Without Even Asking

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!

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!

The Unseen New

This week, Alex has been learning about the moon in his science studies. He’s been learning about the moon’s atmosphere (or lack thereof), lunar eclipses, phases of the moon and so forth.

One interesting little piece of information which emerged as he learned is that we cannot see a new moon. Each month, the moon goes through phases, and we can see most of them. We can see the crescent moon and the full moon, but we cannot see the new moon. It’s not that the moon has gone away or ceased to exist. It’s just that we can’t see it at the moment.

The same is true in our lives. God lovingly leads us through different phases. In a lot of those phases, we can see what God is up to. Others around us can tell what God is doing in us and through us. But sometimes when God is starting something new in us, through us and for us, we cannot see what He’s doing.

In fact, you may look at your life right now and think that God isn’t working at all. But the truth of the matter is that He is there–working behind the scenes– bringing about something new in your life. You may not be able to see it yet. You may wonder what happened to that bright, full, glorious life and work that everyone could see so clearly. Maybe your life, your purpose, your destiny, your next step, your connections, your provision seems hidden or lost. Right now, you may wonder what God is up to.

I’ll tell you what He’s up to… something new. Soon, a sliver will show up. Then a crescent will appear. Before you know it, the light will be spilling over the darkness of what was hidden in its newness, and life will start making sense again. And at some point, what God is doing will be in full view, reflecting His shining power at work in you and through you.

So, if you look up at the night sky of your life right now and don’t see anything, remember that the God Who set the moon to govern the night sky regularly hides it from view because something new is on its way!

No Good

One of the gifts Alex received for Christmas this year was a pogo stick. And though I never had one, I could not wait for him to open it when we celebrated Christmas as a family. Sure enough, he opened it and loved it. And it didn’t take him hardly any time all to be up and bouncing multiple times to our amazement.

Then Austin wanted to try it. We weren’t sure Austin would like it yet, and so we had not gotten him one. But he insisted on trying it out. He tried. Then he tried again. And he tried again. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not seem to get the balance and motion to work. Even after we got back from visiting our families for Christmas and the boys got back at the pogo-ing, Austin struggled to get even two or three jumps strung together. He would get frustrated and say, “I’m just no good at it.”

We tried to encourage him to keep trying, to keep believing. But when you just seem to keep failing, believing for success is a tough pill to swallow. We wondered if maybe his body just wasn’t at a stage of development where he could achieve what it took to pogo.

Then the day before yesterday, something clicked. He had kept trying. Alex tried to share what he had learned that worked for him. And Austin would just not give up. Suddenly, while I was watching him, he jumped six times. Then it was ten. Then he started setting goals. Next he nailed more than 20 jumps. Out of nowhere, he strung together 60 hops. The kid was becoming a human Tigger before our very eyes.

We were blown away when he came back to our room before we left to go somewhere, and he showed us a video he shot on the iPad of him jumping. As I watched, I counted… ten, twenty, forty, eighty, 100… 110! One hundred ten consecutive jumps on the pogo stick without stopping.

Yesterday, he decided to up his game. How high could he bounce? How far? Now Alex was trying to compete and catch up to him. Austin surprised us by showing us his new trick… he could jump up the steps from the sunken living room to the entryway and back down without falling. Next was some kind of trick where he kicked his foot out while jumping. Then it was jumping over things stacked on the floor, followed by special landings. I’m starting to think we better get a helmet and some elbow pads on this kid.

But wait a minute… Isn’t this the same kid who couldn’t do it to begin with? Isn’t this the same kid who thought he was no good at it? Isn’t this the kid who had compared himself to his brother who happened to learn it almost immediately and got discouraged because he couldn’t keep up? What happened? What brought about the transformation?

I’ll tell you what happened. Austin didn’t give up. He kept hoping. He kept believing. He kept trying. He kept taking advice. He kept watching someone else do it and learning from them. He kept on. And though it wasn’t immediate like it was for Alex, success came.

It reminds me of Abraham in Scripture. God said he would be the father of many descendants, but for 25 years, nada. Yet Paul told the Romans that Abraham was counted right with God because he just kept on believing, kept on trusting, kept on hoping. Abraham kept on until the promise became reality. When it looked like he couldn’t, he kept believing and hoping he could and would.

