Seared Tuna with Salad

Seared Tuna Ingredients

  • Ahi tuna* – 8-12 ounces
  • 1/2 Lemon, juiced
  • Cracked pepper
  • Salt (very little)
  • Grapeseed oil (works well at high temps)

* Choose a market that has fresh ahi tuna. 

  1. Use cracked pepper or regular ground pepper. Add as much as you’d like. Remember you can always add more when cooked.
  2. Add juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  3. Add a little salt. The key word here is little.
  4. Spray pan with pam and then add a tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Turn heat to medium high and allow pan to get hot.
  5. Place fish in pan for 1 minute and then turn for 1 minute on the other side.The idea is to sear the fish. Put out of your mind that you have to have the fish cooked well done. It’s not the case with fresh tuna and it will be quite tasty. However, if you’d like to cook your fish longer feel free. Your meal will still be wonderful and fresh.

Salad Ingredients

  • Romaine Lettuce (bibb lettuce)
  • Red Cabbage
  • Your favorite salad veggies (carrots, squash, cucumber, tomatoes)
  • Sunflower Seeds


  • Olive Oil – 3 tbsp
  • Red Wine Vinegar or Balsamic Vinegar (Splash on salad)
  • Cracked Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh Lemon Juice – 1 tsp
  • Balsamic Glaze (just a bit!)
  • Optional: Italian Seasoning, salt, basil

I use romaine lettuce already washed and bagged. Add veggies like carrots, squash, cucumber, tomatoes and if you’d like add a few sunflower seeds.

The dressing is where we usually make the biggest mistake. Don’t use prepared dressing that is loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars. Instead develop your own vinaigrette dressing. I start with a little lemon juice followed by cracked pepper and cold pressed virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar. Then I enjoy adding a bit of balsamic glaze just for a nice sweetness. Keep in mind that too much salt is not our friend so use salt sparingly. Again, feel free to use Mrs. Dash and other herbs like italian seasoning, oregano etc. Fresh basil is also a nice addition. Be creative!


This is really simple. Put the salad in the middle of the plate and slice the fish in 1/4” widths and place on top of the salad. Garnish with fruit. Feel free to use the balsamic glaze to make a design on the plate. Have fun!

Introduction to Exercise

Exercise is one area where people often feel defeated. According to a recent study 69% of adults are overweight or obese in the U.S. Getting off the couch to get your heart pumping is imperative! Read that last sentence again and throw your excuses out the door. We wouldn’t think of leaving for work without brushing our teeth, combing our hair or getting dressed. However, we often skip one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle: Exercise. Trust me I know it’s easier to sit on the couch with a favorite cup of coffee and talk about ‘needing’ to take a walk. But talking about it won’t change anything for the good. 

So, where do you start? Well, how about one step at a time? One reason people become defeated and quit is because they set the bar so high they can’t seem to ever measure up. It seems the favorite time to join the Y is the month of January. New Years Resolution I think we call it? Then one meeting and a couple late nights and we never get in the habit of going. Typically newbies walk around the Y wondering what the heck they are supposed to be doing. So, within a short amount of time it seems like time is wasting and we stop going. At least that’s my story. I’ve joined the Y more times than I can remember. 

Here’s the deal, before you think of running a marathon you must first develop a habit of getting up early enough to exercise 4 or 5 days a week. So, start slow. This is a journey. If you haven’t moved any faster than your walk to the dinner table for the last few months / years then start out by walking around the block. Spend 20 minutes each time you exercise to get your heart rate up. Also, talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about exercise and your current health situation. A couple things you need to know. It is totally okay to walk your dog. Whatever you do, do not walk your cat. That wouldn’t be cool! 

Exercise is one thing that will help raise your good cholesterol (HDL). So, let’s get to it!

By the time there’s another article about exercise you should be in a habit of walking most every day. Your heart is counting on it! 

