In 1464, a statue was commissioned for the cathedral in Florence, Italy, and a single, giant piece of marble was chosen from a quarry. Work was first begun in 1464 by a sculptor named Agostino di Duccio. Agostino only got as far as beginning to shape the legs, feet, and the torso before he gave up in frustration. Ten years later, it was taken up by Antonio Rossellino; however, very little progress was made and his contract was terminated soon thereafter.

Both sculptors had, in the end, rejected the enormous block of marble due to the presence of too many fissures and imperfections, which may have threatened the stability of such a huge statue. It seemed the rock just had too many problems and risks to ever amount to a great masterpiece. It then lay neglected for 25 years. During this time, it was exposed to the elements, standing through 25 years of sweltering sun, driving rain, wind, and even an occasional snow.

Finally, in 1501, 26-year-old Michelangelo was contracted to finish shaping the gigantic piece of marble.  He began work early on the morning of September 13, 1501. He would work on the statue for over 2 years before unveiling His 17-foot-tall masterpiece, David, which is still probably the most famous sculpture in the world.

While other artists saw a block of marble with too many imperfections to be usable, Michelangelo saw David. He said, Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

The thing that changed a shapeless hunk of marble into a world-famous piece of art wasn’t the quality of the rock, it was the vision of the artist. The same thing is true in our lives. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

When you look in the mirror, do you see a magnificent work of art, or do you see a shapeless block of stone, full of cracks and imperfections? Just like Michelangelo used all sorts of different tools like hammers, various chisels, and brushes to remove unwanted stone and refine other parts into perfection, God uses all sorts of different tools in our lives as he removes unwanted parts and refines and polishes other parts. He uses His word and our worship, as well as the works of our hands and even the difficulty of warfare.

There are three little-known, and rather unique techniques Michelangelo used to create his masterpiece. God often uses these same techniques in his work on each of us.

  1. Michelangelo worked in total secrecy during the years he pounded away at his sculptureGod often does much of His work in our lives while we are seemingly hidden away in total obscurity. In fact, He seems to make a habit of finding unknowns like Moses and David anonymously tending sheep and elevating them to masterpiece status.
  2. Because of the size of the statue, Michelangelo worked outside. He, and the marble, were constantly exposed to the elementsOften the greater the destiny God has planned, the harsher the elements to which we are exposed.
  3. Michelangelo used a unique technique to accomplish his vision: he created a wax model and submerged it in water. Then he would drain a little water at a time, exposing only the part of the statue on which he was workingThis is such an accurate picture of the way our lives develop. It seems we know so little of God’s plans for us in the early stages. Each day, as we look in the mirror, a few more inches of God’s work emerge. Only God knows what still lies below the water level in your life.

So, through the days of anonymity, storms, or wondering what God is up to in your life, rest assured that He is right there with you, pounding away to create His masterpiece in your life.



Five Lessons from My Five Fathers

Dad and meFather’s Day was a couple of days ago. While I was blessed with a wonderful father, I also found myself thinking of a few other men who were like second dads to me. As I thought of these different men, each of them had one particular quality that dominated my thoughts; and that characteristic became a life lesson for me. Here are those five lessons from my five dads:

  • Be committed (Leon Cavitt) – One of my very best friends in my teens and twenties was Danny Cavitt. It wasn’t unusual for Danny and I to come rolling in around 5:00 or 6:00 AM… to go to bed. While we might have slipped in unnoticed in many houses, there was a 100% chance that Danny’s dad, Leon, would be up. Not only would he be awake, but there was only one place you would find him. Every single morning, Leon got up at 5:00, got his Bible, and sat down in his recliner to read and pray. It didn’t matter, either, that many of those early mornings when we drug in at sunup were Saturdays, when he didn’t have to work. His devotional time was an appointment he never missed. I never heard Leon preach a sermon, teach a lesson, or even quote a scripture to us; but the single most indelible memory I have of him is seeing him through my blurry, blood-shot eyes sitting quietly in his chair reading God’s word. What commitment!
  • Major in hospitality (Bill King) – My very first friend was my neighbor, Scott King. One of the really cool perks of our friendship was that his dad owned a motel on Lookout Mountain. On many Friday evenings, he would take Scott and I up to the motel on the mountain and give us a motel room for the evening so that we could climb around the rocks and do all the things you might imagine two 10 or 12-year-old boys would think of with a hotel room at their disposal. Scott’s dad was a high-ranking bank executive who had lots of irons in the fire between his job at the bank and owning two motels. Here is what I remember most about Mr. King, though: every Friday, he would take the two of us to a restaurant called The Albert Pick (which had the most amazing bread ever!). Then, on Saturday morning, Mr. King would make biscuits and gravy for us. I am sure there were a million things he needed to do more than have dinner with two preteen boys and cook us breakfast, but he never made me feel like I was an imposition. Instead, he always made me feel welcome. I am sure Bill accomplished lots of great things in his life, but I remember him most for making me feel welcome and important – like another of his sons.
  • God answers prayer (Bob Blazier) – When I was just starting school, our church got a new pastor named Bob Blazier. His son, Bobby, and I became almost instant buddies (I say “almost instant” because the first time Bobby came over to my house it earned me a spanking – but I’m not still bitter…). At any rate, Bobby and I are still best friends and his parents are still my second parents. Bobby’s dad was from the country, and you could tell it in his speech. He occasionally made up words during his sermons, and he had not had the opportunity to pursue the advanced degrees that many ministers receive. The puzzling thing to many people was how in the world Bob, with some of his seeming limitations, could be such a terrific preacher. He was (and still is) one of my very favorite teachers and preachers. While others may have been puzzled, I knew his secret. You see, Bobby and I would often run and play around the church during the week or on Saturdays when it seemed to be deserted. However, many times there would be a sound coming out of one of the Sunday School rooms. It was the sound of Bobby’s dad praying. He would go into the classroom, close the door behind him, and spend hours crying out to God. Therefore, every brilliant Sunday sermon was a life lesson in Paul’s declaration that “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.”
  • Live life with a chuckle (My uncle Richard) – When I was in school, I used to ride the bus to my aunt and uncle’s house in the afternoons until my mom got off from work to pick me up. Beth and Richard had five kids of their own, which meant there was usually lots of noise and chaos, fussing and fighting, running and jumping, doors left open, and sounds of things crashing to the ground. Add to that the unique form of disruption and destruction that I brought and it was a scene that could have made Mother Theresa try out a new vocabulary! My uncle Richard had this amazing ability to take it all in stride. He could disarm the most stressful situation, whether it was teenage daughter angst and hormones, or his son and I playing tackle football in the living room, with humor and an easy-going attitude. When I sort through all my memories of Richard (or Papa, as we called him), he seems to have a sort of a bemused smile on his face in every situation. How great would life be if a lot of us took ourselves a little less seriously?
  • Integrity matters most (my dad) – I have always known my dad loves me and would give his life for me. That being said, when I was young I used to kind of wish he were a little different. Some of my friends had cooler dads. Others had richer dads. Still others had Santa Claus for a dad. My dad wore socks with shorts and sandals… colored dress socks. He had a pocket protector and one of those retractable key rings on his belt. He wasn’t particularly athletic and didn’t care all that much for sports or hunting, fishing, camping, etc… As I got older, though, I began to realize that my dad gave me the greatest gift any dad could give: he gave me a good name. I have never once in my entire life had to pause when someone asks me if I am Donald Lance’s boy and wonder why they are asking. Someone could tell me my dad was rude to them, and I might believe them. Another person could say that he was kind of distant or cold to them and I would probably buy it. However, if anyone told me that my dad lied to them, I would double over in laughter. My dad goes beyond the category of honesty into the brutally honest, “I don’t believe I would have said that” category of truth-telling. One of my sisters once suggested that he mark something on a medical form about having the privacy laws explained to him, just to expedite the process and he looked at her like she was a Martian who had just entered the waiting room. The mere concept that he would mark something that wasn’t true seemed absolutely alien to him. Therefore, it was no surprise that when I sold he and mom a car, the bank to whom we submitted their credit information called the dealership right back and asked, “how many would they like to buy?” There is no greater gift he could have given me than a reputation that is above reproach (what I have done since then to sully it is a subject for a different blog…). To this day, my dad lays his head on his pillow every night knowing he has nothing in his past from which to hide. What an amazing legacy.

