This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To know whom you worship, let me see you in your shop, let me hear you in your trade, let me know how you rent your houses, how you get your money, how you kept it, and how you spent it.

Theodore Parker


This Day's Verse

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

When someone says, “Oh, I can worship God anywhere,” the answer is, “Do you?”

James A. Pike


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There are two days in the week upon which I do not worry: two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension. One of these days is yesterday. Yesterday with its cares and frets and all its pains and aches, all its faults, its mistakes and blunders has passed forever beyond my recall. It was mine. It is God’s. And the other day that I do not worry about is tomorrow. Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and poor performance, its failures and mistakes, is as far beyond my mastery as its dead sister, yesterday. Tomorrow is God’s day. It will be mine. There is left for myself, then, but one day in the week: today. Any woman can carry the burdens of just one day. Any man can resist temptations of today. It is only when we add the burdens of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down.

Robert l. Burdette


This Day's Verse

And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.

Zechariah 8:17
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.

Elisabeth Elliot


This Day's Verse

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-21
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

It is impossible to please everybody.  It’s not impossible to please God.  So try pleasing God.

Jim Gallery


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

I know now, Lord, why You utter no answer.  You are Yourself the answer.  Before Your face, questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?  Only words, words; to be let out to battle against other words.

C. S. Lewis


This Day's Verse

O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.

Psalm 69:5
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

You will find all that is lacking in your heart in the heart of Jesus, dying on the cross.  Then you will be enabled to love those who you would naturally, in your pride, hate and crush.

Francois Fenelon


This Day's Verse

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

Luke 1:50
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Superstition, idolatry and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes a begging.

Martin Luther


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Praying Loving Prayers


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

PRAYING LOVING PRAYERS

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

 

Can I share with you something from my heart that I’ve learned about prayer in the last two weeks?

Two weeks ago, I was talking to a dear friend who’s going through a painful divorce. At the end of our conversation, I said something that I thought was incredibly loving and kind. I said that, even after all that she had shared with me about her divorce, I was still praying that if there was any way possible, even at this late hour, that God would bring about a reconciliation.

She said, “Eric, if you have even one speck of love for me, you will never, ever, ever pray that prayer for me again.”

I was totally caught off guard by her reaction. While I meant well with my prayer, and I have seen God pull off miracles at the 11th hour in similar situations, what I didn’t realize was how my prayer sounded to her ears. She felt betrayed. Hurt. And the pain on her face was excruciating.

What to me was an expression of a last sliver of hope for her situation was to her like a 10-ton weight that I had just dropped on top of her. In one fell swoop, I had negated her thousands of hours of praying about the situation, her decades of wrestling through and trying to do everything she could possibly do to avoid what she now felt God was leading her to do. I had invalidated the very real and very difficult decision she had finally come to, a decision that she felt went against everything she had ever believed in, and was going to cost her immeasurably in terms of her family, her friends and her standing in the Christian community.

The pain I caused her in that moment was as real and as strong as any of the other pain she had experienced over the years.

I went home and cried. And I’ve been crying on and off every day for the past two weeks–not just about how I hurt her with my prayers, but how I’ve hurt others in similar ways by similar prayers over the years. While my prayer was a true statement of my belief in a God who can do anything, absolutely anything, it wasn’t kind. It wasn’t loving. And it caused real pain.

While I believe it’s right and good and God-pleasing to have strong, deeply held beliefs, I don’t believe it’s right and good and God-pleasing to express those beliefs–in prayer or otherwise–in a way that crushes others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s not kind. It’s not loving. And it causes real pain.

We cannot sacrifice others on the altar of our beliefs–especially when there’s a better way.

I’m not wanting to discourage you from praying for others. I’m wanting to encourage you to be sensitive to how others might receive your words, even those words that you believe are right and true and good.

Even Jesus held back at times from sharing the full weight of what He could have said because He knew His words would have crushed those who heard them. When He was heading to His imminent death, Jesus told His disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear” (John 16:12).

It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want to tell them everything. It’s just that He knew that if He told them in that moment, His words would have crushed them.

If there’s one thing I could share with you today, it would be this: Don’t sacrifice others on the altar of your belief. Instead, come alongside them in prayer. Pray prayers that you can stand behind AND which express your love for them in a way that they can hear it.

How can we do this? It can be as simple as asking, “What do you want me to pray for you?”  Then listen to their response and pray the best possible prayer you can pray that honors their request.

Jesus did the same. He didn’t presume. On several occasions, He simply asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” (see Mark 10:36 and 10:51).

So I asked my friend whom I had hurt so deeply, “What do you want me to pray for you?”

She said, “Pray that I would be able to truly love my husband through all of this. I want to be able to do that no matter what happens with our marriage.”  Now that was a prayer I could stand behind. That was a prayer I could pray with my whole heart AND which would express my love for her in a way that she could truly hear it.

