A Contribution to the World As Unique As You Are

Psalm 119:73  Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.

Last week, our family went to see the new movie, The Greatest Showman. We had heard some positive things about it and thought that we would give it a try for ourselves.  And I’d have to say, in my opinion, it did not disappoint.  While it was not a perfect family movie, it was a great movie, with a fantastic message.  

One of the most notable things about the movie was how the great showman, P.T. Barnum, brought unique individuals together who were outcasts of society, and he brought out hidden talents in each of them that the world had refused to give a chance.  And each person’s contribution to the circus was as unique as they were.  


And in life, it is much the same way.  David said in Psalm 119:73 that not only did God “make us” (create us), He also “fashioned us” (made us uniquely individual).  When David spoke in Psalm 139:16 of being “fearfully and wonderfully made”, I don’t believe that he was referring to a Christian cookie cutter assembly line.  

We are all created by God, but each of us have been created with individual talents and traits that the world has never yet seen outside of us.  And as a result, our calling, our purpose, and our contribution to the cause of Christ are to be as unique as we are.

And this is true for our children as well and why it is important to remember that no two children are exactly the same, nor should they be expected to be.

Just as every child in your family and mine is completely unique in their own way, their very calling and contribution in life is as unique as their personality and fingerprints are.  So we need to be very careful in comparing our children to each other, or even to other people’s children.  Our job is to nurture and raise each individual child that God has placed into our care by helping them become the person that God has created them, and only them, to be.  

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child is the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. 


We could certainly take this beyond the realm or our children and into many other areas of life as well.

This principle is the same reason why no two churches, pastors, families, individual Christians, or ministries are exactly the same or should be identical.  Yes, we all should hold to the same core Biblical beliefs, but no, we are not to be twins in the way that we operate our lives or ministries. 

God never intended for us as Christians or ministries or families to be in competition with one another or to simply replicate one another. While we should be all about sharing ideas and learning from others, there is no “copy and paste” button with God. We are each uniquely created for a unique calling and contribution. Yes, we need our similarities, but we actually thrive in our diversities. 

God created each of us to be uniquely individual – an expression of the amazing creativity of our awesome God.  That means that the way that we see things is different.  The way that we do things is different.  And the way that we carry out God’s calling in our lives is often unique to each of us.


Surprisingly, there is great unity in our diversity.  And in some ways, there is even greater unity in our diversity than there is in our similarities, because God has called each and every one of us as Christians, parents, pastors, and laymen to do something for Him that is as unique as we are.  He has called us to fill a role, raise a child, build a church, operate a ministry, or reach a specific group of people in a way that no one else could.  Because we each have a custom fit calling that no one else can perfectly squeeze into. 

And as a result:

  • No two families will be identical in the way they function, and neither should they be. 
  • No two ministries will be exactly alike, neither should they be. 
  • No two Christian will agree on every detail of how they practically carry out their walk with Christ, and that’s okay.

Yes, we all have the Bible to guide us in general things that will never change, but we also have each been given the Holy Spirit to guide us in a uniquely personal way on a level that can never be mass produced or duplicated. (I Corinthians 2:9-13, 12:4-11)

For example, 4 years ago, I started this blog to fill a need that God had impressed upon my heart to fill – to provide practical tips and tools to parents and leaders to effectively reach the next generation.  To my knowledge, there was no one in our circles doing what I felt that God was specifically calling me to do – be a voice through this avenue for the next generation. And as a result, this ministry/blog has become a unique expression of God’s design for the family.  In fact, it’s as unique I am (and that’s pretty unique, just ask my family.)

I love what my friend, Martin Van Tilborgh, shared in his book, Unboxed. He said, “God is not looking for uniformity! He’s looking for diversity. He is looking for an expression of His manifold wisdom through each and every individual in a unique way… When we all realize that what I have to bring to the table is unique to me, I keep myself from trying to become someone (or something) else… It’s all about giving birth to the very thing that God created you to give birth to. Something so unique that it doesn’t have a point of reference anywhere else. Nobody else ever gave birth to what you are supposed to give birth to through your life.” 

Wow… Those are definitely some great thoughts to chew on.  

As we enter a new year, I’m asking God to show me what unique things He wants to do in and through me concerning my family, ministry, and personal walk with Him.  Would you join me? 

Jeremiah 33:3  Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

What kind of contribution did God create you to make in His world that is as uniquely designed as you are?  Are you making it?  In your ministry, in your home, in your children?  I dare you, ask God what it is, and watch Him reveal it to you.  It might just surprise you.

5 Dangerous Misconceptions Every Church Staff Needs to Mentally Avoid

Faulty ways of thinking that keep us from maximum effectiveness 

Having served in the full-time ministry for the last 16 years, I can relate to the struggles and challenges that ministers often face.  I understand that it can be very easy for life and ministry to quickly mesh into one, and not always in a good way.  And if you’re not intentional, one’s spiritual and family life can often suffer because the “work of the ministry” begins consuming and controlling your life.

There is also a real danger that as pastors and staff, we can easily become good at thinking about ministry in all the wrong ways.  It’s often not even on purpose, but before you know it, we are subconsciously taking on one or more of these faulty ways of thinking about ministry.

Here are 5 dangerous misconceptions every staff person needs to mentally avoid:

