Last Day of Kindergarten

Today is Kiersten’s last day of Kindergarten.

It is easy to be sad about this season of life—preschool through Kindergarten at the Early Learning Center—coming to an end.

I will miss our “walking dates” as we have done on most nice days since moving into the apartments across the street a little over a year ago. I will miss having music class with her, and how she always wanted to sit on my lap (first year of school) or sit next to me. I will miss her smiling up at me while other children were singing, or the way she would hold onto me when she was feeling tired or frustrated. And I’ll always miss her wanting me to carry her back to her classroom and drop her off (all three years) after music class.

Yep. It’s really easy to be sad about this ending. I am now in tears as I write. It is good to mourn any loss, including the loss of this season of life. We mourn because the experiences and the people were really good. We are losing something we valued.

But it is awesome to see what is beginning.

Kiersten has a bright future ahead. In the last three years, she has gone from recognizing letters and sounds to reading full books at least at a first grade level; from barely counting to 20 to counting past 100. She has learned how to solve problems and helps others resolve conflicts. She builds and creates and sings and draws all the time. She memorizes scripture and writes it down. She recently composed her first song and wrote it down at school. She is incredibly creative and gifted. She writes encouraging notes to teachers, classmates, Jesus, her sister, her mom, or me daily. She uplifts and encourages everyone around her.

She is a loyal, caring, helpful, and encouraging friend. She is my daughter.

I am so proud of her.

Letter to My Bride

Kimberly,

I’m sitting with you at your first chemotherapy session, and today is our eighth wedding anniversary.

I love you more than I did that day eight years ago. I had known you for more than 10 years, but I barely knew you at all.

I didn’t know how much I would enjoy late-night laugh fests in bed—those times we laugh so hard we cry, and you gasp for air.

I had no idea what an amazing team we would make, taking on life’s challenges big and small: Things like moving six times, buying our first house, selling our first house, paying off our debt, raising our beautiful daughters, and now our newest little speed-bump: cancer.

I didn’t know the depths of your faith, or the fullness of your bravery like I do now. You inspire me, and your example gives me courage and strengthens my faith.

I could have guessed you would be a great mom because of how well you love and care for others, including me. But I never would have guessed how amazing you are at guiding and teaching our girls with your wisdom and grace, and your bright-shining example of love, faith and beauty. Kiersten and Haven are blessed to have you, and I’m blessed to get to do this with you.

And I never could have anticipated you would add a new dimension to your character: cancer survivor. But as we stand at the bottom of this mountain, facing the long climb ahead together, I am confident you will fight and beat this. I am confident in the God you believe and point others to. Your faith increases my own. You are amazing.

As we have encountered challenges and trials and victories throughout the past eight years, we have grown stronger together—in faith, in wisdom, and in love.

Blessed is a cliché these days, but there isn’t a word more appropriate or fitting for my life with you. I am blessed to call you my wife. I am blessed you would choose to do this life with me.

“Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.’”
—Proverbs 31:28–29

I admire you, I am grateful for you, I am inspired by you, I am proud of you, my desire is for you. I love you.

Happy Anniversary!

Love,
Tim

It’s Not Binary

“It’s not binary—you can be decent and gifted at the same time.”

Steve Wozniak’s words to Apple’s co-founder in one of the final scenes of the movie Steve Jobs are a plea to his friend to be the person he knows he can be. It’s leadership of the best kind: that which calls out the best in others. The kind of leadership that sees untapped greatness in others, and inspires them to rise to levels not previously known to them before.

This is true leadership. It’s what sets apart the truly great leaders from the pretty good ones. Seeing the greater vision and inviting others to participate in achieving it.

Steve Jobs had that ability when it came to products. Steve Wozniak seems to have had it with people—at least with his friend. Elon Musk has that vision with his innovations. The Wright brothers had a vision of people flying like birds. George Washington had visionary leadership in guiding his men into battle, and our country into an independent future. Abraham Lincoln had a vision for a free people of all colors. John F. Kennedy had a vision of walking on the moon and leading the world in the space race. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a vision of equal rights for all.

These people may have been angry about the status quo. Some were probably anxious and fearful about what could have been if they had failed. But they weren’t fundamentally driven by anger or fear—at least that’s not the vision they cast or the legacy they left behind.

Each had naysayers, telling them their dreams were impossible. But they pushed ahead anyway, believing the best possible outcome was only achievable if they believed and inspired others to believe and join their cause.

I believe we should aim higher, dream bigger, and try to be the best versions of ourselves. In every aspect of life, if we have a choice, why not choose the best?

