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Love…Duh

It’s Valentine’s Day, and the first primary word in my overarching life purpose is “love.” How would you think that I would write about anything else today?

I love PR31. I love Alex & Austin. I love my extended family. I love my in-laws. I love my friends. I love my pastors. And I really try to love everyone else.

But the only reason I have any real love to give is because God loved me first. It’s that unending supply of His which fills me up enough to have love to give to others. At the risk of sounding “preachy,” I John 4:19 points out that we love each other because God loved us first.

If you skip back a few verses, we read that God is love. This is written by the guy who was probably Jesus’ closest friend on earth during His ministry years. He became known as John the beloved… or the one Jesus loved. He knew what it meant to be loved and thereby have love to give.

So, really, if you love someone today… that’s because you were loved by God first and He deposited that love in you. That selflessness… that sacrificing… that commitment… that faithfulness… that caring… that serving… that love exemplified came as a result of having all that placed in your heart… whether you knew it or not.

Some people don’t feel loved today. But if you have loved anyone else at all, it is evidence that you are loved by someone (God) who will never stop loving you. So regardless of whether or not you got flowers or went on a date on this oh so celebrated day of love… whether you feel loved or not… count on it, you are one absolutely loved person!

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Unexpected Pumpkins

Unintentional Planting

We carved pumpkins with the boys this past October.  It’s an annual tradition.  We don’t do scary, but do fun.  And the boys (including me) have fun carving pumpkins.

So, we sat on the grass lining our entryway to the front door of the house, and we carved pumpkins.  We did it there because there is an outlet on the outdoor lamp… and we take our carving seriously… like Dremel tool seriously.   I cut the top openings and pull them back to reveal the inner goop.   The boys scoop out all the goop and seeds to clean out the pumpkins so that we can put tealight candles down inside them.

After the significant clean-out process, I draw the design on each pumpkin with a sharpie marker and carefully supervise as the boys do the big cuts.  I handle the finer cuts and begin the dremeling process to add depth to the designs.  And once I get the edges taken care of, they do the broader dremeling.

For the record, the pumpkins turned out pretty decent… if I must say so myself.

Now for those who don’t know, there is a lot of stringy goop and plenty of seeds in each pumpkin. We try to get most of it into an old plastic shopping sack so that it doesn’t leave our entryway looking nasty for a month.  But sometimes we miss some seeds and goop.  Usually, the birds take care of anything we leave behind.  And we leave two neatly carved pumpkins sitting on the front porch area for fall time… or as long as the pumpkins can last without getting gross.

Out Of Sight – Out Of Mind

I haven’t thought about those carved pumpkins and all their seeds since we threw their molded, rotting remains away some time in November.  We picked them up, and threw them in the trash.  Well, most of them.  One of them did bust out the bottom from decay.  And then the boys decided it would be fun to smash pumpkins.  (They have no idea about the band or the headless horseman.)  After their fun out away from the house, we collected all the mess we had made… at least most of it… and put it in the trash.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Till yesterday.  I came home from preaching at a church a couple hours from home to all kinds of fun PR31 and da boyz had cooked up.  And one of the surprises they had for me was two pumpkin plants now growing in our yard.  That’s right.  Not in the garden area, where we had intentionally planted pumpkins.  No, one in the grass near the entryway to the front door of the house… and one out by the driveway where we had smashed rotted pumpkins.  Sure glad it was pumpkins and not poison ivy!

Unexpected Harvest

I don’t know if the pumpkin plants will survive all this weird weather we’re having and produce pumpkins.  I don’t know if we will transplant them or leave them where they are for a fun reminder.  What I DO know is that I had no idea we were planting pumpkins last fall.  We were just going about life, doing what we do.  We didn’t think we had planted any seeds.  In fact, we probably thought we picked them all up.  Or that anything left was so rotted that it couldn’t possibly survive.  But we certainly planted some pumpkin seeds… and now they are producing plants which could possibly produce more pumpkins.

