For reasons I still can’t comprehend, tonight Sunny and I decided to reorganize the closet in my office at home. I suspect every home has that place where stuff just accrues, that handy closet where you can throw things when you’re trying to clean up quickly. Well, my closet in my office has become just such a space in our home. I’m still not really sure how it happened, but we decided at some point that this was the project to be tackled tonight.

At one point, I said to Sunny, “This closet is the closet of regret.” I found old cassette tapes of my grandmother I’d long meant to transcribe; Sunny came across scrapbooks still wrapped in cellophane that she intended to put together for the kids. A lot of really well-intentioned ideas have met their demise in that closet, man.

But we also found a lot of junk. Just stuff we don’t even need anymore, stuff that we’ve moved from one pile to the next until it ended up in this landfill closet.

After my third trip to the trash container outside, I started thinking, “This is crazy.” In North America, it is so easy to be controlled by our stuff, possessed by our possessions. But there’s just something good about getting rid of unnecessary clutter. Between creating the trash pile and the giveaway pile, it felt like I was regaining order over my space.

I’m basically writing this post as a way of reminding myself of the importance of regular decluttering.

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A Special Night

My heart is full tonight, thankful for the many good influences I’ve had in my life.

IMG_2731It is no understatement to say that Johnny Markham is one of the most important people in my life. I knew him first as my youth minister. Johnny moved to the College Street (Hills) Church of Christ in 1990 when I was in the 7th grade. Johnny loved Jesus, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tennessee Volunteers, which instantly made him cool in my book. And over the years, he’s only grown even cooler in my eyes. My respect for Johnny grew exponentially when I served as one of his youth ministry interns for a couple of summers while I was at Lipscomb. I learned that ministry is hard work, but the great ones (like Johnny) make it seem effortless. I patterned my own ministry after his, much like the many of the other young people Johnny has mentored through the years. But as much as I have cherished his role in my life as a wise counselor through my teen years and a professional mentor and colleague, I’m most proud to call Johnny my friend. His life of faith in God and faithfulness to his family and his calling continue to be a source of strength for me even today.

Tonight I had the joy of sharing some time with Johnny in our church’s Praise and Prayer gathering. We’ve been talking about marriages that are rooted and grounded in the love of God and Johnny shared wisdom and observations gleaned from 30 years of married life and ministry to families.

“Marriage is simple when you follow God’s plan. But simple doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Marriage is hard work. It requires energy and intentionality.”

“A healthy marriage requires intimacy without fear.”

“Selfish people cannot succeed in marriage because selfish people refuse to share. They won’t cooperate. They won’t communicate. Marriage is about sharing, becoming one, submitting, becoming servant, becoming submissive, becoming one.”

IMG_2728These are just a few of the wise words Johnny shared with us tonight. I’m so thankful for his influence in my life. Over 16 years ago, Sunny and I were honored to have Johnny officiate our wedding ceremony. We love every opportunity we have to spend time with him. Our only regret is that his wife, Vicki, couldn’t join us tonight. Thanks, Johnny, for sharing your heart with us tonight and for sharing your life with so many.

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An Intentional Family

A friend of mine is writing his second volume on the book of Proverbs. He graciously asked me to send him a statement on parenting and family that he might use as a conversation starter for one of his articles. I tried to be concise and summarize what I consider to be an essential part of the parenting task. Here’s what I sent him:

Gospel-shaped families are intentional families. Many couples simply let their marriages happen. Many parents are willing to raise their children via autopilot. But families that are formed in the way of Jesus intentionally prioritize their most important relationships. Couples should be intentional — selfish, even — about carving out time for their marriage to flourish. Parents should create intentional space for the transmission of faith to take place in “real life” settings — around a campfire, at the dinner table, as we rise up and lie down (Deut. 6). This kind of intentionality is about more than just good leadership; it reflects the heart of our intentional God who created us in His image and reconciles that image back to us through the intentional life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

In our home, we seek to be this kind of intentional family. We don’t always get it right, but when we do it’s because we’re being intentional.

