Category Archives: Life

Hope

I would argue that we currently live in a society that is largely void of any real hope.  When I lived in Italy it was common to hear Italians express low hope for change within their country or their personal situation.  They would often comment that “the beautiful life” in Italy had vanished.  The world is certainly a more connected environment than ever before.  People are anxious over the world economic situation, over constant war and terrorism, over environmental issues, over issues of poverty and social justice.  Anxiety seems to be overwhelming hope.

Hope, according to the dictionary, is to cherish a desire with anticipation-with the expectation of obtainment.  Hope is always future oriented.  Hope looks into the future and longs for fulfillment.  Hope may be directed towards something very specific or towards a general desire for change.

The Bible has much to say about hope.  The Bible offers hope for now because of a hope-filled certain future.  Below are several biblical passages that speak to hope.

Psalm 42:11  God as the supreme object of our hope

Psalm 62:5-6  God as the source of our hope

Isaiah 40:28-30  Hope in an eternal God, One who created all that we see

Romans 5:1-5  Hope in seeing the glory of God because of His justification for us through Jesus Christ-Hope through godly character

Romans 12:9-12  Rejoice in hope

Romans 15:4  Hope through endurance and through knowledge of the Bible

Hebrews 6:18-20  Hold fast to the hope set before us

Hebrews 11:1  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for

1 John 3:1-3  Hope, as a child of God, in the certainty of becoming like Jesus

The seven most important words in the Bible, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (found in Colossians 1:27 as often quoted by Dr. Bill Bright)

Changing America

I have been back in the States for exactly eight weeks.  My family and I spent the past five years living in Florence, Italy.  For some time now, we have all heard how fast culture is changing.  The rate of change is astounding and can leave you wondering how you will ever functionally survive.  I thought I would take some time to share my initial observations on what has changed in America since I left in 2006.  Mind you, these are just my impressions-I have nothing to factually back these up.  Some of it is meant to be light hearted-some of it is meant to stir your thinking.

TV sets have become exponentially bigger, while, for some reason, soft drink cans have become exponentially smaller.

The cereal isle at the grocery store use to take up only half the shelf space-now, apparently, we need something like 113 brands that take up the whole aisle.  Do we really need that much cereal?!?

Taco Bell is still reconfiguring the same five ingredients and giving it a new name as a brand new fast food creation.  (This represents only a change in creative marketing.)

Any food concoction at a restaurant claiming to be Italian, isn’t.  Trust me. (The change here is that we no longer have 1st generation Italians to keep it right)

Restaurant prices and used car prices have increased significantly while we were gone-all other things seem to have remained about the same.  I guess this means that we will soon have to drive really old cars and eat only at home-hmmm, sounds like my childhood-which wasn’t all bad.

In the church world the “distributive model” has become all the rage.  And we have become even more casual in our dress for church-my grandmother would have “had a fit.”  (I was never sure what a “fit” was-but she said it a lot)

Due to the economic debacle of 2008 it is almost impossible to get a mortgage loan now-not because the money is not there or institutions don’t want to lend it-but because of all the new lending regulations.  My loan officer knows things about me I didn’t know.  I think the lawmakers targeted the wrong audience in their zeal for protection.

American pop culture (meaning movies, music, TV, etc.) has become even more mindless and hedonistic.  The problem I see is more and more people think these broadcast messages  represent real life.  We seem to value entertainment and pleasure over substance and character more than ever.

There seems to be a profound sense of fear and growing hopelessness among our populous.  The three recurrent themes I hear behind this are global terrorism, economic gloom and a government that is unable to govern.  These three might represent three of our most significant idols as Americans: security, wealth and democracy.

The one, never changing constant:  We are still a people in need of a Savior.

I will have more observations as we continue to transition back to our home country.  And maybe they will be more profound and more accurate-maybe.  What do you think has changed in the last five years?  Please comment.

3 Thoughts on Life in Transition

“I am in transition.”  This is what I keep preaching to myself several times a day, every day.  Six weeks ago my family and I made a move from Florence, Italy to Austin, Texas.  We lived in Italy for five years and experienced many highs and lows.  You would think coming back to your home culture would be easy-but it’s not.  There is a general malaise that will hit me at any point in the day.  I can’t tell if I am longing for what I had or anxious about what I don’t yet know-or both.  We are experiencing what most would call a major transition.  But transitions come in many forms and can still have the same effects.  Transition can mean changing jobs, changing teams, changing locations, experiecing tragedy, losing a role, losing a community, etc.  Here are three observations I have made so far about life in transition.