The same is true in each of our lives.  We are each planting seeds of whatever we are wherever we go.  Paul told the folks in the church at Galatia, “You will always harvest what you plant.”  And sometimes, we don’t even realize that we are planting.  Some of what we produce sprouts, breaks the topsoil, buds, blossoms, and produces fruit without us even knowing we had deposited anything there.

This is why it is crucial that we make sure our life is full of goodness and godliness.  Because what we plant is ALWAYS going to be what we harvest… whether we know we planted it or not.  So, let’s make sure what we have inside us to plant in the lives of others is exactly what we would want to pull off the vine once it has grown and developed.

Additionally, we don’t always see what we are planting which we will receive in eternity after we have passed from this earth.  I suspect there will be some unexpected harvests for each of us then as well.  That really motivates me to plant good stuff at every turn.

I don’t know if our little unexpected pumpkin plants will make it or not.  I do hope they survive and produce… Wouldn’t it be fun to pluck fresh pumpkins off the vine at the very spot where they need to be carved this next fall?

Do It Anyway

What Is Your “Can’t”?

Is there something which people have told you that you cannot do?  Is there something they have told you would be impossible for you?  Is there something they say you don’t have the skills, or talent, or education, or finances to accomplish?  What is it that people have told you that you can’t do?

Silence Their Doubt

You’re not the only one who has ever experienced this… take for instance, David in the Old Testament… the shepherd boy who became the greatest earthly king of his nation.  All throughout his life, it seemed he had people telling him that he could not accomplish great things.

* When the prophet Samuel came to David’s home to anoint the next king of Israel, David’s dad, Jesse, called all of his sons together to be presented to the prophet… except David.  It was as if his dad was telling him, “You could never be the one chosen to be king.”  But David was chosen and did become king.  He was told he couldn’t, but he did it anyway.

* When his dad sent him to check on his brothers who were serving a few miles away in the army and take them some food, only to discover the Philitine giant Goliath taunting God’s people and no one taking him on, David’s oldest brother Eliab told him that he shouldn’t be there and that he should go back to his few little sheep.  In essence, he was telling David, “You have no business being here.  You could never fight in this army.” But David did indeed fight and became the champion of the Israelites that very day.  He was told he couldn’t, but he did it anyway.

* When Saul found out that David was planning to fight Goliath, he told David that he couldn’t go out and fight without armor and still win.  But David shucked the armor, took only his sling and five smooth stones, and still won the fight.  He was told he couldn’t, but he did it anyway.

* When he went out to fight Goliath, Goliath called him a dog and told him that he didn’t have a chance of beating him in battle.  But David set the record straight by pointing out that the one true God would be fighting on his side and Goliath would be the one defeated.  Sure enough, he felled the giant with one stone.  He was told he couldn’t, but he did it anyway.

* King Saul called David treasonous… said he would never be king of Israel… chased him down like a fugitive and proclaimed that David could not escape the manhunt.  But David lived under the favor of God and did indeed escape many times.  He was told he couldn’t, but he did it anyway.

* When David had later become king over all Israel, the people of the town of Jebus told David that he would never conquer their city.  They actually told him that the “lame and the blind” could keep him out of their city.  But David did conquer their city, and it became known as “The City of David.”  The city they said he couldn’t have is actually now named after him.  The ruins of that city still exist today… I’ve seem them with my own eyes.  And that area is not called “Jebus,” but is instead still called “The City of David.”  He was told he couldn’t, but he did it anyway.

All throughout his life, David had people telling him what he couldn’t do.  He didn’t let that deter him from going ahead and doing it anyway.  He knew that he could and should do those great things which God set before him and intended for him to accomplish.

Go Ahead… Do It Anyway!

