Contagious & Praise

As you may have read, Lexi had an infection that put her in the hospital. Now I have what she had. Bummer. All I can say is this: I understand why she was in the hospital. I don’t think I’ll end up there, thankfully, but it sure does make sense. This is very painful. Yesterday was better, today was absolutely awful. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

I lived with Lexi at Bronson Hospital for 5 days, which was just long enough to breathe her air and get what she had. Brittany, there for much of the time, also has it. So there’s that.

We teach our children to share, and then they do.

Lexi? She’s doing great. Life goes on for her, albeit 5 pounds lighter. Me? Britt? With this ailment, it’s not so great. Your mouth gets so sore — it’s like having strep throat everywhere in your head. Tongue, gums, those tubes that connect your throat and ears. Eating is nearly impossible. I tried a pretzel rod, hungry for salt. Chewing it was like eating glass. Every shard of pretzel felt like it was cutting my angry gums. 10/10 do not recommend.

Medicated and hydrated, we press on through the discomfort and await better days.

I keep thinking about how this experience must’ve been for Lexi. How long did it hurt before we knew? How confusing it must’ve been to want to eat food but be stung by innocent bites of oatmeal. There’s so much more going on in her mind than she is able to express in ways we can understand. I believe that, someday, Lexi and I will have full conversations about this.

Now for the praise: 12 hours after I posted the initial ask for prayer, Lexi did a complete turn-around. She pulled out her IV and said, in essence, “I’m done, let’s go home”. Hours later, she was eating and drinking. One more overnight to be sure things were ok, and we were home before lunch on Tuesday.

Thank you for praying, friends. Please keep praying for Britt, for the other kids, and for me.

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Lexi Hospital

Friends:

Sometimes I’m not sure how much to share online. I want to keep it all close, but, at the same time, I need to let my friends and community know what’s going on.

Sometimes my family needs help. I have to admit that I often don’t like that part of my life, only because it’s hard to ask. Humbling, sometimes humiliating, yet always formative. This is how community is meant to function. Through the years, people have committed unbelievably generous acts of kindness and support for us. We couldn’t have done it without you.

We sometimes need help, but we always need prayer, and this is a prayer request post. Your prayer for Lexi is the help we need right now.

James writes “Is anyone in trouble? Let them pray.” Later, he says “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” And finally, he writes “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Let’s apply this to our situation. First, my daughter Lexi is in some trouble. Not with the law, not at school, and certainly not with a boy. She is in trouble because of a rather simple viral infection that requires a rather simple treatment… except that, with Lexi, things aren’t always simple. She’s sick and she doesn’t understand, cognitively, what’s going on.

Lexi is sick enough to be in the Pediatric ICU. She can’t eat. She can barely drink. What she can do, however, is pull an IV out of her arm and disconnect sensors. Because of that, we’ve had to keep her sedated since Thursday night, which allows the needed meds to successfully reach her ailing body. I’ve been here with her most of the time and have tried 9 different entree items on the menu. Meanwhile, Britt has been so helpful, present supportive, and good to us. Between the two of us, Lexi hasn’t really been alone. For this… for Britt… I’m grateful.

Here’s how you can pray: 1) for quick healing and relief from this viral infection. 2) For her to start eating and drinking again, like old times. 3) For the rest of my family, from which I am currently removed. Thankfully, I have a saintly mother-in-law who holds the fort down better than I ever could.

Forgive my pastoral ways, but there’s one thing I need to say about prayer. In the middle of all those verses I cited above (5:13-16), there’s a concerning part that sometimes gets skipped over. James tells us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” This is an essential ingredient to prayer because there is no righteousness without confession. The road to righteousness includes acknowledging we might be on the road to wrong-ches-ness. I apologize for this ridiculous Dad joke, but I am, after all, a ridiculous Dad.

Why would James, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, include “sin management” in the middle of a prayer for sick people? Probably because our greatest illness is spiritual. We are sick, spiritually, because of sin. Physical sickness exists because we live in a broken world. It wasn’t the original design.

I don’t believe Lexi has sinned and brought this upon herself. But I know that we live in a world that is tremendously weighed down by all of our sin, including mine. It’s almost like James is saying “let’s not forget about the root cause.” When we remember the root cause, we remember the central healing that Jesus brings in the coming Kingdom of God. A painless world is brought about by a sinless world.

