Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. -Colossians 3: 13 (NIV)
My ex-husband and I stood over our boys with smiles for the birthday picture. Brandon was fixated on his cake, while my little one turned around and excitedly exclaimed, “The whole family!”
This was our first family picture in five years. For all that time, we had not occupied the same space for more than a few seconds and we barely spoke. Now we were celebrating our son’s birthday for the entire weekend in a rented vacation house with my ex’s family.
That night, I kept looking at the picture with tears in my eyes. “Thank You, Jesus,” I prayed. “Thank You for getting us through all the pain and bringing us here.”
I thought about this restoration of friendship with my ex-husband, I thought about the memoir I wrote of my journey to single motherhood, which would soon be published. The sweetness of those recent moments all came from pain and the act of facing it, wrestling with it, letting it go, and moving on from it.
It’s easy to snuggle up with hurt and anger and defend it as a right. It feels good. But as the four of us sang “Happy Birthday” to our little boy, surrounded by family, I knew that this place of forgiveness was so much better.
Lord, thank You for the power of forgiveness.
-Karen Valentin
Digging Deeper: Ephesians 4:31-32
Little Johnny had bought Grandma a book for her birthday and wanted to write a suitable inscription. He  racked his brain until suddenly he remembered that his father had a book with an inscription of which he was very proud, so Johnny decided to use it. You can imagine Grandma’s surprise when she opened her book, a Bible, and found neatly inscribed the following phrase: “To Grandma, with the compliments of the author.”


“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” -Matthew 5:8 (NIV)
I could’ve done that,” I said to my friend as I stared at a half-massaged lump of clay in the Guggenheim Museum.
“Yeah, but you didn’t,” she replied, and we chuckled.
The whole art exhibit up to that point had felt like a clever trick by the artist: get a bunch of people to pay to look at pieces of “art” that essentially amount to a large gray cylinder, or something that looks like a giant gray macaroni noodle, or a photo of cut-up hot dogs and household items stacked on top of each other.
But as we continued around the museum, we found pieces with which we really connected.
At the very top floor was the last display in the show. The room was dark and at the top of one wall was a row of projectors. The projectors cast questions in different directions and different languages on the other three walls and the ceiling. Just as winding as the writing were the questions. They ran the gamut-love, life, self-awareness, the universe. Some were silly while others hit so close to home that they were gut wrenching. It was the single most authentic creation of human experience that I had ever witnessed with any art form.
Michelle and I-in awe of this brave, honest display of vulnerability– sat on a bench in the back of the room under the projectors and read each and every question.
God, thank You for showing me examples of people who are willing to be bravely vulnerable and who reveal their hearts, May we all receive each other and our vulnerabilities with awe, compassion, and love. –Natalie Perkins
Digging Deeper: 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139:14-16; Romans 12:1-5
DEAR PASTOR (letters from the kids)
Dear Pastor, Who does God pray to? Is there a God for God? Sincerely, Christopher. Age 9, Titusville
Dear Pastor, Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class. Carla. Age 10,  Salina
Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished. Ralph, Age 11,  Akron
Dear Pastor, How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers?  Sincerely, Marie. Age 9, Lewiston


“But I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” -John 15:15 (NAS) I sat on the playground with my. granddaughter Grace-her invited guest at an autumn class picnic. How are you liking your new school?” I asked. It’s not the easiest thing to move to a new locale when you’re going into first grade. When you’ve lived in small-town Alaska and gone to preschool and kindergarten at the same rural site. You land in the “big city” and, come September, must walk into a building populated many times over from what you’ve known. “Well,” Grace said with a faraway look, “at first when I played outside, on the swing I wished I could fly high up into the sky and get on an airplane and go back to Alaska. But now I don’t want to go back- because I have friends,” Friends are so important that Jesus surrounded Himself with them in His three-year public ministry. He dined in homes, attended weddings, had traveling companions, held children, spent hours in conversation with others. He immersed Himself in the lives of people and welcomed many of them into His life. In fact, He felt so strongly about no one being alone that He taught “I was a stranger and you invited Me in” (Matthew 25:35). He said that to whomever we extend friendship, it is as though we have befriended Him. Offering friendship-particularly for someone who might otherwise be alone-is nothing short of royal service for the King! Thanks, Lord, for looking out for a little girl who needed a friend. Keep me on the lookout for someone I can “invite in” through the welcoming act of friendship.              . -Carol Knapp Digging Deeper: Proverbs 27:10; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Matthew 25:34-40 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS   DEAR PASTOR (letters from the kids)   Dear Pastor, Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow. Laurie.  Age 10,  New York City   Dear Pastor, I hope to go to heaven someday but later than sooner. Love, Ellen, age 9. Athens   Dear Pastor, Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God’s help or a new pitcher.  Thank you.  Alexander. Age 10, Raleigh   Dear Pastor, My father says I should learn the Ten Commandments. But I don’t think I want to because we have enough rules already in my house.  Joshua. Age 10, South Pasadena


As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. -Galatians 6:10 (NIV) What just happened? Working on my computer; I simultaneously hit three keys that together provided a shortcut for a long dash. My fingers had made this maneuver a dozen times a day, for years. But this once, my right hand slipped and fell short of its mark I hit a wrong key and, in a blink, my entire computer screen turned ninety degrees clockwise. I gasped. I gulped. I stared. But in that moment, when my world turned upside down, I didn’t panic. Several age-old coping mechanisms kicked in. I prayed for guidance. “God, what do I do now?” Then I posed and answered a question that lingered from my childhood: if my dad were here, what would he do? If he knew a problem’s solution was beyond his ken, he’d reach outside of his four walls to a wider network: his church friends, professional colleagues, fix-it neighbors, or local business owners. The community, working together, would usually find answers. Those were simpler days, some will say. And they’re right. Friends are preoccupied and expect us to Google our own questions. We may not feel connected with fellow parishioners or neighbors. We frequent fewer small, friendly mom-and-pop hardware stores or repair shops. But I went ahead and gave it a try, relying on my personal network. The first friend I called provided a quick fix, giving me three key strokes that set my screen aright. “Oh, Dan, thank you!” I exuded. “If I can ever be of help, let me know. One good turn deserves another.” God, remind us to appreciate and value the networks that help stabilize our daily lives. -Evelyn Bence Digging Deeper: Romans 15:1-7 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS   * The first Southern expression to creep into a transplanted Northerner’s vocabulary is the adjective “big’ol,” truck or “big’ol” boy. Most Northerners begin their Southern-influenced dialect this way. All of them are in denial about it. * If you hear a Southerner exclaim, “Hey, ya’ll, watch this,” stay out of the way. These are likely to be the last words he’ll ever say. * When you come up on a person driving 15 mph down the middle of the road, remember that most folks learn to drive on a John Deere, and that is the proper speed and position for that vehicle. *If you do settle in the South and bear children, don’t think that they will be accepted as Southerners.


How many are your works) 0 Lord! In wisdom you made them all, the earth is full of your creatures. Psalm 104:24 (NIV)
My dogs, Sage and Montana, smile when I scratch their tummies. Their look of bewilderment is clear when I give one a treat before the other. Their delight when we embark on a walk is expressed in barks and gleeful leaps. And their downcast eyes when I leave them behind inflict a twinge of guilt. But their God-planted sensitivities go even further. Each morning I arise before dawn and let Sage and Montana outside. They bolt into the fields surrounding our home while I head to the coffeemaker. I look through a window as they cavort in the murky light. I chuckle at their antics. But what I enjoy most is their ritual of plopping down on a small hilI near our driveway and watching the sunrise together. Most days, just as that golden ball is about to edge up over the horizon, Sage and Montana sit facing east and gaze at the sky just as the sun appears. The other day I looked at their elevated spot, and it was empty. My eyes searched the fields. Sure enough, there were Sage and Montana, below and to the right of the hillside. They were on their stomachs, paws outstretched, heads alert, eyes on the horizon. From this position, they were better angled to watch the sun’s ascension. As the seasons change, the sun’s rise gradually shifts from northeast to southeast. Sage and Montana were rotating their front-row seat accordingly. God, it’s clear our dogs feel emotion. But to think that You instilled in their hearts awe at a sunrise) to realize they enjoy its wonder; is pretty amazing. -Kim Henry  Digging Deeper: Genesis 9:16; Psalms 40:5, 145:21 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS  
The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, so ole Billy Bob, not exactly the sharpest nail in the bucket, figured to go in try for the job. “Okay,” the sheriff drawled, “Billy Bob, what is 1 and 1?” “11”, he replied. The sheriff mused to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but the boy’s right.” “What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?”  “Today and tomorrow.” He was again surprised that Billy Bob supplied a correct answer that he had never thought of hisself. . . “Listen up now, Billy Bob, Who killed Abraham Lincoln?” Billy Bob looked a little surprised himself, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “Derned if ah know Sheriff.” “Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while.” So, ole Billy Bob wandered over to the bowlin’ alley where his pals were waiting to hear the results of the interview. Our hero was just thrilled. “It went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!”


“He heaps up riches …. ” -Psalm 39:6 (NKJV) Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” It was a telltale sign, for sure, posted at a gas station where we stopped for fuel. My husband and I had been invited by our friend. Mike for a tour of the multimillion-dollar megaranch where he worked. We drove through sweeping green fields rimmed with forests. The ranch had a fancy house and a shop that would make a mechanic faint From pure happiness. “What a beautiful ranch,” Randy remarked. “Mike’s lucky to work here.” The guest cabins and the cow barn, with its dining hall, entertainment room, sale ring, and full kitchen catered to cattle ranchers who came to buy breeding stock. I stared dreamily at the efficient layout of the corrals. We both loved the secluded meadows and lakes. It was enough to dull the sheen off of our own modest ranch. We drove past a fleet of new tractors that dwarfed our pickup. Randy and I didn’t have a fleet. Recently we’d scraped together enough for a used backhoe that we’d. needed for years. “Wouldn’t you like to own this place?” we said to each other as we left. But as we nosed the pickup toward home, Randy held my hand. I thought about what Mike had said about the owner: he was divorcing for the fourth time, his kids were suing him, and he didn’t have time to come to his own ranch. As if reading my thoughts, Randy said: “We’re the lucky ones.” “Yeah,” I agreed, “we truly are blessed.” Lord, keep reminding me of all the blessings in my own life, especially when I’m tempted to discount them. –Erika Bentsen  Digging Deeper: Matthew 13:22-23; Luke 12:13-21; John 6:27; Galatians 5:13; Philippians 3:19 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS  
The Washington Post’s Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some recent winners: Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.    


Don’t jump to conclusions …. -Proverbs 25:8 (MSG)
I glanced at the e-mail announcing a meeting Darcy had put together for a group of us. Once again she’d scheduled it for 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday. I groaned. She does this every time! She knows I can’t come until 3:30. My mind turned sour. Could she be doing this on purpose because she doesn’t want me there? My thoughts drifted out the window where the horses stood begging for their morning feeding. After I tossed flakes of hay in the feeder, Sunrise, my golden retriever, traipsed alongside me as I dragged the hose around the corner of the house to water the garden. My heart sank when I saw a few of the sugar snap pea stems chewed in two, and over the next few days more pea vines disappeared; rodents called voles like my sugar snap peas as much as I do! Wednesday morning I sat at my computer, wondering if there was a way to get out of the meeting. I peeked out the window and witnessed Sunrise trotting toward the garden. She glanced over her shoulder as if she was looking for me, then slunk in among the peas and chowed down. My jaw dropped. After scolding Sunrise, I shook my head. Boy, I jumped to conclusions on that one! I never suspected her. But that wasn’t the only thing I’d jumped to conclusions about. When I walked into the meeting, Darcy looked up and greeted me: “I know that this isn’t a good time for you, but I’m glad that you could come. You’re one of my favorite people.” Lord, please continue to show me when I jump to wrong conclusions. Amen. -Rebecca Ondov Digging Deeper: Proverbs 3:7; 1 Corinthians 4:5 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS  
Dogs vs. Cats A dog thinks: Hey, these people I live with feed me, love me, provide me with a nice warm, dry house, pet me, and take good care of me… They must be Gods! A cat thinks: Hey, these people I live with feed me, love me, provide me with a nice warm, dry house, pet me, and take good care of me… I must be a God!


“Do not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who will battle for you. ” -Deuteronomy 3:22 (JPS) I am uneasy about things with more than four legs, so I have always run away when confronted by spiders, I know they serve a purpose in the great scheme of things, but I’m much more comfortable when they’re serving that purpose someplace I’m not. My husband, Keith, understood. All had to do was yell, “Spider!” and he would come to my rescue. After Keith died, I learned to do a lot of things that he used to take care of: trim the blackberry bushes, change light bulbs in the cathedral ceiling, clean snow off the satellite dish, trap mice, These tasks were easy compared to the first time a spider challenged me. (Throwing things at spiders is not very effective.) If I could not conquer my fear of spiders, I knew I would always be afraid they would crawl over me at night. And some of our spiders were big enough that even the cat didn’t want to have anything to do with them. I had to make myself get close enough to them to squash them. I still yelled, “Spider!” but now it was a prayer, not a condemnation. I was learning that the only way to conquer the fear was to understand I still had support when I was scared, even if it was invisible, and even if I had to do the active rescuing myself Lord, thank you for being there when I face my fears, because I never have been able to do that without your encouragement. –Rhoda Blecker Digging Deeper: 2 Kings 6:16 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS  
Dear Pastor, My mother is very religious. She goes to play bingo at church every week even if she has a cold. Yours truly, Annette. Age 9, Albany  
Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there. Stephen. Age 8, Chicago  
Dear Pastor, I think a lot more people would come to your church if you moved it to Disneyland. Loreen. Age 9. Tacoma  
Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon where you said that good health is more important than money but I still want a raise in my allowance.  Sincerely, Eleanor. Age 12, Sarasota


CONFIDENCE IN DIFFICULTY: Led by a Sovereign Teacher ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things …. “-John 14:26 (NIV) My son John came in from walking the dog. “We have an audience it the. hallway,” he said drily. That wasn’t surprising: his sister Maggie was blisteringly, bellowing threats. The doctor in Connecticut had sent her home after two days, suggesting she attend a therapeutic wilderness program instead. “She’s had a traumatic hospital experience and will do better in a different kind of setting. It will only take a coupIe of days to get in,” he advised, “and she’s psychiatrically stable.”                Except she was not stable, as we-and now our neighbors-knew. I was applying four self-reminders I’d learned in twelve years of managing Johns mood swings and anxiety to keep from having to call 911.

  1. Nothing good comes from getting stressed.
  2. Respond to Maggie’s feelings instead of reacting to her tone and behavior.
  3. Pray before speaking: “Holy Spirit, guide my words.”
  4. Stay focused. Ignore the gawkers, embarrassment, and fear.

  I did all this, yet things were getting scary. “Holy Spirit, show me how,” I pleaded in a split second between eruptions. On cue, I remembered I was hearing the illness talking, not my daughter. Almost imperceptibly, the tide began to turn. I listened better, responded better, focused better After more than an hour of intense effort, Maggie’s rage tapered off. I breathed out a silent thank-you and thought back to the years when Johns  mood swings and anxiety had caused our family so much distress. I, could see now that something else had happened during that time: I‘d been prepared for surviving today.   Thank You, Lord, for every hard lesson I never wanted It) -Julia Attaway Digging Deeper: Psalm 119:77; 2 12: 10  DAILY GUIDEPOSTS   Real Differences Between Northerners And Southeners * If you run your car into a ditch, don’t panic. Four men in a four-wheel drive pickup truck with a tow chain will be along shortly. Don’t try to help them, just stay out of their way. This is what they live for. It’s really best to give “em a generous tip, though. * Don’t be surprised to find movie rentals and bait in the same store. Warning: Do not buy food at this store, everything is kept in the same fridge and mix-ups are easy. * Get used to hearing “You ain’t from round here, are ya?” * You may hear a Southerner say “Ought!” to a dog or child. This is short for “Ya’ll ought not do that!” and is the equivalent of saying “No!” * Don’t be worried at not understanding what people are saying. They can’t understand you either.


The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not L the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” -Exodus 4:II-I2 (NIV) It’s my first semester of law school. The lecture hall is stifling because of the seventy students crammed into it. I lean over my casebook, highlighter cap between my teeth, and I strike the text with neon blue. Let’s take a look at the dissent,” the professor says. “Why don’t you walk us through the argument, Mr. Eliasen?” The cap falls from my mouth, My face burns. It’s not that I’m unprepared. I read the case three times last night. But I’m a quiet person, and seventy sets of eyes are on me now. I’m humble; it’s one of my better qualities. But sometimes our greatest strengths don’t dwell far from our deepest weaknesses. My humility borders a place where feelings of inadequacy lurk and I can sense those thoughts in the back of my mind: You’re too quiet. You don’t have anything worth saying. You’re not a speaker: Then I think of Moses. The man who stood before the fiery presence of God and explained that he was too terrified to speak to a human king. “I will teach you what to say,” promised God. I flip the pages of my casebook and then dear my throat. I’m ready to reject my fear of inadequacy. I’m ready to claim God’s promise. Father; I’m so grateful that I can trust You to fill my mouth with words. –Logan Eliasen Digging Deeper: Jeremiah 1:6-8; Luke 12:11-12 DAILY GUIDEPOSTS     DEAR PASTOR (letters from the kids)   Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister. Yours sincerely, Arnold. Age 8, Nashville.  Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. I am Peter Peterson.  Sincerely, Pete. Age 9, Phoenix   Dear Pastor, My father should be a minister. Every day he gives us a sermon about something. Robert  Anderson, age 11   Dear Pastor, I’m sorry I can’t leave more money in the plate, but my father didn’t give me a raise in my allowance. Could you have a sermon about a raise in my allowance?  Love, Patty. Age 10, New Haven


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