Expand Week 1: Top Posts I Read & Listened To The Week of July 31

In order to grow we have to keep learning. Therefore, I set five goals in 2017, two of them were to read daily and invest in self and others

I am currently working on a few projects and was challenged to listen to a few podcasts — a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for download over the Internet. I have been listening and trying to read more lately thanks to my friend who challenged me.

This post, which I hope to continue each week or every other, combines the top things that I have read and listened to this past week. They have either encouraged me, help me to grow or forced me to think and ponder their implications. They have made me use parts of my brain and heart that sometimes don’t get stretched because of the busyness of life. Especially the listening part.

I hope these help you, encourage you or make you think as well.

*Also a ‘tip of the hat’ to Brian Dodd who gave me the idea. Brian shares a weekly email about great article that he reads throughout the week. Check him at Brian Dodd On Leadership.

Top posts this past week …

  1. Tips for Emotionally Intelligent Emailing by Dr. Travis Bradberry
  2. Try something new… by Dr. Clay Smith
  3. Why our screens make us less happy by Adam Alter. I’ve included a transcript I found of the most impactful portion of his talk at the very bottom of this page. 
  4. AOL: Steve Case | How I Built This on NPR (link below)
  5. ​StoryCorps 508: No Barrier For The Love (link below)

NPR Podcasts …

 AOL: Steve Case | How I Built This
​When Steve Case started out in the tech business in the mid-80s, the idea of the internet — as we think of it today — didn’t exist. But with AOL, Case saw an opportunity to connect millions of people, through chat rooms, news updates, and the iconic greeting, “You’ve Got Mail.”
​StoryCorps 508: No Barrier For The Love
Immigrants are one of the most talked about groups of people in the country. In this episode, we let them do the talking.

Why our screens make us less happy by Adam Alter
One of the reasons we spend so much time on these apps that make us unhappy is they rob us of stopping cues. Stopping cues were everywhere in the 20th century. They were baked into everything we did. A stopping cue is basically a signal that it’s time to move on, to do something new, to do something different. And — think about newspapers; eventually you get to the end, you fold the newspaper away, you put it aside. The same with magazines, books — you get to the end of a chapter, prompts you to consider whether you want to continue. You watched a show on TV, eventually the show would end, and then you’d have a week until the next one came. There were stopping cues everywhere. But the way we consume media today is such that there are no stopping cues. The news feed just rolls on, and everything’s bottomless: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, text messaging, the news. And when you do check all sorts of other sources, you can just keep going on and on and on.

5 things your pastor needs from YOU!

Pastors are expected to do a lot, but there are some things you should be doing as well. 

Here are 5 things that your pastor needs from YOU!  

If you aren’t already, please make sure that you are praying for your pastor on a regular basis. The work of the Lord can never be done on man’s strength and ability alone. We must be seeking heaven (Matthew 6:33) and asking God to work in our churches, but also in the lives of our pastors. 

Billy Sunday, an influential American evangelist of the early 20th century, once said, “If you are strangers to prayer you are strangers to power.” If you want to see God’s power working in your church then pray for your pastor as he leads you. I believe this statement with all my heart, “When we pray specifically, God answers specifically.” Pray specifically. Pray often. Include your pastor and his family in your prayers. 


Not sure that your pastor has truly gotten direction from the Lord? Repeat step one: pray. As you continue to pray, have patience. God answers prayer in His timing not ours. Plus, what do you have to lose by asking God to show you if your pastor is heading in the right direction? Or to show you where you might be wrong? 

When in doubt, pray. When unsure, have patience. God can work in your waiting.  

Your pastor regularly prays, studies and seeks God’s wisdom and clarity for the direction that He would have for your church to go. There is nothing like your pastor leading the charge in the direction God has given him and then for him to turn around and see little to no people following. 

Also, you do realize that each of us are all called to some form of ministry as well, right? God’s work is not just to be done by paid staff, but by each and every believer. Robby Gallaty in his book, Growing Up: Making Disciples Who Make Disciples, said, “The gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else. God never intended for your salvation to be an end, but a beginning. God saved you to be a conduit through whom His glorious, life-changing gospel would flow to others.” You my friend are a conduit. It doesn’t say your pastor, but you. Don’t know what to share? Share your story. 

