Praying God’s Steadfast Love

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Many of us are familiar with the comfort received when we personalize Psalm 91. In verses like 3, we replace “He will deliver you” with “He will deliver me” and we go on in that manner of making the scripture our own. As we face our own trials and fears, we pray back to God the inspired scripture of Psalm 91.

I learned about praying Psalm 91 over myself from a woman long devoted to constant prayer. I was quite ill at the time. Then when my daughter became gravely ill, I taught her to use it in the same way. Sometimes I would read it over her, entering her name throughout, and she found strength and calm in God’s care for her.

There is another psalm that I use even more as a prayer and that is verse 4 of Psalm 6: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love” (ESV). Everything we need is in that one sentence. We call on God’s mercy and grace for whatever is our need; we ask Him for deliverance because of who He is and not because we in any way deserve such Love.

There are times when a scripture seems to jump into our vision. The words will magnify as if bolded. I consider these times as God reaching out in a personal way, giving us a scripture to claim in a time of need, and I encourage you to do the same. Thank Him for it. Write it down and pray it frequently. In so doing, He will inscribe it on your heart.

I especially love Psalm 6:4 because it is easy to remember and because it fully encompasses everything. I pray it over friends. For example, I will say: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver Christy’s life; save her for the sake of Your steadfast love.” I use it for our nation: “Turn, O Lord, and deliver our nation, save us for the sake of Your steadfast love.” It is a prayer we desperately need to pray in these days.

The word “steadfast” is an English translation from the Hebrew word “hesed.” Depending on the translation of your Bible, it may also read everlasting, kindness, or mercy. I have read different counts as to the number of times it is used, but all accounts have given it 200 times or greater, with the most use in any single book of the Bible found in Psalms, the scriptures used as the temple hymnal and devotional guide for the Jewish people.

There is great wisdom in praying the scriptures. We engage ourselves with God’s Word, we commit scripture to memory, and we pull power into our lives from the breathed words of God. Can we not imagine the delight of our Father when He hears us speak to Him in His language? He has declared a covenant with us and when we communicate with Him in this manner, we are claiming and agreeing with what He has said.

All scriptures of God’s love are for for us, yet I believe that if you search the scriptures that tell of His steadfast or everlasting love, you will find something that God will lift from the pages and personally give to you. I hope you will give it a try.

Here is a beautiful song about God’s everlasting love from Terry MacAlmon.

A Prediction for the 2016 Election from Pastor Tom Lindberg

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My pastor, Dr. Tom Lindberg of First Assembly Memphis, is a very positive and encouraging pastor, always. Yesterday in morning worship, he told us he wanted to make predictions we could count on about the November election. What he then declared was so uplifting I asked for permission to share it further. May you be blessed by my pastor’s wisdom.

Dr. Tom and Sandi Lindberg Lead Pastor, First Assembly Memphis, TN

Dr. Tom and Sandi Lindberg
Lead Pastor, First Assembly Memphis, TN

A Prediction for the 2016 Election

          On November 8, millions of people will go to the polls to vote in our national election.  I have a prediction to make about the election.  I predict that on November 9,

  • The Lord God Almighty will still be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
  • Jesus Christ will still be our Savior, Healer, and Baptizer.
  • The Holy Spirit will continue to fill His people with wisdom and power, and greater will be the One in us than he that is in the world.
  • On November 9 I predict the Bible will still be God’s eternal Word. Heaven and earth will fade away, but not God’s Word.
  • I predict God’s church will continue to march ahead in might and power, for the gates of hell cannot stop God’s church.
  • And I predict on November 9 that God’s plan for this world will not change. His plan still concludes with “the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel.  The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we that are alive and remain shall be caught up with them to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.  So shall we ever and eternally be with the Lord.”

That’s my prediction for November 9 and election 2016.  Take courage!!

You can learn more about our church famemphis.net and reach Dr. Lindberg at tlindberg@famemphis.net.

