Overpowered With Joy

Yesterday, a computer game the boys play had an update, and they ended with all these extra powers and abilities that they couldn’t get before. Austin tried to explain it to us, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language. He kept going on about how each one could do these new and wonderful things they couldn’t do before. He said some of them were even “overpowered.” As he went on talking about how he just couldn’t believe how amazing this update was, he blurted out, “I’m overpowered… with joy!”

You know, that’s what joy does for us. It strengthens us. It powers us up. It gives us what we need and more to be able to face the day and win. Nehemiah told God’s people in his time that God set aside days on their calendar when they should be celebrate. In some ways, they felt bad to celebrate. They realized they didn’t live perfect lives. They knew the challenges they faced. They weren’t even sure they had the emotional strength- and therefore the physical strength- to celebrate. Nehemiah went on to tell them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

God doesn’t intend for us to live down in the mully-grubs. He wants us to live life to the fullest. But sometimes we check our bank account, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. Or we check the doctor’s report, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. We check our social media feed, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate.

Maybe today, you need to let the joy of the Lord be your strength. If you’ll let Him fill you up inside, you can live your life “overpowered with joy!”

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!

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.

Focus

Alex and I walked through the store, and he asked if we could check out the toy section. I obliged because we were in no hurry. He looked at two items, and then he informed me he was done. I was slightly amazed and amused. So I asked if he was sure that was all he wanted to look at. His response? “Well, I’m just so focused on fish right now that I can’t really stop to think about other stuff.”

It’s true. He’s suddenly become deeply intrigued with fish. You know, the kind you keep as pets in a small aquarium on the counter. Or in this case, his desk.

When Alex gets focused on something, it is hard to distract him or derail him. It’s been Thomas the Train, Disney Cars, Nintendo gaming systems, and even chickens. When that boys locks in on an interest, everything else can fall by the wayside, and he isn’t even fazed. He Googles. He YouTubes. He takes notes. The kid does his research, and it is really quite impressive. What he does not do is get distracted or lose interest. He stays dialed in.

I think that is kind of how the Lord wants our relationship with Him to be. Not that we would completely ignore other people or responsibilities, becoming so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. Rather, that we would be so focused on Him… on His goodness, His blessings, His love… that we would not even give worries, problems or concerns the time of day. That we wouldn’t give up attention on Him to pay to something else which has no eternal value.

What are you focusing on today? Whatever you focus, you fuel. If you’re obsessed with looks or what someone else thinks of you, you won’t have time or energy to give to much else. And if you’re focused on how good God is to you every day, you won’t have time or energy to waste on things that would drag you down. Scripture encourages us to “set our minds on things above.” Why? Because that focus will fuel what really satisfies us in life.

I’m sure that fish are in Alex’s future because he is staying quite focused. And I’m sure that God’s goodness will be in yours if you will focus on Him!

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!

Best… Day… Ever!!!

Several times over the past couple of weeks, Alex has burst into the room where Angela and I were, and exclaimed, “This is the BEST… DAY… EVER!!!” Usually, it has to do with achieving a new level on a video game, combined with having a favorite dessert, and maybe one other delight. Whatever the case, in his mind it was the best day ever. What’s funny to me is that happened again and again… apparently each day topping the previous “BEST… DAY… EVER!”

Truth be told, I find it hard to believe this tops the days when we’ve gone fishing. And I find it even more difficult to believe these days trump Christmas or our trip to Disney World a few years ago. There’s no way anyone would say these days compare… except Alex.

And I love it! I love that he’s not living in the past. For him, each day holds the potential to be celebrated… to be the BEST… DAY… EVER! In fact, it’s almost as if he’s looking for those days to be great. He’s hoping they’ll be great, even if they haven’t been the most exciting yet. Proverbs 10:28 says, “The hopes of the godly result in happiness.”

What are you hoping for today? Are you looking for today to be great? Is there anything that could happen, no matter how small, that would make you want to celebrate?