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This piece was written by an old friend of mine. He recently shared this as a reflection prior to the observance of the Lord’s Supper at the church he attends in Tennessee. I hope it blesses you as much as it has blessed me.


The tension in the air that night was palpable.

The smell of blood and death saturated the land. Night had fallen, and father wiped a lamb’s blood on the doorposts of the house. Screams and shrieks of terror pierced the silent darkness as mothers wept over the firstborn of their families as they collapsed dead in their arms. The family ate quickly together with tunic on and staff in hand ready to begin an arduous journey into the desert and an uncertain future.

Satan, the ruler of the Earth, was at war with the God of the Universe.

But there in their midst was the lamb and this house would live to fight another day because of his blood.


The tension in the air that night was palpable.

The disciples were huddled together in an upper room while a restless city stirred outside. A mob assembled with clubs, spears, and torches itching for a fight. The city was divided over the man Jesus. Some thought him Messiah, and others only saw a threat to their power or worse a blasphemer. In the deepening darkness the forces of evil were marshaling against God.

Satan, the ruler of the Earth, was at war with the God of the Universe.

But there in their midst was the Lamb and this house would live to fight another day because of his blood.


The tension in the air this morning is palpable.

Can you feel it? The world tramples roughshod over God’s truths mocking those who believe them. Christians are pressured to be quiet while the world is not intimidated from shouting its message through every screen, speaker, device, and modern day pulpit. We believe the lie told by our Enemy that it’s just fine to sit in church pews once a week just as long as we don’t stand for Christ the remaining six days. We sit idly without vision, passion, or direction. Some choose to give up hope claiming we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our generation.

Satan, the ruler of the Earth, is at war with the God of the Universe.

But here in our midst is the Lamb and this house will live to fight another day because of this blood.

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The Question That Has Changed My Life This Year

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. — Eph. 5:16, KJV

This year, our church has been studying Paul’s letter to the Ephesians with an emphasis on spiritual maturity. We’ve been seeking a more thoroughly grounded walk with Jesus, one that is “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). Needless to say, when you open yourself up to God so intentionally, He’s inevitably going to show up and teach you some things you’ve never considered.

Lately it seems that God has been transforming my life through the pursuit of a singular question: What is the most important thing I will do today?

With great regularity, Paul contrasts our former way of life with a new reality we experience in Christ. In fact, a healthy portion of his introduction describes the vast contours of our new mode of being. In Christ, you are saints. In Christ, you are redeemed. In Christ, you are chosen. In Christ, you are blessed. Like a wild river spilling its banks, Paul’s language moves here and there in an attempt to encompass the breadth of this expansive realm — a realm otherwise known as the Kingdom of God. A dozen times in his prologue, Paul explicates a crucial component of our identity as an extension of residing, both individually and corporately, in Jesus.

By the time we arrive in Ephesians 5, Paul has repeatedly contrasted this new identity with an older pattern of life. The heart of the teaching can be easily summarized: “How could you return to your old, wicked ways? You are a new creation in Jesus.” This is the message of 5:15-16, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Wisdom is demonstrated by living authentically out of one’s identity as a Christ-follower.

But tucked within this teaching is a little nugget that is quite instructive: “make the most of the time.” The rendering of the King James is more regal and poetic with its reference to “redeeming the time.” In this present evil age, followers of Jesus cannot afford to live out of an expired identity. The wise person seizes every opportunity, every morsel of time, with redemptive expectation. A redeemed identity yields a redemptive perspective. We seek to “make the most of the time” through redemptive intentionality.

Or to put it another way: all of this has prompted me to evaluate the way I use my time.

And this evaluation has prompted me to ask a question that has become transformative: “What is the most important thing I will do today?

I’ve found that by asking myself this question, I’m more open to the redemptive possibilities that seem to be ever-present…at least once I have the eyes to see them.

