Curtis Hill's Blog

Get Real with Your Kids

September 26, 2016 by Champ Thornton in Champ Thornton's Blog

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.”

This quip supposedly comes from 17th century author John Wilmot, but most any parent could echo its sentiment. Parenting is complicated. Every child is made in the image of God, unique, and multi-faceted. The complexity grows as each additional child enters the family.  And complications multiply as the relationship between each child and every other family member also requires attention. No wonder parenting is one of the most demanding pursuits on the planet.

In the face of the undeniable challenges that parenting presents, God's Word guides us through the thicket of complexity. Surprisingly brief, there are less than a dozen passages in Scripture that directly address how a parent should rear a child. One of these is Deuteronomy 6:20-25.

 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

Did you notice anything unexpected in the parent's reply to the son's question? The child asks about the meaning of God's commands. In reply, the parent recounts a story. If one of my kids asked me about why he could or couldn't do something in our house, I might give several kinds of answers. I might provide pros and cons of a particular course of action, explain how it's unloving or unbiblical, or just drop back and punt: “Because I said so.”

Yet in this passage God reminds us that the meaning for rules is found in a story, a narrative story line, a reality in which we live. In other words, the simplicity in parenting complexity is this: we must help our children live in reality.

Reality comes in all shapes and sizes. We want our children to be aware of the realities of life on planet earth. Often this happens gradually. Toddlers need to be reminded about simple realities like: “If you come close to the stove, you might get burned.” Or “If you play near the top of the stairs, you might fall.” While teenagers will need to live in the grittier realities (among others) that foolish choices about friends, drugs, drinking, and sex will likely lead them into great harm.

But children of all ages also need to be reminded of the realities of God. There is a God. He made everything, including them. We all live in a good, but fallen world. This Creator sent His Son into the world to live and die in the place of sinners who turn from sin and trust in Him. And one day God will set everything right once more.

All these (and much more!) are realities which actually exist. They provide the often-unseen contours and substance of our existence. This is God's universe, and we are living in it. So we would do well to know what He and His world are like, lest we run at cross purposes to reality itself. As pastor and author Eugene Peterson has written (quoting H. H. Farmer), “If you go against the grain of the universe, you get splinters.”

And so our straightforward mission as parents is to one day deploy our children into the world, children who are aware and ready to live in the realities of God and the world He has created. Help your children live in reality. For my wife and me, this aim has clarified our parenting—not straightening the twists and turns of the path, but providing a north star to guide our steps.

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Early Morning Prayer

April 4, 2016 by Champ Thornton in Champ Thornton's Blog

John Stott (1921-2011), senior pastor at All Souls Church in London for 25 years (1950-1975), is perhaps better known as author of best-selling books that helped shape a generation of Christians. Among his over 50 books, Stott's Basic Christianity (1958) and The Cross of Christ (1986) have been the most influential.

One of Stott's biographers, Roger Steer, records the following about the everyday life and routines of this godly pastor. “Each morning (usually at five a.m.) John swung his legs over the side of his bed and before placing a foot on the ground started the day (whenever possible) with a  Trinitarian prayer.”

Good morning, heavenly Father;
Good morning, Lord Jesus;
Good morning, Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, I worship you as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world.
Holy Spirit, I worship you, Sanctifier of the people of God.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:

love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.”

I first read about this prayer of Stott's in a Christianity Today article back in 2001. It wasn't long before this prayer, easy to recall, became a regular, though not daily, part of my times of prayer, especially in early mornings when, before coffee, my own words didn't come so readily to mind. And here, I also commend it to you.

February Shelf Life

February 2, 2016 by Champ Thornton in Champ Thornton's Blog

It'll be no surprise to those who know me: I like books.

At any given time, I'm probably reading through 3-6 different books (although it may take me 3-6 months to finish them!). And “different” is a good word to use, because a fairly wide variety of genres, by Christian and non-Christian authors, winds up on my reading list: books about theology, biography, Christian living, Bible study, pastoring, history, fiction, sports, writing, mysteries, sociology, etc. I like books.

