Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two celebrity faces of Euphrony

This had been making the rounds (Shaun Groves, Brody Harper). I thought I would present the two faces of Euphrony - the pre-weight loss (from 5-1/2 years ago) to post weight-loss (from 4 years ago). I am currently somewhere in between these pictures (post-children weight gain), which means I currently look like either a cross between George Peppard and Liberace or between Nikki Sixx and David Letterman.

Scary.


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Of (Animatronic) Mice and Men*

Chuch E. Cheese - Mouse CelebrityYesterday was the big day. Lil'E's 4th birthday party. So, I got to spend the day with half-pints and a band composed of an animatronic mouse, bird, dog, pizza chef, and purple thing. Yes, that's right folks - it was a date with Chuck E. Cheese!

It started with a house full of family and a couple of boxes of doughnuts and kolaches. From there, the sugar high led us to a party with 17 kiddos and a man/mouse who simultaneously inspires awe, excitement, and utter terror in the hearts of pre-schoolers everywhere. The in-house celebrity is pictured on the right, in full animatronic action.

Back-Up Band for the Mouse in the House
As every super-star has his or her entourage, so does this man/mouse. They may be a little more "farm-fresh" than other back-up bands, but they sure play some mighty fine music. Here is Munch's Make-Believe Band!

Little Euphrony and the cakeBut what of the birthday girl? She had no fear of this behemoth of a rodent. No, she cozied right up to him. When the time came, she danced like a banshee as the celebrated mouse himself sang her his rocked up rendition of "Happy Birthday". Following this, cake was consumed in large quantities. Tokens were dispersed as the children scattered to the four corners of "Las Vegas for Kids" and rudimentary forms of gambling resulted in exchanging the tokens for "tickets". These tickets (which have no monetary value) can then be exchanged for beads and trinkets that are worth less than the average American makes in three minutes of a work day. Through this exchange, a nebulous feeling of satisfaction and joy are achieved in the child - until you tell them it is time to leave, when meltdowns replace the former joy.

Littler Euphrony, drooling with excitementAnd then there was Lil'er E. I think this picture pretty well sums up his feelings on the day.

After the party, it was time to transport the booty home. This was, of course, accomplished by transferring the items from Kid Vegas to the car, and then the car to the house, in the midst of a downpour of biblical proportions. If something stayed dry, I did not see it. Then, to finish it all off, we left town. We are basking in the sun on the beaches of Galveston this weekend, with my whole family along. Currently, Lil'E is at Schlitterbahn with cousin, aunt, and uncle, Lil'er E is asleep, Mrs. E is taking a shower, and I am relishing a few fleeting minutes of sanity. Ah, well, that too shall pass as we trek to the four corners of the island in search of the next entertainment fix.

Ta ta for now! Have a great holiday weekend!

*My apologies to Robert Burns for this adulteration of a perfectly good line from one of his great poems. But, seeing as he has been dead for so long, I don't think he'll try to sue me.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ophthamologic Oddity

The EyeI went in to the optometrist today. You may not realize it, but without glasses or contacts I could barely see a stop sign at ten feet. Blind as a bat is a phrase that comes to mind (especially since Mrs. E often uses of me). I like my optometrist. He's around my age. He keeps up no pretenses. No suit and tie for this guy, and no scrubs as many are fond of wearing these days. No, he normally wears jeans and a tee-shirt (at least it doesn't have holes in it) and, like me, is too lazy to shave daily despite the scruffy look that results. He takes time to chat with patients, and he takes time to do medical mission work. Today he told me his house burned down a month ago - chimney fire. Apparently, chimney sweeps are not relegated to a former era and should be hired if you burn wood in your fireplace.

He also is new to the practice of optometry. His first job was as a polymer chemist doing research. As such, he understands rheology and is geeky enough to still find it interesting. He switched careers because he had done all he could with a Master's degree and, to progress and not get bored, he would have to go back to school. So, he says, why not go back to school for something completely different? He tells me he'll probably get bored of this in a few years and do something different then; I hope not, because he's good at this and I don't want to find a new optometrist.

