John and Valerie got married

The wedding message by the father of the bride ~ 

before-the-walkValerie Joy Howard and John Caleb Sizemore you are here to get married.  Who saw that glacier coming?

Late 2007: Step Brothers was a new movie.  The IPhone didn’t exist yet Hunter Hayes had just gotten his drivers license, Nashville was a small village in Indian territory …and Valerie Howard met John Sizemore.

ladies-getting-readyIt took less than a week for Valerie to know enough about John to tell her Memaw that John was the man she was going to marry.  It took God a little less than a week to create the entire universe.  But it took God, Valerie, and John seven years plus one to get ready for this moment.

God can move at the speed of light but He most often moves at the speed of life. As the father of the bride I had the opportunity to watch this amazing slow work.  It is such a privilege to share with you what I saw.

bridgeJohn, I watched you grow in faith to launch out.  Valerie, I watched you grow into security to be still.  Some might say John is becoming your anchor and you are becoming his sail.   That would be sweet but only if there is also a boat.

John and Valerie you have chosen to do life together in Jesus.  He isn’t a church. He isn’t a religion. He isn’t merely a collection of inspiring ideals.  You know Him as the very real person who invited you into partnership with Himself.
He offered you the chance to get into His life. He promised to daddy-daughter-dancetrain and direct you through a crazy adventure of His choosing for His purpose.  You said, “Yes” and you keep saying, “Yes.”  Not everybody does that.

groomsmen-on-porchAnchors and sails are great…when you’re in a great boat. You keep choosing Jesus as your boat.  Good choice.
John, you could have stayed in Virginia in a stable job working for the executives of one of the world’s
largest ship builders or you could launch out and come to Nashville without a settled job.  It took faith to launch out. Then in Nashville you img_1497had a decent job with a good company.  You could have settled there but again you
launched out into work that was as stable as your next commission.  You will always love stability and settledness but you have grown a faith that finds stability in what Jesus says about tomorrow, instead of what you found in yesterday.

Valerie, you have never had a problem with launching out and taking risks.  I remember when you were a little girl and I was going to give you a ride on a jet ski.  Someone carefully set you in front of me on the ski so I could hold on to you. You grabbed the throttle and took off at full speed. I don’t think I ever rode a jet ski with you again.

Launching out was never a problem. You launch fearlessly into relationships, challenges, and opportunities.  But the security to just be still; that’s another matter.   There’s always the next thing you don’t want to miss, the next people you want to meet, and the fear that you might miss out.

walking-down-the-laneOver the past seven years plus one, you’ve been growing the security to be still.  Even if there are three more people you need to have coffee with, and Jamie & Brandon just got back in town, and you could call the people you met in L.A. because it’s only 10:00 pm there; you are learning to be still.  Someday you might even stop texting in your sleep. You are becoming secure that you won’t miss out. You have been growing in the security that Jesus has personally arranged for you to do everything that will matter and He has assigned you time to be still.

The best evidence that you’ve grown secure enough to be planted without fear of being trapped?  You came to the wedding.

Since some of your friends here might be stuck at anchor and others might be sailing in the dark toward the rocks, could I share with them how you grew faith enough to launch out and security enough to be still?

John and Valerie have learned to treasure a Word from God.

And they have learned to face the worst that can happen.

walking-down-the-laneGod speaks and nothing is worth more than a Word from Him.  Jesus made it clear that when you embrace the Word God speaks, nothing can stop it.  Mountains, storms, diseases, disasters, powerful people, even powerful crazy people cannot stand in the way.  When He said, you can throw mountains into the sea with a word…he meant a word of agreement with God.

Some of you really need a Word from God about something right now.  It might be about something that is threatening you.  It might be about something you want more than anything.  It might be about how your story ends up. It might even be about who you should marry or whether that person has been born yet.

If you want a Word from God, you have to want to hear whatever He wants to say.  Then you have to want to act on what He says.  The Bible says a double-minded person shouldn’t expect anything from God.

I learned a long time ago when Valerie was a little girl that I could speak whenever I wanted but she would hear when she was ready to hear.  My job was to help her get ready to hear.  God is really good at that.

When you are ready to hear a word from Jesus, He will make the Bible come alive. He will put people in your path.  He will whisper in your ear.  He can even write stuff across the sky. He might even ambush you at a wedding.

