Whose Mess is This? - 8/13/2015

There is a very common phrase that is heard on a daily basis at my house. “Whose mess is this?!” It can be heard in the playroom, a bathroom, the back yard, kitchen, or bedroom. No space is safe when it comes to my four kids. They can “redecorate” your entire world in a matter of seconds and without conscience or care. They are able to walk away from the scene as if they have done you a favor. When this happens, the question echoes like a parental anthem from generations past. “Whose mess is this?!” The explanations for the mess are usually some of the highlights of my day. There is nothing like watching a five year old attempt to explain how “Play-dough” got stuffed in a wall socket or some other bizarre place.

This morning when I walked into my office at the church and looked at my desk, I asked myself, “Whose mess is this?!” There are papers piled here and there, notes that need to be answered, issues that have to be addressed and ideas that need to take flight. None of it appears to be in order and gives the appearance of a mess, but “DON’T TOUCH A THING!” I know where everything is.

Last week Kendal and I took three of our children on the John Hagee Ministry’s Cruise. It was an entire seven days without having to cook a meal or clean a dish. But on the last day of trip when it came time to pack the bags and return home, we opened the closet in the kids’ cabin and there it was… THE MESS! “Whose mess is this?!” was asked again as we piled it up, threw it in a suitcase and brought it home to wash.

Next week the kids are going to start school. Many parents are looking forward to the “routine” because school time has a way of scheduling and structuring our lives. However, they are not without their messes. There is the project mess and the homework mess, the football cleats and pom-pom mess; the crayons and calculators that you inadvertently step on in the middle of the night because they too are part of the mess. The point is, no matter who you are, no matter where you go, no matter what season of life you are in, you are either making a mess or cleaning one up! Whether it’s a work mess, personal mess, accidental mess, fun mess, big mess, or someone elses mess, every day you breathe there will be “a mess” waiting for you.

Solomon said, “A clean stall bears no ox.” It was his wise way of pointing out the fact that if you are living a productive life then there will always going to be something to clean up. Don’t complain about the mess you’re faced with. Instead thank God that you have the chance to be a part of it. Every dirty dish means that your family was healthy enough to eat and that you were blessed enough to provide. Every messy room means your kids had enough strength and energy to play. They weren’t sick in bed, they weren’t stricken with infirmity, they were healthy little wrecking balls that raided the pantry and crushed crumbs in the carpet. So you had to break out the vacuum. That’s not a bad thing. The sound of the vacuum is a testament that someone is living life at your house. The mess at the office means you have a job. The mess at school means they are learning and growing.

There will never be a shortage of things to clean up. Thank God for every one of them. Just remember, someday, when all the messes are no more, and everything is quiet and in its place, you will close your eyes and remember what it was like when it seemed like every day, everywhere you turned you shouted, “Whose mess is this?!”

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Don’t Forget to Take a Stand - 7/30/2015

Our lives seem to be in continuous motion. It really doesn’t matter how routine or random, we live in a state of endless activity. It is certainly a challenge to balance the requirements of work, family, social life, and church. I often will sit down and write down a very structured schedule that I am determined to abide by, and then with a phone call, my best-laid plans are destroyed because the unexpected has once again hijacked the day. This is what makes the “routine” sacred.

It may be a family dinner around the table at a set time with no distractions, a Saturday cup of coffee on the back porch with your spouse, a late-night conversation in the living room without interruption, breakfast on Sunday with your dad before church, or lunch on Sunday afternoon with friends. No matter what that sacred scheduled time happens to be, it is so worth it. Our fast-paced culture can so quickly rob us of the quality time. If you are going to have these moments they will have to be on purpose.

Quality time isn’t the only challenge that comes with this high-speed society. When life moves this fast, one of the other problems we face is distraction. It can be difficult to stay focused. Focus is an essential element of success in this life. Right now the world is so full of distraction that we cannot pay attention to what matters most. We cannot pay attention to decisions that are being made in our nation that will have a huge impact on our future.

Think of all that you have heard lately that we need to pay attention to.

* Kate Steinle was murdered on Pier 14 in San Francisco by a man in the country illegally.

* Planned Parenthood is selling the harvested body parts of babies that they murder in abortions.

