Friday, January 31, 2014

Batman In My House

Batman lives in my house.

Seriously.  He does.

I walk past him every morning on my way out the door to work.  Then I notice he is still there when I return home in the afternoon.  

There he stands.  Mysterious.  Dark.  Ready for action.

And he is not real.  Just plastic.  A toy that belongs to one of our kids.

There are a lot of people in this world just like the Batman in our house.  

Not real.  

My guess is we've all done it.  I have done it myself.  Appearing one way on the outside, while actually being another way on the inside.

Not real.

It's like we members of the human race live to impress each other at times.  We get way too hung up on our public image.  We put on our masks and fake smiles to appear as if we have things all together.  The truth is, we even do this when our private lives are disastrous, twisted, bloody train wrecks.  

I've been learning about the importance of being real.  Transparent.  Genuine.  

Real with God.  Real with people.  Real about my thoughts, feelings, and life in general.

Our relationships with God and other people grow stronger when we get real.

Our hearts heal when we get real.

Our lives move forward when we get real.

I like the Batman in our house.  He's a great conversation starter when folks come to visit.  And I must admit he's always been my favorite super-hero in the movies.

But I don't want to be like this plastic toy.

I want to be real.  Transparent.  Genuine.  

Life goes much better when I'm that way.

Let's all be real.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Suicide - Part 2

(This is the second half of my writing on suicide.) 

My son came home from school the other day and said the following:  "Dad, a kid told me today that if someone commits suicide they will not go to Heaven, even if they have Jesus in their heart.  Is that true?"

Without hesitating, I told my son "No, that is not true.  That kid is wrong."

I've heard this idea expressed many times.  And I've never agreed with it.  Not one bit.

Here are my thoughts on it ...

1).  I believe suicide is outside of God's will and, therefore, sin.

2).  When Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord, He handles the payment for our sin and forgives us for all of it.  This includes future sin.

3).  Obviously, someone who kills himself or herself does not have time to pray about it and make things right with God.  But if that person is a member of God's family, they are secure in their salvation.  God does not kick His children out of His family when they stumble and fall.  Once that person is truly saved by grace, they will always be saved.  No sin, including suicide, will change that.

4).  God is the Judge of who goes to Heaven and who does not.  He alone is qualified to make that call.  And not once in the Bible does God come remotely close to declaring suicide an unforgivable sin that blocks anyone's entrance into Heaven.

5). The sin that keeps people out of Heaven is this: Saying "No thanks" to Jesus Christ's offer of salvation.

That's what I believe.

Suicide does not take away a person's salvation and does not keep a person out of Heaven.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Suicide - Part 1

You always have something to live for.


Maybe you lost a relationship, a job, or your financial security.  Perhaps you made a big mistake and are having to suffer the consequences for it publicly and privately.  Possibly you feel there is no hope of things getting any better.

You're considering ending your own life to escape this seemingly unbearable pain.

Just hold on.  Stop!  Do not do that.

Just as quickly as life took a turned downward, it can turn upward.  Things can change in a second.  Your problem is not eternal.

It's in the hard times that you can learn, grow, and become a better person.  Challenges stretch you in good ways.  Your adversity can actually make you stronger and wiser.

Keep in mind there is most likely one person who loves you and needs you.  Maybe a parent, or a child, or a buddy.  Your taking your own life would devastate them.

There is a God who is there, and He does care.  He loves you deeply.  Your attention needs to lock onto the truth that you do matter to God, and He is available to help.

So put down that gun.  Walk away from those pills.  Throw away that rope.

You always have something to live for.

Keep living so you can experience the thrill of overcoming your challenges.

Keep living so you can learn, grow, and become the person who helps others work through their issues.

Keep living so you can bless and comfort the ones who do indeed love you.

Keep living so you can walk with God and experience what He has laid out for you.

Take a deep breath.  Look up to God.  Resolve to hang in there.  And live.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chief's Powerful Question

"I don't love people that much."  That was me being honest with Chief, my good friend, at a basketball game recently.  And that was my answer to a powerful question he had just asked me.

We were watching my 8 year old son play ball recently here in Sebring.  He had a good game.  Made a couple baskets and played some good defense.  

During the game, Chief leaned over and said this:  "Think about how much you love your son.  He means so much to you.  So could you hand him over to an angry mob of people and let them take his life?  What if doing that would save all the fans in these stands from their sins?"

That got to me.  I love that little boy.  And I'd do anything to protect him.  I could never entertain the thought of giving him up to people who want to hurt him or end his life.  Never.

