It is entirely possible that your life is falling together… instead of falling apart.
It is entirely possible that your life is falling together… instead of falling apart.
More than 15 years ago, we were serving as the lead pastors at a church in Northeast Louisiana, and we scheduled a set of special services to encourage and challenge people spiritually. We invited Rev. Geary Phillips to be our speaker for those services, and I have not since forgotten one of the messages he preached. I remember it because it was such a different message, and the truth was so simple that it caught me off-guard.
As I recall, Geary told how that when his daughter (or maybe it was his granddaughter) was young, she would wake up some mornings, come find him, crawl up in his lap, giving him a big hug, smile sweetly, and say, “Good morning. I love you.” He contrasted it with some mornings which happened less frequently on which she would wake up in a less than pleasant mood… not smiling… no hug given… no sweet tone in her voice… no crawling up in his lap… no “I love you.” He talked about how he loved those mornings when she would wake up with a smile and an “I love you” so much more than the ones when she woke up with a fussy disposition. It wasn’t that he loved her any less. That remained the same regardless of her attitude. But on the days when she gave him a wake-up smile and expressed her love first thing, it caused him to want to do more for her that day. It opened the door for them to be close that day.
Then he told of how the Lord had challenged him to wake up every morning, and before he even got out of bed, to give the Lord a wake-up smile and tell the Lord he loved him. As he began to do this, he noticed that the days he practiced this, he felt closer to the Lord, and things just seemed to go better.
Something about it caught my heart’s attention. I didn’t have kids at the time, so I had to believe his experience in faith. But I determined that I would do my best to wake up that way each day… giving the Lord a wake-up smile and telling Him how much I love Him before ever throwing back the covers and putting my feet onto the floor. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve missed plenty of days over the past 15 or so years since that service, but I’ve tried to make sure that the days with a wake-up smile for the Lord outnumber those without.And you know what? Geary Phillips was right. The days I begin with the Lord by giving Him a wake-up smile, a sweet attitude & an “I love You” are much better than the others. Those days are not always miraculous, but there is something about them which just seems… better.I have my own kids now, and our boys are old enough to get up on their own, finding their way to wherever we are in the morning… usually, I’m in my La-Z-Boy sipping coffee and eating peanut butter. And sure enough, when they come in with a sweet attitude, smile, crawl up in my lap (even though Alex is getting big enough I may have to sit in his lap soon), and tell me that they love me… I smile back, give them a big ol’ hug and kiss, and our day goes better because it started off right.This isn’t deep. This isn’t difficult. But it does make a difference when genuinely applied to our lives daily. So why don’t you take “The Wake-Up Smile Challenge” yourself? Why not start each day by waking up, and before you ever move… maybe before you even open your eyes… just smile and tell God you love Him. See if that doesn’t begin to make a change in the way you view Him… in how close you feel to Him… in the way your day goes.And here’s one more challenge… why not practice this with the people you love and see every day? It just might make things go a little differently with them as well!
Last week, PR31 finally convinced me that we could do something I’d been putting off for four and one half years. For some bizarre reason, the people we bought our home from had put up a basketball goal in the back yard… in the grass… the yard even slopes there… like it does on almost the entire four acres. Yet there stood that eyesore.
The entire time we’ve lived here, I’ve mowed around. The past couple of years, it has stood watch over our garden. And every time I saw it, it was almost as if it taunted me. I would open the blinds to look out over the beautiful back third of our property to see all green… and the eyesore.
I didn’t think we could move it. I thought it would take maneuvering a truck around there, tying a chain to the thing and trying to uproot its cement base from the ground.
But it had rained quite a bit, and PR31 assured me that she and the boys would help me dig all around the cement, and that, if we all worked together really hard, we could probably get it out. The goal being that we would moved it around front to the flat, wide open square portion of our blacktopped driveway which would be perfect for a basketball court for the boys to use.
True to her word, she inspired the boys with her delusions of grandeur, and we all headed out to dig. But before we could discover how wide the cement went out, she decided to push on the pole. And it gave. I said, “Let me give it a try.” And with all my manly might, I pushed… and it gave some more. I realized the pole was so old that it was breaking loose where it met the cement. Could it really be this easy?
We pushed together and the pole gently broke at its base. We caught it, lowered it to the ground, twisted, and voila. A little hammering on the barely remaining edge of pole hitting up from cement, and everything was flat. We scooped dirt back over it, and it was as if it had never been there.
Team A grabbed that basketball goal, hauled it around front, bleached it, scrubbed it, repainted it, dug a hole, and the next day set the goal in place with its new cement surround. Twenty-four hours later, our boys were having a blast with their new goal… which cost us less than $20 including, paint, a new net, cement & a basketball.
There have been a couple of great 2-on-2 games and we’ve taught the boys to play horse. They’re having so much fun with it. I can’t believe I wasted four and a half years of staring at something ugly when I could do something about it and enjoy the results so much!
So, why? Why did I wait four years to do this? I’ll tell you why… I thought it would be too difficult, maybe outside what I could accomplish. But before you mock me too much for my lack of self-confidence regarding this super-simple task, let me ask you… what is it in your life that you have left undone because it just seemed too difficult?
