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



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. 

Faith. Hope. Love.

Faith, Hope & Love.  These three remain.

Faith is remembering in the darkness what we have experienced in the light.

Hope is the joyful anticipation of goodness creating an atmosphere that attracts the promises of God.

Love is the promise of God. His love is promised in all circumstances, unconditional & sacrificial, through eternity, always.  God is Love.

I Pray that I have Faith to remember God’s Love. Hope to anticipate God’s Love again. Because His Love is all around me, all the time, regardless of the circumstances. He promised it to us.

This prayer is for me but also for so, so many others who are hurting right now.

Faith, Hope & Love. These three remain.


Sandy Hook Mother, Jennifer Hubbard

This was the article of the month on the Magnificat website. I’ve never met Jennifer, but one day hope to. A friend told me on Saturday to start reading her reflections, as she lost her six year old daughter in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 and has found her way to forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ.

With all credit to Jennifer Hubbard and Magnificat.

The Season of Lent by Jennifer Hubbard

 Year after year, something about the brilliant light beaming off every surface took my breath away. As it did then and still does, its radiance and warmth fills me with an indescribable peace. There was a time when I convinced myself that if my home shone in a similar fashion then my restless soul would be settled and then, then, I would feel whole. In my naiveté, I resolved Lent would be focused on making my home shine like the church on Easter Sunday. I worked my way through the house, perplexed with beautiful treasures that had been hidden away, saddened by things broken and not yet fixed, and surprised by the mars and scratches I had stopped noticing. At times the mess I created in my quest for peace overwhelmed. At others, I was determined only to see my plan through. Over time I realized—it was not my home I wanted made brilliant; it was my heart. I have come to understand that the state of my heart is not defined by my actions, my striving, or even my accomplishments, but by my willingness to seek the mars and scratches, by acknowledging my brokenness, and by my readiness to surrender to the only One who can make my heart anew. Our loving Father awaits me in these moments, meets me in my vulnerability, and forgives me my trespasses. Lent  offers us all a time to reflect, recognize, and repent—to lean in, draw closer, and to make ready our hearts to receive the brilliance and grace which Easter morning brings.

(Jennifer Hubbard  resides in Newtown, Conn. The younger of her two children, Catherine Violet, was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.)

Wrestling with God

This was shared with me via email by Pray for Columbus.

I thumbed through the pages of an old journal the other day, recounting and remembering a season of life nearly thirteen years ago.  It was the kind of season which left me worn out, weary, angry and doubtful, the kind of season where I shook my fist at the heavens and stomped my foot for good measure, as if I was throwing some sort of spiritual temper tantrum.  I seemed to be shouting at God and all I was getting in return was silence.  He seemed be to not only distant, but altogether absent.  My handwriting alone indicated the depth of my frustration, the loops and the curls sloppier and sloppier, the anger pouring out in ink and scribbles.  Several times I would write in all caps, “WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?” Layers of underlining usually followed, just in case God missed the all caps memo.

If we follow in the footsteps of Jesus for any length of time, those seasons are bound to come, seasons when we wrestle in our faith, seasons when it seems no matter how hard we try or how loud we shout at the floor of heaven, God just seems – gone.  We sense the absence of his presence in our lives, we feel the void, and we grapple all the more.

Jacob knew what wrestling with God looked like, knew it sometimes left you with a limp.  In Genesis 32, as Jacob prepared to meet his brother Esau, he found himself locked in a supernatural wrestling match with the God of the universe.  While Jacob would leave that fight with both a blessing and a new name, he would also leave with a crippled hip, walking the dusty earth limping along.  Despite that limp, though, Jacob departed from the fight knowing one thing with startling clarity: “…I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered” (Genesis 32:30).

That is the mystery of wrestling with God.  So often we think He is not present in those seasons. It is only when we look back we realize with startling clarity:  I have seen God face to face and my life has been delivered.  You can’t wrestle someone else without touching him, without being near him.  When you find yourself in a season of wrestling, remember this – it means you are face-to-face, arm-in-arm, in the presence of the God of your deliverance.  Your wrestling is not in vain.

Pray for Community
Father, in the seasons of life when it seems your presence is far from me and I find myself wrestling, help me to remember you are always near.  Help me to rejoice in the blessings you have bestowed upon me, and help me to know that whatever spiritual limp I might have is for your glory and my good. 


I’ve been living in a foxhole for five years, trying to survive a mortar barrage from the enemy that seems endless.

The first mortar struck February 21, 2013, hitting our foxhole and taking out my son, James Thomas whom we buried in June 2013.  Several more mortar rounds hit in near vicinity and we ducked for cover, preparing for the worse.  We have survived but other times people around us have perished.

Most recently it was my mothers’ tragic death on February 1, 2018.  God bless her soul.  This hurts…

As I sit in my foxhole this morning, praying for the barrage to stop, I have reflected more  deeply on my own walk to and through adulthood, and more importantly, my walk toward Maturity.

