A 9/11 Moment in 1983

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Thirty-three years have passed since the largest non-nuclear explosion since World War II took the lives of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. At about 6:20 in the morning on October 23, 1983, a yellow Mercedes truck charged through the barbed-wire fence around the American compound in Beirut and plowed past two guard stations. It drove straight into the barracks and exploded.  beruit

Eyewitnesses said that the force of the blast caused the entire building to float up above the ground for a moment before it pancaked down in a cloud of pulverized concrete and human remains. That day was the largest single-day loss of life of Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Americans were shocked at the devastation, but at the time few grasped the significance of the deadly bombing. It marked the emergence of a deadly new form of terrorism never seen on this scale. For those who served or joined soon thereafter, this was their generation’s 9/11 moment…a call to service in the midst of a terror attack.

Almost all of the 241 deceased service members were from Camp Lejeune, NC.  241 dads, husbands, and friends from one town gone in an instant…the impact was devastating to the small military town of Jacksonville, NC.  Imagine what it would do to your community to lose that many of your men in one moment.

Beirut_Memorial_1Today, near the entrance to Camp Johnson, a subsidiary base of Camp Lejeune, a memorial wall is nestled among the Carolina pines. The Beirut Memorial Wall, completed on Oct. 23, 1986, bears a list of those Americans who died in Lebanon. Only four words are inscribed on the Wall: “They Came in Peace.”

The Marines lost at Beirut are also remembered in another way. Soon after the attack, a middle school class in Jacksonville decided to raise money for a memorial for the Marines. The money they raised was used to purchase 241 trees.trees

For over a decade on my way to work, I would drive down Highway 24 (Lejeune Blvd) into the main entrance of Camp Lejeune. What makes this drive different is the center lane. It is lined with the 241 Bradford Pear Trees purchased by local students….one for each man lost.

What many don’t know is that on the other side of the world there is a matching set of trees. In 1992, the director of the Haifa, Israel USO coordinated the creation of a memorial park that included 241 olive trees.  The trees lead to an overpass on Mount Carmel looking toward Beirut.

Col. Charles Dallachie, who was a survivor of the Beirut Bombing once wrote, “For Marines, great victories, great defeats and great sacrifices are never forgotten, but are remembered with battle streamers attached to unit colors. Unfortunately, there are no battle streamers to remember the ultimate sacrifice made in 1983 by Marines, sailors and soldiers in Beirut, Lebanon.”

He is correct, for the Marines lost at Beirut there are no battle streamers…there are only trees.

Family Core Values

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COREVALUESThis month at my church is Milestone Month.  As part of this family ministry focus, Liz and I get to lead a class with new parents.  In this class we discuss a list of topics ranging from “Remember Forevers” to basic household boundaries.  We will also spend a portion of this class helping families develop a list of Family Core Values.

You see, in my previous organization, we had a list of 3 core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. As Marine leaders, we consistently led numerous discussions on how these values were lived out and demonstrated by individual Marines and collectively as a warfighting organization. More importantly, we were expected to model them on a daily basis.

Realizing the importance of core values in my “job” solidified the need for my family to define our own set of values. A few years ago, after much prayer and discussion, we came up with five.

Our Core Values are:

Prayer with Expectation

Truth with Compassion

Scripture with Application

Generosity without Reciprocation

Leadership with Humility

(*I’ll save future blog posts to describe each one and why they are important to us*)

The purpose behind defining your family core values is not to have something nice to put in a frame or hang on the fridge, but a clear list of values that drive your decision making and provide focus for how you “do life.” To paraphrase author and leadership consultant Will Mancini, core values are the shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths. Simply put, they should be a constant reminder of what is important to your family.

When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. Conversely, when your family’s core values are clearly defined the benefits are numerous:

  • Provides a framework to make individual and family decisions
  • Helps ensure unity
  • Makes life simpler because it frees you to say “no” to certain things and “yes” to better things
  • Most of all: core values allow you to do more of what you do best!

Your family already has a certain set of core values….maybe you just haven’t clearly defined them yet. They are underneath the surface of your daily activities. Your role as a leader in your home is to pull them above of the waterline. The more your family knows about itself, the better it’s able to deal with life. Trust me… there’s something about actually writing down your values that makes you more committed to living them out!

What’s A Primary Faith Trainer?

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faith-at-home-logoA former survey of parents by The Barna Group found that “close to nine out of ten parents of children under age 13 believe they have the primary responsibility for teaching their children about religious beliefs and spiritual matters.”