Here's a few books that I've read recently and recommend for your growth or enjoyment (or both).

Battling Unbelief by John Piper

This 155-page book is an excerpt of chapters from Piper's larger work, Future Grace. Both books focus on how to fight sin by embracing God's promises by faith. The subtitle of the book is, “Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure.” The back cover describes it this way, “Delighting in the bounty of God's glorious gospel promises will free us for a less sin-encumbered life, to the glory of Christ. . . . Pastor John Piper shows us how to sever the clinging roots of sin that ensnare us, including anxiety, pride, shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust.” Here's a sample from the final chapter:

As I pray for my faith to be satisfied with God's life and peace, the sword of the Spirit carves the sugar coating off the poison of lust. I see it for what it is. And by the grace of God its alluring power is broken.

If you want to grow in how to live as a Christian–trusting Christ and fighting sin–then this book is the place to start. With only 8 chapters, you can read this through with a friend over four-weeks (two chapters to discuss per week). You won't regret it.

Side by Side by Ed Welch

Here's another short book (163 pages) that deserves to be read by every follower of Christ. It's the best, most readable introduction for how to relate to other people in truly helpful ways. The full title of the book summarizes it's message: Side by Side–Walking With Others in Wisdom and Love. The book features 17 brief chapters, divided into two main sections: “We Are Needy” (Part 1) and “We Are Needed” (Part 2). Here's a sample:

I am writing for people, like me, who are willing to move toward other struggling people but are not confident that they can say or do anything very helpful. If you feel quite weak and ordinary–if you feel like a mess but have the Spirit–you have the right credentials. You are one of the ordinary people God uses to help others.

You should read this book, then read it again, then read it with a few friends. You'll find your heart warmed toward the Savior, inclined toward other men and women, and and equipped for redemptively helpful conversations. One of my top books of 2015.

That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

This is the third book in C. S. Lewis‘s Space Trilogy, which has been labeled, “theological science fiction.” The first two installments are Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. All three books follow the adventures of Elwin Ransom. Whereas the first book takes him to Mars, and the second to Venus, the final book unfolds here on planet earth, where a great evil threatens to overwhelm the entire world. In the book, Lewis describes this catastrophe this way, “They have pulled down deep heaven on their heads.” Here's an additional excerpt:

Perhaps few or none of the people at Belbury knew what was happening; but once it happened, they would be like straw in fire. What should they find incredible, since they believe no longer in a rational universe? What should they regard as to obscene, since they held that all morality was a mere subjective by-product of the physical and economic situations of men? The time was ripe. From the point of view which is accepted in Hell, the whole history of our Earth had led up to this moment.

If as a child, you liked the Chronicles of Narnia, chances are that you'll enjoy Lewis's Space Trilogy as an adult.

You Can't Make This Up by Al Michaels

As I mentioned, I like to read a wide variety of stuff, sometimes by authors who in no way claim to be Christian. This book is Michael's memoir covering his life and diverse experiences as a sports announcer.

I liked this book because Sunday Night Football, with sportscasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, is a tradition in our household. And I could listen to Al Michaels call just about any sport. Perhaps his voice triggers some kind of nostalgia (he's been announcing since the 1970s), but he's also just downright good (some would say “miraculous“) at what he does. Even if you're not into sports, this book provides a well-written and fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of some of the most memorable (and forgettable) experiences of the past 40 years. Here's an excerpt of his thoughts following a championship win by his own favorite team, the Los Angeles Kings:

We go to the parking lot, and I think of Curt Gowdy. “Don’t ever get jaded.” I think also of the great Jim McKay, and his line from Wide World of Sports. “The human drama of athletic competition.” You just don’t know what’s going to happen. But so often, sports have the capacity to create these moments. The kinds of moments I’ve had the great fortune to broadcast throughout a career I dreamed of since I was six years old.