Jesus isn’t just a great physician. He is the Savior of the world who makes us right with God, often using pain and suffering as a way of getting our attention.

We pray because it works. Join me in praying, by faith, that Jesus would continue to hold and heal Lexi.

Thank you, dear friends.

PS: I’ve been reminded that spending a few days in a room full of beeps and buzzers and sleeping on an industrial grade couch really gives one time to reflect, however, I cannot recommend it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

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Season of Lint

Lent is the 40 day period (minus Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Hold on to that fact while we talk about dust for just a moment.

60% of the dust in your home comes from outside. The remaining 40% is a bunch of stuff including food debris, animal dander, and, rather disturbingly, human skin. Dust collects on bookshelves, hides under couches and fridges, and hangs in the air wherever sunbeams gather.

Ever since I came across this statistic, I’ve looked at dust differently — especially the 40% skin part. The lamp next to me has a bit of dust on the shade. “Who is that?” I wonder.

A week ago, I didn’t notice dust. Now I see it everywhere. It’s funny how we can become blind to the stuff that’s right in front of us. A statistic gets our attention and we suddenly see what’s been there. Maybe for a long time.

It’s easy for our faith to get dusty. By design, the season of Lent gets our attention. It’s no coincidence that Lent sounds like Lint. Lint is just concentrated dust, be it in your dryer or your belly button.

In actuality, it’s called “Lent” because it’s when winter slowly turns to spring. The temps go up, the snow melts, the leaves we didn’t rake last Fall make us look bad. The sad and dark days of winter get longer — a lengthening of days — the flowers make their way back, signifying rebirth. The lawn transitions from brown to green. The trees leaf it up.

On this day, we put ashes on our foreheads to remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

Dust in my house — 40% of it, especially — reminds me that I am mortal.

If not for Jesus, that would be it. Done. Game over.

The Holy Spirit has animated our dust and brought us into eternal life with Jesus Christ. While we will still return to dust, we shall, ultimately, be with Him. New dust. Animated dust.

Forgive us for assuming that our dust will stay active forever. Remind us of our need for you. Show us where we’re off. Bring us back to repentance and renewal. Reanimate us.

But still, can you believe it? 40%!

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Westland FMC

Westland Free Methodist Church Sanctuary — January 2022

Winston Churchill said “We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.” Churchill was right, and I can testify to that. In the late 1950’s, a group of Free Methodists shaped a building. By 1972, they shaped a huge addition with a gymnasium, kitchen, preschool, and much nicer bathrooms. In 1990 or so, my mother, my sister, and me, showed up at the building and began to be shaped. In 2022, the congregation merged with another and the building was listed for sale.

When I heard that the conference leadership was taking this route, I knew I had to go see the place just one more time before the potential buyers — the “looky-loos” — started nosing around and kicking the real estate tires. More importantly, I knew I needed to make a pilgrimage (of sorts) to remember a pivotal era in my life and the building that shaped me.

As a church leader, I’ll be the first to say that “the church is a people, not a building” and it’s true. But space is meaningful. I have deep memories of the house I grew up in. Sound bytes — the way the floor creaked when you walked down the hallway. Visual recollections — the orange light in the kitchen and and popcorn ceilings that looked like cottage cheese. The way the shag carpeting felt on my face when I drove Hot Wheels on the living room floor. The smell of dust and cornbread and cold air in the doorway on chilly school mornings.

My house was just a house, not my family. Yet… the space established context for relationships. The same can be said about the church building that was home to my church family. Yeah, it’s just a building, just like my house was. But WFMC was, for me, a second home.

I had keys to the place when I was 14 and parked my bike in the stairwell of the Fellowship Hall. I can smell it now — an odd mix of paint and strong industrial spices from the commercial kitchen.

I ran wires through weird tunnels and rigged sound and light systems from ladders high in the air. It was on those climbs and crawls that my guardian angel worked overtime.

I dry cleaned the carpet and swept the gym floor. I mowed the big field with a Ford riding mower that Keith seized up because he didn’t check the oil. Or maybe that was me. It doesn’t matter. The youth pastor blamed both of us. But it was definitely Keith Luke.

