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Timeless truth in a changing world

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Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

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1. What do you call a group of crows?

2. Often seen at the end of a sentence, the three trailing dots that indicate the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues are known as…

3. How many kingdoms are part of the United Kingdom?

4. Solve the following equation: 5 + 3 * 4 / 2 – 1 = ?

Can you answer these questions? All were featured on the show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? What made the show funny was that college-educated adults went head-to-head with fifth-grade students and usually had to admit, “I am not smarter than a fifth grader.” Only two contestants actually won the $1,000,000 grand prize. Of course, the students had more recently studied all the subjects, and as the expression goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” I am never more aware of that then when I’m helping my middle-schooler with math. Every time I have to look up the difference between rational numbers, irrational numbers, whole numbers, and integers. My son will ask, “Mom, didn’t you have to learn all this?” And I reply, “Of course, but that was years ago.”

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God’s First Words

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First words are a milestone. Parents encourage their babies to make meaningful sounds when they start babbling, coaxing them to say “Mama” or “Dada.” When the baby finally does say his or her first word, proud parents share the news and brag to their friends about how smart their child is, perhaps even teasing each other about which parent got the honor of being named first. It makes me wonder what Jesus’ first word was. The Bible doesn’t see fit to tell us, but it is interesting to read God’s first recorded words in Scripture.

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Far From Home

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Having returned not long ago from a 4000-mile, three-week family trip, we’ve seen our fair share of license plates. In our part of rural Texas, we see mainly other Texas plates, with an occasional out-of-state plate from Louisiana or Oklahoma. But in the Northeast, our destination for this trip, seeing another Texas plate was rare. We took an overnight camping trip to Maine while on our trip, and seeing another Texas plate in the campground was really exciting. We felt an instant bond with the other Texas family that had made the long haul north. The further away you are, the more exciting it is to see someone from home.

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The Best Motivation for Cleaning

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For the past two weeks, my carpets have never been cleaner. You might think I’m expecting guests, but no. Selling and showing a house, perhaps? Not that either. No, the real reason is far less exciting, but it’s highly effective. You see, we have fleas.

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Running Out of Time

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I’m running out of time. The closer I get to launch date for Faith Alone, the less ready I am. I’m about to drive my formatter crazy with the last-minute changes I’m making. Why am I just now noticing how often I use certain words and phrases in dialogue between characters? And doesn’t this need to be hyphenated? Oh, and this word needs to be italicized. And how did we miss that comma through all the rounds of editing? Sigh. For a “final” proofread, I sure am finding a lot of changes yet to be made. In some ways, I feel like the editing could go on forever.

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The Secret to Success

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It’s been said that writing is a lonely pursuit, and yet, in the end, it couldn’t be done without a lot of team effort. There’s a reason most books have a long list of people in the acknowledgments section at the back. Publishing a book is complicated. Writing the manuscript is the easy part. Okay, maybe not easy, per se, but enjoyable at least. I love writing the story, arranging the plot like pieces of a puzzle to reveal the finished picture. It’s challenging and time-consuming, but I enjoy it. Once that’s done, you might think I’m pretty much finished. And you would be wrong. Finishing the manuscript is only the first step in a very long process, and can only be accomplished with the help of many others along the way.

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When Jesus Passes You By

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There’s a somewhat peculiar note in the story of Jesus walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52). Jesus saw that His disciples were “making headway painfully, for the wind was against them,” so He went to them “walking on the sea.” Then comes this rather curious note: “[Jesus] meant to pass by them” (v. 48). Why? Couldn’t He see the dire predicament they were in?

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Sweet Words

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By all accounts, yesterday was a completely sub-par day. Work was…meh. My toddler had been fighting a cold for a couple of days. My wife had picked up said cold the previous night and was drained of energy. We were hosting a guest at the house who—you guessed it—was also sick. I had just returned from picking up my toddler from a not-so-good day at her daycare, and I still had to finish up my own work day. Then I had to address and work on some other business matters. Oh, and I had to make dinner, too. Yeah.

Our evening wound up being what my wife and I have coined a “Jekyll and Hyde” night. One minute was all smiles, giggles, and happiness. The next was a complete 180° turn filled with fussiness, crying, attention-craving, and meltdowns. So it was up to me and my five-month-old son to take care of our lovely ladies and house guest. While it wasn’t the most difficult situation, neither was it altogether easygoing. But we managed and got through it. Our toddler was put to bed at her normal time, and the rest of us were able to take a few minutes to decompress and relax before hitting the proverbial hay ourselves.

Then 10:15 pm came. Toddler was awake, wailing, and needing another dose of medicine. And then it happened. In the midst of her crying, I heard that sweet word: “Daddy.” My heart both broke and melted at the same time. Just over two hours ago I wanted nothing more than a break from adulting and parenting. But now, in her time of need and distress, all of that went out the window. Nothing else mattered. She wanted and needed me. And I was more than happy to do whatever I needed to do to help her.

As I sat and cuddled with her after getting her calmed down, I thought of how hearing my child’s voice crying out to me compares to how our heavenly Father feels and responds when any of us, His children, cry out to Him. It doesn’t matter how or why we call to Him. It could be a simple thank you. Or a request for something we want or need. Or an utterly desperate plea for help in a moment of our deepest distress. No matter the case, our Father loves to hear us call His name, and He, like all parents, will do anything to help His children.

My mind then turned to the book of Psalms, and how many of the Psalms are written in a state of need and distress. A couple of verses I found particularly apropos were:

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 17:6

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. – Psalm 18:3, 6

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. – Psalm 116:1-2

It’s comforting to read verses like this, and to know that there are many others throughout the Bible that talk about God listening to and answering us when we call to Him. He truly is our loving Father. And now as a father myself, I am coming to understand more fully how and why He loves us so unconditionally and will always be here for us. It doesn’t matter what we have done, what sort of a day we’ve had, how long it’s been since we last reached out to Him, or even how we seek comfort in Him. Nothing else matters to Him. He knows that we need Him. And He is more than happy to do whatever He needs to help us.

 

(Special thanks to guest author Anthony Hessler for the post!)

Off to a Bad Start

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The morning started off as any other. That is, badly. The kids were whiny. They didn’t want what I’d made for breakfast. Complaining abounded. They were being mean and insulting one another. I was irritated and prone to snap at them. It was not a great start to the day, and I certainly didn’t want to continue into the rest of the day with these attitudes. Something had to change, but I didn’t quite know how to go about that.

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