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A PERFECT POTPOURRI OF P’s

( A Little Bit of This and That from the Last Week or Two)

Picture Perfect – We finally received our family portraits last week, and I must say, I am very pleased with them. I wrote a few weeks ago about the trouble we had in getting Robbie to cooperate during the photo session. In the end, though, we finally did get a couple of good pictures of him and now that they have arrived, I am so glad! I will treasure them for a long time, I am sure. Robbie looks so sweet in them. You can see that the past few years have taken a toll on him, but the pictures show his personality as it is now – just plain sweet.

And speaking of personality – my husband’s personality came through loud and clear, as well! I got so tickled with his antics during the shoot, and in the end we bought extra pictures because I just couldn’t resist the photos that so exhibited the fun side of him that I cherish. At one point, the photographer wanted him to put his fist under his chin. No way! That was too girly, he proclaimed. Instead he crossed his arms across his chest and stood sideways (kind of like Mr. Clean) in a “manly” pose. I laughed – but he was right. It’s my favorite photo of him – ever. Then while the photographer was getting us set up to take a picture of us as a couple, he spontaneously turned his head to kiss me on the cheek and she just happened to catch it. He was acting silly and so like himself!

Of course, I hate the way I look in the photos, but what else is new? I always hate the way I look. Most women do, I suppose – but the camera doesn’t lie. *Sigh.* It could be worse, I guess…

Precious blessings from the Lord – a husband who still makes me laugh after almost forty years of marriage, a beloved son who will always be one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and now perfect pictures to remember these precious times. God has been so gracious and loving to us, and blessed us so completely. Psalm 111:4 says, “He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” I don’t really need pictures to help me remember that. My heart is filled with thanksgiving and praise to Him.

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Pumpkin, the Perfect Pooch – A few days before David was to leave for Iraq Julie had an inspiration. She was praying that the Lord would show them some way to make it easier for the kids to handle Daddy’s upcoming departure. Already their eyes would fill with tears when they thought of it, and she hated to think of them coming home to a house without him when they finally took him to the airport, and in the days and weeks to follow.

Suddenly, as if a voice whispered in her ear, the answer came. Get a dog. Julie was shocked. For years the kids had been begging for a dog. David, she knew, would love to have one, too, but since their last dog had died almost ten years before, they had agreed that they couldn’t go through again all the trouble, expense and eventual heartbreak when their pet died. She had resisted the very idea of it for so long, that she couldn’t believe it when she heard that little whisper in her ear.

Neither could David. He was surprised, to say the least, when Julie suggested it to him. A few months before, when they were still in their house in the country, a little beagle had shown up at their door and hung around for several days. The family had fallen in love with the stray, fed her and petted her, but still Julie had held out saying No Dog. She was about to cave that Sunday morning, though, and had said if the dog was still there when they got home from church, they would take her in. The kids were devastated when they got home and discovered the little dog was gone. They even went as far as checking the pounds for her, but she had disappeared, never to be seen again. Once again they went into their No Dog mode and that was that.

Now, here she was, suggesting that maybe this would help the kids during the difficult days ahead. A new dog would certainly be a diversion, and although it could never be a substitute for Daddy, it would a little being upon which to shower love, and which would give love back. Instead of walking into a house that suddenly seemed empty and lonely, there would be a faithful little companion welcoming them home.

They decided not to say anything to the kids, but checked online at the closest animal shelter. After their experience with the little stray beagle almost six months before, they really wanted a female beagle – not a puppy, but still young. What were the chances that the small country pound would have exactly what they wanted, but there she was – a pretty little one year old female beagle. They dropped the kids off at a friend’s house and went to investigate.

She was quiet. The rest of the dogs were jumping and barking, but the little beagle looked up at them silently with those big puppy-dog eyes and their hearts melted. They knew right away she was meant for them. They didn’t want a hyper, yappy dog and she seemed to be the perfect fit. They quickly adopted her and took her home to surprise the kids.

That little whisper in Julie’s ear had been right. The days leading up to David’s departure were filled with getting adjusted to the new member of the family and meeting her needs, rather on dwelling on their upcoming separation. The morning they took him to the airport was tearful, and the ride home was hard, but when they walked in the door and Pumpkin (her new name) was there to greet them with overwhelming joy they all rallied and got on with the day in peace.

Julie has told me every day since they got her what a perfect dog, she is, and what a perfect decision it was to get her. She didn’t bark for days, until finally one day the neighbor’s dogs came out and Pumpkin gave a quick, deep woof-woof, just to let them know this was her yard and not to think of coming over that fence! She treed a cat and then chased it out of the yard, caught a squirrel (but let it go when the kids yelled) and seems to regard the yard as her territory. Added benefit – security alarm if someone comes nosing around while David is gone.

Julie has told me day after day, what a good little dog she is and how happy they are they decided to get her. She says Pumpkin is a mama’s girl, and barrels through the kids to get to Mama when they come home, adoring her in the way only dogs can do. Truth be told, I think Julie’s pretty smitten with the pup herself. I’m sure she is companionship in the evenings after the kids go to bed and the house is lonely without David there.

