Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A King's Cry

“And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth, and my first sound was a cry, like that of all.  I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths.  For no king has had a different beginning of existence;  there is for all mankind one entrance into life, and a common departure.  Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.  Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her.  I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light...” 

This passage referencing “swaddling cloths” may be less familiar to you than the one found in Luke.  While you may have envisioned Jesus speaking these words, these are the words of Solomon, the first son of David, found in the Apocrypha (Wisdom of Solomon 7).  And while Solomon was certainly known to be a great king, both wise and humble; his birth was but a glimpse of the birth that would follow.  The son of David. Wise.  Humble.  The Son of God.  My Savior.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

There Is Room

On a cold winter night, a young woman, very pregnant, made her way to an inn to ask for a warm place to give birth to her baby, and she was denied.  While all attention is focused on the mother and the baby, I have to consider what was going on in the innkeeper’s mind that evening.  Granted, he did not know that he was dismissing the Savior of the world to a bed intended as a trough for animals; but shouldn’t it have been enough that there was a young woman giving birth to make room for her inside?  And while this treatment seems inexcusable, I recognize that I do the same thing every day.  I dismiss Jesus from my life to make room for all of the less important things.  But in my case, it is worse than the innkeeper, because  I KNOW He is my Savior.  I made this small sign from the leftover wood from the manger I built to remind me, and those who visit me, that there is room, or at least I want for there to be.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mary Did You Know

I play the trumpet, and that may have something to do with why when I listen to songs now, I am all about the notes,  but I have to really concentrate on the words.  For most songs that I like, I can sing the melody to you, but don’t ask me what the song is about.  I probably don’t know.  I think this is terrible and something that I want to fix.  Most of the time, I just don’t try to comprehend the lyrics, but sometimes, even when I try, I can’t physically understand what the artist is saying.  Every once in a while, the artist makes it a little easier on me.   In keeping with the manger theme from last week, one of my  clients forwarded me a link to this new arrangement of “Mary did you know?”.   In case you are one of the 18+ million people who hasn’t heard this yet,  you should give it a listen.  If you have heard it already, take another listen, and try to picture the angel describing to Mary what she is about to experience.  I hope Christmas comes alive for you this year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dimming the lights

As Caroline and I started planning for Christmas this year, we were excited about a couple of things.  First, we have our Christmas cards printed, signed and in the mail.  This is huge for us, as that task is usually hanging over us the week before (and sometimes after) Christmas.  Second, we have a lot of fun opportunities to see family, people from church and people from work at several holiday gatherings during the season.    One of the things that is somewhat of a struggle for me is the decorating.  After we get the tree up, Caroline handles almost everything inside, but the outside is something I usually handle.  Putting the stuff up is tolerable, but taking it down is the worst.  I convinced Caroline that something simpler might be good this year, and she agreed.  I wanted to find a manger to put in front of the house.  The available plastic or aluminum feed troughs at Tractor Supply Co. didn’t seem exactly right, so after a trip to Home Depot for some wood and a new circular saw blade, I was able to come up with the  one pictured.  It ain’t fancy, but from what I hear, neither was the one that Mary laid Jesus in.  Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks for everything, Part 2

I think you know from past posts that I am very thankful for my family, friends and church.  I also recognized my clients and my partners in this week’s SpotOnTheLake post.    For those of you that take the time to check this blog, I  wanted to tell you about my Client Services Manager, Janet Jeanes.  All of my clients already know how great she is, but those of you that we haven’t helped buy or sell real estate probably don’t know her.  Janet has been working with me for the last 5 years.  She is the heart and soul of my business.  When I show up at closings, my clients says “Oh, I was hoping Janet would be here.”     After my ego recovers, I realize how fortunate I am to have Janet working with me.  She is a licensed agent and is technically competent with everything real estate related.  Many of the things that she does, I know longer know how to do.  But more important to me is the servant attitude that she exhibits with me, our team and our clients.  It is unbelievable.  It is even more unbelievable knowing that for the past year, Janet has actually had two full time jobs.  As well as taking care of the business, she has been taking care of her husband Alan, who has been diagnosed with

PSP ( Progressive Supranuclear Palsy).  PSP is a rare degenerative neurological disorder that has no cure.  Alan is now confined to a bed and has very low ability to communicate.  Caroline and I went to see them last week, and I was comforted to see Janet respond to Alan when he called out, immediately knowing exactly what he needed.  I am so thankful to know Janet and Alan and to have them a part of my life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Soul Music

As we approach Thanksgiving, I continue to be amazed at how early we see signs of Christmas.  The Halloween jack-o-lanterns are like bright orange gifts under the artificial Christmas trees at Home Depot.  The broadcast Christmas music is right behind with multiple XM stations to choose from including Traditional, Holiday Pop and Christmas Soul.   

Music has always been a big part of my life.  I sang in the children’s choir at First Presbyterian Church in Columbus.  I participated in musical theater at the Springer Opera House, with my role as Winthrop in The Music Man being my largest role.  It was in that show that I was presented with a trumpet that we only pretended to play during performances.  That was enough for me to want to learn to play it “for real” in the sixth grade.  My wife and I were in  school band together, and I have always loved church music – from the traditional hymns to contemporary worship music. 

In trying to connect my soul to music, I couldn’t find a better way to do it than with Morten Lauridsen’s choral arrangement of O Magnum Mysterium performed by the Kings College Choir in the Cambridge Chapel.  The translated Latin is simple and perfect for the season approaching: 

O great mystery and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in their Manger!

Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia! 

