I love watching NFL games! Obviously, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I’m quite captivated as we come to the end of the season, and my team is in the playoffs. But I follow the game year-round, and I have been reflecting this week- as so many teams whose seasons have ended are letting coaches go and looking toward the next draft- about what each change a team makes really means.

I recall a statement by Adam Capland which I heard on an NFL radio show back in the preseason. He said, “Transactions always tell a story.” In other words, when teams trade, cut or hire, they express who and what they value. For example, just last week, a team in the playoffs hired a kick-off specialist because they didn’t feel like their regular place kicker could put the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. Simply hiring that other kicker meant they didn’t trust their own kicker to do his job. They didn’t value him or his abilities enough to believe in him.

Now, we can berate those team tycoons for the way they cut head coaches from the team coldly after several losses, or move on to the up and coming rookie because the crowd is tired of the veteran who is no longer in his prime. But the truth is that our transactions always tell a story as well. What we spend our money and time on speaks to what is important to us personally.

Each day, we have the opportunity to place value on people, to express how much they matter to us and to God. Simply saying yes to spending time with someone can speak volumes to them about how special and wonderful they are. Sometimes a small gift expresses immense love or appreciation. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our transactions always tell a story.

It’s true. We give our time, attention and money to those whom we value most. Andy Stanley has said, “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else.” We only have so much of each to give, and so we prioritize. Who and what we love least will get cut or traded for who or what we love more or most.

Only people will last for eternity. People should always trump stuff. I know we can’t give everyone our undivided time and attention. Sometimes the money and the time truly aren’t available for everyone in your life. I’m not suggesting that you can give the best of yourself to all those to whom you want to give it. But maybe we could turn off the TV or put away the phones little more, and play a game with our kids. Maybe we could skip the meal at the restaurant and give to a friend in need. Maybe we could give up those few extra minutes of sleep to get up and spend some time with the Lord, reading His Word and talking with Him.

Transactions always tell a story. How has the story of your life read up to this point? Are you pleased with the story so far, or do you wish you could erase some of the story and re-write it? Well, we can’t re-write the past, but the good news is that the next chapter’s pages are blank. We have the opportunity today to begin writing the story in a way that tells the story our hearts longs to tell… Let’s tell a great story!

Alex and Austin play an online, interactive computer game in which players can create games for others to play. Obviously, some of the game creators are professionals- or people with way too much time on their hands- and their games are highly popular in the daily rankings. The boys try lots of the games and occasionally even create one themselves, but they gravitate to those well-made, popular ones like everyone else.

The other day, Austin came running into the kitchen with great excitement, telling Angela, “The maker is in the game! The maker is in the game!” When Angela asked him what he was talking about, he explained that he had entered one of the games and discovered that the maker of that game was playing in it at the same time he was. For him, just knowing the maker of that game was “in there” playing along with him made playing at that moment so much more fun and exciting for him.

Now I know that life is not a game, and God is not simply a programmer who created the world and then left it to let happen what happens. The truth is, He never leaves “the game” of life we are living. He is always present. He told Joshua in Scripture that He would be with Joshua everywhere he went. And Jesus told His disciples that, even though they wouldn’t always see him “playing in the game,” He would be with them all the way to the end.

That means “the Maker” is in “the game” with you and me today! The Maker is in “the game!” We can communicate with the Creator. We can see what He intended for us. We can get to know Him a little better. When we don’t know what to do next, we can ask the One for whom nothing is hidden… nothing is unknown… nothing is secret… nothing is beyond possibility.

I know that we can go through life without seeing the Maker in “the game” with us, and that the times we really recognize He’s present are super special, but He is always in “the game” with us. There is never a moment He isn’t there. Or maybe I should say here. We can contact Him at any moment. We can get to know Him even better. We can ask Him to answer our questions and help us succeed.

The Maker of “the game” is right there beside you today. He’s praying with you. He’s helping you. He’s cheering for you to become all that He created you to be and accomplish all He wants you to accomplish in “the game” He created. So go ahead… Get a little excited… because the Maker is in “the game!”

This week, Alex has been learning about the moon in his science studies. He’s been learning about the moon’s atmosphere (or lack thereof), lunar eclipses, phases of the moon and so forth.

One interesting little piece of information which emerged as he learned is that we cannot see a new moon. Each month, the moon goes through phases, and we can see most of them. We can see the crescent moon and the full moon, but we cannot see the new moon. It’s not that the moon has gone away or ceased to exist. It’s just that we can’t see it at the moment.

The same is true in our lives. God lovingly leads us through different phases. In a lot of those phases, we can see what God is up to. Others around us can tell what God is doing in us and through us. But sometimes when God is starting something new in us, through us and for us, we cannot see what He’s doing.

