Was it Perfect Timing or Luck?!

The family and I went for a walk the other evening.  It was a beautiful, clear night accompanied by the random smells of blooming flowers itching for spring to arrive.

It had been a while since we’d strolled through our neighborhood streets…one of those simple things that we’ve always enjoyed doing as a family.

As we rounded the corner, conversation rambling, the dog sniffing and me just being content, we noticed the silhouette of someone sitting on the curb of their walkway up ahead.  As we got closer, we discovered that it was our 88-year-old friend Susie, sitting in the dark, bucket of yard debris next to her.  We approached timidly, telling her who we were.  It was pretty dark, so we didn’t want to startle her.  She looked up with a half-confused / half-relieved look on her face.  She had been out doing yard work for a while and ended up getting tired or dizzy, so she sat down at some point.  Apparently, she couldn’t get up from where she was sitting…no phone to call anybody and nobody else around.  It was so sad to see.

We’ve been friends with Susie for years.  She’s kind of like a grandma to us, so we offered to help her up and walk her to her front door.  We discovered that her door was locked, but luckily, she left her garage open, so we made our way in that direction.  My son, Ben dumped her yard debris for her and all was well.  After some chit-chat, we all had a big hugfest, said our “I love you’s” and Susie was safely in her house…thank the good Lord!

I can’t help but think about how long Susie would have been sitting outside if we hadn’t walked by!  What a helpless feeling that would have been!

Now, please don’t think this story is meant to praise my family for stopping to help…..I would hope that any decent person would have done the same thing.  This story is about God and His perfect timing.  It’s about how He intervenes in the most practical ways amidst the most practical things.  It’s about the beauty of how God brings people together.  It’s about God providing my family an opportunity to love someone with actions, not just words.  It’s about the privilege we had as parents to teach our sons how to help someone in need, even if it meant sending our plans on a little detour.

God’s pretty tricky and clever regarding setting up divine opportunities to love.  My guess is that each of us encounter set ups like this all the time, we just don’t always have eyes to notice them.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own stuff and I get it, there’s a lot of stuff to get wrapped up in!

What I’ve noticed is that when I actually pray for opportunities to love, I often find them…but only if I’m actively looking, trying to be aware of what He’s doing.  Other times, I’m fuzzy and clouded, wrapped up in my own mess.  These are the times where that magic invitation just floats on by, untouched and ignored.

The cool part is that for every invitation from God that we reject, He sends us more and more and more opportunities to love.  He’s patient, waiting for us to accept.  Sometimes His timing leads to an obvious situation such as what we experienced with Susie.  Other times, we have to step out in courage, trusting that He’s got this.

The truth is that He doesn’t need our help loving people…He’s pretty good at it!  I tell you what though, He really wants us to be a part of what He’s doing because His love is absolutely inspiring!  He’s gracious enough to let us be a part of His story!  Would you be willing to be a part of it?  I mean that…would YOU be willing to ask God for opportunities to love?  You’re special and I know you have a lot to offer this world.

Do it.  I dare you.

His timing is perfect.  Always.

God Bless,

Paul

 

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Having a Bad Day? Do This!

Man, have you ever had one of those crappy days where things just don’t go well?  Imagine something with me for a second…you start off the day with a cold shower due to a broken water heater…you somehow find a way to burn your toast and spill your coffee at the exact same time…you stare at the bumper in front of you, stuck in traffic for what seems like days…you arrive at the office to find jelly on your shirt and toothpaste drippings on your pants…your co-workers are grumpy, you have a headache and it’s raining outside for the 3ooth day in a row.  You then arrive home to sick kids and mold on the leftover pizza that you were planning on eating for dinner…one of those “first-world-problem” kind of days.  Yeah, we’ve all been there to some extent and I understand.

For some of us, these days happen often.  In fact, some of us continually live under this big, dark rain cloud that drips negativity and pessimism….many of us are living with a condition called “perpetuallybadday syndrome.”  Ok, it’s not a real condition, but it should be!

