Believe In Tomorrow

Our friends who live in the north may have a difficult time believing this, but it is almost time for me to get out the tiller and turn over the ground in our garden patch in order to begin getting it ready for planting. I’ll have to till it up two or three times, weeding and leveling before we make rows and plant seeds and seedlings. But those seeds have to be in the ground by Good Friday around here, or there won’t be much to pick this summer:

I read this quote from Audrey Hepburn recently which caught my attention because I’ve got gardening in the back of my mind. She said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” That, my friends, is truth. We almost didn’t plant a garden last year because we weren’t sure if we would still be living here, but we went ahead and did all the work for the garden, whether for ourselves or someone else. I’m sure glad we did because we enjoyed a lot of veggies out of that garden all the way up into fall.

So, I’m planning to plant a garden in the back yard again this year. Do I know that we will be living here in the same place “tomorrow?” No, I do not. But someone will be living here. And someone will be glad we did the work to plant that garden.

You see, doing all the prep work and then planting a garden is an act of faith. It is believing there is going to be a tomorrow to go out and harvest what we’ve planted. It is an act of hope… trust… faith. It is believing that all the effort will have been worth it. It is believing there will be a pay-off or return for our investment.

The same is true in life. When we make the investment in time and effort and energy today, we say to ourselves and those around us, “I believe there is going to be a good tomorrow. I’m planning for it. I’m preparing for it. I’m looking forward to it.” That’s faith.

So, whatever you’re facing today, plant a garden… that is, believe in tomorrow. Don’t give up. Don’t avoid the prep work because it seems early… or looks daunting… or because you think you may not be the one to enjoy it. Getting ready says you believe there is a good future to look forward to. And there is! God has good things in store for those who love Him and follow Him. So, get your work gloves out, grab some tools, and let’s get that garden planted!

You Are Making A Difference

The picture above was taken the day AFTER Alex, Austin and I had mulched all the leaves in the yard with the riding mower and blown all the leftover debris off the driveway. Yes, you read it right… the day after. We must have billions of leaves on our property.

I woke up the mowing after we had made the yard look so great to see this view. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. We wasted all our time yesterday. It looks like we didn’t do anything at all.”

But I knew better. There have been times in the past when I had the mentality of just letting all the leaves finish falling, and then trying to mulch them all. Fun story, I caught a riding mower on fire one time doing that. I had let so many leaves build up that they got caught up under the engine and ignited.

Lesson learned. Mulch anyway. Sure, the yard may only look clean for one afternoon. Sure, you may have to do it all again in a couple of days. Mulch anyway. It makes a difference. Once the leaves get soaked by a rain or build up too much, the job is incredibly difficult and takes much longer.

You know what else is crazy? Sometimes we each look at our lives and feel like I felt looking at that yard covered once more by leaves. If we’re not careful, we can begin to think that what we are doing to help others, bless others, serve others is not making a difference. Yet, it is. If we didn’t do what we had done yesterday, people’s situations would be even more difficult today.

You are making a difference in the lives of those around you. You’re making a difference at work, at church, at school, in your community. So, there are new problems today. There would be double the problems if you didn’t do what you do.

Paul told the believers in the church at Galatia not to get tired of doing because eventually they would see that their efforts were making a difference… people’s lives were being impacted.

The same is true for you. Don’t give up on doing good for others because it looks like you’re not making a dent in the problem. One day, you’ll be glad you did what you did.

As for me, I’ve got more leaves to mulch…

The Space Between The Bookends

With the upcoming release of my next book imminent within the next few weeks- as the Lord’s helps- I thought back to a time about a year and a half ago when I came home from a trip speaking somewhere to find a gift Angela had waiting for me. I pulled the tissue paper from the gift bag, peered inside, and pulled out the two dark, wooden L-shaped objects. She explained, “They’re bookends… for the books you will write and publish.”

We had heard that we should keep something in front of us to remind us of the dreams we are working toward, and she knew that I had hit a point in the process where I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get finished. So, she made me those two simple bookends to remind me that one day my books would sit between them.

A day before my birthday several months later, my author copy of my first book arrived, and- after flipping through it, taking some pictures, and basking in the glow of the completed project- I had a spiritual moment as I placed the completed dream in the space between the bookends.

