I was reminded today that we all seem to want to make everyone else think that we have it all together, that we don’t struggle.

That’s a lie.

We all struggle. We all face challenges. We all wonder… and doubt… and long. Then, because we do, we think we don’t match up to everyone else.

News flash… No one has it all figured out. We’re all doing the best we can.

Yes, even Christians. We may be forgiven, but we are still works in progress as we try to match up to what has been done for us.

So listen, friend, if you’re sitting there wondering if you “missed something in Sunday School” (a phrase I borrowed from a friend recently) because you thought you weren’t supposed to have those thoughts or feelings, I want to welcome you to the club of all humanity. You, my friend, are 100%… certifiably… undeniably… NORMAL!

So relax. And for Pete’s sake, could we please just be real… and authentic… and genuine with each other so that we don’t all going around feeling like failures?

Phew. Thanks. I feel better just getting that off my chest.

P. S.- If someone is vulnerable enough to open up and admit they don’t have it all together, please be kind enough to reciprocate. You might even encourage them while you’re at it. Who knows? They might even encourage you.

For the second time this winter, we have snow! I know, not a big deal for those of you who don’t live in the Deep South, but for those of us who do… it’s a pretty big deal. And the beauty is, I won’t have to shovel any of it like we did when my family lived in Minnesota. Win-win.

Interestingly, this time with the snow, we have seen a significant number of songbirds gathering around our property in their search for food. There have been cardinals, bluebirds, finches and wrens. It has been so much fun to just sit and watch them.

Our oldest son, Alex, remembered that we had some birdseed and decided to put some out in a feeder hanging from our front entryway. He filled it up and then spread some on the ground as well. Soon the birds found the seed, and they haven’t stopped coming. Knowing that we helped them and seeing how excited they are about this provision has made our bird watching even that much more enjoyable.

Now, those birds didn’t know where they were going to find food. They didn’t ask for the food. They didn’t come knock on our door to see if we had any birdseed to spare. They were simply on the lookout. We were the ones who saw their need. We were the ones who had the ability to provide. We were the ones with the power to make their life better and easier. We were the ones with enough care in our heart to help them out.

Then I remembered this morning that Jesus once said something about this that applies to all of us as humans. In Matthew 6:26, Jesus said, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?”

Since we are more valuable to Him than birds, we don’t have to worry about how our needs are going to be provided for today. Truth be told, it’s nice to ask God to meet our needs, but He sees our needs… He sees us searching. And He has not only the ability to provide, but the care and concern in His loving heart to do so.

I don’t know what you need today, but God does. He sees you. He’s watching, and He will provide. And when He does, He will watch with joy as you take in His blessings… blessings you could not obtain on your own… blessings you did not know we’re coming… blessings that were lovingly provided by Someone greater than you.

I promise… you are more important to God than the songbirds around our home. Yet God made sure a nine-year old put out birdseed for them yesterday. And He will make sure that your needs are provided for as well! Keep your eyes open… He’s putting out birdseed for you!

In April 1803, Thomas Jefferson (via his ambassadors) inked a deal with Napoleon Bonaparte called the Louisiana Purchase in which the U. S. effectively paid France $15 million in exchange for 828,000 square miles of land… approximately doubling the size of the United States. President Jefferson announced the deal to the people of the United States in July 1803, and on October 21st of that year, Congress acted to set up governance. Ten days later, they gave the President the approval to explore the land and map it out since much of it was unknown to our country. President Jefferson then selected Meriwether Lewis to lead the exploration.

What Lewis did next is what makes him a great leader to me. He chose William Clark to explore with him. In that single act, he secured that Clark’s name would always be mentioned along with his when it came to the historic discovery of this massive portion of our nation.

I love this, and here’s why…

1. Lewis didn’t hog the glory. He didn’t feel like, since the President asked him to tackle this ginormous project with historic ramifications, he should get all the credit. To this day, we always mention Clark with Lewis. It’s never just the Lewis expedition… It’s the Lewis and Clark expedition. Their names have become synonymous with blazing trails and showing others the way… with boldness and daring… with the heart of the explorer. And their names are always mentioned… together.

Together is better. It’s always better. Together says a leader is not arrogant. Together says a leader values others more than themselves. Together matters, and it makes a difference.

2. Lewis knew he couldn’t & didn’t want to do it alone. He admitted he needed and wanted help. By inviting Clark along, Lewis made it clear that he did not have all the answers… all the skills… all the abilities. And he wanted to share the experience with someone else. I imagine that he imagined the two of them… if they could survive it… sitting in rockers on a porch one day on a piece of land in that Louisiana Purchase, telling stories to their grandchildren and people who stopped by to meet the famous explorers, of their shared experiences with two different points of view… one filling in the blanks in the other’s side of the story.

Great leaders get that they cannot do everything. Nor do they wish to go it alone. They want to share the thrill of challenges and cheers with someone else who can appreciate it… and help them be able to survive it all.

