The Inner Kid

Children running on meadow at sunset

So guys, or as they say in Texas, y’all… I’m going to challenge you today… but first…

I remember the feeling as a kid of running full out in the back yard playing army with my buddies. I would run, splash through the mud, army crawl on the dirt to get closer to the “enemy,” build forts, and do all sorts of things without a worry or fear. And later in life… camouflaged, sneaking through the woods trying to get close enough to a deer so I could use my bow and arrow… and yes even the inner kid thinking what it must have been like in the pioneer days. No worries, just pure enjoyment and focus on the thing and challenge at hand. Testing the boundaries and getting an understanding of who I was and what limits there were… all in the midst of the joy and freedom of the experience.

So… I’d like to you to recall a similar time in your experiences. Recall a time that you had no fears, worries and were totally enjoying the moment. A time when the inner child could experience the awe and wonder… the sheer joy of living. What were the feelings you experienced? Now I know that’s a challenge for guys… to talk about feelings… but what were they? Joy, peace, exhilaration, accomplishment?

Have you ever thought about the children of today? Are the same opportunities as available to them? In this day and age of having to be protective, diligently watching what they do, monitoring who they hang out with, limiting what they experience on their digital devices, and attempting to control where they go and what they see… not even talking about the enormous pressure to compete and perform… it’s much more difficult for them to experience the joy and freedom of childhood.

So what does that mean to us as men, dads or not?

I have to be honest… I struggle to answer. But… here’re a few thoughts I had:

  1. We can provide safe environments for kids to just be kids. An environment where there is no pressure to perform but encouragement to explore. An environment where there is no rush or hurry to get something completed, to learn something, or to get to the next thing. Go to a park and let them run, play, and experiment… even let them get dirty… they’ll wash.
  2. We can also model this in a positive way… showing that you can explore, you can unplug the digital devices and clock and just be. Take fishing for example… when was the last time you went fishing with a kid to just enjoy it… celebrating catching fish but also celebrating not catching fish… taking on the challenge of a tangled line with joy… just enjoying the experience regardless of the “success?” No work, no phone and no expectations except to experience what happened.
  3. How about this… and if there are any moms reading this, hold on… let a kid try something even if he might get a road rash or fail. Then, help him learn from it in a positive way.
  4. Be the great news of Jesus to your kids. Teach and show them how God has worked in your life to protect, comfort, lead and dispel fear and doubt. Teach them the life of following Jesus… a life of joy and freedom even when it’s tough because of His work on the cross.

You see, God speaks about life His way and it’s a full life.

John 10:10 (NIV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

One without worry.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Because of Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family… we are the sons and daughters of the Creator Himself… and we can live freely, joyfully, and without worry knowing that God is in control and a very real presence. Do you let yourself experience this or have all the worries, fears and challenges got in your way?

How can you re-experience being the child of God living the full life He has for you?

How can you help the kids in your life experience the fullness of life?


February 2017 Newsletter

Retirement Greetings! I began a new job in January. So, recently I’ve been signing up for all of my benefits. And, that includes investments, an ESOP, and 401k. That got me thinking about retirement. It’s not something I’ve put a ton of thinking into. It’s 20+ years down the road. But the last 20 years are any indicator, the next 20 will go quickly. So, I’ve found a few articles and resources on the topic of aging and retirement. Give them a look and think about how the fit your idea of aging and retirement.


Aging Gracefully, With Greater Age Comes Greater Sorrow, With Greater Age, Comes Greater Joy, Greater Age Brings Greater Responsibility, and Aging Brings Life-Shaping Decisions.

Every day, we are all building the house we will live in when old age comes. Some of us are building a beautiful palace. Some are building a dark prison. What are you building?

Now that I’ve hit mid-life, I’ve been thinking about getting older, retirement, and aging. Coincidentally, Tim Challies has written an excellent series on aging.

Success to Significance – Gerry Harrow

I beg of you… please choose a life of significance sooner than later! You don’t have to quit your job, take a vow of poverty or become a full-time pastor. Put your trust in God alone… first. Choose His ways… first.

This is one of our top blog posts. Gerry shares one very important lesson that he’s learned along the way in life.

Why Retirement is a Dirty Word. Michael Hyatt

Retirement has always been used as a way for people in authority to induce behaviors in others for their own purposes.

