NEW BOOK RELEASE: It’s Not Ok. And That’s Ok.

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NEW BOOK RELEASE

My wife Lynn and I just completed and published It’s Not Ok. And That’s Ok.

Co-Authors Ben & Lynn Hartings

“It’s Not Ok. And That’s Ok.” can be purchased here. 

Surviving through crisis early in life, it opened the eyes of Ben & Lynn Hartings to a world in need – in need of uncommon peace in the midst of crisis. Cancer and death had ravaged their lives, but joy and peace surrounded their journey.

This book is full of lessons and stories through when Life is NOT OK! Disease, Diagnosis and Death overcome our lives – These stories will lead you to the knowledge and peace that – “It will be OK” – regardless of the outcome, because of faith in Jesus Christ.

Read “It’s Not OK. And That’s OK.” to find inspiration through Grief, Anger, Crisis, and Death – be inspired to find uncommon Peace and true Joy eternal.

So Thankful for the opportunity to share.

Peace –

Ben & Lynn Hartings

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 NIV

Available for immediate purchase here. 

All American on a Farm

This came from an article on ESPN about Josey Jewell, the All-American linebacker from Iowa.  He grew up on a 1,200 acre farm.  His quote here is great.  Classic.

Mostly, he learned about life.

“Day after day, repetition after repetition,” Jewell said, “it provided me with knowledge about how important the details are in life, the importance of the fundamentals. There’s an honesty about going out and working every day. It instilled values in me. Not wanting to do something every day — but you’ve got to do it — when it’s hard work, there’s a resiliency that comes from that.

“In your daily job, you have to go to work. You can’t skip days. If you skip days on the farm, animals die. I think that translated into what happens when I play football.”

http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/21473987/how-turkeys-yes-turkeys-helped-shape-legend-iowa-josey-jewell

Risk. Learn. Grow.

I was sitting recently in a hospital with a cancer patient.  We were discussing changing diet in order to create a body that is ready, armed and willing to fight Cancer!  Diet is so important in this effort.  Getting sugars out, greens in and red meat to a minimum.

But how do you make a move from a Christmas cookie and Thanksgiving turkey diet to a acid free, green heavy diet?

In our conversation, the patient shared that for the first time in her life she had made a salad for herself a few weeks ago.  And she ate one bite…

Now some would say waste…why make a salad to only throw it away?

I say progress…great effort, intent and one bite is a victory!

The second time she made a salad, she ate two bites!!! Victory! Progress! 

The diet of our spiritual lives tracks exactly the same. Countless times I’ve said I want to read the bible this year, cover to cover.
January 1st – Genesis Chapter 1
January 2nd – Genesis Chapter 2
January 3rd – Thomas get’s sick, I fall sleep through my reading time.
January 4th – College football national championship game.

Now I’m two chapters behind. And by February, I’m watching the Super Bowl highlights and back in my old routine.

But that incremental progress and effort has grown on me throughout the last 10 years.  I have been formed by the RISK. LEARN. GROW. model.

Making incremental risks in your diet, eating one bite of lettuce, will result in learning something about the way you should make your salad to make it palatable.  You will grow in your knowledge as a result.  Then Repeat.

Making incremental risks in your spiritual life, following Jesus by just reading the bible or taking five minutes to pray at night, will result in learning about you and most importantly about Jesus, which will result in Growth. Then Repeat.

Find something to Risk today in your Spiritual walk.

Pick up the bible and begin to read Acts of the Apostles this Advent season.

Call a family member and ask them if you can pray for anything.

Lean into the works of Mercy and visit the shut ins.  Deliver a meal over Thanksgiving to the poor. Volunteer and ring the bell with Salvation Army.

Or in my recommendation, take 30 minutes at church each week this Christmas season with our Lord Risen and Present in our lives.  Yes a big Risk it may seem.  But trust me that you will Learn and Grow as a result. And be compelled to Repeat.

Peace and Joy today! Now go, take that RISK and eat that bite of spiritual lettuce!

National Farmers Day

October 12th is National Farmers Day. Pretty cool that we celebrate farmers.  In 1967, one farmer could feed 26 people.  Today, one farmer feeds 165 people.

That’s remarkable innovation in 50 years.

Think only a few generations ago, it was one farmer could feed one or two families.  It was by the work of your hands the family was fed.

