Last year, when I was preparing to hit my “sign up for Medicare” birthday, my wife and I spent several months meeting with our financial planner for a very thorough financial review.  Those meetings included an analysis of our retirement accounts, our current financial situation, our goals for the future, and testing all kinds of scenarios and variables to be able to project what the next 20-30 years might look like.  This year, we met with our long-time friend, an estate attorney, to thoroughly review and update our will, medical decision-making documents and much more.  The last two weeks, we met with our funeral-director friend to make all of our end-of-life plans and to get everything prepaid to make things much easier for our children when it’s our time to change our addresses from our earthly home to our heavenly home.  On top of it, this morning, I attended a long-time pastor friend’s memorial service.  He was two years younger than me. 

All of the above has me thinking about inheritance and legacy. Are they the same?  Are they different?  Which one is more important? And then, just this week, I got a very timely short video from Sam Chand on this topic.  Chand says, “We tend to equate inheritance with legacy. The truth is that the two are very different. Inheritance is WHAT you will leave behind; legacy is WHO you will leave behind. It’s important to plan for both.” 

Have I planned for both inheritance and legacy?  Which one will I leave behind?  Over the last 18 months, I’ve been planning primarily for inheritance.  We’ve made sure all of our “stuff” will be appropriately handled and disbursed. Our children will have no difficult decisions to make when we leave this world.  We have made the decisions so they won’t have to be burdened with them. The WHAT is taken care of.  

Our 8-yr old granddaughter expressing spontaneous praise on the Oregon Coast.

For the last several decades, we’ve been planning for legacy. We birthed and raised three children to adulthood who now have spouses and children of their own.  We founded a church which has changed the eternal destinations of thousands and redirected and transformed multiple generations for hundreds of families.  We designed, developed and executed a successful succession plan that has strategically placed top-shelf leaders in a place that will take this transformissional movement to increasing levels of impact and fruitfulness.  The WHO is handled.

It’s a great feeling to be at a juncture of life where I can look forward to the years ahead without any unfinished business.  Both the what and the who is planned for.  Both inheritance and legacy are solid.  For certain, I wish for a few more decades to enjoy my fruit growing on the trees of others.  But if something happened suddenly to me tomorrow, it’s all good!  

Now, how about you? Are you planning or already prepared for both inheritance and legacy?  It’s never really too early to plan and prepare.  In fact, legacy is best started when you are at the front end of life.  The sooner the better.  Who are you investing in?  Who or what kind of people do you want to leave behind?  In your family?  In your work world?  Through your faith influence?

Don’t forget this.  Inheritance will go away.  The house, the cars, the business, the retirement accounts, will all depreciate, deplete or decay.  Legacy will last.  The impact of the people you have left behind will have an ever-increasing ripple effect.  Generations to come will be strengthened and fortified because you have invested yourself in the people God has entrusted to your influence.  Are you being intentional about both the what and the who?  If not, then why not start today?

QUESTION:  What additional thoughts has this conversation sparked in you? I’d love to hear what is on your mind right now.

This week marks 40 years of serving in the role of a leader.  I became a pastor of a small church in Elmira, NY in August 1979.   I then moved to Cape Coral, FL in 1986 to start a church. 33 years later, I’ve remained in SW Florida, still serving on the staff of that church. While, I had spent 7 years in college and seminary preparing for my role as a leader, I had only a slight understanding of what I was in for.

From four decades of experience, here are four leadership lessons. 

1 – God will use anyone. God doesn’t use just superstars.  Mostly, he uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. I’m a pretty average guy.  Grew up on an Oregon grass-seed farm. Was average in sports.  Got mostly A and B grades with a couple C’s thrown in. Liz Bohannon, a speaker at the 2019 Global Leadership Summit, pretty much described my life when she said, “Most everyone is average, but you can live an above average life by consistent focus on the little things.”  By most measurements of church leadership, I’ve experienced an above average life the past four decades.  But then, God is a master at using shepherd boys as extraordinary kings, terrorists as radical apostles, and fishermen as church movement leaders.