Please don’t be in a hurry.  Find a time when you can be still for six and a half minutes, then click here. 

For more about how the text and visual art inspired Lauridsen to arrange this composition, read more here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Soul Provider

Our small group at The Vine is about half way through our study of Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.  I can’t say that I am tracking 100% with the way that the book is organized, but the combination of the book and our talented leader, Dan, has allowed for some great discussion.   This is a lot more interesting to me than sitting around watching everyone nod their head “yes” and repeat what they read in the book.  So while I’m not sure I have come to any revelations about my soul yet, Caroline and I did have the opportunity to attend Buckhead Church with my daughter and son-in-law Sunday evening.  This is one of my favorite things to do, and our decision to drive downtown was blessed by an amazing service.  My soul seemed content.  My soul seemed full.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


At the very north end of Lake Hartwell, in Westminster, SC, you can branch off from the main channel into a narrow stream in a kayak or small boat.  It kind of reminds me of the Okefenoke swamp ride at Six Flags where the trees and bushes create a canopy over the water.  After rounding several bends you start to hear the sound of rushing water.  That sounds get louder and louder until you see a large waterfall feeding the stream.  On a hot humid day, I can remember the feeling of climbing over the rocks until I could get to a place where the water would pound on my head and shoulders and completely engulf me.   

My good friend, Richard, has been faithfully following my posts on the soul the last couple of weeks.  He sent me a link to a video with Chris Tomlin talking about one of the songs on his new album “Love Ran Red”, and I found this acoustic version from the recording session. The name of the song is “Waterfall”.   The lyrics are simple, but true.  “Your love is like a waterfall, running wild and free.  Your love is like a waterfall, raining down on me. You’re an ocean to my soul.”  No doubt, Chris borrowed those ideas from an ancient text:  “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”  Psalm 42:7No matter how much the world presses its needs on me, no matter how much I think I know what I need - and am wrong, I can’t escape his presence.  My soul is only at peace with Him.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Soul Train

Last week, I posted some thoughts on how I try to understand the word “soul” and my own soul.  This week, I thought I would let you know how John Ortberg describes it in his book Soul Keeping.  He uses several word pictures to describe the soul, but there is one actual diagram that shows the soul as the thing that connects or integrates our body, mind and will.  I took that a step further and envisioned a geographically large European country that only has three major cities and no small towns.  The only connection between the cities is a high-speed train (Hunger Games style).  There are no roads and no navigable lakes or rivers in the country.  In one city, there is a renowned university, in another, a large stadium for sporting and cultural events and in the third the only church in the country.  Living in any of the individual cities is ok, but the only way to experience the country fully is to take the train.  The train system was financed and built by the government, but due to the complexity, maintenance is time-consuming and expensive.  Also, while the train is free to ride, citizens have to take the time to get on it to get to the other cities.   I think any of these analogies break down when you are trying to describe something as complex and elusive as the soul, but I think God is pleased when we think about it for more than a second.  I am interested to know what you think.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Soul Searching

Last week I challenged you to tell me about your soul.  Thanks to those of you who responded.  When I began thinking about this, I struggled with how is the soul different from the Holy Spirit.  Even though there is no way for me to fully understand God, I am taught that He is three in one: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt.  The Father is God, the creator.  Jesus is the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the part of God that takes up residence in me when I declare Jesus as forgiver of my sins and the Lord of my life.   So if the Holy Spirit is in me, is that kind of like my Soul?

The other thing that I wondered about is, “is the soul always good, or can the soul be bad?”  I have heard of “lost souls” and of “wretched souls”, so if those descriptions are true, then I assume the soul can be good or bad. 

These two things made me wonder if the soul might be a place inside me.  That place is where the Holy Spirit resides if I have accepted Jesus.  If you think of the place like a house where the Holy Spirit lives, then I don’t think that is big enough or rich enough to describe the Soul.  But if you think of the place more as a house with a family when a new baby is born, like a home, then you pick up the idea that the Soul is responsible for caring for and nurturing the baby (Holy Spirit).  By thinking of the Soul as a place, that also allows for the possibility that the place can be empty or filled with evil.  These are my thoughts.  As I am reading the book, the author’s ideas are quite different.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Soul Food

We have just begun a new season of our Connect Group through The Vine Church.  In case you aren’t aware, Connect Groups are small groups of people that meet weekly in one of the member’s homes.  Our group has 9 members and is led by my good friend, Dan Kniffen.  I have mentioned Dan in a couple of earlier posts and am very pleased he agreed to lead.  We are reading and discussing Soul Keeping by John Ortberg.  Our first assignment was to define what “Soul” means to us and to come up with three words that describe our soul.  I will report later but feel free to reply publicly or privately if you would like to participate.  Oh yeah, we eat dinner every week, too.  Soul food is welcome but not required.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Caroline and I just returned from a bicycle trip in the Loire Valley of France.  We stayed in three small towns with bicycle trips each day.  This was a once in a lifetime trip that I will remember forever.   Each day we had scheduled stops at points of interest.  One day we stopped at this beautiful cathedral.  The sunlight cascading through the stained glass window was amazing.  This church had been there for hundreds of years.  I can hardly imagine the care that was taken with the design and build of this one window, and there were over a hundred windows like this in this one church.  In our world of mobile phones that get discarded and replaced every 6 months, I was struck by the permanence of something this beautiful.  I want a little more of that in my life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Soul Keeping