This is great news!!! Scripture clearly commands us as parents to teach our children the truth of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 6).  I was happy to hear so many families agreed!

However…..(there’s always a however).

However according to the same survey, “a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters with their children.”


Instead, the parents surveyed typically “rely on their church to do all of the religious training for their children.” Unfortunately this runs contrary to God’s plan for the discipleship of our families.  To quote a friend and fellow Pastor, Brian Haynes, “the family is plan A and the church is plan B when it comes to the spiritual formation of the next generation.”

So what can we do about it?

The first thing to determine is the “why?” Why do parents who believe they should assume the responsibilities as the primary faith trainer in their home fail to do so?

The report provided the answer: “a majority of parents are willing to provide spiritual leadership for their children, but feel ill-equipped to lead them in this way.”

Like most things in life, specifically in parenting and marriage, we over complicate what was meant to be natural. We add pressure to live up to a standard presented on a blog or a Pinterest page.  We grab our Bible, our spouse, our kids, and our best intentions and off we go!

And then life happens…..

So in our own strength we try harder….

And we fail (according to the unrealistic standards)….

Then we become overwhelmed or feel defeated and we give up…..

Then unfortunately we don’t do anything.

Thankfully, many years ago before I arrived at my current church, the staff provided a clear blueprint on what the role of a Primary Faith Trainer looks like.  We continue to teach these habits in our parenting classes.

Simply put – a Parent as a Primary Faith Trainer does three things:

  1. Lead Faith Talks
  2. Capture God Moments
  3. Celebrate Milestones

In the next few weeks we will walk through each of these in more detail but for now I want to leave you with a question, “Are You Willing to Be the Primary Faith Trainer in Your Home?”

Back To School Advice

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It’s that time of year again. Here in the next week or so we will start to see the sweet pictures on Facebook and Instagram of kids heading out the door on their way to school.  For some it is their first day of preschool and for others it may be the first day of their last year.  Some go to public schools while some study at home.  Regardless of the age or location, one thing remains the same, it can be a scary, exciting, and challenging time for the kiddos and the parents. But this time can also be used to have some powerful conversations with your child.

So here is my back to school advice….I don’t have much….just one lesson, one tip, one challenge for you.

places u goFocus on the people they are, not the places they will go. In 1990, Dr. Seuss wrote the national best-seller “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”  This is a great book that has some profound lessons for each us; but more essential than our child’s journey is their identity.

Undoubtedly there is excitement in the places they can go and it can be healthy to challenge them toward future goals, but there is much more fulfillment in helping them answer the question, “Who am I?”

As parents we have a duty to bless our children for who they are – a child of God created with infinite value, dignity and worth – not for what they may or may not do.

You see when we accidently or unconsciously build a link in our child’s mind connecting their acceptance or approval with their performance (or the places they may or may not go) we miss the mark.

So before your child heads out the door this school year bless them!

Remind them that they are chosen, loved, and accepted….fully and unconditionally.

Remind them that your love is in no way tied to performance….performance in a class room, performance on a ball field, performance in life.

Enjoy the school year!

(If you want to know how Liz and I practically do this with our two boys click here.)

Final Day in Nicaragua

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Day 5: July 15th / 10:45pm local time.

pizzaToday was our fun day. We toured an active volcano, went on a boat tour, ate some great pizza for lunch and visited the local market.  All in all – a pretty cool day….but it was tonight that got me.

Every night this week, all 61 of us gather outside in a little pavilion, sing a few worship songs, and “download” our experiences for the day. But tonight was different.

Tonight I sat on a concrete floor and listened for over two hours as student after student got up and spoke.

Tears flowed as I heard our young ladies hurt for the local women they served at House of Hope.

Tears flowed as the young men spoke about the mantle of leadership they inspire to hold within their schools and at church.

Tears flowed as adult leaders continually praised the students, many of them they have known since preschool.

Tears flowed as student and adult spoke about how God had used them even in the mundane.

I ended the night by quickly reviewing our theme for the week, “It’s not about me” and then I reminded them of the 2 previous questions we have discussed:

  1. What breaks your heart?
  2. What does love require?

Our last question this week was: “Where are my feet?”