2 – God can do more than you can imagine.  One of my favorite prayers in the Bible ends with this powerful line… Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.(See Ephesians 3:14-21).  As a young 25 year-old pastor, I never imagined being a pastor in a church that is now averaging 3,000 people in weekend worship attendance.  I grew up in a church of 75 and had never been a part of a church more than 150.  But God enabled me to catch a vision of making a larger impact.  I saw examples of it being done.  By his grace, I was able to lead leaders to remove the common obstacles that hinder growth and keep the average church in America under 90. I feel privileged to have started a church that joined the 2% of churches in America which grow beyond a 1000. God can do more than you can imagine.

3 – Change should be embraced, not resisted.  One of the four pillars that guided Cape Christian at our launch 33 years ago was that we would be “Change-Oriented.”  One of the lines in that original document stated, “We will not fear and resist change but see it as important and necessary for effective ministry.”  I cannot count the number of times that I’ve had to point leaders and followers back to that statement.  I often joke that the only thing you can count on to be consistent… is change.  We have become an impactful church because we’ve adjusted, modified, reformed, revised, customized, corrected, altered, transitioned, and “bent the curve” over and over again.  And it has been at so many levels:  changing bylaws to be more nimble, repeatedly tweaking worship times, developing and implementing a leadership succession plan when some thought it was too soon and my successor was too young, building a park for the families of the city rather than an auditorium for ourselves, and more.  Change has been embraced, not resisted.  For those who couldn’t handle the changes, they made a change. They found another church that was closer to the way “we use to do it.”

4 – Leadership is both sweet and sour.  When I visit my six year-old grand twins, I love to beg a couple pieces of Sour Patch Kids candy from their stash. There is something about that mixture of sour and sweet that is delightful.  It’s addictive.  Leadership is similar. There are sour moments.  But there are many sweet rewards.  Often, they are in the very same bite.  A painful staff change can bring new movement forward.  Constraints drive creativity.  Shortage of funds motivate greater resourcefulness. Criticism and attack can provoke new self-insight. Heavy opposition builds leadership muscle.  Impossibilities can activate a mountain-moving God.

A Greek proverb says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” That’s both sour (no fruit and no shade now) but it’s sweet for the next generation. Leadership is the same.  Some things that were difficult and sour several decades ago, are now bearing sweet fruit and providing shade for my successor.  I wouldn’t choose any other way.

40 years is a long time.  But, I know I have some years of leadership left.  I know my calling still exists.  I’m in a different “seat on the bus” than I once was.  And I’m grateful.  Filled to overflowing with gratitude and contentment.  I’ve led with success and lived with significance.  Now I’ve got a craving. It’s time to go buy a bag of Sour Patch Kids.    

QUESTION: What are you learning about leadership these days? Do you resonate with any of these four? I’d love to hear your comments below.

In 1986, I gained a new insight when I heard Dr. John Maxwell say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”  At the time, that new understanding both encouraged me and discouraged me.  It encouraged me because I was making a fresh leadership start. I was preparing to launch a new church. It discouraged me when I reflected on the previous seven years of leading another church.  That church was struggling and ready to disband.  Did it flounder because of my leadership? Believe me, I could think of quite a few other glaring reasons why it was failing.  I certainly did some personal inventory and tried to own my part in the deterioration of that church, but I determined I was going to spend most of my time looking forward out the windshield rather than spend all my time looking in the rearview mirror.  

So fast forward another 33 years and I recently read the phrase by James Emery White“Everything rises and falls on integrity.” He used an example of a friend of his (who was also a leadership mentor of mine).  It was this man’s leadership gifts that caused him to rise to incredible influence and impact.  But ultimately, it was his lack of integrity that caused him to crash and burn. Many have been disappointed, damaged and disillusioned.

I am reminded of something my successor, Cory Demmel, often tells our staff at Cape Christian: “Your gifts and talents can gain you a large following and bring you high regard.  But your character is the only thing that will keep you there over the long haul.”  Truth. Definitely.  For certain.  I’ve watched it so many times during my four decades of leadership.  Talent and gifting take leaders upward and many follow their leadership.  But then. Pride, arrogance, entitlement, facades and more lead to a shadow life.  And that shadow life may lurk behind the curtain for a real long time while the stage persona accelerates upward.  But pretty much always, sooner or later, the lack of integrity is revealed.  The person isn’t who most everyone thought they were.  And it all starts crumbling.

