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Archive for April, 2011

Mediocrity and Rest

Mediocrity. I can’t stand it. Mediocrity is being in the bottom of the top and the top of the bottom. Doesn’t sound too good does it?

I’ve never wanted to be mediocre in anything I’ve done or attempted. I wasn’t raised that way and it is engrained in my to always do my best. I would be the first person to be handing out these buttons…

Mediocrity. Am I mediocre? I know I try to in my role as a husband, father and pastor, but how about in my personal devotion to Jesus? Am I giving my best.

Honestly, I’m afraid I’m not. I am like the Apostle Paul in that the things I want to do, I don’t do and the things I don’t want to do, well…those are the things I do. Mentally (or I guess I should say, spiritually) I get so tired sometimes. Do you? Are you tired now? Spiritually.

I am. I don’t know why exactly. I just am. Maybe it’s because I’m tired physically. I think that may have something to do with it. In fact I’m sure it does. Getting enough rest is critical to maintaining proper spiritual health. Sometimes I think the most spiritual thing a person can do is take a “rest.” Now please understand…I’m terrible at this. I equate rest with laziness and sloth. I always have. I feel guilty when I sit down to do “nothing” for a few minutes but rock in a rocking chair on the front porch. Usually I’m going from sun-up to midnight. But, I’ve discovered that will just put me in a rut in a hurry.

I don’t feel like I’m in a rut, but I believe I could end up there in a hurry. Why? Because my mind is overloaded with so much to do. Even in typing this blog post I’m thinking “Hurry Kevin! You’ve got to get this done and move on! Don’t dilly-dally…keep moving big fella!” Ugh! Stop it! Stop worrying! Stop fighting! Rest. Yes, rest. I hear you Lord!

Rest. I’ve got you. Can you hear him saying those words. Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden was light. What does that mean? It means you and I were never intended to “do” anything for Jesus in our own strength. It means were are not to carry burdens and our “to do lists” and our worries alone. We are to be yoked with Jesus.

You may see two ox in that picture. I don’t. I see me and Jesus. Even now as I type, I feel better in my spirit. Why? Because His spirit is bearing witness with my spirit. He is telling me that it will all be ok and He’ll help me to get it done.

Am I giving my best to Jesus? Hmm. He doesn’t want my efforts. He simply wants me and He simply wants you. Mediocrity. Yes, the world is full of it. I still can’t stand slothfulness or people who don’t work hard or do what they say they are going to do. Yet, I should never use work and effort for the Father as an excuse not to rest in His arms and bask in the sunlight of His presence but simply being still to know that He is God.

I think I’ll sing a little song now. The song is “I Love You Lord.” You may know the tune, you may not. It doesn’t matter. Just take a moment to read the words and then rest in Him.

I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice
To worship you, Oh my soul rejoice!
Take joy, my King, in what you hear
May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear

I love you, Lord, and I lift my hands
To worship you as my soul demands
Take joy, my King, in what you see
May I be a sweet, sweet child on your knee

I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice
To worship you, Oh my soul rejoice!
Take joy, my King, in what you hear
Make it a sweet, sweet sound in your ear

Make it a sweet, sweet sound in your ear

Scriptural Reference:

“Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.” Psalm 35:9

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You know I continue to be blown away by how many people there are that “say” they are Christians. I really am. As a pastor I do a lot of talking to people about their souls and where they’re headed when they die. The majority…and I mean the vast majority tell me they are saved and on their way to glory to walk those good ole streets of gold. Well, as the old black preacher says, “Ain’t everybody talkin’ about goin’ to heaven goin’ there.” Amen Brother!

I know this may not make everyone real happy…but, a case in point of what I’m talking about is what I read moments ago…

White House Slams Rev. Franklin Graham for Comment about Issues Surrounding President Obama’s Birth

by Kimberly Schwandt | April 25, 2011

Re. Franklin Graham/AP image

Re. Franklin Graham/AP image

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said comments by Rev. Franklin Graham that there were issues surrounding President Obama’s birth were “preposterous charges.” Graham, who has met with Obama before, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and was asked about people like Donald Trump bringing up questions about the president’s birth. “Well, the — the president I know has some issues to deal with here. He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly. I don’t — I was born in a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there,” Graham said.

“You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born. I don’t know why he can’t produce that. So I’m not — I don’t know. But it’s an issue that looks like he could — he could answer pretty quickly,” he added.

Carney, in an abrupt answer, reacted and said, “It’s interesting that a minister would use Easter Sunday to make preposterous charges.”

A reporter in the daily White House briefing had asked for reaction to Graham’s comments that aired Sunday and also for other charges that Graham has made about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating all parts of the Obama administration.

