The World Around Me

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Traveling NC

I have had a great opportunity to travel across the state of North Carolina over the last two weeks.  I have lived in just one area and worked in that same community, so I have forgotten how big just this state is and how beautiful.  Not just the natural beauty but the people.  Especially those teaching our students each and everyday.   What a life changing experience to see our state and engage with educators who care about the students they teach?  I wanted to pack so many in my suitcase and carry them back home to my students.  Learning with educators across the state reminds me of the verse in Isaiah 40:31, "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  As educators we are on the front line for our students.

Educators in NC

These past weeks gave me the opportunity to meet such strong passionate people and reminds me of how God is working in the lives of people around me each day, but also people across the state, the country and around the world.  His guidance is evident when you talk to so many who just care so much about children.  Jesus was an example to us all on how to love children.  In Mark 10:16, "And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.", we read how Jesus take the children and changes their lives.  I met educators who with whatever they have they strive to give their students the best they can and in turn they are a blessing to their students.  This experience has been a reminder to me of not just why I do what I do but why so many have chosen to love all our children just as Christ has chosen to love us.

Natural Beauty of NC

Finally, as I drove across the state, I was blessed with seeing so much of God's beautiful creations.  Sometimes the Sun was shining and the breeze was awesome. Then the storm clouds would open on the fields and pastures.  I watched the sun rise between the mountains of NC one morning as I drove through the valley.  I saw the flatlands of eastern NC humid and dry and then drenched and wet.  I drove back roads I would have never known without this adventure and all of it was full of God's beauty.  I watched the sunset each evening in a new location and praised God for his beauty.  I was reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end."  No matter what the circumstance be sure to take the time to see the grace and beauty of God all around you.

God's world is full of beautiful people and beautiful places.  Sometimes I just can't get enough!  Makes me want to find another adventure.  Maybe I will head to Syracuse, New York….Stay Tuned.

Closing Verse: Psalm 145:5, "On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate."

Challenge: Open your eyes to all the beauty God has given us.  Sometimes it is an unexpected blessing.

 

God’s Perfection – Me!

Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about CREATING yourself.  -George Bernard Shaw

Who Am I?

Maybe I have been trying to find myself for too long, and now I finally realize that I should have been creating myself.  So, if I want to create myself then I must look deeply at who I am.  So who am I?

I Am A Christian

First and foremost, I am a Christian.  I am not a perfect Christian because I fall short of God’ glory each and every day and seek his forgiveness and mercy in my daily life.  I believe in and love the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.  Sometimes, I forget what an important piece this is in my life and that nothing else that I do is more important than my life as a Christian.  I am reminded by John 3:16 ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  This famous verse in the core of my faith.  God has provided an opportunity for me to show the world how God has saved and blessed me.    Recently, My husband and I were given the chance to share his grace with a neighbor.  We did not have a sit down and discuss, but just modeled his love and blessings in our lives and tried to help her refocus all her anger and bitterness on the positive.  She has just let life get the best of her like so many of us and learning to lean on Christ in both the good and the bad is what should truly define our lives.  I pray that I continue to CREATE myself as a Christian so that others will always see Christ as Matthew 7:16 reads, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”  I pray I bear his fruits.

I Am A Wife And Mother

As I really look at the life I am creating, I see the blessings I have from a loving husband of 28 years and two beautiful adult daughters.  I know that as a mother I failed them both many times, but I hope that above all they knew I loved them and Christ.  Psalms 127:3 brings me joy, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”  I hope that somehow I showed them how to love those that God will place in their lives both now and in the future.  Being a mother never really stops as I continue to pray for their futures, their lives, and that they will be blessed.  I could not have been a loving mother without a loving husband by my side.  He is my greatest blessing from God.  Ephesians 4:32 defines my marriage blessing, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  My heart hurts when I think about how I have let him down, but the life that he has given me is one of laughter, fun, and dreams lived.  He helps me see the future so that I can believe in my own dreams.  Each day and each year just gets better and I can’t wait for the future with him.  He is the gift God gave me so that I could CREATE the real person that I truly am.

