Live Simply, Love Lavishly

I’ve never had a problem trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” that old saying about comparing yourself with your neighbors’ social status and material possessions. But recently I noticed I’ve been trying to keep up in another neighborhood—Twitter.Live Simply, Love Lavishly

It’s not that I’m trying to reach a benchmark for followers or get a certain amount of retweets on a post. I’ve just gotten too caught up in this trend of having a personal brand.

Personal brand has become a buzz word in recent years and everyone—whether you’re a celebrity, life coach (which everyone seems to be these days), CEO, entrepreneur, or regular employee—is being pushed to develop one.

So I’ve been a bit obsessed with my branding lately, and it’s been to the detriment of more important things in my life.

There’s nothing wrong with developing and promoting your personal brand. It’s a savvy move in today’s society. The internet gives us all a platform, so it makes sense to maximize it.

But where we go wrong I went wrong was when I focused more on my brand than on myself. I was building my reputation while ignoring my character. Prayer took a backseat to crafting my profile. Time with friends was sacrificed for time on LinkedIn.

In addition, I tumbled into the trap of comparing myself with others. How does he have so many followers? How did she get on that podcast? How come he got so many comments on his blog, it sucks?

Word of caution: The moment you start comparing yourself to others is the moment you get off track in life.

I had to slow down and reflect on what mattered most in my life. This quote from Don Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, helped put things in perspective for me:

“Our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly…There’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.”

How beautiful is that? While I was caught up trying to be heard, seen, and established, I forgot how beautiful and profound a quiet life built on love can be. I was busy branding myself when I just need to be branded with love.

At the end of our lives, we won’t be remembered for our presence on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, or influence on social media. We’ll be remembered for and by the people we loved. Again, there’s nothing wrong with building a personal brand. I’m still working on mine. But it won’t be my obsession any longer. Instead, I’m focused on living simply, but loving lavishly.


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How to Stay Encouraged During Life’s Storms

At some point in life, we’ll all get discouraged. Heck, at some point this week we’ll get discouraged.How to Stay Encouraged During Life's Storms

Whether life is going great for you right now or you’re in the worst year of your life, there are moments when you feel down. If you’ve sat through or listened to any number of sermons during your life, you’ve likely heard a minister say you need to “encourage yourself in the Lord.”

That’s a cool saying, I always thought, but what exactly does it mean? And how do I actually encourage myself in the Lord?

The phrase is quite vague, especially out of context, but the light bulb started to come on for me while reading about King David in 1 Samuel 30. David and his army of a few hundred men had just been rejected by the Philistine army (you’ll have to read the background as to why the heck he and his men were trying to join the Philistine army) and were returning to their camp. When they got there, the village had been raided and burned down, and their wives and families had been kidnapped.

Oh snap.

So everyone was devastated, crying, in despair, and angry. Then they turned their anger toward David. They talked about killing him (hey, somebody had to be the scapegoat). Needless to say, this was bad day for David. He was beyond discouraged. But then…

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” I Sam. 30:6

In the middle of his despair. In the middle of the worst day of his life. In the middle of destruction, David encouraged himself. He had no one to encourage him—everyone around wanted him dead—but he found a way to encourage himself.

So how’d he do it? The Bible doesn’t explain how, but theologian John Gill presents a clear explanation in his commentary that we can use to encourage ourselves in times of discouragement.


Grieving the loss of his own loved ones and being surrounded by a mob of angry soldiers, Gill says David “took it all patiently and exercised his faith in God.” David didn’t freak out. He didn’t react in anger, fear, or desperation. He kept a level head. He was patient. When it seems like hell is breaking loose in our lives, we’re tempted to react in unhealthy ways like speaking negatively, using depressants, venting on Facebook/Twitter, or taking out our frustration on others. The first step to encouraging ourselves in the Lord is to take the hits patiently. This in itself is an act of faith in God (because for most of us, being patient is a miracle).


David trusted in God’s power, knowing the Lord was able to pull him and his men out of their despair, and in God’s providence—His divine guidance and care. We need to remind ourselves that God is greater than our problems and circumstances, and even when we feel alone, His providence is keeping us.


David had been already seen God work in ridiculous ways in his life. He knew God’s promises and experienced His faithfulness to them. In our lives, we’ve seen God’s promises fulfilled—in big and small ways. We encourage ourselves by remembering what God said and knowing He’s faithful in every single promise.


Finally, David recalled the lavish grace, mercy, and goodness of God. Above all else, he remembered that God is good AND He had been good to him. Likewise, we must remember that God has been good to us. Like, ridiculously good. Why, when we need Him most, would He pull back?

