And the winner of this year’s Christmas song of my heart is… drum roll, please…

Such A Strange Way To Save The World!

It comes at the Christmas account from the vantage point of Joseph, and it hits at the heart of how confusing all the stuff God was doing in his life seemed to be at the time. Joseph had to be full of why’s. And the chorus of the song reflects what some of them might have been. Check these out and see if you can relate…

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the World

As I listened to that song weeks or maybe months ago for the first time this Christmas season, it resonated in my heart. I have my own list of why’s. The season of life I’m in right now brings with it a fair share of them.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening. God certainly spoke to Joseph. It’s not that Joseph wouldn’t obey God. Indeed he did every time the Lord directed him to do something. It’s just that Joseph was caught off-guard and confused by how God was working. So he had some why’s.

You probably know what that’s like, too…

– Why did your loved one pass away?

– Why did that relationship not work out?

– Why didn’t you get that job?

– Why haven’t you been able to fulfill your dream yet?

Listen, don’t give up on God. I know He may not be doing things the way you’d want or the way you think He should, but you can trust Him. Stay close to Him. Ask all the why’s you want. Then listen, and obey, as He answers and directs.

Joseph ended up fulfilling prophecies, protecting the life of the Savior, raising Him to be a godly man who knew Scripture and treated people with respect. Joseph played an incredible role in the life of the only begotten Son of God. Joseph influenced the man side of Jesus in a powerful way. Sure, he had his why’s, but his why’s didn’t stop him from listening and obeying.

And here’s the rest of the story… Your why’s won’t keep God from working powerfully in you, through you and for you. You too can be a why’s man- or woman- and still make a huge difference in this world.

So, if you’re going through a challenging season in life right now and you have a lot of why’s, put this song on repeat, and let it reassure you that it’s all going to work out.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It’s His name… the name we celebrate at this season of the year. Say His name, and you spark controversy. Say His name, and some people get uncomfortable. But I love that name. It’s the sweetest name which will ever grace my lips, or anyone else’s for that matter. It’s that name. Jesus.

Luke 2:21 points out, “Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, He was named Jesus, the name given Him by the angel before He was conceived.”

Jesus means, “He saves.” In Hebrew, it is more properly “Yeshua.” It is a variant of Joshua.

It was a common name among boys and men in the time when He was born. I love that. He did not attempt to set Himself above or apart by His name. But His name defines His purpose. He saves. And in fulfilling that purpose, His name did indeed become set apart.

When I hear that it is a variant of Joshua, I also love that because Joshua was a servant… a soldier… and a seeker. And that defines Jesus for me as well. His life exemplifies what it means to serve others. He fought and defeated the enemy of our souls. He sought deeper relationship with His Heavenly Father, and each of us deeply longs for that connection… whether we realize it or not.

This name that was given to the Babe of Bethlehem is the name which Scripture says is above every other name. It is the name at which every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He Lord (Master) to the glory of God the Father.

This is the name of the only begotten Son. Yet, in His coming, living, suffering, dying and rising, He made it possible for all of us who accept Him to be adopted into God’s family. So He is no only child anymore.

This is the name we cry out when we are in trouble, or need, or sorrow. This name has weight, holds power & carries authority.

I love that He was given a name before He was conceived. Most of us were in the natural. But here’s the thing… God gives you a name in the spiritual even before you come to know Him, love Him and serve Him. And the name He gives you speaks to your purpose and destiny. He has a name for you that in eternity will only be known between the two of you because you will be that close.

This Christ-mas, stop for a moment and ponder that name. The name we think of so sweetly as belonging to the Baby in the manger. That name changes lives. If it has not changed yours yet, please let me know. I’d be honored to introduce you to Him.

The morning began… after we were all awake and in the kitchen… with Frosty The Snowman playing while PR31 made pancakes in the shape of reindeer, stars, snowmen and Christmas trees. Today kicks off our 2nd Annual Team A’s Christmas In July celebration! It was so much fun last year, we decided to make it a family tradition.

The temps are in the mid-to-high 90’s outside with humidity in 90%+ range. But we set up a tree, hung the stockings, placed a few decorations around the house, played Christmas carols, and started the Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel. It already feels like it’s cooling down to the most wonderful time of the year in our house.

There will be various Christmas cookies baked throughout the week as we celebrate again the coming of our Savior as a human being so that God could be with us. Stockings will be slightly filled with treats. We will eat a traditional Christmas-type meal next week. And gifts will be exchanged.

We don’t go crazy with the gift-giving thing during this time. Instead, we each draw one name of someone else in the family and work at focusing on that one person. (Obviously, Mama & Daddy will sneak a couple extra gifts under the tree to amp up the fun, but the point is to keep it simple.)

