Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 120- A Lipstick First

Today I had a lipstick "first."  I wore lipstick to church.

OK, so I didn't.  You never know, I might.  It'd be kind of a poor reason to come to church, but go ahead and come if you'd like and maybe something better than that will happen.  I would certainly hope so.

A lipstick idea did come to me.  I wrote a love note to Laura on her mirror with her lipstick for my "first."  I've left love notes for her before. I've emailed and texted love notes.  I've left them in different places around the house.  It occurred to me this afternoon (not too long after I prayed for a "first" idea which I took as a good sign) that I had never written her a love note on her mirror with her lipstick.  That sounded like a good "first."  Joel liked the idea a lot as well.

I was a little more than half way through when I had to roll the lipstick up some more. I then realized I was using a good bit of lipstick on this project.  How much does lipstick cost?  Is this, like, a favorite tube of lipstick?  Does she have to go out of town to get this particular brand? How hard will this be to get off the mirror? These are some of the questions that started rolling around in my brain.  Surely, I haven't messed up here. The idea is to brighten up her day; not bumming her out because I ruined her lipstick or the mirror.

I found out it's hard to take a picture of something in a mirror without being in the picture

Yay, she liked it.  She said that the lipstick I found was a backup tube.  Yay, again.  She gave me a hug and a kiss and her eyes were twinkling. I say to Laura often, "Thanks for saying yes."  I'm so glad that out of all the people in the world, God let me be her husband.  I love her dearly.  She is a fun person to share life with. She's romantic, funny, adventurous, and I can't imagine coming up something that I think Jesus wants us to do that she would not be up for. I want her to know she's loved and appreciated and her husband delights in her.

It should be even truer for the Lord.  He loves me more than anyone can.  He is the real delight to live with. He has done things for us that nobody else could if they wanted to.  The amazing thing is that the more we love Him, the more love we have for others.

I read the following quote a while back, "There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude."  It occurs to me that love is kind of the same way.  Love unexpressed is kind of useless.  I'm glad that God not only tells us that He loves us but He shows us He does.  Romans 5:8 declares, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  You may remember that John 3:16 reminds us that God so loved the world that He did what?  That's right, He gave.  That's an action word.  Love is an action word.  Praise God for His love expressed.  Maybe there is someone that you can express your love to today.  Maybe there is a way that you can express God's love to someone today.

Loving the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Lipstick
2. Mirrors
3. A fun time playing Wii with Joel

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 119- A Jack Links First

Yesterday I was driving and got a call from my son Joel.  Joel has great phone manners but is not really a phone guy.  He'll talk but he doesn't initiate many phone conversations. So, when I heard his voice, he had my attention. He said, "Daddy, do you want to know why I called?"  I did. He said that he had an idea for a "first."  Mr. Timmy had brought him home from school and stopped at the store and bought him a treat. Mr. Timmy is really sweet that way. So is Mr. Ben; they are both very kind to do that and I think there may even be a hint of competition over who's the kindest.  So, Joel picked out some flaming buffalo chicken jerky kind of thing for his "first." Last week I had bought Joel his first beef jerky. We brought it fishing with us and ate it while fishing. So, I think the jerky thing was on his mind.   Joel says it was pretty good. He asked me to think about eating some for a "first."  What's a Dad to say to that?  I ate some flaming buffalo chicken nuggets jerky dried meat kind of thing for my "first."

I''m pretty sure this is not something I would have done on my own.  Joel gets the credit. He likes them OK.  Hannah Grace tried them and said they were OK.  Laura passed on trying them.  What?? She eats crickets but not the dried jerky chicken thing?  I ate one.  I did not eat two, but I did eat one. It was spicy and dried.

Truthfully, I like the lasagna we had for supper much better.  Sometimes we do things because we love someone.  I love that the kids like to hear about my "firsts."  They ask me almost every day what I've done or am doing for that day. I want them to be excited about life and trying new things.  I look back and see that I missed out on a lot because of not trying things.  I held back from new experiences and opportunities mostly out of fear.  I was afraid of failing, looking stupid, and being incompetent.  That's not a Jesus way to live.  I love 2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (one translation has a sound mind).  It seems that Timothy was a bit of a timid Timothy and so Paul was encouraging him to not give in to fear.  One of the great antidotes to fear is love.  There are things that are scary but I will do them for someone I love. Maybe not every time like when Hannah Grace wanted me to ride a roller coaster with her last year.  If they really need me to do something, I much more likely to do it for the people I love than a random stranger.