I taught myself how to play bass on Steve’s sea-green Fender. I learned how to play drums, much of which Mike taught me. When nobody was around, I’d fire up the Allen Organ and play Shine, Jesus, Shine, which counted as blasphemy in those days of intense worship wars.

My parents were the first couple married there after the big addition in 1972. My mother’s funeral was held there. I remember none of it.

I learned to appreciate reading in Larry Cranston’s office, his walls lined with books.

The Sunday night services were made more palatable in the summers because the building had air conditioning. Loud air conditioning (for some reason). You could hear yourself getting cooled off in the middle of July. Shine, Jesus, Shine, we sang, their dockers and polo shirts a welcome relief from the suits of the morning.

They let me run sound when I was a kid. If they hadn’t, I would be here right now. They let me lead worship when I was 16, my knees shaking behind a 61 key Yamaha that I still have and will always treasure.

Earl, Ron, Sherry, Carl, Mark, Larry, Steve, Joyce, Tony, Robin, Tammy, Dave, Mike, Don, Art, Betty, Elma, Rich, Jack, Bill, Karen, Lynn, Amy, Joe, Ben. These are some of the adults who made a profound impact in my life, all of them in this building.

I was baptized here. I filled my own baptistry tank the night before, and I can tell you that it’s no easy task. If the future buyers need help, please let me know. It’s imperative that you open the drain only a little bit, lest you flood the basement. Keith did that, too. Just kidding. That was all me.

There are all these useless tidbits of information that roll around in my head about this place. Where’s the breaker for the new sound booth? What does this grey wire do? Why did that catch on fire? These are all questions I have answers for, which nobody will ever ask. However, the events and the people connected to these little tidbits are where the gift is found. Where would I be without these people? By the grey wire is for the old 70 volt speakers in the lobby. My Uncle Frank installed them before I was born. That’s where the fire came from, too. It was a gentle smolder. A holy incense. I put it out.

I’ve been trying to write this thing for three weeks now. It’s still not done. I keep reminding myself… it’s just a building. Get over it. Move on. The church is still alive in a new place with another congregation, the two becoming one. Exciting days ahead.

If you want to hear the story of why my footprint is in the concrete by the old kitchen, let me know. That’s mine.

Thank you, Jesus, for a people who lived in a place for a brief but vital season in my life. Thank you for this family home, which brings back so many good memories and deep gratitude. I had no idea what was being shaped in me. The building moves on to a new purpose, and I shall do my best to continue in my purpose.

May Jesus Christ continue to bless Westland Free Methodist Church. Who knows what 10 year old kid is about to walk in to the new place.

I can hear the glass doors to the lobby entryway shutting behind me, the feel of the metal handle to ensure it’s locked.

Farewell.

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Meijer Horse

There’s a store in Michigan — more of a self-contained universe — called Meijer. The “j” is silent, but every other letter should be pronounced. Think of it as a mistyped y, like “Meiyer”.

Meijer has everything: watermelons, toasters, jackets, pies, thermometers, antifreeze, and goldfish. If you’re looking to feed a cold, bathe your dog, or knit a gluten free sweater, it’s the stop of one.

Among all the whatnot, Meijer has a horse that plugs into the wall and eats pennies in exchange for a short ride. A single Sandy lives in every store, offering an expedition to nowhere for kids of all ages. Like lifting weights, it’s a bunch of work that gets nothing done, yet it’s good for you.

Tonight, between the second and third penny, Cam asked me where Sandy lives. “Right here in the store,” I said, looking him in the eye, both to convey sincerity and to see if he believed me.

He did.

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Pfrightened Phlebotomist

I had a routine blood draw this morning to make sure my blood is routine. According to one study, 60% of men don’t go to the doctor for the same reason we never stop to ask for directions — we’ve made up our minds and we don’t want to be bothered by facts. It’s one thing to take the long way to Peoria, but quite another to reduce your blood pressure by sheer tyranny of will.

My kids need a dad, so I go to the doctor.

