The Blog: On Second Thought

Blake Mankin raises money to build wells

Blake Mankin started Hope for Africa at his school. The club raised more than $6,000 by selling buttons during homecoming. The money paid for two wells in Southern Sudan that now provide more than 10,000 people with daily access to clean water.

Homecoming comes once a year and there’s this competition where whoever has the biggest mum gets announced at the pep rally.  It just turned into this big status thing where people are trying to out-buy each other and I thought what if my high school could do something with this excessive tradition to give people in Sudan clean water.   

I was born to two incredible parents who have loved me very well.  I have a father who makes a decent amount of money. So, I guess I have had the childhood growing up like the world has probably said is a perfect childhood, the perfect way to grow up.

I step off a plane coming from a city where most of the Moms drive Lexus’ and most of the kids get new cars on their sixteenth birthday. And I step out of the plane and I see that most people are walking. We drive through the village and I see a girl bathing in the middle of the street because she doesn’t have anywhere else to take a bath. And it smells bad and there’s houses that are built out of trash.

I looked at that and said, “How can God allow such pain and such hurt and such anguish on these people.” Then I started to look at my life and the life of my community. I was asking the question: how could God allow us to be so distracted? What if we changed the question to: how could God let us to be so affluent?

Yes. It’s horrible that we see this poverty but we realize that Jesus was using the poor to have to rely completely and totally and whole-heartedly on Jesus. Jesus is contentment and everything that I have is only temporary happiness.

Ever since I was born, I mean right out of the womb, my Mom and my Dad have been reading me Bible stories and they have been praying with me and they have been so great that as I’ve grown up they’ve backed up and said, “You know you have to make this faith your own”.  

I’m sitting with a friend at lunch and we were looking around at just the mums and the garters.  We could totally use this tradition for something WAY, WAY cool.  And we were like what if we had somebody just donate the money they would have used to buy like a mum or garter and they bought like a button that just said, “I sent my mum to Africa” or something.  What if our white, middle-class high school could do something with this excessive tradition to give people in Sudan clean water?

I don’t think it matters whether you have a lot of money or not a lot of money, every human being somewhere deep in their soul is looking for something more than what they see. What Jesus is to me is that ultimate thirst quencher, I mean, there is no other way to put it except that Jesus is the ultimate contentment for me.  And that was what I was trying to be portrayed through this project.  

My name is Blake Mankin and I am Second.


Photo source: eskimo_jo

For Kesha — the pop star famous for chart topping dance songs such as “Timber” (and infamous for her party lifestyle) — the past few years have been no walk in the park. Involved in a lengthy court battle with her former producer, Dr. Luke, Kesha alleged that she suffered sexual and emotional abuse that led to her struggles with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.

So the fact that Kesha just released, “Rainbow,” her first album in four years, is kind of a big deal. After her experience with her former producer, Kesha should be disenchanted with the music industry altogether. But the artist is back, and believe it or not, many of her new songs have positive messages that we should pay attention to.

With its themes of hope, recovery, and forgiveness, “Rainbow” appears to reveal a complete 180 from Kesha’s former days of swilling booze and “getting her drunk text on” (as she declared in her hits, “Tik Tok” and “Take it off”).

Considering her tumultuous past one wonders: Has Kesha found Jesus?

The short answer is: not yet. In a recent piece the star wrote for Lenny Letter, Kesha shares more about her album and spirituality, stating that to her “God is nature and space and energy and the universe.”

I don’t think Kesha’s spirituality means followers of Jesus should just write Kesha off completely, however. Here are three truths that her album helps us remember:

In “Learn to let go” Kesha touches on the truth that we are broken and need redemption.

“Been a prisoner of the past
Had a bitterness when I looked back
Was telling everyone it’s not that bad
’Til all my [expletive] hit the fan
I know I’m always like
Telling everybody you don’t gotta be a victim
Life ain’t always fair, but hell is living in resentment
Choose redemption
Your happy ending’s up to you”

We all need forgiveness.

Kesha’s emotional anthem, “Praying,” goes deeper with the theme of letting go of resentment. She hopes well for somebody who has hurt her, and it’s a reminder that forgiving those who have hurt us sets us free from hate that can hold us back.

“I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’
I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come”

In Kesha’s title track, “Rainbow,” the artist opens up about trusting that there is hope in the midst of the dark times.

“I’d forgot how to daydream
So consumed with the wrong things
But in the dark, I realized this life is short
And deep down, I’m still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild
I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold
And I know that I’m still [expletive] up
But aren’t we all, my love?
Darling, our scars make us who we are, are
So when the winds are howling strong
And you think you can’t go on, hold tight, sweetheart”

Looking ahead, I’m excited to hear more music from Kesha’s journey of recovery. And I’m reminded of the power that exists in sharing your life in a way that draws fellow survivors together, reminding us all that we aren’t struggling alone. So what’s your journey of recovery? Where are you in dealing with the pain of your past? Comment below to share your story.