We had the first meeting of our small group from church this week.  I am excited about what God has in store for us.  We will be meeting at our house, and my good friend Dan Kniffin, will be leading.   We will be reading Ortberg’s, Soul Keeping.  I just read the introduction and was pleased to see that much of the book will be based on discussions that Ortberg had with Dallas Willard before Willard died.  I mentioned Willard in some earlier posts when I was reading his book, The Divine Conspiracy.   Our first assignment in the small group is to define what the word “soul” means to us and to come up with three words describing our soul.  Please feel free to join in the learning along with us.  You can reply publicly or email tommiller@kw.com  privately.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

US Open

The 2014 US Open finished up this week with a couple of men with low name recognition in the singles final, and Serena winning her final easily, giving her the same number of grand slam wins as Martina Navratilova and Chris Everett.  13 years ago, Caroline and I took a trip to New York to attend the US Open.  We didn’t stick around for the finals, but we did get to see Sampras/Agassi in the quarter finals.  Quite memorable.  Had we stayed for the finals, we likely would have flown out on that Tuesday.  In case you haven’t been doing the math already, that would have been 9/11/2001.   We returned three days earlier.  During our week in New York, we considered going to the World Trade Center, but decided to wait until we could bring our children back.  We never suspected that would not be an option.   For all of the terror that we experienced watching from Atlanta, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have friends or family in the towers that day.  2980 people were killed that day – a horrific number.  The author of this article chose to focus on one – Gayle Greene.  I don’t remember seeing an HBO Special or feature length movie about Gayle Greene, but to the people who knew her personally, the story of her life is one that they will never forget.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Words Cut

Last week, I had a heated exchange with another real estate agent over an active sales situation.  She was trying to protect her client’s interests, and I was trying to protect mine.  At one point, I got very frustrated and sent a stinging email to her and copied our brokers.  That started a barrage of emails that went on for about 24 hours.  We were able to get the issue resolved, but I felt bad about my communications with her.  I elected to meet with her face to face so that I could apologize for the part I played in making the problem worse.  While I feel like great progress was made, I know that it is impossible to erase the feelings that were created in the earlier exchange.  I saw this article today which does a good job fleshing out the problem.  I hope you will read it and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

God Saved My Life

Last week, my post was about ISIS and the terror that group is bringing to the people in Iraq and Syria in the name of their religion.  At the end of my post, I prayed that our headlines would include stories of the good that people can do in the name of their religion.  The very next day, I saw “God Saved My Life”.   All of the major networks carried the story of Kent Brantly’s release from Emory Hospital after being cured of the Ebola virus disease.  Ken is a doctor who was working with Samaritan’s Purse in Africa, when he was called into action in Liberia where the virus has killed over 1300 people.  I know most of you saw the story, but most of the coverage only showed short sound bites of his 7 minute speech upon being released.  If you didn’t see the whole speech, I encourage you to watch it now.  I can’t imagine a better image of our God working in his people.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I have mentioned in earlier posts that I am no political animal, but you would have to be living in a cave not to at least notice the terror that is taking place in the middle east.  It makes me sick to my stomach that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is killing innocent men, women and children in the name of their religion.  Apparently, they are now calling themselves just the Islamic State (IS), with the obvious conviction that they are not just focused on Iraq and Syria anymore.  I also hate that their barbaric crimes are garnering all of the attention that they have intended for themselves.  I yearn to see stories of the good that Christians have been doing in those areas (CSIS-my acronym). My search at the internet came up mostly empty except for this article giving some background on Christians in the area.  It turns out there are several pretty will know Christians who spread the word in Damascus, the capital of Syria.  It seems they were known mostly by their first names.  Names like Peter, Paul and Jesus.  I guess I was looking for my stories in the wrong place.  I pray for the day that we will see their stories in the headlines, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Coming Home

Andy Stanley alluded to a Buzz-Feed post by Jessica Misener in one of his recent sermons.  He didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the post, but I find myself interested in things that are interesting to him.  I looked up the post and read the sad story of Jessica who got introduced to Jesus in high school, fell in love with him, and then decided to study the bible more by getting a graduate degree in religion.  Her inability to make everything in the bible make sense to her led her to disbelief in Jesus.    

There have been a few times when people have asked me why I believe in Jesus.  I remember trying to talk about experiences or feelings that I have had that I don’t think could have happened without Jesus.  I don’t think this is bad, but I don’t think it is best.  I believe in Jesus because I believe he died for my sins and rose from the dead as is accounted for by credible eye witnesses who were there, including his brother, James.  All of my experiences and feelings stem from that fact – not because of anything that I have done. 

Jessica continues in her post to talk about what she misses about being a Believer.  It is gut wrenching for me to read.  I pray that she and others like her will feel the peace and joy that only comes with knowing Him.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Back To School

I don’t have school age kids anymore, but I know its “back to school” time because I see the buses making their trial runs through the subdivision.  I wouldn’t think that most students love the idea of summer being over, but there is one group of Atlanta students that are in for their best year ever.  That would be Ms. Joyner’s class at Intown Community School.   They will have the opportunity to be fed mentally, socially and spiritually by one of the best teachers I know – my daughter, Lizzy.  I know this is true because I have read the things that otherstudents and parents have written about her for the last five years.  I also know this because I know her.  I love that Lizzy is full of life.  I love that she has run a half marathon, is a great slalom skier, jumped out of an airplane and rafted Section 5 or the Chatooga River with me. (Sitting near the guide so he could keep  her from falling out.  That worked almost every time.)  I love to see the way she loves and honors her husband Trey. I especially love the way she loves Jesus.   I see that in her all the time, but singing beside her in worship is one of my most precious moments.  I also love to see her taking opportunities to serve others.  That is her on the lower left with her friends serving meals at the soup kitchen.  Same smile as the one on the Chatooga.  Well done, my good and faithful daughter.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Ministers of the Silver Screen