Isn’t it nice when the Lord sends little blessings our way – unlooked for, even undreamed of, but just what we need? I know that this sounds fanciful, and maybe even a little crazy, but the thought occurred to me the other day that maybe the little stray beagle back in Hope Hull last fall was an “angel unaware.” Without her visit they would never have looked for a young female beagle or maybe even thought of getting a dog at all. Julie says Pumpkin is a godsend, and the perfect pet for them. Did the Lord send an angel to them to point the way for what He knew would be a blessing to them just when they needed it? Okay, so call me crazy – but the Bible says “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) I’m just sayin’ – unlooked for, undreamed of, angels unawares…

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The Perfect Place – Laurie and Fernando and family are moving into their new house this weekend. I am so happy for them! They will have room to spread out a bit. They will get a good night’s sleep in a quiet neighborhood. They will have a little more security when the kids are outside or at home alone when Laurie and Fernando have to leave them. They’ll have so much more room for Bible studies, fellowship gatherings or overnight guests.

They spent eight months looking for a place. Many times the search was discouraging, although they tried not to let it get to them. With their needs, their tight budget and the lack of available places it seemed almost impossible at times. When the right house was finally available, though, the Lord led them to it.

Our timetable is not always God’s timetable. It is hard sometimes to be patient and simply wait without becoming anxious or discouraged. It is difficult not to take the situation into our own hands and force the issue or run ahead of God. How easy it is to step out of His will when we become impatient! It was a trial going through the long house-hunt but His Word tells us, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” (Romans 5:3, 4) and also, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:3, 4)

We could all use more patience! That is where faith comes in – trusting that God will do things for our best in His way and His time. Our faith is deepened and strengthened when we wait patiently on Him – and then see what great things He hath wrought!

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(Not-So-Perfect) Pipsqueak on the Phone – I called Laurie the other day and the phone rang and rang. I was just about to hang up, thinking no one was at home, when suddenly someone picked it up. There was silence, though, and after a few seconds I finally said, “Hello? Hello?” A few more seconds of silence. “Matthew, is that you?” I ventured to guess.

“Yes!” a little voice piped up.

“Well, hi, Matthew! This is Grandma!”

“Hi, Grandma!” And off he went on a long spiel telling me all about the video he was watching and who knows what else. I could only figure out half of what he was saying, but he sounded so excited and happy to be talking to Grandma that I didn’t care. Just the sound of his little voice was enough for me!

At last I heard Laurie coming up behind him and a moment later she took the phone away from him. She had been in the bathroom and no one else had picked up the telephone, she explained She had thought of calling to Matthew to pick up the phone, but had decided she didn’t want him to get any big ideas and start something. Well, Matthew didn’t need her to give him any big ideas – he had them on his own, obviously.

What a little pistol he is! We have said since the day they heard they were having a boy after all those girls that he would either be spoiled rotten or henpecked. Truth be told, I don’t think he is either. He’s sure not henpecked. The girls may try to boss him around, but he is his own little character and stands up to them. If anything, he tries to boss them around! On the other hand, I don’t think he’s spoiled rotten, either. Well, okay, maybe a little tiny bit spoiled, but as the youngest of five kids and the only boy, it’s almost unavoidable. But he is a charmer, with adorable dimples and a smile that would knock you out, and as cute as cute could possibly be, so although Laurie and Fernando do a good job of disciplining, it is hard to resist his charms.

Although they all adore him, Matthew has been the typical pesty little brother since the moment he could walk, to all four of the girls. He is frequently into mischief and should wear a t-shirt that says “Here Comes Trouble!” Actually, Katie has a t-shirt that has a monkey on it and says “It’s All My Brother’s Fault!” – and usually it is. Put a toy sword in his hand and he is after his sisters – and if a toy sword isn’t handy, he’s been know to chase them with a real knife! Yikes!

Matthew’s birthday was two days ago. He turned three (although he keeps telling everyone he is four.) He is the last of our grandbabies for now and it is hard to believe he is already three. We called him to sing “Happy Birthday” to him, and he was the perfect little gentleman thanking us for each of the gifts we sent him. Hearing that little voice on the phone made me want to cry. I wish we could have been there for his birthday.

Proverbs 17:6 tells us that “Children’s children are the crown of old men” [and old women.] The previous chapter also says, “Gray hair is a crown of glory…” (Proverbs 16:31) Do you think there might be some correlation, there? I guess I can’t blame any of my gray hairs on Matthew since I am not around him enough, but Laurie tells me she is finding more and more gray hairs!

Grandchildren – a gift from God and His reward for getting old! They may not be perfect, but they are a perfect blessing!