Don’t sacrifice others on the altar of your belief. Come alongside them in prayer. Pray prayers that you CAN stand behind AND which express your love for them in a way that they can truly hear it. As the apostle Paul said, “…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2b).

Join Eric Elder & Greg Potzer for a Guided Prayer Retreat, Dec. 7-9, 2016, at The Cove

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about prayer, and how you can have a more effective prayer life, I’d love for you to join Greg Potzer and me for a “Guided Prayer Retreat” in December. We only have 12 spots left, so let us know soon if you’re interested in joining us in person at The Cove in North Carolina. (You’ll also be able to join us for the event live online, but we’d love to meet you in person if you can come!) Click here for more details or to register to join us in person!


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at once to sustain life for a week to come.  We must draw upon God’s boundless stores for grace from day to day, as we need it.

Dwight L. Moody


This Day's Verse

Your own ears will hear him, Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.

Isaiah 30:21
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.

Irish proverb


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Fix your eyes on Christ, for you become like that upon which you habitually gaze.  He has all your virtues perfectly blended, plus.  Become Christ centered, not self centered, even in balancing virtues.

E. Stanley Jones


This Day's Verse

I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted and the right of the poor.

Psalm 140:12
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The value of a life can only be estimated by its relationship to God.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.

2 Peter 2:9
The King James Version


This Day's Smile

Prescription for a happier and healthier life: resolve to slow down your pace; learn to say no gracefully; resist the temptation to chase after more pleasure, more hobbies, and more social entanglements.

James Dobson


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

There are some things in this Bible that are so unreasonable, no one should believe them–except a Christian.

Bob McPherson


This Day's Verse

Ah, Lord GOD!  It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for you.

Jeremiah 32:17
The English Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Never should we so abandon ourselves to God as when He seems to have abandoned us.  Let us enjoy light and consolation when it is His pleasure to give it to us, but let us not attach ourselves to His gifts, but to Himself; and when He plunges us into the night of pure faith, let us still press on through the agonizing darkness.

Unknown


This Day's Verse

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.

Proverbs 11:24
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Love is a great teacher.

Augustine of Hippo


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- This Week’s Sermon


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Tender Mercy Makers

by Jeff Strite

Romans 12:1-12:8

I once read the true story of a preacher was organizing an evangelistic outreach using small acts of kindness to demonstrate Christ’s love. He phoned several neighborhood grocery stores and Laundromats for permission to do specific services.  On one call, the employee who answered the phone hesitated, then said, “I’ll need to ask the manager, but first, let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts hold umbrellas for customers, and you don’t want anything in return.”
“Yes, that’s right,” the preacher replied.
After a few moments the employee returned to the phone.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “we can’t let you do that because if we let you do it, we’d have to let everyone else do it, too!”
(Ann Jeffries, Kansas City, KS Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”)

Now, isn’t that odd?  Here’s a church that was willing to show God’s love to a grocery store, and the store won’t let them do it because they’re afraid they’ll have to let other groups do the same thing.

Now why did that store respond like that?  Because NO ONE does stuff like that!  This church was obviously out for something… an ulterior motive. And the grocery store was right. The church did have an ulterior motive – they wanted to reach their world for Christ and the tool they were using was something called “showing mercy.”

Paul writes: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is… showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6 & 8

The first question that came to my mind was: what exactly IS mercy?According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Mercy is:  2 a : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion (that’s what God does)  3 : compassionate treatment of those in distress (that’s what people do).

Basically, mercy is the act of getting your hands dirty helping others. Mercy is where a person visits the shut-ins, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked. This goes beyond “giving money” to these people. It’s where a person who shows mercy by DOING the act of helping. And they do this act without expecting to be paid to do it.

Now-why should we be merciful?   Well, we should be merciful, because we serve a God who is a “merciful God.”

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and MERCY for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;   Deuteronomy 7:9 NKJV

David wrote:

• For the LORD is good; His MERCY is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100:5
• Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His MERCY endures forever. Psalm 118:29
• AND in the most famous psalm where David tells us “The Lord is my shepherd”, he ends the psalm with these words: “Surely goodness and MERCY shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:6

We serve a merciful God. But the verses I quoted only give us a small indication of what His mercy is like. In Ephesians 2:4-7 we hear these powerful words:  “because of his great love for us, God, WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, made us alive with Christ EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

When God saved us He showed us His immense and immeasurable mercy.  And we become like God – we grow up to be like Him – when we learn to show His kind of mercy to others.

There’s an example of God’s kind of mercy in Mark 1:40-42. There we’re told that a leper came to Jesus, and knelt before Him and said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.”

One preacher commented on this story by saying “The amazing part of this healing is how Jesus did it – Jesus TOUCHED him!”  You didn’t touch lepers. They were unclean! If you touched them, you became unclean and no one wanted that! But Jesus TOUCHED this man.

