Loose Cannons



“I have spent the better part of the last decade a little upset with my mom.”

It’ll be two years ago on April 30th that I stood before a group of people who gathered together to honor the memory of my mom and began to eulogize her with that sentence. I went on to talk about her final decade and how difficult it was to see her suffer the way that she did. I then brought to light my opinion of how she was the perfect Christian because, despite all of her flaws, she never gave up. I ended the eulogy by proclaiming how inspired I was by her to never give up, to never let my own flaws get in the way of my walk with God.

There are many people in my life who I consider heroes. Perhaps the biggest hero of them all is my oldest brother, Mike. Mike is about ten years older than I. Mike helped shape me in so many ways. My taste in music, movies, books, and many other things are a direct reflection of his influence. As a young boy, I watched him. I studied his actions. I mimicked the way he spoke. I used the same slang. He is the reason that words like “dude” and “man” are a regular part of my vocabulary. He bought me my first record. It was The Imperials’ Priority album. Some of my best memories are sitting in his room while he played his records and riding in his Camaro or his 1972 Buick Skylark convertible listening to music. I was probably annoying him most of the time, but these were the best times of my childhood.

Mike’s approval has always been vitally important to me. His advice has been some of the most valuable advice that I have ever received. He gave me a piece of advice when I was 21 that I ignored and still regret to this day. I realize now that he is usually speaking from experience and is most likely trying to divert me from making the same mistakes he has made.

His approval is so important to me that when, on the day of mom’s memorial service, he walked up to me and said that he was so nervous when I began her eulogy with that sentence, I became pretty nervous myself. He then went on to say that what I had to say about her perfectly described her life and how it was the perfect speech for the occasion. To this day, his compliment is one of the highlights of my life.

That day, he mentioned it a few more times. He brought up how nervous he was at first but then I wrapped it up so perfectly. He also told me that he said the same thing to Bishop Jordan who officiated the memorial service that day and Bishop Jordan’s reply was, “Yeah, he’s always been a loose cannon.”

A loose cannon.

A loose cannon?

Wait a minute. How am I supposed to take that? I mentioned that I have a lot of heroes and Bishop Jordan happens to be one of them, and he’s calling me a loose cannon?

(Bishop Jordan, if you happen to be reading this, I’m not offended.)

The term “loose cannon” is a nautical term referring to cannon that breaks loose from its moorings on a ship during battle or storm, which has the potential to cause serious damage to the ship and her crew. When describing a person as such it’s referring to an uncontrolled or unpredictable person who causes damage to their own team, faction, political party, etc.

The earliest known description is found in Victor Hugo’s 1874 novel Ninety Three:


“The carronade, hurled forward by the pitching, dashed into this knot of men, and crushed four at the first blow; then, flung back and shot out anew by the rolling, it cut in two a fifth poor fellow… The enormous cannon was left alone. She was given up to herself. She was her own mistress, and mistress of the vessel. She could do what she willed with both.”

I’ve thought a lot about this statement during the last two years. Am I really a loose cannon? Am I really uncontrolled or unpredictable? Have I really caused more damage with my words and actions than I’m worth?

So, considering this description of me, I began to think about my life. I began to think about the battles and storms that I’ve been through and how I’ve reacted in the past. In the past, when hard times have come, I’ve been exactly that; a loose cannon rolling around and firing at will damaging my surroundings and those I love the most.

This is the part where I should tell you that Mike, after my last blogpost, said I am too hard on myself. This may be true. I am pretty hard on myself. I do realize that I have made a lot of mistakes and caused a lot of damage and said many hurtful things. While I am hard on myself, I also realize that I do have a calling on my life and that this calling is powerful. I realize that the mistakes I’ve made are not irreparable. I realize that I can use my experience to help others who have gone down similar paths.

