Nov 11

How Ms. Hughes Rescued Rodney

MsHughes-RodneyWhen Rodney was in second grade, his family moved to a small town in northeast Arkansas.  It was right before Christmas, and his family was not well off.  They were drifters, and just the year before, had spent a significant amount of time without power in their home. Their clothing was not the best, his parents drank a lot, and they didn’t eat well.

Rodney arrived at school in the middle of rehearsals for the Christmas play, and the introduction to his new music teacher was not good.  Ms. Hughes did not seem pleased by his untimely arrival and interruption of her preparations.  She parked him in the front row of the Christmas place simply because he was so small and needed a place to stand.

One day before the program, he woke up with a finger nail infected, and it stung and scared him.  His mom didn’t give it much thought, but at school, his finger was hurting.

Rodney, made a commotion about the pain while Ms. Hughes spoke to his teacher in the days leading up to the Christmas play.  Their conversation interrupted, Ms. Hughes asked what was wrong.  Rodney showed her his hand, and she immediately took him to the school nurse.

The infection was tended to, and Rodney was told to keep it clean and change the band aid every day.  Then something happened he would not have expected.  Ms. Hughes took notice of his need, and went out and bought him band aids.  But it didn’t stop there.  In the weeks and months that followed, she kept her eye out for both Rodney and his brother.  She paid for school supplies, clothing, haircuts, and even a doctor visit.

Her care continue through the summer as she brought Rodney and his brother up to stay with her for a week at her home, showing him a home that free of drugs and alcohol. She prayed for them, took them to Vacation Bible School, and shared Jesus with them.  She genuinely cared for the boys and took care of needs, and became a game changer in Rodney’s life.

From as early as age 4, Rodney knew he didn’t want the alcohol and drugs and the life of misery his parents lived.  Through Ms. Hughes investment in his life, he saw how life could be different that what he had known.  She went to bat for him and helped him see how he could escape the downward spiral.  Through her, he saw his life could be different and follow a different path.

Rodney is now 37.  His parents have since passed away, his mother dying from drug and alcohol use.  But at least once a year, he makes time visit to see Ms. Hughes.  She is family to Rodney, and he calls her Grandma Hughes for his son Davin.

He loves her, this music teacher who offered him hope.  To this day, she is his hero.

Nov 02

Michael Cusick & Transformative Grace

Before I was married to Julie, I was fortunate to meet weekly with a man who helped me work through broken places in my heart. Michael Cusick made a profound impact on my life as we explored how grace could work in the deepest places of my shame. I am indebted to him for that impact.

Ten years later, Michael’s ministry continues through the work of Restoring the Soul, and last year his book Surfing for God was released and has impacted many men who’s lives have been ensnared by porn.  This past May, I joined Michael and teamed up with a great group of men who led the Surfing for God retreat.

This video share’s Michael’s story.  His life is a wonderful testimony to how the depths of the gospel of grace can set a man free and lead to profound impact in people’s lives.

Oct 30

Tree Limbs & Stormy Assignments


Image by Jeff Raymond via Sketch Guru

The winds howled and rain fell, and our young children huddled with us on our bedroom floor when they should have been deep in sleep. Frightened by bright lightning flashes and deafening thunder, we sought to assure our kids they would be okay. Yet as our bedroom bay window was pelted in a way I hadn’t heard before, I hoped that this intense storm wouldn’t bring us any harm.

The next morning after our interrupted sleep, the city awoke to trees limbs down and fences blown over. In fact, two weeks later, it’s still the same. Down the street, a large old oak still lies on it’s side.  Around neighborhoods, rare glimpses can be seen into back yard as sections of fence are still missing. The wind storm was big enough to leave it’s mark, and clean up is still occurring.  The effects linger.

But for the most part, this storm caused external damage and brought manageable disruption into people’s lives.  We only lost a small section of fence and our grill blew over on top of a flower bed. Our grill is fine and the flowers will grow back.

Yet as with the recent floods in Colorado or Alabama’s tornadoes in 2011, there are storms that come at us that aren’t handled with ease.  The inconvenience becomes daily and disruption lingers.

