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Divine Perspective

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

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Looking For Zacchaeus

Alf Clark walks the city streets looking for Zacchaeus. Well, not the actual one in the Bible—Jesus already found him. Alf and some friends who serve with an urban ministry do what Jesus did in Luke 19. They go purposefully through town to meet with and help those in need.

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Small Ways In Small Places

Often I meet with people who serve in what they think are seemingly small ways in small places. They are frequently discouraged by loneliness, feeling that their acts of service are insignificant. When I hear them speak, I think of one of the angels in C. S. Lewis’ book Out of the Silent Planet. He said: “My people have a law never to speak of sizes or numbers to you. . . . It makes you do reverence to nothings and pass by what is really great.”

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Living Bridges

People who live in Cherrapunji, India, have developed a unique way to get across the many rivers and streams in their land. They grow bridges from the roots of rubber trees. These “living bridges” take between 10 to 15 years to mature, but once they are established, they are extremely stable and last for hundreds of years.

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The Growth Chart

If my family ever moves from the house where we live now, I want to unhinge the pantry door and take it with me! That door is special because it shows how my children have grown over the years. Every few months, my husband and I place our children against the door and pencil a mark just above their heads. According to our growth chart, my daughter shot up 4 inches in just 1 year!

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Focus On The Process

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

In William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well, he says that many writers suffer from “the tyranny of the final product.” They are so concerned with selling their article or book, they neglect learning the process of how to think, plan, and organize. A jumbled manuscript, Zinsser believes, is produced when “the writer, his eye on the finish line, never gave enough thought to how to run the race.”

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The Day My Dad Met Jesus

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

My grandfather, my father, and his brothers were all tough men who, understandably, didn’t appreciate people who “got up in their faces about faith.” When my father, Howard, was diagnosed with a rapid and deadly cancer, I was so concerned that I took every opportunity to talk to him about Jesus’ love. Inevitably he would end the discussion with a polite but firm: “I know what I need to know.”

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Smile!

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

A recent study that I read concluded that smiling can be good for your health. Research shows that smiling slows down the heart and reduces stress.

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Teaching By Example

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

While waiting for an eye examination, I was struck by a statement I saw in the optometrist’s office: “Eighty percent of everything children learn in their first 12 years is through their eyes.” I began thinking of all that children visually process through reading, television, film, events, surroundings, and observing the behavior of others, especially their families. On this Father’s Day, we often think about the powerful influence of a dad.

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Lesson From A Toothache

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

When I was a child I often had a toothache,” wrote C. S. Lewis in his classic book Mere Christianity. He continued, “and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something that would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother—at least not till the pain became very bad. . . . I knew she would take me to the dentist the next morning. . . .  I wanted immediate relief from pain, but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right.”

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What Do We Want?

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

My friend Mary tells me that she doesn’t always sing all the words to the hymns and choruses in a church service. She says, “It doesn’t seem honest to sing, ‘All I want is Jesus’ when my heart wants many other things too.” I appreciate her honesty.

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The Careful Walk

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

One of my favorite places to visit in Jamaica is Ocho Rios, home of Dunn’s River Falls—a spectacle that never ceases to amaze. Water cascades down a long series of rocks as it makes its way to the Caribbean Sea. Adventurers can climb the falls, scrambling over rounded rocks on an invigorating trek to the top. The flowing water, the potentially slippery surface, and the steep angles make the going slow and a bit treacherous.

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Kangaroos And Emus

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2014

Two of Australia’s indigenous creatures, kangaroos and emus, have something in common—they seldom move backward. Kangaroos, because of the shape of their body and the length of their strong tail, can bounce along with forward movement, but they cannot shift easily into reverse. Emus can run fast on their strong legs, but the joints in their knees seem to make backward movement difficult. Both animals appear on Australia’s coat of arms as a symbol that the nation is to be ever moving forward and making progress.

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Quest For Stolen Treasure

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2014

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the dwarfs gathered to go up against Smaug, the fierce dragon, to retrieve their stolen treasure. In spite of the dangerously frightening quest, Balin, the dwarfs’ second-in-command, expressed confidence in Thorin: “There is one I could follow. There is one I could call King.” His commitment to the mission, as dangerous as it was, was empowered by his confidence in his leader.

