Posted on Leave a comment

7 Phrases That Will Make Your Life Easier


1. God bless you –

As I write this blog, I realize how much of a role God plays in EVERY thing. Having food, friends, a job, etc. are all results of God’s provision. Family to share life with. There are an infinite amount of reasons this phrase should be uttered more (and, yes, I mean beyond the usage after a person sneezes…although, that IS kind and thoughtful.)

2. Have a great day –

Not like the McDonald’s send-off from the drive-thru window. (Although, I’ve issued quite a few of those myself. And…I don’t miss that green viser at all.) I mean the really genuine use of it. Smile when you see a person, talk with them, and especially when they depart. To care about another person’s day shows them (and yourself) that you really do CARE about the life they’re living.

3. Thank you –

Oh, where has this kind sentiment gone? May it be restored beyond the fake transactions we’ve grown accustomed to. Whether it be at the checkout lane (with a real person) or simply expressing an everyday gratitude via email, be sure to say this one from deep down. It’s overused but never means more than when it’s used with conviction.

4. You’re welcome –

Like ‘Thank you,’ the sentiment of essentially saying ‘You’re worth it’ goes a long way. Chik-fil-A has re-instilled kindness in the fast food industry. They say ‘My pleasure’ when you say ‘Thanks’ to them. It could be an example to all of us. Serving others makes us realize everyone matters.

5. I love you –

Try saying that to people that are closest to you. (Yesterday was Mother’s Day. That’s a good starting point. Mom.) Work out from there to extend to people that you find it a little more taxing to say these words to. (I promise I’m not trying to get anyone arrested here!) But, if you (and I) can say that to our friends on the “fringe,” imagine what we can mean/do/say when we can extend to complete strangers.

6. I forgive you –

We could all write a book about this one. To love someone and say ‘I love you’ essentially trumps (or, goes hand-in-hand) with forgiveness. It’s hard to love someone when you haven’t truly forgiven them. To let the past GO makes loving someone that much easier. (I wrestle a lot with this one.) But, in the moments where I’ve been able to say “it’s forgiven”, I’ve been able to exhale and live life a lot better. Try it. (Hope my ‘let the past go’ comment didn’t send you in the way of FROZEN.)

7. See you soon –

A great way, again, to say you love someone. Thinking of just yesterday, and my mom departing from Chattanooga made me realize how great this common phrase can be, when we really put our heart behind our words. “See you soon” can be “I love you” and “God bless you” all at once, if it’s said from deep, deep, down.


7 Phrases That Will Make Your Life Easier


Posted on Leave a comment

What it Means to You.


The Kentucky Derby has always been enshrouded in mystery for me. Words like Churchill Downs and Garland of Roses and Mint Juleps all have sounded mystical and awe-inspiring since I was a boy.

Reading stories like Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” and seeing images of horse & rider standing in winner’s circle talking to the media was exciting to say the least.

There’s always been a warm sentiment in the air in Kentucky (and around the nation) on that first Saturday in May. Whether it be the ever-warming Springtime temperatures or the sunshine that escapes just a little earlier in the morning and lasts a tad bit later into dusk, the human spirit comes alive and escapes a cocoon of sorts, I believe.

I have lots of memories tied to the timing of this event each year. And all of it has to do with life and very little to do with the race itself. Case-in-point: I’ve never been to a Kentucky Derby.

There I said it.

I lived in Kentucky most of my life (even just an hour away from Louisville at one point), and I’ve never been to the Derby. Sad, but true.

But, it’s the events that have surrounded the horse race that have made my attachment to this time of year so strong!

Friends getting married and having Kentucky Derby-themed weddings–thank you Rebecca DeSensi Sivori!–to hearing My Old Kentucky Home played at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, while THE RACE itself was happening just an hour away have had their lasting effects on me.

Seeing tall hats, seersucker suits, and smelling cigars permeating the air at Keeneland made me long to be at the race each Spring!

But the event that helped tie it all together was the 133rd Kentucky Derby – 2007. It stands alone in comparison to the others, says the guy who’s never been!