Yes, this is my answer to the question: What will you do if our choice for president is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?
(Part two of two in the case against Donald Trump. Read part one now.)

I realize many people will think I’m naïve, unrealistic, a dreamer. That’s okay with me.

I think we should think beyond this election cycle—this battle, so to speak. We should decide who we want to be. As people, as families, as communities, as a nation.

What if we believed we could be better? What if we would start believing we deserve better than to be represented by a career politician lacking in accomplishment but awash in scandal, or an angry crony-capitalist obsessed with belittling and bullying anyone he decides is a loser?

Here’s an idea: We can be better. We are better than that.

It’s not binary. Let’s choose to be great. And let’s choose to be good.
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I agree with Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio that this election is about the character of our nation and that we should be hopeful and optimistic about our future.

I want my children to inherit a better country than I did. And because I believe the United States is already among the best countries in the world, I know that’s a big vision.

I don’t think playing election politics and trying to pick “the lesser of two evils” moves us toward that vision. That strategy only ends one way: with evil. And while that may be what we end up with, we can certainly choose not to be complicit.

So when I vote this year, I don’t plan on sacrificing core values in order to help one political party defeat another. My loyalty is not to a party. It is to God, my family and my country.

If Donald Trump becomes the Republican Party nominee, I will continue to be engaged. I will keep learning as much as I can about the candidates for senate, congress, council and school board on my ballot, and I will vote for the best ones. I will cast my votes for the candidates who will uphold the values our country was founded on. The people who will fight to reduce spending and restrain the growth of our federal government.

I may for the first time in my adult life not vote for a presidential candidate. Or I may vote for a third-party candidate whose policies I could support. I may even write in a person’s name that I feel confident supporting.

Some may call this naïve while others may suggest that I am shirking my civic duty. And I understand that means it’s more likely one of the two candidates I could never support will win. But I won’t have to look my kids in the eyes and explain that I voted for Donald Trump—despite my firmly held convictions—because “we” had to win an election.

In the short term, that may be the losing choice. It may not make sense now. But I believe a bigger story is at play than all the immediate, election cycle politics. Though I may not understand His plan or His ways right now, I believe God has established our governing authorities.

The last eight years don’t make sense to me, except for the fact that millions of Americans are paying more attention and learning about who we are and where we came from. The fact that the Tea Party movement was mocked and ridiculed when it started in 2009, only to go on to change the face of congress, and to have three Tea Party-backed senators winning delegates in this year’s presidential race, seems to suggest that even bad circumstances can have good outcomes.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I don’t have to. God does. So I won’t just study candidates and write blogs informing my friends and neighbors about the pros and cons of particular people. And I won’t just cast my vote. I will continue to pray throughout this winnowing process known as an election.

I pray prayers of gratitude for the part we get to play in choosing our representatives. I thank God we don’t live under the rule of a king as so many civilizations before us have. I pray we will seek to become more informed about the people asking us for the sacred responsibility of representing us in government. I pray for our elected officials and the heavy burden they shoulder on our behalf.

And I thank God that He is in control, that He knows better than we do what we need, and that even if we get it wrong, He will work all things together for good.

With that in mind, I leave you with these words, believed to have been spoken by a philosopher who visited a fledgling new nation known as the United States of America in the nineteenth century:

“America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

In order to “make America great again” we have to first rediscover our goodness as a nation. And that starts with the individual choices we make in our daily lives—including who we vote for (or not).

It’s not binary. Let’s choose to be great. And let’s choose to be good.

Party Foul

As I mentioned in my last post, I will never vote for Donald Trump for president. I will never vote for Donald Trump for city councilman nor will I vote for him for dog-catcher, for that matter. But I realize my post about Ben Carson’s endorsement with my conclusion about never voting for Trump left some readers with a few questions.

So I’d like to address those two questions. The first: Why will you never vote for Donald Trump? And the second: If it comes down to Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, what will you do?

The first question is easy.

The Case Against Trump

It is not because of his multiple affairs and divorces, or the way he brags about his dealings with women, or the way he objectifies women, or the way he compares women he doesn’t like to animals. It’s also not because of the way he incentivizes violence at his rallies, or the way he is threatening riots at the Republican convention if he doesn’t emerge as the nominee. And it’s not because he tried to evict a woman from her house so he could build a parking lot for his since-bankrupt casino. It’s not even because of his vulgar and pompous late-night Twitter tirades against any and all who dare question him.

