Worthless Steps

After wondering what all the hubbub was about, I finally took the plunge.  Yes, a coupKnight Riderle of months ago, I became the proud owner of a Fitbit.  Sure, we could debate whether I bought this for noble purposes, or if I bought it strictly to pretend I was Michael Knight talking to K.I.T.T., but I digress.

This investment has been really good for me as I seek to keep on the weight loss trail.  It’s not that I wasn’t exercising before, but each day, I find myself wanting to ‘beat the Fitbit’ in whatever category.  I mean, really, who wants to be bested by a machine, especially one that fits on your wrist?!

The other day, I made the ginormous error of leaving the house without putting on my Fitbit.  As I walked around town a bit, and as I did the Walmart ‘dance’ of crisscrossing the store repeatedly, the thought hit – “Oh man!  All this walking doesn’t even count.  These are worthless steps!”.  

Yes, I quickly came to my senses.  The steps I was taking were good.  They were helping me.  Just because I wasn’t wearing the fancy-schmancy tech gear on my wrist didn’t mean the steps were worthless.  I just have gotten used to seeing with my own eyes how much my steps matter.

After I got back home in K.I.T.T. – um, I mean our family car – I found myself thinking about the steps I take as a husband and dad.  I thought about how I don’t want to take any ‘worthless’ steps in the areas of my life I treasure more than any amount of gold.  I thought how helpful it would be to have a Fitbit showing me the impact of my steps.

And as the proof ran towards me when I came in the door, I realize that I do.  There is no place else that I can see how my steps as a dad and husband matter than in Sara and my three incredible children.  Each day, I can see in their faces if I’m getting it right, or if I’m missing the mark.

I can directly see when I am taking worthless steps – choosing a Yankees’ game over helping with the dishes, keeping my phone too close when my son wants to tell me about his day, playing video games those few extra minutes too long.  And I can definitely see it in those same faces when I’m making my steps matter!  It shows in the faces of those I dearly love, and I feel it in my own heart.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more attuned I am to the internal “GPS” He has given me.  It’s His voice that tells me what is the best use of my time, how to be the best dad I can be, how to love SarPsalm 37 23 pica the way she deserves.  And it’s a fantastic feeling when my head hits the pillow that night and I hear Jesus whisper, “Good job today”, and then as He challenges me to do even better the next day.

So, I guess it’s pretty simple – whether when I’m out walking, or focused on my family, I want my steps to count!


The Easter String

There’s something our parents never told us directly, but as I look back at Easter memories, all the signs were there.  Evidently, we weren’t the sharpest bulbs or the brightest tools in the shed.  Sure, we got good grades and seemed to be holding our own in the ‘smarts’ department, but then it happened.  The Easter string.

We were staying at the Jersey shore one Easter, in the home of a family friend.  We woke up on Saturday morninimage1g to hunt for candy, and my sister, brother and I each found our Easter string.  It was a piece of yarn that started near our beds, and continued throughout the house all the way into the back yard.  Along the way, we found our baskets, then candy and plastic eggs filled with goodies, until we reached the end of the string.

It was a fun time, but as I think back, well, what was that all about?!  I had searched for and found candy many times before…and not just on Easter.  I mean, I could have taught a college level course on “The Willy Wonka Journey: How to find the candy that doesn’t want to be found”.  Sure, I could ask my dad why they did the string, but there’s that lurking fear of what the answer might be.  I’ll just choose to believe it was more for my siblings than for me 😉

Whatever the reason, we’ll never forget the Easter string.  We’ve had lots of laughs about it.  I’m just glad the result remains the same – that Easter string led me where I needed to be.

This is one of many incredible Easter memories, but in the midst of it, my parents always made sure we knew what it was all about.

Easter has a point beyond eggs and candy and a bunny.  Multiple big words are used to talk about Jesus at Easter, but it’s pretty simple to me.  Easter is about the greatest love story ever!  Jesus took my punishment on the cross, and rose again so that I can have eternal life with Him.  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, The Bible).  Greatest love story…ever!

As I was thinking back on this story yesterday of that candy hunt (and smiling big!), I realized that I have a similar goal as a dad, too.  I want to lead my children to the greatest prize there is.  I want to show them Jesus.  Not just on Easter weekend, but each and every day.

I want to show my children what real love is.  I want to train them in the way they Brad and kiddos - 2015should go (Proverbs 22:6).  I want them to know that Jesus isn’t someone who came to give a set of rules, to squash their fun, or to keep them from loving life.  No way!  I want them to know that Jesus came so they can “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  I want them to know that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  And I want them to know that in a world confused about who God is, .

Let’s face it…this world has become pretty complex.  May I be an “Easter string” that shows my children – and many others – the simple truth of Jesus.

What’s in a Name?

I like baseball.  A lot!  I’m one of those guys that has a countdown until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training each year.  This year, there was an extra treat of the World Baseball Classic.  That’s where teams representing several different countries square off to see who can win it all.  And, spoiler alert, Team USA won the 2017 WBC title!

