My Makenzie Monsoon

A few hours before dark, eight years ago today, my Makenzie left.  She wasn’t sure she wanted to go but the lure of a ballerina photo shoot was too strong to resist.  I was sitting at my computer in our little office by the back door as she leaned over and gave me a kiss goodbye.  That was it. 

Three plus hours later, she left again.  This time, her departure was more dramatic — more powerful.  Truthfully, she didn’t leave, God ushered her out.  A red light.  A hitting of the gas and not the brake and in a moment, it was done.  She was gone.

Eight years seem like a long time for some.  For me, it seems like eight seconds.  The pain of the loss of Makenzie has changed, but the ache never goes away.  The hole she left isn’t filled by time, it is simply there. 

Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not writing these words in sadness or sorrow.  I don’t tap the keys trying to fight back tears.  Those days are done.  I pen the remembrance because I have to.  Just seeing her name pop from the screen is part of the cathartic healing that is lifelong. 

So today, I fight against the monsoon of memories her 18 years has left and I am okay.

Peace,

(Hippo Campus song about Makenzie.  The clock tower at the end shows the time when she died.  Video producer had no idea)

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What Do You Want? – Todd Stocker.com

“Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:5 NLT


I love that Jesus’ main tool of teaching was asking questions.  Here you have the master of the universe, the creator, and knower of all things, asking finite people questions to teach them about life, about God and about loving well.

For instance, Jesus asked people,

  • Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?  (Matt 6:27)
  • What did you go out to the desert to see? (Matt 11:8)

And probably one of my favorites…

  • What do you want me to do for you? (Matt 20:32)

I love this question because you and I don’t ask it enough.  Truthfully, Jesus isn’t a vending machine, but he encourages you to be honest with yourself and with him and ask for want you want.

It feels selfish.  It feels petty.  And often times, because of our skewed view of what’s truly important in life, the answer is self-serving.

Yet I challenge those who would wart it off as not putting God first.  If you are a Christ follower, your faith leans you toward asking for help.  Faith realizes the need for the Devine and when we humbly and truthfully answer what Jesus asks, “what do you want?” Faith answers from the deep longings of our souls.

Will he grant it? Possibly.  Does he want to? Absolutely.  It is why Jesus taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.”

So what do you want?  Do you even know?  Maybe, it is a question you need to process with someone else.  Remember, he loves you and has great purposes for you.  Ultimately, it is to know him and walk in the ways of Christ.

Peace!

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Connect or Die! – Todd Stocker.com

Mn State Get TogetherI was at the great Minnesota get together (a.k.a. state fair), enjoying the gobs of people, the explosion of aromas and the onslaught of visual colors that make this event such a great celebration.  With my closest friends, we ate everything from Reuben bites and fried pickles to cheese curds and thick malts. 

As we closed the evening, sipping the last of our mini-donut beverages, I scanned the faces of the people I love: a teacher, a police officer, a small business owner, a lawyer, a flight attendant, a home CEO, a worship leader and others.  My heart was full.  I couldn’t imagine doing life without this group.  We have seen each other through loss and pain and through success and joy.

Social scientists have done mountains of work on the benefits of connecting with other people on a life-giving level.  Research indicates that those who are not actively in or seeking other friendships (outside your immediate family unit) are 30% more likely to die earlier than the average person.

I guess that’s one of the reasons the writer or Hebrews says to not stop meeting with each other.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25.

Who are your closest pals?  In what ways can you continue gathering together?  What would it look like to let them know how grateful you are for them?

Peace!

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Solving Problems With Music – Todd Stocker.com

solving problems with music.001If you play an instrument or enjoy singing, you know the power and complexity of the art in which you create.  Notes and swells.  Rhythms and lines.  Something magic happens when melodies carry the soul to deeper understanding.

Science backs it up.  When you play, sing, write or engage in music, the art activates almost every part of your brain and you are given new insight into everyday situations. 