I don’t mean to diminish the weight of these things. These things make Donald Trump a nasty human being. These are the kinds of things that disqualify a person from dating my daughters, as Max Lucado eloquently put it. And I think the character of a person matters when we’re considering electing that person to public office. The writer of Proverbs noted, “When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans.” And about three thousand years later Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Wise and good men are in my opinion, the strength of the state; more so than riches or arms.” And in his farewell address, George Washington said, “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

Granted our country has a rich history of electing nasty human beings as presidents. From Andrew Jackson to Woodrow Wilson, and Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, we’ve had a solid roster of unsavory characters leading the charge for our nation. We even revere Jackson by putting him on our twenty-dollar bill—despite that blemish on his legacy known as the Trail of Tears. And there are apparently strategists who believe Clinton helps his wife by supporting her on the campaign trail—despite his reputation as a sexual predator.

To be clear, I don’t think we need to elect a pastor or priest to be our president. And we know Jesus isn’t running for office this year. So we’re limited to only electing humans, which means we have to accept some level of moral failure. As the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans, we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. At the foot of the cross, I’m equal to Donald Trump. In terms of my need of God’s grace, I’m with Donald Trump, along with Bill Clinton and Andrew Jackson.

But we’re at a time when voters are willing to look the other way in regard to a person’s character, because of a perception that that candidate can “get things done.” I don’t fall into that category, but because there are many people who do, it’s necessary to make the case against a Trump presidency aside from all of that.

With that in mind, my decision not to vote for Donald Trump (no matter what) is because of his—drumroll, please—policies. Or lack thereof.

I know. Kind of anticlimactic, huh? That’s definitely not exciting or sexy.

But since we have been blessed to inherit this democratic republic, it seems we should look to elect people who represent the values we believe will further the best interests of our country. We should look at their policies, or their proposed policies, rather than their personalities.

We should figure out what each person wants to do as president, rather than examine who we would like to have a beer with.

We should look for the policies which will give us the best chance of creating our preferred future, rather than the ones which play to our fears and encourage us to hunker down and shut ourselves off from the world.

Here’s the biggest problem with Donald Trump: In my assessment of his policies, I can’t figure out what he actually wants to do. Like I mentioned, I agree with Dr. Carson’s observation that there are “two Trumps.”

It’s nice that he has begun posting policy proposals on his website, but he is known for contradicting his own policies in interviews and debates—and we still don’t know what he says about his policies behind closed doors. We do know he has a strong admiration for himself and his poll numbers. But we don’t know what his core values are, or which policies he will choose to stick with if elected. Is his strongest value pleasing people, such as the editors at the New York Times? Or is he willing to stick with what he believes is right, despite ebbs and flows in public opinion?

I don’t know the answer to that. No one does. If you are planning to vote for Donald Trump and you think you know what he is going to do, just remember, even he doesn’t claim to know what he is going to do—he wants to leave room to negotiate and make deals on seemingly everything.

With that said, it would be difficult to clearly define the positive policies of a Trump presidency. But there are some definite negatives, and some clear reasons I have come to the conclusion I will never vote for Donald Trump. Here are a few:

Planned Parenthood

When Donald Trump praised the “wonderful things” Planned Parenthood does—in a Republican primary debate—I wondered, what will he say in the general election when he is campaigning against the first presidential candidate to earn Planned Parenthood’s endorsement? I also wondered, when referring to Adolf Hitler, why do so many people forget to mention the Autobahn or his plans for a really cool future city? Why are they so hung up on the one or two bad things he did? I wonder what percentage of Hitler’s activities were rounding up and killing Jews as opposed to all the really wonderful things he did?

Here’s the bottom line: For me, taxpayer funding of abortion is absolutely a non-negotiable. There is no “deal” to be made in that regard. A candidate whose moral clarity wavers on the issue of taking my money and giving it to the organization that murders the most babies in the United States is not a candidate I will ever consider voting for. Ever.

Supreme Court Nominees

Our country suffered a devastating loss when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. He was perhaps the most eloquent and convincing defender of the Constitution and individual liberty we have ever had on the Supreme Court. If there is any hint of a bright side to his death, it is that this wake-up call happened during this election. His passing serves as a reminder that the presidency is only four years, but the legacy of each president lives on for decades through the lifetime appointments of justices.

On this Donald Trump waivers again. His first inclination was to announce that his sister, a judicial activist and progressive statist, would make a phenomenal Supreme Court Justice. On the contrary, I think she would be a horrible replacement. He later retracted his statement (as he often does), saying that he couldn’t nominate her because it may be seen as nepotism. In terms of determining Trump’s rationale for appointing judges, nepotism is a non sequitur. As in, yeah, that’s great—don’t nominate your sister because of favoritism. But what about the fact that her values are completely different than the guy you’d be replacing?

