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It’s Pizza! Not Love!

Mmm, you can just smell it, even taste it. Pizza!! Crust how you like it – thick, thin, hand tossed, New York style.  Toppings galore may be what rings your bell or you may be a purist – just cheese please. Any way you slice it, Americans love pizza, some of us too much.

Food is something everyone enjoys, but everyone has their hot spot food that they tend to over indulge in. Some of us can control our binge, others can’t. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of indulgence, there is one thing for certain:  food indulgence is not love.

As good as food tastes (and, let’s be honest, it does), food is fuel for our bodies. God graciously made a variety of delectable flavors for us to enjoy. However, for some, abuse of food naturally takes hold. I am one of those people.

My affair with food started when I was 7 and had gotten my tonsils out. Suddenly, I could really taste food, and macaroni and cheese flipped my switch. I thought I was in love. Macaroni never let me down. It always made me feel better when I ate it. It may have ruined dinner, but it was faithful to patch up hurt feelings. Soon I added other foods to my “pick me up” list:  soft drinks, peanut butter and Karo syrup, and leftovers. With this wide variety of food, my after school snacks increased along with my waist line. This continues from overweight to obese to  morbidly obese. Food also moved from a comfort to a depressant.

Now I sought to escape my love. It (or I) had become flat abusive. Diet after diet drug me through the sufferings of life without my love. I would stick to it for a while, but would finally bail off the bandwagon for the love of cheese.  I even kept my weight off through college and a year of teaching due to sheer exhaustion and lack of eating. But after I started my Masters’ degree my love of food came back slowly, but surely. Along with the joy, the pounds piled back on.

I did the old diet and binge two step for many years. Finally, I ran across a study on Mindful Eating by Michelle May. It was no magic cure either, but it was no diet. Instead, May taught eat what you love, but just not by the pound. One of the main things I learned was food was not love. This has been a very liberating concept. I now look for love in relationships, hobbies, and primarily my faith. Have I lost weight? I’m beginning to, but that is not the most important thing. My relationship to food is changing, and I am grateful.

So have a couple of slices of pizza, but know it won’t love you. That job goes to you and others in your life.

 

For more info about Michelle May or Am I Hungry? workshops, see Google.

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Dying Alone

My mother died alone. It’s only been two months and a few days, but this bothers me. Yes, she was in a nursing home, so technically not alone, but no family was there. I wasn’t there. She died in her sleep. There. Not there. Death is one of life’s great mysteries.  I wonder what her last sensation was? What did she hear? Or see? Most importantly, did she know she was alone?

Along the way, I’ve come to put my trust in the tenets of Christianity and more personally in the person of Jesus Christ. As a young girl, I watched a lady do felt board Bible stories. She would do Old and New Testament stories

on television. As time went by, I had a growing appetite for Jesus and for stories   about him. I read my Bible more and more and started my clock every Sunday to see this lady’s show.  One day, after her lesson, the Bible lady gave a mailing address. If you wrote to her, she would send you a Bible study about knowing Jesus. This was my top priority at age 10, so no homework meant all Bible study, all evening.  I finished a week long study in two days, mailed it back, and received yet another study. I finished it, mailed it in and received both studies back corrected. I only missed a couple of answers, so I knew how to know Jesus, but didn’t really know him personally.

My kid Bible made a lot of sense to me. It said a lot about drunkenness and immorality. I liked repeating these verses under my breath. I attended Archview Baptist Church on the Lucy bus driven by Ralph Pittman. The buses were all named after Charlie Brown characters, thus I rode the Lucy bus because it covered my neighborhood. On Saturday, Mr. Ralph came around with bubble gum inviting children to Sunday church. Then Sunday morning, he would pick us up. He always had donuts and chocolate milk on the bus. The food really appealed to me initially, but soon it was a love for Sunday School, singing, and the sermon. Yes, the sermon. The pastor knew so much about the Bible.

One Sunday, the pastor was talking about knowing Jesus, and it was as if he was talking right to me. Every time he said “you” I said, “Who me?” When he pointed, his finger it seemed a well-aimed shot right at my nose. So, at the invitation to come forward to know Jesus, I marched up to the pastor and said, “I want to know Jesus.”  They sent me back with an older woman. We used a front office to talk. The walls were bare, and the room was cold, but I felt the presence of something new and warm.