  1. Viewing Sunday as a day of Work more than a day of Worship.  Technically, Sunday is a day of work for a church staff member.  But sometimes it can be to the point that we become so focused on ministering that we forget to allow ourselves to be ministered to as well.  Amid the sermons and schedules and various ministry stuff, we inadvertently forget that this is actually the Lord’s Day – a day of worship meant for us to rejoice and be glad in it.  This requires that we intentionally enter every Sunday (and the work that it involves) with an attitude of worship, having prepared our hearts in advance to both minister and be ministered to.
  2. Treating volunteers as Pawns rather than People.  While it’s never our intention, we can quickly become so focused on making sure that all the spots are filled and all the boxes are checked that we actually forget that we are shepherding people, not herding cattle. Our volunteers are not our cheerleaders, who are there to make us look good. Rather, we are to be theirs.  We are there to minister with them and to them.  This is why an acknowledgment of their service, a spoken word of praise, or even a simple compliment can go a really long way with your volunteers.  Yes, they minister out of a desire to serve the Lord, but they also desire to please you and are greatly benefited and motivated by your approval.
  3. Feeling obligated to be more of a Martha instead of a Mary.  Let’s get really honest here… we get very busy serving our people, and rightly so, but may we not get so wrapped up in serving others that we forget Who it is that we are really serving in the first place. We are serving the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And more than He wants our service to His church, He first and foremost just wants us – all of us. He wants our adoration more than our activity.  He wants our heart more than our help. Our natural tendency is often to be more of a Martha, but He also longs for us to learn to be a Mary.
  4. Looking to Be Served rather than looking To Serve.  While it’s always nice to get that pat on the back, that compliment to our sermon, or one of the special ‘perks’ of being a pastor or church staff, it’s even more important that we are constantly looking for ways to compliment, encourage, praise, and ultimately serve those who serve with us.  For every kindness shown to us, may we four-fold (or maybe ten-fold) have first shown that kindness to our people.  May we never adopt an attitude of entitlement or expectation in the ministry. But rather, may we humbly strive to be a servant leader like Jesus, constantly looking for needs to be met and people to be helped.
  5. Mistaking our service to the Church for equalling our service to Christ.  No matter our position, we are a Christian first, a pastor or staff second. It is very easy to forget this. Many ministers who do forget this end up facing an identity crisis, having linked their identity as a Christian solely to their ministry, rather than to their relationship with Christ. Our service to God does not end when we leave the church building. Rather, our service to God is an extension of our life as a Christian, not an extension of our ministry to the church. Think about it… Our people volunteer their time “after hours” to do things that we are getting paid to do “on the clock”.  So the next time we’re tempted to complain about having to study at home in the evening or make significant sacrifices of our time outside of our normal schedule, let’s not forget that many of our people are doing exactly that every single week – as volunteers. May we never be guilty of confining our service to the Lord to this box that we call “ministry.” Because being a child of the King is So Much More than just that!

I hope that this 5 things challenge your thinking, and cause you to evaluate your own heart and motives to align them with God’s.  May the people we serve see what Christ intended for them to see in and through us as leaders and ministers of the glorious gospel.  May they see in us a standard worth striving for in order to become more like Christ.

I Corinthians 11:1  Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.


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Little Foxes that Spoil the Vines

Song of Solomon 2:15  Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

We all have them. Every. Single. One of us. “Little foxes”, that threaten to spoil the vines. Small things, maybe pet sins, in our lives that we think are innocent and no real threat… to our marriage, our children, or our spiritual life.  Yet they actually hold the potential to ruin them.

I can remember as a teenage boy being given these words of wisdom from a spiritual leader in my life who said, “Take care of sin while it’s still small.”  And those words have stuck with me to this day, echoeing in the back of my mind as a constant reminder of the danger of those times I find it easiest to justify ‘small’ sins.

What is it for you?

In a marriage, it could be… a bad habit, a consuming hobby, a hidden addiction, a lack of effort or communication, an “innocent” relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  No man ever plans to leave his family, abandon his home, and be an adulterer, but it all has to start somewhere as small as a look, a compromise, a letting of the guard down, and before you know it, a snowball is being formed. One that seemed so innocent at first, but now threatens everything he holds dear.

In parenting, it could be… an inconsistency, a seemingly insignificant compromise, a discrepancy between a parents words and their actions.  Or it could be a “little fox” in the lives of our children that we fail to deal with while it’s still small.  Think about it:  Negative actions and character traits that kids end up having in adulthood are usually because they were allowed to develop in their childhood.  Whether it be dishonesty, theft, addiction, or lack of self-control, etc.  

They more than likely didn’t develop those traits as an adult.  They cultivated them when they were young, and they became little foxes in their lives.  This is one of the reasons why it is so important to help our children learn to control their thoughts, tempers, words, and actions from a young age, because life-habits of permanent consequence are being formed.

I can clearly remember the words of my dad when I was a boy, saying, “Son, you can smoke as many cigarettes as you want, as long as you never smoke the first one.”  And he never had to explain himself because his point was clear – take care of sin before it takes care of you.  Because sin dealt with when it’s small is so much easier to overcome than sin dealt with when it’s tall.

In one’s spiritual life, it could be… a spiritual complacency, letting the basics slip, comparing ourselves among ourselves.  Oh, how easy it is to let the little disciplines of the spiritual life slip… because we’re busy serving or doing ministry.  We’re too busy being a Martha and helping others, that we don’t make any time to simply be a Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.  And before you know it we’re burning our spiritual candle from both ends, because we have allowed little foxes to begin spoiling our spiritual vines.

All of these things are easy to justify and dismiss in our lives yet still have the potential to be the little foxes. And before you know it, you’re looking back at a broken marriage, a wayward child, or a spiritually apathetic and backslid Christian.

It’s a threat for all of us.

Sometimes the foxes in our lives look so cute, fuzzy, and innocent that we think they are harmless, but in reality, they are a threat to the fruit that God desires for us to have in the different areas of our lives?  It could be a thought, a look, or a seemingly insignificant compromise.  But remember the end of the verse and the reason why the the foxes were being taken away… “for our vines have tender grapes.”

There is much fruit in your life, your marriage, your children, and your relationship with God that is at stake.  And these little foxes threaten to devour it.

These foxes are not only petty sins in our lives, but can also be a picture of our own self-deception. We can easily be fooled into thinking that which is not completely good is also not completely bad, when in reality, that is where the deception takes place.  And we never see it until it has already taken hold of us.  Yet it all began in our wrong thinking, as we started to justify and rationalize ‘small’ sins.  

We think we can handle it.  It’s not as big of a deal for us. Because even though it’s happened to others, it will never happen to us.  Our marriage will never be ruined.  Our kids will never be wayward.  Our spiritual life, or lack thereof, will never be exposed.

What we often deem “acceptable” can lead to potentially irreparable damage.  Small foxes that spoil the vines.

