Faith Found In Frugal Fashion

We had the day off and so we headed to to another town to spend the day together as a family. Upon arriving in said town, we picked up something to eat and headed off to do a little shopping… each person having picked one store in which they wanted to shop.

Now, I don’t want to say that we are cheap. Thrifty isn’t really the right descriptor either. So let’s just say we are frugal. We try to wisely use the money with which we have been blessed. So our first stop was at a store which sells new items they get from name brand stores at reduced prices. We usually find a deal or two in there, so we decided to stop and see what we might stumble across.

What we stumbled across was a significant discount on clothing and a few household items. Enough that we stayed in the store for two hours. Even Angela, who does not enjoy shopping for clothes usually (Thank You, Lord) found an armload. We dug through racks and tried on clothes till the boys tired and were no longer having fun.

We each had several items in the cart when we finally headed to the checkout with our deals. Angela leaned over to me and said, “Just remind me that, if it is a little bit bigger total than we planned on, we got a lot of great deals and needed the things we got.” I assured her it wouldn’t be that bad, and we made our way to stand in line.

As we stepped up to a cashier, I did as I always do and asked how he was doing. His response was one word… “Tired.” I smiled and tried to boost his spirits, but as I tried to position myself where I could read the computer monitor on the register to make sure the items were ringing up at the right price, I realized he was typing in numbers faster than I could keep up, and I was too far away to see the amounts.

Now, I told you we’re frugal. I asked him politely how much several items of clothing rang up for, and he replied, “Fifty cents.”

“Oh,”I attempted to casually ask, “are all the clothes fifty cents?”

“No, some are fifty cents. Others are not, but then,” and his words trailed off into something unintelligible. I gave up trying to figure it all out and decided we would just see what the damage was at the end.

He finished scanning, typing and sacking, then announced that the grand total with tax would be $30.88. I know I don’t have a poker face. What’s inside typically shows up like a neon sign in my expression. I glanced at Angela. She looked back at me, and I knew that neither of us could put it together. We had put 26 items of clothing, including jeans, jackets, tops, and more, plus a pair of dress shoes for me, a backpack for one of the boys, and a few household items on that counter. There was no way that could be right. The total should have been way more.

I asked if he had checked out everything. He said, “Yes, will that be cash or credit?” We paid the man, gathered our three large bags, and headed to the van. We didn’t say a word till we got outside the store. Then Angela asked, “Did we just get all those clothes for fifty cents each?” To which I replied, “Yes, and my shoes were only three dollars.”

We loaded the items in the back of the van, got in, buckled up, and Angela began looking over the receipt. We almost couldn’t believe it. God had just unexpectedly blessed us with a deal that blew our minds.

The thing is, it shouldn’t have been unexpected. We had prayed hours earlier as we left the house that God would go ahead of us, show us favor, and direct things to work out for our benefit as we went about our day. And boy, did He ever?!

Here’s the other thing…

We put some clothes back because we kind of liked them, but not at the price the app said they were when we scanned the tags. We just began to think that maybe it was a little too much. As we drove away, we were kicking ourselves for not getting those items, too. Had we known they were only going to be fifty cents each, we would have bought all of those and kept on looking for more as well. But we had forgotten our prayer… forgotten that the Lord knows what we need before we ask… forgotten that He must smile, wink, and say, “Watch how I’m about to do something good for My kids!”

Scripture says that we harvest in proportion to the amount we plant. That planting is evidence of the amount of faith we have. Had we believed that God was going to bless us the way we asked Him to that morning, perhaps we would have carried everything we wanted to the cash register. We were still blessed like crazy, but we could have been blessed even more. And it reminded us to trust God even more.

Now, I don’t know if you’ll get a deal on clothes or if He will bless you some other way, but I encourage you today to have big faith because the God I serve is a much bigger God than we typically give Him credit for being. And He wants to bless you. So, when you ask big, remember to plant lots of seeds of faith and expect a big harvest of blessing. Who knows, you might just need an extra buggy!

Transactions

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!

She Said Yes

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!”

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!

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!