The interview with the influential evangelical pastor took place late last week, but aired on Easter Sunday.

The issue of the president’s faith also came up. As recently as last week, President Obama professed his Christianity, also going to church services with his family in D.C. on Sunday. However, the president still battles misperceptions that he is a Muslim.

“Now, he has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian? For him, going to church means he’s a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith and we have trusted him as our lord and savior. That’s the definition of a Christian. It’s not as to what church you are a member of. A membership doesn’t make you a Christian,” Graham said.

The reverend said he does take the president at his word on that. “Well, when he says it, of course, I can’t — I’m not going to say, “Well, no, you’re not.” I mean, God — God is the only one who knows his heart.”

 Now, you can agree or disagree with Franklin Graham about whether he should have said what he said. But, I’m appreciate his candor and honesty about the President’s Christianity. Why? Because the truth is, if you and I are truly believers in Jesus Christ then there should be evidence to prove that we are. Does the President like basketball? Do you have to guess? No. Not unless you’ve had your head in the sand. He loves basketball. He’s played with the University of North Carolina a couple of years ago…

He loves playing on his “home court” at the White House…

Does anybody guess if he is an avid basketball fan?

Here is President Obama’s 2011 NCAA tournament bracket…

Pretty convincing, huh? But, is he a Christian? According to Pew poll, 89 percent of Americans are people of faith, and according to Gallup, only 43 percent of Americans are frequent churchgoers. As you may have noticed, 43 is not an “overwhelming majority” of 89. In fact, it is not a majority at all. Most Americans of faith do not attend church frequently. Why? I’m going to say the obvious. Could it be they are NOT believers? Please don’t write me hate mail. 🙂

If I really like or love something or someone, am I not going to want to spend time participating in that activity or doing something with that person? Sure. It makes perfect sense to me.

So, Franklin Graham is being hammered for being honest in my opinion. Now I want to ask you a question. How many people do you know that claim to be a Christian but give little evidence to prove it? Jesus said, “You will know them by the fruit they bear.” He even said that many will come to him on the Day of Judgment and plead with Him that they were good and did great things for Him and even performed miracles and mighty works. Yet, He will tell them, “Depart from me. I don’t know you.”

So, let’s be honest with ourselves and let’s be honest about our souls and the eternal destiny of those we love and care about (and even those we don’t…we are to love our enemies).

If you knew someone was getting ready to drive their car around a curve and the bridge ahead was washed out, wouldn’t you do everything you could to stop them before they went careening down a cliff?

If you really cared you would and so would I.

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He’s Coming Back…

I got an email Monday and it said, “He’s Coming Back.” I immediately thought, it is Easter Week so this will be about Jesus. But, it wasn’t. It was about Harrison Barnes’ return to the University of North Carolina basketball program for his sophomore year.
 
Harrison Barnes Passes on NBA, Returns to UNC
After I saw the email, I was like “Yeah! He’s coming back! That’s awesome! Barnes is coming back! Woohoo!” As a Carolina Basketball fan since childhood, it thrilled me to know that one of the better basketball players in America is coming back (foregoing the NBA) to play basketball next year in Chapel Hill. Yet, as I pondered my emotions and how I felt, I honestly was humbled and somewhat ashamed of myself. Why? Because I was more excited about a college student coming back to play basketball than I am my Savior returning to take me with Him to heaven. Boy, do I have a lot of work to do to make sure I keep my head and my priorities straight.
 
This past weekend we had Dr. David Black and his wife BeckyLynn with us. Dr. Black began a Greek class that we will continue for the next 26-weeks. That’s right…26 weeks. It’s a huge investment of time and effort, but will be well worth it when we can read the original language of the New Testament. Here’s our beginning class…
 
That’s right…my daughter’s (Katy-17 and Kandace-13) are the two youngest in the class and they are “getting it” a whole lot better than their old Dad! We also have a 79-year old gentleman taking the class! Way to go Brother Ralph! We’re never too old to learn!!
 
We took the Blacks up to Grandfather Mountain while they were with us. What a treat!
 
It got me thinking how time flies. Thirty years earlier I was on this same rock…
That’s me on the left with my good friend Kelly Gragg. We were around 13-years old.
 
We had some fun up there on Grandfather with the Blacks until…
 
 
Hang on Kandace!
 
Well…things aren’t always as the seem. Kandace was in no danger. She was playing a joke on her mom!
 
I have to show you another picture from 30 years ago. This is a shot of me with a wonderful man by the name of Ray Gragg.  

