Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {December 19, 2014 edition}

Well, all good things must come to an end…or at least take a break.

This is our last Family Friendly Finds for 2014. We will have a handful of posts for you over the next couple of weeks, but we are not going to keep our usual schedule until the first of the year. We hope you enjoy your holidays and will keep up with the articles we do post around the holidays.

In case we haven’t said it enough lately, thank you! You have helped make A Legacy of Faith get off to a much bigger start than we imagined a few months ago when we started this site. Thank you!

On to this week’s family links.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

5 Things Dads Must Do with Their Kids…Every Single Day {Jackie Bledsoe}

What I Hope She Has Learned {Focal Points}

Seeing Our Children through New Testament Eyes {for the family}

The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram {Time}

How to be a Family that Stands (When We Could Use a Good Dose of Encouragement) {for the family}

ALSO…I had the honor of being interviewed on the podcast “Culture Shock” on the subject of disciplining children. Here is part 1 of the interview, and here is part 2.

Our Week in Review

These posts were not necessarily written during the last seven days, but they drew the most views during that time.

#5: Always Good but Never Better (December 16, 2014)

#4: Bah-Humbug! The Five Worst Christmas Songs (November 29, 2011)

#3: The Root of the Pornography Problem (December 17, 2014)

#2: The Main Issue is Not Women’s Role (or Instrumental Music or…) (December 11, 2014)

#1: An Open Letter to the 4th Avenue Church of Christ (December 4, 2014)

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Episode 11 : Planning 2015 as a Family {Podcast}

(Player not working? Click here to listen on the site.)

Welcome to our last podcast of 2014 on A Legacy of Faith. In this episode, Leah and Adam talk about building a family notebook, and how to incorporate some goals and plans for 2015 into the notebook.

Below the logo, you will find a free printable that you can view or print out to use in your own family notebook.

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Also, we announced that, starting in 2015, we are going to experiment with having a weekly podcast! Twice each month, we will have a 20-30 minute program as we have done through the first few episodes. On the other Thursdays, we will release a shorter (5-10 minute) devotional. Look for the first of these shorter programs on New Year’s Day, and then our first full-length program on January 8, 2015.

To view/download the Family Goal Sheets and Budget Forms, click the image below. Enjoy!

Family Planning Sheets

More from A Legacy of Faith

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Music Credit

Opening theme: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing theme: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

The Root of the Pornography Problem

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A few weeks ago, the national conversation–especially online–turned for a few moments to pictures of Kim Kardashian. The model had a series of photographs taken for a magazine (that I had never heard of), which showed her in various stages of undress. The shoot ended with fully nude photos of the star. (No, I have not seen them, and do not want to.)

While these pictures were considered “soft core” pornography, they did lead to some conversation over the nature of the entire pornography industry. There can be no doubt that our society is far more sexualized than it was even just a few years ago. That manifests itself in everything from immodest dress to pornography addictions, and many things in-between.

What, though, would lead to Kardashian taking such pictures? What would lead to people gawking at images and films that are meant to do nothing but bring a few moments of seduction for hours on end?

In other words, what is at the root of the pornography problem that is running rampant in our world?

In one word: selfishness.

The woman who would allow for these pictures or videos to be taken is selfish. She is selfish for attention. She is selfish for money. She is selfish for recognition.

At the other end of the lens, those who produce this material are selfish. They will use anything–no matter how sordid–to make a buck. They will treat the women on film like they are something special, then dismiss them as soon as they lose their looks.

And, on the consumer end, those who view pornography are selfish. By clicking on the pictures, buying the magazines, or watching the videos, they are saying that their own sexual “thrill” is all that matters. There is no regard for a spouse (or future spouse). There is no thought about the soul of the person in the images.

…and there is no thought about God and His standards by anyone involved.

