★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★

In our last post called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we discussed the importance of reading the bible if we want to grow in our walk with God.  And that what you feed your mind is what you will become.  My daughter reminded me of the movie we saw a year ago called “Tomorrowland” (which was really awesome and is on Redbox now.)  In the movie they had a quote about an Old Cherokee Proverb that within everyone is two wolves fighting a battle…I looked up the background and thought it was a great illustration of what we all face…

A99 - Daily Dependence - Tomorrowland - 2 Wolves Quoten old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. 

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.  

One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”  

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. 

The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

WHICH WOLF ARE YOU FEEDING?  

I love that answer to the question “Which wolf will win?”…“The one you feed.”  There is such truth in that statement that if we could grasp it today, our lives could be forever changed!  In the Bible, Romans 8:5-6 (NLT) supports this truth:

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature [or ‘flesh’ as other Bible translations call it,] think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  So letting your sinful nature [flesh] control your mind leads to death.  But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

We always have a choice about what we will feed, our flesh or our spirit…Today I would like springboard off of our last post and speak to those who have been walking with God and reading the Bible to pose the question, are you a parasite?  Strange question huh?  When you hear the word parasite a few nasty examples come to my mind like tapeworms, fleas, and barnacles.  I read somewhere that Tapeworms attach themselves to the insides of the intestines of animals such as cows, pigs, and humans.  They get food by eating the host’s partly digested food, depriving the host of nutrients.  Gross huh?  Vocabulary.com had this definition for what a PARASITE is:

“A creature that lives off another organism is a parasite. The parasite might not hurt the host, but it doesn’t do anything to help it, either.”

Can you think of an example of a creature that feeds off of another but doesn’t hurt the host?  I will give you a hint…you may have some living in your home…babies of course!  But we hardly would consider them a parasite right…right?  Hahaha!  There is nothing more beautiful than a nursing baby.  After all it was God’s design that a woman’s body would transform to be able to provide nourishment for her child BUT as the baby gets older, it is time to transition to solid food.

The question…Are You a Parasite? Was intended to get your attention but maybe a less graphic way to start the dialogue would be to say, are you doing anything with what you are reading in the Bible or are you in a perpetual feeding mode?  I heard a quote from a country preacher named Vance Havner who said:

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“How long you’ve been a Christian only tells how long you’ve been on the road.  It doesn’t tell how far you’ve come.” Vance Havner

When I first heard of this quote I thought of it in comparison to 1 Timothy 4:12 about not letting anyone “think less of you because you are young.”  But recently I have thought it more along the lines of not believing you’re mature just because of how long you’ve been calling yourself a Christian.  Do you consider yourself mature?  Or should I say are you continuing to mature in your faith?  I an article from Albert Mohler he quoted researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli who said:

“Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it.  And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”  How bad is it?  Researchers tell us that it’s worse than most could imagine.

According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments.  “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time.  They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna, president of the firm.  The bottom line?  “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.”

And from another article I saw these statistics…

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“The State of the Bible: 6 Trends for 2014” – Barna Research

What a sad reality!  Would you consider yourself illiterate when it comes to your knowledge of the Bible?  Just like you cannot become mature just by the number of years you are a Christian, just owning a Bible is not enough, we need to read and know it!  This lack of maturity is not a new phenomenon.  In approximately 55 AD, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 to encourage the Corinthian Church to grow in their faith.  They were not ready for the deeper truths that he wanted to share with them…In verse 2, Paul said:

“I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready,”

For the purpose of this Thought for the Day, I am going to assume that we are all “within the 37% who read the Bible more than once a week” that the Barna Research Group found.  And with that baseline, I want to challenge you to look within and ask yourself…Does that 1 Corinthians 3:2 statement describe you?  Have you been on the path for decades, reading God’s Word, going to church, attending Bible Studies and yet you still are not ready to move on to solid food?  Hebrews 5:12 (NLT) gives this stark wake up call!

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“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.”