Whitney Thompson is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas. She has written for several publications including Advocate magazine, Prison Fellowship’s Inside Journal, and Upper Room’s Teen Devozine.

More on Music

Bono Talks about the Only Real Problem God Can’t Deal WithPeople have asked me, “Why are your stories so dark? Why do you spend so much time talking about the painful parts of life?” I’ll tell you why we tell messy stories.
Katy Perry: Witness for the darkness- You read this song and you keep waiting for God to show up, for the ending to turn happy, but it never does. But that’s why I love it so much.
You need to read what Justin Bieber just said about Christianity–because he’s right- I never thought I’d say this: Justin Bieber understands Christianity better than a lot of people I know. And there’s a lot about Justin Bieber’s Christianity that I want.

Ryan Ries founder of The Whosoevers

You want to know words that would describe my life? I would just say fun, crazy, and out of control, wild ‘n out, partying, skateboarding. Went to all different countries, surfing, snowboarding. Tonga, Fiji, met with the king of Fiji. Worked with a lot of different bands, slept with girls, got introduced to cocaine. Started shooting heroine. A lot of girls, had a sex addiction. Used them like pieces of meat. I was losing friends that where dying. Putting Ecstasy, heroine, and coke in syringes and shooting it while smoking crack.

Let me start over.

High school’s when it all started. One of my friends introduced me to the rave scene in 1990. To go to a rave, you’d have to call a number at 12 o’clock at night, then they gave you directions to a map point. So you’d drive out to the middle of somewhere in LA. You show up on the corner of the street. You pay $5 to $20, depending on the thing, then they give you a little piece of paper, like a fortune cookie, with the directions to the place, which led you to Compton.

You’d show up in Compton or Watts, in the ghetto of ghettos, like neighborhoods where you could get killed. You pull up, you park your car, you go up to this back industrial alley, to this place. You walk up, you got a wall of music, like 60 speakers, one whole wall. The loudest electronic music, nitrous tanks, pop acid, or Ecstasy or candy flip and you start hallucinating. Going nuts with the loud speakers and nitrous balloons. It’s just a wild ride at that point.

I had a couple of friends that actually went mentally insane. A couple of guys are schizo. One guy jumped off a cliff on LSD and killed himself. Another guy jumped in front of a train. I’m lucky I’m alive. 

I started shooting heroine. A lot of girls, had a sex addiction. Used them like pieces of meat. I was losing friends that were dying. Putting Ecstasy, heroine, and coke in syringes and shooting it while smoking crack.

I grew up in Los Angeles, in Southern California. I would skateboard like a normal kid and surf. And when I was in the 1st grade, I remember finding a big duffel bag of porn magazines in the back of my school. When I got to 4th grade, I saw a video and I kind of started understanding what was going on in those pictures. It just warped things in my mind.

When I got to high school, I got introduced to cocaine. It was more experimental at that time. But, then, after high school, it started getting more of a habit, where it just turned into a routine, where that’s just what I did. That’s just what I did, I just partied. When I started my new job, that’s when everything took off. We were working with a lot of big-named people, so a lot of opportunities opened for Playboy mansion parties, the vivid porn star girls would host our parties.

During the summer we’d go to Europe for a month and a half. We’d film videos, shoot for magazines, travel with musicians and go on tours with them. And, then, we’d do video premieres with our skate videos. I’d wake up, go to work, go skate, go get wasted. Wake up, go skate, go work, go skate, get wasted. But I had the nice house. I had the motorcycles. I’ve literally done laps around the world like three to four times. And, a lot of girls and the drugs, nothing gets me off anymore. I was empty, just nothing made me happy.

Then I did a tour through Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama City. I just did cocaine the whole time. One of our team riders found me in my bed with cocaine all over my face and all over the counter. They couldn’t wake me up. They thought I overdosed. All I know is I woke up the next morning and they said: “Dude, we thought you were dead last night.”

Prove that you’re real to me, because I see religion around me. I see my parents, and these Christians, and I don’t relate to them.

And at that point, I just realized I got to change my life. I went to my hotel room and I was by myself for the first time, and sober for the first time in at least a month and a half. I was at Panama City, at the Sheraton Hotel. I just remember going, “Jesus, if you are real, I need you to prove that you are real to me.”

I just remembered this prayer my Dad would say. He’d just say, “Jesus, forgive me for my sins, come into my life, and fill me with your Holy Spirit.”

I said that prayer. I said, “Prove that you’re real to me, because I see religion around me. I see my parents, and these Christians, and I don’t relate to them.”

And I remember going, “Ok. What can I do now? I need to read the Bible, right?”

And started looking through the drawers. There has to be a Bible in the hotel room, they have Bibles all over the world, I’d always see them. I open it, there’s a blue Bible there. It’s a Gideon Bible. I pulled it out and I just started reading it.

I was waiting for this supernatural experience, you know? I’ve taken a lot of drugs. I’ve seen a lot of stuff and I thought that God was going to show up in his heavenly glory, with angels and what not, but that didn’t happen.

