Lessons From An Elf- Part 3

I have been called gullible… naive… sheltered… innocent… too trusting… and the list goes on.  I get it.  It’s just the way I have chosen to live.  I choose to believe the best in people till they prove me wrong… and even then I believe there is hope for them to change.  Maybe that’s why I enjoy the movie Elf so much… because that’s the way Buddy the Elf goes at life.

As part of the Elf code of culture he is taught, he treats every day like Christmas.  He wakes up with joy… having worked some during the night to put smiles on the faces of those around him the next day.  He is generous… with his time and his possessions.  He is kind to everyone he encounters.

I suppose that’s why some people call this the most wonderful time of the year… because we all treat each other better.  (My personal reason is because of the increased focus on my best Friend and Rescuer, Jesus Christ.)  At Christmas, we often set aside offenses… we cut people some slack… we give more… we smile and wave more… we eat together more… we slow down a little and make memories.

Why can’t we treat every day like Christmas?  Why can’t we remember the real reason for the season and live in light of that?  Maybe we can’t afford to give expensive presents every day, but we can give some of our time to be with our family… or serve someone less fortunate.  Maybe we can’t keep up the Christmas decorations year-round (though I wouldn’t complain or get tired of them), but we can added extra little touches to everything we do to trim them with excellence.  

The point is, we CAN treat every day like Christmas… if we will.  Scripture points out that the same Holy Spirit who came upon Mary, enabling her to become pregnant as a virgin,  will come upon us and help us to live out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  And there is no law against living like that.  No one will stop you from being kind… or generous… or thoughtful… or joyful.

People may call you some of the things they call me… or Buddy the Elf… but you’ll enjoy life a lot more, and so will those around you!  So, let’s start today, and… treat every day like Christmas!

You’re Invited

This is not my usual post.  It’s just that I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head and heart recently, and I haven’t been able to get away from it.  It’s a little deeper thought… and almost purely spiritual.  It may seem like semantics, but it is a subtle nuance which has the potential to revolutionize our perception of God and His intentions toward us.

Have you ever noticed that we can somewhat accept that God would condescend to walk with us, but we struggle to accept that He would invite us to ascend to walk with Him?

I think it is because the first could be viewed as pity, while the second invites intimacy.  We can envision that a loving God would stoop to help us in our hopeless condition.  Yet when it comes to Him being so interested in us that He would invite us to come spend time with Him as a friend, we can barely wrap our minds around it.  Isn’t relationship why He created us in the first place, though?  He had angels.  He didn’t need more servants.  He had created beings who worship Him non-stop.  He didn’t need more worshipers.  He wanted family.  He wanted friends.  He wanted… and still wants… people who want to be with Him.
He does not simply stoop to meet our needs out of His abundance and superiority.  He reaches out a hand of companionship and invites us to walk with Him… talk with Him… enjoy time with Him… and allow Him to enjoy being with us.

Just like Jesus invited His disciples to get away with Him so they could have some time to just relax and be together, He invites you today to just be with Him.  And that momentary invitation extends to on-going relationship.

Lost & Gained

Like any decent parent who loves their kids and wants to see them happy, I have at times been the old softy who, after admittedly being a little frustrated, have bought a replacement balloon… or two… to replace one that has floated off into the great unknown.  The same is true when ice cream has been dropped, or a new toy broken.  Especially if the boys have saved up and spent their own money on something.

Maybe your parents never did that.  Maybe you’ve never done that as a parent.  Maybe the philosophy you have lived under… or lived by… was “Tough luck, Chuck. Maybe this will teach you, and next time you won’t…”.  If so, I’m sorry.  

I’m sorry because that possibly influences the way in which you view God.  You may think that because your blew it… or messed up something… or lost something… you are bad and need to learn to be good.

But God is a good, loving and gracious Father. Scripture says that He is slow to get angry and quick to forgive.  It says that He delights in bringing joy into our lives.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, we all evaluate our lives when we’ve lost something.  Maybe you’ve lost your health… or a person you love… or a job… or a dream.  Whatever the situation, God sees that you lost it.  He knows how much you enjoyed it.  And He wants to give you something else in its place which will bring you just as much… if not more… joy!

So you made a mistake.  Let Him wipe those tears away.  And don’t be afraid to ask Him to give you something else in its place.  It’s in His heart to do it already.

Just One Drop?

I grew up in a suburb of Houston, TX.  I still have family there.  My wife has family in the Houston area.  I have lot of friends across South Texas.  And what Harvey has done to their homes and churches and businesses… is heartbreaking.

One friend shared an article from the Washington Post about how many trillions of gallons of water have rained down on the Houston area as part of the storm.  The numbers are staggering, mind-boggling.  And there could be more, though I pray there is not.

And I am overjoyed to see people begin to band together to begin the rescue and recovery effort. I encourage everyone who can to give… to go serve, helping to clean up and restore… to encourage those who are living through this disaster that they are going to be alright.

Some people feel like there is no use for them to try to help in such a massive situation because they feel like they can do so very little.  But something leapt out to me as I thought about that this morning… This crazy big storm was made up of individual drops of rain all coming together at the same time and the same place to make a significant impact.  And while those bazillion drops of rain created this disaster, our “drops” of love, hope, generosity and service could add up together to make a positive impact.

Your one “drop” matters.  Don’t withhold it because it seems small.  Together, all of us can do something to make a difference!

How Do You Spell That?

My dad made time for me.

Growing up, Dad was a busy pastor, but he made time for me.  Countless times I asked, and countless times he accepted my invitation to play in the front yard.  Just me and him.

Nothing organized.  We would grab our baseball gloves and play catch.  Or we’d toss a frisbee.  Or a football.  And I drove him nuts with numerous horrible throws because I was not incredibly athletic.  But that didn’t keep him from agreeing to play with me the next time I asked.

