Hey Christians! Stop Hating On Christmas!

Early to mid October always seems to usher in two things.  The first is peoples obsession with anything Pumpkin Spiced flavor. Seriously everyone, calm down. You burn your mouth once on a PSL and you'll rethink how delicious they are when you feel hot, burning rage on your tongue.  The second thing to happen is the start of Christmas decorations popping up in large stores which seems to bring a different kind of hot, burning rage to some.  This always baffles me.  

You know the type of rage I am talking about.  Christmas haters saying things like....

"And so it begins..." (Insert photo of Christmas decorations at Target).  This is usually followed by a million comments on how it's too early...blah blah blah.

"It's not even Halloween...."

"What happened to Thanksgiving..."

"I can't listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving...."

And so on. Lots of snarky complaining and eye rolls.  But here is my response...

AREN'T WE CELEBRATING THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD COMING INTO THE WORLD? WHY THE CRAP WOULD WE WANT TO LIMIT THAT CELEBRATION?  DON'T WE CELEBRATE THAT ALL THE TIME? WITH OUR LIVES?

Okay, calm down T.J.... <caps lock off.>

Christians can sometimes be the grumpiest, most negative people in the world and it's so frustrating.  We currently live in a societal enviornment where God is being removed.  You can't pray in school, you can't say God Bless America, let's take "one nation under God" out of the pledge, and so on. BUT! Here we have a holiday, the biggest holiday at our disposal to proclaim the good news of a savior and WE ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW EARLY IT STARTS?

WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE?

Why not use it?  Why not use the fact that Christmas starts earlier and earlier to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus!  Yeah, I know that it is commercialized and all that stuff, but I think people can start with a commericalized holiday and end with Jesus.  I believe people can start with buying gifts for others and end with the gift Jesus bought for us.  I totally believe people can start with receiving gifts from others and end with receiving life from Christ.

Christians, wake up!  We have the opportunity to use the biggest holiday on the planet to proclaim the coming of the King of Kings and we are often too busy complaining.  Gah!  Let's celebrate the birth of Jesus whenever we can and however we can.  Let's use Joy to the World playing in Target as we walk the aisles as an opportunity to praise His Holy name!  Let's use gifts, candy canes, stockings, trees, lights and parties as a starting point that will end with the lives of our friends, family and strangers being saved by grace!  Let's use standing in that dark, cold Black Friday line as an opportunity to talk to the people in front and behind us about Jesus. (That's seriously a great idea, because there is no way those people are getting out of that line.) 

Stop complaining and start using all things Christmas to point to all things Jesus!

And while we are at it. Let's start using all holidays as a launching point for procaliming the power of saving grace.

Let's use Halloween to talk about the darkness of the world and the light of Jesus.

Let's use Thanksgiving to talk about the ultimate thing to be thankful for - grace.

Let's use New Year's Eve and day to talk about starting fresh when you give your heart to Christ.

Let's use Valentines Day to talk about how we can only start to be truly loved when we let Jesus take control.

Let's use Flag day to declare that the banner or flag over us is love.

Let's use Arbor day to talk about how He is the vine and we are the branches.

The list can, and does, go on and on and on.  Because God can use anything to proclaim His glory! ANYTHING!  SO LET'S START USING EVERYTHING AND LET'S START WITH CHRISTMAS COMING EARLY THIS YEAR! <caps lock forever!!!!!!>

Life is a Marathon...

I have never run a marathon, only two half-marathons.  From those two halves I know, deep in my soul, that running an actual marathon would be the worst.  I can't imagine finishing either of my half-marathons and turning around to run it again.  Even thinking about it now makes me cringe...  

I remember training for my half marathons.  I prefer to run at night because I am not one of those people who can get up at 5am and run.  I can barely walk at 5am so running is out of the question.  I am a night runner and when I was training for the half I did most of that training at night.  It made me feel a lot more hardcore than I actually was because in the cover of night everything seems more hardcore than it actually is.

There were training sessions where I would run and from the first step to the last step I felt awesome.  I was super-duper-running-boy!  Happy, jamming out to some sweet tunes and feeling good about everything.  I would think that I might even run an extra mile because I felt so good.

....And then there were the training runs were I felt like each step was worse than the last.  These were sessions where I was convinced that my bones were going to fall out of my body and someone would have to come and scrape me off the concrete.  During these sessions all I wanted to do was quit, give up, throw in the towel and vow to never run again!

