Our six-year old, Austin, has lost four teeth in the past month, but this last one hung on the longest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tooth that loose that wouldn’t let go.  At first, we just knew it was going to come out right away like the others.  And then it didn’t. And it didn’t.  And it still didn’t.

At first it was kind of funny.  We could all joke about it.  But it was a front tooth, and the looser it got, the more difficult it became for him to eat. And the more difficult it became to brush his teeth.  It was becoming more frustrating for him than enjoyable.

He could blow air through his lips and the tooth would flap like a flag in the wind. But it wouldn’t come out.  We even pulled gently on it, but to no avail.  When we tried tying floss around it to get it out, it began to hurt too much.  And yet that tooth hung there like it could flop out at any moment.

We had planned a s’mores celebration when the tooth came out, and we had already delayed it a day or two.  The waiting was becoming more and more frustrating.  It was taking all of the fun out of losing a tooth.  We had gotten serious enough that we were even praying and asking the Lord to intervene and cause that tooth to come out.  Truth be told, I think each of us were tired of waiting.

Then, as the boys were playing yesterday afternoon, it popped right out and landed on Alex’s nose.

There was sudden elation and celebration.  I was just waking up from a short nap when I was informed that I had better light the fire because it was time for s’mores… Austin’s tooth had come out.  We all rejoiced… and enjoyed a round of s’mores.  I think they tasted better because we had to wait for them.  In fact, I think our joy over that tooth coming out increased because we had endured such frustration waiting on it.

You know, none of us really like to wait.  We humans are an impatient bunch in general.  And the longer we have to wait for something… like a healing… or a job… or a relationship… or closure in a tough situation… or for a legal matter to be settled… or for someone to apologize, the more easily we become agitated and frustrated.  That’s our choice, by the way, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

And yet, when the dawn finally breaks over a dark night of waiting in our lives, it seems like our joy is greater.  So, what if we could learn that somehow, and embrace the wait in light of the greater joy we will experience because we had to wait for it so long?

I certainly don’t have that all mastered… just seeing it myself in light of a loose tooth, and believing that my own joys… my own s’more-worthy celebrations…  will be greater and more enjoyable because I have to wait longer than anticipated and longer than desired.  And if more joy is the result, well then, maybe I can hang on a little while longer to experience a deeper, more fulfilling joy… and an extra s’more.

If you’ve read the blog, you know that I’m a minister, and I am not ashamed of that in any way. In fact, I feel privileged to be called to such a special role.  So, obviously, my blog often has a spiritual point which goes beyond the initial level of being positive, uplifting, encouraging and motivating.

Then there are nights like this when I’ve just gotta get my preach on.  Sometimes truth is just so good to me that I have to share it with someone.  Tonight… its you.

I kept dwelling on that quote I posted yesterday.  PR31 had said it, and it just rang true in my heart as something I needed to meditate on.  So it’s been rolling around in my head and heart since last night, and a little more has come to me…

1) Praise today like the victory came yesterday.  In other words, if God had done something amazing for you yesterday, you wouldn’t have any problem thanking Him today for it.  And you wouldn’t think anything of telling others how good He’s been to you.  Well, go ahead.  What’s stopping you?  Oh, the miracle hasn’t happened yet?  Well, don’t let that stop you.  God has done tons of other great things for you already.  Begin thanking Him for those, and just slip right on over into thanking Him for that miracle you need right now… that answer you need right now… that job you need right now… that healing you need right now… that provision you need right now… that favor with your boss, or spouse, or neighbor you need right now.  Thank Him as if He’s already done it.  That stirs up your faith and belief that He will come through for you.

(C’mon, somebody! I told you I was gonna preach.)

2) Pray today like the victory is coming today.  When you ask God to come through for you, believe He is going to do it… today.  Don’t make your prayer so weak and ineffective that you are only asking God to eventually come through for you.  That lacks the faith which puts a smile on God’s face when we ask Him for something.  It’s like we don’t really expect Him to do it for us.  Believe for things to turn around at school… today!  Believe for things to turn around with your health… today!  Believe for things to turn around at work… today!  Believe for things to turn around in that relationship… today!  If you’re going to ask God for something that only He can do, then why not go the rest of the way and believe Him to do it today?

3) Prepare today like the victory is coming tomorrow.  Plenty of times in Scripture, God told His people to get ready because He was going to bless them or give them victory the next day.  You know, when we have something big we need to do the next day, we know that we are down to the wire and have to get everything in place so that we are ready for it.  In the same way, when we praise God for a victory like it already happened… and pray like He’s giving us the victory today… we had better prepare today like the victory is coming tomorrow.  If you knew that tomorrow you’d be healed… or promoted… or recognized… or forgiven… or provided with all the money you need… what would you need to do today to be ready for that?  Well, what’s stopping you?  Get after it!

