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Bad News

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Bad News

A new pastor, on his first Sunday, preached the sermon and following the dismissal prayer, greeted people at the door as they were leaving. A man in a bright red sports jacket was next in line and before the preacher could say anything he blurted out; “That was a terrible sermon!” Taken aback the pastor tried to figure out his next words but the man left before he could reply. After a while, he noticed the man in the bright red sports jacket in line again. This time he said; “You could not have possibly studied for that message. It was a mess!” Again the pastor was at a loss for words and the man was gone. As the line to meet the new pastor was ending he couldn’t believe the last person in line was the guy in the red sports jacket! “I don’t know if I’ll come back if that’s the best you can do!” Abruptly he walked out the door and this time the pastor watched him get into his car and drive away. The new reverend, obviously shaken by this man’s constant critique saw a group of folks in the foyer, wandered over, and asked’ “What is the deal with the man in the red sports jacket?” “Oh, don’t worry about him replied a parishioner. He only repeats what he hears other people saying.

Bad news. Sometimes we expect it other times it takes us by surprise. No matter who we are, what we do, sooner or later we get bad news. It may be from our spouse, boss, doctor, friend, co-worker, or stranger. The challenge isn’t what to do if bad news comes but when it shows up. Our choices following an announcement of bad tidings are often more important, and have a greater impact, than the news itself. The space in between the news and the choices we make are critical. This is why wisdom, knowledge, peace, acceptance, clarity should be discovered now. When bad news comes chances are you will do what you know and many times the battle is won before the soldier takes the field.

For more posts, reflections, poems, and other writings, please visit:
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)

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Into the Fire

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Into the Fire

I heard a story yesterday about a Roman soldier who fell in love with a young, Christian, woman at the height of Rome’s imperial glory. He wanted to marry her but she would not allow him to court her because he wasn’t a follower of Christ. Desperate, the young man began to follow her and eventually discovered where she met other Christians in a secret place outside of Rome. He stayed in the shadows, watched and listened as they sat around a small fire and shared their stories of being followers of Jesus. As he stood there his heart was awakened and a voice echoed inside of him; “You will never know the truth until you step into the light of the fire and have all that is not burned to ash.” This was a great challenge indeed for most Romans believed in many gods, not just one, and followers of Christ were persecuted, and executed for their beliefs. He would have to give up everything for the chance at eternal and temporal love.

As I’ve reflected on this story the last two days I’ve wondered about the power and sacrifice of love. Love is a double-edged sword. It is wonderful and terrifying. Many horrible acts have been done in the name of love. It gives the bearer great courage but can also make one a coward. Those who have loved deeply speak of the joy and sorrow, wholeness and heartbreak, feeling of ecstasy and indescribable pain. True love requires all of us. We can’t give only a portion. We must be all in or never experience the life-changing, mind-bending, chaos that is love. It gives and takes, makes and destroys, assures us and shakes us to our core. There is nothing else that can compare.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Beholder

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Beholder

Yesterday afternoon I attended a picnic organized by our company and given to the families who work with us. It was hot, however, with a few fans moving the air around and cold drinks the pavilion was almost comfortable. We had different games for the kids but one of the favorites was the sidewalk chalk.

I noticed a little girl drawing by herself so I bent down, picked up a piece of chalk and began drawing with her. “What are you drawing?” she asked. “A heart!” “Okay, let’s do that,’ she replied and began drawing. I drew a heart with an arrow in the middle. Anyone looking at it would’ve been able to guess what I had drawn. Then I looked at hers. I couldn’t tell what it was and when I asked she said; “A heart!” and she would’ve added “Duh!” if she had known the word. “Oh!” I responded. I couldn’t see the heart but she could. She was the artist, she drew the picture in her mind and it was exactly what she wanted. It wasn’t her fault I couldn’t see it.

Wisdom tells us to admire those whose lives are not like the others; the mystics, saints, vagabonds, ragamuffins, artists. The ones who challenge our way of seeing, thinking and being. If we stay in our standard, normal worlds and never see through the eyes of those different from us we will never truly see the world and others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Firsts

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Firsts

Today was a great day for working in the yard. The sun stayed behind thin clouds, a breeze kept one from getting too warm and no rain. As I mowed, trimmed, collected trash and went to the dump, helped my wife with the flowers, I reflected on a friend who’s going to an event tonight for the first time since her life changed dramatically several months ago. I know, in part, what she’s feeling. In 2014 my life irrevocably morphed into something I didn’t recognize anymore. After the trauma its difficult to try to find your way back to balance, peace and growth. It’s been four years for me and I am still waiting for the dust to settle.

The first year might be the most demanding and punishing. It is a “year of firsts.” Life goes on no matter how much you want it to stop so you can catch your breath. Things keep moving and you feel run over.  The firsts keep coming; anniversaries, special days, holidays, birthdays, events, occasions, and there’s no ignoring them. It is a challenge to try and can be heartbreaking when the healing wound is punctured again. You hope, pray, you’ll be able to make it.

Wisdom teaches us that a humble spirit, good friends, and patience are the way to a new kind of wholeness and acceptance.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Keep What Works

Keep What Works

This advertisement was in my Twitter feed this morning. When I was a pastor who had to prepare and deliver a message each Sunday I loved the times when after the service people would come up and ask a question, make a comment or even challenge something I said during the message.  It meant they were listening! I would listen to them and then discuss whatever was on their mind. At the end of the conversation I would often tell them; “Don’t take what I say as the truth. Go search for yourself. Find out if the all or part of the message is for you and keep what works and leave the rest.” I understood that depending on where we were on our path greatly determined what our minds, emotions, and spirits could process and apply at any given moment. Most of us have had the experience of someone excitedly telling us about something they heard someone say, or read in a book, and how it changed their lives. While we are grateful for our friend’s epiphany we also think to ourselves; “I’ve told them this a thousand times and they never listened!” It’s because they weren’t ready. The good piece of advice, the important life lesson we told them wasn’t ready to be heard.

Wisdom teaches us that many truths surround us presently. However, we can only perceive a few, if any, because we are unaware, distracted. The best news is that these truths are timeless and sooner or later they’re ready to be received and applied. Sometimes we become frustrated because we seem to be learning the same things over and over. We need to learn to give ourselves a break and trust that one day the truth we’ve been searching for will be received and kept because it works.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

What Did You Hear?

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What Did You Hear?

Listening is an art form. It has to do with more than hearing words. It also hears silences, tones and the organizations of words into sentences and questions. Listening is wanting to hear what the other is saying and being willing for those words to impact, challenge, and change the listener. Listening is not, however, always agreeing with the other. You can listen and believe differently than what the other is saying but you listen out of respect.

A friend of mine a few weeks ago was telling me about a conversation he had with a dear friend and said; “It didn’t go the way I planned!” His friend became upset with the conversation. I asked my friend; “Did you ask your friend what she had heard you say?” “No,’ he replied, ‘Why?” “Because,’ I said, “She might have heard something completely different from what you were saying.”

It’s amazing but communicating with others is a combination of listening, speaking, processing, projecting, interpreting and understanding. When one of these is missing the connection with the other can be lost, disrupted and the moment can never be repeated.

Listening is a sacred act, do it well.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Go Your Own Way

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Go Your Own Way

A friend of mine told me a story yesterday and I told her; “That would make a good blog post!” So, here goes…

My friend had a procedure done yesterday and needed someone to drive her home from the doctor’s office and to any other place she needed to go. However, on the way to her appointment, my friend’s friend was telling her to go and drive a certain way. On the way home, when my friend’s friend was driving she did the same thing. Because they are good friends and can tell each other almost anything they quickly made a deal. They agreed to allow the other person to drive the way they drive and to go the route they wanted to go. The one who was the passenger would only be a passenger, not a side seat driver. Problem solved. My friend made the comment; “She goes and does her way, I go and do mine. As long as we get where we need to go, the other stuff doesn’t matter.”

I’ve reflected on this story for the last two days. We live in a world divided. People argue and end friendships over big and small things. It makes me wonder why we can’t agree to disagree. We don’t have to be enemies with those who challenge our beliefs, think differently, walk another path, find peace and do kindness different from us. What matters is we all get where we need to go.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Long

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Long

A question was asked today; “If you had one word to describe this year what would it be?” I knew the answer before the question was finished. The answer was/is looooooooooooooong.

My father passed away on December 1st. His battle with pancreatic cancer began near the first of the year. I went through it with him and my mom long distance, over the phone, and travelled down to South Carolina several times to see them. What they went through, the endless doctor’s appointments, the good news and bad news proclamations from well-meaning physicians, the ultimate acceptance of; “there’s nothing more we can do,” and then his sudden demise. As I said, “long year.”

Yet, paradoxically, there is a part of me that is holding on to 2017. It may have been fraught with battles and ultimately surrender but at least there was still a fight to be had. Since December 1st and the flurry of activity of the next few days prepping for his memorial service, the days have been living in slow motion. In spite of it’s pace, this was the last month I can say that I saw him, talked with him, sat in his presence, read and prayed with him. Now, in just a few hours I won’t have that attachment any longer.

It is quite difficult to let go, to walk into an unknown future, live a new normal with only 30 days of adjustments and finding our place, gaining our balance. It will be a challenge to press on into this new, strange year, but it must be done.

A soft, sorrowful; “Goodbye 2017” and a hesitant, and perhaps hopeful; “Hello” to 2018.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Refelction

Reflection

As I wrote about yesterday, this has been a somber and low-key Christmas for my family. It’s been a crazy, hectic, sorrowful month. Today is Christmas day and it feels like Christmas, sort of. My mind can’t help but think about Christmases which have gone by when the family was all together and laughter and joy filled the air.

I was reflecting on Christmas past this morning as my wife slept in. Being a couple who can’t have children we’ve never had the “privilege” of little ones waking us up at 4 or 5 in the morning declaring; “Santa’s come and it’s time to open presents!” Nevertheless, I am married to a woman who loves Christmas and even in the midst of this year’s challenge to find the Christmas spirit she has filled our home with laughter, reindeer antlers on her head, too many Christmas carols and songs, baked goodies and more. She’s been this way since I’ve known her and the only Christmas I can remember her not celebrating was when her mother passed, December 8, 2006. She is in many ways a light in my darkness.

So today I am thankful for the gift of a beautiful, fantastical, in touch with her inner-child wife who won’t and can’t be stopped from bringing a little Christmas cheer.

Best. Gift. Ever.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Problems

Problems

There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.

It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.

Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.

Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Bright

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Brightly

The sun was shining brightly today as if it had been hidden by clouds and couldn’t take it anymore. Bursting through, nothing holding it back, it lit up the blue sky. Now, after showing off, the sun is setting and only remnants of light remain of its beauty.

I have a friend going through a difficult time, battling a disease that will sooner or later kill him. He’s doing everything he can but our bodies are not made to last forever nor beat every enemy we face. I talked with him today on the phone and his voice sounded stronger than in days past. It was good to hear and I laughed as he told me one of his jokes. The last several weeks have been tough, watching him struggle, rise to meet one challenge only to be met by a new and a more difficult obstacle. No one can keep going no matter how much strength they possess.

Today for a moment he shone brightly and I will keep that memory with me as he moves forward.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Safe to Land

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Safe to Land

Today, I was mowing grass and doing yard work for a friend. Most of the grass has already turned brown for the winter except for a few green patches. As I mowed over a patch a large grasshopper jumped up and from the ground and landed on my shirt. I didn’t have time to figure out what to do because he got his bearings and jumped again to a safe space. This happened more than once as I kept infringing on his territory.

Each time the grasshopper hitched a ride I thought about our lives and the times we need temporary safe places to land. Not spaces we will occupy permanently but where we can get our bearings, catch our breath, take stock of what’s happening, see the challenge and the difficulty and perhaps a way to avoid it or, if needed, endure it.

I also reflected on the need to be a place that is safe to land for others who are in trouble. A place where they can feel accepted and be safe. A space that has a listening ear, no advice unless asked for, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, patience and empathy to endure and understand.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Yielding

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Yielding

I am not a mountain. Today I yielded to the wind.

When I first went outside this morning the air was still and cool. A few hours later I went out again to go to a luncheon and the wind was blowing wildly and powerfully. I knew quickly I would need a jacket. The wind was powerful, forcing me to lean into it as I made my way to the truck. The cool wind made quick work out of my jacket and soon and felt as though it wasn’t even there.

A young man spoke with me a few days ago. He’s been having a rough time and he’s at a loss of knowing what to do. He’s not a mountain either. The winds have made quick work of the ways he protects himself and is blowing him around with no anchor to tether to.

As we talked I helped him separate what he could do with what he had to accept. We aren’t mountains. When the winds come billowing we can feel at the mercy of them and to an extent this is true. However, there’s almost always something we can do. We might feel weak compared to the power that’s blowing against us but this doesn’t mean we are powerless.

Firstly we accept the storm, the wind, the hardship and challenge they bring. We cannot stop the wind but accepting it, respecting it, allows us to stop trying to control it. We don’t have that kind of power. Secondly, in the stillness of acceptance, we discover what we can do and we act. We might not be able to do all we want but we do all we can. We can lean into the wind.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Afraid

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Afraid –

This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.

After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?

I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.

In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Thinking

Thinking

One of the easiest lessons of wisdom to learn is you are what you repeatedly think or do. One of the hardest wisdom disciplines to practice is thinking and doing good things.

Aristotle said, paraphrased by Will Durant; “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” So what we keep thinking and keep doing reveals who we truly are, on the inside. We can say we are kind, loving, grace-giving, but if our thoughts and deeds betray us we must come to the reality of who we are if we desire to change or be at peace through acceptance.

For those like myself who live with depression, one of the cycles we can get into are negative thoughts about ourselves. We relive painful moments, negative events, over and over again. We get stuck with thoughts of how we could be better, how terrible we are, and how little we can offer the world and those closest to us.

Being caught in a cycle of negative thoughts, reliving mistakes and mishaps is called ruminating. For those battling depression the thoughts can literally go on for days, weeks, months. When we are doing well, on a plateau, we can catch ourselves and refuse to hop on these train of thoughts. When we are struggling our thoughts can take us down tracks from which we may never recover.

I like the Zen saying; “You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming but you don’t have to sit and serve them tea.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Free

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Free

On Monday I wrote about installing a light for a friend on a high wall of a building (Highs & Unknowns) (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/06/25/highs-and-unknowns/).  It was hot on that ladder and my hands and arms were dripping sweat as a vent from the building blew out hot air making it even more stifling.

I’m not a big fan of heights but I made the decision to go up and not look down. I had a hand towel to dry off my hands, arms, and forehead and used it to get a better grip on the light and keep the sweat out of my eyes….all for a friend unable to make the climb.

When we take on a burden from a friend, when we set out to help someone, we do it, hopefully, out of love, kindness, and concern. The challenge becomes when, if, the burden become greater than we realized. The decision must be made repeatedly to continue to carry on, not give up, look for the extra strength needed, to not give up or give in until the burden can be laid down and both are free.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Sore

Sore

I am sore today! Yesterday we spent most of the day trimming and hauling away a big limb from one of the four huge trees in our yard. Today I am paying for it with sore arms, back, and legs. I don’t think I’ve developed any muscles but trying to lift some of the pieces we sawed off yesterday gave me an appreciation of how strong the wind must’ve been to down the limb and how strong the tree was to support a limb of such great weight. It took a lot of energy, strength and time to remove most of the obstacle.

I spoke with a few friends today who are also trying to overcome a great obstacle. They are, like we did yesterday, dealing with it one piece at a time. When you’re faced with a huge challenge there is a part of us who’d like to get it over with NOW! However, life doesn’t usually work according to our time schedules. We must take each step, walk each mile, and hope the journey ends well.

I imagine a person who lifts and cuts wood as their job must be strong. I also know that those who face tremendous battles will develop the strength and energy necessary to see it to the end, what the end may be.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Snap!

Snap! –

Last night a fierce thunderstorm passed through the area and downed a huge branch off a tree right outside our bedroom window (see photo). The size of the damaged area leaves doubt as to whether the tree can be saved or if we will have to cut it down when removing the limb. I love trees, flowers, grass, spring, and summer, nature at its absolute best. It hurt my heart to see the beautiful tree, which is much older than I, with such a gaping wound.

I spent the week helping friends whose world, like the tree, has been torn apart. Two months ago everything seemed on track and then one of life’s damaging storms ravaged their lives and left them in doubt and afraid. They are looking at incredible odds against survival itself. They stand in the midst of what used to be their normalcy and are surrounded by debris, devastation, and the possibility of death.

Life is never predictable. It doesn’t have a reset button, can’t go back and fix things or jump forward to see how it ends. We weather the storms of life, pick up the pieces and pray for the strength, stamina, and the will to survive.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Absence of Disease 

Absence of Disease

This afternoon, at a staff meeting, we listened to a Harvard University graduate talk about happiness, mindfulness, and contentment. He was humorous and engaging with lots of information.

One of the things he said that seemed to resonate with the staff was; “Absence of disease is not health.” It takes a while for the truth of this sentence to sink in. We often think sickness, a diagnosis, a trouble, challenge, a difficulty, is what keeps us from a contented life. Perhaps it’s a new job, losing weight,  a promotion, a relationship or whatever that will make us happy.

Wisdom teaches us that anytime our quality of life depends on outward circumstances we are not where we need to be, ie: unhealthy. CS Lewis says; “Never let your happiness depend on something which can be taken away.”

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Not Comfortable

Not Comfortable – 

I did something today I’ve never done before. I am confident doing certain things but projects dealing with engines, big or small, aren’t in the comfortable category. However, the John Deere lawn tractor I bought a few weeks ago required an initial oil and filter change after a designated number of hours. For people who’ve grown up, went to school, are naturals with engines and their workings an oil and filter change is child’s play but for me it was intimidating.

The first step was finding the owner’s manual and reading the steps to completing the project. I read this many, many times. When I was finally ready to attempt the job I took the owner’s manual with me and had it open to the instructions the entire time. I removed the oil cap, drained the oil, used a filter wrench (first time ever!), replaced the filter, put the oil cap back on, filled it with oil and turned the engine on to check for leaks. Seeing none, I hopped on and mowed for about an hour without it blowing up! As far as I can tell it was successfully done and I was proud of myself for doing it.

Life is full of projects, events, experiences, challenges and difficulties which put us in situations in which we are uncomfortable. We have the choice of avoiding what needs to be done or trying. Trying doesn’t mean we’ll succeed but we’ll never know all the things we can do if we focus on what we can’t.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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for Granted

He hovered about as the other men left the classroom. I didn’t know what to expect, I never do when it comes to the incarcerated dads I am privileged to work with but who also keep me on my toes. He was tall, skinny, long grayish brown hair, missing most of his teeth and spoke softly. It was the first class of the spring semester and after everyone had left he came forward. He is soft-spoken with lines and wrinkles of a life filled with heartache and wrong decisions engraved on his face. I leaned forward as he struggled to tell me his secret; he couldn’t read. My heart sank.
Reading is such a vital part of our program and everyday life. There are homework assignments and times during class we read to ourselves and together. Not being able to read certainly presented another challenge for a man who has faced, and lost, his share of them including a drug addiction. I asked if there was another resident in the jail he could ask to help him and he shook his head; “No.” I breathed in silently and thought about the courage it must’ve taken to admit his weakness. “Then we’ll meet after each class and go over the lesson. Let’s start today.” We made our way over to a couple of chairs, sat down and began to review.

After we were done, driving away from the jail, I reflected on the different ways we can be imprisoned. It’s not just about concrete walls, bars, thick glass and heavy metal doors. Prisons can be addictions, basic education skills we’ve somehow missed, mental illnesses, bad attitudes, negative environments. Too often we take for granted so many blessings. The gifts we’ve received, the talents we’ve been given, the good, are not for hoarding but for sharing, multiplying and helping others find freedom.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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