Recently, we were gathered with some family and someone had purchased chocolate chip cookies from a local bakery. The boys love those cookies, and so we kind of have to monitor how many they eat. Because we do this, they sometimes come ask before they get another cookie.

We were outside working on a project when Austin came out and found Angela. He asked, “Mama, can I have another cookie.” She sweetly replied, “Sure, baby.” At that, Austin grinned, pulled a cookie out of his pocket and began to eat it.

That, my friends, is called faith.

You see, faith comes expecting. Faith comes ready to receive. Faith says, “I believe the answer will be ‘yes,’ and so I’m bringing a cookie with me. That way, when I get that ‘yes,’ I’ll have my cookie ready.”

Scripture says that when we ask the Lord for something, to exhibit true faith we must really believe that We are going to receive what we are asking for and not doubt. It’s not just a hope. It’s not just a wish. It’s expecting to receive. It’s carrying a cookie in your pocket when you go ask your mama if you can have a cookie.

What is it that you are asking of God today? What is it that you need Him to provide… or do… or answer? Are you really believing that He will Grant your request? Do you have Austin’s kind of faith… the kind that carries a cookie in your pocket when you go to ask?

Choose today to believe before you even ask that the answer will be “Yes!” Carry a cookie in your pocket… and enjoy it when God says, “Sure, baby!”

The other day, on a particularly beautiful day after a number of days in a row marked by rain, we were outside as a family and decided to give the chickens a little time outside their coop and run to free-range. They were having the time of their lives eating up grass, weeds, bugs and worms. The three of them would go around together. Then they would split up and do their own thing.

At one point, a loud helicopter flew over pretty quickly. Each chicken stopped, listened, and then they all ran straight for their coop, in an almost single-file line. When they felt threatened, they knew right where to run. They knew that coop was their safe place to get away from danger. There, they sleep in peace and safety each night. There, they find nourishing food and refreshing water. There, they safely live out their purpose and lay eggs for us each day. That coop is their safe place.

For those of us who have a relationship with the Lord, we also have a safe place in life. We simply have to speak His name. And when we speak it- wherever we are- He becomes the place we can turn to for protection, for peace, and for provision. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 18:10 that the name of the Lord is our strong tower, and as the righteous, we can run into Him and be safe.

If something has startled you in life, speak the name of Jesus, and let your heart run inside His. There you’ll find your safe place.

I don’t know what you’re afraid of. I really am not crazy about heights. Or snakes. Or confined, closed-in, restrictive spaces.

Yeah, I know those may be a little silly. There are a lot more serious things in life we could be afraid of… like getting sick. Or getting fired. Or being left alone. For some people, it is facing something new. Or someone new.

The thing is, we don’t have to live in fear. All throughout Scripture, God instructs- and on occasion even commands- those who love Him and follow Him not to be afraid. But He goes a step further and tells them how they can achieve that fearless lifestyle. He tells them to remember that He will be with them. Remember that the God who spoke, and suddenly sun and moon and stars appeared, would be WITH them. Remember that the God who could destroy the whole earth and yet save each species to start over was WITH them. Remember that the God who could tame lions and part seas was going to be WITH them.

So David didn’t have to fear Goliath… because God was WITH him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t have to be afraid of being thrown in the fiery furnace because there would be a fourth person in the fire WITH them… and He was God. Esther didn’t have to fear going in to see the king unannounced… because God was going in WITH her. Peter didn’t have to fear walking on the water in the middle of a storm… because Jesus was right there WITH him.

And the even better news is that you and I don’t have to live in fear as we face our challenges… because is WITH us also. You’re not walking into that job interview alone… He’s WITH you. You’re not alone in that MRI room… He’s WITH you. No matter what you’re facing, you do not have to fear because that same God who was there for all those people thousands of years ago is alive… and will be WITH you.

So, don’t be afraid today… for He is WITH you!

Each morning, when our miniature Schnauzer, Sugar, goes outside and takes care of her necessary morning routine, she is rewarded with a treat. Sometimes, when I am the one giving her the treat, I play a little game with her in which I put the treat in one hand, then put my hands behind my back, switch it back and forth, and then bring my closed hands back around, placing them in front of her. She then sniffs my hands, and tries to figure out which hand the treat is in. Obviously, I want her to have the treat, and even if she gets it wrong the first time, I open the other hand and give it to her.

The other morning, Alex was the one giving her treat, and we discovered he plays the game a little differently with her. When he plays it, he puts a treat in both hands. In other words, he wants to make sure that she gets a treat the first time. Regardless of which one she picks, he guarantees her a win. When I saw that, I thought, “That’s really how God is with us.”

You seed God WANTS to bless us. He makes sure that we can find His blessings. He’s not actually hiding them from us. He’s not toying with us. He’s not even treating us like I do Sugar… He’s not saying, “Well, if you can find it, you can have it. And if you don’t, I guess I’ll eventually help you and go ahead and reluctantly bless you.” No, He desires to bless us. To be good to us. To help us succeed. He guarantees us a win if we come to Him expectantly.

