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Better Together

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Peggy and I are immersing ourselves in 1 Peter this year in our couple’s devotion time. We go through one chapter each day (Monday-Friday, since there are five chapters in this book), allowing the Scriptures to wash over us.  We discuss a verse that stands out to us each day. Today, I am simply blown away by the thought that we individual Christians are stones being built into God’s Temple. See, there is a thought out there in supposedly “Christian circles” that I can love God but not be part of the church.

One stone does not much of a Temple make.

Wrong. Period. The church is the Bride of Christ. apart from the church, you will have no eternal fellowship with God. While each individual one of us is a Temple for the Holy Spirit indwelling us, TOGETHER we are the stones making up the Temple of God. One stone does not much of a Temple make. Life is better together, because God designed us that way.

We are living stones that God is building into His Temple.  That means He is not through with us. There is more work to be done. In community. Together. There is no such thing as a “Lone Ranger Christian,” nor does the Bible recognize anyone as Christian who is not part of a community of believers.  So, can we who claim to follow Christ please stop trying to say that we don’t need or want to be part of His Church? We are being completely disingenuous, and are making fools of ourselves.

One stone does not a temple make. One Christian does not a church make. A Christian apart from the body of Christ is dying whether they recognize that fact or not. Spiritually, they are decaying, and will soon enough be so numb to this reality they will not even recognize it.

To this end, I would like to devote the next few posts to the three components of Vero Christian Church’s Vision Statement: Love God, Love People, Serve Others. I pray you will join me as I explore the meaning behind each section of that vision, and how it relates to the fact that life is better together!

Be God’s.

Glorious Day 

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The sun came up this morning. In spite of the gloom still surrounding you from the events of the past few days, birds are chirping, and the sounds of a new beginning fill the air.

Suddenly, some of the women who had gone to the tomb come running back, breathlessly babbling about the tomb being empty, and some guy telling them to tell you that the Master is not dead.  Well, that is seriously confusing since you saw Him die with your own eyes.

So, you run to the tomb, and just as the women had reported, the stone has been rolled away. The grave clothes are laying there, but the body is gone. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Is this some cruel joke the Roman authorities are playing? Did the religious leaders formulate a plan to get all of your fellow followers of the Master to come together so you could all be arrested as well?

Quickly, you run back to your hiding place, praying every step of the way.  Still, no answer. Wait. You are so tired of waiting. But, the women are abuzz with what, or rather who they saw outside the tomb. They claim it is the Master who told them that He would come see the rest of the group. The Master told them to tell you and the others that He was no longer dead. Do you dare believe such news?  If true, it is the GREATEST news known to mankind.

Morning turns to afternoon which turns to evening. The hiding place is filled with your fellow followers, all of whom are trying to make sense out of the past three days. Suddenly, the room is filled with a light that is not of this world, and there He is!

The Master proclaims peace to the quivering crowd, and while you cannot believe your eyes, the One you saw crucified on Friday is standing before you on Sunday. What a Glorious Day!

What are you waiting for?

This. Changes. Everything. In spite of your sin, in spite of your repeated failings, denials, and just plain ole silly moves, the Master wants you to help spread the Good News. So, what are you waiting for?

Be God’s.

Storms

This post may not help a single person who reads it, but it is one I feel compelled to write in the form of a confession. Thanks for bearing with, and for praying for me.

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The storm clouds swirled around Vero Beach this morning (Thursday, April 6th).  Tornado warnings, hail, wind damage, and lots of rain reported in our area.  As of this writing, no indications of significant damage, injuries or deaths, and for that we are very grateful.

Storms are part of life in this sin-filled, fallen world in which we live. While I will NEVER minimize the devastation of physical storms, I still believe that they pale in comparison to emotional and spiritual storms. I also know that in spite of (perhaps even because of) the fact that I am a follower of Christ, those storms can be quite intense.

I have previously discussed that I have a tenancy towards depressaholism (a word I coined to describe my battles with a form of depression). You can tell when it has really flared up, because I stop writing for a while.

