A New Memory

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!

The Best Words

I once worked for a leader who was quite the wordsmith. He was not nearly as loquacious as me. He was simply very attentive to learning new words and using them effectively in conversation and public speaking. He had one of those “word-of-the-day” calendars on his desk, and he would often regale us with the words he had learned that day. It seemed he always knew the right thing to say in every situation, and always had the apropos word to make what he was saying clearer, or more powerful, or more heartwarming. With my own love for an expansive vocabulary, I have always been amazed and mesmerized by his command of our language. I suppose I’d like to be like him when I grow up.

Apparently, he was familiar with the words of Solomon found in the tenth chapter of Proverbs. Solomon paints a picture in those powerfully pithy statements of how godly people speak. He writes of the words they choose to use. In fact, he lists five types of words they choose to use:

1) Life-giving words – verse 11

2) High-quality words – verse 20

3) Encouraging words – verse 21

4) Wise – verse 31

5) Helpful – verse 32

I’d say that is a pretty good selection of words. Anyone who speaks that way is certain to be loved and appreciated. Someone who chooses their verbiage based on that list would most certainly sound more like God, and would make me want to listen.

What’s interesting is that Solomon doesn’t say that we need to know a lot of fancy words. He doesn’t say our words need to sound impressive the members of MENSA. He simply points out the kinds of words any of us can use in our everyday lives to reflect God’s character… and benefit others.

So, while I hope to learn some new words on a regular basis, I’m going to be sure to make my higher goal to elevate my speech to level Solomon outlines in Proverbs 10.

If each of us reading this today will make an effort to use these kinds of words on a daily basis, I believe and declare that we will soon see a difference in how people respond to us. In fact, they just might want to hear what we have to say.

You Can Afford It

“No one is so poor that they cannot at least pay attention.” – Unknown

One of my goals in life is to be more and more generous. However, like most of us, there are times when I feel like I cannot give as much as I would like. Perhaps it’s finances… or material possessions… or even time. But at that exact moment, I’m not able to give all that I would like to give.

There is a way, however, in which each of us can be generous at any given moment. It’s a gift any of us can afford. It is the ability to pay attention.

Everyone needs attention. Many long for it because they rarely receive it. People nod and wave. We often ask, “How are you,” as we keep walking right past a person. And so, many people go through life depleted in the reservoirs of their soul because they have experienced a drought of attention. Yet, we can all afford to pay attention in almost any given moment.

Years ago, a man I worked with in ministry taught me this valuable life lesson. He said it had been handed down to him from an mature minister whom he had watched practice it on many occasions. I had shared with my co-worker how, at the events we led, I felt so inadequate at giving everyone some time so that they knew I was interested in them and cared about them. What he shared that day helped me from that moment on to live generously in those times.

He said that I would never be able to give everyone as much time as they would want with me or as much time as I would want to give them, but I could always pay real attention to the person right in front of me. I could look them in the eye, and not look over their shoulder to see who else I needed to talk with. I could listen to what they were saying, and not try to formulate what I would say in response till they were done. I could focus on them, and let them know they were special. And when those few moments were done, that person would feel special… cared for… noticed… respected… loved… acknowledged. When I finished paying genuine attention to that person, I could feel free to move on to find the next person to whom I could give the gift of attention. Sure, there would be the casual greetings because too many people and too little time meant there was no way to do this for everyone. But for those to whom I could give the gift of attention, their day would be better, and my relationship with them would be deepened.

He was right, of course. I began right away to do my best to practice generosity in the form of genuine attention. No, I wasn’t always successful. I would sometimes get caught up in the chaos and allow myself to get too busy to give this gift, but I did my best. Years have passed since he shared that affordable gift idea with me, and I began trying to be generous in that way. Interestingly, I received a text just this past week from someone who shared how much it meant that I had paid attention to them and to others back then. It mattered to them. It still matters to this day.

So, the next time you think you don’t have anything to give… the next time you want to be generous, but aren’t sure you have a $20 bill in your wallet to hand a college student… or a car to donate to charity… the next time you desire to make a difference by giving… give the gift anyone can afford. Pay attention to the person in front of you at the moment. It may be your spouse, your kids, your co-worker, a neighbor, or the person on the aisle in Walmart who just wants someone to talk to. Whoever it is… whenever it is… just do your best to be generous with your attention. I promise… you can afford it!

Believe

This is going to be a great week!

Repeat after me… “This is going to be a great week!”

Now… Believe it! Believe that God has good things in store for you this week. Each day is going to get better. Something is going to make you smile… make you breathe easier. Someone is going to be kind to you. You are going to accomplish something… excel at something. You’re going to laugh more. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to achieve your goals.

This is not a week to dread. This is a week to anticipate!