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Favorite Quotes on Prayer

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I have long been a collector of quotes. A few words can speak so much. An avid reader, I have journals with nothing but quotes from favorite authors that have taught, comforted, and encouraged me through the years. Unfortunately, I did not keep a record of what book I found each quote, as my intention was to record them only for personal review. All  are about prayer and it is my hope that you will find some blessing for yourself in the quotes I am sharing.

ingrid-bergman-2016“When a man is born from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve that life or nourish it. Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.”  –Oswald Chambers

“Our strength is renewed in only one way: spending time with God in prayer, waiting on Him, immersed in scripture reading, time with God’s people, cultivating Christ’s presence—so that the Holy Spirit may take over.”  –St. Francis de Sales

“Do not have your concert first and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin your day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” –Hudson Taylor

“What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God. The Psalms show us how to answer.”  –Eugene Peterson

“It is the prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers. . . . The Holy Spirit works His prayers in us through the Word, and neglect of the Word makes praying in the Holy Spirit an impossibility.”  – R. A. Torrey

“Praise and thanksgiving are an essential part of persevering prayer. The more we focus on praising God, the more devoted and faithful we become. “ –Cynthia Heald

“In prayer we cease leaning on the staff of self-will and put all our confidence in God.” –Maxie Dunnam lady-of-guadelupebest

“When we fail to make prayer a priority—essentially forfeiting our time alone with God—we will begin to feel an emptiness in our lives, accompanied by a strange sense of unrest and uneasiness.”  –Charles Stanley

“It is well said that neglected prayer is the birthplace of all evil.”  –Charles Spurgeon

“Praying for the sick is reaching out with one hand to touch the risen Christ while holding on to the sick with the other hand.”  –Robert L. Wise

“Prayer is the rope that pulls God and man together. But it doesn’t pull God down to us, it pulls us up to Him.” –Billy Graham

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fear nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”  –Samuel Chadwick

“He must set his heart to conquer by prayer, and that will mean that he must first conquer his own flesh, for it is the flesh that hinders prayer always.” –A. W. Tozer

“I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please’ but ‘thank you,’ as a guest thanks his host at the door.” –Annie Dillard

“If the only prayer you say throughout your life is ‘Thank you,’ then that will be enough.” –Meister Eckhartbucket-of-roses-jul-29-2016

More on Relinquishing Prayer

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I have continued to ponder the subject of relinquishing prayer and there are a few more thoughts I would like to add this morning. Thank you to those who gave feedback; it has helped me to sort through what I said and hopefully respond more fully.

First of all, to relinquish something to God doesn’t mean you must never mention it to Him again. Most likely you will continue to pray about what you relinquished, but you will pray differently. The “relinquishing” part is to accept what God gives, to be in agreement with Him even if it is contrary to what we want to happen. It is a step in greater trust.

I know the scriptures that say to persevere in prayer and the respected teachers who say never give up; neither do I argue with them. But I also know when Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42, He prayed a prayer of relinquishment: “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (NASV).  I suspect most of us will at one time or another come to a place where this is the prayer that should be ours.

We must be sensitive to the Spirit to know how God wants us to pray. If we come to a time when we feel we are to relinquish a particular matter to the Father’s hands, our prayers may then turn more to words of trust and thanksgiving. When the concern comes to mind, rather than petition as we have, we thank Him for His mercies shown us throughout life. We thank Him for being the good, loving Father that He is. We thank Him that we can always trust Him, no matter what. And we certainly want to thank Him for the peace that I believe He always gives when we relinquish our will to His. We might pray like this: “I know that you see things I cannot see, that Your thoughts and ways are far higher than man’s. Your word tells of your steadfast love and mercy and I thank you that I can count on such love and mercy. Keep me in Your perfect peace and my eyes fixed on you, Lord. I love you and relinquish my will to yours and count it all joy to do so.”