Philip Yancey tells the story of Dr. Paul Brand who devoted his life to treating leprosy patients in India. In the course of one examination Brand laid his hand on the patient’s shoulder and informed him through a translator of the treatment that lay ahead.  To Dr. Brand’s surprise the man began to shake with muffled sobs.   Brand turned to the translator “Have I said something wrong?”  She questioned the patient and then replied: “No, doctor. He says he is crying because you put your hand around his shoulder. Until you came here no one had touched him for many years.”
(Brian Mavis; sermoncentral)

You see, that is the reality that lies at the very heart of what it means to show mercy.  Mercy is the intentional touching of people who suffer.  It’s the intentional “getting close” to folks who aren’t ordinarily “touched”

A man was visiting a home for the retarded. For an hour he talked with a young woman named Mary whose body was covered with tumors. He put his arm around her and said, “you really are a beautiful person.”  “Thank you,” she replied. “No one has ever gotten close enough to notice.”

Mercy is getting close to people who hurt… and touching their needs.  This is the kind of mindset that drives those with the gift of mercy.  It’s like 2nd nature to them… they do it instinctively.

These are the kinds of people who instinctively do what Jesus describes in Matthew 25: 35-40 “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Now, if you’ll notice Jesus is NOT talking to the folks with the “gift of mercy”.  He’s talking to everybody.  He expects EVERYBODY to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick and imprisoned.  Because He is a God of mercy, He expects His people to be a people of mercy.  He expects ALL of us to find ways to become hands-on when it comes to helping others – to find ways to get our hands dirty. To touch the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.  Because it’s often ONLY when we TOUCH those who are hurting that we become motivated to help them.

Back in the 1990’s I read the story of a famous Pop Star who had visited a refugee camp in Bangladesh. It was basically a Photo-op to paint him as a compassionate artist.  He said “That 1st morning I must have washed my hands a dozen times. I didn’t want to touch anything, least of all THESE people. Everyone in those camps was covered with sores and scabs.  I was bending down to one little child, mainly for the photographer’s benefit, and trying hard not to get too close. Just then someone accidentally stepped on the child’s fingers and he screamed. As a reflex, I grabbed him… forgetting his dirt and his sores. I remember that warm little body clinging to me — and the crying instantly stopping. In that moment I knew I had much to learn about practical Christian loving.”
(Pop Star Cliff Richard in Reader’s Digest Feb 1990 p. 199)

He touched the child… and it changed his view of that little boy.  And he learned – at that moment – what it is to show MERCY.

Now… what are some practical ways that you can show mercy to people around you?
1. I’ve always been impressed with the folks that help with Habitat for Humanity. They give of their time to build and refurbish houses for those who can’t afford a home, and the home they create is not just a place to live. It’s a NICE place for those in need.
2. Then there are the folks who volunteer at the local Emmaus Center. They provide food, shelter and job training for people who have no place else to go. They are worthy of our praise.
3. Then there are the folks who work for our Food Pantry. Just last week a volunteer came back from a distribution center with 1200 pounds of food. That which we couldn’t use, we sent over to the Emmaus center to help feed the needy there. Every month we help out 50 to 60 needy families in our area.
4. Here in church, Doug Brown has found been doing the ministry of “TOUCH” letters. These are letters that are placed on the back table with post-it notes attached that tell who the letter goes to – people who are shut-in or sick or have other needs. The church is encouraged to write notes of encouragement to these people.  I just visited a lady this week who had received one of these “touch” letters and she told me how pleased she was to know how much people cared for her. In addition, she’d received a number of other cards and notes from people here.

Back at the first church I served I remember visiting a certain woman in the nursing home. It was very disconcerting to visit with her though. She’d suffered a stroke and the entire left side of face and body sagged and was immobile. And, when I visited with her she always cried. If I shared a sad piece of information she cried and if I shared something exciting from the church she cried. It made me uncomfortable sometimes.  One day I came in to visit with her and found her sitting at a small desk with paper and a pen writing something. I asked her what she was writing and she replied that she was writing notes of encouragement back to the members of her church.  Can you imagine that? She refused to allow her stroke and life in a nursing home to quash her desire to minister to the people she cared for at church.

Everyone can show mercy others..,all it takes is deciding to get our hands dirty.  But certain people have the GIFT of mercy.  How would you know if you have this “gift”? Well, someone put together observations they thought would apply to those with the gift of mercy.
• Deeply loyal to friends.
• In fact, they seem to have a need for deep friendships.
• Empathize with hurting people.
• The decisions they make are based on benefits to those in need.
• Deeply sensitive to loved ones.
• Tend to attract people in distress. They’re like a magnet for them.
• Desire to remove hurts from those in need.
• They tend to measure acceptance by the closeness of an individual.
• And oddly, they seem attracted to prophets – prophets are almost polar opposites in their gift.

