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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Night....

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a classification of vices (part of Christian ethics) that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin. In the currently recognized version, the sins are usually given as pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Each is a form of Idolatry-of-Self wherein the subjective reigns over the objective. (

  • Pride leads to unhappiness because we are driven to be constantly on the defensive and always appear “perfect”--our wagons must always be circled.
  • Greed leads to unhappiness for we are driven to never be satisfied–we always lust for more–more and “better”.
  • Lust leads to unhappiness because we are driven to abandon good judgment and common sense. We are deeply antisocial for we are driven to always put our own interests before others’.
  • Envy leads to unhappiness for we are driven to always view ourselves in a dim light–others have everything better than we do.
  • Gluttony leads to unhappiness for we are driven to stuff ourselves even if someone else is starving sitting at the same table.  It drives us to sickness by our fixation on accretion.
  • Wrath leads to unhappiness for we are driven to always be in consuming rages of anger.
  • Sloth leads to unhappiness for we are driven to actively avoid reality by not attending to our necessary interests.
The seven deadly sins are not only sins against God, but have in common the direct imposition of chronic unhappiness upon ourselves.  When we commit the seven deadly sins, theologians may argue whether or not we will suffer in hell.  Without question it is starkly apparent we thrust upon ourselves an ever-present hell on earth.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

The Green Door

What do you suppose was the mood of the Israelites when they asked Aaron to make gods for them? 

  • bored
  • restless
  • impatient
  • rebellious
  • doubting God

(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 166).

When I was a young man I tried hashish and marijuana.  One might easily identify all of the possibilities mentioned in the above question as the reason why.  But I think a more primal fear I had was being left out of a sensational experience that others were enjoying.  This sense of feeling left out indicates a fundamental survival fear for humans.  For most of our history as a people, being left out could easily result in isolation and death. We generalize this fear and feel it in a myriad of situations– precipitating finally in a graduated feeling of victimization.  The Israelites were regretting the relative good living conditions (compared to what they had now) they experienced while they were in Egypt.  Perhaps a new idol would surround them in a new paradise.  It behooves us all to be aware of this fundamental psychological drive to be included almost at any cost. We need to understand that we will indeed be left out of abundant life if we look for artificial shortcuts.  


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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Participation in Eternal Life

...Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21 NIV).


And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13 KJV).

Let us face a bald fact–participation in eternal life for me is a daily experience filled with certitude.  Rather than based on intellectual and theological arguments, my faith is grounded in an absolute conviction that to participate in the eternal (as I do) is to possess it.  It reminds me of Jesus’s remark that the kingdom of God is in our midst.  And how do I participate in the eternal? By living and breathing eternal verities.  Take one verity for example: humility is and ever will be a vital force, and is the only sure avenue to the flowering of culture and to attaining abundant life.  Humility is an indispensable component of love.  Without authentic humility before facts (one of them surely is that for everything I know, there are one hundred trillion things I don’t) progress on all fronts is undercut by delusional, power-greedy egos.   So therefore, all who intentionally grasp and live by the truth of humility are participants in values that will rule for the long-long term–for eternity.  That is, eternity is among us AND we intrinsically feel and KNOW with full assurance that it is so and that we are graciously subsumed within it. That is, based on constant spiritual and evidential reinforcement given us daily in our whole aspect, our little gray cells assist in transmuting daily assurances to transcendent faith.  Some would argue such certitude is a tad bit arrogant. I would only reply that if you really think humility is not vital and essential for progress and is eternally so, your lack of conviction and belief is understandable. 

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Something Beautiful

Serendipity is what happens when two or three get together and share their lives and the Holy Spirit does something beautiful when you least expect it. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, presentation page).

