Maybe We Just Need Skinnier Markers

catalyst bokeh


Did you enjoy coloring as a kid?

I absolutely loved it.

Here’s my confession: even though my job title has the word “arts” in it, even as I advocate for creativity and passion within churches and schools, even as we push our kids always to search for the creative answer to solve any problem…guess what…I stink at drawing. Seriously, not an artistic bone in my body in that respect.


But I LOVE to color. Also, I’m lazy.

So as a kid, anytime I was given the option of which crayon or marker to color with…I always chose the big, fat, fattie ones. You know the type. Broad line, easy to use, less work. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

Trouble is…I don’t think our desire for broad categories and easy identifiers and less work ended in childhood.

There are seriously days in which I’m about ready to give up social media. It seems like many in my life have been stricken with a disease that renders them unable to identify any subtle nuances in the world around them. Everything is labeled good or bad, and then I fire off my 140 character rant about it…or even better if I can find it in a 10 word meme.

One lunatic with a video blog gets upset about red cups at a coffee shop, and every Christian is an insecure hypocrite. A few groups of extremists carry out some unfathomable acts of terror, and suddenly every person with a worldview different than yours ought to be locked up in a camp. Somebody has a few political views that differ from yours? Then by all means, they can’t possibly lead our nation.

skinny markers


Maybe we just need skinnier markers.

You know, like the cool guys wear their jeans. (haha, okay, I couldn’t resist given the mockery I take daily for my choice in jean fit)

But seriously, maybe it’s time for us to embrace the nuances of life.

Maybe it’s less about filling in the big spaces with color and more about appreciating the details of the contours. 

Maybe if we listened more than we spoke, we might learn something.

Been painting with a broad brush lately? Fine. But take some time to listen today.

Been largely unaware that there’s a big world out there filled with beauty that may not necessarily fit into your pre-determined categories? Okay, ask some questions, and see if your perspective grows.

And if you’ve been the recipient of unfair characterizations, then it’s time to step up. People make assumptions by what they see. If you want them to see better in you, then start showing it today.

There is no greater example of the best of what you represent than your life fully devoted to it.


What Josh Duggar [and each of us] Needs To Hear

First thing’s first:lighthouse

Josh, if by some chance this blog ever makes its way to you, I want you to know that this season of life doesn’t have to define you. I’m sure it can feel like all people focus on these days are your mistakes. And that’s probably true right now.

You’ve definitely made some over the years. In fact, you’ve sinned. And I’m pretty sure that all of the people who write about you have sinned along the way too.

I understand you in that respect. Me too, man. It always seems like the worst parts of me are the ones that vie for the most attention. Hang in there, man. I’m learning and growing, and you can too. And if you ever need somebody to talk to, I would be glad to listen. But even if it’s not me, find somebody you know you can trust, and talk. You need it, dude.

For the rest of us:

Dude, chill out a little bit.

Josh has sinned. And so have you. I think we can all get through this.

We all know the stories. Josh Duggar sinned big time in the past. And as a dad of 2 daughters, I can agree that his behavior was reprehensible. And this week, with the identities of the Ashley Madison clients being released, it’s clear Josh has had more going on even in recent memory.

That being said, I think Josh Duggar [and each of us] needs to hear some really important truths:

1)  If you call yourself a Christian, people are going to want to know if it’s for real > And they will NOT go easy on you if it’s not. The bigger your platform, the more people expect. You don’t have to be perfect, but you must be real. Or you will be skewered.

2)  We all have a sinful nature > And it will bring every single one of us down if we don’t do battle with it. That is a battle that isn’t easy, but it’s worth it EVERY time.

3)  There are dangers to growing up in a Christian home > All of us who grew up in a Christian home are susceptible to a whole different set of emotional struggles. Christian parents often quite unwittingly use shame and guilt to correct behaviors (“when you act like THAT, it makes God sad” or “that’s not how people like US should be” etc). I know this all too well. I grew up in a Christian home. And guess what, I’m raising my kids in one. It’s a tension with which we wrestle everyday.

4)  Dudes need accountability > Guys, you need to be having weekly conversations about your struggles. Then you need to put accountability software on your computer. I have it on my Mac. And guess what, I still need the weekly conversations. Josh may have avoided some of this stuff if he’d had good accountability in place. I pray you and I learn from the situation. (Ladies, I believe you need accountability too…but I won’t pretend to know what all of that looks like, so I’ll save it for the far more capable female bloggers).

5)  It’s not your failures to watch out for, but your successes > The more popular you get, the higher levels of leadership you earn, the more people know your name…the lonelier life gets. When you fail, you work on it and start over. But success is perhaps the most intoxicating drug in the universe. Watch out for it; it’s brought down far more people than failure ever could.

6)  Paul was right > He said it better than I ever could in Romans 7. The things I don’t wanna do…well they come to me so easily. And the things I want to do…well, they’re the ones that seem so difficult. Ugh.

As the great band Three Days Grace once said, “It’s not too late…it’s never too late.”

Josh can find redemption.

And so can you.

And so can I.

The only question is…do you want to find it?

