Don’t be Afraid to Try - 6/25/2015


The fear of failure is likely the most widespread of all fears. It comes in many shapes and sizes. My kids face it on a daily basis and I am always quick to encourage them to overcome it. I know that if they allow fear to win, they will be robbed of the opportunity to enjoy the best parts of life. Every time they go to the batter’s box, stand at the plate and stare at the pitcher, I am telling them, “You can do it! Don’t be afraid to try!” When Joel stands at the edge of the diving board, hangs his toes off the end and stares at what seems like the plunge into certain disaster, I’m there to say, “Jump! I’ll catch you!” Even when my two year old, Madison, sits at the top of the slide you can see the thought run through her mind, “Am I going to make it to the bottom?”

It’s easy for me to be confident for my children; to always encourage them and at times demand them to face their fears … knowing that even if they don’t succeed, they are at the very least going to give it their best try. After all, I’ve walked through the challenges that they are facing. I’ve stood at the plate. Sometimes I got a hit; other times a big swing and a miss. But you live through it and learn you can always try again. Recently, most of my “pep talks” have been with my oldest daughter, Hannah. She made the All-Star Team in the local fast-pitch softball league. That alone is an achievement. However, since the level of competition is higher (and this is her first year to play with other athletes like this) she has, at times, needed a motivational speech or two to help get over the fear factor that comes with the new challenge.

The other day we were driving home from practice and I had just delivered what I considered to be one of my best “Coach Dad” speeches. Hannah sat quietly for a long minute and then asked,

“Dad, when will I be brave like you?”

“What do you mean? You are brave baby.”

“No. I am always afraid that I’m not going to do well.”

“Yeah I know, but you try anyway right?”

“Well, yeah. I try, but I’m still afraid.”

“I know you are, but that’s what bravery is. It’s being afraid and trying anyway.”

Then her eyes brightened and she got a slight grin. She whispered to herself, “I am brave!”

It might have been a small thing in respect to all of the problems in the world today, but in that moment between us, that one confession meant the world. For her to understand that bravery is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to face the fear and try your best in spite of what you are afraid of. She may only be 10, and we may have only been talking about little league softball, however, I know that someday life will throw major league challenges at my child. Life does not give anyone a free pass. It rains on the just and the unjust. But if she can remember, “She is brave”, then no matter the fear she faces, she’ll never be too afraid to try!


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Where Did You Learn To Do That? - 6/18/2015


My children recently spent the night in what I call, “The House of Yes!” This would be at the same address where my parents receive their mail. The reason I call it, "The House of Yes" is because everything that I have said “no” to is, for some reason, turned into an automatic “yes” the moment the kids walk through their grandparent’s door.

“Can I have ice cream for breakfast?”

“YES!”

“Can I swing a golf club in the flower bed?”

“YES!”

“Can I stay up and watch O’Reilly Factor with Papa?”

“YES!”

These and other outrageous behaviors seem to be allowed now that my parents are into the “grand” season of their life. I for one, as a child raised in that home, am speechless!

While Kendal and I were out I called to check on the kids and see if the “House of Yes” had been burned to the ground yet. Dad picked up on the second ring and I could tell by the tone in his voice that the party for the day had just begun. “How are things going?” I asked with a hint of reservation. Dad burst into laughter and told me they were just great. He and J.W. had just finished cooking breakfast! “Where’s Mom?” The kitchen was always my mom’s kingdom, and other than a bowl of Frosted Flakes, I had no idea my father could cook. Dad said, “She went to the store to get some things. The boys were hungry so J.W. and Joel said we can make breakfast for Nana and have it ready when she gets back.” A sudden shudder ran through my body as I envisioned the condition that the kitchen must be in and the reaction my mother would have upon her return. All I could think to ask was, “Anybody hurt?” Dad laughed even harder and let me know that J.W. was the chef and that all was well. Breakfast tacos were made, nothing burned to the ground, and the kids were outside playing and waiting on “Papa Hagee” to join them. Fear was replaced with a little bit of pride as I heard the report, and then I asked to speak to J.W.

“Son, tell me what you made for breakfast?” I love to cook, and Kendal and I consider eating at home with our family around our table one of the greatest joys in life.

“Breakfast tacos Dad!”

“Oh really, so where did you learn to do that?”

“Watching you!”

My moment of being a proud father was suddenly interrupted with another shudder. This one was not the kind you get when you see your mom walk into the war-zone that used to be her kitchen. This is the kind that you get when the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispers, “Did you hear that?” I finished the conversation with dad and the kids, hung up the phone and then sat down to say a quick prayer.

I thought long and hard about how we are imitators of behavior and how much power we have to influence the lives of those who imitate us. It’s a generational thing. I learned my way around the kitchen imitating my mom; she imitated her mother, now my son was imitating me. I was gripped by the truth that he’s not just imitating the behavior that creates a breakfast; he’s watching and learning from every other behavior too, the productive behavior and the unproductive.

