The Dawn Blooms: Reflections on the Inauguration

A landscape with a body of water and trees in the background

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(I was asked to write a piece on the Presidential Inauguration for my job. This a version of that piece.)

On January 20, 2021 I watched the inauguration of President Biden and Vice-President Harris with eyes rimmed with tears. I hadn’t expected that response, but as more layers came into my awareness I found myself getting more emotional. I thought about all of the tragedy that President Biden had suffered, losing his first wife and two of his children, and his perseverance in the face of such devastating loss. I watched Vice-President Harris’ family walk in and was struck at how there were now two blended families in the highest role of our government. What a beautiful picture! 

But mostly I found pride and emotion in the expanding of horizons for all of the disenfranchised people that watched. An African-American, Asian-American, woman took an oath for the Vice-Presidency of the United States. Those three qualifiers were all firsts and symbolized to millions of people around the country that there is no limit to what they can achieve, no matter what systemic racism, white nationalists, ardent segregationists, or anyone else may say.  

As a white father of African-American sons I felt immense pride welling up in me watching the diversity of race and gender that was evident on the steps of the US Capitol building, knowing that I could point to any number of those people and tell my sons, “Look, they look like you and you can do this too!”  

And then 22 year-old Amanda Gorman stepped to the podium, full of poise and dignity that belied her years. Raised by a single mom and descended from slaves, Amanda’s poem “The Hill We Climb” was unspeakably powerful, not only for its verse, but also for the beauty with which she recited it. It concludes with the following: 

“When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” 

The image of a new dawn blooming as it illuminates a new horizon captures perfectly the emotions and longing I felt that day. My sons, and millions of other brown and black girls and boys, can now look out at the light and be brave enough to not only see it, but to be it as well. Certainly, there are obstacles and pitfalls to be overcome, but the path has been blazed and the ceiling has been shattered.  

I don’t agree with every stance this administration has taken. I’m sure I won’t agree with things they’ll do in the future, but their commitment to diversity and opportunity for previously marginalized (and those who were scapegoated and dehumanized in the last administration) is a welcome and remarkable change. We all have a lot of work to do personally and collectively, but for the first time in 4 years, it feels as if the dawn is blooming and the light is on the horizon. May we all be brave enough to see the light and be the light as we work towards a more perfect union.

It is well?

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.”

– Psalm 125:1-2

To say that we live in turbulent times would be a significant understatement. Covid-19, social unrest, geopolitical instability, fires, hurricanes, and the list goes on. And while that list feels like more than enough to push us all over the edge, that is only the things outside of us. Families, work, school, medical issues, and various other aspects of life add on to the stresses we already swim in. So in a world where it seems like everything and anything is careening out of control, what do we do and where do we turn?

trees on mountain

In Psalm 125 the psalmist paints a picture of where we find our help in times like those we are in today. We trust in God, the almighty God who loves us as His people and surrounds us completely. What a comforting picture to think of something that cannot be moved or shaken in a world that feels like it is moving and shaking apart at its very foundations. And not only does God surround us now, but forevermore, which means that no matter what happens now or in the future, God has us covered in a way that no human convention ever can.

As I ponder the truth of this scripture and the comfort it brings, I’m reminded of the opening lines of the wonderful hymn It Is Well With My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford in the midst of horrific economic and personal tragedy:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

What a remarkable picture of someone who had placed their trust in the God who is never shaken, who knew they were fully surrounded and would be forevermore. In these times of change and upheaval, may we encourage ourselves and one another with the knowledge that when we put our trust in God, no matter what may happen, He will never, ever fail or forsake us. Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul indeed!

Yield: Playing Second Fiddle in a World Vying for First


Yield (v) = “to give way”

“Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” – Paul the Apostle

Confession: I have a hard time letting things go. I don’t want to play second fiddle, I want to be the great somebody. I want my voice to be the loudest, I want my opinion to be made into policy, I want to get my way.

