Goodbye Coaching

Coaching…

Wow.

What a privilege…  What an honor…

What a journey.

Where did it all begin?

Did it begin when I got that call the spring of my senior year in college?  I remember it vividly.  I was a student teacher at the time observing my host teacher, Mr. Keenoy.  I saw the call come in on my phone and stepped outside with great anticipation.  My dream had come true!  My first real job.  I was the new head basketball coach of the Windsor High School Greyhounds…

Windsor

Or did it begin when I was contacted by my high school coach, Coach Roger Stirtz, earlier in my college career?  My alma mater was scheduled to play state-ranked Columbia Rock Bridge in an upcoming game.  Seeing that Rock Bridge was two hours from my hometown but only a short ten-minute drive from my dorm at the University of Missouri, Coach asked if I’d be willing to scout the Bruins on his behalf.  As soon as I sat down in those packed bleachers to scout that Friday night, I was hooked…

Rock Bridge

Or maybe it began the year before when Coach Stirtz called me into his office my senior year of high school?  It’d been a big dream of mine to be a starter for the Liberty Blue Jays—a program steeped in rich basketball history and tradition.  I’d worked so hard for so many years and was very nervous as I entered his office.  I knew Coach was meeting with each player to let us know the role we’d earned to begin the season.  I recall the moment he told me I’d be a starter for the Blue Jays.  I was overcome with feelings of pride and joy…

Liberty

Or perhaps it began even earlier—at some point playing for my dad between when I made that first granny shot for my kindergarten team to when I hit those 4th quarter three’s as a teenager in that Kansas City AAU Tournament?  My dad spent countless time, energy, and resources coaching me throughout my childhood.  He’s the reason I developed such a love for the game…

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After further reflection, I think I know the exact moment where it all began.  It’s my earliest basketball memory.  I’m not sure how old I was—maybe 3 or 4?  I was sitting on the stairs.  My mom had just finished tying my brand new, first pair of basketball shoes.  I had a ball in my hands and was staring at our front door with such excitement.  As soon as that door opened my dad would be walking in from work to take me…we were going to play basketball at the YMCA.  My dad and I.  Sharing a passion.  Together…

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Like I said before…what a journey.

And regardless of where this beautiful journey began, it’s now time for me to announce with bittersweet emotion that I’m stepping away from coaching high school basketball.

This decision is not easy, but I know with 100% certainty it’s right.

One thing I make a point of discussing with my team at the beginning of every season is the importance of priorities.  It’s my belief to be successful, we must have a good sense of recognizing and giving everything we can to what’s most important.  Part of this process requires us to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others.

Right now, as hard as it is to admit, I simply cannot continue saying “yes” to coaching high school basketball.

It’s a blessing really—having so many things in my life that are more important than my great passion for coaching.

My faith is more important.

My wife Alyssa and daughter Emery are more important.

Family

My friends and family are more important.

And a new passion–my desire to focus more on my career as an administrator is now also more important.

I’ll never lose my love for the game of basketball, but God has made it clear the time has come to say “no” to coaching.

Ten lessons I’ve learned and want to share especially for my fellow coaches.  Some of these will sound cliché but I’ve found them to be true and wish I fully understood them when I first got into the profession…

