faith, Hope, money, triathlon

5 Ways To Help A Friend In Need

1 Comment 01 September 2014

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 6.52.46 PMHow do you help a friend who has suddenly been hospitalized?  I had a good friend who crashed on her bike yesterday training for Ironman Chattanooga, suffered a severe injury and is now facing a long hospital stay and even longer recuperation.  I’ve had a surprise hospitalization and long recovery myself, so I thought I’d write down some things you can do to help a friend in the same situation.

For an oversimplified version of my story, a fist sized mass on my small intestine, which had grown from a surgery 30 years earlier, decided to explode, because, you know, it felt like it.  I went to the hospital at 3AM, and woke up sometime the next day with tubes in my nose, horrible pain, and had a half foot incision on my stomach.  After 10 days in the hospital on an IV drip, I was released to go home.  It was a high stress time, as we had a newborn, a toddler and had just moved into a new house without having been able to sell our old house (thank you, economy :).  Since they cut clear through the muscles of the abdominal wall, I couldn’t support anything, and wasn’t allowed to hold my little baby for almost two months.  Come to think of it, my intestines exploded almost 7 years ago today, and it took till about Christmas till I was back to normal.

Luckily, we had an incredible group of friends and family looking out for us, and they set a great example for how to help someone like us in need.

1) Pray 

Prayer works.  Jesus is listening, so pray for that person daily or whenever they come to mind.

2) Food
A meal list is a popular thing, but you need to make sure you do it the right way.  Sometimes people feel the size of their dish has to be big to show they care, but seriously, who can eat a gigantic vegetable lasagna in one sitting?  Also, make sure that if you make a meal for someone, it’s in a disposable dish. We ended up having quite a collection of those porcelain casserole dishes with no idea who they belonged to.  Our Sunday school class and neighbors were amazing.  Make sure you leave instruction if necessary. An Indian family across the street made us some authentic Indian food.  When we relayed that we’d mixed the rice-type stuff and the cinnamon golf ball thing together, they were like, “Yeah, you mixed the main course and the dessert together…but that’s totally, uh, fine.”

2.5) Delivery

I like to do gift cards for places that deliver, or are very close to their home or where their spouse works.  That way, they can get what they want, when they want it. If it’s a delivery place, make sure to not just give the gift card (which they can use to pay over the phone), but also include a few bucks for tip for the delivery person, which generally you can’t do with a gift card.
3) Money
Crowdrise and some other places have cool ways to collect funds for people.  Gift cards to places like Target, Wal-Mart, Publix, etc, work well (ask a closer friend who might know where they shop).

Want to always be prepared to help? Start Your Own Emergency Giving Fund!

4) House help
One of our neighbors hired a guy to mow our yard.  I was completely out of it, and it never occurred to me to do it myself.  I remember laundry was the bane of our existence for a while. See if you can help around the house, or better yet, hire a house cleaner for them for a time.  Sometimes people prefer to have a stranger cleaning things up, rather than having a friend see all their mess.  Cleaners can be expensive, so in one instance 10 friends got together and paid for it. Also, don’t forget their spouse.  Often it’s harder on them in some ways that the person with the physical recovery.  My wife was awesome, but I know it really took a toll on her, and it was great when family or friends came and gave her a break.

5) Calendar
Take out your calendar right now, whether its in a planner or on your phone or whatever, and mark it for one month, two months, and/or three months from now.  THAT is when this friend of yours really needs you.  It’s human nature to have a big emotional reaction right when an accident or hospitalization occurs, but your friend is still in need much longer.   Get them another gift card, watch their kids for them, send them a card to encourage them on October 1st, November 1st, and December 1st.

How has someone helped you in a time of need?

ALSO READ: 3 Small Steps To Make 1 Big Difference


Hope, jesus

What Would You Do On The Worst Day Of Your Life?

No Comments 29 August 2014

Screen shot 2014-08-29 at 1.14.25 PM

What would you do on the worst day of your life?

Over the past 15 months, I’ve had some of the worst days of my life- like when I found out my dad passed away suddenly at 60, or when we lost our first-born son-to-be stillborn.  But there was a story I’d learned before those ‘worst days’ that helped me desire to be a strong father and brother and son, even in mourning and heartbreak.  It has also helped me keep my eyes open on those more regular ‘bad’ days for opportunities I might otherwise miss.