Listen, here’s the thing…

You are going to do something great in this life. Your moment is going to come when what you have been designed for… what you have been destined for… is set right in front of you. When it does, this is what I want to know…

Who is your Clark? Who will you elevate? Who will you bring along with you to make history? Will it be your spouse or your kids? Will it be a best friend? Will it be your favorite co-worker?

Just tell me you have someone in mind… because then I will know that you are the leader I believe you are… one who gets that life’s great achievements are better when they are shared.

Ramble Post Alert:

For the record, I am not forgetting to blog… or being lazy. Life has transformed over the past year and a half since I began this blog journey, and I am embracing the journey.

I am making more time to write fresh messages to share when I speak at places where I have been invited. I am working on one new book with focused effort, and another one here and there. On top of that, our family has an online home decor shop, and we are committed to making that succeed as well.

Then, there is family. Sure we’re together most of the time, but I love spending focused attention on each one each day when I’m home.

Obviously, my time alone with the Lord each day is an absolute necessity for me to be all I can be and do all I can do. I wouldn’t trade it.

Don’t worry… I’m not planning to quit blogging. I’m just not going to stress if I don’t get in five amazing posts per week. In fact, I’d feel good at this point with 2-3 really solid posts per week.

We each have the same number of hours to live each day. We each choose how we are going to spend most of those hours. And sometimes we have to re-allocate some of our hours so that we can accomplish our dreams and goals.

I encourage you to take time to write down what you are doing with your 24 hours each day, and see if you might need to give some important areas of life some of your valuable time… even if you need to take it from something you enjoy. If you’ve been willing to read this far when there was clearly a “ramble post alert” at the beginning, comment on the post or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear about any changes you discovered you need to make with how you use the time you’ve been given.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, one of my priorities is a good night’s rest…

PR31 and I truly love Hallmark Christmas movies. If you’ve read this blog for anything length of time, you know how much our family enjoys and embraces Christmas. Hallmark just adds to the celebration with their feel-good, happy ending movies each week.

On their Hall of Fame Christmas movie last month, there was a terrific quote from one of the characters. It was so good that I typed it into my notes on my phone during the movie, and today I want to share it with you. Joe said, “Hope begins when you are standing in the dark looking out at the light.

Maybe today your life doesn’t look so great. Maybe today you’re facing challenges that are overwhelming. Perhaps everything seems dark and hopeless around you. Nothing is changing for the good.

Let me ask you a question… Can you see a better future than your current condition? If you look outside your life… your situation… if you peer through a window of your soul… do you see something you would like? Do you see something you wish for… the way you wish things would be?

If you do, that is hope beginning in you. And if there is hope, there is possibility. Hope means there is at least the slightest belief inside you that things are going to get better… that the situation is going to turn around… that life will improve when…

The writer of Hebrews in the Bible says that hope is made up a substance called faith. So when you look from your dark situation through the window of your soul and see the light of what could be, you are really hoping… actually having faith… believing… trusting… that somehow, some way, Someone could fix what is wrong and life could be what you dream instead of what it is now.

I know there are situations in life which seem impossible. I know that things like death or divorce or drug addiction can make the room we are standing in awfully dark. My encouragement today is for you to find a window in that dark room. Pull the curtains back. Raise the shade. Peer out, and look desperately for light. And when you see it, don’t look away. Instead, breathe a prayer. Ask for that light to come pouring into your dark surroundings. Soon, options will become visible… help in the form of family or friends will be recognizable… and direction will begin to pull at you to step out of the darkness and into the light.

Find a window… find hope… find joy!

PR31 does an amazing job of keeping our home clean. The truth is, though, we live in it. It’s not a showroom… It’s a test track for life. It’s not a display… It’s a research and development lab where we are being mixed and tested.

Were you to walk into our kitchen… where my sweet wife basically makes every meal from scratch… you’d discover that we always have dishes to wash. Before the dishwasher gets finished washing, more are waiting to go in. Sometimes, you might find spices or olive oil sitting on the counter with the coffee maker and bread machine. The kitchen table often holds the boys’ craft projects and our Etsy store products in various stages, along with a beautiful centerpiece. Life happens there. We get stuff done there. So it’s not always spotless.

Now, lest you think I’m throwing PR31 under the bus, all you have to do is walk out the kitchen door into the garage, which holds more bicycles than it does cars, and which I have almost successfully converted into a woodworking shop. (It is not uncommon to see our minivan sitting outside the garage so that we have room to work.) No matter how frequently I sweep the floors (and walls) and pick up all the scrap pieces, there is sawdust everywhere. Even though we try to keep it neat with a crate for reclaimed wood, a small stack of lumber under an 8-foot table, more stacks of smaller, usable scrap pieces placed on the two lower levels of the workbench along with hand tools, and paint drop cloths folded in a stack, it never seems fully clean and neat. I don’t always wrap the cords up neatly at the end of every day because I know I’ll be right back out there tomorrow, working with those same tools again.