The question we need to ask ourself is this… Are we chasing out the little foxes in our lives, or are we feeding them?

Be honest with yourself… When is the last time you had to ‘amputate’ something out of your life because it was a small fox, a pet sin, that posed to threaten and even destroy the most important fruit that God has given you?  Maybe it was a person, a habit, a hobby, or even an app on your phone. But you knew that it was a small fox that had the potential to spoil your vines.

Most failures in life are not a blowout, but a slow leak, a slow fade.  And it’s not usually the big obvious sins, but the small ones, the “little” foxes, that will spoil our vines.

What small foxes do you need to deal with today in your own life or the lives of those you love?

Succeed at Nearly Every Relationship in Your Life with This One Word

Fail to do this, and you'll struggle with nearly every relationship

One thing that God created us all to have in life is relationships.

And some people seemingly thrive in nearly every relationship they have.

Others seem to struggle in nearly every relationship they have.

Not all that surprisingly, the people who thrive relationally also seem to be some of the happiest people you will ever meet.

And those who struggle, often times are not.

This comparison can at times be reflected in their spiritual well-being as well.

So what makes the difference?

What is it that separates those whose relationships are characterized by much striving, and those whose relationships are characterized by much thriving?

Is there a single, most common factor that determines the difference?

Is there a “secret sauce” to relationships that the first group of people knows or follows, but that the others do not?

Is there something identifiably different about how these two types of people approach relationships?

The simple answer is – YES!

There is One Key Component above all others that will make you the best family member, the best spouse, the best friend, or the best co-worker that the people in your life could ever have.

And would you like to know what it is?… Do you think you can you guess what it is?

Have you cheated yet by scrolling to the bottom to find out what it is? 🙂

If you want to have the happiest life, and the most successful relationships humanly possible, you must learn to do This One Thing.

Because if you fail to do this, you will struggle with every single relationship of your entire life.

So, are you ready for the answer?  Here it is…


2 Corinthians 2:10-11  For your sakes FORGIVE I in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Your willingness to forgive is one of your greatest assets to having great relationships in your life. Because one of the greatest tools in Satan’s toolbox that he uses against us to destroy our relationships is unforgiveness.

Because he knows that unforgiveness plants bitterness, increases discord, and breeds division in our relationships.

And that is his ultimate goal in every relationship of your life – to ruin it.

There are only two things in your life & relationships that are guaranteed:

  1. You will get hurt by others. (So forgive.)
  2. Others will get hurt by you. (So apologize.)

Jesus said that offenses will come in our relationships, and the only thing that we can do is simply choose how we respond to the hurt. (Whether we are the one that needs to ask for forgiveness, or give it away.)

And the response we choose will ultimately determine the life we live.

Bitter or better.  Hurt or healed.  Victim or victor.

And the only response that wins every time is forgiveness.  

Not anger.  Not resentment.  Not revenge.  Just forgiveness.

Jesus said…  “It is impossible but that offenses will come:… If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” (Luke 17:1, 3-4)

These are not words that we like to hear or have an easy time practicing, but they are words of truth.

Why is forgiveness so hard?  Because: 

  • Forgiveness requires supernatural power – you can’t forgive without God’s help.
  • Forgiveness requires repetition – you’ll most likely have to forgive multiple times.
  • Forgiveness requires obedience – you are commanded to forgive, not given multiple options.

Learn to forgive, and you free yourself to live.

Learn to apologize, and you just might save a relationship.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Paul Lewis Boese

FORGIVE –  Fail to do this, and you’ll struggle with nearly every relationship in your life.

Oh, but figure it out, and you have opened the door to a lifetime of relational success – in your family, in your marriage, in your church, on your job, etc.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

Ephesians 4:31-32  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

If you’ve hurt someone, it’s time to apologize.  If you’ve been hurt by someone, it’s time to forgive.

Which relationship in your life needs this one word the most today?  FORGIVE

Are You Being Fair to Your Pastor & Your Ministry?  

4 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself

Church staff members have the potential to be a vitally important part of any church, adding value and quality to the ministry.

However, they also carry with them the potential to become a weight or burden to a church. Especially if they are not producing and growing both themselves and the ministry they oversee.

Every person who serves in full-time ministry, as pastor or staff, must constantly be striving to lead better by becoming better, and grow their ministry by first growing themselves. I’ve been privileged to work under two senior pastors who have done this exceptionally well through example, and encouraged their staff to do the same.

If you serve in a staff capacity where you are being paid by the tithes and offerings of the generous people of your church, here are four thought-provoking questions to consider (I’m sure there could be many more) to help evaluate if you’re being fair to your pastor and your ministry?

1. What is the last book I’ve read specific to my ministry or growth development?

(Maybe for some, the question would suffice, “What is the last book I’ve read?”) Whatever area of ministry you’ve been called to serve in, most likely its because you have a passion for that area of ministry. What are you currently reading to increase your knowledge of and passion for the things God has gifted you to do and placed closest to your heart?

Are you a better and more knowledgeable worship leader, children’s or youth pastor, assistant pastor, etc. than you were a year ago… 5 years ago? Consider this… if the average book consists of 10-15 chapters, and you dedicate yourself to reading just one chapter a day, you could easily read two new books per month.

While the number of books you read or don’t read certainly isn’t a ‘tell all’ of your success or failure towards your pastor and your ministry, it can certainly can be something worth evaluating.  Harry Truman once wisely said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  The truth is that God has called us to excel in our ministries.  Reading and it’s many benefits can undeniably help accomplish that.

2. Am I personally growing as a leader?

The greatest asset your ministry has to become successful is you, because you are the cap to your ministry’s growth. Your ministry or organization will rarely ever grow or develop beyond your own personal growth and development as a leader. The more you grow and the better you become, the more your ministry or organization will benefit.

So what are you intentionally doing to grow in your leadership skills? Are you attending any conferences, listening to any podcasts, following any thought leaders in your specific field? Are you being teachable by allowing your senior pastor or others to “grow” you in any area that they see room for improvement?

There’s never a time when we’re stagnant, and just staying in the same place. We are always moving either forward or backward as a leader, and our ministry is following right behind us.