No, thank you. We can’t get this wrong. The future of religious liberty in this country, along with the lives of a multitude of unborn children, hang in the balance, largely because so many important votes come down to 5–4. If that one vote swings the other way because we like the guy who is good at “telling it like it is”, we are literally bringing judgment upon ourselves.

Economics

Imagine with me that you are really good at making sneakers, and I am really good at making potato chips. I can make 35 bags of potato chips in one hour, and you can make four pairs of sneakers per hour. Since you’re so good at making sneakers, you should focus on that, and not spend your time making potato chips. And since I can’t make more than four pairs of sneakers in an hour, I’ll focus my time and energy on making potato chips, and we’ll trade with each other. I’ll give you some of my potato chips in exchange for some of your sneakers. Win-win, right?

Play that out a bit more. Say you recruit your neighborhood to help you make sneakers, so you can make a lot more of them. I do the same thing. And now our neighborhoods can buy and sell our products with each other, and also with neighborhoods all around us, so that we are able to make the things we specialize in, and trade for things like cars and toothbrushes and pencils.

That’s a very rudimentary way of explaining a basic economic concept called comparative advantage. This concept based on free trade is at the heart of productive, flourishing societies. It should come as no surprise then that it is also part of the economic foundation of our own society.

What comes as a surprise is a man who is seen as having great wealth because of his success in business who seems to have little to no understanding of basic economic concepts, such as these. And yet, Donald Trump wants to economically wall off the United States from the rest of the world by imposing tariffs on China and Mexico as punishment for their success in trade, and for their illegal immigrants. But as any economic novice (like myself) understands, charging a tax on imports only costs us more. To put it into real life terms, if we have to pay more for iPhone parts made in China, the price of our iPhones could go from $650 to $950, based on Trump’s 45% tariff. That’s just one product. Look no further than the “made in” tags on all your stuff—everything from T-shirts to computers—to discover how many times that could play out.

The result of Trump’s absurd retaliatory tariff can’t just be measured in the cost of things we buy. The Chinese would almost certainly impose their own tariff on any goods we sell to them, thus hurting our companies overseas. They may pass the cost of lost business onto consumers here at home, or perhaps cut back workforces in order to meet the lower demand. Higher prices, and less jobs—but we’re going to make China (and their 100 million people living on less than $1 a day) pay. Just one way Donald Trump plans to make America great again.

These are the top three on my list of reasons not to vote for Donald Trump. I would also add his fascistic desires to close off part of the internet and to force companies to make products in the United States to the list.

To wrap up, there may be some positive things about Donald Trump as a political candidate. But it’s difficult to discern which is the real Donald Trump. Is he in favor of a high border fence, or is that just rhetorical framing for negotiations? Is he “very, very pro-choice,” or is he so pro-life he thinks we should punish women who have abortions? It would be difficult to objectively define his position on most of the issues. But there are enough strong reasons for me not to vote for Donald Trump.

That’s a high enough word count for one post (or seven). I’ll answer the second question, If the presidential election is Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, what will you do? next week. (UPDATE: Read part two now.) Thanks for reading.

Nothing’s Going to Change My World

If you’ve followed me on Twitter or Facebook for more than five minutes, you may have noticed I’m paying a lot of attention to the presidential primary races. Look further, and you may notice a certain affinity for one of the since-dropped-out candidates:

Oh, and:

It’s true. I unashamedly supported Dr. Carson’s candidacy for president. I believe his story embodies everything that’s good about what America has to offer: Born into poverty, Ben Carson went from the “dumbest kid in class” to graduating at the top of his class and went on to a career as one of the best neurosurgeons of all time. He’s the guy who figured out how to separate conjoined twins without having to choose which one to keep. His story is so incredible it was made into a movie with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing the part of Dr. Carson.

He was also awarded the presidential medal of honor for his work. The guy is literally a national hero. And since his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, he’s built a following as a potential political leader as well. It’s refreshing to see someone take a stand for his principles while not personally attacking people who disagree. Add to that his calm, never frazzled demeanor, his conservative values and rock solid flat-tax plan, and he is basically the ideal political candidate, and the antithesis of everything slimy politicians are known for.

Yes, I wanted Dr. Ben Carson to be our next president.

When people asked Dr. Carson why he was running, he would often talk about how he had the choice to retire quietly and enjoy the fruits of his successful career. He could relax and enjoy time with his wife and grandchildren. But he knew that the country he loved was deteriorating and headed in a direction that would offer his grandkids a worse America than the one he had known. He wanted to restore American values and principles in order to ensure future generations could have the unique opportunities and liberties he enjoyed throughout his life.

Which is why I can’t understand his endorsement of Donald Trump.