God desires for you to be His hands and feet. That requires your participation.

I was hesitant to use this particular word, but I think it fits. When I was working on this article, my wife’s suggestion was positivity. So, the gist is this: When was the last time that you encouraged your pastor? Told him he was doing a good job? That you appreciate the sacrifices that he makes each week? 

Most pastors only hear complaints from their people and sometimes it is over the silliest of things. Don’t be one of “those” people. Find a way to genuinely thank your pastor for all that he does.  

This is sorely lacking in the world today, not just in the church. We live in a drive-thru, instant have it your way society. If the preacher doesn’t say or do what we want him to do, then we will just get a new one. Wrong. If he is preaching and teaching false doctrine, well then of course you would remove the pastor, but most of the time that is not the case. Issue? Lack of persistence. 

Did you know that it generally takes a pastor 5-7 years before he can build the relationships and respect needed to truly make changes in a church. Also, the average tenure of a pastor is between 3-4 years, many less than 3, which is sad. However, there are exceptions in each city, some pastors stay in a ministry for 20 plus years. If they do, why? It was because they were persistent, but also because their congregation was patient, they participated, they praised him for leading them and thus God’s power and presence was felt in the church and the lives of its people. 

Where do we go from here? 
In closing, ask yourself this: Have I been praying for my pastor enough? Have I been patient with him? Have I participated alongside him in the work of the Lord? Have I praised and thanked him for the sacrifices that he and his family make? Have I been persistent in my attendance, giving and support of the man God has called to lead our church?

What else can you offer your pastor? 
What are other things your pastor needs from you? What have you given your pastor that is not listed above? 

A man for whom Christ died …
… who seeks to be a Barnabas (encourager) to those God places in his path. 


The battle that you don’t see.


People battle with things that you never see. 

I recently was reminded of this during a lunchtime conversation. 

The “nugget” I learned that day was: “It’s hard when you have some pain people can’t see. There’s no cast, brace or a bandaid.” In that moment I was reminded that you never know what someone else is going through. Not all wounds are visible. 

So, what is the takeaway from that? 

In our daily lives, what difference would we make if we had more compassion?  If we were more gracious with one another? If we would stop and think, I wonder what they’re going through that made them say or act like that? 

I’ve battled with some things that many of you probably never could imagine. A few of you that I’ve “let in” know. For me the battle the last few years has been in my mind. Sure, I almost always have a smile. I try to bring encouragement and enthusiasm whenever I walk into the room, but sometimes I don’t feel like the chipper and jolly person that most of you think I am, but I keep pushing forward. 

What have I battled with? Depression. Anxiety. Crazy thoughts. 

While I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with depression or anxiety, I was told that’s most likely what I was dealing with. I learned that while seeking counseling. As a pastor and leader I knew I couldn’t just talk to anybody and everybody. So I sought professional help. It was well worth the time and money that I spent. I was really challenged and learned a few things that will forever shape the ministry God has called me to. I also learned that it’s OK to take time for Chris. I intentionally pulled back on the projects I was willing to take on. I’m still learning to do that. 

Why am I sharing these things? I’m sharing to encourage someone else that might going through a “valley” at the moment. To remind them that it’s OK — you don’t have to have all the answers. Take time for YOU! Pray. Slow down. Talk with a trusted friend. Seek counseling. 

While working through my struggles I’ve run across articles that have called my faith into question and have even said that the main problem is sin. While sin is a hinderance to spiritual growth, depression is real. Depression is something that devoted Christians struggle with. I whole heartedly believe this statement, “It’s what the church doesn’t talk about that its people struggle with the most.” Far too many people struggle with depression and are shunned because they are told they don’t have enough faith. That’s wrong. What we should be doing is coming alongside them to encourage and love them through their struggles.  

