Jun 13 2014

Grasp the Sword!

Theoden reborn

The once strong, commanding king now sits in bewilderment.  The faces of family and friends around him are deeply familiar, yet he can’t quite place them.  He feels as though he has just been roused from a deep sleep.  This is not far from the truth.  For long months, a darkness and gloom has stolen over his land and his people as he has been under the befuddling spell of a sinister wizard. 

But a Friend showed up.  A Friend who was unafraid to confront the darkness that has become the effective law of the land.  More than just a friend…he is a Light-bearer.  And as Gandalf speaks commanding words of truth and power against the dark stronghold of the enemy, Theoden King is set free from the strangling spell.  The Light pierces the Darkness.  The King is transformed.  He is awake.  But waking up is not enough.  He must remember who he is.  He must know his place.  He must reclaim his authority.  And he must walk in courage and conviction if his people are to survive.  And then his Friend and Counselor gently speaks one more time…

Your fingers would remember their old strength better – if they grasped your sword.

Within moments of drawing and wielding his sword, the King begins to act with decisive authority.  He is kingly once again.  His family, his realm, and all of Middle Earth now stand a fighting chance of survival against the malicious evil that is poised to devour them.

If you have never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic masterpiece trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” I urge you to do your self a favor, and read it at your first opportunity.  Not a reader?  Okay, fine – at least watch the movies.  Men – seriously – this is a must do.  Okay, back to Theoden.

Do you ever find yourself feeling lost and overwhelmed in the face of life’s threats and storms?  Perhaps you were once feeling very much in control and capable of responding to whatever came your way.  But things went wrong.  You were blindsided.  Or you lost a few battles.  Or you just sat comfortably for too long, and forgot how to stand and fight the good fight.  And now your kingdom is crumbling.  Maybe it’s your business that is withering.  Or your marriage is on the brink of divorce – or a loveless truce.  Perhaps you’ve given up on trying to reach your kids.  Or you have been defeated and mocked so many times by your addiction that you have lost hope of ever gaining victory and freedom.

I have been there.  I have SO been there.  And I am deeply grateful for the Light-bearers God has sent to me to wake me up and remind me of my source of strength and authority.  So I now find great joy in sharing this hope with friends.

Jesus, our True Source of Light, speaks this bold proclamation and invitation to every one of us who is or was bound in the chains of darkness and despair:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (John 10:10 NIV)

God’s powerful words of Truth continue:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 14)

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16 NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5)

Need to regain your bearings in life? Or find real direction and power for the first time? GRASP THE SWORD! Yes, read your Bible and learn from the wisdom and truth of its pages. But don’t just read a book. Seek the Source of the words in the book. You may need some specific direction in how to save your marriage or your business or your very life. If I can help with that, let me know. But I promise you this. Whatever realm of life you are trying to save and restore, you will do it best when you walk in your true identity.

Look daily to the Source of Light.  Listen daily to the Speaker of Truth.  Drink daily from the Fountain of Life. Sure, you have made mistakes. Maybe even caused a lot of damage.  So have I. But God still wants to lead us in victory. Jesus is offering you His sword of Truth and Power every day of your life. Take it from one who has been awakened and freed and granted victory over the darkness. Grasp the sword.

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May 01 2014

Life Treasures


Something got me thinking this week about the experiences throughout my childhood and beyond that are so valuable to me, and that my son is likely not going to have in the treasure chest of his life.  Some are beyond my ability to influence for him, while others can happen, if I am willing to do what it takes.  Below are a few that come to my mind.  What comes to your mind?  What are the treasures I WILL help to pack in his life chest along the way?  What about you and your kids?

