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After 2 ½ days of being iced-in with small children, our family had to get out of the house. We went out to eat and then ventured to the grocery store with both kids, which was a first and probably a last.

When we finished shopping, it was freezing cold and still icy enough to be dangerous. I started the car and realized the fuel light was on! So, with a whiny 3-year-old and a screaming 11-month old, we stopped at the gas station to get gas.

When I pulled up to the pump, I noticed a woman talking to a man by another gas pump and then walk back to a fairly beat-up mini-van. As I started to pump our gas, the lady approached me. She said, “Sir, we’re almost out of gas but we don’t have any money. Do you have just a few dollars?”

This is not a bragging post about a good deed. I wish I had responded differently, but I didn’t. I looked at the woman and semi-politely said, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash.”

In my mind, I was running through a million different scenarios. Most of them revolved around the person not deserving my money or my help in this situation. And then the grace of God hit me like a ton of bricks.

Who am I to call someone else undeserving?

Even though I am undeserving of love, God chose to love me. Even though I deserved to be judged and punished for all my sins, God chose to pour out His grace to forgive and redeem me. Knowing all His grace has done for me, am I really refusing to give grace and show love to this lady?

She hadn’t walked too far. This grace lesson had my heart racing so fast, I think I shouted the next sentence at her. I said, “Ma’am! If you need gas in your van, I would love to fill the tank for you.”

I pumped the gas for her and she thanked me. I told her that I hoped it was enough to get her some place warm for the night, and then I got back into my car with the screaming kids.

I set a goal for 2014 to better understand God’s grace and to show more grace to others. This story reminds me that I’m still struggling to understand grace and show grace. Last night, I gave away a tank of gas and received a huge lesson in grace.

A Life of Audacious Love

February 13, 2014 — Leave a comment


In less than 24 hours, people everywhere will be hatching plans to show love to the special person in their life. Flowers, candy, proposals, and more will be shared on this Valentine’s Day. People will wait in anticipation of who or what might show up at their door to say, “I Love You.” This one day is a sobering reminder that people are searching for love.

If you don’t believe that, check out these stats on book titles from Amazon.com:

  • 507,878 book titles about HEAVEN
  • 766,921 book titles about GOD
  • 884,737 book titles about MONEY
  • 922,816 book titles about LOVE

This immense desire to be loved is something I think God intentionally puts inside all of us. It is a need that can only be met by the gracious love of God through Jesus. With a world that is searching so hard to find true love, how can my life point them to Christ? I love the way Bob Goff answers this question in his book, Love Does. A co-worker recently shared about this story and reminded me of the powerful message of the book. After telling the story of a young man proposing to the love of his life, Goff says this:

Ryan’s love was audacious. It was whimsical. It was strategic. Most of all, it was contagious. Watching Ryan lose himself in love reminded me that being “engaged” isn’t just an event that happens when a guy gets on one knee and puts a ring on his true love’s finger. Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving.

It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about— full of abandon, whimsy, and in love. I want to be engaged to life and with life.

I enjoy those parts of the Bible where Jesus talks about how much He loves His bride. It makes me wonder if the trees and mountains and rivers are things He planned in advance, knowing they would wow us. I wonder if God returned over and over to this world He placed us in thinking what He had created was good, but it could be even better, even grander. I wonder if He thought each foggy morning, each soft rain, each field of wildflowers would be a quiet and audacious way to demonstrate His tremendous love for us.

Lord, help me be someone who loves like You love. Let my life be an instrument of Your grace.


It’s 9:00 pm Saturday night and Bill is frantically searching his email for the lesson that was emailed to him earlier in the week. When he finally finds it and prints it off, it’s 10:00 pm. He glances at it (not really to read it but just to make sure it all printed), and then shoves it in his Bible so he’ll have it when he leads his small group on Sunday morning.

Is this how your volunteers prepare to lead a small group? In the busyness of your life and theirs, how can you help them prepare to lead their small group well?

To help our small group leaders, I included a page in our training manual called “How to Prepare for Sunday Morning in 15 Minutes or Less.” The idea was to give them a practical way to be well prepared for Sunday by spending a little bit of time with the lesson each day. Here is what we included:

I adapted this schedule from an example found in Wholly Kids from Lifeway:Kids. This is an amazing resource on how kids learn, how to design engaging environments, and how to lead volunteers.

 HOW TO PREPARE FOR SUNDAY MORNING (in 15 minutes or less!)


  • Read the Fifty6 Team Email and print a copy of this week’s lesson
  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible

Time: 5 minutes


  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Read the Large Group teaching time

Time: 10-15 minutes


  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Read the Small Group portion of the lesson—Think, Discuss, & React

Time: 15 minutes


  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Write down your responses/answers to the Small Group discussion questions

Time: 15 minutes


  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Pray for the students in your group by name

Time: 10 minutes


  • Read the Scripture passage for this week’s lesson from your Bible
  • Write down some fun or engaging questions to use during Huddle Time
  • Review the lesson and rest!

Time: 10 minutes

My Goals for 2014

January 2, 2014 — 1 Comment


For 2014, I’ve made a new set of personal goals. I’ve done this before with some success and some failure, but this year I’m doing something I’ve never done before.

I’m writing my goals down.

I’m writing my 2014 goals down everywhere. I’m writing them on sticky notes, in folders, on my desktop, on my office bulletin board! I want to have a constant, year-long reminder of the goals that I felt would stretch me mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I read a study recently that suggested the best strategy for reaching goals is to write them down, make action steps, and setup accountability with others. Those in the study that did all three parts to the strategy were able to accomplish 76% of the things they set out to do. (Click to read Forbes Article on Goals or Article on Dr. Matthews Research)

I’ve made the goals and written them down. I’m in the process of making some action steps, which is much harder! When I make it to the third step, I’ll probably lean on my wife for the accountability to follow through with everything.

Here are my five goals for 2014 with a brief explanation for each:

1. Grace, Grace, Grace

The more I understand God’s Grace, the more overwhelmed I become. In 2014, I want to study more about God’s Grace, how He demonstrates it throughout Scripture, and what it means for my life. The other two “Graces” are reminders to pay attention to the grace I’m given and give much more grace to others–specifically my kids.

2. Read 12 Books

With work, 2 kids, and a multitude of other distractions, reading has been on a steady decline. I hope to read more than 12 books, but reality tells me that I’ll be lucky to get one a month! I’ll try to share more about the books I’m reading throughout the year.

3. Publish 100 Blog Posts

The decline in reading is matched by my decline in writing. My hope is that I can share a lot more this year about what God is teaching me about Grace and what I’m currently reading, especially how it all relates to preteen ministry.

4. 12 Date Nights–WITHOUT KIDS

I love my wife. I also love my daughters, but I’ve realized that I still love my wife more. So, I am going to ditch the rugrats and have more time with Dana! Those of you without kids probably think this is too easy of a goal, but, trust me, it’s not. We’ve discovered this takes planning and dedication. Anyone know a good babysitter?

5. Run 700 miles

Over the past 4 years, I’ve taken up the sport of running but I’ve lacked consistency. In October, I started running more frequently and averaging 50-60 miles per month. At this pace, I’ll break the 700 mark, but I’ve given my self some space for when laziness or busyness gets in the way.

What goals have you made for 2014 and have you written any of them down?