Is the American dream of working until retirement and then vacationing until death the right way to approach life? That’s the traditional sense of retirement, but it appears to be changing. Many people are seeing themselves working well past “retirement” age and not just out of financial necessity, but because it brings significance to themselves and others.


Retirement KillsFreakonomics Radio

The study showed that for every extra year of early retirement, you lose about two months of life expectancy. And I should say, this is not the first study to show there’s a fairly strong relationship between early retirement and earlier death.

Retire early, die early. Wow. Why? Cardiovascular issues, more smoking, drinking, worse diet, and exercise. But there appears to be a mental health link too.


Jared Diamond: How Societies Can Grow Old Better

Paradoxically nowadays, when we have more elderly people than ever before, living healthier lives and with better medical care than ever before, old age is in some respects more miserable than ever before. The lives of the elderly are widely recognized as constituting a disaster area of modern American society.

This is a fascinating TED talk contrasting how traditional societies treat the elderly and how modern Western societies do.

So the takeaways for me? 1) It’s time to look at what the next stage of life hold for me. 2) Value the experience and relationships of those who have gone before. 3) The prevailing societal sentiment regarding retirement needs to be questioned.

Stay Sharp!


I am Going to Offend You!

I get the onerous duty of picking my kids up from school each day. It is a mess of cars and students in a tiny parking lot with not much room to maneuver. So,  humans being humans everyone is trying to find a way to beat the system. Some park in the middle of the lot blocking other cars from leaving, others park in the no

parking areas, while others wait dutifully in line. I am a righteous dutiful line waiter. I get to the school a full 20 minutes before the kids are let out to get a good spot in line. So I watch these line jumpers and traffic blockers fuming as much as the car in front who hasn’t had an emissions test in 20 years. What should I do?

Being offended has become a national past time for Americans. We march, we riot, we post on facebook, we tweet snarky comments about others, we listen to radio shows and podcasts that feed our offendedness. We easily find reasons to be offended. Why? I think because it feeds our self-important sense of righteousness. “Everyone is dumb except for me!”

Here’s an example. I’m a former cop. I live within a half mile of 3, 3! round-a-bouts. I probably drive through one of those merry-go-rounds for vehicles 6 or more times a day. So not only do I have the letter of the law, I know the spirit of it too. And let me tell you, everyone and I mean everyone who drives through those when I do is a moron! They wait too long, they don’t wait long enough, they go too fast, they go too slow. But, I! I always get it right and I let my passengers know.

So what’s wrong with being offended? Plenty. We lose compassion for those who “offend” us. We are distracted from life when we constantly feed our anger at others. We lose sight that we have been, will be, and are just as offensive.  Jesus didn’t call us to be offended, he called us to love.

Here are three things to know about not being offended:

  1. You were just as offensive as everyone else. Romans 3:23 tells us, “For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us.” MSG and Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” We can’t be offended at others because we are in the same boat!
  2. You have been forgiven, just like everyone else. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of the debtor who was forgiven of millions of dollars to only go back and throw the guy who owed him $10 in jail.* Don’t be that guy! Realizing that you were given so much grace and mercy obligates us to give others that same grace and mercy.
  3. Stop feeding your offendedness. Easier said than done sometimes. So here’s a tip. Stop watching the news, stop feeding it with facebook and twitter. When you starve your offendedness it will go away, believe me.

So what happened with the school pickup line. Well, I thought about writing an email to the administration detailing the problem and offering a solution of life in prison for those who blocked my way. That seemed like a lot of work. But, I eventually came to the realization that my anger wasn’t productive. I either had to stop being offended or do something. So, I come to school 15 minutes after school lets out. I don’t spend all that time in line, the traffic has thinned out, and my kids get to hang out with their friends instead of frantically looking for me.

Stay Sharp,


*From the MIV (Matt’s International Version), currency equivalents are approximate subject to inflation and the fact that rocks used to weigh money to set value and not some omnipotent politician in the Fed.

Happy Birthday Whetstone

The Whetstone turns 3 today!  

I can’t believe that it’s gone this quickly. There’s been ups and downs, stops and starts, but it’s been awesome!


Thank you for being a part of the Whetstone community!


Stay Sharp!

Larry Nassar and Rachel Denhollander

I am writing this as a quick reaction, so please forgive the incomplete and unformed thoughts.

