Parenting Your Kids Like You’re Running For President

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Being a parent can be difficult but now there’s help. Instead of doing the hard work of instilling character into your children, just train them up in the discipline and instruction of a presidential candidate.

The Trump Approach

My son had to give a presentation in front of his class on Thursday morning. He spent a week or so doing all of the reading. Earlier in the week I helped him put everything together  so that it would all flow smoothly on the big day. But none of that helped on the morning of the presentation. He wasn’t his usual, bouncy self. Instead, he walked around the house like he had seen a ghost.

He was nervous.

So I had a talk with him.

I told him that the teacher who would be grading his presentation wasn’t fair. She wasn’t a top notch educator. In fact, she was out to get him. And then I convinced him to just skip the presentation, stay at home and watch M*A*S*H reruns. For the veterans, of course.

The Bernie Approach

The next time your kids argue over wanting more of something, do not yell at them. Do not  even correct them. Just give them more of what they want. But, you might ask, how is a parent supposed to pay for all of this?

Easy.

Just go next door, force the parents over there to raise the allowance they give to their children and then take that extra money to make your little angels’ every wish come true. When the money runs out next door, just keep moving down the street. When all of the money is gone, turn the entire street into a prison camp and call it economic equality.

See how simple that was?

Feel the Bern!

The Hillary Approach

Don’t worry yourself with what your kids are fighting about, struggling with or suffering from. All of that is beneath you. Let them eat cake.

But know this. Inevitably, because of your neglect, something terrible will happen. When it does, just let out a creepy laugh, keep saying, “What difference at this point does it make!” and blame the whole thing on a YouTube video. I suggest the one where those folks in Alabama are looking for a leprechaun.

You may not like the presidential candidates but they’re all rich, powerful and on TV a lot. And after all, isn’t that every parent’s goal for their children? Simply following the example of some of our country’s most talked about politicians may not make your kids rich or powerful but I can guarantee you that it will eventually land your kids on television.

Or on a YouTube video looking for a leprechaun.

Good luck!

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Scars In Heaven

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Christians have a lot to look forward to. No matter how bad it gets on this earth, we know that things won’t stay this way. Pain and heartache will not last. Death does not get the final say.

That’s not to say that life isn’t hard for Christians. It is. And it doesn’t mean that we look forward to the day of our death with some creepy fascination. We just know that hardships are no match for the eternal joy that will be ours with Christ. We know that death, though painful, does not get the final say.

Of all people, Christians have the greatest reason for hope.

As our bodies age, hurt and betray us, we know that we have the promise of a new and imperishable body that will be beyond description and equipped with everything that we need to fully enjoy and obey God (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

In the new heavens and new earth, there will be no cancer hospitals, no AIDS, no jails, no political corruption, no divorce, no broken hearts and no sin.

But there will be scars in heaven.

Those scars won’t be ours. That weird mark just above your eyebrow from the time when you thought that the sliding glass door was opened will be long gone in heaven. Your new body will not carry the marks of your kidney surgery or that old football injury.

The only scars in heaven will belong to Jesus.

In talking about our new bodies, Paul tells the Corinthians that we will bear the image of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49). After Jesus rose from the grave, he was not the bloody mess that he was while the Romans beat him. He didn’t walk around with the fatigue he had on the cross. But he still the scars.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:24-28 (ESV)

In his resurrected body, Jesus walked with people and carried on conversations with them (Luke 24:13-35). He walked through walls (John 20:26) but he was no ghost. In his resurrected body, Jesus even prepared and ate breakfast with his disciples (John 21:1-14).

But why? Jesus had the power to conquer death. Couldn’t he also get rid of the scars that the crucifixion left on his body? Of course he could. But there’s a reason why he didn’t.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

Jesus did not die simply to redeem our souls. His death redeemed us as whole persons. That includes our bodies.

When we finally get to enjoy the new heavens and the new earth with our scar free bodies we will look to Jesus and be constantly reminded of how it all came to be. Scars have a way of reminding us of things.

Every scar has a story just beneath it.

Several years ago I was playing with my dog in the backyard. I named him Hines after Hines Ward, the great Georgia Bulldog football star. My dog was big and looked mean but he was really friendly. Sometimes he was too friendly. I have a scar on my hand from one of Hines’ friendly moments. Whenever I look at that scar, I think about Hines.

And so it will be for us in eternity. The scars that remain on our Lord will remind us of what really matters. They will help us to remember that our new bodies are only possible because of Christ’s broken body.

I can’t wait for the day when all diseases are gone. I’m looking forward to finding out what it will be like to have a body that is not broken by sin. But, as nice as that will be, none of it is the ultimate point.

