It’s Not Mine

I set the case down next to the sink. No, it might get wet. I thought. I picked it up and put the strap on my shoulder, so the prized possession was resting on my back, safe from water. A woman walked by behind me in the public bathroom and knocked my purse, which knocked the case, pulling the strap from my shoulder as gravity pulled the valuable toward the ground. With Elasto-girl’s flexibility and Jack-Jack’s incredible speed, my hand moved swiftly to grab the strap to avoid the camera hitting, while my purse finished the descent to the dirty floor. Fortunately, it was only my purse and not the camera!

I need to shorten this camera strap, I thought, so it doesn’t fall off again. But wait, it is not mine, so I don’t want to adjust anything in case the owner likes it at that exact length.

I continued babying the camera for the three hours it was in my possession.camera baby

My 12-year-old daughter was in a talent competition, Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, and wanted an actual camera as a prop in one of her acting scenes. We borrowed one from a grandparent of another performer.

I was so nervous to hold the camera. I didn’t want anything to happen to it before it could be used for its purpose in the acting competition. Besides, I pretty much hate borrowing anything…almost ever…because I am afraid I will mess something up.  It is as though my pride can’t handle being the one to hurt something that is not mine.

I wish I treated my life as if it were Someone else’s!

To Whom Does This Belong?

How do I keep forgetting Whose life this is?

My pastor, Stephen Davey of Wisdom for the Heart,  did an illustration not long ago. He brought a man to the front of the church and asked him to give him his wallet. The man did. The pastor then took $20 out of the wallet and handed the man his wallet back – $20 short. The man said, “Thank you.” As we all would expect when someone gives you something back – even though:

  1. It belonged to the man to begin with
  2. The pastor was returning it with less value than it originally had.

His example was an illustration of tithing – how God gives us “a wallet of money” and we give a portion back (sometimes only 10%!), and then act like God should say “thank you,” when really it was 100% His to begin with!

Wallet of Twenty-Four hours

I liked the illustration, and for me, I applied it to my “wallet of time.” I have 24 hours in a walletOfTimeday that God has given me. I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I act like He should say “thank you” if I give “some” of it back, while I try to keep the rest of the time “for me”.

The fact is that all of the hours were His and still are. It is up to me to represent them that way.

It’s funny to me how much I like to compartmentalize life: This hour is for Bible time with God; this hour is for exercise; this hour is for motherhood; this hour is for my husband.  But God sees all the hours! All of the words, all of the thoughts, all of the actions,  all of my all is meant to be used by Him!

I guess I need to treat this life like the camera next to the sink – as a precious possession of Someone else’s- and protect every inch of it, so it is ready to be used when the time of its purpose arrives.

If I recalled Whose life this is, would I guard my brain’s intake more wisely? (Phil 4:8)  Would I use words purposefully (1Thess 5:11)? Would I rest more, eat better, and in general beat my body into submission to what I should be doing? (1Cor 9:27)

What if I took care of all of my possessions – as if they are gifts for His use and not mine? (because they are.) (1Chron 29:14)  What if I used my life as the gift He loaned….and used it for His purposes alone?

In reality, there is no-such thing as a compartmentalized Christian.

“Either you live your life for God’s glory, or you are living for yourself. There is no ground in-between.” – Chris Brady

May God keep us focused on living for His glory…with every hour He graciously puts in our “wallet”,

Terri

(note: Illustrations by my daughter, Christine Brady, age 12)

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Thanks Again

THANKS AGAIN

(ref: Luke 17: 11-19)

Ten lepers were healed

By Christ’s words that day.

He said, “You are new,”

And sent them away.

They danced and they sang

With their limbs now anew.

Showed friends their new health

And all they could do

One returned thanks,

The others took for granted;

But Jesus gave freely

His gifts not recanted.

Sorrows and distraction

Pull focus of our eyes

Pirating the gratitude

For blessings realized.

Lord, help me to be

The one of the ten

Who thinks to come back

and say, “thank you,” again.

-Terri Brady

May God bless you with much, and may you bless Him with thanks.

– Terri

Luke 17:17-19 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Auto-correct Your “Self”

One letter certainly can have an impact on texting:

  • “We stayed in our couch for two weeks.”
    • (Although, there probably was a “couch” in the “coach,” of which she was speaking.)
  • “My dear previous friend…”
    • (Luckily, she was “precious” enough to see through that auto-correct.)
  • “Fool!”
    • (would have been more encouraging with the “C” in place of the “F” as I had intended!)
  • “My dead husband…”
    • (sent by a “dear” wife.)

I recently got a new iPhone 6. It amazes me how young kids automatically notice I got a new phone, whereas I am still trying to figure out what the difference is. One youngster in the back seat for our carpool said, “By the time my parents ever let me get a phone, it will probably be an iPhone 23 or something!!”

“Poo” thing! 🙂

Each time I get a new phone, it has to “learn” me. It is SO impressive that it can figure out what I mean to say and eventually say it for me the first time. However, my newest phone changes my name “Terri” into “Terrible” every time.

Dear iPhone, “Why ya gotta be so ruuuude?”

It also changes “love ya!” which seems to be a favorite closing of mine to “love yam!” I have nothing against the orange vegetable but I don’t think that detail is necessary in all of my texts.

Additionally, and perhaps the worst yet, is my last name, “Brady” which it transforms to “rash”.

I do not text my last name often – solely when I am introducing my phone number to someone new in my texting world, so I text, “This is Terri Brady.” Imagine getting a text from an unknown number, and it says, “This is terrible rash.”

Yep. That’s me.

I guess the phone’s algorithm works by assuming I want words that I have frequently used in the past. I cannot verify, but it seems like the word “Brady” should have been used more frequently in my texting than the word “rash.” I am beginning to suspect the programmers are playing a joke on me – like a new Revenge of the Nerds.

It strikes me that my name “Terri” and the word “terrible” are only three letters apart. However, my name “Terri” and the word, “terrific” are only three letters apart too!!!! So why doesn’t it substitute “terrific” instead? I mean, surely I have used that word more often in the past than “terrible,” right?! It should know by now!! Just when I finished that thought, I realized that signing my texts as a “terrific rash” is not any better.

