Meet the World Champion of Public Speaking!

Last month I had the privilege of competing at the Toastmaster semifinals of the International Speech Contest in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.  To share the platform with such inspiring speakers was an experience I’ll never forget.  The winner of my semifinal was Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, from Sri Lanka, who went on to win the entire contest.

“You always think this moment will never come,” said Hettiarachchi, who had entered the contest every year for 10 years, reaching the semifinals four times until finally bringing home the World Championship trophy.  His speech was an immediate favorite with the capacity crowd of nearly 3,000 people from around the world.  His winning speech was a personal tale about being a rebellious teenager whose life was changed because mentors took an interest in him, saying “I see something in you…but I don’t know what it is.”

Congratulations, Dananjaya!  Well deserved!

Enjoy this humorous and inspiring talk.

Wow. Thanks.

There are days when you know something wonderful has happened that could never have happened without great friends.

Today is such a day!

Thanks to many of you who bought my book Falling UP this week, several scholarships will be provided for our kids in Pleasant Hill to attend camp.  Just last night, John and I enjoyed a birthday dinner with a 13 year old boy whose main topic of conversation was the camp he just returned from.  From the “pipe line” (an enclosed water slide) to the rock wall, food, music and stories, we could tell camp is a highlight of his year.  He told us of falling asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs.  He found crawdads in a creek and they cooked and ate them for dinner.  These are experiences that inner city kids are unfamiliar with.  By the way, this same boy learned to swim at camp and heard the gospel in a way that is fresh and memorable.  I’m thrilled that you and I will have provided opportunities for more of our Pleasant Hill kids to do the same.

In addition, you also helped me become an Amazon #1 Bestseller in not one, but two categories!

“Christian Books/Christian Living/Death & Grief”…

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and “Self Help/Death & Grief/Suicide”.

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The Bestseller status helps me share my message with more people who need a word of comfort and renewed thinking about their challenges.  The tragic events of Robin Williams’ death this week make this message even more relevant and timely. People are looking for answers in time of grief.  While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I do know that God graciously brought me through a time of grief and has given me a message of hope to share with others.

Thank you for helping me share that message!

(For local Middle Georgia friends, in addition to AmazonFalling Up is also available at Creter’s Gift Shop in the Ingleside Villiage (Macon) and the Olive Branch Bookstore (Dublin).)

Click here to watch the Book Trailer.



Robin Williams, My Dad and the Voice of Truth

robin-williams-jpgI was stunned and saddened to learn that the gifted Robin Williams is dead of a possible suicide.

From his Mork and Mindy days to Good Morning Vietnam to Mrs. Doubtfire and beyond, he literally oozed humor, and was a master of all things funny.

MRS. DOUBTFIRE, Robin Williams, 1993, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights rese




But addiction and depression are no laughing matter.

When I consider my father’s battle with the same, and then suicide, I think of this: The coroner’s report stated that my father died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  But there was another cause of death that happened first: he died from listening to the wrong voice.

Apparently Robin Williams was acquainted with voices too:

“It’s the same voice thought that…you’re standing at a precipice and you look down, there’s a voice and it’s a little quiet voice that goes, ‘Jump,'” Williams told Diane Sawyer in an interview on Good Morning America.  “The same voice that goes, ‘Just one.’…And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that’s not a possibility.” 

After the death of my dad, I had my own voices to deal with, too.

Bouncing like a ping pong ball in a Bermuda triangle between pity for my father, then anger toward him, then guilt for not having been there, I felt a gravitational pull toward a very black sorrow.

But shortly after my dad died,  I heard a song for the first time.  The song was “The Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns and the lyrics were a godsend to me.  The song talks about choosing to listen and choosing to believe the voice of truth instead of any of the other voices that are trying to capture our attention.

I’ve learned that our human perspective of life’s events is simply not accurate and can’t be trusted.  What God says about you and me is the truth.   There are no quick-fixes.  But our way out of the darkness is to choose to believe God more than we believe ourselves.  To believe His voice of truth.

So, what voice is calling for your attention?  What self-defeating thoughts run through your mind? Are you afraid you’ll never be enough?  Do you feel God is mad at you? Do you feel as if you’ll never get it right?