Until and unless you come to a time that you feel led to relinquish the way you are praying. I encourage you to continue asking and seeking and knocking at the door of heaven. Always pray as the Holy Spirit leads. If you stay close to Him, you will know in your spirit how to pray. Pastor David Cross, First Assembly Memphis, says, “If you love Him and stay near Him, you will hear Him speak to you like never before.” Prayer is conversation with God and the Holy Spirit lives in us to guide how we are to pray.

Dr. Charles Stanley, In Touch Ministries, says “God’s primary goal is our ultimate good, not our comfort or short-term happiness—He wants what is best for us in light of eternity” (In Touch Devotional, October 8, 2016). Everything in this life is short term. May we strive for the eternal in all our living and praying.

Your will, O Lord, is the safe place, the joy place, the glory place.

The Power of Relinquishing Prayer

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There is power in relinquishing prayer. Power and peace. When we’ve prayed all we know to pray and the answer we want just doesn’t come, there is one more prayer to pray: “Father, Thy will be done.” And that is the prayer of relinquishment.

Catherine Marshall’s experience with this is one of the most memorable for me. She had been sick for six months with a lung infection that kept her bedfast. Medical treatment was not working. She had exhausted every approach to prayer she knew and nothing happened. So she said to God that if He wanted her sick and to spend the rest of her life in bed, then she would accept it. But with that prayer of relinquishment to God’s will came heavenly power and her recovery began.

Pastor David Cross of my church, First Assembly Memphis, tells of his being on a treatment table to receive radiation for a golf ball size cancer on his neck.  As he waited, he prayed. Actually, he worshiped. For Pastor David didn’t petition God but said “Even if you don’t heal me, you are still my Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals.” He unconditionally relinquished his self-will to God’s will and at that very moment he knew healing had happened. He felt his neck and the tumor was gone. “I’ve been healed!” Pastor David cried out. “Yes, you certainly have,” declared the Radiation Therapist with tears in her eyes.

I had my own experience with relinquishing prayer when I thought my daughter was dying. For years, I had pleaded with God to heal her of health problems that had stolen so much from her. Then one day, her body began to shut down. In my car, headed toward the other end of the state and not knowing if she would be alive when I got to her, I gave it all to God. I told Him I was through pleading for her health and if it was His will to take her, I accepted that will completely. It was my relinquishing prayer.  Immediately, peace poured over me—and she did not die.

When we can get to the place of total relinquishment, we honor God. We stop questioning. We cease struggling. We simply step away from all attempts to control what we never could control anyway. We believe in God’s love for us however He decides to give it. We accept His will. Sometimes relinquishing prayer brings exactly what we prayed for. Other times, we don’t get the answer, but we do get peace. My child lived, but she still has health problems; yet the complete peace God gave me in 2012 has solidly remained.

When we desperately want something, it is hard to relinquish. Most of us pray for long seasons of time for things we are desperate to have. Our prayers are at first relentless, not relinquishing. But when we can finally reach the place of giving unanswered prayer to God, we will know peace that only God can give. And with that peace is the power to accept whatever is the will of God.

Jesus prayed in Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (NIV). May we do no less.

The Secret Place of Prayer

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English pastor Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) was a highly regarded teacher of prayer. He said this: “It is in the secret place we learn that silence is the best speech and listening is the best part of prayer.”

Drawing near to the Lord in solitude and quiet is a discipline—and not an easy one for many of us to acquire. Chadwick said he took nothing but his Bible when he withdrew into that alone place with God. No hymn book, no list of prayer needs, no list of people who needed intercession. It wasn’t that he didn’t sing to the Lord and pray as he had committed to pray, but when he went into his secret place, it was to listen and not speak.

Years ago, I served on a board with a woman who would suddenly leave our group and go away somewhere. I would see Ellen quickly stand and leave our gathering, never while we were convened in meeting, but in other times when we were together. I asked Ellen about this and she said sometimes she would feel an urgent need to hear God on a matter that was troubling her and she was scurrying away to find a place of solitude where she could be alone with Him and receive direction.