I don’t watch much news anymore (it’s all fake?). But, it’s been hard to miss the sexual abuse trial of Larry Nassar. He was sentenced up to 175 years in prison for victimizing more than 150 girls.

As part of the sentencing phase of the trial, the victims are given a voice to speak to the court, to the other victims, and to the convicted abuser.

Rachel Denhollander was one of those who Larry Nassar abused in his capacity as a doctor for gymnasts. She was the first victim to come forward and bring charges against him.  She spoke at the sentencing phase and addressed him directly.

I just watched her statement and there is so much forgiveness, grace, and wisdom in that statement that I am still putting together what it all meant. Please watch starting at the 27-minute mark.

I really have no words. I will try and write something on this more soon.

What are your thoughts?

Stay Sharp

I was desperate, and you weren’t there


“The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.” – Pudd’nhead Wilson (Mark Twain)

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.” Job 2:11


From the above quotes, I hope you can identify the theme of my appeal: friendship. So let me get straight to an important request. If there is a friend in your life that you haven’t talked to in a while, reach out to them. Ask how they are doing. Just contact them to say hello. Don’t read this and do nothing.

I am not trying to inspire you to wishful thinking. I am admonishing you to act. Reach out to a friend that you haven’t heard from in a while. If you do that right now then you are excused from reading the rest. I want to share a few personal examples of why it is so important.

This past November was the one year anniversary of the death of a good friend of mine. He was 44 years old, had two young children, and drank himself to death. In high school, we were a close circle of about 6 friends who did everything together. As his life started to spiral out of control a few years ago we were there for him – to golf, to watch football and to have a few beers. None of us knew the pain in his life that was causing him to completely unravel until it was too late.

In retrospect, there were a lot of things we all would have done differently. And as overwhelming as his situation was the solution was simple. More on that in a moment.

More recently another friend – by the grace of God and with courage from the Holy Spirit – reached out to his circle of friends for help. He was in a dark, desperate place and was plagued by depression. This had been going on in his life for a few years. But of course, I was clueless to his pain because I had abandoned him.

Sure I thought about him a lot. “I wonder how George* is doing?” I would think to myself before immediately getting distracted. I would invite him to dinners or get-togethers and think nothing when I did not get a response. He would be included in the silly email strings that circulate on occasion, and that was the extent of my friendship. I justified my abandonment by telling myself that George is busy…has a demanding job…has young kids – all the typical excuses.

Little did I know that he was hurting and needed help. He had fallen into a pit of depression, and I was not there to help him out.

To be sure if a friend of mine calls and desperately asks for help I would move mountains to be there. But what about the friend who doesn’t call? Easy to help someone who asks for it. Far more difficult to find ways to be helpful to those who don’t ask.

But you don’t need a degree in psychiatry to help. The story of Job is informative. Upon hearing of his afflictions, Job’s friends traveled to be with him. Job was being tormented by Satan and was desperate and confused. When his friends arrived, “they sat on the ground with [Job] for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:13

What could they offer except their availability? They didn’t have the answer. They didn’t offer the exact right words to soothe his pain. They simply sat in his presence. In doing this Job knew he was not alone.

So take 5 minutes this week to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Maybe you will have a polite conversation, catch up on each other’s life and find that all is well.

But maybe in doing so, you will be reaching out to someone who desperately needs to know they are not alone.

*not real name


Are you listening to me???


When was the last time someone really stopped and listened to you? How about you… be honest… when was the last time you stopped, set aside your own agenda, and really listened without trying to figure out how you were going to respond and what you were going to say next or thinking about all the to-dos you had on your list? What an important skill and what a gift it is… this difficult thing called listening.

In our transition over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many new people and test out this important skill. I’ll be frank… I’ve not always done it well! Trying to get stuff done, too much on my plate, unable to stop and set aside my own agenda and too tired to really pay attention… there are so many things that had gotten in the way of listening! Our busyness in life and our constant striving to achieve keep us from listening to our children, grandchildren, and our spouses. That doesn’t even touch on how flippant we can be with those who we just run into…

Poor listening causes so many unnecessary heartaches.  Anger, misunderstandings, broken relationships, hurt feelings, and feelings of inadequacy just to name a few.

I’ve also noticed that people are starving for someone to just listen to them. There are so many people who just want someone to care enough to set everything aside and be present for them… not with any answers or advice… just a listening ear. You may be feeling that right now.

