Home for Christmas

There are many who struggle through the holidays. It can be a very hard time as we deal with the twists and turns life throws our way. Whether it is a missing or lost loved one, financial hardship, or some other tragedy, the struggle is very real for some. But there is hope.

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

It has been said that once you leave, you can never “go home” again. Sure, that means that things are never quite as good as you remember them and that we can never relive the past. But there is more to home than nostalgia or the “good ole days.”

There is something in each of us that wants to celebrate. We want to give gifts, gather together, and share good food. We yearn for time away from our cares and worries spent together with those we love.

You see, home is more than a feeling or a memory. It is the people we share life with. Home is reaching beyond our current circumstances to encourage and bless each other.

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Some make festive and light during this season with thoughts of Santa, jolly elves, shiny-nosed reindeer, Christmas trees, presents, and lights. We make movies and sing songs about the fanciful and fantastical magic of the season when everything is covered in a blanket of pure white snow.

Others celebrate the season with Jesus. It is a time to remember his birth. He came as the ultimate gift for all mankind. We write plays, carols, and have special church services with candlelight and festive singing.


One story weighs heavily on my mind and heart this Christmas, and it is about family.

It is the story, the journey, of a missing son. He is lost and trapped in the lies of the world. The lie that success comes from money and selfish pursuits. Do anything to make yourself happy. Eat, drink, make merry with things that please the senses.

He wanders the world with all its ills and woes. He struggles under the failures and burdens of a hard life reaped from poor choices. His pursuit of pleasure has left him destitute, homeless, friendless, hungry, and desperate.

But then he remembers his father’s house. In that house, he was always loved, sheltered, clothed, and fed. Even with his poor choices, he hungers for a taste of what he once had, and hopes that he may be welcomed back, even as a lowly servant, just to experience that warmth once more.

Here is where the story gets real interesting. Here is where we see that you can be home for Christmas.

The young man’s father is constantly and eagerly waiting for his return. When he sees his son from afar, he runs to him. With a big hug, he welcomes his son home. He wraps him in a warm coat and makes a gift of his own ring as a symbol that he belongs. On the way to the house, he orders a feast, a return celebration like they have never seen before.

The son had come home! 

The father was eagerly waiting for him. And when he returned, the father lavishly poured out his love. That is the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15—a true Christmas story.

You can be home for Christmas…

Three Characteristics of an Influential Leader

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. -Max de Pree

Over the years, much has been taught and written about leadership and the skills, character traits, and knowledge needed to become influential or effective leaders. Some of it has been good, some of it has been bad, and some of it has been purely self-serving. However, almost everything learned through the various leadership classes and courses I attended during my military career missed or de-emphasized something that I believe is key.

The world would say to us that leaders tell others what to do. They stand at the front of organizations and empires. They are strong and they shape situations to their will. Their ideas and actions bring change. It is the great leaders, who through their perseverance and resolute will, change the world.

Yet, there is another perspective. Sometimes we can see glimpses of its truth in leadership manuals or courses. Sometimes it can even be seen in the memoirs or writings of great leaders. It is a heavenly kingdom perspective, and it is counter to most commonly held beliefs.

Leaders are servants.

He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

To become an influential or effective leader, you must learn to follow first. Learn about those you lead. Walk in their shoes. Understand their trials and motivations. See the world through their eyes. Then you will know how to best incorporate the following three characteristics into your daily interactions with those you lead.


Encourage the Potential You See in Others
Your most important task as a leader is to recognize the potential that exists in every person. As you recognize it, you must call it out. You must be a champion of the possible. Speak positive words that help foster and grow a person from where they are into who they can become.

It is critical that you speak more about others than about yourself. While your experience and wisdom are key to helping them grow, always remember that it’s not all about you. By pouring into the next generation you are creating a culture that strives to advance and improve—one that moves from where we are into the greatness for which we were created.

Being an encourager does not mean you shouldn’t use failure as learning opportunities or you never correct mistakes. By no means! Failure is often the key to opening the door to success. But you must never belittle a person to correct a mistake. Your whole focus is on helping them to realize the greatest potential that exists inside of them.

