The Old Barn Out Back


When I was young, during my teens, our family moved to a home just on the opposite side of the river from downtown.  The area was full of homes built in the 1800s for merchants who would ride their horses into where they worked. 

Our home, although modernized, had an old barn in the back where they used to keep their horses.  It was a two-story barn and the exterior wood was faded gray from years of weathering.  Inside, there was a small work area and a rickety wooden stairway leading to the upstairs loft where I feared going.  Full of old tools and piles of wood, the loft was dusty and dangerous.  One never knew what critters might be living up there; possums, racoons, squirrels, and who knows what else.

Behind the barn, we built a fenced area for the dogs and a dog house inside of a smaller enclosed area to help protect them from the weather.  It was my job to clean the dog pen and keep them fed, so I was in and out of that old barn every day (not to mention the trash cans we would keep inside where I would take the trash to or the shovel, snowblower, and riding lawnmower for my other chores). 

Over time, I became accustomed to that old barn.  The nostalgia of it, and some of the old tools that had been stored in it for so many years, were unique in a world that was so quickly changing.  Even at a young age, I learned that something can last a long time if you take care of it.  It may have been old, but as we repaired parts that needed it, I could see why it lasted so long. 

Thinking about it now, the barn reminds me a little of life.  We all have a ‘Barn out back’ in some ways, where we keep those old memories of experiences, some good and some bad, that are no longer in the front of our minds, but ones we still hold onto.  It’s where we store all our past hopes and dreams that we just can’t find any room for in our lives anymore.  It may even have critters (bad memories) crawling around that we try to avoid, but that make their way out when we least expect them to.

Somewhere in that barn, are the tools we turn to in times of trouble.  Even though those tools help us through the difficult times, we put them back in the barn until we need them again.  Some tools may be old and dangerous (habits and self-sufficiency).  Others may be very helpful and productive in our lives (prayer and faith).

Every so often, we need to clean that old barn. We need to rid it of those old tools that have become dangerous, empty the trash that has built up over time, organize the clutter, and shore up the weak supports so the weight of the world won’t come crashing down on us when it storms. 

I’ll always cherish what I learned from that barn.  Looking back, I can see that even an old, rotted building can teach lessons to anyone willing to learn.  For me, I’m still working on my ‘Old barn’.  It’s a work in progress but, thankfully, I have the help of the Master Carpenter. 

His strength helps to lift and remove the garbage and old hurts.  His light helps to shine on the places of darkness where critters may be living.   And, the wind & water of His Spirit help to blow out all the dirt and refresh what’s stale. 

The barn out back in my mind & soul doesn’t scare me anymore.  It’s only when I leave the door open that darkness and the storms of life can hurt me now.   Over the years, it’s become a place of refuge; a place where I know I can go to meet Jesus.  He is the master of the barn now and will always be there with me.  He fills it with joy, peace, light, and, most of all, He fills it with His love that nothing outside of that barn can bring…

Surface Issues


Have you ever been around someone you knew was focused completely on themselves but were acting as though they weren’t?  It may be the person who nodes when you tell them about a bad day, but forgets what you said just a few seconds prior and quickly changes the subject to themselves.  Or, maybe the person who wants to be near you because of something you could do to make them look good.

I would suggest that we’ve all experienced someone who was self-absorbed, self-centered, or vain.  Typically, those attributes show themselves more in younger people than those who are over 50.  By the time you hit that age, you’ve had most of that knocked out of you; just by living life.

While working at a church in Southern California, my boss (the Sr. Pastor), mentioned to me in his office that he thought one of the singers was ‘Plastic’.  Being young and naïve, I was confused.  In fact, I thought to myself, ‘Is he saying they are cheap?’  I couldn’t figure it out until another associate pastor explained to me that it means, ‘Pretty on the surface but not much going on inside’. 

I will admit that I was taken back by the pastor’s comment once I learned what it meant (just a little judgmental if I don’t say so myself).  Even though it wasn’t becoming of a pastor and a poor role model, later in my life I understood more of what he was saying.

