Friday, August 17, 2018

The Mystical Mundane

Twenty-two years ago today, we awoke in separate beds, in separate houses.  It was a bright, Texas summer day, a high of almost 99 degrees.  We were young, barely adults, giddy, stressed, but oblivious.  Neither of us really knew what we were getting into, other than each other’s arms and hearts.  We didn’t dwell much on the fact that much more would be blended and formed in the days and years to come.  Surrounded by friends and family, we vowed, exchanged, laughed, cried and danced.  We came together in ways both mystical and mundane that day.

And we still do.

Dirty dishes and diapers.
Building bonds and breaking barriers.
Late night tears and early morning prayers.
Homework and housework, yard work and heart work.
Raised voices and hushed whispers.
Bills, pills, spills and thrills.

All of it, my love,

every drop,
every stop,
every hug,
every shrug,
every rout,
every doubt,
every trip,
every flip,
every no,
every blow,
every yes,
every mess.

In the mystical mundane, I love your heart, your soul, your mind.

I am yours for all time.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Humility

One of our company's values is being a positive, transformative presence.  This has applications both here, internally and as we interact with vendors and clients, outwardly.  If this value is present, then every time I interact with you, you will feel honored, listened to, cared for and you will leave better off than when we interacted.  One of the pillars of being a positive, transformative presence is humility.

A good definition for humility is: not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.  (I believe this comes from Rick Warren.)  Many, many people get this wrong or backwards.  Humility can be seen in lots of ways in our day to day interaction: who jumps on the phone, who offers to wash the dishes, who hops up to install the job no one wants to or meet on a Saturday or after hours.  Humility is thinking about the people around you more than yourself and positioning yourself in such a way that you can help, serve and encourage them.  It’s easy to see, but takes discipline to develop into a habit.  At its core, it’s rooted in a healthy understanding  that you, are NOT, at the center of the universe.

Understanding this and practicing this allows us to be be confident and clear when people ask us about Hodell.  Humility doesn't mean we are groveling people with eyes cast to the ground.  We aren’t, however, bragging or showing off either.  Humility means being confident in knowing who we are and choosing to put ourselves and our needs second to those we interact with.  "Hodell is Here" means that interacting with us won’t be about us, our needs, tooting our own horn.  "Hodell is Here" means they will be interacting with a group of people committed to putting them and their needs above our own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Story

What has become the backbone of our time as a family on Sunday mornings is the Story.  There’s something about saying, together, as a family: this is the story we believe.  This is the story that we are a part of.  This is how we got here.  This is why we are here.

Each time it is the same story and yet each time the telling is different.  Each time the emphasis is the same but different parts are highlighted.  Each time I stop and ask what comes next at different points.

So it goes something like this:

We don’t know where he comes from or why.  We don’t know anything about him before this story, we just know how this part starts.  It starts in darkness.  And he speaks and it is good.  Light is formed, and sky.  Land and seas.  Planets and stars, moons and patterns.  Ravens and whales.  Ants and plants. And then something different.  The hands of this lead character from out of dust, the body of man, and he breathes life into his lungs.  He is male.  First man.  He bears the very image of the lead and it is very good.  And then the lead, the main character rests.

The first man is tasked with caring for and cultivating a garden, with naming animals.  The lead character, labeled God, wants good for the man and creates for him a perfect companion, someone who comes from him, is like him and yet unlike him, who also bears the image of God.  She is woman and they fit together like one flesh and they work and live and play without shame in this great garden, walking with God.

They have everything they need and along slinks a new character.  We don’t know where he comes from or why.  We don’t know anything about him before this story, we just know how this part starts.  He takes the form of a serpent and he whispers to the woman.

The essence of the whisper goes something like this: this God guy is no good guy.  He can’t be trusted.  Look at the power he has over you.  Can you believe he would keep you from enjoying everything that is in this garden?

And she takes the bait, bites into it.  They both do, woman and man, choose to not trust this lead character, they choose to take things into their own hands and they, together with the serpent, bring on themselves a curse.

They are cloaked in shame, clothed in the skins of the first sacrifice, and evicted from the garden.  The serpent is banished to his belly and the lead character, God, says that one of the offspring of this woman will someday crush him, would make things right.