“Well Marla, what brings you down the aisle today?”

“I want to know Jesus,” I proclaimed.

From there, the nice lady began to explain to me that God wanted a relationship with me, but my sin got in the way. Sin means missing the mark. A good measure of the mark is the Ten Commandments. She read me the commandments and asked me if I had broken any of them. I answered yes because I knew I had. She explained also that sin created a great gulf between me and God and that all my efforts were insufficient to surpass that gulf. The hope we have is in Jesus.

She explained that Jesus was God’s only Son, and He lived with God before all creation. He came to earth as a baby to represent both human and divine; human to reach out to us, divine to reach out to God. This bridged the insurmountable gap between God and sinful humans. Just like God loves us, so does Jesus (see John 3:16). He loved us so much, He died to pay the debt for our sins (see Romans 6:23).  He arose from the cave He waa buried in on the third day.

“Marla, do you understand all this?” she said

“I do,” I said hurriedly.

“Then all you need to do is to give complete control of your life to Jesus. You can do this by asking Jesus to forgive all your sins and be Lord or Master of your life. Are you ready to do this now?”

“Yes!” I said enthusiastically!

“Okay then,” she said, chuckling at my desire to get it done. “Pray this prayer after me: (She prayed one phrase at a time and I repeated)

Dear Lord Jesus, I have sinned against you and against God the Father. I have spent my young life doing things my way. I ask that you would forgive me of my sins., and be my Lord and Savior for the rest of my life. I commit myself to you. I believe God raised you from the dead and you live forever. All power and authority are yours. In Jesus Name, Amen.

I’ve lived my life by these principles and my mom did too. When I have doubts, I rely on the power of Jesus to pull me through. Christ can pull you through too.

There is no problem He can’t overcome or give you the grace to walk through it.

So I know mama didn’t die alone. Jesus was with her walking her through it.

 

The Ice Cube Melteth

Aging makes me laugh. Its humor finds itself in that word you know so well but can’t remember, the directions you could spout off that are now turn at the place by the thing. No one can stop that aging process. It’s like watching ice melt. Inevitable entropy in motion.

At 52, I am seeing little puddles here and there. What was “Is it warm in here?” in your late 40s is now a full on gradual rise in temperature melting that ice cube. Increasing ever so slightly over time, melting your melon. It’s funny in yourself, but not in others, especially when age turns into heatwave melting what used to be a perfectly shaped cube into a puddle.

Of course, I’m talking about dementia in all its forms from plain dementia to Alzheimer’s. My mother, who recently passed away, suffered from Alzheimer’s. I use the word suffered because that is what she did. It was so frustrating to her. To have her everyday memories slowly fade away. Then, as the disease reached her core, it was excruciating to watch. Mercifully, she died in her sleep of a heart attack. She was 91.

I don’t fear death so much. The process, I fear. However, I do fear that heat melting my ice cube becoming a flame. I hope I don’t have dementia. If I do, I hope I take it with the grace Mother did. In the meantime, I will continue to laugh at the puddles and enjoy the world around me.

Beyond Knowledge

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]

New International Version – UK Version

 

I have a confession to make – I went to Arkansas Governor’s School way back in 1983. I went in with an emphasis on English, which I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed. I know, major nerd alert. But the poems, short stories and novels we studied were top notch. Also. we had section on writing which was equally enlightening.

Governor’s School was divided into three sections or areas as they were called. Area 1 was your field of study, e.g. English, Math, Science, Arts, etc. Area 2 emphasized studies in philosophy. Area 3 concentrated on psychological issues. Now I enjoyed Areas 1 and 3, but Area 2 gave me headaches. The professor that volunteered for our Area 2 class affixed himself to the idea of tearing down Christians and their beliefs. Specifically, he decided to take me to task on the first class. Of course, I was no match for this guy.  He out-degreed me by three at least, and he steamrolled over the tenants of my faith and me leaving me pancake flat,

From that first class, I ran back to my dorm room grabbed my Bible and knelt down by my bed. First, I prayed my roommate wouldn’t come in because I wanted the room to myself. Then really began to pray

Father, you have been nothing but good to me. I’ve never had a reason to doubt you until today. I am drenched with doubt and I need you to prove to me that you are real. So, I want to open my Bible to a passage that answers my question: Father, are you really there? Please show me. In Jesus Name, Amen!!