Be it chronic illness, unemployment, or a big financial hole we’ve dug ourselves into, the effects of these storms aren’t easily cleaned up with a chainsaw or new section of fence.  Maybe it’s a lingering heart ache, or unending tension in a relationship that feels like a painful splinter under the skin.  And for whatever reason, the splinter cannot be removed.

My natural inclination is to protest such a disruption to my modern, American life.  My life is full of conveniences that are made to solve problems and make life efficient, more pleasurable and full of ease.  We are in an age of abundant information on how to make just about any part of life work and do what we want it to do.

But this is where the rub comes.  Counter to my intuition of a life-at-ease, God is in the business of willingly allowing storms, sometimes very big ones, to disrupt my life.  Despite my protests, and even how I feel violated, slighted or wronged, God wants to do something in and through the circumstances to do His work in my life.

And in spite of all reasons why I could give God as to why this shouldn’t happen, I think something is finally starting to break through and shift within me.  It’s starting to make sense that disruption is the very thing God uses to shape me.  I’m starting to see that storms are assignments.

They are curriculum God uses in my life to expose my shallow or misplaced faith and lay a deeper foundation of trust.  Storms expose my commitment to ease and myself over my desire to joyful surrender to all that is good about who God is.  They expose lies and agreements I’ve made and rid me of hopes that could never match the kind hope God brings me.

Accepting this does not come easy.  I fight it and something in me resists, but I’m starting to see that maybe God actually is up to something good.  Something that has my best interest in mind, even if it is discovered down the pathway of heartache, chaos and pain.

Oct 13

The Wall: A Hopeless Situation?

The Old Testament often comforts me in the strangest of ways.  In and out of so many stories, I see God at work in the chaos, misfortune, and less that ideal circumstances of His people.

Our modern world begs us, through technology, advancement and endless comforts, to circumvent the hopelessness life can bring.  Such modernities can never reach us at the deepest place, where our hearts needs hope the most.  There’s only One who give us that.

THE WALL: A Hopeless Situation, from the Anima Series

Oct 09

When David’s Dream Went AWOL

DavidMike-AWOL-rrhGrowing up in a military family, the life of a soldier was David’s dream. His grandparents had served in WWII. His father was career Air Force, and his younger siblings would join the Air Force as well. But David’s aspirations awaited him in the Army.

Upon enlisting, David made his way to Airborne school in Georgia where he broke his leg. Unable to complete Airborne, he relocated to Ft. Polk, Louisiana, and soon set into depression. David then took a turn that separated his path from the honor of his family.

Before Ft. Polk, David never drank. Now, his new norm included alcohol, clubs and assorted combinations of drugs. Buying and selling large quantities of Ecstasy and LSD, he supported his habit.  Eventually he was caught, and agreed to work with US Army Authorities in exchange for a lower sentencing.

But David changed his mind.  Instead, he and a  fellow soldier went AWOL and fled to Houston. His Army unit was shipped to Panama for Operation Just Cause, which classified him now as a deserter–a charge that still carries the death penalty.

David continued selling drugs, traveling back to Ft. Polk to work old customers. At a local club one night, cops were on his trail.  He was arrested.  Offered the chance to return to his unit, he agreed to not flee.  But a week later, he ran to Dallas to stay with friends.  Unaware his parents had been praying, something in him told him to go back.  His time of running was over.

David was court-martialed, and sentenced to 5 years confinement at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His military dream came crashing to an end.  Eventually, he progressed from solitary confinement to minimum security, where in the dining facility a pivotal moment occurred. A fellow inmate offered a hit of LSD, and without thinking twice, he took it. While acting far from normal, somehow he wasn’t caught.

It was a risky move. David was nearing his first parole board and was expecting a letter from his father to the board.  It came that night, and in the letter, his father stated that, “I would risk my job, reputation, and my life that my son would never do something like this again.”

As he came down from the drug, David realized the gravity of his mistakes. Not just then, but everything up until that point had been about him. His choices were not only following him, but affecting his entire family.  He had failed himself, his father, country, and God.

