12 Picture Books to Celebrate Your Adopted Child

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As we near the close of National Adoption Awareness Month, I would like to share one more book list. (Be sure and see this one I shared earlier in the month.) These books focus on your adopted child. To preface this list, no one book is going to tell your child’s story. For your child’s story is unique to them. The Bible will tell them the story God wants to write for them, and it will help your child deal with any troubling family histories–have you checked out Jesus’ genealogy lately? However, these picture books are tools and stepping stones to continuing the conversations that you have ongoing in your home. They can be, in the words of Linda Sue Park, mirrors and doors. Your child may see himself or herself reflected in these stories, or they may come to realize that there are children all over the world who are longing for a home. My three favorite are listed first.











As always, please share any other recommendations. I would love to gather picture books with adoption stories from Africa.

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Using Books to Cultivate a Heart for Orphans and Adoption

My passion for adoption started growing long before my adult years. It came as a result of the planting of the Holy Spirit, and it also came in the form of story. Books cultivate life experiences in a safe environment and develop compassion and sympathy, passion and purpose, in children prior to their ability to act on those feelings.

As we enter into the cooler, cozier days of November, it is a perfect time to introduce, or perhaps continue the narration of, stories to our children which cultivate a heart for orphans and adoption. There is a lengthy list at Good Reads and here are a few of my favorites to get you started. I tend to recommend these as read aloud books to be shared with the whole family in order to encourage dialogue. Not all of these books are serious, but they all prompt us to think about orphans and begin cultivating a heart for orphan care and adoption in our homes. As with all books we share with our children, please be sure and preview the content to make sure it is age appropriate and sensitive to the specific environment of your child’s history and emotional maturity.

Don’t have children of your own? That’s okay too! As C.S. Lewis stated, A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

Read Alouds for K4-3rd grade or older:


Read Aloud Books for 3rd and Up:

 

 

Older students (young adult):

 

One more that is on my to-be-read pile and was recently highlighted in this week’s episode of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast is:

Which books have you used to bring awareness of orphan care and adoption into your life and home? What books would you add to this list? I have always gravitated to books about orphans and in the coming weeks will unfold as much as I am presently allowed about our current adoption journey. Stay tuned!

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If I Could Give You One Gift It Would Be a Library Card

One of the great things about being a parent is that you get to catch up on all the books you missed in your own childhood!

~Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart.

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Next month I am throwing a favorite things party for our homeschool community. At this party, each woman is to bring one of her favorite things to share with five other women. My husband wittingly quipped, Are you giving five library cards? What a fabulous idea! If I could give each person a library card I would–but, alas, an address and phone number is necessary for each account!

This summer we have participated in the Give Your Child the World Reading Challenge with Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast. In the challenge, we read wonderful literature based on different countries and regions around the world every week for eight weeks. Each book we selected came from Jamie’s beautiful new book baby, Give Your Child the World. A thorough list of books for students of all ages broken down by world-region.

My favorite time of day with each of our three children, and as a family, is the multiple times we sit and read aloud together. There is something about the shared story, vocabulary, and experiences that the pages of good books provide.

It is not necessary to have monetary means to travel the globe or walk in another man’s shoes. All we really need is a library card and a good list to guide us. This summer I spent my many hours reading several books about books. It may be a bit of an overkill that I take four books to my local library each week, several times a week, to guide my family’s reading selection. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I want to share a list of books to help guide your family’s reading choices and direct your heart and mind to ponder the importance of reading together as a family to shape the character of your children and generations to come.  These books are rich and make wonderful additions to any home library.


Based on my review of each of the book lists, I would suggest starting with Honey for a Child’s Heart and Give Your Child the World. They help shape our parent hearts and present the information in an easy-to-read format. Utilizing these booklist books, we have chosen several new family favorites this summer; including these three:

What are your favorite books that you have read together as a family this summer? Where do you turn to help make your book selections? I would love to hear your ideas!

May the books be plenty and the hours spent together engrossed in a wonderful story be multiplied,

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The Top Eight Books I Read in 2015

With the availability of daily blog posts and twenty four hour news coverage, it takes a more disciplined effort to put the electronics away and curl up with a real book–even for avid readers like myself. However, reading seems to increase my focus and attentiveness and the retention of the information read. That being said, here are the top eight books that I read in 2015. They are listed in no particular order. Perhaps you will add them to your to be read pile for the new year?