I don’t know if you had a cousin who was your best friend growing up, but I’m sure John (who down the road would add “The Baptist”) would fit the bill for Jesus.  Jesus and John were cousins born only six months apart.  Baby John leapt in the womb when his mother came near to Mary, so they were practically best buds before they were born.  John’s parents Zechariah and Elizabeth were church leaders (Luke 1) and an older couple who knew Jesus was going to be special.  You’d have to think they took a strong interest in mentoring the younger Mary and Joseph, which means Jesus and John would have spent even more time together.  I know the Bible takes a serious tone in most places, but if there was ever anyone who gave our Lord and Savior a noogie, it was probably John.

Fast forward 30 years or so.  John’s ministry is in full swing, the opening act to the greatest story ever told.  Jesus calls John “the greatest man ever born of a woman” (Luke 7:28)- that puts him higher than Adam, Moses, Abraham, David, you name it.  As Jesus begins his ministry John is arrested and put in prison.  Then one night King Herod gets drunk at a party, makes a promise to dancer whose mother had a vendetta against John the Baptist, and rather than looking bad to the other people at the party, he gives in and orders John to be beheaded.  

His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.  John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”(Matthew 14:11-12)

In verse 13, Jesus responds as you or I might do upon finding out our best friend or a loved one is dead.

“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

He just wanted to be alone.  But the people wouldn’t cooperate.

“Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”

Seriously, people, can’t you let the man alone?  But curiosity is a strong thing.  I started to write that
the people were curious to see what Batman would do now that Robin was dead, but at the time, John was probably the ‘bigger name’. From their perspective, they may have been curious to know what Robin would do now that Batman was dead.  In the past, when one great person died, the next might still be great, but was still a step down.  Moses to Joshua. Elijah to Elisha (true, Elisha did more miracles than Elijah, but who ended up on the mount with Jesus and Moses?).

And this is where the story begins to change from what you or I might naturally want to do.

“When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 11:14)

Despite wanting to be alone, he remembered what he was sent here to do.  Maybe he also had the thought he didn’t want anyone else to die that day, and he was going to heal as many as possible.  

“As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and its already getting late.  Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
 (Matt 11:15)

Now the disciples may have been being practical, or maybe they were just covering for their leader and trying to give him some alone time.  But again, Jesus surprised them, and teod the disciples “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat,” even though they only had 5 loaves of bread and two fish.  In the emotional context, you wonder if he’s saying to his disciples, “Its not about how cruddy I’m feeling or you’re feeling, its about them.  This is what you do.”

You know the rest of the story- Jesus gives thanks for the bread and fish, who hands it to his disciples to give to the people, (I like how Jesus makes them part of the process- not manna from heaven to those in need, but from Jesus, through disciples, to the needy), and miraculously the 5,000 men, plus women and children, are fed.  On the worst day of His life, Jesus performs one of his greatest miracles.


“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on the mountainside to pray. When evening came, he was alone” (Matthew 11:22-23)

Jesus told the disciples to go on ahead, even though they were probably wondering how Jesus was going to get back to town.  Boats are much faster than walking all the way around the lake.  “But,” they probably thought, “he did just miraculously feed 5,000 people.  Perhaps we’ll give him a pass on this one.”  Jesus finally had his alone time to pray that he’d been craving all day.

In the middle of the night, the disciples, despite many of them being experienced fisherman who’d been in boats their whole lives, were still in their boat “a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”

Jesus decided it was time for another miracle. He walked out onto the stormy water to the boat.

“When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “Its a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.” (Matthew 11:26)

Heck, yeah.

“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”

You probably know the rest of this story, too.  Peter asks to come out and walk on the water, too, Jesus says yes, and a long as Peter’s eyes are on Jesus, he can do the miraculous.  But once Peter started looking at the wind instead of Jesus, he sank.  Again, you have that connection of Jesus, to disciple, to the miraculous.

On what was likely the worst day of his life, Jesus performed two of his most famous miracles- feeding the five thousand and walking on water. He had compassion on those in need when he saw them. He taught his disciples that they were the conduit of miracles if only they would have faith and keep their eyes on him.