Take a look at those socks!! YIKES!! Ray was Kelly’s father. I saw “was” because Mr. Gragg passed away several years ago. It got me thinking how time flies. It seems like yesterday that I was a little boy. It got me thinking about old times. Yesterday I drove by our first house. Katy said, “Wow, Dad! I remember it being so much bigger!” Kandace hardly even remembers it.

First house

 After a funeral yesterday afternoon, I was near my Grandparent’s old house and I drove by and took this shot.
Grandpa and Grandma McNeil’s house
Boy, did I spend a lot time playing in that front yard! Where have the years gone? Now I’m old and bald and 43. Katy just turned 17 yesterday and I feel old!
 
Here’s a picture of Katy at a car wash fundraiser for our Mexico Mission Team. Yep! She’s washing cars on her birthday to help raise money for our team of 35 that will be heading to Mexico in June. I’m proud of her. Most would say, “No way am I washing cars on my birthday!”

Great job...looking good!!

They raised over $600.

So, where has time gone? I don’t know. But it has flown by. Harrison Barnes. 20 years from now (if the Lord doesn’t come back before then), no one will think about him. But, Jesus…time…flying…yes…He’s coming back and we’ll fly…in the air as we are raptured (snatched) off this earth to meet Him in the air. He’s coming back! The Scriptures teach it. And…yes…I’m excited! I’m ready! And…yes…it’s better that Jesus Christ is coming back than any player may be returning to school to play another year of college basketball. Kind of puts things in perspective for me this Easter season.

Happy Resurrection Day!!

at-tomb

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This video is one of the most powerful videos I’ve seen about a plight that every man and boy deals with that many ladies and girls might not totally understand…

Click here to watch…

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Years ago I got some bad gasoline at a gas station and it really did a number on my old Ford Taurus I drive. My mechanic said that there was water in the gas. He said the gas wasn’t pure and it was in danger of destroying my engine! YIKES! I said, “What do we do?” He said, “Well, we’re going to drain the gas and put on a new fuel filter and then run a new tank of gas.” I said, “Ok, but I just filled up…do I have to waste the entire tank of gas?” He said, “Yep, it’s no good.” He said, “That’s why your car isn’t running right.” My car was totally ineffective, if you will, because of bad gas.

That little exchange was brought to my mind earlier this morning as I was reading Ephesians 2. Take a look and notice the italicized and colored words:

2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

See the words in red show past tense. Paul was saying, “Hey, look why are you still living as if you were lost?” He said, “But, God…” I can just hear Paul imploring the Ephesian believers to stop acting like the pagans they once were because of what God did for them. What did He do? He saved them? Because of their good works? No. Absolutely no! Yet, Paul teaches that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works. God prepared before we were even born that we should walk in them. Walk in what? Good works.

I believe the body of Christ has been rendered mostly ineffective in showing our good works to the world. Why? Because we are just like the world. This is why the Church is reaching fewer and fewer people. The world sees us as hypocrites. We act just like them. Many continue to act like the pagans that we once were. Hence, the effectiveness of the church has been marginalized and severely compromised.

G. K. Chesterton says, “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting.  It’s that it has been found difficult and left untried.”  I’m afraid, we modern Christians, (and this includes me), have divorced what we do from who we say. As followers of Christ, we should have a desire to live a lifestyle of sacrifice, service, and suffering for the sake of our Lord.  We should desire a lifestyle of “good works.” It is not sufficient for us merely to espouse the right doctrines or to feel good about ourselves because we go to church.

For many believers we’re kind of like what Wilbur Rees captured in his little poem, “I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God please.  That’ll do for me.”

So we’ve become satisfied with just a little bit of Jesus.  We’re ok with a part “Christian” and part “worldly” point of view.  We have compartmentalized Jesus in our lives.  We just treat him like a flu shot.  He’s just Hell insurance…that’s really all He is for some.  But, the problem is…Jesus isn’t in the insurance business…He’s in the heart occupying business.  Does He have yours?

We watch TV programs, go to movies, listen to music and talk to friends that push worldly garbage in our faces all the time.  You have to remember that everything you watch and everything you listen to is coming from either a Godly or worldly point of view.  What are you pumping into your mind? Many Christians know more Hollywood movie characters than Bible characters.  We know more of and have memorized more of the names of our favorite ball team’s roster than we know of and have memorized the Word of God.  Yet, we say we love Jesus and we are His followers.  Are we?

What are you pumping into your mind every day?  It’s either Godly or it’s not…cut and dried…black and white…that simple.  So, let me ask you:  What’s the worldview of your favorite movie or song or TV show?  What’s the worldview that your children are getting from watching “innocent” little shows on “Nickelodeon” or PBS or the History Channel or Discovery Channel?  Would you imagine a cartoon character that walks around in his underwear being marketed to people 50 years ago like Sponge Bob Square Pants?