The auto-correct function has added quite a bit of humor to our lives. I like that rose among the thorns. However, even the term “auto” correct puts a little truth into the way our lives tend to auto-correct. The term “auto-correct,” I assume is a shortened form of “automatically correct,” which is such a great idea at the start. However, when we look at the root, “auto,” it originates in the Greek word, “autos” meaning, “self.” When I look at “self,” and its sinful nature, I see why it is not the ideal aim! Truth be told, whether or not I texted “terrible” more often than “terrific,” I have definitely “automatically” thought “terrible” more often than “terrific” thousands of times!

For example, it is a beautiful day today here in North Carolina: 75 and sunny; yet I have had to “correct” myself to simply enjoy it and stop thinking about the cold front coming through tomorrow. Maybe I AM terrible!! If you have read other Letters here, you have seen my focusing on thorns instead of shade, or having to force a thank-you amidst the dead bird on the hockey table.

For example purposes, we could take this to the dungeon. Too often, I see people leading their lives as a terrible rash. They get gloomy about one thing and it feeds another and another until the sky is seen as the coming gray and the thorns overshadow any roses.

One such letter would summarize the thoughts:

Dear Me, IMG_4871_2

I can’t believe the debt

I feel like such a failure

I can’t do it anymore

I dream of material things

I don’t want to be married

anymore. Parenting is not for me

No one owns me

I can’t imagine there is a God

I feel like I am

defeated!

Nothing will

make a difference

Signed,

Me

 

That letter breaks my heart, because I know many people who could write those words right now. It is so true that the dark side works that way. The bad wolf in our thinking chinks away at our outside until we open the gate to our heart. Then, it feels virtually impossible to think any differently, and the thought that was sown yesterday reaps a belief that lives today. Terrible!

If you could have written that letter today, please know I am praying for you. I know there are brighter skies ahead, but I pray that you know that too. The heaviness of thoughts like those are too much to bear alone.  I think the Bible’s Psalms were probably written by people who could have written that above letter…and had to “correct their thinking.”  “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can [mere] man do to me?” –Psalm 56:3-4

There is good news though. Lord willing, we ARE able to correct our thinking: Auto-correct it. As Martin Lloyd Jones says in his book, Spiritual Depression, we need to “stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves!” I have noticed, that just like my phone’s algorithm starts to “learn” what I meant, so can my “self.” I can actually start forcing right thinking …and the saying or acting improves based on those thoughts.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Run the race, because you are going to lose.” It doesn’t say, “Set your mind on things below where you are.” It’s not, “Jesus died so others might wallow.”  NOOOO.

But the Bible does say:

  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)
  • Set your mind on things ABOVE. (Col 3:2)
  • Run the race as if to win. (1 Cor 9:24)
  • Jesus died that we might LIVE! (1Pet 2:24)

But it takes self-control to think the way we ought. It takes discipline to block the negative from getting into the gate.

Changing the word from “terrible” to “terrific” requires purposefully deleting some things and then purposefully adding some others. And so does life.

What if we auto-corrected that letter above? Write the second half and make sure they never separate again*.

IMG_4871

Dear Me,

I can’t believe the debt I can now get rid of.

I feel like God created me for a purpose and if there’s

such a failure in my path, I can learn and get better.

I can’t do it anymore without telling others so they can improve too.

I dream of helping others.

material things don’t control me; I control them.

I don’t want to be married to my debt or my job

anymore. Parenting is not for me to leave my kids for others to raise.

No one owns me except my Creator!

I can’t imagine there is a God who loves me THIS MUCH!

I feel like I am not able to be

defeated!

Nothing will stop me, because I have self-control to

make a difference in my life and the lives I touch.

Signed, with full-hearted belief,

Me

 

Don’t grow weary in well-doing, my friend. There is too much ABOVE waiting on us!

Love yam! YOU!

Terrible Rash Terri Brady 🙂

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” –Romans 8:6

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” –Deuteronomy 31:8 

 * I must give credit for the note idea to “Max” who wrote his newlywed wife “Stefanie” a two-part note like this. I found it cleverly humorous, but the online versions included controversial topics unworthy of my linking. Last names were not included in the posts.

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“Tending” to Forgive

Dear Lindsey

I recently wrote about our family’s trip to the state fair: A car – which had been left in neutral – had coasted through the parking lot, barely missing my husband and other pedestrians as it reached its destination: crashing into a parked car.  The “unattended car” rolling in neutral to whatever destination the slope led reminded me of many “unattended lives” who coast along in neutral, letting external circumstances determine their destination: a crash.  (See that post, Unattended Vehicles, here.)

PRNDLWhat if instead we put our PRNDL to “drive” – to reach our highest potential for God’s glory?! Purposefully tending to our lives (with God’s will) is the only way to fight our natural tendencies of decline.

When thinking of self-attending, we most likely think of the “eat right and exercise” driving that may avoid a health crash. Or maybe we think of driving the budget to avoid the slide toward excessive debt and bankruptcy. The media will often drive “unattended lives” down their slippery sin-sucking slope toward alcohol, infidelity or pornography among the rest. If we don’t attend to our children, the culture around us will gladly pull them.  Although the list of driving needs is endless: diet, budget, media, parenting, etc, I have recently come to admire the “skillful driving” that some Christians do in the area of

Forgiveness.

It is strange to think of someone driving forgiveness, but at the same time, unless purposefully attended, forgiveness will be lacking and lead to a major crash every time. A natural tendency to being wronged is taking offense, holding the offense, and even wanting revenge for the offense- THAT is the slope of the world in which we live. Lying awake all night unattended, the emotions drive the will of their possessor and result in bitterness, anger, negativity, broken relationships, physical problems and even rage.  I have massive regret when I think of the glory robbed from God every day that I have lacked forgiveness toward someone else.