How can I guarantee this? How can you live up to the hype? Well, simply put, it’s basically up to you and me. We can either go into this week dreading each day… fretting and worrying… stressed and fearful. Or we can choose to look for the best in people… see opportunities in challenges… search for the silver linings to passing clouds. It’s up to us. We will get what we believe for… either way. It takes exactly the same amount of trust and emotional energy.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs that the fears of the wicked and the hopes of the godly will come about. That tells me that how I choose to look at this upcoming week largely impacts how the week will go for me.

So, decide early on in this week that it is going to be great… maybe one of the best weeks you’ve ever had. Determine to see the best in people and find positives in every situation. Start each day smiling and looking forward to all the good you will find that day. And at the end of this week, I believe and declare that you will see that you have had the great week you anticipated!

Now let’s do this!

Not Just Ice Cream

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.

Two Good Questions

Benjamin Franklin kept a journal in which he would ask and answer two questions each day… one at the beginning of the day, and one at the end of the day. At the beginning of the day, he would ask himself, “What good shall I do today?” And at the end of that day, he would ask himself, “What good have I done today?”

I love that because he planned to do good everyday. He didn’t just hope to do good… He strategically planned it out.

And then he held himself accountable to his goal. He knew he would have to answer that question at the end of the day, and it motivated him.

What if we each took ol’ Ben’s concept and used it as our own each day? What if we strategically planned to do even just one good thing tomorrow? What if we wrote it down? And what if we then held ourselves accountable to it tomorrow evening to make sure we followed through? Imagine how different our tomorrow might be! My guess is that we would be so glad that we did good, we would want to do it again the next day.

According to Ephesians 2, God planned for us to do good works. Seems like if we would just put Ben Franklin’s plan into practice, we would find ourselves getting on God’s plan and making a significant impact on those around us.

Ben Franklin asked two really good questions. My question today is… Will we do good tomorrow? I plan to, and I hope you do also!

Moments That Matter

I still remember nearly 23 years later the pastors at the church where I had just come to be the youth pastor in Oklahoma driving almost nine hours to attend our wedding in Louisiana. They didn’t have to, and I’ve never forgotten it.

I still remember a decade later how the Griffins and so many others worked together to bring our family food at the hospital every day during the 41 days while my Dad was in for a liver and kidney transplant. They didn’t have to, but I’ve never forgotten.

These were moments that mattered.

Over the past 48 hours, I had the opportunity to make time for moments that really mattered. A dear friend and mentor had a critical health issue that landed him in the emergency room, and I was able to get down to the hospital to check on him and his family before he had to be transported to another hospital. Then yesterday, I was able to attend the funeral for the father of another friend on my way to speak at a church.

I could have passed on both opportunities. Neither was really convenient. They took some resolve and rearranging on my part. And I don’t always get these decisions right.

But the people for whom I made time each commented how much it meant that I had made the time and effort to be with them. And in those moments, I knew I had chosen well how to use my time.

Truth be told, I’m not really good in either of those settings. Often, I’m a little awkward. Ok, I’m probably more than a little awkward sometimes. Even though I’ve been in vocational ministry for more than 2 decades, I still sometimes fumble with what to say that would be helpful and appropriate. But here’s what is interesting… no one ever complains or even mentions my faux pas.

That’s because the power is in our presence, not our presentation. They never care that I should have fixed my hair instead of wearing a ball cap. They overlook me saying, “I could’ve died” when trying to cheer them up with a funny story at a funeral. And it’s because the fact that I showed up to be with them was way more important than the words I said or the clothes I wore, all was okay. That fact that the moment mattered to me was bigger than anything else.

Simple, huh? Just show up. Just be there. Just value them and their feelings. Just put yourself in their shoes.

Let’s do our best to make the moments that matter most matter to us!

Pure Delight

I love that Scripture says in multiple places that God delights in us. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines delight as… “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; also : extreme satisfaction.”

Think about that for a moment…

When God thinks about you, He smiles… He experiences a high degree of satisfaction and pleasure… He feels joy… He is extremely satisfied.

Ask yourself this question, and answer it honestly… Do you really view God as thinking and feeling that way about you? Or do you figure He’s probably frustrated with you… upset at you… frowning or scowling at you?

How you view Him is important because it determines how you approach Him. If you think He’s mad at you, you’ll approach Him fearfully and with little hope of goodness from Him. But if you view Him as delighted over you, you’ll approach Him with love and be confident that you will receive blessings from Him.

Too many people think God is mad at them and that He is looking for any little opportunity to punish them. He’s not. He’s looking for every opportunity to bless you… to bring that same delight, joy, pleasure and satisfaction to your heart that He experiences when He thinks of you.

Why not take this one weekend, these next two and a half days, to live determined to take God at His Word and view Him as delighted with you? When you think of Him, picture Him smiling as He says your name. Believe that He loves you and wants to give you good things for your life. Delight in Him like He delights in you.

I’m convinced that if you will change your perspective toward Him this weekend, you will find that life is so much better as you live in His pure delight!

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