Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day 365- A Celebrating First

Today I am celebrating doing a year of "firsts" as my "first." I have never completed a year of "firsts" before.

A little more than a year ago, I read a book by Lu Ann Cahn titled "I Dare Me."  She wrote how at age 53 she felt she should have been enjoying and appreciating life more than she was.  So, she decided to do something every day of the next year that she had never done before (or had not done in 15 years).  She called it a year of "firsts."

This book struck a nerve with me. So, I challenged myself to do a year of "firsts."  I am a follower of Jesus Christ and He promises abundant life.  The year of "firsts" was a way for me to intentionally go after the abundant life a bit more and to help those around me to see that following Jesus is an abundant life.  It sure helped me and I hope helped a few others along the way to see that following Jesus is an abundant life.  I chose to write a blog about what I did each day as a way of holding myself accountable. That's a nice way of saying "making myself do it."

It was fun, challenging, and a bit of work at times.  There were more days that I would like to admit that at 8:00 at night I was asking Laura, "What can I do for a "first" today?"  There were also some things that I planned and am so glad I did.  I kept my promise to not do anything that required me to sign a document with the words "in the event of death" on it.

This year I climbed trees, walked to town (7 miles), ate a cricket, watched Joel kill his first deer, did several generous things that I've never done before, learned to hula hoop, did a somersault, gave a stranger a flower, went to the Shakespeare festival, took a Qigong class, worked in the nursery in VBS, took Hannah Grace for her first pedicure, and celebrated Passover with my family to name a few "firsts".  Most of these are things I would not have done if it had not been for my year of "firsts."

Some of these I really enjoyed and am so glad I did. There are a few like eating crickets that I might not do again but am glad I did it once.  This year did bring a lot of variety to my life.  Hopefully, it helped my family see that following Jesus is an abundant life.  They were super supporters and got involved with several. We had a fun evening writing Scriptures on pieces of paper and then driving around and putting them on people's cars.  Laura was super encouraging and helpful thinking up "firsts" to do. 

Some people have asked me if I am going to continue doing a "first" everyday and blogging about it. I am not.  It was quite the challenge to do this for a year and I am not going to try it again this year. That is an easy decision right there. I'm glad I did it this year; not interested in doing it another year.  I may do an occasional "first" and blog about it, but not every day.

Shakespeare festival

Balance beam move

A Montgomery Biscuits outing

Setting up a table full of dominoes and knocking them down

An old friend helped make it a special year

Fun, fun, fun day
 Hannah Grace even got in on shooting

It got a big scary at times

The old ice bucket challenge was a bit cold

Happy, happy, happy

Some "firsts" got a little high

It got a bit tacky

At times, some didn't think a particular "first" was a good idea

Feet "first"

It got a little piraty

It got a little high

Spreading God's word to unsuspecting people

It got me in the kitchen a time or two


High flying

I did not plan to tie my "first" to some spiritual truth every day. That just kind of happened. It just felt natural to try to tie the "first" to something about Jesus since the idea was to experience abundant life with Jesus. We often say in church "It's all about Him" when it is often about us and how we feel, think, etc.  This helped me to try to make the year of "firsts" about Him. It was also fun to try to see how the different "firsts" could be tied to something about Jesus. That was challenging on some days (eating crickets), but mostly fun.  I am more aware of how just about anything in life can be related to God.  He created it all after all.  If this has been helpful or encouraging at all to anyone else, I am grateful.  Thank you for  the kind words and comments throughout the year.

I also learned that I still need to be more intentional.  I had far more of what I would call small "firsts" than more exciting "firsts." That was disappointing. Believe it or not, I have a number of things I wanted to do that I never did.  There are not that many open Saturdays to do big things like canoeing down a river or going parasailing.  Also, parasailing is more expensive than I realized.  Hopefully, I have learned to be much more intentional with the days God gives me on this earth.

It was fun to see how fairly ordinary days could be more exciting.  Simply thinking about how I could bless someone or trying to praise God for everything that happened in a day was helpful.  Jumping out of the car and rolling down an embankment can liven up a trip.  I plan to look for more opportunities to spice up the vanilla days.

I'm very grateful for God enabling and allowing me to live a year of "firsts."  I'm grateful for what I've learned and experienced.  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Grateful for a year of "firsts,"

3 things I thank God for today
1. A year of "firsts"
2. The support of my family in my year of "firsts"
3. The support of my friends in my year of "firsts"

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day 364- A Jase Cap First

I've noticed in the last several years that some people are wearing what I call a knit stocking cap all day. Jase Robertson on Duck Dynasty wears one almost every time I see him.  I see people in the summer wearing these caps.  I've worn them before but usually when I'm hunting or doing some outdoor activity when it is real cold.  Today I wore a knit stocking cap kind of like Jase's for my "first."

I wore my cap while driving, at the gas station, in a restaurant and everywhere else I went. I'm not sure what the attraction for this particular headwear but I thought I would give it a try during my year of "firsts." I only have one more day in my year of "firsts" so this was the day for it.