Regi’s Oatmeal Recipe

So, how do you feel about oatmeal? Recently, when I posted a comment about Oatmeal on Facebook, some said it’s like eating mush or that it’s boring while others said they enjoy a bowl now and then. Now before you get ready to send me your grain free view… Yes, I am aware of the blogs and doctors who suggest eliminating all grains is healthy.  Again, there are choices to be made and you must choose your own path. I’m also aware of those who cannot eat gluten. (For gluten free oatmeal check out Bob’s Red Mill and GF Harvest). There are also blogs and doctors who suggest eating a bowl of oats is nutritious and helpful in a balanced diet. Although I don’t depend on oatmeal for all my fiber (which can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream) I have enjoyed it at least 4-5 times a week for more than a year. 

The Mayo Clinic and other heart centers across the country suggest 5-10 grams of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. By eating 1 – 1 1/2  cups of cooked oatmeal you will consume 6 grams of fiber. If you add fruit as suggested in my recipe you’ll add another 4 grams. Do you have to eat oatmeal? No, but I’d say for some it has its benefits. 

I use McCann’s steel cut oatmeal. Steel cut oats are a little more al dente but if cooked longer will become softer.

Also, I use a medium pot and a wooden spoon. A wooden spoon you say? Yes, I don’t like the sound of a metal spoon in the pot while I’m stirring. So if you want this to be a most pleasurable experience, please use a wooden spoon.


  • Water
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Pick 2 or 3 fresh fruit (apple, banana, blueberries, pear, strawberries, nectarine)
  • Cinnamon
  • Unsweetened coconut
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Raw unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts)
  • Honey *optional
  • Mccann’s steel cut oatmeal

Let’s get started…

  1. Bring 1.5 Cups of water to a boil
  2. Add 1/2 cup of oats and turn to medium heat stirring occasionally.  After a couple minutes turn to medium low and cook for about 10-15 minutes. You may need to add a little water (i add unsweetened almond milk) toward the end to get the right consistency. You can also use mccann’s quick & easy steel cut oats which are ready in just 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 crisp apple cut into bite size pieces about 1/2 way through the cooking time. You can also add 1/2 banana cut into small pieces. Or you may choose to wait and add the fruit at the end if you like. This is your choice. Mix up the fruit however you like. In fact, sometimes i add three different fruits. Be creative!
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon *i sprinkle some while cooking and more at the very end
  5. Add 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut
  6. Add 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed. (Bob’s red mill brand)

Flaxseed has health benefits because of its high fiber and omega-3 fatty acids as well as phytochemicals called lignans. In fact one tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids and 2 grams of dietary fiber. It’s worth noting that flaxseed may also help lower total blood cholesterol and ldl which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Once your oatmeal is ready to eat you may choose to add a bit of unsweetened almond milk.

I also add a few chopped nuts. Use raw nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts or pecans. Make sure there is no added salt.

When i first started eating oatmeal i used a teaspoon of honey to sweeten. However, i now enjoy the way the fruit naturally sweetens the oatmeal.

Enjoy: One Bite At A Time.

Heart Healthy: One Bite At A Time

If you are reading this there’s a chance your cholesterol is too high. When I received the results of my blood work in January 2014 I was surprised to hear my doctor say he wanted to put me on a statin. My total cholesterol was 267 and my LDL was 189. The good cholesterol HDL was only 35. I was used to near perfect checkups and this was not good news. However, I was determined to find another solution. With my doctor’s blessing, I became laser focused on doing whatever it took to lower my cholesterol without taking any medications.

* Most people who follow a healthy food plan have success with weight loss as well as a decline in cholesterol and better overall blood pressure. *

As long as I can remember I’ve eaten whatever I wanted. Coming from the south that means fried anything and a wonderful dessert after evening meals. And, with coffee shops all around, I couldn’t pass up a scone and latte for breakfast. Make that two lattes. Somehow my metabolism allowed me to keep a consistent weight for years while eating lots of things I shouldn’t have. However, it finally caught up with me.