He also likes me, as a patient, because I'm odd. Ophthamologically speaking, that is (keep your other comments to yourself). I currently wear, as I have for the last twenty years,
rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses. Most people wear soft contacts and so are not familiar with RGP lenses. In short, the RGP helps to hold the form of your cornea - can actually mold it and change the eye. They also tend to scar to cornea over time and deaden the feeling you have on the eye. There are various reasons I have worn these. In short, it is because of my odd eyes and contributes to my odd eyes. When I first went in to see Joey, he suggested I try soft contacts. After two days in soft contacts my eyes had warped so much that neither the new soft contacts nor my old RGPs, or even my glasses, gave me decent eyesight. For him examining my eyes, it is like a journey of discovery: "So, Euphrony, how have they changed this week?"

The most recent shift has been the total disappearance of my
astigmatism, which is not something that usually happens. Overall, though, I've been fairly stable the last six months. We're trying the soft contacts again (to get away from any eye-molding from the RGPs) and if things look good and stable in a year I'm going to try and have lasik surgery on my eyes and try to get rid of glasses and contacts altogether. That, for me, would be odd. I've had glasses since fourth grade; I don't know any other life.

anisocoriaDid I mention he is chatty? He actually tells you what is going on with your eyes. For instance, I never realized until talking to Joey that I have anisocoria. Nothing serious, it just means that one of my pupils is larger than the other. It's a common thing, but the degree to which one of my pupils is larger is not as common. One of the effects of anisocoria is that your depth perception is messed up. Finally, after all these years, I learn why it is I totally suck at catching or hitting balls!

What's your eyesight like? Do you wish you had a cool optometrist like Joey?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Knowing the Holy Spirit, Part II: What does the Spirit do?

In Part I, we talked a bit about who and what the Holy Spirit is - a taxonomy of the Spirit to help us understand who it is we speak of a little better. Now we are going to look a little bit at what the Spirit does. Since everything we read about the Holy Spirit is a couple of thousand years old, I think it important to go back and look at what would be expected of the Spirit's actions in a person's life to a first century denizen.

Most of what we know of the Spirit's actions in our lives in found in the New Testament, which was written to a society that was either Hellenistic or heavily influenced by Hellenistic thoughts. (Indeed, our own society, today, is still heavily influenced by and permeated with the ideas and beliefs of the ancient Greeks.) And the Greeks had some definite ideas about spirit, divided into two basic groups. The Socratic and Platonic camps generally held to the ideas that Socrates and Plato espoused on spirit. In their minds they saw the spirit as that part of us which comprised our emotional motivation for actions. The spirited person would be driven to great acts of bravery and glory. However, these great actions were counterbalanced by hubris; inevitably, those who had great spirit and did great things were destined to fall victim to their own pride. Consider what you know of Greek drama - they loved a good story where the hero came out ruined at the end because of hubris.

The second camp was centered on Aristotle, who saw the spirit not so much as a motivator as it was the simple essence of something. To Aristotelian thought, the spirit was the nature or utility of any object, animate or inanimate. The spirit or nature of an axe was to cut. The spirit of a pen to write. For a person, the spirit of that person would be the basic idea of who he was.

So, how do these ideas of Socratic and Aristotelian spirit jibe with what Jehovah taught of His Spirit through Jesus and the apostles? Well, it seems that the Hellenistic society was onto something, but still had much to learn. Take the Socratic belief: when Jesus preached of a life that must be immersed in Spirit and water (
John 3) they would have likely taken this to mean that you would then be empowered to do great things, with a good chance of ending up in tragedy because of overconfidence and arrogance. But then, they could look at Jesus, whose immersion in Spirit was seen and recorded, and instead of hubris they would see humility. His death was not in pride but in sacrifice. Rather than a spirit which is of ourselves and which focuses on what can be done for ourselves, the Holy Spirit is of God and focuses us on what we can do for others.