Don’t worry, I have a solution for these stinky days!  It’s not a medication or a therapy class…it’s not a magic potion or a formula to follow…it’s people.  That’s it.  Let me explain.

TO PUT IT SIMPLY, LOVING AND HELPING OTHERS IS THE BEST THERAPY FOR A BAD DAY. 

It’s amazing what happens when we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on other people.  There’s something amazing about connection and meeting others in their struggles that brings about that organic, lively feeling of being human, of being used.  It’s almost like God created us to be in relationships, putting others first, huh, weird.

Really though, I want you to try this!  Offer a smile, a mocha, a hug, an email, a text or whatever you can do to make somebody’s day a little brighter today.  My guess is that at some point, it’ll make you smile.  My guess is that at some point, it’ll make you feel alive.  My guess is that at some point, it’ll make you forget about your troubles, if even for a moment.  Imagine if every day consisted of this challenge of pushing ourselves aside and placing others in the front of the line.  What a great outlet to life’s trip wires!

Something that I tell the kiddos on my soccer team as they’re dribbling down the field is this:  “LOOK UP!” or “KEEP YOUR EYES FORWARD!”  I think this can be applied to life as well.  As humans, a healthy dose of looking inward is ok, but if our eyes are always looking at ourselves, we tend to run into walls and swerve around opportunities.  Looking up allows us to see those around us and provides us an escape from ourselves.

So take heart friends, you don’t need to stay down in the dumps, even if you’ve started there.  Tomorrow presents good medicine for “perpetuallybadday syndrome”…..it’s called “todayIovercamemyselfandhelpedothers pain relief”….or something like that :).

I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you!

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

The Dinner Table

My wife and I love being parents.  It’s such an honor, a challenge, a frustration and a blessing, all at the same time!  The whole “I wish there was an instruction manual for these kids” comment has been thrown around a few times for sure!

I think I can safely say that Pam and I feel like students, constantly learning new things about parenting.  Oftentimes, it seems as though us parents are the students and our children are the teachers, doesn’t it?!

One of the most recent lessons that we’ve learned as parents is fairly simple, yet so important.  Here it is…drum roll please…: SITTING AROUND THE TABLE AT MEALS IS SO AWESOME AND SO NECESSARY!!! 

You may be thinking, “duh, of course it’s important to eat meals around the table!” and we thought the same thing for years…until our lives got a little busier.  I confess that we got comfortable throwing a towel on the ground in the living room, flipping on the TV and contently eating there collectively gazing at the Food Channel or whatever….like for every meal.  I know there’s worse things in life, but my wife and I realized that we needed to make some changes.

Don’t get me wrong, eating in the living room isn’t a cardinal sin and I certainly don’t condemn others for doing that!  Life gets busy, I totally get it!  For my family, it just didn’t work out, at least not as a regular thing.

When planted in front of the TV, we noticed a huge lack of conversation and the only comments made were things like, “hey, pass the Sriracha” or “I can’t believe Henry Danger did that!”  Recapping the day didn’t really happen and we started to feel a little out of touch with each other.  Things just felt “off.”

So, we decided that most nights (not ALL nights), dinner would be shared around the table together.  The boys complained a bit at first, but I can understand their disappointment….parents vs. TV…hmmmm.  They’re used to it now, but it’s not like they had much of a choice in the first place 😄.

You know what, it’s been great!  It’s funny how a meal together around a piece of wood can sync things so nicely.  We’re all present, we talk about the day, we laugh, we’re together mentally, not just physically, sitting in the same room staring at the screen.  It’s beautiful.

I do understand that this may seem old fashioned to some folks and that’s ok!  If eating around the table isn’t your thing, I encourage you to find that face-to-face time with your family.  Whether it be taking a walk, reading books, playing games or whatever, it’s time well spent!

Let me know how it goes, friends!

