Weeds and Seeds

The Old Farmer’s Almanac email that PR31 received last week said it’s time to start planting veggies outside where we live. Now some would consider us “Coca-Cola Cowboy” type country folk, but we kind of feel like we’re farmers because live on four acres in a wooded… we are now raising chickens… and we have a garden plot that is about 25′ by 25′.

Now, you may think the almanac is a joke, and that there are more scientific methods, but if the almanac says it, that’s good enough for us. So, this week we got out the tiller, hoes and rakes, and we got dirty.

The ground had laid fallow since last year’s summer garden. Grass and weeds had crept in and hidden our beautiful soil. But the boys and I were determined to fix that. We did the initial tilling and pulling to get the ground turned over. Surprisingly, it was in great shape and didn’t require as much work as we expected. We will go back, pull more turned over grass and weeds out. Then we will till in some fertilizer to prep the ground. Rows will be mounded, pathways left to be able to navigate the future garden. Shortly thereafter, seeds will go in that beautiful black and brown plot. And we will wait.

That garden isn’t a whole lot different from our lives. Left alone for almost any length of time, weeds of stress… fear… doubt… and worry can creep across our hearts and minds, sucking the nutrients of joy and peace right out of us. If that has happened to you, it’s time to pull the weeds. Take some time for introspection… spend some time in God’s Word and talking with Him. See which priorities have gotten out of whack, or which disciplines have been allowed to slack. Put the guards back up. Keep a rake and hoe handy. Get a shovel if necessary. Just pull those weeds. You can’t grow the good stuff with them in the way.

Then plant seeds of faith in your heart and mind. Find some Scriptures that remind you of who God is and of all the good things He has in store for you. Find a great quote that builds you up. Write them down or print them out. Or do like we do and create a piece of home decor with them on it, then place it somewhere prominent so that you see it every day. Don’t just plant a few seeds either. Plant plenty of seeds of faith in the garden of your heart and mind. Nurture them, and soon they will grow.

As the seeds grow and spring up, the weeds may try to come back, but they will be much easier to spot and much easier to keep pulled. Soon, you will see blooming and productive plants, and memories of that weed-covered plot will fade away.

This is God’s spiritual almanac message to you today… It’s time to pull the weeds and plant the seeds!


For All My Friends Who…

It seems like I have so many friends who are struggling and battling tough situations in life right now. Some have lost a marriage… others a ministry… still others their health. Some long to see a hurt healed… some long to hold their own baby… some long for companionship. And it breaks my heart.

So for all my friends who are suffering and struggling tonight, know this…

1) You are not alone. Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is walking through this tough time with you.

2) You will win if you stick with Jesus. He said that we would have trouble in this world, but we should be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. He knows what it takes to come out on top, and He will help you do exactly that.

3) I love you… I am in your corner… and I am praying for those of you who have told me about your situations. I’m not Jesus. I know I don’t have all the answers. I know I can’t fix most of your issues. But I can be your friend. And I can encourage you. And I can let you know that, not only is Jesus with you, I am with you also. My heart aches with yours, and so I am keeping your need in front of the Lord on a regular basis.

Some of this sounds so cheesy and trite. I promise that I don’t mean for it to be that way. I mean it from my heart. And I hope you are encouraged by these reminders!

Do What You Do

I love to see someone do what they do best…

* Michael Jordan or Lebron James playing basketball.

* Drew Brees or Tom Brady playing quarterback in football.

* Duff Goldman making cakes.

* Bob Villa or Chip Gaines remodeling a house.

You know, God gave each of us special abilities to do something well. Doing that thing fills us with joy and fulfillment… and others love watching us do it because it inspires them.

In Scripture, when God wanted to manage a multi-national food crisis, he picked Joseph. When He wanted someone to lead His people out of bondage to the Promised Land, He picked Moses. When He wanted someone to protect His people, He picked David.

And when He wanted someone to build the place He would express His presence among His people, He chose Bezalel and Oholiab. Not only were they “skilled,” “expert,” and “master craftsmen,” God had also given them, “the ability to teach their skills to others.” In today’s terms, they would have had the skills and a YouTube channel to show the rest of us how to do it right.

You’re no different. God has given you abilities and skills which others watch in amazement. Don’t underestimate yourself because what you do is not what someone else does. Moses was a leader, Aaron was a priest and Joshua was a warrior, but none of them even came close to being the master craftsmen that Bezalel and Oholiab were.

So get out there, and do what you do. Wow the rest of us. And while you’re at it, why don’t you start a YouTube channel so the rest of us could learn a thing or two from you?