Five great fathers in my life; five great life lessons! How blessed I am this Father’s Day.

ReWiring Church

Hey guys, this is a call for help! When you remodel an old house, or renovate an older building, you often have to do some rewiring to bring everything up to current building codes. At True Life, we think it might be time to do a little rewiring on the church. Actually, our building is quite new, so that isn’t the issue. It is the approach to, and perception of, church that might need a little updating. Let me tell you why I say this. A recent survey told me that over 90% of Americans believe in God or some sort of superior universal being. In addition, over 75% of Americans believe in the same God that I do. Here is the problem: less than 20% of Americans go to church (in my hometown of Chattanooga, the number is about 18%). Let that register for a second… 9 out of 10 Americans believe there is a God, but less than 2 in 10 think church would be a good place to learn more about Him, or to get better acquainted with Him! Is it possible that, just like codes for wiring in buildings need to be updated fairly often to keep up with new innovations, so do our approaches to this thing called church?

This is where I need your help: I started a new series called ReWiring Church this past Sunday. My goal is for it to be a very interactive dialogue (not monologue) about how we approach this thing called church. We need as many different viewpoints as possible. If only members of True Life respond, then we will hear a lot of similar viewpoints based on shared experiences. I would love to hear from people who are parts of other churches; and it would be especially helpful to hear from the 82% of people who don’t attend church! I want to hear things like:

  • What do you love about church?
  • What do you wish was different?
  • If you attend church, why do you attend?
  • If you don’t attend church, why not; and what would make you want to try it?
  • What is something you wish just one church was radical enough to try?
  • What role should the church play in the community around it?

This past Sunday was the first message in the series. It was entitled ReFocus, and in it, I asked two questions:

  1. What is a church?
  2. What is the primary mission of the church?

You can watch it on our True Life mobile app. Just download true life church – ga from the app store and look under the messages tab. It is free. It is also posted on our website: It was simply a starting place for our conversation, but it was a good chance to refocus on exactly what Jesus had in mind when He established this thing called the church. In each of the upcoming weeks, I am going to incorporate some of your comments and emails I received.  Here’s how you can get in the conversation:

  • Email your questions or ideas to
  • Go to the Rewiring Church Facebook page
  • Comment on this blog site or on Facebook
  • Tweet me at @dlance10

Please jump into the conversation. We might just be a church crazy enough to try your idea!

Thank you in advance,


Two Men Named Goss

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

This past weekend, I lost two long-time friends and mentors with the same last name. I met Charley Goss on the first day of seventh-grade football practice. He was the coach who I thought made us run too much and seemed to always call the name of the biggest guy on the team to come pulverize me in “bull in the ring.” He was also the history teacher who paddled me so often that I joked with his wife that I might stand with my back to his casket so that he would recognize me. I met Lari Goss about 20 years later in a recording studio. He was the big-name producer who made time to talk to no-name me.

On the outside, these two couldn’t have been any more different. Charley was a former state-champion wrestler and a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was a big, strong man with a booming voice. Lari was a smaller, quieter guy, who was a Grammy award-winning musician, producer, arranger, and orchestrator.