I’ve read countless articles, blogs and research studies on cholesterol and heart health. My digging led me to lots and lots of opinions that can leave anyone confused. Most of the opinions came from prestigious heart clinics, cardiologists, and nutrition specialists. Some say statins. Others suggest a balanced food diet. Some say no grains. Others say whole grains. Some articles discuss the power of olive oil. Still others say no oil. Some say limit red meat consumption. Others say eat grass fed meat as often as you like. Eggs? Some say yes and others say no. You see what I mean? As suspected, most cardiologists are in line with the American Heart Association and lean toward a balanced diet to lower cholesterol and at times will prescribe a statin medicine. However, many other cardiologists, who are not only published but have extensive research studies backing them, suggest cholesterol isn’t always the culprit. More on that later.

At first I was in panic mode and tried deleting any and everything that had added sugar, saturated fats or cholesterol. I didn’t really have a plan I just started removing items from my diet. What was I going to eat now?  Literally, I was obsessed! I read every nutrition chart for restaurants I frequented and unfortunately had to discontinue visiting many of them. Some of the first things to go were sodas, bread, pasta, and fried foods. Serious? Yep!  And, then I started trying foods that weren’t usually found in our home. Beets, Kale and Squash among others. And many new recipes followed that I’ll be sharing with you.

Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor. I’m not a fitness instructor. I’m not a wellness coach. (What is a wellness coach anyway?) I’m not a nutritional expert. Keep in mind… I’m also not guaranteeing that if you do what I did you’ll receive the exact benefits that I experienced. However, my decisions led to an extreme decline in my total cholesterol along with lowering my LDL and raising my good cholesterol (HDL). Also, my weight dropped from 174 to 157 and for the first time since 10th grade my stomach was flat.

(My mother in law says I need to gain weight but my cardiologist says I’m doing just fine)

I realized I needed a plan. So, one of the first things I did was establish a morning routine. As starters I drink 8 ounces of water before I have coffee or breakfast. It’s important to stay hydrated and it’s important that water becomes your friend. For years I would skip breakfast (except for my must have latte) which resulted in eating too much at lunch. I would feel tired a few hours later only to go home to eat a huge dinner. You get the picture?

So, here among these blogs and recipes are some of the changes I’ve made that helped lower my cholesterol and most importantly changed my overall heart health. I hope you’ll be encouraged and challenged to make the necessary changes that will lead to a more healthy you.

How a Heart Attack Changes Everything (Part 2 of 2)

As the long Thanksgiving weekend approached, my mornings were a mix of scripture, coffee and questions about the future. Although I desperately wanted to speak with a local cardiologist, message after message to physician answering services went unreturned because of the holiday.

I visited our music room often. Playing the piano seemed to drown out my fears. From the moment I’d heard my EKG didn’t look good, anxiety moved into a spare room in the corner of my thoughts. If my breathing was labored or if there was an unusual pain, fear moved throughout my whole mind as if it were in charge. I prayed for relief.

That Saturday morning my phone rang. He identified himself as Jess from Alabama. Who but a telemarketer would be calling me on a Saturday? I didn’t feel like listening to some sales pitch but he said he was calling about a vehicle I was selling. Unbelievable. In six months, I’d only had one person show any interest in that old car. Within five minutes he made an offer and I accepted.

I told him I would email a bill of sale and he agreed to send a check later that day. For now he was heading to bed because he had been up all night working. My curiosity got the best of me and I asked about his job. Jess said he was an anesthesiologist and worked with a group of heart doctors in his town. I almost dropped the phone!

My emotions were all over the place. Fighting back the tears, I told him he may have called me to buy a car but I needed to talk to him. I told him about my recent heart attack and that I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to answer my questions. I’ve never knowingly experienced a visitation from an angel but–at this moment–I felt like I was talking to one. He asked a few questions and then proceeded to tell me the four medications I was taking. I hadn’t said a word about any of them. He was right on all four. And then, one by one, he walked me through each of my medications; helping me to understand some of the side effects I had been experiencing.