They called my name at 8:30 this morning and had me sit down in a very large chair with padded arms that folded across my lap, sort of like those desks we sat in for high school except a much softer surface that would’ve been handy for naps during Bio II.

Having no fear of needles or awkward small talk, I asked my Phlebotomist (name tag: Matthew) “Wouldn’t it be funny if a phlebotomist was afraid of needles?”, and then he said, “Hi, my name is Matt, and I’m afraid of needles.”

“Really?”

Matt said “Yeah, I was the kid who hid under the chair and screamed when I had to get a shot”

Genuinely curious, I asked “So, why this um… line of work?”

“It puts bread on the table and I’m good at it.”

No arguments here — he got a couple of tubes of blood out of me and applied the bandaid with expert precision. If I had bread to give him in that moment, I would’ve. But I learned the hard way, after some rejected reimbursement forms I sent to Blue Cross, that you can’t tip your medical professional, even if they’re in network. We then talked about how the tube has a built in vacuum — like the wall vac in my aunt’s house — that somehow coaxes the blood out of our vein. I was fascinated and asked for more detail on how it worked.

I stopped talking for a minute (Matt was fine with that) and pondered this unexpected turn: he wields needles all day, yet he’s afraid of them. That would be like me getting a job as a snake handler. Or like a waiter who is nauseated by food. I mentioned this comparison to Matt and he said “that’s probably enough” and sent me on my way. Not really. We had a good laugh. And I got a wicked cool armband out of the deal.

A few takeaways:

  1. It’s good to work and put bread on the table, no matter what it takes.
  2. This is a fascinating way to overcome a fear — it’s almost a Trojan Horse approach.
  3. Phlebotomy means “when someone uses a needle to take blood from a vein”, which is almost as long as the word “Phlebotomy”.
  4. Needles are just one reason dudes don’t like going to the doctor. I recommend working with Matt, because he knows what you’re dealing with, man.

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Lexi XVII

Do you remember where you were 17 years ago? I do — I was a brand-new first time Dad, basking in the blessing of answered prayer in Ohio. We prayed for her and here she was, in the wee hours of a hazy Toledo morning. The sun was persistent that day. Lexi’s Apgar score was in the books and she was off to the races. A little thing, as most babies are in my hands, she had a persona I’ll never forget: even in her sweet post-birth nap after her grueling and sudden journey into the world, she gave off the vibe of “listen, here I am, and we’re just getting started, folks.”

If you know Lexi, you are familiar with her particular modus operandi. She rolls on her own pace, by her own desire, and with a confidence that is as solid as it is precious. In some ways, she’s a baby, but in our shared context, she’s a teenager who knows exactly what she wants, when it’ll happen, and who it will involve. You will sing Wheels on the Bus. You will clap your hands. NOW. You will give me a bite of that sandwich. I’ll be in the living room, beating out another Lexi Piano Sonata, arranged for two mashing hands.

I’m going to let my son Zac pop in for a second and give you his reflections, as he’s been with me both during this blog post and, well, for all of his life. Take it away, Zac!

FROM THE MIND OF ZAC DAVIDSON… I’m not great at writing things, so if this seems a little rough, I apologize. Although Lexi is technically older than me, I like to think of her as my little sister, considering the fact that she has severe Autism and Down syndrome, and is like 4 feet tall. To be honest, I shouldn’t really have favorites, but Lexi is probably my favorite in my direct family. (Besides Reggie, our cat, but that’s a whole different can o’worms)

Almost every night that Meggan, (Lexi’s respite care worker) is here with Lexi, I’ll usually help her get Lexi in bed. Although Dad is very good with Lexi, I like to think that Meggan is even better. I’ll just sit there and see Meggan work her magic with Lexi like it’s easy.

Lexi understands all of us mere mortals way better than she lets on. She’s like a cat in that way. She understands us, she just doesn’t care enough to show us. My little sister understands us better than we do her. She’s a flippin’ genius. She has learned quite a bit of sign language to talk to us without her words. She will sometimes put all of her finger tips together, which signals “More”. She will sometimes do that disco thing where you spin your arms around each other which means “Wheels on the bus”.

The Wheels on the bus is Lexi’s favorite song. She quite likes nursery rhymes. We sometimes put baby show on the TV. She watches those things for HOURS. It can get annoying, but it makes her happy.