Business, politics, church, wherever.  White’s phrase should be burned into our psyche,“Everything rises and falls on integrity.”  Our integrity is probably the biggest gauge of the kind of legacy we will leave.  In the dark recesses of our private life lurks the microbes for horrific failure.  That’s sobering to me.  I know enough about my ability to deceive myself that I find this almost downright scary. Do I have the accountability needed? Do I have enough fences built around my life to protect me from falling into the snare of temptation?  Am I leaning into God’s strength and resources in such a way that I able to stand up against any distortions of truth and honorable living as I learned from my father?

One of the best models of integrity was my father, Thurlowe F. Gingerich, who died last year.

Yes, this is my new phrase for the next 30 years: “Everything rises and falls on integrity.” No longer will I settle for “Everything rises and falls on leadership.  The new phrase doesn’t negate the old phrase I’ve used hundreds of times while training younger leaders.  But I am keenly aware that integrity is much more of a hinge point for how I’ll be remembered, not just my leadership.  I want to make sure young leaders know that truth. Their leadership gifts and talents may build their leadership influence platform. But the lack of integrity, in the end, will destroy that influence.  Every leader is remembered by how they ended, not how they started or even their greatest successes. Everything rises and falls on integrity.  That’s what I hope I never have to learn… the hard way.

QUESTION:  What helps you maintain integrity in your life?  (I’d love to hear it in the comment section below).

A while back, I read about a phenomenon called the “tall poppy syndrome.” Evidently, it is a common Australian farming practice to cut down any poppy that grows above the rest. Regrettably, this practice is not limited to just poppy farms in Australia. It’s a common practice most everywhere.  I’ve seen it in workplaces, politics, families, communities and churches.  

It seems to me, our shifting cultural climate toward boldly posting our unabashed opinions and rants on about any topic, has increased this phenomenon. I see a growing trend to attack, criticize, and resent anyone who has talent or achievements that sets them apart from others. This tendency extends to those who resent the efforts of leaders who challenge the status quo. Opponents of change initiatives often attempt to marginalize leaders by attacking their character and questioning their motives. If the messenger is flawed, then the message and vision they offer cannot be trusted. As disappointing as it is, these challenges come with the territory of leadership.

To be totally fair, this isn’t a brand new practice.  Apostle Paul of the first century was very familiar with this kind of character assault. He frequently encountered mean-spirited opposition from those who questioned his motive and his methods. We get a sense of the content and the intensity of these attacks from his response to those accusations in a letter he wrote to the Jesus-followers in the Greek city of Thessaloniki:  “For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.  For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.”(1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).

The list against Paul was quite extensive and severe: error, sexual impurity, deceit, flattery, and greed. Now, that’s a catalogue of culpabilities. I don’t have room here to go into these allegations and how the Apostle responded to each one.  But a careful study of the scriptural text reveals that Paul persevered amidst these attacks and demonstrated the purity of the motives that guided his leadership.

Let’s bring it home.  Have you ever been “the tall poppy” at school, on a team, in the community, in your family, or at work? Did others try to “cut you down” because of your talent, idea, vision or position?  How did you respond? I wrote about one of my “tall poppy” experiences in a previous blog. It was very uncomfortable.  It still makes me think twice before taking risks because I wonder how I’ll be perceived by my peers and colleagues.  At the very least, I’m still sometimes hesitant to share with others any of my bold ideas or plans.  How about you?  How have you responded?  How have those experiences tempered your audacious decisions and actions?

And finally, be brutally honest.  Have you ever been so filled with jealousy that you tried to cut the tallest poppy in your field? Maybe you pointed out that person’s flaws and failings to others.  Maybe you derided their idea or decision as ill-advised or just plain ridiculous.  Maybe you dug your heels in and refused to join the vision.  I’ve been there and done that. I’ve learned you don’t make the world brighter by blowing out someone else’s candle.  And, I am also learning that the more I grow in my emotional and spiritual health, the easier I can celebrate the successes of others. 