I stumbled upon Psalm 49:4 where the great leader David writes,

Psalm 49:4 “I listen carefully to many proverbs and solve riddles with inspiration from a harp.”

This scripture tells me that there is wisdom and power in pondering deep sayings like proverbs or healthy quotes and encourages me to use my music gift to take me to a deeper understanding. 

What are you pondering today?  Are you too busy to meditate on the deep sayings and teachings of the Master teacher?  When was the last time you used music to solve a problem or gain new understanding?

For me, Psalm 49 reminds me of what I’ve long been missing — times of wonder and ponder; times of creative solution-finding through music. 

Grab a guitar.  Give it a try.  Who knows what new understanding you’ll find dancing on the ivories of a piano.

Peace!

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Crisis America: How Should Jesus People Respond? – Todd Stocker.com


“Hi church,  Pastor Todd here.

I feel I need to take some time to address what has happened and is happening in  our country.

Like you, I’ve been watching the recent events unfold over the last year and specifically over the last few weeks and I have to tell you, I’m emotionally exhausted.

I hear of Dallas police officers are shot and killed by someone who used to proclaim himself as a christ-follower, only to let his anger and rage take over.

I hear of a Black Lives Matter group blocking traffic on I-35W, putting themselves in danger but also delaying an ambulance also causing an hour plus delay for commuters.

I hear of shootings and arrests and terrorist activities like those recently in Turkey and France and I’m emotionally exhausted.

Like you, my emotions run the gamut from being Angry and frustrated to being hopeful and trusting — reminding myself that God is well aware of what’s going on in the hearts of all Americans and in the fabric of our society.

So what do i do as the church.  what do you do as the church?

I want to give you three things for you to consider in your context — where you live.

First, and this is important to hear — you don’t shy away from the conversation but you do it with humility and love. 

The political debates can get heated.  The arguments among groups of people you know can lead to broken dialogue and relationships…

And often,  you and I approach these situations in unhealthy ways.

I have to confess that I’ve fallen into sin by taking to Social Media and voicing my opinion in a way that was not designed to help,

but instead, to try to convince others that I’m right — they’re wrong and worst, I’ve ranted in a spirit of anger.

Church, that isn’t biblical.  that isn’t Godly and I confess it.

No, we aren’t going to agree on everything with everybody.  Yes, we have a right to our opinions and beliefs about issues affecting our Country.

But, as Christ-followers, you and I don’t have a right to be sinful if or when we enter into the conversation.

Instead, you and I need to take a deep breath and filter everything through the question, “How would Jesus speak to this event, or would he? How would Jesus address this issue?”

After all, aren’t we Jesus -followers?

In Jesus day, inequalities were way worse that we’re experiencing today.

In his day, societal change and pressure was happening all around and the disciples’ natural reaction was violence and anger and fear — just like us today.

But Jesus looked at people as broken yet beautiful.

He looked at people as lost, yet loved and he gave his life for them and for you. I just think we need to get back to seeing people the way Jesus does.

All of us fly off the handle because we feel an injustice has been done to us but the solution isn’t retaliation, violence or anger.

One solution is what I saw happened in Dallas during a Black lives matter rally where a group of whites staged a counter protest across the street from theirs.

Representatives from both groups agreed to meet in the middle of the street on the median but then the Black Lives Matter total protest group crossed the street and they all began to hug.

Humility … love … agreeing to disagree and being okay with that.

Second, you don’t allow fear and disgust to overtake you.  There is no doubt that things have changed in America.  It isn’t the same country as when I grew up or when my parents and their parents before them.  It can be overwhelming and scary.

But we have to claim the truth that God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.

We as a church have a powerful message of hope.  We carry the life-changing message of God’s love shown in and through Christ.

God has given us a good-mind to use good judgment in how we enter the conversation… if at all.  Again, even in the disagreements, we follow Christ.

