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Leaving and Cleaving – Losing and Gaining

In Matthew 19 Jesus quotes a passage from Genesis about marriage, 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’[b] 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.””

There are two parts of this passage. One seems to indicate loss and the other seems to indicate gain. The word leave lends itself to absence or removal. The word joined (or cleave if you like the KJV) indicates addition. They seem opposed to one another. Almost like pain and gain. There are many emotions shared in a wedding. Every person involved comes with a different perspective and varying emotions.

Tomorrow we get to see our oldest child, and only daughter, leave and cleave. As a pastor and a father, I get to be a part of the wedding from two perspectives: I will walk her down the aisle as her father then I will get to complete the ceremony as her pastor. I have already experienced many emotions over the last few weeks and months, and they have been intensified the last couple of days. So I thought I would share a few random thoughts with you that have been running through my head.

Have I prepared her?

As a parent, this is one of my greatest concerns. She has seen all of the parents in her life struggle through issues of their own. Have I given her the tools she needs to succeed? As she seen enough good in my marriage that she has a good pattern? Did I miss something? If you are a parent of a young child, never think it is too early to prepare them for this day. Some of the best preparation they can have is a good example. They may not need many lectures, but they probably will repeat what they have seen. Work to make your marriage strong and solid so they have a pattern.

What am I losing?

I have heard people talk about losing a child when they get married. Even the “leaving” part in the Bible indicates there is a change. But we cannot view it as loss. We should view it almost as a graduation. They have gone as far as they can go in this family unit and now a new family is created. Further, parents cannot complete their children. Completion, or oneness, occurs in the context of a healthy marriage. Sometimes we feel like we lose control or influence. We probably never had as much control as we had thought and influence is something that is earned. Leadership is influence. You just have to learn to influence (not manipulate) better, which usually means growing ourselves.

On the losing side, for us personally in this situation, maybe the most difficult loss to get our heads around are the two grandchildren. We know we are not losing them, but it will be a change for us. For one-and-a-half years they have both lived with us. Though we have never attempted to be their parents, we have certainly become attached to them 24/7. We understand that ultimately it is best for them to have a strong family unit with their mother and father, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was heart wrenching at times.

What am I gaining?

Most obvious we are adding a family member. We will have a son-in-law tomorrow. We are also gaining a whole family unit. In our situation, Lauren and Cody have two children together, now they are creating a home and life together. In my worldview, that is what we desire, a complete, wholesome family unit. I also gain an opportunity to influence this unit to be productive and valuable members of our community and world. In this situation, I feel I have a greater responsibility. Cody has very little experience with a family unit. Not only do I have to influence his family, but there is also some responsibility to lead as a father. My responsibility doesn’t end when my children get married, it just changes.

So as I wrestle the next couple of days with emotions and questions, I realize that leaving is not losing and joining really is gaining. The writer of Hebrews tells us “Give honor to marriage”. So that is what I do today. I am reminded of the need to honor mine for it is an example. I am reminded to honor Cody and Lauren’s, for they will become one. Marriage should never be loss, but always gain.

Proceed With Caution

Today I came to a traffic light that had been set to blink the yellow caution light. Normally it served as a standard traffic light with red, yellow and green. In many countries, including the United States, the lights order from the top red to yellow to green. In other countries the lights order from green to yellow to red. Each color means the same in each country. Red means stop, yellow is caution and green means go. The yellow light is the variable. Some people are more risky than others and speed up when they see a yellow light to make it through. Others slow down or prepare to stop. The light means caution.

The signal that I came upon had been set to flash yellow which means proceed with caution. There are no further instructions. No green light to tell you it is time to go. No red light to tell you that you should stop. Only a warning light for you to proceed with caution. When I came to this light, there was a car stopped at the traffic light. They had been sitting there for as long as I could see when approaching the light and they continued to sit there as long as I could view them in my rear view mirror. They were looking up at the traffic signal. I am not sure if they were waiting on it to turn green or red, but it is clear that they wanted to be told specifically what to do. They needed instruction instead of permission.

There are many areas of our lives where we have clear instruction. We know what we should do based on prior learning or experience. Our worldview may shape certain things to be right or wrong. After experiencing the blinking yellow light, I began to think about crossroads and opportunities that we come to in our lives. Very rarely do they come with clear instructions. Most opportunities come with flashing yellow lights: proceed with caution. The reason that many people fail to take advantage of opportunities they are given is because they are looking for instruction (a red or green light) instead of permission (a yellow light).