This has always looked like it would be hot and scratchy to me. I found it that it is hot and scratchy.  Today I was a bit of a hothead though I have not yelled at anybody or lost my temper with anybody.  My head was just kind of hot due to the cap.  It feels like my head needs to breathe a bit.  It is a pretty cool day that I chose to wear the cap all day, but inside it is hot.  I'm still not sure what the attraction is for wearing one of these all day and not just outside when it is cold.  The big advantage I found was that I did not have to worry if my hair was messed up.  It sort of settles the hair style issue for me.

Another "first," I had a fried egg on my hamburger

Joel loves some wings

The biggest reason I can come up with why people would wear one of these all the time (especially in the summer months) is that you are wanting to look like someone else.  It seems to me that most people that do this is because they are going for a certain "look."  The hot and scratchy feel is enough for me to abandon the look for all the time and wear a baseball cap in the summer.

This "first" reminded me of Romans 12:2 which says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  There is no reason for us to copy someone else simply on the basis of image, possessions, popularity, or anything else.  We need to let God's Word shape our lives and not the whims and ideas of others.  Too much of our world bases their values and looks on something other than God's Word so we would do well to be careful who we are copying.  Jesus would be a very good Person to copy!

Being transformed in the abundant life,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Jesus is our best example
2. Salt
3. Freedom to choose

Monday, December 29, 2014

Day 363- A Sports With The Son First

Today I played darts and did some baseball drills with Joel for my "first."

We were visiting some dear friends of ours tonight. We all enjoyed visiting with these special friends.  Hannah Grace said for me to put on my blog that she had a lot of fun with Lauren. They invited Joel and me to play darts.  They have a nice dart board with some nice darts.  Joel and I have never played darts together. I've played a time or two before but Joel had never played darts.  We had a blast.  We both won a few games.  Man, that little circle (called a bull's-eye I think) in the middle is really small; as in really hard to hit with a  dart.  Joel said it was fun and I could tell by the way he was throwing that this was something he really enjoyed.  I enjoyed playing darts and also enjoyed watching Joel have fun.

My brother brought Joel some baseball practice equipment this week. Joel got a two bats.  He also got a pretty long rope that has a baseball on one end of it. The idea is that I swing the ball around and Joel tries to hit it when it comes by him.  This is designed to help Joel concentrate on making contact with the ball. The idea is also that Joel will hit the ball somewhere beside directly between he and me.  If that happens, the ball comes right back at me which is no good.  So far, he has managed to hit the ball somewhere in front of him which is the ideal place.  Joel got some good practice at keeping his eye on the ball and learning to make contact when he swings.

My brother also brought Joel a long, limber, rubber stick with a ball on the end of it.  The idea is that I hold it out and Joel hits it with a bat.  Once again, the idea is to help him focus on making contact with the ball.  For Joel, the idea seems to be to see how hard he can hit it.

Joel and I had some fun times together today.  Neither one of us will probably ever be a dart champion; especially if we do not improve dramatically.  Joel is not ready for the big leagues after our baseball practice session today.  The goal was not to produce some level of ability with what I did with my son.  The goal was to spend some fun time with my son.  It would be beneficial if our day helped Joel in some way. It is much more important that he knows that I love him and enjoy spending time with him.   I would rather him know that I love and enjoy him than to teach him how to play sports.  Love relationships top sports any day.

Isn't it amazing that God wants a love relationship with us?  God wants to teach us things. We need to learn things from God.  Jesus died so we could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him. It was not so He could teach us to do things that he needed us to do. God can do anything He wants without us anytime He wants to do so.  He does not need me for anything. He got along perfectly fine in eternity past without me. Yet, He desires me in His family. That is amazing.  Mark 3: 14-15 says, " He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach  and to have authority to drive out demons."  I noticed that the first thing Jesus wanted was for them to be with Him.

That's a great way to live life; with Him.  I want to be cognizant of the fact that all of life is to be lived "with Him."  Of course, Jesus is always with us but that is much different than living with the conscious awareness that I am with Him.  I am living my life in His presence. When I can live my life in a way that constantly pleases Him in whose presence I live, that will be hitting the bulls eye.

Living the abundant life with Him,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Eternal life
2. Time to spend with family and friends
3. Belts

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day 362- A Penny First

Yesterday we went to the Bass Pro Shop. We don't have one of these very close to where we live so it's a special treat for us to go to the Bass Pro Shop. It's quite an interesting store for us.  While we were driving away from the store, I called the store to see what time they fed the big fish in the aquarium.  The lady said at 2:00.  I said, "So, if I come to the store tomorrow at 2:00 I can watch the fish being fed?"  She said yes.  This sounded like a good "first."

Hannah Grace, Joel, and I arrived at the  Bass Pro Shop at 1:45 and stayed until 2:30 and the fish were not fed.  Rats!  My "first" did not happen. Instead of us being entertained by watching the fish being fed, we had to do something else. We did our own trick in front of the Bass Pro Shop for my "first."