I think it is safe to say that the main reason we have seen such a growth in the “adult” industry is because we have also seen a growth in the amount of selfishness in our society. No one is the standard but ourselves. I get to choose for myself what I want to do, and I shouldn’t have to deal with any consequences if what I choose is unwise. The only thing that matters is what brings me a few bucks or a momentary thrill.

That is the very definition of selfishness, and it is what leads to the ever-growing problem of pornography in our world.

If we ever thought of other people as eternal souls bound for eternity, pornography would never be an issue. Sadly, too many are only thinking of themselves and one more day on this earth with a few sensual pleasures.

Every actor and actress, every producer and director, and every viewer and consumer of pornography has a soul. Will we reach out to them with the Gospel? Will we see every person in that light and fight back against the plague of pornography simply by kind words and good deeds?

Or will we be selfish, too, but selfish with the Gospel?

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Always Good but Never Better

Are you a good person? Are you a Christian? Do you worship regularly? Do you pray before meals, read your Bible, and for the most part, are you an unselfish person? If so, that is great. God is looking for people just like you for His eternal city. Heaven is going to be full of good people.

It is too bad, though, really. I mean that you are good and all – because your goodness may be your biggest spiritual problem. I bet you are one of those people who even give a little more to people who regularly serve you at Christmas-time, like maybe a mini-bonus. And you are probably the person who buys all the gifts for everyone in your family, too (even the in-laws and out-laws). And this is the time of year where you are absolutely worn down and tired because you have given all a good person can give. Because that is what you do. You already teach a Bible class. You fix meals for people who are sick or bereaved. You write cards to the elderly. You are good. Good does things like that. Good never stops being good.

But good people who are always good are rarely better. They are the ones who struggle with further instructions. They are the ones who have a hard time forgiving others. They are the ones who seem to hold people to standards which can rarely be met. Let’s face it. Good people think they are good enough. Good people don’t understand why bad people exist. Good people expect everyone to be good just like them. Good people like when the preacher tells them they are doing it right. They like to go home from a day of being good and say to themselves that they have had a good day and they have served others and now they can rest easy because all of the good boxes have been checked. They are surely going to heaven now.

When Jesus came to earth He did not come to try and fix the people who thought they were good enough. He came to heal the broken and to challenge those who were already good but were still open to being better. He could have chosen any twelve men on earth to be His disciples. Some might even say He could have chosen men that were better at being good than the ones He picked. But God is not interested in how good we are. Because He knows on our best day we are still sinners, and we are not altogether like Him. On our best day Jesus still needed to go to the cross to save us from our perceived goodness.

But don’t be discouraged, good people. Don’t stop being good. Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38). That’s what good does. Just realize that good can be better. And the only way good can be better is through understanding that only God is good. And good people still need to keep the commandments: ALL of them. And when good people fail, they need to repent and respond to God’s grace.

“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’”

– Matthew 19:16-17

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A Very Special Day

It happened recently. 

Because our son-in-law and I are both preachers, my wife and I don’t get to worship with him, our daughter, and their children very often. On this particular Sunday, we did. That made it a very special day for us.

However, it was not the only reason it was a very special day. It was not even the primary reason it was a very special day.

It happened again a week after that. 

Our son was beginning his new work with the 9th Avenue church of Christ in Haleyville, AL. He had been there before and had served as the associate/youth minister there. After preaching at the Lebanon Road church of Christ in Nashville for about 6½ years, he took on the responsibility of doing the bulk of the preaching for the 9th Avenue church.

Once again, we were able to worship with a part of our family (a rare treat for preachers). The fact that we could be with our son, his wife, their children and our son’s father-in-law and mother-in-law made it a special day. The fact that we could be there on the very first Sunday of his new work made it even more special.

However, these were not the only reasons that last Sunday was a very special day. Once again, they were not even the primary reasons.

On the way home that Sunday evening, we stopped to worship. We were surprised to find that one of our former summer interns was leading the singing. That also made that particular Sunday special for us.

However (do I need to type these words again?), all of this is not what made last Sunday a very special day. They do not qualify as the primary reasons.

