“No one is so poor that they cannot at least pay attention.” – Unknown

One of my goals in life is to be more and more generous. However, like most of us, there are times when I feel like I cannot give as much as I would like. Perhaps it’s finances… or material possessions… or even time. But at that exact moment, I’m not able to give all that I would like to give.

There is a way, however, in which each of us can be generous at any given moment. It’s a gift any of us can afford. It is the ability to pay attention.

Everyone needs attention. Many long for it because they rarely receive it. People nod and wave. We often ask, “How are you,” as we keep walking right past a person. And so, many people go through life depleted in the reservoirs of their soul because they have experienced a drought of attention. Yet, we can all afford to pay attention in almost any given moment.

Years ago, a man I worked with in ministry taught me this valuable life lesson. He said it had been handed down to him from an mature minister whom he had watched practice it on many occasions. I had shared with my co-worker how, at the events we led, I felt so inadequate at giving everyone some time so that they knew I was interested in them and cared about them. What he shared that day helped me from that moment on to live generously in those times.

He said that I would never be able to give everyone as much time as they would want with me or as much time as I would want to give them, but I could always pay real attention to the person right in front of me. I could look them in the eye, and not look over their shoulder to see who else I needed to talk with. I could listen to what they were saying, and not try to formulate what I would say in response till they were done. I could focus on them, and let them know they were special. And when those few moments were done, that person would feel special… cared for… noticed… respected… loved… acknowledged. When I finished paying genuine attention to that person, I could feel free to move on to find the next person to whom I could give the gift of attention. Sure, there would be the casual greetings because too many people and too little time meant there was no way to do this for everyone. But for those to whom I could give the gift of attention, their day would be better, and my relationship with them would be deepened.

He was right, of course. I began right away to do my best to practice generosity in the form of genuine attention. No, I wasn’t always successful. I would sometimes get caught up in the chaos and allow myself to get too busy to give this gift, but I did my best. Years have passed since he shared that affordable gift idea with me, and I began trying to be generous in that way. Interestingly, I received a text just this past week from someone who shared how much it meant that I had paid attention to them and to others back then. It mattered to them. It still matters to this day.

So, the next time you think you don’t have anything to give… the next time you want to be generous, but aren’t sure you have a $20 bill in your wallet to hand a college student… or a car to donate to charity… the next time you desire to make a difference by giving… give the gift anyone can afford. Pay attention to the person in front of you at the moment. It may be your spouse, your kids, your co-worker, a neighbor, or the person on the aisle in Walmart who just wants someone to talk to. Whoever it is… whenever it is… just do your best to be generous with your attention. I promise… you can afford it!

Note: Straight-Up Spiritual Post

Last night, standing in a church service where I was about to speak, the person leading worship said something about following God as He leads us like the Israelites did when God led them through the wilderness using a pillar of cloud during the daytime and a pillar of fire at night.

Looking into Scripture for the reference point, the cloud/fire pillar was where God would be as He led His people to the Promised Land after delivering them out of slavery in Egypt. When it was time for the people to move and go in a particular direction, God would lead them using this cloud/fire pillar. It was tall enough for the millions of them to see and follow. As long as God moved, they moved.

But there would be points along the journey when God knew they needed to stop and rest. So, the pillar would stop moving. When it did, everyone stopped, and they would set up camp there. They would erect the Tabernacle… the place of worship where man connected with God… right underneath that cloud/fire pillar. Then they would all set up their tents, and they would camp their till the pillar lifted from the Tabernacle and started moving again. As soon as it lifted, they broke camp and followed again.

Now I don’t think God has ever chosen to lead me with a pillar of cloud or fire. I sometimes wish life was that simple. But He does lead and guide us in definite ways. If we are playing attention to Him, He will help us know when it is time for us to get moving. He’ll lead the way so we know which direction to move. He will shield our eyes from what would blind us from our path, or He light the path in the dark so we know where to walk. And He will also help us know when to take a break.

Sometimes, however, when it’s time to move, we procrastinate because we hate to leave our campsite. We’ve gotten used to the lay of the land. It’s familiar and comfortable to us. Other times, when it is time for us to stop, set up camp and rest, we want to keep moving. We think we are strong enough. We think we are prepared for the challenges ahead.

The thing is, we need to learn to recognize when it is time to move and when it is time to camp. To do that, we have to keep our spiritual eyes trained on God for His prompts. He knows better than we do what is up ahead. He knows better than we do when we need to rest up and gain strength.

Let me ask you… Is it time to trek or tent in your life right now? If you’re not sure, why not take a few moments right here, right now, and just ask God to show you whether He’s moving or stopping. Then whatever He’s doing, do that, and you’ll be in the right place at the right time.