Training is hard because you are doing it without any of the glory of competition.  No one was watching me train.  No one was cheering me on.  Somedays it felt good, somedays it felt terrible and most days it just felt like a chore.  But without training, without discipline, I couldn't have run the actual race well.  I had to make time for training if I ever expected to finish the race.  I couldn't just show up and run without those hours spent training at night.  I would have failed without my training.

Even with all the training I did I still felt like I wanted to quit during the actual race.  People were cheering, holding up signs and handing me little gatorade cups of water and at times, I wanted to stop.  I didn't think I could make it.

And, man oh man, that is life.  Even with all the training and discipline we practice in life we still just want to quit at times.  We just don't think we are going to make it.  Sometimes it is just the absolute worst, like running a marathon, or in my case a half-marathon.

The first time I ran my half marathon I remember realizing how different the start and the finish were.  When the giant group of runners started we were peppy, excited and motivated.  Everyone looked fresh and ready.  I remember the first mile just going by like it was nothing.  Not only did it fly by but I was flying while running it.  I was almost two minutes faster than the average I wanted to maintain during the race and I still felt really good.

It's so much fun to start something!  Whether we are starting a weight loss program, house project or new business.  Starting is awesome. We have our new outfit or fresh idea and we think we are going to just dominate everything!  We have lots of fans at the beginning and I remember thinking at the marathon, "look at all these people, this is so cool!  I am going to CRUSH this race!!!"

Then the middle of the race came....and my feet started to hurt, my joints started to ache and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.  The mass of runners had spread out and the fans were gone.  My pace had slowed....

Middles are the hardest and sometimes they are longer than we will ever imagine.  We think that starts will last forever and we will just keep riding the high that comes with a start!  But that high won't last and when we realize that we are in the middle of it all, it becomes more difficult.  The cheering fans are a little more spread out, the wins don't seem as exciting and we feel like the end will never come.  The middle of the race is the most important part though!  The middle shows how much you trained, how dedicated you are and how much you want it.

If you are in "the middle" of your marriage this is when it really counts!  This is when you have to grind it out, keep it exciting and do the things you promised you'd do at the beginning.

If you are in "the middle" of your business this is when you have to turn it up a notch.  This is when you have to seek new opportunities and ideas.  This is when you might have to sacrifice a little more of your time.  This is when your business will either succeed or fail.

The middle matters and I remember as I was running just thinking, "okay, one more mile..."

Just one more mile...

Just one more mile....

Sometimes life isn't exciting, we don't have fans and we just have to push through.  We have to live with the idea that we just need to make it one more mile, one more step or one more second.

And just that is a win.  Just the one more mile is a win, even if it doesn't come with any glory.

The middle of the half-marathon was long!  Oh my word, it was long!  I remember saying one more mile from mile 3 until mile 11, thinking that the end would never come.  At mile 11 of 13 I remember thinking my hips were going to explode out of my skin and I was going to collapse.  The first two miles and the last two miles of the course were basically the same in reverse and what a difference.

When I started I was fresh and excited and when I ended I was delirious and exhausted.  At the beginning I thought I could go on forever and at the end I thought I couldn't take another step.

And then....

The lady pushing a stroller past me....

And then....

The 85 year old man with no legs past me....Well, he had legs but was still very old..

But guess what?  That lady or old man being more successful than I was didn't mean I was failing.  I was still at mile 11 with my goal in sight.  I think we can believe if someone is better than we are at whatever we are doing - we are failing.  That's not the case and when we play that game we will always lose.  Comparison is the thief of joy and when you are at mile 11 you need all the joy you can muster.

I remember when I saw the finish line.  I sort of forgot about all the pain I was in and I realized that I had done it.  It didn't look like I had planned.  I started too fast, slowed in the middle and finished a lot slower than I wanted to, but I was finishing.  I remember seeing Brooke in the crowd and feeling even better.  Finishing something is always better than not finishing, even if you didn't do it exactly how you wanted or even how you said you would.  If I had quit in the middle when no one was around I wouldn't have felt the feelings I had as I moved toward the finish line.

If life is a marathon, which I believe it is, you can count on a few things happening.  

