"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

11/28/08

Friday Fiction: "Flitter's Foggy Day"



Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Fridays, hosted this week at Pod Tales and Ponderings. Be sure to stop by there and read more great fiction!
I wrote this almost a year and a half ago for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge - we were to write something suitable for children. It did VERY well in the challenge, and was actually the one that "boosted me" to the Masters level there (for those of you unfamiliar, that means it was my third top ten entry). This story is very dear to my heart, and I have fallen in love with my characters. I'm convinced there's another "Flitter story" inside me, and I have vowed at some point (we still on for February, Peejers? hmmmmm??) to polish this up real nice (have started, but this is the "original" version) and attempt to get it published. I also thought it was appropriate for this time of year. Hope you enjoy it!

Flitter's Foggy Day

There once was a butterfly named Flitter, with light, wispy wings and long, thin antennae. Her wings were blue, orange, and purple with little silver specks that sparkled in the sunlight.

Flitter lived in a forest full of birds and bugs and monkeys and plants of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. It was a beautiful place, and Flitter would often smile as she fluttered about gathering nectar.

Sometimes, when the sunrise or sunset was especially pretty, or when the light reflected off the morning dew drops in a special way, Flitter would stop and say a little prayer. Her prayer went something like this:

Heavenly Father, I thank you today
for blessing me in this special way.
Thanks for the beauty of all I see,
And thank you, Lord, for loving me.

Flitter was quite happy in the forest with all her plant and animal friends. She loved to play hopscotch among the forest flowers, and tag with the insects. She and her best friend, Maggie the monkey, would often play hide and seek among the trees. She had everything she needed in her beautiful home in the woods.

One morning, however, Flitter bumped into a tree and bruised a wing. Her hurt wing made it harder than usual to flutter about. It was a very foggy day, too, so she couldn't see the sunrise. The entire forest was covered with a gray haze.

Flitter didn't feel as cheerful as she usually did. In fact, she was just plain grumpy. The beautiful colors of the flowers seemed a little less bright, and even Flitter's silver specks stopped sparkling. Flitter was as dreary and gray as the forest fog.

Flitter was tired of fluttering about, so she sat on a low tree branch in the middle of the forest. She didn't feel like flying, and playing hopscotch or tag seemed like too much trouble. Even when she spotted Maggie the monkey coming toward her in the distance, all Flitter wanted to do was sit. As Maggie came closer, Flitter prayed. Her prayer went something like this.

Heavenly Father, please tell me why
you put those dreary gray clouds in the sky.
And why did you make my wing so sore?
It's hurting my flying more and more.

Right as she finished her prayer, Maggie climbed the tree and sat right next to Flitter on the branch.

"Hi Flitter! Wanna play hide and seek?" Maggie asked with a smile.

"Not really," Flitter said crossly.

"What's wrong?" Maggie asked. "It's a beautiful day to play in the forest."

"I think the fog makes it ugly!" Flitter frowned, turning away from her friend. "And besides, my wing hurts."

Maggie stuck her arm out right in front of Flitter, then tilted her head to the side.

"Come here, Flitter."

Flitter shook her head.

"Aw, come on. I won't bite!"

Flitter giggled, then hopped onto Maggie's long furry arm.

Maggie raised her arm up in front of her face and pointed toward a bed of yellow flowers growing on the forest floor below them.

"Look at how the flower petals shine in the mist. They look just like the silvery specks on your wings. And the clouds make the treetops look like a castle in the sky." Maggie paused, looked into Flitter's eyes, and smiled. "I'll bet that's what heaven looks like."

Flitter grinned. Maggie was right! The forest was beautiful, and so was Maggie, for seeing it and sharing it with her friend. Flitter looked straight into Maggie's eyes and said a prayer.

Heavenly Father, I thank you today
for my dear friend Maggie, who showed me the way
to know all the beauty Your world has to see,
and thank you too, Lord, for her love for me.

Maggie blushed. "You're welcome, Flitter."

Taking flight, Flitter hovered above Maggie's head. She was so happy, she didn't even notice the soreness in her wing. She could have flown in this beautiful forest forever.

"So, are you ready to play hide and seek?" Flitter asked. "I'll be it."

"Definitely," Maggie said happily. "Count to twenty, and no peeking!"

As Maggie swung across the forest from treetop to treetop, Flitter closed her eyes. Before she started counting, Flitter thought about how blessed she was to be in this beautiful forest, with a wonderful friend and an amazing God.

Heavenly Father, I thank you today
for blessing me in this special way.
Thanks for the beauty of all I see,
And thank you, Lord, for loving me.


Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by here for more great fiction, or to contribute your own!

11/27/08

Gratitude - Birth and Rebirth (and some other stuff)

Welcome to my contribution to week two of Celebrating Holidays at the Cafe. I am enjoying using these weekly blogs to get me in the mood for this wonderful season, and to help me put my focus where it should be. Today's topic, quite appropriately, is A Day of Gratitude. I pray my post, and those from other wonderful bloggers, blesses you.
Oh, where to start...

I suppose my winning testimony from The Cafe's "Falling for Jesus" contest is as good a place as any. If you haven't read it (or just want to read it again), it is today's featured post at The Cafe. Check it out!
Okay.

Time to slip off my promotion hat and get back to the blog at hand. (In other words, we now return you to our regularly scheduled programming) ;)


This is a very special day for the Shers. You see, my beautiful daughter Annika turns five today. For the first time since her actual "birth day," her special day falls on Thanksgiving. And are we ever grateful for this special child.

