This past week I had the honor to perform a funeral service for a brother of a friend. As a minister it is always a privilege when someone invites you into the intimate moments of their lives such as a wedding or a funeral. This was one of those special times for me.

Funerals are a time of remembering and reflecting. You have 20-30 minutes to sum up an entire life. I sat and listened to the music and family members tell what they remembered about their loved one. Some were funny and some were very moving. As you watch the family and friends your heart breaks as you see their hearts breaking. I looked to see some of the favorite items of the deceased. My mind wondered to what my own funeral would look like.

What do I want family and friends to remember about me? If they put up my favorite possessions what would they be? What kind of impact will I have had on those around me? Questions I thought about as I listened.  Obviously I want to be remembered as a loving husband and father, but what about everything else? As I thought about the funeral the next couple of days I began thinking about what was important to me. I have four passions in life and 3 of them were the key for me in this thought process and all of them could be summed up in one word – Relationships. I have cleaned out houses when we have moved and when my grandparents passed away. You cannot incorporate all of their possessions into your life. You begin to realize how much stuff we all have and when we die it becomes clutter for someone else.

What lasts? Relationships. God had been dealing with me the last couple of months about “finishing well” in life and moving from success to significance. I can only move to significance when I pour into someone else’s life, and help them with no thought of what is in it for me.

What about you? How do you want to be remembered?

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The Theft of Memory by Jonathan Kozol

9780804140973This is the first book I have read by Jonathan Kozol. I found his style to be easy to read and yet he seemed to use a wider range of vocabulary than most writer these days.  What drew me to this story is my own story of parents who are going through a similar journey. I found comfort in being able to relate to what he was feeling and what obstacles that he faced. His honesty and transparency was refreshing and gave you a bond that carried you through the story. I felt like I got to know his dad and appreciated his life and what he contributed.

I appreciated how he brought to the forefront the need for how to care for elderly parents and how expensive that it is. This is a crisis for most of us with parents who are entering this stage of life. The financial drain that will happen for most families will be divesting and will leave many without the care that they will need.

I think most people will walk away from this book feeling like they can relate to the author, but there is also a feeling of helplessness that we have as well. There is nothing we can do to combat Alzheimer’s at the moment. We pray and we do the best that we can. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it for anyone with elderly parents and heath issues.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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Unusual Blessings In An Unusual Place

In my day job I make hospital visits on a regular basis and many times I visit people in hospice. One of the hospice places that I visit is the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House.

HospiceThis place is amazing and the people who work there are the very best at what they do. This place looks like a retreat center rather than hospice. I have never visited there when I have not been impressed. One day while visiting I asked the lady who was escorting me to a room if everyone was paid staff or did they use volunteers. She replied that they used several volunteers and explained to me what areas they worked in. It was when she told me that many times there is no family or friends for the people in hospice and that the volunteers would come in and visit or read to them. That it moved me. I thought “I can do that!” So I went through the training, background check, drug testing and began to spend some time there each week. Some volunteers do garden work as well, but that is not what you want me to do.

I truly believe that people should be able to go out with dignity. During the last few months I have many funny stories from the residents. However, many times when I am visiting the best thing that I can do is to help the nurses out by feeding the residents who are waiting. No matter what is going on in my life; when I step into the hospice center everything just goes away. It is the highlight of my week! The residents and the nurses who work there bless me way more than I could ever bless them. Volunteering, especially to those who have no way of paying you back, is one of the best things that you can do.

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In Love……

Reading throughout the book of Ephesians I was stopped in my tracks by these two simple words the other day. Ephesians 1:4-5 says that “In Love” God chose me and adopted me.

People have children for all sorts of reasons. Some for love, some for wanting to save a marriage, and a host of other reasons. People who adopt children usually do so for the sake of love. No matter what happens, you know the parents love them.

As we raise our children we have the big picture of what lies ahead for them. We try to protect them, and equip them. Some times they hate what we are doing for them. They do not have the big picture and it seems unfair.

How often do we feel that way with God. I don’t like___________. It seems unfair that I should have to__________. We do not have the big picture either, but one thing we can rely on is that whatever God does in our lives it is done out of “love”.

Must be a hard lesson to learn, because I keep coming back to it again and again.

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“The Fold” by Peter Clines


I have not read many science fiction books and I am not sure why. I was looking for something different to read and this came across my radar. This is the first book by this author I have read, but not the first book he has written by any means. I was anticipating a space or time travel story. I am not opposed to those, but this was a welcomed change of pace. He combined some form of travel into these areas, but the bulk of the story was in a realistic setting.