1. Starts are always exciting.

2. Middles are grueling.

3. Finishing is awesome!

Sometimes marathons are the worst, but they don't last forever.  You will get through them.  You will conquer if you trained well, prepared and stay focused on the goal.  Sometimes you will have a PR (personal record) and sometimes you will finish slower than you even thought possible.  Sometimes the old guy with no legs and the lady pushing the stroller will fly past you.  But don't quit.  Finish and finish well.  

And here is the coolest part of the marathon of life.  You don't have to run it on your own.  I had to train, run and finish my half-marathon all on my own.  I couldn't have anyone run it for me.  But in life I can!  I can take the marathon of life and trust Jesus to help me run it.  I can take all the burdens, bumps and bruises and give them to Him.  He will take both you and I to the best finish we could ever hope for.  When we run with Jesus we realize how important and amazing the middle is.  It's the time we get to cheer every other runner on.  We get to take their hands and try to help them, motivate them and bring them into the arms of Jesus.  The middle is magical when we stop running on our own and run with the King of Kings!  So, let's run this race of life and run it really well.  Let's run it hand in hand with the giver of life and actually bring life, love and light to this world.  We may be sore at times and there will definitely be some doubt, but let us constantly look to Jesus so our burden can be light as we run and we can do all things with Him in front! 

I don't want to run for myself anymore.  I don't want to run so I can tell people how good I am at running.  I want to run so I can bring glory to Jesus!  I want to love my wife so I can bring glory to Jesus! I want to love my daughter so I can bring glory to Jesus!  I want to run my business so I can bring glory to Jesus!  I want to eat well and live healthy so I can bring glory to Jesus!  I want to do it all for Him!  Running on my own is exhausting and I am ready to run with Him.  Who is with me?

"But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace." - Acts 20:24

 

Why My Wife Is Awesome!

Today my beautiful, amazing and super talented wife, Brooke, turns 29.  I thought I would use this day on my blog to highlight everything that is amazing about her and why I love her so much.  If you love love, you'll probably really enjoy this post.  If not, learn how to, because love is awesome!

Every year I think to myself that I cannot possibly find more to love about this woman that said "yes" to marrying me over six years ago, but every year she surprises me with a new facet of who she is and what she is all about.

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Brooke is hardworking.

She isn't that fake version of hardworking that people are really good at being now-a-days.  You know the type.  They like to talk about all the things they are going to do and all the cool things that are "in the works."  Brooke simply isn't like that.  She's the actual hardworking type.  She will do whatever she needs to do to get a job done.  When she was 10 days late with June we had some orders that needed to be picked and packed and even though I told her I could handle it, she insisted on being there and working even while being SUPER pregnant.  She is constantly working behind the scenes of everything we do with our companies.  And while I am often the one getting the credit or praise for things walk in love. does it is usually Brooke who is working along side of me, just as hard, to pull it all off.

Brooke is always trying to make things better.

Brooke loves to cook and is really freaking good at it. Thank you homeschooling! She is constantly trying to cook new things and come up with new concoctions. Lately, she's been making her own almond chocolate bark.  So, it's a good time to live in our house!  The thing I love about Brooke is that after almost anything she cooks she always says, "I already know how to make it better."  That's her attitude about life.  It's why she is such a great wife, mom and creative.  She is always pushing herself to make things better and never just settle into the mediocrity that so many people seem to get stuck in.  It's so inspiring! Because when I see her wanting to be better at what she is doing it makes me want to be better at what I am doing. 

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Brooke is humble.

I always like to say that I am the best at being humble.  Humility does not come easily to me.  I don't know if it's the great hair, killer smile or....Uhh..I am getting off track.  Brooke is so humble.  She is so good AT EVERYTHING.  You want to lose at a board game? Play Brooke. You want to know where your furniture could be better placed in your house? Ask Brooke. Want to make the best cookies ever? Ask Brooke.  You want to learn how to do something, anything, better do it with Brooke.  She is so talented at so many things and she succeeds at almost everything. However, she lives her life clothed in humility and it's so cool to watch.  I learn everyday what true humility looks like.

Brooke is so creative.

I am constantly amazed at what Brooke creates.  Whether it's photography, home decor, design or just about anything else.  Throughout the six years of our marriage I have watched her grow as an artist and create beauty in all circumstances and all situations.  Brooke isn't just a great photographer. She could plan the photoshoot, style the outfits, do the hair, make the flower crown, draw the signs, add the graphics, update the website and send out the marketing material...SHE IS FREAKING AMAZING AT ALL THINGS CREATIVE!