I’m hoping that my rambling thoughts generate conversation. If this is something you struggle with, I pray that you’ll reach out to your Heavenly Father and pray your fears, anxiety and worries to him. He can take it. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 91:2, “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” If you’re someone who has a friend struggling with these things, love and encourage them. Here is a great article I read back in 2014, How to Help a Friend Fight Depression7 dos and don’ts for helping a friend who struggles with depression.

In closing, one of the phrases I learned during my counseling sessions was, “More curiosity, less judgement.” What would happen if we applied that to our daily lives? I wonder how many people you come in contact with each day are battling with something that you’ll never see or never be close enough for them to allow you in? 

You can’t see all battles or wounds. 

Be gracious and love well! 

Caught with your pants down!

I have to say that Friday’s article, “Transgender debate comes home to roost,” in the Sumter Item was a wake up call for me. I had been dodging the transgender debate for some time.

Why, I don’t know. Things have been heating up in North Carolina for a while and just recently a friend in Conway has been posting a lot of information and updates about the Horry County School District’s dealings with the bathroom debate. Somehow, I guess I was naïve and thought it would be a while before it gets here and we have to deal with it. Boy was I wrong.

I failed in being prepared.

I’m not one who typically gets into political debates, because it’s not something I’m strong or good at. Maybe it is the fear of not knowing all the details, saying the wrong thing or just knowing what debates to be a part of and spend your time on. Honestly, you can’t get sucked into every debate that comes along.

No excuses.” That phrase is currently on “rinse and repeat” in my mind. I’ve become comfortable in making excuses. I realized that recently and am praying and processing that through.

So, when it comes to this debate I don’t have any excuses. I wasn’t reading, wasn’t studying and honestly haven’t been praying about it near enough … But that doesn’t mean that I can’t start now.

Here are some steps that should be taken by all of us:

1. Pray
2. Have conversations with both sides
3. Listen when you have conversations
4. Process what you’re hearing
5. Pray some more
6. Read multiple sources, trust worthy sources
7. Write out your thoughts and not necessarily for others to see or to be posted online. Dig deep and take time to process things.

An observation from Friday’s article in The Item:

The policy states “a student who has been identified as transgender under these guidelines should be permitted to use the resources assigned to the gender which the student consistently asserts at school.” Baker said the key word in the policy is the word “consistently.”
The former photojournalist in me keyed in on that word and formatting, “consistently.”

I also appreciated what Dr. Baker said about the disciplinary policy and actions that would be taken against any student who would try to abuse the bathroom policy.

Also, this comment I ran across on Facebook stood out to me: “Private schools and homeschooling are about to reach an all time high!!”

Hmmm … Yes, the answer to our problems is to run from them. That makes perfect sense. Not. My children attend public school because my wife and I attended public school. You can’t shelter your kids forever. The same issues that are in the schools — the social, political and economical issues of children and their families — are the same ones that exist in your ENTIRE community.

As Kyndal and I have seen, your classmates are the same ones when you grow up that will come running to your rescue you when you call 911; the same ones that will wait on you when you go out to eat; the same ones that will be caring for your love ones in the hospital, etc. Whether you like everyone or not, public school children, adults and administration and staff are the ones you’ll have to deal with on a daily basis, either now or in the future. Whether you agree or disagree with them, their lifestyle or their attitudes they are your neighbors. Those who consider themselves followers of Christ, isn’t it your responsibility to love those around you as you love yourself? As you love Christ?

I’d like to also take a second and talk about Dr. Baker. He’s getting bashed around town and on social media. I heard him speak just this past Thursday at an event for Partners in Education — where the district and chamber are encouraging businesses, industry, churches and nonprofit organizations to get involved in our schools. Dr. Baker said something similar to what I’m about to say … The Sumter School District exists to meet the needs of ALL students regardless of their background. The district’s website even states, “Sumter School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age in admission to, treatment in, or employment in its programs and activities.” So, whether you like it or not, they have to accommodate and be mindful of things that you might just disagree with.

Lastly, what’s with the name of my post? My original title was “Ignorance is not necessarily bliss.” Then, “Getting caught with your pants down,” came to mind. That’s pretty embarrassing, isn’t it. It applied to how I was lazy and not prepared as a pastor/leader in this discussion, but it also reminded me of this section from a Time article mentioned in the links below.