The thing that truly upsets me about my battles in this area is the totally selfish mode in which I find myself. By that I mean that there are stretches of time when I just don’t care about taking care of myself. Physically, emotionally, sometimes (but not often) even spiritually. I just get the “I don’t care” attitude going. I know that is as selfish as it can be.

I have a responsibility to my LORD first of all, and among the aspects of that responsibility is the commitment to take care of my body, which is a temple for the Holy Spirit. While I do not want to take 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 out of context (it is talking about fleeing sexual immorality), I believe the admonition to take care of your body entails EVERY aspect of that endeavor.

1 Cor. 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 

I confess to you (and those who see me on a regular basis know this is true): I have not taken care of my body properly over the past few months. My weight is up, my A1c is up, and my depressaholism feeds into the “I don’t care” attitude that must be squashed.

So, I find myself in that Romans 7 battle Paul describes:

Romans 7:1I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Again, I do not want to take this out of context, but in following God’s desire for my life, there are things I need to do. there are others things I need to stop doing. Not just physically, but especially emotionally.  The storm clouds swirl around in the midst of this battle.  I know in my head Who wins in the end, and I know that I want to be on the winning side. I also know that I dishonor my Lord when I fail in this battle. Sigh.

I praise God for my Lord Jesus. I want to submit to His Lordship in every area of my life.  I praise God for my beautiful Bride, Peggy. I want to honor her by living a life of submission to Christ. I love our children, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws, outlaws, church family, friends, neighbors, and those who do not follow Christ. May my actions line up with my desires and words. May I start by getting my “house” or “temple” in order.  Thanks for your prayers.

Be God’s.

Proper Response

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In my previous post, I discussed what a biblical Elder should look like (or smell like), citing work done by Dr. Lynn Anderson on this matter. Elders are shepherds, mentors, and equippers. Knowing that, how should I react, and how should I relate to my Elders. Let me suggest a few items for consideration and prayer.

First, we need to pray for our Elders daily. These men are under the call of God to lead the flock of which we are a part. The least we could do for them is to pray.

We need to be willing to be mentored and equipped for works of service. I would dare say that we should look for areas of service where there is a need, and where we have skills to help meet that need, and VOLUNTEER to take care of that area. We need to let our Elders know that we are with them.

Dr. Anderson asserts and I agree that we can help our Elders by shepherding flocks ourselves. At Vero Christian, we call those flocks “Life Groups.” Our Life Group leaders shepherd the people in their group. If there is that rare shepherding need that arises needing an Elder’s attention, this need is reported to the Elders. Otherwise, the Life Group leader and his group members handle the shepherding needs of the members of their group. This is a TREMENDOUS blessing not only for the people in the Life Group, but for the Elders as well.

We all play the role of shepherd to someone. Whether it is raising your children in the faith, teaching a Sunday School Class, discipling a fellow Christian, mentoring a younger man or woman, or leading someone to Christ. Realize that God has designed you for those roles. God expects each of us to mentor others. On purpose. As Paul told Timothy, we are to “teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Elders who have a servant’s heart can overextend themselves, taking on responsibilities that should be delegated to others. They see areas of need, and often dive in to handle that need themselves.  What if we, members of the flock, looked around at areas of need (preparing and serving Communion, helping in the children’s ministry on Sunday mornings, etc.) and VOLUNTEERED to meet those needs? We would be serving the body and would be obedient to God’s call on our lives.

I wonder what would happen if we approached an Elder and asked them to mentor us? Yeah, you are right. They probably would faint. It would be fun, though, wouldn’t it? I mean to have an Elder pour themselves into us. Having an Elder looking at our lives, seeing what God can do through us, and casting a vision for us in that manner. You thought I was referring to making an Elder faint, didn’t you?

The body of Christ is healthier when we all function as we were designed. God has gifted each of us in different ways, and those gifts are to be used for the building up of the body of Christ. Biblical Elders will shepherd, mentor, and equip. Christians will respond by being willing to submit to the Elders; by being willing to be mentored by someone who is further along in their faith journey than us, or someone who has a skill set we need to learn; and by being willing to allow someone to equip us properly for works of service.

