An amazing thing happens when you become a parent… Your ears become tuned to the voice of your children. I can be caught up in woodworking or mowing or writing this blog, and when my boys holler, “Dadddddyyyy,” I come running. Or we might be standing around talking after church when I hear one of them call me by that term of endearment. I can pick their voice out of all the other kids running around. And if one of them is ever hurt or scared and hollers for me, you’ve never seen me so quick or determined to get to them.

Now, I’m not bragging on myself today. I’m simply sharing what any parent worth their salt knows in their heart, that call of their child stirs something in them that motivates them to act.

What’s funny is that I have no problem understanding that when it comes to my kids needing their Daddy, but sometimes I forget that God… my Heavenly Daddy… is an even better Daddy than me. All I need to do is holler for Him… call out that term of endearment… and I suddenly have His fullest of attention.

I love that Jesus called out, “Daddy,” from the garden of Gethsemane when He was facing the darkest time of His life and His greatest challenge laid ahead of Him in the next 24 hours. He’s my hero… my life example… and if He cried, “Daddy,” then I can, too.

I love that Paul writes in Romans 8:15 that because God has adopted us and made us His children, we now call Him, “Daddy.” And he writes in Galatians 4:6 that because we are His children, God prompts us to call out “Daddy” to Him.

You may think God’s busy doing something else today… that He is not paying attention to you… that He doesn’t know where you’re at or what’s going on in your life. You may feel like He can’t or won’t stop what He’s doing just for you. But I promise that if you will call out to Him today with a heartfelt, “Daddddyyy,” He WILL come running to you, ready to help you, ready to scoop you up in His arms and give you the strength you need to face whatever it is you need to face.

Trust this Daddy today… He’s listening… He loves you… He cares what is going on… and He’s ready to fix what’s wrong. Just try Him out.

The morning began… after we were all awake and in the kitchen… with Frosty The Snowman playing while PR31 made pancakes in the shape of reindeer, stars, snowmen and Christmas trees. Today kicks off our 2nd Annual Team A’s Christmas In July celebration! It was so much fun last year, we decided to make it a family tradition.

The temps are in the mid-to-high 90’s outside with humidity in 90%+ range. But we set up a tree, hung the stockings, placed a few decorations around the house, played Christmas carols, and started the Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel. It already feels like it’s cooling down to the most wonderful time of the year in our house.

There will be various Christmas cookies baked throughout the week as we celebrate again the coming of our Savior as a human being so that God could be with us. Stockings will be slightly filled with treats. We will eat a traditional Christmas-type meal next week. And gifts will be exchanged.

We don’t go crazy with the gift-giving thing during this time. Instead, we each draw one name of someone else in the family and work at focusing on that one person. (Obviously, Mama & Daddy will sneak a couple extra gifts under the tree to amp up the fun, but the point is to keep it simple.)

As we drew names today, I suggested we each make a list to post so that whoever got our name would have some ideas. Angela reminded me that we didn’t do lists last year… instead opting to each see how well we knew the person we were shopping for. That’s when Austin piped up and said, “Yeah, we already have that person’s list in our hearts.”

I don’t know what you need the Lord to do for you today, and maybe you feel like you need to give Him a list so that He will know what to give you. The thing is… He knows you so well that He already has a list in His heart as to what to give you. And it will be better than anything you could have asked for.

So just trust Him today. And when you open the gift He gives you, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well He knows you!

Note: Personal Post

The double doors at the back of the church’s sanctuary opened, and there she stood… dressed in that gorgeous white gown that didn’t hold a candle to her beauty. Her dad walked her down the aisle, handed her off to me, and minutes later we both said, “I do!”

It was 23 years ago yesterday and, next to accepting Christ so I could be accepted into God’s family, that was the best decision I could have ever made. Scripture says that a guy who finds a wife finds a good thing and favor from the Lord. Amen to that!

Angela has been, is and will always be the best wife I could have possibly hoped for… in fact, better than I could have hoped for. It is my honor, joy and privilege to be her husband. I love that we have spent the last 23 years together, happily married… and I’m looking forward to spending the next 23 years with her… and the 23 years after that… and the 23 years after that. That would make us each over 100… and that would be a good start!

If you were to ask me what makes a great marriage work, I would say it comes down to what Jesus said in John 15:33… that the greatest way to show your love for someone is to lay down your own life for them… not dying physically, but setting aside your own selfishness to prefer them, help them succeed, bless them, meet their needs.