But that runs completely counter to the call Jesus has placed on my life, a call to be a disciple of a leader who willingly gave his life for others. A man who didn’t force anyone into anything but instead loved people where they were and patiently showed them a different way. A gracious way. A loving way.

What would my life look like if instead of trying to get my way I let others go first? How would the world around me change if my life was marked by more serving than taking? More listening than telling? More waiting than directing?

I imagine I might begin to empathize more, see things from other people’s perspectives. Less angry rants and more kindness. Less frustration and more understanding. I think all walks of life could use a little more yield these days.

Truth is, I can’t change the people around me. But with God’s help, my heart and life can be marked by a graciousness that will be more yield and less take. More listen and less shout. Because that’s what I think our world needs more of and it definitely starts with me.


The Best Christmas Lesson

christmasgiftThe Wish Book was dogeared, smudged, and highlighted from cover to cover. My sisters and I were giddy with excitement. Christmas was mere weeks away, and we knew exactly what we wanted. So did everyone else. Commercials during Saturday morning cartoons showcased all the seasons’ hottest toys, especially my favorites, Hot Wheels and Legos. As the month of December wore on we talked incessantly about presents and toys and playthings. Everything revolved around what we were getting and what we wanted.

Finally our poor mother had heard enough. One dreary December morning, she told us we were going shopping. As our minds raced with possibilities of what we could buy—and so close to Christmas, she squashed our joy by telling us that we would not be getting anything. Instead, we would use our own money (gasp) to buy a present for a child in a needy family near us. This was not what we had expected. I was more than a little frustrated at having to spend my hard earned money on someone else. After all, wasn’t Christmas about adding to my toy collection?

We begrudgingly made our purchases that afternoon and headed back home to wrap the christmastreepresents. As we did, my mom explained to us that Christmas was actually about giving instead of getting. She told us that we were celebrating the fact that God sent his son to earth for us and because of that great gift, we should share with others less fortunate than us. The thing is: I should have known this. I could recite the Christmas story by heart and had even acted in church pageants, but the act of actually having to buy a gift for someone else made me recognize that Christmas was more than what I was getting. After my sisters and my father returned from delivering the gifts, my mom’s lesson hit home even more.   They described a small living room adorned with a sparse tree that did not have any gifts beneath it. The rest of the house was nearly bare. Hearing about a family less fortunate than mine and actually doing something to change that made me understand the true lesson behind Christmas—and it didn’t involve adding to my toybox.

Almost 30 years later, I still think about that Christmas season. I have tried to make it a habit in my own life to always donate some time or a gift to someone that truly needs it. And now that I have children of my own, we have done several things this year to reach out to needy families around us. Jesus came to the earth to help people that were unable to provide a way to take care of their own sins. And in some small way, reaching out beyond myself at Christmas time reminds me of that fact and helps me remember the Best Christmas Lesson I have ever  learned.

Sam’s Choice: My Top Songs for 2015

SamsI’m pretty pumped about this list. It isn’t as long as others, but man, it is really good and I think it’ll stand the test of time. Previously, the one list that I kept coming back to and kept listening to over and over was the 2011 one, but I think that this 2015 list has the potential to outdo even that stellar list (If you’d like to stream that 2011 playlist on Spotify, you can do so right here!). As I have for years past, I make lists based on the seasons and then add songs that catch my ear to them. As I listen more and more the ones I really like rise to the top and those are the ones that end up making this list. If you’re so inclined, here’s all my past top songs posts if you’re interested – 201420132012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. Anyway, onto the songs, which aren’t really in much of an order expect that I feel like they sound good in this order.

The Wolf – Mumford & Sons

Whenever a band goes in a new direction it usually doesn’t end up going well. But for Mumford and Sons it couldn’t have gone better. The Wolf is an absolutely phenomenal song that showcases the newer, edgier, electric, and less banjo-y side of the Mumfords. This is one of those songs that got a lot of radio airplay and even after like 7 months of hearing it I’ve never gotten tired of it. It’s a roll-the-windows-down and top-of-your-lungs type of a rock song that is so catchy and so fun. And as an added bonus, the whole album Wilder Mind is just fabulous. Give it a chance, you’ll enjoy it.

