Goodbyes

We said goodbye to our interim pastor, Dr. Steve Parr, Sunday morning. Although he is actually a longtime member of Hebron, Dr. Parr was not the original pick for interim because he already holds an important position with the SBC. However, when the unforeseen resignation of the former interim threatened to tear apart the process of finding a permanent leader, Steve immediately stepped up to keep the church intact until God’s man for the job could be found. He’s done an amazing job in that capacity. Thank you, Dr. Parr! We hope to continue to see you as often as your work allows!

Goodbyes are hard. Letting go of the past is even harder. We’re creatures of habit. We don’t like change. We know it’s a necessary part of life, but we fight it tooth and nail. Don’t believe it? If you look in your closet, how many can find an article (or more) of clothing you’ve had for more than twenty years? Probably haven’t worn it in at least that long, but it’s still hanging there! Some of us still have stuffed animals from our teenaged years more than fifty years ago. I’m pointing at myself there, as you can see from the above picture. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. This tiger has seen every one of my children and grandchildren riding on its back.

Remembrances are good. The Bible tells us to remember. That’s why He commanded the Israelites to put Witness stones in the water. It’s why they made a Witness altar. It’s when we go beyond remembering, and begin to focus on the past instead of the present and future that we get ourselves into trouble. Saying, “He doesn’t do things like we used to when ________ was here.” Or “Why can’t we do it like we always did when I was a kid?”

Guess what? Times have changed. If we don’t change with them, the church is going to die. It’s that simple. If you take a good look around your church, it probably doesn’t look like it did when we were kids. And that’s a good thing! People of all colors, economic status, and ages worship together much more than they did when I was a kid.  The barriers have been broken down. We must not resurrect them! We have to say goodbye to old methods. The message should never change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever! But our methods of delivery must be one to reach as many as possible with the truth of the gospel, and then disciple them. Think about the radical change Jesus wrought to the Jewish system of His day. As His disciples, should we really expect to do any less? Let’s be willing to let go, and say goodbye, so a new door can open and a new dawn can begin!

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Voting

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A new day is dawning in the history of our church. We voted Sunday to call our new pastor, Dr. Landon Dowden, a man of God to lead us in these troubled times. God bless you in your new ministry, Dr. Dowden. Welcome!

Voting for our own pastor is one of the things that sets Baptists apart from other denominations. It’s also what sets America apart from most other nations. We don’t have a king, though some seem to have thought of themselves that way.

We can thank George Washington for that. Like Israel, the people of his day wanted a king—him! But he refused! Can you imagine having all that power thrust upon you and having the wisdom to turn it down? Such wisdom can only come from God. People today call him a Deist, but this action alone makes me highly doubt that. Such wisdom comes from an intimate relationship with the Lord.

All the Founding Fathers seemed to show an amazing wisdom. They seem to have realized somehow the immense size their nation would eventually have, and made provisions for its expansion. By setting up a republic, they assured all would have representation, and no small but populous segments could easily take control. Elements now wish to negate that provision of the Constitution to make us a pure democracy because they control those small populous segments. But what they want isn’t democracy at all! If we allow it to happen, we will soon be a socialist nation with no rights left at all!  This was what the Founding Fathers sought to prevent.

People think their vote doesn’t really matter. They say that 57 million Christians didn’t vote in 2016. I understand they didn’t like either choice. I confess Donald Trump wasn’t my first choice either. I did not vote for him in the primaries. To be honest, I was afraid he was another liberal hiding in sheep’s clothing, and would soon return to his liberal roots once elected. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by his steadfast course of conservative values. I voted for him because I certainly couldn’t stomach the alternative. It’s our privilege and our duty as citizens to vote. If we don’t vote, we don’t have the right to complain about what we get because of it!

If Hillary Clinton had been elected, we would now have a decidedly different Supreme Court that would have been in effect not just for four or eight years, but possibly thirty or more years. Think of cases like Roe vs. Wade that is responsible for the death of over 60 million babies. Now multiply that decision a hundred times, and you might have an idea of the kind of devastation not voting can cause. We don’t like to think of ourselves as responsible for that, but if we don’t vote, we are!

