- Christian, husband, dad, friend, leader, author and speaker - Life Purpose = Love & Encourage, Offering Grace & Hope - Life Motto = Living for the applause of nail-scarred hands - Life Verse = Matthew 25:21

The picture above was taken the day AFTER Alex, Austin and I had mulched all the leaves in the yard with the riding mower and blown all the leftover debris off the driveway. Yes, you read it right… the day after. We must have billions of leaves on our property.

I woke up the mowing after we had made the yard look so great to see this view. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. We wasted all our time yesterday. It looks like we didn’t do anything at all.”

But I knew better. There have been times in the past when I had the mentality of just letting all the leaves finish falling, and then trying to mulch them all. Fun story, I caught a riding mower on fire one time doing that. I had let so many leaves build up that they got caught up under the engine and ignited.

Lesson learned. Mulch anyway. Sure, the yard may only look clean for one afternoon. Sure, you may have to do it all again in a couple of days. Mulch anyway. It makes a difference. Once the leaves get soaked by a rain or build up too much, the job is incredibly difficult and takes much longer.

You know what else is crazy? Sometimes we each look at our lives and feel like I felt looking at that yard covered once more by leaves. If we’re not careful, we can begin to think that what we are doing to help others, bless others, serve others is not making a difference. Yet, it is. If we didn’t do what we had done yesterday, people’s situations would be even more difficult today.

You are making a difference in the lives of those around you. You’re making a difference at work, at church, at school, in your community. So, there are new problems today. There would be double the problems if you didn’t do what you do.

Paul told the believers in the church at Galatia not to get tired of doing because eventually they would see that their efforts were making a difference… people’s lives were being impacted.

The same is true for you. Don’t give up on doing good for others because it looks like you’re not making a dent in the problem. One day, you’ll be glad you did what you did.

As for me, I’ve got more leaves to mulch…

We had stopped by some friends’ home to drop something off, and ended up staying longer than we had originally planned. Alex and Austin went with their friend to another room at one point to play video games while we adults talked. On the way home, Alex told us how they had played a racing game they have at home, which he normally excels at. Yet, playing his friend, he kept losing. Finally, at one point, he figured out that he had been watching his friend’s window of the split screen instead of his own. So no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t follow the course because he wasn’t actually on the turns the friend was on. The only way he could be his best was to watch his own screen. It would show him where he was at and which way he needed to steer, whether he needed to speed up or slow down.

That happens to us in life sometimes, doesn’t it? We watch the screen showing someone else’s life, and we try like crazy to be our best on their part of the course. But the truth is, we’re not them. We’re probably not where they’re at. We may be behind, but we may also be ahead. The only way for us to actually be our very best is to watch the screen of our own life and take it as the Lord leads us and guides us. We can only navigate life right when we focus on where we are and what we need to be doing given our situation. Watching someone else’s screen will only frustrate us… and in the end, cause us to lose instead of win.

Choose today to watch your own screen. You can win. You simply have to block out the screens of others and do your best where you’re at. You’ll have a lot more fun, too.

Since she was probably eight or nine years old, Angela has lived with a condition which we only found out several years ago is called 4S. Basically, it is a super-sensitivity to certain sounds which generate an emotional response. For example, if someone eats ice or crunches nacho chips at a meal, she hears it like she’s the bionic woman. If you smack when you eat, she can hear it across the room. The subtle, metronome-like tick-tock of a clock which might be soothing to some feels like it makes her nerves stand on end. Think someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard, multiply the sensation and irritation by a hundred, and you’re getting close to challenge she faces on a regular basis.

Now, she is the epitome of graciousness when it comes to this condition. She rarely says anything to anyone outside our family. In fact, she chooses to go to the other room herself when necessary to provide relief instead of asking any of us to change our behavior. Typically, no one outside our family and a few close friends would ever know these things are bothering her.

For years, the clicking of a computer mouse and keyboard have pushed her to her limit. And since the office/schoolroom in our house- where the family computer is located- is just off the kitchen and living room, that means the three main rooms in which she normally spends the largest portion her day become significantly challenging to her 4S.

Recently, she wished aloud that someone made a silent keyboard and mouse. Then something flashed through our minds… perhaps someone does. We knew that some laptop keyboards were not as loud as most desktop keyboards. So, we began to search. Lo and behold, there are a number of “quiet” or “silent” mouses and several “quiet” keyboards. Doubtful they were as good as their own press, we decided to try them anyway.

When the mouse arrived and we tried it for the first time, she couldn’t believe the relief it provided. We immediately went and got the keyboard to see if it would also do the trick. Just a couple days ago, Alex did two of his typing lessons for school with her sitting less than three feet away from him, and she never knew he did them!

Now this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a miracle to us. We wonder why we didn’t think about this possibility sooner. We wonder why we didn’t search for this solution earlier. I suppose we just didn’t imagine the possibilities.