I Do

Note: Personal Post

The double doors at the back of the church’s sanctuary opened, and there she stood… dressed in that gorgeous white gown that didn’t hold a candle to her beauty. Her dad walked her down the aisle, handed her off to me, and minutes later we both said, “I do!”

It was 23 years ago yesterday and, next to accepting Christ so I could be accepted into God’s family, that was the best decision I could have ever made. Scripture says that a guy who finds a wife finds a good thing and favor from the Lord. Amen to that!

Angela has been, is and will always be the best wife I could have possibly hoped for… in fact, better than I could have hoped for. It is my honor, joy and privilege to be her husband. I love that we have spent the last 23 years together, happily married… and I’m looking forward to spending the next 23 years with her… and the 23 years after that… and the 23 years after that. That would make us each over 100… and that would be a good start!

If you were to ask me what makes a great marriage work, I would say it comes down to what Jesus said in John 15:13… that the greatest way to show your love for someone is to lay down your own life for them… not dying physically, but setting aside your own selfishness to prefer them, help them succeed, bless them, meet their needs.

Angela exemplifies that. She lays down her life daily to make sure our marriage and family works. It’s how she tangibly shows me that she loves me. And it makes me love her even more. It makes me want to do the same for her… times 100!

I’m sure there are a lot of other great reasons that I feel like we have a great marriage, but she is my best friend… my closest confidant… the person who knows me better than anyone other than God… and still loves me anyway… just like God. She lays down her life in love each day to make my life great. Love is not a feeling… it’s a choice… it’s a commitment to give… to serve… to prefer someone else over yourself… to help… to share. To love is to lay down your life for someone else.

I talk a lot publicly about how smokin’ hot she is, and how she is the Proverbs 31 Woman (aka PR31) who does it all, but what makes her incredibly attractive is this crazy, ongoing, relentless effort she puts into sacrificing herself out of love.

Yes, I totally realize how blessed I am to be married to her. I’d marry Angela all over again, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And I plan to lay down my life for her every day, too.

If you have the privilege of being married to someone like this, why not celebrate them in some way today to let them know how much you appreciate their selfless sacrifices for you. If you’re loving spouse has passed away, but they lived and loved like this, take a moment to reflect on how awesome they were and thank the Lord for the time you had together. And if you’re not married, you can apply this principle to your friends, neighbors and co-workers to make a huge impact also.

Choose today to say, “I do,” to living a life of self-sacrifice. It’s the best way to love! Just ask this guy!

The Struggle Is Real

My Mom is a saint. Not perfect, but a saint. For years… and by “years” I mean decades… she has battled physical challenges. Since my teens, I can remember her trying to overcome physical pain. Her heart… her back… her knee. Yet she doesn’t complain. She cries. If we ask how she’s doing, she might tell us as her family. But usually she just keeps on trooping through life despite it all.

The struggle is indeed real… and sometimes it’s also really lengthy. Perhaps you’re battling a lengthy struggle of your own today. Maybe you’re dealing with a situation at work which only seems to get worse and keeps happening. Maybe you’re trying to overcome depression and it seems like the battle will never end. Maybe you’re enduring singleness even though you long to be married. Or perhaps you wrestle with why you struggle with infertility year after year as you watch others get pregnant and adopt multiple times.

Sometimes we pray and pray… work and work… try and try… search and search… only to have our challenge keep pace with us. Sometimes we plop ourselves down and say, “I just can’t take it anymore. When is this going to change or end?” I love the quote from J. Sidlow Baxter which so eloquently captures this feeling…

Perhaps at times we suffer more from the length than the strength of our trials.

Most of us can see someone else in life whose problems are worse than our own. So, we estimate that the strength of our trial is not horrendous. We feel like we could probably overcome it if the fight only lasted a few hours or a few days. But when that trial extends into weeks… and months… and years… and even decades… well, even a small trial endured over time can wear us down.

I don’t want to be trite, and yet I want to encourage you today. Please don’t give up. Hang in there. You ARE going to make it. You will win if you keep God the axle around which your life rotates. And Jesus promised that He would be WITH us all the way to the end. So you’re not going through this alone.

Find a friend. Cry if you need to. Vent your frustrations if you need to. That’s normal.

Then choose to get up tomorrow and fight again, with the best attitude possible. You can do this!