Friday, February 28, 2014

Feel Special

I recently attended a talent/fashion show in our community that featured some wonderful girls and guys that have special needs.  It was unlike anything I've ever been a part of.

The first half of the show featured their talents.  Folks with Down Syndrome and other health issues were singing, dancing, and doing magic tricks.  One guy did the moon walk and another guy made a teacher disappear.  We audience members clapped and cheered for every one of them as they put forth their best effort.

The second half of the show featured fashion.  One at a time, each participant walked out on stage in their finest clothes.  Most of the girls had on dresses and most of the guys had on ties and jackets.  As their names were read aloud over the high school p.a. system, each one of them walked out on stage beaming with pride and soaking up our applause and cheers.

Folks, I was moved by the whole experience.  My eyes water as I write this.  I'll never forget it.

I walked out of Avon Park High School thinking to myself, "Yep, everyone wants to feel special."

Special needs or not, people in our lives ought to be applauded and affirmed from time to time.

If you look close enough, most people in your circle of influence have some quality or feature that should be recognized or affirmed.  Maybe they are smart, talented, pretty, kind, creative, or strong.  Figure out what makes them special.  Identify it.  Acknowledge it.  Celebrate it.

When we point out the good in others we provide wind for their sails.  Positive affirmation can brighten their day, lift their spirit, and unleash their potential.  People are encouraged to hang in there and reach for the stars when they are lifted up and celebrated.

Tell someone today what makes them special.  Let them know about the good you see in them.  And then watch what happens.  A spark will be lit in their heart and that certain someone will want to live like a champion.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Always Awake

Recently I had a rough night.  At 1:28 a.m., I woke up.  Because I was not feeling well, I could not go back to sleep.

Oh, I tried.  Believe me, I did.  I tossed and turned all night in the dark, but I just could not fall asleep.  So I was awake the rest of the night.  Then I got up and went to work that morning.  Needless to say, it was not one of my finer days.  And I can assure you I slept really well that night after I got back home.

I need my sleep.  It's a must-have.  And I bet you are the same way.

Here's an amazing truth about God:  He never sleeps.  24/7, God is wide awake.

That.  Is.  Amazing.

Psalm 121:3 tells us "He will not let your foot slip - He who watches over you will not slumber."  Always awake.  Always alert.  That is God.

We get tired and weak.  We require sleep.  But not so with God.  He keeps on going endlessly.

Years ago, Charles Spurgeon wrote these words about God being always awake:  "When dangers are awake around us, we are safe - for our Preserver is awake also, and will not permit us to be taken unaware.  No fatigue or exhaustion can cast our God into sleep; His watchful eyes are never closed."  (From his book The Treasury Of David)

You see, God's staying awake is not only impressive.  It is also comforting.  Knowing that He is always alert and aware of what is happening, even when we are sound asleep, should totally put our minds at ease.  We can rest easy knowing that God is awake and on watch.

Thanks be to our Lord for keeping an eye on us all day and all night.  That's just one more reason He is wonderful.  And that's another reason you and I can trust Him fully.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Team Of Popcorn Movers

The other day after school I noticed a couple of teachers and several students forming a circle and looking down at something on the ground together.  Of course curiosity got the best of me and I walked over to see what was going on.  Then I noticed it.  The moving popcorn.

One fluffy piece of popcorn was actually moving along the sidewalk where parents come to pick up their children when the 3:00 bell rings.  Upon looking closer, I realized what was really happening.  A team of ants was working together and carrying the load.  As a unit, they were moving that piece of popcorn that was several times larger than each of the individual ants.

All I could say was, "That's what teamwork looks like!"

We guys and girls could all learn a thing or two from ants.  One important lesson they teach us through their actions is this:  We can accomplish great things when we work together as one.  Far better goals are reached when we are united than when we are divided.

I remember learning this several years ago.  It's never left my mind.  And it's 110% true.  T.E.A.M. means this:


It does not matter what the scenario is...

Maybe your family has to clean out the garage.
Maybe your church wants to evangelize every home in its neighborhood.
Maybe your softball team is competing for the city league championship.
Maybe your town desires to reduce its crime rate.

Just remember this:  Regardless of what you want to accomplish, your chances of success greatly increase when you form a team with others and work together as one strong unit.

I'll always remember the team of popcorn movers.  What a cool sight that was.  And what a TREMENDOUS feast and celebration they must have enjoyed when they reached their destination later that afternoon!

The ants are right.  Working together really is best.  And it leads to exciting results. 

