Monthly Archives: March 2016

When Was the Last Time You Took a Bath? (Spring Cleaning Series- Part 1 of 4)

Growing up a lonely only, my Mom would sometimes ask a tell-tale question: “Young lady, when was the last time you took a bath?”

Uncertain of her reasoning, it never ever occurred to me I may have shown a petite resemblance to Pig Pen from Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic. Could there have possibly been a veritable, odorous cloud hovering over my universe?

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Fast forward many moons to today’s world, when there’s hardly time for a quick shower: Taking a bath is a huge luxury. Are you a bath person? I have a handful of friends who take a bath every night to relax. Never occurred to me. (Am I repeating myself????)

In our current home, we have the biggest bathtub you’ve ever seen. In the six years we’ve lived there, I’ve only used it about four times. Well, that is about to change…

The newest Bible study our Tuesday group has started, this very week, actually suggests soaking in a tub for part of our homework. I kid you not. And, I have so much respect for this excellent author, I’m not about to disobey.

The book? Refresh! A Spa for Your Soul by Lucinda Secrest McDowell (Better known as “Cindy”.) The end of Chapter One suggests we take a hot bath, perhaps with some scented bath oil, listen to soothing instrumental music, light a scented candle, and “soak up the serenity”. Ahhhh…Sign me up.

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In the Prologue, Cindy tells us her book is “part of my journey which I offer to you as a tool for examining areas of balance in your own life

My prayer for both of us is that we drink deeply of that living water Jesus offers. You, too, can experience a refreshing – SPA– as you walk thru’ each chapter and do your own Spiritual Personal Assessment activities.”

You can bet I’ll be talking about this book more in the future as our group dives in. Stay tuned…

El Nicho Waterfall In Scambray Mountains. Cienfuegos Province, C

While we’re on the subject of water, let’s look more at this living water. There’s a hugely upbeat song out right now by Jordan Feliz. I heard him interviewed on the radio recently about his song, The River.

He said he wrote it around John 7:38.  Look how The Message expounds on this in verses 37-38: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.”  Here’s the NIV:

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I pray we’ll all be blessed by the below lyrics, and take the three minutes to listen to the song ( Just click on the YouTube link.) and let the words wash over you, soaking them up:

Lyrics to The River by Jordan Feliz:

“I know a place
where we can go
to lay the troubles down eating your soul.
I know a place
Where mercy flows
Take the stains make you whiter than snow

Like a tide it is rising up
Deep inside
A current that moves and make you come alive
Living water
That brings the dead to life

(chorus)

We’re going down to the river
Down to the river
Down to the river to pray
Let’s get washed by the water
Washed by the water
And rise up in amazing grace
Let’s go down, down, down to the river
You will leave changed
Let’s go down, down, down the the river
Never the same

I’ve seen it move
In my own life
Took me from dusty roads into Paradise
All of my dirt
All of my shame
Drowned in the streams that have made me born again…”

This beautiful, grace-filled living water, from Jesus, and flowing water, from our soothing soak in a tub are Part One of our Spring Cleaning Series. The whole overwhelming concept of “Spring Cleaning” usually causes me to groan…Take heart, it’s my goal over the next few weeks to give you some ideas to make you smile.

Now, GO TAKE A BATH….

‘Til next time!

 

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Cling to the KEY of our Christian Faith this Holy Week…

Friends! It’s almost Easter! Please tell me why there are more chocolate candies everywhere you go, than anything relating to our most wonderful upcoming holiday??? Perhaps my nose for chocolate is the culprit…

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I can’t resist reprising the below post which first came out three years ago. A couple of updates before you dive in: Woody’s now nearly twenty-four, married to LT for nearly two years, and I’m thrilled to report of my five friends who became Grandmothers to five granddaughters, all five of those darling little girls have become big sisters!!! (Two of them are about to have yet another sibling!!!)

As you’ll see in the below post, the Resurrection is the KEY to our Christian faith and you’ll find five reasons why. Note our assurance and the resurrection power which is available to us all. You’ll also find the importance of leaving a legacy of faith to your family. Don’t miss this!

Billy Graham reminds us, “It was the resurrection of Christ that caused the disciples to go out as burning young revolutionaries to change the world of their day. They preached, ‘Christ is alive!’ THIS should be our message, not only at Easter, but every day of the year.”

He is not here, He is risen…. (Matthew 28:6)

Cross Against The Sky

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this little reminder this Holy Week. Blessings to you and your family for a Beautiful Easter…

 

He is NOT here, He is “Rizzzen”…

Don’t tell me children don’t learn a LOT at an early age!  And watch out, THEY are watching YOU!  And horror of all horrors:  THEY will imitate you!!!  Our third-born son, named Woodford, a/k/a Woody, is a blast.