3. Who have I personally reached (or am in the process of reaching) and seeing added to my church?

Is there anyone in your church who is there because of you? Are you being a soul-winner, a pursuer of people, an encourager, and hospitable towards the people you lead?

It’s easy in the ministry to let “paperwork” trump “people-work”, and become more focused on the “what” of the ministry rather than the “who” of the ministry.  But we must remember that what we’ve ultimately been called to do is make an eternal difference in the lives of people, including the lost. I personally have to keep myself in check on this one the most.

4. Am I making my pastor’s job easier or harder?

One of the purposes of church staff is to relieve the burden of the pastor in general as well as in specific areas of ministry. This doesn’t mean that the pastor doesn’t get involved or doesn’t care about other ministries, but he shouldn’t have to carry the weight of those ministries on a regular basis.

Protect your pastor’s time by doing the things he has hired you to do. Take initiative to lead and make decisions for your areas of ministry. While a good pastor certainly cares about you and your ministry, and will do whatever he can to help when possible, a good rule of thumb is to remember that you work for him, and not the other way around.  (For more thoughts on this, read 5 Essentials to Becoming a Star Staff Member)

While there are certainly many more things that could be added to this list, may these few cause us to do some self-evaluation.  May we never be guilty of being full-time staff members, but only part-time Christians.

May we strive only for excellence and progress in all that we do, as would be expected of us in any other career or field. Because our pastor, our church, and our God deserve it. And may we never take lightly the calling of God upon our lives to minister.  But may we do it by following the example of the greatest minister Himself, Jesus Christ.

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Do you have some additional ways that you evaluate yourself to become better as a leader?  I’d love to hear them and learn from you!

8 Questions to Ask Before You Push POST

Rules to follow when using social media

Social Media.  It’s kind of a thing nowadays.  As far as what kind of thing it is… well, that all depends upon how we choose to use it and consume it.

In striving to use social media in a way that honors the Lord, here are some questions/guidelines I follow to filter my posts through, prior to hitting the ‘POST’ button.  You might consider using these social media rules yourself:

  1. Is it Positive?  You’ve probably noticed that there’s plenty of negativity floating around social media, to the point that sometimes it feels like your swimming in the lake next to a landfill.  A Christian doesn’t need to add to such negativity.  If I’m going to put something out there for the world to see, is there something of positive value in it for those who see it?
  2. Is it Factual?  Social media is no place for spreading rumors, speculation, or gossip.  Does everything I read that ruffles my feathers mean it’s true or worthy of putting my name above it?  Do I want to be that person with egg on their face because of an emotional trigger response to post something questionable without knowing the facts?
  3. Is it Helpful?  Just because something is positive, and even true, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s helpful.  Can what I post simply put a smile on someone’s face, or just help point them in the right direction?  Is it helpful?  If so, it’s probably worth posting.  (Phil. 4:8)
  4. Is it Fun or Entertaining There’s great value in knowing and following people on social media who know how to have good, clean fun.  Do I know how to laugh at myself and enjoy life, and as a result, help others enjoy it with me?
  5. Is it Overly Political?  Probably the last thing we need more of on social media is politics. While it’s not necessarily wrong to post something political, and sometimes it’s inescapable for Biblical truth not to collide with political opinion, as a general rule, I try to abstain from political posts as much as possible. Has anyone ever changed another’s mind by using social media as a megaphone for their political views?
  6. Is it Drama Free?  If for some reason I want to air out my dirty laundry, social media is not the place to do it. What is the motivation behind what I’m posting?  Am I looking for pity, or just to generate an emotional response from others? Am I using social media to vent my frustrations or satisfy my flesh? Save the drama for your mama.
  7. Is it Regret Free?  While I can always delete that post tomorrow, why post it today?  Is what I post going to be something I’ll be proud of tomorrow, next year, or 10 years from now?  Good thing when you delete something from the Internet, it can never be found again. 😃  Better yet, what if I just bit my lip… (or, my thumb) a little more often?
  8. Is it Christ-honoring If none of the above questions answer whether or not I should post something, this should be my ultimate filter – is what I’m about to post going to honor the Lord and strengthen my testimony? (I Cor. 10:31)

I personally enjoy using social media, but it’s not just what I post that I have to be careful of, it’s also what I consume.  So here’s a bonus :).  In addition to filtering posts with the above questions, I filter time spent on social media by asking these 2 questions:

  1. Am I Wasting My Time?  Certainly there’s plenty of time that can be wasted on social media.  Sometimes 30 minutes can feel like 5.  Am I using social media wisely, and redeeming the time, or am I allowing it to become a god of idle hands that puts me in the devil’s workshop?
  2. Am I Stealing Someone Else’s Time?  Am I taking time away from things that really do matter like my family, my job, or my responsibilities?  Am I forfeiting valuable pieces of my kids’ childhood for a device addiction?  Am I acting married to social media instead of married to my spouse?  Am I stealing time and attention away from those who need and deserve it most by throwing it to the wind with nothing to show for it?  Am I setting a right or wrong example of social media use for my children?

Social media isn’t going anywhere. So if we don’t have some boundaries, we’ll certainly have some regrets.  And if we don’t exemplify and teach our children proper boundaries, so will they.

What are some of the social media rules you follow? And what would you add to this list of guidelines?

How My 12 Year Old Daughter Reminded Me to Never Give Up

While our 12 year old daughter has many strengths, one of them is not the subject of math.

And it doesn’t help that both her younger and older brother can do math like a wiz with no problem at all.  This has been a real struggle for her, that sometimes seems insurmountable.

But to her credit, she’s not allowed it to get her down.  She has rather chosen to hold her head up, and stay determined to succeed in this area of her schooling.  I’ve been encouraged, challenged, and motivated by her “kick yourself in the pants and get over it” kind of attitude of confidence in the midst of a trying situation.

She’s done what I believe David did when he was “greatly distressed” in I Samuel 30:6, when the Bible says that “he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 

I remember those days, when school subjects and projects would consume my mind and my world. And I would almost wish that the world would just come to an end rather than have to face what seemed at the time like impossible tasks.

