5 most read blogs from 2012

Here are the five most viewed blogs from this year:

1) After the failure, hurt, and disappointment . . . 

A BIG hurt, failure, or disappointment is usually followed by a “season of silence”. This season can last days, months, or years. It is difficult. It is lonely. In the end, it is meaningful.

2) With this one statement you could change your kid’s life

As a parent, you want to raise kids who are “comfortable in their skin” and have the confidence to pursue extraordinary things for God. I want to share a statement you can begin telling your kids today that can make a HUGE difference in their future confidence.


3) How to properly ignore people

Truth: As a leader you must ignore some people.

No leader I know enjoys this but people who try and listen to every opinion and respond to every criticism aren’t leading.

Truth: As a Christian you read that Christ died for ALL.

God the Son died for every person, everywhere. Including the people who criticize you.

How do you manage the tension of these two truths? Here are 2 ways to properly ignore people as a leader AND a follower of Christ:

4) The most effective way to walk away from God

Wanna walk away from God? Let me help. Seriously, I’m going to give you a proven method. This is THE surest way to walk away from God. It is found in these 3 simple words: Live life alone. That’s it! Guaranteed to “work”. According to Hebrews 3:12-13, living life alone significantly increases your likelihood of walking away from God. Here’s how it happens…

5) Struggling to read your Bible everyday? Embrace it!

I struggle to read my Bible everyday. I know – I’m a pastor and admitting that struggle makes some uncomfortable. Since I believe it’s the authority for my life and the living words of God . . . well . . . reading it daily makes pretty good sense. But I struggle. But I’m not discouraged. Here are three reasons I now embrace my struggle…

2012 in 12 Words

Sheltered from the 32 degrees outside, our family sat at the breakfast table inside our cabin outside of Yosemite this morning. As we devoured breakfast burritos, I handed everyone a blank sheet of paper and a pen. I asked them to describe their year in twelve words. Everyone happily played along.

Afterwards, we voted on one word that described our year and one song that represented our year. A little odd? Yes. I want to help my kids develop a heart of gratitude and a bigger perspective.


Riggins 2012 word: Adventurous

Riggins 2012 song: Beautiful Things by Gungor

Madison’s 6 words:

Disneyland was fun, yosemite was scary

Lincoln’s 12 words: 

New, exciting, fun, almost the best, disneyland was fun, yosemite was too

Kennedy’s 12 words:

Happy, sad, nervous, excited, grateful, cold, hot, wet, amazed, snow, new, astonished

Reagen’s 12 words:

California, fun, adventurous, Lightforce, Gloria, Victoria, worried, blessed, Back to the Manger

Ginger’s 12 words:

Thankful, blessed, new life, healing, magnificent, growing spiritually, running, exceptional people, adventurous

Mark’s 12 words:

Dates, fitness, forgiveness, family prayers, Mom’s visit, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Yosemite.

This was a fun/clarifying exercise for us. Now we’re off to add to our list.

How about you? What would your 12 words be?

Who’s Need Will You Meet in 2013

Sitting in a Starbucks parking lot, I was talking on the phone with my Dad back in Texas. As I told him the story of what two men had done for our family the night before my Dad said, “Wow! I’m glad you told me that story. What those two men did really encourages me.”

Here’s hoping last Thursday night’s experience will encourage you this Christmas season:

We were ending a fun-filled day at Disneyland. Around 9:00pm we dragged our tired bodies back to the large parking garage and discovered that our Suburban battery was dead. Ugh! I had no idea we’d spend the next 3 hours in that parking garage.

Fortunately, Disney offers an auto-club service (which doubles as security) and they arrived in a few minutes. Unfortunately, the battery was so dead that Tom (auto-service/security man) was unable to fix our problem. After working tirelessly (2 hours) to revive our battery, Tom gave up and called a tow truck service.

I asked Tom (a grandfather possessing an easy smile and the gift of gab), “What time do you get off work tonight?” Tom asked, “What time is it?” “It’s 11:05pm”, I said. “Oops!”, Tom said with a smile. “I’m already off but I can’t just leave you here.” So Tom stayed . . . for another hour.

Helping Hand

By this time, Ginger and all four of our kids were asleep in the suburban, we were a two-hour drive from home, and there was no indication that this night would end well or anytime soon.

While waiting on the tow truck a young couple, returning from the now closed park, walked by our suburban. Noticing the raised hood and my family sleeping in the suburban, the man asked, “Is it the battery?” Followed by, “Mind if I take a look?” He removed his jacket and within minutes his hands were maneuvering tools, covered with grease, and battery & jumper cables were going everywhere. Eventually, with his wife waiting patiently in their car, he said, “Give that a try”. To our amazement the engine started! Ginger and I made eye contact and smiled broadly as if we’d just experienced the miracle of the first Christmas.