Please vote today!

God bless.

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Encouragement

IMG_1042[1]   I’m exhausted. I spent the weekend all the way across the country in Wenatchee, a Hallmark movie type town in Washington State (steal like an artist).  I was attending the Rubart Writing Academy. I went because back in 2012, Jim Rubart was one of the first people in the literary world to ever give me any encouragement. He really “shocked my broca” (If you want to know what that means, sign up for the next academy. He’s coming to Atlanta in the spring!)! What did he do? He kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear, “You are a great writer!” At the time, (and still, as far as I know), he’d only read a single paragraph of my work.

Why are we, as Christians, so quick to tear down and so slow to encourage our fellow Christians? The first session of the academy was all about finding our true identity as writers. What is the unique message we have to give to the world that only we can tell? Why is that even necessary? Because most of us have had it drilled into us since childhood that we’re ordinary, with nothing of value to give to anyone, much less to go out and proclaim to the world!  One of the ladies expressed that it was “The long journey into the true __________ (insert name here).” That’s a hard journey when all you’ve had all your life is put downs. The best part of the whole weekend was speaking truth into each other’s lives. The people at the conference were all smart, funny, witty, and totally delightful. How could they possibly see themselves as anything else?– Because the abuses of their life had quashed their dream. Can we not learn to see the dream in others and do everything in our power to help them reach it?

Because of the craziness of my life for the last several years, I’d already made most of the journey to self-awareness. I know who I am. I know I have important things to say. But the affirmation was even more necessary. I was ready to give up. Nobody’s listening. Nobody wants to hear.

Jim says getting people to like you is key. I took a personality test once that said I had the personality of Jeremiah or Nathan the prophet. My first thought was, oh, my gosh, they killed the prophets, didn’t they? I wonder who encouraged Jeremiah. Who encouraged Nathan?  I know I don’t have that bubbly personality that draws people in like Jim does. But what I do have is the mind of Christ in me through His Holy Spirit. I have to remain true to Him and to myself, and let Him draw those He will to the truth I have to present. And that truth doesn’t tear down; it builds up in ways we have yet to imagine.

One of the best biblical examples we have of an encourager is Barnabas. He encouraged Paul when most of the Christians wanted nothing to do with him. He also encouraged John Mark when even Paul was ready to toss him to the wolves. Be a Barnabas. Find someone who needs your encouragement today!

God bless.

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Heaven’s Perfection

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When I get to heaven, one of the things I hope to learn is to draw. I’ve always loved art, and I’ve always said I have an artist’s eye, but I lack the manual dexterity to make my vision a reality.

Now, even in heaven, I don’t expect to become a Michelangelo. What? Wait? Isn’t everything in heaven supposed to be perfection? Doesn’t that mean that without even trying, I’ll suddenly be able to paint as well as he did?

I don’t think so. I think we have a lot of misconceptions about heaven, and that’s one of them. Our conception of perfection does not necessarily define God’s.

God gifted each one of us uniquely. His definition of perfection is completion; it’s wholeness. He desires for me to become everything He intends me to be; not a copy of someone else. And I don’t think the process will stop, even with death. It will just begin a new stage of development. Like a butterfly that has shed its cocoon, I’ll be able to fly to reach new heights of endeavors, and I’ll not be held back by anything that would hinder my journey.

I’ll write. I’ll paint. I’ll travel to see all the wonders of creation He has made for me to explore and enjoy. That’s my vision of heaven. I’ve never wanted to loll on a cloud and play a harp for a thousand years (although I would like to learn to play at least one instrument somewhere along the line). I want to be useful in God’s kingdom.

Useful as what? Do you ever think about what job you’d like to have in heaven? Again, what? You mean we’ll have to work in heaven? I thought “all my toils will soon be over.” Is God really going to put me to work? Work in heaven won’t be a chore. It’ll be our joy! Until Adam sinned, his work in the Garden of Eden was a joy. It was only when sin entered, that the weeds grew up and his labor became hard and tedious. That burden will be eliminated, but there will still be work to do. How do I know? The Bible says so.  It says we will be rulers and priests, heirs of the kingdom, and His fellow workers.

