What We Can’t See

About 7 weeks ago, I experienced one of the scariest weekends in my life. I woke up Saturday morning to the whimper of my daughter ready to start her day. It was as normal as a Saturday can get. I made coffee, got Eliana some breakfast and sat down in our oversized recliner with her. Being an amazing parent, I usually allow the kids to watch their iPad first thing in the morning. I do this so I can finish up a post or do something for myself. This particular morning, I watched one of my TV shows.

As I am watching, Blackish, I start to notice if I look directly at the person’s face, I can’t really see them well. At first, I chalk it up to being tired. I did, however, only get a few hours of sleep the night before. After some time of watching, I changed out my contacts. My hope was that my inability to see was nothing more than some dirt or calcium deposit on my contact.

After getting my contacts changed, I am back in the chair with Eliana and now Jonas, who has awoken. Then, I realize my vision hasn’t improved. A bit of concern rushes over me, but I tell myself that I’m probably experiencing a migraine and I just need to lay down. When Alissa gets up, I talk with her about what is going on. Alissa is an ophthalmic technician and knows just about everything that could ever go wrong with our eyes. After I talk with her about what is going on, she is somewhat stumped and agrees it may just be a migraine.

I don’t take naps. If sleep weren’t so necessary to our survival and feel so good after we wake up, I’d skip that too. Think of all the time wasted sleeping. Think of all the things we could accomplish in that time. For me to ever suggest to Alissa that I need to lay down and rest, you better believe I’m sick. And that’s exactly what happened. I took a nap in the hopes that when I awoke, this nightmare that is now getting worse, would be over.

Three hours later, I awake to my sight being worse than before. It feels like I have tunnel vision on the left side of my vision and I can’t shake it. I am now a little panicked, but I keep my composure and talk with Alissa about everything that is going on. She is still baffled by what the problem might be. The rest of the day, I clung to the hope that it would all be better in the morning. But, it wasn’t.

Sunday is the busiest day of my week. Standing in the kids’ ministry hallway, with people whizzing by in both directions, can be dizzying for anyone. It’s especially so for someone who is struggling to see anything directly in front of them. The best way to describe it, it’s like having multiple blurry spots in your vision. In bright hallways and rooms, it wasn’t as bad as it was in darker rooms. Through all of the motion and busyness of Sunday, I survived and made it home.

After talking with Alissa about it more, she texts her boss and gets me on the schedule to see her doctor first thing Monday morning. It took dilation and a series of test, but the doctor finally had an answer for what it might be. However, I’d have to visit a retina specialist on Wednesday to confirm. “Wednesday?!?! Do you know how long I have dealt with this and it’s not getting any better?”

No I didn’t say that to the doctor. It was just how I was feeling, because 5 days is a long time to go with blind spots in your vision.

Wednesday arrives and I see the retina specialist. After one of the most excruciating eye exams I have ever experienced, mainly because he put a lens directly on my eyeball, he confirms what the previous doctor had suspected. MEWDS, or Multiple Evanescent White Dot Syndrome, is a rare inflammatory eye disease, where the retina experiences white lesions that block the field of vision. It’s extremely rare in men, there is no explanation about what causes it, and there is no treatment other than the six to nine weeks to fully recover.

Six to nine weeks was an incredibly long time.

Today, I received an all clear from the retina specialist. He said recurrence is unlikely, but not impossible. I’m healed and should not have anymore problems, in regards to MEWDS.

The entire process of waiting on my vision to come back taught me some pretty valuable lessons on what we can’t see.

We take everyday things, like our sight, for granted.

I don’t think I ever fully imagined what it would be like to lose sight in one or both of my eyes. Without my glasses or contacts I have really bad eye sight, but my go to first thing is to put in my contacts. It’s easy to take the small things that God has blessed us with for granted. Our eyes are one of the smallest parts of our body, but think about how valuable they are. You have two and, as far as I know, they cannot be replaced. I have a friend who had to have an eye removed at a young age due to an eye disease. Now, I have more empathy and respect for him being as successful as he is.