I wouldn’t wish the worst day of your life on anyone.  But you can take heart in knowing that even on the worst day of your life, God is still in control and can still work miracles through us.

(NOTE: This was originally posted on April 12, 2011)

ALSO READ: Remembering My Dad

Remembering Our Baby Jonathan

Hope, inspiration, interview, speaker

Elizabeth Smart- How To Move On From Tragedy

No Comments 15 August 2014

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 9.27.05 AMElizabeth Smart endured the tragedy being abducted and held captive for several months. Today she’s married and is one of America’s most sought after speakers. In my interview with her, she acknowledges how everyone has had struggles in their past, how to accept it, and how to move on.

Hope, inspiration

3 Small Steps To Make 1 Big Impact

4 Comments 14 August 2014

Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 8.42.53 AMI had no idea the story of how the story of Robin Williams using his rider would strike a chord, especially with how people have said it’s inspiring them to make an impact themselves.  I’ve been working with nonprofits for over 20 years, and I’d hate to miss this opportunity to share with you how you can help others. Taking a cue from the example Robin Williams set in his rider, here are three small steps you can take to make a big impact.

Step 1: Know yourself and your passions. 

You’ll always be most inspired and motivated by what you’re passionate about. Some people are inspired by education, animals, or any number of things.  For Robin Williams, that was helping the homeless. For me, I’m really passionate about helping kids in need internationally.  You’ll have the greatest impact on the world by starting with what you’re most passionate about.  There is something about you that’s unique.

Step 2: Start with what you have, with those around you. 

Are you passionate about education and you live in Omaha?  Start with helping students in Omaha.  Do you have particular skills like IT, accounting, or just listening?  Put those skills to work helping people or organizations in your sphere of influence. For Robin Williams, among other things, he realized he had a voice and a platform.  Publicly, he testified before congress and raised millions of dollars to help the homeless.  On the business side, much less publicly, he knew he’d be on movie sets and would perform at events, and could use his influence there.

Step 3:  Influence Others To Do The Same. 

Teach others how to do what you do.  Multiply yourself.  In the example Robin Williams gave with his rider requirement of hiring the homeless, he multiplied his effect.  I’m sure for many production companies, this was likely the first time they went out and intentionally hired a homeless person for a job.   Once they did, hopefully some of them continued to do so even when they moved on to a non-Robin Williams project.

I’ve followed these steps myself.  For me, I realized that although there are many great causes out there, I was most motivated by helping kids internationally.   I’ve gone along with others to rebuild a home for a widow after Haiti’s earthquake, help feed kids in poverty in the Dominican, and to play games with orphans.  Our family even came together one time to fund the building of an AIDS clinic in Swaziland near South Africa.  But I realized I’m just me, and I really wanted to find a way to multiply the effect, to help others make an even greater impact.  So with some help from some great people, we started, as a way to increase that impact, to help nonprofit leaders who have huge hearts, but maybe not every business skill.  From a little group in Nashville, these people go out and help kids in over 20 countries around the world. Long after I’m gone, the skills these people have learned and will pass on will continue to help those in need.

Obviously life is filled with tragedy, but it’s also filled with a lot of blessings as well. It’s been years since I first saw that clause in Robin Williams’ rider designed to help the homeless, and it’s always stuck with me as an inspiration to help others myself.

Will you choose to find your passion,  serve those around you, and influence others to do the same?

If you’d like to make a donation to help counselors who walk alongside those in need, visit The Refuge Center.

READ: How Robin Williams Secretly Used His Movies and Events To Help The Homeless

history, Hope

Bedridden Or Worse? Do What These Guys Did.

No Comments 01 June 2014

Screen shot 2014-06-01 at 2.24.47 PMHave you ever had a time where you were laid up in bed for longer than you wanted? When you have all your plans and responsibilities and general habits of life thrown off, it can be incredibly frustrating- but sometimes it can end up allowing you to make a greater impact than you ever had before.

A friend of mine named Brent recently got injured pretty badly and is forced to not walk for a good while, so I figured I’d write this out for him. I’ve had other friends with various injuries and sicknesses that I’ve shared these stories with (not to mention taking this advice myself during an extended hospital stay and recovery), and it always seems to give people hope.