Third, (and this is more of an understanding rather than an action), you don’t change the hearts of people — only the Holy spirit does that. 

Church, in situations of turmoil and national upheaval, God calls us to stand for the truth of his love to all people and to simply proclaim that.  Then, It is up to the Holy Spirit to change people’s hearts, not you … not me.  and that is a great thing!

Church, I invite you to continue to pray and pray hard for our country and it’s leadership.

Pray for our church locally and nationally as we try to be lights in the darkness of this world.

Pray for your enemies as well as your friends and ask God to cultivate a Christ-like heart in the soil of your character.

See ya Sunday.”

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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Our Depraved Culture Is No Surprise – Todd Stocker.com

no surprise.001Another shooting.  Another law-suit.  Another leader choosing self-preservation over sacrificial integrity.  It isn’t a stretch to find moral decay and hypocrisy throughout the fabric of our world’s culture’s.  Doesn’t it seem like it’s getting worse?

I don’t even need to dig deep into my own character to find flaws through which shines my unrighteous thoughts, words and doings. 

Yet even accursed with depravation — increasingly or not — people are people.  We always have been.  At the beginning, when you were sparked with life till the end when your eyes close, the torrent of sin’s pressure will haunt you.  Evil lives on the hair of an infant. The shadows of darkness are only a head-turn away from the light and you are easily distracted by it.  

Yet, as prevalent and deep as sin seems to be, there is one is is greater.  He is the one whose words force a raging sea to settle back into the banks of their shores.  He is the one who curbs immorality with goodness and grace.  He is the one who has overcome the void feelings of the self-serving and gives them peace.

He is Jesus, and he calms the troubled heart with his tender victory.  And that’s no surprise.  [Luke 8]

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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Liberty To Love – Todd Stocker.com

liberty to love.001I’m a patriot at heart.  I love the celebrations that honor our military, our leadership and our country.  Some call me soft, but it doesn’t take long for a tear to push its way out of my eye when our national anthem plays or our flag flies.  

Part of my patriotism is rooted in the word Liberty.  Defined, Liberty is the state of being free.  It is the ability to move and breath within the environment that is set up for protection.  In politics, liberty consists of the social and political freedoms to which all community members are entitled. In theology, liberty is freedom from the bondage of sin.

Maybe that last definition of Liberty is what chokes me to weep.  Seeing our flag reminds me of the flag of victory Christ waves over sin and death for me.  Hearing the anthems wells feelings of joy that I am part of a group, a community, a family in America and in God’s family.  Taking a step back and watching others operate in their freedoms helps me understand that all are love by the Lord and are offered freedom and liberty through his son, Jesus.  (John 3:16-17).

In response, I can turn my focus not on myself, but on others.  What would it look like if our political candidates would be reminded of the same?

In the King James Version, Galatians 5:13 says, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Loving and serving is how your liberty takes wing.  Carrying each others burdens and praying for all people is how your liberty has impact.  Trusting in the lord above all things is how your liberty best shows its bright side.  

This fourth of July, celebrate God’s blessing of liberty to your country and for your life!  

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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Why I Feel Institutionalized – Todd Stocker.com

marriage institution‘Institution’ isn’t a popular word. 

Over its life-time, the lettering has gone from a simple description of something organized to something being restrictive. 

In fact, the idea of marriage as ‘institution’ repulses many in growing generations because of the seeming restrictions of the commitment between one man and one woman, as God intended that relationship to be.

Personally, I’m glad I’m institutionalized.  I’m glad 28 years ago she said “yes” and 27 years ago God said “Bless!”  I’m glad that through joy and struggle, laughter and anger, thrill and tragedy, my beauty didn’t call it quits and give up. 

Knowing me, she could of.

Knowing me, the world would say she should of.

But she didn’t. 

That’s what love is.  Enduring, loving and being committed into the institution. 

Feeling – yes. Companionship – yes. Unexplainable – absolutely.