Christ is.

And for all eternity, his scars will remind us of that.

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Stop Listening To The Perfect Parents Of Perfect Kids

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My son’s Apgar score was kind of low.

An Apgar score, in case you’re wondering, is the test given to a child as soon as he is born in order to evaluate his health. Ten is the highest score possible. If your child gets that, he’s destined to either grow up to cure cancer or to be the bad guy in every 1980s romantic comedy ever made.

I can’t remember exactly but I think that my son scored somewhere around a negative 13. If your child scores a negative 13 on his Apgar, he’s destined to one day drive a car with a War Eagle bumper sticker on the back of it. That is to say, his future isn’t too bright.

My son was born with one difficulty after another and spent the first moments of his life hooked up to wires, suction cups and other medical devices that doctors and nurses use on sick kids. A few days after he was born all sorts of people were asking me about him. They were the usual questions. Are you getting any sleep? How is he eating? Have you made him wear the Dale Earnhardt Jr. onesie that I gave you at the baby shower?

But there was one question that caught me off guard.

What was his Apgar score?

After I gave my answer, the questioner looked at me as if she was surprised that he was even alive and then told me about some of the problems that he could have. As you might imagine, I didn’t walk away from that conversation feeling very encouraged.

About a year later my son was in his stroller while my wife was talking to another mom. The other mom seemed concerned about my boy. You see, he wasn’t talking in complete sentences yet. And, of course, her daughter was. Oh, and those sentences were in both Latin and English. And I think that the little girl was only two weeks old and had already been accepted to Harvard. The other mom suggested that my wife teach sign language to our son to help him catch up. Again, that wasn’t a very encouraging conversation for my wife.

My son is nine years old now. A few days ago we went for a half mile run. I couldn’t catch him. He can speak 4,000 words a minute. When he has math homework, I can’t help him with it because my brain shuts down when letters, decimal points, fractions and, well, numbers start getting involved. Perhaps that says more about my Apgar score than my son’s but you get the point.

He’s doing just fine.

One day, if God wills, my son will interview for a job. The man on the other side of the desk will not ask for my son’s Apgar score. And he won’t ask if he knew how to use full Latin sentences before his second birthday. More importantly, my son will one day stand before God to give an account for his life. Apgar scores and Latin accomplishments won’t come up then either.

But some parents like to act as if all that will matter. They brag continuously about the accomplishments of their kids in a way that seems to demean you for allowing your kid to actually be a kid rather than a full grown adult in a toddler’s body. Stop listening to these people.

For the most part, things even out. I’ve seen a lot of tiny athletic and academic freaks of nature who never quite live up to the unrealistic standards that their parents had for them.

Remember this, perfect parents of perfect kids do not exist. To put it another way, anyone who tries to come across to you as the perfect parent of a perfect kid is lying to you. They are simply covering up their common flaws with accomplishments that just don’t matter all that much. So stop listening to them.

When my wife was still carrying our son, she went to work one day despite not feeling all that great. Her friends were all coming up to her and saying that today could be the day that she gives birth, even though the actual delivery date was still a few weeks away. They were all excited and happy. And then came an expert to rain on the parade.

“You’re nowhere close to having a baby. I can tell by the way that you’re carrying.”

My wife went into labor that night.

Beware of those parents who know it all, have seen it all and who have it all together. They will beat you down. They will discourage you. And they will lie to you. Stop listening to them.

Instead, listen to the people who love you enough to share their parenting fears, failures, victories, imperfections and words of wisdom with you. And if you know any young or soon to be parents, be that kind of a friend for them.

There is no shortage of parenting experts.

But what most parents could really use is a friend.

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You Don’t Really Want Prayer Back In Public Schools

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I grew up thinking that every problem in the country, at least the educational problems, would be solved if the government would just allowing prayer in our schools again. Now that I’ve got a few more gray hairs, I’ve come to realize that I’m not really for “putting prayer back in public schools.”

To be clear, I haven’t gone off the deep end, traded in my Bible for the writings of Gandhi and replaced the preaching time in my church with yoga. I’m firmly committed to Christ, his word and his people.

It’s my faith in how good of a job the government would do at leading and teaching legitimate prayer that is lacking.

At some point long ago, we started believing that in order for our prayers to really work, they need to be said by the principal every morning on the intercom right after reminding everyone that prom fees are due by next week. Before we get what we ask for, let’s take a moment to consider what would happen if prayer were allowed back in public schools.

