Friday, March 8, 2019

Contemplating Blogging Again...

Cliff is contemplating blogging again. I'm taking some time to think and pray through what the direction of this blog needs to be. I'd more than welcome your feedback!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Who did that personality test say I'm supposed to be?

Lately I've been compiling all the personality and leadership profiles I've ever taken, as well as taking a few more, just to be sure I know exactly who I am.


  • Strengthsfinder 2.0 (2014):  Restorative - Responsibility - Harmony - Belief - Connectedness
  • Your Unique Design (2013):  Harmonizer - Persister - Achiever - Dreamer - Energizer - Catalyzer
  • StandOut (2012):  Advisor - Connector
  • Strengthsfinder (2005): Responsibility - Activator - Belief - Harmony - Relator
  • Myers-Briggs (2001):  ESTJ (Extrovert - Sensing - Thinking - Judging)
  • Tim LaHaye Temperament Analysis (2001):  Choleric - Melancholy


Apparently I enjoy leading people, being a resource, and networking. I tend to be responsible and can get things done. I'm not a huge fan of using my imagination or dreaming up new things, but tend to thrive when I'm in more of an implementation role than a creative one. I like harmony and can be a people-pleaser, which can get me in trouble sometimes if I'm not careful. But in general I tend to use my past experiences and my network of connections to hopefully further the kingdom. And I'm having a blast doing it!


These tests are very useful in that they help us understand who we are, how God created (or wired) us, and shed light on how we relate to others. They help us know how to deal with different people, and help other people know how to deal with us. They can even tell us careers where we will thrive and ones we should avoid.

I took the StandOut assessment about two years ago after hearing Marcus Buckingham speak at Catalyst. It's become my favorite assessment because it somehow is able to tell who other people see you to be as a leader. I answered all the questions and then waited an eternity (30 seconds) to receive my results. They nailed it! As I read the analysis, I identified with just about everything it said. Since taking it, I've been able to refer back many times, and have found it quite helpful in keeping me focused on where I lead best.


There is no assessment or analysis that can completely evaluate the whole person. They will all fall short in one way or another. God knit us together so uniquely and in His image. (Psalm 139) Because we are fallen people, there's no way we can use human systems to completely define how God made us. I recently had a fun conversations with two friends, Sarah and Jen. Sarah is exactly like me according to the Myers-Briggs. Jen is exactly like me according to Your Unique Design. The problem: Sarah and Jen are nothing alike at all! The logic of "If A=B and B=C then A=C" doesn't work here. It just goes to show that no one test is able to define the entire person. God does that. He defines who we are.

Sometimes these assessments don't leave room for the Holy Spirit to do a redeeming work in our lives. Results of a test are static and represent who we are at a moment in time, but our lives are dynamic and in a constant state of change. As a child of God and one that's filled with the Holy Spirit, I should be constantly growing and changing into someone more conformed to His image. As I change and grow, the assessment that I took five years ago may no longer reflect who I am today.

We can become pigeonholed by an assessment. We may think we are unable to perform certain tasks because an assessment told us we couldn't do them well. People in leadership over us may not give us certain opportunities because the assessment told them that we weren't any good in that area. We end up missing out on potential growth simply because the assessment said we couldn't do it well. 

The other day I was in an office where each employee had their assessment displayed on their office door. It makes a great conversation starter and I like being able to get a quick picture of who each person is, but it also can predispose me to a certain judgment of that person and who that assessment tells me they're going to be.


Scripture clearly teaches that God has given us certain gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) and that we are to exercise those gifts for the common good (v7). We also learn about the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5), character traits and actions that can pretty much only be performed through the power of God's Spirit working in and through us.

And yet there's this one thing that I can't help but keep coming back to: "God's power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12) When Paul was given the thorn in the flesh, he told us that it was "to keep me from becoming conceited..."(v7) No matter how much he begged God to take this weakness away, God allowed it to stay in order that God might get the glory, not Paul. 