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TWINKLE, TWINKLE

Ahhh – the sights…the sounds…the smells of Christmas!
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I walked into my mother’s home last night and it smelled soooo good! Cookies! Before her heart attack, Mom had mixed up the dry ingredients for six or seven kinds of cookies, put them in bags, and labeled them. My sister had baked a couple of batches before I got there, and the evidence still hung in the air. It brought me back to my childhood. One of my favorite childhood memories is of running all the way home from school and finding the house smelling deliciously of home-baked cookies. Mom always made double and triple batches of twelve or thirteen different kinds of cookies for Christmas – enough that she could give platters away to friends and still have plenty left for us! My brother teased her last week when she had her heart attack that, although she had to take it easy, the doctor had said her heart was still in fine shape for making Jumbo Raisin Nut Cookies. Thank goodness, my favorites, the kolachys, were already made!
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And Christmas music – each year I have to restrain myself from starting in too early singing, playing and listening to my favorite Christmas carols and songs. By the first of October I usually cave. I start playing them on my harmonica – for Robbie, of course. “We have to practice so we’ll be ready by Christmas,” I tell him. He beams, perfectly willing to go along with Mom’s eccentricities. Some of his favorite songs are Christmas songs, too. I love them all – old and new, secular and sacred. I sing and whistle around the house all year long, but it’s a continual concert for Bob and Robbie when this time of year comes around! Aren’t they lucky? And for every regular CD I have, I probably have five Christmas ones. I just cannot resist.
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Then there are the Christmas lights… Oh, how I love Christmas lights! To drive down the streets and see the neighborhood transformed into something pretty and sparkly on a frosty winter night, and main streets and malls ablaze with color and light… To watch the lights on my own tree twinkle and shine in all their multi-colored splendor… To bask in the warm glow of cozy firelight or candles… I love Christmas decorations, but if they’re lit up, all the better!
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My Christmas tree cannot have too many lights. Bob and I go through that discussion every year. “You don’t need more lights,” he says. “Yes, I do!” I insist. This year I got back from Ecuador to find that he had put the tree up for me and put on the lights. It’s pre-lit – but not enough for me. I add several more strings. Last year it had almost 1000 lights. Bless his heart. He was doing something really special and sweet for me – but to my shock and dismay I discovered he had put three strings on that didn’t even work! He forgot to test them first. I took them off and went out to buy some more lights on December 8th, and to my further shock and dismay, discovered Target and WalMart were totally out of lights and weren’t getting any more this year! I got the one box I could find and had to settle for that, but next year I’ll be out in October buying more lights!
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I love light. I’m one of those people whose mood is affected by dark, gloomy days. I wish my living room got more sunshine. One of the things I loved most about living in Colorado was the 300 days a year of bright, sunshiney weather and its big, clear blue sky. I love sparkly things – the Electric Parade at Disney World; fireworks; stars as you drive down a dark highway at midnight; sunlight as it glints of the surface of a lake; gaudy sweaters… What is it about light that we all like so much? As I thought about the lights of Christmas, I realized that there are several things that lights do that relate to us – we who are to let our lights so shine in this world that they might glorify our Father who is in Heaven.
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John 1:9 says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” He also tells us in Matthew 5:14a, 16, “Ye are the light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
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The first thing I realized light does is attract. You know how a porch light in summer attracts moths and other creepy, flying little critters. That’s why merchants use neon signs and spotlights and begin putting up their Christmas lights and decorations in October – to attract shoppers and their money. As lights in this dark world, our lives ought to attract others to ourselves, and ultimately to the Lord. They should see something in us that they want in their own lives. A Christian who is living her life for the Lord will stand out. Her compassion and kindness will attract and bring opportunities to tell others about the love of the Lord.
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Secondly, light illuminates. Candles are a beautiful symbol Light of the World who came at Christmas to pierce the darkness of this world. If you were to go into a deep, dark cave and light just one little candle, you would be amazed at how that one small flame would illuminate and brighten the blackness of that space. Light reveals what the darkness hides. Have you ever tried to put on your makeup in fluorescent light? Yikes! It reveals every flaw, every spot and wrinkle! The glory of the one, true Light of Christmas revealed to sinful men His perfection and their own sin and shortcomings. To some it brought conviction and repentance. To others it brought hatred and the desire to extinguish that Light. We are not perfect like He was, but the light of our lives as we strive to live holy, separated lives unto Him will bring conviction to those around us. Not everyone will love us. Some will scorn us, but deep in their hearts they will be convicted of their own sinfulness.
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The third thing that light does is provide warmth. How wonderful to snuggle close with a loved one in the flickering light of a crackling fire! To draw close to the fireplace, or a bonfire and warm you hands and toes and backside at the fire – ummm! The light of our lives should provide warmth also for those around us. Our love is the fire that will provide comfort and encouragement and warm the hearts of those attracted to our lights. Jesus called us lights, but He also said they will know us by our love. Do others feel the warmth of your love and compassion?
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Of course, the most obvious thing we notice about the lights of Christmas is how they beautify. I enjoy driving around and looking at the lights. What a difference they can make! They can turn an old, run-down neighborhood into a beautiful fairyland of twinkling, sparkling beauty. I can never decide which I like best – the elegance of all white lights, or the gaiety of multi-colored lights. They’re both beautiful to me. Our everyday, ordinary living room is transformed each year when we bring out the decorations and tree with all its special ornaments and twinkling lights. The lights are turned on from the moment I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night. There is nothing sadder-looking to me than an unlit tree. And when the lights are reflected in windows and mirrors, it’s even more beautiful! That’s how the light of our lives should be – reflecting His light, brightening and beautifying this world. Do you remember the old chorus, “Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me”? I pray His beauty and light is reflected in my life.
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As we think of the lights of Christmas, we cannot forget the Star — the star that appeared as a sign to the wise men, announcing the birth of the King of kings… the star that led them mile after mile, month after month directly to the house where the young child lay. That light was a sign and a guide, and so ought our lives to be – lights that point the way to the one true light of Christmas, Jesus Christ.
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This is the one time of year when the world looks in our windows and sees our lights. This is the one time of year when perhaps they are more receptive to hearing about spiritual things. And yet we have the Light, the Truth, the best Gift of all – Jesus – all through the year. Let’s not be guilty of dragging out the boxes of lights, dusting off the old heirlooms and traditions and putting them on display once a year. Our lights ought to shine brightly all year long, reflecting the true light of Christmas that attracts and illuminates, warms and beautifies, and guides lost ones to an eternal and personal relationship with Him.