As we drew names today, I suggested we each make a list to post so that whoever got our name would have some ideas. Angela reminded me that we didn’t do lists last year… instead opting to each see how well we knew the person we were shopping for. That’s when Austin piped up and said, “Yeah, we already have that person’s list in our hearts.”

I don’t know what you need the Lord to do for you today, and maybe you feel like you need to give Him a list so that He will know what to give you. The thing is… He knows you so well that He already has a list in His heart as to what to give you. And it will be better than anything you could have asked for.

So just trust Him today. And when you open the gift He gives you, you will be pleasantly surprised at how well He knows you!

Melancholy. That’s probably the best word I could find to describe how I felt yesterday as we began to take down and put away all the Christmas decorations and paraphernalia. I was almost flat out weepy.

There’s always something a little sad to me when we take the Christmas decorations down. I’m not sure if it’s just the end of the season, or the recognition that this signals the end of another year.

I just love Christmas time so very much! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Of course, I blogged about that already, and so I won’t bore you with a repeat of how much I love the season and why. Instead, I want to focus today on these feelings I… and PR31… and our boys… and maybe even some of you experience when we put all those Christmas items away for another 10 months… or 6 if you’re like us and celebrate “Christmas In July.”

I think we must feel this way because it feels like everything is just going back to normal. Maybe people won’t be as nice… or as generous… or as joyful. But let’s face it, even after that first Christmas, things kind of had to get back to normal. Joseph had to go back to his construction work. Mary had to take care of a baby. No angel visits for a couple years. Just normal, everyday life.

Yet their life now contained Jesus daily. He who brought such joy, love, peace and hope was with them daily. The one angels sang about, and shepherds came to see was right there with them each and every day.

And we do not have to lose the love, joy, peace and hope of Christmas either… even after all the decorations are put back into storage… for the very same reason. He is Immanuel… the God who is with us. Jesus came that first Christmas, and we celebrate it every year, because He brought us His ongoing presence. We can live kindly… generously… lovingly… peacefully… and hopefully… all year long.

So cry a tear if you must because you love the season so much, and hate to see it “go away” with the packing up of the decor. But remember that He came in order for us to have that sweet, abundant life daily. We don’t have to feel like life is miserable till next Christmas. We can enjoy Jesus and that abundant life He offers every day between December 26th and the following Black Friday.

Happy New Year, friends! 2018 is going to be great, and I look forward to sharing more of this blog with you as we start fresh and new in a couple days!!!

At Christmas time, people just seem to have more faith for miracles. And it’s fairly obvious why… The very coming of the Son of God to earth, born of a virgin teenager is miracle numero uno of that first Christmas. But the whole historical Christmas account is replete with moments of sudden miracles.

I suppose the only place in Scripture that really uses the term “suddenly” is found in Luke 2 when the shepherds are watching their sheep at night, and “suddenly” an angel appeared among them to let them know that the Messiah had just been born a bit earlier, and that they should go see the miracle baby. (I particularly love that it says the angel appeared “among them,” rather than above them as our westernized Christmas art and productions often depict it.). Then “suddenly,” that one angel is joined by the angel armies of Heaven singing praises to God. I love it! This is a military choir of epic, eternal proportions. And then suddenly they’re gone. That’s quite a set of “suddenlies.” And the shepherds’ lives were changed forever that day.

Of course, while it doesn’t say it in Scripture, the account of Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her how God’s miracle plan involves her appears to have had a “suddenly” to it. She is caught quite off-guard by this miracle news, and her life was changed forever that day.

Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, finds out she’s pregnant and he’s not the father, and he decides to break it all off. But he has a “suddenly” experience of his own when an angel tells him the whole story of Mary’s miracle, and how God wants him to be a part of it as well. He says to go ahead and marry Mary. Wow… what a “suddenly.” And Joseph’s life was changed forever that day.

Just this week, a friend sent us the sweetest Christmas card, and in it reminded us that God has “suddenlies” for us as well. She told us to be on the lookout for our “suddenlies.”

As I meditated on that some this morning, I had a “duhhhhh” moment as it struck me that “suddenlies” happen… well, suddenly… seemingly out of nowhere… when we are least expecting them. And when they happen, our lives are changed forever that day.

I’m glad people’s faith for miracles increases at Christmas time. I want to live with that kind of faith year-round, because “suddenlies” can really happen any time… any place… to anyone. In fact, I believe God has “suddenlies” planned for each of us. I don’t know when yours will come… or where… or how… but be on the lookout for “suddenlies” that will change your life forever!

And if at some point, you struggle to believe for them, just pick up the Bible, flip over to the first couple chapters of Luke’s & Matthew’s accounts Jesus coming to this earth as a baby. Start there. Then flip around the rest of the Bible, and you’ll find that others had “suddenlies” of their own… plenty of them not even at this time of the year.