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One Easter weekend, when Woody was  two years old, we’d just returned home from church.  Scurrying to get a meal on the table, we asked our oldest son to entertain the younger two boys.  Thankfully this wasn’t the year before, which nearly did me in…

That particular year before, John and I chose to take two cars to church since the Easter Bunny’s arrival was postponed ‘til after church.  (Don’t ask me how we explained that one.)  “The Plan” was that I would hurry home, ahead of John, hide the eggs, and be ready for the boys.

Problem is my husband tends to drive a tad speedier than yours truly, so I was barely ahead of them.  Hurrying in heels isn’t a gift of mine either, so I was literally hurling eggs thru’ the air in the back yard.  To top it off, my heels were sticking in the grass, and well, it’s a good thing none of our neighbors were within earshot.

Darned if John and the boys didn’t arrive while the eggs were flying thru’ the air.  Our  oldest son, John Jr., more astute than anyone needs to be, said, “Look Daddy!  It’s raining Easter eggs!”  Well, let’s just ADD to that big web of lies we’d already woven, throwing in one more far-fetched explanation.

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Now while I know there’s not really a “time out chair” in Heaven, I still envision myself spending time there for some of these antics…So sorry, Lord. (Don’t you know He thinks we’re completely crazy sometimes?)

So back to the year Woody was  two:  The boys were playing upstairs and I ran up to get something.  Woody was marching back and forth across the hall, while holding a big plastic telephone, just-a-chatterin’ away.  (I’ve been known to walk thru’ the house while talking on the phone….hmmmm.)

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Woody was shaking his head, back and forth, emphatically saying, “NO!”… pause, pause….”He is not here!” …LONGER pause….”He is RIZZZEN!”, prolonging the ‘s’ into buzzing ‘z’s!

That spectacular Easter Sunday, the Sunday school teachers were teaching the precious children about Jesus’ resurrection.  As Liz Curtis Higgs said in her blog last week about the resurrection, “This truth changes EVERYTHING!  His heavenly Father ‘has raised him to life’ (CEV). Hallelujah!  God be praised!  He who was dead is now alive forever!”… And even two year olds can begin absorbing this.

To read more from Liz, visit her website: http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com

This Easter week, let’s celebrate TWO important points:

First, and foremost, let’s celebrate that the tomb is EMPTY!  Christ indeed has risen!

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An angel of the Lord announces to Mary Magdelene, Mary the Mother of James, and to Salome in Mark 16:6  “Don’t be alarmed…You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here…” (See also Matthew 28:6, Luke 24:6 and John 20:11-18.)

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The Life Application Bible points out the importance of the resurrection by calling it “the KEY to the Christian faith.”  Let’s look at 5 reasons WHY the resurrection is “vitally important.”

 1 – “Jesus kept his promise to rise from the dead, so we can believe he will keep all his other promises.

 2 – The resurrection ensures that the ruler of God’s eternal kingdom will be the living Christ, not just an idea, hope, or dream.

 3 – Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that we also will be resurrected.

 4 – The power of God that brought Christ’s body back from the dead is available to us to bring our morally and spiritually dead selves back to life so that we can change and grow.

5 – The resurrection provides the substance of the church’s witness to the world.  We do not merely tell lessons from the life of a good teacher,  we proclaim the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

 Don’t miss these truths held within the verbs in each of the above five points:  we CAN BELIEVE…; we are ENSURED ; we are GIVEN THE ASSURANCE ; Resurrection power IS AVAILABLE to us; it PROVIDES THE SUBSTANCE  so that we can PROCLAIM THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION….

Let’s take time this week, with Good Friday approaching and Easter Sunday on the horizon , to be still, to reflect on this resurrection power available to us, and perhaps pray about a friend or neighbor who needs to hear this GOOD NEWS.

 Country Church

Which  brings me to the second point:  Let’s all be ever watchful for ways to teach our children, or our grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or neighbors, about the Lord and His powerful Word.

Remember, Woody was just two years old at Easter time that year, and he clearly  “caught” the Scripture being taught.  We mustn’t forget what little sponges these children are. 

You won’t believe this, but in the past four months, I have five, yes FIVE, close friends (two of which are my sister-in-laws!) who have just been blessed with granddaughters!  (Think pink! ) These are all strong-in-the-faith Christian women and I can hardly wait to see what these little angels will learn about God from their grandmothers.

