facebook fastI’ve tried this once before.  A Facebook Fast for lent.  It wasn’t easy and I wrote a couple of blog posts about why. (You can read those here.)  I know some folk have begun to get down on Facebook (too many “cat videos”; “who wants to hear/see pictures of someone’s dinner”; “it’s all Humblebragging; etc.

I for one am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE Facebook.  Still.  Whether it’s cool or not, it’s fun, mostly informative, and has reconnected me with people I knew in high school, college, past churches, past jobs/careers, long distance family.  It’s been an extension of community in a very profound way for me since I first started my Facebook page back in 2007.

This practice of giving something up for lint has been mostly a fail for me for years.  (If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll say a little prayer for me for strength and discipline to not merely sign off but to pick up a new awareness of God’s presence in my life.  You’ll probably still see an occasional post show up on my time line (I have some things set to automatically post…like my occasional tweets and blog posts like this one.) I’ll have to log in occasionally to post something to my youth group FB pages.  However, I’m going to ignore the addictive little red number that shows up in the top of the window and on my Facebook app…(note to self: you probably should delete that app for the time being.)  This was very hard to do last time (I wrote about that here.)

Peace and blessings to you during this time of lent!  See you Easter Sunday!

Image In her Acknowledgments at the end of Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, Diana Butler Bass says, “These pages are my long-considered answers to questions a book and a teacher raised during my senior year in college.”  Christianity After Religion is one of those books that took me a long time to read.  Not because it was difficult, but because it required me to look at questions that have lingered around my faith and life for years.

Raised in a very religious home, faith has always been an integral part of my everyday life.  It was not merely a program to be consumed a couple times a week at our local church.  It was giving thanks at every meal.  It was hearing the Bible read each night as we gathered in my parents’ bedroom.  Those readings closed with us all kneeling beside the bed and expressing prayers to God. The church of my youth taught me that when some tenet of that faith was challenged by culture or science or another doctrine, the first response was defensive because the challenge seemed to attack the very foundations of all the provided meaning and purpose for every aspect of my life.  Religion had been framed as a no-holds-barred death-match…winner-take-all.

There was a point about 12 years into my vocational ministry that this framework made absolutely no sense to me.  My denomination had been embroiled in religious/theological/cultural battles for 20 years and the lines that were drawn between the sides didn’t seem to be significant or substantial enough to justify the carnage being wrought between good and faithful people (Diana Butler Bass has a wonderfully succinct description of this battle on page 233).  It was for damn sure draining my very soul.  A journal entry I made during that time simply said, “God, if you’re there, cool.  If you’re not, cool.”  I had had enough.

During that time, my family was a part of a community of faith that seemed to be a refuge from the battles…a spiritual DMZ so to speak.  No doubt, our congregation was labeled by those in the fight, but my pastor, Dr. Larry Taylor, and the good people of that community had remained true.  There was something different for me about that place.  These people were not sheltered by any means and if pressed for a position on the issues of the day, whether religious or political, you would get an impassioned and well reasoned opinion from anywhere on the continuum of possibilities.  But, we were ultimately followers of Jesus in a place called Emmanuel Baptist Church and that community was more important and life giving than any one political/theological position.

When looking back, I recognized that I had experienced this same type of community in a couple of places before.  In the Baptist Student Union at LSU led by Frank Horton, and in the college department of First Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, led by Anne and Jack Lord.  Rather than soul-sucking battles for “truth”, I found life-giving and transformative spiritual community.  It was in these communities of my college days that I felt a call to vocational ministry.  And it was Emmanuel Baptist Church that helped salvage that call from the hubris of denominational leaders seeking to tear apart such communities in the name of their particular versions of truth.

By the time I reached Chapter 7 and read Diana Butler Bass’ description of The Great Reversal, I recognized she was describing those communities from my past.  These were not utopian by any stretch.  But when taken as a whole, my experiences in those places were lived examples of belonging, behaving, believing (in that order).  Butler Bass’ connecting this vision of community with spiritual awakening was exactly the appropriate link to make and her practical actions of “prepare, practice, play & participate” placed the lofty aspirations of such an awakening on the solid ground of experience and tangible action.