If you read the rest of 1 Samuel 30, you see David prayed to God, pursued the scoundrels that burned down their village, killed them all, and rescued everyone’s family—happy ending. I’m sure our stories will be less dramatic. But hopefully, like me, you have a better understanding of what it means to encourage yourself in the Lord.

If we take a lesson from David and we encourage ourselves in the Lord during a dark moment, depression, debt, sickness, or any situation, we’ll not only get through it all, but we’ll come out of it stronger in God, and with a heck of a testimony.

Be encouraged my friends.




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When Life is Hard, We Don’t Need Answers

Life is hard sometimes.

Sometimes it’s trying.When Life is Hard, We Don't Need Answers

Sometimes it’s confusing.

Sometimes it’s depressing.

Sometimes it’s all of the above.

During those times, when life is unstable and uncertain, we search for answers. For many of us, we go to the Bible. Heck, even people who aren’t Christians often turn to the scriptures for answers.

The beautiful thing about the Word is it provides what we need at the right time, not necessarily what we want or expect.

The Bible is not a book of answers.

It’s not a go-to guide for quick solutions to life’s troubles, though we want it to be sometimes. It’s a narrative of God and His people, and from it we learn of His goodness, His grace, His love, and His power. In it we find peace, comfort, and strength.

It’s not full of answers, but it points us to the answer—Him.

When we experience a death of a loved one, we may want answers to why his/her life was taken. But knowing why someone died is not what we need or truly want. We want comfort. We want healing. And God, through His Word and Spirit, provides that.

Several years ago, I was in the midst of the worst year of my life. It was one of the lowest points I’d ever been emotionally. I felt alone, confused, and depressed. I needed something to hold on to and it was Psalm 27:13:

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

That scripture gave me hope. It kept me believing that I would see the goodness of the Lord. It didn’t specify what the goodness of the Lord was, nor when it would manifest. David, the writer of the Psalm, didn’t say he saw the goodness of the Lord. He simply said that by believing he would see goodness, he was encouraged. He knew the trouble wouldn’t last forever.

That scripture didn’t give me an answer. It didn’t give me a three-step solution to solve my problem. It simply showed the words and faith of someone who went through something much worse than I did and how, inspired by God, he got through it. It gave me hope.

Hope was exactly what I needed.

God’s Word is indeed powerful. But it doesn’t give quick fixes and simple solutions to our troubles. It doesn’t necessarily change our situation, but it does change us. It takes our focus off our problem and puts it on to God. Because ultimately, we don’t need answers, we just need to trust Him.

What scripture has gotten you through a difficult time? Is there a verse you often turn to in trouble? I’d love to read your comments below.



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3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Even if You Hate It

Valentine’s Day is approaching, so you’re probably saying one of three things:

“I freakin’ hate it!”3 ways to celebrate valentine's day even if you hate it

“I can’t wait for it!

“What day is that again?”

It’s not surprising that a day about love can draw such emotional or even indifferent reactions. That’s how love is. It’s an emotional thing. No feeling tugs on our hearts like love. I’ve probably had all three reactions to Feb. 14 at different times in my life. I’ve been single and lonely, despising the every commercial and TV show celebrating love that I lacked. I’ve been in love and eagerly planning the perfect date (and ordering flowers too late to arrive by Feb. 14). And I’ve been indifferent.

The reason we have these different reactions to Valentine’s Day is because it’s marketed to one segment of the population. If you’re not “cuffed” for the season, it ain’t for you. But if the day is truly about love, then it shouldn’t be limited to couples.

The best Valentine’s days were in elementary school. Remember then? Everyone bought a box of mini-Valentine’s Day cards to give to each person in class. It was big party with sweetheart tarts, heart-shaped candy, chocolate…it was like Halloween in February minus the costumes. I remember in third grade we had a big ice cream party. School was awesome then. But the best part is no one felt excluded. Sure I had a crush on the girl two rows behind me and she paid me no attention. But heck, I still got ice cream, candy, and cards from every girl in the class anyway, so it wasn’t a bad day.

But after elementary school, Valentine’s Day is a roller-coaster of emotions: some years you’re up, some years you’re down. But what if we went old school on Valentine’s Day? What if we took it back to when everyone was included? That’s what love really is like, right? Jesus is the author of love and His love is for everyone. It’s inclusive. So how can you make this the most inclusive Valentine’s weekend you’ve ever experienced? It may take some last-minute planning, but it’s easy to pull off. Here are three ways to have an inclusive, true love Valentine’s Day, whether you’re single or coupled.