Inside, though, these men were very much alike. They shared two remarkable traits. First of all, they were both passionate about what they did. Charley loved athletics with all of his heart. He coached football, track, and wrestling. In his spare time, he refereed wrestling and even played on a softball team with me for a summer. Lari loved music every bit as much as Charley loved sports. I was once on a television show with Lari and the interviewer asked him what advice he would give to young musicians who might be watching. He said to love music with everything within you… to be willing to do it anytime, anywhere, and to be willing to do it for no pay. While it would take too long to list all of Lari’s accomplishments, one of the greatest facts about him was that he had done it anytime, anywhere, and often with no pay. For this reason, he had a presence in nearly every field of music. From working in the studio with some of the original members of The Atlanta Rhythm Section to arranging and orchestrating the Grammy Awards Show; from producing the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir to producing custom albums for fledgling artists, Lari touched nearly every genre of music.

The second quality these men shared was the one which impacted my life the most. While they were passionate about their respective fields, they were equally committed to mentoring the next generation. They both recognized potential in young people and did everything they could to help them discover every drop that was in them. I wasn’t a really good athlete, but Charley pushed me to run longer and faster, to try harder in class, and to become my very best. As I got out of school, he smoothly transitioned into a friend and encourager who always had time to talk to me as well as listen. To say that I wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much in the music field without Lari’s help is an understatement. He was the person who produced, and endorsed the first two songs that I ever had released on a record label. He also cared enough to tell me when songs weren’t good enough. In fact, he turned down 16 of the 18 songs I played for him (some of them in the first 30 seconds), before choosing two for that first recording. The music industry is full of people who owe Lari a debt of gratitude. For example, on the first album I did with Lari, he brought along a college student who was taking his class on orchestration. Lari had recognized his potential and begun to mentor him, so he allowed him to direct the orchestra during our sessions. That young man, who is named Bradley Knight, is now a well-known arranger and orchestrator in his own right.

Ironically, my best friend, who is a Grammy nominated producer and musician, can tell a similar story. He ran track for Coach Goss at East Ridge Junior High, and years later moved to Nashville, where the first person to give him a chance and hire him for a session was… (you guessed it) Lari Goss.

The world is a better place not only for having enjoyed the talents of these two men, but because a generation has come behind them that will do even greater things because of the impact of Lari and Charley. While you would have looked at them and seen opposites, I look at them and see the same face… the face of Jesus. I wonder how many people will pass into heaven in the next few decades and will make a point of looking up Charley or Lari (or both) just to say thank you.


The Three Crosses

Nearly every day I drive by three enormous crosses beside Interstate 75. As I pass by, I am reminded of the message that each of the three crosses speaks to me.

I am thankful for the middle cross for a thousand different reasons: it reminds me of a Father’s relentless love which refused to accept separation from His children. It speaks of the high price that was paid by my Older Brother to redeem me – of the unthinkable pain and humiliation that He not only faced, but embraced as the means of purchasing my freedom. It also causes me to rejoice in the fact that it wasn’t the final destination of my Savior; that the grave was opened, death defeated, and eternal life provided by the horrific torture of that cross. It reminds me that there is no obstacle I will ever face that can’t be defeated; no pain I will ever feel that Jesus won’t understand; and no length to which He won’t go to rescue me… again and again.

I am also thankful for the second cross, for it tells the story of repentance and forgiveness. It tells me that no sinner’s past is too bad, and that no lack of good deeds on anyone’s resume will exclude him from being forgiven. It shouts the message that as long as there is one breath left in your body, one beat left in your heart… even if the very last thought you ever hold in your mind is a prayer of repentance, Jesus will hear it and honor it. The second cross declares that it is never too late!

Finally, I am strangely appreciative of the third cross, as well. While it tells a story of bad choices and a hard heart, it reminds me that God gives us the freedom to choose… even to choose to fail. God knows that compulsory love isn’t love, at all, and forced obedience is actually slavery. One can only truly love if he is given the option of not loving; and our obedience is a gift we can give to our Savior only because we can choose not to give it. So, while I wish that everyone would make the choice of the repentant thief, it is the right to choose that makes our worship pleasing to the Lord and our obedience a way to express our gratitude.

“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2)