There are those in this life, and even in the church, who aspire more than anything else to be famous, beautiful, or rich, that they neglect their own personal mental, emotional, and spiritual development.  The sad truth is that, in America, it’s becoming an epidemic. 

I recently took a break from Instagram for that very reason; most of those who are posting photos (not my family & friends) are trying to be the next ‘Instagram Star’.  Some fly all over the world accumulating loads of debt just to get that selfie photo in front of a famous beach, rock, or over a cliff.   Nearly every day we hear of one of these people being killed because of the risk they’re taking just to get ‘The shot’ that will go viral. 

Our culture is driving us to focus so much on fame and appearances that it’s leading to an explosion of people with eating disorders, augmenting their body parts, and suffering from depression caused by a sense that they will never live up to this false image.  My question is where will it all end?  We must battle this ‘Plastic’ surface-focused culture with truth, humility, and by seeking out opportunities to serve others. 

During my time in the Bay Area, one of the things I would do was serve in a local homeless shelter downtown in San Francisco.  A local high school had a community service program that required each student to have at least 100 hours of service before they could graduate.  Often, to help them get their hours in, the school would bus kids to the shelter where they would spend their Saturday serving meals to people who just came off the street.  I saw many of them transformed in a short amount of time by the experience, believe me.

The first step to change is realizing we need to change.  It may take a dramatic event for some to realize they are self-absorbed.  Some may never realize it and live their entire life expecting others to serve them or to raise them up because they are somehow more ‘Gifted’ or beautiful.  

For me, God has a way of keeping me humble.  He knows, and reminds me often, when I may give myself one too many looks in the mirror, feel a little too good about myself when complimented, or just obsess about my life’s dreams.   Over the years life has also humbled me (many times). 

Yet, at my lowest, most humbling moments, I felt that was where I found God the most.  It wasn’t my gift He wanted; it was my heart.  It wasn’t money or even my ‘Not so great’ looks either (joking). God simply wanted me and, even more importantly, He wanted me to serve others. 

When we’re at that place where we give everything to Him is when He will take it and give it back to us in a way we could never have expected, because that’s just what He does.  When we lose our lives, for Him, we will gain life; life eternal…

Kick the Can


One of the games we used to play while walking to school or while walking downtown to grab a candy bar at The News Stand, was ‘Kick the Can’.   It was a simple game really.  We played keep away while kicking the can down the road.  It was more soccer than anything else, but with a can.

 In an odd way, I used to feel a bit sorry for that can.  By the time we reached our destination, it was dented up, beaten down, and sometimes smashed completely flat by one of us.  For the cost of just a throwaway can, much joy was gained, and a few kids were kept out of trouble.   

 A lot can be said about that old can I would feel sorry for.  I guess I sort of saw it as myself at the time; the one who was picked on and bullied.  I played the game more defensively trying to protect the can from other players who liked to smash it just out of meanness. 

I knew I wasn’t the can, but even today, I feel that way about the helpless and vulnerable; those who feel like life has constantly played with their lives kicking them down the street or just discarding them in the trash.  In some ways, I’ve felt that way myself on several occasions and, believe me, I know how that feels.

You may be feeling like that tonight; as though life has looked you over and tossed you out.  Maybe you feel like you’ve been used by others to help their career advance only to leave you behind.  You may even feel like your life is spiraling down a steep hill having been kicked aside just waiting for the final foot to fall smashing you to the ground.  That once shiny can, new and bright with colors, you once felt like, is now sitting in the mud rusting away.  It seems like only a matter of time before you’re gone, and you no longer have any purpose.  Hope has turned to despair and the fullness inside is now empty.

If that is you tonight, I want to encourage you that there is still hope.  You may feel left behind, stepped on, and like you’re wasting away, but underneath that rusty finish is the strong metal you were made of.  Sure, it may have some bruises and dents, but it’s still there.  With enough fire from heaven and handy work of the Master, it can be reshaped into something beautiful, useful, and strong again.  The rust and dirt will be washed away leaving only a shining finish reflecting His creative touch. 

