Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 212- A Dog First

Today is National Chili Dog Day.  I celebrated this for my "first."

I have had chili dogs before.  I love chili dogs.  I have never celebrated National Chili Dog Day.  We talked about this as a family (Hannah Grace is at camp so she was not part of the discussion) and we agreed this may not be an outstanding "first," but not every day can be an outstanding day for a "first." I asked Laura to pick up a can of chili while she was in town today. When she got home from town, I asked her if she bought a can of chili. She said no. I asked her if she forgot and she said no.  Then, she told me that she was going to make some homemade chili.  Wow, what a champ!

Joel loves hot dogs.  He's never wanted to put chili on his hot dog before. Today, he went for the chili dog experience. I asked him afterwards about it. He said the chili dog was awesome. I sort of feel like I've not done my "Dad" thing very well seeing I have a 10 year old boy who's never tried a chili dog before. In my defense, I've offered it numerous times but he's always wanted to stick with a plain hot dog which he loves.

We decided to take the words "National Chili Dog Day" and see how many words we could make out of it while we ate. This added a little something to the celebration.  It was also pretty fun.  We ended up with 102 words that we made out of that phrase.  Joel wanted to count them and I was surprised it was that many.

No dogs for Laura

Our dog not a chili dog

As I thought about this tonight, I was grateful for Laura pitching in and celebrating this with us.  What is so cool about it is that she hates hot dogs.  I'm talking about she loathes hot dogs.  Laura was in the Peace Corps for 2 years and ate bugs, possums, and fish heads.  She will not eat a hot dog however.  It has to do with what hot dogs are made out of. Her contention is if people eat pig's feet and ears, what is there left to make hot dogs out of.  Yet, she cooked homemade chili for us to have for National Chili Dog Day.  She did not eat a chili dog. She ate chili instead.

As Christians, one of the things we want to do is to help each other become as much like Jesus as we can. That's one reason we are in the body of Christ.  The more we can help each other "succeed" in the Christian life, the more we all win. I put succeed in parentheses because succeeding is about glorifying God by loving God, loving each other, and helping others come to know Christ in a real way.  We win by helping others win. God has put us in each other's lives so that we can help each other to become everything God created us to be.  The Bible says it this way in Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor."  Philippians 2:3-4 says, " Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

As you think about being a devoted follower of Jesus, don't forget that one way you grow is by helping someone else grow. Celebrate someone else's victories. Help someone else live the abundant life.  You might even buy them a chili dog as long as it is not Laura.

Rejoicing in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Laura being such a wonderful helper
2. The forever family of God
3. Christ came to save sinners

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 211- A Tone First

Today, I downloaded a ringtone to my phone all by myself as a "first."

I know, I know, almost everybody knows how to do this and does this. I'm a part of that small minority of people that has never done this. I did have a ringtone on my last phone.  The way that happened was that I was visiting a lady in our church that was having surgery. Her phone rang and I commented on how I liked her ringtone.  She said it was easy and so I handed her my phone and she put it on there for me.  They do not teach you to do this while visiting people preparing for surgery in seminary.

The phone I have now I've just been using the sounds that came with the phone.  I needed a "first" and I thought it would be cool to have some unique sounds.  So, I went to Zedge and it said it was very easy to download free ringtones. I saw a few I'd like to have so I decided to do that.  It was not all that easy for me. First, I did not realize I would have to download Zedge.  Then, I did not realize that Zedge would have to go through I-Tunes.  So, this was not working so well when something popped up and said I would have to download ToneSync for windows.  That had a tutorial that I watched but somehow I missed one step. This turned out to be a crucial step as I finally got the tones in I-Tunes but could not manage to move them onto my phone despite syncing it 782 times.  I also could not find the dumb tutorial (I do realize that dumb might apply to something or someone besides the tutorial) again.  So, I googled this and the first result showed me everything I needed to know in extremely simple form.  Yes, I wished.  After perusing several sites, I finally figured out the step I was leaving out.  As of right now, if my phone rings, I get to hear the the song "Awesome God." I also downloaded Revelation Song and Days of Elijah.  Since I was doing this, I downloaded a couple of notifications.  When I get a text now, I hear the Old Spice whistle from the commercial. OK, I also downloaded Smoke on the Water that I'll probably use on occasion.