The Bible teaches of a millennium, a thousand years when Christ will rule on this earth. Those born during the Great Tribulation will grow up and have children of their own. What will our role be then? I think we’ll be the preachers and Sunday School teachers, artists, writers, and the coaches and school teachers who will tell them the truth of God like never before.  Nothing will hinder the work, and the harvest will be immense! I can’t wait!

Perfection doesn’t mean I’ll ever be another Michelangelo, or even a Picasso. It means I’ll be the best me I can be, and it means the same for every one of God’s children. Most of all, it means getting to be with Jesus day in and day out. He will be the One Who makes heaven perfect. He shines so brightly, we’ll have no need of the sun. We’ll have heavenly Sonshine!

Besides meeting Jesus and seeing your loved ones, what are you most looking forward to when you get to heaven?

 

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Respect

 

I wrote this post last week,ktkards20but other things seemed more important at the time. But I keep hearing people talking about it, so maybe it’s something I need to say. It came up again in our Sunday Bible Study because we were discussing Exodus 28 about the priest’s garments.

 

We had one of the most amazing services at church Sunday we’ve had in a long time. Our choir (which I joined a couple of weeks ago) sang, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing. The verses were sung in eight different languages (including sign language) by various members of our congregation in their native tongues. It was a bit of heaven on earth! Then Dr. Steve Parr brought an uplifting sermon on worship full of quotable quotes like: “The question is not ‘Did you like it?’ The question is ‘Did God approve?’”, “It’s not a show; it’s an experience of connecting with the Living God”, and “Appreciate the differences, while remaining devoted to the Gospel.” Thank you, Dr. Parr for an incredible sermon. Please forgive me if I play James to your Paul. I do agree with every word you said, but at the same time I also believe we should “give of our best to the master.”

What am I getting at? Respect. No, I would never get upset and not be able to worship because the preacher didn’t wear a tie. I probably wouldn’t even notice! On the other hand, if the preacher wore jeans with holes in the knees, I’ll admit I wouldn’t like it. I’d still be able to worship. It wouldn’t deter me from that, but I’ll admit, I would lose some respect for that preacher! Why? Why does it matter? Maybe I am old fashioned, but I was always taught we give our best to God. I was also taught leaders set the example for others.

When I was growing up, everyone wore their best clothes to church on Sundays. We had patent leather shoes (white for summer, black for winter) frilly bobby socks, and dresses with crinolines. Obviously, I was a little girl. Boys wore sports jackets or suits with collared shirts and ties, and they spent Saturday night polishing those shoes until they shined. We don’t dress for anything like that anymore. In a way, that’s sad. I think it’s symbolic of the complete loss of the concept of respect nowadays. People don’t dress up for weddings, or for funerals, or even for a homecoming dance or prom like they used to. This lack of respect spills over into everything! Respect for parents, respect for authority, respect for country and the flag, and respect for God.

As leaders in the church of any kind, we set an example. Many people in the church today never grew up in a Christian environment. They don’t know what’s appropriate and what’s not. Yes, we should be welcoming. Yes, Jesus says, “Come, just as you are.” He accepts us the way we are. That doesn’t mean He leaves us that way. We are not to be “of the world.” We are a separated people. His people. And He expects our best. He expects respect.

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Sexual Assault or Slander?

 

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It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? I really hadn’t planned on writing about the Kavanaugh debacle this week, but I sat and watched as much of the hearing as I could stomach, and I guess I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Because of my novels, I’ve met and talked with quite a few women with sexual assault stories. I’ll go so far as to say I think most women can probably attest they’ve had some kind of sexual assault experience in their lives. I’m not making light of that in the least, but it’s simply a fact of life. That doesn’t make it right, by any means! Hopefully, things have changed a bit since I was a teenager, but back then, some guys just didn’t want to take no for an answer. Unfortunately, I think that what’s changed more is that girls aren’t even bothering to say no anymore. The result of that has been 60+ million abortions.

