Top 10 Places I want to visit in the USA

Everyone loves a good top 10 list and this is one I have had as a note in my phone for a bit. Here are my top 10 places I want to visit in the USA that I have never been. These are in no particular order…

1. Chicago 

 One of the few major cities I have never been to. I want to experience the culture, food, Wrigley & Soldier Field, as well as the many other iconic sights in the city. Now that I am in Ohio this is a drivable trip so this may happen sooner rather than later. 

2. Grand Canyon

Can’t pass up a chance to see God’s beautiful creation like this. I would love to get to see it up close and personal. Now, I am not into heights or white water rafting but horse back riding or camping in the canyon would be extraordinary. If nothing else I want to see it. 
3. Hawaii

 Truthfully, this is a trip I want to take with one person and one person only…my wife. Maybe for our 10 year or 15 year anniversary. I want to head to a beautiful 5 star resort, swim in a pool, swim in the Ocean, and eat some expensive food. I also want to experience some Hawaiin culture. Definitely want to go to a luau and eat some spam!

4. Los Angeles

 LA sometimes gets a bad wrap on the east coast but it makes my top 10. I would love to get to visit Beverly Hills to shop, Hollywood to check out the stars on the ground, the beaches, and beautiful California sunshine. I want to go to in and out burger as well. And there are some churches I want to hit up while I am there not least of which would be Hillsong LA and the Dream Center. 

5. Seattle

 I don’t think I am cool enough for this trip but am certain it would be a blast anyway! I would love to catch a fish thrown at the market, go to the original Starbucks, and visit the space needle. But a huge draw for me is one of my favorite preachers, Judah Smith, his church is in Seattle and I would have to attend a Sunday he was preaching. 

6. Baton Rouge

 This is a different experience that you can’t have anywhere else in the country. The French quarter! The architecture, the food, the history, the city and country side are so unique. I have never had crawfish and there is not better place to have them then Louisianna!

7. Boston

 Does it get any better in terms of history? Maybe Philly but Boston is still a must on my list. I want to head to Fenway, see some of the colonial era history, check out some museums, and take in the city. I would also love to visit Harvard and my cousin at MIT. This trip will be “wicked hardcore” (I just said that in my best Matt Damon accent from Good Will Hunting).

8. Minneapolis 

 This destination is selfish for me. I want to visit Andy and Melissa (my bro & sis in law) and see where they call home. I’d love to venture into the state fair, experience the city, and all but I would also like to experience some of the natural beauty the state has to offer and maybe camp for a weekend, too.

9. San Diego

 This trip would offer authentic Mexican cuisine, beautiful beaches, and gorgeous weather. You could go cultural/city or beach resort or both on this trip. San Diego Zoo is a must see attraction while we are here. 

10. Texas

 Everything is bigger in Texas and I am not sure where to start. I definitely want to see a few of the major cities from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio to Austin. Each city is so different this may take multiple trips. I definitely want to grab some Texas BBQ and have the chance to see some real cowboys. I also need to take in some history and have a must stop at the Alamo. 

That was my list and I can’t wait to check one of these off my list soon. 

Please, comment below and share the places in the USA that you have never been that make it on to your top 10 list. 

5 reasons you need a hobby

It is that time of year again. School is starting back. Summer is giving birth to hoodies, golden brown and orange leaves, and football. Lots of football. This is my favorite time of year. 55 degrees outside and rainy, baby! Throw in a pig skin and I am in heaven. Football, fantasy football, NFL football, high school football, playing football on the floor with my kids…Heck any type of football! That is my hobby. I love it. It helps me unwind, build relationships, and genuinely brings a great deal of joy to my life.

Hobbies are important no matter how old you are or how much time you have. Your hobby may not be football but you need at least one. You know, something you do just for fun. Something that is just for you. You need one. Whether it is knitting, reading, collecting baseball cards, or running 5k’s you need a hobby.

Here are 5 reasons you need a hobby:

1. Stress Relief

We all have way to much stress in our lives and for you to find the one thing that relieves that could mean life or death for your marriage, healthier relationships, or staying longer at your job. If you had something you could do that lowered your stress level it would make work or your boss more tolerable. It would bring some life back into your marriage. Hobbies can help lower stress!