You know, it doesn’t always have to be something big. Maybe you have a great hair day… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or maybe the person ahead of you in line buys your coffee… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or maybe you get an actual, old-school, handwritten note in the mail… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or perhaps you have your teeth cleaned at the dentist, and they say you don’t need any additional work… BEST… DAY… EVER! Or maybe you aced a pop quiz… BEST… DAY… EVER!

Today, get your hopes up, and look for all those little things that might add up to making this the BEST… DAY… EVER! Then get up tomorrow, and do it again. Let every day have the potential to be your BEST… DAY… EVER… and you’ll find you end up having a lot more of them… like Alex.

Thanks for the cool reminder, bud… This just might be one of my BEST… DAYS… EVER!

How About A Do-Over

We have several friends who are currently serving as foster parents. It is amazing how they are investing their lives in the lives of these children and teenagers. It is temporary investment for permanent life-change.

Recently, I was talking with one of my foster-dad friends, and he was telling me about one of the kids they are caring for having a total attitude meltdown. Whether you are in favor of physical disciplining of children or not, you cannot discipline that way with foster kids for a lot of serious reasons. So he told me about how they handle correction in their family now…

When one of the kids displays a bad attitude or a wrong action, they address the issue by stating what was wrong. Then they do something powerful… They ask the child if he/she would like a do-over. If the child accepts the do-over and makes things right, they reinforce that right attitude and action with encouragement.

As my friend told me about an actual instance when this had been applied, I couldn’t help but blurt out how that is exactly how God treats us when we display our own bad attitudes or wrong actions. He’s not waiting to strike us down with a plague or fire from Heaven. He lovingly, patiently points out where we were wrong and then asks us if we would like a do-over. He’s the God of second chances… and third chances… and hundredth chances. But He doesn’t stop there. When we finally get our attitudes and actions right, He lovingly reinforces our right choice with encouragement.

Sure, you were wrong, but you don’t have to stay wrong. Take the do-over today. You don’t have to live in guilt and shame today. God is not waiting to take you out back to the woodshed and give you the whippin’ of your life. He stands ready instead to give you a do-over and a dose of encouragement. And isn’t that what we really need?

To all my foster parent friends, thank you for the amazing example of God’s love and grace you are to me! Keep up the great work. You are making a difference for eternity.

Tension On The Line

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!

Daddddyyyy!

An amazing thing happens when you become a parent… Your ears become tuned to the voice of your children. I can be caught up in woodworking or mowing or writing this blog, and when my boys holler, “Dadddddyyyy,” I come running. Or we might be standing around talking after church when I hear one of them call me by that term of endearment. I can pick their voice out of all the other kids running around. And if one of them is ever hurt or scared and hollers for me, you’ve never seen me so quick or determined to get to them.

Now, I’m not bragging on myself today. I’m simply sharing what any parent worth their salt knows in their heart, that call of their child stirs something in them that motivates them to act.

What’s funny is that I have no problem understanding that when it comes to my kids needing their Daddy, but sometimes I forget that God… my Heavenly Daddy… is an even better Daddy than me. All I need to do is holler for Him… call out that term of endearment… and I suddenly have His fullest of attention.

I love that Jesus called out, “Daddy,” from the garden of Gethsemane when He was facing the darkest time of His life and His greatest challenge laid ahead of Him in the next 24 hours. He’s my hero… my life example… and if He cried, “Daddy,” then I can, too.

I love that Paul writes in Romans 8:15 that because God has adopted us and made us His children, we now call Him, “Daddy.” And he writes in Galatians 4:6 that because we are His children, God prompts us to call out “Daddy” to Him.

You may think God’s busy doing something else today… that He is not paying attention to you… that He doesn’t know where you’re at or what’s going on in your life. You may feel like He can’t or won’t stop what He’s doing just for you. But I promise that if you will call out to Him today with a heartfelt, “Daddddyyy,” He WILL come running to you, ready to help you, ready to scoop you up in His arms and give you the strength you need to face whatever it is you need to face.

Trust this Daddy today… He’s listening… He loves you… He cares what is going on… and He’s ready to fix what’s wrong. Just try Him out.

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