My dad made time for me.

Growing up, Dad was a busy pastor, but he made time for me.  Countless times I asked, and countless times he accepted my invitation to play in the front yard.  Just me and him.

Nothing organized.  We would grab our baseball gloves and play catch.  Or we’d toss a frisbee.  Or a football.  And I drove him nuts with numerous horrible throws because I was not incredibly athletic.  But that didn’t keep him from agreeing to play with me the next time I asked.

To be transparent, I don’t think I can remember one solitary thing we talked about from any of those times out in the front yard. Literally, not one thing.  But I remember that my Dad loved me enough to spend time with me.

As years went by, we hunted together.  It wasn’t just the trips.  It was the preparation time we spent together, too.  Time my dad invested in me.

I’m a dad now.  And sometimes dads are tired when their kids ask them to play.  Sometimes they have a lot on their mind when their kids ask them to play.  But I say “yes” to my boys now because my dad said “yes” to me, and I know the value of that time. I want them to grow up knowing that I love them like crazy, and I’m willing to prove it with my time.

Love is spelled T-I-M-E.  That’s how we let people know we love them.  Sure, we can say we spend our time at work to earn the money to provide for our family, but that’s not the kind of time they recognize as love.

So let me encourage you to say “yes” to someone today.  Say “yes” to playing catch with your son.  Say “yes” to a tea party with your daughter.  Say “yes” to a date with your spouse.  Say “yes” to dinner with friends.  Say “yes” to church with the God who wants your heart.

It’s your time that people want.  It’s your time… your valuable, precious, limited time… which when given proves you love them.  Spell it out for someone you love today!

It was taco night at the Chapin house.  I was about five years old, and looking forward to a yummy supper.  Apparently, I was a little too eager for the meal because part way through my taco, I swallowed a bite that I had not chewed well enough.

Suddenly, the air which normally flowed into and out of my lungs abruptly stopped. A piece of taco shell had lodged in my throat, and I couldn’t breathe.  I must have looked panicked because Mom and Dad both noticed.

Mom tried to stick her finger in my mouth far enough to reach and dislodge the stuck piece of taco shell, but to no success.  They raised my arms.  They beat on my back.  But nothing was working, and my face was beginning to turn blue.  I think all of us were probably crying and fearful by this point.

My Dad turned to my oldest sister Cathy and asked her if she had been taking a first aid/CPR classes in high school.  She had been.  He asked if she had learned that maneuver where you squeeze someone and help free them from choking.  Cathy acknowledged that she had learned it, but wasn’t sure she knew well enough how to do it without hurting me.  Dad told her that she had to try because it might be my only hope.

My face was more like purple by the time Cathy stood behind me, wrapped her arms around my torso, clasped one hand around the other and suddenly thrust that fist into my diaphragm.  I grunted, but nothing came out.  She tried again.  Nothing. Mom was crying.  Dad was yelling to try again.  Cathy was scared, but she gave one more big thrust.

With that thrust, the air inside me blasted the triangle-shaped piece of taco shell up out of my throat, through my mouth, past my lips and hurled it across the room several feet.  I sucked in precious, life-giving air, and the the rest of the family drank in sweet relief.

There were lots of hugs that night.  And Mom and Dad were so proud of Cathy… so happy that she had been taking that class at that very moment in our family’s history.

I don’t know if Cathy enjoyed that class or not, but none of us cared that night because it paid off.  Her willingness to take on the challenge of that class ended up providing her with the very knowledge and skill I needed her to have in order to save my life.

In much the same way, God will often allow us each to go through some challenging situations in life in order to give us the ability we need to help someone else.  Our difficulty can be necessary for a moment down the road when we will be needed.

Your serious health issue may give you the ability to show someone else how to appreciate the life and health they have.  Your financial challenges may help you show someone else how to live on a budget.  Your broken relationship may help you show someone else how to love more.

So if you’re going through a challenging or difficult situation right now in life, respect it… don’t reject it.  It may prove to give you exactly what you need to make a difference in the life of someone else.

Today we will put away the Christmas decor for another fifteen weeks or so, and wrap up our new family tradition of celebrating Christmas In July.  So I’ve been reflecting on my Christmas memories as a child this morning.  Many of those revolve around road trips to visit extended family. And when I say road trip, I mean road trip.  Like 1,000-1,500 miles and 20-24 hours of drive time.