I believe that strengths assessments in particular can lend themselves to giving us the glory through things that we're good at, as opposed to God receiving the glory through things that don't make sense in our wisdom. Granted, God gave us those particular strengths; and yet, through the flesh, it can become easy for each of us to take credit, as opposed to offering thanks for the good work He does through us. Contrast that with times where God uses us through our weaknesses. It is in those moments where God can't help but get the glory, because it's something that was obviously impossible for us to accomplish through our own flesh.


My life tends to be a testimony of God working through weakness; and there have been plenty of opportunities for that. The greatest of these has been the loss of our daughter almost four years ago. Through the darkest and hardest days, God's grace and mercy clearly shined through to our family, and hopefully to all those around us. I've been reminded by many of how much God used Elyse's life and death to draw them closer to Him. This is something that never could have happened through a strength or leadership gift. This was 100% a work of the Holy Spirit.

And then there are the times I've fallen short through my flesh. Even through my sin and past mistakes, however, God shows Himself faithful because of His deep grace, redemption and conquering of the sin and struggles. By sharing those struggles with others, I see Him give encouragement and draw them closer to Him. He is faithful to use everything for is glory!  

I would challenge anyone reading these words to consider today all the tests you've taken, all the ways God's wired you, the strengths and weaknesses that supposedly define you, and lay those at the cross. Take the tests, learn from them, follow their advice... but don't let them define you! You are defined by Christ. You are made in God's image. Allow Him to mould you, to change you, to use you. Allow Him, not only through your strengths, but especially through your weaknesses, to use you. It's in those moments where you will see God doing "abundantly more than we could ever ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20)  And the result will be... 

"... to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, 
forever and ever. Amen."  
Ephesians 3:21

Saturday, July 28, 2012

10 1/2 Months

During this coming week, Titus will be the same age that Elyse was when she passed away... 10 1/2 months. This is a number that has been impressed on our hearts for the last 2 1/2 years. Anytime we talk of her passing, we can't help but mention this number.

So now this number also belongs to Titus. Every parent I've ever talked to that has lost a child and then has more to follow really can't wait to get past this monument. It's easy to be filled with the unnecessary and unreasonable fear of potentially losing this child too. And at times it can be almost paralyzing. 

We are now watching as Titus is going through all the same stages where Elyse was at that age, and it's almost exactly on the same timeline she was on.

Elyse playing under the dining room table
Titus loves to play around those exact same chairs.

(Notice Peter reading a story in the background. That boy
will be in Kindergarten in less than a month! I can't believe
how quickly he is growing up.)

Titus has just recently started trying to pull himself up. 
This one was taken just a few days before she passed.
She was so proud of herself after pulling herself
up to a standing position on that stairway.

It's almost surreal to be in this spot. A very positive part of it all is that it brings back the most recent memories we have of Elyse, memories that are now almost 2 1/2 years old. When I watch Ty do a certain thing, it totally takes me back to Elyse doing that exact same thing, and that is a very GOOD thing. I pray that those memories will never disappear. 

Yes... it's hard when I think about not being able to have her right there with us... but it's also a very precious thing to carry on those memories.

The bottom line is this: we miss Elyse each and every day, some days more than others; and this stage in Ty's life brings back especially poignant memories. 

Not too long ago, April changed some of the decorations on our living room mantle. As I look at them today, they really do characterize our life as a family. We remember Elyse every day, but we are also reminded every day by her of the HOPE that we have in eternity. Titus is an incredible blessing and has brought us much comfort. 2 Corinthians 7:6 - "But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, ..." And notice the globe in the upper left, with Africa front and center. We look forward (with hope) to the day we get to meet the little girl God has picked out for us over there. (

The bottom line: We live today with much hope. We miss our little girl like nothing else, but we truly are blessed. God has provided us three incredible children so far, and with the upcoming adoption... even more. He has given us a great family, the most incredible friends, and continues to provide for every physical need we have.