I Am An Educator

God has given me the great opportunity to work with so many children in my career.  I get excited when I bring a child and learning together.  I love the sparkle in their eyes when the learning means something to them deep inside.  I know that this comes from the Lord because Jesus has a special place in his heart for children, Matthew 19:14 reads, “But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.””  Over the last twenty years, I have been a school librarian and this has changed my life.  Working with both students and teachers in this role has allowed me so many opportunities to see not just the success in the classroom but around the world.  Proverbs 8:10 clarifies this purpose, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold,”  I hope that my future somehow holds a piece of this in it because I truly love this part of me, but I know that it is not the definition of who I am or who I want to be.  It is just a piece of me, but a piece that I love.

I CREATING Myself To Be Free

What I have learned about myself is that I want to live a life as free as the life Christ has established for me.    What does that mean? Psalm 119: 105 explains it this way, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  I look for the path where I feel free and I find that is when I am on the sand and near the water.  This is when I feel free.  I want a simple life that is what is deep down inside.  I want to CREATE that person who needs less, loves more, and explores the beauty of God’s creation all around me – (but especially those areas near a beach and the water!)  Digging deeper into myself has allowed me to really see what I have been created to love and to be.  I am ready to start CREATING a new part of me!  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Closing Verse:  Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Challenge:  Stop trying to find yourself and look deep inside so you can CREATE who God planned for you to be.

 

Water

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Searching the Ripples…

As I walk along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas among people hurrying through life, I find flickers of peace as I watch the water move through the city.  As the light flickers off the ripples, I find some inner peace among all this busyness of life.  I want to shout to those who are missing the peace from the water because of this fast pace of life they are distracted by as  they move through life.  How many are just missing the calm waters each day of their lives? 

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Proverbs 18:4, “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.”

Christ’s Living Water 

Recently, my husband shared an article from earthables, Science Reveals How a Visit to the Beach Actually Changes Your Brain, As I was reading this article, my mind began wondering what God’s purpose for water in our lives might have been.  What symbol or meaning should water provide in our lives when we are surrounded by its peace?  As I searched scripture, I was not surprised by the common thread of living water.  Jesus is our living water and he provides peace, grace, and salvation in our lives.  Each time I am near water, I am reminded of God’s love through his  provision of living water for us by his son, Jesus Christ.  Water is a symbol of peace in our lives just as Christ’s sacrifice provides for our eternal lives.  The Samaritan woman at the well found peace in her life from the living water of Jesus in John 4: 13-15, ‘Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”’. Like the woman at the well, we must turn to Christ’s living water to find peace and quench our thirst.  Summer is a great time to find some water, recharge and refocus on Christ in our lives and the full meaning of his sacrifice for our weary souls.  

Summer Rejuvenation

Yes, Summer is finally here, so why is it that I am missing the peacefulness of the water.  I am longing for some relaxation by the ocean.  I feel like I have not stopped to enjoy the summer days yet, and I need the peace that I find near the water.  Walking along the Riverwalk in San Antonio reminded me of this deep need to reflect and reconnect with my inner being and my relationship with Christ.  The verse in 1 John 5:8 is a great summer motto, “The Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”  I need to reconnect all three again to find his peaceful agreement in my life. 

Summer is my time to renew myself from the dry and coldness that Winter brought into my life.  I was David in Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” but I seek the water that Christ gave to the Samaritan woman at the well.  I seek his water to replenish my relationship with him.  Each time this summer that I find myself near the water by relaxing on the boat, walking along a river, or sticking my toes in the sand on the beach, I will remember the sacrifice that Christ made to provide that living water that nourishes my soul.

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Loving an Introvert Part 3: Can you be both?

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Can you be an Introvert and Extrovert?