Mel Wymore a trans man, “as well as the parent of a daughter, says more dialogue is needed, as people’s attitudes towards gender begin to change. “I’ve never heard of anyone [in the trans community] who wants to make other people uncomfortable,” he says. “I can say from my own personal experience transitioning that it’s uncomfortable to be in a restroom where you know people are uncomfortable.”

Things we don’t know about or understand can be uncomfortable to discuss. Disagreeing with people is uncomfortable. So, let’s begin to have conversations — with each other and God — and love one another regardless of our differences in opinion and beliefs. Yelling and screaming at one another is not the answer. This discussion and debate isn’t going away, but it is only with civil conversations, love and thinking of all aspects of a situation that change can take place to make our community to be a place to live, work and play!

Let’s keep the conversations going!

Conversations lead to relationships.

Here are some articles I’ve read and links I’d like to share.
NPR articles and coverage of transgender issues:


TIME: “Even in Liberal Communities, Transgender Bathroom Laws Worry Parents”

Southern Baptist Convention > On Transgender Identity 
Written and adopted in 2014 at the SBC National Convention in Baltimore, MD.

This section of the above article stood out to me:

Where to begin … 


It’s 4:05 a.m. and I’m staring at a blinking cursor in the notes app of my iPhone wondering, “Where do a begin with all these thoughts running through my head?”

In moments like this, I have to stop my brain from racing and focus on just one word. That one word this morning is: authentic.

Why authentic? Maybe because it’s at the forefront of my mind. It is the first core value of the church we are planting here in town. Cornerstone’s values are: Authentic. Loving. Simplistic. Excellence. The phrase I’ve often repeated is, “Conversations lead to relationships.” I’ve gone on to remind our core families, you’re never going to build “real” relationships until you’re “real” with one another, thus authentic. That means letting down the mask and stop pretending you have it all together.

I realize I’ve failed miserably in practicing what I preach.

My Facebook page and social media channels are — like most of you — my “highlight reel.” You only see and read what I carefully select from my daily life to share with you.

So, allow me to be “real” with you for a minute.

I don’t have it all together, I haven’t for quite some time. I prayed to the Lord back in the very beginning of 2014, “Lord, break me, mold me and make me into the man you’d have me to be.” December 31 of that year I realized He gave me exactly what I asked me. I realized then He wasn’t done and He isn’t done yet. (Honestly, as a friend reminded me, He won’t be done until he calls me Home) Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy, but more of that another day.

These last few weeks God has allowed me to see and reflect on many of my flaws, mainly centered around leadership or the lack there of. I’ve failed to lead well. I’ve failed to keep going and pushing forward. Instead I’ve thrown my weight around, thrown in the towel, but worse thrown people under the bus. I’ve failed to listen. I’ve failed to take time to reflect, process and pray. Instead I’ve responded in the moment thus hurting those around me.

What started as a post about struggling with being anxious — that was the first word I wrote down as I started this note and stared at the screen — has turned into this.

I’m reminded of Psalm 46:10, oft repeated, but seldom executed well by me, “Be still, know that I am God …” Even in saying that in these moments I realized, maybe we should be sure to say, “Be still, know that HE is God …” For He indeed is and I am not.

In this season of being refined, I think as I reflect that I can say, thank God I’m still on the Potter’s wheel!

Weight loss: Things I’ve learned thus far …

Things I’ve learned on my weight loss journey …

Set realistic goals
One of the first goals that I set was to go to the gym every day for an entire month. With a loving, supporting and flexible wife I was able to hit that goal.

In retrospect, probably not the smartest goal I’ve ever set. I wasn’t killing it each visit, but still, I learned that your body needs time to rest between workouts.

Share your journey with your spouse and/or close friends. It’s always great when you have others to hold you accountable.

It’s better with friends. 
Getting connected with my F3 buddies (Fitness. Fellowship. Faith.) has made all the difference in the world. I’m thankful for them pushing me to be better physically and spiritually.

Also because I’m back in the gym, our friends signed up for a membership too. So now Kyndal and I have gym buddies. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from mine in a while. Time to send a few texts!! We’ve got to hold each other accountable.

