Pictured above are PR31’s great grandmother “Muddy” and her grandmother “Grannie” or “Bertie.” Below each of them are one item they owned & use which have since come to be used regularly in our home. I used that step stool just this morning. And we use that rolling pin many a Friday night when we roll out the dough for our homemade pizzas.

Each time I use one of those items, I smile. I smile because I think of them. I wonder how many times they used that item. I wonder if they know how much it’s helping us live our lives today.

You see, for each of us, our destiny depends on our history. We are the people we are today… we are able to do what we do today… because of those who went ahead of us and who have handed down to us those things which help us. Some of those things are physical items, like the rolling pin and step stool. Others are life lessons, stories and emotional input. Still others are spiritual blessings passed down to us. Regardless of what it is, we wouldn’t be who we are or do what we do without the benefit of those who went ahead of us.

Keep on investing in the lives of others. Just think… one day, there will be others… kids, grandkids, friends, co-workers… who will get to be who they will be and do what they will do because you invested in their lives. And if we do it right, maybe just maybe, they will smile when they think of you!

Our family loves to watch Kids Baking Championship on The Food Network. About a dozen kids between the ages of nine to twelve from across the U. S. (& one from Canada this season) compete on the weekly show to see which kid will be crowned best kid baker in the nation.

One of the shows challenges which has become a tradition is “dessert imposters.” It involves the kids each using baked goods to create an identical look-alike to a meal from a theme given by the hosts. Like every challenge, there is a twist thrown in along the way to make the kids up their game just a little more. Some of the dessert imposters are easily spotted as fakes… not looking much like the real thing at all. Others are amazingly life-like replicas. Some even taste good.

But what struck me tonight is how how hard those kids work to create something fake. I know that’s the assignment for that part of the competition. It’s just crazy that it takes as much… or maybe even more… effort to produce a fake as it would to create the real thing.

And I wonder how many people are doing the same thing in their lives… working like crazy to create an imposter of what they think a real, successful life looks like. I wonder how different their life would be if they applied that same amount of effort at being their real self… genuine and authentic. What if they quit using filters on every picture of themselves? What if they didn’t pad their résumé with those carefully researched words they know employers are looking for? What if they used social media to be sincere and to encourage others?

I guess we all have some room for improvement in this area. I know the struggle is real to retain our integrity when it feels like we need to make ourselves sound like more. But why must we create imposters of ourselves?

We are each created by God, in His image. He loves us and values us as original masterpieces. None of our efforts to make ourselves look better than we are… or to look like someone else… are impressive to Him.

Truth be told, when our efforts are tested and prove that we are not what we tried to make ourselves look like, it’s not impressive to anyone else either. So, again I ask… why apply all the effort to crafting a fake us when, with the same amount of effort applied, we could make the original us shine.

So I’m calling on all of us today to take one significant step toward being less fake and toward being authentic. Maybe it’s only one social media post. Maybe it’s an interview. Maybe it’s a conversation with someone you find yourself starting to love. Whatever the case, let’s be real. Let’s skip the imposter round… regardless of how sweet it may sound

In his latest book, Whisper, Mark Batterson tells how several years ago he was challenged to make sure anything he said about someone else behind their back was positive. He wrote that he likes to “brag behind their back.”

I like that! What if we took time today to talk about one friend to another friend… and what if we bragged on that person without them knowing we did it? What if we made a habit of bragging behind people’s back? What if Word started getting back to people that we said something about them… something positive, encouraging, complimentary… behind their backs?

There’s something great about knowing that someone else is saying something nice about you when you’re not around. If they’ll do that, they must surely mean it. If they’ll say it when there is no expectation of anything in return, it must really come from the heart.

Wouldn’t it be terrific for someone else to hear tomorrow that you said something nice about them behind their back today? What if bosses started doing this about their employees… and vice versa? What if Republicans started doing this about Democrats… and vice versa? What if one business owner would do this about their rival… and vice versa?

I don’t know, maybe some of that is too much to hope for. But I don’t think it’s too much for you and me to begin making a difference in the lives of those around us by making sure that everything we say about them is good and helpful… that it encourages them if they hear we said it. I believe husbands can start doing this about their wives… and vice versa. Parents can start doing this about their kids… and vice versa.

Let’s let these encouraging words trickle back to people we care about and brighten their day. I for one want to find the biggest gossip I know and start spreading some good news through them about my friends! If you’re with me, use #goodgossip when sharing this post with others.

I love to see someone do what they do best…

* Michael Jordan or Lebron James playing basketball.

* Drew Brees or Tom Brady playing quarterback in football.

* Duff Goldman making cakes.

* Bob Villa or Chip Gaines remodeling a house.

You know, God gave each of us special abilities to do something well. Doing that thing fills us with joy and fulfillment… and others love watching us do it because it inspires them.

In Scripture, when God wanted to manage a multi-national food crisis, he picked Joseph. When He wanted someone to lead His people out of bondage to the Promised Land, He picked Moses. When He wanted someone to protect His people, He picked David.

And when He wanted someone to build the place He would express His presence among His people, He chose Bezalel and Oholiab. Not only were they “skilled,” “expert,” and “master craftsmen,” God had also given them, “the ability to teach their skills to others.” In today’s terms, they would have had the skills and a YouTube channel to show the rest of us how to do it right.

You’re no different. God has given you abilities and skills which others watch in amazement. Don’t underestimate yourself because what you do is not what someone else does. Moses was a leader, Aaron was a priest and Joshua was a warrior, but none of them even came close to being the master craftsmen that Bezalel and Oholiab were.

So get out there, and do what you do. Wow the rest of us. And while you’re at it, why don’t you start a YouTube channel so the rest of us could learn a thing or two from you?