If you’ve ever studied President Kennedy, you’ll know he had a myriad of sicknesses and injuries throughout his lifetime, making his accomplishments even more impressive. A few years after he was elected to the Senate, Continue Reading

haiti, Hope, Uncategorized

Headed Back To Haiti

No Comments 29 January 2013

I’m headed back to Haiti this week with Servants Heart Ministry and myLIFEspeaks, two great ministries.

On my first trip, we helped rebuild a house for a widow and her family.  The video that got the most feedback from friends say “HOLY COW THAT LOOKS DIFFICULT” was ‘The Long Walk’.  We hauled several hundred cinder blocks down 75 stairs down the side of a mountain in Haiti in July.  You can check out the video here:


This time we’re going to help start a ministry, with Servants Heart working with myLIFEspeaks to start a feeding program in Haiti.  You might remember Servants Heart from my trip last year when Krista and I took our girls on their first mission trip, to the Dominican Republic.

This time I’m leaving the family at home, where they’ll be in the safe keeping of my wife’s family, which is sort of the Italian version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  The joke is that there are more people at my house when I’m out of town than when I’m in town!

Please keep me, Rob, the rest of our team and our families in your prayers, and the people of Haiti and Neply even more so.

You can follow me on twitter @premierebrian, and

What do you want to learn about Neply?  What would you like to know about the people there?



CS Lewis, Hope, Loss, Narnia, The Magician's Nephew

Does Loss Make You Who You Are?

1 Comment 12 August 2011

I am a C.S. Lewis addict.  When I was little, my mom would gather all four of us kids together every night and read a chapter in the Old Testament, a chapter in the New Testament, and a chapter from a Christian kids book, quite often from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

I loved those books, and I believe they play a part in who I am today.  I love reading, learning about far away places, and I even wrote (but never tried to publish) a Narnia-style kids book.  In writing my own book, I wanted to get to know the person who inspired the book a bit more, and so I read a C.S. Lewis biography called “The Narnian“. Little Clive (C.S. stands for ‘Clive Staples’) was a sickly child, many of his earliest memories were of his mother coming in and taking care of him.  However, one time he and his mother became sick at the same time, and even though he called for her, she was too sick to come.  He remembered vividly her passing away.  In The Magician’s Nephew, which is a fable based on the Creation story.  [Spoiler alert] In it, a young boy named Digory finds a set of magic rings, and, along with his friend Polly, find themselves in the world of Narnia as it’s being born.  Digory goes into a Garden of Eden-type place, and because of his obedience in the face of temptation, he is able to take an apple back to his dying mother in his own world and save her life.  What C.S. Lewis couldn’t do in real life, he was able to do through his writing, hopefully giving himself some closure.  It was the very last Narnia book he wrote.

The idea for The Chronicles of Narnia originally came during the Nazi air raids, when children were taken to the countryside for safekeeping (it is believed that the reason Hitler never allowed Oxford to be bombed is that he planned to make it the capital after he conquered England), while their fathers fought in the war and their mothers worked in the war effort.   C.S. Lewis, an Oxford professor, took in three children during the raid (In The Lion, Witch, and The Wardrobe, an old professor takes the four children into his household during the air raids).  From that sprung the series that’s entertained, enchanted, and educated children the world over for 60 years.  But you can’t forget it was originally written for children who had lost their childhood through six years of war and its aftermath, many of whom lost parents and loved ones, by someone who had lost his own childhood.

Without that loss, would C.S. Lewis have been who he was, and written what he did?  Would my life be different without having what C.S. Lewis wrote be such a part of my childhood? (OK, adulthood, too.  I still reread them).

I write this morning as I remember my own loss, that of my son-to-be Jonathan exactly one year ago today.  I feel loss that for the second August in a row, my dad won’t be coming down to visit for my birthday.   Will I become less of a man, or more of a man, because of these things?  Will those losses enable me to do that will inspire my children or friends, or even strangers, tomorrow, or 60 years from now?

I certainly hope so.  There’s always this temptation to allow loss and tragedy to give you an excuse to go into your shell.  There is a place for mourning- massive mourning right after, and smaller but still intense mourning on occasion, like today.  There’s probably a loss of your own that popped into your head while you were reading this. But overall I think that loss can make you better.  C.S. Lewis decided to turn his loss into my gain, and I’m very thankful he did.

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