So how can you be a better listener? An old saying that has always struck me is:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

Scripture speaks into this also:

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20 (NIV)

So, what it comes down to is take the time to listen. Take the time to understand. Take the time to respond appropriately. Stop what you’re doing, put down the electronics, suspend your own filters and agendas, and look the person in the eye… try to understand their situation… ask questions and then just listen. Some cultures teach about “reading the air”… hearing the hidden meanings and the needs behind the words… try listening for what’s behind the words. You will be astounded by what you will learn. You will be amazed at the leaps forward in building relationships. What an amazing gift you will be given when people start listening because you listened to them.

But hear this. God hears you. He is a faithful listener. It’s in Him that we can learn to become the listeners he has made us to be!

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

Let me know what you hear!


January 2017 Newsletter

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Happy New Year! Welcome to the January edition of the Whetstone Newsletter. You’ve probably read or heard a lot about resolutions, goals, and habits lately. They are the usual topic du jour for a new year. They are usually about adding something into your life. A new diet, a new exercise routine, a new bible reading plan, a new budget. So what about subtracting? What can you or should you subtract from your life? I’m not just talking about bad habits here, but those subtle influences that you’ve allowed in your life. What forms of media should go? What social website do you need to abandon because it’s not healthy for you? What guilty pleasure TV show should you jettison? What are you spending money on that you shouldn’t? There are some great articles below on just that. We’ve got so much as Americans, that even though we can have it all, we don’t need most of it.


Your New Fitbit Won’t Change Your LifeTrevin Wax

Sometimes, we think about sin and sanctification in terms of cigarettes and Fitbits. We think that if we just warn people away from the consequences of sin, then people will steer clear. Sometimes, that works. But often, it doesn’t. Sin, after all, is irrational!

Did you get a Fitbit or similar tracker for Christmas? Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get in shape? Then you’ll want to read Trevin’s article and see where your motivation lies.

The Bachelor is Killing Romance in AmericaKareem Abdul-Jabbar

So, what’s so wrong with a little harmless entertainment of watching people scramble for “love” like ravenous crabs on a washed up seal corpse? In the short term, nothing. Just good, clean fun. But the long-term effects of their choices — from the types of people selected to be on the show to the promotion of a subversive, childish concept of love — is like smoking or listening to Kenny G: it can have serious consequences.

Yes, it’s that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If you’ve been wondering why relationships and marriage have cheapened, look no further than what we consider entertainment. Kareem lays out the argument against treating relationships, marriage, and romance like a game with winners and losers.

Digital Minimalism and Some Thoughts on Transitioning to Digital MinimalismCal Newport

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email, IM, text, CNN, Fox News, Feedly, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Have you thought about what the technology that you use costs you? In time, in attention, in relationships. Do they add or subtract from your life? What value, if any do they bring? We have a responsibility to steward our technology wisely.

A New Year and Another New BeginningSteve Smith

The beginning of a new year gives us all the choice to get something right that has been, well…not right, for perhaps a long, long time. When we think this way, it is really grace for us. We give up the weight of having to try and to try harder. We simply begin and we learn to begin again.

Need some inspiration and perspective on thinking through the new year and your future. Steve has 5 great suggestions to think through.


Minimalism – Netflix

This is a convicting documentary to watch. We have been extremely, exponentially, materially blessed in America. While I believe that the documentary has some of the problem correctly identified (sin is the real problem), I don’t believe that minimalism is the answer. A deep abiding faith in God is. That given aside, we have the responsibility to live as good stewards of the blessings we’ve been given. Just because we can buy, do, or have doesn’t mean that we should.


Obsessed – Jim Gaffigan

I used to be thin….when I was 6.  I’ve put on some weight, but luckily this is intentional. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’m preparing for a big role. It’s a cinnamon roll.

Jim Gaffigan is a hilarious and family friendly comedian. Have a good laugh or several (it’s good for you) and listen/watch his Obsessed show.

Stay Sharp!

Matt Rise

August Whetstone Newsletter

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AFF Team Delivers First Creative Camp in Haiti – American Friendship Foundation

It is a simple and obvious philosophy… Haitians are going to find the answers to Haiti’s issues. Investing in teachers and students, specifically in their ability to tackle tough problems and work as a team, is a great partnership opportunity for us.