Sometimes, we make God out to be some stingy, trick-playing magician who is using sleight-of-hand to keep us guessing. But that’s not who He is at all. Scripture tells us that He delights in being good to us.

Listen, today God holds out both of His loving hands in front of us, and there is a blessing in each hand. Just pick. If He’s offering it, then you can count on what He’s handing you being a blessing. Whichever hand you choose, you just can’t lose!

Our family loves board games and card games. Admittedly, I probably love them more than Angela or the boys, but we all enjoy a good round of Sorry, Clue, Jr., Mexican Train, or Farkle. We are all just a little competitive. We talk a little smack about how we’re going to trounce the others quickly. We cheer and laugh it up when someone smokes another player with a great move.

Our most recent addition to the cabinet full of games is Monopoly Deal. It’s the card version of the board game. It’s fun because it really involves luck-of-the-draw almost as much as it does some strategy.

The boys have gotten pretty good at it, but the other night Angela beat Austin soundly. When they finished, Austin said, “Aw, man! I forgot I had all these good cards I could have played. I bet I would have beat you if I hadn’t forgotten I had those.”

It’s true. In the heat of the game, he had laid aside some of his cards or stuck them behind other cards in his hand, and he forgot they were right there at his access for him to use to win. He could have defeated his opponent… and had bragging rights for at least a few minutes… IF he had remembered the good cards he had to play.

Here’s the thing… What was true for Austin in that card game is true for all of us in life. When we forget the good things we have at or disposal, we are more likely to lose out. When we forget that God has given us good promises and good gifts, we miss out on winning more times than not. We face an opponent who doesn’t care if we forget. In fact, he’d like for us to forget that we have access to provision, healing, grace, miracles, and so much more.

Choose today and everyday to go through “your hand,” and remember all the good things God has given you to make you successful in life and overcome the enemy of your soul. Look through Scripture, and remember that you have powerful promises. Look through your life, and remember that you have wonderful experiences when God came through for you before to show you that He is there for you now.

Don’t let those “good cards” stay tucked away and hidden. Play them early and often, every chance you get. In the end, you’ll come out the winner.

Let me encourage you to stop right here and right now to sort through “your cards.” Write down a list of three or four promises God has given you. Then write down three or four memories of times in life when He came through for you. Keep them with you, and as you go through the day, if you hit a point when your opponent seems to be getting ahead of you, pull out your good cards and play them one after another on him. He doesn’t stand a chance when you remember your “good cards!”

Alex and Austin play an online, interactive computer game in which players can create games for others to play. Obviously, some of the game creators are professionals- or people with way too much time on their hands- and their games are highly popular in the daily rankings. The boys try lots of the games and occasionally even create one themselves, but they gravitate to those well-made, popular ones like everyone else.

The other day, Austin came running into the kitchen with great excitement, telling Angela, “The maker is in the game! The maker is in the game!” When Angela asked him what he was talking about, he explained that he had entered one of the games and discovered that the maker of that game was playing in it at the same time he was. For him, just knowing the maker of that game was “in there” playing along with him made playing at that moment so much more fun and exciting for him.

Now I know that life is not a game, and God is not simply a programmer who created the world and then left it to let happen what happens. The truth is, He never leaves “the game” of life we are living. He is always present. He told Joshua in Scripture that He would be with Joshua everywhere he went. And Jesus told His disciples that, even though they wouldn’t always see him “playing in the game,” He would be with them all the way to the end.

That means “the Maker” is in “the game” with you and me today! The Maker is in “the game!” We can communicate with the Creator. We can see what He intended for us. We can get to know Him a little better. When we don’t know what to do next, we can ask the One for whom nothing is hidden… nothing is unknown… nothing is secret… nothing is beyond possibility.

I know that we can go through life without seeing the Maker in “the game” with us, and that the times we really recognize He’s present are super special, but He is always in “the game” with us. There is never a moment He isn’t there. Or maybe I should say here. We can contact Him at any moment. We can get to know Him even better. We can ask Him to answer our questions and help us succeed.

The Maker of “the game” is right there beside you today. He’s praying with you. He’s helping you. He’s cheering for you to become all that He created you to be and accomplish all He wants you to accomplish in “the game” He created. So go ahead… Get a little excited… because the Maker is in “the game!”

I have a problem. I keep doing the same thing over and over. And it’s ridiculous. It’s crazy. In fact, Albert Einstein is credited with saying that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

What is my problem? I use the ellipsis too much in my writing.

See, I write the way I talk most of the time. (You probably just read it much slower than I say it.) In a blog that is more a relaxed flow of thoughts, perhaps it is alright to overuse the ellipsis. You, the reader, get it. It gives you the cue to pause as you read.

But when I wrote my first book, I Got A “D” In Leadership, my editor pointed out repeatedly… until she got tired and just finally said to watch for it from that point forward… that I way overuse this little jewel of punctuation. (I think it’s my favorite, although the exclamation point runs a tight second.) The problem is that there are other ways to show pause in writing. Enough ways to keep the writing interesting and the reader engaged. She gave me examples and showed me why they would work more effectively.

