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!

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.”

It was a warm enough spring day that my parents let me ride my bike to and from elementary school.  I was probably in the fourth or fifth grade.  Having crossed the busy street at the crossing guard with my rust-colored nylon backpack strapped on, I mounted my trusty steed… an electric blue metallic Schwinn with a banana seat and long handlebars.  It was no BMX bike, but it I loved it.

The friends I hung out with from our neighborhood and I hopped our bikes as we hit “the shell path,” our secret back way to our neighborhood.  It was a shortcut, and my parents would have typically objected to a path like this, but it kept me off main streets in town with lots of traffic.  So they obliged.  And I felt cool… like one of the guys… you know, the guys who take “the shell path.”

Once we turned off “the shell path,” we were not far from our neighborhood.  We all lived within about 2 blocks of each other.  Bryan, Wally, and Wally’s younger brother were guys I played with almost every day till we moved.  And we competed a lot.  So it wasn’t a surprise that when we got our bikes on pavement, we decided to see who could out-ride each other.

The race was on!  I took off.  And while my start on the much heavier bike was not as quick, once I got rolling, I had a full head of steam, and the heavier bike was smooth.  I soon overtook the guys on the short street, navigated the right-left turn onto the street where Wally and his brother lived, and broadened my lead.  In fact, I was so far ahead, I was less than a block down their street, which dead-ended into my house’s front yard, that I took my hands off the handlebars like a football player high-stepping into the end zone when he has outrun the defense by a mile.

I remember looking over my shoulder, seeing the guys just making the right-left turn onto the same street, and turning back around to face forward when all of the sudden my bike hit a small rock in the road.  The long handlebars snapped to the right in keeping with the front wheel to which they were attached.  This caused the bike to stop on a dime, lurch the back end into the air, and hurl me forward with momentous force.  I was so caught off-guard that I did not have time to get my hands out in front of me fast enough to keep my chin from hitting the concrete pavement first.  Pain ricocheted from my head through my body.  Then my hands caught up to my chin, still thinking they could stop me, only to scrape across the rough pavement.

I remember letting out a blood-curdling scream, some might say it was like a little girl.  I didn’t care.  I hurt so badly that I didn’t think I could get up.  The way I landed had also knocked the wind out of me, and so I felt like I was suffocating.

Apparently, Wally and his brother, who had just pulled in at their house at the beginning of the street, heard my scream and never got off their bikes.  They peddled like crazy to where I was to help.  They didn’t laugh at me, and tell me that I got what I deserved for showing off.  They simply helped me up, one of them helping me stand and walk… the other standing my bike up and walking it beside us slowly.  They told me I was bleeding pretty badly, and when I put my scraped hand to my chin, I pulled it back to discover they were quite right.

They walked me all the way to my front door, rang the doorbell, and waited for someone to answer.  When my Dad answered the door, they explained what had happened and why I was bleeding so profusely.  Dad thanked them for helping me, took me inside and cleaned me up.  I probably needed stitches, but Dad opted to clean and bandage the wound himself to see if it would heal.

I thank God that on that day I had friends who were there to pick me up, dust me off, help me walk, and carry my bike.  And I thank God for those friends whom I have had on other tough days in life, when the hurt seemed so overwhelming that I didn’t feel like I could stand on my own.

I want to be that kind of person.  I want to be a person who can hear the cry of someone else in pain, and rush to help them.  I want to be a person who isn’t afraid to get a little “blood or sweat” on me from someone else’s “injury.”  I want to be someone who will get another friend to join us and push our injured friend’s bike for them while they are just trying to get home.  I want to be the kind of friend who will invite the Father to get involved, and heal a friend’s wounds.

I’ve had those kinds of friends in life.  So have you, probably.  Isn’t it great to know someone is there to help you?  Wouldn’t it also be great for someone else to know that you are there for them in a crisis?  Today, I want to encourage us to each be the kind of person who rides to the rescue of fallen friends and helps them… and their beloved bike… home to the Father’s loving, healing hands.

My dad made time for me.

