Punching Pastors, Bouncy Houses and Southern Hospitality

We have had a couple BIG days!

First, we had the cross country jaunt from New Orleans, Louisiana to Valdosta, Georgia. The kids did great enduring the trip as our packed out SUV careened throughout the clear highways of Louisiana, Florida and Georgia. We have made a deal with the kids that has already paid off quite well. It is a deal that I would encourage any family that is traveling cross country to do. It is this…

For every state that the kids make it through without fighting (OK… maybe it is just keeping the fighting to a minimum.), they will receive a dollar. That’s right… one slightly used greenback with the not so smiley face of George Washington staring back at them. The result has been a cross country trip that has been fairly peaceful which has only cost me about five bucks a kid. Well worth it!

It’s worked in a great way! Try it out. If you have teenagers, it probably won’t work as well… but my 4th grader can still be controlled with the promise of a dollar 😉

So, here we are in Georgia and it is beautiful. I have practically been blinded by all of the green. Being from the desert, green is a sight that I often don’t get to see. However, I have been so happy to be surrounded by the trees and grass and have absolutely fallen in love with a thing called “Spanish Moss”. It hangs from the trees and looks gorgeous on the Georgian landscape.

Spanish Moss in Georgia

Spanish Moss in Georgia

On our first day in Georgia we just grabbed a bite to eat, regrouped and hit the hay. It had been a long day of driving and we were happy to be at our home base. The next day we hooked up with a pastor friend of mine by the name of Kelly Barcol. Kelly is the only pastor that I personally know that has fought in a Mixed Martial Arts battle and won! He is an inspiration, a church planter and an incredibly charismatic dude. He has an awesome faith community called The House of Joy in Valdosta, Georgia.

Pastor Kelly Barcol from the House of Joy

Pastor Kelly Barcol from the House of Joy

Pastor Kelly with the Victory!

Pastor Kelly with the Victory!

I love Pastor Kelly! He has such an awesome heart and his desire is to reach people with the love of Jesus (plus he could probably break my arm in one of his “atomic arm bars”. I don’t know if he calls it “atomic”, but that sounds really cool! He should.)  He is an evangelist at heart and I can see this gifting and passion being utilized in great ways. He is doing a phenomenal work in the lives of many in the community of Valdosta.

On day two in Georgia, we hung out while the kids went to an indoor bouncy house warehouse called Jumping Jacks. The kids ran around like chickens with their heads cut off… which was great after our eight hour car ride… they needed to expel some energy. 

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Jump’n Jacks in Valdosta, Georgia

But, the reason for my visit to Valdosta happened today as I was able to preach at the House of Joy. From my very first steps onto the campus of this church, I knew that I was at home. Kelly has done a great job planting this church as a “parachute drop in church planter” ten years ago. I love church planters and the creativity that goes in to reaching people for Jesus and I could see this “heart” manifested in his team. I loved their commitment in setting up the different areas and praying for the service and going out of their way to make sure that new people were served.

I heard testimony after testimony of how this church had impacted the community. From drug addicts who the pastor would never give up on to intellectual college professors who were drawn in by the church’s love for family… the testimonies kept coming and coming. It was great to be able to give back to a community like this. The message went over amazingly and I was so honored to speak into the lives of these wonderful people. I hope and pray that this isn’t my last visit to Georgia and that the church I pastor, THE PLACE, and the House of Joy can do many great things together in the future!

After church, we went out to eat at a restaurant called “Cheddar’s” and this is when it really hit me. It was something that had been rising up from beneath the surface for some time, but it wasn’t until we hit this place that I truly began to understand the meaning of two words that I had heard used together many times before… but didn’t truly understand. These words are:

Southern Hospitality

It’s so true! People are different here than anywhere else that I’ve ever been. I’ve never been in the “deep south” like this before and I’ve never experienced this kind of hospitality. Let me give you some examples…

#1: We went in to get the kids a haircut at Walmart and didn’t walk out until 90 minutes later. Why? Because the guy cutting the kids’ hair was so talkative and friendly. I would look forward to getting my hair cut if this guy were the one doing it. He talked to people like he had known them for years and was filled with kindness and a story for everything that we talked about.

#2: We went to a restaurant and the server couldn’t do enough for us. She found out we were new to the south and made sure that the cooks made us up some “fried okra” so that we could have a southern favorite. We washed that down with some “sweet tea” and were good to go!