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Surfacing

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2014

Human beings straddle visible and invisible realities—the natural and the supernatural. I thought about these two worlds when I went out in a boat to watch whales off the coast of New Zealand. A whale would rest on the surface for a while, then breathe deeply a few times, his exhalations creating a spectacular spout, before plunging a mile deep to feed on squid.

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Looking Good

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2014

Your hair is really healthy,” said my hairdresser after giving me a haircut. “I hope it’s because you use our products.” “No. I’m sorry,” I said. “I just use whatever product is cheap and smells good.” But then I added, “I also try to eat well. I think that makes a big difference.”

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Words To Live By

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2014

For many years I’ve maintained a file folder labeled “Speaking.” It has become thick with articles, quotations, and illustrations that might be useful. Recently I went through it to discard things that are out of date. I found it difficult to throw away many of the items, not because I haven’t used them in a talk but because I haven’t put them into practice. I closed the folder thinking, “These aren’t words to talk about; these are words to live by.”

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Tree Of Rest

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2014

The lone tree in the field across from my office remained a mystery. Acres of trees had been cut down so the farmer could grow corn. But one tree remained standing, its branches reaching up and spreading out. The mystery was solved when I learned the tree was spared for a purpose. Farmers long ago traditionally left one tree standing so that they and their animals would have a cool place to rest when the hot summer sun was beating down.

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Down The Up Staircase

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

The video starts with a puppy at the top of the stairs afraid to go down. Despite much encouragement from people cheering at the bottom, Daisy can’t figure it out. She wants so badly to join them, but fear keeps her pacing the landing. Then a bigger dog comes to help. Simon runs up the steps and then back down, showing Daisy how easy it is. Daisy is not convinced. Simon tries again. This time more slowly. Then he watches Daisy try again. But Daisy still is too scared. Once again Simon goes to the top and demonstrates the technique. Finally Daisy dares to let her back legs follow the front ones. Simon stays beside her. She makes it. Everyone celebrates!

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Acts Of Kindness

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

I was traveling with some men when we spotted a family stranded alongside the road. My friends immediately pulled over to help. They got the car running, talked with the father and mother of the family, and gave them some money for gasoline. When the mother thanked them over and over, they replied, “We’re glad to help out, and we do it in Jesus’ name.” As we drove away, I thought how natural it was for these friends to help people in need and acknowledge the Lord as the source of their generosity.

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All Kinds Of Help

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

In the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, many people have felt strongly compelled to help. Some donated blood for the injured, some provided free lunches and coffee at their restaurants for workers. Others wrote letters of comfort or just gave hugs. Some sent gifts of money and teddy bears for the children; others offered counseling. People found ways to serve according to their personalities, abilities, and resources.

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Spoonful Of Sugar

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

Where is Mary Poppins when you need her? I know this sounds as if I’m longing for the good old days when cheerfully unrealistic movies featured characters like this fictional nanny, but what I’m really longing for are people with a vision for the future that is realistically optimistic. I yearn for joyful, creative people who can show us the positive side of what we consider negative, who can remind us that “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

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Determination

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

During a television news report on the plight of refugees displaced from a war-torn country, I was struck by the words of a 10-year-old girl. Despite there being little possibility of returning to their home, she showed a resilient spirit: “When we go back, I’m going to visit my neighbors; I’m going to play with my friends,” she said with quiet determination. “My father says we don’t have a house. And I said we are going to fix it.”

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Loved To Love

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life was at risk every day he stayed in Hitler’s Germany, but he stayed nonetheless. I imagine he shared the apostle Paul’s view that being in heaven was his heart’s desire, but staying where he was needed was God’s present purpose (Phil. 1:21). So stay he did; as a pastor he offered clandestine worship services and resisted the evil regime under Hitler.

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Getting Beyond Ourselves

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

I have one of those friends who seems to be better than I am at just about everything. He is smarter; he thinks more deeply; and he knows where to find better books to read. He is even a better golfer. Spending time with him challenges me to become a better, more thoughtful person. His standard of excellence spurs me on to greater things.