It is hard to talk about this book and not to give the story line away. The vast majority of the book was easy to follow and you kind of knew what was going to happen. However, the author ramped the story up more than I thought he would. It made a huge leap. In some ways it was too much of a gap, but that is the nature of science fiction. I felt the ending could have been a little stronger. I am having this feeling about several books I am reading lately. There is a lot of time building up to the climax and then it seems the ending is kind of an after thought or not quite sure how to end the story.

Over all this was an easy read and a great way to distract myself. I would read another book by the author. I do feel like I need to say that the book had one sex scene and some cuss words. I mention this for the parents who are reviewing for their teenagers who like Sci-Fi. Not that the publisher is targeting teenagers by any means, but I know several teenagers who like to read this type of literature.


This book was provided free for me to review by Blogging For Books.

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“The Porcelain Thief” by Hun Hsu

book1This is a different book than I normally review, but I was intrigued by the description. I am glad I was given a chance to read the book. I loved the book and the story behind it. Not only did I get an interesting story line but I learned about the history and culture of China as well.

Hsu begins to try and discover his roots based off of family history and a story of a buried treasure. Who does not like stories of buried treasure? Hsu tells of his struggles of being an American Born Chinese. He had struggles both here in America and China as well. He tells an intriguing tale of his families journey through the different wars and their struggle to maintain their heritage. There were times when some of the history became a bit tedious and was hard to follow for me. I enjoyed learning about the history and culture, but it was hard to track all of the names and families. He starts off reluctantly  learning about his family, but eventually begins to understand them and why they became the people they were.

His style of writing made the book easy to read. I think he could have shortened some of the book without changing the story and the outcome. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good story and wants to learn more about the culture of China.

This book was provided to me by Blogging For Books for review.

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1,000 Books In 10 Years

When I wrote a few weeks ago about the Kindle reader I bought and a little of why I bought it. A few people asked me about my reading goals. I have been hesitate in sharing something like that, because everyone is different in why they read and it is a personal goal.

I need to share on the front end that I read a lot for work. I have friends who only read for work and only one genre. Sometimes they make comments about how you should only read for work, but then they are into sports and other things. For me reading is also how I relax and have fun. I love escaping into the other worlds of books. Reading 100 books a year does not make me superior to someone who does not. This is a goal that is just for me.

This is how and why I set the goal of reading 1,000 books in 10 years. When I started this year off I began like I always do in setting some goals for work, but I also like to set some for myself. The personal goals are things I want to enjoy or make an improvement in. There are people who read over 200 books a year so this is not a world record by any means, but it would be a huge stretch for me. I can honestly say this has been one of my favorite goals this year.

imagesI am four months into it and I am ahead of schedule. I know I need to read about 8 books a month on average. However, some months are more and some are less. There will be short books and long books and so you have to bank on the fact that at the end of the year it will all balance out. The first month I was nervous and read very fast making sure I had met my goal. I eventually developed a rhythm and slowed down. What good was reading that many books if you did not comprehend or retain any of what you read?

For fun I read fiction, classics, poetry, and books about writing. In my work I needed to work on a balance. I tend to find a topic and read only about one thing. So for me I read books related to my specific job, discipleship, prayer, leadership, and devotional books. This gives me the balance I am looking for and if I want to improve in a certain area I try to limit it to 6 books at a time. You could balance the list for most any job.

For me the reasons for this goal is to become a better minister. I am not quite ready to just rollover and relax. Reading is one of the main ways I can keep up and move forward. There are certain areas of my life that I want to improve in and reading gives me a way to do that. Conversations with others is easier and I am able to participate more. One of my goals is to become a better writer and you cannot become a better writer without being a huge reader. The two go hand in hand. I have also found that reading, like most things in life, the more you do it the more proficient you become. I read everywhere. Five minutes waiting for someone to arrive at a lunch meeting, and situations like waiting at the doctor’s office. There are short periods of time that I try to take advantage of.

I realize this goal is not for everyone. I am at a place in my life where I can do this. If I had small children at home and other obligations it would be hard to do. I feel like this level of reading with my years of experience in life will be a great combination.

I had a couple of questions about how do you afford 100 books, and the church must give you a great book allowance. The church allows me $200 a year for books which I appreciate, but that will not cover this level of reading. So here is how I am doing it so far. I review books for different book companies and they give me a free book for the review, I download free ebooks from different websites for my e-reader. I also use the library both in person and online. I buy books at goodwill and other used sites. By the way if I am in your office and you have a book setting on your shelf I will probably ask to borrow it as well.

People ask me “what if you do not meet your goal?” Honestly that is not the point. So what if I only read 900 books in 10 years or it takes me and extra 6 months to read the 1,000. The goal is secondary. It is the process and who you become from reading that is the real goal.