Would I change anything??? Absolutely! I'd take my little girl back in a heartbeat! But I wouldn't change who I've become as a result of all of this. He has taken me to the deepest and darkest places and has proved Himself to be completely good, faithful and sovereign through it all. He truly is a loving and grace-filled God.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

All good things must come to an end

I write this post with both a heavy heart and a lot of excitement. After an amazing 15 year run at Hume Lake Christian Camps, April and I have decided that it's time for a major change, and I will be bringing my full-time service at Hume to a close at the end of this month.

What am I going to do? As of the first of May, I will be assuming a position as Business Manager for Briner and Son, a landscape design and maintenance business here in Fresno owned by April's family. (Yes, I am breaking a major rule I set up years ago and I am going to work for relatives. Not to mention... the in-laws!) For once in my life, I'll actually be putting that Business Major to use. My responsibilities will include H.R., A/P, A/R, I.T., a whole bunch of special projects, and pretty much anything else that needs to be done. It's a growing business and I get to fill a necessary role that will hopefully help them grow even more and become more efficient.

Leaving Hume was a tough decision, one we started putting before the Lord over a year ago. I've always joked that I wanted to leave Hume two years before I got fired, but in all seriousness I believe that I'm leaving with the satisfaction of knowing that God brought me there, grew and matured me, used me in ways I never could have imagined, and now has given me the freedom to head out and be used in an entirely different way.

What will I miss most about Hume? No question, more than anything, it will be the people. It's been called the "H Factor." It's the Hume staff and their families that make up Hume's personality and the core of what makes it so unique. I will miss them more than anything. They have been there for me through the hardest of times and through the best of times. They introduced me to my wife, welcomed my children into the world, and carried me to Jesus as I had to say goodbye to my daughter. They've loved me unconditionally when I really didn't deserve it, and God's used them to mold me into someone a lot better than I was on May 26, 1997, when I pulled into a camp towing a trailer with everything that I owned and stepped into the role of Ponderosa Head Counselor, really having no clue. I'll also miss the many connections I've made with so many youth pastors, getting to encourage them, love on them, challenge them, listen to them. I'll miss being a part of something so much greater than myself.

What do I look forward to? I believe that God has brought me to this place in life "for such a time as this." I'm going to have so many more opportunities to be around people that don't know the Lord and who desperately need Him. I'm excited to be around non-Christians on a regular basis. I'm excited to have my faith challenged, to be a light. And to be perfectly honest, I'm excited for some change. It's easy to get stuck in ruts and be convinced that God can only use you in a certain way.

Do I plan to stay in ministry? Absolutely! That doesn't change. There are some great new opportunities  on the horizon, and while I can't totally explain those in this forum, it's going to be fun to see how they pan out. When will they pan out and what will they look like??? No clue!

What doesn't change? God is good. God is faithful. God is sovereign. I love those three things most about God and I'm excited that I get to serve Him no matter where He has me. God has truly reminded me lately that it's not so much about where I am as it is about who I am. He's called me to follow Him wholeheartedly and to be faithful. From there, He will take care of the rest. I believed that 15 years ago when I came to Hume and I believe that today as I move on. My identity rests in Him, not in where I work or live.

So that's the big news. Be watching for more and please be praying for us. The last two years have been absolutely crazy, and while we would cherish a time of peaceful waters, we realize that's not the road God has us on, so we embrace this road and seek to stay faithful as we travel down it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Life in the City

We've now lived in Clovis for almost 5 months. It's hard to believe so much time has passed, but it also feels completely normal, as though we've lived here for a year or two. It truly has become home.

Some things I've grown to enjoy as we've transitioned here:

