The Shovel of Grace

So I hate yardwork. Hate it. I consider grass cutting day one that should be avoided even with the lamest of excuses.  I get mad at my neighbors because they have nice riding lawnmowers and I have an old 21 inch push mower.  I don’t like trimming the bushes or pulling weeds. I don’t plant flowers unless I am in the mood to watch something die.  I assume the worst when it comes to my ability to nurture anything in my yard.

I’ve actually thought about paving over my entire front yard just so I wouldn’t have to deal with time consuming “dirty work”.  Flatten it. Kill the grass. Cover it. Move on to something else.  After all, who has time to do the hard, dirty work of growing things when you could move on to more productive things that don’t require patience and attention? Like I said, cut it all down and pave over it.

There is a short and powerful parable Luke 13 that reminds me of my feelings about yardwork. From it there is a HUGE lesson for us as we help connect people from all walks of life to life in Christ.

There is a tree that has been fruitless for quite a while and the man who owns it gets fed up with it and tells the vineyard worker to cut it down.  He says, “I’ve waited three years still no fruit!”  Cut it down!  Move on! Kill it!  “Why should it even waste the soil?” He obviously feels like me when it comes to yardwork.

But then the vineyard worker gives an unexpected response.  He didn’t say, “Where’s the chainsaw?” He didn’t say, “It’s about time we cut this down.”  He says, “Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.”

Pay attention to what he is saying.  He is saying, even though we’ve seen no results yet, I am willing to get down in the dirt with manure and keep trying.  I am willing to get on my knees with my shovel and keep digging. I will get dirty and smelly but I’m going to keep digging. I am willing to take more time and not just chop it down. I believe fruit is still possible. What a hopeful perspective!

Here is an important thing for us to consider.  As we invest in people, it is often far too easy to be like the man who wants to chop down the fruitless tree.

We will have people in our lives who seem fruitless and as the man in the story says, “a waste of soil”.  They annoy us.  They never seem to “get it”.  They can’t overcome that thing in their life. They seem fruitless, so we quit on them. The “tree” is not doing what I WANT, WHEN I WANT, THE WAY I WANT.

So we pick up the proverbial chainsaw and cut it down. We give up. We determine, whether we realize it or not, that they are a hopeless cause and waste of time. We judge them as useless and move on

I call it being people of the Chainsaw of judgement.

I believe as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be more like the vineyard worker.

He begged to get into the mess.  He believed in the possibility beyond the mess that he wanted to get in it.  He didn’t say “Well, if no one else will do it, then I guess I can.” He begged, “please let me dig more!”

I call it being people of the Shovel of Grace.

When we pick up the shovel we are saying “I’m going to get down in the mess with you and dig”.  Now, when you pick up the shovel you need to know that it takes work.  It may stink.  It doesn’t ignore the things that don’t line up with God, but gets involved in them with care and love. It will be messy.  It will be hard.  It will be slow.  It will be humbling.  It’s tiring.  No glamour. It’s selfless. But, we dig with hope, faith and love.

Think about it like this.

  • The chainsaw of judgement takes life.
  • The shovel of grace gives life.
  • The chainsaw of judgement can’t see past the past.
  • The shovel of grace digs into the future.
  • The chainsaw of judgement is a selfish act of pride.
  • The shovel of grace is a selfless act of love.
  • The chainsaw of judgement says “God can do no more!”
  • The shovel of grace believes “you can bear much fruit.”

When we truly embrace people from all walks of life, we have plenty of opportunities to choose between the chainsaw and shovel.  I pray we would choose the shovel.

Maybe as you have read this you have thought of someone who needs the shovel of grace in their life.  Maybe you are being called to pick it up and dig awhile.  Perhaps you will see fruit.


I am the Dad: Dad School

One of the things I loved as a kid was doing things with my dad. He was very much a part of the various things in mine and my sibling’s lives.  There would always be these moments though where we would be doing something random or asking him a question that it seemed only he could answer.  He could always do whatever we were doing and could always answer the question.  Many times one of us kids would ask, “How do you know that”?

His answer. “I learned it in dad school.”