We would leave on a Sunday night after church.  We would load everything in the station wagon and hit the road.  No seatbelt laws meant we kids could sleep on the slats Dad had specially made to fit in the back of the land yacht. Luggage underneath the slats and sleeping bags on top of the slats.

Mom would drive first because she was a night owl.  She would get us to daybreak, and then Dad… having gotten some sleep while she drove… would take the helm and keep us rolling.

We stopped only to fuel up and eat.  While we rode, we played all the classic road trip games… because there were no cell phones… or on-board wifi… or iPads… or built-in video players which could play videos or your gaming system.  No, we read… and slept… and talked… and drove each other nuts.

But you know what? I never thought twice about what direction to drive… or how much money we would need to take with us… or whether gas stations were open on Sundays or not… or whether we would get where we were supposed to be going.  Mom and Dad said, “Get in the car. We’re going to see your grandparents.”  And I did.  I just got in that station wagon, and let them do all the planning and driving.  They took care of when to stop and when to go.  They determined which roads were best for us.  They made sure we had all we needed to make the trip as easy as possible.  I just got in and trusted them.

Oh, that I would always treat God the same way.  That I would simply get in the car of life which He is driving, and let Him take care of all the details.  Sometimes I do better than most.  Other times, I’m like a 6-year old trying to tell his parents what time to leave, which road to take, how fast to drive, what time to stop or go.  I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

In those moments, my Heavenly Father is kind and gracious enough to say from Matthew 11:30, “Keep company with Me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  In other words, “Allen, let me take care of the details… You just get in and ride along with me. I’ll get you where you need to be, when you need to be there.”

I’m glad He’s driving.  And since He is, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to climb in the back, rest, and have fun looking at the billboards and license plates we pass.

And oh yeah, just one more time this year… Merry Christmas in July!

Awhile back, PR31 and I decided that our family would celebrate Christmas in July this year.  The boys are on a break from school this week… My current work allows me the freedom to adapt my schedule… Hallmark Channel has Christmas movies on all week… QVC is selling like it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday… Hobby Lobby is already putting trees and ornaments out on their aisles… So why not Team A?

We love Christmas in our family!  No seriosuly, we LOVE it!!!  The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and we believe the song is right.  Christmas is a time when people speak more kindly… when they are more generous… when they think of others and not just themselves.  Add to that the fact that we Christ-followers who say that we ought to celebrate all God has done for us throughout the year.

Stir that all up in a bowl, and just makes perfect sense to us to celebrate Christmas in July.

There are sugar cookies being made… Christmas carols are being played… classic Christmas movies being watched… a Christmas tree has been put up and decorated… an elf is being hidden each night after the boys go to bed… Christmas crafts are being made… and even small, inexpensive gifts will be exchanged toward the end of the week.

What’s crazy is… despite the fact that we live in the Deep South and it’s well over 90 degrees each day this week… when the skies were overcast the other day, and the air conditioner was turned down a degree or two, and the small lights on the tree and mantle are shimmering, and the Christmas decor is hung, and a Christmas movie is on… well, it’s easy to forget that it’s July.  In fact, the other evening I was almost so absorbed in the moment that I had to really had to think about whether it was July or December.

You can call it ridiculous.  You can say it’s just positive thinking.   You can say we’re just tricking our minds into thinking what we want to think, and tricking our feelings into what we want to feel.

Yet, it hit me that we have some power in our lives that is really quite amazing.  God has created us with the ability to transform the way we think and feel by changing what we see… or maybe more accurately, by changing what we choose to look at.  I can look at the thermometer and see that it is 92 degrees outside with a heat index of over 100 degrees…  too hot to go outside and enjoy much other than a pool.  Or I can look at the thermostat and turn it down another degree to create the atmosphere which helps create a sense of joy and fun for my family.

All this reminds me that Paul told the believers in Rome to “…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”  And in II Kings 6, when an evil king sent a whole army to capture the prophet Elisha, his servant freaked out until Elisha prayed that God would help the servant see what he already saw… God’s army of angels with chariots and horses of fire completely surrounding the enemy army. What he saw changed his perspective.