It happened again on the Sunday following these two special Sundays.

After being gone for a while, we were privileged to be back with a church family we love and appreciate. For almost fourteen years, we have worshiped, served, laughed, and cried together with these good people. I only wish I had the words to express how special that is.

However (here we go again), as special each that experience was for Donna and me, this was not what made that Sunday a very special day. There is another and, to us, a much more significant reason.

For many, Sunday is a day of rest, recreation, shopping, sports, and other personal (selfish) interests. Some officials in The Church of England have recently let it be known that, because of these factors, worshiping on Sunday is just too “inconvenient” for most of its members. To them, there is nothing special about any Sunday; except perhaps one set aside for some seasonal observances which, by the way, are not mentioned in God’s Word.

However, those who are serious about their relationship with God have a different idea about all of that. Every Sunday is a very special day.

The first day of the week (Sunday) is the day when…

…the Lord’s tomb was found to be empty (Matt. 28:1ff, Mark 16:2ff; Luke 24:1ff; John 20:1ff).

…the church that was always in the mind of God (Eph. 3:10-11) came into existence on the earth (cf. Acts 2:1-47).

…the Christians in the first century met to worship (cf. Acts 20:7. 1 Cor. 16:1-2). 

It should be the case for all of us that every Sunday is special. Every Sunday is the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). 

How special is His day to you?

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {December 12, 2014 edition}

Thanks to you, our site continues to grow. We are now nearing the end of 2014, and we continue to be amazed at how you have received our site and we are grateful for every bit of encouragement you send our way.

With the holidays coming up, we hope to keep our posting schedule fairly normal, but forgive us if we miss a day or two. We are busy folks, and may have to miss a day here or there. Thanks for understanding.

On to this week’s family links.

Family Friendly Finds

This Week’s Finds

3 Reasons We Need to Stop Comparing {for the family}

The Wrong Focus Regarding Marriage and Divorce Texts {Life in the Kingdom}

Are You Hosting or Impressing? {for the family}

21 Lost Gentleman Traditions That Still Apply Today {Good Guy Swag}

Our Week in Review

These posts were not necessarily written in the last 7 days, but drew the most views over that time period. (Original publication date in parenthesis)

#5: Why I Switched to Any.Do for My To Do List Manager (December 10, 2014)

#4: Disagreeing without Being Disagreeable (December 8, 2014)

#3: Why Christmas is Not a Matter of Faith (December 9, 2014)

#2: The Main Issue is Not Woman’s Role (or Instrumental Music or…) (December 11, 2014)

#1: An Open Letter to the 4th Avenue Church of Christ (December 4, 2014)

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The Main Issue is Not Women’s Role (or Instrumental Music or…)

One week ago, I published a post that I thought would be read a handful of times and forgotten. Most of the time, between hits on our site, email subscribers, and rss, our posts are read a little more than 1000 times in the few days after publication. While not a huge number, we are thankful for every person who takes a few moments to consider what we share.

Then, last Thursday happened. The post I thought would just be another “regular” post went crazy. As I write this, it has been viewed well over 50,000 times and continues to garner share after share on social media.

Of course, the post dealt with a controversial issue: the public role of women in the life of a congregation. But as I read the many comments, emails, and social media notes about the post, it made me do a lot of thinking. With the perspective of this past week, I have come to several conclusions, but there is just one I want us all to focus on today.

We are not arguing–primarily–about the woman’s role in the church when we talk about this issue.

We are really arguing about the authority of Scripture.

The same is true when it comes to any number of issues we could discuss. Think with me for a moment.

The New Testament could not be any clearer on the subject of the necessity of baptism. Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, literally every conversion account in the book of Acts, Romans 6:3-4, and several other passages make it abundantly clear that the plan for God’s people includes that one be baptized in order to be saved. The argument against baptism has nothing to do with Scripture. Instead, it has everything to do with trying to fit Scripture to a Calvinistic viewpoint, meaning man’s teaching supersedes God’s eternal word.