From minor-league baseball in Hawaii to the Miracle on Ice to Monday Night Football to Sunday Night Football and so much in between, if there’s such a thing as reincarnation, and if you believe in the law of averages, in my next life I’ll be working in a sulfur mine.

In Mongolia.

On the night shift.

By the way, if possible, you might want to consider listening to the audiobook version of this book, since Al Michaels himself reads a number of the chapters!

3-4 Things with Kate, part 2

November 9, 2015 by Curtis Hill in 3-4 Things, Curtis Hill's Blog

Kate, a recent Delaware graduate, spent her summer sharing Christ on the other side of the world, in a place where there are not many who follow Jesus. I felt it would be valuable to hear from her (she actually had 7 things, instead of the usual 3-4. You can read part 1 here.)…

What are 3-4 ways that you saw God work this summer (in your life or in others’ lives)?

  1. I have learned that God doesn't need us. But the beautiful thing is He chooses to use us. I am just a girl, nothing special, but God still chooses to use me daily. All I have to do is be ready and be obedient. Last semester I had an opportunity, and unfortunately I was not obedient. I had connected with an international girl on campus one evening when I saw her walking on the side of the road, and I offered to give her a ride to her very far away apartment. We connected very well. But through the business of school, I neglected the relationship. Often, the Spirit would put her on my mind, but I never followed through. By the end of the semester, I felt sad when I saw that she had returned to her home country. I thought, I could have been the way she heard the good news. But later over time, I noticed something on Facebook. She actually had accepted Christ that semester. Someone else had shared with her. See, God revealed her to me, he allowed me to be a part of something special, He chose to use me. But God taught me something. Even through my disobedience, He still got His way. He didn't need me. He chose to use someone else to teach His word to this girl. He is always sovereign.
  2. Our mission didn't begin once we arrived overseas. As a Christian, our every day should be mission minded. When I stepped foot on the plane, I was presented with the opportunity to share and be obedient. Through the awkwardness of starting a potential conversation, I decided to trust God. It was pretty cool. Just over the few hours of flying from Atlanta to Dallas, I was able to share good news with the lady sitting next to me. After talking to her I realized that her twin sister was dying of cancer. She was making the visit to say her last goodbye. I was able to share the good news with her and she didn't have to have fear in death when you trust in Jesus Christ. That the pain of this world is temporary. I was able to pray with her before she left. She was excited to share this with her sister. I could have given in to my introvertedness and desire to sleep, but God made it clear that He wanted to use me. I'm thankful that I obeyed. Simple things like this makes me feel so close to the Lord. It gives me a joy that I can't express. The Lord wants to use us, and He will!
  3. Over these past few years, God has continued to bless me with multiple opportunities to reach the nations right here in our own country. Right now it is not the time for me to go overseas, but that does not mean that I still cannot “go” right here. The more I pray for opportunities to reach the nations, the more students God sends my way. What if God is sending students for us to reach right here in Newark, De? What if these students heard the gospel, and when they returned, were to share it with their home country? We can reach the nations here.  I am continuing to learn what it means in Jeremiah 6:16 says, to : “stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and to walk in it.” I cannot express how many times I have failed, but at the same time how many times these students have reached out to me. Just through making myself available, and taking a few extra steps simply just by inviting a student to coffee or making time to talk, I have been blessed with opportunities to share the gospel. God had been preparing their hearts, and he chose to use me. A girl from China told me the other day that she knew I must be a Christian because of my kindness. Simply just through being kind, God chose to use me as a light in someones life. This provided such a sweet gospel conversation. There was nothing profound that I had done, I was just kind. It's pretty cool how God chooses to use us, it's clearly all Him. For He is the only reason that I have joy or kindness to begin with!
  4. I learned a lot this summer just through simple things such as reading. Whether the Word, or books inspired by authors who also read the Word. This summer I read the book The Insanity of God by a missionary with name of Nik Ripken. I recommend it to everyone. I learned so much about what it means to truly follow Christ. I learned a lot of what it means to live and die for Christ as well. Here are a few quotes in the book that I really love. ” Don't ever give up in freedom, what those would never give up in persecution. That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! ” “You just have to go. You have to go. Even if there is no clarity about your return, you have to go.” -Nik Ripken. This quote shows just like I mentioned above about the seriousness of the command. Just like Revelation 2:10 states: ” Here's what I require of you, that you should be faithful until death.” We are commanded to be faithful, even if it means death. This summer, through serving, I repeatedly learned more and more about who I am as well. This is something that I had journaled after reading a few chapters in the book, and taking time to reflect on what I had learned.  “I am the daughter of the King- who was and is to come. I have been created in His likeness to make His name known. He has created me and called me to be a follower of Him. That's it. That is His will for my life: to follow Him through prayer and thanksgiving making His name known to all peoples, no exceptions. I do not choose who deserves to hear. All deserve to hear. To follow Him means to walk forward to wherever He leads me, walking by faith alone. This means not doubting where I will end up, or how I will get back- because that is not faith.** Walking forward trusting the hands that created me, loves me, provides for me, and will also hold my hand through the valley even if it means the shadow of death. He will be with me, His rod and His staff will comfort me. With Him I will fear no evil- for He is my God. He goes before me. He loves me so much that He wants to include me in His beautiful plan, allowing and providing me to meet the faces of His beautiful children and having me- someone who is no one- tell the gospel, the greatest Love story to everyone. Because my God is love and He is a jealous God longing for those to not only hear, but for those to get up and share, to go and to not look back, even if it means never coming back. For I know my God will be with me, for He is faithful. He will never leave me nor forsake me. So I will go. Not questioning where, or when, but I will go. For my God is not just a God of America, but ALL nations.”

