Alive!

Have you ever felt so alive that you wonder how you could call what you thought was living before actually alive? Lately, I feel like I have come into an epiphany as it relates to my faith. It’s as if I’m reading and hearing Scriptures for the first time which I’ve read and heard my entire life. When I talk with the Lord, it is with more confidence in Him… in His love… in who He has created me to be and in who He has made me into by adopting me as His son.

But to feel this alive comes at a price. It means facing challenges you never foresaw. It means being willing to look at life through a new set of lenses. It means having to… painfully… admit that I had not achieved the fullness God has for me.

This kind of newness of life comes from the passionate, and maybe sometimes even desperate, pursuit of knowing God even more closely, loving Him even more deeply, and serving Him even more sincerely. I may have more answers than I did before, but those answers have opened up a whole new world of questions. And with those questions, I find myself digging deeper into Scripture… making sure I find quality and quantity time to talk with the Lord so I can ask Him about the answers to these new questions… and more quickly moved to shower Him with thanks, gratitude, acknowledgment and adoration.

The result? I am alive!

No, all my challenges have not been overcome. All my problems have not been solved. All my issues have not been resolved. But most of those things are external. What is happening inside of me is overpowering all of that. And soon, if it hasn’t already begun to, it will impact and invade all of that external stuff.

I don’t know what kind of challenges or crises you are facing today, but you don’t have to face them with dullness and lifelessness inside you. Bring your real problems… those authentic questions you’ve been afraid to ask… your frustrations and limitations… bring them all to God. Ask Him to get involved, and you’ll find that He will. As He does, you will begin to experience life seeping back into you. That seeping will turn into a trickle… that turns into a flow… that turns into a flood! You’ll be more alive than you could have imagined before.

Jesus said that He came to give us a full life, an abundant life. Let’s not settle for less!

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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.

The Ultimate Mr. Fix-It

“Daddy, the Internet isn’t working. Can you fix it?”

Of course I can. I’m a guru. I’m a tech wizard. I’m capable of restoring all things electronic to functionality. Or I can at least unplug, wait, and re-plug the WiFi access point so the boys can get online again to watch the latest Nugget Noggin video.

They used to think that I could fix anything. Though they are now ten and seven respectively, they have learned that there are broken things even I cannot fix.

On the other hand, Angela can ask me to fix a lot more things now than she could when we first got married, lo, those 23 years ago. My plumbing, electrical, mechanical and woodworking skills have increased immensely. And yet, there are still broken things I cannot fix.

You know what’s amazing, though? There is never anything broken you can take to God that He cannot fix. If your life is in a million pieces, He can put it all back together. In fact, He loves it when you ask Him to fix the broken parts of your life. He loves that you would trust in Him and believe in His ability to right what is wrong… to mend what is torn… to repair what is wrecked… to fix what has fallen apart.

His Word says we should bring ALL our cares… ALL our worries… ALL our concerns… ALL our problems… to Him because He cares about us. We should hand Him all the pieces, and simply ask, “Daddy, will you fix this for me?” That kind of dependence melts a father’s heart and causes him to set about fixing what is not working.

You can trust Him with whatever is broken in your life today. He loves you. It would make His day to make things right in your life. And unlike me, you can count on Him to do it right every time because He’s the Ultimate Mr. Fix-It!

Finally

It broke. It finally broke. The stifling, smothering, suffocating oppression of summer heat finally broke yesterday. At least where I live.

Now, if you’re not from the Deep South, then perhaps you may struggle to understand the significance of this deliverance. We basically have two seasons here… summer, and not summer. It begins getting hot by March or April and doesn’t stop until October or November. By June, I’m tired of the heat. By July, I’m used to it, and doing whatever I can to stay cool. By August, it’s miserable. By September, I’m begging God to take the heat away. And yet it lingers.

But there is that day each fall, usually in the middle of October, when the the first hint of a cool front passes through, and you wake up to walk outside, realizing that long sleeves would actually feel nice. Friday night lights and pumpkin spice lattes suddenly sound reasonable and enjoyable. It’s the day the strength of summer’s hold is first weakened, and hope springs alive in your soul.

I’m sure the folks who live up North would challenge my “suffering” with their own version of winter arriving in September and not breaking until April, but the concept is the same. There is that moment when the crushing weight of waiting in the struggle begins to lose its grip.

Some of us know what it feels like when we go through seasons of life that are very much like an oppressive summer or a brutal winter. We know what it is like to long for the strangle-hold to be loosened. When that first break in its grip comes, so does hope. Hope that we can make. Hope that we will come out of this season and into the next. Hope that brings with it a breath of fresh air.

If you’re going through one of those seasons right now, just know that “not summer” will soon overpower “summer” in your life. The heat will break. The cool will come and refresh your soul. God’s Word says that, in the natural, seasons would come and go. It applies to the rest of your life as well. Hang in there. Keep walking outside every morning and hoping. One morning soon, you will open the door, and that first briskness will waft over your warm cup of coffee, letting you know that your new season is almost here!