Christianity After Religion has become a foundational book for me.  I’ll read it again and, with difficulty, will attempt to find more space for notes and thoughts in it’s margins.  I recommend it very highly.  And I recommend you take your time.  It’s not a “page-turner” and I mean that in the absolute best sense of that term.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & SaintI LOVED this book.  And that’s odd because I probably can’t recommend it to all my friends.  Many would be strongly offended by it.  They would quickly react to Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s application of sailor language to godly topics.  Many would take offense at her welcoming and affirming stance on LGBTQ issues.  And I’ve come to a place that it’s ok if they are offended.  I can’t control that.  Don’t read the book if you fear you’ll fall in that category.  I honestly don’t want to be the one that riles you up and disturbs your peace.  (I would like to point out that LGBTQ is about people long before it ever became an “issue”. Like every “issue” out there, when it’s your starting point, you often end up somewhere Jesus isn’t and you walk on a lot of people whom Jesus loves on your way to the smug destination you’ll find at the end of such a path.)

Because of my reading of Pastrix, I recognize the smugness of that last sentence.  It comes across as if I’m the one enlightened and all who disagree with me are intolerant and bigots.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I absolutely stand by the sentence I wrote above.  However, there is a heavily underlined paragraph on page 57 of my copy of  Pastrix that says:

Matthew once said to me, after one of my more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions, “Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” — Nadia Bolz-Weber

To further quote Nadia, “Damn!”  Pastix shined a light on all the lines I’ve drawn between me and people with whom I disagree.  And in so doing, it shined a light on Jesus that I’ve needed turned on for a while now.  What I continually discovered in Pastrix was resurrection.  It was a continual stream of stories of death and resurrection.  Persons and lives dying deaths large and small only to encounter the risen Christ and be raised to new life again in profound and graceful and loving ways.  It’s a resurrection that one can and should experience daily.  (That’s what Jesus meant!)

Reading Pastrix was something of a cathartic experience for me.  It was hard to put my finger on what continually resonated with me as I turned page after page.  But as I reluctantly put the book down this morning I recognized a long lost itch (p. 204) that I had continually and unconsciously been scratching all these years but had slipped from my awareness.  I realized that I had rediscovered a distant call to ministry that animates my life.  It’s a call we all share and it manifests itself in all sorts of different jobs and vocations and roles.  But it’s absolutely a call.  It’s a call to discover who we were created to be.  And its a call to death and resurrection.  Thanks Nadia.

Image“There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all. “There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning? “There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill. —Thomas Merton from “No Man is An Island”

It has been sort of a distracted morning, but in a good sort of way. I was down stairs pretty early…4:30ish. I lit the fire, got my coffee and settled on the couch to read. Upon opening my bag I recognized the number of I-want-to-take-time-to-read-but-never-seem-to-get-around-to-it magazines accumulating there were more than a little telling. I was probably never going to get around to reading them.

I pulled out a week-old edition of the New York Times I had purchased at Starbucks to read while waiting on a car to be serviced. Instead of reading that at the dealer, I think I played “FLOW” on my iPad, a challenging little puzzle game but a game nonetheless, and truly a waste of perfectly good waiting room time. I pulled out two issues of the Economist, an issue of Motley Fool Stock Advisor, the December 2012 issue of The Atlantic and finally the Dec. 30th issue of the New York Times Magazine. That was the one that sort of derailed my intensions for the morning.

On the cover was a photograph of Adam Yauch (1/3 of the Beastie Boys) and the words, “The Lives They Lived.” It was a collection of obituaries of notable people who had died in 2012. I’ve never been one who reads obituaries, although [Mr.}Tony Kornheiser says “[the obits] are usually the best writing in the paper.” I think that’s probably true, as a rule. Rather than some words about a forgettable story rushed to the page to meet a deadline, an obit is an attempt to communicate a snap-shot of a life. The fame and/or notoriety of the famous persons in this particular issue of “the magazine” are merely context. The writers are trying to distill meaning from these lives that have ended. Sometimes there is a clear rendering of the protagonist. Other times, the obit seems to be as much a window into the psyche of the writer as it is about the person who died.

