if he was doing ok with church (he honestly wanted to make sure he was doing it correctly). He was even worried about the sharing he did at our Sunday night Bible study when he floored us all by reminding us that we relate the love of Christ better to one another out of our brokenness instead of our piety (perhaps he should have been the one leading the group). One night he called around the time I was putting the kids to bed, and even though I was tired, I took his call anyway. He was having a pretty rough day and he referenced an illustration I had used in church about needing God, but needing someone with ‘skin on’. Without really thinking about it I got his address, drove over to his house and when he answered the door I gave him the biggest hug I could muster (it might have even gotten awkward). But then we spent almost an hour just talking about life, philosophy, music and more. I think he was surprised to learn that his pastor was familiar with punk bands from the 90s. We even talked about his upcoming baptism as he had requested to be baptized after coming back to Christ.

Unfortunately he missed our next Wednesday and Sunday because he had gotten sick and then Sunday afternoon he called to apologize for his absence. We talked a bit as I was preparing my Sunday evening study on the book of Daniel, his namesake. We even made plans for his baptism and he had made peace with the idea of pouring for his Baptism as our baptistery would not have been very accessible for him. We talked a little bit about his health and weight and I reminded him that his worth was not determined by those things, but by who God saw in him and the journey he was beginning anew with Christ. After a while I assured him that we would look towards doing a Baptism service in a couple of weeks and then we got off the phone.

The next day of the week is one I always look forward to as it is my day off. While the rest of the world hates Mondays, I love them. I am never able to sleep in so I usually have my morning coffee by 6 AM at the latest. As I was finishing up my coffee the phone rang and I saw it was Daniel’s number. But when I answered…it wasn’t Daniel. It was his mother and I sat there numbly listening as she explained that Daniel had had a heart attack the night before and had passed away early that morning. I tried to summon up the correct pastoral response for her, but I was just floored and immediately sick at my stomach…I’m sure I said something like, “I’m so sorry…let us know if we can do anything…” But I know it wasn’t enough.

I found myself going to the shower and just weeping. Why? Why so soon? God he was making changes. He was going to be better. He was going to do better. He was going to be my friend.

And honestly I don’t have any answers. I know he wasn’t in good health and I understand how human biology works and what had taken place. And in my spiritual frame of reference I know Daniel is now made whole before his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that one day I will see him again as God has always seen him. But I miss him. And I wish I had more time. I still do.

So hug your friends. Kiss your spouse and kids. And know that this life is short and we never know what tomorrow may bring.

free hugs

The year was 2005…at least I think it was. And my wife and I were attending a youth conference in good ‘ol Nashville, TN. We were returning to the exhibit hall after lunch and had some take-out from the restaurant with us when we saw a homeless man on the sidewalk. I approached him and asked him if he might like my half-sandwich and fries and he was very grateful for it and then he asked if he might give us a hug. How could we refuse him? He then proceeded to hug my wife and I for no less than 3 or 4 minutes. It really was rather uncomfortable for the both of us…my wife really isn’t a hugger. But there we were, caught up in this embrace that for a moment made us feel incredibly uncomfortable, incredibly vulnerable and incredibly human. We both came away wondering how long it had been since that man had received any human contact and it floored both of us to think that it might have been ages since he received a hug.

I don’t know how many of you reading this frequent concerts and/or musical festivals. I myself really enjoy them, I just can’t always afford to go. But there was this weird phenomena that started to occur around the turn of the millennium that kind of creeped me out at first. You would see people walking around with signs that simply read ‘free hugs’. And people would walk up to them or visa versa and receive a free hug. Sometimes these would be full on huge embraces and other-times quick little side hugs but it just seemed to me to be the weirdest thing until I understood the power of an embrace.

You see, there is this amazing focal point in the Christian story that is central to who we are that I think we miss sometimes. The writer of the book of John puts it this way, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:14 The most basic and fundamental truth of the good news that we as Christians base our entire existence around is that God became like us and lived with us to show us love. Divine love was best exhibited by God putting on flesh and living among us. We have a fancy word for this in the church and that word is ‘incarnation’. The greatest way that God knew to show us his amazing love and grace was to put on flesh and live with us…be with us…share space with us…

This morning I was given a simple reminder of the power of a hug. Without word, warning or invitation my 5-yr-old daughter walked up and gave me a big hug. In that moment I was reminded of the fact that there is something so powerful and assuring about the touch and presence of another. I reminded our church last week of our role as “Christ’ ambassadors” in the world today and I think that if we truly ’embrace’ this calling we might find ourselves handing out a lot more hugs and being present with a lot more people. We really never know what people are going through, what kind of assurances or judgments they are receiving in life or what things are weighing heavy on them. And truthfully, you never know what a hug might do.


Last night a group of us at our church finished up a study on the book Love Does by Bob Goff. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it*) One of the main premises of the book is to think about life and love’s effect upon life differently. He even closes the book with an incredible chapter about a small idea that became a huge reality and eventually his life’s work and passion. My challenge at the close of our study was to brainstorm together some big ideas for the way our church could impact the community and world around us. Some of the ideas that we cam up with seemed relatively easy to accomplish. Some seemed like they might take a little bit of work. And a few even seemed nearly impossible…guess which one’s sparked my imagination the most?