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What’s In A Name?

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2014

My friend wrote a letter to his newborn child that he wanted him to read when he was older: “My dear boy, Daddy and Mummy wish that you will find and stay focused on the Light. Your Chinese name is xin xuan. Xin means faithfulness, contentment, and integrity; xuan stands for warmth and light.” He and his wife carefully chose a name based on their hopes for their baby boy.

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A Better World

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

In one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons featuring Charlie Brown, the always confident Lucy declares, “How could the world be getting worse with me in it? Ever since I was born the world has shown a distinct improvement!”

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Gentle Witness

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Years ago, I was hospitalized following a life-threatening, 38-foot fall from a bridge. While I was there, the wife of the man in the next bed stopped to speak to me. “My husband just told me what happened to you,” she said. “We believe God spared your life because He wants to use you. We’ve been praying for you.”

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Promoting Unity

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

The language of Proverbs 6:16-19 is strong. In the citing of seven things the Lord hates, sowing “discord among brethren” makes the list. The reason for naming this sin is that it spoils the unity that Christ desires for His followers (John 17:21-22).

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Sweet Fragrance

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

Some scents are unforgettable. Recently, my husband mentioned he was running low on shaving cream. “I’ll pick some up,” I offered. “Can you get this kind?” he asked, showing me the can. “I love the smell—it’s the kind my dad always used.” I smiled, recalling the time I had been momentarily taken back to my childhood when I got a whiff of the same shampoo my mom used to wash my hair. For both Tom and me, the fragrances had brought an emotional response and pleasant memory of people we loved who were no longer around.

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Make It Personal

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

During my days as a teacher and coach at a Christian high school, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with teenagers, trying to guide them to a purposeful, Christlike life—characterized by love for God and love for others. My goal was to prepare them to live for God throughout life. That would happen only as they made their faith a vital part of life through the help of the Holy Spirit. Those who didn’t follow Christ floundered after they left the influence of Christian teachers and parents.

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No More Prejudice

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2014

A 2010 survey by Newsweek contained some startling statistics: 57 percent of hiring managers believe an unattractive (but qualified) job candidate would have a harder time getting hired; 84 percent of managers said their bosses would hesitate before hiring a qualified older candidate; 64 percent of hiring managers said they believe companies should be allowed to hire people based on appearance. All are clear examples of unacceptable prejudice.

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Bolt On Blake

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake of Jamaica made history when they finished first and second respectively in both the men’s 100-meter and 200-meter race in the 2012 London Olympics. Despite their rivalry on the track, Bolt paid tribute to Blake as a training partner: “Over the years, Yohan has made me a better athlete. He really pushed me and kept me on my toes.” It’s clear that the two spurred each other on to greatness on the track.

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Why Cause Grief?

Our Daily Bread Cover February 2014

Pastors make an easy target for criticism. Every week they are on display, carefully explaining God’s Word, challenging us toward Christlike living. But sometimes we look to find things to criticize. It’s easy to overlook all the good things a pastor does and focus on our personal opinions.

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Great Expectations

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

I once asked a counselor what the major issues were that brought people to him. Without hesitation he said, “The root of many problems is broken expectations; if not dealt with, they mature into anger and bitterness.”

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An Ordinary Day

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

While exploring a museum exhibit titled “A Day in Pompeii,” I was struck by the repeated theme that August 24, ad 79 began as an ordinary day. People were going about their daily business in homes, markets, and at the port of this prosperous Roman town of 20,000 people. At 8 a.m., a series of small emissions were seen coming from nearby Mount Vesuvius, followed by a violent eruption in the afternoon. In less than 24 hours, Pompeii and many of its people lay buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash. Unexpected.

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True Greatness

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Some people feel like a small pebble lost in the immensity of a canyon. But no matter how insignificant we judge ourselves to be, we can be greatly used by God.

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The Little Tent

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

During evangelist Billy Graham’s historic 1949 Los Angeles campaign, the big tent that held over 6,000 people was filled to overflowing every night for 8 weeks. Close by was a smaller tent set aside for counseling and prayer. Cliff Barrows, longtime music director and close friend and associate of Graham, has often said that the real work of the gospel took place in “the little tent,” where people gathered on their knees to pray before and during every evangelistic service. A local Los Angeles woman, Pearl Goode, was the heart of those prayer meetings and many that followed.

