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.

We had the day off and so we headed to to another town to spend the day together as a family. Upon arriving in said town, we picked up something to eat and headed off to do a little shopping… each person having picked one store in which they wanted to shop.

Now, I don’t want to say that we are cheap. Thrifty isn’t really the right descriptor either. So let’s just say we are frugal. We try to wisely use the money with which we have been blessed. So our first stop was at a store which sells new items they get from name brand stores at reduced prices. We usually find a deal or two in there, so we decided to stop and see what we might stumble across.

What we stumbled across was a significant discount on clothing and a few household items. Enough that we stayed in the store for two hours. Even Angela, who does not enjoy shopping for clothes usually (Thank You, Lord) found an armload. We dug through racks and tried on clothes till the boys tired and were no longer having fun.

We each had several items in the cart when we finally headed to the checkout with our deals. Angela leaned over to me and said, “Just remind me that, if it is a little bit bigger total than we planned on, we got a lot of great deals and needed the things we got.” I assured her it wouldn’t be that bad, and we made our way to stand in line.

As we stepped up to a cashier, I did as I always do and asked how he was doing. His response was one word… “Tired.” I smiled and tried to boost his spirits, but as I tried to position myself where I could read the computer monitor on the register to make sure the items were ringing up at the right price, I realized he was typing in numbers faster than I could keep up, and I was too far away to see the amounts.

Now, I told you we’re frugal. I asked him politely how much several items of clothing rang up for, and he replied, “Fifty cents.”

“Oh,”I attempted to casually ask, “are all the clothes fifty cents?”

“No, some are fifty cents. Others are not, but then,” and his words trailed off into something unintelligible. I gave up trying to figure it all out and decided we would just see what the damage was at the end.

He finished scanning, typing and sacking, then announced that the grand total with tax would be $30.88. I know I don’t have a poker face. What’s inside typically shows up like a neon sign in my expression. I glanced at Angela. She looked back at me, and I knew that neither of us could put it together. We had put 26 items of clothing, including jeans, jackets, tops, and more, plus a pair of dress shoes for me, a backpack for one of the boys, and a few household items on that counter. There was no way that could be right. The total should have been way more.

I asked if he had checked out everything. He said, “Yes, will that be cash or credit?” We paid the man, gathered our three large bags, and headed to the van. We didn’t say a word till we got outside the store. Then Angela asked, “Did we just get all those clothes for fifty cents each?” To which I replied, “Yes, and my shoes were only three dollars.”

We loaded the items in the back of the van, got in, buckled up, and Angela began looking over the receipt. We almost couldn’t believe it. God had just unexpectedly blessed us with a deal that blew our minds.

The thing is, it shouldn’t have been unexpected. We had prayed hours earlier as we left the house that God would go ahead of us, show us favor, and direct things to work out for our benefit as we went about our day. And boy, did He ever?!

Here’s the other thing…

We put some clothes back because we kind of liked them, but not at the price the app said they were when we scanned the tags. We just began to think that maybe it was a little too much. As we drove away, we were kicking ourselves for not getting those items, too. Had we known they were only going to be fifty cents each, we would have bought all of those and kept on looking for more as well. But we had forgotten our prayer… forgotten that the Lord knows what we need before we ask… forgotten that He must smile, wink, and say, “Watch how I’m about to do something good for My kids!”

Scripture says that we harvest in proportion to the amount we plant. That planting is evidence of the amount of faith we have. Had we believed that God was going to bless us the way we asked Him to that morning, perhaps we would have carried everything we wanted to the cash register. We were still blessed like crazy, but we could have been blessed even more. And it reminded us to trust God even more.

Now, I don’t know if you’ll get a deal on clothes or if He will bless you some other way, but I encourage you today to have big faith because the God I serve is a much bigger God than we typically give Him credit for being. And He wants to bless you. So, when you ask big, remember to plant lots of seeds of faith and expect a big harvest of blessing. Who knows, you might just need an extra buggy!

Alex and Austin play an online, interactive computer game in which players can create games for others to play. Obviously, some of the game creators are professionals- or people with way too much time on their hands- and their games are highly popular in the daily rankings. The boys try lots of the games and occasionally even create one themselves, but they gravitate to those well-made, popular ones like everyone else.

The other day, Austin came running into the kitchen with great excitement, telling Angela, “The maker is in the game! The maker is in the game!” When Angela asked him what he was talking about, he explained that he had entered one of the games and discovered that the maker of that game was playing in it at the same time he was. For him, just knowing the maker of that game was “in there” playing along with him made playing at that moment so much more fun and exciting for him.