I declare this to be “freak your Elders out week.” Approach an Elder and ask how you may be of service. Better yet, tell them about how you have seen a need and how you are willing to meet that need.

I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.

Be God’s.

I Left (part of) My Heart in Villiavincencio

In July, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a five-person team that traveled to Villiavincencio, Colombia, to work with the Colombian Christian Mission. I have previously blogged about the desire to take this foreign mission trip, and I must say right off the bat, that I was overwhelmed by the prayer and financial support I received. Thanks to so many generous people who obviously wanted to get me out of the country, I raised almost double the amount needed for the trip!

Over the next few days, I will try to recount the trip, the people, the lessons learned, and the experience as a whole.  Trust me, I could write a blog post every day for the next year, and not adequately cover it all.

To see the influence Elliott and Abi have had on these three was truly heartwarming.

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Our crew overlooking the plains near Puerto Lopéz.

I had the privilege of joining my oldest son Elliott, and three people he has influenced over the course of his ministries both in Clearwater and in Jacksonville. Elliott mentored Cody Morse, and Elliott’s wife Abi, mentored Emily Hillman in Clearwater, while Alex Harrah is someone Elliott is currently mentoring in Jacksonville. To see the influence Elliott and Abi have had on these three was truly heartwarming.  I felt like a proud “spiritual” abuelo (that’s grandfather in Spanish). This was a hard working and extremely eager to learn bunch of folks. What an honor to serve with this team in Colombia.

48 New Testament Churches planted in 43 years!

Speaking of great honors…the opportunity to sit at the feet of the man behind the Colombian Christian Mission, Dr. Dale Meade, simply blew me away.  In 43 years on the field in Colombia throughout the Communist rule, the Guerrilla Warfare years, the drug cartels, and the transition to a Republic form of government, Dale has had a direct hand in planting 33 New Testament churches in Colombia, a lesser role in planting three others, and as a result of those 36 church plants, another 12 churches were planted.  So for those of us who are mathematically challenged, that is 48 churches planted in 43 years because of the influence of Dale Meade and the Colombian Christian Mission.

“If you’re going to work for me, you are going to hear the Gospel.”

Dale is a humble, soft spoken man, but he is seriously focused on the mission of the church: to make disciples. We stayed at a church camp being built near Villiavincencio (more on that in a future post), and Dale hires Colombians, both Christian and non-Christian to help with the various construction projects there. Dale ALWAYS leads a Bible study and prayer before the meals served to the work crew, saying, “if you’re going to work for me, you are going to hear the Gospel.”

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Dale leads a devotion before lunch, and Cody is showing the effects of the morning’s concrete work.

Dale also teaches and trains Colombians to take care of the local congregations. Dale is not the lead preacher at any of those churches. Oh, he may preach at various churches from time-to-time, but that is NOT his primary function. The local church only comes into existence when it is able to sustain and support a preacher, who is a Colombian.

So cool to get seminary-level teaching while on the mission field!

Dale led us through a series of studies on the Great Commission, looking at that command in each of the four Gospels as well as in the book of Acts.  He also taught on what a missionary should expect from a supporting church, and what a supporting church should expect from a missionary.  So cool to get seminary-level teaching while on the mission field!

On our final day in Colombia, we ascended Monserrate, where a Catholic monastery is located. This mountain stands at 10,300 feet above sea level and overlooks the city of Bogotá (which sits at 8,600 feet above sea level). Dale has his PhD in Folk Religion, and gave us quite an eye-opening lesson on the practices of the Catholic Church in Colombia. (Practices that would embarrass and infuriate Catholics in the States.) For the sake of my blood pressure, I will not go into details on that lesson. Let’s just say, righteous indignation arose (along with a lot of disgust).

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Our crew, on Monserrate, overlooking the city of Bogotá on our last day in Colombia.

