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!

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!”

We had the day off and so we headed to to another town to spend the day together as a family. Upon arriving in said town, we picked up something to eat and headed off to do a little shopping… each person having picked one store in which they wanted to shop.

Now, I don’t want to say that we are cheap. Thrifty isn’t really the right descriptor either. So let’s just say we are frugal. We try to wisely use the money with which we have been blessed. So our first stop was at a store which sells new items they get from name brand stores at reduced prices. We usually find a deal or two in there, so we decided to stop and see what we might stumble across.

What we stumbled across was a significant discount on clothing and a few household items. Enough that we stayed in the store for two hours. Even Angela, who does not enjoy shopping for clothes usually (Thank You, Lord) found an armload. We dug through racks and tried on clothes till the boys tired and were no longer having fun.

We each had several items in the cart when we finally headed to the checkout with our deals. Angela leaned over to me and said, “Just remind me that, if it is a little bit bigger total than we planned on, we got a lot of great deals and needed the things we got.” I assured her it wouldn’t be that bad, and we made our way to stand in line.

As we stepped up to a cashier, I did as I always do and asked how he was doing. His response was one word… “Tired.” I smiled and tried to boost his spirits, but as I tried to position myself where I could read the computer monitor on the register to make sure the items were ringing up at the right price, I realized he was typing in numbers faster than I could keep up, and I was too far away to see the amounts.

Now, I told you we’re frugal. I asked him politely how much several items of clothing rang up for, and he replied, “Fifty cents.”

“Oh,”I attempted to casually ask, “are all the clothes fifty cents?”

“No, some are fifty cents. Others are not, but then,” and his words trailed off into something unintelligible. I gave up trying to figure it all out and decided we would just see what the damage was at the end.

He finished scanning, typing and sacking, then announced that the grand total with tax would be $30.88. I know I don’t have a poker face. What’s inside typically shows up like a neon sign in my expression. I glanced at Angela. She looked back at me, and I knew that neither of us could put it together. We had put 26 items of clothing, including jeans, jackets, tops, and more, plus a pair of dress shoes for me, a backpack for one of the boys, and a few household items on that counter. There was no way that could be right. The total should have been way more.

I asked if he had checked out everything. He said, “Yes, will that be cash or credit?” We paid the man, gathered our three large bags, and headed to the van. We didn’t say a word till we got outside the store. Then Angela asked, “Did we just get all those clothes for fifty cents each?” To which I replied, “Yes, and my shoes were only three dollars.”

We loaded the items in the back of the van, got in, buckled up, and Angela began looking over the receipt. We almost couldn’t believe it. God had just unexpectedly blessed us with a deal that blew our minds.

The thing is, it shouldn’t have been unexpected. We had prayed hours earlier as we left the house that God would go ahead of us, show us favor, and direct things to work out for our benefit as we went about our day. And boy, did He ever?!

Here’s the other thing…

We put some clothes back because we kind of liked them, but not at the price the app said they were when we scanned the tags. We just began to think that maybe it was a little too much. As we drove away, we were kicking ourselves for not getting those items, too. Had we known they were only going to be fifty cents each, we would have bought all of those and kept on looking for more as well. But we had forgotten our prayer… forgotten that the Lord knows what we need before we ask… forgotten that He must smile, wink, and say, “Watch how I’m about to do something good for My kids!”

Scripture says that we harvest in proportion to the amount we plant. That planting is evidence of the amount of faith we have. Had we believed that God was going to bless us the way we asked Him to that morning, perhaps we would have carried everything we wanted to the cash register. We were still blessed like crazy, but we could have been blessed even more. And it reminded us to trust God even more.

Now, I don’t know if you’ll get a deal on clothes or if He will bless you some other way, but I encourage you today to have big faith because the God I serve is a much bigger God than we typically give Him credit for being. And He wants to bless you. So, when you ask big, remember to plant lots of seeds of faith and expect a big harvest of blessing. Who knows, you might just need an extra buggy!