So I got the Bible. I stole it from the hotel. I put it in my backpack, got on the plane, and I was surrounded by all the skate team. They were looking at me and they must have been tripping, because they’re like, “This guy lives his life like a pirate.”

And I remember just looking at them and saying: “You know what? If God’s real, I’m going to find him, because he’s in this book. This is God’s Word.”

You know what? If God’s real, I’m going to find him. because he’s in this book. This is God’s Word.

So I just read that Bible, that Gideon Bible, for six hours straight all the way to LAX. And I remember, I landed and I just had peace in my life for the first time in my life. I just felt peace. The next morning, I wake up and I hear this song singing through my head. I remember just getting up out of my bed, and opening my eyes and I just heard this song singing, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in him.” 

And it kept repeating over and over, just like this little song. I’m tripping out at this point. I got to call my Dad. My Dad’s a Christian. He can tell me what this means.

I called him up, and I go, “Hey, Dad. Dude, I gave my life to the Lord in Panama City. I’m coming off drugs. I have a heroine addiction, smoking crack and using a lot of cocaine, and drinking a lot. But, I gave my life to Jesus in the hotel room, but, the problem is, I woke up this morning and I heard this song singing through my head. ‘This is the day the Lord has made.'”

And he said, “Ryan, that’s the Holy Spirit. God is calling you, and he has a plan for your life.”

At that point, I knew that God was real. I just started following him. Reading, praying, going to church. I just decided, I’m not going to sleep with girls, because I know it’s in the Bible that I shouldn’t be sleeping with girls. I’m not using drugs. I’m going to church, but I’m watching porn because I’m like, “No one knows about that, that’s a secret deal.”

But, as I’m going to church, God’s working in my life. He’s transforming my mind and my heart. I also came to this verse in Matthew and it talks about how Jesus said to the disciples, “If you want to be my followers, you have to turn from your selfish ways, pick up your cross and follow me.”

My porn problem and the things I want to do, I’ve got to grab that and throw it on the cross, crucify it, and kill it. My flesh has to die on that cross. I’ve got to follow Jesus.

My porn problem and the things I want to do, I’ve got to grab that and throw it on the cross, crucify it, and kill it. Just the way Jesus hung on the cross with his flesh and died for our sins. My flesh has to die on that cross. I’ve got to follow Jesus. So, I stopped watching porn and I started getting these thoughts of watching porn, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, that’s working in my life, I’m praying to God and I’m yelling to God like, “God, help me! Help me! I don’t want to watch porn, Lord! I want to follow you! I don’t want to say something and do something else! I want to be like you! I want to be like the disciples!”

And I just started following Jesus, and then an opportunity comes up that I go to Israel. I want to go to the Holy Land. I want to go see where Jesus walked. I’m going through the Bible. 

So I called Sonny Sandoval, the lead singer from P.O.D., and said, “Hey, dog, I’m a Christian now, I’m going to Israel, and do you want to roll out?” A couple of days later we ended up in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed to the Father. 

Pancho Juarez, a pastor, gave the story. He said, “You guys, you go make peace with Jesus. Go get rid of whatever you’ve got to get rid of, and leave all that baggage here at the Garden.”

I remember going out there to the garden and I just prayed, “God, I don’t know what you are going to do with me. I don’t even know what you can do with me, or who am I. I don’t even know how I can serve you. But, if you want me to follow you and you want to use me, and you want me to share my story then have someone contact me, outside of my immediate circle, to have me share my story. And if you call me out, then I’ll go and I’ll share my story. And I will not go back to my old job and I will follow you wherever that takes me.”

And I said that prayer, and I happened to get a phone call the next day. And it was this guy, Derek Neider, at Calvary Chapel, Las Vegas. And he said: “Hey, man, I would love for you to come out and share your story at my church. I heard you got saved.”

“Yeah, I’ll come, I’ll come.”

But after I hang up the phone, I was just like, “I was just joking, Jesus! That was a joke. I didn’t know it was going to happen.

After sharing his testimony, Ryan co-funded the Whosoevers. Using music, skateboarding and street art, this organization allows Ryan to openly talk about facing substance and sex addictions.

It’s been five and a half years since I watched porn. But, I’ll be honest, like over the last four years it’s been brutal. I come home and I’m single man, I get those thoughts like, “Go turn on your computer. Go hit that button. Go to Safari. Go for it.”

But, when I start hearing that stuff, the Holy Spirit is like, “No, don’t do that”.

I actually walked into a liquor store the other day and I saw these porn magazines. I looked over and immediately I looked away. And I was like, “Dude, I can’t believe I just looked away”. Because Jesus says that, if you become a new creation in Christ, God renews your mind.

You want to know words that would describe my life? I would say I’m not perfect. I don’t have everything figured out. I’m completely rough around the edges. But, I know that Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life, and I’m going to follow him in whatever he does in my life.

My name is Ryan Ries and I Am Second.

