Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

A while back, I wrote a Daily Guideposts devotion about how I needed to be more gentle-one of the fruits of the Spirit. This came about after visiting two local congregations within the same week and listening to two sermons on Scripture about living by the Spirit (Galatians 5). I shared how growing up in New York City showed me that being tough was the survival spirit.

Soon after it was published I received a letter from Julie, a former parishioner. “Today I read your devotion in Daily Guideposts. You questioned the quality of gentleness in yourself: Pablo, you certainly are gentle. I have witnessed that gentleness in you as a pastor, husband, and father.” She reminded me that she and her husband grew up in New York City, and they, too, learned that having a tough manner was the way to survive.

Julie’s letter touched me deeply. She took time out of her day to write and encourage me. Sometimes we forget that others are watching us as we carry out our faith, vocation, and lives.

I was being too hard on myself Julie helped me to identify why I felt the need to have a more gentle spirit. It wasn’t because my actions and personality were lacking in gentleness. It was because of where I came from and what I did to protect myself.

Lord, thank You for the people who care and encourage us and for the ways they do so in our lives.

–Pablo Diaz

Digging Deeper: Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 3:13





A minister dies and is waiting in line at the Pearly Gates.  Ahead of him is a guy who’s dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans.

Saint Peter addresses this guy, “Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you to the Kingdom of Heaven?”

The guy replies, “I’m Joe Cohen, taxi-driver, of Noo Yawk City.”  Saint Peter consults his list.  He smiles and says to the taxi-driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The taxi-driver goes into Heaven with his robe and staff, and it’s the minister’s turn.  He stands erect and booms out, “I am Joseph Snow, pastor of Saint Mary’s for the last forty-three years.”

Saint Peter consults his list.  He says to the minister, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

“Just a minute,” says the minister.  “That man was a taxi-driver, and he gets a silken robe and golden staff.  How can this be?”


“Up here, we work by results,” says Saint Peter.  “While you preached, people slept; while he drove, people prayed.”


Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. -Psalm 131:2 (NKJV)

Even though I’ve done it year after year, I can’t drop off my children for their first day of school without being transported back to their first day of kindergarten. I want to stay. I want to hover. I want to be

a helicopter parent.

But they won’t let me. I mean my kids won’t let me. They’re older now. They’re pros at going to school. But I’m not. I think of that future day when they will fly from the nest for good. I hold back tears.

The kids wave good-bye, turn their backs, and head into the high school. I drive away reluctantly. It’s for their good, I’m thinking. They need this. But I’m not convinced. To me, they still look like babies wearing cartoon backpacks, trotting off to a land of crayons and wall art.

“Like a weaned child,” I read in Psalm 131:2 (NKjV) , “is my soul within me.”

A weaned child-it’s beautiful and tragic all at once. It isn’t only this way with me and my kids, I realize. It is this way with all of life. We come into this world with nothing, and that is how we depart.

I feel that: the weaning, the separating, the letting go is an inevitable part of parenthood. I don’t like it, but I need it. My kids need it. It is God’s way for us in this world. A lump forms in my throat. I drive around the block to make sure they’re okay … and to pray. It is, after all, the first day of school,

Lord, wean me gently of all things, that I might cling to the one thing I can never lose-my life with You, forever.

-Bill Giovannetti

Digging Deeper: Matthew 10:39



If men are so competent, how come you always see signs reading “DANGER – MEN WORKING” ?


The wife likes to sing, and whenever she begins,  the husband heads outside.  Hurt, she asked him,  “Don’t you like my singing?”

“Of course, dear,” he replied.  “I just want to make sure the neighbors know I’m not beating you.”


”My harp is turned to mourning, and my flute to the voice of those who weep. “-Job 30:31 (NKJV)

People in mourning sometimes turn to alcohol. or vice or something else that shouldn’t be turned to. I turn to Cralgslist,

For the uninitiated, Craigslist is an online trading service. One category is Free Stuff, featuring my all-time favorite adjective. After my father passed, I went from fan of free stuff to virtual addict. I brought

home shipping crates (to store firewood): three printers (one actually worked); and a used futon that (1) will be rebuilt as a backsplash and (2) already threatens my marriage because it currently resides on the

back porch.

Why the sudden need to recycle every last discarded item? After many fevered pickup trips, it occurred to me that maybe my efforts to rescue everything were a vain attempt to resurrect what I myself cannot

resurrect: my father, who was a kid from. the Depression and saved and reused everything. In my grief, I did the same, an unwitting attempt to reclaim what was lost to me.