One author says forgiveness is: never repeating the offense again – to the person it involves or anyone else.  Telling the story or thinking the story only gives the emotions new birth in their old state, removing the benefits of forgiveness altogether. Best selling author, Orrin Woodward once said, “To forgive doesn’t mean we think the snake will never bite again. It means we don’t have a desire to hurt the snake.” We pity the snake. We want to help the snake to become a new creature in Christ. I have often had to force myself to forgive someone who is at the same time holding an incredible grudge against me! But didn’t Christ already show me that it is possible through His own death, when He prayed about his killers, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”?

Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book, Life in Christ, says that when our pride is in order, no one can insult us. “Whatever the world may say about me, when I know myself, I know that they do not know the truth about me – it is much worse than they think.  When we see ourselves in the light of this glorious gospel, no one can hurt us, no one can offend us.”

I truly believe that the condition of my heart – not the size of the offense – determines the level of difficulty in forgiving the offender. In essence, if my heart recognizes that I have needed forgiveness in the past, I am more likely to give forgiveness today. If my heart is full of pride as though, “I have never needed forgiveness;” “I am holier than they that offended,” or “I would never have done that,” then I am more likely to take great offense at the action and have more difficulty forgiving.  In other words I hold myself in a prison, while limiting the freedom of those around me. It is best said as the old saying: “Not forgiving is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Those who forgive not only give themselves the gift of freedom from the past, but they bless everyone they meet with the same feeling of freedom.

My 13-year-old son recently read The Hiding Place, a book which details Corrie ten Boom’s time in a

Cover of "The Hiding Place"

concentration camp during WWII. (I highly recommend listening to an audio recording Ms. Ten Boom made a few years before her death. Just hearing her voice again this week brought tears to me, knowing the impact she had on my life when I first heard her on a recording a couple of decades ago.  My 13-yr-old and I listened on the way home from soccer, and sat in the driveway to finish it, because he didn’t want to turn it off.  Download the MP3, or order the CD, “The Greatest of These is Love”  Here. Although the audio recording is appropriate for all ages, the book shares details that may be best for older adolescents.)

Caught in the act of hiding Jews, Ms. Ten Boom’s father, sister and she were taken Ravensbruck_camp_barracksaway to a hell on earth at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp that took the lives of both her father and her sister, while daily threatening her own. Mistreated, starved, and witness to unfathomable atrocities, she somehow was released days before the rest of her camp was marched into gas chambers to their death. I cannot imagine the bitterness that must have crept into her skin, thinking of the good she was trying to do for the Jewish people out of love, and the punishment she endured. I cannot conceive the haunting dreams that must have stolen her nights.  How must she have ached in mourning over the loss of her family, due to those purposeful acts of evil?

Somehow though, she was able to stay in the “driver’s” seat and “attend her life” anyway.

She steered her life with the Word of God, as she miraculously snuck a Bible into the concentration camp, though she was stripped naked and was watched by armed and vicious guards. (Would I have risked so much? Would I have even wanted the Bible enough to even try that?)

She accelerated her days against the negative slope with gratitude. At one point, she and her sister, Betsy, thanked God for the lice! Yes lice! Because they kept the guards from entering her sleeping quarters, and allowed them to study God’s Word together. (Am I as grateful even out of such grave circumstances?)

She shifted into higher gears by serving others. Instead of wallowing alone, or even just praying alone, she invited other prisoners to study with her, sharing her Bible – page by worn out page. (Do I have such a habit? – serving others instead of just meeting the needs of my family and me?)

She stayed on the right road, when she pitied the abusive guards and their lack of relationship with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She focused on where she was headed, not where the slope of the world wanted to take her. With her eyes on Jesus, she could follow His example of “forgiving those who know not what they do.”

She didn’t focus inward on the downward slope of self.

She chose to heal.

She drove to forgive.

She glorified the God who attended to her all along.

Then she did even more. She recognized the “unattended lives” in the post-war community – even including the concentration camp guards themselves. She didn’t watch them ride downhill to their destined crash, but began telling them about the Word of God, the salvation in Jesus Christ, and how and why she was able to forgive. She famously was approached by one of the very guards from the concentration camp that took her father and sister.  Even though years had passed, you can imagine her hesitant feelings when she saw him.  Did it bring back horror and begin nightmares again? Did her eyes lock with his and cause trauma deep in her heart? Did she think of the force with which he struck, or recall the harshness of his words? Did bitterness surface at the memory of him with a full belly while surrounding prisoners went weeks without food, and were severely punished or killed if they took even a bite of the potatoes they were forced to pick?  After she thought she had forgiven, did emotions resurface when she was face to face with the offender?

Anguish over her sister’s and father’s deaths in that camp must have wrenched her insides to want to run… or shout… or hurt!

…but she dropped her emotions and embraced that very man, as he embraced the Christ she represented.

“In that moment,” she later wrote, “something miraculous happened. A current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.”

She proved the Father’s forgiveness of sins when she looked beyond this stranger’s sins and was able to forgive.

Oh, to attend a life so well!

Corrie ten Boom would not have had a testimony, if at the beginning of the story, her “car” had been in neutral.  She would have followed a country’s leader, coasting on the pavement of his plans for evil, riding to whatever crash they led. She also would not have had a testimony if after all of the atrocities, she had “parked” in the prison of bitterness.

Her “attended life” before I was even born influenced my own to make sure I am

–       Steering with the Word of God

–       Accelerating with gratitude, culling surroundings for even the tiniest of blessings

–       Shifting into higher gears by serving others

–       Staying on the right road and pitying those who are not

–       Keeping my eye on the destination: in Christ Jesus.

We can drive forward, my dear friend!

In love,

Terri Brady

A scar is not all bad; it shows that a once open wound is now healed.

Romans 5:5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Micah 7:18-19Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Related Posts:

Book References:

Audio Source

  • Corrie ten Boom’s story in her own words: “The Greatest of These is Love”  Here.

Itching to be Tough

Dear Lindsey,

He was struggling between boyhood and manhood. Like a tadpole learning to cope with legs instead of a tail, he was learning to live with mechanisms different from his youth. Tears came too easily for this eleven-year-old and I knew they would need to lessen as his body matured to man.

One night, after an afternoon bout of his crying over someone changing rules in a game or other mildly unjust action, I intently prayed for him to grow up to be the man God intended:

“God please make my son tough.

–       The kind of tough that can withstand struggles.

