Sadness in Search of Hope and Answers

I’m sad. This has not been a good day for our country or, for that matter, people anywhere. I woke up to the news that almost 60 people were gunned down by a madman with an assault rifle, and hundreds more are wounded. Some are still fighting for their lives. This should have been a good day (and part of it really was) because I got to spend the morning with our daughter and grandson. But sadness overcame the day.

Thankfully, (for now) little nine-month-old Crosby is oblivious to what is going on in the world around him. Since he has been born he has lived through a few hurricanes (one of which hit his own city as he slept), deep division in our country, and now our nation’s worst mass shooting. I’m concerned for him and all that he will face as he grows.

But in a way it’s nothing new. There have always been trials, challenges, and tragedies in the world. It just seems that recently so many of them have been bunching together. I suppose that has something to do with the ubiquitous media and social media. We are more aware of tragedy than we ever have been before.

As we are more aware we search for more answers in the face of evil sadness. I completely understand those who solidly support the Second Amendment, but I do question the need for assault rifles and devices that can make them automatic or “machine guns.” And yet my questions go deeper than that. I marvel at the total depravity of evil. I wonder how people can be so callous toward others. And mostly I wonder why our world has fallen so far away from the only thing — the only One — who can help in any real way. The most real way. The eternal way.

When sadness searches for hope and answers they will only be found in one Person: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. His perfect life and substitutionary death means forgiveness for the sins of every person. His resurrection means real life — eternal life — for all who believe in Him. It’s something no evil, no callousness, and no gunman can ever take away.

Though I’m sad today I hold onto the promise of the Psalms that “joy comes in the morning.” I look forward to the joy the morrow will bring. And I will do my best to share that joy with others.

How about you?



Why You Should Frequent Your Local Farmer’s Market

No matter where you live, chances are there is a nearby farmer’s market. Have you been to it yet? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing.

A farmer’s market is quite literally a taste of local flavor. You can walk through the tents and booths and have your fill of delicious flavors in the form of free samples. More than that, you will taste the flavor of your community.

Last weekend Tammy and I set up a booth at a local farmer’s market. This was her first opportunity to sell her pillows at a local fair. You’ve probably seen a market from the consumer’s side. But it’s interesting to see it from the side of the vendor.

All the vendors get there early to set up. There is a true spirit of camaraderie as everyone prepares. Vendors are helping one another get their canopies set up. They check out all the wares. The energy is high and there is a certain level of anticipation.

We were new to this all. So we asked questions. We learned about other fairs, festivals, and markets we could enter. There were questions about how the crowd might be and what the day would look like.

The booths on either side of us were run by experienced entrepreneurs. One was selling honey. The other was selling hand made soaps. The booth with the hand made soaps was run by a girl who is sophomore in high school. She attended an entrepreneurial workshop. In it, she was required to come up with a business plan, secure investors, and present her marketing ideas. Her booth had a beautiful aesthetic and was very well done. It was no surprise that she ended up selling more than anyone else that day.

It just goes to show that age does not determine success. 

Here’s why you should go to your local farmer’s market this week:

  • You will be supporting small businesses.
  • Locally grown foods will be in abundance.
  • It’s a great way to slow down for an hour or two and learn about your community.
  • You will meet new friends.
  • There will be items available for purchase that you will find nowhere else.
  • It’s fun for all ages.
  • It’s a great way to spend some time outdoors.

I’m sure there are many other reasons to get to your local farmer’s market. When you do, please support the people who spent a great deal of time, effort, and money to be there. They will appreciate it more than you know.

What good reason do you have for attending a local farmer’s market?

Lessons I Learned Riding Out My First Hurricane

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone from central Florida. He wasn’t quite as bad as some predicted. But he did leave behind some lessons for this first-time hurricane rider.