Many people sit at intersections of their lives looking at a flashing yellow light hoping that it will turn red or green so we will know clearly what we are supposed to do. We are paralyzed with fear of what may happen if we make the wrong choice or we go at the wrong time. We just sit there. We would rather someone else make the choice for us and give us instructions instead of taking a small risk and proceeding with caution.

Many opportunities will be missed in your life, marriage, family or organization if you are always waiting for instructions instead of proceeding with permission. It is wise to use caution. It may be prudent to slow down and examine the surroundings when making a big decision. But stopping until we receive instruction will often keep us paralyzed in places where we were never meant to stop. Don’t be stuck at a flashing yellow light in your life waiting on someone to tell you to go or stop. Proceed with caution, but proceed. There are some amazing things waiting on you!

Black Ice

I am sitting here writing by my window at my home office looking at all of the white winter weather. The problem is that it is not the fun kind. It is ice instead of snow. Everyone was hoping for our first good snow of the year, only to be disappointed with just a few flakes and a whole lot of ice.

Barbara and I were traveling back from Alabama yesterday as the weather approached. We were racing to beat the weather home but got delayed at one of our stops. We got fuel in Smithfield, NC about 6:30 PM. As we traveled north in I-95 between Wilson and Rocky Mount, the precipitation began. The temp showed it was 22 degrees outside and whatever was falling began to freeze on our windshield. Traffic moved along at a reasonable pace for a few more miles and then suddenly the brake lights began to light the interstate. To the eye, it did not appear the road conditions had changed, but it was clear something was changing. As we traveled forward we began to see cars littering the ditches, freshly deposited there by “black ice”. Ice was beginning to form over the highway, though it was not easy to see.

It was a tense time traveling home. What was normally a 2 hour trip turned into a 4 hour trip. We made it safely, but it made me think about some things that I saw over that four hour trip.

Just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not there
Just to look at the road it was nearly impossible to tell there was ice on it. One of the reasons it is called “black ice” is because it looks like the road is just fine. Occasionally our vehicle would slide as we would cross spots that were worse than others. Because I could not see it did not make it any less real. It was there. I could choose to pretend it was not to my own peril. It did not change the fact it was present.

I see this often in our lives as we go through life. We pretend things are not present or do not exist because we cannot see them. Pretending does not make problems go away, it only makes us look ignorant.

Some people do not care
I am not sure of the number of cars that we saw in the ditch last night between Rocky Mount and Edenton, but it was a lot. Most vehicles tried to be cautious and travel at a much slower speed than normal, many of them with their hazard lights on to warn people. However, a few cars zoomed by everyone traveling at a much higher rate of speed. I have no doubt they assumed they were smarter than the rest of us, or better drivers than most, and that they would not have any problems. The interesting thing is that more than once we saw one of these cars that passed us in a ditch further down the road. Their experience or speed was no match for the ice and they had the same result that so many others did.

All of us think we are exempt. We all believe that it will never happen to us. We may not feel that way on an icy highway, but we travel the highway of life and take risks and participate in things that have left the ditches strewn with lives. But for some reason we believe we can handle it better than the rest. Only for people to pass us by later and see us in the ditch. Our arrogance or experience matters so little when we are in those spots. None of us are ever exempt. Icy roads lead to problems. Sin, unnecessary actions, bad attitudes and habits; they always have consequences. We must care about the road that we travel.

Helping can sometimes cause harm
This is going to be the most complicated one of all, but here it goes. There were several emergency vehicles out attempting to help people who had accidents. There was one accident in particular on Hwy 64 that involved multiple cars. Other cars had stopped to help. Law enforcement was present along with a wrecker. Here is the problem: vehicles were scattered everywhere. Some in the accident and some there to help. The wrecker and law enforcement lights were extremely bright, made worse by the precipitation falling and ice forming one windshields. The ice made it difficult to maneuver so it was a very precarious situation to navigate. Everyone there had good intentions, but it put other travelers at risk.

So it led me to my last thought. In our attempt to rescue people who have wrecked, do we at times put others at risk? Does a situation make our light blinding instead of benefitting? Does our positioning cause other people to have to put themselves at risk to avoid us? Has our zealousness to help someone in need caused us to forget others that may be around us whose need may just be a clear highway? I am not sure I have the answer. I do know I have seen people abandon people that needed them to help others who have found themselves in a ditch, often by their own choosing. I have seen pastors put the needs of people ahead of their own family and their families crashed while they pulled someone else out of the ditch. Helping others can often put others in harms way.

Maybe you would like to share some of the unseen things of which people should be aware. I would love to hear from you.