  1. Stores - We now have grocery stores, Costco, Starbucks, etc. all within a 10 minute drive. Big change from the 1 1/2 hours we experienced before. (Of course, now it's easier to spend money on things I don't really need.)
  2. Family - They're close... really close. April's family all live within a 4 mile radius of our house. It's given us a greater connection and allowed us to be in each others' lives on a pretty regular basis. Yes - that's a good thing!
  3. Church - We've really enjoyed attending the Clovis campus of The Well Community Church. We've started to meet new people, and have just enjoyed being a part of that community.
  4. Neighbors - We had neighbors at Hume, neighbors that we absolutely loved. But the big difference now is that the majority of our neighbors don't know the Lord and have a desperate need for Him. It's been so cool getting to know Bob & Dorothy, Mark, Jimmy & Cindy, Tim, and so many more. My prayer is that we can get beyond the hellos and goodbyes, and be able to have some significant conversations. 
What do we miss? We miss our friends... deep friends... friends that you just can't find anywhere else. When others moved away from Hume, they warned us.  They told us that we'd never have the same kind of friends as we had there and they were absolutely right. Our friends there walked with us through the darkest days ever and carried us to the Lord when we couldn't carry ourselves. We will forever treasure the friends the Lord gave us there and the depth of those friendships. We keep in touch, but it's just not the same.

Yet here we are, living in the city, and we know that God has called us to be here "for such a time as this." We remember and treasure the past, but live in the now, with a hope for the future, knowing that our citizenship lies in heaven, not in Clovis and not at Hume. So we make every effort to live here, right where God has called us. Yet our ultimate hope is in that one day we will live in eternity with our Lord (and we'll get to see our little girl again) and we'll be able to stop, look around, and know that we are finally home for good. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Target, Stuff, Gratitude and Adoption

After dinner tonight we stopped by Target to pick up a few things for Peter's first day of preschool tomorrow. As we wandered our way through the store, found what we needed and were on our way out, Peter started to complain that we hadn't bought anything for him. As we got into the car, we tried to convince him that he had enough stuff and that he didn't need any more. He wouldn't budge, and went on to say, "I want stuff. I like stuff." He just couldn't get enough "stuff."

April and I looked at each other and knew this could be a pivotal moment. We could just silence him and say that we weren't going to buy him anything and be frustrated, or we could try to turn it into a teachable moment. Fortunately we chose the latter, and what developed was an absolutely beautiful conversation.

For the next couple of minutes, we got to share with Peter that there were a lot of children out there in the world that didn't have enough food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in, or toys to play with. They didn't have "stuff" like he did.

Peter's response stopped us in our tracks.  "Why don't they have beds to sleep in? They could sleep at our house. We have room." As tears formed in April's eyes, our frustration with his apparent greed turned into joy that he "got it." April went on to explain to him that this was why we're adopting "Baby Girl from Africa."

For most of the drive home we got to talk about when we would bring her home, how it would happen, what room she would sleep in, if she could sleep in Peter's bed, and much more. He really wanted to give up his bed for her to sleep in. 

As parents we pray for these kinds of teachable moments, but how often do we take advantage of them? We are grateful that God has blessed us with the privilege of shepherding Peter's heart and pointing it toward Christ. More to come in future posts about the progress of the adoption, but for now we have grateful hearts for a simple teachable moment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

It's been forever since I've posted, but I've determined that 2012 will be the year that I start blogging a bit more consistently. So here I go.

This Fall has been a whirlwind for our family. Back in July, the leadership at HLCC decided that they wanted me to base out of Fresno and take on a full-time role in Church Relations, with a major emphasis on Adult Ministries. This meant packing up the last 14 years of life at Hume and moving to Clovis. (Fortunately, two years earlier we bought a house and had been renting it to some great friends.) My boss let me know that he wanted us to move in mid-September. With the baby coming on September 14, I begged for a November 1 move. He was good with that and it was time to start packing. It's been a good transition and we're quickly adapting to life in the "outside" world.

Titus Levi Carey came into the world on September 14, and what a blessing he has been to our family. Our first three months with him haven't been without their challenges though. I think some people believed that bringing a new baby into the world would solve all of our pain from losing Elyse. The fact is that nothing or no one could ever replace our little girl. She will always be a part of this family.

We knew we'd have some sort of baggage with a new baby, but didn't know exactly what that would look like. For both of us, we realized early on we were holding back a lot of affection that Ty deserved. The problem was that we were afraid to completely bond with him for fear of losing him. Having experienced this kind of loss first-hand, it's just too easy to imagine the worse case scenario. Once we realized some of these issues we were able to really work on these things and have really been enjoying the last month with Titus.