There are a lot of Christlike teachers, teacher’s aides and principals working in public schools all across this country. But can you be certain that one of them will always be leading your fourth grader in that day’s prayer? Of course not. There is the very real likelihood that your fourth grader will be led by his teacher in a prayer to Lothi the Tree God followed by an interpretive dance to Hillary the God of Womanhood. Are you sure that you want that kind of prayer in school?

A while back I heard a guy talking about the school that his kid goes to. Here’s a quick recap of what he said.

“Man, it’s a great school but they push Jesus too much.”

And here’s the funny part.

His kid goes to a Christian school.

Rule of thumb: if your kid goes to a school with Christian in the name, unless of course that school is Christian Laettner Elementary School, don’t be surprised if he comes home having been taught a Christian worldview. It’s what Christian schools do. Well, at least the good ones. But it doesn’t stop there. If your kid goes to a public school, that is one that is funded and operated by the government, don’t be surprised if she comes home having been taught a secular worldview. You know, how to put condoms on bananas and that sort of thing. No matter the educational setting, it is your job as the Christin parent to use the Bible to either affirm or deny what your children have been taught that day.

If you insist on sending your kid to a public school, teach him to pray. Teach him that prayer doesn’t always have to be out loud. Teach him that God hears the prayers of his people wherever they are. Teach him that some prayers are made without a sound.

But if you prefer to send your kid to a school where teachers and administrators pray to the Father by the help of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus, don’t hold your breath waiting for the government to give that to you. Find a good Christian school.

Putting prayer back in schools is one of those loaded political phrases like, “Hope and Change” or “Make America Great Again” that either has no meaning at all or more meanings than you would like to know. Don’t get me wrong on this. I believe that prayer in school is a good thing. I think that kids are better off starting out the day with their teacher or principal leading them in a legitimate Christian prayer. I think that coaches should be free to pray with their teams. But in a religiously diverse society such as ours, we must remember that in many institutions, prayer would mean nothing more than public statements of whatever faith, or lack thereof, rules the day at that school. At a school in rural Georgia, that could mean praying to God. In Madison, Wisconsin it will likely mean something completely different.

So before we start repeating the talking points about putting prayer back in school, perhaps we should start praying that genuine repentance and renewal would happen in our homes, churches and communities. Without that, your kid would be left with nothing more than diversity day if his school were to start throwing in public prayers every morning.

Prayer never was taken out of public schools. I went to a public school for seven years and prayed frequently. Especially during those moments when the teacher asked everyone to turn in their 12 page paper on the complexities of thermonuclear physics and all I had was a notecard reminding me that some really long paper about something that sounds really hard was due sometime in the distant future. As long as that happens, as long as a girl comes to school after having just watched her family fall apart, as long as classmates die and as long as terror looms, there will always be prayer in school.

No government can stop that.

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The Sheep Pasture: A Children’s Story

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I’m going to publish a children’s book about sheep. Because I care so much for you, I’ll save you the $34 that children’s books usually cost and just give you the story here. You’ll have to just imagine the drawings. Here goes.

Sammy the Sheep and his friends spent a lot of time together. They liked to play and laugh and have fun in their home, the Sheep Pasture. But there was one problem. His name was Barry the Sheep and he was their leader. He did all that he could to take away the freedoms that Sammy and his friends enjoyed. He was always trying take away their toys and he was constantly telling them where they can and cannot play. A long time ago, Sammy and his friends could play wherever they wanted but not anymore.

One day, Sammy and his friends decided to choose a new leader. They wanted one who understood their frustrations. Finally, they found him. His name was Wally. Everyone loved Wally. He was funny and he always said whatever was on his mind. This was especially great compared to how Barry was constantly telling all of the other sheep what they can and cannot say and blaming every problem in the Sheep Pasture on them.

More and more sheep were getting excited to have Wally as their new leader. They started putting up signs about it. The cheered whenever they saw Wally. The began looking forward to the days when they could play like they wanted without so many rules.

There were a few sheep who weren’t so sure about Wally. There was something different about him and they were the only ones who seemed to notice. Whenever they tried to share their concerns, the other sheep wouldn’t listen. In fact, they would just start screaming louder.

“Wally! Wally! Wally!”

Finally, Wally became the new leader.

There was a party in the Sheep Pasture to celebrate the new day that had arrived. The celebration went well into the night. Late that next morning, Sammy noticed something strange when he woke up. He couldn’t hear the birds chirping. He heard water but it wasn’t the same sound that the river running through the Sheep Pasture usually made. This water was louder. As Sammy stood up and wiped his eyes clear, there was something else that he noticed, or rather didn’t notice.

The sun.

It wasn’t there.

Something was blocking it.