As the scene unfolded after the final out, one of the outfielders was ecstatic as he ran into the celebratory fray.  As he sprinted across the field, he kept pointing to thwbc usa 2e “USA” on the front of his jersey.  This all-star level player who makes millions upon millions wasn’t pointing to the name on the back, or talking about himself in post-game interviews.  It was all about the name on the front of the jersey.

Now, this is something the greatest coaches have talked about for years.  Google holds many quotes from coaches saying, “The name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back!”.

This all got me thinking about the different names I might have on the back of my jersey – Dad, husband, provider, defender, department director, son, brother, uncle, friend… I know a lot of people with a lot of different ‘names’.  We each play several roles in life, and some more than others.

But what about the namename word cloud 3 on the front of the jersey?  Where does my identity really land?

Sure, it could be whatever role I like the most.  Or it could simply be “Brad” or “Hutchcraft”.  I dig both of those.  For some, it might be their job where they find the most meaning.  For others, their religion, or even their politics.

Playing for Team USA must have been memorable for these men.  But soon, they will be back playing for their regular team.  Logos of the Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers, will be proudly worn once again.  Earlier in life, I changed ‘jerseys’ too many times, playing for someone different each day.

And then…Jesus.  He changed everything!  That’s the name that I proudly wear now.  It’s the name that all my other titles come under.  At least that’s the goal.  It’s the only name that I know will last.  Jesus.

It’s not about a set of rules, or a specific church, or whatever ‘religion’ that might come to mind.  And it’s certainly not about a political party!  It’s about this relationship that I started many years ago.  I was created to have a relationship with God.  The Bible says it best – I was “created by Him and for Him”.  We all were.  But I tried running my life my way instead, and I didn’t do a very good job.  Fortunately, God sent His Son, Jesus, to pay my penalty so I could have a chance at real life.  Eternal life with the One who created me.  I just had to choose Him.  So I did, and that has made all the difference.

Those other names?  I really like them.  I love being a dad, a husband, a friend, and the list goes on.  But those things can be challenging at times, and I wouldn’t be very good at them if not for the name on the front of the jersey.  For me to get it right, I’m going to stick with the strongest name there is:

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower…”(the Bible)

My Painted Tree

We have a tree in our yard that is one of my favorite things.  Sure, a tree might be no big deal to some, but it means a lot to me.  I have always loved the changing of seasons, especially seeing the leaves change color each autumn.  I think it started with the story my mom and dad would tell me growing up.  They would tell us that the angels came out to paint the leaves at night when the weather got cooler.  That was always such a cool picture to me.  It didn’t help me ace my science exams, but still a memorable story from my childhood.

I love seeing the changing colors of the leaves, but I haven’t always been able to do that.

In 1996, I moved to where God called me – a Native American reservation in Arizona.  God said “Go”, and I went.  I lived there until September 2010.  These were absolutely amazing years with some of the most incredible people you’d ever meet.  But, if you know much about, well, the desert, you know tall trees with leaves are kinda tough to come by.img_5669

For almost 15 years, autumn came and went without seeing much color.  Sure, there were times I’d be driving out of state and see some of the leaves, but didn’t get to see the unfolding handiwork of the “angels painting”.

When God said “Go” again in 2010, my wife and I started looking for a house in a new place.  Having lived in other peoples’ spaces for many years, we definitely had a list of things we were looking for.  We had ideas about a yard (mowing lawns wasn’t a big business in AZ), a basement (moving to tornado country), and other things.  However, nowhere on the list was a tree.  Of course, we wanted trees, but we didn’t have specifics in mind.

A few weeks after we moved, the angels started painting.  The area around us lit up with color, and it was amazing.  But no tree was amazing as my tree…and that is true to this day.  See, even though we didn’t know it, God led us to a house that has a tree right next to it that turns an amazing red every fall.  Without fail, it’s one of the first to get ‘painted’, and one of the last to lose all its color.

As I drove out of my driveway the other day, I put the car in park and just looked.  It was stunning!  The way the sun was hitting the leaves, the bright red of the leaves.  Stunning.  And I was overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness.  I have seen His handiwork time and time again – in hospital rooms, in financial provision when funds were so tight, in bringing Sara and me together.  But I see it in what many would call the ‘small things’, too.

And I see it in my painted tree.  God knew how much that tree would mean to me.  We looked at some good houses when we were searching, but it was clear this was the one for our family.  God is so good.  He picked that house for us, and He grew that tree, and He sends His angels to paint those leaves year-after-year, bringing a smile to my face.

He’s faithful to me, He’s faithful to our family, and God – who created you, too – will be faithful to you. The Bible says it best: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). It might not always look like what you think it should look like, but God’s got a painted tree waiting for you, too.

The Roller Coaster Church

I’ve been at this for a lot of years. People have all sorts of opinions on the matter. Some love it, some rail against it. Some view it as a regulation, some a privilege. For me, it’s always been a part of my life – church.

Almost everyone has a reaction to that word. Church. Joy, frustration, love, hurt, peace, defensiveness. So many emotions are tied to that one word. I’m not writing a lot of words here to defend church or everything various people in various churches have done over the years. And this isn’t me writing to tell you why you should go to church.