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The Hidden Life

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Some years ago, I came across a poem by George MacDonald titled, “The Hidden Life.” It tells the story of an intellectually gifted young Scot who turned his back on a prestigious academic career to return to his aging father and to the family farm. There he engaged in what MacDonald called, “ordinary deeds” and “simple forms of human helpfulness.” His friends lamented what they saw as a waste of his talents.

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Words That Help And Heal

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

On November 19, 1863, two well-known men gave speeches at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The featured speaker, Edward Everett, was a former congressman, governor, and president of Harvard University. Considered one of the greatest orators of his day, Mr. Everett delivered a formal address lasting 2 hours. He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln, whose speech lasted 2 minutes.

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Help From His Spirit

Our Daily Bread Cover January 2014

Many of us make promises to ourselves to mark the beginning of a new year. We make pledges such as I’m going to save more, exercise more, or spend less time on the Internet. We begin the year with good intentions, but before long old habits tempt us to take up our old ways. We slip up occasionally, then more frequently, and then all the time. Finally, it’s as if our resolution never existed.

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Letter To A Child

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Even at the end of his life, C. S. Lewis showed an interest in the spiritual nurture of younger believers. Although in ill health, he took time to respond to the letter of a child named Philip. Complimenting the boy’s fine written expression, Lewis said he was delighted that Philip understood that in the Narnia Chronicles the lion Aslan represented Jesus Christ. The next day, Lewis died at his home in the Kilns, Oxford, England, one week before his 65th birthday.

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Living Backward

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

The Chicago River is unusual because it flows backward. Engineers reversed its direction over a century ago because city-dwellers were using it as a dump. Dishwater, sewage, and industrial waste all funneled into the river, which emptied into Lake Michigan. Since the lake supplied drinking water for the city, thousands grew sick and died before city authorities decided to redirect the river to flow backward, away from the lake.

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Lasting Rewards

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Ukrainian gymnast Larisa Latynina held the record of 18 Olympic medals. She won them in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympics. The 48-year-old record was surpassed when Michael Phelps swam for his 19th gold in the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay in the 2012 London Games. “[Latynina] kind of got lost in history,” the publisher of the International Gymnast magazine said. When the Soviet Union broke up, “we had forgotten about her.”

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Costume Or Uniform?

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

Eunice McGarrahan gave an inspiring talk on Christian discipleship in which she said, “A costume is something you put on and pretend that you are what you are wearing. A uniform, on the other hand, reminds you that you are, in fact, what you wear.”

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Christmas Lights

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

In December each year, a neighborhood of 13 families near where we live sets up a dazzling display of 300,000 Christmas lights. People drive for miles and wait in line for hours to see the flashing, colorful lights and hear the music that is programmed to go with it. The sound-and-light display is so elaborate that it requires a network of 64 computers to keep everything synchronized.

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Integrity League

Our Daily Bread Cover December 2013

We call it the Integrity League, but it’s really just a bunch of guys who get together at lunchtime to play basketball. We call fouls on ourselves, attempt to avoid angry outbursts, and simply try to keep everything fair and enjoyable. We are competitive and we don’t like to lose—but we all agree that integrity and honesty should control the atmosphere.

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Attending To Our Words

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

A week after C. S. Lewis died in 1963, colleagues and friends gathered in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford, England, to pay tribute to the man whose writings had fanned the flames of faith and imagination in children and scholars alike.

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First Impressions

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

As I shopped for groceries one day, I was perceived as a thief by one person and a hero by another.

