Twenty-four years ago today… she said, “I do.” And for twenty-four years, she has. Today I get the privilege of celebrating twenty-four years of wedded bliss with my best friend, Angela!

She is deeply spiritual… fiercely loyal… faithfully committed… ultra-compassionate… uber selfless… and yes, smokin’ hot! Not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing her so closely. If you did, you’d discover that she is even more amazing than you already know her to be.

I love how talented she is… how she wants to do things with excellence… how she nurtures and looks after those she loves… how cunning and sneaky she can be to surprise someone with something nice or to play a prank on someone… and yes, I love her cooking!

Scripture says that when God daw Adam, he saw that it was not good for him to be alone. He needed a companion. I’m pretty sure the Lord looked at me and thought the same thing. So He blessed me. He brought Angela alongside me to share this journey of life, and I am so thankful that He did.

All of our days have not been perfect. Our story has its rises and falls. But I wouldn’t trade a moment of it spent with her.

When I call her PR31, I reference the Proverbs 31 woman whom she so closely resembles in every subtle nuance. Today, I rise and call her blessed because of who she is, and because of her faithful love shared with me. And yet… I feel like I am the one who is blessed because I get to share this life with her.

Today, I thank the Lord 8,760 days we’ve shared so far… and look forward to all the days ahead we get to share together! May they be more than double that!!!

These are azaleas. Wild azaleas to be exact, but they are azaleas.

These are azaleas, too.

So are these.

As are these.

And both of these are also.

Why did I just bombard you with pics of flowers? And the same kind of flowers at that?

Look again. They are all called azaleas, but they are each unique. The wild type look quite different from the domesticated type, yet both are stunning. There are different colors, but even within what we would probably all label “pink,” there are three different shades on our property. The first picture was taken yesterday on a hike with some friends about thirty minutes away from here in a National Forest. The rest are within fifty yards of each other in our front yard, and some of those are weighing just feet of each other.

Here’s what I’m wondering today… Why is it that we can marvel at the beauty and celebrate the uniqueness of each of these flowers, and yet we struggle to believe that our own differences make us beautiful as well? I guess I’m just glad that God didn’t make you like me. I like variety. I like that you’re different than me. We can wear the same labels… Christian, American, male, Southerner… and yet be very unique. That’s because we are made in the image of God. His creativity is endless. The variety of facets of His beauty are limitless. So when He creates people, He makes them in His image… unique, wonderful, a joy to experience, breathtaking to behold.

Why don’t we quit fussing about not being a certain size or having a particular face shape? What if we simply celebrated our own differences… those things that make us wonderful, and beautiful, and exquisite to those around us?

How about we celebrate the introvert as much as the extrovert? What if we would begin to look for the labels which unite us instead of the minute details which make us distinct? And when we find those itsy-bitsy differences, what if we cheered because they are what make us each special?

I know, I know…. can’t we all just get along? Let’s all sing Kumbaya together. I know it sounds like all that. But I think one of the things that keeps me looking at those azaleas is the slight differences which make them magnificent. And I just want to live my life looking at people with the same mindset. We’re all the same, but not exactly. And it is those differences that make life interesting.

Those are my musings this evening. I hope you’ll join me in the quest to enjoy the small differences in those around you, too. Maybe spring will look a little more beautiful to all of us. And hey, we might just make a new friend or two!

I love watching NFL games! Obviously, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I’m quite captivated as we come to the end of the season, and my team is in the playoffs. But I follow the game year-round, and I have been reflecting this week- as so many teams whose seasons have ended are letting coaches go and looking toward the next draft- about what each change a team makes really means.

I recall a statement by Adam Capland which I heard on an NFL radio show back in the preseason. He said, “Transactions always tell a story.” In other words, when teams trade, cut or hire, they express who and what they value. For example, just last week, a team in the playoffs hired a kick-off specialist because they didn’t feel like their regular place kicker could put the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. Simply hiring that other kicker meant they didn’t trust their own kicker to do his job. They didn’t value him or his abilities enough to believe in him.

Now, we can berate those team tycoons for the way they cut head coaches from the team coldly after several losses, or move on to the up and coming rookie because the crowd is tired of the veteran who is no longer in his prime. But the truth is that our transactions always tell a story as well. What we spend our money and time on speaks to what is important to us personally.

Each day, we have the opportunity to place value on people, to express how much they matter to us and to God. Simply saying yes to spending time with someone can speak volumes to them about how special and wonderful they are. Sometimes a small gift expresses immense love or appreciation. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our transactions always tell a story.

It’s true. We give our time, attention and money to those whom we value most. Andy Stanley has said, “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else.” We only have so much of each to give, and so we prioritize. Who and what we love least will get cut or traded for who or what we love more or most.