I don’t know what people have told you that you can’t do.  Maybe someone has told you that you would never amount to much in life… Do it anyway!  Maybe someone has told you that you can’t live debt-free… Do it anyway!  Maybe someone has told you that you could never earn that degree… Do it anyway!  Perhaps someone has told you that you can’t start that business… or speak publicly… or get married… or be a great parent… or… or… or… DO IT ANYWAY!

Choose to believe the truth from these Scriptures:

– “If God is for us, then who can ever be against us?”  (Romans 8:31)

– “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

– “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

If God says you can, then you can.  And no other person can stop you from accomplishing what He says you can… other than you.  As long as you are willing and obedient to God, then nothing can stop you.  So, when others tell you that you can’t accomplish that amazing goal… Go ahead and do it anyway!

Your Season To Bloom

Held Back From Kindergarten

When I was a year and a half old, my family moved from the Orlando, Florida area to Moorhead, Minnesota.  I don’t remember the move.  In fact, my earliest childhood memory is of my fourth birthday.  Just months later, in the summer before I was about to turn five, my parents took me to get some testing to see if I could enroll in kindergarten that fall.

The issue was that I was born on September 6th and the school district in Minnesota required you to be five years old by September 1st.  I know, what’s five days?  Well, apparently in Minnesota, it was a big deal.  The only way I was going to be allowed to enter kindergarten that fall was to take a test and achieve a certain score to prove that I was ready.  (Like, how ready do you have to be?  It’s kindergarten… you know, the time in life when we learn shapes and colors, learn how to play together nicely, take naps and eat snacks.)  How tough could this test be?

Well apparently, the test was different from what I expected because I missed a couple of questions that kept me from being allowed to enter kindergarten.  Interestingly, I knew the correct answers, but just refused to give them.  For example, I knew what the picture of the little red wagon was that they showed me, but I wouldn’t tell them because I wanted one and my parents had not gotten it for me.  (I know, spoiled brat.)

But in the end, the leaders who decided if little kids will get to go to kindergarten because their birthday was five days too late determined that it wasn’t my season.  And so I spent the next year at home, hanging out with Mom and having fun.  Funny, though… those people thought they could determine my season of life for me.  (Granted, I was five and might have needed a little help from those who love me, but my parents knew I could handle it.)

Seasons

Our winter season has been unseasonably warm here in Louisiana this year.  We typically hope for snow, though we know it’s a rarity.  And while December may not be super cold, January and February usually bring some pretty brisk temperatures for those of us who are Southerners.

So, it has been odd to see the azalea bushes in our yard (like the one pictured above) in full bloom during the first week of February.  Usually, these beauties don’t bloom until March or April.  They are blooming at least a full month or two before what I would consider to be their season.  And yet, there they are… arrayed in all their glory… with bees and butterflies buzzing around them, gathering nectar.

There’s a part of me that wants to shout at the bushes, “What are you doing?!  It’s too early to bloom.  You’re not supposed to be doing this.  It’s not your season to bloom!”  And then I sit back and have to laugh at myself.  Who am I to tell them when it is their season to bloom?  Did I create those bushes?  No, I didn’t even plant these particular ones.  Do I fully understand how they gather nutrients, process light energy using photosynthesis, create pollen which bees use to make honey, absorb carbon dioxide that I breathe out and produce oxygen that I breathe in?  No.  No, I do not.

Quite honestly, I’m no better than Job in the Bible, who was trying to explain to God that it wasn’t right he was having to go through all the problems he was facing.  When God had heard enough from Job about how smart Job thought he was, God began to ask him where he was when God began to create the world out of nothing.  Suddenly, Job understood that he was “speaking out of school,” or trying to talk about something which was far beyond his base of knowledge.

Your Time

Perhaps you sense that you are supposed to be doing something great in life.  Perhaps God is opening doors for you to walk through that you can’t even fully understand yourself, let alone explain to others.  And perhaps there are people around you in your life who look at what you are attempting and say to you the kind of things I started to say to the azaleas… “What are you doing?  It’s not your season to bloom.”