–       The kind of tough that can lift the weights for his eventual family.

–       The kind of tough that perseveres.

–       The kind of tough that plays hurt.

–       The kind of tough that is a warrior for You.”

I prayed that God would reveal my own “mom-weaknesses” where I may have been catering to my son’s softer side, hindering his growth to manhood.

The day after my fervent prayer, a rash broke out on his belly. He itched and whined, and frankly, made a big deal of it. It did look itchy and uncomfortable, to say the least, but the entire rash was less than the size of my hand. It wasn’t really obvious what it was, but we suspected poison ivy.

“Mom, there’s no way I can play in my soccer game tomorrow!” he said.

“Bud, I know it itches, but once you see that ball on the field, I bet the itching will be imagesless than your desire for a goal. Besides, your team needs you!”  I said as I dutifully washed the bumps in special soap, put some Calamine on it and gave him Benedryl.

That night, I stayed up late into my “productive hours,” getting ready for the Mom-starting-gun to make its sound again the following day. As I passed his room at 2am, I saw my poor son sitting up on his bed, miserably hugging himself, rocking back and forth while tears streamed down his swollen cheeks. The spots had spread like the ivy that caused them – up from his chest to his neck and face, swelling one of his eyes almost closed. It grew down from his belly, hitting his inner thighs and continued to his feet.

He. Was. Miserable.

I gave him more Benedryl, coated what I could with more Calamine, and realized there was really nothing more I could do until we got to a physician.  I sat quietly on his bed, softly stroked his back, and silently prayed:

“Dear Lord. You know the pain in my son today. You KNOW how badly he is suffering with this itchiness and how long it can last. Please, God, take the poison ivy away and restore his skin to fully healed.”

As I lay in bed that night, I thought of his soccer game the following day, and how the coach would not understand that he would miss “because of poison ivy.”  I imagined a phone call I would make, emphasizing how BAD the poison ivy was: it was not just a couple spots on his belly!

When I woke in the morning, I was surprised to see my son already awake. He stood, fully dressed in game-attire, looking at himself in the mirror while he applied his own Calamine.

“I can either sit here and itch, or I can play a game for my team. I’m choosing to play.” He answered the question I hadn’t asked.

I was in shock. I started to make excuses and tell how the rash was more intense than it originally looked; how much worse it might itch with sweat; I started to wonder if others could get it, and a million other excuses for him not to go out of the house looking like a swollen monster covered in pink paint.

But my prayers from two nights before were answered, and my “mom-weaknesses” were silenced.

Not only did he play for his team that day, but he scored a goal!  A tough boy CAsey opponent became a man – and his body caught up later.  

(Note: If he had not come up with the idea himself, I don’t know that I would have pushed him to play that game. I think parenthood is a dance between compassion and pressure. Without the first, the latter causes pain and not necessarily change. (Ephesians 6:4))

I don’t suppose “toughness” is really the lack of tears, nor lack of fears, but the ability to push through yourself for your team, your family or someone beyond the one in your uncomfortable skin.

I thought back to my prayer just days prior and wondered if God ever laughs at me?! One moment, I was praying my son would become a warrior, and then when He allowed the very thing that would make him tough, I immediately prayed it would be taken away.

I am thankful God continued with His plan, and didn’t allow me to get in the way.

Maybe there are some cases of “poison ivy” in life for which we should be thankful instead of resentful: the struggles that made us strong; the trials that toughened our skin; the resistance that built muscles.

Or maybe there are some in my life right now from which I should be learning instead of running?

Because I guess answered prayers are sometimes disguised as itchy monsters covered in pink paint….before the goal is scored.

In love,

Terri

Romans 5: 3-5: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

“We pray for silver, but God often gives us gold instead.” – Martin Luther

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The Ring

Dear Lindsey,

(Español: El Anillo)

My mother handed me the ring with a deep grin that punctuated the significance of the gift.ring  It was a tiny ring, just right for my 7-yr-old finger. “This is a REAL diamond,” she said, handing me the tiny fraction of a karat in a size 4 band.  She explained that she had bought the ring before I was born and saved it for when I was old enough to wear it.  I could hardly believe she would allow me to hold it – much less have it in MY size! I thanked her and felt that special warmth in my heart my tomboyish buffalo skin normally tried to repel. I headed out to play.

“Tether ball” was a favorite sport of mine. The two-person game involved standing on either side of a pole that had one ball tethered to it from the top. One would hit the ball clockwise, while his opponent tried to hit it counterclockwise with greater force. As the opponents smacked the ball, it gained potential for more height.  My trick was to hit it with strength at the angle to send it just out of my opponent’s reach, elliptically landing back within my reach so I could send it in the same pattern again the next time around. The game increased speed as the tether shortened, wrapping around the pole, until the tether was tightened to the last inch, proclaiming the winner.

It was at the end of such a game in the neighbors’ backyard when I realized that the ring I had possessed for less than 24 hours was gone. I searched below the pole, combing the grass with my fingers to no avail.

grassHeart-broken, and mad at myself, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should have been “a good little girl” playing with dolls or makeup like other girls instead – then I would not have lost the ring.  I sinfully didn’t tell my mother about the loss, because I figured it would take her a few weeks to notice, and that would sound better than, “I lost it in the first 24 hours.”

Besides,” I thought, “I didn’t want that ring anyway. Who wants something that doesn’t even stay on during tether-ball?!”

It was my nature: when I felt defeated, I would convince myself that whatever I didn’t get (or couldn’t keep) was something I didn’t want anyway. It was easier than admitting I needed to change.

Anniversary Gift

On our tenth wedding anniversary, Chris decided to get me a ring. The buffalo in me liked the idea of a simple anniversary band, with no “annoying stones” to get snagged on my pockets when they warmed my hands. Chris had a different idea.

The solitaire was a diamond to be admired by any passerby. The round cut magnified the colors that only God could place in such a gorgeous gem. Its clarity drew in light, seemingly multiplying it in the reflection with a disco-ball effect on the ceiling of the store, to my embarrassment. “We’ll take it!” Chris said, while I shied away, telling him “no way!” But inside, I felt pretty just being treated as pretty.