Now I know that life is not a game, and God is not simply a programmer who created the world and then left it to let happen what happens. The truth is, He never leaves “the game” of life we are living. He is always present. He told Joshua in Scripture that He would be with Joshua everywhere he went. And Jesus told His disciples that, even though they wouldn’t always see him “playing in the game,” He would be with them all the way to the end.

That means “the Maker” is in “the game” with you and me today! The Maker is in “the game!” We can communicate with the Creator. We can see what He intended for us. We can get to know Him a little better. When we don’t know what to do next, we can ask the One for whom nothing is hidden… nothing is unknown… nothing is secret… nothing is beyond possibility.

I know that we can go through life without seeing the Maker in “the game” with us, and that the times we really recognize He’s present are super special, but He is always in “the game” with us. There is never a moment He isn’t there. Or maybe I should say here. We can contact Him at any moment. We can get to know Him even better. We can ask Him to answer our questions and help us succeed.

The Maker of “the game” is right there beside you today. He’s praying with you. He’s helping you. He’s cheering for you to become all that He created you to be and accomplish all He wants you to accomplish in “the game” He created. So go ahead… Get a little excited… because the Maker is in “the game!”

I unplugged the iPad from where it had been charging so I could take it with me to do some work while I waited on an oil change. When I unplugged it, the screen lit, and I saw a notification box in the middle. I tapped on it, and it read, “You have a new memory.” When I opened it, it was a great memory we had made a little over a year ago when we just had fun as a family. Nothing expensive or extravagant. Just time spent together smiling, laughing, cooking and eating… enjoying each other. Today, seeing those pics from that time, I am so glad we made the time to make those memories.

This begs the question… What memories am I making today that I will be glad I made a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now? When the boys are away at college, what memory will pop up on whatever electronic device we have then?

You see, if I don’t make them now, we won’t have them then. And I definitely want to have great memories in life. So I have to make those great memories. I have heard Author and Pastor, Mark Batterson, say, “Accumulate experiences, not possessions.” In other words, spend your time and money on making memories with the people you love which will one day pop up on the iPad to bring a smile back to your face and light up your eyes once more.

And hey, don’t let this post make you feel guilty if you haven’t been making great memories. Let it instead inspire you to start now. It’s the perfect time to begin. A month from now… a year from now… a lifetime from now, you’ll be glad you did!

So here’s my random curiosity post for the month…

PR31 has played Christmas music the past couple of mornings… which you know I’m totally okay with if you follow this blog at all… but it got me wondering…

Where is the fall music? I mean, we have a New Years song, along with songs all about new beginnings. We have songs about life and resurrection for Easter. There are patriotic songs to carry us through Memorial Day and Fourth of July. And then we skip straight to Christmas music. What about these enjoyable months of September through November when the temperatures begin break off the shackles of the sizzling, sweltering summer heat? Where are the songs of autumn… falling leaves… a completed harvest… football… and everyone’s favorite… pumpkin spice?

Surely someone out there can write some songs for this season. And if you know of some, please share with the rest of us. We need a fall playlist, people.

Okay, random curiosity post completed. Now take a sip of that ps latte or some warm apple cider, and enjoy your day as you search for autumn songs!

One of my all-time favorite kids carnival games is “The Fishing Game.” That’s the game where you hang sheets up over a frame of some type, and tape fish to them on the outside. An adult sits behind the sheets with bags of goodies. Kids walk up to the “pond,” and are handed a broom handle or other stick with string tied to the end of it, which acts as their “fishing pole.” Tied to the end of the string is a clothes pin to serve as the “hook.” The kid then tosses their “hook” over the sheet “into the water,” and the adult behind the sheet clips a prize of some type to the clip. Then the adult pulls the string, putting some tension on it, thereby letting the child know that they have “caught” something. The child pulls back and lifts their prize “out of the water,” over the top of the sheet and cheers with excitement over their “catch.”

The thing I love about this game is that you are guaranteed to catch something good every time you play. It’s fun for the kid. It’s fun for the adult sitting behind the sheet creating the sense of joy for the youngsters. No matter how many times you do it, it never gets old.

I was reminded of this game the other day as I was digging around some online study tools while looking into a familiar verse of Scripture, one of the most famous promises in the Word. The verse is Isaiah 40:31, and the first part of it reads…

But those trust in the Lord will find new strength.”