I started to consider loose cannons in scripture. The one with whom I most closely identify is Peter. Peter was that guy who shot off at the mouth. He was the one who tried to refuse to let Jesus wash his feet to which Jesus replied, “If you don’t let me wash your feet, you will have no part of me.”  One of my favorite things about Peter was that in one verse in Matthew 16, Jesus calls Peter a rock and proclaims, “…upon this rock I will build my church.” Then later on—IN THE SAME CHAPTER—Jesus looks at Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan!” He was reduced from being the foundation of the church to being the devil in just a matter of a few verses. It was Peter who boasted that he would follow Jesus to the grave and then later, that same night, denied even knowing Him. It was Peter who went into hiding when they crucified our Lord. It was also Peter who, after the resurrection, saw Jesus cooking some fish on the shore and couldn’t wait for the boat to reach the shore. He jumped out of the boat and swam to fall at the feet of his Savior. It was Peter whom Jesus restored as an apostle by simply asking him three times if he loved him. It was Peter who stood up on the Day of Pentecost and declared the plan of salvation to the Jews, and it was Peter who first preached to a good Italian man opening the way of salvation to the Gentiles.

The damage that Peter had done during his own personal battles were outdone by the great things he did as a minister of the Gospel. At one point, even the sick were healed just by Peter casting a shadow over them.

So, I embrace the title. Perhaps, I have been a loose cannon in the past. Perhaps, I have caused some destruction by allowing myself to be broken during some battles and storms. None of that takes away from the fact that I have been called by God and the damage that I will do to the enemy as I allow myself to be secure in Jesus will be far more significant that any mistake I have made.

How do you see yourself? Are you or have you been a loose cannon yourself? Whether you are or have been loose in the past, the key thing is that you are a cannon. You are a weapon of war, and if you allow yourself to be secure in Jesus, you can be so powerful that the gates of Hell cannot prevail.


Walking on Water

Walking on Water


I finally did it.

I finally have gotten myself to the place where I’m ready to give up.

In my 20’s and early 30’s, I struggled quite a bit with living a good Christian life. I was in and out of the church. I would be on fire for a year or two, and then I would walk away for a few years. I’d get myself right, and then I would backslide. This formula of being hot and then cold, yes and then no, in and then out, up and then down left me not knowing wrong from right or black from white. (If you get that reference, you probably should stop reading now and have a personal little talk with Jesus.)

But seriously, I was a mess.

In Autumn of 2008, however, I arrived at a crucial juncture in my life where I had to make one final decision. I could continue down the road I was traveling. This road had been paved by all of my bad decisions. This road had stops along the way that were filled with pain. This road had been riddled with Michigan roads-sized potholes caused by things like pornography, adultery, bitterness, and anger. The other option was to take the other road. That road that is sometimes called “The Road Less Traveled” or “The Straight and Narrow”. That road seems to not be paved at all. That road seems to have been hewn out by all of the faithful heroes of old who determined that no matter how hard, how long, how hilly, or how curvy it was, it would be worth the prize won when the final destination was reached. That road is the same road which I believe is planted down deep inside of every human being that has ever lived. It’s the right road. We know it’s the right road. The problem is that it isn’t the easy one to travel. So, we naturally start looking for an alternative highway. Tom Cochrane—not Rascall Flatts—is 100% correct. Life is a highway. Quite frankly, though, it doesn’t matter if you want to drive it all night long. (You’re welcome. Have fun trying to get that tune out your head.) You drive it all night long whether you want to or not…and all day…and all week…and, well, all your life. The question is which highway—which direction will you take? So, on this one particular cool autumn evening up here in the Michigan woods, I made my choice. Standing in the kitchen of that old, drafty shack where we lived, I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Ok. Here I am.” Just like that, I switched roads.

Now, I’d love to tell you that the last decade of my life has been nothing but wonderful. I’d love to tell you that on that evening I totally quit making mistakes. I’d love to tell you that my bad decision making days were over. However, I can’t tell you that because that would be a lie. In fact, I think some of the worst choices of my life have been made since making that crucial life change. If I would start listing off some of the sins that I’ve committed since that day, most of you would stop reading now. Most of you would be dumbfounded. I have done things since I decided that I would live for God that a lot of people who don’t know anything about Christianity would ever even consider doing. What then qualifies me to be sitting here writing down my thoughts? What gives me the right to feel like I should hand out any advice whatsoever? What is going on inside this dark mind of mine that gives me the idea that you should read the thoughts that I am writing and apply them to your lives?