The store sized it to fit my finger like a glove, although any glove worth working would not fit on this ring without getting caught.  Chris glowed with pride as we traveled to the resort where we were staying that night. We had a beautiful evening celebrating our first decade together, and I wore my ring with pride, almost wanting to point it out to strangers, as I did my engagement ring the night he popped the question in Pittsburgh, PA a decade prior.

I felt loved.

The next morning, I rose early and headed outside to enjoy the sunrise for my quiet time with God.  As I recorded the previous evening’s shopping and date in the journal of my mind, a feeling of sadness surrounded me. I felt like a phony. “I don’t even LIKE rings. I forget to put on jewelry that I already have! I am not pretty enough to have people looking at my hands. My nails are chipped; my hands are rough, because I don’t know how to ‘act like a lady.’  I cannot fake this. I am not the jewelry-kind-of-girl. Did he forget who I am? Where I have been? I am not worthy of its cost, much less its beauty!”

As I continued trying to read my Bible, the self-degrading thoughts continued. I started planning how to return the ring, and how I would tell Chris. Tears trickled down my cheeks, thinking about how we would owe the store for the custom sizing, even if they gave us our money back. Regret overcame me as I realized I had worn it the night before as a phony – mesmerized by its sparkle, as if that fit me.  The conflict was still vibrant in my heart when Chris awoke and came outside to where I was sitting.

“Are you wearing the ring?!” he excitedly asked as he approached, looking for my hand.

I wiped my eyes and confessed my thoughts to him. “I cannot own a ring like this. I am not meant to wear something so valuable. We need to get it back to the store. Today. We can see if they will give us all our money back, even if we have to pay for the sizing. I’m sorry.  I have never had such a tremendous case of buyer’s remorse.”

He stared at me dumbfounded for a split second, then kneeled down on one knee, cupped my face in his hands and said firmly, “We will not take the ring back. You cannot have buyer’s remorse, because you did not buy the ring; I did. It is my gift to you; now stop insulting me.”

He kissed me, as if it were the first time our lips had met.

The tears disappeared from my face.  My quickened heart rate sent a cleansing blood through my body.  A peace came over me as I realized he loved me so deeply to look beyond what I saw in myself. He didn’t give me the ring because of who I was, but because of who he is.

Hating Myself

As I recall that story, another story comes to mind: the one where I say, “I hate myself! Why can’t I be like others? I keep doing wrong. I can’t change. I will never get better. I am worthless!!”

And God gently answers, “I created you. Stop insulting Me.  I knitted you to be an original.  Your hands are My design. I know the depth of your heart, the chasm of your sins and I sent my Son, Jesus Christ, to take it all. I have a purpose for every strength you have, and for every failure it took to gain that strength. I have a purpose for EVERY weakness you possess, since My strength is made perfect in your weakness. You can’t change, but I can change you. My purposes are greater than your vision.  I created you just the way I intended. I bought you for the price of my Son, and I have no remorse. Now stop insulting Me.”

The Gift of Forever

Girlfriend, that eternal salvation is a gift that was bought before you were born to fit you God wants usprecisely. It is ironic that we cannot have the peace of His gift pumping into our veins until we have the remorse over our sins cleansing the path.  No one can comb through the grass to find His gift, and none of us deserves its worth. It is ours because of Who He is, not who we are. He loves us so deeply to look beyond what we see in ourselves.  It is amazing that just when we say, “I have such remorse!” He answers, “You can’t; I’m the One who bought you!”

I hope you feel loved, because you are.

I guess I am not a buffalo, or a butterfly or even a buffafly after all. I am a new creature in Christ, and I want His glory to reflect from my life like a disco ball!

In Christ,

Terri

God knitted you before you were born. Ps 139:13

His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

I am a new creature in Christ. 2 Cor 5:17

Salvation is a gift from God, because of who He is, not who we are. Eph 2:8-9

Confess your sins (with remorse) and you will be forgiven. 1 John 1:9

The gift of forever: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

And To My Listening Ear

What a week! We have enjoyed some time at our lake home. I hesitate to call it “vacation,” since we are still actively online and phones and extra travel, but we are vacationing from the scheduled soccer and school. God’s artistry in sunrises, sunsets and everything else seems so beautiful when reflected on water.

photo

Reflections on water can lead to reflections on life.

I love “early morning fishing” with my kids. I select one (or sometimes two) of my children, put them in a canoe with a trolling motor, some poles and lures, and we head out to watch the sunrise, while we entice the unseen creatures below.

Why early?

At 5:30am, the lake is serene – no boat wakes or phones with which to contend, no schedules to compete for my kids’ time, just peace outside of two voices – theirs and mine. Oh yeah, and some say the fish bite more at dawn.

Why Photos?

The entire family doesn’t fit into our 3-seated vessel, so we share our victories via camera.  Sometimes, on a day without bites, it is fun to go through the photos, to remember the big ones will come!

photo

IMG_3951photophoto photoIMG_3954

But it’s not about the fish.

Mom, it doesn’t matter if we catch any fish today,” my 8-year-old serenely said as the trolling motor left a silent “V” sketched in the placid lake behind us. “It is just nice being with you.

It is a time of reflection – of the new sun off the mirror of water, and of my kids’ thoughts of this turning world. They ask questions in those peaceful hours that maybe get lost in our ninety-miles-per-hour  days.

“Do you think I am not catching fish today because I sin too much?”

Pensive.

“Is it ever ok to get angry, because… didn’t Jesus get angry?”

Fighting strong, but wanting answers with a friend along at 5:45am!

My kids’ discussion questions roll out with the line behind the boat.  I just want to make sure they know that I am here; I have a listening ear; I am ready with open arms when the storms send unsettling waves. If they don’t know that when they’re 8, they won’t know to look for it when they’re 18.

I LOVE our early times together.  I couldn’t help but see the parallel to morning quiet times with God.

Quiet Time with God

Why early?

Before the sun, the world is serene – no waves or phones with which to contend, no schedules to compete with the time (except for the pillow – the evil contender!)

Pen & Paper

Why Notebook?

