When Dad Prays

“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.”
Psalms 5:3 NLT

I am truly blessed with three little prayer warriors. I was working on dishes one night when I heard Joanna say “Ouch! I hurt my knee.” Without a beat, Olivia walks over “Thank you, Jesus, for healing Joanna in Jesus Name Amen.” What you may not know is that at that time my Olivia is only 1 and my Joanna is 3. Yeah, I am proud of my kids. All three of my children have learned at an early age about prayer and its effects.

Where does this come into play with when I pray? The great thing about it is that their mother is a prayer warrior. Wait.  Where does this come into play for when I pray? There is something that you need to know.  I struggled with prayer.  To me, it was a duty more than a conversation with God. Not only that, I found myself praying with a spirit of skepticism. I prayed to the ceiling and wanted a result from something or someone that I had no relationship with. There’s my confession of the day.

I found later in life that my relationship with God is not God’s issue, it’s mine.  It is my fault if the disconnect occurs, not God. God didn’t decide one day “I don’t want to talk to Will so I am going to ignore him.” That is not in the character of God. In fact, when we sin, God, doesn’t leave us.

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 NLT

God is by your side through thick and thin.  When I pray, I am reminded that the Author of our lives is right beside me.  I have to remind myself even when I am going through my everyday life, God is speaking to me. “Will, have you have gone off the deep end? God doesn’t talk to people.”

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 NLT

When I pray, I know that God hears me. God is listening to His people.  I am inspired by God because He doesn’t hold a grudge or fault against you when you come to Him (see James 1:5).  He is ready.  What does this have to do with “When Daddy Prays?” Because when daddy is in prayer, the heavens are moved, Jesus is interceding, God is listening, the doors of heaven are opened, the cries of the people are entering into the throne room of Heaven, and God is responding.  Friend, if you aren’t communicating with the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Almighty God, then you are missing out on a great conversation. This is a conversation that you will not be interrupted, you will not be challenged on your heart, nor will there be a dial tone because of a hang-up.  God is listening to you.

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3 Keys in Overcoming a Critic

“To escape criticismdo nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” —Elbert Hubbard

One of the things that I am sure of in life is this; not every person is going to like what you have to say. For certain, there will be those who will troll your page, leave negative comments on your Facebook page, put negative reviews on Amazon about you, and the list could go on forever. Here’s the thing, if you stand back and allow yourself to be paralyzed by what other people say, you will never accomplish anything worth talking about. What if Albert Einstein had listened to his math teacher or if Michael Jordan listened to his basketball coach?

Over the years I have seen amazing people simply give up because of what their critics said. I know I have withdrawn for that very reason. However, I have asked these 3 questions to know if a push back is really worth the energy to engage.

  1. Is it True? That’s a question I ask if I hear push back. Is what the opposition says true? My response to that question determines if it is worth the fight.
  2. Am I wrong? Most of the time when I ask myself this question, the answer is no. I have admitted when I was and retracted if it warrants it. However, there will be critics that believe with every fiber of their being that you are wrong and they are right. Unfortunately, the sky isn’t always blue and the grass isn’t always green.
  3. Can I fix it? This question comes on the heels of something that has been broken and I have either the option to fix it or let it go. If I cannot fix it, there is no point in me spending precious time and energy on it. If I can fix it and make it right, it is my duty to do so.

I know. These are very simple. That is the whole point of this little exercise. Most of the situations that we have pushed back from are something that is just that simple to overcome.

How are you answering those questions in your situation today?

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Parents Do Not Always Understand…

“I don’t think that we’re meant to understand it all the time. I think that sometimes we just have to have faith.”
Nicholas Sparks

Just when you think that Murphy couldn’t do any more damage, he decides to side swipe you. You just can’t seem to get a break, yet there’s complete peace about what is going on all around you. I have heard it best put this way; “chaotic peace.” Recently, this is where we found ourselves. It seems like we can’t escape this cycle that never ends. But I know one thing that is for sure is that He never ends either.

Perhaps, I should start from the reason that I decided to write this. For ten years, Sara and I have seen some of the weirdest things happen in our lives. We have had car trouble, house issues, health woes, financial hardships, etc.  One may bring up the fact that we are tithers and according to Malachi 3, the one who devours is rebuked for our sake. It would be easy to question God and wonder. It would probably be even easier to doubt than it would be to know in faith that God has taken care of it all.

In a previous post, I referenced the time where I came to God and made the statement that I just simply did not understand. God’s response in my heart was that He did not call me to understand, but to trust Him.

The response honestly took me off guard.  Aren’t we, as human beings, designed to understand all things and learn them? Then I recalled a scripture that I have always remembered since I was a child. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” In some translations, it reads “and He will make it plain and straight.”  Our trust is not in the government nor people, our trust is not in ourselves or our own ability to provide, but our trust is in Him.

 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13 NLT

This is one of the most quoted scriptures that you will find in the Christian vernacular. The problem with this is that we find ourselves reading it as I can do everything. The intention of this passage was not that we can do everything, but that we rely on Christ’s strength to do everything.  I am so grateful that during these trials that we are seeking our true Provider. Our trust is the ultimate Father. I believe it’s so important that our children see that our trust is in God regardless if we understand or not. When they become older, our hope is that they will trust Him. Sure, it would be easier for you or me to automatically go into the woe-is-me mode. I will tell you one last thing before I leave you and it’s found in Ephesians 6:13;

“Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].”