You won’t see a lot of TV shows and movies focusing on ministers these days, and usually when you do, they are either terrible goody-goody caricatures or ridiculous portrayals of people who are using their pulpit power for selfish gain.  I saw this article today about the Good Ministers of the Silver Screen.  While I haven’t seen all of the shows/movies that are referenced, I agreed with them on the ones  that I have seen.  If you are interested, take a look, and let me know if you can think of other actor ministers that came out on the good side.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beautifully Slower

I look forward to funerals.  The loss of a friend or loved one is always sad, but to see that person honored by the people that loved him/her most is usually moving.  Last week, I attended the funeral of John Laseter, the dad of Jenni Claeys, one of our close friends.  I had never met John, but Caroline and I wanted to attend in support of Jenni and her family.  The funeral was my first full military funeral.  After singing Amazing Grace and hearing the testimony of several friends and family, there was a salute with rounds fired outside the sanctuary.  Following the salute, two marines made their way down the aisle to fold the flag that had been draped over the coffin during the service.  Each slow, measured step was accompanied by an equally precise arm movement.  My impatient nature would have normally responded, “just get down the aisle, already”, but I was able to suppress that feeling in the beauty and honor of the moment.  The ceremony continued as they reverently folded the flag into the familiar triangle. They worked together, with each marine checking the other’s folds, prior to presenting the flag to Jenni’s mom.   I feel like I learned something that day.  Faster is not always better.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Family on the Fourth

We had all of my immediate family at the lake for the Fourth of July and also had some extended family with us.  Caroline’s mom has passed away, but one of Caroline’s favorite aunts, Aunt Delma, and her husband, Dickie, were with us.   Aunt Delma has been just like a mom to Caroline and has always taken an interest in all of us.  Dickie has always been one of my favorites as well as a favorite great uncle to my kids.  I can still see them  piling into his pick-up truck to head off to McDonald’s for breakfast or an ice cream.  We also got to spend time with one of their grown kids, Steven who is married to Tanya, and their children, Rachel and Josh.  It was so much fun to see the kids behind the boat  doing some x-treme tubing, and a thrill to see Josh get up on water skis for the first time.   Most people associate the Fourth of July with fireworks, and we did have our share of those, but the Fourth means Family to me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Live More In Dependence on Him

The Fourth of July is all about independence.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who has ever fought for our country’s independence.  I had to register for the armed forces when I was in college, but never got any closer to serving than that.   Independence also means being able to take care of yourself.  There is a lot that is good about that.  I love knowing and being around people who take responsibility for the circumstances in their life.  To the contrary, one of the most unattractive character traits of people is people who blame everyone else for anything that might not be going their way.    I feel like we come full circle when it comes to our spiritual life though.  If we think we can take care of everything ourselves, without God’s love and guidance, we will quickly realize how wrong we are.   I want to live more in dependence on Him.  Happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


I have addressed the topic of rest in the past, but rest is something I continue to struggle with.  I saw this article today, and it made me stop and take notice again.   I know that it is healthy to rest, and I know that I should do it, but I seem to be constantly distracted by all the world has to offer – good things.  Good things like family, work and recreation.  And some not so good things, mainly television.  I have tried in the past to establish a day off, once per week, where I have nothing scheduled and no electronics on.  No phone, no computer, no TV.  Reading, resting and exercising are all ok.   The full day off went to a half day off.  Then the half day off went to a 6am to 9am early morning off.  I don’t always even get that in.  But no matter what small effort I make, I find that my efforts are rewarded.   For me it is painful to start – and blissful to finish.  God is faithful, and he loves it when we pay attention to Him.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Party likes its 1983

June is a big month for us with my birthday, Father’s Day and our Wedding Anniversary all in the same week.  I just wanted to tell all of you how blessed I am to have been married to Caroline for 31 years.  I love this photo of her with my mom and our two grandchildren, Evan and Levi.  The grandkids would obviously not have been possible without her, and they have brought so much joy to our lives.  My mom lives next door to us, and Caroline has always treated her just like her own mom.   And if all that wasn’t enough, Caroline finds a way to take care of me, love me and make my life worth living.  Happy Anniversary Caroline!  I love you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Memorial to My Day

My Dad passed away 11 years ago.  I am sad for his death, but happy for his life.  This is what I got to say at his funeral:

One of my first memories of my dad was when he took me to try out for a stage production of the Music Man at the Springer Theatre in Columbus.  He was cast as Ali Hakim and I as Winthrop, the 10-year old with a lisp.  I had no idea at the time how that day would shape my life by initiating my love for the performing arts.  One of my favorite photographs is of me and my dad after our last performance.  I remember the pride of standing there with him after the show greeting family and friends who had seen the performance. 

My father wanted to be with me.

In the play I was supposed to play the trumpet.  I remember the anticipation of getting the instrument that would serve as my prop for the play, just as the character, Winthrop, anticipated the arrival of the Wells Fargo Wagon in River City.  It was then that I decided I would really learn to play the trumpet when I got into the sixth grade and it was in sixth grade that I made eyes at the flute player, sitting across the band room, who 10 years later became my wife.  I remember the joy I felt standing at the front of St. Paul Methodist Church, as the doors opened and Rick McKnight began playing the most triumphant version of the Wedding march that you have ever heard as Caroline walked the aisle. Dad was my best man.