  1. The hype can be compared to snow storms in the upper midwest. You know how those northern weathermen and women get all excited when a snow storm is coming? The same thing happens in the south when a hurricane is on the horizon. Suit coats are taken off. Sleeves get rolled up. Beads of sweat appear on foreheads.
  2. Floridians are more scared of losing air conditioning than anything else. There are horror stories from past hurricanes of people losing their power for more than a week. The weather once again gets hot and humid. When it happens they have to go to malls and movie theaters just to stay cool.
  3. Hurricane force wind sounds pretty scary in the middle of the night. Actually, I don’t think what we got ever made it to that force. But there were very strong gusts that actually shook our house. I can only imagine what sustained winds of that force can do.
  4. Neighbors come together. Just like the aftermath of snow storms, the aftermath of hurricanes finds neighbors pitching in to help one another.
  5. Hearing the power go out in the middle of the night is not a good “sound.” You have no idea when power will be restored once again.
  6. Hurricane prep is kind of fun and exciting. I went to Target Thursday morning to pick up just a couple of things we wanted before the storm hit. People were in generally good moods and there was a hustle and bustle in the store that almost seemed like holiday shopping. And, yes, there was not one loaf of bread to be found in the store.
  7. It’s amazing just how accurately forecasters predict the timing of the storm. Sure enough. It hit us just when they said it would and was gone just as predicted.
  8. Hurricane parties are a thing. They can take place before, during, or after the storm, or all of the above. Alcohol sales skyrocket when a storm is predicted to hit.
  9. Coverage of the storm supersedes all political news. Whew. Woohoo.
  10. It’s always better when a hurricane “wobbles” away from the coast. That’s what happened with Matthew. And just in time. It spared our area a great deal of destruction. Sure there was loss of power, scattered debris, and trees down, but it could have been much, much worse.

And for that we are thankful.

Have you ever ridden out a hurricane?

7 Things About the Rio Olympics That Make Me Say “Wow!”

Admit it. You’ve been watching the Rio Olympics every chance you get. If you happen to be home during the day they replace the awful stuff that’s usually there. Truth be told, they’re also replacing the awful stuff that gets shown at prime time.


For my money, there’s no more compelling story than the story of competition. It takes place in real time and you don’t know the outcome until it happens. Multiply that a hundred fold and you know why the Olympics are so popular.

But as I have watched the Olympics I have found myself saying “Wow!” over and over again. Here’s why:

  1. Rio is beautiful. Yeah, yeah. I know there are all kinds of problems. There is certainly pollution. I know about the poverty. We ought not overlook that. But have you seen those panoramic shots? Have you feasted your eyes on Copacabana Beach? Did you see the countryside during the bicycling competitions? Rio is now on my list of places I’d like to go. Wow!
  2. Bicycling is dangerous. I’m a bicyclist and I’ve had my share of close calls. But they were nothing compared to the crashes in both the men’s and women’s events. The long road races were extremely compelling without the accidents. Once the accidents started taking place they became even more compelling. …And those close finishes! Wow!
  3. Swimming is exciting. This is another sport in which I participated. In high school I swam butterfly, individual medley, and freestyle. Swimming put me in the best shape of my entire life. In high school swimming was a sport not many students came to watch. They didn’t know what they were missing. To me there isn’t anything much more exciting than a race that ends with hundredths of seconds between the contenders. Have you seen Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Cody Miller, and Ryan Lochte? Wow!
  4. I will never understand how kayakers do what they do. In a raging current they navigate through poles hanging down. Sometimes they even go under water and spin the whole kayak around. (How do they hold their breath through all of that?) Wow!
  5. The reaction time of volleyball players is off the charts. I’ve played my fair share of backyard and intramural volleyball. It makes me appreciate even more what those players can do. Digging the ball out of the net, blocking shots that are coming at who-knows-how-many miles per hour, and driving the ball down into an open area on the floor keep me amazed shot after shot. Wow!
  6. Competition is a good thing. Controversial decisions were made prior to these games that allowed participants who had been doping to take part in their events. Much of that came to a head in the Women’s 100 Meter Breast Stroke race between American Lilly King and Russian Yulia Efimova. You can read all about that here, but the way King handled it was controversial. I, for one, think she handled it correctly. At any rate, competition brings out both good and bad. You see how it brings out the best in Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. They rise to the occasion. Cheating and doping is the worst of competition. But it almost always comes out in the end. All in all, the incredibly close competition between world class athletes makes me say: Wow!
  7. Where else do the nations come together like this? Did you happen to see the North Korean and South Korean gymnast take a selfie together? Where else could that have happened? Though their countries are bitter enemies, these are just two girls trying their best to score well and strive for medals. They see one another as human beings, not as political machines. Wow!

What is it about the Olympics that makes you say “Wow!”?