#3: In the line at the Salad Bar I overheard a conversation between two people. The one was telling another about Jesus and how to live a life that honors God. In fact, these kinds of conversations are heard everywhere. I am definitely in the heart of the Bible belt and everyone is incredibly open with their faith and their love for Jesus.

#4: I have had more “long conversations” here than ever before. People seem to want to talk. From the gas stations to the grocery store lines to the church parking lot to the men’s room… there is always a conversation to be had. And, they never seem rushing off to do anything else. They want to stop and talk and spend time with you. It has been so therapeutic to my “running full tilt boogie” way of life that I normally have.

The southern pace has been so nice for me. I am so happy to have had this time with these wonderful people to learn more about them… but also to learn more about myself.

I have been reminded of the words of Jesus as he spoke to His disciples in Mark chapter 6: “And He (Jesus) said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

In ministry (and life) we can get moving pretty fast. And, when we get going, we find ourselves having to keep the pace that we have created. We have to keep it because it has been the standard. It has been the thing that has allowed you to get where you are and the only thing that is going to allow it to continue. But, instead, the opposite is really true.

Southern hospitality understands it… Jesus understands it… and I think that I’m reaching the place where I understand it too. In order to excel, sometimes you need to slow down.

It reminds me of a recent ride that I went on through the desert in my buddy Roy Fegley’s ATV. It’s a “ranger” and a ton of fun… at least it was until I was about two miles in the desert and the engine stopped working. There I was in the middle of the dirt with the sun pounding down on me. I was wishing that I was more mechanical or knew more than the location of the gas pedal… but I didn’t. I had no idea what to do. So, I did what anyone would do, I opened the hood and stared at the engine like I knew what I was looking at. What I saw was something that definitely wasn’t right… there was green liquid all over the engine.

Calling Roy on the phone, I asked him a single question… “Has this ever happened before?”

His answer… “No.”

My answer… “OK. Just wondering.”

His answer… “OK. Talk to you  later.”

My answer… “Bye.”

Hanging up I realized that I was back where I started… hot and perplexed in the middle of nowhere. So, I sat and waited and thought and waited. After a while, after the engine cooled, I was able to start it and limp it to safety. Reaching the autoparts store, we bought antifreeze (the green stuff), filled it up and kept going.

By stopping… by checking under the engine… by addressing the areas that needed addressed… we were able to drive home at full speed. We were able to operate at full potential.

My life is the same way and so is yours. Some of you may be broken down in the desert right now. You are frustrated and don’t know what to do. You have popped the hood and you know that there is something seriously wrong, but have no idea on how to fix it.

Others have started to let the engine cool and you are limping it back to the garage. You are working on the problem and have slowed down enough to get your life to a place of safety. You are on the road of recovery.

Either way, you have to open the hood and look at the engine. You have to take time.

Follow the words of Jesus.

Exercise some southern hospitality…

Or, better yet… receive some southern hospitality.

Don’t rush here and there. Don’t operate at a break neck pace. Slow down and appreciate people and situations and the life circumstances that you find yourself in.

If you do this, you just might find God moving in the midst of the peace. Take time today to rest. Take time today to listen. Take time today to simply “be”…

GP

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Leaping Gators, Willie Nelson and “the best day of my life”

So, in the words of Willie Nelson I’d like to say that we are “on the road again”.

We pulled out from the Big Easy about 8:30am and hit the Southern Superhighway known as 10 East. Our time in New Orleans was great! The food was amazing, the family time fulfilling and the new experiences memorable for all of us… but especially for the kids. In fact, a big part of what I’m doing right now has to do with them.

You know, you only get one shot as a parent and a lot of time that slips by really quick. I’m not going to bust out the chorus from Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle“… but I could! (Wow! I must be in a musical mood. First Willie Nelson and now Harry Chapin. Be prepared for some Axl Rose which is sure to come!) I have personally been running non stop for the past three years building a church which has been growing and doing great things… but if I ever sacrifice my children on the altar of ministry, I am surely missing it… BIG TIME!

If you are excelling in ministry or business or anything else, but missing out on time with your family it is time to readjust. You are NEVER going to have a right time. As a leader, you need to MAKE the right time. You need to trust God to take care of the details that only you can take care of and honor him with your work… your pleasure… and your family. That brings me to yesterday’s activity.