My father wanted to be with me.

Shortly thereafter, very shortly thereafter, I remember the joy of seeing Dad holding our newborn Michael in his arms and three years later, Elizabeth. 

My father wanted to be with me.

Another place I remember Dad taking me when I was young was to First Presbyterian Church.  I don’t want to paint a picture of the whole family sitting together listening attentively and singing joyfully.  I’m sure Mom and Dad were, but I was in the balcony throwing paper airplanes over the rail.  I don’t remember it being a particularly spiritual experience.  However, while at First Pres., I became close to the youth pastor, Eli Whiddon, who took us every year to Camp Kolomoki in South Georgia for a week each summer.  It was on one of those trips that I accepted Jesus as my lord and savior.  I was far from being an angel, but at that moment, I was a child of God.

6 years ago, my son, Michael found a new church for our family, and Caroline and I had the opportunity to bring music back into our lives.  All of us became involved in the church orchestra and two years ago, I was responsible for a patriotic music program that required quite a bit of planning.  I remember keeping Mom and Dad posted on the plans hoping that they would make the trip down and feeling disappointed that they hadn’t committed to being there.  10 minutes before the performance began, Caroline called me to the lobby of the sanctuary as I was trying to make last minute preparations and there stood Mom and Dad.  They had worked with Caroline to surprise me. 

My father wanted to be with me.

Another memory I have of my dad was something he said every day to my Mom.  Before he would leave for work, he would say “Pat, is there anything I can do for you today?”  I never remember her having anything for him,  - and I remember being surprised that he continued to ask her the question even though she never had anything for him to do.  She had already taken care of everything.  However, his example of putting her first created a model for my marriage which I strive for, but fall short of every day.  But despite my failure, I am able to say that I know I will love Caroline forever.

Over the past six weeks, Dad and I talked about things that we had never talked about before.  We held hands for hours at a time.  The love that I felt pouring from him was most certainly a gift from God.  I can still see the look of excitement on his face as we arrived to spend time with him. 

My father wanted to be with me.

Last Tuesday, I was with a group of friends, and I shared with them the experience that I had been through with Dad.  One of the guys approached me after the meeting and told me how much he appreciated what I had said, and told me that it had encouraged him to start a conversation with a loved one that he had been putting off.  I asked if it was his Mom or his Dad, and he told me, “Its not my mom or dad, it’s my wife”.  It was then that I understood more fully the power of the holy spirit that is within each person who knows Christ as the Son of God.

My father wants to be with me, and I with him.

I hope you  all have an amazing Father’s Day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ramsey Under Fire

I have not met Dave Ramsey, but I did get to hear him speak at one of our Keller Williams conventions, and I am familiar with the work he has done with Financial Peace University.  I know multiple families who say that FPU put them on the right track to getting their financial house in order.  I think he is a “straight to the point” kind of guy, and I don’t think he puts up with a lot of foolishness from the people who work for  him.  Recently, he made the news for shutting down the twitter accounts of some disgruntled ex-employees.  I am disturbed by how much energy some people will use trying to take someone else down.  I imagine if they had put as much energy into their work, they probably wouldn’t be ex-employees.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer Camp

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For two of the summers while I was in college, I was a camp counselor at two different summer camps.  The first year, I went to Camp Cherokee on Lake Burton.   This was a small, rustic camp with about 50 campers per session.  Most of my campers had a lot more experience camping than I did.  I distinctly remember them introducing me to the Indian Turnip.  This turnip is the root of a small plant and the campers encouraged me to try it, telling me it was “a little hot”.  I now find this description online:  The Indian turnip (Arisaema triphyllum), also known Jack-in-the-pulpit, contains toxic substances called raphides that cause the tongue and mouth to swell and can be fatal. The campers laughed for hours as I rinsed my mouth in the water from Lake Burton.  My second summer, I went to Camp Sea Gull on the North Carolina coast.  I describe this camp as a country club for teenagers, and there were over 1000 campers per session.  It included golf, tennis and sailing as its activities, as opposed to eating Indian Turnips.  Both camps offered great experiences and both were also focused on the spiritual development of the campers.  

After, college I worked for several technology companies.  One year, I had 4 W-2’s after two companies that I worked for were bought up by larger companies.  It wasn’t terrible, but I felt like I was always starting over.  In 2002, I took a week off to slow down and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  One of the ideas that I had was to start a Christian camp on Lake Hartwell.   I set up several meetings with existing camp directors in the area to get advice and spent some time exploring properties that might be available.  I was disappointed that the advice from the directors was to move very slowly.  They told me about all of the struggles associated with setting up a new camp and encouraged me to become involved in an existing camp instead of starting a new one.  So while that dream remained unrealized, another one emerged.  In looking for a piece of land for a camp, I discovered that the property search was what set me on fire.  And that realization is one of the major factors that encouraged me to change careers to real estate in 2003.

Over the past two years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of the people at Pine Cove Camps in Texas.  Their camps draw campers from all over the country, and their purpose of transforming the lives of people for God’s mission and glory ensures that they are doing much more than just providing a fun week away from home.  Since I have met them, I continue to run into campers and counselors who have been transformed by their experiences at Pine Cove.

