38 MILLION.

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Did you hear that sound?

It was as if 38 million people had all uttered a string of expletives at the same instant.

Could such a thing be possible?

Yes indeed.  That’s not your imagination.  It’s the sound of 38 million Ashley Madison customers finding out their private accounts just became public.

By now, most have heard about this dubious website.  It was designed to be a discreet, anonymous place to set up an illicit affair.

Kind of a Match.com for people who had already been matched.

Government employees, that Duggar family creep, even a Christian video blogger have all been caught up in this scandal, and there are plenty more to come.

38 million.  That’s a lot of spouses about to be kicked out on the street.

Let’s see.  How many people is that, exactly?

Well, I did a search for “38 million” and here’s what I found from Yahoo News back in May:

Geneva (AFP) – Conflicts and violence in places like Syria and Ukraine have displaced a record 38 million people inside their own countries, equivalent to the total populations of New York, London and Beijing, a watchdog group said Wednesday.

Oh wait.  That’s an altogether different group of 38 million displaced people.

Hmm.  Who should we pray for?  The innocent victims of war and violence — losing their homes, their possessions, and their jobs?

Or should we pray for the not-at-all-innocent folks who tried to sneak around their marriage vows, and got caught?

I’m gonna pray for both.

One group has been horribly mistreated.  One group may get what they deserve.

But now’s as good a time as any to remember

that Grace is available…

no matter the state of your affairs.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Grumbling Replacement Therapy

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Do everything without grumbling
–Philippians 2:14

This passage makes me sad.

Because I’m a really good grumbler.

I can grumble out loud in a meeting when things aren’t going my way.

I can grumble under my breath when someone irritates me.

I can even grumble in my head when I want people to think I’m not grumbling, but I really am.

I don’t know about you, but grumbling can be almost a way of life.

For Paul to suggest that I should do everything without grumbling, well, I’m almost at a loss.

How exactly does one do that?

Grumbling seems to occupy an entire constant track in my mind’s playlist.  How do I mute it?

How does one retrain your brain to refrain from complaining?  (Repeat that 10 times fast)

If Paul doesn’t want me grumbling, what other options do I have?

The truth is, grumbling is a hard habit to break.

So let’s start small.

Don’t just bite your tongue when the temptation for grumbling comes — use it for something healthier.

Try Grumbling Replacement Therapy:

Instead of a “Bah Humbug”, try one earnest, “Let me help you with that”, and see how it feels.

A little bit at a time, you can find yourself exchanging grumbling for humbling.

That’s my hard and fast goal.  A humbled heart.

Yes, there are sometimes I fall short…

but I suppose…

I can’t complain.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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A Prayer for the First Day of School

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God,

Kids are going back to school today.
For some, it’s their first first day.
For some, it’s their last first day.

Bless each student as they enter new classrooms,
make new friends,
open new textbooks.

Bless their pencils with perfectly sharpened tips.
Bless their backpacks, with the tags still on.
Bless their notebooks, pages blank with expectation, only a name written in the corner.

Bless every teacher.  Calm their jitters.  Grant them wisdom.
Bless every parent.  The ones crying tears of separation.  The ones crying tears of relief.
Bless every janitor, administrator, nurse, para, lunch worker and coach.

“See, I am making all things new”, you tell us from your throne.
So may all be transformed by this turning of the new school year.

May the ‘C’ student become a ‘B’ student.
May the outcast find a friend.
May the bully learn to love.

And may all of your children learn, most of all, to keep you in their hearts,
on this first day of school,
and every day.

Amen.

Have a good school year!

Mitch

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Monkey Meeting

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A chimp, a monkey, and a gorilla all showed up at our staff meeting this morning.

Here’s what happened (times are approximate):

At 10:12, we were talking about Mailchimp, the program I use to send this devotion out to my congregation each week.

At 10:25, someone shared that we purchased a subscription to a service called Survey Monkey, which our staff will use to send out surveys, and help people register for events.

And then, at 11:19, our youth director came in from down the hall where she’s organizing a youth mission project. She was holding a bottle.

It was Gorilla glue.

Okay, isn’t that weird?

Gorillas and Monkeys and Chimps.  Oh my!

This means something.  Surely.

Well, I did some research and discovered that apes are in the Bible.  Did you know that?

The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons. –1 Kings 10:22 (NIV)

“Apes and baboons” (which may also refer to Monkeys) were among the prized treasures King Solomon had shipped in from distant lands.

Hmm.  Is God telling us to ship in a baboon as our church mascot?

Or should we collect a special offering to Jane Goodall’s institute?

Did you know we have 98-99% of our DNA in common with certain primates? Maybe we should try to teach Bible sign language to some gorillas?

Or…maybe not.

You know, not every coincidence is a sign from God.  Not every confluence of events is a herald of great portence.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love primates.

I give primates two big opposable thumbs up!

But today we had a great staff meeting,

getting ready for a busy time of year,

and as cool a coincidence as this potential side-track was,

God wanted us to focus on the task at hand,

instead of the Monkey Business.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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