That’s what I’m getting at today.  Instead of just looking at our situations and being baffled, or bored, or bummed, why not be proactive and decorate our world to reflect what it is more real and more in line with what God wants for us.  We might just be surprised.  We might forget the difficulties and challenges we currently face and relax.  We might just discover some extra joy we thought was only reserved for special occasions.

It’s up to us, though, to get out the decorations… roll out the cookie dough… and wrap the gifts… if we are going to change the way we think to point our emotions in the right direction.

So go ahead… toss a little tinsel… heat up a little ham… and have yourself a merry little Christmas now… in July!

Our two boys crack me up!  Last week, we were in town running several errands as a family.  We had made a few stops already and we were working our way toward checking off our final to-do item when we passed a store that Alex really wanted to go into to look at some toys.  (Back story… He recently had a birthday and had some cash he had received for the very purpose of being spent on something he would enjoy.)

Normally, we probably would have stopped, but we had already been out long enough that we were all getting ready to be home.  We had already told Alex we would not be stopping at that store, and he had graciously accepted it… even though we could tell he still really wanted to stop there.

As we turned the corner and passed the store, I heard from behind us Austin say to Alex, “Don’t even look at it. Look away from it brother, just look away.”  We all burst into laughter at the unexpected advice from one sibling to the other. It will probably become one of those sayings which sticks with a family for the rest of their lives.

Then I began to think about what Austin said.  That was great advice.  I don’t know if “out of sight, out of mind” is true, but it sure helps when you’re being tempted by something.

I’ve been asked over the years what my favorite Scripture is.  Truth is, there are so many I love that it really is difficult to select one.  But I usually tell people who ask that one of the most useful verses in all of Scripture for me has been I Corinthians 10:13.  I was challenged to memorize  it in special course for students trying to grow closer in their relationship with God.  It has certainly come in handy on more than one occasion when I didn’t even have a Bible with me.

This is what Paul wrote to help people overcome temptation…

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

The part that has always stuck with me is that God would show me a way out of the temptation so that I would not have to give into it… so that I could stand up to it… so that I could endure it and come out of that moment victorious.  As soon as I learned that truth… that there is always a way to escape the temptation, always a way to say “no” to it… I began to look for that way of escape in every temptation that came my way.  Often, it is as simple as Austin’s advice to Alex… “Don’t even look at it.  Look away from it, brother, just look away.”

So, if you find yourself tempted today… whether by something small and simple like an extra piece of cake… or by the cashier giving you too much change… or maybe even by something more serious like taking a drink or taking someone else’s spouse, let Paul’s words echo through your heart and mind.  You don’t have to give in.  There is a way out.  Look for the escape. And then put Austin’s words into practice… Look away, brother, just look away.

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!!!

This morning, Alex came into the living room with his treasure chest in hand.  A couple of years ago, PR31 found these little cardboard chests on sale and picked one up for each of the boys to keep their own personal treasures in.  You know, those things that kids value deeply and need a special place.

Well, Alex announced that he had reorganized his treasure chest to make room for his recently received birthday cards.  To do so, he had to take some things out.

Upon his announcement, I said, “Really?”

And he replied, “Yep, I realized a lot of stuff in there wasn’t really treasures to me.”

Mic drop. At least I thought that would have been the appropriate place in the discussion for it.

But then he added, “And you know what else besides the birthday cards I’m putting in there?”

“No, what?” I answered and asked.

His answer made my day… “God.”

Wow!

How perfect that he put together that he values God and so he wants to keep Him in a special place… a place reserved for the things that mean the most to him in life.

You know, we each have a “treasure chest” in which we keep those things which matter most to us.  Jesus said in Matthew 6 that where our treasure is our hearts will be also.

So what matters most to you?  Where is your heart?  Do you have a few things in your treasure chest which really aren’t the treasures you once thought they were?  Do you need to clean a few things out to make room for some new treasures… things you will truly value?

Before I leave you to sort through my own treasure chest today… and hopefully let you sort through yours… there is one more interesting part of the story.  In his treasure chest clean-out, he found a treasure he had been looking for and thought he had lost.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It was important to him.  The cool thing is that… because he had put it in his treasure chest… it was there for him when he got things straightened out.