So the other day I had breakfast with some guys at a local restaurant. Afterward, as I was walking back to my truck, I was approached in the parking lot by an African-American man in filthy clothes. He wore a tattered T-shirt and jeans caked in dirt. A week-old beard covered his cheeks and chin, deep wrinkles marked his forehead and eyes. My immediate reaction was to raise my defenses. Honestly, there was a part of me that just wanted to get in my truck and pretend that I didn’t see him. I didn’t want to take the time to hear his story, to be asked to help. But my conscience immediately countered those thoughts and I felt something — my faith? my upbringing? my white guilt? — prompting me to interact with this gentleman.

He asked me if I knew any place around that sold cell phone batteries. I told him that I didn’t, but that he was near some stores that could probably help him. He thanked me and turned away and I felt a sudden rush of relief. I was free to get in my truck and leave, having fulfilled my obligation to acknowledge this man’s question about cell phone batteries. But all of this “redeeming the time” language must’ve been rolling around my mind because I thought about my question: What is the most important thing I’ll do today? Why am I in such a rush to leave? What am I going to do today that will be MORE important than treating this man with hospitality and generosity?

“Hey, mister, have you had any breakfast?”

He turned back and said, “No. I haven’t.”

“Well, you’re in luck. This place serves a fantastic breakfast. Do you like eggs and bacon?”

“Oh, yes. That sounds good.”

Lest you think more highly of me than you should, I should probably tell you that my intention was to simply pay for this man’s breakfast and then hit the road. I figured I could order him a to-go plate and send him on his way. After all, the guy was on a quest for cell phone batteries. I guess I subconsciously felt that this would be enough of a good deed to assuage my guilt while still allowing me to get on with my morning. I had asked the question and found the answer: The most important thing I will do today is buy this man a meal. A meal to-go, but still.

We walked inside and I approached the young lady behind the kiosk at the front door. She smiled and a look of recognition flashed across her face. I said, “Yeah, I just was eating here but I need to place a to-go order for my friend here. I’m wondering if I can just pay and then I need to leave. Is that okay?” Again, for some reason I felt the need to get on with my day in the worst way.

Her smile fading, the young lady replied, “We can do the to-go order, but you need to tell him that he can’t eat here on our property.”

It was only then that I noticed the eyes on us. From tables across the room, from booths in the corner, from the bar stools facing big screen TVs, I noticed that many of the patrons in the restaurant were watching us. There were a lot of sideways glances from people not wanting to be overtly rude by staring at us. A few others were barely able to conceal their disgust. It dawned on me that we were unwelcome here. My homeless friend was unwelcome because of his stench or his clothes or simply by the sheer fact of his existence; and because of my proximity to him, I was unwelcome, too.

I realized that as a white, middle class, American male, I never had anyone look at me this way before.

And I realized that my friend received those looks of reproach every single day.

Her words rang in my ears again: “You need to tell him that he can’t eat here on our property.” She represented the room, the perspective of privilege. “We will take your money but we will not honor his personhood. Let him eat his food elsewhere, just not in our parking lot. We’ll not have it.”

That was when it hit me. Buying this man a meal is not the most important thing I will do today. The most important thing I will do today is to share table with him.

I looked her in the eye and said, “I’ve had a change of plans. I need two seats at the bar.” And with reluctance she seated us. And with all the defiance I could muster, I stared down one patron after another until they all meekly averted their eyes downward upon their heaping plates of eggs and sausage. Still fuming, I handed him a menu, told him to order anything he wanted.

He looked and the menu and glanced back at me, “I’m not too good at making out letters sometimes. Could you read the menu to me?”

And I wept while I read.

The most important thing I will do today is read this menu to this man.

He settled on scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, grits, and orange soda. And I asked him about his life. Turns out we both grew up in Tennessee. We’ve both lost dear loved ones. We talked about our children, our wives, even our faith in Christ. He told me about the time when, as a teenager, he stood before the church and said, “Jesus is my Lord!” and they took him to the baptistery and his sins were washed away.