I could NEVER figure when he went to dad school.  Was that a school he had gone to in the past?  Was he going to a classroom taking classes like Dad 101, How to Answer Every Question Your Kid Asks 201, How to Get Your Child to Confess They Did “it” 341?  There had to be a class called, “How to Find Out Everything Your Child Has Done Even When They Think Their Plan is Full-proof.” Had to be…..

Dad School. 

As it turns out, I’ve been in Dad School for a little over 14 years now.  Every now and then one of my kids will ask, “How do know you that?”.

My answer. Dad School.

The thing I’m learning about Dad School is that it is always in session.  The classes are in no sequence.  You never know when the test is happening.  It is impossible to skip class. And, it’s pretty expensive….

Dad School.  It is good though.

I remember in my earlier years of Dad School teaching my middle child how to shoot a basketball.  He was probably 5 or 6.  He stopped in the middle of what we were doing and said, “You really do know how to do everything.”

I don’t hear that much anymore….but I learned it in Dad School.

There are an infinite number of classes in Dad School such as, “The Art of Loading a Car for Vacation”, “Fixing Every Toy Even When You Don’t Really Know What’s Wrong With It”, “Easy Ways to Embarrass Your Kids in Front of their Friends”.  There is the classic discipline class, “This Hurts Me More than it Hurts You.”

Right now I’m retaking “How to Raise a Kindergartener”.  Not the first class I’ve had to retake. I’ve been in “Dad of a Teenage Girl” for about a year and a half.  I’m also taking an elective (Are there electives in Dad School?) called “How to help your kid’s make decisions when you yourself don’t know what the right decision is.” Some of the classes get pretty tough like, “Helping Your Child Through Disappointments”, “Admitting to Your Child that You Were Wrong”, “Balancing Rescuing them and Letting them Go through Hard Things”, “Letting Your Kids See You Fail.”

Dad School. It is Tough.

It is taking me a while to figure this out but the secret to passing Dad School is not all that complicated.  It’s just hard.  Really Hard.

If there was a sign over the entrance of the Dad School building, it should read something like.


Where selfishness comes to die sounds so harsh but in reality it is really good.  As a student in Dad School I’ve learned that my joy as a dad increases as my selfishness decreases.  That is definitely easier said than done.  And, my selfishness decreases as I try keep these kinds of questions in front me while being a dad,

  • How can I show them love in this situation in their life?
  • Am I getting into their world to understand them?
  • Am I more focused on what I want for them or what they need to help them grow?
  • How can I walk through this and show them the love of God in the process?
  • And simply put, Am I just being stupid and selfish?

I do hope my selfishness is dying.

Dad School. I do love it.  Best School Ever. I have the BEST Professors.



What are you learning in Dad School?











Jesus and Becoming a Person of Prayer

I wrote this a while back and recently read through it again.  I am such work in progress when it comes to prayer.


Growing to Follow Jesus in the Way that I Pray


A few years ago I began to pray and think through my own prayer life.  Like many things in my spiritual journey, I knew I had a lot of room to grow as a person of prayer.  Out of that time I began to walk through the Gospels studying what Jesus said about prayer and how He prayed.  My purpose was not merely to learn ABOUT what He said or did but to grow in FOLLOWING His example.

I purposefully did not deal with the details of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is obviously important as we grow in our prayer life and we need to give a great deal of attention to that section of Scripture. I focused more on other comments Jesus made about prayer and moments when we see Him praying. I am sure I did not cover everything.

Here are the observations that I made.  I tried to take them all at face value even if I did not understand them fully. In no way do I claim to have mastered any of them.  Some make me uncomfortable. All of them stretch me to pray with greater FAITH.

As a person of prayer you are DEVOTED to the FATHER’S GLORY in everything you pray.

John 12:28, “Father, glorify Your Name.”

1) Come to God with the simplicity of a CHILD to a FATHER – Not just calling him Father but relating to Him in the reality of the Father-love of God.
Matthew 6:6-13, John 4:23-24

2) Do whatever possible to be ALONE with the Father – Understanding that the Father is waiting and wants to be alone with you.
Matthew 6:6, 14:23, Mark 1:35, 6:46, Luke 5:16, 9:18 – Jesus created opportunity to be alone with the Father.