Titus has such an engaging smile, and tries as hard as he can to talk to us. This boy communicates in ways that we never saw Peter or Elyse do at this age. His name means "giant" or "defender," and we pray often that he would take on those traits as he grows in a love and passion for serving the Lord.

There's much more to tell about our world, but I'll save it for later. We appreciate your prayers for our family as well as for our extended family right now. There are several challenges, but God is so good and faithful and we are grateful for His daily work in our lives. On a daily basis my prayer is to be obedient to His Word and sensitive to His Spirit.

I look forward to future posts and sharing some really cool stories of how God continues to show Himself faithful.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We could use some prayer

So this coming Wednesday, September 14, is the scheduled arrival of our new little boy (name to be announced with statistics upon his arrival.) April is scheduled for a 7:30am C-Section, which means we'll probably be meeting this little guy around 8am. I will definitely post a lot of pictures on my Facebook page, so keep your eyes open.

In the meantime, we could really use some prayer for some very specific things:

  • April has come down with some sort of stomach flu, and being only 3 days out, this obviously presents some major complications, not to mention just the pain and discomfort she's feeling. I'm praying for complete healing from this.
  • I am coming down with a chest cold, and if it's anything like my last one (and it's acting like it is,) this could wipe me out. With April having a C-Section, I really need to be around for her in those first few days and this would really make that difficult. Again, praying for complete healing.
  • Our final prayer request is very general. We know that welcoming a new baby to our house is going to be a joyful occasion, but in all honesty this enters us into a scary time, one full of intense emotions, fears of potential loss, memories of Elyse, and so much more. We can't help but think that this first year with our new little guy will be extremely challenging in so many ways. We must be desperately dependent upon the Lord. We must seek him everyday. We must put our fears into His hands. But obviously all these things can't be done on our own strength. So we ask you to simply pray for God's peace to rest on this family in a very clear way.
Thank you friends for supporting, loving, and walking with us through the last 19 months. You will never know how much you mean to us and how grateful we are for you taking us before Christ in every step of this journey. We are blessed beyond belief.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Elyse's 2nd Birthday

Elyse's 2nd birthday is coming up on the 27th. So hard to believe. Lots of great memories and lots of wondering: What would she be like? How much trouble would she be getting into? How much different would she be than her brother at 2?

So how will we celebrate her 2nd birthday you ask...? By running a Half-Marathon and going to Disneyland of course!

We'll head south and on Saturday the 26th I'm running in The Great Race of Agoura, a really cool and slightly challenging trail run through the foothills of the Conejo Valley in Southern California. Running has become somewhat of a refuge over the last year. It provides me time outside to be alone with God, work out my frustrations and actually stay in shape rather than sit at home and eat my way to oblivion. This will be the 3rd Half Marathon for me since we lost Elyse, and each one is run in honor of her. (You can see my progress and even track me live during the race here.)

If I'm still able to function after 13.1 miles, we'll spend Sunday (her birthday) at Disneyland, enjoying our time as a family, and doing our annual balloon release at 1:06pm, the time of her birth. We're anticipating a quality time filled with joy and laughter, as well as the tears of missing our little girl and definitely wishing she was with us to enjoy the day.

(As a side note, if any of our So Cal friends have connections for Disneyland passes, we would be so grateful for the help.)

All in all, as we look toward March 27, we definitely hurt, yet we look forward with hope. It is so hard to see that 2nd birthday coming and to miss all of our dreams and hopes for our little girl, yet the hope we have in heaven truly does overshadow it. We know she is held by Jesus. We know she is in perfection and without any kind of hurt or pain. We know she is glorified and even more beautiful than she was on this earth (and she really was beautiful on this earth.) And ultimately, we know that she's been saved by a sovereign God that loves and cares for us, who provides every need we have for every day. He has given us the strength to move forward and has carried us through the hardest of times in life. He sustains. He loves. He cares. HE IS GOOD!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

One Year

This coming Tuesday, February 15, marks the 1 year point. One year ago our little girl departed the confines of this earth to live in eternity with Jesus; to live in a world with no pain or tears. We hate the fact that she isn't with us any more, yet treasure the fact that she knows her Savior intimately now.