P.S.  Would you like to see a short, cool video of what happens when members of a marching band work together as a team?  If so, just click HERE.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Here are a couple of links to blog articles at other sights.  Thought you may enjoy these today:

(1). Brian Gardner wrote a powerful blogpost on "The Secret Of The Snake" recently.  It is something everyone should read.  I admire his honesty and appreciate his words.  You can read it by just clicking HERE.   

(2). In case you missed it, I was asked to be a guest writer last month one day at Jamie Greening's blog.  Jamie is a good buddy of mine that I met in Alabama at Beeson Divinity School.  He also is a gifted writer.  To read my article "Forgiveness" that I wrote for Jamie's bog, just click HERE.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Yellow Jacket In My Car

I was sitting in a fast-food drive-through when I noticed it.

A huge yellow jacket was buzzing inside the car, around my windshield.  And I was sitting there very, very close to it.  Too close!

This really unsettled me!

I'm in a car, and a yellow jacket is right in my face.

Then the thought hit me:  This must be a small glimpse of how God's Holy Spirit feels when He's in our hearts, and we allow sin to be right in His face.

Here's the deal:  When we say "Yes" to God's only Son (Jesus) and accept His gift of salvation, God's Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. He comes to dwell permanently in our hearts.  He is in there!  That's why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:19, "your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you."

When we allow sin to also take root in our hearts, it is thrust in His presence.  That greatly bother Him.  It grieves Him!

"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit," writes Paul in Ephesians 4:30.  What an important point.  Do not allow evil things to enter your life when the Holy Spirit is also in your life.  It is not pleasant or pleasing to Him at all.

I was so glad when that yellow jacket was gone from my car.  I did not like being so close to it.

The Holy Spirit is even more glad when intentional sin is gone from our hearts.  He does not like being so close to it.  At all.

Let's not grieve God's Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds today.  May we, with God's cleansing power and word, be pure inside.  How pleasing that will be to The One who lives within us.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Play The Whole Record

Chris is a good buddy of mine that lives back home in South Carolina.

I once told him about a mistake I had made.  He listened patiently and handled it gracefully.  Then he had this golden nugget of wisdom for me:

"Now if you're ever tempted to make that same mistake again, make sure you play the whole record first."

Then he explained what he meant.

Sometimes we are tempted to repeat sin because, to be honest, part of it was fun.  But we need to remember that we paid a price for that sin, and no short-term fun we experienced was worth it.  If we want to replay that sin in our mind, we also must replay the rest of the scenario in our mind, which includes the consequences, regrets, and scars that resulted from that sin.

It's kind of like what we used to do with records.  We'd buy an album for one or two good songs.  But the rest of the songs really weren't all that great.

Sin from our past may have had one or two good thrills.  But the rest of the experience really wasn't all that great.

Yep, Chris hit the nail on the head.  We need to think big-picture when we're tempted to return to the old ways we used to live.  We need to recount the cost and reflect on the hardships our sin ushered into our lives.

Maybe you're tempted to go back to sin from your past.

You better play the whole record first.  Remember how the fun turned into pain.  Remember how that sin hurt you and others the fist time.  So there does not need to be a second time.

Sin is just not worth it.

Never has been.

Never will be.


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Golden Rule

My oldest daughter had a sleepover recently.  A large group of girls her age came over.  They ate a big supper, watched a scary movie, and eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, a few of the visiting girls got up and did something really kind before Lara and I realized what was happening.  The girls cleaned up the kitchen from the night before and straightened up the living room where they had watched the scary movie.  When Lara and I found it, we were blown away.

We did not expect any of them to do that.  They were our guests.  It was our intention to straighten everything out in the house after they left.

But we were very thankful for their kind deed.  We both let the girls know how much we appreciated them.  Gratitude filled our hearts for what they had done.

It was Jesus who said, "Do to others what you would have them do to you," in Matthew 7:12.  That verse is what we now call The Golden Rule.  And that verse summarizes beautifully what the girls modeled to Lara and me.

Here's how we should treat other people:  Let's treat them how we want them to treat us.  If we want them to be kind, patient, loving, and forgiving to us, then let's make sure we are kind, patient, loving, and forgiving to them.

As always, Jesus spoke words of wisdom.  Treat other people right.  Handle them with care.  Why?  Well, one reason is because it's just the proper way to interact with others.  But another reason is that we ourselves would want to be treated the same way.