Convicting huh?  It was definitely true of me!  I accepted Jesus as my savior in August of 1998 and though I would describe myself as “being on fire for God,” my development was far from that.  I attended church yes but did not read the Bible.  It was not until 12 years later that one conversation with Todd McIntyre, the Men’s Pastor at Gateway Church changed everything!  In the post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, I shared how he helped me see the need to reconcile my relationship with my estranged father and also opened my eyes to the need to develop the spiritual discipline of reading the bible daily which has paid dividends!  I have grown more in the last six years then I did in the preceding 12!  It is interesting to think how one conversation changed the whole trajectory of my life!  But that would not have happened unless I actually listened to Pastor Todd’s counsel and put it into practice!  James 1:22-25 (NLT) says:

99 - Daily Dependence - James 1-22 - Be Doers of the Word“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

In our Wednesday night Lifegroup, we have been going through a Bible Study by Francis Chan on RightNowMedia from the Book of James.  In the third lesson (which was based on James 1:19-27,) Francis Chan nailed it as he pounds on the truth of this passage…He said,

“Satan is thrilled when believers pack out churches to hear the Word of God and then they walk away and do nothing and yet feel like they’ve accomplished something.  Their deceiving [themselves], they’re doing Satan’s job for Him!”

Amen?  We need to be DOERS of the Word not just HEARERS.  Too often that people say “I am not being fed,” so they move on to another church, never realizing that maybe it has nothing to with the Pastor or the church but with them.  You cannot grow without putting in the work yourself.  Being a parasite can also be by living your life only on the basis of someone else’s faith.  Maybe it’s someone who brought you to Christ in the first place, like a parent who dragged you to church every Sunday, or a friend who made you feel obligated to accept Christ.  You never really developed a personal relationship with Christ but rather you are going with the flow of someone else’s faith.  

99 - Daily Dependence - Milk to Meat - MaturingSo then how do we go from MILK to MEAT, and mature as a believer?  I am glad you asked…Stop being a parasite.  Stop leeching onto others for your growth.  Stop depending on others or the Pastor/Church for your spiritual development.  You have to take responsibility for your own development.  Just like you cannot survive on one meal a week, you cannot depend on 1 hour on a Sunday morning to be the only source of nourishment that you give your Spirit!  It must happen daily.  If you don’t apply the knowledge that you hear than you will never grow and you will remain stagnant.  I say this all the time but it’s so true…Nothing changes if nothing changes!  Today decide to…Feed Yourself!

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★

I am a firm believer that in life and in any relationship you get whatever you put in.  You’ve heard the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” right?  Well just like in your diet, if all you consume is fast food your body will resemble what you take in.  And if all you do is perpetually sit on the coach in front of the boob tube, your health will certainly deteriorate.  What you feed on will result in what you will become.  We are currently in a trilogy of posts examining these 3 Worthy Pursuits in order to be successful in life through…Prayer – Word – Worship.  In part 1 of our series called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★, we saw how critical prayer is for our life through the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10.  God desires a relationship with us.  Just like in our human relationships, this is only accomplished through dialogue…which in regards to God, is through prayer.

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Today’s Pursuit is equally pivotal for our walk with God…and that is through reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible.  If your response in hearing this was to groan or think something like “oh no, not this again, why do I need to read this archaic book, it has no relevance to me today?”  Well you’re not alone.  Many people struggle with reading the Bible either because they “do not see the value,” or “do not have the time,” or “that they know that they should, but don’t.”  My prayer is that by the end of this post, God will reveal to you the importance of knowing what is in the Bible and that He will move you to action…So let’s demystify each one of these viewpoints.

The Bible HAS Value for Today!

The Bible is the inherent Word of God.  Every word in the bible is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) says:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [or woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God” and is intended to be a road map…an instruction manual for life that will point our lives in the right direction.  It is also intended to be our best offense to fight our enemy.  Do you know that to be true?  A friend of mine in my lifegroup was given this “challenge coin” by his police chief the day he was sworn in as an officer in 2010.

98 - Daily Dependence - Armor of God Challenge CoinThe inscriptions are from Ephesians 6:10-17 which describes what the Armor of God is.  In Ephesians 6:13 (ESV) we are instructed,

“Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.”

