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!

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!

I am pleased to announce to this audience the release of my second book. While the first book was aimed at empowering leaders, this book is a daily devotional with 150 one-page devotions designed to help individuals have develop a consistent daily journey with the Lord. Each devotion contains a story, a spiritual truth, a passage of Scripture where the truth can be further searched out, a key verse from that passage to carry in your heart throughout the day, and a 2-3 sentence prayer starter to help kickstart your conversation with the Lord on the topic of the day.

We all face enough negative elements in life which drain us spiritually and emotionally. This book is designed to help us take a look at life from God’s perspective… The Upside.

While you may recognize some of the stories or thoughts from this blog, I believe the deeper spiritual truths which accompany them in this book will enhance your nearness to God. I encourage you to get a copy for yourself. And these would make great gifts for family or friends who want to kick off the new year keeping their resolution to grow spiritually.

The book is available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your life each week through this blog. I hope that the book will be an added blessing to you.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

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!

This past weekend, we had a massive garage sale. Friday in particular was brutally hot, and we spent most of the day outside. Although I must admit, I tried to stay in the actual garage with a fan blowing on me as much as possible.

In the middle of the day, a dear family friend stopped by and visited with us for awhile. She is the sweetest lady you could ever meet. She is thoughtful, gracious, considerate, and never to be outdone when it comes to generosity. After her visit, we all commented how fun it was to have her stop by.

Later that afternoon, she texted me to let me know that she was picking us up some ice cream and would be by to deliver it to us shortly. I told her she didn’t need to do it, but she insisted. And sure enough, about ten minutes later, she rolled into the driveway with her delivery. For the record, it wasn’t just ice cream… It was Blue Bell. I grew up in Texas, and so the jingle… “Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country,” actually means something to me.

I thanked her profusely, as did the boys. What she didn’t know until I told her, was that when I slipped inside to gobble down a quick lunch earlier, I wanted some kind of dessert. I had thought to myself, “It is so hot, some ice cream sure would be good.” But I knew none of us would be going to the store that day because of the garage sale, and so I figured ice cream was just out of the question. It was just a fleeting craving and a fanciful whim… so I thought. Until she brought ice cream.

I had not said a word to anyone about ice cream. I didn’t have to. The One who knows all things delights in every detail of my life, according to Psalm 37:23. He knew that He could nudge her heart to buy ice cream, and she would do it. So He did.

She did not know that I needed that ice cream reminder that day to remind me that if my Heavenly Father can cause someone to bring me the dessert I wanted on a whim, then He can tackle the other part of that verse, which says He also directs the steps of my life. It was a subtle reminder, but it was not lost on me. He threw it, and I caught it.

So when is ice cream not just ice cream? When it reminds that person receiving it of how intimately involved God is in their life. You see, it wasn’t just ice cream she delivered Friday… It was love… It was encouragement… It was hope.

So, this week, let’s be sensitive to those nudges… because we never know when it is not just ice cream.

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!

I love to see someone do what they do best…

* Michael Jordan or Lebron James playing basketball.

* Drew Brees or Tom Brady playing quarterback in football.

* Duff Goldman making cakes.

* Bob Villa or Chip Gaines remodeling a house.

You know, God gave each of us special abilities to do something well. Doing that thing fills us with joy and fulfillment… and others love watching us do it because it inspires them.

In Scripture, when God wanted to manage a multi-national food crisis, he picked Joseph. When He wanted someone to lead His people out of bondage to the Promised Land, He picked Moses. When He wanted someone to protect His people, He picked David.

And when He wanted someone to build the place He would express His presence among His people, He chose Bezalel and Oholiab. Not only were they “skilled,” “expert,” and “master craftsmen,” God had also given them, “the ability to teach their skills to others.” In today’s terms, they would have had the skills and a YouTube channel to show the rest of us how to do it right.

You’re no different. God has given you abilities and skills which others watch in amazement. Don’t underestimate yourself because what you do is not what someone else does. Moses was a leader, Aaron was a priest and Joshua was a warrior, but none of them even came close to being the master craftsmen that Bezalel and Oholiab were.

So get out there, and do what you do. Wow the rest of us. And while you’re at it, why don’t you start a YouTube channel so the rest of us could learn a thing or two from you?

Each time I have visited Israel, I have been profoundly astonished at how seriously the Sabbath is observed. Our tour agency and guides must work strategically to arrange sites we visit to ensure that we do not end up at a strictly Jewish site between Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown.

One of my favorite stops is always Kefar Kedem, a community of Jewish folks who show us what Jewish culture would have been like thousands of years ago to help us better understand what we read in Scripture. Once while we were there, our host Menachem was explaining how they rest and reflect on the Sabbath each week.