Brooke is an amazing mom!

I love the way Brooke cares for little Junebug.  She is so sweet, caring and selfless as she looks out for our sweet little girl!  She is constantly making June laugh, giggle and scream with joy!  I love watching it everyday.

Brooke is beautiful.

This one is pretty self explanatory.  I mean just look at her!  What a total babe! How did I ever get so lucky!?


To Brooke on the day you turn 29...

Thank you so much for adding so much love, joy and excitement to my life.  I praise God every morning that I get to wake up next to you and walk hand and hand through every day.  As we walk through your 29th year I want you to know that I will love you more with every step.  You are  the light of my life and I absolutely adore and love everything about you.  Happy Birthday Sunny!

Don't Miss The Little Moments Today!

Every morning I hear June on the monitor "talking."  I don't know what she is saying and most of the time she sounds more like a creaky door than an adorable baby.  I sleep a lot heavier than Brooke, so Brooke is already awake and either getting up to get her or tapping me on the shoulder to get her.  When it's my turn to get her I walk to and open the door, trying not to trip over one of our cats, Leo, as he sprints into our bedroom.  A quick stop to the bathroom and then I slowly open June's door.

And there she is, smiling, happy and usually looking right at me as I turn the corner into her room.  It is one of my favorite moments every single day.  After I say, "Good morning!" to her a few times I try to change her diaper with my morning "zombie hands."  Then I pick her up and take her into our room so we can spend a few precious moments together on the bed as a family before we start our day.

This is not a big moment that we share everyday.  There is nothing overwhelming about it.  Actually, if I am honest about it, it's probably not very pretty.  My hair looks like a rats nest, my eyes are sealed shut with crusties and I have an oversized sleep shirt on that is not flattering.  Let's just put it this way - it's not very "instagrammable."  ðŸ˜‚ But it is the highlight of my day almost every day.

I could so easily miss this moment every single day.  I could be too tired, too busy or too "fill in the blank."  I have to choose to enjoy that moment everyday, not miss it, but enjoy it.  Our lives are quick and can fly right by before we know it.  We have to take time to acknowledge the wonderful, little moments in our lives. When we start to acknowledge them we can appreciate them.  I think when we start appreciating more little moments in our lives they will start to get better.  People who are overflowing with joy usually see the beauty in the little things.

So today, stop, take a breathe and acknowledge those little moments in your life.  Look up from your phone and notice the people around you in those moments.  Smile at them, ask them how they are doing, tell them you love them.  Appreciate them because life isn't all big moments.  Actually it's rarely big moments and most of the time the memories we cherish are in those sweet little moments that can just fly by if we let them.  So, today I challenge you not to let them.  Don't miss those little moments.  Cherish them, enjoy them and love them.

 Little June - Always Smiling!

Little June - Always Smiling!

10 Pieces of Advice for Christian Teenagers

Just the other day I was speaking to a youth group and while looking out to the crowd I could feel how important teenagers are to Jesus.  I wish I would have learned that lesson when I was an actual teenager, instead of spending so many years making bad decisions that I now regret.  I know teenagers don't like to read, but please please please read this.

1. Your popularity doesn't mean squat.

The hours and hours I spent worrying about being popular were a big, fat, giant waste of time!  I use to get such anxiety over the fact that I couldn't shop at the popular stores because they were too expensive or when the beginnings of a pimple would surface.  God wants us to be selfless and humble and worrying about our popularity is the exact opposite of those things.  I've also found that when you lean into who you are people will love the authenticity of it.

2. Learn to love to read.

I still struggle reading the Bible and reading in general. However, I have really had to learn to enjoy it over the past years.  I wish I would have read more as a teenager and learned to love it like I do now.  I wish God would just call me up on my iPhone and tell me what He wants, and maybe someday He will, but until that moment all I have as a Christian is the Bible.  It's like a  really long text message that God is sending you and I.  Learn to dive into that message and soak it up.  Ask questions, highlight verses, dig deep.  I can't imagine how much deeper the truths of God would be in my heart if I had been reading all through high school.

3. Stay fired up!

Just recently I had one of my high schoolers in my small group tell me that he was feeling, "Blah about God."  And I told him that happens from time to time, but you have to push through it. Find things that fire you up and search those out.  I love listening to sermons and when I am feeling "blah" I look to some of my favorite pastors to reignite my fire.  I also am always looking for new and fresh worship music to keep me going.

