Waiting

Our six-year old, Austin, has lost four teeth in the past month, but this last one hung on the longest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tooth that loose that wouldn’t let go.  At first, we just knew it was going to come out right away like the others.  And then it didn’t. And it didn’t.  And it still didn’t.

At first it was kind of funny.  We could all joke about it.  But it was a front tooth, and the looser it got, the more difficult it became for him to eat. And the more difficult it became to brush his teeth.  It was becoming more frustrating for him than enjoyable.

He could blow air through his lips and the tooth would flap like a flag in the wind. But it wouldn’t come out.  We even pulled gently on it, but to no avail.  When we tried tying floss around it to get it out, it began to hurt too much.  And yet that tooth hung there like it could flop out at any moment.

We had planned a s’mores celebration when the tooth came out, and we had already delayed it a day or two.  The waiting was becoming more and more frustrating.  It was taking all of the fun out of losing a tooth.  We had gotten serious enough that we were even praying and asking the Lord to intervene and cause that tooth to come out.  Truth be told, I think each of us were tired of waiting.

Then, as the boys were playing yesterday afternoon, it popped right out and landed on Alex’s nose.

There was sudden elation and celebration.  I was just waking up from a short nap when I was informed that I had better light the fire because it was time for s’mores… Austin’s tooth had come out.  We all rejoiced… and enjoyed a round of s’mores.  I think they tasted better because we had to wait for them.  In fact, I think our joy over that tooth coming out increased because we had endured such frustration waiting on it.

You know, none of us really like to wait.  We humans are an impatient bunch in general.  And the longer we have to wait for something… like a healing… or a job… or a relationship… or closure in a tough situation… or for a legal matter to be settled… or for someone to apologize, the more easily we become agitated and frustrated.  That’s our choice, by the way, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

And yet, when the dawn finally breaks over a dark night of waiting in our lives, it seems like our joy is greater.  So, what if we could learn that somehow, and embrace the wait in light of the greater joy we will experience because we had to wait for it so long?

I certainly don’t have that all mastered… just seeing it myself in light of a loose tooth, and believing that my own joys… my own s’more-worthy celebrations…  will be greater and more enjoyable because I have to wait longer than anticipated and longer than desired.  And if more joy is the result, well then, maybe I can hang on a little while longer to experience a deeper, more fulfilling joy… and an extra s’more.

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!

Christmas Roadtrips

Today we will put away the Christmas decor for another fifteen weeks or so, and wrap up our new family tradition of celebrating Christmas In July.  So I’ve been reflecting on my Christmas memories as a child this morning.  Many of those revolve around road trips to visit extended family. And when I say road trip, I mean road trip.  Like 1,000-1,500 miles and 20-24 hours of drive time.

We would leave on a Sunday night after church.  We would load everything in the station wagon and hit the road.  No seatbelt laws meant we kids could sleep on the slats Dad had specially made to fit in the back of the land yacht. Luggage underneath the slats and sleeping bags on top of the slats.

Mom would drive first because she was a night owl.  She would get us to daybreak, and then Dad… having gotten some sleep while she drove… would take the helm and keep us rolling.

We stopped only to fuel up and eat.  While we rode, we played all the classic road trip games… because there were no cell phones… or on-board wifi… or iPads… or built-in video players which could play videos or your gaming system.  No, we read… and slept… and talked… and drove each other nuts.

But you know what? I never thought twice about what direction to drive… or how much money we would need to take with us… or whether gas stations were open on Sundays or not… or whether we would get where we were supposed to be going.  Mom and Dad said, “Get in the car. We’re going to see your grandparents.”  And I did.  I just got in that station wagon, and let them do all the planning and driving.  They took care of when to stop and when to go.  They determined which roads were best for us.  They made sure we had all we needed to make the trip as easy as possible.  I just got in and trusted them.

Oh, that I would always treat God the same way.  That I would simply get in the car of life which He is driving, and let Him take care of all the details.  Sometimes I do better than most.  Other times, I’m like a 6-year old trying to tell his parents what time to leave, which road to take, how fast to drive, what time to stop or go.  I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

In those moments, my Heavenly Father is kind and gracious enough to say from Matthew 11:30, “Keep company with Me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  In other words, “Allen, let me take care of the details… You just get in and ride along with me. I’ll get you where you need to be, when you need to be there.”

I’m glad He’s driving.  And since He is, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to climb in the back, rest, and have fun looking at the billboards and license plates we pass.

And oh yeah, just one more time this year… Merry Christmas in July!

Christmas In July

Awhile back, PR31 and I decided that our family would celebrate Christmas in July this year.  The boys are on a break from school this week… My current work allows me the freedom to adapt my schedule… Hallmark Channel has Christmas movies on all week… QVC is selling like it’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday… Hobby Lobby is already putting trees and ornaments out on their aisles… So why not Team A?

We love Christmas in our family!  No seriosuly, we LOVE it!!!  The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and we believe the song is right.  Christmas is a time when people speak more kindly… when they are more generous… when they think of others and not just themselves.  Add to that the fact that we Christ-followers who say that we ought to celebrate all God has done for us throughout the year.

Stir that all up in a bowl, and just makes perfect sense to us to celebrate Christmas in July.

