"Whatever you do, do it with all your might as working for the Lord, not for men." - COLOSSIANS 3:23

My Tribute to David Landrith

It was my first spring basketball practice for High School ball. Still in school at the Jr. High, I was incredibly apprehensive, somewhat intimidated and totally unsure of what to expect. From the time I walked into the gym and saw the upper classmen, guys I had watched play on that hallowed court at Bradley Central, our best player David Landrith always made me feel special. His 6’6 lanky frame and closely cut hair never changed as long as I knew him. Even up to just a few months ago, 30 years later,  David always looked the same. More than that, David always acted the same. One could say, he was incredibly mature as a High School boy or that he just never really grew up as an adult. Both would be accurate, but only because David wanted it that way.

I remember that first summer practice and the first time I heard David’s famous saying, “You got to C’mon!” His last personal tweet before Jen took over his phone had that same familiar saying as he promoted his beloved Long Hollow Church with those same words, “C’mon.” (see his tweet dated 10/25/14) Speaking of Twitter, David had 8,000+ followers, so imagine how I felt when I got a notification that my very first follower upon creating an account was @davidlandrith. Again, he made me (all of us) feel special. David specialized in making people feel special.

As a Sophomore, this Senior Captain of our team took me under his wing. We poured on the sweat and worked hard each day in the gym battling with our teammates and opponents, but it is the off the court memories that I am most reflective of. We shared a passion for basketball and people, but mostly our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even as High School “kids” we had healthy discussions, sometimes debates about the Bible and what we had learned from our devotions, studies, church’s theology and speakers that we had heard. In the end, as teenagers we came to the same conclusion we discussed the last time I saw him just a few months ago. “Let’s forget all the debates, quit wasting time discussing any minor differences that don’t really matter and go tell people about Jesus.”

We have all experienced loss. I personally have lost a younger brother at 28 and sister at 32. Loss is incredibly difficult and the pain is sometimes almost insurmountable. I often wonder how one makes it without the “comforter.” (Holy Spirit) Even as I pound these keys, my eyes blur with tears. Losing David is a heart shattering blow to all of us! We have literally prayed daily for David and for my childhood neighbor, Jennifer (Ramsey) Landrith and family since the day we heard the shocking news almost 2 years ago. The call came and the news was that David had this dreaded disease that we all fear. We have prayed for Long Hollow church and those with the daunting task of following such an anointed Leader.

My daughter wonders why I am so moved when speaking of David. After all, she knows I have experienced numerous losses. She has as well. But there was just something about David Landrith! I imagine David is walking down the streets of Gold and as he passes each mansion more people jump in and follow this infectious personality. While we are left to celebrate his life on Earth, David is overwhelmed with countless lives that are sharing their story with him of how he impacted their lives. Heaven is rejoicing and David is pain free and totally healed from all disease. He is talking with so many that he never even really knew while here on earth, but they sat in the chairs of his church, maybe they heard him preach or were somehow connected to his ministry. David had no idea of the impact he had while on earth. David Landrith’s impact was massive.

As I write these last words, if I look up to the heavens………………………………… and listen really close……………………………….. I can almost hear David……………………… “Rich, this is the place we used to talk about and it’s ALL that! This place will put you where you oughta be!………………………….. YOU GOT TO C’MON!”

I’ll be there soon my friend. There will NEVER be another David Landrith.

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Confession: I don’t know how to parent…

Well, she’s 15 today and I’m a basket case! My daughter who just yesterday could lay down and nap on top of my chest is now a beautiful young lady. She is wonderful and talented. She loves Jesus and I couldn’t ask for more. It seems last week that I could feel her tiny little heart beating against my chest and I could hold her in one hand. 15!!!! Now what?

If you are a parent, maybe you have experienced this same helpless feeling of “how do I do this?” It’s been said that, “there is no manual for parenting” and yes I am guilty of having all the answers BEFORE I had my own children. The truth is, all we can do is simply TRY our BEST and TRUST HIM the MOST. I don’t have any answers, but here are 3 parenting suggestions:

1. PRAY for Wisdom and Guidance. TRUST God’s inspiration for the answers to the questions. ASK the MASTER.

2. PRAY for Patience. DO NOT act in haste. A deliberate strategy may produce the desired outcome with your children.

3. PRAY for Passion. Ask God to give your children an area that they are passionate about. That passion may occupy the mind, therefore eliminating the time to get into things they shouldn’t.