Weaknesses
• They will tend to take up offenses for friends
A little explanation is necessary here. Jesus teaches us that if someone offends us we need to go and find a way to address that. And, if the offender is a Christian they need to come to us and make it right. Once that is done, the conflict is over. HOWEVER, if I am your friend and I take up your “offense”, I become angry or upset at the person who offended you. But if that person makes it right with you, and I don’t find out about it – I’m still offended for you even though you no longer are. That’s the danger of “taking up offenses” for someone else.
• Can become possessive
• May tolerate evil to avoid hurt or danger
• Can fail to be firm
• Tends to lean on emotions rather than reason in making decision
• They can defraud others
• They can react badly to God’s purposes in others’ lives
• May fail to show deference to those in authority
• Tend to cut off insensitive people.

The gift of mercy is a powerful gift. It reflects that we understand the Mercy God has shown to us.

Years ago Bill Hybels made a comment about that thought:   “I would never want to reach out someday with a soft, uncallused hand – a hand never dirtied by serving – and shake the nail-pierced hand of Jesus.”

Now, why would Hybels make that connection? Why would he link the condition of our hands… with the condition of Christ’s hand?  Because it was in that “nail-pierced hand of Jesus” that we obtained OUR Mercy

Mercy is showing love to people that aren’t all that lovely and desirable.
Mercy is showing love to people who are hard to love.
Mercy is showing love to folks who aren’t attractive/popular/fun to be around

But that’s kind of how we must have looked to God when He saved us. You and I must not have looked all that lovely and desirable God when God touched us.

Colossians 1:21 says that at one time you and I “…were alienated from God and were enemies in (our) minds because of (our) evil behavior.”

Ephesians 2:1-2 says we “… were dead in (our) transgressions and sins, in which (we) used to live when (we) followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

And that “(we) were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:12

We were not all that pretty and desirable to God.  We were enemies and dead in our sins.  But Romans 5:10 comforts us by saying “… if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

It’s by the nail scarred hands of Jesus that we have received MERCY.

Jesus came down out of heaven. Do you understand the significance of that? He came down to our world and faced the struggles and pains and temptations that you and I encounter every day. He didn’t have to do that! And when He came down, He touched us when we weren’t touchable. And when He touched us He saved us and changed us.

How do we KNOW when we’ve mastered this concept of showing mercy?

We know we’ve mastered it when it doesn’t matter if we get the credit for what we do. Just as long as God gets the credit.

As Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”

One church youth group understood this and taught their youth minister a powerful lesson.  David Stone (a preacher from Louisville, KY) related how he used to have a special outing for his youth when he was a youth minister. He’d read about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet and then send them out in groups, for a period of 2 hours, with instructions to minister to the people of Louisville, as they think Christ would have.  One group went out and bought ice cream cones and took them to a retirement community where several of their congregation lived and delivered the dripping cones to their door.  Another group went to a self service gas station and pumped gas for the patrons.  Each group returned and then shared what they had done and there was a spirit of joy and excitement as they realized they had done something for others and for God.  One group, however, arrived about 15 minutes late. When asked what they had done, they replied that they had gone to their arch rivals, the Baptist Church (they competed heavily in church basketball and other activities). They asked what they could do, and so they were allowed to sort the children’s library – which took all of 45 minutes.  Then they asked what else they would be allowed to do.   “Well,” replied the Baptist preacher, “we do have a shut-in that needs her yard raked. She’s needed done for some time now, but we haven’t been able to get anybody over to her home.”   So the youth went, raked her yard, shared in a prayer circle at her request and then she said these words: “I am so glad I belong to the Baptist Church, it’s so nice to know that they care so much for me that you kids would come out and help me.”  At that, Stone exclaimed: “Well, you did tell them you were from 1st Christian, didn’t you.”  “No,” they replied, it never occurred to us. We were just so excited about serving God that we forgot all about that.”

And here is how people who have the 7 gifts listed in Romans 12 might react to a person being in the hospital:

1. The Prophet: “What is God trying to tell you through this illness? Is there some sin you have not confessed yet?”
2. The Server: “Here’s a little gift. I brought your mail in, watered your plants and washed your dishes?”
3. Teacher: “I did some research on your illness and I believe I can explain what’s happening.”
4. Encourager: “You were so wise to go see the Doctor when you did. Can you imagine much worse it would have been if you had waited?”
5. Giver: “Do you have any insurance?”
6. Organizer: “You just relax. I’ve assigned your job to 4 others at the office.”
7. Mercy giver: “Do you need another pillow or blanket? More water? Would you like me to put you on the prayer list?”


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

When I want to speak let me think first.  Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it necessary?  If not, let it be left unsaid.

Maltbie Babcock


This Day's Verse

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Matthew 18:21-22
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

If I had a formula for bypassing trouble I would not pass it around.  Trouble creates a capacity to handle it.  I do not say embrace trouble; that’s as bad as treating it as an enemy.  But I do say meet it as a friend, for, you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.

