Tag Archives: peace

New Year. New Goals. New Purpose?

Goals 2017 PixabayHappy New Year, dear Christian Writer’s Den friends!

I can’t believe I just said that. It seems only a few months ago that I wrote last year’s greeting and yet, 2017 is here. How did that happen?

Let’s face it, in reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to focus on all the things we didn’t get done that we had planned. Some of those unfulfilled plans are because of our own failures or distractions. Others are the result of changing seasons in life. But regardless of the reason, when another year dawns and we haven’t reached the previous year’s goals, it’s easy to feel like a failure. The focus is on what we didn’t get done.

That’s not what God wants us to focus on. If we’ve given our lives to Him and are seeking to serve and obey Him, He has a plan for our lives, our ministries, and our businesses. Sometimes it’s the same plan we have. Sometimes it isn’t.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

His plan is the right plan for us . . . every year.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts in 2017.

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Crickett Keeth

Picture of CrickettIf you haven’t met Crickett Keeth, you’re missing a lot. She may be a tiny, little thing, but she is a powerful messenger for the Father! We met years ago when I was teaching at North Texas Christian Writers Conference and it has been a joy to get to know her better through her writing, speaking, and as Director of Women’s Ministries at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, TN.

I’m honored to share Crickett and her newest book with you. And in this season of gift-giving, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Her title? The Gift of Rest. Can I get an AMEN? I know you want and need a copy of this book, so be sure to leave a comment and you might win it next week! Now, let’s get started!

Welcome, Crickett. Before we start talking about your new book, would you tell us how you got started writing Bible studies?

I was leading a small group Bible study with some girls in Dallas, and we were using popular studies on the market. To facilitate richer discussion, I would add thought-provoking questions to the book questions each week. One summer, my girls challenged me, “Crickett, why don’t you write our next Bible study?” After praying about it, I accepted their challenge, and I’ve continued writing Bible studies ever since.

The Father certainly uses a variety of ways to move us, doesn’t He? So what compelled you to write a Bible study on the subject of rest?

I meet with women all the time as the Women’s Ministry Director at my church, and I started to notice a trend in what I was hearing. “Crickett, I’m exhausted. I’m worn out. I need some rest.” And I was feeling the same way. We’re all in need of rest. And I can’t imagine that this is God’s plan for us – to frantically rush through life at breakneck speed. So I began to search the Scriptures to see what God has to say about rest, and the result was this Bible study. In eight weeks, we look at God’s perspective of rest from Genesis to Revelation. And as we understand His perspective, it gives us freedom to embrace the gift of rest instead of feeling guilty about it. When we see how God emphasized, even commanded, rest, how can we not rest?

I totally agree! Why do you think people aren’t making rest a priority these days?

The reasons I most often hear are:The Gift of Rest cover Crickett Keeth

(1) I’m too busy. I don’t have time to rest. If I stop to rest, I can’t get everything done. Once I get everything done, then I’ll rest.

God gives us 24 hours a day, and He will never give us more to do than we can do in a day. The problem is not having too little time, but taking on more than God ever intended for us to take on.

(2) I feel guilty. I should be doing something productive. People will think I’m lazy if I take time to rest.

Jesus rested, and He didn’t feel guilty for taking time to do so, and neither should we.

(3) It’s not spiritual to rest. People who love the Lord stay busy. It’s selfish for me to take time to rest. I need to be serving others. I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman, and she didn’t rest. I’m not a godly woman if I rest.

There’s nothing unspiritual about taking time to rest. It’s actually unspiritual to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion without taking time to be replenished in order to carry out the ministry He’s given us to do.

I know you were going through a time of “no rest” when you wrote this study. How did you find rest in that season of life when circumstances wouldn’t allow you to rest?

Yes, the timing of this study was perfect for me in that tough season of life. My 98-year old mom was in the nursing home in Memphis, and I was there every day after work and on the weekends. Emotionally, it was draining to watch my mom lose her quality of life. I would come home from the nursing home every day, exhausted – physically and emotionally. But during those times of no physical rest, I found soul rest – a peace that God was in control. I found rest in that season by meeting with God, and letting Him refresh me through His Word. I knew He would give me strength for each day, one day at a time. But I needed time alone with Him to be reminded of His strength and sovereignty in this tough season.

Crickett Keeth Sumatra coverI have learned to value the gift of rest as a result of this study. And I pray that those who go through this Bible study will also come to embrace that gift.

And I join you in that prayer. What better gift could there be than to rest in the Gift of Jesus and His love? Thank you for sharing your book with us today, Crickett.

And friends, be sure to leave a comment for Crickett and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book! And return next week to see if you’re the winner.

Here’s more about Crickett:

Crickett Keeth is the Women’s Ministry Director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee, where she writes and teaches the women’s Bible studies. She is the author of several published Bible studies, including The Gift of Rest and Sumatra with the Seven Churches (co-authored with Sandra Glahn). Crickett was on staff with Cru for ten years and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching regularly at her own church, she also speaks at women’s conferences and retreats. She offers free resources for discipleship and encourages others in their own walk with God through her website at www.CrickettKeeth.com. You can also connect with Crickett on Facebook and Twitter.

Blessings as we prepare to celebrate the beginning of a new year!

Vonda

 

 

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Jesus is Born!

From the Manger to the CrossAs we celebrate the Gift of Christmas today, let’s remember Him as

…the Son

…the Sacrifice

…the Resurrected Savior

…the Almighty God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

I pray God’s richest blessings as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver.

Vonda

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Another Christmas Gift (And no, it’s not writing opps!)

From the Manger to the CrossMerry Christmas, writing friends! What a joy to hear Christmas music during this special season, reminding me that yes, an innocent, helpless Baby came, but He grew to be our Sacrifice, and was raised from the dead to be our Savior! Oh, what a Savior!

And since I know everyone’s running around trying to get everything done (and NOBODY is interested in studying writing opps!), I thought I’d share another of my Christmas favorites with you today. Here’s another video I’ve shared the past several years, and I never grow tired of it!

This video was shot several years ago at my daughter’s church, North Point Community Church, as their praise band used iPads and iPhones to deliver a special gift of music to their church family.

It’s my gift to you, and isn’t it a fun, creative way to celebrate this season of joy? But in all the fun and excitement, let’s be sure to remember the greatest Gift of all…the Gift who was also the Giver…the One we celebrate all year long.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 6:9

I pray God’s blessing as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver,
Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Sue Badeau and Who Won Andy Lee’s Book?

Sue Badeau CCCA 14Let’s welcome Sue Badeau back with us.

Happy Tuesday, friends! I’m honored to have author and speaker Sue Badeau back with us again, and this time we’re talking about a different kind of book. Remember to leave a comment for Sue and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Good morning Sue, we’re here to talk about your newest book, Building Bridges of Hope: A Coloring Book for Adults Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma. I’m wondering what was it that got you interested in jumping on the adult coloring book trend?

Vonda, I am chuckling as you ask that question because the truth is, I was teaching about the benefits of coloring long before it because trendy. In my workshops about helping both adults and children who have experienced trauma associated with abuse, neglect, natural disasters, catastrophic illness, car accidents, school shootings or even having a parent in the military, I provide both informative research-based information but also practical, inexpensive tips and tools that offer support for healing and hope after such traumatic experiences.

Wow – when you list all of those different types of trauma, it seems like it could include a lot of people. Who specifically did you create your book for?

This book is particularly written for the adult who is involved with a child on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. A parent, whether by birth, foster care, adoption or step-parenting, grandparent, aunt or uncle, for example. But it is not limited to family – some of the people who are finding the book especially helpful include teachers and Sunday School teachers, counselors and Pastors, even little league coaches and scout leaders. It’s easy to feel either helpless or angry when a child melts down in the middle of an activity. Sometimes this leads to adult actions that unwittingly further increase the child’s trauma such as sending the child into isolation – “Go to your room,” for example. Yet all the adults I know who love and work with kids are really seeking better ways to interact with these kids which demonstrate compassion, bring about healing and in turn, improve the challenging behavior. This book provides very concrete, easy-to-understand tools for doing just that.

I see that the book includes both the written pages with the tips and tools you just described but also many pages to color. I love the artistic designs to color – so whimsical! I know your daughter Chelsea is the artist behind these images. Tell us what it is like as a writer to work on a collaborative project like this, especially with your own daughter?Color Cover

I am bursting with pride because my daughter is the lead artist. She has created most of the delightful, calming designs for coloring – designs which underscore and reinforce the written messages in the book. In addition, three of my other (now-adult) children and three grandchildren have contributed their creativity to the book. I wrote outlines and draft sections of the content and Chelsea sketched out her ideas for the coloring pages. Sometimes her artwork inspired me to re-write a paragraph or two to make it more clear, other times, I had to ask her to adjust the artwork to better fit the message. It was very much a give-and-take process. When you enlist one of your kids as a partner you have to learn how to take off the “mom” hat from time to time and participate in the creative process as equals, even taking criticism from your child. I am thankful for the gifts she has and for her willingness to use them in this joint effort.

Our family members so enjoyed collaborating on this project that we are already cooking up ideas for more coloring books. Turns out this is just the first in a series. Our second volume, a companion volume designed for children (with far less text) is being released this week! It is entitled, Bubbles and Butterflies: A Calming Coloring Book for Children, and more specialized editions are in the pipeline, so stay tuned! And in the meantime, I hope that your readers will enjoy coloring these whimsical and purposeful images, while also thinking about ways to use art and creative self-expression to bring your own family closer together.

Thanks for coming back to be with us, Sue. I love that you’ve not only created coloring books to satisfy those who love to color, but you’ve particularly focused on those who have experienced trauma. What a gift for them! I pray God’s blessing as you continue to bless others!

00 Front Cover Bubbles ButterfliesAnd friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Sue and you’ll be in next week’s drawing for a free coloring book!

Bio: Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, writer and consultant with a heart for children and a desire to help adults and children build bridges of hope following the pain of trauma or loss. She has worked for many years in child services and serves on several national boards. Sue writes and speaks extensively to public agencies, courts, parent groups and churches. Sue and her husband, Hector, are lifetime parents of twenty-two children, two by birth and twenty adopted (three, with terminal illnesses, are now deceased). They have also served as foster parents for more than 50 children. They have authored a book about their family’s parenting journey, Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids. All of Sue’s books and coloring books can be found on Amazon or on Sue’s website – www.suebadeau.com – Sue may be reached by email at sue@suebadeau.com.

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And who won Andy Lee’s book?A Mary Like Me image

The winner is…

Nan Jones!

 

Congrats, Nan! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Andy will get the book right out to you! And for those who still need to get your copy of Andy’s book, A Mary Like Me, here’s the direct Amazon link!

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I hope each of you had a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. Blessings as you continue to bless others in this season of Love and Grace.

Vonda

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Interview & Book Give-Away with Andy Lee

Andy Lee 2016Dear friends, thank you for your grace as my blog posts aren’t on a consistent schedule right now. And thank you, too, for your kind notes, emails, and prayers as my mother continues to heal. Today she will see her new room at the assisted living and tomorrow she officially moves in. She’s so excited!

I’m excited, too, and it’s not only because of Mother’s progress. I’m also excited to share Andy Lee’s new book with you! Andy and I met years ago, I believe it was at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. It’s been a joy to watch her put in the time and attention it takes to be a serious writer, and it’s been a joy to watch her career grow! Today we’re going to focus on her new book, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called. Don’t you love that title?

Be sure to leave a message for Andy and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book!

Welcome, Andy. I know you wrote this book in part to inspire and empower women who have been called to ministry. What are some of the inner obstacles women may have to overcome when choosing to answer God’s call for their lives? What obstacles have you had to overcome?

Oh my, so many obstacles! The enemy of our lives is threatened by us, and loves to discourage us in our calling. A huge obstacle is comparison. That’s why I wrote this book. If I compare my speaking, teaching, writing, mothering, cooking (which I’m not a fan), decorating, gardening (which I don’t do), cleaning (which I don’t want to do), etc. to my friends’ and virtual friends’ cooking, writing, speaking, mothering, etc. I’m sunk. Comparison throws a blanket of discouragement over my soul, and I want to quit. I fight comparison by admitting my imperfectness and thanking God for the opportunities He puts in front of me everyday, and I ask for grace to do my best for Him, not for Pinterest or Facebook or the writer of the year award.

For women called to preach and teach and perhaps pastor, there will be many obstacles. All I can say is, “Trust God.” Trust that He will open and close the doors. Go where He leads. Know that He is creative with His calling. It may not, and probably won’t, look like you envisioned when you first knew He was calling you into full time ministry.

Finally, don’t despise small beginnings, the hidden places. God’s economy is not ours, nor is His timing. Live and serve right where you are with the people He has put in your life. They may be smearing jelly all over your television with chubby fingers. Pray for grace. Kiss those fingers. Thank God for today, and use the hidden places, the small beginnings to grow deeper into Him. Practice His Presence. And practice your calling right where you are now.

Powerful truths, Andy! We tend to read Bible characters as flat, unrelatable characters, distant from us because of time and cultural differences. How do you hope your book helps modern women to better connect with the Marys of the Bible?

Oh . . . this is such my heart. Yes, they were from a different culture and spoke a different language, and they lived so long ago, but I am convinced that all of the biblical characters, men and women, dealt with the very same heart issues we do today. We see it easily with Peter and Paul, but for some reason, the “good girl” biblical characters have a holy glow when we read their stories. This detaches them from us which distances God from us in our hearts because we don’t think we could ever serve Jesus as they did. It’s that comparison thing again. But when we find someone who can relate to our struggles, we are no longer threatened by them. Camaraderie encourages us and draws us closer. I also think that once we connect with the Marys’ human hearts, the thousands of years, language, and cultural barriers disappear, and the Bible becomes more real and applicable for today.

I love the way you incorporate the Bible’s original languages, Greek and Hebrew and even Aramaic, into your study of these women. Your book gives great pointers on simple, non-intimidating ways anyone can add this kind of study to our own Bible reading, even without a Bible degree. What does it add to our Bible study when we explore the original languages?A Mary Like Me image

Oh my goodness, it adds LIFE to our Bible study when we study this way. It is incredible. My husband says that my goal is to turn everyone into a Bible nerd. It’s true, but only because digging under our translation has brought so much excitement and joy and life into my walk with God. Nuances have been lost in translation that can be discovered by word-studies, and exploring the ancient language also brings a fresh understanding into familiar scripture. If the Bible seems dull or hard to understand, you’ve got to try studying this way. You’ll never read the Bible the same, and you’ll find the truth of Hebrews 4:12, “The Bible is alive and active . . . .”

You use the Marys’ experiences to address deep topics like grief and mental illness, with stories from your own life and ministry. How can an encounter with the Marys in the Bible help Christian women who are grieving a loss, or wrestling with mental illness?

It goes back to camaraderie. You aren’t alone. We find comfort when someone shares what we’re going through. It also takes out some of the power of the grief or depression when we realize someone else knows our pain. But what I really hope the reader sees in these stories is how Jesus interacted with these grieving, mentally ill women. He was loving, caring, and desired to heal them. He cried with them, and He understood their human heart. What kind of God does that?

You write about dreams and callings and how important they both are as well as how to distinguish between the two. What advice do you give the writer whose dream for his or her book to be published hasn’t happened yet?

Keep being faithful to what He has called you to today. Again, don’t despise the hidden places, the small beginnings. Minister, tell your story, right where you are—on your blog, in the live Facebook video you feel the nudge to do, or over coffee with a neighbor. Seek God’s face daily—that means worship Him intentionally whether you feel like it or not. If there is an ache with the dream to be published, it is a calling from the Lord. Trust His timing. Seek His will for your writing. Go to conferences, blog, and attend critique groups. Be open to all projects He has for you. You may have to set the first book aside to pitch the second and see it in print first. That’s what happened to me. My second book was published before the first, but I view this as a double portion blessing from the Lord. He loves faith. Remember, His economy is not ours, nor His timing. It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Don’t give up.

Thank you for being with us today, Andy. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next!

And friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for Andy. You could be next week’s winner!

Bio: Andy Lee loves to teach about Jesus, and she loves to help people dig deep into the Biblical languages. She is a Bible teacher, retreat speaker, blogger, mom to three grown children and a kitty named Hank, and wife to Mike. She’s the author of two books: The Book of Ruth Key Word Bible Study: A 31-Day Journey to Hope and Promise (AMG 2015) and A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called (Leafwood 2016). Andy broadcasts the Bite of Bread on Facebook every morning Monday through Friday at 8:20 ET, and she encourages faith and study on her blog Daily Grace found on her site www.WordsByAndyLee.com. Join Andy on her blog and daily broadcasts to learn how to dig deep to live fully.

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/andy.lee.1069

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Parting Word From The WORD . . . How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

For most of us, we’re thankful to have the recent season of braggadocio, self-focus, and pride behind us. And for those of us who follow Christ, that season has left us even more aware of the condition of American culture and the depth to which we’ve fallen. It’s been a painful realization.

But the song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” sung by Nichole Nordeman, provided a tender balm to my heart yesterday. As I sat alone listening to the clearly-rendered words, I was reminded that regardless of the culture, my Heavenly Father loves me, His Son took my sin, and I can boast in Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:31 (NIV)

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

 

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Parting Words From The Words . . . We Want Peace

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

 

Peace. Oh, how we want it. We want it in our homes, our families, in our relationships, in our churches, our communities. We want peace in our country.

Broken lives, lost jobs, illness, and death surround us.

Will we ever truly have peace? The Bible is clear that worldly peace will not be possible until Jesus, our Prince of Peace, returns.

Does that mean until His return, we must simply endure the strife and unrest of this world?

No. We simply have to look to the Source of peace. Peace will never be found in our government or our money or our family relationships. True peace can only be found in the hearts and minds of those who know the One who establishes peace.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Regardless of what’s going on in our world, regardless what is going on in American politics, we can have peace. All we have to do is trust in Him Who supplies peace that truly does pass all earthly understanding.

After all, we really do know how the story ends.

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . I Was Wrong

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

I was wrong.

For the past few months I’ve considered the condition of our world and have been praying for Jesus to return and end the struggle.

I reflected on these words of Isaiah–words that could have been written about contemporary America–and cried out to the Father for the evil to end.

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)

However, the more I cried out to the Father for the hardship to end, the more I realized how self-centered my prayer had been. I know beyond a doubt that if God had answered my prayer as requested, my personal struggle would have been over. I would have been in the presence of my Father, face-to-face with the One who died for me and paid the ransom for my sin.

But what about the others?

What about those who haven’t heard? What about my family and friends who haven’t yet accepted the gift of salvation that is offered to them?

What about yours?

That’s when God showed me that my prayer was wrong. My prayer was all about me and how I wanted to escape the world’s troubles.

I was praying for escape, but what He wants is revival.

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

His desire is that we experience revival in our hearts, our families, our churches, our country, and our world. He will return on His timetable, not mine.

And we can be sure the timing of His return will be perfect, not one minute early or one minute late.

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)

We should be praying for repentance and revival, not for escape from the world.

Who are you praying for?

Grace and peace,

Vonda

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Parting Words From The WORD . . . Well Done, Woody

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Laughing Jesus by Robert Wilson, Sr.

Like many of you, I grew up in church. As a child, Saturday nights were set aside to polish my shoes, wash my hair, and make sure I knew what to wear on Sunday. As a teenager, I carried my Bible into Sunday School and filled out my registration form. As a young adult, I learned all the churchy words.

Yes, on Sundays, I looked like a Christian, talked like a Christian, and dressed like a Christian. Yes, I looked good, smelled good, and was in church every time the doors were open.

But the truth is, if I had died as a young adult, I would have gone to hell. I wasn’t a Christian, I was simply a good Pharisee.

I was the person Jesus was talking about when He said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 (NIV)

The will of the Father is not that we wear polished shoes and Sunday clothes and carry a Bible into church when we haven’t opened it all week. His will is not that we walk an aisle, sign a card, and learn a bunch of churchy words.

Without a changed heart, mind, and spirit; without a desire to have the mind of Christ and be like Him; without trusting in His blood and not our good deeds, we’re nothing but Pharisees . . . pious religious leaders who looked good, smelled good, and were in church every time the door was open.

They’re the people Jesus was talking about when He said:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:27 (NIV)

Our friend, Woody Brown, died last week after a long, courageous battle. He was a kind, gentle man, a tender husband, loving father, and doting grandpa.

He coached all kinds of ball teams, helped anyone who needed help, and taught middle school boys in Sunday School. No question about it, he was a good man. He looked good, smelled good, and knew all the churchy words. But that’s not all. Woody Brown

He knew Jesus. And Jesus IS all.

Woody’s life was dedicated to sharing the hope, grace, mercy, and love of our Lord. He wanted more than anything to have the mind of Christ, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to spend eternity with Christ and to take others with him.

Woody is the one Jesus was talking about last Thursday when He said:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness.” Matthew 25:21 (NIV)

Well done, Woody. Great is your reward.

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