Graduation: 10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago

I had the honor of speaking at a commencement ceremony at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville last week.  It was an exciting afternoon- with happy graduates, proud family members and smiles everywhere.

As I began preparing my remarks, I realized that it was the 20th anniversary of my graduation from UT.  It was an exciting time.  I had just accepted my first “real” job on a college campus, I was about to marry Hollianne, and we were preparing to move to Ohio to begin our lives as a married couple.

Looking back, I realized how much I’ve learned in those twenty years.  I decided to share ten of these life lessons with the graduates.

10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago:

10) Every decision you make in life impacts someone else.  Think about the implications of every choice you make.  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.  Proverbs 14:16

9)  The job isn’t ever just about you.  The opportunity to have your job is a privilege.  Treat your coworkers with care…as equals.  Success is earned by working together as a team.  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

8)  When it comes to “being in the know”, those who talk a lot usually aren’t in the know.  Idle talk is useless in the workplace.  Be a part of the solution…not a part of the problem.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

7)  Take tasks off your boss’ desk.  Leadership is a lonely activity.  Those that we serve in the workplace have numerous demands on their time, and they need to find people that they can trust.  Become someone worthy of that trust.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Matthew 5:41

6)  No task is too small for you.  Humility is a wonderful thing.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 14:11

5)  You are replaceable.  No single person is essential to the success of a business.  You will never be bigger than the organization you serve.  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

4)  Everybody has a first name.  All people have worth.  All people deserve our respect.  It is essential that we know those people around us who are investing in the success of our organization.  Get to know their interests, their joys and their pain.  Invest in them.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

3)  Whatever task you are asked to do, do it with all your heartWhatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  Colossians 3:23

2)  Dinner with your family is important. We are all busy.  We will never complete our to-do lists at the office.  But it is essential that we invest in those that we love…and that love us.  The work will always be there.  It’s important to build our relationships with those that bring us joy and renewal, too.  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  1 John 4:7

1)  When you don’t know what to do, remember to do no harm until you do.  Find good, trusted mentors and seek their counsel.  Wisdom comes from careful reflection and life experience- so seek help from those you trust when faced with difficult decisions.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  James 1:5

Let’s pray for all the new graduates- high school and college- this week.  May they find success and peace during this period of transition, and may they glorify God in all that they do.

God bless you.

(reprinted from May 2015)


Fishing with your boys


My daughter graduates from high school on Saturday.

I’m amazed at how the time has flown by.  It seems like only yesterday that she was headed off to kindergarten- and now she’s just finished her final day of her senior year.


And I’m proud of her.

She’s made great grades.  She’s made great decisions. She’s become a bright, mature young woman.

But she’s leaving our home.  And I have regrets.

I wish I’d spent more time with her.

Yes- we have traveled a lot.  There have been countless road trips for AAU basketball and club soccer tournaments.


We’ve hiked the Rockies and the Smokies.  We’ve traveled to the east and west coasts.

But I wish we’d done more.  I wish we’d talked more.

It’s not too late.  Hollianne and I will find new ways to invest in her.  We’ll pour love, attention and prayer into her during college.  It’ll be different- but it’s critically important.

But now for those boys.

We’re left with two sons in our home.  In a flash, they’ll be finishing up middle and high school and headed out into the world as young adults.

I was reading a book this morning and it told of a parenting seminar where Dr. James Dobson was speaking.  The writer said that Dr. Dobson finished his speech with the following quote:

“God only gives us so many times to go fishing with our kids…so don’t miss a one of them.”

Wise words.

I need to be intentional about pouring attention into my boys.  The need love, attention and investment.  They need my time.

And I’ve got to do better.  There are things that they need to hear from me.  There are things that they need to see in me.  I’ve got to step up and stand in the gap.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6: 5-7

Maybe you are in a similar situation.  Perhaps you have children at home…or grown children…and need to invest more time into that relationship.  Perhaps it’s a parent or a sibling- and you are looking for ways to spend more time with them.

My prayer is week is two-fold.  I will pray that Hollianne and I are creative with the ways to invest in Carson as she goes off to college.  And I pray that we are intentional about the ways we invest in our sons.  I don’t want to miss an opportunity to go fishing.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.




Cleaning out your closet

Today’s the day.

The boxes are all packed and the moving trucks will be taking our belongings from one city to another.  Our “home” is moving.

It’s been a wild process over the past several weeks.  We’ve packed up our home into hundreds of small boxes.  Drawers were emptied, the attic was cleared and the garage was cleaned.  Every square inch of our home was cleaned out.

We found some forgotten things in our closets, attic and basement.  Projects that we intended to start but never initiated.  Gifts we had planned to give…but forgot about them. Or, worse yet, we found items we wanted to hide from the kids! 

It felt good to clean out those closets.

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.  Luke 8:17

It made me think, however, about my own closets.  Those corners of my mind where I tuck away thoughts that I want to hide…imperfections I don’t want anyone to see.

Feelings of envy.  Anger.  Pride.  Scorn. 

Maybe I can hide those feelings from you.  But God knows. 

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:14

God knows our secrets. God knows our inner thoughts. 

And he loves us anyway. 

The best thing we can do is bring these flaws to light and address them.  Pray for God to help us change our hearts.  Admit our weaknesses and strive to become a more complete person.  Be the Christian that God wants us to be.  

My prayer this week is to have the strength to admit to hidden sin- and to ask God to help me address it.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.


Moving Sale Bargains

We’re moving next week.