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Living Letters

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

In November 1963, the same day that President John F. Kennedy was shot, another leader died—Clive Staples Lewis. This Oxford scholar, who had converted from atheism to Christianity, was a prolific writer. Intellectual books, science fiction, children’s fantasies, and other works flowed from his pen with a strong Christian message. His books have been used by God in the conversion of many, including a politician and a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

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Genuine Concern

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

On the first night at family camp, the camp director informed the families of the schedule for the week. When finished, he asked if anyone else had anything to say. A young girl stood up and made a passionate appeal for help. She shared about her little brother—a boy with special needs—and how he could be a challenge to care for. She talked about how tiring this was for her family, and she asked everyone there to help them keep an eye on him during the week. It was an appeal born out of genuine concern for her brother and her parents. As the week went on, it was great to see people pitching in to help this family.

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On Helping Others

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

When snowstorms bury the grazing lands, ranchers must feed their herds by hand. As hay is tossed from wagons and trucks, the strongest animals bull their way to the front. Timid or sickly animals get little or no feed unless the rancher intervenes.

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Leap The Wall

Our Daily Bread Cover November 2013

Sgt. Richard Kirkland was a Confederate soldier in the US Civil War (1861–1865). When the Union’s failed charge at Marye’s Heights during the Battle of Fredericksburg left wounded soldiers abandoned in no-man’s land, Kirkland got permission to help them. Collecting canteens, he leaped the stone wall and bent over the first soldier to lend assistance. At great personal risk, the “Angel of Marye’s Heights” extended the mercy of Christ to enemy soldiers.

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Healthy Ingredients

My wife, Martie, is a careful shopper when it comes to buying healthy and nutritious food. No matter how attractive the packaging looks, she checks the list of ingredients on the back of the box. Lots of difficult-to-pronounce words usually announce the presence of preservatives that work against good nutrition. She always puts those items back on the shelf and continues to look for labels with lists of natural food products that contribute to good health.

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Seeds & Soils

If you like growing pumpkins, you have probably heard of Dill’s Atlantic Giant variety of premium pumpkin seeds. Developed on a family farm in Atlantic Canada, the pumpkins grown from these seeds have set records around the world. In 2011, a pumpkin grown in Quebec set a new world record at 1,818.5 pounds (825 kg). That size of pumpkin could yield almost 1,000 pieces of pie!

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“Gorgeous Inside”

It’s a rather nondescript house that sits on a busy thoroughfare. With no distinctive characteristics, this rather plain home is easy to ignore. But as I drove past it the other day, I noticed a “For Sale” sign in the yard. Attached to the sign was a smaller notice that happily announced: “I’m gorgeous inside.” While I’m not in the market for a new house, that sign intrigued me. What could make this otherwise forgettable house gorgeous inside?

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Public Praise

I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.

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A Friend In Need

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

Not long ago my wife, Janet, and I bought a quantity of beef from a friend who raised cattle on a small farm. It was less expensive than meat from a grocery store, and we put it in the freezer to use throughout the coming months.

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The Good And The Bad

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

Recently, I began studying the kings of the Old Testament with some friends. I noticed on the chart that we were using that a few of the leaders of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are labeled good, but most of them are labeled bad, mostly bad, extra bad, and the worst.

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A Difficult Place

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

When a sudden change in technology made his job obsolete, a highly trained scientist found himself working in a fast-food restaurant. One evening after our Bible study he described the situation as difficult and humbling. He said, “One good thing I can say is that the young people there seem very interested in my faith.” A member of the group responded, “I admire you for being humble. I know your faith must have something to do with it.”

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God Had Other Plans

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

My friend Linda grew up planning to become a medical missionary. She loves the Lord and wanted to serve Him as a doctor by taking the gospel to sick people in parts of the world where medical care is hard to find. But God had other plans. Linda has indeed become a medical missionary, but not the way she expected.

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A Life That Shined

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

According to the International Basketball Federation, basketball is the world’s second-most popular sport, with an estimated 450 million followers in countries around the globe. In the US, the annual NCAA tournament in March often brings mention of legendary coach John Wooden. During his 27 years at UCLA, Wooden’s teams won an unprecedented 10 National Championship titles. Yet, today, John Wooden, who died in 2010, is remembered not just for what he accomplished but for the person he was.

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A Father To Follow

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

When I think of my father, I think of this saying: “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.” During my youth, I watched my dad walk with God. He participated in Sunday morning church services, taught an adult Bible-study class, helped with counting the offering, and served as a deacon. Outside of church, he faithfully defended the gospel and read his Bible. I saw him express his love for the Lord through outward actions.

