Dear Jack: You Got Baptized, 2 Days Before Your 11th Birthday

11 years old.

Dear Jack,

The Sunday before your 11th birthday, less than two weeks ago, our church (Southview Church) was having its quarterly baptism service. After everyone who was scheduled to be baptized, there was an invitation for anyone else who wanted to be baptized; right then and there.

You whispered to Mommy that you wanted to! So I took you up right then to the front of the church- and you were baptized for everyone to see.

When the pastor asked you at what point in your life you believed and trusted in Jesus, you replied: “Since I was born.”

I’m sure that’s how it seems to you; as Mommy and I have always done our best to teach you in the Christian faith.

Specially, it was 4 years ago when you were 7 years old, that you officially prayed to tell Jesus you believed in Him.

You have been curious about being baptized, going back 4 years now. But you felt the time was finally right.

I am so grateful you have made this decision! I am so proud of you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Nostalgic for the Present

4 years, 5 months.

Dear Holly,

I feel like I have traveled back in time from the present, to better appreciate “the good ole days” right now with our family.

Especially being able to work from home since this past March, I have been blessed with much more quality time with you.

I appreciate our family’s life together so much now, in a way I never could before, that it’s like I am nostalgic for the present, before it even becomes the past.

Maybe I am seeing life in a new perspective now that I’ve only got 6 months left of my 30s.

I cherish my life with you. I’m not letting it slip by.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

Our 1st “No Kids Vacation” in a Decade: Golden, Colorado

Nearly a year ago, my wife and I performed a song I wrote called “We’re Gonna Leave in the Morning”; which was the imagining of my wife and I taking a responsibility-free road trip together.

Last week, we made that fantasy a reality when we spent 4 days out in Golden, Colorado.

We rented a modernized carriage house that was just a couple of blocks from all the coffee shops and restaurants.

It was was only about 10 blocks away from South Table Mountain Park, where we were able to spend a couple hours hiking to the top; which oversaw the Coors plant.

And it turned out that we essentially only spent a total of $9 in entertainment the entire week, as we ended up taking a different 2 hour hike each day we were there. Only one of the parks we visited had an entry fee. It wasn’t the legendary Red Rocks

It was Eldorado Canyon State Park.

That view was totally worth the nine dollars though. Right?

Growing up in northeastern Alabama, where my home was surrounded by DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon, I always imagined that Colorado would be a good fit for me.

I was right. If only I had my Jeep Wrangler with me while we where there…

We perfectly enjoyed our trip to Golden, Colorado- to the point we have decided we need to make this an annual tradition for the two of us.

The experience reminded me of the verse in Ecclesiastes (9:9), which I based my recent song from:

Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.

Not only was it great quality time for to the two of us at amazing location, but it helped realize why this trip was superior the 6 hour drive to the Florida coast from our home near Nashville.

Because on a beach trip, we’re mainly just sitting around.

But on a Colorado vacation, we’re constantly moving and exploring.

That’s how my brain registers “rest and relaxation”- by being out in nature and burning calories the whole time.

So if that sounds like a vacation to you as well… then maybe you are also of the demographic who is called to the state of Colorado!

Should Christians Forfeit the Right to Be Offended?

If you know me at all, you know that a fundamental life motto of mine is this:

“It is your personal decision, 100% of the time, whether to be offended, insulted, disrespected, to let someone hurt your feelings, or to just simply be ready to instantly forgive.”

That’s an epiphany I had shortly after my 35th birthday. So for the past 3 years, I have been living in that knowledge. That nugget of wisdom has only improved the quality of my life and truly has given my freedom from arbitrary burdens I used to carry.

I have also accepted the reality that anything a person believes, in their own mind, is true.

If someone thinks I’m wrong, immoral, ignorant, immature, lazy, unqualified, too serious, too silly, too conservative, too liberal…

They are always right. To them, it is truth. To them, it is reality.

Therefore, it is a waste of my time, energy, and emotions to attempt to prove them wrong in their perception. It is most likely that they have identity protective cognition, so that my attempts to correct their perspective about me will only reinforce what they already believe about me.