Sammy went looking for his friends so that they could help him investigate. He couldn’t find them. Maybe they got up before him to check things out. He hurried to catch up. As he walked through the Sheep Pasture, he noticed that the water sound was coming from a giant fountain. Behind the giant fountain was a much taller building. There had never been any kind of building in the Sheep Pasture before. This one seemed to disappear into the sky and, of course, block the sun.

Sammy walked up to the front entrance of the building. There was a sign just above the door.

It said, THE WALLY PLAZA, HOTEL AND CASINO.

Just then, Wally came walking out. His presence startled Sammy.

“Sammy, it’s good to see you. I’ve been looking for you.”

“What’s going on? What is this big building for?”

“It’s for me. Do you like it?”

“Well, it kind of takes up the whole Sheep Pasture.”

“I know. Isn’t that great?”

“Where are my friends?” Wally asked with one part curiosity and one part fear.

“I just had them for breakfast,” Wally answered smugly.

“Well, where are they now?”

“You don’t understand. I just had them for breakfast. They were great. Really great.”

“Wait, you mean you actually ate my friends for breakfast?”

“Of course I did. After all, I am Wally the Wolf. What did you expect me to do? Did you actually think that I was trying to be your leader so that I could make the Sheep Pasture great again? Now come with me, it’s almost time for lunch.”

Wally the Wolf grabbed Sammy the Sheep’s hand and walked him inside the giant building.

It wasn’t until then that Sammy the Sheep knew that he had been had.

The End.

So what do you think?

I’m thinking of calling it The Sheep Pasture. Either that or Why You Shouldn’t Vote For Donald Trump.

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Missing The Point About The Return Of Christ

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People talked about it quite a bit in the church that I grew up in.

In college and seminary, the conversation carried on, usually with louder and more intense voices.

Christians love to talk about the return of Christ. And that’s a good thing. But sometimes we talk about it so much that we miss the point. We make scary movies about what it will be like for those who might be left behind. We print out charts to prove how right we are concerning the exact details of Christ’s return. Churches have even split over those exact details.

I’ve seen scary movies about the return of Christ. I’ve walked on haunted Halloween trails devoted to reminding me of how terrible the tribulation is going to be. I’ve gotten caught in the middle of conversations that nearly turned into WrestleMania because people just couldn’t come to an agreement on the finer points of the tribulation. I’ve even heard of churches splitting up over those finer points.

But there are places where I have never heard those conversations. Hospitals. Nursing homes. Death beds. I’ve never had a guy who just found out that he’s got two weeks to live want to argue with me about the thousand year reign of Christ.

Here’s what we do talk about.

We talk about hope. We talk about Jesus’ victory over the grave. We talk about the day when Christ returns and all things, including our aging and decaying bodies, will be made new. It’s not that the details of Christ’s return can’t or shouldn’t be discussed. They should be. But hospitals, hospices and death beds remind us that all of those details come together to point to something greater.

Hope.

Because of Christ’s resurrection from the grave and his promised return, all believers have hope beyond the grave. We may disagree on the order that these things will play out but what we can agree on is greater than what could potentially divide us.

We all hurt. We know what it’s like to not feel quite the same way we did 20 years ago. When we get down on the floor to play with kids or grandkids, we make noises on the way back up that we didn’t make two decades ago. Some are all too familiar with the pain of a serious disease or injury. Others need the help of one of those pill containers that has a slot for every day of the week just to keep track of the medicine that keeps their body functioning properly. Even the healthiest among us have seen how cancer can damage the body of a loved one. Every person’s body may not know the pain of a deadly disease but every person’s hearts does.

We ache.

But for believers, the pain of an aching body is overshadowed by the hope of a returning Savior.

That’s where we find the real heart and soul of the second coming of Christ. Not in proving ourselves right in some lunchroom conversation in seminary. Not in arguing in the church parking lot. But in the hope that comes with knowing that Jesus died, rose again and is coming again to make all things right.

All things.

Even bodies ravaged by ALS.

All things.

In Christ, we are not promised to have all of the answers or all of the details. But we are promised that he will return to redeem this broken world and our broken bodies. And that hope is enough.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (ESV)

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A Guide For Jaded And Frustrated Christian Voters

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Here are our options.

One one side, we have a lady who has spent her entire adult life getting away with murder. I mean that figuratively. Sort of. Right behind her is the guy who thinks that the system of government that has failed everywhere else that it has been tried will somehow work splendidly in the United States.

On the other side we have a reality television star who people like because he, “Tells it like it is.” Ironically, those same people tend to get very offended when someone tells them like it is and points out that their man sounds like a dangerous hybrid of a dictator and a drunken college student. Battling neck and neck with him is the guy who promises to save us from the mess that we are in despite the fact that he has very strong ties to one of the organizations most recently responsible for the mess that we are in.