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The Power Of Affirmation

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

During a recent study, 200,000 employees were interviewed to discover the missing ingredient in their productivity. The study concluded that appreciation and affirmation topped the list of what they wanted most from their superiors. This research implies that receiving affirmation is a basic human need.

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Not Interested In Religion

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

Aradio ad for a church caught my attention: “Because you’ve heard about Christianity, you might not be interested in religion. Well, it might surprise you—Jesus wasn’t interested in religion either. But He was big on relationship and teaching us to love one another.” It continued, “You may not like everything about our church, but we offer authentic relationship, and we’re learning to love God and each other. You’re welcome to visit.”

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Cupbearer To The King

Our Daily Bread Cover September 2013

One of my favorite Bible passages that applies to work is Nehemiah 1–2. King Artaxerxes’ employee Nehemiah had been such an exemplary worker that the king wanted to honor him by helping him when he was sad that Jerusalem was still in ruins. He asked Nehemiah, “Why is your face sad? . . . What do you request?” (2:2,4). He wasn’t just any worker for the king, he was the cupbearer, the man who tasted the king’s drink to protect him from being poisoned. In order to have earned such a position, he apparently worked hard and honored God in everything he did. And the king granted his requests.

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Overwhelming Concern

Our Daily Bread Cover August 2013

A while ago, I wrote an article about my wife, Marlene, and her struggles with vertigo. When the article appeared, I was unprepared for the tidal wave of response from readers offering encouragement, help, suggestions and, mostly, concern for her well-being. These messages came from all over the world, from people in all walks of life. Expressions of loving concern for my wife poured in to the point where we could not even begin to answer them all. It was overwhelming in the best kind of way to see the body of Christ respond to Marlene’s struggle. We were, and remain, deeply grateful.

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Image Conscious

Our Daily Bread Cover August 2013

When going through old family photos, my cousins and I joke about which physical characteristics we’ve inherited. We notice primarily the negative ones: short legs, crooked teeth, unruly cowlicks. All of us can easily identify in our ancestors our own least favorite body part. In addition to physical attributes, we also inherited character traits—some good, some not so good. But we don’t always pay as much attention to those.

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Looking Down

Our Daily Bread Cover August 2013

After I had minor eye surgery, the nurse told me, “Don’t look down for the next 2 weeks. No cooking or cleaning.” The last part of those instructions was a little easier to take than the first part! The incisions needed to heal, and she didn’t want me to put any unnecessary pressure on them by looking down.

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The Blessed Hope

Our Daily Bread Cover August 2013

So many predictions of the end of the world have come and gone. Those predictions are unsettling and often fill people with fear. Yet the Bible does refer to a time called “the day of the Lord” when He will return. It will happen, but only God knows when.

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A Person Of Influence

Our Daily Bread Cover July 2013

If you Google “person of influence,” the search will take you to various lists of “the most influential people in the world.” These lists usually include political leaders; business entrepreneurs and athletes; along with people in science, the arts, and entertainment. You will not find the names of cooks and cleaners who work for them. Yet those in so-called lowly positions often influence the people they serve.

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What We Talk About

Our Daily Bread Cover July 2013

Perhaps you are familiar with the saying, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Admittedly, there are ways to speak of people that can honor them. But this saying highlights our darker experiences. In a world of ever-present media—social and professional—we are continually confronted with people’s lives at a level of intimacy that can be inappropriate.

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The Life We’d Like To See

Our Daily Bread Cover July 2013

The annual Texas Book Festival in Austin draws thousands of people who enjoy browsing for books, attending discussions led by acclaimed authors, and gleaning advice from professional writers. At one such festival, an author of young adult fiction told aspiring writers, “Write the book that you want to find on the shelf.” That’s a powerful recommendation for writing and for living. What if we decided to live the way we want everyone else to live?