That's why I said "I don't love people that much."  

Yes, I am a people person.  "Relational" is an easy way to describe me.  I do love people.    But the truth of the matter is this:  I could not give up my son to save you or anyone else.  Sorry.  I just could not do it.  I don't have that kind of love.  

But God does.

See, that was the point Chief made to me after his question.  He said, "God gave up His only Son to save all of us.  Isn't that something?!"  

I nodded and said, "Yeah, Chief, that is quite a love He has!  A greater love than I can imagine."  Then I kind of forgot about the game taking place on the court and could only think about how God did what He did centuries ago.  He allowed His Son, Jesus, to go through a trial, beatings, whippings, public humiliation, and execution on a Roman cross.  I once again tried to comprehend how God could give up His sinless Son to save sinful people like me.  It was quite a moment.

Friend, you are loved.  Loved by the one, true, living God of the universe.  Loved in a way that is too deep and too great for any of us to even come close to understanding.    

I've had some great talks with Chief over the years.  But that one especially moved me in a profound way.  And reminded me of the most important truth of all:  God loves you and me.  Always has.  Always will.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What We Do

I was driving up highway 27 here in Sebring.

"We invest in relationships" was the message I saw on a bank's billboard.

"We cater" was the message I saw on a bar-b-q restaurant's sign.

Within 30 seconds, two businesses let me know what they do.

So that got me thinking ... what do we Christians do?

The answer popped real quickly into my head:  We love God and we love people.

I got that answer there in the front seat of my old car by remembering the words of Jesus.  In Matthew chapter 22, some religious people were asking Him about the most important commandment.  He answered #1 love God (verse 37) and #2 love people (verse 39).

That's what we do.

We love God...  This motivates us to obey, serve, follow, honor, and worship Him.  And when we fail, our love for Him inspires us to quickly confess, repent, and get back on track.

We love people...  This motivates us to tell them about God's truth, care for them when they hurt, and treat them right.  And when we fail, our love for them inspires us to quickly apologize and make things right with them.

It's really pretty simple.  Jesus defined for us with pin-point accuracy exactly what our business is.  He made it crystal clear for us.

I'm glad the bank and the bar-b-q place understand their mission.  It's so important to have well defined missions and objectives.  That's how they stay focused and succeed at what they do.

Let's focus, Christians, on what we are supposed to do.  Let's love God.  And let's love people.

When we do that, all the other stuff in life falls into place and makes much more sense.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm Kind Of A Big Deal

Look ... um ... I'm kind of a big deal.

Ok, let me explain.

See, that's been my joke since the lady in our school's office gave me this red I.D. badge holder that I wear around my neck at work every day.  I didn't realize at first that the letters "VIP" are all over it.  As you know, that's short for "Very Important Person".  Of course, I've had some fun kidding around with folks about that.

No, in the eyes of man, I'm not a big deal.  Just an ordinary guy with strengths and weaknesses like any other fellow on the planet.  That's what I am.

But I've come to realize that in the eyes of God, I am kind of a big deal.  And so are you.  We all are very important to Him.  

Think about it:  God chose to create us.  God looks out for us and takes care of us.  God sent His Son, Jesus, to rescue us from sin and Hell.  God is preparing a place for us in Heaven.  And God will one day welcome us home to spend eternity with Him.  That's more than enough iron-clad proof that we are VIP's.

So yeah, my I.D. badge holder is accurate.  I am a very important person ... to God.  And you are a very important person to Him as well.  How cool is that?!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

You Complete Me

"Jerry McGuire" was a hit in movie theaters when it came out years ago.  And this line was one of the most significant parts of the movie:  "You complete me."  A guy said it to a girl in an elevator using sign language.  And Tom Cruise said it to the girl he loved towards the end of the film.

You complete me.

Many guys think a girl can complete them.

Many girls think a guy can complete them.

Here's the problem:  It is not possible for anyone to complete you or me.

Yes, people can bring a good dose of love, happiness, comfort, and pleasure with their companionship.  Relationships are a wonderful thing.  And they are worth investing in!

But know this:  Nobody is perfect.  Everybody is flawed.  That Miss Beautiful or Mr. Wonderful who has captivated you has shortcomings.

The One who can complete us is God.  He gives us life's ultimate satisfaction.  He fills our heart's void.

Love that special someone.  Work on that relationship.  Hang in there with them, despite their faults.  But be fair and reasonable with them.  Don't expect them to complete you.  Only God can do that.  Never, ever put a God-sized job on a girl or a guy.  It will overwhelm that special someone, and it will eventually disappoint you.