I think one reason God says, “Be still, and know that I am God!”, Psalm 46:10, is to help us see better. When we slow down, we value everything a little more. Slowing down allows us to take in the beauty and wonder that is God and His creation.

Our sight is not the only thing we take for granted. Small moments with important people in our lives; our spouse, kids, family, and friends; tend to get washed over with seemingly more important tasks. Our kids need us to be present. We have to be present with our kids when they are young so they will allow us to be present when they are teenagers/adults. Being present is made up of small moments we get to share and recognizing them as such. There is always something to do and you’ll have time to get to it, but you won’t always have time with the people you love most. Cherish your tribe.

If we become more focused on others, we tend to worry about our problems less.

As days turned into weeks, I focused less and less on what was going on with my vision and more on my tribe and I began to forget about the spots. Alissa would periodically ask me how my sight was and I’d have to stop and think about it, “Still the same!” The difference? I wasn’t fixated on my problem and so I began to worry less and less. I know, it easy for me to say because I knew that it would eventually go away, but so will everything…eventually.

Whatever you are going through, fight with all your might, but don’t worry about the outcome. God’s got it. It’s not a surprise to Him that you are dealing with this situation. He isn’t twiddling His thumbs and wondering how this got past Him. He knows and Jesus has given us victory, either in this life or the next. As you are fighting, if you will fixate on others more than your situation, you will have to be reminded that your situation is still there. Depression sets in when we focus inwardly.

Vision is extremely important to function in today’s society, but not 100% necessary.

I can’t imagine not being able to drive and having to rely on someone else to transport me around. Life without vision would be extremely difficult, but not impossible. Overcoming difficulties in life take a remarkable amount of grit and will power. You have to decide everyday that this situation won’t define you. You have to set in your mind that you will not be a victim. But, it is hard work. Living in a society that tells us in no uncertain terms that the easy life is the best life, makes it unbelievably hard to want to fight for what we want. (Check out my post Limitless where I talk about getting what we desire.)

A saying that I use to hear as a kid is, “It’s time to put your big boy pants on and get to work.” It’s not easy, especially when we are sick or have something else plaguing us. I believe that’s why being a part of a community, like the local church, allows us to press on and when we can’t do it any longer the church holds us up.

Our ability to see is one thing we take for granted. Slow down, be still, and see the blessings that are all around you. When we focus on others, or problems become less visible. However, sometimes it is impossible not to see our situation. In those moments we have to lean into our tribe. Our sight is important, but not as necessary as vision for our lives. The words Winston Churchill proclaimed at the height of WWII, “We must never give up. Never, never, never.”, must become our mantra no matter our circumstances.

It’s time to open our eyes and see the beauty that is before us. Slow down, be still, and take it all in.

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Limitless

American IdolAmerica’s Got Talent, and the list goes on of shows allowing young people to showcase their talents, or lack there of. I’ll admit, when these shows first came out in the early 2000’s, I was an avid fan. I saw young people’s lives changed forever because they believed in the gift they had. Ruben Studdard, David Cook, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, and Kelly Clarkson each with an incredible voice in their own right, lit up the stage and went on to win their respective seasons on American Idol.

The biggest reason we love these types of shows is that we love rooting for the little guy. Those caught up in the obscurity of small town life. They have yet to be seen for the talent they have. We love seeing people make it big. Maybe because part of us wishes, or hopes that one day it will be our turn.

What sets each of these winners apart, is their incredible, God-given talent. Sure, some of them have worked hard for years to refine their gift, but it seems to come more naturally to them.

We all have God-given talents and abilities. Some are more polished than others and some are more noticeable than others. Every person on the planet has a talent that is as unique as they. You can call it what you want: talent, gift, ability; but generally we mean what we are good at. It’s what just easy for us. Sometimes it is incredibly hard to find out what exactly it is, but other times it’s obvious.

At times we get jealous or envious of the talents of other, because we wish we had it. Especially, the talents that stand out.

What’s my talent? The one talent I am the most proud of is my ability to remember faces and names. It’s not 100%, as I found out, when a guy I hadn’t seen since high school recognized me. However, I love remembering people’s names. Why? Because I believe it shows people they have value. Every person has a name and every name has a story.