But it is a workshop. It’s not designed to show off tools. There are stores and websites for that. Instead, this is where the beauty that was once an idea becomes reality. Beautiful results can come out of messy workshops. In fact, they often do. Painters’ studios have splatters. Flower shops have clippings. Automakers’ production facilities have metal shavings and grease.

We all see the finished works… the gorgeous arrangement… the piece of art… the furniture in the showroom… the delicious-looking meal set on the table in the restaurant… the flipped house on the TV show… the sleek vehicle on the commercial… and we fail to notice the messiness it took to produce that thing of beauty.

And sometimes we do the same with our lives… or the lives of those we know. We want to see a finished product. We want to see a piece of art. We want to see it all dusted off, trimmed, adjusted, placed in perfect lighting and accented to highlight its magnificence, but we fail to notice that life was produced in messy workshop.

We can each produce beautiful results from the messy workshops of our lives. We can impact others positively. We can bring things out that others could not see. We can bring flavor and excellence to the table. But it might be a messy process. Before the beauty, there may be some bumps. We might make a little mess getting to the finish line.

That’s okay. Solomon said in Proverbs 14:4, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” In other words, you can have a neat, clean, pretty little life that everyone oohs and ahhs at, but in order to truly get anything accomplished which benefits others and you, there’s probably going to be a mess to be cleaned up from time to time.

I say all this to tell you not to get discouraged today if the workshop of your life looks like a mess right now. Something beautiful and wonderful is being crafted in you. It won’t be long and you will be generating more amazing results than ever. People will look at what you produce and stand in awe. There may be pots and pans, or sawdust and scraps all over the place right now, but don’t let that get you down. That just means there is some serious work going on, and something beautiful is being made.

For the record, we ought to remember this when it comes to the lives of those around us as well. Their lives may look messy at the moment, but let’s give them a chance to see what kind of beauty they can bring out of that mess. We can help sweep up layer. Let’s cheer them on now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some woodworking to get to out in the workshop… I mean, garage… today. And maybe PR31 will still feed me something after this post. 😉

Each time I have visited Israel, I have been profoundly astonished at how seriously the Sabbath is observed. Our tour agency and guides must work strategically to arrange sites we visit to ensure that we do not end up at a strictly Jewish site between Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown.

One of my favorite stops is always Kefar Kedem, a community of Jewish folks who show us what Jewish culture would have been like thousands of years ago to help us better understand what we read in Scripture. Once while we were there, our host Menachem was explaining how they rest and reflect on the Sabbath each week.

Someone asked him, “But what do you do if you have to work on the Sabbath?” He replied that they didn’t work on the Sabbath. The person re-phrased the question, “Yes, but what if the company you work for is not owned and run by someone who is Jewish, and they don’t observe the Sabbath? What if they require you to work on the Sabbath?” Menachem’s reply was priceless. He cocked his head somewhat puzzled and replied, “We would never work for someone who required that.”

Our group was stunned. They were further stunned to find out that, although this community which seems to live in the old ways, they have Internet service, wifi, satellite TV and more. But they were completely blown away when Menachem said they shut it all off for the Sabbath. No TV. No browsing or surfing. No social media. No cell phones.

Sabbath. A break from the normal. Rest. Ceasing from the stuff that fills the other six days of the week.

For the last twenty-four hours, I did something really rare… I did not access any social media, and I did not check this blog. Admittedly, I Googled a couple of inquiries, and I texted a couple of people. But other than that, no electronic communication with the rest of the world. I didn’t start off doing it on purpose. I just decided that I would put off checking anything till the afternoon. Then I realized I hadn’t missed it and decided to go a little longer. By early evening, I had made it that long and figured I could make it until this morning.

And you know what? It was nice. It felt good to take a break. We Americans check out phones on average about five times an hour… once every twelve minutes. If we sleep eight hours, that leaves sixteen hours in a day. That means we check our phones about 80 times per day during our waking hours.

What if we discovered what God told His people about the reason He commanded the Sabbath break? What if we could grasp that He gave that break to us as a gift? What if we would set aside just our social media for twenty-four hours each week? We might just discover that we don’t HAVE to check it 80 times a day. We might talk with our family and friends more… and actually be focused on those conversations. We might read a little more and thereby learn a little more. We might play a little more and have a little more fun. And we might find that that break really is a gift.

I don’t know how successful I’ll be at doing this every week, but I think I want to try. And I hope that you will try with me. I don’t care which twenty-four hours you pick. I don’t care if you start at sun-up or sun-down. But let’s receive this gift in the same way we just received all those at Christmas… believing that someone gives it in love and for our joy!

If you’re bold enough to take a break with me, let me know… but not on your Sabbath… or mine!