Read about my friend Kris Neese’s work in Haiti with the American Friendship Foundation.


Technology steers what 2 billion people are thinking and believing every day. It’s possibly the largest source of influence over 2 billion people’s thoughts that has ever been created.

The attention economy. That is the currency of today’s internet. Time (attention) is money. Apple, Google, and Facebook don’t care about you, they want to sell you to other companies. So they manipulate your attention. Autoplay, notifications, streaks hijack your mind into spending your time the way Apple, Google, and Facebook want you to spend your time. And you don’t even realize it. Romans 12:2 says it best: “2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Our minds are being transformed… tech.

Rethinking Christian Calling – Kyle Borg

Discerning God’s will and guidance comes to us in the Bible and we need to be content with that. The specific details of his individual plan are things that can only be known in retrospect.

Calling is one of those tricky concepts in Christian life. Ken wrote about it last week. He wrote, “I say I want to know God’s plan. I say I want to know my purpose; or rather His purpose for me – my calling. But maybe I should be asking myself why I want to know these things?” 


The Manipulative Trick Tech Companies Use to Capture Your Attention – Tristan Harris

 Here’s the TED talk referenced in the article above. As Christians, we need to be intentional about what enters our minds. Are you in control?

Stay Sharp,


When We Least Expect It

Clearly_Mountain Top_Sun

Sometimes I wonder about God’s plan for my life. What’s my purpose? What’s my calling? Am I where God wants me right now, or am I missing or ignoring something that would direct me otherwise?

I don’t know about you, but these thoughts typically come to me during times of idleness. Often plenty to do, but lacking motivation. I may even look busy on the outside, but spinning my wheels internally.

But then I look back and think about some of the great opportunities and experiences that have come my way unexpectedly:

Excellent job opportunities that I hadn’t really been pursuing (and honestly didn’t feel qualified for at the time);
Tremendous friendships stumbled into that have been enormously beneficial and impactful (and I pray the same is true for those friends as well);

Serving opportunities that tapped into gifts and passions I didn’t realize I’d been given. Where I received back tenfold in God’s joy and peace over whatever modest service I had provided.

Amazing conversations where time seemed to stand still and heaven came close. Where the Holy Spirit’s presence was palpable. Where words flowed from unknown sources. Where I almost felt like a spectator in awe of how God was using me.

In those moments, there was no question about God’s plan for my life. I knew I was exactly where God wanted me, and doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Or at least that God was using me exactly where I was – I’m honestly not sure which.

And that’s where the tension comes in.

I say I want to know God’s plan. I say I want to know my purpose; or rather His purpose for me – my calling.
But maybe I should be asking myself why I want to know these things?

Self-righteous Ken would say, “Well, of course I want to know these things so that I can get to work carrying out God’s plan!”

But if I’m honest with myself, I suspect I want to know so I can decide if I like the plan; perhaps there are a few tweaks that are needed?! I want control.

And then there’s the uncomfortable reality that His plan may (will?) take me through some very difficult times.

“…In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33)

How much of His plan do I really want to know with the trials and tribulations that are sure to come? And if I knew of those trials ahead of time, how faithful would I be in following that plan?

Hmmm. I’m pleading the fifth on that last question…

God knows this, of course, and knows my heart. And in His perfect and infinite wisdom, He leads me one step at a time; step by step.

And it’s often during those trials and tribulations of life (that I wouldn’t choose for myself) that I learn the most; that I see God working in the most amazing ways; that the distractions of this life – this broken world – fade away, and I see God’s purpose for me in that moment with complete clarity.

And I’m reminded that God is faithful and trustworthy. That God is good.

This isn’t to say that we should sit around waiting for God to drop things into our lap. Far from it. We’re called to action.

In what is commonly called the great commission, Jesus gives us our marching orders – our “big picture” calling:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And no, these aren’t just instructions for full time missionaries. I believe we’re all called to go into our jobs, into our neighborhoods, into our classrooms, into our families, into our day to day interactions, and yes into our hobbies and leisure activities ready to be witnesses to God’s love and faithfulness.

Now I’m sure there are those who feel called into very specific vocations, and that’s fantastic! But in most cases I really don’t think God cares what career path we choose. We should certainly give it careful and prayerful consideration, but then go! God will use our service wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Often when, and in ways, that we least expect it.