We all have stuff like that, you know. And sometimes it’s more serious than a basketball goal… like forgiving someone who did us wrong… or pursuing that degree… or chasing that dream… or starting your own business.
Here’s the thing… it’s almost never as difficult in real life as it seems in our mind. And our procrastination only makes it seem even more challenging when, if we would just go ahead and do it, we’d find that is was easier than we imagined. Plus, there is great joy on the other side that totally makes tackling this tough thing worth more than we invest in it.
Don’t put off till tomorrow… or four and a half years from now… what you can do today. Just go after it! Do it today. You will find it’s not as hard as you thought, and you will be so glad you did it. Take it from a guy who now loves to look at out the back window at a beautiful yard, and out the front window at two boys hooping it up.
I love standing outside on a clear, cool night and looking up into the night sky full of stars. It’s even better to be out there, seeing the first star or two appear, and then watching as the sky populated almost miraculously with so many stars they cannot be counted.
On a night like that, it’s easy to begin to feel a slightly minuscule. The enormity of the universe with all those stars had the ability to put ourselves in perspective. And, if we’re not careful, we can begin to think we are so small that we are overlooked… losable… unknown. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
The prophet Isaiah wrote these words in the 26th verse of the 40th chapter of his self-titled book in Scripture…
“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of His great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.”
Think about that for a moment. Those stars are known. God… the One who created them… knows each one of their names and calls their names every 24 hours. They are personal to Him, unique enough to have their own name.
And not a single one of them ever goes missing. He always knows their location. They never escape His sight. He cares enough about them to know where they are at every moment… even when you and I don’t see them.
Here’s the thing… you are far more important to God than any of His other creations… like stars. So you can be sure that, since they are known to Him, you are even more so known to Him. Today… every day… He knows your name and calls your name. And you never get out of His sight. He always knows right where to find you.
You are known. And the next time you forget that, or are tempted to think it’s not true, I want you to walk outside, look up into the night sky… and remember that you are more known than any one of those beautiful stars you see. In that moment, open your heart and mind… listen closely… because He will come alongside you and whisper your name as well.
Author’s Note: Excited to share this 400th post with you today!
Sometimes the boys try to explain a video game to me, and it sounds like they are speaking a foreign language. Sometimes PR31 tries to tell me how to cook something or what she is doing with a craft, and it seems like we must be from different countries because I can’t seem to understand what she is saying.
But there is a language all of us understand… and crave. That language is encouragement. We all know it when we hear it, and we each need to hear it daily.
I was speaking at a conference recently, and I sat in on the other sessions when mine was over that morning. One of the speakers shared a University of Washington study from ten years ago which showed that students between the ages of 12-17 hear negative statements at a rate of 30 negative statements to 1 positive statement. My guess is that teenagers aren’t the only ones hearing that many negative statements in life. If it isn’t someone else, we sometimes speak negatively to ourselves.
That’s why it’s so important to speak “up.” Speaking the language of “up” means keeping our words positive, uplifting, helpful, good, and encouraging. It’s a foreign language to many people. They have rarely or never heard it, and so they don’t understand it very well. But instinctively, they know there is something about it that they like. And like any language, if we will practice, we can not only hear it and understand it, but we can begin to speak it.
I want to be fluent in the language of “up.” I want every word that comes out of my mouth to be tinged with hope and joy. I want to see people’s frowns turn into smiles when I speak this language to them. I want to hear from people that their life improved after I spoke this language of encouragement and inspiration to them.
It’s funny to me that we always think of Heaven and God as being up because Heaven is too difficult to locate, and God is not restricted or limited to one location or direction. But isn’t it interesting that we think of Him and where He lives as “up?” He is the originator of speaking this language called “up.” Even when He has to challenge or correct, it is in such a way and with the desire to lift us… “up.” And since my life revolves around knowing Him intimately, loving Him deeply and following/serving Him faithfully, I want to speak His language… the language of “up.”
We can learn this language and become fluent, and in so doing begin to bring transformation to the lives of those whose paths cross ours each day. Don’t let an opportunity to make such a significant impact pass you by today. Send the text, make the call, pay the compliment, offer the encouragement, share some hope… Speak up!
We homeschool our boys. Let me re-phrase that. PR31 teaches them, and I occasionally substitute or help out in a bind.
However, when it comes to foreign languages, I’m the guy. So when Austin recently decided he wanted to include Spanish, I was introduced as the new Spanish teacher. This is partly because I took 2 years of Spanish in junior high, and partly because I grew up in the Houston, Texas area. Obviously, I’m well-qualified to teach first-grade level Spanish.
Our classes have been going really well. In fact, they’ve been going better than expected, and Austin is really learning quickly. It’s been fun to see him pick it up and become confident in what he has learned.
In fact, the other day, Austin was trying to explain to Angela how to say a certain word. He wanted to make sure he was saying it right, and so he asked Alexa (the Amazon Echo lady) how to pronounce the word in Spanish. Alexa replied, but with a different word than we had learned. Austin just shrugged her off and replied, “That’s not right… that’s not what Daddy taught me.” And with that, he walked off to find the flash card so he could tell Angela what “the truth” was.