To be fair, it's not much of a trick but we (me) were in a tight for a "first." So, I walked in front of Joel and without looking at him flipped a penny over my head and he caught it while we never broke stride from walking. After that, I did the same thing with Hannah Grace.  Admittedly, it is not juggling or swallowing a sword, but we have never done this in front of a Bass Pro Shop before. It qualifies as a "first" and is something I would not have done if it were not for my year of "firsts."

Both children caught the penny.  In truth, one did not catch it on the first try but said he/she said I flipped it when they were not ready.  Somehow this turned out to be my fault. That was not terribly surprising.

This was fun.  Both children thought this was more fun than simply walking out to the car feeling a bit disappointed. It may not have been as exciting as watching the big fish being fed, but it did spice the day up some.

 Hannah Grace, Joel, and we presume a hungry garfish in the aquarium

We went to a friend's house who laid her bathroom floor in pennies; Joel looked closely and found a wheat penny

You can't always depend on others for your own happiness.  I don't know why the fish feeding did not happen. Maybe the lady on the phone looked at the wrong schedule. Maybe the fish feeding guy had the flu or an operation. Maybe I misunderstood the lady on the phone (I doubt this one).  It really doesn't matter.  Sometimes we think people will act in a certain way or do a particular thing and they do not. That is no reason to give your happiness away.   We don't ever need to put our happiness as someone else's responsibility.  That's too much responsibility for anybody.  Only God can truly meet the needs of our hearts. The fulfillment, love, meaning, and joy of our life needs to come from a deep and real relationship with God.  When that is right, we can have joy in each other but not put the responsibility for our joy on someone else. There is a big difference.

Augustine wrote many years ago, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."  When our needs are met in Christ we can enjoy others without making them responsible for things they can't possibly do like make us happy.  Romans 14:17 says, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."  So, draw  near to God and let Him satisfy your heart. If you are disappointed today in your friend, family, or your church you can do something besides blame and complain. You can go to God who is the only real satisfier.  Hmm, I wonder if they'll feed the fish tomorrow.

Grateful that God is the satisfier in the abundant life,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Jesus is the Bread of life
2. Big fish in big aquarium
3. Shrimp etouffee

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 361- An Improvement App First

Some of us were talking about apps today.  I did a search or two on the app store myself.  I found a app that said it could help me improve in several mental areas.  The app said it could help me in some areas including reading comprehension (I read and study a good bit so this would be helpful), brevity in writing and speaking (avoiding redundant words and phrases; this can be helpful for preachers), and memory (I can't remember the specifics on the memory part).  I downloaded and used the Elevate app as my "first" today.

I played several "games" on the Elevate app today. I did a game with each area they offered me. These games are not as fun as other games I've played such as basketball, volleyball, or baseball.  Improvement and not entertainment seemed to be the goal here.  I scored highest on the reading game.  That is not too surprising to me. I scored lowest on listening. That's not good for a husband, daddy, or a pastor.  In my defense, I did not score poorly; it was just the lowest of the scores. For some reason I feel the need to add that information.  The second lowest was math- I should have skipped that area (you get to choose the areas that you want to work on), but I didn't. Who knows why I would choose to work on math at this stage in life?

I could tell that these "games" (I would probably call them exercises) probably would help me.  These may not be the most important areas to improve on, but they would be good. The ability to be concise and exact in speaking and writing would be helpful for me. I don't want to be redundant when I talk. That game would show a sentence and I had to eliminate the unnecessary word. This was a timed exercise.  The reading exercise was rated at a certain speed. They would give you words scrolling down the screen at 210 words per minute for about a minute and then ask you a question about what you just read.  If you got it right, they would speed it up and do the same thing. The questions were not that easy.  I found the exercises to be easy to follow and challenging to do.

New member of our niece's family-Zoey

As I thought about the games, it seems to me that the ability to concentrate is huge in doing well here.  On the reading games, I had to seriously tune in to the words or I would be clueless. The same was true in most of the games. They really required you to engage mentally. If not, I would do very poorly.

I truly believe that we as a society are declining in our ability to concentrate. We have so many things to distract us.  It seems people have a constant stream of phone messages, text messages, Facebook alerts, combined with other mental duties in a day.  We have become a society of multitaskers.  The studies I've read say that we are much poorer at multitasking than we think we are.  People think they are doing several things well but the truth is often that we are several things poorly.

This seems to me to be a great loss. If we are not concentrating we are much more likely to have a traffic accident, misunderstand loved ones, make errors in judgment, and possibly miss the most important  things in life.  We certainly will not be able to walk as closely with Jesus.  I need to be able to give full concentration to His word.  We won't be able to fully focus on God's greatness in worship if we are distracted by a text message or FB alert.  We might not hear that still, small voice of the Spirit as He speaks to our hearts. How can we give full attention to God if we are constantly checking our phones for emails or texts?

I've been challenged today to make sure I'm giving full concentration to whatever I happen to be doing at the moment. The Bible says in Colossians 3:2, " Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."  That is a decision I need to constantly making-to set my mind on where God wants me to set it.

Setting my mind on Jesus in the abundant life,

3 things I thank God for today
1. Laughter with family
2. Ability to concentrate
3. God is never too distracted to hear my prayer