Nevertheless, every woman whose story I’ve ever heard knew the exact place, the day, the year, and the circumstances of her attack no matter how long ago it was. Most can probably tell you exactly what they were wearing at the time. Those details become seared in the memory. Ms. Ford has none of those facts. Since when is a man guilty until proven innocent in this country? Especially considering Ms. Ford herself admits to being under extreme influence of alcohol at the time? A man’s reputation and life are being destroyed over allegations even she wasn’t sure of until she talked with democrats who had their own agendas to pursue.

She claims she intended to remain anonymous. I’m not sure whether that’s true or not. Her background certainly suggests more of a political agenda than she admits to. She is a radical pro-abortion activist, having written numerous articles on the subject. That fact alone should have disqualified her from being brought into the hearing. Her bias against Mr. Kavanaugh could have nothing to do with anything from high school. Indeed, it’s never been proven that they ever even met! What is known is that she not only knew the Clintons, but was rabidly pro-Hillary and anti-Trump. Why was none of that mentioned in the hearings?

The reason is obvious. No one on the Republican side wanted to be seen as anything less than totally supportive of a possible sexual assault victim, and naturally, no one on the other side wanted the facts known. They’d rather see an innocent man ruined. I don’t know if Mr. Kavanaugh is innocent or not, but I certainly saw nothing this week to convince me he wasn’t.

Ezekial 7:26 says of the end times, “Disaster will come upon disaster and rumor will be added to rumor; then they will seek a vision from a prophet, but the law will be lost from the priest and counsel from the elders.” Certainly sounds descriptive of this week to me.  God forgive us

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The Big Picture

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We had a wonderful Equipped Conference for our Connect Group leadership at Hebron Sunday. A couple of illustrations stood out as what we, as Christians, need to realize most in our lives. The first was of three workers who were asked what they were doing: the first said, “laying bricks.” the second, “drawing a paycheck,” and the third, “building a cathedral.” To go along with that, he gave the story of John F. Kennedy going to NASA for the first time and talking to the janitor, who was sweeping the floors, yet told the president, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

These guys saw the big picture! I wonder if we usually do. Probably not! We become so focused on our little part, we forget it’s not about us! It’s about Him! It’ His Story! I’ve always loved the old illustration of the tapestry we only see from the bottom, but one day will see in all its glory!

We’re studying Galatians and James this quarter in our Connect Group, and some people think these books conflict, but they don’t! If I showed you an image of Lincoln and another of a building, would you think they conflicted? No, of course not! You’d know they were two sides of a penny, the basic unit of our monetary system. You’d know five pennies make a nickel, ten, a dime, and 100 a dollar. Each of us is a basic unit in God’s system. He has a purpose and a plan for each of us if we only see the big picture and do what He intends for us. We are His cathedrals.

Paul tells us, because of grace, He saved us. We didn’t do anything to earn it. We couldn’t no matter how hard we tried! If we could have, God wouldn’t have needed to send Jesus. His death would have been unnecessary! At the same time, God didn’t save us to sit on our rumps and do nothing! That’s James’ point! Because we love Jesus for what He’s done for us that we couldn’t do ourselves, we ought to want to do everything we can to serve Him! We ought to be busily building as many cathedrals as we can!

At the conference, I just “happened” to sit behind one of the second grade teachers. I taught second grade for most of forty years. She had come in late, so I shared the cathedral illustration with her. She loved it! As we prayed together, she shared that in the past she’d become frustrated with the behavior of a couple of children. She’d almost quit, but hadn’t! I shared some of my similar experiences, but we both agreed that our little “cathedrals” were more than worth any of the frustrations they may have caused us. It’s not about us! The kingdom of God is made up of imperfect people who see the big picture and do everything they can to build up others to be the best cathedrals they can be!

God bless you!