  1. Though coaching is a great passion, never let it define you. If coaching is the most important thing in your life, it’s my belief your priorities are out of whack.  You’re more than just a coach and are measured by more than a win-loss record.
  2. Never make coaching about you. It should ALWAYS be about the kids.  Even in those difficult moments, conversations, and decisions—it’s about the kids.
  3. Always be yourself. You’ll hear a million different ways of doing things and a million different people saying you should do this and do that, but when it comes down to it…be true to yourself, who you are, and what you believe.
  4. Never stop learning. I remember when I accepted my first head coaching job at Windsor thinking I had coaching basketball all figured out.  I couldn’t have been more naïve.  Eleven years later and I still learn a significant amount every season.
  5. Control the “controllables.” There’s lots of things that affect winning outside of your control.  Don’t get overwhelmed and stress out unnecessarily worrying over them.  Give everything you have to controlling what you can and you’ll be able to live with the results.
  6. Coaching attitude and effort should ALWAYS be what you coach first. No matter how much basketball knowledge you have, it’s irrelevant if your kids aren’t giving winning attitude and effort.
  7. Stay steady and humble. Understand you’ll get too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when things are not.  Don’t overreact to either.
  8. Expect and accept criticism. Coaching is a very public profession with lots of people who have strong opinions (right or wrong) on how you should do it.  Understand criticism comes with the job.  Don’t take it personal.
  9. Be honest and accountable. When you see an issue, confront it.  When you make a mistake, own it.  If there’s anything our kids should learn from us it’s that nobody is perfect and making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growing—no matter who you are.
  10. Be grateful. There’s a lot of people out there who’d love to be in your shoes coaching this game we all cherish.  You’ve been given a great honor and privilege to do this.  Not everyone gets the opportunity.  Be grateful.

I remember thinking back when I was a high school player how awesome it’d be to someday have a job like Coach Simpson.  Coach Simpson was Coach Stirtz’s varsity assistant at Liberty.   I really looked up to him because he was such a cool guy who clearly had a love for basketball.  His passion allowed him to play in college and even have an opportunity to tryout for the NBA.  I remember thinking how amazing it’d be just to become an assistant like him but never thought I’d get the chance because I didn’t think I’d ever measure up…

Back at Liberty

As I reflect upon those thoughts and where my journey has led me, I can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude and thanks.  Coaching has been a great joy I never really thought I’d get to experience at such a high level.  I have no regrets and am so very grateful.

There are so many people to thank…

I want to first thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  There are no words I can say to adequately describe what You’ve done in allowing me to experience this journey coaching basketball—let alone all else You’ve given and done in my life.  Thank you Lord…for everything.

I want to thank my wife Alyssa.  People underestimate the sacrifice it takes to be married to a coach.  The time away, the emotional toll, and the distraction that coaching can take from a marriage can be very difficult.  Your sacrifice hasn’t gone unnoticed and I’m excited you no longer have to share me with basketball.  Thank you for your love and support through it all.  I love you!

Alyssa

I want to thank the original “Coach Hammond,” my dad Tommy.  As stated earlier, you’re the reason I have such a love for the game of basketball.  If you hadn’t advised I be true to myself and follow my passions when I was younger, none of this would’ve happened.  You are why I became “Coach Hammond.”  I love you!

Dad

I want to thank my mom Nancy.  It isn’t possible for someone to have a better mother than I have–so loving, so sacrificial, so truly wonderful in every way.  Wow.  What a blessing you are to me and our entire family.  I love you!

Mom

I want to thank my brothers—Daniel, Ben, Tyler, and Jackson.  Without having the privilege to “lead” you as your older brother, not to mention all the times we played ball in the driveway growing up, there’s no way I’d be who I am today.  I love and admire each of you.

Bros

I want to thank all my players (past and present).  Each of you have meant so much to me during my career.  Whether you agreed or disagreed with how I went about things, I hope each of you know I care deeply for you and am so thankful I got to work with you.  I can only hope you learned from me a percentage of what I learned from you.

I want to thank all the coaches I’ve worked with.  Whether I worked under you or had you on as my assistant, I really cherish the moments we got to experience together in what is without a doubt one of the most rewarding yet challenging professions there is.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey.

I want to thank my friend and mentor, Coach Roger Stirtz.  You’re a big reason I developed such a love for high school basketball and there’s no way I would’ve become a varsity-level coach without you.  Thank you Coach.  My admiration for you is immense.

I want to thank all the schools who trusted me with the honor and privilege of leading/helping lead their basketball programs (Rock Bridge, Windsor, Liberty, Smithville, and Belton).  I did not take the responsibility you entrusted me with lightly and gave everything I could to help our students be their best.  I’m forever grateful for the opportunities you gave me.