Below I share a reflection from Matt Chandler on Maturity, with a few minor adaptations and additions.

I’m hunkered down in Lewis Center, Ohio here this morning… praying no more Lord, no more.

But if the barrage should continue, thy will be done.

From Matt Chandler’s Sermon on a Glimpse of Christian Maturity April 16, 2011

We don’t view loss correctly and we don’t view suffering correctly.

Paul, one of the first disciples of Jesus, looked at it this way. ”Since Jesus is my greatest treasure, anything, whether it’s good or difficult, that gets me close to my treasure gets rejoiced in.“

Paul had an ongoing thorn in the flesh.

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 7-10

What was he doing?

He was rejoicing in difficulty. Now think about how often that doesn’t occur with us. We want out!!!!! We’re gathering a bunch of people around us to pray. We’re putting weird oil on ourselves going, “Get this off of me!!!! Change this circumstance!!!”

And Paul, our dear brother, is going,

“This got me more Jesus. This is a good thing. I have learned to be content in all circumstances.”

So when I’ve got money, praise His name.
When I’m broke, praise His name.
When I preach the gospel and everybody responded, praise His name.
When I preached the gospel and they hated it and tried to kill me, praise His name.
When I got on a ship and the ship got to port safely, praise His name.
When I was shipwrecked in the open sea twice, praise His name.
One time after I was shipwrecked in the open sea and finally crawled up on land and tried to preach and a snake bit me, praise His name.

Have you ever read that story?

If anybody ever had a chance to go, ”Come on, man!!!!!!“ it had to be Paul where he’s going to preach the gospel, he gets shipwrecked, lands on an island, starts to preach the gospel and he gets attacked by a snake while he’s preaching the gospel!!! Paul has a clear understanding of God’s sovereignty.

I would be like,Ow! Seriously?”

So you’ve got Paul rejoicing in stuff that you and I do not rejoice in. Why? Because Christ isn’t our treasure.

So you will see people with cancer rejoice in their cancer. Why? Because it gets them closer to their treasure. You will see people with financial hardships rejoice in Jesus Christ. They’ll do it if Christ is their treasure.

Now, let me be very clear. I am not talking about some fake, false smile, spirit sprinkled ridiculousness. When we had the Golic’s stand up last night at the 7:15 service here, this whole room wept with them, thinking about the loss of their six-year-old son. We get more of Jesus in this moment. We were hurting and wounded at that loss.

As a father, it is one that I can’t fathom (I can fathom – Ben Hartings writing – and it hurts like hell.) and just have to trust that, if that day ever comes for me, the Spirit will provide all that I need like He has for them, as they have testified (And he has for me – Ben).

But if Christ is your greatest joy, all circumstances push us towards Him.

If He’s not your greatest treasure, then whatever you are ultimately treasuring is at risk of being removed from you. Christ is what can’t be taken from you; everything else can. You can’t name anything right now that can’t be taken from you in an instant, but not Christ. You are unbelievably secure in Him.

The first mark of maturity is that our joy is set fully in Christ. He is our treasure.

A Letter from Dad – My Letter to James Thomas

Dear James Thomas,

I grew up in a family of ten children. I was the youngest sibling in the family.  Five sisters and five brothers.  Before I was born the third oldest in our family, my sister Nancy, was injured at the age of sixteen in a car accident.  She was permanently handicap as a result of this accident.  Every day, from that day forward, my mom and dad, would get up and serve our family, especially my sister with special needs. For years, my mother lived on the road, driving to and from hospitals, doctors appointments, and therapy – all the while still caring for me, her youngest boy.  I never heard my mom complain.  When dad passed away two years ago, so many people commented how faithful dad was.

As I grow older, I began to wonder how my parents kept doing this year after year after year.  How did they keep serving my sister with such joy? How did they serve my special needs sister with such gratitude and love?

Then I became a father of a boy with special needs.  And now I understand my parents love.  I understand that a father’s love is enough.  I now know that a mother’s love is eternal.

Your boy is your your boy no matter what.  DSC_0043

It’s the only reason you need to love – he’s your boy.  It’s not even a reason.  It’s more like breathing.  It comes out of your pores.  From the deepest recesses of your heart.

And my son, my boy, James Thomas – you were very special to us.  You were born in a very special way. You were wonderfully made. To me you have always been and always will be perfect.

You see, even a long life is short and a short life can be full of meaning. 

Isaiah 55:10 states – The rain comes down from heaven and doest not return before it accomplishes what it set out to do, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry – to water plants and bring life to meaning…

And all of us pray that our lives will be lived with purpose, full of meaning.

James, your life has been profoundly meaningful.

misc-121This is why I am so proud of you. Every time we saw you on an ultrasound, we saw your heart beating away and you squirming as best you could.  You were getting 100% out of the body you were given.  And we knew from the beginning you were a fighter, tough and strong.

Living up to your namesake, The Apostle James who wrote…

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

And James, my boy, you persevered.  The doctors marveled at how you kept going.  It makes us think you had another source sustaining you.