The life lessons, and the practical application of the Great Commission have impacted me tremendously.  I find that I have little time or patience for the insignificant these days.  there is work to be done to further the Kingdom of Christ. May THAT be my focus from here on out. May I get rid of the “good” that interfere with the “essentials” of doing my part to make disciples so that the Kingdom of Christ is strengthened.

 

Have no fear, or be warned: there is more to come on my experiences in Colombia.

Be God’s.

Uncommon Grief

On Sunday, May 29th, my Dad went to be with the Lord Jesus. It was a very peaceful passing after a weekend of amazing decline. Friday, he was conversant, lucid, and had no real change from the past couple of weeks. By Saturday, he could barely acknowledge your presence. We did manage to get a couple of “I love you” and an acknowledgement of our daughter Emily’s presence out of him Saturday early afternoon, but by Saturday evening, he was non-responsive. His ongoing battles with pneumonia and other infections finally was coming to a close.

I mourn the loss of my Dad, as I have written about his great love for all of us, and of our love for him in previous posts. Dad was my hero, and the example I looked to so I could try to be a good husband and father. I miss him terribly already, and I know that I will miss him every day of my life, just as I miss my Mom (and have every day for nearly 23 years).

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The best parents a guy could have ever hoped for.

However, I do not mourn like those who have no hope. I have what I call an “uncommon grief.” I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Dad is in the presence of my Lord Jesus.  I know that for the first time in nearly 23 years, Dad and Mom are reunited. I take GREAT solace in that knowledge.

As a follower of Christ, and a firm believer in God’s Word, I take comfort from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 

Because I believe that Jesus died and rose again, I believe that I will be reunited with my parents again some day.  How could I possibly be sad about that? I would not want my parents to be back here where I am, in this world filled with pain, cancer, pneumonia, etc. I absolutely look forward to being where they are in my perfect body (no more GERD, diabetes, etc. oh yeah!) with them in their perfect bodies. I look forward to that day.

No, my grief is greatly tempered by the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead. My grief is uncommon in that while I am sad for my loss, I am overjoyed for the fact that Dad has already heard the Creator of the Universe say, “well done good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.”

Thanks for your continued prayers for my family as we deal with the “business” of closing Dad’s earthly affairs (just getting started with death certificates, bank accounts, etc.).

Let me also give a big shout out of thanks to the staff at Palm Garden of Vero Beach. They are family to me. The love with which they took care of my Dad over the past three years made this stage of his life better than we could ever have hoped. My family at Vero Christian Church continues to pour out their love on us. I am, without a doubt, the most blessed man on this planet. The tears in my eyes these days are as much tears of joy at the love being shown to us as they are tears of sadness at my separation from my Dad.

Be God’s.

Busting My Comfort Zone

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Having been in Christian Ministry for nearly three decades now, most of that spent in student ministry, you might say that I don’t have much of a comfort zone.  However, there is ONE major area of said zone that has yet to be busted. While I have experienced ministry on many levels, it has all been domestic.  I have never been on a foreign mission trip.

That could all change this year.  Now, while I will not share publicly on the interwebs where and when I may be going on my first mission trip, let me just say these few things about this trip, and add a couple of observations about how this is moving me WAY out of my comfort zone.

I am privately fund raising to offset the cost of this trip. Support letters have gone out, and more are on the way.  I was slowed down somewhat in this process because Vero Christian Church is finishing up a Capital Campaign (I wrote about that here), and the Elders asked me not to approach any of our people about my mission trip until we had concluded the campaign.  With my fundraising deadline only weeks away, well, this is truly a comfort zone busting deal.  I am a Type A personality, and I like to have everything lined up well in advance of any deadlines.

I am not versant in the language of the area in which I will be going. Not being able to directly communicate with the people I will be attempting to serve will be heartbreaking to me.  I pray that they will simply see the love of Jesus shining through what I do.  Yeah, that is a comfort zone buster.

I will have the privilege of living in primitive quarters, eating native foods, and immersing myself in a different culture. None of those things are comfort zone busters for me. I look forward to that part of my experience.

I have done plenty of domestic mission work, and I have traveled outside the United States, but I have never combined the two.  I am 57 years old.  It is well past the time for me to rectify this.  Comfort zone, go away!