Yesterday we went on a gator tour. And, this just isn’t any gator tour, this is the “official” Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp tour in Slidell, Louisiana. It was my third time on the tour and I couldn’t wait to share the experience with my kids. It is pretty awesome to see a sixteen foot alligator leap out of the water to eat a hotdog off a stick. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you must move it to the top of the bucket list. It is awesome. Here is a little bit how it’s gonna look…

Gators love hotdogs!

Gators love hotdogs!

Big Gator Swimming

Big Gator Swimming

More on the gators later…

But, the truly amazing thing didn’t happen as the massive reptiles were leaping from the waters, but as the boat was careening down the bayou at an incredible rate of speed. It was in that moment that my eight year old leaned over and said these words to his mom…

“This is the best day of my life.”

If you have never heard those words from your child, then it will be hard for you to understand what it felt like. I can’t capture the feeling in words here. But, if you have ever heard your child say those words when you weren’t expecting them then you know exactly what I’m talking about. It makes you think to yourself…

“I must be doing something right.”

And I know that it wasn’t the gators that made the day “the best” and it wasn’t the swamp or the copious amounts of food or the music on the street or the driving in the car… I know that it was because of the “time” that he is getting. Time that he needs. Time that they all need. Time that is so cheap to give, but that pays back incalculable dividends.

It’s a lesson that I feel so blessed to have learned. It is a nudging that I am glad I heard and I am glad that I responded with a “yes”. It is something that has costed me so little, but has already returned such a great reward.

What about you? Sometimes we can get so caught up with “building a life for them” that we neglect to “build a life with them”. We work to provide and make something substantial out of our life while neglecting the one thing that God has given us that is worth far more than any job, career, ministry or opportunity. It is the responsibility of raising his sons and daughters that have been entrusted to us for a small season.

Do you have the focus on the right thing?

If not, don’t wait. Do something with them today. Hug them a little tighter today. Tell them how much they mean to you today. Listen to them talk to you today. Turn the TV off and ask them about their thoughts and feelings and about their friends… talk to them about life and watch that seed of caring begin to bloom and blossom.

Back to the gators…

We reached this point when we had seen quite a few gators individually. We would see one, feed one, talk about one and then move on to the next spot. But, we reached a place where we were nestled in between these trees as we coaxed a small gator over while our captain made the noise of a baby gator and slapped a stick against the water. The gator started slowly to make her way to the boat. I looked down river and saw another ripple making his way to the boat.

It was another gator. I looked to the right… another gator. Before I knew it, there were four or five gators surrounding the boat. These are territorial gators who were looking past their angst towards one another to focus on another target… dinner. And what was the dinner? Us! They weren’t after marshmallows or “hotdogs”, but the “human dogs” sitting in the boat!

But it’s funny… because I wasn’t once worried. Here I was surrounded by animals who would love to eat me and my entire family, but I wasn’t scared. My heart wasn’t racing. I wasn’t planning my escape. I wasn’t even thinking about an exit strategy. I simply sat back and looked at the beauty of the animals who wanted to kill me.

I wondered why… and then I remembered… I trusted the captain of the boat and knew that he wouldn’t take us somewhere that wasn’t safe. He had been here many times before and knew the dangers like the back of his hand. I felt safe because I trusted the captain.

I started to think about my life. It is sort of the same way. There are gators swimming all around. In other words, there is a consistent amount of danger that is always around the boat of my life. Whether it is spiritual or emotional or physical or financial or anything else that has the power to destroy me. It is all there swimming quietly around the boat waiting for the opportunity to pounce. But, I am not stressed or scared or worried.

Why? Because I trust the captain… Jesus Christ.

I believe His words that I don’t need to worry. I believe that He’ll always be with me. I believe that He’s not going anywhere. And, it doesn’t matter how many gators surround my boat because I trust my captain.

Sometimes, you may be worried or stressed or anxious about the gators in the waters around your boat. I want to encourage you to focus on the captain in the midst of those moments. You have nothing to worry about when Jesus is the captain of your boat.

Today, be encouraged! Love your kids and love the captain of your life. There’s no better way to live!

Much Love,

GP

p.s. “Welcome to the Jungle!” There’s your Axl Rose!

😉

Jazz Clubs, a Puddle of Vomit and “People Like That”

There are worse places you can be… I am currently sitting on a balcony overlooking a pool in the courtyard of the Place d’Arms (a hotel nestled in the thick of the French Quarter). Sure, it is 6am and I am only awake because my 8 year old kicked me out of my bed… but isn’t that what memories are made of! Plus, it gave me the opportunity to give you an update. So, as I sit here, swat mosquitoes and dream about the beignets that I’ll be eating at the Cafe du Monde in a little bit, let me tell you about yesterday.