I'm glad we have a God who completes us.  He makes us whole and healthy in our hearts.  He fills us up with His joy, His peace, His strength, His purpose, and, best of all, His Holy Spirit.  When we are saturated with those things, our lives are made right.

Let God complete you.  He does it like nobody else can.  And what a difference it makes!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Last Thing Giles Told Me

"Serve The Lord with gladness" Psalm 100:2

Giles was an old bachelor.  He was in his seventies.  And our church in South Carolina hired him as our interim music minister for about a year.

Over time I grew to really appreciate and respect him.  He had a lot of wisdom, and he was willing to think outside the Baptist box at times, which was refreshing.  Sometimes he got on my nerves with his unsolicited advice, but that was ok.  I loved the old guy and was honored to work with him.

His health went downhill.  Giles fell down some steps and wound up in a wheelchair in the local nursing home.  I felt bad for my friend.

Right before we moved to Florida, I went to see him in the nursing home one last time.  There in his room, he listened quietly as I told him I was moving Lara and the kids with me a few hundred miles away.  When I finished my talk, Giles did something.  He struggled and pushed down on the arms of his wheelchair.  Then he stood up, placed a hand on my shoulder, and said this:  "David, I love you.  Go in peace and serve God."

A big lump formed in my throat, and tears filled my eyes.  I couldn't say anything.  I just nodded, smiled, turned around, and left his room.

That was five years ago.  We haven't spoken since.  I don't even know if he is still alive.  But I remember those words so clearly, like they were spoken five minutes ago.

"Serve God."

Along the journey of my life, God continues to teach this Carolina boy that life is not about me.  It's really not.  Instead, life is all about Him.  My time in this big ole world must be about enjoying God's presence, doing God's work, spreading God's word, and magnifying God's name.

"Serve God."

What about you?  What, or who, are you living for?  Can I pull a Giles and give you some unsolicited advice?  Spend your days serving The Lord who loves you more than you can imagine.  In doing this, you'll find a peace, joy, and purpose that you'll never find if your world revolves around yourself.

"Serve God."

I miss that old man.  One day I'll see him again, either down here or up in Heaven.  And when I do, I'll tell him this:  He was right.  Serving God really is what life is all about.

"As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord" Joshua 24:15

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Worst Part Of Being Prejudiced

Recently a young black boy told me his dad did not let Santa Clause come to his house at Christmas.  I asked him "Why's that?"  He replied, "Because my dad said he will shoot any white man who tries to step foot on his property."  Then the kid smiled and laughed.  I think he was just kidding me.  No harm was done.

The truth is, however, there are real prejudices in this old world that can cause bad problems.

In the Bible, we read an interesting little story about Phillip having a talk with his brother, Nathanael.  It went like this:  Jesus approached Phillip and invited him to become a follower.  Phillip ran to Nathanael and told him that he had just met Jesus. And he also added that Jesus was from Nazareth.  Nathanael responded by saying, "Nazareth?  Can anything good come from there?"

Ouch!  Now that's a prejudice.  He already had an opinion about Jesus just because of what side of the tracks He was from.

But let's not be too hard on Nathanael.  After all, we do the same thing some times.  We quickly size people up on occasion because of what color their skin is, where their homes is, or even how they dress.

Now, Nathanael did come around.  He gave Jesus a fair chance and Jesus did accept him gladly.  It all worked out.  But he nearly missed out because of a faulty preconceived notion about people from Nazareth.  What a tragedy that would have been!  Jesus is the person he needed most of all.

Folks, here is the worst part of being prejudiced:  It causes us to miss out on relationships with amazing people from all walks of life.

Let's be slow to form opinions of people until we give them a chance and get to know them.  It doesn't matter if they are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, young, old, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, Democrat, or Republican.  The real "stuff" of people is found in their hearts and minds.  And the real "stuff" usually comes out after we get to know therm personally.

God did not make us all just alike, and that's ok.  Let's celebrate the diversity of our human race.  Everyone brings something unique and helpful to the table.  This makes everyone valuable!

May we  say "No" to prejudice.

May we say "Yes" to accepting and loving people who are different from us.

May we give people a chance to reveal who they really are from the inside out before we form any opinions of them.

That sounds pretty fair and smart to me.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

About This Whole "Going To Church" Thing

"I believe in God, but you don't need to go to church to be a good Christian."  There are people who say this.  And plenty of them are indeed good people. 