Someone asked him, “But what do you do if you have to work on the Sabbath?” He replied that they didn’t work on the Sabbath. The person re-phrased the question, “Yes, but what if the company you work for is not owned and run by someone who is Jewish, and they don’t observe the Sabbath? What if they require you to work on the Sabbath?” Menachem’s reply was priceless. He cocked his head somewhat puzzled and replied, “We would never work for someone who required that.”

Our group was stunned. They were further stunned to find out that, although this community which seems to live in the old ways, they have Internet service, wifi, satellite TV and more. But they were completely blown away when Menachem said they shut it all off for the Sabbath. No TV. No browsing or surfing. No social media. No cell phones.

Sabbath. A break from the normal. Rest. Ceasing from the stuff that fills the other six days of the week.

For the last twenty-four hours, I did something really rare… I did not access any social media, and I did not check this blog. Admittedly, I Googled a couple of inquiries, and I texted a couple of people. But other than that, no electronic communication with the rest of the world. I didn’t start off doing it on purpose. I just decided that I would put off checking anything till the afternoon. Then I realized I hadn’t missed it and decided to go a little longer. By early evening, I had made it that long and figured I could make it until this morning.

And you know what? It was nice. It felt good to take a break. We Americans check out phones on average about five times an hour… once every twelve minutes. If we sleep eight hours, that leaves sixteen hours in a day. That means we check our phones about 80 times per day during our waking hours.

What if we discovered what God told His people about the reason He commanded the Sabbath break? What if we could grasp that He gave that break to us as a gift? What if we would set aside just our social media for twenty-four hours each week? We might just discover that we don’t HAVE to check it 80 times a day. We might talk with our family and friends more… and actually be focused on those conversations. We might read a little more and thereby learn a little more. We might play a little more and have a little more fun. And we might find that that break really is a gift.

I don’t know how successful I’ll be at doing this every week, but I think I want to try. And I hope that you will try with me. I don’t care which twenty-four hours you pick. I don’t care if you start at sun-up or sun-down. But let’s receive this gift in the same way we just received all those at Christmas… believing that someone gives it in love and for our joy!

If you’re bold enough to take a break with me, let me know… but not on your Sabbath… or mine!

When I walked into the upstairs room on the last Wednesday night of the year, I was greeted immediately by the rich, warm, deep tones of a double bass being played by a teenager. His name is Bryan, and what sounded like music to me, I came to find out was just Bryan warming up and practicing to play with the team which would lead the musical portion of our gathering that evening.

I couldn’t get past how talented that young man was. I was intrigued. I’ve heard how tough it is to pluck the thick strings as you balance that instrument, let alone make beautiful music like he was playing. I did my part by speaking to the group that night, and when our time together was over, I headed for Bryan.

I asked questions about how long he had been playing, and what he wants to do with his musical gift. Turns out he’s been playing for years and would love to play in the Symphony of that major U. S. city. Then I asked a question out of ignorance regarding the instrument, and Bryan’s answer gave me my life lesson for that day. I told Bryan that I assumed different basses were made from different types of wood, and I simply asked if the different types of wood caused the instrument to sound different.

Bryan said, “Oh, yeah. This one is an inexpensive rental made of laminate, but some are made of maple or other woods. And each one plays differently, so you have to pick the one that’s right for you. Each person has an instrument that is right for them.”

He went on to say that price and quality were not the determining factors as to what made an instrument right for a person. In fact, Bryan told me he had tried out a $20,000 bass last year, but it just wasn’t right for him. What?! I didn’t even know they could cost that much. My very next thought… which I did not speak because I already realized how ignorant I was on the topic… was that if an instrument like that costs $20,000, shouldn’t it be better? And if it’s better, shouldn’t you want it? How could it not be right for you… as long as you could afford it?

The way Bryan went on to describe in our brief conversation how the instrument and the musician must be right for each other for everything to work was astounding to me. And yet, I had a frame of reference for it. I know that Scripture tells us in Romans 12:6, “In His grace, God has given each of us gifts for doing certain things well.” In other words, God has just the right gift for each of us in life which will make us seem as masterful to others as Bryan seemed to me that night. And within that gifting from God, there might even be more refined subtleties which are right for us. Whether engineering or encouragement… baking or biology… homemaking or history-making… God has a gift that is just right for you. He has a just right situation and location for you. He has the just right opportunities for you.

At the outset of this year, let me encourage you to not settle for an instrument that isn’t right for you… even if that instrument is $20,000. If a laminate rental is what fits you best, then take that and play your way to the symphony you were designed to be a part of. Bigger isn’t always better. “Better” isn’t always better. Put your gift with the right instrument, and we will all enjoy listening to you play the song of your life… even when you’re just warming up.