It was the last time he took drugs. And he was denied parole.

David eventually earned the privilege of community barracks which brought more freedom. He worked at the commissary bagging groceries for active and retired military and their families. He was paid four dollars a day.

During that time he listened to a radio broadcast by a man named Bob George called “People to People.” The message he kept hearing was that “Jesus forgave you 2000 years ago for everything you have ever done or will ever do.” This message of no more guilt and shame was all new to him. He had accepted Christ as a child, but never recalled hearing anything like this in the gospel message.

David learned that he could be released from a different kind of bondage. He used to think that God was mad and angry all the time. That around every corner he could be struck down for everything he had ever done. It was one of the most powerful lessons of his life, and every time he read the Bible, he saw the message there plain and clear.

Romans 8:1 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

David had a second parole board and this time made it.  He was released just before his 23rd birthday and was on parole for 2 years to complete his 5 year sentence.  He was dishonorably discharged from the Army.

In the years that followed, David felt major guilt and embarrassment. It came when wars transpired, and he felt it on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day too. But David knew the guilt wasn’t from God and that he’d been forgiven. As his faith grew, he came to grasp how grace replaces disgrace.

20 years later, David believes this is the kind of mess that God can use for good. For David knows that his life is not defined by his mistakes, foolish decisions, or his past.  It’s defined by grace, and that has given David a new and redeemed story to tell.

Read more about David’s life and military experience at



Sep 29

What Kary’s Name Did for Him

This week, I started following Kary Oberbrunner on Twitter and love how this guy is a deep well.

Kary’s website share gives a glimpse into his story, with his bio stating that “As a young man, he suffered from severe stuttering, depression, and self-injury.”

Reading that made me curious to know more.  As I venture out with writing for this blog, my eyes are open for others who have ventured into the deep waters of their own brokenness.

So this evening, I sent Kary a Tweet, asking how I could learn more about his story.  He sent me the link to this video, which shares Kary’s intense struggles with pain, and how he eventually let down his guard and found his way toward hope.

Sep 25

Back Patio Breakfasts

BackPatioBrreakfast-RRHLast weekend, as our long hot Texas summer finally broke, our family celebrated.  Layered in fleece and sweatshirts, we enjoyed a ritual breakfast served from our Coleman camping stove on the back patio.

Feasting on breakfast sausage and eggs, we drank in the cool air and a change of seasons.  For our family of six, these back patio breakfasts have become a creative way to “eat out” while on a tight budget.  It’s just one way we’ve learned to enjoy moments created from what we have on hand. 

But learning the true value of these moments didn’t come easy.  A couple years ago, I despaired and feared I was hurting my family by not providing what so many other kids have at ease. Would my kids someday resent that I couldn’t provide the pricey toys, endless activities and experiences catered to children.

The answer to that question was somewhat remarkable and completely counter to my initial intuition.

I learned that money doesn’t buy my kid’s deepest and truest happiness. That comes from the love their Mom and I provide, and it comes from us being anchored in Jesus. When I come home from work, the kids aren’t looking for what I’ve brought them, they just want me.  All the hugs, wrestling and well timed tummy tickles with a wealth of wide smiles and laughter.  

And I learned that having less may actually be helping them.  As we celebrate family moments, we create meaning with simple things on hand, keeping the focus on what’s shared together.  Our kids are learning to do the same.  Markers and Legos help keep a running rotation of master pieces. Blankets are made into tents where new adventures begin in worlds of their own making.

This brings me deep satisfaction, and lots of hope.  Some of the deepest I feel as a father.  Someday, I do hope to earn additional income we need, but in the mean time, I see something else forming in my kids as run away materialism surrounds them.  

It’s called contentment, and I’m grateful that I’ve grown some too. 

Sep 18

Crazy Amounts of Grace

Grace-Forest-RdWhen John introduced his friend in the book he wrote, he held nothing back.  No one could match such credentials, for Jesus had always existed, had created all things, and Jesus was the source of all life.  Up against this greatness, there were no rivals.