Merry Christmas, friends! And may God bless you with a “suddenly” soon!

It’s been a full day. A great day, but a full day. It seems like every day is a full day for PR31. I mean, she didn’t get that name by accident. She gets up early, and goes to bed late. She takes no naps along the way, and only an occasional break for a snack.

She had just told me recently that it feels like she can never get done with all she has on her to-do list. So it was funny to us this evening when our six year-old, Austin, says to her, “You get done with one thing, Mama, and you always have something else to do.” We laughed, and agreed.

The truth is that this time of year… designed to be enjoyed… can turn into hustle and bustle if we’re not careful. With all the places to go, and people to see, and things to do, we pick up the pace to try and get it all done. We say to ourselves, “Well, when I get done with this, I’ll be able to stop and enjoy the season.”

The problem with that way of thinking and living is that more things are always being added to the list, and the enemy of your soul will try to rob you of the peace that comes from taking a break to stop… breathe deep… smell the sugar cookies… and relax. But you don’t have to give in to the tyranny of the urgent.

In fact, I give you permission right now to take a break. (Okay, so if you’re at work, you may have to wait till lunch or till you get off. That one isn’t my call.). I give you permission to just sit down without worry, and listen to a Christmas carol… eat a cookie… call a friend. The dirty dishes can wait another 30 minutes. The presents that need to be wrapped will still be there when you get up from your break. And you’ll feel better. You’ll feel at peace.

That’s not just one of the titles Jesus was given before His birth, you know. It’s something He wants to share with you… Peace. All you have to do is set aside that to-do list for a few minutes, make snow angels or drink hot chocolate, and do nothing. If it will make you feel better, put “nothing” on your to-do list or calendar. Schedule an appointment with “peace” at a certain time… and keep it.

And for that person who feels like you’ll never get it all done if you stop to take a break, you’re right. And you’ll also never get it all done if you don’t take a break. So, you might as well take a break, and receive His peace to keep going. And hey, who knows… you might like it so much, you might even try it again tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!

PR31 was determined to work some Christmas magic… as you learned she is prone to do in yesterday’s post (click here if you didn’t get to read it yet & you’ll understand). Today, she attempted making a Yule Log, or Bûche de Noël. Yeah, she blows me away all the time.

Well, things were going pretty well until she got to the filling for the classic European Christmastime cake. It just wasn’t setting up like it was supposed to. She set it aside, and moved on to the other parts of the dessert, determined that she would figure it out. I’m getting over some allergy-sinus stuff, and I opted for a nap while she “figured.”

When I woke up from the nap, she informed me that way on over into the process, she came across more steps that had to be completed for the filling to set up properly. It had simply had to be set aside in its current condition, and then further steps would transform it into what it was ultimately supposed to be.

We’re not so different from that Yule Log filling, you know. There are times in life when we just can’t seem to figure out why our lives are not turning out to be what we know they are supposed to be. Perhaps the Lord has put a dream in your heart, and it hasn’t come about yet. Maybe you feel called to do something significant in this world, but the right door hasn’t opened yet. It could even be that a relationship hasn’t developed like you thought it would.

My suggestion? Keep reading the recipe. God may have more steps that He needs to accomplish with you before you turn into what you envisioned from the picture on the website. You can trust that it will turn out right if you leave it in His hands. Philippians 1:6 tells us that, “…God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished.”

His work. You may have been set aside while He works on some other elements of the situation, but it’s His work, and He will come back to you and finish what He started. You can count on it. And when He does, it’s going to be oh, so good!

We had only been married several years when PR31 decided that she was going to try, without telling me, to get me the best possible Christmas gift she thought I would be able to dream of. One day, it hit her. She knew something I would love because I had owned it at one time.

Flashback Scene… It was the spring of 1995. Angela and I had just gotten engaged, and I suddenly realized that as we graduated college and got married, I would need money. So, I did what any sane college student would do… I started selling anything I owned that wasn’t nailed down or wouldn’t be needed in married life. This included a significant portion of my massive collection of 1980’s Christian rock cassettes. It was hard to part with some of them. In particular, I had every Petra tape made to that point, and I sold them as a set to my friend, Chris. I don’t recall how much he gave me. I just know it was hard to let them walk away.

Back to the story… Angela remembered how much stuff I sold so that we could start our life together. And she remembered those Petra tapes. Somehow, she got me talking about it one day, and I relived for her selling them to Chris. That’s all she needed.

She secretly hunted down an email address for Chris… this was before social media existed… unless you count chat rooms. She got in contact with Chris and asked if there was any chance he still had those tapes. He laughed, and told her, “You won’t believe this. I’ve moved three times since then, but I’ve never unpacked the box they’re in, and I know exactly where they’re at.”

