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?

-Gerry

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,

Matt

*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

HPIM0476

“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

-Gavin

Are you listening to me???

listening

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!

-Gerry

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.

Peace!
Ken

The Future of the Whetstone

“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt”
― Seth GodinThe Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit

“Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”
― Seth GodinThe Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
-Thomas Edison
“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” ~ Vince Lombardi.
~ Vince Lombardi.
Hi Friends,
I feel like I’m at a decision point with the Whetstone. Quit or change. The current status quo of the Whetstone is unsustainable for me. It has become uninspiring and laborious. I feel that the Whetstone is mediocre compared to what it should be. And, that is my fault. My fault for not planning, for not being disciplined, and my fault for not having a well-defined message. The last thing you and I need is for the Whetstone to be a guilt trip or an obligation. From a numbers standpoint, there has been no growth in the readership for quite a while. The last person to subscribe was 7 months ago.
So, at the end of August, the Whetstone will go on a break for the rest of the year while I decide what happens to it. There are essentially two questions I need to answer. 1- Is it working? Right now, no. I believe it needs a major overhaul to work. 2-Do I still believe in it? Right now, I’m not sure. Answering that question will be the bulk of the struggle in the next month or so. What I do know is if the Whetstone continues, it will not be in its current state.
But, first; I want to tell each of you how much I appreciate you. Your support in prayer, in words and financially, has been humbling, encouraging, and something that I will remember for a long time. Putting yourself out there with the potential for others to criticize is scary. So, thank you for walking with me in this.
Lastly, thank you to Gavin, Gerry, and Ken who either can’t say no to me or really trusted me enough to go on this journey. Your faithfulness, support, and encouragement have literally gotten me through to now.
I would appreciate your prayers as I sort through this.
Stay Sharp,
Matt

 

Jennifer and the Missing 1st Class Passenger

If you’re like most people I know, you like to have your flight schedule nailed down. You know what seat you’re in, when you need to leave home, and when you’re going to board. But, it’s not just in traveling… a plan gives some peace and assurance. Many of us have plans for our marriages, work, finances, kids, spiritual growth, volunteer work, and physical health. When those plans don’t come together or a wrench is thrown into the works, stress, angst and even anger are many times the order of the day! It’s particularly tough when you don’t know until the very end whether it’s going to work or not!

That’s where Jennifer and the missing 1st class passenger come in… and by the way… thank you to both of them, whoever and wherever they may be!

Sara and I were given “Buddy Passes” for our trip from Austin to Denver a few weeks ago. The way it works is you are put on the standby list and hopefully you get a seat! The challenge is that you are put on the bottom of the list. All other passengers take precedence. So… we got to the airport, checked in on time… everything going smoothly. A little nervous, we kept asking and watching, but no answers.  Boarding began. Then an announcement over the airport system… “The lower level has been shut down for a possible bomb and we are evacuating that level. The bomb squad is investigating so at this time no one is allowed to leave or enter. No action needs to be taken by the people on the concourse.” Can you imagine what everyone was thinking… the lower level isn’t that far away… a bomb could take it all out… are you kidding us!!!!

And then… “Harrow party of 2 please come to the podium.” Awesome… now we can get out of this place! “Mr. and Mrs. Harrow, I’m sorry to inform you that we only have 1 seat left and the next flight is already full.” What? I’ve got to get there but I can’t leave Sara behind with a bomb! A sick feeling in my gut. Sara urging me to take the seat. But there’s still hope… they’re waiting for one passenger who had already checked in online… Jennifer! After what seemed to be an eternity… no Jennifer… the gate agent said to both of us… “follow me down the jetway.” He needed to check if they had missed her boarding. No Jennifer!!!! Whew… we both took our seats and we were on our way! As we taxied, there sure was a lot of traffic backed up… probably because of the bomb scare. THANK YOU JENNIFER!

getting a standby seat to go home So what did I learn? Reflecting on the experience, I thought about how we are called to follow Jesus in every aspect of our lives and, even though we have it all planned out, He may have different plans for us that may not even revealed until the last minute. So, how can I… we… be more open to changes and the dynamic life we’re called to live? By watching, listening, learning and following our Savior closer and closer each day wherever and whenever He takes us… even at the last moment! What a great lesson! That will probably show up in a sermon someday! Confidently and boldly… feeling pretty proud of myself… I thought, I can handle this much better now!