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Hospitality

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We had a great day Sunday. First I attended Hebron and heard a great message by our interim pastor, Steve Parr, and taught our Connect Group. Then I rushed to Green Tea, an excellent Thai restaurant, for lunch with Kristina, Ray and the kids, and then we all headed to 12 Stone for another excellent message. This one was by a video featuring Jeff Foxworthy and friends, and his 10 year service leading a men’s group at the Atlanta Rescue Mission.

Talk about synchronicity! The lesson and sermons were all working together to say God wants to do a great work in and through us! We came home and busily finished getting prepared for Kristina’s small group to meet at our house. I did miss going back to Hebron to hear Derek Spain preach. Derek’s sermons are usually one of the highlights of my Sundays. I especially love the traditional music there. Not that I don’t enjoy contemporary music too. I do. Sort of. What I actually enjoy is the spirit of worship. As long as that’s there, the music style doesn’t really matter so much to me.

We don’t often think of hospitality as a spiritual gift, but it’s on the list for a reason. Kristina told her group I loved to entertain, and she’s right, I do. But I don’t know that it’s one of my gifts.  I haven’t had much opportunity to do much of it lately, but I love the idea of a house full of guests laughing and enjoying themselves. The hardest part of living up on the mountain for ten years was that nobody would come to see us up there! I didn’t blame them. I wouldn’t have come to see me either! We had a foster child for three years and her social worker never once came! She tried once, I think, but got a quarter mile up the mountain, then turned around. Guess she figured Sherry had to be fine because nobody would dare bother her up there!

When I think of entertaining, I can’t help but picture the story of Jesus and Mary and Martha. I think we’re all Marthas by nature. We want everything to be perfect for our guests. Kristina made a cake yesterday, and because it sat in the pans to cool while we were at church, it didn’t come out of the pans like it should have. She wanted to throw it away. But I told her once she put the strawberries and glaze on top, it would be fine. I was right. We ate almost the whole cake. We worry so much about things that don’t matter. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. What matters is the relationships that are formed by our fellowship with other believers. God uses those times to knit us into a family-a family that together serves Him.

When was the last time you had friends over for a meal or just for dessert and coffee? Hospitality doesn’t have to be a big elaborate deal like we had Sunday night. It’s simply opening your home and your heart. It’s sharing what you have whether that’s a little or a lot.  And when your guests come, be a Mary. Put aside your worries about any minor details, and sit with them. Listen to them, and really talk. God will use the time to not only build a bond between you, but to open your heart even further to all He has in store for you. Doing His will is all that truly matters for eternity. Hospitality is a great place to start!

God bless you!

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Marriage

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Tomorrow should have been my fiftieth wedding anniversary. I say should have been because I was divorced at 40 years and three months. I have to wonder today if he even remembers, and if so, does he have regrets? Only he can answer that.

You may think because I’m divorced, I shouldn’t say anything on the topic of marriage. After all, mine failed. But I do believe in marriage. When I married I truly meant it to be “til death do us part” and if I’d had my way, that’s the way it still would be. But the state of North Carolina didn’t give me that option. It’s called a no-fault divorce. If one party no longer wishes to be married, there’s nothing the other party can do about it.

As my Facebook friend, Ginny Hamlin says in the title to her novel, Marriage Takes Three. Both parties have to give themselves over to God. It isn’t just a fifty-fifty proposition. It’s two people completely dedicating themselves to God and to each other. It’s a lot of work. Believe it or not, there’s no such thing as “fireproof.” Believe me, I know.

The Bible says Satan is a roaring lion seeking those he may devour. Christian marriages are one of his favorite targets. Two people seeking to serve the Lord are his worst nightmare! He is at his most creative in planning their destruction. They say that even in Christian marriages, fifty percent end in divorce. That actually is not true. Of Christians who regularly attend services, the figure is much closer to 10%. Unfortunately, I was part of that percentage.

I loved my husband with all my heart. Most people believed we were the perfect couple. Our kids even complained we were too affectionate for old folks. They thought it was embarrassing to have parents who still held hands at our age.