And we’ve made the conscious decision to get rid of some of our “stuff” in the process.

Over the past 22 years of marriage, we’ve accumulated a lot of items.  Furniture, picture frames, decorations, old toys.  

So we decided to have a moving sale.

We worked on it for weeks…making careful decisions about what to sell and what value it had.

There were melancholy moments, too.  Memories from past vacations, family gatherings and milestone events were uncovered in the process.

But something interesting happened on the day of the sale.  The value we placed on our things weren’t always what others were willing to pay.  

The bicycles that our boys used to explore the neighborhood brought 1/4 of what we hadoriginally priced them.  The sleeper sofa that had been used by visiting family or kids’ sleepovers? $30. 

In fact- just about everything we placed in the sale was met with a negociation.  

It was a great reminder that we can place too much value on “stuff” in our lives.  The kitchen table that hosted the first meals of our three children was invaluable to us, but only brought a bargain price in the eyes of others. 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2

We need to invest in items that really matter.  


Interactions with other people. 

Engaging in the lives of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. 

And devoting energy into our pursuit of following Jesus.

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:26

This week I want to focus less on things that don’t add value to my life or the life of others. I want to rid myself of the clutter that keeps me from focusing on relationships and following Jesus. I’m praying about this. 

And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.


When Your New Housemate is Rude…

We’ve got a new housemate.

It’s of the four-legged variety.  We’ve recently adopted a rescue dog.  His name is Mack.

Mack was abandoned by his prior owners.  He’s still a puppy…only 18 months old, but already over 100 pounds.  Mack is going to be a big one.

Despite being orphaned, Mack is a loving guy.  He’s loyal and playful.  He loves to be with our kids and follows Hollianne around the house and yard like a house cat.  He and I love early morning runs around town.  He’s been a great addition to our family.

Well, almost.

Mack does have a flaw.  He’s a drooler.  And by drool…I mean an epic drooler.

It’s especially bad after he eats…or after exercise.  Bless his heart.  And to relieve the annoying presence of this substance, Mack will whip his head back and forth- and sling the drool all over trees, shrubs, furniture and…yep…humans.

It’s been a tough adjustment.

We’ve almost got the perfect pet.  Good-tempered, loves people, enjoys exercise, loyal and protective.  But a drooler.  It’s tough to overlook.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

Isn’t Mack like all of us?

We’ve all got imperfections to our character.  For some of us, we are well aware of these flaws- and know what we need to do for improvement.

Perhaps we have a temper.  Maybe it’s jealousy.  Still others struggle with pride or lust.  Or maybe it’s a strained relationship that we are unwilling to address…or forgive.

There are other flaws that we can’t do much about.  Perhaps it’s a physical limitation or an illness.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:48

God is perfect- and he made us “perfect” through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.  He also calls for us to strive for perfection- despite our flaws.

God calls us to work on those imperfections that we can address.  And we are also called to examine the good in others- and be willing to accept the things that we- or they- cannot change.

Even if it requires living with a little drool.

My prayer is to have the awareness and wisdom to work on my flaws this week.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.


Keeping your cool when the world won’t let you 

I’ve been running from meeting to meeting this month.  It seems I’ve got a new audience every hour on the hour- with a new set of circumstances to address at each visit.

I barely have time to think.

I’m not alone in this.  I’m guessing that life, work and family keeps you on the run too.

When this happens to me, I get consumed by what I “think” needs to be done. I get into a zone where all I can think about is following up with others or responding to the crisis of the moment.

And I shut out Jesus.

Not intentionally…but it happens.  I get so focused on the moment that I lose sight of how I need to live for Jesus each day. 

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” ‭Acts‬ ‭16:25-34

Paul and Silas were in jail.  They were scared for their lives and uncertain about their earthly fate. But their faith kept them focused. Singing. Praying. Sharing.  Their attitude changed the lives of their jailer and his family.

They kept their heads when the world wouldn’t.  Praise God for great, practical examples of how we are to live our lives.

Pray for me to focus on Jesus- even when the world wants to shut Him out.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.  I love you. 


What social media can’t do

We are surrounded by media. 

A constant flow of images into our lives. Pictures.

I’m a frequent contributor.  I tweet about work. I use Instagram to post updates on my family. I have two Facebook pages- one for work and one for personal use.  

And social media is useful for updates. I enjoy seeing pictures of family and friends.

But it’s one dimensional.

A close friend recently surprised me with some sad news about his marriage. We were out for a long-overdue lunch when he asked me for prayer, confessing that he and his wife were struggling mightily. I was stunned- as there had been no evidence. He had been posting pictures of his smiling family and their fun activities on a constant, continual basis. 

It wasn’t until we had gotten into a quiet, safe environment that he asked me for prayer.

Social media images present the best parts of our lives. Fun activities. Loving families. Perfect children.  It doesn’t show pain. Stress. Imperfection. 

We show the world what we want them to see about our lives. We are fearful of being real- scared that transparency will show weakness.

How can we get past the superficial?

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Snapshots of our lives are no substitute for real engagement with others.  

 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 

Love is an investment. If we are to love others, it means a level of engagement in others that goes beyond the superficial. 

Call someone you haven’t seen in a while. Check in on your elderly neighbor.  Ask your fellow church member who always sits behind you to go to lunch. Invite friends into your home. 

Ask someone how they are doing- and mean it.

Love is a contact sport. 

Pray for me to be more engaged in the lives of others. I want to be more aware of opportunities to listen and help. 

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.