Our love for Jesus should be enough to enable us (along with the power of the Holy Spirit) to push through the fear that stands between me and obeying Him.  What has fear held you back from?  Let the love of Christ and the power of the Spirit help you to push through to the abundant life.

Pushing through for the abundant life

3 things I thank  God for today
1. Soft, dripping rain
2. 2 Timothy 1:7
3. Glasses

Monday, April 28, 2014

Day 118- A Surprising First

Today I was driving down the road toward Brooklyn.  This Brooklyn is in Alabama (about 12 miles from where I live) and is significantly smaller than Brooklyn, New York.  As I'm driving along, something comes out of the weeds that are growing on the shoulder of the road.  There is a very slim shoulder here that drops off into a ditch.  What do you think I almost hit when it came out suddenly into the road in front of me?  You can stop here and guess if you'd like.  So, I see something coming out of the weeds. You know how your brain starts trying to figure something out in just a split second.  The first thing I remember registering is that it was dark. It's like my brain says no to dog, cat, rabbit, etc.  Then, it registers with my brain and mouth at the same time and I yell, "Whoa, alligator in the road!!"  Literally, I yelled it out. I'm not sure who I was yelling to, but some things are just worth yelling about.

That's right, an alligator came out in front of me and I had to jerk the car pretty quickly to not hit it.  It was a nice size gator; probably 7 feet or so.  At the time, it seemed like it was 25 feet.  I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw that it turned around and went back into the tall weeds (tall meaning they were taller than the gator was) and down into the steep ditch. He did not seem to be in any hurry.  My mind started racing about a "first."  This is a great opportunity for a "first."  I thought of stopping and trying to take a picture of the gator, hitting the gator with a stick, or trying to touch the gator with my hand.  All of which would necessitate me stopping the car, turning around (which there was no room to do for a quarter of a mile or more) and then following the gator down the ditch into the weeds.  All of these sounded like adventurous "firsts."  None sounded wise.  So, for my "first," I saw an alligator come out in the road right in front of me and I chose not to chase him into the weeds and ditch.  I chose not to follow.

I sort of hated to end the "first" with just seeing the gator in the road.  All of the other possibilities stood a very good chance of an unhappy ending.  I do watch Swamp People on TV and would love to go alligator hunting with Troy Landry and then go to his house for supper.  Charging through weeds into a ditch armed with a cell phone to take a picture did not seem to be a great idea.  I asked the kids about it and Hannah Grace said no chasing gators and Joel said go for it.


This was a surprise. I did not expect to see a gator on the road today.  This reminded me that Satan often attacks when we are not expecting it.  That's why the Bible says in Ephesians 6: 10-11, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. "  He loves to attack when we are most vulnerable.  Some of those times include when we don't expect it, when we are tired, frustrated, stressed, or right before we are on the verge of a significant breakthrough with the Lord.  We need to make sure everyday that we are strong in the Lord and dressed in His spiritual armor.  We are no match for Satan, the world, or the flesh on our own.   I have no business chasing a gator with a cell phone or fighting temptation in my own strength.  I'm no match for the devil and he is no match for Jesus.  Be strong in the Lord, my friends, be strong.  I think I'll go watch Swamp People now in the safety of my recliner.

Dressed for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. A safe trip
2. Delicious alligator meat (blackened with hollandaise sauce)
3. Victory in Jesus

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 117- Celebrate "God of the Earth" Day

This past Tuesday was Earth Day.  I missed out on the celebration.  This is one holiday I've never celebrated.  I looked online to see how some people celebrate Earth Day.  I read where some garden, make "earth crafts," and read up on earth education (issues such as pollution, endangered species, water shortages, recycling, and climate change). It seems to be centered around caring for the planet.  I believe that we need to be good stewards of the planet. Some carry that farther than I would.  Many of the more "out there" environmentalists (a relative term to be sure) are sometimes referred to as "tree huggers." I'm more of a wife hugger.

Wife Hugger
As I thought about Earth Day, something came to my mind. The earth and all of creation I believe to be God's creation. I also believe that there are things we can learn about God from observing nature. That is not as accurate a revelation of God as Scripture is to be sure, but we can see things in nature that remind us of God, draw out attention to God, and be a stimulus to worship God.  Instead of celebrating Earth Day, I decided to make up my own holiday. Today, I'm celebrating "God of the Earth Day" for my "first."