There are sugar cookies being made… Christmas carols are being played… classic Christmas movies being watched… a Christmas tree has been put up and decorated… an elf is being hidden each night after the boys go to bed… Christmas crafts are being made… and even small, inexpensive gifts will be exchanged toward the end of the week.

What’s crazy is… despite the fact that we live in the Deep South and it’s well over 90 degrees each day this week… when the skies were overcast the other day, and the air conditioner was turned down a degree or two, and the small lights on the tree and mantle are shimmering, and the Christmas decor is hung, and a Christmas movie is on… well, it’s easy to forget that it’s July.  In fact, the other evening I was almost so absorbed in the moment that I had to really had to think about whether it was July or December.

You can call it ridiculous.  You can say it’s just positive thinking.   You can say we’re just tricking our minds into thinking what we want to think, and tricking our feelings into what we want to feel.

Yet, it hit me that we have some power in our lives that is really quite amazing.  God has created us with the ability to transform the way we think and feel by changing what we see… or maybe more accurately, by changing what we choose to look at.  I can look at the thermometer and see that it is 92 degrees outside with a heat index of over 100 degrees…  too hot to go outside and enjoy much other than a pool.  Or I can look at the thermostat and turn it down another degree to create the atmosphere which helps create a sense of joy and fun for my family.

All this reminds me that Paul told the believers in Rome to “…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”  And in II Kings 6, when an evil king sent a whole army to capture the prophet Elisha, his servant freaked out until Elisha prayed that God would help the servant see what he already saw… God’s army of angels with chariots and horses of fire completely surrounding the enemy army. What he saw changed his perspective.

That’s what I’m getting at today.  Instead of just looking at our situations and being baffled, or bored, or bummed, why not be proactive and decorate our world to reflect what it is more real and more in line with what God wants for us.  We might just be surprised.  We might forget the difficulties and challenges we currently face and relax.  We might just discover some extra joy we thought was only reserved for special occasions.

It’s up to us, though, to get out the decorations… roll out the cookie dough… and wrap the gifts… if we are going to change the way we think to point our emotions in the right direction.

So go ahead… toss a little tinsel… heat up a little ham… and have yourself a merry little Christmas now… in July!

Treasure Chest

This morning, Alex came into the living room with his treasure chest in hand.  A couple of years ago, PR31 found these little cardboard chests on sale and picked one up for each of the boys to keep their own personal treasures in.  You know, those things that kids value deeply and need a special place.

Well, Alex announced that he had reorganized his treasure chest to make room for his recently received birthday cards.  To do so, he had to take some things out.

Upon his announcement, I said, “Really?”

And he replied, “Yep, I realized a lot of stuff in there wasn’t really treasures to me.”

Mic drop. At least I thought that would have been the appropriate place in the discussion for it.

But then he added, “And you know what else besides the birthday cards I’m putting in there?”

“No, what?” I answered and asked.

His answer made my day… “God.”

Wow!

How perfect that he put together that he values God and so he wants to keep Him in a special place… a place reserved for the things that mean the most to him in life.

You know, we each have a “treasure chest” in which we keep those things which matter most to us.  Jesus said in Matthew 6 that where our treasure is our hearts will be also.

So what matters most to you?  Where is your heart?  Do you have a few things in your treasure chest which really aren’t the treasures you once thought they were?  Do you need to clean a few things out to make room for some new treasures… things you will truly value?

Before I leave you to sort through my own treasure chest today… and hopefully let you sort through yours… there is one more interesting part of the story.  In his treasure chest clean-out, he found a treasure he had been looking for and thought he had lost.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It was important to him.  The cool thing is that… because he had put it in his treasure chest… it was there for him when he got things straightened out.

My hope for each of us today is that we will take a little time to clean out our treasure chest… get rid of those things that aren’t really treasures… and make sure we include God as the most important treasure.  Then who knows? Perhaps in the process we will find a long, lost treasure we’ve really missed and begin to enjoy it again.

How Much More?

We don’t mind giving our boys things they want. I’m not talking about spoiling them.  I’m saying that we listen to what they talk about and have a pretty good idea at most times what they are interested in.  So, as long as it’s not something ridiculous or something that would hurt them, we like getting those things for them.

Good parents want to bless their kids.  That’s really why they want their kids to behave… to do right… to go along with them as parents… to express love & appreciation to them as parents. It’s not because the parents are needy or demanding, but because- if the kids will do these things- it will make it much easier for the parents to bless them and not have to correct or punish them instead.

If we as earthly parents- who don’t have it all together- want to put a smile on our kids faces by blessing them with some of the things they want, why do we have such a difficult time believing that our Heavenly Father wants to put a smile on our faces as His kids?

This is why He gives us guidelines to follow in life. He wants us to do right so that He is free to bless us as His children. So maybe it’s time we adjust our view of the commandments in Scripture from a list of do’s & don’ts which we must keep to earn God’s approval to a way of living which draws us into a closer relationship with Him and creates an atmosphere in which He is free to bless us.

And before we go our separate ways today, let me just add that while we don’t live for the blessings God gives us, it’s also not wrong to want those blessings and ask Him for them as we follow Him with our whole heart.

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