My 5 Favorite Non-Touristy Places to Eat in Orlando

Needless to say, we have quite a few friends and family visit Orlando every year. People know that Tammy and I enjoy finding places to eat in areas of Orlando that are far, far away from the tourist attractions. (We also love a number of places in and around the tourist attractions, but that’s another post for another time.) Orlando has come a long way since being a tourist mecca of chain restaurants like Chili’s, Olive Garden, and T.G.I. Fridays.

Restaurant Interior

Today Orlando boasts its own James Beard semi-finalists. Our city also has quaint areas filled with nice shops, eateries, and walking areas. If you come to Orlando and spend all of your time at Disney or Universal, you’re really missing part of the charm of our city. And if you leave here having only eaten at a chain restaurant you have missed some culinary delights.

So here are five places you won’t want to miss if you ever find yourself in Orlando:

  1. Prato This may just be our favorite place to eat not only in Orlando, but almost anywhere. Prato is a modern, Italian, farm-to-table restaurant. A rectangular bar sits right in the middle of the room. The reclaimed wood walls are covered with simple art and green plants. But it’s the food that’s the star. Some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten has come out of this kitchen. The Campagna Salad is not to be missed. And don’t pass over the appetizer meatballs to start your meal. The fact that this restaurant is on swanky Park Avenue in Winter Park makes for fabulous people watching, as well.
  2. Armando’s Many of our family’s recent significant events have taken place at this other Winter Park Italian eatery. Our daughter and son-in-law’s rehearsal dinner for their wedding was here. We first met our son’s (now) fiancé here. After they got engaged we celebrated at Armando’s. This also happens to be my wife, Tammy’s, “happy place.” This corner restaurant has outdoor seating that perfectly fits our pleasant Florida evenings. The food is Italian “comfort food.” There are pizzas and pastas, as well as chicken, steak, and seafood entrees. We have never had a bad meal here. If you want a great place for an Orlando date night this is it.
  3. Osprey Tavern Baldwin Park is the site of a former Naval Training Center that has now been transformed into housing and retail development. Right in the middle of this development is a nice downtown where Osprey Tavern recently opened. They have a fantastic happy hour that includes some of their spectacular food at ridiculously low prices. The food is unique and innovative. Though some of the menu is a bit pricey, you can have a fantastic grilled peach pizza for $16. If I owned a restaurant I would want the interior to look just like this place.
  4. Canvas Out in the burgeoning eastern suburb of Lake Nona is this brand new, modern looking restaurant with an open kitchen and outdoor dining on a beautiful lake. As you sit there you can watch the jets landing at nearby Orlando International Airport. The menu is very limited, but in this case it means most anything you order is prepared well and watched over closely by the chef. Here you can have one of the best burgers in Orlando made of short rib and brisket. I have also, on occasion, enjoyed a perfectly done pork chop topped with mushroom ragu.
  5. Rocco’s Tacos I’m cheating a little bit on this one because it encroaches on the tourist side of town. Rocco’s sits on Orlando’s Restaurant Row (Sand Lake Road) and has a hyperactive atmosphere. But the opportunity to eat delicious Mexican food sitting on another one of Orlando’s gorgeous lakes is an opportunity I cannot pass by very often. If you go here, don’t miss the guacamole made right at your table side. You might want to avoid this place at prime time on Friday or Saturday night, or you’ll be waiting a long time. Be sure to request an outside table. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s your favorite place to eat in your home town?

Why Pokemon Go Isn’t the Worst Thing in the World

If you haven’t yet heard of Pokemon Go you’ve been living in a cave. It’s a game you download to your phone by way of an app. It uses GPS technology and algorithms to send players on a mission. The mission is to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures who appear in the real world.

iPhone Kids

Pokemon Go was released in the U.S. on July 6th. Since then it has taken America (and other countries) by storm. We spent a day of our vacation in historic downtown Franklin, Tennessee, and were amazed that the majority (really!) of the people walking down the street that afternoon were playing the game. Rarely have we witnessed such a cultural phenomena. It was even featured on the network national news.