Yes, I realize that there’s another Father Who saves what seems to be lost. But my dad’s death may have claimed-e-at least for a while-a second victim: my faith. Eventually I’ll recover. In the meantime, I’m

waterproofing the new backsplash before I put it in. I notice it beads up with every fallen tear.

Lord, my faith isn’t what it used to be.

Let me see You in what l do; let me see You in my father’s memory.

-Mark Collins

Digging Deeper: Psalm 116:1-2; Hosea 2:19-20




To bake a moist ham: Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan; wrap the ham in aluminum foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke for a sumptuous brown gravy.


To remove grease from clothes:  Empty a can of Coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains.


It will also clean road haze from your windshield.





Sing to the Lord a new song …. –Psalm 96:1 (NIV)

 We need to talk discharge,” the social worker said. Maggie had been an inpatient for five weeks, three times longer than insurance normally allows. Being on the unit had triggered panic attacks, a suicide attempt, and rage. In many ways my daughter was in worse shape than when she was admitted.

We were told that Maggie couldn’t return to outpatient treatment until she completed a step-down program, yet none of the programs in New York City would take her. Our choices were to send Maggie to a state facility in the Bronx, which we couldn’t tour and no one would talk about, or to a twenty-eight-day private program in Connecticut that cost a staggering amount of money.

The social worker told us to apply to both places because a bed wasn’t guaranteed in either. We agreed and prayed for a cloud to lead us through the desert. Days passed. “I’m trying to follow Your will, Lord,” I prayed testily, “but I can’t see it! Could You at least show me the way not to go?”

I turned to Psalm 96, one of my go-to Scriptures when I’m stuck. Sometimes the best way through a knot is to hold on to what I do know, rather than fret over what I don’t. I find comfort in praising the Lord, even if I don’t always understand what He wants.

The following day I spoke with a doctor who had heard about our discharge dilemma. She was quiet and then said carefully, “Well, I do know some kids who have come out of State okay.”

I went home and, using the profits from the sale of our apartment the previous summer, wrote out a very large check for the hospital in Connecticut.

Father, I will sing You?’ praises even-especially-when I feel lost.

-Julia Attaway


Digging Deeper: Psalms 34:1, 62:8



A sixth grade class is doing some spelling drills. The teacher asks Tommy if he can spell ‘before.’

He stands up and says,  “Before, B-E-P-H-O-R.”

The teacher says, “No, that’s wrong. Can anyone else spell before?”

Another little boy stands up and says, “Before, B-E-F-O-O-R.”

Again the teacher says, “No, that’s wrong.” The teacher asks, “Little Johnny, can you spell ‘before’?”

Little Johnny stands up and says, “Before, B-E-F-O-R-E.”

“Excellent Johnny, now can you use it in a sentence?”

Little Johnny says, “That’s easy. Two plus two be fore.”


‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” -Luke 20:17 (NIV)

 It may be the most famous statue in the world. It’s certainly one of the hardest to see! You wait in a long line outside Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. Inside at last, you inch your way through the crowd toward the niche where it stands on a marble pedestal.

Even if I was here alone, I thought, the day I visited the Accademia, would I really see it? Its very popularity has robbed its impact. It’s everywhere you look-an exact replica in front of the Palazzo Vecchio where the original stood for four hundred years; a colossal one towering from a hilltop; David postcards in every newsstand; miniature Davids in every souvenir shop.

All this since a twenty-six-year-old sculptor was handed a seemingly impossible challenge: to carve a larger-than-life David from an “unusable” block of marble. The enormous piece of stone that Michelangelo was given to work with had already been hacked and carved and chipped at by two previous sculptors, each of whom had given up, stymied by the marble’s unyielding imperfections. And so the huge flawed stone was abandoned. Nicknamed “the Giant,” it had lain in the stonemasons’ yard

in pouring rain and searing heat and winter freezes for thirty-five years.

And young Michelangelo? He studied the sleeping giant until a graceful form appeared in his mind that would take advantage of the very imperfections that had to be cut away, and of the nicks and gouges left by the previous sculptors too. The form of a young man at the instant of turning, hips and shoulders twisting, a figure poised on the verge of action, as David had never been portrayed before. Flawed marble? Or the inspiration that limits themselves call forth.

Father, show me in the flawed marble of my life the unique form that You all along have seen.

-Elizabeth Sherrill

Digging Deeper: Jeremiah 18:1-6



Little Mary was at her first wedding and gaped at the entire ceremony. When it was over, she asked her mother, “Why did the lady change her mind?”

Her mother asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well, she went down the aisle with one man, and came back with another one.”