I have been so thankful for a summer to learn from so many different people through the IMB and just from the ways that they were faithful in serving the Lord. Just like Hebrews 13:7 says: “remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” This is my payer, that I would continue to learn and grow so that I may imitate this, serving God in everything that I do.

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I am grateful for Kate opening her heart so much. I pray that God would use what He taught her to influence many to follow Jesus in a greater way.

 

Click here to check out other posts in this series.

3-4 Things with Kate, part 1

November 7, 2015 by Curtis Hill in 3-4 Things, Curtis Hill's Blog

Kate, a recent Delaware graduate, spent her summer sharing Christ on the other side of the world, in a place where there are not many who follow Jesus. I felt it would be valuable to hear from her (she actually had 6 things, instead of the usual 3-4, so I am breaking this up into a couple of posts)…

What are 3-4 ways that you saw God work this summer (in your life or in others’ lives)?

  1. As always, every time I serve overseas I see God work and hear His word. I feel so close to His heart, because I am with His heart, His people. These are His children whom He so desperately longs a relationship with. It is such a blessing to be a part of, serving in this way. But I know that God doesn't just speak to us when we are overseas, but here in America as well, we just have so many more distractions that we are enveloped in. If we don't make the efforts to make time in His word, how do we expect to hear Him?
  2. I learned how so often we grow up learning about missions as a call, or as a choice. Through reading scripture, I have learned more and more that this is not as much a call or a choice, but a command. This is why we have been created, to “go into all of the world.” Every time, I have gone overseas,I feel this fullness l of joy that this is who I truly am. This is why I was created. I was created to make His name known, to all nations, to all people groups. I think I feel the closest to who I am, because I was in Gods will. Why would He not want us to go? It's a funny thought to think that I would pray, God if it is your will, I will go. But I have learned that it is His willl ! We should be going regardless. The only time we should stay, is if God says to stay.
  3. I learned that no matter how we may have planned the day, God always got His way. I learned so much about God's sovereignty. Our team would make plans to go to another island that morning, but something would happen, and we would not be able to go. Later that day, we would recognize that the whole reason we were meant to stay, was to share the good news with the people God put in our paths that day. Those individuals needed to hear, and God chose us to share it with them. Even when crazy things would happen like being threatened to go to jail, we knew that we could rest, because we believe in a God who is ever present and provides. We had faith that even if it meant jail, God had a plan behind it.