1. Transition is Always Disorienting-Transition is defined as movement, passage or change from one position or state to another.  Whether we seek transition or transition seeks us, it necessarily involves change.  And change is always disorienting to one degree or another.  We leave the known for the unknown.  We move from that which has defined us to the realm of being experientially undefined.  This disorientation usually causes stress behavior.  I see it right now in my wife and children.  Of course I am not exhibiting any stress behavior-right!  My tiredness and my anger are just underneath the surface.  I can simultaneously yell or fall asleep depending on the circumstance.  Unfortunately I pride myself on remaining under control.  What I am learning is that I have to embrace this season of transition.  I must recognize the season I am in and recognize the ways that it impacts me.  AND I have to realize that it is OK.  There is a rock that is higher than I.  And I must turn to Him in my moments of sanity and realization.  Only Christ can provide me with true north to balance the compass of my disorientation.  I think the answer lies in pursuing Christ personally and as a family, embracing transition and fully trusting Him to take us through it.

2. Transition Always Involves Gain and Loss-Change is like that.  As a family we chose this transition from Italy back to the U.S.  We fully believed that this is what the Lord had for us.  Yet we lost many things in the process.  We left a country that was beautiful, had incredible food, and valued relationship.  We left American friends.  We left Italian friends.  We left a ministry that had been challenging, exciting and rewarding.  We left behind a vision and a dream of serving overseas for the cause of Christ that will not be easily recaptured.  We left behind an incredible season of growth as individuals and as a family.  And though we carry the memories with us, we have left behind the real experiences of smiles, tastes, sounds, images and conversations of a season past.  We also gain a lot.  We have linked our lives to a new and fresh vision.  We have entered into new experiences that hold the promise of new relationships, new learning, new opportunity and the application of fresh faith.  Not all of this is realized yet-and that is what makes the pain of transition so real-leaving the known and quantifiable for the unknown.  I think the solution is in giving thanks for what we have already experienced (good or bad) and believing God for what He has yet to do, but will reveal.

3. Transition Always Tends Towards Isolation-I don’t think this observation is just about me or just about being male.  When we are disoriented and unable to get our bearings there is a tendency to look inward.  There is the tendency to give in to our tiredness and a desire to feed our thirst for comfort with that which is less than satisfactory.  I think this is where temptation lurks, desiring to suck us in to it’s vortex of self gratification and temporary pleasures.  I think the answer lies in community.  In the midst of transition and all of its highs and lows-we desperately need the fellowship of like minded people who can keep us balanced and pursuing that which really matters.  Today I had lunch with a good friend who helps to anchor me and provides me with godly perspective, so that I don’t do something stupid.  In transition I am always prone to do something stupid.

What are your thoughts?  How have you faced and handled transition?  Please comment below.

Oprah & My Blog Experiment

My daughter is one of the great joys of my life.  She is nearly 16 and blossoming in so many ways.  She is an aspiring writer-and quite good at it too.  She has her own E-zine for missionary kid girls with a solid following.  She is a curious and delightful mix of inhibition and fearlessness.  She is at once afraid of butterflies and yet willing to bungee jump off the Corinth bridge in Greece.  And she is a thinker.  One of her recurring thoughts for me and my writing is if I will just blog about Oprah Winfrey I will have the most hits in the history of my blog.  So–unashamedly I am taking Courtney’s suggestion and blogging about Oprah.  Right up front-this is totally a blog experiment.  I will try and add a little insight to the Oprah conversation.  But in reality I am merely trying to see if by having Oprah’s name in my blog you will flock to see what is going on.

Oprah and Leadership: This will be the subtitle to my Oprah blog test.  I am only going to use the internet and my opinions to offer up a few principles on Oprah and leadership.

1. Good leaders see possibilities beyond their own realityI knew there was a way out. I knew there was another kind of life because I had read about it. I knew there were other places, and there was another way of being. This is a quote from Oprah about her determination to overcome her difficult upbringing.  It is well documented that she lived a very challenging existence growing up in the deep South of the U.S.  Yet, seemingly, her curiosity about another existence, an alternative reality, drove her to move toward success.  The difference in every leader’s life between status quo and meaningful change is captured in the word “possibility.”  We have to believe that what we see around us can be different.  And we must increasingly understand how we might contribute to that needed change and remain focused to see it through.

2. Good leaders prepare well and stay focusedI feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity.  The essential question is not, “How busy are you?” but “What are you busy at?” These are actually two different quotes.  But they represent another well-known fact about Oprah–she did not get to where she is by circumstance.  She has worked very hard practicing her craft and staying focused on what matters to her.  And she has arguably become one of the most powerful and influential people on the planet-without any true authoritative platform.  Good leadership requires hard work and a lot of focus.  It is easy to stay busy.  It is difficult to remain true to your calling and cut away the clutter.