Like a photo to share with family, a notebook records my wrestling moments, my tearful prayer requests, and the gut-wrenching thoughts that once prevented my sleep.  The answers received through these early morning times with Him are revealed when I read the journal years later. It encourages me: today’s resolution will come in His timing, too.

But it’s not about the ritual; it’s about the relationship.

It is a time when I can tell Him, “It is ok if I don’t catch anything today, I just enjoy being with You.”

Test Shot with My ESV Journaling Bible..

In His Word I am reminded that He is here. He has a listening ear; He is ready with open arms when the storms send unsettling waves – which sometimes are the lure that got me there in the first place.

“Don’t let your child be the ‘one that got away’,” is the advertisement line from Zebco fishing equipment. Maybe someone at that company had some good fishing conversations with his kids, too.

Girlfriend, don’t be the one who got away from God.  As Rick Warren says,

“If you feel far from God right now, guess who moved.”

Tomorrow: tell the pillow to have a good day without you.  Grab a pen, a notebook and a Bible, and enjoy a relationship with Him. Read, pray, speak and listen.

“Failure in my life almost always begins with a famine of God’s Word and prayer.” – Anne Graham Lotz

“It’s better to be sleep deprived than God deprived.” – Jill Briscoe

Eternally His,
Terri

Related Posts

Crucify Him! (the song)

Good Friday

Dear Lindsey,

blur CrucifyMusic somehow reaches the core of my being. A certain song will command movement and make a workout more intense; another tune will force a smile to overcome my countenance; yet other combinations of notes slow my pulse and restore me.

“I wrote this song yesterday; I think this is the piece we have needed for our Good Friday service,” Gary Hallquist, the pastor of music ministry of our church, said a little over a year ago. His music-writing amazes me.

Our Good Friday “Service of Shadows” is a choral and orchestral production centered around Scripture reading, depicting the last days of Christ before crucifixion. The lighting changes to darkness slowly throughout the musical evening, ending the service in complete darkness and silence, as if the Light of the World was extinguished. On Sunday morning, the service begins in the dark, and the lights come up – into full brightness to celebrate the Resurrection.

At the Service of Shadows, singing “There is a Fountain” or “Oh Precious Savior” leaves the listeners and singers in wonder and awe of Christ. But Gary’s song called, “Crucify Him!” stirs different emotions. I didn’t want to sing it.

overall crucifyThe orchestra leads the introduction with dissonance. Conflicting notes that don’t yield “happy” build on top of one another, creating suspense like the theme from “Jaws”. The listener is transported back in time to the day that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, asked the crowd, “What do you want me to do with Jesus?”

“Crucify Him!” is almost shouted in bass tones in a syncopated rhythm that is woven throughout the piece. The shout begins on the first beat of the measure, but then it changes: beat two, or the second half of four – as if a crowd is sporadically shouting their opinions, yet so musical in chorus. The orchestra echoes the rhythm, with the bass instruments randomly repeating it while the choir is singing other melodies, like an underlying hatred in the world.

I hate singing, “Crucify Him!” The words pierce my heart, yet I know singing it creates the emotions for the service that must have been there the day the chief priests and officers were shouting it to the Roman prefect. (John 19:6)

The men sections come in full force, singing the words of Pilate in powerfully ominous bass tones: “Whom do you want me to release to you?”

Title CrucifyThe choir women answer as if they are the crowd of Jewish leaders in front of Pilate, “Give us Barabbas!”

“What do you want with Jesus your king?” Pilate (the choir men) asks.

The crowd (choir women) interrupts with the answer, “We have no king but Caesar; We want Him put to death! His blood be on us and our children!”

What… an… angry… crowd. I cannot imagine the emotional overcast that day.

Do I have to sing and pretend to be that?! I would NEVER scream, “Crucify Him!” If I were there, how could I possibly say that I would rather have Pilate release a prisoner and kill the Son of God instead? Barabbas was known for robbery, which in those days often meant terrorism and/or bloody insurrection. (Mark 15:7) I would NEVER have chosen to release him, knowing that with my words, I could have voted for Pilate to release Jesus, a man who never sinned, instead!

Do you ever have these thoughts?

  • “How could those leaders act like that? Wasn’t a crowd just yelling, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ last Sunday?” (John 12)
  • “How could Peter, one of the disciples, say he didn’t even know Jesus, when just hours before, Jesus had washed his very feet with His own hands?” (John 18:17)
  • What kind of man is Pilate, that he would allow a crowd to make the decision for his conviction.
  • “I would NEVER yell, ‘Crucify Him!’ I would never want to free a bad guy instead. I would NEVER say I didn’t know Jesus. I would never be like that.”

sync crucifyBut I can never say, “never.”

When I judgmentally thought, “That’s disgusting,” looking at someone dressed differently, adorned with things I would not have near my body, and walking in an unattractive way, I was not loving.

When I had to talk myself back into emotional control when the flight attendant gave me a hard time about “FAA regulations,” (which must not have existed on the 3 previous flights that day!) I was not seeing her as Jesus.

When I received a negative email, how much did I want to return the negative with a kiss of betrayal?

“Crucify Him!” I was shouting with each thought, each emotion, each lack of love.

If I am not for Him, I am against Him. (John 3:18) I shout “Hosanna!” in church, and by the time I am home at the end of the week, or sometimes even the day, I have denied Him three times.

I cannot say, “never.”

Barabbas was guilty.

Jesus was innocent.

Barabbas lived; and on that first “Good Friday,” Jesus died in his place.

I am guilty; Jesus died in my place.

Maybe Pilate represents all those men of power who lack the courage of their own convictions. He thought Jesus was innocent (John 18:38, 19:4,6), yet followed the crowd. I have been Pilate.

Peter may stand for those who have been there: felt their guilt, know their need for a Savior, and yet hide it under the pressure of the “in” crowd, a friend or spouse. I have been Peter.

Today, Good Friday, as we remember the day that Jesus was crucified, may we lay our own lives aside and live for Him. “Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Closing this letter is best done with the words of Dr. Ray Pritchard:

“Finally we are left with the question Pilate asked: “What shall I do then with Jesus?”