The answer is nothing.

Nothing qualifies me or gives me the right to share these thoughts. I think you should read because my life is the image of grace.

All of us struggle.

Whether you are a pastor who has been living this life your entire life or you are a person who has never even considered giving Christianity a shot, you’ve struggled. You have and continue to fight battles inside your mind. Most of you are probably like me in that you fall between the two groups that I just described. These writings are going to be for all of you. So, in all you do, this blog’s for you. (I just can’t help myself sometimes.)

Back to the beginning…

What in the wide, wide world of sports do the last few paragraphs have to do with my first two sentences? As I was saying by cleverly (at least in my mind it was clever) referencing a Katy Perry song, I struggled quite a bit in my early adult life with making a solid commitment to live for God. I was in and out a lot. I remember going to preach at this small church in Bryan, Ohio was I was about 20 years old. When I was there, I met a relative of a family from my home church. When I told one of the members of the family that I met this man, their reply was, “Oh, is he in church this year?” I can remember other people making similar comments about others who lived in similar ways. I had reached that point. I don’t know. Maybe people made the same remarks about me when they heard that I was doing well. Maybe my wishy-washy attitude brought out the cynicism in even some of you. When I committed my life to Jesus on that evening in 2008, I’m sure some people thought and perhaps even said, “Give him a year or two.” Sadly, I have even caught myself saying the same kinds of things about others.

Shame on me.

So, here I am. Ten years later (I always hear the narrator from SpongeBob when I say something like that), I am still “in the church”. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve had my share of victories and defeats. A few years ago, I royally screwed up. I mean, the kind of screw up that in past years would have me running out of the church doors with my tail between my legs and straight into a life of drinking and promiscuity, but I stayed. I found an altar and I hit my knees and God and I hashed it all out. If I know about anything, I know about the grace of God. I know about the unfailing love of God. I can tell you that if I can do this, you can do this. Short of murder, I’ve committed almost every sin in the book. Guess what?

God still loves me!

If I can do it, you can do it.

I put together this ten year stretch. Even in the midst of all of my mistakes, I am still here. I’m still living for God. I’m still going to church and doing my best to live right.

Enter burnout.

I spent about three years as the youth pastor at my church. I proudly wore the label of “world’s oldest youth pastor”. It was three of the most rewarding years of my life. It was also three of the most challenging years of my life. A few months ago, mainly because of a change in my work schedule, my wife and I stepped down from this position. The underlying reality that no one really knew was that I was burnt out. Ministerial burnout is a very real thing. I was exhausted. I found myself now not being able to pray. I stopped reading the Word. I stopped giving to the church. I stopped fasting. I found myself just sitting around not really doing anything. There’s an old saying that says, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. What I have learned is the the idle mind is actually the devil’s workshop. I started to think about everything that was wrong in my life. I started to think about an incident that happened last year when I thought I was done wrong. I started thinking about all the garbage in my life that wasn’t exactly how I thought it should be. Now, not only was I suffering burnout, I was adding bitterness to it. So…

I finally did it.

I finally have gotten myself to the place where I am ready to give up.

It’s been a good ten years. It’s been fun rebuilding the lasting friendships that I thought I had lost. It’s been fun making new friends. It’s been fun standing behind several pulpits and reestablishing my name as a minister, but screw it. I’m done. I’m burnt out. I’ve been done wrong. People are gossiping about me. People who don’t even really know me are bringing up my past. People are lying about me. My kids aren’t listening to me. My wife isn’t putting enough salt in the meatloaf. My life sucks! I’ve just wasted a decade that could’ve easily been spent developing alcoholism or various STD’s. I’m done with the church. I’m done with Jesus. I’m done with my marriage. I’m just done.