Leaving San Antonio was bittersweet. We had such a wonderful time and the friends we made there were great. We had stayed at a friend’s house which is owned by an OB doctor with two lively kids. The doc does work with families who live in poverty and had some great stories about her work there. My boys loved that they now had two friends to play with and burned off a ton of energy running around the playground at Lakeland Air Force Base and jumping in and out of their pool.

Lakeland AF Base with San Antonio Friends

Lakeland AF Base with San Antonio Friends

But, like all good things, that had to come to an end. We hit the road around 6:30am and headed to Louisiana. About nine hours later we pulled into N’awlins!

A little side note here… the kids have been amazing! We were very concerned with having them in a car for as long as they have been, but they have been great! I am not trying to jinx myself here, but after well over 20 hours in a car… I couldn’t be happier.

So, we pulled into New Orleans yesterday. We were famished after the trip, so after check in at the hotel and a brief tour, we hit the sidewalks to find a place to eat. Now, the way that I have been locating restaurants lately has been through Yelp and it has not let me down yet. It is what I used to find a great little hole in the wall in Phoenix called “Cafe D’lish” and what I used to find our next stop… The Camellia Grill.

The Camellia Grill was a 4 star rating and only one dollar sign (that means cheap) and in walking distance of the hotel, so we took the stroll 0.2 miles and walked into this little restaurant. You sit at a counter in this little hole in the wall and the staff are incredibly friendly and kind to your kids. I was quick to ask for a recommendation… as I do at about every restaurant I go to… and ended up with a Catfish Poboy (I am a strong believer in eating according to my location and Catfish sure sounded great!) It was really good! If I go back I think I’ll try the smothered Roast Beef Poboy… it sounds amazing! After some delicious grub, we hit the road again.

Xander and I at the Camellia Grill

Xander and I at the Camellia Grill

We walked to the main strip and crossed to water, choosing to walk the path which borders the river. It is filled with locals, tourists, homeless and artists. From the dixieland music blasting from the riverboat to the chorus of an out of tune “Free Bird” being sung by a homeless guitarist… music was in the air. I walked and smiled as I watched my kids (ages 4,8 and 13) take it all in.

It’s new and different.

I had the talk about things that are “inappropriate” before we came. Being here two times before, I knew of all the “T-shirts” or sayings that pop up in the store windows and wanted them to be aware of what was appropriate and what was not. I didn’t want them to be surprised. I wanted to have that discussion with them first. I wanted them to know how to react when you see something inappropriate. I wanted to teach them about “bouncing your eyes” when you see a half dressed woman and not returning for a second look. (A lesson on Lot’s wife would be great here… but I just thought about that now. Maybe later today!)

I hear people talk sometimes about the French Quarter being the “city of sin”… and they are right. It’s here. It’s out there. Drunkenness and debauchery and sexual depravity and even some others that I choose not to discuss here. If you can name it, I’m sure it’s here. And what makes this “so bad” is that it’s not hidden. It is out there for the world to see. There is not just an endorsement, but a flaunting of it.  But more on that in a minute.

For those that can take their eyes off the evil, there is an incredible beauty here. The music is like no other. Tara and I peeked our head into a club that had musicians playing that far outweighed any talent that I have seen in recent years. The singing was the quality of Aretha Franklin and the musicality of the band was impeccable. This was not some “garage band” bar band, but phenomenal musicians who had a love for their crowd and a commitment to excellence with their music and their showmanship.

A few blocks down we popped in to hear some jazz. They quickly ushered us past the crowd to the very front row. I, literally, could have strummed this guy’s banjo myself. It was awkward and uncomfortable and awesome… all at the same time. The talent was like no other. And there was music like this going on in every place down the block. Phenomenal musicians giving their skill and their talent to audiences who truly appreciated their craft.

Front Row for a Jazz Band

Front Row for a Jazz Band

Let’s get back to the sin…

In every crowd that I’ve seen since I’ve been here, the one common characteristic that I’ve seen are God’s children who have been filling them. His creation… His loved ones… His kids. From the urine stained homeless man strumming his six string to the banjo playing Jazz man who I could have helped play to the drunken man who finds himself waking up in a puddle of his own vomit… God loves all these people. In fact, He loves them so much that He came to die for them.