Our friends who live in the north may have a difficult time believing this, but it is almost time for me to get out the tiller and turn over the ground in our garden patch in order to begin getting it ready for planting. I’ll have to till it up two or three times, weeding and leveling before we make rows and plant seeds and seedlings. But those seeds have to be in the ground by Good Friday around here, or there won’t be much to pick this summer:

I read this quote from Audrey Hepburn recently which caught my attention because I’ve got gardening in the back of my mind. She said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” That, my friends, is truth. We almost didn’t plant a garden last year because we weren’t sure if we would still be living here, but we went ahead and did all the work for the garden, whether for ourselves or someone else. I’m sure glad we did because we enjoyed a lot of veggies out of that garden all the way up into fall.

So, I’m planning to plant a garden in the back yard again this year. Do I know that we will be living here in the same place “tomorrow?” No, I do not. But someone will be living here. And someone will be glad we did the work to plant that garden.

You see, doing all the prep work and then planting a garden is an act of faith. It is believing there is going to be a tomorrow to go out and harvest what we’ve planted. It is an act of hope… trust… faith. It is believing that all the effort will have been worth it. It is believing there will be a pay-off or return for our investment.

The same is true in life. When we make the investment in time and effort and energy today, we say to ourselves and those around us, “I believe there is going to be a good tomorrow. I’m planning for it. I’m preparing for it. I’m looking forward to it.” That’s faith.

So, whatever you’re facing today, plant a garden… that is, believe in tomorrow. Don’t give up. Don’t avoid the prep work because it seems early… or looks daunting… or because you think you may not be the one to enjoy it. Getting ready says you believe there is a good future to look forward to. And there is! God has good things in store for those who love Him and follow Him. So, get your work gloves out, grab some tools, and let’s get that garden planted!

I love watching NFL games! Obviously, as a New Orleans Saints fan, I’m quite captivated as we come to the end of the season, and my team is in the playoffs. But I follow the game year-round, and I have been reflecting this week- as so many teams whose seasons have ended are letting coaches go and looking toward the next draft- about what each change a team makes really means.

I recall a statement by Adam Capland which I heard on an NFL radio show back in the preseason. He said, “Transactions always tell a story.” In other words, when teams trade, cut or hire, they express who and what they value. For example, just last week, a team in the playoffs hired a kick-off specialist because they didn’t feel like their regular place kicker could put the ball in the end zone on kick-offs. Simply hiring that other kicker meant they didn’t trust their own kicker to do his job. They didn’t value him or his abilities enough to believe in him.

Now, we can berate those team tycoons for the way they cut head coaches from the team coldly after several losses, or move on to the up and coming rookie because the crowd is tired of the veteran who is no longer in his prime. But the truth is that our transactions always tell a story as well. What we spend our money and time on speaks to what is important to us personally.

Each day, we have the opportunity to place value on people, to express how much they matter to us and to God. Simply saying yes to spending time with someone can speak volumes to them about how special and wonderful they are. Sometimes a small gift expresses immense love or appreciation. Jesus said that wherever our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Our transactions always tell a story.

It’s true. We give our time, attention and money to those whom we value most. Andy Stanley has said, “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else.” We only have so much of each to give, and so we prioritize. Who and what we love least will get cut or traded for who or what we love more or most.

Only people will last for eternity. People should always trump stuff. I know we can’t give everyone our undivided time and attention. Sometimes the money and the time truly aren’t available for everyone in your life. I’m not suggesting that you can give the best of yourself to all those to whom you want to give it. But maybe we could turn off the TV or put away the phones little more, and play a game with our kids. Maybe we could skip the meal at the restaurant and give to a friend in need. Maybe we could give up those few extra minutes of sleep to get up and spend some time with the Lord, reading His Word and talking with Him.

Transactions always tell a story. How has the story of your life read up to this point? Are you pleased with the story so far, or do you wish you could erase some of the story and re-write it? Well, we can’t re-write the past, but the good news is that the next chapter’s pages are blank. We have the opportunity today to begin writing the story in a way that tells the story our hearts longs to tell… Let’s tell a great story!