I have identified that the ultimate purpose of my blog is to share the belief and conviction that the disciplines of love are paramount for abundant life. To do this I have relied extensively on personal experience with the assurance that my idiosyncratic experiences are shared socially. My Sunday school teacher Mitch Marsh has often reflected that when we share a weakness we connect with others who share the same weakness. I believe this is so for something about honesty is contagious and liberating. I am grateful to live in the land of liberty in the context of faith. This has made things possible not otherwise available as a resource way too often in the track of history. Neither my country nor my religion are perfect – but we know who is perfect and we ultimately rely on the creative and redeeming grace of Providence.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We Need to Talk

Is there some place where you need to stand up for your rights? How will you do this in a helpful way? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 337).

We are all placed in a leadership role when the time comes for us to stand up for our rights. So, like it or not, at one time or another we all must be leaders. Jesus taught that we are to be servant leaders focusing on the service that we can provide rather than the power that we can exercise. All of us even without much hierarchal power greatly exercise the power to influence. Children are a good example. Without much hierarchal power, they vastly influenced the home with their influential power. So when we need to stand up for our rights, at the outset we should apply the Golden rule. We need to conceptualize all that impinges upon the attitude and behavior of those who we see as curtailing our rights (the mature approach). An understanding of their assumptions and pressures – both internal and external – greatly facilitates our advance while embodying an attitude of confidence and helpfulness rather than anger and recrimination. (Empathy is the prerequisite for compassion.) The person in power may respond in a fashion that indicates they think we should be appreciative rather than demanding. In fact, we must be both. Appreciative and demanding of ourselves and others. This is the only approach that allows us to fully exercise the disciplines of love which undergird all successful human relationships. 

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Courage Yes! Anger No!

Recall a time when your response to a reprimand was anger. Was there something in it to take courage from instead? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 622).


Ephesians 4:25-32

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

When reprimanded, our anger usually arises from a sense of unjust criticism. We get angry at the outrageous injustice of it all. Certainly a solid option for us is to respond with courage rather than anger. For courage arises from a sense of capacity rather than victimization. By substituting an inhale of courage and resolve for an inhale of anger we deeply affirm ourselves, our fundamental mission, and our resilient and persistent character. That is essentially what Martin Luther King did in his battle for civil rights – he substituted courage and resolve for anger. So also Nelson Mandela. Let us do the same this day and hereafter.  

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

The End in View

A tribute to Martin Luther (and author of A Mighty Fortress) on Reformation Sunday.

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The White Noise of Progressive Government

When you play a game with sporting equipment inferior to your opponents, how do you feel? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 409).

The first response is to look toward individual responsibility for a solution. Do what you can to equal or better the quality of your equipment. This arises basically from a sense that the current matchup is unfair due to the equipment of the opponent. There is no reason to blame the opponent, for obviously they will do what is in their best interest to outperform you.

But this question likewise shows the importance of governance. That is, if there had been an umbrella organization setting standards of conformance, such a situation of unfairness would not have arisen in the sport. However, it must be acknowledged that the governance option need not be beneficial in the long-run if it results in the intentional or unintentional curtailment of equipment innovation.  It is indeed likewise evident that an active, progressive, and creative governance structure could actually stimulate and cultivate development of equipment greater than unassisted competition itself.  The tone of governance would therefore be critical – a tone that relies ultimately on the resources, inclinations, and values of the component population.

(Please read above again accompanied by following white noise.)

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Cramming for the Final Exam

Your death can come unexpectedly, just as Joseph’s did.  Are you prepared to die? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 646). 

I here will assume we are speaking of an unexpected death – not an expected death following a prolonged and painful illness. That is, I’m more or less copacetic and cruising along rather well and suddenly am faced with death. What conditions must prevail for me to say that I am prepared to die? The question that would obtain at that hour has two parts – have I exercised the courage to be (have I been faithful to myself) and have I succeeded in doing the will of my Father (have I been faithful to God).  It must be understood that I will not have the final answer to the last part of that question; for success here does not depend upon my opinion or the opinion of others, but is entirely a matter for the wisdom and judgment of God. As for the first part of the question (have I been faithful to myself), the time for all escapism has passed.  I stand stark naked face to face with myself.  Do I see in the lineaments of my life’s visage  courage, wholeness, and integrity; or do I find a morass of sell-outs and compromise–a denial of who I was born to be along with forever lost opportunities to make a unique contribution?  Am I prepared to die?  This is one test question that cannot be simulated in advance.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tempest and Tranquility