As a side note, this would be a post about the top 7 or the top 10 books I read in 2015. However, I didn’t want to skip any of these below, and I didn’t want to add two more for the sake of conventionality. Alas, you will have to be comfortable with the little used number 8!

I have affectionately coined the late Chuck Colson as my Grandfather of Apologetics so it should come as no surprise that he would have two books listed in the top 8 of 2015. The Sky is Not Falling, was published in 2011 and I almost consider it prophetic as it is chock full of Colson’s predictions for the direction of our country if we do not change course. Reading this book four years after its publication date, many of his warnings have come to pass or are unfolding before our eyes. However, in classic Chuck Colson style, he doesn’t merely present the woes of the age, but also lists specific ways that we can and must turn the hearts of men toward Jesus Christ.

 

Chuck Colson entered into his eternal life in 2012. However, his long time associate, Anne Morse, consolidated his previously unpublished material written during the final years of his life in My Final Word. This is most likely in the top three of best books I read in 2015. You will gain wisdom and insight into a Christian worldview concerning topics such as: crime and punishment, natural law, Islam, same-sex marriage, the persecution of Christians, and life issues among others. I cannot recommend this book enough.

 

Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Council (ERLC). His wit and wisdom are among the best and his passionate voice for life and religious liberty rings loudly across our nation. This book is a call to set our minds and eyes on the Kingdom even as we live in and help to flourish the  world. It covers hot topics such as gun control, religious liberty, right to life, sex trafficking, and the list goes on. A must read concerning pertinent cultural topics of our day.

Openness Unhindered, is the second of Rosaria Butterfield’s books published since turning from her homosexual lifestyle to the Lord Jesus. This is a wonderful book addressing the topic of homosexuality and the church. Within its pages is one of the best chapters on sin I have ever read. A fantastic read that will better equip you concerning the topic of homosexuality, what the Bible has to say regarding all sexual sin, and how the church should address this topic.

Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, is the first book I have read by the talented author, Eric Metaxas. This wonderful book filled with a short biography of seven men throughout history, is one that will leave you with a desire to know more about the men within its pages. A few of my favorite chapters were on Jackie Robinson, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You will not be able to put this book down. He has written 7 Women and the Story of Their Greatness which I am almost done reading now. However, I will save that recommendation for the greatest reads of 2016!

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace, by Sarah Mackenzie is likened unto a glass of sweet tea on the front porch during a hot afternoon in the south. The sweet aroma and taste of what homeschooling can and perhaps should be is a delightful offering to overloaded homeshooling moms everywhere. In truth, I am already rereading this book! Sarah points us to truth, beauty, and goodness and beckons us to do the same with our children in our homes. If you are seeking peace in the full world of homeschooling, this is a must read for you.

 

Gift from the Sea was originally published in 1955. It is a beautiful poetic book about time, focus, and the ebb and flow of life. A beautiful, simple, refreshing read that will reorient you to some of the simple and important pieces of life. While I am not sure that I agree with all of the theological tones within this book, it provides a refocusing and graceful look at the fleetingness of time and the importance of relationships and work.

Fierce Convictions is a charmingly written biography on the poet, author, social reformer, and abolitionist Hannah More. More is a little known, yet grand and integral person in abolishing the slave trade in England. She is the counter part and best friend of William Wilberforce and is a wonderful role model for women of today. This book will challenge you and inspire you to utilize your talents and God-given abilities to influence culture and change the course of history within your own day and realm of influence.

 

And…..I am adding a bonus recommendation. A Match Made in Heaven, written in 2015 by my husband, Ron Cooney, is a marriage must read for couples at any stage. I can wholeheartedly recommend Ron’s book because I know that he practices what he preaches. Ron lives a life of authentic humility and faithfulness to God. His background in mental health counseling, experience as a pastor, and time spent counseling couples and families have prepared him to walk in obedience to writing this book.  I hope that you will purchase a copy of Ron’s book for yourself, a friend, an engaged or newly married couple, or a couple that you know needs godly direction in their marriage.

You can watch Ron teach from a few excerpts of his book, alongside our pastor, Willy Rice, here. This message is on your S.E.A.T. and how that affects your marriage.

What were some of your favorite books in 2015? I would love to hear them and add them to my list. Happy Reading!