Yet, Christians (yes that’s us), we are immersed in this stuff aren’t we? Have you ever thought about this:  Lot’s wife was “almost” saved…but her heart was still in Sodom when she turned back and looked over her shoulder?  She was still longing for Sodom.  Many are like Lot’s wife…they come to church…they talk the Christian talk…but, their heart is back in Sodom.  Sin is pulling them away.  Lot’s wife had slowly given her heart to Sodom…but, it didn’t happen overnight.  Satan comes at us and slowly takes us down.  He’s crafty and subtle.  It reminds me of the story of how Eskimo’s kill wolves who are eating their rabbits…

wolf-animal-blog-animal-backgrounds.jpg ,  Size: 29.96 KB ,Resolution:500 x 336

Eskimos have snow rabbits that they raise for food and for selling.  They keep them in pens and from time to time wolves will break in and kill them and eat them.  The Eskimos are wise to this and they take a double-edged knife and bury it in the ground by the handle and put rabbit blood on the blade and it freezes.  Late at night the wolf comes and smells the blood, starts licking it, eventually licking so hard and ravenously that he cuts his tongue and ultimately bleeds to death.

I’m afraid that’s many Christians today…slowly licking a knife that Satan has stuck in the ground to render us ineffective. I’m afraid we’re not even aware of it? Have we been tricked by Satan into treating God like a vending machine at Wal-Mart. Do we just want to put in a quarter and hope we get back what we want?  Have we cheapened our walk with God by just serving Him for what He can do for us? Do we just want $3 worth of Jesus? Do we just want His blessings…but, not the sacrifice that goes with being His ambassadors?

The problem we have is that far too many Christians are concerned about being “happy.”  We say…well all I want is just to be happy.  Do you know what, (this will be hard to hear), but the truth is if that’s how you feel, then you have not died to yourself and you will never experience joy, fulfillment, purpose and meaning in your life as long as you and your “happiness” is on the throne of your life.  God made you for His glory…not yours.  It’s all about Him…not YOU!  And the hard truth is:  until you put Jesus Christ on the throne of your life…you will never have joy…you will never have meaning…you’ll remain empty and you will float through life aimlessly like a ship without a rudder.

Many of us have water in our spiritual gas tank and that’s why we are so ineffective. We are stumbling blocks to people all around us because of our lack of holiness and our desire for purity. I’m convinced we need to die. We need to die to ourselves…our pleasures…our comforts…our security and our lack of holiness. Jesus said, take up your cross and follow me.  He calls us to take up our cross!  A cross means death!  Have you died to yourself?  Really?  Truly?  Listen, Jesus is either first or He goes to the back of the line.  He’s a gentleman…and He simply stands at the door and knocks. Paul implored the church at Rome:

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:12-14

Are we being led by the Spirit of God?  If so, we will kill the evil in our lives.  We must mortify and destroy the sin!  God cannot and will not fill our lives with His presence and His power if there is sin in our lives.  If we regard iniquity, or sin in our lives, the Psalmist tells us that God will not hear our prayers.

Jesus is pursuing us. He is determined to pursue us because He knows the greatest joy in our lives will come if we allow Him to rule and reign in our lives. It’s Jesus and Jesus alone that must fill our tanks. We’ve got to get the “water” of compromise and rationalization about our sin out of spiritual tanks…out of our lives so that we may be effective witnesses for Christ.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

By the way…I know two lovely young ladies that are birthday ladies. Taylor turned 16 (my niece) on Wednesday and Katy will be 17 this Tuesday! Amazing how time flies…

Blow those candles out, ladies!!

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I’m going to be shameless today. I’m going to shamelessly use my daughter’s blog post as my post today. Yes, I know that’s shameless, but it’s a wonderful post and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Let me warn you though…what you will read WILL step on your toes! I promise. So, read with caution:

When The Church Compromises

Why do we compromise our Christianity? Dad was talking to me about dates for a certain event at church and how the church has to work around school schedules, sports, dance, vacations… you name it… the church has to work around it. The Church is constantly compromising. Not only does it compromise its schedule, but it does so morally. We all act great at church or around other believers but then we wear… that to prom?? We say this at school? Why? Where is Jesus in our actions? Why do we somehow make it to everywhere else in the day but somehow by Wednesday night… we’re too tired? Where are our desires for the Lord? It is something I constantly wonder about. Why is it that God’s stuff is put on the back burner? Ouch. That hurt me when I thought about it.
 