You can stand back and say, “I don’t care about him.”

You can push him away and say, “Leave me alone.”

You can open your heart and say, “Lord Jesus, I welcome you into my life.”

That is the best thing you can do. It is the safest thing you can do. Trust him. Run to the cross and lay hold of Jesus who loved you and died for you. What more could you do than what he has done for you?

Jesus or Barabbas. The choice is yours.”

May God give you grace to believe in Jesus and crown him as Savior and Lord today.

In love,

Terri

Suggested Reading: John, Chapters 17 -21

Related Post: Climb the Ladder

Below:  Video recording of the Service of Shadows (Crucify Him song is near the 40th minute, but feel free to enjoy its entirety for the real message.)

 

 

Climb the Ladder

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of Glory died

My richest gain I count but lost

And pour contempt on all my pride.

I wrote the words to that old hymn from Isaac Watts in my journal, while I fought back internal emotional pain. I WANTED to pour contempt on all my pride, but it kept haunting its possessor.

Then I decided to really try to “survey the wondrous cross” and I went into a little daydream that morning in my quiet time, which I will never forget. It was a daydream that forced surrender of my heart, once again.

In the distance, I saw not one, but three crosses on the hill. A crowd of people surrounded the base. There was noise: people’s voices, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying.

I stared at the center cross as I walked closer, praying that I would stay focused on Him,

3 crosses by Nicole Avereyn

3 crosses by Nicole Avereyn

despite the distractions of this crazy surrounding world. I wanted to “be one” with other people as He was one with God, so that people would know why He came; yet I battled conflict in my heart. I wanted to survey that wondrous cross and leave the conflict behind.

I saw guards, Roman I assume, in costume as the movies had portrayed. Some spectators on the hill were on their knees, in a deep mourning wail. Others were shouting insults toward the cross. Others were simply walking away, not able to “survey” any longer.

I looked at His face. Jesus’ eyes were still open. He looked down on all of the people – the crying, the shouting and even the leaving and I remembered His words, “Forgive them; they know not what they do.”

What wondrous love is this that He could forgive even in agony?

Agony caused by lashes of a whip tied especially for breaking skin on His bare back while authorities held His flesh taut for maximum tearing.

Agony caused by friends, even His closest, who had deserted Him. One betrayed with a kiss, others with their departure or denial.

Agony caused by a crown of thorns forced onto His head to pierce the skin, while they mocked Him as a “king”.

Agony caused by taunting hours before, “If You are so great, why don’t you tell us who hit You?” as they struck his blindfolded face.

I imagined how He must have felt as people sang, “Hosanna!” at His coming to town, so grateful for His arrival; then in contradiction, people screamed, “Crucify Him!” just days later, treating Him like the criminals on the adjacent crosses.

How did He restrain from fighting back?” I wondered when I recalled his accusers bringing Him to Pontius Pilate, telling the lies that He had denounced taxes and that He was undermining the government. (Luke 23) He stayed focused on His message: He was the Son of God. When King Herod tried Him, Jesus never even spoke, as if wrestling with the pig wasn’t worth words. He was at peace with allowing God’s will to be done through Him. “Why can’t I do that?!” I wondered.

Crucifixion, a slow, lingering electric chair of the era was so cruel, so public, so naked. There was no way to “look good” even as the Son of God hanging on that wood. Nails pierced his hands and feet.

Three men died that day at Calvary. One on the cross next to Jesus jeered at Him, while the other, in full belief said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” That is when Jesus told the latter, “I tell you the truth: today you will be with me in paradise.”

I broke out of the dream and thought back onto myself. I could see me saying, “I’m kind of having a bad day here. My emotions are out of control; I’d really like some time on this cross where I don’t have to deal with you people.” Yet Christ had a message to relay: that heaven awaits; and it is waiting for anyone who believes – even in his last hour.

My daydreaming continued, and I found a ladder. I set it next to Jesus’ cross, and began to climb. I wanted to survey the Savior.

The sweat, mixed with blood, poured from His body. I recalled His “sweating blood” during a deep prayer just nights before, though His closest friends’ loyalty faded in sleep. I meditated on even Him, asking His heavenly Father for a change of The Plan, yet what He wanted was that God’s will be done.

The daydream paused as personal thoughts came in: That’s what I want!: God’s will be done. Yet so much conflict, how can it be?

In my daydream, my actions continued, I wanted to get closer, to talk to Jesus as He hung on that cross, looking down on the people. “Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,” came to mind from another verse of the same hymn.

From His view I could see His accusers, and mine too. “He died for them, also,” I was reminded.

I leaned toward Him to whisper, bringing my lips close to His ear and tried to form words. Thoughts flooded my mind:

Jesus, SHE won’t return my phone call!”

“Jesus, I am so jealous that I didn’t get what I wanted.”

“Jesus, I have been WRONGED, and they are going to make me look bad.”

A smile came to my face, in self-laughter. What?! I would NEVER have been able to say that into His ear from atop the ladder! How petty! How selfish! He died for me, can I not live a moment for Him? After climbing that ladder to truly survey the wondrous cross the only thoughts that could come to mind were unsaid, choked back by tears:

“I am SO unworthy of this sacrifice.”

“I am so sorry.”

“Thank you.”

He glanced in my direction as if to answer my unspoken words, “I know. It’s why I came.”

As I snapped out of my daydream, tears flowed as I realized how petty my prayers had been that morning.

He gave His life for me; can’t I live a moment for Him?

When my pride gets in the way: I climb the ladder.

When I feel like I have been wronged: I climb that ladder.

When I am jealous, I climb the ladder.

If I am talking too much about myself, I need to climb that ladder.

If I am feeling perfect enough to start correcting others, I climb the ladder.

If I am more worried about the scrutiny of man than the scrutiny of God, I CLIMB THE LADDER.

Are my thoughts worthy of whispering in His ear from the top of the ladder?

Whisper in His ear about the parents who just lost children this week. He cares.

Pray to Him about the woman lost in the dark world of depression. He’s holding her.

Ask Him in His ear how best to be His testimony in this lost world and He would be relieved to know someone read His Words so they would outlast His agony.

