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!

As I was talking with the Lord a couple of days ago, I thanked Him for “putting up with me” because I don’t always get everything right. No matter how hard I try, I am not perfect. I miss an opportunity He gives me. I don’t have an attitude like His. Or maybe I’m more self-absorbed than I should be. But whatever the case, I get that I don’t always live up to who He is and what He has done for me. So, I simply thanked Him for putting up with me.

That’s when He stopped me. He said that He doesn’t “put up with me.” He said instead that I am His child, whom He loves and desires to bless.

It took me a minute to wrap my mind around that. How could He love me and want to bless me when I don’t always get everything right. Then I began to think about my boys and how I feel toward them as their daddy. They are never a hassle to me. They are not people I “put up with.” They are my pride and joy. I love them like crazy. No, they’re not always perfect. Sure, sometimes they don’t act the way I wish they would. But that doesn’t change my love for them… nor my desire to bless them and help them.

And in that moment, the fog cleared away for me. God isn’t mad at me when I’m less than perfect. He doesn’t view me as a hassle. He doesn’t feel like I’m someone He simply has to “put up with.” No, He loves me deeply and wants to bless me anyway.

And He feels the same way about you. He offers you His “no hassle guarantee” today. You can be sure that you never have to feel like God is putting up with you. He loves you just as deeply, and He wants to bless you just as much.

So, today, let Him lift your chin. Admit that you’ve blown it and move forward, but don’t hang your head in shame. Don’t doubt His extravagant love for you. Don’t believe He wants to withhold His blessings. No, He wants you to know that you will never be a hassle to Him. You are His pride and joy! Live like it today, and watch Him smile!

P. S.- I am so excited to share this as my 500th post!!! Thanks to all of you who read my musings on life.

24 years ago tonight, as the ball dropped in New York City, I got down on one knee and proposed to Angela in North Hodge, Louisiana. To my sheer delight and utter relief, she said, “Yes!”

Life changed for the better for me that night. She only brings good to my life, never bad. She is living proof of the Scripture which says that a man who finds a wife finds a good thing and finds favor with the Lord.

I am grateful for Angela, and tonight, I celebrate not only the conclusion of one year and inception of another, but the joy found in the moment that she said, “Yes!”

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!

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 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’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!

We had only been married several years when PR31 decided that she was going to try, without telling me, to get me the best possible Christmas gift she thought I would be able to dream of. One day, it hit her. She knew something I would love because I had owned it at one time.

Flashback Scene… It was the spring of 1995. Angela and I had just gotten engaged, and I suddenly realized that as we graduated college and got married, I would need money. So, I did what any sane college student would do… I started selling anything I owned that wasn’t nailed down or wouldn’t be needed in married life. This included a significant portion of my massive collection of 1980’s Christian rock cassettes. It was hard to part with some of them. In particular, I had every Petra tape made to that point, and I sold them as a set to my friend, Chris. I don’t recall how much he gave me. I just know it was hard to let them walk away.

Back to the story… Angela remembered how much stuff I sold so that we could start our life together. And she remembered those Petra tapes. Somehow, she got me talking about it one day, and I relived for her selling them to Chris. That’s all she needed.

She secretly hunted down an email address for Chris… this was before social media existed… unless you count chat rooms. She got in contact with Chris and asked if there was any chance he still had those tapes. He laughed, and told her, “You won’t believe this. I’ve moved three times since then, but I’ve never unpacked the box they’re in, and I know exactly where they’re at.”

Jackpot! She told Chris that she would pay any reasonable price he asked plus shipping cost, but he laughed and said that she could have them because he had never really wanted them in the first place. He just wanted to help me out. She gave Chris our address, and he sent the tapes.

Since we were going to be with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we opened our gifts a day or two before we left. We sat in the living room of the double-wide parsonage and gave our gifts to each other till there was just one gift left under the tree. PR31 launched into a speech that sounded more like a disclaimer… “I wanted to get you something special, and I think you’ll love this, but it may not be anything big. If it’s not, no big deal.”

I had no clue what I was about to open. I didn’t know how to prepare myself. Slowly, and more carefully than normal, I removed the tape and wrapping paper. I opened the small cardboard box, and pulled away the paper packed around the gift. Then my jaw dropped, and tears filled my eyes just like they are right now as I type this story.

I couldn’t believe it. These were not just replacements of the very tapes I had loved over the years. They were my Petra tapes! And not just some of them. All of them!

I fumbled around through the tears with some, “How did you…” and “I can’t believe this!” As PR31 told me all she had done to get the tapes, I realized what an act of love this was. She thought of my likes. She thought of something I sacrificed. She went to all that effort. And then God worked a miracle to let Chris have the tapes, know where they were, and be willing to part with them. It was one of the times in life when I felt the most loved.

Those tapes may have been the best Christmas present I ever got… outside of God giving the gift of His own Son, Jesus, that first Christmas. If they’re not, they’d sure be hard to beat. But it wasn’t about the dollar value… it was about the love invested through care, time and effort.

What if we all tried to live out that kind of love this Christmas? Not just with the gifts we give each other. I mean, what if we really considered what mattered to others? What if we went out of our way to do something special… something we knew would mean a lot to someone else?

Better yet, what if we tried to live out that kind of love all year long, and not just at Christmas? Maybe we can’t do something that special for every person we meet every day of the year. But maybe we could once a week… or at least one time each month. And how much more love would be people sense in their lives if they “opened a box” like I did one day, and realized how much we really care about them? Well, I can tell you. In fact, I just did.