  • Playing impromptu games of “kill the man” with the neighborhood kids and a football in our front yards up and down the street.
  • Stopping at a neighbor’s house for a glass of Kool-Aid or Tang on my bike ride back from the park to my house by myself.
  • Looking through the chainlink fence around the backyard to see who was outside playing, and then just climbing over the fence to go play.
  • Roaming free on a trail through the woods behind the back of our house as a child and teen with no one to keep me company but our family German Shepherds (once we moved from the “chainlink” house in town out to the country).
  • That wonderful feeling of familiarity and comfort I had in the chair by the phone in the kitchen, because that’s where I always sat and talked to my grandparents when they called.
  • Riding in that rear facing bonus seat in the back of a station wagon and gesturing to truckers to blow their cool horns.  Man, I used to love that!
  • Knowing that the original three Star Wars films are far superior to the newer high-tech drivel served up by an older, richer, seemingly much less imaginative George Lucas.
  • Riding horses in Grandad’s pasture.
  • “Helping” Grandad in his garden.
  • Being an active part of a huge parakeet (American Budgerigar) farm.  Okay, so I actually hated this one, but I know it was a tremendously valuable life experience.  You dodged a bullet on this one, son!  : )
  • Seeing the annual spectacle of the world-famous Osborne family Christmas lights of Little Rock.  Oh wait, my son DID get to experience this at Disney World, and even got to take center stage and flip the switch to power on all the lights.  Thanks a bazillion to Kris Breithupt for so graciously helping me check this one off the list a few years ago!
  • Seeing and hearing the national anthem play at the end of the evening when television WENT OFF THE AIR FOR THE NIGHT.  wow
  • The thrill of getting up early on Saturday mornings because it was “Cartoon Day.”
  • Growing up with the Duke Boys as my on-screen heroes, rather than the Avengers.  Don’t get me wrong – I totally dig the Avengers these days.  But Bo and Luke were like real life redneck superstars that could easily have lived just down the road from us.  Okay, that’s kinda scary on several levels, but there it is.
  • Having a video game system with only one button on the joystick control.
  • Sneaking a taste of paste now and then.  Oh, stop judging – you know you did it, too!
  • Living in blissful freedom from the “What Does The Fox Say?” plague.  Well, that must be my clue that it’s time to wrap up this post.

Happy Treasure Making!!!

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Apr 30 2014

Selfie Reflection

Some of you saw my recent WAFB interview on “The Dangers of Selfies.”  How could any of us have predicted that only days afterward, a young woman in North Carolina would actually die while taking selfies and posting to Facebook while driving?!?  While I am not going to dwell on this extreme example in this post, sadly, I do not believe this will be the last such incident.  I thought it would be worthwhile to write out my concerns about the growing obsession of taking and posting “selfies.”

If you are reading this post, and you don’t know what a “selfie” is, I would be curious who logged you onto the internet and helped you navigate to my site.  Let’s face it, selfies are happening, and they are happening constantly – everywhere!  Now, let’s get something straight.  I do not believe taking (and sharing) selfies here and there is a terrible thing, in and of itself.  I do believe they can be both useful and fun.  However, they can also contribute to some serious problems – my two biggest concerns being self-centeredness and personal insecurity.  And it does occur to me, even as I write this, that this is certainly one of those chicken-and-egg scenarios where it is really difficult to say which is cause and which is effect.

One of the general dynamics that is greatly magnified by our social media usage is a growing mindset that people are or should be thinking about me all the time.  As seductive as this can be for me, and for so many of us these days, it is pure rubbish!  I’d say God addresses this whole issue rather nicely right here:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  (Romans 12:1-3 NIV)

When I live with the increasing mindset that people should be thinking about ME, I grow less and less likely to be mindful of how I can be of service to OTHERS.  Once again, I believe God makes His will for our lives rather plain in this wonderful narrative:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Life is truly so much better for all of us when you and I live with a daily mindfulness to show consideration and compassion and service to others.  Much more could be written on this matter, to be sure.  But I’ll go ahead and move on to my second selfie-centered concern…

I generally stay away from using the term “self-esteem,” either pro or con.  So I’ll stick with discussing how the frequent taking and mass sharing of selfies can do so much to increase an individual’s struggle with personal insecurity.  The problem here is not so much wanting to share a fun pic of what you’re doing at the moment.  As I said, that can really be a postive thing at times.  The problem is what happens when you combine the constant possibilities of taking selfies (given that we all have a handy camera with us all the time now) with the forces and culture of social media.  Suddenly my fun moment becomes part of a tidal wave of competition at who gets the most likes and comments, what kind of comments are posted, and “Oh, my goodness, did someone just SHARE my selfie?!!”  The joy of the moment I just experienced is now sacrificed on the fires of the Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr idol.