To the Aristotelian, immersion in the Holy Spirit would be something very profound. To their thoughts, immersion in the Spirit would be no less than a total redefinition of one's life. You would no longer have the same purpose as before, but would be a new creature with a new mission.

Do these sound familiar (new life and power when filled with the Spirit of God)? They should. The Holy Spirit is that with which God changes our lives, taking us from base, unclean flesh to holiness and righteousness. The Greeks had a basic idea that was not far off the mark; but have we considered what role the Spirit has in molding and defining our lives today? We, too, must delve into the actions of the Spirit as we seek to know God.

But what does the Spirit do? How does being imbued with the Breath of Life change us? These are aspects of the Spirit which I will talk about in more detail later, but for now a brief discussion is important. One of the things which is most readily identified as an action of the Spirit are spiritual gifts, talked about in detail by Paul in
1 Corinthians 12 and in other places. We know that the Spirit gives us these gifts to enable us to do that for which we were created. The Spirit is our promised helper, sent to be with us after Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension (John 15:26). Jesus tells us that the Spirit also works in us to convict us of sin (John 16:7-8), which echoes the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. We also know the Spirit as Life Giver (2 Corinthians 3:6). Salvation comes to us through Christ's blood and the Spirit (Titus3:5-6) and sanctification is found in His Spirit and in faith (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

But these give only the briefest of glimpses at how the Spirit is acting in our lives. The recognition here is that when we enter into Christ and accept His Spirit, then we will be changed, and that the Spirit will always be there for us to guide, strengthen, and keep us close to the heart of Jehovah as we serve Him in life. Next, we will look at what a Spirit-filled life looks like and just why it is we have been given this gift from Jehovah.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Proof Read

Proof ReadI always try to proof read whatever I write. For blogging, I will write it then wait a few hours and reread it. For the papers I write, I always have someone else give it a once-over to check for errors. This can be very important, as poor wording can change the meaning from one's original intent. Take these examples, from actual church newsletters, as case and point for the need of a proof reader.

  • Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk, please come early. (Yes, while I am sure that would work for making ice cream, most adults prefer cow's milk. You might want to specify this.)

  • Wednesday, the Ladies Literary Society will meet. Mrs. Johnson will sing "Put Me In My Little Bed" accompanied by the Pastor. (A bit ambiguous in its interpretation. Exactly how will the Pastor accompany?)

  • Thursday at 5:00 p.m. there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All wishing to become Little Mothers will please meet the minister in his study. (Wow! Okay, this is definitely less ambiguous than the above example. Do the elders know about this? And who named them "Little Mothers", anyway?)

  • This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Johnson to come forward and lay an egg on the altar. (Miracles never cease, do they?)

  • The service will close with "Little Drops of Water" . . . one of the ladies will start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join. (It's like hearing a waterfall when you feel the pressure in your bladder. Apparently it does only take a spark, so to speak.)

  • On Sunday, a special collection will be taken to defray the expense of the new carpet. All wishing to do something on the carpet, please come forward and get a piece of paper. (I sure hope the paper is double-ply and quilted for my comfort!)

  • The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they may be seen in the church basement on Friday afternoon. (WooHoo! This should be a way to draw in the seekers! And it leads right into the grand finale . . .)

  • This evening at 7:00 p.m. there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin. (You can do that in a public park? Do you need a special permit?)
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Knowing the Holy Spirit, Part I: Who is the Spirit?

Editor's note: A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to teach a class on Sunday's this May on the Holy Spirit. I want to share this with you, my blog readers. I hope you learn something, and maybe can teach me something as well (there are some very thoughtful people who visit here). This is Part I of a series, that I will try to update twice weekly over the next few weeks (I currently foresee six or seven installments).

