Category Archives: Inspirational

Comparison Girl – A Book Review

IMG_2986Me? A Comparison Girl?  Yep.  Every single day.  Every single second of each day it seems.  Shannon Popkin in her book Comparison Girl – Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-up World pointed it out to me vividly.  In her new book, Shannon shares her Bible knowledge and God’s truth in a very easy, relatable way.

Short chapters chock full of Biblical truths show us, Comparison Girls, how to free ourselves from bondage in the areas of sin, wealth, appearance, ministries, and status. She reinforces our need to stop trying to measure up but to spend our time and resources by pouring out on others.

I found myself saying “ouch” in almost every chapter as she seemed to identify many of my struggles as a woman today in a world full of Facebook posts, filters, and airbrushed pictures.  And, whether I have an over-inflated or under-inflated opinion of myself, my opinion still focuses on self.

In chapter 2, Comparing your sin and mine, she gives a great example of how we notice others’ sin and not our own at times.  Shannon defines the “sin of disgust” as she shares a story of someone walking into the church and this person “doesn’t belong.”  She points out that some people would choose to not sit with this individual.  Just as I was reading and believing that I was one of the “good ones” who would sit with her, she prompted me to examine how I was viewing those who wouldn’t.  Was I comparing down with disgust? ” We comparison girls tend to minimize our own sin of looking down on sinful people …we fail to see our contempt as sin. Each eye-roll horrified gasp, or look of disgust cast toward others is offensive to God, their Maker.”  Ouch! But Wait!  After she points out our shortfalls or shortcomings she recuses us with Jesus’s words in a clear Bible study with relevant questions for self-discovery and scripture leading us to resolve and renewal.  Finally, each chapter closes with a pertinent scripture meditation.

This book would make a wonderful Bible study for a group of friends or a Mother/Daughter book club.  I believe this information is important for women of all ages and I believe we would benefit by learning these truths sooner rather than later.  I’m going to go share some notes with my 14-year-old daughter now!

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Connect with Shannon Popkin by visiting www.shannonpopkin.com, following her on Facebook (shanpopkin) or following her via Twitter (@ShannonPopkin).

 

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Today’s September 11, 2002?

unnamedMom: “Today’s September 11th”

Daughter: “I know.”

M: “How do you know?”

D: “I don’t know, but I put on this red, white & blue T-Shirt and I remembered.”

M: “What happened on Sept 11th?”

D: “Some bad guys drove a plane into 2 World Trade Center buildings.”

M: “Who were the bad guys?”

D: “Men from Afghanistan.”

M: “How many people died?”

D: “More than I can count.”

M: “3,000.”

D: “I think I counted to 1,000 one time.”

M: “What religion were the bad guys?”
D: “I don’t know.”

M: “What do you remember about last year at this time?”
D: “Well we were at school and everybody’s parents were picking the kids up from school and when I got home everyone was watching TV.”

M: “Did you know why the kids were being picked up?”

D: “Because parents didn’t think the kids were safe.”

M: “Did you know that at that time?”

D: “No, Miss Fair didn’t want to tell us.”

M: “Were you scared?”

D: “Not until I got home because I didn’t know what happened.”

M: “What else do you think about September 11th ?”
D: “I don’t know, everybody was sad and that’s all I remember.”

M: “How was school the day after September 11th?”

D: “Everybody was talking about it and teachers were asking questions.”
M: “What do you think the best thing that happened was because of September 11th? Anything?”
D: “I’m sure something good happened but I’m not sure what.”

M: “Why are you sure?”
D: “Because on the news they always say something good is happening in America.”

M: “Anything else you want to tell me?”
D: “I don’t think so.”

M: “Will you do anything special today because of September 11th?”
D: “Well, I’m wearing this shirt, and Mimi and Papa put up their flags, but I don’t know what else.”
M: “Do you think we should pray?”
D: “I suppose.”
M: “For anything in particular?”
D: “No, but we should pray because everyone else is….they’re having big prayer services.”
M: “So do you think prayer might be the good thing that happened because of September 11th?”

D: “Possibly.”

During the pandemic stay at home orders, I’ve taken a few moments to clean out some boxes in the basement and I came across this interview with my daughter. Very interesting. Our country was traumatized then and we have been traumatized now.  But, I want to share this interview to encourage parents to ask their kids what they are thinking about all that is going on.  And, I encourage you to write it down, so that when you come across it in 18 years and the trauma is a memory you can revisit a conversation you had with your child.  I know you will enjoy finding it as much as I enjoyed finding this.