From there we pick up the pace and jump from Noah to Abram and the Promise, again, that from his offspring all nations would be blessed.  He is called to sacrifice his one and only son and he does not hesitate, though it doesn’t make sense.  At the last moment his hand is stayed and a ram is provided, foreshadowing a future event that doesn’t make sense, an event so potent that the very fibers of reality will fray and dance in its wake.

Isaac has twins and the ornery one marries sisters and together with their concubines he has twelve children.  The youngest is sold into slavery by his brothers and goes from prisoner and slave to ruler and savior.  He is later reconciled to his family and moves them all to Egypt.

The story continues on with Moses, the prince of Egypt turned shepherd who trusts God and frees his people from the Pharaoh after ten signs that counter the gods of the Egyptians, the final one, again, showing the need for the sacrifice of a lamb.

Israel is freed and wanders in the desert, receiving the Law, whom God himself knows they won’t be able to keep.  While they wander he lives among them, in the Tabernacle.  They enter the land promised to Abram and we talk about the judges, the kings, the prophets, and the exile.  And the people are called back and are under Roman rule, longing for a king to come along and restore them as a nation.

And along comes another character, the one promised long ago, born to a young woman; announced by angels and searched out by shepherds and astrologers and kings.  His name is ‘God with us.’  He lives a fairly nondescript, simple life until he is baptized by his cousin at which time the same voice that called light into existence places his stamp of approval and calling on him.

This Yeshua travels around for three years with a ragtag band of unlikelies and not-hardlys, doing wonders, giving signs, and talking about a new kind of kingdom that was about to be formed.  He also tells them that he will be betrayed and killed and that he would come back, showing his love and giving proof that what he is talking about is real and true.

And that’s what happens.  Betrayed.  Crucified.  Buried.  He is resurrected to new life and spends forty days appearing to lots of people, reminding them of what he had said, promising that the one he refers to as Father would be sending his very presence to live in them.  They would become tabernacles and temples, living vessels.  The Law would be written on new hearts.

He does not institute religion or rules.  He says, live this life that I’ve been showing you.  Trust me.  Tell the world this headline story that all is forgiven.  You can be renewed and made right and live like man did in the garden.

He has gone and is preparing a new reality, a new heaven and earth and our life will go on into that one, where we will live with him, in his new economy, caring for and cultivating a new land, enjoying a life free of shame and pain like it was designed to be.

I know some of you that read this don’t agree.  Some of you think, “Dang Jason, if you’re going to pick a fiction to believe, why not Asimov or Jordan or something a little more fanciful and fun?!”  Others of you think, “Whoa, whoa, you skipped lots of details and proof and a whole lot of theology.”

That’s OK.  This is the story that I believe.  This is what makes sense to me.  This is what I choose to believe and it is life-giving, fulfilling.  It brings health to my bones and allows my soul to rest deeply.  It empowers me to be a loving, gracious father and a caring, empowering husband.  It leads me to be a good neighbor and a generous boss.  It frees me to forgive quickly and to be ready to respond when a prompting leads me to do or say something that I wouldn’t otherwise do.


What story do you believe?  What kind of life does it produce in you?  Hope this helps.  I wish I had been this consistent and thorough when my kids were younger.  Hope this challenges you to think through what narrative you have adopted.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Pulling Up Stakes


A few weeks ago, as a family we pulled up the stake on Sunday mornings.  I won’t get into all the details and reasons.  Suffice it to say, we, and I really mean, we, needed a break from “church”.  We needed to pull away and let the compass reset, to process the last seven years of being a part of a traditional, non-denominational American church.

We love the Church and we still love the church that we are connected to, and we are still connected.  We host and lead a Sunday night Family Group.  Our kids are still active in the Youth Group.  We still participate in the Family Promise ministry.  We still tithe there.  We’ve just pulled up a stake.  Granted, it’s a big one.

So for the past few weeks, we have gathered at home.  When it was cool enough, early in the morning on our backyard patio.  Now that it’s heating up, in our living room.  Our oldest daughter leads us in a time of singing.  Then I launch into the Story - taking us from creation to Jesus’ impending return.  Then we focus on a one-word theme or topic.  This is usually something that has popped up during the week or something that was impressed on me during my morning routine.  We then spend a few minutes by ourselves, answering a couple of questions before coming back together to discuss and do a check-in, discussing our high and low points from the previous week.  We end by taking communion together.  That’s it.