I challenged myself with that short prayer to be the kind of example that Christ was in Hebrews 12:2 “Looking to Jesus…” We are to look at Him and do what He did. In another book Paul encouraged the church to “become imitators of Christ…” (1 Thess. 1:6-7). I want to live my life in such a way that no matter what my children see me do, if they were to do it too, it would be the right thing for them to do. As it is for all mankind, someday my children will stand before the Creator of Heaven and Earth and when He asks them, “Where did you learn to do that?” I want the result of that conversation to be, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”


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“We Are Going to Do This Together…” - 6/10/2015


The kids are out of school!!! The days are getting longer and hotter, and the activities are only beginning to pile up. My five-year-old, Joel, is always concerned about what we are going to do next. No matter how exciting or routine the current event is, if it’s the joy of an amusement park or the torture of 5:00 o’clock traffic, he is the child who will always ask me with great excitement, “Dad what are we going to do next?” No matter what I say, he always has the same response...“And we’re going to do it together?”

It struck me the other day as we were having our routine exchange, what a profound statement he was making. He didn’t require control of the schedule, not that he could have it anyway; everyone knows who dictates that...MOM! He didn’t have options or better alternatives to consider. He simply wanted to affirm that fact that we belong to the family and we are going to face whatever comes next together.

This assurance is one of the most sacred treasures of life. The sense of belonging, the knowing that no matter what, there is a place where you will always have the support you need from a committed group of people, who will always be there for you. Even at the age of five, without the ability to fully grasp all that the question holds, Joel wants to know that we are going to do this together.

It’s not just a need in the life of a child. It is also a need in me, too. I recognize that there are seasons in life. There is a time to grow, a time to mature, a time to produce and build, and a time to stop building and enjoy what you have produced. As I watch so many face these changes, in their own way they ask the same question as my son...“Are we going to do this together?”

Some get older and need more help than they have ever needed before. And as they transition from independent to total dependence, they look to their loved ones and want to know, “Are we going to do this together?”

Young couples face the challenges of starting a new life together, with so many difficult and sometimes frightening moments that can potentially end in disaster. Yet their relationship and love grows stronger and stronger, because they decided to do it together.

Even that independent 20-something that wants to be totally out on their own, charting their own path, enjoying their own life...somewhere in the quiet corner of their mind, they want to know where they belong and who they can count on when it comes time to share the success or sorrow of life. Because even the greatest challenges are cut in half when shared with another.

In order for the answer to the question to be yes...“Yes, we are going to do this together"...A real commitment must be made, and there is nothing convenient about commitment. Commitments are much easier to make than they are to keep. Because they never really matter until it costs you something.

This summer I am committed to spending as much time with my kids as I can possibly afford. In order to keep that commitment, I am going to have to sacrifice everything in my schedule that would take me away from my family that is not absolutely necessary. Why would I do that? Because I am committed. It doesn’t matter what you are trying to do. If you are going to be successful at it, you are going to have to be committed to it. And if you are going to be committed to it, that means you’ve got to sacrifice for it.

The sacrifice may feel like it’s large in the moment, but weighed out over time, it's probably a small price to pay. Because, while my son is 5 and I am 36, I want him to know he belongs with me, and we are going to do life together. So that when he’s my age and I am in another season of my life, he will make it known that I belong to him, and we are still committed to facing life together.


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Don't Get Too Close To The Edge - 6/2/2015


It has been said that South Texas is always two weeks from a drought or flood, and lately it has certainly been more of the later than the former. It is at times shocking how much water can surge over a dam, down a once-dry creek, or through the streets of major cities. It creates great anxiety as once-quiet streams and peaceful places become raging rivers carrying away anything and everything that would dare get in its way. Living in this arid climate, you never complain about the rain, however, there are times when you wonder how much more of it you can take. I heard a rancher say the other day, "We only get 27-inches of rain a year, but you should be here the day it comes."

Kendal and I live on a piece of property with a creek that usually flows with a very quiet trickle; at times it can run so low that you might not know that it's there. Most days, our sons JW and Joel ask if they can go to the creek, and the answer is always yes. Along this creek bank their imaginations take them on great adventures; I always cherish the opportunity to hear them tell me about the safari they went on, or the courage they showed in battle as they rescued each other from certain peril. There is nothing as exciting and (at times) terrifying as raising "red-blooded" boys.

Two weeks ago it was reported that we could see some heavy rains and that flooding was a possibility. I believe they used the word heavy because that was the biggest one they could find at the time. The rain fell at historic levels and, unfortunately, there were some communities that the only way to describe them now is "washed away." The force of nature can make very strong people feel so very small and helpless in no time at all.