Having done all that you can possibly do that the crisis demands…stand. Stand firm. Don’t quit. Press into what God has in store for you and not what the enemy tries to throw at you. Regardless of your understanding or lack thereof – stand! 

You Have Been Set Up

May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”                                                                                                                                             Psalms 20:4

           Have you ever caught yourself thinking, There has to be more than life than just this!?” There are so many different periods of time in our lives that we are thinking just that.  In my religious days, I could never imagine God having something great planned for me; not only great but something important.  I, like many other people, had settled into a mindset of mediocrity.  A sure fire way to kill a dream is mediocrity. Mediocrity means to be mediocre which is defined as of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.” The only problem with that is that God doesn’t call us to be mediocre.  In 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV), Peter wrote that 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.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  You can’t be mediocre and be called to the royal priesthood.  

          God already has something big planned for your life.  He didn’t set you up to be the same, old, average Joe.  If He did choose you to be ordinary, He would not have created you with the gifts that are buried deep within you.  You may be wondering “what gifts?”   In Jeremiah 29:11, which is one of the most quoted verses in the Christian circle, we find the prophet was being spoken over, just as yourself, For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. “There are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. God did not say, “I have a plan for Suzy but not for you.  Sorry, you have the short end of the stick.  You get to sit in the last pew in heaven.  Don’t forget to bring your hanky.”  No!  God has a plan set up for you.  He has set you up to succeed! 

          Jeremiah was a young man at this time and he worried about what people thought of him being so young.  God wasn’t concerned about his youthfulness.  It was no surprise to God that Jeremiah was not qualified by man’s standards.  As a matter of fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:27, Paul wrote that [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.”   God is not impressed by Ph.D., MD, BA, MA, or whatever degree could fall into this category.  Peter was a fisherman, Matthew was a tax collector, David was a shepherd, Mary was just an average girl, and the list goes on.  God uses ordinary people to carry out his extraordinary plan.

       You may be wondering; how do I live this life of success?  God’s promises are “yes” and “amen.” In Psalms 37, we read that The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.  Once I was young, and now I am old.  Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” If you live a godly life, you will receive the direction of our Holy God and you will never lack. God already knows that you are going to fail, that’s where grace comes into play.  But many individuals misunderstand the word “lack” with being without money or things.  In Philippians 4, it says that God will meet ALL your needs. Are you on the streets?  Are you dying of starvation?  He is meeting your needs and He has birthed a plan in your heart.  He has prepared you for a time such as this.  He has begun the work and is faithful to complete it. He has set you up for success.

           God is not surprised by who He chose to do His work.  In the word, it talks about how God searched all over the face of the earth, looking for someone to do the work.  All you have to do is follow the word.  In the next few verses that you and I read, I want you to ask God to clear the air because so many have perverted this scripture, taken it out of context, and even have removed it from doctrine;

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.  You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:  Your towns and your fields will be blessed.  Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.  Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed.  Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.  “The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven!  “The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.  “If you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways, the Lord will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do.  Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you.   “The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops.   The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.  If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.  You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 NLT

          Let’s focus on what Gods condition on being bless was.  He said that “if you fully obey.”  We are not created to occasionally obey the word of God.  Yes, we live by grace.  However, read it again.  If you fully obey….” We serve a God of unconditional love but of conditional blessings.  We are the same way for our children.  “If you obey, there will be more blessings.”  God is calling you and me to raise our standards of living and quit living a mediocre life.  I have heard time and time again; if you want to be a millionaire, study and do what millionaires do.  In other words, don’t take financial advice from a broke person.  

           I don’t think that it can be said enough that God has set you up to succeed.  Using His word, His principles, and prayer, you can and will succeed.

When I Fear

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela

The year 2012 was one of the  worst years on record for our family and we just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You know about those, I am sure. At one point, our van was completely disabled and I just totaled my car, we were having trouble making ends meet, the food was on the table but it was kept to a minimum because we were trying to get the van repaired. I remember the day like it was yesterday where Sara and I sat on the couch in our living room in tears because we were exhausted from all the mess that had been going on. She was folding laundry and I had just got done meeting with the guy who was fixing our van (I should say the 2nd guy who “fixed” our van).  At this point, I completely felt useless as a husband and a father. Most men can relate that you feel that you are the provider of the family and it rests on your shoulders but when you can’t provide the necessities of life and the sky keeps falling on you, you tend to see yourself as a failure.

It was here that I had to fight the spirit of fear and inadequacy. As a man, I began to fear my importance in our family and the reason why we were here. I seriously began to wonder if I had “missed God” in what we were doing in our lives. There was a sense of “what’s next” in our house and we were sinking. God really began to minister to me during this time. It was a great thing that He had a wonderful woman who was my support because I don’t know how I would have managed to get through this without her.  God started showing me in His word that He’s the One that I have to trust and not the money or the job.