* State Department makes a deal to allow the world’s number 1 sponsor of terrorism, Iran, the funds to continue to sponsor terrorism, and the ability to develop nuclear weapons.

* Supreme Court votes 5 to 4 to recognize marriage between same sex couples.

These are just a few of the gripping headlines that we must not ignore, but then we get distracted because a dentist in Minneapolis shot and killed a lion in Zimbabwe. Just a thought; if we would have given a name to every child that Planned Parenthood crushed, severed, and sold, would they get the same attention that the lion got from the rest of the world?

I know you are busy, because I am busy too. I know that you are tired of all this nonsense in our world, because it can be truly exhausting. However, we must not ever be too busy to take a stand. We must not allow injustice and wrong to get a free pass because we were preoccupied at the time. You may take a stand by writing a letter to an elected official. You may take a stand by choosing not to do business with those who contribute to organizations like Planned Parenthood. You may take a stand by simply getting on your knees every day and praying for our country and its future.

No matter how you choose to do it, you need to know, the next generation is watching you. They are learning, by observation, what matters most to you. When they see your routine they learn, by the pattern you set, what you place a high value upon. And when you choose to take a stand, they become aware that the good fight of faith is still worth fighting, and that with a little determination and grit, in the end, TRUTH will win.

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They Finally Held Hands - 7/23/2015

Yesterday was a big day. It may have seemed like nothing much to the rest of the world, but it was huge for Kendal and me. Our oldest two children, Hannah and J.W, are the classic definition of sibling rivalry. All you have to do to motivate one is make it a competition with the other. Who can run the fastest, who can throw the farthest, which got further in the spelling bee, which made it to the next round of the speech meet. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good, healthy competition…I believe it is one of the driving forces that makes us strive to be better and become excellent at what we do. However, there comes a time when you have to stop competing, appreciate each other’s abilities, and even cheer for your rival, especially when they are family.

That last line is the hard part for Hannah and her brother. They just can’t seem to turn it off. The challenge for their parents is to give them each their own identity, encourage them both individually, and help them come together as members of the same family. While those three statements sound like lofty and righteous goals, they often come out sounding like, “You two quit arguing and get along!” “Stop annoying each other and hug for 30 seconds, NOW!” Or, my personal favorite, “If y’all want to compete with each other so badly, see who can clean up their room and take out the trash the fastest, while playing the quiet game.” There is no secret sauce to raising children. It requires love, patience and consistency…oh, and a lot of prayer, not to mention team work from both parents. Bottom line, it’s a lot of work.

But then there are those moments when the work is rewarded. That’s what happened yesterday. I got home from work and life was normal. All four kids were loud and full of life. We ate dinner, sent the kids out to play, and Kendal and I tag-teamed the kitchen.

“How did your day go?” I asked.

“You’ll never guess what happened today at the store.”

“What?!?” the paternal nerves were getting anxious.

“J.W. and Hannah were walking in front of me in the parking lot, and on the way back to the car, he took her by the hand. He wanted to protect her from the traffic, and she let him.”

Nerves were replaced by a surge of proud dad. It may not seem like that much to you, but my kids held hands. They took care of each other. They were not commanded to. They were not put on notice to do it or else. They simply responded to the constant encouragement that they get from Mom and Dad to take care of the family. That’s huge!

As a father, one of the most important things in my life is knowing that my children will watch out for each other. If Mom and Dad can’t be there, then the next best thing is knowing your brother or sister has your back. If they can learn how to do it when they are young, then it will be a habit when they are older and it really matters.

I will be the first to tell you that there are few things in this world that can drain you faster than family, and nothing in this world is as rewarding. I don’t know what your challenge is at the moment. You may be weaning a newborn, potty training a toddler, teaching elementary manners, or pulling your hair out with a teenager…but don’t quit doing the right thing. Stay consistent with love, instruction and an example they can follow. They’ll get there. Believe me, I know. Because, yesterday, they finally held hands.

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They Need To Know How It Feels! - 7/16/2015

One of the greatest joys in my life is the opportunities that I have to share experiences with my children that I didn't have in my childhood. It's the generational desire to "give them what we didn't have." It is a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy God's blessings, especially with your family. After all, that's what the hard work is for. However, the more I see the culture that my children are growing up in, the more I realize that there are certain things I experienced, and they need to know how it feels.

