Twenty-two years ago today, I heard PR31 say to me, “I do!” And each day since then, I have watched her live out that commitment to love me. She is my dream girl. I would choose her every day of the week and twice on Sundays for the rest of my life.
Proverbs 31, from whence I drew her nickname, says that the virtuous woman’s husband blesses her publicly. And so today’s post is that… my public proclamation that God blessed me with an amazing wife to share life with… and twenty-two years later, I’m so glad He did!
Angela is my best friend, as well as being my sweetheart. She listens to and lifts me. She cheers me on and challenges me. She nurtures and nudges me.
She is a woman of God. Her passionate pursuit of Him makes me want to love both Him and her even more.
She makes me a better man… a better daddy… a better son… a better brother… a better friend… a better preacher. I wouldn’t be the man I am without her in my life.
Her beauty is not only skin deep, though she is indeed gorgeous to look at. (She doesn’t even need makeup or fancy clothes to look pretty.) She is considerate of others’ feelings. She gives generously… regularly.
Her talents are off the charts to me. She is one of those people who can make any recipe taste great… make any Pinterest craft more personal and special… make any trip more fun.
And yet for all her creativity, her practical skills are second to none. She is the budget queen… homeschool teacher par excellence to our boys… and able to use the riding mower.
I’d keep going, but you probably can’t handle anymore. And I could write ad nauseum about my love for her. And when she reads this, she’ll think it was over the top… because she is also a woman of genuine humility. See? I can’t help myself when it comes to her.
So, today, I celebrate twenty-two years of committed love between us… and commit again to the same for the rest of my life. There’s no one else I’d rather take the journey of life with.
Thanks for loving me, Angela! I love you like crazy… and I always will!!!
As a young teenager, Saturday nights from 10:30pm to midnight meant professional wrestling on TV. Midsouth Wrestling to be specific. Think Junkyard Dog… Hacksaw Jim Duggan… The Missing Link… Andre The Giant… Jimmy “The Super Fly” Snuka… Ted Dibiase… The Von Erichs… The Midnight Express… The Rock-N-Roll Express… The Fabulous Freebirds. Yes, I still remember. It was almost a religious experience for me.
The rest of the family would have already gone to bed… resting up for a Sunday full of church. And I would be laying on the shag carpet in front of the small TV with the volume turned down low so as not to wake anyone. Sometimes my mom would stay up a little later than the others reading a book. She would come to tell me good night before she went to sleep and find me there, completely caught up in the frenzy of a grudge match… or a cage match… or a title bout.
Mom would try to tel me that it was all fake… all a set-up, but I wouldn’t believe her because there was real sweat and real blood. Granted, it was no UFC (which I’ve never really watched), but I knew in my junior high mind that it was real.
I can remember one of the story lines that seemed to play out time and again… It would be a match between a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” The good guy would be winning until the bad guy cheated… like pulling brass knuckles from his tights, or jumping off the top rope, or grabbing a chair from the audience and slamming it over the head of the unsuspecting good guy. The tide would turn in that moment and now the bad guy had the advantage.
But all of the sudden, one of the good guy’s other good guy friends would come racing out of the locker room “where he had seen the whole thing unfold on the closed circuit TV,” and this friend would come sliding into the ring to rescue his friend. And it would be payback time!
The friend would take it to the bad guy using any method necessary to let the bad guy know he had messed up… that he had messed with the wrong guy… because that good guy had friends who weren’t going to stand by and let that abuse go unpunished.
Now don’t be ridiculous… I am completely aware now that it was all fake, that all the plots were written out, that those pro wrestlers knew how to make it look like they were beating the living daylights out of each other without really doing any harm. It was all a show.
But real life is no fake. It’s no made up show. There are times when bad people really do mistreat good people. Truth be told, there are even times when good people slip up and mistreat other good people.
And sometimes it looks like the person who did wrong is getting away with it. It looks like they are going to win the day.
But there are plenty of places in Scripture which point out to us that, if we will keep a right attitude… a right heart… a right spirit, then we have a Friend who is watching it all unfold. He will rescue us. And when He does, it will be payback time. In fact, Zechariah 9 says that God will repay His people double for each trouble which has been inflicted upon them.
Now I can’t guarantee that you’re going to get paid back during this lifetime, although you might. But God is keeping detailed records… one of the Psalms even says He collects every tear you ever cry in a bottle… and He will make sure that eventually payback time comes. He will restore to you more than you ever had taken away.
So, today… if you’ve been beat down, determine to keep a right attitude and know that payback time is coming if you’ll just leave it to God!
Like Manoah and his wife…
Like Hannah and Elkanah…
Like Zechariah and Elizabeth…
We, too, thought we might be without children our entire lives. But God gave us a promise. And then He gave us a miracle! Like those listed above, He gave us a son. Two, in fact! And today we celebrate the birth of our first son 9 years ago!!!
And in light of our celebration, I pray for those reading this right now who long for the Lord to give them a promise and a miracle.