I feel this is the example Jesus gave when he was being questioned by Pilate (in Mark, Chapter 15):

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Granted, I believe that often, when one person makes any kind of judgment call regarding another person’s character, there is a good chance that are simply broadcasting their own insecurities or uncertainties about their own identity.

As a human being, I forfeit my right to be offended. I openly invite the free world to call me every name in the book.

Ultimately, only I get to determine whether I am a victim, a villain, or a victor.

It is my opinion, as a Christian, that it is ideal for Christians to forfeit the right to be offended. Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek.

That implies the importance of not only taking the hit, but giving the “offender” the opportunity to strike again.

I see this is a healthy state of being: to be ready at any time to instantly forgive anyone.

Instead of being offended, I say we should use those opportunities to extend grace to the person; whether they are a believer or not.

Who knows? That surprising response of grace could prove to be the simple act of kindness to help minister to the would-be “offender”.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. And if that’s what you believe, I won’t try to prove otherwise.

Choosing to Be a Church Pastor as a Career Path, Not as a Calling

I am currently fascinated by this concept in America: In theory, a man who is not actually a believer could choose the profession of being a church pastor; not because he believes in the teachings of Christianity or that he is being called by God to do so, but instead, simply because he sees being a church pastor as a promising career path.

Church pastors have to make a living, too, you know. They have families to support. The tricky part is this, though: The salary that a pastor earns is often directly related to the size of his congregation.

Not only is there a salary to consider, but often, the church members’ tithes cover the pastor’s insurance, as well as a housing stipend.

Here’s what the career path looks like:

This man goes to seminary. This man graduates seminary.

Man starts pastoring a small country church and remains there two years, as he builds a reputation as “an engaging speaker and a strong leader, just what this church needs” (largely due to the fact he simply has the right personality for the job and is a good communicator); while using clever social media posts to build his reputation. The money isn’t amazing, but it pays the bills.

Word gets out, and now this man is offered a position at a larger church in a bigger town just an hour away: This one even has two church buses and even a humble sized “life and recreation center”. The money is definitely better and there is now basic insurance available.

He puts in three years at this one before his reputation (and his congregation’s perception of the Lord’s calling) sends him to the suburbs of a decent sized city; like Atlanta, Indianapolis, or Houston.

His church now has a dozen members in the worship band alone. His sermons get thousands of views on YouTube. The pastor even has a popular Instagram account which regularly features his high dollar sneaker collection; even if most of those shoes were given to him as publicity by the shoe companies to promote their brand.

By this point, it’s hard to speculate exactly how much money this pastor actually makes; but given all the perks with his career, it doesn’t matter as much anymore.

For example, he gets paid thousands of dollars per event, to travel and speak at other churches.

He even has his own book out, which he earns all the royalties from. So even without depending on the church itself, his side hustles help provide an extra cushion for him and his family.

As long as this man is smart enough to invest in his marriage, ultimately by avoiding cheating on his wife or getting divorced; and as long as he never involves himself in official financial scandal, like embezzlement or tax evasion, his career remains strong.

He retires in his mid 50’s and lives happily ever after. He totally gets away with “serving” as a church pastor for his entire career. Then, he peacefully dies in his sleep at age 78; having lived quite comfortably the past 30 years on his financial investments. Not to mention, he still has millions of dollars in the bank to leave for his family.

But then what?

I bet there are more of these “career path pastors” then we realize. In the end, though, we all answer individually to God at the end of our lives for our own actions:

For how we cared for the poor, the widows, and the fatherless.

For how we treated our neighbors as ourselves.

For how we made the decision to forgive, even when it didn’t make sense from a human perspective.

For how we worked out our own secret sins (gossip, judging others, apathy for the hurting), as opposed to focusing more on the ungodly tendencies of other people who have didn’t temptations than we do.

But I suppose that is a risk these career path pastors are willing to take; given that they don’t actually have to believe in order to successfully pastor a church.

Uh oh… I think I just accidentally wrote the concept for a screenplay for a Christian movie starring Kirk Cameron, Sean Astin, or Nicolas Cage.