It was the day Queen Elizabeth II visited Churchill Downs.

…And May 5th was also the day my wife-to-be and I were on a trail at Dale Hollow State Park.

(I remember the rain, mud, and asking her to marry me.)

She was patient that day (and, thankfully, she still is even in 2015). The Derby was in the background, at the northern part of the state. We were traversing the backwoods of southern Kentucky, as the rain continually fell.

But, this memory, like so many other Derby-time memories stands out vividly. They seem to all possess a life-altering aspect somehow.

Warmer weather. Re-birth. Life. Engagement.

Maybe one day I’ll own up to the tragedy that is –> never pit-stopping in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. I’ve been told it’s unthinkable to have lived almost 3 decades in dear Bluegrass country and never seen the race in-person…Witnessed Calvin Borel’s magic…Met Michael Jordan. Etc.

But to all this I say, it’s    still    been    magical  — just from afar.

God has blessed us. Besides, I might wear that top hat yet.

Posted on 1 Comment

Acting Out.


The word riot (noun) is – a wild disturbance from a large crowd. But did you also know it can be a noun used to reference ‘unrestrained laughter’? To say someone is a riot is to reference their hilarity, their good qualities.

Riot – originating from Medieval Latin riota which means “quarrel, dispute, uproar” was first seen in 13th century times. But, of course, these actions were seen way before the 1200s. Because, we as people, have been messing up long before the USA even existed.

Another example of riot sometimes implies people creating havoc for ‘a common purpose‘ together. Think, Boston Tea Party – 12/16/1773. (2.5 years before Independence Day.)

Today, my thoughts are with the Baltimoreans.

Just because a word (or, phrase) is coined from a previous language and integrated into our current system of speak, doesn’t mean the actions weren’t present well before words were on-hand.

I know we have a range of readers, and I appreciate all of you each week. Today, I just wanted to discuss the inevitability of imperfections running rampant on our streets.

Whether they be U.S. streets or a small, dirt-packed trail worn by foot traffic in Zimbabwe, we all have an affinity for messing up. Again, I couldn’t help but admire the courage of those trying to regain order in the news footage.

The mom who literally whipped her kid in public did what a great mom should: love. Maybe a little bit late? Maybe in a less than ideal environment? But, hey, it’s there. It’s present in her eyes. She’s not letting him get away. Sure, he (and others) might go unnoticed by law enforcement and the public’s eye, but she’s a reminder that he knows what actionswhat riots can do when loved ones are hurt.

For some of us, watching a riot video “from home” might be as close as we ever come to this action. For others, just yesterday, you were on the front lines maybe tempted to pick up a rock and hurl it at someone. Loot CVS.

I hope not.

Either way, the choice remains yours at the end of each day.

To make your world, family, and loved ones better by being “the riot of the party” and uniting others in a greater purpose, the greatest cause–love,


to threaten others with quarrels, disputes, and violence for violence’s sake.

Baltimore is just our current, 4/27/2015 example of hate winning out. Let’s turn the other cheek from here all the way to Zimbabwe today, 4/28/2015, and show others (no matter the cost of appearing weak) that love trumps evil every time.

Even if it doesn’t look that way from the television screen.

Posted on 2 Comments

Battling Back.


A good portion of our lifetime is spent in a season of battling back.

Whether it’s from injury

from a relationship

a career

or, maybe all of the above and then some…

We wrestle with the fatigue of “breaking even” during the course of our lives.

Case-in-point, for me:

I spend a good chunk of each calendar year trying to stave off the viciousness that is diabetes (Cue up Wilfred Brimley commercials about Liberty Medical and their testing supplies, you know the ones.).

But seriously, it consumes a large part of my life. I picked it up at age 20, and so, this summer will be 10 years with Type 1, or, what is commonly known as juvenile onset diabetes.