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. -Psalm 19:14 (ESV)

I was rushing across the lobby of my apartment building, lugging a bunch of groceries and hoping to make it into the waiting elevator the sole occupant of said elevator allowed the door to close in my face. And out of my mouth came a word I don’t like to say and won’t repeat here.

Sooner or later most of us give in to the occasional swear word, even if it’s under our breath. I’m never happy about it. God gave us the gift of language and we shouldn’t debase it by cursing.

Experts say swearing is a part of every culture and remarkably consistent in its content. Even stroke patients who have lost the capacity for speech have been known to let fly with a volley of obscenities. My own mother-in the final stages of Alzheimer’s-let loose with a few choice words I never even dreamed she knew.

Linguists speculate that this is because the area of the brain that controls swearing is different and more primitive than the part that controls normal speech. It is connected to emotions like anger and fear, a kind of verbal safety valve, supporting the theory that swearing was a way to circumvent more violent responses in early humans. Still, we hear so much of it these days that swearing has become offensively common-place. Common curses in the eighteenth century included “Cadzooks” (lor God’s eyes) and “zounds” (God’s wounds).

Like most bad habits I struggle to break, the only solution is to humbly ask God for help. He hears all, even the whispers of our hearts.

Father, our tongues are meant to praise You.

Please help me keep mine pure.

-Edward Grinnan

Digging Deeper: Psalm 34:12-14; Colossians 3:8-10; James 3:5-6



To clean a toilet:  Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl. Let the “real thing” sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous china.

To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a crumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola.

To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.

To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.


Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. … -Ecclesiastes 7:8 (ESV)

I admit that in the grand scheme of life, the placement of a septic tank should be a minor consideration. But when I arrived at our cabin in Alabama and discovered that a new tank had been put in our front yard, I was distraught. There on the grass-covered drive that wound around the front of my “place of peace,” two large, ugly green lids rose a foot aboveground.

How could my eyes ever get past such ugliness to rest on the lake beyond? Was the sacred space where my father before us had watched the sunset spoiled forever?

The more I thought about this terrible intrusion, the more agitated I became. It was an eyesore. The grassy drive was useless. I couldn’t let go of my discontent.

And then one day a pile of boards appeared.

“I’m building a deck over the septic tank,” David announced.

“A deck?”

Soon, he was hard at work, digging footings, measuring and boards, setting posts. The structure rose up over the tank and became a part of the landscape.

I bought four red lawn chairs and arranged them on the deck.

“This is the most perfect spot I’ve ever seen for viewing the sunset, a friend exclaimed as we sat watching the explosion of color dancing across the lake.

“Yes, it is,” I answered, casting David a mischievous smile. “We call it our ‘sunset deck'”

Father, Your love never fails as You turn bad into good.

-Pam Kidd

Digging Deeper: John 16:20; Romans 14:19



~ Q. Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous?

  1. Because no one wants to quit.


~ If not for chocolate, there would be no need for control top pantyhose.

An entire garment industry would be devastated.


~ Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your list of things to do today. That

way, at least you’ll get one thing done.


Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy. -Psalm 96:11-12 (NRSV)

My neighbor, Jim, sits on his porch in northern New England every summer evening at dusk, waiting for the deer to arrive. He lives on the southern edge of state forest land, and there’s a small pond behind his house, surrounded by a birch grove. That’s where the deer come each evening, and there on the porch sat Jim, as usual, at dusk in early August, when he began to hear a snorting sound.

Now, deer don’t usually snort. One generally sees a deer long before one hears it make any sound at all. This was not, of course, a deer.

Jim’s eyes popped when he looked to his left and witnessed a bull moose pulling up to the pond. In fact, he gasped. The moose looked up and saw Jim sitting there. A bull moose is worth about four or five

Jims, and an aggressive one is not to be quietly “watched.” That’s an animal to run from! But Jim was safely on his porch, and did I mention that his porch sits about ten feet above the lawn and the pond below?

It does. So, Jim had the strange experience of being a bit terrified, even as he knew that there was no real danger.

“The feeling of being in the presence of that animal was something I can’t even describe,” Jim told me. “Awesome: that’s the only word for it.”

You are awesome, God. If you didn’t love me, and I didn’t know it, as I do, I might be afraid. Instead, I’m just in awe.

-Jon Sweeney

Digging Deeper: Job 12:7-10



The Smith’s were proud of their family tradition. Their ancestors had come to America on the Mayflower. They had included Senators and Wall Street wizards. They decided to compile a family history, a legacy for their children and grandchildren. They hired a fine author. Only one problem arose — how to handle that great-uncle George, who was executed in the electric chair.

The author said he could handle the story tactfully.

The book appeared. It said “Great-uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution, was attached to his position by the strongest of ties, and his death came as a great shock.”


