Possibilities

Since she was probably eight or nine years old, Angela has lived with a condition which we only found out several years ago is called 4S. Basically, it is a super-sensitivity to certain sounds which generate an emotional response. For example, if someone eats ice or crunches nacho chips at a meal, she hears it like she’s the bionic woman. If you smack when you eat, she can hear it across the room. The subtle, metronome-like tick-tock of a clock which might be soothing to some feels like it makes her nerves stand on end. Think someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard, multiply the sensation and irritation by a hundred, and you’re getting close to challenge she faces on a regular basis.

Now, she is the epitome of graciousness when it comes to this condition. She rarely says anything to anyone outside our family. In fact, she chooses to go to the other room herself when necessary to provide relief instead of asking any of us to change our behavior. Typically, no one outside our family and a few close friends would ever know these things are bothering her.

For years, the clicking of a computer mouse and keyboard have pushed her to her limit. And since the office/schoolroom in our house- where the family computer is located- is just off the kitchen and living room, that means the three main rooms in which she normally spends the largest portion her day become significantly challenging to her 4S.

Recently, she wished aloud that someone made a silent keyboard and mouse. Then something flashed through our minds… perhaps someone does. We knew that some laptop keyboards were not as loud as most desktop keyboards. So, we began to search. Lo and behold, there are a number of “quiet” or “silent” mouses and several “quiet” keyboards. Doubtful they were as good as their own press, we decided to try them anyway.

When the mouse arrived and we tried it for the first time, she couldn’t believe the relief it provided. We immediately went and got the keyboard to see if it would also do the trick. Just a couple days ago, Alex did two of his typing lessons for school with her sitting less than three feet away from him, and she never knew he did them!

Now this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a miracle to us. We wonder why we didn’t think about this possibility sooner. We wonder why we didn’t search for this solution earlier. I suppose we just didn’t imagine the possibilities.

All of us face our own version of “4S.” We all have challenges which we seem to battle continuously, not realizing that there may be a solution right under our nose. Maybe your challenge is breaking a bad habit. Perhaps you wrestle with a spiritual challenge. Or maybe you struggle to live by a budget… speak publicly… lose weight. Have you checked to see if there might be a solution? An app? A resource? Who knows… you might be able to discover the answer to your challenge on Amazon, or at Walmart. God already has the solution to your challenge. He has already placed things at your access to help you overcome.

Don’t just wish today. Discover the possibilities. God wants you to live the abundant, fulfilled life that He has for you. And if that means you need a quiet computer keyboard and a quiet mouse to do so, He can make sure the solution is available. You may have to Google a little to find it, but you can hold on to the promise that God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

So get yourself an early Christmas present this year. Discover the possibilities!

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The Space Between The Bookends

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!

The Golden Seams

I was talking with my sister on the phone last night, and she reminded me of the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi. It is the technique of repairing broken pottery with gold or other precious metals. The result is an artistically beautiful piece which looks as if it were designed that way on purpose. The concept is that those things which damage us in life are not to be hidden, nor are we to be discarded when we can be repaired. And so the artist uses something of great value to accent the brokenness to make it beautiful.

That’s exactly what God will do with our broken lives when we give that brokenness to Him. God can make the most out of our mess… if we will let Him. Jesus said that one of the major components of His mission on earth was to “bind up the broken-hearted.” That is, He came to put back together that which had been broken. And when He puts it back together, He makes it beautiful.

I think Bill and Gloria Gaithersburg had it right with these lyrics…

Something beautiful

Something good

All my confusion

He understood

All I had to offer Him

Was brokenness and strife

But He made something beautiful

Out of my life

If you’re life seems broken into pieces today, give it to the one Artist who can add value to it as He puts all the pieces back together, and Who can turn that life into art which will amaze the world with the golden seams!

Convinced

In the summer of 1978, just a few months before my eighth birthday, our family moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Pasadena, TX. Just before we moved, a man in our church named Paul asked me if I was excited about moving to Texas. I told him I was, and he told me he hoped I enjoyed beans because everyone in Texas were cowboys who rode horses and ate beans for every meal. So you can imagine my surprise when we arrived in the industrial suburb of Houston and only two men in our church wore cowboy hats, there were cars everywhere but no horses, and I only ate beans when we went to the Mexican restaurant.