I have written on this before but feel led to do so again. The landscape of American politics embodies two essential goals.  The goals are:
  • Individual Responsibility
  • Human Compassion.
It is very clear that both of these goals are needed. It is also very clear that simpleminded application of either goal is harmful. To always insists solely on individual responsibility to meet every problem is downright cruel. But so also is the insistence that compassion meet every problem. Both must be seen as a twin set and both must govern.

The anatomies of both goals share the cogent power of purpose.  We find purpose in affirming individual responsibility, and we find purpose in affirming the need for compassion. That is, both contribute to our sense of meaning and both take on the morass of ultimatums and intellectual dilemmas that we often find ourselves inheriting when the mojo of symbols meet head-on the complexities of the world.

Therefore let us be kind to one another as we navigate swells of conflict and perplexity and likewise rejoice when we enter surprising seas of unity.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Look of Love

What “sign of goodness” do you look forward to receiving from your parents that lets you know you are special? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 819).

I knew I was special when my mother would look at me with a quiet, peaceful, expression of love. It was a pleasant face with a hint of a smile. Take the emotive qualities of that face and add a touch of pride – that was the look of love from my father. Both of them showed no hint of phoniness; but were accepting, genuine, and kind. They did not invite a hug, but in their light a hug was always natural and appropriate. That look meant more than words ever could because it said it all.

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Have I got a Job for You!

What does it mean here to win souls (v. 30)? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 888). [Proverbs 11:30: The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise (NKJV). The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. (NIV).

I have a place for you. There's a reason for you to be on this planet, and here it is. (Parables from the Back Side: Bible Stories with a Twist Vol. 1, page 90; J. Ellsworth Kalas).

Typically “winning souls” can call to mind a church altar with scores of people lined up to affirm for the first time “Jesus is Lord.” The more lined up, the greater the evangelist is deemed to be. This was not my father’s view of things, and neither is it mine. A horde chanting a shibboleth is no guarantor nor substitute for individuals exercising the fruit of the Spirit in every day practice. The ultimate objective of this blog is to promote the view and conviction that the disciplines of love are the most appropriate approach to life and its myriad facets. This includes all the blessings and challenges that living presents.  The path of the persuaded in tandem with divine grace is the most effective and realistic approach. It takes into view both the long and short-term.  Without this anchor life is confounding: an escapism without meaningful effectiveness.


 There are in our existence spots of time,
 That with distinct pre-eminence retain
 A renovating virtue, whence--depressed
 By false opinion and contentious thought,
 Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
 In trivial occupations, and the round
 Of ordinary intercourse--our minds
 Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
 A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
 That penetrates, enables us to mount,
 When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
 This efficacious spirit chiefly lurks
 Among those passages of life that give
 Profoundest knowledge to what point, and how,
 The mind is lord and master--outward sense
 The obedient servant of her will. 
(William Wordsworth, The Prelude Book Twelfth)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Principal Taproot of Terrorism

Who is having difficulty forgiving you? Why do you think this is? (Serendipity Bible Forth Edition, page 366).

A generalized anger against the world is extremely difficult to contain. Even anger management seminars have limited effect. Anger predisposes the mind to faultfinding fired by a powerfully generalized perception of victimization in which others constantly owe you big time – especially if the person or persons so blamed sought to help you, yet while deriving only limited results. Then one’s own failings are angrily laid at the feet of those who most sought to help you and most sought to inspire hope. I think that the mass shootings that we sometimes see in America are explosive attempts in a “land of promise and opportunity” to vindicate personal failure by laying that failure at the feet of others seen to be reprehensibly culpable and responsible.  On a broader scale, here we find direct hints as to the principal taproot of terrorism – the sustained inability to accommodate self-criticism within a mushrooming mental matrix of self-justifying anger.