I grew up in the middle of this innovation.  My father was one of the innovators of the industry, building a 70,000 bird layer house for egg production in the mid-1980’s.  That was a huge barn and innovating time. Today, nothing smaller than 250,000 birds would make economic sense to build and my father’s layer house has long been torn down.

Celebrating farmers is a really important thing.  They feed us, literally, daily.  And Jesus in his parables would oftentimes reference those family farms.  Such parables that we all know:

  1. Parable of the Sower Matthew 13:3-9;  Mark 4:3-9;  Luke 8:4-8
  2. Parable of the Mustard Seed Luke 13:18-19
  3. Parable of the Vineyard Matthew 21:33-41
  4. Parable of the Rich Fool (who built the barn to store his grain) Luke 12:13-21
  5. Parable of Pearls before Swine Matthew 7:6
  6. Parable of a Tree and it’s Fruit Matthew 12:33-37

I could go on and on.  Jesus understood the importance of farmers. He loved them. Probably the reason why he liked my Dad and me so much!! (Ha Ha!!!)

Seriously, a farmers life of feeding so many is ordained in a unique way by God. It is a life set apart, and from that perspective, I understand Jesus’ words in a unique way.  The Parable of Salt and Light in Matthew’s Gospel is one that taken in farmer’s context is intriguing.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5: 14-16

Light for me is taken for granted. Flip on the light, then begin my work.  Only a handful generations ago in the early 1900s, the candle, wick and flame were of utmost importance.  The perspectives on light were that working Sun up to Sun down was really important because light was so valuable.  And when the time came to work the farm without light, the value of that light was so important. So why would we put it under a bushel basket?

But of equal importance, was the cleanliness of the wick’s lamp. In a Kerosene lamp, like the one below, the bulb would begin to stain or become discolored due to residue from the burnt kerosene therefore dimming the light. This bulb would need to be cleaned in order for the light to shine brightly enough for work.

Even in our modern farming, with all our technology, dust and residue still exist in the same way. My dad would from time to time have us clean the bulbs of our barn due to that residue. I thought it was crazy.  Clean the bulbs?!? The image below is a great reminder of those bulbs and residue built up in farm life. But yes, once cleaned, the light would shine brightly! Dad was right!

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Jesus analogy to putting a light under a bushel basket is the same as never cleaning this bulb.  The light inside the bulb or under the basket never changes it’s brightness, just the covering which blocks the light from being shown.  The dirt and grime of farm life dims that bulb.

The same happens in our life. The dirt of life covers our light of Christ. His brightness never changes, but our bulb may be dirty.

CS Lewis in his book the Weight of Glory says, “What God does for us, He does in us. The process of doing it will appear to me to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude (of sin & of the world), for it grows all over me like a new shell each night.”

That shell is what we must renounce, just as the dirty bulb in the barn must be cleaned.  Of course we will not put a light under a basket, that would be foolish.  But equally, we must have the daily or even hourly practice of cleaning our light bulb in order to let that light shine.  At every possible instance, every time you see a light bulb throughout the day, think of your shell and the light inside you and ask for the Father to clean your bulb every day.

Seek forgiveness, desire truth, love others and never leave a conversation angry.

Simple truths that in daily or hourly practices with the Father’s help will keep the bulb clean, and the light shining brightly.

Just One

Our son James Thomas would be 4 years old.

4 year old boys romp around, drive their mom’s crazy, they don’t listen and they are constantly in need of help.  They also start pre-school, earn star student awards and play soccer for the first time.  Around four, they start to “pump their feet” for the first time by themselves on the swings and can operate the “digger in the sandbox” by themselves.  Independence is gained and for a brief glimpses freedom is not only given, but also earned.

Every age I now see through a looking glass.  I have children who have been every age from 0 to 11 years old (my oldest is 11 years old now).  I took for granted every experience, every minute, everything.  Now, I see so clearly the experiences I miss.  It hurts so damn bad.

So I ask the question why?  Why us? Why James Thomas? What on God’s earth could have God been doing in this situation?

And through that same looking glass, little revelations occur, opportunities to ministry happen.  Last week a good friend of ours had their nephew pass away suddenly and unexpectedly at 3 days old.  This same pair of lenses will be shared now with them.  Life hoped for will now not be shared but longed for in moments that we can never have. No birthday parties. No first steps. No soccer, first communion or marriages.