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The Details: Nature vs. nature

Nature vs. nature

As we have discussed in the previous two posts, it is the job of Christians to first educate themselves on the worldviews of today so secondly, they can educate their own generation and those to follow. We must identify and question the secular, naturalistic worldview that is abundant in literature, music, movies, and all areas of study so that we can teach and proliferate the Christian, biblical worldview bestowed by God. In so doing, we will further the gospel movement and thus the great commission (Matthew 28:20)

What does this look like in everyday circumstances? I have written previous apologetic posts that I think would help to explain such methods (here and here), but I feel a recent example is profitable.

I deeply love classic literature. Texts rich in vocabulary and bursting with the arts are part of everyday blessings that I desire to give my children. A well-written book, be it fiction or non-fiction, is inspiring to the psyche, it enriches our lives, and shapes the culture.

One such gem of children’s literature is Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale, The Wind in the Willows. Prior to reading this text with my children, I had only read portions of this story; never the full text.

Aside from the rich vocabulary, the artistic descriptions of scenery, character, and plot, I began to notice an underlying belief system of the author. In the infamous chapter seven, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, two of the main characters, Mole and the River Rat, have a religious experience filled with worship for, Pan, the Greek god of the wild…nature. As I was reading this chapter to my children–keep in mind I had no idea this was approaching as this was my first read–I recognized immediately that significant nature worship was being depicted. Not only that, but the word nature itself is capitalized throughout the text thereby attributing anthropomorphic, human qualities, to a non-human concept. To capitalize nature is to equate nature with a god-like being responsible for the world we see today. It is to equate nature to God and His creation.

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…then in the utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, (The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, emphasis mine)

Immediately, I used this as a teachable moment.

I reinforced the idea that people worship the created rather than the creator. Just as we talk about evolution as one way to help explain the world around us to the exclusion of God, they can in turn attribute deity to Nature. I explained that this doesn’t mean we can’t read this book or other books like it simply because of a different worldview. However, in reading such texts we should be aware of the underlying worldview and values from which the author is writing.

Making this chapter, or other literature with conflicting worldview narratives,  taboo may heighten such texts to forbidden fruit. Conversely, openly discussing worldviews and other religious beliefs with our children in an environment where questions are welcomed and answers provided or looked up together, equips our children to handle future questions independently.

The saying, the devil is in the details applies here. We can equip ourselves, our children, and peers to recognize worldviews in the details so that we can sharpen our understanding of worldviews held by others and speak the truth of the Bible and a Christian worldview into the everyday situations of life.

More to come on Friday!

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A Little Help from Our Friends

 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. ~ Hebrews 13:15

Moses was admittedly weak of tongue and all-but refused the job that God set before him in a blaze of burning glory. He doubted his own strength and abilities to complete the assignment of bringing God’s people out of Egyptian slavery and into the promised land. Little did Moses realize that his greatest tribulations would not come from the hard-hearted Pharaoh of Egypt, but the ungrateful, complaining hearts of God’s chosen people. Time and time again the Israelites cried out to Moses with complaints to which Moses replied something to the effect: “Am I God? Cry out to God!”

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The lips of God’s own, newly-delivered people did not acknowledge His name; rather the embittered Israelites questioned the intentions of the one whom God sent. Why have you brought us here to die? It was better for us in Egypt. Did you bring us here for us to hunger and thirst to death?

But in each case, Moses produced fruit of lips that acknowledged God’s name. He petitioned the Father on the people’s behalf and interceded when as yet the Intercessor, Christ Jesus, was yet to come. Moses was a godly, gracious leader who lived continually in the practice of praising and petitioning God. Yes, his temper had the better part of him on a few occasions, but his example is primarily exemplary.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.~Hebrews 13:16

Sometimes that which we are called to share is simply our strength.

Moses, shortly after exiting Egypt, appointed Joshua to gather men to fight with Amalek. Moses, with the staff the Lord had provided at the burning bush, went up to the top of a hill overlooking the battleground. He took his brother and spokesman, Aaron, and another man, Hur, with him. As the battle raged, Moses discovered that whenever he held up his hands, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.

Moses needed his hands to be lifted high towards heaven in order for the battle to be won. A stance of surrender, a stance of awe and praise towards God. But oh how we grow tired and weary in battle!

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. ~Exodus 17:12

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Are you a Moses in your own time, or perhaps you know a fellow servant like Moses? Remember, Moses needed a rock on which to rest and friends to help him persevere in a surrendered posture until the setting of the sun.

Could it be that God has brought us into someone’s life for such a time as this? To stand alongside and declare, “I am here to serve you with the strength God has given me until the sun sets on your battle.”

May we find the practice of praise a midst our arsenal and the pursuit to serve one another in our creed. May we see each other to the sunset and our arms can rest in Him.