3) PERSEVERE until the heart and will of the Father are known – Keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking.
Matthew 7:7-8, 26:36-42
“If no answer immediately comes, we are not to sit down in resignation and suppose that it is not God’s will to give us an answer.” –Andrew Murray—

4) Believe in and ask the Father to fill you with the HOLY SPIRIT.
Luke 11:13

5) Approach the Father with ASSURANCE and FAITH – Confidently expect an answer to prayer.
Matthew 21:21-22, Mark 11:24, John15:7, 16:23-24
Prayer is never a token gesture but the source of power and connection

6) Passionately beg the Father for the SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL and for more people to be called out to spread it.
Matthew 6:10, 9:37-38

7) Never seek to draw attention to yourself when praying publicly but HUMBLE yourself before the Father –You are watchful of those who pray out of impure motives so not to become like them.
Matthew 6:5-8, 14:23, Mark 12:38-40, Luke 18:9-14 – The person of prayer does not pray to look good before man.

8) Pursue and surrender to the Father through prayer in times of SUFFERING– Prayer is the means of embracing God in the most intense, vulnerable and trying moments of life.
Matthew 26:36-42, Mark 14:32-42

9) Always remember to CONFESS your sins to the Father and FORGIVE the sins others have committed against you.
Matthew 6:12
“As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness is for the soul.” –Andrew Murray-

10) Believe in and call on the AUTHORITY you have been given by the Father over evil and illness.
Mark 6:13, 9:20-29, Luke 21:34-36

11) Ask the Father to BLESS the people who treat you wrong.
Matthew 5:44-45, Luke 6:27-28

12) Pursue JOY in the Father answering prayers in the name of Jesus.
John 16:23-24


Maybe there is one or two of these that challenge you as well.

My New Hero…

Everyone has heroes.  Everyone looks up to someone. Admires them. Wants to be like them.  It may be a family member, a superhero (I love batman…), an athlete, someone who fights against injustices.  There are all kinds of heroes.

Well, I have a new hero.  Not the most likely one but a hero none the less.  Her name is Michelle H.  I’m not trying to hide her last name for any reason.  I just don’t know what it is.  Her name tag just said “Michelle H.”

….Several Days Earlier…..Picture the Scene

 My son James turned around and looked at me with a pure look of disbelief and amazement.  It was priceless. I was watching a tiny part of a little boy’s dream come true. James had just gotten the autograph of his favorite Atlanta Hawks basketball team member, Kent Bazemore. It was like what seemed impossible had just come true.  Then, a couple of minutes later up walked, probably the largest person I have ever stood near, Atlanta Hawks center, Dwight Howard.  He is a giant of a man.  But, he came right up to James and bent down to sign his program. James looked back at me again and mouthed with excitement, “YES”!  Then there was 4 time NBA all-star Paul Millsap…..another autograph.

All three of these larger than life NBA stars stopped to give a few seconds to James Hunt!  James’ game program became like gold. His mind was blown.

And, my heart was thankful.  How did our little $35 tickets get us in front of the front row, right in the path of the Hawks?

That’s where my hero Michelle H. comes in.

You see, our tickets had us sitting in section 210, not the front row of section 118.  But, I had a little boy who dreamed of meeting his basketball heroes.  So, I asked a Philips Arena staffer if it was ok if we walked down closer to the court.  He kindly pointed the way, so we began our journey down…

We cautiously, and to be honest, with low expectation worked our way to the front row of section 118.  I know we looked out of place, like we didn’t belong.  The truth was, we didn’t belong there. Then, the dreaded question was asked, “Can I see your tickets please?”  BUSTED!  It was Michelle H.  doing her job.  She was faithfully protecting section 118 from those who didn’t belong, those who had not paid the price.  She later told me that she had been doing that for 11 years.  She was a pro.

