Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Oswald Chambers says, "My worth to God in public is what I am in private."  Sounds closely related to integrity.  Integrity, by definition, is...the quality of being honest and having strong, moral principles.  Doing the right thing in a reliable way.  I've always liked to define integrity as who you are when everyone's looking and what you do when no one's looking.  Integrity is not about a feeling; it's about rightness.  It's a matter of character.  Are you a person of integrity?  It's a choice.  And today, I had a choice.  Here's the wife Jennifer took our 4 1/2 yr. old Golden Retriever to the vet this morning.  Belle could hardly put any weight on her left foot this morning when she walked.  She apparently played to hard this past weekend with her friend and fellow Golden, Crash.  Belle has a bum shoulder, and it looked like she aggravated it.  So we made the appointment with the vet; and Jennifer took her.  $136.50 later, Belle came home with two medicines to help pain and inflammation and instructions to take it easy for a week or so.  That total was interesting...because not long after my wife had shared with me the cost of the vet visit, I checked our online banking account. The debit transaction was only $36.50.  Something wasn't right, so when I came home for lunch, I asked Jennifer to see the receipt.  She immediately noticed that the debit card transaction had been run for the amount of $36.50, $100 less than the actual bill.  The vet receipt had credited us with payment in full but processed on a small portion of that.  My wife immediately said, "I need to call them and let them know.  That's not right."  My wife was right in her assessment.  Sometimes I hate it when that happens.  Nonetheless, she was.  Honestly?  Part of me didn't want to call.  They made the mistake, and they'll never no it if we don't call.  They'll never miss that $100.  Of course I never said any of this out loud to my wife; but an internal battle was going on inside my head and in my heart. So I picked up the phone and called.  Honestly, I hoped the conversation would go something like this..."Mr. Woods, thank you for calling and letting us know.  We're so sorry for our mistake.  Because of your honesty and integrity, we're not going charge you the remainder of the bill.  Have a nice day." But that's not how it went.  There was no offer of rescinding the $100.  There was no consideration of foregoing payment of the remainder of the bill because I did the right thing.  There was a "hold on a minute" moment, then a request for my payment information - which I reluctantly gave.  Then a simple thank you and goodbye.  
I would like to tell you that I felt great for doing the right thing.  But I didn't feel great.  I hung up wanting my $100 back.  I felt ticked that they didn't offer me some sort of "reward" or expression of appreciation for doing the right thing when I could've done nothing, kept the $100, and kept the information to myself.  It's a good thing I didn't make my decision based on my emotions.  If I had, I wouldn't have done the right thing.  I would've done nothing.  But I took the decades-old advice of Dr, James Dobson found in the title of one of his earliest works, a book entitled "Emotions:  Can You Trust Them?"  The obvious  No you can't.  You can't trust your emotions...ever.  What can you trust?  Well, for me, as a Christ-follower, I trust God's Word, the Bible.  It is the reliable source of truth that guides my life.  And in the truth found in 1 Samuel 2:30b, God says this:  "...those who honor Me, I will honor."  And when I choose integrity, I choose to honor God.  And that is how I want to live and be known.  
How about you?  Are you a person of integrity?  Do you practice honesty and moral rightness in public?  In private? When everyone sees and when no one sees?  When its easy and when its difficult?  Honesty is truly the best policy.  And being a person of integrity - that's a choice you'll never regret.  And that's the honest to goodness truth...honestly!           

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Letter to my PTHS Class of '86 Classmates

Pirates Fight for Old Pine Tree High

For your Alma Mater dear

Pirates Fight for Old Pine Tree High

For victory is near

To old Pine Tree we’ll be loyal

Til the sun drops from the sky

Remembering until the end

Pirates fight, never die! 

Class of '86 Classmates and Friends:

There’s a quote that I use often by Gary Thomas, author of the books Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting, among others.  He says, as it relates to parenting, “…the days are long and the years are short.”  It’s true; but not just in parenting.  It’s true in life.  As I look at all the pictures and read all the posts connected to the 30-year class reunion, I’m overwhelmed with emotion -  joy, sadness, regret, love, and on and on I could go.  I regret that I was unable to attend.  But I cherish the memories and friendship that are connected to these pictures from thirty years ago and now.  I’m amazed at the beautiful transparency and honesty with which posts are shared.  Posts dealing with some of life’s most challenging, difficult, gut-wrenching issues – depression, suicide, pain and loss.  All very real.  All very raw.  I can’t help but think of the memories I have with two most recent classmates that we’ve lost – Steve Brantley and Craig Russell.  I played many years of baseball with and against Steve and Craig both.  Those were special times.  Steve was always bigger than life – literally.  Craig always carried with him an air of confidence – almost cockiness – in all he did.  They will be dearly missed, as well as those from our class, who passed on before them.  Who would’ve guessed that Craig would’ve been here Friday night and then gone a day later?  Who knew that he’d reached a place of helplessness and hopelessness?  Who knew that Friday night would’ve been the very last time for most to talk to him, touch him, hug him, help him?  The truth is that there are times when we all need help.  For different reasons and at different times, we each need help.  We need a friend.  We need each other.  I’m very appreciative of the vulnerability with which many of you, my ’86 PTHS classmates, have shared that vulnerability.  We all have a story.  Our stories are filled with joys and pains, mountains and valleys, ups and downs.  Each story carries with it similarities to other stories and uniqueness as your story.  Each story important and valuable and with a need to be heard.  Because we need to learn from each other.  We’re able to comfort and love and encourage others as their life stories intersect ours.  Those intersections may be frequent or infrequent; regular or thirty years a part.  When they happen; however, is not as important as this:  when they happen, they must be seen as opportunities to be seized.  Life opportunities – divine appointments, if you will – to make a difference in someone’s life who may need a kind word, a pat on the back, a helping hand, a bear hug, a listening ear, or the voice of truth saying, “You’re valuable.  You’re important.  Your life matters and carries inherent significance and meaning.”  All of us, at times, need that; and all of us, at a moment’s notice, need to be ready to give it away.  To do so means we must be vigilant to watch, to listen, to pay attention to those in our path while there’s time to do so.  We only have right now.  Yesterday’s a fleeting memory filled with lost opportunity.  Tomorrow is not promised or guaranteed.  We only have right now.  Craig’s tragic passing (and that of others like him) must serve as a neon flashing sign reminder that this thing called life, at best, is hard and very, very brief.  But it’s worth living.  And if it’s worth living, my fellow classmates, then it’s worth living to the fullest.  Make every second count.  Because your contribution to life, no matter how big or small it seems, may be the difference maker to someone who is watching you – your child, your co-worker, your friend of thirty years or the waitress that messed up your order for the third time.  Somebody needs you.  I need you.  And you need me.  We need each other.  So, take a risk.  Ask the hard questions.  Get your hands dirty.  Live with no regrets. There's no doubt that it’ll be worth it in the end.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, whether you know me well, remember me vaguely, or have no clue who I am.  I’m a dad of four and a husband of almost 23 years just trying to do life with all that I got.  Blessings, PTHS friends of the class of ‘86.  I won’t miss the next reunion.  Love and prayers to those of you hurting or in need.  If I can help, I’m available.  – John      

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Turtles and Fence Posts: A Simple Reminder for All Graduates

Graduates:  "if a turtle is sitting on a fence post, it had to have some help getting there."  That's the one thing I remember from the keynote at my college graduation from ETBU on June 1, 2016. It's still true today. You haven't got to where you are today without the significant of others in your life:  parents, pastors, teachers, friends, grandparents, coaches, siblings, counselors, and on and on it could go. You get the point. No man is an island. We all need help; and if you're graduating, you've had lots of it. Some you asked for. Some you didn't. Some you wanted. Some, not so much. Practical. Spiritual. Educational. Familial. Serious. Silly. Help of all kind.  It's has been extended to you to get you where you are today and to propel and catapult you into the glorious unknown of the future.  Help. You can take it or leave it. You can buy into it or sell it. The choice is yours. And the future is before you. Don't forget one important piece of timeless truth to live by on this topic of help from God's Word in Hebrews 13:7:

Remember those who led you; who spoke the Word of God to you. And considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

In simple terms:  remember those who made a difference in your life - who went the extra mile on your behalf. Be grateful. Follow their example, especially those who don't just talk a good talk; but they walk a good walk. Be an imitator.

Be imitators of Christ...Eph. 5:1
Walk in a manner worthy...Eph. 4:1

God bless you graduates. And remember:  the turtle reached new heights with the help of others that he would've never reached on his own. You can do the same.


Friday, June 3, 2016

The Art of Spiritual Pretense...and How To Fix It

This past Sunday Tom Cottar, our Contemporary Worship Pastor, said during worship  that Church is a great place to pretend.  I agree. God used that statement to stir these thoughts on me.

Church is a great place to pretend...

- that I'm spiritual.
- that I've got it all together.
- that I don't need any help.
- that I can handle life's stuff on my own.
- that I'm ok.
- that I'm not the problem
- that everyone else is the problem.
- that I don't have any problems.
- that I'm not broken.
- that I don't need God.

Church should be a place where I can be real with God and acknowledge that...

- I'm a spiritual mess.
- I don't have it all together.
- I need help.
- I can't handle life's stuff on my own.
- I'm not ok.
- I'm the problem.
- Everyone else is not the problem.
- I have a number of problems.
- I am broken.
- I need God. I need Him a lot.
- And that He is ENOUGH for me, my brokenness, my helplessness, my insufficiency, my problems, my inadequacies, and my spiritual mess.

His Word says... "cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7
"My grace is sufficient for you..."

Thank you Lord. I don't have to pretend with you. You know me - the real me- better than I know myself; and I'm a spiritual pretender at times.  Thank You for loving me anyway...just the way that I am.