A pivotal part of my leadership journey toward leaving a lasting legacy was to develop and implement a succession plan in the organization I founded. I can now look back and see that the five years during the planning process and the ten years since the implementation of that succession plan has been a proving-ground experience for me to make significant progress in weeding out the tallest-poppy syndrome from my first and foremost reaction reservoir.  I’m much more grateful these days for the beauty of tall poppies.  It adds such dimension and splendor to the field. 

QUESTION:  As you consider either your response to being the target of others attacks or your own resentment of others achievements, what is God nudging you about in your attitudes and motives?  What adjustments is He prompting you to make?

“Every dream is created twice.” I can’t remember who to give credit to for that phrase but it stuck with me when I first heard it. The idea is this. The first creation is mental. Every invention, every business, every building, every art piece is conceived in the imagination first—our right brain. It’s just an idea at that point. The second creation is physical. You make it happen by doing something.  

Growing up, I pretty much always heard a particular scripture verse interpreted in negative terms.  2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  I understood it this way. Take sinful thoughts captive and keep them out of your mind. And that is very important.  But I love the flip-side.  The other half of a very important truth. How about capturing creative thoughts and keeping them in our minds? Why not focus on stewarding every idea inspired by the Holy Spirit?

  • If your dream is to write a book, you make it obedient with a keyboard.
  • If your dream is playing a professional sport, you make it obedient at the gym.
  • If your dream is starting a business, you make it obedient through one action at a time.

“Stairway to Heaven” – a recent capture by Dennis of the Milky Way and the Delicate Arch at Arches National Park in Moab, UT (See

Your dreams will never exceed your imagination. You can’t achieve what you don’t believe. So idea generation is important. But idea execution is where the rubber meets the road.  I like dreamers. I love to hear visions of new and exciting possibilities. They make me think outside the box. And I applaud the dreamer’s ability to plot. But I love doers even more. They inspire me to action. And it’s the plodders, not the plotters, who make things happen.  It’s the doers who leave a legacy to be experienced by the next generations.

God isn’t going to say, “Well planned, good and faithful servant.” He won’t say, “Well thought, well said, or well strategized my child.” There is one commendation spoken of by Jesus: “Well done, good and faithful servant”(Matthew 25:21).

Dreaming is great.  Setting goals is good. Carrying them out is another story. Without perspiration to match your inspiration, your dream imagined will turn into a dream delayed.

What do you need to start?

What are you waiting for?

Maybe it’s a healthier lifestyle. Maybe it’s a graduate program. Maybe it’s a business or a new ministry?  Maybe it’s to write a succession plan?  Whatever it is, the hardest part of finishing is starting.  John Rampton gives 5 Ways Dreamers Can Become Doers in Entrepreneur magazine.  Start by reading and implementing these practical steps.

Going after a dream is like riding a bike—you’ve got to get a little momentum to really get going.  Consider this your push.

QUESTION:  What God-given idea do you have that needs to be acted on? Maybe your first step toward execution is sharing it with others in the comment section below. 

Next to Jesus, there’s a guy in the Bible who is one of my all-time favorites. Maybe it’s my season of life and ministry, but this guy is now at the top of my list.  When I was a kid, it was Daniel.  Spurred on by a Sunday School tune, “Dare to Be a Daniel,” I loved Daniel because of his bravery in the face of lions and more.  Of course, maybe it was because Daniel is my middle name. But honestly, my all-time favorite now isn’t Moses, Abraham, David, Daniel, or Paul, it’s a guy who is mostly known by his nickname, Barnabas.

About a year ago, I remember reading something that Jo Saxton wrote about Barnabas and it resonated with me as to why this guy is my hero.  His name was actually Joseph.   But he was so defined by his attitude and actions that they called him the “Son of Encouragement,” or Barnabas.

Jo Saxton’s comments were about Barnabas responding to the exponential growth in the first century church by constantly celebrating it through giving up money, control and even his own reputation so the growth was never hindered.  Saxton’s challenging question to leaders was, “can you celebrate what God is doing in others on your team or in another church in your community?”  My gut level response to that question was, “Usually!”