Look at their beautiful names and please say a prayer for them and their families:  Caroline, Maria, Lucie, Emmeline and Emerson.  I  suspect you, too, may know of a newborn to pray for!  Pray for them and their parents to raise them up knowing the Lord.

grandmother with baby

One of my many sins over the years in attempting to raise these boys is I tend to compartmentalize my faith.  I need this Scripture forever in the forefront of my mind:  Deuteronomy 11:18-21  says,

 “FIX  these words of mine in your hearts and minds;

  TIE them as symbols on your hands and

 BIND them on your foreheads.

 TEACH them to your children,

 TALKING ABOUT them

 when you SIT AT HOME and

 when you WALK along the road,

 when you LIE DOWN

 … and when you GET UP.  

 WRITE them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.” (NIV)

 Now you can see what I’m emphasizing above….again the verbs:  fix, tie, bind, teach, talk about when you sit, walk, lie down, get up, and write.  Don’t miss the fact that IF we do these things there’s a promise…”so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land…”

I pray you and your families have a most blessed Easter and Spring (even tho’ it’s snowing as I type). May we all rejoice that “He is not here, He is risen!” 

 ‘Til  next time!

(This post is dedicated to our youngest whipper- snapper-son, Woodford Lee Hoagland.  And for those of you parents out there who have more than one child and fret over treating each child equally, hang in there, I’ll be writing about our other two awesome sons in the future!!!  John and I are also forever grateful to the ministry of Campus Outreach on UK’s campus which discipled Woody  to focus on Christ, rather than chaos which we all know can come with college experiences.  Checkout www.colexington.org for more information.  I love Campus Outreach’s mission statement: “Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World.”  Amen.  Happy Easter everyone!)

Eliz and Woody

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Surprise Pregnancy, Drug Ring, Murder, Love Stories, AND Redemption all-in-one??? Grab “Twisted Innocence” by Terri Blackstock and Come Discuss at Book Club, March 28th!

Friends! Wow, I’ve not read a novel with so many suspenseful twists and turns in eons. If you’ve got a mere couple of days, you can finish this page-turner, no problemo. Plenty of time before our next Book Club meeting!

Mark your calendar and bring a friend to Branches Book Club at Middletown United Methodist Church on Monday, March 28th from 6:30-8:00 p.m.! We’ll be discussing Twisted Innocence (Moonlighters Series)by Terri Blackstock. This is guaranteed lively discussion!!!

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While I’ve seen Terri’s books over the years in bookstores, I’d not picked one up before. Not sure why, and after reading this one, you can bet I’ll grab another one! The good news/bad news is she generally writes her books in series.

Series spell cessation/seclusion from one’s chores—a lesson I learned the hard way, no thanks to Karen Kingsbury. Hubster couldn’t find me for days. You think I’m kidding…

I also learned Twisted Innocence is Book Three in The Moonlighting Series which makes me want to fetch Books One and Two.

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Terri’s writing tethers you so tightly to the characters you don’t want the book to end. You’ll meet Holly Cramer whose life looks like a version of Murphy’s Law. She just can’t quite come up for air.

She winds up pregnant, has the baby, names her Lily, deciding not to tell the father. Never mind he just happens to be wanted for murder from a drug bust.

Holly lives with one of her sister’s, Juliet, who’s widowed and has three children. She and Holly work hard, juggling babies and trying to make ends meet.

Holly’s other sister, Cathy, is engaged to a guy named Michael who is currently in jail. Makes one think neither Cathy nor Holly know how to pick their men (!!!), oh but just wait while the plot thickens! This is a big order of “don’t judge a book by its’ cover…”

Convict prisoner jailbird is counting days in jail

One of my favorite parts of this novel is how Terri sprinkles truths about God throughout the characters’ dialogue. Here are a few:

When Holly’s daughter, Lily, looks up at her:

“Holly would never get used to that unconditional adoration. That gaze had the feel of God in it, and it calmed her spirit more than anything ever had.”

When Holly talks to a co-worker who researches her daughter’s father, he tells her, “I’m not judging you…everybody makes mistakes. You’re no different.”

When Holly’s sister, Juliet, hosts a baby shower for her, she panics a little about Juliet’s friends coming, fearing judgment for having a baby out of wedlock. Juliet says, “Stop looking at yourself as inferior. God doesn’t do that….He knows where you started and how you got here. He’s not disgusted, and neither are my friends. When they get to know you, they will delight in you like God does.”