I know many of you have your own camp experiences at these camps or others, and I would love to hear about them.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Good Read

I am looking forward to having my family together this weekend for Memorial Day.  We are going to Phantom of the Opera in Greenville tonight and will certainly be enjoying the lake at the dock and on the boat through the holiday.  I have two grandchildren by Michael, Evan and Levi.  Evan is three and loves the lake. Evan also loves books.  I am so proud of Michael and Emily for showing him that books can be fun.  More importantly, I know Evan loves the individual attention he gets while it is just one of us reading to him.  I saw this article which reinforces how important this is and also give some tips for encouraging kids to love reading.  I hope you have someone fun to read with.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Through the storm

Last night, I was at the lake by myself.  Around 11pm, I started to hear some thunder rumbling and see some flashes of lightning outside.  The heavy rain and wind followed soon afterwards.  I don’t consider myself scared of storms, but the power of the storm was ominous.  The storm seemed to parallel my week at work.  I have several sensitive client situations which are requiring a higher level of attention than most.  It is not uncommon that I am working to manage competing interests.  Emotions can run high, and I think one of the most important things I can do is to be steady and help to calm the fears of my clients.  Sometimes, I am better at this than others.    As Casting Crowns lead singer, Rob Hall, reminds me, I want to do a better job recognizing that while sometimes God calms the storm, other times he just rides it out with us.  Either way, praise Him.  If you have 5 minutes, take a listen

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Red Day

Today, Keller Williams is celebrating Red Day.  Red Day is the day that our company sets aside for our agents to give back to our communities.  I will be heading to Hartwell to work on a Habitat for Humanity home, and our Braselton office is collecting food to make sure that school age kids that depend on their schools for food during the week also have food at home on the weekends.  Keller Williams is now the largest real estate company in North America with over 100,000 agents.  I am proud that we can come together today to give back to the communities that we depend on for our own livelihoods, and I pray that we will do a better job taking the servant attitude into the other 364 days of the year.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Run For Your Life

This week in my SpotOnTheLake post, I talked about honoring our good friend, Cheryl Kniffen, who died of cancer this year.  (Earlier posts below on 3/14 and 3/19)  I am running a 10k at Lake Hartwell on Saturday and will be honoring Cheryl’s life with a contribution to Relay for Life, which is an organization that she was passionate about.  Cheryl was an avid outdoors person.  She loved to walk, run, hike and play tennis.  She lived life to the fullest, and it was all for the glory of God.  Even towards the end of her life, when she was in great pain and confined to a wheel chair, she was running the race – and winning.

From prison, under the threat of death by Nero, Paul wrote these words to Timothy who was his partner in ministry.  “You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause! Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming.” (2 Timothy: 6-8, The Message)

My dad also died of cancer. Several years ago.  He was full of life, too.   While he never met Cheryl, he would have loved her.  During my quiet time this morning, I saw this overwhelming image of Dad and Cheryl together shouting, applauding and encouraging me to finish the race.

Friday, April 25, 2014


After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.  The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. 

Matthew 28 - The Message

Thursday, April 17, 2014


The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said. “Bravo!” Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.  Along the way they came on a man from Cyrene named Simon and made him carry Jesus’ cross. Arriving at Golgotha, the place they call “Skull Hill,” they offered him a mild painkiller (a mixture of wine and myrrh), but when he tasted it he wouldn’t drink it.  After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes. Above his head they had posted the criminal charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews. Along with him, they also crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!” The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—he can’t save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then! He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him! He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?” Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.  From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”  But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.  At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)  The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!” 
Matthew 27 – The Message
Nothing more seems that important this week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The amazing stretching machine

My son, Michael, spun this young boy around so fast that he grew by 17 inches during the three hour process.  

A couple of weeks ago, Michael and a group of college students went to Nicaragua during Spring Break on a mission trip sponsored by his church.  This is Michael’s third trip there, and this year he went as a co-leader.   I  have not been on a mission trip out of the country, but I have had a few trips to areas in need in the southeast US.  Michael’s trip activities include construction projects, visits to nursing homes and helping to serve whatever needs the local organization has.  As you can see from the photo, Michael seems to love the kids in that country.  When he comes home to tell me about his memorable moments of the trip, just playing with the kids is always on the top of his list. 

 I am so proud of him for his passion to serve others and especially for his love of kids.  I am blessed that he is my son and my business partner. 

Oh, that is actually two young boys in the photo.  They survived the amazing spinning machine unscathed (as far as I know).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Obedience and a Promise

There has been a lot of chatter over the last week about the movie, Noah.  Of course, there are as many opinions as there are people who care to write them.  Some say the movie does not follow the biblical account.  Others complain that the word “God” is never mentioned.  There are also plenty of people who have liked the movie and feel that it makes us consider the depravity of man and our unworthiness to be a part of God’s kingdom here on Earth.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I would like to.  All of the discussion, made me want to reread the story of Noah in Genesis 6-9.  Two things stood out to me.  The first is the amazing obedience of Noah.  There had to be moments that Noah questioned God’s sanity as God announced that he would send a flood to destroy all living creatures except for those that ended up on a boat that is bigger than a football field – a boat that Noah would build with his own hands.  But any doubts that Noah had were overwhelmed by his complete obedience to follow God.  After the flood, God rewarded Noah, and all of us, with a promise - the promise never to send another flood to destroy the earth.  And God sealed the promise with a sign.   The sign is one of God’s most beautiful works of art – the rainbow.  Every time we see it, we should be reminded of God’s promise.  Not a promise of no more floods, other natural disasters  or personal strife, but a promise that his love for us will never stop.  And in response to that, we should do everything in our power to be obedient to him.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Can we talk?