Recognizably, some don’t make it.  The pressure and struggle gets too much.  I hurt thinking about it.  I can’t imagine it.  The institution is still good, however, even though the residents aren’t perfect — none of us are.

So here’s to the crazies.  Here’s to all the messy couples in the world.  Here’s to those who have laughed and cried and continue to try to work it out.  They are the ones who find asylum in the ‘Institution’. 

“Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth” Psalm 5:18

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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Grace In The Tragedies Of Florida – Todd Stocker.com

My-Grace-is-SufficientTrue or False: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

False.

Ask the parents of the assassinated singer.

Ask the friend of a massacred party-goer.

Ask the dad of a two year old, pulled out of sight by a scaly seven foot reptile at Disney. 

Tragedy upon tragedy. 

This life is full of them.  You may be in one this moment.  You could be at the end of your proverbial rope.  You might be asking yourself if the struggle, the pain, the loneliness, or the guilt will ever pass or if its worth the hardship. 

The cry of the human heart to an almighty God is for relief — for peace.  God has given you more than you can handle. 

Yet — as macabre as it may seem — it may be exactly where God wants you.  Low.  Destitute.  Unable to withstand another breathe without first, breathing his.

When life carries you to places such as these, He whispers,

“My grace is sufficient for you because my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9

Grace. 

It is the same grace the angel announces to Mary.  It is the same grace that describes Jesus.  It is the same grace that is given and not earned. 

It is at the lowest, when God brings you the highest.  He is all you need to get through this thing called ‘Life’.  He is your anchor, your foundation, your guide and your peace. 

God will give you more than you can handle because it is in your surrender that He gives you your victory.

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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The Predictably Unpredictable Storm – Todd Stocker.com

storm.001I don’t know where you live and I don’t know the climate that overtakes you.  I’ve lived in areas that have two seasons:  hot and hotter.  I’ve also lived in parts that cycle through all four seasons seemingly every week.  But one thing is common:  storms happen. 

Sometimes, they peak their nose over the horizon and wait for the opportune moment to pounce — shedding their downpour.  Other times, they thunderously announce their impending arrival like the distant trumpets announcing the coming of a majestic king. 

You have to be prepared for them.  You have to plan around them or plan through them.  You have to know that they are predictably unpredictable and that they are for the good of the land.

Life storms ultimately are good for those choosing to be trained by them.  When the rain of doubt falls, you can chose to make reality your friend.  When the winds of tragedy steal your breathe, you can refresh in the Spirit’s comfort.  When the waves of fear push you off course and cause your life to drift, you can sink faith’s anchor into the deep deep security of God’s love for you in Christ. 

“Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39

Storms come. 

Chose well.

Hope is security’s anchor.

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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Seven Years Afloat: Makenzie Home-going Anniversary – Todd Stocker.com

mourningIntoDancing.001Seven years ago, I thought my anchor gave way.  My life’s-boat was set a drift in a storm called “the death of a child” when my oldest daughter, Makenzie, was killed in traffic accident.

Yet what I found was my anchor was more secure than ever.  The pain, the grief, the emptiness and the heartbreak were waves battering the hull of my life yet beneath it all, the anchor of hope held. 

“This hope we have is the anchor of the soul…” Hebrews 6:19

Hope is secure as it finds its hold in the Spirit.  Hope is hooked when it believes the promises of God.  Hope is anchored when it sinks deep into the unfathomable love of Jesus. 

So let the torrents rage.  Let the waves crash.  Let the sky darken and the rains pour because I know all these things must take place.  Yet, I sleep well in the belly of my life’s boat because my anchor will hold as it is set in God’s enduring love for me.   

Peace!

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[The book I’m writing this year is called “Anchored – Finding Stability In A World Adrift”.  If you’d like to receive free advanced chapters and be notified when its available, sign up below — I’ll send you a portion of the book’s proposal right away!]