Yes, they are both political outsiders. Yes, Donald Trump vows to “Make America Great Again.” Yes, he knows how to make deals and get stuff done. But the man is quite the opposite of Dr. Carson.

His rude, brash demeanor, along with paying his supporters to fight protestors stand in stark contrast to Carson’s humility and calls for civility in our political conversation.

Trump’s economic protectionism is a 180-degree turn from Dr. Carson’s nearly pure free market stance.

Donald Trump’s lack of actual substantive ideas is completely the opposite of Carson’s well developed policy proposals on the economy, education, fighting terrorism, healthcare, and more.

Even Trump’s story, of inheriting his father’s fortunes, using government loopholes to succeed and hurting people in need to further his interests, is a completely different version of America than the one in which Dr. Ben Carson grew up. In fact, it seems the values and principles Dr. Carson would like to restore and pass down to his grandchildren are completely at odds with everything Donald Trump represents.

So why did Dr. Ben Carson endorse Donald Trump for president?

In Dr. Carson’s own words, “There are two different Donald Trumps. There’s the one you see on the stage, and there’s the one who is very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully, you can have a very good conversation with him.”

I agree with Dr. Carson: There are definitely two Trumps. There is apparently the on-stage bully Trump, and the mild-mannered, considerate Trump no one outside his personal sphere has ever seen. There is the pro-life Trump in this election, and there is the “pro-choice” Trump for the first 60 years of his life. There is the Trump who thinks his judicial activist sister would make a good Supreme Court Justice, and the Trump who doesn’t think it would be a good idea to nominate her because it might be seen as nepotism.

There are two Trumps—within weeks, days, and sometimes hours of each other. But I differ with Dr. Carson because I see that as a major weakness, and a warning sign. As writer Mollie Hemingway wisely pointed out, “I think everyone knows there are multiple Trumps. [The] fascinating phenomenon is that everyone thinks their favorite version is [the] only real one.”

If we don’t know who Donald Trump claims to be during an election, how do we know we’ll like what we get when he’s the president and four years stand between him and the next check on his ego?

Since Dr. Carson announced his endorsement of Donald Trump last Friday, several people have asked if this changes my mind on Trump.

In short: No.

Dr. Ben Carson’s endorsement of Donald Trump does not change what I believe to be true about Donald Trump. It caused me to question Dr. Carson’s reasoning and try to understand his decision, but that process has only strengthened my beliefs. It’s worth noting that it looks like even Dr. Carson is starting to hedge his endorsement a bit.

But when I participate in elections, whether for president or county councilman, I vote for the candidates I believe will further the interests of our community and nation for the benefit of everyone. I don’t believe Donald Trump would be a good choice to represent my county, my state or my country.

Despite my appreciation for Dr. Ben Carson and what he has represented throughout his life and in this election, I will never vote for Donald J. Trump.

Love Never Fails

As a Christ-follower, I love everyone. And I believe there is a Truth that is greater than all of us, and a way to Life which we are all invited to follow.

As a sinner, I am profoundly grateful for Grace, and I don’t hold myself in higher regard than anyone else.

As an American, I’m grateful for the liberties protected by the Constitution, and the freedom to worship God in the way I please.

As a libertarian, I don’t care what you do as long as it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.

As a human, I will always respect and tolerate my fellow man, and do my best to live in a manner worthy of the respect of others.

As a free person, I’m deeply disturbed by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to take power from the people and their representatives and to legislate new rights.

As a Christ-following American libertarian, my opinion is a little more nuanced than the caricatures often presented by others as my beliefs. And I bet the same can be said about people of all political, moral and theological beliefs.

Let’s love one another, even when we disagree about the ruling of nine judges who have their own sets of beliefs, opinions and standards.

Because in the end, #LoveWins

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

North

Imagine you are walking through the woods with a group of people. You’re in an unfamiliar place you’ve never traveled before. You are responsible for leading the group to your planned destination. But there is one big problem: You are lost.

Fortunately, you have a compass. You know the place you are headed is to the north, so you just take your compass out of your pocket and proceed to head north.

But before you get very far, someone in your group asks, “So how do you know where we’re going?” Your answer of, “We know we need to head north,” is met with another question: “How do you know which way is north?”

“Because I have this great compass that tells us which way we are headed.”

“How do you know the compass is correct?”

“Because it relies on the earth’s magnetic field to get its information.”

“What if it’s wrong?

“It’s not.”

“But what if there’s more than one north?”

“What?”

“What if different compasses give different interpretations of north, south, east and west?”

“They don’t. There is only one north, one south, one east, and one west. We’re heading north.”

“Why are you so narrow-minded and intolerant?”