All you need to do is offer Him your life as a vessel for Him to shape.  He’s looking for broken vessels to put back together again; reshaping them into something new and beautiful.  You may be just what He’s looking for.  I know I am…

Bridge Over Troubled Water


Anyone from my generation, and even today’s generation, if asked whether they’ve heard of the song, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, would say ‘YES…’  It is an iconic song released in 1970 by Simon & Garfunkel.  It came out at a time when our country was going through tremendous turmoil over the Vietnam War, race relations, the cold war, and a dramatic rebellious cultural shift away from ‘The Great Generation’s’ traditional values.  I remember those days well.

Many times, over my life, this song has spoken to me when going through challenges, heartaches, and loss.  It has also motivated me to befriend others who were going through the same.  One thing that occasionally happens to me at times when hearing classic songs such as this one, is for God to speak in His still, small voice to my heart and say, ‘I’m your friend and will help you get through your troubled water too’. 

He’s good about speaking to our hearts at just the right time.  It’s just like Him to take a song written to address the culture around us at the time, even if it’s 49 years old, and apply it directly to our own situations in a personal, loving way. 

Tonight, if you’re going through a challenge and feel all alone, I wanted to remind you too that there is a friend ‘Who sticks closer than a brother’ and who wants to help you through the challenges you may be facing.  I want to encourage you to listen to this song below, read the lyrics, and imagine it’s God speaking to you; because He says this to us every day (classic song or not).   And remember, you are loved, and you will get over the troubled water to find peace again.  Whatever It may be…


Having a Positive Outlook


As I get older it seems one of the main topics of conversation has become none other than the weather.  It may also be due to the fact that I live in Texas where the weather can make dramatic changes from one day to the next.  When I lived in Northern California, the weather was the least talked about topic.  Every day it was sunny and 65 degrees.  Not bad, I know. 

When I was young, we were lucky to know what the weather may be like in the morning let alone the hourly forecast for the next two weeks.  It seems technology has brought all of the science right into our hands these days which can help us plan our entire week around the forecast.  Or, cause one to be OCD about every cloud in the sky (me).

Having a positive weather outlook seems to change our view of our entire day.  Having the thought of possibly facing thunderstorms on the way to or from work can also dampen our day.  Why does our outlook on life tend to follow the weather outlook anyway?  Does the weather have anything to do with how well I do my job?  Maybe, but probably not so much.  Does it affect my relationships?  Not really.  Does it affect my ability to live life comfortably?  YES. 

Life seems to have enough stresses these days and the thought of having to deal with baseball sized hail falling from the sky is just about the last straw. It’s enough for most of us to keep our lives in order let alone have to deal with flooding waters coming into our home, tornados, and in these southern states, even hurricanes.  Can’t it just be sunny all the time?

The truth is that life is like the weather.  We don’t always know what we’ll be facing every day.  Our life may be stormy one day and sunny the next.  Having a positive outlook will help us to deal with those changes as they come.  Life will throw those baseball sized hail balls at us and they may even do damage we weren’t prepared for.  How we prepare and how we react to them will make all the difference. 

If there’s one thing I know more than anything else, it’s that we have a loving God who cares about every aspect of our day.  He even cares about the weather.  He cares if we’re flooded, have hail destroy our car, or have winds blow over that tree in the front yard. 

Most of all, He cares even more about the storms we will face in life.  During the worst of storms, He will be there to shelter us and guide us through to safety.  He knows the future and will prepare us for that day when we face the unexpected changes that try to wreak havoc in our life.  In the end, He will be the light that shines on our path. He will bring warmth in the cold, clarity when it seems foggy, and new life by washing away all the dirt.  We can have a positive outlook no matter what the weather is like outside.  Because of Him…

He Ain’t Heavy


I don’t know about you, but I know I can safely say there have been times when I was asked by others to help with something or to commit to time that I otherwise had planned for something else, that I hesitated while contemplating the weight of the decision. It was as if each decision was measured by some invisible scale that I had constructed over time to help determine whether I could afford it financially, emotionally, or physically.