Now, to be fair, Paul was just razzing me. He didn’t realize I was completely convinced that what he said was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God. And I’ll admit, I was slightly disillusioned when I discovered we wouldn’t all ride horses everywhere we went. (Mom and Dad would occasionally make up for it by letting me ride the mechanical horse outside of K-Mart.) On the other hand, I was quite pleased to find that we didn’t have to eat beans at every meal.

All Paul’s joking aside, what we are convinced of affects the way we live. If you are convinced it is cold outside, you will probably dress in warmer clothes. If you are convinced you will like the movie you are going to see Friday night, you’ll probably have a greater sense of anticipation and go ready to enjoy it.

The same is true when it comes to what we are convinced of about ourselves and others. Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” In other words, what we are convinced of plays a huge role in how we go at life.

While Paul in Minnesota tried to convince me about life in Texas being all cowboys and beans, Paul the Apostle in prison for preaching about Jesus told his apprentice, Timothy, that he was convinced God is able. Able to do what? Able to work miracles… able to right wrongs… able to give him strength to face his challenges… able.

What are you convinced of about God today? Are you convinced He’s able? Do you believe He’s able to forgive your crimes against Him? Are you convinced He’s able to take away that cancer? Are you convinced He’s able to provide more money than you have month? Are you convinced He’s able to restore that relationship which seems beyond repair? Are you convinced He’s able to set you completely and permanently free from that addiction? Are you convinced He’s able to help you succeed at your work… accomplish your goals… fulfill your dreams?

What we are convinced of, we will expect. I am convinced that God is not only good, loving, and generous, but I am also convinced that He is able. He has all authority and ability. And because He is able, I can come to Him with great expectations.

This is not someone joking about cowboys and beans we’re talking about. This is so much more. You can count on God. Be convinced today… you won’t be disappointed!

Alive!

Have you ever felt so alive that you wonder how you could call what you thought was living before actually alive? Lately, I feel like I have come into an epiphany as it relates to my faith. It’s as if I’m reading and hearing Scriptures for the first time which I’ve read and heard my entire life. When I talk with the Lord, it is with more confidence in Him… in His love… in who He has created me to be and in who He has made me into by adopting me as His son.

But to feel this alive comes at a price. It means facing challenges you never foresaw. It means being willing to look at life through a new set of lenses. It means having to… painfully… admit that I had not achieved the fullness God has for me.

This kind of newness of life comes from the passionate, and maybe sometimes even desperate, pursuit of knowing God even more closely, loving Him even more deeply, and serving Him even more sincerely. I may have more answers than I did before, but those answers have opened up a whole new world of questions. And with those questions, I find myself digging deeper into Scripture… making sure I find quality and quantity time to talk with the Lord so I can ask Him about the answers to these new questions… and more quickly moved to shower Him with thanks, gratitude, acknowledgment and adoration.

The result? I am alive!

No, all my challenges have not been overcome. All my problems have not been solved. All my issues have not been resolved. But most of those things are external. What is happening inside of me is overpowering all of that. And soon, if it hasn’t already begun to, it will impact and invade all of that external stuff.

I don’t know what kind of challenges or crises you are facing today, but you don’t have to face them with dullness and lifelessness inside you. Bring your real problems… those authentic questions you’ve been afraid to ask… your frustrations and limitations… bring them all to God. Ask Him to get involved, and you’ll find that He will. As He does, you will begin to experience life seeping back into you. That seeping will turn into a trickle… that turns into a flow… that turns into a flood! You’ll be more alive than you could have imagined before.

Jesus said that He came to give us a full life, an abundant life. Let’s not settle for less!

Rise Up

Beyond Grand Master

I was playing chess with Alex last week, when I made a move that caught him off-guard. He asked, “How did you do that? I never saw it!” I explained that I had plotted out my moves three or four moves ahead, anticipating what his reactive moves would be to each of mine. Truth be told, he has not played very much, and it really isn’t a fair competition because I’ve played so much more than he has.

