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!

In light of the recent shooting in Santa Fe, TX… and closer to home, a friend who took his own life this week, I am challenged once more to let more people whom I love know that I don’t expect them to be perfect. I don’t need them to have it all together for me. I will love them for them… as they are… with all their faults, flaws and imperfections… because I’ve got my own fair share.

I know it’s hard to pull the masks off sometimes. So we have to push beyond the masks on those we love to see them fully and then love them deeply anyway. Isn’t that what God has done for us? Scripture says that while we were still sinners… messed up, imperfect, at odds with God… He loved us and decided to do what it took to let us be a part of His family.

Let’s let those around us today know that it’s safe to be genuine… raw… authentic… and real with us… even if that is less than perfect. Let’s let them know we love them and that we are for them. Let’s get behind the masks and love even their hidden humanity!

Early on in our marriage, PR31 and I adopted a rule that said if one of us took a big stand that we were right about an issue and we’re later found to be wrong, we had to say out loud to the other person, “You were right, and I was wrong.”

I hated it when I discovered to be wrong and I had to utter those words. It happened more than once… to my own embarrassment. Each time, I felt like the Fonz from Happy Days or Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter… barely able to utter the second part of the statement. It didn’t take me long to learn that my relationship with PR31 mattered more to me than trying to prove my mental prowess.

You see, sometimes being kind is better than being right. And your response to that statement depends on how you define winning.

“Winning at any cost” to some means they will sacrifice relationships and people to accomplish their goals. To others, it means setting aside some of their personal desires or doing without certain things to be able to preserve relationships. (I choose the latter, if you care to know.)

I obviously don’t mind sharing my opinion… I write this blog. But there comes a point for me where arguing and debating an issue ceases to have as much value when I realize that I could wound a person long-term or degrade them publicly and lose their friendship. I have been in arguments I could have won based on my knowledge of the facts, and yet would have lost a relationship that really mattered to me in the process. So I chose to lose… in order to win.

You may be right. You don’t have to let anyone know you’re right. You can keep that little fact to yourself, and it will all come out in the wash. In the meantime, you’ll keep a friend both now and later.

Priorities reveal our true definition of winning. What you make important makes an impact… one way or another.

Choose kindness… What is right will eventually become clear, and you just might retain a relationship that you’ll be glad you didn’t lose.