Messy Workshops

PR31 does an amazing job of keeping our home clean. The truth is, though, we live in it. It’s not a showroom… It’s a test track for life. It’s not a display… It’s a research and development lab where we are being mixed and tested.

Were you to walk into our kitchen… where my sweet wife basically makes every meal from scratch… you’d discover that we always have dishes to wash. Before the dishwasher gets finished washing, more are waiting to go in. Sometimes, you might find spices or olive oil sitting on the counter with the coffee maker and bread machine. The kitchen table often holds the boys’ craft projects and our Etsy store products in various stages, along with a beautiful centerpiece. Life happens there. We get stuff done there. So it’s not always spotless.

Now, lest you think I’m throwing PR31 under the bus, all you have to do is walk out the kitchen door into the garage, which holds more bicycles than it does cars, and which I have almost successfully converted into a woodworking shop. (It is not uncommon to see our minivan sitting outside the garage so that we have room to work.) No matter how frequently I sweep the floors (and walls) and pick up all the scrap pieces, there is sawdust everywhere. Even though we try to keep it neat with a crate for reclaimed wood, a small stack of lumber under an 8-foot table, more stacks of smaller, usable scrap pieces placed on the two lower levels of the workbench along with hand tools, and paint drop cloths folded in a stack, it never seems fully clean and neat. I don’t always wrap the cords up neatly at the end of every day because I know I’ll be right back out there tomorrow, working with those same tools again.

But it is a workshop. It’s not designed to show off tools. There are stores and websites for that. Instead, this is where the beauty that was once an idea becomes reality. Beautiful results can come out of messy workshops. In fact, they often do. Painters’ studios have splatters. Flower shops have clippings. Automakers’ production facilities have metal shavings and grease.

We all see the finished works… the gorgeous arrangement… the piece of art… the furniture in the showroom… the delicious-looking meal set on the table in the restaurant… the flipped house on the TV show… the sleek vehicle on the commercial… and we fail to notice the messiness it took to produce that thing of beauty.

And sometimes we do the same with our lives… or the lives of those we know. We want to see a finished product. We want to see a piece of art. We want to see it all dusted off, trimmed, adjusted, placed in perfect lighting and accented to highlight its magnificence, but we fail to notice that life was produced in messy workshop.

We can each produce beautiful results from the messy workshops of our lives. We can impact others positively. We can bring things out that others could not see. We can bring flavor and excellence to the table. But it might be a messy process. Before the beauty, there may be some bumps. We might make a little mess getting to the finish line.

That’s okay. Solomon said in Proverbs 14:4, “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” In other words, you can have a neat, clean, pretty little life that everyone oohs and ahhs at, but in order to truly get anything accomplished which benefits others and you, there’s probably going to be a mess to be cleaned up from time to time.

I say all this to tell you not to get discouraged today if the workshop of your life looks like a mess right now. Something beautiful and wonderful is being crafted in you. It won’t be long and you will be generating more amazing results than ever. People will look at what you produce and stand in awe. There may be pots and pans, or sawdust and scraps all over the place right now, but don’t let that get you down. That just means there is some serious work going on, and something beautiful is being made.

For the record, we ought to remember this when it comes to the lives of those around us as well. Their lives may look messy at the moment, but let’s give them a chance to see what kind of beauty they can bring out of that mess. We can help sweep up layer. Let’s cheer them on now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some woodworking to get to out in the workshop… I mean, garage… today. And maybe PR31 will still feed me something after this post. 😉

I Like His Style

One of my favorite new TV shows kind of snuck up on me and made me like it.  It’s the story of a man who has a dream.  His dream is fleshed out in his 95-point plan to make his town of 456 residents… D’lo, Mississippi… the greatest town in America.

Small Town, Big Mayor features Mayor John Henry Berry’s pursuit of bringing his hometown back from near-extinction… and I don’t want to miss an episode.  My attraction to the show goes beyond the fact that it is pure… and clean… and humorous.  It’s the hero… the champion… the tip of the spear this guy has chosen to be for his town.

I love that he saw a need and decided something had to be done to fix what was wrong.  I love that he came up with a plan… probably more than what anyone else had done. I love that he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to set the example of what it’s going to take to make the dream become reality.  I love that he loves that town and those people enough to put up with some of their goofiness (and their ridiculous ideas of what they think a mayor ought to do for them) because he has the greater good in mind.  I love that he is willing to get out of his comfort zone to help others, and to ensure that his plan is working.