While these 3 suggestions are simple, parenting is NOT! I pray your children are rooted in the love of Christ Jesus and that they (Mine included) somehow understand how imperfect we are as parents. (Imperfect yes, but trying our very best to show them the way) I ask for you to pray for Stephanie and myself and we will do the same for you.

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Are you Trustworthy?…

Trust is one of the most powerful words in our language. The human race operates under monumental levels of trust without even realizing it. Examples: We drive at high rates of speed passing cars that are merely a few feet away from us. We sleep at night trusting that our locks will keep out the bad guys and on and on we trust.

It is this need to trust that causes us to hurt so deeply when trust is broken. I continually watch as people break trust doing serious damage to relationships. Many times trust is never regained and the relationship is totally lost. Other times, it takes many years for the healing to occur. The Bible is clear regarding forgiveness. However, I have witnessed the forgiveness piece in action, without a relationship ever recovering.

Let’s remember how valuable Trust and being Trustworthy really is. Remember it is earned, not easily given. More than that, let’s strive to continually be trustworthy. Prov. 17:17 “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Are you trustworthy?

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My Special Sister

It was 15 years ago today. Keri Marcel Hughes’ life was celebrated at our church. We had a time of reflection and a time of worship as we imagined her seeing her beloved savior face to face. Oh, how she loved Jesus.

No one loved Church more than Keri. If the doors were open and she was able, she was in Church. (bible in hand) From the time she was born, she had physical challenges and the medications used to attempt to control the epilepsy took portions of her mind. BUT nothing could ever take her HEART. She was the greatest lover of people I have ever witnessed. Her smile was infectious and just watching her function each day in spite of her limitations was amazing. Seldom was she able to attend my games, but I remember those special times she would greet me at the door after a win. She had listened on the radio and knew the outcome. Her approval of my play was on the same level as I sought from my coaches, teammates or parents. There’s something special about special children. Words cannot explain it, but those with special ones understand.

15 years later, I tearfully write these words just to pay tribute to the greatest winner I have ever known. Keri’s victories were greater than anything I could ever accomplish. Today, her handwriting is perfect, her voice is beautiful and on key as she sings her worship songs and her physical body is made perfect. She is probably working a mean crossword puzzle or playing some angel in checkers. (the things she loved) Whatever she is doing, she is competing to her best ability and has a huge smile on her face. She fits right in among all the other angels.

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How to Talk To Yourself…

We all do it. Some do it more than others, but we all talk to ourselves. Second guessing, name calling and the occasional self encouragement are just a few of the ways we have this ongoing conversation with…….. well…… ourselves. One of my recent conversations went like this…..”Richie, you Idiot.” Now, I don’t really believe I am an Idiot, but when you hit your tee ball in the woods at the golf course, it’s either ”Idiot” or something much worse. Being that I refrain from profanity, “Idiot” seemed appropriate.

I read a powerful sentence today that “spoke” to me. (see talking to myself again) This sentence simply said, “When you talk to yourself, say nice things.” As you go through today, remember to encourage yourself. BUILD up rather than BEAT up and I am referring to yourself. You are God’s Masterpiece and HE sees you as just that. How do you see yourself? Half the battle may be won by saying NICE things to yourself.

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Competing with Class

Hi, my name is Richie and I’m an “OVERLY COMPETITIVE AHOLIC.” There, I said it and admit it. Quite frankly, I’m not ashamed. After all, doesn’t the Bible say to “run the race to win the prize?” Last Friday night, I witnessed an incredible event in our community. The BRADLEY/ CLEVELAND High School football game is one of the year’s best events and has been for many, many decades. This year was no exception as the game’s outcome was holding in the balance until the final minute as the Blue Raiders blocked a PAT after the Bears scored on a long TD pass. The final score: 21-20. (can’t get any closer) Multiplied thousands attended and were truly entertained by young men on both sides giving all they had and playing their hearts out for their respective fans and schools.  To see this type of fierce rivalry take place with little or no incidents is a true testimony to the CLASS of our COMMUNITY. Please understand, in this community you must choose one or the other. (we actually have 3 great schools now, recently adding Walker Valley HS in the past 10 years) There is no love lost. For a time period during my High School career, (19–  - 19– none of your business) Bradley and Cleveland stopped the annual football game due to excessive, uncontrollable violence! History tells us that many championships are determined by the winner of this game. True rivalries can only continue to be rivalries if both teams have a chance to win each year. Any type of one sided, long term dominance kills a rivalry. The Bradley/ Cleveland game is most always a pretty even match up and the “county trophy” goes back and forth, never staying at one school for any great length of time.