You know, there may be something that you want to accomplish, but you think you are “no good at it.” Don’t give up. Keep hoping. Keep believing. Keep trusting and trying. Keep studying. Keep watching and learning. One day soon, just like Austin and Abraham, you might just succeed beyond what you could have ever expected!

By the way, Austin hasn’t stopped. This morning he woke up with new goals and new ideas for the pogo stick. And he is inspiring Alex to try for more by his success. So get out there today and try again!

My Problem

I have a problem. I keep doing the same thing over and over. And it’s ridiculous. It’s crazy. In fact, Albert Einstein is credited with saying that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

What is my problem? I use the ellipsis too much in my writing.

See, I write the way I talk most of the time. (You probably just read it much slower than I say it.) In a blog that is more a relaxed flow of thoughts, perhaps it is alright to overuse the ellipsis. You, the reader, get it. It gives you the cue to pause as you read.

But when I wrote my first book, I Got A “D” In Leadership, my editor pointed out repeatedly… until she got tired and just finally said to watch for it from that point forward… that I way overuse this little jewel of punctuation. (I think it’s my favorite, although the exclamation point runs a tight second.) The problem is that there are other ways to show pause in writing. Enough ways to keep the writing interesting and the reader engaged. She gave me examples and showed me why they would work more effectively.

So when I wrote my second book, The Upside, I purposely worked hard at making sure I did not overuse the ellipsis. And would you like to know what one of the first fixes my editor had to point out? You guessed it. The almighty ellipsis, my best friend in writing and simultaneously my arch nemesis. She reminded me that, while I could use it, there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. And sometimes those ways are truly better.

Now, I know old habits die hard, but I was reminded once again in that editing process that there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. Truth is, when I switched to some of the others, I found myself liking the writing better. It better suited what I was trying to communicate. It gave me new methods. I actually enjoyed the writing even more.

Here’s the thing… We all deal with this problem. Oh, perhaps yours is not a punctuation problem. Yours is almost certainly something else. Maybe something far more significant. Perhaps you need to shed some weight for your health. Maybe you want to improve your marriage. Or maybe you just want to get to work on time. But the principle is the same.

There is probably at least one other way of accomplishing your goal. You don’t have to keep doing things the same old way. And a new year is the perfect time to decide to and discipline yourself to try a new way. And in the process, you just might find that you like the new way even better.

God is the God of new things. Sure, He is from eternity past. Of course He is familiar with history. But He offer new life, new hope, new methods, new creativity, new options, new possibilities. Instead of doing things the same old way, why not ask God to help you today to begin to discover new ways to accomplish your goals?

Check Out My New Book

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!

Watch Your Own Screen

We had stopped by some friends’ home to drop something off, and ended up staying longer than we had originally planned. Alex and Austin went with their friend to another room at one point to play video games while we adults talked. On the way home, Alex told us how they had played a racing game they have at home, which he normally excels at. Yet, playing his friend, he kept losing. Finally, at one point, he figured out that he had been watching his friend’s window of the split screen instead of his own. So no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t follow the course because he wasn’t actually on the turns the friend was on. The only way he could be his best was to watch his own screen. It would show him where he was at and which way he needed to steer, whether he needed to speed up or slow down.

That happens to us in life sometimes, doesn’t it? We watch the screen showing someone else’s life, and we try like crazy to be our best on their part of the course. But the truth is, we’re not them. We’re probably not where they’re at. We may be behind, but we may also be ahead. The only way for us to actually be our very best is to watch the screen of our own life and take it as the Lord leads us and guides us. We can only navigate life right when we focus on where we are and what we need to be doing given our situation. Watching someone else’s screen will only frustrate us… and in the end, cause us to lose instead of win.

Choose today to watch your own screen. You can win. You simply have to block out the screens of others and do your best where you’re at. You’ll have a lot more fun, too.