Listen, God wants to bless you.  He wants you to be a part of His family… a child of the King… royalty.  Accept that.  Accept Him.  And then praise, pray & prepare each day!

I have a friend in the HVAC supply business. He totally came through for me today.  Our thermostat went out yesterday afternoon.  I happened to mention it to him in passing conversation last night at church, and he said to let him know if I needed help with it.

I’m a decently handy guy around the house, at least handy enough to try something out of my league in an effort to learn something new… and save some money.  So I purchased a replacement thermostat last night on my way home from church, and I set to work on it.  I wasn’t too far in when I realized I was in a little over my head.

So this morning, I texted my friend and asked for his help.  Wow! He came through for me in a huge way, doing some of the research with professionals for me, and giving me the confidence to believe I could do this with the right information.  He even encouraged me to call the manufacturer at just the right point in the installation.  In the end, we have cool air blowing on this end of the house again, and it was because I have a friend in the business who knew how to help me in my time of need.

I’m reminded that I have another Friend Who is essentially in every business.  Jesus knows all things and is always with me.  So I always have Someone to turn to when I am in need.

Today, if you’re in need, you need to meet my Friend in the business.  If you’re facing illness, He’s the Great Physician.  If you’re battling loneliness, He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.  If you’re struggling financially, He is the Provider.  There’s not a situation you will ever face that you couldn’t have a Friend in the business.

I’ll sleep easier tonight… not just because of my friend in the HVAC business, but also because of my Friend in the life business.  If you don’t have Him as a friend, let me know… I’d love to introduce you to Him!  And if you need help with your air conditioning, I know a guy, too!

If you are borrowing money, you know that the interest rate goes up and down multiple times even in one day.  If you are blessed enough to have money invested in the stock market, you know that the market goes up and down all the time and affects the value of your portfolio.  Real estate usually goes up in value, but can decrease in value.  Stores raise and lower prices. Amazon and eBay items can shift in value based on supply and demand.

The problem with living in a culture in which value increases and decreases all the time is that we believe our value does the same.  We think that if we work hard enough or hit our goals, then our value goes up.  And conversely, we tend to believe that if we fail or falter our value goes down.  Yet this is completely false.

Our value never changes… at least not with God. Regardless of whether others give us raises or divorce us, our value never decreases with God.  When we get it right, He doesn’t love us and value us more.  He couldn’t possibly love us any more than He already does.  And when we totally blow it, He doesn’t love us or value us any less.  His nature and eternal choice to value us immensely cannot be decreased by any market force around us or careless decision on our part.

The price of gold may rise and fall.  The stock market may soar or crash.  Oil may hit an all-time high or bottom out.  But your value remains constant… stable… enduring.  God has set your value, and He refuses to change it.  You are always the apple of His eye.  You are always worth Him sending His Son to be executed for your crimes against Him.  You are always worth Him preparing a place where He could spend eternity with you.

So whatever name that person called you… whatever promotion you got or didn’t get… whatever type of home you live in or vehicle you drive… whatever level of education you have achieved… whatever titles you have or don’t have… you are forever unchangingly & incredibly valuable!  Never let anyone tell you anything different!!!

It’s been a long week.  I’m not complaining at all, because it’s also been pretty a good week.  Simply stating the facts.

We all have weeks like that. And I don’t know what you’re week has been like. But I know this…

Tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow starts a new week.

No matter what this past week has looked like… or felt like… or seemed like… it’s done.  And tomorrow is an opportunity to begin again.  Tomorrow we have the ability to wake up and embrace a greater attitude… keep our commitments more faithfully… choose our words more carefully… give more generously… love more patiently… serve more whole-heartedly.

The prophet Jeremiah… a guy dubbed “the weeping prophet… reminds us in Lamentations 3:23… a book of tears and sadness… that God’s mercies are new every morning.  No matter how bad things have been, each morning brings more mercies to help us through that day.  If you’ve used up all the mercies this week… and even this day held, don’t worry.  Tomorrow, when you wake up, there will be more mercies available to you.

So decide right now to look forward to tomorrow… and to this week… because you’ll have what you need when you need it, if you invite God to be involved in your life.  Tomorrow… start fresh!

After a few days of helping my sister get moved into her new house, we joined my cousin and his family at a local Mexican restaurant (my favorite  genre of food, unless desserts are a genre, for those who were curious).  The sign behind the counter was too good to pass up.  I was trying to take the picture quickly, and so it’s a little blurry… but the message is clear.