Having been raised in a home which, at times, had very little money, I learned to make what I had go as far as I could.  Even so, for as long as I can remember I’ve been generous and shared what I had with others.  Regardless, at times there has been a little voice in my head that pulled back and hesitated from letting go of what I had; for whatever reason.

Our decision to help others is usually based on how well we know that person; whether they’re family or a close friend verses some stranger off the street who we’ve never met.  Due to the influence of social media, today we’re more guarded than ever with trusting others who ask for our help having seen so many people taken advantage of or stolen from.  One thing is for certain, though, if that person is someone we’re close to, say a family member or close friend, most of us would do almost anything to help them if they truly needed it.

Ironically, if we can break through our fears and hesitations to help, the sense of joy and wholeness we have afterward far outweighs the self-preservation we felt to start with.  It’s as though the burden we thought would ensue has lifted and we now feel better than before knowing we made a difference in someone else’s life; that we had a purpose. 

It’s when we see that person not as an object or someone taking from us, but as one closest to us whom we love (possibly more than ourselves) that we’re free to let go and give.  It’s love that takes away the burden of helping and turns it into an act of joy.  It’s love that takes the fear we feel of letting go of something we own and turns it into satisfaction knowing that someone else was helped by it even more than ourselves.

There’s a song from the 60’s by The Hollies called, ‘He Ain’t Heay He’s My Brother’ that really puts it all into context.  The song talks about helping to carry another’s burden along a long road with many winding turns.   Yet, their burden isn’t heavy because ‘He’s my brother’.  

That’s where I want to be.  I have a long way to go still, but on this road of life I’m bound to come across others nearly every day who will need my help.  If I can see them though love’s eyes as my brother, that load won’t be heavy.  Indeed, it will be light and we’ll both get there together…


It’s Ok to Cry


Whether traveling or taking a trip to the local grocery store, one is bound to run into a child who feels life wasn’t being fair to them when their mom or dad decided not to let them have what they wanted.  Their immediate reaction, without hesitation or regret, to scream at the top of their lungs followed up by a river of tears, sobbing, and whining. 

Our human nature kicks in at an early age and never leaves.  We may not throw fits or cry the tears when not getting our way today, but we do have to fight tears in other ways.  Thankfully, when we’re young, the pains of life haven’t yet hit us.  As we age, they come without prejudice to every one of us. 

My generation was one where men weren’t supposed to cry.  It made them appear less masculine (‘girly’ if you will).  As I’ve grown older, that old stereotype has changed to the point today where it sometimes seems that men, younger men, in particular, cry more than most women.  Go figure.

Not that there’s anything wrong with crying.  In fact, it can refresh the soul and release the bottled-up emotions we’ve been holding onto.  I’ve always been more sentimental than most men and, especially after a lack of sleep, find myself crying at movies or when I witness an act of love. 

Tears aren’t always about the pain of course.  Sometimes they’re tears of joy.  Such as when we see a loved one who we haven’t seen for a long time or when we make a commitment of love to one another.  I even cry when I see others acting out of selflessness at the store or on the street. 

The Mrs will tell you she’s glad I can cry (and, believe me, she has seen me in some moments when the picket was wide open over the loss of my girls).  That said, I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate me carrying a hanky around and waving it in the air every time I see something ‘special’.  Just saying…

If you’re wrestling with letting out the tears holding them back because of shame or from being told all your life that it’s not appropriate, I want to encourage you to find a private place and let them go.  It’s Ok.  God sees the tears and hears your heart.  He wants to heal those wounds of the past and wash away the shame.  He loves you unconditionally and will never reject you. 

His love is forever and without exception.   I guarantee, when you get those tears out, you will feel better and He will have a chance to come in and heal those wounds that you’ve kept hidden for so long…

Love Always