The Butterfly Effect, according to an 8th grader

Amalia is her name. She hadn’t really thought about the story she was telling, until she was asked. At least that’s what she said. But when she started answering, she voiced an important story. The story is found in her drawing.


Amalia said the story is about a broken girl who made a choice that has made her “unfixable.” She summed it up by her definition of the butterfly effect. I had my definition of that term, but I wanted to know hers. So I asked. And she answered, “One choice you choose can change everything in your life.” She’s certainly right.

Amalia didn’t know because we just met today, but I’ve been thinking along those lines a bit lately. My thoughts have been less about life-altering decisions and more about day-to-day decisions, which of course can lead to life-altering ones. All your “yeses” mean something to you, about you. Every “no” speaks to who you are and what you value. And each of both of those impact everyone in your world. Like it or not, they leave a wake that is its own butterfly effect.

Thank you, Amalia, for this visual reminder. To hear our full conversation about this drawing , visit https://www.facebook.com/firstpassage/

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Didn’t See That Coming

In my experience, if you ask God a curious “I want what you want” question, he is happy to reply. And he often surprises you with his answer. And I believe he enjoys whispering to your heart, “Bet you didn’t see that coming.”

When I opened the winter issue of Facts and Trends a few months ago, I read about an Arkansas church that has a unique approach to engaging their community through the arts. The Article (see pages 16-19) describes their intentionality of establishing an art gallery in their new building as an avenue to connect worship and community. After reading it, I had a “Hmmmm…” moment. 

That moment was a connection between the answer to an earlier question (see It Started With a Question) and another question, “Where could this go?” The connection was the expansion of a one-time showing of work from Ballard students to an ongoing gallery that involved all facets of our community. No, I didn’t see that coming.

So I did two things. I called the church in Arkansas. Then I visited the Arts Center. Between those two things, we felt equipped and eager to follow what God seemed to be up to. Long story short, we now have a gallery that will continue to go after wanting what God wants. And pretty much all I can say is, “God did this.”

How might you incorporate curiosity into your prayer life?

What area of your life needs a “I want what you want” attitude adjustment?

When’s the last time you could only answer, “All I can say is, ‘God did this'”? What if you prayed for it to happen again?

How might you prepare to receive what you don’t see coming?

Shout Out to Miami

This time last weekend, these lovely people were together in Miami.


We left Friday 9am, returned Sunday 6pm. Our mission for the weekend was to serve two ministry partners, City Church and Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. 


Friday afternoon Pastor Tommy gave us a tour of City Church’s facility, where we prayed for them and their work before heading over to Miracle Mile to engage the community to introduce people to this new church opportunity in their neighborhood. 

Saturday we spent most of the day at the Miami campus of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes where we provided lunch, talked with the house parents and kids, and assisted in cleaning up. What a memorable visit!

Here are a few of our takeaways from this weekend mission trip to minister to our southern Floridians:

  • They are open to an invitation to church
  • They recognize how impactful faith can be in their lives
  • Having a pastor who is committed to making roots in a community is needed and has potential for long-term impact
  • Churches of all languages are needed in South Florida
  • We have an obligation to continue to embrace foster children and those ministering to them
  • Immediate response to a spoken need goes a long way in showing you heard them, you are for them, and so is God

We see you, Miami! 

Children of Jihad (book review)

The library is my friend. These days it’s because of the audio books available there-“there” meaning the Manatee Central Library just blocks from the church office.

My routine so far this year has been to get an audio book, listen to it while driving around town, return it as soon as I’m done and immediately get a new one. In selecting a new one, I am content to take the first one that grabs my attention. 

The last one to grab my attention was entitled Children of Jihad. I’m guessing it got my attention because of my recent travels to the Middle East. This writer, Jared Cohen, had travelled there-much more deeply than I had or probably will and for completely different reasons. The cd jacket cover said Cohen’s reason was to try to understand the spread of radical Islamic violence by researching Muslim youth. Attention grabbed.

Published in 2007, this book recounts Cohen’s travels for a few years starting in 2004. Cohen was 23, a Rhodes scholar wanting to learn about global affairs by witnessing them firsthand. His travels took him through Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. He visited villages, cities, universities, and even unknowingly drove through the heart of an insurgency war zone landing him in Mosul.

His tales are mind blowing, mind shifting, and even mind altering. He reveals a perspective that only comes from firsthand encounters and perspectives. He challenges, like any good journalist, both sides of the story. In this case, the one side of the story includes the locals he met while the other side includes those back at Oxford and in his home state of Connecticut. 

Again, I haven’t travelled like Cohen. My encounters in the Arab community have been in the bubble of ministry here in the States and in one country where Cohen didn’t include his research. But I agree with his assessment. We don’t have all the story if all we know is what we see on American news. We are not being respectful to the citizens of the Middle East and their relatives around the world when we lump them all under the same profile. We should lower ourselves and engage them to really appreciate their personal story and to respect them as we respect ourselves.

This book will cause you to pause. To rethink. To revisit. Maybe even to confess. If you care to do such developmental work, Children of Jihad can be a tool for you.

It Started With a Question

The question came last summer. I was searching for something. But it wasn’t really for me. And maybe that’s why the answer was so good.

My job as assistant pastor at a church is not normal. (Everyone said, “Amen!”) No need to get into all the possible answers to the wrong question here, so suffice it to say my job makes me ask myself a lot of questions. Last summer I asked the same question I’ve asked myself for several summers; but I was looking for something different, something deeper. And that’s why the core question I was really asking was this: “How can we go deeper?”

“We” referred to our church. “Go deeper” referred to our relationship with our ministry partner, Ballard Elementary School. This relationship has existed for five or so years. It’s very healthy, even admired by other churches and schools in our county. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need evaluating and tweaking and improving. So to do these three things, we ask questions.

This time I got an answer that I hadn’t received before. Looking back, I believe the answer came because we weren’t asking how to improve an existing program but opening the question up by looking for other options, avenues, and pathways yet unexplored. The answer was revealing, refreshing, and certainly unexplored. That answer was, “What about connecting with the art teacher?” I dove in.

Long story short, we met and now are walking a path that is unlike anything either have experienced before. Students and their families are creating lifelong memories because an assistant pastor and an art teacher are collaborating on their behalf. And this collaboration has opened the door to a whole new ministry of the church in the form of an art gallery. Didn’t see that coming (more on that in an upcoming blog)!

But how can you see something coming when you don’t ask the question? 

How can you expect a different result when you keep asking the same question? 

How can go you deeper when you only ask questions about the surface? 

What could start in your corner of the world by asking the right question? 

What if you started by asking, “How can we go deeper?”