The question is: Are they right?

Well, what rescues us from our sins is believing on The Lord Jesus Christ.  When we allow Him to become our Savior and Lord, He forgives our wrongdoings, gives us purpose, power, and peace for the rest of our days on this planet, and guarantees us an eternal future in Paradise with Him and the rest of His followers.  Jesus is the key to having our life and eternal destiny changed.  

Jesus, not the church, saves us.  


We do need the church.

Here is some of what the church does for us:  Helps us grow in our knowledge of God and the Bible.  Fosters good relationships between us and other followers of Jesus.  Encourages us when we are down.  Celebrates with us when we experience victories.  Provides access to baptism and communion.  Leads us in meaningful worship opportunities.  Equips us and partners us with other followers of Jesus to do God's work in the world.  And plenty more great things!

I look at it like this:  Church matters because it helps me in my relationship with Jesus.  I need Jesus and I need His church.  I personally can't imagine being involved with one but not the other.

Ultimately, I'll say this for myself:  I don't have to be involved with church ... I get to be involved with church.  I love it.  I benefit from it.  And I will remain an active part of it the rest of my life.

It's a blessing to be involved with church.  It makes a HUGE difference in our lives.  May all of us followers of Jesus make it a priority.

Let's all meet up in church this week!  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Alone On The Stairs

I was alone on these stairs yesterday at the school where I teach.  Nobody was looking.  And I did something.

The morning bell had rung and I was running a quick errand on campus.  When I was alone in the stairwell, the school's intercom came on.  A lady from the front office asked us all to stand and say the pledge of allegiance.  

Now, I was all by myself.  Nobody was watching.  But I stopped.  I didn't have to think about it.  And I put my hand over my heart as I said the pledge.  Then, when I finished, I went up the stairs to my classroom.

So what's the big deal about that?  Plenty of people would have done the same thing.  Why even point this out?

Well, I got to thinking later in the morning:  It was automatic for me to be respectful of America when I was alone.  But it's even more important for me to be respectful of God when I am alone.

See, it's really kind of easy to be "Christian" when people are looking.  But I think what really speaks volumes about us is what we are like when nobody is looking.  Our true heart and character are revealed when we are alone on the stairs, or in the car, or at our home, or wherever.  

Sure, I want to be a true American even when nobody sees me.  That does matter.  But even more so, I want to be a true follower of Jesus when nobody sees me.  In the grand scheme of things, that's a far bigger deal.

May we all live for God in public and in private today.  Whether a big crowd sees us, or nobody has a clue where we are, let us be mindful and respectful of our awesome God.  And may we honor Him with a life of obedience.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Night I Was Locked In The Sumter Cemetery

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  John 8:36

One night, I was locked in a cemetery in Sumter, South Carolina.

I was 15 years old.  My dad and I were setting up a small tombstone for a family, and it was a simple job.  The sun was going down, the breeze was blowing, and we were wrapping up our work.  After putting our tools back in Dad's truck, it felt good to be through.  As we started driving towards the front gate to head on home, it was totally dark outside.  Then when we realized something.  The guy who managed the cemetery had left early.  He didn't know we were working back there.  And he had locked the gate.  Dad and I were stuck.  The Carolina moon was shining down on us.  I must confess it was a little eerie for a few moments.

Since we didn't have a cell phone, I figured we would be staying right there for a while.  But Dad had other plans.  He calmly got out his toolbox, walked up the gate, and disconnected it from it's hinges.  Then he pulled the gate to the side and told me to drive the truck through.  Finally, he put the gate back in place, then we went on home. Mom's supper was waiting for us, and I was glad to be liberated from that place.

Dad provided freedom.  And I was really grateful!  Wouldn't you be?

Jesus also provides freedom.  Actually, it's the greatest freedom of all.  And it makes an eternal difference.

When we trust and follow Jesus, He frees us from...

An eternity of darkness and suffering.

All those shackles and chains that have bound us for years fall by the side when we let Jesus become our Lord and Savior.  He forgives our sins, gives us a new life, and secures our eternity.  I can't think of a better kind of freedom than that!

Jesus has done a lot of good things for this ole boy.  The greatest blessing of all is my freedom.  And I can not thank Him enough.

Yes, Jesus makes us free if we let Him.  What a blessing!  And what an important message that the whole world needs to hear about.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Bush Of Terror

This huge bush is in our back yard.  It's tall and wide.  Over twice as tall as my 8 year old son.  And it strikes terror in him.  He won't go near it.  Why?  Because I killed a big snake in it a couple of years ago.  My boy refuses to get close to it because he is scared more snakes are in it.