Trust The Dot-Placer

Remember those dot-to-dot picture puzzles we used to do as kids? PR31 and I were just talking about those. I loved doing those things. It seemed so simple. Sometimes, you could just look at all the dots and actually see the object in your mind before a single line was drawn. Others, however, were not as simple. You might think the line needed to go a certain way, but there was no dot there, or it was definitely not the next number in order. So what did you do? You looked for the next dot, and you drew your line to it.

Maybe today, your life feels like one of those dot-to-dot puzzles. Mine certainly does sometimes. Just about the time I think I see where I think the line is going… or should go… there is no dot there. So what do I do? I stop, look for the next dot, and draw my line there. Then I may have to stay on that dot for awhile as I search for the next one.

Why? I trust the Dot-Placer. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we should trust the Lord with all our heart and not depend on our own understanding… that we should acknowledge God as the Dot-Placer, and in doing so He would direct us to the next dot to which we need to draw our life’s line.

It’s not always easy. At some points along life’s dot-to-dot, we think we have it all figured out. We think we know what the shape is going to turn out to be. We think we know where the next dot should be and where we should draw our line. But God has a magnificent, intricate plan laid out with all the dots in the right places. And if we will just draw our line to His next dot, we will end up in the right place… at the right time… in the right way.

If your life feels like a crazy dot-to-dot puzzle today, hang in there. Don’t draw your own line or add your own dots. Stop on the dot where you are, and look for the next dot God has laid out for you… even if it takes a little while to find it. Trust the Dot-Placer. The picture is there, and it is coming into focus a little bit at a time. One day, you’ll look back and see why He directed you along those dots in the way He did.

Believe

This is going to be a great week!

Repeat after me… “This is going to be a great week!”

Now… Believe it! Believe that God has good things in store for you this week. Each day is going to get better. Something is going to make you smile… make you breathe easier. Someone is going to be kind to you. You are going to accomplish something… excel at something. You’re going to laugh more. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to achieve your goals.

This is not a week to dread. This is a week to anticipate!

How can I guarantee this? How can you live up to the hype? Well, simply put, it’s basically up to you and me. We can either go into this week dreading each day… fretting and worrying… stressed and fearful. Or we can choose to look for the best in people… see opportunities in challenges… search for the silver linings to passing clouds. It’s up to us. We will get what we believe for… either way. It takes exactly the same amount of trust and emotional energy.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs that the fears of the wicked and the hopes of the godly will come about. That tells me that how I choose to look at this upcoming week largely impacts how the week will go for me.

So, decide early on in this week that it is going to be great… maybe one of the best weeks you’ve ever had. Determine to see the best in people and find positives in every situation. Start each day smiling and looking forward to all the good you will find that day. And at the end of this week, I believe and declare that you will see that you have had the great week you anticipated!

Now let’s do this!

Way More Fun

It’s football season. At our house, that means NFL. I’m not interested in the politics… I just watch it to relax and have fun. Now, the boys like watching with me, but they are not quite as captivated by all the finer points of the game. They do, however, love to play.

So, we have created a little ritual of our own. At commercial breaks, or halftime, or when a game is over, we play our own scaled-back games of football. We play inside because it’s air conditioned, and because we have a pretty decent size living room. One of the boys plays offense, the other defense. I am all-time quarterback… and referee. It’s that last part that creates the issues.

Basically, it doesn’t matter what call I make on any play… one of the boys usually gets frustrated with it. We often have to replay the down because I couldn’t see a play well-enough to call it accurately. The replay is mostly because I don’t want an argument from either one of them.

We’ve been working on having a better attitude. In most cases, that means not getting mad at the referee or at the opponent for making a great play. I’ve been challenging them to work on being good sports. Truth is, they both have some pretty decent skills. But I know that attitude trumps skills in life… even in football. A player can cost their team the game by losing their cool.

So, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday afternoon when Alex announced to me that they had decided to play with great attitudes and do their very best not to get upset during the game. I wondered how it would play out, but sure enough, they were young men of their word. They played the whole game with terrific attitudes, acknowledging calmly they wish a call would have gone another way, but moving on to the next play… or even congratulating the other player on a great play against them.

At one point well into the game, Alex said, “You know, Daddy, it’s way more fun playing football with a good attitude.” Austin agreed, and I beamed with pride at the lesson they had learned.

You know, life is way more fun when we have the right attitude… when we treat people the way we want to be treated… when give others the benefit of the doubt, knowing that no one is perfect except God… when we are big enough accept outcomes, even though they didn’t go our way. The Apostle Paul wrote that we should make it our goal to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. That’s a tall order, but God wouldn’t have said to do it if He wasn’t going to help us be successful at doing it.

This week, let’s determine right from the start to have a great attitude… at home, at work, at school, in the store, wherever we are. Let’s choose to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. My prognostication is that we won’t even get to the end of the week before we declare like Alex that life is, “way more fun!”

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