The problem for us is that it is messy to reach people like this. They don’t look like you or act like you (or maybe they do… and in that case you understand exactly what I’m saying) and it is easier to simply look at them as “people like that”.

But, I got to tell you the truth… I was once known as “people like that”. I was the kid who partied too hard and looked “different” and was seen as a lost cause to many. I was “given up on” because of how I acted or how I behaved. But, there was a lady who I met one day that looked past all that and saw a “human being” in desperate need of the love of Jesus and shared with me the love of God and the Gospel message… and my life has never been the same since.

The lesson for my kids… and the lesson for me… is that sometimes we have to look past our initial thoughts on a place or a person and try to see it the way that God does. See it filled with hope and a future… see it filled with people who need Him… see it as an opportunity to shine bright and not simply as a place to avoid. 

So, we continue our journey. We continue to see life and love and messy humanity all mixed together into a ball of awesomeness. We’ll continue to shine God’s light and, as a father, I’ll continue to answer tough questions. I will continue to try to hear God’s voice over the noise. I will try to learn lessons in my travels to help others. I will continue to let the N’awlins cuisine fatten me up and I will continue to love people and life.

Today, allow yourself to see God in all the facets of life. Next time you look at “one of them”, remember me… for I was (and am) “one of them”.  Shine God’s love into every life that you come into contact with and you just may be surprised at what you find Him doing.

Happy Travels!

GP

Running Texas Hills, Abraham and Yael Naim

I am knee deep in Texas heat! I felt this strange liquid falling down my face and thought, “I’m actually sweating!” (You see, in AZ I don’t sweat. Well, I’m sure I do sweat, but it’s so hot that it evaporates immediately and there’s no real humidity to make me sweat more. So, sweating is a foreign thing to me.) 

But, in spite of the humidity, Texas has been great to us!

We have a great friend here by the name of Jackie and she has been an incredible host. We have a casita to stay in, a pool to play in and 3 of the cutest dogs ever to pet.

Hintz Family with Jackie and New San Antonio Friends

Hintz Family with Jackie and New San Antonio Friends

My Buddy in San Antonio

Don’t let the grumpy look fool ya! 

Today I actually had the opportunity to go on a run and this is something that I never pass up on. What I wasn’t ready for were the “rolling hills” of Texas! I felt like I was doing circuit training. Up one hill and down the other side only to find another one waiting for me. It was awesome though. We are staying in a beautiful neighborhood with no traffic and it was great to soak up the sunshine and the vast greenery all around me (I don’t get a lot of greenery in Arizona). And then I hit mile 4…

Mile 4 is the magic mile for me. It always has been. I tell people that the first 4 miles are always horrible miles for me. I’m not loving it. I am pushing through to hit the fourth mile because it is in this mile that everything else in my world fades away and a peace and serenity like no other falls over me. There is this incredible clarity and the greatest lessons in my life are learned in every mile after the 4th. Today was like no other.

The story of Abraham and Issac came to my mind. It is an amazing story. It is a story of love and sacrifice and one that I have read many times and heard preached on even more. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check it out here. I think that you’ll really like it). But today I really “felt” it in a way that I hadn’t before. Imagine being asked to sacrifice your only son. I am a father of 3 sons and I love them to death. I began to imagine the anger that I would have towards a God that would ask me to do such a thing. I thought about my reaction. I thought about my place in life. I thought about my faith.

Stepping away from the idea of child sacrifice, I thought about the different things in my life that I had birthed or things that I have had a part in creating. For me, I’ve helped to create a ministry. For others, it could be a business or a relationship or something else. It would have to be something that you have a vested interest in and something that you care greatly about.

Now, let me ask you a question… What if God asked you to sacrifice it? What if He asked you to put it on the altar and give it over to Him? Could you do it? 

Tough question… I know. But it is one that we all need to consider. There are times when God is going to test us to see whether we are worshipping that which we created or if we are worshipping Him. Now, before I finish my thought I need you to recognize that thing in your life and answer the question.

If He wanted it, could you sacrifice it? Go ahead and answer… 

I’m serious! Do it and answer the question already! 

OK. Here’s the end of the story. Abraham didn’t have to do it, but God needed to know that he would be willing. God used the very thing that He called Abe to sacrifice, Isaac, to usher in the 12 tribes of Israel. God not only didn’t take Isaac, but blessed Him and His generations. God just needs to know that HE is the one you worship, not the ministry or work that He has called you to. 

