If Only…

Guilt and regret are powerful motivators.

Not always the most productive, but very powerful.

As humans we’re wired to feel. We feel all sorts of emotions; guilt and regret are some of the strongest.

I wonder about my own life sometimes…

“If only _______________ would have happened.”

“If only _______________ had not happened.”

Wondering about such things is not a bad thing.

Becoming obsessed and consumed by these thoughts is a great way to stop moving forward in life. It’s a trap.

Living in the land of “if only” is a great way to never experience God’s grace for your life today.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

If only I would have made the baseball team my senior year.

If only I would have been accepted into that school.

If only I wouldn’t have said that terrible thing to them.

If only keeps you reliving your past, distracts you from now, and blocks you from your future.

There are no flux capacitors; Back to the Future is just a fun 80’s and 90’s movie series.

You and I can’t go back and change things. All we can do is move forward with an assurance that we are loved, cared for and believed in by God.

He’s not mad at you. He loves you. We are forgiven and He has great plans for you.

Move out of the land of “If Only” and live in the land of the here and now.

There is forgiveness for your past and hope for your future here.

Paul, author of most of the New Testament had every reason to live in the past.

He was a BAD DUDE.

He persecuted Christians and watched as they were stoned to death right in front of him.

Talk about guilt and regret.

After his conversion his life was radically different. He could lived in the “If Only” realm, instead he was able to experience forgiveness and move ahead.

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3.13-14, NLT)

Now it’s your turn.

The past is just that… it’s passed. Let it go. Move on.

Be forgiven. Forgive others.

Experience God’s grace and mercy today.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3. 22-23, NLT)

No more “If Only” living. That’s guilt and regret talking.

You are loved, cared for and believed in. That’s God’s grace at work in your life.

Make that your new motivation today.

Not Just a River in Egypt

It’s a great place to live.

There are no problems there… or at least it seems that way.

The only feeling experienced here is one of numbness.

Nothing is felt when you live here because you’re insulated.

Progressing and moving forward doesn’t happen anymore because in this place you’re living growth and positive change are not possible.

It’s lonely here. Not many friends, none who really get you.

On the positive side though, no one can hurt you here, only you can.

Connection to God? Sketchy. Here and there, nothing consistent.

You’re allowed to live here as long as you want. You’re also free to go if you’d like to.

This is the land of Denial.

Yes, it’s much more than just a river in Egypt.

Many people choose to live here. Others live here and don’t even realize it.

Denial has the allure of self-preservation, but more often than not leads to self-destruction.

Family expectations and pressure, the need to be perfect, a past full of hurt or regret are a few of the reasons people seek out the land of Denial.

Once you’re here it’s difficult to leave. It feels like it’s impossible actually.

Yet in truth leaving is as simple as one small decision.

Admit it.

You have flaws. You are not perfect. You don’t have ultimate control over every area of your life.

I’ve lived in the land of Denial before.

I think most pastors do from time to time. We probably vacation there every now and again even after leaving.

I don’t want to live in Denial any longer. I don’t want others to live there either.

The only way I know how to move out of Denial is to fess up. Own it. Be real.

I have problems controlling my anger.

Not just on the football field or while driving, but with the people I love the most, my family.

I still have trouble with lust. I thought it would be just a “teenage phase,” but I guess it’s more of a, “I’m a dude and I’m wired that way,” kind of thing.

It doesn’t excuse it, but it helps me take courage and work through it.

I am a stress eater. I eat too much food or just plain junk because it helps me feel better.

Does admitting I have problems automatically solve them?

No, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s the first step on the road out of the land of Denial.

I don’t want to live there anymore. I’m looking for freedom. For me. For my family. For others.

When I admit my weakness it frees God up to be strong.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12.9, NLT)

Don’t live in the land of Denial any longer.

Find someone you trust and fess up.

Admit it. Own it. Take the first step on the road to freedom.

D-isables our feelings

E-nergy lost

N-egates growth

I-solates us from God

A-lienates us from relationships

L-engthens the pain

The Case of the Mystery Dog Turd

It’s funny how we can want something so bad, then get it and be disappointed.

Maybe it’s not funny, just sad.

We live in a lovely Norman Rockwell picturesque type neighborhood in Maple Valley.

You know the kind that still has block parties and Independence Day BBQs.

It took us a little by surprise actually.

In our previous neighborhood people drove by one another nervously waving.

Here people go outside and talk. It’s weird.

From the day we moved in my socially adept wife joined the neighborhood HOA Facebook page to stay up to date with neighborhood gatherings and events.

I stayed away. I would just ask Stacey when an event was approaching and she’d pull up the neighborhood egg hunt info from the HOA Facebook page.

I started to feel left out. I wanted to be in the loop. I wanted to be part of the “cool kids club.”

I asked Stacey how to join.

Easy. Jump on Facebook and send a request to a group member.

A request. I need to be approved? Is there a screening process? Will I pass the background check?

After much deliberation I submitted my request and nervously awaited the response.

The first day I received an update from our neighborhood HOA was a great day.

Someone had found a lost dog and was trying to return it to the owner.

How wonderful. I loved my new club. I felt like I belonged. I was an insider.

As time went on I began to grow tired of my club.

This wasn’t a page for neighbors to connect and have fun, it was a place neighbors would post vaguely critical comments at other neighbors while sitting safely behind their computer / phone screens.

It was ugly.

What’s the rule about ‘this thing my neighbor is doing that really bothers me, but I’m too afraid to talk with them about it in person?’

Trivial stuff.

#1stworldproblems type stuff.

Whiny and I’m entitled to perfection type stuff.

My wife and I would laugh about how ridiculous these posts were becoming.