Possibilities

Since she was probably eight or nine years old, Angela has lived with a condition which we only found out several years ago is called 4S. Basically, it is a super-sensitivity to certain sounds which generate an emotional response. For example, if someone eats ice or crunches nacho chips at a meal, she hears it like she’s the bionic woman. If you smack when you eat, she can hear it across the room. The subtle, metronome-like tick-tock of a clock which might be soothing to some feels like it makes her nerves stand on end. Think someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard, multiply the sensation and irritation by a hundred, and you’re getting close to challenge she faces on a regular basis.

Now, she is the epitome of graciousness when it comes to this condition. She rarely says anything to anyone outside our family. In fact, she chooses to go to the other room herself when necessary to provide relief instead of asking any of us to change our behavior. Typically, no one outside our family and a few close friends would ever know these things are bothering her.

For years, the clicking of a computer mouse and keyboard have pushed her to her limit. And since the office/schoolroom in our house- where the family computer is located- is just off the kitchen and living room, that means the three main rooms in which she normally spends the largest portion her day become significantly challenging to her 4S.

Recently, she wished aloud that someone made a silent keyboard and mouse. Then something flashed through our minds… perhaps someone does. We knew that some laptop keyboards were not as loud as most desktop keyboards. So, we began to search. Lo and behold, there are a number of “quiet” or “silent” mouses and several “quiet” keyboards. Doubtful they were as good as their own press, we decided to try them anyway.

When the mouse arrived and we tried it for the first time, she couldn’t believe the relief it provided. We immediately went and got the keyboard to see if it would also do the trick. Just a couple days ago, Alex did two of his typing lessons for school with her sitting less than three feet away from him, and she never knew he did them!

Now this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a miracle to us. We wonder why we didn’t think about this possibility sooner. We wonder why we didn’t search for this solution earlier. I suppose we just didn’t imagine the possibilities.

All of us face our own version of “4S.” We all have challenges which we seem to battle continuously, not realizing that there may be a solution right under our nose. Maybe your challenge is breaking a bad habit. Perhaps you wrestle with a spiritual challenge. Or maybe you struggle to live by a budget… speak publicly… lose weight. Have you checked to see if there might be a solution? An app? A resource? Who knows… you might be able to discover the answer to your challenge on Amazon, or at Walmart. God already has the solution to your challenge. He has already placed things at your access to help you overcome.

Don’t just wish today. Discover the possibilities. God wants you to live the abundant, fulfilled life that He has for you. And if that means you need a quiet computer keyboard and a quiet mouse to do so, He can make sure the solution is available. You may have to Google a little to find it, but you can hold on to the promise that God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

So get yourself an early Christmas present this year. Discover the possibilities!

Better

Angela and I always had outside dogs growing up. In fact, we had only had (mostly) outside dogs during the first 20 years of our marriage. That is, until we came across our family’s current beloved canine, Sugar the Schnauzer, at a pet adoption day at a pet store in another city. If you have read this blog for almost any length of time, you know a little about Sugar already.

The thing is, before Sugar, we really thought we liked bigger, outside dogs better. We definitely would not have usually chosen a smaller, inside lap-dog. We thought they were too yappy and that you couldn’t wrestle with them. What fun would that be?

Then the Lord gave us Sugar. Sure, we had to adjust to what it means to have an inside dog, but now we love having one. And we are pretty sure that if we were ever to get another dog, we would choose a smaller, inside lap-dog all over again.

Isn’t that odd? We never saw that one coming. God gave us something we didn’t even know we would enjoy. In fact, we thought we might not enjoy it nearly as much. But He knew better. And so He gave us what was best for us- what He knew we would love more if we just gave it a chance- instead of holding on to what we thought we wanted.

You know, He doesn’t just do that with dogs. He can work all things together for your good when it comes to something like a job that you would love… or a spouse whom you would love… or a car, or a house, or even a degree plan. God has good things stored up, ready to give them to you. Things you may not even know that you would love. But you would, if you would let go of what it is you think you want… and simply trust Him with what He knows you’ll love even more.

As we move toward the end of 2018, why not begin to loosen your grip on some of your preconceived notions and leave the perfect gift-giving responsibilities to the One who knows you better than you know yourself? You’ll be glad you did. I ought to know… I’ve got a Schnauzer.

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