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!

My Mom is a saint. Not perfect, but a saint. For years… and by “years” I mean decades… she has battled physical challenges. Since my teens, I can remember her trying to overcome physical pain. Her heart… her back… her knee. Yet she doesn’t complain. She cries. If we ask how she’s doing, she might tell us as her family. But usually she just keeps on trooping through life despite it all.

The struggle is indeed real… and sometimes it’s also really lengthy. Perhaps you’re battling a lengthy struggle of your own today. Maybe you’re dealing with a situation at work which only seems to get worse and keeps happening. Maybe you’re trying to overcome depression and it seems like the battle will never end. Maybe you’re enduring singleness even though you long to be married. Or perhaps you wrestle with why you struggle with infertility year after year as you watch others get pregnant and adopt multiple times.

Sometimes we pray and pray… work and work… try and try… search and search… only to have our challenge keep pace with us. Sometimes we plop ourselves down and say, “I just can’t take it anymore. When is this going to change or end?” I love the quote from J. Sidlow Baxter which so eloquently captures this feeling…

Perhaps at times we suffer more from the length than the strength of our trials.

Most of us can see someone else in life whose problems are worse than our own. So, we estimate that the strength of our trial is not horrendous. We feel like we could probably overcome it if the fight only lasted a few hours or a few days. But when that trial extends into weeks… and months… and years… and even decades… well, even a small trial endured over time can wear us down.

I don’t want to be trite, and yet I want to encourage you today. Please don’t give up. Hang in there. You ARE going to make it. You will win if you keep God the axle around which your life rotates. And Jesus promised that He would be WITH us all the way to the end. So you’re not going through this alone.

Find a friend. Cry if you need to. Vent your frustrations if you need to. That’s normal.

Then choose to get up tomorrow and fight again, with the best attitude possible. You can do this!

I love that Scripture says in multiple places that God delights in us. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines delight as… “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; also : extreme satisfaction.”

Think about that for a moment…

When God thinks about you, He smiles… He experiences a high degree of satisfaction and pleasure… He feels joy… He is extremely satisfied.

Ask yourself this question, and answer it honestly… Do you really view God as thinking and feeling that way about you? Or do you figure He’s probably frustrated with you… upset at you… frowning or scowling at you?

How you view Him is important because it determines how you approach Him. If you think He’s mad at you, you’ll approach Him fearfully and with little hope of goodness from Him. But if you view Him as delighted over you, you’ll approach Him with love and be confident that you will receive blessings from Him.

Too many people think God is mad at them and that He is looking for any little opportunity to punish them. He’s not. He’s looking for every opportunity to bless you… to bring that same delight, joy, pleasure and satisfaction to your heart that He experiences when He thinks of you.

Why not take this one weekend, these next two and a half days, to live determined to take God at His Word and view Him as delighted with you? When you think of Him, picture Him smiling as He says your name. Believe that He loves you and wants to give you good things for your life. Delight in Him like He delights in you.

I’m convinced that if you will change your perspective toward Him this weekend, you will find that life is so much better as you live in His pure delight!

I am worse than our boys (9 and 7 years old) when it comes to waiting for plants in our garden to produce. I till the plot, and help pull the weeds. I help rake and hoe the rows. I may even help plant the seeds. Then we water… and wait.

I am always amazed when four to seven days later little plants begin pushing their first little leaves up and out of the soil. And I know it will take a little while, but most of the plants grow so quickly that I get excited. At the sight of that first bloom, I know that a veggie or fruit is not far away… or so it seems.

This year, we planted red bell peppers. We chose to start them from plants instead of seed. And right away, they took root, grew and out on blooms. The blooms have turned into big bell peppers. Green bell peppers. One has grown so large that it began to bend the entire plant over… and yet it is green.

We wondered why the peppers are not turning red, and so we did a little research. What we learned helped me understand the problem. The problem, it would seem, is not with the plant but with me. Apparently, when it comes to waiting for plants to be ready to pick, I am impatient.

You see, basically, all peppers will turn red if left long enough on the plant. But most of us can’t wait. We would do well to wait. When the bell pepper is left to ripen to that full red color, it is sweeter to the taste, which makes it better to cook with… bringing full flavor and beautiful color to the meal. On top of that, by letting it fully mature, the pepper’s vitamin levels increase multiplied times over, making it more beneficial to eat. But you have to wait. And wait. And wait some more for it to mature.