We tell messy stories. We do. I know that. Most of the storytelling coming from faith backgrounds obsess with the happy ending. The prince always gets the girl. The villain always gets his due. But I Am Second tells messy stories. They don’t all end clean. All of them, even the ones that do end happy, have just a ton of mess and a ton of pain.

I’ve written for I Am Second since two months after it launched. And much of the written content that’s flowed through I Am Second has come across my desk at some point. And people have asked me, “Why are your stories so dark? Why do you spend so much time talking about the painful parts of life?”

I’ll tell you why we tell messy stories. It’s because life is messy. People are messy. The world is a mess. To tell a story, any story, about real people apart from this mess is just inauthentic. It’s fake.

Bono, from U2 fame, gave an interview with David Taylor a while back that struck a chord with me:

As I look through the Scriptures, I just see a bunch of the dodgiest people ever collected in one place. Murderers, adulterers, ego-maniacs. I mean they sound like most of my friends. They sound like me. I mean, David’s treatment of Bathsheba’s husband, it’s mind blowing. He had such darkness in him. He murders [her husband], gets him sent to the front line to take advantage of [his wife].

Bono references one of the Bible’s biggest heroes, King David. But you can’t tell David’s story without telling how he had an affair with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband. And this is one of the good guys!

We know God doesn’t have favorites, but if he has, you think it might be David. You think how? It’s revealed through the psalms of David: honesty. They are marked by honesty.

David’s honesty has long inspired Bono. Through David’s many psalms and poems preserved in the Bible’s Book of Psalms, you see a rawness and vulnerability too rarely heard.

I want to argue the case for artists who might be listening in to our conversation and are not giving expression to what’s really going on in their life because they feel it will give the wrong impression. We don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest. It’s the root, not just to a relationship with God, but it’s the root to a great song. In fact, it’s the only place you can find a great song, only place you can find any work of art of merit.

He listed out many of the darker, more painful, and raw themes found in the Book of Psalms.

I would really like this conversation to unlock some artists. I think they’re trapped artists. I’d like them to be untrapped.  Getting it out in the open is very very important. I’m just starting to realize that the only real problem that God can’t deal with is the problem you don’t know you have or that you’re lying to cover up.

One of the hidden treasures on our site is the story of David McKenna. I remember when we brought him in to share his story, he was just so open about his struggles. He actually emailed us the next day telling us that he wasn’t sure if we’d want to really feature his story. He told us he was still in the middle of it all. He was still fighting his addiction. The battle wasn’t yet won for him.

David Mckenna was trying to protect our reputation. He feared that when he messed up again, as he knew he likely would, we would look bad for having featured his story. But that’s just it. We are all a mess. That’s the human story. That’s the story we are trying to tell. That’s my story. That’s your story. That’s all our stories. We want to tell that beautifully broken human story.

There’s great hope in the broken story. Hope is faith in the unseen. It’s realizing the mess we are and trusting, hoping that God is the type to still love us despite the mess. The stories we share, even the stories I’ve told about myself (see below) are meant to share that hope, demonstrate it through all the broken lives that God cared to put back together.

But as always, I think David said it best in one of his psalms:

Into the hovels of the poor,
Into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks:
“I’ve had enough; I’m on my way
To heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.”


Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

Want to read more about my mess?

13 Reasons Why NOT: an Open Letter to My Friend Who Committed Suicide- I was the last person you ever called and I missed it. I’m still not sure how it happened. But you took your life before I could call you back. I remember calling the next day. Your mom answered and said they couldn’t find you.

Friend or Foe: My Brain Can’t Tell the Difference- That moment sent me on a dizzying journey that eventually led to the discovery that I have a defect. My brain isn’t normal. I lack the mental ability to identify people by their face. It’s an actual thing, face blindness, they call it.

The Sad Reason I Only Wear Brand Name T-Shirts– I find myself leaning on money and stuff for happiness. I haven’t learned to beat it yet. I’d like to be perfectly content with any financial situation. I’m not.


Willis Johnson founder and owner of Copart and Takl with his wife Joyce Johnson.

We recently launched Second Helping, an I Am Second initiative with the help of Takl, that brings practical household help to veterans, single parent families, seniors, and those experiencing financial difficulty. But I was curious about the backstory of Second Helping. How did something like this come to be?

It turns out, that the man behind Takl, the impetus for Second Helping, is as fascinating and surprising as the company he started. Takl has figured out how to find someone to mow your lawn within the hour. My wife hasn’t even figured out how to get me to do it that fast. Willis Johnson has a full head of peppered hair, with none of the pomp you’d expect of someone who started from scratch the leading company in his industry. But bored with retirement, he launched an app that’s mobilized an army of handymen to fix almost anything around your house.

So I got him on the phone to hear his story, starting with how he married his wife, Joyce.

“About ten days after our first date, I went over to her house. It was real early in the morning. She had those big round curlers in her hair. I had a ring in the glove compartment. I brought her to the car and asked her to marry me. And she said, “Yes.”