At first, I kept the bookends tight up against either side of that first book, but then something happened. I remembered that I have other books in my heart. As I began to write what I thought would be my second book, I looked at the first book sitting in the space between the bookends and realized that I needed to scoot them apart to make room for more of the books I plan to write.

Interestingly, I hit writer’s block on that book, and moved on to the next book when I couldn’t seem to break through. All along, I stared at the space between the bookends, and I determined that I would fill it.

It took me a little longer than I had originally planned. I wanted to release the book this weekend. I have faced challenges and setbacks, but throughout the entire process, there has been that space between the bookends- no longer completely empty- which reminded me to stay at it so that my dream of filling it would actually become reality.

One day a decade from now, I plan to have at least ten books I have written sitting in what used to be an empty space between the bookends. And here’s what I know… God has given me the dream and desire to write, the ideas for the books, the mind to conceptualize thoughts, the resources I need to capture those thoughts in print, and the team I need to make each book its best.

But I have to do my part if I am going to honor Him and His blessings by writing those books. I have to actually sit at the desk and put my fingers on the keyboard. I have to do the work of writing if I am going to fill the space between the bookends.

I give thanks to God for helping me complete this most recent book. It makes the broader dream of being an author more of a reality. I give thanks to those who have helped me make my writing better. I give thanks to Angela for showing me the space between the bookends.

I don’t know what you’re dream is, but I hope you have some visual to help keep it in front of you. I hope you have someone cheering you on. (I believe in you, in case no one has told you that.) And I hope that you will take that with which God has blessed you, put it together with your hard work, and see your dream become reality!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

The Best Words

I once worked for a leader who was quite the wordsmith. He was not nearly as loquacious as me. He was simply very attentive to learning new words and using them effectively in conversation and public speaking. He had one of those “word-of-the-day” calendars on his desk, and he would often regale us with the words he had learned that day. It seemed he always knew the right thing to say in every situation, and always had the apropos word to make what he was saying clearer, or more powerful, or more heartwarming. With my own love for an expansive vocabulary, I have always been amazed and mesmerized by his command of our language. I suppose I’d like to be like him when I grow up.

Apparently, he was familiar with the words of Solomon found in the tenth chapter of Proverbs. Solomon paints a picture in those powerfully pithy statements of how godly people speak. He writes of the words they choose to use. In fact, he lists five types of words they choose to use:

1) Life-giving words – verse 11

2) High-quality words – verse 20

3) Encouraging words – verse 21

4) Wise – verse 31

5) Helpful – verse 32

I’d say that is a pretty good selection of words. Anyone who speaks that way is certain to be loved and appreciated. Someone who chooses their verbiage based on that list would most certainly sound more like God, and would make me want to listen.

What’s interesting is that Solomon doesn’t say that we need to know a lot of fancy words. He doesn’t say our words need to sound impressive the members of MENSA. He simply points out the kinds of words any of us can use in our everyday lives to reflect God’s character… and benefit others.

So, while I hope to learn some new words on a regular basis, I’m going to be sure to make my higher goal to elevate my speech to level Solomon outlines in Proverbs 10.

If each of us reading this today will make an effort to use these kinds of words on a daily basis, I believe and declare that we will soon see a difference in how people respond to us. In fact, they just might want to hear what we have to say.

Weed As You Go

So last week I pulled up the remains of our early summer garden… along with a ton of weeds which had grown in amongst the plants. I’d like to tell you that I was being spiritual and doing like Jesus mentioned in a parable where the master told the workers to just let the weeds grow with the plants, and they would separate them at the harvest… but that’s just not true. It was hot, and I plain ol’ got tired of pulling weeds each day.

The garden had started out so beautifully. I had tilled and re-tilled. We had pulled out grass and weeds. We made wide paths and nice hills. It looked so great. And as the plants grew initially, I was so keen to make sure we kept the weeds out.

But then it got crazy hot, and it got easier each day to just let this little weed or that little weed go till the next day. Only it was still hot the next day. Plus, we were getting veggies from our plants. So who cared if there were a few weeds?

I’ll tell you who… this guy… last week when I began to clean out the garden for our late summer & early fall planting. There were so many weeds! I worked for hours till my shoulders and neck and back and knees ached. I sweated my clothes through. I couldn’t even finish. I will still have to go back with the tiller to get some of the more densely weeded areas. It will still be hot. And it won’t be any easier. In fact, it will be harder.