Here’s my point.  By all means, have fun taking selfies when the inspiration strikes you (just not while driving or perched in precarious positions).  And share them with your family and friends, if you like.  But don’t miss out on the joy of an experience in the here and now moment because you are consumed with posing the best selfie.  What a tragedy.  The only life we have available to us is what we get in the here and now moments.  Be fully present.  Live life to the full.  And don’t miss out on the wonderful life purpose and transformation that comes through responding in love and service to others because you are so consumed with what others may be thinking about you.  This only leads to greater emptiness and loneliness.  Live well.  Live fully.  Live large.  Live for Him.  And be richly blessed.

In His Grace,


p.s. – I was going to end by sharing my all-time favorite selfie with you.  It is a picture of my closest circle of college buddies where we actually stood in a circle in my dorm room, placed the camera on the floor facing up in the middle of us, and two of us managed to snap the picture with our feet.  Of course, we had to wait on the film to be processed before we could be amazed and thrilled with this snapshot of a lifelong memory.  But it will have to remain simply my memory, as I am no longer on Facebook, and that’s the only place I could think to be able to quickly access and pass on the photo to you.  What a great moment, though.  I’m enjoying the picture in my mind right now, and I don’t really need your input on that, anyway.  : )

p.p.s. – After thinking about that selfie of my buddies and me in college, it occurred to me that there is often something qualitatively and psychologically different about taking group selfies vs solo selfies.  Hmmm…

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Apr 24 2014

Me, My Selfie, and I

Here is my latest interview on WAFB.  I will follow this up with a written post this week.

On mobile devices, click on this first link.

WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

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Apr 03 2014



“This is a simple game.  You throw the ball.  You hit the ball.  You catch the ball.”  (Bull Durham)

The coach’s admonition to his players in this offbeat baseball film is true, isn’t it?  Baseball really is a simple game.  Throwing.  Catching.  Hitting.  Running.  Simple stuff – right?  And yet, the complexities and nuances of baseball are a huge part of what still endears America’s National Pastime to the hearts of diehard fans everywhere.  Don’t confuse simple with easy, either.  In the email I just sent out to parents of the 4th grade baseball team I am coaching this season, I included nine key points for successful batting.  NINE!  And these kids are only ten years old.  Let’s face it, a major leaguer who consistently gets a hit only one out of three at bats is likely headed for the hall of fame.  Hitting a baseball ain’t easy.  And then there is the challenge of knowing where to throw the ball at any given point in the game, based on a number of different factors.  It’s a lot to learn.  It’s a lot to remember.  It’s a lot to execute.  And let’s keep those errors to a minimum.

And it’s a lot of fun!  When we can keep it simple.  So much like life.  Whether we are dealing with marriage, parenting, career issues, addiction recovery, or any other field of play.  There is much to learn.  Much to remember.  Much to execute.  Much to avoid.  But with all the nuances and layers and challenges of life, it really doesn’t have to be so complicated.  Robert Fulghum wrote a bestselling and rather endearing book called, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”  If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you do so.  It’s great stuff – and pretty simple.  The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote a lot of heady stuff in his various letters over the years.  But now and then he really boiled life down to the basics…

Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home.

Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone. Don’t be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,

“I am the one to take revenge and pay them back.”

The Scriptures also say,

“If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads.”

Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

- Romans 12:9-21 (Contemporary English Version)

And how about this one for some serious cosmic perspective?

Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought:

Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others. So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

- Philippians 2:1-11

How’s your game?  How’s my game?  Are we keeping it simple?  Are we respecting, helping, and encouraging our teammates in life?  Are we showing the perseverance to keep going when our team seems down and out?  Are we giving more credit to others than we are striving to get for ourselves?  Are we having fun, while giving our best, while remembering God’s love through Christ’s sacrifice has already settled the score?  Are we doing everything for His glory, in view of His great mercy and love?


p.s. – And does anyone know if Harry Caray gave his life to Christ?  Because if there is baseball in Heaven (please, LORD, let there be baseball!), I’d like to think he’s going to be the color commentator.  Just sayin.