So, what this holiday means to me is that I will list 10 things from nature and what they teach me about God.  I offered my family to participate some.  The kids did not get to participate a lot because it was bedtime by the time we got home from church, had supper, and did our nightly deals. 

10 things about the Earth and creation and what they remind me of about God.  These are in no particular order.

1. Cardinals remind me of the beauty of God
2. Eagles remind me of the majesty of God (mountains do as well)
3. Rainbows remind me that God keeps His promises (from Laura)
4. Thunder and lightning remind me of God's strength (from Hannah Grace)
5. Joel's favorite name of God is rock which reminds me of God's stability and dependability
6. The stars remind me of the bigness of God
7. The sunrise and sunsets remind me that God is a God of order
8. Grass reminds me that God is eternal and life here on earth is brief
9. Water reminds me of the life of God; that He gives life
10. The sun reminds me of the glory of God
11. Flowers remind me of new beginnings (from Laura)

OK, I know that's eleven.  I got my 10 and realized I had forgotten one of Laura's and I'm not big on deleting reasons for praising God. If you want to join me in celebrating "God of the Earth Day" by all means, please help yourself.  Make your own list of 10 things about the Earth that remind you of God and praise Him! You can even do 11 if you'd like.

As good as creation is there are some extremely important things that we cannot learn from nature.  Nature does not teach us that man is sinful, Jesus lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again.  We have to tell people that.

Praising God for the abundant life

11 things I thank God for today
See above :)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Day 116- A 12 Disciples First

Today I spent the first part of the afternoon with Hannah Grace at a dress rehearsal kind of thing for her dance recital.  After that, I took Joel fishing.  We caught a good many out of a friend's pond and had a blast. I also caught one fish that was almost the exact size of my bait. Joel later caught one almost the exact same size. Joel suggested that as a "first." I don't remember ever catching two bass that small in one trip on artificial baits.

That was kind of cool, but not really a "first." It would have been far better to catch the biggest fish ever.

So, as it got late and I was trying to think of a "first" I looked at a brain book I have. In one chapter, it talked about a device for memorizing called a mnemonic.  A mnemonic is
a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something.  So, if you want to remember the planets in our solar system, you can use the following, "My Very Excellent Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets." the first letter of each of those words corresponds to the 9 planets (I still like Pluto).  So, it works like this: My=Mercury, Very=Venus, Excellent=Earth, etc. It is a memory trick.  The book challenged me to do one on my own and even suggested doing one for the 12 disciples.  So, I did a mnemonic to remember the 12 disciples of Jesus as my "first."

The 12 disciples are hard to remember.  I thought this might be helpful for me.  Even if you've seen drawings of them, they are hard to remember. The drawings are not very helpful in remembering.

 12 is a lot of letters so here's what I came up with.  I divided them into two sections. The first section is "Barry Ate Jumping Peanuts Till Midnight". These letters correspond with Bartholomew, Andrew, John, Philip, Thomas, and Matthew.

The second half is Jeff Gordon Jumped John Isaac's Saucer & Plate Seven Zillion Times.  These correspond with James the Great (Jeff Gordon), James, Judas Iscariot, Simon Peter, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddeus.

So, I know that if I needed that for a test, I could pull it off pretty quickly.  I can do pretty good just doing this for a few minutes tonight.  It's just one of those tips to help remember things. I used to do this when I was studying lists for tests.  Of course, I did not know it was called mnemonics.

I've heard that the 3 most important things in remembering something is review, review, and review.  There is no substitute for going over something daily if you want to remember it.  Many people say they can't remember anything, but they can. They remember their families' names, they remember where they live, they remember where their favorite fishing lake is, etc.  It does get harder as we age, but we can remember things if we go over and over them.  Now, what was I writing about? Oh yeah, the fishing trip was great. No, wait, don't tell me... right, that mnemonic memory thing.

This is why when I go hear someone preach, I almost always take a pen and paper.  I know I'll remember very little of what they say 3 days later.  If I write something down, I will remember it better. If I write it down and go over it each morning for a week, it will make a much greater impact on me.  When I go to a retreat or a conference that makes a big impact on me, I will often use the verses that impacted me the most in my quiet time (devotional time, alone time with the Lord) for a week or two.  That way, I can keep a good bit more of what I believed God was saying to me.