So at least until basketball season, where we will all do it again- probably 3-4 times counting the district, region and even state playoffs, CHS has bragging rights. Me? I attended Bradley and love the Bears. While my team lost this time, my reflections are on how the players reacted with the utmost of class the entire night. (no taunting each other or the crowd), how most of the fans supported their team with spirit, but weren’t overly obnoxious as some can be and how 7-8000 of us filed out of the same gate to our cars in the same parking lots without major incident. Kudos to our school superintendents, principals and coaches. You all COMPETED WITH CLASS. Dadgum, that blocked kick!

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I’m under Twitter Attack

Those that follow me on twitter know that I normally attempt to post something encouraging. Most often my posts involve some sort of reference to my passion and love for Christ. Sunday I happened to be outside for an hour or so and it was an amazingly beautiful day thus I tweeted: “Get outside and tell me how anyone could believe in evolution. Only an Omnipotent God could create a day like this. #thankful” My intentions were to say thanks to an awesome God for blessing us with a near perfect day.

Wow! I started a firestorm of attacks. I’m not a twitter expert and have never searched for topics or key words, but evidently a lot of people do. I began to receive replies from several people with the hashtag #atheism. I will not repeat, but as you can imagine, they were not exactly a standing ovation of my tweet. While I don’t waste my time replying to negativity, it wasn’t even my intention to criticize evolutionists. So I write these next words to both groups of people – Christians and Non- Christians.

What you believe or don’t believe is certainly your business. My book “Start Here, Go Anywhere” is all about “Choices.” What I know to be true about my God is not debatable. It is not a Theory or Scientific analysis. FACT: I KNOW whom I have believed and am persuaded that HE IS ABLE. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ALL things work together for the good of them that love the Lord.  And finally, In the beginning GOD CREATED the Heavens and The Earth. – Source: The Bible

I refuse to back down or believe that my beautiful wife and daughters EVOLVED from a Monkey. No monkeys have EVER looked like they do. (I have been accused of evolving or possibly even still being a form of a Donkey). Anyway, God bless all of you.

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Do The RIGHT thing…

The Story

Imagine yourself as a young leader who sees a better way to operate in your organization. When you ask the big question “Why” the answer is “that’s how we have always done it.” Most of you just said, “That’s ME!!” You have looked at a process or system and you are confident you have a better way of doing it. If you are like me, you research it, study others and their operational process and make your Pros and Cons list. Then maybe, just maybe…. you muster up the “guts” to tell your leader “we can do this more efficiently and here is how.”

Upon becoming CEO and Executive Pastor of a large Mega Church with a successful Television Ministry, I was faced with this challenge: The TV ministry was doing well (not broken) but I saw how we could make it better immediately.  Our delivery time on resources to viewers was like all other TV offers: “Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.” We processed all orders by hand, in house with our church members who were paid on salary and full benefits. The process worked fine, it was just slow. After some research, I discovered that we could outsource the fulfillment of orders and have customer delivery in 4-5 days! This efficiency would encourage our partners to order more and further their support for our ministry. As I mentioned, I researched it, called everyone I could talk to about the way they did fulfillment and made my list. The pros and cons list looked like this:

Pros

*Customers receive products in 4-5 days not 4-6 weeks

*Outsourcing would save us $163,000 the first year in salaries, benefits, etc.

*Timely processing would increase further support from the partners generating a larger budget to     purchase even more airtime for the ministry

 

Cons

*5 wonderful people lose their jobs

*Risk breaking a system that was working just fine— in my first few months on the job?

*Trusting an outside agency in another state instead of walking down the hall to check on the operation taking place live in house (easily monitored)

 

The other challenge that haunted me was that one of the 5 employees that would be terminated was a dear friend of our family and her Father was on the Board of Directors for the ministry. Yes, I am crazy!!! I was considering firing one of the Board member’s daughters!