I thanked Tom and and the other man (still a complete stranger) who caught me a bit off guard by asking, “Do you mind if I pray with you before you go?” I eloquently said, “Um . . . sure.” He asked God to allow us to make it home and to protect our family as we traveled. I humbly thanked this kind stranger and Tom and then loaded my exhausted body into the suburban to make the drive home. It was now after midnight.

As I began to drive away I noticed our rescuer had pulled over in front of us and he flagged me down. He handed me a yellow note and said, “Here’s my cell number. If your battery isn’t working your suburban could be running off the alternator. There’s a small chance it could die as you drive home tonight. If that happens call a tow truck and then call me and I’ll give you and you’re family a ride home to Ventura. Okay?”

I rolled up my window and Ginger & I looked at each other like two people do when they are overwhelmed with someone’s generosity.

We made it home without incident.

The next morning I uploaded this man’s phone number. Since I didn’t know his name I listed his contact name as “Good Samaritan”. Then I noticed that he had scribbled his name on the note: Bobby. So I texted Bobby to thank him and told him I was an “inspired pastor”.  Bobby responded:

“Mark, thank you for the kind words . . . May the Holy Spirit work through you in Ventura to impact people’s lives. I know your new to the area but if you ever need anything (maybe prayer), don’t hesitate to ask. Two hours is a breeze drive! 🙂 Merry Christmas Mark. Keep in touch. Bobby”

I told my Dad that I was reminded that God’s kindness should lead me to repentance (Rom 2:4). I told my Dad that I wanted to live my life in such a way that I would be listed as a “Good Samaritan” in someone’s phone.

Dad said Bobby is simply living his life the way Christ intended all of us to live. Dad quoted Matt. 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Here’s hoping we will all live our lives in such a way that others will be able to call us their “Good Samaritan” in 2013.

Change = Disneyland, dragons, and monsters

As a leader, learning to effectively navigate change is critical. Change energizes some and scares others.

This week we surprised our kids with Disneyland tickets. I have four kids. So you’re thinking four happy kids right? Nope. There was actually one opposition. Seriously. It was hilarious. Check out our 1-minute video.

I was sure the idea of taking our first trip to Disneyland was a great idea. I never imagined opposition.

Why did she oppose? Later she told me her reasons. She thought Disneyland was full of dragons and monsters. Why? I have no earthly idea but a place with dragons and monsters didn’t sound fun to her.

Once I showed her the online Disney website, she became excited about our trip. Turns out it was just a misunderstanding. I think misunderstandings often look like opposition.

As a leader, you’ll need to navigate change. Expect opposition. Someone in your group might be afraid that your idea includes dragons and monsters. Take the time to alleviate their fears and maybe the future will become magical.

Want your kids to have epic faith? Here’s a resource.

You are the greatest spiritual influence on your child.

That sentence might be important enough to re-read.

How are you influencing your child spiritually? If I’m honest, I gotta say, “I’m busy, often tired, and not terribly creative”.

I was enjoying a salmon salad last Wednesday at Bandit’s BBQ in Camarillo, CA. Across the table was my new friend Tim Smith. Tim’s a family coach, speaker, and author.

We spent the hour getting to know each other and discussing an event idea for next year. At the end of our lunch, Tim generously gave me a copy of his brand new book. He told me a little bit about it, I thanked him, and we went our separate ways.

As I thumbed through the book this weekend, I got more excited. “Tim really gets it!”, I thought. This book is for parents who want to raise Godly kids but are busy, often tired and not terribly creative.

52 Creative Family Time Experiences52 Creative Family Time Experiences helps you discover fun and creative ways to share spiritual truths while spending time together as a family.

It includes experiences for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

I highly recommend parents and grandparents purchase this book (just click on the book cover graphic). Remember, you are the most important spiritual influence on your child. (Duet. 6:5-9)

You can follow Tim on twitter (@ParentsCoach) or Facebook.com/ParentsCoach.

Best 5 Books I Read this Year

 Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

If you haven’t read this book, read it. It’s a page turner. Gripping personal account of 1996 Mount Everest hike that tragically claimed several lives.

Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg

BooksThis book should be required reading for all adults. It unpacks the messiness and beauty of living in community with others. Perfect book for small groups to study together.

The Art of Forgiving by Lewis Smedes

I now consider this to be the “text book” on forgiveness. Extremely thorough, approachable, and helpful.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Story of Olympic athlete and WWII prisoner of war survivor Louis Zamperini’s torture and forgiveness. Extremely compelling and then the story grabs your heart forcing you to do some personal soul-searching.

 Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Story of Deitrich Bonhoeffer who, as a theologian and pastor, opposed Hitler’s regime. Bonhoeffer became a key player in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. Powerful story of Bonhoeffer’s struggle between faith vs. politics and discipleship vs. religion.

How about you? What were some of your favorite books this year?

Simple Things

You may have some tough stuff in your life right now but you’ve got some good stuff too.

Stopping to list the little things is always helpful for me. Here are some simple things I’m really enjoying right now:

simple joys


I love hearing Ginger grind the coffee beans in the morning and then walking into the living room to ask me, “How’d you sleep last night?” I know conversation and coffee follows.


I love watching Reagen do a perfectly straight handstand. Reagen and I usually drive home together from church and I love hearing her tell me about her morning at church.


I love watching Kennedy do a graceful one-handed cartwheel. I love when Kennedy “gets” a somewhat sophisticated joke and flashes her beautiful smile.


I love watching Lincoln throw the football with a perfect spiral. I love when Lincoln encourages his sisters with his high-pitched voice.


I love hearing Madison sing with her natural vibrato and beautifully soft tone followed by her “belly laugh”. I love how Madison subconsciously rubs her blanket while she’s watching cartoons.

There are bigger things to be thankful for but today I’m enjoying the simple, wonderful things. What are some of your simple joys right now?

Avoiding Train Wrecks

During your next public talk, there’s one place where you are most likely to lose your train of thought. 

The next time you attempt to move people through a process, there’s one place where people are most likely to get stuck.

If you will identify and prepare for that one place, your talks and processes will immediately improve.

Before we talk about that one place, let me tell you about one of my most embarrassing ministry experiences. It was a public train wreck.

Train Wreck

A few years ago, I was leading Brenton Brown’s song, Jesus You Are Worthy  during one of our Sunday morning church services. I didn’t know I was blindly heading toward an epic train wreck.

Our band could consistently play that song flawlessly. We were completely prepared . . . I thought.

I started the song alone, playing my guitar and singing the first verse. Because I forgot to move the capo on my guitar, I was playing in the wrong key. So when the entire band jumped in, right on cue, immediately it happened. BAM! CRASH! Train wreck.

Embarrassingly, I stopped the song, took a deep breath, and we started over from the top.

Fortunately, I moved the capo up one fret on my guitar this time. Unfortunately, I was supposed to move the capo up two frets. So, I began playing and singing again. Right on cue, the band jumped in and, once again, BAM! CRASH! Train wreck.

I remember playing the song several weeks later in the same service. At the same point in the song, the band began playing and we were in the same key. I looked out over the congregation and noticed lots of people singing and smiling.

Despite being able to play the song flawlessly, we had a train wreck because of what I failed to do during the transition.

Like me, most of your train wrecks happen in your transitions. That is the one place you must identify and prepare for in every talk and every process.

As a speaker and leader, transitions are the intersection of success and failure.

Speakers: Spend more time rehearsing your transitions vs. your main points.

You rarely hear a speaker lose their train of thought while sharing their main points (Rick Perry’s Presidential Primary Debate would be an exception). Most of us hesitate, repeat ourselves, “chase rabbits”, or create awkward pauses during the transitions.

Leaders: Spend more time on steps vs. inspiration

If I inspire someone to consider joining a small group and then they get dropped, forgotten, confused, or discouraged in the process then that’s ministry malpractice.

Whatever you want to inspire people to do remember, the train wrecks happen in the transitions. Work hard to make the steps in your process clear, obvious, and strategic. Focus on the “how” just as much as the “what” and “why”.

So identify and prepare the transitions . . . and . . . move the capo up two frets.

You’re One Stupid Decision Away

You’ve probably heard about the young NFL player who inexplicably murdered his girlfriend this weekend. After shooting her, Jovan Belcher drove to the football stadium, and, in front of his coach and GM, took his own life.

In complete shock, his college football coach said Belcher was always “the standard” on and off the field during his college days. Imagine a player who did everything right but destroyed it all in one day because of one stupid decision.

Instead of honoring all the good Belcher may have done in his short life, the Kansas City Chiefs were put in the awkward position of having a “moment of silence” for victims of domestic violence before Sunday’s game. There will be never be a mention of Belcher’s name without the word murderer being mentioned. All because of one stupid decision on Saturday.

Stupid Decisions

Sadly, you could be next?

You might not murder but you and I are one stupid decision away from destroying all that we’ve worked hard to become.

One lustful pursuit, one arrogant decision, or one financial indiscretion and your marriage, family, career, and reputation could be forever changed.

Two “takeaways”:

1) You’re capable of a stupid decision. So am I. (1 Cor. 10:12)

Who has permission/access to tell you “I love you but that’s stupid”?

2) One indiscretion can permanently change everything. (Prov. 13:20)

Who’s helping you make wise decisions?