There is some negative publicity about the game revolving around accidents crime. But for the most part, considering the millions of players, the game is going well. I, for one, would say that this mostly harmless little game isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Here’s why:

  1. Some of the so-called “gyms” are at churches. It should come as no surprise to you that I think this is a good thing. The church I serve happens to be used as a “gym” (a place where Pokemon battles take place) for the game. Some churches have really taken advantage of this and have provided cold water for players, have had one-on-one conversations, and have used it as an opportunity to serve people.
  2. It gets people moving and interacting with their environment. In order to catch the little creatures you have to move. People are discovering their neighborhoods and seeing places they’ve never seen before. Granted, much of the time their face is in the screen of the phone, but they have to look up every once in a while to see where they’re going. It’s also getting people out for at least a little bit of exercise.
  3. It’s intergenerational. I’ve seen kids playing alongside their parents. Adults are playing and now have something in common with children. It’s bringing people together over an admittedly silly topic, but it’s bringing people together nonetheless.
  4. It’s fun. The world is a dark and serious place…especially lately. Why not use a popular game as a fun distraction from it all?
  5. It benefits local business. Museums, National Parks, and malls have seen an uptick in business. A little boost to the economy helps people keep jobs and businesses make profit.

Sure, there may be some negatives to this whole craze. But let’s just enjoy the fun for a little while. When Pokemon Go is played correctly and safely it can have a positive impact on people…maybe even a positive spiritual impact.

What do you think about Pokemon Go?

6 Tips to Generate More Response From Your Social Media Posts

It was a privilege for me last week to sit in on a seminar on Short Content Form Writing presented by my friend, Gretchen Jameson. Gretchen is the owner and principal of PurePR, whose mission it is to “support people of passion and purpose to build the conversations that shape communities and change our world.” I believe in Gretchen’s work, because I have had the first hand experience of seeing how it had a positive impact on our ministry at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

At the seminar, Gretchen drew us in with some fascinating and interesting facts about writing for social media. If you think you know everything there is to know about writing for social media, think again. Did you know these facts?

  • Writing for social media not about YOU. When you write, write from the perspective of the “fan.”
  • Posts of 80 characters or less get the highest engagement rates.
  • You have got to show people that you’re listening by the way you respond to their “likes” and “comments”. (By the way, did you know that there are 6 phases of engagement on Facebook? Here they are…and see if you haven’t followed the same flow yourself: Lurk, Like, Like a comment, Post a Response to an Initial Post, Make an Unsolicited Post on a Page, and Share a Post.) Acknowledge those who are liking, commenting, and sharing your posts.
  • Be LIKEable, Kind, Curious, Empathetic, and Generous.
  • Think of social media like an actual social event. If someone commented on something you said at a social event, would you just ignore her and walk away?
  • Be brief. Briefer is better.
  •  Use the word YOU.
That’s all great stuff, but here are six tips from Gretchen Jameson that are sure to help you get more response from your posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media:
  1. Lead with what matters. Say what you need to say right up front. Whether it’s an attitude, idea, or concept, make the main thing the main thing.
  2. Tap into human needs. People want to be validated. They love things that are “exclusive.” They appreciate it when they feel as though you have been helpful. Be an authority on something. And know that people give you time before they give money.
  3. Make it personal. An effective post is a post that is emotion-rich. That means you ought to have fun with your posts, make them positive, but write it so it sounds like it could come from anyone.
  4. Be Useful. Give a new idea. Lead with a number (Did you notice the title of this post?). Start with “how to.” List it out (people love lists that they can quickly read through). Share secrets.
  5. Use A Digit, a Power Word, or a Promise. These three things are very likely to draw people in.
  6. Have fun with your Facebook Page or Twitter Account. Coca-Cola got HUGE response when they tweeted something like this: “We’re trying to get exactly 10,283 likes and 8,761 shares on this post.” Guess what? They got more than both of those numbers.

What tips do you have for creating more engagement…and more fun!…with your social media posts?

My 10 Favorite Cities in the US

I’ve always been a city boy. Never had much interest in the country. It’s too boring. Not enough for me to do.

It’s been my pleasure to be able to visit and live in some incredible cities over the years.  Here are my ten favorite cities, in order.

10. Denver. Mountains. Culture. Stadiums. Theme Park. Great place to visit.

9. New Orleans. French Quarter. Fantastic food. Lake Ponchartrain. Fantastic architecture. Trolleys.

8. Orlando. Disney. Weather. Enough said.

7. San Francisco. The ultimate in multi-culture. Cable cars. Great food. Golden Gate Bridge. Fisherman’s Wharf. Incredible views.

6. San Diego. Perfect weather year-round. Beaches. La Jolla. Seals. Gaslamp District. Downtown baseball.

5. Washington, D.C. History. Monuments. Smithsonian. Traffic. The Beltway. Friends. Politics. Smart people.

4. Chicago. The Magnificent Mile. Great neighborhoods. Magnificent architecture. Shopping. Walking. Food. Fun. Lake Michigan.