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I want to thank the principal of Belton High School, Mr. Phil Clark, for giving me the opportunity to become a school administrator and mentoring me these past three years.  I’ve never met someone who works harder at what he does and it comes from a sincere place of wanting to make a difference in kids’ lives.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team.  I’m eternally grateful.

To all those who’ve helped me along the way who I haven’t mentioned—friends, family members, colleagues, and others—from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

And finally, I want to thank you “Coaching.”  What an incredible calling you are.  You brought me great love, joy, and excitement.  You also brought great humility, frustration, and tears.  You brought me great confidence yet also great doubt.  I’m thankful for it all and can’t imagine a greater experience in responsibility and leadership than what you’ve given.  I’m a better husband, father, and man because of you.  And though it’s become clear I’m now better off without you, you’ll always be a part of me and I’ll miss you more than words can say.

Thank you for the ride.

Hammond

-Coach Hammond

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O How I Wish It Weren’t This Way

O God, How I wish it weren’t this way
She’s so small, so sweet, so precious this day;

Her smile so tender and touch so warm
She’s no doubt at fault for making cuteness the norm;

But I know that someday she’ll mature and grow
And this precious time together will melt like the snow;

And all the bouncing and rocking and lifting her up
Will soon turn to school and friends filling her cup

O God, How I wish it weren’t this way
That I’d have to say goodbye to this baby someday

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O God, How I wish it weren’t this way
That she be born in a world where pain seems to reign;

She’s too innocent and precious to me, O Lord
I can’t fathom the idea she’d endure sin’s scorn

See she’s protected and grows to be strong
And that she’d be a light despite all that’s gone wrong;

But most of all God that she’d come to know You
As You’re the only one who can carry her through;

O God, How I wish it weren’t this way
But I’m beyond thankful You’re with her always

 

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A Prayer Lord, for my Daughter

Dear Lord,

As I sit here gazing at this newest and most special blessing You’ve bestowed upon me, my heart is overwhelmed with joy.

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Thank You for blessing us with Emery.  For allowing her to be healthy and strong.  For giving my wife the strength to carry and birth her, for empowering the medical staff to deliver her, for granting us the ability to provide for her, and for blessing our family with the utmost support in every way imaginable.  You Lord have blessed us far more than we could ever deserve.

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With all You’ve given us God, it seems selfish–if not outright greedy–to ask for more.  But You Lord tell us to continually ask as long as we do so in Your Name.

Therefore God, I ask…

I ask that You give her mother and me the wisdom, strength, patience, and fortitude to raise Emery how You would have us raise her.  For her to be a woman of God who loves You and follows You no matter how challenging and difficult it may seem.  May she put her trust in You God.

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I ask that You give her strength God.  Strength to overcome life’s challenges that’ll be sure to come.  Strength to put others before herself in a society that increasingly puts the self above all else.  Strength to stand up when she needs to stand up and to sit down when she is called to sit down.  And strength to overcome any sufferings she endures as she recognizes that You Lord experienced great suffering and overcame.

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I ask that You bless others who come to know her God.  May You surround her with strong, godly friends who will support her and help her be her best.  May you allow her to be a blessing to those she comes in contact with–both the friendly and the unfriendly.  May you allow her to be a great light that brings many to know You in an ever-growing dark world.

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I ask that you give her a fulfilling and rich life.  May she experience great joy, deep love, and powerful relationships.  May she be allowed to explore creation and experience life’s beauty to the maximum degree.  Most importantly, may she come to fulfill Your will for her Lord using the gifts and passions You’ve bestowed upon her to live to her fullest.

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I ask that you allow Alyssa and I to do right by her God.  To support and advocate for her in every way.  To provide her the space and freedom she needs to pursue her dreams as well as the boundaries and discipline required for her to be successful.  To smother her with hugs and kisses unconditionally while at the same time teaching her to be accountable for her actions and never be too good to say “I’m sorry.”

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Selfishly God, I ask that I have the opportunity to be with her–to hold her hand, play with her, dance with her, wipe her tears when she cries, embrace her when she rejoices, and always be her #1 fan.  To watch her learn and grow into a great young woman who loves life and is a blessing to others.  To be there on her wedding day giving her away to a God-fearing man worthy of her love.  To someday hold her own children in my arms as she prays a similar prayer on their behalf to You O God.