This was not as easy or simple as I had hoped. Not nearly.  I think that probably the Old Spice whistle will get a bit annoying after several days.  It's possible that the newness of Awesome God could go away pretty quickly as well.  What I thought about after doing this was how much better that time could be invested. It is not that I regret doing this; it's kind of fun to be able to switch sounds around on your phone.  I'm also reminded that I can spend that amount of time and read an entire book of the New Testament.  I can use that amount of time to contact a number of people that are hurting or pray for a good many people.  Once again, I'm not down on having fun with gadgets and electronics; I enjoy some of that. They do show us how there are minutes in the day that can be used for God's purposes.  John Piper wrote, "“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”  Ephesians 5:15-16 says (NLT), "So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days."  It is an encouragement to use our time in ways that we'll be glad we did 1000 years from.  Let's live with an eternal perspective.

Listening for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. The song, "Awesome God"
2. Rich Mullins biography, "An Arrow Pointing to Heaven"
3. One of our church members will be leading worship for a revival this weekend

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day 210- A Biscuits First

Today, Laura, Joel, and I went to a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game for my "first."

Montgomery is the state capitol of Alabama and there is a AA professional baseball team there called the Biscuits.  We had never been to one of their games before. Joel is 10 now and enjoying baseball more and more.  This seemed like a good time to go to one of their games and let Joel see some professionals play.

We had a blast.  Not only was it a good game, but it was dollar dog night at the ball park. That meant the hot dogs were only a dollar each.  Joel and I love hot dogs.  This made the night even better for us; Laura managed to not eat a hot dog even though they were only a dollar each. I think Laura would turn down free hot dogs. She is anti-hot dog.

We enjoyed cheering for the Biscuits, though one would have to admit that is not a mascot that exactly strikes fear into the opponent. I wondered what the mascot might be.  Perhaps Martha White with a rolling pin in her hand?  Well no, as it turns out the mascot is an anteater. I'm not real sure of the connection there between biscuits and anteaters. Joel said maybe it was because the anteater ate the ants so the ants could not eat the biscuits.  That's better than anything I had.  We did not holler "Go Biscuits" but more along the line of "Go" or "Yay."

I asked Joel and Laura what they enjoyed the most about the game. Joel said he really liked the hot dogs and seeing the game live. At one point he said to me, "This is better than watching baseball on TV."  Laura enjoyed the atmosphere of the game. She was amazed at how high some of the pop fly balls went. We all enjoyed seeing some really outstanding defensive plays.  In the end, the Biscuits went down in defeat 1-0.  The other pitcher pitched a complete game shut-out.  We had a fun family outing at the old ball park.

Enjoying dollar dog night

The thing about a trip to the ball park is that you are closer to the action.  If you watch it on TV (which I usually do), you can see instant replays, eat out of your own fridge, soak up your A/C, and sit in your own recliner. It is more comfortable.  Going to the ball park gets you closer to the action.  You can see how fast the game really is.  You can see how big the players are and how young or old they look (they looked pretty young tonight). It is more of a real experience to go to the ball park.

I think it is easy for followers of Jesus to adapt a TV mentality toward following Jesus.  We can sit in worship centers that are nice and comfortable.  We have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.  We can talk with our friends about the Bible and following Jesus.  The problem is when we think that is following Jesus.  That is just talking about it; kind of like watching ball on TV. It requires very little of you and you are not really where the action is.  The action is in actually following Jesus in the real world. It is actually telling someone about Jesus, praying with someone, serving the poor, taking care of the widows and orphans, and helping the sick. It is very easy to go sit in church and then not have time to actually do something that requires some faith and a bit of sacrifice (probably more inconvenience for most of us rather than sacrifice).  So, I've had to ask myself this evening, "Am I following Jesus where the action is or simply watching and talking about it."  James 1:22 puts it this way, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."

Getting in the action of abundant living

3 things I thank God for today
1. Christian bookstores
2. Mail
3. Sense of smell

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 209- An Invitation First

We took Hannah Grace to a Christian camp today. She'll be there for a week. She's been there before so this is not a "first." It's just a Daddy who misses his daughter and wants other people to pray for her this week.  It is more of a shameless request than a "first."