Over the past eight years John has learned that when he gets a Word from God…don’t wait.  Act right away.   It takes faith to launch out just because Jesus spoke. If you wait to act, the Word might just fade away.

first-danceOver the past eight years Valerie has learned to wait until she gets a Word from God…before she acts.    It takes security be still until Jesus speaks.

John & Valerie have learned to treasure a Word from God and they have learned to face the worst that could happen.

So what is the worst that could happen?  For some, the worst that could happen might be no food in the frig or no place to go.  For others, the worst that could happen would be that they never make it big or they lose their place on the charts.

But even if the worst that could happen were to be dying young or being left alone, it’s still not even close to the worst that could happen.

What’s really the worst?   kissing-boothYou were created to fulfill a purpose.  It took hundreds of generations to set you up for your purpose.  If you get it right, thousands of generations will be blessed forever.

Some of you heard a Word from God just now.  You know that what I said was for you.  Do you want to imitate John and act on it right now? Breathe this prayer, “Jesus I need you.  I need to hear from you. And I want to do whatever you say to do next.”

Now what?  Keep listening.  He will say more. And you keep saying, ‘Yes.’  You will live the most amazing adventure knowing that you will never have to experience the worst that could happen.

hunter-libbyJohn & Valerie, you have come to know that the worst, the very worst, would be to miss that purpose and to miss the partnership with Jesus that makes it possible.  He never made a human with a purpose so small that they could fulfill it alone. That’s why he gave you to each other. He never gave you a purpose that you could fulfill with just each other. That’s why he said, “I will be with you.”

John, you may be the anchor.  Valerie, you may be the sail. Jesus said, “follow me” and you said, “Yes.”  He became your boat.  A long time ago Jesus proved that he could walk on water, stop the headwinds,  and flatten the waves.  And he always got to the other side.
John and Valerie, I have a Word from God for you. “Connection”  Together, you will get-awayconnect the most unlikely people in the most unlikely places in the most unlikely ways.  More than a few people in this room have already gotten a hint of that.

They, along with you will find out that what Jesus said is true, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human mind has ever conceived the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”  And because of you they will get in the boat.

I don’t want to be weaned!

2016 Hartley in heels 1

It’s all good now but it wasn’t that great a few weeks ago.

Our granddaughter was getting weaned.  She didn’t sign up for this process. She wasn’t at all interested in all of the wonderful opportunities on the other side.  She didn’t have any idea about sleepovers with cousins, going to school, or getting to drive, even though pretty much everybody who gets to do these things has been weaned first.  She just knew what she wanted and she knew she wasn’t getting it.

One night not long ago she sat angrily in her crib refusing to be held because she couldn’t nurse.  She had to work through it by herself because she wouldn’t accept anyone unless she got what she wanted.

Sometimes we go through hard things alone because God won’t give us what we think we need the most.  It’s not that He isn’t there, we just aren’t ready to receive Him while we aren’t getting IT.

What is IT that you’re not getting?  An achievement? A solution? Help?  Meeting of a deep need that you’ve felt for a long long time?
Even just  a little relief?

Do you draw close to Him while you are enduring IT?

Do you deeply enjoy Him when you are not getting IT?

2016 Hartley big ballIf you are mad about IT, are you still at peace with HIM?

Weaning: “Becoming at peace with who you need even when you can’t get what you want.”

Those who want Him will become free to receive more and better and bigger than they could ever have imagined.

Learned from a five-year-old

For the rest of my life I will carry with me a lesson I learned about rest.  My five-year-old grandson Elliot teamed up with God to make the point.2016 Elliot working Nathan watching

I have a father who is always watching.   He cares deeply about my work but only because He cares deeply about me.

2016 Elliot Nathan at work


We will carry the heavy stuff together.  I’m not big enough to carry big stuff alone.


You know how I know he always watches and carries the heavy stuff with me? 2016 Elliot and Nathan

I know because of the times we just walk together.  That’s when I know it’s not just about the work, it’s about us.

One day out of seven God invites me to rest with Him. It’s not just an invitation; it is a command. Rest with Him is the exercise that trains my soul to live the other six days with Him, to know He is watching, and to be confident that He is carrying the heavy stuff.

            A few practical questions: 

Over the past week did I protect a day for rest with Him?  I have a Father who expects one day out of seven to be set aside for rest with Him. Did I push past that seventh day?