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And please Lord, when she comes to learn the truth about me–that Daddy is in fact not Superman but a broken sinner who left to his own abilities will inevitably let her down–empower in her the assurance that her Heavenly Father always comes through as You are far greater than Superman–You’re her perfect Savior who will NEVER let her down.

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Once again Lord, I thank you for our Emery.  I promise as her father to always treasure her for the special gift that she is and do my best to protect her, support her, and build her up to the highest of my abilities.

What a blessing she is O God.  May her story make Your Name Great.

Amen

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What’s in a Name?

As many of you know, my wife and I are having our first child coming up here in a few weeks (due date is May 26th!).  With this major life change comes many important decisions we’ll have to make–one of the first of those being her name.

A name is a huge part of a person’s life.  It truly is our identity in that when our name is spoken, we will respond to it for all of our lives.  A name also becomes the verbal symbol of who we are in that when people hear it, they’ll think of us.  A name can also provide meaning (our baby’s name–Emery–means brave, powerful, and industrial).

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In Matthew 1: 23, we find the meaning of the most important person’s name whoever lived–Jesus.  His name means “God with us.”  This meaning provides so much insight into who Jesus is that I could write for pages upon pages about it. However, today  I want to focus on two points:

  1. What His name means for salvation
  2. What His name means for leadership

First of all, the most beautiful part of “God with us” is what it means for our salvation.  In all other religions, the idea is for people to try to work towards achieving salvation by pleasing a deity or achieving “nirvana” through rightful works or being “good enough.”  That is to say that if God were atop a mountain and we were at the bottom, we would have to successfully climb our way up it through our own efforts to achieve our salvation.

In Christianity, God tells us that we will never be “good enough” based on our own efforts yet He loves us so much that He came down to earth, humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, and earned salvation for us on our behalf.  That is to say that if God were atop a mountain and we were at the bottom, He freely decided to descend said mountain, offer us a free ride up the mountain, and do all the work for us by taking us up Himself so that we may receive the salvation at the top.  All we must do is accept the free ride.

This has numerous ramifications for us but here are three simple ones:

  1.  It simplifies our salvation.  No longer do we have to work towards some sort of arbitrary goal of being “good” or achieving some sort of perfect state of being.  All we have to do is accept God’s gift that He freely offers us and then trust and follow Him to the best of our abilities.
  2.  It liberates us from wondering if our actions are good enough to make us right by God.  Through His work on the cross, we can do good works not because it selfishly earns us points towards our salvation, but we do so cheerfully to obey God, serve others, and follow His will without having to compare ourselves to those around us or balancing our good deeds against our bad.
  3.  It allows for forgiveness of sins since being perfect or even “good” is acknowledged as being an impossible feat for humans to achieve.  As long as we’re sincerely following Christ, we can have the confidence in knowing when we do mess up, God will forgive us if we ask with a repentant heart and humble spirit.

Personally, these truths have made my life so much simpler.  When I look at my past, I know God has forgiven me for my mess ups.  When I look at my present, I know God is in control and the only thing I need to worry about is following Him to the best of my ability.  When I look to my future, I know my salvation is already paid for and I can live confidently knowing I find my identity in Christ and nothing else.  There is no need to compare myself to others’ achievements or even to my own expectations of “success.”  As long as I follow God’s will, I will be a “success” in the only way that truly matters–through His eyes.

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The second point I want to touch on is much more secondary and doesn’t quite have the eternal implications of the previous.  However, I do feel like God coming down to earth didn’t only show us how to receive salvation but also gave us a glimpse into how can go about living our lives–including how we should look at leadership.

All of us at some point will be required to lead in some capacity.  Whether it’s leading others through our roles in our jobs, becoming a parent and leading our children, teaching or being a role model for someone else, or simply organizing any sort of event or activity whatsoever, we will all at some point in our lives be called a leader.