I was looking at some prom pictures from some girls I know and I was absolutely mortified at the blatant immodesty of some of them. It breaks my heart that girls that call themselves, daughters of God would wear dresses like that. We expect so much out of ourselves in other aspects of life, but when it comes to God, our expectations tend to be so very low. I can’t help but look around at the things we watch, the way we dress, the way we spend our money, the things we say and wonder, “Why do we compromise?” Satan convinces us that it’s okay. We separate God and life.
 
We sing Christian songs at certain places (like church) and then vile and brash songs are played in Christian homes across the board. We compromise in dating. I fail to understand why teens (or any age for that matter) that have been dating for two weeks are holding hands, kissing and acting like married couples. We compromise in so many things. We put what we consider “life” before the One who gave it to us.
 
There was once a friend of mine who moved here to the “Bible belt” of the South. He once asked soon after moving here, “There are a lot of members of churches around here, but I have a question… where are all of the Christians?” Isn’t that an eye-opening question? Especially here in the South, many claim to know Jesus as their Savior, but few really live with Him as the Lord of their lives. Those of us who are followers of Christ desperately need to raise the bar. We do not to compromise the Church and God for everything else.
 
Do you see how my mind can take a five-minute conversation and spin it into a lengthy blog post? Ha ha! I just wanted to share with you what the Lord has helped me see over time. I have seen that we as Christians need to get a backbone and not compromise to the world. We need to stand up… now.
 
Thanks for taking time to read something like this that steps on all of our toes, mine most certainly included.
To read more of Katy’s blogs, click here…

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Before I get into to today’s post, I thought I’d show another example of how much children love to do work around the house if we’ll let them. “Let them?” Yes, we must let them slow us down in getting things done by taking the time to let them be involved in basic house chores. Andrew helped me Saturday morning while the girls went to town to do some errands, grocery shopping, etc. Take a look…

Got to get that old felt off there...

We were working on replacing the old felt tips on the chairs. Andrew loved that! Then we moved on to folding clothes…

That's an armload!!

Andrew just turned six years old, but we’ve taught him how to unload the dryer and fold clothes. He loves emptying out the lint filter and putting in the “dryer sheet” that freshens the clothes. He’s not tall enough to load the washer, but on a step stool he can… and he likes helping his daddy.

Next we moved to dishes…

Scrub, scrub, scrub...

We had a blast! I didn’t have to take him to the park to have fun. I didn’t have to take him to Chuck E. Cheese to have fun. (Even though we may do these things occasionally.) I want him, and all four of my children to learn and know the value of work and the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. Are we cultivating an attitude of “work” in our children? It’s called a “work ethic.” I desire to do so in my children, so that they may work as unto the Lord.

On to the post…

Have you ever said or heard someone say,”Close the door Lord if it’s not your will.” Now on the surface that comment looks alright, perhaps. But, look at it again. What are we really saying? We are saying to the Lord that we are simply going to look at our circumstances for direction. We’re not meaning to say as much, but we are.

I hear many people say, “Lord, I really want to know Your will. Stop me if I’m wrong and bless me if I’m right.” or “Lord, I will proceed in this direction. Close the door if it’s not Your will.” Anybody got a lucky rabbit’s foot?

Anybody want to “roll the dice” or “hold your breath?” How ’bout…

Yeah, that’ll do it. Cross our fingers, hold our breath, maybe even knock on some wood. That’s the relationship Jesus wants with us. Hmm. Problem is…we don’t see this pattern in Scripture.

Listen dear friend…we must stop acting like the world in how we go about making decisions. Almighty God sent His Son to die for us and give us life so that we may look to Him, not just our circumstances in making decisions. I don’t want to just be a “door watcher.” We must not let experience alone guide our lives. Yes, we must pay attention and look at our circumstances, but God speaks in other ways as well…like through the Word (you know that book that most Christians seldom if ever read), prayer and through godly people.

Don’t allow yourself to be led by tradition, method or a formula. That’s pagan. Often people trust these things because they appear easier than cultivating an intimate walk with God. Spending time with Him. People do as they please and put the whole burden of responsibility on God. If they are wrong, He must intervene and stop them. If they make a mistake, they blame Him. God is not obligated to stop you or me from making a mistake!

If you want to know the will and voice of God, you most devote time and effort to cultivate a love relationship with Him. That’s what He wants. Oh yeah, that’s kind of like a Dad and a son just hanging out and doing house chores together. Yeah…glad I thought of that! 🙂

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Katy’s blog lately…now might be a good time. She’s got a great post about God vs. Disney

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