What Does Life Even Mean: My Brief Thoughts on Boyhood

It’s funny, but after watching the movie Boyhood, I’ve found myself unable to shake how much it’s made me think. Obviously the undertaking is incredible and groundbreaking (filming the same cast over the course of 12 years).
The movie was able to show at the same time the incredible “ordinary”-ness of life, and at the same time the incredible complexities that sin brings into our lives. I was heartbroken as I saw families disintegrate, fathers distance themselves, and kids get abused. As Russell Moore put it so well:
I wept as I saw short-sighted, impatient adults who just couldn’t have mercy on this hurting, awkward kid. I wept as I considered all the time when, in the whirl and bustle of our lives, I am diligent to maintain discipline and order (as is absent in this family often), but I am too often a failure at showing mercy and just letting some things go. I could feel myself saying, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”Russell Moore

More than anything, I was personally struck by the ongoing motif of pictures and images. Throughout the movie, in both clear and subtle ways, the moviemakers seemed to be arguing that the meaning of life is simply a collection of snapshots. The boy we follow, Mason, has a deep love for photography. In a more subtle way, the viewer is presented with snapshot after snapshot of Mason’s life with very little transition. In just a moment, he grows and changes.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but think that this is too often how we can think of our own lives. Just a collection of memories that we build along the way, with the little details fading away. “Remember that time?” we say as we begin to think back and tell another story of glory days gone by.

Despair can easily creep in when the opportunities for better pictures begins to fade. Many people seek to subdue the nagging suspicions that life is just a series of snapshots by filling their lives with as many grand moments they can. They

In one particularly moving scene, Mason’s Mom weeps as she sees her son excitedly preparing to leave the house to go to college — one of the final snapshots we see.

“You know what I’m realizing? My life is just going to go,” she says. “Like that. This series of milestones. Getting married. Having kids. Getting divorced. The time that we thought you were dyslexic. When I taught you how to ride a bike. Getting divorced… again. Getting my masters degree. Finally getting the job I wanted. Sending Samantha off to college. Sending you off to college. You know what’s next? Huh? It’s my funeral!”

How easy it would be to find ourselves in the same place — our hope placed in the moments we are creating. What do we do when those moments are gone? I heard in Mason’s Mom’s words the echoes of Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 

As Christians we know our lives aren’t just a series of photos and memories.  When we see that the collection of snapshots and photos is a part of the Grand Story — the ultimate photobook if you will — our life takes on so much more meaning. When we see ourselves as part of God’s Story, the story of grace, redemption, and restoration, our lives have a true meaning. Without the reality of eternity and the New Kingdom, we have nothing.

Yet with the Gospel, we have everything.

As with any movie, I highly recommend reading a review prior to viewing to decide if this is something you want to watch yourself. 

Catch Someone Doing Something Right

I was recently listening to a group of young leaders talk about their organization. I was almost brought to tears listening to them talk about some of their experiences and what they would change as they thought about becoming leaders.

“I actually thought everyone hated me until I was approached about being promoted,” said one leader. “It was really crazy.”

He wasn’t the only one.

“Actually I was the same way — I never really knew if I was doing something good or bad,” she said. Every single person in the group shared the same thing — although they had great experiences with the organization, few leaders had approached them and said “good job.” Some had never heard how they were performing.

Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.” Ken Blanchard

It reminded me of the classic Ken Blanchard book The One Minute Manager, which I highly recommend. In the book he tells the story of a young “manager” who visits the organization that’s run by the “One Minute Manager.” One of the mottos in the organization is simple: “Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.”

In most organizations you’ll find managers or leaders trying to catch people doing something wrong. That certainly has to happen, but what a sad way to lead people. The best organizations and the best leaders have set clear goals and directives for their people and are watching them closely — not to micromanage them or to wait until they make a mistake, but to catch them doing something right. They watch their people closely so that they can be there to celebrate and encourage them when they do something right.

And when they catch someone doing something right, they’re direct and they’re specific. Here’s what Ken Blanchard lays out as rules:

  1. Tell people right from the start that you are going to let them know how they are doing
  2. Praise people immediately
  3. Tell people what they did — be specific
  4. Tell people about how good you feel about what they did right, and how it helps the organization and the other people that work there
  5. Stop for a moment to let them “feel” how good you feel
  6. Encourage them to do more of the same

I couldn’t help but be struck by how many people at even a great organization don’t hear specifically how they’re doing a great job. I’ll be working to catch someone doing something right.

Manliness in Marriage: The How-to Guide

No one will mistake me for the classic manly man — I currently have no beard, I’ve never really hunted or killed anything (on purpose at least), and I’m only a fan in theory of camping.

When I was a single guy, I knew that one day I’d need some “manly” skills — and not necessarily the gun-toting, camo-wearing kind. More like the “I-just-need-this-in-life” kind.

It started with a group of young guys I went to college with. We identified a man we respected and asked him to “teach us his ways.” We all realized that there were so many basic masculine skills we were missing from our “toolbox.”