Well, things don’t get any easier with age, do they?…

As we get older, I think you’d agree that the things we faced as a child begin to pale in comparison to what we’ve had to face in “real life” as an adult.  Yes, we still face seemingly insurmountable circumstances, but it’s certainly of a different kind.

I’m not sure what the challenges are that you’ve faced over the past year, or are currently facing, but I’m sure that you have some.  It might be…

  • the loss of a family member that you love
  • the pain of a rebellious or wayward child
  • a job situation that seems impossible to reconcile
  • a relationship that only gets worse the harder you try
  • a prayer that still goes unanswered

While I don’t know your specific struggle, I’ll guarantee you that you do, and you’re probably thinking of it right now as you’re reading this. You may even feel like completely giving up.

I know that there were some areas in my life that I was considering ‘giving up’ in this coming year, but I was motivated to continue to ‘stay in the fight’ due to my daughters’ example.

May I encourage you with the strong words of my daughter to remember that whatever it is that you are facing…

“It’s a part of life.  Deal with it.  Never give up.  You can do it!”

I hope that you’ll be as encouraged by her spirit as much as I was, and that you’ll also find encouragement from these verses of scripture as well, to remind you of the perspective God intends for you to have in your life’s struggles and trials.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him.  Psalm 42:5

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.  Psalm 27:13-14

Have not I commanded thee?  Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.  Joshua 1:9

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13

As for God, his way is perfect.  Proverbs 18:30

Sounds like God is saying something that sounds a bit familiar – “It’s a part of life.  Deal with it.  Never give up.  You can do it!”  

Another year will certainly come with it’s challenges.  Praying that as you enter a new year God would grant you the spirit of endurance and perseverance through whatever you may face.

Even if it’s not you that needed to hear this today, maybe it’s somebody else… please share.

Faith & I on a Starbucks run after some paintball fun

Dad, What’s Your Vision for Your Family?

Turning a God-given vision into a reality

When God made the family, he started by giving it a man – to lead it, to direct it, and to guide it.

This wasn’t by accident, but by design.  God knew that a family would need loving leadership and strong guidance to navigate through the tough waters of family life and growth.

But even though God gave the family a man, sadly, we still see many families who are lacking in confident male leadership.  Some men have abandoned ship, others are physically or emotionally absent, and some sadly just don’t care.  My heart goes out to all of the woman who are pulling double duty out of necessity to provide the leadership their family needs.

However, if you are a man, and God has given you a family, you need to consider them as one of your highest callings in life – the call to be a husband to your wife and a father to those precious children.  God has called you to lead, guide, and direct them.

And even more than that, God has called you to have a vision for your family and their future.


Which raises a very important question – Do you have a vision for your family?

Have you prayerfully considered what God would have you to do, and where God would have you to go as a family in the coming year?

You do realize that every single day, you are building something, right?  You are building not just a family, but a future.  You are building the very foundation of hearts and lives that will one day build that same foundation for future generations to come.

If I were to ask you, “What is your vision for your family?”, could you describe it, or articulate anything specific about it?…

Yes, I know you want to have a great marriage, and obedient, godly children.  But have you carefully thought out any of the details of making that vision a reality?

  • When you look at your relationship with your wife, how do you want it to be different a year from now… or 5 years from now?
  • When you look at your children, what things would you like to see in their lives and character in the coming year?  What about 10 years from now?
  • And what are you currently doing to help them to get there?

Are you taking spiritual leadership, headship, and overall responsibility of your family’s direction and future seriously?  Or are you just coasting through your marriage and parenting as if everything will just fall into place and work out okay, simply because you love God and have good intentions?


Godly families don’t happen by accident.  Godly families are built by Godly men – Men who are willing to do the hard work and pursue the sometimes painful process it takes to see their God-given family vision accomplished.

Have you ever seen an artist’s rendering of a building that’s not yet been built?  Obviously, someone had a vision in mind of what the end product would look like when it was completed.  They gave careful consideration to the many details that would be required to make their vision a reality.

I think the same can be applied to our vision as husbands and fathers.  Sometimes our hard work can seem more worth the effort if we keep in our sights a vision of the end product that we’re striving to build.

Seeing that vision become a reality might include any of the following:

  • putting date night back into your weekly or monthly schedule
  • implementing a family altar into your home of prayer and spiritual conversation
  • opening up better ongoing doors of communication with your wife and children
  • getting consistent in your discipline and expectations
  • getting on the same page as husband and wife about the vision for your children’s future
  • giving faithful church attendance the priority it deserves
  • starting a Bible study with one of your kids, or having some of those difficult conversations
  • scheduling time to simply have fun together as a family
  • saying no to other things and people, so that you can say yes to the things and people that matter most


How do you want 2017 to look different for your family than the previous year?

In what areas of your family life or marriage do you feel that God has been speaking to you and prompting you about recently?

What do you need to implement starting today to help your family accomplish your God-given vision for them?

Even if its just one thing, take a step in the right direction to implement it into your family life today.

Because men, no one else is going to step up to make your vision for your family a reality.  And honestly, no one else has the responsibility to… but you.

Step Up. Lead. Turn Vision into Reality. Go!

Struggling to Be Disciplined?… Here’s Why

Understanding the great problem with discipline

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  Romans 7:19

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection…”  I Corinthians 9:27

Do you ever struggle with being disciplined?  Well, you’re in good company.


What is Discipline? – It’s one of the most valuable resources any person can possess to produce more and lasting results over long periods of time.  

But discipline obviously comes at a price and with some great challenges. 

Here are a few of those challenges that I find difficult to fight against, and I’m sure that you do to:

The greatest enemy to discipline… THE FLESH

The greatest enemy to discipline is the flesh.  This was the case for the Apostle Paul, and it is for us too.  Think about it, anytime you’re tempted not to be disciplined, it’s because your flesh is screaming at you to pursue an easier or more comfortable alternative.

  • When I know I should snack on those raw carrots, my flesh is screaming at me to dig into the gooey chocolate covered cake.
  • When it’s time to wake up and do the morning workout routine, my body is screaming at me to hit the snooze and stay in bed.
  • When it’s time to give my family the best of myself after a long day’s work, my flesh is screaming at me to sit in the recliner and do absolutely nothing.