I appreciate those young ladies being so kind to Lara and me.  They blessed us in a neat way.  And they reminded me of an important truth through their actions:  The Golden Rule is a wonderful truth to live by on a daily basis.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Old Man Who Could Not Hear

Old people can sure bring a smile to our face, can't they?!

I was in a Publix yesterday.  As I was standing in the check-out line, I spotted an old man bagging groceries for the customers.  I noticed his eyes were locked on the old lady who was at the front of the line.

I don't know how to write what I want to say here.  But I'll try.  Here goes...

He was ... um ... checking her out.  And I'm not talking about checking out her groceries.  He was checking HER out.  I guess the old guy's heart was beating a little faster as he eyed this lady who undoubtedly was collecting social security and affectionately known as Mee Maw by her great grandchildren.

He just couldn't help himself.  The old man finally smiled with great charm, leaned towards the lovely, old lady, and said "Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart!"

She looked surprised.  Then she took a step towards him and replied, "Huh?  What did you say?"

Then a puzzled look grew on his face.  He inched closer to her face.  The old guy responded, "What did you say?"

The lady working the cash register tried not to smile.  I struggled not to bust out with laughter.  It was hilarious.

The old man could not hear.  The old lady was nearly deaf herself.  The two potential love-birds could not connect because neither of them knew what the other was saying.

It was a cute moment.

You know, I'm glad our God is not an old man who can not hear.  When we call out to Him in prayer, He hears what we say and how we say it!  Every word that rolls off our lips is understood by Him.  No communication problems exist with Him at all.

"I love The Lord, for He heard my voice" is what we read in Psalm 116:1.  Amen!  We lift our voice, and God knows precisely what we are saying.

Rest easy in knowing God does hear you.  He is totally in tune with your words.  And in His perfect timing, He will respond in the right way.

It's just one more reason why our God is awesome!  :)

Friday, February 14, 2014


I took my kids to the fair last night here in Sebring.  We had a ball!  It was a fantastic Thursday night.

We saw friends, watched a live show with huge tigers, and ate flat out mind-blowing food.  The funnel cake was my personal favorite.  Of course they got on the rides, and seeing that I have retired from those kinds of rides, I enjoyed watching them.

There was only one thing I did not like at the fair.  I never like this part.  And I talked with my kids beforehand to prepare them for it.


When we walked from ride to ride, the people working the various games were calling out to us.  Constantly!

"Hey man, come over here!  For $5 you can throw darts and win your kid a prize."

"Hey kid, come over here!  For $5 you can shoot this basketball and win a prize."

I don't judge those people.  They're just doing their job and trying to earn a living.  I get it.  But those games are a rip-off and a waste of money.

So as we walked past them, I kept saying to my kids "Just look straight ahead, follow me, and don't even look at them."  And my kids did just that.  They walked with me and did not even look to the left or right when the game voices were ringing in the air.

You know, we all hear voices calling out to us along the journey of life.  They're not just at fairs.  This world has people who invite us with smooth tongues and convincing ideas to stray off the path that God has laid out for us.

Some voices call us to question the truth of God's Word.  Some voices call us to abandon our morals and principles for an excursion into sin and evil.  Some voices call us to throw away our lives for cheap thrills and empty promises.

Proverbs 4:25-27 tells us what to do when those voices are calling out to us:  "Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths of your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."

As I led my kids past the voices last night, I thought about how God, our Heavenly Father, leads us.  He calls us to focus straight ahead on Him, keep our minds locked on His righteousness, and ignore those dangerous voices that call us to stray off the straight and narrow to the right or left.  I reflected on how we all must zone in on the perfect leadership of The Lord and tune out the dark call of the world.

Friends, be careful along the journey of life.  It's a little dangerous out there.  Not every voice we hear should be trusted or followed.  But if we keep our eyes locked onto our Heavenly Father, and if we faithfully follow Him, we will travel the right path and experience a blessed life.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Imitators Of God

One of my favorite places in the whole world is Swan Lake.  Located in my hometown of Sumter, South Carolina, it is a place of peace and beauty.  I've spent a lot of time in my life walking around it and taking in its wonder.

The last time my son and I were there, he struck a pose and imitated a statue of a little boy playing.  Fortunately for me, I had my camera, so I snapped a picture.  I'll always treasure that brief moment.

An imitator of art.  That's what my boy was.  And a pretty good one at that.

What if you and I became imitators of God?  What would that look like?  Is that even possible?

Well, the Bible answers those questions with clarity.