Then I got what will go down in history as one of the most important text messages of my life.

Not even knowing what I’m going through, not even knowing where my head is, a pastor friend of mine sent me this text that just happened to come at the perfect time.

Keith Blaylock has been my friend since I was about 11 years old. It was Crusader’s Camp in Ohio and I was the only boy from my church who went to camp this particular year. I loved camp, but this year, I was scared to go because I didn’t know anyone. I arrived and went to the dorm to find a bunk and found myself in the middle of these loud, rowdy boys who all obviously knew each other. The kid who seemed to be the ringleader of them all was this short, pudgy, curly-headed kid who walked right up to me and stuck his hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Keith.” A life-long friendship—no, a brotherhood—was born that day. Though the years, as I made a practice of walking away and returning to God, Keith was establishing himself as a minister and a respected pastor. The cool thing about guys who let themselves be regularly used by God is that sometimes God uses them and they don’t even know it. Oblivious to the fact that I was on the verge of throwing my life away, my friend sent me a simple text that simply read, “I am going to be preaching in Toledo this weekend bro. Say a prayer for this old man.” He didn’t know that I was about to give up. He didn’t know that I have actually been working in Toledo for the last few weeks. He didn’t know that the message God was giving him to preach was divinely tailored to fit my present situation. He just felt compelled to send me a text, and God then compelled me to want to be with my friend in service that Sunday morning.

The service was incredible. I hadn’t been to a regular church service at the church where I grew up in years. From the opening chord of the first song to the altar call, it was orchestrated by God to make one more reach to me. The first thing that happened that made me just about break down and fall on my face before God was when Pastor Kris Dillingham got up and after saying some very potent things, he told the congregation to all audibly speak to God and say these words, “Here I am.” I was immediately taken back to that evening in my kitchen ten years ago when I said those exact words. My eyes couldn’t contain the tears as once again I felt the loving arms of God wrapped around me. Then, Pastor Blaylock preached his message “The Destiny of a Soul”, and I could not wait to get to an altar to find the repentance that I so desperately needed.



We don’t really know how far Peter got out of the boat as he walked on water to meet Jesus. The only conclusion I can draw is that he got far enough out to where he could not easily turn around and latch onto the side of the boat and climb back in. In the past, I would step out and not get very far and just turn around and get right back to the life I was living. This time, though, I am ten years out of the boat. Going back is not an option. It’s sink or walk. It’s do or die. Like Peter, my only choice is to drown or cry out, “Lord, save me!”

Storms come and go. We slip. We trip. We fall. We can weather the storm in the graceful arms of a loving God, or we can drown in our own doubts and fears. We get up and dust ourselves off and lean on Jesus when the road gets rough, or we can wallow in self-pity and find an easier way to take that has a not-so-pleasant final destination.

After that Sunday morning service in Toledo, I wanted to get home to Albion, Michigan to my home church for evening service. I was a little nervous to find out that we would be partaking in communion that evening. I’m going to be honest. I’m always nervous taking communion because of one scripture that’s always read before communion. You know the one I’m talking about. That one where Jesus says that anyone who eats or drinks unworthily eats and drinks damnation. I always freak out. I’m always thinking,”Dear God! Please don’t let me eat or drink damnation!” As I stood there with the bread and wine in my hands that evening, it hit me. Of all the people who were there that evening with Jesus. Only one was damned. Judas. Judas was damned why? Because he betrayed Jesus? No, actually. I believe Judas could have recovered from betraying Him and ended up being the most powerful Apostle in the Bible. Maybe Acts 2:38 would’ve actually read, “Then Judas said unto them…” But, no, that’s not what happened. Judas was damned, and he was damned because he couldn’t find repentance.

I don’t know what you may be going through as you read this. I don’t know your thoughts or the sins that you have actually committed. I do know this. You are never out of the reach of our loving God. Find your place of repentance. Cry out to Jesus to save you. Continue walking on water.