It’s been very refreshing.

We don’t know how long of a break we will take.  We don’t know where it will lead.  But we have a peace about it and are seeing really good fruit coming out of it for the time being.  Kids engaged and thinking, processing and applying.  Good rhythms being put in place.  Moving away from a consumption and attendance mentality and moving toward a participation posture.

I will begin posting some of the content that we have been using in case it is helpful to anyone out there.  I am not encouraging anyone out there to leave their church.  I am encouraging everyone to follow the Father’s prompting as they lead their family.  I hope these thoughts and this content will help you.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Out of the Fog, Out of the Blur.



I recently heard from some fellow business owners who attended SummitTrek’s 3-day LifePlan Retreat that a day or two later they found themselves deep in thought, facing some deep questions.  Hearing about their experience reminded me of where I was a year ago, the first few days after Heather and I attended the same retreat.

In a fog.  Blurry.  That’s what it felt like.  I remember it took me a while to shake it.  I also remember being surprised by it.  Why, after an experience so inspiring, that helped you dig, heal, and process, would you find yourself walking in a fog?

It’s hard to believe because now, a year later, I’m walking with more clarity than ever before.  I know where I’ve been and how God has redeemed that part of my story.  I know where I am in the present and am learning to choose wisely and boldly and creatively.  I know where I’m headed and have a degree of confidence and momentum that continue to propel me forward.

Ironically, I also had ICL surgery this week.  After years of dreaming about it, I finally bit the bullet thanks to the generosity of a close friend and the excellent referral of someone in the field.  For a couple of years I haven’t been able to wear contacts and my active lifestyle made glasses restrictive, so I was anxious and excited to try a procedure that claimed to eliminate the need for either.

ICL stands for Implantable Collamer Lens.  The procedure entails inserting a collamer lens behind your iris which corrects myopia and takes all of twenty minutes.  And some money.  Oh, and it’s life changing.

During the consultation and the pre-operative visits, the doctor and his staff told me about the risks, the numbers, the data.  Essentially this is what they said:
-Time and financial cost involved
-Minimal risk
-A great upside
-Minimal pain and downtime
-Quick recovery
-More mobile
-Lenses are removable which means you can upgrade as your eyes change
-Most people see even better after than before and they don’t require external aids to do so.

Yesterday morning at 6:30, Heather and I drove into rush hour traffic in San Antonio and made our way to Dr Parkhurst’s office.  I checked in at 7:30 and about thirty minutes, a couple dozen numbing eye drops and a couple of Valium tabs later, I was lying in a chilled surgical suite, listening to my choice of Pandora station (Oscar Peterson) and ready to roll.

Fifteen or twenty minutes went by and I walked out in a haze, with instructions and a promise.  It will get clear.  Give it some time.  Follow the process.

Thirty minutes later, I sat in an exam chair and I could see my wife’s beautiful face as she sat in the corner eight feet away, something I couldn’t have done an hour before without glasses.  Still foggy, still blurry, but I could see.

On the drive home, I could see cars, buildings, trees, signs.  Still foggy, still blurry, but I could see.

Later that evening, behind sunglasses in an auditorium on a university campus I watched my daughter’s violin recital.  No glasses or contacts.  The lights were still bright and things were a little foggy.  A little blurry, but I could see.

I got up this morning and there was no fog.  No blur.  I could see and it was unreal.  I walked around like it was the first day of my life, thrilling in every detail, in things I had taken for granted.  Later this morning, the doctor confirmed I have 20/15 vision and it might get better.

So, why is this ironic?  

Here’s what my friends at SummitTrek told me about the LifePlan retreat:
-Time and financial cost involved
-Minimal risk
-A great upside
-Minimal pain and downtime
-Quick recovery
-More mobile
-You will be equipped to create a vision for your life that will guide you as you change
-Most people see even better after than before and they don’t require external aids to do so.

So yes, we left LifePlan last year with questions.  Things were foggy for a few days.  They were blurry.  But we had a process to follow.  It took us a bit to adjust to a new way of seeing our past, our present and our future.  But we gave it some time and followed the prescriptions and vision became clear and is becoming more so.