So what are we to do?

First, we should know by now that voting for whoever our party of choice nominates, even if it happens to be the devil himself, just because he would be better than what the other party has to offer is foolish. Remember, in this technique you’d still be voting for the devil.

Second, if you’re not already, now would be a good time to pray. And don’t just pray for who you should vote for. Pray for your country. The fact that our presidential options are so limited has more to say about us as a nation than it does those who are running for president.

Next, based on your research and your time in prayer, vote. Even if you don’t like the options given to you, vote. Vote for Tim Tebow. Vote for Alex P. Keaton. Vote for your dad. Voting is a good thing. Even if there aren’t a lot of good things to vote for, you should still do it.

Finally, lower your expectations. Perhaps you really do like the guy who you voted for. Great! But remember this. He’s going to let you down. No matter how much you like your new president, he’ll do something stupid. When he does, you’ll be tempted to excuse him because some other president from a different party did the exact same thing. That may be true. In fact, it probably is. But it still doesn’t let your guy off the hook.

Election years are sort of like pep rallys for below average high school football teams. There are those cheerleaders who act as if their 5 loss team is going to finally turn it around this week and win in such a dominate fashion that they’ll get invited to play in the Super Bowl. And then there are those kids who skip the pep rally and hang out in the bathroom to smoke cigarettes because the pep rally is stupid.

Don’t be either one of those.

Participate.

But just remember that no matter what, the sun will still come up the day after the election. You might get taxed an extra 14% for it coming up but that’s okay. It will still come up.

Unless God doesn’t want it to.

The same one who controls the sunrise is the same one who controls the candidates. He handled Pharaoh. Nebuchadnezzar was no match for him. Herod never had a chance. In their own way, whether through plagues, dreams or worms, each man found out that there was One who ruled over him. That One still rules today. And he’ll continue to rule long after each 2016 presidential candidate is gone.

Christian, your options may seem few. Don’t let that get you down. And don’t drink the Kool-Aid given to you by smooth talkers with wealthy backers.

Just do what you think is best for your country, all the while remembering that this country is not your home and the next president is not your King.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV)

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Peaceful Easy Feeling

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I mean no disrespect to David Bowie. I was sad to hear of his death last week. I felt bad for his fans. But I wasn’t one of them. The same goes for Alan Rickman. And Dan Haggerty.

Glenn Frey joined them in death on Monday night. But his passing really bothered me. Whenever the folks in Hollywood finally get around to making a movie about my life, there will be quite a few songs on the soundtrack that were written by Glenn Frey.

Their Greatest Hits album was among the first CDs I ever bought from those Columbia House mail outs where you could by 12 albums for a penny. Later on, when I needed money in college, I pawned it for five bucks. And a few years after that, when you could download your albums online, guess which one was among of the first.

I put a lot of miles on my car while listening to the Eagles. I thought about life while listening to the Eagles. I wondered how a Don Henley could play the drums and sing at the same time while listening to the Eagles. Don was the most talented and had the most successful solo career. But Glenn was always my favorite.

We have a tradition in our house. At pretty much every meal, we listen to music. A lot of meals in our home have been eaten while Glenn Frey sang to us about taking it easy. It didn’t take long for my sons to fall in love with the Eagles like their father did. There were quite a few nights when they would ask me if they could listen to the Eagles while they fell asleep.

I always said yes.

Glenn Frey was 67 when he died on Monday. That seems to be the norm for the rock stars who make it out of their 20s. Whenever I listen to the Eagles, that’s where Glenn Frey is. His 20s.

On Monday night, I was reminded of how wrong I was. Glenn Frey wasn’t 20. He was 67. His music may live on and on but he will not. And that makes me sad.

When I was in college, right around the time the Eagles got back together, we had to go to chapel everyday. On Fridays, there was usually a band that played the cool, cutting edge music that apparently wasn’t allowed to be played the rest of the week. They played a song called Sweet Home Up Above Us to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama. See what they did there? And they also used to play Amazing Grace to the tune of the Eagle’s Peaceful Easy Feeling. It was basically the same words as the old hymn with the chorus to Peaceful Easy Feeling thrown in.

I’ve got a peaceful easy feeling

And I know you won’t let me down

Cause I’m already standing on the ground

Glenn Frey lived the life of a rock and roll star. It’s that lifestyle that likely caught up with him at 67. It wasn’t always peaceful and easy for Glenn. Sure, he was successful, but there was still turmoil. There was heartache. And there was sickness.

I just hope that at some point before Monday night, Glenn Frey, even in the face of death, got to experience God’s Amazing Grace.