Failures & Second Chances

I saw a couple of things on the internet today that I thought went together well …
and they fit nicely into my thinking on this blog.

First – Carlos Whittaker posted this picture on his blog Ragamuffin Soul

Cheerleader Fall

He asked, “When is the last time this happened to you?”


The next post I saw was over at People of the Second Chance that told about a 106 year old woman receiving her high school diploma

You can read the whole story  HERE

And they ask, “Do you still think it is too late for a Second Chance?”


Maybe both those questions are related.


Through the years I have had the opportunity to do a lot of marriage counseling. I tell all my people the top marriage killers up front. My wife told me I should change the name from “Marriage Killers” to “Potential Marriage Killers” and she was right. Every marriage has 6 things that can potentially kill it. So here they are:

1. In-laws
2. Money
3. Religion
4. Sex
5. Kid(s)
6. Communication (Usually about #’s 1-5)

I bet if you analyze your marriage you will find most of your struggles come from one of these six things. The most interesting part to me is how your parents marriage influences your marriage without you realizing it. Thus, your struggles in one of these areas are often very similar to one set, or both sets, of your parents.

Think about it. I hope this helps.


I was recently dismissed from jury duty. I had spent the better part of two days going through the selection process and one of the lawyers thought I should be eliminated. So now I am home and able to reflect upon my experience. I don’t know that I learned a lot of new information, but several old truths were underlined to me. One, is that no one wants to serve on a jury. Two, strangers can quickly become friends when put into long hours together. I met three new people and had several nice conversations. Three, no one wants to serve on jury. Finally, if you live in Homer Alaska there is a pretty good chance that you are self-employed.
There was one thing that stood out to me in this process, besides the courts need for better organization. As we went through the selection process each person had to tell about themselves. I quickly noticed how few people have “traditional families.” We had single moms and single dads plus a widower in the panel. We had people who were living together, people who were married and one man said he had a “life partner” and a couple were single. One man said he and his wife were separated. Another man stated that he and his wife were adopting a baby. I overheard a conversation in which he told another person that a baby girl had come through foster care and their was no indication that she would ever be able to return home so they decided to keep her. One lady had 8 kids from age 30 something to age 8 or 9. I heard about 30 people tell their story and only four or five were what I would call a “traditional family” with a husband, wife and 2.3 children. Maybe that is a reflection on Alaska or maybe just Homer, but it might be a reflection on America or even the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there is anything wrong with any of these people. I am not saying I am superior to them or that everyone needs to live the way I do. I was simply reminded that everyone is unique. They are unique in their background, their family, their experiences, the way they raise their kids and in almost every way you can think of.
I was blessed by my time with the jury if for no other reason than to be reminded of what the world is really like compared to me. The truth is that information should affect my relationships and they way I treat other people as a Christian and as a Pastor.


Here is the story I shared in Sunday’s Sermon:

Listen to these words of a taxicab driver: Because I drive the night shift, my cab often becomes a moving confessional. Passengers climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity, & tell me about their lives. I encounter people whose lives amaze me, ennoble me, make me laugh & sometimes weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

Responding to a call from a small brick four-plex in a quiet part of town, I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory in the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 3 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, then drive away.

But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door & knocked.

“Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress & a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos & glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the bag & then turned to assist her. She took my arm & we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”. “Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” I quietly reached over & shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she & her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner & would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous & intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk & took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent & gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.

What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Folks, people may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel


I was recently reading an article about the two types of decisions that we make as adults. This article described our decisions with two words: Reflective and Reflexive. Now, I think those are nice words but basically they mean “reactive” and “proactive.”
Many of our decisions are reactive. We ate way to much at a buffet, so we decided we will never go back there again. We drank way to much, so we vow we will never drink again. The basic motivation for this type of decision is guilt and shame. I will never do that again.
The second type of decision is proactive. I don’t want to get into that position so I will make a plan not to end up there. I don’t want to get fat, so I have an exercise plan. I want to know my Bible better so I make a plan to read it everyday.
This article stated that the key to making good decisions is to use both types in every “major” decision. In other words, “Ask yourself where you want to go” and then ask “are my decisions taking me to where I want to go?” If we employ both of those questions preceding a decision it will help us to make better choices.
I am not sure if I believe all of that information, but it helped me to think through the types of decisions I am making. Maybe it will help you too.


This morning I dropped off my oldest son for a trip to Cordova for a basketball game. While he was loading on the bus I had the opportunity to talk to one of the coaches. I asked him about his son who had been having back problems. He told me that they had decided to completely quit trying to play this season. After they made that decision he and two friends who are also hurt sat together and cried.
It was quite a sad picture for me to grasp. A sophomore with a broken collarbone and a junior with a cracked vertebrate and a senior with a broken wrist all sitting together and weeping. The coach was telling me that is was very hard to watch as a parent and as a coach.
After he told me this story I drove over to my office. The whole trip I was thinking of that scene and was hit with this simple truth. So much of our lives are shaped by pain and adversity. In fact, we are probably more shaped by pain than by any other single human factor. It moves our lives in certain directions. It makes us look inside of ourselves and evaluate our souls. It forces us to do difficult things that often makes grow.
I hate pain just as much as anyone. I hate the idea of it coming on someone who I care about especially. But I know pain will come to me and to others. All I can do as ask, “God, what can I learn from this?” I realize though, that can be the most painful thing of all.