Some versions say “wait on the Lord.” And it was the word “wait” or “trust” which got my attention. In the original language, it is a word picture of a rope or cord… especially one which is under tension.

That’s what waiting and having to trust the Lord to come through for us feels like, isn’t it? Tension. If we aren’t getting what we feel like we need or want, we tend to get tense… concerned… worried… stressed. We can begin to wonder if the rope we are holding onto is going to hold. If it does hold, is there anything good at the other end. Tension on the line.

This is where the rest of the verse kicks in. That phrase, “new strength,” refers to a rope that has been braided for extra strength and is guaranteed to hold up under the tension. In other words, when we hold onto the rope knowing the Lord is on the other end of it, the tension tells there is something to look forward to, and we can be sure it is strong because He has braided the rope so that it will hold up under the tension. It’s just like the “fishing game.” When you feel the tension, and you know someone good is on the other end, you know something good is coming.

Perhaps you have thrown your line over the sheet today in life. You can’t see what is on the other side. You hope you come away from this season of life with something good. If you feel the tension, that’s actually a good thing. It means God is on the other end giving it a tug, showing you it’s strong enough and that He is sending something good your way! Accept the tension. Give it a lift even. You’ll win every time… if you just trust in God!

So, we were out enjoying supper with good friends tonight when I happened to mention that peaches were on sale this week at a local grocery store. Something about that triggered a boisterous response from a certain young lady in the group… who shall remain nameless… who then let us know that what is wrong with our world is that there are not enough peaches and pears… always mostly apples and oranges.

I guess I had never noticed, but she’s right. Apples and oranges are in ample supply at every turn year round. But peaches and pears, how often do you see those? And who picks those as their first choice?

Why not, I say?! Let’s all buy more peaches and pears! Let’s plant peach trees and pear trees! No more hum-drum red delicious and navel norm for us. We are the people who eat peaches and pears!

Now that this is off my chest… I bid y’all a happy weekend… full of peaches and pears!

Abundant, full, overflowing… That was my weekend.  Fun with family.  Enjoyed ministry at two different churches in two different states.  Safe travels.  Good food.  Hung out with old friends, and made new friends.  Needs met in a variety of ways.

As I look back over the weekend, I just think to myself, “How great is it to be God’s kid?!”  When I read John 10:10, this weekend is the kind of life I feel like Jesus was describing.  A life full of joy, love and peace.  Who could ask for more?

I know we all go through challenging times, but when we choose to be chosen by God as His very own children, He brings us into the life He designed for us… one of abundance, fullness and overflow!

One of my favorite new TV shows kind of snuck up on me and made me like it.  It’s the story of a man who has a dream.  His dream is fleshed out in his 95-point plan to make his town of 456 residents… D’lo, Mississippi… the greatest town in America.

Small Town, Big Mayor features Mayor John Henry Berry’s pursuit of bringing his hometown back from near-extinction… and I don’t want to miss an episode.  My attraction to the show goes beyond the fact that it is pure… and clean… and humorous.  It’s the hero… the champion… the tip of the spear this guy has chosen to be for his town.

I love that he saw a need and decided something had to be done to fix what was wrong.  I love that he came up with a plan… probably more than what anyone else had done. I love that he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to set the example of what it’s going to take to make the dream become reality.  I love that he loves that town and those people enough to put up with some of their goofiness (and their ridiculous ideas of what they think a mayor ought to do for them) because he has the greater good in mind.  I love that he is willing to get out of his comfort zone to help others, and to ensure that his plan is working.

I guess I watch for a few laughs.  But more and more I watch for inspiration.  And I find myself wanting to live passionately like Mayor John Henry Berry.  It reminds me how Jesus loved and served people.

On tonight’s episode, he was teaching his daughter how to operate a track hoe to help him fix a busted water main.  She didn’t think she could do it.  In that moment of her insecurity in her own abilities, he told her that she COULD do it… that she had his blood flowing through her veins.

That’s when I was reminded of those times when I don’t think I can do something, and the Lord says gently to my heart and mind, “Sure you can, son, you’ve got my blood flowing through your veins.”

You may not find a humorous reality TV show inspiring… or motivational… or spiritual, but I do. At least this one.  And so I cheer for Mayor John Henry Berry.  I’m going to keep watching as he whittles away at those 95 points one at a time till his dream becomes reality.  Go get ’em, Mayor Berry!  You can do it!  And you’re inspiring us to believe that we can, too.