Several years ago, my daughter Lizzy was thriving in her first job teaching at a metro-Atlanta private Christian school.  She and her husband were feeling the need to be closer to her husband’s work downtown, and she began looking for a new job.  She was fortunate that there were two schools that wanted her to teach with them.  Caroline and I were in Virginia visiting my mom, and we got a call late one night from Lizzy.  She said, “I don’t know what to do.  Can you talk?”  As a parent, I don’t think there could be a more intimate question.   We listened to her struggle.   She told us how she had prayed for direction, but didn’t feel that God was giving her an answer.  We all cried – a lot.  We tried to assure her. 

God is all powerful, but there is one thing he will not do.  He will not make us love him.  Revelation 3:20 says “Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me. “  After we let him in, what he wants us to say to Him is, “I don’t know what to do.  Can we talk?” 

If you have four more minutes, turn everything else off and listen to this song.  If you have four more hours, turn everything off and listen for God. 

As happens frequently, Andy Stanley inspired my personal thoughts.  This time, it was his message on Intimacy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fear Not

I don’t feel like I am consumed by fear, but I do think I fear things every day.  I fear rejection from clients and friends.  I fear downturns in business.  I fear bad health and getting old.  In Matthew 10, Jesus is preparing his disciples for what they can expect to face as they attempt to follow him.  He didn’t warn them about bad health or aging. Among other things, he told them to expect to be flogged.  I had a general idea of what flogging was, but just to make sure, I did a quick internet search, and here is what I came up with:  “to torture with a whip of broken glass and with a metal ball with two metal hooks at its end.”  That has to be one of the most gruesome descriptions of pain that I have ever heard, and do you know what Jesus told his disciples after he told them to expect to be flogged.  “Fear not”  Are you serious?  

I hadn’t read that passage in a while, but a friend reminded me of it last week.  She had meditated on it in her quiet time and recorded it in her journal.  She shared it with me through her husband and her pastor, who read it at her funeral last week.  You see, cancer had crippled her body, but her soul was fully alive and fully aware of the fullness of God.  And she let us know it every day by the way she treated us.  So she didn’t just write the words “fear not” in her journal - she lived them.  Thank you, Cheryl, for showing me Jesus through your life. (See last week’s post for more about Cheryl.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Celebrating A Life

I have let you all know in past posts that Cheryl and Dan Kniffen are two of my favorite people.  Cheryl is one of Caroline’s best friends and has been living with cancer for the past 14 years.  Last week, Cheryl passed away and is now in the arms of our Savior.    On Wednesday, we were privileged to attend a memorial service which celebrated her life.  Two close friends spoke beautifully about their time with Cheryl, and I was completely amazed by Cheryl’s 19 year old daughter who spoke with such composure about her mom and all that her mom had meant to her  Our minister reminded us that Cheryl did not lose her battle with Cancer.  She won the battle every day with her unshakable faith and her abounding joy under the toughest of circumstances.  I can’t wait to see her again – fully restored.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Out for a walk

Our small group at The Vine Church is going through a video series by Andy Stanley on marriage.  This week Andy pulled out a prop to help make  his point.  The prop was supposed to be a leash, but it was actually a rope.  (I did not see a noose on the end.)  He was talking about expectations that spouses place on each other and how we need to release those – to let go of the leash completely.   He then explained that God has placed the ominous responsibility on each of us to be the face of Christ to our spouse.  This generated some spirited conversation at Muskogee Lane last night, but I am looking forward to a fun side trip to Montgomery, AL (it ain’t sexy)  for a couple of days, where I intend to do my best Jesus impression.  Good luck, right????

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not just any big hole

I hesitate to admit that one of my favorite movies from the 80’s is National Lampoon’s Vacation.   Clark Griswold takes his family across the country to Wally World with one of the stops being the Grand Canyon.  They have run into several roadblocks along the way, including running out of money, so after taking cash from the cash drawer at the Inn at the canyon, they have only a fleeting moment to take in the magnificent view.  Click here for a trip down memory lane (in Japanese, I think).  Caroline and I often joke about this when we are flying from place to place on vacation and not taking enough time to soak in all that a location has to offer.  I tell you all this because last week, we had our first visit to the Grand Canyon.  We had several hours to view the canyon from different vantage points along the south rim and stayed through sunset to watch the canyon change colors.  I know we all over use the word awesome, but I can’t really think of a better word.  No matter how many pictures you have seen, there is no way to know the full beauty without standing in front of it.  I love knowing the God that created a world that can still surprise me.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shared Room

I blogged about the Keller Williams Annual Meeting at SpotOnTheLake  this week.  We were in Phoenix, and my son and business partner, Michael, and I shared a room together.   This was great for me.  Besides just spending time with him, I got to listen to him make some calls to clients back at Lake Hartwell.  The two hour time difference helped out allowing him to make calls early Phoenix time – not so early Lake Hartwell time.  After a call, we would talk about things that he could have said or asked that might have been better.  On one of his calls, he was making very good progress and then his tone changed significantly.  I could tell from his side of the conversation that the client was scheduled for some surgery.  I don’t know the nature of the surgery, but it sounded serious.  The empathy that I heard in his voice made me tear up.  I was so proud of him.   From that point on, the business progress stalled, but the Kingdom was advanced.  Michael, thanks for handling that call perfectly.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On the rocks

For the second time in the last two weeks, Atlanta is getting hit with some crazy winter ice.  The city was very deliberate about keeping people off the streets after the huge traffic fiasco last time.  I have quite a bit of work to do at Lake Hartwell as I am going to be out of town next week for our Keller Williams annual meeting.  Having the day today in the house and not being able to leave, has been sort of refreshing.  I have gotten caught up on my emails and kept a few things moving, but it has been very nice to be forced into a more relaxed mood.  I want to allow myself to do this more – without the ice.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Great Scott!

