Figuring It All Out

When our boys… who are now nine & seven… know we are going on vacation, they try to figure out all the details of the trip. They want to know how long it will take to get there… when we will leave… which route we are taking… if we are going to stop at places we have stopped before… where and what we will eat… where we will stay… who will sleep where… how many times they will get to do the things they want to do… what kind of clothes they will need… what will happen if the weather messes up our plans… how they will pay for souvenirs… when we will leave to come home… etc… etc… etc.

They want to figure it all out. Sometimes we tell them that we have all of the details taken care of… or will have them taken care of in time for the trip to be successful. And yet this doesn’t always satisfy them. They still want to figure it all out. Even though we try to assure them that we know what we’re doing and that we will take care of all the details, they still want to go over everything with us. They want all the details. We just want them to relax, look forward to the trip, enjoy the journey and have fun.

Funny thing is… as amazing and smart and resourceful as our boys are… I don’t think they could plan out our vacation. They might be able to Google a few things if we got them started, but they don’t know how to route travel… book a place to stay… buy enough food for meals or find out which restaurants will be nearby… secure tickets for activities… fill the vehicle with fuel… or any of the other myriad details it takes to pull off a vacation trip. They would do better to let us handle the details, and accept things as they come.

It is so crystal clear to me as an earthly dad that I will work out the details in a way that is best and that will bless my kids, and yet I sometimes treat my Heavenly Father the same way my boys treat me. I expect Him to give me all the details before I even get to the point in life when I would need to know them. I try to figure it all out instead of trusting Him fully. I keep asking Him about the same details over and over, even as He reassures me that He has it all under control.

Interestingly, Jesus spoke to this very issue when He said that we don’t need to worry about tomorrow… that our Heavenly Father knows what we need… that He cares about flowers and birds, so He will definitely take care of all the details in our lives. In fact, Jesus said that we can’t add an inch to our height or a moment to our lives by trying to figure it all out on our own.

My encouragement to you… and my reminder to myself… today is simply this… relax, look forward to those good things God has in store for you, enjoy the journey and have fun. Let’s quit trying to figure out how God is going to get us from where we are to where need to be… you know, where He says we need to be and not just where we think we need to be. He’s got this! It’s going to be great! And all our trying figure it out isn’t going to help a lick. Let’s stop estimating, calculating and speculating… and let’s just let God take care of ALL the details. If we will, it will make the trip a lot more enjoyable.

There… that’s better. Now, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy today!

Restored

We all wear down over time.  God showed us how to take a break and come back strong.  It happens when we sleep each night. Our bodies rejuvenate.  It happens when we take a day off each week.  We all need a hard reset every once in awhile.

And I love that David says in Psalm 23:3 that the Lord “restores my soul.”  Our soul is our mind, will and emotions.  My thoughts and feelings definitely need to be restored sometimes.

The cool thing to me is that when you break the word “restore” down, you get two words:

1) Rest.  When we rest and the the Lord restores our souls, He gives our brain and our hearts a break from their normal stress and strain of life. And who doesn’t need that occasionally?

Ever had a business meeting… or a toddler… that made your brain feel like mush by the end of the day?  Rest helps your mind reset and be ready to go again.

Rest is essential to being restored.  Restoration can’t take place unless you take a break.  You can’t restore an old car or an old building without shutting them down and taking them out of commission for awhile.  The same is true of us.  We have to stop and rest to be fully restored.

2) Ore.  Honestly, this is the one that excites me because I didn’t see it at first.  When God takes us through a season of restoration, He mines out the good stuff which has been deposited in us, but has been hidden by other junk over time.

We have gems… jewels… precious metal… thoughts, and beliefs, and feelings, and ideas, and dreams which we would never really realize are there if it wasn’t that He mines them out of us during times of restoration.

I wonder how many of us miss out on extra strength of mind, will and emotions because we will not rest.  And I wonder how many dreams, ideas and feelings we never discover because we will not be still long enough for them to be uncovered by all the clutter of life?

I’m in a season of life right now that has offered me extra rest and extra mining of ores in me.  And I love how He restores.  Let me encourage you to get a good night’s sleep most nights… take one 24-hour period off most weeks… take a vacation most years… and take an extended break most decades… all for the purpose of restoration.

