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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Doing love

We often speak about love as if it were a feeling.
But if we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love in a way that God intends.
Feelings of love are great - but our loving others cannot be based in that feeling.
To love is to think, speak and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible to this world.
In short, we are to do more than "just" "feel" love, we are to "do" love.
Billy Waters writes in “Teacher Touch”, “after an accident in which she lost her arm, a girl named Jaime refused to go to school or church for an entire year.  Finally the young teen thought she could face her peers. 
In preparation, her mother called her Sunday school teacher and asked that he not call attention to Jaime.  The teacher promised, but when he got sick on Sunday and had to call a substitute, he forgot to tell the second teacher.   

At the conclusion of the lesson that day, which was about inviting friends to church, the sub led the class in doing the hand motions to the familiar children’s poem:   

Here’s the church
Here are the people
Open the door
See all the people 

Jaime’s eyes filled with tears.  A 13-year-old boy realized how she must have been feeling.  He knelt beside her.  With one hand apiece, they supported each other, making the church, steeple, and people.  Together they illustrated what real church is.” 

Love God, love people!  Our mission statement.  Love God - Love people! 

At the core is love. 

I remember the song we used to sing back in the early 70’s – “And they know we are Christians by our love.” 
People around us know that we are believers in Christ, not by what we believe or by our doctrine or theology, but by the love we show in our families, in our church and in the daily activities of our lives. 

Love is a very powerful thing.  Love is at the foundation of our walk with God. 
It should be as I have read, “our top priority, our primary objective and our greatest ambition.” 

Did you know that love can make a person become better looking?

It’s true!  Psychologists tell us that the excitement of being in love increases your heart rate so that your face glows, your lips look redder, and those circles under your eyes actually become less noticeable!  Heightened emotions of love cause your pupils to dilate, so that your eyes look brighter and clearer.  

However, love is more than a feeling.  Love is an action verb.  It goes beyond something I feel in my heart to extend itself to something I do in my life.  Love is to be the basis of everything that we do. 

The Apostle John puts it this way in First John 3:18, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.  This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.” 

John says, “let’s practice love.” 

Let’s think about that for a moment.  How can we practice love?  Or to put it another way, how can we “do” love? 

I would suggest to you that we can “do” love by loving those in our spiritual family. 
Paul writes to Timothy in First Timothy 3:14,15, “I’m writing so that you’ll know how to live in the family of God.  That family is the church.” 
Our church is not a building, an institution, an organization, a club; our church is a family.  It is not a place you go to; it is a family you belong to.  
We are a family here at Stone Church and as a family God has called us to worship together as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Peter tells us in First Peters 2:17 to “love your spiritual family.” 
God is my father and we are His children.  We are a “family oriented” church. 
Hebrews 2:10 says, “God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory.  He wanted to have many children to share His glory."   

I read of a cartoon this week where a couple is greeting the pastor after church and he says, “Julie and I met during this morning’s ‘greet your neighbor’ time.  We’d like you to marry us.”  
Now that’s a little bit much, but God does call us to love each other in the family of God! 

Why does God want us to learn to love one another in our family?  If God is my father, and He is, than he wants me to get along with those around me like any earthly father would. 

When all of our kids lived at home (Debbie and I are now "empty nesters"), I wasn't thrilled when they got into arguments and verbal joustings.
At the same time, it pleased me when they loved one another and took care of each other and enjoyed being around one another.   

God feels the same about us! 

Another reason that God wants me to love those in our spiritual family is that I am never more like God than when I love those around me. 

Let’s go back to First John.  John writes in First John 4:8, 21,  “the person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love, so you can’t know him if you don’t love......the command we have from Christ is blunt: loving God includes loving people.  You’ve got to love both.”   

God calls us to love one another as He loves us – unconditionally!  God loves all people equally – even those who are hard to love and so he wants us to learn to practice, to “do” unconditional love as well! 

And then another reason why we are to love one another is that our love for each other attracts those who don’t have a relationship with God to Jesus! 

A woman by the name of Gloria one time was ready to take her life.  Years of drug abuse, failed relationships, and multiple rejections had taken their toll.  Prepared with countless prescription drugs she saved for this purpose, Gloria turned on the television to keep her neighbors from hearing. 

The channel was tuned in to a Billy Graham crusade.  At the bottom of the screen was a telephone number for anyone needing help.  Gloria called the number before she took the pills. 

The counselor recognized the seriousness of Gloria’s situation.  She directed Gloria to a nearby church where someone would be able to help her.  Gloria decided to put off her suicide and attend the church the next day, Sunday.  Just before the worship service began, Gloria met the pastor.  “Billy Graham sent me,” she told him. 

Sometimes later, Gloria was able to give this testimony: 

“Billy Graham saved me from killing myself, but my church sowed me how to be saved from my sins.  The love of the people was incredible.  I never knew someone as dirty as me could ever receive love again.  The people accepted me just as I was.  I have seen Jesus.  He is in the faces of all these people who love me.” 

We are to love one another because it helps to grow his family.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The nonpossessive life

If there is one thing I know and practice - it is to "seize the day" or live life to its fullest - to embrace everything that each day presents.

I try to really enjoy life.

But here's what I also know:  To be able to fully enjoy the many good things this temporary life has to offer, we (I) must be detached from them.

What does that mean?

Well it doesn't mean to be indifferent or uninterested - a "whatever will be will be" kind of thing.

But it does mean that I am to be non possessive.

Life, and all that it brings (relationships, people, possessions, things) are gifts to be grateful for and not property to cling to.

In reality, in the eternal sense of things, I do not own anything.  It is only on "loan to me from God".

I am to not only be a good steward of what I have (possessions and relationships) but I am to hold on to them loosely.