I am very much looking forward to the Winter Olympics.  Besides the thrill of the competition, I am a real sucker for all of the human interest stories that the networks come up with.  My biggest concern is being consumed by all of the coverage and not wanting to miss anything.  Scott Hamilton is always a fixture around the ice skating venue.   I remember him as the funny little guy who was full of energy and would always throw in a back flip when the rules allowed – and sometimes when they didn’t.  I knew that he had struggled with cancer, but didn’t know his full story until I found this video.  This video is 10 minutes and starts kind of slow, but hang with it if you have time.  You may look at him differently when you see him on TV over the next couple of weeks.   I would love to see or hear your favorite Olympic stories.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Walking Tall

I mentioned in my SpotOnTheLake post this week that my daughter, Lizzy,  had gotten stuck in the Tuesday traffic jam.    After 8 hours in the car,  she made the agonizing decision to leave her car and walk the remaining 6 miles home.  Lizzy didn’t have good walking shoes or warm clothing so her husband, Trey, packed a backpack and started walking to meet her.  As I listened to the plan, I couldn’t help but remember the time that Trey called me and asked to meet me for breakfast.  This was several years ago before they were married, and he had never invited me on a date before, so I thought I knew what was up.  He asked if it was ok for him to marry Lizzy.  I specifically remember asking if he was going to love her and take care of her, no matter what, and he said “yes sir”.  I wish I could have seen the look on Lizzy’s face as she ran to meet Trey Tuesday night.  Thanks, Trey, for keeping your word.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Searching for the spirit

Last week’s post generated some spirited discussion amongst my family.  You can see the full original post below, but to summarize, I was recapping Dallas Willard’s interpretation of the beatitude, “blessed are the poor in spirit”.  His interpretation was that Jesus was preaching TO the poor in spirit, and not that we should BE poor in spirit.   Several people disagreed and had some excellent supporting opinions from people like Billy Graham.   Most of our email conversations this week centered around what this “spirit” actually is.  Their interpretation is that it is not until we recognize our own complete bankruptcy (poor in spirit), that we can learn to ask for and seek Jesus’ spirit in us.  And this condition is one that we should continue to try to foster.  Many of the authors cited compared this to humility, which is something I struggle with daily.  Amen.  I agree 100%.  

It is a statement of Jesus’ greatness that he can speak words that can help different people in different ways and even the same person in different ways depending on that person’s life circumstances.  I have a go-to guy that I depend on quite bit when I am seeking to understand tough issues.  He has written several posts that have become popular with some and brutalized by others.  Actually, as a well-educated younger man, he spoke and wrote against Jesus and his teachings - until he met Him.  I found one post where he is talking about being led by the Spirit, as if you were walking side by side with him, talking with him and learning from him.  That is beautiful to me.  In another post he talks about the Spirit being inside of me, growing inside and replacing me with Him.  I love that, too.  Thanks Paul.   I believe Jesus was pleased  this week as we sought to understand Him more fully.  Help me to live like this more.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blessed are the poor...

I mentioned Dallas Willard and his book The Divine Conspiracy in an earlier post.  I decided to read it again.  The book covers a range of topics, but this morning I was reading about his take on the beatitudes.  (This is the section of the bible where Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit…)  I say “his take” because he spends a good bit of time talking about how other people have interpreted the beatitudes, including different translations of the bible.  He mentions that some people have used this passage as the reason they have decided not to be a Christian.  Who wants to be poor and weak?  Willard points out that when Jesus delivered this message, he was in the midst of teaching and healing the poor and the weak, and those are the people he was speaking to.  He was not instructing people to be poor and weak in order to be blessed, He was speaking to the current availability of the kingdom of God through a personal relationship with Jesus, and that certainly includes the poor and the weak.  He wanted them (and us) to know that everything that was available to the religious elite of that time was available to them, too.  Willard isn’t finished yet.  He is about to take apart each of the beatitudes one by one.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dallas Willard

I was introduced to the author, Dallas Willard, a couple of years ago by a minister from the pulpit who characterized him as a “current-day CS Lewis”.    CS Lewis has done more to encourage and strengthen my faith that any other author, so my ears perked up when I heard that.  I ordered a copy of Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy and found it extremely interesting and also very challenging.  Challenging, both in my ability to understand it, and my ability to do and be the parts that I did understand.   The reading was very weighty for me and also very important.  Dallas Willard died in 2013, and I just found this article written by a minister who knew him and served with him.  This makes my want to know Mr. Willard more.  Let me know if anyone would like to pick a book and read along with me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

I don’t got to the movies much, so when I do, it is a real occasion for me. Last night, I went to see Saving Mr. Banks with my wife and my mom. My dad has passed away, but yesterday would have been my mom and dad’s 60th anniversary. My mom goes to the movies less than I do, but Saving Mr. Banks caught her eye. In case you aren’t aware, the movie is about the author of the Mary Poppins book, P.L. Travers, being wooed by Walt Disney to turn her book into a movie. Mrs. Travers was quite opinionated about the terms on which they would proceed and on the content of the Mary Poppins movie and most of the movie is about that process. I don’t think I am throwing a spoiler out by saying that the movie DOES get made with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, so that is no surprise. But the emotional progression of Mrs. Travers through the movie and the exceptional characterization of Walt Disney by Tom Hanks were both inspiring. All three of us were moved by the story, and I think the theme of forgiveness is something that we should all hear regularly. Take a peak and let me know what you think.