This is going to be a great week!

Repeat after me… “This is going to be a great week!”

Now… Believe it! Believe that God has good things in store for you this week. Each day is going to get better. Something is going to make you smile… make you breathe easier. Someone is going to be kind to you. You are going to accomplish something… excel at something. You’re going to laugh more. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to achieve your goals.

This is not a week to dread. This is a week to anticipate!

How can I guarantee this? How can you live up to the hype? Well, simply put, it’s basically up to you and me. We can either go into this week dreading each day… fretting and worrying… stressed and fearful. Or we can choose to look for the best in people… see opportunities in challenges… search for the silver linings to passing clouds. It’s up to us. We will get what we believe for… either way. It takes exactly the same amount of trust and emotional energy.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs that the fears of the wicked and the hopes of the godly will come about. That tells me that how I choose to look at this upcoming week largely impacts how the week will go for me.

So, decide early on in this week that it is going to be great… maybe one of the best weeks you’ve ever had. Determine to see the best in people and find positives in every situation. Start each day smiling and looking forward to all the good you will find that day. And at the end of this week, I believe and declare that you will see that you have had the great week you anticipated!

Now let’s do this!

Several times over the past couple of weeks, Alex has burst into the room where Angela and I were, and exclaimed, “This is the BEST… DAY… EVER!!!” Usually, it has to do with achieving a new level on a video game, combined with having a favorite dessert, and maybe one other delight. Whatever the case, in his mind it was the best day ever. What’s funny to me is that happened again and again… apparently each day topping the previous “BEST… DAY… EVER!”

Truth be told, I find it hard to believe this tops the days when we’ve gone fishing. And I find it even more difficult to believe these days trump Christmas or our trip to Disney World a few years ago. There’s no way anyone would say these days compare… except Alex.

And I love it! I love that he’s not living in the past. For him, each day holds the potential to be celebrated… to be the BEST… DAY… EVER! In fact, it’s almost as if he’s looking for those days to be great. He’s hoping they’ll be great, even if they haven’t been the most exciting yet. Proverbs 10:28 says, “The hopes of the godly result in happiness.”

What are you hoping for today? Are you looking for today to be great? Is there anything that could happen, no matter how small, that would make you want to celebrate?

You know, it doesn’t always have to be something big. Maybe you have a great hair day… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or maybe the person ahead of you in line buys your coffee… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or maybe you get an actual, old-school, handwritten note in the mail… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or perhaps you have your teeth cleaned at the dentist, and they say you don’t need any additional work… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or maybe you aced a pop quiz… BEST… DAY… EVER!

Today, get your hopes up, and look for all those little things that might add up to making this the BEST… DAY… EVER! Then get up tomorrow, and do it again. Let every day have the potential to be your BEST… DAY… EVER… and you’ll find you end up having a lot more of them… like Alex.

Thanks for the cool reminder, bud… This just might be one of my BEST… DAYS… EVER!

I don’t really enjoy exercising. I know its benefits. I need to exercise, but just because I need to doesn’t mean I like to. Some days, the win is that I exercised at all instead of not exercising.

Yesterday was one of those days. I really didn’t want to exercise, but I hopped on the stationary bike because I needed to do it for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. I had already thought to myself, “If I can gut out 10-15 minutes, I’ll call it done.” Then my goal extended to 4 miles completed. (I typically aim for about 6-7 miles in about 22-23 minutes.)

Just about the time I met the 4-mile mark, Alex came in the room to get some of his school supplies to start his day. He saw me sweating it out and asked me, “How far have you ridden… and how long are you gonna ride that thing?” I replied with my distance, and told him I really needed to go another couple of miles and another 6-7 minutes. To which he exclaimed, “I don’t know how you do that!”

I thought for a moment, and then I answered, “I guess you just keep on peddling. You just don’t stop.” He said, “Yeah, but isn’t that hard?” Using my much-needed breath, I told him, “Yep, but you keep on going anyway.” That seemed to satisfy him, and he left me alone to… keep pedaling.

But now I had a little extra sense of being able to finish. I knew that… if I would just keep pedaling… if I just wouldn’t stop… I would get in my distance and my time. Sure I was sweating more than I wanted to. Sure I was tired of pedaling. Sure I wanted to stop and eat ice cream. But I kept pedaling anyway.

And guess what happened? I made it. I hit the 6-mile mark in just over 22 minutes. Now, that may not be impressive to you. You may be some kind major-ninja-exercise-guru-master who laughs at my distance or time with an air of superiority. But I just needed to exercise yesterday. I did it because I needed to do it… not because I wanted to. I didn’t feel like it. And I would have probably given up earlier if Alex had not walked in the room at that moment. But because he did… because he asked me those questions… because he unknowingly nudged me to do what it took to finish strong… I did better than I expected.