“What?!”

“Why can’t you be open to the idea that there might be more than one north?”

“Because there is only one. If I were open to that idea, I would also be opening us up to being completely lost out here while we guess which north is the right north. Then, what—we draw straws? Take votes on whose north is right? No way. That’s crazy. And by the way, I’m not open to two plus two equaling anything other than four either. Is that intolerant?”

“Wait—what? You don’t think there is more than one answer to two plus two? Why not?”

“Because there is only one answer to that math problem.”

“But what if I want two plus two to equal five, and someone else wants it to equal five thousand?”

“That’s absurd. Math doesn’t rely upon what a person wants. It just simply is.”

“You’re being really closed-minded. What about all the people who really believe those to be the outcomes of adding two and two together?”

“Those people should go back to a first-grade math class—and pay attention this time.”

“So you’re saying you don’t believe in more than one ‘true’ north nor more than one answer to two plus two?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Wow. You’re such a bigot.”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I mean, that’s a really intolerant viewpoint of all the people who really do believe those things are true.”

“It may be intolerant, but I guess I don’t tolerate blatant lies invading my thinking. Here’s why: There is only one true north and there is only one answer to two plus two. If we’re all allowed to just make up our own answers as we go, there will be no way for anyone to, for example, give directions to one’s house or share a fantastic cookie recipe.

“If we all get to decide which way is north, we’ll all be lost. If we decide the answers to each of our own math problems, we should just abolish schools and forget about advancing science and technology—let alone recipes—because we won’t be able to communicate with each other using an agreed upon set of principles. Is that intolerant? Or is it wise?”

“You are such a hater.”

Can you imagine that conversation actually happening? If you have a three-year-old, maybe you can. Except for the part where she called you a bigot. Young children question everything and have to be convinced several times to believe certain basic facts.

That’s good for them. Imagination makes them believe they can do anything. It’s the best deterrent for all the barriers life will throw at them as they grow up. We all need imagination. It takes imagination and creativity to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.

But at some point, children have to learn that they can’t actually fly off of the top bunk, even when wearing their best Superman pajamas. Gravity is real. (I learned that lesson the hard way.)

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”
―C.S. Lewis

And just as there are some basic truths we must learn about as we grow up—things like geography, math, science, and grammar—I don’t believe an education is complete without at least providing some ways to find answers to life’s most important questions.

But as a society, we are not providing our kids either the answers or the means of finding them. Check out what Stephen Colbert recently said to a group of graduating college seniors at their commencement ceremony:

(Relevant comments start around 10:10)

“You fill out your own report card.” “Decide for yourself what is right and what is wrong.” Colbert is of course a comedian. And these quotes I pulled are surrounded by jokes. But these were the bits of “wisdom” sandwiched between the humor.

When he’s saying that creative output is subjective, and the noise of the critics shouldn’t slow down those who take risks to produce, he’s right on. But “decide what’s right and wrong, and then please expect as much of the world around you,” sounds a lot like “there are many different answers to two plus two.” This is a great speech because (aside from the fact that it’s hilarious) it is representative of the greater conversation going on in our culture. He is articulating in a funny way the things we are generally teaching our kids and students:

If it feels right, then it is true—for you.

But if truth is relative and each of us can make our own truth, what is truth? How can we even call something truth if everything is relative? And if that’s what you believe about truth and finding your way, how can you even feel confident telling that to someone else? As Conor Oberst brilliantly wrote, “If you swear that there’s no truth and who cares, how come you say it like you’re right?”

I’d rather believe there is a truth. There is a true north. There is one solution to two plus two. There is gravity. There is a truth and it is discoverable. There are answers to life’s deepest questions. We may not know them all—and neither do Siri or Google—but I’d much rather believe the answers exist, and that there are still some mysteries in the universe, than to believe that I can just make up my own truth.

Because what if I’m wrong in the end? What if my relativist compass points me to previously discovered dead ends? What if my way ends up leaving me lost and stranded?

I don’t know about you, but I trust my compass. I’m heading north.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
John 14:6

We’re Going on an Adventure

The adventure has begun. After months of praying for direction, and weeks of hard work, the day has arrived. There is now a big sign in our front yard declaring that our home is for sale. It’s very surreal and exciting—and a little sad and scary at the same time.

We’re not moving far away. At least we don’t plan to. We aren’t even sure where we are going to live next—probably an apartment for some time while we figure out what’s next. And in case you are wondering, no, we are not going bankrupt.