Oliver W. Holmes


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Today is a slender bridge which will bear its own load, but it will collapse if we add tomorrow’s.  In every year there are 365 letters from the king, each with its own message.  What shall we do with the letters?  Open them a day at a time.  Yesterday’s seal is broken; lay that letter reverently away; yesterday’s cross is laid down, never to be born again.  Tomorrow’s letter lies on the table; do not break the seal.  For when tomorrow becomes today, there will stand beside us an unseen Figure; and His hand will be on our brow, and His gaze will be in our eyes, as He says with a loving smile, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”  The golden summary of our life is to be this: as to the past, a record of gratitude; as to the present, a record of service; and as to the future, a record of trust.

D. M. Panton


This Day's Verse

Honor all people.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.

1 Peter 2:17
The New King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The cross that Jesus commands you and me to carry is the cross of submissive obedience to the will of God, even when His will includes suffering and hardship and things we don’t want to do.

Anne Graham Lotz


This Day's Verse

“And the name of the city henceforth shall be, The LORD is there.”

Ezekiel 48:35
The Revised Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Our Lord is the Bread of Life.  His proportions are perfect.  There never was too much or too little of anything about Him.  Feed on Him for a well-balanced ration.  All the vitamins and calories are there.

Vance Havner


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The prayer is more important sometimes than the answer.

Mark Savage


This Day's Verse

Now we can come fearlessly right into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome when we come with Christ and trust in him.

Ephesians 3:12
The Living Bible


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Love is superior to all extraordinary gifts.  It is better than the gift of tongues; than the gifts of prophecy and knowledge; and than the gift of miracles.  All outward works of charity without it are worthless.  Love has this superiority, first, because of its inherent excellence; and secondly, because of its perpetuity.

Charles Hodge


This Day's Verse

Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violence, And their lips talk of troublemaking.

Proverbs 24:1-2
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

Pray and let God worry.

Martin Luther


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Sharing From My Heart


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

SHARING FROM MY HEART

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

Eric Elder's "Water From My Well"

Dear Friends,

Today I’m releasing the most surprising book I’ve ever written. It’s simply a living journal of my walk with Christ, written as it was happening. It’s not a book I was planning to write. In fact, I’m working on three other books right now that are really on my heart to share with people. But this book isn’t any one of them!

This book is literally my daily walk with Christ. In it, I share my heart. I share my goals. I share my questions for God and the answers He is giving me. I share my struggles as I’m going through them, not in hindsight, when everything is neat and tidy and finally makes perfect sense to me.

The surprising thing is that I didn’t even know I was writing a book until two or three weeks ago! I was simply writing from my heart every week or so since the beginning of the year and sharing those writings publicly with you. What’s especially surprising is that somehow, this very personal and intimate method of sharing has touched a chord within many of you in a way that seems to be deeper and more heart-stirring than anything I’ve ever written before.

Your responses to these messages–especially the past few weeks–have made me think that you might like to read these messages again and even share them with your family and friends. I would love for you to do that! I’ve just been re-reading all of my messages from the beginning of the year, and each one speaks to me, even now, in a new and fresh way.

So I’ve put them all together in a book: twenty inspiring messages from my own personal well. You might remember some of them: whether it’s how I went about setting my goals at the beginning of the year and had to recalibrate them part-way through; or how God reminded me to keep my feet forward and my knees bent when I came across the boulders in the river of my life; or how I fell in love–and faced the loneliness that followed when things didn’t go as I had hoped and dreamed.

Through it all, I have found God’s presence in a new and deeper way–a new and fresher experience–culminating in my desire to go even deeper with Him than ever before. I didn’t know how to do it, though. But then I found out! (Hint: it involved a super-scary jump from a very high cliff into a rushing river below, with my tether attached firmly to Jesus. And to my surprise, the same moment I jumped, Jesus jumped too, smiling at me all the way down!)

For those of you who are looking for a sermon in this message today, here it is: sometimes people need to hear about the real you and your real walk with Christ, not necessarily the one that is neat and clean and has been tidied up over the years. They want to know how you live your life on a daily basis. Share it with them! Let them know your joys, your trials, your struggles. Let them know your doubts, your fears. In this way, your faith becomes real to them, and they want to jump in and follow along.

Do you know someone in your life right now who could use a boost in their faith in Christ? Do you know someone who would love, love, love to see what it’s like to follow the Living God and discover the joy and peace that He can bring through everything that comes their way? Do you know someone who could use a touch, deep in their heart, to activate them, liberate them, set them free–not just free from sin, but free to do that which is deepest on their heart, that which is at the core of their being, that which is possibly a barely-tapped but ever-present longing of their heart? (Maybe that someone is you?)

If so, maybe you could get a copy of this book for them and for yourself. Maybe you could be the one who could tip the scales in their lives toward something that they would have never considered on their own. Maybe you can be the bearer of the best news ever, bringing them the words of Life–the good news that Christ wants to walk with them every step of the way of this life and in the life to come.