What do you know about the Spirit? Honestly, what do you know? Many people, Christians included, know relatively little about the Spirit and how He acts in our lives. According to one study by George Barna, 68% of teens do not believe the Holy Spirit to be a real entity (Barna Research Group, "Third Millennium Teens", 1999, p. 51). I do not believe that adults vary greatly from this figure. When I posed this question to my Sunday morning class I got an honest answer from one man, describing the general knowledge most have of the Holy Spirit to be in terms of Star Wars and The Force. While Lucas most decidedly drew upon the Christian Spirit (among other ideas) for the force, this is not a good basis for Christians to understand what it is we have been given from God, of God.

Paul admonishes the Thessalonian church "Do not quench the Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We must ask ourselves, though, how do we know if we are quenching the Spirit if we do not even really know the Spirit and how He works in our lives? Thus, this series seeks to open up this though process and begin to reveal some of how we are all touched by the Holy Spirit. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again" (Matthew 5:13, NASB). In the Greek, to "become tasteless" literally means to act foolishly. And what is more foolish than a so-called Christian without the Spirit of God filling their lives?

Consider a grumpy child: he may normally be a good kid, but at times he is grumpy and argumentative. You see the action, and that is easily explained, but the action is not the cause. If you were to step back and look at things, you would most likely recognize that the child is not getting enough sleep; a lack of sleep has lead to a grumpy, fussy child. For Christians, the lack of Spirit shows in the fruit of our lives. The fruit, both good and bad, is often explained away without acknowledging the source of the fruit. So I ask again, where is the Spirit in your life? The action of the Spirit, or the lack thereof, is shown in our lives; too often it is explained away in naturalistic terms, in ignorance of the supernatural action of out God.

So, just who and what is the Holy Spirit? This is not a question of what the Spirit does (we'll get to that later) but more one of taxonomy. We know that Jesus is the Son of God, and we see God the Father; but how does the Holy Spirit fit into this Trinity? Is the Spirit a ghost (as we all recite in King James English), akin to Casper's big, really powerful brother? I'm being a bit facetious, but this seems the best comparison the world - or most Christians, for that matter - can offer up. We have, I aver, come to misunderstand just who and what the Holy Spirit is. We liken the Spirit to the supernatural phenomena we pretend to understand better: ghosts. The King James use of this word is not in line with the modern connotation, due to lingual shift over the last four centuries (hey, it happens). What we think of as ghosts today is better described by the Greek word phantasma, which is what Matthew used when describing the apostles reaction to seeing Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22).

But that still leaves the question of who is the Spirit of God? Most Christians today see the Holy Spirit as a portion of the Trinity, a concept not explicitly spelled out in scripture. The best direct references to the Spirit as co-equal with the Father are in Matthew 28:19 (the Great Commission) and in 2 Corinthians 13:14, where we find the Trinitarian formula of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". But from the earliest times, we find that God was revealing Himself as more than meets the eye. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we find Jehovah proclaiming Himself, saying "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah." (YLT) But the word "God" here is the Hebrew word elohim, a plural word. So, in one statement, we see Jehovah declaring Himself unified, but plural (i.e. one God, more than one face). In fact, as far as I can tell, every reference of a Jew in the Old Testament to Jehovah as "God" uses the plural elohim, while non-Jews use the singular 'elowahh to refer to Jehovah. I'm no scholar on ancient Hebrew, but that strikes me as significant.

Beyond this, we do find multiple instances where the Spirit is described as having divine qualities. In Psalms 104:27-30, we read of the Spirit being involved in creation, in life and death - very much actions that are in God's hands alone. In Psalm 139:7, we read of the omniscience and omnipresence of the Spirit, another characteristic of God alone. In Hebrews 9:14 we also see that the Spirit is eternal. A more explicit scriptural basis for the Trinity, and the Spirit's place therein, is not found. Addressing this, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus wrote in the 4th century:

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further.
I can offer no better reason than this. And I am compelled by all evidence to accept the deity of the Spirit of God.