About mile six a song came up on my Pandora Station that I really like. I probably really like it because there is not much music that utilizes the tuba anymore, but that is for another discussion. The song is by Yael Naim (sweet name!) and it is called “New Soul”. Today, the words really smacked me across the face. They were her words… but in many ways they are my words too. They go like this…

I’m a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit about how to give and take. 
But since I came here
Felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake 

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la… 

Today, her words hit home. It is my story and it is your story and it is our story. We mess up. We have good intentions, but sometimes don’t always get it right. We have all found ourselves “making every possible mistake”.

And I thought about these two ideas exploding together in my mind. On one side, laying down “my goals” for “Him” and then finding myself “making every possible mistake”. And I guess that’s why…

When we lay our plans on the altar and give them over to God, they are His and not ours. I’ll mess it up. You’ll mess it up. We try hard, but we can’t always get it right. However, when we give it all over to Him… He gets to do with it what He wants and we are just along for the ride.

Be encouraged. Keep running up those hills. Don’t give up when you make every possible mistake.

Because when He is first in our life, we can say this simple prayer… “God, you got me into this. Now You have to get me out.” And the great news is… If He wants you out, He’ll get you out. If not, sit back and enjoy because you are not having to endure it alone.

Much Love Guys!

GP

Road Trip Adventure 2013: Floods, RV and rolling with the punches

Well, I’m off… or at least I’ve been off for the last 10 hours or so. I am off on a “Cross Country RV Adventure”. I still have the “cross” and have seen a ton of “country”, but there’s something missing. That missing thing from my “Cross Country RV Adventure” is… AN RV! That’s right… no RV. “What happened?” you might ask. Well, let me tell you…

I have been preparing for the last three months for a cross country RV trip. I have bought and read (OK… skimmed) over a dozen books on RVing (Check out some of them from a previous post here). I have worked on my RV, prepared it inside on out, stocked it, packed it, practiced in it and done about everything else a man could do in preparation for the trip. Then, two days before we were going to leave, my wife calls me and said, “The RV Stinks!”

Now, I thought that she had just grown to really dislike the RV and was expressing her internal emotional attachment to the thing my kids like to call “The Big Rolling Terd” (thank you Robin Williams and the movie RV), but it was literally a stench that was emanating from the RV. My first thought… an animal crawled in that thing and died! I went home prepared to locate the critter, dispose of his furry dead body and squirt the area down with Lysol. The only problem is that there was no rodent. I searched and searched. The stench stayed, but there were no stiff, furry creatures causing it. I got down on my hands and knees and that is when I felt it.

Splash!

My hand dropped onto the floor which had now become a puddle. I moved it over to the carpeted area next to it and discovered that it was soaking wet. There was a 2 inch wading pool resting on the linoleum and a drenched carpet that were working together to funkify my RV.

At this point, you have to know a little bit about me. I’m not mechanical man. I’m not Mr. Fix It. Sure, I can do stuff, but it takes me a while and I only had 48 hours before I was going to have to embark on this cross country trip. I wanted to wiggle my nose and make it all better. (I did try this “I Dream of Jeanie” style, but nothing happened. It made me smile, but that’s about it.) So, I did what any good guy does when he doesn’t know what to do. I put it off and said that I’d make a decision tomorrow – one day before I’m supposed to leave.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe that God would show up in a dream and tell me what to do like he did for Joseph. Or, maybe he would send an angel and we could wrestle around like Jacob did and I’d get the answer to my question and a cool new walk like Jacob (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the story here. It’s pretty sweet!) But, instead I get no dream and no new swagger… I just wake up with no answers and still clueless about what to do. So, I say a simple prayer. “God, I am going to walk out into that RV and I want you to give me an answer.”

I walked outside, I opened the door, I smelled the stench, I walked to the area that I dried up the day prior and I saw a 1/2 inch of water waiting for me. In that moment the Lord spoke… “Rent a car, Greg. Change your plans, Greg. Take all the books and the training and the expectations that you had, throw them in the toilet, flush them down and follow my lead.”

It wasn’t easy… but I did it. And, so far… so good.

Maybe that’s the lesson for today. Maybe we need to plan and have our ideas and try to do the best that we can with what we have, but be willing to flush them down the toilet when we are asked to. I could have been mad or upset or frustrated, but instead I choose to simply roll with the punches. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I trust that it will be good and exciting… and part of His story in my life.