Before I even showed her our tickets, I confessed, “We don’t belong here. Our seats are in section 210.”  I did offer the info that it was James’ first game and birthday and that we just wanted a closer look.  As I was about to turn around and sheepishly head back to section 210, she says, “Oh!  Your birthday?  What’s your name young man?”  James just gives her the facts, “James”. Then she kindly says, “This may be your lucky day.”  Though she had every right and the authority to send us back to section 210, she brought him as close as she could to where the players would walk by. Now, James was in perfect position to meet his basketball heroes. If he had been any closer he would have been on the court.  It was CRAZY! Michelle H. did so much in the simple act of ushering James to the best spot in the house.  All she did was say “oh, come stand right over here.”

And, now I have a new hero.  I’m pretty sure Michelle H. is not on a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract.  But, she was the one who paved the way for James to have a birthday he will never forget.

I didn’t get Michelle H.’s autograph, but should have.  I did give her a hug and thanked her over and over.  I told her how much this meant to James and that it would have been impossible with her kindness.

So, if you are ever at the front of section 118 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, be good to Michelle H.

Michelle H. is my new hero.

Getting Practical: Enjoying His “Every Morning Mercy”

Today in church we were challenged to experience or embrace the mercies of God every morning from a message in Lamentations.   I call it His “every morning mercy”. It reminded me of John 15 where Jesus compared our relationship with him to that of a vine and branches.

Jesus was the master of taking everyday life and using it to paint a picture of Truths about Himself and life in the Kingdom of God. In John 15 He uses the picture of a vine and branches and fruit.  This was not just a random story but one that came from their walk.  The final words of John 14 have Jesus telling his disciples, “let’s go for a walk.” They begin to talk, perhaps looking towards the Temple in Jerusalem where the national symbol was placed on the gate.  It would be like our stars and stripes, but for the Jewish people it was a grape vine. It extended some 140 feet from the porch of the temple to the holy place.  Perfectly carved with the branches and leaves made from fine gold. The stalks that help the fruit were the size of people and the fruit that decorated the branches were costly jewels.  From time to time the rich and patriotic Jews would add to the vine’s decorations with their own riches.  The vine.  The branches.  The fruit.  It was symbol of great value and meaning for them.

Perhaps as Jesus is walking with the disciples and the gold is reflecting the lights of the evening, he gives the final of his seven “I AM” statements. You can almost hear the tone of His voice as he leans in and says, “You see that beautiful vine.  And all of that beautiful dressing on the vine?” “I am the TRUE Vine and My Father is the vinedresser.” “All of that gold carving.  That impressive work of art.  All of the fine jewelry are nice but they do nothing to help you grow.  I AM the fulfillment of everything that symbol stand for and without me you can do nothing.”

He then takes that image and paints a picture for us of how we can grow and experience the mercy of God, daily.

I can basically sum up this passage by saying that we experience His “every morning mercy” as we create an intentional environment to experience it in. 7 times from verse 1 to verse 8, Jesus uses the word “abide”.  It means to live in or make your home with, or remain.  It is the picture the branch connected to the vine, receiving everything it needs to live. He is abiding, remaining, depending, and enjoying the sap of the vine running through its veins.

It is the same for us. If we hope to have growth in our lives, experience His “every morning mercy”, we cannot depend on anything other than intimacy with Jesus..

But the question still remains, what do we do with that, practically?

Here is how I approach experiencing His “every morning mercy”.

I make sure that I have consistent time given to my relationship with God.  All relationships, even our relationship with God, grows intimate through time and consistency.

  • Set a time and place (not about how many times or even how long).
  • Have a Plan. (Bible reading plan, book of the Bible, etc.)

I Always Read the Bible – Without some kinds of regular time in God’s Word is impossible to stay on track for God’s purpose.  The Bible is the primary way that God speaks to us.

When reading the Bible there are THREE basic questions I like to ask.

  • What is God saying about Himself?
  • What does this teach me about following Jesus more fully?
  • What do I need to do because of this passage? What is the action that this scripture calls me to?
  • Is there something I need to thank God for?
  • Is there something I need ask forgiveness for?
  • Is there a behavior/attitude that needs to change?