So why Lord? Why? 

In little glimpses perhaps I get the answer.  Staring into the looking glass, begging for answers somedays, God gives pieces of His puzzle to me.

Shortly before learning of that little three day old boys unfortunate passing, I was meeting with a pro-life organization in Ohio preparing to share a keynote address at their upcoming winter conference.  In that meeting, the executive director shared a story.

Their was a family who’s son was turning four years old this fall.  In the summer of 2013, their son, at 20 weeks gestation was diagnosed with Kidney disfunction, Potter’s Syndrome, the same as our little James Thomas.  And in a similar situation, the doctors only offered to peacefully end his life early (abortion!), like he was a damn animal or something.  That couple decided not to end their son’s life because of a story they had heard through church, of a family who endured and embraced their child’s life for everything God had made it to be.  The executive director shared that she thought it was our story that inspired them due to the timing.

The obvious was coming to light very quickly in my heart and my mind as she continued to share.

This couple chose life, under the same duress we had with James – of being offered to end their child’s life due to an abnormality. They rather said no, we will embrace everything the Lord has offered to us.  May God bless them for this choice…because…

Over the next 15 weeks, they did everything with their son. Roller coaster rides, Ohio State Football games, trips to the zoo…it sounded so familiar.  They lived the life, gave experiences to their child in the womb, while he was alive.

As the day of their child’s birth came, the gravity of the moment became very heavy, a weight I well know first hand.  On the day of their son’s birth, a mix of joy and grief overwhelmed their hearts.  At their child’s birth, expectations of a brief but full life were rocked by Jesus and his plans…

Their son did not die…their son did not perish like that of a medical diagnosis…no, he lived!

Tears totally overcame me as the obvious became true.  This son, this boy had lived against every medical likelihood.  He did have kidney problems, he did live a hard first few days but life took hold, a kidney transplant at one year old and now this little boy has his fourth birthday party ahead of him.

So what of this story? Why? Why did James Thomas come into our lives? 

As I sat their the vision of sheep entered my mind.  The vision of Jesus, leaving the flock to track down the one sheep who had wondered, risking the other 99 in order to save just one.  And the question entered my mind…is it worth it for just one? Jesus left the flock at great risk in order to save that one sheep…for him, it was worth it for just one more…Luke 15: 1-7

If this child had lived through abortion threats, doctors’ diagnosis and parents fears due to James and his inspiration, is that worth all the pain, loss and heartache we shared and continue to endure?

Jesus left the flock to save just one.  He perhaps used us, used James as inspiration for this one child, so that he may live.  Yet we suffer.

Is it worth it for Just One?

Honestly, if not for Jesus and his story the answer would be an obvious no.  If not for the greater glory of God revealed, the answer would be this is crazy.  But, staring into that looking glass, seeking God’s revelation has revealed to us little glimpses of the reality all around us and the vision the Lord has for everyone to find Him.

Your story, whatever it may be, shares the same fabric.  We were inspired by couples who had endured the same cross. They spent time with us and ministered to us.  A doctor a hundred miles away, sent us notes of encouragement and introduced us to couples who shared the same walk.  He did not get anything from it, no payment, no service and it was on his free time.  Praise be Jesus for him, asking the same question, is this worth it for Just One?

His answer yes! brought hope to our fallen situation, and his ministry brought James to life, even if only for a few brief moments. And that Just One, brought this child to life, who against all odds now celebrates his fourth birthday this fall season.

I can’t carry this burden so I ask the Lord to Yoke himself to me and carry it for me.  Which he does readily and willingly because he knows we need it.  He knows their is one more yet to be saved, lost and wondering and in need of his peace, love and joy. He knows it is all worth it for just one more.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Inspiring Video

This is an incredible inspiring song and video…I would suggest you watch…It’s beat is modern, it’s message is truth and it’s love is pure.