I have finished my sermon for this Sunday. Every week about this time I have the same question that crosses my mind. “I wonder if anyone will attend Sunday to hear it?” If so, who will it be? Will there by anyone new to the Church? Will anyone listen or even care? It is a weekly battle I have no matter where I preach or teach.
With all that in mind, I have some quotes in my file from “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. In chapter 17 Rick wrote a couple of things that made a lot of sense to me about Church. While I wish you would read the whole chapter, for now I wanted to share some thoughts from it for you to ponder:

“You are called to belong, not just believe.” – Page 130

“Disconnected and cut off from the lifeblood of a local body, your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist. This is why the first symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent attendance at worship services and other gatherings of believers.” – Page 131

“You will never grow to maturity just by attending worship services and being a passive spectator. Only participation in the full life of a local Church builds spiritual muscle.” – Page 134

“It may seem easier to be holy when no one else is around to frustrate your preferences, but that is a false, untested holiness. Isolation breeds deceitfulness; it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are mature if there is no one to challenge us. Real maturity shows up in relationships. “ – Page 134

I think people are called to be a part of a local Church where they serve, listen and love. Rick’s simple chapter reminds me of the Church meetings importance in the life of a believer. I hope you are stretched and grow as you serve in the life of your Church. I hope to see you Sunday.


Last week my son was sick so I spent some time going through my files at home. In doing so I ran across a file of illustrations and observations mostly from my first years of ministry. In that file was a card from my first year of full-time ministry is Missouri.
No one ever quite prepares you for that first year out of college and into the “real world.” Your first job is usually less than desirable as you are willing to take almost anything for experience and a paycheck. This was no less true for me when I entered the ministry. I went to a small town just 45 minutes north of my college so my wife could commute every day continuing her education. The “village” as they called it consisted of 110 people and an unbelievable amount of dogs. Many of the people were older and were content to stay there till they died. Any younger people wanted to get out, but didn’t have the education or the motivation they needed.
As you can imagine it was not a great place to live or to work. That first year out of college was greeted with hostility, disappointment and rage. And those were just my emotions. At the end of that first year I fell into utter defeat until I finally submitted my resignation.
My wife and I left all of our possessions in the house and set out for 8 weeks to find a job. When we were finally successful we returned back to load up our stuff and move on. We classified it as one of those tough experiences that we used to grow into maturity.
Now back to my file. Inside of it is was a card from that first year that was stuck in the door sometime while we were gone. I pulled it out and looked at it, my response of laughter was overwhelming. It was a Christmas card actually complete with a tree on the front. Open the card up and inside it is signed by a couple in the Church with the handwritten phase, “All our love.” It all seems sweet right? Well, the funny part is what is written on the outside of the envelope. It was suppose to be written to my wife and I – Matt and Michelle. Instead in handwritten ink it says “Mark and Misseli.” I kid you not. I had ministered at this Church for a year, spending every week preaching the Bible to these people and they did not even know my name!! Now I suppose I could tell you that it was written on a program that was handed out every week and placed on a sign in front of the building just for added emphasis. This couple gave a card to me with “all their love” even though they didn’t know my name!
I have since recovered from that first ministry experience, but I will never forget those people and that year. I imagine they quickly forgot me, since they never even really knew me…or my name!


Believe it or not, I have just finished getting my taxes done. Every year since I started ministry I have used a gentlemen – and now his son – in Lincoln Illinois at H&R Block. They are experts on clergy taxes and make sure I do everything properly. I used to drive there every year and have them done personally, and now I handle everything over the internet.
I am writing this not to tell you about my life, I am writing because I was reminded of the large sign that hangs behind the desk of my tax accountant. It reads:

“A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

How often I have received calls where the person didn’t act until it was an emergency? I have thought of those words many times my life. In fact, for the last 10 years or so I have used a variation of that statement in ministry. I tell people:

“Just because it feels like an emergency to you, doesn’t make it an emergency to me.”

Both of these statements have proven true to me over and over again. People often fail to plan or think things through and then they want me (or someone else) to help them … immediately. I have found that if you plan and prepare there are only a few emergencies in life.

Happy Monday and Happy Tax Season:-)

Edwin Louis Cole

In 1996 I went to a Promise Keepers Rally in Indianapolis Indiana. One of the main speakers at that particular conference was a man named Edwin Louis Cole. Honestly, he was one of my favorite speakers and he said some things that really spoke to my heart at the time. Upon returning home I found out more information about his ministry to men, his books and even signed up for a newsletter. Of all the material I have purchased or read of his I have found a book of quotes by Mr. Cole to be the most inspirational and thought-provoking. Since many people have never heard of this man and teacher I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes from his booklet “Manhood 101.”

• “Every man has three men to deal with: The man he thinks others see. The man he thinks he is. The man he really is.”
• “All wrong conduct is based on wrong believing”
• “There are times when silence is golden, others when it is just plain yellow.”
• “Crisis doesn’t make the man; it only exposes him for what he already is.”
• “God will not do our part. We cannot do God’s part.”
• “Change is the only constant in maturity.”
• “Change is not change until it is change.”
• “Don’t pray for opportunities.” Pray you’ll be ready when opportunities come.”
• “You are only qualified to lead to the degree you are willing to serve.”
• “Fathers who punish children for doing wrong, when they haven’t first taught them how to do right, are themselves wrong.”
• “We tend to judge others by their actions, ourselves by our intentions.”
• “Our relationships with others are reflections of our relationship with God.”

There are plenty more, but these are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy.