The Phone Call No One Wants

Reflects from a Difficult Year

memorial sloan Kettering Cancer center

Today marks exactly one year since my wife got the phone call that everyone prays will never come. I remember her calling me crying and all she could say was “come home.” I drove and prayed and asked God to do a miracle, and he did not in the way I would have done it but a year later I can say that I don’t understand, but we’ve learned to trust more. This year has been difficult because walking through cancer was difficult for everyone in our family in very different ways. It has been hard because we have lost some very dear friends a few of them to cancer. Every time I think of them my heart aches a bit because this isn’t how it was supposed to be.

To be clear, I hate cancer. I also don’t believe that it is a gift from God. I do believe that God works through our greatest pains for our good and his glory (Romans 8). While I would never wish for Cancer to come. There are things in my life and in our family I would have never known existed both good and bad if it wasn’t for the trial that took the form of cancer in our family. At the moment we were rejoicing from the good news that my wife was Cancer free a few of our friends discovered they had Cancer in their bodies. With the freshness of the pain from what we had walked through I can’t tell you how this pained my heart. Yet having just walked through something so similar and watched God move in my wife’s life and in several others I had a faith to believe and pray in a way I wouldn’t have before.

One of those friends of mine was Jeremy Lee, a guy I had recently met in person but have known online for some time. As my wife was receiving her joy-filled news 6 months ago he was received far worse news. Since the day I found out he had Cancer I began to pray with new wisdom and fresh hope for healing. This week he received a clean bill of health, to God be the Glory. I wanted to share his Facebook status with you because I found it personally helpful and profoundly true.

Dear Pastor: Stay Where You Are.

The power of staying where you are in a transient world.


The blog post is part of a two others. My friends Kenny Connely and Carey Nieuwhof both wrote blog posts today around this idea. I wrote about the importance of staying, Kenny is talking how to leave well and Carey is addressing when you should stay and when you should leave. This is a conversation that needs to be had because of the ramifications it has on the local church. I hope you find each of our posts helpful, encouraging and challenging.

We live in a transient culture. The US Census Bureau found in 2007 the average person moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. Growing up in the home of a Bio-Vocational Pastor I moved a bit more than that, leaving your home and your network of friends to start over is not easy it takes courage. I have now lived in the same town and worked at the same church for 19 years and I can tell you staying takes as much courage as moving.

One of the things I missed by moving so often as a kid was seeing people get older. I always saw everyone in one stage of life. We moved every 3-5 years I saw people in snapshots of their lives. I didn’t attend my first funeral until I was 19 years old. I was never around long enough to either see people suffer or know them well enough to know they were suffering. When you have walked through life long enough with friends to both teach them in kids church, watch them get married and then dedicate their babies the relationships are deep. The beauty and the pain of deep relationships is that the further deep the relationship goes the more painful and bittersweet the sorrows of life become. Some would say why invite pain and sorrow into your life? But it’s not that way. Pain and sorrow need no invitation they visit each life those and those who know you see. I have found that more than any conference I have attended or speaking invitation I have accepted what has changed my life most is holding the hand and praying for a dear friend in the last moments of their life. To care for people deeply enough, to allow them in, to walk through life with them and to watch them as Paul says “Be swallowed by everlasting life” is an honor and a privilege. Two weeks ago I held the hand of a dear saint the night before she passed. I told her the beauty of the Christian hope is we never have to say goodbye only see you later. She gave me a hug and told me to keep taking care of the church. I hugged her goodbye, and she looked at me and said: “See you later.” What they don’t tell you in Seminary, in books, and on blogs, it’s moments like that when you see the grace of God in the face of old friends you realize the pain of the courage to stay is worth it.

The Dark Side of Parenting


Kids are a joy. Kids are the best thing ever. Kids are also a lot. I remember seeing as a single person families come to church with well dressed little kids and smiles on their faces thinking wow what a beautiful family. I had no idea! Now four kids later I have a bit more of an idea.

I came across these photos and literally laughed out loud. Danielle Guenther has great skill as a photographer but also must have a few kids judging from some of the pictures she takes. These are fantastic. If you have not crawled along the floor using your iPhone as a flashlight you probably don’t have kids. I most identify with the parents sneaking out and the dad trying to reach his phone while holding his baby. Which one is your family?

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Why Teaching Your Kids to Say Sorry Isn’t Good.

Blurred boy holding a piece of paper with the word Sorry in front of her.; Shutterstock ID 203129515; PO: Brandon for Trending

Teaching kids to say they are sorry is important but it’s only a start. When kids are small they should learn to say sorry. As kids get older we must teach our kids that sorry is good when it leads to repentance. We live in a world that only knows how to say sorry but doesn’t even attempt to turn from the actions that created the need for the apology in the first place. We address the feelings of others “I’m sorry if I made you feel…” we most often fail to mention the very real gap our actions created. The problem with saying sorry is sorry can be used to gloss over sin. Repentance digs deeper to the root of sin.