3. Milwaukee. The most underrated city in the United States. I’ll pit the restaurants there against most any city in the U.S. Beautiful architecture. No traffic. Salt-of-the-earth people. Lake Michigan. Great biking. Fantastic theatre. The Third Ward.

2. Nashville. Music. Southern hospitality. Night Life. Interesting Neighborhoods. 12th Street South. Franklin, Tennessee. Weather. Hills. Bluebird Cafe. Music. Music. And more music.

1. New York City. Broadway. Diverse neighborhoods. Walking tours. Restaurants like no other city. The High Line. Energy like no other place on earth. New discoveries every day. Rockefeller Center. 5th Avenue. Boroughs. Times Square. Subway. Music. The ultimate city.

Do you agree with my list? What is your favorite city?

If He Can Do It, I Can Do It

While you were watching the Olympics this summer, did you see the Nike commercial? You know…the one with the overweight kid “running” toward the camera? Well, really not running…more like shuffling. He barely puts one foot in front of the other while a voice talks about “greatness.” The commercial ends with the words: “We’re all capable of (greatness). All of us.”

That. Commercial. Motivated. Me. It wasn’t so much the words. In fact, I don’t think I even paid attention to the words any of the 83 times I saw the commercial. What I said to myself every time I saw that commercial was: “If he can do that, I can do that.”

I have been a sporadic “runner” off and on for many years now…more “on” than “off.” But over the past year or so it’s been very easy for me to find one excuse or another: “I’ll never be able to run again like I used to.” “I have this ‘fatigue’ that the doctors can’t figure out so I might as well give in to it.” “It’s too cold.” “It’s too hot.” “It won’t help me lose weight, anyway.”

So my running has been more sporadic than ever. But then I saw the kid on the Nike commercial. If he can do it, I can do it. Over the past couple of weeks, more often than not, I have been getting up, slipping on the running shoes, beating the heat with an early morning venture into the misty air, and putting one foot in front of the other. If you saw me “running” you’d see that it’s really not unlike the kid on the commercial.

But if he can do it, I can do it.

You know what? It’s really just about showing up. Making it a pattern. Creating a habit.

I haven’t noticed any big improvement, or that it’s becoming any easier. In fact, I wish I’d see at least some improvement. But I just. keep. thinking. about. that. kid.

If he can do it, I can do it. 

Nike says that it’s about “greatness.” I’d say that

  • It’s more about a competitive spirit and not giving up.
  • It’s about showing up.
  • It’s about making helpful habits.
  • It’s about using whatever it takes to motivate oneself.
  • It’s about lacing up the shoes and getting out there: hot or cold, rain or shine, energetic or tired.

If he can do it, I can do it.

And so can you.

What is motivating you today to move forward?

If You Can Read This, Thank the Husband of a Teacher

Every year about this time a different person moves into our house. She’s a bit more serious and a great deal more intense than the person who lives here during the summer. When school is about to begin a carefree, fun-loving person is replaced by someone with intensity and dedication.

My wife, Tammy, is a teacher. There is a transition in her personality every year at this time. If there is a teacher in your household, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Fridays become holidays. Summers are savored. Christmas break is a fantastic Christmas gift.

Those who don’t have educators in their homes have no idea. In fact, I wonder just how much of the public realizes and understands the amount of work, preparation, time, effort, care, and concern that goes into teaching a class — grade school, high school, or college.

I know it’s popular to say that teachers have it easy because they get holidays and summers off. But I can tell you from first hand knowledge that they more than make up for those hours during the school year. Evenings, weekends, and free time that other people take for granted are all used by teachers to get their “take home” work finished.

If a teacher has never taught a class or grade level before, you can simply double the work about which I just wrote. Sure, it gets easier the longer you teach a class or subject. But there is always work. Every day. School year weekends. All the way through to the last day of school.

You think children are happy when school’s over? Ask a teacher how they feel about summer vacation. It’s not because they don’t enjoy teaching. It’s just that they need a break.

You’ve seen the bumper sticker: If you can read this, thank a teacher.  The teacher’s family deserves some thanks, too, for the sacrifices they make at the expense of grading papers, planning classes, and going to bed early.

So, if you see a teacher today as another school year begins, thank her (or him). You might also think about thanking that teacher’s husband and family.

What’s a memory of your favorite teacher?