Do you ever wish you could keep all the people documented in the Bible straight in your head? For instance, “Who was Aaron? What was his relation to Moses?” Have you ever wondered how the pieces of the Bible weave together to form the story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration? Well, my husband Ron and his ministry assistant have written a wonderful resource that I would like to introduce to you. The book is called, Connect the Dots Making Sense of the Bible: A 50 Day Journey Through the Bible. This resource documents in brief narratives 50 of the most well-known characters in the Bible along with 12 of the vilest characters in the Bible. Additionally, there is a fifty day reading plan to develop an overview of the Bible and a synopsis of the 66 books of the Bible entitled,Connect The Dots Making Sense of the Bible: Group Guide (Volume 2).

I would love for you to visit Amazon by clicking on the link below. You can purchase their book there along with a wonderful small group curriculum guide to help your small group make sense of the Bible. I hope you will join us on the journey to connecting the dots.  Ron and Deborah have done the heavy lifting like Aaron and Hur for Moses. Will you let them aid you in the strength to stand as an equipped ambassador of God? I hope so.


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Unpacking Christmas: Books

Unpacking Christmas Books for the Heart

A thoughtful, well illustrated book is a gift that continues to resonate long after “the end” is read. Last night we read a few Christmas books before bedtime and one happened to be a scratch and sniff book by Joan Walsh Anglund that I received as a young girl over 25 Christmas’ ago.  The real surprise…you can still scratch and sniff the pepper-minty pie, pepperoni pizza, and beautiful fir tree that Mary and Willie prepare for their Christmas party guests!

Below is a listing for the youngest to the oldest of readers to enjoy within your home this Christmas. I hope you experience the true meaning of Christmas in a fresh way this year and every one thereafter as you unpack these Christmas books in the years to come.

A special note to my readers without little children in this season of life, the last five books are for you. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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In-Between These Pages

As some of you may have read on Tuesday, I confessed I start multiple books before I am completely finished with one. Today, a midst preparing for homeschooling to start up in a few weeks,  I am in-between these pages:

 I heard Denise Eide speak at this year’s Florida Parent Educator’s Association Convention. The simplistic and thorough approach to teaching reading and spelling instantly made sense. I purchased this book along with a few other of Denise’s materials to assist in teaching Emily to read as we start Kindergarten in a few more weeks. Here is Denise’s website and the link to view her notes from the FPEA convention.

When we teach sight words, we are effectively stripping the power of the code and asking students to memorize visual symbols for each word. p. 19, The Logic of English

The difference between the literate and the illiterate is that the literate blame the problems on English, but the illiterate blame themselves. Both demonstrate misplaced blame. The problem is neither English nor individuals. The problem is that we cannot know what we were never taught. p. 21, The Logic of English

 Is there such a thing as absolute truth? How can we know? How can we be sure that the Bible is true? What scientific evidence exists to prove the age of the earth coincides with the Bible? These are a few of the questions addressed and answered in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. I have immensely enjoyed this book and am taking my time reading and rereading portions to commit facts to memory. If you are a skeptic, know of one, or want to be more prepared to live out 1 Peter 3:15 this is a must read for you.

To say “truth cannot be known” is self-defeating because that very statement claims to be a known, absolute truth. ~I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

 This wonderful book on the central spiritual practices of inward, outward, and corporate disciplines of the faith is a must read. The richness of ideas and the simplistic yet profound presentation of material is what has helped to sell more than 1 million copies of this book. If you are looking to grow deeper in your faith and walk with Christ, Celebration of Discipline is a must read.

Daily devotional reading is certainly commendable, but it is not study. Anyone who is after “a little word from God for today” is not interested in the Discipline of study.~ Celebration of Discipline,  p. 69

Are you reading any good books right now? If so, which ones? I would love to hear your suggestions!

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Here I Am to Worship

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. ~William Temple

As a little girl, I attended church and Sunday School in the deep south. Each Sunday I donned a smocked dress, tights and leather shoes, topped off with a large matching hair-bow. Today my daughter wears many of  the dresses my mother spent countless hours smocking and ironing  those many years ago. She plays with the little white patent leather purse which in years past held my tithes, offerings, and chap-stick each Sunday.

Maturity has seen a change in apparel along with a change in my heart as I prepare for service…that is, at least when I purpose to poise my heart for worship.

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Addressing a few questions concerning what worship is and why it is important may help us poise our hearts for the most meaningful God-centered worship.