Here is what we do:  We hold on to the things of this will with a tight fist, and hold on to the things of God loosely - when Jesus teaches us just the opposite.  It is as I hold on to God (for all I am worth) and the things of this world loosely that I can really enjoy life.

A person who lives life with an attitude of "non possessiveness" lives a free life.  A meaningful life.

Free from the "stuff" of this world.

You see, it is as we "let go" that we truly have.

It is as we realize that this world is not all there is - that everything around us is put into perspective.

But this freedom is only possible when we have a deep sense of attachment to God.

As I cling to God.  As I realize that I belong to God. 

This is what the "detached life" is all about.  A life that realizes that at the end of each day - my relationship with God is the only thing that is eternal - and worth holding on to - and then all else will fall into place in its proper order.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

I would like to first of all say a big, "thank  you" to the entire group of folks who helped with the production of "Letters at Christmas."

Thanks to the choir, band, sound booth volunteers, power point volunteers - you all did a wonderful job!

Truly we are thankful for God's love letter to us - His Word!

Hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner.

I am really looking forward to this coming Sunday:  Communion; prayer for needs; celebration of Christmas and want it means for all of us!

We have some talented people in our church!

Looks like we are going to have a "White Christmas"!

Here's a word that God gave us at the end of the first service:  "Slow down and let me fill you with My Spirit."

While the world is filled with bad news - we know that as followers of Jesus Christ that we have the "good news" - a message of love, hope and joy- it is the message of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, come to earth.  Jesus is "God with us"!

Thoughts I didn't get to yesterday:

When anyone, including you and I, say "yes" to God in acknowledgement and in faith - and take a step forward toward Him - God meets you there.

God takes you by the hand and takes you into the future that is a lot better than your past.

"Old things are passed away, and new things are here."  2 Corinthians 5:17

You matter to God.

Your problems matters to God.

Your pain matters to God.

Your potential matters to God.

He came to earth and is seeking you while you are seeking Him.

What better time than at Christmas to make contact with God!

In God's love letter to us it states in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will find me when you seek me with all your heart."

God longs for a two-way conversation with you and with me.

When I converse with God, he gives me wisdom, strength beyond my own strength, a love that I would never have in and of my own heart, a kind of hope that helps me overcome discouraging times, a certainty about where I am going to spend eternity.

I think that's worth celebrating Christmas!

Love you all.....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Welcome home

Some of the sweetest, most loving words in the English language are, "Welcome Home."

Whether it be coming home from a trip, or coming home for the holidays, it warms our hearts to hear those words from those whom we love.

I know that the week of Christmas, Debbie and I are looking forward to seeing all of our children and grandchildren, giving them a hug and saying, "Welcome home."

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, "There is no place like home."

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows us how the Father (God) welcomes those who come home to Him.

The Bible says that the father of the prodigal runs out to him, embraces him and kisses his son.  He clothes him with the best clothes and makes him the honored guest.

He throws a party, offering the best food he has and invites friends and family to the party.

And, most important of all, he doesn't ask for any excuses or explanations from the prodigal son, but only shows an immense joy that the son has come home.

That's God.

God is our Father.  God welcomes us home (if we have been away - or coming to him for the first time) without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination or even curiosity.

The past is wiped out.

What counts is the "here and now", where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.

Can I give you a suggestion?

Let's make this coming Sunday, December 15th a true homecoming by inviting non-churched family and friends to the production of, "Letters at Christmas."

There will be an "altar call" given at the end - an opportunity for people to accept Christ.

Truly this Sunday can be one of the greatest homecoming ever seen at Stone Church!

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sharing your faith with boldness

Have you ever worried about sharing your faith because you weren't quite sure what you would say?  Or you were intimidated with the thought that you might be rejected by the person you would talking to?  That you wouldn't "get it quite right?"  Or that you might embarrass yourself?

In all probability, we all have.

Yet, let me share with you something today that might help you with this.

With Jesus in you (and He lives in your spirit and soul as a follower of Christ) - Jesus will always speak through you to the person whom you want to share with - as you let Him.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 10:19-20, "When you are handed over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you."

When you and I realize that we are spiritually free, and that the Spirit of God resides in us, we don't have to worry about what to say or do in unexpected, difficult circumstances.

We don't have to worry about making sure the "message" is perfect before we share our faith in Christ.

The right words will emerge from the center of our being (who we are in Christ) because the Holy Spirit, who makes us children of God and sets us free, will speak and act through us.

So - I encourage you to take a step of faith and keep trusting the Holy Spirit in you - and share your faith with boldness - knowing that the God who lives in you will speak through  you.

Pray for the person whom you desire to share with, pray that your words will be granted favor in their heart, and then seize the opportunity that is yours.

Acts 4:31 states that the early church, "...spoke the word of God boldly."

Word of the day?  Be bold in sharing your faith!

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Preparation and Christmas

I went to the Chicago Bears game last night at Soldier Field.

Needless to say, it was cold.

You only had to step outside of your house to know that it was cold, much less sitting in a stadium off Lake Michigan.

However, for me, it was very bearable (Brendon and I had a great time!!)

I'll tell you why.

I was prepared.

Preparation is the key to anything in life.

After having received "counsel" from numerous people on what to wear for the game, here is what I ended up wearing:

A pair of laced up snow boots.

Two pairs of thermal socks.

Toe warmers.  Foot warmers.

Long underwear (both tops and bottoms)

A pair of sweats.

Ski pants (that I wear when I ski).

A sweatshirt.

Another sweatshirt with a hood.

Body warmers around my lower back.

Body warmers in the pockets of my ski pants.

A Columbia jacket (with body warmers in the pockets).

A ski mask.  Ear muffs over the ski mask.  A stocking cap over the ski mask and the ear muffs.