It was a Saturday morning, and our youth pastor… who happened to be my brother-in-law, David, was taking a handful of us out to go door-to-door in the neighborhoods surrounding our church in order to ask people if we could pray with them. It was getting close to noon and we were about to make our last push through the neighborhood closest to the church. Plus, it was beginning to sprinkle and rain was imminent.
We dropped off the other guy to go with two girls down one street while David and I tackled an apartment complex. We pulled in and David parked the white 15-passenger van that it seems every church in America owns. When he had turned it off, I slid across the first bench seat, slid open the large side sliding door, and in one majestic leap hopped out of the van, keeping my right hand on the outside handle of the sliding door. As my left foot landed on the ground and my right foot began to press off the floor of the van, I slammed the sliding door shut with all my early twenties might without even looking behind me.
But the van door didn’t make the normal sound it made when latching shut. In fact, it seemed to not even go all the way closed. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t close. I mean, I had slammed that door hard. “Oh, well,” I thought, “I’ll just slam it again.” And I did. And again it didn’t make the right noise or shut as it was supposed to.
So, I turned around to see what was keeping the door from shutting properly just in time to see David grabbing both sides of his head and falling backward onto the front bench seat. Only then did I realize what had happened. Instead of climbing out the driver’s door as I thought he would, because of the rain he had decided he could exit more quickly by following me out the sliding door. He thought I heard him coming behind me, but I had not. And so his head was just coming through the path of the sliding door, as I gave it my first slam. SLAM! Stunned, both physically and mentally, by that first blow, David couldn’t move. That’s when the second slam came. SLAM!
I felt horrible… for a moment. Then I laughed. Then I felt horrible again. You could actually see the indentions on the sides of David’s temples where the door had sandwiched his head. And to think that I did it to him not only once, but twice. Then I felt really horrible. His head hurt so badly that he had to ask me to drive the one block to pick up the other students and get back to the church. His head hurt for weeks. Even months later certain things triggered pain where his head had been creased by the slam of my door.
Lo, these many years later, David actually talks to me. In fact, we often tell that story with a lot of laughs attached. Occasionally when we tell it, though, I think I see a little wince and maybe some moistness in his eyes as his mind recalls and relives the head-slamming incident. But David quickly forgave me, even though I know he had to have been frustrated with me at the time.
The truth is, we all get our heads slammed in the van door of life sometimes. Sometimes by enemies. Sometimes by well-meaning, well-intentioned people who never wanted to hurt us. But SLAM! And suddenly we are reeling backwards from the unexpected blow. When these head-slams come our way, it feels like the pain is never going to stop, never going to go away.
But it does… eventually.
In the Old Testament, Joseph faced a few head-slams himself. His half-brothers hated him and threw him in a pit to die. SLAM! Then they changed their mind and sold him into slavery and told their dad a wild animal killed him. SLAM! For years he served his master faithfully and very successfully, but then was falsely accused of making advances on the boss’ wife and was thrown into prison. SLAM! He interprets dreams for two of Pharaoh’s servants who promise to remember Joseph and help get him out of prison, but one dies and the other forgets. SLAM!
But then the one living servant remembers Joseph at a crucial moment when Pharaoh needs a dream interpreted. Joseph is brought out of prison, interprets the dream about a looming famine, comes up with a spectacular plan to save the nation and is made second in command over all Egypt. A little healing.
Joseph’s half-brothers actually have to go to Egypt to get food due to the famine. And they have to get food from Joseph. A little more healing. He does not reveal himself immmediately, but helps them. Eventually, Joseph tells them who he is and that he no longer allows the damage they inflicted upon him to control him. And in one of the most amazing verses in Scripture, Genesis 45:15 tells us that as Joseph wept with joy, he kissed each of his brothers and they began talking freely with each other as the relationships are restored. Complete healing!
So, whatever head-slam you’ve faced in life, know this… If you will give the pain to God, the pain will stop at some point. I cannot promise that it will always be immediate, though I have seen situations in which He has done that for people. But He will bring about healing. He will make things right. And sure, there might be an occasional wince as your mind recalls the head-slamming incident, but that will fall away into the joy of being healed from the hurt. Who knows? You might even be willing to drive a van again like David!
A few years ago, I went through a three-month fitness and lifestyle transformation program with a group of friends. In one of the training sessions, our coach told us the story of a woman who decided to transform her health one small decision at a time. On average, she drank at least nine sodas each day. So her first commitment was to cut one per day. To her surprise, she was able to cut two per day very quickly. And after a very short time, she had cut back to one per day. That was a huge difference in her health which began with one small decision.
One day, the Old Testament prophet Elijah visited a woman in the town of Zarephath during the middle of a drought and famine. He asked her to give him something to eat and drink, but she replied that she was a widow and only had enough to make herself and her son one more meal before they completely ran out and would most likely die in the days following. In what seems like a cruel request, Elijah asks her to go ahead and make him some food first. In that moment, this woman made a small decision which impacted her destiny. The Bible tells us that because of her decision to honor God by feeding a small meal to this prophet, she never ran out of oil or flour from that day till the drought and famine were over. Others went without, but this widow who could not provide for herself and her family never did.