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Mar 21 2014



Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.     – John Wooden

I have one of those inspirational quote a day apps on my iPhone, and this quote from Coach Wooden came up yesterday.  WOW!  It hit me as such a solid foundational truth, and one that is so challenging and personal to me, that I took a screen shot and made it my lock screen image so I will be reminded of it daily.  It seemed pithy and relevant enough to me that I thought it worth sharing with you on my blog.  And so I sat down at my laptop, found a catchy image to accompany it (we are visual creatures, are we not?), and began to write.  “This is such a rich truth that there must be some passage of scripture that would drive this point home more deeply,” I thought to my self.  And so, I opened up BibleGateway.com, and the Holy Spirit hit me with this gem…

“And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”     Romans 5:4-5 (Contemporary English Version)

This really grabbed my attention, because I am all about finding and sharing HOPE, as you may have guessed by the name of my website, and would certainly know if you have ever visited my office.  (See exhibits A-C from my office below)  And this verse explains where we can obtain the best kind of hope, “a hope that will never disappoint us.”  GREAT!  So real hope that is absolutely dependable to pay off in the end is a product of character.  Brilliant.  Have the right character, get real hope.  Got it.  But it hit me that verse 4 begins with “And,” and this means we are joining Paul in the middle of an inspired thought, so I would do well to go back to the beginning of his topic in order to get the real point.

photo 2photo 4photo 3

“By faith we have been made acceptable to God.  And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God.  Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand.  So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all!  We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us.  All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”     Romans 5:1-5 (Contemporary English Version)

WHAT?!!  Hold up, there, Paul.  Gladly suffer?  I’m looking for hope, and was kinda thinking joy usually gets sprinkled in with that deal.  What’s up with the suffering business?  And “gladly?!?”  WOW!

The truth is my Real Hope ultimately comes through Christ by faith.  I am powerless to save myself, and I am simply too depraved in my sinful nature to ever present myself as acceptable before the throne of the Holy God.  Jesus came to open the door for me.  Thank you beyond all my words, Lord!  But if I want to have real abiding peace in this hope through Christ, I must live with His upright character.  And if I want to develop that kind of high character, I must practice it by enduring suffering.  It is through the fires of trial and temptation that my heart is refined with the kind of fire than can produce high quality character.  I may be able to put on a good show with my public actions that lead to a noble reputation.  But my true character is revealed in the motivations, desires, and words of my heart that are always in God’s plain view, regardless of who else may be looking or seeing the truth about me.  Will I stand on His Word and seek His will and His righteousness and His glory?  Or will I look to my own strength and whatever I can find for myself to make ME feel better or to escape the pain of the suffering.

And I can attest to this truth.  I have lived most of my life with a high reputation.  Most people tend to like me and think well of me.  And sometimes this really is a reflection of the character of Christ living in me.  But other times, it is simply a reflection of how well I can impress people.  Big whooptie-do!  Like that’s of any eternal value.  I know that when I have been living in a place of low character, being motivated by my sinful nature (pride, fear, resentment, lust, greed, etc), rather than by the Holy Spirit of God living in me, I have been stripped of my peace.  And when peace is gone for long enough, hope begins to drain away after it.  By the same token, when I am living with character that is fueled by and reflective of the Living Word of God, I am filled with great peace, hope, and joy.  And when I am living this way, I am really rather unconcerned with what others think of me (my reputation).

Thank you, LORD, for eternally washing me with your blood, your love, and your grace.  Thank you this season of my life for bringing me back to your Word for daily bread.  Thank you for gently, yet firmly, taking my eyes off of the glitter of this world and leading the gaze of my heart back to your glory.  And thank you this week for using an old basketball coach and an iPhone app to remind me how worthless is the pursuit of reputation, and how priceless is the pursuit of character.

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Mar 11 2014

“If you like ‘em…I like ‘em.”


Just by seeing this image, many of you will know immediately the music video my son has repeatedly used to torment me asked me to watch with him.