I want to begin by stating that I am no expert on this topic other than the fact that I have lived my entire life as an introvert who fell in love with an extrovert.  Our discoveries have been both difficult but successful for our relationship.  My prayer is that you learn to love who you are and this series Loving an Introvert will be a blessing because God loves you.  Psalm 139:14, ” I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”  Two weeks ago a friend asked an interesting question after my post on introverts.  The question was can you be a little of both?  This sparked several conversations around our dinner table, and one result from all the conversations was last week’s post written by my husband, Extrovert’s Perspective.  He gave his perspective and insight as an extrovert married to an introvert.  My husband and I do want to clarify that we are just a minority and our relationship should not be a recipe for others, but our hope was to open conversation and honestly see how both can and do work together.  Everyone needs to find their own recipe.  We know that ours will not work for everyone, but we found it better than the alternative which was lack of understanding and compassion for each other.  Now, back to the question, for me personally, I would definitely answer yes. Although, I feel I have few characteristic of an extrovert, there are many people around me that I feel have both and others who probably are not sure where they fall on the spectrum.  Yet God made us all just the way we are as Ephesians 2:10 reminds, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Where are you on the spectrum?

If we think of the characteristic along a spectrum or axis then each end would be extremes of being an introvert or extrovert, yet many would fall right in the middle.  I believe that everyone would probably place themselves in different spots along this spectrum.  I have asked several friends and family and many feel they have personality traits of each.  Some actually feel that certain settings bring out certain characteristics of either an introvert or extrovert.  I can actually see some of this as I watch my adult children navigate the world.  With DNA from both an introvert and an extrovert in their blood, sometimes they totally blow me away in situations, and then in others I am not sure who they are because they become the total opposite of the person I think I know.  These different personality traits can be driven by specific social situations.  Sometimes it is just natural for some situations to be easy and others to be harder.  These situations according to my children can be depended on how passionate they are about the situation.   Is it job driven? Is it something they believe in? Are all their friends they are comfortable around there?  Or, is a requirement? Is it an expectation and they just don’t want to be there?  These feelings actually cause them to either become and introvert or extrovert in certain situations.  I believe this is how many people view themselves in different situations in their lives.  I will close with Ecclesiastes 3:1, ” For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:”  God Timing is always right.  

My short answer to the question is yes you can be a little of both.  Love who God made you to be.

Closing Verse:  1 Thessalonians 5:11, ” Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Challenge:  Be confident in who you are and know that God has made no mistakes and open your heart for him to keep working in you.  Encourage those around you to bring out the best in each other.

Loving An Introvert

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Make Peace With Being An Introvert

Recently I found myself in a conversation about a difficult topic that is near to my heart,  introverts.  I know this was not an accident but an opportunity from God to share the many lessons that my husband and I have learned over the years about introverts and how they interact with extroverts.  

In the past, I honestly believed something was wrong with me because I felt different from others, in any setting or interaction.  Yet, God’s Word shows me in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well,” that he made me and it should be well with my soul.  The truth is introverts can struggle in social gatherings.  By learning more about introverts, I have been able to make peace with who I am , and now I can feel more comfortable in a crowd.   I have had to learn how to engage people in conversation.  Sometimes this is more difficult because introverts usually need time to process information before they respond.  This processing can be viewed as shy, quiet or even disengaged and by the time introverts have something to say the moment has past.   Many extroverts in a social setting may constantly dominate the social conversation which leaves no room for an introvert.  Introverts are usually known great listeners, but many times extroverts miss out on their wisdom.  Learning how to engage and respond in various social settings is important for an introvert.  This is where learning from an extrovert, like my husband, can be so valuable.  Now, engaging with people at a social event is not the enormity that it once was for me.

I have a loving God who blessed me with special people who chose to love me.  One is my husband who has helped me learn more about myself and extroverts, so we could understand and grow as a couple. Luke 6:31 reads, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Relationships like these are a perfect place for the Golden Rule.  Introverts need down time to recharge, but extroverts need people for energy.  This is a dynamic combination and each must learn to be compassionate in social gatherings.  In the past when I have engaged in social events over and over, it would drain me to the point that others believed I was an unhappy or even mad.  Being able to identify when this is happening is easier now for me to ensure I get the recharge I need.  God created both introverts and extroverts because the world needs both!  My husband and I have unique roles in our relationship.  

Blessing or Curse

My husband shared this article “Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing”  with me, and I would recommend this read and exploring Introvert, Dear.