The Best Summer EVER

FamilyFunKeyLimeCoveDo you remember giving those, “My Summer Vacation” speeches in class when we were kids?

No one paying attention, people goofing off in the back, a teacher who didn’t particularly want the school year to start up either.

And you’re up front, trying to tell everyone what you did in ways that set you apart but didn’t sound like you cared tooooooo much.

Now, I’m an old man and I would LONG for that style of presentation.

This was the BEST summer my family has ever had.

We moved to a new area in December, which meant putting the kids in a new school and nesting in a new house and taking them away from everything they’d known.

So we saved every penny of vacation money we could, and we decided to make this the best summer EVER for them…and in the process…we enjoyed it a bit too.

We bought season passes to Six Flags, annoyed our friends with all the pictures of trips there, spent 2 separate weeks exploring Chicago and using a CityPass to see every museum, we developed a new addiction called the Shake Shack, and we even surprised the kids with an unannounced overnight trip to a waterpark hotel, KeyLime Cove.

It was amazing.

Granted, we blew every penny in our vacation fund and now have the arduous task of rebuilding it slowly. But in the 3rd blog post I ever wrote, I challenged people, “This Summer…Make 10yo You Insanely Jealous of Current You.”

And I can tell you that I did.

So how was your summer? Anything to celebrate? Any regrets?

You know, it’s never too late to plan something fun or do something spontaneous.

When you reflect on the ups and downs of 2015, what do you want the tone of your memories to be?

I’m guessing none of us will get to the end of our life and brag how clean the house was or show people pictures of how well-organized the boxes in the basement were or pull a nurse aside to boast about the most beautiful lawn on the block…


What will matter to all of us will be the memories we made with the people we loved.

So get out there and finish out YOUR best summer ever.

[I’ve got to put the kids on the bus and head out to meet a friend at Six Flags…]

A Culture of Extremes

ChicagoCityNo, this isn’t a post about the song “More Than Words.” Although, that might be fun.

If I did write about it, I would definitely reference the Jimmy Fallon & Jack Black version of the song.

Okay, I digress.

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit my naïveté. I’m sure I don’t get every side of an issue, and we certainly live in a world of nuances.

That being said, it’s been interesting to watch our recent news cycles over the last couple of weeks.

Last week, a lot of people freaked out over a couple of videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers discussing the sale of embryonic tissue. It turned out that the videos were gathered somewhat dishonestly and edited in really dishonest ways. And the selling wasn’t even technically illegal or done for financial gain…it’s actually legally allowable for research.

But at the end of the day, people were still pretty incredulous about the cavalier discussion of ending a life and selling off the parts. I understand, because I’m one of those people. Heck, even Hillary Clinton called the videos “disturbing.”

And then this week, a whole new group of people have lost their minds over a dentist who lured a lion out of its protected area and killed it.

Now, I understand…anyone who has linked these two news stories has been absolutely skewered. Just ask Marco Rubio. So I’m walking in dangerous territory here.

However, the reaction on both sides has been somewhat interesting for me to observe. One group goes nuts over what they believe to be the senseless killing of a life. Another group believes it’s just about choice and medical research. Then the group that believed science is science when it came to human life has gone crazy when an animal was unfairly harmed. While the group who so ardently defended human life doesn’t seem to care about other life in God’s creation.


Again, I’m sure life is easier through my simple, naive lenses…but what if we were just about life? Like…we cared about life WHEREVER we found it. And we came to the defense of life.

What if we fought to protect babies? And what if black lives mattered? And what if cop lives mattered?

And what if we asked some tough questions about the death penalty in the hopes that hearts actually could change over time? And what if we thought long and hard about military efforts around the world to try to preserve as much innocent human life as possible?

And what if we cared passionately about education, because it means more life tomorrow?

I know every issue is multi-faceted. And we won’t save the world through a few opinionated blogs.

But if I’m going to be accused of getting it wrong…I wanna get it wrong in my quest to defend life.

[Oh, and if you’re beyond stressed about all of these issues, and you just need 5 minutes to breathe and chuckle in the midst of all of the craziness, be sure to enjoy this fun little satire post.]

The older I get, the fewer things I find I’m absolutely sure of…but the more things I’m open to conversation about

I remember 1992 quite well.Chicago Dusk

Getting up every Saturday in time to catch “Saved By The Bell” and “Inside Stuff.”

The belief that the Bulls might be just good enough to win a second championship IN A ROW.

Knowing the world was my oyster each day that I went to school in my B.U.M. equipment sweatshirt and Guess jeans.

Okay, anyway…

My mom was also a newlywed, and my step-dad was about to begin a slow dismantling of the black and white world in which I grew up.

That was the year of a presidential election. George H.W. Bush (of course, back then, he was just George Bush) was running for reelection against Ross Perot and this young guy who played saxophone on late night TV, Bill Clinton.

[incidentally, although Ross Perot didn’t win…and probably stole the election from George Bush by splitting the conservative vote…he is basically the reason you and I talk about the National Debt nowadays, which is a cool legacy]

Anyway, I grew up in this world where Christians were Republicans and, at best, Democrats were misguided sinners.

So I was in absolute shock when I had political conversations with my step-dad, and he wasn’t positive whom he was going to vote for.

