Month: November 2013

Faith Grows in the Winter

A friend handed me a comic. The picture included a biblical character tip toeing across a sheet of ice. As I came to the caption, I saw the words, “Peter’s faith grows in the winter.” Those words alluded to the Apostle Peter walking across the water, but I could not help to hear those words for myself.


Over the past weekend, the snow started falling across Upstate New York. Meaning this area will experience a white Christmas and Thanksgiving. Autumn portrays beautiful colors of red, orange, and yellow across the landscape. Yet, within a short few weeks the ground freezes over with a coat of white and no visible sight of leaves.

Faith growing in the winter rarely looks like a tentative walk across the ice. Most often, this growth takes place in the midst of storms and the cold. The winter seasons of our lives may include pain, disappointment, and disillusionment. Seemingly though, the mature saints you meet will point to these seasons as ones where God grew their faith.

Charles Spurgeon comments on 2 Corinthians 12:9, “Strong faith does not drop from heaven in a gentle dew; generally it comes in the whirlwind of the storm.” Why? At least in my life, it seems that God has to bring me back to a sense of dependence on His work and presence in my life. The winter reminds us to trust in the One who can bring the spring. He shapes and forms our live even in the freezing and the cold.

Have you faced a winter season? How did your faith grow?


The Stories Make Sense – A Month of Marriage

Prior to the wedding, I received countless advice about marriage. Unsolicited and unexpected suggestions came from family, friends, and even strangers. Our life altering events seem to invite people to share wisdom from their stories1300094_10119213

It’s only been a month, but I have not forgotten the stories. I now have a context for the stories, advice, and wisdom people shared. Marriage acts as a sanctifying process which God joins two people together to become more like Him. My wife has taught me so much about sacrificing and serving. Both of us will continue the lifelong process of communicating with each other.

You can prep for the major changes in your life by listening to the best pieces of advice from others; I would encourage you to do so. Yet, the stories usually don’t make sense until you live in the moment. Remembering becomes so vital to our lives. Often, people share the best wisdom before we can ever put it into practice.

I used to nod my head in conversations with the thought, “I have this down.” Now, I find myself stopping to think, “Will I need this down the road?”

The stories we hear today will likely make more sense down the road.

What’s one piece of advice that makes more sense now than when you first received it?

Keys to Great Listening

What makes someone a great listener? As you answer this question, you can most likely picture someone who allows you to feel heard. You can share anything with them without the fear of misinterpretation or constant interruption.



The skill of listening has not come easy for me. I have has to constantly cover my mouth and not speak before someone has finished their thought. But listening involves far more than remaining silent. In my journey to become a better listener, here are a few keys that have helped me:

1. Consider it an honor when people invite you to listen to them.

Our motive for listening lies in adding value to people. When you extend an opportunity to listen, you have given a person space to share. Every time you allow someone to feel heard, then you have started to build trust.

2. Put the distractions away and fully engage.

My mind tends to race all over the place. Many times our opportunities to listen come when we least expect. You might call that interruptions. The ability to remove your hands from the keyboard, putting down the phone, or simply looking up communicates a powerful message to people.

3. Better to have long pauses then frantic exchanges.

I find myself preparing my response even before a person has finished talking. So many times when people talk, it takes them time to re-gather their thoughts. Pockets of silence provide a pause to process.

4. The best listeners ask powerful questions rather than giving advice.

When I consider the people who have made the most difference in my life, they rarely gave advice. Their questions got directly to the heart of my issue. Experienced listeners desire for others to arrive at their own conclusions. We never want to rob a person of their opportunity to grow.

What are other attributes of a great listener?

It’s another Monday morning. If you did not know, then simply check twitter and Facebook for what people think of this day.

657071_17831330One week from this Monday, we will begin the celebration of Thanksgiving. Our lives need this season, because our attitudes are prone to cynicism, comparison, and complaining. Taking the time for gratitude creates wonder in our lives.

As we start this season, the words of Ravi Zacharias in Recapture the Wonder helps us orient our hearts to this season, especially on a Monday:

Wonder is best experienced within the context of gratitude. The extent of one’s possessions does not change the quality of one’s state of mind; it only multiplies the options for expressing that state of mind and heart. That is why gratitude is not realized by making comparison with others but is expressed in the context of each situation. It is not whether things could be better or worse but that  the heart celebrates the privilege of knowing the Giver who will withhold no good thing from them who love Him. (pg. 94)

Finding the Key to a Person

Rev. Ron Piedmonte ministered in my hometown of Binghamton, NY for over 30 years. He excelled at presence. If you asked the people he pastored, most of their meaningful memories related to his visits to the hospital, thoughtful phone calls, and remembering their names in congregation over a thousand people.