Angela exemplifies that. She lays down her life daily to make sure our marriage and family works. It’s how she tangibly shows me that she loves me. And it makes me love her even more. It makes me want to do the same for her… times 100!

I’m sure there are a lot of other great reasons that I feel like we have a great marriage, but she is my best friend… my closest confidant… the person who knows me better than anyone other than God… and still loves me anyway… just like God. She lays down her life in love each day to make my life great. Love is not a feeling… it’s a choice… it’s a commitment to give… to serve… to prefer someone else over yourself… to help… to share. To love is to lay down your life for someone else.

I talk a lot publicly about how smokin’ hot she is, and how she is the Proverbs 31 Woman (aka PR31) who does it all, but what makes her incredibly attractive is this crazy, ongoing, relentless effort she puts into sacrificing herself out of love.

Yes, I totally realize how blessed I am to be married to her. I’d marry Angela all over again, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And I plan to lay down my life for her every day, too.

If you have the privilege of being married to someone like this, why not celebrate them in some way today to let them know how much you appreciate their selfless sacrifices for you. If you’re loving spouse has passed away, but they lived and loved like this, take a moment to reflect on how awesome they were and thank the Lord for the time you had together. And if you’re not married, you can apply this principle to your friends, neighbors and co-workers to make a huge impact also.

Choose today to say, “I do,” to living a life of self-sacrifice. It’s the best way to love! Just ask this guy!

Yesterday, Alex turned 10… We have a kid in double digits, what?! On top of that, I ate too much cake. How could I not? Like the climber who climbed the mountain, I ate it because it was there. And because I LOVE food!

Our seven year-old, Austin, is the opposite equal of me when it comes to food. He eats to live… I live to eat. I like to think about what I’ll snack on and what I’ll have for lunch while I’m eating breakfast. Meeting someone… How can we work food into this? Celebrating something… What kind of food will make the celebration better? Road trip… What kind of snacks will I take, and where will I stop to get something for a meal?

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted… I think I control it pretty well. Of course I love sweets and crunchy snacks, but most of the time, I am just as happy to eat PR31’s roast, carrots and potatoes… or a plate of sliced bananas and berries with little honey drizzled over them. Okay, I may have to take a break while writing this blog.

Of course, if I eat something, then I get thirsty. And my beverage of choice is strong, black coffee throughout most of the day. Except when I’m hot and tired from exercising or working in the yard… or when I have something salty to eat. Then I crave water. Cold, clean, refreshing H2O, baby. Nothing else quenches thirst like water.

Hunger and thirst are cravings which are part of our existence as humans. They some of our deepest, most basic needs. Give me food and water, my life is a lot happier.

But there are desires in each of our hearts which long to be satisfied. They are much deeper than what job we will do or even who we will marry. They even surpass my… I mean, our… cravings for food and water.

We all long to belong. We crave to be loved. We deeply desire to be wanted. We each need to know we have purpose and meaning.

Too often, we try to satiate these deep longings with surface supplies. We feel our heart rumble for love, and we turn to a human. We feel parched in our soul to belong, and we join a club.

Yet these deep-seated desires and cravings can only truly be fulfilled by One Person. In Psalm 145:16, we read that when God opens His hand, He satisfies the cravings and longings and desires which reach out from deep within us to find fulfillment.

Stop and ask yourself right now… What is it that I really long for? I’ll hazard a guess that… if you’re truly honest with yourself and God… it’s much deeper than the simple requests we make of Him for finances or fiancées. And if we will ask Him to see those cravings, He will open His hand to satisfy them. And when we get real with Him about those longings, He never lets us down.

So, whether you choose watermelon or apple pie as we head into this midsummer celebration of our freedom here in the good ol’ US of A over the next week, let each scrumptious bite remind you that there is One who is ready to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of your heart. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Now, maybe Austin has left something I can snack on…

I don’t know what you need, but perhaps you looked to this blog today hoping to find answers… or hope… or the key to making more money… or wisdom for a decision you have to make… or how to connect with someone of the opposite gender with whom you could spend the rest of your life. I wish I could just hand those things through the screen to you… but sadly, I cannot.

However, I know the one to whom you could look to find what you need. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans about the fact that, since God was willing to sacrifice His only Son for us to be free from sin and adopted into His family, we can trust Him to meet all our other needs as well. He knows what we need. And He loves to bless us with those things.

So don’t give up hope. He is ready, willing and able to give you “everything else.” Turn your heart toward Him today and just ask Him. You can ask with confidence. He knows exactly what you need and when you need it. He’s not a celestial vending machine, but He cares way more for us than we can possibly imagine.