I think this Barnabas-like nature is one of the strengths God has developed in me over the years.  I’m grateful that I “usually” look for what God is doing and celebrate it rather than being so insecure I have to shut it down or highlight my past successes to “one up” someone else’s current victory. I’m confident it’s connected to the reason I planned and implemented a Successful Succession leadership plan 10 years ago at the church I founded.

But, back to Barnabas.  He first shows up in Acts 4 where he sells a field and gives the disciples the money and he doesn’t insist it gets used for a specific project.  In Acts 9, Barnabas risks his reputation on a newbie, named Saul, giving him access to other church leaders and asking those leaders to take a risk and give this new guy (later named Paul) a chance.  

A little over a decade ago, I had an “aha” moment when I discovered that Luke always used Barnabas and Paul’s name together (in that order) into Acts 13 and then switched it from Acts 14 and beyond to Paul and then Barnabas. It’s a picture of their changing notoriety.  I believe Barnabas understood that lighting another person’s candle didn’t blow out his own.  In fact, it never hurts us when we celebrate the potential and the successes of others. 

Barnabas willingly took a brash, bold, brilliant guy named Paul, and raised him up into prominence. We see it with Barnabas and John-Mark, (who completely messed up), and Barnabas personally coached him back to success. I find this fascinating.  There is no New Testament letter or book named after Barnabas. But the imprint of his influence is throughout the New Testament because, without Barnabas, would there be a Paul and would there be a Mark? 

I pray that my legacy as a leader is that I put this Barnabas characteristic into practice. This is what I know. It requires me to be generous and secure enough to share my life, my stuff, my gifts, my opportunities and my mission with others.  It requires that I give away without expecting anything in return. Am I ready for that? Can I invite people into leadership and help them get there, even if I become less and they become more? Can I invite people alongside me in mission? This always sounds lovely until you have to do it.  But then that person’s got something I don’t have or is doing something I may never do. Can I still celebrate that? I pray I will be known as one who lived up to the example of my favorite guy.

QUESTION:  How are you wrestling with this challenge of being Barnabas-like in your leadership? I’d love to hear more.

This day is memorable. On this day, 32 years ago, a ten plus year dream started to unfold.  That year, April 19, 1987 was on Easter Sunday, not Good Friday as it is in 2019. But that day, 32 years ago, was the launch of a vision, Cape Christian.  This year, this day, is the beginning of eight Easter weekend services. There were only 97 of us who gathered in a school cafeteria on this special day over three decades ago.  This weekend, there will be several thousand who will gather on a beautiful 14 acre campus.  So many things have changed.  So many things are exactly the same.

Here’s what has changed:

  • We used to speak about reaching hundreds and now it is about thousands.
  • We used to need a dozen volunteers to make an event successful and now we need hundreds.
  • We used to have overhead projectors, projection screens, analog sound boards and land lines and now we have video, computers, internet, smart phones, digital sound and LED walls.
  • We used to have one person who could oversee an event, now it takes a huge team of leaders to make it all work.

Here’s what hasn’t changed:

  • It’s all about Jesus.  It was then.  It is now. Jesus died and rose again.  For me.  For you.  For everyone.
  • Everyone matters.  Every life is important.  No one is just a number in a massive crowd.  Everyone’s story is significant.
  • We always bring our best.  Excellence honors God and inspires people.  Then and now.
  • We are faith-filled, big thinkers.  We dream big, celebrate big, and take big risks because we serve a big God.  Always have. Always will.

Much more could be added but I’m grateful for this day, this very special day.  A day to give thanks for God’s goodness and grace shown through what Jesus did for us on the cross and through His resurrection.  Happy Easter weekend!  And Happy 32ndAnniversary to Cape Christian!

NOTE: For more refections on Cape Christian’s history, check out past blogs at significant points in our history. For a Good Friday refection, go to this blog.