In the next 4 versus the Apostle Paul lists the various pieces – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes for your feet, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, (see Ephesians 6:14-17.)  He finishes with weapons of our warfare in verse 17b…

“and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”

You see the Bible has value because is our only offensive weapon, all the rest are defensive in design.  If you don’t have a Bible, then I highly urge you to purchase one or download it to your smart device…but we will talk about that later…

In an older post called ★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★, we first looked at the significance of not only reading the Bible but also knowing the WHOLE Bible.  There is so much wisdom and practical advice that is covered in the bible that speak to any issue you have in your life today.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT) says…

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  They will reject the truth and chase after myths.”    

Doesn’t this sound like our culture today?  People will follow anything that is new and trending on Twitter.  But the counsel in the Bible is timeless and relevant for today.  We need to read and study the Bible daily so that we understand the character of God and receive the encouragement and instruction it will bring!

You DO HAVE TIME for The Bible

Many people say that they don’t have time to read because life is too hectic…whether as a result of homework from school, demands of the job, or the kid’s schedule…but we all have the same 24 hours in a day!  I have found in my life that I will always make time for what I deem important…or another way to say it is that WE WILL PRIORITIZE that which WE VALUE.

Do you value the Bible? 

I would assert that if you DON’T MAKE THE TIME, you are DISARMING YOURSELF from the weapon that God has PROVIDED to sustain you through the storms of life.  98 - Daily Dependence - Bible is Your AnchorCharles Stanley made this commentary:

“The Bible is in an immovable anchor in times of storm and through it, God can give us the strength and hope to endure.”

Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a storm or situation to start reading the Bible, you need to have the truth in you BEFORE you face the adversity.  In the Book of Genesis there was a man named Noah who did spend time with God and received the instruction to build an Ark (or another way say it, a big boat,) in preparation for a flood that would cover the whole earth.  As a result, Noah was ready to face the floodwaters as he and his family were the only survivors.  (You can read the whole story about Noah in Genesis 6:9-8:22.)  But if He hadn’t spent time with God, he would not have been ready which leads us into the final misconception…

The Bible is CRITICAL to Read 

It is so important that we are careful what we put into our minds.  There are so many things competing for our attention, and if we are not careful we can get derailed along the way with our walk with God.  If we truly want to grow in our faith, then dusting off that Bible on the nightstand and opening is up is a necessity!  I shared this quote in a post called ★ Thought for the Day – The Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★, that Steven Furtick made in his book “Crash the Chatterbox”…that

“we must intentionally feed the faith we already possess by fanning into flame the gift that is in us.  We must eat what God has already cooked up.”

I love that imagery…“we must intentionally feed the faith we already possess!”  We need to be reading and meditating on the Bible daily so that our faith can increase and the lies of the enemy (a.k.a. the Chatterbox) can be silenced!  When our faith is strong we can withstand the storms that come against us…Proverbs 10:25 (NLT) says,If you want to grow in your faith, reading your Bible is essential in that Pursuit…you need to make steps to do things differently…see Colossians 2:6-7.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.  The question is, do you want to change?  If you want to then I suggest that you get yourself a Bible or download it on your smart device.

I first shared about the YouVersion Bible App in the ★ Thought for the Day – All About the Big Ten ★ and I highly recommend you download the App today!  98 - Daily Dependence - YouVersion Bible AppMy nephew who is a senior in high school had this to say about it after a week of using the app…

“The app is amazing I love it, it’s always with me since I always have my phone and it even has these “plans” where I go and read specific chapters relating to a topic I pick!”

I completely agree.  I use it every single day!  To Download YouVersion Bible App, you can go to www.youversion.com, or you can download by clicking the buttons below…

98 - Daily Dependence - Download_on_the_App_Store98 - Daily Dependence - Download on Google Play

Here are a couple of suggestions that I have for you as you start to read the Bible:

  • I recommend getting the Bible Translation called the “New Living Translation (NLT)” which is an easy to read format that is a great start to your journey

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  • I would suggest start by reading the Gospel of John that is all about the ministry Jesus to understand the heart of God. And I would recommend the book of James who was Jesus’ brother.  As Jesus’ “little brother,” James had a unique perspective which is why there is so much wisdom in the book.

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  • Finally I would do what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:10-17 that you would put on the Full Armor of God!

Here is a simple prayer that I pray for God to give me the armor of God.  There is nothing special about the prayer, just an example of a way to “put on” the armor.