Why not take a pen and paper to church next time and write down the things that you sense may be God speaking to you?  You can hang on to it longer that way.

Hanging on to truth for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Great time fishing with Joel
2. Laura getting to talk about Jesus at another church
3. Bread

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 115- A Traveling Prayer First

Today I was in Mobile visiting a friend at the hospital. That's about 2 hours from here. I was thinking about a "first."  I've been in lots of hospitals since being a pastor and could not come up with a "first" other than performing some sort of medical procedure and that was unlikely and probably unhealthy for all concerned.

As I was traveling home, I thought about how I usually listen to the radio, music off my phone, or podcasts from my phone.  Today, I decided that I would turn off the radio and phone and pray out loud the whole way home for my "first."  It's likely that I will pray some while traveling, but I don't remember intentionally praying the whole way.  OK, not quite the whole way; I stopped and got some supper just outside of Mobile and after I ate, I prayed the rest of the way home.

Great day to pray and drive

God likes us to drive the speed limit

Not everybody drives the speed limit

Love the black cows amongst the red wild flowers

It was a beautiful day to drive and pray.  The way some people drive, I need to be praying every time I drive.  As I thought about doing this "first" I figured I would have some gaps of silence as I drove along.  I wondered who I would pray for as I drove.

The way I prayed today was to just talk with the Lord about life.  I really did not pray for anybody (sorry if you was hoping I prayed for you).  It's been a while since I just talked at length with the Lord about how I was feeling, some things I've been learning, what was going on in my life, and some decisions I need to make.  There were some things that I have not had time to really think through that just came out in prayer.  Who better to talk things over with than the Lord?  Usually in my prayer times each day, I tend to follow the acrostic PRAY.
P- Praise
Y- Yield

I've been praying that way for years and it's a great way to pray. This afternoon was different.  Yes, I praised God for some things. Yes, I repented of some things.  It was more of just sharing my heart with the Lord and letting the praise or repentance or whatever just surface as I drove along.  I found myself enjoying spending time with the Father. As I thought about doing this, I really thought I would be tempted to turn on a podcast or radio after a bit. I never was tempted to do that.

Why not consider taking some relaxed time to just talk with the Lord about what's on your heart?  Don't try to be too religious. God loves and knows the real you so you might as well be yourself. Perhaps you can consider turning off the radio or TV and spending some time with Jesus. I somehow felt lighter and more relaxed when I got home.

Praying for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Black cows grazing amongst red flowers
2. Mary Peacock
3. Relaxed prayer time

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 114- A Nursing Home First

Today I went to visit a friend at a nursing home.  He is a very kind person and I enjoy visiting with him.  Since I've been a pastor, I've had a number of people tell me that they don't enjoy nursing homes and hospitals.  Well, just going to those places is not something I enjoy, but when people I care about go there I go and visit because I care about them.  Just a bit of pastoral perspective there I didn't see coming.

I had a couple of "firsts" at the nursing home. I was talking with a nurse when a lady bumped into with her wheelchair.  I thought it was an accident but it was not.  When I stepped back and looked at her she said, "Are you my son?"  I said no mam.  I've had worse said to me in nursing homes.  You just have to go with the nursing home flow when you are there.  That was a "first."

Then when I went to leave, I had trouble at the door. Nursing homes will often have a door lock to keep low functioning residents from wandering off.  I'm used to that but this one had several different boxes and I was standing there tyring to figure it out when one of the residents told me how to do it.  I had to ask a question or two and he was very helpful. He was a high functioning resident. That was a "first" as well. I've never had to have a resident assist me in getting out of the nursing home.  In all fairness to me, I do think I would have figured it out if I had another minute or two before he offered his help.

When I visit someone in the nursing home, I almost always ask the person if I can pray for them. Today, I went to the nurses station and asked the nurse there if there was anything I could pray for her.  I happened to know her so that was cool.  She gave me a few prayer requests for her family and I prayed for them on the way home. I always pray for the resident, but for my "first" I prayed for the nursing home nurse.