I must say that Thursday, November 25, 2003 was a Thanksgiving like no other. My husband was only three months out of brain surgery and four weeks recovered from radiation treatments. Just getting me to the hospital was a major ordeal, but God was ever faithful and put the right people in place to have me there before she made her appearance. She was beautiful, and still is (don't tell me you don't agree!). Despite the fact that I was the only one in my family who actually got turkey that day (and it was hospital turkey at that!), I'm sure my whole family will say that they were full of gratitude and thanksgiving that day.
I am grateful for Annika: my beautiful, loving, silly, wonderful, birthday-celebrating daughter.
I also have an incredibly energetic and fun-loving seven-year-old who celebrated another kind of birth-day this week. On Tuesday, November 25, 2008 (his grandmother's birthday, by the way!), he grasped the concept that he was a sinner and that only Jesus could save and forgive him. And he asked for that forgiveness. What a wonderful feeling to know that my son in flesh is also my "brother" in Christ.

Andrew is a very special kid. Though he has some challenges, he is a sweet and loving boy who sucks every bit of joy out of every situation (LOL and often every bit of energy out of his mother). He is kind and extremely friendly, and will grow into an incredible witness of God's love.
I am grateful for Andrew: my enthusiastic, energetic, loving, silly, newly-saved son.
I certainly can't neglect the amazing man God gave me (before I even found Him!) almost fifteen years ago. Marc is an incredible man, who acts just like a Christian husband should when he has as scatterbrained and flighty and stubborn wife as he does. He loves our children with thought and action, and knows how to make me feel like a queen. He encourages and exhorts me, and loves me in a way that truly makes me feel cherished. His sense of humor, his steadfastness, and his vulnerability are just what I need. He truly completes me. (And he can sure be a goofball!) Despite the struggles we have gone through, or perhaps because of them, our marriage has stayed strong, and is such a huge blessing to me.

I am grateful for Marc, my loving, strong, supportive, encouraging, silly, wonderful husband.
Over the past several years, a very special group of folks have "come along" who have inspired, encouraged, and taught me so much. I'm struggling with how to categorize them. I've met them in so many places. Through my church, and the one I attended previously. Through Faithwriters. Through blogging. Through other activities I am sure are escaping me. These people are more than just names (or screennames). They are dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. They--you--love me and encourage me to grow in my God and Savior. I could list names, but I know I'd forget someone (and make an entirely too long post), so just know you are so appreciated.
I am grateful for my brothers and sisters in Christ (that means you especially, jewely sisters!), who have blessed me in so many ways, on so many occasions, through Christ's love in them.
How can I post about gratitude without expressing thanks for the One who made me, who saved me, and who gave me everything I have? Without the Lord, and His Amazing Son, Jesus Christ, none of this would happen. He has given me all the things above, and so much more. Every one of His gifts is good, and He has poured them on me lavishly. Our gratitude and thankfulness must be not only for the things we have, but, especially, for the One who granted them to us.
I am grateful for the Creator of the Universe, my Savior, Protector, Messiah, Great Physician, Lover of my Soul and so much more: Jesus Christ.
I will be spending much of Thanksgiving day with my husband's side of the family. We'll be spending the night, then having a birthday celebration for Annika and Marc's mom on Friday. It should be a good time with family and food. Praying your day is full of Thanksgiving, today and every other day.

Don't forget to check out A Day of Gratitude at The Cafe. It will be worth your time.

11/25/08

The "story" of my favorite hymn

You may or may not have noticed that I'm kind of on a "music kick" lately (well, over this and my last post, anyway). It may be a season of my life, but it seems that certain songs are causing very strong reactions in me, especially lately.

At our church's harvest dinner this past Saturday night, as well as during our morning church service the following day, we sang a song that has always (well, as long as I've been a believer, anyway) touched me in a special way - but again, more so since my husband's health issues began.

Both times I heard this song in those 24 hours, I cried, and praised the Lord for saving my soul, and for growing me in Him so my words could agree with those of the author of this beautiful hymn, Horatio Spafford.

The hymn, in case you are curious, is It Is Well With My Soul. In looking for a video of it on GodTube, I came across this one, that tells the history and motivation of its writing. It makes the words of this song that much more meaningful and poignant for me. I pray it blesses you, and gives you a new perspective. I know it did for me.

11/23/08

Life is Hard, But...

I've been doing a lot of looking back lately. A lot of reflecting on a certain time in my life.

Now, many of you know I'm an optimist. With this in mind, you might assume that I am remembering my "glory days," the wonderful times that came before.
Well, if you're assuming that, you're wrong.
As I work on my book Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, my thoughts are constantly returning to the struggles and hard times of the beginning of Marc's health issues. This has happened more lately, as the chapter I am currently working on covers his very first brain surgery. There was a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of anxiety in my heart on that very long day in August five years ago. And, in a lot of ways, writing about it can feel like living it over again.

But, do you know what else I am finding? I was not hopeless. I was not despairing. I had trust in more than just the doctor's expertise (and that is a good thing - but I'm not going there!)--I trusted the One who allowed this, and who would never fail me. Sure, I faltered, but I still knew--even if sometimes it was only a head knowledge--that He was in control.

This is something that was encouraging to me then--but perhaps is even more so now. This is an aspect of my struggle that I hope I can encourage others to hold on to.

Perhaps it is my perceptions, but it feels to me like I have a very large number of friends and acquaintances who are going through exceptionally difficult trials right now. I have several brothers and sisters in Christ on my prayer list dealing with cancer - one who is only 24 years old and has a wife and three young children. His cancer is extremely aggressive, and he is receiving incredibly harsh and frequent chemotherapy treatments, almost as a last resort. I have friends having back surgery, serious heart issues, chronic pain struggles, depression, and those dreaded unknown (to them, anyway) ailments. Others have lost family members--parents, siblings, spouses, children.

If five years (and counting!) of dealing with health issues has given me anything (and it has - more than you can possibly imagine), it has certainly developed in me a true empathy for those going through physical struggles. Especially, I must say, it has givern me a need to help them see the proverbial silver lining.

I don't say that lightly. I know what it is to be in the depths of fear. To wonder if your husband will be alive the next time you see him. But I also know that the Lord holds all of these things in His hands, and not one of them has happened without His permission.
And He is Good...all the time.
Just a month or so after Marc's second brain surgery, on one of those Sundays when he was too unwell to attend church, but was okay enough for me to leave him alone, I found myself sitting in a church pew, the bulletin on my lap. I noticed that my dear friend (and the pastor's daughter) was singing special music. Now, I love her voice, and knew I would be blessed. But the words to this song were just what I needed. I pray that all of you--especially those of you who are going through a difficult trial--are blessed.
Life Is Hard (God is Good)
By Pam Thum

You turn the key
Then close the door behind you
Drop your bags on the floor
You reach for the light
But there's darkness deep inside
And you can't take it anymore

'Cause sometimes living takes the life out of you
And sometimes living is all you can do

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

You start to cry
'Cause you've been strong for so long
And that's not how you feel
You try to pray
But there's nothing left to say
So you just quietly kneel

In the silence of all that you face
God will give you His mercy and grace

Jesus never said
It was an easy road to travel
He only said that you would never be alone
So when your last thread of hope
Begins to come unraveled
Don't give up, He walks beside you
On this journey home and He knows

Life is hard, the world is cold
We're barely young and then we're old
But every falling tear is always understood
Yes, life is hard, but God is good

FYI - the clip below is neither my friend nor the recording artist, but it is an absolutely beautiful rendition of this song (and the only version I could find on either YouTube or GodTube).


Life, my friends, IS indeed hard--but God is good. Don't you forget it.

Heavenly Father, thank You for being with me in a real, palpable day every day, but especially on August 13, 2003. Thank you for understanding every falling tear, and for giving me Your mercy and grace in the silence of all I feel and felt. I pray, Lord, that you would give this same blessing to my friends who are struggling, and anyone else who needs it. I pray that they would see Your goodness, no matter how hard their lives are right now. In the Name of Your Precious Son Jesus I pray. Amen.

11/21/08

Fiction Fridays: "The Bent-Nosed Gift of God"



Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings, hosted this week by Ms. Patterings herself, Patty Wysong! Be sure to stop by her blog to read all the other great fiction there, and add your own by adding your link to the "Mr. Linky" gadget at the bottom of her post.


This story, as usual with my contributions, was written for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge - the topic was water baptism. It did quite well with the judges, but, shall we say, NOT so hot with my siblings. It is not based on anyone's true story, though there are certainly aspects of it that were true to ME before I came to Christ. Praying it blesses you, and that it gives you maybe a BIT of insight into Judaism.

The Bent-Nosed Gift of God

I breathe in the sea air and watch the surf crash onto the sand before me. I am amazingly calm, and have no doubt that I will go through with this ritual. The best part: it will be of my own free will.

**

When I was eight days old, I was ushered into the faith of my parents. There was no need to promise to adhere to the traditions of my ancestors. A snip and the blessing of a mohel* and I was officially Jewish: a son of Abraham.

I also got a name that day: Cameron Nathaniel Levine. I later discovered its meaning, and wondered if my folks had been drinking something stronger than a glass of Manischewitz when they picked it. Who, in their right mind, would name their child "bent-nosed gift of God?"*

Once I entered third grade, I started attending Hebrew School twice week. Again, no one asked if I wanted to learn to read some language with strange characters or hear stories about people dead six thousand years. Even if they had, my opinion wouldn't have mattered a bit. That's what Jewish boys do - even ones who didn't believe in God.

At age 13, I performed all the rituals required to become a Jewish adult. After reading from the Torah, giving a speech, and singing a bit, I became a Bar Mitzvah: a son of the Commandments. Again, I did this out of obligation and duty to my parents. Had I been asked, I would have declined - as long as my parents still threw me the huge Bar Mitzvah party, of course.

During my teen years, I went to synagogue, under duress, on occasion, but it was nothing to me: a place to sit with my parents and be bored to tears, a place to laugh at the naiveté of those who actually believed in God.

When I went away to college, I left my synagogue attendance at home with my dump trucks and Hardy Boys books. If someone asked, I was Jewish, but my religion had no impact on my life.

My sophomore roommate would change that. I remember on the first day, he arrived before I did, but put his things in the back of the dorm room, near the center.

"Hi. I'm Matt. Which side of the room do you want?" he asked as I strolled in with my first load of stuff.

This impressed me. He gave me the choice. I took the left side and thanked him for asking. I soon learned this was Matt's general attitude. There was definitely something different about him.

I remember one Sunday a couple weeks after class started. I had been partying the night before, but when I woke at noon, Matt was in the room changing out of slacks and a dress shirt. I remember thinking that this guy must actually like going to services if he got up early on a Sunday to do it.

He noticed me stirring and smiled. "My church is having a special sophomore service tonight. Wanna go?"

"I'm Jewish, actually," I commented. "Don't think they'd let me in."

Matt laughed. "I know they would...if you're interested, anyway. Oh - and that's cool about being Jewish. I'd love to talk to you about that."

"Nothing to tell. I had a bris* and a Bar Mitzvah, so I'm Jewish. Mom and dad are, so I am."

I will never forget the look in Matt's eyes after I said those words. It seemed a combination of shock, hope, and disbelief. I felt he might scream, but he didn't. He just repeated his earlier invitation. I figured it wouldn't hurt, so I chose to go with him.

**

That was seven months ago. Since then, I have learned that all the ritual in the world won't make me a son of Abraham. I've learned that God loves me, despite the fact that I'm a pretty bad guy. It is only through my messiah's forgiveness that anyone becomes good - gets their nose bent back into shape - and that I have to choose to accept it. That is God's gift.

So, I stand here at the beach, waiting for my turn to perform this outer act symbolizing the inner change I have made, with God's help. I am once again performing a ritual to join the family of God; but this time, it is my choice, and it means something.

Maybe my folks didn't pick such a lousy name after all.

**
A mohel is a Jewish ritual circumciser

Cameron means "bent nose" in Gaelic, and Nathaniel is the Hebrew word for "gift of God."

A bris is the Hebrew name for the circumcision ceremony.


Don't forget to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!

11/20/08

The Shers during the holidays


Welcome to my contribution to "Holidays at the Cafe." For those of you unfamiliar, the aforementioned Cafe is the Internet Cafe, the devotional blog of Christian Women Online. Each Thursday through the holiday season, various folks will be posting holiday-related blogs (each Thursday has its own theme) for you to enjoy, to help you get in the RIGHT Christmas spirit.

Today's theme is Holiday Traditions & Ideas. Click to see other folks' blogs! We are to post all about our family's traditions and maybe even give some ideas on new traditions for your families. So...here I go!

Holiday traditions...Sure, my family has some. I have to say, though, that as I was thinking about writing this post, I found a not-so-invited guest invading my thoughts. His name is Envy.

I could very easily list the many traditions that I would LOVE to be part of our family, but aren't for one reason or another. The simplest thing for me to do would be to put the word "but" at the end of each item I list.

BUT, I'm not doing that. I am an amazingly, incredibly blessed woman who has absolutely NO reason to allow that "green-eyed monster" to hijack her holidays--especially not this early!

One of the "first," chronologically anyway, traditions in our family is the Christmas tree setup. Actually, it's more a matter of getting the room set up for the Christmas tree. :) You see, ever since we've had children (my oldest is going on 8), our living room has been taken over by...well...toys! So, they have to be "kicked out," so to speak, to make room for the Christmas cheer (by the way, this year we are planning to make this "clean-out" permanent. Pray?). So, over the long Thanksgiving weekend, project one is to dig a way through the toy trenches to make way for decorations. This is done with Christmas music in the background, and is definitely a family project.

Once this is finished, we're ready for a rest--usually with "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in the background. We then set up the Christmas tree and decorations. We have an artificial tree--have since Marc and I first came to Christ just under ten years ago. The kids love to help sort the branches, and stick them in the base, and "puff them out." I generally do the lights, and the kids help with the tinsel and ornaments. We have a couple other Christmas things that go up, including a nativity scene that sets behind the fireplace screen (fireplace is unsafe for "real use."). Once we're all decorated, we simply enjoy the beautiful transformation.

We've done the sticker advent calendars in the past, but this year I picked up an advent calendar/devotional book for families that we're going to try. Hoping it will help us focus on the anticipation of the holiday and help us keep our minds on the Christ child.

As for Christmas itself, we travel to Marc's parents in Jackson, Michigan (about an hour and a half away by car) on Christmas Eve afternoon. We have the traditional Christmas eve potluck/buffet and gift exchange at the home of David (Marc's brother) and his wife Jennifer. All of Marc's family is there (his two brothers and their families--six kids among them--as well as his aunt and uncle and some cousins, and occasionally an unexpected guest). It isn't a particularly religious celebration, but we generally DO pray before eating our meal, and will often play games afterward.

Our little clan will drive back to Marc's folks' house and spend the night - the kids in sleeping bags and Marc and I in a spare bed in the same room. We'll have a brunch of leftovers from the potluck, then head home. Once we have rested from our day, our little family Christmas starts. We talk about the Christmas story, open presents, and crash, for the most part.

Thank you for coming along for a trip through our holiday traditions. I am hoping it blessed you, and that by reading others', our family and yours can pick up some new traditions to add. Blessings to you!

11/18/08

I Believe

Saw Kristen do this at {dancing} in the margins, and thought it looked like fun to do :) Thanks for indulging me.
I believe that my daughter is the cutest girl to ever walk on two legs.

I believe that I never appreciated a nice day until I moved from Southern California to Michigan.

I believe that there's nothing like a real girlfriend--and the more you have, the better.

I believe that very little is cozier than flannel sheets and an electric blanket.

I believe that at least 300 trees were cut down to produce all the holiday catalogs I've already received in the mail this season.

I believe that nobody on earth is better fit to be my earthly husband than the man who IS my earthly husband.

I believe that once a slinky is ruined, you might as well take a picture and write a blog about it.

I believe that the answer to every question I could ever ask is in one Book.

I believe that no matter how uncomfortable they are, mammograms are worth it.

I believe that old habits are hard, though not impossible, to break.

I believe that I was born to write.

I believe that kids can use the silliest, and simplest, things to keep themselves amused.

I believe that adults have a lot to learn from kids (see above!).

I believe that every moment of my life--even the ones during the 31+ years I was unsaved--were crucial to making me the believing woman I am today.

I believe there are no such things as coincidences: only "God-incidences."

I believe that the Internet is an amazing place, with the potential for amazing good, AND amazing harm.

I believe that many Christians miss the richness of the Old Testament.

I believe that I have a home in heaven waiting for me.

I believe that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.

I believe that God's timing is perfect (though I don't always act like I believe it!).

I believe that not a moment of life is wasted--from a Heavenly perspective.

I believe that My Messiah has come.

I believe that you can never spend too much time in God's Word.

I believe prayer is a habit well worth developing.

I believe that everything I do has the potential to be a blessing, or a curse, to someone.

I believe that I need to get off this computer and pick up my son and his friend from school :D

11/17/08

Monday Manna - Our Living Sacrifice



Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 NIV
Welcome to Monday Manna here at my blog, The Open Book. Today, you are/were asked to give your thoughts on Romans 12:1, posted above. Go ahead and "link up" in the Mr. Linky gadget at the bottom of my blog with your contributions. Regardless, be sure to check out the other folks' thoughts on this bit of God's word. You will be fed. I guarantee it!

Below is my contribution.

**

I'm glad I wasn't a sheep or goat during Old Testament times--especially one that was "without blemish." On minute I might be wandering about a field, chewing on some grass and minding my own business, and the next I could be dragged off to Jerusalem to be slaughtered on an altar.

Before the coming of Christ, God's people had to perform animal sacrifices as atonement for their sins. The blood of the animals was the necessary requirement to fulfill God's need for holiness among His chosen people.

Personally, I'm glad the Lord sent His Son to be the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for all of our sins. We no longer offer sacrifices to God to appease Him.

Or do we?

True: we are no longer required to kill an animal to receive forgiveness when we sin. The blood of Christ is completely sufficient. Yet, God still desires a sacrifice of a different sort. This sacrifice is explained in the first verse of the twelfth chapter of Romans. You are to "...offer your bodies as living sacrifices..."

There are several ways that this sacrifice is different from those of Old Testament times, but two ways in particular struck me.
Firstly, it is a personal body sacrifice
During OT times, people were required to give of their flock--of their livelihood. This was, for many, a great sacrifice, but it was only a sacrifice of a possession. This new sacrifice is a voluntary offer of ourselves. We are not merely giving up something we own: we must give up our minds, bodies, emotions, and spirits. Everything about us is given to God, is sacrificed as an "act of worship" on our part.
Secondly, it is a living sacrifice
Our sacrifice, unlike the bull, lamb, goat, or whatever animal was used at the temple, is also a living sacrifice. The animals did not become the sacrifice until they were killed. We, however, do not need to shed blood to be "holy and pleasing to God." Christ already shed His perfect blood for us. So, we instead must offer our lives to God in all that we do.

Of course, there is one problem with a living sacrifice. Because we are still alive, we can climb right back down off that altar. That is why we must make a conscious effort to be sure we are repeatedly, daily (or hourly) putting ourselves back into the Lord's service, and being that sweet-smelling savor he loves. We must offer ourselves to Him: repeatedly, unconditionally, and
willingly. It is our "spiritual act of worship" of the One who died for us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. I am so glad we no longer need to sacrifice animals to repent before You. Help me, Lord, to remember how much you desire my personal, living sacrifice of ourselves to You. Help me to offer to You my heart, my body, my mind, and my soul for whatever You would have me do, to be that holy and pleasing aroma to You and the world around me. In the Name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Don't forget to read the other folks' thoughts on this verse below, and feel free to share your own! Thanks for participating.

11/15/08

How I'm Doing Thusfar

Well, here I am, halfway through the month of November, and I am pleased to say that things are going quite well regarding my progress on writing "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul." I seem to be getting into something of a routine, and if you know me, well, you know that is a good thing.

My goal for the month of November is 7,500 words written, which works out to 250 words a day. Being as half that total is 3,750, and today is the 15th of the month, I am thrilled to say that my current wordcount of 3908 is 158 words over my target. Woowoo!

I have gotten myself in the habit of opening my document nightly, after I've put the kids to bed, and writing my 250 or so words then before I do anything else on my computer. I sometimes get a chance to write at other times during the day, but that is not a regular thing. This schedule is working nicely for me.

I'd truly appreciate your prayers as I work through the second half of this month. I'm currently writing about some very difficult times at the beginning of Marc's health issues, and the emotions can sometimes feel quite raw. Thank you, all, for your encouragement and support in my writing journey. It means more to me than I can possibly say.

11/14/08

Friday Fiction: "No Greater Love"



Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week at LauraLee's Lifesong. Be sure to stop by LauraLee's blog and check out more great fiction--and add some of your own, if you are so inclined!
I wrote this almost two years ago for the FW Writing challenge, for the "volunteer" topic. I think, in a way, it was a chance for me to write out some of my struggles with the suffering around me (maybe especially under my own roof at the time), though I'm not sure if I think the "premise" of this story is Biblically sound - or even wise. (Got your interest piqued? LOL Hope so!) I hope you enjoy this, and that it makes you think. Would love your feedback!

NO GREATER LOVE

Sylvia Bennet's wrinkled, calloused fingers struggled with the envelope in her hand. Eager as she was to examine its contents, she could not get her arthritic fingers to open it. Sighing, she walked across the room for her letter opener.

She hadn't heard from Marcie Willingston in years. For two decades, they had been neighbors, but Marcie's husband's job had moved them away ten years ago. They had written and called each other for a while, but the friendship had tapered off over time. Sylvia had heard from mutual friends that Marcie was having some chronic back problems, but was getting by all right, by the grace of God. Now here, out of the blue, was a letter from her.

Dearest Sylvia,
It has been so long since I wrote to you, so please forgive me. I want you to know that I have not stopped praying for you, and have missed you terribly.

I really need to see you, dear friend. God has told me it is very important for both of us. Please use the enclosed check to purchase airplane tickets and anything else you may need to get to me, soon if possible. I promise you will not be disappointed if you do.

Your dear friend in Christ,
Marcie


**

Sylvia exited the taxicab, surveying the huge assisted living center. So this was where her dear friend was living.

Sylvia's imagination was certainly in high gear. They had spoken on the telephone once final arrangements had been made for the trip, but Marcie had been very elusive about why she wanted to see Sylvia.

Following the directions Sylvia got over the phone, she quickly located the room. The door was open a crack, so Sylvia knocked gently.

"Marcie?"

"Is that you, Sylvia? Come right in, dear."

Entering the room, she found Marcie lying in bed, absolutely glowing.

"Oh, Marcie! So good to see you!"

The two grasped hands, Sylvia cringing slightly from her aching joints.

Marcie loosened the grip immediately, kissing her friend's hand lightly.

"Oh dear - I had nearly forgotten how painful that must be."

"It's all right, Marcie. I'm starting to get used to it."

Marcie smiled. "Oh, don't worry about that, dear. You won't need to be used to it for long. Have a seat."

Baffled by her friend's words, Sylvia found a chair just to the left of her friend's bed. Marcie stared blankly, straight ahead, and smiled.

"I'm sure you are curious why I asked you here. Well, I have been talking with the Lord a lot lately, and we have decided that I need to do something for you."

"But you already have, Marcie! You paid for this trip here, and I am getting to see you. What else could you possibly do for me?"

Floundering about until she found Sylvia's arms, Marcie placed both of Sylvia's hands in her own.

"Have you been able to do your knitting?"

Sylvia's countenance dropped, and a tear ran down her cheek. "Not for a month or more. It's just too painful."

"Well, dear, God wants to do something about that."

Her brow furrowing, Sylvia sat up straighter, looking questioningly into Marcie's eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Your knitting is your heart's desire; your ministry. So many children have been saved from the cold because of it, and many have come to know Jesus because of those gifts you've made. God wants you to be without arthritis, and he wants me to do it. Sylvia, I want to take your arthritis from you."

"You want to what?"

"Sylvia, you know that my ministry is prayer, and that I have always been faithful to God that way. Yours is making things with your hands. I can pray with arthritis. You can't knit with it."

"Oh, Marcie! What a gift you are willing to offer me. But how can it be - even if I were willing to take it, which I'm not saying I am?"

Marcie smiled. "It can be, dear friend. My son is continuing to build homes in Nicaragua because I took his back pain, and my neighbor Allison has painted several paintings for Him because I took her blindness for her."

Sylvia fell to her knees before the bed and prayed aloud.

"Oh, Lord, what a gracious friend You have given me, given this world! What a heart! How can I thank her enough for all she has done for You, for what she is willing to do for me?"

Take her up on the offer.

** Don't forget to stop by LauraLee's Lifesong for more great fiction! Thanks for reading!

11/13/08

Monday Manna for November 17


Well, since next Monday is the third one in November, it's my turn to host Monday Manna, an opportunity for all who are so moved to read and post on the selected verse on the third Monday of the month. (Kristen at {dancing} in the margins does the same thing for the first Monday of the month) We give you the weekend to chew on the verse, and then post something (anything, really - long, short, a photo - whatever). The idea is to all chew on the same scripture and learn together.

Anyhow, without further ado, the verse that I've chosen, that has kept me thinking all week thus far!

Monday Manna this time around is Romans 12:1 (if you click on the link, you will pull up a Biblegateway passage lookup, with the verse in five different translations. I'll post it in NIV just to have it right here)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Looking forward to hearing what you folks come up with. See you back here after the weekend!

11/11/08

Lest We Forget

Heavenly Father, thank you for those, past and present, who willingly (and in the past, perhaps not-so-willingly) put themselves in harm's way so that we could live in a country free from religious persecution and oppression, where we can cast our votes according to our own consciences, and where we can openly confess Your name.

I pray, Lord, that you would bless these brave men and women who sacrificed so much--sometimes their very lives--so we can live in this land of plenty. Help them know, Lord, how much we owe to them, and how much we appreciate their service.

In the name of Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us so we could be free indeed, I pray. Amen.

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11/10/08

Guess I'm Not So Bad!

My dear friend and longtime blogger Kristen at her new and wonderful blog {dancing} in the margins tagged me last week with this "I Like Me, I Really Like Me" meme. It sounded like fun (at first anyway LOL), so I decided to give it a try.

The rules of the game are:
Tell everyone three things you like about yourself.
Tag three people to play along.
Go on in peace.
One would think that in our culture especially this would be an incredibly easy thing to do--pick out a handful of things of things we like about ourselves. But, for me anyway, this was hard. Oh, sure, I made a list of nine things about me that were good, but as I wrote down each, I found myself dwelling a bit on the negative side of most of them. Almost all of them, at least in my eyes, have a"'down side." Sometimes, it seems, it is easier to focus on what needs to be fixed than what goes well.

So, after prayer and consideration, I am listing the following three (um, was this supposed to be a fun, lighthearted thing, Kristen? LOL).

  1. I like my natural/Spirit-led encouraging nature. It is a blessing to be able to lift the spirits of others and cheer them on. I love seeing others spurred on by my honest and encouraging feedback on whatever they may be "working on."
  2. I like my immune system. Perhaps I shouldn't say this, in case it comes back to bite me soon, but I almost never get sick, no matter how much I might be exposed to bugs. When I do catch a bug, it is generally quite mild and doesn't keep me down--at least for long. As you can imagine, this is extremely helpful when raising kids who, like most, get every bug that goes around. Add a husband who is immunosuppressed, and it certainly helps the nurturer in me!
  3. I like my (annoyingly!) optimistic outlook. While it gets me in some trouble occasionally, looking at the bright side is just a blessing to me. There is no way I would be the "me" I am, especially through some of the circumstances I've experienced, without my positive spin on life.
Well, there you go! Three things I like about me. And now I get to tag three people. I think I'll start with my dear friend, the sweet but "annoyingly pessimistic" Josh (consider this therapy, my friend!). Secondly, Laury, I think, is a good choice too. And for my third? How about Cat?

Of course, even if I DIDN'T tag you, feel free to play along. I'd love to read what you all have to say! Be sure to let me know if you do.

11/8/08

Slinky With a Soul

As as child, one of my favorite toys was my Slinky. Like a lot of kids, I just loved to set it at the top of our stairs and watch it "slink" its way down. Even more fun, though, (for me, anyway!) was trying to make "stairs" with my own hands. I would spend many contented minutes (or perhaps hours) playing with this "wonderful toy."




As an adult, I decided not long ago to provide my kiddos with the same fun, partly for nostalgia's stake, and partly because it is a relatively inexpensive and neat (i.e. only one piece!) plaything. So, I presented one to my eager daughter and son, being sure to teach them the two ways I had enjoyed playing with it. They took to it quite quickly.

I forgot something, however. Actually, it was more than one thing that I forgot. I didn't remember the frustration that could be caused by, well, misusing this classic toy. And, the cardinal error: I forgot to show my curious, inquisitive children how not to play with it. I neglected to mention that wrapping themselves up in it was not a wise use for a Slinky.

Not surprisingly, as a result, this wonderful toy became...well...not so wonderful.

slinky mess 2

It no longer walks down stairs (alone or in pairs). It is no longer fun. And no matter how hard I try (perhaps the picture above gives you an indication of just how much effort I did put into it), I just can't get it to look like--or work like--it once did. It is, in a word, useless.

You know, sometimes I feel like a slinky. No--not the intact one. More like the discombobulated version, jointly made that way by me and my children. I am moving along, doing things that please my "Divine Owner," then suddenly circumstances get me all tangled up. After a while, I feel like I am of no use to God. No matter how many hands try to straighten me out to make me look like new, I'm a mess--unable to be the person I'm meant to be. And even if I DO get somewhat straightened out (I've heard tales of people who actually HAVE managed to untangle a slinky), I'm all bent out of shape and almost certain to get tangled again.

Yet, I have a Master Craftsman who CAN fix me, and make me good as new. If I will only tap into the power of the Almighty God instead of my own weakness and paltry efforts, my brokenness can be repaired and I can again be a useful, unique creation for my Father. A functioning slinky, with a soul and heart for the Lord's work.

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Heavenly Father, when I trust in my own power to get me out of my messes, it never works the way You want it to, if it even works at all. Help me, Lord, to trust in Your unlimited and unending strength and allow you to "untangle" me from the trials that come by. Help me to remember that I am, in fact, useless for You--unless I am getting the power to be useful from You. Thank You, Lord, for repairing my brokenness over and over again, and for making me a new creation. In The Precious Name of Jesus, who died for my imperfections and sins, I pray. Amen.

11/7/08

Friday Fiction: Swayed



Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction, hosted this week by Julie at The Surrendered Scribe. Be sure to stop by there and read all the wonderful stories that are sure to be there - and feel free to link up and put your own fiction on the gadget there.

This is another FW writing challenge entry. Even though I wrote it a year ago (almost exactly!), I can still remember the fun I had writing it. Praying you enjoy it.


Swayed

Jeremy bounced across the living room and tapped his father on the shoulder.

"Can we go now? I don't wanna be late."

Hank Miller turned off the television and got out of his easy chair reluctantly. "Just a second. We've got time. Lemme throw on some clothes."

Hank dragged himself into the bedroom and slipped on some jeans and a sweatshirt, then put on his tennis shoes. At least I'll have extra time to get some stuff done around the house. With my busy week, Sunday morning alone time is definitely a plus.

Hank had been dropping Jeremy off at church on Sunday mornings at 10am for a few years. Hank had no interest himself, but his son seemed to have some friends there - and he'd noticed an improvement in his behavior. It did mean, however, that he had to get himself moving an hour earlier than he'd like on his day off. Yet, it gave him that needed puttering time, without distractions.

A couple weeks before, however, Jeremy asked to go in even earlier - it seemed that "Sunday School" started at 9, and Jeremy was missing it. It was definitely a tradeoff for Hank: he'd lose an hour of sleep, but gain 60 more minutes of peace and quiet.

Hank figured he'd give it a try for a week or two. He couldn't imagine an extra hour at church would hurt the boy, and maybe Hank could finish an extra project or two while Jeremy was gone.

Jeremy was already in the car, buckled in, when Hank entered the garage. He took his car keys from his pocket and got in next to his son.

"Guess I don't have to ask if you're ready."

Jeremy smiled. "Nope."

Hank pulled the car out of the driveway and began the five-minute drive to Covenant Community Church.

"Hey, Dad?"

Hank suspected he knew what his son was thinking. "What, Jeremy?"

"Why don't you come to Sunday School and church with me today?"

I was right. Hank sighed and grimaced. "Got a lot to do at home this morning, buddy. Maybe some other time."

"You always say that." Jeremy's face was downcast.

Hank pursed his lips. "Not this time."

"What do you have against church anyway?"

"Um, against it?" Hank sputtered. "Nothing. I just, um, like my Sunday mornings."

Jeremy's eyes sparkled. "But Sunday School is different, Dad. It's really cool. Instead of just listening and singing and stuff, you get to talk to people about God, and even ask questions. I'll bet you'd love it."

Hank pulled into a parking spot in the church's lot. "We'll talk about this later. You'd better get going."

Jeremy sighed. "Okay. But will you promise me something?"

Hank raised his eyebrows. "Maybe. What?"

"Will you talk to God about it for a couple minutes, here in the car, before you go?"

Jeremy's look was so pitiful Hank had to acquiesce. "All right. You go on, though."

Jeremy exited and lumbered toward the church, his head down. Hank saw his son pause directly behind the car, as if he was considering coming back. He continued on after a minute or so.

Good thing he asked me to pray here. I mighta run him over.

Hank closed his eyes once Jeremy entered the church building.

"Hey, God. I know I don't talk to you much, but my boy wants me to go into that church today. I don't wanna, but I told him I'd talk to you. Can I just go home now?"

Hank sat quietly for about thirty seconds. Assuming no response was permission to leave, he started the car and began backing up. After moving only a foot or so, he heard a loud pop, then felt the drive get rough.

"What the heck?" Hank turned off the car and got out, to find his left rear tire flat.

"Well, God, I guess you answered me."

Hank reparked the car and walked toward church.

**

"Dad!" Jeremy ran down the hallway when he spotted his father exiting an adult Sunday School class.

"Hi, Son." Hank put his arm around him. "You were right, by the way. Sunday School wasn't half bad."

Jeremy smiled. "So, are you staying for church?"

"I suppose I am. Will you help me with my flat tire afterward?"

"Um, a flat tire?" Jeremy pursed his lips and stuck his hand in his pocket, causing a clinking sound.

Hank looked at Jeremy quizzically. "Whatcha got in your pocket?"

"You probably don't wanna know."

**

Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by Julie's blog for more great fiction!

11/5/08

Perspective

My heart is heavy this morning. From an earthly perspective, I might as well have not voted yesterday (for the most part, anyway). Just about everyone I voted for (not quite - but close!), and every issue I hold dear, was voted down.

I am concerned (perhaps too mild a word) about the state of my state, and of my country. I am concerned about my pocketbook, my children, the unborn, and many Americans, some dear friends and family, who it seems have bought into a lie.

Yet, I know that God is in control. I know that no matter what happens on this earth, I am in the palm of His everlasting and loving hand. That I am His, for eternity.

God spoke to me this morning, and I feel that He wants me to share with you what He shared with me. Not surprisingly, I did not hear his voice audibly, but I know it was Him. He chose to use, as he has several times in the past year, two of my favorite resources: His Holy Word, and Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman.

I really don't feel like either of these need commentary from me, so I will post the former and give you a link to the latter.

As many of you know, I am reading through my Bible, at my own (or would that be God's?) pace, this year. I have recently finished the gospels and the book of Acts, and am now reading Paul's epistle to the Romans. Below you will find the second chapter I read today. Let the Lord speak to your heart through these verses.
Romans 13
Submission to the Authorities
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Love, for the Day is Near
8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (NIV)
My other Word from God came from my favorite devotional. I should note that there is no doubt in my mind that the Lord brought me to this particular devotional today because it is actually the reading for yesterday. I am NEVER behind in my daily devotional, but today, God orchestrated it so that I would read what He wanted me to read when He wanted me to read it.
Here is a link to what is marked as the November 4 devotional. I would strongly encourage you to check it out. Number 13 - The Captive.
Heavenly Father, help us to trust what you are doing in our country. Help us to not mourn like those with no hope, but to pray for the new administration, and to grow through whatever comes our way. Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. In the name of your precious Son Jesus I pray. Amen

11/4/08

Ailing Body, Nourished Soul: A Progress Update

Well, it's that time again (a couple days past that time, actually, but that's beside the point). This past Saturday was the first of November, and that is when I look over my goals for the past month, assess how well I did, and set some new one for the next month.

I suppose I'll start with the good news. I definitely made more progress toward achieving my book goals this past month than I did the month before. In fact, two of my goals were met completely. For your information, here are the goals I had.
1. I will compose the first draft of a chapter about God's preparation of our family through my husband's planning for a career change a year before he got sick.
2. I will complete the first draft of a chapter on my and Marc's salvation testimonies, based on my previously written "In Old Testament Black and White"
3. I will complete a relatively exhausted list of chapter topics for "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul."
I now have a list of more than a dozen topics/chapters for "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul" - several of which will likely end up being more than one chapter. These range from God's presence during Marc's brain surgeries to how God orchestrated the two of us meeting to the encouragement we continue to receive daily.

I also completed the first draft of our salvation testimonies chapter. So that's two down, right?

Of coure, then there was that first goal above. You know, the chapter about Marc's career change planning....Well, I DID start it. I had good intention, really! I got a (whopping) 307 words written, and then it stalled. BIG time. So I whined about it, complained about it to a dear friend and writing accountability partner. I grumbled. And then I SET it aside, and started a different chapter, on the preparation for Marc's first brain surgery (not even sure when this one will end). I've written 1400+ word so far (so, can I call those two combined a chapter?? LOL).

So that's how I did. The next question, of course, is what are my new goals? Well, I'll tell you.

I've decided to change the format, if you will, of my goals, starting this month. You see, quite a few of my friends are participating in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month--the month of November. And while I am NOT going to try this (for this November anyway), I've been fascinated by the site's word count tickers that let folks know how many words they've written for the month (I'm sure you've seen them posted on various websites, blogs, message boards, etc.). SO, I found one of those tickers (not specific to NaNoWriMo), and am planning to use it to track my progress.

I have set my goal for the month at 7,500 words, which averages to 250 words a day. This is a bit more than I have been doing over the past couple months (whimpy, huh?), but what's the point of a goal if it's easy to reach? I have it posted already on my blog sidebar, and plan (note PLAN) to update it nightly. I know I'm already a bit behind (I didn't make this decision until Sunday, so my Saturday words were pitifully lacking LOL), but I've got PLENTY of time, right?

Thanks for your encouragement, folks. Now, I press on!

11/3/08

Monday Manna - Fruit

For this Monday, Kristen at Exemplified invited us to share our thoughts/perceptions on Galatians 5:22-23. Be sure to stop by her blog to see what other wonderful, God-fearing folk had to share about these words of God.


Here is my contribution.


The Fruit of the Spirit. I've often pondered these two verses from Galatians. There is much to desire in them. I've even decided to pick, shall we say, a "fruit a week," and work on it in particular, attempting to better look like my Savior.

In case you aren't aware, this is (excuse the pun) a fruitless endeavor. I can't make myself exhibit this fruit any more than I can "make myself" acceptable to God.

In reviewing this passage, especially the first verse, I consulted several translations. Look at what I found in the Amplified Version. If you would, pay special attention to the first part of verse 22.

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. Galatians 5:22-23 AMP
First, note that it is the fruit...is - not the fruit, or fruits, are. These are not individual things to "work on." It's one fruit. This is not a list of character traits that we need to strive for to be more like Jesus, or to please Him. It is, for lack of a better term, a package deal.

Next, look at what "it" is. This fruit comes from the Holy Spirit - God Himself. And it is "the work which His presence within accomplishes." We do not accomplish it on our own, any more than we earn our salvation. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes and lives with in us. And like a seed planted in the ground, He produces a crop within us--His own fruit.

Every person who is a child of God has this fruit within us--all of it. And, through a process of growth and yielding to the Spirit and God's will in our lives, each facet of it will bloom, showing outward evidence of the Spirit that lives within us.

It's easy to look at this list of Spiritual fruit and think "I really need to work on 'fill in the blank.'" But that's not what it's about. What we need to do is "work on" giving the Spirit control. Once cultivated by the Master Gardener, the fruit will come.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your precious Word, and for sending Your Spirit to live within us and bear fruit, the Fruit of Your Spirit, through us. Help me to yield to You and allow this Fruit to blossom within me. Let others see this wonderful Fruit and know that it is You who produced it. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

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