I noticed today that there was a vehicle parked in our church parking lot.  Occasionally people will park there and I assume ride together somewhere.  The idea hit me today that I could leave a note for this person and invite them to come worship at our church. Of course, I've invited many people over the years to church, but for some reason, I've never left a note on an unattended vehicle in our church parking lot with an invitation to church.  That is somewhat embarrassing to think this has not occurred to me before. Today, I left a note inviting someone who left their vehicle in our church parking lot to come and worship with us.

For those who are followers of Christ, we should desire that others come worship in our church.  Of course, the reason is not so that we can have a bigger church or feel better about ourselves helping our church to grow.  No, the reason is because we want people to come to know Jesus and have a very real and personal relationship with Him.  All people are sinful and that sin separates them from God.  Praise God, Jesus came and died for our sin. He rose again three days later.  He offers forgiveness and a relationship with Him to all who will repent of their sin and believe in Him. Romans 10: 9-10 says, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."


I was reminded today that as a believer I am also an ambassador for Christ.  My heart should be attuned to the Holy Spirit to seek to take every opportunity to share the message of Christ. He is too good to be silent about.  He is too wonderful for people to not know about Him.  I desire for my heart to more and more be so enthralled with Christ that I just naturally share Him consistently and joyfully. The idea is not to share Christ out of guilt (because my preacher preached about it pretty hard) or out of duty (I really know I should).  It's much better to share about Christ from a heart overflowing with His love.

I have a friend who used to travel a good bit in his job.  He kept his fishing rod in his car when he did.  One day I asked if he was going fishing. He said no, that he was working.  So, I asked him why he had his fishing pole with him.  His reply stuck with me. He said he had to drive a lot and he never knew when he was going to pass a lake or a pond that looked like there would be good fishing there. He sometimes would stop and ask a landowner if he could fish a little while in his/her pond.  He did not want to miss an opportunity to get in a little fishing that he might otherwise never get the opportunity to do.

Christians ought to be ready to share their faith like my friend was ready to fish.  We  want to be ready and not want to miss an opportunity that we may never have again. I love catching a good fish, but that does not compare with helping someone come to know Jesus. Happy fishing!!

Fishing in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Sunday  School teachers who personally shared their faith with me one on one when I was a teenager.
2. Friends in college who had a strong influence on my life for Christ
3. People who let me fish in their ponds

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 208-A Children's Choir First

Today, I went to our children's choir and asked the students there some random questions for my "first."

Our children's choir meets during our Bible Study time on Sunday evening. I do not teach children's choir. I teach an adult class at night and it is at the opposite end of the church from the children's choir.  So, I thought I'd go down there and hang out with them for a few minutes before my class started.  The ages there are kindergarten-6th grade.  I have pictures of the ones that wanted to be on the blog; some did not want their picture taken and I respected their decision.

Here are some of my questions and their answers (this is similar to what I did with the teens last week).
What is your favorite verse of Scripture?
John 3:16
1 Corinthians 13
Jeremiah 33:3
Isaiah 41:10 - One of my very favorites
Philippians 3:8

What is your favorite Christian song?
We Believe - Newsboys
Trust and Obey
Amazing Grace
Shout to the Lord
Were you There?
Bless the Lord, O My Soul
You are my All in All
How Great Thou Art
Me Without You-TobyMac

What is something you've really enjoyed about your summer?
Swimming at the pool
No school
Going to the beach
No homework
Sleeping a lot

What is something you like about church?
Learning about God
Seeing my friends
Getting to hang out with other Christians
Vacation Bible School
Hearing about missions

It was pretty cool to hear these young students talk about things relating to the Lord.  I want to be an encouragement to all age groups to grow in Christ.  No matter what age we are, we need to be growing in our relationship with Jesus.

As I thought about this "first," it occurred to me that all of us need to be able to talk about Jesus and what He's doing in our lives.  Jesus is active in our lives and is working to make us more like Himself.  I find that I must consistently ask myself, "What is God working on in this season of my life? What is He teaching me and how is He molding my character." Those are good questions for adults.  Our children and friends need to hear us talk about our relationship with Christ in natural and conversational ways like He is real; because He is.

Here's a good challenge. See if you can tell at least one person this week about one concrete change Christ has made in your life.  You can say something like, "Before I became a Christian, I really struggled with ____. After I gave my life to Christ, He changed this in my life and replaced it with ____."  Of course, don't say blank, actually fill in the blank with something Christ has changed in your life.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Let's talk about the wonderful changes Christ has made and bring glory to Him.