“We got married and bought a house. But I decided I didn’t need to get a job, my dad always worked for himself. I learned from him. I could work for myself. So, we sold our house and moved into a junkyard. I started my own wrecking yard and I grew it from there.”

Within the first minute of our interview, I discover a man willing to take risks. You don’t ask your girl to marry you ten days into the relationship or sell your house and move into a junkyard without some seriously big, uh…well, let’s say he’s a bold man.

“Our company ended up having a number of locations and I decided to go public with the company. From there, I started acquiring or building a new yard every six weeks for the next eighteen years. Copart is now the largest salvage auction company in the world, today.”

Willis Johnson started Copart from a single location in Sacramento, California. Today, Copart has 190 locations in 12 countries and sells a car, on average, every three seconds, making Copart the largest salvage auction company in the world.

“I retired seven years ago, but I’m still chairman of the board of Copart. But, I got bored not being involved in business. I happened to be in New York City for a dedication involving an Orange County Chopper I repaired for the Statue of Liberty. I had not been traveling for a while, because I had been retired. Instead of getting in a cab, we got into an Uber.

“Prior to Uber, coming into New York City, you had to get in a cab. You wait in line. You could hardly get one. They were dirty. It was kind of neat just getting into this nice black SUV from Uber. I thought whoever dreamed that up was a genius. I kept jumping in the front seat giving my drivers the third degree asking how this works. What a cool thing, that you can run your own business without an accounts payable, accounts receivable, you work for yourself.”

I guess that’s why I don’t run a billion dollar, multinational corporation. The last time I got in an Uber, I took a nap. I flew into JFK airport in New York and needed to get to New Jersey. I hopped into an Uber, gave my driver the address, and promptly dozed off until about Manhattan. Never did I think that this could be a life changing experience or a ride that could launch my next career.

When Willis returned to his home in Nashville, another piece of the start-up puzzle fell into place.

“Well, I met with my friend Greg and he wanted to build a company for handymen. I said good for him. But I didn’t want to start up a business. Remember, I was retired. I went online looking and found that just about every town in America has a handyman. We combined this idea of a business for handymen and overlaid that with the on-demand concept.

“We thought, let’s think about a gig economy business that just does small jobs, handyman type stuff. We ran with that concept and started Takl. Most of the jobs are around $100. These are small jobs, ones that don’t require a permit or anything. Usually, providers show up within the hour to do whatever project you need.”

I have to admit, before I met with Willis Johnson, I had the picture of a middle aged Silicon Valley type guy, some fake glasses, and a V-neck. Instead, I met a man who grew up on a dairy farm, spent his life in junkyards, and only recently came out of retirement to start a company based on an app.

I had some practical questions about Takl. Like, how do you know what price to set for cleaning out the gutters?Or how do you estimate the time for trimming the hedges and painting a wall? Well, because he’s done all that himself. Long before he ever joined NASDAQ, he worked for his dad in one of his many hands-on type businesses or tore apart cars in one of his junkyards. Even more recently, he told me the story about fixing up an Orange County Chopper. Takl isn’t just some idea he had, it’s part of the life he’s lived.

A large part of his life has always been about giving back however he is able.

“So, we are doing all this when I Am Second, comes to me with an idea. People can use Takl to get just about anything done around the house. What if I Am Second helps people who couldn’t afford to pay for these jobs? They wanted to help people in the community using Takl. That lead to the creation of Second Helping. 

“Now, after doing a job with Takl, when you checkout you can make a donation. That money will help a single mother who can’t work, an elderly couple or a veteran. People can donate money and that pays for a job at someone’s house.  Individuals, churches, organizations can go through Second Helping to help people in their community.

“I’m a firm believer in giving the maximum. Some people can’t afford to give money, but they can give their Saturday. They can become a provider with Takl. And the money they earn can go to Second Helping. A lot of people can give money or time. God wants that. I hope to see people help their neighborhood, all over the country, through Second Helping.”

Takl is an app that helps with small jobs around the house. Second Helping uses that platform to assist people who need the help but struggle to pay the light bill. I’ve been with I Am Second since before Twitter. I’ve had the chance to be a part of a ton of awesome events, initiatives and projects. But Second Helping is in a whole different category.

I just want you to think about it for a second. You’re working two jobs struggling to pay the bills or you’re a single mom just trying to keep life together, and you just can’t get the lawn mowed. It’s a simple thing. It’s really not that big of deal. But you just can’t get it done. You need someone to help you out for an hour to mow your lawn. Where are you going to find that someone? Now, you can find that someone through Second Helping. If you’re the type that wants to give some help, you can either come mow the lawn yourself or pay the guy who will. That is a revolutionary concept, the kind of thing that can change the world.

You want in? Here’s how you can get involved:

GIVE- your donation will provide veterans, single parent families, seniors, and those experiencing financial difficulty with needed household projects, free of charge. Click here to give.

APPLY-  if you are a veteran, single parent, senior, or are experiencing financial difficulty and need help with a chore around the house, apply here.