I’m just writing because it’s part of my story. It was part of the first half of my story, and it certainly is part of the second half. And honestly, it brings a smile to my face to write about this. Not because of a building, but because of the part it has played in me experiencing more of the incredible plan Jesus has for me.

I grew up in an area with plenty of churches around. The great things was, I felt the one my family went to was one of the best. They say hindsight is 20/20, and even looking back, I still feel that way. The biggest challenge? It set a high standard for other churches I’d attend in my life to live up to.

I went to a good church in college, where the pastor not only taught the Word of God but lived it. I’ve been to small churches while on the mission field that were filled with amazing people who loved like Jesus (and could host a mean potluck!). And I’ve found many friends at a bigger church, filled with people passionate about reaching those the world has forgotten.

Many great experiences, and I could write many blogs about what I learned along the way from each of those churches. And yes, I’ve also been to some churches that I didn’t connect with for various reasons. I’ve learned from those, too.

Now, we go to a churchroller coaster that used to have a roller coaster next to it. Yup, a real, wooden roller coaster. That’s kinda fun. It’s a church that feels so much like home to us. The worship, the teaching, the laughter, the overwhelming encouragement of marriages and families – it’s simply beautiful. I’ve heard some say that the closer they get to a church, the more they are turned off because of the “ugly side” they see behind the scenes. As we have experienced more of this part of the body of Christ, it’s been just the opposite. The closer we get, the more we love it, and the more we want to be a part of serving.

All of that said, this isn’t about one specific church. In fact, it’s about many churches, filled with people and experiences who have helped me live a life that gets more exciting with each passing year.

A good church should remind you of the early Church that the Bible talks about in Acts 2 –
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals…and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.”

Maybe you’ve gone to a roller coaster church before…but not the fun kind. You’ve seen ups-and-downs that have caused you to leave church in the rear view mirror. I’d encourage you to pull over, turn the car around, and maybe give this all another look. There is no perfect church here on earth, and if you’re looking for problems, you will most likely find them.

But, if you’re looking for a place to belong, a place with people who will love you, and a place that can help you find pieces that seem to be missing, you can find that, too. It might not be the first church you check out, or the second, or the third, but when you find the right fit, well, you’ll want to tell others that part of your story. Don’t give up. It’s worth the effort.

When all is said and done, people could argue with me about an “institution” that has been flawed, but I know it isn’t about an institution. It’s about a Savior. It’s about Jesus Christ, and when a church has that right, you can’t wait for Sunday!

Words I was taught never to say (blog by Sara Hutchcraft)

I give up

Words I was taught never to say

Words I teach my children never to say

Have now become my mantra.

It started when the moose slammed headfirst into our RV, crushing in that window in front of my driving husband, sending glasses and bowls and boxes of graham crackers flying across the vehicle that was my home for a month.Moose windshield

We were spared. Miraculously spared from what could have been something so much worse. Satan must have sent that moose to stop us from our mission to spend the summer travelling and bringing the Gospel to those trapped in darkness. But on we marched. “Now we see through a glass dimly…” Then came the rest of the story. Under that RV was a mess of metal and bolts that were coming apart. Unbeknownst to us, we had been driving all summer with a rental RV that was being held together by only a nylon washer. Tragedy may have faced us hours down the road, had we kept driving. God sent us a moose. He whispered in his ear to meet us on that dark road in the middle of Idaho, and He saved us. He hadn’t saved us from the moose – He had used the moose to save us. “Then we shall see face to face”.

We travelled on, confident in our mission. Confident in how God had spared us. And sitting at a stop light across from Denny’s, waiting to turn left, it happened. A car lost control, hurtled towards us, and slammed into the front of this same, battle weary RV. And this battle weary family shook.

AndAccident 2 we limped on. God showed up in ways we could never have envisioned. Our personal chaos didn’t have to distract from the larger story – but it changed me forever. This time there was no second story. No reason why it happened. Just a moment that ripped my sense of control away from me. And God whispered “Are you ready yet? Are you ready to finally let go?” Now we see through a glass dimly…

I spent the majority of my life looking for answers to the “why”? Wanting to understand – to control my circumstances, to prevent pain and loss. Or maybe trying to form myself into the person I thought God wanted me to be. Twenty years ago, when He asked me if I would go anywhere – to speak His words to whoever He asked me to? Brokenhearted, my insecurity spoke and I stammered “I can’t” … for 20 years He has been walking beside me – gently reminding me that though I can’t, HE CAN. And that’s all He’s ever asked of me.

So that day the crazy driver slammed into our RV? I gave up. He didn’t just shatter our RV– he shattered the illusion of control that had threatened to ensnare me. It’s in our shattered places we find the most healing. I gave up. Not in the traditional sense – I gave up myself. I didn’t need to know why anymore – Then we shall see face to face. The answers will come one day – I don’t need them now. On that day I will be all He created me to be – until then I will just do what He tells me to do and trust Him to be sufficient in my weakness. Just Jesus – that’s all I need to know. And here I rest.

I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering…Phil 3:10