Growing up, Dad was a busy pastor, but he made time for me.  Countless times I asked, and countless times he accepted my invitation to play in the front yard.  Just me and him.

Nothing organized.  We would grab our baseball gloves and play catch.  Or we’d toss a frisbee.  Or a football.  And I drove him nuts with numerous horrible throws because I was not incredibly athletic.  But that didn’t keep him from agreeing to play with me the next time I asked.

To be transparent, I don’t think I can remember one solitary thing we talked about from any of those times out in the front yard. Literally, not one thing.  But I remember that my Dad loved me enough to spend time with me.

As years went by, we hunted together.  It wasn’t just the trips.  It was the preparation time we spent together, too.  Time my dad invested in me.

I’m a dad now.  And sometimes dads are tired when their kids ask them to play.  Sometimes they have a lot on their mind when their kids ask them to play.  But I say “yes” to my boys now because my dad said “yes” to me, and I know the value of that time. I want them to grow up knowing that I love them like crazy, and I’m willing to prove it with my time.

Love is spelled T-I-M-E.  That’s how we let people know we love them.  Sure, we can say we spend our time at work to earn the money to provide for our family, but that’s not the kind of time they recognize as love.

So let me encourage you to say “yes” to someone today.  Say “yes” to playing catch with your son.  Say “yes” to a tea party with your daughter.  Say “yes” to a date with your spouse.  Say “yes” to dinner with friends.  Say “yes” to church with the God who wants your heart.

It’s your time that people want.  It’s your time… your valuable, precious, limited time… which when given proves you love them.  Spell it out for someone you love today!

Yeah, I’m sure you might look at me and say that I have a long way to go to reach my ideals.  I may not always match up to everyone else’s standards of what they wish I was.  And I know for a fact that my everyday life has not quite attained the perfect status which God has already attributed to me through Jesus Christ.

But you can count on this… I’m still working at getting better.  I’ve got room to grow in every area of my life, and sometimes I may only be taking baby steps.  But they’re baby steps in the right direction.

So what if you’re not perfect yet either?  Are you headed in the right direction?  I’d rather see you do like Apple when they come out with a product that is headed in the right direction but still has some tweaking to be done on it. Keep upgrading your life.  Keep loving people… and working hard… and making the most of times with friends and family.

If every day we will make a little improvement, at the end of our lives we will be able to look back and see how far we’ve really come.

Have a great weekend!

I laughed till I cried and could hardly catch my breath.  Three or four of us older teenagers were helping our youth pastor build a float to represent our church in a local parade. Someone hurt themselves a little, and someone else told a story of a time when they got hurt.  We each took a turn telling a story about getting hurt.  Then Mike told a story about getting hurt that topped them all.

Not to be outdone… because now this was a competitive display of our manhood… we each began pulling out our best injury stories. There were lots of “ohhhhh’s” and “no way’s.”  And after each person told their next story, Mike would tell one of his… usually rolling up a pant leg or lifting a sleeve to show us the scar related to that story.  This got us laughing.  As it went on, we all ran out of stories, and Mike just kept telling his till we laughed harder and harder.

That night, building that float together and telling stories of injuries we had survived… Mike winning the manhood trophy, of course… drew us all together.  Looking back, I get it.  The greatest inspirational stories… the ones that open our heart to hear what others have to say… the ones that draw us to them… the ones that make us want to know them… are the stories which involve someone overcoming injury and adversity.  It’s when they show us their scars… because scars prove they know what it’s like to be hurt, and they also prove that healing can take place.

I love watching the Olympics.  And I can be planning to cheer for one person, but then the network hosting the airing will show a video telling of a different athlete’s trials they had to overcome to make it to the Olympics.  Suddenly, I’m drawn to that person… caught up in their story as it unfolds… wanting them to succeed and win.  And when they do, it’s all the sweeter because I know what they had to go through to win that medal.  Their scars made me celebrate their victory.

Mark Lowry said once, “When someone won’t show you their scars, I don’t really care to see their trophies.”  You see, it’s not the successes people achieve which inspire us and engage us.  It is the scars they show us which they got on the way to winning the trophy.  It says to us that we may get hurt, but we will heal… and we can even go on to win.