I sat on a fleece/sleeping bag that I had brought (just in case).

Drank a big cup of hot chocolate.

I was prepared (thanks to everyone who game me all the advice).

BTW, I am still not prepared to talk about the game.  I am going through the 5 stages of grief.  :) :)

The key to anything is preparation.

On our church sign (in front of church campus) it states, "Christmas Prep Headquarters".

Our desire is that in the services that we have (until Christmas Day) that your heart (and my heart) is prepared to celebrate Christmas the way it should be celebrated - with a focus on Christ, a focus on Immanuel or "God with us."

I know that you, as well as Debbie and I are preparing for family coming in, buying gifts, strategizing on those special days as to what to do as a family - but I encourage you to give as much energy as well to your walk with Christ in the next couple of weeks.

Each evening, around the dinner table, bring out one aspect of the Christmas story.  Share the names of Jesus with your kids.  Pray each night before you go to bed - thanking God that he loves us enough to send His son, Jesus, to live on this planet and die for our sin.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.

It is the key to success in anything, whether it be at your work, in your walk with Christ, or a cold night at Soldier Field.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

Saturday was a busy, busy day on our church campus.

We had Teen Bible Quiz (5 church teams came).

Congratulations to our Stone Church kids and their efforts!

We had practice for our children's musical.

We had an adult Bible teacher's meeting.

We had a membership class.

We had a practice for the Christmas production, "Letters at Christmas" which is coming up this Sunday, December 15th (We encourage you to invite a friend!)

As usual, it is a busy time of year.

In the midst of all of the busyness, God is doing some great things!

Many, many thanks to Pastor Aldin and Debbie (and their team) for a wonderful children's Christmas production last evening!

Truly it was one of the best I have ever seen.  The kids did just great, the message was powerful - one could tell that a lot of time and effort was put into it!

What a joy it was to welcome in 10 new members as well yesterday!

I am thankful for the folks that God is leading our way!

Worship was powerful!

"Go Green, Go White"!  (Michigan State beat Ohio State and is going to the Rose Bowl).

I am really, really looking forward to 2014.  God has some great things in store for us!

Thoughts I didn't get to yesterday.

Jesus said in Mark 5:35, "If you try to keep your life for yourself, you're going to lose it, but if you give up your life for my sake, and for the sake of the good news,  you will find true life."

You are going to give your life away for something.  A career.  A big bank account.  Some kind of thrill.  Some kind of pleasure.  Obtaining some kind of status.

But the question is:  Are you giving your life away for the right thing?

How much is it going to matter in eternity?  How much is it going to matter forever?

When you die is it going to matter at all?

All of us give thought to how we can live longer.  But that is not the real issue.  The real issue is not how long you live - it is how you live that matters.

It is not the duration of your life - it is the donation of your life that counts.

If we live for ourselves, we eventually get bored and feel unfulfilled.

But when we know God's plan for our lives, we start saying, "God, I don't know it all yet, but I am going to start serving you in a simple way and giving back something of my life."

And..I would suggest that is what brings true fulfillment, satisfaction and significance in life.

Love you all...

Thursday, December 05, 2013

flexibility and self-esteem

I've always said that my self-esteem needs to be tied into my "God esteem" or how God looks at me.

God love me.  God likes me.  God saves me.  God forgives me.

I am thankful that my "self-esteem" can always be seen through the "God esteem" colored glasses of my faith in Him.

At the same time, there are characteristics of someone who does have a healthy self-esteem.

You know that you have a healthy self-esteem if:

You have a sense of humor.

You are open to new ideas and experiences.

You preserve harmony and dignity under stress.

You speak and move with ease and spontaneity.

You are comfortable giving and receiving compliments and affection.

You can speak honestly about accomplishments and shortcomings.

You project an attitude of flexibility and inventiveness.

As you progress in life, you have a choice.  Am I going to become more or less flexibly as I grow older?

I was reading today that trees look strong compared with the wild reeds in the field. 

But when the storm comes, trees can be uprooted, whereas the wild reeds, while they are moving back and forth by the wind will remain rooted and stand up again after the storm has calmed down.

Here's what I know:  When we cling to our own positions (traditions, way of doing things) and are not willing to let our hearts be moved back and forth a little by the ideas or actions of others, we may easily be broken.

Please note:  Being like wild reeds does not mean being wishy-washy, nor does it suggest that you and I should fall into ungodly compromise.

But it does mean that we move a little with the winds and culture of the times while remaining solidly anchored in the ground (our faith in Christ).

I find that people who are humorless, intense and opinionated about church life or life in general end up breaking in their spirits and become bitter people.

We can be flexible, friends, while remaining rooted in God.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Garbage collectors

Years ago, I picked up a book by Jerry Cook entitled simply, "Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness."

Some of the pages are torn and faded - I've had it so long.

Within the chapters of that book, Pastor Cook talks about the power of love, acceptance and forgiveness in our churches.

He states, "when love, acceptance and forgiveness characterize our lives and our churches, the Lord will send us people who need to be made whole."

He writes about a pastor friend of us who called him one day - very upset with the church that he (Jerry Cook) pastored.

Pastor Cook said that it was a friend that he liked and respected (and still does) - so he listened with great interest and concern.

This friend was irritated because some of his family had started coming to the church.

At one point this friend said, "You know what you are out there (speaking of the church)?  You're nothing but a bunch of garbage collectors."

Jerry Cook writes, "As I thought about it, I realize he was telling the truth.  That's exactly what we are, garbage collectors.  What were we before Jesus found us?  Weren't we all just garbage?  Jesus finds us and recycles us."