A married couple I’m friends with did this a few years ago. A woman at church lost her husband in recent months. It was going to be her first Valentine’s Day alone in more than 30 years. So the couple invited her to their home. Their children made cards for her and decorated the place. They bought her flowers and had a family dinner with her. She said it was one of the best days she had since her husband died. There’s likely someone in your church, community, or family who has been widowed, divorced, or separated within the last year or so. This is the perfect opportunity to show them love this weekend.


Take it back to elementary school and host a Valentine’s Day party. Call up some friends, tell them to bring games, wine, and ice cream. Just celebrate those you love most. As a bonus, have each person write a note or card for someone in the group explaining what their friendship means. Don’t be exclusive either. This is not pity party for singles. Invite couples and singles and share the love.

  1. SERVE

Love is giving. There are plenty of opportunities in your area to volunteer to help people less fortunate. Whether it’s serving a meal at the Salvation Army, giving clothing to the homeless (it’s going to be ridiculously cold in the Northeast this weekend), giving out Valentine’s Day cards at a nursing home or children’s hospital, or simply ordering a meal for someone who is experiencing hard times. Choose to give this Valentine’s Day.

It’s time to take Valentine’s Day back from the marketers. We know love is broader than romance. Let’s make this holiday more inclusive. So whether you have a bae or not this weekend, think outside the (chocolate) box, and celebrate love in a grander way.



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We’ve All Been Hurt, We All Need Healing

No one is immune to hurt. It transcends social status, nationality, gender, job title, marital status, religion, and race. We acquire hurts like we acquire years. It’s part of the human experience. Some of us deal with deeper, more painful experiences than others. But regardless of the degree of pain, we all have this experience in We've All Been Hurt, We All Need Healingcommon.

As a guy, I know we don’t like to admit we have emotional scars, but we do. That breakup hurt us. The rejection stung. Getting passed up for the promotion was painful. Your wife’s words during the argument wounded.

Of course we all learn to get over hurts. We develop coping mechanisms that help us recover, move on, trust again, love again, and hopefully, forgive. But those hurts remain part of us. We rarely shed them, we just cover them. People don’t know the pain we’ve dealt with because we disguise it with smiles, busyness, humor, or surface-level relationships.

We remember hurts much more than positive experiences. They’re more traumatic. I tend to bury emotional hurts. I try not to think of them and let the past be the past. There is some benefit to that because it doesn’t allow negative experiences to taint my future. But there are times I feel it’s important to remember my hurts. Remember what it was like to be rejected, ridiculed, dumped, dismissed, or betrayed. Because the thought of that pain prevents me from hurting others.

Most of us internalize hurt, we think no one has dealt with the degree of pain that we have. But people all around us—our family, co-workers, friends, neighbors—have as much hurt as we do. And if we realize that, we will deal with people differently. We will speak differently. Think differently. Act differently.

I don’t know the hurt you have experienced, but I know I don’t want to contribute to that hurt. I want to contribute to your healing. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t mean I want to talk people through their issues, but there are simple things I can do, we all can do, to help heal without digging through people’s baggage. Here are ways we can contribute to others’ healing:

  1. Speak kindly: Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Kind words and compliments can do wonders when it comes to healing. I don’t know about you, but when someone compliments me, my ego soars, and that’s not a bad thing. A simple compliment can change somebody’s day, erasing a bitter moment with a memorable word that’s as sweet as honey
  2. Walk in meekness: This one isn’t easy for us because we associate meekness with weakness. We think we’ll be eaten alive if we’re meek. But this world needs more meekness, which doesn’t mean weak, but rather gentle, mild, patient, and moderate. By displaying this characteristic—being patient, understanding, and not harsh with people—we allow people to work through their hurts with grace. This is particularly important in our close relationships (spouse, boy/girlfriend, family).
  3. Speak to people’s potential: We are all works in progress, which is code for “we screw up a lot and need grace.” Most of us tend to beat ourselves up or reflect on hurts when things aren’t going right. At these moments, it’s hard to see past our present predicament. That’s why we need to see the potential in others, and speak to that in people. Tell them you see what they are becoming: Let them know they are good parents even if their kids are raising hell; tell them they are talented when they just got laid off; tell them they are a good friend even when they mess up relationships. They know they aren’t there yet. But you’re not lying to them, you’re pointing them towards their future selves. You’re speaking to the person they are becoming, not the one they are.

You don’t have to have all your hurt healed before you help others. By contributing to the healing of others, you tend to heal yourself in the process.

Realize your hurts simply connect you with everyone else. Let your pain sensitize you to the pain of others, and help you to be a healer.

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Thoughts on faith and life