Inspirational Challenge Post…

So, I’ve rolled this idea around in my mind for awhile and have some ideas for myself, but I found the exercise to be challenging… and enlightening… and exhilarating. So, I thought I would throw it out there for all of us to chew on. And I would love to hear your responses.

One of the ways to figure out what really makes us tick is to ask ourselves a question like this…

“If I were to start a non-profit… what would it be?”

Not sure? Don’t feel badly. I couldn’t think of what I would do at first either. And I’m not completely sure that I’ve nailed it down. There are so many people who need help. But this is where the fun comes in. Ask yourself some more questions…

– Who would your organization benefit? What people group or demographic moves your heart?

– Why do you feel like they need to be helped?

– What would it do to benefit/help them?

– Why is this special to you?

See? Learned a little more about yourself, didn’t you? Oh yeah, I forgot that I have one more question…

– What are you going to do about it?

Come on, we can all make a difference. You may not have to officially start a non-profit organization to do it. We can all do something… and I hope you will!

I was reminded today that we all seem to want to make everyone else think that we have it all together, that we don’t struggle.

That’s a lie.

We all struggle. We all face challenges. We all wonder… and doubt… and long. Then, because we do, we think we don’t match up to everyone else.

News flash… No one has it all figured out. We’re all doing the best we can.

Yes, even Christians. We may be forgiven, but we are still works in progress as we try to match up to what has been done for us.

So listen, friend, if you’re sitting there wondering if you “missed something in Sunday School” (a phrase I borrowed from a friend recently) because you thought you weren’t supposed to have those thoughts or feelings, I want to welcome you to the club of all humanity. You, my friend, are 100%… certifiably… undeniably… NORMAL!

So relax. And for Pete’s sake, could we please just be real… and authentic… and genuine with each other so that we don’t all going around feeling like failures?

Phew. Thanks. I feel better just getting that off my chest.

P. S.- If someone is vulnerable enough to open up and admit they don’t have it all together, please be kind enough to reciprocate. You might even encourage them while you’re at it. Who knows? They might even encourage you.

In April 1803, Thomas Jefferson (via his ambassadors) inked a deal with Napoleon Bonaparte called the Louisiana Purchase in which the U. S. effectively paid France $15 million in exchange for 828,000 square miles of land… approximately doubling the size of the United States. President Jefferson announced the deal to the people of the United States in July 1803, and on October 21st of that year, Congress acted to set up governance. Ten days later, they gave the President the approval to explore the land and map it out since much of it was unknown to our country. President Jefferson then selected Meriwether Lewis to lead the exploration.

What Lewis did next is what makes him a great leader to me. He chose William Clark to explore with him. In that single act, he secured that Clark’s name would always be mentioned along with his when it came to the historic discovery of this massive portion of our nation.

I love this, and here’s why…

1. Lewis didn’t hog the glory. He didn’t feel like, since the President asked him to tackle this ginormous project with historic ramifications, he should get all the credit. To this day, we always mention Clark with Lewis. It’s never just the Lewis expedition… It’s the Lewis and Clark expedition. Their names have become synonymous with blazing trails and showing others the way… with boldness and daring… with the heart of the explorer. And their names are always mentioned… together.

Together is better. It’s always better. Together says a leader is not arrogant. Together says a leader values others more than themselves. Together matters, and it makes a difference.

2. Lewis knew he couldn’t & didn’t want to do it alone. He admitted he needed and wanted help. By inviting Clark along, Lewis made it clear that he did not have all the answers… all the skills… all the abilities. And he wanted to share the experience with someone else. I imagine that he imagined the two of them… if they could survive it… sitting in rockers on a porch one day on a piece of land in that Louisiana Purchase, telling stories to their grandchildren and people who stopped by to meet the famous explorers, of their shared experiences with two different points of view… one filling in the blanks in the other’s side of the story.

Great leaders get that they cannot do everything. Nor do they wish to go it alone. They want to share the thrill of challenges and cheers with someone else who can appreciate it… and help them be able to survive it all.

Listen, here’s the thing…

You are going to do something great in this life. Your moment is going to come when what you have been designed for… what you have been destined for… is set right in front of you. When it does, this is what I want to know…

Who is your Clark? Who will you elevate? Who will you bring along with you to make history? Will it be your spouse or your kids? Will it be a best friend? Will it be your favorite co-worker?

Just tell me you have someone in mind… because then I will know that you are the leader I believe you are… one who gets that life’s great achievements are better when they are shared.

Ramble Post Alert:

For the record, I am not forgetting to blog… or being lazy. Life has transformed over the past year and a half since I began this blog journey, and I am embracing the journey.

I am making more time to write fresh messages to share when I speak at places where I have been invited. I am working on one new book with focused effort, and another one here and there. On top of that, our family has an online home decor shop, and we are committed to making that succeed as well.

Then, there is family. Sure we’re together most of the time, but I love spending focused attention on each one each day when I’m home.

Obviously, my time alone with the Lord each day is an absolute necessity for me to be all I can be and do all I can do. I wouldn’t trade it.

Don’t worry… I’m not planning to quit blogging. I’m just not going to stress if I don’t get in five amazing posts per week. In fact, I’d feel good at this point with 2-3 really solid posts per week.

We each have the same number of hours to live each day. We each choose how we are going to spend most of those hours. And sometimes we have to re-allocate some of our hours so that we can accomplish our dreams and goals.

I encourage you to take time to write down what you are doing with your 24 hours each day, and see if you might need to give some important areas of life some of your valuable time… even if you need to take it from something you enjoy. If you’ve been willing to read this far when there was clearly a “ramble post alert” at the beginning, comment on the post or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear about any changes you discovered you need to make with how you use the time you’ve been given.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, one of my priorities is a good night’s rest…