We do love this house. This is the first house Kim and I bought together. The first time we moved beyond renting or living in someone else’s home. We love inviting people into our home, and this place is perfect for that. We have hosted several gatherings, from large parties to small groups. We have a guest bedroom where a few people have been able to stay with us overnight, an office where I can do my creative work, a toy room for our girls, and even a formal living room where, for the first time, we have space for a piano. Trees, and the sights and sounds of nature that accompany them surround us. It’s beautiful. We love it here!

I love it here. Maybe too much. Which is probably part of the reason we’re selling it.

At the beginning of this year Kim and I decided that we are done with debt, which for us is a student loan and the loan on our minivan. We decided to make it our goal to have those two eliminated from our lives this year. But we also didn’t know how that would be logistically possible, given the amounts coming in and going out each month. We knew that in order to meet this goal, God would have to come through. Some people would call it a God-sized goal, because it’s definitely bigger than what we could do on our own.

Knowing we had a big goal in front of us, we began chipping away at it, doing what we could do, while praying for guidance and wisdom for the next steps.

Prayer can be dangerous. Sometimes you get what you ask for.

A few months ago, one of Kim’s friends mentioned how challenging it has been to find a house recently. Houses in our area are being listed and sold within days, often at or above the seller’s asking price. Bidding wars—where two or more buyers make offers on the same house and drive the price up—are common right now.

We had a choice: Keep plugging away and hope God sends something our way—or realize that giving up the house we love may be God’s way of helping us reach our goal.

I agreed with Kim that we should at least have a realtor run the numbers and recommend a list price for our house. I kind of assumed it wouldn’t be enough to make any significant dent in our debt—we have only lived here for two and a half years after all.

I was wrong.

When our realtor came back with his comparative market analysis and showed us the price he thought we should list for our house, I didn’t know how to react. The number was almost exactly what we thought it would have to be for us to make a move. It would be enough to pay off our debts, fully fund our emergency fund, go on a honeymoon (which we skipped when we were married because of our mountains of debt), and start saving the down payment for our next house. On paper it made complete sense—we should absolutely list it.

But all of a sudden, it was too real for me. I didn’t want to sell this house I love so much. That’s when I realized I really had a deeper issue going on, and a much bigger choice in front of me.

Do I want to follow Jesus, no matter where He leads, or do I want to hold on to stuff?

It felt weird at first to put my house in the same category as my stuff. I’d sell my phone, TV, furniture, extra clothes if Jesus asked me to in order to follow Him. But my house? I need a place to live, right?

True. But in America we tend to tie lots of emotion into our homes. It’s the first house we lived in when we were married, it’s the place we brought our baby home to, it’s the street on which our daughter first learned to ride her bike—the list goes on. And I’m one of these people.

In the book Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert Kiyosaki says, “a nice home is an emotional thing. And when it comes to money, high emotions tend to lower financial intelligence.”

I do love my house. But in the end, a house is just a house. A nice house is a nice house, but all houses serve the same purpose. Walls to keep the rain, snow, cold and heat out; rooms to gather, eat, sleep, bathe and work. Maybe a garage to park the car. It’s just a building. Walls, floors and ceilings. Stuff.

So the choice became more and more clear: Live in this house and keep this set of walls, floors and ceilings; or jump into the adventure of what could be next—see if we can make a large return in a short amount of time, become completely debt-free and untied to a permanent space, and see where this journey leads.

After praying about it and getting advice from people we trust, we came up with a plan, a price and a date, and got to work sprucing up our house to get it ready to sell.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105

“A lamp for my feet.” As my friend Prashan points out, a lamp shows us just enough to take the next step. It’s not a floodlight that shows the entire journey ahead.

We are on that path right now: Lamp in hand, looking to God for the next steps. Trusting His provision and believing He will come through for us—because He always has.

We don’t know what’s next. We don’t know where we will live next. We don’t even know how seeing life through the filter of debt-freedom will impact our family.

When we were married, we never thought we would be able to buy a house like this. And when we moved in, we never imagined we would sell it before our kids graduated high school—let alone preschool. But this is the adventure we are on. Here we go!

Letting Go

Instagram photo by gcccreative

Last weekend I played guitar at Granger Community Church for what may be the last time. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. I love music. I love playing guitar. It’s the only thing I’ve done really well since I was 19 or 20 years old.

It really comes down to two things: Taking care of my family, and discovering where I’m headed.

Our second baby is due October 7, and Kim has been very sick throughout this pregnancy. Kim is an amazing working mom who takes care of Kiersten and I in ways I never completely realized before the last few months. It is difficult for all of us when I need to leave for the weekend to help lead worship at church. Serving the Church is amazing, and in my opinion, a necessary part of being a disciple of Christ. But putting others before the needs of my family in order to serve in this way isn’t good for anyone, including the Church. My family needs to know their husband and dad loves them, and I believe the Church (and society as a whole) needs more examples of engaged husbands and fathers—not less.