 

Lyric Video…

I’ll Find You
Just fight a little longer my friend
It’s all worth it in the end
But when you got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’ll find you
I’ll find you
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’m hanging on by a thread
And all I’m clinging to is prayers
And every breath is like a battle
I feel like I ain’t come prepared
And death’s knockin’ on the front door
Pain’s creepin’ through the back
Fear’s crawlin’ through the windows
Waiting for em’ to attack
They say “Don’t get bitter, get better”
I’m working on switching them letters
But tell God I’mma need a whole lotta hope keeping it together
I’m smilin’ in everyone’s face
I’m cryin’ whenever they leave the room
They don’t know the battle I face
They don’t understand what I’m going through
The world tryna play with my soul
I’m just tryna find where to go
I’m tryna remember the way
I’m tryna get back to my home
But, I can’t do this on my own
That’s why I’m just trusting in you
Cuz’ I don’t know where else to go
And, I don’t know what else to do
Just fight a little longer my friend
It’s all worth it in the end
But, when you’ve got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
Just fight a little longer my friend
It’s all worth it in the end
But, when you’ve got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’ll find you
I’ll find you
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’ll find you
I’ll find you
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
They say fear haunts
And pain hates
I say pain strengthens
And fear drives faith
And I don’t know all of the outcomes
Don’t know what happens tomorrow
But when that ocean of doubt comes
Don’t let me drown in my sorrow
And don’t let me stay at the bottom
I feel like this hole is too deep to climb
I’ve been lookin’ for a way out
But I’ll settle for a peace of mind
Picking up the pieces of my life and hopin’ that I’ll put together something right
Tell me all I got is all I need
Tell me you gon’ help me stand and fight
The world trying to play with my soul
I’m just tryna find where to go
I’m trying to remember the way
I’m trying to get back to my home
But, I can’t do this on my own
That’s why I’m just trusting in you
Cuz’ I don’t know where else to go
And, I don’t know what else to do
No don’t let the fear
Make you feel like you can’t fight this on your own
You know I, I’ll be there for you no matter where you go
You’ll never be alone, no
Just fight a little longer my friend
It’s all worth it in the end
But, when you’ve got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
Just fight a little longer my friend
It’s all worth it in the end
But, when you’ve got nobody to turn to
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’ll find you
I’ll find you
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
I’ll find you
I’ll find you
Just hold on, and I’ll find you
Songwriters: Daniel Majic / John Mitchell / Justin Franks / Lecrae Moore / Natalie Sims / Sasha Sloan / Victoria Kelly

Vision for Family

If I start a journey without a clear vision of the destination, then how are you to know where I will end up?

If I want to go to Disney, and I live in Ohio, I visualize heading south. I certainly won’t get there if I head north.

Or if I live in Europe, and want to go to North America, I visualize the destination across the Atlantic Ocean and make plans for how to cross the great blue ocean.

But it’s even more simple than that…When I go to the grocery store I make a list of what I need. When I take a class, the syllabus outlines the plan and vision. And when I go to college, I know my vision is a new degree of study.

The same must be true for our families.  What vision, process and outcome do you desire? Without a vision, developed in prayer, the destination of our family could head in any direction.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron in his recent exhortation, Unleash the Gospel, shared this vision for a families.  It’s the best, most simple list of principals I’ve read and I’m sharing so you too may take account of your vision for the destination of your family. Nothing fancy, does not require any training, just love and sacrifice.

  1. Reclaim Sunday: attend Mass as a family and intentionally spend time with one another, including sharing a meal together.
  2. Commit to forming your family in the love and power of sacred Scripture by placing it at the center of your family life. Study and reflect on Scripture, especially on the Sunday readings. Participate in Bible studies, use the Sunday readings, Scripture aids, and participate in family fellowship where Scripture is shared. Make full use of Sunday parish opportunities to unleash the Gospel in your family.
  3. Create time for regular family meals without distraction to reclaim its sacred nature.
  4. Commit to developing family prayer time. Make time to listen, share, and grow together as a family guided by the Lord in times of joy and trial. Trust and develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Seek out simple ways to pray that fit your family, giving primacy to the family rosary, Scripture reflection, especially the Sunday readings, and devotions. Seek out and initiate opportunities to pray with other families.
  5. Reclaim the sacrament of reconciliation, make forgiveness a lived reality in your home: heal wounds and brokenness in your family through sacrifice, forgiveness, mercy and love.
  6. Create a home where your family models Christ’s love, become aware of your neighbor’s needs and reach out to them with a welcoming
  7. Parents, be the primary witnesses of faith to your family. Period. 

May this list help you to reflect on priorities and where your family’s destination ultimately will be.

For more information on Unleash the Gospel, click here.