Ephesians 5:1-2 reads "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you..."

There it is!

We are imitators of God when we love each other.  This love causes us to make sacrifices for those in need, extend forgiveness to those who do us wrong, and be kind to people we encounter.  This love is a wonderful and beautiful thing that blesses everyone.

God is love.  And He demonstrates it with breathtaking perfection.  It's quite a sight to behold.

As His children, let's imitate Him today!  Love people.  All people.

Let's make this our prayer:  "God, please fill me today with your love, and please help me to love people the way You do.  And when I struggle with this around difficult people, please love them through me.  I want to be an imitator of You and love people.  In Jesus Christ's name I pray, Amen."

Monday, February 10, 2014

We Have To Hurt Some

Lizzie is my daughter that really digs fashion.  She's our child that will dress up to hang out around the house.  And she has plans to work with fashion for a career when she grows up.

After the Christmas holidays, she came downstairs one morning in a new pair of boots.  They looked great.  I could tell she was proud of them.

"Ouch!  These new boots hurt my feet," Lizzie exclaimed.

"Sorry, Lizzie!  Why don't you just take them off and wear some other shoes today?" I replied.

My daughter stopped, looked at me, and said, "Fashion is pain, Dad."

So she still wore the boots.

That got me thinking along these lines:  If we want to look good, at times we have to hurt some.

Then, I took this idea even further, into other areas:

If we want to be successful professionally, at times we have to hurt some.

If we want to be healthy physically, at times we have to hurt some.

If we want to be strong financially, at times we have to hurt some.

If we want to enjoy positive relationships, at times we have to hurt some.

If we want to be true followers of Jesus, at times we have to hurt some.

My point is this:  Life is not always easy for anyone who rises to the top and excels.  Sacrifice, discipline, and hard work are key ingredients of success in any area.  And those do cause pain for a brief season.  But it's worth the short-term pain to reach big-time success.

Lizzie was right.

A wise saying from a young girl!

Jesus Christ succeeded in saving humankind, and He definitely had to hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  He paid a price.  But He felt we were worth it.

Do you want to succeed in your life?  That's great.  Go for it!  But do prepare yourself:  You will have to hurt some.  And when you do feel the pain, remember that achieving victory will be worth it.  Totally worth it!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

When Someone Dies

Someone has died, and you're reaching out now to the surviving family members.

Reflect on these ideas before you say or do anything...

(1).  Your presence will mean more than your words.  Just be there for them.  Drive to their house, give them a hug or handshake, and spend some time with them.  Don't wear out your welcome by staying too long or saying too much, but do show them you care by being there for an appropriate amount of time.

(2).  Do something for them.  Make them a salad.  Buy them a box of chicken.  Fix them a gallon of sweet tea.  Mow their front lawn.  Wash their dishes that are in their sink.  Vacuum their living room.  I think you get the point.  Acts of kindness will mean the world at a time like this.

(3).  Respect their right to grieve in their own way.  If they need to cry, let them cry.  If they get mad and cuss, just quietly stand there and let them say what they need to say in that moment.  If they hold their emotions inside and express very little feeling, let them handle matters privately without pushing them to pour out their heart to you.  What I'm saying is, let folks grieve in their own way.  Remember we all grieve in different ways, and that's ok.

(4).  Do not say "If you need anything, just let me know."  That puts pressure on them to make requests that they may not feel comfortable making.  If you want to help them, just go ahead and help them.  Or you can say this:  "I want to help you.  What is your greatest need right now?"

(5).  Avoid using this cliche about the deceased:  "Well, he's in a better place now."  While it is a true statement, and it is good to know, that grieving family still misses the one who died.  They are hurting because that special someone who died is no longer with them.  I've had people tell me they got tired of hearing this phrase used over and over when their loved one died, and I can see why.

(6).  Stay away from the phrase "I understand."  You're not that grieving person.  You're not in their skin.  Their feelings are unique.  You understand how you may would feel if you lost someone, but you do not understand how they feel.  Please do not use this phrase.

In summary, just remember this:  Show up, give them a handshake or a hug, tell them you care about them, do something for them if you can, and then just let them respond in their own way.  They don't need sermons and cliches at that particular moment.  Not at all.  They just need your presence, love, and prayers more than anything.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On The Stairs With Mary At Midnight

Mary was in her 80's.  She was sitting on the top of her stairs in her nightgown and housecoat.  And she was crying.

I was sitting beside her.  Quietly.  Saying nothing.  Just being there.