They need to know how it feels to compete and not get a trophy just because you played.

They need to know how it feels to work with your hands all day, and not expect to be given anything other than the satisfaction of getting the job done.

They need to know how it feels to wait for what they want and then work hard to get it. Then continue working even harder to keep it.

They need to know how it feels to show respect, for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

They need to know how it feels to try your hardest and not succeed, so they can build the desire to try harder.

They need to know the sweat of exhaustion and the tears of defeat so they can appreciate days of rest and the taste of victory.

They need to know how it feels to have something to say and remaining silent, because the sound of silence is sometimes the wisest sound you can make.

They need to know when to speak up for truth and injustice, even if they have to do it alone.

They need to know how it feels to have the world against them and God for them so that they know what faith can do.

They need to know how it feels to submit themselves to what they need to do rather than do what they want to do.

For all that I want my children to enjoy in this life; it's also my responsibility to make sure they know how it feels to live this life to its fullest. They will remember the good times for the rest of their lives, but it will be the strength they gain through struggle that helps them appreciate how great those good times really are.

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It’s OK To Ask For Help… - 7/9/2015

Have you ever needed help, but did not want to ask for it? We’ve all been there. My two year old lives there, “No I do it!” is her new favorite phrase. I think I know where she gets it from.

I come from a long line of very independent people. We have a tendency to make up our minds on where we’re going, head in that direction, and then it really doesn’t matter after that because the course is charted and the destination is known. This trait is at times a great asset and at other times an even bigger liability. It’s helpful in those moments when you are set on accomplishing the plan that the Lord has charted for you. No matter what opposes you, quitting isn’t an option. However, the times this attitude can leave its mark on your memory is when you have convinced yourself that you are going to prove the world wrong no matter what.

Like the time I took an advanced managerial accounting course my junior year of college. On the first day of class the professor let us know that in order to run the massive schedules of data and numbers that the homework problems required we would need to buy an advanced accounting calculator. The calculator we had been using since freshmen year could accomplish the task, but the process would become too lengthy and the risk of error would highly increase. I immediately took offense on behalf of my calculator. This piece of equipment and I had gone through a great deal together. We had navigated freshmen accounting, we had survived statistics, we became intercessory prayer partners with quantitative analysis, and now with one simple sentence I’m supposed to abandon my dear friend and pretend that it didn’t happen? Not hardly! I would prove the professor wrong. Forget the fact he’d taught the class for 15 years and had a PHD in the field, I knew better! My mind was made up, my course was charted, bring it on! However, three weeks later after the first exam I was in line at Radio Shack asking the guy behind the counter if they had any of the advanced calculators left.

The real problem with always striving to be totally independent is that you can’t. None of us were designed to be. We were created as relational beings. God made us in such a way that we work much better together than we ever do apart. He has allowed experiences and back grounds to be our unique information pool which we can apply to a given situation that will then help others understand something they had never considered before. The challenge is not to be so “independent” that you lose the opportunity of being dependent upon others in areas where you are weak. This is why the New Testament in the book of Ephesians made it clear that we are a body.

Like any human body it doesn’t attempt to destroy and separate itself from a weakness. On the contrary, it uses other areas of strength to protect it and then attempts to work on the weak area until it is strong enough to stand on its own again. The good thing about the natural man is that our minds are designed to get the entire body involved in protecting itself without asking the rest of the body for permission. When you get something in your eye your hands immediately cover the eye, not pluck it out. You begin to do whatever you can to protect the area because you don’t want the problem to get worse. It’s not like the brain called the hands and the hands said, “We’re busy today can you make an appointment for tomorrow?”

The challenge with the body of Christ is that while Christ is the head of the body, we as members of the body are responsible for two very important things when it comes to receiving help. First, the member in need of help must ask for it. No one can know how to help you until you are willing to tell them what you need. Secondly, other members must answer this call and help the way that Christ wants us to. The one thing that this requires is that we refuse to be so independent that we cannot be dependent upon one another, and in doing so fulfill the request of our Savior before the Father when He prayed, “that they maybe one even as You and I are one, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

We need each other and it’s ok to ask for help!

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