Glad for the changes Jesus makes in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Our children's choir
2. Grape juice
3. Soap and that I don't have to make it myself

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 207- A Mousetrap First

Today, Joel and I played a game called "Mousetrap" for my "first."

The ladies here have gone shopping for clothes today.  Joel and I opted out of that experience.  He and I hung out at the house here together today.  I told Joel I would play a game with him that he and I have never played together as a "first."  Well, that was a bit harder than we thought because we've played most games that we have here.  Joel found the Mousetrap game and we decided to play it.

Without too many details, the object of the game was to knock a little marble off a perch and knock down pieces of "cheese" with it.  When you get 10 pieces of cheese, you win.  You roll a dice to see where you launch your little marble from and you can cause your opponent to lose a turn. As usual with these games, the youngest goes first.  That means I'm usually last around here. Despite going last every time, I did pretty well.

We had a lot of fun playing Mousetrap.  Most of the fun came from us goofing around with each other.  The game is just a setting for us to have fun together.  When two guys play a game where you get to knock stuff down, that's always fun. I asked Joel what the best part of the game was to him.  He said, "I got to hit stuff."

Joel setting up the game

Joel found another use for the border; a picture frame

I thought about this idea of winning by knocking the cheese down.  In life, the way you win is by building each other up and not knocking each other down. I think many people forget that in the busyness and business of life.  We can easily turn life into a competition.  I want my company (or church) to do better than someone else's. I want my bank account to be bigger than someone else's.  I want to watch my show or do what I want instead of what someone else wants.  True winning in life is found in loving people and that means building them up with love and encouragement.

A lot of people get beat down by life.  Things come into their life like an illness, a cranky boss, misunderstandings in the family, financial problems, and the list could go on. Many put a smile on their face, but they feel beat down.  As followers of Jesus, we want to build people up with love and encouragement. We want to point them to the One that they can lean on and find grace and help in their time of need.  We may never know how much a smile, hug, kind text, or act of service can mean to someone.  We don't have to; we are to do those things because we love Jesus.  The way we can show our love for Jesus in practical ways here is by serving other people.  2 Corinthians 4:5 says, "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake."  If you don't read that verse carefully, you'll miss that Paul said that for Jesus' sake (for His glory) he was other people's servant.  That's pretty strong.

This reminded me of a poem I heard years ago. This is not deep theology but it is a decent reminder, especially since tomorrow is church day.
Ten little Christians, standing in a line, one disliked the pastor, then there were nine.
Nine little Christians stayed up very late, one slept too late on Sunday, then there were eight.
Eight little Christians on their way to Heaven, one took the low road, then there were seven.
Seven little Christians chirping like some chicks, one disliked the music, then there were six.
Six little Christians seemed very much alive, but one lost his interest, then there were five.
Five little Christians pulling for heaven’s shore, but one stopped to rest then there were four.
Four little Christians each busy as a bee; one got her her feelings hurt, then there were three.
Three little Christians knew not what to do, one joined the sporting crowd, then there were two.
Two little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done; differed with each other, then there was one.
One little Christian, can’t do much ’tis true; brought his friend to Sunday School — then there were two.
Two earnest Christians, each won one more; that doubled the number, then there were four.
Four sincere Christians worked early and worked late; each one another, then there were eight.
Eight splendid Christians, if they doubled as before, in just a few short weeks, we’d have 1,024!

See if you can find someone to build up today and tomorrow.

Looking to build others up in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Playing games with Joel
2. Jesus came to seek and save the lost
3. Ability to be able to call people in the phone

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 206- A Riding First

Today, I climbed a tree and rode it down for my "first."

It's been way more than 15-20 years since I've done this. This counts as a "first." I  used to do this when I was about 9-12 years old at my grandparents' house near Liberty, Ms.   Sometimes my cousin would climb up with me and we'd both ride one down with hopes that if one got off, the other would fling back up.  That works a lot better on cartoons than it does in real life.  I was not sure I could still shinny up a tree, but I made it.  I also found that I did not have to climb near as high as I used to before the tree would lean over to the ground.  I thought I may have heard the tree murmur something about grown-ups should know better than this.

Joel was my partner today. He thought this looked like fun and he gave it a try.  He's not nearly as heavy as me and it's a bit harder for him to ride one down. From what I remember, it's a lot more fun at his age as well.  We had fun doing this "first."