When I was a college student, there was a chapel in the basement of our library, which was right next to my dorm. The chapel was quite small and the entrance was secluded. I found it to be an ideal place to spend alone time with God.

In hospitals, chapels are provided for those hurting over what loved ones are experiencing in illness. Or, maybe they are afraid of a coming diagnosis or prognosis. When only miracles will do, we visit God with greater fervor that when life is going along well. Probably, we are never more surrendered than when we are frantic regarding an outcome.

Andrew Murray gives five essential elements of prayer:

  1. The heart’s desire
  2. The expression of that desire in prayer
  3. The faith that carries the prayer to God
  4. The acceptance of God’s answer
  5. The experience of the desired blessing

Of the five essentials, perhaps it is the fourth one that we deal with most effectively when we have learned to draw near to God in solitude. This will require practice. The desperate heart wants God do as is asked and will make the case to God for why that answer should be a certain way. But it is the one practiced in intimacy that will be able to give all over to God’s will and trust that His will is the very best possible answer. It is that child of God devoted to time alone with the Father that will find peace in accepting God’s answer.

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (Mark 1:35 NASB).

 

Photo courtesy of Mark Hearn.

A Ministry of Prayer

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Yesterday, in our Sunday morning message, Pastor Tom Lindberg promised four things from First Assembly Memphis. He said:

  • We will help you focus on God.
  • We will help you fortify your faith.
  • We will help you face life’s problems.
  • We will help you fulfill your purpose for living.

I would add yet another benefit. First Assembly will pray for you, over you, and teach you more about prayer than perhaps you’ve ever known. At least that has been the case for me and I have 70 plus years of experience.

I joined First Assembly Memphis in 2008. pic-of-first-assemblyDuring these eight years, I have been prayed over more than all my time in other churches combined. That is not in any way meant to be a criticism of other churches. I have learned, grown, and received from every church on my life’s journey. I have needed each church at particular times in my life. But at First Assembly, there is attention to prayer like none I’ve known before.

It began for me in 2004. In deep heartache over my daughter’s declining health, I needed a pastor to pray with me. I needed someone that believed God still wants to heal today like He did when Jesus walked this earth, for that is my belief. I knew no one at First Assembly, but I felt that was the church I should call and ask for a meeting with any available pastor. I was immediately granted time with the senior pastor, Dr. Lindberg. He, in fact, got on the phone and encouraged me to “come right on.” Of all the times people have prayed for me, perhaps this time stands out most. My daughter has not yet received the healing we prayed for that day, but I knew the presence of the Holy Spirit in an extraordinary way that afternoon. As Pastor Lindberg prayed, the Holy Spirit came strong into the room, surrounding and embracing me.

I began visiting First Assembly and made many trips down the church aisle for prayer and I met God at that altar every time. One Sunday morning at the altar, I asked a man I recognized as sitting near me to pray and he quickly did. I thought he was one of the church leaders Pastor Lindberg had called to the front to pray with those who needed prayer, but he had gone there for prayer himself. Such was the makeup of the church. Everyone seemed to know how to pray fervently and without hesitation.

I joined First Assembly in 2008. Immediately, I found my way to the Hour of Power, a Tuesday morning prayer group for ladies. The very first time I attended, the leader asked if she could pray over me. She came and knelt before me and prayed for me and my leadership in the church. I was nothing short of amazed since she didn’t know me, just said she felt led to pray as she did. Over the past eight years, these faith-filled ladies have prayed me through illness and heartache; I can’t imagine my life without them.

I’ve known many different hands on my shoulders as prayers have been spoken on my behalf–and it would be no different for you. If you mention to anyone at First Assembly that you need prayer, in all likelihood you will receive prayer right then and it will be a prayer that blesses you.

Churches can have different strengths. A church near us has an outreach to the Memphis community and communities beyond that is extensive at the time of disaster. I have known them to house and care for people in their church building when they have lost their homes. They shelter, clothe and feed them.