 

Upon realizing that this was what I believed to be the RIGHT THING to do, some wise council advised me that I may be firing myself. “You don’t break things that aren’t broken and you NEVER fire a Board member’s daughter” they told me. The only problem was I knew what was RIGHT and every tithe paying member trusted us with their finances. How could we explain slower, less efficient customer service at a price of over $163,000 more annually?

 

We pulled the trigger and went for it. We stepped out on faith and presented this to our Board of Directors. With fear and trembling, I presented all of the details, due diligence and support information. Upon finishing, I awaited the hard questions and privately wondered if I had just committed professional suicide. While I am presenting some of my anxieties with this issue, I had earnestly sought the Lord and felt confident in my spirit that HE had my back. After a very short Q and A session, the Board voted unanimously to proceed with the plan. Yes, unanimously! That means that a Father had to vote for his daughter to be unemployed.

 

The Takeaway

We learned a huge leadership lesson that day! Andy Stanley says, “Choose the HARD right over the EASY wrong.” When facing challenging issues, most often we know what the right thing to do is. Often times, we just don’t have the courage to do it. We operate in fear of losing our own status, job or being criticized for taking a risk. This example goes to show that doing the RIGHT THING will garner more support than expected from sources that are sometimes surprises.

 

The Challenge

What are you afraid to do that you know is the RIGHT THING to do? Who are you afraid to cross? What relationship do you fear you will lose by taking action? Ultimately, the question is who are you trying to please???? DO THE RIGHT THING and let God take care of the details.

 

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WE are NOT Egypt…

As we celebrate Independence Day, this year I am especially thankful. Yes, I am aware of the unrest in Egypt, the Snowden leaks case, the political turmoil surrounding our nation’s healthcare, the Martin/Zimmerman case and other challenges the world and our country face today. I actually check out 3 different news channels each day  just so I can see both sides of each issue. Here is what I have found:

1. We are a nation of strong OPINIONS, but are rarely totally divided or combative.

2. Our economy is not at a peak, but nothing like Egypt (Tourism down 40%, food and gas costs up greatly, energy costs skyrocketing)

3. Our leaders are not receiving glamorous reviews, but America does not have over 20% of the entire population in the streets protesting and attempting to overthrow the Government.

4. Our current President spent yesterday with our former President from a different political party with very different views. The 2 leaders joined together for the good of a cause for Africa. Egypt’s President is in hiding.

On the 4th, my family will grill burgers and dogs, laugh and tell jokes, reminisce about the past and look optimistically at the future. We will sweat and swim (maybe not if this Hurricane of a rain storm doesn’t pass) shoot hoops, play volleyball and eat ice cream. We will watch a quality fireworks show and remember what these words represent:

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

GOD BLESS AMERICA- LAND THAT I LOVE!!!

 

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America- 2013 version

 

Memorial Day Weekend- One of my favorite times of the year. We gather with family, camp out, cook out and get outdoors. The weather forecast in my city is great. (82 degrees and sunny) But, we MUST remember who we are memorializing. With American flags decorating my home and business, I cannot seem to get enough of the “wounded warriors” ads on Fox News. The touching stories of those who, unlike myself, fought to defend this FREEDOM my family enjoys daily. We cannot take it for granted!

In a time where America is moving further away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is incumbent on us to defend the faith more than ever. In doing this, we MUST do so in a way that reflects the LOVE of Jesus, rather than the HATE of other groups who kill in the name of their God. Jesus loves us all and is “no respecter of person.” The Bible does not say Jesus only loves those who love Him, those who follow Him. Jesus loves all people……ALL Americans.

In an America where we seem to be declining in every moral category, let’s be reminded of the wonderful freedoms we still possess. Celebrate the opportunity to worship freely in  the Church of our choice. Rather than complaining about the battles we as Christians seem to be losing on moral issues, let’s continue to equip our families and churches with the way of the WORD. The “wounded warriors” remind us this weekend of the price that was paid. Let’s focus on their sacrifices and enjoy the wonderful benefits that so many have provided us in the 2013 version of the USA, USA, USA!!! God bless America!! USA, USA, USA………

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