I always respond in Prayer – Prayer is simply a conversation with God that is meant to draw us closer to Him and align our hearts with His.

  • Spend time thanking God for who He is. It is taking time to worship God.
  • Ask for His help to put into action what you heard Him say in His Word.
  • Pray for needs in other people’s lives.
  • Prayer for needs in your life.

If spending time with God is a new thing for you, do not be overwhelmed by the idea that it has to be a big mystical experience.  It can be 10 minutes on the back patio drinking coffee, watching your dog play….It is not about spending time every single day.  It is not about reading and praying for an hour.  It is simply about you taking a little time for you to get to know God better so you can live the life He desires for you.

The main thing is that we are enjoying the goodness of His “every morning mercy”.  We don’t deserve it. But He still gives it.




I AM THE DAD: Dream On

I am the dad of three really good, sweet, kids.  They are each unique and a joy. I really do believe in them and the possibilities for their lives in so many ways.

Two of my three are at the age where they are painting the pictures in their minds of “what could be” one day when they are grown.  My daughter, who is 13, is creative.  She sings, she paints, she draws, she acts, she plays the ukulele. I know she pictures herself performing on the “big stage” in some way. The other day I asked all three of my kids what they dreamed of doing one day.  Her answer, “be an actor in a Disney show.”  I love that dream!

My oldest son will turn 11 soon.  When I asked him what he dreamed of doing one day, he had two answers.  His biggest dream is to play basketball in the NBA. His second dream is to work for LEGO as a LEGO designer.

My youngest son is 5.  When I asked him what he wanted be when he grew up he said, “Be like Emmet in the LEGO movie, play basketball, play football, play baseball, and drive a rocket-ship.” I am good with those.

I love the big dreams of my kids.  Their dreams are so pure, exciting, and realistic in their minds.

As their dad, I want them to pursue their dreams.  I don’t want to push them into pursuing what I think should be their dreams. I also know that odds are stacked against them in some of their dreams.

So what do I do?  How do I encouraging them without burdening them?  How do I help them hold on to their dreams and teach them about the hard work it takes to make them a reality?  How do I help them enjoy what they are doing and not put pressure on them to be the greatest in the world?  How do I make sure I am not just trying to vicariously live out my dreams through them?

Then, how do I help them when their dreams may start to fade into the abyss of reality? As a dreamer myself, I am really not a fan of reality sometimes.

I don’t have an answer.  I don’t have “5 ways to make them better”, “3 things to always do to help my kids be successful”, or “The 1 secret to helping them get there.”

So for now I have just decided to dream with them.  Or as Steven Tyler would say “Dream on!” There is enough reality all day every day.  They will do their school work.  We will walk through the ups and downs of growing up. We will deal with the realities of the moment. I am not going to fill their egos with unrealistic thoughts of guaranteed success.  But, I want them to have the freedom to dream. I want them to dream. They need to dream. We can come up with a “backup plan” later.

I want to imagine the amazing performance or game winning shot with them.  I want to talk about how awesome it could be.  I want to toss in a poke and prod of “it takes commitment and hard work”.  I want to help them find opportunities to explore their dreams. I want to make sure they know that I love watching them pursue their dreams. I want Emily to know that I love to watch her act, hear her sing and play.  I want James to know that I love to watch him drive to the basket. I want to re-live his “highlights” with him.   I want Andy to know that flying a rocket-ship would be AWESOME!

I want to make sure they know that I believe in them and will do anything for them along the way.

Above all though, I want them to know that it is not what they do, whether they are successful or not, that determines their value or my love for them.  Their value is set for all eternity by Truth. Their value is set in the eternal reality that they are loved by God.  That is not a dream they have to pursue.  That is the reality they live in now and forever.

All that to say, I just want to love them well on the road to their dreams or to wherever life may take them.

Dream on.

Today He Turns 5…But, Here is how we met Andy.


I wrote this right after we met Andy in 2012.  He was 6 months old.  Today he turns 5.