Throughout the study on Love Does I have been introducing the participants to a certain internet personality. His name? Kid President. If you haven’t seen any of his YouTube videos stop reading this now and click on this link: Did you do it? Ok then, now we may proceed. The reason I enjoy Kid President so much and the reason I felt the need to add him to our discussion of Love Does is because he doesn’t see change and reshaping the world as an impossibility. It kind of reminds me of an encounter that took place in scripture. Jesus’ disciples were downcast because they had tried to tackle something all the while “knowing” they couldn’t do it. They had tried to heal a man’s son in their own power. Jesus response to them? “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20-21.

I think the tie-in for us is that we dream and have our world changing ideas bound up in our own power…which is just silly. Jesus says that with faith (that’s believing in who God is, what He says and what He can do) that we can move mountains, change the world, see God’s Kingdom come. We don’t have to bind our ideas and dreams based on our abilities but rather we let them loose based on God’s ability. We can dream bigger, live bigger, love bigger, change the world in bigger ways because of Him and who He is in us.

For the past eight months I have been learning what it means to be a Texan. One of the things that I knew Texas for prior to my arrival is that everything is bigger in Texas. I have seen bigger burgers, bigger bugs, bigger skys, and I’m getting ready to see bigger high school football games. But what I am really excited about? Seeing bigger dreams and bigger ideas for God’s Kingdom in this world. May we become the people who dream bigger knowing how big our God is.



I am a creature of habit. I know that this statement may strike many of you as a bit of a paradox. ‘But Andrew, you seem so spontaneous, so spirited’. And I thank you for those complements. But truth be told, I like to kind of have a steadiness about my schedule. And so this time of year can kind of drive me crazy. Here I am just truly getting settled into a lackadaisical summer schedule and boom; school starts again. Now all of a sudden my schedule gets shifted around my son’s transportation and homework and sleep schedule etc., etc.. And not only that, but I guess I thought it was a bright idea for me to start back to school as well…as if one of us in our household in school wasn’t enough (19th grade if anyone is counting). But needless to say this has caused me some weird undue stress and sometimes I don’t exactly know how to deal with it well.

One of the ways in which I try to deal with stress is by going to the gym (I now know some of you are smirking behind your computer or phone screens). But I do enjoy getting to work out…when I get to it. You see, sometimes when I go to the gym I don’t get much working out done. Instead I find myself getting interrupted by others in the midst of my routines. And I have come to love it (and not just because it is an excuse not to work out). I once heard someone say that ministry happens in the interruptions. And more and more I am beginning to see that this is the case. Why? Because when our routines/schedules are interrupted we become more aware of what is actually happening in the moment. Hebrews 13:1-2 says this, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I know many of us have read this verse before and I have always been tripped up by the ‘showing hospitality to angels’ part, but I’ve been doing some thinking about this. 

You see, most of the time our encounters, maybe I should say our true and real encounters with strangers are in the interruptions of life. When we are going through our routines and schedules very rarely do we actually have a true and real encounter. But when we allow space for interruptions, all of a sudden we find ourselves engaging others or being engaged by others. And as far as the ‘showing hospitality’/’being a friend to’ (this is what the Greek really means) to angels…well I have a different approach to this. In his essay The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis had this to say about our encounters with others. “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

So perhaps our interruptions have eternal effects. May you find yourself aware of those around you and allow Christ to shake up your schedule for the sake of another.

dangerous, deadly and doubt-full

My wife and I don’t have cable. In fact, we cut the cable a long time ago. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t necessarily enjoy TV, it just means we spend less and binge watch more thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. That being said Hulu recently ruined my life. In the last month they made the entirety of Seinfeld available for viewing. All of sudden man hands, the Soup Nazi, the sidler and a myriad of other characters were made available for my viewing pleasure once again. And in the midst of my binge watching I have begun to realize there was a lot more to these episodes than I originally thought. In fact, one of my favorites so far is called “The Opposite”. In this episode George Costanza decides that every decision he has made up to that point in his life has been the wrong decision and vows to then make the exact opposite decision of his initial leanings going forward. The result…his life all of a sudden becomes incredible. It really is an amazing episode.

These episodes have given me new ways to think about how they might relate to us in our Christian journey. There are quite a few things Jesus said while here on earth that I wrestle with. One of those verses goes something like this, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” – John 12:24-25 Death is not something I love thinking about, and yet here Jesus is reminding us the necessity of death for life. Unless a seed dies, there is no life. Unless I die there is no life. One of the things I have been ruminating on lately is what does that death look like in our world today. And I think it looks a lot like the death of certainty. Anne Lamont once said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. ..Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, and emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”

Confession; I am a recovering know-it-all. There was a time where I could tell you exactly who God was, what He wanted for my life and what He expected of your life with fearless certainty. But nowadays, I’m not so certain. Oh I am still confident of the fact that Jesus loves me and that God has and is redeeming all things unto himself. But the other details I think are best lived out in journeying with others. If I am dying to myself, to my certainty, to my comfort daily all of a sudden it leaves a lot more space for God and for others. And maybe that is where we all need to find ourselves from time to time. A little less certain and a lot more faithful.


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