Rock & Roll is Cold – Matthew E. White

Another catchy rocker that is best played loud and preferably with some sort of air percussion. And like The Wolf before, this song hasn’t gotten old either. There have been many a day when I’m not feeling so great and this song comes on and things just start to look up. It’s that bright and happy and catchy and fun.

All Across This Land – Blitzen Trapper

Are you sensing a theme here? I’d be hard pressed to come up with a three song opener that would be stronger than these three right here. This song came out in the fall and now every time I hear it I think about those first blasts of cooler weather and driving up the large hill near my home with the sunroof open and the volume up and for 3 minutes and 52 seconds nothing else in the world mattering but some guitars and drums. Good stuff.

Sedona – Houndmouth

The landscape in this video is EXACTLY what I imagined in my mind when listening to this song over and over. It’s sort of a dreamy, earthy tune that pulls you in and builds and builds while maintaining a carefree attitude. The rest of this album, Little Neon Limelight, and Houndmouth’s other albums are all really, really good. So good that I debated picking some of the other songs for this slot, but we’ll just stay with Sedona. Catchy tunes and smart lyrics all around and well worth a further listen if you aren’t familiar with them. Definitely check it out.

Until The Night Turns – Lord Huron

I was pretty excited for Lord Huron’s new album Strange Trails and they didn’t let me down. The ethereal sound is still there, but it’s been bumped up a level with a new tightness that really draws you in. Until The Night Turns is a great example of this and I love how this song alternates between floating along and pushing you forward. And again, this is another phenomenal album that is well worth a listen.

Shoegaze – Alabama Shakes

I had more trouble picking a single song off of Alabama Shakes new album Sound & Color than any other album I heard this year. Shoegaze is one of the catchiest songs of the year and my twin 2-year-old sons love it. We spent a fair amount of time dancing and twirling and shaking to this song this year. It’s just a flat out jam and it’s indicative of just how good this entire album really is. Alabama Shakes really delivered the goods on this one.

Random Name Generator – Wilco

The only thing better than waking up and having an email sitting there telling you that your favorite band has released and surprise new album is a link at the bottom of said email for a free download of that album. Wilco stunned everyone by dropping this album on the world and just giving it away. And it isn’t just a bunch of terrible leftovers either. This is a good album as evidenced by this vintage Wilco track that rocks in all the right places and sticks with you long after it has ended. Well done Wilco, and it’s stuff like this that keeps you at number 1 in my musical heart.

Jackie and Wilson – Hozier

I’m not sure anyone else hit it bigger than Hozier in the last year, but despite his other songs being more popular, this is the one I love. After 10 days in Cambodia I was flying home and Hozier was one of the featured music people on the Delta Entertainment thing and I think I listened to this song 4 or 5 times in a row. And this is another song that my boys love to dance and clap and jump around too. Such a catchy and fun song.

Things Happen – Dawes

Another new album by a favorite band, another home run. I really love this song and the way it ebbs and flows and how smartly the lyrics are put together. It seems like whatever Dawes does, they do really well and their Americana rock is always great to listen to. So check out their album All Your Favorite Bands too.

I See That Hand – The Lone Bellow

Oh. My. Goodness. Take the Lone Bellow (I just love them and I don’t care who knows), add in an inside church joke that everyone that’s spent any time in an altar call will laugh at, and then put the rollicking guitar on top of it and my brain just might explode. What a great song, so well done, and so fun and dance-y.

Getting Ready To Get Down – Josh Ritter

Our second entry in “Church joke songs that made me laugh” and the runaway winner in “Videos that make no sense and I don’t understand but still made me laugh too”. This is such a catchy and smart song and it always reminds me of a song by a band from college called “All you sinners get down and let the saints bring the car around”. So brilliant. And for what it’s worth I’m pretty sure Jesus is ok with dancing.

I Need Never Get Old – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Not their biggest hit of the year, but for my money, actually the better song. It’s catchy and fun and smart and hits all the right notes. And it has a horn section, which, when done right, makes almost any song better.