“We met up with our driver in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at 9 a.m. on August 5, 2012 after 20 hours of travel. We were tired and ready to rest. We had been told before the trip that we would meet our child on the 6th, leaving us all day on the 5th to recover from the trip. Our amazing host and driver turned back to us and handed us our itinerary for the week and it read, “Sunday, August 9: 9 a.m. – pick up at the airport, 10 a.m. – meet your child.” It took us a minute, due to the brain fog from travel, to realize what was about to happen. We were going straight to meet our son.
We arrived at Hannah’s Hope just before 10 a.m., took our stuff to our room, and then walked next door. Above the door that leads in to the building where the children are is the simple word, “Hope”. It is such a good symbol of what those children find there. As we walked in we headed into a living room and there was one of the “special mothers” (ladies who work there taking care of the children) holding the most beautiful and handsome 6-month-old little boy. We immediately recognized him from the pictures. He was ours. We were meeting Andy for the first time.
It is impossible to accurately describe what happened in our hearts as the “special mother” handed him to Shelley for the first time. It was no longer about being a number on a wait list, or planning travel, or court appointments, or raising funds, or process. It was about a life and our little family of four in that moment becoming a family of five. Well I guess it is a family of six if you count our dog Pete…he counts. It was a supernatural moment on our lives.
The next couple of days were all about being with him. We stared at him, touched him, played with him, fed him, bathed him, changed him, and loved on him as much as we could. It was obvious that his little 6-month-old mind was confused. When we would get time with him each day, the first things he would do was slowly and deliberately move the middle two fingers on his right hand into his mouth. We could tell that he was getting more comfortable when he would be a little slower on the draw with is two fingers. I would be confused too. He has been through a lot in his short little life. After all who were these two strange looking people anyway?
Court was scheduled for Wednesday morning. The night before we were taken out to eat at an authentic Ethiopian restaurant complete with amazing entertainment. The food was good and I was not about to let the statement, “That is really spicy. You may not want to eat that “ scare me. The next morning I was wishing I had a little more “fear”. Feeling pretty queasy, Shelley and I were picked up to drive to court. The air there is thin, full of diesel fumes and the roads, well they are interesting. I just prayed that I would not be getting reacquainted with my spicy dinner.
We made it to court with our lawyer who was provided by our adoption agency (AGCI). Climbed 10 flights of stairs and then waited in what looked like a classroom filled with people. After about an hour a lady stepped out of the judge’s office and said something and our lawyer stood up and started walking. We followed. We went into a small room where we sat before the judge. She asked us a few simple questions, “Have you met the child? Have you taken course to learn about adoption? Have you learned about the Ethiopian culture?”  Then she said something to the effect of, “after the courts approval this adoption cannot be reversed. Are you sure you want to adopt this child?” Hmm….With massive smiles on our faces we said, “Oh yes!”. Then these powerful words came out of her mouth. “He is now your child and that can never be reversed.” We wept.
We had one more full day with our son and savored every minute of it. Because of Ethiopian adoption law and adoption process we are were not able to bring our son home until he has a visa from the USA. The visa is usually issued 6-8 weeks after the court’s approval. That means we were getting ready to leave our son in Ethiopia for now. So on Thursday afternoon around 4pm we had been staring, loving, playing, cleaning, and feeding Andy when the moment came that we were dreading. It was terrible. Heart wrenching. After he had fallen asleep, we handed him back to the “special mother”, kissed him on the head and said goodbye. We walked out of the room and onto the balcony overlooking the street and just cried. We were filled with the mixture of joy because we have a new son and the obvious sadness of leaving him.
Now we are back home praying for time to fly. We are praying for process to move at light speed. We need a court decree to be sent out, his passport and birth certificate to be made and a date at the US Embassy to be scheduled. Then we will go back and bring him home. We are just ready for the Hunt family to be six of us in one place (don’t forget Pete). We are ready for Andy to come home.

This whole thing is just amazing. It is teaching me so much. We are not rescuers of little boy. We are receivers of a gift of grace. We are not doing something to brag about. We are being allowed to be a part of something supernatural. There is so much more to this than “what we are doing”. God is just being so kind to us. We are humbled and thankful.”