Category Archives: The Book Cellar

What I’m Reading, February 2018

Indiana weather is living up to it’s reputation this winter: unpredictable.

The past twenty-four hours have been foggy as snow from last week melts and evaporates.

I’m grateful to be feeling better physically than other winters, but I’ll be happy to see Spring.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site. )

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee

Buy now from Amazon

Highly recommended!

Light-hearted stories that highlight deep truths.

I liked the way her faith was real and scripture informed her decisions and changed her life.

I loved her emphasis on grace. I loved her views on traditional values.

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

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A doctor running from his past.  An endearing little girl fighting for her life.

Masterfully written.

Traditional values.

Unpredictable.

Just when you thought you had it figured out, you didn’t.

One of the best inspirational fiction I’ve read in years.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

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The orphans on the island follow the rules.  There’s a set way of doing things.  How and when they arrive, what they learn, how they live, how they live. Their survival depends on it.

I understand that this is a parable about childhood rather than a literary novel.

For me, it didn’t really accomplish either.

Maybe I’m missing the implications and parallels, but the story didn’t land for me.

A Spiritual Heritage: Connecting Kids and Grandkids to God and Family by Glen and Ellen Schunnecht

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It has been a long time since I read a parenting book.  Even longer since I liked one.

I liked the multi-generational approach in this book.  I liked the stories.  Realistic approaches to the challenges of parenting from a Christian perspective.

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

Buy now from Amazon

I’ve had trouble getting my hands on a copy of this book.

The first book in a trilogy, The Green Ember tells the story of a kingdom of rabbits.

Heather and Picket, brother and sister rabbit, are the main characters.  Lots of intrigue. Lots of action.

I can see boys really liking this book.

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It’s been a good month for reading and for my first foray into fiction.  Check it out here.

 

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What I’m Reading, January 2018

Around here, January means crazy Indiana weather and basketball.

We had a good Christmas with our kids.  Pete got a puppy for Christmas.

The stress of December spills over into January, but good things are on the horizon.

Linking up again with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will support this site.)

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How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs

I had trouble focusing on this book, but I think it’s indicative of stress in my life, not necessarily any fault of the book.

I liked the fact that he comes from the perspective of a Christian and an academic and even addresses biases people tend to have against those two groups.

Chapter one, Beginning to Think, has the subtitle “Why it wouldn’t be a good idea to think for yourself, even if you could.”

My favorite Chapter was The Age of Lumping and the very telling illustration of the author’s experience with Timothy. The point here is that we’re conditioned to categorize people, but sometimes it works against us.

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The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller

I’ve been wanting to read The  One Thing FOREVER. I think I’ve been on my library’s waitlist for over a year.

Now I know what all the rave reviews are about.  This is a GREAT book!

It addresses the problem of distracted focus and the importance of lasering in on your most important work in order to achieve excellence.

A huge light bulb moment for me reading The One Thing was the idea of chaos derailing you and distracting you from your one thing.

Chapter 17, The Four Thieves of Productivity hit me hard.

The Four Thieves are:

1. Inability to Say “No”
2. Fear of Chaos
3. Poor Health Habits
4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals.

Wow. These were so good and right on the money.

Buy now from Amazon

Count to Ten by James Patterson

I picked up Count to Ten at the library because I know James Patterson is a super best selling author and I wanted to study his work.

The story is fast moving.

It has short chapters.

There were quite a few characters with strange names that were hard to keep track of.

That’s one thing that John Grisham does well– starts with only a few characters and adds them slowly.

Interesting plot. It’s a mystery, so the intrigue and unanswered questions moved the story forward.

In my mind, every great novel is a mystery answering the question, 
What happens next?

Another reason I picked up the book is that it is set in India. My parents live in India 8 months out of the year, so I was interested to learn more about life in that country.

Although there were a few tidbits here and there that reminded you of the setting, I didn’t feel like it really explored the culture. I felt like the characters could have been Americans. They didn’t seem to think and act like Indians.

Maybe I was expecting too much.

I just know that it’s possible to live in a country and not really understand the way of thinking of the people around you.

I won’t be picking up another James Patterson soon. Even though language and thematic elements colored only a small percentage of the book, it’s enough to put me off further reading.

Buy now from Amazon

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence by Kayla Aimee

Highly recommended!

Light-hearted stories that highlight deep truths.  Her daughter is a hoot and she’s got some pretty funny stories herself.

I liked the way scripture informed her decisions and changed her life.

I loved her emphasis on grace. I loved her views on traditional values.

I started following Kayla Aimee’s work after I took her Affiliate course as part of The Genius Bloggers Toolkit. Her course was packed with so much helpful information. I knew when she offered something it was going to be high value.

When I had the chance to be part of the launch team for the book, I jumped at it.

In Bloom is about overcoming insecurity and Kayla tells personal experiences.

 

I will definitely be hand-selling this one at the store.

What are you reading this month?

 

 

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Books for Intro to Missions Students

Book List for Intro to World Missions 

When Pete taught Intro to World Missions, I made a book list of recommended books for his class.  Most of these are life long favorites that I recommend repeatedly.

Missionary Biographies

Brucko by Bruce Olson

Nineteen year old Bruce Olson lives with a stone age tribe to bring them the gospel.

Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees by Thomas Hale

Medical missionaries in Nepal. Humorous, well-written stories about culture and personal growth.

On the Far Side of Liglig Mountatin by Thomas Hale

More stories of medical missions in Nepal.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott

Five missionaries were martyred in Ecuador while trying to reach a savage tribe.  Written by the widow of one of the martyrs.

A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliott

The story of Amy Carmichal, missionary to India who rescued girls from the atrocities of the Hinduism.

And the Word Came with Power by Joann Shetler

Wycliffe Bible Translator in the Philippines explains about culture and spiritual lessons.

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

One man’s experiences getting God’s Word into Communist Russia.

Other Biographies

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

A Christian family in Holland hides Jews from the Nazis.  Stories of imprisonment and forgiveness.

Joni by Joni Eareckson

A diving accident at age 17 leaves Joni a quadriplegic.  Her spiritual journey.

The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway

A Christian pastor in China sees God work miracles in the midst of harsh persecution.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Quereshi

Nabeel’s spiritual journey growing up in a devout Muslim home and confronting the realities of Chrisitanity.

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson

A transparent look at the culture of poverty how a single mom paved a way out for her two sons.

Other Helpful Books

5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

The five top reasons why teams don’t work and what to do about them.

Reading Personality by Anne Bogel

Short summaries of some popular personality frameworks and how understanding yourself makes life better.

On Being a Missionary by Thomas Hale

Transparent, practical explanation of what missionaries face and common obstacles to overcome.

Margin by Richard Swenson

The importance of not using all your resources and leaving yourself bankrupt.  Includes money, time, emotional and other resources.

Love and Respect by Emerson Eggeriches

What men and women need from their spouses.  Foundational understanding for building a strong marriage.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

The five main ways people express love and how to understand which way communicates best to individuals.

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel

Common pitfalls that leaders fall into.  Helpful as a cautionary tale.

Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet

Healthy, effective leadership principles learned and practiced by a sub commander.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Timeless principles for living life well with yourself and others.

Do Hard Things by Alex and Brent Harris

Aimed at teenagers as a challenge to confront the status quo and impact the world by taking the high road.

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenrider

Tsh and her husband took their three children and circled the globe. The book traces their journey as well as Tsh’s reflections on travel, life and personal growth.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A challenge to live gratefully by systematically noting what you’re thankful for. Written in poetic style.

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What I’m Reading, November 2017

On the home front, looking at the carnage of two rotten trees in our front yard makes me philosophical about loss.

I think it’s good to remember, to try to make sense of loss, to let yourself feel the sadness.

I also think it’s helpful to focus on what’s left, not necessarily on what’s gone.

Linking up on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

On to the books–

 Buy now from Amazon

The Secret of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird

I am fascinated by story.  I believe with every fiber that story is one of the most powerful teaching tools, and probably the most underutilized.

I found Matt Bird’s observations to be insightful and helpful.  His field of expertise is TV and film, but I think a lot of the principles he’s discovered are universally applicable.

Here’s a few gems:

“You must write for an audience, not just yourself.”

“Audiences don’t really care about stories;  they care about characters.”

“Your story is not about your hero’s life; it’s about your hero’s problem.”

Good stuff.

 

 Buy now from Amazon

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

Five stars for being a wholesome, well-written YA.

It’s interesting to stop and think about what it’s like to be blind from birth. How impossible it is to picture anything. What it means for your social interactions.

Add the fact that you’re sixteen years old and transferring from a blind school to a public school.

This is an engaging, feel good story. Satisfying.

 Buy now from Amazon

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Viktor was a prisoner in a concentration camp in Germany. But, he was also a psychartrist. So, he analyzed the fellow prisoners, the ones who had given up hope and died and the ones who had the will to live.

He concluded that everyone needs to find their own reason for being on the planet: their life’s work. He had a book he was working on before he was imprisoned and he was also married.

Focusing his thoughts on finishing his book and seeing his wife again sustained him during the horrific experience of the concentration camp.

  Buy now from Amazon

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

The main premise of this book is that traditional PR, marketing and advertising with it’s big budgets and campaigns are no longer necessary for success.

Ryan Holiday should know. That was his field.
But today the playing field is leveled with desktop publishing, everyone as a photographer and social media taking your message viral.

I believe in some ways it’s easier than ever to get your message out. In other ways, you have more competition because everyone has access to what used to be only available to a few.

The challenge now is to stand out and be noticed in an avalanche of everyone promoting their message.

What are you reading this month?

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The Biggest Danger in Having a Great Morning Routine

I do 7 things every morning that make a huge difference in my life.

I take selenium. I drink hot lemon juice sweetened with stevia.* I sort the mail for 2 minutes.

I write 500 words, I work on my blog for 15 minutes, I have devotions and I facebook my husband.

These habits have made a HUGE difference in my life, health and happiness. It’s been a long road of tweaking the habits and there’s more I can add, but these are the ones that help me now.

Because my morning routines are so helpful, they set the stage for the greatest danger.

I realized it when a line from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling** devotional flattened me:

Don’t make an idol of routine.

Here’s my problem. These routines are so helpful. They make such a difference in my life. I don’t want to mess them up or skip a day.

But, life happens.

There are demands on my time, energy and focus. Even at 7 am. Even at 5:30 or earlier.

So, how do I react?

It’s so tempting to get frustrated, to throw my whole day out of whack because my routines got interrupted.

I’ve gotten pretty good at plans B through G, but sometimes, I can’t pull that off, either.

And I have to let go and remember:

Don’t make an idol of routine.

 

 

 

*The selenium and lemon juice helps me deal with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

**More about Jesus Calling here.

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What I’m Reading, October 2017

Whew!  What a month.

Since September 15th, I went to Tribe Conference and my youngest turned 18.

Soccer season wrapped up with a heart break game.

We’ve had unusually warm weather, which is good for me.

On to the books:

  Buy now from Amazon

Fearless by Eric Blehm

I’m fascinated by the story of Adam Brown’s life.  He had some high highs and low lows.

The whole narrative around NAVY seals is interesting, but Adam Brown stood out, even it that elite group.

His journey to becoming a highly decorated SEAL is certainly not conventional.

What can I tell you that will let you know what a great book this is?  I don’t know how to describe it without spoilers.

I don’t know how to tell you what I was impressed with, what I was surprised by, how it all played out, because I want you to read it.

Okay, the interesting thing to me about Fearless is the addictive personality and the success as a Navy Seal.

He was a good kid. He did good when he was focused on the football team. But, when he got sucked into drugs he fell hard.

He got so many commendations for his work in the military.

He was able to deal pretty well with transitioning from his work to family life. He had lots of determination and drive.

He slipped up once after a few years of service and lots of commendations. He should have lost his job.

It was the recommendation of the father of one of his childhood friends that actually got him into the military service. Without that person sticking his neck out on the line, he couldn’t have done it.

 

  Buy now from Amazon

This Undeserved Life
by Natalie Brenner

It’s the pinnacle of compassion to see life through someone else’s eyes.

Natalie Brenner gives us a chance to do that: to walk her road with her, to feel her pain and know her sorrows.

She teaches us that everyone’s story matters, not just celebrities and newsmakers.

Transparency about our stories destroys the glittery facebook highlight reel that we imagine everyone else is living. Perceptions are not reality.

Her story isn’t just about fertility, adoption and parenthood. It’s also about relationships, calling and identity.

Natalie has given us the gift of her story.

 

 Buy now from Amazon

Reading People

by Anne Bogel

Reading People is a good way to get a quick overview of some of the personality frameworks. Some I was familiar with, some I wasn’t. I find personality fascinating.

It’s easy to see the practical applications and helpfulness of the different frameworks when Anne shares personal stories of how they have helped her.

I’m recommending this book to young people because it’s so important to know yourself. Having a vocabulary and reference points is so helpful for teams, co-workers, spouses and family members.

Highly recommended.

  Buy now from Amazon

Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday

Writers want to write best sellers.  Lots of books don’t sell well.  I’m a bookseller, I know.

The premise of this book is that it’s a better goal to write a book that will be enduring, that has good enough content to sell over a long period of time, not just spike to a best seller list and disappear.

He has a good point.

We often don’t look to the long view.

This is a challenge to consider what your body of work will be long term and not strive for long term wins.

Of course, the majority of the population can’t write a best seller or a perennial seller, but every author in the history of the world started unpublished, so there’s that.

 

 Buy now from Amazon

If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim

Esther was a Korean imprisoned for her faith by the Japanese in the thirties and forties.

Quite a story. I learned history that I didn’t know before.

She endured quite a bit of physical hardship. Songs, scripture and prayer was the lifeline for the Christians in the prison.

God answered some prayers in miraculous ways, but other times the prisoners suffered a lot.

Many believers today are persecuted for their faith, but we’re not hearing their stories much.

What are you reading this month?

 

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Five Minute Friday: Support

How can it be Friday already?

Headed out this morning to Tribe Conference in Tennessee.  Yep. Nervous. Yep. Excited.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the FMF gang.

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When Moses was too tired to lift his hands, he needed the support of his friends, Aaron and Hur.
It was critical to the mission that Moses had his hands lifted during the battle, because the troops would win as long as his hands were lifted.

But the reality remains:

He couldn’t do it alone.

We can’t do it alone.

Sometimes we’re the ones on the roof, ripping apart roof tiles, lowering our friend down into the room to have access to Jesus.

Sometimes we’re the ones on the cot being lowered down.

It’s easier on our pride to be the ones helping, to be in partnership with the Savior.

It’s hard to be the needy one. Devoid of strength, lacking even the resources to help ourselves.

We want to be the Good Samaritan, even if it means helping the unlovely.

What we don’t want to be is the one on the side of the road, beaten past the point of helping ourselves.

God help us to help others

and

give us the humility to receive help when we’re helpless.

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What I’m Reading, September 2017

September means soccer around here.

I’m feeling a little nostalgic because it’s our last season as soccer parents.  Our baby is a senior in high school, so an era is ending.

The weather’s been great for watching soccer games–not too hot, cold, rainy or windy.  You never know in Indiana.

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit for September reads.

 Buy now from Amazon

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before You Were Ours is a tragic tale with a hopeful ending.

This is not a feel good book, but it is well-written.

It touches on the trauma that children go through when their nuclear family is destroyed.

It traces the children of a riverboat family who were abducted and institutionalized in the South in the early 20th century.

Interspersed with that story is the story of a modern day teen in foster care who makes friends with a elderly widow, never dreaming that their childhoods carried similar threads.

This is the first Lisa Wingate novel that I’ve read, but I will be looking for more of her books.

It reminded me a little of Orphan Train.

 Buy now from Amazon

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

What if you lived in a small kingdom where the prince chose his bride from the graduates of the Princess Academy?

What if you had the chance for an education that would never be possible otherwise?

I loved this middle grade novel for telling a tale of what could be, the power of knowledge, friendships and courage.

One of my favorite parts of Princess Academy was how they snuck in principles of Commerce and Negotiation. It was fun how that played out.

There were a few weird and whimsical twists, but every fairy tale needs a little magic.

 Buy now from Amazon

Unselfie by Michele Borba

Michele Borba was in town last week to speak to the teachers in our district.  She’s gaining a following in our area.

I liked the stories of all the schools that developed programs or implemented teaching that turned the school community around or changed a classroom.

It gives you hope for the kids of this generation. It certainly is a fight, though, with the phones and digital devices.

I liked the support she gave for developing empathy by reading, especially fiction.

Lots of good tips on practical ways to teach kids empathy.

Lots of stories and good examples of kids at school and home demonstrating empathy.

It gives a good breakdown of the elements of empathy and the why it is such a critical trait for our kids.

 Buy now from Amazon

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Heads up for language and thematic elements.

The first half of the book was slow moving and a little confusing.

The second half was riveting.

A journalist is on assignment on a small luxury cruiser.  She notices some strange things happening, but when she looks into it, her story is called into question.

Good suspense.  Good resolution.

 

 

 

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6 True Adventure Stories that are Page Turners

What is it about adventure stories that draws you in?

It’s facing and overcoming adversity. The choices made. The sacrifices made. What the human body can endure. Giving up versus pressing on.

The thing about true stories is you know, generally, how they’re going to turn out. But, the draw is finding out how they got there.

True adventure stories are inspiring.

Reading or hearing someone’s story creates hope within us that we can also survive, endure and triumph.

(Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.)

  Buy now from Amazon

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The pathos of the story draws you in.  Joe Rantz is an almost Dickensonian hero.

Tracing the background of some others on the champion rowing team puts you in the boat with the rowers and has you cheering with the crowds on the shore.

I love the real life lessons of leadership and teamwork, and wonder how to transfer these lessons to other teams.

The up close and behind the scenes glimpses of history are instructive and sobering.  So much to glean from this book.

  Buy now from Amazon

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

It’s little hard to put my finger on what I like about the book so much.

It’s a good study in leadership and teamwork. It’s an amazing triumph over the elements, even though the primary mission wasn’t accomplished. The feat was bringing back everyone home alive.

The decisions that had to be made; the feats of survival; the human interaction; the challenges that they faced. These are the elements of the story that draw you in and keep you turning pages.

 Buy now from Amazon

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner World War II soldier.

Zamperini faces so many incredible circumstances in his life before he turns 30.  The perseverance and resilience he displayed in the face the multiple titanic challenges is an inspiration.

Knowing his background and family intensifies the story.

The final resolution is satisfying and heart warming.

Aside from the story, the writing is a work of art.

  Buy now from Amazon

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

In 1996, eight mountain climbers lost their lives while attempting to summit Everest.  Jon Krakauer is a journalist and climber who survived and wrote about it.

To me, one of the most interesting dynamics is the role of leadership and teamwork in summiting as well as personal, individual responsibility.

One of the critical factors in the deaths of those on the mountain in 1996 was the enforcement of the turn around time.

Hall, the team leader, had been so strict about that for other teams, but with this one, he wasn’t.  He didn’t communicate clearly whether the turn around time was one o clock or  two clock.  On the actual summit day, people were summiting at 4 and 5 o clock.

No one seemed to know that there was a storm blowing in.

There’s a lot of competing forces at play:  people who spent a lot of money to summit, the commercialization of summiting, magazines that would pay a lot for the story, advertisers looking for heroes.

There’s also different teams that were summiting and the different philosophies of the team leaders.

Should a leader be making decisions that are unquestioned?  Does that actually put his team at greater risk because they don’t follow their own wisdom?  Actually, the genius of Hall’s leadership was to make the decisions ahead of time, not in the heat of the moment.  And the actual breakdown came in not following through with those wise decisions.

The safety net wasn’t there when it needed to be.

The bottom line is, it impossible to erase all the risk.  That’s one factor that makes the challenge so attractive:  there is an element of risk involved.  Defying death is part of the victory.

“The true story of one man’s miraculous survival after a mountaineering mishap high in the Andes of South America.”

 Buy now from Amazon

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

I’ve been on the prowl for another great family read aloud, along the lines of Endurance and Unbroken.  Even though Touching the Void and Into Thin Air are incredible true life accounts, I didn’t think the writing was of the same caliber as those two.

There’s a lot of climbing terms and concepts that I didn’t understand and it took a while before the story became compelling.  If I hadn’t known what was coming, I’m not sure I would have stuck with it.  The account is a testimony to the human will to survive.  Although it was only given a passing reference, it’s also a testimony to the prayers of Joe’s mother.

It’s fascinating to me to analyze the decisions you make in the face of death.  What motivates you to keep going when it’s hopeless and what motivates you to give up?

 Buy now from Amazon

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

It took 100 pages for this story to really get good. But, when it did, I was hooked.

Who can resist the search for a lost city? There’s quite an appeal to explore virgin territory, untouched by human hands for centuries, but yet once a thriving civilization.

The book took a left turn for the last fourth and covered tropical diseases, almost leaving archeology in the dust. I found the information interesting, but it certainly wasn’t where I was expecting the book to go.

 

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Five Minute Friday: Neighbor

It’s Friday!  Where did the week go?

Linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday community.

This week’s prompt is : neighbor

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Who is my neighbor?

Jesus was asked the question.

Maybe the need of humanity was just too overwhelming.

Maybe it paralyzes us to see the enormity of human need and realize we’re not up to the task.

So, instead of doing the little we can, we do nothing.

Maybe what Jesus was teaching in the story of the Good Samaritan is that your neighbor is the one in your path that is desperate for help.

You don’t have to worry about everyone. Of course you can’t meet the needs of everyone.

Just one.

Just the one in your path. With the resources that you have.

Just today.

Just one.

*********************

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