Six months ago, my wife and I were leading a “Footsteps of Paul” journey to Greece, Turkey and Rome.  We were walking out of St. John’s Cathedral in Rome (Bascilica de San Giovanni in Laternao).  We were on our way to the Vatican.  I asked our local guide one simple question:  If you had one minute to sit with the Pope and say anything you wanted to say to him, what would you say?  His immediate and passionate response was “Don’t tell me what to do.”  And then he unpacked that quick forceful statement with a plethora of examples: divorce, homosexuality, helping the poor and  much more.

Bascilica de San Giovanni in Rome


The day before while in Florence, we heard from another local guide that Michelangelo repeatedly said the same thing, “Don’t tell me what to do,” when the pope of his day gave instructions for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and other church-related projects.  In fact, Michelangelo would purposely include small variations and subtle digs at the papacy in his paintings as a not-so-silent act of defiance.

Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michaelangelo

Human nature hasn’t changed in 3500 years. When Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites leave slavery in Egypt and go to the Promise Land, Pharaoh essentially replied the same, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?”(Exodus 5:2).  Don’t tell me what to do. It doesn’t matter. 3500 years ago, 500 years ago, 6 months ago or a week ago.  Don’t tell me what to do is alive and well. 

I find it easy to look at people of the past and think they just weren’t committed enough to Jesus and His ways.  They are flawed.  Not very mature.  But the truth is, it’s not just them.  It’s me too. Last week, a volunteer monitor at a photography conference leaned over to me during a session (I was looking up the price of a lens on my phone that the speaker was referring to) and she told me the light of my screen in the dark room was disturbing her and others. I wanted to respond, “Don’t tell me what to do.”  But I complied.  Yet, for the next five minutes, I was internally screaming, “DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.” I was very tempted to lean over and tell this lady that her constant whispering to her friend was a whole lot more disruptive than my phone screen light.

This resistant refrain that invades our lives is rooted in human nature all the way back to creation.  Adam and Eve listened to Satan’s whisper, “don’t let God tell you what you can and can not do.  Go ahead and eat off that one tree He said to stay away from”(Genesis 3).  It’s still the same nature that deteriorates into domestic violence, road rage, assault and murder.  There is only one cure.  It is for me to be filled with the heart and nature of Jesus.  Philippians 2:5-8 says,In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very natureGod,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothingby taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himselfby becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Today, I’m asking Jesus to help me be more like Him. 


QUESTION:  How do you overcome the temptation to respond with “Don’t tell me what to do?”  

This past weekend, my wife and I spent 48 hours with seven couples that are the “Friends are Friends Forever”kind.  In 1972, during their freshman year of college, 8 young women gathered for Bible Study in the residence hall of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. Life-long friendships were forged.  Forty-seven years later, they are still meeting every year or so.  Sometimes it’s just the ladies.  Most of the time, their 8 husbands join them. This weekend, it was all 16 of us.

When Michael W. Smith released the “Friends (are friends forever)” song in 1987, it soon became a popular hit at farewell parties, high school graduations and even weddings. The two phrases, “friends are friends forever” and “a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends”always echo in my mind when I hear that three-decade-old song.  I used to believe it was true—once a friend, always a friend. That’s not necessarily true.  I’ve come to believe that only some friends are friends forever.  Some are for a season, or a specific time and place. 

Eight College Friends Back in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

In reflecting on this unique group of eight women who met while they were young, they are uniquely diverse: nurses, teachers, homemakers, college professors, bank tellers, township council members, housekeepers and more. They came from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia. Their journeys over the last 47 years have taken them through the experiences of marriage, birthing children, adopting children, nurturing grandchildren, PhD’s, around-the-world mission assignments, retirement and more. One lost a husband to suicide, became a single parent and then remarried. Others have faced cancer. All have lost one or both parents.

The eight husbands are an interesting mix: two farmers, two pastors, a hatchery maintenance worker, a corporate pilot, a builder and a high school teacher.  Yet, all are uniquely bonded through their wives.  And, they too have become friends and look forward to connecting every year or two.