That concept of thinking moves ahead is nothing new, though. And I’m no great chess player. It is said that master chess players think as far as ten moves ahead, and make adjustments if their opponents make moves different than those anticipated by the master.

I was listening to someone on a video the other day who said, “God plays chess while the devil is trying to play checkers.” It was a funny statement. But as I began to think about it, I realized that the concept is right.

God knows the end from the beginning. He has thought through every move and counter-move possible in our lives. He has a strategy to make us victorious. And nothing the enemy tries can work. No mistake on our part can hinder Him from accomplishing His goal of bringing us to victory if we stay submitted to Him. He may make adjustments because of the poor decisions we or others make, but it won’t stop Him from winning.

And the game of life is practically rigged in our favor when we allow Him to maneuver all the pieces. He is beyond the level of grand master, and He is playing an opponent who would barely qualify as a beginner.

So today… don’t sweat what looks like a bad situation. The One who is beyond grand master has a strategy for your life, and He knows exactly where to move every piece to guarantee victory! Just let Him work His plan.

The Ultimate Mr. Fix-It

“Daddy, the Internet isn’t working. Can you fix it?”

Of course I can. I’m a guru. I’m a tech wizard. I’m capable of restoring all things electronic to functionality. Or I can at least unplug, wait, and re-plug the WiFi access point so the boys can get online again to watch the latest Nugget Noggin video.

They used to think that I could fix anything. Though they are now ten and seven respectively, they have learned that there are broken things even I cannot fix.

On the other hand, Angela can ask me to fix a lot more things now than she could when we first got married, lo, those 23 years ago. My plumbing, electrical, mechanical and woodworking skills have increased immensely. And yet, there are still broken things I cannot fix.

You know what’s amazing, though? There is never anything broken you can take to God that He cannot fix. If your life is in a million pieces, He can put it all back together. In fact, He loves it when you ask Him to fix the broken parts of your life. He loves that you would trust in Him and believe in His ability to right what is wrong… to mend what is torn… to repair what is wrecked… to fix what has fallen apart.

His Word says we should bring ALL our cares… ALL our worries… ALL our concerns… ALL our problems… to Him because He cares about us. We should hand Him all the pieces, and simply ask, “Daddy, will you fix this for me?” That kind of dependence melts a father’s heart and causes him to set about fixing what is not working.

You can trust Him with whatever is broken in your life today. He loves you. It would make His day to make things right in your life. And unlike me, you can count on Him to do it right every time because He’s the Ultimate Mr. Fix-It!

Finally

It broke. It finally broke. The stifling, smothering, suffocating oppression of summer heat finally broke yesterday. At least where I live.

Now, if you’re not from the Deep South, then perhaps you may struggle to understand the significance of this deliverance. We basically have two seasons here… summer, and not summer. It begins getting hot by March or April and doesn’t stop until October or November. By June, I’m tired of the heat. By July, I’m used to it, and doing whatever I can to stay cool. By August, it’s miserable. By September, I’m begging God to take the heat away. And yet it lingers.

But there is that day each fall, usually in the middle of October, when the the first hint of a cool front passes through, and you wake up to walk outside, realizing that long sleeves would actually feel nice. Friday night lights and pumpkin spice lattes suddenly sound reasonable and enjoyable. It’s the day the strength of summer’s hold is first weakened, and hope springs alive in your soul.

I’m sure the folks who live up North would challenge my “suffering” with their own version of winter arriving in September and not breaking until April, but the concept is the same. There is that moment when the crushing weight of waiting in the struggle begins to lose its grip.

Some of us know what it feels like when we go through seasons of life that are very much like an oppressive summer or a brutal winter. We know what it is like to long for the strangle-hold to be loosened. When that first break in its grip comes, so does hope. Hope that we can make. Hope that we will come out of this season and into the next. Hope that brings with it a breath of fresh air.

If you’re going through one of those seasons right now, just know that “not summer” will soon overpower “summer” in your life. The heat will break. The cool will come and refresh your soul. God’s Word says that, in the natural, seasons would come and go. It applies to the rest of your life as well. Hang in there. Keep walking outside every morning and hoping. One morning soon, you will open the door, and that first briskness will waft over your warm cup of coffee, letting you know that your new season is almost here!

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