It was midnight.  Her husband, Winn, was standing at the bottom of the stairs.  He tightly gripped his beige hat with his aged, calloused hands.  And he gazed down silently at the old, hardwood floor.

She was crying because someone just called to inform the old couple that their son had died in a motorcycle accident.  Then a mutual friend called me and told me about it.  So I went over to their house.

I did not have the words to say.  But I did offer my presence.  I just sat there on the stairs with Mary at midnight.

Eventually she got tired.  Her husband put her to bed.  Then he walked me to do the door and thanked me for coming over.  I drove back to my house, climbed back into bed, and drifted off to sleep.

Not long after that, Mary told me this:  "I'll never forget you sitting with me on the top of my stairs.  That was what I needed.  Just having someone there by my side was what helped me get through that moment."

Folks, this world is full of hurting people.  There is a lot of pain out there.  It's everywhere you look.

And what people need from you and me, more than anything else, is just to know we care.  They need us to pull alongside them and quietly offer our presence.  Nothing has to be said.  Simply join them at their side.

What can you do for someone who is having a hard time?  Be there.  That's enough.

Just be there. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


I had to have noise.  It was a must.  A non-negotiable.

There was a time in my life, whenever I got in my car to drive somewhere, that I immediately turned on my stereo or got on my cell phone.  It was just something I thought I needed.  So I was either rocking out to my favorite tunes or talking with a good buddy.

Then one day it occurred to me ... I wanted noise because I did not know how to handle being alone in silence.  I used the distractions of music and chatter to distract my thoughts and numb my feelings.  I realized this was a problem that needed correcting.

Now I am different.

When I get in my car alone today, I normally do not turn on music, and I am perfectly fine not talking on my phone, unless it's an emergency.  I enjoy the silence.  In doing this, I sort through ideas in my mind, and I experience feelings in my heart.  In other words, I just deal with whatever is going on inside of me rather than drown it out with noise.

Check out these two Bible verses...

Isaiah 30:15 - "... in quietness and trust is your strength"

Habakkuk 2:20 - "let all the earth be silent before Him (God)"

There is a time for noise.  But there is also a time for silence.  Wise people have a healthy rhythm of the two.

We must learn to be comfortable with silence.  Why?  Because in silence, we are privileged to experience intimacy with God Almighty, and we are blessed to refuel with His peace, joy, purpose, love, wisdom, and power.  In silence, we are aware of His closeness and available to His touch.

The next time you are alone, give this a shot.  Try embracing the silence.  Leave the phone alone.  Turn the stereo off.  Get comfortable with your solitude.  And enjoy the peace and quiet.  It will restore your soul, bless your heart, and change your life.  I guarantee it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was right:  "Let us be silent, that we may hear the voice of God."

Monday, February 3, 2014


"Coach, that was a tough team and a tough game."

That's what I heard a basketball player say in the locker room the other day.  All the other sweaty, exhausted players on the team nodded in agreement.  They had just lost a hard-fought game.  Everyone on the team looked frustrated from the whole experience.

"Guys," said the coach, "life is tough.  That's just the way it'll be at times.  You have to accept that and deal with it."

Doggone, what a smart coach!  He said that without hesitating.  I even wanted to "Amen!" the guy, but I didn't.  Instead, I silently nodded in agreement.

Life is tough at times.  For you.  And for me.

Jesus even talked about it.  In Matthew 5:45, He said that the sun will rise "on the evil and the good." Then He continued by saying it will "rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness."  

Whoever said "Into each life some rain must fall," was right.  That's pretty much what Jesus was saying.  It was true then, and it is true now.

Everyone hurts some.  Everyone struggles with some sort of adversity.  Everyone has at least some seasons of life that are tough.

When life gets tough, just remember...

(1). It's a normal season of life when things hurt.

(2). Stay calm with God's peace rather than freaking out.

(3). God is present to accompany, empower, and guide you through this adversity.

(4). It is a temporary difficulty you are enduring, and better days are ahead for you.

(5).  Stay faithful to your responsibilities and continue to do what is right, even when life hurts.

(6).  Keep in mind that tough times make us tougher people.

Yep, life can get pretty tough at times.  Occasionally, more then we think we can handle.  But don't let these difficult seasons make you bitter; instead, let them make you better.

Finally, hold on to this truth:  Life is tough, but God is tougher.  He can more than handle your challenges.  So let Him accompany you in the midst of adversity, and see how awesome, compassionate, and helpful He really is.