God has anointed First Assembly Memphis to be a praying body of people who believes God is still in the miracle-working business. If you want a church that is mighty in prayer, then we may be your church. Learn more about First Assembly and how to find us at http://www.famemphis.net. pastor-and-quote-on-prayer

 

A Day of Giving Thanks

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Last week, I wrote on the benefits I reaped when I took a day to pray with no petitions, just thanksgiving.  At the close of my blog, I encouraged readers to give it a try. Sally Chambers took that challenge and sent me this message:

 Pat, I just wanted you to know I read your blog post today and accepted your invitation to choose this day to turn my usual asking prayers into thanksgiving prayers. This afternoon I am amazed at how alert I was, through God’s grace, to have stopped my “Lord, please” prayers and say “No, not that way,” and change my words into prayers that were prayers of thanks. At first, I really did have to concentrate and be deliberate and think, “Now how can I change ‘please’ into ‘thank you.’ ” And I sit here typing this, amazed at how much closer I sense His presence, how at peace I feel, and at how much more successful I’ve been today in everything I set out to do. It has been a sweet experiment that I’m going to do my best to continue.

I love that Sally took the challenge and reaped its benefits. I hope others of you will set aside a day to pray like this (and if you do, please let me hear from you). Throughout the day, thank God for the things He has done for you. If you begin to think about a need, rather than asking God for it, tell Him that you are thanking Him in advance for how He will handle your need. Believe in all the things you expect of Him and thank Him that you can count on Him with all your concerns. Let your words of thanksgiving embrace the Lord in love.

Gratitude journals are popular ways to focus on our blessings. I don’t have a gratitude journal, but I do journal when I see God intervening in my life in ways that can only be Him. When I re-read my notes on these times, I am always surprised at how much God did that I had forgotten. Having those specifics of God’s personal grace will lead me into prayers of praise every time and I recommend this practice to you. You must write it down while you are fresh on all the details; it will be those specifics that you will cherish and will build your faith.

A.J. Gossip, a Scottish professor and preacher, called thanksgiving the language of heaven and recommended we become accustomed now to speaking that language. Great advice! If you need a little help beginning, click on this link https://youtu.be/f1E_4ooa8bo  and listen to Andre Crouch sing “My Tribute.”

Studies are being done on the positive things that happen physically to people when they keep themselves in a gratitude mode. That is good information to have—and important. But, as a Christian, the biggest reason I know to be lavish with your thanks to God is to give Him the honor and recognition He is due. There is no way on earth we could ever get close to thanking Him enough. “With His blood He has saved me” sings Andre Crouch. That alone is reason to thank our God all day, every day.

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Find Sally Chambers’ blog, Everyone Has a Story to Share,” at sallychambers.com

No Petitions, Just Thanksgiving

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Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)

________

I belong to a ladies intercessory prayer group that meets each Tuesday. One morning as we readied ourselves to pray, Ann said the Lord had impressed upon her heart that we don’t spend enough time thanking Him before we begin our petitions. We corrected our order of prayer that morning. This was years ago, yet I remember often what Ann said and how guilty I stand all the time.

Most of us probably fail with the time we allot to prayers of thanksgiving. We have no trouble remembering what we want from God for ourselves, those we love, or those who have asked us to pray. We compile lists and tuck them into our Bibles. We note our needs and desires in prayer journals and faithfully go over each one when we pray. We wake in the middle of the night with some concern and begin petitioning God about the thing that has us anxious. But as our standard with prayer, how good are we at giving thanks? Coming to our Father and spelling out the ways He blesses us every day?

The miracle of feeding a crowd of 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish began with Jesus giving thanks (see Matthew 15:32-39). Let us not miss that first part of the miracle–giving thanks. God was extravagant in His provision that day and He still is today if we provide the atmosphere for such blessing.

What happens when we give thanks? I believe we see our own increase; we see the many ways God pours out the abundance of his love on us.