I laid my Bible on my bed like a fleece, waiting breathlessly to see if God would come through. I flipped open my Bible and my eyes landed on the verses above. Go ahead read them again. I will wait for you….

Isn’t that great! “Lean not on your own understanding!” See God showed me that the professor, for all his knowledge was putting all his weight on his own understanding! I was called to trust the Lord and lean him, and he would make my path straight, without a lot of intellectual acrobatics. Would there be some hard questions? Of course, you don’t check your brain at the door to become a Christian.  God gave it to you; he wants you to use it. But when push comes to faith in God, faith in God trumps every time.

A Reflection on Death’s Dance

March 19, 2018 – I was sitting watching television when my phone rang. It was almost 10:30 p.m.  When I saw who it was, I told my husband David who it was, “it’s the nursing hone,” I said reluctantly. My mother’s Alzhiemer’s prevented us from caring for her, so after 2 years in my home, mother went to the Nursing Home. Hesitantly, I picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Mrs Rogers?This is Jaime at Chambers.” (Death lifts his baton to strike up the band)>

“Mrs. Rogers, we went in to take your mother her 10 p.m. meds. She was laying in her bed but was unresponsive. (the ‘devil’strikes up the band.) I’m sorry to tell you that Ms. Tull has passed away.” (The devil takes my hand with glee while his minions kick me continually in the gut.)

As the details spilled from Jaime’s  mouth. the devil spun me around faster, madly, and the minions kept kicking me in the gut.

“Okay Jaime thank you.” (Swirling and swirling. Kicking and kicking. This went on until the funeral.. The moirning of the funeral, both the swirling one kicking went away. I felt peace that makes no sense,

This really doesn’t make any sense. My mother just died, my family is in shambles, and I’m about to see my mother for the last time on earth. I am not yet joyful, but God’s  peace filled my heart.

Death’s dance looms over the living like a pendulum rocking but ready to drop. But God…. But God swallowed death’s full sting on the cross!. So he’s only left with grief to dole out for a time.

Security

My husband recently admitted to a funny but embarrassing reality. Last time he had been to our storage unit to unload some things; he finished his task, shut the door, and snapped the lock to. Just as he felt the lock snap in his hands, he realized he left the keys inside the unit. When he confessed his accidental mishap to me, I replied, “Well, at least the stuff is super secure. We can’t even get in!”

We both had a good laugh at his expense. As I reflected over this little incident later, with a smile on my face, I began to think about nature of security. That is, the nature of our internal security. What makes us feel secure in relationships, in places, and most importantly in ourselves?

For many of us, we feel most secure when we are comfortable or relaxed. Being in a state of rest and calm though does not come easily for us 21st century dwellers. It usually takes something external to us to give us an adequate sense of well-being. Sometimes we look to positive externals to bolster our comfort. Our job, hobbies, our intellect, our personality, or even our relationships can seem so well locked down as to keep us comfortable for the foreseeable future. Chances are these things might deliver for a while, “might” being the operative word here. Problem is jobs change, hobbies fluctuate, intellects fade, personalities shift emphasis, and relationships, well, we know what can happen to them. There’s a reason these things don’t work.

Sometimes, when desperate times call for desperate measure, we turn to more negative externals like drugs, affairs, abuse of alcohol, isolation, or adrenaline rushes that are not healthy like stealing. In these cases, externals meant to ease tension from stressful situations become veils over our eyes blinding us to the life-threatening cliff on the other side. Temporary fixes like these become chains that bind us to dependency on them. Don’t think these externals are negative and binding? Try to quit them. You’ll find you don’t want to and their pull is so strong you feel like you can’t control them. That’s because you can’t.