Empower Your Followers to Succeed
You must release people into the potential you see and encourage. You must get out of the way and let them take ownership of their life and work. You must stand behind them and cheer them on to greater success, and you must give them the authority to be successful.

When you give them the authority they need to excel in their tasks, you give them the opportunity to step into the potential you identified in them. Maybe you shouldn’t start by giving them the keys to the kingdom, but you can certainly give them enough authority to accomplish what you ask of them.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. Nelson Mandela

Eliminate Obstacles
As a leader, you have the ability to remove obstacles that others may not have the authority or knowledge to remove. You must break down barriers without lessening the challenge. You must allow them to explore all their options to solve the problems they face. You smooth the paths for them to walk into success; you help them identify the dead ends. You have the experience to know when something is an obstacle to overcome or a path to be abandoned.

It really is very simple. You remove obstacles. You give direction and advice. You get out of the way. You let them forge the path. You launch trailblazers.


leadershipYou have a unique opportunity to cheer on another generation as it moves into the heavenly potential for which they were created. You become a destiny-maker when you take on the mantle of a servant.

Step out—lead from behind.

Daring to Become a Leader

Every military branch spends considerable amounts of time, resources, and energy on training leaders. Each has plans and programs to develop their members and raise up new generations of leaders who conform to their ideal. They have a goal and a path to follow. They forge ahead relentlessly shaping young minds year after year into particular molds.

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I can’t tell you how many times I attended classes, seminars, and academies focused on training leadership skills. Each had a different approach and often shared wildly dissimilar material. Yet, taken as a whole they only scratched the surface of leadership.

Sure, they taught me how to write reports, track metric data, and administer people and programs. They taught the organizational vision and policies and used great, big, impressive phrases like “fostering a shared mental model” and “challenging entrenched paradigms.” But they never really taught me how to lead people.

More than anything in my life, observing leaders, both good and bad, taught me more about leadership than any class or seminar. I learned from leaders around me what powerful and influential leadership looked like even if it was small in scope or scale. It prepared me to step into challenging roles with a measure of confidence…not necessarily success.

What are you doing to prepare yourself to lead? Not everyone can become a great leader. However, just like in the Disney Movie Ratatouille we find that greatness can come from anywhere or anyone.

Each of you has the capacity to lead others. Some of you have the capacity to become great leaders. I certainly can’t claim that for myself, but I press on to the goal.

Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

I have found that the greatest leaders are not necessarily found at the helm of great ships or as the CEOs of the most successful corporations. They may not even be heads of state, captains of business and industry, or leaders of global religious sects. Some of the greatest leaders you will ever meet may have a small impact in the grand scheme of things, but that impact fills the reach of the influence they do have whether it is a small team or a following of millions. They saturate situations with their influence.

The most interesting leader I know is Jesus. Yep, you heard correctly. Jesus – the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Alpha and the Omega, and the Son of God. His influence changed history.

His influential reach can be seen today as it has grown from such humble beginnings. He probably never traveled more than about 250 miles from where he was born (Bethlehem to Egypt). He had between 11-70 dedicated followers (the 12 Disciples minus Judas, and the 70 he sent out on mission two-by-two) with an average audience of several thousand (think about the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000). However, according to NPR, in 2010 Christianity was estimated to have 2.2 billion adherents.

The most powerful, influential leaders have changed the world with their ideas. Jesus changed the world with the radical, counter-cultural ideas he brought to the religious Jewish community at the turn of the first century. It rocked that community and ultimately led to his death.

Bu that wasn’t the end of the story. His grave is empty. He is seated on the throne of heaven at the right hand of his Father, and He has given us His authority to see the things of heaven made manifest on earth through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

So, as the leader of a global enterprise (as described on TBN by Pastor J. John), Jesus has much to teach us about leadership. His life and teachings shed light on a kingdom perspective of leadership. Learn from the best. Study the life of the one who is the King above all Kings.