Pray for God to bring some color to people's lives, i.e. the abundant life. I learned this at church last night from our sweet ladies

Maybe I don't have this because I prayed for this picture to straighten up but it has not

If your child has a backpack, you can be sure they need you to pray for them

We have the privilege to pray to One who made all of this!

Did I feel "led" to offer to pray for this sweet nurse?  Not really.  I just thought how I always pray for the residents, but have not thought to pray for the nurses.  I would think that being a nurse in the nursing home would not be an easy job.  There has to be some pretty decent challenges that go along with that particular job.  My friend that I visited with bragged and bragged on how good the nurses were to him. So here are some people giving of themselves to serve people that need serving and so why wouldn't God want me to pray for them? 

God does not have to appear to us in a dream for us to see that some things are His will for us.  What's the downside of offering to pray for someone?  Perhaps there is someone in your life that serves others that you could offer to pray for them and thank them for their service. It could be someone like a teacher, police officer, nurse, principal, etc.  Ask God to show you someone that you can call and just ask, "Can I pray for you today. I appreciate what you do." Wait a minute, is that prayers I hear being asked?

Praying for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Nursing Home nurses
2. Garbage collectors
3. Vultures

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 113- A Bragging First

Today I ordered some supplies for the church.  One company I called had a lady named Elaine that was the customer service representative that I talked to. She was very helpful.  She was cheerful on the phone. She had good knowledge of the products.  She made ordering products a pleasant experience. 

When I was about to hang up, I told her that she had been very helpful and that I would like to tell her supervisor that if there was one available. She said there was one available. I would have been surprised if there had not been; especially when I told her I wanted to brag on her.  In just a minute, her supervisor, Beth, came on the line and I told her what a good job that Elaine had done. She thanked me for telling her that. I bragged to a supervisor on the phone about her employee's phone skills for my "first."

A pleasant phone experience

A sweet young lady with good phone manners

Help a brother or sister up

It seems to me that we live in an age of much complaining and blaming. In our country, we have it about as easy as any civilization has ever had it, but we still complain.  You hear things like the government is ineffective , the prices are too high, traffic is too congested (not on my road), service is not efficient, and on the list can go.  As believers, we can easily get sucked into the complaining and blaming game. Anybody can complain or blame.  However, I don't think it is a very good witness for Jesus; especially if we can not or will not do anything about the complaints.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."  I want to be the kind of person that brightens other people's day by smiling, speaking a kind word, or just being polite.  Of course, if there is an opportunity to brag on Jesus, that's even better.  As followers of Jesus, we are not to just float along with the complaining culture. We are to be different.  Why not look for someone to brag on tomorrow? It brightened my day today and hopefully Elaine and Beth's day went a little better as well.  Now, if this stupid computer was not so hard to work with.... I mean, I thank God for my computer that helps me post my "firsts."

Bragging on Jesus in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Courteous customer service reps
2. Pictures and videos posted online by our Ugandan Mission Team
3. Kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 112- A Blue Moon First

I was in Dothan today visiting some sweet people in a hospital there. Lunch time rolled around and I almost made a run for the border (Taco Bell). It was close and easy.  I remembered I needed a "first" so I hit the Urban Spoon app that I have on my phone.  Some interesting suggestions came up for restaurants that I had never been to before.  One was the Blue Moon Cafe and it was only 2 miles away. The little description said it was sandwiches and Cajun cuisine. Now, we are on to something. I clicked on the menu (I really like it when I can see the menu from my phone) and saw items such as "Shrimp Po-boy, Catfish Po-boy, Red Beans and Rice, and Corn and Crawfish Chowder. I went to the Blue Moon Cafe for my "first."

One of the reasons I went there is because I've been trying to find a Po-boy place near where I live that serves a Louisiana style Po-boy.  So far, I have not found it. Throwing some shrimp on a piece of bread does not make a Po-boy.  This was a key factor in my search.

When I pulled up in front of the restaurant, I was impressed.  It kind of looked like something you might find in south La.  When I walked in, I was impressed more.  It was a smallish place that had the feel of a place that had good food.  They were out of the corn and shrimp chowder which was a bummer. They had a lunch special where you could get a half poboy and a cup of soup.  So, I ordered a shrimp Po-boy(fried, of course) and a cup of red beans and rice. I know that is technically not a soup, but if you can put it in a bowl, that counts for a soup in La.