If so, did I push past because I felt like I had to or because I just wanted to?  Either way I will have drawn some disturbing conclusions about the Father.  I think it’s more about the work than about us together.  More disturbing, I’m less suited to remember that He cares, that He is watching, and that He intends to carry the heavy stuff with me.

The one day out of seven is where I learn that it’s all about the walk, not about the work.

The earth will spin around seven more times in the coming week.  I get to try again. What am I going to do to make sure one spin of the earth is just for walking with Him and not for working?  How do I arrange to take that wonderful spin with Him?

203 years of marriage and counting

2016 mom and dad sharing stories          65 years ago this evening Mom and Dad came to church for a simple ceremony and a profound commitment.

Today we celebrate 65 years of a solid love-filled a marriage that has resulted in 15 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and an uncountable trail of people that have learned the wonder of what marriage could be.

You have to go back one more generation to understand more of the story.  Mom has a sister and a brother.  Each of them has been married 65 years or more.  Collectively they have 203 years of successful marriage among them. Mom and Dad have three children. Collectively these three children have over 117 years of healthy marriage.

Behind each generation you’ll find parents that prepared the way.  In another blog I hope to write about the self-discipline, selfless choices, and self-sacrifice that must have felt extreme in the hardest moments.

Maybe they were thinking about the next generations that would be affected. When they were making the hard choices I doubt they could have seen how sweet the years ahead would be.

I just know that our marriage and the marriages of our children make me so very grateful that we are backed by hundreds of years of great marriage.

What would you be willing to do to stack the deck for a generation that can build marriages like that?  Our grandchildren are very grateful for the choices that our grandparents made.

Another BIG MOVE coming up

IMG_3124[1]Moving Again?

6:00 am I woke up at home at the beach.  This is the view from my loft.  Every morning I can sit at home and watch the sun rising over the Chesapeake Bay.

As I savor this moment and ponder yesterday’s final morning at Daphne I have the sweetest thought.  I loved living there. We raised our children, started churches, celebrated some of the greatest moments of our lives…but no regrets in leaving. Even sweeter days lay ahead at the beach and in Nashville, and in Corpus Christi.

I carried that thought a little further. There will be a day when I am almost completely moved out of this body and this world.  The walls will echo. Preparations will be well in the making for those who take my place. Just like with this move, there will be too much to do, but time will not allow for extensions. I will work right up to the end.  But then, but then, I will wake up in my new home with a view that far surpasses the loft at Mallory.  The home will have been designed with far more capacity for rich community and unimaginable creativity.  The opportunity for influence will be far greater and amazingly far more needed…because in that place every bit of the capacity of every person is needed.  I love this place but I know I will love that place far more.  I will live here with intensity and with joy… and then far more, in that place with You.

And I’m sure that at Your place somebody will show me how to get the screens off the windows so they don’t mess up the pictures.

2016 Mallory 1st sunrise at home 1

The power is in your hands

Rush with Viper

He gave YOU the keys?

Nobody but God had ever had power before.  Then God gave power to Adam. It was the equivalent of handing your first child the keys to the family car for the first time.  And God wanted to know how Adam would use power.  So Genesis 2:19 says he just watched.

What was the first power in the hands of a human?  Naming rights.

God brought the animals to Adam.  Adam named them.  What Adam named them, they became whatever he called them.

This morning God put the same keys in my hand.

He will bring events, opportunities, encounters and even troubles to me today to see what I will name them.  Whatever I call them, that is what they will be.

God brings a decision about David’s college selection to me. I can call it complicated or I can call it partnership in his destiny.

God brings Valerie’s wedding to me. I can call it EXPENSIVE! or I can call it a privilege to share in John & Valerie’s life-giving influence on others.

God brings business challenges, disappointed people, frustrating rules, misunderstandings, minor annoyances, and even the results of my own bad decisions.  He also brings big wins, unexpected windfalls, undeserved kindnesses, and nice perks.

All of these things come to me and I get to name them.

Irritation or Opportunity

Pay back or a display of God’s glory

The end of everything or release from something

An act of offense against me or a display of someone’s brokenness.

Something stolen from me or something given by me

Undeserved pain or sacrificial suffering

Expense or investment

Nothing comes by accident.  God can keep it away or make sure there is no way I can get away from it.

Does the name I choose reflect my confidence that God is at work?

Does the name I choose reflect my confidence that God is at work doing good?

