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!”

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!

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!

In the summer of 1978, just a few months before my eighth birthday, our family moved from Moorhead, Minnesota to Pasadena, TX. Just before we moved, a man in our church named Paul asked me if I was excited about moving to Texas. I told him I was, and he told me he hoped I enjoyed beans because everyone in Texas were cowboys who rode horses and ate beans for every meal. So you can imagine my surprise when we arrived in the industrial suburb of Houston and only two men in our church wore cowboy hats, there were cars everywhere but no horses, and I only ate beans when we went to the Mexican restaurant.

Now, to be fair, Paul was just razzing me. He didn’t realize I was completely convinced that what he said was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him, God. And I’ll admit, I was slightly disillusioned when I discovered we wouldn’t all ride horses everywhere we went. (Mom and Dad would occasionally make up for it by letting me ride the mechanical horse outside of K-Mart.) On the other hand, I was quite pleased to find that we didn’t have to eat beans at every meal.

All Paul’s joking aside, what we are convinced of affects the way we live. If you are convinced it is cold outside, you will probably dress in warmer clothes. If you are convinced you will like the movie you are going to see Friday night, you’ll probably have a greater sense of anticipation and go ready to enjoy it.

The same is true when it comes to what we are convinced of about ourselves and others. Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you’re right.” In other words, what we are convinced of plays a huge role in how we go at life.

While Paul in Minnesota tried to convince me about life in Texas being all cowboys and beans, Paul the Apostle in prison for preaching about Jesus told his apprentice, Timothy, that he was convinced God is able. Able to do what? Able to work miracles… able to right wrongs… able to give him strength to face his challenges… able.

What are you convinced of about God today? Are you convinced He’s able? Do you believe He’s able to forgive your crimes against Him? Are you convinced He’s able to take away that cancer? Are you convinced He’s able to provide more money than you have month? Are you convinced He’s able to restore that relationship which seems beyond repair? Are you convinced He’s able to set you completely and permanently free from that addiction? Are you convinced He’s able to help you succeed at your work… accomplish your goals… fulfill your dreams?

What we are convinced of, we will expect. I am convinced that God is not only good, loving, and generous, but I am also convinced that He is able. He has all authority and ability. And because He is able, I can come to Him with great expectations.

This is not someone joking about cowboys and beans we’re talking about. This is so much more. You can count on God. Be convinced today… you won’t be disappointed!