Jackpot! She told Chris that she would pay any reasonable price he asked plus shipping cost, but he laughed and said that she could have them because he had never really wanted them in the first place. He just wanted to help me out. She gave Chris our address, and he sent the tapes.

Since we were going to be with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we opened our gifts a day or two before we left. We sat in the living room of the double-wide parsonage and gave our gifts to each other till there was just one gift left under the tree. PR31 launched into a speech that sounded more like a disclaimer… “I wanted to get you something special, and I think you’ll love this, but it may not be anything big. If it’s not, no big deal.”

I had no clue what I was about to open. I didn’t know how to prepare myself. Slowly, and more carefully than normal, I removed the tape and wrapping paper. I opened the small cardboard box, and pulled away the paper packed around the gift. Then my jaw dropped, and tears filled my eyes just like they are right now as I type this story.

I couldn’t believe it. These were not just replacements of the very tapes I had loved over the years. They were my Petra tapes! And not just some of them. All of them!

I fumbled around through the tears with some, “How did you…” and “I can’t believe this!” As PR31 told me all she had done to get the tapes, I realized what an act of love this was. She thought of my likes. She thought of something I sacrificed. She went to all that effort. And then God worked a miracle to let Chris have the tapes, know where they were, and be willing to part with them. It was one of the times in life when I felt the most loved.

Those tapes may have been the best Christmas present I ever got… outside of God giving the gift of His own Son, Jesus, that first Christmas. If they’re not, they’d sure be hard to beat. But it wasn’t about the dollar value… it was about the love invested through care, time and effort.

What if we all tried to live out that kind of love this Christmas? Not just with the gifts we give each other. I mean, what if we really considered what mattered to others? What if we went out of our way to do something special… something we knew would mean a lot to someone else?

Better yet, what if we tried to live out that kind of love all year long, and not just at Christmas? Maybe we can’t do something that special for every person we meet every day of the year. But maybe we could once a week… or at least one time each month. And how much more love would be people sense in their lives if they “opened a box” like I did one day, and realized how much we really care about them? Well, I can tell you. In fact, I just did.

I know you may have thought I was going to go with something like “Silent Night” or “Silver Bells,” and the truth is that I love them almost as much as my fave five. But there is no Christmas song… and I do mean no Christmas song…that does it for me quite like my number one.

And it’s not just any version of it, although some other versions still touch my heart. Basically, any other version simply makes me think of the one ultimate version. The song is, “Little Drummer Boy,” and the group who performed it is Whiteheart. Prepare to have your Christmas transformed forever by clicking here.

Like any great Christmas song, it starts off soft and magical, but part way through the song it crescendos into such power that it sweeps me into glorious celebration. Lest you think I jest or overdo it with this description, I assure you that I mean it from the depths of my soul. I get chill bumps and cry every single time I listen to this song.

There’s something about the focus being placed on recognizing Christ’s deity and majesty… about how deserving He is of our highest praise and honor… that captures my heart. Then there is the realization that we are so little and have so little to offer Him which could even come close to what He deserves. There, in that moment, we are struck with the reality that we will never be good enough on our own. We need a Savior. A Savior who understands what it’s like to be one of us. A Savior who would give His very best for His Heavenly Father.

All we have to offer Him is that which He has given us… those talents, those abilities, those gifts with which He has endued us. That is truly all we have to give Him, and yet, when we give our very best… though it does not scratch the surface of what He deserves… He smiles at us and accepts it as praise for who He is.

I am a poor boy, too… I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give a King… Shall I play for You?… I’ll play my best for you… Then He smiled at me.

Gets… me… every… time.

All I want is to please Him. All I want is to one day stand before Him, have Him smile at me, and hear Him say those words, “Good job, bud! You did it! You took what I gave you and used it to honor Me. You obeyed Me. You stuck with Me all the way. Let’s celebrate together!”

That’s what this song screams at my heart and mind. Literally. When Rik Florian hits that high note, I come unglued. Can’t help myself. Play that song, give the altar call, I’m coming!

I don’t know if anyone will ever top this for me. I do know that For King & Country have just recently released a video of their version, and I must admit that it runs a very close second as far as putting the passion and energy into the song that it deserves. If you need to compare for yourself, click here.

So, perhaps you’re underwhelmed by my pick for number one. That’s okay. It’s my list. I hope you have your own. I hope you have songs that point you toward the love, joy and peace that Christ brought when He came to this earth over 2,000 years ago. I hope you have songs that draw you to Him. He is the reason for the season, and the songs of the season can help us remember that important fact if we will let them.

So, deck the halls… and ring the sleigh bells… ask for a hippopotamus… hang the mistletoe… roast the chestnuts… and whatever you do, O come, all ye faithful, to Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas, y’all! And I look forward to telling you Monday why today’s snow in our part of Louisiana was so significant…