There’s lots of great ideas and philosophies out there on how to be a quality leader and I’m sure they’ve all got great ideas and aspects involved with them.  However, God (being the ultimate leader) humbling Himself, coming down to earth, living amongst those “beneath Him,” and leading them not through His position of authority but through serving amongst us, I think shows us the ultimate lesson in leadership.

Matthew 20: 25-28 sums it up best:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

What does this tell us in regards to leadership?

In our role as a leader, do we sit atop our leadership “mountain” demanding those beneath us rise up to our will?  Or do we, like Christ, descend from our “leadership throne” to be amongst those we’re leading and not only work alongside them but actually serve them as Christ served us?

I think the below illustration gives a great representation on the different views of leadership.  The leader on the left represents how many in our society view leadership as it being an opportunity to be on top and “rule over” those beneath us whereas the leader on the right is the type of leader Christ modeled for us and calls us to be as this leader works alongside those he leads in a humble and loving way.

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The biggest takeaway here is when God does bless you with an opportunity to lead, rather it’s in your job, at home, or simply for a brief moment in time, do so with a humble attitude and loving heart.  If the God of the universe–who is in fact perfect and better than all of us–could humble Himself and do so than it should not be asking too much of us–who in no way can call ourselves perfect or even “better” than those we lead–to do so in kind.

There are lots of powerful insights we can gather when reflecting upon God’s wonderful name.  How truly blessed we are that God chose to live among us both in flesh through His Son Jesus 2000 years ago and now amongst us through His Holy Spirit.

Praise His Holy Name!

-BH

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An Emotional Reminder

The first verse I’m going to discuss in my return to writing actually brought tears to my eyes upon reading it.  The verse was so real, so convicting, and so comforting that I had to go back and reread multiple times to let it properly sink in.  The emotion struck me hard.

As referenced in my previous piece, it had been a very long time since I had actually read the Bible and felt any sort of connection or closeness to God while doing so.  Why was this the case?  Why didn’t every time I open the Bible I feel the power of Jesus?  Why hadn’t I longed to connect with the Creator of the Universe on a more regular basis?

This verse addressed those questions and even a much larger, overarching one:  Why did Jesus even come to Earth in the first place?

Matthew 1: 21 gives us the answers when the angel of the Lord addresses Joseph as he considers how to respond to his fiance Mary’s unexpected pregnancy:

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

It’s so easy to look around and see that people clearly need saving.  From when we turn on the news and hear of the atrocities going on across the globe to when we go about our everyday lives and see the imperfections in others, it’s obvious that this world and the people who inhabit it are not as they should be.

Why did I have such a rush of emotion upon reading this verse however?

I knew this world was broken and full of sin and knew the only way people could be saved from their sins was through Jesus.

I shed tears this morning because it reminded me that I too needed saving.

How could a man who professes to have a relationship with the Almighty Creator spend so little time getting to know Him in His Word and in prayer?  How could someone be so preoccupied with himself that he ignores the One who brings any sort of relevance and meaning to what he does?  How could a man be so full of sin yet be more attentive to others’ shortcomings in lieu of his own?  How could such a man call himself a Christian?

God used this verse to strike me with the answer:

Brady, you too have fallen short; you too are in need of rescue; you too are why I had to die on the cross… you too need Jesus.

All of us (Christian or not) can see this world does not measure up.  People are evil and can’t be trusted.  Our systems are broken and don’t work as they should.  Suffering is rampant and sorrow reigns.  These things are no secret whether you believe in God or not.

It is much harder, however, to come to grips with the fact that we are also apart of the problem.

We too do not measure up to the standard God has set for us.  We are evil and can’t fully be trusted.  We are selfish and do not live as we should.  Suffering is rampant and sorrow reigns because we refuse to live as Christ call us to live.  These are truths much harder to deal with when we force ourselves to look inward rather than just outward.

Thankfully, God knows we can’t obtain the perfection He requires on our own; that it’s impossible for us to climb the mountain of righteousness to be in His presence; that we need someone to save us.

That’s why Jesus came.  That’s why He died on the cross.  That’s why I shed tears of joy on this day…

Because Jesus came and He saved me from my sins.