My hope for each of us today is that we will take a little time to clean out our treasure chest… get rid of those things that aren’t really treasures… and make sure we include God as the most important treasure.  Then who knows? Perhaps in the process we will find a long, lost treasure we’ve really missed and begin to enjoy it again.

Our family LOVES going to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO!  It so fits our family-friendly, Christian-values idea of fun.  And there is so much for the boys to do.

One of their favorite areas is Half Dollar Holler.  And one of their favorite things to do there is climb through and jump around in the suspended netting of the “treehouse.”  At least, it’s one of their favorite things now.

It wasn’t always Austin’s favorite.

Last night, we sat around watching “old” home videos (from three or four years ago) with the boys.  Captured on video was Austin trying to enjoy the treehouse but with great trepidation.  It was obvious that he was unsure of the safety of that netting suspended ten feet above solid earth.

As we watched, Austin told us that he used to be afraid of the bouncing treehouse at Silver Dollar City because he was afraid he would fall, but that he’s not now.  Sure enough, were you to watch more recent videos or travel with us to SDC, you’d find him tearing through there with no hesitation whatsoever.

I asked Him if he reason that he’s not afraid anymore is because he knows if it will hold me up, it will hold him up. (I mean, I might weigh a little more than he does. Wink, wink.)  I must admit that I was a little shocked when he replied, “No, it’s because I’ve been on it enough times now that I know it will won’t let me down.”

Tested, tried, true.

Reliable, dependable, trustworthy.

Because it has never let him down before, he has unwavering faith that it will never let him down in the future.  And with that, I sat back in my seat, having been schooled in faith by my six-year old.

In Deuteronomy 31:8, Moses… the guy who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and all the way to the edge of the land promised to the Israelites by God… looks Joshua… his successor who will actually lead those people into conquest of their homeland… in the eyes and tells him, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Never.  It just won’t happen. God won’t let you down.  He is incapable of failing you. And He chooses to never abandon or give up on you.  He will go ahead of you and clear the path.  Then He will be right beside you every step of the way.

We can trust God because He has never let us down.  In fact, He has never let anyone down.  So unlike those investment commercials on the radio, His past results are indicative of His future performance.

This means you and I can relax and enjoy the ride now.  We don’t have to stress.  We don’t have to panic.  We can romp through life full of joy and hope and peace, knowing that He will neither fail us nor abandon us.

If you’re battling a lengthy illness, He won’t let you down.  If you’re dealing with a difficult divorce, He won’t let you down.  If you’re having trouble passing that class at school, He won’t let you down.  If the bills are stacking up higher than the paychecks, He won’t let you down.

So go ahead… climb the steep ramp of the treehouse of life… crawl into the netted area… and jump with confidence alongside Austin… because it hasn’t let him down before and it isn’t going to let him down this time either.

Neither will God.

Our boys crack me up!  Awhile back, they discovered on their Super Mario Bro’s game that there is a mode called “Super Guide” in which the computer takes over and completes a course perfectly without any mistakes. At any point, they can take back over from Super Guide and keep playing themselves.

So, they do what they can do on the game and then hand it off to the Super Guide to handle what they can’t.  In fact, those crazy guys will let the Super Guide play an entire level, get to the end, and then they take control back and claim the flag at the end to complete the course.

About the time I begin to think that isn’t really fair, I also begin to think… isn’t that what God does for us?  Didn’t Jesus say that He would ask the Father, and the Father would send us the Holy Spirit to be a “Super Guide” who would help us through all the difficulties of life?

So often, having done what I can do and facing something I cannot seem to accomplish on my own, I turn to my Super Guide and ask Him to get me through to complete that leg of my course.  And while He does all the work, He let’s me claim the victory flag.  It may look like I’ve done it, but really He did all the heavy lifting.

I’m glad I have the Holy Spirit as my Super Guide.  I couldn’t do this life on my own successfully.  Today, I just want to take this moment to give Him the credit for overcoming all my obstacles, defeating my opposition and making me a winner.

If you look at your life today and find yourself struggling to overcome, why not ask the ultimate Super Guide to help you succeed as well?  He knows how to help you win in life!