3. Good leaders ultimately live for something beyond themselvesWhat material success does is provide you with the ability to concentrate on other things that really matter. And that is being able to make a difference, not only in your own life, but in other people’s lives. Here I would disagree with Oprah in that you don’t have to wait for vast material success to make a difference in the lives of others.  Certainly it provides you with the resources to do more-but let’s be honest-most people with vast wealth do not benefit others in proportion to their wealth.  I think the greater principle is actually not living for yourself-but living your life to give it away.  Oprah seems to know where she has come from and through efforts like her Leadership Academy for Girls, she is seeking to provide others with leveraged opportunity that was not readily available to her.  Listen to the mission statement of the Oprah Winfrey Show-to use television to transform people’s lives, to make viewers see themselves differently and to bring happiness and a sense of fulfillment into every home. You can debate whether you think her show is actually able to do this-but her mission is focused and clear and aims for change beyond her own existence.  Good leaders lead to empower others and and aim for something that transcends themselves.

Ultimately, I believe there is only one true reference point for worthy possibility, focused change, and a heart conviction to give your life away–and that is in the person of Jesus Christ.

So there you have it.  This ends my Oprah test.  What do you think?

A Loving Comparison



My daughter just posted a comparison between our golden retriever, Taffy, and my son, Davis, on Facebook. I have to say-its pretty accurate-read and enjoy.

My observations on the family dog and brother…

1. They both beg for food constantly
2. They both yawn noisily
3. They can’t walk in a straight line
4. They can’t be alone for more than 5 minutes without becoming emotionally empty
5. When Taffy is content, she chews on her bone, when davis is content, he hums
6. They are frisky when it is cold outside
7. They both fall asleep quickly
8. They are always hungry
9. They love to be active, but can also be total couch potatoes
10. They love to be the center of attention
11. They are both “touchy-feely”
12. They both aren’t very patient when they know something good is about to happen: going on a walk, playing soccer, etc..
13. They are good gift receivers!
14. and i love them very much!

A Day at the "Hospital"


Yesterday I had surgery here in Florence, Italy. I had to have a sports hernia repaired-a nagging little injury that resulted from preparing for the Florence Marathon last November. My wife and I had debated whether to get the surgery done here or wait until we were going to be in the States this summer. I had actually met with three other physicians trying to get a clear diagnosis and in the process found out that the total recovery time was around 10-12 weeks–meaning that I could do very little exercise until August. So we decided to press on and get the surgery done in Italy. I am home now and resting–trying to get over the initial pain of this procedure. But it was the experience itself that I thought was worth blogging about.

First, the surgery was done at the Villa Cherubini (pictured above)–only in Italy would you have surgery done at a 250 year old villa. But what we didn’t know is that this was totally a private “hospital”. You see in Italy we have socialized medicine–meaning that you go through a system of making a request and waiting for a response of when and where the surgery will eventually take place–this can be a six month wait. We decided to speed up the process a little and got a referral–but not knowing that it was totally private–and therefore instead of being free–it cost a pretty euro to get this thing done. Word to President Obama and Hillary Clinton–there is a reason that private practices and hospitals have become a thriving industry here–completely socialized medicine doesn’t work very well–even the Italians flock to private medical clinics and hospitals to get things done in a more efficient manner. But we were still caught off guard–misplaced expectations.

Trying to get surgery done in two languages was a lot of fun too. At one point I was asked if I was allergic to any medicines–I said, “Yes, I have allergies–tree and grass pollens.” That received a very strange look from one of the physicians. Eventually it got corrected–but you hoped your less than stellar Italian got the pain location right and that they would make the incision in the correct place.

Two different men came in to shave the area of the incision–always embarrassing. Two different women came in to check my blood pressure. Then the anesthesiologist came in to describe how conked out I would be while they took care of Mr. Hernia. I told him I wanted to be more out than alive. He was really nice and cheery–I suppose you want a happy anesthesiologist. Then a priest came in to bless us. He was quite large and seemed to have a really horrible toupee on. He came in while the anesthesiologist was in the room–and he wasn’t sure who the patient was–so he told my wife and I that we were both “covered.” That was comforting.

Finally the moment arrived for me to be wheeled into the operating room–my doctor showed up who was going to perform the surgery, Dr. Batigniani–he has been great about everything and really nice–and came highly recommended. Still I felt compelled to remind him where the pain really was–I didn’t want a great scar for nothing. An hour later I was recovering and watching Camp Rock in Italian on TV with my wife in our private room. It was only about 2:30–but we had to wait until 7:30 to be released. I did get an awesome Italian meal at 7:00–only in Italy would you get a really good meal in a hospital–food is a passion here.

Finally we were back in our casa around 8:00 p.m. They were so nice they even let me leave without paying–the administrative offices had closed for the day. I was home in time to watch the European Championship of Soccer between Manchester United and Barcelona–Barca won 2-0.

In all reality I am a hospital wienie. I have really only had one other procedure done my whole life–and that was 30 years ago. So all in all–to do this in another country and in a second language was a decent experience. God is faithful and we are grateful!

Celebrity Collage by MyHeritage


Do you think I look like Ben Stiller–not so sure–maybe more like Fester!?!

MyHeritage: Celebrity CollageFamily albumFree genealogy