Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

The Power of Music and Kristi Billington

I was reminded again this morning how powerful music is in our lives.  6 years ago, Casting Crowns had a song on Christian radio called “Lifesong.”  It’s a terrific tune with a powerful message.  We had introduced the song in our worship service at FBCSalado and the folks loved it.  On February 24, 2006, our sweet friend Kristi Billington went to be with Jesus.  One of the songs we did at her memorial service was “Lifesong” because it fit her perfectly.  She really did live that song.  Here are the lyrics:

Empty hands held high, Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I wanna sign Your name
To the end of this day
Knowin’ that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You

Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be Your hands and feet

Hallelujah hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You
Hallelujah hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You
Hallelujah hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You
CCLI Song # 4578839

Mark Hall © 2005 My Refuge Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (Admin. by Sony/ATV Songs LLC)

This morning, while driving to work, I had my Sirius radio tuned to “The Message” and Lifesong come on.  I sang that song as loud as I could and my thoughts immediately went to that service for Kristi over 6 years ago now.  I remembered the emotions I had during that service; I remember what it sounded like in the beautiful building with 600 people singing it with us.  I remember the expression on the faces of Rick, Meschill and Mattie Billington as we sang.  We celebrated the life of Kristi Billington with Casting Crowns song, “Lifesong.”

In the years since, life has been a series of ups and downs.  The downs were because I was not walking with the Lord and did not let my lifesong sing for Jesus.  Fortunately, God is gracious and always lets his wayward sons come home.  This morning as I was singing “Lifesong,” my thoughts were of Kristi and her family, the church at Salado, the kids from Salado High School and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor that rallied around the Billington family and finally how Kristi ministered to me today. 

 Her life, even though only 19 years in length, continues to have a profound effect on me and on many others I know.  Thank you Jesus for allowing me to know Kristi Billington; Let my Lifesong sing toYou!

Be encouraged today friends!  Randy


Tips for a Powerful New Year – Part 2

We’re going to spend a little time over the next few days to think about how to have a powerful new year….not a successful new year; not a good new year; not a happy new year, but a powerful new year!   I’ve had this list on my computer for 5 years and never shared it with anyone.  I don’t know who wrote this list, where I got it or who sent it to me, but the comments under each point are mine.  It’s my hope and prayer that something you read here will encourage you to work toward a powerful 2011.  So here we go with the second installment of 40 Tips for a Powerful New Year.

Be encouraged today friends,


35. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will so stay in touch. Here’s the lesson for today.  Pick up the phone and make that call.  There is a friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker, or school friend that needs to hear from you today.  Perhaps your friendship or kinship has become strained by a disagreement or distant because of the years but that’s no reason not to make that contact.  Stay in touch!

34. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful. Our lives and homes are full of junk!  Get rid of it.  If you haven’t looked at it in several years then throw it out, give it a way or sell it!  When you downsize, reduce the clutter and clean things up, there is greater clarity.

33. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need. Envy is a demon!  No matter how beautiful you are, what you do, how much money or things you have, there is someone in this world that is more beautiful, has a better job, more money and stuff.  Here’s the reality; if you have a roof over your head, a bed to sleep in and food to eat, you are among the world’s richest persons.  Be thankful for what you have and learn to be content.

32. The best is yet to come. The reality of it is this; if you are reading this blog, you have lots left to give.  If you are drawing a breath, then your best days could be ahead of you.  If you are in the twilight of your life, your age and life experience are priceless.  There is someone who needs you, your experience and wisdom, so share it!

31. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up. On those days when you feel like staying home, just know that someone needs you!  The devil’s main job is to make you irrelevant.  If you don’t get up, dressed up and show up, that is exactly what you may become.  Don’t let the devil win!  When you show up, things are supposed to get better!  You are needed, wanted and relevant!


Tips for a Powerful New Year

We’re going to spend a little time over the next few days and learn some tips on how to have a powerful new year….not a successful new year; not a good new year; not a happy new year, but a powerful new year!   I’ve had this list on my computer for 5 years and never shared it with anyone.  I don’t know who wrote this list, where I got it or who sent it to me, but the comments under each point are mine.  It’s my hope and prayer that something you read here will encourage you to work toward a powerful 2011.  So here we go with the first 5 of 40 Tips for a Powerful New Year.