Then it happened. Our Facebook page stooped to a new low.

A neighbor who was upset by a mystery dog turd in his yard posted a video shot from a surveillance camera perched on his garage.

It showed both perpetrators, the dog and his owner, committing the crime.

I wish I was joking.

I’m not. Neither was he.

He wanted all of us to be on the lookout for the owner and his pint-sized pup.

I get it. I don’t know all the facts. Maybe this has been happening for weeks or months even.

Maybe the dog turd was really stinky, but this whole thing is just insane to me.

Instead of trying to connect with one another and build relationships our neighborhood has turned its HOA page into Maple Valley’s Most Wanted.

It’s dumb. We’re better than that. We have more important things to do.

At least I hope we do.

Church can creep into the same territory if we’re not careful.

People are nervous to join and get involved.

They make their attempt.

Once successful they feel good, they finally fit.

Then they begin to see the trivial stuff.

Small hang-ups become contentious issues that give way to rules and oversight committees.

Soon the real point of church, welcoming home new family members, loses its importance and we turn our focus inward.

This is sad. This is stupid. This keeps our churches small.

Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

I want my life to count. I don’t want to waste it on the trivial stuff.

Paul said it this way:

“My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20.24, NLT)


What are some trivial issues that have you distracted?

What can you do today to refocus your priorities and keep the main thing the main thing?

A Story Worth Sharing


In February we are launching a Celebrate Recovery program at NWLife.

This is a program for people working through hurts, hang ups and habits.

Celebrate Recovery is what would happen if church and AA had a baby.

It’s a Christ-centered recovery program. The “higher power” has been identified. His name is Jesus.

An essential part of Celebrate Recovery is people sharing their stories with those in attendance. In fact, every other week during the CR service somebody does.

As we train our leaders to launch Celebrate Recovery a major hurdle for so many people is helping them muster the courage to share.

Everyone has a story worth sharing. Everyone.

Your story has unique power. Every story will connect with people for different reasons.

Here a few lies that keep people from sharing:

Lie #1: People will think I’m weak

You are not weak because of what you’ve been through.

You are not weak because of the choices you’ve made that led to addictive behavior.

You are human. A human with real life hurts, hang ups and habits that you need help to overcome.

Truth: Revealing your humanity and need for help will inspire others to do the same thing.

Lie #2: I am the only one dealing with ____________.

We know this isn’t true yet this lie is one we repeatedly think and it keeps us quiet.

No one could possibly understand me; no one has been through what I’ve been through. These lies tempt us to keep silent, yet they are not the truth.

While nobody’s story is exactly the same is someone else, there are common threads and themes that help people relate to one another.

Truth: Sharing your story allows people feeling alone and isolated to enter into a community where healing is possible.

Lie #3: My story isn’t complete; I’ll tell it when ______________.

A convenient lie we repeat to keep ourselves silent.

We know you’re not “cured” or have it all together.

Stop trying to fool yourself and us.

Truth: You’re a work in progress. Embrace God’s grace as he works out the rest.

Your humanity (the fact that you still screw up) allows us to connect with you and breathe a little easier.

We don’t need perfect people (they don’t exist) telling us how to be perfect.

We need people who’ve made mistakes to own up and show us how to ask for help.

I’m looking forward to the next several months as we prepare to launch Celebrate Recovery.

Lives will be changed because people find the courage to share their story.

Your story is worth sharing.


I know it may come as a shock to you, but I am kinda, sorta, a mama’s boy.

I am the oldest of four kids and our family is close.

When it came time for me to go away to school it was a bit of a traumatic experience.

I was far away from home. A distant land known as Bellingham, WA. It was an hour and a half away from my childhood home.

I attended Whatcom Community College, home of the Fighting Orcas.

For the first month, okay, two months, alright… for the first year I was home nearly every weekend.

I would do anything to come home. Bum a ride, borrow my girlfriend’s car, I even took Greyhound a few times.

I got used to the drive to and from Bellingham. Every time I had to go back to school it hurt all over again.

Whenever I returned home, I would bring laundry. I would proudly walk through the door with it hoping my mom would feel compassion for me and take care of it.

She did.

She made sure the laundry soap was stocked and the washer was clear and ready for ME to use.

I can’t ever remember a time while driving home, through the scenic Skagit valley or the not so picturesque Everett industrial sprawl when I felt I wouldn’t be welcomed home.

Our family didn’t work that way. I was always welcomed home. They were always happy to see me and vise versa.

I never felt nervous driving home. I never wondered if I would be accepted when I got there.

I knew my place was secure.

I also knew that more than likely we would share at least one fantastic family dinner cooked up by my mom.

I am blessed to be raised in a setting where this is my picture of “home.”

For many others home doesn’t evoke such happy memories.

Home is where hurts feel fresh again. Home is full of heartache. Home is broken.

Jesus paints a picture of home in which the heavenly Father is ready and eager to welcome us home in Luke chapter 15.

In this story the son has wandered off and isn’t missing home at all, in fact would rather forget his family even existed in the first place.

Yet the heart of the Father (God) still beats for his missing son.

I like to picture the Father pacing back and forth on the front porch scanning the horizon to see if his son is approaching.

Finally, as the story goes, the son reaches his low point. Broke and starving to death he returns home in hopes his father will make him an employee.

He even prepares a speech.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15.20, NLT)

The son attempts to explain himself with his prepared speech and the Father interrupts and commands his servants to tend to his son and get the party started.

That’s the heart of God for us.

He loves us. There’s a party waiting for those who return home.

God doesn’t need you to explain yourself.

He just wants you to come home.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mama’s boy or a rebel. He loves you regardless and can’t wait to see you again.

Welcome home.