He encouraged me to trust. He assured me I would gain strength and that–with each passing day–my fears would lessen. Then Jess gave me his cell phone number and told me that I could call him if I ever felt fearful, even in the middle of the night. Unbelievable!

After our call was finished, I was overwhelmed with a profound sense of peace. I knew that God loves us in the details. But in that moment, I was experiencing it.

*  *  *

As I spent my Tennessee mornings working through the emotions of recovering, my wife went out early each day to search for our lost Labrador. Looking back, the text I had received a few days earlier from our dog trainer couldn’t have come at a worse time: I was in a hospital ER! I had texted the trainer back asking him to communicate with Kim—all the while wondering where our Lulu could possibly be. Was she lost in the woods? Had someone found her? How did this possibly happen? Was this all some horrible dream? As concerned as I was about myself, I found myself praying for Lulu’s safe return—even as I was being wheeled into surgery.

In spite of all the reasons we wanted to have her trained, now we just wanted her back and would gladly take the scratches and dirt with her.

Week after week, Kim’s search continued. She and our friends plastered more than 50 laminated signs all over the area where Lulu went missing. Facebook posts and frequent calls to every kennel and vet yielded nothing. Through many conversations, it became apparent that our dog had actually gone missing much earlier than we had initially been told. Our fading hope was running out.

Finally, someone called to say Lulu might be at the local Humane Society shelter. A few minutes before Kim had stopped there to hand out a flyer and had contacted them twice in the past week. Nonetheless, she went back in to look at all the dogs. I was home resting when my phone beeped. It was Kim, asking me to come outside and help her. I opened the door and–for the first time in 37 days–saw the cutest Labrador in the world. Lulu was finally home! The Humane Society had taken her in just a few days after she went missing. The real miracle was that no one had adopted this beautiful animal in the weeks she had been there. Our prayers had been answered.

These days, our new wood floors have some scratches and Lulu occasionally tracks in a little dirt from the outside. But more importantly, our lives feel complete with her here. She’s where she’s supposed to be. Home.

*  *  *

My life has changed over the past eight months.

I’m appreciating everything in a whole new way. In the weeks following my heart event, the sky has literally looked bluer. The clouds seem bigger and softer. Colors feel more vibrant and my own heartbeat sounds like a drum playing quietly in my ear. Without trying, I’m noticing things in greater detail. I find myself truly living “in the moment.”

I’ve committed myself more intentionally to the discipline of good health. I’m eating and exercising like my life depends upon it—because it does. At the beginning of Cardiac Rehab, I couldn’t even walk up the hill beside our house. Now I climb it again and again. Cardiac Rehab is not just about regaining your physical health; it’s about learning to live with the emotions that follow a heart attack. Will I be able to move beyond the fear? Can I do everything I want to do? In April, I graduated from Cardiac Rehab at the Williamson County Medical Center. The staff and friends there have helped me more than words can convey.

When I read Scripture, words now take on a more profound meaning: I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4). I’ve read that verse over and over again. I’ve underlined it in my Bible. I’ve highlighted it and I’ve shared that short but powerful passage with many others. I’m living out each word daily.

Prayer is more important than ever. Months before I had my heart attack, I was riding down the interstate and felt I should pray for my arteries and veins to remain open. Although I didn’t know why I was praying that prayer, I kept on praying it. It wasn’t some eloquent prayer; just Lord would you keep my veins and arteries open? Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us pray even when we don’t know what to pray for. Looking back on November 23, I now know why that prayer was important. Here’s the deal: if you ever feel impressed to pray about anything, just pray! Don’t ask questions. Just pray. Our prayers make a difference.