I thumbed through the pages of 2012’s obit collection stopping on: Teri Shields (mother of Brooke and quintessential “stage mom”); Maurice Sendak (author of the iconic children’s books “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Night Kitchen”…Brilliant piece done with 9 illustrations with bubble quotes from an NPR interview with the writer); Nora Ephron (journalist, screenwriter, playwright, best known popularly for “When Harry Met Sally”…a collage recreating “Meg Ryan’s soliloquy [from the diner] using letters cut from Ephron’s obituary in the New York Times.” (…yes…yes…oh God…”); Don Cornelius (creator and host of Soul Train pictured in full 70’s regalia of massive afro and equally massive silver silk tie. Interesting quote: “Long before the Huxtables…Vanessa Williams [1st black Miss America]…the Obamas…middle class white teenagers [were getting] their first glimpse of popular black culture…and…a peek at the future; by the 90s, black music and dance was the culture”); Adam Yauch (interesting take of his growth as an artist…but I could never get over the Beastie’s frat boy smirks and frat boy party/rap anthem from the 80s to take them very seriously).

My morning started with the Merton passage at the beginning of this post. It set the stage for my dip into the obits of 2012. On this morning, the obits provided a moment to put aside the plans, propositions and resolutions and do a little of that distinguishing work…”distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill”…life from death. It was by no means morbid. It was a pause that facilitated some much needed reflection. And while I do not aspire to a mention in the New York Times Magazine, I recognized the legacy that is my faith, my family, and my life’s work will ultimately be my obit. Even more than that, I was able to distinguish between “routine” and “extremely blessed” and give thanks for the blessing.

ImageSummer’s going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away…
The innocence slips away

 —Rush, “Time Stand Still”

The family had gathered around the TV at my parent’s home to watch Brave.  The cousins were all laying in front of the rather old, small, and definitely non-HD screen in the living room.  The adults were mostly watching various screens…cell phones, iPads, Kindles…listening to the movie in the background and smiling at the attempts at Scottish accents coming from sprawl in front of the TV.

Just about the time we had all settled in for the evening, the power went out. Pitch black darkness was met with groans from the kids (all done with new found Scottish drawls.)  My dad quickly lit the “coal oil lamp” and  placed it on the mantel.  As the children began to move around, searching for their own personal screens (iPods, phones, etc.), my sister-in-law gave us all a wonderful gift.  She asked, “Uncle Mike, what was you and Aunt Susie’s first date?”  That question began an evening of story telling around the pale flickering light of an old coal oil lamp.  

We went around the circle telling first date stories which led to engagement stories.  The children joined in by telling “most embarrassing” stories. Then my parents began to tell stories about their childhood and their parents and grand parents.  Laughter came quickly and often.  Questions were asked.  Experiences were shared.  Deep “family” conversation made the time fly by.  Mom talked about how the flickering light of the lamp brought back memories of her and her brothers sitting around the same type of lamp as children listening to her mom and dad and an occasional visitor tell stories.  Memories came rushing back for me as a kid sitting on the screen porch in the evenings listening to my grandfather pick out a tune on his guitar and tell some of those very same stories.  

It was hard to believe that 2 hours had passed so quickly when the lights finally came back on.  “Normal” filled the room as quickly as the lights had and we all moved toward our beds, plugging our electronic devices into their respective chargers so they would be ready to do our bidding (or we their’s) the next morning. I’m restraining the sermon rising in my spirit.  We all know that sermon already. I will say this…in contrast to the many evenings spent on some forgettable TV program or surfing the internet, this was an evening I’ll remember for a long time.   It was truly wonderful and a very fitting end to a wonderful holiday season.