“Why,” you may ask, “would a reasonable man such as yourself willingly allow his senses to be so mistreated by a loved one?!?  Don’t you know how to say, ‘No?’  Haven’t you told us, right here on your blog, that a good parent knows how to set good boundaries with his/her kids?”

Well, I appreciate your concern, and I am not waffling on my own parenting advice.  I guess I just haven’t forgotten one of my own Dad’s shining moments…

I believe I was in the fifth grade.  (My son is currently in the fourth grade, for what it’s worth.)  The year was 1985.  Think zippered parachute pants, fat high tops, ripped acid-washed jeans, jelly bracelets, and denim jackets covered with buttons bearing smiley faces, corny jokes, and bold proclamations (“You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny!”)  Perhaps you can actually hear the Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Richie, or Def Leppard in the background.  I finally got the sweet, fat Reebok high tops I had been dreaming of.  And I was eager to trick them out and get them looking their best.  Out with the standard issue laces.  In with the grid of fluorescent orange and purple laces.  Stop laughing.  How goofy did YOU look during the 80s?!

Anyway, picture these bad boys, but with the shoelaces I just described (I SO wish I had a picture of them)…


Jealous much, Heather?  Sorry, 80s flick flashback.  Where was I?  Right – Dad.

So, after tricking out my high-tops, I proudly marched into my parents’ bedroom, where my Dad was sitting on his bed reading a book or something.  “Hey, Dad,” I said with a beaming grin and a gleam in my eye.  “What do you think of my new laces?”  I will never forget my Dad’s brilliant response.  It was truly one of the best moments we ever shared.  He looked down at the outlandish gear on my feet, paused for a couple of seconds, and then slowly and seriously exclaimed in his Tennessee/Arkansas manner…

“Son…if you like ‘em…I like ‘em.”

What he meant was, “I can’t believe you would voluntarily make an already ugly pair of footwear look that much uglier.  You have actually done everything possible to draw attention to the fact that you clearly have no reasonable standards of fashion decency.  Wow, now I know what Bill Cosby meant when he said all children have brain damage!  But I love you, so I will smile and nod, and I will refrain from saying what I really think about this visual atrocity which obviously makes you so proud you can’t wipe the silly smile off your face.  I will even show you some supportive encouragement.  You’re my son, and I’m proud of you.  And I want you to know that more than I want you to know what I think of your present immaturity.”

And the lesson I learned was that sometimes kids get really into seriously silly or obnoxious stuff, and parents aren’t going to like it at all.  But if it isn’t harmful to them, and they really identify with it, we would do well to be supportive and recognize them identifying with their goofy stuff.

Thanks, Dad!  I don’t know if you saw me watching “What Does the Fox Say?” on YouTube with your oldest grandson in his bedroom tonight, or not.  Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you.  Thanks for the lesson.  And for what it’s worth, be thankful we didn’t have YouTube back then.  At least you didn’t have to listen to those awful shoelaces of mine.  Oh, man, I REALLY hope Shep doesn’t decide to get a flattop permed mullet in junior high!  Wait, did I just post that?…


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Mar 04 2014

I survived my first budget meeting! (And you can, too)


Talk is cheap.  I won’t make a big to-do at this point about my new journey with my wife and family into Financial Peace via Dave Ramsey’s course at our church until I have stuck with it for long enough to have something to really talk about.  For now, I will stick to the following observations:

1. Even though our first budget meeting went approximately two hours and thirteen minutes longer than Dave recommends for a “Free Spirit” (read: rebellious type with ADD) like me, I survived to tell the tale.  My spleen didn’t even rupture, or anything.  Our future monthly budget meetings shouldn’t take nearly as long, and I am actually beginning to get excited about the process.

2. My wife, who doesn’t really get any more excited than I do about hammering out financial particulars, seems to appreciate her husband finally “manning up” and engaging in the process of financial management with her.  Guys, if you have been hiding from your finances and leaving your wife to keep the accounts together, it’s time to step up and take care of “bidness.”

3. If you have not yet learned about the power of compound interest, and how it is either working for or against you, I recommend getting educated immediately.  Dave Ramsey can certainly help you with this.