It needs to be hard!
Yes. You read that right. If it isn’t hard, you’ll get bored and drop it. By setting the bar high and pushing yourself, it makes all the difference in the world. That’s one of the key principles of F3. Who willingly gets up to workout at 5:30 a.m. with a bunch of guys? It’s because it’s hard and we encourage each other along the way.

For example, when I started working out with F3, the other guys would do 10 push-ups, I would do 5, then 8 and so on. Building over time. Don’t try and kill it, but you do have to push yourself. I still struggle with this. Just ask my buddy, John.

Don’t step on that scale!
If you want to see progress then don’t step on the scales often. It was at the 2-month mark before I stepped on the scale once I started this go-round. 2 months! Do you know how hard it is to walk past the scales in your office and at the gym, all day, every day?! It’s ok. You can do it! Push yourself.

How do you know you’re making progress without the scales? For me, my clothing — especially my belt — told me that progress was being made.

I’ve since stepped on the scale more often. In the past, I’ve tried to only weigh on payday (every other week). If you allow a period of time between weigh-ins, it will help you to see a difference, that’s for sure.

There’s an app for that. 
I started using an app, then after getting my Fitbit I transitioned to their app. There are several. Pick one and you’ll thank yourself in the months to come.

Track what you’re doing. 
Track your food and your exercise. You don’t have to have a fitness tracker (Fitbit or smartwatch) to do that. App + input = accountability and a way to measure your progress.

Calories in. Calories out. 
Before February of this year, I had never counted a calorie. I can’t even begin to imagine how many calories I was eating at one point in my life. Crazy!!!

Exercise is good. It will make you feel better, BUT it is really all about portion control. What are you consuming and what are you burning each day.

Talk about your journey. 
People will gladly chime in. Some will offer helpful tips, others might confuse you or overwhelm you. Find a place to start. Some people focus on carbs others on sugars, sodium, etc. I found calories to be a great place to start. Easy to find and easy to track.

You CAN eat fast food and lose weight. 
I eat at Chick-fil-A multiple times a week. I hit up J. O’Gradys in downtown Sumter and even Subway. You just have to make good decisions about what you’re eating. I’ve also found the Artisan chicken sandwich, grilled snack wrap and the strawberry banana smoothie at McD’s to be quite good too.

The Market Salad from Chick-fil-A is the bomb! Whoever thought grilled chicken, nuts, berries, granola, strawberries and honey mustard could taste so good!

Also, steer clear of frozen dinners or prepackaged meals, those jokers are packed with sodium!

Drink LOTS of water. Sodas are wasted and empty calories. Sometimes I’ll mix my tea — 1/2 water and half tea — just be mindful of the calories you’re consuming as you hydrate. You can cut sodas and notice a difference right off the bat.

It’s going to be hard but push through. 
There have been times when my family would order a pizza. I’d eat what I was going to eat to align with my goals and the remaining pizza looked so darn good. I had to keep telling myself, “You don’t need it!” Keep telling yourself that. Seriously.

Also when you see how long it takes to burn calories, you’ll think twice about that slice anyway!

It’s OK to cheat, once a week.
Set aside one day  — at most two — where you can go over a little. Save a special treat like a milkshake, big cookie or slice of Baker’s Sweets cake. However, when you see how many calories are in that milkshake, you’ll never look at them the same, just saying.

Kill two birds with one stone. 
I sometimes go to the gym, set my pace at 3 mph, walk and read my Bible or book via my Kindle or iPad mini. I’ve found it relaxing. I could care less about TV, so it’s a good way to exercise both my body and mind at the same time. Plus I get in some much-needed reading.

Food and nutrition labels are your friend. Make sure to look at portion sizes and the number of servings per package. Some items will say 70 calories, but the package contains two servings.

Last, but not least, prayer!
Thank God for the strength to move and exercise your body. We take so many daily tasks for granted. Talk to Him as you go on this journey. He wants to hear from you.

A man for whom Christ died,

Walking daily and encouraging others along the way!
1 Corinthians 15:58