In fact, you may look at your life right now and think that God isn’t working at all. But the truth of the matter is that He is there–working behind the scenes– bringing about something new in your life. You may not be able to see it yet. You may wonder what happened to that bright, full, glorious life and work that everyone could see so clearly. Maybe your life, your purpose, your destiny, your next step, your connections, your provision seems hidden or lost. Right now, you may wonder what God is up to.

I’ll tell you what He’s up to… something new. Soon, a sliver will show up. Then a crescent will appear. Before you know it, the light will be spilling over the darkness of what was hidden in its newness, and life will start making sense again. And at some point, what God is doing will be in full view, reflecting His shining power at work in you and through you.

So, if you look up at the night sky of your life right now and don’t see anything, remember that the God Who set the moon to govern the night sky regularly hides it from view because something new is on its way!

As I was talking with the Lord a couple of days ago, I thanked Him for “putting up with me” because I don’t always get everything right. No matter how hard I try, I am not perfect. I miss an opportunity He gives me. I don’t have an attitude like His. Or maybe I’m more self-absorbed than I should be. But whatever the case, I get that I don’t always live up to who He is and what He has done for me. So, I simply thanked Him for putting up with me.

That’s when He stopped me. He said that He doesn’t “put up with me.” He said instead that I am His child, whom He loves and desires to bless.

It took me a minute to wrap my mind around that. How could He love me and want to bless me when I don’t always get everything right. Then I began to think about my boys and how I feel toward them as their daddy. They are never a hassle to me. They are not people I “put up with.” They are my pride and joy. I love them like crazy. No, they’re not always perfect. Sure, sometimes they don’t act the way I wish they would. But that doesn’t change my love for them… nor my desire to bless them and help them.

And in that moment, the fog cleared away for me. God isn’t mad at me when I’m less than perfect. He doesn’t view me as a hassle. He doesn’t feel like I’m someone He simply has to “put up with.” No, He loves me deeply and wants to bless me anyway.

And He feels the same way about you. He offers you His “no hassle guarantee” today. You can be sure that you never have to feel like God is putting up with you. He loves you just as deeply, and He wants to bless you just as much.

So, today, let Him lift your chin. Admit that you’ve blown it and move forward, but don’t hang your head in shame. Don’t doubt His extravagant love for you. Don’t believe He wants to withhold His blessings. No, He wants you to know that you will never be a hassle to Him. You are His pride and joy! Live like it today, and watch Him smile!

P. S.- I am so excited to share this as my 500th post!!! Thanks to all of you who read my musings on life.

Someone reading this right now needs to know this, and you know who you are…

We recently stopped by unannounced to drop something off at a friend’s house. We didn’t know whether they were home or not, but we decided to stop by anyway. We rang the doorbell. No open door. We knocked. No open door. We were beginning to think our friend wasn’t home when we saw the doorknob begin to turn and heard the tumblers activate. At that moment, we knew the door was about to open to us… even though it had not opened yet.

If you’ve been waiting on the Lord to open a door for you, and it hasn’t happened yet, just know that it is opening soon. It may not have swung wide open yet, making it possible for you to walk through, but it is indeed already opening. The knob is turning. The tumblers are activated.

I know it may feel like it is taking awhile, but Isaiah 22:22 lets us know that the Lord is in charge of opening doors. It will stay shut till He says it’s time to be opened, and we cannot force it open. But once He says it’s time for it to be open, no one can keep it shut to you.

Hang in there. Keep your eye on the knob and your ear open for the tumblers. The door is about to open soon!

One of the gifts Alex received for Christmas this year was a pogo stick. And though I never had one, I could not wait for him to open it when we celebrated Christmas as a family. Sure enough, he opened it and loved it. And it didn’t take him hardly any time all to be up and bouncing multiple times to our amazement.

Then Austin wanted to try it. We weren’t sure Austin would like it yet, and so we had not gotten him one. But he insisted on trying it out. He tried. Then he tried again. And he tried again. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not seem to get the balance and motion to work. Even after we got back from visiting our families for Christmas and the boys got back at the pogo-ing, Austin struggled to get even two or three jumps strung together. He would get frustrated and say, “I’m just no good at it.”

We tried to encourage him to keep trying, to keep believing. But when you just seem to keep failing, believing for success is a tough pill to swallow. We wondered if maybe his body just wasn’t at a stage of development where he could achieve what it took to pogo.

Then the day before yesterday, something clicked. He had kept trying. Alex tried to share what he had learned that worked for him. And Austin would just not give up. Suddenly, while I was watching him, he jumped six times. Then it was ten. Then he started setting goals. Next he nailed more than 20 jumps. Out of nowhere, he strung together 60 hops. The kid was becoming a human Tigger before our very eyes.

We were blown away when he came back to our room before we left to go somewhere, and he showed us a video he shot on the iPad of him jumping. As I watched, I counted… ten, twenty, forty, eighty, 100… 110! One hundred ten consecutive jumps on the pogo stick without stopping.