  • The increase could be in simple awareness; we may see what we’ve missed before.
  • It could be that God will trust us with more because we are faithful to recognize His grace.
  • It could be in seeing that, we know how to progress to another level of receiving.
  • It could be in recognizing what we’ve been given and then giving it back to the Lord, He multiplies.
  • It could be God blessing us with more because we honor His giving to us.

While developing this blog, I decided to set aside a full day of asking God for nothing; rather,making it a day of remembrance with thanksgiving. It is my custom to pray throughout the day on things that come to mind and when I would catch myself about to ask God for something, I changed the prayer into one of thanksgiving for His faithfulness in the many ways He has taken care of me through the years. I thought on His sure hand of protection, His guidance, and certainly His deliverance. When a friend called asking that I pray for her, I told her of my commitment for the day and we turned her prayer request into one of remembering how God had provided for her in the past and thanked Him for how we knew He would take care of her present need. She was as happy as I to approach God this way.

As my day came to a close, I felt such peace. Through hour after hour of thanksgiving, I had experienced the joy of just loving on God without asking for a single thing. I plan to make this a new design for my prayer life–setting aside a day to do nothing but give thanks–and I enthusiastically invite you to give it a try. I challenge you to do it for one day and see if it doesn’t draw  you closer to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (NAS). May we hasten to be about His will.

Sundays of My Childhood

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In the sweltering heat of southern summers, there was somewhat of a Sunday afternoon tradition at my grandparents’ house of putting small children down to nap on a pallet. A pallet was a homemade quilt folded over once or twice, depending on the number of grandchildren needing rest. Nearby, would be an oscillating fan, giving off a cool breeze as it turned your way. And while children napped, grownups would spend the afternoon in conversation until time for supper.

The Sunday noontime meal usually included both fried chicken and country ham. Mama and Papa had chickens and a smoke house where Papa cured hams. The table was heavy with bowls of vegetables from their garden. Desserts came in threes and you didn’t have to choose. Mama brought you a plate with some of each one; maybe two kinds of pie and a slice of cake. Once when Mama proudly brought a plate of desserts to a guest eating with us, he shook his head and said he couldn’t possibly eat all that and to please just give him one of the desserts. I can still see Mama’s face as she looked from him to the dessert plate in puzzlement. Foolish man to turn away the wares of a champion baker!

Before nap time and conversation, the table was cleared and the food carried from the dining room back to the stove. There it would be covered and put in the oven or left on top of the stove with the pot’s lids covering the “vittles,” as my grandfather called them.That wonderful repast would wait there for us to enjoy again for supper. And we didn’t always warm it up; rather, it might be spooned onto plates and eaten at room temperature. There was Sunday night church to attend, you see, so tasks were kept to a minimum. Mama’s cooking had gone on the day before or very early Sunday morning.

The memory of my grandparents’ table groaning with food and a fan cooling children on pallets are treasured memories. If I close my eyes and listen intently, I can almost hear the hum of that fan as it traveled from left to right and feel the cool breezes it provided on a hot Sunday afternoon.

As children of the 40s and 50s, we enjoyed simple pleasures and much security. We felt with our parents and grandparents in charge, no harm could come to us. We were protected from things we did and did not know. We played uncomplicated games of jack rocks and marbles, hop scotch and jump rope. We might search for four-leaf clovers or make necklaces and bracelets by typing clovetogether the long stems of the white clovers. My grandparents had an elephant ear plant that was profuse with huge leaves and long stems. Mama would break one off for each of us and we would pretend the leaves were umbrellas to fend off the sun or rain. Imagination in that day was a part of every game we played.

I think we need these memories as we age and that accounts for why we reminisce so much in our senior years. Rituals like Sunday family dinners and naps on pallets gave us uncomplicated days. Their recall brings smiles and appreciation for what we then took for granted.

Whoever thought things would change like they have? Ours was a world that made sense and gave hope for our futures. Maybe it is sheer foolishness, but somehow I believe that if we could take our children and grandchildren back to the way things were when we grew up, they would actually enjoy and want it. What do you think?

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.

                                                       — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.