Father, please give me the full armor of God,

The Helmet of Salvation, that I would think like Jesus,
The Breastplate of Righteousness, that you would guard my heart from sinning,
The Belt of Truth, so that I would walk in integrity,
The Shoes of Your Good News, that I would be a peacemaker wherever I go,
The Sword of the Spirit, that I would be able to fight against the lies of the enemy and
The Shield of Faith, to protect me from the enemy’s attacks!

In Jesus Name, Amen!

I will close with this final word of encouragement from Psalms 37:3-5 (NKJV):

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” 

So we come back to the original question…What Are You Feeding On?  Is it what the enemy is serving, worry, anxiety, fear, _____ (fill in the blank) OR are you ready to start feeding on God’s faithfulness, love and peace?  I challenge you to use the YouVersion App for one week, and I you read the Bible, pray that God will make it easy to understand and will activate your faith in Him!  And then come back and comment here what your experience was!  God Bless you as you begin this journey!

Or if you missed any in the series, you can go back to the introductory post to get caught up…★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★

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★ Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom ★

Let me start off by wishing all the Moms a Happy Mother’s Day!!  

As part of the “25 Days of Thankfulness” series I shared with you about my Mom’s stroke in 2010 called ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★, and what a walking miracle she was.  100 - Daily Dependence - Mom's High SchoolOn April 18, 2016 my Mom was found on the floor by the nursing staff at the assisted living facility she was at and rushed to the hospital.  Within an hour of being admitted of the hospital, the CT scan determined that she had an even larger stroke the second time around. This time though it was on the other side of the brain which left no possibility of recovery, and 24 hours after being admitted to the emergency room my Mom lost her battle and passed away at 8 am on Tuesday morning. On Thursday night after the wake, my wife and I went back to my sister’s house.  As I sat down at my mom’s desk in my sister’s house, (a desk that has been around longer than I have been alive,) I thought to myself, what is the one thing that I would want to share with you about this incredible woman?  Would it be her work ethic?  Her money management skills?  Or her amazing ability to make anyone feel at home?  All of which were true, but I think what I learned most from my mom is about living out a lasting legacy (click here to read more.)  She taught us the value of family and about being a person of integrity; two values that I strive to embody myself and pass-on to my daughters.  I would not be the man I am without her tireless efforts to model the right way to live.

I also gleamed the importance of perseverance.  The stroke that happened in 2010 was a catastrophic event that had forever changed ALL our lives.  But long before that fateful December 23rd, my mom endured many other hardships.  She did not have an easy life to say the least.  From the time I was 5 years old, she was a divorcee, raising 3 children at a time when that was such a stigma.  It was like wearing a scarlet letter.  In spite of it, she taught us that regardless of circumstances to always be generous, loving and self-sacrificial.  One of the most tangible ways she expressed this was at Christmastime, which was always magical, and done on a single parent’s income!  Thinking back on it now, as a father myself, it is amazing how she was able to rub 2 nickels together to create a quarter.  Though we struggled financially, somehow she was able to give us the perfect Christmas year after year.  We had great traditions from the Advent calendar to the prime rib dinner to the eggnog toast…and always with Christmas music playing in the background, from Bing Crosby to Johnny Mathis to Brenda Lee.  Just thinking of it I am catapulted back in time…Music has a funny way of doing that.

As my sister and I went through our Mom’s room at the assisted living facility, many emotions were stirred up.  Here is a picture that my daughter made for her Grandma years ago to encourage her along the path of recovery from the first stroke from Psalm 23:1-6:

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This verse is very dear to me.  I read this the day I was baptized (April 11, 1999) which I was reminded of when I sat in the very church in which I had made my profession of faith 17 years early watching others commit their lives to Jesus.  Finding this picture with that verse was a tangible expression of God’s presence amidst the pain and sorrow of the moment which made our task of gathering pictures and an outfit for the wake bearable.  I also saw a ton of music there including that John Mathis Christmas CD that we would listen to every year.  I realized that my love of music also stems from Mom.  For those who know me well, I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  And I have a song for any occasion…Including the last weekend I spent with my Mom starting when I flew in on Friday April 15, 2016.  Many people know that date because it is the filing deadline for U.S. federal income tax returns for individuals but it was also the 9 year anniversary of my family and I moving to Texas, a coincidence that was not lost on me when I realized it on the plane.  I went back to NJ to try and help out because over these past few weeks Mom’s health had diminished considerably.  Friday was a great day because it was a long 2 months of going from the hospital to the rehab facility my Mom was overjoyed to be moving back to familiar surroundings at the assisted living facility.

