Leaping Gators, Willie Nelson and “the best day of my life”

So, in the words of Willie Nelson I’d like to say that we are “on the road again”.

We pulled out from the Big Easy about 8:30am and hit the Southern Superhighway known as 10 East. Our time in New Orleans was great! The food was amazing, the family time fulfilling and the new experiences memorable for all of us… but especially for the kids. In fact, a big part of what I’m doing right now has to do with them.

You know, you only get one shot as a parent and a lot of time that slips by really quick. I’m not going to bust out the chorus from Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle“… but I could! (Wow! I must be in a musical mood. First Willie Nelson and now Harry Chapin. Be prepared for some Axl Rose which is sure to come!) I have personally been running non stop for the past three years building a church which has been growing and doing great things… but if I ever sacrifice my children on the altar of ministry, I am surely missing it… BIG TIME!

If you are excelling in ministry or business or anything else, but missing out on time with your family it is time to readjust. You are NEVER going to have a right time. As a leader, you need to MAKE the right time. You need to trust God to take care of the details that only you can take care of and honor him with your work… your pleasure… and your family. That brings me to yesterday’s activity.

Yesterday we went on a gator tour. And, this just isn’t any gator tour, this is the “official” Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp tour in Slidell, Louisiana. It was my third time on the tour and I couldn’t wait to share the experience with my kids. It is pretty awesome to see a sixteen foot alligator leap out of the water to eat a hotdog off a stick. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you must move it to the top of the bucket list. It is awesome. Here is a little bit how it’s gonna look…

Gators love hotdogs!

Gators love hotdogs!

Big Gator Swimming

Big Gator Swimming

More on the gators later…

But, the truly amazing thing didn’t happen as the massive reptiles were leaping from the waters, but as the boat was careening down the bayou at an incredible rate of speed. It was in that moment that my eight year old leaned over and said these words to his mom…

“This is the best day of my life.”

If you have never heard those words from your child, then it will be hard for you to understand what it felt like. I can’t capture the feeling in words here. But, if you have ever heard your child say those words when you weren’t expecting them then you know exactly what I’m talking about. It makes you think to yourself…

“I must be doing something right.”

And I know that it wasn’t the gators that made the day “the best” and it wasn’t the swamp or the copious amounts of food or the music on the street or the driving in the car… I know that it was because of the “time” that he is getting. Time that he needs. Time that they all need. Time that is so cheap to give, but that pays back incalculable dividends.

It’s a lesson that I feel so blessed to have learned. It is a nudging that I am glad I heard and I am glad that I responded with a “yes”. It is something that has costed me so little, but has already returned such a great reward.

What about you? Sometimes we can get so caught up with “building a life for them” that we neglect to “build a life with them”. We work to provide and make something substantial out of our life while neglecting the one thing that God has given us that is worth far more than any job, career, ministry or opportunity. It is the responsibility of raising his sons and daughters that have been entrusted to us for a small season.

Do you have the focus on the right thing?

If not, don’t wait. Do something with them today. Hug them a little tighter today. Tell them how much they mean to you today. Listen to them talk to you today. Turn the TV off and ask them about their thoughts and feelings and about their friends… talk to them about life and watch that seed of caring begin to bloom and blossom.

Back to the gators…

We reached this point when we had seen quite a few gators individually. We would see one, feed one, talk about one and then move on to the next spot. But, we reached a place where we were nestled in between these trees as we coaxed a small gator over while our captain made the noise of a baby gator and slapped a stick against the water. The gator started slowly to make her way to the boat. I looked down river and saw another ripple making his way to the boat.

It was another gator. I looked to the right… another gator. Before I knew it, there were four or five gators surrounding the boat. These are territorial gators who were looking past their angst towards one another to focus on another target… dinner. And what was the dinner? Us! They weren’t after marshmallows or “hotdogs”, but the “human dogs” sitting in the boat!

But it’s funny… because I wasn’t once worried. Here I was surrounded by animals who would love to eat me and my entire family, but I wasn’t scared. My heart wasn’t racing. I wasn’t planning my escape. I wasn’t even thinking about an exit strategy. I simply sat back and looked at the beauty of the animals who wanted to kill me.

I wondered why… and then I remembered… I trusted the captain of the boat and knew that he wouldn’t take us somewhere that wasn’t safe. He had been here many times before and knew the dangers like the back of his hand. I felt safe because I trusted the captain.

I started to think about my life. It is sort of the same way. There are gators swimming all around. In other words, there is a consistent amount of danger that is always around the boat of my life. Whether it is spiritual or emotional or physical or financial or anything else that has the power to destroy me. It is all there swimming quietly around the boat waiting for the opportunity to pounce. But, I am not stressed or scared or worried.

Why? Because I trust the captain… Jesus Christ.

I believe His words that I don’t need to worry. I believe that He’ll always be with me. I believe that He’s not going anywhere. And, it doesn’t matter how many gators surround my boat because I trust my captain.

Sometimes, you may be worried or stressed or anxious about the gators in the waters around your boat. I want to encourage you to focus on the captain in the midst of those moments. You have nothing to worry about when Jesus is the captain of your boat.

Today, be encouraged! Love your kids and love the captain of your life. There’s no better way to live!

Much Love,


p.s. “Welcome to the Jungle!” There’s your Axl Rose!


One thought on “Leaping Gators, Willie Nelson and “the best day of my life”

  1. Okay, so you and Tara are many many miles away, and you still can find away to make me cry! Looking forward to the next post.

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