Not Just Ice Cream

This past weekend, we had a massive garage sale. Friday in particular was brutally hot, and we spent most of the day outside. Although I must admit, I tried to stay in the actual garage with a fan blowing on me as much as possible.

In the middle of the day, a dear family friend stopped by and visited with us for awhile. She is the sweetest lady you could ever meet. She is thoughtful, gracious, considerate, and never to be outdone when it comes to generosity. After her visit, we all commented how fun it was to have her stop by.

Later that afternoon, she texted me to let me know that she was picking us up some ice cream and would be by to deliver it to us shortly. I told her she didn’t need to do it, but she insisted. And sure enough, about ten minutes later, she rolled into the driveway with her delivery. For the record, it wasn’t just ice cream… It was Blue Bell. I grew up in Texas, and so the jingle… “Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country,” actually means something to me.

I thanked her profusely, as did the boys. What she didn’t know until I told her, was that when I slipped inside to gobble down a quick lunch earlier, I wanted some kind of dessert. I had thought to myself, “It is so hot, some ice cream sure would be good.” But I knew none of us would be going to the store that day because of the garage sale, and so I figured ice cream was just out of the question. It was just a fleeting craving and a fanciful whim… so I thought. Until she brought ice cream.

I had not said a word to anyone about ice cream. I didn’t have to. The One who knows all things delights in every detail of my life, according to Psalm 37:23. He knew that He could nudge her heart to buy ice cream, and she would do it. So He did.

She did not know that I needed that ice cream reminder that day to remind me that if my Heavenly Father can cause someone to bring me the dessert I wanted on a whim, then He can tackle the other part of that verse, which says He also directs the steps of my life. It was a subtle reminder, but it was not lost on me. He threw it, and I caught it.

So when is ice cream not just ice cream? When it reminds that person receiving it of how intimately involved God is in their life. You see, it wasn’t just ice cream she delivered Friday… It was love… It was encouragement… It was hope.

So, this week, let’s be sensitive to those nudges… because we never know when it is not just ice cream.

You Get What You Order

When you go to a restaurant to eat, and you place your order with the server, they typically bring you exactly what you ordered. You asked for it and expected it, so that is what they brought you. What’s interesting is that you can also tell that server you believe they are going to do a great job serving that meal… and they will do just that.

People will rise to the level to which they are challenged to rise. It’s because they believe that someone else not only believes they are capable, but that someone believes in them.

We all struggle from time to time in believing in ourselves. It’s part of the human condition. Yet, within each of us, there is this ability to help others rise out of that struggle and achieve all they are capable of being and doing.

I have chosen to believe the best in people… to hold them to high standards… to cheer them on and believe in them… to let them know all the potential I see in them. And you know what? They typically respond by becoming exactly that… or more.

This is what Jesus did with the disciples He selected, and with basically anyone He met. He called them to a higher standard. Those who were genuine may have faced challenges and struggles along the way, but for the most part they rose to the occasion and became more than anyone else expected.

Whose challenges will you look past today in order to see their potential? And what will you call them to? How will you cheer them on and celebrate them as they begin to make progress? And how will you both feel when they reach that potential?

It’s time to stop reading for today and start reaching. You get what you order!

Time To Toss It

When the house is orderly, PR31 feels at peace in her soul. When it’s not, she feels like she needs to do something about it. So recently, she took to cleaning and organizing closets and cabinets around the house. Obviously, we all had the privilege of helping out because we all had stuff stuffed in said closets and cabinets.

Interestingly, even though we had a garage sale within the last six months before this cleaning out of clutter, we still found bags full of stuff we no longer use. What’s crazier is the amount of stuff we found which we couldn’t use… things we consider trash now. At the time we put those things in the closet or cabinet, we saved them because we thought they would be useful to us later on. Perhaps we felt we could use parts from them to fix something else. Maybe we felt like they had some type of sentimental value. But they built up over time, and today they are hinderances… clutter. As we went through the closets and cabinets, we would hold something up, look at each other and simultaneously agree that it needed to be tossed. Something we used to deem so important wasn’t even worth saving to put in another garage sale or donate to the local thrift store.

The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews points out that the same thing can happen to us in our spiritual lives over time. We accumulate stuff which weighs us down and trips us up. So he/she instructs the reader to “strip off every weight that slows us down.”

It’s so easy to collect extra stuff over time which hinders us from being our best and living at the level we really want to in our relationship with God and with others. We hold onto broken things… attitudes, hurts, losses… thinking somehow they may be of use to us down the road. Yet they only serve to clutter and weigh down our lives, robbing us of peace.

Today, let this be our wake-up call that it is time to do a little cleaning of our own. Let’s clean out the closets and cabinets of our spiritual and emotional lives. Let’s find the stuff that is getting in our way and keeping us from having peace, and let’s get rid of it. It’s time to toss it! And when we do, we will find a renewed sense of peace and calm as we reorganize and make room for the new, good things God wants to store up in us.

Missing Something?

Ever had something missing in your life? When something important is missing in our lives, it’s like it becomes the sole focus, taking up all our extra attention, energy and time trying to find that last piece which we think will complete us. When you’re depressed, it takes everything you’ve got to try to find the missing joy. When you’re stressed about a situation you’re facing, it takes almost all your energy to try find peace. Missing pieces can drive you crazy trying to find them.

The boys and I have this 1,000-piece puzzle featuring a photo of a New Orleans Saints football game in the Superdome. It’s ridiculous. I’m not even sure we have found all the edge pieces inside the box yet. We work on it for awhile, and we set it aside because something is missing that we just can’t find. But I guarantee you that when we get down to the last few pieces, we won’t be stopping till we complete it. We won’t leave that last missing piece out.