The greatest enemy to discipline is our flesh.

I just finished a 12 week fitness program that focuses on resistance training to get your health and body back into shape.  And I’ll be honest, getting up on time each morning and forcing my body to do exercises I didn’t even know existed has taken some discipline.  My body screams “No”, but discipline keeps me saying “Yes”. 

I’ve determined that when it’s the difference between what I want now, or what I want most, discipline helps me continue to strive for what I want most.  And that requires that I kick my flesh in the rear end Every. Single. Day.

The main problem with discipline… IT’S NOT REUSABLE

The main problem with discipline is this – I can’t rely on yesterday’s discipline to carry me through today.

Discipline is not reusable.

It can’t be bought in a weekly or monthly dosage. As wonderful a thing as it is, it still must be chosen, one day, after the next, after the next.  Even though I successfully wake up on time and hit the exercise routine today, that does not guarantee anything for tomorrow.  I’ll have to make the same choice once again to deny my flesh, and force it to obey the next morning. 

The same is true with my daily devotions, my eating habits, and how I spend my time.  I have to be disciplined enough to choose those things daily.

Why?  Because you can’t recycle discipline.  

How often has the world seen a once young and fit athlete turn into something far from it in the later years of their life?  How often has a pastor who was once a spiritual giant become prey to addiction or a moral failure? How often has a once strong and vibrant marriage become stale and stagnant?

Somewhere along the way, someone got comfortable, even complacent, about who and where they were, and stopped disciplining themselves to continue becoming better (a better athlete, leader, husband, wife, etc.), and as a result, they actually became worse.  

Sadly, many people don’t realize how far worse they’ve actually become until it’s too late.

The valuable reminder of discipline… IT’S WORTH IT

The valuable reminder in all of this is that no one in any area of life just “stays where they are.”  Discipline is worth it because we are always constantly moving towards something, either forward or backwards.  Discipline helps us to make sure that we are moving forward. 

We are always becoming better or worse, something more or something less – in our homes… in our marriages… in our churches… in our health… in our attitude.  It all depends upon our daily steps that take us in one direction or the other. 

“Your steps today determine your direction tomorrow.”

And it all goes back to discipline.  Discipline of your body and your mind.

Paul struggled like you and I do with the discipline to live out the daily victorious Christian life. Yet he found a way to do it by combining the strength of the Spirit (in the mind) and the discipline of the flesh (in the body) to win this battle.  Who do we think we are to be able to do it any other way? 

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  Romans 7:23  

Jesus faced this same problem with the disciples’ failure to exercise discipline in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus told them…

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is week.  Matthew 26:41 

No matter how disciplined I was yesterday, I must choose it again today… and tomorrow… and the next day.  I must defeat discipline’s greatest enemy, my flesh (much of which takes place in my mind). 

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13

Every step of discipline I take, moves me another step closer to where I want to be, and where God wants me to be.  Which begs us to ask these questions:

  • Where do I want to be, and where does God want me to be?
  • A year from now, five years from now… in my home, my health, my spiritual life?
  • And what steps in that direction am I disciplining myself to take on a daily basis to get there?

As they say, “No pain, no gain.”  But the difficulty of discipline now is so worth the benefits (both temporal and eternal) later! 

How to Know if You’ve Been Called to the Ministry

4 ways to evaluate a God-given calling

One of the questions I’ve been asked multiple times over the years is this – “How do I really know if I’ve been called into the ministry?”


Sometimes this question comes from a teenager or adult wrestling with God’s will for their life.  Other times, it comes from someone currently serving in full-time ministry who finds themselves questioning their life’s direction or calling.

For the person who is struggling with the answer to that question, here are some ways that God confirmed in my heart His calling upon my life into the ministry.  Hopefully they can help you as well.

1) DESIRE – God is the one who has put it in your heart

I Timothy 3:1  If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

I believe that first and foremost, if a person is called to the ministry, there must be a genuine desire to serve in the ministry.  This may be something that comes more naturally for some, while God may have to take more time to “convince” others. (For some people its a matter of God’s conviction over time prior to them being convinced over time.  But in the end, it still ultimately ends in a desire)

Regardless of the circumstances, a person must be “God-called”, and not pastor-called, parent-called, or pressure-called.

For me, from the time I was just a boy, it was my heart’s desire to follow in the footsteps of my dad, who was (and still is) a pastor.  Other than my childhood dream to one day play in the NBA (lol), my hearts’ desire and longing was to serve people through the ministry. Where did that desire come from?  I believe that God put it in my heart, in addition to using the circumstances around me (my parents example and passion) to grow that desire.

For many, the call comes at a specific time in their life when they surrender themselves to God and His calling upon their life to enter the gospel ministry.  Every calling will be unique, but every calling will include a God-given desire.

God says clearly that to desire to be in the ministry is a good thing, and that is where a calling must start.

2) GIFTING – Because of your gifting and abilities

I Cor. 1:27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…

Every person in ministry will have different levels of abilities, but there are some certain characteristics and abilities that usually accompany a call to the ministry.  (I Timothy 3 is a great place to start for some basic requirements/abilities)

It is highly unlikely that God is currently calling you into the ministry if you’re still struggling to make it to church from one Sunday to the next or if you’re simply struggling to be faithful as a layman.

As my former pastor, Bill Prater, used to always say…

“When God is looking for someone to call to the ministry, He’s usually going to reach down and pick the best of the best.  He’s going to call people who are actively serving, and who will leave a huge gap in the ministry when they’re gone.”

If you’re not currently and actively involved in your local church, that is the best place to start for God to be able to confirm (either way) His calling upon your life.

My dad always used to say, “God doesn’t call the able, He enables the called.”  This is so true.  No matter what natural God-given abilities a person may or may not possess, God is ultimately the one who enables any of us to serve him in a ministry capacity.  He still uses the foolish and weak things of this world.