My point is, it can be rough with Lexi, but we love her a bunch! Happy Birthday ‘lil sis!

Now back to my Dad…

Thanks, Zac. It’s been so much fun watching Mac and Zac grow up with Lexi. She has taught her brothers all kinds of handy life skills like patience, respecting people who are different than them, and not to ever sass their big/little sister. Lexi has no tolerance for brother nonsense, and they know it.

Per the annual custom, Lexi woke up with a bed full of balloons. We’ve done this for years, but I’ve never seen her this happy about it. I’m so proud of my little girl. She’s taught me about God’s love that no book or sermon ever could.

Happy birthday, Bear! I love you and I’m so proud of you. -Dad

Lexi’s bed head is accentuated by the magic of static electricity

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Fisherman Zac

It wasn’t that long ago that Zac came running and said “Levi and I went fishing today, and I really liked it so TAKE ME FISHING, DAD.”

As it turns out, I’m not a fisherman. I’m more of a wisher-man, as in “I wish I liked fishing as much as real, actual fisherman do.” But, as you know, when your kid wants to do something, you zealously create space for it to happen, even at the risk of their losing interest and you losing money, which is why we have garage sales with elements of our own forgotten hobby history: golf clubs, hockey equipment, bagpipes, and so many bowling balls. But that’s part of the fun (and expense): you never know what will stick. In fact, the more passionate they are, the more parental energy (and money) that goes into it.

Let’s say your kid wanted her own pet turtle. She cried when she saw the baby turtles at the zoo and wondered if you could take one home from the zoo that very day. You say “no” because you’ve already been kicked out of a different zoo for reasons you’re still not ready to talk about.

Meanwhile, your daughter constantly draws pictures and doodles of turtles and endlessly tells you what she’d name a pet turtle, if she had a pet turtle (sweet eyes at you). “Shelly” is her first idea, but after thinking about it she realizes that name is far too predictable, so she changes it to “Fido”, because who expects a dog name for a turtle? Then she switches to “Donatello” because you, her parent, grew up in the 90’s and that’s one of only four possible names for a pet turtle. She asked you for a turtle name idea, and you randomly said “oh, I dunno… Raphael? Leonardo? Donatello? The fourth one?” … you were trying to remember the fourth one’s name and couldn’t because everything that happened before the pandemic now seems like a fevered dream from a previous life, and, by the way, it’s Michalangelo.

Your daughter April wants her own turtle — her own Donatello. You drive her to the pet store NOW and get a turtle, an aquarium, a lid, and a “My First Turtle” box kid that includes food, bedding, and a pamphlet in 9 languages with questionable pictures and useless information like Your New Turtle needs a lot of love and care!!! …as if you didn’t already know that. It’s so obvious! Why would they need to put that in the pamphlet? Would a person be SHOCKED to hear that a pet they just bought has to be cared for and loved? You marvel at the mysteries of the obvious but shut up when you hear yourself saying to your daughter “Your new turtle needs a lot of love and care, sweetie!!!”

Zac did not want a turtle. He wanted to be a fisherman. In fact, Zac had already become a fisherman. What he was really doing was notifying me about the new reality, namely that I am now the father of a fisherman. Of an angler. His update came with a notice: we are going to go and buy several fishing poles. Today.

The passion kicked in and, lo and behold, here we are. I bought two “fishing sticks” that come with “invisible string” and “neon worms” that fish are “dumb enough” to bite with their mouths that get “hooked” on the “hooks” so we can somehow eat them as “dinner”.

I actually know more about fishing than it sounds like, but not much.

Zac, on the other hand, learned from his angler pro friend and fellow Middle Schooler Levi, Levi’s angler dad, and probably some YouTube videos about fishing, maybe hosted by one of those braying millionaire mom’s-basement-dwellers who talk about subscribing to their channel and hitting that bell! That’s about all you need these days. Well, that and fishing equipment. After a few trips here and there, we had our ugly sticks, my fishing license, and a lot of excitement about fishing together. In fact, we’ve fished on several occasions and have caught absolutely nothing each time, which I hear is the first step to becoming a real fisherman — or, in this case, the father of a fisherman. All of the nothing helps you appreciate the something, of which you hope is big enough that the live bait won’t openly laugh at you.