A Little Something Extra

I don’t know the young man or young woman’s name who took our order at the counter of the McDonald’s on the main strip in Gatlinburg, TN that evening, but I remember the feeling I had walking out of the building and showing PR31 the tallest ice cream cone I had ever received for a buck at any McDonald’s.

We were on vacation, and we were splurging for a little treat on a cool October evening. We had walked up and down the strip, enjoying a leisurely time together.  We didn’t have to get an ice cream cone.  It was just a little something extra to top the night off. And it ended up making our vacation memorable.  In fact, it started a little tradition of visiting that McDonald’s on any of our trips to Gatlinburg.

I had no idea that I would walk out of that restaurant with ice cream so tall I thought it might topple off the cone if I tilted it too far one way or the other.  That was something the folks in South Louisiana refer to as “lagniappe” (pronounced lan-yap).  It means, “a little something extra.”  That’s what that person did for us that night… a little something extra.  It was kindness.

Kindness is when we do a little something extra for someone… whether they deserve it or not… whether they’ve earned it or not… whether they’ve asked for it or not… whether they paid for it or not.  It is an attitude of generosity which goes far beyond money or goods.  Sometimes it’s helping out before we’re asked. Sometimes it is paying a compliment to someone who looks to be having a tough day but is doing a good job.

In the Old Testament, King David asked one day if there was anyone from Saul’s family to whom he could show kindness.  Saul was his predecessor… and the guy who had tried to hunt him down in order to kill him.  And yet David made a choice to be kind to Saul’s family because of his friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan, and because he wanted to have a right attitude.  It’s not that being kind was common.  In fact, it wasn’t in that day an time. Most kings wiped out any relatives of their predecessors.  So what David did was rare.

Sound familiar?  We live in a world where kindness is often a rarity.  Some people think it’s antiquated. But I’ve never met a person who didn’t appreciate it.  Everyone needs that little something extra… kindness.

So today, let’s tip that waitress a little more than we have to.  Let’s take some cookies to a friend or neighbor.  Let’s send someone a text just to let them know we think they’re amazing.  Let’s spiral the ice cream a little taller on the cone than is expected.  You never know… You just might make someone’s day in a way they’ll never forget.

Because I Just Know

Our family LOVES going to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO!  It so fits our family-friendly, Christian-values idea of fun.  And there is so much for the boys to do.

One of their favorite areas is Half Dollar Holler.  And one of their favorite things to do there is climb through and jump around in the suspended netting of the “treehouse.”  At least, it’s one of their favorite things now.

It wasn’t always Austin’s favorite.

Last night, we sat around watching “old” home videos (from three or four years ago) with the boys.  Captured on video was Austin trying to enjoy the treehouse but with great trepidation.  It was obvious that he was unsure of the safety of that netting suspended ten feet above solid earth.

As we watched, Austin told us that he used to be afraid of the bouncing treehouse at Silver Dollar City because he was afraid he would fall, but that he’s not now.  Sure enough, were you to watch more recent videos or travel with us to SDC, you’d find him tearing through there with no hesitation whatsoever.

I asked Him if he reason that he’s not afraid anymore is because he knows if it will hold me up, it will hold him up. (I mean, I might weigh a little more than he does. Wink, wink.)  I must admit that I was a little shocked when he replied, “No, it’s because I’ve been on it enough times now that I know it will won’t let me down.”

Tested, tried, true.

Reliable, dependable, trustworthy.

Because it has never let him down before, he has unwavering faith that it will never let him down in the future.  And with that, I sat back in my seat, having been schooled in faith by my six-year old.

In Deuteronomy 31:8, Moses… the guy who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and all the way to the edge of the land promised to the Israelites by God… looks Joshua… his successor who will actually lead those people into conquest of their homeland… in the eyes and tells him, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Never.  It just won’t happen. God won’t let you down.  He is incapable of failing you. And He chooses to never abandon or give up on you.  He will go ahead of you and clear the path.  Then He will be right beside you every step of the way.

We can trust God because He has never let us down.  In fact, He has never let anyone down.  So unlike those investment commercials on the radio, His past results are indicative of His future performance.

This means you and I can relax and enjoy the ride now.  We don’t have to stress.  We don’t have to panic.  We can romp through life full of joy and hope and peace, knowing that He will neither fail us nor abandon us.