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Stand Firm

Our Daily Bread Cover July 2013

As our final project for a high school earth science class, a friend and I built a stream table. With extensive help from my father, we built a long plywood box with a hinge in the middle. Then we lined it with plastic and filled it with sand. At one end we attached a hose. At the other end was a drainage hole. After assembling all of it, we raised one end of the stream table, turned on the water, and watched as it created a path directly to the hole at the other end. The next part of the experiment was to place a rock in the stream and watch how it changed the path of the water.

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Miserable Success

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

In whatever a man does without God, he must fail miserably—or succeed more miserably,” wrote George MacDonald (1824–1905), a Scottish novelist, poet, and Christian minister. This intriguing statement is often cited by modern speakers and writers and appears in MacDonald’s book Unspoken Sermons.

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Water Problems

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

Our church family was excited to see work begin on our new sanctuary. Each Sunday we eagerly looked at the big hole in the ground. But progress seemed slow.

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Strength Of A Man

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

Some years ago I found myself in an elevator with a couple of men. It was late at night, and we all looked weary. The elevator came to a stop, and a larger-than-life cowboy ambled in, wearing a battered hat, an old, stained sheepskin coat, and rundown logger boots. He looked us up and down, met our eyes, and growled, “Good evening, men.” All of us straightened up and squared our shoulders. We were trying to live up to the name.

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Stay Connected

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

I woke up one morning and discovered that my Internet connection was not working. My service provider conducted some tests and concluded that my modem needed to be replaced, but the earliest they could do so was the next day. I panicked a little when I thought about being without the Internet connection for 24 hours! I thought, How am I going to survive without it?

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Obedience Is Worship

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

While I was traveling with a chorale from a Christian high school, it was great to see the students praise God as they led in worship in the churches we visited. What happened away from church was even better to see. One day the group discovered that a woman had no money for gas—and they spontaneously felt led by God to take up a collection. They were able to give her enough money for several tankfuls of gas.

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Guarding Hearts

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

For years I taught adult Bible-study classes in a local church and took great pains to consider Scripture carefully before answering questions during the lessons. Later, during a lecture in my first semester of seminary at age 40, I learned that I’d given a woman who had attended one of my classes a terrible answer to her heartfelt question. I was certain my response had been causing her distress over the 2 years since I had seen her, and I was eager to correct myself for her sake.

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Show And Tell

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

If you take a course on writing or attend a writer’s conference, you’ll likely hear the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.” In other words, “show” your readers what is happening, don’t just tell them. Don’t tell readers what you did; describe doing it.

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I’m Bored

Our Daily Bread Cover June 2013

When our kids were teens, we repeatedly had the following discussion after their church youth group meeting: I asked, “How was youth group tonight?” And they responded, “It was boring.” After several weeks of this, I decided to find out for myself. I slipped into the gym where their meeting was held, and I watched. I saw them participating, laughing, listening—having a great time. That night on the way home I asked about their evening and, once again, they said, “It was boring.” I responded, “I was there. I watched. You had a great time!” They responded, “Maybe it wasn’t as bad as usual.”

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Displaying God’s Glory

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2013

I love baseball and have been a fan of the sport since I was a little kid. I especially enjoy following the Detroit Tigers. But during a recent season, the Tigers’ poor play and losing record early in the season frustrated me greatly. So for my own personal well-being, I took a break. I spent 4 days avoiding anything to do with my favorite team.

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A Debtor

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2013

As a young man, Robert Robinson (1735–1790) enjoyed getting into trouble with his friends, so the stories go. At age 17, though, he heard a sermon by George Whitefield from Matthew 3:7, and realized his need for salvation in Christ. The Lord changed Robinson’s life, and he became a preacher. He also wrote several hymns, including his best-known “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

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A Missed Lunch

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2013

For me, food is more than a necessity—it’s a wonderfully enjoyable part of life! I enjoy sitting down to a well-prepared meal, especially when I’m feeling hungry. I imagine that the disciples were hungry for lunch when they returned to the well where Jesus was interacting with the Samaritan woman. They urged Him, “Rabbi, eat” (John 4:31). His response? “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (v.32), which made them wonder if someone had already brought Him something to eat (v.33).