There are some talents that we are born with and they come incredibly natural to us. But, I don’t believe we are limited to those talents. It all depends on how much we want to invest to become really good at another talent.

I didn’t play instruments growing up. It always seemed like it would be cool and that the girls really liked guys that could play guitar. But, I never worked to buy a guitar, and because of this, failed to put in the hours it would take to play well. When I graduated college, my in-laws gave me my first guitar. I was set on learning how to play. Today, I can play the guitar, but nowhere near as well as if I’d consistently put in the time to become great.

In college, I got an A.A. in Music. Why? I really have a heart for worship and thought I really wanted to be a worship leader. I had sung in choir in high school, but really lacked the confidence to step out and lead. Part of my graduation requirements was to take four semesters of piano. It was so hard to learn, but I learned enough to make it through with a degree. I can’t play the piano very well because I haven’t been willing to put in the hours it would take to become proficient.

We all have the ability inside of us. We just have to be willing to put in the hard work it would require to develop the talent we want most. But, that is the problem isn’t it? We all want the ability and the glory that comes with it, but we don’t want to sacrifice, work hard, and put in the effort to get what we want.

Our abilities are limitless. The only limit to what we can do is the one we place on ourselves.

There are two ways which we can live limitless with our talents.

  • Our Limitless God

In the Bible, Jesus tells a parable (a story to prove a point) of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 ESV). Now it’s not the talents we have talked about, but a monetary unit. One talent was actually worth about twenty years’ wages. The parable goes,

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

The parable continues to tell what each of the three servants did with the talents they were given. Two of the servants, worked hard and invested what they had been given. But, the third servant hid what was given to him so that he didn’t lose it. The owner comes back and has each servant give an account for what he did with what was given to him.

The owner is proud of the two servants that worked hard to double their talents. He, however, became extremely angry with the one that hid it his talent and did nothing with it. The servant made excuses as to why he didn’t do anything with what he was given. But, those excuses did not distill the fury of the owner.

“So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.”

God gives us each talents and abilities, but He also takes them away from those whom are unwilling to use them. We have to be willing to use what we have to bring glory to God.

When we are willing to use the talents that God has given us, in time, He will give us more. I think it’s because we are then instilled with a better work ethic. We, then, can work towards other talents.

  • Limitless Talents Come From Hard Work

I know it’s a novel concept, but if we want a certain talent we have to put in the work for it. Our society is always pushing to make life easier. We want all the spoils of life without putting in the work. As my friend and Pastor, Justin Graves, puts it, “We want to live like Mom and Dad, but without putting in the lifetime of work to get there.”

We feel entitled and even life owes us something. The reason we don’t have the gifts, talents, and abilities we so wish is, in fact, we don’t want to put in the work required to have them.

A study published by the BBC, states that most “tone-deaf” people aren’t really tone-deaf. They could actually learn to sing if they would be willing to work at it. The majority of us could sing better if we would practice, take lessons, and work hard.

Sure, some of us have talents and abilities that come easier to us than it does to others. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t work hard to get to their level of skill. But, even those that can sing, play the piano, or do stand up comedy, put in a lot of work to get better.

When I was asked to be the Children’s Pastor at Foundations Church, my first thought was that I can’t do it because I am not good with kids. I had limited experience in Children’s Ministry and what I did have was a nightmare. But, I accepted the position believing that if I was willing, God could teach me, and I’d learn to be great at Children’s Ministry.

A part of being great at Children’s Ministry is being organized. I am not naturally organized. But, I haven’t allowed that to stop me from learning how to become so.

Our abilities are limitless. We are only limited by our willingness to put in the hard work. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

I can’t (no pun intended) tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I can’t!” “I can’t do children’s ministry. I’m not good with kids.” “I wish I could do that, but I just can’t.” We limit ourselves because of how uncomfortable or how much work it would take to achieve what we want.

So the next time you are tempted to say I can’t, really what you are saying is, “I don’t want to put forth the time, effort, or energy it would take to learn that talent.”

We have a Limitless God who is able to do more than we could ever imagine, and if we are willing to put in the work, nothing is impossible for us to achieve. Our talents are limitless.