I know of a very well-known minister who heads a denomination of churches who many years ago wronged another denomination in a very significant way. The breach came through core beliefs of the church. The well know minister recently said he was sorry to the other denomination without address the gap they had created and still perpetuates through false beliefs that are core to the church. He said sorry when he should have repented.

I don’t want my kids to be sorry saying appeasers, I want them to repent and ask for forgiveness for the gaps they create. Saying sorry is for the other person, to help them feel better, repentance is different it does a work in you. This is how I teach my kids to apologize I tell them to say “Mr./Mrs. ________ I am sorry for ___________ (specifically name what you did) I was wrong. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again. Apologizing in this way addresses what how you affected the other person asks them to forgive you as you were in the wrong and invites God into the process because what you mean by I won’t do it again is by grace and with his help, I won’t do it again.

The Forgotten Promise Of American Liberty

If You Can Keep It

It is during election years that the precarious nature of our republic is most evident to even the politically disengaged. Eric Metaxas newest book that releases today does a great service to our Republic by publishing a book that addresses the fault lines in our political system yet at the same time offer hope for the future by examining the foundations of the past.

A year ago I read A Free People’s Suicide by Os Guinness a fantastic read. Guinness builds the case that the greatest enemy of freedom is freedom. That the biggest danger to our republic is not from an external army but internal vice. Arnold Toynbee famously observed that

“History shows that all great nations commit suicide.”

Lincon said of this

“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Metaxas address the precarious nature of liberty in the famous exchange between Mrs. Powell and Benjamin Franklin. At the conclusion of the constitutional congress, Mrs. Powell approached Franklin and asked “Well Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin famously responded: “A republic, madam- if you can keep it.”

Both Guinness and Metaxas build their case for sustainable freedom around Guinness’ “Golden Triangle of Freedom.” The Golden triangle of freedom states that for us as a country to maintain her freedoms we need three interdependent things, freedom, virtue, and faith. If you lose any of those there ingredients, our republic will decline and eventually commit suicide. Guinness uses a more philosophical approach to the idea of the Golden Triangle. Metaxas uses a more historical approach. Because of the similarities and the difference of each they compliment each other very well.

In light of the horrific terror attack in Orlando, I was deeply saddened by the loss of so many innocent lives. I found it interesting and disheartening that politicians on both sides of the aisle want to diminish or suspend our 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments. When we the people don’t do what our duty is the government will gladly step in as we hand over our freedom for the false sense of security they provide. We make the deadly mistake of thinking that gun laws or surveillance laws will save us. Metaxas says

“Some problems cannot be cured through legislation. But they must be attended to nonetheless. And here is the problem: The less the culture attends to these things, the more the government will attend to them and the less freedom there will be.”

Reading Eric’s book, I was deeply impacted by not only the tenuous nature of freedom but the responsibility I have to keep Ameria free. It is very easy to get cynical when our voting options are a potential tyrant and a potential inmate. As a Christian and a parent, we must do the follow to be faithful “keepers” of the freedoms we have been given.

  1. We must read biographies of great men and women who lived lives of faith and virtue. We must do more than just read them we must pass on the stories of their lives to our kids.

    “The proper role of the heroic, to call us higher than ourselves. To call us to fight not merely for what is ours but for what should belong to everyone – for what is right.” – Eric Metaxas

  2. We must live lives of virtue empowered by the grace that only the Spirit of God can provide. My desire as a Christ follower is that every person to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. I want to live a life that reflects the love of Christ and demonstrates the transformation the gospel provides.
  3. We must make goodness fashionable – If we as a country continue to be ruled by our vices rather than by virtues I fear for the world, we leave our grandkids.
  4. We must pray for personal and national revival. One of the things I never realized was how much the Great Awakening affected the birth of our nation.

The events in the news daily, the posture of our culture reveal that we are a country that has largely abandoned virtue and has so personalized and segmented faith that our freedom that was bought at such a high price is hanging by a thread. There is time to reverse the damage but to do so we must fight, we must love, and we must trust.

I completely enjoyed “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.” In the next few months before you cast your vote for our next President do yourself a favor turn off CNN and Fox and read “If You Can Keep It” and “A Free People’s Suicide.” They will give you a new sense of gratitude for the blessings we have received and perhaps a fresh perspective to see past the craziness of our time to what has always made America so unique and so exceptional, flawed yes but still exceptional. The shining city on a hill that Reagan always said it could be.

[*I was provided a free copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review for you on my blog.]