4. Don't have sex until you're married.

A lot of heartache will be avoided if you follow this piece of advice.  I recently heard Levi Lusko describe sex as a piece of tape.  It's suppose to stick once and stick forever.  The more you have sex outside of marriage the more you are sticking and unsticking that tape.  When the time finally comes to say "I do" and you try to stick that tape to your spouse it won't have it's full power and could lead to a lot of pain.  I didn't wait until marriage to have sex and it's one of my greatest regrets in life.  I can never go back and undo it.  I can never give that to Brooke and I will have to live with that forever.

5. Learn how to talk to people.

To their faces, more specifically. I have noticed that kids don't even ask other kids to homecoming with actual words anymore! They use signs, t-shirts and food.  The art of a conversation has been lost in a world of Snapchat, texting, Instagram and so on.  But, when your friends are hurting and in pain a text message, Snapchat or Instagram won't be enough.  They will need to hear your words, feel your embrace and want real, authentic human interaction.  Learn how to talk to people so that at the moment someone needs hope you can be confident and tell them about Jesus and give them the ultimate hope!

6. Never stop inviting your friends.

While I was speaking at a youth group, I asked how many people invited someone to come tonight and I would guess that maybe 7% of hands went up. Just imagine if every week every single student at your youth group was inviting someone?  If 100 students are at your youth group and all 100 invited people... Even if only 10% came that is still 10 more people who will be presented with who Jesus is!

7. Pray more.

Praying is like a muscle.  The more you work at it the stronger it will become.  I think the only time I prayed as a teenager was when I wanted a girl to notice me or when I wanted to win at sports.  Things that I now realize don't matter.  Instead, I wish I was praying for my classmates, my heart and this broken world.  Prayer is important and the more we practice it the more we see what it can do.  It's powerful, beautiful and so important!  Instead of your only prayers being for your meals, you should start praying for hearts and minds to be won to Christ too!

8. Stop listening to crap.

I listened to metal, hardcore and screamo music in high school.  It was all about teenage angst and being broken hearted.  So guess what I did?  I walked around with my hair in my face being full of teenage angst and feeling all broken hearted.  And if all you listen to is rappers talking about how awesome and bad*ss they are, how do you think you going to walk around?  If all you listen to is Taylor Swift telling you how crazy and confusing love should be, how do you think you are going to feel about love?  I am not one of those people who think you need to listen to worship music exclusively, cause my wife and I certainly love rocking out to T-Swzzy from time to time, but I definitely would advise you to start adding worship music to your playlist.  Let your heart be uplifted with the music you listen to.  Listening to music that acknowledges the truths of God will help you acknowledge the truths of God.

9. Don't be afraid.

Our society will tell you that what you believe is stupid.  Your beliefs will be attacked, you will be persecuted and when you try to defend yourself you will be called a bigot, hater and judgmental. Stand firm in what you belief, respond with a loving heart and know that you will never convert someone to knowing who Jesus is -- only the Holy Spirit can do that.  Your job is to be there pointing someone toward Christ.  Sometimes you will do that with words and sometimes you will do it with actions.  However you do it, don't be afraid because God is on your side and He will supply all you need at the time you need it!

10. End with Jesus.

When you end with Jesus everything becomes a tool for His glory!  I don't care if you are a photographer, mathematician or chef.  God will use anything and everything to bring people to His glory!  Lean into the loves that He has put in your heart and let Him use those things to bring people into His loving embrace.  For me that's t-shirts, writing this blog and being goofy on Snapchat.  For you it might be totally different and that's okay!  God knows what you love and if you lean into Him, He will use those loves to give you a platform to glorify Him!


As a teenager I often felt like I would wait to follow Jesus.  That it was something that came with age and I would do all those things when I was older.  That's a lie!  Following Jesus starts the very moment you start following Jesus.  As a teenager you have unlimited potential and reach in your walk with Christ!  Lean into those things and allow Him to direct you.  Use your high school, sports team and whatever you might be involved in as a launching pad to proclaim His name!

Your Life Matters!

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Circl3 Youth Group last night!  I recorded it and it's not the best quality but it does get better as the crowd focuses in.  If you ever want me to come speak t your youth group, church or school just fill out the contact form!  I'd love to!

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