All of us face our own version of “4S.” We all have challenges which we seem to battle continuously, not realizing that there may be a solution right under our nose. Maybe your challenge is breaking a bad habit. Perhaps you wrestle with a spiritual challenge. Or maybe you struggle to live by a budget… speak publicly… lose weight. Have you checked to see if there might be a solution? An app? A resource? Who knows… you might be able to discover the answer to your challenge on Amazon, or at Walmart. God already has the solution to your challenge. He has already placed things at your access to help you overcome.

Don’t just wish today. Discover the possibilities. God wants you to live the abundant, fulfilled life that He has for you. And if that means you need a quiet computer keyboard and a quiet mouse to do so, He can make sure the solution is available. You may have to Google a little to find it, but you can hold on to the promise that God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

So get yourself an early Christmas present this year. Discover the possibilities!

Angela and I always had outside dogs growing up. In fact, we had only had (mostly) outside dogs during the first 20 years of our marriage. That is, until we came across our family’s current beloved canine, Sugar the Schnauzer, at a pet adoption day at a pet store in another city. If you have read this blog for almost any length of time, you know a little about Sugar already.

The thing is, before Sugar, we really thought we liked bigger, outside dogs better. We definitely would not have usually chosen a smaller, inside lap-dog. We thought they were too yappy and that you couldn’t wrestle with them. What fun would that be?

Then the Lord gave us Sugar. Sure, we had to adjust to what it means to have an inside dog, but now we love having one. And we are pretty sure that if we were ever to get another dog, we would choose a smaller, inside lap-dog all over again.

Isn’t that odd? We never saw that one coming. God gave us something we didn’t even know we would enjoy. In fact, we thought we might not enjoy it nearly as much. But He knew better. And so He gave us what was best for us- what He knew we would love more if we just gave it a chance- instead of holding on to what we thought we wanted.

You know, He doesn’t just do that with dogs. He can work all things together for your good when it comes to something like a job that you would love… or a spouse whom you would love… or a car, or a house, or even a degree plan. God has good things stored up, ready to give them to you. Things you may not even know that you would love. But you would, if you would let go of what it is you think you want… and simply trust Him with what He knows you’ll love even more.

As we move toward the end of 2018, why not begin to loosen your grip on some of your preconceived notions and leave the perfect gift-giving responsibilities to the One who knows you better than you know yourself? You’ll be glad you did. I ought to know… I’ve got a Schnauzer.

With the upcoming release of my next book imminent within the next few weeks- as the Lord’s helps- I thought back to a time about a year and a half ago when I came home from a trip speaking somewhere to find a gift Angela had waiting for me. I pulled the tissue paper from the gift bag, peered inside, and pulled out the two dark, wooden L-shaped objects. She explained, “They’re bookends… for the books you will write and publish.”

We had heard that we should keep something in front of us to remind us of the dreams we are working toward, and she knew that I had hit a point in the process where I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get finished. So, she made me those two simple bookends to remind me that one day my books would sit between them.

A day before my birthday several months later, my author copy of my first book arrived, and- after flipping through it, taking some pictures, and basking in the glow of the completed project- I had a spiritual moment as I placed the completed dream in the space between the bookends.

At first, I kept the bookends tight up against either side of that first book, but then something happened. I remembered that I have other books in my heart. As I began to write what I thought would be my second book, I looked at the first book sitting in the space between the bookends and realized that I needed to scoot them apart to make room for more of the books I plan to write.

Interestingly, I hit writer’s block on that book, and moved on to the next book when I couldn’t seem to break through. All along, I stared at the space between the bookends, and I determined that I would fill it.

It took me a little longer than I had originally planned. I wanted to release the book this weekend. I have faced challenges and setbacks, but throughout the entire process, there has been that space between the bookends- no longer completely empty- which reminded me to stay at it so that my dream of filling it would actually become reality.

One day a decade from now, I plan to have at least ten books I have written sitting in what used to be an empty space between the bookends. And here’s what I know… God has given me the dream and desire to write, the ideas for the books, the mind to conceptualize thoughts, the resources I need to capture those thoughts in print, and the team I need to make each book its best.

But I have to do my part if I am going to honor Him and His blessings by writing those books. I have to actually sit at the desk and put my fingers on the keyboard. I have to do the work of writing if I am going to fill the space between the bookends.

I give thanks to God for helping me complete this most recent book. It makes the broader dream of being an author more of a reality. I give thanks to those who have helped me make my writing better. I give thanks to Angela for showing me the space between the bookends.

I don’t know what you’re dream is, but I hope you have some visual to help keep it in front of you. I hope you have someone cheering you on. (I believe in you, in case no one has told you that.) And I hope that you will take that with which God has blessed you, put it together with your hard work, and see your dream become reality!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

I don’t think I can adequately describe for you how much I truly love peanut butter. For health reasons, I cut back from two pounds per week to about a pound per week. I eat it for breakfast on a banana or in a smoothie. I eat it by the spoonful for a snack. In fact, I’ve become a bit of a peanut butter snob, and I now craft my own peanut butter at home. And it’s all thanks to good ol’ George Washington Carver.