The Bard's Reprieve (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66)

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscalled simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
   Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
   Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chutzpah in Any Form

When you are jealous of someone, what is most likely the cause?
  • their looks
  • their abilities
  • their accomplishments
  • their popularity
  • their possessions
  • other_____________
(Serendipity Bible Forth Edition, page 420).

I am jealous even of an average dog when he shows in his demeanor and wag of his tail that he is at home in the world, freely accepts that he belongs there, and has the courage to be fully present. Yes, when I see a dog like that, I am jealous.  In short, the dog has no apprehension as to his worthiness or right to be totally equal and acceptable to all company – including me.  And what is more, I muct prefer a dog like that rather than one slouching about, afraid of his own shadow, looking as if he should not have been born. A dog like that deserves our pity for in his one chance at life, he is miserable and doubts even his own validity as a living being.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

The Magnet Man

What outstanding characteristic of Joseph's life would you like to make a part of yours? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 120).

Let's look at a few of his characteristics:
  • As a youth he lacked appreciation of human nature--Joseph thought his older brothers would even then be delighted to know his dream showed that they would one day bow down to him--that they would rejoice in knowing that he was way more favored and special then they.
  • He had deep and confident assurance from early years that he would make a significant contribution to human affairs.
  • He had the ability to exude the trait of loyalty.  Many relative strangers seem to grow to trust him almost immediately.
  • He had leadership ability that likewise was palpable and obvious--he garnered faith in his intellectual capacity and solid capability.
  • He was handsome.
  • He had proven insight that was both needed and relevant, and with which he was generous.
  • He had a forgiving spirit and capable of lasting love.
  • He was a loyal family member.
There probably are many more characteristics that could be listed, but clearly he had loads of what can be called a well-founded personal charisma that inspired duly exercised trust.  I suppose this is what I would most like to have....this charisma that seemed to sum up in radiating telepathy core integrity that in turn fostered in others the confidence of favorable returns.  But then, I suppose like Joseph as a youth, I am grossly overestimating the extent to which such special powers would invite admiration and love rather than envy and burning ill-will.

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Sine qua non Christian Facilitators

  • "Every heart with Christ, a missionary; every heart without Christ, a mission field." (Dick Hillis).
  • Witnessing is "One beggar telling another where he can find bread."

The above matched pair of sayings is a favorite of Ernie Dorrell, retired Methodist clergy.  They succulently convey the universal mission of Christian witness in concert with the accompanying twin attributes of equality and humility. Without these personal attributes, defenses and resistance abound; with them, trust becomes possible and the fear of selfishly spawn manipulation significantly diminishes.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Blaming the Victim and Externalized Cost

When an enterprise externalizes cost, real costs are made to be born by others outside the organization. Pollution is an example. It seems to me that there lies a deep kinship in "blaming the victim" and externalized cost. In each case the perpetrating party seeks to shed all accountability and to lodge all cost (or blame) in others.  Let us say that I am a terrible teacher and in rote monotone deliver an interminable lecture which would have been best conveyed by written text.  I make little or no effort to enliven the oral presentation with graphics or even meaningful pauses and inflection. I just "read" from memory page upon page of highly dense data. If a student should complain or fall asleep, I blame them for being lazy or not measuring up intellectually to the high-caliber tone of my delivery.  In other words, I can archly blame the victim who--in a more just world--would have me summarily fired.   We see similar self-inoculation against blame in social groups where shunned individuals are discredited and condemned rather than shouldering any of the responsibility ourselves. 

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Most Effective Method to Communicate and Persuade

Where are you crying out, but unheeded? What then do you say? Feel? Act? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1291).