The Lights of Christmas
The night is bright with moon aglow,
Reflecting off new-fallen snow,
And up and down the street I see
The twinkling lights on homes and trees,
And in the windows candles burn.
It seems that everywhere I turn
The lights of Christmas brightly shine,
Reminding of that ancient sign –
A star.

A star whose brilliance pierced the night,
Whose glory was a wondrous sight.
A star which eastern wise men saw,
And filled their seeking hearts with awe.
A star which left a blazing trail
That led to a King so small and frail.
And yet the babe they found that night
He is the one true Christmas Light.
The Light.

In Him was life and light of men
To shine in a world made dark by sin.
His glory far out shone the star
And reached down to men who’d wandered far.
For like the star the Light had come
To show lost man the way back home.
The true Light of Christmas – Praise His name!
The Light of Christmas, Jesus, came!

C S Griffith — 1995

GRACIAS A DIOS!

Thank you, God. Simple words. Easy for us to say, right? I know you, like I, sincerely say those words every day from hearts overflowing with gratitude to the Lord for all His blessings in our lives. We know that we have much more than we need or even deserve. We know that we have more than most of the world. We know that it all comes from Him. Thanksgiving Day is coming up, but I am ever-mindful of God’s blessings upon our lives and try to live as if every day was Thanksgiving Day! This year I know my eyes will be open even more to how truly blessed I am for I will be celebrating Thanksgiving in a third-world country.
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I will be in Ecuador by this time next week. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe how I am feeling right now! I finished the last book I was writing, most of the shopping is done, and I’ve actually started the packing. One by one, many of the things on my lists are being crossed off. There is still one thing on my lists, though, with which I am struggling.
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While I am in Ecuador, I will be speaking to the ladies at Laurie’s church. I have been giving some thought to that for weeks now, and asking the Lord to give me the right words to say. Two things have been going through my mind to bring to them. One is that we are sisters in the Lord, and that I, as well as the women in my church and family who have been praying for their church, truly love them as sisters because of the fellowship we have in Jesus. The second thing is to speak about giving thanks to God, referring to our American holiday of Thanksgiving. Somehow, I want to intertwine the two into a message that will be relevant and a blessing to each of them.
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The thing I am struggling with is something that is common to all American missionaries, I am sure, who are trying to reach beyond the cultural and economic divisions to speak to the heart of people who are so different, so much poorer and who often have no hope of anything better in this life. How do I speak about being thankful for the homes God has given us, for example, when many of them live in nothing more than a tiny shack and wash their clothes in the river? How do I speak about being thankful for the way God provides for us when I (obviously) have too much to eat, and they are lucky to live on rice and beans and little else day after day and year after year? How do I speak about being thankful for family when many of them live with husbands who beat them, or who have no husband because he walked out on them and their children many years before, leaving them destitute and struggling? How do I speak about being thankful for religious freedom when for centuries they have lived under the oppression of a church who has ruled with an iron fist of fear and persecution for those who stray from her shadow, and who even now see their government, as well, slowly but surely turning towards communism and the eventual persecution of Christians?
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Are not God’s promises as true for them as they are for me? Of course, they are. He promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19) He promises that just as He cares for the flowers of the fields and birds of the air, He will care for us. (Matthew 6:25-31) He promises that the vary hairs on our heads are numbered (12:7); that He knows us each by name better than we know ourselves. (Psalm 139:17) The differences in how the Lord provides for us as Americans compared to most of the rest of the world is vast, and in some ways is a mystery to me when I know that His promises are the same to all believers regardless of where or when they live.
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All I can think is that we are blessed in earthly abundance far beyond what our actual needs are. Perhaps it is because of the way this nation was founded on the premise that we would follow after God and His principles. Perhaps it is because this nation always has blessed Israel and He promises to bless those who bless Israel. Whatever the reasons for God’s outpouring of earthly blessings upon us, when so many of his children in other countries suffer, we know that He is just and loving and we simply need to trust that He is in control and knows what is best for each of us. And who is to say if all our earthly abundance is the best thing in the long run? Are we as strong spiritually as we would be if we had to suffer for our faith as many do around the world? Are we more, or less dependent on Him alone in our abundance here in America?
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You can see my dilemma, I think. I almost feel I will be ashamed to stand before them and speak on giving thanks when I have so much more than they when it comes to earthly blessings. Praise God, though, He has blessed us all with far more than these temporal things! Here is just a partial list of all the things for which we can thank the Lord:
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That before the world began He had a plan for me – II Timothy 1:9 – Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
He loved me enough to die for me even though I was a sinner – Romans 5:8 –
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
That I am a daughter of the King – Psam 45:13
The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.
God’s righteousness and holiness – Psalm 7:17
I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
All God’s marvelous works – Psalm 9:1
I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
My body – Psalm 139:14-16
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
God’s guidance and instruction to me – Psalm 16:7a
I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel…
The hope God has given me – Psalm 16:9
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
Salvation – Psalm 16:11Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
God is great and worthy of praise – Psalm 48:1
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
When I was in trouble, God heard my cries for help – Psalm 18:6
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Deliverance – Psalm 54:7aFor he hath delivered me out of all trouble…
Mercy and kindness – Psalm 100:5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
For not staying angry
with us and not giving up on us – Psalm 30:5For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
God’s blessings and benefits – Psalm 68:19
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.
God’s power – Psalm 21:13
Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.
His faithfulness – Lamentations
3:22-23 – It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
For the strength and confidence God gives me – Psalm 56:4
In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
For listening to my prayers
Psalm 28:6Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.
God’s Word
– Psalm 119:105 – Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
For being truthful – Psalm 117:2
For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.
For filling the earth with His love and goodness
Psalm 33:5He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
He is always thinking of me – Psalm 139:17-18
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
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God’s spiritual blessings far outweigh His earthly ones, don’t they, and they are eternal! Those women in Cuenca, Ecuador are just as much the daughters of the King as I am and every bit as rich in spiritual blessings! My earthly blessings could disappear in an instant, but these far greater spiritual riches are the true things for which we should be praising God this Thanksgiving. They are not all about us – my provisions, my protection, my health, my needs –- but many of them are all about who and what HE is!
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And one of the special spiritual blessings for which I will be praising and thanking God this year is the fellowship we have within the body of Christ as one family, brothers and sisters in the Lord for all eternity. I am looking forward to worshipping with my Ecuadorian sisters in the next couple weeks. Can you imagine the joy when we are gathered from every tribe on earth into His presence to worship the Lamb who was slain for our salvation – together as one family for all eternity?
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That is the message I want to bring to my sisters in the Lord. Thank you, Father, for making me your child, a joint heir to all the riches of heaven through Jesus Christ, and a part of Your family for all eternity! You can’t get any richer than that! Gracias a Dios!

WESTWARD (OOPS! I MEAN, NORTHWARD) HO!

As I write this, we are hurtling along I-65 at 70 miles an hour. A lot of pretty scenery is zipping past my window. Thick growths of trees and tall rock-faced walls line either side of the highway. When we first started out this morning, Spanish moss and kudzu clung to some of those trees. We are intrigued, especially by the kudzu, for some of the trees are so heavily covered that they almost look like alien beings from another planet. My favorites, though, are the crepe myrtle trees. Alabama has them everywhere and they are beautiful and fully in bloom.
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Farms dot the rolling hills—some of them large and well-kept, and others old and ramshackle with rusted out cars and broken-down equipment scattered across their yards. We see horses and cattle here and there, and have even viewed a few buffalo. We cross an occasional creek with tree-lined banks and drive over wide rolling rivers on great steel spans. It’s Sunday and as the morning has progressed, we see the parking lots of the churches we pass beginning to fill. Most are little country churches, but a few are large multi-million dollar edifices.
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It’s a bit overcast at the moment, and a haze blurs the views in the distance. The sun was beating down a while ago when we stopped for a quick break, though, and burned the back of my neck as I stood outside the car for a few minutes. Dozens of songbirds filled the air with their calls in that particular place, and the insects in the field next to the car were almost as loud.
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We’ve passed some unusual sights—four or five buzzards feasting on roadkill by the side of the highway; a huge missile on display at a rest area near Huntsville, AL; a burned out patch about a half-mile long where last weekend when we were headed in the other direction, we saw the grass and trees along the road fully ablaze.
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I’m noticing the scenery, and Bob is, too, but he’s also paying attention to the vehicles around him (good thing!) and every once and a while he’ll say things like, “There’s a car from Ontario, Canada” or “Look at the cathedral-style windows on that RV!” More often than not, though, he’s commenting on the reckless driving of someone around us, or a speeder or someone tailgating us. He gets aggravated, and I can’t say that I blame him.
*
I always think of the pioneers who traveled across our country in wagons or on horseback when we make a trip like this. We resign ourselves to a long day in the car, or two if it is a longer journey, and like the little kids we used to be, can’t help wondering, Are we there yet? as we squirm in our air-conditioned seats and nibble our way across country to pass the time. Seventy miles an hour? Seven hundred and fifty miles or even a thousand, in a day? Leaving Montgomery before breakfast and arriving back in Hammond in time for supper? Could those pioneers have imagined such things in their wildest dreams?
*
What boggles my mind is the fact that I can write this on my laptop as we speed down the highway, or I could watch a movie if I’d like. I can talk on the phone as we travel. Julie called a little while ago from her car as they were on their way to church, to my car as we were just about to cross the state line. Amazing! Why, I can even call Laurie in Ecuador if I want to from anywhere along the highway! Others who travel in grander scale than we do may even have all the comforts of home in their big RV’s—refrigerators, microwaves, TV’s, bathrooms, etc. We’ve come a long way since the pioneer days, but we’ve even come a long way in the last ten or fifteen years.
*
The highway stretches like a smooth gray ribbon before us. No rutted trail through tall prairie grass for us to follow on this journey. If we want to stop for a quick bite to eat we pull off and go through a drive-thru, or if time were not a consideration, we could even go in to a nice soft booth and have someone wait on us and bring us a full, piping hot meal. No need to hunt for a rabbit and build a campfire to cook it. A cool drink is at our finger tips in the cooler beside me. Air conditioning, reclining seats, and stereo make the trip comfortable and pleasant. And if our trip is not over at the end of the day, we can find a clean bed and a shower at the next exit.
*
Would you say we’re a little spoiled? Compared to how those pioneers traveled, I’d say we certainly have it easier, but I’m not sure if I would say that we’re spoiled. All this modern technology is available to us and a result of man using the intellect and resources that God gave us. When used properly it is fine. There’s nothing wrong with having a pleasant and comfortable trip; with being able to get from Point A to Point B rapidly; with being able to talk with our loved ones on the other side of the country or the world instantly.
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We are spoiled, however, when we cannot leave that comfort zone, or give up our little luxuries and technologies when asked to do so, or for the benefit of someone else. Laurie and Fernando live in a somewhat modern city in Ecuador and, although standards are not up to what you would expect here in the USA, they enjoy many of the conveniences we have here. I often think, though, of missionaries who have to travel by boat down the Amazon River, or fly into remote areas, or who live much like the people they are ministering to in some jungle or desert location. They have sacrificed much to serve the Lord where He led them.
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We’re not all called to be missionaries in remote areas, however. We live in a land of plenty—plenty of the necessities and plenty of the luxuries, as well. We’ve come to expect those things; in fact, we take them for granted. I sometimes feel guilty about how much we have and how easy our lives are, compared to what most of the rest of the world experiences.
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We don’t need to feel guilty about the life God has given us, though. It is by His grace that He has put us in the time and place we are in. It is by His grace that we have the homes and food and water, technologies and medical care, lifestyle and freedom that we have. It is by His grace that we have heard the Good News of the Gospel and that it is freely available here to anyone who will listen. For some reason the Lord has given us more, but we must remember that He tells us in His Word “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required…” (Luke 12:48)
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Compared to those who have gone before us, compared to billions around the world today, our journey through life here on earth is smooth and comfortable. Oh, sure, there are bumps and ruts and roadblocks, twists and turns and detours for all of us along the way, but we have it a lot easier than most. We need to pray that God will open our eyes to how we can use what He has given us for His glory. We should not feel guilty, but grateful to Him, and be willing to share His love and the things He has given us with others. Let us not be so spoiled by what we have that we cannot sacrifice if we are called upon to do so. Our destination is just up the road. Enjoy the journey along the way, but make it count for eternity, too!

CHILD OF MY HEART

Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn’t grow under my heart – but in it.
Fleur Conkling Heylinger


My cousin Wendy and her husband, Rick, adopted their second child from Russia this week. I am sooooo thrilled for them! The pictures she sent back are just adorable! He is darling, and in appearance, at least, he will fit in perfectly with their family. Both little Ivan and his big brother Dima are towheads, and remind me of Wendy when she was a little blonde-haired girl. I have no doubt that he will fit in perfectly in every other way, as well. God has put this family together and I know they will grow in love and faith together. What a wonderful blessing for Wendy and Rick to have two precious little boys now as their sons—and of, course, what a miracle for these children to be lifted from life in a Russian orphanage and placed into a loving, safe home where they will have a mommy and daddy to love them and care for them, provide for them and protect them! I know they will grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and, most precious gift of all—they will hear about Jesus and have the opportunity to accept Him as their Savior.

Julie and David are still on their adoption journey, and although it’s already been a long road, it is far from over. They did not know when they applied to adopt from El Salvador that things were grinding to a halt in the international adoption agencies there. After being at a complete standstill for over a year and a half, things are finally moving again and a few couples are being approved. It could still be another one to two years yet before David and Julie get the children for whom they have been praying. The Lord knows when that time will come, and who the little ones are that He will place into their family, and in the meantime they—and we—will wait patiently on Him and continue to pray for them. I don’t think I have ever known a couple who are better suited to adopting than Julie and David. They are so loving and compassionate and giving, and they have done a beautiful job so far of raising the three they already have. They have a heart for children and are hoping when David retires from the Air Force in a few years that the Lord will lead them into missions in some kind of orphan ministry.

I get excited when I hear about someone who wants to adopt! I know from my own experience the true, wonderful blessing it can be. I have thanked God every single day for giving us the beautiful gift of Robbie in our lives. I know to some people it may appear to be more of a burden than a blessing, but I can say from the bottom of my heart that I have never, ever regretted for a single moment adopting Robbie. He has enriched our lives every day with love, laughter, joy and fun! Having him has taught us things like patience, acceptance, faith and unconditional love. The Lord used Robbie to mold us into servants for Him, and to help his sisters to grow into beautifully nurturing, compassionate and responsible women. Of course there have been tears and frustrations, fears and emotional trauma as we faced almost losing him several times, but those have been growing times, as well, and precious times of drawing closer to the Lord.

From the moment Robbie became our child we loved and accepted him in exactly the same way we loved and accepted our daughters. There has never been a difference in our minds or hearts in the way we felt about him. I know Wendy and Rick have loved Dima just as deeply as if he were his son by birth, and they will love little Ivan that way, as well. When the time comes, Julie and David will love their new little ones just as fully and unconditionally as they love Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah. The little poem above says it best. Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but a child of my heart. Another poem called The Gift of Life says,

I didn’t give you the gift of life,

But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn’t give you the gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.
Unknown


I would change one word in that—GOD gave me the gift of you. Nevertheless, the thought is the same—the love we feel for our adopted children is as deep and real as if we had given birth to them ourselves.

