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!

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.

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!

I’m going to assume that since you are reading this, you must be human. And since you are human, I will also therefore suppose that you have faced hurt or unfair treatment in your life… like the rest of us. You’ve probably been wounded by people who were supposed to be for you, on your side.

When that happens, it’s normal to feel emotional pain, to feel betrayed, to wonder why this bad stuff is happening to you. That’s okay initially. And some wounds are deep enough that they just simply take longer to heal. That’s understandable.

But at some point on the journey, we need to come to terms with the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people. The question then becomes… What will you do with the bad stuff that has happened to you in life?

In the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, we read the story of someone who was done really wrong by those who should’ve been closest to him. His name was Joseph, and God had given him big dreams for his life. As he began to share these dreams with his family, his dad discredited him, and his brothers hated him for the dreams. They hated him so much that they started to kill him, but decided to sell him into slavery and tell their dad a wild animal ate him.

There is no doubt that Joseph was done wrong. But it got worse for him before it got better. Though he excelled as a slave for a high-ranking Egyptian leader, he was falsely accused of attempting to rape that man’s wife… and whose word do you think they believed, the slave or the lady? So Joseph was sent to jail.

In jail, Joseph excelled again and even predicted the futures for two servants of the king based on their dreams. They promised to remember him, but one was executed and the other forgot Joseph for a long time. Finally, Joseph was called upon to interpret a dream for the king, and it was then that he rose to prominence as the second in command for the entire nation of Egypt.

A famine ensued, and Joseph’s brothers showed up to get food from Egypt where Joseph had led a successful food saving and distribution plan. When they showed up, Joseph was confronted with a choice. There stood the very guys who had done him wrong. And it was within his power to set things straight.

In that moment, Joseph chose to give God credit instead of giving his brothers blame. Yes, they did bad things to him, but he chose to instead focus on how God used the bad they had done to work for all their good. He probably didn’t see it in the pit or the prison, but he certainly saw it the day they showed up to buy grain from him during the famine. Perhaps that was why he wept so intensely… the sudden understanding of how God had used the bad to set up the good.

I guess the question before each of us today is the same one Joseph faced that day his brothers showed up… Will I choose to give God credit or give those who did me wrong the blame they deserve?

God promises that He will set the record straight on our behalf, and that He will work everything that happens to us in life… the bad as well as the good… for our benefit and His credit… IF we will let Him.

The choice is ours today… Credit or blame? Let’s choose to see how God has worked things out for our good and give Him credit. In the end, we will win with a choice like that!

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!