What scares you?

Maybe it's not a big bush.  But it could be that huge stack of bills, or that bad set of test results from the doctor, or that crumbling marriage.  

I'll ask again:  What scares you?

When you are afraid, remember this:  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  This is Joshua 1:9.

That verse has two commands:  Be strong.  Be courageous.

Next it forbids two things:  Being afraid.  Being discouraged.

Finally it has one promise:  God will always be with you and me.

Here's the point:  Regardless of what scares you, remember that God is with you, stand strong, and live courageously.

No bill, medical report, relationship problem, or snake-filled bush is too much for God to handle.  And, this all-powerful God lives in your heart if you trust in Jesus.  So that means you can boldly do your thing and live your life.

Don't hold back with fear; instead, charge forward with courage!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Carolina Graveyard Lesson

In high school, I earned money on a lot of Saturdays by working in graveyards. My late grandfather, Leon Richardson, had this business called Richardson Monuments, and it was located in Sumter, South Carolina.  It's still there today, by the way.  He sold tombstones and grave markers. Then a team of us younger guys, usually led by my dad, went out to the actual grave sites and set up these beautiful monuments.  Some of these were big, heavy pieces of granite.  It was not easy work, but I enjoyed those Saturdays with the fellows in those Carolina graveyards.

I learned early on that the key to setting up a tombstone the right way was to have a solid, level foundation.  My dad took his time leveling out the ground, mixing and pouring the concrete, and making sure everything was just right before we ever put down one of those huge rocks.  This would ensure that the tombstone would stand strong over time.

We need a good foundation to base our lives on too.  And I can't think of a better one than Jesus.  Life can get a little tough.  But Jesus, the Son of God, is mighty strong.  If we place our faith in Him, stay connected to Him, and trust in the promises made by Him, we can remain firmly grounded over the years and during the storms of life.

I'm learning this truth in my life more and more:  I need Jesus.  Big time.  He is The Rock on which I must stand.  And this is true for you as well.

Let's base our everything on Jesus.  What a difference that will make.  And what a long-term blessing that will be.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hey Pastors

I used to be one of you.  For 16 years I was a pastor too.  Currently, I am not.  I sit in a pew instead of stand in a pulpit on Sunday.  But my heart is still very much with you church leaders.

Preaching the gospel and loving the people is serious business. You're making a real difference in this world, so never ask yourself, "Why am I even doing this?"  Even if you can't see the results right now, know that doing the work of The Lord is always a worth while endeavor that makes an eternal impact on the souls of people.  

It's a privilege to be a messenger of The Lord.  I know some pastors privately say, "I'd do something else if I could", but think about it:  you are the mouthpiece for the Creator and Savior of humanity.  Think about how important that is.  So celebrate your calling into pastoral ministry.  Thank Him for allowing you to be a part of His kingdom's thrilling and vital work.  

If it's ok with you, I'd love to share a few quick things I've learned along the way about ministry:

1.  Keep your own personal relationship with God top priority.  Read scripture.  Pray.  Sing to Him and worship Him.  Remember to maintain your own walk with Him.  

2.  Hold on to your family.  If you're married, invest time in that relationship with your spouse and keep it healthy.  If you have kids, give them attention and assure them they do matter to you.  Your connection to The Lord ought to be the only thing more important than your bond with your family.  

3.  Love the congregation you serve.  They are the flock, and you are their shepherd. So learn their names, listen to their stories, and get to know them.  Pray for them publicly and privately.  And forgive them when they do you wrong.  I know the deal:  some church members are easier to love than others.  But they all still need to be loved.  So just let God's love flow through you to them.  

4.  Let some trusted, mature Christians get involved with your life.  Be transparent with them.  And invite them to hold you accountable.  Share with them your private joys and sorrows.  Be real with them about your struggles.  Let them help you along your journey of life and ministry.  You need people to speak truth and wisdom into your life.  So surround yourself with good people who can do that.

5.  Be up-front with people if you do wrong.  If you make a dumb mistake, just come clean, take responsibility for it, and work through it.  Don't hide it and try to sweep it under the carpet like it never happened.  That will only make things worse.  People can forgive a mistake quicker and easier than they can forgive a lie.  So just be real and own up to things when you make a mess.