We even seek to find our security on our own steam – self-esteem that is. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself, standing up for yourself or taking a healthy pride in what you do and who you are. When, however, you hang your sense of security in life on feeling good about yourself, you are left empty-handed when life hands you something too big to handle. No amount of self-esteem can you keep you safe through life’s storm-tossing winds. For instance, if someone you care about dies, feeling good about yourself will give you no sense of comfort at all in the face of human loss.

So where do we turn for security, and what is security exactly? When we think of security, probably our first thought is a sense of safety, calm, or reassurance. Those are all good definitions, but how do we know how secure our security is? In other words, in the storms of life, will it hold? Back to my husband’s lock issue: the storage space people had to work for a while to cut the lock off the door because the hubs had used a really strong lock to hold the door shut. We didn’t want anyone but us getting behind that lock.

The above “locks” that we’ve named will compromise our security. Why? They are not strong enough! Be they positive or negative, external or internal, there is no lock made by human hands or hearts strong enough to hold our well-being secure from life’s storms. So where do we turn?

The only lock I know that will hold, keeping you dry, safe and secure is an ongoing daily relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, you may be saying, “I knew you were going to say that.” Well, yes, you may have but it doesn’t make it any less true. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, all bets were off. On the cross, Jesus definitively won every battle, passed every test, and conquered every problem humanity could ever do or think of. The intervening grace of God took on human form, offered humanity real and lasting security, and then delivered real power to make that happen: Resurrection power. Yes, we still lose loved ones, have bitter fights, and just fall apart sometimes. But with Jesus as our security guard, we are locked into Him for life by the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. Having the God of the universe provide your security may be free, but it wasn’t cheap. After all, God in human form (Jesus) had to choose to die to secure the keys to the lock. The strength of the lock requires some maintenance, daily maintenance in fact.

As we live our lives moment by moment, we tend to begin a slow move away from God. By spending time in prayer and reading His Word while asking God to speak with us, we tend to stay closer to God and therefore keep experiencing the closeness of God holding us secure. With Jesus locking us up with his power, we really are secure as the storm passes by.

That Old Familiar Ache

Hi! Remember me?

Yes, I know it has been awhile. I’ve had some difficulties to deal with that have taken my focus off my writing and distracted me from some important things in life. To my faithful friends and readers, I apologize.

Conflicts have made life difficult of late. It is heartbreaking to be in conflict with people you love and treasure. Mistakes, harsh words, arrogance, selfishness, bitterness and all kinds of other negative actions and emotions spark more hatefulness, harshness, and hardness of heart. Next thing you know, this one won’t speak to that one, the other one starts throwing out labels and accusations, and everyone has a litany of wrongdoing the length of their arm. We are backed into a corner and set at odds because humanity as a whole is set up toward destruction, to defend first and listen later.

While I admit I hate conflict, it can have a way of revealing our hearts as nothing else. After we cool our heels and get some distance from the conflict, we can begin to reflect on what was said and how we said it. Was I too harsh? Did I state my position in a gentle, soft way since Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath? How did my words, the content of what I said, and the way I said them, make the other person feel? How was my timing? Was it the right time for this conversation? If we can begin to see our words, actions, and attitudes through the eyes of the offended, a light is lit and a mirror held up that sometimes shows all of us to be arrogant, defensive dunderheads. Often we act like we would rather defend our position and try to make our point than try to understand the position of another. However, sometimes that lit mirror reflects a clear conscience and gives us a certainty that we did and said the right thing.

I won’t lie here. It has been very frustrating and heartbreaking. I see how each person is protecting his or her heartache (me included).

May I be even more honest? I feel rejected, sad, and lonely.

I’m a little tired of my own bellyaching. Except this old familiar ache keeps visiting me, knocking down my hearts door and trashing the place. I’m broken for all of us at times, for none of us at other times, and just for me at other times.

As I have prayed about this, the sense I get is to be patient as God does His work in all of us. I’m doing a lot of soul searching and asking God to show me where my arrogance lies and where I may need to repent. I just want the problems to be resolved. However, it is not that simple.