If you’re battling a lengthy illness, He won’t let you down.  If you’re dealing with a difficult divorce, He won’t let you down.  If you’re having trouble passing that class at school, He won’t let you down.  If the bills are stacking up higher than the paychecks, He won’t let you down.

So go ahead… climb the steep ramp of the treehouse of life… crawl into the netted area… and jump with confidence alongside Austin… because it hasn’t let him down before and it isn’t going to let him down this time either.

Neither will God.

Need Some Light?

PR31 and I LOVE the Smoky Mountains.  I don’t think I can overstate how much we enjoy it there. We would probably live there if we could. So, needless to say, we vacation there as often as possible.

Years ago… like B.C…. you know, before children… we had rented a house in Pigeon Forge for a week.  It was just the two of us that trip and so we had the whole house to ourselves.

One night, I got up in the middle of the night to make a visit to the facilities (aka, bathroom).  And since I didn’t want to wake PR31… because that’s how sweet a husband we all know I am, ha… I decided to navigate the trip through two doorways and back completely in the dark. I was successfully halfway through the adventure, feeling more relieved and incredibly sleepy, but as I turned to go out the bathroom door and took a step, my whole world suddenly came crashing to the floor.

My foot lost its footing… I stumbled… my shin hit something solid… Losing my balance as my body lurched forward, my face slammed into something metal and my nose exploded in pain… This was followed by my face sliding down a wall of some type… ending with me in a heap on the floor… growing… and feeling a little damp.

I was dazed and confused. I couldn’t figure out where I was or what had happened.

Till the light came on.  Angela said she heard a loud thud on the wall behind the headboard and then me groaning. It startled her, and so she came to see what had happened. It was only when she brought light to the situation that we discovered what had transpired.

In my semi-comatose state, I forgot that we were on vacation… in a different house and turned to the leave the bathroom where our door was in our house.  The only problem is that where the door was in our house was where the shower stall was in this vacation rental. I had stepped on the ledge at the base, lost my balance, hit my shin on the base, slammed my nose into the hot or cold knob, slid down the fiberglass wall and landed in a pile at the still damp floor of the shower.

PR31 laughed as she helped me up out of the shower and back to bed. I did not laugh at the time… but it’s hilarious now.

The truth is… I just needed light. Even a small nightlight would have done the trick.  Light would have pointed out where I was and where I needed to go.  (In fact, if I recall correctly, we bought a nightlight to put in that bathroom for the rest of the vacation.)

We all walk into some dark spots in life.  We’re not really sure where we are or how to get where we need to go.  In the dark, we get turned around and confused.  We cling to what we have known, but that may not be where we are at the moment.

We need light.  We need someone outside of ourselves who can bring light to the situation so that we don’t stumble… and fall… and hurt ourselves anymore.  We need God.

I love what the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 42:16…

“I will lead My blind people by roads they have never traveled. I will turn their darkness into light and make rough country smooth before them. These are my promises, and I will keep them without fail.” (GNT)

God wants to shine the light in your dark places today and make rough country smooth before you.  He’s promised to do it… and He always keeps His promises!

More Than A Few Pointers

I used to be horribly directionally challenged.  For example, I once took over driving responsibilities on a vacation trip after stopping along the way to grab a bite to eat.  We got back in the vehicle… I in the driver’s seat and my father-in-law (aka, the person who actually knew how to get where we were going)… and we headed out.

He leaned back and took a nap, and I drove like the wind… in the wrong direction! (It was pre-GPS days, people. Give me a break.)  When he woke up… thirty minutes later… he sat up, looked around and mentioned that something didn’t look right.  He had made that trip numerous times and could tell all was not as it should be. When he asked me which way I turned as we headed out and I told him, we all realized what had happened… I went the wrong way because I was not familiar with the journey.

That little mishap cost us an extra hour of drive time and a little extra fuel on a vacation trip. But not knowing which path to take on the journey of life… well, that mis-step could cost us dearly.  It’s why I’m so glad the writer of the 23rd Psalm lets us know that the Good Shepherd (aka, God… the one who knows which direction we need to go every time) not only provides for us, but He also points us in the right direction.

Verses 2 and 3 say that He leads us to what we most need, and He guides us along the right paths if we will just follow Him.  The song writer also writes in Psalm 37 that God even directs our steps… those smaller parts of the bigger journey.

If you need guidance and direction in your life today, commit to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He won’t steer you wrong.  He won’t even take a nap along the way.