That doesn’t mean I believe the principles set forth in the movie Fireproof aren’t good. Far from it, they’re great! For the most part, we’d always followed them. We had a date night. We made time for each other, and prioritized our time together. Maybe that’s why the marriage lasted as long as it did. We’d married young, so it wasn’t supposed to last at all.

Communication is the key to marriage. It’s where mine fell apart. Secrets literally kill. My advice is if something changes, and your spouse won’t talk about it, know that something’s wrong! If you can’t explain it, but you know in your gut something is off, it is! Get to the bottom of it immediately! Don’t take excuses!

I honestly believe that if I’d been able to get my husband to talk to me, to share what was bothering him from the beginning, we’d still be married today, and celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary tomorrow. It didn’t happen, and by the time I knew the truth, it was too late. He didn’t want to make it work. Marriage does take three.

The problem is we give Satan too much power. He doesn’t have any unless we give it to him. But both have to give it to him. Not just one. Stand firm and tell him to flee! If you both want it, he has to!

God bless you all, and make your marriages truly strong!

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Our DNA

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CJ got a four-wheeler for his birthday. Like every other Pollard I ever met, he has a “need for speed!” He climbed Stone Mountain in 14 minutes on Saturday. There’s something in their genes that makes them a ball of energy. Sometimes I wish I had a tenth of it, and anybody who knows me knows I’m not exactly slow myself.

But we’re each made different and designed to function in our own way and at our own pace. When you think about it; that’s pretty neat. I don’t have to run at ninety miles an hour. I’m not meant to. I kind of have a weird personality. I call myself an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert. I’m not sure which. I can be perfectly at ease teaching a classroom full of people or sitting alone at my computer for days working on a novel. I can work circles around people half my age when I need to, or I can lie on a beach reading a novel for an entire day. Maybe that’s the writer coming out in me. The point is God has a purpose and a plan for each of our lives, and He designed us exactly to function in that plan. It’s literally written in our DNA.

I did decide to have my DNA checked on Ancestry.com this week. They say I should get the results in six to eight weeks.  One of the things I learned in my research for the novel I’m writing now was that the Cherokee (Tsalagi) were storytellers. They had a rich mythology that encompassed both the physical and spiritual realms, and customs that were strangely similar to those of the ancient Hebrews. For this reason, a few researchers have claimed they were the “lost tribe of Israel.” Don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a fun thought. Perhaps this was one reason they were one of the first tribes to be “Christianized.” (They did tend to retain some of their ancient beliefs and customs into their worship practices.) They were also herbalists, healers, artists and artisans, and educators. By the late 1700s, over 90% were literate in both Tsalagi and English, a claim few other ethnic groups could make. I truly hope what I’ve always been told is the truth, and I do have a rich heritage with them. Even if not, I’ve been greatly enriched just learning about them.

“Jeremiah  1:5 tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” and Jeremiah 29:11 adds, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” The same God who made the entire universe took infinite care to design us for His purposes. Not only that, but He knows us far better than we even know ourselves. From the foundations of time, He was stringing together the beads of our DNA to make us exactly the people He intended us to be. He knew our strengths, and He knew our weaknesses. He knows our joys and He knows our sorrows. And He is good. Have you ever seen the diagram of the laminin in the DNA strand? It’s shaped like a cross! To me, that’s so amazing! A need for Jesus is right there in it.

One of our choruses Sunday morning went “He is good all the time, All the time His good.” I couldn’t help but think of one of my former pastors, Doc Holliday. This was one of his favorite expressions! He’d have us say that line back and forth to him over and over. It made me never forget it though, and it’s something we shouldn’t ever forget! God is Good! His love is far beyond our comprehension. He went so far as to write it into our DNA.

So what should that mean to us? If God loves us, we need to accept ourselves just the way we are, stop trying to be something we’re not, but do strive to be the best us we can be. No, I’ll never beat my Grandson up Stone Mountain, and I’ll never even want to drive as fast as my kids! But I can do what I can to maintain my own physical fitness, and I can move at my pace to accomplish the goals God has set before me to accomplish.

God bless you!

 

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