Then and there we started our weekly gathering called the “Band of Brothers.” Over the course of a few months, we learned how to be men. Here’s what we learned and how you can recreate the same thing (including but not limited to how to roof a house, fire a gun, sharpen a knife, change a tire, change the oil, dress like a man, cook meat, and use tools).

Little did I know how formative this time in my life would be.

The Syllabus 

Before we began the process, a syllabus was created by our fearless leader to guide us. It opened with this course description:

“It has been rightly said that higher education grooms the mind, but neglects the body.  It could be added that the social construct of men is designed to be developed outside of the classroom by accomplishing difficult tasks amidst hard work.  Many times this takes the form of sports.  However, we need to equip men in their masculinity who will in turn lead other men and develop a culture of expressed masculinity.  This is an essential component of theological education and equipping for ministry – regardless of what that ministry might look like.”

The syllabus continued and emphasized the danger in having only mental knowledge with no knowledge of several basic masculine skills:

“Many men leave college uniquely equipped to handle and apply the specific knowledge needing in their respective fields.  However, the student’s ability to impact culture can sometimes be undermined by a lack of knowledge about more masculine areas of interest.  In their churches and workplaces they will gain credibility, broaden their impact, and increase their leadership profile if they properly learn several basic masculine skills.”

The syllabus also included a brief schedule, some recommended reading, and contact information.

What We Learned 

Every week for a semester we would gather together to learn a new skill, often times being taught by a subject-matter expert — a police officer, a Navy SEAL, or a school president for example. These lessons included (but we not limited to):

  1. Roofing a house
  2. Firing, disassembling, and cleaning guns
  3. Building fires without matches
  4. Learning the basic components of an engine
  5. Changing tires, oil, and spark plugs in a car
  6. Learning and using basic tools
  7. Sharpening and using knives
  8. Backing up a trailer
  9. Driving a tractor
  10. Stringing a barbed wire fence
  11. Dressing for corporate functions (a.k.a, “dressing to kill”)
  12. Administering battlefield first aid
  13. Camping without a tent

On some occasions, one of those in the group would be tasked with researching and teaching the next week. It gave us an opportunity to both learn something new and to learn how to teach and lead other men.In each and every category we learned as much as possible and did as much hands-on training and learning that time would allow. On some occasions, one of those in the group would be tasked with researching and teaching the next week. It gave us an opportunity to both learn something new and to learn how to teach and lead other men.

Perhaps most exciting and helpful was how close the group grew together over the course of those weeks and months we worked side-by-side. It’s not every day that you see young men growing deep relationships with one another, but this group did that. We were able to take what we learned and apply it, but more than that we had deep, gospel-centered relationships that still continue to this day.


This is by no means an exhaustive description of how to do this. We met once a week. You could gather a group of young guys together once a month to learn a new skill. The bottom line is this: I think this type of “class” is needed. I can’t emphasize enough how formative and helpful this was to me and the other men who took time each Tuesday to learn a new skill.

In summary, here’s what you need to do:

  • Ensure the group is committed — the key to this group is establishing a core of men who are motivated and willing to “sit at the feet” of someone older and wiser than them
  • Identify a man who “knows” it all and ask him to teach you or a group of men and sit at his feet
  • Put together a plan (syllabus if you need to) and write the plan down
  • Meet no matter what
  • Use subject matter experts where you’re lacking

Looking forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you may have.

Thank you
I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank John Powell, the man who I and many other young men have to thank for his input into our lives. Today I realize what an incredible sacrifice is was to spend time with a group of raw young men who knew so little. We are so thankful — you’ll probably never know the full extent of your influence, but God did great things and is continuing to do great things.

MANHOOD 101: Making Decisions

I had the great pleasure of contributing to The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s latest series on “Manhood 101.” Believe me, I’m no expert but I made my feeble attempt to add to the conversation, primarily by standing on the shoulders of other great men I’ve learned from during my short time here on planet earth. You can read my contribution to the series here.

The irony of writing an article on decision-making is not lost on me. As an incredibly young man, the amount of tough calls and life altering decisions I’ve made is laughable.

Thankfully amidst a world full of options, choices, and decisions, God has provided me with the same Holy Spirit and the same Word he’s provided everyone else to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Like many, I’ve attempted the time-tested and failed methods of decision-making:

  • Flipping to random pages in the Bible.
  • Counting seeing a double rainbow as a “sign”
  • Feeling some inner peace.
  • Dreams (most likely inspired by Chipotle).
  • Making a decision based on what I “felt” after fasting.
  • The good old “flipping a coin”

Each and every one of these methods were more often than not rooted in a deep sense of anxiety and lack of trust in the Lord. If I’m honest, making a decision is difficult. The stakes are so often high and life-altering.Mr. WordPress

// MANHOOD 101: Making Decisions //

Packing Up: How to Fight For Your Family in Transition and Change

My latest article is over on the men’s channel at CBMW.org today:

If you asked me a few years ago if in the span of three years I’d get married, graduate college, have a baby, live in three states, and work three different jobs — well, I’d probably slap you.

Yet here I am once again with a sore back and tape residue on my fingers. Mmm. The sweet smell of cardboard.

Change is scary and complicated. It’s so easy to be paralyzed by doubt, despair, confusion, or stress. Sometimes it’s all of those things at once.

Perhaps most difficult about change — whether it be a major life change or simply the the few hours after work — is remembering that it’s not about me.

It’s not my transition. It’s not my move. It’s not my change.

As the boxes pile high or the baby gear fills up the second bedroom, the ongoing struggle with selfishness rises. What better excuse to neglect others than I have so many details to take care of these next few weeks. Yet more than ever, my family needs me.

With that in mind, I offer you four keys to fighting idolatry in our greatest of transitions and change — whether that be a new baby in the family, a major job change, or a move across the country (or in my case all of them at the same time).

// Read the latest at CBMW.org // 

Four Lies About Faithfulness

So often we buy into the lies of not only the world around us, but also our own “Christian” culture about faithfulness. Normal, nameless ministry is no longer acceptable. Small churches, although frankly the norm, are not considered something to pursue.

For many of us who are young, we want to really change the culture around us any way that we can. The common belief is that those at “the top” are the game changers, the trendsetters, and the culture shifters. I don’t believe it for a second. And so I present to you four lies that we often buy about faithfulness.

Lie #1: My present actions hold no consequences

This is completely false. If you spent time with any man or woman over 65, they would all tell you that their teen and early formative years proved to be extremely influential on who they are and who they became. What you do right now, the seeds you plant, will one day come forth and produce some kind of fruit. You will receive the consequences, whether good or bad, from the way you live right now. Don’t waste your time right now. Prepare yourself for the future by being faithful with what you have right now.

Lie #2: Big always equals great

Faithfulness and true greatness usually happen in private. Being “big” or “famous” does not mean that you are “great.” True greatness is often found, and usually found, in the small and humble who are faithfully serving day in and day out. I could probably argue that the President of the United States is great – but what about his mother, or his teachers, or any number of people who have influences and affected him and helped him be the man he is today? Never forget that humble, quiet faithfulness is truly great.

Lie #3: Fame always means effectiveness

Faithfulness doesn’t need praise or immediate results. It realizes that although it may seem that those who are famous seem effective, those who are faithfully plodding with have fruit that lasts for eternity. That’s not to say that fame doesn’t mean effectiveness. That’s not it at all. God uses people and places them in special situations to have influence. But it does not negate the fact that those who are faithfully with where they are and with what they have can have just as much effectiveness for the Kingdom of God as those who are effective as “famous” people.

Lie #4: Small people don’t make a difference in the world

There are hundreds of stories that could expose this lie. I’ve told the story of my great-grandmother time and time again. She was a “nobody” in the general sense, yet I know hundreds of people have been changed through the ministry that she and my great-grandfather had with them. I am certain there are untold stories of faithful saints who have served in relative obscurity – yet they will be given the greatest seat when we enter heaven. Do not despair if you find yourself in a small place. Be faithful to the end.

No Little People: An Epilogue

At 6:15 on Tuesday, November 13, 2013, Vicki Sweetman stepped from life into eternity.

When I wrote my article “No Little People,” there were few people on this earth that influenced me more than my Great-Grandmother. That influence came because of the way that she had surrendered totally and completely to be used by the Lord.

Life isn’t over for Vicky Sweetman. Her life has just begun. 

Below is the prayer I prayed at her funeral just a few weeks ago. 


We come to you today standing in the face of our dreaded and devastating enemy, Death.  We are reminded and humbled today by the reality that our days, although they may seem long, are but a breath in the wind.

Yet Lord, we also today find ourselves not grieving as those with no hope. Instead, Lord, we realize this morning that this woman was yours – she belongs to you. You, in your grace rescued her through Christ and You love her even more than we do. We know today that she is even now rejoicing in the presence of her Savior.

It is because of the Gospel that we can today celebrate her earthly life. Christ has declared clearly victory and dominion over both sin and death. It was that message of Good News that my Great-Grandmother looked to and believed. It was the message that she lived out day by day through her life and her ministry. And it is the Truth that she is celebrating today and will be celebrating for eternity.

And Lord, it is Your glorious gospel that encourages us even today. Christ is not just for this temporary and earthly life.  Christ has died. Christ has risen. And Christ will come again.

Lord, let these truths prompt us today to realize the gravity and urgency of our own lives. Let it force us to examine our hearts and to embrace the truth of the gospel – that we too were lost in sin, deserving of death and punishment, yet you have provided a perfect sacrifice for us in Christ.

And Lord, let it encourage us that this life is not all there is. Eternity awaits.

“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen – are eternal.” – 1 Corinthians 4:17-18