2. You are more than your job

It’s important for you to have something that you do other than work. In a culture that says, “you are only as valuable as the job that you have”, it is important for you to have something outside of that. Whether you are creating, painting, collecting, playing, etc there is something outside of the 9-5 that makes you, you.

3. Fun is good for you

There is an old English proverb that says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And it’s true. If all you do is work it gets pretty boring and dull. You have to carve out time for the things you enjoy. It makes life more full.

4. New relationships

There is no easier way to meet new people than meeting people that have the same hobbies or interests as you. There is nothing like going to a Philadelphia Eagles game for me because all I have to do is show up in green and I now have 50,000 new friends! But seriously, even if you aren’t great at meeting new people and making friends is there an easier way then to connect over a hobby you both love? Hobbies create conversation and relational momentum without having to have great social skills. If you don’t have any friends find a hobby and you are bound to meet others that share the same interest.

5. God wants you to enjoy your life

Despite what the stigma is around most churches and religious organizations, God did not design the scriptures, the church, or a relationship with Him to zap all the fun out of life. Jesus actually tells us in John 10:10 that he came that we would have life and have it to the fullest. Jesus wants you to have a full life. Not only that but God actually designed 4 Old Testament feasts to remind His people to slow down, dance to some music, enjoy some good food, and relax. He really wants you to enjoy this thing called life. So get a hobby…God wants you too!

What are you waiting for?!?! Go pick up some yarn and start knitting something. Get that book you have been putting off. Join a fantasy football league. Sign up for that karate class or music lesson. Take a paint by number or pottery class. Start collecting coins or cards. Find something that you love and do it. It will be good for you, your relationships, and seriously God wants you too.

What are your hobbies? What is something you do for fun? Or what is something you want to start doing? Comment below and let me know.

Power in a name…

I am beyond excited that my family of 4 became a family of 5 this past week! It was stunning to watch my wife give birth to our third child. She is strong and brave. Even in the midst of pain she pushed herself through. On Tuesday morning at 8:57am we got to meet our son Benjamin David. All 9 pounds 1 ounce and 21 inches of him.

My favorite part with Ben or really any of my children was choosing a name. I like picking the name because names have meaning and purpose. Some of that is just selfish on my part cause my name doesn’t have any crazy deep meaning but I really wanted to be intentional about naming our children.

Our daughter is the oldest and we always had her name set aside. We knew if we were having a girl it would be Charlotte and we wanted to call her Charlie. We never did but thought it would be cool. Her name is Charlotte Mary. Mary because it is a family name on Sam’s side and it would give Charlotte a legacy of 6 other women that came before her that carried the name. It is my wife’s middle name, her moms first name, Grandma’s middle name, and so on. We chose Charlotte because it was a classic name that we felt carried strength. Charlotte is the female of Charles and carries the meaning of “free or freedom”.

With our oldest son we wrestled on what to name him but once it hit us we loved it. We named our oldest boy Graham Douglas. Douglas, is for me his father. I never wanted a junior but I did want a deeper connection with my oldest son. We chose Graham for his first name because my wife liked it and it was rather classic and fit with Charlotte. I love the name Graham mostly due to my spiritual heritage of giving my heart to Jesus at a Billy Graham Crusade in the early 1990s. Billy Graham’s legacy as a preacher, as a counselor of presidents, and as one of the fathers of modern day evangelical Christianity of which I now serve as a minister of is powerful. Graham now bears that name and there is a mantle on his life because of it.

Then this week I got to meet our Benjamin David. David again is a family name as it is both my wife’s dads name and my mom’s brothers name. David also carries a powerful meaning in the Hebrew it means “Beloved of God”. Then we chose Benjamin for his first name because my wife liked it. She actually wanted to name Graham, Ben but we obviously chose not too. Ben carries a powerful meaning in the Hebrew as well and it means, “Son of my right hand.” Not only is the meaning really cool but God showed me this scripture for Benjamin’s name and I absolutely love it in the message.