Did you know that we are adopted by God as his children and joint heirs with Christ? Galatians 4:4-7 says, But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Not only has He loved us with an unconditional love, so deeply that He was willing to pay the ultimate price of His Son, but He has given us the standing with all the rights and privileges of Jesus Himself as a joint heir with Him!

In Bible times a child by birth did not have any more rights than one of his father’s servants. He became an heir of his father, however, when he became an adult and was legally “adopted” as his son. When the Lord adopts us as His children we are not just stepchildren, or foster kids or “second class” children, but we have the same full love, acceptance, position and inheritance as His beloved Son, Jesus Christ! Amazing!

It is not easy to adopt, these days, either domestically or internationally. It can take a long, long time. I am shocked at how quickly Wendy and Rick’s adoptions went through. That is not the norm for most countries. It is also horribly expensive. By the time it is all said and done, Julie and David will have probably spent at least $40,000 and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick and Wendy have spent even more for their two adoptions. The cost of adoption is high in so many other ways, as well. It takes a very strong desire, an extreme amount of commitment, hard work and perseverance, a willingness to endure the emotional roller coaster, courage, deep faith and most of all, unending love to adopt. It was a whole lot easier when we adopted Robbie thirty-three years ago! The costs are worth it, though—a thousand times over. To have a child of the heart—priceless!

To be adopted as a child of God—eternally priceless!