You made it to your birthday. June 8, 2013. You lived something like 90 wonderful minutes. You spent all of them in your Mother’s arms, with Dad right by your side.  You slipped away peacefully.

We knew you had gone; we felt your last breath.

I’m sad that I will not have the privilege of serving you as my father served my sister.  Simple things, changing your diaper, feeding you, coaching you in T-Ball, taking you to appointments, and watching the talent show. Putting you on the bus every day, serving you as my parents had done with me and my siblings – especially my special needs sister.

I would have done it without a moments hesitation if it meant that I could have had more time with you on this earth.

You’ve made us the proudest of parents James.  You could not have done anything more to make us happy!

Super, Super job my son! I burst with pride in who you are!

And now I pray that in presence of God you are living out the promise of life eternal!

Until we meet again my son.

All my love,




In Uncertain Times

In the light that today is the 4 year anniversary of the end of my high dose Chemo Treatments, I’m posting the first post I wrote after I was diagnosed with Cancer.  This post was written 9 days after I was diagnosed, written October 13, 2013.

Oh how raw the wound was then…

In uncertain times, it is hard to see the road ahead. A young child who’s sick.  A life long sweetheart and spouse who is suddenly and tragically lost. A cancer diagnosis or terminal disorder.  The affects of aging which degrade us all. Each of these and many others create uncertain moments, an uncertain time.  Time itself seems to stand still and yet, at the same time, seems to move too quickly.  You want more time, yet you want to move on at the same time.  It’s as if you are caught in a time warp and it is pulling you apart a the seams.

I’ve been going through a tough year.  Eight months ago, my son was given a fatal diagnosis. I prayed for my wife’s health as she carried our son.  Our son James was born, and yes, he did die, joining Jesus at the eternal banquet. We were left with earthly pain and grief…  My wife recovered quickly, the physical healing was great.  And we began to walk the ‘post-loss of a child’ road together.  The road has oftentimes been rocky and treacherous…it’s also been bittersweet and a blessing in many respects.  But most times, the road ahead has just been simply uncertain. Tears of joy intermixed with tears of pain. Grief bursting from nowhere in the most surprising, unexpected times.  Yet, we knew we walked this uncertain road together, as a couple, with the support of Jesus Christ.

Then, our year became one from a twisted story book, one made straight out of a nightmare.  Something so unexpected crossed our path that it was hard…and is hard to digest – a cancer diagnosis.  I received a call nearly four months to the day after our son James was born and died from a doctor, my dermatologist saying, Mr. Hartings, “How soon can we meet today? I have news from the biopsy.”  Those are words you never want to hear.

The doctor informed me that I was diagnosed with Melanoma, a rare and aggressive form, which brought anger amongst our grief, hurt amongst our healing. We face this new mountain. One that just seems insurmountable, in which a path through or over is not apparent. Where are we to turn? To where are we to look?

I don’t think we have anywhere to turn.  We must march forward.  Taking the backpacks of pain, grief, anger, and hurt upon our back.  We are to take the next step, the next uncertain step and trust that the path will be shown as we go.  But this first step and every step thereafter takes much faith.  Faith which I currently do not have.


What are we to do in these times of little faith?  These times where we lack the faith to proceed? Where we just want to give up? How are we to react?  It was fitting that the weekend before I learned of my diagnosis this reading from the Gospel of Luke was shared in our church…

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:5, 6 NIV)

So as I reflected on the news of my diagnosis, on the loss of my son and the path which is so uncertain, I specifically began to pray for an increase of our faith. Faith enough to take the next step. Just the next step, not every step, just the next one.  And as I did, Hebrews Chapter 10 verse 39 all through the next chapter to Hebrews Chapter 11 verse 40 came to mind.  It helped me to see where this ‘mustard seed’ size faith has led others before me…

“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 10:39 – 11:40 NIV)

These verses did not explain what is going on with everything this year.  The loss of my son. Watching my wife suffer emotional, spiritual and physical trials in the subsequent months. My own cancer diagnosis. These times are uncertain. More uncertain that I could have ever imagined. Frankly, it feels as if I am coming apart at the seams.

But as I read, I understand that many before me, Abraham and Isaac, David and Moses, Jacob and Esau, Noah and Able, Peter and Paul…they did not understand either.

Each of them faced uncertain times. I’m sure Abraham felt as if he were coming apart at the seams as he lay his only son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. To Noah, building an ark must have made him half, or fully crazy. And David, facing a giant, are you nuts!

But they each took the next step, understanding that we are never called to see the entire path ahead. Rather, we are called to have faith, just like the faith of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Faith the size of a mustard seed. Faith enough to take the next step up the mountain.

To be honest, right now, I don’t have enough faith to take this next step.  So today, I simply ask for an increase of faith.  I need more faith, or I won’t make the next step.  As the apostles once pleaded, so do I…

Lord, PLEASE, “Increase my faith!”  

I desperately need it.  I need faith enough for the next step, faith enough to be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.