Please know that I’m not offering these books to make money. I have already shared each of these twenty messages with you over the past eight months freely and without cost. You or anyone else in the world can read them any time by scrolling back through the Sunday Sermons on our website (just look for the ones written by Eric Elder starting in January, 2016).  But I also know that some people really want to hold a book in their hands. Some people really want to download an ebook to take along with them through their days, a book that is easy to read, easy to digest, and contains easy-to-implement ideas to help them grow deeper in their relationship with Christ.

As I said before, maybe that person is you! If so, I hope you’ll get a copy of this book for yourself, too! Let’s go deeper with God together! You can get it from Amazon in either paperback of Kindle editions or in paperback directly from our ministry for a donation of any size. I’ve included the links below.

P.S. if you’ve already read and been touched by the messages in this series, I would be happy to send you a free paperback copy of the book if you’ll just post a 1-2 sentence review on Amazon describing how you’ve been touched by the messages. Just mention in your review that you’ve read the messages online and have been touched by them. Your comments and reviews on Amazon could be the very thing that helps someone else decide to get a copy of the book, thereby touching his or her life as yours has been touched! Thanks so much!)

Here are the links:

Click here to get the paperback from Amazon
Click here to get the Kindle ebook from Amazon
Click here to get the paperback for a donation of any size to our ministry
Click here to write a 1-2 sentence review on Amazon (and get a free paperback in return… just send me an email at eric@theranch.org with a link to your review on Amazon, along with your mailing address anywhere in the world, and I’ll send you a copy! Here’s a link to the messages I’ve shared this year to refresh your memory… just look for all the messages written by Eric Elder in the past 8 months as they’re all in the book!)

"Water From My Well" by Eric Elder - Front Cover


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Have patience.  There is no time that is not God’s time.

Criswell Freeman


This Day's Verse

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33
The New Living Translation


This Day's Smile

Joy is love exalted; peace is love in repose; long-suffering is love enduring; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the battlefield; meekness is love in school; and temperance is love in training.

D. L. Moody


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed.

Elisabeth Elliot


This Day's Verse

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.

1 Peter 3:15
The Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Go measure the heavens with your span;
go weigh the mountains in the scales;
go take the ocean’s water and calculate each drop;
go count the sand upon the sea’s wide shore;
and when you have accomplished all of this,
then you can tell how much He loves you!
He has loved you long!
He has loved you well!
He will love you forever!

C. H. Spurgeon


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Spend your time in nothing you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not pray the blessing of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act.

J. Sidlow Baxter


This Day's Verse

The wicked flee when no one pursues; but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Proverbs 28:1
The Revised Standard Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Joy is the direct result of having God’s perspective on our daily lives and the effect of loving our Lord enough to obey His commands and trust His promises.

Bill Bright


This Day's Verse

People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much.  But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

Ecclesiastes 5:12
The New Living Bible


This Day's Smile

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Karl Barth (His summation of his enormous knowledge of theology)


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Going Deeper

Special Note from Eric: Today’s message marks the last in this series that I started at the beginning of the year. If you’ve been enjoying these messages, you’ll be glad to know I’m just putting the finishing touches on a book I’ve created containing all twenty messages which I’m calling, “Water From My Well: Finding God in the Midst of Life, Love and Loneliness.” I hope to have it available later this week so you can reread these messages anytime or share them with friends! I’ll let you know as soon as it’s ready. (My daughter Makari has just finished painting a picture for the cover; I thought you’d like to see a preview!)

"Water From My Well" by Eric Elder - Front Cover


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

GOING DEEPER

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

 

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve shared nineteen messages with you on a variety of topics, from goal-setting and goal-keeping to keeping your feet forward and your knees bent so you don’t get sideswiped by the boulders in your life. Today I’d like to share one more message with you in this series, a message I believe will help each of us go deeper in our walks with God than we’ve ever gone before.

Before I started this series, I was telling a friend that there were some aspects of my walk with God where I felt like I had hit bedrock. I feel like I had dug as deep as I could, and there was no further I could go. If I tried digging any further, my shovel would just clank against the rock,  over and over again.

I wasn’t frustrated by this feeling, however. In fact, I was quite comfortable to rest right where I was!

But my friend told me about a character in a movie who was running through a desert when all of a sudden the ground beneath him started to give way. A huge hole opened up, revealing a rushing river below. As the ground gave way, the character jumped into the newly opened hole and into the rushing river underground, taking took him further and deeper than he had ever gone before.

My friend saw me as that character in the movie and couldn’t help but believe that there was a rushing river beneath my feet as well that God wanted me to jump into.

I was intrigued by the idea, but I didn’t know what to do about it. The ground beneath me was seemingly impenetrable. What else could I do?