I now hug my close family and friends whenever I see them–because I can. Because, I’m still here. Every time I wake in the night, I say thank you to a loving God who I’m learning to trust more and more each day.

I still fight the urge to spin a few more plates—the temptation to be busier than ever before. We let ourselves believe that the more plates we spin, the more meaningful our lives are. But I know from first-hand experience that when you’re being pushed down a hall toward a room for a heart procedure, none of those plates really matter. Not one! I didn’t think once of my home, car, motorcycle, business, dreams or my bank account. I was thinking about my wife and daughter and son and dog–praying for God to keep his hand on me.

Months have gone by and I’m still trying to keep those priorities. At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m living proof that the Lord can use even the most desperate circumstances of life to help clarify our priorities and help us focus on what matters most.

Thanks for letting me share this with you. I appreciate your prayers and pray that you will be encouraged by the truth that my angel friend, Jess, shared with me: Trust the Lord. As you trust him, you’ll make progress. Your anxiety will be replaced by peace. And when you feel fear, even in the middle of the night, you can call on Him.

How a Heart Attack Changes Everything (Part 1 of 2)

It was warmer than usual last October and life was busy. Between a hectic traveling schedule and running a new business, I seemed to be more tired than usual. Maybe my age was catching up with me? We had just moved into our new home and the huge job of unpacking and moving furniture took every ounce of energy I had left. I hate to admit it, but the kids were driving me crazy too—along with the dog. I got the brilliant idea of sending our 10-month-old Labrador off for training. The last thing we needed was our dog chewing up the corners of our new cabinets.

Each day, new questions piled on top of unanswered ones. Where should we put the furniture? Should we convert the dining room into a study? Do we have a space for that armoire?

Kim and I bought this house thinking we would be here for at least six years, maybe longer. In six years, our son would graduate from high school, four years after his sister. Then we could downsize to a little house in the country.

Dreams …

On November 23rd I was scheduled to lead worship at Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church, just north of Atlanta. I had packed my overnight bag and left home Saturday afternoon, stopping along the way at the usual places. Although my trip was quiet, my back and neck plagued me. For the past several months, I had visited a chiropractor and a few days earlier, I had received a shot to try and ease the pain. I arrived and checked into my hotel and enjoyed sushi at my favorite spot just down the street. Then I turned in early for some much needed rest.

I didn’t sleep well. When the alarm clock went off at 6 AM, it was like a clanging bell in a room full of sleeping babies. I was tired and tense and the last thing I wanted to do was get up. I found my way downstairs for a bowl of oatmeal but couldn’t eat anything due to my neck and back pain.

On the drive to church, I tried to stretch out the tension, all the while wishing I were back home in bed. Instead of attending the pre-service staff meeting, I sat in the hallway feeling extremely anxious. This wasn’t a new feeling. I had felt it many times in the past six months; I figured it was something to do with my back and passed it off.

Rehearsal was about to start so I made my way in and sat at the keyboard. After the usual “hello’s” to everyone, it was click, click, click and we were into the first song. Somewhere around two-thirds of the way through, I stopped because the tension in my neck and back had increased and there was now an unusual feeling in my chest. I kept thinking, if I can just get through these four songs, I’ll go to the back and this will all pass. When we finished the last few measures of the first song, I couldn’t continue. I excused myself and found a couch in a small room just off the sanctuary where the pastors meet prior to the service. I sat down for about 20 seconds; the pain increased in my back and neck. I opened the door and asked the first person I saw to please get me help. I wasn’t sure what was happening.

Looking back, it’s all a blur. I remember lying on the floor trying to escape the pain. Someone was calling 911. Someone was putting baby aspirin in my mouth while a nurse asked me questions. My fingers felt like water, tingling as if electricity was shooting through them. What was happening?