So when I wrote my second book, The Upside, I purposely worked hard at making sure I did not overuse the ellipsis. And would you like to know what one of the first fixes my editor had to point out? You guessed it. The almighty ellipsis, my best friend in writing and simultaneously my arch nemesis. She reminded me that, while I could use it, there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. And sometimes those ways are truly better.

Now, I know old habits die hard, but I was reminded once again in that editing process that there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. Truth is, when I switched to some of the others, I found myself liking the writing better. It better suited what I was trying to communicate. It gave me new methods. I actually enjoyed the writing even more.

Here’s the thing… We all deal with this problem. Oh, perhaps yours is not a punctuation problem. Yours is almost certainly something else. Maybe something far more significant. Perhaps you need to shed some weight for your health. Maybe you want to improve your marriage. Or maybe you just want to get to work on time. But the principle is the same.

There is probably at least one other way of accomplishing your goal. You don’t have to keep doing things the same old way. And a new year is the perfect time to decide to and discipline yourself to try a new way. And in the process, you just might find that you like the new way even better.

God is the God of new things. Sure, He is from eternity past. Of course He is familiar with history. But He offer new life, new hope, new methods, new creativity, new options, new possibilities. Instead of doing things the same old way, why not ask God to help you today to begin to discover new ways to accomplish your goals?

I am pleased to announce to this audience the release of my second book. While the first book was aimed at empowering leaders, this book is a daily devotional with 150 one-page devotions designed to help individuals have develop a consistent daily journey with the Lord. Each devotion contains a story, a spiritual truth, a passage of Scripture where the truth can be further searched out, a key verse from that passage to carry in your heart throughout the day, and a 2-3 sentence prayer starter to help kickstart your conversation with the Lord on the topic of the day.

We all face enough negative elements in life which drain us spiritually and emotionally. This book is designed to help us take a look at life from God’s perspective… The Upside.

While you may recognize some of the stories or thoughts from this blog, I believe the deeper spiritual truths which accompany them in this book will enhance your nearness to God. I encourage you to get a copy for yourself. And these would make great gifts for family or friends who want to kick off the new year keeping their resolution to grow spiritually.

The book is available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your life each week through this blog. I hope that the book will be an added blessing to you.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

Since she was probably eight or nine years old, Angela has lived with a condition which we only found out several years ago is called 4S. Basically, it is a super-sensitivity to certain sounds which generate an emotional response. For example, if someone eats ice or crunches nacho chips at a meal, she hears it like she’s the bionic woman. If you smack when you eat, she can hear it across the room. The subtle, metronome-like tick-tock of a clock which might be soothing to some feels like it makes her nerves stand on end. Think someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard, multiply the sensation and irritation by a hundred, and you’re getting close to challenge she faces on a regular basis.

Now, she is the epitome of graciousness when it comes to this condition. She rarely says anything to anyone outside our family. In fact, she chooses to go to the other room herself when necessary to provide relief instead of asking any of us to change our behavior. Typically, no one outside our family and a few close friends would ever know these things are bothering her.

For years, the clicking of a computer mouse and keyboard have pushed her to her limit. And since the office/schoolroom in our house- where the family computer is located- is just off the kitchen and living room, that means the three main rooms in which she normally spends the largest portion her day become significantly challenging to her 4S.

Recently, she wished aloud that someone made a silent keyboard and mouse. Then something flashed through our minds… perhaps someone does. We knew that some laptop keyboards were not as loud as most desktop keyboards. So, we began to search. Lo and behold, there are a number of “quiet” or “silent” mouses and several “quiet” keyboards. Doubtful they were as good as their own press, we decided to try them anyway.

When the mouse arrived and we tried it for the first time, she couldn’t believe the relief it provided. We immediately went and got the keyboard to see if it would also do the trick. Just a couple days ago, Alex did two of his typing lessons for school with her sitting less than three feet away from him, and she never knew he did them!

Now this may not seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a miracle to us. We wonder why we didn’t think about this possibility sooner. We wonder why we didn’t search for this solution earlier. I suppose we just didn’t imagine the possibilities.

All of us face our own version of “4S.” We all have challenges which we seem to battle continuously, not realizing that there may be a solution right under our nose. Maybe your challenge is breaking a bad habit. Perhaps you wrestle with a spiritual challenge. Or maybe you struggle to live by a budget… speak publicly… lose weight. Have you checked to see if there might be a solution? An app? A resource? Who knows… you might be able to discover the answer to your challenge on Amazon, or at Walmart. God already has the solution to your challenge. He has already placed things at your access to help you overcome.

Don’t just wish today. Discover the possibilities. God wants you to live the abundant, fulfilled life that He has for you. And if that means you need a quiet computer keyboard and a quiet mouse to do so, He can make sure the solution is available. You may have to Google a little to find it, but you can hold on to the promise that God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

So get yourself an early Christmas present this year. Discover the possibilities!