How have you found this to be true in your life?

What talent do you have now, that without working hard would just be a wish?

As my reader, do you appreciate these types of posts as well as the ones about my life?

If you haven’t had a chance to get to know me, check out My Story, or any of my other posts.

 

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Strength of the Fatherless

I have a ton of insecurities. I may be the most insecure person you will ever meet. There, I said it. I feel a lot better…kind of, unless you think less of me, which then I take it all back. But, I can’t take it back. I hope I don’t disappoint you. What are you thinking of me? Does one conversation change how you feel about me? And so, my mind plays tricks on me and these questions are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are seasons that I feel like I am on top of the world. Everything I am striving for, every conversation I have, and every relationship I am in is catapulting towards bliss. In those moments, I feel so strong, so secure. I feel like I have finally overcome the insecurities that weigh me down. It feels like I’ve gone ten rounds, and come out on top against my biggest opponent, my inner voice.

No I am not schizophrenic, at least that’s what the voice tells me. I’m kidding. My inner voice, thanks to cartoons back in the 80’s I picture an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the opposite, is that part of my conscience that speaks one of two things, life or death. In those seasons, I feel on top of the world, my inner voice is whispering life into my heart and spirit and it is so sustaining. One feels invincible in this season, like he has armor on that nothing can penetrate.

On the flip-side of all of this life-giving strength, there are seasons where it seems as though, because I am not at war, I take my armor off and every little thing that could crush me, does. In these moments, I can’t reign in my thoughts. It seems as though my thoughts are going a million miles a minute and I am repeating every conversation I have had with people over in my head to find out if there is any encouragement that our relationship isn’t on the brink of disaster.

My insecurities push me into a perpetual need to feel others approval. As these seasons get darker and darker, my inner voice, or as Steven Furtick calls it, the Chatterbox, screams darkness as well.

The darkness even over shadows the rays of light to which Alissa, or anyone else, is trying to shine into my heart and spirit. Insecurity is selfish because it takes even the encouraging words and twists them to make you feel less and less human. It is hard to let someone in because it doesn’t feel like they will understand. And if I do let them in, what will they think of me? Will there thoughts be, “Just get over it Sammy. Everybody has these thoughts. Stop wallowing in self-pity and doubt. You are just being too weak.”

Studies show that fatherless people are more apt to be plagued with insecurities than those whom have a father, or father figure in their life. For far too long, fathers have failed to realize the impact they have on the lives of their children. You can also be fatherless and have spent your entire life raised with your dad in the home. If your dad was at home, but not present with you, it’s as if you grew up without him.

I am in no way saying that fatherless people have life any worse than those that grow up with both parents, or that people whom grew up with a father can’t have insecurities. I’m just saying, as a fatherless person, I am more apt to have insecurities. Fathers provide security for their family. This security also leads to him being able to give his kids identity and approval. The confidence in who we are comes from the security, identity, and approval our fathers give us.

Does that give me an excuse to allow my seasons of darkness to control me? Do these studies give me leverage to not overcome and to wallow in self-pity and doubt? What do I do? How do I find strength again?

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, when praying about his weakness and asking God to take it away,

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works

best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about

my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work though me.

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults,

hardships, persecutions, and trouble that I suffer for Christ.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What a paradox! When I am weak, then I am strong. Our weakness brings meekness. It keeps us humble and in a state of desperation for God to do something better in our lives. Our weakness causes us to depend on God more, because when we feel strong, we tend to lack that need for Him to intervene.

Where this paradox gets me is if God is strong in our weakness, and God’s weakness is stronger than our strength, then my weakness, when submitted to God, is no longer a weakness, but a strength. Let that one soak in. If God is strong in my weakness, my weakness then ultimately becomes my strength.

My weakness isn’t solely found in my insecurities, but stems from my lack of a father in my life. This realization that my weakness is now made strong in Jesus helps me overcome my need for approval, my insecurities. But, I also see how it has made me strong in a couple of other areas of my life.