A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. -Ezekiel 36:26 (KJV)

I  grow weary of talking about the need for racial reconciliation, but I keep writing and praying about it because our failure to love one another grieves the heart of God.

Stacey sits down at the table across from me. I see her only in the summer when I come to Bible Witness Camp in rural Illinois. Her twin daughters are campers, and Stacey shares her creativity and resources planning special moments for the girls. We smile, exchanging pleasantries and catching up.

“I’ve been living on a cul-de-sac for ten years,” she says to me. “When we moved in, the woman across the street wouldn’t speak to us. The twins would wave, and she would turn her head or rush back into her home.”

I see the pain in Stacey’s eyes, pain that we hoped our children would never know. ”And I knew she was a Christian. She would have yard sales to benefit her church.”

Stacey and I have never talked about race. I take a deep breath. Lord, can’t one heart change?

Stacey continues. “Recently, I was outside and my neighbor called to me. She said she needed to talk. She apologized. She said she owed my husband and me both an apology for how she had treated us. She said I had a nice family and that she was wrong for how she had behaved. My neighbor and I were standing in the middle of the street, crying. And she kept her promise. She came over and apologized to my husband too.”

“How miraculous!” I say through the tears. “God is amazing!” Her neighbor’s apology and Stacey’s willingness to tell the story warm my heart and encourage me.

Lord, thank You for reassurance. Help us to love. Turn our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

– Sharon Foster

 Digging Deeper: Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14, 6:9; 1 John 4:20



Top Ten Sayings of Biblical Mothers

  1. Samson! Get your hand out of that lion. You don’t know where it’s

been! (Judges 14:5-8)

  1. David! I told you not to play in the house with that sling! Go

practice your harp. We pay good money for those lessons!

  1. Abraham! Stop wandering around the countryside and get home for


  1. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! Leave those clothes outside, you

smell like a dirty ol’ furnace!

  1. Cain! Get off your brother! You’re going to kill him some day!
  2. Noah! No, you can’t keep them! I told you, don’t bring home any more


  1. Gideon! Have you been hiding in that wine press again? Look at your

clothes! (Judges 6:11)

  1. James and John! No more burping contests at the dinner table, please.

People are going to call you the sons of thunder! (Mark 3:17)

  1. Judas! Have you been in my purse again?!

1.Jesus! Close the Door! Do you think, you were born in a barn?


“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it; I, the Lord, have created it.” -Isaiah 45:8 (NIV)

Water droplets streaked the glass. Rain again. Our trip to a north Georgia lake was besieged by rain, so we had hoped that the fifty percent chance for precipitation on day three might come out in our favor. It was not to be. We found ourselves facing another day stuck inside the cabin. ”At least it’s not storming,” my husband, Brian, said. Olivia tumbled into the kitchen as only toddlers can, felling spices, rattling pots, and shining smiles all the way. “I want go in my boat,” she said, referring to the bright red kayak that Poppa had tethered to his own orange canoe the last time we’d been at the lake.

“You know what?” I said. “Let’s do it! We’ll be wet anyway.”

Grandparenrs, parents, uncles, aunts, and Olivia got dressed and made their way through the drizzle down to the dock, where we dragged out the paddleboards, tethered the kayaks, and took turns

cannonballing into the smooth waters.

We splashed, squealed, and swam until we were exhausted. The pictures I have from that day show Olivia beaming from the back of Poppas paddleboard, a tiny ray of light on a dreary day.

Every so often I am reminded to be grateful, to think outside of myself, and to have some perspective. What’s a little rain when spending a vacation surrounded by loving family, warm and safe in our

cabin? We often talk about that day and how Olivia reminded us all of what was really important.

Lord, without the rain and shadows, I’d never appreciate the warmth of the sun. Thank You.

-Ashley Kappel

Digging Deeper: Deuteronomy 11:14; Job 5:10; Jeremiah 51:16




“How was your golf game, dear?” asked Jack’s wife Edna.

“Well, I was hitting pretty well, but my eyesight’s gotten so bad I couldn’t see where the ball went.”

“But you’re seventy-five years old, Jack!” admonished his wife, “Why don’t you take my brother Ronald along?”

“But he’s eighty-five and doesn’t even play golf anymore,” protested Jack.

“But he’s got perfect eyesight.  He could watch your ball,” Edna pointed out.

The next day Jack teed off with Ronald looking on.  Jack swung, and the ball disappeared down the middle of the fairway.  “Do you see it?” asked Jack.

“Yup,” Ronald answered.

“Well, where is it?” yelled Jack, peering off into the distance.

“I forgot.” Ronald replied.


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