He goes on to write, "I mentioned this in church one Sunday and afterward a man who owns a garbage collection agency came floating up the aisle, all excited.  "That super," he said.  "Let me tell you something about garbage.  There's a landfill near here.  For 10 years we used it as a place to dump trash and garbage.  Know what's there now?  A beautiful park."

Good stuff.

Can I tell you something today? 

I have seen human garbage become beautiful as well. 

I have seen the stench of our sin turned into the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.

At Stone Church, we can't worry about what critics think or say.

Where is God going to send the "garbage" for recycling if He can't put it on our doorstep?

He will find a place. 

My desire is that we be THAT PLACE.

My desire is that we be used by God

And - when love, acceptance and forgiveness prevail, the church, God's church, the church of Jesus Christ becomes what Jesus wants us to be:  a center of love created for the healing of broken people - and a force for God.

Just a thought for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Life meaning trumps happiness

During my missions trip to Cape Town, South Africa, a couple of weeks ago, I woke up the first morning and went to breakfast (the missionaries put me up in a "bed and breakfast").

As I had my morning coffee, I sat across from a young Chinese man who was in South Africa as one of four representatives for a mass communications company, based in China.  They are in the country to help South Africa get "up to date".

He had somehow found out that I was a pastor, wanted to use his English (that he was learning) and so wanted to talk.

During the course of the conversation he mentioned, "I feel this deep hole within me that isn't satisfied by the things of this world." 

I hadn't had my morning caffeine yet, so it didn't register to me what he was saying.

We talked some more and he again stated, "I feel this deep whole within me that isn't satisfied by the things of this world."

Now, upon hearing that the second time, and sometimes not being the brightest guy in the world, even I recognized that this was an opportunity to share my faith (the caffeine was kicking in).

We talked about the things of God - and when I left him - he was reading some of Watchman Nee's writings (a Christian Chinese man of the last century).

(As a side note - it is amazing how God sends an American to witness to a Chinese man in South Africa!)

According to a recent poll, our "happiness levels" are at a four-year high - nearly 60% of all Americans today feel happy.

But a new study also cautions that there is something more important than happiness - finding meaning or a life purpose.

Happiness relegates itself to nothing if there is no purpose tagged to it.

Even living in a paradise can lose its effectiveness - if a person is living with no purpose.

You and I were born, created for a purpose.

I would suggest to you that the ultimate purpose is to life for God, with God in you.

So what's the more important goal in life - happiness or meaning?

Again, new studies show that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall life satisfaction.  And recent research also shows that the single-minded pursuit of happiness actually makes people less happy.

Final thoughts?  What we all need is Jesus.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

A big "thank you" to the Holy Spirit for visiting us around the altars as we worshipped God.

Truly, our church family understands what it means to stand in awe and reverence of the Lord.

Sometimes I wish you could stand where I stand as we are worshipping God as a congregation.

It is wonderful to see God's people:  hands raised and seeking Him.  Crying out to Him.

Christmas is coming up - busy time for all of us - I know that you know to pause and spend time with Christ.

I have purposed in my heart to focus in on Christ this month.

In the midst of your "hustle and bustle" to buy gifts, decorate the house and make plans for the Holiday Season, please pause and mediate on Jesus!

During the next three Sundays, I encourage you to invite non-churched people to our Sunday morning services!

This is a great time of year to invite and bring those who don't know Christ!

My teams all won over the weekend:  Dallas Cowboys, Michigan State Spartans.

I have never seen a team win a game like the Auburn Tigers won versus Alabama this past Saturday. A failed field goal was returned 109 yards for a touchdown.

Christmas dinner tonight, one tomorrow evening - it is that time of year!

I am looking forward to this Sunday:  We are welcoming ten new members!  Praise God!

There is an excitement in my spirit about 2014!  God is going to do great things!

Whatever is happening in your life - God is in control.

Jesus is Immanuel - God with us; who understands all of our pain.

Please look for my annual Christmas letter to our church family - it will be mailed on Thursday.

If you have been missing our Sunday morning services - you have been missed!  I would encourage you to "get back into the habit" of worshipping with God's people!

Love you all.....

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks in the small things

It is right and proper to thank God for the "big" things in our lives. 

The healing that came.

The job that was provided.

The "money out of no where" when you were in financial debt.

Yet, God wants us to thank Him for the "small" things as well.

Being with good friends.


A loving family.

A loving wife.

A beautiful day.

Perhaps nothing is "smaller" than the very breath that you take.  Moment by moment you take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.

Luke 17:28 tells us, "For in him we live and move and have our being."

I read today that you and I take approximately 23,000 breaths every day.  23,000!

Who gives us that ability to breathe?  God.

Who gives us life?  God.

Who created us?  God.

The very breath you just took comes from God.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

The process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is a complicated respiratory task that requires physiological precision.

When was the last time you thanked God for the gift of breathing?

Each breath?

We tend to thank God for the things that take our breath away.  And that's all well and good. 

But maybe, just maybe we should thank him for every other breath as well (the "small" things of life!).

From our home to yours - Happy Thanksgiving!

You are loved.......

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Radical Gratitude

This evening, the primary verse we will look at is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

We are to give thanks, which means appreciation, recognition and praise.

The words, "give thanks" actually come from the Greek word Eucharisteo, which is the word we get "Eucharist" from - one of the words we use when we speak of communion or the Lord's Supper.

In other words, when we take communion (as we will this evening) we will be giving thanks.

"In" all circumstances.  The word "in" is the Greek word "pos" which means any, all, everything, anyone, all the time, anywhere, everywhere, the whole thing.  There are no exceptions.  No excuses and no exemptions.

God's expectation level is that we will be grateful IN every circumstance.  Not for all the negative circumstances that come our way but "in".

We aren't called to be thankful for the bad or the evil in our lives.  That in and of itself would make God evil.

There is a lot of evil in the world and not everything that happens to us is God's will. 