I had “open heart surgery” that morning. I surrendered. His will be done.

He has the whole world in His hands, not my hands, and that is where it needs to stay.

I pray this holiday season that we may be ONE so the world will know that the Lord above sent Jesus Christ as our Savior (John 17:21): He humbled Himself to human birth – in a stable; He submitted to baptism – by another man; He washed filthy feet – of those lesser than He; He died a criminal’s death – alongside heathen, for God’s glory. May we follow His example to true humility; I am above nothing. Peace on earth comes into our hearts when we can rest in God’s will being done.

And if conflict arises, even if only inside of us, may we climb the ladder to rise above the offense, survey the cross, and take time to whisper in His ear, “Thank You.”

Pride/Ego Summary of Symptoms:

Beginning introduction: (Turkey Tastes Better Without Lily Pads.)

Other symptoms (and this list is probably endless):

  • refusing to forgive/bitterness
  • ranking people as more or less valuable than one another
  • talking down about others (close relative to talking about oneself)
  • resisting new information

With love,

Terri Brady

 

Stop in the Name of the Law

Dear Lindsey,

“Gasp!”

Ok, now that you got that out of the way, I can share the story that made you do it.

As we continue this series on symptoms of pride/ego, I can go back a few decades to high school again. Unfortunately, I can probably think of more recent examples, but my pride couldn’t handle sharing those 🙂 ; it’s easier to think it was only a problem of my youth.

Next symptom: Thinking I am above the law.

My high school’s shop teacher, a former Army Colonel, was my neighbor and he had a cute little poodle, “Cocoa.” For easy cash, I often took care of Cocoa when its owners were out of town. Rather than walking down the block to my house when he returned from his trip, “the Colonel” (as we students called him) chose to pay me when he saw me in the school cafeteria on the Monday after my pet-sitting.

This led to many jokes of which the Colonel was unaware:

He would approach my lunch table full of teens of both genders, hand me money and say, “Thanks for last night.” Or: “This is for the weekend.”

As he left, snickers would fill our table. Soon, they would see him coming and get silent to see what words he would use when he handed me cash:  “Here he comes to pay Terri for her ‘services.’ Be quiet!”

I never mentioned the torture to him, but I cringed each time he approached.

One weekend the Colonel had asked me to pet-sit, but after accepting the job, I realized I had a commitment to go somewhere with my family for the weekend. I forgot to tell the Colonel that I was unable to keep poor little Cocoa. I didn’t remember until Monday morning when the Colonel approached my lunch table.

The table hushed in anticipation of his words.

“Thanks for the weekend,” he said as he slid a ten-dollar bill into my hand in front of my friends.

I gulped.

I must have forgotten to tell him I couldn’t take care of his dog.

My heart raced, but my ego ignored the urge. “You’re welcome,” I said and took the cash, hoping the Colonel would disappear quickly.

He never asked me to take care of Cocoa again.

During my senior year, my parents (unknowing of my story) suggested I have the Colonel write a recommendation for me for college, since an Army Colonel would be a good advocate to have. “No, thanks,” I said.

How I wish I could go back and change what I did! The Colonel knew I hadn’t taken care

A brown standard poodle at five weeks

of that dog. I can only imagine the damage in his house when he returned. A starving, thirsty dog probably left messes all over and destroyed anything in its path.  I don’t know why the Colonel chose to see if I would be a big enough person to admit it; maybe he knew the years of guilt would be worse than the verbal confrontation. I have tried searching for him online several times in my adulthood so I could apologize- to no avail. God has forgiven me, but forgiving myself has taken longer.

I don’t know why I thought “Thou shalt not lie” (Exodus 20) didn’t apply to me, but I did.

I can remember the following week, justifying the fib in my mind:

  • What was I supposed to do? Everyone was listening!
  • I didn’t really “lie” per se; I just said, “thank you.” (note: It’s still “bearing false witness.”)
  • It was only $10.
  •  It’s just a dog.

Ugh.

Thinking a law (especially a law of God) doesn’t apply to me is a symptom of pride.

When telling a negative story, I prefer to use myself as the example, so I can use others as positive examples, but obviously in this world, there are many examples of actors, business owners and presidents who have had an ego that caused them to put themselves above a law…or two.

Huge scandals begin with a small thought in a heart. One little lie, because it was only $10, leads to millions unless the ego gets under control.

  • “I deserve to take these supplies home from work, because no one notices anyway,” is justifying stealing.
  • I can watch these movies because I am an adult now,” justifies adultery.
  • I am running late because of traffic,” (when really we left our house later than we should have and happened to also run into traffic) OR “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” (when we know it is really 20, but we don’t want the appointment to leave) is still lying.
  • That rule doesn’t apply to me, because I am so important to this team,” is taking advantage of your blessings.

Thanks to an analogy from my husband, Chris, I have often imagined that one day God will play the movie of my life back to review my behavior, while I watch beside Him. My stomach churning would never allow for popcorn during that movie. I imagine that it is MY life and no one else can be seen in the film. My heart has a voice in the movie, so my thoughts, actions and words are of equal volume, but the circumstances around the words, thoughts and actions cannot be seen, only the deeds for which I am responsible. My legs weaken when I see the laws that I took so lightly, thinking I was only doing what “anyone would do.” I do not like myself in so many of the scenes of those home movies.

Thankfully, God is not done with me yet. We can repent of our sins and ask forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. (Acts 3:19) He can make us white as snow again. (Isaiah 1:18) Repentance begins with recognizing the need for repentance. Pride blocks recognition of our own sin and our need of a Savior.  Pride is the eclipse that blocks the Son from being seen. May I decrease that He may increase (John 3:30), and with that decrease, I can recognize that I am above no law.

Although God’s laws have no exceptions (Hebrews 10:16), neither does His grace. (Lamentations 3:22, Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 2:4) Believe in forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31) Wow! God is amazing!

Although I chose to write about ego/pride during this holiday season because of its tremendous negative impact on relationships, I guess it’s becoming obvious that the ramifications go far beyond the family Christmas dinner and into eternity.  May we gain strength to live with eternal perspective, always.

God bless,
Terri Brady

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