So, maybe I've been able to answer the question here of just who the Spirit is, but the question of what remains. Remember that I mentioned above the King James' use of the word "ghost" being different from our modern definition? Well, the Bible uses two words in speaking of the Spirit: in Hebrew, ruach and in Greek, pneuma. The Latin word is spiritus, from where we derive our modern word "spirit" But all three of these - ruach, pneuma, and spiritus - mean the same exact thing: breath, air, or wind. So, to speak literally, the Spirit of God is the Breath of God. Read John 20:21-22
21So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (NASB)
Jesus bestows the Spirit upon His closest followers by breathing on them. How intimate and poignant this image of Jesus giving the promised gift of the Spirit of God by breathing on his disciples! Or, consider the vision in Ezekiel 37 of the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel is told that God will put His breath, His Spirit, in these dry bones of people and will give them life. Life, and demonstration of Jehovah's sovereignty and faithfulness.

Who is the Spirit? The Spirit is a part of God, is co-equal with God, is God. What is the Spirit? The Spirit is the Breath of Life which Jehovah places in each of us.

Next: Part II, What does the Spirit do?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

'Nuff Said

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8 (NASB)

P.S. Thank you God! Teach me this every day!

P.P.S. For more, listen to
Sara Groves' song "When It Was Over". If you don't own this song, I'll buy it (through iTunes) for the first five people who ask. Just e-mail me at euphrony at sbcglobal dot net. It's that good.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

There and back again

No, this is not a hobbit's tale. This is the story about how I seem to be traveling more for work these days. It's also the reason why I've been essentially absent from the blogosphere the last week.

I
blogged about being in Tulsa last January. Well, I was there again on Monday and Tuesday. And it seems likely that I'll be going back in November.

I
blogged about going to Norway last December. Well, I'll be going back there in June, to give a paper at a conference.

I like traveling. It's nice to get out and see the world. But I love being at home. I'm a homebody more than anything else, and I hate being away from Mrs. E and the little E's. I wish I could take them with me more, but they would have little to do and we cannot afford to pay for their tickets to travel that much. Mrs. E notes that it is part and parcel with being more important at work; that is both a good thing and a bad thing to someone like me who works to live, not lives to work.

I'm home for a month, now, and preparing for Lil'E's 4th birthday party (Chuck E. Cheese, here we come!). There's plenty left to do around the house, and I'm looking forward to every minute with my family this month.

How about you: do you travel very often? Business or pleasure? Where do you like to go?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Here's to the number three!

The power trio.Rush The jazz trio.Vince Guaraldi Trio

The three layers of yumminess.
Oreo

Freud
The three selves:
Ego, Super-ego, and Id
Star Wars Spoof Photo


The movie trilogy:
Star Wars






J.R.R. TolkienThe written trilogy:
Lord of the Rings



The Three TenorsThe Three Tenors:
Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti





And, of course, the Holy Trinity.
Trinity Shield

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

James 1:27

The religion which is holy and free from evil in the eyes of our God and Father is this: to take care of children who have no fathers and of widows who are in trouble, and to keep oneself untouched by the world.
James 1:27, Bible in Basic English

8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13:8-10, NIV
To Jehovah, it seems, there are but two types of action: love and sin. The religion He implores us to practice is one that showers love on everyone, but most especially those who are destitute, poor, broken down and discarded. This is something that should be approached through personal interaction, where presented to opportunity, and through support (financial, verbal, prayerful) when personal interaction is not possible.