Over the next two days my sister, brother and I spent precious moments sitting in the courtyard as God blessed us with two glorious days of sunshine and the opportunity to express our love to her.  As we sat there, I of course had worship music playing for her.  One song that she really liked was called “Abba,” which in Aramaic is a word derived from baby-language and is translated to mean “Daddy.”  I often shared things with Mom from what I was reading in the Bible or what I learned from the sermon on the previous Sunday when we had our weekly phone calls.  As we sat in that courtyard and the sun warmed our faces, there was a gentle breeze as this lyric of the song played,

          “Abba, I belong to you.” 

I told Mom that God is her Daddy and He cares for her so deeply that He sent Jesus to die for her so that she could spend all eternity with Him.  And just as the song said, she belonged to Him.  Little did I know just a few days later she would be with her Daddy in heaven!  Romans 8:18-21 (NLT) speaks about “The Future Glory” we have to look forward to:

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

What a beautiful promise!  Something to know about our family is that if one of us is hurt we all rally together at the hospital.  It was not any different on Monday night (4/18/16), after a long day of waiting for the inevitable; my Mom had 12 people in her room at 10 pm sharing stories about the impact she had on them.  It was brought up how I was visiting for Christmas in 2010 when she had the first stroke and how fortunate that was.  And now 5-1/2 years later I am here for the second stroke…the room was silent for a half a second then all of sudden someone said that maybe we shouldn’t invite me here anymore…hahaha!  But my being in NJ both times has nothing to do with coincidence, but rather a loving father in heaven!  Our Daddy cares so deeply for each and every one of us.  I love what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28:  100 - Daily Dependence - Romans 8-28God orchestrated that in the two darkest moments in our family’s life, I was not 1,500 miles away in Texas, but just minutes away in NJ.  Words cannot express how thankful I am, that if this had to happen, I was here to be a support to the family.  Romans 8:38-39 (NLT),

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love!”  I mentioned that I learned all about perseverance from Mom and that was because she was a fighter!  Not only for her family to stay close or for her kids to grow up to be people of integrity, but also how she fought after having a massive stroke.  She defied the doctors back in 2010 who said she may not live, or that she may not speak again, or that she many never use the right side of her body.  Adversity after adversity she overcame and persevered!  My Mom was a living testimony of the faithfulness of God, a walking miracle!  I am so proud of her and was thankful that though her life was changed after the stroke, I had my Mom for another 5-1/2 years in which our relationship deepened far greater than it ever would have because we talked about matters of faith and the importance of standing on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.  97 - Daily Dependence - Footprints PoemDuring this time period I saw how God was her hope and anchor amidst the storms and how He carried her through the many hardships.  My Mom had this plague hanging on the wall called “Footprints,” which we had on the memorial card given out at the wake.  I shared this quote with Mom a while ago from a good friend of mine which I will close with:

“We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then.  Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s distresses.”  Leo Primero    

As Romans 8:38 said, “Nothing can ever separate us from the love” of our Daddy in heaven.  And I will add to that with Revelation 21:4 (ESV) which says,

“He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I take great comfort that my Mom is enjoying Heaven’s delights and is now free from the pain and suffering that she endured in this life.  Our loss is Heaven’s gain!  100 - Daily Dependence - Our Loss is Heaven's GainIn my Mom’s final moments, she had here 3 children at her bedside and we sang along with a favorite song of her’s from John Denver called “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  As the conclusion of the song, my Mom took her final breath and Jesus took her home to heaven. She is finally at rest with her Heavenly Father after having that fateful second and fatal stroke.  Mom, thank for showing me how to live a lasting legacy and for making me the man who I am.  I owe everything to you and you will be dearly missed.  Know that your efforts were not in vain and generations to come will benefit from your love, dedication and faith in Jesus.  Rest in peace Mom.  I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day!!

 

If you would like to hear that “Take Me Home Country Roads.”

 

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