This article really helps to understand how introverts respond in social settings.  Extroverts can be a blessing for introverts, but an extrovert can also be a curse.  On the flip side introverts can be the same for an extroverts if both are not learning and working together in the relationship.  God calls us into relationship and made each of us different to complement one another.  The struggle is not letting the curse take hold of relationships.  I am reminded each day that God loves both just by reading Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  I seek the value God places on my husband, the extrovert, and I pray God shows him my value in return.

Back to the earlier conversation I mentioned, I have finally reached a point in my life that I can discuss who I am and talk about myself as an introvert and my experience with people.   This conversation allowed me the opportunity to speak about introverts to a few friends who were struggling to understand a situation with some other friends.  I was able to really explain that situation by sharing my own struggles and successes.  The struggle continues each day as I shared weeks ago in the post “Finding God in my Mirror,” but God is constant and good.  Understanding and loving others is one of Christ final commandments found in Luke 10:27, “And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” I am blessed by God’s love for me, and I know that I must continue to work at understanding and defining who I am while I love others where they are.  

What has God taught me?  

Love and prayers are the answer.  By providing love and an abundance of prayer my husband and I were able to understand our relationship more deeply and respect the needs of each other.  I pray that for all introverts as they maneuver social settings and deep relationships with extroverts in their lives.

Closing verse:  1 Peter 3:4 “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Challenge:  Don’t Judge Others before you really know who they are inside and out.  Get to know a Quiet Spirit more deeply that God has placed in your life.

Finding God in my Mirror

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Constantly, I battle within myself over my outward appearance, and this ultimately effects my inner self.  My blessing has come with age as I am able to accept who I am both inside and out.  Yet, from time to time I drift back into my negativity which affects those close to me.  Although verses of scripture tells my heart that God is with me and loves me for who I am, I always find a way back down that dark path.  One of my favorite scriptures that I open often is found in Matthew 6: 26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  I know God is there in my mirror, but sometimes I just fail to see him loving and caring for me.

Last week was one of those weeks, when I just could not find the good in myself.  I just looked in the mirror and saw this person that I did not want to see looking back at me.  Instead of heeding 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  I cast my negative doubts on others like my husband.  He carries the burden of not being able to help me through the valley because this is not his valley.  But, I drag him down into it with me anyway each time I go down this dark path.  He is a loving husband who always has the right words that I just fail to hear.  His constant love and devotion always brings me out of the valley and reminds me of Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  I must hear his words which are from the Lord in order to heal my body and my soul.

As I ponder the reflection in the mirror this week after I have found my way out of the valley, I realize that God does not really look at me the way others do and the way mirror reflects.

1 Samuel 16:7 reads, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Knowing now that God looks at my heart, I need to stop pursuing the mirror and focus harder on my heart for the Lord using the words from Proverbs 23:12, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.”  This scripture causes me to reflect how focusing more on my heart might help my view in the mirror.  Can I and will I find God in the mirror?

I spend more time reflecting now on who I really am and the gifts that God has given me.  This is the only way I can focus myself away from the dark path.  I make peace with the spirit God has given me.  1 Peter 3:4 reads,  “But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”  I grasp for this verse and the message it writes on my heart.  I am precious in his sight.  Once again, I can stand on the mountain top and look in the mirror and see the gift that Christ has given me.  I see my new self given to me through Christ sacrifice on the Cross.  “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  Scripture from Colossians 3:10 brings this comfort to my heart and the image I see in the mirror.  I am blessed!

Closing Verse:   “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

Challenge:  Are you finding God in the mirror?  Are you focusing on your heart so it will shine through on the outside?

Please Share…

 

#Redemption

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If you were following the NCAA tournament you could not have missed the redemption tour message from the Carolina Tarheel Basketball Team.  After the final game with the Redemption tour was complete, I started thinking about what the word redemption means.  What did it really mean to those twelve young men playing basketball.  Redemption is defined in two ways  the action of regaining or gaining possession of something or clearing a debt and the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.  Both apply to this years National Champions, but how does it apply to our lives?

During the Lent season, many Christians have turned their hearts toward Jesus and his sacrifice and humiliation to provide “the way” to our Father and everlasting life.  Hebrews 9:12 defines Christ’s redemption of us, ” he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”  As I focus on discipline and sacrifice during Lent,  I compare my life to the redemption tour.  I reflect on the ups and downs of my life -both the joy and sin.  I see my failures and the hurt this causes those I love and most importantly Christ, yet in the end I know my debt is paid and I have been saved by Christ and one day I will live with him in heaven.

One part of the redemption definition focuses on being saved from sin.  This Easter season we remember the sacrifice that God made by providing his only son, Jesus, as a living sacrifice in order that our sin might be washed clean.  1 John 4:19, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”   With Christ partitioning for me before the throne, my sins are not forgotten but heaped upon Christ in order that I might be presented as a bride in her white gown.  Much like the team that has made numerous mistakes and their coach graciously and humbly accepted as his fault in order to put forth a complete team the next time they hit the court.  This sacrifice brought them to glory and a National Championship.  I long for my championship and my home in heaven with Christ.

The redemption definition also includes regaining or gaining possession of something or clearing a debt.  Christ as clearly paid our debt with his blood, his redemption for us.  We are reminded in Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” By paying this debt he has allowed me to gain possession of a heavenly home with him one day, my championship. As the Tarheels watched the clock tick down to zero, they could feel their redemption for all that had been lost in the last championship game, but this loss had now been regained.  Just as we were once lost we now are found in Christ, our shepherd, so that we might gain his glory through his redemption for us.  This gift is defined in Romans 3:24, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”.

Closing Verse:  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” Ephesians 1:7

Challenge:  Have you stopped to discipline yourself and reflect on the sacrifice of Christ this Lent season.  As Holy Week comes to an end turn your focus to Christ’s gift of salvation through the cross.

Please share if so lead.

 

Watching Your Game Film

IMG_0983Does you “game film” matter?  I recently heard a prominent educator, Baruti Kafele, use this terminology to refer to educators taking a deep look at how they treat their students each day.  As I reflected on my daily life as an educator, I saw a deep comparison.  As the March Madness NCAA Tournament wraps up this week, I began to really look at some of the last teams – Those Final Four!  What characteristics do these great basketball teams have?  They have a leader, a coach, but that coach is usually humble and gracious and always shoulders the burden of blame. This coach does not just show the way but lays the ground work for his team to follow.  As I pondered the role coaches play in the life of their team,  I realize how much a coach symbolizes the love Christ has for us.  Christ is our coach who came to earth to pave our path to salvation. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ‘1 Peter 1:13-16.  Christ preparation for our salvation included the disciples (“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17), parables (“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13), and a living example of how to win over Death (“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6).  If we follow this path we are National Champions with a spot in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now back to my question – Does your game film matter?  Does it matter how we lived today, yesterday, and even last year.  Do we stop and look in the mirror each day and reflect on our own life?  Do we live a life that is an example of the life Christ lived?  Are we striving to live our life like the example our Coach has provided, Christ?  As I watched these teams battle together, win and lose together, I caught a glimpse into God’s team.  I believe Christ is cheering us on from heaven, always praying we will follow the game plan he has laid for us.  This plan of prayer, scripture, and refection of our lives.  As we review our game film do we see Christ?  Do others see Christ?  This is the purpose in reflecting on our lives, checking our game film, to ensure we are following the game plan and example Christ has provided for us.  1 Peter 2:21 shares Christ example this way, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Christ is a coach for the church.  We have to work together even with all our differences and opinions to bring everyone on the team to the final glory of winning that Championship Game. I want to play on God’s team, but that means I have to watch my game film each and every day.  I must stop to pray, read scripture, and reflect on my day to see that I am following the path that Coach Jesus has paved for me. 1 John 5:4 speaks of victory, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

Closing Verse: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.

Challenge:  Take out a mirror and look at yourself.  Do you see an example of Christ looking back at you?  Rewind and reflect on your game film.

Please Share if so Lead.