4. My wife is an amazing, lovely, and patient woman who shows me so much grace – I hardly know what to say in response.

5. When you start using cash, instead of plastic, you suddenly become aware of the importance of little things – like returning items to the store that it turns out you didn’t need for your home improvement project.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  And if you, or anyone you know, could really use some common-sense financial guidance that will lead toward genuine freedom and peace, I would heartily recommend Dave Ramsey’s materials to you.

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Jan 23 2014

Home Improvement

couple-painting (This image was so gloriously cheesy that I simply couldn’t resist using it!)


Thanks to a generous Christmas gift, my wife and I are now moving forward with some home improvements that we have been hoping to do for some time now.  Paint, caulk, counter tops, sinks, quarter rounds, molding, ceiling popcorn, cabinet hardware, flooring tiles – it seems the details and materials required are growing by the week!  Thankfully, we are now in a position to pay professionals to do much of the labor for us, so we won’t end up on an episode of “Renovation Realities.”  Whew!  But I didn’t post this to brag about getting a new home makeover.  I’ve been off of Facebook long enough now that I’m just out of that mode.  Thank God for freedom!!!

I have a simple message to share today: House upgrade projects can either be home improvements or home wreckers.  It really depends on your attitude.  Your relationship with your spouse, and even with your kids, can either be brought closer or eroded by the way you face the challenges of remodeling in your home.

It really depends on your attitude.

Oh, I guess I already said that, didn’t I? A couple of years or so ago, my wife and I decided to paint our kitchen cabinets.  It was not a pleasant time.  And our marriage took a hit.  Why?  Because my attitude stank.  I wanted my wife to just come to immediate decisions without ever changing her mind, be thrilled with any effort I was willing to throw at the project, and for her and our son to never say a word to me or look in my direction if I was in a tired or frustrated spot (which was probably most of the time I was in or near the house) for the duration of the undertaking.  Not a pretty picture.  And the sad part is…I’m not exaggerating.

The good news is – I learned my lesson.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  It really doesn’t.  Which brings us up to today:  We have a half bath that is in total disarray, and I am only semi-confident we may have finally figured out how to solve our flooring conundrum in there.  All our bathroom cabinets are primed, unpainted, and missing their knobs.  We have a very large Oriental rug rolled up and stored underneath the middle of our dining room table.  There is a bathroom vanity unit sitting in our dining room.  We have carpet swatches scattered around our bedroom.  There are two wadded up rags hanging out of the ceiling in our master bath area.  Solid surface countertop brochures and images litter our tables and iPhone camera rolls, and we still haven’t nailed down a selection.  Assuming we don’t change our minds and start looking at granite options again.  There are sixteen foot lengths of quarter rounds precariously perched in our garage near the big sheet of bead board, while the rear driveway shows obvious signs of the paint job I just gave said items.  Let’s see, what am I forgetting?…

Oh, yeah – IT’S GOING GREAT!!!  Seriously.  No sarcasm involved.  I am thrilled with the process of our home improvement project.  Okay, having some extra money and some really excellent trustworthy professionals on hand helps.  Not gonna lie.  But that isn’t the biggest difference.  The big difference is my attitude.  My wife and I are having fun.  We are coming together and bonding in the process.  It’s exciting.  We are learning and growing together.  Heck, even my son is starting to get over his disdain for two hour Lowe’s/Home Depot outings, and getting into it with us.  I’m pretty sure I caught him smiling as he felt carpet samples the other day.

Challenges can bring couples and families closer together or tear them apart.  They can be exciting opportunities for growth.  Or they can bring out our worst destructive natures.  What makes the difference?

It really depends on your attitude.

Be patient.  Be kind.  Serve with gratitude.  Listen carefully.  Think things through.  Consider advice and new ideas.  Be quick to forgive.  Try new things.  Don’t gloat.  Get your rest.  Take breaks when needed.  Ask for help when needed.  Be generous with thanks and honest compliments.  Celebrate victories.  Don’t wallow in defeats.

And be sure to play Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Quirkle along the way!  Have fun.  : )

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Jan 09 2014

Game On!