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Memorial Day – The Unfathomable Sacrifice – Todd Stocker.com

memorial day heros war.001“The atrocities of war are only overshadowed by the heroism of their dead.” (Tweet that)


As we lean into the Memorial Day weekend, our thoughts are on the time off, the friends gathering, the grilling, boating, and lounging.  Many are speeding to the cabin or to family a state away.  All of us look forward to this weekend because of the breath it affords before we being the summer. 

Yet, as we all know, there is a bigger, deeper, more epic meaning to Memorial Day.  It is the day we remember those millions of men and women who’ve stepped in the line of fire, taken the hit, protected, served and sacrificed their very lives to make sure America stays America. 

I’ve never been on the field of battle.  I’ve never held a military issue weapon, point it at another who’s doing the same to me and pulled the trigger out of fear, training, and duty.  My spirit can’t comprehend the colors, smells and images that sear into those who, willingly or not, step forward to defend my freedoms.  And finally, I don’t know what it’d be like to wake up every dusty morning, kiss a picture of my family and wonder if this is my last day this side of heaven. 

Heroism

Duty

Commitment

… but ultimately, Sacrifice. 

It is the golden principle of love.  Giving your life for others. 

So this memorial day, spend at least one moment giving thanks for the heroism that secures liberty.  Think of those who didn’t know when their last breath would be and praise God for the freedom he gives all humanity through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Peace!

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Are You Jumping? – Todd Stocker.com

jumping.001“Don’t jump to conclusions—there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw.” Proverbs 25:8


I like my early mornings.  Before the sun crawls above the horizon, I’m normally in my place reading, praying, reflecting and writing.  Usually it is a peaceful, refreshing time but not this morning. 

Because of my reading, I have been convicted.  Maybe ‘convicted’ is too strong a word.  I have been challenged in what I find myself doing and you do it to.  “Jumping to Conclusions.” 

In the four simple words of Proverbs 25, God gave me peace, because often, the conclusions to which I jump are not ‘good for all mankind’ but ‘worst case scenario’.  The beauty in what this proverb reveals is I don’t have to assume the worst, I can rest on the potentiality of the best.

Watch yourself today.  How often do you ‘make the jump’?

Peace!

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I’m Thinking Of Stopping – a 3 Question Survey – Todd Stocker.com

continue.001Every year around June, I begin my personal goal setting for the timeframe of September through August.  (Yes, I know.  I’m pretty a-typical that way but it works best for my current post in life). 

Over the last 7 years, I’ve been providing content on my site focused on the topics of leadership, personal development and spiritual life.  I know that 70% of you — my audience — consider yourself to be Spiritual and 30% not. 

So moving forward (or not), I’d really like to know if I should continue with my blog/podcast and if so, what direction would be helpful for you. 

Please fill out this brief 3 question survey:


Peace!

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It’s Out Of Your Hands – Todd Stocker.com

tumblr_m7s231hw8e1qi23k0o1_1280Yesterday, I had medical tests done as part of my health schedule.  I’m not a huge fan of going to clinics, but I know that it is necessary for keeping the body that God gave me running smoothly. 

As they were poking me and trying to find my veins that tend to run away from needles, I kept thinking how ‘out of control’ I felt.  I had to trust that the training and experience of the nurse and doctor, coupled with the Spirit’s guidance, would be enough to accomplish what needed to be done. 

“It’s out of my hands” was what rumbled through my noggin. 

How much of life do you try to control?  All — Part — None? 

Truthfully, you come alive when you have a sense of progress and control, but realistically, there are times when you should simply trust. 

Its difficult to do when you lying on a stark white clinic bed or fumbling through a relational breakdown.  But it is in these exact moments when faith operates the strongest.  It is these exact times when reason gives way to hope and stubbornness steps aside to let peace shine. 

What are you trying to control that God is asking you to release?  Maybe he’s whispering, “It’s out of your hands, but it’s always in mine.”

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”  Ps. 56:3

Peace!

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