I say consumes, because it requires a ton of working out and meal balancing. The pancreas doesn’t function as it should (or, in Type 1’s case, at all). So, to compensate for this lack of digestion, I try to eat less of those evil carbohydrates. (Hopefully this didn’t put an image from Austin Powers in your head. But, what if I said, “Carbs are the enemy” with a Scottish accent, I’m sure the image is there now. You’re welcome!)

…Tons of workouts, a reduction of carbos, and we’re only getting started. Items such as fatigue, stress, and etc., all work in clever ways to reduce an already weakened immune system. So, it results in what feels like battling up an already steep hill (in life, work, play). I liken diabetes to now battling up that same steep hill, except there’s a steel wagon wheel attached to my back and the hill has Tremors below the surface. (Yes, just like the ones that came after our friends Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire in the 80s classic.)

Therefore, I wanted to share this very real life struggle with you, and say it, say all of this, to say: You aren’t alone.

Life throws curve balls, sliders, change-ups, knuckle balls, and splitters at all of us.

But sometimes…not all the time…and on good days there’s the occasional fastball. It comes right down the middle of the plate at a cool 92 mph, and you are able to connect and knock the laces off.

That’s what I want you to read (and hear) today. Take that truth with you wherever you go.

Sure, there are a slew of other analogies I could give that might connect with you more deeply than Wilford Brimley, Reba, and baseball, but it’s a start!

God can handle the awkward pitches and uncomfortable moments. Really. Truthfully.

But, just know that straight pitches are ahead as well. There are good days, and I say relish in those and enjoy them.

They (these moments of joy) make the darkness all the more bearable. When there’s a strong light that you can focus on, it’ll help you get through the caverns of life. So, whether you have to buy medical supplies today for a sick family member, or, you yourself are battling back from a tough start this year, just know that good times are coming.

Additionally, on a perfect health day, I relish:

Oldies music (60s motown) and good coffee (Rwandan, if you have it).

What about you? What brings up your spirits and makes a day the best it can be? Is it music, or, a great book? A hug from a dear friend?

Here’s to your health and discovering God’s love, as you battle back into the count. I pray you have a perfect pitch somewhere along today. And when you do, swing with all your might.

Posted on Leave a comment

Thoughts and Places.


The wheels are turning…

I appreciate your thoughts and comments on state-of-mind and yesterday’s blog.

Similar to the concept of TIME are the thoughts a person will maintain throughout a pocket of time. It is controlled and inescapable. We think as time passes…

Yet, what resonates most soundly to me is that unlike the inevitability of time passing is the CHOICE we have in determining WHAT we will think about.

Past – Memory of a clown holding a balloon in the park. (Don’t ask me why Stephen King’s It was the first example given.)

Present – The knock on my office door to remind me that it is, in fact, 12:37pm, Lunch time.

Future – question marks (?) Beach? Great phone call from my wife? Dinner plans? Unpaid bills?

To reiterate some great feedback from yesterday’s blog, Past and Future thoughts hold some positives (and often, not a few negatives). The Past and Future can be triggers to painful memories and big Question marks that cause fear to lunge inside our stomachs.

Present state-of-mind thinkers are aware of the other two parties, but capable and aware also of knowing that it is indeed Lunch time. If a sandwich or something isn’t consumed, the memories and (?) marks ultimately stop. The present thinker knows to stand up, stretch, walk around the building. But…the point-of-view is TODAY. Here. Now!


I saw this quote and thought of our talks from yesterday:

“A backward glance is sometimes helpful to secure our present state of being and cause a swell of thankfulness in our otherwise ungrateful and complacent hearts, but to dwell long in the dimness of long ago is to rob ourselves of the gloriously bright future.”


It was at the bottom of a colleague’s email signature. I don’t know who said it, and I couldn’t find it online (Imagine that). But, I love the description in the quote: “backward” “dwell” “rob” are all words meant to explain effects of past-thinking. Similarly, words such as “glance” “helpful” “cause” are paired to this message to showcase how perspective (and memories) can assist the present thinker before stepping into that uncertain (?) future.


Here’s another great one from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear, and with a manly heart.”


