Tricky-Tricky

If you haven’t figured it out by now, our family really likes to enjoy most holidays. Angela is super creative, and always seems to have some fun little ways we can make a holiday enjoyable for the boys.

Now, April Fool’s Day may not be the biggest holiday on the calendar, but you can bet your bottom dollar that we are going to prank each other plenty on that day. In fact, we enjoyed it so much this year that, as we put the boys to bed that night, they asked if we could extend it and make it April Fool’s Week. We gladly obliged, and the shenanigans began.

Toward the end of day 2, Alex had gotten Angela pretty good once or twice, and she had promised to get him back. His mind began swirling with ways she might try to prank him. As the boys got into bed, Alex kept looking all over trying to see how she was going to get him. She told him, “Oh, it may not be tonight. You don’t know when it’s going to be.” He could hardly stand it.

Later, she revealed to me that she didn’t have a prank set up. The prank was that she was trying to make him think she had one planned. Thus, he would go around the rest of the week looking under every cover and around every corner trying to avoid being pranked… all the while not knowing that WAS the prank.

Kind of reminds me how the ol’ devil works on us. He tries to trick us into thinking that he can do something to us, when in reality he has no authority or power over us unless we give it to him. He was defeated by God when God kicked him out of Heaven after a failed coup. He was defeated at the Cross when Jesus died for our sins, and at the Tomb when Jesus rose from the dead, sealing victory for us over death, hell, and the grave.

So the next time the devil threatens that he is going to get you, don’t sweat it. Ignore him. He’s trying to make you think he’s got something planned that is going to take you out, but he doesn’t… because he can’t! His plan is simply to make you think he can and thereby cause you to worry and fret, giving into fear so that he can manipulate you. Just look that ol’ liar in the eyes, and tell him to bring it! He’ll skulk away like the trickster he is, and you will chalk up another tally mark in God’s victory column.

Without Even Asking

Today is Austin’s 8th birthday… and when we celebrated earlier this week, he got presents. The funny thing is, not one of those were gifts he had asked for. We had asked him what he would like for his birthday, because he knows we are going to give him gifts. He came up with nothing. We suggested he make a list, but he is generally a content person, and he literally could not think of anything to ask for. Granted, we know we spoil our kids. Yet this was odd to us. A kid who didn’t know what to ask for.

Of course, we knew that we could not let him wake up that morning to no gifts. We searched. We shopped. We struggled. But we ended up finding several gifts we felt certain he would really enjoy, even though he had not asked for them.

Sure enough, his eyes lit up when he saw the packages. And I wonder if he was a little surprised since he had not asked us for anything specifically. It was so much fun watching him open gifts he had not asked for… his eyes lighting up, a smile spreading across his face, and even a squeal of joy when he opened them.

Austin got gifts from us that he loved receiving. Gifts he had not asked for, but gifts which we knew he would enjoy… because we know him. We know him better than anyone else knows him. We know what he likes and doesn’t like. We know what excites and energizes him. We also know what would not interest him in the least. So we looked for, purchased and gave him gifts with him in mind.

Here’s the thing… God is a far better Parent to each of us than PR31 and I will ever be to Austin and Alex. He knows each of us better than we even know ourselves. He knows what we need, what we want, and what we would love, even more than we do. When we don’t even know what to ask Him for, He knows what to give us. When we think we have everything we could want, He knows what would bring us even more joy. Scripture tells us that before we even ask, He knows our needs. And it also says that, when we don’t know what to ask Him for, His Spirit comes alongside us to help us because He knows what we want and need.

God wants to bless you today. He wants to help you today. He wants to give you what you need today. He pays attention to you all the time, and He listens to every word you say. So if you’re not sure how to pray today, just tell Him to give you what He thinks would be best. He may have something to give you that you didn’t even know to ask Him for!

Re-Birthday

Today, we have much to celebrate. We celebrate today because Alex and Austin share a birthday… or maybe I should say… a “re-birthday.” On this day, three years ago, PR31 had the privilege of leading both boys in prayer as they accepted Jesus Christ as the Forgiver of their sins and the Master of their lives.

In Scripture, we find that Jesus called it being “born again,” and the idea stuck with His followers. Being made right with God and adopted into His family is a lot like having a whole new birthday.

So this day is written on our “Remember” board in sharpie. This day pops up in our photo memories on the phone. This day is for celebrating.

You see, that day in 2016 marked the change of their eternal destiny. Now, they are children of God, not just children of Allen and Angela. Now, they have a future full of joy and hope spent with their loving Creator. Now, they do not have to worry if they are not perfect, because they have a Savior who is, and He is sharing His perfection with them… just because they asked.

If you’re not right with God today, don’t let another moment go by. Do what Alex and Austin did on this day three years ago…

1) Admit you blow it and do wrong things sometimes.

2) Accept that Jesus was punished and executed in your place for those crimes you commit against God when you do wrong.

3) Ask God to forgive you for past wrongs and help prevent you from future wrongs.

4) Invite Him to be in charge of your life, guiding you… leading you… directing you.

Do that today, and guess what? You’ll share a re-birthday with Alex and Austin! And that, my friend, is something to celebrate!


P. S. – If you make that choice today, would you let me know so that I can tell Alex and Austin their choice helped someone else? It would mean a lot to all of us!

The Space Between The Bookends

With the upcoming release of my next book imminent within the next few weeks- as the Lord’s helps- I thought back to a time about a year and a half ago when I came home from a trip speaking somewhere to find a gift Angela had waiting for me. I pulled the tissue paper from the gift bag, peered inside, and pulled out the two dark, wooden L-shaped objects. She explained, “They’re bookends… for the books you will write and publish.”