Transform Your Life with a New Attitude

Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. Romans 12:2

The attitude you display and carry with you on a daily basis has a weighty impact on everything. Your attitude changes the atmosphere, the environment, and everything about your surroundings. It colors the way you view the world and how you interact with others. It even impacts how those you meet respond to you.

I was so excited about reaching my first duty station in the Air Force. I trained for nearly 2 years to be able to finally contribute to the mission. I worked hard, learned fast, and was soon qualified on my equipment and tasks. It was exciting, and I loved every bit of what I was doing. I even volunteered to transfer to another duty station overseas for the opportunity to do my job onboard aircraft—I wanted to earn my wings!

When I arrived, I found that my particular skills were little needed, and I was given additional duties in computer maintenance. I was discouraged and became bitter. I allowed that bitterness to take root inside and affect how I viewed my job. My attitude spiraled into a dark cloud and negativity became a comfortable friend. It was the voice inside my head telling me all the things that were wrong about life.

Until…

One of the trainers from my previous assignment transferred to my new unit about a year and a half after I arrived. He noticed my funk and cornered me one day. I’ll never forget how he challenged me; after 20 years I still remember the impact it had on my attitude. He asked what had happened to me and reminded me how I had been so positive at my last station. It was a wake-up call. I realized I had allowed my situation to determine my attitude. I’d chosen to let that grumbling outside voice become my inner dialogue, and it changed my attitude in the worst way possible—I became the one who was always grumbling and complaining. I sowed the seeds of negativity and reaped a harvest of unhappiness.this-way-that-way

I chose that attitude. It was an act of my will. It was making me, and those around me, miserable. I needed to transform my heart (attitudes) and mind (thoughts). That transformation was not quick or easy—I found out it was a kingdom journey that continually brings me into the light and life of Jesus. In that journey, here are a few things I’ve learned…


Listen Carefully

There are two voices that are vying for our attention on this earth. One is powered by the world around us and reflects the thoughts, attitudes, opinions, and slogans of this life. They are powered by culture and popular belief, and they bombard our daily lives. Often it brings criticism, complaints, and negativity to cloud our daily experiences.

The other voice is heard in the stillness and quiet we must intentionally cultivate daily. It whispers encouragement and joy in our ear. This voice turns our eyes and thoughts to the beauty around us in nature and in others. It is often positive, upbeat, and joyful.

Examine Yourself

Look at the choices you make every day. Do they promote and bring joy and peace? Do you walk through your daily life with a spring in your step and a song on your lips? Or do you feel like you are walking through a dark cloud, constantly tired and overwhelmed? Do your choices reflect the voice of the world that surrounds us or the voice that brings joy and peace?

Listen to how those around you respond to you. Compare how they say you act and speak with how you think you act and speak. Are the things people saying about how you act and speak matching how you think you act and speak? What are others seeing about you that you need to see about yourself?

Choose Transformation

Your will, your choices, reflect the voice that speaks loudest to you. What we hear and internalize is what we repeat to ourselves and others. Whatever you allow into your heart, mind, and life is what will flow out of you in your daily encounters.

Challenge what you hear on a daily basis. Listen for the voice that impacts you the most. Choose the voice of Truth and fill your heart and mind with joy and peace. Refuse to internalize the negative. Speak life in every situation without ignoring the circumstances.

Rinse and Repeat

Make it a habit. Be intentional. Do it every day. Choose what you hear and what you speak. Choose the change and be transformed.


Learning to live a transformed life is a journey. The transformation comes in the process of learning to renew your heart and mind by listening to the quiet voice of Truth. Be intentional—be persistent. Be “more than meets the eye.”

The Art of Listening Can Make You an Influencer

When I was young, I never knew how to be quiet. I wasn’t overly loud, but I talked all the time. When I had no one else with whom to talk, I talked to myself. Even when I wasn’t talking, I was making some kind of noise, some sound effect, some imitation. It especially drove my sister crazy.