May I ask two favors of you?

1)Please pray for me as I prepare for this trip.

The fundraising will be tight, but God is good, and I believe that this is what He wants from me this year, so the money will be raised.  Pray for all going on this trip (and all who are doing mission work worldwide right at this moment). Pray, pray, pray!

2)If you would like to know more or help with my expenses, etc. Please contact me privately.

My email address is blountman@gmail.com  Please respect my desire to keep the details surrounding the location and timing of this trip private.  Thank you.

May God be glorified by all we do every day of our lives.

Be God’s.

Outrageously Generous

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What an outrageously generous God we serve!

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Next Level Leadership Summit co-sponsored by Sebastian Christian, Cornerstone Christian, and Vero Christian Churches.  Dr. Gary Johnson (whom I have written about before here) was the presenter.  While there was much to digest from the weekend, this statement stands out and is slapping me in the face right now: We belong to an outrageously generous God!

We belong to an outrageously generous God!

Dr. Johnson then referenced numerous Scripture verses to back up this assertion: Genesis 1:29, Deuteronomy 8:10, Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 11:19, Luke 11:13, and of course, John 3:16. Look them up, they are worth the read.

So, the wrestling match has been on in full swing this weekend. If I belong to a God Who is outrageously generous, and I am created in the image of God, then shouldn’t I be outrageously generous as well?  Duh.  but, am I? Therein lies the rub.

God is outrageously generous not just to those who love Him, but to everyone!  Even those who despise His very name. God pours out His blessings like the rain…on the just and the unjust.

I, on the other hand, am pretty generous with people I know and love. I give my first fruits to the church, I give to other mission work above and beyond that, I give to family members as they need, and sometimes even if they don’t need.I do the same for my church family. So? Is that outrageous generosity? I don’t think so.

I am praying about this matter.  I need God’s guidance. I need the “hands and feet of God” to chime in here as well. What are you doing to be outrageously generous?  What steps would you recommend?

As I pray more about this, I will follow up with some thoughts of my own, but I seriously would LOVE to hear from you in regards to being outrageous generous.  Ready? Set. Go!

Be God’s.

Happy Birthday To Me

I believe Christians should have more fun than anybody else. After all, we have the joy of knowing we have eternal life in the Presence of a loving God Who WANTS to be with us.

I spent 2 1/2 decades in student ministry. Plenty of time to learn and to teach how to have fun in the best sense of the word. You can take the man out of student ministry, but you can’t take the student ministry out of the man (okay, maybe even boy, since my nickname was Peter Pan). I LOVE to have fun, and I love to put smiles on the faces of others.

One of my favorite tricks of the “having fun” trade has been to have “surprise birthday” celebrations for people. Now, I’m not talking about a party on someone’s actual birthday. I mean seeing folks we know eating out at a restaurant and getting the wait staff to do their birthday thing for someone at that table. I always offer to buy the birthday treat, and I always explain to our server that it isn’t really their birthday. Servers generally love going along with the gag, and the fake embarrassment of the birthday person is fun as well. I am careful about who I choose, because I do not want to seriously embarrass anyone. As a result of these shenanigans, servers have fun, the “celebratee” has fun, and my party has fun. Others in the restaurant who learn about the shenanigans seem to enjoy it as well.

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Having pulled this trick on some dear friends from church in the past, imagine my joy when I saw them out to eat with a group of several others fro our church today. We were with a party of 9 Vero Christians ourselves. I walked over to the other group, and asked Jane if she was going to tell the server her age when they came over to sing “happy birthday” to her. We laughed and I headed to our table on the other side of the restaraunt. As our meal was ending, I told the crew about the birthday celebration, and asked how many of them would go sing with me. All the men at our table went (wimpy women, lol). As we went over, the other party was getting up to leave. When they refused to sit back down, we sang happy birthday to Jane anyway. Smiles could be seen all around where we stood. Jane insisted that I needed to go back and sit down. I complied.