Thank you, O Lord.

-BH

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I’m Back…

Well folks, a lot has happened since I last ventured onto this website to write.  The Lord has blessed me with another new job (as an administrator and basketball coach at Belton High School), new home, and a new baby girl on the way!  With all these new changes and activities, it goes without saying my return to writing has nothing to do with boredom or having “too much time on my hands.”

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So why now?  Well, like a lot of Christians out there, I recently came to the realization that I’ve allowed the world to get in the way of my spiritual growth.  I’ve allowed my “busyness” to be an excuse to not prioritize my faith and have let the other things become more of a priority in my life than what should be the most important–my walk with the Lord.

I owe some of my revelation to an outstanding writer that I’ve been following for the past couple of years–Matt Walsh.  Matt is without doubt a controversial figure who many people have differing opinions about.  He’s certainly not perfect (like all of us) but what I do appreciate about Matt is his willingness to search for and speak truth (no matter how unpopular) in a society that seems to be getting further and further away from it.

Matt’s recent article about lukewarm Christianity really struck a nerve with me.  It was through this piece I came to the realization that I’ve become more and more of an indifferent Christian in an indifferent world than someone who is actively living out his faith and trying to make a difference within it.  This revelation led me to the one logical place where I could address the issue…God’s Word.

I’ve read the Bible a lot throughout my life.  I’ve done quiet times, Bible studies, and even read the Bible chronologically in a year as part of a small group assignment.  This time, however, I went to my Bible with a different mindset.  I wasn’t going to complete a small group study or to fulfill some personal obligation to be able to tell God that I “completed my Bible time” this morning.  This time when I went to God’s word, I went for one reason:  to learn and grow closer to Jesus.

Reading the Bible as a “spiritual homework assignment” has always been a struggle for me…

Okay God, I’m going to do my best to drag myself out of bed a 6 am to read an obligatory chapter or two of scripture then rush into my closet, get dressed, brush my teeth, grab a Granola bar for the road, and then jet out to work like the McCallisters jetting out to an airport…

Doing this for a week or two and then inevitably burning out without remembering hardly anything that I read or thought during these speed reading sessions has not been a recipe for success for me.

This past Wednesday, however, instead of opening my Bible with a preconceived number of chapters or amount of time I insisted on reading, I simply came wanting to read about the most fascinating, powerful, and controversial figure in the history of the world–Jesus Christ.

I didn’t have any outside motivations, no intent on reporting to God that I completed my Bible time, no obligatory feelings of “I must do this once a day to be a good Christian.”  I did this simply to grow closer to Jesus.

As a result?  For the first time in a long time I actually enjoyed reading the Bible.  I was fascinated to open up to the Gospels and begin reading the most amazing story in the history of mankind.  It was liberating to find that once I came to a passage that really stood out to me, I could go back and reread without having to look at the clock or look at how many more pages I had to read before I could deem myself finished.  This time, I found myself actually being able to hear God, learn from his Word, and get something out of my so-called “quiet time.”  It was amazing!

After reading in this new way, ample thoughts, ideas, and reflections came into my head that I wanted to grapple with more and more.  Then it occurred to me:  what better way to apply and share my reflections than to return to writing?

Thus, I’m back…

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It’s not my intention to promise you I’ll write every week, just like I’m not going to tell God that I’m going to set my quiet time for a certain time or day of the week.  This plan may work for some people but it simply doesn’t work for me.

I intend on reading God’s word only when God calls me to it, which certainly will be on a regular basis but not on a predetermined day, hour, or time period.

Similarly, I intend on sharing with you what I’ve learned also on a regular basis but there will no promises of it being “every Saturday” or “at least twice a month.”

I don’t want my time with God or my writing to become some sort of homework assignment.  I want it to be what it’s meant to be:  a time to spend learning and growing closer to Jesus.

I’m excited to be back and can’t wait to share with you what I learn and hope all of us–especially myself–are able to grow closer to God through the process.  Thanks for supporting me on this ongoing journey!

-BH

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