Ultimately, I have to look into the mirror of conflict and see in my reflection the face of a judgmental woman. It has been said that the amount of freedom we experience may be equal to the amount of freedom we give others. Even if I think someone is dead wrong, they have every right to live their lives without the “head o’ judgment” raising its ugly, condescending self and passing judgment on everyone. There is some real freedom in realizing that no one has to answer to me. A Higher authority looks over us all and judges and gives grace as He sees fit. After all, His first words from the cross were: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NLT)

I offer this prayer, modeled after the Lord’s Prayer. Will you pray it with me for those in conflict with me and for me? Does your family need this prayer? Offer it to the Lord.  Allow Him to fill our hearts with peace knowing that when there are no easy answers, there is Love, Faith, and Hope.

Father, our Father, who dwells in the beauty of holiness, perfect and holy is Your Name. You are above our pettiness and problems. More than ever, our Father, we need to see Your Kingdom advance in our homes and families and, oh, that we would do Your Will and adopt Your Agenda with the speed and accuracy of heaven, just as Your Will is accomplished before Your Throne. As you look upon our situation, Father, give us this day what we need from you to sustain us. May we be ever mindful that we are dependent on You for all of our daily needs. May we remember that yesterday is a vapor, and tomorrow is an elusive dream. May clarity, real clarity be found today. Most of all, help us to remember that our debts are wiped clean by the highest sacrifice in Jesus Christ. Help us to forgive as generously as we have been forgiven. Keep us from being led by our own flesh, the world’s values, or the devil himself into temptation to propagate this mess we’ve made. Deliver us, our Father, from this evil we have wrought. For we have no other purpose, but to glorify You and enjoy you forever. Thine Oh Lord, is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen

Food for Mind, Body, and Spirit

I just watched a 90 minute video that made me terribly angry, surprised me, scared me, made me sick, hopeful, encouraged, enlightened, curious, and amazed. It wasn’t your standard Hollywood production. This was a documentary. Now before you yawn and leave the blog, please give me a chance to go where I’m going.

“Hungry for Change” is the name of this short film (hungryforchange.com). At the web site you can see the first 20 minutes of the film for free. To see the whole thing you have to buy it.

For any of you concerned with your health and the health of your family, the information, suggestions, and tips in this video are as enlightening as they are disturbing at times. Most importantly, they tell the truth about one of the biggest lies our country believes right now. With so many people in our nation (me included) being overweight, obese, or worse, we have accepted dieting as big business and we choose from the many diet plans like we were choosing from a buffet (I’ll takes some of this diet with the other diet on the side and a glass of that dumb grapefruit diet to go.). Now here is the rub, the elephant in the room you might say.

Diets don’t work, not for long term health and not for long term weight loss. I am officially announcing to the world that I am through dieting!!! My spirit, mind, body and money have been set free from the diet trap. I will never “try” this temporary solution to solve a permanent problem. I am changing the way I eat (have been for a while), and I’m not looking back. It feels so good to know that I only make permanent changes to my diet and that I can choose what to eat. I don’t have to be told by some list of rules. I eat until I satisfied and the rest goes in the fridge or the garbage. I’m adding foods to my daily feast that are as close to the way God made them as I can find. I’m dropping foods that exist in the chemically manufactured center of the grocery store. Most important, I’m cleansing as much refined sugar (America’s acceptable cocaine) from my diet as I possibly can.

Let me give some love and credit where credit is due here. I’ve also been going through the “Am I Hungry” workshop (amihungry.com) which teaches the sensible principles Mindful eating (mindfuleating.com). This teaching has helped me tremendously by setting me free from dieting and putting me on the path to really enjoying my food.

I don’t want to spoil anymore of what is in the “Hungry for Change” video. I’ll just say that everyone in America needs to see this video. Even if you don’t juice or become a vegetarian or vegan, there are reasons for us to change our diet to look more like it looked a hundred years ago.