In much the same way, we can let little things go unchecked in our lives over time. A bad habit… a poor attitude… not keeping spending in check. If we would just deal with those little things as we go, one here or there, it wouldn’t be that tough at all. Sure, it may not be fun at the moment, but it will certainly be easier than a major overhaul if we let things build up and multiply.

So, stop today and do a little weeding. What negative thing do you need to pull up & toss out of your life? Don’t put it off. It will still be hot later. You’ll sweat less if you just tackle it now.

Weed now, or weed later. It’s your choice. I say we just weed as we go. You’ll be glad you did later!

Unknown Paths

I have a friend who has worked for a major U.S. corporation for a number of years, and several months ago the company announced that they were moving his entire division to another country. All the jobs would be given to people from that country, and everyone working in that division would be let go before the end of this year. However, there would be three transitional jobs which would last for about a year and a half to help wrap everything up for the move which people working for the company could apply for. So, my friend applied for the three jobs… along with about a hundred other employees.

The company had said they would be meeting with people by the end of this month to let them know if they still had a job, and yesterday was my friend’s meeting. We, and plenty of others, had prayed that God would give him favor and bless him with one of these jobs. Going into that meeting, he had a 3% chance of getting one of those jobs.

But he didn’t get one of those transitional jobs. When he went into the meeting, the three people across the table from him began talking to him about work that he wasn’t exactly familiar with. It sounded like they were talking as if he already had the job. Finally, they said something, and he asked what they meant. They then told him that the company didn’t want to lose him, and so they were transferring him to another division… an up and coming division with great promise. On top of that, his pay would remain the same and he would retain his benefits. And instead of the job being a transitional, year and a half job, this would be a job with their typical four-year contract. Interestingly, my friend only needed to work three and a half more years to lock in healthcare for he and his wife in their retirement years.

In case you think you misread this story, you didn’t. God gave my friend a job he never applied for, lost no pay and kept all the benefits. God took his 3% chance, added 97% plus to it and did something for him that he didn’t even know to ask for.

When I think about that, I think about how Psalm 77:19 reflects on how God parted the Red Sea to give the Israelis a way of escape from the pursuing Egyptians who wanted to take them back into slavery. The water parted and stood up like two walls creating a completely dry path for them to cross through. The Psalm writer calls it, “… a path no one knew was there.”

Maybe you’re facing a situation today that seems impossible. Maybe you only have a 3% chance of success. Maybe no one gives you any hope. Listen, God has ways to answer your prayer that you haven’t even thought to ask Him about. He has paths no one knows are there. He has medical treatments or healing you didn’t know existed. He has people who will cut you a check and put it in the mail who didn’t even know you needed finances. He has the right person waiting to meet you who will be the connection you needed.

The verse of Scripture our boys are memorizing this week says that some things are an impossibility for us as humans, but with God all things are possible. Even getting a job you didn’t apply for.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in to fear and doubt. Instead, today give your situation to God, and trust Him to come through for you… even if He needs to make a path no one knew was there!

How To Absolutely Know The Will of God

I have worked with teenagers and young adults for more than 2 decades now. One topic of interest always pops up for those who are Christ-followers… the will of God. I admit, I’ve had my fair share of trying to figure out what God wants me to do… when He wants me to do it… where I need to be doing it… etc., etc., etc. Sometimes, the harder I try to figure out His plan, the more confused I seem to get.

I know God has recorded every moment of every day of my life in a book (Psalm 139). I know His plans for me are good, plans that will prosper me and not harm me, that will give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29). And I even know that He orders/directs/determines my steps (Proverbs 16). So because I want to please and honor Him, I want to be in His will.

Over the years, knowing His will has been difficult at times, but just last week, something hit me between the eyes that I should have seen and known and understood long ago…

The key to always being in the will of God… to always being where He wants you to be, when He wants you to be there… is to walk WITH Him. The disciples were always in the will of God when they walked with Jesus and did what He told them to do, when He told them to do it, where He told them to do it, etc.

And if we will just make our effort that of making sure we are walking with Him, we will be right where we ought to be, doing what we ought to be doing. So, while I may not know where He is taking me on this journey, I do know how to stay with Him. And that is exactly what I intend on doing.

If you’re struggling to know His will for you, why don’t you join us on the journey? He’s calling out to you to come and follow Him today, too!

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