The Struggle of Excellence

There is a common word that is used in the vocabulary of the leadership circles where I frequently find myself. That word is “excellence”. It seems to be the goal of many (or even all) of the things that we do. We ask the measuring question “Was that excellent?” or “Did we do that with excellence?”. I have had several things bugging me about this lately, so I wanted to allow you to share my frustration and maybe together we can answer these questions and better understand what our motivations should be for doing things. So let me share the questions that have been bugging me.

What is the difference between excellence and extravagance?

I have seen many things done extravagantly that were not necessary. The excuse in the church world where I operate is always “well God deserves the best”. So God is more pleased with our gold plating than the dirt floor of a servant of Christ in India? We often call extravagance excellence when I am not sure the two are equal. Sometimes they possibly are, I just think that our ego at times makes us believe that extravagance is excellence. I am not sure I have the complete answer to this (as with the other questions I will ask today), but I am convinced there is a difference most of the time. Should the measure of excellence to extravagance be effectiveness? If we can be just as effective with A instead of B, when A costs $5,000 and B costs $15,000, would A not represent excellence while B would be extravagance?

Can we be excellent at everything?

Many people would define excellence as: doing the very best you can possibly do at any given task. Thus, you would have done it with excellence. May I just say that there are things at which I could do my best and it would still suck? My excellence would be pathetic. Would not the most excellent thing I could do be to get out of the way and let someone else do it who is better than me? Someone who could truly excel at the activity? Meanwhile, I could find and do something at which I truly excel. Wouldn’t my team, staff, business or church be better served if at times I was excellent at just getting out of the way? Just because we give it our all does not make it excellent. I think we have to be honest about what things we can offer excellence in and then offer excellence every single time.

Does anyone care?

This one is the toughest for me. Let me explain. I know we use models of companies and churches that seem to excel in every area. They are kind, friendly, professional, compassionate, knowledgeable, etc. What ever their field is, they seem to excel. But we have to acknowledge that there are organizations that are successful that do nothing (or mostly nothing) excellently. I have been to restaurants where the food was bad, the service was bad, the location was bad, the decor was bad, but the business was booming. It seemed that the only thing that was excellent was the money (so maybe the had the most important thing right). From the outside it appeared that nothing was excellent, but it also appeared that no one cared. So does it matter if no one cares? The simple answer is yes. You do excellent for yourself, and you reap any rewards because it benefits others. It is your own integrity on display when you serve with excellence. If people care, then great. If they don’t care, do it anyway. The most important thing is that you care.

So what questions do you have about excellence? Am I the only one this bugs? Let me hear from you.

Welcoming Strangers

Recently, Barbara and I went with Cameron to Lynchburg, VA to explore the city that he will spend the next couple of years in as he attends Liberty University. We were there for two days looking for apartments and checking out the campus. It was a holiday weekend so we were having a difficult time meeting people to look at places to live. We were looking at every resource that may be able to help: Craigslist, newspapers, posted ads on campus, road signs, search engines, etc. Finding people to answer the phone during the holidays was difficult.

We took a break for lunch at Cracker Barrel. Barbara found some Christmas decorations she wanted that were on clearance prior to eating. While standing in line with her to pay, I noticed some chocolate bars in a bin. I read aloud the flavors to Barbara: milk chocolate with bacon and potato chips. It was certainly an unusual combination that did not sound appealing. When I read it aloud, the lady in front of me heard me recite the ingredients and asked where I saw that. I showed her the candy bars and she remarked that it sounded disgusting. Since we had already started a conversation and we needed any leads we could find, I asked her if she was local. She responded that she was from Lynchburg so I asked if she knew of any apartments or homes for rent. We explained that we had a son coming to Liberty and was needing a place to live. What we got after that has given me something to think about every day since.

She began to tell us what a great place Liberty was. She had a son that attends there and her two younger children attend Liberty Christian Academy. Her parents work with the international students on campus. She began to tell us about how there were a lot of basement apartments available and how many of the older couples in town would rent those spaces out and take the students in and treat them like their own family. She told us about some apartment complexes that had free bus service to the campus. We were very thankful for her help, but then she challenged me with what she did next.

She said, I know it’s tough being hours away from your children, especially when they are sick or if they get hurt and have to go to the hospital. She pulled out a pen and paper and gave us her cell phone number and Facebook connection and said if we ever needed her to take care of Cameron please give her a call. She would go to the hospital until we could get there or take him some soup if he got sick. All we had asked for was a lead on a place to live and she was offering to make sure that our son’s needs were met while he was there. We asked for only one thing and received so much more.

Jesus would challenge us in Matthew 5 to go the second mile. Don’t just give people what they ask for, give them more. He challenged people to go two miles if they were asked to go one. He said in verses 46-48 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends,[s] how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Anyone can do what they are asked. What would the world think if we always gave them more than they asked?