The EMT arrived and the questions continued. How old are you? Do you have any chest pains? Are you allergic to any medicines? I begged them to make the pain go away. They got me on the stretcher, down the elevator and into the ambulance. The hospital was twelve miles away. As the siren blared, I shivered underneath the blanket. It felt as if the heat wasn’t working. I wondered if I was experiencing extreme muscle spasms and this would all be over soon.

The ER was abuzz. Two nurses came in followed by a doctor. Tests followed. Blood test. Enzyme test. EKG. A few minutes later, the doctor told me with very broken English that my EKG didn’t look good. I asked what that meant. He said it again: Your EKG doesn’t look good. Then he walked out. I looked at the nurse and asked what that meant. She was apologetic for the language barrier but said my EKG had some abnormalities and they were going to perform more tests. The doctor reentered, gave me three nitroglycerin pills, and told me that I would be admitted and scheduled for a heart catheterization at 10 AM the following morning. I was in disbelief. I really thought they would be releasing me at any moment.

My friend, Pastor Mike Roper, met me at the hospital and called my wife to let her know what was happening. Pastor Steve Wood and his family also stopped in to pray with me. Once everyone left, I was alone with my thoughts when my cell phone beeped to inform me of a text. It was the dog trainer we had hired to train our 10-month-old Labrador. He texted to say he had lost our Lulu two days earlier. I couldn’t even begin to process this news, so I texted him back asking him to please contact my wife. Was I living out a really bad country song? Typically, news like this would cause me to leap into action but there was nothing I could do except let it go.

In walked another doctor. I assumed he was stopping by to talk about tomorrow’s procedure. However, he said an enzyme test had just shown that my troponin levels were elevated. Troponin? I had never heard the word troponin in my life. But this was all the news they needed to reschedule my procedure. He said my catheterization would take place within the next 45 minutes. And, just like that, he left the room. A long thin tube would be inserted into a blood vessel in my groin and threaded up into my heart for diagnosis and treatment. I texted my wife and asked her to pray. When you’re face to face with sudden uncertainty, it’s a feeling like none other. Talk about overwhelming! There was nothing to do except pray and trust. The outcome was in God’s hands.

It’s very disconcerting to be on a stretcher that’s being pushed down a hall toward a place you’ve never been. When we finally stopped, I lifted my head to see the entrance of the Cath Lab. My pulse raced. The door opened and I saw six or seven people readying the room for my procedure. Dr. Gregory Robertson walked up to the bed, shook my hand and informed me that I had suffered a heart attack. I was stunned! He assured me that I was in the right place and that he and his team would take great care of me. With that, they whisked me onto the table. I felt a pinch on my leg and was soon in another world. I caught a brief glimpse of the heart monitor and that’s all I remember.

*  *  *

The next thing I knew, I woke up in ICU. I was surprised and relieved to see my aunt and uncle there. Fortunately they lived close. My uncle made sure I stayed hydrated and my aunt kept assuring me that everything was going to be okay. The craziest thing about that day–in addition to having a heart attack–is looking back to see how a few hours can change everything. What I could do for myself earlier that morning I now depended on others to do for me.

I was in disbelief. I was exhausted. I was extremely anxious.

My wife and kids were back in Nashville under tornado warnings. They would arrive the next morning. I couldn’t wait to see them; but for now, I was hungry and thirsty. Gladys, my nurse, brought me a turkey sandwich and for it was surprisingly tasty for hospital food. After I ate, she suggested I get some rest. I gladly closed my eyes. My aunt stayed the night sitting upright in a chair. I’m sure she didn’t rest very well, but having her there helped me get through the night.

I dozed off several times but the slightest movement caused my heart to race. Late that evening, the heart monitor started beeping and a flashing red light appeared. My heart rate went from 66 to 158 BPM in a matter of seconds. I was a basket case and stayed awake for most of the night staring at the monitor. My fears were on high alert. Would this happen again? My eyes were heavy, but I resisted as long as I could. Someone poking my arm for more blood interrupted any sleep I found.