Yesterday, he decided to up his game. How high could he bounce? How far? Now Alex was trying to compete and catch up to him. Austin surprised us by showing us his new trick… he could jump up the steps from the sunken living room to the entryway and back down without falling. Next was some kind of trick where he kicked his foot out while jumping. Then it was jumping over things stacked on the floor, followed by special landings. I’m starting to think we better get a helmet and some elbow pads on this kid.

But wait a minute… Isn’t this the same kid who couldn’t do it to begin with? Isn’t this the same kid who thought he was no good at it? Isn’t this the kid who had compared himself to his brother who happened to learn it almost immediately and got discouraged because he couldn’t keep up? What happened? What brought about the transformation?

I’ll tell you what happened. Austin didn’t give up. He kept hoping. He kept believing. He kept trying. He kept taking advice. He kept watching someone else do it and learning from them. He kept on. And though it wasn’t immediate like it was for Alex, success came.

It reminds me of Abraham in Scripture. God said he would be the father of many descendants, but for 25 years, nada. Yet Paul told the Romans that Abraham was counted right with God because he just kept on believing, kept on trusting, kept on hoping. Abraham kept on until the promise became reality. When it looked like he couldn’t, he kept believing and hoping he could and would.

You know, there may be something that you want to accomplish, but you think you are “no good at it.” Don’t give up. Keep hoping. Keep believing. Keep trusting and trying. Keep studying. Keep watching and learning. One day soon, just like Austin and Abraham, you might just succeed beyond what you could have ever expected!

By the way, Austin hasn’t stopped. This morning he woke up with new goals and new ideas for the pogo stick. And he is inspiring Alex to try for more by his success. So get out there today and try again!

I have a problem. I keep doing the same thing over and over. And it’s ridiculous. It’s crazy. In fact, Albert Einstein is credited with saying that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

What is my problem? I use the ellipsis too much in my writing.

See, I write the way I talk most of the time. (You probably just read it much slower than I say it.) In a blog that is more a relaxed flow of thoughts, perhaps it is alright to overuse the ellipsis. You, the reader, get it. It gives you the cue to pause as you read.

But when I wrote my first book, I Got A “D” In Leadership, my editor pointed out repeatedly… until she got tired and just finally said to watch for it from that point forward… that I way overuse this little jewel of punctuation. (I think it’s my favorite, although the exclamation point runs a tight second.) The problem is that there are other ways to show pause in writing. Enough ways to keep the writing interesting and the reader engaged. She gave me examples and showed me why they would work more effectively.

So when I wrote my second book, The Upside, I purposely worked hard at making sure I did not overuse the ellipsis. And would you like to know what one of the first fixes my editor had to point out? You guessed it. The almighty ellipsis, my best friend in writing and simultaneously my arch nemesis. She reminded me that, while I could use it, there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. And sometimes those ways are truly better.

Now, I know old habits die hard, but I was reminded once again in that editing process that there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. Truth is, when I switched to some of the others, I found myself liking the writing better. It better suited what I was trying to communicate. It gave me new methods. I actually enjoyed the writing even more.

Here’s the thing… We all deal with this problem. Oh, perhaps yours is not a punctuation problem. Yours is almost certainly something else. Maybe something far more significant. Perhaps you need to shed some weight for your health. Maybe you want to improve your marriage. Or maybe you just want to get to work on time. But the principle is the same.

There is probably at least one other way of accomplishing your goal. You don’t have to keep doing things the same old way. And a new year is the perfect time to decide to and discipline yourself to try a new way. And in the process, you just might find that you like the new way even better.

God is the God of new things. Sure, He is from eternity past. Of course He is familiar with history. But He offer new life, new hope, new methods, new creativity, new options, new possibilities. Instead of doing things the same old way, why not ask God to help you today to begin to discover new ways to accomplish your goals?

24 years ago tonight, as the ball dropped in New York City, I got down on one knee and proposed to Angela in North Hodge, Louisiana. To my sheer delight and utter relief, she said, “Yes!”

Life changed for the better for me that night. She only brings good to my life, never bad. She is living proof of the Scripture which says that a man who finds a wife finds a good thing and finds favor with the Lord.

I am grateful for Angela, and tonight, I celebrate not only the conclusion of one year and inception of another, but the joy found in the moment that she said, “Yes!”

I haven’t written for several days now because I chose instead to spend time with family and friends, trying to stay present in those moments and make the most of each one. That meant I didn’t reach my goal of hitting my 500th post before the end of 2018. But I did hit my goal of loving my family and friends. And while I didn’t reach that numeric goal this year, with 495 posts now behind me, I should reach the mark early in 2019.

For all those who joined me by reading this blog this year, I’d like to say thanks! With more than 7,000 visits and more than 12,000 views from around the world, it is encouraging to me to know that I have the privilege of impacting your life in some small way each week.

As we head into 2019, I look forward to connecting with you here each week. And I would love to hear from you.

Happy New Year to you all!