Just like the disciples of long ago, with their trusty Zebco model 147, standing on a deck of treated lumber.

We will fish on, dear friends. And Zac shows no signs of giving up on his new and invested-upon hobby. Why, even a retention pond, which certainly has no fish in it (lest a municipal drainage system truly went bonkers), was recently home to his angling. Looky here:

After sending over 8″ of rain, God surely must’ve tossed some trout in there, right?

Oh yes, we will fish on, dear friends. And you’re all invited to our forthcoming garage sale, tentatively scheduled for a few months after Zac moves on to disc golf.

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A Boy and His Jeep

Mac will be driving soon — a fact that he brings up with greater and greater frequency. I have mixed feelings on the whole situation. On one hand, it will be convenient for him to be able to drive himself to a job, or the mall, or to pick me up some Waffle Fries. On the other hand, I don’t ever want him to be in danger, ever, and I’ve seen some of you drive and, frankly, it scares me.

Earlier this year, we were driving my old Jeep Cherokee down an old street. We noticed ANOTHER old Jeep for sale, a Wrangler, and Mac said “Let’s stop and check it out, Dad.” Never wanting to turn down an opportunity to nose around an old Jeep with my son, I said “Sure”. Long story short, I bought him an old Jeep.

A few disclaimers: it was super cheap. Jeeps hold their value at a ridiculous rate, no matter how rusted out and beat up they are. Paul (our Jeepman’s Seller) was most interested in getting rid of his. Another disclaimer: I can fix Jeeps. New cars, with their safety features and complicated electronics are rather unfixable and frankly off-putting to this old luddite. But anything with AMC (American Motors Corp) bones is well known territory for me.

That’s Right — it has like 5 different colors and looks like it lost a fight.

With Mac still a few months away from driving (I’m fine with that), he and I can spend time getting this thing in better shape — as if it could be improved, right? I mean, look at it!!

Here begins the cleaning out of the back and removal of the hard top. The Prius, with more brains in its left wheel than the entire throttle control system of the Jeep, suspiciously looks on.

The ol’ Jeep is a 5 speed manual. The driving lessons have already been a… treat. I suggested to Mac that he’s probably the only kid in his grade who will know how to drive a stick.

This is a different Jeep, not the After picture.

Mac and I headed over to the local junkyard a few weeks back to harvest parts. We needed a new set of back seat brackets, a seat belt receiver, and a reason to walk through miles of rusty metal. They charge $2/person, plus a small fee for whatever you take with you. Parents, I cannot recommend this theme park enough!

Eureka! (Eureka is the Greek word for “Seatbelt Part!”)

Alas, the counterpart Jeep we found at the junkyard was stripped clean of the parts we needed. So we looked all over to find the very necessary seat belt receiver (the part with the button on it). Because of the Law™, you can’t just buy a replacement from O’Reilly Auto Parts, and good luck finding a dealer that happens to have a 26 year old part like this, even in the back of the shop where Rusty works and keeps to himself, mostly reading periodicals like Good Canadian Housekeeping and World Bowling Weekly.

Eventually we found what we were looking for, but not on another Jeep, and not even on another Chrysler vehicle. As it turns out, the seat belt receivers we needed were found on — of all things — a 1990 Ford Bronco II (the sequel). That’s right: Our AMC-inspried, Chrysler-built Jeep needed a Ford part. Take that, NAFTA. $1 and a few tetanus shots later, we were on our way!

I’ll tell you this: when I was his age (like 75 years ago), I would’ve loved it if someone bought me a rusty old Jeep that looked like it lost a fight at a bar. That wasn’t in the cards for me, but that’s ok, because I get to do something better: work on an old Jeep with my son. Sure, I drive it. But he reminds me it’s his Jeep — and he’s right about that. Still gotta find those rear seat brackets.

Did I mention it’s a 5 speed? And that I don’t want him to drive yet?

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[RadCast] Expect Suffering (1 Thessalonians 3:2-4)

Persecution & suffering are part of the deal, but Jesus is more than familiar with our experience. Best of all, He’s with us!

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