I like the look

Nice wall mural

Looks good

I enjoyed my meal.  They put a lot of shrimp on my Po-boy (which is essential) and the shrimp was good.  I would eat here again.  Was it a Louisiana style Po-boy?  Not quite.  It was better than most. They put cole slaw and remoulade sauce on the Po-boy which was a bit odd.  Here's the thing: a real Po-boy has to drip when you eat it.  If it's real good, it will run down your wrist to your elbow.  You need half a roll of paper towels to eat a real good Po-boy.  I liked it, but it was not quite there.

As I enjoyed my meal, I thought about how something can look like the real deal and not quite be there.  As followers of Jesus, we should be dripping.  There should be love running out of us.  Jesus said in John 13: 34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  That's the real deal of a follower of Jesus.  Anyone can attend religious services. Most people pray at some point in their life.  Many people will read a religous book.  How many people genuinely love the people around them; especially those that are not like them.  That is what Jesus did and what we are called to do.  Priase God, He's given us the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit is love (amongst other things).  So, have you dripped some Jesus love on someone today?

Hopefully dripping for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Po-boys
2. The color blue
3. Kind nurses

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 111- A Trick First

Hannah Grace was excited when I got home today. That's a lot better than her being bummed out about school.  She really wanted to show me something outside. So, I went outside to see what was so exciting.  She had taught our dog Mei Mei (pronounced may may) a trick.  I think Mei Mei was expecting to be fed because she did not seem interested in doing the trick. After several tries, she finally did it. Hannah Grace would hold up a hula hoop and Mei Mei jumped through it.  It's a pretty cool trick.

I started thinking (which is often a dangerous pastime of mine).  I've never jumped through a hoop before. Could I do that for a "first?"  It seems like I should be able to do that.  Then again, a hula hoop is pretty small when you think about your body going through it and not touching it. There really is no way I can see to do that and land on your feet.  What's a guy to do?  I attempted to jump through a hula hoop for my "first."

I asked Hannah Grace about it and she repeatedly said, "Don't hurt yourself Daddy." That is very sweet and a bit sad. I should be able to do this without hurting myself.  I took a couple of practice runs up to it while I thought about it.  Then, I went for it.  I'm happy to say that I jumped through the hoop without touching it anywhere and did not hurt myself.

That didn't hurt
Hard earned grass stains

Sometimes being a Daddy, husband, and a pastor can feel a bit like jumping through hoops. There are schedules to keep, kid events to attend, people to see, people to call, meetings to go to, etc.  That's true for most of us.  There is plenty to do and you can feel like you are jumping through hoops.  I don't feel that way most of the time.  There is a verse in Colossians that helps me a lot with this struggle. It is Colossians 3:23:  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men."  It sure helps to remember that I'm not just doing tasks. I am serving the Lord. That is true no matter what we do when we do it out of love for Jesus and to bring glory to Him. There are no mundane tasks if it's done for Jesus.  Even if someone else does not appreciate you remember that God knows everything you do for Him with a pure heart. You are not going to get to heaven one day and feel like you've gotten a bad deal if you spend your life for Jesus.  He is a great rewarder of those who seek Him.

Stop jumping through hoops. I know I will. I did not get hurt, but the landing was a little tougher than it would have been 25 years ago.  Instead of jumping through hoops, serve Jesus with all the love of your heart. Every inch of your life becomes holy ground when you do that and no task is without meaning.

Giving up jumping through hoops to have the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Bread
2. The privilege of doing all of life with Jesus
3. Mei Mei

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 110- A Float First

Today is Easter.  We had a really fun Easter around here.  We talked about Jesus some, hid Easter eggs, went to church, ate lunch with some close friends, did some reading, and took a serious nap.

It has been a wonderful Easter.  It's been a bit tough to do a "first."  I hid Easter eggs- done that before. I did throw Joel's golden egg about 10-15 feet high in a tree.  I've never thrown an Easter egg up in a tree before; at least not that high.  That boy found it.  I really did not think he would find that one without help.  I taught Sunday School, sang in the Cantata, narrated the Cantata, and preached.  All things I've done before. Nothing really new though I did work in some apologetics in my Easter sermon that I've wanted to do for several years. Before this year it just seemed that the Lord was directing me another way.  I enjoyed presenting some reasonable evidence to believe that Jesus is alive and then challenging us to give the world reasonable evidence that we truly do believe that Jesus is alive.