Does the name I choose reflect my confidence that I have authority over it under Him?

Try getting the names right

Cold rain on a big spring day event

A big problem that seems to magically take care of itself

Somebody inconveniencing you by showing up late

A price tag that is twice what you expected

A chance encounter with someone who hurt people you love

A doctor’s appointment that brought the worst possible news

The last day of a job that didn’t work out

The first day of the job you’ve always wanted

The cold words that break your heart

What you name them, they will be. That’s the power of the key in your hand.

Even on the very worst day when you have the very least power over the day, you will have the power to name it.

What did Jesus name the day of His death?  At the last supper He spoke these words, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

He could have named the day of his execution many things. He chose to call it a good day.

So this is a pretty good guide for naming everything in a day.

I don’t see how the dots connect.

dotsI don’t see how the dots connect…but Life Unfolds

How do I get to the right place if I don’t connect the right dots?

About 30 years ago Becky and I planned to start churches, lead churches, and raise children that would have a bigger impact on this world than we could ever imagine. I thought I knew the dots to connect along the way. The dots didn’t connect that way.

In 2007 we started over. I did business organization development and litigation liaison work. In 2009 we started a new campus with Wave Church. In the meantime I grew into real estate development.  As I was solving a problem with one of my properties I slipped into executive rentals. As I was trying to address a need for housing for disabled people, I grew into developing housing for senior living. Somehow those dots led to building several homes at Buckroe Beach, one of them becoming a place we call home when we are in town and a place we rent as executive and beach rental when we are in East Tennessee, Nashville, or Corpus Christi.  Very possibly these will be among the places where we build senior living housing.

This list of surprising and unexpected dots is actually a lot longer, but this is enough to make a point.  We move into our new home in less than a month.  Within three months we will begin living in three different cities: the Virginia Peninsula, Nashville, and Corpus Christi.  We could never have imagined the dots, much less connected them.

dots jobs

Some people knock themselves out to make sure they get to the right place at the right time to make their lives end up right. They thought they saw how the dots were supposed to connect from the right school to the right first job to the right marriage to the right house to the right number of kids to the right career path to the right retirement to the right assisted living to the right urn.

God help the person who got to connect their dots from beginning to end just as they saw them. The picture would almost never be as rich and full as the one God has chosen…the one He intended as their destiny.

I make and follow strategic plans. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless that is all I’m willing to embrace as good.  God calls us to plan and then very often, to leave our plans behind.

I’m somewhere beyond the half-way mark of my life. This is what I’m learning about God’s plans for my life.  LIFE UNFOLDS

As it unfolds it reveals what I’ve chosen and it reveals what God has lovingly arranged in order to meet me in my choices and lead me into my destiny.  Even my bad choices will not undo me if I choose now to meet God here and move forward with Him into my destiny.

What if my choices have put me in a really bad place?  Then because of my choices life must unfold through that bad place but still He has planned a path from there.  A bad place is not my Destiny.

For example, has God ever taken anyone through a failed bad marriage that was born out of hormones and led into a great marriage built on sacrificial love?  Has God ever taken a bankruptcy that was set up by greed and led into a great business that was built on generosity?

Test this.  What’s one of the worst places you’ve been?  Has God used the journey through that place to accomplish anything good?

On the other hand, I could be in a really good place and still miss my destiny.  In fact, I’m more vulnerable to missing my destiny when I’m in a good place.  It’s just too easy to try to settle there or to spend my energy desperately trying to get back there.

Know anybody who absolutely rocked high school and tried to stay in that lifestyle for the next ten or twenty years?

Test this. Have you let go of a good place, a place you really wanted to stay?  As a result has that brought you into anything better yet?

I was born to do things, influence people, and most of all…to become someone. My days were laid out toward specific kinds of things I would get to do, specific ways I would influence people, and a very specific person I would become.  The places I find myself will ALL be useful toward that end, but only as much as I meet God in this place and follow Him forward through this place into the destiny He has arranged for me.

 You don’t have to make sense of the dots being connected today.  You will have plenty of time to look back tomorrow to see how the best picture couldn’t have been connected any other way. 

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

1 Corinthians 2:9


What does He say just before this?

     We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 1 Corinthians 2:7


I will meet God in this place today and follow Him forward because I love Him.  The more I see my life unfold because of Him, the more I will love Him.  It’s not the location that protects my destiny, it’s the love.