I love the description of a “shadowy” future. Where he states there isn’t “fear” but a “manly” heart.

Beautiful language to summarize outlooks and perspectives. Will our points-of-view always be flawed and often slanted towards imperfections while we live? Sure.

But…the TIME that controls us doesn’t control the CHOICE that we’ve been given to remain steadfastly present, learning from experience, and ever hopeful of tomorrow.


Posted on 2 Comments



Not but a few weeks after that “Me, Myself, and Irene” experience in the summer of 2003 (see, Playing Possum), I had the chance of a lifetime…
To go to Brazil!

Imperatriz, Brazil. Population 250,000, and the second largest city in the Maranhao state. Its hottest and coldest months both occurring during what are our summer months here in the States. It was a truly tropical experience complete with Amazonian rainforests, cave iguanas, and a few pythons along the way. (I still can’t believe that tour guide didn’t tell us about one he saw, while Allison was injured. She definitely would’ve been the weakest link had things gone awry.)
Anyways…this was more than just a luxury trip.
It was a trip with a purpose. No one on the team had taken it lightly. Its duration was 2 weeks from beginning to mid-August, and most importantly, it was a mission trip. (I’d even been blessed enough to have someone support my costs for the trip and pay my way for it!) So, there was great focus within our team going into Imperatriz with willing hearts.

We arrived in Brazil, and it was hot! But, hot in a good way. Have you ever experienced a good heat? I know. I usually hate hot temperatures, too. But, I can safely say this was the first (and only) time in my life where the temps climbed well above 90-100 F, and the sun baked a person rather than microwaved them. There was coconut milk served directly from coconut vendors and plastic straws poking from the tops of them.




There were tarantulas just chilling on the park lawns where couples looked longingly into one another’s eyes unconcerned. (I was educated that big spiders to us were just babies to Brazilians and harmless if left unbothered.)
Then, we met the people. The Brazilian people were the BEST! I can say that, because I grew up with some of the nicest folks in the entire US in southern KY, and I’m being honest. (No offense Mom!)




Brazilians were happy about everything. As a culture, they hugged. You couldn’t be introduced to someone new without expecting open arms to receive you. It was something we all (even the most reserved of us…even though most of us were pretty outgoing) grew accustomed to by the trip’s end.
We returned hugs, laughter, and smiles. The Imperatriz village– where we had revival–accepted us every night for testimonies and sharing our life stories. It was a tremendous blessing. (Remember, I had just survived NYC, the VHS incident with my old Coach, and my letting one of my mentor’s down, see Playing Possum).


Then, my antics returned. I lost my head.


Maybe it was the 100-degree heat, or, JT waking me up with his humming in the middle of the nights in our hotel. Maybe it was the authentic Passion Fruit juice that we all drank before heading out into the villages each morning without knowing it was, in fact, a sedative. (That would explain the concerned looks that the locals gave us at breakfast time each morning when we drank it by the gallons.) Maybe it was the beans and rice, although I highly doubt it. I loved all of it: Brazil. Even the steakhouses. Especially the steakhouses!


But, no, it wouldn’t be something that objective.
It was simply my ego.


Do you have one of those?


Sure you do. And I know it’s not always as weird as the Freudian label it wears. Plain and simple…it’s one’s self, one’s awareness of self and its comparison to others.


Well, I thought I was doing fairly well with my self/ego/what-have-you, when I discovered that the Brazilian’s altruism and compassion seemed to be unending.


As others would return from the villages and share the updates of their talks with families and bonding and witnessing, I would keep hearing locals talk about how similarly me and another in the group resembled the locals’ favorite US pop artists at the time. (It is important to state that Brazilians loved US pop music of the 80s and early 90s variety, and it was still basically current to them in 2003.) And, a large part of our mission held singing and skit components, and I vividly remember us walking back to the tour bus…like the Beatles or something and kids shouting at us through the bus windows.


They yelled things at Jennifer in our group, and we finally understood they were chanting “Amy Grant! Amy Grant!”
to her.


They pointed at me, and again, the ego took hold of me. Unlike Jennifer, I didn’t quite resist the urge to wave and remain on the bus. (That would’ve been too sensible, remember?) So, I listened to their chants and I heard, “Justin! Justin Timberlake!”


Without knowing what I was doing, I was back off the bus and waving like an ignoramus at the kind, affectionate crowd.


I still remember our preacher’s soft, reaffirming word in my ear, as we re-boarded the bus that day, “Brian. Remember why we’re here. OK?”


I heard him. I mean, genuinely, I did. But, I couldn’t turn down the fans. Right? I was too naive (no, immature fits better). Even later in the week, while Jennifer took the high road, I kept on pursuing my fame and not-so-much fortune. I answered to their calls of “Justin!” and even sang a few NSync songs for the kids.


Disgusting, I know.


The real clincher in this whole charade. Worse than the pretending to be a celebrity, egging it on, and not following Jennifer’s lead the first 15 times was the final reminder.


We’ll call it an eternal one for added emphasis.


We arrived back in the States. Pictures were developed. Oh, don’t you love how pictures can truly encompass where we were (good or bad) at any given moment in time? Pictures were developed using a very cool, modern option called 1-hour photo. Remember that?


And what do I find but a picture of my buddy, our preacher, and me all smiling. Then, I see that it’s been developed using an even cooler feature of 2003, the panoramic photo feature. So, off to the side of JT, a boy he’d just led to Christ, and Coy, you see me. –> A goofy sticker stuck (for some reason to my face), a big cheesy grin, and an ink pen in my hand.


What am I doing you ask?


Signing an autograph.


On our mission trip.


Where countless decisions were made inside those 2 weeks that were life-altering for friends in Imperatriz and JT took this picture as a memory. And you have me putting my John Hancock on a card to a small boy who undoubtedly thought I sang “Bye, Bye, Bye” for a living.



I look back on this knowing that JT and I have laughed about this picture 100s of times. Not because it’s something that should be encouraged, but because of how much we (and yes, I) didn’t know about life. Clueless. The picture still rests on the mantel above the fireplace at home in Monticello. Mom displays my highlights and lowlights alike. And, I love her for it.


If you encounter praise or shame, and I know most of us could already fill several books with our experiences thus far, let it be what it is, and work through it. I think of that picture and laugh every time. JT doesn’t find it quite as funny, but he still laughs.




To: Justin Timberlake, you have my sincerest apologies for impersonating you during the summer of 2003.


Posted on Leave a comment

Being someone’s keeper.

playing-at-the-beach-196156-m Today – I heard a message at church about being someone else’s keeper…being beholden to someone else. In the case of the Old Testament, it’s depicting the story of Cain and Abel and Cain not owning up to telling where his brother, Abel, was, when asked. (He actually killed his brother out of jealousy and envy.)

This is an extreme case, but still one worth noting where selfishness and self-centeredness can lead a person. It’s fairly safe to say, we have a love affair with egocentrism in our country.

Let me clarify. Many of us have a real ongoing struggle with love of popularity. I know I do. It’s something I battle everyday. Facebook updates, over-booking my daily schedule with hobby-based activities, profile views on LinkedIn, etc. It’s all a status check daily, and it reminds me of the child-like attention craved in grade school.

Like I said, I wrestle with social media and it’s false sense of security. If you don’t wrestle with this, then, I am thankful that you are free of it (or, can balance it with real-world interactions).

At church today, we saw a video of a guy driving a sports car recklessly around a corner with a sharp bluff below, and an on-board camera showing him going over the bluff and crashing. The camera gave us a vantage point that we really (as an audience) didn’t want.

It was a reminder (to me) that life is more than just profile updates and social media feeds. Also, it showed me that people looking out for one another is an essential part of living on this planet. No person is an island unto themselves (thank you, Mr. John Donne). We need others in our lives that can invest and mentor us and vice versa.

Someone should not only be our brother’s keeper but we should be someone else’s too. It’s the way life was meant to be lived. In a community. With real human beings. When a friend drives off a bluff, we shouldn’t stop to watch from a safe distance, but instead, we should run to help them. Letting Cain’s issue with loving his brother Abel be a lesson to us, we should love those in our lives that genuinely are there for us, and continue to be beholden to those that want us around as mentors.

Happy March 1! -Brian

Posted on 2 Comments

When stones roll.


The recent murders in Egypt and a Rolling Stones song came up in a conversation tonight.

We were sitting around a table, a friend said that the song “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones was referenced concerning war and the impact it had on both a physical and spiritual level.

The lyrics especially in the first 3 verses stating:

Yeah, a storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Lord, I’m gonna fade away

War, children, yeah, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, yeah, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away, hey, yeah

Oh, see the fire is sweepin’
At our streets today
Burnin’ like a red coal carpet
A mad bull lost its way

These lyrics and words like “storm,” “shelter,” “children,” “shot,” and “fire” all create a stark contrast to the image of peace and love. The imagery of a storm threatening your health is probably something you can relate and maybe have even been subjected to in your life. Likewise, the notion of a fire burning wild like a wildfire in the western US might come to mind. Maybe you’ve lived out on the west coast, and this is something you’ve come to witness in your lifetime?

If you are like me, you can connect with most of the descriptions the song introduces, but the threat of losing your life might be too far-fetched. Do I realize that war is “just a shot away”? Yes. That makes sense. War is often started when the first bullet flies.

But the imagery of losing my life from this shot, war, and/or fire is almost other-worldly.

The 21 Christians that sacrificed their lives were all uttering prayers that echoed the lyrics above. Hana Aziz is quoted on CNN as saying that the men from his village were saying “God, have mercy on us,” even up to their last moments alive.

I haven’t seen the footage or watched many of the interviews that have taken place since the slaughter, but I can’t help but see the similarity in the song’s final words and the result of these men losing their lives. The lyrics “it’s just a kiss away” makes even more sense to me. The notion that if affection and love aren’t exhibited (and are replaced with hatred and malice) then, war looms on the horizon.

I pray for the village of Al Aour and those mourning the loss of these men. While these men weren’t able to celebrate this past Christmas and the holidays with their families, they are now at rest. May the mother that wasn’t able to prepare their favorite meals understand that their fate is sealed in a much better place. She need not worry about them, because they stood for the greatest cause.

They have been given permanent shelter.

Posted on Leave a comment

Valentine’s Day!


3 saints are all argued to have played a part in the formation of this national day of pink. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, one was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

Whether St. Valentine (Valentinus) was in love with his jailer’s daughter or not (and left a note that really said, “From your Valentine” before being beheaded) really isn’t the main draw for this holiday. Is it?

We can try to reduce it to sugar, flowers, etc., but there seems to be more here. Although, Hallmark does love the confusion…and pressure that men face in delivering on it.

But at the end of the day there’s this very real need for connection.

I mean, today, I saw hundreds of people walking the streets in downtown Chattanooga holding hands, trying to hold hands, and Dudley Do-Rights taking kids to aquariums and things. It was beautiful and unsettling all at once.

We as humans genuinely crave to be loved. This one day just seems to showcase how great that need is. We don’t want to be left alone. Especially on 2/14. Like musical chairs, we hear the music playing and if it does stop, we don’t want to be without a seat.

So. I took note of the couples that seemed genuinely happy. The ones not trying to hold hands out of obligation or FORCING it. There was one couple that genuinely enjoyed the aquarium it seemed. They didn’t corral one another to take pictures at every exhibit and even seemed to relish in the butterfly garden.

It made me appreciate Saturday (and time with my friends) even more. Valentine’s Day or not–it was pleasant. Seeing that couple just absorb the sights and sounds of a weekend and take delight in being together was refreshing. It helped me to look at my own family’s joy and realize we need 2/14 more than just today.

Additional note: Keebler elves now apparently make Red Velvet fudge-striped cookies as well.