Yes, I know it says Jesús and not Jesus.  But it was a clear reminder to me of a couple things:

1) Someone is in control of everything in my life… and yours for that matter.  In fact, that Someone is in control of everything, period.  That’s good news.  Life is not a random set of occurrences.  There is a plan.  There is order, even when things seem chaotic.  When you want to rant because life seems ridiculous, and you wonder if anyone is in control, relax.  Someone’s got this.

2) That Someone who has everything under control is Jesus.  The guy who fed multiple thousands on more than one occasion with only a handful of food… the guy who walked on water… the guy who calmed a storm-tossed sea with only His words… the guy who gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and movement to the paralyzed… the guy who raised a few people from the dead… and also the same guy who, after taking some vicious torture and dying for our crimes against God, rose from the dead Himself three days later… Yeah, that’s who’s got this day under control.  Jesus is the Person in charge.

That means that, regardless of how weary you are… or how sick you are… or how lonely you are… or how broke you are… or how dysfunctional you are… or how challenged you are… there is Someone you can turn to for help.

In the local Mexican restaurant, they think it’s Jesús.  But in reality… in all of life… the Person who’s really in charge… the Person who truly has got this… is Jesus!  If you have a problem, bring it to Him today.  He’ll know just what to do to make things right.

It was probably the coldest weather I’ve ever been out in during my entire life.  It was about -40 degrees in the midst of the blizzard which was pounding Moorhead, Minnesota with snow.  Dad was away from home with my oldest sister Cathy.  So Mom informed my other older sister, Karen, that it was up to the two of us to go outside, scoop the snow away from the basement windows, and scrape any ice off of them.

I was all of about five or six years old.  So, at first, this sounded like fun.  We were going to get to go outside and play in the snow. Then Mom began to bundle me up with warm clothes.  Long johns… check. Jeans…  check.  Two pairs of socks… check.  T-shirt and flannel long-sleeve shirt… check.  Sweater… check.  Snowmobile suit (aka, insulated overalls for those of you in the Deep South)… check.  Scarf… check.  Knit stocking cap… check.  Gloves… check.  Snow boots… check.  And then she said, “You can only stay out five minutes at most, and then you have to come back inside to warm up.

Wait a minute…  This doesn’t sound like we’re about to go play in the snow.  Is this even safe?

But we trudged outside, looking like the Michelin Man, found the first window and went to work on it.  We got it cleared off, and Karen said we needed to head back inside.  At that point, I was more than happy to do so.  It was bitterly cold, and we were not playing anything in the snow.

When we got inside, our clothes were slightly damp from the falling snow, and we were cold to the bone.  Mom got my outer gear off in the entryway, though I wasn’t sure I was going to be warm enough even inside to take it remove it.  Fortunately, Mom had been making hot chocolate while we were outside.  We drank in the heat from the house along with our mugs of steaming hot chocolate.  As we finished up, she said, “Okay, let’s get you suited up again so that you can go do the next window.”

Hold up… do what?  I just got warmed up.

Again Mom reminded us to stay outside no longer than five minutes.  She didn’t have to warn me now.  I understood clearly why this was important, and I had no intention of staying out even five minutes if we could get done more quickly.  With that, we donned our cold weather gear, and did the deed.  Finishing the next window, we came inside again, cold as we could be.  It felt like the cold was compounding interest.
Once more Mom helped me get out of the outer gear and into the kitchen.  There she had waiting for us bowls of warm soup.  That sensation makes me think of what the first day in Heaven will be like.  I’m not sure I could have been any happier to see any food in the world at that moment.  With each bite, it seemed my body temperature began to stretch for normal again.

I only remember having to go out about three times like that.  And each time we came in, Mom was ready to warm us up.

You know, it’s a cold world out there.  Blizzard cold.  Forty degrees below zero cold.  People can’t stay out in that all the time and survive.  They need a place that’s warm to thaw out hardened hearts… cynicism… jaded outlooks… hurts… losses.  And they need someone who is standing there in that warm place ready to get the cold off of them.  They need someone who has gone to the effort of making sure there is hot chocolate for the spirit and some warm soup for the soul.

Countless times throughout Scripture, God challenges His people to be the kind of people who look out for those who have had to endure the coldness of this world… foreigners… widows… orphans… the poor.  It is His heart’s desire to see each of us be the kind of people who say, “Come in from the cold.  I’ll warm you up.  I’ll help you get ready to go back out and face what you have to face.  I’m sorry you have to face it.  But please don’t stay out there in it.  Come back in from the cold, and I will be here with something else to warm you up.”

That’s what I try to do six days a week with this blog… give you a place to come in from the cold and warm up.  It may not seem like much, but it’s one more way I can live out my overarching life purpose to “love and encourage people, offering them grace and hope.”  And I hope that I inspire you to look for others around you who need you to tell them, “Come in from the cold.”