Voices.  We’ve all got ‘em.

But what are we to do with them?

The apostle Paul says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).   How do we put that verse into practice?  We can literally say to a thought that knocks on the door to our brain, “Are you true?  Are you beneficial?  Are you necessary?” And if the answer to any one of those three questions is no, then we don’t answer the door.  We choose to walk away from the lie and all the negativity that could result in our life if we let it in.

I tread reverently, lovingly and gently here as I am no expert on the subject of depression.  Nor am I a medical doctor. And the condition of our bodies can impact the ability of our minds in making decisions and thinking clearly.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great preacher in the mid-twentieth century, in his book “Spiritual Depression”, emphasized that we not overlook the physical.   It is significant that Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor before he was called to the ministry of preaching.

If you’re struggling and the darkness doesn’t seem to be lifting, tell someone.  Take care of yourself.  See a wise medical doctor.

My prayer for you and me is that we also guard our minds with the Truth and keep them focused there.

robin_williamsRobin, thank you for the laughter and smiles you gave us.  We will miss you greatly.







Taken from Falling UP: Lessons Learned on the Way Down, a resource and comfort for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.



Special Offer – Today Only!

I’m so excited to share with you what you and I are doing together.

Buying my book today, August 8, will help inner city kids go to camp (through the ministry of my church, Strong Tower Fellowship).  Strong Tower is a mission to the Pleasant Hill neighborhood of Macon, Georgia.

Here’s a little more info about “Falling UP: Lessons Learned on the Way Down”.

This is a great book to give away, have as resource to use now or have in your library for those challenging days of life.

I’m trusting God to use this book to encourage you and your friends! Click here to purchase Falling UP.

Three Responses to Suffering

You can’t live very long without getting a few “dings” to the heart. By that I mean trials, loss, sorrows of various kinds.

And when it happens, we tend to have one of three responses.

  1. Ignore and Stuff.  One response is to stuff the painful event far away, as if you put it on the back shelf of the closet of your heart, hoping the painful emotions will just go away.  But they won’t.  The heartbreak becomes lodged in our hearts and, as a result, we ourselves become “stuck”.  Stuck in our woundedness, our lack of trust, our belief that “life is hard, and then you die”.  That wound needs lancing.  The way to release the poison is in telling your story – not to just anyone, but to a trusted friend. There is a cleansing that comes from confession to a trusted friend.
  2. Tell Anyone and Everyone.  Another response is to repeatedly shout our story from the rooftops to anyone and everyone that will listen.   Not with the purpose of cleansing our hearts, but rather to declare over and over (and over again) how we’ve been “done wrong”, either by God or by others.  This response keeps a person in victim mode, always the helpless casualty of a particularly painful event, long after the event is over.  When confronted with these destructive attitudes and behaviors, this person is fond of rehearsing his hurts, then concluding with something like, “And that’s why I’m the way that I am.  End of story,”
  3. Your Story for His Glory.  And then occasionally you meet someone whose painful event has caused them to surrender, abandoning all hope of solving the problem or healing the pain on their own, becoming ever dependent on God, and always looking expectantly for His glory in their unwanted circumstance.  It’s not all wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow.  They still have unanswered questions.  There are tears on occasion.  But their painful event now serves, not as a justification for their behavior, but as a testimony to God’s grace in their lives.  Through the tears, there’s a submission to His will resulting in a more tender heart, an outward focus, and a compassion for others who hurt.  There is brokenness, yes.  But there is also joy.  Why? Their story is for His glory.

So, in which response do you see yourself?  

We all have a story of having been hurt.  But some people surrender their stories to God – and He uses them for His glory.  They confess their tears to God – and to others.  And it is those same tears that give them a platform of credibility and hope for others who are hurting.  They don’t claim to understand loss. Nor do they pretend to have it all figured out.  What I hear in their words is this declaration:  “God, I don’t know what You’re doing.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t like it.  But I’m Yours.”

May you and I declare the same, walking forward and seeing God do for us and through us what only He can do.

From “Falling UP:  Lessons Learned on the Way Down”, available on Amazon August 8.