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We will continue part 2 in a couple of days.

 

Click here to check out other posts in this series.

3-4 Things with Wayne

November 2, 2015 by Curtis Hill in 3-4 Things, Curtis Hill's Blog

I recognize that for many in our congregation a good amount of time is spent in the car (in traffic!). One of those who you might find on Route 1 or I-95 during a weekday morning or afternoon is Wayne. I asked him this question.

What are 3-4 ways you try to optimize your commute? 

  1. I love podcasts. They are great for any time of day, but their format and delivery is just suited really well for a commute. You get to control how fast or slow you listen (with certain apps), and I’m continually impressed by how much quality content is out there. In the morning my brain seems most curious and receptive, so I generally listen to something edifying on the way to the office. Evenings are a different story since I’m usually most interested in being entertained after a long day! Either way, podcasts are an efficient way to learn more about things I’m interested in and to broaden my horizons a little bit.
  2. I don't generally set aside time to pray in my car every day. But there are times I've felt particularly burdened to pray right in the seat as I was driving. It might sound strange, but it is comforting to know that window of ‘quiet time' on the road is available to me. The Bible app on my phone is also a good resource – pulling up a favorite Psalm and listening while driving can orient my heart in a better direction. So I’ve grown to appreciate that making good use of my time (Eph 5:15-16) can include prayer and listening to Scripture while I’m driving too.
  3. It is incredibly easy to carry the baggage of a long day of work back home with me. Problem is, there isn’t much that makes the mood in our home more of a downer than when I’m brooding over something! Awhile back a friend shared some solid advice on how to handle this (in the form of this blog post actually). The essence of it has stuck with me: focus on 1) serving your family, and 2) making them smile. The post behind that link expands on those, and it’s worth a read. But practically speaking for me this often means that a mile or so from my front door I'm taking 30-60 seconds to pray for strength to do those things well for my wife and kids that evening – no matter how I feel. I think it's safe to say I'm a work in progress in this area, but I’m grateful that God's grace in my life has meant that I've seen some progress too.

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Regardless of the length of commute, I think there is some solid insight into Wayne's responses, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness in “redeeming the time.”

 

Click here to check out other posts in this series.

3-4 Things with Jim

October 28, 2015 by Curtis Hill in 3-4 Things, Curtis Hill's Blog

Ogletown is blessed by so many who have served the Lord through music/worship leading. One of those individuals is Jim, who came to Ogletown a few years ago. I have been blessed by his passion for Jesus and for helping others worship Jesus through music. I asked Jim this question…

What are 3-4 things God has taught you through leading worship?

  1. I came to understand early on in my walk that worship is so much more than what we do in a church service. It is an everyday thing. I love what Paul says in Romans 12 when he urges believers to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your SPIRITUAL WORSHIP”. The most important commandment according to Jesus is to love God with ALL your heart, ALL your mind, ALL your soul and ALL your strength. Worship involves our whole being. Acts of worship can and should occur every day, giving honor to Him with our lives and our lips.
  2. But while this is true, we should never minimize the importance of what happens when the church gathers together or when we have an intimate time with the Lord.
    God has taught me that worshipping Him in these settings is one of the great joys of our spiritual lives. David wrote, “One thing I ask of the LORD, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). This “one thing” was of paramount importance in David’s life and should be in ours as followers of Jesus. In these times, we have the opportunity to encounter God through the Holy Spirit and experience His presence! The Psalmist wrote,“In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).
  3. We should approach these times as sacred and understand that we are gathered in His name and that He inhabits the praises of His people. When we have a casual attitude in a church service toward praise and worship, (carrying on conversation, thinking about other things, etc.) we are robbing ourselves of truly entering into His presence (for He is present by His Holy Spirit) and experiencing what that brings, and we are robbing God of the glory due His name.
  4. Finally, God delights in those who delight in Him!  Zephaniah 3:17 says that God “will rejoice over you with gladness” and “exult over you with loud singing”! The Psalms tell us to sing, clap, shout, lift our hands, dance and play instruments before God in our expressions of praise and worship. How great is our God and how great a salvation He has provided through Jesus! He is worthy of all of our praise!