What is one of the first responses to bad in our lives?  Many will automatically blame God and God turns around and say, "why are you blaming me?"  "What about the choices that you have made, or your parents made, or those around you made?"

I can thank God in my circumstances because God is in control

God can always bring good out of evil in my life.  God will never stop loving me.  I am going to heaven someday.

But here's one more thought (amongst others) that I will give this evening.

Gratitude is always God's will for my life because it serves others

We are all ministers, you and I know that.  We all have a ministry.  Showing gratitude to others is a ministry.  As I appreciate others, it increases their value.  When you thank people around you it raises their value. 

Everyone needs encouragement

No one says, "I don't need a compliment.  I have too many.  Stop, stop, don't give me any more."  We all need lifting up.  I can go for six weeks on one good compliment.  Do you want to be used by God - encourage others.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholemsome 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."

Anyone can tear others down.  But God's will for your life is to lift others up. 

Why not make this Thanksgiving week a week where with everyone you come across (in the stores as you by Christmas gifts, at the grocery store, in our church) you are lifting them up with words of thanks and encouragement?

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend

I can't tell you how thrilled I was yesterday to watch 6 people baptized in water!

To hear their testimonies of God's grace and power, the power to change lives, God is moving, by His Spirit!

Ours is to work to the best of our abilities - God's is to move as he sees fit.

"God, send us more of your Spirit!  We desire more lives to be changed!"

During this Thanksgiving season, we say, "Thank you, Lord!"

What are you thankful for this week?  We encourage you to thank God daily for the one (or more things) that you are grateful for.

It was my joy and privilege to dedicate beautiful, little Josephina Grace to the Lord yesterday!

She is a beautiful baby girl.  Chris and Carolyn, Debbie and I love you and your family a lot!

Thanks to a wonderful church staff for their hard work while I was away in South Africa!

I heard great reports of the services a week ago Sunday.

Reminder:  Thanksgiving service, Tuesday, November 26th, 7:00 P.M.  Communion served.

South Africa (Cape Town) is an incredibly difficult place to get a handle on.  There are the black Africans, the white Africans, the mixed race Africans and people from all over the world.

The political scene is a convoluted mess - with President Mandela near death.

Yet God is on the throne!  God is moving!

It was a privilege to minister in a couple of settings of God's power and grace!

Thank you, Stone Church, for allowing me to go!

What I didn't get to yesterday in my sermon (our Monday morning segment):

God helps me change my thinking through His Word

That's why I am to immerse myself in God's word on a daily basis.  It is in reading the Word that I am set free. 

I choose what I put in my mind.  What I dwell on.  If fear comes into my mind, I remember 2 Timothy 1:7, that "God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of peace and love and of a sound mind."

If worry comes into my mind, I remember 1 Peter 5:7, that I can, "cast all of my cares and anxieties upon Him."

God helps me change my thinking through His Spirit

That's why worship is so important.  Every time I stand with other believers in the faith on a Sunday morning and worship Him, my mind, my emotions are being renewed.

God helps me change my thinking through His community.

That's why you and I need to be life group.  George Barna, the Gallup poll person states that 79% of all Americans would go to a small group meeting if somebody would ask them."  79%!

It will make a difference in your life - and let me tell you how.

A lot of times when something happens in your life and you have been hurt by a toxic person, you can become so emotionally hooked in with a toxic person and what they did to you that you cannot think straight.

Even when you read the bible or stand in a worship service you're not going to filter it in the right way because of the wall of hurt that you are feeling.

That's why you need a small group.

You need other people in  your life who will say to you, "have you thought about this?"  "Have you thought about that?"

"Well, no," you say, "I am confused, and so ticked and angry at that person, I can't think straight."

I can't tell you how many times in my life my small group has saved me from major relational disasters.

If you are in a small group and you haven't got to this level of fellowship, start being authentic in your group because that's what they are there for.  Remember:  vulnerability breeds vulnerability

The small group is not there just to discuss the curriculum or have a Bible study.  The group is there to help you handle the situations of life - and your toxic relationships.

When you are doing life together, when you're dealing with any problem - worry, bitterness, fear, anger, boredom, whatever, they are going to think straight when you can't think straight.

Love you all.....

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Giving thanks for the small things

We encourage you to daily take time to give thanks (with your family - around the dinner table) for one thing in your life.

Here's what I know about prayer:

When we pray, we pray, normally to get things from God, don't we.

And there is nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs.

Another phase of prayer is when we pray to get out of things.  An illness.  A debt.  A crisis.

But there is a deeper phase of prayer that I am trusting all of our church family will participate in this month - this "month of thanksgiving."

It is the prayer of giving thanks to God.

And normally, giving thanks need not be quarantined to "just" the "big" things in our lives, but the "small" things as well.

A sunset.  A sunrise.  A hot cup of coffee to start your day.

A moment with your kids as they go to sleep.

Another day of living with good health.

The ability to see.

The ability to hear.

The ability to walk.

A great meal with good friends.

A scriptures that speaks to you.

The "small" things of life.

Minnesota storyteller Kevin Kling was born with a birth defect - his left arm was disabled and much shorter than his right.

Then, in his early 40's a motorcycle accident nearly killed him and paralyzed his healthy right arm. 

While he was in the hospital recovering from the accident, Kevin learned a life-changing lesson about prayer and giving thanks.

He said:

"I'd been through many surgeries during my six week stay in the hospital.  And every day, I would ride the elevator to the ground floor and try to take a walk.  That was  my job.  9/11 had happened the week before.  And as our country was entering trauma, I was living one.

After my walk, my wife Mary and I went into the gift shop, and she asked if I wanted an apple.  She said they looked really good.

