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!

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 Hassle Guarantee

As I was talking with the Lord a couple of days ago, I thanked Him for “putting up with me” because I don’t always get everything right. No matter how hard I try, I am not perfect. I miss an opportunity He gives me. I don’t have an attitude like His. Or maybe I’m more self-absorbed than I should be. But whatever the case, I get that I don’t always live up to who He is and what He has done for me. So, I simply thanked Him for putting up with me.

That’s when He stopped me. He said that He doesn’t “put up with me.” He said instead that I am His child, whom He loves and desires to bless.

It took me a minute to wrap my mind around that. How could He love me and want to bless me when I don’t always get everything right. Then I began to think about my boys and how I feel toward them as their daddy. They are never a hassle to me. They are not people I “put up with.” They are my pride and joy. I love them like crazy. No, they’re not always perfect. Sure, sometimes they don’t act the way I wish they would. But that doesn’t change my love for them… nor my desire to bless them and help them.

And in that moment, the fog cleared away for me. God isn’t mad at me when I’m less than perfect. He doesn’t view me as a hassle. He doesn’t feel like I’m someone He simply has to “put up with.” No, He loves me deeply and wants to bless me anyway.

And He feels the same way about you. He offers you His “no hassle guarantee” today. You can be sure that you never have to feel like God is putting up with you. He loves you just as deeply, and He wants to bless you just as much.

So, today, let Him lift your chin. Admit that you’ve blown it and move forward, but don’t hang your head in shame. Don’t doubt His extravagant love for you. Don’t believe He wants to withhold His blessings. No, He wants you to know that you will never be a hassle to Him. You are His pride and joy! Live like it today, and watch Him smile!

P. S.- I am so excited to share this as my 500th post!!! Thanks to all of you who read my musings on life.

You Know Who You Are

Someone reading this right now needs to know this, and you know who you are…

We recently stopped by unannounced to drop something off at a friend’s house. We didn’t know whether they were home or not, but we decided to stop by anyway. We rang the doorbell. No open door. We knocked. No open door. We were beginning to think our friend wasn’t home when we saw the doorknob begin to turn and heard the tumblers activate. At that moment, we knew the door was about to open to us… even though it had not opened yet.

If you’ve been waiting on the Lord to open a door for you, and it hasn’t happened yet, just know that it is opening soon. It may not have swung wide open yet, making it possible for you to walk through, but it is indeed already opening. The knob is turning. The tumblers are activated.

I know it may feel like it is taking awhile, but Isaiah 22:22 lets us know that the Lord is in charge of opening doors. It will stay shut till He says it’s time to be opened, and we cannot force it open. But once He says it’s time for it to be open, no one can keep it shut to you.

Hang in there. Keep your eye on the knob and your ear open for the tumblers. The door is about to open soon!

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!

The Why’s Man of Christmas

And the winner of this year’s Christmas song of my heart is… drum roll, please…

Such A Strange Way To Save The World!

It comes at the Christmas account from the vantage point of Joseph, and it hits at the heart of how confusing all the stuff God was doing in his life seemed to be at the time. Joseph had to be full of why’s. And the chorus of the song reflects what some of them might have been. Check these out and see if you can relate…

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade
Why Him with all the rulers in the world
Why here inside this stable filled with hay
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl
Now I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange way to save the World

As I listened to that song weeks or maybe months ago for the first time this Christmas season, it resonated in my heart. I have my own list of why’s. The season of life I’m in right now brings with it a fair share of them.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening. God certainly spoke to Joseph. It’s not that Joseph wouldn’t obey God. Indeed he did every time the Lord directed him to do something. It’s just that Joseph was caught off-guard and confused by how God was working. So he had some why’s.

You probably know what that’s like, too…

– Why did your loved one pass away?

– Why did that relationship not work out?

– Why didn’t you get that job?

– Why haven’t you been able to fulfill your dream yet?

Listen, don’t give up on God. I know He may not be doing things the way you’d want or the way you think He should, but you can trust Him. Stay close to Him. Ask all the why’s you want. Then listen, and obey, as He answers and directs.