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Life Without Love = Meaningless

As I’ve grown older and reached the ripe age of 37, I’ve come to realize something:  LIFE ISN’T ABOUT WHAT WE DO, IT’S ABOUT HOW WELL WE LOVE.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

This verse is huge for me.  It’s a great reminder of how much God values love and how He could give a rip about what we do if love isn’t the motivator or result.

You could be the most devout church goer in town, but if you treat others like crap Mon.-Sat., you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be the CEO of a huge corporation and rake in the cash, but if you’re a cheat and unfair, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be super generous, devoting your time to volunteer, but if you’re not loving to others, you’re pretty much wasting your time.

You see, God isn’t interested in the same stuff that we’re interested in.  The trophies and status symbols that our culture values are garbage to Him.  He’s interested in eternity.  He’s interested in life change.  He’s interested in our character.  He’s interested in us being light when all else is dark around us.  He’s interested in stuff that will last, not stuff that is temporary.

God has given us relationships such as family, neighbors, enemies and difficult people for a reason…..to learn what love is….what HIS love is.  I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will never fully understand the extent of God’s love or Jesus’s sacrifice.  I will never fully understand the grace given to me daily, when I totally don’t deserve it.  I DO understand one thing though….I’m grateful for it and BECAUSE I’m grateful for it, my natural desire is to SHARE it with others.  I want others to experience the same love that I’ve received.  I want folks to feel the rush of loving others because amidst that sharing of love, God is there, waiting with a glowing smile and a big ‘ol bag of life change with our name on it.  That’s the good stuff right there.

You know what though?  We don’t HAVE to love at all.  We are given the choice to be selfish or to be selfless because that’s what love is all about….choice.  Friends, I sure hope that you CHOOSE love, you CHOOSE Jesus, you CHOOSE that solid peace that goes beyond all understanding.

At my funeral, I don’t want people to talk about how nice my yard was or what kind of car I drove or how many hours at the office I put in per week…..I want them to talk about how I loved.  I want them to talk about how I cared.  I want them to talk about my role as a husband and as a father and how I took that honor seriously.  I want them to talk about Jesus and how He reflected Himself through me, even it was just a little bit.

Here’s the thing, love can be intoxicating to receive and terrifying to give at times, I get it.  There’s risk involved, it’s true.  God wants us to love anyways because maybe, just maybe, your smile or handshake or good gesture could alter the path of someone’s life.  I think that’s definitely worth the risk, don’t you?  Go get ’em!

God Bless,

Paul

Why The Simpler Things Can Be Better

004Kids don’t typically care about fancy stuff.  As long as they’re entertained, they’re happy.

You know how it is….you spend a lot of money on a fancy toy, thinking the kids will be totally stoked and over-joyed…..and they may be excited for a moment…..until you come into the room and see them playing with a toilet paper roll, or a rock, or a box.  Meanwhile, that shiny, expensive toy is in the corner collecting dust.  Pretty funny.

A few weeks ago, I sent my wife away to the beach and the boys and I had a guy’s weekend.  We had a lot of fun eating junk food, watching baseball, bowling, farting, burping, etc.

Although we did a lot of fun things, sitting in the back of my truck, at the airport, eating burgers and watching airplanes was my favorite.  I think the boys enjoyed it too.  It was simple-fun, you know, memory stuff.

It seems like, at least with my boys, the experiences that cause life to slow down a little are what matter the most to them….the times where conversation is shared and time has no hold.

Don’t get me wrong, they love video games and new toys and shiny cool stuff.  Usually though, after a while, most of it ends up in the closet.

Finding that balance between shiny stuff and good ‘ol fashioned interaction is tough, especially in this day and age.  Kids are adaptable though and over time, they’ll follow our lead if we’re consistent and deliberate.

As a dad, I’m more interested in creating memories vs. stockpiling toys.  Hopefully my boys will find more value in relationships vs. stuff someday…..I think they’re on the right track.  For now, they’re just kids, figuring stuff out and I’m ok with that.