I also share this to remind you that we have been through a tragic time in our country before and we made it to the other side…we were a little different after that, but we made it and we will again.

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Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Exodus 15:2 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him—  my father’s God, and I will exalt him!

Psalm 9:9-10 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 32:7-8 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

 

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Happy Hand Washing?

unnamedIt’s been over a month and hopefully, you are still doing the recommended mitigation to stop the spread of the COVID virus;  Wash your hands, cough into your elbow, disinfect surfaces, wear a mask and stay home.  Nothing has changed with the guidelines, but maybe it’s time to change up our hand washing protocol.  So, daily our state Secretary of Health reminds us to wash our hands for 20 seconds or “the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.”  Are you still singing Happy Birthday?

I’ve never practiced this recommendation of singing Happy Birthday because early on my sister in law recommended praying every time we wash our hands and she suggested The Lord’s Prayer.  I began my intentional handwashing routine (However, I had been washing my hands prior to the pandemic, but believe it or not, I was doing it mindlessly out of habit.)  Since the daily reminder, I give it much more thought. I’ve posted prayers, quotes, and sayings by all of my sinks to encourage the rest of my family to join me in prayer.

My brother in law shared the following prayer on Palm Sunday so I printed it out and posted it:

Almighty God, who sees that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I loved the part about having NO power to help ourselves and keeping us outwardly and inwardly free from adversity. This spoke volumes to me at times.

However, my recent post (on the mirror not on social media!) is a poem by John Ryland in 1777.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies!

Ever gracious, ever wise!

All my times are in Thy hand,

All events at Thy command.

 

Plagues and deaths around me fly,

Till He bids I cannot die:

Not a single shaft can hit

Till the God of love thinks fit.

After reading it multiple times a day, I realized that it is the perfect length.  It is also easily sung to the tune of Happy Birthday.  Go ahead, read it again, but this time, change the tune, and sing it out loud and join me in prayer!

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Avoid godless chatter

IMG_1956It’s March 17, 2020, and it’s a new day. I desperately need a new day because I haven’t been doing well the past few.  On the outside, to most observers, I have probably seemed pretty typical but inside, there has been a mess of thoughts, confusion, and fatigue. There’s simply been a lot going on in my life (& everyone’s life) that has been wearing me down.  However, this morning, I realized that once again, I, and my thoughts, are my own worst enemy…and today I recognized that my mouth is also involved!

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. — 2 Tim 2:16 NIV

OH, the chatter I have indulged in! I’ve discussed health information that I know nothing about, I bantered about politics I know nothing about, I’ve made assumptions about people, I know nothing about, I’ve speculated, I’ve theorized, I’ve made suppositions, I’ve guessed, I’ve projected and I’ve judged.  I have not been short of words and theories.  And, guess what, It hasn’t helped a bit. There is still a virus, there are still differing opinions about how to handle it, there are continued cancelations, shortages on supplies and more sick people each day.  My chatter hasn’t changed a thing, except for my mood, and not for the better.

So far today, I haven’t said anything about the current worldwide situation to anyone (I haven’t seen another human yet today, but still!) I intend today to not discuss anything that will not be uplifting and/or encouraging to someone. I won’t be able to do this without God’s help.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. –Psalm 141:3

And, since the Psalms were written many years ago and don’t mention social media or texting, I’m assuming I will need a guard for my fingers too!  Do you?

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The Conclusion of the Matter

IMG_1904“How old is your Dad now?” I feel like my husband has been hearing this for years. Living to 94 is quite a feat and living to be 94 well is really amazing. Up until very recently, Senior has been living life to the fullest and he will be missed.

George Alexander Beck lived a very good life and is leaving us with a huge hole in our hearts. Some called him George, some called him Dad, many called him Papa and I called him Senior. It’s a struggle to have two Georges in the family, and I was never comfortable calling my husband Junior or Georgie. For a while, I called my husband MY George – but then I had a son and realized my mother-in-law might take issue with my calling her son MINE. I started calling her husband Senior.