I guess I watch for a few laughs.  But more and more I watch for inspiration.  And I find myself wanting to live passionately like Mayor John Henry Berry.  It reminds me how Jesus loved and served people.

On tonight’s episode, he was teaching his daughter how to operate a track hoe to help him fix a busted water main.  She didn’t think she could do it.  In that moment of her insecurity in her own abilities, he told her that she COULD do it… that she had his blood flowing through her veins.

That’s when I was reminded of those times when I don’t think I can do something, and the Lord says gently to my heart and mind, “Sure you can, son, you’ve got my blood flowing through your veins.”

You may not find a humorous reality TV show inspiring… or motivational… or spiritual, but I do. At least this one.  And so I cheer for Mayor John Henry Berry.  I’m going to keep watching as he whittles away at those 95 points one at a time till his dream becomes reality.  Go get ’em, Mayor Berry!  You can do it!  And you’re inspiring us to believe that we can, too.

Who’s Making Your Supper?

It’s Simple, Really

It’s a simple concept which I choose to live by.  After all, I choose to live simply.  You don’t have to wonder what I mean when I say something because I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.  There is no manipulation or hidden meaning.  I’m not passive agressive.  I just live simply.
Rule #368

Ok, so I made up the “#368.”  See?  Simple.

And when it comes down to a simple-living tip we could all use, I like #368… “If I didn’t have to do it, then I don’t get to complain.”  I’m sure someone out there will find some situation in which this doesn’t play out, but generally speaking in life, this has worked out well for me.

It’s best illustrated by who’s cooking at our house.  PR31 basically does all the cooking.  The only time anyone wants me to cook is if she is not feeling well and unable to make it to the kitchen.  Apart from that, we love eating her cooking.  She is a terrific cook!  I’d rather eat her cooking than any restaurant around.  It’s down-home cooking, too… southern goodness with a somewhat whole-food twist.

Now you would just have to know her to understand what I’m about to say… but she wants to make sure what she cooks for us is just right.  She is not okay if something gets a little overdone on an edge… She would rather re-make something than to serve her family something less than wonderful.  It’s probably what makes her cooking so delicious.

But when she is forced to serve something she is not completely pleased with, she offers an apology for the bacon being too crisp or the cookies being a little underdone in the middle (which is my favorite way anyway).  And without fail, my response to her apology is a question…

Me: Hey, did I have to make it?

PR31: Well, no, but…

Me: (interrupting her before she can finish her reply) You know the rule… If I didn’t have to make it, then I don’t get to complain.

PR31: Yeah, I hear ya, boy.
Good For Supper, Good For The Soul

I don’t just apply this principle to meals cooked by my sweetheart.  I believe it applies to other acts of kindness by others toward me.  And it doesn’t stop with those I can see with my eyes, touch with my hands and hear with my ears.  I apply it to my salvation.

I didn’t pay for my rescue from hell… I didn’t earn my adoption into God’s family… I didn’t work hard enough or long enough to get God to bless me so abundantly.  God did it for me.  So I don’t get to complain when He gives me some guidelines to live by.  And I don’t get to complain when He asks me to say something to someone in a store… or when He asks me to do something that takes me out of my comfort zone… or when He asks me to give some money which I think I’d prefer to hold onto.  I didn’t have to do salvation for myself, so I don’t get to complain when the journey doesn’t play out exactly the way I envisioned it would.

Some people can’t fathom living this way.  They want it their way, right away.  And then they want to complain if it’s not absolutely perfect.

Leadership experts say that a good leader will hand off tasks that their team can accomplish at 50%-80% of the ability of the leader who assigned it, and the leader has to be okay with that because it freed them up to tackle tasks that were more important for them to accomplish.

It’s about having an attitude of gratitude.  It’s about appreciating those who help do something for you so that you don’t have to.  So, if your kids fold the clothes and don’t get them perfectly straight or put them in the wrong drawer… Rule #368.  If your spouse cleaned the bathroom and missed a couple spots… Rule #368.  If your administrative assistant filed something in different way than you would have… Rule #368.  If the volunteer serving at your local church didn’t get the bulletins folded perfectly, but it saved you from having to do it and you were able to spend time with someone who really needed you… Rule #368.

What if we all began to live by Rule #368?  What if we complained less and appreciated more?  Hmmmm… Seems like life might run a little smoother and people would have less stress in their lives.

The call to action today is to complain less and appreciate more.  And one simple way to implement that in your life is to apply Rule #368.

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