But one of the things I’ve also been trying to do this year is trying to grow in my own personal relationship with God. For the past few months especially, I’ve been trying to deliberately focus on what my unique relationship with Him looks like, not superimposing onto it what other people’s relationships with Him look like.

Knowing that this was on my heart, and combining it with the vision of the idea of the ground giving way  beneath my feet, my friend encouraged me to do something I had never done before. It sounded almost heretical, at least to someone like me who loves the Bible and has read it many, many times. My friend asked me to consider setting aside the Bible for a period of time in order to focus very intentionally on my own personal relationship with Him.

I thought the idea was too risky. Unnecessary. It didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t want to do it.

But while I was in Israel earlier this year, walking down a road where Jesus likely walked, I read these words in my Bible, words spoken by Jesus Himself to the religious leaders of His day–leaders who had studied the Scriptures for years, inside and out. Jesus said:

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about Me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from Me the life you say you want” (John 5:39-40, MSG).

I was struck to the heart and challenged anew. What would it look like if I were to fast for a period of time from relying on other people’s relationships with God as a substitute for my own, even if those others included people like David and Moses and Paul. What would–and does–my unique relationship with God look like?

I decided to give it a try for a time, praying and asking God to build my relationship with Him even stronger than before. And just last week, I finally broke through!

During our worship service at church, our pastor was talking about prayer. Everything he said was speaking directly to my heart. It was if God Himself were prefacing every sentence with my name.: “Eric, …” “Eric, …” “Eric, …”  I jotted down notes as fast as I could, knowing that God was using these words to speak to me directly, encouraging me to take the next step towards going deeper with Him.

When the message was done, we sang a song to God in response to all we had just heard. As I sang, I felt like I could practically see the ground beneath my feet starting to give way! I could see a hole opening up right there in the concrete floor! And as the ground was giving way and the floor was falling out, I could see it clearly: that rushing river that I couldn’t see before!

When the song ended, the shaking stopped, and the concrete floor was perfectly solid once more–hard as rock. But I had seen the river, and I very much wanted to jump through that hole and into the river, letting it take me further and deeper than I had ever gone before.

The next few days, I was captivated by that image of the river beneath me. I felt like I could almost slip down through the ground at any moment and into the water below. But then I’d stop myself. I wondered, Do I really want to do this? I was tethered, in a good way I felt, to all of these other people’s relationships with God–and I wanted to stay tethered to them. What would happen if I were to really unhook and explore what my relationship with God was like on my own?

On Wednesday, I found my answer!

I was listening to a speaker at a men’s breakfast at our church, when suddenly the speaker shouted: “STAY TETHERED TO JESUS!” I knew that instant exactly what God wanted me to do! All I had to do was to release my tether from relying on the experiences of others, and tether myself to Jesus Himself, which is the very thing I would love to do as well!  I love the Bible; it’s my favorite book in the world. But I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. I don’t want to be holding onto the words about Jesus so tightly that I miss taking hold of Jesus Himself!

Yes, Lord! I thought. That’s what I want!

I took the other end of my tether, and I hooked firmly to Jesus. I looked into the hole below me that had now opened up again, and I knew I could make the jump whenever I was ready. And I was ready, knowing that Jesus was holding tightly to the other end of my rope.

I jumped!

What I hadn’t expected was that at the very same moment that I jumped, Jesus jumped, too! AHHHHH!!! Now I was in a total freefall, with no ground beneath me and no rope above me. I looked over at Jesus, shocked that He had just jumped over the edge at the same time that I did! He just looked at me and smiled as we continued to hurtle down toward the river below.

That wasn’t what I had expected. It was better! I was doing this with Jesus. Praise God!

Over the past few days, I’ve been heading down that river with Jesus, going further and deeper than I’ve ever gone before. But that’s not the end of the story.

Yesterday morning, I woke up thinking about this new journey. And while I love the idea of having Jesus with me, I kept saying over and over, “I don’t want to go alone.” (He’s a good friend; He knew what I meant.)

Then I looked up above us, and in the same way I had seen Jesus and me jumping over the edge of the hole and into the river, I now saw one or two dozen more people at the edge, parachuting over it! They were coming along with us!

They were coming with us, but I felt like God was saying that they weren’t ready yet to get in the river with us. They wanted to watch as we went along. But one by one, God was saying, when they saw the joy that it brought us to be in the river, they would join us in the river, too. And not just one or two dozen, but hundreds and thousands–and eventually hundreds of thousands!

I wouldn’t be alone! We’d all be rushing down the river together, going further and deeper than we’d ever gone before.

How about you? Want to come along? I’d love to have you join me!

Just make sure to “STAY TETHERED TO JESUS!” (And don’t be surprised if He jumps when you do!)

I’m convinced this isn’t the end of this story. The best is yet to come!


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Friday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The best theology is rather a divine life than a divine knowledge.

Jeremy Taylor


This Day's Verse

I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4
The New King James Version


This Day's Smile

No one can break any of the Ten Commandments.  He can only break himself against them.