First, I am more present with my children. My father missed out on the best moments of my life; my wedding, the birth of my children, and graduating college, to name a few. Even when he was still living with us, my dad gave up opportunities to go to my baseball games just because he didn’t want to go. All of these missed opportunities of my father, drive me to want to be there for my kids. I am constantly reassuring them of my love and building on the security, identity, and approval they deserve.

Second, growing up with my mom as the leader of my house, I am sensitive towards other people’s felt needs. I care deeply for those around me and am more nurturing than I would have been had I grown up with my dad. Nurturing wasn’t his strong suit.

As Papa Roach so eloquently put it in their song, “Scars”, from 2004, “My weakness is that I care too much.” HA! Everything reminds me of a song.

I still struggle with insecurities. Most of the time it comes in waves. And the hardest times is when those waves crash into me so rapid, I can’t catch my breath. But, when the waves slow up and I’m able to stand, I have to remind myself of where my security lies (God is my Heavenly Father), where my true identity is found (I’m a child of God), and that God approves of me (He made me). And when I do this, He is made strong.

What about you? What weakness do you have, when submitted to God, you can see how it has become a strength? Leave your story in the comments below or sign up for my email list and let’s chat.

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Greatness is Within You

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to do something “great” with my life. I’ve wanted to impact the lives of tens of thousands of people and leave an indelible mark on humanity. I’d be lying if I said, at times, it didn’t have anything to do with an insatiable desire to be famous.

In elementary school, I just knew I was going to be a famous baseball player. I was a utility player on the field, which means, I could play any position the coach wanted me to and I could bat anywhere in the line-up he saw fit. I was a pretty good ball player. My favorite position was shortstop. I collected baseball cards and dreamt of being the next Ozzie Smith, Ken Griffey, Jr., or Mark Grace. Baseball is where I thought I would leave my mark.

In high school, however, I switched sports and moved to playing football full time. The man reason was because the baseball team had to be on the field at 5 a.m. every morning for practice. I mean I was good, but I also loved sleep. The more I played football, the more I could see my dreams shift from being famous in baseball to being the next Jerry Rice. I wasn’t the biggest, strongest (I was literally the weakest), or fastest kid on the team, but what I lacked in physical ability, I made up for with heart and determination.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, some of the seniors told me they would understand if I quit the team. They said they wouldn’t hold it against me and doubted I would even last the season. Being on the scout team means you’re just a tackling dummy to get the starters prepared. Not only did I make it through the season, in practice, I intercepted a pass over one of those seniors and took it end zone to end zone. I just knew I was destined for greatness, and this was just the beginning.

Throughout my childhood and even into high school, I also dreamt of going to Hollywood to become an actor. I’ve always been dramatic and really enjoyed the plays I was a part of, memorizing lines, becoming someone else, and making people laugh. It was a dream for sure, but I did give it serious consideration as I approached my senior year of high school and had no idea of my next step. The biggest thing holding me back was fear of the unknown. How would I get there? What would I do to survive? Would I be any good? Could I learn to be great?

In college, I dreamt of being an incredible youth pastor that spoke to 5000 teenagers every week and would see thousands of teenagers give their hearts to God. Subsequently, when I became a children’s director, 5000 teenagers turned into 5000 kids. I don’t know what it is about the number 5000, but it always just seemed fitting.

If I am being completely honest, I still have the thoughts and feelings even to this day. But, it’s not about a number anymore. It has morphed into making the greatest impact possible through reaching men, women, teenagers, and kids. It’s going above and beyond to serve the community that I am a part of and to make a difference.

I have since learned a few valuable lessons about what “greatness” is and how I can leave an indelible mark on the world.

1. Greatness happens in small moments with people, not huge, life-altering events.

Coming from a broken home and growing up without a father, I always knew that I would have a special bond with others who have or are currently going through the same thing. Greatness isn’t necessarily about reaching tens of thousands of other people who have the same type of experience. Greatness is making the most of every opportunity to impact someone’s life, here and now.

Sunday afternoons are usually a time for me to just slowdown and me to hit up my “nothing box” because for the first six hours of the day I am managing numerous volunteers, the safety of kids, and speaking to our elementary students. So, before I go to our connect group, I try to shutdown. I’ll scroll through Facebook and Instagram, catching up on what I missed throughout the day. Also, checking to see what people’s reactions to church were that week.