3) CONFIRMATION – Validation from other Godly leaders in your life

Proverbs 11:14  Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Over the years, I’ve seen many people (young and old) called into the full-time ministry.  And one thing that confirms God’s calling upon a person’s life more than possibly any other is when God also confirms that same calling in the heart of their pastor.

If your pastor is not convinced that you are called to the ministry, that is a red flag to be seriously considered.  Equally, if your pastor is convinced that you are called to the ministry, that should also be greatly considered before you step out of it.

Although many people are gifted by God with similar talents and abilities, not all are called to full time ministry.  The ministry is not for everyone. The church greatly needs gifted laymen as well.  And you would be better to serve as your churches’ finest layman than to enter into the ministry uncalled.

If you are unsure of your calling, always seek the godly counsel of the spiritual leaders in your life. God has surrounded you with other people who will be able to recognize and validate God’s calling in your life, or at least steer you in the right direction.

4) PASSION – You can’t see yourself doing anything else

Jeremiah 20:9   But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones… and I could not stay.

If you can go find a secular job to make a living and provide for your family, and be okay with doing that long-term, then that’s exactly what you need to do.

The gospel ministry needs to be a passion within you that you cannot quench. And every time you try, it just keeps coming back.

The last thing that our churches need is more full-time ministers who are only part-time Christians.  God’s ministry deserves people who are top-notch, full-throttle, passionate followers of Jesus who strive towards leading others to be the same.

If that is not who you are or who you’re willing to be, than for the sake of God, His kingdom, and His Gospel, hang your ministry hat up on the shelf for someone else to wear, be faithful at the job God has given to you, and be the best Christian employee at that job that you can possibly be.

God’s work is far too important for us to him-haw around with whether or not we are serious and all-in.  Either we are, or we aren’t, and that’s a good indicator of God’s calling as well.

If you’re working outside of the ministry, but your passion for it seems to continue growing, keep praying and pursuing God’s will and Godly counsel until He opens the right doors.

If on the other hand, at sometime in your life, you knew that God called you into ministry, but that passion and desire has changed, don’t hinder the cause of Christ and hurt the kingdom of God by refusing to let go and move on. (even if it’s just for a season)

However, if the reason your passion has waned is because you’re just not walking with God and simply need a spiritual kick in the pants, then get on your face before God, confess your complacency, and pick up your sword where you left it!

I Thess. 2:4  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak.

If God has called you, then God has trusted you with the most important message and mission that the world has ever known (as he has every Christian).  And may we never take that calling lightly.

Hopefully these reminders will be helpful for the person who is wrestling with the call of God upon their life.  If that’s you, and you’d like someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out to me.  I’d be glad to help.

Life Lessons Learned From a Culture of Less

Take-aways from our family's missions trip to Grenada

Our family just returned from a missions trip to Grenada, West Indies this past week with a team from our church.


We helped conduct VBS and other evangelistic outreach, and what an enjoyable and memorable experience it was.  From the very moment we arrived and first met the Grenadian people, there were two things that quickly became very obvious to all of us – they are a people with so much less (things, toys, gadgets, conveniences), but they are a people with so much more (joy, contentment, easy-going disposition).

While it would be hard to share all the many things God taught us over the past week, here are a few of the lessons and reminders that stood out to me from rubbing shoulders with the good people of Grenada:

1 – Prioritize People Over Possessions

Surprisingly, the Grenadian culture doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same level of focus on materialism and things as we do in America.  Rather, much more of their focus is on relationships with other people in their daily lives.  They are not running an endless rat race as we do in America to constantly get “the next best thing”, and their access to such things on the island is very limited.

They make the most of what they have, and they are content with such things.  This is something most of us definitely need to learn in the U.S.

2 – Prioritize Passion Over Perfection

While we often try to put equal emphasis upon both passion and perfection in most everything we do (especially ministry), if we had to choose between the two, passion should win over perfection.  While the Grenadian people are not perfectionists in the way they do things, they are very passionate in the way that they do them.

The first evening church service our team went to during the week was an eye opener for our entire group.  To see and to hear the way in which the Grenadians worship and praise the Lord with such passion was energizing.  They were just so real in their worship that it was both refreshing and challenging at the same time.

It makes you stop and think how often we are guilty of focusing more on perfection than passion, and as a result, missing out on the greater of the two.  While I believe that we can and should strive for both, it’s important to remember which is most important.

3 – A Nicer Life Does Not Necessarily Make It a Better Life

In America, we’re used to nice finished homes and churches with carpeted floors, multiple indoor restrooms, air conditioning, etc.  But those are all things that many foreign countries have very little of.  And while I wouldn’t want to live without the niceties of my American life, surprisingly, the people of Grenada were far happier and content with their less than most people in America are with their more. We could live with far less than what we have or think we need.

Paul said in I Timothy 6:8  “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Life is what you make of it, and I was reminded that a nicer life does not necessarily make it a better life.

4 – Less Really Can Be More

It was an amazing thing to see how little these people have.  Things that we daily take for granted are things that they don’t even consider having to go without.  It was such a joy to watch children get so excited over small things like toothbrushes, notebook paper, candy (“sweeties” as they call them), bubbles, and sunglasses.

They have no Walmart, no Dollar Stores, and no access to so many little things that we have daily at our fingertips.  They have so little, but they are so thankful for the little that they have.  It was quite convicting.  I was especially thankful that my children saw this firsthand and were greatly impacted by it.

5 – It’s Okay to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

The fast paced busy culture that we see all around us on a daily basis is not what we saw this past week.  Rather, people actually take their time to slow down and “smell the roses”.  Their roads and traffic are crazy, but no one seems to get easily upset or ticked off with one another.

It was also interesting that when you bring something to their attention, their response is always “no problem”.  They seem to have very little “problems” because they simply go with the flow of life, and don’t get bent out of shape over the little daily inconveniences that we might normally let ruin our day.

It was thrilling for my wife and I to watch our two oldest kids get to experience the culture and life lessons to be learned from this missions trip and these people.  In addition, they were both able to lead their first souls to Christ as well this past week.  How cool!  I’m excited at how the Lord worked in their hearts and know that it has the potential to bring about life-change for them both now and in the future.