Instruments of music are noticeably absent from New Testament worship, even though they were present in the Old. The New Testament makes it clear that we are to sing (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Hebrews 13:15, et.al.), but not “play.” The argument for including instruments is about how it makes us feel or how it sounds to us. The other argument is the terrible, “Well, God didn’t say not to!” None of these is based upon clearly seeing the authority of Scripture.

The organization of the church is clearly laid out in the New Testament. Each congregation is to be led by elders and served by deacons. If a church is able, and the elders find it appropriate, a preacher can be used to help with the public proclamation of the Word, and then every member is to be actively involved in the work. And that’s it. There is no superstructure above that. The only justification for a superstructure is manmade, and has to then take man’s directives instead of God’s.

And the role of women is clearly laid out in the New Testament, as well. They are to work hard in the church and they are vital in many aspects of the work of the Lord. Ladies teach, but not in a way that is “over” a man. They sing along with the men, because they are not leading and, therefore, are not holding authority. They do personal work and a myriad of other great things that are vital to the work. But God has clearly stated that the leadership of a congregation is to be male. The arguments for ladies having a leadership role are just our own thinking: “That’s just archaic.” “It was only cultural.” “That doesn’t work today.” No one ever justifies women leading by saying, “The New Testament clearly teaches it.”

Do you see what we are doing? While we must speak to each issue, we must also look behind each issue and agree on the standard. If we are going to say that our own feelings, or culture, or some “movement” is our standard, then anything goes. In fact, if those are the types of standards we are going to follow, then there are no issues to discuss, because we can do whatever we please and God will just have to accept it. It’s our own way that matters; not His.

If, however, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word and our unchanging standard, then we must fit its mold; not the other way around. We must stand boldly for what it teaches, both in action and attitude. We will never be perfect, but again, we are not the standard!

So why would I ever write an article that deals with such an issue?

Was it to garner views for the site? No, I never dreamed the post would take off like it did.

Was it to be “the standard” (as many have charged) that others are to follow? No, I am not the standard, because I am fallible, too.

Was it to be “the police” (as others have charged) of the brotherhood? No. I only made this public because the video was placed on YouTube, which the last time I checked, gets a few more views than our little corner of the web.

Was it to be mean-spirited (even, as one person stated, “the spirit of anti-Christ”) toward anyone? Any person who knows me knows that is not my intent, no matter how what I say or write might come off.

So, why would I write about such an archaic and “Pharisaical” issue?

It was because I believe that all of God’s Word is worth standing for, no matter the age or culture in which we find ourselves. I believe in rightly dividing the Word, and standing for the New Testament which my Lord put in place with His perfect blood.

My aim for all people is simple: I want them to conform their lives to the standard of the Word of God, and toward that end I will give my every breath.

All the way back in Genesis 3, Satan began his temptation of Eve with a powerful question, “Has God really said…?”

Somehow, about 6000 years later, that same question still works for the tempter.

Yes, God has really said. And yes, God really means what He has said.

And I will do my best to defend the words of the Lord every day of my life.

Will you?

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Why I Switched to Any.do for My To Do List Manager

I am a calendar nut. I love Google calendar. In fact, I even did a YouTube video that showed how I use Google calendar for just about everything. [Here it is, if you’d like to see it.]

In that video, I mentioned that I used the “tasks” portion of the calendar for my to-do list. I like how that has worked, but it just didn’t do one thing that I need. While the calendar syncs (and I still use Google calendar like crazy), the tasks don’t.

Enter Any.do.

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For a few days, I have been using this program to build to do lists. I love it! Again, I’m still using Google calendar for my “large time block” stuff, but I have added Any.do for my to do’s. There are a lot of similar programs, but I really like Any.do, and if you need a simple and straightforward to do manager, it is worth a look.

Today, I’d like to share with you 7 reasons why I like Any.do so far, and why you might want to take a look at it.