I kept saying “abortion, abortion, abortion” and one day he said a line that has stuck with me for 23 years, “Well Jason, I guess for me this is more than just a one-issue election.”

Wow…I chewed on that for years to come. Actually, I still am.

I even said that same thing to a very nice lady a couple of years ago…a lady who went on to call me a “flaming liberal” even though I tried to explain to her that I’ve voted for the Republican candidate in all 4 of the presidential elections that have passed since I turned 18.

Last week I took some grief for reposting an article by Matthew Paul Turner called, “I don’t know when life begins. But I know it begins…”

I really think it was a real fair and nuanced treatment of all the recent hubbub over the Planned Parenthood video.

Wherever you land on the issues and however you think through them and whatever you discuss with others, I know that with each passing day, one thing becomes more and more true in my life:

The older I get, the fewer things I find I’m absolutely sure of…but the more things I’m open to conversation about.

How about you? Have you had a conversation today? You know the kind where you listen at least as much as you speak?

You really should. You might learn something.

And it’s totally worth it, even if all you learn is that your world isn’t quite as small as you previously thought.

Character Is Not Made In One Big Moment

We’ve all said it at some point, right?

“That single moment defined him as a person…”

“No one knew she had it in her until that one day…”

But the truth is that somewhere deep down, we all know those are really sweet and kind and romanticized lies.

They’re like the “wait 30 minutes before swimming” rule of character development.

Character is not made in one big moment; it is revealed.

If you push someone out of the way of a train and die in the process…

If you refuse to give up in an unrelenting fight with cancer…

If you remain faithful in a tough marriage, praying that God will soften hearts…

One moment didn’t make you who you are; one thousand moments formed you over time.

If you die in an act of heroism, we won’t say at your funeral that that one event made you who you were. We will share memories from your whole life that reveal you were just that great all along the way.

You don’t have to wait to be awesome tomorrow by saving a bunch of kids from a burning orphanage.

You can be awesome today by making a handful of decisions to be a person of integrity.

And maybe the little decisions of refusing to fail today will prepare you for a big moment in which you succeed tomorrow.

2 > 2,000

You wanna change the world. I wanna change the world.

As the great poets in Tears For Fears once taught us, “Everybody Wants To Change The World”…or maybe it was rule the world…I can’t remember. Anyway.

Most of us live on a quest to make a difference. To do something special. To be significant.

So let’s fast forward and think about the implications.

Let’s say you live on fire. You’re pumped about your faith, and people know about it. And not in any weird or off-putting ways.

You make a huge difference. You never miss out on an opportunity. You’re always there when someone needs you.

And sure, there’s that nagging voice telling you that you could be home more often…that you’re neglecting some things, but you’re taking your faith seriously, and it’s making a difference. So you press on.

Let’s even say that you die, go to Heaven, and get to stand at the gates and watch people walk in. And on that day, a full 2,000 people stop on their way into Heaven and thank you. One by one, they tell you that you’re the reason they’re there. YOU made all the difference for them.

But on that day, the 2 kids God entrusted to your care, the ones who grew up in your house, they’re nowhere to be found.

You see, your passion to make a difference everywhere in the world kept you from being the best you could be at home.

You change eternity for 2,000 but miss 2 along the way.

I don’t think that works out in God’s math. I don’t think He’d be pleased.

I don’t think there’s a number high enough to make up for failure at home.


Change the world. Be awesome. Do something significant.

Just remember that it all begins at home.

[and for extra-special-super-cool bonus points…what if you just took the family WITH on your quest to change the world…you might find that you alter eternal destinies for BOTH the 2 AND the 2,000…]

What do you want to be remembered for…long after people forget your name?


Ben Hays leading worship at Park Church

What do you want to be remembered for long after people forget your name?

It’s the idea of legacy. And it’s been a topic that has dominated my thinking and my doing in ministry.

What are you doing that will outlast you? When people forget your name (and someday, they most certainly will), what impact do you want them to carry throughout their lives?

Witty jokes probably won’t be enough. Facebook rants probably won’t matter much. Being able to take down an entire 10-pack by yourself at Taco Bell…wait…no…that’s cool…and I would remember you for that…


Maybe it’s less about the events of tomorrow and more about the relationships of today. Continue reading

Every Choice You Make Today Will Make One Easier Tomorrow

MortonArboretumHow many choices do you think you’ve made so far today?

10? 100? 10,000?

Studies are now estimating that we make thousands (possibly even tens of thousands) of decisions each day.

Click send on THAT email? SUPERsize it? Which word BEST articulates my range of emotions for that driver?

In fact, I recently attended an awesome Franklin Covey seminar with Haydn Shaw in which he referred to “decision fatigue.

The basic idea here is that we’re faced with so many choices each day that by the afternoon, most of us are mentally exhausted and ready to take the path of least resistance on any decision.

Ice cream. Internet habits. Electronic babysitter for the kids. Work productivity. Nothing left for significant other. Etc.

Many of us are not giving our best to the things we value most, and we’re not even aware of it.

And here’s what’s crazy….

Every decision you make today will make one easier tomorrow. Continue reading