Yet in our imperfect and dark world, most weren’t interested in Jesus’s credentials.  Back then, as is today, people were more interested in themselves, and missed so much of this glorious one and what he offered.

But not everyone.  Some, in the raw places of their brokenness, encountered the remedy for their most desperate need.  These were folks who came to grips that they needed more, and that their attempts to manufacture solutions were not working.

Have you ever been in that place?  Are you in that place now?

In Jesus, you could not find one flaw.  He was perfect. Totally.  He stood infinitely above all others.  And when someone is in that position of greatness, those below can quickly feel inferior.

But instead of boasting, Jesus bent down.  He walked in our shoes and looked our condition straight in the eyes.   With the ragged and beat up, he offered an undeserved kindness and favor in the face of life’s greatest failures.  It was the remedy necessary for the deepest disease of our souls.

This remedy was grace.  And an abundance of it.  Take a look for yourself at John 1:14-17, and you’ll find it there.

Up against God’s perfect standard, we are failures.  The law exposes the fatal flaw in each and every human being, including me, including you.  There is no way we can measure up.  We aren’t awesome.  In our sin, we are awful.

The law could never bring about the best demanded of us by God.  It only exposes us for how we fail.  And that’s a truth of the matter Jesus doesn’t just ignore.  

But that’s okay.  Jesus offers to cover our backs.  With grace He offers a way forward that is truly transformational.

Verse 16 proclaims “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (NASB, emphasis mine). I love how the updated NIV puts it as “grace in place of grace already given”.

The idea is literally grace replacing grace.  An endless supply, a daily overflow.  Grace such as this dealt with our sin at the cross.  It forgives.  It provides a new standing with God.

It says I am loved, accepted, not defined by my darkness, but by the adoption secured me as a child of the King.

It also keeps on coming, meeting me in my weakness, in my doubts, my struggles, my ugliest potential to sin.

This crazy amount of grace provides what I need to grow, to change, to be transformed.

But most importantly, it leads me home.  To God.  Home to a place of love and acceptance with he from whom I need it most.  God loves me, Jesus makes everything okay, and that is hope like no other.




Sep 06

Hope When Things Get Ugly


image by Jeff Raymond via Sketch Guru

When God offers hope, it often shines most beautifully in the ugliest places of our story. Our sin, struggles, failures and hardships are raw material in which God does wondrous good.

God doesn’t do this by denying one thing that’s wrong about us.  He doesn’t brush things under the rug.  He sees it all, just in a very different light.

Some of my favorite stories illustrate this beautifully.  The woman at the well.  The prodigal son.  Peter denying Jesus.

All grand failures. All great opportunities for grace to do it’s best work.  To forgive.  To free from lies.  To offer a completely new identity.

Instead of loser and loner, we are his prized child.  Instead of hopelessness and despair, we find courage to walk a new redemptive path.

Jesus’s final days on planet earth secured this for us.  His death dealt with our sin.  His resurrection says sin and failure are not final. There is a new day, and a new story.  The gift of new identity for those humble enough to receive.

When things get ugly, what could this kind of hope do for you?

Sep 03

In My Face

Man, I need more of this today.  I feel like I’m about to fall flat on my face.  I’ve been there many times before, and an ugly little voice is haunting me with lies that I am in fact what I fear most.


Photo Credit: Jeff Raymond via Sketch Guru

A failure.

So it’s inevitable.  Right?

I scramble and reach for something deeper.  Truer.  That which sets me free.

I need it to stare at me in the face instead.  Ah yes, there it is.

Grace.  Acceptance.  Justification.  The declaration that I am not the sum of my failures.

No, that’s not me.  It’s all a big lie.

I keep reaching into what is deep, truer, and liberating.

The cross.  All my sin is dealt with there.  My sin exchanged for Christ’s righteousness. Jesus telling me that I’m okay in his eyes.

Even more, He’s made me His own.  He’s proud to call me His son.  I am loved.

So goodbye to you, that lie that says I’m a loser.  I hold onto Him who says I’m free to roam this path of grace, and truly live.

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