Still, no real "first" and it gets to be 9:30 or so and I'm wandering around the kitchen looking for a "first."  When what did my eyes behold?

See anything interesting?

How about here?

Well, what I saw was some root beer and some ice cream.  I can not remember the last time I had a root beer float. I'm not sure if I've ever had a root beer and mint chocolate chip ice cream float.  I had a root beer and mint chocolate chip ice cream float for my "first."

You got to have plenty of ice cream for a float

I'll admit it was kind of lame to do this for a "first" on Easter.  The day that Jesus rose from the dead deserves a better "first" I guess.  Here's the thing; I'm glad it's not the first time I have preached, worshipped, sang, taught or played with the kids on Easter.  Sometimes it's nice after a full week to just have a float and hang out with your wife.

Some things are very serious.  Preparing for my  Easter message is very serious to me. Having time to play with my children is fun, but very important to me. The opportunity to have lunch with close friends is very important. So, while the "first" was not very "Eastery," it was still fun. The thing is, the last several times we've been to Sonic or Dairy Queen, I've thought about having a float but just never did it.  The year of "firsts" has been good for me to do things that I've wanted to do but have put them off.

Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is a serious game (life) changer if you believe that He actually arose bodily from the dead.  Maybe there is something that you have been wanting to do for Jesus and just have been putting it off.  Why not do it this week?  I enjoyed my float.  Doing something for Jesus that we've been putting off is far better.

Seeking the abundant life (I started to say floating toward the abundant life)

3 things I thank God for today
1. Jesus is alive
2. The Hopewell choir that worked hard to worship through singing an Easter Cantata
3. Floats

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 109- An Easter Egg First

Our kids love to hunt Easter Eggs. They always have and still do.  Long after Easter, they would still want me to hide Easter Eggs in years past. I can remember years when I was still hiding Easter Eggs in June.  I thought I might be hiding Easter Eggs on Christmas Eve at times.

The way we've always divided the Easter Egg division of labor at our house is that Laura buys them and stuffs them and I hide them.  Laura suggested that I help stuff the Easter Eggs for my "first." Does this sound a bit fishy to anyone?  I had the great idea that since this was the night before Easter and Jesus was in the grave, I might go sit in the graveyard for a while tonight.  She actually thought that helping her stuff Easter Eggs would be more fun than sitting in a graveyard contemplating that sad Saturday so long ago.  Guess what?  Tonight I helped stuff Easter Eggs for my "first."

It seems like I have probably done this before. Laura doesn't ever remember me doing this. I guess I haven't.  We had a good time stuffing the eggs and laughing together.  I don't remember having plastic eggs with stuff in them growing up.  We had the real boiled eggs that we helped decorate and messed up the whole kitchen.  Then, when you found them, you just ate the eggs.  See, if we had this I would not be hiding eggs into June. Now this makes more sense.  Any eggs that you didn't find, you could find in a few days.  Just go sniffing around the backyard and you could find them.  These days the eggs are stuffed with candy and money and who knows what else.  I know it is candy and quarters here with the exception of the golden egg which has a dollar bill.

You are right, that's too many eggs for 2 children. We only used a portion of them.

Who knows why hiding Eggs that some rabbit supposedly brought got tied in with Easter. I'm sure I could google it and find out but at this point it doesn't matter much to me.  We have a lot of fun hiding eggs and then the kids will probably hide them from Laura and me if it is like years past.  It is interesting that we now fill eggs with things.  Celebrating Easter is really about God emptying something.  He emptied a grave that His Son in it.  It is not about a plastic egg devoid of life.  It's about an empty grave devoid of death so that we can have life.  When we come to a vital and real relationship with the Living Lord of creation, He can empty us of some things. I can think of things like hopelessness, despair, futility, aimlessness, purposelessness (is that a word??), and the great fear of death.  Since Jesus' body was filled with  life and came out of the grave, He can fill us with things like love, joy, peace, meaningful relationships, direction in life, and an embracing of what comes after death.

As you do what you do on Easter, remember about empty and full.  You may empty candy bags to fill Easter eggs or empty bowls to fill up your belly.  Let this remind you that because there is an empty tomb you can have a full life.

Celebrating a risen Savior that gives abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. The hopelessness of life has been defeated by Jesus
2. A wife that works hard to see our children have a meaningful Easter
3. Bluebirds