I had so much energy and excitement. I had so much to share. It was roiling and bubbling inside me, and it had to find a way out. It always did, just not always in the best way.

My fourth-grade teacher even threw a book at my head one day because…well, talking. I didn’t answer a question in exactly the right way (probably more than once), and when I was corrected, I began to talk to myself quietly. Evidently, for some adults that can be distracting or even misinterpreted as “mouthing off.” Thus, book…head.

By the time I became a young man, I still hadn’t learned. I often got so focused on what I had to say that I never stopped to find out what other people had to say. When people became frustrated with my, I learned about insecurity. I was insecure in who I was, and I felt I had to prove myself to the world through all that I knew and had to share. I hadn’t learned a bit of wisdom.

He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace;
When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. Proverbs 17:27-28

My wonderful wife helped me truly come to understand the wisdom found in silence. She recognized that my effervescent conversations were driving people away. So she began to help me learn. She gave me confidence by encouraging me to share sparingly and let the power of listening and silence rule many of my conversations.

When we were in social situations where my mouth began to run away with me, she began to gently squeeze my knee, my arm, or my hand to help me recognize my overflowing mouth. It worked! I learned to close my mouth, open my ears, and focus on what others had to share.

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Through these experiences over the years, I have learned three principals for building understanding, wisdom, perception, and influence.

Listen Intentionally

Be in the moment. Focus on the person who is speaking. Look at them. Listen to their words. Engage with affirmative responses to let them know you are hearing what they are saying. Watch their facial expressions and body language. Find out what they have to say; capture the complete thought. Focus on the idea, don’t judge the delivery. Plan your response after they are finished speaking.

Seek Understanding

Listening is a journey of discovery together. Ask questions to increase clarity and understanding. Draw the speaker out with open-ended questions. Judge nothing, discern everything. Pay attention to how things are said to get a fuller picture of the message.

Encourage Others

Acknowledge what the speaker has said, even if you disagree. Use positive language. Affirm the person regardless of the message. Disagree respectfully; present differences graciously. Encouragement is the most powerful part of creating influence through listening!


When we focus on the individual, regardless of opinion or message, we create relationships and build opportunities to grow in understanding and wisdom for the future.

That is influence.

Do you want to impact your family, church, community, business? Do you want to change a generation to impact this earth for God’s kingdom?

Listen.

Love, Hope, and a Coming Victory

It was a training and proving ground. There was discouragement, setbacks, and challenges at every turn. But those are stories for another time, and they aren’t mine alone.

This is one such story of challenges and trials. It is also a story of love, hope, and a coming victory.

Over the years, we have faced health challenges that have seemed insurmountable. You see, from my precious bride’s youth, struggles with health issues began. It was actually one of the things God used to stir my heart toward her.

We had been in classes together at university. She thought I was obnoxious; I thought she was out of my league. Somehow, we began spending time together and getting to know each other. Then, one evening after going to a movie with some friends, God ignited something fierce inside of me.

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Just Engaged!

We were standing in the kitchen of her home, and she experienced an intense abdominal pain that doubled her over and brought her to her knees. She was so embarrassed, but it was one of God’s “suddenly” moments. I knew that I would do most anything to spend my life caring for her. I fell into something amazing—God’s compassion for her fired an intense compassion inside me as well. Over time and through other experiences, God brought us together as help-mates. It was exciting to find this treasure and know that adventures stretched before us!

Over the ensuing years, health challenges mounted for my bride. Doctor’s visits increased as we sought answers to symptoms, illnesses, and pain. General practitioners, every kind of specialist imaginable, nutritional health and naturopathy, and test after test; we’ve journeyed through it all with no real answers or permanent solutions.

During the course of this journey, doctors have diagnosed her with severe IBS, bipolar disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, uterine fibroids, bladder and uterine prolapse, colonic inertia (low-motive colon), redundant (or very twisty) colon, scoliosis, arthritis, spinal stenosis, 24/7 migraines, yeast in the blood with chronic infections, and hypotension. And there are still more results pending. It can all seem overwhelming, but the end result, the simple experience for my bride is pain.