I’m thankful for a lot of things in life, but I am grateful for a guy named George who was willing to walk out into the woods, get alone with God, and ask for the wisdom and creativity to be able to solve the problem farmers in the South were facing. Carver knew farmers had to rotate crops, and he knew peanuts were a good option. But convincing farmers to switch was proving challenging. He needed to be able to prove to them that there would be a market for peanuts if they grew them. So he asked the Ultimate Creator to infuse him with some of that creativity in order to come up with the ideas he needed. And God did! He gave Carver more than 200 ways the peanut could be used. That helped get the farmers past their protests and into prosperity. And one of the amazing byproducts all these years later is that I get to enjoy my favorite food… peanut butter!

Now, each of us face challenges in our lives that may seem difficult- if not impossible- to overcome. Yet we have access to the mind which created everything there is in this universe. All we have to do is ask. God has not stopped creating or sharing His creativity. When He breathed His life into our lungs, He infused a bit of Himself into our being. And so, since He is creative, then we are creative. When we ask Him to get involved in our challenges, He sparks that creativity in us & helps us overcome our obstacles.

What are you facing today? What challenge do you need to overcome? What problem in life could you use a creative injection to solve?

God stands ready to pour His creativity into you and through you. And if you’re tempted to doubt it could happen for you, just pull out a jar of yummy peanut butter, grab a spoon, take a bite (or three), and remember ol’ George Washington Carver. Who knows? You might come up with an idea better than peanut butter! Well, you can at least try.

Yesterday, a computer game the boys play had an update, and they ended with all these extra powers and abilities that they couldn’t get before. Austin tried to explain it to us, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language. He kept going on about how each one could do these new and wonderful things they couldn’t do before. He said some of them were even “overpowered.” As he went on talking about how he just couldn’t believe how amazing this update was, he blurted out, “I’m overpowered… with joy!”

You know, that’s what joy does for us. It strengthens us. It powers us up. It gives us what we need and more to be able to face the day and win. Nehemiah told God’s people in his time that God set aside days on their calendar when they should be celebrate. In some ways, they felt bad to celebrate. They realized they didn’t live perfect lives. They knew the challenges they faced. They weren’t even sure they had the emotional strength- and therefore the physical strength- to celebrate. Nehemiah went on to tell them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

God doesn’t intend for us to live down in the mully-grubs. He wants us to live life to the fullest. But sometimes we check our bank account, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. Or we check the doctor’s report, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. We check our social media feed, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate.

Maybe today, you need to let the joy of the Lord be your strength. If you’ll let Him fill you up inside, you can live your life “overpowered with joy!”

I cringe every time a player for the NFL team I’m cheering for scores a touchdown and begins to celebrate in the end zone. I just know they’re going to get flagged for “excessive celebration.” They don’t typically, unless they begin taunting the other team or use a prop, a la Michael Thomas in last night’s game against the LA Rams. Yet, I still cringe. I talk to the TV screen like I’m their coach or teammate, like they can actually hear me. I tell them not to celebrate too much, not to cost their team a penalty because they are happy they succeeded.

But there is no need to cringe anymore. Players can celebrate ridiculously and not be penalized. And that’s the way it should be. They did well, and they should celebrate. They should celebrate with others who helped them. They should rejoice that all their hard work paid off. It’s right to celebrate.

No, this is not my commentary on the state of the NFL today. It is my commentary to myself and other followers of Jesus Christ on what it means to live the kind of life He intends for us to live. By the time Jesus merged deity and humanity into one in His person here on earth, rules of religion had made it almost impossible to celebrate a life lived freely for God. The handful of rules given by God to help guide His people toward a life full of joy and abundance had morphed into a list of hundreds of rules– most created by humans– which sucked the life out of serving the Lord. Jesus reminded people to keep it simple… love God… love people… be kind… help the hurting… stay humble… sacrifice for others.

He came to say we don’t have to cringe when someone scores a touchdown. We’re free to enjoy a life lived for God. No, we shouldn’t be flagrant and offensive toward others. It’s not okay to use our freedom to insult or demean, like we think we’re better because we follow Christ. But that also doesn’t mean we have to go through life ignoring the fact that God has been really good to us. It doesn’t mean we can never smile, or be happy when He blesses us.

It’s time to live free for God again. It’s time to quit cringing because someone might get offended if we say, “Praise the Lord!” No flag will get thrown by the Heavenly ref if we do a little dance in the end zone because we got an “A” on a test, or because we got the job of our dreams, or because we have met that special someone.

So, whether it’s the electric slide, the bowling pin strike with teammates, or even the leap into the crowd, remember today that it is okay to celebrate when God does good things for us and helps us to succeed. Go ahead… live that full, abundant, joyful life He has always meant for us to live. A few folks may chuckle. A few may shake their heads in disgust. That’s okay. God will smile, and you’ll want to succeed again so that you can feel that overflowing sensation once more!