These noteworthy quotes are just a few of many! Terri also uses Scripture throughout the story, my favorite of which is Philippians 4:6-7. Juliet reminds Holly their Dad had them memorize it:

Phillippians 4 6-7

Finally, the character who plays Lily’s father, Creed, wonders if he can truly be forgiven citing some of the mistakes he’s made. Holly tells him, “…Redemption comes from what Christ did on the cross. Taking our punishment for all the messes we’ve made. That the blood He shed for us was enough to wash us clean…”

She tells Creed she truly believes this to be true. She adds, “It’s like…once I trusted that Jesus’ death for me was enough…well, then I stopped hating myself and wallowing in guilt, and I started over, like someone who was fresh and clean. Someone who had a shot at life. And God….He’s sent me a trail of bread crumbs to guide me, you know? And trust me, I needed a lot of crumbs….”

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Friends, how Terri weaves Jesus’ redemption for us all in her novel and for these characters you think are beyond grace is beautiful. You don’t want to miss Twisted Innocence!!! You may need to keep a few Kleenex handy!

Please join us Monday, March 28th from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Branches Book Club meeting, at Middletown United Methodist Church. Bring a friend, or two or ten!

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 www.middletownumc.org

11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 http://www.middletownumc.org

‘Til next time!

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Got Three Minutes? Too Blessed to be Stressed—3-Minute Devotions for Women by Debora M. Coty is Well-Worth Your Time…(FREE GIVE AWAY too!)

Running away to the beach is just what the doctor ordered.   I don’t know whose doctor, but frankly any doctor will do. Just sayin’…

Hubster and I did indeed heed aforementioned doctor’s orders. We happily hopped a direct flight from Louisville to Tampa, thanks to Southwest Airlines, and ran away to Clearwater Beach for a few days.

If any of you’ve been to Clearwater, you know what I mean when I say it has one of the prettiest, whitest, biggest beaches I’ve ever seen! Breathtaking!

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It’s safe to say we recharged and refueled, actively denying winter, thanks to some picture-perfect weather and a swell crew of helpful folks at the Sand Pearl Resort. www.sandpearl.com

We were also blessed to visit family and friends. Added bonus:   I got to meet an awesome author in person!!!

I’ve been a fan of Debora Coty’s for quite some time now (www.deboracoty.com). Upon discovering one of her many books, Fear, Faith, and A Fistful Of Chocolate: Wit and Wisdom for Sidestepping Life’s Worries a couple of years, ago I emailed her to tell her I’d be writing about it.  I was so moved by the book I wrote a five-part series on it! We became fast friends via email.

 

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Slaying Dragons at Deals Gap—Figuratively and Literally – Part 1

Calling All Worrywarts – Part 2

Oh Man, I’m Going Down…When You Think You May Faint – Part 3

My Mother is My Travel Agent for a Guilt Trip – Part 4

Move Over Mom…I’m Drivin’ Part 5

 

One very cool thing her publisher has done with another one of her books, Too Blessed To Be Stressed, is to create baby spin-offs from the original. There’s the Too Blessed to Be Stressed Cookbook, The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to Be Stressed Edition, a Planner, a Journal, and… just out this month, the Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotions for Women.

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I’m tickled pink to report Debbie just so happens to live in Tampa. She hopped in the car and headed to the beach so we could meet in person, sip on some tea, and solve many of the world’s problems! Is God soooo good, or what?

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Allow me to explain how this fun little devo’ works. There are one hundred and eighty entries. Each one only takes three minutes to read. JoAnne Simmons compiled these from Debbie’s original book. She tells us the readings “pack a powerful dose of comfort, encouragement, humor and inspiration into your day.”

Here are your three minutes (Come on now, we all have three minutes to spare…):

Minute 1: Scripture to meditate on

Minute 2: A short devotional reading

Minute 3: A prayer to jump-start a conversation with God

 

I LOVE, LOVE, L-O-V-E this little book for several reasons:

1 – It’s a petite paperback you can throw into your purse.

2 – Each page has a synopsis of its’ topic at the top. (i.e. “When Trust Triumphs, Worship Wherever You Are, Shackled by Perfectionism, What Are You Telling Yourself, The Prune of Self-Control, Spiritual Vitamins”, etc.)

3 – Debbie uses different translations of the Bible which give us readers a better grasp of God’s Word.

4 – Her sense of humor is hysterical which is so healthy for us all: “A cheerful heart is good medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

5 – Her prayers show you how to daily apply God’s Word to your life.

6 – It’s a deal/steal at only $4.99. I’m thinking this is a perfect choice for those Easter baskets you’re wondering how to fill!!!

7 – It’s time management at its’ finest.