You see this week many of our students have talked about what they wanted to do in the future.  Tonight I wanted to remind them that it is important for us to remember that we don’t have to wait.  For all of us, our feet are currently resting within the exact geographic circle of God’s calling on our lives. In the future God may call you outside that circle but it is where He has us for now.  Our obedience to Him only matters in the present!

There are many more stories to hear about this week. Find one of our students, sit down with them, and ask them to share.  You’ll be inspired…..I was.



Day Four Report: “Our” Missionaries

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Day 4: July 14th / 10:30pm local time.

Today was our last day of service. Our students have been working extremely hard this week and it showed this morning.  However, as expected, these young men and women rallied and finished their last day with the same energy and enthusiasm as day one!

loftsgardTonight during our download time we paused to thank the Loftsgard Family.   Marilyn and her husband Eric are missionaries in Nicaragua.  They have been serving the people of this country for over 18 years and have been partnering with Kingsland for over a decade.  They have seen dozens of our teams come in and out of here and always welcome us with open arms.  This is probably why so many of our students through the years refer to their family as “our” missionaries!

This week Marilyn has been our hero. From buying bottled water to translating to keeping us on task, Marilyn was the key to our success this week.  She made all the pre-trip arrangements and her attention to detail and has made our stay so much easier!  We could not have done any of this without her!

But even more admiring is her patience and grace with us. She handles our complaints, questions, and comments with such poise. I can see why the people of Nicaragua love her so much!

We were also blessed to have Marilyn’s daughter Leah serve with us. Leah was our point person at House of Hope and showed our teams what true service and unconditional love is all about.  Seeing a family so united in service is humbling.

Tomorrow we take a day to enjoy the other parts of Nicaragua. Weather permitting we hope to tour a volcano, take a boat ride around the lake, and enjoy some time in the local market.  Our team is definitely looking forward to tomorrow!

Keep your prayers coming!

Day 3 Report: What does love require of me?

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Day 3: July 13th / 10:30pm local time.

Today was great but tough!

Our middle of the week fatigue kicked in today. It was hot and many on our team had to work outside.  However I was amazed at how our team rallied around our mission, motto, and each other.

Highlights of today include:

More mowing with a machete. Why you ask??  Tesoros de Dios was recently able to buy the small field adjacent to their facility.  Horse therapy is a large portion of their rehabilitation so they plan to use this field to expand this part of their treatment.  As you can imagine, they do not have a lot of full time help to clear a field so our teams have been a huge blessing to them in this area.  Who know removing stumps was part of ministry!?!?!

Home visits. Today portions of our team got to visit the homes of some of the special needs families that attend Tesoros.  These families cannot make it to Tesoros on a daily basis so on these days the staff comes to them.  Our team got to help assist in the home therapy and pray for these families.

Watercolor Painting. This afternoon our girls at House of Hope got to simply sit down and spend some quality time with the residents.  We bought a few sets of water color paints and while the boys entertained the kiddos, our girls bonded over the simple idea of art.  I loved the smiles and giggles of the group. For a moment, they were all simply girls (of all ages) having fun!

After our day of hard work, we passed on the hotel chow and treated the students to a night at the mall. They had to order their own food from the food court (that was funny!) and spent a little time shopping.  I am continually impressed with how they represent our church!

boys  picBefore I share our end of evening discussions I want to highlight the young men on our trip. Back home these guys are labeled by the sport they play, the activities they are involved in, or the school they attend.  Many times this causes them to put on a certain “persona”…..this quite often progresses into manhood as most of us know!  However the other leaders and I have been continually impressed with how they have let their guards down.  They give piggy back rides until they are exhausted.  They play soccer, duck duck goose, and color with kids.  To the moms and dads of the young men on this trip…give them a big hug when they get home.  You should be proud of them!

We ended our night by asking question #2.

I reminded them of our motto: “It’s not about me” and of the first question I asked them Monday night:  “What breaks my heart?”

We then introduced question #2: Once I know what breaks my heart; What does love require of me?

We discussed that once God puts a cause on our heart, once our heart breaks, love requires us to act. When we do – it will cost us.

It will cost us money.

It will cost us time.

It will cost us convenience.

It will cost us our reputation.

Ultimately it will cost us some life….

The problem with this is that we are by nature life preservers. We don’t like giving these things up.  However when we decide to move in the direction of what breaks our heart, we have to let go of the things we are trying to preserve.

What does love require of us? The answer, some of our life……

Keep your prayers coming! Tomorrow is our last day of service.  We desire to honor God by finishing well!