The truth is, that’s the way God is when it comes to the missing pieces of our lives. Jesus illustrated how focused God is on what’s missing in the three stories He told in Luke chapter 15. It’s one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture… mostly because it reminds me that God goes looking for what is lost and doesn’t stop till He finds it.

We all have something missing in our lives from time to time. People came to Jesus regularly with what was missing in them. Some of them were missing health. Some of them were missing a second chance. Some of them were missing friends. Some of them were missing finances to pay their bills. Some were missing answers to tough questions. In reality, what they were missing was Jesus… because He could provide whatever they thought they were missing. So they came to Him to get His help in finding the missing pieces.

What’s missing in your life today? Are you out of work and missing a job that you would love? Are you suffering from illness and missing healing? Are you down to the bottom of your financial barrel and missing money in the bank? Are you lonely and missing true, authentic friends? Are you struggling with deep issues of life and missing genuine understanding and solutions?

Whatever you’re missing today, God cares deeply about it. He cares deeply about you! He cares so much that is willing to go to great lengths to find what’s missing in your life and fill that void. So if you’re missing direction, wisdom, love, provision, or anything else… bring your emptiness to Him and He will find your missing pieces!

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!

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Yesterday, Alex turned 10… We have a kid in double digits, what?! On top of that, I ate too much cake. How could I not? Like the climber who climbed the mountain, I ate it because it was there. And because I LOVE food!

Our seven year-old, Austin, is the opposite equal of me when it comes to food. He eats to live… I live to eat. I like to think about what I’ll snack on and what I’ll have for lunch while I’m eating breakfast. Meeting someone… How can we work food into this? Celebrating something… What kind of food will make the celebration better? Road trip… What kind of snacks will I take, and where will I stop to get something for a meal?

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted… I think I control it pretty well. Of course I love sweets and crunchy snacks, but most of the time, I am just as happy to eat PR31’s roast, carrots and potatoes… or a plate of sliced bananas and berries with little honey drizzled over them. Okay, I may have to take a break while writing this blog.

Of course, if I eat something, then I get thirsty. And my beverage of choice is strong, black coffee throughout most of the day. Except when I’m hot and tired from exercising or working in the yard… or when I have something salty to eat. Then I crave water. Cold, clean, refreshing H2O, baby. Nothing else quenches thirst like water.

Hunger and thirst are cravings which are part of our existence as humans. They some of our deepest, most basic needs. Give me food and water, my life is a lot happier.

But there are desires in each of our hearts which long to be satisfied. They are much deeper than what job we will do or even who we will marry. They even surpass my… I mean, our… cravings for food and water.

We all long to belong. We crave to be loved. We deeply desire to be wanted. We each need to know we have purpose and meaning.

Too often, we try to satiate these deep longings with surface supplies. We feel our heart rumble for love, and we turn to a human. We feel parched in our soul to belong, and we join a club.

Yet these deep-seated desires and cravings can only truly be fulfilled by One Person. In Psalm 145:16, we read that when God opens His hand, He satisfies the cravings and longings and desires which reach out from deep within us to find fulfillment.

Stop and ask yourself right now… What is it that I really long for? I’ll hazard a guess that… if you’re truly honest with yourself and God… it’s much deeper than the simple requests we make of Him for finances or fiancĂ©es. And if we will ask Him to see those cravings, He will open His hand to satisfy them. And when we get real with Him about those longings, He never lets us down.

So, whether you choose watermelon or apple pie as we head into this midsummer celebration of our freedom here in the good ol’ US of A over the next week, let each scrumptious bite remind you that there is One who is ready to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of your heart. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Now, maybe Austin has left something I can snack on…

Moments That Matter

I still remember nearly 23 years later the pastors at the church where I had just come to be the youth pastor in Oklahoma driving almost nine hours to attend our wedding in Louisiana. They didn’t have to, and I’ve never forgotten it.

I still remember a decade later how the Griffins and so many others worked together to bring our family food at the hospital every day during the 41 days while my Dad was in for a liver and kidney transplant. They didn’t have to, but I’ve never forgotten.

These were moments that mattered.

Over the past 48 hours, I had the opportunity to make time for moments that really mattered. A dear friend and mentor had a critical health issue that landed him in the emergency room, and I was able to get down to the hospital to check on him and his family before he had to be transported to another hospital. Then yesterday, I was able to attend the funeral for the father of another friend on my way to speak at a church.

I could have passed on both opportunities. Neither was really convenient. They took some resolve and rearranging on my part. And I don’t always get these decisions right.

But the people for whom I made time each commented how much it meant that I had made the time and effort to be with them. And in those moments, I knew I had chosen well how to use my time.

Truth be told, I’m not really good in either of those settings. Often, I’m a little awkward. Ok, I’m probably more than a little awkward sometimes. Even though I’ve been in vocational ministry for more than 2 decades, I still sometimes fumble with what to say that would be helpful and appropriate. But here’s what is interesting… no one ever complains or even mentions my faux pas.

That’s because the power is in our presence, not our presentation. They never care that I should have fixed my hair instead of wearing a ball cap. They overlook me saying, “I could’ve died” when trying to cheer them up with a funny story at a funeral. And it’s because the fact that I showed up to be with them was way more important than the words I said or the clothes I wore, all was okay. That fact that the moment mattered to me was bigger than anything else.

Simple, huh? Just show up. Just be there. Just value them and their feelings. Just put yourself in their shoes.

Let’s do our best to make the moments that matter most matter to us!

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