I was no sooner back in my seat when a group of servers came clapping and whooping to sing happy birthday to me while delivering a chocolate cake and ice cream birthday treat! Well played Cliff & Jane. Well played. I have taught them well. I whooped and celebrated with the servers, shared the delicious death by dessert with my tablemates, shared laughs with them, and the now departing-the-restaraunt group. As we enjoyed the dessert, I let our crew know that if they see me in a restaurant in the future, they had better join me at my table unless they want to be serenaded. One of the women at our table replied, that moving to my table wouldn’t necessarily make any difference. She’s probably right.

What are your favorite ways to spread the joy of Christian living? I’d love to hear from you.

If you ever see me out to eat in a restaurant, just remember, it might be your birthday. It might be mine, too.

Be God’s.

She Made Me Cry

Being a guy, I do not typically cry. Oh, it happens more frequently now that I am a Pop Pop (see my previous post), but tears are still a rarity.

My Bride, Peggy, took care of all of that on Christmas Day. First, a little back story.

I am a James Bond affectionado. As a guy growing up in the 60’s, I read all of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. I pretended to be that 00 spy on many a lazy summer afternoon. I dreamed of getting the girl and saving the day. I got the girl, anyway. *grin* I’ve seen all of the Bond flicks, and our son Ian is named after…well, yeah. You get the picture?

When Peggy and I saw the latest Bond film, “Spectre” on opening weekend, I saw them. The Tom Ford sunglasses that Daniel Craig wore in the movie. Oh. How. Sweet. As we left the theater, I jokingly told Peggy that I needed a pair of those sunglasses. Googling “Jam s Bond Sunglasses,” led me to the this website, where I saw what those puppies cost.

I told Peggy that under no circumstance was she to get those glasses for me.  Too much money, and I detest spending money on stuff for me, while taking great pleasure in spending (properly budgeted) money on her and the kids & grandkids.  For weeks, she teased me about getting my James Bond glasses. We bantered back and forth throughout the Christmas season. When we looked in our Christmas stockings, she had secretly snuck in a pair of Kentucky Wildcat sunglasses which she called my “James Bond glasses.”

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I was in heaven. My Bride knows of my love for all things Wildcat, she got me some nice sunglasses, all was perfect in my world. Now, that occurred on the Friday before Christmas as we did a Christmas celebration early with Elliott’s crew.  Peggy and I both wanted to save our presents for each other until Christmas morning. I had a nice surprise for her, and wanted to share that moment with her alone. Unbeknownst to me, she had a surprise for me that would rock my world.

A tad more history: I NEVER surprise Peggy at Christmas. I ask her what she wants…color, style, size, etc. and get exactly what she says. This year, however, I had some “extra” money set aside, and she mentioned a pair of sapphire earrings she had seen, so it was on!  I not only got her the earrings, but a matching necklace. I was so pumped about being able to surprise her!

Christmas morning arrived, and the two of us exchanged gifts. I had her open her craftily disguised gift (which included an old hard drive for weight purposes) and she was truly surprised and thrilled to receive the jewelry. But she was now prepared to make me cry.

The box was decent sized, and I tore through the wrapping expecting to see a pair of flip flops. Nope, another box inside to unwrap. So, I tore through the paper and opened the box to find…another box! My suspicions began to arise, and a lump started welling up in my throat (lol to family who get that inside joke). The final box unwrapped revealed yet one more box inside with the words, “Tom Ford” emblazoned on it. Tears flowed freely as I opened the box to reveal the glasses!

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The overwhelming wave of love that poured over me as Peggy was so thrilled by this surprise still makes me tear up. Peggy said, “you never ask for anything. I HAD to get you these glasses.”

It appears that a few weeks before Christmas (and after much teasing back and forth), we were driving to Downtown Disney (sorry, Disney Springs just doesn’t catch my attention quite the same) to meet some friends. While I drove, Peggy brazenly ordered a pair of those glasses for me from her iPhone!  Right under my nose!  Of course, I didn’t know that at the time.

This story encapsulates perfectly why I always say that I am the most blessed man on the planet.

Be God’s.