EXPLORE- Learn more about Takl or Second Helping.



Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Ingrid is a cancer survivor. And if you’ve ever known a survivor, you know the fight it takes to make it through. She’s battled through chemo, reconstructive surgeries, infections, and long stays in the hospital. And for those of us on the outside, you don’t realize what this does to the rest of life. Sometimes, just the simple stuff, like keeping up with your house, hanging the pictures, or, in Ingrid’s case, fixing the porch become nearly impossible to achieve. But someone she never met donated to hire a local handyman to come fix up her porch.

Read her letter to the organization that helped coordinate it all:



When cancer put her in the hospital, Second Helping took care of Ingrid’s porch repair needs.

“As you may recall from my application, I had an illness that has set me back a bit. Thankfully, the stage 2 breast cancer (diagnosed Nov 2013) was treated and I am cancer free! The ensuing chemo, reconstructive surgeries along with complications with infections, reactions to anesthesia and overall stress from the whole thing has caused me to need a lot of recovery time. 

“I moved away from Atlanta after I finished chemo and what I thought was my final surgery for the reconstruction in May 2015. And I bought this small home near Tampa to live near my boyfriend and because I love FL weather. Unfortunately, the treatment and surgeries caused more complications than I had anticipated which caused more hospital stays etc. So it’s recently that I’m beginning to feel better and hope to get more improvements done around my home.

“I am truly grateful for all the grace I encountered through all the illness and I continue to constantly see from God. He heard my prayer to make my home nicer and He chose your organization to help! I told Him you guys are awesome and He agreed! God Bless!”


And in case you are wondering, the answer is YES. You can do this, too. There are tons of people out there that could just really use a little help. They need someone to mow their lawn, paint a wall, or fix their porch. It may not seem like much to you, but to the Ingrids of the world, its everything.

It’ll take you two minutes, tops. Click here to give and you can help provide the needed household projects that veterans, single parents, senior, and people experiencing financial difficulty so desperately need.

Second Helping provides needed household projects, free of charge, for approved recipients through our collaboration with Takl. Get involved in bringing the practical help that people need.


Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian. Image shared from

Most of us saw the headline, even if we pretend that we don’t keep up with the Kardashians. Lamar Odom, with claims to two NBA championships and a much-publicized marriage and divorce with Khloe Kardashian, just penned a public confession. He tells of the wild path that led to him lying in a hospital bed for four days in a coma and his regrets along the way.

(Read it yourself here, but be warned, it’s not PG)

Maybe it’s the whole reality TV craze, but it’s become common practice for the famous to spill everything out into the public. Every time I watch one of these shows, I always say to myself, “Don’t they know people are watching?” And how do they expect to get away with those snarky side camera comments about so-and-so, when surely so-and-so will be watching this episode in a month along with the rest of us.

But it’s just this type of let-the-world-see-my-mess attitude that I find so intriguing. What compels a person to let the world watch as they tear up their marriage or verbally stab their friends? What makes a person want to strip the peel off their life, so we can all tweet out our judgements?

There’s a quote from the letter of 1 John in the Bible, written by one of Jesus’ closest followers. It says:

“If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. On the other hand, if we admit our sins…God won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” -1 John 1:8-10

Unlike every other religious book on earth, the Bible is full of messed up heroes. All the great names cheated on their wives, murdered, lied, doubted, failed in big ways. John here summarizes the main theme of the book, that we’re messed up and in need of forgiveness.

Lamar Odom recalls in his letter something his grandmother used to say, “What’s done in the dark, will come out in the light.”

And this letter was his admission to that truth.

“If it’s not in the public light, it’s in God’s light.”

“I think of all the sneaky s%#t I tried to get away with,” he says. “All the times I did wrong. All the stuff I tried to hide. If it’s not in the public light, it’s in God’s light.”

I think somewhere deep inside of us, we all know this to be truth: we are messed up and in need of forgiveness. Reality TV is like pro-wrestling, we all know it’s staged, but it’s a staged truth. It still reveals something real, something deep about ourselves, the things we really want, really care about. And one of those things: that despite our mistakes, we want love and forgiveness.

Props to you, Lamar Odom, for admitting your wrongs. I’ll be praying you find God’s path for your life and the love and forgiveness your seeking.



Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.


More from Doug Bender

I can’t believe you’d go there- So why do we show up at unexpected places, places like Warped Tour. It’s simple. Jesus didn’t come for good people. He came for people who knew they weren’t. He came for broken people.

Katy Perry: Witness for the darkness- You read this song and you keep waiting for God to show up, for the ending to turn happy, but it never does. But that’s why I love it so much.

Lynsi Snyder, Owner and President of In-N-Out Burger

I’m currently the president at In-N-Out Burger, which was a little mom and pop burger stand that started in 1948 and grew to be pretty big.

It’s been a part of my life since I was born, being close with different people that work there. You know, it really got introduced into my life when my dad died. Both my parents were very loving. I remember being pretty cheerful little girl that was a little bit spoiled because my siblings were 12 and 16 years older than me.