REJECTED—BUT NOT DEJECTED

I received another rejection letter this week—my second in my quest for publication. {{Big Sigh.}} I don’t handle rejection well, I’m afraid. My self-confidence plummets. I start believing that I am delusional; just kidding myself that I can really write. My determination to pursue publishing my work slips away and I want to just forget it and concentrate on writing for the pleasure of it and for the two dozen or so young readers who already love my books.
*
I confess, I was dejected when I got that letter of rejection—for about eight or nine hours. I cried. I moped around. I told Robbie, “Mommy’s sad today,” hoping for a little sympathy from him, I guess. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get any sympathy from Bob, either—just a pep talk to keep at it. I didn’t really want to hear that just then.
*
Maybe I would have handled it better if I hadn’t received a critique, as well, from the associate editor who had read my manuscript. At first I was excited that she had sent it. I don’t believe that is the norm—they usually send a letter that says thanks, but no thanks, and that is it. She had taken the time to actually critique my work, however, and send me a list of suggestions on how to improve it. I don’t have a problem at all with constructive criticism and trying to learn from it. The more I read it, though, the more disheartened I became.
*
The manuscript I sent was for the first book in my Noble Heart series. (For those of you who have read the first edition of this book, I had added two more chapters and pumped it up a bit all the way through in this revision.) The editor didn’t have anything positive to say about it. The plot, she said, needed more tension. The major criticism of the characters was that some of them were too flat (i.e. “Noble – Just as his name implies, Noble’s heart is in the right place and he always says and does the right thing. A perfect person doesn’t need to grow; therefore Noble is a flat character.”)
*
I understood most of the criticisms, and plan take them to heart and work on those problems. I had reasons and had made a conscious decision, however, in some of those areas to write the way I did because I wanted the plot or character written precisely that way. For example, I wanted Noble to be “noble” and of high character and a good role model. He did struggle with loneliness and fear in this book, and I thought he did grow in his faith, but perhaps I did not write that part strongly enough. Perhaps the plot did not have enough tension because I don’t want a lot of violence in my books. I will have to work on other ways to increase the suspense, I guess. I was not trying to make excuses, but just thinking through the reasons I wrote the characters and plot the way I did. There was actually only one critique that I thought was off base and that was when she said Noble had had only one encounter with his enemies before the climax of the book. That was not true—he had numerous clashes with them before the climax, but apparently she forgot that.
*
I know I probably sound defensive, and I suppose I am a bit. Writing a book is like having a child—when you’ve given it your all for months and have finally finished what you think is something beautiful, you’re proud of it and will defend it like a mama bear! So, although I was actually grateful for her critique and hope to learn from it, it was a little hard to take, too.
*
As I said, I was down and dejected. A couple things happened later that evening, though, that turned me around. One of them was receiving an encouraging e-mail from another author who has been published. He was the one who had put me in touch with the publisher, so when I finally heard from them, I e-mailed him to let him know about the rejection. He had a number of things to say to encourage me, including telling me about the dozens of rejections he had received. Then he said, “Never let a rejection discourage you. It should challenge you.” That was just what I needed to hear. Then he went on to tell me that the all time best selling series ever written, Chicken Soup for the Soul, was rejected by no less than 49 publishers! I know I don’t have the fortitude to stick to it through 49 rejections, but maybe I could handle a few more, after all.
*
The second thing that happened was a conversation I had on the phone with my granddaughter Sara. I had just told her about the rejection letter, and was about to tell her that I was not going to pursue trying to publish that book. Before I could get the words out, though, she said, “Grandma, I am so proud of you that you keep trying anyway to get your work published!” Whoops! How could I disappoint my grandchild, or have her think less of me because I quit? I had to start re-thinking my feelings about this. It lifted my spirits to have her voice such confidence in me, when I didn’t have that confidence myself.
*
So, rejected I may be, but I’m no longer feeling dejected. I will pick myself up and try again, if not with this series, then with one of my others. For now, I have to finish the book I am working on before I can get involved with sending another manuscript off. Trying to get published takes a lot of time and hard work—time and effort I need to and would much rather put into writing creatively.
*
This experience, though, had me thinking about how often we are tempted to quit when things don’t go our way, or someone criticizes us, or we feel inadequate. My mother used to often tell me that I came from good, strong, pioneer stock. Pioneers who didn’t quit when things got tough, but who pressed on; pioneers whose backbones were made of determination, perseverance and resolve. They shouldered their responsibilities, they fulfilled their obligations, they did their duty. My pioneer ancestors endured the hard times and setbacks, they rose above the obstacles and failures, they did their best and they didn’t quit.
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Those good, hardy genes run within me. I feel the spirit of those pioneers who have gone before me, and yet there are often times when I am tempted to quit. The important thing is not to give into that temptation. The Lord gives us encouragement and strength in His Word when we feel weak and disheartened. We must not quit:
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When things don’t go our way – Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT) Did it ever occur to us that all these hopes and dreams and plans we have for ourselves may not be the even more wonderful plans that God has for us instead? We wonder why the Lord doesn’t bring us what we want when He has something better in store for us. His plan may not include the worldly acclaim or wealth that we envision as symbols of our success. His plans for us may be humble and small and not recognized by anyone else, but great in His eyes when we obediently and faithfully fulfill His will for our lives.
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To tell the truth, I don’t really care if my books are published or not as long as they are used by the Lord somehow in the lives of the kids who read them. I have felt for some time that, above all, I want my writing to be a ministry for His honor and glory. Oh, the money, earthly success, seeing my name in print in the bookstores and being able to say that I am not only an author, but a published author, would be nice, but they rank far, far below my desire to have my work be a ministry first and foremost. If He wants me to use my writing for Him as a ministry, then it is up to Him how large or small that ministry is. He will open doors if He wants me to reach more people.
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From the time I was a little child Proverbs 3:5, 6 was special to me. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” I don’t know what the Lord has in store for me. I just have to trust Him, follow His path for me and not quit. Someday I hope to hear His words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”
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When we are criticized – Criticism, even constructive criticism, is often hard to take. Our pride may be hurt. Our defenses rise up and our self-esteem goes down. We are tempted to rush to react or respond; sometimes in negative ways. We may even want to quit.
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There are many times when the criticism we receive is unjustified, undeserved or even untrue. I think at those times we just have to shrug it off and remember that God alone is our judge. He knows our heart and our motives. Remember Job and his so-called friends? They had no idea what the Lord was doing in Job’s life, or why He allowed all those things to happen, but they sat back and oh, so self-righteously shot off their mouths, giving their opinions and advice. They themselves were just as much a part of the trials Job was going through as the rest of it. It is at those times that we need to simply remember that His Word tells us, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.)
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There are other times, however, when we need to listen to constructive criticism and learn from it. Sure, I was not happy about the list of criticisms I received from that editor, but I would be a fool not to pay attention and try to learn something from them. In fact Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” Proverbs 19:20 backs that up, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” Forget the hit to our pride. Learn, grow and go one. Don’t quit.
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When we feel inadequate – This is the hardest one for me to overcome. I have struggled with self-esteem issues most of my life. When you feel that you’ve failed in the past, when your sisters all have wonderful careers and you are “just a housewife,” when you’re struggling with weight, etc., it’s really easy to feel that you just don’t measure up.
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We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. God made us just the way we are and set each of us on our own unique path. His creation (us) was good and His plans for us are good. If nothing else can lift our self-esteem, these words ought to: “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” (Psalm 139:17, 18) He is always thinking of us, always loving us. If He thinks we’re worth that much, why shouldn’t we realize our worth, too? We need to see ourselves the way God sees as—as His children who are of such infinite value and worth that He gave His Son for us. That is precious, isn’t it?
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Okay, this is where I have to confess—I do have an ego! I still burst out laughing out loud sometimes after re-reading something I’ve written for the tenth time. I can still move myself to tears at something I’ve written that tugs at the heartstrings. Boy, if that isn’t egotistical, I don’t know what is! My self-confidence when it comes to writing, however, is fragile. Criticism, or even the lack of any feedback, starts me questioning if I’m really good enough or if I’m just kidding myself. Like a lot of men I know, my ego needs to be stroked a lot. 🙂 (Just kidding, Honey!) Thank goodness, my grandchildren are really great at that! It is the self-doubt and lack of confidence that brings me down.
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The Bible has something to say about that, too. Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If this truly is a ministry that He has called me to, then I don’t need self-confidence—I just need to put my confidence in Him! He has promised to work in me and through me until His work for me here is over. We are told in Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” How simple is that? Place my work in His hands, trust Him with it, and let Him do what He wills with it!
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We cannot allow blows to our ego, hits to our pride or knocks to our self-confidence (whatever you want to call it!) discourage us from the work He has called us to do! We need to pick ourselves up and get right back to work! Just don’t quit!
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Keep on “keeping on!” Philippians 3:13, 14 says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Forget about the past failures. Forget about the past successes! We are to reach for the work that God has called us to do; to press on and not quit.
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The pastor I grew up with for over twenty-five years was fond of a poem called Don’t Quit and every once and a while he would pull it out and use it with one of his messages. Lo, and behold—I was able to find it on the internet in about two seconds flat! Here it is. Although I did not write it, it is a little inspiration for all of us from my past:

DON’T QUIT
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about.
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are.
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– Author unknown –