Eight Couples Together in Virginia

So what is it that keeps these 8 college friends connected nearly five decades later?  As I’ve listened to the conversations all these years, here are three observations:  

1). Shared Experiences—college, marriage, parenting, grand parenting, ministry and international travel.  Over the years, the themes of the conversations at their gatherings have morphed and transitioned as the experiences and seasons have shifted.  It used to be boyfriends, engagements, wedding plans, and the arrival of children. Then it was children getting married and having children, job promotions and travel experiences. Shared experiences of parent’s passing, health challenges and retirement plans are now a part of the current conversations. Whatever the season, there always have been updates on the shared experiences.  In the early years, it was a “circle letter” that made it’s way around the group each year between gatherings about every five years.  Then it was email and more frequent gatherings. Now it is a private Facebook group.  

2). Shared Faith—all attended a faith-based college where they connected horizontally with each other while joining a Bible-study to nurture their vertical relationship with God.  Each was raised in spiritual and church backgrounds that gave them a similar framework to express their faith. Every gathering over the years has been marked with shared spiritual journeys, prayer and worship.

3). Shared Purpose—each one grasped the concept of living with purpose. Parents, churches and a faith-centered university instilled this intentional living.  All have lived out their unique sense of call to a higher purpose. Each has lived a determined life. During the dozens of times we’ve been together over the years, I’ve heard the encouragement of the others to “keep the end in mind” when one of them was facing a difficult season. 

Some friends are friends for a season.  And we should learn to be grateful and okay with that. Some friends are friends forever. And that is a rare and highly treasured gift.

QUESTION:  Do you have a friend or two that are the “friends forever” kind of friends?  What would you add as to what makes them “friends forever” kind of friends?  I’d love to hear it below.

It’s now a couple weeks past the beginning of a new year and most everyone is probably done reflecting on the past and planning for the future.  Life has gotten busy again.  The weekly routines keep us on autopilot. Many of our New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside.  Well, I’m just getting started. 

I’m just getting started because I had a sister visit from Oregon the week after Christmas.  I had a wedding to officiate at Disney on January 2. We had our family holiday gathering. It was a very busy time.  Very little time for reflection and planning.

Captured this image while staying at an old castle along Lake Thun in Switzerland

So, I’m reflecting for just a bit on 2018.  Some major things happened in my world.  My father died.  We welcomed a new successor in the lead role of the church I planted.  Our board made some tough decisions about how to respond to the discovery of financial fraud by a previous successor of mine.  Our fifth grandchild was born, Ava Grace. Our oldest grandchild became a teenager. Our son finished up 6 years of hard work to get his nursing degree.  We celebrated 44 years of marriage.  I had a birthday that required me to sign up for Medicare. We had a complete personal financial review that included making some specific projections and glimpses about what the future might look like.  I developed a habit of walking two miles at least 6-7 mornings every week. The church we founded surpassed all of our previous attendance records.  I took some risks with my photography and changed my entire website after a decade or more of the same format.  I received a community-wide award for inspiring generosity in others.

Of the above.  It was mostly really good.  Very good.  Excellent.  Exhilarating.  Life-giving.  Some of it was “kicked in the gut” difficult.  There was laughter.  There were tears.  But that is life.  So here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2019.

  • More of the Same.  Laughter, tears, hard work, disappointment, victories, valleys, mountain-tops. That is life.  A mixture. Wins.  Losses.  Ups. Downs. 
  • More of God’s Grace.  It’s new every morning.  It transforms my life and the lives of others.  I’m thankful.  I’m abundantly blessed.  I don’t deserve it but He gives it anyway.
  • More Growing.  I love to learn.  But sometimes learning is through the “hard way.”  I grow when I face challenges.  Pressure strengthens my leadership muscles.  I look forward to growing in my relationship with God, with my wife, and in my leadership skills and capacity.
  • More Focus.  This year, I’ve gone back to putting the writing of this blog on my calendar. That’s not a brand new idea for me, but I’ve not done that for a couple years. I know it will help me to be more consistent.  More focused with my time.
  • More Intentionality.For the last decade or more, I’ve been learning that I have to be intentional if I’m going to live a life of significance and leave the legacy I want to be known for. More than ever, I’m choosing to place what I value most at the top of the priority list. 

2019 is going to be an amazing year!  

QUESTION:  What’s at the top of your priority list for 2019?  I’d love to hear it!

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