Thursday, June 29, 2017


My son Joe Don turned 39 today

Today is my son's 39th birthday.  He knows I love him and am proud of him, but here are just a few of the reasons why.

He is a passionate follower of Jesus.  He does not just talk about it -- he lives it.  He gives solid spiritual advice.  He reads, studies, and prays.  He serves and he has Jesus conversations with friends and co-workers.

He is a great Dad.  He loves his kids and spends a lot of time with them.  I watch them sometimes when he comes home from work.  They are all over him and he gives each of them attention and time.

And a great husband.  He really loves Jamie.  He works to let her know it too.  Does home projects.  Spends time with her.

Great role model for lots of other kids.  I have watched him with his sister's kids.  I have watched him with his friends's kids.  I have seen him make a lot of kids feel special and loved.

He is fun, funny, smart, verbal, and a natural leader.

I think I am most proud that when people follow him -- and they do -- they end up at the cross.

So God, thanks for JD.  You are doing a great work in him and in his family.  Keep using him -- and them -- to make Kingdom difference in this world.  Thanks for letting me be his Dad.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


On All-Star, Travel, and Select Baseball teams

It is the season in West Texas for Little League All-Star competition.  Then comes Travel ball, while the select teams play year round.

And I always wonder about what it all means.  So here are a few thoughts on our kids and advanced ball.

Full disclosure:  One grandson plays select ball in the Metroplex and another plays on one of the Wylie all-star teams.

The selection process is not fair, has never been fair, and never will be fair.  There are always boys left off who are better than some that made it.  And there are always some on the bench who should be playing more.  Life is not fair.  Get used to it.

Involved Dads give their sons an unfair advantage.  Correct.  Maybe that is a fair reward for the time they put in.  Maybe it gives their son the break he needs.  Or maybe it hurts his son because everyone knows how he made the team.  Nepotism.  Get used to it.  Wait till you get in the business world. Of course, it is also possible those Dads are involved because their sons are really good athletes.

Yes, some get way too serious and intense.  These are boys that are not even teenagers yet.  I see a lot of players that are really bad sports.  I also see where they learned it.  I also have seen some of the greatest acts of sportsmanship ever.  And I saw where they learned that too.

The odds of any of these boys playing professionally is slim to none.  Most will not ever play in college, and certainly few of them on scholarship.  A surprising number will not even play in High School.  On the other hand, Wylie High School just won a State Championship with a bunch of guys that played Wylie Little League together.  And an amazing number of Big League ballplayers started in Little League so who knows.

Some boys will burn out and quit baseball.  Some will pick another sport.  Some have reached the peak of their athletic ability.  Some will get hurt.

And some little guys will eventually grow.  And some big kids will have their coordination catch up with their size.

Some of these boys are really smart.  Some are not.  Some have great people skills.  Some do not.  Some are really good people.  Some are not.  Just like anything else in life.

So I think you learn a lot about life watching these teams.  Do what is best for your child.  Be smart about how much you let them play and about how much you spend.  And life is a whole lot bigger than baseball.

Just a few thoughts on baseball and kids.

Gotta post this and leave.  One of my grandsons plays tonight.

Go Wylie.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Andrew, Trauma, Facebook, and God

My grandson Andrew had an accident in a swimming pool last Sunday night and ended up spending the night in Cook's Children Hospital emergency room.  He hit his head and his vision was blurry and the right eye was not tracking.  The CAT scan and MRI turned out OK but he had to see a Nuero Ophthalmologist this morning.  Long story short, he does have some nerve trauma that should heal on its own.  It could take weeks -- or months -- and until it does, he is seeing two of everything.  And of course, no playing ball, no bike riding, no running -- you know, all the things a 9 year old boy loves to do.

It was pretty traumatic for everyone.  Not at all how my son expected to end Father's Day.  Certainly not what Andrew thought would happen.  Hard on Mom and his brother and sister.  Hard on the grandparents.  We stayed up most of the night praying for Andrew.  And most of yesterday and last night praying for the Doctor visit.  Asking God for healing.  Thanking him for the other times He has intervened to heal our grandkids.  Asking to do it again.

Andrew handled it with amazing faith.  He has consistently been cheerful and confident God will take of things.  Mom and Dad faced it with a strong conviction that God was in charge.  Us too.  And for our family, it is not just talk.  We believe God will handle whatever comes.  We had -- and still have -- very specific requests for God to restore Andrew's vision and to do it quickly.  But it will be OK whatever God does.  We all decided a long time ago that He is in charge of our family.

But it was not just Andrew's family that spent hours in prayer for him.  Countless friends and acquaintances have been lifting Andrew up constantly.  And I think God heard and that is why the prognosis is favorable.  Not luck ... but God.

Which leads me to a point about Facebook.  There are lots of bad things about Facebook.  I cringe at some of the pictures and some of the posts.