Gilbert K. Chesterton


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Thursday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word temperance to the question of drink.  It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things.  A man who makes his golf or his motorcycle the center of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as “intemperate” as someone who gets drunk every evening.  Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily; bridge mania or golf mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road.  But God is not deceived by externals.

C. S. Lewis


This Day's Verse

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:14-15
The New International Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Wednesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

To love another person is to help them love God.

Soren Kierkegaard


This Day's Verse

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.

Proverbs 10:1
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Use your uniqueness to make a big deal out of God every day of your life!

Max Lucado


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Tuesday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

The thing of which we have to beware is not so much damage to our belief in God as damage to our Christian temper.  “Therefore take heed to thy spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”  The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul and distracts the mind from God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules.

Oswald Chambers


This Day's Verse

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41
The King James Version


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This Day’s Thought from The Ranch- Monday


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

Our sense of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life increases, no matter what the circumstances, if we are in the center of God’s will.

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Revelation 1:3
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

A helping word to one in trouble is often like a switch on a railroad track, an inch between wreck and smooth-rolling prosperity.

Henry W. Beecher


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This Day’s Thought From The Ranch- Recalibrating My Goals


This Day's Thought from The Ranch

RECALIBRATING MY GOALS

by Eric Elder
The Ranch

 

Question: If you’re stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you most want to have? Answer: Michael Phelps, a saddle, and a gold medal on a stick!

I’ve been watching the Olympics the past two weeks, and I’m inspired. I’m inspired to see what people can do when they put their minds to it, with Michael Phelps being example #1. He had a dream, he went for it, and he worked hard to attain it.

I’ve also been reviewing my own goals for this year–goals which I set back in January–and I’m inspired to pick up the pace to see what I can still accomplish by the end of the year. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind on some of my goals. I’ve stopped working actively on others.  And I’ve found that the targets that I was aiming for at first on one or two of my goals have moved.

But with the fall fast approaching, and the end of the year coming into view, I’m inspired to recalibrate my goals and keep pressing forward.

If you read my goal-setting message at the beginning of the year, you might remember that one of my goals was to write a complete script and score (dialogue and music) for a new musical based on a book my wife and I wrote a few years back about the real-life Saint Nicholas who lived back in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.

I’m pleased to tell you I’ve finished writing 1/3 of the script and 1/3 of the score! But I still have 2/3’s to go–and only 1/3 of the year left to get there! So this week I had a decision to make. I could either get discouraged that I’ve fallen behind and give up on the project altogether, or I could pick up the pace, press on, and keep moving forward toward my goal. As I looked at that goal again this week, remembering why I set it, how I thought I could accomplish it, and the progress I’ve made so far, I’m ready to dive back into writing again.

st-nick-script-and-score-one-third-done

I had another goal this year to lose some weight. By the middle of the year I had lost 1/2 of the weight I had hoped to lose for the year, and I was right on target. But over the past 6 weeks, I’ve taken a break from tracking and losing weight, only to find I’ve gained some of it back. So this week I had another decision to make. I could either get discouraged that I’ve not only stopped making progress toward that goal, but have actually started going backward, or I could pick up the pace, press on, and keep moving forward toward my goal. And as I looked at that goal again this week, remembering why I set it, how I thought I could accomplish it, and the progress I’ve made so far, I’m ready to dive back into tracking and losing more weight, too.

It wasn’t easy to decide to jump back into these goals, but I had a small victory this week that gave me some encouragement.

I was mowing a large patch of grass behind our house with a push mower–not an electric push mower, but a “reel”-type hand push mower like my grandpa used to use. The grass had gotten taller, so pushing through the grass wasn’t easy. I kept having to stop to clear out grass and sticks that kept the reel from spinning (and honestly I was thankful for the break each time so I could stop and catch my breath and wipe the sweat from my face). I didn’t think I could finish the whole patch, and I was tempted several times to give up and go inside.

But as I was pushing the mower, I started thinking about all of my goals for the year–why I had set them, what I hoped to accomplish by doing them, and what might happen if I actually achieved them–and I was inspired to keep going with them all… and with mowing, too! Even though I was ready to give up after 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 40 minutes, I kept pushing on until, at 45 minutes, I was done! (And yes, this is the same patch of grass where I was pulling weeds a few weeks back and had to give myself continual pep talks to finish that project, too!)

Fresh off this victory, I went back inside, took a shower, and pulled out all of my goals again for the year. Yes, I had fallen behind on some of them. Yes, I had gone backwards on others. And yes, I was going to have to take aim in a different direction to hit the rest. But I knew–like every Olympian who has competed in Brazil these past two weeks–that if I kept on track and kept putting in the hard work it takes to achieve my goals, then I would certainly achieve more than I could ever achieve otherwise.

And somewhere along the way, I just might win a gold.


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