The most important thing I will do today is share table with this brother.

He thanked me profusely in the parking lot before we parted. He shook my hand and I could feel the callouses and the grime and the scratch of his fingernails, long overdue for a trim. Before he resumed his quest for a new cell phone battery, I heard another question:

The most important thing I will do today is learn my friend’s name.

His name is Robert.

Posted in Blessings, Devotional, Faith, Gospel, Kingdom Values, Poverty, Race, Scripture | 3 Comments

Things I Want to Remember, Vol. 30

So I have two tickets to the Tennessee / Alabama game this coming Saturday. All along, I’d been planning to take Abby Kate. Outside of taking the whole family, I’ve taken the boys on “solo” ball game trips before, so this was Abby Kate’s turn.

Yesterday Joshua tells me that Abby Kate is having second thoughts about going. It seems that she’s conflicted about missing some of the things she’s already committed to on Saturday, so good on her for being responsible.

Of course, I couldn’t help but think this was a little self-serving on Joshua’s part. All week long he’s been asking me, “How did you decide who to take to the game? What if Abby Kate can’t go on Saturday?” With this in mind, I pressed a little more. “Son, how do you know she doesn’t want to go? Did she tell you this herself?”

Joshua replied, “Yeah. She told me she’s not sure if she wants to go or not.”

Then an odd statement: “I even felt her forehead and it was cold. No fever or anything.”

“What do you mean ‘no fever’?”

He said, “I thought she might be sick or something, but she wasn’t.”

I love that for Joshua, the only reasonable explanation for why someone wouldn’t want to go to a ballgame is a fever-induced delirium.

Looks like I’ll be taking someone else to the ballgame Saturday.

Posted in Family, Football, Humor, Kids, Sports | 2 Comments

Jason and Joshua’s Wild Card Round Picks

Sitting here tonight having a little fun with Joshua. We decided to make picks on the MLB Wild Card games coming up the next two days. Here are our picks, in our own words.

AL Wild Card Game: Astros vs. Yankees

Joshua’s take: “Everyone thinks the Astros are going to come out and pound the baseball just because they have all these youngsters. I think the Yankee veterans are going to teach them a lesson by showing plate discipline and having clutch. I think it’s going to be a battle of the pitchers, but I think ARod will come through in the clutch. Yankees win. That’s my take.”

Jason’s take: First of all, I like the thought process by Junior. You can tell he watches a lot of MLB Network.

Now, on to the AL Wild Card game. It’s hard to pick against the probable AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, but his numbers on the road are pedestrian (5-8, 3.77ERA, 13 HR allowed). I think the Yankee lineup will be patient and if this one becomes a battle of the bullpens, the Yankees can shorten the game awfully quickly with Betances and Miller. I’m going with the Evil Empire knocking out the upstart Astros.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates

Joshua’s take: “Best matchup of the night: Gerrit Cole vs. Kris Bryant. I think McCutchen’s gonna be set down. And I think that the crowd is going to go beserk enough that the Pirates won’t be able to handle it and they’ll make errors. I think that the Cubs are going to pull it out and win.”

Jason’s take: For one night only, I root for the Cubs.

The reason? They’re more beatable than the Pirates. Pittsburgh is just pesky, as in fly-that-buzzes-around-your-plate-at-a-church-potluck-and-won’t-leave-you-alone pesky. They’ve been on the Cards’ heels all season long. I’d much prefer the Cubs knocking out the Pirates. I’ll say this, though; if the Pirates eliminate the Cardinals, I’m all in on Pittsburgh winning it all. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I really admire what Clint Hurdle has done with this club.

So, I’m going to hope that Jake Arrieta has one more dominant start left in him in 2015. Cubs win a tight one.

We’ll make LDS picks later in the week.

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