Joseph ended up fulfilling prophecies, protecting the life of the Savior, raising Him to be a godly man who knew Scripture and treated people with respect. Joseph played an incredible role in the life of the only begotten Son of God. Joseph influenced the man side of Jesus in a powerful way. Sure, he had his why’s, but his why’s didn’t stop him from listening and obeying.

And here’s the rest of the story… Your why’s won’t keep God from working powerfully in you, through you and for you. You too can be a why’s man- or woman- and still make a huge difference in this world.

So, if you’re going through a challenging season in life right now and you have a lot of why’s, put this song on repeat, and let it reassure you that it’s all going to work out.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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.

The Golden Seams

I was talking with my sister on the phone last night, and she reminded me of the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi. It is the technique of repairing broken pottery with gold or other precious metals. The result is an artistically beautiful piece which looks as if it were designed that way on purpose. The concept is that those things which damage us in life are not to be hidden, nor are we to be discarded when we can be repaired. And so the artist uses something of great value to accent the brokenness to make it beautiful.

That’s exactly what God will do with our broken lives when we give that brokenness to Him. God can make the most out of our mess… if we will let Him. Jesus said that one of the major components of His mission on earth was to “bind up the broken-hearted.” That is, He came to put back together that which had been broken. And when He puts it back together, He makes it beautiful.

I think Bill and Gloria Gaithersburg had it right with these lyrics…

Something beautiful

Something good

All my confusion

He understood

All I had to offer Him

Was brokenness and strife

But He made something beautiful

Out of my life

If you’re life seems broken into pieces today, give it to the one Artist who can add value to it as He puts all the pieces back together, and Who can turn that life into art which will amaze the world with the golden seams!

Convinced

In the summer of 1978, just a few months before my eighth birthday, our family moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Pasadena, TX. Just before we moved, a man in our church named Paul asked me if I was excited about moving to Texas. I told him I was, and he told me he hoped I enjoyed beans because everyone in Texas were cowboys who rode horses and ate beans for every meal. So you can imagine my surprise when we arrived in the industrial suburb of Houston and only two men in our church wore cowboy hats, there were cars everywhere but no horses, and I only ate beans when we went to the Mexican restaurant.

Now, to be fair, Paul was just razzing me. He didn’t realize I was completely convinced that what he said was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God. And I’ll admit, I was slightly disillusioned when I discovered we wouldn’t all ride horses everywhere we went. (Mom and Dad would occasionally make up for it by letting me ride the mechanical horse outside of K-Mart.) On the other hand, I was quite pleased to find that we didn’t have to eat beans at every meal.

All Paul’s joking aside, what we are convinced of affects the way we live. If you are convinced it is cold outside, you will probably dress in warmer clothes. If you are convinced you will like the movie you are going to see Friday night, you’ll probably have a greater sense of anticipation and go ready to enjoy it.

The same is true when it comes to what we are convinced of about ourselves and others. Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” In other words, what we are convinced of plays a huge role in how we go at life.

While Paul in Minnesota tried to convince me about life in Texas being all cowboys and beans, Paul the Apostle in prison for preaching about Jesus told his apprentice, Timothy, that he was convinced God is able. Able to do what? Able to work miracles… able to right wrongs… able to give him strength to face his challenges… able.

What are you convinced of about God today? Are you convinced He’s able? Do you believe He’s able to forgive your crimes against Him? Are you convinced He’s able to take away that cancer? Are you convinced He’s able to provide more money than you have month? Are you convinced He’s able to restore that relationship which seems beyond repair? Are you convinced He’s able to set you completely and permanently free from that addiction? Are you convinced He’s able to help you succeed at your work… accomplish your goals… fulfill your dreams?

What we are convinced of, we will expect. I am convinced that God is not only good, loving, and generous, but I am also convinced that He is able. He has all authority and ability. And because He is able, I can come to Him with great expectations.

This is not someone joking about cowboys and beans we’re talking about. This is so much more. You can count on God. Be convinced today… you won’t be disappointed!