“Benjamin: “ GOD ’s beloved; GOD ’s permanent residence. Encircled by GOD all day long, within whom GOD is at home.” (Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:12‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Names are great and can be a powerful destiny positioner for us and our children. Names are so important and so powerful that when God gives a new destiny or direction in the Bible He usually gives a new name. The biggest name change in the Bible is where Jacob which means “Supplanter or deceiver” is changed by God to Israel which means “prince of God”…that will change the way you look at yourself.

Tell me about your name or your kids names. Do you like them? What do they mean? If you could change your name to anything what would it be and why? Please comment below.

10 Ways to start your day…

Everyone approaches the beginning of each day differently. Some of us start by hitting snooze. Some of us wake before our alarm. Some of us go to the gym while others start with a warm cup of coffee.

My day begins when my almost 4 year old daughter, Cahrlotte, comes running into our room when she sees the green 7 on her clock. She usually climbs over me and wedges herself between her mother and I. Then she will ask to watch cartoons, play “Bible” on one of our phones, or to go eat breakfast.

Shortly after this exchange we go eat breakfast as a family between 7:30-8:00. Charlotte eats cereal everyday. Sam, Graham, and I usually eat a few eggs a piece. We all take our vitamins. And then Sam and I read the Bible and pray. We are very intentional to do this in front of our kids so they see our example. Then I will get ready and head to the office.

This is our morning. There are more productive ways to begin the morning but in the season we are in this is best. Just because this works for us doesn’t mean it is best for you or even best for us. We are always looking to be better. The one thing I am certain of is that the most successful people on the planet have a morning routine that works for them.

Here are 10 ways you can start your day that will make you more productive and begin to build a morning routine.

1. Don’t start your day until it’s finished on paper.

Make your to do list for the day. It will make you more productive through out the day. Make a top priorities list for the day or adjustments to your calendar. Planning equals greater productivity.

2. Exercise.

The majority of successful CEOs, according to an article I read in Business Insider, exercise first thing in the morning. By exercising in the morning you are getting one thing off your to do list that most people will avoid all day. It gets your blood pumping and helps your body come to life.

3. Pray and meditate on the word of God.

This is your most important meeting all day. You need time with the one who made it all so He can help you prepare for your day. The gospels say multiple times about Jesus that He woke up early and withdrew to a lonely place to talk to God. If Jesus began His day that way it just might be a great way for you to begin yours as well.

4. Visualize

Take some time and think about your day. See yourself successfully completing your tasks. Picture that conversation or meeting. One of the routines of successful athletes is visualization. They picture their next at bat or next play. They see it before they do it.

5. Eat breakfast.

People who eat breakfast tend to be healthier, weigh less, and don’t get as hungry throughout the day. Eating breakfast begins your metabolism and gives your body the necessary nutrients to be active and attentive. For my family it is another meal we all eat together so there can be an added relational benefit as well.

6. Before your feet hit the floor drink 20oz of water.

Huge health benefits here. The majority of people are dehydrated and by doing this you fight against that. It is so much more than just dehydration. By drinking a big glass of water you reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, as well as wake up your whole system. You start your engine by giving your organs and your body the necessary fluid to start the many chemical reactions it needs to get moving. Huge benefits.

7. Weigh yourself.

Most people who are conscience of their weight daily make healthier choices with their day. It takes you 5 seconds and could be the difference between being healthy or not. Now I realize that may not be the case for you and the scale may intimidate you. Then by all means don’t weigh yourself.

8. Check your Email.

Get ahead of your work load that day by reading and responding to emails. Depending on your job you could easily have to navigate 100 emails or more each morning. By doing this here it will save you that 30 minute step once you arrive at the office.

9. Read the News.

Nothing worse than being uninformed. You can get a newspaper the old school way or open your phone and flip through a few apps. I get my sports from bleacher report, my news from Fox & CNN, and I love the goofy articles on Buzz Feed.

What apps do you use? Comment below and tell me.