Lots of people hate on the disciple known as “doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead till he saw the scars, but he had not been there when Jesus showed Himself alive to the disciples the first time.  In my opinion, his response was totally normal to the human condition.  Yet when he saw the scars, it gave him hope… caused him to believe… inspired him… motivated him.

It’s not so different today, is it?  People want hope.  People want to believe.  But they need to see some scars.  They need to hear someone say that they got hurt, but they also healed.  Once they see our scars, they will be able to believe that they, too, can heal from their hurts in life.

So let’s pull down our defenses some today.  Let’s be real… genuine… authentic… vulnerable… a little less than perfect.  Let’s do like Mike, and keep showing our scars till everyone else listening to us thinks, “Hey, my life’s not that bad.  And they healed up, maybe I will, too.”  When we do, our trophies will actually shine a little brighter in their eyes, and we will inspire them to pursue victory for themselves!

I hated reading.  Don’t hate me.  I didn’t say I still hate reading.  I just said that I used to hate it.  In fact, until I got to my sophomore year at SAGU, I only read the Bible and books that I had to read for school.  There was one small window as a preteen when I enjoyed a couple of Star Wars novels, but apart from that, reading was anathema to me.

That all changed when Dr. Amy Alexander began her Comp 1 class with a devotion each day.  She would often read from a book from this one particular author.  As she read passages from the book and elaborated on them, I became entranced.  I was fascinated by this person who could write in such a way that it drew me in.  After hearing her read from this author’s book a few times, I had to find out who he was.  So I asked her after class one to to tell me that guy’s name so that I could write it down.

I was so excited about finding an author whose writing I enjoyed that I wanted to be sure to tell my parents the next weekend I was home from college.  They are avid readers, and I was sure they would also be overjoyed.  In fact, I was sure they would want to read his books, too.  I launched into telling Mom about it as soon as I got home.

“Mom, I have to tell you about this new author.  I usually don’t like reading, but I’ve got to find this guy’s books.  I could read anything he writes. His name is Max Lucado.”

My mom just laughed, and said, “Yeah, I know about him.  I have three or four of his books.”

I was blown away that she knew of the igniter of my reading passion.  And even more blown away that she had some of his books.  So when she asked if I’d like to borrow a couple of them to take back to school when I went back, I was ecstatic.

She added, “If you like his writing, I bet you’ll like this other author’s writing, too.”  That author was Charles Swindoll.

From there, I was introduced to the writings of Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, and others.  Suddenly, I liked to read.  I was a reader. Wow!

I’ve still read almost everything Lucado has written over the years.  And as time has gone on, I’ve discovered other authors I enjoy… Francis Chan, Kyle Idleman and Mark Batterson.

I mean, I read other books sometimes.  I listen to Christian fiction audiobooks by Ted Dekker, Terri Blackstock, Dee Henderson and Wayne Thomas Batson.  I picked up some leadership knowledge from John Maxwell, Peter Drucker and Henry Blackaby.  I’ve grown spiritually from reading titles like God’s Armorbearer and A Tale of Three Kings.  But in the end, I always gravitate back to the style that really hits home with me.  Something positive, upbeat.  Something that challenges but in a hopeful manner.  Something that lifts me to new heights of dreaming and believing and living.

So today, I finished reading chapter one of Dick and Ruth Foth’s new book, Known.  Chapter 1 is worth the price I paid for the entire book!  I can’t even speak to the rest of the book, but if you love a good story with a great point, you’ll love this book.

Why would I recommend a book I love?  Because Dr. Amy Alexander recommended one to me 25 years ago, and it has made a significant impact on my life.  Truth be told, I am the person and the writer I am today in large part due to being introduced to that first book.

So, even if you don’t like to read (anything other than the Bible… and this blog)… or even if you read slowly like I do… let me encourage you to find that author, that book, that genre, that format (hardcopy, digital or audio), and read, read, read.  Pick something you will enjoy, and it will motivate you to read more.  And as you read, your world will expand with new dreams, ideas and possibilities.