Why am I hitting this issue with Thor’s Hammers? Losing your life to a plate of curly fries makes no sense to me anymore. I’ve sacrificed many years on the altar of food addiction. I’ve lost many valuable things and relationships to a pizza box and a large Dr. Pepper. I may have even shortened the years of my life. Only the Lord knows for sure.
I’ve come to understand also that my food idolatry, gluttony (thin people can be gluttons too), or whatever you want to call it is a sin against my own body! That’s right. I said it. Abusing your body, the one God gave you, is a sin against the Creator and the created. Paul states clearly to the Corinthian church, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As believers in Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit at our rebirth. Now, thinking back to the Old Testament, the Temple was filled with beautiful furniture, gold bowls, platters, etc., and the amazing, beautiful, and powerful ark of the covenant. When you think of the Temple of old, you think of splendor, opulence, and a well-maintained interior by the priests. If that is how the Old Testament Temple was, that cherished, well-taken-care-of, beautiful, and honored, how much more should our body be treated the same? I’ve forced the Holy Spirit to live in a beautiful home on the inside and a run down, unkempt, hovel on the outside. I was wrong. I want you to know that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I also am sure of God’s forgiveness and my own need to forgive myself. I thought one challenge in the video was particularly inspired for this task. After showering for 30 days, each day look in the mirror and say the following, “I accept myself just like I am right now.” God does; why shouldn’t I?

Not My Bag, Baby!

We talk a lot about baggage in our culture. I almost think that we’ve rubbed the word in psychological terms bald of its meaning. We talk about the “baggage” we carry from childhood and into our present relationships. We want to unpack our “baggage” and sort through the contents in order to finally put our bags up! But a friend of mine used this term in a different way this week, and it bears repeating and a bit of rumination.
My friend, Lisa Capehart, in a piece of writing she’s been working on posed this question: Whose baggage are you really carrying? Is it yours or someone else’s? How do you know? Well, we could open it up and see if there is anything of ours in there. We could see if our name’s on it if we don’t feel particularly predisposed to opening other people’s baggage. But wait a minute, I thought. Before I assume the latter is the best answer, maybe I should think this through.
How do we end up with someone else’s baggage, anyway? Somehow, we are either made to feel responsible for additional baggage and/or you are just naturally bent toward picking up the baggage of others if you think they can’t “handle it” well enough. Either way, you have to determine which one or both you may tend to be, there is an interesting phenomenon that happens when we pick up other’s baggage. We end up stuffing something of ours or some part of ourselves inside.
Let me give a personal example. There is one person above all others that I have tended to want their approval most in my whole life. Every time I have felt I disappointed this person or made them mad or made them happy even, I’ve realized that I have picked up a piece of their baggage that said “responsible for ____________’s feelings.” So it would seem the answer to my dilemma would be to simply stop feeling responsible for their feelings and move it along. However, if I did that (and I have done that), I can easily leave something of myself behind; in this case, my own responsibility for my feelings. Sound like a bunch of psychological mumbo jumbo? Allow me to unpack this bag and it won’t.
I realize logically that I can in no way be responsible for the feelings and well-being of others. However, I still find that I tend to respond emotionally to this person’s emotional state. For example, when they are mad, I tend to start feeling more anger. When they are happy, I am relieved and happy beyond belief. When they are disappointed in me, I feel depressed and sad. In other words, although my brain tells me, “You’re not responsible,” my emotions didn’t get the memo. So why is this and what’s a girl to do?
Somehow, back there in the past, I stuffed my emotional well-being in their suitcase! What a dumb thing to do, right?! But here’s the thing, if there is anyone in our lives that we feel this way about, like they are holding our emotions hostage until you do it their way, then we are not being the new creation inside us, and worst, not authentically respecting the new us before God.
You see when God commanded us to love our neighbors just like we love ourselves, He seems to assume that loving ourselves would not be a problem. On the contrary, Jesus is trying to motivate us to love ourselves rightly, not selfishly or stingily, by loving our neighbor rightly. Indirectly, Jesus is saying love yourself rightly. He does not condemn loving ourselves, instead He, Paul, and the other New Testament writers seem to point out that we should love ourselves because Christ does and because we are a new creation in Him. Love the new man; kill the old man (the selfish, or stingy one). (see Mark 12:30-31; Romans 6, 7:4-6; Galatians 2:20, etc.)
Therefore, we are in need, not only of dropping luggage that doesn’t belong to us, but also making sure we didn’t stuff something important in someone else’s luggage. Before you walk away from baggage that is not yours, you better be sure you have your belongings with you. You might need them some day on the long journey of life.

Staying on course

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Since I am the Way, staying close to Me is staying on course. – Jesus Calling, August 3