A great reward for me would be 20 years down the road….while drinking coffee or something, my boys start bringing up memories from their childhood.  The simple, good memories of laughs shared, experiences had and freedom felt.  I hope to experience this kind of reminiscing someday….God willing.

God Bless,

Paul

 

LISTENING, FOOTBALL AND THE DAY MY WIFE SHOULD HAVE KNOCKED ME OUT

ListenIn the 10 years that I’ve been married, there have been many lessons learned.  Many of those lessons have needed reinforcing…over and over and over….I’m a slow learner apparently.

If I could pull one of the many truths out of the marriage hat, it would be this: SOMETIMES, IT’S BETTER TO SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LISTEN VS. SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL.

You see, as a male, I want to fix things.  I want to solve all of my wife’s issues and settle every one of her nerves.  I have a desire to be this vending machine….pop in a problem quarter and I’ll spit out a can of wisdom.  In a perfect world, it works…..in a realistic world, not so much.

Sometimes, a listening ear and a silent mouth are the best gifts to offer.  To allow my heart to be absorbent, like a sponge, to my wife’s care’s, concerns and passions.

It’s one thing to just be present….it’s another thing to show empathy.  To make eye contact, nod the head in understanding and turn the football off for a bit.

I’m really not one to talk.  As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the day that my oldest son was born.  My poor wife was being a soldier in that hospital room.  Pushing, sweating, groaning, being more of a man than I could ever be.  We had football on in the background to keep things calm and relaxed.  My wife asked me for ice chips or something and I didn’t hear her.  I was watching football (oh you stupid man).  “PAUL, I NEED ICE CHIPS!” suddenly jolted me from my trance and I quickly grabbed some for her.  The nurse swiftly shut the TV off to avoid my wife knocking me out.  It’s funny looking back, but at the time, I wasn’t present in spirit, only in body.

As a guy, being emotionally available and identifying with feelings is tough because we’re not wired that way.  It’s certainly good to give it a valiant effort though and it takes practice.

When it comes down to it, I don’t need to have all of the answers.  I just need to be there.  To be available.

I’ve discovered that sometimes, what’s most necessary are 2 arms, readily available for a bear hug, always.

God Bless,

Paul

FEELINGS – YOU CAN’T ALWAYS TRUST ‘EM

FeelingsFeelings, what can I say about feelings…..you ever notice that they never stay the same?  They are more fleeting than…well, they’re just fleeting…and inconsistent….and often unreliable.

No relationships last on feelings alone.  How could they?  Commitment and love should be the main ingredients and feelings should be the seasoning.

Whether it’s a friendship, a family member, or a marriage, faith in the process of maintaining relationships is the glue that keeps things together.

My relationship with God is definitely not based on feelings, it’s based on faith and belief.  It took me a long time to figure this out.  I came to a place where I started to doubt my faith because I didn’t “feel” as though I was floating on the clouds all the time.  I was frustrated, confused and pissed off.  Loving God = perfect life, right?  Not so much.

Coincidentally, I am going through a “non-feeling” time right now.  I kinda feel as though I’m just going through the motions.  I don’t feel close to God, but I don’t feel far away either.  It’s ok.  These are the times where I just keep seeking, persevering and absorbing.  Although it “feels” a bit lonely, I’m confident that God is there…He never changes and He never leaves us.

Sometimes, I think it’s good to go through times like these.  It builds our faith and it shows us just how much we need God’s guidance and presence.  I’m committed to keep pushing because my faith goes deeper than my mood or temperament.  It delves into the root of who I am.

My heart has been changed because of Christ’s love for me.  I’m not the person I used to be…..this is a fact and this is what I hold on to.  Each day is a challenge to see other’s through the eyes of Jesus.  I’m committed to keep pressing, holding on to the faith that saved me.

So, I’m gonna keep fighting the good fight.  If I feel lonely for a bit, bring it on.  I’ve been here before and it’s a temporary spot to be in.  After all, feelings are only fleeting, right?

“It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.” -Deuteronomy 31:8

God bless,

Paul