Balancing Time

While I’ve dog-eared about every other page of Deb’s book, one of many favorite entries begins with “The Prune of Self-Control”…

The Scripture Deb gives us to savor is Proverbs 25:28:

Proverbs 25-28

The devotional part begins, “Self-control is the prune of the Spirit; not the fruit you savor, but the one vital for moving things along smoothly. (If you’ve ever drunk prune juice you know what I mean!) It’s the fruit you gulp down and try not to choke on.”

Prune juice

Deb continues, “I think it’s no coincidence that self-control is listed just behind gentleness in Galatians 5; they sprout from the same vine. You need to ingest the first in order to digest the second.” In all these years of reading the fruit of the Spirit, I’d never thought of this!

She closes with, “Self-control is courage fueled by integrity and supernatural power. It’s something the average Jane doesn’t have but is possessed only by those willing to step back from the firing line and hand over the lit match.”

2 Timothy 1:7 in the CEV says, “God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control.”

Finally she prays, “Dear Papa God, I need such help with self-control, whether it’s in regard to avoiding junk food or taming my tongue or watching my attitude, just to name a few examples. The temptation to give in to my sin nature is great, but Your Spirit is always greater. Amen.”

Keep in mind, the above quotes are from just one of one hundred and eighty equally inspirational devotionals! Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab up several copies of this book! They make great gifts!

Be watching for her upcoming 365-Day Devotional, Too Blessed to Be Stressed Daily Inspiration for Women, due out January 1, 2017!!!

Please leave a comment within the next week and you’ll be entered to WIN A FREE COPY of Deb’s devotional! We have three, count ’em three copies to give away!!!

‘Til next time!

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Another Plus for Community With Help from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Last week we discussed the importance of friendships and what a beautiful picture of Community they are. We’ll get to a different aspect of Community in just a minute…

There are a couple more Scriptures, as well as a jewel of a quote from Melanie Shankle, in her book we talked about last week:  Nobody’s Cuter than You, pointing us to a very close friendship in the Bible.

I Samuel 20:42 has Jonathan talking to David, but since we’re talkin’ about girlfriends, we must use the below picture for this poignant verse:

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Melanie closes her book with, “…God has given us the people He has placed in our lives as He knits our souls with theirs:

It’s a Miracle…

A Grace-filled,

         Life-changing,

                 Soul-refreshing miracle.

 May we never lose the wonder of it all.”

 Think of all of your relationships and savor I Corinthians 13:4-7 with me from The Message:

 “Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always ‘me first’,

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.”

Long, deep, close-knit friendships love unconditionally. When you do have bumps in the road (and we all have), consider your friendship’s history….you know his or her character…Is the bump consistent or inconsistent with their character? Extend grace and move on…

 It’s important to keep and care for your Community.

Communities are not just found from long-term friendships… Many times they develop and grow out of Bible Study Small Groups, or Small Groups from your church. Some are actually called “Community Groups”.

While I’ve been talking about groups of girlfriends, Small Groups can also be composed of married couples or couples engaged to be married. It’s healthy to build friendships with other couples.

Our boys are blessed to all be in Small Groups of married couples they love doing life with. Best-case scenario is when your Community Group helps grow your faith.

An excellent resource to help you with this comes from author extraordinaire, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His book, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community is for all of us.  (It’s also a nice, short, quick read.)

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Bonhoeffer wrote this pertaining to the unique fellowship he experienced in an undergound seminary during the Nazi years in Germany. His indescribable joy he had in the Lord, even during such harsh and frightening times, including his later imprisonment in the concentration camps, defines inspirational.

He was martyred by the Gestapo near the end of World War II. He’d been plotting to assassinate Hitler. Fellow prisoners have told countless moving stories of their encounters with Bonhoeffer and his evangelical, compassionate ways toward each of them.

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He begins with Psalm 133:1 which tells us:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (NIV)

He tells us, “We shall consider a number of directions and precepts that the Scriptures provide us for our life together under the Word .” Envision an umbrella of protection.  He includes beautiful Scripture verses in each of his five chapters: Community, The Day with Others, The Day Alone, Ministry and Confession and Communion.

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Let this sink in for a minute: “For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it.

All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night RETREAT before the clear light of Jesus Christ and His wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety FLEE before him.

Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to Him to whom our whole life belongs.”

Powerful! In short: No whining. Just praise!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention and recommend Eric Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Total tome, but well worth your time! Beyond fascinating.

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Finally, if you’re not in a Small Group or Community Group and would like to be, call your church or ask a friend about one. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss and will be the best thing worth adding to your calendar!

‘Til next time!

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