Do you feel trapped?  Lost?  Feel like you’re drowning?  Aimless?  Wandering?

I would love to talk to you about the LifePlan Retreat.  Write me or click here for more information.

And if you’re tired of wearing glasses, I know a great doc.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Redemption Comes Crashing

This year, Heather and I participated in a retreat where, at one point, we were challenged to consider the struggles, hurts and pains from our past and consider how God has redeemed them.

Sounds like a pretty simple proposition framed around a large supposition.  Mainly, that God truly does redeem the hard things that happen to us.

As it turns out, I worked through the exercise and discovered that most of the heartache and pain I had been through, when looked at through this lens, really had been redeemed.  The exercise asked us to list out the ways specifically, which I did, except for one.

One.  Even after a decade.  Still doesn't make sense.  I don't get it.  I can't see anything good that came out of it.

And that was the battle with cancer that a young man in our church in Ancona lost.  Massimiliano's death does not make sense.  It doesn't fit.

Just weeks after that retreat, we found ourselves at dinner with Jim & Cindy Davis, themselves battling her cancer, battling the same questions: Why?  How long?  What is God doing?

I shared honestly with them about the redemption exercise and how I struggled to understand Massi's death and how walking alongside them through Cindy's disease scared me.  I didn't want it to happen again.

And it did.

And I don't.

Piles and piles.  Stacks and stacks.  Boxes.  Containers.  Tubes of paints.  Markers and pens.  Pencils and scissors.  Bags of feathers.  Totes full of stencils and tools I've never seen before.  An easel.  Walk into my office today and you will see this:


It's a mess.  A beautiful, haunting mess.

Last week we hosted Angela Foster with Rapha House for lunch in our office.  Our staff heard firsthand about what this amazing organization is doing to heal and restore victims of sexual trafficking around the world.  At the end of the presentation, at hearing that one of the things they do is teach art to these girls and young ladies, Jim asked if they could use Cindy's supplies.

Know this: Jim dreamed of seeing his beautiful Cindy using these tools in a studio of her own.

He longed for a day when things would slow down, settle down and she could paint and draw and craft to her heart's content.

He knew there were projects unfinished, sketchbooks half filled, images partly formed and shaped.

And for whatever reason, God said, "no."

And in a blind act of heroic courage, Jim offered these tools and supplies as a humble gift.  And Angela said she would take as many suitcases as it would take to get these supplies into the hands of these rescued little girls who are being restored.  Whose stories are being redeemed.

And as much as I don't want it to, it begins to make some sense.

It's strange.

Months before Cindy's death, I had approached her and commissioned a painting for our office.  I told her I wanted it to be something bold and vibrant.  Something that captured the heart of our company's vision:

Hodell is here to be a positive, transformative presence, to bring light into darkness and to provide the best solution to every window covering project.

And I thought, bitterly, that I never got the painting I commissioned.

I stand corrected.

I have this bold, vibrant vision of rescued little girls, holding the very tools that Cindy used to breathe life onto page and canvas, finishing her job.

Maybe redemption comes in waves.

It ebbs and flows.

One day it starts to make sense.  The next, it doesn't.

Maybe I begin to see it clearly here, but Jim just can't.  Not yet.

And the waves continue crashing.

His hand continues leading,
pressing,
writing a story of redemption through the tears and on the hearts of his children.


Monday, November 13, 2017

A Prayer for the Trafficked

Floundering in fear, shackled in shame’s chains,
Bruises borne on beloved bodies, borne heavy on hearts.
Deepest, darkest despair.
Despondent, drugged, desperate.

Hope is hopeless and ransom a distant dream.
Strength squandered,
Names nothing,
Tender trust doused.

Faces fractured, blurred in blood.
Marred masks ghastly glued.
Freedom fleeting,
Barely breathing.

But, no.

Stop!

Hope is coming,
Rescue rising,
Longing for life,
Dazzling light dashing darkness.

Chains change hands.
Smiles spread across scarred lips.
Clean, cleansing comfort;
Strong, safe embrace.

Arm in arm against harm and alarm,
Bring the battle!
Loose the light,
For those forgotten and trapped just beyond sight.

Like survivors rising after a storm,
Huddled and shivering and longing for warm.
We open our hands and our hearts and our homes
So they’ll find new life in the arms of the Lord.