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No Loose Laces

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2013

One person’s actions can affect an entire group. This truth became clear to journalist Sebastian Junger as he followed a platoon of soldiers. Junger watched a soldier accost another soldier whose bootlaces were trailing on the ground. He didn’t confront him out of concern for his fashion. He confronted him because his loose laces put the entire platoon at risk—he couldn’t be counted on not to trip and fall at a crucial moment. Junger realized that what happens to one happens to everyone.

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We Can Trust Him

Our Daily Bread Cover May 2013

I know very little about persecution. My physical well-being has never been threatened because of what I believe or what I say. What little I “know” about the subject comes from what I hear and read. But that is not true for many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Some of them live in danger every day simply because they love Jesus and want others to know Him too.

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Tough To Love

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

Years ago I was a camp counselor for some rebellious boys. I found it challenging to deal with their behavior. They would mistreat the animals at the petting zoo and occasionally fight among themselves. So I adopted a calm and firm approach to leading them. And although they often exasperated me, I always made sure their physical needs were taken care of.

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Strengthened Through Suffering

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

Church services often end with a benediction. A common one is taken from Peter’s concluding remarks in his first epistle: “May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). Sometimes omitted in the benediction is the phrase “after you have suffered a while.” Why? Perhaps because it is not pleasant to speak of suffering.

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Well Done, David Schumm

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

At David Schumm’s memorial service, we celebrated the optimism, perseverance, and faith of a man with severe cerebral palsy. For all of David’s 74 years, the simple tasks of daily life required great effort. Through it all, he kept smiling and helping others by giving more than 23,000 hours as a hospital volunteer, along with encouraging at-risk teens.

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Tell The Story

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

In an interview with Wired magazine, filmmaker George Lucas was asked how he wanted to be remembered. He replied: “I’ll be remembered as a filmmaker. . . . Hopefully some of the stories I told will still be relevant. . . . If you’ve raised children, you know you have to explain things to them, and if you don’t, they end up learning the hard way. . . . So the old stories have to be reiterated again in a form that’s acceptable to each new generation. I don’t think I’m ever going to go much beyond the old stories, because I think they still need to be told.”

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Is Ambition Wrong?

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

Is ambition wrong? Is it wrong to be driven, to push to be the best? It can be. The difference between right and wrong ambition is in our goal and motivation—whether it’s for God’s glory or our own.

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Guard Your Brand

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

A popular clothing retailer requires that its sales clerks dress like the models in the store windows who advertise its clothes. This practice is referred to as “guarding their brand.” The idea behind it is that shoppers will be more likely to purchase clothes because they will want to look like the people they see wearing them.

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Unseen Danger

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

When I was a young child, our family escaped near tragedy. Most of the main appliances in the house, as well as the furnace, were fueled by natural gas, but a small leak in one of the gas lines put our lives at risk. As the gas poured into our little house, our family was overcome by the lethal fumes and we lost consciousness. Had we not been discovered by a neighbor who happened to stop by for a visit, we all could have been killed by this dangerous, unseen enemy.

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Supernatural Surveillance

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

Not far from my house, authorities have rigged a camera to snap pictures of drivers who race through red lights. The offenders later receive in the mail a ticket along with a “red-light photo,” which is visual proof of their traffic violation.

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O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Our Daily Bread Cover April 2013

Love is the centerpiece of thriving relationships. Scripture makes it clear that we need to be people who love—love God with all our hearts, love our neighbor as ourselves, and love our enemies. But it’s hard to love when we don’t feel loved. Neglected children, spouses who feel ignored by their mates, and parents who are alienated from their children all know the heartache of a life that lacks love.

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Make It Count

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2013

In his battle with cancer, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” His suffering influenced the choices he made.

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Can’t Do Everything

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2013

Four-year-old Eliana was helping her mom pick up some of Eliana’s things before bedtime. When Mommy told her to put away the clothes on her bed, Eliana hit her limit. She turned around, put her little hands on her hips, and said, “I can’t do everything!”

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Who Owns My Lips?

Our Daily Bread Cover March 2013

The difference between a compliment and flattery is often motive. A compliment offers genuine appreciation for a quality or action seen in another person. The goal of flattery is usually self-advancement through gaining the favor of someone else. Compliments seek to encourage; flattery attempts to manipulate.

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