So, go ahead… Ask Him for “everything else” you need today. You won’t regret it!

Maybe you’ve been wanting to add children to your family and haven’t been able to… for a long time… even though you’ve asked the Lord to bless you with them. Been there, done that.

Or maybe you or a loved one is battling a health or emotional issue that you haven’t been healed of yet… even though you’ve asked the Lord to heal you.

Or perhaps you’ve asked the Lord to open a door for you to fulfill your dreams and purpose, but every door you knock on seems to be locked up tight… even though you know His Word says He’s guiding your steps and He has a great plan for you.

Could be that you long to be married, but even though you’ve asked the Lord to bring the right person into your life… it just hasn’t happened.

When we come to times like this, it’s easy to wonder, “Why?”

– Why won’t You answer my prayer the way I want, Lord?

– Why is it taking so long?

– Why can’t I seem to have the blessings others have?

– Why aren’t you coming to my rescue, Lord?

The good news is that you are not alone. The man who might have been the Lord’s best friend records a story about some other friends of Jesus… two sisters and their brother… Mary, Martha and Lazarus who encountered their own “Why, Lord” moment.

Lazarus got sick, and so his sisters did what lots of people had done… They asked Jesus to come heal him. They were good friends of Jesus. He loved them, and they loved Him. So they assumed He would come immediately when He heard Lazarus was sick and would heal him on the spot. Why wouldn’t He?

And soon that became their actual question… Why didn’t He? Jesus chose to wait two days before making the two-day walk to their home in Bethany. That’s four days. And by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died. In Mary’s and Martha’s minds, Jesus was too late… and He didn’t have to be. He could have come earlier. He could have healed Lazarus. Why didn’t He come? Why didn’t He answer their request?

Why, Lord?

When they asked Him that question, His answer sounded odd… To give God more glory. What? How was their brother dying going to give God more game and recognition and praise? How would his death instead of his healing cause more people to think God was amazing?

Then Jesus showed them. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Their pain was eclipsed by their joy. And John records that MANY people believed in Jesus because of this miracle.

Then they understood. But they couldn’t understand till then. It didn’t make sense. It baffled the sisters that Jesus didn’t do what Jesus normally did in the way He normally did it. And their hearts were flooded with that one emotionally draining query… “Why, Lord?”

You probably know the weariness of that question. I know I do. And yet, each time, Jesus comes through and joy swallows up my weariness as it reveals the understanding that God’s plan is so much bigger and more amazing than I had the capacity to grasp before.

So, why do I still ask, “Why, Lord” anymore? Because in each new situation I face, it doesn’t seem like the situations before. And even though I know the Lord loves me… even though I know He is working everything together for my good… even though I know He has also come through for me before… this time seems different.

And still He loves me. Still He is gracious and kind to me. Still He is patient with me. He lets me ask “Why, Lord” all I want. Then… at the right time… in the right way… in the way that will cause the most people to be drawn to Him… He answers my prayer in a way I didn’t even know to ask Him.

The only reason I can imagine He hasn’t answered your request in the way you want… on the schedule you want… is the same reason He didn’t for Mary and Martha… God has a better plan. Just keep in mind how John laid it all out… Jesus loved Him, but He did it differently than they expected.

When you can’t understand why, you can at least rest in the truth that He loves you… and He has a better way.

Hang in there. He will show up and be there to go through it with you… all the way to the miraculous end!

I have a friend who has worked for a major U.S. corporation for a number of years, and several months ago the company announced that they were moving his entire division to another country. All the jobs would be given to people from that country, and everyone working in that division would be let go before the end of this year. However, there would be three transitional jobs which would last for about a year and a half to help wrap everything up for the move which people working for the company could apply for. So, my friend applied for the three jobs… along with about a hundred other employees.

The company had said they would be meeting with people by the end of this month to let them know if they still had a job, and yesterday was my friend’s meeting. We, and plenty of others, had prayed that God would give him favor and bless him with one of these jobs. Going into that meeting, he had a 3% chance of getting one of those jobs.

But he didn’t get one of those transitional jobs. When he went into the meeting, the three people across the table from him began talking to him about work that he wasn’t exactly familiar with. It sounded like they were talking as if he already had the job. Finally, they said something, and he asked what they meant. They then told him that the company didn’t want to lose him, and so they were transferring him to another division… an up and coming division with great promise. On top of that, his pay would remain the same and he would retain his benefits. And instead of the job being a transitional, year and a half job, this would be a job with their typical four-year contract. Interestingly, my friend only needed to work three and a half more years to lock in healthcare for he and his wife in their retirement years.