But it’s not up to them when you bloom.  It’s up to God.  He created you.  He designed you.  He knows what makes you tick… they don’t.  So ignore those naysayers.  Joseph’s brothers (in the Old Testament times) didn’t believe it was his season to bloom, but he bloomed anyway and became the second command of a foreign nation.  Joseph (in the New Testament times) didn’t believe it was Mary’s time to bloom, but she bloomed anyway and gave birth to the Messiah.

When it’s your time to bloom, it’s your time to bloom.  God determines our seasons.  He doesn’t wait to check with everyone around us and see if it would be okay with them if we go ahead and bloom now.  He just changes the atmosphere and the temperature and lets the buds turn into blossoms.  So, if He’s okay with you blooming, then it really doesn’t matter what others think about it.  Just bloom.

I decided that, since I don’t really control the azaleas or their seasons anymore than I control mine or anyone else’s, I should just sit back, relax, enjoy the beauty they are bringing to life right now and snap a few pictures to remember how beautiful they really are.

It’s your season… It’s your time… The beauty inside you is ready to bless the world around around you.  Bloom, baby, bloom!

We’re All Fixer Uppers

Potential

I am an avid fan of the hit TV show “Fixer Upper” featuring Chip and JoAnna Gaines. Part of my love for the show is the fact that it is great to see a healthy, godly marriage modeled on TV. Part of my affinity for the show has to do with my desire to buy an old farmhouse on at least ten acres of land, fix it up, have animals… the whole country, farm life thing.

But part of my fascination has to do with the potential they see in the houses they fix up. The tagline in the opening theme of the show each week says, “We find the worst house in the best neighborhood and turn it into our clients’ dream home.” I love that!

It’s all about finding something that has potential, could be great, but has simply been left outdated and deteriorated out of neglect and time. Then they turn that house into something really special… more than a fixed-up version of the same thing… they turn it into a home.

Demo Day

In tonight’s episode, Chip said of demo day… his favorite part of every job… “Things gotta get ugly before they can get pretty again.”  Sure enough, they tore that house down to the foundation before they did anything to make it look amazing.  They tore down walls, took out plumbing fixtures, removed siding… they gutted the place to the subfloor.

The truth was, at some point, someone had thought they were doing okay on that house by themselves. But they didn’t know what it really took for it to become all it could. Some stuff had to look uglier than it was before it could be made prettier than could be imagined.

Finished Product

Bam! Those reveal segments are always spectacular. The clients can’t believe their eyes. I’ve been watching the whole show and I’m still blown away each time.

As they tour the clients through the house they bought which has been turned into the home of their dreams, the explain what they did and why they did it. They show how they had done all the tearing out and replacing to make the person’s home express all it’s hidden potential.

The ooh’s and ahh’s from the clients are always worth every effort made to get the job done. From jaw drops to tears of joy to the sheer inability to speak to jumping up and down, the clients who trusted the Gaines’ expertise reveal just how great a job they did on the clients’ Fixer upper.

A Bunch of Fixer Uppers

There’s one more reason I love this show… It’s because it reminds me that I am also a fixer upper whom God saw as having potential, but needing some work. He saw past what needed to be demo’d in my life to what the finished design might look like.

And trust me, there is major renovation going on in my life.  I have not yet arrived, but God is working on me and has done so much already that you wouldn’t recognize me if you saw me before His work began.

And one day, He’ll reveal me as one of His finished projects. It may get uglier before it gets prettier, but prettier is coming. The way I think, talk and behave will be so much better than before. Just getting rid of some of the old stuff in me makes me look better and gives Him room to add His touches to my life.

For the record, as He surveys the neighborhood, He sees you, too, and all your potential… and He asks that question, “Do you have what it takes to take on a fixer upper?”

Trust me, this is no DIY. God will guide the process, and in the end you will be more amazing than you ever dreamed possible.