10. Coffee

This one is more fun than anything else. If you like coffee get yourself a delicious warm cup of coffee. I am not a huge coffee drinker but with 2 kids and one due any day I’ll take some liquid energy where I can get it.

What is something you do each morning that you think I should have included in my list? Comment below and let me know.

Waiting for Hope

Right now my wife and I are waiting for the birth of our son. He is due this Friday. And no, his name is not going to be Hope! And no this is not the name of a bad christian band either.

Honestly, we thought he would be here by now. With each doctors visit our hope would rise and then come crashing down as we thought he would be making his arrival. We wanted the doctor to say to us, “Let’s go to the hospital and have this baby.” But sadly that has not happened yet.

As I travel through this I was reminded of a Proverb that defines how my wife and I feel.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)

There are lots of things that we hope for in life whether it is a new job, our wedding day, or the birth of a child. Some things take longer than others to arrive. And it makes you sick! But when the day arrives…when the moment is here…the joy that comes bursting forth, the tears, and emotion that are released feel so good. It lifts you up. Finally!!!

We all love that moment and celebrate finally getting what we have desired.

I think the bigger question we all have is what do we do while we are still hoping?

When my heart is sick, how do I keep on believing it is possible?

What do I do before the day or moment finally comes?

Here are 5 “P’s” you can do while waiting for hope:

Proclaim it

Every dream. Everything we hope for. We have to first begin by talking about it. And the more we talk about something it sets the course of our heart.

Prayer is a great place to start. The Bible says, “you don’t have because you don’t ask” And that “God rewards those who diligently seek Him”. So talking to God about your hopes is a great place to start.

Talk to your friends and family. My only caveat to that is sometimes the people closest to you can be your biggest dream killers. They mean well but they will tell you every reason this won’t work. You need to tell some encouragers. You need to find some folks that will believe with you and tell them.

Who have you told about the thing you are hoping for? God? Friends? Family? I’d love to hear about it so feel free to comment below and tell me about your hope or dream. I will add it to my prayer list.

Plan for it

It does you no good to only talk or pray about it if you are not willing to plan it out. This is the spot where I take out my phone but wherever you make notes is fine. Paper still works too the last time I checked. It is here that I begin to write down specifically the thing I am hoping for and how I see it coming to pass.

When I was preparing to go to college I only applied to one school. I was accepted into that school the end of my junior year heading into summer. I sat down and planned out 4 years worth of classes that summer heading into my senior year. I planned out that which I hoped for. After graduation I realized that with the exception of 2 or 3 classes that were discontinued I took the classes I had planned out almost 5 years earlier.

What’s your strategy for receiving that which you hoped for? Are you writing it down?

Prepare for it

It is one thing to talk about it. It is another thing to write it down. It is an entirely different thing to prepare for what you are hoping for.

I played sports my whole life. There were 3 types of guys that I played with. There were the guys that would talk about how they hoped to be in shape for the up coming season. Then there were guys that wrote down their workouts to prepare for the next season. And then there were the guys that went to camps and lived in the gym preparing for the next season.

Many of us fail here. We don’t mind talking about it or even writing it down. But preparation cost us something. Preparation means we are willing to put some skin in the game. We are willing to sweat and bleed for what we believe.

How are you preparing yourself to receive what it is you are hoping for?

Position yourself for it

Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Positioning is the final stage before receiving. Working hard all year at your job and longing for a promotion. Then when the opportunity comes up for a promotion you have to apply to position yourself to receive it. The guys I played sports with could prepare all summer but if they didn’t sign up, get their physical, and try out to make the team they weren’t positioning themselves to play.

Truthfully this is where fear creeps in to tell you that you can’t or haven’t prepared hard enough or don’t deserve. You must as Jon Acuff says, “Punch fear in the face” and go for it!

What is keeping you from positioning yourself from receiving? What have you prepared for that you need to position yourself better so that you can receive?

Passionately receive it

When your moment comes. When the time arrives. Receive it. No Don’t just receive it but RECEIVE IT!!! Passionately celebrate and look at what you have accomplished.

I would love to here what you are waiting for and hoping for. Comment below so I can add you to my prayer list.