Last week, however, I chose to take on a task around the house. Just before we headed out the door to our connect group, I checked Facebook and Instagram as normal. But, when I came to Instagram, I got a notification that someone had mentioned me in a comment with a picture of me and her son.

*Picture of Landen and me above

Kameron Morrow, Landen’s mom, posted this comment:

“What do you see here? Just two goofy dudes taking a selfie right??! You know what “I” see? I see admiration. I see a role model and a child who needs shaping. I see an opportunity. I see Jesus’ love. I see the start to a beautiful relationship..

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This is my son Landen and @sammyfloyd. Sammy is the children’s pastor at our church. This morning after service, Landen came and asked if he could borrow my phone to take a selfie of him and Sammy. Sure. No prob. When he came back, he was smiling ear to ear. He was so proud of that picture. Then he requested I send it to his iPod touch so he could save it as his lock screen.

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This might not seem earth shattering to you, but to me, it was huge. You see- Sammy didn’t have a father growing up. And he has made it his life’s mission to reach out to others (esp kids) to make sure the feel their HEAVENLY father’s love.

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Landen’s biological dad abandoned him a few years back and life just hasn’t been the same. I’m so thankful for  loving kids pastor that takes the time to invest into these kid’s lives. Thank you, @sammyfloy for all you do @fc_tulsa. We are so thankful for you.”

Sometimes we get so fixated on the big events that will make the greatest impact, we lose sight of the small opportunities right in front of us. When Landen had asked to take a selfie with me, I didn’t think anything of it. I wish I would have seen it at the time for what it was. It was a small opportunity to make a great impact. Getting this message brought tears to my eyes.

2. Greatness happens in small moments with my kids.

It is still a tendency for me to strive to be the greatest.

I was even so bold enough to pray and ask God to make His name great through me and then I begin to tell God how He could achieve this goal. Sometimes our “noble deeds” are rot with a little bit of self-centeredness and wanting the recognition.

God has a funny way of turning how we feel on it’s head. And for me it was while praying this way one minute and then seeing my two kids the next.

It was as if God were sitting next to me and saying, “The greatest mark you can leave on humanity that changes the world, is being “great” in your kids eyes. It is being a great dad, making Jesus known to them, and also, raising them to treat others the way they want to be treated. It’s teaching them to love God and love others as themselves.”

I don’t want to be the guy who saves the whole world, but loses his kids. My family is my greatest legacy. Jonas and Eliana are my stamp to leaving an indelible mark on this world.

3. Greatness happens in small moments with God.

Mark Batterson, pastor and author, puts it this way in several of his books, “If we do small things like they are big things, God will do big things like they are small things.”

The small things we need to do consistently over time to make the greatest impact is pray and read the Bible. It seems so basic and trivial, yet most of us struggle to make the time to do either. This way we can effectively commune with God. Prayer is us talking to God and the Bible is God’s word to us. Yet, we tend to rely on our last experience with God to get us through to the next experience.

Prayer, communion with God, gets our hearts in tune with what God wants. It, also, makes the desire to do great things less about us and more about making His name famous.

“We have a tendency to confuse our job and God’s job. We want to do amazing things for God, but that isn’t our job. That’s God’s job! He is the One who does amazing things for us. Our job is to consecrate ourselves. And if we do our job, God is going to do His job.”

To consecrate ourselves literally means to set apart. It’s doing things that don’t make sense to the world, but brings us closer to God.

“Greatness” doesn’t come from what other people (friends, extended family, people I don’t know) think of us. “Greatness” comes from the legacy we leave behind. When people think of us, are their hearts filled with love for Jesus or thoughts of a self-centered person. Am I someone they can turn to and rely on? Do I make myself available to them? Put their needs ahead of my own? Serve them? Lead them towards Jesus?

Time spent with God is the only way we can keep our hearts and minds attuned to those around us. It is, also, the only way we can fulfill loving God and loving others.

Greatness isn’t defined by the job I have, but by the life I lead. Making the most of every small moment with people, with my kids, and with God will lead me to make the greatest impact and leaving an indelible mark.

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