My dad was really funny. He was a little bit eccentric. He loved to make people laugh, loved to laugh himself. He used to explain songs to me. We had this connection with music. We loved music. He spoke to me like I was an adult when I was 4 years old. He had this wisdom and discernment that I was going to be exposed to so many different things in life; that I was going to need that straightforwardness and that honesty.

And that’s when I really started longing for that attention and that love because my dad was the greatest source for that.

Probably around age five or six we were going to visit my dad in the hospital. And, I thought it was just the hospital he was staying at, but it turned out to be a rehab. My mom explained it that he was just sick. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized he had a drug addiction, from different surgeries he’d had and a lot of pain he’d had in his past. Pain that he didn’t know what to do with.

It was really hard for me to see him fail and be weak because I knew how bad he wanted to be a good husband and a good father. It was a matter of time before the drugs and another woman, and then that was pretty much it. They got divorced when I was twelve.

And that’s when I really started longing for that attention and that love because my dad was the greatest source for that. One day, I was on my way to school and he’d called in the morning. I talked to him and I was rushing him off the phone because I had my hands full and that was the last time I talked to him. My world shattered.

After my dad died there was no way I was going to be alone. He’s gone, so I had even greater reason to fill the void. I got married at 18. I had graduated a few months before that. It wasn’t right. I knew that. That small still voice had told me don’t do this. And I did it. And I paid the price with a divorce.

Another divorce. Another affair. I couldn’t feel like a bigger failure at that point. I just couldn’t recover who I was.

And jumped right into the arms of someone else. At that point, I realized I’m pretty much the outcast in the family. Now, I’m divorced and I figured I might as well just embrace this. Started smoking pot, drinking, which were things I really wanted to stay away from after watching my dad. I realized that I’m going to follow the footsteps of my father and I’m going to meet an early death if I do not get right with God and follow him, because the enemy just wanted to wipe me out.

I could let go of the pot and the alcohol, but letting go of the guy was different, because being alone…I just didn’t want to be alone. I just was praying and asking God to give me the strength to do what was right. I knew that I couldn’t go back home that night and sleep with my boyfriend. I had to tell him, ‘Hey this isn’t happening. If you are going to do those things, don’t do them around me.”

He ended up getting saved, so I then I’m like “Okay, now we can get married.” It was the fast track. We got married in November. Was it really the right thing? I can’t say because I have two precious children from that marriage, but 6 years later, another divorce, another affair.

I couldn’t feel like a bigger failure at that point. I just couldn’t recover who I was. I was so alone. Didn’t last long. I ended up in another relationship. We ended up having a child together. We got married. And I married him because I didn’t want to be alone. He married me because of money. I was cheated on off and on for three and a half years.

The first time I found out he cheated on me I was like, “Well I deserve it. I’m paying for it.” He cheated on my while I was pregnant. Disrespected, never had I been talked to like he talked to me. Treated like trash. It was the worst time of my life.

God took me to a place that I’ve never been before and he showed me that in that time where I felt more alone than ever, more of a piece of trash than ever, more of a failure, that he was there. And he was ready to love me.

You can see how someone who just wants that love and appreciation was just getting further and further from what she wanted. Started believing the lies that I deserved that, that God’s punishing me. The things that can be said can cut you very deeply and can change who you believe you think you are.

I just continued to put up with it. No way could I get divorced again. I mean how old am I and I’ve been divorced a handful of times, really? It was terrible. It really pushed me. God took me to a place that I’ve never been before and he showed me that in that time where I felt more alone than ever, more of a piece of trash than ever, more of a failure, that he was there. And he was ready to love me and fill that void.

And he’d been there all along wanting that, but he needed me to let go of that tangible person. It was my dad first, then it was the next guy, the next guy. I was never willing to just let go to see that God had something better.

I was forced to this time because this was someone who was just throwing me to the curb. I was divorced again. And I knew it was time to just take time away. That time alone was some of my greatest memories with God. It was an alone that was okay because I wasn’t completely alone because I had the Jesus that walked on water, healed the sick. I had that Jesus filling that void, touching my heart, pouring into who I’m called to be and who he sees me as, rather than who I’d believed I was because of the things I’d done.

I really value the love and good times I had with my dad but even that can’t compare to the love that God has for me. It likes you’re a little kid riding a bike for the first time and your dad is proud cheering you on because he helped you ride that bike. And God got me back up after all of these failures and he can lift me up and see me go forward and I know that he can be glorified.

And riding a bike and a proud dad and the Creator of the niverse being able to use you is like… wow.

My name is Lynsi Snyder and I Am Second.


Just one more thing won’t hurt, I think to myself, adding to my online shopping cart. It’s a tiny lie, because right now, every surface of my house is covered. My kitchen island is a showcase of unopened mail, a highchair tray covered in half-eaten toast, and toddler clothes that I don’t even have time to cut the tags off of. The funny thing is today is National Simplicity Day, but in all honesty? I want more.