Apparently, when it comes to waiting in my own life, I am again the problem. I am impatient. My Heavenly Gardener has placed me where He feels I will do best for the time being. He has made sure I have the right amount of what I need to thrive. I feel like I’m ready to be picked. But God says, “Wait. You’re going to be even better. Just be patient. You will look better, taste better and be better.”

I suppose we people are a lot like peppers. We require patience to reach maturity and be our best. Maybe that’s why God said in His Word that if we wouldn’t give up, we would reap a harvest of blessing at the right time.

The right time.

For the red bell peppers in our garden, that means waiting till they have actually turned red. For you and me, I’m sure He’ll let us know when we have ripened sufficiently. In the meantime, let’s just hang in there. (See what I did there?)

If you’re not ripe, you’re not ready. Be patient so you can be your best. At the right time, you’ll have all you need to be the biggest blessing.

So, we were out enjoying supper with good friends tonight when I happened to mention that peaches were on sale this week at a local grocery store. Something about that triggered a boisterous response from a certain young lady in the group… who shall remain nameless… who then let us know that what is wrong with our world is that there are not enough peaches and pears… always mostly apples and oranges.

I guess I had never noticed, but she’s right. Apples and oranges are in ample supply at every turn year round. But peaches and pears, how often do you see those? And who picks those as their first choice?

Why not, I say?! Let’s all buy more peaches and pears! Let’s plant peach trees and pear trees! No more hum-drum red delicious and navel norm for us. We are the people who eat peaches and pears!

Now that this is off my chest… I bid y’all a happy weekend… full of peaches and pears!

PR31 and I are the romantic comedy type. We love a guy meets girl, falls in love and, with only slightly enough conflict to make the story interesting, they live happily ever after. So, it’s no surprise that we enjoy the Hallmark Channel. (If you’ve read any of my Christmas or Christmas In July posts, you already know this about us.)

From time to time, I hear a quote in one of these shows which really strikes a chord in my heart. And this one recently stood out to me…

Someday, someone might write a story about your life… make sure you live a good one.”

I don’t suppose I’ve ever really thought about my life that way. I don’t strike myself as the type of guy people would write a biography about… especially on a day like today, Memorial Day, when I think of all the heroes who have paid for my freedom with their lives.

But that’s just it. I want to live a life that someone would want to write about. I want to make this life a good one… a great one. I want my love story with Angela to be epic. I want to be the kind of dad to Alex and Austin that would be a role model for other dads to follow. I want my service to my King, Jesus Christ, to be the kind of stuff He would want others to read about.

Oh, I know that no one may ever take the time to research my life in-depth and write a thrilling biography. That’s okay. I don’t need them to. But I do want to live a life so great… so full… so rich in relationships and love and joy… so authentic… so impactful… that it would absolutely be worth filling hundreds of pages in a book that others would love to read.

What about you? Are you living a life worth writing about? If not, the cool thing is that we can all start living a life so great today that others would want to tell our story. Don’t settle for an obituary at the end of your days on this planet… Go for a biography!

Last week in church, the sharp, twenty-something worship leader pulled out an oldie-goldie… a song I cut my teeth on as a kid growing up in church. The song was “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” We sang the words, “Look full in His wonderful face,” and they just resonated in my heart.

I realized that when it comes to Jesus, I don’t have to hang my head in shame because He has forgiven my past. I can “look full in His wonderful face.”

I realized that He doesn’t want me to just cast Him a sideways glance occasionally, but He genuinely wants me to slow down and “Look full in His wonderful face” so that we can spend time together.

Full… unashamed… unhurried… unobstructed… not fearful… not worried… not distracted.

Full… straight on… eye-to-eye… loved… appreciated… desired.

He doesn’t want me to look away. He wants me to see Him… and He wants to see me. How great is that? To be loved so deeply that He wants me to look full in His wonderful face?!

And His truly is a wonderful face to look into! A face full of grace… full of forgiveness… full of love… full of power… full of healing… full of joy… full of peace… and so much more.

Today, look full in His wonderful face… “and the things of earth, will grow strangely dim, in the light of of His glory and grace.”