Maybe someone reading this today feels ready to quit doing what you need to do. You’re ready to throw in the towel. You’re beyond ready to give up. You’re tired. Your win today was getting out of bed and getting dressed. Beyond that, your expectations for the day include doing what you have to do to survive or get by. And you don’t even want to think about tomorrow… or next week… or next month… or next year.

Don’t give up. Whether it is finding the right job, improving your marriage, completing your education, or pursuing a lifelong dream, all you have to do is keep going. Yes, it may be hard, but you can do it. Yes, you may be tired, but you have what it takes to finish strong. Just keep pedaling. You’ll get there. The key is to just keep going on anyway, no matter how hard it feels right now. And when you reach your goal… when you finish strong, having done more than you thought you could… you will be so glad you did.

P. S. – In those moments when these words of encouragement are not enough to motivate you, ask God to help you. He will strengthen you and help you reach the finish line!

We have several friends who are currently serving as foster parents. It is amazing how they are investing their lives in the lives of these children and teenagers. It is temporary investment for permanent life-change.

Recently, I was talking with one of my foster-dad friends, and he was telling me about one of the kids they are caring for having a total attitude meltdown. Whether you are in favor of physical disciplining of children or not, you cannot discipline that way with foster kids for a lot of serious reasons. So he told me about how they handle correction in their family now…

When one of the kids displays a bad attitude or a wrong action, they address the issue by stating what was wrong. Then they do something powerful… They ask the child if he/she would like a do-over. If the child accepts the do-over and makes things right, they reinforce that right attitude and action with encouragement.

As my friend told me about an actual instance when this had been applied, I couldn’t help but blurt out how that is exactly how God treats us when we display our own bad attitudes or wrong actions. He’s not waiting to strike us down with a plague or fire from Heaven. He lovingly, patiently points out where we were wrong and then asks us if we would like a do-over. He’s the God of second chances… and third chances… and hundredth chances. But He doesn’t stop there. When we finally get our attitudes and actions right, He lovingly reinforces our right choice with encouragement.

Sure, you were wrong, but you don’t have to stay wrong. Take the do-over today. You don’t have to live in guilt and shame today. God is not waiting to take you out back to the woodshed and give you the whippin’ of your life. He stands ready instead to give you a do-over and a dose of encouragement. And isn’t that what we really need?

To all my foster parent friends, thank you for the amazing example of God’s love and grace you are to me! Keep up the great work. You are making a difference for eternity.

It’s football season. At our house, that means NFL. I’m not interested in the politics… I just watch it to relax and have fun. Now, the boys like watching with me, but they are not quite as captivated by all the finer points of the game. They do, however, love to play.

So, we have created a little ritual of our own. At commercial breaks, or halftime, or when a game is over, we play our own scaled-back games of football. We play inside because it’s air conditioned, and because we have a pretty decent size living room. One of the boys plays offense, the other defense. I am all-time quarterback… and referee. It’s that last part that creates the issues.

Basically, it doesn’t matter what call I make on any play… one of the boys usually gets frustrated with it. We often have to replay the down because I couldn’t see a play well-enough to call it accurately. The replay is mostly because I don’t want an argument from either one of them.

We’ve been working on having a better attitude. In most cases, that means not getting mad at the referee or at the opponent for making a great play. I’ve been challenging them to work on being good sports. Truth is, they both have some pretty decent skills. But I know that attitude trumps skills in life… even in football. A player can cost their team the game by losing their cool.

So, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon when Alex announced to me that they had decided to play with great attitudes and do their very best not to get upset during the game. I wondered how it would play out, but sure enough, they were young men of their word. They played the whole game with terrific attitudes, acknowledging calmly they wish a call would have gone another way, but moving on to the next play… or even congratulating the other player on a great play against them.

At one point well into the game, Alex said, “You know, Daddy, it’s way more fun playing football with a good attitude.” Austin agreed, and I beamed with pride at the lesson they had learned.

You know, life is way more fun when we have the right attitude… when we treat people the way we want to be treated… when give others the benefit of the doubt, knowing that no one is perfect except God… when we are big enough accept outcomes, even though they didn’t go our way. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should make it our goal to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. That’s a tall order, but God wouldn’t have said to do it if He wasn’t going to help us be successful at doing it.

This week, let’s determine right from the start to have a great attitude… at home, at work, at school, in the store, wherever we are. Let’s choose to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. My prognostication is that we won’t even get to the end of the week before we declare like Alex that life is, “way more fun!”