Through that lens, our family decides on how we give. In the last couple of weeks I've sent out almost all of the planned monetary contributions for the year (from our first fruits, since this is the time of year I generally see a raise/bonus). I wanted to share with you, for your prayer and thought (but not in bosting), a few of the groups we have elected to support (besides individual missionaries we try to help).
Eastern European Missions I've talked about Eastern European Missions (EEM) before. Interestingly, I later found a site that linked to that post, who found it disturbing that they were working with the Ukraine government (by invitation) to set up a Christian curriculum to be taught in public schools. Never mind that the Ukraine, as well as Russia, are desperately lost without a moral compass and begging to learn. These are the people you've read about, but may not have ever met, who for many years smuggled Bibles into eastern Europe and Russia; but now the door is wide open and many good things are happening.
Blood:Water Mission
Blood:Water Mission
I keep their banner in the top of my left sidebar for a reason. "One dollar. One man. One year" One dollar provides enough clean drinking water for one African for a year. So simple to change the course of a person's whole year.
Sunny Glen Children's HomeHelping children without a good home life is very important to us. We've visited here and continue to help in whatever ways we can. Visiting children's homes has been something Mrs. E and I have been involved in since college. Again, it is so easy to touch lives. Their website even lists the names of children who have upcoming birthdays, so you can send a card. Nice to know, sometimes, that someone you've never met cares enough to pray for you and send you birthday wishes.
March of Dimes
March of Dimes
So, they're not a strictly Christian organization. We still give to them. I guess someone could start a group called "March of Shekels" that tries to raise money to research . . . But what would be the point of that, just to have a Christian label? If what they are doing is not in line with the will of God to love our neighbors, then I'm completely lost as to what Christianity is. Until you have seen a preemie baby, or a child afflicted with a birth defect, and seen the mixed agony and joy on their parents faces as they wait to see what their child's life will be, you may not understand the impact this organization has.
Northwest Assistance Ministries I'm sure you've someplace like Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM) in your area. Do you need food – they have it. Clothes – they have that, too. School supplies for the kids – they are here to help. They work individually with people and are partnered with many local congregations and associations. If there is a place like this in your area, help them out with cash or time. They take cars, too!

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Good medicine

The last couple of work days last week very, very long and trying days. Without going into details, I got to be the target of marketing's ire. This, in turn, raised my hackles and had me seriously ticked off all day Thursday. And a good part of Friday, as well.

This can be a big problem. I don't want to take this kind of work junk home with me. Sure, I need to share these things with Mrs. E and keep her involved in my life. But in no way do I need to take home the anger and impatience that was building up in me. It's bad for a marriage, and bad for parenting. So, as I leave work and get in my car, I took some good medicine.

Music.

BluebonnetsWhen I'm losing it like that, I need to be reminded of God's peace and gifts. For me, the reminder has to come through music or it just doesn't seem to get through. I put on Sara Groves' All Right Here, skipped forward a few tracks, and listened to "You Did That For Me". Every time I hear this song, from the opening chords on the guitar, I feel a wave pass through my body as I physically just let go. It's a beautiful song, written by Pierce Pettis and wonderfully presented by Sara, reminding us that in Jehovah we have rest, joy, peace, completion where we are lacking, and freedom - all things I lose when in the grip of anger. I'll then skip down to the album's last song, "Jesus, You're Beautiful": peace from God does not abide in my heart when all I do is take, so with this I give back. Written by Nate Sabin, this is a song of love for Christ our Savior. Does it magically fix everything, change my heart and make me a peaceful, patient man without anger in me? No; but it begins the transformation. Without such good medicine, Mrs. E and the Lil' E's would have a very different, less pleasant and loving, Euphrony to face.

Recently, another song has been finding its way into the medicine cabinet. The most recent album from
downhere, Wide-Eyed and Mystified has the song "Unbelievable" and talks of the unbelievable love of God as the reason why people still find it important, necessary, vital to write new songs of praise to Jehovah. It gives me perspective that what I struggle with is not just seen and understood by an unseen God, or even just those few close to me. It adds the tremendous weight of two thousand years of struggle and triumph over sin and this world to the landscape of my life. It's absolutely amazing, the connection I have to the great and to the anonymous of His body!

What songs are good medicine for you?

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