Intense pain. Never-ending pain. Regularly debilitating pain.

She’s had procedures to “fix” some issues. She’s tried every medication imaginable. We’ve changed diet drastically and even “purged” the evil toxins of gluten and sugar for years! All of this has brought little to no relief at all.

Seven years ago, God began speaking in a very intimate and direct way to her. He spoke of a culmination and climax in all of these issues. He emphasized that no matter the apparent severity or any coming complications, He is her healer.

She began to pursue God more passionately for answers that doctors couldn’t find and that their practices couldn’t solve. I would come home from work only to find she had been shut in her closet for hours in praise and worship before the throne of God. She radiated with His presence. It was palpable, and it transformed how we thought and behaved.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Through this transformation, she was healed of bipolar disorder. It is completely gone. With the counsel and assistance of her psychiatrist, she stopped all treatment for the disorder. She has never gone back. I have never seen my bride so positive and confident since she has been set free from this mental oppression and saturated with His presence.

This past year, though, has been the most difficult by far. The pain has intensified—really intensified. She is almost completely bed-ridden. She has a hard time keeping weight on due to nausea and poor digestion. We use a wheelchair when we must go out because she experiences severe dizziness and balance issues. She’s begun slurring her words and forgetting things regularly.

Yes, it seems bleak, but despite all this, we have not lost hope. Our hope is in Him. He is where our help comes from.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Although my beloved has been diagnosed with a host of issues, they neither define nor explain who she is. They only show what she is journeying through. My bride’s story is unfinished, and yet to be gloriously completed by God.

Our hope is in the Maker of heaven and earth; Jehovah Rapha—the Great Physician and her healer. He is our miracle maker.


The Start of a New Adventure

Well, here I am, beginning a new journey in the life for which I was purposefully created.

After a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, I have embarked on the life I was called to at a young age. I retired from service to my country in April of 2015 and started a journey of service to the King of Kings at the very same time.

The story, however, is a little more complicated than that… isn’t it always?

I heard Jesus calling me to be a minister and to take care of His flock (John 21). I was 17 when it happened. I was purposed for Kingdom work! I was called. I was marked.

I was lost.

I had no mentors and didn’t yet know how to still myself to hear from God clearly. So, I made a lot of life decisions on my own. I sought council but didn’t really get good input from many I asked. I did get some good advice from my grandfather about a college to attend. I caught a glimpse of the first stepping stone; Grand Canyon University with a Christian Studies major!

That lasted as long as my first class in Church History. It was dry. It was dull. It was about a bunch of dead guys, and it was boring. I was lucky to finish with a D.

I was a bomb. What was I doing? I certainly didn’t belong there. I made a huge mistake!

So, I changed my major to Drama. Oh yeah, definitely a good choice. A perfect fit for a quirky personality. Who needs advice? Not me! It was definitely a leap with both feet.

But you see, God doesn’t make mistakes. He has a purpose for me. Regardless of where I turned or what I do, He never leaves me. He is always working out His plan for my life.

And that was when I met her. It was like I had known her my whole life. She was kind and full of compassion. She was passionate and dramatic. She was made for me and I for her. She was, and still is, amazing! Of course, that meant I needed a job to support my beautiful bride and new family. College was just going to have to wait for a little.

02. Military 1995So, I enlisted in the Air Force. The military had always been good to my family. I was third-generation. It was kind of a family tradition. They had good benefits with some pay. And it was only temporary, right? Until I could get settled and move into my purpose in ministry.

The years came and went. Our family grew by three more. But God didn’t release us from military service. It was a training and proving ground. There was discouragement, setbacks, and challenges at every turn. But those are stories for another time, and they aren’t mine alone.

After 20 years, and a revitalization of the call to ministry and our faith, God allowed us to quit our service to the kingdoms of this world. He has called us onward into a renewed purpose in His kingdom. And we are stepping out, boldly, into that for which He has purposed us.

This is the beginning of our new path. This is the start of a new adventure.