In case you think you misread this story, you didn’t. God gave my friend a job he never applied for, lost no pay and kept all the benefits. God took his 3% chance, added 97% plus to it and did something for him that he didn’t even know to ask for.

When I think about that, I think about how Psalm 77:19 reflects on how God parted the Red Sea to give the Israelis a way of escape from the pursuing Egyptians who wanted to take them back into slavery. The water parted and stood up like two walls creating a completely dry path for them to cross through. The Psalm writer calls it, “… a path no one knew was there.”

Maybe you’re facing a situation today that seems impossible. Maybe you only have a 3% chance of success. Maybe no one gives you any hope. Listen, God has ways to answer your prayer that you haven’t even thought to ask Him about. He has paths no one knows are there. He has medical treatments or healing you didn’t know existed. He has people who will cut you a check and put it in the mail who didn’t even know you needed finances. He has the right person waiting to meet you who will be the connection you needed.

The verse of Scripture our boys are memorizing this week says that some things are an impossibility for us as humans, but with God all things are possible. Even getting a job you didn’t apply for.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in to fear and doubt. Instead, today give your situation to God, and trust Him to come through for you… even if He needs to make a path no one knew was there!

My friend grew up on a farm, and to plow straight rows, they would put a stake at the end of the field and drive the tractor with plowing discs in a straight line toward by looking at that one fixed point the entire time. If they looked backward to see what they plowed, they could be thrown way off-course. If they looked to the side, they might only get a little off-course to begin with, but over a distance that small percentage off would end up messing up the whole field. The cool thing was that, after the first row was plowed straight by looking ahead at the fixed destination, the stake was no longer needed. They simply needed to put the edge of the disc in the first row and run along it because they knew it was straight. If they did the first row right, the rest of the rows would be straight also. It’s the power of looking straight ahead at your destination.

Our eyes are on the front of our face for a reason… Wherever we are looking is where our brain tells our body we will probably be heading. That applies in the physical, but it also applies to the rest of our life.

There is no need to look backward because what’s done is done. We can’t go back and change any of it. To look backward is to begin trying to move toward our past, and we never arrive at that destination because it is unreachable.

To look to our sides is to be distracted, and that can cause us to veer off our path. And even looking off slightly can cause big problems later on.

Let’s look ahead of us. Let’s fix our eyes on our destiny. Let’s set a fixed point in our future and stay focused on moving straight toward it. No looking back. No glancing off at distractions to our sides.

Look forward. Move forward. And what follows will be as straight as that first row.

I still remember nearly 23 years later the pastors at the church where I had just come to be the youth pastor in Oklahoma driving almost nine hours to attend our wedding in Louisiana. They didn’t have to, and I’ve never forgotten it.

I still remember a decade later how the Griffins and so many others worked together to bring our family food at the hospital every day during the 41 days while my Dad was in for a liver and kidney transplant. They didn’t have to, but I’ve never forgotten.

These were moments that mattered.

Over the past 48 hours, I had the opportunity to make time for moments that really mattered. A dear friend and mentor had a critical health issue that landed him in the emergency room, and I was able to get down to the hospital to check on him and his family before he had to be transported to another hospital. Then yesterday, I was able to attend the funeral for the father of another friend on my way to speak at a church.

I could have passed on both opportunities. Neither was really convenient. They took some resolve and rearranging on my part. And I don’t always get these decisions right.

But the people for whom I made time each commented how much it meant that I had made the time and effort to be with them. And in those moments, I knew I had chosen well how to use my time.

Truth be told, I’m not really good in either of those settings. Often, I’m a little awkward. Ok, I’m probably more than a little awkward sometimes. Even though I’ve been in vocational ministry for more than 2 decades, I still sometimes fumble with what to say that would be helpful and appropriate. But here’s what is interesting… no one ever complains or even mentions my faux pas.

That’s because the power is in our presence, not our presentation. They never care that I should have fixed my hair instead of wearing a ball cap. They overlook me saying, “I could’ve died” when trying to cheer them up with a funny story at a funeral. And it’s because the fact that I showed up to be with them was way more important than the words I said or the clothes I wore, all was okay. That fact that the moment mattered to me was bigger than anything else.

Simple, huh? Just show up. Just be there. Just value them and their feelings. Just put yourself in their shoes.

Let’s do our best to make the moments that matter most matter to us!