To be transparent, I don’t think I can remember one solitary thing we talked about from any of those times out in the front yard. Literally, not one thing.  But I remember that my Dad loved me enough to spend time with me.

As years went by, we hunted together.  It wasn’t just the trips.  It was the preparation time we spent together, too.  Time my dad invested in me.

I’m a dad now.  And sometimes dads are tired when their kids ask them to play.  Sometimes they have a lot on their mind when their kids ask them to play.  But I say “yes” to my boys now because my dad said “yes” to me, and I know the value of that time. I want them to grow up knowing that I love them like crazy, and I’m willing to prove it with my time.

Love is spelled T-I-M-E.  That’s how we let people know we love them.  Sure, we can say we spend our time at work to earn the money to provide for our family, but that’s not the kind of time they recognize as love.

So let me encourage you to say “yes” to someone today.  Say “yes” to playing catch with your son.  Say “yes” to a tea party with your daughter.  Say “yes” to a date with your spouse.  Say “yes” to dinner with friends.  Say “yes” to church with the God who wants your heart.

It’s your time that people want.  It’s your time… your valuable, precious, limited time… which when given proves you love them.  Spell it out for someone you love today!

Twenty-Two

Twenty-two years ago today, I heard PR31 say to me, “I do!” And each day since then, I have watched her live out that commitment to love me.  She is my dream girl.  I would choose her every day of the week and twice on Sundays for the rest of my life.

Proverbs 31, from whence I drew her nickname, says that the virtuous woman’s husband blesses her publicly.  And so today’s post is that… my public proclamation that God blessed me with an amazing wife to share life with… and twenty-two years later, I’m so glad He did!

Angela  is my best friend, as well as being my sweetheart.  She listens to and lifts me.  She cheers me on and challenges me.  She nurtures and nudges me.

She is a woman of God.  Her passionate pursuit of Him makes me want to love both Him and her even more.

She makes me a better man… a better daddy… a better son… a better brother… a better friend… a better preacher.  I wouldn’t be the man I am without her in my life.

Her beauty is not only skin deep, though she is indeed gorgeous to look at. (She doesn’t even need makeup or fancy clothes to look pretty.) She is considerate of others’ feelings.  She gives generously… regularly. 

Her talents are off the charts to me.  She is one of those people who can make any recipe taste great… make any Pinterest craft more personal and special… make any trip more fun.

And yet for all her creativity, her practical skills are second to none.  She is the budget queen… homeschool teacher par excellence to our boys… and able to use the riding mower.

I’d keep going, but you probably can’t handle anymore.  And I could write ad nauseum about my love for her.  And when she reads this, she’ll think it was over the top… because she is also a woman of genuine humility.  See? I can’t help myself when it comes to her.

So, today, I celebrate twenty-two years of committed love between us… and commit again to the same for the rest of my life.  There’s no one else I’d rather take the journey of life with.

Thanks for loving me, Angela!  I love you like crazy… and I always will!!!

Love Is…

Tonight’s post is one simple request…

Please reply by telling me the story of someone in your lifetime who has exemplified love by “unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.”

Thanks! I look forward to reading them.

Locked-On!

I looked left and then right. In that moment, I estimated my car’s ability, my driving skills, the speed of oncoming vehicles (from both directions) and calculated that I could pull out of the Academy Sporting Goods parking lot and onto the street with time and space to spare.  So I did. And I was right.

However, the guy in the pick-up truck which I pulled out in front of disagreed… vehemenently.  He yelled. He shook his fist. He blew his horn. When we got to a stoplight, he started to get out of his vehicle. And I started to get scared. The light turned green and I took off.

I was supposed to be going home on a lunch break, but now I felt like I was driving for my life. The guy just kept following me. I didn’t want him finding out where I lived.  So I drove all over the place… making U-turns… taking back roads… speeding up… slowing down.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake this guy. So I finally decided to go home. I figured that maybe I could get there fast enough to get out of my car and into the house before he could get out of his truck and pummel me into little cookie crumbs. So I floored it and made it into my driveway.

But I wasn’t fast enough, and before I got into the back gate, he had pulled in the driveway, jumped out and was yelling at me.  He had caught up with me, and I didn’t know what was about to happen.

Fortunately for me, he was all bark and all bite.  It probably didn’t hurt that I was very apologetic and scared silly. He finally had enough of cussing and correcting, got back in his truck and took off.  And I stood there shaking because I had not been able to shake him off my trail.

David closes out the 23rd Psalm by highlighting the character of the Good Shepherd… namely that God’s goodness and unfailing love… much like the guy whom I couldn’t shake… follow us constantly!  Only God’s goodness and unfailing love don’t create fear or intimidation. Instead they bring us blessing.

The point of this verse is that we can’t shake God off our trail.  The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says that we are all like sheep and we all stray off, but that our Good Shepherd chases us down with His grace and forgiveness.  In the New Testament, Jesus told the story of a shepherd who had one sheep out of a hundred stray away and get lost, but the shepherd left the ninety-nine to go after the one.  These other Scriptures reaffirm what David was saying.  You can’t shake God off your trail.

For His sheep, the Good Shepherd’s goodness and unfailing love are like heat-seeking missiles which have locked-on to their target and cannot evade them eventually catching up.  It’s so great to know that God is chasing us down… not to yell at us or threaten us, but to bless us… and help us… and forgive us.

In the end, David says that he will live in the house of the Lord forever.  Who wouldn’t want to after discovering how amazing the Good Shepherd is to His sheep?  God’s blessings will follow us all the way to forever in Heaven with Him.  That’s a lot better than being chased by an angry guy in a pick-up… and I would know!

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