If you ever get the chance to go on a missions trip with your family, I would strongly encourage you to make whatever sacrifices necessary to make it happen.  The benefits and blessings for both you and others will far outweigh the sacrifices that you’ll make to be able to go.









7 Practical Keys To Balancing Family, Work & Ministry

A Busy Leader's Guide To Keeping First Things First (Part 2)

Last week, we started answering ‘The Big Question’… How in the world do I balance it all?  You can read last week’s article by clicking here.  Whether you serve as full-time staff, a bi-vocational pastor, or a ministry volunteer, this article will help you get off to the right start when it comes to finding balance.

Work Life Balance

Today, I want to share with you 7 practical keys to balancing family, work, and ministry that have helped bring the needed balance in my family life and ministry.

So here they are… How many of these 7 things are you practicing?

1. Leverage your mornings

One of the greatest keys to successfully balancing your life and schedule most often starts at the beginning of every day.  How you start your day often determines the success of the rest of it.

Some of your most productive and focused time can be found early in the mornings when both your mind and your focus has a fresh start.  In a recent article, I outlined some practical ideas for how to Jumpstart Your Mornings.  I’d encourage you to read it to find out more.

2. Leave the office on time

This needs to be based on a timeframe, not based upon your to do list.  There are many nights when I could easily stay and work for a couple more hours getting things done, but I have to remind myself to go back to my order of priorities – God, family, then work or ministry.  I’m sure you find yourself in those same shoes often.

It’s important to remember that even if I got it all done, there will still always be more to do tomorrow. Why is it that we more quickly shortchange our family than we do our work?

How would you answer these two questions?… When’s the last time you prioritized your work at the expense of your family?  When’s the last time you prioritized your family at the expense of your work? Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer to at least one of those questions is probably pretty obvious.

It’s understandable that there will be necessary and even intense seasons or times of staying late or working overtime, but if those times ever become the majority or the norm, our family is sure to notice, and they have every right to view it as a legitimate concern.

We can’t afford for the gap between what we say are our priorities, and what our family actually sees as being our priorities, to be very wide. If our work is truly that much and that pressing, here’s what I would suggest you do – steal an hour from your sleep at night by staying up an hour later or getting up and hour earlier, before making it a regular habit of daily stealing an hour or more away from your family.

3. Take a day off

If you are on a church staff and feel like you have too much to do that it’s not possible to take a day off, here are a few suggestions you may need to consider:

  • Meet with your pastor and ask him for help and understanding in how to best minimize your work load.
  • Find creative ways to delegate tasks that anyone can do, but that you are currently doing.
  • Learn to identify and eliminate things that in the grand scheme of things are time wasters and unnecessary. (more thoughts on this in the next point)

If you have no choice about not having a day off simply because you’re serving in ministry bi-vocationally or some other situation, I would just encourage you to have a plan for that schedule not to be a long-term plan.

My family loves my day off maybe even more than I do. My kids will often ask me in the mornings, “Is today your day off, Dad?” or, “How many more days until your day off?”, because they look forward to it as much as I do, knowing that we’ll get to spend extra time together and have fun.

4. Eliminate what’s unnecessary

  •  What are you currently doing that could be done by someone else?
  • What are you doing that you could stop doing, and it wouldn’t really negatively affect anyone or anything in your organization?
  • What are you doing that you could train someone else to do and/or delegate to someone else in your ministry?
  • What are you doing that anyone could do that is keeping your from succeeding at doing what only you can do?
  • What kind of things is your family participating in that are just filling up space on your calendar without really contributing to your overall purpose and direction as a family?

My guess is that if you’re serious about finding balance, there are some things that you could eliminate from your life and schedule if you really wanted to.

5. Combine family and ministry when possible

Don’t ever get the mistaken idea that there is a fine and definite line between family life and ministry life. They can often be the same, killing two birds with one stone.

Obviously, ministry can’t be the only times you’re spending quality time together as a family, but it certainly should be included in those times. Learn to take some of your kids with you when running ministry errands or making visits.

Serving in ministry together as family can be one of the greatest ways to instill and transfer a passion for serving Christ in your children.  Be creative as a parent in making things like visitation and serving others a fun and enjoyable experience.

Whether that means that they get to have a responsibility in those areas of service, or simply letting them know you’ll be going out for ice cream following times of family ministry, make ministry and serving the Lord together a common and memorable occurrence.

6. Protect your evenings

Evenings need to primarily be family times (keep at least 2-4 open nights a week).  Follow a plan by being intentional with themes, activities, devotions, etc. You want your wife and kids to anticipate when you come home each evening, and nothing speaks this louder than when you have special things planned to do together.  (Here’s a Perfect Family Game Plan you need to check out that will make you the family hero.)

7. Ask God for Help!

This should be able to go without saying, but we need to be reminded.  The Bible says in James 1:5 to ask God for wisdom, and He will give it to you.

Ask the Lord to show you how to better balance your family life and ministry life. Ask some spiritual leaders in your life to help you evaluate your effectiveness in the way you work, and some ways they see that you could become even more effective. Because usually those who work with you can see ways that you can be more effective if you’ll just be willing to ask them, and then humbly and openly receive and apply what they tell you.

While I don’t know your specific situation or what burdens you carry, what I do know is this – God never intended for your Christian life to be an unending rat race that you can never keep up with.

  • God never intended for your family to take a back seat to your ministry.
  • God never intended for your ministry to keep you away from your personal time with Him.
  • God never intended for you to always feel stressed or to carry your burdens alone.

Maintaining balance between ministry and family life IS POSSIBLE!  There are many ministry leaders who are both Godly and successful both in their ministries and their homes. But it does take intentionality, a plan, and the help of God to carry it out. Are you willing to go through the uncomfortable process of developing and carrying out such a plan?

“Remember, there’s just one thing that every person has that’s exactly the same – time.  No one gets more and no one gets less.  Its all in how we choose to manage it.”

I hope that these 7 practical things are helpful to you.  Which of these 7 things do you think is the most important?  What would you add to the list that you’ve found to be helpful to maintaining balance in your life?