So there you go, there are my top songs for 2015. Listen and enjoy!

Books I Think You Should Read With Your Kids

I’ve had several conversations in the last few weeks with fellow parents trying to figure out how best to help their children understand the Bible and the inevitable questions that arise when you do start talking about God and the Bible. So here are a couple of books that I’ve found helpful in talking with my own kids (and I’ve learned a thing or two as well).

Everything A Child Should Know About God by Kenneth Taylor

This is great book that starts with some more abstract concepts about God and creation and moves towards Jesus and the church. Each topic is broken down into a section and gives you some questions to ask your kids as you read through them. Definitely well worth the time but make sure that you’re prepared for the follow-up conversations that this will create as well.



The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung

If you’re looking for a book that weaves the whole narrative of the Bible together in a visually impressive and theologically cohesive way, then look no further. Starting with creation and moving through the Bible this book uses poetic language and vivid pictures to clearly explain the truth of scripture. An excellent book to have right now, in the season of Advent, so that children can understand why it is that we celebrate Christmas.


The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Many people may be more familiar with this book than the previous two, but for reading Bible stories for kids, I haven’t found anything better. Clear concise readings that are true to the Bible and help begin to familiarize children with the stories in scripture are a wonderful way to introduce Jesus and the rest of the characters in the Bible. Just an incredibly well done work.



As with all things, there really isn’t any kind of a substitute for engaging your kids and letting them ask you questions about what you’ve read. It can be a little nervy first but I’ve also found that their questions have prompted my own and I’m ok with saying “I don’t know but why don’t we think about that together”. Happy reading!

The Know-It-All (Or how I’m learning humility from a child)

I’m pretty sure that in any context, in any walk of life, the person that annoys me the most is a know-it-all. Most recently this has taken the form of a child that has entered our home. They want to argue about everything and present ridiculous and incorrect statements as if they were chiselled in stone.

And it’s annoying sure, but it’s also sad. They have such a limited perspective that has no room for adjustment or a recognition of how they just maybe might possibly not be correct. Their world is so small and I want to just yell at them “No, you don’t know everything! You know almost NOTHING!” So yes, that’s something for me and my wife to work on with this child.

But the thing that really hit home with me about this whole know-it-all thing was how often I act this way with God. I have an incredibly limited view when compared with the creator of the universe and yet I have no qualms about arguing with him about how things “should” be or what He “needs” to be doing. As if He needs my advice…but instead of praying and asking what God wants from me, where I can adjust my life to His will, and how I can serve Him I tell Him what I want and what I think.

Look, it isn’t easy to see all the stuff going on in the world and in lives around me (heck, even my own life) and to not think that I could do a better job. But then I remember how small and insignificant and sinful and limited and everything else that I am and realize that maybe I should let God be God and go ahead and just get to the work of living my life trying to glorify Him. After all, Job questioned God about a few things and it didn’t really go so well for him, so maybe I’ll just leave well enough alone.¹

So I’ve come to realization that maybe know-it-alls bother me so much because they simply remind me of…well, me.



  1. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

    “Dress for action like a man;
        I will question you, and you make it known to me.
    Will you even put me in the wrong?
        Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?
    Have you an arm like God,
        and can you thunder with a voice like his?

    – Job 40:6-9

What if the greatest threat to American Christianity isn’t legislated morality but our own apathy?

I’m not breaking any new ground here, but recent events have gotten me thinking about the state of Christianity in America today. And I’m convinced that the biggest threat to Christianity in America isn’t abortion or gay marriage or any other hot button issue you’d like to argue on Facebook about, but instead our own tepidness towards actually doing the business of following Christ¹. You know, like Jesus Christ, that one guy whose name actually is the basis for the word “Christian”?

We live in a world filled with distractions, sports and entertainment being chief among them. Our children have games on Sunday mornings so we skip services to attend. Our sermons are boring (have you ever listened to one of mine? Guilty) so we’d rather just stay at home and veg out than make the effort to come all the way to church. It’s too much of a strain to come to a mid-week Bible study so we stay home to have “family time.” Pick a reason or excuse and we’ll use it to not read our Bible, pray, or gather together with other believers.