Peace!

 

It’s funny how Thomas Merton always challenges me at election time…

The aggressive and dominative view of reality places, at the center, the individual with its bodily form, its feelings and emotions, its appetites and needs, its loves and hates, its actions and reactions.  All these are seen as forming together a basic and indubitable reality to which everything else must be referred, so that all other things are also estimated in their individuality, their actions and reactions, and all the ways in which they impinge upon the interests of the individual self.  The world is then seen as a multiplicity of conflicting and limited beings, all enclosed in the limits of their own individuality, all therefore complete in a permanent and vulnerable incompleteness, all seeking to find a certain completeness by asserting themselves at the expense of others, dominating and using others.  The world becomes, then, an immense conflict in which the only peace is that which is accorded to the victory of the strong, and in order to taste the joy of this peace, the weak must submit to the strong and join them in their adventures so that they may share in their power.

— Thomas Merton, Choosing to Love the World

Peace!

Back in my Collegiate Ministry days, one of the first things discussed at the beginning of each year by our student leadership team was our theme for the year.  There was usually a quote or a scripture passage and then logos and t-shirt designs would follow.  One of my very favorite t-shirts emerged from that process during the 1995-96 academic year at Louisiana College.  “Shoeless” was all that was printed on the front of the shirt.  The image  to the right was on the back.  It proved to be very popular.  (Those are Scott’s feet…I didn’t want to know how he stood on the copier)

(True story: A group of students and I attended a Rich Mullins concert in Lafayette, LA that year.  We hung around afterward so people could get some autographs.  One of the students came to me (Lori) and said, “Rich Mullins wants your shirt!”  I walked over to the merchandise table where he was busy signing things and he said, “Can I have your shirt?” My response was, “Uh…sure…uh…I’ll send you one.”   Mullins: “no…that one…I’ll trade you…you can have one of these.”  Simultaneously awkward and cool moment.)

The quote is from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “Aurora Leigh”.  It seems to turn up often in EBB quotes. ( I’ve used it about almost 4 years ago on this blog).

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries

Your assignment…if you choose to accept it:  Take off your shoes!  This can be figuratively or literally.  Look around for the holy ground we so easily pass right by without ever noticing!  Don’t let this day be chained and defined by a dry and godless routine.  Be aware…God will begin to become evident in surprising places and people. You might even be one of those common bushes for someone else. (share you’re burning bush stories below)

PEACE!

youngmike124:

This is post from almost 4 years ago…but after my little trip to the symphony this week, I was reminded of this and wanted to revisit it. The Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten is fabulous…well worth your time to read it. There are also video’s in the piece of the performance. Enjoy. Peace!

Originally posted on so here we are in the field...:

Pearls Before Breakfast – washingtonpost.com
This is a VERY good article from the Washington Post Magazine.  It won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for Gene Weingarten.  The experiment was to place one of the worlds greatest violinists playing some of the world’s greatest music on one of the world’s finest and most rare violins in the entrance of a train station to play the part of a street musician.  Weingarten’s story and observations are found in this piece.  I would love to read your responses to the story.

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I’m writing this about 11 hours before the kickoff of this years BCS Championship football game between LSU and alabama. I should be doing lots of other things this morning. I have lots of work related writing to do. I have 3 books that need to be read as research for the previously mentioned writing. It’s almost futile to try to concentrate on that “important” stuff. I mean this is LSU football!

My love of the LSU Tigers came very early. The story goes that my dad jumped up and punched a hole in the ceiling of our family’s small house while cheering for the Tigers as they defeated bear bryant and the alabama crimson tide (its very difficult for me to capitalize those particular “proper” nouns. I’ve never been able to concede the status of “proper” for those particular words in the context of college football.) I honestly don’t know if it was the tide we beat that evening or not. I really don’t even know if I was yet born. But the story is part of my story; part of my heritage. In my mind, we are gathered around the “hi-fi” in the living room of our home on Atomic Lane, Cut Off, Louisiana (now West 59th Street) listening to the voice of John Ferguson broadcast on AM870, WWL, New Orleans. (for a taste, check out Ferguson’s call of the classic 1971 LSU vs. Notre Dame game from Tiger Stadium.)  That’s what happened just about every Saturday night in the fall.