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My heart was convicted and challenged by Jim's insights. I pray that we would be full-hearted worshippers in daily life, and especially as we gather together as the people of God.

Click here to check out other posts in this series.

Prayer Focus (for the month of October 2015)

October 25, 2015 by Curtis Hill in Curtis Hill's Blog

Each week in our worship guide, we are highlighting prayer for God's work beyond our walls. These were things we highlighted this month.
Praying for the Sokoto Fulani in Niger (10/4)
Ask God to send laborers to Niger to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of the Sokoto Fulani. Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are currently serving the Sokoto Fulani. Pray that God will give the Sokoto Fulani believers boldness to share Christ with their own people. (To find out more about this people group, please visit joshuaproject.net)
Praying for Sycamore Hill Church (10/11)
Thank God for His work among Sycamore Hill Church (which has campuses in Hockessin and Wilmington), as they have grown significantly and steadily over the last several years. Ask God to continue to use the church to display His glory to this area. Ask God to give the church wisdom as they pursue God’s will for staffing, church planting, and best allocation of their space. (sycamorehillchurch.org)
Praying for our US Senators (10/18)
As we remember instruction from 1 Timothy 2:2, we ask God that he would enable Tom Carper and Chris Coons (our U.S. Senators from Delaware) to carry out their duties with humility toward God and toward others.
Praying for Young Life Northern Delaware (10/25)
Thank God for using this ministry to lead so many in our congregation to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray for YL as they form strategies to engage students in schools in our area. Pray especially that God would use the clubs, campaigners, and camps of this ministry to reach students (and their families) that don’t yet know Jesus.

3-4 Things with Amy

October 23, 2015 by Curtis Hill in 3-4 Things, Curtis Hill's Blog

I increasingly find myself grateful for the medical community and their hard work. One of those in our church family is Amy who is a pediatrician. I am grateful (among many other things) for her humility servant spirit, and love for the Lord. I asked her this question:

What are 3-4 things God has taught you through your work in the medical field (particularly related to children)?

Here was her answer…

  1. One of the greatest joys of my job is watching families grow up together.  The newborn that I saw in the hospital with a nervous first-time mom and dad is now a (sometimes) confident fifth-grader.  It is amazing to be a teensy part of this process
  2. I didn’t come to know Christ until after I had graduated med school. As I have continued along my walk with Him, it has been awesome to look back on all that education, and see how awesome our Creator is – from the intricate biochemical pathways that keep us all functioning from second to second, to seeing His perfect plan unfolding in mothers and fathers taking care of helpless infants that mature into independent personalities of their own – and how that is a picture of how He takes care of us as we continue to mature – it is a constant reminder of how we depend on Him daily.
  3. As the culture around us moves further away from God’s standard, I find that there are times people (kids, teens, their families, or my co-workers) are just looking for permission to stand firm on His principles, against the tidal wave of the culture.  They need to hear that it is ok to wait for marriage before engaging in sex.  There are constant messages against His perfect design, be it a Supreme Court decision, or a conversation with a peer.  I am often surprised by how often the opportunity to pray with a family presents itself.

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Thank you, Amy, for your insight!  Again, I find myself so grateful to be a part of a church family where followers of Jesus are living their faith in their vocations through loving their neighbor.

 

Click here to check out other posts in this series.

 
 

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