1187433_43519107I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with him. Pastor Piedmonte shared his wisdom through stories. One of his most meaningful stories he told had to do with a disagreeable board member. This person seemingly shot down most of his proposals, ideas, and decisions.

Right before a meeting Piedmonte called this man into his office. The conversation started like this, “I just wanted to let you know what we are going to talk about tonight…” From that moment, the board member immediately supported him. Pastor Piedmonte would always end the story by saying, “You need to learn the key to every person.”

How often do we make assumptions about what matters to people? Many times people have simple things that mean so much to them. It may look something like this:

Taking care of a task without being asked.

Valuing other’s time by showing up early.

Writing personal notes, sending texts or emails.

Verbally affirming a person when they succeed. 

Listening as opposed to giving advice.

Letting a person have silence to recharge.

The difficulty comes in trying to learn the simple key for each person. Yet, these small acts can make all the difference. Actions like these communicate the care of actually getting to know a person.

What are some other simple “keys” for people?

5 People I Would like to Meet for Coffee

For many of us, the coffee shop has become another office. We send our emails, type reports, and brainstorm for ideas. If you saw my calendar, you would notice the number of meetings I have with people over coffee.


Thinking through all the meetings I have over coffee, a questions emerged; Who are five people I would like to meet for coffee? The criteria: a living person who I have never met before. Here are my five:

1. Malcolm Gladwell 

Gladwell is an author for the New Yorker. His books Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers have remained on the bestseller list. His keen observations and insights on any topic could carry a conversation. Looking forward to his new book David and Goliath.

2. Tim Tebow

As Jets’ fan, I would like to apologize. Yet on another a token, it would be fascinating to hear his story. This morning the news broke that he would consider becoming a broadcaster. He has run through a few detours in pursuing his NFL career. What would he recommend when a dream dies?

3. Eugene Peterson

The author of the Message has more to offer than this paraphrase. His work on spiritual formation and pastoral ministry have shaped my life. I would love to hear the stories behind writings.

4. Brene Brown

This past summer, I had the opportunity to listen to her talk on her book Daring GreatlyShe has studied shame and vulnerability. You can get a glimpse of her work by watching her TED Talk.

5. Gordon Fee

This man is one of the foremost scholars, especially on Paul’s Epistles and the Holy Spirit. His work has inspired my life in pursuing theology. To learn more about him you can go to

So, who are your five people you would like to meet for coffee?

The Christ-Centered Life

Looking back through our journals can act as a spiritual retracing of steps. The content of our lives found in entries and prayers reveal what we believe about Christ. Written in our own hand lies the worries, ambitions, plans, requests, angst, rejoicing and gratitude.


The idea of being “Christ-centered” is nothing new, but it can seem in Christianity today that term gets tossed around. What does it really mean in the year 2013? Even more so how do we apply it to our lives?

As I sorted through my journal, I saw the content of my prayers. This movement began to emerge:

“God look at what I have done.” – These prayers focused on my ability of productivity. I saw the activity of Christ on account of what I could get done.

“God look at we have done.” – Realizing that I could not make things happen in my own strength, I began to pray with the idea that Christ and I worked equally together. I have my responsibilities and does the radical to accomplish my plans.

“God look at what you have done.” – After watching my plans and abilities fall short, I could then see how Christ was molding and shaping me to follow Him. The other two movements focused on my abilities. All of us are in the steady process of entrusting our lives to our Savior.

Placing Christ in the center of lives changes the content of our prayers. We move from placing the focus on our own actions, failures, and successes, to see our lives through the Gospel. Most often, He is far more present and at work in our lives that we could ever realize.


You can learn a great deal from a person by the questions they ask. People’s inquiries can allow others to deduce their intent or motivation. Photo Oct 22, 10 48 39 AM

The narrative of Mark 10:35-45 exemplifies the intent behind the question. James and John corner Jesus with this question, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Can you imagine this scene? Christ has just predicted his death, only to have these two brothers corner him with this audacious question. You can feel the other disciples cringe. Perhaps, because they did not think of the question first.

At first glance, this question sounds so out of place. Then again have we taken the time to listen to our requests of Jesus? Our deep seeded ambitions for fame, influence, recognition, and accomplishment may not sound as far from the inquiry of James and John.

James Edwards in his commentary, The Gospel According to Mark, responds to this passage by saying, “The Kingdom of God topples our cherished priorities and demands of disciples new ones.”  

The Gospel moves from self-centered ambition to redeemed ambition. God’s grace takes from building our own sand castles to entering the work of His eternal kingdom. Jesus exemplified an ambition which sought to serve others rather than to have power over them (Mark 10:45).

As we reflect on our own ambitions, have we listened to the questions we are asking of Christ? Do they imitate Him by serving others and glorifying God?

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