“Senior” has a few definitions: one is someone a specified number of years older, and Senior was certainly that. Older than many. Getting older had its challenges but he fought them tirelessly. In 2001, Senior needed to go on dialysis after surgery and we were certain he would decline after that, but he bounced back…and he continued to bounce back time and time again. Last week, I referred to him as the Bounceback King because I had texted my kids in the morning to alert them that he had had a bad night and it didn’t look good… and then when we visited in the evening he was eating a cheeseburger.

I can’t even recall how many times this man bounced back from a bad prognosis, but I’m sure glad he did! And trips to Florida? I think in his mind, each of his last dozen or so were his last. In 2005, he was going through a rough patch and was sure he wouldn’t be able to go back to Florida – so he told Kevin if he flew to Florida and drove the car back to PA, Kevin could have it because Senior certainly wouldn’t be needing it anymore. When Senior recovered that time, Kevin had to meekly ask if he had to give the car back. Of course, he didn’t and the car is still on the road today. Some attribute Senior’s good health to his healthy lifestyle as well as staying engaged and aware. This approach made him able to fight the good fight for a long time, and I don’t know many people who can stay on top of things as well as he did.

My husband recently warned his sister Pam that her taking the stairs to the 6th floor would ensure her longevity. Not sure he could age as gracefully as Senior, he, on the other hand, is considering developing some new bad habits or ramping up some of the old ones. As for whether or not Senior had bad habits… well….I’m the daughter in law and I’m not at liberty to say. He may not have had bad habits, but he did have fun ones. I remember the days of him having a Manhattan for happy hour, but as he got older he chose a glass of wine instead. Even that became a challenge in the later years because, to get his money’s worth, he always bought the bigger economy bottle. Too heavy for him to carry or lift, so he had to wait for someone to stop by to bring it in from the car.

He loved his grandchildren and was always proud of them. Even if they goofed up, he was pleased with how they handled themselves. He spoiled them rotten with his time and attended countless games, recitals, and programs and if he couldn’t attend, he sat through a private performance in the den. Each grandchild here has more than one Papa story they would love to share with you.

Another definition of Senior is: “holding an authoritative position.” Senior held his positions regally and with grace. I have never heard an unkind word spoken of him, and countless people talk about how things were when he was in charge of the plant. “It hasn’t been the same since the Becks left.” What a legacy to leave. This area appreciates the Beck’s and their leadership. Senior led with humility and grace. He was a very humble man.

I’ve heard “each time someone dies, a library burns”, and this couldn’t be truer than for Senior. I think it is what we will all miss most. His vast knowledge of so many things and his ability to retain it all.

One of my fondest memories of Senior is about the books I would read while we were in Florida. I love to read, but I tend to gloss over unfamiliar words. In Florida, though, I always read with a pencil and a piece of paper to jot down words I didn’t know. After dinner, Senior and I would discuss my list, and I was amazed at his knowledge. I gave him a word, he’d say what he thought it meant and then I would look it up. He was like a talking dictionary. One time while reading an Amish Fiction, I gave him a word and he casually said, “I think that would be a needle used for quilting” and he was right!

So, our library burned. It’s tragic, but it’s also a blessing that we had so many years to visit this free library that was always open for us.

Last week, when he wasn’t always clear and was so tired he struggled to speak, he still amazed me with his knowledge. I had shared some scriptures with him about how Nothing would happen to him without his Lord being with him, and that nothing would happen that he couldn’t handle with God’s power and grace. I told him that I wondered what the Lord would say to him at the pearly gates when he got there, knowing all that the two of them had been through over the years. He groggily said, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Even in his confusion and fatigue, he had the memory and ability to quote scripture. Remarkable to most, typical for Senior. Ecclesiastes begins with ‘Vanity of Vanities’ or “meaningless meaningless, everything is meaningless” but it ends with
“here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.”

We lose libraries all the time in the people we aren’t taking the time to visit and the calls we are too busy to make. Senior gave us ample opportunities to learn and grow, and we will all miss that – but I think that he would want us to keep seeking answers for ourselves. And, I think he would want us to turn to each other (& of course, take care of Mimi).

Life isn’t meaningless if it is lived in the way Solomon intended in Ecclesiastes, and Senior lived accordingly. I believe he hopes we will, too.

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The Conclusion of the Matter – Ecclesiastes 12:9-14

Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd.[b] 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

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Wasted Time

IMG_1707I’ve begun crocheting again.  I thought it might help keep my hands busy and out of the chip bag in the evenings. I have in the past crocheted squares and thought that eventually, I would have enough squares to sew together to make an afghan and that is still my hope.  However, since I work without a pattern and I never use the same crochet hook twice, it is very difficult for me to get squares uniform in size.  I count the stitches and rows, but depending on my mood it seems, my stitches vary. As I began again, I made a chain that appeared to be the right size when compared to a completed square and I stitched away.  As the square got bigger, the more different in size it appeared.  I spent the next bit of time, pulling the stitches and rolling the yarn back into a ball.  Not to be defeated, I started again, a few more stitches in the initial chain and off we go! I was pleased with how good the patch looked yet the size was wrong again.  I once again pulled all the stitches out and rewound the yarn. What did I have to show for myself at the end of the evening? Nothing.  I did not complete a single square.  I spent an evening accomplishing nothing. I was shocked to realize it.

However, before I picked up the crochet hook, I’m ashamed to admit how many evenings I picked up my smartphone and spent time scrolling Facebook, playing  Sodoku and recently enjoying a newly found obsession, BlockuDoku! At the end of the evening, I put my phone on the charger and went to bed.  I had not completed anything those evenings either.  I had spent an evening and accomplished nothing. It simply didn’t register to me that these two things were the same.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says “So be very careful how you live. Do not live like people who aren’t wise. Live like people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity. The days are evil. So don’t be foolish. Instead, understand what the Lord wants.” 

I don’t know if the Lord wants an afghan or not, but I do know that He wants me to use my time wisely and I’ve been feeling a little nudge lately that playing games on my phone is not necessarily a wise decision.

Are you guilty of wasting time? Do you spend time complaining or gossiping or procrastinating? Watching too much TV,  playing video games or surfing the web? Do you lose time looking for lost items because you didn’t put them where they belong in the first place? These are all common ways people waste time. Let’s all remember that our days are numbered. We often say there are only so many hours in a day and that we don’t have enough time, but are we using all of the time we have been gifted wisely or are we throwing it away?

I happen to have a few spare minutes right now, do you think I’ll feel better if I pick up a paintbrush or a cell phone? a broom or a needle? a book or a remote? So many options!  I hope I choose a wise one!

 

 

 

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Lord, Why Don’t I Trust You?

242Oh Lord, why don’t I trust you? I should. I really should. I’ve read your Word long enough to know that your promises are in there and I have seen them play out in real life and yet I still don’t always trust you quick enough.

I just watched a video of my son riding his bike across the country while staying with people he met on the internet. He returned safely. That should prove it.

My other son took a gun, loaded it, headed to the woods and shot his thumb. The healing of that thumb without surgical intervention is amazing not to mention the many blessings in the miracles and the people that surrounded us during that time. You certainly proved you were trustworthy then.

My daughter traveled to foreign countries and stayed at random Air BnB’s as a college student. A daughter’s dream, a mother’s nightmare. You remained faithful.

My other daughter got very sick while living states away, went through a spinal tap, medical tests of all sorts and eventually was simply healed. You are so good.

Custody battles with my youngest daughter resulted in visits with abusive parents unsupervised for 4 years before parental rights were terminated and we could ensure her safety and you were with her and us each step of the way to work out your plan of permanence. I doubted, but you stayed true.

There have been broken hearts, car accidents, shootings, diagnosis, mental health emergencies, complicated pregnancies, a flood, sicknesses, risky travel, legal problems & loss and you have masterfully helped us through it all.  You continue to amaze me with your presence yet I still question at times and it is still hard for me to trust. And sometimes I can’t trust you with the littlest of things.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It appears that I’m not only distrustful, but I’m also insane. Because God, you have proven time and time again that you are able and willing to help me in all that I do and yet I question. Am I expecting you not to? Am I expecting a different result?

In addition to being distrustful and insane, I am also wrong.

God, you are trustworthy. You have proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I hope I can remember that the next time! Forgive me for my unbelief.

Readers, I challenge you to make a list of all the things you didn’t think would work out the way they did.  I think you will see that you can trust him too!

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Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  –Psalm 20:7

Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. –Isaiah 26:4

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. –Psalm 56:3

 

 

 

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I Got Nothing

fea-nothingHonestly, some days I get so wrapped up in things that are out of my control.  I feel like I have no clear direction, no motivation, no control.  I don’t know where to turn and even though my Christian training tells me that I am to turn to God, I’m not even sure how to do that when I face overwhelming circumstances.  I got nothing. Which as it turns out is exactly where God wants me because when I “got nothing” that is when I solely rely on Him. He’s got my nothings covered because His word says that:

Nothing will ever happen to me that God does not already know about. –Psalm 139:1-4

Nothing will ever happen to me that is a mistake. –Psalm 139:4,16

Nothing will ever happen that I cannot handle by God’s power & grace. — 2 Corinth 1:9-10

Nothing will ever happen that will not eventually be used by God for some good purpose in my life. –Romans 8:28 and Nothing will ever happen to me without God’s presence. –Matt 28:20

As I study more about nothing, I realize that I should Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let my requests be made known to God.–Phil 4:6;

So, when I feel like “I got nothing,” I read those words and realize I have everything.  My mood changes, my focus changes and I can get on with my day.  I can look outward and attempt to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;–Phil 2:3

It looks like I better look for ways to stop focusing on nothing and myself and start doing something for someone else!  Maybe you should too.

 

 

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Never Pray For Patience

Never-Pray-for-Patience

A woman at church overheard me say under my breath, “God grant me patience” as I rolled my eyes and saw my kids were getting into.  She quickly corrected me and said, “Never pray for patience or the Lord will give you lots of opportunities to work on it!”  I tend to believe her and now I have another situation that I think the Lord may be giving me to work on.  Stupid people.  Exasperating people. Annoying people. Frustrating people. In general, People! There are people in my life who I find very difficult to work with and yet, the Lord keeps putting them in my path. (OK, well some are family, so it makes sense that I’d have them in my life, but others seem rather random.) I have asked God countless times why I have problems dealing with these people and it seems the more I ask, the more he grants me the opportunity to work on my problem-solving skills.  This concept doesn’t appear to be a new idea.

Stepping Heavenward by Mrs. E. Prentiss was published in 1869 and the lead character, Katherine, in this book struggles as I do. She asked her older, wiser, friend Mrs. Campbell what she would do about it.  Mrs. Campbell’s response gives us all something to ponder. “If I were living with them and they made me unhappy, I would ask God to relieve me of this trial if He thought it best. If He did not think it best, I would then try to find out the reason. He might have two reasons. One would be the good they might do me. the other, the good I might do them.”

Interesting perspective. The next time you are faced with a person that you find uncongenial or one who misunderstands you, think about what good they might be for you or what good you might be for them.  It definitely sounds like a challenge to consider.  And, our character in the book struggled as well and asked: “what if neither party can be of the least use to the other?”

Wise Mrs. Campbell explains that our friend, Katherine may be missing the point. She claims that disagreeable people do us good by allowing us to practice self-denial and self-control that their mere presence demands.

There you have it. Even if we think we aren’t doing well getting along with others and even if others bother us and cause us grief, we can applaud ourselves for simply staying in control and not killing them! Practice self-denial and self-control and we will learn to live in peace with all. And, the sooner we can master it, the less we will be given the opportunity to practice it!

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 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. — Titus 1:8 

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Secretly Do Good Deeds

IMG_1557I recently hosted a used book sale to raise funds for Haiti.  Though I don’t have any young children in my home and I have retired from selling children’s books, I still am always drawn to the picture books.  I love the illustrations and the often rhyming text.  This book sale was no different.  I found myself picking up the hardback, colorful books and enjoying the simple stories.

Secretly Do Good Deeds by Melody Carlson was such a fun book with a great message. Someone did a good deed for this little protagonist without getting caught and it prompted her into doing good deeds in private for others.  The author’s story idea isn’t original, it comes straight from Matthew 6:1-4 in the Bible.

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  –Mat 6:1-4 NIV

The author ends her story with “And now I will share my fun secret with you. It’s something Lord Jesus said that we should do. “Do your good deeds when no one can see, And God will reward you eternally.”  That ends the story, that ends the book, but I hope it doesn’t end the message.  Since reading that book, I’ve been thinking about how I could do good deeds in secret and I must admit, I’ve come up short.  (So if you’ve recently been the recipient of someone doing something nice for you in secret, it wasn’t me!) This week, however, I may try even harder and I challenge you to do the same!  Let’s see if we can make someone’s day a little brighter and honor God and His word at the same time.

Shhhhh!  Don’t tell anyone!

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The World Is Not a Stage

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—play actors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. –Matthew 6:1-4 MSG

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