I preach a message about open hands all the time. I say that we are to hold all the aspects of our lives up before God with open hands. We say to Him, “Take what you will. Give me what you want. And, with whatever is in my hands, I will do my best with it.” As I lay here in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that is what I choose to do. I have my family. I have my God. I have a pillow under my head and a calling in my heart. I guess I’m doing OK. Maybe His plans really are the best for our lives!

Stay tuned…

GP

Inspired to Live a Full Life. Hear the voice of Ryan Woods (video)

Ryan Woods was diagnosed with Glioblastoma and told he had 1-4 months to live. He decided to let his story be heard. SoulPancake helped his voice be heard by the world. Share in his story… his love… and his inspiration. Take his story and allow it to inspire you to make a difference on this earth!

Ryan Woods passed away on Nov. 7, 2012. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Ryan. We will miss you.

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GP

Two Minute Inspiration from Hollywood (video)

Every now and then we need to be inspired. However, we often don’t have the two hours to invest in a motivational and inspirational movie in order to find that inspiration. So, instead of trying to do all that… let’s take two minutes and be inspired from some of Hollywood’s finest. It’s time for some “Two Minute Hollywood Inspiration”. Enjoy!

I hope that helped. Now get out there and make your life count!

GP

Most Inspiring Movie Ever! Michael Keaton’s “My Life”

I believe that one of the most inspiring movies I have ever seen was created long before anyone knew what the initials CGI meant and when vampires were still evil. It was a movie that most have never heard of before. It is a movie that you need to watch this year… and every year after this at least one time. In fact, that’s exactly what I do. This movie gets watched by me once a year… every year. It keeps me centered.

The movie is called “My Life” with Michael Keaton.

The plot is simple. A successful businessman who has a successful marriage is awaiting the birth of his first child only to find out that he has a terminal illness that will cause him to die before the birth of his son. With that realization, he sets off with a video camera to teach his son everything that he won’t be able to teach him about in life. (If you just really pictured what this looks like, tears may be forming or a lump in your throat… but, if you’re a guy just swallow hard and push back the tears. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?)

This movie keeps my life in perspective. We, as guys (and humans) can lose focus every now and then. We can begin to think that life is about the stuff or the promotion or the notoriety. Life really isn’t about any of that. And, my prayer is that none of us will have to have that talk with the doctor to realize it.

So, don’t wait! Watch this movie today. You can watch it online right now for like $3! Clear the schedule for the next 90 minutes and get things back into perspective.

Watch or buy the movie here.

Then, let me know what you thought. Also, if you have a “MUST SEE, LIFE PERSPECTIVE” movie, share in the comment section. I’d love to check it out!

Have a great day!

GP

Sermon Illustration: Shopping Carts and Discounted Food

I can take absolutely no credit for what I am about to give you, however I will promise you that I will use it one day soon… because IT IS SO GOOD! By “SO GOOD” I mean that it makes perfect sense and has a profound purpose and is something that people will relate to. In my opinion, that is how I define “SO GOOD”. 

Anyways, I heard this illustration from Lincoln Brewster who either gathered it through divine guidance… or stole it from someone else. If you want to ask him, click here.

So, here’s the illustration. Imagine a shopping cart filled with all of the “discounted stuff”. You know… the pumpkin colored lipstick from halloween and the “holiday cupcakes” from Christmastime. It is filled with stuff that is priced cheap and deeply discounted because the store wants it to go.

Now imagine Jesus coming into that store and, not picking through the cart, but pushing that entire thing through the checkout line. As the lady starts to ring it out He stops her.

“Wait. Don’t discount these things.”

She says, “But Sir (she would call Jesus sir), these are all deeply discounted.”

Jesus responds, “Oh no. For these… I pay full price!”

It’s an illustration about us. I often feel “less” than worth full price. I wouldn’t blame anyone for putting the “deeply discounted” price tag on my forehead. I often see myself as less. However, when Jesus sees us… He doesn’t see us as discounted goods. He says, “I’ll pay full price for all of them.”

That “full price” was His perfect blood laid down for each and every one of us.

Take the illustration. Use it. Make it your own. Take stuff out or add stuff to it. If you use it, let me know how it goes.

I promise you that when I get to use it, I’ll be going for a ride in that shopping cart. When I do, I’ll post a pic so that you can see!

Have a great one and feel free to add any “shopping cart” illustrations that you may have below in the comment section.

GP