First Steps

First steps come before next steps. First steps remind me of my kids.

Over the last year I have watched, my one and half year old, Graham, learn to crawl, then stand, and then balance. Then there comes that moment where he struggles with all his might not to fall. He wobbles. He lets out an almost nervous cry because he doesn’t want to fall. We wait anxiously as he lifts that foot and takes his first step. He gets one, maybe two, and then falls flat on his face. Only for us to frantically try and catch him while simaltaneously cheering and clapping. As Mom and Dad we are beaming from ear to ear! His first steps!

What a moment. It is the first of many “first steps”. He will take more “first steps” when he begins school. He will take more “first steps” as he makes new friends. He will take more “first steps” on an athletic field or court. He will take more “first steps” as he gets a job or loses one. There are lots of “first steps” that he will have to take in his life.

We all have lots of “first steps” to take in our lives. “First steps” for all of us, no matter what the first step is, follow a similar pattern.

1. We watch others.

This is how so many of us learn or become inspired to chase our dreams. We watch others take their first steps and we want to emulate those who are successful. This is where the dream is birthed in our heart. We look on and set the course of our heart.

Who are you watching? Do you like the way they are walking?

2. We learn to crawl.

No one begins by taking steps. We all have a beginning phase to strengthen the necessary muscles to stand. You can’t skip this phase. If you do you will shortchange your preparation time and effect your performance later.

The President of the University of Valley Forge would remind the students every semester, “No time taken to sharpen your saw is ever wasted.”

And I know there is someone reading this that will say, “I never crawled as a baby I rolled.” I know that because it was me. Lol.

How are you preparing to stand?

3. We stand.

Standing is sometimes the most bold thing we can do. It changes our perspective. It gives us a new height to see our life from. And you can’t walk until you stand.

The Bible even says, “Having done all to stand. Stand.” There is something inherently powerful about standing. It positions you to take a step.

What are you standing for? What has changed about your perspective because you stood?

4. We wobble.

First steps make everyone wobble. You are not the only person to ever wobble. You are not the only person to ever be afraid of falling. You will wobble. My encouragement is: Walk Anyway!!! So many people quit here. Don’t quit because you wobble. Don’t quit because you fell before.

I have heard it said, “Courage is doing it afraid.” So go ahead and be brave and take those first steps anyway.

What are you afraid of that is keeping you from moving?

5. We move.

If standing is bold this is the most thrilling part of first steps. We do something we have never done before. We take a step. It is empowering. It is brave. It changes us forever. We will never move in quite the same way again.

With my kids once they realized they could move they were off to the races. They were so excited and impossible to keep up with.

What adventure are you on now? Where are you moving too?

6. We fall.

The truth is falling is part of first steps. My son fell dozens of times. He wasn’t a failure.

If you have fallen it doesn’t mean you failed. It means you have moved.

One of my all time favorite quotes is by Teddy Roosevelt and he says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

When is the last time you fell? What were you feeling? Thinking?

7. Parents cheer.

The people who love you the most cheer you on. They surround you with love and praise whether you fail or succeed. The people around you matter.

People are like elevators. They can take you to the top or drag you to the bottom.

Make sure you have people cheering you on when you go to make your first steps.

Who is fighting with you and cheering you on right now?

My encouragement to you is go out today and take some “first steps”! Start that relationship you have been putting off. Start that company or interview for your dream job. Or try to have a baby. Or start going to church.

My most recent “first steps” was starting this blog and continuing to write my book. Comment below and tell me what “first steps” you are taking. I’d love to hear about it and add you to my prayer list.

In The Beginning…

This is the beginning of the next leg of my journey. Not sure how it will all turn out but there are a few things I do know:

  1. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has never let me down and He won’t start now.
  2. Sharing my journey with people fills my tank. I love living, sharing, and doing life with others.
  3. I have been positioned to help people take the next step in their journey with themselves, their family, their marriage, their career, and their relationship with Jesus.

I hope you will join me on this leg of my journey and together through this blog we can learn how to take our next steps.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

Here’s to my single step 🙂