The next morning, Dr. Robertson informed me that he had put three stents in my left anterior descending (LAD) artery that was 95% blocked. That artery is famously known as the “widow maker.” He was very encouraging and emphasized that he expected me to make a full recovery. I wondered if he said that to every patient.

A few hours later, in walked my wife and daughter. They were a welcome sight. Kim was making small talk to hide her concern and Sophie was quiet, just taking in everything. There was something about all their hugs that felt very different. When you’re wondering if you’ll ever see someone again, it’s all the more sweet when you do.  I was so appreciative of the friends and family who came and went and every prayer offered on my behalf. The last time I spent the night in a hospital was when our daughter was born. That was 17 years ago. Here we were again. This time was much different.

The hours went by slowly. Kim and Sophia helped pass the time talking about how we would get our dog back and I listened as Kim went over the menu for Thanksgiving dinner. I felt too weak to be part of the conversation so I rested. The following day, I was moved out of ICU and was encouraged to start walking the hall. What you don’t use you’ll lose, they kept saying. It was slow going but good to be on my feet again. Kim and Sophia were ready to get back home, but I was not sure if I wanted to leave just yet. I didn’t want to seem too worried, but inside I was a mess. Dr. Robertson, my cardiologist, stopped in to check on me. I hugged his neck and thanked him for what he did for me. He spoke with Kim about living with a heart patient. Saltshakers were to become a thing of the past along with anything from a box or fried. This was new for us since heart disease didn’t exist in our immediate family. Someone popped in to say I would be released soon. But “soon” turned into hours. Late that afternoon, it finally became reality. Leaving was a bit emotional. As we drove off, I was leaving people who literally had my heart in their hands. Together they had given me the opportunity for a longer and healthier life.

We drove four hours home. Quiet. Exhausted.

There were so many thoughts going through my head. Would the stents hold? What was that pain in my shoulder? My chest? Kim was exhausted as well.  Once family welcomed us home I wanted nothing more than my bed. I lay there, missing the connection of my heart monitor. I reached out, put my hand on Kim’s back and slipped into a deep rest.  I was wide-awake at 4:30 AM. My first thought was Thank you, Lord. I found a hot cup of coffee and my Bible and headed to our study. I read Psalm 34. Then I read Psalm 34 again. And again. Especially verses 17-18 and 22:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. . .
The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

My heart had literally been broken. Not just figuratively, but actually. The Lord had orchestrated the events of the past few days to save me. He heard my cries and rescued me from death. Now I needed him to deliver me from the crush of anxiety I was experiencing about the future. What about my health? Our family? Our finances? Our missing dog

Digging In

In my last blog, I mentioned the alarmingly short tenure of the normal worship leader/choir director. Most surveys suggest the average worship leader stays less than 36 months in one church. To put that in perspective: three years is just 1,095 days. That’s a whole year less than it takes to complete high school.

I’m sure you’ve heard it takes 10,000 hours to become competent at one thing.

Maybe you’ve clocked that much time developing your actual craft, but how much time have you invested leading in one place, in one ministry, in one community of worshippers?

Here’s another way to look at it: if we invested 40 hours each week for 52 weeks for three consecutive years, we would total just over 6,000 hours in that ministry. Using the 10,000-hour gauge, that’s still 4,000 hours short of “competency.” I’m not saying that we fail if we don’t clock the “magical” 10,000 hours—I’m just suggesting that we may be missing the really good stuff when we’re focused on short-run satisfaction and results.

Here are three strategies to help us reach long-run results:

1. Dig in:
What if we decided to dig in from the very beginning? What if we committed quality time to building long-term relationships we couldn’t imagine leaving? Investing in friendships that went deeper than simply getting people to do what we need them to do for us to be successful?

My worship pastor has been leading in the same place for 17 years. That’s lots of relationships. That’s 35,360 hours. That’s endurance. That’s not allowing feelings of under-appreciation to get the best of him. By staying the course, he’s been part of living out the vision of a ministry. It also means that his children get to live out lasting relationships instead of having to find new ones every few years.