Now, I hadn't tasted food in over a month....I lost a lot of weight because food had no appeal.  So I said no, but she persisted.  Come one.  Try it. 

So finally, I said all right.  And I took a bite.  And for some reason, that was the day flavor returned, and that powerful sweetness rushed from that apple.  Oh, it was incredible.

I started to cry, cry for the first time in years.  And tears flowed and as the anesthesia and antibiotics flushed through my tears, it burned my eyes.  And between the sweetness of that apple and the burning of my tears, it felt so good to be alive. 

I blurted out, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for this life."

And that's when my prayers shifted, again to giving thanks."

Great stuff. 

A moment of thanksgiving, because of an apple.  And the realization that in eating that apple - life was extended.

The word of the day?  Of the month?  Ask God to meet your needs.  Ask God to take you out of difficult situations.

But most of all - let's give thanks to God - for the "small" things as well as the "big" things.

Just a thought for a Thursday.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Keeping in step with the spirit

This  evening we will be looking at Romans 8:2-11.

It is a great passage that challenges us to combat the flesh by walking in the Spirit.

I encourage you to read the passage before coming tonight to "Pure Worship".

Partnering with that passage are the words of Paul in Galatians 5:16, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

Another translation puts it this way:  "Keep in step with the spirit."

The key to overcoming the flesh (your sinful nature - or your tendency to sin) is to keep in step with the Spirit, not lagging behind and not racing ahead.

Walking in the Spirit implies two things:

1.  We are walking in the spirit, not sitting in the Spirit.

One of the most dangerous and harmful detriments to you spiritual growth is passivity - putting your mind in neutral and coasting.

Sitting back and waiting for God to do everything is not God's way to spiritual maturity.

We cry out, "I want more of your Spirit, Lord".  We sing, "I need you more," when in reality God may be waiting on you to give more of yourself.

2.  We are walking in the Spirit, not running in the Spirit.

The Spirit-filled life is not achieved through a set of endless, exhausting activity.

Myth:  The harder we work for God the more spiritual we will become.

That is a lie of the enemy.

Satan knows that he may not be able to stop you from serving God by making your immoral, but he can most certainly slow you down by simply making you busy.

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn form Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke (the principles of my teachings) is easy, and My load is light."

Jesus invites you today, to a restful walk in tandem with Him, just as two oxen walk together under the same yoke.

"How can a yoke be restful" you ask?

Because Jesus' yoke is an easy yoke (A yoke in the times of Jesus was a word used metaphorically for the teachings and principles of any given Rabbi).

As the lead "ox", Jesus walk at a steady pace. 

If you pace yourself with Him, your burden will be easy.

But if you take a passive approach to the relationship, you'll be painfully dragged along in the yoke because Jesus keeps walking.

Or if you try to run ahead or turn off in another direction, the yoke will chafe your neck and your life will be uncomfortable.

The key to a restful, growing, life giving relationship with Jesus is to learn from Him and open yourself to His gentleness and humility.

The picture of walking in the Spirit in tandem with Jesus also helps us understand our service to God.

How much can you get done without Jesus pulling on His side of the yoke?  Nothing.

How much will be accomplished without you on your side?  Nothing.

It is amazing, stuff, gang, that God has chosen to work in partnership with you to do His work in the world today.

There are things that only he can do, and if you try to do them (without His presence) you will botch them up.

And there are things God has clearly instructed you to do, and if you don't do them, it won't get done.

Let's walk together, friends, in step with the Spirit - and see what God can do in our lives!

Just some thoughts for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Where have all the servants gone?

Peter Seeger used to sing, "Where have all the flowers gone?"

I write to you today to ask:  "Where have all the servants gone?"

When Christ calls us to him - he calls us to be (above everything else) His servants.

To put others first.

It is the "American way" to strive to be number one - yet Christ calls us to be willing to be "number two."

To worship God in a way that will meet other people's needs and not just my own.

To put other's preferences before my own.

To seek first to meet other's needs before my own.

To being willing to go the extra mile in ministry.

When most people in 2013 look for a church to attend, they are looking for a church that will meet their needs in the way they want their needs met.

Not many look for a church on the basis of service and serving.

It's the "me, my, mine," decade. 

"I want what is mine," and "no one can take it from me."

"I have my rights you know."

Oh really?  Is that the Bible way?

Or does Jesus call us to pick up our responsibilities.

Leonard Bernstein, the famous orchestra conductor was asked one time, "Mr. Bernstein, what is the most difficult instrument to play?"

He responded with quick wit:

"Second fiddle.  I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, not that's a problem.  And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony."

Great words.

That is one of the reasons why Jesus was so different.  Not only did he encourage us to be servants, he modeled it continually.

It is on that basis that Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-5, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

Where have all the servant's gone?

J.B Phillips illustrates the challenge to live a life of servant hood when he alters the beatitudes to read as follows:

Happy are the "pushers":  for they get on in the world.

Happy are the hard-boiled:  for they never let life hurt them.

Happy are they who complain:  for they get their own way in the end.

Happy are the blasé:  for they never worry over their sins.

Happy are the slave drivers:  for they get results.

Happy of the knowledgeable men of the world:  for they know their way around.

Happy are the troublemakers:  for they make people take notice of them.

Those "beatitudes" are the exact opposite of what Jesus said.

We are to give.  We are to live unselfishly.

I caught myself singing an old chorus today as I was driving.  It goes like this:

Jesus use me, and oh Lord don't refuse me.
Surely there's a work that I can do.
And even though it's humble, Lord help my will to crumble.
Though the cost be great I'll work for you.

Where have all the servants gone?

God call you today - not to be a getter, but a giver.  Not to be someone who holds a grudge, but a forgiver.  Not to be someone who keeps score, but a forgetter.  Not a superstar, but a servant.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

It was wonderful having our daughter Christie, her husband Andrew and their two daughters with us over the weekend (Georgia 4 and Kinley 2).

Becky also came and visited us on Saturday.

We missed George being with us.

I watched the movie "Tangled" with my granddaughters for the third time.

I really like that movie - probably more than they do.  :) :)

Three things I know about my granddaughters (for those of you new to my blog):

They are the prettiest girls in the world.

They are the smartest girls in the world.

They are always right.

Huge hand clap to Andrew and Christie on their parenting.

Congratulations to the Michigan State Spartans on their overwhelming win over the University of Michigan!  Go green!  Go white!

Beautiful falls days.  Colors are turning.  Love it!

I continue to receive great reports from the first and second services yesterday.

There was a powerful sense of God's presence in worship!

Our church family is "hungry" for the ministering presence of God - His Holy Spirit!

God always, always meets us at the level of our expectations.

Thank you, Stone Church family, for wanting to draw closer to God!

I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg in what God wants to do!

What I didn't get to yesterday (to continue this Monday segment):

To be blessed by God, I must expect God's blessings by faith.

God blesses people who trust Him.

The writer to the Hebrews states (Hebrews 11:1), "Only faith can guarantee the blessings we hope for."

You can go to church, you can be a nice person, but only faith can guarantee the blessings you hope for.

God loves it when you expect Him to take care of you - it is a compliment.

When you say something like, "I don't know how this is going to work out, I don't know what you are doing, and I don't know what the problem's solution is but I do know this - you are a God of blessing and you have blessed me many times before and I am counting on you.  I am trusting in you.  I am expecting God to bless me!"

And God says, "That's my girl!  That's my guy!  You are doing exactly what I want you to do.  Trust in me!"

It is faith that brings the blessing of God in your life. 

What are you expecting God to do in your life this week?

Sid Lowe Baxter says that, "the proof that you have God's spirit in  your life is not that you speak in an unknown tongue but that you know how to control the tongue you do know about."

Let's build one another up this month.

In an old Peanuts cartoon, Peppermint Patty phones Charlie Brown and says:  "Marcie and I are about to leave for camp, Chuck.  We're going to be swimming instructors."

Marcie takes the phone and adds:  "We just called to say good-bye, Charles.  We are going to miss you.  We love you."

Charlie Browns' little sister, Sally, asks, "Who was that?"

Standing there by the phone with an ear-splitting grin of satisfaction on his face, Charlie Brown answers, "I think it was a right number."

Each day this month, let's ask ourselves, "Who can I encourage today?"

Love you all......

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Preferences and desires

Pastor Aldin showed me a book today that is entitled, "I Am A Church Member," By Thom Rainer.

We have decided to give the small book away to all of our new members (we will be recognizing our new members on December 8th - those are always exciting times!).

One of the chapters is entitled:

I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.

Let me summarize the chapter for you.

Thom Rainer starts out by giving an illustration about his boys - when the were little -  fussing and fighting because they wanted something their way - without compromise.  You can't be around any group of small children without selfishness coming to the forefront.  Kids can be selfish brats at times.

Go back to the disciples of Jesus who had a tendency to fight with one another.  On one occasion (In Mark 9), the 12 were arguing about who was the greatest.- like spoiled children.

Thom Rainer writes, "Christians can sometimes act just like those demanding children who want things their way.  Temper tantrums in churches may not include church members lying on the floor kicking and screaming, but some come close.  But the strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join.  Don't get me wrong; there may be much about your church that you like a lot.  But you are there to meet the needs of others.  You are there to serve others.  You are there to give.  You are there to sacrifice."

He writes, "get the picture?"

Instead of demanding our preferences, our desires and the way "we've always done it," Rainer writes that we are called to serve.  He writes, "we will never find joy in church membership when we are constantly seeking things our way.  But paradoxically, we will find the greatest joy when we choose to be last.....True joy means giving up our rights and preferences and serving everyone else."

Good stuff.  Challenging thoughts for all of us.

Jesus said in Mark 9:35, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all."

What are some of the characteristics of an "inward focused church?"

Again from the book.  Thom Rainer's research team conducted a survey of churches that were inwardly focused.  For the most part, they were not serving past their own walls and their own members. 

In other words, they were largely self-serving.

Here are the results of their survey.  The ten dominant behavior patterns of members in these inward focused churches (and I summarize what he wrote):

1. Worship wars.  Factions in the church wan the music just the way they like it.  Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change.

2.  Prolonged minutia meetings.  The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings.  Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.

3.  Facility focus.  The church facilities develop iconic status.   One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of the church's building and grounds.

4.  Program driven.  The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

5.  Inwardly focused budget.  A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.

6.  Inordinate demands for pastoral care.

7.  Attitudes of entitlement.  Demanding special treatment.

8.  Greater concern about change than the gospel.  Rainer writes, "Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.

9.  Anger and hostility.  Members are consistently angry.  They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.

10.  Evangelistic apathy.  Very few members share their faith on a regular basis.


Paul writes that we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).

We are to be servants.  We are to be obedient.  We are to put others first.  We are to do whatever it takes to keep the unity of the church.  We will not let our church be about us - but others.

I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.

Just some thoughts for a Thursday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A literal devil and God's power

Do you believe in a literal devil?