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can

Look out below

Joel gets higher than I do

Me on Joel's tree, we thought it would go a different way and Joel was close to getting landed on

It was pretty fun and I did ride both trees all the down. If I do this again (and I'm making no promises) I will pick bigger trees.  These poor trees did not bounce back at all; no more riding them.

As I thought about that I realized that once I've ridden one of these trees down, it's time to get off.  They have served that purpose and can't really do it anymore.   These 2 trees bent till they pretty much can't pop back to their original status. In fact, they are pretty close to laying on the ground. I thought about how this relates to those who follow Jesus. Sometimes in a person's life, God uses something to help us for a season and then it's time to move along; grow up. It's time to quit riding something that has outlived its purpose. For example, if you are still saying "God is good, God is great" as a way of thanking God for your food and you are 34, it's probably time to move on to something a bit more meaningful. If you are a man who has children that are 4 years old and up and your wife is still doing the praying and teaching God's word to the children, it is time to grow up some and do some of that yourself.  If you go to church simply to see your friends and if the sermon is going to be interesting, it is time to move along and ask what God is saying to you and how you should obey.

We do this in church sometimes. Maybe there is some sort of program or way of doing things that used to be very meaningful but is not anymore. It may be time for the church to discard that program and to grow and move on.  I have a friend of mine that says if he's riding a horse that dies, he gets off.  If the church is riding some horse (using some program or way of doing things) that has outlived its purpose, it's time to get off and find what God wants to do today.  We must continually ask, "What is the best way to glorify God today?  What can we do to help people get to love Jesus and each other better today?"  Let's not simply do what we've always done, but press on to know and love Jesus better.

Pressing on in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Thunderstorms
2. Our dog and cat are playing together (I was afraid the dog might eat the cat)
3. God's mercies are new every morning- Lamentations 3:22-23.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 205- A 10 First

Today, I made a list of 10 great things about each family member and then hid the list in their bed for my "first."

As I was in my office doing some studying, I prayed and asked the Lord what I could do for a "first."  I wasn't going anywhere and had a men's Bible study at the church tonight, so I knew my options were fairly limited geographically.  Just about 5 minutes after I prayed, the idea popped in my mind of making a list of 10 great things about each family member. I'm not real sure if that was the Lord or my brain, but it sure did not seem to have many drawbacks to the idea. I've left notes for them when they've come home from an out of town trip. I've left notes for them when I've went out of town.  I've never made a list of 10 great things and hid it for them while I was at home. It seemed like a fun idea.

It was fun for me to do. I did not agonize over each person's list and they are in no particular order. I just pulled up a blank copy on the computer and typed the first 10 things that came to mind. There are many more that I could have listed, but I just typed out the first ones that came to mind. 

When Joel asked me what my "first" was tonight, I told him it was still in process.  Laura then told the kids to go fix their beds for tonight.  She did not know what was going on, but Joel took off and then I heard him yell.  He said he thought there was going to be a paper in his bed from me.  I said no way, but he said he really did think I had hid something in his bed.  When Hannah Grace saw that, she ran and looked in her bed and was pretty excited about her sheet as well. Laura has not found hers yet and it's getting late, but I'm pretty sure she'll be happy.

Sorry the lists are sideways, I've tried numerous ways to make them right, but have not succeeded. They are right on my computer.


The world that we live in can be pretty negative.  People complain and gripe; sometimes at each other. There is plenty of bad news on TV.  There are plenty of potential heartaches to worry about.  There is just not a lot I can do about most of that. I can brighten someone's day. I can speak a positive word to someone.  I can let someone know I was thinking about them.  This "first" was really good for that.  It gave me the opportunity to think about the positive traits of my family.  Hopefully, it will be an encouragement for them as well.  The Bible says in Proverbs 16:24, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."  I want to be the kind of family man that speaks words of healing and joy to my family. I'm sure there will be many things my children will wished I had done better as a father, but they will have memories of me telling them I love them and am proud of them.

There are plenty of things to complain about today. You can probably find plenty of things in people's lives that you could point out where they need to do better.  Why not look for some good things to speak to people about.  Why not use your words to speak blessing into someone's life today.  God may use them to bring some emotional healing to someone.

Speaking (typing) for the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. My Sunday School teachers when I was small
2. God's words of love in the Bible
3. Reminders to repent