First, worship is a right and exalted view of God and a humbled, dependent view of man on God.

Secondly, worship is important because it opens the door to true intimacy with Christ and clarity of mission we would otherwise live without. Worship does not consist merely of singing. We can worship in various, if not all art forms, in addition to all the work that our hands set to do. Worship is a posture of praise and thanksgiving within our hearts and minds and as expressed through our lives.

The endeavor does not determine the significance of praise, rather it is the hidden thoughts and intents of our hearts. We can sing without love, but it is a clashing symbol or a gong. (1 Corinthians 13) Consider David.  God loved David no less when he worshiped Him on a lonely mountainside filled only with dumb sheep and the sound of his own harp than when David sat enthroned in his palace splendor and declared among God’s people:

“Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, Sovereign LORD, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! Do you deal with everyone this way, O Sovereign LORD?“What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign LORD. Because of your promise and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known to your servant. “How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you! (2 Samuel 7:18-22)

Did you notice David’s humbled view of himself and his exalted view of God? This from the man who was labeled by God to be a man after His own heart. Perhaps David was a man after God’s own heart due to his right understanding of the righteousness of God and the praise that flowed from his heart.

Similarly, in Isaiah 6,  Isaiah’s commission comes after he saw the Lord and beheld his glory. His worship of God preceded his obedience to the call of God. Once we see clearly who God is, we realize the absolute imperative of taking the gospel to our neighbor’s, coworkers, and around the globe. 

So the question becomes, how can we worship God individually so that we fuel greater worship of God corporately?  The answer lies in preparing our hearts for worship all week and the hours before corporate worship.

Below are some bullet points which are taken from chapter eleven of the wonderful book, Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.

Daily Preparation for Worship:

  • Learn to practice the presence of God daily. Pray without ceasing. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Have many different experiences of worship: Bible reading, prayers of thanksgiving, meditation on the goodness of God, singing praises, or praising God through various postures of sitting, kneeling, or lying prostrate before God.
  • Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord for the good of “we” not “me.”
  • Cultivate Holy Dependency: you are utterly and completely dependent upon God for anything significant to happen.
  • Absorb distractions with gratitude. They may be a message from the Lord.
  • Offer a sacrifice of worship. You may not “feel” like worshiping but go anyway.

On Sunday:

  • Arrive to service 10 minutes early.
  • Quiet your mind.
  • Pray for the pastor and worship leader.
  • Pray for others who arrive looking burdened.

If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. To worship is to change.  (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 173)

Try to practice the discipline of worship this week. As we do, we will find that our communion with God increases and “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (H. Lemmel)

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Enter Here

Pictures of doors from around the globe often captivate me on Pinterest. Vivid colors, adorning flowers, and unique shapes of doorways stand out among the mirage of images to pin.

Prayer opens the door to communication with God. God speaks to us in a variety of ways: the Bible, His people, our circumstances, etc….as directed by the Holy Spirit. However, we initiate communication with God through prayer uttered with our minds and mouths. When we pray, we invite the ever-present God to join in the conversation of our very lives moment by moment.

The goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God. ~John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

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Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation, Jesus instructed his disciples (Mark 14:38). Watch and pray. Seek wisdom with your whole heart (Proverbs 2). Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21).”

God actively instructs, watches, and listens to us. We determine if we go about our whole day without a God-ward thought, or if we open our eyes and lift our thoughts in continual communion with the One who never leaves or forsakes us.

To make prayer a continual conversation is to truly take every thought captive and make it obedient to God. At the gym, in the car, at the job or while correcting our children, we take captive our thoughts and purpose them to prayer. It is a matter of our will and a matter of restoring our redeemed minds to the mind of Christ-likeness– the one in whose image we are made.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, NLT)

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Often we might want to shut the door on certain thought patterns. God knows the needed areas of change. He will not stagger in astonishment at our repentant confessions and pleas for help. He delights in humble, contrite hearts– not the hearts of the religious pharisees whose cups are clean on the outside only (Psalms 51:17, Matthew 23:25-26).

In our day, most people close their eyes when they pray. But praying with one’s eyes open was common for Jewish people in that day. Among other things, it reminded them, God is right here, right now, in my real world. ~John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be

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How often do you open the door to communication and communion with the Spirit of the Living God?

Today, may we pray with eyes wide open. May we look for opportunities to speak with the Spoken Word made flesh (John 1:14) that His  presence may be manifested to us as He dwells within us (John 14:26).

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