Sometime in the early 1970s, my dad began to occasionally receive tickets to the games and we would make the pilgrimage to Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA. It was there we would hear stories of dad living in the North Stadium dormitory…of my mom and my aunt and their buddies cruising around downtown Baton Rouge back in the 1950s. Walking across the campus toward the glow of the stadium lights is still magical in my memory. Somewhere in a closet at mom and dad’s house is a cheap purple felt cowboy hat purchased on such a night from one of the venders outside the stadium. Tucked into the gaudy “Urban Cowboyfeather hat band are dozens of ticket stubs I kept as scalps from the games I witnessed in person at that sacred stadium.

One of the ticket stubs will be from the September 29, 1979 game vs. Southern Cal (USC is University of South Carolina…everybody in the south knows that.) That Trojan team was absolutely loaded: 12 future NFL first round draft picks including future Hall-of-Famers Anthony Munoz, Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen. Their tailback, Charles White would go on to win the 1979 Heisman Trophy. LSU was an average team finishing that year at 7-5. John Ed Bradley, was the captain of that team. (I recommend very highly his book, It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium.) But on this night, Tiger Stadium truly unleashed it’s magic.

I believe my dad was in South Africa during that game. My mom (God bless her!) packed us boys up and drove us up to Baton Rouge. My older brother was finishing up his Engineering degree at LSU. We all piled into he and his wife’s small upstairs apartment in a home on Glendale Street, across the University Lakes near the campus.

We had fantastic seats…40 yard line, halfway up the west side stands in the shadows of the press box. I screamed until I was hoarse. I remember turning around and raising my arms urging the Tiger faithful to their feet. It was the loudest and most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of. LSU lost that game 17-12 but it remains a vivid and cherished memory.

Another stub that would be found in that hat would be from November 10 of that year, the ‘bama crimson tide came to Baton Rouge. My dad had acquired 2 tickets in the “Purple Section” which was located under the west side upper deck just to the left side of the press box overlooking the student section. Somehow, my older brother and I ended up with those 2 seats while the rest of our party sat in the lower bowl. That’s significant because it rained that night. More accurately…it was a monsoon…sheets of rain falling constantly…an old fashioned “gulley washer” as they say. My brother and I felt a twinge of guilt knowing my mom and dad were sitting out in the weather…but we would walk back to the buffet line to grab some food to ease our pain and return to our dry, very comfortable seats. It was a miserable game. LSU lost 3-0 that night.

The rain had stopped as we walked dejectedly back to our cars. As always, I wore my purple cowboy hat proudly. I was glad it had been spared the rain as I compared it to the soggy and drooping counterparts all around me. At some point on this walk, I noticed a rain drenched ‘bammer fan staring at my brother and me. ‘bammer finally couldn’t stand it any longer…he came over and asked, “How in the world did you come out of that game completely dry after all that rain?!”

I replied as any true Tiger fan would: “It never rains on Tiger fans in Tiger stadium.” And we walked on…with grins on our faces…content and happy we were Tiger fans. The score really didn’t matter anymore. Sure we were disappointed in the loss. But more than anything else we were so happy to be LSU Tigers.

I could go on. There are so many stories…mom’s cold fried chicken on the parade grounds…my Uncle Hart dressed in purple with a big grin anticipating watching his beloved Tigers…waking up early on game day in my Hatcher Hall dorm room to move my car before it was towed away…attending games dressed in togas…post game parties at Plantation Trace apartments…meeting my wife for the first time in those Plantation Trace apartments…

Regardless of the outcome tonight, I bleed purple and gold. I’m proud of Louisiana State University on so many levels beyond it’s accomplishments in athletics. I’m proud of my daughter as she makes her own memories in Baton Rouge as she pursues her degree in coastal biology. I love the family of Tiger fans I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of through the ministry of Frank Horton and the LSU BSU. It’s a part of who I am. Always will be.