Be encouraged today friends,


40.  Enjoy the ride.  You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride. When is the last time you stepped away from the day to day grind and sat and just pondered your life?  For many of you it’s been way too long or maybe never.  You must find the time to relax, unwind, and learn to enjoy this wonderful life we’ve been given.  Remember, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not guaranteed.

39. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed. Stress is a KILLER!  Your body is not designed to thrive under continued stress.  Everyone has it but you must find ways to relieve that stress.  Here are a few suggestions: Exercise, sleep, sing, dance, swim, walk, read, and the very best stress reliever for you married folks…..make love to your spouse!  Kiss deeper, love longer, laugh uncontrollably, and dance with abandon!

38. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:   “I am thankful for (you fill in the blank.)” In 1897, the hymn writer Johnson Oatman, Jr. penned these words:  When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. Refrain: Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your many blessings, see what God hath done. 114 years later the message rings true friend….COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!

37. Call your mom and dad. Need I say more?  I know, some of you can’t call your parents because they have passed away. The lesson here is to pick up the phone and make the call!  The reason is not important.  What’s important is that you make the contact!  Remember, tomorrow is NOT guaranteed.  Do this before it is too late!

36. Do the right thing! Peter F. Drucker wrote, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right thing!” Do you want to be efficient or effective?  I choose effective but I also think you can do both.  Effectiveness comes first; do the right thing every time!


The Purpose Driven Life – Day Five

Seeing Life from God’s View

The way you SEE your life SHAPES your life!

Pastor Rick asks the question, “How do you see your life?”  This is a great question and for me, not one that is easily answered.  Depending on your stage of life your metaphor might be something like….My life is a circus!….My life is a game!……My life is a whirlwind!….My life is a battle!  What is your life metaphor?  How you see your life often will determine what you value most. 

The Bible says, “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.  Then you will be able to know the will of God.”  Romans 12:2 (TEV)  The Bible offers us three types of metaphors that teach us God’s view of life:  Life is a test, life is a trust, and life is a temporary assignment. 

There are several kinds of tests. There is the I am so busy test.  How many times have you just blown through your day, meeting deadlines, putting out fires, and taking care of your schedule while important situations and people all around you get unnoticed?  Sometimes those unnoticed people are the ones closest to you.  In our desire to complete our tasks, we fail the test God puts before us.  I have never known a man who comes to the end of his life and says, “I sure wish I had spent more time at the office.”  No, what I’ve heard over and over is, “I sure wish I had spent more time with my wife and kids.” 

There is the everyday situation test.  We are given the everyday test when we are standing in line at the convenience store ready to pay for our purchase and the person in front of us has a dozen or so lottery tickets to check on.  When patience is called for, how do you respond? 

There is the endurance test.  We’ve all been tested but some in ways more severely and for longer periods of time. My friend Bill endured his test for many, many years; you see, his wife had become disabled and needed 24 hour nursing care.  His test was not whether or not he loved his wife because he was totally committed to her.  He was going to love her through this illness because he had made a vow….in sickness and in health.  His was not a love test, but rather an endurance test.  Those years she spent in a nursing home, were not lonely years for her because you see, Bill saw her everyday.  He endured years of watching his mate slowly slip away but his love and commitment never waivered.  Bill definitely passed the endurance test.

You will be tested by major changes, undeserved criticism, delayed promises, unanswered prayers, unresolved problems, and senseless tragedies. Pastor Rick reminds us that our character is both revealed and developed by these tests, and all of life is a test.

The bottom line is that your faith, hope and love will all be tested.  How will you respond?

A point to ponder:  Life is a test and a trust.

A verse to remember:  “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you will not be faithful in large one.” Luke 16:10a (NLT)

A question to consider:  What has happened to me recently that I now realize was a test from God?  What are the greatest matters God has entrusted to me?

Be encouraged today friends!  Randy

The Purpose Driven Life – Day Three, Part 2

What Drives Your Life?

The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder – a waif, a nothing, a no man. Thomas Carlyle

The Benefits of a Purpose Driven Life.  Pastor Rick tells us there are 5 benefits of living a purpose-driven life.

Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life.  How many times have you heard or said, “My life has no meaning.”   We are made to have meaning!  I can personalize this by telling a quick story.  Last week I got an email from a friend of mine who reminded me of a time that I did something for her that I thought was very simple, but for her had tremendous meaning and impact.   You’ll never guess what I did for her…..I bought her a cup of coffee!  Simple, huh?   But for her, at that point in her life, it had great meaning and purpose.  She needed to know that someone cared enough about her to simply buy her a cup of coffee.  Didn’t the Savior say something about a cup of cold water given in His name?   This event happened probably 4 years ago and she took the time to remind me of that day and told me what it meant to her.  This showed me that many of the things we do for people that seem so simple and insignificant to us, can have great and lasting meaning to those to whom we direct our actions.  This simple truth proves that we all have meaning and purpose.  This side of eternity, we’ll never know the impact we’ve had on those with whom we come in contact, but when all is revealed, we’ll realize that everything done in the name of Jesus impacted someone in a huge way.

 Knowing your purpose simplifies your life.  One of the things on which I need to work is my obsessive need to do something about everything that comes across my radar.  I see the need to rescue a family from a hurricane in New Orleans, I’m there; re-build homes in New Orleans, I’m there!  How about clean up a lakefront at a nearby Christian camp after a flood, I’m there.  See what I mean?  My life got so complicated because I wanted to help everyone, all the time!  I was living outside my purpose.  Had I simply used the things I learned in my first reading of The Purpose Driven Life, I could have simplified my life to a great extent.  So my friend, are you yearning for a simpler lifestyle and a saner schedule?  Then live with your purpose in mind.  “A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.”  Proverbs 13:7 (Msg). 

Knowing your purpose focuses your life.  When you understand your purpose, you then can begin the process of focusing your time, talents and energies in order to realize your true purpose.  The people who seem to get the most out of life, are those who are truly focused.  Do you want your life to have meaning and impact, focus it!  Pastor Rick tells us to prune away all those activities that are not associated with a purpose-driven life.  He tells us that even the good activities, when not associated with your purpose, should be dropped.  The saying, “keep your eyes on the prize,” is applicable here.

Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity.  What is your legacy?  Is it houses and land?  Is your legacy a large bank account?  Maybe your legacy is a large family.  I wrote about this in my blog at .  What really matters is a legacy of faith!  You leave a lasting legacy by living with your purpose in mind.

A point to ponder: Living on purpose is the path to peace.

A verse to remember: “You, Lord, give perfect peace to those how keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (TEV)

A question to consider:  What would my family and friends say is the driving force of my life?  What do I want it to be?  Tough questions for sure, but a great victory is on the way if you can honestly ask the questions then as you answer, make those necessary life adjustments to put yourself on the purpose driven path.

Be encouraged today friends!  Randy

Lessons from Mom

In 1956, Mother’s Day fell on May 13th. This was a special day for my mom, Beth Carder and her dad, Gerald Cook; and of course me! It was Gerald’s birthday and it was also the day I was born. Something about being born on a Sunday, on Mother’s Day and my grandfather’s birthday that has always had special meaning for me. My grandfather, we called him Pop, died when I was 12 years old. He was an entrepreneur, a man of faith and a really good husband to my grandmother. I have lots of great memories of him but mostly I remember him through my mother, Beth Carder. Here are a few lessons my mother learned from her mom and dad and in turn, I’ve learned from her.

I learned about unconditional love. My mother reminds me so much of her mother and dad. My Pop and Grandma Cook were both very strong in the Christian faith. They loved their kids with an unconditional love. My mother loved our family just as she was loved by her mother and daddy. I’ve always thought that more is caught that taught. Mom didn’t do so much talking to us but rather showed us that a parent always loves her children in spite of their messes. I’ve made a few messes in my life and Mom has always been there to support and love me. Of course there was always a price to pay for those messes, but her love never waivered!

I learned the value of an orderly home. I had the most idyllic childhood. Growing up in Dumas, Texas during the 60’s and 70’s, life was very good. One of these days, I’ll blog about those years. My mom always made sure we had everything we needed. Our home was always clean and neat; she made sure our clothes were clean and that we had plenty of good food. Getting our school lessons was critical, church attendance was mandatory and eating at least one meal a day around the table with plenty of conversation was the order of the day!