Only people will last for eternity. People should always trump stuff. I know we can’t give everyone our undivided time and attention. Sometimes the money and the time truly aren’t available for everyone in your life. I’m not suggesting that you can give the best of yourself to all those to whom you want to give it. But maybe we could turn off the TV or put away the phones little more, and play a game with our kids. Maybe we could skip the meal at the restaurant and give to a friend in need. Maybe we could give up those few extra minutes of sleep to get up and spend some time with the Lord, reading His Word and talking with Him.

Transactions always tell a story. How has the story of your life read up to this point? Are you pleased with the story so far, or do you wish you could erase some of the story and re-write it? Well, we can’t re-write the past, but the good news is that the next chapter’s pages are blank. We have the opportunity today to begin writing the story in a way that tells the story our hearts longs to tell… Let’s tell a great story!

“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!

It’s football season. At our house, that means NFL. I’m not interested in the politics… I just watch it to relax and have fun. Now, the boys like watching with me, but they are not quite as captivated by all the finer points of the game. They do, however, love to play.

So, we have created a little ritual of our own. At commercial breaks, or halftime, or when a game is over, we play our own scaled-back games of football. We play inside because it’s air conditioned, and because we have a pretty decent size living room. One of the boys plays offense, the other defense. I am all-time quarterback… and referee. It’s that last part that creates the issues.

Basically, it doesn’t matter what call I make on any play… one of the boys usually gets frustrated with it. We often have to replay the down because I couldn’t see a play well-enough to call it accurately. The replay is mostly because I don’t want an argument from either one of them.

We’ve been working on having a better attitude. In most cases, that means not getting mad at the referee or at the opponent for making a great play. I’ve been challenging them to work on being good sports. Truth is, they both have some pretty decent skills. But I know that attitude trumps skills in life… even in football. A player can cost their team the game by losing their cool.

So, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon when Alex announced to me that they had decided to play with great attitudes and do their very best not to get upset during the game. I wondered how it would play out, but sure enough, they were young men of their word. They played the whole game with terrific attitudes, acknowledging calmly they wish a call would have gone another way, but moving on to the next play… or even congratulating the other player on a great play against them.

At one point well into the game, Alex said, “You know, Daddy, it’s way more fun playing football with a good attitude.” Austin agreed, and I beamed with pride at the lesson they had learned.

You know, life is way more fun when we have the right attitude… when we treat people the way we want to be treated… when give others the benefit of the doubt, knowing that no one is perfect except God… when we are big enough accept outcomes, even though they didn’t go our way. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should make it our goal to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. That’s a tall order, but God wouldn’t have said to do it if He wasn’t going to help us be successful at doing it.

This week, let’s determine right from the start to have a great attitude… at home, at work, at school, in the store, wherever we are. Let’s choose to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. My prognostication is that we won’t even get to the end of the week before we declare like Alex that life is, “way more fun!”

I’m going to assume that since you are reading this, you must be human. And since you are human, I will also therefore suppose that you have faced hurt or unfair treatment in your life… like the rest of us. You’ve probably been wounded by people who were supposed to be for you, on your side.

When that happens, it’s normal to feel emotional pain, to feel betrayed, to wonder why this bad stuff is happening to you. That’s okay initially. And some wounds are deep enough that they just simply take longer to heal. That’s understandable.

But at some point on the journey, we need to come to terms with the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people. The question then becomes… What will you do with the bad stuff that has happened to you in life?

In the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, we read the story of someone who was done really wrong by those who should’ve been closest to him. His name was Joseph, and God had given him big dreams for his life. As he began to share these dreams with his family, his dad discredited him, and his brothers hated him for the dreams. They hated him so much that they started to kill him, but decided to sell him into slavery and tell their dad a wild animal ate him.

There is no doubt that Joseph was done wrong. But it got worse for him before it got better. Though he excelled as a slave for a high-ranking Egyptian leader, he was falsely accused of attempting to rape that man’s wife… and whose word do you think they believed, the slave or the lady? So Joseph was sent to jail.

In jail, Joseph excelled again and even predicted the futures for two servants of the king based on their dreams. They promised to remember him, but one was executed and the other forgot Joseph for a long time. Finally, Joseph was called upon to interpret a dream for the king, and it was then that he rose to prominence as the second in command for the entire nation of Egypt.

A famine ensued, and Joseph’s brothers showed up to get food from Egypt where Joseph had led a successful food saving and distribution plan. When they showed up, Joseph was confronted with a choice. There stood the very guys who had done him wrong. And it was within his power to set things straight.