My prayer to the Lord at the time was “I just don’t understand” followed by the usual rant about how we were givers and we tithe, etc. I remember clearly the Lord speaking into my heart and reminding me of this scripture.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

And without missing a beat, I heard in my heart “I have not called you to understand, but I have called you to trust.”  Man. That spoke volumes as a father to me. The Ultimate Godly Father asked me to trust Him.

One weekend we took the girls roller skating with the church.  None of our kids have ever done this and we thought it would be great for them to interact with other kids their age. I took Maleah and Joanna out onto the rink and without missing a beat, they fell down. Joanna completely wasn’t thrilled with it. Maleah, on the other hand, is the type that loves to learn, wanted to go out and try more. All the way, my hands were in front of her to keep her from falling. I told her that if she fell, to grab me and she would be fine. She fell at least a dozen and then some more times. But she never forgot that I was there waiting to catch her when she fell. By the end of the night, she was skating on her own, not like Tanya Harding but skating nonetheless. Joanna, on the other hand, was afraid to do it. We found out that they have special skating shoes for ones her age and we got her a pair. I remember the look on her face when I first put her down. At first, she wasn’t going to do it. With instruction, the fear began to leave her face as she realized that with help, she could, in fact, do it. For the next two hours, Joanna was on her own skating with these special skates. I could only imagine what would have happened if Joanna had decided that because of her first experience with skates that she would never skate again.

Dad and Mom, I see you out there concerned about how things are going to work out in your circumstance. There’s a wolf at the door and you see no way to get it away. I want to encourage you to “trust in the Lord with all of your heart” today. Not with just some of your heart but all of your heart. He’s got it.

5 Ways to Honor Your Customers

The Customer is not always right.

When I typed that for the first time, I knew that I might get a bit of a backlash from it. We have, as a culture, been trained to read the following as truth; “The Customer Is Always Right.”  Unfortunately, this is not always true. Sadly, I have seen enough YouTube videos showing quite the opposite. However, we don’t have to pull of those up. All we have to do is have a few moments of common sense.

If the customer calls in and tells you that the sky is green…either there’s a tornado nearby or the customer is indeed wrong. If the customer writes you a letter stating that the world is flat, by default you would be agreeing with what scientists and world travelers debunked centuries ago. With just a few keys picked on the computer keyboard, I have debunked the myth that the customer is always right. Let all the Customer Service Specialists rejoice!

Now, let me follow up with this; The Customer should always be honored. What I mean by that is this; the customer has the right to question and bring up their concerns and you have a job/responsibility to help resolve that to the best of the ability that you have granted by your employer. Here are five tips to show honor to your customers;

1. Listen. For over 20 years, I have been in a customer service position. One of the things that I have learned over those years is that it is important to listen. When you read that, you may be thinking just about the words that they are speaking. I am actually talking a little deeper than that. There is always an underlying issue and you don’t have to be a psychologist to figure it out.

2. Respond with Empathy. Show them you care. You don’t have to pull out the stops to do this. All you have to do is speak with kindness, respond with the appropriate verbiage, and walk the walk through your voice tones.

3. Offer a Solution. One thing that I have learned is this; don’t say “that’s not my job.”  Offer a solution regardless of your position. If you know that the product they are looking for is not offered through you but through another company, offer them the solution to go to that company and get it. I can recall many times that we would get phone calls about other books and music. Though we did not carry them, I knew exactly where the customer could get them. It may not be recognized by your leadership, but it will be recognized by the important people; your customer.

4. Show kindness with your actions. The previous applies here as well. Take the initiative to make the situation right…with kindness. No smirk or snide remarks are needed. Go above and beyond. I can recall a time where a customer received the wrong material. Most businesses would require that the customer returns the product. I did not and replaced the order at no charge with quick shipping. Most customers aren’t out to stick it to the man. They are trying to get their merchandise and/or service.

5. End the conversation (written or verbal) with grace. It is really that simple. End the conversation with grace. End the conversation with a polite attitude of gratitude.

There is a whole conglomerate of books, websites, ideas, etc. that will teach on this topic of honoring your customers. However, it is important that you know this fact; “Though the customer is not always right; they are always to be honored.” If you can get that down, your customers will feel like a million bucks!

To Forget Is To Fail

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

Today, many of you who read this will go out and BBQ, celebrate the day off or watch some great sports on TV. There will be some who will party like its 1999. There will be a few that will wake up and find that today is just another, ordinary Monday morning. However, there are those that will wake up this morning on a cot in the desert of Mosul or in the war-torn countries in the Middle East. Some will wake up on a ship in the Gulf while many will wake up on a base in Germany. Then there are the bodies of those who fought many years ago for our freedom and yes, even the unknown soldier’s tomb will have a wreath laid upon it. There will be those that will somberly remember their family members to whom they said their final goodbye not so long ago.

Today, as you go out, don’t feel guilty about enjoying that freedom. Go out and thank God above that there are those to whom went before you in battle and sacrificed theirs for yours. I love the quote in the beginning of this piece. Why? It is so easy to forget the lessons that we have learned upon fighting for that very freedom – both good and bad. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend and remember all of those to whom went before us.