Being that tomorrow is Halloween, I thought I might ask.
Sometimes I wonder if pagans believe in a literal devil more than we Christian types do.
In an interview with New York magazine, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained his beliefs about the reality of the Devil. After mentioning his belief in a real heaven and hell he interjected, "I even believe in the Devil."
The interview continued (with interviewer in bold):
You do?
Of course! Yeah, he's a real person ….
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He's making pigs run off cliffs, he's possessing people and what not. And that doesn't happen very much anymore … It's because he's smart.
So what's he doing now?
What he's doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He's much more successful that way … I mean, c'mon, that's the explanation for why there's not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament. What happened to him? He got wilier.
Isn't it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You're looking at me as though I'm weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It's in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
There is a literal devil.
But here’s what he does not want you to know:
He is not omniscient. 
He is not omnipotent.
He is not omnipresent.
We respect the devil and his demons, but we need not fear them.
Why?  Because God’s power in us is greater than his power. 
A word of encouragement:  Don’t try to fight the devil on your own.  He is smarter than you are!  He’s had thousands of years experience in tempting God’s people!
On your own, you are no match for him.
But with God’s power in you – there is nothing that the enemy can throw at you that you can’t overcome.  
Greater is he in us – than he who lives in the world!
We stand in the strength of God.  We stand on what He has done for us at the cross.  We stand in the knowledge that Jesus is praying for us.
Jesus will not let the enemy overwhelm you!
You hear a knock at the door.  
“Who is it,” you ask.
“It is the devil.”
You say, “Jesus, would you mind getting the door?  I am not going to answer that door!  You get it, Lord.  You know my weaknesses.”
Here’s the word of the Lord to you today:  Rely upon His power and not your own ability to overcome the evil one.
There is a literal devil – but there is a literal God who is far more powerful.
Just a thought for a Wednesday.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Self doubt and rejection

There are moments in our lives when we doubt ourselves because of the rejection that we feel from others.

Yet, when those moments come, I want you to know that you can tap into a wellspring of love, hope and joy that is available to every follower of Christ.

The key is to continually go back to "who you are in Christ," and jump out of the projected and self-projected thoughts of who you think you are or whom others think you are.

The key is to go to Christ in prayer.

As I go to Christ in prayer, I go NOT to make myself better, or to "clean myself up" so that I am presentable to God, but rather to surrender who I am to Christ and receive the life that God desires to plant within my heart. 

I encourage you today to memorize Psalms 91:1, "He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."

When you feel rejected, when you feel those emotions of self-doubt coming on, run to Jesus.

Let Jesus cover you with His spirit and the knowledge that you are a child of His.

Don't believe the lies of the enemy, the negativity of others, or even those thoughts that beat your own self down.

Believe in Jesus.  His opinion is the only one that ultimately counts.

Just a thought for a Tuesday.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

One of the DNA aspects of our church family is the number of people who attend Stone Church from other countries.

Last Saturday evening, there was a surprise 50th birthday party for Cuthbert Anidobu at our church. The evening was filled with Nigerian food, wonderful Christian music from Nigeria and of course great fellowship!

I love the diversity that our church offers - more importantly - God loves diversity!

Happy 50th birthday, Cuthbert!

We love our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ!

Many, many thanks to those who helped out at our annual Trunk or Treat event last evening. 

It was well attended!

Children are a priority of our church, if not the number one priority!

Our desire is to be a spirit filled church.

Our desire is to be a family oriented church.

Our desire is to see people come to Christ.

Our desire is to see people grow in Christ.

Great time of worship yesterday.  If you get a chance at church some time in the near future, I encourage you to stop and thank one of our worship team members for their faithfulness in using their talents for the glory of God - and leading us in worship!

Thankful for a great office staff (pastors and administrative assistants)!

We continue to experience the "after shocks" of Nathan Morris' time with us.

God spirit continues to move - it is almost as if there is a new sense of interest in experiencing the Spirit of God!

2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."

"Father, we are those people!  Our hearts desire to draw closer to you!  Send more of your ministering presence in our lives!"

Today, I am going to start a new Monday blog segment called:  "What I didn't get to yesterday," or those thoughts that I didn't get to share from my Sunday teaching (because of time).

What I didn't get to yesterday (from the teaching entitled:  "Dealing with Family Conflict".

Here is a story of how some people handle family conflict:

People find different ways to deal with family conflicts.  But a 25 year old Norwegian woman discovered a rather imaginative way to deal with her father, who had moved in with her after his divorce.  She's giving him away over the Internet.

According to a March 10 Associated Press story, Nina Groenland loves dear old dad, but having him as a roommate isn't working out.  So she placed a classified ad on the Internet looking for a new wife for her 52 year old dad. 

"Giving away my daddy to a good-natured lady in Trondheim," Groenland's electronic ad read.  "Daddy is tall, dark., slim and in his best age.  I'm sick of him since he is living in my house.  Furniture included."

"It started as a joke, but we've had one serious call," she said.  Adds the father:  I'd like to hear from American ladies as well."

Here is a story about wanting people to met our needs instead of Jesus Christ:

Ruth Graham, Billy Graham's wife, wrote, "I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another.  It's foolish to expect from one another that which Jesus Christ can be - always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in ever area, anticipating ever need, making more than adequate provision.  Such expectations put a marriage under an impossible strain."

Proverbs 11:29 tells us, "The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left." 

It is foolish to intentionally cause anger or resentment in your home.  It is dumb but we do it all the time when we are angry.  You live with these people all the time so you know their emotional hot buttons.

You know what will tick off your husband/wife/parents/kids.

You know if you push that button it is going to make them mad.

The bible says it is dumb to push those buttons, to make people angry intentionally, to intentionally build resentment.  It is foolish!

Steven Covey:  Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

In conflict - listen.  Because you care.  Because you might learn something.

Hurting people hurt people. 

The reason people hurt others is because they are hurting inside.

When we are ticked off - generally speaking - we can't see past our needs, our hurts and how we have been hurt and offended.

To resolve conflict, we need to make a mental shift from my needs to the needs and doubts and fears and interests of those I am in conflict with.

Just some thoughts from my sermon yesterday that I didn't get to.

Love you all......