Ok…enough! I’ve got important work to do and this distraction has taken too much time!

First…you make a roux! (you didn’t think I was going to work on a day like this did you?!…its game day! There is gumbo to make!)

Go to Hell alabama! Go to Hell!!

Roll tide roll…around the bowl and down the hole! Roll tide roll!

‘bama…bama…bama won’t you bite my…uh…well…I’ll not complete that (those of you that know it can sing it amongst yourselves)

GEAUX TIGERS!!!

It was the title that caught my eye…”What do low-income communities need?” Intriguing. Definitive. Hopeful? Maybe…I clicked the link and read the article in hopes of finding the answer.

After reading it, I’m not sure I necessarily “liked” what I read. But, I still felt compelled to post the link on both Facebook and Twitter. Megan McArdle’s perspective was frankly pretty dark and cynical in some respects. As I read it I found myself torn. There are ideas here that rub my liberal sensibilities the wrong way and others initiate a loud AMEN from those same sensibilities. I also found my more conservative impulses reacting almost exactly opposite my liberal side in precisely those same places.

Ultimately, the writer didn’t answer the question posed in the title. And that was sort of a let down after all of the opposing visceral reactions I experienced while reading the piece. Don’t get me wrong. McArdle’s point is well taken, specifically as she stated it in her last paragraph:

“Public policy can modestly improve the incentives and choice sets that poor people face–and it should do those things. But it cannot remake people into something more to the liking of bourgeois taxpayers.”

And there’s the rub. Just like so many other things in our culture, we want to apply some kind of pharmaceutical remedy to all our problems and make them disappear. We don’t necessarily care how the drug works, just so it takes the pain away. It is in that spirit that we attempt to apply social policies to issues at the whims of elected officials whose main goal is not to solve the issue at hand but to be re-elected. Lets just say the “results” of these politically motivated prescriptions pretty much read like the foul side affects that are hurriedly read following the utopian myth offered by the drug ads we are constantly barraged with on TV (would anyone like to recall the first time you heard “please call your Doctor immediately if you experience an erection lasting for more than 4 hours” with your kids in the room? For a funny digression, check this out.)  All of the efforts from “both sides of the aisle” to solve these problems seem to be more effective at inducing cynicism and resignation that any sort of hope for real solutions.

However the false promise of the article led me to another thought. I was reminded of a passage of scripture we read in our Corner Bible Study at King’s Cross Church a couple of Sundays ago:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
—Isaiah 61:1

It was a prophetic word to a people who had lost everything: their homeland, their culture, their religion. They were returning from exile in a foreign land to rebuild their lives from the ruins of Babylonian conquest. And it was very good news.

I think we often forget that we (all of us) live in exile as well. As I listen to the noise of partisan politics and recognize it’s absolute inability to deliver the good news proclaimed by the ancient prophet, I begin to long for the realm promised by God.  As I become inundated with the call to consumption and materialism to which this season has devolved and recognize the fleeting nature of the “highs” provided by the giving and receiving of stuff, I long for a voice calling out in this wilderness. (With all due respect to my friends who work for Nissan, this particular ad was the last straw for me.  Seriously?…”most wonderful sale of the year“…seriously?)

This Advent season has been a reminder for me to rediscover the true source of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for allthe people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  — Luke 2:10-11

This is what poor communities really need.  Frankly, it’s what all of us need. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love…generously applied in our day to day lives.  Generously applied to the problems of our day.  The empty words of politicians and the fleeting pleasure of the accumulation of stuff pale in comparison.  It is my prayer for my family and for all of you this season that we all absolutely enjoy our Christmas celebration.  All of it…the giving and receiving of gifts, time with family, the lights, the food, the TV shoes, even the shopping (but that was a bit hard to write).   But I also pray that in all of this busyness and activity that you will “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”  Peace!

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