1. Sleek and Simple Interface. One of my main problems with a lot of to do managers is that they are too complicated and (often) ugly. At times, the design is so over the top that it makes using the program difficult. Any.do is about as sleek as can be. It could basically be described as “minimalist,” and that is true on the web or mobile apps. This makes it easy to simply enter what you need and move on. (The picture above is from my desktop, but the phone and tablet apps look almost exactly the same.)

2. Syncing. This was what Google calendar’s task list lacked. I can enter a task on my phone app, and then it syncs with my computer, or vice versa. Further, if I want to add a reminder (a time to do the task), that syncs as well. For example, I can put in “Pick up milk” and set a reminder for 4:00PM tomorrow on my computer, and at 4:00 tomorrow, my phone will pop up with the notification. Syncing helps me have not only simple to do’s, but also lists (grocery lists, for example) that I can add items to whenever I think of them.

3. Collaboration. If there is a task that you and someone else need to do together, you can invite them and both will have that task on your list. For example, if Leah and I need to meet someone, I can add the task and invite her, and that will be added to her to do list, as well, since she has Any.do on her iPad.

4. Contact Integration. When I type someone’s name in a task on my phone, Any.do checks to see if that name is also in my contacts (since I integrated it with Google, and I use gmail). If it is, it adds that person’s information to the note. While I have not really used this feature, it could be helpful if I have to add something on the run and do not have time to look up the information myself.

5. Adding to To Do’s. What I mean here is that, if you need to, you can add a note, photo, video, or even Dropbox file to your To Do task. You can also create a “subtask,” which lets you build a list within a list. For example, you might have a task called “Grocery Shopping,” then a subtask with your actual items. And, just in case there is a very specific item you need, you can take a picture and add it to the note, too, so you know just what brand or size (or whatever) to get.

6. Recurring Tasks. There are certain to do’s that get done often. For me, one is taking out the trash. So, I have made a task to take out the trash, but instead of having to re-enter it every week, I have set Any.do to make this a recurring task, so I get that reminder every week at the same time.

7. Price: Free! Yep…it’s free. (If it weren’t, would I be recommending it?)

While I know there are many great to do managers out there, the simplicity and features of Any.do have made it my go-to for now. And, until I find something that blows me away, it looks like it has a permanent place on my phone’s main homepage and my web browser for some time to come.

Why Christmas is Not a Matter of Faith

I do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Some may ask why, and some may even be offended that I do not. They may want to know why a preacher who loves the Lord and who is responsible for preaching the truth about Jesus and the gospel every week would not celebrate the birth of Jesus with the rest of the world on December 25th.

While we could spend some time in history examining how Jesus’ birthday was not celebrated until the fourth century, or about how the pagan sun gods were already being worshiped on December 25th (hence the assigned date), let’s refrain from a lengthy discussion. Any scriptural investigation would argue against a December date for the birth of the Savior. Evidence from the timing of the birth of John (the immerser) and the service of Zaccharias in the temple (John’s father), coupled with the 6 month difference in the births of John and Jesus argues for a September birth date.  We could include facts about the census and the shepherds’ outdoor care for their sheep and quickly understand Jesus was not born during winter. But the December 25th assignment for the birth of Jesus has nothing to do with why I do not celebrate it as a religious observance.

When Paul by inspiration wrote to the Romans, he addressed liberty in Christ in chapter 14. Some Jews observed days of past Judaism and those days were significant to them because of their heritage (Rom. 14:6). These days were of no significance to the Gentiles, who had their own traditions. In this same text Paul also deals with the eating of meats, and the possibility that doing so in the church might be offensive to others. There were meats that had been sacrificed to the pagan gods. There were also Jewish traditions regarding certain foods. While meat to the Christian is nothing more than meat, for some early Jewish converts to Christianity it was a matter of conscience. In the church, all of the sudden Jews and Gentiles were thrust together into a spiritual family and they were trying to figure out what to do with the Law of Moses, pagan culture, and a life that was once alienated from God by the world and its practices.