As we left the restaurant, Barbara and I asked ourselves if we could be that hospitable to a stranger. Would we offer to care of someone we did not even know? Would we make someone that welcome to our own town? I have asked myself those questions every day since. How much better would people feel about my church, my business and my town if I made sure people received more than they asked for. We were blown away by her hospitality. We were challenged to do the same for people that we meet.
Hebrews 13:2 reminds us Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Let’s practice not being so consumed with our own little world. Maybe we can all learn something from Jessica Hodges. Our world will know Christ better when they experience the second-mile love from everyone they meet. I am more excited than ever about Cameron going to Liberty and a lot of that has to do with the hospitality of a single person. One person can make a difference. Do not be afraid to welcome strangers.

3 Things I Learned From The Good Samaritan

We recently completed a sermon and group study series entitled “Get Off Your Donkey” centered around the story of the Good Samaritan. The story of the Good Samaritan is a story that is told in the Bible but has been told in many non-Christian circles as an example of what it looks like to help other people. Though I had personally heard or read the story hundreds of times in my lifetime, I was struck by things during this study that I had not contemplated previously. There are a lot of things I could share with you, but today I want to share three things that I have learned as I have revisited the story of the Good Samaritan.

It requires a move on our part

The Good Samaritan not only had to get off of his donkey, he had to get down in the ditch with the man that was injured. He had to get close enough to assess the situation and see how he could best help. The two other people in the story passed by on the other side of the road. The Good Samaritan could have tried to help without making a move himself. He could have thrown some food and supplies in the ditch and let the man try to solve the problem himself. Instead, he made the move to where the man was. It is very difficult to understand someone’s predicament when we only see it from our point of view. We have to go where they are so we can see the situation from their point of view. There have been times I have been guilty of throwing “supplies” at situations when I really didn’t understand the need. One of the things we are most guilty of is throwing money at a problem and expecting people to solve a crisis on their own. To genuinely help someone, we must move. Our ability to see clearly is enhanced when we see from their position instead of ours.

It requires a commitment of our own resources

The Good Samaritan committed his own resources from the very beginning. While dressing his wounds, he used things that he had brought along for his trip. They were obviously things he thought he needed to survive himself. He used oil and wine to cleanse and soothe the injured man’s wounds, then he bandaged them. If he was making a long journey, the oil and wine are expected. The bandages, most likely, came from his own clothing. It never says he was rich, or that these were things he did not need, or that he gave out of his abundance. These were obviously things that he expected to use for himself. Instead, he used them in the service to others. When we serve, it will require us to use our resources. Sometimes it will require us to use things that we thought we would need for ourselves. If we are truly committed to serving, we will not be stingy, but will be generous, even to the point of sacrificing.

We cannot do everything ourselves

One of the interesting things in the story is that the Good Samaritan enlists the help of someone else. He reached a point where he could no longer attend to the needs of this man who was injured. His prior commitments required him to do something else, so he enlisted the help of the innkeeper. The innkeeper had the ability to stay with the man until he was fully recovered. The Good Samaritan even offered to support the cause if the innkeeper would finish the work. Serving and making a difference is not a one man job. We accomplish so much more when we learn to enlist the help of others. There are people who have gifts and abilities that we do not have. We accomplish so much more when we allow others to serve in the capacity and gifting that God has given them. We cannot be jealous or selfish or shortsighted. This will keep people from receiving the help they truly need. Do not be afraid to ask others to help you. Serving others is one of the greatest rewards in life. Don’t keep it to yourself.

What are some things you have learned from the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10?

Does The Church Value Children?

Does the church value children? That is the question I have been wrestling with for several weeks. I am not talking about the amount of money that we spend on them. I am thinking more about our involvement with them. At Open Door, we recently completed a large expansion that was specifically designed for children. It really is an amazing place and we are excited about the learning opportunities it will give our children. We have for several years provided a full time pastor for children whose sole objective is to minister to their needs. Every Sunday, volunteers spend their time teaching and caring for them. But I still ask the question, does the church value children?

According to the dictionary, value means: “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”. Deserve. Important. Worth. Useful. This is beyond the buildings we provide or even the services that we offer. To value something requires diligence and investment. Not just an investment of our money. It requires an investment of our time, our energy and our talents. Let’s take a look at those three words that describe value: important, worth and usefulness.