When I heard the story from PR31, it occurred to me that this is the way we ought to respond when the enemy of our souls… or others… or even our own thoughts try to accuse us or bring us down. We need to say the same thing as Austin… “That’s not right… that’s not what my Daddy (God)taught me.” We need to apply to ourselves what God has said about us in His Word & tell anyone or anything that disagrees with it that they are just wrong. Then walk away, and find what we know to be true.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac email that PR31 received last week said it’s time to start planting veggies outside where we live. Now some would consider us “Coca-Cola Cowboy” type country folk, but we kind of feel like we’re farmers because live on four acres in a wooded… we are now raising chickens… and we have a garden plot that is about 25′ by 25′.
Now, you may think the almanac is a joke, and that there are more scientific methods, but if the almanac says it, that’s good enough for us. So, this week we got out the tiller, hoes and rakes, and we got dirty.
The ground had laid fallow since last year’s summer garden. Grass and weeds had crept in and hidden our beautiful soil. But the boys and I were determined to fix that. We did the initial tilling and pulling to get the ground turned over. Surprisingly, it was in great shape and didn’t require as much work as we expected. We will go back, pull more turned over grass and weeds out. Then we will till in some fertilizer to prep the ground. Rows will be mounded, pathways left to be able to navigate the future garden. Shortly thereafter, seeds will go in that beautiful black and brown plot. And we will wait.
That garden isn’t a whole lot different from our lives. Left alone for almost any length of time, weeds of stress… fear… doubt… and worry can creep across our hearts and minds, sucking the nutrients of joy and peace right out of us. If that has happened to you, it’s time to pull the weeds. Take some time for introspection… spend some time in God’s Word and talking with Him. See which priorities have gotten out of whack, or which disciplines have been allowed to slack. Put the guards back up. Keep a rake and hoe handy. Get a shovel if necessary. Just pull those weeds. You can’t grow the good stuff with them in the way.
Then plant seeds of faith in your heart and mind. Find some Scriptures that remind you of who God is and of all the good things He has in store for you. Find a great quote that builds you up. Write them down or print them out. Or do like we do and create a piece of home decor with them on it, then place it somewhere prominent so that you see it every day. Don’t just plant a few seeds either. Plant plenty of seeds of faith in the garden of your heart and mind. Nurture them, and soon they will grow.
As the seeds grow and spring up, the weeds may try to come back, but they will be much easier to spot and much easier to keep pulled. Soon, you will see blooming and productive plants, and memories of that weed-covered plot will fade away.
This is God’s spiritual almanac message to you today… It’s time to pull the weeds and plant the seeds!
I picked up an old journal this morning. The house was still quiet. The sun was just rising. It was just me… a great cup of coffee… and the Lord.
The great thing about keeping a journal… especially about spiritual things in your life… is that you can speak to your future self. Or maybe I should say that God can speak to you again with truth that transcends time. As I flipped through the pages, I came across so many moments in my life when the Lord spoke to my heart and mind so clearly. He spoke just what I needed at that moment. And the truths that fit some of those situations fit my current circumstances.
Although I feel at great peace in life at the moment, one of those entries in one of those journals seemed to be a great reminder. In fact, it seemed so good that I felt someone else might also need to be reminded today.
It was short… and simple… yet profound and steadying. It was the voice of my Heavenly Father whispering to my soul. And this is what I sensed Him saying…
“I simply have two words for you today to answer all your questions and calm all of your fears/concerns– Trust Me.”
Whatever you’re facing today… whatever you’re going through… no matter how tough the situation may look… Trust God. You can count on Him. I wrote that entry in my journal about 15 years ago. It was true then, and it still is today. That’s because God never changes. He is completely trustworthy.
Got questions today? Trust God. He’s big enough to handle your questions, and He has all the answers.
Concerned about something in your life today? Trust God. He can fix any problem, and He has all the power and resources you might need.
Two words… Trust Me.
Pictured above are PR31’s great grandmother “Muddy” and her grandmother “Grannie” or “Bertie.” Below each of them are one item they owned & use which have since come to be used regularly in our home. I used that step stool just this morning. And we use that rolling pin many a Friday night when we roll out the dough for our homemade pizzas.
Each time I use one of those items, I smile. I smile because I think of them. I wonder how many times they used that item. I wonder if they know how much it’s helping us live our lives today.
You see, for each of us, our destiny depends on our history. We are the people we are today… we are able to do what we do today… because of those who went ahead of us and who have handed down to us those things which help us. Some of those things are physical items, like the rolling pin and step stool. Others are life lessons, stories and emotional input. Still others are spiritual blessings passed down to us. Regardless of what it is, we wouldn’t be who we are or do what we do without the benefit of those who went ahead of us.
Keep on investing in the lives of others. Just think… one day, there will be others… kids, grandkids, friends, co-workers… who will get to be who they will be and do what they will do because you invested in their lives. And if we do it right, maybe just maybe, they will smile when they think of you!