Take note of part of Paul’s conclusion in Romans 14:23 – “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” This passage is not saying that we can do whatever we approve. It does say that we should be acting according to faith. When we do not act according to faith, when we practice something that is not according to God’s divine instruction, we are sinning against God.

“Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Since faith begins and ends with understanding God’s word, believing it, and obeying it, faith is not subjective. It is not open to the whims and wishes of the individual. I do not celebrate Christmas as a holy day because God’s word has not commanded me to observe it as such. It is not a matter of the Christian faith. Christmas, contrary to popular belief, is not a holy day in the mind of God. It is a day mankind has accepted to remember the birth of Jesus.

I am thankful that there is a time in our struggling society when the majority of the world has chosen to recognize the birth of Jesus. While there are constant attacks against Christianity, and efforts never end to remove God from the 21st Century world, it is great to know some things will not be taken from us. If a person chooses to think about the birth of Christ on December 25th, and thank God for sending Jesus to this sinful earth that desperately needed a Savior, what greater thing could one consider?

But let us keep this in mind: God wants us to remember Jesus every day. Not just His birth, but also His life, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. He wants us to remember that Jesus is now sitting at His right hand to make intercession for us. He wants us to make Him Lord of our life. He wants us to understand He is coming a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. And when he comes on that Day, He will judge the world in righteousness.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” – Isaiah 9:6-7

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Disagreeing without Being Disagreeable

Dealing with people, disagreements are sure to come. These disagreements are not always a bad thing, either. If we can keep the conversation civil and informative, we learn a great deal by working through disagreements.

Whether in face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or even through email and social media, disagreements are expressed through words. However, if we are not careful, we can let a disagreement spiral downward into something is unproductive as best, and downright destructive at worst.

Since we know that disagreements are sure to come, how can we still have positive communication experiences? Following are five suggestions, none of which I am perfect at, but that I know will help keep these times as productive as possible.

1. Discuss issues, not personalities. When the discussion turns to the personal, nothing good will come from it. While it is impossible to avoid having a personality, the issue at hand needs to remain the focus, because that issue is what is being disagreed about.

2. Keep the language clear, concise, and clean. When emotions are involved, this can be difficult, but using confusing or even cruel language help nothing. Further, while not everyone has the same “standards” of what is foul language, keeping language as genteel and civil as possible always helps in keeping the focus on the issue. (As a side note, this is one reason I try not to read a lot of blog comments. Too many people use sarcastic or cruel language, instead of clearly and cleanly stating what needs to be said.)

3. Talk about one issue at a time. When I have been asked to help with informal marital counseling***, this is one thing I do my best to insist on. There may be a myriad of issues to work through, but focus on one at a time. There is no reason to try to solve three or four issues at the same time, because it is virtually impossible to gain depth in the conversation. Work through one thing at a time to maintain focus.

4. Use your mind primarily, not your emotions. This is the hardest thing on this list, in my opinion. When we disagree, emotions are naturally in play, but they simply cannot drive the conversation. Emotions that are out of control lead to accusatory language, or phrases like “you never” or “you always.” When emotions are strong, it is also much more difficult to remember the real context of the disagreement. Let the other person know how you feel, but do not let those feelings drive how you express yourself.

5. Remember that non-verbal cues matter, too. Of course, in the digital world, it is impossible to read sarcasm or to see someone roll their eyes or smile as they talk. And that is one reason that face-to-face conversations are always preferred in times of disagreement. They are not always possible, but when people can sit down and talk, we can not only hear what is said, but notice how it is said.

There is nothing wrong with disagreements, and even passionate and heated exchanges are going to happen at times. But God’s people should be the ones who know how to disagree without being disagreeable. It is easier said that done, but with the help of God, it can be done. May we all work to that end.

***When I speak of counseling, I am not a licensed counselor, but am asked quite often to help others. Any suggestions I give are from a person just trying to help, not from one with a degree.

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