2. Pace yourself:
Sprinters make poor marathoners. Long distance runners learn to set, meet and celebrate reasonable short-term goals (like making it to the next mile-marker!). 10,000 hours is five years. Instead of giving ourselves three to five months to be “successful” (whatever that is!), assume it’s going take three to five years. If we achieve some measure of effectiveness before then, count it a blessing.

We must learn that the next ministry opportunity should only happen when God releases us from the last one. We must resist the temptation to imagine ourselves being responsible for something to which God has called someone else.

3. Enjoy the process:
If we’re always focused on the end product, we’ll never be satisfied until things go just as we’ve envisioned. This may be an unrealistic expectation because things rarely turn out as planned. By making the most of every moment along the way, we’ll enjoy the ride rather than marking progress toward a goal that always moving out of reach.

Developing relationships is one of the most effective ways to enjoy the process. In the end, our accomplishments may be better written in relationships rather than on resumes. The time we take to encourage that guitarist in the band or that quiet alto on the third row in the choir may forever be etched in their minds. Start planning to get to know more people on a personal basis. A smile or a laugh will be remembered long past being accepted as the ‘new’ worship leader at another church. Don’t plan to leave. Plan to stay and make memories.

So what will it take for you and me to dig in?

How to Build a Good Setlist

Building a good setlist sounds like we’re setting out to build a house or something. However, when we build the same house over and over again, we lose the sense of awe and creativity that’s so important in our times of worship together. How do we stay out of a rut?

Choose 2 uptempo songs… Choose 2 mid tempo songs… Quote a scripture… Sing a slow song… Go to the ready room. Sound familiar?

Getting in that box is simple. Getting out can be altogether different. Where is the creativity in doing the same thing over and over? Just because something worked last week doesn’t mean it’s what we should do next week. We must understand it’s God’s presence that changes lives not our set list.

What if you opened service with scripture reading with everyone? What would it look like if you started the ‘setlist’ with your songs in reverse? Try it. You may be surprised. What if you replaced one of your songs with quiet time? Time to reflect? Or what about replacing a song with an entire chapter with everyone reading together? What if you invited people to pray during one of the worship songs? What would it look like if your ‘worship through music’ time was something entirely different? What would worship look like if you didn’t get to use any songs at all? Crazy? Maybe. But so is being stuck in a rut.

Get out of your rut and let us know how you did it.

Juggling Between Your Church and Your Family

When it comes to balancing anything it’s not always easy. 69% of people who have a checking account never balance their checkbook. Have you ever tried riding a unicycle? How about surfing? So, what do you do when it comes to balancing your church ministry position and your family?

If I may, I’ll speak from my personal experience. In past years I found it easy to be excited about the preparation of a church service or even a rehearsal. My day would be filled with listening to music or writing a new song and at the end of a day the last thing I’d want to do was help someone with math homework. However, that feeling can quickly become an imbalance of home versus church/job.

You see, when I’m doing what ‘I’ want to do things are great. However, when ‘I’ get home and ‘I’ have to do something ‘I’ don’t want to do then things aren’t so great. Get it? But, I finally realized it’s not all about me or my church job. It’s about being present both in my day to day responsibilities and with my family. Being present in my home is about communicating with my spouse, my children and being intentional about our time together. Once I got that I felt more in balance and that’s a much better place to be.

I still can’t ride a unicycle.

Forever Free

The new album.

  1. House of the Risen Son
  2. Can You Hear the Sound of Worship?
  3. One Day Soon
  4. In Jesus’ Name
  5. It Was Finished on the Cross
  6. There is Power in the Blood
  7. The Presence of the Lord is Here
  8. No Mistaking
  9. Great Giving God
  10. Be Everything
  11. Jesus I Will Live for You
  12. God of Revelation