But Jamie put out an update about Andrew on Facebook.  Marsha shared it.  And I shared her post.  And it took off from there.

Hundreds of comments with everyone of them backed up by prayer.  Lots of emoticons on the posts -- each of them representing someone that prayed.

So God used Facebook to have a lot of people lift Andrew up in prayer.

God heard and He is answering.

Thank you God.

Thank you God's family.

And thanks to Facebook for reminding me that God uses lots of things to do His will.

Who would have thought it ... except God, Jamie, and Marsha.

Friday, June 16, 2017


What to say to your Dad this Father's Day

It is a wonderful, horrible, happy/sad day this Sunday.

It's Father's Day.  And the old preacher tale may be true.  On Mother's Day praise our Moms.  On Father's Day, yell at the Dads to do better.

But here is why it is a difficult day.  Many of us had wonderful Dads, some had Dads who tried but just did not do well.  And some of you know the pain of having a bad father.

And this day is hard for those who have lost their Dad to death.  It is hard for single Dads who are overwhelmed with raising kids by themselves.  And hard for single Moms who are doing their best to be Mom and Dad.

And there are lots of men out there being "dad" to other kids.  Grandfathers, coaches, neighbors, uncles, church leaders, and on and on.  And step-dads who are choosing to be a Dad to their wife's kids.

So here are a few things to say to your Dad this weekend.

Thanks.  For putting up with me.  For being patient with me.  For teaching me.  For being there.

I love you.  Dad's have self-esteem issues too.  Most feel like they are not -- or did not -- do the whole dad thing as well as they could have.

I forgive you.  You did your best and I am OK.  Or, I forgive you anyway.

And here is a last piece of good news for all the Dads out there doing their best and wondering if they are doing anything right.

You are.

So here a few quick things to remember that will help you get it right.

Love Jesus.  Love their Mom.  Laugh lots with them (but never at them).  Pray hard -- for them and with them.  Be there.  Listen.  Love.

And one day you will look up and realize you raised some great kids who love Jesus.  And that is the best gift of all.

So thanks to my dads now in heaven.  My dad and my dad I got when I married Marsha.

And thanks to my son Joe Don.  You are doing a great job with yours.

And thanks to Julie and JD.  You make me proud every day.

I am blessed.

So thanks above all to the one true Father who gave his son so I be his son too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Jesus did not die to make me happy...

I am a genuinely happy guy and it is all because of Jesus.

But he did not die to make me happy.  Nor did he die for your happiness.

Jesus died on the cross so my sins could be forgiven, so I could be in relationship with God, and so I could spend all of eternity with him.

And being happy is a by-product of those things.  No matter what happens in this world, I will be content because of Jesus.  It was Paul that said he has learned the secret of being content.  No matter what happens in life.  And the secret is that we can make it thru anything with Jesus.  

Jesus does not call me to be happy.  He calls me to follow him and be faithful.  And when I do that, I find happiness.

But when you think the reason Jesus died was so you could be happy, it becomes easy to blame Jesus when things in our lives do not go the way we want.

Jesus wants me to be happy, I am not happy, so Jesus is now a problem.  Or Jesus wants me to be happy, and I am not happy, so Jesus wants me to do whatever it takes to be happy.

And this thinking impacts how we view relationships, church, possessions, and people.

The call of Jesus is not to be happy.

The call of Jesus is to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow him.

And you will find joy, peace, and contentment.

Until the day when God wipes away all the tears, and there is no more pain and no more sorrow.

Because of Jesus we will live with God forever.

And that makes me happy.


Thursday, June 08, 2017


Leadership Credibility

It is phrased in lots of different ways, but it comes down to one thing leadership credibility.

"How can we get our people to trust us."

"How can our members say they do not believe us."

"You've lost the confidence of the congregation."

When you stand before God's people to talk about following Jesus, it is critical they trust you.  When a decision is announced by the leadership, your people have to have confidence in you.  

Trust, credibility, confidence.

Here are three ways I think can help leaders have credibility.

Have a reservoir of good will built up.  This takes time and work.  Trust is formed in hospital rooms and funeral homes.  It is formed by being seen at weddings and ballparks.  It is meeting and greeting before and after church.  It is built in the living rooms of shattered relationships.  It is done over coffee confession.  It is being with people at their worst and helping them become their best.  Relationships.  Love.  Service.  When people know you are giving up your life for them, it builds confidence in what you tell them.

Live what you preach and teach.  In my case, I speak all over the world about how to share Jesus.  The day that I stop doing that personally where I live is the day I need to stop telling others how to do it.

When you mess up, confess it and ask forgiveness.  Apologize.  We are not perfect so let's don't pretend that we are.  If something is not right in your life, fix it.  There is real leadership credibility in alcoholics now sober, or sexually immoral people now pure, or selfish people now generous, or mean people now sweet.  Leaders can fall, and God can raise them back up.  Living proof is strong credibility.  