I learned how to grow old with grace and humor. My mom has always had a wonderful sense of humor. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and is a source of great joy and laughter to us. Whenever we are together, she keeps us laughing with the stories she tells. Just now I got off the phone with her and was laughing so hard I couldn’t talk!

So, yes I’m the product of absolutely the very best mother and father! We are blessed with excellent generational parenting in our family. I look and see how my brother and sister are awesome parents and am amazed at how the blessings from our Heavenly Father are being carried forward to the next generation. On this Mother’s Day, 2010, I say thanks to the most awesome mother. Love you Mom!

Fast forward to October 25, 2015. We prayed mom into heaven at midnight. We read scripture, prayed, laughed, reminisced, and most of all loved her right up to her last breath on this earth. She was not conscious but I know her spirit heard everything we said to her over these past couple of days. As she took her last breath, I know she began breathing heavenly air and is in the presence of our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus, and the many friends and family who have gone before.

Be encouraged friends, for the Lord is near!


Five Life Lessons

Good morning friends.  My heart is heavy today because of the mass murder that occurred at Ft. Hood, Texas yesterday, November 5, 2009.  I work for the Killeen Independent School District just a short distance from where this unspeakable crime was committed.  Yesterday, during the event, we were all huddled around our computer screens watching the live news feeds and anxiously waiting to hear about friends and family on post.  Nine of our schools were locked down from 1:30-7:15pm.  We are all so proud of our staff at those schools who took excellent care of the children during this very tense time. 

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was about the events of yesterday and wondered what we could learn.  I searched some of my files and ran across this writing.  Again, not my composition but I share it with your for your encouragement today.  My comments are added.

1.  Remember the Cleaning Lady
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:  “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”  Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?  I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade. “Absolutely, ” said the professor. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.  My words:  I started my present job in the Killen Independent School District in July of this year.  Becuase there were only of a few of us on 12 month contracts, the building was fairly empty; except for the janitorial staff.  The first two people I met were Thomas and Mary (not their real names), our janitors.  I remembered this lesson and made sure that I learned their names.  They helped me move all my stuff into my office.  As I was decorating the walls of my office, in addition to my diplomas, I decided to hang my ministry credentials.   Mary saw this and asked if I were a minister.  I told her I was and she immediately asked if I would pray for her son; which we did, right then.  Friends, every conversation we have is an opportunity for ministry.   Learn their names!

2.  Pickup in the Rain
One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960’s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read:

“Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away… God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”   Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.  My words:  Ok, I don’t know if this is a true story or one of those modern myths, but the point is clear.  When confronted with an opportunity to help someone in distress, you NEVER know what might happen.  More than likely, you’ll get a “thank you” and that will be enough.  This side of heaven we’ll never know how our service to others has affected others for eternity.  Serve someone today.

3.  Always Remember Those Who Serve Us
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “Fifty cents,” replied the waitress. The little boy pulled is hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.. You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.   My words:  I went to luunch with two of my colleagues yesterday.  We went back to a restaraunt where we had been only one time before, just a few days earlier.   We sat at the  same table and had the same waitress.  She not only remembered us but somehow remembered what we each had to drink.  I was amazed at her.  She had big smile on her face and obviously loved her job.  She was there to serve our meal, but instead she blessed me.  She earned a big tip from me.  Today, as you have opportunity, encourage those who serve you by being a big tipper!

4.  The Obstacle in Our Path
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand!  Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.  My words:  What obstacle is in your path today?  I know some of you are battling disease, grief, lonliness, and heartache.  Your obstacles seem insurrmountable.  As you deal with the huge boulder in your way, know that God has a reward for you.  It may be during this life or in the life after, but there is a reward!  Keep striving to move that boulder! 

5.  Giving When It Counts
The story is told of a young girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.” As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away”. Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.  My words:  Last night before I came home, I went by Scott and White Hospital here in Temple to give blood.  Ten of the soldiers who were shot yesterday were transported here for treatment and the call went out for blood donors.  I got to the hospital at about 6:45pm and couldn’t even get in because the line to donate blood was so long!  Those who serve us by putting their lives in danger needed our service yesterday and people from Central Texas showed up!  Here’s the lesson, today you’ll have an opportunity to give of yourself to help someone.  It may seem like a small thing, but in God’s economy, all those deposits we make are huge!  Be a servant today, give of yourself and let God do a great work through you.

Be encouraged my friends!