I remember hearing a Japanese fable once about a jungle which caught on fire. As the fire spread and grew worse, all the animals began to make their way out of the jungle and away to safety. All except for one lone hummingbird. This little hummingbird would fly to a nearby lake, scoop up a few drops of water in its beak, fly back to fiery jungle and drop the water on the fire. After having passed the crowd of exiting animals several times, one of the elephants asked why the hummingbird was making this futile effort. The hummingbird responded, “I’m doing what I can.”
Our decisions determine our destiny. Take that to heart today. No matter how small your decision to act seems to be at the moment, remember that it has power to shape your future. Choose the small kindness… the small generosity… the small forgiveneness… the small courage… the small compliment. Though it may appear small to others at the moment, that one decision could multiply into your destiny before your very eyes! And even if it takes some time to show its effects, stick with it. Sometimes our destiny is revealed by our legacy.
Growing up, I loved watching “The Jetsons” cartoon. And I never thought I’d live to see the day when there was an actual flying car… but I saw one on the internet recently which built and tested in Europe.
Growing up, I used to love shows like Star Trek and Buck Rogers. Again, I never thought I’d live long enough to see the day when people could communicate via video and audio over handheld devices… but I FaceTime with family regularly.
Now when I see a transparent screen on a tablet or a floating hologram computer screen on a movie, I realize that, before my boys graduate high school, they could be using such technology… as we travel across the country in our family’s flying car.
Recently I was watching one of those “Anne of Green Gables” TV shows when I heard the character Matthew Cuthbert say, “I reckon every new idea was modern once… until it wasn’t.”
What once was new to all of us before Steve Jobs pulled an iPhone out of his pocket and introduced us to the new world of smartphones containing phone, camera and computer all in one is now old hat. Everyone has one… even kids. They have even created a simple version for elderly folks who may not be ready for all the bells and whistles.
The same is true when it comes to the challenges in our lives. Often, we can’t even imagine how we could overcome them. We don’t see how we could get well… or get out of debt… or get an “A” in that class… or get that spouse. We are limited by what we know and have experienced.
But God is not limited. He knows all and has experienced all. And He has all creative ability within Himself. So He can bring something to the table in an instant which is a game-changer for us.
Adam had never seen or imagined a woman when God gave him Eve. Noah had never built a boat or seen rain when God spared him and his family. Moses had never seen a sea part when God opened up the Red Sea and led the millions of Israelites through on dry land. Elijah had never had birds bring him food till he camped at Kerith Brook. The disciples had never seen someone stop a storm with their words… or heal the blind with mud… or feed the masses with the minuscule… or raise themselves from the dead… till Jesus. But after those experiences, those people knew that God has ways of doing something even when we don’t.
God is ready, willing and able to step into the course of our lives and bring something we have never thought of… never dreamed… never imagined… never entertained as possible to change our situation completely in our favor! So instead of sitting around singing, “Gloom, despair and agony on me,” today, try inviting God to work His power of the new and unexplainable in your life. You may not see a way, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way. With God, nothing is impossible!
Just pull out that smartphone… although you’re probably reading this on it, and so it’s already in your hand… and remember that every new idea was once modern… until it wasn’t. Then ask God to do something new in your life, and one day down the road you’ll see that there really was a way… an answer… a solution. What was new in this moment will be a lasting foundation to believe for other new help in the future!
A little-known- but not difficult to believe- fact about me is that I love theater productions. Growing up, my parents took us to broadway-style productions like “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Texas,” and “Hello, Dolly” at the Moody Outdoor Theater in Galveston. And I loved it!
So, in junior high, I took drama. I learned how to do stage makeup… how to not upstage someone… the difference between stage right and stage left. I even starred in “Death of a Salesman” in our eighth grade production.
My love for stage production never waned. In high school, I portrayed the candidate for my opposing political viewpoint in a mock debate for our schoolwide mock election. In college, I found joy in running lights and handling props. And I’ve also enjoyed my fair share of parts in Easter or Christmas productions at churches where I’ve attended.
Those who know me know that my happy place… the place where I often feel most comfortable and in my sweet spot… is on the stage, in the spotlight. But life is not made up of only “on-stage” moments. There are times when we must be “off-stage.”
In all the drama stuff I have done over the years, I recall that being off-stage required work as well as on-stage moments. It takes quiet focus… staying connected with what was happening on-stage, all the while changing costumes, grabbing props for myself or others, etc. in order to be ready for the next scene in which I would be involved on-stage. Just because people can’t see that you are doing something at the moment doesn’t mean that you aren’t.
King Solomon revealed in the book of Ecclesiastes a truth which the Beattles would thousands of years later make popular… “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under Heaven.” That means there are on-stage moments as well as off-stage moments in our lives.
What we need to realize is that, just because we might not be on the stage right now in our life’s production, does not mean we are not still part of the cast. In the meantime, wait patiently in the shadows off-stage and prepare for what is next. Know that what you are doing off-stage may not be seen at the moment, but people will be able to tell that you have been actively engaged when you enter the lighted stage once more.
Your next scene is coming up! The director is going to call your name and tell you to get ready to go on. You will once again be in the spotlight where people can see your participation. Serve quietly now and you will shine brightly later.