6.  Remember that you are a sinner saved by grace.  Don't let pastoral ministry make you cocky.  Don't think you're better than anyone.  The truth is, you need Jesus just as much as your congregations does.  So stay humble.  

I've learned some of these things the easy way and some the hard way.  I've had thrilling victories and miserable failures.  So I share these thoughts as someone who knows from experience.

As I write this, I do hope to one day get back into church work.  I would love to re-join you, pastors.  Time will tell if God allows me that sacred privilege.  His will has to prevail in what happens in my life.

Just think about these things, ok pastors?  I appreciate you.  And I respect you.  What you're doing is really important stuff.  So keep at it.  Know that God is there with you, He loves you immensely, and He will help you.  

Always and forever, God is good.  So serve Him and be blessed.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A 7 1/2 Minute Preacher

The first time my home pastor invited me to preach was in 1989, and I was 18 years old.  Man, I was fired up and ready to roll.  He set it up for a Sunday night, which ultimately proved to be a smart move.  See, in the Baptist world, most of the Sunday night church crowd is made up of Grandaddys, MeeMaws, and an occasional truck driver that is passing through town.  I guess my pastor figured that the crowd was mostly saved and pretty patient, so it would be pretty tough for me, as a rookie, to cause too much damage!

I studied and practiced my sermon that week.  Mom starched and ironed my church shirt.  Dad helped me polish and shine my church shoes.  I figured I looked about as good as Billy Graham in his younger years, and I hoped I could preach at least half as good as him.

Sunday night arrived.  The church was Grace Baptist in Sumter, South Carolina.  About 75 people were in the pews.  My pastor called me up to the pulpit.  Then, it happened.  I panicked.  My heart raced.  I forgot to breathe.  And I preached my planned 25 minute sermon in 7 1/2 minutes.  Then, to top it all off, I didn't know how to end my sermon, so I said, "Well, that's about all I got for tonight.  So ... thanks."   I walked back to my seat.  Silence filled the room.  Nobody said a word.  I think maybe a cricked chirped and a baby squeeled.

I wanted to crawl under a pew and fall through a trap door.  Humiliated is how I felt.  Heck, Billy Graham could preach ten times better than that on his worst day, even with his KJV tied behind his back.  I blew it, and I knew it.

But I'll never forget what happened next.  Gary Parker, my pastor, stood up and faced the congregation.  Then he said, "You know, church, sometimes you don't have to say a lot to say a lot.  So David, we thank you."  Then everyone clapped and gave a hearty "Amen!"  The Baptists were happy.  My pastor nodded at me with approval.  And Mom shed a tear as she smiled.  Everyone was so kind and positive towards me as they spoke on their way out the door.  I knew they secretly were thrilled to finally beat the Methodists to Baskin Robbins on a Sunday night after church.  But they were also intentionally encouraging a kid who was a little embarrassed after his failed attempt at preaching excellence.

You know, I'll never forget how those people lifted my spirits that night.  It blessed my soul.  And it made me more willing to try it again in the near future.

Folks, never underestimate the power of encouragement.  Be positive with others, as much as you can.  Look for the good in them and applaud it with gusto.  Let them know what you like about them. When you do that, you'll bless them in ways that you may never realize this side of Heaven.  Then you'll inspire them to use their God-given talent and follow their God-directed calling.

Yep, I was a 7 1/2 minute preacher that night.  But I got over that pretty quickly after receiving all their encouragement.  And I walked out that church building under the Carolina stars thinking, "I know I'm not Billy Graham, but I'm ok with being myself."  Thanks to that Sunday night group of encourages, I was ok with that.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cleaning The Boards

Happy New Year to you and yours!

When I was a kid in school, I was "invited" by my teachers to stick around every now and then after the bell rung to wash the boards.  Let's just say my less than stellar behavior earned that for me.  So I got pretty doggone good at erasing the chalkboards, filling that old bucket with water, soaking a big, fat sponge, and scrubbing those boards clean.

Now here's the weird part.  I actually enjoyed doing that!  My teachers always meant it as a punishment; however, I kind of liked doing that work, standing back, and looking at those clean boards.

It's New Year's Day.  The past year is over, behind us, and done with.  And our lives are like clean boards.  We have a fresh start and a brand new beginning.

Let's make our lives count in this New Year!  Let's love God and love people.  Let's dream big and work resiliently.  Let's live this year in such a way that when December 31 roles around in twelve months, we can celebrate the best year of our lives.

May God accompany us, empower us, direct us, and pour His amazing goodness out on us in this brand new year.