So much has happened in the last year that it's impossible to put it all into words. So many different emotions. So much pain. So much grief. So much healing. So much joy. So much...

Our lives are changed forever. We're part of an elite club now, a club no one ever desires to join, yet one that's full of the deepest pain and some of the deepest riches known.

So what are my reflections at one year???

God remains good, faithful and sovereign.  I've used those words over and over, yet they ring as true today as they did on February 14, 2009.

We grieve the loss of our daughter each and every day.  One year does not make us grieve her loss any more or less. It's still the new normal that we live under every day. The pain eases and the tears become farther apart, yet we are acutely aware of the fact that a major part of us will always be missing.

My specific grief at the one year mark tends to center more around the event rather than the loss. Lately I have been having many flashbacks to the trauma of that day, and the days immediately following. These are very difficult and painful memories that are permanently ingrained on me.

I praise God for my wife. April is the most amazing woman on this earth and I am so grateful to be married to her and to have her to walk with down this rough road. I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am for the strength of our marriage and God's hand on us as a couple in this last year.

God has His hands on Peter's life. A year ago many people took our son on as their specific prayer project. I praise God for how He's carried Peter through this year. Peter has no memories that we know of from the trauma of the day. He remembers her, talks about her often, even prays for her. He still considers her part of the family and many nights kisses her picture goodnight. We ask him regularly where his sis is, and his response is a quick, "She's in heaven with Jesus." There are many times that April and I are sad and it's obvious to him. He will soften his voice and the conversation goes something like this:
Peter: "Daddy, are you sad?"
Me: "Yes Peter."
Peter: "Daddy, you crying? You miss Sis?" 
Me: "Yes Peter"
Peter: "I miss Sis too."
We prayed throughout the pregnancy with Elyse that she and Peter would have a special life-long bond. We truly believe God answered those prayers and continues to answer them to this day. He will always have a special place in his heart for her.

I'm utterly dependent on God.  Throughout this year it's become painfully apparent that I just can't survive outside of His strength. His power is truly made perfect in my weakness. Before Elyse left us, I was able to get by on my own strength a lot of the time. While in word I testified of my need for Christ everyday, I don't know that my heart really sensed it. Today I can say with all integrity that without Him I am nothing. I desperately need Him!

There are some great practical ways to grieve loss.
1. Advice we got shortly after Elyse died was to "be kind to yourselves." Translated: Don't feel like you need to live up to anyone's expectations. Don't feel like you need to please anyone. Be honest in your grief.
2. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.  In the days and weeks after she was gone, we walked almost every day, if not every other. It became a lifeblood for us. We were able to enjoy fresh air, get perspective, talk and cry together, yell at God if need be, and just burn off frustration. This ultimately resulted in both of us running a Half Marathon last June in San Diego.
3. Sleep... but not too much. Grief exhausts you and we learned that quickly. Sleep was so necessary to get us from one day to the next.
4. Don't stop functioning. We had to keep getting up every day and moving forward. We still had a son to raise and couldn't give up on him. We both look back at Peter as being a crucial part of our healing in the last year. He kept us unified and focused on the need to be functional parents raising him in a functional home.
5. Counseling is a very good thing. Three different sessions with a professional counselor were invaluable in keeping us moving in the right direction. And it wasn't bad for our marriage either. ;)

There is so much more I could say, but let me sum things up by saying that God is good. He is faithful. He is strong. He is sovereign. And nothing I can say or do and nothing that happens to me will change that truth.

For the one year anniversary, we'll be spending Sunday afternoon with April's amazing family and then will be heading to the coast for 3 days with some great friends who have helped carry us through this year.

And to all of you that have continued to follow us, encourage us and lift us up before the Lord, we are humbled and simply say thank you. You have carried the paralytic, dug through the roof and placed him in the presence of Jesus to be healed.

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy spirit, whom He has given us." -- Romans 5:5