In that moment, Joseph chose to give God credit instead of giving his brothers blame. Yes, they did bad things to him, but he chose to instead focus on how God used the bad they had done to work for all their good. He probably didn’t see it in the pit or the prison, but he certainly saw it the day they showed up to buy grain from him during the famine. Perhaps that was why he wept so intensely… the sudden understanding of how God had used the bad to set up the good.

I guess the question before each of us today is the same one Joseph faced that day his brothers showed up… Will I choose to give God credit or give those who did me wrong the blame they deserve?

God promises that He will set the record straight on our behalf, and that He will work everything that happens to us in life… the bad as well as the good… for our benefit and His credit… IF we will let Him.

The choice is ours today… Credit or blame? Let’s choose to see how God has worked things out for our good and give Him credit. In the end, we will win with a choice like that!

Early on in our marriage, PR31 and I adopted a rule that said if one of us took a big stand that we were right about an issue and we’re later found to be wrong, we had to say out loud to the other person, “You were right, and I was wrong.”

I hated it when I discovered to be wrong and I had to utter those words. It happened more than once… to my own embarrassment. Each time, I felt like the Fonz from Happy Days or Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter… barely able to utter the second part of the statement. It didn’t take me long to learn that my relationship with PR31 mattered more to me than trying to prove my mental prowess.

You see, sometimes being kind is better than being right. And your response to that statement depends on how you define winning.

“Winning at any cost” to some means they will sacrifice relationships and people to accomplish their goals. To others, it means setting aside some of their personal desires or doing without certain things to be able to preserve relationships. (I choose the latter, if you care to know.)

I obviously don’t mind sharing my opinion… I write this blog. But there comes a point for me where arguing and debating an issue ceases to have as much value when I realize that I could wound a person long-term or degrade them publicly and lose their friendship. I have been in arguments I could have won based on my knowledge of the facts, and yet would have lost a relationship that really mattered to me in the process. So I chose to lose… in order to win.

You may be right. You don’t have to let anyone know you’re right. You can keep that little fact to yourself, and it will all come out in the wash. In the meantime, you’ll keep a friend both now and later.

Priorities reveal our true definition of winning. What you make important makes an impact… one way or another.

Choose kindness… What is right will eventually become clear, and you just might retain a relationship that you’ll be glad you didn’t lose.

We would accomplish so much more in life, and make greater impact. It’s what Jesus did… and people saw that He was different because of it. It made them love Him, appreciate Him, and follow Him. People have value simply because they exist… created by God, in His image… loved by Him.

What if we just esteemed people more and demeaned them less?

Author’s Note: Excited to share this 400th post with you today!

Sometimes the boys try to explain a video game to me, and it sounds like they are speaking a foreign language. Sometimes PR31 tries to tell me how to cook something or what she is doing with a craft, and it seems like we must be from different countries because I can’t seem to understand what she is saying.

But there is a language all of us understand… and crave. That language is encouragement. We all know it when we hear it, and we each need to hear it daily.

I was speaking at a conference recently, and I sat in on the other sessions when mine was over that morning. One of the speakers shared a University of Washington study from ten years ago which showed that students between the ages of 12-17 hear negative statements at a rate of 30 negative statements to 1 positive statement. My guess is that teenagers aren’t the only ones hearing that many negative statements in life. If it isn’t someone else, we sometimes speak negatively to ourselves.

That’s why it’s so important to speak “up.” Speaking the language of “up” means keeping our words positive, uplifting, helpful, good, and encouraging. It’s a foreign language to many people. They have rarely or never heard it, and so they don’t understand it very well. But instinctively, they know there is something about it that they like. And like any language, if we will practice, we can not only hear it and understand it, but we can begin to speak it.

I want to be fluent in the language of “up.” I want every word that comes out of my mouth to be tinged with hope and joy. I want to see people’s frowns turn into smiles when I speak this language to them. I want to hear from people that their life improved after I spoke this language of encouragement and inspiration to them.

It’s funny to me that we always think of Heaven and God as being up because Heaven is too difficult to locate, and God is not restricted or limited to one location or direction. But isn’t it interesting that we think of Him and where He lives as “up?” He is the originator of speaking this language called “up.” Even when He has to challenge or correct, it is in such a way and with the desire to lift us… “up.” And since my life revolves around knowing Him intimately, loving Him deeply and following/serving Him faithfully, I want to speak His language… the language of “up.”

We can learn this language and become fluent, and in so doing begin to bring transformation to the lives of those whose paths cross ours each day. Don’t let an opportunity to make such a significant impact pass you by today. Send the text, make the call, pay the compliment, offer the encouragement, share some hope… Speak up!