But don’t you dare say anything we disagree with on social media because we will come after you with guns ablaze. We’ll spend hours refreshing our feeds to participate in online debates with people we don’t even know but we won’t spend time engaging in the messy lives of people we actually do know.

I find the story of Daniel and the Lions Den, as told in Daniel 6, fascinating as it relates to legislation and piety. Daniel lived in a nation that made it illegal to pray to anyone or anything other than the king² and what was his first reponse? Run to his social media platforms and proclaim that the Medes and Persians needed to get back to God? Lambaste anyone that disagreed with him? Nope. Daniel 6:10 tells us what he did. “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”

What would happen if we just decided to spend some time in prayer before we got on our social media? Or skipped it altogether to spend time in the Bible instead? What if we devoted ourselves to God’s Word, to spending time in authentic community with other people, and to being engaged in prayer, as the early church did? I think God would be pleased and I think that we’d see our world around us start to change, very likely beginning with our own hearts.³

What if the greatest threat to Christianity lies within our own hearts and our uncommitted, half-hearted following of Christ?

¹I’m not saying that these aren’t important issues worthy of our time or energy, but instead that we seem to have given the issues priority over the Savior.

²All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. – Daniel 6:7-9

³I say all these things fully recognizing that I’m as big of an offender for these things as anyone. Probably worse.

Undesired Consequences (or paying the price for other people’s actions)

As my wife and I neared the end of a week filled with tantrums and misbehavior from our foster son, we’d both pretty much had enough. As we were right in the middle of another meltdown she looked at me and said “Why? Why is this happening?” I immediately responded without thinking and said “Because we’re paying the price for other people’s actions.” And as soon as I said it, I stopped.

I stopped because I immediately realized that suffering the consequences of other people’s actions is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death¹ and that he who knew no sin became sin for us². So all of my sinful actions (and trust me, there are plenty) ended up in Jesus dying on the cross and paying the penalty that I deserved, which was death.

But it doesn’t just stop there either! Not only do I not reap the consequences of my sin, but I also receive the free gift of eternal life. Jesus paid my debt and then turned around and gifted me something I never could have earned for myself. So while I’ll still suffer temporal consequences of sin and death (after all, we still live in a fallen world), I can rest secure knowing that my eternal life is paid for. What a glorious picture of God’s redemptive work in our lives!

It’s true, we’ve signed up to parent someone else’s child and to deal with all kinds of baggage we didn’t bring on ourselves. But before I get too self-righteous, I need to remember that I bring plenty of baggage to the party and ultimately someone else paid the final price for my sin, and for that I will be eternally grateful.


¹For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  -Romans 6:23 (ESV)

²For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  -2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

Why? (Or things that a 4 year-old is teaching me about my relationship to God)

whyMy wife and I recently welcomed a 4 year old foster child into our home. It’s been an adjustment for all of us, but the biggest thing we’ve had to get used to is the questions.  The constant questions.  Of why?




Everything is why? Why this, why that, why is it raining, why isn’t it raining, why?

So the other day, in the middle of a why chain, my wife looks at me and says, “Do you think we sound this way to God?”

And you know what? I think she’s right. Far too often I find myself asking God why.  And I think it is a legitimate question, but I think that sometimes I sound like a four year-old to God. Why? Why didn’t I get that job? Why did my friend get cancer? Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I do that? And then my questioning of God becomes something more than just questioning, it becomes idolatry.


When I’m questioning God about everything, mostly I think it’s because I think I know better than God, and when that’s the case, I’m telling Him that I should be god and not Him, and that’s idolatry. So questions of why are fine, but they should be firmly grounded in a view of God’s sovereignty and trust in His goodness.  The road may not always be easy and I likely won’t always understand, but this I do know, I can trust God with my life.  He’ll never fail me, even when I don’t understand.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

– Isaiah 55:8-9