Important indicates priority; something that is high on our list. Children must be important and not just in our budgets. They must be important as we prioritize our time and energy. We cannot just hire others to do things that we as family (biological and church) can do. We must be personally involved. If it is important to us, we make time for it in our schedule. When we serve them, we should be prepared to give them our best. Excellence should be the standard by which we measure our efforts. When we are with them, they should get our attention. There are so many things to distract us, but they need us. We will not get a second chance to raise that child. Listen to them. Watch them when they ask you to, even if they are doing a silly dance. Read the Bible with them. Pray with them. We must not just treat them like our children, but also our brother or sister in Christ. Every conversation does not have to be childlike in content. We can conversate with them about our own relationship with Christ. Set an example for them to live by. They are watching us and will learn from us whether we realize it or not. We have to be intentional so they learn what is important. For us to value children, they must be important.


What is the life of a child worth? Is it worth the investment of our money? Is it worth the investment of our time? For things we consider to have worth, we spend great amounts of time and money taking care of and protecting. We put great value on our homes, our automobiles, jewelry and clothing. We take care of them because we want them to achieve the maximum usefulness. We want those material things to last as long as possible with great efficiency. When we put high worth on our children, we will go to great lengths to make sure they achieve their full purpose for which they were created. We have to invest time and energy for them to achieve their maximum potential. We spend time making sure our investments perform optimally. We must understand that the greatest investment we have in this life are the children God has given to us. Some material things may have great worth to us. In reality, children are priceless. Part of recognizing their worth is shown in how we pray for them. Not just for today, but for their future. Pray for their future spouse, the children that they may have and the impact that they will have on the kingdom for eternity. Serious, intentional prayer shows how much we think they are worth.


How useful do we view the children of our church? Do we allow them to serve? Do we ask their opinions? Do we let them contribute to programs or services? Or do we relegate them to their own area of the building only to be seen at Christmas or special events? Useful would indicate that we make them an integral part of everything we do. Jesus made it clear to His disciples that children should not be rejected or ignored in Luke 18:16 NLT 16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Not only can children learn something from us, Jesus indicated that we can learn from children. We need to recognize the usefulness of children in our church and world.

Valuing our children does not happen by accident. We must be intentional about this process. We must recognize the importance, the worth and the usefulness of our children. As a church, we need to focus on what we can do to make children a more important part of our church family. We cannot just throw money at them. When we say “our church”, “our” must include children as well.

Better Together

Better Together

King Solomon shared some insights from his life and they are recorded in the bible as the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon was wealthy and had experienced many different things in his life. As he wrote it seemed he was constantly telling us that many of the things that we chase after are a waste of time. Occasionally in his writing though, he would tell us something that he thought was important. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, he offers some wisdom to us about our need for one another. Many people fail to see the value of other people in their lives, but Solomon points out that relationships with others are one of the most valuable things in your life. He tells us three different things that we receive from other people.


Solomon tells us that two people are better than one because they help each other succeed. We can reach a measure of success on our own, but it will only be a measure of success. Our strengths and gifts will allow us to have some success as we use them. However, when we are in relationships with others who are also using their gifts, especially if their gifts are different from ours, we reach a whole new level of success. Partnership with others brings success to our life that cannot be achieved alone.

He also reminds us that when we fail, and we will at times, that there will be others there to help us up. When I read this verse I am always reminded of the Life Alert commercials where the elderly lady falls down and says “I’ve fallen, but I can’t get up”. There is much truth in that. Our recovery is usually much quicker and the damage much less when others are there to help us up. I recently read where a lady had died and no one discovered her for seven years. Would her situation have turned out differently if someone had been there with her or if someone she was in relationship with had checked on her? There is success is in relationships.


Two people can keep each other warm. Not just physically warm. There is a warmth of the soul that is offered in relationships. A warmth that cannot be experienced anywhere else. A caring, loving warmth that can only be experienced in relationships. There are times that we grow cold. We grow cold spiritually. We grow cold in our work or purpose and we need others around us to warm us when we do not seem to have any fire left. Relationships will often help us survive times that we would normally give up or quit.


All of us face battles in our life. We never know how they are going to appear or what the battle is going to be. Sometimes it involves our career. Other times it is a sickness or a family crisis. None of us are exempt from facing certain difficult situations where we feel like we are fighting for our life. Solomon reminds us that we are more capable to fight when we are in relationship with other people because they will help us fight. There have been times in my life where I not only needed someone to help me fight, but I was incapable of fighting for myself because I was either distracted or exhausted. Relationships make us less vulnerable. We are stronger when we are in relationships with other people. They can see things we cannot see. They can defend in places we cannot defend. They have knowledge of areas we do not have. We are much stronger when we have strong relationships.

None of us can survive as an island. We should not attempt to go life alone. We need each other. Relationships offer value to our lives that we will not have otherwise. Cultivate strong relationships in your life. They bring success, survival and strength.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.