When the rain came in such a massive amount in such a short period of time, our quiet creek became a raging set of rapids, carrying massive trees, fence material and anything else it wanted to along with it. Seeing this amazing sight, the boys asked the same question they always ask. "Can we go to creek?" This time the answer was a clear and quick "No!" Of course they protested, but that's because they couldn't see the danger that we did. They saw their playground as more exciting and adventurous than ever. At the ages of eight and five, who wouldn't? We saw certain disaster. They couldn't understand that they didn't have to jump into the raging water to be in danger; all they had to do was get close and they could be instantly swept away. They wanted to take a closer look, and we wanted to lock the door and keep them safe.

This exchange got me thinking about another raging river that is a threat to all of us in some way. You don't have to jump in the middle of it to be swept away, all you have to do is get close enough to the edge to get caught up in it and, the next thing you know, you're out of control and don't know how to get out. This raging river is found in our culture. Some call it humanism, others call it progressivism and some have even deceived themselves by using words like freedom and liberty. The truth is that the culture has become a flood of immorality, selfishness, greed, lust and deception. It is ruthless as it destroys families and crushes lives. It drowns people in addiction and bondage, keeping them from living the life they were designed to live, instead making them feel as if they have a doomed existence.

That's why it's important to know that you don't need to get too close to the edge. It may appear to be exciting and worth a closer look, but at any moment you could get swept away. Once you're caught in it, your only hope is to be rescued. You can't swim your way out; you can't hope it will gently set you down some place downstream. You need someone to come and pull you out of what you've fallen into. The good news about the raging culture of this age is if you are caught in it, there is a Savior who can grab you right where you are and pull you from the raging stream you're caught in. All you have to do is ask Him.


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Stay Out of the Mine Field - 5/28/2015


I went to Israel for the first time when I was 13 and in the 8th grade. I have been several times since with thousands of friends and fellow believers from all over the world on ministry trips. Each one is special in its own way, and each trip has a moment that you will never forget. For me, Israel is a place where, every day that I am there, the Bible literally swells in my heart as I see the Word of God (breathed by His Holy Spirit) come alive before my eyes. There truly is no place on earth quite like the Holy Land.

Israel is not only the land of the Bible, but also one of the most contested nations in our modern world. There have been many struggles as the people of Israel fight to establish themselves and lay claim to God’s promise that they as a people have a covenant with the land. Now more than ever, the words of King David are timely. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper who love you (Psalms 122:6).”

The thought for this week’s blog came to me in an indirect way…from something I have seen over and over again as I have walked through the Holy sites of Israel. I had never considered this topic in this particular context until recently. As a matter of fact, the small signs that have shaped the advice that I am about to give, have never appeared on a brochure…and will probably never be a selling point to convince someone that they really should take that trip of a lifetime to visit the “Land of the Bible.” The signs I’m talking about are located in various places along the Israeli roads, in certain areas that you want to visit. They hang on fences constructed of barbed wire, painted bright yellow with black letters. These signs are highly-visible and give very clear direction, “BEWARE OF MINES.”

You see, because of all the modern wars and conflicts that have been fought in Israel, the path that you may walk to the Jordan River in the desert south of Jericho might have once been a battle field, or the trail that leads to the New Testament town of Bethsaida; Chorazin north of Galilee could have once been the front lines of a fight. When the conflicts have ended and the treaties have been signed, it’s time to make room for the tourist and pilgrims to come and visit. Rather than face the risk of serious injury or death from clearing every last land mine the enemy has previously buried, the Israeli military will locate the area that the mines are in and fence it off, then ensure a very safe and clear path for you to gain access to your desired location. This way everyone is aware of where to go and where not to go.

So you’re thinking, “That’s nice. What does that have to do with my life?” I will tell you. The other day, I was thinking of friends I have known who for a good while had many wonderful blessings in their lives…strong marriages, growing families, great careers and a wonderful path filled with nothing but potential in front of them. Then somehow, somewhere, at some point, it seems everything just blew up; what seemed so stable and long-lasting is suddenly destroyed. As I considered the things that I saw in common with tragic situations that people endure, I recognized that in many cases it begins by taking a few steps off of the clear-cut path and wandering out into the mine field of some old conflict…dwelling on those things that cause the most damage rather than focusing on where you want to go and enjoying the beautiful things in life.

Like modern day Israel, life will have its seasons of conflict. There will be battles fought physically, spiritually and emotionally. But when the fight is over, stay out of the mine field and walk down the path God has cleared for you. Don’t get distracted and wonder if there is something better on the other side of the fence. Remember what Jesus said, “Broad is the path that leads to destruction and many there be that find it. Narrow the path that leads to eternal life and few there be that find it.” You know where the explosive material in your life has been buried by the enemy. Rather than risk the harm of digging it up, read the warning signs that God has hung on your heart strings and stay out of the mine field.


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