Use Scripture.  When you must have the hard conversations as a leader, use Scripture.  It keeps it from seeming like a personal attack, it seems less judgmental, and it gives your advice credibility.  And it is right.

And of course, doing these in reverse is how you lose credibility.  Tell others to do what you are not doing.  Do not do life with the people you are supposed to lead.  Act as if you are never wrong.  Don't use Scripture.  

Every leader (and leadership team) sometimes has to make decisions that are difficult.  Those are the times that you must have the confidence and trust of your people.  And right before the announcement is not the time to try and get it.   

Credibility.  It makes all the difference.  And you better have it before you need it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017


Putting lipstick on a pig is not going to grow your church.

I hear a lot of discussions among church leaders about how to grow ... well, actually the discussions are more about how to keep from dying.  And I think most of what I hear is missing the point.

Talking about not dying leads to long discussions about what has to change to keep our own members involved, or maybe even keep them attending (and giving).  So we wonder how to attract them, how to change things so they will be interested.

Maybe we ought to challenge them instead.  Raise the bar of expectations.

And much of the discussion ends up centered on how to attract believers.  Sheep stealing from other churches not astute enough to "get it".  Or not serious enough to maintain the status quo.

What if we grew by adding to the church those who were being saved?  Talking to friends, neighbors, and classmates.  Sharing the Jesus story.  Making disciples.

But instead we try to change up the building.  Add a youth wing, redesign the auditorium, put in a coffee bar, or make parking more accessible.  That will bring them back.  Or keep them.  Surely.

Make worship attractive.  Go contemporary.  Or bring back the hymns.  Involve women in ministry (and by ministry, most churches don't mean ministry but they mean leading worship).  Preach in jeans.  Bring back the ties.  Change the worship times .  Hold it to an hour.  More media.  Less media.  Start a teen service.  What about an old folks service?

Fix that one hour on Sunday morning and that will solve everything.

Shake up the staff.  Younger -- or maybe more maturity is the answer.  Find a successful preacher and steal -- oops, sorry -- hire him away.  Fire what you have.  Get new/better/smarter ministers.

Add the right programs.  Better Bible classes.  No Bible classes.  Stop Sunday nights.  Add Sunday nights.  No more Wednesdays.  More Wednesdays.  Meals before.  Or during.  Or after.

But at some point, doesn't this seem like putting lipstick on a pig?

What we are doing is not working, so do it better.  Try something different.  Or go back to what we think used to work.

Buildings, staff, and programs.

If you really want to grow, and you think something needs to change... then let's really change.

Sell the building, give the money to the poor, and meet in homes.

Let the parents be the youth ministers.  Have elders that pastor people, deacons that serve, and let your staff be evangelists.  Every member ministry.  Worship that involves everyone, is fun, and inspires us to go do Jesus stuff in our world.

No more programs.  Let the member's ministry be the program.

Are these serious suggestions?  Yes, no ... I don't know.

But I do know this.

Putting lipstick on the pig doesn't really change anything.  It just looks different.  You still kiss a pig.
No matter how much you dress it up.

Just thinking out loud. And wishing I had the guts to do something different.

Wanting us to be church.  

Thursday, June 01, 2017


My girl Jules had a birthday today

So my daughter, Julie Gilbreth, turned 41 today.  Hard to believe.  But I love her just as much as I did the day she was born.  And I continue to be very proud of her.  Here are just a few reasons why.

She loves the Lord and she fights for her faith.  Sometimes life is hard.  Jules knows that.  Sickness, relationships, finances.  It is a hard world.  I admire the way she never -- never -- gives up.  She hangs on to Jesus and keeps putting one foot in front of the other.  That is living faith.

She loves her two kids.  Jake and Avery are precious to her (and of course to us).  She loves them, disciplines them, laughs with them, and points them to Jesus.  

They have fun.  How can you not love a Mom who has spontaneous dance parties in the car?  She has made a home where Jake and Ave's friends want to hang out.  Her friends too. 

She loves animals.  She has always brought home every stray she ever saw.  Still does.  Tries to save them all.  Come to think about it -- she does that with people too.

She loves her parents, her brother and his crew, and she adored her Pap, Granny, and Grandpa.  Loves her Mam-ma and her Aunt Phyl.  It is a big, extended family and she loves them all.

She has a heart for those for whom life is tough.  She helps.

She points people to Jesus.  She listens to people, shares her story with them, and tells them Jesus can help.  Lots of people are believers because she shared her faith.  Still does.

I have learned a lot about faithfulness from my girl.  Mostly I have learned that sometimes faith is often a determination to never quit.  No matter what.

So I love you Jules.  You have blessed me way beyond what I could ever do for you and I am thankful.

So God I thank you for giving us our Julie.  You have made her into a great Mom and daughter.  She helps people find you.  Keep taking care of her and her kids.

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