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!

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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

My First Paragliding Trip (video and pics)

So, my buddy Roy invited me to go “paragliding” with him. You have to know that I had NO IDEA what paragliding even was… but I said YES! It sounded like fun. In my mind I figured that I would be taken up in a glider plane with a pilot and then slowly come down to the ground. This is not true. This is not paragliding…. not even a little bit.

There’s no plane you’re in, it’s a parachute.

There’s no plane taking you up, it’s a truck with a big cable hanging off it.

It’s no joke… it’s pretty stinking serious and amazingly awesome.

In a very short amount of time I went from standing on the ground to over 4,000 feet in the air. It looked a little something like this (actual footage from the day of the flight):

It is a lot of fun and incredibly beautiful. The desert is always beautiful to me, but grows in beauty with every foot that I rise. The ascent is quick and majestic, but the descent was my favorite. It looked a little like this (actual footage from the day of the flight):

What did I take from it? I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID THIS! 

Listen guys, you only live once. Don’t miss opportunities that present themselves. Don’t live in regret. Keep striving and trying new things. You will never say… I did too much. You won’t say… I am sorry that I attempted to do great things. You will say, “YES! Life is great and I have some amazing stories to share!”

Here’s a few more shots from the day paragliding and if you are in the Phoenix area and want to try this for yourselves, check out¬†http://paragliderrides.com:

Preparing for my first paraglider ride

Preparing for my first paraglider ride

Paragliding 3

Taking off with a paraglider

Up, Up and Away!

Up, Up and Away!

Paragliding 4

Me and my paragliding buddy Roy!

If you try it out, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear some feedback. Be inspired and keep shining!

GP