It wasn’t always this way, at least for me and my husband. We took pride in keeping things simple while he was in graduate school. Our financial circumstances kept us from owning much at all. Secondhand furniture? Wearing clothes from nine years ago that still fit? Rice and beans every night? Check, check, and check.

But then we had a baby. Now I can’t take a step without tripping on her stuff. I bought all of this stuff for my daughter, so that makes it OK, right?

In my gut, I know I’m going about this all wrong. I wrongly believe nothing will ever be enough for my daughter

I buy toys that claim to make my daughter smarter, clothes that will garner compliments, enroll her in group classes in hopes that she will make more friends and excel more quickly than the other children. I want the nicest SUV that will keep her the safest and for her to attend the school that will give her an edge in life. I want all the things.

In my gut, I know I’m going about this all wrong. I know because I wrestle with discontent on a regular basis. I wrongly believe nothing will ever be enough for my daughter. My double standard of clearance rack for me and on-trend designer dresses for my daughter tells the true story: I am an undercover materialist.

Becoming a parent triggered this in me, and now it’s a constant battle for me to be OK with a simple life.

Materialism is subtle and sneaky because it masquerades as good intentions. Wanting to belong is OK. Wanting great things and opportunities for our children is OK. But when what drives our spending is comparison, fear of being left behind, or even worse, addiction, we’ve crossed over to the dark side. It’s not about stuff anymore. It’s about God, and not believing what he has given us is enough. Or that he is enough.

Materialism is subtle and sneaky because it masquerades as good intentions.

But practically speaking, how does one live simply with children? I don’t know. I’m a first time parent, and like the rest of us, I’m winging it. But I do know this: Every day I have the freedom to choose. Do I choose to keep my eyes on what works for my own family or allow them to stray and long for what isn’t mine? Do I choose to enjoy spending time with my daughter or do I wring my hands because I can’t afford to throw her the swankiest birthday party on the block?

When I’m “jonesing” for more stuff the most, I try to stop and breathe. Does my daughter have what she needs to thrive? Yes. Is she happy? Yes. What more is there?

In honor of celebrating National Simplicity Day, will you join me in being thankful for what you have already? Let’s enjoy being alive today, the friends we do have, the work we have, heck, even the mess on the counter tops. For just one day, let’s slow down and believe that what God has given is good. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll have eyes to see that the stuff itself isn’t what we want more of after all.


Whitney Thompson is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas. She has written for several publications including Advocate magazine, Prison Fellowship’s Inside Journal, and Upper Room’s Teen Devozine.




Every year we show up at Warped Tour, a massive summer concert tour with the biggest and newest names in music. We have a booth and we ask people to tell us their stories. We get stories like this:

People ask us why we go to these kinds of events. This is why. It’s these stories. We go to hear people’s beautifully broken, human stories. We want to engage people with their story, listen to them. We do this because we care. And we do this because we too have a story to tell.

Hope happens when you believe in a different story, a different telling of your purpose and place in life. We believe we tell that different story, the story of hope. It’s one that plays out through the dozens of raw, diverse, human stories represented on our website. But we don’t get to tell this story of hope unless we care enough to listen to another’s story first.

One of my all-time favorite stories in the Bible is the one about Matthew. This guy was despised by the religious establishment, hated and judged. He was after all a traitor to his country and his God. He took a job working for an enemy nation to collect taxes for them from his own friends, family, and neighbors who’d been conquered by this enemy nation.

But one day Jesus came to his town and walked right up to where he was collecting taxes and invited Matthew to follow him. He didn’t call him names, judge him, shout out all the terrible things he’d done, or even demand that he confess his wrongs and return all the money he took. No. He just gave him an invitation to follow him. Jesus then shows up for dinner at Matthew’s house and the religious leaders in town have the predictable reaction of judgment.

“Why does he eat with such sinners?” they ask. It was one thing to talk to Matthew, but a whole different thing to go and hang out with the guy at his house.

But Jesus turns the tables on his critics and says, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m not here for good people, I’m here for sinners.”

Pause just for a second and think about what Jesus just said. The only people who get to see the doctor are those who know they are sick. 

There’s so many times when I go to bed at night wondering why I said whatever I did to my wife, why I yelled at my daughter, why I wasn’t kinder to my neighbor. It’s frustrating that I seem incapable of being the man I want to be. But it’s stories like this that remind me of the hope that Jesus came to give. A hope for messed up people like me.

So why do we show up at unexpected places, places like Warped Tour. It’s simple. Jesus didn’t come for good people. He came for people who knew they weren’t. He came for broken people. And that’s why we go to these places.

We don’t go because we think we are better. We go because we know we are not. We’re not there on some humanitarian mission to help the poor souls at rock concerts. We go because we’re all poor souls in need of help. We go because this is where we keep finding people looking for hope. And we want to have that conversation.



Doug Bender is an I Am Second writer, small groups coach, and author of I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. and Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First.