Recently, I had something happen that I viewed as a problem initially. It didn’t go as planned, and quite honestly, I was kind of bummed about it. Also, in an effort at transparency, it wasn’t really earth-shattering… just frustrating at the moment.

Today, however… a week later… that bummer turned into a blessing. Even still, when I thought the bummer was getting worse, it was actually getting better. What I thought was a complete waste… a complete bust… a complete wash… turned out to be an absolute blessing in disguise.

To take an extra stab at keeping it real, I still don’t know exactly how the blessing will work out, but at least now I see a number of ways it can work for my good and God’s glory. PR31 had to tell me a few times today that this really is better than if my original plan had worked out.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the believers at Rome that this is what God does for those who follow Him… He works ALL things together for our good. Yes, even bummers can become blessings when we keep on trusting God. So, give a problem a chance. Give it to God, and give it some time. What looks awful today might turn into awesome tomorrow. What made you pout a week ago might make you praise today.

So, the next time you’re up against a challenge… a struggle… a problem… remember to give that blessing in disguise a chance to get rid of the disguise. You might just be surprised how big a blessing it was hiding!

I love this quote from a Hallmark Christmas movie we watched recently. The main character, Holly, quotes her dad as having said, “When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”

That’s so great because it reminds us that we always have a choice. Things may look bad, but we can choose our attitude about them. We may not like something, but we can choose to change it.

Sure it may be difficult to go a different direction, but if you don’t like the direction you’re headed, then why not take a different course? I don’t mean we should quit every time we face a challenge. I mean that we should look for alternatives to staying frustrated and disappointed.

The beauty is that we get to choose our attitude. We get to choose our direction. We get to choose whether we will despair or be filled with hope. We get to choose whether we will stay in a rut or try something new.

God wants us to choose our direction wisely in life. Sometimes that involves choosing a different direction. So, when things are going wrong, choose wisely and don’t go with them.

The people behind me in this picture really get what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 12:1, “That’s the most sensible way to serve God.” I had the privilege of watching them serve their community with a free Christmas Market craft fair, complete with free food. Then they invited the community to come watch a Christmas movie at the local theater, which they had sponsored. At the end, they handed out small tokens as a reminder of the movie, and they thanked everyone who came for the privilege of getting to offer this for them.

There was no sucker punch. They are the staff and volunteers from a local church in the town where I’m visiting. Yet no one stood and preached a sermon. At least not a planned spiritual speech with an invitation to respond. Instead, they laughed… and loved… and served… and helped… and gave… and bought stuff for sale at vendors’ booths. I saw them help sweep up the theater with the employees after the movie. I saw them clean dishes and put away tables and chairs so the maintenance person at the church wouldn’t have to. And they smiled the whole time they were doing it.

They didn’t give to get something in return. They simply gave. They simply loved. They simply served. No wonder their community loves them and turns to them when they have a need. They hear the sermons being preached by these folks’ actions louder than any spoken from a pulpit.

I’m so glad I was here tonight. I go to bed inspired. Inspired to live my life like them when I wake up tomorrow. Inspired to truly give… truly love… truly help… truly serve. Inspired to make a difference that makes a lasting impact.

This weekend, I have re-connected with acquaintances whom I had forgotten I knew, or who had forgotten they knew me.  I have re-connected with friends from college and ministry.  I’ve met new friends with whom I have friends in common.  And the world seems so small in some ways.

It’s refreshing to re-connect… to plug back into those relationships and power them back up.  It’s fun to relive the old stories and to hear new ones.

Proverbs 27:10 says we should never abandon a friend– either ours or our family’s.  This weekend, I’m so glad that I have these friends.  I’m glad I haven’t given up on them, and even more that they haven’t given up on me.

Friends are important.  Why not try to re-connect with a friend today?  Hit them up on social media… give them a call… meet up with them for a meal or coffee.  You’ll be glad you did.

I traveled almost a couple hundred miles today to speak at a conference for teenagers and leaders.   I was expecting simply to give of myself, but my prayer was that God would speak to me as well.

I read in Psalms recently that the Lord bends down to listen to us, and the Psalm writer said that because God does that, he always prays… or talks with God.  God listens.  That’s a big deal.

He heard my prayer to both speak THROUGH me and TO me.  He bent down… paid attention… and listened to me.  He did help me as I spoke tonight, and then during a time of hanging out and grabbing a snack with others on the team for the event, He spoke to me… to my life… to my situation.

He will listen to you, too, you know.  Like a good parent, He gets down on our level… looks us in the eye… and gives us His full attention.  As He does, you’ll know that it’s safe to talk with Him… to open your heart… to spill your guts… to tell Him what’s on your mind.  And like the Psalmist, that conversation will probably lead to you wanting to have a lot more with Him.

So, thanks for bending down and listening to me, Lord!  Talk again tomorrow?

As we were working on a project this week, I came across some hymns in an old hymnbook I have.  Man, I had forgotten how much those songs shaped my early life and theology.  As I read the titles, the tunes would instantly come back to mind, and I would begin to sing them as if I had never forgotten them.  I can neither confirm nor deny if tears flowed at some point… though, if you read the blog regularly, you already know the truth.

PR31 and I were talking about the line in the song, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, that says…

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit…”

Hold that thought…

As a little league baseball team, we were not very good.  In fact, it was usually a surprise if we won.  So, we were particularly glad when another team didn’t show, or couldn’t field enough players to compete, and had to forfeit the game.  That is, they gave up on the possibility of winning without even trying.

Forfeiting doesn’t amount to much when it comes to little league, but it matters plenty in real life.  And too often, we forfeit.  We give up without a fight.  We forfeit winning marriages… or winning at our dreams… or winning at school… or winning in our health.

Sadly, we often forfeit our peace.  We all face challenging circumstances in life, and Jesus said that, not only would He stay with us, but as the Prince of Peace, He would give us peace.  Yet, when the doctor gives us a timeline… or the boss gives us a pink slip… or our critics give us a hard time… or a spouse gives us divorce papers… we forget that we have also been given God’s peace to help us navigate those challenges.  We forfeit our peace.  It’s ours because He gave it to us, but we give up the fight without taking one swing.

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit… Oh, what needless pain we bear… all because we do not carry… everything to God in prayer.”

Don’t give up without trying!  Get in the game.  Keep the peace you’ve been given, and believe you will win despite the odds.  The doctors don’t get to stamp your expiration date on you.  The boss doesn’t determine your value.  No one can take your peace.  The only way to lose it is to forfeit it.

The challenge is not too great.  The victory is possible.  The celebration will be boisterous.  Just keep your peace!

People’s ideas of success vary greatly, and so I cannot be a success to everyone.  But I can be of value to each person.  If God lets my path cross theirs, then I have within me the ability to be of value to them.  It may be with a smile… or a hug… or help with schoolwork… or advice about dating… or how to have eternal life… or helping them break through writer’s block.  I can be of value.

The key is two-fold:

1) Be sensitive to God’s voice as He directs your steps.  If He nudges you to do something for someone, or say something to someone, do it.  He will always make you of value to others.

2) Ask people what you can do to help them.  You may have the knowledge… or the skill set… or the tools… or the wisdom they need to accomplish their dreams.

Forget trying to please people… and instead just try to help them.  Value trumps success.