So after an eventful few days, we were looking forward to getting back to Texas. So… we got to the airport, checked in on time… everything going smoothly. Standby list looked pretty full… boarding progresses. “Harrow party of 2 please come to the podium.” Awesome… now we can get back home! “Mr. and Mrs. Harrow, I’m sorry to inform you that we only have 1 seat left and the next flight out is already full.” What!!! How is this going to work? No car or place in Colorado… how will we handle the Texas end? Let’s check other flights… maybe we can buy some tickets. $900… that won’t work. But there’s still hope… they’re waiting for one passenger… a 1st Class passenger! After what seemed to be an eternity… no passenger yet… the gate agent said to both of us… “follow me down the jetway.” He needed to check if they had missed him boarding. No 1st Class passenger!!!! Whew… we both took our seats and we were on our way! THANK YOU MISSING 1st CLASS PASSENGER!

So what did I really learn? That it’s really hard to fully give up our plans, our will, our future, our kids, our families, and marriages to God. How are you at that? God asks us to give it all up to the Creator of the universe… the one who controls nature… the one who provides every single thing we have. My prayer is that you and I both learn the peace, joy and freedom in living that way. It may not work out in the way or timing we want, but we know that it will work together for good.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose

-Gerry

How’s Your Vision?

Vision_2

Our human tendency is to be very near sighted, or self-focused. If I’m honest with myself, I tend to be most concerned about how things are going for me; how the current situation and/or decision will affect me; how future plans might benefit me.

No, not all the time, but more frequently than I care to admit or even realize.

Me, me, me.

Hmmm. Not terribly flattering…

To be sure, we can’t avoid focusing on ourselves to at least some degree. As human beings, we have basic needs that must be met to survive. We need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, shelter to sleep. And I’m sure you can add a few more to the list that are truly needs. After those basic needs are met, it becomes a competition of my wants, my comforts, and my luxuries versus your needs, wants, comforts, and luxuries.

For most of us here in America, our basic needs are met, along with most of our wants. Comforts and luxuries are the new needs. And we’re constantly bombarded with messages that try and convince us of these new needs:

“It’s all about you!” (There was a billboard in town for a local bank last year with a woman smiling and pointing at passing motorists with this proclamation.)

“Be true to yourself!” (Was Hitler true to himself? What about Stalin? Bin Laden? Hmmm. The list goes on and on…)

“Follow your heart!” (“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9))

“You deserve this!” or “You’ve earned this!” (” …for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23) So what exactly do we deserve?)

“Look out for number one! (Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Look at this last one again. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

This really sums it up for me. Our tendency, again, is to focus on ourselves. That’s the essence of the “Look out for number one” mantra.

But Jesus corrects this faulty world view and commands us to look up to God as our number one. To love Him with everything we are; To trust Him, submit to Him, depend on Him. And then we are to look out to others; to love others as we love ourselves. The implication here is that we love ourselves just fine by default – we don’t need any instruction here. But we do need the exhortation to love others.

So back to the title, what’s all this have to do with vision?

I believe we’re called to have a long view. I mean a really, really long view, not just a five or ten year plan, or looking ahead to retirement, but a desire to see things from God’s point of view.

In other words, put on your eternity glasses.

What?! Wait a minute you say – I’m not God! I don’t know the future!!

Well, you’re right – you’re not God.

But you’re also wrong about not knowing the future. In fact, God has revealed to us all we need to know about the future.

Christ defeated death on the cross.
”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We share in that victory by God’s grace and through faith in Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

God wins.
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5)

So those eternity glasses are not to see some hidden mystery of the future, but rather to remind us of the truth that we are sons and daughters of the most high God. Take comfort knowing the God who loves you is sovereign and in control. And while we’re sure to experience trials and tribulations in this world, our eternal victory is secure in Christ!

Peace,
Ken