Typically in these situations the initial response is to apply in one form or another condign power – the power to punish in a more or less subtle manner: "In one way or another I will make you listen to me!"  I would recommend throwing this method out the window. We must look to brer rabbit and the application of wit in concert with the patience and grace that arises from the fruit of the Spirit.* This implies a certain latitude of time  – if you at this instant are about to place your hand on a hot stove, an onlooker standing nearby will no doubt intervene reflexively and physically. But we habitually greatly overestimate the number of times that imperatives for such disruptive action is appropriate.  I suggest the most highly effective method for getting one to listen is to open the perception of others by one's own example.  In illustration, don't give me a boss that relentlessly preaches industrious effort, rather give me a boss that regularly  themselves engage in industrious effort. That, in my opinion, is the fastest track to effective communication and persuasion.

* But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Divergent Challenges of Medicine and Religion

With whom do you find it easier to talk more openly: your doctor or your pastor? Why do you think this is? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 192).

The crux of the matter is the person's evaluation of what the pastor or doctor want.  The doctor wants the unvarnished facts; the pastor may or may not want this.  With the doctor we are discussing a physical ailment; with the pastor the malaise may be physical, psychological, social, or spiritual.  With the doctor we have some assurance that if we are completely honest, then so long as the medical arts can apply a cure we are justified in our hope and expectations.  With social, psychological, and spiritual issues, the skepticism is greater--we are not so certain that a cure is coming or can be applied.  Largely, we are one-one-one with the doctor and realize that the professionals he may consult or refer us to will be as objective and skillful as the doctor.  With the pastor we have to worry about the intellectual, emotional, and ideological responses he may have as well as those of his peers and even the broader tenor of the congregation--and the possible institutional adulteration of religiosity (quack religion).  In short, because the nature of physical aliments can be more objectively defined and dealt with, the role of the doctor is ironically more simplified than the subjective minefield within which pastors often find themselves. 

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Misdirected Evil

How did your favorite adventure hero respond to danger? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1371).
My favorite hero was brer rabbit who audaciously used wit to foil his adversary brer fox.  His basic strategy was to trick brer fox– less kindly, to manipulate him– for brer rabbit's  own good and salutary purposes.  That is, brer fox was made to do the right at the crucial  moment by following his own worst motives.  Thusly , the moment was redeemed by outwitting evil so that evil did good despite itself.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Immutable Drift of Mutability

When God closes one door, he opens another. 

Go as far as you can see. you will then have the vision to go even further. (Vision Ship Art).

These sayings are alike in having the purpose of urging us step out in faith.  They come to mind automatically most often when the past no longer retains the motivational force or  vigor (or even tenability) it once held.  We are not asked to agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed here; but like old man river that keeps on rolling along, we are better off and more in harmony with nature by yielding ascent to the immutable drift of mutability. 

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Visually Speaking

Do the clothes you are wearing say anything about you as a person? How does this make you feel? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 194).
There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it. (Dale Carnegie).

As [John the Baptist's] disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Mathew 11:7-9 NIV). 

It seems totally unfair that a visual can overrule a resume--that what you wear can be more important than who you are--but that's the case.  I have never cared much for clothes, and that has probably hindered my career more than anything else.  Yet there truly is a certain arrogance in assuming one's personality, character, and virtue are so strong and so sterling that it doesn't matter what visual clues one projects.  We should be fully aware of the importance of visual clues based upon our own human (and animal) nature.  The truth is, I have often worn clothes that testified to the fact that I wanted other people to overlook allow me to go unnoticed and fly below radar.  So in a sense, I have dressed appropriately for my real mission of willful, not to say craven, avoidance. In important ways, visual clues project the tone and manner in which we wish to be evaluated.  To the final retort that some people can't afford appropriate clothing, I can only say that some of the best dressers I know shop at secondhand thrift stores.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Younger Generation Greets Us

What "crop" does Jesus want believers to yield? What can you do to increase your productivity? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, pages 1346-7).

My nephew Mike and his wife Mindy have three great children Riley, Avery, and Bellamy (who is the youngest).  Avery and Riley are twins, now age 14.  Yesterday both helped answer the above question during their presentations in church services at Community United Methodist Church of Fruitland Park, FL.  

If you are an adult with an aridly cynical view regarding the rising generations and have any doubts that the human race has a promising and productive future, please watch the video below: