‘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.


Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7 (CEB)

It’s a little hard to describe what I actually do when I pray. I note with some relief the willingness of others to reach for metaphors to convey their process. “It’s like I’m letting go of all these little pieces of

paper with my anxious thoughts and putting them in God’s hands,” someone will say. Or another person will describe it: “I try to imagine I’m floating in a warm bath and being washed by God’s love.” “I picture myself being held like I hold my dog when he’s scared during a thunderstorm,” someone else offers.

How can I explain what happens when I sit on the sofa in the morning close my eyes and pray? One day I was on the computer, organizing some files on the screen, dragging my mouse across my desk to put documents in one file and then that file into another file, when it came to me: praying is like dragging and dropping. That was it.

In the morning I dose my eyes and documents come up with different labels and varying degrees of urgency. “Get to this immediately!” “Worry about this now!” “Fret for unending hours about this remote

possibility!” “Feel scared … or sad … or desperate about this news!” The process is to drag all those unnecessary mental distractions and put them into a big file that says “God to handle,” where they can stay. The idea is to drag and drop and then drop for good.

Until the next morning when somehow a whole new set of urgent documents-c-and even some of the same ones (“Didn’t I put you in the God file?”)–fills my head. It’s just like work. I need to drag and drop

Every day.

Lord, I am grateful to you for reordering the files of my mind.

-Rick Hamlin

Digging Deeper: Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7




~ If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge.

Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to

protect themselves.

~ If I eat equal amounts of dark chocolate and white chocolate, is that a

balanced diet? Don’t they actually counteract each other?

~ Money talks. Chocolate sings.

~ Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look



God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Tberefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea. -Psalm 46:1-2 (NRSV)

It’s Frances’s first time at sleepaway camp. The drive is beautiful. The kids work out their nervous tension playing silly games in the back seat. Kate and I sit quietly with our mixed feelings.

Frances is nine. She has become a poised, mature, independent girl. We know she’ll do fine, though we can tell she’s masking her nervousness. Maybe we’re more nervous, not so much that she’ll get homesick or fail to make friends, but that life is changing. The past, when the kids were little and depended on us for everything, is ebbing away. Next year Benji will be seven, old enough to attend camp too.

Our lives have revolved around the kids for so long. Now we have to let them grow up, explore things on their own, encourage them to become their own independent selves.

We arrive at the camp. Frances gathers with a group of kids heading to the lake for a swim. She hugs us several times, then gamely trudges off. She turns to wave, and we can see anxiousness in her smile.

Well, at least she’s not glad to see us go! She, too, understands this is a big moment, a venture into the unknown.

Then I remember what we loved about this camp when we visited. They held a prayer service for visiting families in the woodsy outdoor chapel.

We’ll all be fine. God is here, holding us through every change.

Lord, we change, but You don’t. Help me to remember that.

-Jim Hinch

Digging Deeper: Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8



–  Old quarterbacks never die, they just pass away.

–  Old schools never die, they just lose their principals.

–  Old sculptors never die, they just lose their marbles.

–  Old seers never die, they just lose their vision.

–  Old sewage workers never die, they just waste away.

–  Old skateboarders never die, they just lose their bearings.

–  Old sailors never die, they just get a little dingy.



“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'” -Matthew 13:27 (NIV)

We’d been away on vacation for several weeks, so I was anxious to see how our yard had fared in the hot Florida sun. I strolled through the yard, inspecting the shrubs and flower beds for progress or damage.

I was happy to discover that we’d had a lot of rain, so all the plants were healthy and growing. The roses were blooming, as were the vincas and hibiscus, and the Mexican petunias had grown another foot.

Everything was flourishing … even the weeds.

I grabbed my gardening gloves and pruning shears and headed out to get rid of the intruders.

“Can I help?” asked Logan, my young grandson.

As we set to work attacking the weeds, I was overwhelmed by the amount. How had so many unwanted plants appeared in so short a time? Where did they come from? As I rugged and jerked to remove

them, I thought about weeds in my own life that needed pulling.

For example, I’d been too critical of others lately. Tug! Pull that weed out of my life. I hadn’t shown forgiveness to my family for little things. Pull! Get rid of that! I’d lost my temper with my son. Snap!

Once Logan and I had pulled out the weeds, I had room to plant more good plants. The same is true in my own life. Instead of bitterness, unforgivingness, and anger, I can plant mercy, kindness, and


Lord, please point out the weeds in my life and remove them so only good will grow.

-Marilyn Turk


Digging Deeper: Matthew 13:1-8, 18-22



A bill collector knocked on the door of a country debtor. “Is Fred home?” he asked the woman who answered the door. “Sorry,” the woman replied. “Fred’s gone for cotton.”

The next day the collector tried again. “Is Fred here today?” “No, sir,” she said, “I’m afraid Fred has gone for cotton.”

When he returned the third day he humphed, “I suppose Fred is gone for cotton again,?” “No,” the woman answered solemnly, “Fred died yesterday.”

Suspicious that he was being avoided, the collector decided to wait a week and investigate the cemetery himself. But sure enough, there was poor Fred’s tombstone, with this inscription: …”Gone, But Not for Cotton.”


“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in …. ” -Matthew 7:11 (MSG)

The phone rang early. Barely light. My new friend Eleanor was calling. She always phoned early as her days were long and hard.

She rescues cats and dogs that have been abandoned or hurt, and, if they’re mamas, she helps their babies. She has all of them spayed or neutered. She never stops. No project is too large for her. Money is tight. But the animals come first.

We’d bonded immediately upon a happenstance meeting. We were new but very close friends. I suspected that her call concerned an animal situation she wanted me to pray about.

“Good morning, Marion. How are you? Your kitties and dog?”

Normally Eleanor would relate a story about an animal she’d rescued, but this time she said, “Will you pray for me?”

I was stunned. She’d never requested prayer for herself.

“I have something very painful in the back of my mouth. Doctor is sure it’s cancer, but he’s sending me to a specialist. I’m going to ask you to pray for one minute every morning, when you first wake up.

No more. Just do that. I’m in God’s hands and not afraid,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Just whisper my name and a prayer. Lift me to the throne room. He’ll take it from there.”

What she’d asked me to do surprised me-such a tiny request for such a big health issue. But, of course, I would pray for her. And, of course, God could work a miracle.

Father, may I have a minute of Your time? My friend Eleanor needs You.

-Marion Bond West

Digging Deeper: Psalm 107:28-30; Jonah 2:2-7; Matthew 7:7



They tried to persuade J. Paul Getty to open an Italian restaurant. They had a name picked out for it, too: “Spa Getty.”


When people run around and around in circles we say they are crazy – When planets do it we say they are orbiting.


A woman was telling her friend, “It is I who made my husband a millionaire.”

“And what was he before you married him.” Asked the friend… … The woman replied, “A multi-millionaire…”


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