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“The Ancient Path” by John Michael Talbot

talbot bookLet me start off by saying I have always been a huge fan of John Michael Talbot’s music and have loved his other books. He had an impact on my life when I was in college and seminary. His music is incredibly worshipful.

Therefore, I really wanted to like this book. I had a certain mindset of how this book would be like from his previous writings, This was different. What made his other books work for me was the sharing of his life and some of this thought. This book was heavy into his theology and just a little of his life. Most people are usually drawn to him and want to know more of his story. This book had some of that, but not enough for me. I think the average person will become lost in his discussion of the Early Father’s writings and theology.

You can tell he is a “thinker” and does not take his relationship with God lightly, and I appreciate that. There are parts that make you stop and rethink some things in your own life. I always like it when an author has that kind of impact. Overall this book was an interesting read, but it helps to have some knowledge of theology. I am not sure the average person looking to remember John Michael Talbot will read all of the book. I think they will skip to the parts of his actual life and make this a quick read.

This book was given to me by logo

for a review

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The Art of Receiving

This past week I had a friend who gave me a vintage Esterbrook fountain pen. I have a deep love for fountain pens, both old and new. What made the gift even more special is that he had painstakingly restored it himself. I knew how much time and effort he had put in. The pen had a beautiful blue luster when he had finished with it. Blue is my favorite color and especially on fountain pens. I offered to pay him for the pen, but he quickly refused. It was a gift. To treat it any differently would have offended him.

I learned something about myself. My personality coupled with my calling as a Minister is to serve. I am happiest when I am doing something for others. However, I learned that I struggle when someone does something for me. I am not complaining, but I am usually not on the receiving end of gifts. I realized that I have a hard time with this. It is a lot easier for me to give someone a gift or do something for someone than to receive. I always feel like I should somehow compensate them. There is a real art to receiving a gift and being grateful. I need to work on that.  I think we all feel this way at times.

This got me to thinking about salvation. We have a hard time receiving God’s gift as well. I see people all of the time trying to do things so they can deserve their salvation. They are constantly truing to win God’s love by doing things they think He wants them to do. The greater the value of the gift the more we want to try and compensate for it. Our salvation is a gift. There is nothing we can do that would ever be enough to compensate for what Jesus did for us on the cross. When my friend gave me the pen; I had to stop trying to pay him back and just receive the gift. It is the same with our salvation. I have to let go and receive the gift.

Every time I use this pen I will think of my friend and how special it was to get a gift like this. What reminds you of the free gift of salvation that God gave you? There are markers in my spiritual life and the ordnance of the Lord’s Supper is one of them. It is a great time for remembering.  How closely related is learning to receive a gift connected to salvation?

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Learning To Trust The Artist

Living in the Memphis, Tn area I enjoy going to the Dixon Art Museum. During the summer months they have “Food Truck Fridays” and nothing is better! My favorite section in the museum is the area where they display the Impressionist paintings. By definition Impressionist art is a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. They paint the pictures with a lot of color and most of their pictures are outdoor scenes. Their pictures are very bright and vibrant. The artists like to capture their images without detail but with bold colors. They use short, fat strokes.  What does this really mean? For me, I love the fact that when I am close to the painting it is fuzzy and unclear, but the further back I move the clearer the painting gets and you can almost see the waves in the water move. It is magical to me. I do not know how they accomplish their art.

monetI was thinking the other day about life. Some times we are in seasons when everything seems blurry. I can see the basic shape and some color, but the true beauty of the picture is not there. Life happens to us, people disappoint us, and we hear the word cancer. Another stroke of the brush on our canvas. I sat today with a lady whose sister is on hospice; another stroke of the brush. We look for clarity, but we cannot find it. All we can see are the blobs of paint. Nothing makes sense. There are usually some bright colors mixed in during these times, but we have a hard time focusing on them. A splash of color comes by an unexpected lunch with a friend, warmth of family, and people praying for us that we do not even know.

We all have seasons like this. I find that when this happens for me I have to go away and spend some extended time in prayer. I have a special place I go to where I can spend the whole day in prayer. I always come away with a better perspective. I can see better, but not perfect. I wish that I could tell you this is where I always start when these seasons come, but I do try to end up there.

I have to trust and rely on the Artist. God is painting my life with His brush strokes and only He is able to see the picture from a distance. He knows how each stroke is going to produce a painting that I could not imagine. Trusting the Artist is not always easy. Like everyone else, I want to see everything perfectly. I want to see the reflections and the waves dancing. However, on this side of heaven we never get to see the final art. We see glimpses, but there will come a day when we get to step back and see the final product. We will look with amazement and say “Wow, I had no idea.” The short fat ugly strokes we see close up will make up a beautiful picture.

I do not know what is going on in your life, but trust the Artist.

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