We had heard that we should keep something in front of us to remind us of the dreams we are working toward, and she knew that I had hit a point in the process where I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get finished. So, she made me those two simple bookends to remind me that one day my books would sit between them.

A day before my birthday several months later, my author copy of my first book arrived, and- after flipping through it, taking some pictures, and basking in the glow of the completed project- I had a spiritual moment as I placed the completed dream in the space between the bookends.

At first, I kept the bookends tight up against either side of that first book, but then something happened. I remembered that I have other books in my heart. As I began to write what I thought would be my second book, I looked at the first book sitting in the space between the bookends and realized that I needed to scoot them apart to make room for more of the books I plan to write.

Interestingly, I hit writer’s block on that book, and moved on to the next book when I couldn’t seem to break through. All along, I stared at the space between the bookends, and I determined that I would fill it.

It took me a little longer than I had originally planned. I wanted to release the book this weekend. I have faced challenges and setbacks, but throughout the entire process, there has been that space between the bookends- no longer completely empty- which reminded me to stay at it so that my dream of filling it would actually become reality.

One day a decade from now, I plan to have at least ten books I have written sitting in what used to be an empty space between the bookends. And here’s what I know… God has given me the dream and desire to write, the ideas for the books, the mind to conceptualize thoughts, the resources I need to capture those thoughts in print, and the team I need to make each book its best.

But I have to do my part if I am going to honor Him and His blessings by writing those books. I have to actually sit at the desk and put my fingers on the keyboard. I have to do the work of writing if I am going to fill the space between the bookends.

I give thanks to God for helping me complete this most recent book. It makes the broader dream of being an author more of a reality. I give thanks to those who have helped me make my writing better. I give thanks to Angela for showing me the space between the bookends.

I don’t know what you’re dream is, but I hope you have some visual to help keep it in front of you. I hope you have someone cheering you on. (I believe in you, in case no one has told you that.) And I hope that you will take that with which God has blessed you, put it together with your hard work, and see your dream become reality!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Overpowered With Joy

Yesterday, a computer game the boys play had an update, and they ended with all these extra powers and abilities that they couldn’t get before. Austin tried to explain it to us, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language. He kept going on about how each one could do these new and wonderful things they couldn’t do before. He said some of them were even “overpowered.” As he went on talking about how he just couldn’t believe how amazing this update was, he blurted out, “I’m overpowered… with joy!”

You know, that’s what joy does for us. It strengthens us. It powers us up. It gives us what we need and more to be able to face the day and win. Nehemiah told God’s people in his time that God set aside days on their calendar when they should be celebrate. In some ways, they felt bad to celebrate. They realized they didn’t live perfect lives. They knew the challenges they faced. They weren’t even sure they had the emotional strength- and therefore the physical strength- to celebrate. Nehemiah went on to tell them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

God doesn’t intend for us to live down in the mully-grubs. He wants us to live life to the fullest. But sometimes we check our bank account, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. Or we check the doctor’s report, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. We check our social media feed, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate.

Maybe today, you need to let the joy of the Lord be your strength. If you’ll let Him fill you up inside, you can live your life “overpowered with joy!”

Free To Enjoy

I cringe every time a player for the NFL team I’m cheering for scores a touchdown and begins to celebrate in the end zone. I just know they’re going to get flagged for “excessive celebration.” They don’t typically, unless they begin taunting the other team or use a prop, a la Michael Thomas in last night’s game against the LA Rams. Yet, I still cringe. I talk to the TV screen like I’m their coach or teammate, like they can actually hear me. I tell them not to celebrate too much, not to cost their team a penalty because they are happy they succeeded.

But there is no need to cringe anymore. Players can celebrate ridiculously and not be penalized. And that’s the way it should be. They did well, and they should celebrate. They should celebrate with others who helped them. They should rejoice that all their hard work paid off. It’s right to celebrate.

No, this is not my commentary on the state of the NFL today. It is my commentary to myself and other followers of Jesus Christ on what it means to live the kind of life He intends for us to live. By the time Jesus merged deity and humanity into one in His person here on earth, rules of religion had made it almost impossible to celebrate a life lived freely for God. The handful of rules given by God to help guide His people toward a life full of joy and abundance had morphed into a list of hundreds of rules– most created by humans– which sucked the life out of serving the Lord. Jesus reminded people to keep it simple… love God… love people… be kind… help the hurting… stay humble… sacrifice for others.

He came to say we don’t have to cringe when someone scores a touchdown. We’re free to enjoy a life lived for God. No, we shouldn’t be flagrant and offensive toward others. It’s not okay to use our freedom to insult or demean, like we think we’re better because we follow Christ. But that also doesn’t mean we have to go through life ignoring the fact that God has been really good to us. It doesn’t mean we can never smile, or be happy when He blesses us.

It’s time to live free for God again. It’s time to quit cringing because someone might get offended if we say, “Praise the Lord!” No flag will get thrown by the Heavenly ref if we do a little dance in the end zone because we got an “A” on a test, or because we got the job of our dreams, or because we have met that special someone.

So, whether it’s the electric slide, the bowling pin strike with teammates, or even the leap into the crowd, remember today that it is okay to celebrate when God does good things for us and helps us to succeed. Go ahead… live that full, abundant, joyful life He has always meant for us to live. A few folks may chuckle. A few may shake their heads in disgust. That’s okay. God will smile, and you’ll want to succeed again so that you can feel that overflowing sensation once more!

Twenty-Two

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!!!