I’m also trying to seek God and discover His will and direction for this stage in my life. That’s not necessarily a new thing. Hopefully I’ll always try to be aware of where He’s leading and how I should follow. But this is a time of increased introspection and scrutiny for me.

I believe God made each of us for a purpose. And I believe that we are uniquely gifted with, experienced in and passionate about the things that will help us live out that purpose. Playing music, and guitar specifically, is something I’ve done for most of my life. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. It has taken me to New York, Florida, Nashville, Los Angeles, and India, among many other places. It has been a great way to meet people, and I have friends around the world that I never would have met if not for music in my life. It’s something I’m good at, something I enjoy, and something that has enhanced my life in more ways than I could ever enumerate.

When I was younger I thought playing music was what I was going to be doing with my life. I poured everything I had into it. It was my dream. It was my goal. And a career in the music industry wasn’t just some lofty pipe dream. It was where my band was headed. But when we called it quits at the end of a long record contract-negotiating process my dream slowly dissolved with it. Since then, I’ve moved on.

Somewhat.

I married, started a family, and bought a house—all the stuff grown-ups do. And for the past 6 years I’ve played guitar in various settings, mainly at church and with a couple bands.

As my life has changed and my interests and passions have morphed and grown, I’ve sort of held onto my guitar as a sort of security blanket. I want to embrace what’s next and God’s plan for my future, but I haven’t let go of the familiar, the comfortable. I’ve wanted to make sure I have something to fall back on, even if it’s only a faint memory of my past identity and the passion I once lived with.

Instagram photo by gcccreative

And that’s where this decision came from. If I hold tightly to the things I used to know and the old dreams, goals and passions I once had, I won’t be free (either in my heart or my time) to find and pursue other abilities and new interests, or to dream new dreams.

This may be completely psychological, but I feel like by completely letting go of the me I once was, the possibilities for the future are endless and wide-open. That is simultaneously exciting and daunting.

I don’t intend to spend years wandering or drifting. I feel a great responsibility to leverage my gifts, talents, experiences, passions, and resources for the God who made me and loves me and who wants the world to know He loves them. Wasting these things (in essence, wasting my life) would be just as bad, if not worse, than just lingering on in the same way I always have without ever stopping to evaluate where I’m going.

I love my church. I love the people, the leadership, the mission, the heart, the style, the excellence at every level—you name it, I love it. And I’m going to miss playing music on stage. I love the team I’ve been so privileged to serve with over the years, many of whom are some of my best friends.

I can definitely see coming back to play guitar. But if I do I want to come back either as a passionate, fully committed musician and guitarist who’s constantly working to become better at his craft, OR as someone who’s secure in his identity in Christ, has other passions and dreams, and who knows music will always be a part of his life—but isn’t clinging to dreams or an identity from the past.

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re going through a similar time, let me know how you’re processing through this, and if there’s any way I can help you. If you’ve come out on the other side of a time like this, I’d love to know what resources or practices you drew upon to find the insight and wisdom you were seeking.

I want to live my life intentionally. Passionately. On mission. This is a time of recalibrating and refocusing. Please pray for me. Thanks.

Above all: Get Wisdom!

One of my favorite things in the world is learning new things. New concepts that change the way I look at things. New ways to do things better, or more effectively. Of course, most of it is simply new to me, but that’s what makes it exciting! There’s so much wisdom, knowledge and insight out there that I have yet to uncover. That’s both challenging—and thrilling!

Along with my never-satisfied appetite for learning is a desire to help the people around me improve their lives. After all, what good is it to learn new things and get my life going in a great direction, if it doesn’t help anyone else? And doesn’t bringing other people along only increase the level of encouragement, motivation and accountability for everyone involved?

If, like me, drinking from a firehose of wisdom and insight makes you come alive, get ready—the Global Leadership Summit starts today. This year’s speakers include General Colin Powell, Mark Burnett, Liz Wiseman, Patrick Lencioni and Bill Hybels. This thing is non-stop practical learning from people on the ground, leading in all sorts of contexts. For the next 48 hours I’ll be tweeting some of my favorite soundbites, and I may even blog my notes from a couple of the speakers. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or follow along with all the live-tweeting under the hashtag #wcagls.

Sell everything and buy Wisdom! Forage for Understanding!
Don’t forget one word! Don’t deviate an inch!
Never walk away from Wisdom—she guards your life;
love her—she keeps her eye on you.
Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!
Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!
~Proverbs 4:3-9 (The Message paraphrase)