Category Archives: Culture

Loving One Another: A Survivors Reflections on the Las Vegas Massacre

It’s been just over a week since Route 91 in Las Vegas, and I still can’t shake the thought of losing a dear friend. The tears may not be as often, but the emptiness remains. I haven’t even started to process the personal impact to bullets flying over my head, the thought of dying or losing my wife, or the bullet that went through my wife’s hat. I want to erase it all from my mind, and even my life, but I can’t so instead I reflect.

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As I reflect, I am a victim, a survivor, a husband, a father, a Christian, a pastor, and a citizen of this great country. I reflect on the unity I saw in the moments of terror and distress, but also on the division that quickly came back into view. Until we realize what our problem is, we will never find a solution to the acts of violence we (all too often) experience.

As I crouched down below the bleachers with my wife doing our best to avoid the hundreds of rounds of ammunition flying everywhere, I couldn’t help but notice the people. There were people everywhere. It was dark but I could see them nonetheless. Off-duty police officers and firefighters, ex and present military, medical professionals and random people (including one of my best friend’s) that attended Route 91 for a weekend of great music turned into first responders. They put themselves into harm’s way in hopes of helping an injured person. Most didn’t even think twice. What they definitely didn’t do was inquire of the injured person’s race, religion, political affiliation, or sexual preference before trying to help. They were human beings helping other human beings.

I also heard countless people crying out to God. They were begging for protection and preservation. I know enough about God to know that he didn’t only listen to certain people. He heard every cry of every person in that area. Whether they believed in him or not, he listened. Whether they truly knew who they were crying out to or not, he listened.

Not too long after the bullets stopped flying, and for the days that have followed, the unity has diminished. Maybe not between the people that attended Route 91 that night, but definitely from much of the rest of the country. Instead of learning about what to do in crisis from those that were in the crisis, the rest of the country went right back to pointing fingers and blaming others.

You’d think that as a pastor, I’d shift to talking about how great the church was in it’s response to the horrific Las Vegas shooting. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Yes, there were a few wonderful churches that stepped up. But too many individuals that make up the whole body of Christian’s which proclaim to follow Jesus participated in the finger-pointing and blaming just like everyone else.

What has this world come to? Do we longer have concern for our brother’s and sisters? I don’t have the perfect answer, but I do have some thoughts. And as a victim, a survivor, a husband, a father, a Christian, a pastor, and a citizen of this great country, I felt it was my time to speak.

We must recognize that we are part of the problem. Yes, you and I. Prayerfully, we aren’t the ones taking other people’s lives. But we take sides on every issue, whether that issue is race, religion, life, guns, you name it. We blame everyone else without considering our fault in the matter. We are willing to overlook or ignore the facts for sake of looking bad or being wrong. We demonize people because of their affiliations. We will never be at peace with one another until we realize that none of those things leads to peace. That division leads to war, much like the one I was in on October 1, 2017.

The Bible says that the greatest commandment of all is to love God AND love others. Jesus spoke those words together. Even if you are not a Christian, or don’t believe in the Bible, you have to admit that loving one another makes a whole lot more sense than hating (and hurting) one another. But what does this love look like?

Loving one another means being willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, much like those first responders were willing to sacrifice themselves for complete strangers (and some paid the price for doing so).

Sacrifice may mean being willing to squash our pride in needing to always be right.

Sacrifice may mean considerately listening to someone we are vehemently opposed to.

Sacrifice may mean we may need to step across “party lines” to make things better.

Sacrifice definitely means that we must be willing to give up some rights to protect the ultimate right, the right to life.


So the question is now, what will you do?

Fighting for joy

As I shared some recent head and heart trash I have with a friend, I garnered a response I was quite surprised by. He said:

You always seem like you have it together…you seem like everything is good even when it’s rough.

Now, I definitely do my best to “keep my head up” and “count it all joy”, but I don’t think I try to fake it (well, not most days). But his response made me realize that even though I thought I was a pretty transparent person (obviously, I’m selective with that), I am not doing a good enough job in sharing what’s really going on with my close friends. I don’t want to be a faker. I want to live an authentic life and I want others to see me for who I am (the good and the bad).

It’s been an interesting season of life for me, probably dating back to October of last year when a coworker took her own life. While I have had some difficult things happen in my 39 years, that one hit me pretty hard. It broke my heart and caused me to question things about God. Since that time, there have been some challenges within my extended family that won’t go away, challenges at work, and the ongoing fight to live the life God called me to instead of the life God called me from. If I’m honest, the pattern has been much like a rollercoaster and the dips feel longer than the peaks (don’t they always). That reminder of the fragility of life and my own confusion with those types of tragedies was again triggered when the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, took his own life last week. While I did not know him personally, nor did I follow his every move over the last 17 years, I did seem to have emotional ties to him and the band in ways I didn’t realize until he died. It’s produced thoughts and feelings that I don’t want or like. I trust God is at work and I see (some) it, I just don’t love it.

As I take a step back, I am able to count many blessings:

  • A loving wife and best friend who means the world to me.
  • Two young girls who treat me like a king (most days) and make me so proud.
  • Many friends who love me unconditionally.
  • A God who died so I could truly live.

But there are days that even a small heartache can blind me to the blessings. They rob me of my joy. And I start to wonder, how will I get it back?

Thankfully, I am reminded of a God who loves me and wants me to be full of joy.  John 15 says it this way (emphasis mine):

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:1-11

I know deep down that while God has given me every opportunity to experience abundant joy, I have to fight for it. It won’t just happen.

I promise that you will continue to see me post felfies (family selfies) on social media and share encouraging words from what I read, but know that I I’m not doing to fake it. Instead, please know that I am doing it to fight for the joy often buried deep inside my soul.

*if you struggle finding your own joy and don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to, please reach out to me. You can email me at and I will do my best to respond as soon as possible. 

What About Me?

35811677 - sister jealous brother who eats candyThe “what about me” mentality has got to stop. It just blows me away to hear other people complain about not reaping the benefits of a nice gesture that was done for somebody else, or that they deserved to have something nice happen to them because it happened to someone else, or that another person was acknowledged for something they had a hand in. I’ve seen it happen in church, in business, in the home, and just about everywhere else I can think of.

What’s interesting is that if you ask somebody whether they want to see other people cared for, provided for, or blessed, most would emphatically say “yes.” Yet those very same people are the ones complaining that they don’t receive the same care, provision, and blessing others do.

The bottom line is that we can’t be selfish AND selfless. It’s about time we look at ourselves and consider the ways in which we view other people’s benefits and blessings. Are we truly happy for them or are we just happy because we kind of have to be because we said we’ll be happy for people in situations like that all the while deep down inside we’re hurt, envious, or angry because they got something and we didn’t.

I know that this something I struggle with from time to time. I fight often against wanting what others have. But when I take a step back, I realize that God has given me exactly what I need, and far more than what I deserve. Hopefully you can do the same.