One of the memories I cherish about my childhood family life is the way we would regularly play games together.  I loved playing Hungry Hungry Hippo, Mr Mouth, Clue, Yahtzee, Stratego, Monopoly, Guess Who, Risk, and other games with my parents and my two sisters.  I learned about following instructions, paying attention to details, reading people, communicating effectively and respectfully, gracious winning and losing, patience, and so much more.  And it was just fun.  I mean…Mr Mouth – talk about passin a good time!  : )

And probably more than anything, playing games frequently with my family helped me develop a secure sense of family connection and continuity.  As long as we were playing a game together, it just felt like our world was okay.  I’m so thankful for that.  And nothing captured that spirit more than playing our family favorite – Rook.  My Mom and older sister were always partners, and Dad and I were always partners.  (Sorry, little sis, I’m thinking back to the days before you really joined the family gaming in earnest, and we moved on to other games.)  In addition to always knowing it would be girls vs guys teams, there was another thing you could always count on.  Dad and I always won.  I can honestly only remember one exception to this, and it was quite an experience for Mom and my sister to win.  I remember as a kid, always wondering why in the world Mom or my sister never insisted on being Dad’s partner, since we all knew his team would win.  As I got older, I realized it wasn’t worth it to them to have to live up to Dad’s expectations of his partner.  They just had fun playing.

And for me, it wasn’t so much that I loved all the winning (although I’ll admit I did thoroughly enjoy that).  I think it was a combination of two things.  I felt a sense of wonder and honor at learning from the man who was clearly the best Rook player in the world.  And I felt deeply affirmed by my Dad that he trusted me as his partner, even though I was the youngest player, had trouble focusing, and never mastered the ability to remember everything that had been played already (let alone developing Dad’s uncanny ability to know what cards other players had in our hands before we played them).  Heck, I still remember the early days when I couldn’t even hold my cards in my hand like a fan, and I would lay them face up on the piano bench next to my chair.  And I loved it.  I loved every game of Rook we played.  I was part of something magical.  I felt kinda grown up.  And I did do a lot of growing up along the way.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making our family a game playing family.  You blessed us richly with that.

I am so thankful to my lovely wife for joining me in making our family a game playing family – especially since playing family games wasn’t really her thing when we got married.  But man, did she convert!  I have such wonderful memories of our newlywed years of playing games like Yahtzee and Skip-Bo nearly every night.  Sometimes it was even our gaming traditions that helped us resolve the marital conflict of the day, because, doggone it, it was time to play some Phase 10 or Mancala or whatever.  Bon Temps!  (That’s “Good Times” for those North of I-10.)  Playing games together as a couple really did help us to bond, deepen our friendship, and develop a firmly rooted sense of connected identity.

And family game playing is more fun than ever these days, now that my son has developed beyond the early days of Candyland, checkers, Connect Four, and such.  The three of us absolutely love a rousing game of Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride (huge thanks to our best friends, the Stuarts, for introducing us to both of these), and I’m also eager to try out the Qwirkle game we got for Christmas from a friend.  Our two family faves of Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are fun and challenging.  They push each of us to think ahead as well as to interact with one another both competitively and cooperatively.  There is a certain level of determination and persistence that is required for both.  And you can’t win either game without feeling a genuine sense of accomplishment at having done so.  Incidentally, our bright ten year old is just as likely to win either of these games as my wife or I are, for those who may be curious about age requirements.  (No, I’m not getting any kickbacks from either of these newer game making companies.)  I sincerely hope my son will one day look back on his own childhood with as much joy, satisfaction, and appreciation for our family game times as I do on mine.

What memories will your kids have about playing family games in your home?  What are they learning?  How are you using games as a growing and bonding tool in your family?  What fond memories do you have of favorite family games?  If you’re coming up short answering these questions, I hope you’ll open up a game with your family and start some new fun traditions.  You will all be blessed in the process.

p.s. – It just occurred to me that playing classic dominoes with my grandfather was just as wonderful and magical as playing Rook with Dad.  Thanks, Granddad, for every patient game you played with me.  You never hid the fact that you wanted your grandkids to score as much or more as you did.  That always amazed and encouraged me.  I miss playing dominoes with you, Granddad, as much as I miss playing Rook with you, Dad.  Can’t wait to experience family game nights in Heaven with both of you.

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